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KEEP WATCH WIRELESS SECURITY CAMERAS ON TEST

WINDOWS, MAC, ANDROID & N S


ISSUE 93 SEPTEMBER 2019 TECHLIFER TECHLIFER APPLE NEWSSTAND & GOOGLE PLAY

MAKE
THE MOST iOS 13
OF STAN UNCOVERED
STREAM SMARTER WHAT TO EXPECT FROM
AND FASTER WITH APPLE’S NEXT MOBILE
OUR HANDY OPERATING SYSTEM
GUIDE

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO

BOOSTING
YOUR HOME
NETWORK
GET FASTER INTERNET SPEEDS ALL OVER YOUR
HOME & IMPROVE WIRELESS COVERAGE!

FITBIT ACE 2 PANASONIC


HELP YOUR KIDS STAY FIT!
LUMIX G5
PERSONALISE REVIEWED
WINDOWS 10 IS THIS THE BEST
GET YOUR PC LOOKING JUST RIGHT
GET LUMIX CAMERA YET?
[ TECHLIFE #93 ]

EDITORIAL
UNFETTERED SPECULATION

[ THE NET IS VAST ]

Home networking
OUR PERSONAL NETWORKS ARE NOW MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER...
BUT THEY’RE STILL A COMMON POINT OF FAILURE.

OF ALL THE tech tasks that we’re called upon to master in this modern
age there’s one that I always find more of a chore than almost anything
else... Networking.
If there is one technology you want to work and do so quietly and
without fuss it’s the ability of all our devices, personal and desktop and
entertainment, to just seamlessly work together. It’s one of those things
you never even notice, once everything’s logged in... Until it stops
working, and your familiar world abruptly drops away.
This happened to me the other day – my flatmate was at home when
the net dropped out. Turned out to be a problem with the building’s
connection (or possibly the NBN), but it killed the connectivity of the
smart TV, consoles, and every PC in the house...
So if anything like that happens again, and I know it’s not the building,
this issue of TechLife will be one of the things I reach for.
On top of our home networking guide, we’ve got comparisons of
wireless security cameras, and guides to automating and securing your
smart home devices. It’s time to tighten things up with a safer and better
performing home network, and some help is in the pages ahead.
Sensing a theme? Funny that... Enjoy!
David Hollingworth, Editor

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 003 ]
[ TECHLIFE #93]

WELCOME
IN THIS ISSUE

064

THE
HE ULTIMATE
U GUIDE
G
GU TO
O

BOOSTING
YOUR HOME
NETWORK
GET FASTER INTERNET SPEEDS ALL OVER YOUR
HOME & IMPROVE WIRELESS COVERAGE!

[ 040 ]
Super Mario Maker 2, My Friend Pedro
& more hot games reviewed!

[ 004 ]
61

060

SONICALLY, THE UE WONDERBOOM 2 IS FANTASTIC


FOR ITS SIZE. THE SPEAKER PLAYS MUCH LOUDER
THAN YOU WOULD EXPECT, ESPECIALLY WITH THE
OUTDOOR BOOST ENABLED. THERE’S A BIT OF
DISTORTION AT MAX VOLUME, BUT IF YOU KEEP IT
BELOW 80%, MUSIC SOUNDS GREAT.

[T
THIS MONTH IN TECHLIFE ]
056
Intro Test Bench (cont)
[ 003 ] Editorial [ 058 ] Fitbit Ace 2
[ 059 ] Powerbeats Pro
Hotspot [ 060 ] Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 2.0
[ 008 ] iMac Pro [ 061 ] Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2
[ 010 ] Essential tech news [ 062 ] Sony HT-S350 Soundbar
[ 012 ] Panasonix G95 [ 063 ] Fuji Instax LiPlay
[ 014 ] Rise of the cyborgs
[ 018 ] HP Envy x360 13 Cover story
[ 020 ] Samsung Galaxy S10e [ 064 ] The ultimate guide to boosting
[ 022 ] Tech Toys your home network

Bargain Hunter Features


[ 023 ] Wireless smart security cameras [ 078 ] Everything you need to know
about iOS 13
058 Discover
[ 028 ] Digital Guru: Stan Help Station
[ 031 ] Processor security flaws [ 084 ] Your questions answered
[ 032 ] Emerging Tech [ 088 ] Personalise Windows 10
[ 034 ] New apps for every platform [ 092 ] Control your home from your Mac
[ 036 ] The best sites on the ‘Net [ 094 ] Get more from the Files app in iOS
[ 037 ] Site in-depth: Tab Topper [ 096 ] How to optimise your Android
[ 038 ] Game News [ 098 ] Securing smart devices
[ 040 ] PC & console game reviews [ 100 ] Simplyfying home automation
[ 044 ] Mobile game reviews [ 102 ] Get more from filters
[ 046 ] The Games of E3 2019 [ 104 ] Create three-colour artworks

Test Bench Buyer’s Guide


[ 052 ] Asus Zenbook 14 UX433F [ 109 ] The best tech products
[ 053 ] Acer Triton 500
[ 054 ] Valve Index The back page
052 [ 056 ] Oppo Reno 5G [ 114 ] Ridiculous tech
[ 057 ] Cubot Quest

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET
WWW TECHLIFE NET ] [ 005 ]
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[ 006 ]
The home of technology

techradar.com
[ TECHLIFE #93 ]

HOTSPOT
YOUR GUIDE TO HOT NEW TECH

WINNER

APPROVED
AWARD

[ GO PRO ]

iMac Pro
IS THIS THE ULTIMATE ALL-IN-ONE FOR PROFESSIONALS?
[ MATT HANSON ]

AS YOU MIGHT have already guessed based on its name, the projects, the iMac Pro will pay for itself in the long run.
4 iMac Pro is a sleek and beautiful all-in-one PC that packed Time is money, after all.
in lots of power in the traditional iMac form factor. Don’t The specs and high costs alone will let you know whether
IMAC PRO judge this behemoth by its cover, though – the iMac Pro or not the iMac Pro is for you. If spending almost as much as
From $7,299 absolutely demolishes the iMac 2017, and even the new iMac a new car on a computer seems excessive, then the iMac Pro
www.apple.com/au
2019, thanks to the incredible PC components and features it just isn’t for you. If you rarely use graphic-intensive
CRITICAL SPECS has on offer. programs, and you wouldn’t know what to do with a GPU
3.0GHz Intel Xeon W (deca-
core, 14MB cache, up to When Apple first launched the iMac Pro, it made some with 8GB – let alone 16GB of HBM2 memory, then you
4.5GHz); AMD Vega 64 claims that it’s ‘the most powerful Mac ever made,’ and we shouldn’t be spending that much money.
(16GB HBM2 RAM); 128GB
DDR4 (2,666MHz); 27-inch must agree. At least until the Mac Pro 2019 hits the shelves
5K (5,120 x 2,880) Retina in Spring 2019, as Tim Cook himself declared it ‘the most DESIGN
display (P3 wide color);
2TB SSD; 4 x USB-C powerful mac we’ve ever created’ at WWDC 2019. With the sheer power behind the iMac Pro, especially
(Thunderbolt 3), 4 x USB Still, the iMac Pro is a particularly powerful machine, compared to the standard iMac, Apple has really outdone
3.0, SDXC card reader,
10Gb Ethernet, 3.5mm made for creatives and professionals. And, it isn’t just about itself – especially with preserving the look of the all-in-one
audio jack; 802.11ac Wi-Fi, sheer horsepower for its own sake. This all-in-one machine. All those powerful components are hidden behind
Bluetooth 4.2; macOS
10.13 High Sierra; workstation is a finely-tuned machine, touting powerful the 27-inch display, resulting in a sleek, minimalist machine
FaceTime HD (1080p) hardware that revolutionises your workflow. that looks gorgeous in any office or studio.
webcam; 9.7kg.
Make no mistake: the iMac Pro is very expensive. The fact that Apple has kept the body as thin as it has is a
However, as you save some time on every single one of your testament to the hard work – not to mention, careful design

[ 008 ]
HOTSPOT
IMAC PRO
considerations – involved in the creation of the color. Apart from this new shade, these DDR4 RAM and a Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics
iMac Pro. At the edges, the iMac Pro is only peripherals should be pretty familiar. card with 16GB of HBM2 memory. With these
5mm (0.2 inches) thick, meaning it doesn’t take We were happy to see the Magic Keyboard specs and the steep price, you’d expect the iMac
up too much space on your desk. And, it comes with a numeric keypad, as that’s a convenient Pro to perform like a beast. And, unsurprisingly,
in at just 0.7kg (21.38 pounds), which means addition for writing up sums. While we it does – elegantly so.
you won’t break your back moving it from desk wouldn’t describe the typing experience on the Apple macOS High Sierra feels incredibly
to desk if necessary. keyboard as ‘magic’, despite its thin keys and smooth and snappy, thanks to the 2TB SSD in
Having such powerful components, which shallow travel, it is comfortable enough to use. the iMac Pro, and the desktop looks beautiful on
require more power and therefore produce However, if you do a lot of typing for work, the 27-inch display. Of course, you’re not buying
more heat, inside the slimline design of the then you might find a more tactile keyboard an iMac Pro just to stare at desktop wallpaper, or
iMac Pro means that an effective cooling more suitable. mess around in the operating system.
system is essential. In our opinion, the It’s how the machine performs under intense
And, Apple’s engineers THE FACT THAT APPLE Magic Mouse 2 is much workloads that’s crucial, and again, the iMac Pro
have managed to HAS KEPT THE BODY AS more successful at its is seriously impressive.
design a reliable THIN AS IT HAS IS A job. While the design
cooling system for this TESTAMENT TO THE HARD hasn’t changed (again, VERDICT
workstation, utilising WORK – NOT TO MENTION, apart from the color) In many ways, the iMac Pro is currently the
dual fans that not only CAREFUL DESIGN since its debut in 2015, pinnacle of Apple’s computing division – it’s
help circulate cool air CONSIDERATIONS many would argue that easily the most powerful machine the company
over components, but it’s already close to has ever made so far, and it packs a punch all
also expel hot air. being perfect in its current iteration. while keeping that irresistible slim design and
One particularly noticeable difference with The mouse feels smooth and responsive in build quality that iMacs are known for.
the iMac Pro’s design, compared to regular use, and handles remarkably well on different Obviously, thanks to the high power (and
iMacs, is that it comes in a new color scheme: surfaces. If you’re used to using Macs, then price) displayed here, the iMac Pro isn’t the most
Space Gray. As expected, the Space Gray iMac is you’ll feel right at home. But again, for some ideal for the general consumer. For day-to-day
beautiful, and the included Magic Mouse 2, tasks you might find it better utilising a tasks, and even casual photo or video editing, the
Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 also specialised pointing device. immense power – not to mention, the price – of
come in the new color, for users who prefer to There is one drawback that still needs fixing this machine is an overkill.
keep things uniform. on the Magic Mouse 2: to charge the mouse, you Also, if you are in need of a workstation
need to hook the Lightning cable up at the machine that packs loads of power, but you’re not
MAGIC PERIPHERALS bottom of the mouse. too fussed on looks and being able to open the
The iMac Pro comes with the Magic Keyboard machine up to tinker and upgrade is crucial to
with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2, and PERFORMANCE you, there are definitely equally powerful
optionally, the Magic Trackpad 2 – all of which The configuration Apple sent us rocks a 3.0GHz, computers on the market that will fit your
come in the new (to the iMac range) Space Gray 10-core Intel Xeon-W processor, 128GB of needs better.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 009 ]
LEADING FORENSICS FIRM
REPORTEDLY PAYS RANSOMWARE
HOTSPOT
NEED TO KNOW

DEMAND
EUROFINS SCIENTIFIC WON’T CLARIFY
WHETHER IT HAS PAID OR NOT THOUGH.
Eurofins Scientific, the leading forensic
services outfit in the UK, has paid out to
criminals who hit the company with a
ransomware attack, according to a report.
The attack occurred in early June, with the
company stating that its operations would be A NEW STUDY REVEALED
returning to normal almost a month later, THAT OVER 1,300 ANDROID
although it refused to state why it was able APPS CAN SCRAPE CERTAIN
to do so.
PERSONAL DATA ANYWAY,
EVEN IF A USER EXPLICITLY
DENIED ACCESS TO IT.

Over 1,300 Android apps scrape


personal data regardless of permissions
TESLAS WILL GET A LOT MORE FIXES COMING WITH ANDROID Q STARTING IN AUGUST.
EXPENSIVE WHEN FULL SELF-
DRIVING GOES MAINSTREAM Smartphone operating systems have ramped up their privacy settings in recent years to let
MUSK SAYS HIS COMPANY’S CARS ARE users pick and choose what information apps can get, but it seems those permissions aren’t
AN INVESTMENT. ironclad. A new study revealed that over 1,300 Android apps can scrape certain personal
Tesla cars will become a lot more expensive
data anyway, even if a user explicitly denied access to it. Researchers at the International
when fully self-driving models are available,
Computer Science Institute (ICSI) created a controlled environment to test 88,000 apps
says the company’s CEO Elon Musk. When
downloaded from the US Google Play Store. They peeked at what data the apps were sending
responding to a tweet questioning whether
customers had a limited time to snap one up, back, compared it to what users were permitting, and found that 1,325 of them were forking
Musk stated that the “price will rise over specific user data they shouldn’t have. Among the test pool were “popular apps from all
significantly” due to the expected categories,” according to ICSI’s report. The researchers disclosed their findings to both the
autonomous capabilities and the value add FTC and Google (receiving a bug bounty for their efforts), though the latter stated a fix
that this provides. would only be coming in the full release of Android Q.

Huawei CEO claims firm’s own mobile OS


will be faster than iOS and Android
BUT APPS COULD BE A STICKING POINT.

Huawei CEO, Ren Zhengfei, has said that the company’s home-grown mobile operating
SONY IS REPORTEDLY WORKING ON system (OS) will be faster than both iOS and Android... but it could struggle when it comes to
A NEW SMARTPHONE THAT ROLLS
RIGHT UP apps. Zhengfei made the claim during an interview with French magazine Le Point, and the
ROLLING TAKES ON FOLDING. Huawei chief remains bullish about his company’s chances in the market, no matter the
As folding phones begin to slowly trickle out long-term outcome of the current US-China trade war. It’s no secret that Huawei is working
to the consumer market, a rumor has arisen on its own OS, which it could employ on smartphones if the US follows through with its
that Sony is working on a prototype of a Huawei ban, a ban which would see the Chinese manufacturer lose access to Google’s vital
rolling phone. The handset will apparently Android services such as the Play Store, security updates and suite of Google apps. While
sport a Snapdragon 855 with 5G Huawei’s HongMeng OS (also known as Ark OS) may run faster than the software found on
connectivity. While it is only a rumor, it joins rival devices, Zhengfei admitted that it may struggle when it comes to apps. In the past few
some dots with similar talk of Samsung and years we’ve witnessed Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS try, and fail, to meet the app
LG aiming for the same form factor, the latter demands of users used to the variety delivered by Apple and Google, while smaller operating
of which already has an OLED TV on the systems have also struggled to match the big players over the years.
market that rolls up.

[ 010 ]
HOTSPOT
NEED TO KNOW
Facebook now provides more info
about targeted ads
IMPROVED TRANSPARENCY IN “WHY AM I SEEING THIS?” TOOL.

IN MARCH THIS year, Facebook released a SO... WHY AM I SEEING THIS? hiding ads from this source or adjusting the
tool called “Why am I seeing this?”, which The feature is relatively easy to access. When control this advertiser has.
allowed users to take a deeper look at the you notice an ad in your Facebook feed,
ads they were being shown and the reason clicking on the three dots in the top right HOW DO I OPT OUT?
they were being targeted. corner of it allows you to access a “Why am I Despite the apparent improvements to the
The service was created in response to seeing this?” screen. clarity of these options, it’s still a rather
the public outcry following events like the Previously, this area would show you one labyrinthine process to access the settings,
Cambridge Analytica scandal, which or two reasons for the ad being targeted at although once you have navigated to the
raised concerns about the abuse of user you. The reasons given were often rather appropriate page, the details on offer are
data by giant tech companies and the lack vague, perhaps pointing out that you’re in an more thorough.
of privacy that it entails. appropriate demographic to be targeted, or In order to view which marketing
Today, Facebook that you had companies and data brokers have your
has announced that visited the website information and are selling it to advertisers,
it’s further improved DESPITE THE APPARENT of the product head to Settings > Ads > Advertisers and
the tool, claiming to IMPROVEMENTS TO THE being advertised. Businesses > “Who have uploaded and
have increased the CLARITY OF THESE OPTIONS, IT’S With the shared a list with your info”.
amount of STILL A RATHER LABYRINTHINE update, the list of This shows you a list of all the companies
transparency offered PROCESS TO ACCESS THE reasons will with your personal data, from which point
overall. This includes SETTINGS, ALTHOUGH ONCE YOU reportedly be more you can select ‘View details’ on each one
much more intricate HAVE NAVIGATED TO THE specific and and, for those users that have received the
detail on the reason APPROPRIATE PAGE, THE complete, offering update, open the ‘Privacy options’ tab and
for being targeted, a DETAILS ON OFFER ARE MORE up particular opt out.
clearer list of the THOROUGH. details, such as the While the update is now live, it isn’t yet
companies that own pages that you available to everyone. Facebook hasn’t
and sell your data, and a direct link to a have liked or interests that you have listed, explicitly stated when it will become
page where you can change your targeting and how this has influenced the targeting. available to every user, but it’s expected to
preferences, including the ability to opt out This improved page will also show you slowly roll out in full over the
entirely in certain instances. exactly where this information came from coming weeks.
and gives you more direct controls for either

[ 011 ]
Panasonic’s new G95
features the same sensor
as the G9.
TSPOT
C G95
PANASONIC
HOT

WINNER

APPROVED
AWARD

PANASONIC G95
$1,299
www.panasonic.com

CRITICAL SPECS
20.3MP LiveMOS; Micro
Four Thirds lens mount;
3-inch vari-angle LCD,
1,040k dot display; 9fps
(6fps with C-AF) burst
shooting; Contrast-Detect
AF with Depth From
Defocus (DFD); 4K video;
[ GOOD SHOT ] Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Approx.
290 shot battery; Approx.

Panasonic G95 533g (including battery


and card).

THE G95 / G90 BEEFS UP PANASONIC’S G SERIES.


[ MATT GOLOWCZYNSKI ]

PANASONIC HAS ARGUABLY done more FEATURES low-pass filter to enable it to capture crisper
than any manufacturer with mirrorless Panasonic has been using 20.3MP Four details, and image stabilisation is built into the
technology. It launched the first mirrorless Thirds sensors inside its G-series cameras for body too.
camera, after all, and thereafter it expanded some time, and the G95 is the latest recipient. This system can be used as-is when the lens
its G-series of cameras and lenses in many While some may see this as being behind the you’re using lacks image stabilisation, although
different directions, notably developing some 24/26MP that’s standard across many other if you partner it with a stabilised lens the two
of the most popular video-centric mirrorless cameras at the same price point, it is at least a systems will work together; this technology is
options we’ve seen yet. step up from the 16MP sensor found inside known as Dual I.S. 2, and it promises five-axis
The focus may now be on what the company the G85. correction to a maximum of five stops, and this
does with its newer S series, having recently This is actually the same sensor that’s found appears to be unchanged from the G85.
launched the S1R and S1, but the S series is not inside the G9, which is still the company’s The older G85 offers 4K video recording,
a replacement for the more established line; the flagship photo-oriented camera in the series, and the Panasonic G95 /G90 continues this,
demand for smaller, lighter and more accessible and it works across an ISO range of ISO200- although the new model is decidedly more
models like the G95 is still there. 25,600. As on previous models using this video-centric than before.
sensor, Panasonic has omitted an optical For a start, it includes a VLog-L profile to

[ 012 ]
While its lenses may be
more compact, the G95’s

HOTSPOT
PANASONIC G95
body is not as small as you
might think.

provide a better starting point for grading, viewfinder, and a substantial grip and twin pretty much as soon as you are. There’s no
something that’s only available for S1R and S1 command dials for speedy and convenient sluggishness as you move around the menus or
users at an additional cost; the fact that this is operation. The ergonomics and usability are adjust exposure settings, and the camera
included as standard here shows how credible said to be improved over the G85 / G80, and responds as nimbly as you’d expect.
Panasonic considers the camera to be for more possibly because of this the new camera is a With a fast UHS-II card in place, our tests
considered video use. tiny bit larger in every dimension (and a touch showed the camera to maintain its maximum
On the rear of the G95 / G90 is a 3-inch LCD heavier too). burst rate for 30 consecutive raw + JPEG frames,
with a 1.04 million-dot resolution, and this flips That’s great if you want to use longer lenses, and 39 raw frames on their own – so, slightly less
out from the camera as you’ll have good than the 45 quoted by Panasonic. JPEGs can be
body and spins around THIS IS ACTUALLY THE SAME support from the captured for as long as required, and are written
to face the front via a SENSOR THAT’S FOUND INSIDE generous grip, but if immediately to the card; while raw files
hinge to its side. It’s THE G9, WHICH IS STILL THE you don’t you might understandably take longer, the camera remains
also touch-sensitive, COMPANY’S FLAGSHIP PHOTO- want to look towards operational during this time, which isn’t
enabling the user to set ORIENTED CAMERA IN THE the GX series cameras something every camera can claim.
the focus point, swipe SERIES, AND IT WORKS ACROSS like the GX9. The 20MP sensor, which we’ve seen before
through images and AN ISO RANGE OF ISO200- While it’s smaller inside the G9, produces nicely detailed images,
navigate the menus 25,600. AS ON PREVIOUS than the G9, the G95 / partly because of its lack of an optical low-pass
among other things. MODELS USING THIS SENSOR, G90 isn’t exactly small filter. Very slight noise can be seen in low-ISO
Above this lies an PANASONIC HAS OMITTED AN for a Micro Four images, but then this is also true of many APS-C
electronic viewfinder OPTICAL LOW-PASS FILTER TO Thirds body; placing based cameras; the key thing is that this is
that’s based around a ENABLE IT TO CAPTURE the camera body next controlled well as you rack up the ISO, with noise
2.36 million-dot OLED CRISPER DETAILS, AND IMAGE to the full-frame Nikon reduction doing its thing, but not too aggressively.
panel, with a STABILISATION IS BUILT INTO Z6 shows them to be
magnification of 0.74x THE BODY TOO. roughly the same size VERDICT
in 35mm terms, and an – although you do The Panasonic G85 / G80 was a camera we
eye sensor just above it that switches between benefit from far smaller lenses for the G95. prized for its comprehensive feature set,
the finder and the LCD as the user’s face Even so, it manages to be relatively excellent performance and sound output, and
approaches and moves away. lightweight while feeling very well constructed. with only a handful of changes here the
In terms of functionality elsewhere, the The rubber used around the grip and on the experience is just as positive.
model offers everything we expect at this level, back plate has a coarse texture that makes The Panasonic G95 /G90 feels very nicely put
with Panasonic’s usual sprinkling of extra getting a good hold on the camera easy, while together and handles well, and it’s pleasingly
features on top. The 1,728-zone multi-pattern the command dials move in clear and coarse responsive throughout its operation. Image and
metering system offers Multiple, Center increments. The various buttons around the video quality are generally sound too, and the fact
Weighted and Spot options, and exposure body are also a touch larger and better marked that the camera has sensor-based stabilisation
control covers the PASM quartet plus exposure than on the G85, and all give good feedback arguably gives it an advantage over its rivals that
compensation and bracketing options. when pressed. rely on this in the lens only. On the other hand,
the 20MP sensor, while a step up from the G85’s,
BUILD AND HANDLING PERFORMANCE doesn’t look particularly competitive when you
The Panasonic G95 /G90 has been crafted with The Panasonic G95 /G90 starts up with very consider the 24MP and 26MP APS-C types used
a DSLR-like design, with a centrally placed little delay, and is ready to begin shooting in rivals.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 013 ]
DISCOVER
POP SCIENCE

RISE
OF
THE
CYBORGS
FROM MEDICINE TO COMPUTER INTERACTION,
HOW HUMAN AND MACHINE ARE BECOMING ONE
[MARK SMITH]

[ 014 ]
TESTING FOR BUGS
One controversial aspect of cybernetics is
its use on insects. Scientists have
successfully implanted electrodes into the
CYBERMEN, ROBOCOP, THE Terminator: It’s not just the need to replace injured or brains of beetles, allowing them to ‘hijack’
the creatures’ nervous systems and direct

DISCOVER
POP SCIENCE
anyone familiar with science fiction will be all missing limbs that’s driving things forward,
them via remote control.
too aware of the concept of the cyborg. but also trends. ‘Bio hacking’ is where people
Other studies have seen electrodes
The term was first used in 1960 by scientists implant technology into their body.
implanted directly into their muscles,
Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in Known as ‘body hacks’, these have which has created a more responsive
reference to an enhanced human that could included implanting magnets and near-field insect-cybernetic hybrid.
survive in extraterrestrial environments. The communication (NFC) chips, like those you One of the advantages of using insects
cybernetic organism – to give it its full name use for wirelessly charging your phone, in is that their bodies are well designed.
– is a combination of biology and technology, fingers that can be programmed to open car Indeed, robotics has often looked to the
a living being with computerised or doors or link to a website, or computer chips insect world for inspiration when
mechanical implants designed to replace or implanted in other parts of the body that can designing machines. The work creates the
enhance aspects of their existing body. monitor things like temperature. possibility of swarms of bees being
Cyborgs are no longer just found in films But many experts see the future of cyborgs deployed on the battlefield, or worker
and comic books; they’re very real, with being not just about improving our bodies ants being used in construction projects.
enhancements in technology making it far with things like robotic arms, but also
easier, and safer, to graft technology into implanting things into our brains. Known as
living creatures, from insects right up to neurotech, this field of research is looking at
human beings. how we can use things like neural memory
One of the side-effects of recent wars in the implants as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease,
Middle East has been to put battlefield and how artificial intelligence can predict
medicine back at the top of the research where body tremors caused by Parkinson’s
agenda, with advancements in motorised disease could occur.
limbs creating replacement arms and legs that
can respond to nerve impulses in the same
way as a biological limb.
In 2016 the first-ever Cyborg Olympics “I controlled a robot
took place in Switzerland, where some of this
amazing tech was put to the test, from an hand: I was in New
exoskeleton – a frame that goes over your
body and moves your limbs for you – York and the hand
designed by NASA that allowed a paraplegic
to walk, to a motorised arm that one was in Reading, but
competitor was able to use for a range of tasks
just by thinking about it, including it felt like me, like I Scientists have implanted beetles with electrodes
completing a jigsaw puzzle and slicing a loaf that allow them to be directed by remote control .
of bread. had another hand”

Johnny Matheny lost his arm


to cancer, but using the Myo armband from
Kitchener’s Thalmic Labs he’s able to
control a prosthetic arm with his brain.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 015 ]
Enhancing the human body
Q&A
MEET ‘MR ROBOT’
FROM ARTIFICIAL HEARTS TO NEW LIMBS, THIS IS THE TECH NO MODERN
CYBORG CAN BE WITHOUT.

KEVIN WARWICK IS AN AUTHOR, ENGINEER, ‘HEARING COLOURS’ BRAIN IMPLANT


DISCOVER
POP SCIENCE

DEPUTY VICE-CHANCELLOR (RESEARCH) AT Artist Neil Harbisson Small computers can now be
COVENTRY UNIVERSITY, CYBORG AND mounted an electronic implanted into human brains to
ALL-ROUND CYBER GURU. antenna to the base of his keep chronic seizures at bay.
skull that turns frequencies
What is cybernetics being used for at the of light into vibrations his
moment? brain interprets as sound,
In terms of therapy there’s quite a bit happening. allowing him to ‘hear
Looking at people with cochlear implants, for colour’.
instance, there are thousands and thousands. The
last implant I had – the brain gate – has been used
BUILT-IN COMPASS
for four different people who are paralysed from
Scientists have created a
the neck down. It allows them to control robotic
chest implant that lets
hands – one woman has been able to feed herself.
you sense which direction
But it’s mostly happening in the US.
you’re facing.
How does it feel to have an implant? REPLACEMENT HEART
It felt like me. Your brain adapts. I controlled a American company BiVACOR
robot hand: I was in New York and the hand was in is developing a bionic heart
Reading, but it felt like me, like I had another hand. which propels blood around
When it was gripping an object I could feel the LIMB REPLACEMENTS the body.
pressure. It didn’t feel weird. Where it did feel Cybernetic replacements
strange was when I thought about it afterwards for missing or damaged
and you start to think, ‘wow’. arms and legs are giving
amputees a whole new
BACK-PAIN TREATMENT
You’ve spoken in the past about cybernetics A next-generation implant has been
lease on life.
being needed to help us compete with the implanted deep into a patient’s back
dangers of advanced AI, is that how you still feel? to stimulate their spinal cord to
Alan Turing said: “what is machine intelligence? It’s override pain signals.
something that’s quite different than human
intelligence.” That was the point they made in The
Terminator, ‘you can’t bargain with it’ – it thinks
4. RECEIVER
differently to humans. Things have gone even
This picks up the 1. VIDEO CAMERA
faster than I thought they would in terms of AI.
signals and sends A tiny camera set into the
You’ve had people like Elon Musk and Steven
Hawking talking about the things I was saying in Artificial Eyes them via a wire to an
electrode on the brain.
bridge captures images and
sends them to a computer.
the late 1990s, which is that AI could be dangerous SOME PATIENTS ARE BEING FITTED WITH
if we go in the wrong direction with it. NEW EYES TO GIVE THEM SIGHT.

What could the ultimate evolution of this tech


look like? 2. COMPUTER
Cures for Alzheimer’s – there’s a number of This converts images
possibilities on that, but also the direct into signals and
communication of thoughts. What we are – sends them to an
fundamentally – is a brain and a spinal column, antenna on the
and a lot of the reason we die is because something glasses.
happens to our body, which is just there to carry
our brain around. We might have robot bodies in
the future. We should be doing more research into
keeping our brains alive outside our bodies
because then we don’t even need to worry about
things like cancer.

5. ELECTRODE 3. TRANSMITTER
Finally, an elecrode The antenna sends the
stimulates cells in the brain’s signals wirelessly to a
visual cortex, allowing the reciever implant under the
cyborg to see. cyborg’s skull.
[ 016 ]
Left: A paraplegic participant
walks using a powered
exoskeleton at the Cyborg
Olympics.

CYBORGS AND
CYBERNETICS

01 IT’S AN OLD CONCEPT


The idea of a human-machine
hybrid concept goes back quite a while. Screwing in a lightbulb with an
The 1839 short story The Man That Was artificial arm was one of the tasks
at the Cyber Olympics.
Used Up by Edgar Allan Poe describes a
man with extensive prostheses.

FICTIONAL FAN FAVOURITES


02
Cyborgs have been some of the Could we
most popular characters in film and TV
history, ranging from Darth Vader and have wings?
Robocop to the Terminator and Imagine being able to soar
the Cybermen. high above the clouds with
your very own wings, or
03 THE FIRST-EVER CYBORG having four arms so you can
The first human cyborg was become skilled at table tennis
created in 1997 by Dr Philip Kennedy. He or the drums. Bionics designer
successfully implanted an electrode into Hugh Herr at the MIT Media
the brain of Vietnam veteran Johnny Lab claims the future will see
Ray, who was suffering from locked-in ‘augmented’ human bodies
syndrome. that will change what it means
to be ‘human’ – we could even
04 CYBORG FOUNDATION have cybernetic wings
In 2010 the Cyborg Foundation implanted into our bodies we
was founded to help humans become can control with our minds,
cyborgs. Moon Ribas and Neil just like we do our arms and
Harbisson started the organisation after legs, allowing us to fly.
receiving numerous requests from He said: “During the
people who wanted to be one. twilight years of this century, I
believe humans will be
05 CYBER TROOPERS unrecognisable in morphology
The US military has been and dynamics from what we
working on a chip that can be implanted are today. Humanity will take
in a soldier’s brain to connect it directly flight and soar.”
to computers that can deliver data on an
enemy’s position, maps and An MIT bionics expert
Cyber Olympics participants harnessed believes humans will one day
battle instructions. have cybernetic wings.
artificial limbs to complete tasks.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 017 ]
WINNER

APPROVED
HOTSPOT
HP ENVY X360 13 (2019)

AWARD

HP ENVY X360 13
$2,449
www2.hp.com

CRITICAL SPECS
2.1GHz AMD Ryzen 5
3500U (quad-core, 6MB
cache, up to 3.7GHz with
Boost); AMD Vega 8; 8GB
DDR4; 13.3-inch, 1,920 x
1,080, IPS touchscreen;
256GB NVMe SSD; 1x
USB-C, 2x USB-A 3.1,
MicroSD; 802.11b/g/n/ac
(2x2) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
4.2 combo; HD IR web
camera; 1.27 kg.

[ ENVIOUS ]

HP Envy x360
13 (2019)
HP GIVES ITS SLIMLINE 2-IN-1 LAPTOP AN
AMD UPGRADE.
[ JEREMY LAIRD ]

CHIP MAKER AMD is on a roll at the integrated into its mobile CPUs, dare we
moment, having recently announced its dream a bit of light gaming capability has
new third-gen Ryzen CPUs. But that’s been thrown into the equation?
a desktop processor. What of its
mobile offerings? DESIGN
Enter the HP Envy x360 13 2-in-1 With its anodised all-aluminium chassis,
convertible. It’s not an entirely new laptop. the HP Envy x360 13 does a pretty
Indeed, we’ve seen it before last year. But it passable impression of a true high-end
has been upgraded with AMD’s latest 2-in-1 portable.
3000-series APU. The previous version of In terms of build, the HP Envy x360 13
the Envy x360 13 made do with the AMD (2019) feels solid and sturdy with little to no
Ryzen 2000 series chip and didn’t entirely flex in the chassis. The same goes for its
blow us away with either its outright 360-degree hinge, allowing for conversion
performance or battery life. into tablet mode. You get the sense it’s been
Question is, has AMD upped its game engineered to last.
with its new mobile processor? If so, what With slim bezels on two out of three sides
was already a very appealing and nicely of the display, the HP Envy x360 13 is
engineered 2-in-1 13-inch laptop will step reasonably compact, too. However, the
up another level and offer an intriguing Envy’s bottom bezel makes for a hefty old
alternative to the obvious Intel-powered chin. It’s most noticeable in table mode,
options, including the Lenovo Yoga 920. even if it’s an issue shared with most 2-in-1
What’s more, with AMD’s Vega graphics convertibles. The recent trend for near

[ 018 ]
all-screen laptops has yet to trickle down to up from a graphics perspective. Despite

HOTSPOT
HP ENVY X360 13 (2019)
the 2-in-1 segment. AMD’s reputation for high quality graphics
Subjectively, the HP Envy x360 13 also technology, it’s barely any quicker than
feels at least as slim and sleek as the likes of, Intel’s integrated graphics.
say, the Lenovo Yoga 920, despite the fact There’s better news when it comes to
that the official numbers say otherwise. That battery life, however. By racking up over nine
said, it’s still just thick enough to offer a pair hours in our movie playback test, this new
of full-size USB Type-A ports in 3.1 spec. AMD variant of the HP Envy x360 13 gets a
lot closer to the Intel-powered competition.
SOUND AND VISION Admittedly, some 2-in-1s like the Lenovo
Speaking of those Bang & Olufsen speakers, Yoga C930 will do over 13 hours in the same
their performance is pretty disappointing. test. But then they’re typically also more
The likes of a 12-inch Macbook, which is a expensive. You pays your money and you
thinner and lighter device, knocks out not takes your choice, in other words.
only more volume but also much better
definition. Not all tie ins with audio VERDICT
specialists, it seems, truly deliver. Thanks to a price that’s currently pretty
As for the HP Envy punchy, the HP Envy
x360’s 13-inch touch x360 13 is a
screen, it’s about as compelling
good as you could proposition. The
reasonably expect at chassis has a premium
this price point. feel and the 2-in-1
Thanks to IPS element works well
technology, colors are even if the screen’s
accurate and the large chin bezel
viewing angles of the ensures you never
panel itself are forget it’s not a
excellent, while true tablet.
maximum brightness WITH ITS ANODISED ALL- The performance of
levels are good ALUMINIUM CHASSIS, THE HP the new AMD Ryzen
though not stellar ENVY X360 13 DOES A PRETTY APU may not be
and the Gorilla Glass PASSABLE IMPRESSION OF A anything special, but
cover does introduce TRUE HIGH-END 2-IN-1 it’s competitive with
some reflections. PORTABLE. the Intel quad-core
The native 1,920 by alternative, especially
1,080 resolution is a given the price point.
limiting factor in terms of outright detail and The same goes for battery life. It’s not as good
font sharpness. But it’s still a pleasing display as more expensive Intel-powered systems.
and a higher resolution panel would have an But then it costs less. And if nine hours of
impact in terms of both price and battery life. video playback is good enough for you, why
pay more?
PERFORMANCE & BATTERY LIFE Similarly, the HP Envy x360’s 13-inch
In terms of pure CPU performance, the new 1080p screen is another element that falls
AMD Ryzen 5 3500U doesn’t really move the into the ‘good enough given the price point’
game on. Its performance doesn’t set new column. Some might prefer a high resolution
standards for a low-voltage quad-core panel, but that’s not hugely realistic without
processor. In fact, Intel’s latest 8th generation paying considerably more.
Core chips have the edge. All told, the HP Envy x360 13’s is all about
That’s probably because this new mobile offering a value proposition without making
chip from AMD – known as an APU because you feel like you cheaped out. If you fancy
it includes integrated graphics – is actually that premium feel but only want to pay
based on the original Zen CPU architecture mid-tier money, you should put the HP Envy
(Zen+ if you’re being really picky), not the x360 13 on your shortlist.
second generation Zen design recently
announced as part of the new AMD Ryzen
The new Envy boasts very
impressive build quality. 3000 series desktop family. That’s rather
confusing given the 3000 series branding of
this mobile processor.
Nor does the Ryzen 5 3500U shake things

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 019 ]
[ SAME BUT DIFFERENT ]
HOTSPOT
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10E

Samsung
Galaxy S10e
SAMSUNG FLAGSHIP CAMERAS AND
SPECS AT A LOWER PRICE.
[ DAVID LUMB, JOHN MCCANN ]

THE GALAXY S10E is Samsung’s flagship smallest of its generation, and the S10e is
phone with 2019 specs and features at 2016 smaller than that phone by a hair.)
prices, providing consumers an option to snag The S10e otherwise looks like a shrunken
all of the cool new features in the Galaxy S10 at version of its pricier siblings, with a few
a notable discount. exceptions. Samsung didn’t include the Galaxy
In this way, the S10e (‘e’ for ‘essential’) has a line’s Infinity Edge tapered display in this less
lot in common with the Apple iPhone XR, and expensive model, so you’ll have to accept a flat
it’s tough not to see it as the Samsung ‘budget front screen with more noticeable bezels. As it’s
flagship’ of the iPhone XS line: both pack the the smallest of the S10 line, the S10e is also the
best aspects of their generation in a phone that’s lightest, coming in at 150g – which is another
not quite as svelte or feature-rich as their feather in its cap when compared to the 208g
pricier siblings. iPhone XR.
But the real competition isn’t between either
lower-cost device – it’s between DISPLAY
them and their costlier siblings. 41/2 The 5.8-inch AMOLED display
We found the S10e to be robust lives up to the Galaxy S name, with
enough to forgo the extra perks in bright colors and crisp detail. If you
the S10 ($210 more) or the S10 Plus SAMSUNG GALAXY S10E don’t quite like the color balance,
$999
($350 more). As a bonus, the S10e’s www.samsung.com/au
you can tinker with an easy fix
smaller dimensions will certainly called Vivid Mode, which does
CRITICAL SPECS
appeal to folks who don’t Weight: 150g
what it says on the box and lets you
appreciate the expanding size of Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x further tweak it to be a warmer
7.9mm
flagship phones. OS: Android 9
(more red) or cooler (more blue)
There are compromises for that Screen size: 5.8-inch picture. If even that isn’t enough,
Resolution: 1080 x 2280
lower cost, of course. The S10e CPU: Octa-core chipset you can tinker with the RGB
doesn’t get some of some of the RAM: 6/8GB levels individually. Side-by-side
Storage: 128/256GB
neat features in its pricier siblings, Battery: 3,100mAh with an iPhone XS Max, the S10e’s
like an in-screen fingerprint Rear camera: 16MP + screen kept up gamely, losing out
12MP
sensor, curved screen sides or a Front camera: 10MP only on the darkest scenes in a
telephoto lens. media comparison (the
But we doubt you’ll be too ‘Blackwater’ episode of Game of
jealous. The Galaxy S10e is a lovely one-hand- Thrones is good fodder for this, just saying),
friendly phone. Its 5.8-inch all-screen display is where backgrounds of varying blacks average
easy to hold and its chipset is fast enough that out into dark gray smudges.
it’ll compete with other flagships for years to This is somewhat expected, as the S10e has a
come, even if its compromises in display single 2280 x 1080 (438 ppi) resolution setting.
resolution and camera fall short of the Samsung sets this as the default for its flagship
Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus. phones, but both the S10 and S10 Plus max out
at 3040 x 1440 for a higher ~550 ppi. One other
DESIGN minor difference between the models: the S10e
As previously stated, one of the Galaxy S10e’s has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on front and back,
more attractive features might, ironically, be its while its bigger siblings have had their front
smaller size. As main flagships get ever-larger, a display’s glass upgraded to Gorilla 6.
contingent of consumers have steadily gone for
smaller phones – just look at the popularity of CAMERA
the iPhone SE (RIP) – and the S10e is as Even packing two cameras makes the S10e an
manageable as top-tier phones get with a width upgrade over last year’s Samsung Galaxy S9,
of 2.75 inches. (Curiously, the iPhone XS is the which had a single dual-aperture shooter.

[ 020 ]
Taking wider shots is great for sheer

HOTSPOT
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10E
functionality: the main camera has a 77-degree
field-of-view, but the ultrawide has 123-degree
FOV, which captures a surprising amount of
extra context on the sides of a shot. Best of all,
while dialing up or down zoom increments,
switching between wide and ultrawide lenses is
virtually seamless – which is a departure from
the clanky transition
SIDE-BY-SIDE WITH AN IPHONE when doing the same
XS MAX, THE S10E’S SCREEN with the Huawei Mate
WINNER
KEPT UP GAMELY, LOSING OUT 20 Pro.
ONLY ON THE DARKEST ORMANCE &
ED’s CHOICE SCENES IN A MEDIA PERFORMANCE
AWARD
COMPARISON (THE The S10 phones are the
‘BLACKWATER’ EPISODE OF first in many markets to
GAME OF THRONES IS GOOD feature the new
FODDER FOR THIS, JUST Snapdragon 855
SAYING), WHERE chipset, and will be for
BACKGROUNDS OF VARYING some time into 2019.
BLACKS AVERAGE OUT INTO Sure, it would be a
DARK GRAY SMUDGES. surprise if Samsung
gimped its ‘essential’
model with an older processor, but it’s still nice
to see it get a leading chip, especially after Apple
did the same for the iPhone XR. The S10e
managed a blistering 10,523 average score on
Geekbench 4, if you wanted its performance put
to numbers.
The phone’s baseline 6GB of RAM and
128GB of storage will be more than enough for
most people – we zipped around the UI
swapping apps with abandon and didn’t see a
snag. You can upgrade to 8GB of RAM and
256GB of space for a modest price bump (at
least in the US), but that’s probably only
necessary if you absolutely need more space. If
the higher tier isn’t available in your region, you
can expand storage with a MicroSD card.
As for the battery, the S10e packs a 3,100mAh
unit, which was plenty to get through the day
while managing chat apps, email and listening
to music. Recharging is quick with up to 15W
fast charging (and 15W wireless charging),
which isn’t the fastest-wattage charging on the
market, but it gets the job done.

VERDICT
It’s hard not to recommend the S10e to anyone
who prefers a smaller phone. Size queens, look
elsewhere – this smartphone is for folks who
want to text and browse apps one-handed.
Considering also the handful of top-shelf
perks cut to save costs, the S10e isn’t the trophy
flagship you flaunt to make your friends jealous.
Instead, think of it as the best flagship you could
get from 2016 phone possibilities that still costs
a 2016 flagship price.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 021 ]
HOTSPOT
TECH TOYS

[ FUN STUFF ]
Awake Ravik eSurfboard
Tech Toys ELECTRIFY YOUR SURFING SETUP. $30,500
Batteries are now responsible for powering bikes, cars, homes and even some personal aircraft, so
THE GADGETS AND COOL why not surfboards too? The Ravik Electric Surfboard form the Sweedish startup Awake works
STUFF THAT HAS CAUGHT OUR like a self-powered wakeboard, but it looks more than capable of shredding some small beach
ROVING EYE THIS MONTH... breaks, too. With a top speed of around 56km/h this carbon fibre water carving machine looks
[ TECHLIFE TEAM ] like a lot of fun, but the battery life is only 40 minutes so if you can afford to drop close to thirty
Aussie grand on this slick watercraft, you might also want to invest in a few additional batteries.

Jot Steripen UV Water Upright Go 2


TAKE YOUR GOOGLE HOME MINI WITH YOU… Purifier POCKETABLE POSTURE PREACHER. $149
$59.95 WATER WATER EVERYWHERE AND IT’S SAFE The second iteration of this start-up’s
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really TO DRINK! $208 posture-training device is an all-round
thought to myself “Hey, I wish I could move If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, this improvement and, for the duration of our trial
my Google Home Mini anywhere in the might be a useful little device always make with the device, a rather effective tool at that.
house!” However, someone has had that very room for in your pack. The Steripen is a The unit itself is about half the size of the first
thought, and to making that mobility a touch lightweight gadget that uses ultraviolet model, and the battery life lasts three times
easier is where the Jot comes in. light to remove up to 99.9% of all bacteria longer, which are both big quality of life
It’s a little socket that you can slip your from drinking water – handy for bother improvements on a device that’s intended to
Home Mini into, and it features a battery with hikers and world travellers. The Steripen subtly blend into your day-to-day. Although
up to eight hours charge – meaning your uses much the same technology as many wearing the Go 2 as we sat at our desk kept us
dreams of carrying your Home Mini from bottled water producers, so it should be upright, the tracking got a little janky when
room to room can now come true. This is of pretty trustworthy. walking or even standing, and we can’t help
course dependent on you needing that instant but feel that a majority of the influence of the
access to the Google Assistant’s relaxing and device was placebo rather than the small
informative voice, and… we’ll admit, once vibrations it sent out. Maybe try sticky-taping
you get used to the process, it is pretty a small ‘posture pebble’ to your back instead?
damn handy.

[ 022 ]
D-LINK MYDLINK PRO
01
WIRE-FREE CAMERA KIT
$599 (hub + two cameras),
www.dlink.com.au
With the easiest setup, the most secure

WIRELESS SMART SECURITY CAMS


mounting options, decent battery life and
the cleverest hub on test here, D-Link’s
mid-range 1080p camera system manages
to stand out from a tough crowd.

02
SWANN SMART SECURITY CAMERA
WIRE-FREE HD
$399 (pack of two), www.swann.com/au
Swann’s completely hub-free wireless
camera system is simple to set up, simple
to access, and cheap enough that anyone
can get on board – but it doesn’t skimp on
picture quality in the slightest.

03 ARLO ULTRA
$999 (hub + two cameras),
arlo.com
Arlo’s latest addition to its line is the
high-end wireless security choice, but
pairing absolutely top of the line camera
specs with some incredibly smart built-in
features makes it worth every cent.
02

01 03

[ WHO WATCHES? ]

Wireless smart security cams


SEE INSIDE YOUR HOME, MONITOR YOUR PERIMETER AND AUTOMATICALLY
CAPTURE FOOTAGE WITHOUT A SINGLE WIRE IN SIGHT.
[ ALEX COX ]

HOME SECURITY HAS never been more Setting up a network of wireless security away from home. In some cases you might
approachable than it is today. There’s no need cameras isn’t the expensive one-and-done also be able to chat with the person at your
to invest in a full PVR system constantly overhaul that fitting a full system would be. door, or scare off intruders, with two-way talk.
recording footage to a hard drive, and no Setting up and mounting a new camera to There’s a vast chasm between some cameras
reason to drill holes through your walls and expand your network can be done in minutes. in terms of price and ability, so we’ve picked
run wires through your home. Modern Then there’s flexibility; if you want a camera the three that hit the peak of their market
wireless cameras are smart enough to capture on that tree in the back garden, that’s not a sector. Your security is important, so it’s
only the footage you need, both storing it on problem as long as there’s wireless reach. imperative that you make the right choice for
modern media and piping it safely away from There’s a practical benefit beyond security, your home, even if you only want to use a
your home and into the cloud. in that a camera mounted by your front door camera to spy on your dog while you’re
Piecemeal building is another advantage. could alert you to visitors even when you’re at work.

[ WW
W W W TEC
CHLI
HL
LIFE
FE .N
FE. N T] [ 023 ]
Swann
BARGAIN HUNTER
WIRELESS SMART SECURITY CAMS

Wire-free
CHEAP, CHEERFUL, BUT CAPABLE
WIRELESS CAMERAS WITH GOOD
IMAGE QUALITY.

OUTWARDLY THERE’S NO difference between the


1080p model of the Swann Smart Security Camera
and its 720p predecessor. Both use the same compact
casing, both use the same mount – and that latter
feature is a shame. In theory the rubberised magnetic
dish on the back, coupled with a rough-textured metal
ball mounted on the wall, would be an excellent and
infinitely adjustable mount, but in practice it’s slippery
and the magnetic connection isn’t quite strong enough
to hold the weight of the camera and its internal
battery in a fixed position. Given that its awkward
handling of sunlight can give this the shortest battery
of the three on test here, you’re in for a lifetime of
readjustment if you try to use the magnets –
particularly irritating if you’re installing it on the
eaves of your house.
There’s no dedicated hub involved here. Each
camera connects directly to your router via Wi-Fi, and
streams to your phone (or to the outside world) from
there. That’s a neat solution, or at least one that saves a
power socket and an ethernet port, but we can’t help
but feel it’s also the reason for the Swann’s slightly
sluggish response times. Even more than the D-Link
camera, the Smart Security Camera has a tendency to
be a gamble whether it’ll successfully connect to live
view or not. It’s also a little slower to kick in its
recording functions when it first detects motion, so it’s
possible that it’ll miss a fleeting appearance on camera
by an intruder.
That said, we have absolutely no other qualms about
the Swann’s motion detection credentials – it’s perhaps
the most sensitive of this trio, and the only one to
explicitly include heat detection to avoid false
positives. It’s quick to send an alert, and convenient in
terms of storage given that it supports both cloud
uploading and an on-board microSD card for each
camera. Picture quality is also superb, with the sensor
managing impressive clarity even in difficult lighting
conditions. Sure, Swann’s app is, to put it mildly, a bit
of a mess, but it’s easy enough to navigate and its
motion detection timeline works well.
If you’re looking to gradually expand your security
net as wide as possible, this is possibly the best choice
going – there’s no reliance on a hub, so theoretically
no limit on the number of cameras you can place
around your home. It’s cheap, too, at least in the
context of similar cameras. Though the edges might
be a bit rough, there’s lots of sparkle here.
The metal ball mounted on the wall is in theory excellent and adjustable, but in practice it’s slippery and
not quite strong enough.

[ 024 ]
Arlo Ultra

BARGAIN HUNTER
WIRELESS SMART SECURITY CAMS
PERFECT PICTURE AND SERIOUS
SMARTS IN A BRILLIANTLY
ENGINEERED PACKAGE.

SIDE BY SIDE with its competitors, you’d be hard


pressed to outwardly tell the difference, but fire up the
Arlo app and the quality gap between this and others is
all too clear.
It starts with connectivity. Setup of the Arlo hub and
its paired camera was super fast, and where the others
might have you wait a while before reaching a live view,
the Arlo gives up the goods quickly and in remarkable
quality, and when you’re wondering whether you need to
hit the siren (or just use two-way talk to dismiss the cold
caller at your front door) that immediacy is priceless.
While it hits the resolution, we suspect there’s a little
interpolation on its 4K footage given that the Arlo
Ultra’s recordings can tend to be a bit smeary when
zoomed right in, but this is still far and away the
sharpest security camera we’ve seen in action, wireless
or not. You can configure it to capture anything from a
sensible field of view right up to a full 180º fisheye, and
that HDR picture comes with tremendous colour
depth. Testing at twilight on a clear evening, the Arlo
managed 20 minutes longer than its competitors at low
light before switching to night vision mode, still pulling
in a clear and colourful image.
At night, though it lacks the full IR LED array of
Swann’s camera, the Arlo captures enough light to see a
good distance, and there’s an adjustable spotlight
available if you’re placing it outdoors. Which rather
neatly brings us to motion detection: it’s great, and
super smart. Not only is the Arlo quick to pick out
moving items, it’s brainy enough to make a decent stab
at working out exactly what it’s looking at. Your push
notification might say ‘motion’, it might say ‘person’, or
it could even say ‘animal’; we certainly didn’t notice it
struggling to determine the difference between a
human and a cat. There’s even a package detection
algorithm, where a doorstep-pointed Arlo can spot
when your latest online purchase has landed and alert
you as much. That’s just cool.
If you have an Arlo camera plugged in via its optional
magnetic cable, you can configure specific detection
zones within its vision, meaning it’ll ignore any motion
that happens outside of those areas – handy if you live
near a busy road, for example. But the power
requirement somewhat nullifies its otherwise
wireless nature.
The only real issue we have, though, is with the cost.
The package isn’t at all cheap in the first place, but if you
want to store 4K recordings in the cloud you’ll need an
additional subscription. And additional 4K camera
units cost $449 each! Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue that
The Arlo doesn’t take long to set up, has excellent image detection, and pulls in clear and colourful images
the Arlo Ultra doesn’t earn its price tag.
even in twilight.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 025 ]
D-Link
BARGAIN HUNTER
WIRELESS SMART SECURITY CAMS

mydlink Pro
FRUSTRATINGLY, PLENTY OF GOOD
THINGS BUT PLENTY OF IRRITATING
QUIRKS TOO.

THIS ONE HAD us torn. On the one hand, it’s a well


designed camera and hub combo, with a long-lasting
battery, at a decent price. On the other, there are some
big issues to look past.
To begin with, the picture quality is a tad
questionable. Detail actually isn’t too bad, with an
excellent level of sharpness when zoomed in, but when
placed side-by-side the picture pales in comparison to
its competitors here. It’s much more murky, both in
broad daylight and at night. When it’s bright out,
shadows burn through, while bright areas like sky
bleach out – though thankfully we didn’t spot any
significant blooming, so you should still be able to
pick out a backlit intruder. With the lights off, its night
vision reach isn’t the strongest, and it’s a gloomy,
shadowy picture. There are no options in the app to
adjust the exposure of the sensor, which is something
of a disappointment – though we don’t think the
colour depth would be enough to ruin evidential
footage entirely.
That app is disappointing, too. D-Link has clearly
tried to give it an attractive edge, and we have to give
credit to its ability to show what’s going on from up to
four cameras at a time. However, its combination of soft
focus lifestyle backgrounds, clunky device wheels and
poorly labelled controls makes it awkward and slow to
use – and when it comes to security, you really need
something immediate. Connecting to the camera for a
live view is similarly languid and, at times, we found the
app needed a restart to connect – not the most
reassuring, particularly given that the individual
cameras hook up to a central hub which should, in
theory, be dealing with connection reliability.
That’s the bad news, but there’s plenty of good. That
hub takes seconds to set up, and arguably offers more
than Arlo’s equivalent, since it not only includes
microSD backup of recordings (just like the Arlo), but
also includes a USB port for hard drive recording.
There’s a central 100dB siren (silenced by the top
button) which could be helpful if your cameras are all
mounted outside; doing so isn’t a problem, with each
carrying an IP65 rating (which means they’ll
withstand a jet from a hose) and the option of either a
strong magnetic ball mount or a standard tripod
screw, with a single adjustable arm included in the
two-camera package.
This isn’t a bad investment at all.

Picture quality is not as impressive as others, but the D-Link cameras are easy to set up not just in the
software, but also in terms of their flexibility.

[ 026 ]
WINNER

The overall ED’s CHOICE


1st

winner is…
AWARD

ARLO ULTRA

BARGAIN HUNTER
WIRELESS SMART SECURITY CAMS
$99 (hub + two cameras)

WE’RE IMPRESSED High-resolution footage, high-quality


components, and high-end connectivity. This is a superbly
engineered camera with an excellent app and lots of smarts.
WE’D IMPROVE The Arlo Ultra is a real investment. For most
the price will seem too high for the base pack, and particularly
egregious given the number of accessories you’ll need for a
rock-solid setup.
THE LAST WORD What price do you put on your personal
security? If you’re just spying on your cats, go cheaper – but
the Arlo Pro is a remarkably impressive camera that could
easily pay for itself.

SWANN WIRE-FREE D-LINK MYDLINK PRO WIRE-FREE


$399 (pack of two) $599 (hub + two cameras)
WINNER

WE’RE IMPRESSED A WE’RE IMPRESSED


sharp picture and 2nd Excellent motion 3rd
supremely flexible
APPROVED detection with a sharp
AWARD
recording at a low price. picture and the
WE’D IMPROVE Doesn’t smartest hub on 
manage a good offer here. WINNER
magnetic mount, and WE’D IMPROVE The
connectivity can picture may be sharp,
be shaky. but the sensor’s APPROVED
THE LAST WORD At the exposure is all over the AWARD

price, you could cover place – HDR this


three spots in decent definitely isn’t.
clarity for close to the tHE LAST WORD With
same spend as a single better software (and
Arlo Ultra camera – and perhaps firmware) it
that’s a big draw. could perform
even better.

4 4

GET THE VERY BEST FROM YOUR WIRELESS CAMERA

AVOID THE SUN WINDOWS DOUBLE UP KEEP IT HIGH RECHARGE ON


Direct sunlight can cause DON’T WORK ON STORAGE While cloud recording SCHEDULE
problems both in terms of If you’re thinking of placing a It’s important to make sure should keep your footage Battery life can be variable
motion detection and camera pointing out of a all of your footage is well safe and sound even if your based on the number of
battery life for wireless window, think again cared for in case it needs to cameras go walkies, motion events that trigger a
cameras, since changing – window glass not only be used as evidence. We’d magnetic mounts mean wireless camera. Don’t rely
light conditions force them interferes with passive recommend using both these wireless cameras are on the expected life – make
to refocus and readjust infrared sensors and other microSD cards in your hub/ both easy to adjust and easy a monthly date to pull down
constantly through the day. motion detection algorithms, camera and cloud storage in to swipe. If you’re putting your cameras and top up
Pointing your cameras at but also does a great job of tandem, so there’s a backup them outdoors, it makes their cells so they’re always
more shaded areas, or at reflecting active infrared in the case of an internet sense to put them out of ready to go.
least placing them below light, meaning night vision outage or the loss of a card. easy reach, even if it makes
your eaves for some would be out of the question. recharging a slightly more
protection, is advisable. difficult job.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 027 ]
[ TECHLIFE #93 ]

DISCOVER
ESSENTIAL APPS, TOOLS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Stan offers a free 30 day trial to all new users. Choose from a basic, standard or premium plan.

[ WE STAN ]

Stan: A serious Netflix competitor


THIS AUSTRALIAN-BORN STREAMING SERVICE HAS LOTS TO OFFER WHEN IT COMES TO FILM AND TV.
[ TIM BOTHWELL ]

IT CAN BE easy to take for granted video 500 shows and 1,500 films – less than the meaning you can enjoy timeless Pixar classics
streaming as it exists today. Go back even just much larger Netflix (1,600 shows and 3,693 like Toy Story, plus films from the Marvel and
five years and on-demand streamers like films). Despite its smaller catalogue, Stan has a Star Wars franchises – making Stan a very
Netflix didn’t even exist in Australia (without wide and varied library filled with TV classics serious contender in the streaming stakes.
a VPN). Sure, free to air catch-up services have like Seinfeld, The Office and Friends. You’ll also
been around for many years, but the choice on find more recent shows such as UnReal, Better GETTING STARTED. If you’re new to Stan, visit
what to watch is often limited to a select few Call Saul and Billions, plus a small but growing www.stan.com.au/ and enter your email
(not to mention the constant advertisements collection of original content. Not exclusive to address before choosing the free trial option.
that infiltrate your viewing). Stan is an TV, Stan’s film library includes movies such as You’ll be asked to select from one of three
Australian-born streaming platform that went Charlie’s Angels, Ghostbusters, and the entire subscription plans (see below), plus add a
live in early 2015 with an extensive catalogue James Bond film franchise. In December 2018 payment method. While Stan gives all new
of both film and TV. Now four years later, the Stan also announced a new deal with Disney, users a 30 day trial, you’ll need to add a credit
service has garnered over 2.6 million
subscribers – while that’s significantly lower
On the homepage you’ll find new and trending titles.
than international powerhouse Netflix with
11.2 million Australians, Stan continues to
grow with it’s range of exclusive titles and
agreements with global production houses. If
you’re yet to delve into the world of on-
demand video streaming then we’d definitely
recommend giving Stan a go, especially
considering your first 30 days are free.

THE BASICS
WHAT ABOUT NETFLIX? If you’re already a
subscriber of Netflix, then you may be
wondering why you’d want to sign up to
another service. Both Netflix and Stan are
pretty similar when it comes to functionality,
but it’s what’s available for streaming that
differs. At the time of writing, Stan had almost

[ 028 ]
DISCOVER
STAN: A SERIOUS NETFLIX COMPETITOR
You can see a complete list of your recently watched
Find a show, actor or actress using the search tool. programs.

Keep track of shows you want to watch by adding Save data by downloading shows to your smartphone
them to your list. Set up a profile for every member of your household. for offline playback.

card or PayPal account to be debited once your for a particular genre, actor or actress. Stan can be saved to your Android or iOS
30 days is up. Note that you can cancel your device for offline playback. Within the mobile
plan at any time before the trial ends and not MY LIST. With so many titles to choose from, it app, tap the download icon displayed below a
be charged. pays to keep track of your favourites using the film’s synopsis or next to a TV episode. In
list feature. While browsing the Stan settings you can adjust the quality of
PLANS. Stan offers three subscription options catalogue, hover or click on a show’s title to see downloads – useful if your smartphone has
to choose from. For $10 per month you can the option to add it to your list. You can limited storage.
sign up to a basic plan, giving you unlimited access your list from the top of any page in
standard definition streaming and downloads your browser or from the menu in Stan’s PROFILES. While Stan may lack the ability to
to one device. If you have multiple people in mobile app. provide personalised viewing
your household or you’re a stickler for quality, recommendations, creating a profile for
you’ll want to consider a standard plan for $14 WATCH HISTORY. In addition to a list of saved different members of the household means
per month which raises your device and shows, you can also see your recently watched you’ll each have access to a personal watch list
download limit to three, plus increases programs, making it easy to pick up where you and viewing history. To get started, hover over
streaming quality to HD. The final option is left off. To access or edit your watch history, your profile icon and select Manage Account.
Stan’s premium plan priced at $17 per month hover over your profile icon and select For each profile you can choose to restrict
which gives you the ability to watch shows Watch History. content to a particular classification.
simultaneously on four devices, download to
five, and support for UltraHD streaming DOWNLOADS. Many of the shows and films on KIDS. The recent inking of Stan’s Disney deal
(more on that later).

FINDING CONTENT. The easiest place to find


content is on Stan’s homepage. Presented as a
curated collection of both film and TV, you’ll
find trending, recently added and exclusive
content, along with a range of genres you can
click to expand. After discovering something
you like, hover over its tile to reveal a play
button, or click to see a synopsis along with a
list of similar shows and films. At the top of
the page are a series of drop-down lists to help
you locate a particular film or TV genre.

STEP IT UP A LEVEL
SEARCH. Finding content on Stan is easy
thanks to the search tool. Located at the top of
any page, click the magnifying glass and begin
typing the name of a television series or film. Stan has plenty of content suitable for kids.
Not only for show programs, you can also look

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 029 ]
means there’s more than enough content for
kids. When setting up a profile you can choose
to limit Stan’s catalogue to only shows and
films approved for children. In addition to
Disney, Stan has shows from Nickelodeon,
Cartoon Network and ABC for Kids.
DISCOVER
STAN: A SERIOUS NETFLIX COMPETITOR

Beam shows and films to your TV using a Google Stan can automatically begin
Chromecast. playing the next episode of a show. GOING PRO
PICTURE-IN-PICTURE. Readers looking to
stream on an Apple iPad will appreciate the
ability to watch using picture-in-picture mode.
While a show is playing, tap the picture-in-
picture icon displayed at the bottom of the
screen to shrink the video to the corner of your
device. You can then continue to watch while
browsing the web, reading the news, or
scrolling through Facebook.

CASTING. If you’re in possession of a Google


Chromecast, Stan makes it extremely easy to
beam content to your TV. A small device that
plugs into your television’s HDMI port, you
can stream shows and films by tapping the
You can lock your screen to prevent
unwanted changes to playback. Chromecast icon displayed on the now playing
screen of the mobile app.

AUTOPLAY. Don’t worry about getting up at the


end of an episode – Stan can automatically
begin playing the next one without you
needing to move a finger. On the mobile app
Stan will also check-in occasionally to ensure
you’re still watching. You can adjust both
features in the settings section of the app.

SCREEN LOCK. There’s nothing worse than


accidentally jumping forward on a show you’re
currently watching. A simple yet useful feature
of the mobile app is the ability to lock playback
controls while watching. Just tap the lock icon
Be careful of your data usage when
streaming during your commute. displayed on the now playing screen.

4K STREAMING. If you’re subscribed to Stan’s


premium plan and own a fancy 4K TV, then
you can watch select shows and films in
UltraHD. To take advantage of 4K streaming,
you’ll need a compatible TV with either the
Stan app built-in or connected to a supported
device like an Xbox One. You’ll also need an
internet connection with a speed of at least 15
megabytes per second. Programs that support
UltraHD streaming will have a 4K symbol
displayed on the synopsis page.

DATA USAGE. While video streaming is great for


ADDITIONAL APPS keeping entertained on your daily commute, it’s
important to think about how much data you
TV APP DATA-FREE STREAMING consume. According to Stan, streaming in low
If your TV is connected to the web then there’s a Readers looking to stream on-the-go should check quality will use around 0.57 gigabytes per hour,
good chance the Stan app is available – just check whether their phone service provider offers video while bumping it up to HD will increase that
your television’s app store. Otherwise an Apple TV streaming as part of their plans. For example, Optus number to 2.89 gigabytes. You can adjust
has a dedicated Stan app which you can use to offers data-free streaming of Netflix, Stan and ABC
streaming quality in settings or on the fly by
browse and stream content. You can even ask Siri to iView on a number of its phone plans. Alternatively,
tapping the cog while watching a show.
search for shows and genres using just your voice. Vodafone gives users the option to purchase
data-free video streaming as an add-on.

[ 030 ]
[ JUST THE FACTS, PLEASE ]
DUPLICATE CLEANER

DISCOVER
PROCESSOR SECURITY FLAWS
Processor security flaws www.digitalvolcano.co.uk
Has it all got too much? Can’t find what
you’re looking for through the clutter? While
FIRST MELTDOWN, THEN SPECTRE, NOW ZOMBIELOAD. JUST the free version is a little limited, you might
WHAT IS WRONG WITH CPU INSIDE YOUR COMPUTER? just be tempted to pay up for Duplicate
Cleaner if your hard drive is a complete
mess. It digs through your drive for all those
CHIPMAKER INTEL, WHICH likely built the don’t appear to share the same flaws. Apple, many copies of your photos, those scattered
processor at the heart of your PC, can’t catch a which uses Intel processors in its Macs and music files, those documents you saved in
break. After word of two potential flaws with its MacBooks, is reportedly so fed up with Intel three places, and cleans them up.
processors came out last year – and the (which has also been impacted by processor Duplicate Cleaner doesn’t just look for the
company’s only fix, at least for one of them, shortages) that it is considering building names of your files – it’ll check the content of
caused said processors to run more slowly – it’s its own processors for future devices. files, or the size, or any other metric you
been hit by another in the form of Zombieload. So what can Intel do, beyond clumsy want. Once it’s done its work, you can scan
through what it’s found (including full image
To be clear, these aren’t viruses, but they are fixes which make our PCs more sluggish?
previews) and either delete the copies, or
flaws in the way the Obviously, future
send them onwards to an external drive for
increasingly tiny processors will be designed safekeeping; it’s basically a digital
components in processors to mitigate these security housekeeper, and the sort of tool we
are laid out and flaws. We also know that it wish Microsoft would include by default
constructed, enabling them is working with major PC in Windows.
to be exploited and manufacturers and tech
overloaded by malware companies like Dell,
creators, and potentially to Microsoft and Google on its
be used to steal your Athena project, which is set
personal data. to outline the design of the
next generation of PCs,
INTEL FATIQUE including features like
A fix for Zombieload has all-day battery life, 5G
already been worked on and has been released networking, and instant switch-on.
to certain machines. Unfortunately, it appears Intel then faces multiple threats, as well Just click the files or folders you no longer need.
to slow down computers in the same way as as opportunities: from competitors like AMD
previous fixes; when the problem lies in and Qualcomm (which is surging in mobile
immutable hardware, rather than easily
rewritten software, there’s often little other
processors and is developing chips for
low-cost, low-power PCs); to Apple’s own chip
Follow us on…
choice. Understandably, the industry is ambitions, plus the flaws in its own past
beginning to get tired of Intel, particularly processors. Now’s the time for Intel to get on
seeing as the hardware designs of rival AMD the front foot – and fast.
www.twitter.com/techradar

THE 60-SECOND QUIZ www.facebook.com/TechRadar


NOW !
PENS AT THE READY, YOUR TIME STARTS
Which of these has not What was
In the traditional 03
05
Microsoft’s first PC
01
Windows logo, acted as Microsoft
CEO? operating system?
which colour is in the top left? A MS-DOS
A Red A Steve Ballmer
B Mark Zuckerberg B Xenix
B Purple
C Blue C Satya Nadella C Windows 1.0 Next issue on sa
What is Bill Gates’ Microsoft once
In which US state 04
06
sponsored Finland’s
02
are Microsoft’s current role at
the company? national team in which sport?
Redmond headquarters? A Basketball
A Washington A President
B Chairman B Curling
B California C Handball
C Nevada C Technical Advisor

Answers 1A 2A 3B 4C 5B 6A

[ T] [ 031 ]
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

[ YOUR TECH CRYSTAL BALL ]


DISCOVER
BLEEDING EDGE: THE BEST OF EMERGING TECH

Bleeding edge: the


best of emerging tech
TECHLIFE’S PRACTICAL MONTHLY ROUNDUP OF EMERGING
TECH EXPERIENCES, INCLUDING ALL THE LATEST VIRTUAL
AND AUGMENTED REALITY APPS, ALONGSIDE AI-DRIVEN
BOTS AND OTHER USEFUL TOOLS. Ai-Da
[ JOEL BURGESS ] MEET YOUR FAVOURITE AI ARTIST.
NA | www.ai-darobot.com
WITH FACEBOOK REPORTING over US$5 million of Oculus Quest
game sales in the first two weeks since launch and two to three week The debut of the AI artist has come and gone,
backorder waits for Amazon US order fulfillment, standalone VR is with a number of paintings selling for
looking like it may have finally cracked a more mainstream gaming surprisingly large sums of money at
market. It also seems to continue to be integral in the development of respected auction houses; but there’s another
animated films like The Lion King, despite the hollywood pulling back AI artist on the scene and we mean this quite
on the overall number of VR screenings. AR hits all the buzzwords this literally. Ai-Da, named after one of the first
month with a game that uses Pokemon Go mechanics to collect programmers, Ada Lovelace, is a humanoid
real-world cryptocurrency tokens. AI is as bonkers as ever showing off a robot that uses its robotic arms and AI
humanoid robot that paints portraits in front of you using robotic arms algorithms to paint and draw pictures from
and images captured from cameras in its eyes. If that’s not enough the real world using paints, brushes, pencils
scientists have also detailed how AI could save us from the climate crisis and the cameras in its head.
we currently face through various image recognition and system
optimisation tasks that’ll reduce greenhouse gasses.

DeepNude
ByeBye Camera CONTROVERSIAL DEEPFAKE NUDE IMAGE CREATION Nuritas
DELETE YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE PEOPLE FROM YOUR APP SHUTDOWN. BONO BACKED PHARMACEUTICAL STARTUP USES AI TO
FAVOURITE PICTURES. NA | twitter.com/deepnudeapp UNCOVER NEW DRUGS.
$2.99 | www.byebye.camera NA | www.nuritas.com

There are people in this world that do their best Following widespread media attention an AI An Irish healthcare startup called Nuritas is
to be in every single picture they can, and while image generation tool that transforms images using AI to find new supplement compounds
you might occasionally be in a position to push of fully clothed women into generated nudes four times faster than the current industry
them out of the frame or edit them out later, has closed just a day after the news cycle standards. Backed by none other than U2’s
generally these photobombers will prevail picked up the story. The creators said in a Bono, the startup is claiming it’s developed and
through sheer determination. This is, we Tweet that “they greatly underestimated’ the tested an anti-inflammatory medication in the
presume, the catalyst for the Bye Bye Camera public response to the software and that “the space of two years and is anticipating releasing
iOS app, which uses AI algorithms to remove probability that people will misuse the service up to five more compounds in the following 18
people from photographs. While this photo is too high” as the cause for the removal. The months. The company is reporting that it
smokebombing tool is undoubtedly the easiest app was briefly available from Linux and generally takes between five and seven years to
way to remove people from pictures, it has been Windows and although it’ll undoubtedly be discover new medicinal compounds and bring
known to inadvertently remove puppies and circulated by existing owners, it’s no longer them to market.
leave the odd clump of floating hair. available from the creators.

[ 032 ]
VIRTUAL REALITY AI USED TO PREDICT SUICIDE RISK
CRISIS TEXT LINE USES AI TO BETTER PREDICT USERS
MOST IN NEED OF SERVICES.

 
A suicide prevention organisation
known as the Crisis Text Line has

DISCOVER
BLEEDING EDGE: THE BEST OF EMERGING TECH
used an AI algorithm to study over
100 million text messages in order
to draw out any language patterns of the most at
risk users. While it might seem like ‘kill’ or ‘suicide’
would be said often by critically risky patients,
‘ibuprofen’ and ‘Advil’ are actually 14 times more
common in users that will go on to require
emergency services. A list of sensitive words is then
provided to crisis counsellors to monitor for the use
BHaptics of these words.
The Lion King A VR HAPTIC VEST THAT’S BETTER THAN A KICK IN THE
VR IS THE NEW KING. PANTS. COMPUTERS ARE THE CLIMATE
NA | www.disney.com.au/movies/the-lion-king US$1,000 | www.bhaptics.com WARRIORS OF THE FUTURE, ACCORDING
TO NEW SCIENTIFIC PAPER
VR has been used to plan shots and examine In VR, immersion is key… and there’s SCIENTISTS COLLABORATE TO FIND HOW AI COULD
HELP CURB THE CLIMATE CRISIS. .
digital sets in recent films like Ready Player nothing quite as immersive as the rumble of
One and Solo: A Star Wars Story, but Disney’s a bullet to the brain. Well at least according

 
While AI agents are often perceived
Lion King remake seems to be taking VR to BHaptics, the company responsible for a as doomsday bringers, one group
movie integration significantly further. The full body haptic suit shown off at E3. While of scientists believes they may be
Lion King film, according to a Wired report, the Tactical Haptic Face Cushion is naturally our best option for curbing
was filmed entirely within a game like VR the component that’ll shake your face, the humanity’s contribution to climate change. An
landscape, using real world cameras and suit also includes a vest, sleeves, gloves and international team of software and climate experts
dollies to control digital camera angles and shoes that’ll make you feel like a pre- have collaborated on a paper that details the 13
shot movements. This cinematic hybrid style developed polaroid picture. The vest has most obvious ways in which AI could be used to
allows the fluid shots of the real world and the over 70 feedback points, so you’ll even know monitor and help mitigate our role in the world’s
carbon emissions. Monitoring deforestation and
flexibility of a fully digital set. the exact direction you got hit from.
CO2 emissions using satellite imagery, or making
polluting industries more efficient, seem to be the
areas AI is most useful in.

AUGMENTED REALITY BILLIONAIRE INVESTS £150 MILLION IN A


NEW AI DIVISION AT OXFORD
BIGGEST INVESTMENT SINCE THE RENAISSANCE USED
TO EXPLORE AI ETHICS.

 
Stephen Schwarzmen, founder of
the US investment firm The
Blackstone Group, has donated the
biggest single contribution since
the Renaissance to the University of Oxford. The
$272 million donation will fund the creation of
Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities
building and will include provisions for the creation
of an Institute for Ethics in AI. There have been a
number of vocal figures recommending regulations
for AI development, so by the time the institute
Aircoins AR Beauty Try-On opens in 2024 we expect a high demand for AI
YOUTUBE’S LATEST ADS LET YOU TRY ON MAKEUP
IT’S LIKE BEING PAID TO PLAY POKEMON GO. WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR VIDEO. ethical considerations.
Free | aircoins.co Free | famebit.com
WALMART INSTALLS AI CAMERAS IN
If collecting Pokemon wasn’t quite enough of a YouTube has introduced a new feature to its 1,000 STORES TO TERMINATE
reward to continue playing Pokemon Go, smartphone apps that allows you to use your SHOPLIFTING
SKYNET’S FIRST OBJECTIVE IS TO RECLAIM
maybe you’ll have more luck if you’re chasing smartphone camera to try on makeup PRODUCT LOSS.
real cryptocurrency instead. Aircoins is a new products while you watch videos. The new

 
AR game that has partnered with Dash, a feature is intended to be used by advertisers Missed Scan Detection, as
peer-to-peer cryptocurrency that you can earn and video creators to let consumers take a look Walmart’s AI powered in store
by playing the game. Rather than use your at what they would look like in a particular camera network is called, is
designed specifically to track the
phone’s processor to mine crypto as you play, style of lipstick or eyeliner. YouTube believes
products in your cart and make sure each is
the game’s funding model actually relies on this feature will work best alongside fashion
accounted for during the self checkout process.
advertising so you’ll have to dodge a heap of video bloggers reviews of particular products Walmart is reporting a reduction in shrinkage in the
unwanted info as you search the city for those as it will let consumers see for themselves what 1,000 stores that Missed Scan Detection is already
digital dollars. the products look like when worn. operational.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 033 ]
[ TABLET & MOBILE]

Best new apps


JAMES O’CONNOR REVIEWS THE MOST INTERESTING NEW APPS FOR iOS AND ANDROID.
DISCOVER
BEST NEW APPS

WINNER WINNER

APPROVED APPROVED
AWARD AWARD

Trash: You Shoot Deliciously Ella Magpie – Photos


We Edit PLANT POWER.
$1.49 a month
and Notes
ANOTHER PERSON’S TREASURE... SHINY OBJECTS!
Free / N/A https://deliciouslyella.com/ $1.50 a month
www.getmagpie.app/
Trash takes the short video craze and does Deliciously Ella – which has been around
something weird and beautiful with it. In for a while, but which seems to have Magpie is a list-making app with some
this app, you give your videos over to its AI recently revamped its app – is focused on neat functionality and an easy UI. It’s
and it will edit it into a new video for you. clean eating and yoga. It’s got a nice clean colourful and nice to look at, and making
The new video will be set to a piece of UI that’s easy to navigate, and the food – and populating lists is easy. It’s built
license-free music and will loop and jump which focuses on simple recipes with around consumerism and shopping – it’ll
between the images you’ve captured. It easy-to-find ingredients - looks great in encourage you to track things you want to
sounds like a gimmick, but the videos that the pictures. The recipes are all buy, to take photos and make notes – you
pop out on the other side are weirdly vegetarian, and although there’s no can store the price, the location, and
gorgeous. Back in 2006, Lars von Trier tried calorie information given the app focuses anything else you’d like to note. It’s going
something similar with his film The Boss Of on health and wellbeing. Recipes come to be a handy app for a lot of people, then,
It All, when he let an AI program dictate with full instructions as well as videos, but its usefulness is pretty dependent on
shots; not surprisingly, it works better on making them easy to follow, and the you being a visual thinker. Every entry
these much shorter films. Scrolling through simple swipe controls mean that keeping needs a photo, so it’s useless for putting
the feed, where all videos are uploaded, it’s track of what you’re doing while in the together, say, a shopping list. As I kept
curiously striking how many beautiful, kitchen is easy. All in all, it’s a pretty great thinking of ways to use it, roadblocks
weird, lovely little videos have popped up. So source of vegetarian recipes, whether would emerge – I could use the app to
many of them left me wanting to know more you’re a vegetarian yourself or just track books I own but haven’t read, I
about who shot them, where they were, what looking for healthier food options. The thought, but each entry asks for a title, and
they were doing. Trash is a weird effective yoga videos are divided by difficulty, and typing them in after each photo would be a
– and affecting – app for video art. It’s far provide nice, clear instructions for each pain. Still, if you want to catalog items
from trash. activity. The recipes are a larger focus you’re considering buying, this is a very
than the yoga, but this app generally good app for that specific thing.
seems like a great source of good life
advice. The subscription fee is mercifully
light, too.

4 4 3

[ 034 ]
WINNER

ED’s CHOICE

DISCOVER
BEST NEW APPS
AWARD

IndigiTUBE Luminary
Jesinta Franklin ALWAYS HAS BEEN, ALWAYS WILL BE...
ANOTHER PODCAST PAYWALL.
Official App Free ($7.99 a month for premium)
Free / www.indigitube.com.au/ https://luminarypodcasts.com
MS UNIVERSAL APP.
$6.99 a month/ N/A
Franklin, the winner of Miss Universe IndigiTUBE, the app for the website of the The podcast market continues to further
Australia 2010 and a model and TV same name, is something special. It’s an fracture with Luminary, a new podcast app
presenter, has apparently poured everything incredible resource of indigenous podcasts, that continues a lot of exclusives – possibly
into this app. Hopefully it works out for her, radio stations, music and videos, all easily including some of your old favourites. The
but to get the most out of this lifestyle app accessible and all completely free. This app has second season of The Onion’s A Very Fatal
– which compiles recipes, workout routines, clearly been designed with both education and Murder, Hannibal Burress’ Handsome
beauty tips and little bits of prose – you’ll access in mind, with a huge number of stations Rambler, and Love & Radio are all here. But
need to be a big fan of her. There’s an and videos on there. There are musical it’s also missing a bunch of shows, including
assumed fandom in some of these items, performances, complete with video, Comedy Bang Bang and WTF With Marc
like her posts of behind-the-scenes photos interviews, and a lot of videos on indigenous Maron (two shows that both have extensive
from a fashion shoots and her blog entries, languages, if you’re inclined to learn important back catalogs only available on Stitcher
so don’t expect a be-all-end-all lifestyle app terms in our native languages. There are radio Premium). Reply All and other shows on
that’s agnostic to who created it. Content stations from all over the country, which can Gimlet, now owned by Spotify, aren’t on there
quality varies; there’s a daily ‘thought of the be accessed immediately and easily. There’s either. Taken on its own merits, it’s actually a
day’, which is generally a simple quote, even a claymation based on Bush Mechanics very good podcast player. It has a powerful
sometimes with some context about the (but not the original series, unfortunately). search engine, a strong UI, and lots of
person who said it. The workouts and There’s a huge amount of content on there – as playback customisation options, plus it shows
recipes are often extremely simple (although I write this I’m listening to a recording of the the episode-specific cover art for shows, which
the pre-recipe paragraphs are, mercifully, Indij Hip Hop Show from April. With an most players don’t. But it’s hard to look past
shorter than they are on a lot of cooking excellent UI and informative pages attached to the fact that its catalogue is far from
sites), but her makeup and skincare advice each video and audio program, IndigiTUBE is comprehensive. If all of these disputes
is a bit more detailed and come complete a fantastic, important app – the sort of app that between podcast companies get resolved,
with videos. If you’re a huge fan it’s worth will, we suspect, work its way into some school perhaps it’ll be in stronger shape in the future
checking out the 14-day trial, but otherwise curriculums in the future, if it hasn’t already. – for now it’s only worth grabbing if you
$7 a month feels very steep. specifically want the Luminary exclusive
shows and don’t mind paying.

2 5 3

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 035 ]
[ SPIFFY STUFF FROM AROUND THE WEB ]

Site insight
OUR MONTHLY ROUND-UP OF THE WEB’S
MOST ILLUMINATING, USEFUL, OR
JUST-PLAIN-COOL WEBSITES.
DISCOVER
SITE INSIGHT

[ HARRY DOMANSKI ]

Earth
DETAILED WEATHER ON A GLOBAL SCALE.
earth.nullschool.net

Weather apps are fairly ubiquitous at this point, but for the great majority
of us, we’re rarely looking beyond our own suburb, let alone city. This
website focuses much more on the macro and is completely mesmerising
as a result. You can view the entire planet, in a variety of different 2D or
3D views, and select a huge range of different data to overlay on top of it.
This ranges from the relatively simple wind and temperature
measurements to some more advanced metrics such as air particulates
and currently-occurring auroras. The data is taken from a number of
publicly available sources and is “forecast by supercomputers” and
updated on the map at regular intervals, depending on which particular
data-set is being used. When scanning the map, you can zoom in and
drop a pin anywhere you’d like, learning information about that specific
zone, or you can sit back and soak in the majesty of the whole shebang
and its overarching patterns.

My Noise Nvidia AI Playground


THE MOST FULLY-FEATURED BACKGROUND NOISE AVAILABLE. HAVE SOME FUN WITH VISUAL AI ALGORITHMS.
mynoise.net nvidia-research-mingyuliu.com

For those that find a bit of background noise to be useful – from sleep You might know Nvidia for its dominance in the graphics card
to study – this site has everything you could want and more. The site field, but the company is also heavily invested in optimisation and
is host to a database of sound-sets that are categorised into the AI research. This site allows you to try out a few of its different
situation they’re most suited to. This could be for focussing, calming models, and this specific URL links to its GauGAN Beta.
down, meditation, inspiration, and even conditions such as ADHD Essentially, the tool allows you to sketch in environmental elements
and tinnitus, the latter of which was very effective for a few of my on one page – sky, sea, snow, stone, mountains etc. – and have that
friends who suffer from the condition. When you’ve selected a set, realised by AI on an adjacent panel. You can select a variety of
you can adjust the volume of a number of different elements of the different variables to change the style of the machine translation,
environment (the background chatter or clinking of glasses in a cafe, some of which affect things such as lighting and scenery, and other
for instance). It’s also possible to automate these adjustments so that modifiers impart the style of a specific painting or sketch. The
your environment is constantly (albeit subtly) evolving as you listen results are far from perfect, as is the case with any AI beta at this
– a perfect remedy for those that can’t handle repetition in their point, but it’s incredible to see what can be achieved nonetheless. It’s
noises. It’s easy enough to find a sample of white noise on YouTube worth noting that you’ll need to agree to the terms and conditions
and listen to that on repeat, but this site’s full feature-set makes for a at the foot of the page in order to use this service, which include
refreshing take on the service. “agreeing that Nvidia may store, use, and redistribute the uploaded
file”.

[ 036 ]
DISCOVER
HASHTAGSEARCHES.COM
[ TOO MANY TABS ]

Tab Tosser
JEREMIAH LEE ON HIS TOOL FOR TORCHING BROWSER TABS.
[ JEREMIAH LEE }

TELL US WHAT TAB TOSSER DOES. HOW HAS IT BEEN RECEIVED?


Tab Tosser is a Firefox extension that automatically closes Tab Tosser received more upvotes on Product Hunt than
browser tabs you have ignored. It tracks when browser tabs monthly active users in its first month. I think people like
are last viewed and closes them when they have not been the idea of Tab Tosser more than actually embracing
revisited for 1–90 days, based on your preference. If you go the constraint.
on vacation, Tab Tosser detects you have been away and Someone sent me a feature request to add a list of
pauses for a few days while you catch up. It also keeps a domains to never close. They said they had work
backup log of recently tossed tabs just in case. documents they would never want to automatically close. JEREMIAH LEE
Job: Lee is an
This sort of thinking is precisely what Tab Tosser is meant
engineering manager at
WHY DID YOU CREATE IT? to change. If a tab is truly important, you will click it within
InVision. He grew under
A while ago, I reset Safari on my MacBook Pro while a reasonable amount of time. People have written to thank the Californian sun but
debugging a web app, unaware that doing so would clear me. One person said Tab Tosser helped them digitally in now calls Stockholm,
the tabs and browsing history on my iPhone. After a panic, the way the KonMari method helped them with Sweden his home.
I took a few deep breaths and reconsidered if I had truly physical objects. w: https://www.
lost anything. I hadn’t. I could just search and find any jeremiahlee.com
website I had open. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL DO NEXT WITH IT? t: @JeremiahLee
Tab Tosser changed my behaviour towards articles
WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO ACHIEVE? specifically. I now send articles I want to read to Pocket
I open tabs with every intention to take action but life (https://getpocket.com/) instead of opening in a tab. I
happens. Tabs build up. Tab Tosser creates an intentional blocked time on my calendar to read but there are still
constraint that helps free myself of digital clutter with no articles I never get to. I’m thinking about creating an
effort. I built Tab Tosser for me but I hope it helps expiration time extension to Pocket.
others too. I am also considering making Tab Tosser available for
Brave and Microsoft Edge. Google seems to have
WHAT TECHNOLOGIES WERE USED IN BUILDING IT? abandoned collaboration with Mozilla on a WebExtensions
Tab Tosser uses Firefox’s WebExtensions API. It is written API standard and Chromium does not have the tab
in TypeScript and compiled to ECMAScript 2017. This was lastAccessed feature Tab Tosser relies on. I don’t know
my first project to use the Tailwind CSS framework. For enough C++ to add the functionality but a JavaScript
testing, I used the QUnit CLI and Mozilla’s webextensions- polyfill seems plausible.
api-fake library. I designed the icon and website in
InVision Studio.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 037 ]
DISCOVER
GAME NEWS

The Division 2’s first


big free DLC will add
new missions, Exotics,
NETFLIX ANNOUNCES ANIMATED
CUPHEAD TV SERIES, THE
and big skill changes
THE DLC WILL BE FREE TO ALL PLAYERS, BUT YEAR 1 PASS
CUPHEAD SHOW!
CUPHEAD AND HIS
OWNERS WILL GET ACCESS A WEEK EARLY.
BROTHER MUGMAN RETURN.
Cuphead is coming to Netflix! The streaming service The next chapter in The Division 2 is Episode 1 - DC Outskirts: Expeditions, and as Ubisoft and
announced today (9 July) that a TV series, based on Massive announced today, this free DLC will arrive on July 23 for Year 1 Pass owners and July 30
the popular (yet devilishly difficult) video game, is for all players. Aside from myriad fixes and balance changes, Episode 1 will introduce two new
being developed in conjunction with King Features main missions, the Expeditions game mode, new gear including two Exotics, and two more
and Cuphead developer Studio MDHR. Titled The Classified Assignments. The Operation Dark Hours raid is also getting a lowered “Discovery”
Cuphead Show!, the comedy series will expand on difficulty (with reduced rewards), and even amongst the many balance changes, skill overhauls
the world first shown in the independently
stand out.
produced video game.
The new missions are set in Camp White Oak and the Manning National Zoo, and star
President Andrew Ellis and Outcast leader Emeline Shaw, respectively. Expeditions, meanwhile,
will take players to Kenly College. Unlike missions, Expeditions will be split into three “wings,”
with new wings released on a weekly basis. “Completing all three wings grants access to an
exclusive treasure room full of rewards,” Massive said in a statement. The new Classified
Assignments, meanwhile, are set in Washington’s Central Aquarium and NSA Site B13, and are
exclusive to the Year 1 Pass.

FALLOUT 76’S UPCOMING PATCH


A new Lord of the Rings MMO is about
WILL MAKE LIFE IN THE WASTELAND to get a helping hand from Amazon
SLIGHTLY EASIER FOR NEW AND
LOW-LEVEL CHARACTERS ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY PLAY INTO MORDOR…
THE PATCH AIMS TO CREATE “A SMOOTHER
PATH FOR NEW CHARACTERS”. Last September Athlon Games announced it was working on a free The Lord of the Rings MMO.
Bethesda recently released a blog post with a You’d be forgiven for not having the date and news etched into your memory, but the whole
preview of the next big upcoming patch for Fallout thing just got a lot more interesting with the news that Amazon – and its very deep pockets – is
76. One of the biggest takeaways of the highlights joining the project.
given for Patch 11, which is due to be added in Amazon Game Studios – which has so far launched The Grand Tour Game and a number of
mid-July, is that it’s set to help new and low-level Amazon App Store titles – will “jointly develop the game for PC and consoles” with Athlon
characters have a smoother introduction to the
Games. We know from Athlon’s original announcement that the game will be set way before all
wasteland after emerging from the Vault for the
the shenanigans with Frodo Baggins and Gollum.
first time.
“Lots of new Dwellers have been leaving Vault “You won’t see human characters from The Lord of the Rings in our game,” Dave Miller,
76 for the first time over the past few weeks and, in president of Athlon Games, told Gamesbeat when the game was originally announced. “I
Patch 11, we’re looking to make a few adjustments wouldn’t say it’s First Age because that is more gods and monsters.”
to help new and low-level characters have more “We’re committed to bringing customers games of the highest quality, both with our own
gradual introductions to some of the game’s original IP as well as beloved cultural pillars like The Lord of the Rings,” said Amazon Game
mechanics and challenges,” the post states. Studios’ Christoph Hartmann in a statement.

[ 038 ]
DISCOVER
GAME NEWS
Cyberpunk 2077 minigames: Hacking,
car racing, boxing, and target
range explained
CYBERPUNK 2077 MINIGAMES ARE COMING AND YOU ARE GOING TO BE BUSY.

Cyberpunk 2077 minigames will fill out your being that the better you are at this hacking racing activities. So you’ll be able to race your
time in Night City beyond the eternal chase for procedure, the more control you get over the car through the city,” Tost added. We even saw
eurodollars and near-future romance. Though actual network that you’re hacking. And that a little first-person motorcycle riding in the
developer CD Projekt Red is remaining cagey manifests in additional rewards on top of your latest gameplay footage, though Tost didn’t say
in just how much gameplay it shows off for its main objective, being added to you and maybe whether we’ll be able to race those around too.
new open-world RPG, it allowed a pair of its your inventory.” But wait, there’s more!
employees to answer fan questions about the Depending on your SENIOR LEVEL DESIGNER “On top of that, you
game submitted via Tumblr. One of those playstyle, hacking MILES TOST STARTED OFF BY can also do boxing
questions was about what kind of Cyberpunk could be just as EXPANDING ON HOW THE matches,” Sasko said.
2077 minigames players can participate in, important to your HACKING MINIGAME WILL “I don’t know if you
and it sounds like there will be all kinds of character as their WORK IN CYBERPUNK 2077. remember the first
ways to fruitfully while away the hours. trigger finger, letting DON’T WORRY, THIS ISN’T trailer we had shown,
Senior level designer Miles Tost started off you get around ANOTHER PERFUNCTORY there was the big dude
by expanding on how the hacking minigame obstacles and directly “WIGGLE THE THUMBSTICKS getting broken by this
will work in Cyberpunk 2077. Don’t worry, this mess with your UNTIL YOU FIND THE SWEET robot. So you can
isn’t another perfunctory “wiggle the cyber-enhanced SPOT” FILLER SEGMENT actually fight it in a
thumbsticks until you find the sweet spot” opponents. Don’t boxing minigame. It’s
filler segment. Tost said Cyberpunk 2077’s worry if your shooting skills get a little rusty like a series of matches that you can attend.”
hacking minigame will make the process of after de-rezzing all that ICE, because another That sounds like enough to keep us busy for
subverting systems more challenging, minigame will let you head to the shooting quite a while even without the story and side
engaging, and rewarding to boot. Get it, boot, range to practice with your gunsmith missions bit. However, the devs didn’t say
like booting up a computer? Hahhh. pal Wilson. anything about giving an exhaustive list of
“A cool thing about this minigame is that it’s “Another thing you might do – because Cyberpunk 2077 minigames, so if you’re still
not a binary thing, it’s not so much about vehicles play a big part in our game, and you holding out hope for a dystopian future
success and failure so much as how big you are in Night City, the city of neon – so of equivalent of Gwent, don’t abandon your
win,” Tost explained. “The fantasy behind it course you’re invited to engage in some car dreams just yet.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 039 ]
DISCOVER
GAME REVIEWS

WINNER

[ PC AND CONSOLE GAMES ] ED’s CHOICE


AWARD

Super Mario Maker 2


WII U’S CROWN JEWEL FINALLY SWITCHES TEAMS.
Nintendo Switch | $79.95 | www.nintendo.com/

THERE’S SOMETHING ODDLY transgressive clever things it’s possible to do with the very But if you’re after a guaranteed good time and
about Mario Maker. After over 30 years snazzy editor. While veterans of the original you’re not interested in level creation, perhaps
stomping Goombas in carefully designed and Wii U Mario Maker are likely to skip this, it you’ll want to stick to Nintendo’s campaign.
refined Super Mario Bros. levels, the stands as the most innovative (and weird) Mario Maker is about its community, and
opportunity to take the reins comes with a single-player 2D Mario game since The Lost the meta-game is trying to make your own
strange sense of power. With every utterly Levels. Given the focus of Mario Maker 2, it creations ‘go viral’. The toolset is remarkably
ridiculous corruption of Nintendo’s famously shows Nintendo daring to experiment and get easy to use, but the real challenge is
breezy platformer, with every gargantuan- silly with its approach to 2D level design. understanding what makes a good level tick.
sized Thwomp placed maliciously and secretly Because overall, Nintendo must understand Given Mario’s moveset, and given the five game
at the end of a marathon level, Mario Maker that Mario Maker is a fairly ‘hardcore’ game by templates (Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros
can feel like breaking into school at the the measure of Mario games. Endless Mode 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros U and
weekend and wreaking havoc in the canteen. returns, which allows players to tackle an 3D World), as well as the various costumes and
Nintendo isn’t so reckless as to leave the endless stream of user-created levels on three alternative characters (Toad is a highlight, of
keys in the door and turn the other way: one of difficulty tiers, but these tend to be either course), there’s a lot to get one’s head around.
the greatest improvements this sequel has over frivolously easy or else very hard. There are And if you have no luck making levels that gain
its predecessor is a full-length, Nintendo made exceptions of course (there are already a foothold in the community, it’s a pleasure to
campaign of levels that are not only fun to thousands of levels and counting) and it’s easy create them anyway.
play, but provide a crash course in all the to skip levels if they’re either boring or tedious. Still, Nintendo’s discoverability is obscure to
say the least, and the most popular courses tend
to be either novelties (such as auto-run levels) or
very challenging courses uploaded by the first
game’s veterans. That’s at the time of writing,
and is likely to change. But it’s hard to imagine
anyone feeling left out, given the presence of
Nintendo’s own campaign, the accessibility of
its creation tools, and the sheer pleasure in
commanding Mario: even if you’re
commanding him through levels that’d make
Salvador Dali feel shy. [SHAUN PRESCOTT]

41/2

[ 040 ]
WINNER

ED’s CHOICE
AWARD

DISCOVER
GAME REVIEWS
WINNER

APPROVED
AWARD

MY FRIEND PEDRO
AERIAL ACROBATICS MEET MOBSTER
MURDER IN THIS DELIGHTFULLY TWISTED
PLATFORMER-SHOOTER.
WINNER
PC, Switch | $28.95 | www.myfriendpedro.com
SIDE-SCROLLING, SCORE-ATTACK
APPROVED PLATFORMER My Friend Pedro is a game
AWARD
about artfully blasting a variety of
gangsters with a pair of pistols while
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night simultaneously jumping, flipping, rolling
BRINGING THE CASTLEVANIA SERIES BACK FROM THE DEAD UNDER A NEW NAME. and comedically pirouetting your way to
$69.95 | PC, PS4, Switch, XB1 | playbloodstained.com each level’s end zone. Oh, and there’s a
floating sentient banana – the
IF THE RISE of indie game developers has eponymous Pedro – who occasionally
fuelled one genre in particular, it’s got to be the turns up to guide you through your
Metroidvania – in 2019, fans certainly haven’t murder spree. Neat.
been left wanting, with gobs of excellent genre This is a game that rewards skill and
examples on offer – including Owlboy, Dead speed – its 40 levels are generally short and
Cells and the outstanding (and Australian- sweet, and to do well at them you’ll need to
made) Hollow Knight, to name just a few.  learn each inside-out, plotting an efficient
The Kickstarter-funded, gothic horror- course in terms of both physical
themed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night enters movement, interacting with objects in the
a rather crowded market, then, with its main environment, and figuring out when and
distinction being that its project lead is famed This is also one of the most approachable and how to shoot your enemies. Thankfully,
Japanese game dev Koji Igarashi, creator of gentle Metroidvanias of late, too – while we effective controls make it easy to perform
some of the most beloved titles in the wouldn’t describe it as easy, it’s not as punishingly the requisite deadly acrobatics (at least to a
Castlevania series. brutal as most of its indie kin have become, passable degree), so splitting your aim to
Bloodstained was essentially promised to be a making this a good starting point. take down two enemies while bouncing off
modern version of Igarashi’s earlier hits, and it Some occasionally questionable design decisions walls and performing mid-air flips – all
follows the familiar Metroidvania formula: do mar the overall experience, mind – there’s one optionally in ‘Bullet Time’ style slow-
there’s a large open world to slowly unlock particular occasion in the game where it’s not made motion – really is no big deal.
(which you’ll be criss-crossing for the entire clear how to get hold of a required power-up, and This isn’t a terribly long game from start
game’s length), alongside a variety of power-ups you may need to turn to Google at a few points to to finish, and its simple gameplay formula
and plenty of demons to slay. And as you’d figure out how to progress. The Nintendo Switch means it probably won’t appeal to
expect, the core gameplay works well, with version of the game was also a bit of a mess at everyone; to really get your money’s worth
effective platforming and combat, enough of a launch, with occasional performance slowdowns here, you do need to be the type of gamer
story to keep things interesting (albeit in the that honestly have no place in a AAA title in 2019. who’ll compulsively replay the same levels
melodramatic Japanese-gothic style of Fixes have been promised, but hadn’t yet appeared time and again until you’ve mastered them
Castlevania) and a surprising amount of at the time of review. and landed yourself a decent position on
freedom in terms of how you customise your Regardless, Bloodstained does deliver on its the global leaderboard. If that sounds like
character’s loadout. There are over 100 ‘spells’ to promise of reviving the feel of its Castlevania you, however, this is one banana you’ll
be acquired (and then levelled-up) by killing the inspirations, making it an easy recommendation definitely want to put in your basket.
game’s various enemy types, and a simple to anyone who’s a fan of the genre. [DAN GARDINER ]
crafting system lets you turn dropped loot into [DAN GARDINER ]
a variety of weapons, potions and tasty meals,
with the latter providing a permanent stat boost 4 4
the first time you try a new one.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 041 ]
WINNER

APPROVED
AWARD
DISCOVER
GAME REVIEWS

LAPIS X LABYRINTH Amid Evil


A FLASHY AND DISORIENTING SIDESCROLLING THERE’S A LOT OF EVIL AROUND, BUT IT’S NOT TOO BIG OF A DEAL WHEN YOU’RE ARMED WITH ENTIRE PLANETS.
DUNGEON CRAWLER. Nintenso Switch, PC | US$20 | https://newblood.games/
Nintendo Switch, PS4 | $40 | www.nisamerica.com/
games/lapislabyrinth Amid Evil’s worst weapon is a staff that throw them out of the level entirely like
NIPPON ICHI SOFTWARE has clearly shoots blue homing blobs – pathetic water they’ve been slapped by a god, is Amid
received the memo that loot is cool, because balloons that splash against low-poly Evil’s pièce de résistance – I can never tire
Lapis X Labyrinth is the most loot abundant demons, many of whom look like what of it.
game you’ll likely play this year – and yes, you’d get if you coated a bunch of triangles There are quiet moments in Amid Evil,
we know Borderlands 3 is just around the with super glue and threw them in a dryer. too, and not just when I get lost looking for
corner. A 2D platformer and dungeon It’s worth using during the most annoying a button. As I took a breather from the
crawler, it boasts a handful of varied encounters, when a projectile-lobbing carnage in one of the final levels, a faint,
character classes with some nice contrasts in enemy is perched high above and is hard to bumbling trumpet unexpectedly cut
weaponry and attacks. But even these hit with anything else. I don’t like it or the through the ominous vocal ‘ahhs’ and
crucial features seem unimportant in light moments when I resort to it, but I can also synthy moans, as if one of the orchestra
of the game’s real appeal: the blissful use the entire earth as a grenade, which members was bleeding out in the astral
gratification of acquiring stuff. Not only is more than evens things out. Amid Evil plane somewhere outside the level. I was
loot abundant, but in some cases gathering it is good. moved by a game about slaughtering
causes great torrential storms of pixelated It’s a throwback FPS like Dusk, but rather low-poly demons, it’s true.
colour to rampage across the screen. It’s so than hitscan pistol headshots, Amid Evil Despite barely telling a story, Amid Evil
weirdly satisfying that it barely matters that recalls Heretic and Hexen’s magical made me wonder if the gods might be the
the gameplay itself, and the level design, is weapons. The staff sucks, but there’s also a real assholes – they were the ones who put
very rote and forgettable. It’s a shame the magic sword, a grenade launcher that buttons everywhere, after all – and when it
game has no cooperative features, because shrinks and fires random planets (like the was over I lingered for a long time before
sharing this experience with a friend might earth), a spike-firing morningstar, a letting it end. I want more.
even make it brilliant. lightning trident, plus your default axe and [TYLER WILDE]
[SHAUN PRESCOTT] a geometrically-unreasonable purple thing
that clears rooms like Doom’s BFG.
Most of the weapons are fun, but the Star
3 of Torment, which pins enemies to walls 4
like FEAR’s stake gun, or can be used to

[ 042 ]
WINNER

ED’s CHOICE
AWARD

DISCOVER
GAME REVIEWS
The Sinking City OUTER WILDS
EXPLORE AN EXPLODING SOLAR SYSTEM IN THE
A DETECTIVE GAME WITH A LOVECRAFTIAN TWIST.
NEXT GREAT MYSTERY GAME.
Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One | $TBC | www.thesinkingcity.com
Xbox One, PC | $TBC | http://outerwilds.com/

THE SINKING CITY is a third-person detective But while Sherlock Holmes has to rely THE SUN HAS gone supernova. That’s bad
adventure set in a fictional version of 1920s entirely on his intelligence and intuition to and all, but right now I’m actually more
New England, inspired by the works of solve a mystery, Reed has a supernatural interested in some rocks. You see, I found a
influential (and, yes, controversial) horror advantage. In certain locations a glowing blue physics-defying obelisk that emits a specific,
writer H.P. Lovecraft. Divers uncover an portal will open up, through which he can eerie noise. I wake up, jump in my ship, and
ancient cavern hidden beneath Oakmont filled witness whichever crime transpired there. use my signalscope to scan the solar system
with otherworldly statues of cosmic demons, These vignettes come in the form of for matching sounds. I follow one to the
and are driven mad by the discovery – a shimmering silhouettes of the people involved planet of Brittle Hollow, but almost
madness that begins to spread through the city and fragments of speech. Reed must then immediately get distracted by some
and awakens strange, violent creatures the construct a narrative, figuring out the order interesting ruins. I land nearby and
locals call wylebeasts. The game is divided these echoes of the past occurred in, which will investigate. And then the sun blows up
between solving crimes and shooting usually result in a new clue appearing in the again. I wake up, jump in my ship, and
monsters, although the gulf in quality between Mind Palace. activate its log. A new entry appears for the
each flavour of play is pretty wide. My biggest issue with The Sinking City, at ruins. There are rumours of other possible
Ukrainian developer Frogwares has been least as a detective game, is that the cases aren’t points of interest too. I’m trapped in a time
making Sherlock Holmes games for over a that interesting. One of the greatest strengths of loop. I’ve got about 20 minutes until the sun
decade now, including 2014’s magnificent Frogwares’ Sherlock games is encountering a explodes once again. What can I discover
Crimes and Punishments. As such, The Sinking confounding mystery and being overcome with this time?
City is a decent detective game – particularly in a desire to solve it. But I rarely felt that If Outer Wilds isn’t as perfectly tight as
its use of the blatantly Sherlock-inspired Mind compulsion here, and the solutions to many of Return of the Obra Dinn et al, it’s because its
Palace system. As you explore a crime scene you the cases lacked a satisfying “Aha!’ moment interactions are broader and more
collect clues that, while useless on their own, – the punchline that should round off any good interactive. It’s a mystery that spans multiple
can be connected in the Mind Palace to open detective story. worlds, after all, and untangling it is a
up new lines of investigation. And you have to [ANDY KELLY] delight. [ PHIL SAVAGE ]
make these connections yourself, without any
hand-holding or hints, which makes a 3 41/2
successful deduction especially satisfying.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 043 ]
WINNER WINNER

ED’s CHOICE ED’s CHOICE


AWARD AWARD
DISCOVER
MOBILE GAMES

[ GAMING ON THE GO ]

Mobile games
TECHLIFE’S TEAM REVIEWS THE LATEST GAMES FOR
ANDROID & iOS SMARTPHONES & TABLETS.
[ JAMES PINNELL ]

Dota Underlords
AUTO CHESS WITHOUT COMPROMISE. Void Tyrant
Free with IAP ROGUE-LIKE CARD BATTLES.
Free with IAP

IN WHAT MUST be one of the quickest I PLAY A lot of mobile games, obviously, and
turnarounds in history, what began as a it’s rare that I’m both surprised and delighted
custom mode that launched in January via in by a clever twist on a few well-worn concepts.
the popular PC brawler Dota 2 has now found Void Tyrant is, wait for it, a single player-
its way five months later to its own standalone roguelike-deck builder-dungeon-crawler with
game. Dota Underlords at its core is a clever elements taken from a bunch of RPGs and
twist on Chess, where players are randomly casino games. Phew. But it’s this eclectic
assigned a range of characters that feature jumble of genres that makes for a beautiful,
different abilities, traits and classes, which stylish and extraordinarily fun time that is
fight automatically when placed on a different on every single playthrough.
virtual chessboard. The crux of the game involves exploration
After each battle with an opponent, which around several alien planets and ships, with
can be either a real or computer player, players each step pushing you toward an encounter of
are given coins and experience based on their some kind – this could be a regular enemy, a
performance. They can use these coins to boss, a shrine, a chest, anything. Encountering
purchase new characters or upgrade their have plenty of opponents in the long run. Too an enemy puts you into a battle state where
“courier”, which essentially offers better few games feature this sort of cross play and you and your opponent flip a card deck of
quality options as well as increased gold and cross progression, and it’s great to see a randomised numbers in a similar style to
experience gain. Since battles are automatic, developer including mobile in a positive way. blackjack. Push your luck too far or not
all of the strategy is based around building a Performance is also buttery smooth, which is enough and the enemy will get a drop on you,
solid synergy within your pieces, many of impressive for a title with such a short with a perfect 12 solidifying a critical hit.
which can combine to perform powerful development period and one that is still For those unfamiliar with rogue-likes, the
attacks, buffs or heals. technically in beta. DU’s developer, Valve, built idea is that death does not introduce an
Underlords launched across PC, Linux, Mac, a dedicated network for the game that takes end-game state, but instead a learning
Android and iOS at the same time with the advantage of its existing global Steam network, experience. Progression gained by the player is
same client. Every single game session shares a which keeps lag times down regardless of saved after the avatar is killed, which resets the
single authentication system, meaning you can location. As is the case with Dota 2, the free game state slightly but provides an advantage
start on your PC or tablet, then run out the nature of the game is based entirely on cosmetic for the next run through. It sets the stage for
door once you realise you’re about to miss your upgrades and a future battle pass. Perfect. an addictive, head-down, nose-buried
train and pick up where you left off on your experience that is unrivalled on mobile.
phone. The lack of benefit from using a
keyboard, mouse or touchscreen means that 5 5
full-cross play is fair and ensures everyone will

[ 044 ]
WINNER
WINNER WINNER

ED’s CHOICE APPROVED APPROVED


AWARD
AWARD AWARD

DISCOVER
MOBILE GAMES
Million Lords
CITY BASED STRATEGY Tetris Blitz 8 Ball Hero
SANS TIMERS. TETRIS IN 90 SECONDS. TRICK SHOTS ON THE GO.
Free with IAP Free with IAP Free with IAP

IF YOU’RE LIKE me, city and civilisation I LOVE TETRIS. From the moment I laid my QUITE A FEW sports titles have discovered that
strategy games are really a perfect fit for hands on an original Game Boy during my the best way to play on mobile devices is to aim
phones. They can be picked up and dropped early years I have never gotten sick of the straight for the sweet spot. In both a literal and
off without any time commitment, but at the perfect symmetry of sliding blocks into stacks figurative way, 8 Ball Hero fast forwards
same time, much of what monetises them of lines. Regardless of what the spin on the through the boring parts of Snooker and sets up
involves staggeringly long timers and pointless game was – pills, aliens, speed, colours – it was a tricky set of final shots for you to figure out
farming of resources. Many of these factors are something I have always played regularly and pull off. Like a hero... Ahem. Each shot
what puts most players off in the late game throughout my life. It’s a constant, and likely becomes increasingly difficult, but you can be
stages, as the requirements become one of the games that will outlive the first buffed by several skills and abilities that make
significantly more time intensive and grindy. generation to play it. things a little simpler.
Million Lords aims to change tact, removing Tetris Blitz was the inevitable landing of the There’s even a slightly surreal story to follow,
timers and resources almost entirely, leaving game on Mobile, which on the surface seems the ability to customise your avatar, and easily
nothing but cities, gold and soldiers. Each kind of obvious. Tetris is one of the few games my favourite bit – commentary that follows your
season of play, which lasts 30 days, starts with that can be played on almost any computer. actual play and includes pithy comments when
you dropped into a new map with a single city, But EA decided to spin things a little bit and you make an awful shot. The graphics are solid,
surrounded a bunch of other players and a host instead of allowing the standard “infinite” the game has a fun presentation and quirky flow
of “neutral cities”. Neutral cities are easy mode of stacking lines until you crater, there to it, with lots of personality in the overall design.
captures, and over time each city gradually are now time limits, random modifiers, There are some minor issues with control and
accrues both gold and armies. powerups and leaderboards. accuracy, which is always a problem when you
As there are no timers, or restrictions, At its core, Blitz is great fun – the time limits need to make precise movements across multiple
players can attack and conquer at will, mean that you can jump in and out of games angles with your thumbs.
generally only stopped by the risk of spreading quickly and the leader boards allow you to That said, it’s very easy to get the hang of and
their forces too thin across a wide area. challenge friends and randoms. Unfortunately, the short level system means you can play for as
If you are looking for unrestrained strategy, a lot of the initial pleasure is worn down by the long or as little as you like. I did find the
the simple to play, hard to master elements of excessive number of ads, and the paid difficulty to spike a little at times, and some of
Million Lords is certainly worth a look. powerups and finishers tend to spike scores far the trick shots don’t generally have a clear guide
too easily, although thankfully the game does for success which can be frustrating, but on the
take note if you don’t use them and ranks whole 8 Ball Hero is a fun distraction for
accordingly. anyone who’s enjoyed a night on the tables.

41/2 4 4

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 045 ]
THE GAMES
DISCOVER
O E3 2019
THE GAMES OF

E3 2019 is over, and it’s been a


busy one. Here’s a roundup of
ming to your PC soon!
what’s com
BY CHRISTIAN GUYTON

There’s a lot of sequels coming out of E3 this year, which is no


bad thing. Many have been a long time coming, and we’ve seen
a few original IPs cropping up, too. More and more are going
multiplatform, as well, bringing great experiences to PC that
might have been confined by console exclusivity in years gone
by. The big names have all been throwing their weight around:
While Sony may have been absent, Microsoft was keen to
announce several games alongside its Xbox Scarlett project;
Bethesda had plenty of hotly anticipated sequels to show off;
and Ubisoft is keen to keep Tom Clancy revolving in his grave.
So, read on, and check out our 30 most anticipated games from
E3 2019.

V
Vampire: The
Masquerade
loodlines 2
M
March 2020
ong-awaited doesn’t begin
Lo
o describe it. A favorite of
to
knnow-it-all RPG nerds (yes,
ncluding us), the Vampire:
in
Th
he Masquerade series
hoolds major kudos among Jedi: Fallen Order
gaamers in the know. This November 2019
se
equel looks to scratch the Respawn is enjoying no small degree of
va
ampiric role-playing itch, success right now, thanks to the breakout
with
w a detailed world and popularity of its free-to-play battle royale
nuumerous gameplay styles. Apex Legends. The developer’s next major
• Developer Hardsuit Labs project is set in a galaxy far, far away—a lone
• Publisher Jedi striking out to fight the Empire with all
Paradox Interactive manner of Force and lightsaber-related antics.
• Developer Respawn Entertainment
• Publisher Electronic Arts
DISCOVER
THE GAMES OF E3 2019
Elden Ring TBC 2020 Blair Witch August 2019 Dying Light 2 TBC 2020
FromSoftware and George R.R. Martin? It’s Truly good horror games can be few and far The first Dying Light was a surprise success, a
safe to assume that we’ll be doing some (read: between, so we’re hoping that this one will fast-paced combo of parkour and melee
a lot of) dying in this game. Creator Hidetaka scare the pants off us. It looks like it’s combat in a zombie-infested city. This looks
Miyazaki has confirmed that it’ll be From’s checking all the boxes, too. Spooky darker, with protagonist Aiden in the process
biggest game ever. No mention of whether teleporting monsters? Yup. A haunted forest? of succumbing to the undead virus, but it still
everyone’s favorite Mother of Dragons will Check. Protagonist with a trusty old-school has the same amount of zombie
cameo, though. video camera? You got it. defenestration.
• Developer FromSoftware • Developer Bloober Team • Developer Techland
• Publisher Bandai Namco • Publisher Lionsgate Games • Publisher Square Enix

Cyberpunk 2077
April 2020
Of course CD Projekt Red’s
latest and greatest is on this
list. E3 saw a new CGI trailer
and – shock – an actual
release date for the Polish
developer’s upcoming gritty
sci-fi romp. Get ready to stab
some guys with your nifty
arm-blades on April 16, 2020.
Now with more Keanu Reeves!
• Developer
CD Projekt Red
• Publisher CD Projekt

Starmancer TBC Minecraft Dungeons Spring 2020


It’s Dwarf Fortress, but in space. We don’t know exactly how closely it Honestly, this looks good as hell. A four-player co-op dungeon crawler in
resembles the resource-management classic, but it hands the player the the vein of Diablo, but with the cutesy, cubic art style of Minecraft? We
responsibility of running a space colony under threat from natural hazards didn’t see this one coming, but after watching it in action, we’re pleasantly
and marauding bandits. It looks great, too – intricately detailed pixel art surprised; it’s bringing a genuinely fun and unique twist to the dungeon-
bringing your little colony to life. crawling genre.
• Developer Ominux Games • Publisher Chucklefish • Developer Mojang • Publisher Microsoft Studios

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 047 ]
Tom Clancy’s
Rainbow Six:
Quarantine
TBC 2020
DISCOVER
THE GAMES OF E3 2019

This is an odd one. Based on the


popular Rainbow Six: Siege
event, Outbreak, this sees elite
operators facing off against an
alien contagion that turns
Bleeding Edge TBC
What is Bleeding Edge? Well, we’re hoping it’s going to
people into spiky, murderous
be Anarchy Reigns, but actually good this time around.
monsters. It’s an unusual twist
A 4v4 melee brawler with a cast of absurd and colorful
for the series, but has potential
characters, it’s brought to you by Ninja Theory, who has
to be lots of fun.
demonstrated some pretty serious melee combat chops
• Developer Ubisoft
in the past.
• Publisher Ubisoft
• Developer Bleeding Edge
• Publisher Xbox Game Studios

Roller
Champions TBC
A wild take on roller derby
with clear Rocket League
influences, Roller
Champions is a bonkers
technicolor future sports
game featuring
cartoonish characters on
roller skates. There’s a lot
of noise, glowing orbs
being chucked about, and
screaming stadium
commentators. With
multiple game modes, we
hope for some heavy
competitive streaming
potential.
• Developer Ubisoft
• Publisher Ubisoft

Microsoft Flight
Simulator TBC 2020
Why are we so excited about this? Well, a
satellite-mapped real-world environment
rendered in glorious 4K is a great starting
point. The trailer showcased locations
ranging from New York City to Egypt, with
Wolfenstein: Youngblood
July 2019
beautiful weather effects, and a range of
A game that should be out by the time you’re reading this, Bethesda’s latest Nazi-exploding shooter
aircraft to pilot.
sees hero BJ Blazkowicz taking a short break while his twin daughters (who look nothing alike,
• Developer Microsoft Game Studios
strangely) wreck the Fourth Reich in high-octane action against a backdrop of 80s France. Two
• Publisher Microsoft
protagonists make for co-op gameplay, too!
• Developer MachineGames • Publisher Bethesda Softworks

[ 048 ]
Watch Dogs Legion
March 2020
Despite a beleaguered past, the
Watch Dogs franchise is still

DISCOVER
THE GAMES OF E3 2019
kicking, showing off an
impressive E3 gameplay demo.
Set in a dystopian near-future
London, Legion sees players able
to take control of any random
character wandering the
overworld, an ability that will
prove necessary due to the
game’s permadeath mechanic.
• Developer Ubisoft
• Publisher Ubisoft

Baldur’s Gate 3 TBC Last Oasis September 2019 Doom Eternal November 2019
It’s been almost two decades since a new Indie dev team Donkey Crew is working on Look: It’s Doom! The world has really gone to
Baldur’s Gate game – no, the 2013 remaster something that looks genuinely original. Set the dogs, so it’s up to you to don that iconic
doesn’t count – so, needless to say, we’re in a sprawling open world of deserts and green armor and slaughter hordes of demons
fairly hyped about this. The third installment woodlands, Last Oasis tasks players with to a shredding soundtrack. Bethesda also
is bringing some seriously Lovecraftian styles constructing giant many-legged woodpunk showed an asymmetric multiplayer mode,
into play, with a (gross) CGI trailer that shows platforms called Walkers. It’s multiplayer, which sees players commanding either the
a soldier transformed into a tentacled forcing players to choose whether to help or Doom Slayer himself or a pair of
Cthulian beast (it’s an Ithillid - ed). hinder the scavenging efforts of fellow powerful demons.
• Developer Larian Studios survivors. • Developer id Software
• Publisher Larian Studios • Developer Donkey Crew • Publisher Bethesda Softworks
• Publisher Donkey Crew

Halo Infinite
Holiday 2020
Microsoft and 343 are going all-in on this one.
Built in a brand-new engine, and treated as a
“spiritual” reboot of Master Chief’s story,
Wasteland 3 Halo Infinite will be released on PC alongside
TBC 2020 its Xbox launch in 2020. The trailer sees Chief
The Wasteland series has quite a rich heritage, often cited as a cult favorite of turn-based RPG drifting in space; presumably, he’ll transition
aficionados. This new game is injecting a little more excitement into the post-apocalyptic setting, to shooting aliens quickly enough.
with wintery environments and hulking spider tanks. And, uh, clowns? Not quite sure what’s going on • Developer 343 Industries
with that… • Publisher Xbox Game Studios
• Developer inXile Entertainment • Publisher inXile Entertainment

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 049 ]
Deathloop
TBC 2020
An original game from famed
Dishonored developer
Arkane, Deathloop appears
to feature two heroes facing
off against each other on a
time-looped island. No
gameplay as of yet, but the Evil Genius 2:
animated trailer featured World Domination TBC
speedy gunplay and As the name implies, Rebellion’s new game
high-tech combat gadgets, casts you as a Bond-villain-esque evil genius,
with stylised direction on a mission to dominate the world, and
reminiscent of cheesy generally commit crimes from your lair, all
grindhouse action movies. with the help of loyal (if bumbling) henchmen.
• Developer Defending your base from do-gooder spies
Arkane Studios plays a key role.
• Publisher • Developer Rebellion
Bethesda Softworks • Publisher Rebellion

The Outer Worlds


October 2019
New gameplay footage from
Obsidian Entertainment’s new
spacefaring RPG left us intrigued
to see more; a bombastic,
brightly colored blend of Fallout
and Bioshock set on the far
reaches of colonised space in the
distant future. Expect a wide
array of perks and weapons, and
some deep dialogue options.
• Developer
Obsidian Entertainment
• Publisher
Private Division

Chivalry 2 Phantasy Star Online 2 Gears 5


TBC 2020 TBC 2020 September 2019
Chivalry 2 is aiming to do what the original We’d forgive you for not having heard of this Included in the coming-soon-to-PC Xbox
Chivalry did – silly multiplayer medieval one. The original Phantasy Star Online was Game Pass service, the newest Gears of
sword fights – on a larger scale. We’re talking published by Sega way back in 2000, and the War game (or just Gears now, apparently)
64-player battles, mounts, and greater depth sequel actually released in Japan in 2012. comes packing a new story mixing old
of customisation. The developers have Localisation clearly took a while. But it’s here and new characters, and a variety of
expressed an interest in recreating great now, coming to PC in the West next year with game modes for co-operation-minded
fictional battles, too, such as Game of a new free-to-play model. players. And yes, they still have guns
Thrones’ legendary Battle of the Bastards. • Developer Online R&D with chainsaws on them.
• Developer Torn Banner Studios • Publisher Sega • Developer The Coalition
• Publisher Activision • Publisher Xbox Game Studios

[ 050 ]
Borderlands 3
September 2019
The daddy of looter-shooters
is back, and bigger than

DISCOVER
THE GAMES OF E3 2019
ever. The most recent
teasers have shown us
homing grenades, a
pilotable mech, and guns
with tiny legs, so it’s all par
for the course in Gearbox’s
ridiculous, over-the-top
universe. Most interestingly,
the numerous guns will have
new alt-fire modes, too.
• Developer
Gearbox Software
• Publisher
2K Games

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint Gods & Monsters February 2020
October 2019
We’ve only been shown a brief teaser trailer of this, but it comes from the
The E3 presentation for this featured Jon Bernthal (Netflix’s Punisher, for
team behind the excellent Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and appears to
those not in the loop) on stage with his dog. He’s in the game; the dog
focus on hunting mythological beasts. The art style is bright and
isn’t. Expect the usual stealthy shooter antics, with burly men who are
youthful, indicating that this may be aimed at a slightly younger audience
unexpectedly good at hide-and-seek.
than Odyssey.
• Developer Ubisoft • Publisher Ubisoft
• Developer Ubisoft • Publisher Ubisoft

Call of Duty:
Modern Warfare
October 2019
Is it a reboot? A remake? We’re not sure, but
CoD’s latest promises to be a darker, grittier
take on the military shooter series. Captain
Price is back, and it looks like Infinity Ward is
Griftlands
TBC 2019
keen to return to the series’s action-packed
Klei Entertainment’s new IP appeared to be in dire straits for a while, with the original trailer being
campaign roots.
pulled from the Steam store, and the release date thrown into oblivion. But it’s back, promising
• Developer Infinity Ward
card-based adventuring gameplay within a rogue-like framework, set in a gritty sci-fi frontier world.
• Publisher Activision
The alpha is coming soon.
• Developer Klei Entertainment • Publisher Klei Entertainment

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 051 ]
[ TECHLIFE #93 ]

TEST BEN
THE HOTTEST GEAR P ST

WINNER

AP
P OVED
AWARD

THE ASUS ZENBOOK 14 UX433F


IS ALL ABOUT THAT SCREEN.
OR RATHER THE LACK OF
ANYTHING MUCH AROUND IT.
THE SIDE BEZELS MEASURE
JUST 2.9MM, WHILE THE
BOTTOM CLOCKS IN AT 3.3MM
AND THE TOP 6.1MM.

Asus Zenbook 14 UX433F


THE 14-INCH LAPTOP THAT’S ALMOST ALL SCREEN.

THE WORLD’S SMALLEST 14-inch laptop. bottom bezel. It’s what allows the Zenbook 14 8GB of RAM. The former is no surprise for an
That’s Asus’s sock-it-to-you sales pitch for the to match the depth of 13-inch Ultrabooks with Ultrabook, just be aware that like any current
new Zenbook 14 UX433F. It’s not the only relatively hefty chin bezels, like the Dell XPS laptop that utilises Intel’s integrated graphics,
thing this slick Intel-powered laptop has going 13, for overall depth, while only being slightly it’ll be pretty useless for all but the least
for it, of course. wider in width. demanding games.
There’s powerful quad-core processing, just What the Asus Zenbook is not, however, is a The impact of the 8GB system memory
for starters. Claimed all-day battery life and truly ultra-thin and ultralight laptop. The likes limitation is less clear cut. Much will depend
Harmon Kardon audio sweetens the deal, too. of the aforementioned Dell XPS 13 is on your typical usage.
But it’s that slim-bezeled ‘NanoEdge’ display noticeably slimmer if no lighter and the super For all its slim-bezel goodness, the
and the extremely compact proportions it slim Acer Swift 7 is a 14-inch alternative in a Zenbook’s screen is also merely OK. It’s not
enables for a laptop in the 14-inch segment whole different ballpark for thinness, clocking the highlight it would have been with a
that most defines the Zenbook’s proposition. in at 0.89cm to the Zenbook’s 1.59cm. punchier, higher resolution panel. All of which
What’s on offer here, in effect, is a laptop That said, there are upsides to a little makes the Asus Zenbook 14 UX433F a solid
that feels like it’s from the segment below in thickness, including space to fit a pair of choice worthy of your shortlist but not
terms of size, but delivers a larger, more full-sized USB A ports. It’s just a pity that only necessarily a no brainer.
ergonomic 14-inch viewing experience. one of them is full 3.1 speed while the other [JEREMY LAIRD]
That means this 14 incher is barely any only offers the ancient and slow 2.0 spec.
bigger than many 13-inch ultrabooks, like If the Asus Zenbook 14 UX433F is all about
Dell’s XPS 13, while 14-inch Ultrabooks that screen, it’s a pity it isn’t slightly more
including the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon impressive beyond those headline grabbing 4
are tangibly larger. Whether that’s enough to minimal bezels. However, it’s not a dud of an
stand out in a seriously crowded market of LCD panel, to be sure.
premium portables, is another matter. The performance of the other core ASUS ZENBOOK 14 UX4
X433F
$1,899
The Asus Zenbook 14 UX433F is all about components is more impressive. The Intel Core www.asus.com/au
that screen. Or rather the lack of anything i7-8565U quad-core CPU will be plenty for all
CRITICAL SPECS
much around it. The side bezels measure just but the most demanding mobile workflows. 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U (quad-core,
d 8MB cache, up to
2.9mm, while the bottom clocks in at 3.3mm Ditto the Intel 512GB NVMe SSD, which 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost); Intel UHD Graphics 620; 8GB
DDR4 RAM; 14inch, 1,920 x 1,080, IPS display; 512GB Intel
and the top 6.1mm. delivers desktop class storage performance. NVMe SSD; 1x USB-C, 1x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x
The net result is a pretty staggering 92% If there are exceptions to all that, they HDMI, MicroSD; Dual-band 802.11ac gigabit-class Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth 5.0; 3D IR HD camera; 1.19kg.
screen-to-body ratio. Most notable is that slim involve the graphics subsystem and the mere

[ 052 ]
TEST BENCH
RADAR
WINNER

ED’s CHOICE
AWARD

Acer Predator Triton 500 (NH.Q4WSA.006-C77)


ACER’S LATEST GAMING LAPTOP IS TAKING A THREE PRONGED APPROACH TO BE THE BEST PROFESSIONAL GAMING ULTRABOOK, BUT IS IT SHARP ENOUGH
TO CUT THROUGH THE COMPETITION?

ONE OF THE most striking features of the starting to see laptops appear with 9th Triton 500 is unlocked, so you can even
Triton 500 is just how thin it is. With a closed generation Intel Core i7 CPUs (and unusually, utilise a bit of that thermal overhead on the
profile of just 1.8cm it’s knocking on the door Acer actually released a Core i7-9750H model GPU to push a few more frames per second, if
of ultrabooks despite being a 15.6-inch in line with this one), so this device might date you want.
performance gaming laptop. The sleek Triton a little quicker, but it’s a good value proposition It’s interesting to compare the Triton 500 to
500 can be configured to have an Intel Core when weighed against performance. The Razer’s 2019 Blade laptop since they have an
i7-8750H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 512GB NVMe SSD was also speedy, offering almost identical spec sheet, weigh within 66g
GPU, 32GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe SSD read and write speeds of 3439MB/s and of each other, are no more than 2cm different
storage. This is a surprisingly powerful set of 3129MB/s respectively. That’s between six and in shape and offer nearly identical battery
components to conceal in such a sleek seven times faster than SATA 3 connected capacities. The only differences are that the top
form factor. SSDs and offers double the write speeds of Predator Triton 500 model has double the
The metallic clamshell comes in a subtle early PCIe connected SSDs. RAM allocation of the Blade, a G-Sync screen
blue-black colour and while it does have Acer’s Predator Triton 500 managed to keep and costs $1,100 less.
angular bevelled edges, powder-blue rear averages above 78fps on Ultra 1080p settings [ JOEL BURGESS ]
exhaust vents and a unique mosaic topside fan across all the games we tested, with titles like
inlet, overall, its understated and classy design Middle Earth: Shadow of War running at close
would slot neatly into a business environment. to 100fps. This means that there’s more than
The membrane keyboard is a little spongy for enough power here to take advantage of the
gaming, but it’s fine for typing and while we Speedy 144Hz G-Sync screen with almost 5
would prefer a slightly bigger trackpad it was anything you throw at it. It even manages
smooth and responsive. With three USB 3.1 50fps averages when using 1080p Ultra with
Type-A ports, an Ethernet port, DisplayPort, ray tracing turned on in Metro: Exodus.
ACER PREDATOR TRITON 500
Thunderbolt port and an HDMI out, alongside Despite this heavy load max temperatures $3,999
the regular 3.5mm audio and microphone were pretty reasonable. The CPU and GPU www.acer.com
jacks, there’s ample connectivity on offer. managed to stay under 97 and 69 degrees CRITICAL SPECS
The Triton 500 got within 10% of the respectively, across the entire benchmarking Windows 10 Home 644-bit; 15.6-inch G-Sync 144Hz LCD
display @ 1920 x 1080p resolution; Intel Core i7-8750H
average raw CPU performance and overall process, and while the fans can get rather CPU; Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 GPU; 32GB RAM; 512GB
work benchmarks for laptops we’ve tested with noisy at full tilt, the automated settings keep NVMe PCIe SSD; 81.5Wh battery (2h 36min 1080p
movie playback); 35.9 x 25.5 x 17.9 cm; 2.1kg.
the same CPU/GPU configuration. We are them quiet generally. The RTX 2080 on the

GENERAL MEDIA ENCODING GRAPHICS BATTERY AND


PERFORMANCE PERFORMANCE PERFORMANCE STORAGE
PCMARK 8 - HOME HWBOT X265 1080P CINEBENCH R15 3DMARK FIRE STRIKE THE DIVISION 2 - ULTRA PCMARK 8 - HOME CRYSTALDISKMARK
(SCORE) (AVG FPS) MULTI-THREADED CPU (SCORE) 1080P (FPS AV.) BATTERY (H:MIN) READ/WRITE (MB/S)

4693 31.649 1032 16,097 84 03:22 3439/3123


[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 053 ]
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IT’S EASY TO WRITE OFF THE


VALVE INDEX AS ANOTHER
NONDESCRIPT VR HEADSET
IN THE SAME VEIN AS ANY
OCULUS RIFT OR HTC VIVE
HEADSET – BUT THE DEVIL’S
ALL IN THE DETAIL HERE: ON
THE FRONT, THERE’S A GLOSSY
PLASTIC FACEPLATE ABOVE
TWO FRONT-FACING CAMER
AS THAT CAN BE USED FOR
PASSTHROUGH VIDEO
AND, POTENTIALLY,
AR APPLICATIONS.

Valve Index
VALVE HAS THE BEST HARDWARE, BUT STEAM IS HOLDING IT BACK.

BUT THE FUTURE of VR is inevitably seen before. It’s the first dial that’s actually trade-off you’ll make by choosing the Valve
expensive and before we hail Valve’s hardware groundbreaking, as that’s what allows the Index over the Oculus Rift S, but it’s a
as our VR savior, it’s worth pointing out that Index to achieve its industry-leading field of worthwhile one.
it’s not without issues (see: a lack of compelling view spec.
VR games on Steam and SteamVR’s In terms of hard numbers, the Valve Index PERFORMANCE
problematic troubleshooting process). uses a dual LCD display with a 1440 x 1600 Amazingly, while all these features would
But are any of those issues deal-breakers for resolution per eye. Unlike Oculus, which has seem to require extra horsepower under the
Valve’s VR headset? Not at all. actually dropped the refresh rate of its displays hood of your PC, they actually worked fine
for the Oculus Rift S, the Valve Index has a with our much older Nvidia GTX 980 GPU.
DESIGN 120Hz display, with the option to bump this That’s a boon for folks who don’t have the
It’s easy to write off the Valve Index as another up to 144Hz. For comparison, the more- money to upgrade their GPU after buying a
nondescript VR headset in the same vein as expensive Vive Pro has a lower refresh rate and $1,000 VR headset, and it could allow for more
any Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset – but the smaller field of view, so this actually feels like a people to get into VR.
devil’s all in the detail here: on the front, big upgrade. That last bit is important, because as more
there’s a glossy plastic faceplate above two Inside the box you’ll find the headset itself, people adopt VR, more developers will see a
front-facing cameras that can be used for the new Valve Index Controllers (colloquially business case for making VR games – right
passthrough video and, potentially, AR referred to as ‘knuckle’ controllers), and the now, Steam’s VR selection is a bit bare
applications. Go to put the headset on and Version 2.0 Base Stations, which need to be set compared to the ever-expanding main store,
you’ll feel the stone-gray pads that line the up around your room. Now, if you have a Vive and even the top titles selected by Valve to
inside; it’s a similar Halo design to what or Vive Pro headset already, the first-gen base show off the new hardware are really just a lot
Oculus is doing on the Rift S, and it feels both stations are compatible with the Valve Index, of old titles that play better with the Knuckle
comfortable and snug. but you’ll probably want to start with the controllers (see: Space Pirate Trainer, Fruit
To keep it that way, there are two dials you’ll second-gen stations if you don’t have a Ninja, Beat Saber and Arizona Sunshine).
need to use – one on the left side that changes pair already. That said, when we played some newer titles,
the physical distance from the lens to your Its reliance on external trackers puts the like Valve’s Moondust demo, we couldn’t help
eyes, and the one on that back that makes the Index behind the Oculus Rift S, which does but smile. Not only do the games look great on
headband tighter or looser. While the second room-scale VR without any external tracking the high-resolution screen, and play without
is definitely important, it’s something we’ve sensors that need to sit on a shelf. It’s a any hitches even on our less-than-ideal

[ 054 ]
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RADAR
WINNER

APPROVED
AWARD

hardware, but they feel more interactive with need to recharge the controllers, and about an FINAL VERDICT
the Index Controller. Being able to release hour on the charger to bring them back to Around the house, there’s no doubt the Valve
items by opening your hand – a completely full juice. Index will be our default VR headset going
natural experience here in the real world – forward. It’s a significant upgrade to the HTC
feels unnatural at first after using regular VR SETUP AND STEAMVR Vive, and runs much smoother than the Vive
controllers for the last two years, but once The biggest fault we found with the headset Pro, a powerful VR headset that really struggled
you adapt to it, it once again becomes after using it for more than a month is that to deliver on the promise of high-end VR.
second nature. SteamVR can be capricious… and, Whether it’s a better all-around headset than
When talking about virtual reality, there’s occasionally, a malicious, dastardly platform. the Oculus Quest, however, is up for debate; the
also sound quality to consider. The Valve As anyone who’s used an HTC Vive or Vive Valve Index has the better specs, but Quest has
Index uses a built-in solution that, to all intents Pro can tell you, SteamVR doesn’t always like the convenience. Ultimately, which one you
and purposes, works incredibly well. You’re running properly the first time, telling you choose depends on the experience you want...
able to hear a great number of details without that something is disconnected, or that your and how much money you have in the bank.
distortion, and even though it’s an inch from firmware is out of date despite just being Not to mention when and if it becomes available
the ear, it can still get reasonably loud. It also updated, or simply telling you the hardware for Australian users.
feels a bit more hygienic when it comes time to can’t be found. And that’s frustrating when
pass the headset to another person – as your you just want to jump in and play this week’s
ears never make contact with the pads, latest release.
4
although that’s a fairly minor detail. This happened to us a few times throughout
Over the course of several sessions we were our testing, and it gave us a real sense of deja
able to get a lot accomplished - we played a bit of vu – we can remember testing the Vive Pro
Beat Saber’s campaign, chopped some fruit in just over a year ago and having the same VALVE INDEX
Fruit Ninja and wrecked some robots in Space problem. Friends and readers have also US$999
https://store.steampowered.com
d
Pirate Trainer – and through it all the complained about the original Vive’s lengthy
controllers held their charge. At the end of the and unwieldy setup process, only to find a CRITICAL SPECS
1440x1600 (per eye); 120 Hz (with experimental 144 Hz
last day the controllers dropped down to a number of errors the next time they go to mode) refresh rate; ~130 degrees FOV; 37.5mm off-ear
single bar of life, but a safe assumption is to play it. speakers, built-in microphone; SteamVR 2.0 sensors
(compatible with SteamVR 1.0 base stations).
expect around five hours of playtime before you

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 055 ]
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RADAR

WINNER

ED’s CHOICE
AWARD

Oppo Reno 5G
CUTTING EDGE, FUTURE-READY AND RELATIVELY AFFORDABLE.

EVER ONE FOR classy designs, Oppo’s latest quite a capable shooter, and paired with speeds gained just a few streets over (around
handset is truly stunning. The Reno 5G sports portrait modes and Oppo’s penchant for 50Mbps compared with 200Mbps).
an iridescent, yet predominantly matte finish beautification, it’ll be more than enough. As Conversely, download speeds of around
on its rear – a welcome aesthetic and tactile for the main snapper, this version of Oppo’s 400Mbps were reached closer to the centre of
change to all the high-gloss that arrived on flagship has inherited its non-5G counterpart’s the coverage area.
flagship phones with the introduction of glass star feature – 10x optical zoom – and when Although having 5G capabilities might
bodies. A clever addition to the phone’s back is paired with all the powerful shooting modes, prove itself useful over the course of the next
a small bump (dubbed the ‘O-Dot’) that makes for a really deep and pretty camera. year, by that point the number of compatible
effectively raises your phone from a flat surface Its powerful Snapdragon 855 and 8GB RAM smartphones on the market will have also
to avoid damaging the cameras and sensors combo is more than capable of breezing increased. You could spend $300 less and get
that are flush with the handset’s rear. through the latest games and day-to-day tasks. an identical handset minus the 5G
Flip the phone over and you’ll immediately Thanks to Oppo’s VOOC technology, the functionality – a compelling proposition for
notice how dazzling the display is as well. massive 4,065mAh battery charges up the majority of users – but if you’d like to ready
Measuring 6.6-inches and fitting in an incredibly fast and comfortably manages more yourself for the future, the Oppo Reno 5G is
impressive 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, this AMOLED than a day’s worth of heavy usage. While an excellent way to buy into all the latest
wonder offers plenty of vivid colours and Oppo’s ColorOS isn’t necessarily as appealing smartphone features at a discount.
detail. While there is a tiny bezel that as some other major players’, it’s certainly [ HARRY DOMANSKI ]
surrounds all four edges (a slightly larger one improved over the years and is more than
for the chin), the lack of notch or pinhole palatable by this stage.
camera makes for an impressively While the 5G competition is thin at present,
41/2
uninterrupted viewing and gaming this flagship from Oppo is the most affordable
experience, enabling it to achieve a stellar 5G-enabled device on the Australian market,
93.1% screen-to-body ratio. with its $1,499 asking price falling comfortably OPPO RENO 5G
$1,499
The reason this handset is able to maintain below the $1,729 of the LG V50 ThinQ 5G and oppo.com/au
such a sleek facade is due to its novel and the anticipated $2,000 ballpark for the
CRITICAL SPECS
genius pop-up camera. Oppo isn’t new to this, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. At the time of 6.6-inch AMOLED display (2,340 x 1,080); A oid 9; 9
with the Find X first debuting this flavour of writing, 5G availability was rather patchy in Snapdragon 855; 8GB RAM; 256GB storage
(expandable by 256GB via microSD); 4,065mAh battery;
wizardry, but the shark-fin design we see with Sydney, and when trying to get coverage on Pop-up shark-fin selfie camera (16MP); 10x optical zoom
this generation of smartphones is certainly a the fringe of the specified zones, the download rear camera array (48MP+8MP+13MP); In-display
fingerprint scanner; 162.0 x 77.2 x 9.3mm; 215g.
refinement on the feature. The selfie camera is speeds were significantly worse than the 4G

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RADAR
WINNER

APPROVED
AWARD

Cubott Quest
A NEWCOMER IN THE CROWDED MARKET OF AFFORDABLE RUGGED DEVICES.

CUBOT CLAIMS
C THAT its device is the with 1440 x 720 p pixel displays
p y (a
( 5.5-inch IPS getting
g g somethingg which is both slimm and
thinnest rugged device on the market. At model in this case). capable of taking a few bumps.
8.8mm, it is certainly thin, just one millimeter The Quest also packs an FM radio (a rarity), Truth be said, it doesn’t have a lot of
thicker than the Apple iPhone X and the NFC and 802.11n wireless connectivity, a competition under $300 especially with
Samsung Galaxy S10. Measuring 157 x 4,000mAh OTG-compatible battery (powered Android 9.0 in check, NFC and a better-than-
73.7mm for a weight of 211g, it feels both solid by a 5V2A charger), stock Android 9.0 average design. The battery life could have
and comfortably portable. operating system and a single rear-facing been improved but that would have impacted
Cubot uses the same template as the King speaker. There’s hardly any bloatware or the sleekness of the device. Overall, Cubot
Kong 3 for the Quest and is available in red or bundled toolkit as is usually the case with managed to deliver a great smartphone at an
black color scheme. It uses an aluminum and other vendors. excellent price point. The question that puzzles
polycarbonate shell with rounded corner Face unlock complements the fingerprint us though is whether the King Kong 3 could be
buffers that in our real life test, protected the security feature well and overall the a better choice for you.
screen beyond our expectations. smartphone performs as expected. It was [ DESIRE ATHOW ]
The latter is oleophobic and covered with a never expected to be a roadrunner given the
layer of Corning Gorilla 5 glass. This is an pedestrian CPU that equips it. The Quest
IP68-rated smartphone so its USB Type-C port performed on par or better than other
is covered; there are no audio connector and smartphones equipped with the slightly older
no audio adaptor provided. The front screen is MT6763V. It scored higher than expected
4
a 5.5-inch model with a single 8-megapixel numbers in PCMark Work 2.0, almost as high
camera on top and a LED notification light. as the much faster 6763T that powers the
Inside the Quest is the 12nm Mediatek Unihertz Atom.
MT6762 (Helio P22) which is an 8-core It is hard to fault this smartphone at this
processor clocked at 2GHz, with, surprise, price. We are not really fussed by the screen’s CUBOT QUEST
$245
surprise, a PowerVR GE8320 GPU rather than low resolution at this price point and one may www.gearbest.com
the usual ARM Mali part. That is backed by argue that it is actually a boon for the battery
CRITICAL SPECS
4GB of RAM and 64GB onboard storage. A life. Rugged smartphones are rarely as thin as Mediatek MT6762 (Helio P22) CPU; IMG PowerVR
note on the display; Cubot is one of the many their non-rugged counterparts; yet the Cubot GE8320 GPU; 4GB RAM; 64GB storage; 5.5-inch, 1440 x
720 display; 193g.
smartphone vendors to equip its smartphones Quest has somehow managed the feat of

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 057 ]
RADAR

WINNER

ED’s CHOICE
AWARD

Fitbit Ace 2
AN EYE-CATCHING KID’S FITNESS ACCESSORY.

2018’S FITBIT ACE may have been aimed at total steps for the day and total active time. your child can easily remove the Ace 2 –
kids, but it was actually based on the The screen also displays notifications, so your which lacks a heart rate monitor, so it can’t
company’s adult-oriented Fitbit Alta, so it child is constantly being updated on their check for a pulse – when they go to bed,
could hardly be claimed that it was built from progress; the little animations that play out robbing you of the ability to snoop on their
the ground-up with younger users in mind. given them the incentive to keep active. slumbering activities.
Fitbit has changed its approach this year, You can also use the Fitbit app to transfer a While the more colorful casing might make
and the Ace 2 is clearly designed with children special watch face to the unit; our personal this a hard sell for older kids, there’s no
as its main focus; as a result, the age range has favorite is ‘Sprout’, which displays a plant pot denying that the Fitbit Ace 2 is a much better
dropped from 8+ to 6+. that contains a flower which slowly grows as fitness tracker for children than the original.
While the original Ace had a metal body, your child builds up their step count Mastering the smartphone app can be a bit
the Ace 2 is essentially a plastic pebble set throughout the day. tricky, but all in all, this is the ideal way to
within a soft, rubber-like strap. This strap While the hardware has had a facelift, the ensure your offspring lead as healthy and
– which fully encases the unit and protects it actual process of setting up the Fitbit Ace 2 has active a lifestyle as possible without hovering
from bumps and drops – is entirely remained largely the same – and once again, over them 24 hours a day.
interchangeable and comes in two different getting things configured correctly can be a bit [ DAMIEN MCFERRAN ]
color schemes: Watermelon/Teal and Night of a nightmare for newcomers.
Sky/Neon Yellow. The Ace 2 automatically sets fitness goals for
The straps look playful and appealing, your child, and you’ll get notifications when
and the whole design is certainly a lot they beat their goal for the day, as long as the
41/2
more kiddie-friendly than the rather unit is within range of your phone so it can
austere original. sync the data.
The downside is that if you’ve got a child It can track both steps and active minutes,
who is fast approaching their teenage years, and seemed accurate in our tests, but with no
they may be a little self-conscious wearing this heart rate monitor or GPS it is certainly at the FITBIT ACE 2
$129
unit. And at least with the original Ace, you basic end of the scale. Still, those features are www.fitbit.com
could swap out the strap for a larger one as probably overkill for most young children.
CRITICAL SPECS
your child grew older. You can even set alarms for them from the Classic wristband (one size); Charging cable; 3-axis
The Ace uses a monochrome OLED screen to app and monitor their sleeping patterns, which accelerometer; Vibration motor; Touchscreen, grayscale
OLED display; Lithium-polymer battery; Bluetooth 4.0.
display information such as the time, date, sounds a little bit Orwellian to us; besides,

[ 058 ]
TEST BENCH
RADAR
WINNER

ED’s CHOICE
AWARD

Beats Powerbeats Pro


MOVE OVER, AIRPODS – THESE ARE APPLE’S BEST TRULY WIRELESS EARBUDS.

A significant leap from 2016’s Powerbeats 3 order to get the right fit or desired sound the case will provide the buds with around an
earbuds, which were wireless but still quality. You’ll also find that unpleasant in-ear hour and a half of listening time. If there’s one
connected to each other by a cable, the Beats pressure that most other wireless earbuds cause area where the Powerbeats Pro compares
Powerbeats Pro offers truly independent is completely absent with the Powerbeats Pro unfavourably to Apple’s AirPods, its that its
wire-free functionality backed by incredible thanks to some clever engineering on Apple’s charging case is enormous – at around 7.5cm x
sound quality and exceptional comfort. Each part – each bud has a micro-laser barometric 7.5cm x 5cm, it isn’t pocketable at all, meaning
earbud now has its own set of controls, venting hole in its front chamber which is said you’ll probably need to have a bag with you
granting users the ability to control volume, to reduce pressure in the ear while also when you take them out of the house. We’ve
pause or skip songs, while also allowing them improving bass. also found that connectivity can get a little
to be used individually or together in stereo. Did we mention how good the bass is on the spotty at busy, wide-open intersections.
Designed primarily for use during workout Powerbeats Pro? Because the low-end on these Minor quibbles aside, the Powerbeats Pro
sessions (but stylish enough to wear buds is deep and punchy in a way that only are the best truly wireless earbuds that Beats
anywhere), each Powerbeats Pro earbud Beats seems willing to provide. Fans of hip-hop, has produced by a good margin.
features a rubber hook that snugly and EDM and R&B will be in heaven, though you [ STEPHEN LAMBRECHTS ]
securely slips over your ear, making them might also find that mids sound pretty great,
practically unshakeable in the process (believe too. You can thank Apple’s new H1 Chip for
us, we really tried to shake these suckers free). that improved sound quality, and that same
They’re also IPX4 splash-resistant, so you don’t processor also allows for seamless swapping
41/2
have to worry about sweating on them or between devices linked to the same iCloud
getting caught in the rain. account. Don’t worry, Android users –
When worn, the buds themselves Powerbeats Pro works very well with
ergonomically slide slightly upwards into your non-Apple devices, instantly pairing with BEATS POWERBEATS PRO
ear canals, firing sound directly into your ears Google-powered phones. $349.95
www.beatsbydre.com
with great clarity and an astounding level of When fully charged, the Powerbeats Pro
bass. And, unlike most other in-ear headphones offers around nine hours of usage, while the CRITICAL SPECS
Bluetooth 5.0, interchangeable silicone tips;
we’ve tested, the Powerbeats Pro buds don’t feel included charging case brings the total microphone; lightning cable; H1 Chip; Autoplay; Siri
invasive – you won’t have to jam them deep into playback time to an impressive 24 hours. compatible; 9 hours playback (24 with charging case),
Colours: Black, Ivory, Navy, moss
your ear holes or achieve a vacuum-like seal in Conveniently, a quick five minute charge in

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 059 ]
TEST BENCH
RADAR

WINNER

APPROVED
AWARD

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 2.0


A WORTHY FOLLOW UP TO THE SUPERB ORIGINALS.

OFFERING GREAT DESIGN as well as great buttons sticking out. They simply have a for lesser earphones.
audio performance, we were fans of the B&O touch-sensitive pad on each bud which gives The only real issue here is there’s no active
Beoplay E8 before they were revised. Now, you all the control you need while retaining noise cancellation despite rivals like the Sony
they’re a bit more expensive than before but their stylish looks. Indeed, setup was a breeze. WF-1000X offering such features for less.
they’re also far more appealing too with the You know how all Bluetooth pairing should However, the Bang & Olufsen E8 2.0 truly
addition of wireless charging and a few other only take a matter of a second or two but that’s wireless earphones are pretty good at blocking
extra bells and whistles. not always guaranteed? These earphones out background noise via its Transparency
We’ll cut to the chase – the Bang & Olufsen actually did take hardly any time to pair with a feature which can be further tweaked in the
E8 2.0
2 0 truly
t l wireless
i l earphones
h llookk gorgeous. t h
smartphone. i ht nott be
app. It might b as effective
ti as a truly
t l active
ti
The case is a pebble-shaped, leather enrobed Once paired, the right bud dictates volume, noise cancellation set of earphones can
design that wouldn’t look out of place in a play/pause and skip track functionality. The provide, but it’s close.
jeweller’s window. Lift the lid and a metal left bud allows you to activate the ambient Clearly aimed at those that want their
lining wraps around the middle of the case to noise mode which pauses the music and helps accessories to look as good as they sound, it’s
protect your valuable assets. On the back is a you to hear outside sounds without having to hard to not find these earphones appealing.
USB-C based charging port for wired remove the bud – perfect for when trying to [ JENNIFER ALLEN ]
charging purposes. cross a road while wearing them, for instance.
There’s also the all-important addition of Qi Audio quality is undeniably excellent. It was
wireless charging support. Thanks to this, the the case with the Bang & Olufsen E8 2.0’s
4
Bang & Olufsen E8 2.0 true wireless earphones predecessor and it continues to be the case
are truly wireless in more than just the here. Tonal balance is suitably neutral with
listening way. Simply place the charging case everything sounding just how we like. The
on a Qi charging pad and you won’t have to bass is just right with loud tracks sounding BANG & OLUFSEN BEOPLAY E8 2.0
worry about using its supplied micro USB punchy, with more delicate music still $399
www.bang-olufsen.com
cable to charge. Bang & Olufsen sell an official sounding a delight. If used to cheaper
charging plate, but you can easily use any Qi earphones, you’ll find yourself feeling like CRITICAL SPECS
20 – 20,000 Hz frequency; Omnidirectional
based one and it’ll work. you’re rediscovering beloved music from microphone; Electro-dynamic, 5.7mm speakers; 107 dB
The earphones themselves look good and before, thanks to its rich tones. SPL +/-3 dB, ref 1 mW @ 1 kHz sensitivity; 16 Ohm
impedance.
skip any awkwardness that can arise from It’s the kind of quality that could ruin you

[ 060 ]
TEST BENCH
RADAR
WINNER

ED’s CHOICE
AWARD

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2


ONE OF THE BEST WATERPROOF SPEAKERS GETS EVEN BETTER.

THE ORIGINAL UE Wonderboom has been at of the speaker, you’ll find the Outdoor Boost However, Ultimate Ears added the ability to
the top of our Best Waterproof Speaker list button, which dials up the volume even higher play in true stereo if you pair another
since its debut and for good reason: It’s rugged, for noisy environments. All buttons are a Wonderboom 2 where as the first gen could
plays louder than its diminutive sound membrane type for water resistance, which only link up to boost volume.
suggests, and could be paired to other UE means they feel a bit squishy but aren’t difficult The UE Wonderboom 2 is a fantastic rugged
Wonderboom speakers to amplify sound. to operate. and waterproof speaker you’ll actually want to
And although the UE Wonderboom 2 looks Sonically, the UE Wonderboom 2 is take with. Its small size doesn’t mean small
nearly identical to the original, Ultimate Ears fantastic for its size. The speaker plays much sound, however, as the speaker gets extremely
packed in a slew of upgrades that make the louder than you would expect, especially with loud and sounds great. While it can’t match
Wonderboom 2 even better, like the increased the Outdoor Boost enabled. There’s a bit of the bass response of larger speakers like the
battery life (up 30% compared to the original), distortion at max volume, but if you keep it UE Boom 3 or the Bose SoundLink Revolve,
better bass response, and the new Outdoor below 80%, music sounds great. the improved bass adds warmth and intensity
Boost feature that helps the speaker get even But let’s spend a minute talking about to music that the original was lacking.
louder than before. Outdoor Boost, as it’s the key feature that [ LEWIS LEONG ]
Combined, these seemingly minor upgrades separates the original from the Wonderboom 2.
not only keep the UE Wonderboom 2 on our While Outdoor Boost does increase overall
list of the best waterproof speakers for another volume, sound quality takes a noticeable dip
year, but they help to make it one of the best when listening at lower volumes. With
portable speakers you can buy period. Outdoor Boost enabled at medium volume,
41/2
If you put the original Wonderboom next to cymbals sound splashy and mids are more
the Wonderboom 2, you’d be hard pressed to emphasised – which is a good thing – and
point out the newer one. The only visual cues there’s slightly more bass than the original
are the Wonderboom’s new color Wonderboom, which helps bring some
combinations and new elastic strap – the warmth to the sound while not compromising ULTIMATE EARS WONDERBOOM 2
$129
speaker chassis, buttons, and microUSB on the highs. Mids are excellent with vocals www.ultimateears.com
charging port all remain unchanged. sounding natural and detailed.
CRITICAL SPECS
On top of the speaker are buttons for power, It’s not all good news, though. Soundstage Bluetooth range 30m; 13-hour battery life;
pairing, and playback. On the front, you’ll find was a weak point of the original Wonderboom Waterproof IP67; Outdoor boost, 360-degree
sound.
big buttons for volume control. On the bottom and it still is with the second generation.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 061 ]
TEST BENCH
RADAR

THE BALANCE TENDS TO


SHIFT A LITTLE MORE TOWARD
THE LOW END, LARGELY
BECAUSE OF THE SUBWOOFER,
BUT THERE’S ALSO A
REASONABLY SHARP HIGH
END MOST OF THE TIME.

Sony HT-S350 Soundbar


SONY’S 2.1 SOUNDBAR GOES LOUD, BUT WE NEVER TRULY FELT LIKE IT WAS GREAT SOUND.

SOUNDBARS LIKE THE Sony HT-S350 are a your only option. There’s no Wi-Fi, which raise the volume a certain level to feel the
godsend – as built-in TV speakers are getting negates any possibility of streaming directly punchy and resonant sound the soundbar
worse, 2.1 channel soundbars and subwoofers from popular apps like Spotify, and no AirPlay could muster. We were never blown away, but
have stepped in to make our favorite shows or casting, either. That’s a huge misstep there. at least we felt some level of immersion.
and movies sound like they’re supposed to. In terms of other audio standards, the The Sony HT-S350 has all the appeal of
With Sony’s HT-S350, you get both in the soundbar supports Dolby Digital and other 2.1 soundbars – it’s a system rather than
box, and with the booming sound they’re both Dolby Dual Mono, but not DTS or the a single piece and it’s much easier to setup than
capable of, the results speak for themselves... vaunted Dolby Atmos that’s available in two bookshelf speakers - but the sum of those
well, mumble might be a better word for it. higher-end soundbars. parts is a little too limiting. We would’ve loved
While Sony’s soundbar does deliver better If there’s one advantage to such a basic to see more connectivity options or just better
sound than most TV speakers, it still doesn’t soundbar it’s that there isn’t much to setting sound at this price.
live up to the high bar set by other 2.1 setups. this all up. We had a TV with an HDMI ARC [ TED KRITSONIS ]
Once we unboxed the the soundbar and input, so plugged in that way first, but also
subwoofer, which come in an L-shaped box, tested it via the optical audio connection (Sony
we immediately noticed how understated both includes the optical cable in the box, but not an
are. Neither has a particularly flashy design - HDMI one and the advantage of HDMI in this
they’re both in matte black and there are no scenario is that it’s pretty much a one-and-
distinguishing features. done job). We controlled volume using the TV 3
Measuring about 88cm wide and 5cm high, remote, though we also tested the included
the soundbar should be short enough to slide remote that came in the box, too.
under a TV – however that can depend on the With up to 320 watts of power, the HT-S350
width of your TV’s legs though. If your TV sits can get plenty loud, but we should preface that
too low, you’ll have to place the bar right in by measuring expectations. The balance tends
SOONY HT-S350
front; something you could probably do if you to shift a little more toward the low end, largely $399
have enough real estate to work with on an because of the subwoofer, but there’s also a ww
ww.sony.com.au
entertainment unit. If the TV is wall-mounted, reasonably sharp high end most of the time. CRITICAL SPECS
then room becomes less of an issue. Normally, distortion sets in when you go 320W, 2.1ch Sound bar; S-Force PRO Front
Surround; Bluetooth connectivity; 12.6Kg.
If you’re looking to go wireless, Bluetooth is really high. Here, we found that we needed to

[ 062 ]
RADAR
Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay
POINT, SHOOT, PRINT, AND PLENTY IN BETWEEN.

THE MINI LIPLAY is the smallest Instax from your smartphone via Bluetooth, activate your subject through the viewfinder and
camera in Fujifilm’s range, offering up the a remote shutter, or play back sounds. This instantly getting an imperfect yet endearing
barebones functionality of a point-and-shoot audio recording feature allows you to capture physical memento. This is lost with the Mini
digital camera combined with a portable up to ten seconds worth of audio alongside LiPlay, and we found the extra steps in the
Bluetooth printer. For the money, having both your snap and embed it via QR code on the process resulted in far fewer printed shots than
of these in one machine is quite good value, image, though you’ll need the app in order to should have been the case. Ultimately, if you’re
but unfortunately we found that the then play it back. This feature is definitely on not chasing after the spontaneity that a typical
experience isn’t necessarily greater than the the gimmicky side of things, so it’s a shame instant camera grants but are still interested in
sum of its parts. that its dedicated button takes up such a their physicality, this is a compelling and
The camera is available in three rather prominent and large space on the device, even affordable option. In fact, it could even be
eccentric and playful colour schemes, each more than the shutter release. Speaking of worthwhile just as a mini Instax printer
with its own distinct texture. While its vertical which, it’s a little unsatisfying to trigger the considering it’s only around $70 more than
orientation is novel, it results in some shutter, although a soft squeeze will allow you FujiFilm’s dedicated unit.
moments of confusion when trying to take a to focus on your subject – a rarity amongst [ HARRY DOMANSKI ]
quick snap, and its peculiar button placement instant cameras. The digital images you end up
only exacerbates the issue. You can store up to with are certainly ideal for printing in the tiny
45 images on the internal memory or use a Instax format, but their quality doesn’t
microSD card to expand its capacity at 850 compare with most modern smartphone snaps
31/2
snaps per gigabyte, functionally converting it when using the Mini LiPlay as a straight-up
into a compact digital camera, albeit a bulky digital camera.
one. There are six filters you can apply before While the new additions to the world of FUJIFILM INSTAX MINI LIPLAY
$229
taking your shot, and dozens of frames you Instax mostly hit the mark, we can’t help but instax.com.au
can add to your snaps even after you’ve taken feel that some of the charm is lost when you’re
CRITICAL SPECS
them. Alongside the power button are three able to preview a shot before and after it’s 2,560 x 1,920 resolution photos; Built-in memory
quick access buttons that allow you to assign a taken, and then choose whether or not to print (approx. 45 shots) and micro SD support; 28mm focal
length; F2.0 aperture; Auto-focus 10cm to infinity;
frame of your choosing, customising their it. Surely the appeal of instant cameras is 2.7-inch LCD monitor; Instax Mini film printer;
function via the associated Mini LiPlay app. wrapped up in their immediacy – the joy of Rechargeable battery via micro-USB; Frame and filter
effects; 82.5 x 122.9 x 36.7 mm; 255g.
This app is also used to directly print images clicking the shutter button after eyeballing

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 063 ]
PERGUIDE
R OME NETWORK
ET
SUP
R E YOUR
IMPROV

Improve
your home
network
Sick of connection conundrums?
Our detailed guide Mac networking will
help you neutralise network gremlins.
WRITTEN BY NICK PEERS & ALEX BLAKE

[ 064 ]
U E
W K
S ERGUID
M NETWOR
SUP
IMPROVE YOUR
Y HOME
NETWORK PROBLEMS CAN be the most home or a crowded Wi-Fi channel. Once you
maddening of Mac maladies. Not only know what’s at the root of the issue, fixing it
can they affect everyone in your home, but becomes that much easier.
they can often be very difficult to identify Most of the changes only require simple
and remedy. tweaks, so there’s no need to worry about
Thankfully, that’s where this handy guide complex adjustments and convoluted
comes in. Over the following pages, we’ll take upgrades. Improving your home network
you through every step needed to get your needn’t be scary.
network up and running and connection We’ll also cover the best ways to secure your
issues banished for good. network, find the best router for your needs
For example, we’ll show you how and dispel a few myths along the way. By the
to pinpoint exactly what’s causing your end of our guide, your home network will be
problems, whether that’s a dead spot in your in the best shape of its life.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 065 ]
SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK

Improve network
reliability
FOLLOW THESE ESSENTIAL STEPS TO ENSURE YOUR NETWORK
IS STABLE AND IN GOOD WORKING ORDER.

THERE ARE SO many potential network wireless or wired, on your network, then afflicted device closer to the router. If its
performance issues. Do you have problems use this list to complete your network map signal stabilises, you’ve confirmed the
with so-called ‘dead zones’ where your Wi-Fi by connecting each device to the problem. If the problem appears to be
connection is weak or non-existent? Do you appropriate node. network-wide, there’s the possibility that
find your internet connection slows down at interference from neighbouring 2.4GHz
certain times of day or even drops out WEAK SPOTS Wi-Fi networks is swamping your
periodically? Are there intermittent This map can help you trace problems own signal. 2.4GHz networks operate
connection issues – either for your entire to see if they can be linked to a across 11 channels, which
network or just a few devices? specific part of the network overlap. To minimise the risk
Less critical issues require a systematic (such as the 2.4GHz
TEST YOUR NET of interference, your best
look at your network. Let’s start by quickly wireless band) or appear CONNECTION choice of channel is
For a better picture of
mapping its topography. Some routers (like to be directly related to usually 1, 6 or 11
performance, test upload and
the TP-Link Archer VR900) may provide the device in question. depending on what
download speeds at different times
this information about what’s connected Many issues will be of the day at speedtest.net to other nearby networks
within their administration pages, but if not, wireless-related, linked to verify that you’re getting what are using to broadcast
try sketching this out on paper or use a the strength of the Wi-Fi you’re paying for. (see the step-by-step
tool like SimpleMind Lite to create a simple signal reaching the affected guide over the page).
mind map. devices. Things to consider Other equipment in the
Place your router at the centre and then here are ‘dead zones’ in your home also operates at 2.4GHz,
create nodes for each device connected to the home; areas where a combination of which can cause some local
Ethernet port, plus two additional nodes to distance, multiple solid objects (walls, interference – look to keep your router away
represent your 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi furniture and so on) and interference from from microwaves, cordless phones, and even
networks respectively (if you have powerline other devices combine to prevent a stable on rare occasions wireless mice. If necessary,
adapters, add individual nodes for these too). signal from reaching the particular area experiment with different channel settings to
Use an app like Network Radar (witt- in question. see if it can fix the problem.
software.com) to scan for all active devices, One way to diagnose this is to move the

Jargon buster
DHCP WI-FI CHANNEL DNS POWERLINE
This stands for Dynamic Host These are frequency bands within This stands for Domain Name Sometimes also called HomePlug,
Configuration Protocol and is a the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums. System and is the internet’s this technology allows network
network management tool used by There are 11 in the 2.4GHz band, address book. It’s used to translate data to be transferred through a
routers to simplify network setup. which is just 100MHz wide in total. domain names like apple.com to home’s electrical wiring circuits.
It automatically assigns a unique IP Each 2.4GHz channel is 20MHz machine-readable IP address like It’s typically used to extend a wired
address and other key settings to wide, and all but three (1, 6 and 11) 17.172.224.47). Third-party DNS network from one room to another,
each device on your network. overlap, increasing the risk of providers include Google but many models can be used as a
interference. and Cloudflare. Wi-Fi extender.

[ 066 ]
[STEP BY STEP]

Six easy improvements you can make

IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK


REPOSITION YOUR ROUTER ADJUST ANTENNAS
01 Think about where your router is placed – aim to position it as 02 If your router has two or more external antennas, align one
centrally as possible (if in a two-storey home, that means high up vertically and the other horizontally to see if that boosts the range
on the ground floor to improve its signal range upstairs). Also place it on a further. Also consult your router’s support website to see if you can upgrade
wooden shelf rather than brick or glass, as the latter materials are harder for its supplied antennas with more powerful ‘high-gain directional’ replacements
Wi-Fi signals to pass through. to boost the signal.

CHANGE WI-FI CHANNELS PURCHASE A WI-FI EXTENDER


03 If you determine your 2.4GHz network needs moving to a less 04 Relay devices cost around $70 for dual-band models – try to go for the
crowded channel, use your router’s configuration utility and look for same make as your router and manage them using the manufacturer’s
the channel settings in the Wireless or Wi-Fi section. If a Channel Width setting is app. Place the extender halfway between the router and the area where the signal is
provided, make sure it’s 20MHz to reduce the risk of interference. poor – if the signal remains weak, try moving the relay closer to the router.

SWITCH TO WIRED CONNECTIONS EXPAND WIRED DEVICES


05 Wireless is convenient, but it’s no match for a reliable cabled 06 Most routers offer no more than four LAN ports to connect to wired
connection. If you have devices with Ethernet ports close to the router devices. Network switches allow you to connect five to eight devices
– like a desktop computer or console – connect them directly to a local area to a single LAN port without performance penalty. Invest in a Gigabit Ethernet
network (LAN) port on the router using a Cat 5e cable or better to reduce the load switch for max transfer speeds, like the TP-Link TL-SG105S, which offers five
on your Wi-Fi network. ports for under $30.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 067 ]
[ STEP BY STEP ]

Diagnose
persistent
SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK

problems
A QUICK-FIRE GUIDE TO
NETWORK TROUBLESHOOTING.

When issues won’t go away, or have disrupted


your network completely, you’ll need to take a
different approach. Start with the classic ‘turn it
off and on again’ – either the one troublesome MAC TROUBLESHOOTING RESET IP ADDRESS
device, or your router if the problem is network- 01 Check for Wi-Fi problems by using 02 If you encounter timeout issues with
wide. In the router’s case, switch it off for 30 Spotlight to run Wireless Ping, go to ; > System Prefs > Network
seconds to ensure its memory is properly Diagnostics. Open Network Utility to see if your and select your connection. If using Wi-Fi, click
cleared, then turn it back on. If the problem Mac is the issue. Enter the router’s IP address in Advanced > TCP/IP. If Configure IPv4 is set to
remains, follow this walkthrough. the Ping tab to check it’s reachable. Manual, try Using DHCP.

RESET AND START AGAIN CHECK INTERNET ACCESS RESOLVE DNS ISSUES
03 Click Renew DHCP Lease. No joy? In 04 If the problem affects all devices, 05 If the connection looks fine but web
the main pane, use the gear icon to open your router’s admin tool to pages aren’t loading, try ‘pinging’
make the connection inactive, then reactivate. check your internet connection isn’t down. If 1.1.1.1 in Network Utility. If this works, use your
For Wi-Fi, in Advanced > Wi-Fi, remove the router says it is, use a mobile phone to phone to follow the guide at 1.1.1.1/dns and try
the network, click OK, then reconnect. check your ISP’s status page for info. changing your Mac’s DNS settings.

[ STEP BY STEP ]
HOW TO SCAN FOR NETWORK INTERFERENCE

INSTALL A FREE APP INTERPRET THE GRAPH CHANGE AND REVIEW


01 Search for and install WiFi Explorer 02 Beneath the list is a graph showing 03 If overlapping networks are on the
Lite from the Mac App Store. When the channels each detected network same channel, follow the advice on
you open the app, it will display a list of all is using. The currently selected network is the previous page to change your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
detected Wi-Fi networks on the 2.4GHz and highlighted. The higher the curve on the graph, channel – to 1, 6 or 11, say. Wait for your Mac to
5GHz bands. Click 2.4GHz. the stronger the signal. reconnect and recheck.

[ 068 ]
HM
IMO
TWO
Since Apple discontinued its
AirPort range of routers, it has
sold the Linksys Velop in retail
and online stores.

How to choose a new router


HERE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN UPGRADING.

PLENTY OF PEOPLE overlook it, but your be better served by Wi-Fi extenders, mesh Similarly, some routers come with one or
router is very important to the quality of your router nodes or powerline adapters. more USB ports on the back. One use of these
home network. The router provided by your is to plug in a USB hard drive to use as shared
ISP (internet service provider) is often NEED FOR SPEED storage. Some routers even support Time
relatively basic, so it’s often a good idea to get Many service providers advertise impressive- Machine backups over your network.
a better alternative. But what exactly should sounding speeds, but these are theoretical, Another useful port on the rear of your
you be looking for when buying a router? based on ideal situations, and may not reflect router is the Ethernet plug. Wi-Fi is all well
One of the first things to consider is the how you use the router. Walls and floors and good, but it cannot compare to
size of your home. How much coverage are will impact the speed, for example. More connecting your devices with an Ethernet
you going to need? Not every router will be antennas on a router generally means better cable, which will give much greater speed and
powerful enough to cover speed and range, but reliability. When you’re looking for a router,
a large home. For any WI-FI IS ALL WELL AND that’s not the only factor, make sure you get one that offers Gigabit
router, check its spec GOOD, BUT IT CAN’T so check the router’s spec Ethernet speeds (which is often written as
sheet for ‘Wi-Fi range’ or COMPARE TO HOOKING sheet for indications of 10/100/1000).
a phrase like it, or the UP YOUR DEVICES WITH other performance Many routers offer a whole host of extra
home size it’s intended AN ETHERNET CABLE. boosts on offer. features. In recent years there’s been an
for, to gauge capability. A router can do more increase in ‘tri-band’ routers. Before this,
You’ll also have to than just beam internet most routers would offer access on two
consider the type of home access around your channels: one in the 2.4GHz band, another in
you have – old buildings with thick walls are home – various other devices can be the 5GHz band. Tri-band routers usually
likely to present more of an obstacle than connected directly to it to be shared. For provide an extra 5GHz channel, which helps
newer houses, for instance. Use an iOS app example, many routers have extra Ethernet if you have lots of devices to connect. Another
like Wi-Fi Deadspot to help you understand ports on the back. These are useful if you factor to consider is whether you need a mesh
what areas need attention. Walk around your want to hook up a network printer so that any router. These have multiple ‘nodes’ that each
home with the app open and it notes any family member’s device can make paper docs, act as their own router to aid range, and are
areas with poor Wi-Fi reception. These would for example. useful in a large home with lots of dead spots.
SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK

The Netwoork tab in


Activity Monitor shows
how muchh data your Mac
is sendingg or receiving.

Test your home network performance


CHECK OUT THE TRANSFER SPEEDS BETWEEN YOUR DEVICES.

GETTING A STABLE signal is one thing, but your router. So how do you determine what has the strongest Wi-Fi signal). Once done, install
are your devices performing to their best? speeds you’re getting? The answer is to the free app on your Apple TV to verify its
Network speeds vary for all kinds of reasons, benchmark transfer rates between different streaming performance isn’t being hamstrung by
so how do you go about testing each device in devices on your network. One solution that its location in relation to your router. Then install
your home to confirm things are working as works across Mac, iOS and tvOS is Lakehorn’s the app on your MacBook, iPhone and/or iPad
well as they can be? Devices connected to your Network Speed Tester – one Mac acts as a and run tests from different parts of your home.
router’s Gigabit Ethernet ports shouldn’t have server, and then all other devices perform tests Perform your first test next to the router to see
any issues – the 1Gbps speed is as good as it against it. The Mac version costs $5.99 through what your device’s maximum speed should be.
gets and more than capable of utilising the full the Mac App Store, but the mobile versions are Once done, sketch a rough floorplan for each
bandwidth of your internet connection. completely free. The guide below reveals how level in your home on paper, then record the
Wi-Fi is a different matter entirely, though. to use this tool to benchmark network results of your benchmark results in different
The quoted maximum speeds (300Mbps for performance anywhere in your home. rooms to determine where the signal is weakest.
2.4GHz connections, more for 5GHz If possible, make the server one of your Armed with your findings, you’ll be able to focus
networks) fall off rapidly the moment you Macs that is connected to your router via your improvements on the areas that need it.
move even a relatively small distance from Ethernet cable (or, failing that, is the one that

[ STEP BY STEP ]
TEST YOUR HOME NETWORK PERFORMANCE

SET UP A SERVER PERFORM SPEED TEST REPEAT THE TESTS


01 Once you’ve installed Network Speed 02 Your first test should be performed as close 03 Move to another part of your home
Tester on all your devices, open the Mac to the router as possible to ascertain the and repeat the test. Consider running
version to start the server. Now open it on the first maximum speed. Leave it running for at least a minute the test at each location three times to provide
mobile device you want to test, wait for it to detect to get an accurate result. Once complete, make a note more accurate results. Repeat the experiment for
your Mac as the server, then tap ‘Start Test’. of the min, max and average figures. other devices – and test your 5GHz network too.

[ 070 ]
If Wi-Fi speeds are
holding back your
internet activity,
try adding a powerline
system such as
Devolo’s Magic 2 Wifi.

BACKUP
CONNECTION
If your router has a USB port,
check to see if it supports 3G or 4G
USB modems. Purchase one from
your mobile provider and plug it in
to serve as a fallback should the

Improve your internet main connection go down.

performance
DISCOVER THE BEST WAYS TO MAXIMISE YOUR CONNECTION TO THE WORLD.

ONCE YOU’VE IMPROVED your network’s kind of speeds you can expect from local 4K streams at once (never mind the rest).
stability, it’s time to focus on performance. provioders. Many ISPs offer services up to Stuck in a rural area? Satellite broadband
Step one is to look at your current internet 100Mbps, but you’re unlikely to get near those appears tempting: prices are falling
connection. Is it fast enough for your needs? theoretical maximums based on several and download speeds have increased
The explosion in streaming and online gaming factors: distance from the exchange, number to around 36Mbps, but satellite connections
means that regular broadband connections of users sharing the line, and the wiring have high latency rates, which rule out online
can’t cope with the growing demands of the quality to your home. Some broadband gaming and video conferencing. Also look
modern home. providers can provide a more accurate speed out for usage caps, which place serious limits
If you’re looking to add HD or even Ultra estimate based on your phone number on media streaming, particularly at 4K.
4K streaming into this mix, then investigate If and postcode. These speeds are more than
the NBN is available in your area, and what enough for those wishing to stream multiple EXTEND YOUR WIRED NETWORK
If you do maximise your internet connection
this way, you’ll need to make sure your home
Video streaming bandwidth guide network is capable of handling uploading
and downloading of so much data. That
Apple Netflix Amazon means connecting your Apple TV 4K to your
wired network rather than via Wi-Fi. If it’s in
2.5 a different room to the router, invest in two
SD 3 or more powerline adapters to carry the
1 wired network signal.
6 Like Wi-Fi, powerline’s real-world speeds
720p 4 are nowhere near the quoted maximums, but
3.5 AV1200 units should be able to deliver 150 to
400Mbps, more than enough for multiple 4K
8
streams and other traffic. You’ll need at least
1080p 5
two adapters: one for your router, and one for
3.5
each room you’re extending to.
25
4K 25
15
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Recommended internet connection speeds by service and video resolution.
Figures are in Mbps (megabits per second).

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 071 ]
SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK

Get good speeds


on all your devices
TIPS AND TRICKS TO MAXIMISE PERFORMANCE
ACROSS YOUR NETWORK.

YOU’VE UPGRADED YOUR


internet connection to meet your
demands, and you’ve optimised
some parts of your network too. But
there’s still room for improvement.
Here, we’ll examine ways to
maximise your Wi-Fi connection at
distance, plus spread the demands
on it more evenly to boost
performance. You’ll also discover
how to ensure a single device or app
WIRELESS AT A DISTANCE REDUCE CONGESTION
can’t monopolise your internet
01 The TP-Link TL-WPA4220 is a powerline 02 Lessen the load on your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
adapter with built-in 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band by connecting devices that are
connection to the detriment of
extender. Perfect for hard-to-reach rooms as the closest to the router – where the signal is
everyone else. signal is relayed through electrical wires rather than strongest – to the 5GHz channel. In their network
over the air. settings, pick the 5GHz network.

RENAME 5GHZ NETWORK SET BANDWIDTH LIMITS CONTENT CACHING


03 If your router has named its 2.4GHz and 04 Some routers have bandwidth controls 05 If you have multiple Macs and/or
5GHz networks identically, you’ll need to that allow you to set download and iPhones and iPads, share updates and
rename one of the networks via your router’s upload limits – either individually or across all your iCloud data to prevent duplicate downloads. On
configuration utility to a unique name in order to devices. Also explore individual apps – particularly macOS High Sierra or later, go to ; > System
ensure devices always use the band you want. cloud backup tools – for options to set limits. Prefs > Sharing and tick the Content Caching item.

[ 072 ]
Find the best prices
on the latest tech.
www.getprice.com.au
SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK

Beef up network security


MAKE SURE YOUR NETWORK I PROTECTED FROM OUTSIDE THREATS

NOW IS THE time to turn to the thorny


issue of network security. You don’t want to
be giving neighbours free Wi-Fi or letting
any Tom, Dick or Harry gain easy access to
your network for whatever nefarious
purposes. (Remember, anything done on
your network becomes your responsibility.)

GET THE BASICS SORTED


Step one is to lock down your network from
actual intruders – those within physical
range of your Wi-Fi network. The guide
opposite reveals six steps you can follow to
tighten security at this level. When it comes
to password-protecting Wi-Fi, make sure
you choose WPA2-PSK encryption. WPA2
is ageing and its reputation took a battering
with the recent KRACKS vulnerability –
speaking of which, check your router’s
firmware is up to date – but it’s still
adequate for most people’s needs, at least
until WPA3 is widely used.
There are other steps you can take to Disable remote administration to reduce the risk of ‘drive-by remote hacking.
dissuade people from getting onto your
network, from hiding your SSID (network better to know if the password has been communication between devices simpler by
name) to disabling your router’s DHCP compromised and act swiftly to change it. opening ports between them. It’s also used to
server, which means manually configuring allow apps to communicate over the internet
every device on your network to access it. KEEP HACKERS AT BAY using non-standard ports, but it can open up
These procedures stop casual piggybacking Your network isn’t simply at risk from people holes for hackers.
where a neighbour has got hold of your Wi-Fi in close physical proximity. It can be Look for the UPnP section under NAT
password, but they don’t stop hackers and it’s infiltrated by hackers from the other side of Forwarding to see what ports have already
the world too. been opened. Make a note of the external
Many routers offer remote management port, protocol, internal port and IP address
support, which can give remote hackers an the ports are being routed to – the last refers
easy ‘in’ to your network. Log in to your to the device using the ports. If any look
router’s configuration utility. If you’re still suspicious, disable UPnP and investigate.
using the factory-default password for your Even if they’re all legitimate, consider
router to log in, change it immediately (look putting security ahead of convenience,
for the appropriate setting under System leaving UPnP disabled and applying these
Tools or Administration). Make sure you settings manually via the Port Forwarding or
disable remote administration to prevent Port Triggering section on your router
anyone from outside your network being able instead. Going forward you’d have to
to log in to your router – this can often be manually open ports when certain apps or
found in the same place as the administrator services request them, but instructions
password setting. should be provided online (Apple provides a
UPnP is convenient, but it’s also a security risk. Consider Next, explore your router’s UPnP and port list of ports used by its software at bit.ly/
manually forwarding ports instead. forwarding settings – this makes network aplpt, for example).
[STEP BY STEP]

Six easy improvements you can make

SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK
CHANGE YOUR WI-FI PASSWORD ENABLE THE GUEST NETWORK
01 If you’ve never changed your Wi-Fi password, now is the time to 02 Don’t share your main Wi-Fi network with visitors. Switch on your
do so. Make sure it’s based on WPA2 encryption and choose a router’s guest network, with WPA2 encryption and a password
lengthy password that can’t be guessed – maybe use your password that’s different to your regular network’s, so that guests can’t access shared
manager to generate one randomly. Note it down – you’ll need it to reconnect storage and your other networked devices. You may also want to set
your wireless devices to the network. bandwidth limits.

SHARE PASSWORDS SECURELY SHARE WI-FI PASSWORD


03 If you don’t want to share your guest network’s password by email in case 04 Both iOS devices need to be running iOS 11 or later, have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
it falls into the wrong hands, you could type it on your guest’s device on on, and the guest needs your Apple ID in their Contacts app. Go to Settings >
their behalf. Alternatively, use AirDrop’s direct, encrypted connection between Apple Wi-Fi on the device wanting to connect, tap your guest network and bring the iOS device
devices. Sharing passwords is even easier with iOS 11 or later – see the next tip! that knows the password near. Tap Share Password when prompted.

DISABLE WPS SCHEDULE REGULAR SCANS


05 WPS is a feature designed to make it easy to connect new devices 06 Use your router’s configuration tool to periodically scan your network
(including Wi-Fi extenders) to your network. But it can be exploited by for connected devices – look for a Security > Access Control (or
hackers. Log into your router’s configuration utility and find the setting to disable similar) section where you can review wired and wireless devices. If you don’t
WPS. Only switch it on temporarily when you want to use it to connect a recognise a device, block it – this blacklists its hardware MAC address and
new device. prevents it connecting.

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Common network issues
FIVE PROBLEMS THAT OFTEN AFFLICT HOME NETWORKS, DISCUSSED AND SOLVED.
SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK

NETWORKING MYTHS Connect to Windows PCs


DISSPELLED
TO SHARE FILES to and from PCs, go to ; > menu and type the name of your workgroup.
WI-FI HOTSPOTS ARE SAFE IF
PASSWORD-PROTECTED System Preferences > Sharing and tick File Click OK followed by Apply, then restart
Not all Wi-Fi hotspots employ Sharing, then click Options. Make sure ‘Share your Mac.
WPA2-PSK encryption, even if protected files and folders using SMB’ is ticked. Tick your If your PC doesn’t show up in Finder under
by a password. Never surf on a public own username below only if you’re going to Shared, press command-K. Type smb://pcname
Wi-Fi hotspot without a VPN – access your Mac’s storage from a PC. or smb://192.168.x.y, substituting 192.168.x.y
Windscribe (windscribe.com) offers Click Done. with your PC’s IP address to see if you can
10GB monthly bandwidth for free. If your PCs aren’t using the standard connect manually. Enter your PC’s username
WORKGROUP name, go to your Mac’s (minus the @email.com bit if it’s a Microsoft
5GHZ WI-FI IS ALWAYS BETTER Network prefs, then click the Locations pop-up account) and password when prompted.
THAN 2.4GHZ menu and choose Edit Locations. Select If your Mac isn’t showing up under Network
5GHz networks are much faster when
Automatic, click the gear button and choose in Windows, try typing \\MAC-MINI
you’re close to the router, but 2.4GHz
Duplicate Location. Rename this and click (substitute MAC-MINI with its NetBIOS name,
networks have greater reach and
perform better at range. Done. Now click Advanced > WINS tab. Click as recorded under the WINS tab above) or
+ under WINS Servers and enter your router’s \\192.168.x.y (your Mac’s IP address) to
IT’S EASY TO FIND DEVICES IP address. Next, click the Workgroup pop-up gain access.
CAUSING INTERFERENCE
Interference can emanate from all kinds
of sources – even defective ballasts on If your want to connect to a
fluorescent lights can cause RF PC that’s not on the standard
workgroup, you’ll need to
interference. add it.

THE INTERNET ONLY SLOWS


DOWN DURING PEAK HOURS
If you’re a heavy internet user –
particularly with certain types of traffic
– then you may periodically fall foul of
your ISP’s fair use policy, even if your
plan offers unlimited downloads. When
this happens, your connection may be
temporarily throttled.

DISABLING SSID HIDES YOUR


WI-FI NETWORK
Even if you stop your network
broadcasting its SSID (the name you
give a Wi-Fi network), hackers can still
easily detect it using software –
and many computers can still detect
the presence of a network even if it’s
not named.

Back to My Mac replacement


APPLE REMOVED BACK to My Mac AnyDesk-Address, then go to AnyDesk >
from macOS Mojave, so you’ll need a Preferences > Security and choose ‘Unlock a e u ree
re
third-party solution to give you access to security settings’. After entering your ny o oa icees.
your Mac – and any of its files – while you’re account password, set Interactive Access to
on the road. If you’re looking for a free (for ‘Allow always’ then tick ‘Enable unattended
personal use) alternative, try AnyDesk. access’; you’ll need to set a password here.
Download the Mac version from anydesk. Going forward, whenever your Mac is on,
com and open the disk image; double-click connected to the internet and running
the AnyDesk icon inside it, then click AnyDesk, you’ll be able to connect to it
‘Install AnyDesk on this computer’ and wait from other computers, plus your iPhone or
a moment. iPad, for remote control purposes.
After the app reopens, make a note of the

[ 076 ]
SUPERGUIDE
IMPROVE YOUR HOME NETWORK
Reconfigure DNS settings
SLOW POWERLINE
PERFORMANCE
FIX HOMEPLUG ISSUES.
While you won’t get anywhere near the
maximum speeds advertised,
powerline/HomePlug network adapters
should be able to outperform Wi-Fi at
range. If you think you’re not getting the
speeds you should be, there are several
factors to consider. First, make sure all
the plugs are rated the same – if one is
CHANGE INDIVIDUAL DEVICES SET NETWORK-WIDE slower than the others, they’ll all run at
01 On your Mac, go to ; > System Prefs > 02 Log in to your router’s configuration the slower speed.
Network > Advanced > DNS tab. On iPad utility and check its DHCP settings for Second, while distance from
or iPhone, go to Settings > Wi-Fi and tap the ‘i’ next options to set primary and secondary DNS the router does play some part in
to the connected network. Scroll down and tap servers. This will change the DNS for connected affecting performance, it’s the quality of
Configure DNS. devices that are using DHCP. your electrical circuits that will play a
crucial role in determining maximum
transfer speeds. However, most modern
circuits should perform adequately –
just make sure your powerline adapters
are plugged directly into an electrical
Reset your router socket and not via an extension cable.
A major factor in reducing speed is
electrical noise, particularly at the
IF YOU’RE CONVINCED that the only way to
‘receiving’ end of the connection.
fix your network problem is to restore your One simple way to filter noise is to make
router to its default settings, there are two sure other devices are plugged in to
ways to do so. Before you begin, make sure extension cables, which are then
your Mac is connected to the router using plugged in to a different socket than your
Ethernet. Go to ; > System Preferences > powerline adapter.
Network > Ethernet; also ensure the
IPv4 connection is set to ‘Using DHCP’ so it’ll
immediately have access post-factory reset.
If you can still log in to your router via your
browser, either make a note of all the key Can’t log in to your router? Look for an option to physically
settings you’ll need to restore (including reset it on the back of your router.
Wi-Fi name and password, DHCP server
settings and so on) or look for an option to manual to find out how to factory reset it
export them to a file on your Mac. Once done, physically – typically by pushing a pin into a
look for a Factory Reset or Restore button and hole on the back of the hardware. Once reset,
click it. log in to the router to restore its settings or set it
If you can’t log in, consult the router’s up manually.

Minimise Wi-Fi interference


THERE ARE MANY potential sources of change channels on the device in question or
wireless interference, particularly in the 2.4GHz look to upgrade it: for example, cordless DECT
frequency band. Telltale signs include spots phones and wireless door chimes operate at a
within the router’s main range where the signal lower frequency to avoid interfering with Wi-Fi.
is patchy. Scout about for nearby wireless USB 3 devices can potentially interfere with
devices – anything from a doorbell to a baby Wi-Fi signal – use shielded USB cables or plug
monitor could be interfering with the signal. the devices into ports well away from the Poor performance from powerline adapters?
Either learn to avoid these areas, see if you can computer’s Wi-Fi antenna. Make sure they’re plugged in to the mains.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 077 ]
IOS 13 BETA OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED LAST MONTH,
GIVING IPHONE OWNERS THE CHANCE TO TEST
DRIVE APPLE’S NEW SOFTWARE AHEAD OF ITS
EXPECTED RELEASE DATE.
YOU’LL NEED AN IPHONE 6S
OR LATER, THE IPAD AIR 2
OR LATER, AND THE NEW IPAD
MINI 4 OR LATER, OR THE
IPOD TOUCH 7TH GENERATION.
NO SURPRISE, THE NEW IPOD
TOUCH 7TH GEN IS THE ONLY
DEVICES OF ITS CLASS TH
AT GETS IOS 13 SUPPORT.

You’ll need an iPhone 6S or later, the iPad Air 2 or later, and the new
iPad mini 4 or later, or the iPod touch 7th generation.

WE’RE DETAILING ALL of the major iOS 13 developers are on beta 2, testers are on public iPhone 11 Max and iPhone 11 XR. The date?
features here, in case you want wait to get iOS beta 1 and the final software is likely coming Probably mid-September (last year it was
13 public beta until the next, more stable in September. September 17).
version. It remains unfinished software. Here’s the iOS 13 timeline as we see it:
The change list for iOS 13 starts with our 01
iOS 13 developer beta: The iOS 13 beta iOS 13 COMPATIBILITY LIST
favorite feature: Dark Mode. This is the 2 is available today but restricted to iOS 13 compatibility requires an iPhone or
long-awaited UI tweak to invert those bright paid Apple developers. Good news: unlike iPad from the last four years (depending on the
white-screen backgrounds. We’re seeing the iOS 13 beta 1, iOS 12 beta 2 can be installed device category). That means phones like the
most improvement here in iOS 13 vs iOS 12. over the air (OTA), whereas beta 1 required iPhone 6 won’t be getting iOS 13 – if you’ve got
The new QuickPath swipe keyboard is a Xcode or macOS 10.15 to be installed first. It’s one of those devices you’ll be stuck with iOS
big highlight, too, and iPadOS has been split a bit easier to install, but you should probably 12 forever.
into its own separate update. wait for the public beta, which is always more You’ll need an iPhone 6S or later, the iPad
There were a lot of Apple announcements stable, or upgrade to the dev beta on a Air 2 or later, and the new iPad mini 4 or later,
in June and we’re here to explain iOS 13 in non-primary device. or the iPod touch 7th generation. No surprise,
full. But we’ll start with the iOS 13 release 02
iOS 13 public beta: Apple’s larger-scale the new iPod Touch 7th gen is the only devices
date schedule and all-important features test began on June 24. Sure, of its class that gets iOS 13 support.
compatibility list. Apple said July, but last year the iOS public The iPhone SE fits into an odd category, as it
beta launched on June 25, and sure enough, it has iPhone 6 era specs, but came out after the
IOS 13 RELEASE DATE AND BETA came early in 2019. It’s the version to iPhone 6S. Don’t worry, everyone’s favorite
INFORMATION download if you’re curious – it’s often more little iPhone will get iOS 13.
JUNE 3: iOS 13 beta 1 and first look at refined version of the iOS developer beta,
WWDC 2019 although it can still be rough, and never DARK MODE
JUNE 17: iOS 13 beta 2 launched for developers includes all of the features implemented in Dark Mode in iOS 13 is going to be system-
JUNE 24: iOS 13 public beta release date for the final version of the software. wide, meaning it’ll change the hues from bright
adventurous testers 03
iOS 13 golden master: This will be the white and light grey to black and dark gray on
EARLY SEPTEMBER 2019: iOS 13 Golden final version of the iOS 13 software, all supported apps.
Master (final dev beta) released one week before the final iOS release, It’s a nice feature when you’re using your
MID-SEPTEMBER 2019: iOS 13 likely to launch meant for developers and public beta testers. iPhone at night and want to avoid bright white
with new 2019 iPhones At this point it’s very stable, and gives hues shining in your face. It may also save
The iOS 13 public beta release date was app makers seven days to adapt to the battery life on the OLED-equipped iPhones,
June 24, even though Apple said it wouldn’t final software. from the iPhone X onward. Apple didn’t talk
come out until July. It launched earlier than 04
The official iOS 13 release date: We’ll about this at all, but we know that OLED
promised, but it’s not a giant surprise for us. get the new iOS 13 software in its final, displays essentially ‘turn off’ pixels when
Last year’s beta got here on June 25. stable form about one week after the next rendering blacks.
What’s the iOS 13 release date schedule? iPhone launch event, at which we expect to Turning on iOS 13 Dark Mode can be done
We’ve mapped out an iOS 13 beta timeline: see what we’re calling (for now) the iPhone 11, in Control Center inside the Display slider
(right next to the Night Shift and True Tone also fan to preview them all at once with a QUICKPATH KEYBOARD
toggle), according to Apple, or you can set it swipe gesture, kind of like the recents menu on With iOS 13, Apple’s default QuickType
automatically to turn on at night through a many phones and tablets. It’s multi-tasking keyboard will be incorporating swipe-to-
schedule or custom time. made easier. type, a popular way of sliding across the
The yellow-tinting Night Shift mode finally SPLIT VIEW has been enhanced to let you keyboard to form words. We’ve used this in
gets a bright-light dimming companion, and a open one app on both sides of the screen (it prior iOS keyboard extensions like Google’s
lot of people couldn’t be happier. wasn’t possible before), and Apple demoed this Gboard and SwiftKey.
by showing Notes side-by-side with Notes. You You can use the QuickType and QuickPath
‘FACETIME ATTENTION CORRECTION’ can also pair an app with more than one app methods of typing interchangeably, and so far
This is an interesting one. There’s now an – so now Safari can be paired with Pages in supported languages include English,
option for FaceTime Attention Correction, one space and Safari can be paired with Mail Simplified Chinese, Spanish, German,
according to registered iOS 13 beta testing in another. French, Italian, and Portuguese is
developers, and it’s wild. APP EXPOSE is new to the iPad software, now included.
What does it do exactly? It makes it so that it letting you see all of the space you have open.
appears as if you’re looking straight into the There’s an App Expose icon on the Dock, iOS 13 DEBUTS NEW ‘FIND MY’ APP
front-facing camera during a FaceTime video requiring only a single press to get into the Apple is combining Find My Friends and
call, when you’re actually looking at the convenient overview mode. Find My iPhone in iOS 13, and the union lets
adjacent screen. That distracted look could be NEW COPY, PASTE AND UNDO GESTURES are you locate your friends and missing gadgets
a thing of the past! coming to iPadOS. Three fingers scrunched with a faster, easier-to-use interface.
down was shown to copy text, three fingers What’s really neat is that it’ll use a
iOS 13 ON iPAD IS iPADOS, AND IT’S A expanding (in the opposite direction) dropped crowd-sourced encrypted Bluetooth signal to
BIG CHANGE the text on the page, and sliding three fingers help you track down devices that aren’t
Some of the biggest changes we expected for across the screen undid the last action. We’ll connected to Wi-Fi or cellular. That’s mostly
iOS 13 on the iPad are actually coming in an have to see how this performs when the a big help for Macs, but it could also help with
update called iPadOS. Apple is signalling that software lands. an iPhone in rare cases, too.
the iPad needs its own platform. APPLE’S KEYBOARD can float around the Best of all, while Find My Friends didn’t
That means big improvements to your iPad screen in a smaller form, and it’s debuting a always work for us, Apple may be making a
workflow, starting with the home screen swiping gesture keyboard, which it calls bigger push to get location tracking
redesign. Pinned Widgets, as we predicted in QuickPath Typing. There are also more right with this new iOS 13 app now in
our iOS 13 rumors roundup, lets you add keyboard shortcuts (a lack of shortcuts was a the limelight.
widgets from the Today View screen (that complaint we had about previous iOS versions).
left-mode screen on your iPhone and iPad). So There are actually too many iPadOS APPLE TAG PRODUCT HINTS
far, it’s iPad-exclusive, and not coming to changes to detail here in the iOS 13 explainer, The theory that Apple is taking on the Tile
iOS13 for the iPhone. so we’ve spun the full rundown off into a tracker is backed up in the iOS 13 beta,
SLIDE OVER lets you have multiple apps open separate iPadOS release date, news and according to a new leak regarding what’s been
and cycle through them like rolodex. You can features article. dubbed the ‘Apple Tag’.
THE IOS 13 IS GOING TO OFFER
IMPORTANT CHANGES TO
CAMERA FEATURES,
STARTING WITH ENABLING
YOU TO CHANGE THE
INTENSITY OF LIGHT IN
PORTRAIT MODE, WHICH IS
SOMETHING WE’VE WANTED
FOR A WHILE. PORTRAIT MODE
IS ALSO GETTING A NEW
MONOCHROMATIC EFFECT
CALLED HIGH-KEY MONO.

Portrait mode is also getting a new monochromatic effect called High-


Key Mono.

Big, color-coded buttons for Today, Scheduled, All and Flagged


categories offer you a better oversight of your pressing tasks.

Some of the biggest changes we expected for iOS 13 on the iPad are
actually coming in an update called iPadOS.
THERE’S WAY MORE DETAIL
HERE BY WAY OF APPLE
REBUILDING MAPS FROM THE
GROUND UP. THERE’S MORE
REALISTIC DETAIL FOR ROADS,
BEACHES, PARKS, AND
BUILDINGS, AND YOU CAN NOW
EXPLORE CITIES WITH A 3D
360-DEGREE EXPERIENCE.

While the redesigned Find My app is Maak ng plal ns in Me


Mess
sssa es
es?? Sirii wil
illl step
t p in oicces
es of he va
v ououss f ly m berss in your
supposed d to locate your Apple devices and su gestt r mi e s th t a be c e ted e , h me
m . ThThis hou d mea ean, for
o exax mple, that
also your iPhone-carry friends, the Apple Tag a pe
p rsonal assistant who chimes in at all the asking “What’s on my Calendar?” won’t bring
l designed
is allegedly d i d for f everything
thi else.
l i ht ti
right times. up someone elsel ’s irrelevant
i l t information.
i f ti
Think: keys, bag, water bottle, or anything
else a Bluetooth tracker could attach to. CAMERA AND PORTRAIT MODE CHANGES MEMOJI GETS MAKEUP, MESSAGES
The Apple Tag wasn’t a part of the iOS 13 iOS 13 is going to offer important changes to GETS INFO SHARING
reveal during WWDC 2019, but it could be camera features, starting with enabling you Apple is putting more of ‘Me’ in Memoji,
an announced alongside the iPhone 11 in to change the intensity of light in Portrait allowing one trillion configurations: new
September. After all, it is mobile hardware. Mode, which is something we’ve wanted hairstyles, headwear, makeup, and piercings
for a while. Portrait mode is also getting a to name a few categories. Examples on the
iOS 13 MAKES YOUR OLD IPHONE FASTER, new monochromatic effect called High- WWDC stage showed that these personalized
LAST LONGER Key Mono. Animoji masks allow for such granular
More people are holding onto their iPhones The Photos gallery is becoming what Apple accessory detail as eyeshadow, braces and
for longer, and that’s something Apple seems called “a diary of your life”, with a new tab even AirPods.
to recognise – and the company is speeding designed to document your best photos by Memoji Stickers are something entirely
up iOS 13 to accommodate them. day, month and year. You’ll also have more new – iOS 13 will bring more iPhone and
The most important iOS 13 stats: app pinch controls to zoom in and out of the iPad users into the Memoji fold, TrueDepth
launch speed is up to twice as fast according Photos gallery. camera or not. You can customise a Memoji
to Apple, and Face ID unlocking will be 30% Photo editing is refined with iOS 13, and iOS 13 will automatically create a
faster than before. Apple also found a way to adding adjustment controls and filters, while fun-looking sticker pack that lives in a
make app downloads smaller, up to 60% on the video editing portion mirrors this almost sub-menu on the keyboard, which you can
average; iOS 12 gave us a faster update, and entirely: nearly every photo tool and effect – use in Messages, Mail, and third-party apps.
iOS 13 looks to build upon that. including filters, rotating and cropping – will You’ll be able to share your personalized
Battery life is also something Apple is make it over to video. If you’re not good at Memoji with contacts through iMessages, but
tackling this year. Its aim is to slow the rate of tinkering with video, there’ll even be an only when you grant them access. The same
battery aging by reducing the time your ‘Auto’ adjustment button. applies to sharing your name and photo with
iPhone spends fully charged. iOS 13 is contacts, so you can chose how people see
supposed to learn from your daily charging NEW SIRI VOICE SOUNDS MORE NATURAL your name, for example. According to Apple,
routine so it can wait to finish charging past There’s a new Siri voice debuting with iOS 13, you can decide whether you want your profile
80% until you need to use it. and it sounds more natural than before – shared with everyone, with only your
we’ve heard a sample and the tone is the contacts, or just once.
REMINDERS GETS A BIG OVERHAUL same, but it sounds less robotic.
Of all the built-in apps, Reminders is getting It uses advanced neural text-to-speech NEW HOMEPOD FEATURES
the biggest revamp in iOS 13. It appears to be technology, according to Apple, and you’ll You might not know this, but the HomePod is
better organised, and includes shortcuts that particularly notice this when Siri says longer part of the iOS family, and it’s getting
make it easier to add reminders. phrases, like reading the Apple News aloud updates too.
Big, color-coded buttons for Today, or answering knowledge questions. First, you’ll be able to transfer songs from
Scheduled, All and Flagged categories offer The timing is good, because Siri can also your iPhone by simply holding your phone
you a better oversight of your pressing tasks, do a lot more talking if you wear AirPods – closer to the HomePod speaker. Previously,
while the keyboard when you’re in this app Siri can read incoming messages and pipe you had to tell Siri to do this, but now this
has a top-line Quick Toolbar that acts as a them through the buds, which is convenient. hand-off feature is a bit easier, and you don’t
shortcut to easily add times, dates, locations, One more new Siri perk: your voice have to talk to do it.
flags, photos and scanned documents. assistant on HomePod will understand the The HomePod will also introduce Live
APPLE IS TAKING ON
FACEBOOK CONNECT, GOOGLE
AND OTHER PLATFORMS THAT
ALLOW YOU TO
CONVENIENTLY SIGN IN TO
THIRD-PARTY ACCOUNTS.
SIGN-IN WITH APPLE IS POISED
TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY
MORE THAN FACEBOOK AND
GOOGLE DO.

Radio – you can ask Siri to play 100,000 Maps on iOS doesn’t get this right (but does you might as well do it with one of the two best
stations from all around the world. And better on Android). That’s one reason to controllers available (and maybe something
HomePod will allow you to recognise who in keep Apple Maps installed, even if you’re a you already own).
your family is talking, and personalise the Google Maps person. Enter PS4 and Xbox One game controller
response – great with Apple Music, where support for iOS 13. Apple didn’t say if all games
selections will be based on your taste and TEXT FORMATTING IN MAIL will support this or if it’ll be limited to Apple
history. It goes beyond Music, Messages, Mail is getting some changes when it comes Arcade, but whatever the case may be, we’re
Notes, Reminders, and more. to writing out properly formatted email. happy to be able to put our PS4 controller to
You’ll have more control over font style, size, use everywhere we roam.
SIGN-IN WITH APPLE color, alignment, indenting and outdenting
Apple is taking on Facebook Connect, text, and numbered and bulleted lists. SILENCE UNKNOWN CALLS
Google and other platforms that allow you to What we’re really hoping to see in iOS 13 Nuisance SPAM calls drive us crazy every day,
conveniently sign in to third-party accounts. is the ability to insert a hyperlink into some and iOS 13 wants to fix the issue with the help
Sign-in with Apple is poised to protect your text in an email. On both iOS and Android of Siri, which scans your Contacts, Mail and
privacy more than Facebook and Google do. devices, that’s just not possible in their Messages to see if you’ve previously been in
What’s neat is that if you don’t want to fork default mail clients (that we’ve seen) – you contact with the caller.
over your email to an app developer or have to paste long URLs, and that’s not a Silence Unknown Calls sounds fairly smart,
website, Apple will create a unique random computer, no matter what you call your if you’re not expecting business numbers
email for you, and the email will be unique to operating system. cold-calling you for work. Those that do call
that site or app. you and aren’t on your personal ‘VIP list’ will
CONNECT TO WI-FI AND BLUETOOTH go straight to voicemail.
MAPS GET REVAMPED FROM CONTROL CENTER
iOS 13 Maps looks a lot better, even if This is huge – and we’ve been asking for it MORE IOS 13 FEATURES TO COME IN
everyone likes to hate on it. Will it ever be for several years. You’ll soon be able to select SEPTEMBER
better than Google Maps? No, probably not. Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth accessories We’re testing out the iOS 13 public test, but
But for people who want Apple’s pre-loaded right from Control Center. there may be more to this update that we
maps app on iOS 13, it’ll be much better. Android has had this for years, and it was haven’t seen. Apple typically holds features
There’s way more detail here by way of always convenient to connect to new Wi-Fi until the next iPhone launches.
Apple rebuilding maps from the ground up. networks or Bluetooth earbuds without We’ll continue to update the iOS 13 news
There’s more realistic detail for roads, beaches, having to navigate away from your current here, with our guide to what you need to know
parks, and buildings, and you can now explore app and dive into five Settings submenus. about its features and how it’ll change your
cities with a 3D 360-degree experience. Apple is finally coming around in iOS 13. iPhone. There might be a separate iPadOS now,
Favorites were a part of Maps before, but but iOS 13 is still mighty important to millions
iOS 13 makes these saved locations easier to XBOX ONE AND PS4 GAME of people.
navigate to with one tap – they appear at the CONTROLLER SUPPORT
very top of a search menu. Sometimes Google If you’re going to play games on your phone,
[ TECHLIFE #93 ]

HELP STATION
GET THE MOST FROM YOUR TECH

[ THIS MONTH IN HELP STATION ]


[STORAGE] right-click your exFAT partition and choose
84 Q&A
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED  exFAT
query
file conversion Resize, this time using the slider to take up all the
empty space to its left. Finally, click OK followed
I have an external 3TB drive with 500GB of by Apply to complete the non-destructive switch.
88 Windows data on it, formatted as NTFS. Can I convert ROB MEAD-GREEN
PERSONALISE WINDOWS 10 this to exFAT without losing any data?
WAYNE SCOWEN [EMAIL]
Mac
92 CONTROL YOUR
HOME FROM YOUR MAC Sadly no – the recommended, and safest,  MSG files won’t open
I saved some emails as MSG files in
option is to copy the files to another drive before Outlook, but now I can’t open them again. Is
iOS
94 GET MORE FROM reformatting the drive to exFAT and copying or this linked to Microsoft’s poor system for
THE FILES APP IN IOS moving them back. If the drive is less than half changing default apps?
full, however, another option would be to use a STEPH HENSHAW
96 Android tool like AOMEI Partition Standard (free, www.
HOW TO OPTIMISE YOUR ANDROID
disk-partition.com). Once installed, launch the Steph was unable to choose Microsoft Outlook
program. Right-click the current NTFS partition as the default choice for opening MSG files when
98 Security & privacy
SECURING SMART DEVICES and choose Resize Partition. Shrink the partition she right-clicked them. In the end, though, she
to free up enough space to fit your data on, then fixed her problem by performing a repair of her
click OK. You’ll see unallocated space appear Microsoft Outlook installation – go to Settings >
100 Home networking
SIMPLYFYING HOME AUTOMATION next to the shrunk partition – right-click this and Apps, select Microsoft Office or Microsoft Outlook
choose Create Partition – make sure its file and choose Modify, then try the Quick Repair
system is exFAT, make a note of the drive letter option first, followed by the more thorough
102 Photography
GET MORE FROM FILTERS it’s been allocated and click OK again. Online Repair if it doesn’t work – which restored
Review your changes and then click Apply to Outlook as an option.
104 Digital darkroom
CREATE THREE-COLOUR ARTWORKS
make them – be prepared to reboot if necessary.
Once complete, move the data from your NTFS
You don’t necessarily need Outlook installed to
read MSG files, however – there are many
partition to your exFAT one, then reopen third-party viewers out there, including
Partition Standard. Right-click the now-empty MailViewer (www.coolutils.com/MailViewer),
NTFS partition and choose Delete Partition. which is completely free for personal use.
The quick option is best, so click OK. Now CATHERINE ELLIS

If there’s space, you can switch


to exFAT without data loss.

[ 084 ]
HELP STATION
Q AND A
To identify mdworker problems, set
Console’s Find box to look for the text
‘mdworker’ in Any, or as the Process.

[MAC]

 Damaged file and


high CPU usage
I ran EtreCheck because of performance
issues, and it tells me that mdworker(13) is the
‘top process by CPU’ with 56%. Is this normal,
or should I do something about it?
BOB ASPINALL

Mdworker is a background daemon which is


responsible for compiling the metadata indexes
that are used for Spotlight searches. There are
usually several copies of it running at any time,
and each should typically take less than 5% of
CPU time, although sometimes when working Can’t get into Safe
Mode? Windows
on large files they can exceed that – but never as Repair has the answer.
much as 56%. High CPU usage by mdworker
normally occurs when it’s choking on a file,
causing it to crash repeatedly and be restarted clean using your anti-virus tool, download and
automatically. This is normally recorded in the [WINDOWS] run Windows Repair (www.tweaking.com). Go
log, and should be easy to spot in Console (in /
Applications/Utilities). Log entries normally  Safe
open
Mode won’t to the Repairs – Main tab and click Open
Repairs. Select ‘I understand the risks’, then tick
record the full path and name of the file which is I hope you can help – I can’t get into Safe mode ‘fix 11’ before clicking Start Repairs. After this has
causing the problem. on my Windows 10 PC. been implemented, Safe mode will hopefully
One common cause for this is that the file it’s JEMMA MCKENNA function again.
trying to index has become damaged – for MAYANK SHARMA
example, one of its extended attributes has The normal route for Safe mode is to go via
become corrupt. You can try First Aid in Disk Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and [BROWSER]
Utility, although that often doesn’t find
a problem.
click ‘Restart now’ under ‘Advanced start-up’.
Choose ‘Troubleshoot’ > ‘Advanced options’ >  Refresh Firefox
How can I get some order back into
Ultimately, you may need to delete that file, ‘Start-up Settings’ to select Safe mode (we Firefox? Every time I open it, it seems to be
or restore it from your Time Machine backup if recommend the ‘Safe Mode with Networking’ scrambled.
it’s important. Sometimes, after a restart or two, option to retain internet access). If this throws up JIM DUNCAN
you’ll find that everything settles down an error, it sounds like the Safe mode Registry
spontaneously. keys have been corrupted or removed – possibly Jim couldn’t explain the nature of his
HOWARD OAKLEY by an infection. After verifying your system is particular problem to us – but we surmised that

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 085 ]
HELP STATION
Q AND A

Use the Refresh


button to roll
Firefox back to a
working state.

he simply wanted to roll things back to how they external DVD-RW drive threw up the same
previously worked. Sadly, there’s no option to error, he had no issues accessing flash and
restore your Firefox tabs and other settings to an external drives. Bil then worked his way
earlier configuration in the way System Restore through the official troubleshooting advice
can, but as a last resort you could always restore doled out by Microsoft only to find removing
Firefox to its default state without removing and attempting to reinstall the IDE/ATAPI
bookmarks, passwords, open tabs and other drivers through Device Manager rendered his
essential information. PC unbootable.
To do this, open a new tab and type His fail-safe backup – EaseUS – failed with a
about:support into the Address bar to access PCI device driver error, forcing him to reinstall
Firefox’s troubleshooting page. You’ll see a Windows from scratch. At this point Bil was
‘Refresh Firefox…’ button below ‘Give Firefox a given an error about the drive being MBR- you can run First Aid in Disk Utility
(preferably in macOS Recovery) to
tune up’ – click this and a pop-up dialog box will formatted while the BIOS was UEFI (a common ensure drives are in good order.
confirm what’s being removed, namely all setup for compatibility reasons). Bil was able to
add-ons and browser customisations, plus fix this by converting the drive to GPT format
resetting the browser preferences back to their by booting into the emergency command
defaults. Click the button again to complete the prompt through his Windows install disc – see only way out is to shut down your Mac. Their
roll-back and hopefully Firefox will start to https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows- most common cause is a hardware problem,
behave as you remember it. server/storage/disk-management/change-an- such as a disk error or memory failure. Before
CATHERINE ELLIS mbr-disk-into-a-gpt-disk for instructions. looking any further, restart in Apple
After Windows was up and running again, Bil Diagnostics or Apple Hardware Test – see bit.ly/
[HARDWARE] discovered that his DVD drives and Windows 7 diaghwt for instructions on both.

 Optical drives no
longer work
backup tool were working perfectly again,
confirming that it had been a Windows issue all
If the test suite reports an error code, contact
an Apple service provider to have that
I have two DVD-RW drives and my PC has along. addressed, or arrange for advanced diagnostics
stopped recognising them. If I left-click either IAN SLEIGHTHOLM to be performed at an Apple Store’s Genius Bar.
drive I get one of three errors: ‘not available’; If your hardware is fine, run First Aid in Disk
‘not accessible’; or ‘access denied’. Can you [HARDWARE] Utility, preferably in macOS Recovery (see bit.
help please?
BILL LEVINSON  Mac Mini
shuts itself down
ly/mf1staid), to ensure that your drive(s) are in
good order too.
Recently, My Mac Mini has started shutting Diagnosing a software cause is tricky,
Malfunctioning optical drives are often down spontaneously. It starts up quite particularly with the new unified log in macOS
linked to permissions issues, but Bill also normally again, so why should it do this? Sierra onwards. When kernel panics start out of
revealed that the Windows 7 Backup tool was DAN WILLIAMS the blue, suspect any software updates or
failing to run, too, with an error about being installations made just prior to them starting:
unable to create a shadow copy. We asked him These are most probably kernel panics, when they may well be responsible.
to connect various USB drives, and while an something so serious happens to macOS that its HOWARD OAKLEY

[ 086 ]
HELP STATION
Q AND A
It’s a good idea to backup your
customisations so you can
keep your setup in the future.

[OFFICE]

 Make tools more


accessible in Office
Many of my favourite tools in Microsoft Office
are now buried deep in the Ribbon – and some
don’t appear at all. How can I make these
easier to get at?
JOHN LOWE

There are several customisation tools built in


to Microsoft Office – in this step-by-step guide
we’ll reveal how to locate these tools and how to
make them accessible via the Quick Access
toolbar with just one or two clicks. The simplest TeamViewer is the easiest
way to grab files from
way to make tools more accessible is to add your home network.
them to the Quick Access toolbar, which appears
above the Ribbon. Any command in the Ribbon
can be added – just right-click one and choose resources, then a VPN server setup might be
‘Add to Quick Access toolbar’. [NETWORKING] better. This is a technically tricky route to follow,
Click the drop-down arrow next to the Quick
Access toolbar and choose ‘More Commands…’.  Access network
while on the road
though: you’ll need a high-end router or a more
powerful network drive, such as one from
From here you can add any Office command to I’m going travelling and would like to be QNAP or Synology, plus you’ll need to sign up
the toolbar: click the Popular Commands able to gain access to my home PC without for a dynamic DNS address to simplify the
drop-down menu to list commands not in opening it up to the wider Internet. Do you connection process – you can get a free address
the Ribbon. You can remove selected items from have any suggestions? from www.noip.com.
here, or change their running order using the GEORGE PARRIS When configuring your VPN server,
up/down keys to the right. Click Import/Export Windows has built-in support for all protocols
> ‘Export all Customisations’ to back up your A lot depends on what you need – if you’re except OpenVPN – L2TP/IPSec (PSK) is the best
customised toolbar, then click OK when you’re simply looking to connect to an individual PC, alternative. If you do go down the OpenVPN
finished. By default, the toolbar sits above the then your best bet would be to explore an option route, you’ll need to download and install the
Ribbon – if this starts to get cramped with all like TeamViewer (www.teamviewer.com), OpenVPN client from https://openvpn.net/ on
your added items, click the drop-down arrow which will enable you to connect to your home your laptop to connect to the network at home.
next to it and choose ‘Show below the ribbon’ to PC from a laptop or mobile for remote-control In George’s case, however, TeamViewer is by far
move it down where it should have more space. purposes or to simply transfer files to and from the best option.
MATT HANSON it. If you need access to multiple network CATHERINE ELLIS

[ 087 ]
[ WINDOWS ]
HELP STATION
PERSONALISE WINDOWS 10

Personalise
Windows 10
GIVE WINDOWS 10 A WHOLE NEW LOOK
MICROSOFT STORE
WITH THE HUGE RANGE OF OFFICIAL
You can download themes
WINDOWS 10 THEMES.
from the Microsoft Store.
[ MATT HANSON ]
Click on your choice to view
more details and install.

JUST AS WITH previous versions of Windows, the


look of Windows 10 can be customised using
themes. These are collections of desktop wallpapers,
menu colours and sounds that overhaul the look
and feel of Windows. While Windows 10 comes
with a few themes pre-installed, you can also browse
and download from a huge variety of ready-made
themes that have been picked by Microsoft. These
are easy to download and apply to Windows 10,
enabling you to give your PC that personal touch.
Best of all, you can tweak these themes to better suit
your tastes, or create your own themes and save
them so that they can be easily applied in the future.
Windows 10 themes can also be removed or
swapped if you want to change the look in future. MOUSE CURSOR
Here, we’ll show you how to browse and install new You can change the look of
the mouse cursor here. You
themes, and how to create your own.
can choose from ready
selected cursors, or create
your own.

[STEP BY STEP]
CHANGE THE LOOK OF WINDOWS 10 WITH THEMES

VIEW CURRENT THEME BROWSE AND APPLY INSTALLED THEMES


01 Right-click any free space on the Windows 10 desktop and select 02 You’ll also see pre-installed themes that come with Windows 10 (or
Personalise. In the window that opens, select Themes from the ones that your PC manufacturer has created). These are listed under
left-hand pane. You’ll see the current theme that Windows 10 is using. A picture at the ‘Apply a theme’ section. Each theme has a name, and will show one of the
the top shows you the background image and what the Start menu looks like. You’ll theme’s desktop wallpapers and beneath the image will be a colour, which is the
also see the name of the image, the colours, mouse cursor and system sounds. colour certain elements of Windows will change to. Click a theme to apply it.

[ 088 ]
THEMES
This is the main window
where you can select the
themes that you want to
use in Windows 10.
TECHLIFE TOP TIP:
You still want Windows to

HELP STATION
PERSONALISE WINDOWS 10
be easy to use, so don’t
choose complex
THEME PREVIEW backgrounds, garish
This is a preview of the colours or odd mouse
theme, giving you a quick cursors!
guide to how Windows 10
will look with the theme
applied. JARGON BUSTER
DESKTOP WALLPAPER
This is the background
image that covers most of
your screen when using
Windows 10. Because of
this, you’ll want to pick a
high quality image (or
series of images) that
INSTALLED THEMES don’t make icons difficult
This is where the themes to find.
you have installed appear.
Click on one to apply it. SYSTEM SOUNDS
System sounds are the
noises and tones that
Windows 10 makes
during certain tasks, such
as when Windows 10
starts, or when you
receive a notification.
Many themes come
with their own set of
system sounds.

SOUNDS DESKTOP
You can change the system The desktop is the main
sounds that Windows plays area of Windows 10 where
here. You can select from windows appear, as
ready-made sounds or well as icons for tools
choose your own. and apps.

CUSTOMISE THE THEME: BACKGROUND CUSTOMISE THE THEME: COLOUR


03 At the top of the Themes window, click Background. This takes you to 04 Changing system colours is another way to alter the look of Windows.
a menu where you can change which images are shown on the From the main Theme menu, click Colours. At the top of the window
desktop. Under ‘Background’ you can choose from Picture, ‘Solid colour’ or you’ll see an example of how any colour change you apply will look. Under ‘Choose
Slideshow. Picture shows a single image; Browse enables you pick an image on your colour’ you can get Windows to automatically pick a colour based on your
your PC; Slideshow enables you pick a number of images, and choose how often desktop background. You can also pick your own colour, if you wish.
they change.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 089 ]
PERSONALISE WINDOWS 10

CUSTOMISE THE THEME: SOUNDS CUSTOMISE THE THEME: MOUSE CURSOR


05 You can also customise the sounds Windows plays. Click ‘Sounds’ to 06 You can also change the mouse cursor. This is the pointer that moves
open a new window. You can choose from a pre-installed selection of when you move your mouse, and from the window that opens, you
sounds, known as a Sound Scheme. If you don’t want any sounds to play, choose can select the look of the mouse using a Scheme. Some enlarge the cursor or use
No Sounds from the Sound Scheme drop-down menu. You can also tweak a inverted colours to make it easier to find. You can also make your own – click
Sound Scheme. Click an Event, then choose a sound to accompany it. Browse and choose an image to use. Click ‘Save as’ to create your own Scheme.

SAVE YOUR THEME BROWSE MORE THEMES


07 Once you’ve created a theme, click ‘Save theme’. A pop-up window 08 The Microsoft Store is also home to a growing number of excellent
will appear where you can enter a name for it. Choose one, then click Windows 10 themes, most of which are free. To browse them, click
Save. Your theme will now appear in the ‘Apply a theme’ section. If you want to the ‘Get more themes in Microsoft Store’ link in the main Themes window. This
apply that theme in future, all you need to do is click the theme you’ve created. will open the relevant page on the Microsoft Store app. If you see one you like the
To delete a theme, right-click its preview and then select Delete. look of, click it to see more details, including which wallpapers come with it.

INSTALL A THEME ENJOY YOUR THEME


09 If you want to download and install a theme, click Get. If the theme is 10 You now have a new (or several new) themes for Windows 10 that
free, a new page in the Microsoft Store will open, so click Install. makes your PC feel more ‘you’. There are a huge range of official
Otherwise you need to pay for the theme using a payment method set up with themes to choose from, but for an extra personal touch, why not make your
your Microsoft account. After the download and installation process is complete, own theme using photos you’ve taken, perhaps of your family or a recent
you’ll be told that the ‘product is installed’. Click ‘Apply’ to start using the theme. holiday? Make sure you save your theme as well, so you can apply it now or
in the future.

[ 090 ]
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[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 091 ]
HELP STATION
CONTROL YOUR HOME FROM YOUR MAC

[ MAC ]

Control your home from your Mac


THE NEW HOME APP IN MACOS MOJAVE PUTS ALMOST EVERYTHING IN REACH.
[ ALEX COX ]

EVERY SMART HOME has to provide a control method, and Apple’s remote access continue to demand the use of a central device as a home
way of managing HomeKit–compatible devices is its Home app. hub, be it an iPad, a HomePod or an Apple TV (4th generation or later)
Through this, you can turn accessories on or off, monitor their output, – see bit.ly/mfhmhub.
and tweak very specific settings. Additionally, adding new HomeKit accessories to the Home app still
Up until the release of macOS Mojave, control of HomeKit requires the use of an iPhone or iPad – it can’t be done directly on your
accessories was entirely the domain of the iOS version of the app. Mac. That means you’ll need to be signed in to the same iCloud account
However, Mojave’s release brings the Home app to your computer, on both operating systems. Sadly, if you don’t already have an iOS
giving you control of those same accessories from your Mac as well. device, you’re out of luck when it comes to making use of the Home app
There are caveats to watch out for, though. Certain automations and on macOS.

HOME’S INTERFACE

UPDATES D SETTINGS
A If anything’s C Settings for your
amiss, you’ll home and
be warned at the top left of accessories appear in a
the Home tab. Click the text C pop–up. When finished
to see what’s up. with it, click Done.
A

B
FAVORITES AUTOMATION
B Mark an D If you have a
accessory as a home hub, go to
favorite to add it to the Home the Automation tab to set up
tab. Others appear only in behaviors such as turning on
the Rooms tab. lights by time of day.

[ 092 ]
[ STEP BY STEP ]
HOW TO MANAGE HOMEKIT ACCESSORIES

HELP STATION
CONTROL YOUR HOME FROM YOUR MAC
ADD ACCESSORIES SIGN IN OPEN HOME
01 Using your iOS device, open the 02 If you haven’t already signed in 03 If the Home app isn’t in the Dock,
Home app, go to the Home or to iCloud on macOS, go to System open it using Spotlight or from the
Rooms tab, tap the + (top right) and add your Preferences > iCloud and do so using the same Applications folder. When your Mac has synced
new HomeKit–compatible accessories to your account as on your iOS device. At the bottom of your Home setup, you’ll see your accessories;
setup. This can’t be done using the macOS the list, ensure syncing for the Home app is click one of the tiles to toggle its on or off state.
version of the app. turned on.

TWEAK CONTROLS GO DEEPER DEEPER STILL


04 Some accessories offer more than 05 Many HomeKit accessories offer 06 With an accessory’s controls open,
two states. Many smart lights, for advanced controls – look for click Settings (top right). Or, Ctrl–click
example, enable you to adjust their brightness buttons at the bottom of their basic control it in the Home/Rooms tab and choose Settings.
level by dragging a slider. To see what’s panel. Here, our light lets us tweak color and Here add the accessory to your favorites or group
available, Ctrl–click an accessory’s tile and temperature. Click the arrow (top left) or an it with others to control them as one.
pick Show Controls. empty area to return.

ROOM BY ROOM SET A SCENE GET NOTIFICATIONS


07 If your accessories are in more 08 Click the + (top right) and pick Add 09 Go to Edit > Edit Home. You can set
than one room, go to one’s Scene. This allows you to define a wallpaper for the Home tab here
settings, click Room and assign a room from settings you want to apply to some or all too. Under Notifications, set which accessories
the list or click Create New. Use the house accessories at once. Scenes are turned on with send notifications to your devices, and under
button (top left) to switch rooms, and Edit > buttons at the top of each room they affect. what circumstances – when nobody’s home,
Edit Rooms to set the wallpaper. for example.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 093 ]
[ IOS]
HELP STATION
GET MORE FROM THE FILES APP

Get more from the Files app


FIND THE IOS FILE MANAGER’S HIDDEN FEATURES AND EXTEND ITS POWERS.
[ ADAM BANKS ]

FILES IS IOS’S equivalent of Finder in macOS The large pane on the right is where you Locations in the sidebar. By default, you can’t
and enables you to browse files stored on your browse within storage locations. Simply tap to add non–cloud storage, such as shared folders
device or in iCloud Drive. You can add other open a folder or file. By default, this pane isn’t on your Mac or NAS, but we’ll show you a way
cloud services too and – with the help of a scrolled all the way to the top. Swipe down on around that.
third–party app – access files on Macs, PCs it to reveal some extra options. Tap one of the To reveal options for an individual file,
and network–attached storage (NAS) drives. attributes listed there – name, date, size or tags long–press it. A contextual menu will appear.
By default, the only locations in Files’ – to sort the pane’s contents by it. Tap the list For multiple files, tap Select, then tap the files
sidebar are iCloud Drive (assuming you’ve icon to the right to switch between icon and you want to use. Options will appear at the
signed in to iCloud) and On My iPhone/iPad. list views, and the folder icon to the left bottom of the screen.
These two locations work a little differently to create a new folder (on iCloud Drive). Tap a When browsing your iCloud Drive, you
from each other – as folders on your device’s folder to look inside it. The previous folder’s can delete folders created by apps, but you
storage are created and controlled by apps; you name appears top left. Tap it to go back there. can’t move them. All the other options
can’t move or delete them yourself, or add new You can add third–party cloud services, are similar.
ones. You can create folders in iCloud Drive. such as Google Drive and Dropbox, under

BY DEFAULT, THE ONLY LOCATIONS IN FILES’ SIDEBAR ARE ICLOUD


DRIVE (ASSUMING YOU’VE SIGNED IN TO ICLOUD) AND ON MY
IPHONE/IPAD.

THE FILES APP INTERFACE

LOCATIONS
A As well as your
iCloud Drive and your
device’s own storage, you can
C add other cloud services here.
A

TAGS
B Applying tags helps
you gather related
files, even if those files come
from different apps and/or
locations.

OPTIONS
C You can sort the list
of files by different
criteria, and also switch
between list and icon views.
B

CONTEXTUAL

  
D D MENU
Hold a finger on a
file or folder for a
moment to see actions you
can take on it.

[ 094 ]
[ STEP BY STEP ]
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE FILES APP

HELP STATION
GET MORE FROM THE FILES APP
MOVE IN MOVE OUT ASSIGN A TAG
01 To put a file into a folder, drag it 02 Files’ sidebar doesn’t allow you to 03 To move or share files from several
onto the folder’s icon. To drag drag between locations, but you can locations, use tags. Drag files and
multiple files, hold a finger on one, start to move a file between them: long-press it, tap folders onto a tag in the sidebar; they are then
drag it, then tap others. To move a file out of a Move and pick a location. To move, copy or marked with the tag’s color. Or, long press one
folder, drag it onto its parent folder’s name and share several files, tap Select, tap the files, and tap Tag; this method lets you create
wait for that to open. then a command. new tags.

TAGS AND FAVORITES ADD OTHER SERVICES BROWSE SERVICES


04 Tap a tag in the sidebar to see all 05 To add a cloud service such as 06 From now on, tap the service name to
items to which it’s applied. Google Drive to Files, install its app browse that storage. If you haven’t
Favorites in the sidebar are folders you’ll want on your device. The next time you open Files, logged in to the service in its app, the Files app
to revisit. You can add an item to that group by tap More Locations in the sidebar and turn on will show a pop-up or switch you to the app for
choosing Favorite in the options bar, or by the service’s switch to pin it under the you to log in before it can show your files.
dragging it there. Locations heading.

EXTRACT ARCHIVES IMPROVE ARCHIVING NETWORK SHARES


07 Tap a Zip archive and you can then 08 There’s no built–in way to unzip a 09 FileBrowser lets you browse folders
tap Preview Content to see what’s whole archive, but you can build one shared on your network within Files. In
inside, and preview files if iOS can handle in Shortcuts. Add the Extract Archive and Save it, tap + and connect to a folder. In Files, tap More
them. While previewing a file, tap Share and File commands. In the shortcut’s settings, turn Locations, turn on FileBrowser, tap Done, then
choose Save to Files to unzip that file to your on ‘Show in Share Sheet’ and set it to tap FileBrowser. Follow the setup steps.
chosen location. accept files.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 095 ]
[ ANDROID ]
HELP STATION
HOW TO OPTIMISE ANDROID

How to optimise Android


QUICK TIPS AND SHORTCUTS TO IMPROVE YOUR ANDROID EXPERIENCE.
[ CHARLES HANDMER ]

ANDROID IS THE most widely used operating * Avoid running flat – brief top-up charges icon the access its settings.
system in the world, and significant new are fine. A wireless charging pad is ideal if You can customise the Quick Settings
features arrive with every update. In this your phone supports it. screen too. Tap on the menu icon to access
article we look at how to use and optimise * Avoid leaving your device on charge all customisation, then you can drag icons
some of the often overlooked aspects of night when you can – frequent 100% around to set up the screen just the way it
Android devices. charging reduces battery life. suits you.
* Only use fast charging when you need it – it Quick Settings really are quick, and let you
STAY IN POWER - can heat up the battery, and that’s bad for it. do things like:
LOOK AFTER YOUR BATTERY * Remove any phone case when fast charging Quick Setting - Change the Power Mode
Let’s start with a most important and – cases can trap heat and reduce cooling. Those power saving settings we were just
neglected item – looking after the actual talking about? Access them right there on the
battery. We’ve all heard of near-new phones GET THE MOST FROM EVERY CHARGE Quick Settings screen.
unable to run a full day on one charge of the Now that’s sorted and your battery is going to Quick Setting - Swap Wi-Fi networks fast
battery. So what can we do to prevent this? last for years, head to ‘Settings > Battery > Tap on the name of your current Wi-Fi
Years ago laptops and mobile phones used Battery Saver’ on your Android device to network (below the Wi-Fi icon on the Quick
nickel-based batteries that were prone to optimise power use – all Android devices Settings screen) to bring up a list of available
reduced capacity “memory”, and the way to running Marshmallow or newer have this networks. Tap Details > Advanced to optimise
avoid the memory effect was to be tough on feature, but menu terminology will vary your settings and save power.
them: run them dead flat, then charge to 100%. by brand. Quick Setting - Save mobile data
But things have changed, and there is plenty of Tweak the settings to find the best balance Tap on Mobile Data below the icon and you
confusion about how to look after your battery. between functions and battery life for your have direct access to mobile data management
Almost all mobile devices now run on usage patterns. Note that a dark theme or and data saving settings.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, and they wallpaper, and turning down the brightness,
respond to TLC. These batteries prefer top-up will save significant power on most devices
charges, and running completely flat can with AMOLED screens.
actually destroy them. That’s why most
Lithium-ion powered devices automatically USE THE QUICK SETTINGS SCREEN
power-off before the battery gets too low. Instead of delving through Settings menus,
Follow these rules for maximum Lithium- swiping down twice from the top of the screen,
ion life span: or a single two finger swipe, opens the Quick
* Aim to keep the battery between 50% and Settings screen. Tap on the item Icon to toggle
80% charged. it on or off, or tap on the item name below the

Android is getting very Quick settings are just a swipe The Quick Settings shortcut to Quick Settings access to
good at saving power. away, and customisable. available Wi-Fi networks. mobile data management.

[ 096 ]
IF YOU HAVE A CHROMECAST
OR ANDROID TV DEVICE IT IS

HELP STATION
HOW TO OPTIMISE ANDROID
SO SIMPLE TO MIRROR YOUR
DISPLAY AND CONTENT ON A
TV SCREEN. YOU WILL FIND A
CAST ICON IN QUICK SETTINGS
ON MOST PHONES.

USER ACCOUNTS AND APP PINNING


Most recent versions of Android include
Screen Pinning, which lets you lock the device
in one app when you lend it to someone, for
Set Do Not Disturb options to Cast you content from a 5-inch So that’s where those French example. First make sure it is activated in your
better manage your time. display to 55 inches instantly. notifications come from... device’s Security Settings, plus switch on “Ask
for PIN before unpinning” to make it secure.
If you want to go a big step further, on many
Quick Setting – Set Do Not Disturb CHANGE YOUR ANDROID KEYBOARD Android devices you can add extra users (but
Do not Disturb, or Priority Mode, blocks all Google’s Gboard is pretty much the default not on Samsung, they deactivate this feature).
interruptions except those you specify in the keyboard for Android devices, although This is a complete separate user account, login
settings. Such a useful way to manage your Samsung generally uses SwiftKey. But you are and profile, just like on a Windows computer.
communications, but way underused. Just set not stuck with the keyboard that came with The new user can have their own Gmail
your preferences and then toggle on and off as your device – a range of options can be found account, and their use of the device is separate,
required via the Quick Settings screen. on the Google Play Store. Just download and and private, from yours.
Quick Setting – Turn NFC on or off install to try them out. Note that you won’t be To set it up, look for “Users” or “Users &
Among other things, NFC (Near Field able to uninstall the default keyboard that Accounts” in the Settings menu. Tap “Add
Communication) lets your smartphone double came with your device, but you can override it. user”, and follow the prompts.
as a contactless credit or debit card, a transport
card, and even a building access tag.
Ok, this keyboard is hard
Standard contactless cards are always to read, but it makes cool
available to make tap and go payments, but as music as you type!
discussed in our recent Google Pay article, this
means they can be scanned by a scammer. In
contrast, Google Pay on your smartphone can
only be scanned when the phone is “awake”
with the screen on. To be doubly secure, you
can use the Quick Settings screen to instantly
turn NFC off when you don’t need it.
Quick Setting -–Cast your screen
If you have a Chromecast or Android TV
device it is so simple to mirror your display
and content on a TV screen. You will find a
Cast icon in Quick Settings on most phones
(it’s called Smart View on Samsung devices).
Just tap and select a device to start casting. If
your device doesn’t have it pre-installed, head
for the Google Play Store and download the
Chromecast app.

IDENTIFY AND MANAGE


APP NOTIFICATIONS
Notifications on your Home Screen from
unknown apps? Just long-press on the app and
your device will tell you. To manage the app
tap “Details” or the information icon for
direct access.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 097 ]
You probably have
more smart devices
than you think.
URING SMART DEVICES
P STAT

[ HOME NETWORKING ]

Securing smart devices


KEEPING YOUR IOT DEVICES SAFE FROM HACKERS.
[NATHAN TAYLOR ]

HOW MANY SMART ART de ces ou have in -FI * Disabling WPS


W (Wi-Fi Protected Setup),
your house? We’re betting there’s at least one NE UR which is a vulnerability
v in many routers.
– your internet router – but there are probably a Obviously making your wireless networkk as * eati a guest network with a different
few others as well. Do you own a smart TV, one secure as possible is important in any case, but it password. This means that the password to
that connects to the internet and can watch becomes especially so when you’re talking your main wireless network will not be
Netflix or YouTube? A gaming console? A about smart devices. Often, your network floating around on the computers and
digital video recorder? A network media player security is the only thing between your devices mobiles of other people.
or network attached storage device? A camera and a hacker.
used for security or baby monitoring? A voice That means: PASSWORDS, PASSWORDS, PASSWORDS
assistant? Any appliance with internet * Making sure you’re using WPA2 or This is the biggie. Unfortunately, too many
connectivity? Home automation switches WPA3 security. people are inclined to leave the factory default
and controllers? * Changing the password to a good password passwords on their smart devices, making them m
Here’s the thing: these kinds of devices are (a string of random numbers and letters). extremely vulnerable to attack. And those that
awesome, and the additional functionality
offered by connecting them to the network can
be amazing. But they do present significant
security risks, especially because they’re often
designed to favour convenience over security.
PCs and mobiles, following years of experience,
tend to have additional layers of security built
in, but many smart devices (also known as
internet of things or IoT devices) have very little
to protect them, and users often forget about
them as a vulnerability.
Consequently, attacks on IoT devices are
growing every year. The Mirai botnet – which is
still a threat – very successfully attacked
millions of smart devices, allowing hackers to
take control of them and use them for denial of
service attacks. Similarly, the VPNFilter
malware last year took control of thousands of
unsecured routers, allowing the hackers to
monitor and modify internet traffic.
Make sure your wireless network is secure. It may be your only defence.

[ 098 ]
HELP STATION
SECURING SMART DEVICES
Change the password on all your devices.

Use a password manager like LastPass, for


goodness sake. Make sure the firmware is kept up to date.

do change the password often use an insecure of strings of random numbers and letters, so it’s CHANGING OR DISABLING VOICE
one – like a dictionary word, number sequence pretty much essential to use a password COMMANDS
or simple phrase – and then go and use the manager. You can use a cloud service like Over in this month’s Home Networking
same password for every device. LastPass (www.lastpass.com) or Dashlane column, we talked about how you can use a
The Mirai and VPNFilter outbreaks we (www.dashlane.com) or one or several dozen voice assistant to automate your home. This is
mentioned earlier? All these attacks really did is other options. If you’re not keen on a cloud some really cool tech, but you do have to
try out the factory default password on millions service for your passwords, we can recommend consider the security implications. If you allow
of connected devices and in doing so found a KeePass (keepass.info), which keeps all your front or garage door’s smart lock to be
rich vein of devices that never had their data local. controlled by a voice command, what’s to stop
passwords changed. a criminal calling “Alexa, open the front
So, it is absolutely critical that for every UPDATING THE FIRMWARE door”? If anybody can take control of your
device that allows it, you need to check and The software that runs smart devices can be devices with a voice command, then they
change the password from the default and often is updated to add new features and, might be able to easily access private
immediately. Each device should have a good more importantly, address security problems. information or trigger events that you don’t
password – that is a string of random numbers The frequency of such updates varies by device want them to. There are even special kinds of
and letters at least ten characters long – and – NAS devices, for example tend to update quite attacks called Dolphin Attacks, where
each device’s password should be unique (you frequently, while IP cameras or routers might commands are hidden in the white noise on
can guarantee: if a hacker cracks one device, update once every six months or so. YouTube and other streaming videos; you
they’re going to try them all with the Every few months you should run an audit can’t hear them, but your voice assistant can.
same password). on your smart devices to see if updates are The automation tools provided by Amazon,
This also applies to any cloud services available. In many cases they won’t update Apple and Google do allow you set custom
associated with devices. Many devices have a automatically and will require manual voice commands as well as turn them off.
linked cloud service; for example, IP cameras intervention from you to approve or initiate it. Have a think about what you’re enabling
will link to a cloud service that will allow you to Log into the device’s settings and check access to with just voice commands. Can
view their stream across the internet, while for updates. somebody access your calendar or GPS
NAS devices might link to a remote access information? Could you be accidentally (or
cloud service. First, you should disable any SETUP IMMEDIATELY AFTER CONNECTING deliberately) recorded? Can they access a
cloud services that you don’t use; second, each When they’re shipped, many smart devices smart lock, or enable or disable a camera?
cloud service login should be unique. default to an open mode, designed to allow easy Even more so than other smart devices,
Remember that these cloud services offer a way setup. It’s only once the setup process is complete voice assistants are a major attack vector,
past your firewall and into your home network that security is applied. So don’t plug a device in especially when they’re given access to a lot of
for attackers, and if one is compromised then and leave it for hours or days before you actually information or control of other devices. So be
your entire network can be vulnerable. get around to running the setup app. Have the careful what you connect with them!
Of course, no human can remember dozens app ready to go and run it immediately.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 099 ]
HELP STATION
SIMPLIFYING HOME AUTOMATION

[ HOME NETWORKING ]

Simplifying ho
automation The Echo is cheap and
very capable.

A GUIDE TO THE BASIC TOOLS OF THE TRADE.


[NATHAN TAYLOR ]

UP UNTIL RECENTLY, home automation had many of the most popular devices (like the and easier solution: home assistants like the
been a tough business, best left to professionals Philips Hue lightbulbs, Belkin’s WeMo devices, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod and Google
and hard core enthusiasts. A dizzying array of August Smart Lock, ecobee devices and so on) Home make ideal automation hubs, with voice
incompatible protocols and devices made most will support all the major platforms. control baked in and now with apps and services
home automation projects absurdly complex, At the heart of nearly every home automation designed to support automation.
requiring weeks of research just to get started. system is a controlling device, a hub that Your choice of ecosystem will therefore pretty
Now, with the rise of home assistants it has controls all the other devices and is the brain of much boils down to which home assistant you
become much easier to create an automated the operation. Historically these were custom prefer, and the three most prominent home
home. It doesn’t require any special knowledge: PCs running specialised (and expensive) assistants also define the three largest ecosystems.
just a place to get started. software, but nowadays we have a much cheaper We’ll look briefly at them here.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH AN


AUTOMATED HOME?
So, let’s back up a minute. If you’re a home
automation neophyte then you may be
wondering what all the fuss is about. “I’m fine
with manually flipping a light switch,” you may
be thinking, but home automation is really
about much more than that.
Home automation is about making your
electronic devices work together and work
smarter. Typically it involves creating a set of “if
then” rules for the devices in your home: if the
TV is turned on then close the curtains and
dim the lights; if the motion sensor detects
movement outside after 1am then start
recording on the camera; if it’s 10pm, turn off
the hot water heater; if the owner is nearing
home after work then start the coffee brewer.
You create the rules, and the possibilities are
limited only by your imagination – and the
availability of hardware that supports
automation.

THE ECOSYSTEMS
Although automation has become much easier
in recent years, we’re still a long way away from
the “everything works with everything” utopia. On Amazon, select the option to create a new
Routine, then set up a trigger (“When this happens”)
There are still “ecosystems” at play, and not and one or more actions to take in response. Setting an Automation in Apple Home.
every device supports every ecosystem – though

[ 100 ]
AMAZON ALEXA

HELP STATION
SIMPLIFYING HOME AUTOMATION
www.amazon.com
Amazon is virtually giving away the Echo these
days, hoping to lock you into service
subscriptions and shopping deals. The
miniature Echo Dot can be bought for as little
as $70, and is still fully capable of home
automation with full access to all the features of
the Alexa voice assistant.
There are Alexa apps and voice controls for a
huge number of devices now, and Alexa now
comes with its own built-in automation tool:
Routines. Routines can be accessed on the The HomePod is a bit of a latecomer, but when it comes You’ll need a Google Home device to get the most out of
to smart home control it’s a strong player. Google Assistant.
Alexa mobile app by tapping on the side bar and
selecting Routines.
Routines are very simple scripts comprising
of a trigger and one or more actions. The trigger APPLE HOMEKIT including the Chromecast. It works well with apps
can be a time, a voice command, input from a www.apple.com/au/ios/home/ such as Spotify and as well as with third party
smart device (such as a motion sensor) or even Apple was a bit late to the party, but it has automation tools like IFTTT.
your current location. The action can be one of caught up quickly. Apple’s HomeKit technology Although new versions of Android have
a myriad of options: sending messages, playing is capable of controlling a large and growing automation hooks built into certain features like
music, having Alexa say something, changing range of devices, including TVs, power the calendar and scheduling tools, your go-to app
devices settings and so on. switches, lights, air conditioners, cameras, will be the Google Home app, available for
For home automation purposes, you can doorbells, garage doors, motion sensors, download on Android and iOS. The Home app,
select Smart Home in the action options, which speakers and more. You can find a full list of like Apple Home, lets you control devices and set
will bring up a list of devices on your home supported devices at the website above. routines. It’s not as elegant as either the Apple or
network. Any that Alexa can control should be You don’t need anything other than an iPad Amazon solutions, but it is extremely flexible once
listed here, and you can set the options that to use HomeKit, though if you’re going in on you get a grasp on it.
device (turn on, dim, start and so on). the ecosystem you’re probably going to want a In Google Home, you set up your devices first,
HomePod, which is Apple’s answer to the linking them to your Google account. Then you
Google Home and Amazon Echo. can tap on Routines to create new routines. If
At the heart of HomeKit is the Home app, you’re doing this on an Android device and have
which gives you an instant view of all the no Google Home voice assistant, your options are
connected smart devices in your home, quite limited – you can really only use voice
allowing you to see their status and control commands as the trigger. But if you have a Google
them remotely. Just fire up the app on your iOS Home device, then you can set triggers based on
device and tap Add Accessory to attach new time or on device status and input (such as
device to it. You can also create “Scenes” – a set motion sensed).
of pre-configured conditions for attached When it comes to actions, Google Home has a
accessories (such as dim the bedroom light, huge amount of flexibility, including playing
turn the bedroom TV on). media on capable devices. Invest the time, and
Tapping on the Automation tab will take you Google Home can do some pretty amazing
to where the real magic happens. Much like things.
Amazon’s Routines, you can create a new script
(called an “Automation” in the app) comprising THE OTHERS
of a trigger and a responding Scene. Although the big three have come to dominate the
It’s a very usable app overall, though not as market for consumer automation, there are plenty
powerful or flexible as Amazon or Google’s of other options as well. Device makers Logitech
Routines, and a simple way to get started on (with Harmony) and Samsung (with
home automation. SmartThings) have their own platforms with
some unique selling points – SmartThings offers
GOOGLE ASSISTANT high-level control over heavy home appliances
store.google.com/product/google_home like washers and fridges, for example. Then there
Available on the Google Home voice assistant are companies like ecobee, Wink and Insteon that
well as later models of Android phones, offer their own platforms.
Google’s Assistant allows for direct control of Meanwhile, there are third party automation
home devices through an app interface, as well apps like IFTTT (If This Then That) that allow
as the creation of highly flexible routines to you to set up very complex systems if you’ve a
Google Home has tons of trigger options. Tap ‘+’ to
add more. automate those devices. It has the added benefit mind, and we’ll be covering those much more in a
of working with a very wide range of devices, future issue.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 101 ]
[ PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS ]
HELP STATION
GET MORE FROM ND FILTERS

Get more from


ND filters
UNDERSTAND THE PROS AND CONS OF
VARIABLE-STRENGTH ND FILTERS AND
TAKE FULL CONTROL OF LONG EXPOSURES.
[ TECHLIFE TEAM ]

THE NEUTRAL DENSITY filter is a staple item in


the landscape photographer’s kit bag and a firm
favourite for creating images with energy and
depth. An ND filter is a sheet of glass or plastic
that is dyed with a pigment to reduce light
transmission, thereby darkening the scene and
allowing longer exposures. The standard filters
come in strengths of between one and four stops,
with ultra-long exposures requiring a ten-stop
model, such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper. The
variable ND is a versatile alternative however. DISTRACTING ABERRATION
The main disadvantage of a variable ND filter is an
These circular filters attach directly to the lens incompatibility with ultra-wide lenses when used at
maximum strength, as visible in this image.
thread and are constructed of two sheets of
polarising material. By rotating the outer ring,
light filtration can be adjusted, effectively
providing multiple filter strengths in a single unit.
This is both cost-effective and allows fine control
over exposure.
There are certain disadvantages however. If
used improperly, characteristic aberrations can be
introduced, such as a tell-tale darkening of the
image centre. In this tutorial we will explore the
best method of implementing a variable ND filter
and explain how to avoid common problems
when using these models at full strength, most
often experienced with wide-angle lenses.
BEFORE

ATTACH THE FILTER COMPOSE THE SCENE SET FILTER DENSITY


01 Ensure your filter is the correct size for 02 An advantage of variable NDs is that the 03 While looking through the viewfinder or
the filter thread of your lens. Some image can be composed easily even with at the LCD, rotate the filter ring to reduce
models are only available in one size, so use a the filter in place, unlike high-density, fixed-strength light transmission. Keep an eye on the shutter speed
stepping ring if needed to adapt the thread to the filters. Use the optical viewfinder or LCD to arrange and set the filter when your intended exposure value
appropriate lens diameter. your framing. is achieved.

[ 102 ]
SLOW AND EVEN
By predicting uneven brightness effects, it is possible to
adjust the filter to provide dynamic exposures without
unsightly aberrations, characteristic of the filter type.

HELP STATION
GET MORE FROM ND FILTERS
AFTER

TAKE A TEST SHOT CHECK FOR UNEVEN DARKENING ADJUST FOCAL LENGTH
04 Use the self-timer or a remote shutter 05 At wider focal lengths, a dark cross shape 06 Another strategy for reducing the
release to make an exposure that is free can appear in the frame centre. Be sure to aforementioned cross effect is to zoom in
of vibration. If you are unhappy with the review the images and if present, slightly reduce the by a few millimetres. Set a 10mm optic to around
composition, reset the filter position for a clearer filter density from maximum until the darkening 14mm for example and reshoot. This helps to reduce
view, and reframe. disappears. strong vignetting.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 103 ]
[ DIGITAL DARKROOM ]

Create three-colour artwork


BREAK PHOTOS DOWN INTO THREE COLOURS USING LEVELS
AND FILTERS.

TO CREATE THIS bold and striking art style, on the photo you are working on. Sometimes
the overall aim is to split the image into three you may go to apply the Cutout filter and it
distinct areas; black, white and a solid colour. won’t separate the image as you would expect,
To get the best results, choose a start image in which case you will need to go back a few
that can easily be broken down into just a few steps and try different Levels adjustment
shapes, yet still be recognisable. For example, values first. Once you have created a shape you
looking at the dog photo used in this tutorial, are happy with, it’s simply a case of selecting it
we can see that it can be separated into black and filling with your chosen colour on a new
for the eyes, nose and ears, white for the lighter layer. Finally, you can edit it further and
area down the centre of the face and a solid use layer transparency to make a clever
colour for the remainder of the face. By T-shirt design.
adjusting Levels to enhance the contrast
between these areas, the Cutout filter is then Start image
able to separate them into individual shapes.
This can involve a bit of trial and error; the
values and settings will be different depending

[ 104 ]
[ STAGE 1 ]
BUILD THE BACKGROUND

HELP STATION
CREATE THREE-COLOUR ARTWORK
USE LIQUIFY, DESATURATE AND LEVELS TO GET YOUR PHOTO READY.

Because the photo will be broken down into just a few fairly
simple areas, it’s a good idea to emphasise some of the features
and details first. By using Liquify to enlarge the eyes and nose,
we can ensure that they stand out in the final artwork. Once that
is done, it’s time to start making the black section of the artwork
with Levels and the Cutout filter. This should be done on a
duplicated copy of the edited dog layer, preserving the original
copy so we can use it later to make the green section.
DESATURATE THE IMAGE
01 Press Cmd/Ctrl-J to duplicate the background, thus preserving a copy
of the original as a backup. Hide the original background layer (click
the eyeball icon in the Layers palette). On the new layer, press Shift-Cmd/Ctrl-U
to desaturate it.

LIQUIFY ADJUST LEVELS


02 We want to exaggerate some of the features, so go to Filter > Distort > 03 Press Cmd/Ctrl-J to duplicate the layer. On the new layer, press Cmd/
Liquify. In this instance, se the Bloat Tool (B) at around 600px on the Ctrl-L and drag the input sliders so the areas you wish to make black
eyes and nose to enlarge them, and the Warp Tool (W) to slightly nudge the are distinct. For this image values of Black: 0, Grey: 0.01, White: 92 work well,
eyebrow area upward. Click OK to apply. but this will vary depending on the photo.

PUSH THE LEVELS


This is a very extreme Levels
adjustment, to make the black
areas stand out on their own.

HIDE IT
Clicking this
STAND OUT eyeball icon hides
Exaggerating and the contents of that
enlarging the layer. Click again to
features with bring back
Liquify means they visibility.
will still stand out
after being
simplified into flat
colours. IT’S HISTORY
With the trial and error involved in this process,
it’s best to keep the History window open.

[ WWW.TECHLIFE.NET ] [ 105 ]
[ STAGE 2 ]
FINISH THE BLACK AND GREEN
HELP STATION
CREATE THREE-COLOUR ARTWORK

CREATE, SELECT AND FILL THE MAIN SECTIONS


OF THE ARTWORK.

The Cutout filter gives a smoother, simpler


outline to the black areas. Adjusting the values
within the Cutout filter gives different results,
so if you’re using a different photo then try out
different settings to see what works best. You
may not want to include all of the dark areas
in your black layer (for example, there are too APPLY CUTOUT FILTER FILL WITH BLACK
many small lines above the eyes), so pick just 01 Go to Filter > Artistic > Cutout, enter 02 Now add a new layer (Shift-Cmd/Ctrl-N)
the areas you want with the Magic Wand Tool. Number of Levels: 2, Edge at the top of the layer stack, name it
Simplicity: 5, Edge Fidelity: 1, click OK to apply. Black. Fill it with black (with black loaded in the
Press A to select the Magic Wand Tool, set it to Foreground colour palette, press Shift-Backspace,
Add and Tolerance: 0, use it to select all the choose Use: Foreground colour and hit enter), then
areas you want to include in your black layer. press Cmd/Ctrl-D to deselect.

CUTOUT AGAIN ADD THE GREEN ERASE TO ADD REFLECTIONS


03 Hide the top two layers (click the eyeball 04 Select the Magic Wand Tool and click on 05 Make only the Black and Colour
icon) and go to the desaturated photo the background. Press Shift-Cmd/Ctrl-I layers visible, all other layers should
layer. Go to Filter> Cutout again, but this time change to invert the selection. Add a new layer directly be hidden. Use the Eraser Tool on the Colour
the Number of Levels to 4 (leave Edge Simplicity at 5 below the Black layer, name it Colour. Then fill it layer to remove colour where you want white to
and Edge Fidelity at 1). Click OK. with your chosen colour (the green used here is R:0, show through, for example reflective shines on
G:117, B:6). Finally, deselect (Cmd/Ctrl-D). the eyes and nose.

STANDING OUT
Those big round eyes
are perfect for
grabbing attention,
and add to the
ENLARGE THE CANVAS cartoonish layered
06 In order to increase the background stencil effect.
space to make room for the paint
texture we will be bringing in next, select the
Crop Tool and use it to enlarge the canvas to your
desired size. You can set specific dimensions in
the entry fields in Tool Settings.

[ 106 ]
LOW TOLERANCE LAYER SELECTIONS
With the Wand’s tolerance Each layer has a thumbnail
set to 0 it doesn’t pick up image in the Layers palette.
[ STAGE 3 ] surrounding pixels of any Hold Cmd/Ctrl and left-click it
FINISH THE ART other shade. to select the layer’s contents.

HELP STATION
CREATE THREE-COLOUR ARTWORK
ADD THE FINAL COLOUR AND PREPARE
FOR PRINTING.

Now we can bring in the third and final


colour; the white paint that will fill in the
middle section of the dog. With the addition
of the green background the artwork will be
complete. The final effect would make a great
print, and would also work very well as a
T-shirt design. The final steps will show you
how to edit and save the artwork in order
to create a clever effect when printed
onto products.
STENCIL EFFECT
The style of outline that’s been
created plus the added paint texture
gives the effect of a stencilled design.

ADD WHITE PAINT BEGIN PRINTING PREP


01 We copy and paste the scribble image we prepared earlier, below 02 The artwork is now finished. However, if you want to print it onto a
Colour in the Layers palette. Resize and position it as desired behind T-shirt this will require some further prep work. Hold Cmd/Ctrl and
the dog. Add another new layer below the paint layer, name it Background and click the Colour layer’s thumbnail in the Layers palette to select its contents.
fill it with the same colour as you used on the Colour layer. Press Shift-Cmd/Ctrl-I to invert the selection.

USE A LAYER MASK UPLOAD FOR PRINTING


03 Go to the white paint layer and add a layer mask. Hide the Colour 04 Now, when you upload the .png file to a printing and selling site such
layer and the Background layer so that only the black and white is as RedBubble (redbubble.com) and apply it to a T-shirt, you’ll find
visible. Save the file as a .png so that the background remains transparent. that the colour of the T-shirt becomes the background colour for your artwork.

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YOUR READY RECKONER TO THE BEST TECHNOLOGY PRODUCTS

The TechLife team finds the best budget, value and performance products, and the latest releases in the top technology categories. If you believe
there are other products that deserve the title in any of the tech categories, let us know and give us your reasons why in 50 words or less.
Equally, if there’s a hot new product that’s worthy of attention, we want to kknow. Send yyour eemail to techlife@futurenet.com.

[ BEST PERFORMANCE ]

ADSL/VDSL ROUTERS
[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST BUDGET ] Netgear Nighthawk X8 [ NEW ON SHELF ]
D-Link DSL-G225 TP-Link Archer VR600 D8500 ASUS DSL-AC3100

(WITH MODEM)
$80 | www.dlink.com.au $180 | www.tp-link.com.au $649 | www.netgear.com.au $469 | www.asus.com/au
A basic, NBN-ready 300Mbps Wi-Fi This AC1600 Wi-Fi model provides The price is eye-watering, but this It’s very similar to the RT-AC88U below,
ADSL router with four LAN ports. steady wireless connectivity and all the tri-band 802.11ac modem-router but this tri-band 802.11ac model also
Good wireless range and coverage. essential features that most users need. truly has it all. has ADSL/VDSL modem.

BROADBAND ROUTERS
[ BEST MESH-NETWORKING KIT ] [ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PERFORMANCE ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]
Netgear Orbi RBK50 Synology
S l RT1900ac
RT1900 Netgear Nighthawk XR500 TP-Link Archer AX6000

(NO MODEM)
$549 | www.netgear.com.au $180 | www.synology.com $400 | www.netgear.com.au $499 | www.tp-link.com.au
Mesh-networking has arrived this 802.11ac router is our current pick Netgear reckons this a ‘gaming’ router, At $499 it’s not cheap, but it’s
with this fantastic, great-performing if you need a robust device that won’t it’s great at just about everything and has got all the important features,
router and extender kit. break the bank. all the high-end features you could want. l k good. NETWORKING EQUIPMENT
NETWORKING ACCESSORIES

[ BEST POWERLINE ADAPTER [ BEST POW


W D
DAPTER
[ BEST WIRELESS
W EXTEN
NDER ] [ BEST WIRELESS BRIDGE ] (BUDGET) ] WITH WI-F NSION ]
ASUS RP-AC68U ASUS EA-AC87 TP-Link TL-PA8010P TP-Link TL-WPA4220KIT
PA

$240 | www.asus.com/au $159 | www.asus.com/au $139 | www.tp-link.com.au $125 | www.tp-link.com.au


With 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, this This bridge is a great way of linking up A pair of 1,200Mbps adapters that This versatile and fast kit offers an
AC1900 Wi-Fi extender’s built-in LEDs to four wired Gigabit devices to a proved to be both fast and affordable 802.11n Wi-Fi access point for both wired
help you figure out the best placement. 1,300Mbps AC network. in our most-recent roundup. and wireless connections.
NETWORK ATTACHED

[ BEST 2-BAY ] [ BEST 44-BAY


BAY ] [ BEST 5-BAY OR LARGER ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]
STORAGE DEVICES

Synology
S l DS218j Synology
S l DS918+
DS918 Synology
S l DS1618+
DS1618 QNAP TS 351

$270 (diskless) | www.synology.com $760 (diskless) | www.synology.com $1,290 (diskless) | www.synology.com $579 (diskless) | www.qnap.com
The J series of drives from Synology If you need extreme storage A 6-bay expandable NAS with optional This NAS features dual NVMe M.2 SSD
denote that they’re more affordable performance, it also supports M.2 SSD or 10 GbE support, this one’s for slots, multimedia streaming, and
products – exactly what you want. NVMe SSDs, with two dedicated slots. demanding SMBs and enthusiasts. efficient tiered storage.

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[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST VALUE] [ BEST MULTIROOM SYSTEM ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]


UE Wonderboom JBL Pulse 3 Sonos One Sonos Beam
$99 | www.ultimateears.com $269 | www.jbl.com.au From $299 | www.sonos.com
BUYER’S GUIDE
READY RECKONER

$599 | www.sonos.com
SPEAKERS
WIRELESS

This new Bluetooth portable The lightshow sets it apart, but it’s the Turn it on and hear to the sound that fills This remarkably small soundbar
gets you great ‘UE quality’ sound great soundscape of this waterproof your room – you won’t want anything produces great sound. Alexa integration
at a neat price. speaker that will keep your attention. else. Expandable, with Alexa support. will be joined by Google and Siri soon.

[ NEW ON SHELF ]
MUSIC HEADPHONES

[ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST NOISE-CANCELLING ] [ BEST WIRELESS IN-EARS ] Microsoft Surface


Jabra Move Wireless Bose QC35 II Jabra Elite 65t Headphones

$160 | www.jabra.com.au $449 | www.bose.com.au $299 | jabra.com.au $499 | www.microsoft.com


Exciting design and strong performance, Not a huge upgrade, but still the best The Jabra Elite 65t is a perfect Microsoft is branching its Surface
and an excellent budget option for couch noise-cancelling cans, with well- balance of usability, features, and range into a complete mobile
potatoes and fitness buffs alike. balanced audio and superb comfort. sound quality. solution.
PERSONAL & HOME AV GEAR

[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST ALL-IN-ONE MEDIA PLAYER ] [ BEST 4K BLU-RAY PLAYER ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]
Google Chromecast Ultra Nvidia Shield TV Xbox One X Xiaomi Mi Box S
MEDIA PLAYERS

$99 | play.google.com From $249 | www.nvidia.com/en-au From $649 | www.xbox.com From $99 | www.i.com
Google’s 4K wireless HDMI dongle 4K and HDR TV and movie streams are This has support for 4K Blu-ray and It gets the job done, and is mentioned
makes it easy to stream media content no problem, but the special bit is it will Netflix streaming, boasts HDR, and here out of completeness, but there are
to your TV and has high-speed Wi-Fi. stream your PC games in 4K too. has a compact design, plus power. better units on the market.

[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST PORTABLE ] [ BEST HOME THEATRE ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]


BenQ TH670 Sony MP-CL1A BenQ W1120 Optoma HD39Darbee
PROJECTORS

$899 | www.benq.com $749 | www.sony.com.au $1,339 | www.benq.com $2,099 | www.ambertech.com.au


This 1080p DLP unit can do double-duty Enjoy a smooth 720p image from a unit The W1120 is a DLP model that’s This slim 1080p DLP beamer is
for home cinema or business use, not much larger than a phablet. superbly bright at 2,200 lumens and super-bright at 3,500 lumens and can
DATA

with a 3,000 lumens brightness. A remarkable achievement. has a glass lens for crisp images. throw up to a 300-inch image.

[ BEST BUDGET TV ] [ BEST MAINSTREAM TV ] [ BEST PREMIUM TV ] [ BEST LUXURY TV ]


TCL QUHD P6 Series (55-inch) Sony X9000F (55-inch) LG OLED55C8PTA LG C9

$999 | www.tcl.com/au $1,998 | www.sony.com.au $2795 | www.lg.com/au $6,399 | www.lg.com/au


Boasting great picture quality and vivid, This TV is significantly less expensive LG’s midrange 55-inch OLED for 2018 LG’s C9 will be incredibly hard
lifelike colours, the 55-inch P6 Series than most OLED TVs – you get top-end still delivers superb picture quality and to beat in the world of 2019
panel also supports HDR Premium. performance on a more sensible budget. now has AI-powered voice-control. TVs.
TVS
LAPTOPS, TABLETS & SMARTPHONES

[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST ULTRABOOK ] [ BEST GAMING ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]


HP 250 G6 2FG10PA Dell XPS 13 (2018) Aorus X7 ASUS TUF FX504GE

$670 | www.hp.com/au From $2,099 | www.dell.com.au $4,199 | www.aorus.com $1,799 | www.gigabyte.com.au


A 15.6-incher with adequate 1,366 x Dell isn’t messing with the formula. A An an overclockable Intel Core i7-8850H Designed to outlast other laptops
LAPTOPS

768p LCD, Core i5, 4GB RAM and barely-there bezel around a 4K screen, CPU, a 17.3-inch FHD 144Hz display with thanks to clever venting. Its GPU hits
500GB HDD – it will cover the basics. ultra-light and ultra-slick – at a price. G-Sync, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. the sweet spot for budget gaming.

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[ BEST BUDGET IPHONE ] [ BEST BUDGET ANDROID ] [ BEST PERFORMANCE ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]
Apple iPhone 6 (16GB) Motorola Moto G6 Huawei Nova 3e Nokia 6 (2018)

SMARTPHONES:
ENTRY-LEVEL
$369 | www.apple.com/au $399 | www.motorola.com.au $350 (16GB) | www.motorola.com.au $399 (32GB) | www.nokia.com/au

BUYER’S GUIDE
READY RECKONER
The iPhone 6 can still be purchased The G6 deftly balances its price with A capable budget workhorse that A refresh of last year’s design,
at many online retailers for a the features and performance you’d doesn’t sacrifce power for its sleek, this polished and durable unit
reasonable price. expect from a modern handset. flagship aesthetic. has great battery life.

[ BEST BIG SCREEN ] [ BEST PREMIUM — TIED ] [ BEST PREMIUM — TIED ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]
LG G7 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy S9+ Apple iPhone XS Max Samsung Galaxy Note 9

SMARTPHONES:
$1,099 | lg.com.au From $1,349 | www.samsung.com/au From $1,799 | www.apple.com/au From $1,499 | www.samsung.com/au
The QHD, 6.1” 18.9:5 ratio screen is truly The S9+ is a big phone with a fantastic If you can get past the massive asking price, Takes all the current and best phone

PREMIUM
LAPTOPS, TABLETS & SMARTPHONES
vibrant. Plus, the camera is intelligent, camera, microSD slot, waterproofing there is no doubt that this is one of the best features, and puts them together to
and sound processing top-notch. and a tough chassis. phones Apple has ever produced. create unparallelled performance.

[ BEST COMPACT ]
[ BEST BUDGET ] Apple iPad mini 3 [ BEST PERFORMANCE ] [ BEST VERSATILITY ]

TABLETS & 2-IN-1S


Galaxy Tab A 10.5-inch (2018) (refurbished) Apple iPad 9.7 (2018) Acer Switch 3

(ENTRY LEVEL)
From $359 | www.samsung.com/au $359 (16GB) | www.apple.com/au From $469 (32GB) | www.apple.com/au From $499 | www.acer.com.au
Sharing the same size display & battery The iPad mini 4’s too expensive, so That gorgeous Retina IPS display is This detachable 2-in-1 has a stylus to
as the Galaxy Tab S4, Samsung’s hold out until one of the 7.8-inch 3’s alluring, battery life is great. Still the work with Windows excellent pen input
10.5-inch Galaxy Tab A is terrific value. pops up on Apple’s AU refurb store. best pick for a basic all-rounder tablet. capabilities. A great all-rounder.

[ BEST VERSATILITY ]
[ BEST BUDGET ] ASUS ZenBook Flip S [ BEST PERFORMANCE ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]

TABLETS & 2-IN-1S


Apple iPad Air 2 (Refurbished) UX370UA Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Lenovo Yoga 920

$519 (128GB) | www.apple.com/au From $1,699 | www.asus.com/au From $1548.95 (With Type Cover) | www. $2,999 | www.lenovo.com.au

(PREMIUM)
If the budget doesn’t extend to an iPad This slim and sleek 13-inch 2-in-1 microsoft.com Intel’s latest i7 CPU married with 16GB
Pro, get this 2014 unit instead. Check offers solid specs and won’t break Microsoft has added quad core RAM and a vivid, 13.9-inch 4K screen
the refurbished store if it’s sold out. the bank. processors to the Surface Pro 6 range. comprise this superb convertible.

[ BEST WIRELESS
[ BEST ROBOT VACUUM ] [ BEST SMART PLUG ] SECURITY CAMERA ] [ BEST AI SPEAKER ]
iRobot Roomba 980 D-Link DSP-W215 Netgear Arlo Pro Panasonic SC-GA10
HOME & LIVING

$1,499 | www.irobot.com.au $49.95 | www.dlink.com.au From $499 | www.netgear.com.au $379 | www.panasonic.com.au


GADGETS & ACCESSORIES

Strong suction, brushless extractors, Smartly monitors your energy usage, Waterproof, weatherproof, and offers a Give your streamed music room to
clever navigation: this Wi-Fi-connected producing daily and monthly reports, week’s worth of cloud storage. Great soar, and ask Google to tell you the
vac leaves your home spotless. and turn things on and off remotely. value in the long run. weather, all in the same device.

[ BEST POINT-AND-SHOOT ] [ BEST MIRRORLESS ] [ BEST CONSUMER DIGITAL SLR ] [ BEST ACTION CAM ]
Canon IXUS 185 Fujifilm X-T20 Canon EOS 800D GoPro Hero7 Black

$130 | www.canon.com.au $1,500 with lens | www.fujifilm.com.au $1,199 with 18-55mm STM kit | store. $599 | www.gopro.com
CAMERAS

This super-slim budget compact is very Fujifilm has done wonders with the X-T20 canon.com.au It may share much of the same headline
DIGITAL

easy to use and packs a 20MP sensor by packing an excellent 24.3MP sensor It may be an entry-level DSLR, but Canon video specs as the Hero6 Black, the Hero7
and 8x optical zoom lense. and an advanced autofocus system. has housed a sensor that impresses. Black offers a number of big improvements.

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[ BEST WIRELESS HARD DRIVE ]


[ BEST POWER BANK ] WD My Passport Wireless [ SMARTPHONE VR HEADSET ] [ BEST MOBILE GAMEPAD ]
Belkin Pocket Power 15K SSD Google Daydream View (2017) iPega PG-9025
ACCESSORIES

$79.95 | www.belkin.com $429 | www.wd.com $149 | store.google.com $25 | www.dx.com


BUYER’S GUIDE
READY RECKONER

This bank offers a mammoth 15,000mAh Share and back up your files anywhere With support for two controllers this is You'll need to buy it online, but this
of power. Dual USB ports, and you can with serious SSD speed that leaves the finest mobile VR headset going. gamepad is nice and responsive, and
charge an iPhone up to five times over. every portable HDD behind. Comfortable, too. works with both iOS and Android.

[ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PREMIUM ]


GADGETS & ACCESSORIES

[ BEST BUDGET ] Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Seagate Backup Plus Portable [ BEST HIGH-SPEED ]
WD My Passport 1TB Slim 2TB 5TB Samsung Portable SSD T5
PORTABLE HARD

$80 | www.wd.com $149 | www.seagate.com $260 | www.seagate.com From $199 (256GB) | www.samsung.com/au
WD’s My Passport ranges come with As slim as portable HDDs come, but It’s a little bulkier than the Ultra Slim, With transfer speeds of up to 500MB/s,
DRIVES

security and backup software bundled still fairly priced, this fast and sleek left, but if you need lots of storage on these portable USB 3.1 SSDs will move
in and good speeds for the price. 2TB unit ticks all the boxes. the go, this 5TB drive is a neat option. your data around supremely fast.

[ BEST SMARTWATCH
FOR ANDROID ] [ BEST SMARTWATCH FOR IOS ] [ BEST FITNESS BAND ] [ BEST EXERCISE HEADPHONES ]
Samsung Galaxy Watch Apple Watch Series 4 Fitbit Charge 3 Plantronics Backbeat Fit
WEARABLES

From $499 | www.samsung.com/au From $599 | www.apple.com/au From $250 | www.fitbit.com/au $99 | www.plantronics.com
Samsung have dabbled in the dark arts With a new efficient S4 chipset, a bigger The Charge 3 adds 5ATM water resistance The Backbeat Fit are in-ear Bluetooth
to get the 46mm Galaxy Watch battery screen, a haptic crown dial, messaging, for water based exercise and it now sports headphones that allow you to hear
to last for a day. and 16GB of music storage. includes the useful Fitbit Pay hardware. your surroundings.

[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PROFESSIONAL ] [ BEST GAMING ]


AOC Q3279VWFD8 ViewSonic VX2757-mhd DELL U3415W ViewSonic XG2703-GS

$299 | www.aoc.com $250 | www.viewsonic.com.au $1,200 | www.dell.com $899 | www.viewsonic.com.au


MONITORS

A mammoth 31.5 inches in size, all of it This 27-inch 1080p display is the top of The U3415W offers quality and accuracy A 27-inch 1440p IPS display with great
a quality IPS panel at a game-friendly the budget tree with a 75Hz refresh that easily justify its price; the ultra-wide gaming chops and 144Hz refresh rate.
2560x1440 resolution. rate and FreeSync. Buttery smooth. aspect and curved screen to be bonuses. It even has G-Sync support.
PC

PC PERIPHERALS

[ BEST LAPBOARD
GAMING KEYBOARDS

[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PREMIUM ] FOR LOUNGE-ROOM USE ]


Tt eSports Poseidon ZX Logitech G610 Orion Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire Razer Turret

$99 | www.au.ttesports.com $120 | www.logitech.com $190 | www.corsair.com $220 | www.razerzone.com


This basic compact board still has it Available in red, blue or brown This Cherry MX Silver-switched ‘board This lapboard is sleeker than most,
where it counts, with solid switches, it’s sedate enough for offices feels great under the fingers and has with a magnetised mousepad to help
performance and comfortable keys. but still has gaming features. bright-as-hell RGB lighting. keep the included mouse grounded.
GAMING HEADSETS

[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PERFORMANCE ] [ NEW ON SHELF ]


Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 Cougar Immersa Pro Audio-Technica ATH-AG1 HyperX Cloud Alpha

$35 | www.microsoft.com.au/hardware $99 | cougargaming.com $299 | www.audio-technica.com.au $169 | www.hyperxgaming.com


A cheap basic USB headset with A fine approximation of 7.1 A super-comfy headset with massive Lightweight and with soft cups, the Cloud
noise-cancelling tech. surround sound from a very drivers and fantastic sound. Alpha’s promise respectable bass and
comfortable set of headphones. mids, and can be used anywhere.

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[ BEST VALUE ]
[ BEST BUDGET ] Cooler Master MasterMouse [ BEST AMBIDEXTEROUS ] [ BEST WIRELESS ]
Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury MM520 SteelSeries Sensei RAW Logitech G703

$49 | www.logitech.com $59 | coolermaster.com $80 | www.steelseries.com $99 | www.logitech.com

BUYER’S GUIDE
READY RECKONER
PC GAMING
A hybrid-sensor gaming mouse with A claw-grip number for right handers. Ditching unneeded features, this is a Cheaper than its G903 sibling,
optical, gyro and accelerometer Clunky switches aside it’s very lean, mean headshotting machine this mouse uses the same wireless

MICE
tracking, this one doesn’t skip a beat. ergonmic and feels premium. that’s good for lefties and righties. tech for excellent performance.

PC PERIPHERALS
PRINTERS & MULTIFUNCTION
[ BEST PHOTO PRINTER ] [ BEST SMALL-BUSINESS LASER ]
[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST VALUE ] Epson Expression Premium HP Colour LaserJet Pro
Canon Pixma MG2960 HP Envy Photo 7120 XP-15000 M477fnw

$36 | www.canon.com.au $131 | www.hp.com/au $499 | www.epson.com.au $500 | www.hp.com/au


An inkjet that can print, scan and copy This inkjet with a tri-colour tank Incomparable photo prints at up to A3 Built-in wireless, duplex print and

CENTRES
in colour, send faxes, has Wi-Fi and produces excellent photos, connecting size. A remarkable inkjet printer. scan, cloud and mobile print, and great
can AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. wirelessly with your phone and laptop. print quality at a fair price.

[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST EXTREME ]


Nvidia GeForce GTX [ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PREMIUM ] ASUS GeForce RTX 2080
1050 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Dual OC 8GB

PC GRAPHICS
$244 | www.nvidia.com $620 | www.nvidia.com $1,150 | www.nvidia.com $1479 | www.asus.com/au
Better frame rates mean we’re willing Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 Ti gives Pick one up for a bargain now that the Stependously expensive, but packed
to spend a bit more money for the us very little gripe about. 2080 is out and enjoy enough power to with truly groundbreaking features,

CARDS
GeForce GTX 1050 3GB card. run almost anything on high detail. especially its real time ray-tracing.

[ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PREMIUM ]


[ BEST BUDGET ] ASUS RoG Strix Z370-G Gigabyte Aorus X470 [ BEST EXTREME ]
Asrock H370M Pro4 Gaming Gaming Ultra Asus Maximus XI Formula

MOTHERBOARDS
$139 | www.asrock.com $289 | www.asus.com/au $279 | www.gigabyte.com.au $729 | www.asus.com/au
Brings Intel’s more-advanced H370 Micro ATX done right, with enough This second-gen AM4 board goes great A really refined board that’s tailor
PC COMPONENTS
feature set to buyers who thought they space for two M.2 PCIe SSDs and with Ryzen 2000 CPUs, packing heaps made for watercoolers and modders.
could only afford a lesser B360 model. support for 64GB of DDR4. of features for a nice price.
PC

[ BEST EXTREME ]
[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PREMIUM ] AMD Ryzen Threadripper
Intel Pentium G4560 AMD Ryzen 5 2600 AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 2950X
PROCESSORS

$79 | www.intel.com $269 | www.amd.com $469 | www.amd.com $1,415 | www.amd.com


This 7th-gen (aka Kaby Lake) CPU Retailers have dropped pricing on the This second-gen, 8-core Ryzen chip is This well-balanced processor, AMD’s
is great for those looking to build Ryzen 5 2600, which means you can pick a great all-rounder for multimedia Ryzen Threadripper 2950X does
a quality budget rig. up six cores and twelve threads cheaply. work, gaming and more. not disappoint.
PC

[ BEST EXTREME ]
[ BEST BUDGET ] [ BEST VALUE ] [ BEST PREMIUM ] Adata XPG SX8200 (480GB,
Crucial MX300 250GB Samsung 860 EVO 500GB Crucial MX500 1TB NVMe)
SOLID-STATE

$105 | www.crucial.com $185 | www.samsung.com/au $350 | www.crucial.com $189 | www.adata.com


The affordable MX300 drives are great 500GB is the ideal spot for cost- A five-year warranty is the icing For its price point, the 480GB Adata XPG
DRIVES

value and fast-enough to max out the per-gig. This updated drive from on a super-fast SATA SSD cake SX8200 is impressively fast during
SATA interface. Can’t go wrong here. Samsung is a great choice. that offers great bang for buck. normal applications and game loading.

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THE BACK PAGE
RIDICULOUS TECH

[ THE HELL IS THIS? ]

Ridiculous tech exposed ONLYBRUSH


THE ONLYBRUSH IS FOR BRUSHING YOUR
WE SCOUR THE DARK AND OFTEN PERVERTED CORNERS OF THE
TEETH... AND EIGHT OTHER THINGS.
INTERNET TO BRING YOU THE WEIRDEST TECH AROUND. YOU MAY $TBC | hiq.ai/smart-electric-toothbrush-onlybrush
WANT TO BRING A SICK BOWL OR A BOX OF TISSUES TO CRY INTO...
[ JOEL BURGESS ] If there’s one thing you should probably avoid
when naming a product it’s to include
contradictory words in the name, but alas the
DataCar: Gamify the Driving Experience OnlyBrush seems to have missed this memo
A DONGLE THAT HELPS YOU DOUBLE CLUTCH NAN’S HOLDEN ASTRA. since its eager to flaunt the fact that it’s not only a
US$30 | igg.me/at/datacar/x#/
brush, but a full travel dental kit. OnlyBrush’s
highlight tech is Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0, but
we’re still not 100% sure what it’s connected to or
Studies have found that people who play Forza or Need for Speed daily have a higher
why it needs to be connected at all. The
incidence of accidents and speeding tickets than the general population. So we’re not sure OnlyBrush has only nine features, which,
the ‘gamification’ of everyday driving is such a good thing, but the app-connected DataCar according to a press release, will “Not only
dongle still looks like a neat little tool for anyone interested in detailed driving data. After replace your old brush, but this product will also
pluging the dongle into your car’s OBD2 diagnostic info port and choosing from one of the become your own dentist with its great features.”
Eco, Diagnosis or Sports driving modes, the DataCar will deliver info on speed, RPM,
gears, acceleration and fuel economy so that you can drive even better.
ZERO BREEZE MARK II
SEE THE WORLD BEFORE GLOBAL WARMING
FORCES YOU TO GET A BIGGER AIR-
CONDITIONER.
$1599 | www.zerobreeze.com

Everyone knows that the best ‘Great Outdoors’


trips are created by the abundance of gear you
bring to prevent anyone sacrificing any creature
comforts.This is what makes the Zero Breeze
Mark II so great. Not only will it drain 210 Watts
every hour you have it on, but instead of soaking
up the serenity of the outside world, you’ll also
get to yell over the 50dB drone of the internal
compressor. That said, thanks to the 16.7 degree
maximum cooling differential you’ll never have to
take off your favourite furs, even if it is 30
degrees outside. Now that’s cool.

YoonJi Combination Earbud Earings


IF YOU LIKED IT THEN YOU SHOULDA PUT A RING ON IT.
$TBC | www.yankodesign.com

If you thought that Apple’s AirPods were a fashion statement, get ready to have your eyes
opened by the YoonJi Combination Earbud Earrings. Looking as if they belong on a haute
couture catwalk, the loops of these fashion-first true wireless headphones don’t just make a
statement, but they also crank up its volume. Quite literally the hoops also double as an
interface where you roll them forward and back for volume control. USB-C charging and a
minimalist earring case design mean they seem like a legitimate headphone option, but we’re
guessing you’ll need to at least buy a few pairs – so you have one that’ll match every outfit.

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