Computers

Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Chromecasts, Pixel C | Google Event Highlights

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When you see or hear the word Google, hardware isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But they do release devices. While their Nexus launch event, held last week in San Francisco, was a snoozefest, there is plenty to be excited about.

Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

The much loved Nexus 5, released in 2013, finally gets a refresh. Like its predecessor the 5.2-inch Nexus 5X makes a great case as being one of the best all around phones.

Starting at $379, it is competitively priced with a decent spec sheet and its polycarbonate shell is light and comfortable to grip. Can it draw the same level of interest and attention that the Nexus 5 did? We’ll have to wait and see.

Google pulled in Huawei to make the this year’s premium Nexus device. It helps Huawei position itself as a premium phone maker and they did a splendid job on the 6P.

The 5.7-inch 6P is made of aluminum. It is the first Nexus phone with a full-unibody construction. It also has, at least on paper, an impressive camera, 12.3 megapixels, but that’s not the number Google wants you to focus on. The company is touting the 6P’s 1.55 micron pixel size – larger than most phones on the market today.

Bigger pixels mean the ability to shoot with little to no light. We’re excited to see more sample photos to see if this is really the case.

The high-end Nexus 6P, which starts at $499, also has a host of other camera features including slow-mo capture, and a new smart burst mode. But I’m not feeling that whole band of black at the back of the device hosting the camera. Sure, it helps differentiate it from most other phones today but aesthetically, I wish Huawei went in another direction.

Both phones come with the new reversible USB Type-C for faster charging and will run the latest version of Android – Marshmallow.

The fingerprint scanners for both the 5X and 6P are located at the back right underneath the main camera. I had the chance to test a phone with a similar fingerprint scanner placement and I found it felt natural if you unlock the device while holding it up. But if you want to unlock the phone while its back is lying on the table, you might have to resort to using a lock code.

Google did well to address two needs with their 2015 Nexus phones – a value-for-money Nexus that most fans craved for after the pricey Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 of 2014, and the best of pure Android on a premium smartphone.

Chromecast and Chromecast Audio

Google tweaked the look of its media streaming device and made two of them – one for your TV, another for your speakers. Both are priced $35.

Instead of a stick, the redesigned Chromecast is now clearly more circular with a bendable HDMI arm that’s supposed to make it easy to hide the device behind your TV. It also has additional WiFi antennas for better range and support for modern wifi standards.

It comes in three colors: black, lemon yellow, and bright red.

Chromecast Audio, as its name suggests, focuses on music. With support for RCA, 3.5 mm, and optical inputs, Chromecast Audio should be able to take any speaker you have lying around and make it ‘smarter’.

Along with it comes the announcement that Chromecast now supports leading music streaming service Spotify. Now more than ever, it’s easier to blast your favorite playlists whether you want to rock out, dance, or, if the mood is right, ask someone to ‘Marvin Gaye And Get It On.’

Pixel C

In yet another crack at mobile productivity, Google announces the Pixel C (C stands for convertible).

It’s a 10.2-inch slate that pairs magnetically with a keyboard and it looks really promising. At the demo, Google showed off how the tablet seamlessly attaches to the keyboard without nasty ports and docks. You also don’t need to charge the keyboard as it is already charging the moment you stick it to the tablet.

It appeared the Pixel C will automatically come with the keyboard. Unfortunately that is not the case. The Pixel C tablet will retail for $499 and if you want the keyboard too, it’ll burn another $149 hole in your pocket.

That aside, the tablet, which runs Android Marshmallow, looks absolutely gorgeous and does appear like a step forward to actual productivity when you’re on the go.

[irp posts=”8575″ name=”Android made downloading from Google Play much easier”]

Computers

The global chip shortage could last till 2023

Put your plans for a PC build on hold!

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The Coronavirus pandemic prompted everybody to leave the “normal” behind and adopt a completely new lifestyle. With everyone moving to the work-from-home model, the demand for new computers, phones, and other gadgets skyrocketed, bringing another crisis to our doorstep — global chip shortage.

The world’s largest chipmaker TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company), announced its quarterly results this week, posting a profit of almost US$ 5 billion. This marks a 19 percent rise in profit when compared to the previous quarter. The announcement is good news for the investors, but it also highlights how long the shortage will continue.

TSMC CEO C.C. Wei said that the company hopes to offer more capacity and meet the demand by 2023. That’s two years away. And that’s after gearing up to spend a whopping US$ 100 billion in the next three years to ramp up production.

American chipmaker Intel has been plagued with production issues for the last few years and recently disclosed that it would spend US$ 20 billion to set up two new facilities in Arizona, US. However, these production sites take time to come up and can’t be just switched on in a few months.

Things aren’t looking good

Even Nvidia isn’t very optimistic about a recovery from the chip shortage anytime soon. “Overall demand remains very strong and continues to exceed supply while our channel inventories remain quite lean,” the company said in its press release. “We expect demand to continue to exceed supply for much of this year.”

Nvidia also has a brand new challenge — the demand for GPUs has skyrocketed ever since Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies started their bullish run in 2020. Cryptocurrency evangelists are constantly on the lookout for new gear, further amplifying the chip shortage.

The current state of component availability looks grim, affecting everything from the availability of new graphics cards to processors to next-gen PlayStations and Xboxes. The ripple effects of the shortage are being felt by every technology company, including giants like Apple.

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Accessories

Why owning a mechanical keyboard is worth it

Even for non-gamers

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The first time I came across a mechanical keyboard, I thought I didn’t need it. A gamer friend made me try it once, and although I was impressed with how smooth my typing was, I thought: spending more than a thousand bucks for a typing device is too expensive.

Back then, I was actually eyeing a flat, minimalist wireless keyboard to add to my ~aesthetic~ work-from-home set-up.

It was not until my Discord friends–who even sent me video links of ASMR typing sounds and did live typing demos during our video calls–that I actually gave in and considered buying one.

After days of researching to find the perfect fit for me, I finally decided to get the Royal Kludge 71 with blue switches. The brand is popular among enthusiasts because it’s beginner-friendly, and has good specifications for a budget–friendly price.

I even bought a Gateron sampler (a keyboard sampler where you can try different switches) online to help me decide between blue and brown.

It can increase your productivity

As a writer who literally types words for a living, there’s added pleasure in typing when I started using a mechanical keyboard. There’s this illusion that you are using a modern typewriter, and I admit it somehow increased my productivity.

Of course, the typing feel can be subjective for everyone, but the click-y sound suited my preference well that it gave me added motivation whenever I type.

Another thing I love about these keyboards is the programmable RGB lighting feature. When I bought my personal laptop, the only thing that was missing for me was the backlit keyboard, since I have tendencies to write in the dark.

Owning a mechanical keyboard with an RGB feature has become very helpful, since it keeps me up when I do my work at night. Not to mention, the different RGB modes are actually entertaining–I tend to watch the lights dance whenever I’m bored.

It’s kind of therapeutic

Apart from the satisfying beauty of RGB lighting and click-y sound, another thing I love about mechanical keyboards is the therapeutic feeling whenever I clean the keycaps.

Since I bought the white version, my keyboard is a magnet for dirt and can be easily stained so it needs consistent cleaning. Removing the keycaps one by one is oddly satisfying that it has become one of my therapeutic hobbies every weekend.

Definitely worth the investment

As of this writing, I have only tried three keyboard brands and I can say that the Royal Kludge has a higher actuation force compared to the others, so it can be tiring after long periods of time.

The RK71 white variant looks very clean and minimalist, especially in photos. I haven’t bought any keycaps to customize my keyboard (I am very tempted, though), but maybe that’s for another time. I am willing to save up for another keyboard with new switches, since the blue ones can be annoying especially if you don’t work alone.

Is mechanical keyboard a match for you?

If you’re like me who spends lots of time typing in front of the computer, then it’s a resounding yes.

There are lots of mechanical keyboard variants–there are ones with and without number pads, and there’s the click-y and silent switches. There are also cheaper ones compared to the one I got, so make sure to read and watch reviews. For those with higher budget, aim for the big guns like Anne Pro and Keychron–these are highly recommended by most enthusiasts.

Looking for “the one” can be overwhelming at first, but trust me, it’s fun and interesting. It can be addictive, too. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

 

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Computers

Dell launches SafeShutter webcam for convenience, privacy

No more sticky notes for webcam privacy

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With video conferencing becoming a staple in everyday work lives, Dell has announced SafeShutter — an automatic webcam shutter that knows when to open or close by syncing with users’ video conferencing applications, enabling them to work securely and confidently from anywhere.

Many remote workers today have resorted to permanently affixing a sticky note to computer cameras to ensure webcam privacy while working. It doesn’t need to be this way.

SafeShutter was created with remote working scenarios in mind — to strike the right balance between the convenience of seamlessly joining video calls and the privacy and the safety of knowing the camera is secure.

Human error is inevitable when it comes to video conferencing, be it speaking while still on mute or thinking the camera is turned off when it isn’t. SafeShutter creates an audible “click” that lets users know the camera has closed. The webcam also comes with a privacy LED light that turns on when the camera is in use. Paired with the keyboard indicator lights that denote if the camera and audio are on or off, users can rest assured they are in full control of their audio and video settings. No sticky note needed!

SafeShutter also factors in the need for added security aimed at limiting malicious surveillance and hacking. The security-hardened, hardware-controlled circuit allows users to control their privacy with camera disable (F9) and mic mute (F4) keys to override software settings. This provides extra assurance at the hardware level and ensures users can regain control with just a simple touch of a key, should the unexpected occur.

SafeShutter is available on the industry’s most secure commercial PCs and the new Latitude 9420 and 9520 devices. Combined with AI-based features that provide intelligent background noise-cancelling, auto-mute and smart connectivity features (like ExpressConnect, that prioritises bandwidth to your conferencing apps to prevent dropped calls), the Latitude 9420 and 9520 devices offer one of the best video conferencing experiences on a PC.

Pricing and availability

  • Dell Latitude 9420 — April 2021 — Pricing TBD
  • Dell Latitude 9520 — Available now — SG$ 2,629

All products are available for purchase online at dell.com.sg and the Dell exclusive stores in Funan Mall, NEX and Plaza Singapura.


This is a press release from Dell Singapore.

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