Gamer Geek News

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

The Kindle Kids e-reader hits new low of $50 before Prime Day

There's no need to wait for Prime Day for a decent deal on a Kindle, especially if you're looking to pick one up for a younger person in your life. Prime members can pick up the Kindle Kids edition for $50, which is $10 cheaper than the previous all-time-low price. The usual price of the e-reader is $85.

Buy Kindle Kids (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $50

It's a 10th-gen Kindle that comes with a two-year worry-free guarantee. Amazon will replace the device if it breaks for any reason. It's a proper e-reader, not a rugged toy, so that guarantee might come in handy. Kindle Kids does, however, come with a kid-friendly cover.

You'll also get one year of access to Amazon Kids+, which includes access to thousands of kid-friendly books, including the Ramona Quimby and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Parents can view their kids' reading progress and set educational goals. Amazon Kids+ usually costs $5 per month.

Meanwhile, you can also pick up the 2019 edition of the Fire 7 without breaking the bank, since that's also down to a record low. The tablet is currently $30, which is 40 percent off the regular price. It's another low-cost device that could be a solid option for a child, especially if you pick up a kid-friendly case for it.

Buy 2019 Fire 7 (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $30

This model comes with 16GB of storage, which you can expand with a microSD card. Amazon says it will run for up to seven hours on a single charge, which could make it useful for watching movies in the back seat during a road trip. There are parental controls you can use to make sure little ones aren't doing anything they're not supposed to.

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 6:30 pm

Ubisoft will drop details on Assassin's Creed and more games on Sept. 10th

Ubisoft will share updates and announcements about its roster of projects in a showcase on September 10th at 3PM ET. The event will be streamed on Ubisoft channels on YouTube, Twitch and the studio's official website, and it'll include news on "multiple games and projects from Ubisoft teams around the world," according to spokesperson Youssef Maguid.

Back in June, Ubisoft confirmed plans to share information about the future of Assassin's Creed during a special event in September, and this appears to be that. Ubisoft is currently working on two Assassin's Creed projects: one is a live multiplayer experience spanning multiple time periods codenamed Infinity, and the other is a standalone series installment codenamed Rift. Early reports indicate Rift started out as an expansion to Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and it stars Basim Ibn Ishaq from that title.

Alongside Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft is the caretaker of Far Cry, Rabbids, Beyond Good & Evil, Just Dance, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, Rayman and Prince of Persia. A remake of the original Prince of Persia has been bouncing around Ubisoft's studios for a few years and is now in development in Montreal, due out some time after April 2023.

Ubisoft is also hosting a broadcast for its open-world, online pirate simulator Skull and Bones on July 7th at 2PM ET. Skull and Bones has been kicking around since 2017 and it was even playable in 2018, but updates since then have been few and far between.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 6:16 pm

Games Done Quick bans speedrunning cheater from future events

Games Done Quick has banned a speedrunner from future events after they admitted to cheating during last week's marathon. Russian player Mekarazium appeared to complete a Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance expansion in a world record time. Instead of live gameplay, though, Mekarazium showed a pre-recorded video that was pieced together using parts of separate runs. They reacted to the footage in real-time to sell the ruse.

While Summer Games Done Quick took place as an in-person event for the first time since 2019, some speedrunners participated remotely. Mekazarium was one of those, which allowed them to cheat, as PCGamesN reports. The player initially sped through the main campaign of MGR: Revengeance in a seemingly legitimate run, before taking on the Blade Wolf DLC after a charity donation goal was met.

However, viewers noticed discrepancies in the Blade Wolf playthrough. Some noted there were barely any audible instances of Mekarazium pressing keys on the keyboard (which could be heard as he played the main game). At one point, Mekarazium lifts their right hand up while their character was looking around, though they claimed they controlled the mouse with their other hand.

Mekarazium also downplayed the record-breaking aspect of their run after the fact. You'd think a speedrunner would be delighted to beat their own world-best time by 25 seconds.

“The Blade Wolf DLC run incentive people paid for is a pre-recorded, segmented run,” Mekarazium told the GDQ enforcement team in a message obtained by PCGamesN. “It was supposed to be a real-time run, but I’ve changed my mind at the last second after switching the saves.”

Mekarazium said they wanted to show off the potential of the Blade Wolf run. However, they apologized and acknowledged they did "an actual bad thing." They worried about the impact on other speedrunners too. "I acted selfishly and I haven’t put more time thinking about others," they added.

“Yesterday, we were made aware that Mekazarium played a segmented video for his DLC run at Summer Games Done Quick 2022,” GDQ told Engadget in a statement. “Mekazarium has since admitted to this, both to some members of the community as well as directly to GDQ staff. He contacted our staff with a document detailing that he had planned this for over a month, demonstrating this was planned and intentional.

“This is absolutely unacceptable and attempts to undermine the integrity of the speedrunning community that we love and support," GDQ added. "The exact result they desired was unclear from the document, but it is clear that they believed we would not be willing to speak out about their behavior. However, we believe it is in the community’s best interests to know why this run was removed by GDQ. We have removed Mekazarium’s runs from our YouTube archive, and will not permit him to run in the future.”

The incident puts an unfortunate stain on another largely successful GDQ event. Speedrunners and viewers raised just over $3 million for Doctors Without Borders. There were some other hiccups, however. Some runs went longer than expected, which led to organizers cutting a couple of games from the schedule. However, they found room to add an extra Pokémon game on the final day in a bid to maximize donations.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 5:38 pm

Ubisoft will reveal updated 'Skull and Bones' gameplay this week

After years of delays, Ubisoft is finally ready to offer a fresh look at Skull and Bones. The publisher announced on Tuesday it plans to host a showcase dedicated to the open-world multiplayer pirate game on July 7th at 2PM ET. Ubisoft will livestream the event on YouTube and Twitch.

The company is widely expected to announce a new release date then. If you haven’t kept track of Skull and Bones’ troubled development, we don’t blame you. Ubisoft first announced the title at E3 2017, with an original release window planned for 2018. It then pushed the game back to 2019, mid-2020, 2021 and then finally its fiscal 2022-2023 year.

Tune-in July 7th at 11am PT / 8pm CEST for the worldwide Gameplay Reveal of #SkullandBones on Twitch and Youtube. You might also discover other hidden treasures along the way… https://t.co/xAxsCDfJo0#UbiForwardpic.twitter.com/J5wYPGf2Dd

— Skull and Bones (@skullnbonesgame) July 5, 2022

In 2020, Elisabeth Pellen, the game’s creative director, attributed the delays to a change of vision. The original premise of Skull and Bones was simple. It was supposed to adapt the sailing mechanics from 2013’s Assassin’s Creed IV:Black Flag and strip all the narrative threads and stealth mechanics that made that game unapproachable for some.

“The answer is that we simply needed more time. We dreamt something bigger for Skull and Bones, and these ambitions naturally came with bigger challenges,” Pellen said at the time. “As Skull and Bones evolved from its original idea to what it is now, it was also necessary to have some fresh eyes join the team.” Ubisoft also announced today it plans to hold a separate event on September 10th that will feature multiple games and projects from the company's teams.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 5:30 pm

Early Prime Day deals knock the Echo Show 5 down to $35

Amazon has announced good deals on more devices ahead of Prime Day. This time around, some smart displays are getting deep discounts. The Echo Show 5, for instance, has dropped to just $35 for Prime members. That's $10 less than the previous all-time low and $50 below the list price.

Buy Echo Show 5 (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $35

The second-gen Echo Show 5 emerged last summer. We gave the smart display, which has a 5.5-inch screen, a score of 85 in our review.

It's a solid choice for a bedside table device, particularly given that there's a tap-to-snooze function. The decent audio quality doesn't hurt either. On the flip side, we found the interface less intuitive than it perhaps ought to be. The webcam, meanwhile, is only 2MP, though that's still an improvement over the one Amazon used in the first-gen Echo Show 5.

Amazon has slashed the price of the Echo Show 8 as well. It's down from $110 to $55. However, it's worth noting the deal is for the first-gen version of the device, which was released in 2019. An updated model followed in 2021.

Buy Echo Show 8 (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $55

The eight-inch smart display has a camera shutter (as does the Echo Show 5) and stereo sound. It's Alexa-powered and supports video calls, but it only has a 1MP webcam — the second-gen Echo Show 8 has a 13MP webcam. Still, $55 is not a bad price if you're looking to pick up an inexpensive smart display with a larger, higher-resolution screen than Echo Show 5.

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 4:45 pm

Amazon's Echo Dot drops to $20 ahead of Prime Day

Prime Day is still a week away, but Amazon is getting the jump on one of its biggest events of the year by putting a bunch of its own products on sale a little early. One of those is the fourth-gen Echo Dot. The company has slashed the price of the Alexa-powered smart speaker by 60 percent for Prime members. It's down to $20, which is $30 off the regular price. That's the best price we've seen to date.

Buy Echo Dot (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $20

We gave the Echo Dot a score of 88 in our review, lauding it for the decent audio quality, a 3.5mm audio out jack and the option to tap it to snooze the alarm. We also liked the spherical design. It's worth bearing in mind that it's been almost two years since Amazon released the fourth-gen Echo Dot. Dropping the price to just $20 is an indicator that the company is clearing out stock ahead of a possible new model this fall.

In addition, there's a decent deal on the regular fourth-gen Echo. That's down from $100 to $60. The larger version of the Alexa smart speaker also has a 3.5mm audio out jack. We gave it a score of 89 in our review, largely because of the great sound quality.

Buy Echo (Prime exclusive) at Amazon - $60

If you were already considering buying an Echo, note that you can pair two of the smart speakers together for stereo audio. Paying an extra $20 on top of the regular price will net you two of the speakers at the minute. Again, though, the fourth-gen Echo was announced in September 2020, so it's due for a refresh.

Get the latestAmazon Prime Dayoffers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 4:31 pm

Suda51’s ‘Lollipop Chainsaw’ is getting a remake

Publisher Dragami Games has announced a remake of Lollipop Chainsaw, which will arrive next year. The 2012 original was a cult hit. It's a hack-and-slash title from the minds of producer Yoshimi Yasuda, creative director Goichi "Suda51" Suda (of No More Heroes fame) and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, who was a writer on the game.

Lollipop Chainsaw focuses on Juliet Starling, a cheerleader who battles zombies in a California high school. Surprisingly enough, Juliet wields a chainsaw that she can use in various ways (including ranged attacks). She can also collect lollipops to restore her health. Juliet is accompanied on her quest by the disembodied head of her boyfriend. A serious game this is not. 

Dragami Games is led by Yasuda. who will also produce the remake. The development team includes some other folks who previously worked on Lollipop Chainsaw. As IGN notes, some aspects will be different in the remake. Yasuda said the new version will take advantage of current-gen console hardware to deliver "a more realistic approach to the graphics." It will have new music as well, due to licensing issues.

Dragami acquired the intellectual property of Lollipop Chainsaw and other titles from original publisher Kadokawa Games (Dragami recently split off from the latter). "Unfortunately, various factors resulted in things making it so that fans can no longer easily play Lollipop Chainsaw, and it has been some time since players have not been able to access the game on current consoles," Yasuda wrote in a statement on Twitter. "We, the original development staff on Lollipop Chainsaw, think of the game as very precious to us, and did not want to leave it in limbo, where players who want to play it cannot."

Lollipop Chainasaw Remake の発表に関する Producer message をお届けします…!!!
Please check Producer message about Lollipop Chainsaw Remake.#lollipopchainsaw#ロリポップチェーンソーpic.twitter.com/ILeLTKNVZ3

— 安田善巳 (@yasudaD5) July 5, 2022

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 4:07 pm

Xbox Games with Gold will no longer include Xbox 360 titles

As of October 2022, Microsoft will stop offering free Xbox 360 titles through Games with Gold. The company announced the change in an email sent out to Xbox Live Gold subscribers in the US, Canada and other parts of the world. “We have reached the limit of our ability to bring Xbox 360 games to the catalog,” the company states in the message. “However, Games with Gold will continue to include exciting Xbox One titles and exclusive savings each month.”

The email adds that Xbox users can redownload any 360 titles they claimed through Games with Gold regardless of whether they continue to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold. 

"No other Xbox Live Gold benefits will be impacted by this change," a Microsoft spokesperson told Engadget. “We’re always looking at ways to evolve the Xbox experience based on community engagement, feedback and shifting company priorities. We have reached the limit of our ability to bring new games to the catalog from the past due to licensing and technical constraints. We will continue to focus on providing Xbox One titles through the Games with Gold program."

Xbox Live Gold email
Microsoft

Introduced in 2013, Microsoft added Games with Gold to Xbox Live Gold in response to the success of Sony’s PS Plus service, which was the first to offer free monthly games to customers. Microsoft later extended the perk to include the Xbox One. In recent years, the allure of the bonus has waned with the introduction of Xbox Game Pass. After Microsoft recently dropped the Xbox Live Gold requirement to play free-to-play games online, it felt like the company was preparing to reconfigure the service, and this announcement adds to that. See the full email from Microsoft above.

Update 12:47PM ET: Added comment from Microsoft.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 3:54 pm

Jabra's Elite 7 Pro earbuds drop to a record low of $140

Amazon has been busy dropping prices on its own products ahead of Prime Day and several other manufacturers are getting in on the action too. One of them is audio brand Jabra. Its Elite 7 Pro noise-canceling earbuds have dropped to $140 on Amazon. That's 30 percent off the regular price of $200. It's also the lowest price we've seen to date for the titanium black model.

Buy Jabra Elite Pro 7 at Amazon - $140

Jabra announced the true wireless earbuds last August. They were pegged as a successor to the Elite 85t (which were previously the brand's smallest earbuds), with a smaller, retooled design. The company says the earbuds use bone conduction in concert with microphones and algorithms to improve voice performance. The idea is that Jabra's algorithms detect when the microphones pick up certain kinds of background audio and activate the bone conduction function when necessary.

The Elite 7 Pro's active noise cancellation (ANC) levels are adjustable. Jabra says you'll get up to nine hours of use on a single charge if ANC is switched on and up to 11 hours without that feature. The case (which can be charged wirelessly) can provide another three charges. 

In addition, you can configure the on-device controls via Jabra's Sound+ app. Earlier this year, Jabra rolled out support for multipoint Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to connect the earbuds to two devices at the same time — a handy feature for those who often take calls during their workday when they're usually listening to their computer's audio.

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 2:32 pm

The best streaming boxes and sticks you can buy

If you're in the market for a new streaming device, chances are you want to improve your home entertainment experience. Maybe you've been relying on your phone or tablet for binge-watch sessions, or perhaps your TV's built-in operating system just isn't cutting it anymore. Streaming dongles and set-top boxes are ubiquitous at this point, but sussing out the differences between them can be challenging. Plus, they're not the only gadgets that can deliver your latest Netflix obsession to your TV screen. Let us break down all of the streaming device options you have today and give you our picks for the best you can buy.

Who needs a streaming device?

It’s worth pointing out that if you only use a couple of streaming services (say, Netflix and Hulu), you might not need a standalone streaming device. Most modern televisions ship with a basic selection of apps that usually include the most popular streaming services. Some TVs and soundbars run on built-in Roku or Fire TV operating systems, which offer a robust selection of apps without the need for a separate device.

But if your TV is on the older side, adding a streaming stick is obviously much cheaper than shelling out for a new television. Also, a dedicated streaming device typically has access to a lot more streaming services and apps, while content is often presented more intuitively. Some devices also offer better search features, including voice control. Cord cutters in particular will benefit from this sort of streaming hardware, as live TV services like Sling and Hulu Live aren’t always available in basic TV interfaces.

How to pick a streaming device

The most important things to keep in mind when choosing a streaming device are platform, price and what you already have in your home. Currently, the most popular streaming platforms are Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV and Google TV (which is an overlay on top of Android TV). All of them offer a similar selection of streaming services, with the primary differences being the user interface. Roku, for example, has a basic grid layout, while Fire TV and Google TV emphasize personalized recommendations.

The prices for streaming devices typically start at around $30, and can go all the way up to $200 (like the 64GB Apple TV 4K, for example). Sticks or dongles are generally more affordable, while set-top boxes tend to be pricier. The main reason to opt for a box over a dongle is if you need Ethernet connectivity. Some models also have additional features like Ethernet ports and faster wireless connections. (Roku’s set-top boxes, for example, have Dolby Vision, while its sticks don’t.) Another benefit of a set-top box is that they’re faster than older TV processors and are easier to upgrade over time.

There are some feature differences, too. Fire TV uses Alexa for voice commands, for example, while Google TV uses Google Assistant. In fact, when it comes to devices from Amazon, Google and Apple, it’s generally best to pick one that belongs in a previously chosen ecosystem. So if you’re already a committed iTunes user, an Apple TV would make more sense than the Fire TV. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, of course: If you depend more on streaming services than buying or renting shows, the ecosystem question isn’t quite as relevant. We’ll get more into the details of each system later in this guide.

Below are some recommendations for the best streaming sticks and other budget-friendly options. We also included suggestions for set-top boxes and devices geared toward gamers.

Engadget picks

The best streaming stick: Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku Streaming Stick+
Will Lipman for Engadget

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K, plus earlier iterations like the Streaming Stick+, has long been an Engadget favorite, and for good reason: It packs a lot of features into a small and affordable package. It has a straightforward user interface along with the widest selection of streaming options. All you need to do to set it up is plug it into your TV’s HDMI input and attach the power cable to your TV’s USB port. After that, you can finish the rest of the installation process via the TV interface and Roku remote.

As mentioned, Roku has a large selection of content. According to the company, you can choose to stream from more than 500,000 movies and TV episodes. Another useful feature is Roku’s universal search, which can find shows across a variety of platforms without prioritizing one over another. In contrast, Amazon’s streaming platform prioritizes search results from its own Prime video service.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K also supports AirPlay 2, so it’s great for those who want to stream from Macs or iOS devices. Additionally, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K supports 4K, HDR streaming and Dolby Vision.

We especially like Roku’s private-listening feature that lets you listen to shows using headphones, which is useful if you don’t want to disturb other members of your household. You can do this via the Roku app, which is available on both iOS and Android. The app also works as an alternative to the physical remote control. This is especially handy for entering login and password information, which is a lot easier to do with a smartphone keyboard than having to hunt and peck using the remote.

In addition to the remote, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K also responds to voice commands, which you can use to search for your favorite shows, adjust the volume or enable closed captioning.

If you want an upgraded remote, consider upgrading to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+. It has all the features of the Streaming Stick 4K, except it comes with the rechargeable Roku Voice Remote Pro as well. You can find your lost remote by saying “Hey Roku, where’s my remote?” and it has a built-in 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use the private listening feature without the app. It is almost $20 more than the Streaming Stick 4K, however, so unless you really need that fancy remote, we recommend the Streaming Stick 4K instead.

Buy Roku Streaming Stick 4K at Amazon - $50

Also great: Chromecast with Google TV

Chromecast with Google TV
Engadget

For years, Google’s Chromecast was a dongle without a remote. It was simply used to stream shows from your phone or laptop to the TV. The new Chromecast with Google TV, however, is completely different. Not only does it now have a dedicated remote control, but it ushers in a brand new menu interface plus Google Assistant smarts. While the Roku might be our overall pick, the Chromecast is best for those who like a more personalized interface and robust voice controls.

The highlight of the new Chromecast is Google TV, which is actually a revamped version of Android TV. The home screen is personalized based on your watching habits. There’s a rotating carousel of trending shows, curated top picks as well as category headers like “Continue watching” and “Trending on Google.” We especially appreciate the “Continue Watching” row as it offers a quick shortcut to catch up on programming you were — you guessed it — already watching.

There are also algorithm-generated recommendations such as “Shows about aliens” or “Shows about murder.” What’s nice is that most of the suggested shows are from services you’re already subscribed to. If you’re a YouTube TV subscriber, you’ll appreciate the Live TV tab, which acts as a channel guide for the service. Google has said, however, that the tab should eventually work with other live TV services such as Sling or Hulu Live.

We also like that Google TV gives a lot of information about a specific show or movie, such as the Rotten Tomatoes rating and all of the different ways you can watch it. You can also add it to your watchlist right from the show page, regardless of what streaming service it’s on. Renting or buying the show can only be done from the Google Play Movies & TV store, however.

One of our favorite features of the new Chromecast is Google Assistant integration. You can make general queries, like asking for a five-day weather forecast. Best of all, contextual queries like “Find movies with Bill Murray” and “Show me true crime documentaries” all turn up highly relevant results. You can also control the TV entirely with voice commands, including powering it on and off and adjusting the volume.

The Chromecast with Google TV supports 4K HDR as well as Dolby Vision. However, it doesn’t support AirPlay 2 so it’s not quite as compatible with Macs and iOS devices. It also doesn’t currently carry Apple TV+ or iTunes videos. We should also note that unlike other streaming sticks, the latest Chromecast can’t be powered by a TV’s USB port; you’ll have to use the included 7.5-watt power adapter instead.

Buy Chromecast with Google TV at Amazon - $50

The best budget streaming device: Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite

Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
Amazon

If price is of the utmost importance and you don’t need 4K, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick Lite is a decent alternative. At $30, it’s one of the cheapest streaming sticks on the market (it’s also frequently discounted, too). It supports FHD streaming with HDR and, just like its higher-end siblings, comes with an Alexa voice remote.

One of the reasons this is considered “Lite” is that this particular Fire TV Stick can’t control your TV; you still have to use your television remote to power it on and off or to adjust its volume. That’s not that big a deal, especially if it helps save you a few bucks. In comparison, the standard Fire TV Stick typically retails for $40, while the Fire TV Stick 4K costs $50.

Amazon’s Fire TV supports nearly all of the popular streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube, YouTube TV and Hulu, among others. The Live page features Twitch out of the box. While you can’t use Alexa to control the TV, the Fire TV Stick Lite does let you use Alexa to search for shows and ask general questions like the weather forecast or the latest scores for your favorite sports team.

Despite its low price, the Fire TV Stick Lite is a decent streaming dongle. It comes with the updated Fire TV interface that adds features such as user profiles, a new main menu navigation bar with show recommendations, plus a scrolling list of your favorite streaming apps.

The layout isn’t quite as intuitive as Google TV’s and is more complicated than Roku’s, but it’s still easy enough to figure out. That said, the interface tends to prioritize Amazon Prime Video content, and there are a lot more ads than on other streaming platforms. It’s not the best streaming device out there, but it’s a good, inexpensive choice if you want to update an older TV set while spending as little as possible.

For a little more money, you could also upgrade to either the Fire TV Stick 4K or the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Both feature 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, but the Max has WiFi 6 support and a faster processor.

Buy Fire TV Stick Lite at Amazon - $30

Also great: Roku Express

Roku Express
Roku

The Roku Express has the same user interface as the Streaming Stick+, but it’s housed in a compact set-top box instead. It doesn’t support 4K or HDR and the remote control lacks a voice command button. But if all you want is a capable HD streaming device, the Express fits the bill. If you insist on having 4K, however, consider the Roku Express 4K+, which retails for $40. It’s very similar to the Express, except it carries support for 4K, HDR and AirPlay, and it comes with a voice remote as well. That could well make it worth the extra money.

Buy Roku Express at Amazon - $30

The best set-top box: Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra
Roku

The Roku Ultra has the same features of the Streaming Stick+ and then some. There’s a wide selection of content, a simple user interface and support for 4K HDR streaming, AirPlay2 and voice commands. On top of that, the Ultra adds Dolby Vision support along with HDR 10+, USB connections, a microSD slot for external media, and Ethernet connectivity.

Like the Streaming Stick 4K+, the Ultra comes with Roku’s Voice Remote Pro. The remote also features a couple of programmable shortcut keys that you can map to specific commands, like “Launch YouTube” or “Play classical music.” Best of all, the Ultra features a remote finder in case you lose it in between your couch cushions. The Ultra is definitely the most capable Roku device on the market, but you’ll have to pay quite a bit more for it.

Buy Roku Ultra at Amazon - $100

The best premium device: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K
Apple

For those who want a slightly higher-end option and have a lot of Apple devices, the Apple TV 4K could be worth a splurge. It can stream in 4K HDR and Dolby Vision, plus it supports AirPlay 2 for streaming from Mac and iOS devices. The tvOS platform has an attractive and clean user interface that’s also easy to use. There’s also a “One Home Screen” feature that lets you sync apps and their layout across multiple Apple TVs, and you can use Siri to search for your favorite shows.

As you might expect, the Apple TV is also the only set-top box that works with the entire Apple ecosystem. This means that you can use the Apple TV to buy and rent movies from iTunes, access music and podcasts, play games from Apple Arcade and run apps like Fitness+, Apple’s line of workout classes.

iPhone owners in particular are likely to benefit from owning an Apple TV. You can hold your handset up to the box during setup to transfer all of your settings and enter passwords directly through the Remote app, which is itself easily accessible via iOS’s control center. Plus, if you spring for the new 2021 model, you’ll get the improved Siri remote and new features like high-frame rate playback.

Buy Apple TV 4K at Amazon - $180

The best for gamers: NVIDIA Shield TV Pro

NVIDIA Shield TV Pro
NVIDIA

For those who want an all-in-one device that lets you stream movies, run a PLEX media server and play games, consider NVIDIA’s Shield TV Pro. It currently runs Android TV, which is a little outdated at this point, but there’s a possibility that it could be upgraded to Google TV in the future.

Thanks to its capable TegraX1+ processor, the Shield TV Pro can stream in native 4K and it can also upscale 720p and 1080p video to 4K with the company’s AI neural network. It also supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, has 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and two USB-C ports. Additionally, there’s a gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI socket and a microSD card slot. Since it runs on Android, you can use it to play most games from the Google Play Store.

The main reason you’d choose the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro over other machines is that it gives you access to NVIDIA’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service. As long as you have a relatively speedy internet connection, you can play top-tier PC games that are streamed online to your Shield TV Pro.

Buy NVIDIA Shield TV Pro at Amazon - $200

The best gaming console for streaming: Xbox Series X

Xbox Series X
Engadget

Even though both Sony’s PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X can stream video, it’s the Xbox that we think is the best gaming console for the job. It can play 4K Blu-Rays and supports all of the usual streaming video apps including Apple TV+ and Disney+. However, the PS5 can’t stream Disney+ in 4K or Dolby Atmos, which is disappointing if you ever want to watch The Mandalorian in all its cinematic glory.

Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Xbox Series X. On top of that, the Xbox Series X (and S) also support Dolby Vision for streaming video, which is especially great for people with newer TVs. Of course, the Xbox is also a pretty great gaming machine, and it offers access to Game Pass, Microsoft’s subscription service that has a large library of titles.

Buy Xbox Series X at Microsoft - $500

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 1:30 pm

European Union passes landmark laws to rein in big tech

Today, after months of negotiations and procedural hurdles, the European Union has passed a pair of landmark bills designed to rein in Big Tech’s power. The Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act are intended to promote fairer competition, improve privacy protection, as well as banning both the use of some of the more egregious forms of targeted advertising and misleading practices.

The Digital Services Act, for instance, focuses on online platforms like Facebook, Amazon and Google. They will be tasked with being more proactive both with content moderation and also to prevent the sale of illegal or unsafe goods being sold on their platforms. Users will also be able to learn how and why an algorithm recommended them a certain piece of content, and to challenge any moderation decision that was made algorithmically. Finally, companies will no longer be able to use sensitive personal data for ad-targeting, sell ads to children, or use dark patterns — deceptive page design that can manipulate you into saying yes to something even when you'd much rather say no, such as joining a service or preventing you from leaving one you no longer wish to use.

These obligations operate on a sliding scale, and so the largest platforms will have the greatest obligations placed upon them. Platforms with 45 million or more monthly users will be subject to independent auditing to ensure they are preventing fake news and illegal content. Those platforms will also have to open up their algorithms and data to (approved) researchers to enable them to study the effects, and potential harm, the systems can cause.

The Digital Markets Act, meanwhile, is more focused on preventing dominant platform holders, like Google, Microsoft and Apple, from abusing their scale. This includes offering better interoperability with smaller, rival services, ensuring files can be sent between systems. There is also a large carve-out for app storefronts, with developers now entitled to contact their customers about deals without going via the platform holder in question. And platform holders will no longer be able to give their systems favorable treatment, such as when Google promoted its own shopping service over that of rivals.

The EU has given both bills plenty of teeth, and can dole out a maximum penalty of 10 percent of its total worldwide turnover from the previous year, should regulators find non-compliance. This figure will, however, jump to 20 percent of worldwide turnover if officials find “repeated non-compliance.” That’s a hefty figure big enough that not even Apple would be able to stomach losing on a regular basis. Although, as with GDPR regulation, the EU still has questions to answer about how much effort, time and money it’s prepared to put behind a body to monitor big tech.

Now that they have been passed, the Digital Services Act will come into force by 1st January 2024 (unless some procedural stuff delays it) while the Digital Markets Act will come into force at some point soon after, and major platforms — dubbed “Gatekeepers” will have a further six months to get their houses in order before the new rules apply to them.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 1:18 pm

The ASUS ROG Phone 6 has a ‘wireless’ thermoelectric cooler add-on

Following the ROG Phone 5 and 5s, ASUS decided to skip Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in favor of the more efficient 8+ Gen 1, which brings us to the new ROG Phone 6 series today — almost a year after the 5s. In a nutshell, this beastly gaming phone is all about its faster 165Hz 6.78-inch display, 720Hz touch sampling rate, up to 18GB of RAM, up to 512GB of storage, bigger 6,000mAh battery, enlarged internal cooling system and IPX4 splash resistance, in addition to its handy ultrasonic triggers and proven audio performance by Dirac. The most notable change, however, lies within the revamped clip-on cooler, which has now integrated a thermoelectric chip and yet doesn't require external power.

This new AeroActive Cooler 6 is noticeably bulkier than before, partly because of its larger, more ergonomic physical buttons — and there are now four of them instead of just two. It also has a bigger kickstand that flips out from the bottom (though not necessary), and there's a spring-loaded clamp at the top to secure (and activate) the cooler. The new Peltier cooling chip inside — positioned right over the phone's processor when mounted — is sandwiched between the fan and a large piece of copper plate, and there's also a humidity sensor nearby to help avoid condensation.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro and AeroActive Cooler 6.
Richard Lai/Engadget

You can toggle between four cooling modes in the updated Armoury Crate app's console: "Smart" is basically automatic, "Cool" is fan only, "Frosty" is fan plus Peltier chip, and "Frozen" is pushing the Peltier chip to the max, but this is only available when there's external power plugged into the cooler. ASUS claims that in "Frozen" mode, the AeroActive Cooler 6 can lower the ROG Phone 6's surface temperature by up to a staggering 25 degrees Celsius. The cool air blowing out of the two sides serves as a nice bonus for gamers with sweaty palms (like me).

The company also provided some figures from more realistic scenarios. After a 60-minute session in the notoriously resource-intensive Genshin Impact (at 60Hz), "Frosty" mode lowered the phone's surface temperature from 44.8 degrees Celsius to 37.2, and "Frozen" mode took it down further by one degree. Under the same test environment, the ROG Phone 6 was apparently able to maintain an average frame rate of 59.7 fps while staying cool at 37.2 degrees Celsius in "Frosty" mode, whereas the iPhone 13 Pro Max apparently reached a lower 56.8 fps but higher 46.3 degrees Celsius, and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra allegedly only managed 47.3 fps while reaching 47.9 degrees Celsius. This goes to show how cooling is key to maintaining a stable frame rate over a long period. 

The AeroActive Cooler 6 can use its RGB lights to indicate the temperature of the ROG Phone 6 Pro.
Richard Lai/Engadget

Sadly, the AeroActive Cooler 6 — along with its own bumper case — is an optional accessory for the ROG Phone 6 series, so you'll likely have to pay extra for this handy piece of kit. But there's some good news for existing fans: ASUS plans to release a variant of this attachment for the ROG Phone 5 and 5s as well, and it'll make use of the old pogo pins instead of the USB-C side port. Release date to be announced later.

The ROG Phone 6 series comes in two flavors: the regular ROG Phone 6 and the higher-end ROG Phone 6 Pro, with the main difference being the latter has the small "ROG Vision" PMOLED display on the back for showing off customizable animation graphics, as opposed to just having an RGB-illuminated ROG logo. Internally, the Pro packs up to 18GB of LPDDR5 RAM instead of just 16GB. The trade-off — if you want to call it that — on the Pro is that it only comes in "Storm White," while the regular model also offers a "Phantom Black" version. Save for the different camera module layout, "ROG Vision" positioning and printed graphics, the two ROG Phone 6 variants bear a strong resemblance to their immediate predecessors — to the point where they can share the same glass screen protector and ROG Clip controller. 

An ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro mounted with an ROG Kunai 3 Gamepad at the bottom, with an AeroActive Cooler 6 with bumper case at the top left corner, and the gamepad's handheld grip at the top right.
Richard Lai/Engadget

The modular Kunai 3 Gamepad — now available in white as well as black — has once again been granted a life extension by way of a bumper designed for the ROG Phone 6. If you already have this controller since the ROG Phone 3 or 5, you'll only need to get the new bumper in order to attach these Joy-Con-like sticks. Or you can just slot them into the same old gamepad grip and use the entire assembly wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The ROG Phone 6 packs an improved (apparently) main camera featuring a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor, along with a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 5-megapixel macro camera. On the other side, there's a 12-megapixel selfie camera with a Sony IMX663 sensor — as seen on the compact Zenfone 8. The main rear camera is capable of shooting videos at up to [email protected], though I'd imagine most people would default to [email protected] to get the best of both worlds.

The
Richard Lai/Engadget

On the software side, the ROG Phone 6 runs on Android 12 with ROG UI (you can switch to the less flashy Zen UI), with ASUS promising at least two major OS updates and at least two years of security updates. There's the usual Armoury Crate app which is mainly for accessing your game library, as well as the console for customizing your system lighting, the rear "ROG Vision" screen (6 Pro only, of course), the AirTriggers and more. When in a game, you can toggle the redesigned "Game Genie" dashboard by swiping in from any of the two top corners of the screen while in either orientation. Here, you can quickly toggle the screen frame rate, key mapping, screen recording, performance modes, do not disturb, crosshair and more.

The new AirTriggers 6 now lets you map up to 14 specific touch points, and you get a total of nine input methods with these two ultrasonic buttons, including the new "press and lift" — basically toggling one set of actions for pressing down on the trigger, and then toggling another set of actions when lifting from the trigger. That said, casual gamers like myself will likely just use the classic tap (to fire) and maybe slide (to reload). If needed, you can also map motion gestures with touch points in Armoury Crate.

ASUS ROG Phone 6 Pro mounted with an AeroActive Cooler 6.
Richard Lai/Engadget

The ROG Phone 6 series includes a bumper case and a 65W USB-PD charger (which takes just 42 minutes for a full charge). As far as availability goes, ASUS has only shared that the ROG Phone 6 series will start from €999 (around $1,000) for the 12GB RAM + 256GB storage configuration in Europe, whereas the ROG Phone 6 Pro will only have one version in Europe: 18GB RAM with 512GB storage for €1,299 (around $1,300). Prices and models will obviously vary across different countries, so stay tuned for further updates.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 12:30 pm

England’s health service will use drones to deliver vital chemotherapy drugs

The UK’s National Health Service has announced that it will test delivering vital chemotherapy drugs via drone to the Isle of Wight. The body has partnered with Apian, a drone technology startup founded by former NHS doctors and former Google employees. Test flights are due to begin shortly, and it’s hoped that the system will reduce journey times for the drugs, cut costs and enable cancer patients to receive treatment far more locally.

The Isle of Wight is an island two miles off the south coast of England with a population just under 150,000. Due to the short shelf-life of most chemotherapy drugs, medicines are either rushed onto the island or patients take the ferry to the mainland. This journey can take up to four hours, while a drone flight can run from Queen Alexandra Hospital to St. Mary’s Hospital in half an hour. Not long after and an additional pilot scheme will take place in Northumbria to see if it’s possible to deliver vital medical supplies at ultra-short notice.

It’s not the first time that drones have been used to deliver vital medicines faster than a conventional courier. Merck and drone company Volansi began testing the delivery of cold-chain medicines to patients in rural North Carolina. Similarly, drone technology has helped move blood supplies across Rwanda, deliver prescriptions to senior citizens in Florida and help with supply drops during COVID-19.

Similarly, the UK’s Royal Mail has tested using autonomous delivery drones to get packages to remote areas. That includes getting vital supplies to the islands of Scilly, Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides. Much like the NHS trial, Royal Mail said that using drones would reduce carbon emissions and speed up delivery times, especially in far-flung regions where infrastructure costs are too excessive to even think about.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 11:35 am

The Morning After: Xiaomi's flagship phone has a Leica camera with a massive one-inch sensor

Just six months after its last flagship launch, Xiaomi has announced another one. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra packs a massive one-inch, 50.3-megapixel Sony IMX989 main sensor. And unlike the Sony Xperia Pro-I, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra apparently uses the entirety of its one-inch sensor. And the camera unit itself? Well, it looks gigantic.

TMA
Xiaomi

Inside, there’s a Leica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 ASPH camera system that combines three rear cameras: a 50.3-megapixel main camera (23mm, f/1.9), along with the 48-megapixel ultra-wide camera (13mm, f/2.2) and the 48-megapixel periscopic camera (120mm, f/4.1). Both 48-megapixel cameras use a half-inch Sony IMX586 sensor. The circular camera island (continent?) has a special coating to mitigate lens glare and improve image consistency. Oh, and there's a 23K gold rim as well. Because excess.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is now available for pre-ordering in China, ahead of retail launch on July 6th. The 12S Ultra starts at 5,999 yuan (around $900).

Leica has spread its bets over the years in mobile imaging partnerships. It has previously collaborated with Sharp, Huawei and Panasonic — Chinese phone makers are quick to pal up with renowned photography brands. In late 2020, Vivo joined forces with Zeiss, while Oppo and OnePlus released handsets jointly developed with Hasselblad.

The result has, broadly, meant better smartphone cameras from these companies looking to go toe-to-toe with the iPhones and Galaxy Ss of this world.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

Hacker claims they stole police data on a billion Chinese citizens

A sample of the data included crime reports going back to 1995.

A hacker (or group of hackers) claims to have stolen data on a billion Chinese citizens from a Shanghai police database. The hacker is attempting to sell 23 terabytes of data for 10 bitcoin, worth just over $198,000 at the time of writing. The data includes names, addresses, birthplaces, national IDs and phone numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports the hacker provided a sample of the data, which included crime reports dating as far back as 1995.

Continue reading.

Amazon starts making deliveries by e-bike and on foot in London

It’s opening several hubs across the UK to replace some van trips.

TMA
Amazon

Amazon UK is now delivering packages by cargo e-bike and on foot as it progresses toward its climate goals. The company has opened a micro mobility hub in Hackney, central London, and says the walkers and e-bike riders will make more than a million deliveries a year. It claims those trips will replace thousands of van deliveries. The e-bikes and on-foot couriers will deliver across more than a tenth of the city's ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ).

Continue reading.

HBO Max halts original productions across large parts of Europe

Part of cost-cutting measures following its split from AT&T.

HBO Max is halting original productions across much of Europe, according to Variety. The streaming service confirmed it’ll no longer produce originals in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Central Europe, the Netherlands and Turkey, leaving only Spain and France untouched. The step is part of a plan from parent Warner Bros. Discovery to cut some $3 billion in costs following its split from AT&T.

Continue reading.

NASA's CAPSTONE satellite breaks from Earth's orbit and heads toward the Moon

The CubeSat is critical to the first Artemis mission.

NASA's grand plan to take humans back to the Moon for the first time in over half a century has taken another step forward. The 55-pound CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) CubeSat has broken free of Earth's orbit and is on its way to the Moon. Rocket Lab launched CAPSTONE on an Electron rocket last week. Following six days of orbit-raising burns to build up enough speed, the pathfinding satellite set out toward the Moon. It's a slow trip. It won't reach the Moon until November.

Continue reading.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 11:15 am

Geely buys majority stake in troubled phone maker Meizu

Chinese car giant Geely has purchased a majority stake in the now-small smartphone maker Meizu. Bloomberg reports that Meizu will be run as an independent company under Xingli Technology, another tech brand under Geely’s umbrella. That said, the pair are expected to work together on new products, and Xingli has already expressed plans to make a big splash in the AR/VR space.

If you’ve been reading Engadget for long enough, you’ll have likely seen Meizu’s early rise at the dawn of the smartphone boom. Unfortunately, it found its lunch being eaten by other Chinese upstarts, including Xiaomi, and wound up remaining a small player. Back in 2015, Alibaba decided to take a stake in the company just as it found itself distracted by various boondoggles, including the baffling-in-retrospect decision to build phones with Ubuntu.

Geely, meanwhile, is perhaps best known in the West as the controlling owner of Volvo, Polestar and Lotus, all of which have been pushed towards electrification. Of course, with cars becoming more like phones (and phones becoming such a crucial part of most cars) the idea of automakers buying in to the phone space makes plenty of sense. As Reuters reports, both the mobile and car businesses are slowing down, and so deeper integration might be one way to corner the market.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 10:20 am

The latest Apple TV 4K is $150 right now

With so many streaming services now available, finding the right box or dongle to view them on can be a challenge. Apple's own streamer, the uniquely-named Apple TV, is one of the best on the market, but its price can often put people off. With Prime Day just days away, Amazon has dropped the price of both the 32GB and 64GB models, dropping them by $29 to $150 and $170, respectively. That's not quite the low of $130 we saw last month for the 32GB version, but it's a great price nonetheless.

Buy 2021 Apple TV 4K (32GB) at Amazon - $150Buy 2021 Apple TV 4K (64GB) at Amazon - $170

Devindra Hardawar gave the 2021 Apple TV 4K a score of 90 in our review. The new model irons out some of the kinks from what was already a powerful media box. The updated remote is a lot more intuitive in the hand and the beefier A12 Bionic chip delivers both HDR video at 60 frames per second (if the content you're playing supports it) and better game performance. 

If it's just basic streaming you're after, the Apple TV is expensive compared to Google's Chromecast, Amazon's Fire TV and Roku's range of media players. However, if you're already invested in Apple's ecosystem and want one of the best streamers available at its second-lowest price ever, now might be time to pull the trigger.

Get the latest Amazon Prime Day offers by following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribing to the Engadget Deals newsletter.

Posted on 5 July 2022 | 9:29 am

Crosby, Stills and Nash return to Spotify after COVID-19 misinformation boycott

The music of Crosby, Stills and Nash is once again available to stream on Spotify. In February, the supergroup left the platform to protest Spotify’s inaction against Joe Rogan, who was accused of spreading COVID-19 misinformation through his podcast. According to Billboard, the trio plan to donate their Spotify earnings to COVID-19 charities for “at least a month.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash were among a handful of musicians who left Spotify in response to Rogan’s interview with vaccine skeptic Dr. Robert Malone. The exodus, such that it was, began with Neil Young and later came to include Joni Mitchell, as well as author Brené Brown.

In the end, Spotify did not drop Rogan. Instead, the company said it would add a content advisory to any episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19. The protest’s effect on Spotify’s bottom line appears to have been minimal, with the company recently reporting that it grew to 422 million monthly users.

Despite the return of Crosby, Stills and Nash to Spotify, don’t expect to see all of the music the trio helped created on the platform. As The Verge point outs, Young’s continued absence from the service means not every song from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is available. For instance, tracks like “Helpless” and “Country Girl” are missing from the band’s 1970 album Déjà Vu, 

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 8:30 pm

NASA's CAPSTONE satellite breaks from Earth's orbit and heads toward the Moon

NASA's grand plan to take humans back to the Moon for the first time in over half a century has taken another step forward. The 55-pound CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) cubesat has broken free of Earth's orbit and is on its way to the Moon.

Rocket Lab launched CAPSTONE on an Electron rocket from New Zealand last week. Following six days of orbit-raising burns to build up enough speed, the pathfinding satellite set out toward the Moon. It's a relatively slow trip, though. CAPSTONE won't reach the Moon until November.

NASA will try to put CAPSTONE in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon, a feat that's never been attempted before. The agency plans to use the same orbit for the Gateway space station, which will provide support for long-term lunar missions under the Artemis program. The outpost will have living quarters for astronauts and a lab. That mission won't launch until at least 2024.

Meanwhile, it emerged last week that NASA has targeted a launch window of between August 23rd and September 6th for the Artemis 1 mission. It will send an uncrewed module around the Moon to assess how the journey might affect the human body. The agency ran a successful wet launch fueling test for Artemis 1 in June.

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 7:00 pm

Hacker claims they stole police data on a billion Chinese citizens

A hacker (or group of hackers) claims to have stolen data on a billion Chinese citizens from a Shanghai police database. According to Bloomberg, the hacker is attempting to sell 23 terabytes of data for 10 bitcoin, which is worth just over $198,000 at the time of writing.

The data includes names, addresses, birthplaces, national IDs and phone numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the hacker provided a sample of the data, which included crime reports dating as far back as 1995. Reporters confirmed the legitimacy of at least some of the data by calling people whose numbers were listed.

It's not yet clear how the hacker infiltrated the police database, though there have been suggestions that they gained access via an Alibaba cloud computing company called Aliyun, which was said to host the database. Alibaba said it's investigating the matter.

The true scope of the leak is unknown. However, cybersecurity experts have dubbed it the biggest cybersecurity breach in China's history.

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 5:30 pm

Amazon starts making deliveries by e-bike and on foot in London

Amazon has started delivering packages by cargo e-bike and on foot in the UK for the first time as it makes more progress toward its climate goals. The company has opened a micromobility hub in central London. The company says the walkers and e-bikes will make more than a million deliveries a year from the hub in Hackney. It claims those trips will replace thousands of van deliveries. 

At the outset, the e-bikes and on-foot couriers will be in service across more than a tenth of the city's ultra low emission zone (ULEZ). E-bikes and fully electric vehicles are exempt from the London Congestion Charge and ULEZ fees, so Amazon and its delivery partners will avoid having to pay those.

Amazon plans to open more e-cargo delivery hubs in the UK in the coming months. It already has more than 1,000 electric delivery vans on the road in the country. Earlier this year, the company added five fully electric heavy goods vehicles to its UK fleet to replace diesel trucks.

This isn't the first time Amazon has used cargo e-bikes. Euronews notes that they're being used for deliveries in five cities in France and seven metropolitan areas in Germany. It also employs electric scooters in Italy and Spain. As of last November, the company was fulfilling two-thirds of deliveries in Paris with e-bikes, on-foot couriers and electric vans.

Under its Shipment Zero project, Amazon aims to deliver 50 percent of packages with net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. It expects to become net-zero carbon by 2040 as part of its Climate Pledge.

The company also plans to run its operations entirely on renewable energy by 2025. It will install more than 30,000 additional solar panels at its sites in Manchester, Coalville, Haydock, Bristol and Milton Keynes by the end of the year. Amazon has 18 on-site solar projects in the UK and it's working to double that number by 2024.

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 4:01 pm

Xiaomi 12S Ultra has a Leica camera with a massive 1-inch sensor

Merely six months after its previous flagship launch, today Xiaomi announced a trio of familiar-looking smartphones to mark the beginning of its partnership with Leica. The new 12S Series features MIUI 13 based on Android 12, and it runs on Qualcomm's allegedly more efficient Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 flagship processor, with the headlining 12S Ultra packing a massive 1-inch, 50.3-megapixel Sony IMX989 main sensor. This translates to a generous pixel size of 1.6um, which then doubles to 3.2um via pixel binning for a supposedly boosted color accuracy and low light performance. And unlike the Sony Xperia Pro-I, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra apparently uses the entire portion of its 1-inch sensor.

According to CEO Lei Jun, Xiaomi took part in the Sony IMX989's development, and the $15 million cost was also split evenly between the two companies. Interestingly, the sensor won't be exclusive to Xiaomi; Lei added that it'll be made available to his local competitors after the launch of the 12S Ultra, in order to "promote the advancement of mobile imaging together."

A close-up of Xiaomi 12S Ultra's rear camera module, co-engineered with Leica.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra
Xiaomi

As for Leica's part on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, you get a "Leica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 ASPH camera system" covering all three rear cameras: the aforementioned 50.3-megapixel main camera (23mm, f/1.9), along with the 48-megapixel ultra-wide camera (13mm, f/2.2) and the 48-megapixel periscopic camera (120mm, f/4.1). Both 48-megapixel cameras use a 1/2-inch Sony IMX586 sensor. The entire circular camera island — now with "Leica" co-branding — benefits from some coating magic to mitigate lens glare and improve image consistency across each lens. Oh, and there's a 23K gold rim here as well.

In addition to some Leica filters, users will be able to switch between two photographic styles: "Leica Authentic Look" for natural-looking shots with stronger three dimensional depth, and "Leica Vibrant Look" which adds Xiaomi's input on vibrancy while preserving authenticity (somehow). You can also toggle the watermark banner at the bottom of your photos, which will add Leica's iconic red logo, photo metadata and location coordinates to the right, along with phone model and timestamp on the left.

A sample shot taken with the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, featuring a cyclist on a river bank in the early morning before sunrise.
Xiaomi

On the other side of the phone, there's a 32-megapixel selfie camera powered by an unknown RGBW sensor. Most of these cameras are capable of Dolby Vision HDR video recording (up to [email protected]) and playback, thus making the 12S Ultra the first Android device to sport these features. Some also utilize the motor-based "HyperOIS" for more stable footage. As for still shots, the entire 12S Series supports 10-bit RAW format calibrated by Adobe Labs, with color correction metadata embedded in the files for easier post-production with the likes of Adobe Lightroom.

The 12S Ultra also happens to carry two proprietary Xiaomi Surge chips: a Surge P1 fast-charging chipset and a Surge G1 battery management chipset. These provide support for 67W wired fast charging, 50W wireless fast charging and 10W reverse charging for the 4,860mAh single cell silicon oxygen anode battery. Note that some fast-charging solutions use a dual cell battery instead to split the current load, which is why it's a good thing that the Surge P1 can handle an output current of up to 16A here, and apparently with 96.8% conversion efficiency. Like Oppo's and ASUS' recent handsets, the 12S Ultra offer adaptive charging as well, which allegedly increases the number of charge cycles by 25 percent.

Keeping the phone cool is also key to a healthier battery, not to mention a more stable performance while gaming. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is equipped with a "three dimensional cooling pump" which moves cooling liquid across warm surfaces using a capillary mechanism similar to that on leaves. This apparently improves thermal conductivity significantly, compared to conventional vapor cooling modules.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra
Xiaomi

The rest of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is standard flagship affair. For the display, you get a 6.73-inch Samsung E5 AMOLED panel (3,200 x 1,440, 522ppi; LTPO 2.0), with a peak brightness of up to 1,500 nits, a 1-120Hz AdaptiveSync Pro refresh rate, native 10-bit color depth and support for P3 color gamut. As you can tell from the camera features, the screen can handle Dolby Vision, as well as HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG; these will go well with the Harman Kardon speakers which also support Dolby Atmos audio. The device is IP68-rated, meaning it should survive accidental dives into sinks and pools. You'll also find an infrared remote port at the top for controlling home appliances.

Options include up to 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, up to 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage — featuring Xiaomi's self-developed FBO (File-Based Optimization) storage refresh tech, which supposedly maintains the same read/write performance for at least four years (and Lei added that FBO has already been written into the next-gen UFS 4.0 storage specification). Buyers can choose between a "Classic Black" and a "Verdant Green," both wrapped in vegan leather. 

A close-up of the Xiaomi 12S Pro's Leica Vario-Summicron 1:1.9-2.4/14-50 ASPH camera system, with all three cameras featuring a 50-megapixel sensor.
Xiaomi 12S Pro
Xiaomi

The lesser Xiaomi 12S Pro shares the same 6.73-inch display and Surge P1 fast charging-chipset as the 12S Ultra, though it supports a whopping 120W wired charging for its smaller 4,600mAh battery, but lacks 10W reverse charging. It features a more regular (but apparently still pricey) 1/1.28-inch, 50-megapixel Sony IMX707 main sensor, which is a variant of the IMX700 previously found on Huawei's Mate 40 Pro series. This still offers a good pixel size of 1.22um (or 2.44um after pixel binning), and it matches the resolution of its ultra-wide camera (14mm) and telephoto camera (50mm) — all fine-tuned by Leica as well, of course. 

As for the "basic" Xiaomi 12S, it has the same main camera as the 12S Pro and the same fast-charging features as the 12S Ultra, but with a smaller 4,500mAh battery in a more palm-friendly body under the 6.28-inch 120Hz display. Apparently there is still a sizeable demand for small flagship phones, according to Lei.

The Xiaomi 12S Series is now available for pre-ordering in China ahead of retail launch on July 6th. The 12S Ultra is priced from from 5,999 yuan (8GB RAM, 256GB storage; around $900) to 6,999 yuan (12GB RAM, 512GB storage; around $1,000). The 12S Pro is cheaper, asking for 4,699 yuan (8GB RAM, 128GB storage; around $700) to 5,899 yuan (12GB RAM, 512GB storage; around $880). The 12S is the most affordable option here, starting from 3,999 yuan (8GB RAM, 128GB storage; around $600) and capping at 5,199 yuan (12GB RAM, 512GB storage; around $780). We'll keep an eye out for international availability later.

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 1:04 pm

HBO Max halts original productions across large parts of Europe

HBO Max is halting original productions across much of Europe, Variety has reported. The streaming service confirmed that it will no longer produce originals in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Central Europe, the Netherlands and Turkey, leaving only Spain and France untouched. The news is part of a plan from parent Warner Bros. Discovery to cut some $3 billion in costs following its split from AT&T

"We are reviewing our current content proposition on the existing services," a spokesperson told Variety in a statement. "As part of this process, we have decided to remove a limited amount of original programming from HBO Max, as well as ceasing our original programming efforts for HBO Max in the Nordics and Central Europe. We have also ceased our nascent development activities in the newer territories of Netherlands and Turkey, which had commenced over the past year."

Some of the service's most praised shows including Lust (Sweden) and Kamikaze (Denmark) came from the Nordics and other affected regions. On top of ceasing production, HBO Max will remove those shows along with the Hungarian drama The Informant from its service globally. Projects already in production and other approved shows will reportedly continue — but they may be sold to other platforms, with Warner acting strictly as producer. 

Streaming content production has been a bright spot in Europe, as Netflix and other platforms have hit the 30 percent local content quotas required in major markets there. HBO Max's announcement may put a damper on that, though, as "redundancies are likely across [HBO Max's] European business," Variety noted. 

More ominously, "similar decision-making for HBO Max is currently taking place in all territories where the streamer operates, which spans the U.S., Latin America and parts of Europe," it added. Along with layoffs recently announced by Netflix, it's the first sign of dark clouds during the era of peak TV. 

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 1:02 pm

Tesla EVs can now scan the road for potholes and adjust the suspension height

Tesla has introduced a software update that allows its vehicles to scan for potholes, broken pavement and other defects, Electrek has reported. It can then use that to generate "rough road map data," and trigger the adaptive suspension in supported vehicles to adjust the ride height for more comfort. 

Back in 2020, Musk tweeted that such a feature was coming, and this appears to be the first step. "This adjustment may occur at various locations, subject to availability, as the vehicle downloads rough road map data generated by Tesla cars," the release notes state. That means pothole and other data should become increasingly refined as Tesla vehicles ply the roads. 

The ride adjustment will only work in Tesla Model S and Model X cars with adaptive suspensions, Elektrek notes. It's not clear if the Model 3 or Y vehicles also scan for rough roads, even if they lack the adaptive suspension to benefit from the data. Both the Model 3 and the Model S have eight cameras in total. 

To enable the feature you'll need the latest update 2022.20, then you tap "Controls > Suspension > Adaptive Suspension Damping, and select the Comfort or Auto setting," Tesla notes, adding that "the instrument cluster will continue to indicate when the suspension is raised for comfort."

Tesla isn't the first automaker to think up pothole scanning technology. Some manufacturers like Ford have proposed features that even detect individual potholes and instantly damp the suspension, for example. Tesla's system could be far more practical, though, by simply softening the ride parameters over known patches of rough road. 

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 11:38 am

The Morning After: The next Apple Watch may detect if you have a fever

The next Apple Watch may have a body temperature sensor to warn you when you’re coming down with a fever, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The Series 8 won’t provide an exact reading, but it could notify you to see a doctor or use a dedicated thermometer.

The feature has been a rumor for a while now but is more likely to appear than a blood sugar monitoring, which uses more elaborate sensors and technology. Gurman says he believes the body temperature feature is “a go” for the standard Series 8 and the oft-rumored rugged edition Apple is creating for extreme athletes.

If you’re hoping for next-gen AirPods Pro with heart rate or body temperature monitoring features, while we might get a new pair this year, they won’t pack health monitoring tech this time around.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

British Army Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised to promote crypto scams

The Army is investigating.

The British Army is investigating an apparent hack of its official Twitter and YouTube accounts on Sunday. The breach was first reported by Web3 is Going Great, which noted both accounts were simultaneously compromised to promote two different cryptocurrency scams.

Although it has since been scrubbed, the Army’s verified Twitter account was briefly changed to look like a page for The Possessed, a project involving a collection of 10,000 animated NFTs with a price floor of 0.58 Ethereum (approximately $1,063). During that time, the account tweeted out multiple links to a fake minting website.

Continue reading.

How to survive the inevitable CD revival

For better or worse, the compact disc could make a comeback.

The compact disc turns 40 this year, and there are already signs of its mini-revival. For the first time in 17 years, CD sales went up — by almost 50 percent. It’s still a long way from the format’s peak. In 2021, 46.6 million CDs were shipped in the US — compared to nearly a billion back in 2000. Some reports claim the uptick in CD sales is mostly due to mega-artists like Adele and BTS releasing new albums (the former’s ‘30’ accounted for two percent of total CD sales alone). There’s also an increasing appetite for CDs as memorabilia and many good albums are structured experiences to enjoy from start to finish.

Continue reading.

Ducati's first electric motorcycle is designed for MotoE racing

The V21L has 150 horsepower and a top speed of 171MPH.

TMA
Ducati

Ducati has unveiled not just its first electric motorcycle but a key piece in the 2023 season of MotoE e-motorcycle racing. The V21L prototype has that classic Ducati look but is swathed in carbon fiber and packs a 150HP electric motor with a 18kWh battery. Ducati will be the exclusive supplier of all 18 bikes used for FIM MotoE World Cup racing from 2023 to 2026.

Continue reading.

German traffic watchdog says 59,000 Tesla cars affected by safety bug

Some vehicles couldn't automatically call emergency services after an accident.

Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt traffic regulator is calling on Tesla to recall 59,000-plus vehicles over a software issue. On June 29th, the KBA published a notice on its website telling Model Y and 3 owners of a bug with the eCall safety system on those cars, according to Reuters. The glitch prevents the tool from automatically calling first responders in the event of a serious accident. 

Continue reading.

Posted on 4 July 2022 | 11:15 am

British army Twitter and YouTube accounts compromised to promote crypto scams

The British army is investigating an apparent hack after its official Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised on Sunday. News of the breach was first reported by Web3 is Going Great. According to the blog, both accounts were simultaneously compromised to promote two different cryptocurrency scams.

Although it has since been scrubbed, the army’s verified Twitter account was briefly changed to look like a page for The Possessed, a project involving a collection of 10,000 animated NFTs with a price floor of 0.58 Ethereum (approximately $1,063). During that time, the account tweeted out multiple links to a fake minting website. It’s possible the hack is part of a broader campaign to leverage the recent popularity of The Possessed. On Saturday, the project’s official Twitter account warned its followers of another verified account that was similarly hacked to promote a NFT scam using The Possessed brand.

British army YouTube channel
Web3 is Going Great

Over on YouTube, the army’s channel has been made to look like a page for Ark Invest. As of the writing of this article, the channel is livestreaming videos that repurpose old footage of Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey and Ark CEO Katie Wood discussing cryptocurrency. The clips feature an overlay promoting “double your money” Bitcoin and Ethereum scams. According to Web3 is Going Great, a similar scheme netted scammers $1.3 million this past May. It’s unclear who is behind the attacks.

“We are aware of a breach of the army’s Twitter and YouTube accounts and an investigation is underway,” an army spokesperson told The Guardian. “We take information security extremely seriously and are resolving the issue. Until the investigation is complete it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

While 2022 has seen its share of crypto hacks, few have targeted government organizations like the British army. To date, most have involved groups like Yuga Labs, the creator of the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection. In April, the project’s official Instagram account was compromised in a $2.4 million phishing scam. BAYC’s Discord community has also fallen to two separate phishing attacks in 2022.

Posted on 3 July 2022 | 8:25 pm