Thursday, October 21, 2021

James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Begins Production

Following the recent casting of Will Poulter as fan-favorite Marvel […] The post James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Begins Production appeared first on ComingSoon.net.
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    The very best Chromebooks you can purchase

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being cheap and limited, but that hasn’t been true for a while now. The combination of years worth of software updates and laptop manufacturers making more powerful and better-built Chromebooks means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. Of course, there are an unnecessary number of Chromebooks on the market, so choosing the right one is easier said than done. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough of them at this point to know what to look for and what to avoid. What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows? That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome OS? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. If you didn’t know, it’s based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly. Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re, say, a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the vast majority of their work in a browser. Unless I need to edit photos for a review, I can do my entire job on a Chromebook. Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching; other Android apps like Microsoft’s Office suite and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser. What do Chromebooks do well, and when should you avoid them? Put simply, anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common things people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform. As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data. Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system. As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are good you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in fields like law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac, as well. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook. Finally, gaming is almost entirely a non-starter, as there are no native Chrome OS games of note. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop. That said, Google’s game-streaming service Stadia has changed that long-standing problem. The service isn’t perfect, but it remains the only way to play recent, high-profile games on a Chromebook. It’s not as good as running local games on a Windows computer, but the lag issues that can crop up reflect mostly on Stadia itself and not Chrome OS. What are the most important specs for a Chromebook? Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally an eighth-generation or newer M3 or i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly good performance, though Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 runs surprisingly well on its MediaTek processor. As for RAM, 4GB is enough for most people, though 8GB is a better target if you have the cash, want to future-proof your investment or if you’re a serious tab junkie. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of local files or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of local storage when using Chrome OS. Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably have to settle for less.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but you shouldn’t settle for a mushy piece of garbage. Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support. How much should I spend? Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as couch machines or secondary devices, but if you want a Chromebook that can be your all-day-every-day laptop, $400 is the least you can expect to spend. There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you better design quality with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough. Right now, there actually aren’t too many Chromebooks that even cost that much. Google’s Pixelbook Go comes in $999 and $1,399 configurations, but the more affordable $650 and $850 options will be just as good for nearly everyone. Samsung released the $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook in 2020; this luxury device does almost everything right but has terrible battery life. Samsung quickly learned from that mistake and is now offering the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with more modest specs, but vastly better battery life at a much more affordable price (more on that laptop later). For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $850 to get a premium Chromebook that’ll last you years. Engadget picks Best overall: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Look beyond the awkward name and you’ll find a Chromebook that does just about everything right that’s also a tremendous value. It gets all the basics right: The 13-inch 1080p touchscreen is bright, though it’s a little hard to see because of reflections in direct sunlight. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the eight-hour battery life is solid, and the backlit keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop lately, Chromebook or otherwise. The Flex 5 is now a little over a year old, but it still holds up well and is even cheaper than it was when it first launched. It can now regularly be found for well under $400 on Amazon. (As of this writing, it’s priced at $329.) That’s an outstanding value for a Chromebook this capable. Naturally, Lenovo cut a few corners to hit that price. Most significantly, it only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy a computer with those specs — but Chrome OS is far less dependent on local storage. Unless you were planning to store a ton of movies or install a huge variety of Android apps, 64GB is enough for moderately advanced use. I was concerned about the non-upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but my testing showed that the IdeaPad Flex 5 can run plenty of tabs and other apps without many hiccups. If you push things hard, you’ll occasionally have to wait for tabs to refresh if you haven’t viewed them recently, but other than that this is a solid performer, particularly for the price. Other things in the IdeaPad Flex 5’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports and a 360-degree convertible hinge. I personally don’t find myself flipping laptops around to tablet or stand mode very often, but it’s there if you like working in those formats. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but those specs are also totally reasonable considering the price. Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5 hits the sweet spot for a large majority of potential Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for any potential replacements Lenovo offers, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release. Buy Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook on Amazon - $430 Upgrade picks: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, Acer Chromebook Spin 713 Engadget Premium Chromebooks with more power, better design and higher prices have become common in recent years. If you want to step up over the excellent but basic Lenovo Flex 5, there are two recent options worth considering: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is infinitely more stylish than most other Chromebooks, with a bright metallic red finish and a design that looks far better than the utilitarian Flex 5 and Chromebook Spin 713. As I mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 fixes some of the serious flaws we identified in the original. Specifically, the 2020 Galaxy Chromebook had terrible battery life and cost $999; this year’s model starts at $549 and can actually last seven hours off the charger. That’s not great, but it’s far better than the lousy four hours the original offered. Samsung cut a few corners to lower the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s price. Most noticeable is the 1080p 13.3-inch touchscreen, down from the 4K panel on the older model. The good news is that the display is among the best 1080p laptop screens I’ve seen in a long time, and the lower resolution helps the battery life, too. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is also a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but it’s still reasonably compact. Finally, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor rather than the Core i5 Samsung included last year. All these changes add up to a laptop that isn’t as ambitious, but is ultimately much easier to recommend. Instead of pushing to have the best screen in the thinnest and lightest body with a faster processor, Samsung pulled everything back a bit to make a better-priced but still premium laptop. Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713, by comparison, doesn’t look like much from the outside — it’s a chunky gray slab with little to distinguish it from many other basic laptops. While it doesn’t seem exciting, the Spin 713 is just as well-made as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, with a sturdy hinge and body. But what’s most interesting is the display, a 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That makes it a much better option than 1080p displays when you’re scrolling vertically through documents and webpages. It has a somewhat unusual resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, but it makes for a more pixel-dense display than you’ll find on your standard 13.3-inch, 1080p laptop. Long story short: The screen is great. As for the rest of the hardware, the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad are solid, if not the best I’ve used before. The same can be said for battery life: I got about the same six to seven hours using the Spin 713 as I did using the Galaxy Chromebook 2. I wish it were better in both cases, but it’s in line with other premium Chromebooks I’ve used lately. The Spin 713 configuration that I tested costs $699, the same as the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Because I’m such a fan of the 3:2 display, I prefer the Spin 713 (which also has a more powerful processor), but the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is worth a look if you want a laptop that has a little more style and a better keyboard. Last year, Google’s Pixelbook Go was our pick for the best premium model. It’s still an excellent choice and one of my favorite Chromebooks to use, but it’s almost two years old. Its age coupled with its aging 8th-generation Intel processor make it tougher to recommend. That said, it’s still one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks around, and it still handles everything I can throw at it. It also has the best keyboard I’ve used on any recent Chromebook. There’s still a lot to like, but it’s harder to justify spending $650 or more on it. Hopefully Google will release an updated version this fall. Buy Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 starting at $549 Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy - $629 A good option for kids: Acer Chromebook 512 Acer While Lenovo’s Flex 5 is inexpensive enough that you could get one for your kid, Acer’s Chromebook 512 might be a better option for young ones in your life. First off, it’s specifically built to take abuse. In addition to the military-rated (MIL-STD 810G) impact-resistant body, you can spill up to 330mL of liquid on the keyboard. A drainage system will flush it out and keep the insides working. (Note that I haven’t actually tried that.) The keyboard features “mechanically anchored” keys that should be harder for kids to pick off, too. Regardless of exactly how much water you can pour onto that keyboard, the Chromebook 512 should handle a child’s abuse better than your average laptop. This computer isn’t a speed demon, but the Intel Celeron N4000 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be fine for basic tasks. The 12-inch screen isn’t a standout either, but it has the same taller 3:2 aspect ratio as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. That means you’ll get more vertical screen real estate than you would on the 16:9, 11-inch panels typically found in laptops of this class. (The Chromebook 512’s screen resolution is 1,366 x 912, whereas most 11-inch Chromebooks use a 1,366 x 768 panel.) All in all, it’s a fairly modest computer, but grade-school kids, a computer that can take some abuse and runs an easy-to-use OS that’s well supported in education should fit the bill well. The Chromebook 512 is priced at $249.99 direct from Acer, but it's going for $219.99 as of this writing at other retailers. Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Best Buy - $220

    SSL's UF8 DAW controller is really a luxury searching for an audience

    My studio setup, like many bedroom producers’, is a hodgepodge of random nonsense. Honestly there are a lot of pain points in my current workflow, but one of the biggest is mixing. I use a Tascam 424 Portastudio (yes the kind that records to cassette tapes) as a submixer, before moving over to Ableton where I do most of the heavy lifting. You can’t beat a modern DAW for its expansive set of controls and automation but, clicking and dragging knobs and sliders just feels disappointing. Solid State Logic’s (SSL) UF8 gives all those virtual controls a physical incarnation. It’s not the first mixing controller, nor is it the cheapest, but it’s definitely one of the more comprehensive and premium options on the market. At $1,299 the UF8 is not for casual hobbyist musicians. You need to take your craft fairly seriously to drop that amount of money on something relatively niche. Remember, it’s just for mixing and transport controls, you’ll still need a separate controller to actually, you know, play music on. But I will say that, after a week with the UF8 on my desk, I get the appeal. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget Physically this thing is nothing but pure pleasure. The entire device is encased in metal, and the top has a nice brushed texture. The motorized faders are smooth and quiet, and the encoders offer just a hint of resistance — they definitely make my Tascam feel like a toy. The faders definitely aren’t silent, but they’re not distracting as long as you’ve got the speakers at a reasonable volume. This is definitely a pricey luxury to have on a controller, but not a useless one. If you’re bouncing back and forth between your screen and the faders, you want the two to mirror each other. The buttons also make it quick and easy to select and arm tracks for recording, to mute or solo them and even tackle things like send effects or control your various plugins. Training myself to stop relying on my mouse and keyboard has been hard, but when I remember to reach for the UF8 first it’s always an enjoyable experience from a tactile perspective. The basics are pretty obvious if you’ve used a mixing console or DAW. There are eight faders (one for each channel); with select, mute and solo buttons next to them; eight encoders across the tops of the faders that default to controlling the pan of each track; and a small display that gives you information about each track, feedback about parameters and indicate what the encoders and soft keys along the top are controlling at any given time. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget The problem is that some of the more advanced tools (like controlling plugins) might be a few button presses away, and it’s not always immediately clear how to get there. The eight screens give you a good amount of information, but the controls and labels are constantly changing. I’m sure I’d get used to it in time, and it’s an unavoidable byproduct of putting so much power in a relatively compact form factor, but it can be a bit disorienting. For instance: Let’s say I have a simple session set up with drums, a soft synth and bass on tracks one, two and three respectively. All the tracks also have a compressor and an EQ plugin on them. If I want to tweak the settings for the EQ on track two, first I have to select the channel in normal mode, not record mode. Then, all of the indicators under each channel will change to list the various plugins on that channel. Meaning that, even though the large label on the screen over track one says “Drums” the small text underneath it will say “ANLG”, because Ableton’s Analog synth is the first plugin on track two which is currently selected. And while the fader on track one will still control the volume of the drums, the encoder that normally controls panning now won’t do anything when you turn it. From here I’ll have to find the EQ plugin (which, for the sake of argument we’ll say is after the compressor and under track three) and press the encoder under it. At which point all the labels for the encoders will change again to reflect the controls of the EQ plugin. From here you’ll turn those knobs to find the settings you want. And you may even have to flip through multiple pages of parameters. Again, this puts comprehensive control at your fingertips, but it can be a bit confusing while you’re still finding your footing. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget The depth of the controls is truly impressive, though. Out of the box the UF8 works pretty seamlessly with Ableton, Logic, Studio One, Cubase and Pro Tools. There are templates for each DAW that you can select and then customize to your needs. There are three “quick” keys on the top left that you can program to perform certain tasks, like switching between arrangement and session view in Ableton, or opening your plugin browser. On the top right corner are six softkeys which change what the row of eight buttons across the top do. The first spot is set in stone, but the other five banks of controls are user assignable, so they can start and stop playback, set punch in points, turn on looping or even trigger keyboard shortcuts. Tweaking all of those settings too is super easy with the SSL 360 app. It even has its own dedicated button on the face of the UF8. So if you suddenly wish you had one-button access to save your project or go full screen, you can immediately hop into the configuration tool and do that. (Honestly, one-button save should be in the default selection of controls, but I digress.) Terrence O'Brien / Engadget If you take the time to learn the UF8 and customize it to your workflow, I could see it being a big asset. As much as I’m used to doing most of my mixing and such with a keyboard and mouse, having faders that I could push around in real time and control multiple tracks at once was amazing. But price will be a limiting factor here. While SSL says the UF8 is designed with both the professional and the hobbyist in mind, I have a hard time seeing too many weekend warrior musicians picking one up. $1,299 is a lot to ask even for something this premium feeling. Instead I imagine this will fit better in the homestudios of professional producers and as an add-on to SSL’s massive professional consoles, like the $50,000 Origin (which the UF8 just happens to slot perfectly into the center of).

    These Shortcuts will help you remove your iPad or iPhone

    “Spring cleaning” usually conjures up images of tedious housework, but it’s worth thinking about tidying up your smartphone and tablet, too — and I don’t mean physically, though that might also be a good idea. If you’re anything like us, your devices are full of old photos, files and apps taking up valuable storage space. Now is as good a time as any to start cleaning things out. And if you’re an iPhone or an iPad user, Apple’s Shortcuts feature just might be able to help. What are Shortcuts? In a nutshell, Shortcuts let you quickly perform a specific task, or a more complex sequence of tasks, with a single tap or voice command. This idea isn’t unique to Apple — if you’re a geek of a certain age, you probably know these as strings of actions better as “macros.” Building your first Shortcut can seem daunting at first, but relax: You don’t need to be a coder to create a truly useful setup. All it really takes is a little time to put all the pieces together. More than anything, I’ve come to think of these things as little logic puzzles. You know the result you’re looking for — it’s just a matter of thinking through the steps and finding the right sequence of actions to get you there. There are, of course, limits to what Apple will let you do. Let’s say you’re like me, and you’re just awful at remembering to clear out your notifications regularly. I would love to create a Shortcut that would automatically dismiss notifications generated more than a day or two ago, but Apple doesn’t make information about a notification’s age available to Shortcuts. Similarly, there doesn’t appear to be a way — for now, at least — to figure out the last time you used certain apps, so there’s no way to build a Shortcut that highlights apps you could delete without missing them. As you’ll see later, Apple also has a fairly limited set of tools for interacting with files stored directly on your iOS device. Granted, there are a handful of third-party apps, like Toolbox Pro, Data Jar and JellyCuts, that dramatically expand on the Shortcut tools that ship in iOS, but the thing to remember is that there are some tasks you can’t pull off with Shortcuts yet. Oh, and for the sake of your sanity, it’s best to start piecing together Shortcuts on as big a screen as possible. Since there’s no Shortcuts functionality available on Apple’s Macs — even the new ones running the iPhone-inspired M1 chipset — that means use an iPad if you have one. Don’t worry: As long as your iPad and iPhone are signed into the same Apple ID, any Shortcut you create on one will be visible in the other. How to create a Shortcut Piecing together complex actions to help clean out our devices involves a lot of trial and error at first, so let’s work through a basic example. Meet BackupNotes: It’s the first half-decent Shortcut I ever made, and as the name implies, it’s meant to help you quickly save your old notes in the cloud before you go through and start cleaning house. The logic here is pretty straightforward. First, we check today’s date and dial it back 30 days to make sure nothing relatively new and necessary gets caught in the net. And right off the bat, you have a few different ways to pull this off. At first, I actually created a separate shortcut called “MonthAgo” that takes the current date and subtracts 30 days from it. From there, I could add an instruction to the BackNotes workflow to run the MonthAgo shortcut first, then pass that adjusted date into the Find Notes action. Turns out, that whole rigmarole wasn’t actually necessary. After a little Googling, I could just define the date and adjust it directly inside this shortcut. This new approach is a whole lot cleaner, but I’m still grateful I took the long way around first since it opened my eyes to the possibility of linking multiple shortcuts together. It’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. Searching for actions related to the Notes app in the Shortcuts sidebar reveals a handful of options, including just the one we need to select notes older than the date we defined earlier. Then, just add an action for compressing those notes into a single ZIP file — you can’t see it in the image above, but there’s also a text field to give the new compressed file a name — and cap things off with a save action. I should note that while those last few steps sound like the easiest, they took a little more time to figure out than I care to admit. Originally, I had wanted my iOS devices to open the share sheet so you could more easily get that new ZIP file to contacts, or into the cloud storage app of your choice. You can do that, but there’s a caveat. If you use a Shortcut to give a file a name and try to send it via the share sheet, the name doesn’t actually stick; it winds up with whatever generic name Gmail or Telegram or Google Drive decides to give it. Naturally, the Shortcuts apps’ flexibility means there’s a fairly easy workaround, if you’re game. It just takes a couple extra steps right at the end. You could, for instance, close things out with an action to send that same file via the share sheet, plus one more to delete it after you’ve moved it where you want it. It’s functional when run, but it requires one final tap to confirm you want to delete the ZIP file, which feels a little inelegant. Thankfully, the solution I landed on does just fine for my purposes. By saving the notes backup through iCloud Drive, you can manually choose a third-party storage service (Google Drive, in my case) that you’ve already connected to the iOS Files app. Tweaking the formula Now that your notes are all safely stored elsewhere, you can now scrub through them all and delete as needed. But what could we do if we put a twist on that basic formula? Well, how about this: Let’s back up other files you’ve stored on your iOS device before you go on a cleaning spree. As you can see, the last two steps here are the same as in the previous example, but the lead-in is a little different. Because I want to be able to choose the backup’s file name rather than just tag it with the date as we did before, things start with an “Ask for text” action. The user then punches in whatever file name they want, which gets saved as a variable in the following step. (Pro tip: Once you find actions you suspect you’ll use frequently, you can save them as favorites for easy access.) With the beginning and the end sorted, it’s all a matter of getting to the files we need. That’s easier than it sounds. Rather than use the “Find Notes” action from last time, “Get File” is what we need to dig into your iOS device’s file structure. Once that action is in place, it’s important to make sure the options for showing the document picker and selecting multiple files are ticked. That way, once you actually run the Shortcut, you’ll be able to navigate through the folders on your device and pick the ones you’d like to package up and offload in the final two actions. Once again, you can store that new compressed file in almost any cloud storage service that’s connected to your Files app. (I say “almost” because Dropbox can be added to your Files app, but you can’t navigate to it when it’s time to save the file. If your life lives in Dropbox, you have to use a different, similarly straightforward action to store your backup in there.) As useful as this Shortcut can be, Apple’s limitations mean it’s not as automated as one might prefer. There’s no way that I know of to use the “Get File” action to collect all files in a specific folder, like the one all your Safari file downloads get saved to. Being able to automatically select those files, bundle them up and save them somewhere would be really helpful, but the app just doesn’t offer that kind of granularity. Adding more actions I don’t know about you, but the screenshots album on my phone is a disaster — it’s all fleetingly funny tweets, images of my homescreen I captured by accident and a screen grab of this beautiful nightmare. If your iOS device is starting to run low on storage, clearing up every little bit can help, so let’s take a stab at a Shortcut that automatically deletes some of those old images. Right off the bat, there are two new actions to dig into. The first does exactly what it says on the tin — feed it a snippet of text and the Shortcut will read it aloud. (This obviously isn’t necessary, but what’s life if you can’t goof around a little?) The second, meanwhile, is one you’ll probably find yourself returning to pretty frequently. It gives you the ability to define and display multiple options in a notification that slides down from the top of the screen. In this case, we want to be able to delete screenshots we consider old, or delete all screenshots in one fell swoop. It also introduces us to the idea of carrying out multiple tasks in a single Shortcut. This will definitely come in handy as you continue to build your own. Granted, these are pretty simple tasks — one of them does the now very familiar date adjustment trick, and uses the Find Photos action to select all of the screenshots created more than a month ago. (You can tweak this pretty easily if you’d rather, say, select screenshots that were last modified before a specific date.) Once that action applies those criteria to find the right images, it’s just a matter of adding a Delete Photos action to get rid of them. By default, you’re prompted to confirm you want to erase those files, so there’s always a chance to back out if you think better of it. As for the next task, deleting all screenshots instead of a selection of them? That's easy: Just recreate the previous task, but without specifying how old the screenshots should be. As with the other examples we’ve worked through, there’s plenty of room for experimentation and customization depending on exactly how you’d like things to work, but for now, we have a dead-simple tool for clearing out some of your old, unneeded files What next? So, we’ve created a few helpful Shortcuts — now what? Well, you should probably try them out. All the Shortcuts you make are accessible from inside the app, but there are situations where you might need quicker access to them. For those cases, you can put the appropriate Shortcuts right on your home screen, and as usual, there are a few ways to do this. The simplest way to go is by adding a Shortcut widget. On an iPhone, long-press an app icon and tap the plus sign that appears in the top-left corner. From there, you can pick out exactly the widget layout that feels right, and plop it in the middle of all your apps. If that looks a little too big for your liking, you can also create app icons on your home screen that directly execute your Shortcut of choice: Engadget Alternatively, you could always just use Siri — it can recognize all of your Shortcuts by name, and executes them (almost) the same way as if you had just poked at your screen. The only real difference is that if any of your Shortcuts require text input, like the file name prompts we built above, you’ll have to respond out loud rather than punch text in manually. This is just a crash course for Shortcut creation. If you’re interested in learning more about crafting these clever utilities, there’s no shortage of places to turn — I’ve mostly relied on the excellent r/Shortcuts subreddit and Chris Lawley’s YouTube channel to get a sense of what was and wasn’t possible early on. But, the best way to figure out how to make better Shortcuts is by pulling some apart. Pop into your iOS device’s settings and allow “untrusted” shortcuts. This allows you to install shortcuts created by other people, and looking at how their logic unfolds can be extremely informative. Just make sure you take a few moments to look at how those third-party shortcuts actually work before you run them!

    The very best budget robot vacuums you can purchase

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. We all could use a little help keeping our homes clean, and now we live in an age where robots are actually capable of lending a (mechanical) hand. Robot vacuums are some of the most recognizable smart home gadgets available today with their circular shapes and propensity for bumping into walls. While they provide an undeniable convenience, they can also have high price tags. It’s not unheard of to drop close to $1,000 on a high-end robo-vac. But unlike just a few years ago, today there are plenty of budget robot vacuum options to choose from. At Engadget, we consider anything under $300 to be cheap in this space and you may be surprised to see how many there are at that price point. And if you’re new to the world of robot vacuums, you may find that one of these budget gadgets does everything you expected and more. Are robot vacuums worth it? Friends and family often ask me if new gadgets are “worth it,” and when it comes to robot vacuum the answer is yes. The most important thing they have going for them is autonomy — just turn it on, walk away. If you’re someone who wants to spend as little time as possible cleaning your home — or just someone who detests vacuuming — then a semi-autonomous robot is a great investment. There are plenty of other good things about them that we’ll discuss in a bit, but let’s take a look at the biggest trade-offs when opting for a robot vacuum: less power, less capacity and less flexibility. The former two cons go hand in hand — robot vacuums are much smaller than upright vacuums, which leads to less suction. Also, they hold less dirt because their built-in bins are a fraction of the size of a standard vacuum canister or bag. Also, while robo-vacs are cord-free, that means they are slaves to their batteries and will require regular recharging. When it comes to flexibility, robot vacuums do things differently than standard ones. You can control some with your smartphone, set cleaning schedules and more, but robo-vacs are primarily tasked with cleaning floors. On the flip side, their upright counterparts can come with various attachments that let you clean couches, stairs, light fixtures and other hard to reach places. What to look for in a budget robot vacuum Valentina Palladino / Engadget When looking for a cheap robo-vac, one of the first things you should consider is WiFi connectivity. While you may think that’s a given on all smart home devices, it’s not. Some of the most affordable robo-vacs don’t have the option to connect to your home WiFi network. If you choose one like this, you won’t be able to control it with a smartphone app or with voice commands. Another feature that’s typically reserved for WiFi-connected robots is scheduling because most of them use a mobile app to set cleaning schedules. But WiFi-incapable vacuums usually come with remote controls that have all the basic functions that companion mobile apps do, including start, stop and return to dock. And if you’re concerned about the possibility of hacking, vacuums with no access to your WiFi network are the best option. You should also think about the types of floors you have in your home. Are they all carpet? Or mostly hardwood and tile? Carpets demand vacuums with more suction power that can collect debris that gets pushed down into nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal metric by which suction is measured. Some companies provide Pascal (Pa) levels and generally the higher the Pa, the stronger. But other companies don’t rely on Pa levels and simply say their robots have X-times more suction than other robot vacuums. So how can you ensure you’re getting a robot vacuum that will adequately clean your floors? Read the product description. Look for details about its ability to clean hardwood and carpets, and see if it has a “max” mode you can use to increase suction. If you are given a Pa measurement, look for around 2000Pa if you have mostly carpeted floors. Size is also important for two reasons: clearance and dirt storage. Check the specs for the robot’s height to see if it can get underneath the furniture you have in your home. Most likely any robot vacuum you find won’t be able to clean under a couch (unless it’s a very tall, very strange couch), but some can get under entryway tables, nightstands and the like. As for dirt storage, look out for the milliliter capacity of the robot’s dustbin — the bigger the capacity, the more dirt the vacuum can collect before you have to empty it. Object detection and cliff sensors are other key features to look out for. The former helps the robot vacuum navigate around furniture while it cleans, rather than mindlessly pushing its way into it. As for cliff sensors, these prevent robot vacuums from taking a tumble down your stairs and they are a must-have if you have a multi-level home. The best budget robot vacuums Best overall: $250 Shark Ion RV761 Valentina Palladino / Engadget It was harder to name a best budget robot vacuum than I anticipated because many of the machines I tested were pretty solid. However, two in particular stood out a bit from the crowd — the Shark’s Ion RV761 and iRobot’s Roomba 694, and Shark’s device ended up besting the Roomba in a few areas: price, battery life and cleaning modes. Buy Shark Ion RV761 at Best Buy - $250 The Shark RV761 comes in at $250 and includes two extra side brushes and one extra filter in the box. Not only is that a great price for the vacuum alone, but those included extra parts increase the amount of time you have before you have to shell out more money to keep the vacuum working properly. Unfortunately, the robot’s design doesn’t do it any favors — it has a bowling-shirt vibe that I can’t get over. But I applaud its clearly labeled buttons, something many other robot vacuums don’t have. No obtuse icons here, just easy to read text for Clean, Dock and Max (the latter referring to the high-powered clean mode). You could rely just on the buttons, but it also connects to WiFi so you can use the Shark Clean app. I had no trouble connecting the Shark to my home WiFi network by following the in-app instructions, and I even got to name it before the setup was complete (Sharkey — I know, very original). It makes as much noise as I’d expect a robot vacuum to — loud enough that I had to up the volume of the podcast I was listening to, but not loud enough for me to hear it when it was cleaning a different room down the hall. I live in a mid-sized New York apartment, so “down the hall” really isn’t all that far away. Surprisingly, switching to Max mode didn’t dramatically increase the noise level either. The Shark doesn’t have a spot-clean feature, but Max mode is good to use when you have a specific area that needs a lot of attention. I gave Max mode a shot a few times, but I found the standard cleaning mode did a good enough job of inhaling dirt, debris, crumbs and even the cat hair embedded in my carpets. I also appreciated the Shark’s adjustable wheels, which raise and lower automatically depending on the “terrain” and the obstacles in its path. I first noticed the wheels when the Shark ran over my cat’s nearly 1-inch thick toy mouse, something that most other robot vacuums just push around as they move. The mouse was unharmed, just a little squished after the encounter, and the Shark avoided sucking up any of my cat’s other toys, too (even if it did push her T-shaped play tunnel around the living room incessantly). Valentina Palladino / Engadget The Shark has proximity sensors like many other machines do, which help them avoid collisions. But in my experience, very few robot vacuums are actually good at doing this — they often bump into walls and furniture, readjust and move on. What sets robot vacuums apart is their ability to avoid getting stuck, or least get unstuck quickly. The Shark was just ok at this — it was tripped up by a display case that had just enough space in between its legs that the robot tried to get underneath it, but alas, failed every time. The robot ran for an hour and a half on average in its standard cleaning mode. That’s right in line with the company’s estimated battery life, and more often than not, the Shark returned to its dock fairly quickly when it was getting low on battery. Only once did I actually have to pick up the machine and set it on its charger. Usually, I used the Shark Clean companion app. The homepage lets you start and stop cleanings as well as switch to Max mode and “find” the robot, which just forces the machine to beep loud enough that you’ll (hopefully) hear it from across your home. You can also see how long the device has been cleaning when it’s mid-job and a full cleaning history, which is helpful to check out if you forgot the last time you ran the vacuum. In the app menu, you’ll find the scheduling feature, which lets you choose recurring days and times for regular cleanings. Ultimately, Shark’s RV761 did everything I expected a good robot vacuum to do and did them well. For a semi-autonomous device, small details — like reliable WiFi connectivity, good battery life and a well designed app — can make or break your experience. While there were a few small hiccups along the way, they didn’t overshadow the fact that the Shark RV761 provides a ton of value for only $250. Runner up: $300 iRobot Roomba 694 Valentina Palladino / Engadget iRobot’s new Roomba 694 comes close to the Shark RV671. At $300, this model will eventually replace the Roomba 675 but, aside from an updated exterior, it’s fundamentally the same vacuum. I much prefer this robot’s all-black design to that of the Shark and it looks better than older Roomba models, too. It has three physical buttons on it — start, dock and spot — and, like the Shark, it connects to WiFi so you can control it via the iRobot app. Unfortunately, your $300 gets you the vacuum and its necessary parts only so you’ll have to pay up immediately when you need a replacement filter or brushes. Buy Roomba 694 at iRobot - $300 Setting up the Roomba 694 is much like the Shark machine — open the companion app and follow the instructions. Once it’s connected to your home WiFi network, you’re able to use the app to control the vacuum whenever you don’t feel like using the physical buttons. However, the spot-clean function is only available as a button, which is a bit of a bummer considering I expected the app to mirror the buttons while adding even more customizable controls. iRobot’s app is a bit better than Shark’s. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Shark Clean app — it’s reliable and easy to use. But iRobot’s app puts most pertinent controls on the homepage, so you rarely (if ever) need to navigate through its menu to do things like set a cleaning schedule. Overall, it’s a bit more polished than Shark’s app and that might be best for less tech-savvy people. But simplicity can be tricky. The overall iRobot user experience is incredibly straightforward and some will prefer that over a more complicated setup. But customization and flexibility are sacrificed to achieve that. I was a bit shocked to see the features other robot vacuums have that iRobot machines don’t. Direction controls are a good example — believe it or not, most higher-end robot vacuums can’t be controlled like toy cars. But some like the Anker Eufy vacuum has them on its physical remote, and Roborock’s E4 vacuum has digital direction controls in the Mi Home app. The Roomba 694 may not have a ton of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done and does so without you needing to tend to it. It’s on par with the Shark robot in terms of cleaning but it generally only ran for around 45 minutes before needing to dock and recharge. iRobot says run times will vary based on floor surfaces, but the 694 is estimated to have a 90-minute battery life when cleaning hard floors. Regardless, it’s more than a half hour less than Shark’s robot. While 45 minutes may be enough time for the robot to scuttle around most rooms in my apartment, those with larger homes may have to wait for it to recharge in order to clean everywhere. iRobot has made a name for itself in the autonomous vacuum market for good reason. It’s machines are polished, dead simple to use and the accompanying app is excellent. That ease of use (and the reputation of the iRobot name) comes at a slightly higher price tag, which many will be willing to pay. But there are plenty of solid options now that didn’t exist even just three years ago. Best bang for your buck: $230 Anker Eufy RoboVac 11S Valentina Palladino / Engadget Anker’s $230 Eufy RoboVac 11S was one of the cheapest vacuums I tested but it also proved to be one of the most versatile. First thing to note: this robot vacuum doesn’t have WiFi, but it does come with a remote that gives you most of the functions you’d find in an app (including a schedule feature). Eufy also includes additional brushes and filters in the box. Buy Eufy RoboVac 11S at Amazon - $150 The “S” in this robot’s name stands for slim, and it’s roughly 0.5-inches thinner than all of the other vacuums I tested. Not only does this make the 11S lighter, but it was the only one that could clean under my entryway table. The 11S has a physical on-off toggle on its underside plus one button on its top that you can press to start a cleaning. It always begins in auto mode, which optimizes the cleaning process as it putters around your home, but you can use the remote to select specific modes like spot and edge clean. I ended up repeatedly using the 11S’ spot clean feature. My partner’s main hobby involves a lot of craft supplies and usually results in tiny pieces of scrap paper all over the floor. The 11S cleaned them up well when in spot-clean mode which focuses its suction in one area as it spins outward in a spiral. I didn’t even have to pick up and move the 11S to the paper-strewn location either — the remote’s direction buttons let me drive the vacuum almost like an RC car. The 11S has three power modes — Standard, BoostIQ and Max — and I kept mine on BoostIQ most of the time. It provided enough suction to adequately clean my carpeted floors, missing only a few crumbs or pieces of debris in corners or tight spaces around furniture. It ran for roughly one hour and fifteen minutes when in BoostIQ mode and it has remarkable collision avoidance. Sure, it bumped into walls and some large pieces of furniture, but it was the only vacuum that I tried to consistently avoid hitting my cat’s play tunnel that lives in the middle of our living room floor. As far as noise levels go, you can definitely hear the difference between BoostIQ and Max, but none of the three settings is abhorrently loud. In fact, I could barely hear the 11S when it was on the opposite end of my apartment running in BoostIQ mode. Thankfully, error alert beeps were loud enough to let me know when something went awry, like the 11S accidentally getting tripped up by a rogue charging cable (which only happened a couple of times and neither robot nor cable were harmed in the process). Overall, the Eufy RoboVac 11S impressed me with its smarts, despite its lack of WiFi. The lack of wireless connectivity is arguably the worst thing about the robot and that’s saying a lot. It’s worth mentioning that this model is rated for up to 1300Pa suction, but you can grab the next model up, the RoboVac 11S Max, which gives you 2000Pa suction (just know that it’ll likely be louder as a result). But you can’t argue with the value of the $230 11S — especially when it’s often on sale for around $150.

    Ableton Live 11: The largest upgrades explained

    Ableton announced Live 11 in mid November and now it's finally here. The latest version of its incredibly popular DAW is out of beta and available to all. The list of new features in Live 11 is long and impressive: Comping; linked track editing; MPE support; expression editing; live tempo following; macro improvements; updated devices and soundpacks; five new devices, including a hybrid reverb and new pitch shifting plugin; chance tools; plus a host of improvements to Max for Live. That's in addition to lots of little interface tweaks and updates to Push support. I've been using the beta since it was announced back in November and while I haven't put every new feature through its paces, I can say unequivocally that Live 11 is a solid upgrade from 10 and well worth your time. Just know that Live 11 is a bit more resource intensive that Live 10. And Live 10 was a lot more resource intensive than Live 9. So if your machine was already struggling after the last big update, you might want to wait until you can upgrade your hardware too. Here's a quick overview of what's new and the standout features (to me). MPE Terrence O'Brien / Engadget Lets start with arguably the marquee feature — MPE support. Ableton Live is one of the last major DAWs to add support for MIDI polyphonic expression. Bitwig has it, Logic has it, even Garage band has it. That means instruments that respond to MPE like Arturia's Pigments and sonicLAB's Fundamental can be that much more expressive when paired with the right controller, like the Sensel Morph. I mention those two in particular because they've been my go-to testbeds for exploring MPE. (They also couldn't be more different from a sonic standpoint.) Ableton was smart enough to update a few of its stock instruments to support MPE too, like Wavetable and Sampler. You can find presets under "MPE Sounds" in the browser if you want to quickly dabble and explore. Ableton also included MPE Control and Expression Control devices, which you'll find under MIDI Effects. These let you decide how exactly you want various MPE functions to be used and map them quickly and easily. MPE Control also lets you take advantage of some of the tools available to you on an MPE controller, even if the instrument you're using doesn't support it. So, for example, you could fire up Ableton's Analog, tick a couple of boxes in MPE Control and slide your fingers around to trigger pitch bends and move the mod wheel. To be clear, you could always do this, but it's just a lot easier to get set up now. This might sound minor, but I think one of the barriers to adoption of MPE controllers is getting them to play nice with non-MPE software. I don't want to spend an hour building custom mapping for every virtual instrument. I want to connect my Morph or Roli and just have it work as expected. This is a big step in that direction. Especially since, in my experience, your settings will need a lot of fine tuning to make the most of MPE and this really simplifies the process. You can still take advantage of many of MPE's features even if you don't have a compatible controller by using Ableton's new expression editing tools. These allow you to dive in and manually tweak pitch bends, modulation and aftertouch on a per-note basis, just like you would any other automation lane. It's intuitive and simple, and might even convince a few more people to embrace MPE once they've gotten a taste of what it has to offer. Comping Ableton The other headlining feature, at least for me, is comping. This simply allows you to record multiple takes of the same section of a song without stopping and then combine the best parts easily. (I can already hear a bunch of purists screaming "that's cheating", but they're wrong.) Now, I'm fully willing to admit my technical skills as a musician are mediocre at best and I can be a bit sloppy, so just being able to record eight takes in a row without stopping is huge. Plus, this is a feature that many other DAWs have had for quite sometime, so Ableton is actually playing a bit of catch up here. And you can get creative with comping to create harsh glitchy juxtapositions or to just pullout the best parts of a jam. Comping works with both audio and MIDI too, so whether you're trying to nail a vocal, a guitar solo or a complicated chord progression with a VST there's something to be taken advantage of. And it's incredibly easy to use. Basically each take is a "clip" (that will make sense to existing Ableton users) and they're grouped as take lanes under the main track in arrangement view. You then simply drag markers back and forth to indicate where you want to switch between your takes. And then, if you want, you can bring those clipped bits over to session view so you can trigger them separately to create new variations and combinations. Linked track editing [embedded content] This is pretty straightforward, but it makes finetuning multi-tracked parts a breeze. You can link a bunch of tracks together and, whatever you do to one, is automatically applied to the others as well. This is great for cutting up and automating double-tracked rhythm guitar parts, or if you've got a melody being played on a piano and a synth at the same time, you just sync them up once, then start editing. This also makes Ableton a lot more flexible if you're using it to edit say a podcast, or working with video and audio simultaneously. Once you've got everything synced up properly, you just link the tracks so that any changes you make don't cause the tracks to become misaligned. And again, this works with MIDI as well as audio. In fact, you can link MIDI and audio tracks and edit them both at once. I'll sometimes use this as a way to pull out new musical ideas from a long jam. I'll record the MIDI and audio simultaneously, then go back and edit them as a linked track. The audio track gives me a preview of what the new part will sound like, and when I want to record the freshly pieced together melody without the harsh cuts, I have the MIDI ready to go. Inspired by Nature Terrence O'Brien / Engadget There's a number of new sounds and devices in Live 11, but few have captured my attention quite like the Inspired by Nature pack. These instruments and effects use physical and natural models to determine sounds, modulation and sequencing. The most straightforward of these is Bouncy Notes which drops a virtual ball when you play a note and as it bounces, that note repeats. But you can draw walls and obstacles inside the "sequencer" (if you can call it that) that deflect the balls, or alter things like the launch angle and speed to create generative patterns. Similarly Vector Delay uses a gravitational model and orbiting spheres to determine the parameters of a multitap delay. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget Then there's Emit, another bouncing ball / moving particle style device, but this one is a granular looper and synthesizer. It has so many controls and modulation options, that it can do everything from glitchy percussion loops, to atonal drones, to pretty plucked melodies, but all with a unique and slightly unpredictable bent. The 10,000-foot view is: you have particle emitters that fire either automatically as your track plays, or when triggered by MIDI. The particles then careen through the spectrogram of your sample. Honestly it's probably deep enough to get its own 1,000 word write up. Just be aware the Emit is quite resource intensive. So, I highly recommend you record your results as audio or at least freeze the track once you're done. Vector FM and Vector Grain function almost exactly like Vector Delay, except they rely on FM and granular synthesis respectively. Then there's Tree Tone which is a strange sort of generative resonator instrument that's built for drones and gentle random melodies. Probability and randomization

    Meters' OV-1-B Connect headphones have VU dials and a $349 price tag

    Daniel Cooper The best laid schemes of mice, men and niche British audio brands can go awry when the world is gripped by a global pandemic. Meters Music announced its new flagship headphones back in January, with shipping due a few months later. It’s now December, and this is the first time we’ve seen the new OV-1-B Connect cans in the flesh.  Meters Music is a part of Ashdown Engineering, a British company that makes bass amplifiers for musicians. Its selling point is the inclusion of working analog VU (Volume Unit) meters in its pro hardware, which are also added to the headphones. Here, both ear cups have outward-facing VU monitors, making it look like you’re wearing a ‘70s HiFi unit on your head.  The headphones are sturdily built, with an emphasis on retro styling, a silver aluminum body and a faux-leather headband in tan, black or white. They’re not the lightest cans in the world, but the weight is at least well-balanced, and the thick faux-leather keeps them soft. I’ve worn them for two or three hours at a time and found them to be comfortable enough on my head when placed just so.  Daniel Cooper I’m not the first (or the hundredth) person to point out how much of an affectation the VU meters are. You can’t see them unless you’ve got a couple of mirrors and a bendy neck, so they’re not the most useful to see if your music is too loud. They’re calibrated to EU listening standards, and so only really start bouncing when the audio reaches semi-uncomfortable levels anyway. They’re sensitive enough, however, that with the audio off, they’ll jump pretty far when you have a small coughing fit. Meters says that the point of them, beyond the fashion, to help parents see if their kids are listening to their music too loudly. (Who knew that there was a market for parents who buy their kids luxury headphones big enough to sustain a whole company?) Really, they’re an easy way for you to tell the world that, ya know, you really care about the music, yeah? There’s an RGB LED hidden behind each VU meter, and you can change the color of the backlight from the default yellow, as well as the brightness. In terms of additional flourishes, it’s nice, but you’ll soon notice the other shades don’t really go with the set’s retro stylings. In fact, after scrolling through the colors, I realized that the default yellow was put there for a reason.  Daniel Cooper Meters made a big deal about the inclusion of Qualcomm's QCC5124 SoC, which offers low power Bluetooth 5.0 connections and 24-bit audio. The resulting sound is ruthlessly clean and clear, making it ideal for songs that aren’t too aggressive, with subtle treble and vocal tracks. Go for something a little meatier, with a lot of bass, and things remain fairly polite and clean.  I switched to a high-res audio player and played some studio masters in FLAC, Meters’ strengths and weaknesses are even more exposed. Throw classical, or delicate-like-spider-silk songs at the OV-1-B-Connect, and you’ll be treated to beautiful songs reproduced beautifully. It excels at playing delicate music, but this milquetoast reproduction is at odds with its rock-and-roll stylings. With closed back ear cups and ANC, you can drown out a heck of a lot of ambient noise with these things. Since we’re not able to fly right now, I instead sat and asked my two kids to scream, jump around and generally be awful in my general direction. And I was barely able to hear any of that while listening to something mellow, enjoying the most blissful moment of zen I’ve had in weeks.  Daniel Cooper It’s not all perfect, however. One of the biggest objections with the previous version of these headphones was the fixed ANC and EQ modes, controlled with a physical switch. To remedy that, the company has launched Meters Connect, an Android / iOS app that lets you dynamically adjust the EQ (and change the VU meter backlight). To say I’ve had issues with the app is something of an understatement, with regular connection brownouts slowing down the firmware updates. When I was able to play with the EQ, however, I found that you can either make the songs excessively, unpleasantly crunchy or hissy but still relatively flat. In fact, it’s one of those options that presumably makes sense somewhere, to someone, but seems less than pointless for general use. Perhaps the professional musicians and producers that Meters consults with (and uses in its promotional material) get more out of the technology than I do. Daniel Cooper While I’m nitpicking, I’d add that this is a brand new pair of $349 headphones which still ship with a micro-USB cable for charging. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does mean that, if you’re living in a USB-C world, you still can’t ditch the legacy cables in your carry case. Fundamentally, Meters’ had plenty of fundamentals in place, with a good-looking pair of well-made headphones and a unique statement feature. But I’m struggling to really connect with this device in the sound itself, which to my non-audiophile ears seems to be fussier than it needs to be. When you’re asking for this sort of money, you don’t just need to be good — which these can be — you need to be better than Sony’s class-leading WH-1000XM4. Sadly, we’re not quite there yet.  In this article: Meters Music, Meters, VU Meter, Headphones, Cans, ANC, Bluetooth, Ashdown Engineering, Music, feature, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

    Readers compare the Galaxy S20 lineup

    Samsung updated its flagship lineup with three models earlier this year: the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra. When Engadget put them through their paces as part of our official reviews, editor Cherlynn Low liked the screen, refresh rates and camera of the S20, the battery life and build quality of the S20+ and the S20 Ultra’s performance. But we wanted to hear from readers who purchased the phones, asking them to review their handsets this past summer. Here’s what they said about each phone, from size and display to cameras. Hardware The physical design of the handsets themselves received mixed feedback. The S20 was “too big” according to Henry, though Sneak liked “that it is slightly narrower than the S10” and “fits comfortably in my hand.” Meanwhile, Ryan said those who were interested in the S20+ should “be aware that this is a tall and wide phone that will often require two-handed use; if you prefer one-handed, I would go with the regular S20.” Ultra owners were okay with its size — Steve said he’d like it even bigger, but admitted he didn’t care about one-handed operation, while Charlie said he didn’t notice the weight difference at all, even coming from a Note 10+.  Cherlynn Low/Engadget Henry also mentioned the S20’s build quality, saying it “didn’t feel as premium as past phones” and that it “would have been nice to get a proper black color” for the handset. Jun Jie was likewise disappointed with the colors on the Ultra: “You went from Aura-ish colors on the Note10+ to Cosmic Grey on the S20 Ultra that’s more dull than my future. Why?” And both Henry and Steve wanted a headphone jack on the S20 and S20 Ultra, respectively.  Screen The screens on all three handsets hit big with users. Sneak said the S20’s display is amazing, Ryan found the screen on the S20+ beautiful, adding that he can use the 120Hz with no noticeable difference in resolution. However, he did say that the “screen glass is easily susceptible to scratching,” and that “after a month of careful use, there are three or four small scratches noticeable when the screen is off. The notion that Gorilla Glass is somehow impervious to scratching is clearly a myth.”  Cherlynn Low/Engadget When it came to the 120Hz refresh rate on her S20+, Brianna was enthusiastic, saying she “loves the buttery smooth refresh rate” and that she “never knew I needed 120Hz in my life until I saw it in person! Never going back!” Charlie called the screen on the S20 Ultra beautiful, Jun Jie found it glorious and Steve admitted the large screen was one of his “killer apps” on the Ultra, but he skips using the 120Hz mode because it drains the battery. Camera There was very little negative feedback about the camera features of the S20 lineup. The S20 and S20+ both have a 3x optical zoom system, while the S20 Ultra boasts a 100x Space Zoom with a 4x optical zoom. Sneak liked the camera on their S20, but Nick was disappointed that his S20+ didn’t feature a real telephoto camera and will instead crop a 64MP frame.  Cherlynn Low/Engadget S20 Ultra users were more detailed about their experiences. Derek called the camera cool, despite having to return his initial handset because of an issue with it. Steve said he “uses the Pro mode all the time and I love the level of control. I have used the 100x zoom, and while it’s not perfect, it’s better than not having the option at all.” And Charlie found the camera to be amazing, adding that “it has focus issues sometimes but I expect that to be fixed with software updates in the near future. The zoom capability is incredible and very helpful in my job.”  Battery The battery life of the phones was only briefly mentioned by the reviewers. David and Nick felt let down by the battery life of their respective S20 and a S20+. David said he was “disappointed with my phone’s battery life compared to my previous phones, and the phones of others in my family.”  Cherlynn Low/Engadget Meanwhile, Ryan and Jun Jie had the opposite experience. Jun Jie listed battery life as one of the many advantages of going with an S20 Ultra, and Ryan said the battery on his S20+ lasts “considerably longer than my S7, and I can use the phone all day without worrying about recharging.”  Comparisons Our users were fairly critical with regards to comparing their handsets to other phone models. David said “one of my biggest frustrations with the S20 is the tediously slow on-screen fingerprint unlock, to the point that I am considering switching back to an LG V series.” He felt that “overall, the S20 is a satisfactory phone but … my previous flagship, the LG V30+, gave a better ownership experience.” Ryan, who upgraded to the S20+ from an S7, said it took him a few weeks to adjust to the size of the newer phone. Nick, who also owns an S20+, felt it was a bad thing that the handset “is so similar to all other A-series Samsungs that you cannot easily tell the difference. It’s not a very shiny flagship, as previous models were. I was twice as excited when I bought my S7 Edge, which it replaced.” Steve was pragmatic about his S20 Ultra, saying “this phone is good for a while but next time I’ll probably look at the ‘A’ series. Better bang for the buck.” Derek was less matter-of-fact about his S20 Ultra: “I’ve learned my lesson and this is the last S series phone I will buy. I’m going back to the Note phones I was buying. This phone was not worth the price.”  Cherlynn Low/Engadget However, a few users of each handset were more pleased with their purchases. Sneak was “extremely glad that the Bixby button is gone, and I’m also glad that Samsung didn’t put the power and volume buttons on the ‘wrong’ side like they did with the Note 10 and 10+.” And Jun Jie and Charlie were both happy with their S20 Ultras, with Jun Jie stating there are “many praises to be sung about this phone,” and Charlie finding it an “incredible phone in many ways.”  In this article: thebuyersguide, userreview, userreviews, userreviewroundup, user reviews, user review, user review roundup, Samsung Galaxy, Samsung, Galaxy S20, galaxy s20 plus, Galaxy S20 Ultra, feature, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Comments 77 Shares Share Tweet Share

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