Hands-on review: DJI Mavic Pro

Hands-on review: DJI Mavic Pro

When most people think of drones they usually imagine a big, scary, four-armed miniature helicopter. However, drone makers in 2016 have introduced smaller and more portable quad-copters, like the GoPro Karma and Yuneec Breeze.

Now DJI is introducing its smallest, smartest and most approachable drone yet, the Mavic Pro. With the ability to fold up into a water bottle-sized package and a starting price of $749 (about £575, AU$980), this tiny drone comes priced right and with all the smart features of DJI’s other models – plus a few new ones to boot.

DJI Mavic Pro review


Measuring 3.27 x 7.8 x 3.27 inches (83 x 198 x 83mm; W x D x H) when folded up, the Mavic Pro looks downright adorable and has nearly the same size as a water bottle. DJI has also come up with a new ultralight and aerodynamic airframe that weighs only 743g.

Compared to DJI’s past drones, it’s teeny at half the size and weight of the company’s flagship Phantom 4. The Mavic Pro is the first DJI drone small enough to be thrown into a backpack or purse rather than a special hard pack specifically designed for it.

DJI Mavic Pro review

This is all thanks to a new folding design in which the two front arms swing back while the rear limbs flip down and towards the quadcopter’s main body. Despite rotors being attached to articulating elements, the Mavic Pro feels solid. It takes a fair bit of force to position everything, but not enough to stop you from getting it setup in a minute.

DJI Mavic Pro review

Your drone for everything

With most devices, going smaller usually means cutting features, but that couldn’t be more wrong with the Mavic Pro. It still comes equipped with all the features of DJI’s larger drones, including front- and bottom-mounted sensors, built-in obstacle avoidance, subject tracking, self-piloted return landings and geofencing to help keep it out of restricted air zones.

If anything, users lose a tiny bit of speed by going with this smaller drone. The Mavic Pro can achieve a maximum speed of 40mph (65kph) in sport mode – a special setting for drone racing, if you want to cut your teeth at the burgeoning sport – while the Phantom 4 can hit a 45mph (72kph) top speed.

DJI Mavic Pro review

DJI’s newest drone is also designed to fly steadily, even in the face of 24mph (39kph) winds. As for range, you’ll be able to stay connected to the quadcopter up to 4.3 miles (7km) away and a single charge gives you up to 27 minutes of flight time.

Unlike the GoPro Karma, the Mavic Pro comes with a camera, but you can’t take it off for non-airborne adventures due to a non-removeable gimbal. That said, the camera can record 4K video at 30fps or 1080p footage at 96fps – the latter of which it can also live stream to Facebook, YouTube and Periscope at a slower 30fps rate.

Alternatively, users could snap 12MP image stills in Adobe’s DNG RAW format. Users will also be able to take two-second long exposures. While DJI is confident its new three-axis gimbal will produce sharp results, we’ll have to put this to the test in the wild with our full review. On top of stabilizing recordings, they gimbal is also designed to turn the camera 90-degrees for portraits and capturing tall architecture.

In terms of optics, the camera can capture a 78.8-degree field of view and focus as closely as 19-inches (19cm).

DJI Mavic Pro review

Screens up, hands down

Ultimately, the greatest barrier to entry with drones has been intimidating controls, and DJI is trying to change that with a simpler and just-as pocketable solution.

The optional remote control is also made with a similar folding design in which the two top-mounted antennas flip up while the bottom half of the controller splits to reveal a smartphone clamp.

DJI Mavic Pro review

While there’s a screen built into the controller, it only displays telemetry data such as altitude, orientation, speed and distance. To actually see though the drone’s eye, you’ll need to connect a mobile phone. Thankfully, the picture looks clearer.

DJI Goggles review

Alternatively, the drone maker also introduced a new DJI Goggles headset that displays an 85-degree view from the drone on a 1080p display. We got a few seconds to try on the headset and we were amazed with the clarity and lag-free quality of the picture.

It’s an immersive experience, to be sure, but one most users likely won’t need unless they’re racing the drone in the aforementioned sports mode.

Overall the controls feel good, especially with a set of premium metal joysticks rather than the plastic nubs we’ve seen on other drone controllers. Though there are numerous sets of buttons, we weren’t intimated as everything was clearly marked, including controls for taking photos and return landings.

DJI Mavic Pro review

And if that’s still too much for you, DJI has beefed up the mobile controls on smartphones. Going app-only with the Mavic Pro allows users to simply tap on a location for the drone to fly to. Uses can also tell the drone to fly forward while it avoids obstacles on its own.

The Mavic Pro is also the first DJI drone you can control with gestures alone. It’s a surprisingly robust mode that allows you to wave your hands to get the drone’s attention. From there, you could make a "Y" with your arms to tell the quadcopter to focus on you, or, if you mimic a photo frame with your fingers, the drone will take an aerial selfie.

Beyond these neat commands, you can also orchestrate the drone’s flight with your hands. Gesture in a direction and the drone will follow suit. Likewise, if you have the drone focus on you, it will also follow you as you move – from a generous distance, that is.

DJI Mavic Pro review

Early verdict

On paper, the Mavic Pro seems like DJI’s most accessible drone yet. It’s priced right, and compared to the GoPro Karma, it’s also more affordable with an included camera, no less. Between the improved smartphone app and gesture controls, DJI has made a drone that’s much easier to control for the less technically minded.

Mavic Pro should appeal to those who have been watching drone footage by the wayside and are itching to make their own. DJI has finally done away with two of the biggest turn offs of drones by making a device that’s far more portable and easier to control.

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Review: UPDATED: Google Glass

Review: UPDATED: Google Glass

Introduction and design

  • Update: Google Glass ceased production in 2015, but the novel head-worn computer experiment may live on in a foldable Enterprise Edition one day. The Snapchat Spectacles may give consumers many of the camera-based features going forward. Here’s our original Google Glass review.

Google Glass is the controversial wearable that had its sci-looking beta testers turning heads and being peppered with questions. How does it work? What does it feel like? And, of course the inevitable, well, can I try it?

The increasing number of Google Glass invites has led to Project Glass being open to everyone in the US and now the UK, so curious, tech-savvy early adopters can answer most of these questions on their own.

It’s a little easier for them to say "yes" to Glass now that it’s been upgraded with more memory and new apps. There’s a speedier 2GB of RAM on board instead of 1GB and 12 new apps including Shazam and Live Stream. The Google Glass app list is officially over the 50 apps threshold and the most recent update puts all Android notifications in the top right corner of your eye.

But there’s one query all prospective Glass owners all struggling with right now at checkout, and it’s a question I get all of the time: is Google Glass worth it?

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4vyBswDQvg

To answer that burning question, I turned a critical eye to Google’s wearable computer and tested its Explorer Edition of Google Glass for eleven months. I also upgraded to the brand new 2GB model.

With the sound of my voice, I took hands-free photos by saying "Okay Glass, take a picture." I instructed it to upload the resulting point-of-view image to Twitter and Facebook and attached a caption, all with voice commands.

I saw flight information automatically beam to my eye with a gentle Google Now reminder the day before traveling. The weather for both my departure and destination cities, and directions to the airport were already being provided by this instinctual software. All of this data appeared in the top right corner of my vision, all without the need to take out my smartphone.

What's it like to wear Google Glass

Google has continued to make the complicated ownership decision easier by adding more to its Explorer Edition heads-up display. In addition to the new 2GB version, an update late last year saw a tweaked form factor that made prescription glasses compatible with attachable frames.

Google has even been throwing in a free pair of frames or premium shades with all new orders since mid-April. Moreover, new apps and updates to the linear operating system that weren’t available at launch make the current Google Glass Explorer Edition a tempting buy.

Still, this new Project Glass model is better at addition than subtraction. While features have been added, the price hasn’t dropped. At $1,500 (£1,000, about AU$1,589), Google’s experimental wearable is exorbitantly priced for the average person. It’s also best if you’re an Android, not an Apple person.

What does wearing Google Glass look like

Compatibility with the iPhone has improved thanks to the launch of an iOS MyGlass app and the ability to read text messages, but it stops short of tapping into Glass’ hands-free SMS response capabilities. Maps navigation also requires MyGlass to be open on the iPhone, not in the background. All of these features are missing for Windows Phone 8 users entirely, though technically any Bluetooth phone can offer Glass tethered data with a personal hotspot enabled.

Google Glass is very much a prototype, even after more than 20 months of being in the hands and on the faces of tens of thousands of beta testers.

But that’s partly why this out-of-reach, futuristic-looking curiosity is so fascinating, despite, or possibly because of the massive cost to your Google Wallet (that’s actually how you have to pay for Google Glass). Peoples’ mind=blown reaction, more so than snapping photos hands-free and getting directions that turn with your head, makes whomever is donning Google Glass a walking wonder.

Google Glass disneyland

How to get Google Glass

Google undoubtedly wanted Glass in the hands of developers who will make the experience better, more so than curious individuals who want it for personal use. Therefore, developers were the first to qualify for Google Glass invites.

Now it’s for sale to anyone living in the US and UK. Google threw Project Glass into open enrollment for 24 hours on April 15 and then permanently made it available a month later. Good things come to those who wait, too. All new Google Glass models come with free frames for prescription glasses or a free sunglasses shade attachment that typically costs $225 (£175, about AU$239).

Signing up for the normal Google Glass waitlist in June of 2013 after Google IO gave me access to an Explorer Edition beta code in November, while my friend who registered in December received an invite less than three weeks later. That alone shows how much easier it became to receive an invitation.

Strict rules still limit who can ultimately take advantage of the invite code and purchase a prototype. For example, you must be 18 years old and a US or UK resident, so adults living in the other parts of Europe or Australia aren’t eligible. These age and country-specific rules are still in place.

Google Glass 2 unboxing

The fit

Google Glass now ships to US and UK addresses, though the company still encourages beta testers to pick it up in person at its New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles offices. In the UK, "base camp" is in King’s Cross, London. But across the pond in LA, specifically Venice Beach, is where I went for my "fitting experience" with a friendly Glass guide named Frank.

The Google employee helped with my Google Glass unboxing, adjusted the nose pads, tweaked the delicate nose stems and shaped the malleable titanium head band until it didn’t sit so crooked on my face.

Within ten minutes it looked perfect, or at least as perfect as one can appear with a wearable computer sitting on their face.

Google Glass fitting

The look

Though pliable, the titanium head band remains durable as it stretches from ear to ear. It runs alongside a plastic casing that hides Glass’ key components and gives it an overall clean look. This subtle style makes the exposed parts like the camera lens in the front stand out even more – for better or worse.

Everyone’s attention is also immediately drawn to the adjacent cube-shaped glass prism that sits above the right eye. It has an acceptable 640 x 360 resolution and hangs just out of the way of the wearer’s line of sight. For the wearer, this personalized display acts as a much bigger screen, one that’s equivalent to a 25-inch HDTV sitting eight feet away.

Google Glass dimensions

The Google Glass dimensions are 5.25-inches at its widest point and 8-inches at its longest point. It’s too long and wide to fit into my pocket, even though I’ve been able to carry a Nexus 7 tablet in my jeans’ back pocket with a little squeeze.

Society has banned fanny packs and the titanium head band doesn’t collapse, so storage options are limited. When out and about it’s either on my face or in the complementary case, which I stow in a backpack. There’s no in-between.

Google Glass colors

The new Google Glass is almost indistinguishable from its predecessor, and the fact that it comes in the same colors doesn’t help you tell them apart. The options are black, orange, gray, white and blue. Or, as the Glass guides insisted: charcoal, tangerine, shale, cotton and sky.

Charcoal and cotton, the two non-color colors, appear to be the most popular, as they were initially sold out when I first entered my invite code to buy Google Glass. Luckily, before my seven-day invite expired, both options became available and I chose white. The choice made online actually didn’t matter until I got to the on-site appointment. I was given one last chance to switch colors during the moment of truth.

Google Glass battery

The glaring exception to Glass’ svelte design is the battery that rests behind the right ear and juts out rather noticeably. It’s too big, yet it’s not big enough for a full day’s charge. Battery performance did improve with the Android KitKat update in April, but more power from this energy-eating wearable is still a priority of Explorers.

Also prevalent among beta testers that I’ve talked to was Google Glass succumbing to summer heat. I experienced this problem first-hand on a hot, but not-too-hot day of horseback riding. Air bubbles began to distort the reflective mirror that caps the Glass prism.

Google Glass review

The good news is that Google was quick to the rescue, speedily shipping me a a new Google Glass unit and asking me to mail back the broken version. For a brief moment, I had $3,000 (£2,000) in my hands and awkwardly on my head. I didn’t pass up the chance to foolishly wear both at once.

Google Glass uses

The funny this is that horseback riding, with two hands occupied, was one of the most useful moment I’ve had as an Explorer. I was able to issue photo and video voice commands while properly holding onto the reigns and saddle. But my experience, and that of almost every other Explorer I’ve talked to recently, proves that Google Glass is still very much a gadget in beta.

The feel

Even with the bulkiness of the battery and durable frame, Google Glass is extremely lightweight and comfortable resting on my face. It weights just 42 grams (1.48 oz) and because everything, including the screen, is just out of my line of sight I often forget I’m wearing it.

How much does Google Glass weigh

At first, Google Glass did give me slight headaches as I strained my right eye to focus on the tiny prism in the top right corner of my vision. The team at the Venice headquarters did forewarn me about temporary Google Glass headaches, instructing me not to use Glass for more than a few hours the first couple of days. It’s incredibly unnatural to have just one eye focus on a screen while the other goes without use, but my eyes and brain adjusted to the phenomenon in a few days to the point where it’s now intuitive.

Like a modern smartphone, there are few physical buttons and ports on Google Glass. That’s because most of the interaction is done via a long 3.25-inch touchpad on the right side. Underneath the touchpad is a micro USB port for charging the device and on the top is a camera button that’s great for quick snaps in noisy environments.

Google Glass review

The most discreet button is tucked away on the inside on the touchpad and near the temple. Giving it a light press turns Google Glass on and powers up the all-important apps.


Fitting Google Glass to your face is a highly personalized experience. Same goes for setting up the software. Getting it on WiFi, pairing it with a smartphone and running through a handful of apps for the first time all occurred on-site at Google. There’s a web-based tutorial for people who have Google Glass shipped, but the experience is better appreciated in person.

There, I finally understood why everyone wearing Google Glass constantly cranked their head up as if they have a nervous tick. The default wake up angle is 30 degrees. This head gesture is a touchpad-free way of turning the display back on each time it goes blank to conserve battery life.

Google Glass WiFi setup

Configuring WiFi for the first time proves easier with Google Glass than any other device I’ve owned, backing up its futuristic look with a "this is how it should’ve worked in the past" reaction.

Selecting a router name on the Google’s in-office Chromebook Pixel, entering the password and staring at the automatically generated QR code got me connected to the internet within 10 seconds. The same setup on mobile devices usually requires entering the wrong password a bunch of times on a cramped keyboard. Luckily, an expensive Chromebook pixel isn’t required to complete the task at home. The same functionality is available on the MyGlass website and matching Android and iOS apps.

Google Glass with iPhone


Tethering Google Glass to a smartphone can be just as easy, even if that device is an iPhone. Google is eager to play well with others here, allowing Glass to pair with my iPhone 5S via Bluetooth. Of course AT&T, in its infinite wisdom, won’t allow people clinging on to a grandfathered-in unlimited data plan to activate iPhone’s personal hotspot setting, so it didn’t work on my personal iPhone handset.

Galaxy Note 3's large screen makes screencasting what you see easy

For this reason, and because the voice-enabled SMS responses don’t work even when Google Glass is successfully paired with an iPhone, I opted for the larger Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I wouldn’t have had a way to respond to texts without it, and wouldn’t have been able to get directions hands-free due to iPhone’s navigation limitations. Glass can’t initiate directions while an iPhone is in sleep mode.

Glass generally works better in step with the Android platform and Google Play’s MyGlass app. The tighter integration makes for a smoother experience and has proved problematic for Apple’s walled-garden.

Google Glass operating system

Google Glass is all about eliminating the all-too-common temptation to take your smartphone out of your pocket and look down at its infinitely distracting screen. So once I had data up-and-running, I launched into Glass’ pre-installed features list and didn’t look back down.

Google Glass food

I was able to take my first hands-free photo by simply saying, "Okay Glass, take a picture." From here on out, I used the "Okay Glass" voice command to initiate all of the apps, whether my intention was to Google something, record a video or get turn-by-turn directions.

My first photo and all subsequent snaps land in the Google Glass XE 22 linear operating system, which is controlled by sliding forward and backward on the touchpad. The newer Android KitKat interface works the same exact way, only it’s a little smoother thanks to a behind-the-scenes performance upgrade.

Sliding down cancels actions and, with enough swipes down, returns to the "Okay Glass" home screen. Tapping the touchpad brings up contextual options like share, delete, add a caption, read aloud, etc.

What does wearing Google Glass look like

The Google Glass OS is similar to the card-based user interface that has worked its way into many of Google’s product including the Google Now-inspired Android Wear smartwatches. The idea may need a redesign of its own pretty soon. At first, this content slideshow contained a handful of my previously taken photos, old searches, archived Hangout conversations and CNN Breaking News updates. I was generally able to find something within a few swipes.

A week later, sliding the touchpad back through the all of the built-up content became less fluid. Add to the fact that there’s a nasty bug that resets you to the beginning of the timeline if you slide too quickly on a tethered device in screencast mode, and it’s downright frustrating.

Google issued a Google Glass patch that bunches photos together to reduce this known clutter, but the timeline can still turn into a cumbersome mess.

Google Glass review

Connecting Google Glass to a computer through its micro USB port offers an imperfect remedy to offloading content. It’s limited to exporting photos, and on a Mac, Glass doesn’t show up as an external drive. OS X users are forced to open up iPhoto or the Image Capture to download their images. Windows 8.1 makes it considerably easier because it pops up as a connected drive.

There’s not a whole lot of options outside of copying photos to your computer, unfortunately. Clearing non-photo content from the card-based timeline has to be done manually using Glass and rearranging or importing old files isn’t possible. Developers can use the micro USB-to-PC connection to delve into code using the Android SDK, but that’s not meant for the average user.

Google Glass China

It being a Google product, my second task was to I asked a question. "Okay Glass, what’s the population of China?" It read back the answer as "1.351 billion as of 2012," data derived from the company’s extensive Google Knowledge Graph. There’s no anticipate functionality (or room to implement it on the tiny screen) that lays out the populations of India and the US in comparison. That feature, which I wrote about at the Google IO 2013 conference, is still reserved for computer and mobile-based searches.

Digging a little bit deeper to test the Google Knowledge Graph, I asked "How tall is Morgan Freeman?" which resulted in the computerized voice reading aloud "6′ 2" (1.88 m)." The synthesized voice isn’t as smooth as Morgan Freeman’s natural oration, but it matches the one used for Google Maps directions on phones and tablets.

Remarkably, Google Glass doesn’t contain a natural speaker to audibly transmit voice prompts that are the result of Googling questions, playing CNN videos and asking for directions. Instead, it vibrates behind the right ear through its Bone Conduction Transducer, a hearing aid technology that relays the information through the skull. Best of all, it’s nearly inaudible to everyone else. The personalized viewing screen meets a personalized audio frequency with Google Glass.

Google Glass Bone Conduction sound

There’s no ordinary speaker to project sound from the device, but there is a microphone to pick up whatever the user says after delivering the "Okay, Glass" prompt. It enables Google Glass to act as the world’s most expensive Bluetooth headset for hands-free phone calls and video calls. The sound quality isn’t a problem – it’s actually very clear – but asking it to "Make a call to…" followed by someone’s name on your MyGlass contact list is limited.

Currently, the maximum number of contacts Google Glass supports by saying their name is ten. Initiating phone calls and sending messages to anyone outside of this favorites list requires tapping the touchpad to enter the often-overlooked manual "Okay Glass" menu, scrolling to the message, call or video call, and scrolling through your entire Google contacts list.

It’s unfortunate that the quicker voice-controlled method of setting up conversations is capped at ten contacts. It’s even more confusing, Google forces you to manually enter the "Okay Glass" menu to scroll through your greater contact list. There’s no "Making a call to someone outside of your ten favorites" option at the end of the ten.

The microphone is also essential for transcribing messages: emails, text messages, Google Hangouts and adding photo captions on social networks. Sadly, sending texts is limited to Android phone tethering.

Google Glass navigation has turn-by-turn directions

Turn-by-turn directions via Google Maps isn’t exclusive to Android devices anymore, but Apple only allows third-party app developers to initiate directions while the iPhone is awake. Having to exit from sleep mode every time you want to get directions negates the phone-free utopia Google Glass is driving toward. This inconvenience may still be worth it; Google’s maps on Google Glass are more sophisticated than the still-hobbled Apple Maps on iOS devices if you don’t own a car. It includes options for driving, walking and public transit routes whereas Apple’s own maps do not.

Even more amazing in Google Maps for Glass is the fact that turning your head changes the map orientation in real-time. Left and right twists of the neck swing the stationary triangle indicator to the left and right. Google Maps with surreal head-tracking follows you every step of the way without the need to tap a compass button to orient your perspective on a map.


Glassware refers to Google Glass apps that developers create specifically for the wearable. It’s modeled after the Google Play store and iTunes App Store, only the Glassware app list is less populated at just 64 apps, a very slow uptick from the 37 apps available seven months ago. Even Chromecast has more apps.

Ten of these 64 apps were created internally and Google Now is by far the most impressive Glass app. It’s always located one swipe back from the "Okay Glass" home screen with contextual cards for information like the weather, sports teams I follow and directions to places I’ve recently searched for on Google.

Google Now app for Google Glass

Traveling anytime soon? Just like the Google Now Android and iOS app, this predictive software will dig through your email and bring up your flight information. Better yet, the weather will change, giving you the forecast to both the city that you’re in now and the place you’re about to go. Top that off with directions to the airport complete with the approximate travel time. It’s all done automatically like you’d expect from a device from the future.

Google Glass weather app

As you’d expect, Gmail is here and it pings you whenever an important message hits your priority inbox, Google Music plays songs with a "Listen to…" voice command and YouTube gives you an audience for your 720p #throughglass videos. You can’t actually explore the rest of YouTube, though. The same applies to the write-only Google+ application.

Google’s more straight-to-the-point Compass app shows the four cardinal directions and their intermediate directions, and reads the degrees aloud with the tap of the touchpad. The Stopwatch and Start Timer apps would replace Siri as my favorite way to countdown my time-sensitive tasks if it could set the clock with voice commands. Siri still wins for now.

The aforementioned Hangouts app now supports sending photos in replies thanks to April’s upgrade to Android KitKat. Visually being able to answer "What are you up to?" with more than just text via voice dictation makes Hangouts a better experience. After all, snapping photos is Glass’ biggest draw.

Google Glass games have been theorized with plenty of augmented reality YouTube videos of what the gameplay from the first-person perspective. Google’s own Mini Games app takes advantage of all of the tiny sensors onboard to do just that. Its five AR games involve balancing objects in the world in front of you, shooting clay targets in the distance and playing tennis anytime, anywhere.

Third-party Google Glassware

Big name developers have already gotten onboard with Google Glass. Social networking apps like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Path and now Foursquare are meant for sharing status updates, photos and videos to your timelines. Twitter and Google+ handle Google Glass best, pushing updates with a #throughglass hashtag, making photos from Explorers’ first-person perspective easy to find.

The newest addition to the Google Glass app list includes Livestream and Shazam. Say "Okay Google, start broadcasting" and it’ll will beam whatever you see to your video channel without delay. Curious about a song? The awkwardly phrased "Okay Glass, recognize this song" identifies the artist and title. These are smartphone app repeats, but Glass either gives you a neat new perspective or a hands-free way of searching.

Google Glass Twitter

Evernote is now less than one button press away thanks to the voice-controlled Google Glass and IFTTT can automate everything in life including turning on WiFi-connected lights in an apartment without the need for an "easy button."

News gathering is also an act of the past with updates for CNN Breaking News, The New York Times, Mashable and Elle fashion. There was a Wall Street Journal app, but it has disappeared, a common occurrence among the budding Glassware app list. Explorers have hardly noticed.

Weather Alert, which is supposed to notify me of dangerous conditions, is one of the newest Glassware apps. In the end, I disabled all but CNN because apps, especially Mashable and Weather Alert, pinged me with too many unimportant alerts or false alarms to the point of annoyance. They need to work more like the iOS and Android Breaking News app that lets users dictate which stories are important to them.

CNN Google Glass app

Google Glass can also encourage lifestyle changes with sporty apps like Strava Cycling, Strava Run, Golfsight by Skydroid and the new LynxFit trainer. For the first time since carrying around a smartphone to aid my exercise routine, my two hands were suddenly free to grip my bike handles and not worry about checking a phone’s screen to see how far along I was on my route. Food apps like AlltheCooks Recipes and KitchMe have the same effect. Washing your hands and cooking while reading the ingredients aloud without dirtying your phone is less messy with Google Glass.

World Lens Google Glass translation app

Word Lens, now a Google owned company, is toward the end of the alphabetically listed Glassware app store, but it’s one of the most impressive apps by a third-party developer. It can scan and visually translates words in English to and from Portuguese, German, Italian, French and Spanish. It can overlay words on top of an existing foreign-language stop sign or menu using Augmented Reality, just like the iOS and Android app by the developer. It’s a little more uncanny when seen through Glass.

World Lens Google Glass translation app

Another useful Google Glass app offers closed captioning for real-life conversations. Before you call it creepy, keep in mind that Captioning for Glass is intended for deaf or hard of hearing. Conversations appear in the top right corner of the screen after saying the command "Okay Glass, recognize this." So far, it’s an Android-only app, but could be extremely useful for people with disabilities.

Google Glass translation app with captioning

More Google Glass apps to come

Google opened up its Mirror API so that web-based services can take advantage of Glass and now there is a sneak peek at the all-important Google Glass SDK. Developers are still waiting to download the final version of this app-driving software, but there’s no official release date for the development kit.

Google Glass celebrities

A lot of developers are also bringing their apps from iOS and Android devices and making the experience more personal. Hang w/ is once such video streaming app and it happens to be backed by rapper 50 Cent. Its goal is to allow people to broadcast and narrate interesting moments in their lives or follow people who are doing just that. Celebrity involvement could make Google Glass’ point-of-view concept and apps like this the next Twitter.

When the final GDK makes its way to everyday developers, I expect the card-based Glassware user interface to explode with too much content just like my Google Glass timeline. Google would be forced to categorize apps and implement a rating system, and that’s a good problem to have. New apps are going to be what makes this device useful more than hardware tweaks. Glass owners are currently in a state that’s akin to the first iPhone without the iTunes App Store.

Camera and video

The Google Glass camera shoots 5-megapixel photos equivalent to that of the iPhone 4 camera and each picture has a 2528 x 1856 resolution. To Google’s credit, it took last-generation specs and made them useful again thanks to the camera’s distinctive hands-free interface and, given the right lighting, terrific image quality.

Google Glass camera

There are three ways to take photos when that 21st-century Kodak moment strikes and your quickest method of capturing it is Google Glass. Precisely saying "Okay Glass, take a picture" (not "take a photo") snaps an image within the blink of an eye.

Believe it or not, the second way is by actually blinking your right eye. This recently added Wink feature is deemed as experimental by Google, so it also picks up your eye-shutting big yawns and sneezes for awkward, unexpected photos.

Google Glass Disneyland

The third way to take a picture is by pressing the physical camera button at the top of the hardware. It’s not as forward-thinking as talking to Google Glass, but it’s ideal for noisy environments in which the otherwise strong microphone isn’t a viable option.

All three methods allow you to bring up the viewfinder beforehand thanks to the update that arrived just prior Google IO 2014. Saying "OK Glass, show the viewfinder" brings up the four L-shaped corners and makes lining up the perfect shot even easier. Before this update, it was trial-and-error guess work.

Photos are saved to an internal 16GB flash drive of which 12GB is actually useable memory. The operating system controls the rest. This space doesn’t fill up easily, as images are 1MB on average and are routinely synced with Google’s cloud storage.

Syncing photos to a smartphone through the MyGlass app is also helpful, especially when you want to edit them before posting. As of September, even iOS users are in on the Photo Sync feature. Deleting photos en masse, however, doesn’t work without plugging Glass into a computer via its USB cable. It’s a feature I’d like to see in the future.

Google Glass sunset photo

Best Google Glass photos

Sunsets, friends’ portraits and first-person snaps of everyday life offer the best photo results and make the camera the most rewarding Google Glass feature. Each one comes with a laundry list of caveats, though. Sunsets need to be bright, but not so bright that direct sunlight whites out the entire image.

Portraits need to be well-lit and your antsy friends can’t be moving – at all. "Everyday life photos" should be read literally with an emphasis on day, and the subject needs to be close because there’s no zoom function or cropping tool.

Google Glass photo quality

Google Glass’ inability to crop and zoom either when the picture is taken or post-snap is one of the biggest disadvantages to its 100% hands-off approach to photography. I didn’t miss the opportunity to take a photo of an abnormally large dog on the sidewalk thanks to Glass, but I conversely couldn’t put it into a better perspective before sharing it to Facebook sans a cropping tool. That large, distracting electrical box in the periphery remains.

Most #throughglass photos are admirably untouched, a rarity in the age of Instagram. Still, basic editing functionality by beaming a photo over to a smartphone or tablet before uploading it to the world would have been valued. Google+ does a nice job with Auto Enhanced photos with a few tricks.

Google Glass low-light photo quality

An LED flash and better low-light performance is another obvious Google Glass feature that’s sorely missing from the prototype. Taking photos and video in dimly lit environments is almost a non-starter, cutting down on the fun you can have with it in conjunction with nightlife scenarios.

Google Glass low-light photo quality

More sophisticated camera software could improve Glass in the future, but given the Nexus 5 camera problems, it might not be high on the Google’s priority list when it should be No. 1.

Google Glass video

Google Glass also takes high-resolution video with all footage at a fairly steady 720p resolution. The camera’s video performance mirrors its still image quality: it lives and dies by lighting and, if the right conditions are in place, provides a unique window to explore your everyday life.

YouTube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlvG_Lj0n5g&feature=youtu.be

This is exactly what happened when I filmed my too-often-repeated airport security line routine through the first-person perspective. Ever wonder what it’s like to go through a luggage X-ray machine? Glass shed some light on the not-too-crazy-looking experience #throughglass. It also proved that airport security is way too frantic of an operation and that an indoor, well-lit airport environment is the best format for a Google Glass video.

The quality took a hit when I attempted to film rides at Disneyland. Without proper illumination on rides, it failed to capture the excitement of the theme park indoors and as soon as the sun set, the outdoor video and photo quality took a major dive along with the, by then, exhausted battery.

Google Glass laws kicked out

Google Glass filming privacy

The Google Glass POV camera perspective is the most fulfilling feature, but it’s also the reason the wearable is seen as being so invasive. It’s always pointing forward at people and it often elicits a half-joking, half serious, "Are you filming me right now?"

Privacy concerned individuals are usually overreacting. Still, it’s an accusation every Glass user has to expect. Casinos, clubs, and a handful of restaurants and bar have unceremoniously banned the prototype even before it’s readily available. Google went as far as posting nine tips on how not to be a Glasshole.

Google+ Auto Backup, effects

Google+ automatically saves photos and video through the social network’s Auto Backup feature. It syncs to a private online album when Google Glass is plugged into a charger and it’s within WiFi range. It’s essential to meet these two conditions if Auto Backup isn’t working, a complaint echoed through Google’s private forums for Glass users. When it does function properly, it has some extra surprises that are worth checking out.

Google Auto Awesome photos

Select pictures are automatically enhanced with Google+ photo editing software, panoramas are stitched together right away and animated GIFs are already moving about before you say action. During the holidays, twinkle and snow effects were routinely added to photos – although it didn’t look right in a lot of cases. Luckily, all Google+ enhancements are saved as a copy of the original photo in the Auto Backup folder and never shared without your permission.

Google Glass accessories

New Explorers receiving Google Glass 2 as opposed to the older Google Glass are treated to a slightly different set of accessories than what the first beta testers received at the prototype’s launch.

Don’t feel badly for the earliest of early adopters, though. Google allowed them to upgrade to the new version of Glass for free until February 5 and all accessories are available to buy separately for a price.

Google Glass mono earbud

New Google Glass 2 accessories

Adding to the black-and-white box is a mono earbud, enabling better sound quality when making phone calls, listening to music and watching videos. Its comfortable in-ear design features a tiny forward-facing speaker that pipes sound straight into your ear canal the same way that Apple’s EarPods do. Only its nylon-coated cable is much shorter at just 3-inches and it includes a micro USB connection at the end, not a standard RCA jack. Glass won’t work with all of the normal aux cables, negating the 3.5mm vs 2.5mm debate altogether.

The mono earbud fits into the same micro USB port that’s located underneath the touchpad and is used to charge Glass. Its 3-inch cable size can be adjusted by retracting it into a loop behind the ear so that there’s as little as 1 ½-inches of cord dangling between the earpiece and port. The twist-off cap color that’s included in the box is cotton (white). Buying an extra mono earbud comes with five interchangeable caps that match each of the Google Glass colors, but it’s prohibitively expensive at $50 (£40, about AU$53).

Google Glass stereo earbuds

The same can be said about the even pricier stereo earbuds, not included with Glass, that are $85 (£65, about AU$90). Because stereo earbuds with auxiliary ends won’t work and would be too long, these form-fitting earbuds are the best way to completely encapsulate yourself in the Google Glass experience and you’re definitely going to be separated from the rest of the world with two nylon cords running out of the micro USB port. The left ear cable extends further than the right one and lays behind the neck, making you look even more like a cyborg at this point.

Google Glass sunglasses

The included mono earbud and separate stereo earbuds are new as of late October 2013. They join the existing sunglasses, tweaked for Google Glass 2, that securely lock into place between the two nose stems. These active shades effectively block all sunlight emanating from the real world around you. Peripheral light is only visible when looking out of the corners of your eyes, but your field of view is completely dimmed, including the still-very-visible Glass prism.

The question is what do you do with these almost flat-looking clip-on shades when they’re not needed or you don’t want to look like Robocop for a minute. They can be tucked away in an included micro-fiber slip case, but that’s another accessory to always carry around.

Returning accessories

Google Glass travel case bag

The same high-quality material is used in the indispensible pouch. It’s Japanese micro-fiber and made from recycled material, according to Google. This soft bag fits Glass perfectly, cleans it when it’s slide inside and contains a hard shell at the bottom to protect keep the prism. It’s thankfully included. Ordering an extra pouch is $50 (£40, about AU$53) and may be the one thing in Google’s accessory store that’s worth its price.

Google Glass charger

Glass comes with an excellent micro USB cable and charger that features a flat cord to keep it from bunching and tangling. Its micro USB end is at a unique right angle, which stabilizes Google Glass on a flat surface. Better yet, it sports a two-tone black-and-white color scheme at each end. Explorers can easily distinguish the orientation of USB and micro USB’s non-symmetrical design.

You won’t be trying to fit the USB cable into the charger backwards thanks to Google’s smart design idea. But you also won’t want another one. The price for an extra is $50 (£40, about AU$53), which verges on double gold-plated HDMI cable territory. It’s just a micro USB cable and charging block.

Normal micro USB chargers, used by Android devices, work just fine too. Google even notes that while Glass is designed and tested with the included charger, there are thousands of micro USB chargers out there that do the same basic thing.

Google Glass glasses

Missing from the Google Glass 2 accessories lineup is the clear shield that came with the first prototype. It works just like the clip-on sunglasses minus the tinted lenses and makes you look like you’re ready for weed whacking in the front lawn rather instead of a law enforcement from the fighter. They’re still available to purchase separately for $85 (£60, about AU$90).


Google Glass Explorer Edition is one of the most expensive gadgets from the Mountain View company, beating out its premium Chromebook Pixel laptop with an LTE chip included. You could buy five HP Chromebook 11 laptops instead and still have money left over.

Google Glass price

It costs $1,500 (£1,000, AU$1,593) plus tax for this imperfect prototype. But that’s not the total price for most beta testers. In California, the with-tax price equates to an especially painful $1,635. The Google Glass UK price includes the VAT, just like other items the Google Play Store sells.

Even though Explorers are paying top dollar, the specs are remarkably limited. Its has a dual-core OMAP 4430 chip that’s really a 2011-era mobile processor designed by Texas Instruments. Most Google Glass models have 1GB of RAM, though the specs have been upgraded to 2GB of RAM for new orders

Analysts have pegged the bill of materials to be under $200 (about £120, AU$212), meaning the gross margin is $1,300 (£880, about AU$1,381) on each Google Glass sale. That doesn’t take into account Google’s expenses like R&D and marketing, so the actual profit is likely a lot less. After all, someone has to pay all of those Glass guides running through the one-on-one fitting appointments every day and the free domestic or imported beer that they offer you during the visit.

Google Glass warranty


Some of that money also goes to shore up the Google Glass warranty. Meant to cover defects in materials and workmanship, this limited one-year warranty is surprisingly long and reassuring given Glass’ prototype nature.

Of course, the warranty doesn’t include accidents, fires, software modifications and just about every other your-fault incident you can think of. Reselling Google Glass voids this guarantee just the same.

Google Glass consumer version price

The high price of Google Glass didn’t just have an impact on my Google Wallet, it made me constantly afraid of losing it or, worse, having it stolen. I’m always more anxious when wearing it in public due to its value. Not-so-funny comments like "Hey, is that Google Glass? Meet me in the back alley. Ha!" made me think twice about taking it everywhere.

As much as I wanted to capture New Year’s Eve fireworks a few months ago in the city of Philadelphia, I decided against wearing Google Glass downtown. It actually helps that a majority of people I run into don’t know what Glass is right now, but you can never be too careful.

There are ways to try to recover a lost or stolen Google Glass. The MyGlass website and app reports the last device location every few minutes, but it needs to either be logged into WiFi or be paired with a Bluetooth phone to do so. That makes it ineffective compared to Find my iPhone and Android Device Manager.

Price drop theories

Price is the biggest hurdle for beta-only Google Glass right now, as the Explorer Edition costs more than seven times as much as an iPhone 5S and five times as much as a Galaxy Note 3 with a two-year contract in the US. It doesn’t adequately replace these devices either. In fact, it can’t. It’s a slave to their shared Bluetooth data when you’re away from a WiFi connection.

Google Glass consumer price

There could be a price drop in the future, as the parts don’t actually cost Google anywhere near what it’s charging. The Google Glass consumer price could be dramatically cheaper, spurring everyone to get one even if they’re unsure of its feasibility. Google’s decision to make Chromecast inexpensive had that same "add to shopping cart" effect.

Existing beta testers are paying through the nose pads right now, but that could be because Google doesn’t want everyone to own Glass just yet. It needs developers to make great apps first. Without apps, if the price as low as it could be, the general public would pick up the device and immediately put it down. It would instantly be ahead of its time.

Explorer Edition owners, who paid a premium and helped develop the foundation of Glass, have floated the idea of receiving the likely more affordable Google Glass consumer edition for free. The idea is that their theoretical free Google Glass explains the steep price. It’s built in. But that may just be Explorers’ hopeful thinking.

Everyone may find out the final price of the consumer version come this week when Google IO 2014 is expected to host an on-stage update about Google’s other wearable that isn’t Android Wear.

Battery life

Google’s official estimate for the Glass’ battery life is "one day of typical use." Features like video recording, however can drain the battery even more quickly, the company warns.

Google Glass glasses

Avoiding these more intensive features, I found my Google Glass battery to last between three and five hours depending on how many hands-free photos I was taking in that time span. Recording a video wiped the battery out in less than an hour after continuously shooting.

That’s far short of the official estimate, but keep in mind that there’s a tremendous difference between being connected to WiFi vs Bluetooth via a tethered smartphone. Relying on a phone’s shared LTE data connection drained my battery more quickly.

Google Glass battery life

Google Glass also ran much hotter over Bluetooth, something that was pointed out to me every time I demoed Google Glass to a large group. Typically, this observation was noticed by the time it was passed to the last person to wear it.

Teardown specs indicate that Google Glass contains a puny 570 mAh lithium-polymer battery, even with its larger-than-desired battery size located behind the right ear. Luckily, the small battery size means that it doesn’t take exceptionally long to charge, with less than two hours giving me a complete 100% battery life to drain it all over again.

Google Glass battery life

To conserve battery life as much as humanly or cyborgly possible, I turned off head wake up, on-head detection and Wink for picture. I also carried around an external high-capacity battery pack in my pocket with a USB cable running to the micro USB port. I don’t suggest this look.

Google Glass in public

Google Glass is more fun than functional primarily because of the reaction derived from donning a wearable computer in public. Onlookers’ curious and questioners’ amazement always turns into a flood of ways they think Glass can be used in the future. Becoming an Explorer within the first year, I have had to constantly answer questions, but that’s part of the fun. Explaining gadgets to people is why I became a technology journalist in the first place.

Disneyland Google Glass

Peoples’ fascination certainly kept me occupied in lines at Disneyland, where they wanted to know more about Google Glass, take a photo, wear it themselves and take another photo. Only a handful of people knew a little bit about it, often mistakenly saying, "There’s those Google Glasses!" even though there’s only one glass involved. A majority of the people had no idea, timidly asking "Can I ask you about the glass on your face?"

I was able to test if Google Glass is waterproof, or at least water resistant, at Disneyland’s log flume ride, Splash Mountain. It survived my drenched-in-water decision to sit in the front row, though I wisely slipped it into the micro-fiber case to dry it off immediately after the final hill. Google doesn’t recommend letting liquids near the internal components, especially the battery, though Robert Scoble has proven that it can be worn in the shower without incident.

Google Glass on Wil O'Neal

The reaction at CES 2014 was a little more muted considering all of the extravagant technology at the week-long Las Vegas conference. But I still had to field questions and tell people, no, they couldn’t pick it up in the South Hall. It’s still beta-only, but should be out later this year.

Not-so-fun reactions

Peoples’ trepidation of Google Glass can sometimes sap some of the fun out wearing it or create wearable gadget faux pas that didn’t exist before, as it did twice as CES. Its so lightweight that I often times forgot I was wearing it, including an exceptionally awkward moment when I entered a public bathroom. I wondered why I was receiving bizarre stares up until I went to wash my hands and looked in the mirror.

Google Glass banned

Public bathrooms are not Glass friendly for obvious reasons, and that’s where putting it away in the case and the case inside a bag becomes cumbersome.

The second incident occurred at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, where I was walking on the outskirts of the casino strictly because I was making my way back to my hotel after a long day at CES. Moving rather quickly – not stopping – with a group of fellow tech journalists, I was approached by a panicked security guard who shouted "Sir! Sir! No Google Glass in the casino."

I took off Google Glass without protest, but found it strange considering I had a giant Canon T3i DSLR that can shoot 1080p video hanging from my neck and sitting at chest level. It didn’t matter to him that I had it pointed at the casino the entire time or that most everyone I was walking with had similar recording tech on them.

Google Glass while driving

Wearing Google Glass while driving has been the subject of court cases, and even when it’s not on, the new technology is still in murky legal territory. People have reportedly gotten kicked out, banned or harassed for wearing it. The only way to overcome peoples’ Google Glass fear is through wider adoption. Remember when cell phones with cameras were routinely banned at concerts venues?

Prescription lenses

Glasses wearers are no longer at a myopic disadvantage now that Google Glass prescription lenses and frames have officially been made available after an annoying 11-month wait.

Tech’s smartest-looking early adopters can finally experience Google Glass while still being able to see the world in front of them. Nearsighted or farsighted, it doesn’t matter. They can see through Google’s wearable computer by looking up into the top right corner of their vision, and then see near and far by peering through specialized glasses.

Google Glass glasses frame styles

Even better, the glasses attachment gives the device a less offending, more natural look and style. That’s due in part to the four attractive Google Glass frames on sale: Curve, Bold Split and Thin. Of course, corrected vision comes at a price.

These compatible premium frames are currently free with new Google Glass orders, but normally cost $225 (£175, AU$239). A Google employee in Los Angeles said he didn’t think the free frames deal would last very long.

Of course the glasses frames with false lenses, which means there’s still the unfortunate extra step and cost of visiting an eyecare provider in order to have the specialized prescription lenses cut to size. It’s still not easy having imperfect vision while looking like you’re living in the future.

It’s certainly better than attempting to wear Google Glass overtop of prescription glasses. It just doesn’t work in most cases that I have tested out. Existing frames are usually too big to properly fit underneath of the Glass hardware and ultimately feel too uncomfortable to stand for more than a minute. It’s also extra bizarre looking to walk around with Google Glass on top of crooked glasses.

Without the new prescription lenses, Google Glass can still be tested by nearsighted individuals because they can see everything on the prism that sits two inches from their right eye. But day-to-day use isn’t feasible because the myopia suffers won’t be able to get very far without their normal glasses.

Does Google Glass work with glasses

Other manufacturers did beat Google to the market with unofficial Google Glass prescription lenses and frames. Rochester Optical was the first company to do just that as it rolls out its clip-on product, RO Gold for Google Glass. It began shipping at the start of the year for the lense price of $99 (about £59, AU$105) and the separate clip price of $129 (about £77, AU$137).

Whether you order the official Google Glass prescription lenses or opt for the cheaper Rochester Optical solution, it’s essential for nearsighted or farsighted glasses wearers to find corrective lenses that work before joining and really enjoying the Explorer program.

Release date and upgrades

Google Glass was expected to have a "consumer version" release this year, but there was no official announcement timed with the Google IO 2014 developer conference in June or since then.

"[In 2014], I want to have a broad consumer offering," said co-founder Sergey Brin to Bloomberg two years ago. Maybe the fact that Glass is now available in the Google Play Store counts as that consumer offering?

Either way, what’s next for Google Glass? More than any single upgrade to its tech specs, significantly dropping the retail edition’s price would put it on more faces, even some of the skeptical ones.

That’s certainly feasible, as a number of analysts have calculated Google Glass’ bill of materials to be less than $200 (about £120, AU$212) based on the known components.

Google Glass release date in the UK and Australia

Naturally, now that the invite-only process has ended in favor of open enrollment in the US and UK, the next step is to make Google Glass available worldwide, including Explorer-deprived regions like Continental Europe and Australia.

The Google Glass consumer version is likely to contain a bigger battery, even though Google is going to struggle with the bigger form factor resting behind the ear. It’s already big enough at 570 mAh.

The camera, while adequate at 5 megapixels, is also a desired upgrade for the retail version. It’s one of the most used features of Google Glass, as demonstrated by all of the fun-to-look-at #throughglass photos on Twitter. I still prefer to use my iPhone 6 or Nexus 6 for pictures when it matters, especially in low-light situations. Google Glass is only used for novelty and convenience purposes.

People wearing Google Glass

The number of Glassware apps is going to naturally increase in the future. Its current count of 64 is just the beginning, and augmented reality games could have a really big impact on Google Glass in 2014. Further out, it could better connect with the company’s broadening ecosystem, possibly integrating with Chromecast for screencasting photos and video, or the newly released Android Wear smartwatches like Moto 360 and LG G Watch R.

Google hasn’t laid out an official timeline for the public version of its trendsetting wearable, but with Google Glass competitors launching over the next several months, it may fast track the release date and scope. We expect to hear more on or before the Google IO 2015 keynote, hopefully with a consumer version introduction that’s as grandiose as 2012’s skydiving entrance.


Google Glass in its current prototype form is an unfinished trailblazing avant-garde piece of tech. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around. I worried about whether I’d be able to tell if it was really the next big thing or a huge waste of time and money.

Glass sure wrapped itself around my brain though, and with considerable comfort. I was able to test it easily in my everyday life and that’s what Google Glass is all about: putting one’s smartphone down, yet still being able to share pieces of your life with your friends and family through a unique first-person perspective.

Google Glass model

We liked

The excitement surrounding Google Glass made wearing the invite-only prototype a thrill, but you have to be the right sort of technology-loving visionary to benefit from people’s curiosity. I couldn’t go a day without a half dozen people asking me about it. Explorers should expect the same.

In between all of the welcomed questions, I found taking hands-free photos, uploading them to Facebook and Twitter and adding captions with my voice to be the most entertaining part. Receiving and replying to work-related Hangout messages while cooking dinner and then getting walking directions at the spread-out CES 2014 venues made it productive.

Google Now is by far the best app of the 64 available with flight information, weather, and sports scores available based on what I’ve searched recently. I also habitually take advantage of being able to Google any question that pops into my brain, leaving no answer unknown with my smartphone still in my pocket

Google Glass model

We didn’t like

Using Google Glass doesn’t always go as planned, especially when it comes to a full day of use. The battery life is abysmal and tethering to anything but an Android is less than satisfying. Text message replies and directions are sorely missed when using it with an iPhone.

The camera’s low-light performance could be better and the microphone, while surprisingly strong, often took a couple of attempts to properly add captions in moderately noisy situations.

Price and privacy are two issues that are of concern right now. As a consumer, $1,500 (£1000, about AU$1,593) plus tax is too much to pay for most any gadget, especially one that’s still in development. You do get offered beer during the Google Glass appointment, which helps ease the pain.

Google Glass appointment

Final Verdict

There’s nothing like Google Glass, so upon being "invited," I jumped at the chance to empty my Google Wallet for what my bank account poorly categorized as "Glass – Home Improvement." It did nothing for my home, but it did provide conversation-starting "improvement" in social settings outside of the house.

Its hands-free photo taking capabilities encouraged me to seek out more adventure that required two hands but still warranted capturing. I put down my smartphone for a record amount of time. Instead, I searched Google Now, used hands-free Google Maps navigation and responded to Gmail and texts through the built-in microphone.

The 5-megapixel camera isn’t nearly as good as what you’ll find on a current smartphone, especially the iPhone 5S and Galaxy Note 3, and the voice recognition software doesn’t get everything entirely right. The battery life and price get everything wrong – one is too small, one is too big; it would be great if they switched.

Google Glass invite

But when you think about it, Google Glass is the first of its kind – at least with a major company behind it. The first iPhone with its pre-installed apps and novel touchscreen had the same "is this worth it or just hype?" question surrounding when Apple launched it in 2007.

Owning Google Glass is even more reminiscent to a previous generations’ owning the first TV on the block. No one has seen it in person before and everyone want to come over and try it out. The intense public interest is entertaining, but not worth the Explorer Edition price for most consumers.

It’s still more fun than functional right now with the promise of becoming the next big thing.

First reviewed: January 2014

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Hands-on review: GoPro Karma Drone

Hands-on review: GoPro Karma Drone

The GoPro Karma is the action camera company’s long-awaited entry into the burgeoning drone category, and it looks like good things come to those video-capturing adrenaline junkies who wait.

The Karma is a well-priced drone that provides stabilized video while hovering as high as 3280ft (1,000m) and soaring at a maximum speed of 35mph (15m/s). Its 3-axis camera gimbal keeps everything steady.

We didn’t crash the Karma and its GoPro Hero 5 Black ‘co-pilot’ in our first three hours of flying it at the launch event in Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border. And yes, we did put it to the ultimate test – in high wind at the top of a mountain.

GoPro Karma drone review

In fact, new and experienced pilots we saw aced the inaugural flight. This is helped by the fact that GoPro Karma comes with a gamepad-style clamshell controller. It’s familiar, with intuitive buttons.

With its integrated 5-inch screen, the controller is unlike that for the DJI Phantom 4 drone – you don’t need an iPad to get the GoPro Karma drone in the air and see real-time video from up above.

Karma folds up and fits into an included backpack, and that portability fits right into GoPro’s outdoorsy, go-anywhere ethos. Its newest mantra involves video stabilization, so it’s a bonus that there’s a way to take the drone’s gimbal, remove it and slide it into a grip for handheld video stabilization.

GoPro claims this is way more than a drone – and it’s right. But it’s also shaping up to be a drone done right. Let’s see where it has the most potential, despite its better-late-than-never status.

Price and release date

Reliable drones aren’t cheap, but GoPro Karma comes in at a surprisingly reasonable price considering everything that’s including in the package.

GoPro Karma drone review

It costs $799 (£719, AU$1195) for the drone, Grip handheld mount, display-integrated controller and a backpack case. A battery, charger, six propellers and required mounts are also here.

Don’t have a newer GoPro Hero camera yet? There are bundles designed just for you. GoPro throws in a Hero5 Black into the drone package for $1099, or a Hero5 Session for $999. UK and Australian pricing is coming soon.

The official GoPro Karma drone release date is October 23 in the US, with other markets to follow into January 2017. The Black camera bundle is available right away, while the Session is slated for January.

The other, likely worthwhile (we’re talking from experience here) expense is "GoPro Care." It costs $149 for a two-year warranty on the drone or $199 for the drone and Hero5 Black. Replacement parts are included and damaged drones have you paying just a $199 deductible.


The Karma drone is different because it’s incredibly portable. You can fold it up and stash it in a normal-sized backpack. Compactness isn’t common among premium drones like this.

GoPro Karma drone review

The four propeller arms on top fold inward and the landing gear on the bottom fold upward toward the drone body. You can take the propellers off, just in case you need a smidgen of extra space.

It measures 12 in (303mm) x 16.2 in (411mm) x 4.6 in (117mm) at full wingspan, and 14.4in (365mm) x Width: 8.8in (224mm) x 3.5in (90mm) folded up. It can get small for its 35.5oz (1006g) weight.

The Karma stabilizer and harness are seated up front in the drone cockpit and have a range of motion of 90 degrees, up and down. Rotating the drone is how to move the camera left and right.

GoPro Karma drone review

The stabilizer can be removed and snapped into the Karma Grip for smooth, handheld video. It’s a separate wand-shaped device with its own battery life, but it does come with the drone.

The entire drone has black-and-white color scheme, with matte black landing gear legs that are really just two brackets to take on the impact of the ground first.

Below each propeller arm are lights, two green ones in the front, and two red ones in the back. This is to indicate the front and back of the drone, as it can get confusing when starring up at the California sun.

Flight performance and controller

Taking off with the Karma drone was a smooth experience, and that’s in large part due to the clamshell controller and its 5-inch touchscreen.

GoPro Karma drone review

Pitch and yaw joysticks make this as easy as a video game, and center buttons for landing and taking off can automate everything for drone novices. Shoulder-mounted triggers are dedicated to the camera.

Even on a windy mountaintop, we were able to keep the drone in the air and the on-screen video stable. The connection remained steady, which is a major problem for almost all drones we’ve tested.

GoPro Karma drone review

The Karma Controller lacks an external antenna, which goes with GoPro’s whole compactness theme, and yet it stayed connected the entire time.

The only issue you have is that the 720p display has 900 nits. That’s bright enough for most conditions, but extremely sunny days, like we experienced, made it more difficult in direction sunlight.

GoPro Karma drone review

We’ll have to keep testing it to see if the so-far steady connectivity remains consistent. So far, our aerial footage looks as if it wasn’t a windy day thanks to the 3-axis camera gimbal.

Handheld stabilizer

Popping out the camera’s stabilizer and inserting it into the included Karma Grip lets you take the camera gimbal on a handheld adventure.

GoPro is basically taking a different product than drone-making rival DJI sells separately and adding it to the Karma bundle with increasing to the cost of the drone package.

Locking the camera in one direction means it’ll stay trained on that direction without shake, even as you walk and turn about. Pressing the unlock button and twisting the Grip about still gives you a smooth rotation.

Battery life

The GoPro Karma battery life is supposed to give you a 20-minute flight before it runs out of juice and wanted to return to home. Charging it takes about an hour, according to the company.

GoPro Karma drone review

Of course, multiple batteries can be swapped in and out of the drone, and the case has space for a bunch of them, plus the controller and drone. The Karma Grip fastens to the side.

There are other batteries to be concerned about. The controller is rated for four hours of use and charges back up in 2 and a half hours. The Grip lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes and charges in two hours.

Early verdict

GoPro Karma is shaping up to be the ultimate drone for on-the-go video thanks to its compact size and it’s proven ability to provide consistent video stabilization from as high as 3280ft (1000m).

GoPro Karma drone review

It’s priced right considering it comes bundled with a touchscreen controller and handheld stabilizer. The controller makes flying fun and painless and doesn’t drain out iPad battery.

There’s still several dozen more flight tests we’d like to do with the Karma drone, in a variety of different scenic environments. That has to wait for October 23. Check back for an updated review then.

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Review: In Depth: FanVision

Review: In Depth: FanVision

FanVision is, in some ways, difficult to explain. We’ve struggled to boil it down to a single sentence, primarily because its value is best realized when you take advantage of everything it offers. As simply as possible, FanVision is a handheld screen and radio network, which allows patrons attending a live sporting event to dive far deeper into what’s happening in real-time than those who are left to use their own two eyes. For analytics geeks, there’s simply no event companion more enthralling.

FanVision at NASCAR

We recently had a chance to put FanVision to the test at a pair of NASCAR events. The two venues couldn’t be more dissimilar – the first race was a road course in Sonoma, Calif., while the second was a three-quarter mile thriller in Richmond, Va. As of now, FanVision’s only major consumer touch point is in motorsport (NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar), despite once being available at NFL stadiums and F1 races. We’ll touch a bit on that later on in the review, but we wanted to start by painting a picture of how the system actually works.

How it works

  • Charge it up before race day
  • Make sure you have a subscription for the event you’re attending
  • Power it on, and the connection to the FanVision network is automatic

At each sporting event where FanVision is supported – NASCAR races, in our case – the company erects a wireless network that each of its handhelds connect to. If you have a FanVision display and a subscription (also referred to as an activation) to the event you’re at, you’re golden.

FanVision at NASCAR

It’s vital to charge your FanVision fully ahead of an event. While the battery is good for around six hours, even with the display glaring the entire time, you don’t want it to peter out mid-race. Once you’re at the venue, you just boot the unit up, wait around 30 seconds for it to automatically connect to the FanVision network, and start diving in.

FanVision at NASCAR

It’s surprisingly simple to dive into. We’re always wary when it comes to products that a) have to connect to a wireless network where tens of thousands of people are gathered and b) claim to "just work." Much to our amazement, the FanVision unit connected immediately and maintained a faultless signal throughout both races that we attended.

In-race benefits

  • You’re giving access to real-time audio streams of your favorite athletes
  • On screen, there’s loads of data to analyze and enjoy in real time
  • You have access to information that others don’t, and that just feels so, so satisfying

So, it’s easy to use. Awesome. But, what does it actually do? In a nutshell, it massively enhances the live event experience, and somehow, manages to not get in the way of actually savoring the event itself. We’ve all seen the guy or gal totally missing the moment due to being buried in a screen (typically a smartphone, but occasionally a Tamagotchi), but FanVision isn’t that.

FanVision at NASCAR

It probably helps to get a bit of background on how motorsport is conventionally enjoyed. You see, these vehicles emit decibel levels that’ll darn near deafen you if you sit in the stands for hours without ear protection. So, most folks bring their own earplugs, which do a wonderful job of ensuring that you can still hear your neighbors yelling at you when you’re 70. Regrettably, they also do a lovely job of removing you from the excitement, giving your mind plenty of time to ponder how few Pokemon you’ve managed to catch in the past week.

FanVision at NASCAR

FanVision reckons that if you’re going to wear ear protection, you might as well pump something extra into your ear canal at a safe decibel level. Hardcore race fans know that they can bring their own scanners to the track in order to hear the banter that occurs between driver and pit crew, but FanVision takes that to an entirely different level.

FanVision at NASCAR

When booting the unit up, you’re given the opportunity to select up to three favorite drivers. Then, inside the Scanners pane, you can easily toggle between in-race communications from those drivers and the main race commentary that covers the entire field. Crucially, FanVision can automatically pipe in the main race commentary by default, and then cut to your driver’s scanner whenever they (or their pit crew) begin conversing.

FanVision at NASCAR

So, as you’re sitting in the stands ogling the action, you’re getting an earful of commentary and/or insider information directly from the driver you’re pulling for. The experience is as close to getting inside of the car as you’re going to get, and quite frankly, it’s enrapturing.

FanVision at NASCAR

In the two races we attended, we had Team Penske earmarked as favorites: Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Considering that both of these drivers are – shall we say, dominant – they proved to be quite exciting to watch. Phase 1 is the rush of hearing insider chatter between driver and pit crew, where they discuss topics like steering adjustments, plans for their next pit stop, timings of drivers that are in front of and behind them, and if they’re clear on the top or bottom lane to complete a pass.

For statistics and analytics nerds, there’s really nothing better. You’re getting a live, unfiltered, real-time listen at the brain of a professional athlete as he or she corresponds with the engineers responsible for giving them an edge on the track.

FanVision at NASCAR

Phase 2 is the on-screen goodness. We spent most of time on the video feed at the Sonoma road course, but in Richmond – where you can see every turn from practically every seat in the grandstands – we kept it locked on the leaderboard. Here, your favorite drivers are fixed up top, with the rest of the grid listed below in order of position. Last lap time, total pit stops, and time behind the driver ahead of them is all listed out. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of data, giving math junkies plenty to chew on as they extrapolate how many laps it’ll take a driver to pass another if they continue catching up at their given pace.

FanVision at NASCAR

FanVision is an incredible addition at round tracks like Richmond International Raceway, but it’s simply vital at road courses like Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. With road courses, no one seat is given a view of the entire race. So, oddly, there are moments when a pack of cars zoom by, and then a number of awkward seconds that roll by before you see them come around again to your vantage point. Here, FanVision shines brightest. The video functionality pipes live footage from all corners to your screen, enabling you to never lose sight of the grid – even after they’ve left your actual purview.

Acquiring a FanVision unit

  • You can rent ($50/race) or buy ($300) a FanVision display
  • Renters can rent and return right at the venue
  • You can use your own earphones or headsets if you’d rather

FanVision at NASCAR

FanVision sells its controller for $300, which includes a subscription to every race in the NASCAR season. You’ll have to pony up a bit more if you’re after a sound-reducing, speaker-infused headset, but the good news there is that it’s not proprietary. Unlike Apple’s iPhone 7 (ahem), the FanVision display has a standard 3.5mm headphone port. You can pick up your own headset on Amazon or elsewhere, and a headphone splitter works wonders if you’re attending a race with a friend and want them to share in the excitement.

FanVision at NASCAR

If you’re more of an occasional fan, FanVision rents its display and a single headset for $50 per race weekend, which gets you access to ever NASCAR-affiliated event over a three-day span. If you want to double up and get a second headset, tack on $15. If you plan on attending a half-dozen events over the course of a season, you’re better off buying the hardware.

FanVision at NASCAR

At the venue, FanVision has unmissable trailers established on various sides. We noticed around four or five per event, with six or so registers per trailer. Most patrons waited less than five minutes to be served, and those who had pre-ordered a rental online ahead of the event were in and out in just seconds. For what it’s worth, we’d strongly recommend pre-ordering if you’re certain you’re going to an event; you’ll save $10 or so, and everything’s waiting for you upon arrival.

FanVision at NASCAR

After the race, you simply return your rental gear in the bag that it was given to you in. While we expected long return lines, that process took around three minutes. Despite huge crowds, FanVision’s event staff seemed to be a well-oiled machine, taking the hassle out of renting and returning in the same day.

For the Richmond race, we procured a FanVision unit ahead of time, which was even better. No stopping at a trailer before or after – just show up at the race, turn it on, and enjoy.

Enhancing the experience

FanVision at NASCAR

Before we dive in too deep here, it’s worth reiterating just how seamless the FanVision experience is. The connection is immediate and solid, and the battery is seriously impressive. We still had around 20 percent remaining after a 4.5-hour overtime race in Richmond. The audio feed is delayed, at most, half a second, which is close enough to real-time that it’s imperceptible in practice. The video feed doesn’t stutter not one iota.

FanVision at NASCAR

What’s most remarkable is just how well the entire streaming process works; it contrasts starkly with our iPhone 6S Plus sitting just beside it, which can’t even get an Instagram post through due to network saturation that occurs so frequently at huge events.

FanVision at NASCAR

We were able to compare the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Richmond from 2015 (where we didn’t have FanVision) to the exact same race in 2016 (where we did have FanVision). The difference is significant, to the point where we wouldn’t recommend splurging on a NASCAR weekend without also budgeting for FanVision. Feeling the earth rumble as 40 high-powered motorcars scream by at breakneck speeds is never not going to be awesome, but the wealth of additive data – from driver-to-crew audio to mounds of real-time lap data – instantly spoils you.

FanVision at NASCAR

Rather than wondering how fast a given driver is catching up to another driver, a glance at FanVision provides the answer. It’s important to point out the operative word there: glance. FanVision is perhaps the most glanceable piece of glanceable technology we’ve ever used, and therein lies the charm. You aren’t expected or required to keep your face buried in the screen as the event unfolds in front of you. The designers realized from the jump that FanVision would only be enjoyable if it could provide vital information and answer race-related questions at a glance, and that’s exactly what it accomplishes.

FanVision at NASCAR

Couple that with the face that the obvious alternative – trying to find this data via your smartphone – only really works if you’re using Sprint, and it becomes even more alluring. (For those unfamiliar with NASCAR events, Sprint is the lead sponsor. Mysteriously, Sprint also seems to be the only carrier with a functional network at NASCAR events. We’ll get Scooby-Doo on the case post-haste.)

Second screen questions

FanVision at NASCAR

In our estimation, the value proposition of FanVision is undeniable at a NASCAR event. Yeah, it roughly doubles the cost of attending for a single person (as it’s typically possible to nab a seat for around $50), but we’d say that the enjoyment and immersion is roughly doubled as well.

FanVision at NASCAR

You need to be a fan to really enjoy the real-time audio and data, of course, but that’s why "fan" is right there in the name. If you’re just attending a live sporting event in order to fill a void in your Saturday or Sunday night, it’s a toss up. We could totally see FanVision pulling you even closer to a sport that you didn’t know you were into, but there’s also a certain amount of understanding required to appreciate the sheer quantity of information that’s at your fingertips.

But, if FanVision is so great, why isn’t it supported at NFL and F1 any longer? And why haven’t we heard anything about expanding into arenas beyond motorsport? It feels like the idea compassion for MLB, for example, which tends to inject a lot of lulls between action events.

FanVision at NASCAR

Part of the challenge is the proliferation of the smartphone. It’s easy to argue that patrons of sporting events already have the hardware in their pocket to do the things that FanVision does. If you show up with an iPhone in hand, what’s the benefit of bringing yet another piece of proprietary hardware? As of now, we can see only two: better battery life, and easier access to a high-speed, flicker-free network stream of information.

FanVision at NASCAR

There’s no question that sporting leagues the world over are spending a lot of resources to enhance the fan experience. Ticket prices are skyrocketing, and marketing departments are pushing dedicated apps, hashtags, etc. to bring fans closer to the teams they favor. It remains to be seen if there’s room in an increasingly mobile world for dedicated hardware.

FanVision at NASCAR

Perhaps FanVision can pivot into an apps and services company that works on the phone you’re already bringing into an arena, but solving the network infrastructure problem won’t be an easy one. Conventional cellular networks struggle mightily in crowds, and even the beefiest of enterprise routers have a tough time handling petabytes of data from tens of thousands of devices crammed within a single stadium.

FanVision at NASCAR

In the here and now, however, FanVision is a no-brainer if you’re a fan of motorsport. Strange as may sound, it’s impressive enough to justify lugging yet another gadget into a venue. Just be sure to do yourself a favor and tune into Team Penkse – those guys are good.

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Review: Dyson Supersonic

Review: Dyson Supersonic

Introduction and Design

Primarily known for products that suck – calm down, we’re talking about vacuums – Dyson has also proven adept at machines that blow, too (hey now, what did we say earlier?), having refined its jet technology on its Airblade hand dryers and Hot + Cool fans.

Now, the airflow innovator has opened itself up to a completely different market, engineering and creating what it claims is one of the most technologically-advanced beauty products ever, with its new Dyson Supersonic hair dryer.

While it’s undeniably one of the most impressive hair dryers we’ve ever seen, the Dyson Supersonic doesn’t come cheap – the high-end device comes with a high-end price, and is only available in Australia on the Dyson website, and at Myer and David Jones stores for AU$699.

In the United Kingdom, the Dyson Supersonic is priced at £300 and is available on the UK Dyson site and at Selfridges.

So the real question is whether or not the added technological fanciness afforded by the Supersonic justifies its hefty price tag.

Dyson Supersonic


Though hair dryers have been around since the late 19th century, consumer models haven’t really changed much since then. In fact, it’s been over 60 years since the last significant evolution in hair dryer design, and that involved putting the motor inside the casing.

In typical handheld hair dryers, a bulky motor sits in the head of the device. This makes them awkwardly top heavy, and the motors themselves have a tendency to be loud, often overheating and burning out.

To remedy this, Dyson spent roughly AU$67 million in research and development on a new kind of dryer, using dozens of prototypes to dry 1,625kms of natural hair tresses over several years until it settled on the Supersonic design it has today.

Dyson Supersonic

So what’s different about it? For starters, Dyson’s engineers have come up with a much smaller and more efficient digital motor, which has the ability to propel 13 litres of air per second. Not only that, it’s moved the motor from the head of the device into the handle, which is why you can see straight down its barrel right through to the other side, much like Dyson’s aforementioned fans.

That’s not to say there isn’t anything fancy going on in the Supersonic’s head; it’s got a microprocessor that monitors temperatures 20 times a second, making sure it never overheats and burns out. Ordinary hair dryers will keep rising in temperature, which is why they give off a burning smell the longer you use them. Thanks to the Supersonic’s microprocessor, the device will actually prevent itself from going over a certain temperature (around 120 degrees Celsius), so you’ll never have to worry about your hair experiencing heat damage.

Dyson Supersonic

One of the Supersonic’s neatest and most convenient design elements is also its simplest – magnetised attachments and nozzles. It’s the kind of smart inclusion which makes it difficult to go back to lesser hair dryers, as it allows you to instantly snap on a diffuser, styling concentrator or smoothing nozzle (all included) without worrying about it falling off.

Inside the box, you’ll also find a non-slip mat and a little rope hanger, so that you can hang the Supersonic from a hook in your preparation area.

Performance and Verdict

Dyson SupersonicThe most immediately noticeable aspect of the device’s performance (and probably the main reason it received the Supersonic name) is that it’s fairly quiet. It’s not absolutely silent or anything – you’ll still hear the powerful whooshing of air – but compared to any other hair dryer, the sound it gives off is much quieter and infinitely less irritating.

Aside from a power switch and a button to instantly turn the Supersonic’s airflow cool, there are two main buttons used to control the device. The first, which has a little picture of a fan on it, scrolls through three different airflow speeds, while the button to its right, which has a red dot on it, allows you to cycle between three heat settings.

The power level on each of these settings is indicated by three LED lights (white lights for power, red lights for heat) right above each button, making it easy to keep track of how powerful and how hot you’ve set the device.

In terms of drying speed, the Supersonic is on par with most devices of its kind, taking around 3-6 minutes to turn wet hair dry, depending on the thickness and length of your hair. Though it doesn’t get as (irresponsibly) hot as cheaper competing dryers, its sheer blowing power makes sure to get you well-coiffed quickly.

It’s important to note that the Dyson Supersonic is a corded product, so while it might’ve been extra impressive to have a cordless model in the same vein as the company’s excellent cordless vacuums, it would also come with significant drawbacks.

The unit would need to be bulkier and heavier to accommodate an in-built battery, and short battery life and long recharge times would make that proposition hardly worth investing in. Most people will be using the Dyson Supersonic in front of mirror anyway, so being tied to the wall is really no big deal.

Dyson Supersonic


Though it’s only got one real function (and one that’s hard to get wrong, at that), we can’t help but overstate just how well it performs that singular task.

The Dyson Supersonic is a pleasure to use, with its perfectly-weighted build, attractive design, easy-to-use settings and quiet-yet-powerful airflow, you really do feel like you’re using a high-end, luxury product.

Admittedly, the Supersonic is incredibly expensive for a hair dryer, costing 2-3 times as much as a professional grade hair dryer from a well-renowned brand like ghd, which are priced at roughly AU$250/£145.

With that said, Dyson execs have suggested that the Supersonic is so well-built, that it should last at least ten years – a much longer lifespan than most other hair dryers. The actual warranty on the device is only two years, however, so that’s not a guarantee set in stone.

Quite frankly, the device’s exorbitant price is its only real drawback. It’s likely going to be out of most people’s price range. However, if you have disposable income and want the best hair dryer you can possibly get, or if you’re a professional hair-stylist, you should look no further than the Dyson Supersonic. It really is the Porsche of hair dryers.

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Review: Dyson Cinetic Big Ball

Review: Dyson Cinetic Big Ball

It’s hard to deny Dyson’s position at the forefront of cutting-edge vacuum technology, with most other vacuum makers regularly playing catchup in an arena that’s been dominated for years by the trendsetting company.

It’s easy to be instantly impressed by Dyson’s manoeuvrable and endlessly convenient stick vacuums, with their impressive suction, lightweight builds and attractive designs – all without the hassle of cables getting in the way. However, cordless vacuums do have their caveats.

Getting 20 minutes of vacuum time from a two-hour charge can suck even more than the device itself, and there are times when you require a more powerful and heavy-duty vacuum solution.

In these situations, Dyson’s new Cinetic Big Ball vacuum is a terrific alternative, offering the quality cleaning experience and reliability that corded vacuums are known for, without many of the usual hang-ups that make people want to go cordless in the first place.


One of the biggest frustrations that comes with using a corded vacuum is that it tends to constantly fall over or tumble as you drag it along behind you.

Granted, on the late-night infomercial scale of annoying first world problems, a ‘vacuum cleaner that constantly tips over’ sits just above the ‘milk carton that explodes in your face when you try to open it’ predicament – it’s nowhere near as big a problem as some would have you believe, though we’d gladly live without it.

To combat this problem, Dyson has developed a ball-shaped vacuum that automatically picks itself back up whenever it falls down. It’s sort of like the vacuum equivalent of the band Chumbawamba; the main difference being that even the Cinetic Big Ball can’t hope to achieve that level of immense suckage.

A clever design, the Big Ball’s spherical array is weighted at its base, creating a low centre of gravity which forces the vacuum back into the upright position whenever it falls over. You can even walk up and kick the Big Ball down, and, short of physically restraining it, it will always roll back into the right position. It’s got a decent cord length, too, allowing you to venture 10.75 metres from your power plug.

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball

Though Dyson vacuums are easier to handle than most, there’s always room for improvement. Typically, vacuum handles are quite rigid, sacrificing manoeuvrability for sturdiness. However, Dyson has given the Cinetic Big Ball an articulated handle that allows for 360° movement, providing a much more comfortable and precise vacuuming experience.

As we’ve come to expect from Dyson vacuums, the Cinetic Big Ball comes with a number of quick release tools for all kinds of vacuuming situations. The entry-level model ($699 / £399.98) comes with a Combination tool for narrow areas, a Musclehead floor tool, and a smaller Stair tool, which lets you vacuum across the length of each step without overhang. If you’re willing to go as high as $999 (£449.99) for the Cinetic Big Ball Animal Pro (great for people suffering from animal fur-related allergies), you’ll also receive a Reach Under tool, a Carbon Fibre Soft Dusting brush, a Swivel Hard Floor tool and a Tangle-Free Turbine tool.

All of this is great, but the real showstopper here is the inclusion of a new Hygienic Dirt Ejector system, which is the kind of welcome addition that makes it hard to go back to the bin-emptying methods of Dyson’s previous vacuums.

On earlier models, collected dirt would constantly find its way into the vacuum’s hard-to-reach crevices, forcing you to either shove your hand into an extremely tight spot, or use a utensil (like a butter knife) to scoop out the built up waste. The Hygienic Dirt Ejector makes this problem a thing of the past, providing a new silicone collar along the inside of the unit which scrapes down from the very top of the bin, making sure that no compressed junk is left behind.

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball

Speaking of its bin, the Cinetic Big Ball also sports a removable barrel that’s 33 percent bigger than Dyson’s previous models.


As was mentioned earlier, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball is the heavy-duty vacuum to use when a cordless stick vacuum won’t cut it. Packing a whopping 250AW of suction power, the Cinetic Big Ball is easily Dyson’s most powerful consumer vacuum – compare that to the cordless Dyson V6’s 28AW of suction power (100AW on Boost mode).

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball

Its Cinetic Cyclone technology, in which a series of cones is used to spin air and separate microscopic dust particles (like dead skin cells, dust mites and other allergens) from the rest of your accumulated waste, is more efficient than ever before.

Normally, this kind of particle pickup would require the filter to be cleaned regularly, however, the Cinetic Big Ball’s particle separation is so fine and microscopic, that there is literally no need to ever clean or replace its filter. This means that the vacuum requires no maintenance whatsoever.

Though it has a lot of grunt under its theoretical hood, its design is what makes the Cinetic Big Ball perform so well. Its round shape prevents it from snagging on the corners of furniture, and you already know what happens when it topples over. Its swivel handle also performs admirably, taking the pressure away from your wrist and forearm so that you can focus on precision control. It’s also got a longer wand than previous models, extendable to 1,250cm, allowing you to access hard-to-reach places.

Admittedly, there were moments where blockage would occur in the back of the vaccum’s head. While the Tangle-Free Turbine tool performed just like its name would imply, the tube behind the brush would occasionally need to be manually unblocked so that vacuuming could continue.


It’s hard to fault Dyson’s Cinetic Big Ball. Its round design and self-pickup functionality takes much of the frustration out of vacuuming, and its articulated handle allows for vacuum control that’s easy on the wrists and forearms.

It’s got a great deal more suction power than Dyson’s cordless vacuums, making it the perfect vacuum for heavy-duty cleaning situations. We also love the fact that its filter never needs to be cleaned or replaced.

Though its vacuum head occasionally needs to be unblocked, and it still needs to be tied to a wall or extension socket to function, the Cinetic Big Ball is just about the best vacuum in its class.

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Review: Mini review: Syncwire 4-port USB wall charger

Review: Mini review: Syncwire 4-port USB wall charger

Sociologists might say that this is the age of the social network but I disagree. This is the age of tangled wires and USB chargers. I have many, and if you’re reading this review you probably do too.

There just aren’t enough plug sockets in the world to charge all our devices these days, and the fixtures and fittings industry is tackling this problem by building USB sockets directly into wall sockets in new homes.

The obvious solution for most people, though, is to buy a USB wall charger with multiple charging points. One such charger is the Syncwire 4-port USB charger plug we have here and we found it to be everything we were promised from the Amazon listing page.

The charger has two 2.4A sockets and two 1A sockets. The 2.4A ones are ideal for charging tablets like the iPad Air 2 or phones with bigger batteries like the Google Nexus 6P. The 1A plugs are there to look after smaller devices like an iPod or smaller Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini.

syncwire 4-port USB wall cahrger

The device itself looks and feels solid. You wouldn’t have a problem believing it cost double the current £12.99 asking price (see below for an exclusive discount). USB cables fit into the ports snugly and the socket itself is small enough to comfortably sit on an extension cable with other devices plugged in either side.

The one minor complaint we have about this charger is that it does not support Samsung’s rapid charging technology. Newer Samsung phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge or the Galaxy Note 5 come with adaptive fast charging plugs that are able to switch to a 9V output in order to charge the batteries on certain devices a lot faster.

The Syncwire, along with every other third party USB charger plug we looked at, only outputs at 5V max. And that means if you buy one of these to replace an adaptive fast charger from Samsung, you won’t be able to charge quite as fast as you otherwise would. It’s still fast, but it’s not quite as rapid.


The Syncwire 4-port USB charger plug is cheap and effective. It does exactly what you ask of it and we’d happily recommend it to anyone looking to condense 4 separate charger plugs down into one. It’s particularly helpful to anyone who travels a lot or wants to go on holiday with one plug socket instead of four.

Update: Syncwire has been in touch to offer TechRadar’s UK readers an extra 15% off this product. Use the code TechRad1 at the Amazon checkout to reduce the price to a fraction over £11.

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The Most Important Ingredient in Your Next Phone Battery Could Be Rice

18tjrcrzcsuj4jpgWe all know how a bowl of rice can save your phone after an unexpected swim, but that’s not all it can do. Before you know it, rice could be a very important ingredient inside all your devices’ batteries. A very important part of any gadget’s lithium-ion battery is a graphite anode. But with all […]

from Gizmodo UK http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2013/07/the-most-important-ingredient-in-your-next-phone-battery-could-be-rice/

A Comfy Throne That Explodes Into Plush Stools To Seat All Your Guests

18tgd07bnat3mjpgA king or queen is nothing without their subjects, so if you’re on the hunt for a comfy chair that’s worthy of your greatness while not leaving everyone else sitting on the floor, the Quartz marks the end of your search. When fully assembled its modular cushions form the perfect nook to bury yourself in […]

from Gizmodo UK http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2013/07/a-comfy-throne-that-explodes-into-plush-stools-to-seat-all-your-guests/

A Massive Glacial Crack Just Made an Iceberg as Big as New York City

18tiz2m2bj5wljpga massive crack in the Pine Island glacier (PIG) in Antarctica has created a massive iceberg—which is as big as New York City. While cracks in glaciers are common—PIG cracked in 2001 and 2007—this one took longer to propagate, which meant that more ice has accumulated by the time giant iceberg broke away. The German […]

from Gizmodo UK http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2013/07/a-massive-glacial-crack-just-made-an-iceberg-as-big-as-new-york-city/