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To start off I would like to address a question that I’ve been asked countless times.  “Does the monitor get that nasty yellow tint?” As I’ve mentioned in my first impressions, I have had no problems with any yellow tinting. My brother’s iMac has a slight yellow tint problem so no worries guys (and girls ;D ) I know what I’m talking about here.  If I open a blank word document and maximize it, it looks white as snow. (Without that yellow stuff you find time to time!)

Samsung SyncMaster SA550 With brightness max

The monitor has a refresh rate of 2ms and to this day I have not noticed once any ghosting problems.  But I have noticed some pixilation lag which I mentioned below in the Macbook Section; it’s more likely to be a graphics card issue rather than a monitor one though.

The LED backlit display has a crisp resolution of 1920×1080 and it is simply a pleasure to work on. ( As cliché as that sounds!) In my first impressions I said that the colors aren’t as vibrant than glossy monitors, while that may be true, I’ve noticed I’ve been watching more movies on this monitor than my glossy Macbook Pro’s. Not just because of size but I have noticed that after a long period of watching movies or shows on any glossy monitor my eyes start to hurt a bit. (My friends HP monitor) But with the Samsung, while it isn’t the most vibrant, it is a great companion monitor to watch movies on.  And I do watch plenty of movies! And whether I’m watching DVDs or simply watching youtube videos the Samsung SA550 gets the job done right.

When it comes to doing work such as photo/video editing this monitor is A-MA-ZING.  I can’t go back to editing on my Macbook Pro’s glossy monitor after using the Samsung for so long– again not because of size—but rather the colors aren’t as accurate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Mac guy and I love the Macbook Pro but when it comes to work the Samsung attached to it just blows it out the water.  At first glance, there isn’t much about the Samsung that separates it from your typical glossy.  However, I do a lot of photo editing and I’ve edited the same picture on the Samsung, the Macbook Pro, and the iMac. Once I’ve actually printed out the photo, I can easily say that the Samsung had the much more accurate colors; hence my opinion that the Samsung was the best to edit photos on.

NOTE: I am using an HDMI cable with this monitor which is NOT included in the box. Definitely get an HDMI cable if you’re planning to get this monitor for the best results.

I understand that looks don’t change but I had to bring it up again. As with a lot of new products that you buy the first impressions are always, “This machine looks incredible”. However about a few weeks later the looks seem to lose its lust. And I usually fall victim to this of course. However when it comes to this monitor I must say that it has not lost its appeal. It just sits nice and sleek next to my Macbook Pro and I CONSTANTLY get reminded by friends and family of how “Pro” it looks.

Setting up the monitor is a breeze. It has a few pieces that pop together in place. (Pieces are pretty much self-explanatory) The entire feeling hallow argument that I stated in my first impressions actually no longer bother me at all. I go to electronic stores often and I can say that as of 2011 a lot, if not all Samsung monitors, have the same hallowed feel to it.

Keep in mind that the actual display is plastic. (Including the what looks like a glass border around the display)

I stated in my first impressions that I didn’t like how the touch sensitive buttons felt unresponsive. I’ve tried tampering with it daily JUST to see if my opinions on it would change: it hasn’t.  I really never need to use them but for the sake of having my final impressions of it I had to give it some time.  I like physical buttons like my friends HP monitor. It feel faster to navigate through menus on my friends HP monitor with the physical buttons. On my Samsung I feel as if I have to be gentle with it to get the touch sensitive buttons to register. While not a huge deal it does slow you down. And of course I’m sure a lot of us won’t be changing the monitors’ settings hourly so it wouldn’t be a big deal regardless.

I think this monitor is a great deal. While it is a tad bit pricey at about 250 dollars, you do get what you pay for.  I know you can find many monitors online for a great bargain but don’t stump this monitor out yet. It’s hard to explain but you won’t notice how nice this monitor really is until you’ve used it for a long period of time and then try out another.  You not only appreciate it more but you also  really get the sense just how nice and accurate colors are. Thumbs up to Samsung!

Note: When using it in mirrored mode I did notice the resolution didn’t fit the Samsung’s monitor well.  So I had to use it in clamshell mode. Simply close your Macbook and use a mouse or keyboard to wake the machine up. (While the lid is still closed) And there you have it; the Macbook Pro on your Samsung SA550 with the monitors crisp maxed out resolution.

For those curious about the actual performance of this monitor being attached to the baseline 2011 Macbook Pro 13” look no further.  A lot of people have asked me whether the Intel HD 3000 was capable enough to run an external monitor smoothly. And my answer?  It works PERFECETLY fine when doing your basic task.  No lag, no ghosting, nothing.  However, I have noticed when I am doing work in Adobe Illustrator the Samsung Monitor pixelates. When I hover over the dock, a simple task such as adding a watermark to our TechShift pictures will cause the monitor to pixelate for a moment, which gets pretty annoying quickly.  (ONLY THE DOCK GETS PIXELATED) And yes, without the monitor there is no lag or pixilation with any of my software.

If you’re not on a tight budget then this monitor is definitely worth considering.  There isn’t too much to complain about. It is able to connect to a computer or laptop just fine. It’s built, while it’s not the best,  isn’t too far behind from what other monitors have to offer. I have enjoyed watching movies and videos on this monitor but I’ve even more so enjoyed more editing on it. And, while the touch sensitive buttons aren’t my ideal, at the end of the day I must consider that this product is a monitor and it does exactly what it needs to do without any compromise to the actual display. So if you’re in the market, check out the Samsung SyncMaster SA550. The TechShift team and I definitely recommend it.

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Battlefield: Hardline Review Impressions: Crossing The Thin Blue Line

Battlefield Hardline, a cops vs. robbers spin on the military shoot ’em ups, actually shakes up the series’ tried-and-true formula so much that it barely even feels like Battlefield anymore. 

A bit of bookkeeping up front: We were invited to attend a Battlefield Hardline review event at EA’s offices in Redwood City last week, but as a rule we don’t attend gaming review events. As such, we waited until we got a review code that I could play in the comfort of my own apartment.

And we did get that code! Unfortunately, the PC multiplayer servers were deserted the entire weekend, so I have played 0.0 hours of review-ready Battlefield Hardline multiplayer (though you can read my beta impressions here). It’s not really a huge deal because after the complete mess that was Battlefield 4 at launch, we wouldn’t have felt comfortable slapping a score on this thing anyway until we saw how the servers held up.

I did play Hardline‘s singleplayer campaign though, and I enjoyed it. Here are my thoughts, if you’re interested in the solo side of the game.

Heat

My biggest problem with the Hardline multiplayer beta was that it felt like scaled-back Battlefield. You can cover the military’s olive drab with as much blue and black paint as you want, but at the end of the day Hardline‘s multiplayer still felt like I was storming compounds in Fallujah or at the very best reenacting the chaos of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‘s US-invasion storyline. Just, you know, without tanks.

Hardline‘s singleplayer campaign is an entirely different beast. You play the part of Nick Mendoza, a rookie cop who lands in Miami’s Vice department. Yes, like the TV show. And that’s important, because Hardline is itself taking cues from TV. The entire campaign is set up like an episodic TV show, right down to a Netflix-style “Next Episode” overlay in between missions.

Mendoza quickly discovers that not everything in his department is entirely on-the-level. A name keeps cropping up: Stoddard a.k.a. Sergeant Stoddard a.k.a. your former/temporary partner upon arriving in Vice. Stoddard is a brash hothead who’s quick to go for his gun, but is he dirty? And is anyone else dirty?

“No way! The guy from House of Cards is in this?”

But Hardline is fun. It nails the cop-show feel, with some great acting by Kelly Hu, Benito Martinez, Adam Harrington, and more people who you’ll go “Oh wow, that’s the guy from [insert TV show/movie here].” The characters here are two-dimensional archetypes, sure, but they’re well-written archetypes. And honestly, well-acted too. It’s crazy that when LA Noire launched, the facial tech in that game was so amazing for the time. Now, regular ol’ games like Hardline are hitting that same level of fidelity.

Or this one, of the Los Angeles skyline:

I actually sent that last one to a friend who lives in Los Angeles, I was so excited. “Look, you can see downtown LA! And you can see Hollywood! And if you pan over you can see Santa Monica! And they’re all in the right place!” I spent more time than I’m willing to admit just admiring backdrops in Hardline, be it downtown Miami or Los Angeles or a sunset over the Everglades. It’s all beautiful.

Pacifist run

Which brings us to how Hardline plays. Honestly this is the most interesting part: It plays nothing like Battlefield. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to.

You hear that? Battlefield Hardline‘s singleplayer campaign is not a shooter. If you play it as a shooter, I guarantee you’ll be bored. Encounters often include just a handful of enemies. Even large encounters drop in two-dozen guys at most. This is not the non-stop slaughter you’d expect.

Did I mention the game has a “Press E to pay respects” joke?

And the game doesn’t reward you for being quick with a gun either. Over the course of the game you’ll unlock new weapons and gadgets with your “Expert Rank,” and the only way you accrue experience is through non-lethal action—either arrests, non-lethal melee takedowns, or taser stuns.

So the surprise is that Battlefield Hardline plays like a stealth game, in its optimum form. You can approach up to three enemies at a time, flash your badge to order them to freeze, then put each of them in handcuffs. If you’re spotted while making an arrest, or just spotted sneaking around, the whole base goes on alert and it turns into a shootout, nullifying any experience you might gain from the area.

The whole “Do what you want” idea culminates in the last level, which is (I kid you not) Far Cry. Or like very small Far Cry. You’re on an island, there are enemy outposts, and you can either skirt around them entirely or go in stealthy and arrest the whole crew (with your apparently infinite supply of handcuffs) or just run in guns blazing and blow everything to bits.

Seriously. It’s Far Cry.

Another fun aspect is the evidence collection mechanic, used to solve Case Files. Each mission in Hardline has documents or other items scattered around that pertain to different backstory elements. It’s not hard—your scanner will lead you right to each piece of evidence, if you just pay attention to it. It’s definitely not as involved as even LA Noire‘s simplistic evidence-gathering. But it’s a great, actually-interesting implementation of collectibles. I ended up snagging all of them.

Plus, this enemy is playing Dead Space:

I laughed.

Bottom line

Hardline‘s campaign is a great stealth-lite game packaged with the big-budget presentation of a prime-time TV show—including some incredible musical moments that rival anything Rockstar’s done with Grand Theft Auto/Red Dead Redemption. It’s a weird mix that for some reason worked perfectly on me, though I admit it’s probably not for everyone. if you go into this wanting a Battlefield game? I guarantee you’re probably going to come away disappointed. A shooter, this is not, and if you try to play it as a shooter you’re going to find a pretty short, boring campaign.

I’d urge you to give it a try though, and engage with it on its terms—especially if you’re buying Hardline for the multiplayer component anyway. And that’s not something I say about many shooter campaigns.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Review

Our Verdict

By no means the perfect combination of a smartphone and zoom lens, the K Zoom isn’t half bad. It’s capable of great photos and videos in the right conditions. This isn’t a device for everyone, but if the “zoom camera with a built-in smartphone” concept appeals to you and you don’t mind the size and weight, it’s currently your best option.

Smartphone cameras are ever improving, but they lack one crucial feature: a zoom. Not so with the Galaxy K Zoom. This Android smartphone has a built-in 10x zoom lens. Find out if this unusual marriage is successful in our Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review.

The concept of bolting a huge zoom lens to the back of a smartphone isn’t new. In fact, Samsung has already tried a couple of times in the past with the Galaxy Camera and Galaxy S4 Zoom. Both were bad products and were arguably the worst of both worlds instead of being the best. They were underpowered, and their cameras weren’t particularly good.

Clearly, then, Samsung is determined to make the marriage work third time around with the new Galaxy K Zoom. It takes a smartphone, which looks like a hybrid of the S4 and S5, and shoehorns in a 10x optical zoom lens.

Software-wise, Android KitKat is order of the day as is Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. It’s all very familiar if you already have a Samsung smartphone: there’s S Voice, the Samsung app store and Dropbox pre-installed.

Galaxy K Zoom: hardware and specs

If you’re considering a K Zoom then you’re clearly more serious about photography than the average smartphone owner. So, the important specifications concern the camera side of things.

The lens zooms from a nice wide-angle 24mm (equivalent) to 240mm, or 4.4-44mm in real terms. Its maximum aperture ranges from f/3.1 to f/6.3. The 20.7Mp sensor is the type you’d find in a budget compact camera, measuring the usual 1/2.3in. That’s much bigger than the normal smartphone camera sensor, though.

It can shoot 1080p video at 30 or 60 frames per second, and there’s the same choice at 720p. Stabilisation is optical rather than electronic.

ISO ranges from 100 to 3200, and the continuous shooting mode runs at a claimed 3fps when using autofocus.

There are dual microphones, one at each end of the phone, and a slimline flash and AF assist LED on the rear. You get a dedicated dual-stage shutter button, so it’s possible to lock focus and then recompose your shot.  Using the touchscreen you can choose separate focus and exposure points.

For the smartphone, there’s a 4.8in Super AMOLED screen with a 1280×720 resolution. Processing power comes from a combination of a 1.3GHz quad-core chip and a dual-core 1.7GHz processor.

It’s paired with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. As you’d expect, you can also pop in a microSD card to add up to 64GB extra – something you’ll need to store lots of photos and HD video.

Galaxy K Zoom: Video review

Galaxy K Zoom: Design and build

Inevitably, you’ll have to make some compromises if you want a whacking great zoom lens in your smartphone. At 200g, the K Zoom isn’t particularly light and although it’s impressively thin for a camera, its 20.2mm thickness means it’s not going to slip easily into a trouser pocket.

There’s no finger grip as with the old S4 Zoom, and the dimpled plastic panel unclips to reveal the removable battery. The fact it’s removable is essential since you’ll want to carry at least one spare around with you on special occasions to get through a whole day. Shooting lots of video and photos drains the cell quicker than you’d imagine.

From the front, you wouldn’t suspect anything was unusual about this smartphone as it looks just like Samsung’s other recent models.

There’s a silver band around the edge and a physical home button flanked by two touch-sensitive buttons. The off-centre front camera has a mere 2Mp sensor, so for hi-res selfies, you’ll have to use the self-timer and balance the K Zoom somewhere suitable.

Galaxy K Zoom: performance Screen

Apart from the screen resolution, which is lower than we’d like, the K Zoom has a great screen. Colours pop on the AMOLED panel, and viewing angles are great. Watching videos is a particular treat on the 16:9 screen, as it composing photos and shooting videos – you can easily see whether they’re in focus or not.

Processor

The ‘Hexa core’ Exynos 5 processor sounds better than it is. For the most part, Android is nice and smooth but during our testing there was the occasional stutter when flipping between home screens and in apps.

Web pages load quickly, and it was quick to zoom around Google maps. Gaming performance is acceptable, with 24.5fps in the GFXBench T-Rex test, but the new Manhattan test shows the Galaxy K Zoom’s limit: it ran at just 4fps.

We also saw an average of 909ms in Sunspider 1.0.2, and 2140  in Geekbench 3 (871 for the single-core test).

Photo and video

What you’re probably more interested in is the K Zoom’s photo and video quality.  Overall, it’s not bad at all, especially when compared with the current batch of mid-range (and even flagship) smartphones.

Shots are generally well exposed and sharp, but you’ll need a steady hand to avoid blur at full zoom. The OIS system does its job and kept most of our telephoto shots free from blur, and autofocus is quick, too. Plus, the face detection and tracking system works well.

The wide-angle position allows you to capture much more than most smartphones, so it’s great not only for landscapes but also indoor group photos where you can’t move any further back.

Here’s the difference between wide-angle and full zoom:

Here’s what the image above looks like when viewing the actual pixels 1:1 (a 100 percent crop):

This is a 100 percent crop of the K Zoom’s photo:

Photos are ideal for sharing on social media, but they don’t stand up to close scrutiny in Photoshop. Look at the 100 percent crops below and there’s an obvious lack of detail. The noise-reduction system is the most likely culprit: it does a good job of suppressing noise, but at the expense of fine detail, resulting in smudgy skin tones and brickwork, for example.

It takes a couple of seconds to fire up the camera app when the K Zoom is off and locked, and it’s a shame you can’t launch the camera app using the shutter button. Instead you have to press the sleep/wake button or home button, then swipe the camera icon. It will be fine for most occasions, but don’t expect instantaneous DLSR-like responsiveness.

The screen makes for a great viewfinder except in bright sunshine when it’s difficult to see because of the glare.

The camera app itself is easy to use and allows you to choose picture and movie sizes. By default, photos are taken with a 16:9 aspect ratio which looks fine on the screen, but it cuts the resolution to 15Mp. It’s better to go for the full 20.7Mp resolution which has a 4:3 aspect.

Disabled by default is a manual mode which gives you control over shutter speed, aperture, EV correction and ISO, but there’s no white balance control. More useful would have been aperture- and shutter-priority modes, but we suspect few people would use these and the manual mode anyway.

There’s an unusual Pro Suggest mode where you can choose from presets saved by other users, such as ‘vivid colours’ or ‘cross process’. The clever part is that the five presets are suggested only after you’ve half-pressed the shutter and the scene has been analysed. Whether you’ll find it useful is debatable, but it can be a nice timesaver as you won’t necessarily have to apply effects after taking the photo.

Video is decent enough, too. Detail levels are good, and footage is sharp (there’s definitely some software sharpening happening in-camera, though). It isn’t as good as a dedicated HD camcorder, but it’s unfair to compare the K Zoom to one.

Clips look much better than the average smartphone video though and you get the benefit of being able to zoom during filming and get much closer to the action. A niggle is that the audio temporarily switches from stereo to mono when you zoom in or out. This could be a bug – we’re yet to hear back from Samsung on that. It’s good to see a quiet zoom mode which slows down the motor to prevent it making unwanted noise on your videos. Audio – often an overlooked aspect of video – is more than acceptable.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: photo gallery

The image below is a 100 percent crop of the photo above:

The image below is a 100 percent crop of the photo above:

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: bottom line

As with the Galaxy S4 Zoom and Galaxy Camera before it, the K Zoom is a niche product. It’s for those who want better-quality photos from their smartphone, and it delivers on that front. The mere fact it has a 10x zoom makes all the difference between a usable photo and a blurry dot in the when you can’t physically move closer to your subject, such as when you’re at the zoo, for example. The problem is, those are the occasions when you’d probably take a better camera along with you anyway.

There’s also the problem that the K Zoom is all about compromise. The extra weight and bulk is simply annoying when you’re not taking photos, and battery life is a worry if you’ll be taking photos and video all day long. Currently it isn’t even possible to buy spare batteries for the K Zoom, at least not online from the usual retailers.

If you’re one of the few that wants a smartphone with a decent camera and an optical zoom, the K Zoom isn’t a bad choice. Unlike the Lumia 1020, which runs Windows Phone 8, the Samsung runs Android so you won’t have to compromise on the choice of apps.

It’s a much better combination of a smartphone and camera than the S4 Zoom, even if both the smartphone and camera could be better.

 See also: the 32 best smartphones you can buy in 2014

Specs Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Specs

Android 4.4.2 KitKat

4.8in Super AMOLED display (1280×720), 306ppi

Samsung Exynos 1.3GHz Quad-Core + 1.7GHz Dual-Core CPU

2GB RAM

8GB internal storage

MicroSD up to 64GB

20.7Mp rear camera

Video recording at 1920×1080@60fps

Wi-Fi: Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n

Bluetooth 4.0

GPS

NFC

MHL

Micro SIM

Supports 3G and 4G LTE

2430mAh battery

71x138x20.2mm

200g

Samsung M8 Monitor Review: Two

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The Samsung M8 monitor’s design

The Samsung M8 looks like a cousin of Apple’s 24-inch iMac or its high-end 27-inch Studio Display. It comes in four colors—warm white, spring green, sunset pink, and daylight blue, with the latter three colors costing you an extra $30. The front of the 16:9 UHD display includes small bezels and a thin display that make it as compact as possible for a display with this much screen real estate. 

The back of the display features white plastic embossed with a houndstooth-like pattern and a raised “Samsung” logo, a port for the removable SlimFit camera, two USB-C ports (including one that supports 65W charging for a connected device), and a mini HDMI port. The M8 also comes with a power brick with power cable, a mini HDMI to HDMI cable, a USB-C to USB-C cable, the M8’s slim white remote that charges via USB-C, and the SlimFit camera.

I received the white color based on personal preference. I stand by that decision since the green, pink, and blue colors are only featured on the front display and stand. The monitor’s included stand can’t pivot, but it does feature a 5-inch height adjustment and a decent amount of tilt, letting you shift the screen from -15 degrees to 2.5 degrees. 

A view from behind the M8’s display. Amanda Reed

The 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR10+ display includes adaptive picture and sound, which changes the 400 cd/㎡ brightness and volume based on your surroundings. Combined with the back-facing speakers—which are a little lacking in bass but do well enough for the standard listener—casual gaming and watching TV are rich in sound and color. 

The M8 also is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Bixby for voice controls and can be used as an Internet-of-Things hub for your smart devices, allowing you to control them all using the M8. 

Getting started with the Samsung M8 monitor

As with most monitors, setup is simple, but there are a few extra steps beyond what you might be used to. Physically, all you need to do is pop the lightweight display onto the heavy stand, plug in the power adapter, and turn it on. Then you will have to make a Samsung account to set up the M8, even if you’re just using it as a monitor at the moment. Additionally, you can only set it up using your smartphone or remote control—no plugging-and-going here—and you have to enter your ZIP code and what room the device will be located in. This is most likely to use the M8 as a control hub for your homes’ IoT devices but could read as skeevy to the privacy-inclined. 

Using the monitor can sometimes prove frustrating. If you find yourself thinking, “am I dumb, or do I have to read the directions?” you won’t be alone. Although the included Samsung TV Plus app is great for free television, It always greets you with “South Beach Tow” or an animal documentary when turning it on—including if you’re just using it as a monitor. And learning how to turn this off required a crazy amount of internet searching to find out it’s buried under what felt like 14 levels in the app settings. Although the remote control features lots of preset buttons for streaming, I made between 5-7 button presses on average to pop around to other apps. Then I found out you can use voice commands to more easily switch to PC.

The Samsung M8 monitor’s features

Although Samsung boasts of being able to use the display as a standalone computer, the Tizen operating system can’t keep up with the day-to-day. I could log in to my email via the web, but Tizen’s user interface is too clunky for regular use. 

The M8 boasts built-in Microsoft 365, but it’s extremely slow. I tried powering up Word, went to grab a La Croix from the fridge, and was still waiting for it to load by the time I got back. Without a separate computer, or DeX loaded onto a smartphone or tablet, the M8 can only be used for casual searching with Tizen. 

As someone living in a 600-square-foot apartment, the M8 took up almost all of my 40-inch desk space. VESA compatibility, which the M8 lacks, would have fixed that with the help of a monitor arm or wall mount. It’s worth noting that there are third-party monitor adapters you can purchase to give the M8 VESA compatibility. I popped on a video call using Google Meet, and the face tracking feature didn’t work, as I realized it only works in Google Duo. The 1080p camera, which only made my office-bedroom look decent, couldn’t pivot down enough for me to be seen. 

The Samsung M8’s SlimFit camera comes with a magnetic cover that snaps on the back when in use. Amanda Reed

When I put the M8 in my living room to see how it works as a standalone TV, I noticed it’s truly made for watching at your desk. At 32 inches, it’s a little too small to place on a TV stand and watch from a couch more than 3 feet away. However, up close the screen (featuring a 3000:1 contrast ratio and 99% sRGB coverage) and sound were adequate. I watched “Russian Doll” on Netflix and didn’t feel I was sitting in the dark when watching night scenes. And Natasha Lyonne’s signature rasp was clear, but not astounding. The M8’s remote can be used as a universal remote—something I found out the hard way by turning on my regular TV, which was behind the M8. 

I also used the M8 to get my zen on thanks to the YouTube channel “Yoga With Adriene.” I got to the video I wanted to watch quickly enough using the remote’s voice detection, but it would have been more accurate if I typed it in. It would have taken me longer, but the voice detection can get tripped up … and don’t even try searching for “capybara” and expect success.

Connecting Bluetooth devices is simple, but I had to purchase a Bluetooth mouse to use the M8 as a standalone computer, as it would not read the USB receiver plugged into my multiport adapter. You can only use the remote to control the home screen and computer volume even if you have a mouse connected, and there is no button that automatically switches between TV and display capabilities, which would have saved at least 10 button presses. You can use Bixby or Alexa to switch to a PC, but I’m surely not the first M8 user who doesn’t use their voice to control their devices.

If you own a MacBook, the Samsung monitor pairs incredibly well, which was a welcome surprise. It supports AirPlay, albeit with lag on the M8 display screen. When plugged in using the M8’s included USB-C to USB-C cable, I did have to adjust the settings so my M8 desktop view would not be comically small. 

It’s easy to put a keyboard under the monitor and you can realistically place your laptop underneath. My compact Logitech K380 was easy to pair and use, and larger keyboards shouldn’t be a problem when it comes to fit. I tucked my MacBook Air below the display or off to the side, with the long USB-C to USB-C cable easily connecting the two.

Although it works great as a separate monitor and as a TV in a pinch, trying to use the TV function and the display at the same time in Multi-View is not consistent between features. I couldn’t look at a webpage using Tizen and access streaming apps comfortably at the same time. It was possible while using AirPlay, but it’s still not a seamless experience. Perfecting this could be an incredibly useful feature for those who stay focused by watching a Netflix show in the background while working, or for those who want to look at a walkthrough guide online while playing a game on their console. 

The M8’s remote features buttons for popular streaming services, but could benefit from an input/source button. Amanda Reed

So, who should buy the Samsung M8 monitor?

The M8 functions better if you live in a place with space for a proper desk set-up. It’s too small to use as a standalone TV in the living room and too large to fit on a small desk with a separate laptop. If you really need one device, the M8 could save you some space. However, you’re not saving much by getting this combo device. This 32-inch Samsung monitor plus this very basic 4K Samsung TV  is only $122 more expensive than the M8’s current $599.99 price tag. 

If dorm desk space allows for it, the M8 could be a great option for college students. It’s a great external monitor to use for a big research project, with enough sound and visuals for unwinding with some reality TV. I’m not sure how useful the monitor is for the work-from-home crowd Samsung is trying to woo here, considering some companies will send you a monitor as part of the job. 

Although this display has some quirks, don’t discount the M8 completely. It’s a great 4K display and gets the job done for streaming. However, trying to watch a show while surfing the internet at the same time is difficult. If the company makes this more seamless and includes an improved Tizen OS in the follow-up device, the Samsung M8 monitor could score a home run on the smart TV-meets-display concept. 

Review: Snapchat Spectacles — Early Impressions Of The Social Network’s First Device

Snapchat has sold branded beach towels and ghost backpacks for a while now, but their first real foray into the hardware space launched yesterday: Snapchat Spectacles. As seemingly hipster spy glasses, this device aims to keep you in the moment while allowing you to capture video of whatever you’re viewing to share with friends and family later on.

Yesterday, we managed to grab a pair of Snapchat Spectacles from their only point-of-sale in Venice, CA…

This is the kind of device that warrants an initial-impressions review and a lengthier review after a few weeks of usage. Here’s the former.

Buying the device

Rather than going for the more traditional online or brick-and-mortar approaches, Snapchat is selling the Spectacles exclusively in a way no other hardware company would do: via unique vending machines, called “Bots”.

Without any prior announcement, the @Spectacles account yesterday tweeted out the first location of a Bot – less than 100 feet away from the original Snapchat HQ on the Venice Boardwalk.

I arrived about an hour after the Bot had started dispensing Spectacles and they had already sold out, but a van had arrived to refill the machine with new ones.

At first, customers were able to buy five or even more for themselves, which meant the line moved very slowly. Eventually, the machine updated and only allowed for two per person. I was about 50th in line so it took about two hours to get to the front of the line.

The machine itself has three buttons – one for each color variation of the Spectacles. Pressing on one of the colors shows you a video feed of yourself with the chosen Spectacles hovering over your eyes so you can see what it’ll look like. If you like what you see, you insert your credit card and the device is dispensed in the Bot’s “mouth”.

You now have $129+tax less, and the Spectacles are in your hands. The entire experience is definitely more hype-inducing and branded compared to walking into a Best Buy and finding it among all the other devices. Snap Inc gets to control the entire experience.

What’s in the box?

The “box” itself looks like a tennis ball container: a clear, circular, plastic tube. Inside, you’ll find a snazzy-looking charging cable, the charging case, and the Spectacles stored within the charging case.

The case charges up the Spectacles when you place them in and ensure the charging contact points meet, with a little assistance to the magnets that hold them in place. On the side of the case, there’s a button that will show how much charge is left on the case – like the good ol’ days of the MacBook.

The USB cord can charge the case or the device directly. If you’re already tired of plugging in several devices to charge at night, your apathy might set in with yet another device. Now to see if it’s worth it…

A walk-through of the devices

At first glance, these look like regular plastic sunglasses when you’re wearing them. However, the two front facing cameras give it away. Around the perimeter of the left camera is a loop of small lights that spin around when you are recording a video or when displaying the battery life. At the top of the device is one single button.

The small form factor of the electronics and battery mean the Spectacles can fold up – and reveal the charging contact points behind the left hinge.

Initial setup

The Spectacles pair with your phone via Bluetooth. To hook them up, you put the Spectacles on, open up the Snapchat app to view your snapcode, and press the (only) button on the top of the device. The app guides you through the rest of the Bluetooth pairing process.

Using Spectacles

The device only has one button on the left. Press it once to start recording a 10 second video, press it again to keep recording beyond the ten seconds, or hold the button down to stop the recording early. To view the battery life on the device, you can tap the side to shake the accelerometer and the device shows you an indicator of how much juice is left.

While recording, you’ll see a small white circle in the corner of your eye while the rest of the world sees the spinning light loop on the front. The light starts flashing when it’s nearing the end of the recording and disappears when it’s done.

Vertical video syndrome meets its match

The videos taken by the Spectacles aren’t landscape or portrait. They’re circular. When a Spectacles video is viewed in the app, you can tilt your phone to view the video in different angles.

When the video is saved to your camera roll, the entire ‘circle’ is placed onto a white background.

Initial impressions

For a $130 device … wow. This thing packs a punch into a small package and this doesn’t seem like the child of a social network. The entire setup experience is swift and easy to understand, the lack of on/off button makes it seem like regular sunglasses that just so happen to record a video when you press a button, and the charging case makes it so this thing can last for a good while.

Let’s talk video quality. It automatically imports SD versions of your videos, and you have to connect to the Wi-Fi network it creates if you want to import HD videos. This… takes a while. But the SD videos aren’t too shabby. The video quality is relatively good in natural light situations, but low light situations or indoor lighting makes it look like a terrible spy cam video. Wondering why these are sunglasses instead of regular glasses? My theory is that Snap used this as a workaround for the low-light quality issues by encouraging outdoor use in general.

How about the battery life? This is a device that’s only on for a few seconds every once in a while then goes back to sleep the rest of the time. I went for a 30-minute bike ride, took about twenty 10-second videos, and the battery drained about 10% or so. So the tech seems solid. But then there’s the biggest question of them all… Why?

Why use Spectacles rather than just using your phone? In short, the goal of Spectacles is to keep you in the moment and two-handed while allowing you to capture what’s happening in front of you. For me, it means I can record cool things while still maintaining control of my bike. The Spectacles also give you near-instant access to a camera, rather than having to take out your phone and launch the camera.

So far, I’m a big fan. But time will tell – our more in-depth review in the future will be a better indicator of the longevity of this device. Check out more hands-on photos below, and stay tuned for additional thoughts!

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Samsung Space Monitor Review: Desk Friendly Screen

Our Verdict

The Space Monitor looks stylish and takes up very little space on the desk. However, the support arm has many limitations, and it comes at a relatively high price of this product when compared with other 4K VA panels. 

There was a time when 4K resolution, 100% sRGB colour coverage and VA technology were noteworthy enough for any screen, but none of these things is the big selling point of the Samsung Space Monitor. Instead, the pitch here is an integrated support solution that frees up desk space and allows better management of a working area for other purposes.

Therefore confusingly, this is as much about when you are not using it, rather than when you are.

Price

The Space Monitor starts at £349 in the UK and $399 in the US if you’re happy with the smaller 27in model (S27R750). Then there’s a 32in option (S32R750) at £439  direct from Samsung, and it can be found for $469 in the USA, having recently seen a price drop from $499.

That cost puts it above the budget 4K displays, but less than those designed specifically for gaming. However, you can find the monitor at Amazon UK and Amazon US starting at a more reasonable £279/$369 making it more attractive.

Many competitors are offering a 4K VA technology panel for less than Samsung are asking for the larger 32in model, which we’ve tested here.

The AOC U3277PWQU is £449/$379 and has a USB hub. ViewSonic VX3211-4K-MHD is £349/$399, with three inputs. And, LG offers the LG 32UD60-B for just $349 with an adjustable height stand and AMD FreeSync.

Samsung also makes the AMD FreeSync enabled LU32J590UQNXZA, selling it for $369.

Design & Build

Samsung has a good reputation for sleek and stylish design, and the Space Monitor doesn’t contradict those conventions.

The VA technology panel technology used in it has enabled one of the smallest borders on the top and sides of any screen we’ve reviewed, and only the bottom has a strip wide enough to place a readable logo. At 26mm it is also very thin front to back. So narrow that it doesn’t allow for the inclusion of speakers or an internal power supply, regrettably.

The key selling point isn’t its overall elegance, but the integrated support arm that Samsung designed for it.

At one end it screws to the back of the Space Monitor just below the input ports, and at the other, it has a vice-like assembly designed to grip the edge of a desk. If you have a desk that isn’t thicker than 9cm (3.54 inches), this support holds the screen vertically about 18.5 cm off the desk, and the balancing foot sticks out just 10cm from the edge.

The support has two joints allowing the screen to come both down and forward, necessitating that if you want the screen lower it also must come towards you. There is no twist or pivot movement, and the S32R750 has no VESA mounting holes should you need either of those options.

What it does include is two tracks that allow cabling to run unseen to the back of the monitor, and Samsung includes a special combined HDMI and power line that fits one of the two channels in the support arm. The other slot is for a DisplayPort Mini 1.2 input, but no cable was included for that.

First, a few words of warning about deployment. We’d recommend that you attach the support and cabling before placing it on a table, and when you do that pull the desk well away from the wall so you can lift it into place from the opposite direction.

If you try to reach over the desk and attach it from the front the likelihood of back injury seems dramatically increased, and you won’t be able to hold the assembly perpendicular and tighten the clamp.

The screen and support combined weigh 7kg, and that might not seem much until you try to hold a naturally unbalanced object at arm’s length with one arm while reaching behind it with the other to tighten the clamp.

Once it’s clamped, you can push the table back against a wall, although you’ll always have roughly 10mm of support arm keeping it from going entirely flush to the vertical surface – wall or otherwise.

A good choice the designers made was to include a simple to operate joystick for operating the OSD. Although given that the panel could be resting on the desk surface, using buttons wasn’t an option.

The OSD has a quick access level where you can set brightness, contrast and Eye Saver Mode, and an extended menu system where you can customise the settings more. There isn’t any colour temperature or gamma controls, an omission that fits with the general use thinking behind this design.

Specs & Features

We’ve talked plenty about the support arm so far, but the Space Monitor sports a high-quality panel that can’t be ignored. Note that we’ve tested the 32in model here which has slightly different specs to the smaller 27in option.

This monitor uses a VA technology panel that has a decent colour gamut, excellent viewing angles and reasonable response times.

Natural resolution is 3840×2160 with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and as the product number suggests it is 32in corner to corner. The quoted brightness 250cd/m2 and a static contrast ratio of 2,500:1.

This all adds up to a specification that doesn’t make the S32R750 ideally suited to graphics professionals or gamers, putting it firmly in the useful-for-most-things category.

The very high resolution is good for those working on large documents, and the response time is low enough that you can play games on it. Although as it only supports up to a 60Hz refresh rate on 1080p resolutions or higher, most serious gamers wouldn’t consider it.

Our DataColor calibration analysis threw up some interesting information that showed that the S32R750 has a slightly better screen than even Samsung claims, in certain areas.

For example; the real static contrast is closer to 1100:1, but 100% brightness is 322.8cd/m2. And, the tone response is excellent.

If the panel has a weakness, it relates to the uniformity of the brightness across the panel. The luminosity varies between 11-14% in the corners, being the brightest in the screen centre. Oddly given this scope, the colour uniformity is very good, with a variation from optimal of 4.2 at the top left, a less everywhere else.

Even with the brightness bias to the centre, this is a good quality display that most people would find perfectly acceptable for home or office work.

Verdict

We’d contest that this screen is 10% about the panel and 90% about the support arm. As you might reasonably expect with one of the largest manufacturers of thin display panels, the resolution and colour gamut of this one is top notch. With the possible exception of gamers, many users would appreciate a screen and support like this one.

However, the elegance of the support does mask some major limitations that other support systems don’t have.

For example; there is no rotation other than tilt. Therefore, you need to mount the S32R750 exactly in line with the seat location, as you can’t angle it to face you.

Also, being able to pull the screen towards you and rest it on the desk is nice, but Samsung didn’t put any cushioning projections on the underside to protect it. We think this tilted option for the screen would have made more sense had it been touch-enabled, but it isn’t.

And, while Samsung thought long and hard about making monitor supports with the smallest possible footprint, they entirely ignored the other major space occupying components of computing; the mouse and keyboard.

Without a USB hub, the Space Monitor can’t get these off the desk, reducing the impact of what area the screen recovers for you. If the design had a hub, and some means to easily clip a screen and mouse on it, then it would be significantly more effective at saving space.

We should also mention that without speakers these will probably be added to the desktop as an accessory, further undermining the objective of this design.

Everyone else would probably be better off with the best 4K VA panel they can afford and a support arm that can twist and swivel for portrait mode, and even has a shelf for the keyboard to be lifted away with the screen.

Specs Samsung Space Monitor: Specs

Wide Screen 27in or 31.5in

2560×1440 or 3840 x 2160 Resolution

VA Display Technology

16:9 Aspect Ratio

4ms Response Time (GtG)

Viewing Angle (CR?10) : 178°(H)/178°(V)

Maximum Refresh: 60Hz

Ports: HDMI 2.0 x 1, Mini-Display Port 1.2 x 1

Brightness: 250 cd/m2

Static Contrast (Quoted): 2,500:1

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