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Optoma UHD50X Review: Bring the Movie Theater Home

By Parker Hall
The company's latest consumer projector looks better than ever and even offers a 240-Hz refresh rate for PC gamers.

Leica M10-R Digital Rangefinder Review: Dreamy but Decadent

By Jess Grey
The latest entry in the company’s legendary M-series is a luxurious camera for a different world.

How to Back Up Your Digital Life: Time Macine, Backblaze, iDrive, Duplicati, and more.

By Scott Gilbertson
Backups are boring, but they’ll save your digital bacon. Here’s how to make sure your data lives on even when your PC doesn’t.

OnePlus Nord Review: An Affordable Phone with 6 Good Cameras

By Julian Chokkattu
OnePlus' new phone, the Nord, isn't available in the US at the moment, but its value is hard to beat. You get a 90-Hz screen, a big battery, great performance, and 5G for 399 euros.

Epos/Sennheiser Adapt 660 Review: On Par With Sony and Bose

By Parker Hall
These wireless noise-canceling headphones bring the heat, with sleek design and sound to match.

EcoReco L5+ Review: A City-Friendly, Sturdy Electric Scooter

By Julian Chokkattu
If you want to avoid public transit, this e-scooter is an expensive but safe bet.

Fujifilm X-T4 Review: The Best of Both Worlds for Hybrid Shooters

By Scott Gilbertson
The company's latest APS-C mirrorless camera marries still photo pedigree with new video smarts, giving hybrid shooters the best of both worlds.

Oral-B iO Series 8 Review: A Grossly Expensive Electric Toothbrush

By Medea Giordano
This electric toothbrush uses Bluetooth to keep your teeth happy and clean, but they'll start chattering when you see the price tag.

Google Pixel 4A Review: Nearly Perfect and Only $350

By Julian Chokkattu
The 4A is an upgrade in almost every way over its predecessor, yet it’s cheaper. It's our new fave Android phone.

Dell XPS 15 Review: A Luxury Windows Laptop

By Scott Gilbertson
With more real estate and power, the company's roomy new laptop retains everything we like about the 13-inch—almost.

Genki’s Covert Dock is the perfect dock for the Nintendo Switch – and other gadgets, too

By Darrell Etherington

The Nintendo Switch’s ability to quickly transition from portable to home console is definitely one of its major selling points, but Nintendo’s official dock never really made much sense with the portable nature of the Switch itself. Luckily, third-party accessory maker Genki created the Covert Dock, a device no larger than a smartphone USB charger that easily connects your Switch to any TV. Plus, it actually is a USB charger for all your devices, too.

The basics

The Covert Dock includes a USB Type-C port that’s rated for the Power Delivery 3.0 standard, which means it can charge not only the Switch, but also an iPhone, Android smartphones, the iPad Pro and even a MacBook (though its max output is 30w, so you won’t get full-speed charging for any power-hungry large devices). It also includes a USB-A port, which you can use not only for charging, but also for connecting controllers, microphones, mice, Ethernet adapters, and more to devices connected via USB-C. Finally, there’s an HDMI port, which you can use to connect your Switch (or other devices that support USB-C video out) to your TV or display.

The HDMI port supports a maximum resolution of 1080p at up to 60hz, so it can easily handle the 720p output of the Switch. The Genki Covert Dock also features folding power prongs for maximum portability – and it’s extremely compact, coming in smaller than a MacBook Air charger despite all of its capabilities.

Image Credits: Genki

Genki also provides a set of global power adapters that slide on to the folded prongs for easy travel compatibility, adding to its versatility. There’s also a six-foot USB-C 3.1 charging cable included in the box, so you have everything you need to begin using it right away. When you don’t have an HDMI cable plugged in, it can also power your Switch while you play just like with any other standard USB-C charger.

At $74.99, the Genki Covert Dock actually comes in under the retail price of Nintendo’s official dock set for Switch – and it’s a much more versatile device thanks to its ability to act as a hub for a wide range of devices that support display output over USB-C. Combine that with the travel adapter set, and the Covert Dock is really replacing two or three devices in your bag, rather than just a Switch dock.

Performance

Genki’s Covert Dock feels very sturdy and well-built, not at all like many of the third-party dock alternatives that you can find on Amazon. Inside, it uses Gallium Nitride technology to enable its small size while still making sure it can provide good power output without overheating.

It worked flawlessly both for charging my Switch (and other devices) and for connecting the Switch to my TV. As soon as you plug in an HDMI cable, the Switch behaves just as it would when using the official dock, switching off the built-in display and outputting to the television in HD resolution.

Image Credits: Genki

Ditto with plugging in an iPad Pro, and a MacBook Pro. Both automatically detect the HDMI connection and behave just like they would using any other display adapter.

Users of other third-party Switch display docking solutions might be hesitant to trust another one, given how frequently third-party hardware has led to issues including console bricking. But Genki has a great and thorough explanation of why their dock shouldn’t encounter such issues, and it mostly relates to their proper implementation of the PD 3.0 specification. Over the course of testing on an up-to-date Switch console over a couple of weeks, I definitely haven’t encountered any issues.

Bottom line

If you own a Switch (not the Switch Lite, sadly, since it doesn’t support video out), then there’s no question that you should also own a Genki Covert Dock. It’s the dock that the console should’ve shipped with, since it respects the Switch’s portability and offers a way to connect to a TV that takes up no more space than the Switch USB charger itself.

Even if you don’t own a Switch, the Genki Covert Dock might be something you need – it’s a great way to power an iPad while presenting during a meeting, for instance, and also a fantastic travel charger even when you’re not using the display features. Genki has done a tremendous job of packing a whole lot of versatility into a unique and well-built device, and at a price that’s very reasonable when you consider how many other potential gadgets and dongles it’s replacing.

Apple 27-inch iMac review

By Brian Heater

At its first virtual World Wide Developers Conference back in June, Apple unveiled a huge piece of news about the future of the Mac. After years of rumors, the company finally confirmed plans to wean itself off of Intel processors in favor of its own in-house ARM-based chips. Apple noted that the process would be a gradual one, taking around two years to transition the entire line.

It was a rare peek behind the curtain for the company, owing to the fact that it needed to prep developers ahead of the transition, even releasing a limited ARM-based version of the Mac mini to help kickstart the process. That kind of lead time can be tricky to navigate. While it noted that the first ARM-based Macs are set to arrive later this year, Apple’s road map still includes Intel systems — which it added it will continue to support for “years to come.”

Announced this week, the long-rumored update to the iMac falls into the latter category. The system will be one of the last Macs to sport Intel silicon. Apple’s not saying how many more are still left in the pipeline, but the desktop adopts the chip giant’s 10th-gen Comet Lake processors. The new device puts Apple in the somewhat tricky position of positioning the new models as the greatest thing since sliced bread, while acknowledging that the biggest change to the category in about 10 or so years is on the way.

We don’t know specifically when ARM-based iMacs are coming, of course. Various earlier rumors pointed at a refreshed Intel model this year, with a new version sporting Apple silicon in 2021. Things are further complicated by rumors surrounding the imminent arrival of a radically redesigned version of the all-in-one. For now, however, the iMac retains its familiar, iconic form factor.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Of course, the truth of the matter is that not everyone is able, willing or even interested in waiting for a mystery refresh. That’s kind of the thing with consumer hardware. There’s always an update arriving down the road. At some point you need to bite the bullet, pull the trigger or whatever your chosen metaphor. And this is, indeed, a powerful and capable machine. Also, let’s not discount the current demand for PCs.

After a rough first quarter due to supply issues, demand of home laptops and desktops is on the rise as many office employees have come to recognize that remote work is going to very much be our reality for the foreseeable future. Keep in mind that Google recently moved its office reopening date to next July, and the company is very much a bellwether for the tech industry at large. If you’re going to be working from home for awhile, two things are essential: a nice office chair and a capable computer.

The first bit is a conversation for another day. The second, on the other hand, is most easily accomplished with an all-in-one, and all-in-ones don’t get much easier than the iMac. Seriously, I set up the new 27-inch yesterday, and it really is the definition of Apple’s promise to “just work,” right down to the gigantic power button on the back. I’ll also quickly add that the version Apple sent me as configured is way, way more than most office workers are going to require.

The model has a 3.6 GHz 10-Core Intel Core i9, 32GTB of RAM, the AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of Memory, 1TB of storage and the nano-textured glass. I just ticked all of the corresponding boxes on Apple’s site and found the system that starts at $1,800 priced at about $4,500, not including the Magic Keyboard and Trackpad. In fact, this is precisely the spec level that blurs the line between the upgraded iMacs and the iMac Pros.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Apple was, of course eager to point out the system’s potential for creative professions. And, indeed, the iMac has become an increasingly capable device over the past several years, and with the current configuration on the system I’m using, it’s easy to imagine this thing ending up in some music and even indie film studios. The line really saw a real expansion into the creative pro category when the iMac Pro stepped in to fill the absence left by the then-suspended Mac Pro line.

The non-Pro iMac line is well-positioned to appeal to the bedroom musicians and movie-makers, an increasingly broadening category in the age of COVID-19. Perhaps even more relevant, however, are the system’s teleconferencing capabilities. It seems unlikely that COVID-19 had a major impact on a device that had likely been in the pipeline for some time, but the new model does thankfully come with some features that will be welcome as Zoom conferences become an ever-increasing fixture in day-to-day work life.

The biggest upgrade here is the move from the 720p camera to the 1080p one found on the iMac. As someone who’s been playing around with his home audio/video setup during the pandemic while TechCrunch enters the brave new world of virtual tech conferences, it’s something that I’ve had a keen eye on. I’ve been suggesting since the outset of the pandemic that the next generation of laptops and desktops are finally going to be getting serious about microphones and webcams, after years of letting smartphones lead the pack.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

I’ve upgraded my system ahead of our big Disrupt event in September to include an external camera and microphone. I recognize that these are both probably overkill for a majority of users. The above shot was taken with the iMac webcam. It’s a clear shot and more than acceptable for teleconferencing needs. The system sports a number of on-board sensors designed to augment the experience, including face tracking for better shot framing and increased performance in low light.

I would love to see some future upgrade that adds depth detection and a bokeh effect — preferably real, though something akin to the portrait mode on the iPhone could also work. Something that’s really dawned on a lot of us over the past several months is that we don’t necessarily want the world — or even co-workers — peeking into out homes at all times. In fact, the depth-of-field is the number one reason I’ve opted to upgrade to the aforementioned external camera.

The same can be said for the microphone. It’s clear and perfectly suited to teleconference. Above is a clip of me reading the first few sentences of White Noise (it’s the first thing that popped into my head, I don’t know what to tell you). Don’t mind the slurred speech (Bell’s palsy sucks, don’t get it), but the audio is perfectly suited for a Zoom call. In a push to appeal to creatives, the company notes that the mics — similar to the hardware found on the 16-inch MacBook can be used for things like scratch vocals. I would say the do the trick for a majority of things we need day to day, but if you’re going to be say, recording a podcast or voice-over work, I would seriously consider an external mic.

The speakers, too, fill roughly the same needs. They’re perfectly good for a teleconference, audio playback and even casual movie watching and music listening. As someone who’s slightly obsessive about music listening, I would likely invest in some external speakers to pair with the desktop in the home setting, but the computer audio is well suited for an office.

The display, on the the other hand, is downright stunning. It’s a 5K (5120 x 2880) with 14.7 million pixels. It’s a bright 500 nits, and the colors pop. This is the first time the company has brought True Tone technology to the iMac, using light sensors to adjust the screen to more true to life colors. It’s a nice addition, and it all leads to a screen that positively pops. At the end of a long day, I’ve taken to swiveling the iMac around and using it to watch movies from my couch.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The other big new addition here on the screen front is the Nano-texture glass first introduced in the Pro Display XDR. I’ll quote Apple directly on that one: “Unlike typical matte finishes that have a coating added to the surface to scatter light, this industry-leading option is produced through an innovative process that etches the glass itself at the nanometer level.” More simply (and less marketingly) put, it’s a method for reducing screen glare that etches tiny nano structures in the glass instead of just adding a coating.

I’ve long felt that the Mac displays were too glossy for my liking and would happily move to nano-texture for all of my systems. The downside of the tech is that it seems to be prohibitively expensive. In the case of the 32-inch XDR, it adds $1,000 to the cost of the device. Here it’s an additional $500. In either case, it’s probably going to be far too pricey an addition for anyone who doesn’t absolutely need a glare-free system for work-related purposes.

There’s a nice selection of ports on the back of the device. You get four USB-A (full-size USB ports) and two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C. I could have done with more of the latter, in an effort to further future-proof the system, but it’s a solid selection, none the less. There’s also a gigabit Ethernet port that can be upgraded to 10GB, for those who need to hard wire (another thing I’ve found necessary in this age of teleconferencing).

All in all, there are some really nice upgrades here. And it’s been fascinating watching the iMac upgrade into a truly capable machine. As configured with the unit Apple sent, you should probably be seriously considering the iMac Pro, which starts at $500 more (I mean, you’re already in for $4,500, after all, so what’s another few hundred dollars between friends). The upgrade will get you things like improved graphics, an improved thermal system, more power and more configuration options.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The big open question mark here is what the future looks like for the iMac — and how long we’ll have to wait to see it. That is, of course, the perennial question for hardware upgrades, but it’s exacerbated by the knowledge of imminent ARM-based systems and rumors surrounding a redesign. The iMac has and continues to be a nice-looking machine, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it could do with a redesign.

Likely both of these are still a ways down the road, however. And plenty of people who are in the process of setting their remote work stations will find plenty to look at with this easy-to-use all-in-one. It can be upgraded to sport some serious firepower and does good double duty as a work station and entertainment machine — the latter of which is great for a weirdo like me who doesn’t own a television.

The new iMac is available now, starting at $1,799.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Review: The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones

By Parker Hall
These noise-canceling headphones silence the world better than most, and the mics are now actually usable on phone calls.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ hands-on

By Brian Heater

During an Unpacked event that featured the announcement of five key new devices, the Galaxy Tab S7 didn’t get a ton of love. Understandable, perhaps. It doesn’t quite have the star power of the Note line, nor does it have the novelty of a new foldable or Bluetooth earbuds. Tablets in general just aren’t exciting the way they once were.

But Samsung’s continued to plug away. The company makes a lot of tablets. That’s just kind of its thing. Why make one when you can make a dozen, each with different price points and target audiences? It’s the Galaxy Tab line, however, that’s always been the one to watch, providing a premium slate experience designed to complement its Galaxy handsets.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

In fact, in a world where Android tablets are largely the realm of budget devices, Samsung remains one of the few out there still manufacturing a device that can go head-to-head with the iPad. The latest model brings a number of key features, though the biggest of all isn’t available on the Tab S7+ review unit the company sent along.

The device will be among the first tablets to receive 5G connectivity. Pricing and availability are still forthcoming on that SKU, though, honestly, I don’t imagine a ton of people are going to be demanding cellular connectivity on their tablets as long as so many people continue working from home. When travel finally starts up again, that might be a different story.

That said, the model Samsung sent along just after the Unpacked event is a beast. It’s the specced-up version of the Tab S7+, which starts at $849. The higher tier bumps the RAM up from 6GB to 8GB and the storage from 128GB to 256GB. Add in the bleeding-edge Snapdragon 865+, and you’ve got an extremely capable machine on your hands here.

The design matches the premium specs. Gone is the plasticky design of early models, traded up for a sleek and sturdy glass and aluminum design. It’s a tablet that looks and feels as premium as its price tag indicates. It’s a bit heavy, though, at 1.26 pounds for the 12.4-inch model, versus 1.41 pounds for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The truth about these devices is they’re no longer designed to be held up above your face as you lie in bed.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

They are, of course, intended to be real multitasking work/play machines. I should note that I’m writing this as someone who continues to use a laptop for all of his work, but I can certainly appreciate the advances the category has made in recent years. I also know a handful of people who have mostly successfully traded in their work machines for a tablet, be it an Android device, Surface or iPad.

A tablet’s worth as a work machine is, of course, only as good as its case — a statement you can’t reasonably make about most products. Along with the device itself, Samsung has upgraded the case in a couple of nice ways. The typing experience doesn’t quite match a devoted laptop keyboard, but it’s been pretty well refined. The keys have a decent amount of travel and a nice spring for a laptop cover. The leather case also detaches into two pieces, so the back can be used as a stand, without the keyboard present. Of course, the trade-off for this sort of case is the fact that it can’t really be used on one’s lap without things falling and pieces detaching.

It wouldn’t be a Samsung tablet without the S Pen, of course. The peripheral is, thankfully, included. There’s no slot for the stylus (something I keep asking for but never get; life’s hard sometimes), but it does snap magnetically to the top of the device, albeit a bit weakly. Samsung has certainly built up a nice little ecosystem for the input device, and I’m pretty consistently impressed that it’s able to recognize and convert my chicken scratch. Seriously, my already terrible penmanship has only atrophied over time.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Points, too, for a beautiful OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. Depending on what you’re looking to do with it, you might need to toggle that to save on battery life. Both models are pretty solid on that front, with 8,000 and 10,900 mAh, respectively, but the 5G models will no doubt take a hit.

Samsung is really pushing DeX hard — even harder than it has in the past. You can set it to automatically trigger the desktop approximation when you plug in the keyboard. The interface is an attempt to approximate something akin to the Windows desktop experience, but a number of apps still don’t support the interface and overall it still feels clunky. It’s easy to extrapolate a bit and imagine how it will improve things like multitasking, but it doesn’t feel like it’s quite all the way there.

Colgate Hum Review: A Smart Toothbrush That Nails App-Guided Brushing

By Medea Giordano
The smart toothbrush perfects connected brushing tech—and costs a fraction of the price of its competitors.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr Smart Trainer Review: Brings the Backroads Indoors

By Stephanie Pearson
The newest update to this smart bicycle trainer improves—and futureproofs—the indoor riding experience.

Tao Clean Sonic Toothbrush Review: Zaps Germs After Each Use

By Christopher Null
This electric toothbrush nestles into a base station that also cleans and dries the brush head.

The reMarkable 2 improves on the original in every way, but remains firmly in its niche

By Devin Coldewey

I’d been asking for something like the reMarkable for a long time before it showed up out of the blue a few years ago. The device was a real treat, but had a few problems and an eye-popping price tag. The reMarkable 2 builds on the first, with a more beautiful, streamlined device and several key new features, but keeps many of the limitations — some deliberate, some not so much — that make it a refreshingly specialty device. Costs a lot less this time around, too.

The reMarkable is intended to be a tablet for consuming and creating black and white (and grey) content: PDFs, sketches, jotted notes, that sort of thing — without all the distractions and complications of a full-on tablet or laptop. I certainly found that when I had a lot of content to get through and annotate, the device helped me focus, and it was useful for light note-taking and and other purposes, like DMing a D&D game or sketching out a woodworking project.

The rM2, as I’ll call it, really is an improvement in pretty much every possible way. I’m honestly a bit baffled as to how they could make it thinner, faster, more battery efficient, better at pretty much everything, and yet drop the price from $600 to $400. Usually there’s some kind of trade-off. Not this time!

Specifically, the rM2 has the following major improvements:

  • Thinner (an already svelte 6.7mm reduced to 4.7mm; for comparison, an iPad is about 6mm)
  • Faster, dual-core ARM CPU (mainly for power savings)
  • Double the RAM (a gig, up from 512 MB)
  • Display response time halved to 21ms (comparable to LCDs)
  • Battery life more than tripled (a couple weeks, or months on standby, instead of a couple days)
  • Eraser on other end of stylus. Thank you!

What hasn’t been changed is the screen itself (that is, the resolution and contrast), the OS and the general purpose of the thing.

The old and new remarkable e-paper tablets.

The new device, left, and old one. Image Credits: reMarkable

Let’s start with the new design. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t taken with it at first. The original’s softer white plastic case felt more organic, while the new one’s asymmetric chrome is more gadgety.

But it’s grown on me as also being more purposeful and focused, though of course it also now is rather more suitable for a right-handed person than a left. The original’s three enormous buttons always seemed far too prominent for the amount of utility they offered. I did sometimes wish for a home button on the rM2, but a new gesture (swipe from the top) takes care of that.

Side view of The reMarkable e-paper tablet, the earlier version, and an iPad

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The power button at the top of the chrome strip is tiny, perhaps too tiny, but at least you won’t hit it by accident. The USB-C charge port is opposite the power button, on the bottom, and well out of the way of anywhere you’ll hold it, making charging while using easy (though you probably won’t need to).

Powerful magnets on the right side hold the stylus with a tight grip but no visible markings. Said stylus, I should add, is a very nice one indeed, with a weighty feel and rubberized finish. The new eraser function works great — definitely spring for it if you’re thinking about getting one of these.

The reMarkable e-paper tablet, with stylus erasing a scribble

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

On the back are four tiny rubberized feet that serve to prevent it scooting across the table while naked, and which help align the tablet perfectly in its folio case. Projections like these on such a thin, smooth device bother me on some level — I tried to peel them off first thing — but I understand they’re practical.

Overall the rM2 is extremely streamlined, and while it’s significantly heavier than the first (about 400 grams, or .89 lb, versus 350g, both lighter than the lightest iPad), it isn’t heavy by any stretch of the imagination. The bezel is big enough you can grip or reposition the device easily but not so large it takes over. I could have done with maybe a little less, but I’m picky that way.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m just a real stickler for industrial design. The flaws I’ve mentioned here are nothing compared with, say, the straight-up-ugly iPhone 11. The rM2 is a striking device, more so than the first, and it does a great job of both disappearing and showing strong design choices.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The display is the same as the first, and as such is not quite at today’s e-reader levels when it comes to pixel density and contrast. E-readers from Kobo and Amazon hit 300 pixels per inch, and reMarkable’s is down at 226. Sometimes this matters, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve found that certain fonts and pen marks show lots of aliasing, but mostly it isn’t noticeable because as a larger device one tends to hold it farther from their face.

There’s no frontlight, which I understand is a deliberate choice — you’re supposed to work with this thing under the same lighting you’d use for a paper document. Still, I felt its absence occasionally when reading.

I can vouch for the new battery lasting much, much longer. I’ve only had the device for a week or so, meaning I can’t speak to the months of standby, but I was always disappointed by the original’s need for frequent charging, and this one has been far better.

It is also much faster to turn on and off. The original went to sleep and shut down after rather too short a delay and took a while to start up. The rM2 turns on instantly from sleep and takes about 20 seconds to boot from a full off state. Fortunately it doesn’t need to be turned off, or turn itself off, anywhere near as often as its predecessor. Removing these on/off and battery worries really goes a long way toward making this a practical device for a lot of people.

An excellent endless legal pad and PDF tool

An annotated PDF on the remarkable tablet.

You can write neatly, I just don’t. Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

Where the rM2 succeeds best is as a reader for full-page documents like scientific papers, legal documents and reports, and as a rough sketchpad and notebook with the chief benefit of having effectively unlimited pages.

For reading, the experience is not very different from the original device. It works with fairly few formats and PDF the best. You can skim through pages, annotate with the pen and highlight text — though annoyingly you’re still just painting the text with a translucent layer, not digitally selecting/highlighting the text itself.

You can search for text easily and navigation is straightforward, though I’d like the option to tap and go to the next page rather than swipe. Changes are synced to the document in the reMarkable app, where you can easily export a modified version, though, again, you can’t directly select text.

Writing and drawing on the screen feels great — better than before, and it was already the best among e-paper devices. The iPad Pro beats it for full-color illustration, naturally, but the idea isn’t to meet the capabilities of other tablets, it’s to provide the intended features well.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

The feel of the screen is smoother than the first reMarkable, but the texture change isn’t necessarily bad — one thing I could never quite get away from on the first was, due to its texture, the feeling that I was scratching the screen when I wrote. Nothing like that here, though the tactility is slightly less. As for the lower latency, it’s noticeable and unnoticeable at the same time: Certainly it’s better than all the other e-paper devices I’ve tested, including the first reMarkable. But even 21ms is noticeable and affects the way you write or draw. It isn’t “just like paper,” but it is pretty awesome.

I would never try to replace the small pocket notepad I use during interviews, but at a meeting or brainstorm session I would much rather use this. The space you have for making little groups of names, flowcharts, random things to look up later, doodles of your boss and so on is so vast and so easily accessible that it almost makes me wish I went to more meetings. Almost!

I realize showing this on video would be helpful to some, but the truth is even on video it’s hard to get a sense of how it looks and feels when you’re actually doing it. It feels more responsive than it looks.

A clutch new feature for writing and drawing is the integration of an eraser tip on the other side of the stylus. It works automatically, feels rubbery like a real eraser and saves you a trip to the pen menu. Unfortunately, you still have to open that menu to get to “undo,” which is sometimes preferable to erasing. Given the whole screen is multi-touch capacitive, I don’t see any reason why something like a two-finger leftward swipe can’t be mapped to undo, or double-tapping the eraser in an empty space.

Side view of the remarkable with stylus attached

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

Handwriting recognition is helpful, not that I have taken a whole lot of notes with the rM2, but it’s easy to see how it saves time when transferring mixed-media pages to your computer. It’s not like it would take you that much time to spell out the email address or name someone mentioned, it’s just nicer to be able to hit a button and it’s ready to copy and paste.

I definitely experienced transcription errors, but honestly, even I can’t tell my “u” and “n” or “r” and “v” apart all the time. I have a draggy style of longhand so I needed to focus a bit on picking up the pen from the surface rather than letting it trail at the lowest level of pressure.

A so-so e-reader

Text options on the remarkable tablet

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

One aspect of the original reMarkable that didn’t thrill me was the handling and display of e-books and other pure text content. The rM2 improves on this and adds a very useful new time-shifting feature, but it still falls behind the competition.

The fact is that the reMarkable isn’t really intended for reading books. It’s formatted for content that’s already meant to be displayed as a full page, and it does that well. When it has to do its own text formatting the options are a little thinner.

With six fonts and six sizes per font, and three options each for margins and spacing, room for customization is low. The two most book-like text sizes seem to be “slightly too large” and “slightly too small,” while the others are comically huge, appearing larger than even a large-print book would have them.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

Several epub books I loaded onto the tablet failed in various ways. Initial tabs on paragraphs didn’t render; in-text links didn’t work; line spacing is uneven; large white spaces appeared rather than partial paragraphs. The team needs to take a serious look at their e-book renderer and text options, and I’m told that they are in fact doing so, but that writing, drawing and, of course, the new hardware have taken up their resources.

It’s less of an issue with articles gleaned from the web with the new Chrome extension. These are more consistently formatted and make articles read more like magazine pages, which is perfectly fine. I do wish there were options for a two-column view or other ways to customize how the pages are transcoded. I give reMarkable a pass on this because it’s a new feature they’re still building out and it works pretty well.

No chance, unfortunately, for integration with Pocket, Simplenote, Evernote or any of the other common services along these lines. For better or worse, reMarkable has chosen to go it alone. Indeed, reMarkable as a company is wary of making the device too complex and too integrated with other things, since the entire philosophy is one of removing distractions. That makes for a unified experience, but it hurts when a feature is simply not as good as the competition with which the company has voluntarily entered competition.

Image Credits: Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch

One serious gripe I have, and one which will surely bother reMarkable’s existing customers, is that you can only have one device active at a time per account. Yes: If you bought the first, you essentially have to disable it in order to set up the second.

This is a huge problem and a missed opportunity as well. For one thing, it’s a bit cruel to essentially throw their oldest customers under the bus. You could probably figure out a workaround, but the simple fact that the old device has to be kicked off the account is bad. Because it could so easily have been very useful to have two of these things. Imagine keeping one at work and one at home, and they stay in sync, or sharing an account with a partner and sending documents or handwriting back and forth.

I asked the company about this and it seems that it is a technical limitation at this time, and that multiple devices are on the roadmap to support. But for anyone planning on buying an rM2 now, it’s a material consideration that your original device will no longer be usable by you, or at least not in the same way — it isn’t bricked or anything, it just won’t sync with your account.

Hope and dreams (and hacks)

As before, what is exciting about the reMarkable 2 is not just what it does, but what it could do. The company has significantly expanded what the ecosystem supports over the last couple years, improved performance and responded to user requests. Most of my complaints are things the team is already aware of, since they have an engaged and outspoken community, and are somewhere on the roadmap to be fixed or added.

There is also a healthy hacking community putting together new ways to take advantage of such promising hardware — though of course with the usual caveat that you could brick it if you’re not careful. If reMarkable doesn’t want to build an RSS reader into the device because of their fundamental philosophy against such a thing, someone will probably make one anyway. I look forward to experimenting with the device not as a carefully tuned platform but as an all-purpose greyscale computer.

The previous reMarkable was a very interesting device but one that was rather difficult to recommend widely at launch. But the company has proven itself over the last couple years and the device has grown and solidified. This upgraded version, better in nearly every way yet a third cheaper, is much, much easier to recommend. If you are interested in exploring a more paperless world, or want to force yourself to focus better, or just think this thing sounds cool, the reMarkable 2 is a great device to do it with.

Oral-B’s iO smart toothbrush is a big upgrade in just about every way

By Darrell Etherington

It can be easy to mock the very concept of a ‘smart toothbrush’ – what other device in our lives do we use daily that seems least in need of a connected upgrade? But Oral-B has been upgrading its powered toothbrush lineup with Bluetooth and app-based intelligence for quite a while now, and its latest new smart brush, the iO Series, is actually a very clever and capable update that should help you keep your teeth better-brushed and in healthier shape.

The basics

Oral-B’s iO is a fundamental rethinking of its powered toothbrush lineup in a way that none of its prior new models has been; the design, feature set, application and more are all brand new. The new look, designed in partnership with Braun, is a vast improvement (more about that below), and there’s a color display that provides more info and visual feedback than on any previous Oral-B smart brush. The induction charger is also new, with magnetic support to keep it in place, and there’s a new companion app that provides a lot more in the way of guidance, with improvements that accrue over time as the software gets to know you.

The iO Series includes different accessories and equipment depending on which version you get – Oral-B provided the Series 8, which includes the toothbrush, a charger, two replacement heads and a carrying case. The different Series’ also include different features – the Series 7 is the most affordable, but lacks the Sensitive+ brushing mode on the Series 8, while the top-end Series 9 is the only one that includes a dedicated tongue brushing mode.

Using the toothbrush is easy. You can use one of two buttons on the brush itself to cycle through its various modes, and then press the other to turn it on and off. An integrated LED ring provides visual feedback about when you’re applying the right amount of pressure, and when you use too much, and vibration feedback indicates when you hit 30-second marks, and when you’ve completed the full dentist-recommended two minutes of brushing.

With the iOS or Android app, you can connect your iO via Bluetooth for more advanced feedback and control, including a guided brushing mode that shows you where you’ve cleaned, and for how long, with a simple graphic representation of your teeth.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

Design and features

The new industrial design of the iO is a vast improvement over the previous Oral-B smart toothbrushes in every way. They’re sleeker, with redesigned interchangeable brush heads that not only have a better mechanical connection to the base, but that also flow into the body with a smooth swooping connection point. The black version I reviewed has a matte, slightly textured finish that feels and grips great, and the built-in display is bright and full-color for an easy understanding of which mode you’re in, as well as the status of your battery charge and a quick report card of sorts about the quality of your last brush via smiley face feedback.

Visual and force feedback both work great on this model, with an easily visible LED ring showing green when you’re using just the right amount of pressure, and turning quickly to red when you press too hard. As a serial excess pressure brusher, this worked very well in modulating my bad habit, and I was very quickly able to get into a rhythm of correctly-applied pressure instead.

The new charger design lacks the peg that was present on Oral-B’s previous rechargeable toothbrushes, and instead relies on a magnetic connection akin to the one Apple uses on its Apple Watch charger. This tends to make it a bit more likely to get knocked off the charger by wayward reaches, I’ve found, but it also makes both the brush and charger easier to keep clean, and the charger takes up less counter space. The LCD screen will show you charge level when placed on the charger while it’s plugged in.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

As mentioned, you can use the Oral-B iO completely without the companion app, and it works very well. But the app is a great way to help upgrade your daily care routine, thanks to its guided brushing modes and accumulated brushing activity tracking. The guided mode shows you which region you’re currently brushing, breaking your mouth up into six separate zones (three up top, and three on the bottom). In my testing, this tracking was a bit hit or miss when it comes to accuracy, often getting wrong which area I was actively brushing. It was accurate enough to provide a general sense of where I needed to be doing a better job than I had been, however.

Over time, the app will use the info gathered from your guided sessions to provide you with specific tips on how to improve. It also allows you to self-report flossing, rinsing and any gum-bleeding for more detailed trend tracking over time.

Bottom line

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The Oral-B iO series sits at the very top of the company’s electric toothbrush lineup, at $249.99 for the Series 8 as reviewed, or $299.99 for the Series 9. The kit you get does include two replacement heads in addition to the one that comes on the brush for a total of 3, along with the travel carrying case and charger (you get 4 total heads on the Series 9, as well as a charging travel case on top of the additional mode an sensing capabilities of the brush itself). You can get a basic electric toothbrush for $50 or less, by comparison.

That said, the iO does offer excellent build and brushing quality, which will definitely leave your mouth feeling cleaner than with budget options. And it’s intelligent features are great if you want to be more mindful about your daily dental hygiene routine, too. That, combined with its attractive, ergonomic design, mean that this is a great option so long as you’re willing to spend a little bit more on a premium device.

iMac Review (27-Inch, 2020): A Powerful and Reliable Mac

By Julian Chokkattu
This Intel-powered all-in-one desktop computer is back and retuned for working from home.
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