Electronics

Five Oceans, Five Cameras

Buying Guide: Underwater Imaging

Nowadays, there are many options for underwater photography and videography available to the avid diver and occasional vacation snorkeler alike. These five underwater imaging options -- everything from custom-machined metal housings to cameras that don’t need a housing at all -- will serve you well on your next dive trip. What you shoot is up to you.

No excuses, just good shots

Kit: Essentials for the Budding Movie Maker

Today's affordable tools, cameras, classes and copious creative outlets have brought making a film (one of the best story-telling devices) nearly to the everyman. Still, all those advances can't change a basic fact: sometimes making a movie means going to where the story is rather than waiting for it to come to you. But paying to check 10 Pelican cases of equipment will essentially eat your entire production budget, not to mention it's tough to sneak into a location if you have a fleet of boxes and bags. This kit can be carried by one or two people in traditional suitcases -- which means you get your shots, no matter where those shots may be.

Nip your audio in the bud

Cheap Beats: The Best Budget Earbuds

Earbuds, rather than full-size headphones, are essential to many a man mostly because they are so very compact. If you're a commuter or jogger or some other type of person who can't balance one-pound earmuffs on your head all day, and you don't want to spend a pretty penny on something that you're likely to lose or break, these are for you. They're the best budget earbuds we've heard of, so listen up.

Streaming Consciousness

Net Flicks: Cut the Cord With These Great Set-Top Boxes

Nowadays media streaming devices offer dramatically improved user experiences, access to a wide range of content at 1080p, and price tags easily within anyone’s budget, making it easier than ever to cut the cable company's iron umbilical cord. We’ve selected the top five that should satiate any media user, aficionado to amateur.

Three Amateur Gamers Play for 14 Hours Straight

Testing the Xbox One

From the Archives: Three GP staffers, all casual gamers, tested the Xbox One for over 14 hours straight and came away with a severe lack of sleep and plenty of strong first impressions. Addicted? Clearly. Here's what they remember.

The pick of the little

The Best iPad Mini & Mini Retina Cases

Does your iPad Mini Retina need some love? We've updated our best iPad Mini & Mini Retina cases at a variety of price points to help get your new Cupertino buddy from birthday suit to warm and cozy. Whether you prioritize looks, function or insurance for your butterfingers, each of these iPad Mini cases has a forte -- and a price.

Sound Matters

Tested: foxL DASH 7 Bluetooth Speaker

Anyone who followed CES this year saw the amount of new wireless Bluetooth speakers -- an avalanche eclipsed only by the utter horde of new fitness trackers. Still, it's clear when a winner emerges from the pack. While the fight for the best portable Bluetooth speaker continues, one high-end contender threatens to end the competition: the foxL DASH 7 ($219), produced by Soundmatters, the same company that originally provided components for the best-selling Jambox.

The best gets better

Tested: Audioengine A2+ Powered Speakers

Audioengine's original A2 speakers launched in 2008 and were immediately showered with praise. They were sized to feel right at home on a desk but also boasted smart design decisions and spectacular sound quality, both of which were more in line with traditional bookshelf speakers or studio monitors. The newly updated Audioengine A2+ ($249) retains its predecessor's baseline of quality but builds upon that wide range of usefulness with notable improvements for a variety of audio setups.

Integrated Tech, Around the Clock

Why You Need a Qualcomm Toq: Everyday Wear

The smart watch has been a future fiction muse for decades. Dick Tracy used his to keep in touch with The Chief; George Jetson undoubtedly strapped one on before heading to work and leaving Rosie to take care of the kids and his shopping-obsessed fashionable wife. But here’s what all the clever creators behind those characters were missing: wrist-based tech that wasn’t just for business. Whether it’s tucked under the cuff of a sport coat or a sweatshirt, the Qualcomm Toq excels at conveniently (and discretely) connecting users to their digital livelihoods.

Bigger is Better

New Year’s Resolutions: Five 4K Displays You Can Actually Afford

Now that the content is beginning to arrive and prices are right, it’s time for consumers and video professionals to use 4K monitors. A whole crop of 4K displays have been announced by all the big names in electronics (save for one...we're waiting on you, Cupertino), and the variety combined with esoteric naming conventions can lead any well-minded consumer to bouts of madness. We’re here to help. Here are our five favorites that you can actually afford.

Empty Canvases, Waiting to be Filled

Shoot Anywhere With These Five All-Weather Canvas Camera Bags

We know you love leather bags, and so do we. But there are times, say, when you’re toting your photography gear, that you need a more all-weather, utilitarian alternative. In fact, we'll say it now -- leave the leather for trips and commutes. We've rounded up our favorites and put them through their paces to come up with our list of the five best canvas camera bags for the discerning photographer.

Get more time on the clock

Why You Need a Qualcomm Toq: The Businessman

Greed is good, says Gordon Gecko. A strong businessman, to put it lightly, though we won't get into his ethics. Not everyone agrees with his motto on the money front, but certainly every one of us is greedy as hell about two other things: time and convenience. With that in mind, the Qualcomm Toq, a smart watch that is in many ways the most clever offering on the market, aims to make you more efficient through a plethora of useful apps and a build, design and aesthetic you can count on.

How It's Made

Making the All-New Mac Pro

Apple's Mac Pro, released in the fall of last year, is the kind of provocative machine that makes even luddites turn their heads. Its design is reminiscent, in some ways, of Da Vinci's plans for a flying machine: an impressive idea, a maelstrom of creativity, a game-changer that inspires curiosity and awe. It's not anywhere near as ground-breaking as Leonardo's plans -- but then again, Apple is able to execute. Apple's short film captures that execution.

Two Toms, Three Sports

Tested: TomTom Multisport

From the Pebble to the Toq, multi-tasking sports watches have recently gained popularity among the techie set. Among athletes, they’ve been used for over a decade. At their most basic functionality, athletic smart watches measure pace and distance, though most also have an optional heart rate monitor and offer enough technological bells and whistles to make Siri swoon. We got our hands on the TomTom Multisport GPS, an intuitive little offering that provides metrics for running, cycling and swimming.

It's all in the wrist

Qualcomm Toq: Your Personal Command Center

Checking our phones has become an awkward social tic, one that the Smart Watch segment addresses with sleek wrist-mounted media mediators. Digital communications magnate Qualcomm seems like the company that would provide smartphone horologists-cum-futurists with the groundbreaking technology to outdo competitors. Instead, Qualcomm has gotten into the ring with their own Toq, which leverages the company's innovations to create the most clever smart watch on the market.

No Phone Booth Needed

Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2: Work Hard, Play Hard

They say it makes Jack a dull boy, the whole single-sided approach to life. We’ll go one further, though, and say that even being able to switch from fun to serious or from any identity to another, for that matter, isn’t all that impressive. Sure, Batman saves lives, fights crime and delivers justice, and sure,...

Stuttgart Speeds Into the 21st Century

The 127-Year-Old Startup: Visiting Mercedes-Benz’s New Silicon Valley R&D Facility

Mercedes has been innovating in Silicon Valley for over two decades, but they've decided to bolster their cutting-edge technological efforts with their new Mercedes Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA) headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. We were on hand to explore the new facilities, check out their in-car technology and gawk at the beautiful, newly unveiled AMG Vision Gran Turismo.

What Your Air Should Wear

On Air: 35 Great iPad Air Cases

Just because the word "air" is in your latest iPad's name doesn't mean it's going to float on the ether if (when) you drop it. There isn't going to be some magical, fluffy cloud protection when you slip it in your work bag or duffel; there is neither a keyboard nor some sort of built-in kickstand. So, clumsy, what're you supposed to do? How do you keep your pristine investment and advanced piece of technology looking new? How do you keep it accessible and functional in every imaginable way and every imaginable place, from the airplane to the board room to the living room? For starters, you could do worse than picking up one of the best iPad Air cases on the market. We've rounded up 35 of the grandest grippers, gewgaw-laden sleeves, shells, keyboards and folios and parsed them by price.

Alien Chess

Red Bull Battle Grounds and the Rise of eSports

We visit Red Bull Battle Grounds, a two-day tournament in which eight of the world’s best Starcraft II players send angry virtual military units across a digital landscape to destroy their enemy’s virtual bases. Does this event (and the many others like it) signal a shift in gaming's social legitimacy? Read on for an exploration and a photo essay of the event.

Digital Hoarders

Super Storage: Best External Desktop Hard Drives

The best desktop hard drives have, to steal a phrase from our favorite genie, "phenomenal saving power; itty bitty stylish case[s]". Should you need a little extra room (actually, a lot of room) to move large files from one place to another, or or if you’re storing files temporarily for some other reason, look no further than these, the best external desktop hard drives around.

Resurfacing

Meet the Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2

As a tech-minded individual, you appreciate a solid hands-on experience with any device before you purchase it. You storm your local electronics haunt and play with display models for hours on end before making a decision. But you’re still here reading because you want the deets up front from a reliable (thank you) source. With this in mind, we must first explain that no matter how many of the glorious specifications, design and interface highlights and general accolades we spout over the next page, we simply won’t be able to scratch the surface (huzzah!) of the technological nerdery that makes up Microsoft’s Surface 2 ($449) and Surface Pro 2 ($899) tablets. But are we ever gonna try.

Three Amateur Gamers Play for 14 Hours Straight

Tested: Xbox One

The Xbox One ($500), which comes out Friday, promises to be more entertaining, more immersive and more addictive than its predecessors. But how much more entertaining? Will all aspects of the game-rendering, movie-playing, internet-surfing, friend-connecting, shopping-enabling entertainment system pull their weight? Will the games serve as playable works of art? How much more immersive could they be? Will the Kinect 2.0 build upon the groundbreaking recognition technology of its predecessor? Will the machine seamlessly integrate all our disparate media and create a monster -- an addictive one? Perhaps the last question is the most important, but really, at its current MSRP of $500, they all are. Three GP staffers, all casual gamers, had the chance to test the Xbox One this weekend, and, in general, it lived up to expectations. We played it for over 14 hours straight; we came away with a severe lack of sleep and plenty of strong first impressions. Addicted? Clearly. Here's what we remember.

Jolly Good

KEF M500

Premier audiophile brands owe Doctors Amar Bose and Dre a begrudging thanks for opening the eyes of the public to the value of investing in a set of headphones. Thanks to their savvy marketing and branding, the luxury hi-fi headphone market is exploding as an entire generation of consumers look to replace their bass-blasting, noise-canceling sets with something more refined. Perhaps the most ready to profit is KEF, the British hi-fi manufacturer best known for selling six-figure sound systems. Their flagship M500 headphones ($300) capture the luxury bent of potential buyers and hold up their end of the elite audio bargain, all at a price well below the company's mortgage-your-house standard fare.

Inline Magic

Meridian Explorer

The Meridian Audio Explorer ($299) is a portable USB DAC designed for the Jony Ive age that transforms traditional computer listening into a hi-fi experience with minimal fuss. It's small, incredibly easy to set up, and designed to blend seamlessly with other high-end electronics you already own. It also retails for a reasonable $299, despite being made in England using the same exacting standards Meridian applies to gear with price points that make car dealers blush.

Abbey Road, to Go

Zoom H6

It's 2013. Zoom has held an iron grip on the portable recording industry for seven years and needs to improve on an excellent product. What do they do? They release the H6 ($400), a new recorder that takes everything that mobile maestros loved about the previous H4 and H4n models and adds versatility and power.

Sweet Streams

Roku 3

2013 has been the year of the smart TV. Internet connectivity officially transitioned from fun toy to absolute essential; streaming audio and video became everyday tools for living room binge watching and impromptu Toto listening parties. TV manufacturers may have integrated smart features into their sets, but set-top boxes easily dominate both performance and design, and a lack of full commitment from big manufacturers like Apple and Google has opened up the market for innovative, strong upstarts to flourish. Count Roku among those iconoclastic newcomers. Released in the first quarter of the year, their Roku 3 ($95) is a massive leap forward for the set-top box -- and it arrived at a price lower than the competition.

Boom Buds

Sennheiser IE800

It used to be that if you wanted superb audio, you'd have to shell out top dollar for a pair of clunky over-ear headphones. That's all well and good when you're sitting at home on Sunday night, quietly enjoying a glass of Scotch and listening to Schwarzkopf and Ackermann's 1953 recording of Strauss's "Vier letzte Lieder", but what happens when you're on the go? After all, if you're going to pay $1,000 or more for something, shouldn't you be able to show it off? Sennheiser's IE 800 ($1,000) in-ear headphones have been heralded by many audiophiles as the best combination of sound and portability on the market.

Music to His Ears

12 Guys of Christmas: The Mediaphile

Thought purchasing a Christmas gift for your in-laws was tough? Try shopping for someone who knows everything about media gadgetry and can't abide anything but the best. The Mediaphile's affinity for films, games, music, and yes, eBooks, goes beyond the bounds of reason and continues to expand as the consumer market welcomes the latest tech innovations daily. Best believe he's on top of everything from next-gen gaming consoles to popular subscription-based apps. This presents a problem, because you think HDMI, DSLR, DAC and WAV are medical tests and/or prerequisite exams for grad school applications. Don't run to the Geek Squad yet. We've pulled together some awesome media-primed options worth your coin this holiday. He'll thank you -- and then you won't see him for a couple months, save for Doritos runs and the rare bathroom break.

See the Difference

Panasonic TC-PZT60

February of 2009 was a sad month for videophiles: Pioneer, maker of the critically acclaimed Kuro ("Black" in Japanese) line of premium HDTVs with best-in-class blacks, announced that it was throwing in the towel. Carrying the torch for the ailing plasma market fell to Panasonic, who dutifully purchased many of Pioneer's patents. While consumers saw plenty of bells and whistles grafted onto TVs launched in the following years, no set managed to best the Kuro's picture quality -- until now. Panasonic's flagship ZT60 series ($3,000) has finally dethroned the king.

Turnkey

McIntosh MT5

While anything bearing the McIntosh signature blue meters is guaranteed to catch our eyes faster than Brooklyn Decker at the pool, the MT5 Turntable ($6,500) deserves special attention. That's partly because its 5-pound, 1.5-inch thick silicon acrylic platter glows greener than the envy of all who gaze upon it. But this beautiful piece of audio machinery has much, much more than just some literal flash.

Game On

Xbox One

Backed by critically acclaimed exclusives, strong third-party support and the most popular online multiplayer component available, the Xbox 360 undeniably won the current-gen console war. The system resonated most with casual and hardcore audiences because of Microsoft’s popular Xbox Live service. Gamers found themselves drawn into a virtual universe where they could download popular titles from an overly populated digital marketplace, stream multimedia services like Netflix and Hulu and interact with players across the globe. In Live's do-it-all mentality, Microsoft discovered the central core for its next generation console: The Xbox One ($500).

Talk about shopping in advance

12 Guys of Christmas: The Techie

Oddly enough, the proliferation of electronic gadgetry, computer stuff and other digital goodies has made buying for the discerning sparkhead (we just coined that -- please enjoy and proliferate at will) tougher. With this list, we aim to make the shopping a little simpler by covering suggestions for readers, photogs, movie buffs and gamers. Take a gander and start clicking; your techie giftee will thank you, probably with an email or holographic video message or something.

Potent Portables

Best Laptops

Apple and Microsoft dominate the laptop market with their respective Mac OS X and Windows systems, each exhibiting dynamic yet dissimilar user experiences. In considering the wide selection of convertibles and ultrabooks out at the moment, it only seemed fit to narrow down the top offerings from each computer platform. Here's a look at the best laptops available now: The Acer Aspire S7 and the MacBook Air.

PC gaming steps into the living room

Don’t Blow off Steam: A Deeper Look at Valve’s Steam Platform

This afternoon PC game service provider and developer Valve announced that Steam -- their game platform for PC, Mac and Linux computers -- surpassed 65 million accounts. What might be more impressive than a user base equivalent to the population of France is that Steam is still relatively unknown. Despite being significantly larger than Xbox Live and its 48 million subscribers (approximately Ukraine), Steam has never quite enjoyed the same limelight as other major consoles. Quietly though, Steam has become the go-to for PC gaming. 65 million users later, Steam is making a concerted push into the living room -- and you can bet Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are watching with apprehension.

This one goes to 29

Breakdown: Meridian Signature Reference System

Smart folks in Cambridge, Massachusetts have estimated that the average American will spend a little under five and a half years driving during their lifetime. Meridian Audio and Land Rover have teamed up to make those years a bit more enjoyable. Drop 135,995 of your bucks on the Autobiography edition of the 2014 Range Rover and you’ll get the honor of experiencing the Meridian Signature Reference System: a 1700-watt, 29-speaker goliath of a system. And it's even better than those numbers suggest. We break it down for you.

We've only just begun

5 Smartphone Features Changing the Mobile Landscape

There was a time when the only personality you could impart into your phone was through a polyphonic ringtone of the James Bond theme and a “Carbon fiber look” faceplate. Today things are a little bit different. Customization has been elevated to the next level by devices like the Motorola Moto X, which offers customized exteriors in materials like bamboo, wood and a ton of colored plastics. The HTC One Max (among others) has a fingerprint sensor to identify a user solely by his or her touch; the Moto X learns your voice; and LG's G2 has an OS that can be customized in nearly every element. If you still think customization means a new background, you should head to Best Buy and get to know your new phone (and vice-versa). And it's not just customization that's gone off the mobile charts. We’ve rounded up five of the most exciting technologies that manufacturers are rolling into their phones today.

Masters in Mobile

Best Smartphones

We know what you're thinking. Making three picks for the best smartphone of 2013 instead of crowning one ultimate winner is a total cop out. But our job here was clear: highlight innovations that benefit us all as users of smartphones. If there's one defining comment to draw from our award winners below, it's that a deliberate collaboration between hardware and software is critical to creating an excellent mobile device. Each of our Best Smartphone picks -- the Nokia Lumia 1020, the Motorola Moto X and the iPhone 5s -- pushes the boundaries of consumer technology and attempts to redefine the mobile experience in its own way.

Next Level

Mac Pro

As young men, we thought by the year 2000 we’d all be zipping around in Jetsons-style tubes from one place to the next. We don’t see any tubes, but Apple’s newest Mac Pro ($3000+) at least gives us hope that we may get there yet. This sneak peek into the future of the pro desktop has roused plenty of curiosity as the most powerful and smallest Mac Pro to date. With brains, beauty and brawn, this Mac might just be the best forward-thinking tech device around. Sorry, Rosie.

Home Theater, Redifined

BenQ W1500 DLP Wireless Projector

Buying a projector can be deceptive: the thrill of viewing on a much larger screen often blinds shoppers to the installation migraines ahead. The high starts to fall away at home when the need to run power and signal cables to the back of the living room becomes apparent. Where do you find HDMI cables longer than six feet in length? How do you discreetly get them to the projector? The BenQ W1500 ($1599) hopes to finally break the cycle. It's the first projector to include a wireless HD transmission technology called WHDI, which broadcasts uncompressed, full HD video and audio signals (including 3D) over a 5GHz channel up to 65 feet away from the transmitter.

Lighter, Better, Faster, Stronger

Breakdown: iPad Air and iPad Mini 2

The original iPad's unveiling generated a buzz world-over, and for good reason: it looked like something out of the Jetsons, and brought to life Steve Jobs’ dream of a portable, easy-to-use device that allowed users to connect to the Internet, play games, and consume media. Although some didn't see the value (as Tim Cook gleefully pointed out in yesterday's Apple Keynote), it was undoubtedly a commercial success. Yesterday, we witnessed the newest members of the iPad family: the iPad Air and the iPad Mini. Follow along as we break them down.

Hacking away gaming precedents

Preview: Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

I watch from behind a dumpster as the man with the government employee wife saddles up to the gangster. It's not a smart move. The gangster calls him a snitch, pulls out a bat. Warnings flash on my readout: crime probability 40%, now 55%, now simply "imminent" as the gangster cocks the bat and the man cowers. I step forward while whipping out my pistol and the gangster hoofs it, sprinting to a nearby vehicle and burning rubber through a red light. This is not real-life vigilante justice: it's a hands-on sneak preview of Watch Dogs (and Assassin's Creed IV).

Power to the people

Tested: Stages Power X9

Power was the single metric I was looking to improve during the lead-up to La Ruta. I became power savvy by establishing my baseline watts at lactate threshold and VO2 Max during the F.U.E.L. testing we covered in Part II and then had the next six months to train against these numbers to improve fitness and manage nutrition on long rides. Yet I still had just one gap in my arsenal of gear: a power meter for my mountain bike. The Stages Power X9 ($700) is both new and affordable relative to other power meters, so I decided to give it a test run.

Coming soon to a galaxy near you

Breakdown: Samsung Galaxy Gear

Pebble, Toq, Smartwatch 2, Cupertino Wristbeauty -- how did the explosion of the "smart watch" segment catch us so by surprise? While we were busy reeling, the Samsung Galaxy Gear ($299) for Galaxy Note 3 (and soon, the Galaxy S4 and SIII) has been declared potentially the best option yet. What exactly does that mean? We break it down.