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.
Stuttgart Speeds Into the 21st Century
What Your Air Should Wear
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Basketball coach, literally
This year, the basketball gets a new update in the form of the 94Fifty ($295), a Bluetooth-enabled basketball that pairs with your mobile device to track shot speed, dribble force, control, spin, and acceleration. Posted to Kickstarter on March 5th, it crushed its $100,000 goal in a little over a month. We took it for a test run.
Robotics engineers and industrial designers, rapid prototyping and 3D printing, adroit methodology and open workflow — sounds like a Silicon Valley tech startup, right? But things aren’t always as they seem. In the case of Pittsburgh-based company 4Moms, this business model is being applied to baby products that leave the status quo in the dust. We went to their headquarters to get a behind-the-scenes look at a few products poised to change things up in the baby world once again.
Three Amateur Gamers Play for 14 Hours Straight
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 casuals gamer, 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.
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.
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
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.
Look Ma, No Mirrors!
The underwater digital camera is certainly not a new concept; you probably picked one up before your honeymoon to take pictures while scuba diving. How’d that work out for you? Not too great, we bet, because while the underwater digital camera is clever in theory, there aren’t many companies who have made it worth our time and money. The lenses are cheap, the images are underwhelming, and face it: the cameras are homely as hell. Luckily, Nikon has decided to get serious about underwater photography — and photography in all sorts of rough conditions — with the new AW1 ($800), the first mirrorless digital camera that’s completely waterproof and has interchangeable, waterproof lenses.
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.
Don't take my Kodachrome away
If you’re like us, you have a long list of cameras you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series “Want This, Get This” presents a lust-worthy shooter along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we’re celebrating two DSLRs that recall the golden age of film while also delivering next-gen features.
It seems like everything is becoming quantified these days. Not to be left out, the data-mining 94Fifty Bluetooth Sensor has made its way into one of America’s most popular sports. 94Fifty Bluetooth Sensor Basketballs ($300), made in partnership with Spalding, are the first digital sports products to be embedded with inertial motion sensors, serving up coaches and players with various metrics concerning ballhandling, shooting, jump-explosion, defensive foot-speed agility and athleticism.
Music to His Ears
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
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.
Through the Looking Glass
Announced all the way back in September 2012, Tamron’s 70-200 f/2.8 Di VC USD ($1500) — one of the company’s gutsiest moves into the pro lens field — had plenty of time to be picked apart prior to its release. Though the lens was announced a year and a half after Canon introduced the second edition of their vaunted 70-200 f/2.8 IS, the Tamron was able to combine image quality and build that kept up with the competition at a significantly reduced price point. In May 2013, nine months after its initial announcement, Tamron’s bold product was released — and then vindicated by an outpouring of positive reviews.
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.
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
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.
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.
Three-dimensional printing, turning the ethereal into the tangible at the click of a mouse, is the future-tech wizardry of Roddenberry at his best. The Formlabs Form 1 3D Printer ($3,300), a former Kickstarter project that raised a whopping $2,945,885 (its initial goal: $100,000), is the latest and easily the greatest out there. Using stereolithography technology, the Form 1 could seamlessly render next year’s GP100 picks, now. If MakerBot is color television, Formlabs is 1080p.
PC gaming steps into the living room
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
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
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
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.
Autofocus in Every Pixel
We know you feel tech savvy standing at your son’s baseball game with a digital SLR around your neck and a high-def camcorder over your shoulder. But with the latest technology from Canon, the digital SLR is finally capable of shooting high-def videos worth your time and effort. Ten years and seven iterations after releasing their game-changing 10D digital SLR, they’ve done it again with the 70D ($1199), a mid-range digital SLR for the photographic enthusiast who’s ready to shoot smooth videos right next to stunning stills.
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.
Thanks to 16MP smartphone cameras and the mirrorless revolution, the old point-and-shoot has been headed towards extinction. That’s not exactly the way Sony sees things. They stubbornly released the best damn pocket camera in the world, the RX100, last year. The mighty marvel’s massive one-inch sensor paired with a fast f/1.8 Zeiss lens effortlessly produced rich 20MP images, even in the novice hands of doting grandparents and hapless tourists. How did Sony respond to the positive reviews? They released the RX100 II ($748), which is even better.