Jaybird Run review: The perfect truly wireless earbuds for workouts

Completely wireless earbuds are everywhere this year. Call it the Apple AirPods effect, or perhaps it’s just a matter of the right components being available at the right time. But now that completely cordless designs are less novel than they used to be, companies have to work harder to stand out. Jaybird, which has had years of experience in wireless audio, is taking a stab at the increasingly crowded field with its $ 180 Run earbuds. They’re comfortable, sound great for their size, and offer solid reception (for the most part).

Hardware

The Jaybird Run don’t look particularly distinctive, aside from a small logo on the outside. At this point, most companies seem to be settling on a similar style for fully wireless earbuds. They generally try to make them as small as possible — a departure from the clunky Bluetooth headsets you might be used to. One unique element here is the metal ring around the outer edges of the Run serves as the antenna, which should technically give it a leg-up on reception over competitors with internal antennas. They’re about as subtle as the earbuds from Her — noticeable, but they don’t call attention to themselves either.

The differences between wireless buds really come down to the earpiece design. They need to stay in your ears reliably — there’s no cord to save them from falling on the ground, after all — and ideally, they should be comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time. This is one area where the Jaybird Run excels: It features the “fin” typically found on the brand’s headphones, which fits into the upper groove of your ear to hold them in place. Once you get them in, it’s hard to notice you’re wearing them.

Jaybird gives you four sets of silicone tips: small and large round options, as well as two different oval-shaped tips. There are also three different types of fin accessories, along with a finless one if you have very small ears. And, as you’d imagine, the Run are both sweatproof and water resistant. Jaybird says they feature a “double hydrophobic nano coating” to deal with sweat, which is much tougher on gadgets than plain water.

The Jaybird Run also comes with a chunky carrying case, which adds another eight hours to their advertised four-hour battery life. The case is too large to fit comfortably in your pocket, but it’s easy to chuck into a messenger bag or backpack. It can also give the Run earbuds one hour of juice with just a five-minute charge. The case could use a more secure latch, though. It popped open in my bag on several occasions, which made my iPhone automatically connect to them. That was particularly annoying when it was causing my phone to de-prioritize my other devices.

In use

Setting up the Run earbuds was a cinch. Within 30 seconds of tearing open the packaging, I had them securely in my ears and paired with my iPhone 6S. I was lucky enough to have a perfect fit with the default buds. It was definitely the fastest setup period I’ve seen with any pair of wireless headphones, even my BeatsX.

The right Run earbud handles all of the connectivity with your phone. You can choose to wear it by itself if you’d rather keep one ear open (which is how I typically walk around New York City). The left earbud automatically connects to the right one over Bluetooth when you turn it on, and the sound carries over without any interruption. Everything sounds a bit compressed when you’re just using the right earbud, but the audio field expands seamlessly once you turn on the left bud.

You don’t have many options for controlling the Run. Each earbud has just one button. Powering them on and off takes one long press, but you can also skip forward to the next track by double-clicking them. The buttons are easy enough to find, but they’re difficult to press. Pushing them simply felt painful, since doing so also jams the Run deeper into your ear. Because of that, I avoided the buttons entirely while wearing the earbuds.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

When it comes to sound quality, the Run delivers far more than you’d expect, given its tiny frame. My usual round of test music tracks, including “Like A Dog Chasing Cars” from the Dark Knight soundtrack, and Little Dragon’s “Klapp Klapp,” all sounded great, with a healthy amount of detail and a surprising bass. The JayBird Run unfortunately had trouble with complex high notes; cymbals sometimes sounded like a distorted mess. They certainly didn’t sound as good as the BeatsX or the Jaybird Freedom, though, both of which deliver quality that’s almost on par with wired headphones.

The Jaybird Run were especially great for podcasts. Dialog sounded rich and natural, with none of the tinniness you get from some wireless headphones. And since podcasts are usually recorded at a much lower fidelity than music, they ended up being ideal for the Run’s more limited audio range. I caught up on a big chunk of my podcast backlog while testing them, simply because they were so convenient to wear.

If you like to customize your audio experience, you can also use Jaybird’s mobile app to tweak the Run’s sound profile. It’s flat by default, but the company provides a variety of options like “Bring the bass,” which boosts the low-end, or “Extended listening,” which cuts down harsh high notes. There are also custom profiles from athletes like Nick Rimando and Kerri Walsh Jennings, and you can find profiles from other Jaybird users as well. If you want, you can also adjust your levels manually. (I opted for the “Signature” settings, which boosts bass and high notes a bit.) The app changes the Run’s sound at the firmware level, so any tweaks will apply no matter what you’re listening to. If you need help finding exercise tunes, there’s also a curated selection of Spotify playlists within the app.

With no wires in the way, the Jaybird Run made listening to just about anything feel completely seamless. It takes just a few seconds to pop it out of the case, and they paired with my phone quickly too. Since they’re so comfortable, I occasionally forgot I was even wearing them. At times, too, it felt like they were simply an extension of my hearing. They didn’t fall out of my ears once after hours of testing, and after a while my low-level anxiety about dropping them on a New York City sidewalk evaporated.

My honeymoon with the Jaybird Run almost ended abruptly during my first jogging session. They simply couldn’t stay synchronized in stereo mode while I was moving, a problem multiple reviewers have brought up over the past few weeks. When I asked Jaybird for comment, a spokesperson said that the unit I was testing were pre-production, and not the final hardware consumers would get. Typically I’d find that answer suspicious, but since the Run aren’t actually shipping to customers until later this month, all I can do for now is take the company at their word.

So that’s the story of how I received a second Jaybird Run pair to review. I immediately took them out for a two-mile run around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park , and thankfully didn’t experience any further synchronization issues. My podcasts and exercise playlist all played without incident. Compared to the Jaybird Freedom, which are wirelessly connected to your phone, but still have a thin cable attaching the earbuds, the Run offered a completely different experience.

It’s one thing not to have to worry about managing a headphone cable, but running through the park unencumbered by any cables felt truly liberating. I still experienced minor synchronization issues when walking around Manhattan, but that’s something I’ve also noticed with other wireless buds. Extreme radio interference is part of the cost of living in a dense urban environment.

Jaybird’s four-hour battery life claim for the Run was close to what I actually saw. The buds would typically last for around three hours and 45 minutes during my testing. As you’d expect, that timing changed a bit if I was listening to quiet podcasts, or loud music most of the time. Together with the battery case, the Run typically lasted around two to three days, depending on if I could fit in a jogging session. As our resident marathoner, Engadget’s executive editor Dana Wollman notes that the Run’s battery life should be fine for most runners. But you’d probably want a wired pair if you’re hitting the pavement beyond four hours.

Pricing and the competition

At $ 180, the Jaybird Run are slightly more expensive than competing wireless earbuds. Apple’s AirPods go for $ 159, while Bragi’s “The Headphone” comes in at $ 149. If you want to cut the cord mainly for exercise, though, the added cost will likely be worth it for the Run’s sweat and water resistance. Jabra’s Elite Sport are another solid workout alternative, but they’re a lot pricier at $ 250.

If you’re considering wireless headphones, it’s worth taking a step back and considering how you plan to use them. If you’re a fitness fanatic, it makes more sense to forgo wires entirely with the Jaybird Run. But if you care more about having higher audio quality, and only need headphones for occasional exercise, you might be better off with something like Jaybird Freedom or BeatsX, which still have short cables.

Wrap-up

Jaybird didn’t disappoint with the Run. They’re everything I’d want in a pair of truly cord-free headphones. While they still require sacrificing a bit of audio quality, that’s true of everything else in this category. Losing a bit of fidelity is worth it, though, if you’ve ever dreamt of going for a run while losing yourself to music and not worrying about any annoying cords.

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Apple TV 4K review: Almost perfect

The Apple TV 4K is the streaming box we’ve been waiting for. It brings together the excellent interface from the 2015 model, along with the long-awaited ability to watch movies and TV shows in 4K and HDR. And perhaps most importantly, it seriously drives down the cost of digital 4K releases. Sure, competitors like Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV have had 4K/HDR capabilities for years, but Apple’s pricing model makes the format more accessible to consumers. While it’s not quite perfect, the Apple TV 4K is a solid step beyond HD video.

Hardware

At first glance, it’s tough to tell the new Apple TV apart from its predecessor. They both have the same boxy plastic design, with glossy sides and a matte top. There are a few small differences, though. The new model is raised up slightly to expose air vents, which helps to keep its faster processor cool. It also doesn’t have a diagnostic USB-C port on the back — instead it features an HDMI port, an upgraded gigabit Ethernet jack, and a power connection. Consumers likely won’t notice the omitted USB-C port, since it’s mainly used for IT administration.

Not much has changed on the remote either. A small ring around the menu button is the only noticeable tweak. That helps you hit the button easily in the dark, and it’s also a tactile way to let you know you’re holding the remote correctly. The buttons for heading back to the home screen, Siri voice control, play/pause and volume controls haven’t changed at all. Its motion control capabilities are still intact, as well, but you’ll mainly be using that for games.

This new model won’t win over haters of the original remote, who criticized its fragile design and touchpad controls. But as someone who actually liked the last model, I found it just as easy to use. It still doesn’t make much sense to throw glass on a slim remote that’ll inevitably get crushed in your couch, though.

Under the hood, the Apple TV 4K is powered by the A10X Fusion processor, the same chip inside of the newest iPad Pro models. That additional power is certainly helpful for dealing with huge video files, but it’s also something that games and apps will be able to take advantage of. The last Apple TV often had trouble running complex apps — like Sling TV and Hulu (with its redesigned interface) — without any slowdowns.

Software and setup

Setting up the Apple TV 4K was pretty simple: Just plug in your WiFi credentials, enter your iCloud account, and you’re good to go. If you have an iOS device nearby, you can also hold it near the Apple TV during setup to transfer all of your settings. The entire process took just a few minutes when I used my iPhone 6S.

Apple’s tvOS platform hasn’t changed much, but the company did add a new feature called “One Home Screen,” which lets you sync up your apps and their layout across multiple Apple TVs. It worked flawlessly as I transitioned away from my previous-gen Apple TV (though I did have to manually enable it before I unplugged that model). You’ll still have to log into all of your streaming services, but One Home Screen at least saves you the trouble of finding all of your apps and organizing them.

For the most part, tvOS still looks like a slightly blown up version of the iOS homescreen. It’s an interface that’s beginning to show its age, but it’s still more attractive than Roku’s and the Fire TV’s. The entire UI is also rendered in 4K/HDR, something that no other set-top box is doing yet.

In use

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

As you can tell by the name, the big difference with this new box is 4K support, which offers four times as many pixels as 1080p HD. That makes it ideal for bringing out very fine detail, like individual strands of hair and blades of grass. Most people won’t be able to see much of a difference with the jump to 4K from their normal viewing distance — you need to be sitting really close to a TV set 55-inches or larger to truly notice it.

Even if you have a massive TV, though, you’ll notice the addition of HDR, or high-dynamic range video, more than 4K on its own. On compatible sets, HDR lets you see more intense whitesbrightness, deeper blacks and a wider range of colors in between. On newer films, the difference can feel like night and day.

Apple wisely chose to support both HDR standards: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. But, in typical Apple fashion, it’s offering these new formats in a slightly different way. Unlike most devices, which enable HDR when you’re watching video that supports it, the Apple TV 4K always has HDR enabled. Apple says this helps to avoid annoying flickering that occurs on some TVs when they switch in and out of HDR modes. It might seem like a strange choice, but as Apple sees it, forcing HDR solves a fairly common usability issue. Some TVs take several seconds to jump into HDR mode — something that feels unconscionable in 2017.

By default, Apple says it forces the best HDR setting for your TV set. The definition of “best,” is up for debate, though. On my LG OLED B6, it automatically enables HDR10 at 60Hz. But I’d prefer to be viewing in Dolby Vision, since it can adjust to changes in lighting dynamically, something HDR10 can’t do. Since I had no trouble watching Dolby Vision titles, it appears as if the Apple TV is doing some sort of automatic translation between HDR modes. You can force the Apple TV to display specific resolutions and refresh rates, but at this point you can’t choose which HDR mode to output. We’ve asked Apple for more details about how it’s handling HDR, and will update if we hear back.

For now, the only 4K/HDR enabled content Apple is offering is in the iTunes Movies app. There’s a section dedicated to the higher resolution films, with a slim offering of more than 120 titles. That’s on-par with Vudu’s 4K library, Apple’s biggest competitor. Surprisingly, There aren’t any 4K/HDR TV shows on iTunes yet.

While adding 4K/HDR support is nice, it’s nothing revolutionary. What is transformative is that Apple isn’t charging a premium for 4K films. You’ll be able to buy them between $ 15 and $ 20, and rent them for $ 6, just like the company’s current HD library. And just as the company promised, your existing iTunes purchases will be upgraded to the new format for free. In my library of 50 films, my copies of Star Trek Beyond, Arrival, The Lego Movie, Kingsman, and La La Land were all instantly bumped up.

We’re already seeing the impact of Apple’s pricing on the rest of the streaming market: Google and Vudu have both started discounting 4K titles. Vudu used to charge $ 30 for 4K purchases and $ 10 for rentals. While the competition isn’t offering free 4K upgrades yet, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until they follow suit since they were so quick to match Apple’s prices. So even if you’re not even interested in the Apple TV 4K, you’ve got Apple to thank for pushing everyone towards sensible pricing. Given that most consumers are used to watching media via subscription services, it seems wiser to lower the cost so they don’t get turned off of digital purchases and rentals completely.

Brian Oh/Engadget

So how do the souped-up movies look on the new Apple TV? In a word, fantastic. Kong: Skull Island ended up being the ideal 4K HDR demo on my LG OLED TV set. It features scenes with plenty of bright elements, as well as detailed dark portions. At times, both extreme brightness and darkness show up at the same time, thanks to the versatility of HDR. I had to shield my eyes a bit when Kong stands in front of the bright tropical sun, but I could still make out details in his dark fur. The film’s many explosions, not to mention other giant monsters, also looked incredible thanks to all of the new video technology.

Quality-wise, Kong looked on-par with what I’ve seen from Vudu’s 4K streaming, but there was still the occasional compression artifact. That’s simply the reality of streaming video, though — if you want to be rid of blocky compression completely, you’d have to upgrade to 4K Blu-ray discs. When comparing the ITunes 4K version of Arrival to my 4K Blu copy, I didn’t notice any significant differences, aside from the occasional artifact on the streaming side.

Baby Driver is a much brighter film than Kong, but its colorful palette almost pops off the screen with 4K/HDR. The formats also help with the film’s many action sequences — there was a bit more oomph as every gun fired, and I could make out even more detail during the long chase sequences. In many ways, the film looked more impressive than it did in an actual theater.

The Apple TV also surprised me by how quickly it loaded up 4K films. Typically they’d launch in less than a second, and most of the time they also loaded up in 4K from the start. With Vudu, it would typically take a second or two before things got started. That’s not a huge difference, but it makes for a practically seamless viewing experience. Apple recommends that you have at least a 25 Mbps internet connection to stream 4K, which should technically be doable for many consumers in the US. I’d also recommend using a modern 802.11ac router to push all of that data — things could easily get stuttery on older gear.

On Netflix, I ran through my usual 4K/HDR demos and came away impressed. Daredevil, a show that tends to be very dark, looked just as good as it did on my TV’s built-in app. The new formats come in especially handy for the show’s night-time fight scenes — on my old 1080p plasma set, it was sometimes difficult to make out the intricacies of its incredible choreography. And I could almost taste the gorgeous meals on Chef’s Table.

Unfortunately, the Apple TV 4K is still way behind when it comes to third-party support. Netflix is the only app with 4K/HDR enabled today. There’s an Amazon Prime Video app coming, which will likely include that service’s UHD titles . There’s no 4K YouTube support either, because Apple hasn’t adopted Google’s open VP9 codec. Given that YouTube is home to plenty of 4K video, it’s something both companies will want to fix soon. Hulu also offers 4K streaming on game consoles, and Apple says it’s in talks with enabling that on the TV. And of course, there’s the recently launched Vudu app, which is also stuck with HD titles.

There weren’t any new games to show off, but Transistor did run a bit more smoothly than on the last model. In the future, you can look forward to Sky, the next game from Journey creator Jenova Chen, as well as an adaptation of the creepy indie game Inside. Apple TV’s gaming ecosystem has floundered the past few years, but the added horsepower here might help it recover. It could give developers just the push they need to port their games over without compromises.

Of course, there’s still plenty of room for Apple to improve. Its 4K library is missing major films from studios like Disney and franchises like The Fast and the Furious, and the company clearly needs to get more 4K-enabled services aboard. I also noticed some weird quirks with the Apple TV’s video processing — for some HD shows on Sling and HBO Now, it tended to over-emphasize sharpened edges and some lighting elements. It’d be nice to be able to turn off that image correction completely.

Perhaps strangest of all, the Apple TV 4K doesn’t support next-generation audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X yet. That’s something plenty of devices, including the Xbox One S and lower-end Roku boxes, have offered for a while now. Netflix is also offering it with some newer releases, like the film Okja. Apple says Atmos is coming eventually, according to The Verge, but it’s unclear when we should expect it. I’m currently running a 5.1.2 (5.1 with two upward firing speakers) Atmos configuration, and it’s simply disappointing that such a high-end device can’t take advantage of it properly.

Pricing and the competition

The Apple TV 4K starts at $ 179 for the 32GB model, up from $ 149 for the last version. There’s also a 64GB model for $ 199, but that’s mainly meant for people who plan to download plenty of games. In comparison, you’d have access to more 4K HDR content with a $ 100 Roku box or Amazon Fire TV.

The very idea of using a set-top box is beginning to seem anachronistic, now that more TVs are including most of the popular streaming apps. But the Apple TV’s ease of use, together with iTunes’ inexpensive 4K offerings and free upgrades, makes the case for investing in a separate device.

Wrap-up

The Apple TV 4K does everything you’d expect it to do — what’s surprising is how Apple is undercutting the competition in 4K pricing. In a world where people are buying fewer films, and the current best physical media format might not be sticking around for long, it serves an important role by making 4K and HDR films more accessible. It’s just a shame that we still have to wait for Apple to score more licensing deals, get more third-party support and fix curious omissions, like its lack of Atmos support.

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The LG V30 is the perfect smartphone for vlogging

When LG took the wraps off of the LG V30 at IFA last week, it spent nearly 20 of its 50-minute presentation talking about the phone’s dual camera system. Juno Cho, President of Mobile Communications, rattled off statistics like “almost 80 percent of smartphone users use their smartphone at least once a week to shoot videos.” He also said that “we are literally on the verge of transitioning from storytelling to storyshowing,” which is almost as crazy as Samsung’s new catchphrase: “Your New Normal.” I digress.

Cho is on to something: YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram are proof that amatuer video is massively popular. Having spotted this trend, LG is positioning the V30 as the ideal tool for anyone trying to break into making video. I decided to put LG’s claim to the test and spent some time using the V30 to snap stories for Instagram and Snapchat, plus I took plenty of regular videos with the (amazing) built-in camera app.

Unfortunately the Android versions of Instagram and Snapchat are so bad that I couldn’t see much of a difference between the blotchy stories that were shot on my Xperia X Compact (bad camera) and the blotchy stories shot on the V30 (good camera), so that was out. Instead I decided to narrow my focus to the following three questions: Can you use the V30 to make YouTube videos? Is the V30 a reasonable substitute for a dedicated camera? And is the V30 the best smartphone for making video?

Can you use the V30 to make YouTube videos?

Can you use the V30 to vlog? Can you use the V30 to make YouTube videos even if you’re not vlogging? Yes. This seems like a simple question, and it is: You can use almost any camera to make videos for YouTube, but unfortunately “camera” and “Android phone” are not always compatible. I got the bright idea to vlog with the HTC 10 last year because of that front-facing camera with image stabilization, but HTC’s default app (at the time) allowed videos to dip below 24 frames per second (fps) in low light, and that just looks terrible. It’s fine if a video is dark; it’s not fine if it looks like a simulated drug trip.

The V30s wide-angle lens is perfect for vlogging.

Is the V30 a reasonable substitute for a dedicated camera?

Luckily my experience with the HTC 10 was not repeated with the V30. In fact, the V30 is the closest thing I’ve seen to a smartphone behaving like a real camera to date. Not only does LG give you control over the really important stuff like white balance and ISO, it also gives you control of shutter speed in video (!) and three options for bitrate (!!!). If you’re someone who knows cameras and has ever tried to use one of the faux manual video apps on many smartphones, this is like being handed a cool glass of water in hell.

And with a couple of exceptions the V30’s camera app does exactly what it says it’s doing, and, this is what I consider necessary for a smartphone to replace a dedicated camera. Not sensor or aperture size or anything like that. The camera has to do what I tell it to do and it has to work all of the time. Then it can replace my real camera.

LG’s manual camera app gives almost total control over video recording.

Despite what LG says on stage, the V30 can’t match cameras with DSLR-sized sensors, if we’re being realistic. A tiny sensor will never produce the bokeh or sensitivity of a sensor of nearly three times the size. But LG gave us something new with the V30: LG-Cine Log. B&H has a lengthy explanation of Log (short for logarithmic) recording, but in a nutshell this mode gives you flat, unsharpened video that’s much better for editing in programs like Premiere and Final Cut. Smartphones may not have the resolving power of larger cameras, but gaining full control over the recording makes the concession far more palatable.

I won’t dwell on Log recording because it is somewhat technical, but one thing is worth noting—and it’s not even clear that LG has this in mind—but for the first time you’ll be able to download and share color profiles with other people in the form of lookup tables or LUTs. Plenty of communities exist for trading and selling LUTs for Sony and Panasonic cameras, and maybe there’s a better colorist out there than the engineers at LG. I look forward to spending $ 15 on their V30 LUT package on Gumroad.

Smartphones may not have the resolving power of larger cameras, but gaining full control over the recording makes the concession far more palatable.

But of course, nothing’s perfect and neither is the V30. I should disclaim that we’re using pre-production V30s and the camera firmware and software isn’t final. That being said, I did find a couple of strange behaviors with the V30 camera. First, when you plug in an external microphone, the app doesn’t automatically record with it. Instead you have to tap on the microphone icon and set it to record from the headset mic. This is unlike any camera or smartphone I’ve ever used, so this behavior is a bit head-scratcher. Second, something is wrong with 1080p video from the wide angle camera. Again, this is a pre-production model, but the 1080p video from the wide angle camera looks someone set the sharpening and noise reduction to 100 and called it a day.

Is the V30 the best smartphone for making video?

The iPhone 7 Plus and the recently announced Galaxy Note 8 also have dual camera systems, and both take very good video, but their telephoto lenses aren’t a perfect match for what people want to create on YouTube. The tight shots that the telephoto lenses provide are great for interviews and documentary style video, but those aren’t the prevailing formats on YouTube right now. The V30’s combination of wide angle and normal lens open up more popular YouTube formats like vlogging, extreme sports videos, skate videos, and several more. And while the upcoming iPhone announcement could change a lot, the current iPhone 7 series lacks a headphone jack, making it an ordeal to charge and use an external microphone at the same time.

Otherwise it comes down to taste. Video taken on the iPhone, in my opinion, has best-in-class coloring. Samsung’s coloring is fine but looks weird and is hard to post-process because it’s already been pushed pretty far. Not only does the V30 offer Log video that allows you to choose your coloring later, I also think the colors coming out of regular video are very nice.

So can the V30 cut it as your primary video making device? The answer is absolutely yes. Thanks to its versatile dual-camera system the V30 is capable of getting lots of different shots. The camera app itself and the manual video mode within it make the V30 worth considering by itself, and nice perks like the headphone jack and waterproofing set it above devices like the iPhone and the OnePlus 5. Samsung’s “Do What You Can’t” campaign is clearly in love with the idea of empowering content creators, but LG has actually come to the table with the tools content creators need.

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LG G6’s dual cameras are good, but far from perfect

Dual cameras are now the standard option when it comes to flagship phones and LG has already put the setup to work in previous models. With the G6, the company opted for two 13-megapixel Sony cameras instead of one larger and one smaller like it did with the modular G5. The combination of the dual lenses, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon zoom technology and LG’s existing camera features help the G6 make a compelling case, especially in terms of imagery.

Sure, the main attraction on the G6 may be its unique 18:9 display, but the dual cameras and the ability to transition smoothly between regular and wide-angle shots is also a big selling point. As a refresher, the phone’s rear-facing cameras can capture 71-degree field of view photos while employing optical stabilization and f/1.8 aperture. Those wide-angle images bump to 125-degree field of view — an increase that works best when capturing things like landmarks and landscapes. The front-facing camera also features a similar wide-angle option capable of 100-degree field of view shots. For all three sensors, LG chose a 1.12um pixel size, the same used on both the G4 and G5.

While we’ve seen them before, LG brought back handy photography tools inside the stock camera app. These include a Food Mode with it’s own white balance slider so you can ensure that your colors are accurate. There are also skin tone, lighting and filters for the front-facing 5-megapixel f/2.2 camera to help you fine-tune those selfies. Meanwhile, a new app just for Square photos lends a hand to Instagramers for previews, compositions and collages. It’s useful, but we’re not convinced it will become a staple just yet.

In good lighting and outdoors during the day, the G6 performs on par with some of the best phone cameras we’ve seen. Overall, colors really pop and the images are crisp and clean. Performance does suffer in low-light situations, though, as the photos are noticeably grainy outside at night or in other environments where lighting isn’t stellar. Even though we were already familiar with the selfie features, those software tools help the front-facing camera capture images of your face that also crisp and feature vibrant colors.

One place LG where has improved camera performance from its previous phones is the transition between regular and wide-angle shots. There used to be a bit of a stutter when you switched back and forth, but that change is much smoother now. While the G6 doesn’t pack a Snapdragon 835, LG did work with Qualcomm to bring the chip’s camera zoom transition feature to the new flagship. It certainly makes a difference, and the switch between views doesn’t have a noticeable stutter like it does on the iPhone 7 Plus and other devices.

To take advantage of that extra screen real estate, LG has added a handy photo gallery along the side of the camera UI. It offers easy access to your last few shots and if you used a setting like Food Mode, the photo will be labeled with a tiny icon to remind you. Unfortunately, the G6 we tested wasn’t running final software, so tapping on that in-camera gallery sometimes caused the app to crash. That’s the only big issue we experienced and it’s one the company will likely remedy before final devices launch.

The LG G6’s dual cameras make a great first impression. Of course, we’ll need to spend more than a few hours with the handset before we can make a final call, but we’re planning to do just that during our full review. You can bet we’ll put the dual cameras through their paces in a full day’s worth of capturing photos in the near future.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.

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My quest to find the perfect rideable at CES

Electric vehicles are a huge part of CES this year. From the Honda NueV to the Faraday Future FF91, everyone’s attention is laser-focused on gas-guzzler replacements. While these are exciting, though, for me they pale in comparison to another, smaller form of transportation: rideables. Spanning skateboards, scooters and bikes, these little machines are perfect for a city-dweller such as myself. With a camera in hand, I’ve been scouring the show trying to find the very best. My mission: To find my dream rideable.

Onewheel+

Onewheel+: Hands-on

First up was the Onewheel+. Its creator, Future Motion, is no newcomer to CES, having unveiled its first prototype at the show in 2014. The company has come a long way since then, fine-tuning the design with its first production model 12 months later. Now it’s back with the Onewheel+, a souped-up version with a revamped motor and deck design. The underlying concept is unchanged, however: a single tire sits in the middle, while two wooden panels — similar to the nose and tail of a skateboard — rest at the front and back. You stand sideways and lean on the nose, which hides a pressure sensor, to push the strange contraption forward.

The experience is exhilarating. The first time I stepped on, I just couldn’t find my balance. It’s like learning a bicycle: When you’re starting out, the hardest part is taking off and stopping. Once you have some forward momentum it’s monumentally simpler to stay upright and change direction. Turning is another matter entirely, however. You need to push down on your toes or heels, just like a skateboard, to start a frontside or backside carve. At first my turns were slow and wide as I struggled to commit and lean into the board. After a few minutes, however, I was snaking around the car park like a pro. (Or rather, not a total newbie.)

I was impressed. I wanted one.

The new motor inside the Onewheel+ offers a smoother and more predictable ride than its predecessor. That’s important because you can take this rideable on tracks and other unstable surfaces, thanks to its wide, chunky tyre. Rocks and branches will still pose a problem, but it’s now easier to avoid them or bounce along with precision. The company’s custom “Hypercore” has also increased the wheel’s top speed from 15 to 19 miles per hour. Unwanted motor heat is pushed out through the axel, and regenerative braking can recover up to 30 percent of its power output.

URB-E Sport

URB-E Sport: Hands On

I was impressed. I wanted one. But I couldn’t declare Future Motion the winner without knowing what else was out there. My journey led me to the URB-E Sport, a foldable electric vehicle that looks a bit like a scooter. The tiny wheels and stunt pedals certainly give that impression from afar. But there’s no deck for your feet to stand on, merely stunt pedals that attach to the bottom of its unusual V-shaped frame. The way it unfolds is reminiscent of a Brompton bicycle, with just a single button that triggers the release. Pop the two handlebars down and you’re ready to go.

The original URB-E started as an Indiegogo project in 2014. It was sold as “the ultimate last mile vehicle” with a top speed of 15MPH. While impressive, the $ 1,500 price-tag meant it was well out of most people’s price range. After shipping the first production models in late 2015, the company has returned with a new “Sport” model. The name is a bit misleading, however. It’s actually a little slower than its predecessor (the top speed is now 14 MPH) and can only hit 16 miles on a single charge. But in exchange, you get a drastically reduced price of $ 899.

I had a blast nipping around the Engadget trailer, standing up on the pedals and scooting past bemused colleagues.

It was still plenty quick for me, and I was able to ride immediately. You just sit on the saddle, engage the motor and twist the throttle like a motorcycle — it’s really that simple. I had a blast nipping around the Engadget trailer, standing up on the pedals and scooting past bemused colleagues. While there are some advanced maneuvers, including one where you engage the throttle, plant your foot and quickly turn on a dime, I felt like I had mastered the Sport within a few minutes. It was still fun to use, but I missed the sense of skill and progression offered by the Onewheel+.

That’s not to say the URB-E Sport doesn’t have its perks. A nice saddle and pushrod suspension system should make it comfortable for longer stretches than the Onewheel+. In a first for the company, you can also take the battery out and use it to charge other devices. The removable “Eddy” power pack, named after Thomas Edison, has four USB 2.0 ports and one USB-C socket, and can charge an iPhone 40 times over before running out of juice. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the charge you’ll need to ride the URB-E Sport to your final destination. It weighs 30 pounds, so you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of the city with no juice.

Zboard 2 Pearl

I left the URB-E Sport behind feeling a tad conflicted. It was zippy and practical, but I missed the adrenaline rush I had experienced with the Onewheel+. I wanted something that could sit somewhere in the middle, providing speed and flexible, expressive riding in a somewhat sensible form factor. Determined to succeed, I made an appointment with Ben Forman, a mechanical engineer and founder of ZBoard. His company has been working on the ZBoard 2 electric skateboard for almost two years now. With $ 900,000 in Indiegogo funding, the team has produced multiple versions and tested them with its most passionate backers.

Now, Forman has a board which he’s confident will be the final model. It comes in two versions, Blue and Pearl, which will retail for $ 1,299 and $ 1,499, respectively. Both have a top speed of 20 miles per hour, but the similarities end there. The Blue has a range of 16 miles, while the Pearl can hit roughly 24 before needing a top-up. However, that added endurance means the Pearl weighs a little more and takes four and a half hours to charge. You also get a darker rosewood deck, rather than the Blue’s Canadian maple, and a wider set of wheels that can better absorb the impact when you hit bumps in the sidewalk.

There are many electric skateboards (hello, Boosted) but the ZBoard is unusual because it doesn’t require a handheld controller. Normally, a rider needs this to accelerate, check their battery and switch between modes. Not so with the ZBoard 2, which uses pressure-sensitive footpads instead. Leaning on the front sensor will cause you to accelerate, while hammering the back one brings you to a stop. Each pad has a sweet spot and it took me a while to understand how I should be standing and pressing with the balls of my feet. Gliding around a half-empty car park, I would find myself struggling to move forward, only to suddenly lurch into top gear.

After five minutes, however, Forman declared that I was ready for the streets. (Gulp.) We both ventured out on our Zboard 2s and cruised around some of the quieter roads near Downtown Container Park. At first I was nervous, but the sensation quickly gave way to joy. The ZBoard’s acceleration is wild, especially when you ramp it up to the higher “expert” and “ludicrous” modes. We were flying (within the speed limit, of course), creating long, arching turns when the opportunity arose. I’ve always been a fan of board sports, so this feeling of joy didn’t come as a great surprise.

If I had the money, I would gladly own them all. But as I waved goodbye to Forman, I knew my quest had come to an end. Of all the rideables that were shown at CES this year, the ZBoard 2 Pearl was my favorite. It’s fast, maneuverable and, just like surfing or longboarding, it gives you a chance to express yourself while riding. You can keep your Toyota Concept-i and Chrysler Portal. There’s only one electric vehicle for me, and it doesn’t need an AI assistant, selfie cam or autonomous driving mode to impress.

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