Gadget news
PlayStation Access controller review – an accessibility Swiss Army knife
5:00 pm | December 4, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming Playstation PS5 | Comments: Off

The PlayStation Access controller is Sony’s first venture into accessible gamepads, and the culmination of years of research and work, previously going under the codename Project Leonardo. It’s an unusual-looking gamepad, but one that possesses a host of different talents and features, and promises flexibility and ease of use at every turn. 

At the heart of the Access controller’s goal is the drive to redress the imbalance of adaptation and controls in gaming: where players have to adapt to the demands of a controller rather than a controller adapting to the needs of a player - the latter of which has never really happened before. 

This is music to my ears as I'm part of the Access controller’s target audience. I was born with different, small hands with generally short and stubby fingers, and far fewer knuckles than ‘normal’ folks. But I also only have stubs for index fingers, a bent ring finger with little mobility or function, and a tiny bump for one middle finger. While I don’t require any extra, specific hardware help - I’ve just learned to get by with (only) symmetrical controllers for a long time - it’s always been clear that regular pads weren’t designed for people like me.

As a result, something like the Access controller is potentially groundbreaking for many PlayStation 5 players. After spending a lot of time with the controllers, I can safely say that this will be the case; it is a splendid accessible gamepad that will make not only playing games easier for more people but enjoying them easier too.

PlayStation Access controller review - price and availability

The PlayStation Access controller costs $89.99 / £79.99 and is available from all the usual retailers, as well as PlayStation Direct. 

It’s disappointing that the Access controller costs more than a PS5 DualSense controller. This means the price of admission for people who need this controller is more than for ‘normal’ players and another barrier is raised - especially as some folks will find they need two Access controllers.

In terms of market comparisons, the Access controller is roughly the same price as Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller which currently retails for $99.99 / £74.99 (also more expensive than a standard official gamepad on that platform).

PlayStation Access controller review - design and features

Before even getting the controller out of the box, the work that’s gone into making everything about the Access controller accessible is clear. The packaging is designed to be opened with only one hand, which I tested with my ‘smaller’ hand. This was an effortless process using only a couple of digits and one which I was able to capture in pictures to illustrate. 

Image 1 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 2 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 3 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 4 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 5 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 6 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 7 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 8 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 9 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
Image 10 of 10

Unboxing the PlayStation Access controller with one hand on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

The Access controller is built around one major pad or circle of buttons, with a joystick on one side, it comes in at around 5.5 x 1.5 x 7.5in (141 x 39 x 191mm; WxHxD) and weighs approximately 0.7lbs (322g). Its main base has one central button, and eight ‘satellite’ buttons surrounding it, while a joystick on an extendable slider is attached to one side, and all parts sit on one axis with a flat bottom.

But there’s more here, and the Access controller is much more akin to a controller kit rather than a single unit. In the kit, you get a total of 19 button types (or caps), 23 labeling tags, three thumbsticks, and a USB-C charging cable. Each part feels robust and the magnets and small catches that keep the button caps in place on each button are simultaneously sturdy, and easy to use and remove. One small gripe from this kit approach is that the controller doesn’t come with the same amount of every type of button cap or type. The 19 caps offer a decent mix but it’s a shame I can’t kit out the full controller with the one type of button cap I have found most successful for my hands.

The full PlayStation Access controller kit

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

Other features include the same LED lighting patterns and behaviors as a DualSense that appear around the central pad, a main PS button (which is annoyingly colored black and positioned on a black chassis meaning it will be hard for some to locate and see), a button to lock and unlock the joystick extender, and a profile button to switch between three onboard profiles (you can also store up to 30 on the PS5).

There’s also a USB-C port for charging and wired use that’s flanked by four industry-standard 3.5mm aux ports (two on either side) for other controllers or joysticks to be plugged into. Three screw holes on the underside will allow easy attachment of the Access controller to surfaces and setups.

The design of the Access controller reveals, importantly, that it can’t replace a DualSense like-for-like; it’s something you build a setup around, bring into an existing one, or use in conjunction with a DualSense or another Access controller to ensure it fits your needs.

PlayStation Access controller review - Performance and battery life

Two PlayStation Access controllers and a DualSense controller on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

Greeting you when you first plug the Access controller into your PS5 will be a short tutorial, after which you’re walked through how to use, program, and set up the controller. All the menus and steps are intuitive, clear, and easy to use. You can use the Access controller straight away with some default button settings which help ease you in right from the off.

Even from this early introductory use, it’s quickly clear that the clicky buttons feel fantastic, the thumbstick (particularly when using the larger joystick attachment) is incredibly responsive and a joy to use, and the overall placement of the buttons just works. The circular arrangement will require getting used to; by design, it means that some of the Access controller’s buttons will be close to you, and some will be far away and could require reaching over. 

When it comes to my testing, I would emphasize that this is within the confines of my own accessibility needs - mileage will vary so much for so many folks, depending on needs, existing setups, and so on - but, in brief, my time with the controller has been a joy. Putting it to the test with different games, I used the Access controller on its own, with a DualSense, and in tandem with a second Access controller, to get a feel for how it could be deployed but also how it could meet my personal needs and boost my experience.

Two PlayStation Access controllers on a wooden surface with a DualSense controller

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

In racing games like F1 2021 and Dirt 5, using one Access controller is simple and very intuitive; it is as easy as assigning acceleration and braking to two buttons and using the stick to steer. The limitations on using one controller are clear: there just aren’t as many buttons on the Access as there are on a standard DualSense so you can’t recreate every input that’s often needed by games, though you’ll almost certainly have enough for many.

Pairing an Access controller with a DualSense, I transplanted my right hand’s normal controls onto the Access controller. In short, this is very successful, especially from a reach and interaction perspective; controls that were previously more challenging on one side of the DualSense can be repositioned on the Access controller and are far easier to use. The only ‘problem’ here is that you’re then left holding and using a DualSense in one hand and the weight can become tricky to handle, especially if you need to be able to use L2 and L1.

Where I think the Access controller shines most is when it is paired with another. Using two simultaneously unlocks much more flexibility and feels the closest to competently replacing a traditional gamepad experience. Orientating the two Access controllers so the thumb sticks were on the inside - the pads can be orientated four ways; left, right, up, or down - allowed me to focus controls on the natural placement of my digits while keeping my thumbs in position on the excellent joysticks - even using different stick attachments due to the different size and position of my hands.

The PlayStation Access controller being used by someone with accessibility needs.

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

A small caveat of using the Access controller in this position is that it does mean your palms are dangerously close to the closest buttons which is a double-edged sword: I could map an action to the bottom button (or buttons plural as the same input can be mapped to multiple buttons) to press with my palm, but then I’d have nowhere to rest my hand, or I could deactivate it, but that would cost me one or two inputs. 

Trying to be ambitious, but also use the Access controllers as normally as I would any other controller, I tried using this setup when playing with my friends online in Back 4 Blood. Pleasingly, aside from a few misthrown grenades here and a few missed actions or sprints there, it’s reliable and effective in such games. The sticks make for swift movement, and the buttons for instant actions.

Elsewhere, I've found battery life is better than that of a DualSense. After topping up the battery fully on the day I received them (more than a week ago) and using them almost every day since, I still haven't had to recharge them at time of writing.

No matter what I played, however, a pattern of using the Access controller is of constant remapping to refine what you need. You will find yourself going into the menus a lot as you realize which controls you need, which ones you need to shift, and so on. It’s a constant loop and a game in and of itself. Luckily the software is simple and easy to use when making profiles and offers superb flexibility, particularly in its offering of mapping several buttons to the same input, or combining two inputs to one button, and so on.

Throughout my ongoing use and testing, I have had several quite affecting and eye-opening moments when I was able to use button combos or sequences that I haven’t before, or input ‘regular’ sequences or moves but doing so smoothly and more intuitively than ever. The toggle function - a brand new PlayStation button setting - is one that really resonated with me and I have been using it a lot. It’s simple but genius, and so helpful. Getting the software to hold down the aim button in a shooter for you constantly, or ensuring a bow is constantly drawn and ready without having to constantly press or squeeze is a revolutionary moment.

The PlayStation Access controller being used by someone with accessibility needs.

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

Much like the creation of button profiles, getting the right setup of the physical controller is like a mini-game too - and subtle differences can make a big impact and change things in a flash. For example, bringing the stick closer to the main circle of buttons immediately changed everything for me, suddenly enabling me to move my character or aim more smoothly. Also, trying each different button cap type for each different digit depending on its capabilities was game-changing too, and enabled me to best distribute the tools the Access controller has, matching them to my fingers optimally.

After getting used to the controllers, I have found myself almost reaching for features that aren’t there - things that would feel at home for me and elevate it further. For example, when using the joystick with my pinky finger, I found my thumb resting on the large middle button comfortably and immediately wanted to start using it as a touchpad - this would have been very welcome in the absence of a second joystick, and seems a bit like a missed opportunity, especially in a time when functions can be enabled and disabled at the change of a setting.

I’ve also learned more about the art of using a controller, and the best use of deployment when incorporating extra controllers. For example, it became clear early on that it’s actually best to not try to recreate control schemes like for like, tempting as it might be for someone who has grown used to ‘default’ gaming controller schemes. 

For me, it is best to just let my hands and accessibility needs guide my interaction with the controller (where my digits rested, and what physical attachments were comfortable) and then apply the game’s necessary controls to that. It’s a moving and illuminating process that really makes the Access controller feel like it was made for people like me.

Most of those feelings did come after a generous amount of time, and it’s worth noting I haven’t yet had the full up to two weeks that Sony and its experts suggest it might take to fully get used to the Access controller. At time of publication, I’ve been using the Access controllers most days for a bit over a week. But, however long it takes, it’s absolutely worth it and only serves to get the best out of the PlayStation Access controller.

Should I buy the PlayStation Access controller?

The PlayStation Access controller on a wooden surface next to its box and a PS5 DualSense controller

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

If you need an accessibility controller that can offer an extra way to play then the PlayStation Access controller could be worth its weight in gold and it’s easy to recommend. With no exaggeration, it literally offers new ways to play games, new ways to interact and use your console, and new ways to enjoy games. In my own context, I can now nearly use the controller instinctively, and forget about potentially missing control inputs or having nanoseconds of anxiety to try and reposition my hands on a DualSense. These flashes of revolution using the Access controller are wonderful.

I’m still baffled by the lack of a second stick and there not being enough of each button cap, and the fact that one Access controller can’t replace one DualSense meaning that buying two might be required to get the best results is disappointing. But, personal foibles aside - and, perhaps more than in any other review I’ve done, these really are personal - the PlayStation Access is an excellent controller for those with accessibility needs. Its vast array of different parts, arrangements, applications, kit parts, and functions is already impacting how I play games for the better, and I’m sure it’s going to be a hit in the accessible gaming community.  

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we tested the PlayStation Access controller

I tested two pre-launch units of the Access controller provided by Sony for a little over a week. I tried out a vast range of button profiles and ways to use the controller, while also incorporating it into my usual gaming habits to live with the controller properly. This meant playing single-player games like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, but also tested it on Back 4 Blood online with my friends, as well as playing Unravel 2 as a couch co-op game with my wife.

If you’re looking for more ‘traditional’ pads then check out our guides to the best PS5 controller, best Xbox controller, and best PC controller for each platform right now. 

70mai Omni Dash Cam review: a smart, rotating 360-degree dash cam
1:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Dash Cams Gadgets Vehicle Tech | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

The 70mai is an excellent dash cam at a great price point – its 360-degree coverage and AI-powered features are real highlights, and you'll be hard-pushed to find anything better at this price.

The 360-degree coverage is by far its biggest selling point. You can get better video resolution, such as 4K, on other dash cams, but there aren't many on the market that enable a full rotation for filming any angle of the car. This feature will be particularly appealing for vloggers who want car surveillance while also being able to capture vlogs while driving. It also has the added benefit of being able to capture security threats that are to the side of or behind the windscreen.

The dash cam also benefits from a number of AI-powered features, such as motion detection. The Omni will automatically rotate to track any potential threats, including someone trying to break into the car through one of the doors. The AI hardware is great at assessing incidents, and deciding whether they pose a threat to the safety of your vehicle. 

The design has a lot to commend it too. It's well engineered, and designed to have a human-feel. The human-like display graphics means it's a bit like having a Tamagotchi sitting in front of you while you're driving – it smiles and waves, which I personally thought was a nice touch.  

There are, however, other dash cams that can record better video, at a higher resolution, and contain some better features – check out our best dash cams guide if you're looking for other options.

70mai Omni Dash Cam with rotating camera

(Image credit: Future)
70mai Omni Dash Cam Price and Availability

The 70mai Omni dash cam costs $199 / £158/ AU$399 for the 128GB, $184.99 / £147 / AU$349 for the 64GB model, and $169.99 / £135 for 32GB of storage. 

If you want to take advantage of the parking surveillance mode then you'll need the additional UP03 Hardwire Kit which will set you back $19.99 / £16 / AU$49.95.

For those who are concerned about longevity, 70mai sell a pair of replacement stickers, adhesives and mounts in an accessory pack. This cost $5.99 / £4.77 / AU$6.16.

70mai are currently only shipping this dash cam to the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

So, what do you actually get alongside the Omni? As you'd expect, it ships with everything you need to mount it to your windscreen, which is done using an electrostatic sticker, of which there are two in the box. There's also a spare adhesive sticker, and if you manage to damage these you can buy replacement ones through the 70mai website. 

To help keep you powered on the go you get a USB-C power cord and a car charger adapter. It's also possible to purchase a separate UP03 Hardwire Kit that lets you connect the device directly into the car battery. This is required to enable the camera to work even when you're not in the car, which is essential for making use of the parking surveillance feature. 

The user manual is written in clear English, making it easy to follow the setup process and troubleshooting tips.

70mai Omni Dash Cam with buttons to one side

(Image credit: Future)

The device itself is really nice to look at and touch. It's well engineered, with a sturdy hinge that lets you mount the unit at any angle you want. The hinge feels slightly stiff, but this has the added benefit of ensuring that it stays at exactly the angle you set it at.

The camera head is distinguished from the main body by the use of two different materials. The shiny black top houses the camera, which protrudes only ever so slightly from its housing. This top 'head' rotates really nicely around 360 degrees with no sense of sharp or jerky movements. It is possible to rotate this part when the device is powered off, though, which could result in you accidentally damaging the gimbal.

The main body is also plastic, but has a slightly softer touch to it. This houses the power cable port and the set of buttons. The buttons are red, which makes them stand out and ensures you'll never miss them. There's an on/off button, which also acts as a 'select' button when navigating the menus, while the up and down button lets you move through the menus. When the camera is mounted, these buttons are on the left-hand side of the unit which is great if your car is left-hand drive, but not ideal if it's right-hand drive.

The compact design means that if you choose to tuck it behind the rear view mirror  it'll largely be out of sight while offering good visibility.

70mai Omni Dash Cam secures to the windscreen with an electrostatic sticker

(Image credit: Future)

One of the most important elements of a dash cam is the video quality. If you're going to the expense of buying one of these cameras and installing it in your car, then you want to make sure it's going to give you the visual information you need. These cameras are primarily used for surveillance, which means a certain resolution and definition is required. 

There's only one video resolution, which is Full HD 1920 x 1080px, with the option to capture footage at either 30fps or 60fps; if high resolution is important to you then you may want to pick up a 4K dash cam like the Nextbase 622GW. The resolution can only be adjusted through the app, which somewhat hampers its usability.

The lens is f/1.8 which allows plenty of light to hit the sensor and enables excellent low-light performance. Don't expect incredible detail in the shadows, though, as you would need a much better sensor to achieve this.

That said, the camera has a HDR feature which, when enabled, helps to reduce noise and detail loss in the highlights and shadows.

The lens has a field of view of 140 degrees, and can rotate through 360 degrees, which allows for a significant amount of the road in front of the vehicle to be captured.

The biggest selling point of this dash cam is its 360-degree functionality, although this isn't a true 360-degree camera; as mentioned it has a field of view of 140 degrees, and the 360-degree coverage is made possible by the rotation capabilities of the camera head. The ability to film out of the front windscreen as well as back towards yourself driving is a great feature. There are a range of benefits to this, including being able to film someone trying to break into your car when you're not present, while content creators will appreciate the ability to record vlog-style videos inside the car.

The night vision mode ensures that the 1080p footage is captured no matter what time of day it is; this works surprisingly well, and is aided by the HDR feature.

As well as video capture, the Omni contains a number of other features that help take car video surveillance to a whole new level.

First up is the 24-hour parking surveillance. This is only possible with the additional hardware cable, but once installed will ensure that any potential threat to your car when you're not present is captured.

AI motion detection further helps to ensure that the camera picks up any threat, no matter where it is around the car's exterior. If you walk near the car or are acting suspiciously then the AI hardware will determine how suspicious the movement is and if deemed a threat will begin recording.

You can connect the dash cam to the 70mai app for a greater level of control, including more settings. It's through the app that video clips and photos are viewable. I was a little disappointed to find that there isn't an SD or microSD card slot, which would mean you wouldn't have to rely on the app to view footage. 

You aren't reliant upon the device, or even the app, to control this dash cam. Through a number of voice commands the user can record video or rotate the camera head, enabling you to safely operate the camera when driving. 

Image 1 of 5

70mai Omni dash cam with 360 degree viewing angle

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 5

70mai Omni dash cam with 360 degree viewing angle

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 5

70mai Omni dash cam with 360 degree viewing angle

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 5

70mai Omni dash cam with 360 degree viewing angle

(Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 5

70mai Omni dash cam with 360 degree viewing angle

(Image credit: Future)

The Omni dash cam is remarkably easy to set up. The whole process of setting up the camera, connecting it to the app and then installing the device in my car took no more than 10 minutes, and the electrostatic sticker was strong enough to hold the unit firmly in place.

App connectivity was reliable, and connected seamlessly every single time. The app doesn't have the best reviews on the Apple App store, but I had very few problems with it. My only issue with the app was that it did seem to disconnect from the device far too quickly after ceasing recording. The connection process is quick and easy, so it wasn't necessarily a big problem, but it did become a bit of an annoyance. 

The 70mai app is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Should you buy the 70mai Omni?

70mai Omni Dash Cam for 360 degree viewing

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the 70mai Omni

  • I used it regularly across a number of journeys
  • I used it during the daytime and at night
  • I recorded video for extended periods

The 70mai Omni was a pleasure to test, providing a satisfying overall experience. After installing the device and setting up the app I proceeded to use the dash cam like any other security-conscious driver would.

I wasn't able to test the parking surveillance feature as I didn't hardwire the device into the battery, but I did record footage during multiple journeys, in different lighting conditions and with a range of potential security issues.

  • First reviewed November 2023
Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition review: A new dimension of discomfort
10:00 pm | December 3, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Tags: | Comments: Off

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Two-minute review

This SpatialLabs variant of the Acer Predator Helios 300 is by far one of the strangest recent additions to Acer’s popular Predator line of high-end gaming hardware. 

Taking a good all-round gaming laptop and slapping on an expensive glasses-free 3D SpatialLabs display is certainly one way to make a machine that stands out from the crowd, but it's hard to not wonder whether such a device was really necessary.

This is one of the very first glasses-free 3D gaming laptops on the market, a fact that sadly seems to be the root cause of many of its shortcomings. As is the case with being an early adopter of almost any new tech, you’re paying a prohibitively high price to get in on the action first while it's in its most unpolished state. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatiallabs Edition

(Image credit: Future)

As you’ll see below, the glasses-free 3D is impressive when it works, but there are a raft of obvious teething issues to contend with. This includes a strange matrix of visible dots that spoil an otherwise excellent display in 2D mode, utterly atrocious battery life, and poor gaming performance whenever the 3D is turned on. 

These problems will surely be ironed out with future iterations but, for the moment, it's disappointing to see consumers being sold a product that feels a little too much like a prototype.

In spite of this, sharing a lot of characteristics with the design of the regular Acer Predator Helios 300 means that there is still a solid gaming laptop beneath it all. The materials are sturdy and the specs, while unimpressive for the price, are perfectly adequate for playing most modern games in 2D.

Will these strong foundations save the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition from becoming nothing more than an amusing novelty? If not, what options should you consider instead? Let’s take a look.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Price & Availability

  • How much does it cost? $3,499.99 / £3,299.00 / around AU$4,300
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

The Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition is available for $3,499.99 in the US, £3,299.00 in the UK, and roughly AU$4,300 in Australia. These prices, however, seem to vary dramatically between retailers - so it's well worth taking the time to shop around to make sure that you are getting the very best deal.

There appears to be only one configuration on the market which, like our review unit, sports an RTX 3080 and a 12th-gen Intel i9 processor. These specs are enough to comfortably tackle most recent games at 1080p, but do seem rather outdated for the price

Obviously, it's reasonable to expect the unique SpatialLabs display to comprise a fair chunk of the cost here, but these specs sting when you can easily find laptops with the slightly more powerful RTX 4070 and comparable 13th-gen Intel processors being sold for significantly less.

  • Price score: 2 / 5

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Specs

As I mentioned above, the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition we tested came packing an RTX 3080 and 12th-gen Intel i9 processor. Here’s the lowdown on everything else under the hood:

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Design

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatiallabs edition

(Image credit: Future)
  • Great keyboard
  • Sturdy construction
  • Impressive glasses-free 3D effect

My first impressions of the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition were positive, not too unexpected given that it shares a lot in common with the excellent design of the preexisting Acer Predator Helios 300.

Taking it out of the box, I was immediately struck by just how sturdy everything felt. The laptop’s body is constructed with a pleasant matte plastic and the lid has been fitted with a robust metal cover. This cover not only looks suitably premium but should help prevent any unfortunate scratches when the laptop is inevitably chucked in a bag without a case - at least, if you’re anything like me.

The keyboard is a highlight too, with good spacing and bright RGB lighting that can be fully customized with the included PredatorSense software. There is no noticeable flex when typing and I found the smooth travel of each key to be satisfying and efficient. The trackpad, on the other hand, is not quite as strong thanks to its slightly mushy clicks.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatiallabs Edition

(Image credit: Future)

This is by no means the thinnest laptop on the market, but this bulk does allow for a fantastic selection of ports. You have easy access to three USB 3.2 Type-A ports for any gaming peripherals and one additional USB Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port on the rear - perfect for hooking the laptop up to an external monitor or dock.

In terms of video output, there’s also an HDMI 2.1 port and a Mini DisplayPort 1.4. The Kensington Lock is also a welcome inclusion at this price, adding some additional physical security should you need it.

The built-in speakers are one area for definite improvement, though, as they lack bass. This can detract from the enjoyment of some games, especially first-person shooters where I found that more powerful weapons like DOOM’s BFG 9000 just didn’t feel quite the same without that added oomph.

Acer Predator 300 Spatiallabs Edition

(Image credit: Future)

Where things really start to take a turn, however, is with the display. This is a 15.6” IPS 4K UHD screen which, thanks to its 3D features, lacks some expected niceties like a high refresh rate, G-Sync, or HDR.

While the picture is perfectly crisp and its colors very vivid, the entire screen is covered in an array of tiny dots. This is, presumably, something that is necessary to accomplish the 3D effect but it makes the display unpleasant to use for the vast majority of 2D applications. If you spend a lot of time word processing or browsing the internet, you’re probably going to want to plug in an external monitor as soon as possible.

Thankfully these dots become invisible when you enable the 3D mode, your first introduction to which is likely to be the pre-installed 3D model viewer. Although the resolution takes a noticeable hit when you start the program, the results were striking enough to elicit an audible “wow” from me, a handful of colleagues, and several family members. 

The full effect is most easily compared to watching a 3D movie at the cinema, with a real sense of depth but without the need for any awkward plastic glasses. Better yet, the full eye-tracking allows the 3D image to convincingly follow your gaze. It can feel a tad uncomfortable, though, straining your eyes over periods of extended use.

  • Design score: 3 / 5

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Performance

  • Excellent gaming performance… in 2D
  • Handy Turbo button to boost frames
  • Fans are loud but efficient
Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Benchmarks

Here's how the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Night Raid: 32,311; Fire Strike: 17,546; Time Spy: 10,128
GeekBench 6: 2,422 (single-core); 11,191 (multi-core)
Total War: Warhammer III: 1080p Ultra: 96.5 fps 1080p Low: 227.6 fps
Dirt 5: 1080p Ultra: 50.5 fps 1080p Low: 126 fps
Cyberpunk: 1080p Ultra RT: 36.6 fps 1080p Low: 57.7
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 2hr 37m
TechRadar Movie Battery Life: 2hr 6m

The performance of the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition is best approached in two distinct halves: 2D performance and 3D performance. With the formidable power of the RTX 3080 and i9-12900H, it’s no surprise that the 2D performance is impressive.

Although our 3DMark benchmark results were on the lower end of the expected range, this was likely due to interference from the SpatialLabs software (necessary for the function of the 3D screen) which cannot be disabled easily and runs in the background at all times. Performance was excellent in the games themselves, however, with Cyberpunk 2077 running consistently above 30 fps on its Ultra Raytracing preset at 1080p. 

Likewise, Dirt 5 on its Ultra preset could achieve an admirable 50 fps, while the less intensive strategy title Total War: Warhammer III was comfortably in the 90s. With specs this powerful, you’re unlikely to run into any major issues playing most recent games at 1080p and, even when you crank things up to 4K, careful use of Nvidia’s DLSS allows you to achieve very smooth performance. 

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatiallabs Edition

(Image credit: Future)

While the fans do become loud very quickly, the thermals remain impressively consistent too. A quick tap of the turbo button (located above the keyboard) can also substantially boost your overall performance by overclocking the fans, CPU, and GPU.

In Cyberpunk 2077, I was able to achieve an average 53.2 fps running the same Ultra Raytracing 1080p benchmark with turbo enabled but, as it can only be used while plugged in and raises the already loud fans to such a level that headphones become a necessity, it’s not something that you’re going to want to have switched on all of the time.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatiallabs Edition

(Image credit: Future)

Unfortunately, the performance absolutely tanks once you turn the 3D on. Limited software compatibility is an obvious weakness too and there are just under 100 titles that support 3D at the time of writing. The vast majority of these are older games and, jumping into a fresh playthrough of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, it quickly becomes clear why.

The use of stereoscopic 3D requires two separate 1920 x 2160 images to be rendered simultaneously - a very graphically intensive task. On its medium preset, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood hovered around 50 fps with frequent stutters. 3D performance in the small number of more recent supported games like Forza Horizon 5 is a similar story as that title specifically can barely scrape above 40 fps.

Low-intensity compatible indies like Abzû, a diving exploration game that was greatly enhanced by the charming impression of fish swimming out of the screen, fare much better - but such poor performance in the library’s bigger titles is a huge shame.

The uneven frame rates even seem to exacerbate the existing feelings of discomfort generated by the display. Your mileage may vary, but I was shocked to feel a nasty headache and motion sickness coming on after only 40 minutes of use in such games.

  • Performance score: 2 / 5

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Battery life

  • The battery life is just awful
  • Really heavy power brick

As noted in our review of the 2022 Acer Predator Helios 300, this model already suffered from extremely poor battery life and the addition of a new 3D display only seems to have further exacerbated this issue. 

The Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition was unable to clear 3 hours in the 3DMark office battery benchmark - an incredibly poor result. Taking the laptop out and about, I frequently found myself completely running out of juice after just a couple of hours of light browsing. If you throw some 2D gaming into the mix, you’re going to find yourself looking for a power socket considerably sooner.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatiallabs Edition

(Image credit: Future)

Believe it or not, this terrible battery life somehow becomes even worse when you’re doing anything with the 3D enabled. Be prepared to drag the laptop’s hefty power brick around with you at all times.

  • Battery score: 1/5

Should you buy the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Also consider

This might have been one of the first glasses-free 3D gaming laptop on the market but Acer also offer a handful of machines with SpatialLabs displays geared towards content creation. If you’re solely interested in using the glasses-free 3D features for 3D modelling or video editing consider buying a specialist laptop like the Acer ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition instead. 

If you want to game, however, you’re probably better off without the (literal) headache caused by a 3D screen. Here are two strictly 2D alternatives that offer more bang for your buck…

How I tested the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition:

  • Replaced my everyday system for two weeks
  • Used for gaming and document editing

I used the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition as my main machine for just over two weeks. This included a mix of productivity tasks (including the writing of this review) and some gaming. Given the limited number of supported titles, I predominantly played older games that were compatible with the glasses-free 3D screen. This included a full playthrough of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (broken up into half hour chunks to avoid discomfort) and the opening hours of Abzû.

I also experimented with a handful of more recent additions to the glasses-free 3D catalogue like Forza Horizon 5. In terms of 2D gaming, I played a game of Total War: Warhammer III and wandered around the open-world of Cyberpunk 2077 to soak in the sights of Night City after the latest update. To test the battery life, I lugged the Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition around with me for a few days and used it in various public settings. The patrons of my local library really didn’t appreciate the loud fans.

First reviewed November 2023

iFi Uno review: a small, but big way to boost your audio
6:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi | Comments: Off

iFi Uno: Two-minute review

The iFi Uno DAC/headphone amplifier may have a small price tag but the improvements to your sound experience are massive. After all, at some point we’ve all been tempted to plug a pair of headphones into that headphone socket on our laptop, haven't we? But, as we all know, no good can come of it. Oh, sound comes out – of course it does. But it’s far from satisfactory.

A quite modest sum put iFi’s way for its Uno DAC/headphone amplifier changes all that. As long as you don’t intend to listen at either miniscule or massive volume levels, the sound of your laptop once the Uno is involved is improved dramatically – you don’t need to be any kind of golden-eared audio savant to recognise that it's up there with the best portable DACs

Where detail retrieval, low-frequency extension, sound staging, transient response, stereo focus and all the minutiae that go towards delivering enjoyable and convincing sound reproduction is concerned, the iFi Uno is a battleship and your laptop is a pedalo. 

iFi Uno review: Price and release date

  • Released in December 2022
  • Price: $79 / £79 / AU$119

The iFi Uno has been on sale for around a year. While it sells for £79 in the UK, it’s even more of a bargain at $79 in the US. In Australia, you’re looking at AU$119 or something quite like it.

The world’s not short of USB DACs ready to put a rocket up the sound of your laptop – brands as credible as Astell & Kern, Audiolab and Audioquest are all in the market, and that’s just the ‘A’ section. So while iFi has a reputation as solid as any of those rivals, the Uno is hardly operating in isolation…

iFi Uno review: Features

The iFi Uno

(Image credit: Future)
  • ESS Sabre Hyperstream DAC
  • Three EQ presets
  • 3.5mm and stereo RCA outputs

The Uno may be tiny, but that hasn’t prevented iFi from squeezing in an impressively thorough specification. For desktop use in particular, the little Uno has everything you might realistically require.

On the front panel, there’s an ‘EQ’ button that scrolls through the digital filters iFi considers most appropriate for ‘game’, ‘movie’ and ‘music’ – a corresponding light on the top of the device indicates which one you’ve selected. Or, at least, it does if you squint – the icons are pretty indistinct.

Next to this is a ‘power match’ button - there are two positions, designed to align with the broad power requirements of various headphones and features what iFi describes as ‘dynamic range enhancement’. Let's call them ‘high’ and ‘low’. In the centre there’s a (relatively) large dial that functions both as a ‘power on/off’ switch and volume control. A little light above the dial glows in one of five different colours to indicate the file type and size that’s being processed. iFi being iFi, of course, at least two of these colours are really quite similar.

On the right-hand side there’s a 3.5mm analogue headphone socket. It incorporates iFi’s ‘S-balanced’ circuitry to keep crosstalk and noise to a minimum, and is gold-plated for superior conductivity.

On the rear there’s a USB-C socket that's used for both power and data transfer. A pair of gold-plated stereo RCA outputs complete the Uno’s external features.

On the inside, iFi has deployed hugely (and possibly disproportionately) capable ESS Sabre Hyperstream digital-to-analogue conversion circuitry. It’s able to deal with PCM files of up to 32bit/384kHz resolution and DSD256 – and it’s able to function as an MQA renderer too. Given the use the Uno is likely to be put to, this would seem to be ample. It’s similarly over specified where the less glamorous bits and pieces are concerned, too – muRata and TDK capacitors, for instance, tend to show up in rather less affordable devices than this. 

Features score: 5 / 5

iFi Uno review: Sound quality

The iFi Uno on top of a laptop

(Image credit: Future)
  • Detailed and eloquent
  • Good organisation and focus 
  • Slight treble overemphasis at bigger volumes

First things first: if you’ve been plugging headphones directly into the headphone socket of your laptop, introducing the iFi Uno into the chain will be little short of a revelation. Laptops, almost by default, don’t sound any good – but with the crucial digital-to-analogue conversion processing being dealt with by the Uno, suddenly your computer can become a valid source of music.

Mind you, the Uno is far from the only little DAC-cum-headphone amp that can put a rocket up the performance of your laptop. What makes it so compelling is just how accomplished a listen it is when you keep its asking price uppermost in your mind.

During the course of this test it’s almost exclusively fed via its USB-C socket by an Apple MacBook Pro loaded with both the Tidal app and some Colibri software that allows the machine to play properly high-resolution content from its internal memory. Headphones including (but not restricted to) Sennheiser IE900 in-ear monitors and FiiO FT3 over-ears are plugged into the 3.5mm socket on the fascia. Music includes MQA files of Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Stoned at the Nail Salon by Lorde, a 24bit/96kHz FLAC file of While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles, and a DSD64 file of Stevie Wonder’s He’s Misstra Know-It-All. 

And as long as you’re judicious with your volume levels, the effect the Uno has is nothing but positive. In every meaningful respect, it – how best to put this? – wipes the floor with the unassisted sound of the MacBook. Detail levels are far higher. The iFi is able to identify even the most fleeting, most minor occurrences in a recording and integrate them into the overall presentation with real confidence. The frequency range, from bottom to top, is smoothly integrated and evenly realised – no area is underplayed or given undue prominence. And the soundstage the Uno creates is far more focused, better separated and more coherent than the laptop is anywhere near capable of mustering.

Low frequency sounds are deep and solid, but properly controlled to the point that the Uno can express rhythms with real positivity. At the opposite end of the frequency range there’s a similar level of detail revealed, plenty of the attack necessary to give treble sounds some bite but sufficient substance to keep everything composed and coherent. In between, the iFi communicates through the midrange with absolute conviction – it gives a vocalist every opportunity to express their character, their technique and their commitment.

Really, it’s only possible to put the iFi Uno off its stride by setting volume levels to ‘very quiet’ or ‘very loud’. When listened to quietly, the ‘left/right’ presentation goes awry somewhat, there’s more activity apparent through the right channel than the left. Nudge the volume up just a touch, though, and things even themselves out. At big volumes, meanwhile, the sound gets just a little toothy – treble sounds, previously so well judged, get just fractionally edgy and hard, and the overall presentation hardens up somewhat as a result. 

These are extremes I’m talking about, you understand. ‘Extremely quiet’ or ‘very loud indeed’ are states that don’t especially suit the iFi Uno, everything in between is as good as gold.    

Sound quality score: 5 / 5 

iFi Uno review: Design

The iFi Uno

(Image credit: Future)
  • Small (26 x 88 x 81mm : HxWxD)
  • Light (92g)
  • Vaguely ovoid

There’s not an awful lot of it, but what there is of the Uno is a) perfectly well constructed, and b) recognisably an iFi product. This isn’t the first time iFi has deployed the mildly ovoid, slightly ruby ball-shaped chassis for one of its products, and I very much doubt it will be the last. 

There’s absolutely nothing special about the quality of the plastics iFi has deployed here. But then again, the Uno is one of the more affordable examples of its type around.

The dimensions are usefully small, ideal for a desktop device, but not so small that all the controls and outputs are crammed too close together. And iFi has done very good work with the Uno’s feet – they keep the unit secure on the surface it’s standing on, and prevent it being towed around by the headphone cable you’re using.

Design score: 4.5 / 5

iFi Uno review: Usability and setup

The iFi Uno

(Image credit: Future)
  • Connects via USB-C
  • Outputs from either front or rear
  • …and that’s about it

This really won’t take long. As far as setup and usability are concerned, it’s a question of making three connections, maximum: the USB-C input is where the Uno gets its power and from where it receives the digital audio information you want it to deal with. 

Then you either plug in headphones at the front or stereo RCA connections at the rear - or both, if that suits your purposes. Then turn the dial to power the unit up, set your volume level and decide on your preferred digital filter – and that’s everything. You’re up and running.

Usability and setup score: 5 / 5

iFi Uno review: Value

  • One of the most affordable around
  • Priced competitively

As an affordable way of making a big improvement to your desktop audio system, it’s hard to lay a glove on the iFi Uno. If you judge a product on the amount of stuff your money buys you, then I’ll concede that this looks like $79 / £79 / AU$119 spent on next-to-nothing. But the difference it can make to your workstation audio enjoyment is, frankly, out of all proportion to both the outlay involved and the product’s, um, proportions.  

Value score: 5 / 5

Should you buy the iFi Uno?

Buy it if... 

Don't buy it if... 

iFi Uno review: Also consider

How I tested the iFi Uno

A close up of the iFi Uno

(Image credit: Future)
  • Used for over a week
  • Connected to an Apple MacBook Pro and Samsung S21 Ultra
  • Wired to Sennheiser IE900 and FiiO FT3 headphones

The real beauty of the iFi Uno, of course, is how much better sounding it can make those devices you’d use anyway for audio playback. The Samsung has no headphone socket, of course, and listening to it using decent hard-wired headphones rather than the wireless equivalent is approaching revelatory. Much more so than listening to the MacBook Pro, anyway – because I’ve known for as long as I’ve owned it that the Apple is a truly rotten-sounding music player.

First reviewed in December 2023

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress review: Cosy comfort but disappointing cooling
1:31 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Health & Fitness Mattresses Sleep | Comments: Off

Leesa Oasis Chill mattress review: Two-minute review

I slept on a queen sized Chill mattress for three weeks, testing it in all areas of comfort and performance, to see how it compares to the rest of today's best mattresses. I also enlisted the help of a panel of others to get a more rounded overview for this review. 

This mattress comes in two firmness options, cushion-firm and plush. I tested the cushion-firm option and found it very comfortable. Despite the fact that you don’t really sink into the mattress, there is something cozy about the top layer which hugs the body on all sides. As someone who can sleep in all sleep positions, I did find that sleeping on my back or stomach was the most comfortable on this mattress. The Oasis Chill Hybrid is reinforced in the center to provide support in the hips and lower back area which makes for a great sleep experience and removes any pain or pressure you may have. 

Getting in and out of bed is a breeze and there was never any concern of slipping off in my sleep. The motion isolation capabilities are also top-notch, making it a good choice for those with fidgety partners. 

This hybrid mattress was designed with plenty of cooling properties, however, I found the breathability of the mattress to be lacking. Despite having a hybrid design, cooling cover, and memory foam with cooling properties, I consistently felt warm at night (during October of all times). 

With the ability to try the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress under a 100-night trial, it’s well worth seeing if the mattress suits your body or not. Returning is free, though if you decide to keep it, a 10-year warranty is added to the mix. 

Leesa Oasis Chill mattress review: Design

  • 13.5-inch hybrid mattress with 6 layers of foam and springs
  • Cover and foam layers designed to promote cooling
  • Option to add an Ultra Cool Mattress Protector 

This hybrid mattress has six layers comprised of coils and foams and is 13.5 inches tall. It's designed specifically with cooling in mind, and is available in two different firmness feels.

On the bottom is a base foam layer that provides long-term support for the mattress. Above this layer is the individually wrapped coil system, reinforced along all the edges of the mattress for edge support. There are also multiple rows of reinforced coils in the center of the mattress, designed to support your hips and keep your spine in line, to prevent back pain. 

Leesa Oasis Chill hybrid

(Image credit: Leesa)

The next three layers are foam layers. Above the coils is an adaptable foam layer which helps the mattress spring back after your body weight is removed. From there you have a memory foam layer infused with copper which is supposed to create an antibacterial sleeping environment and disperse heat, thereby making the mattress cooler. The last foam layer is a quilt foam infused with gel that assists with the mattress’ breathability. 

All the foams in this mattress are CertiPUR-US certified. This is important because it means that while the mattress isn’t organic, it has low VOCs and is free of the most harmful chemicals. 

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress

(Image credit: Future)

Last but not least, there's the super soft cover. This includes cooling fibers that Leesa says will disperse heat to leave your body at 88 degrees Fahrenheit – which according to them is the ideal temperature for sleep. The cover is not removable, however, there are handles that make it easier to move.

From my experience testing mattresses, I feel as if the materials are top quality and put together well for long-term use. 

  • Design score: 4.5 out of 5

Leesa Oasis Chill review: Price & value for money

  • Officially a premium model, usually discounted into upper mid-range 
  • Decent value for a hybrid
  • Sits in the middle of Leesa's range in terms of price

The Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid has a MSRP that is in the premium price bracket category, but regular sales take it down into the upper mid-range. . From the materials to the feel, I’d say that the price matches the value. Among Leesa mattresses, it’s not the cheapest option, but it’s also not the most expensive either (see how it compares a pricer option in TechRadar's Leesa Sapira mattress review). 

Here’s the current pricing for the chill Hybrid, along with the prices you can expect to pay: 

  • Twin size: MSRP $1,259 (usually sold at $1,049)
  • Full size: MSRP $1,559 (usually sold at $1,299)
  • Queen size: MSRP $1,679 (usually sold at $1,399)
  • King size: MSRP $2,039 (usually sold at $1,699)

Generally, today's best hybrid mattresses cost more than all-foam models, and this Leesa is pretty well priced within its category. I wasn't especially impressed with the cooling here (as I'll get on to later), but if you go down the specialist route, the best cooling mattresses also tend to sit in the premium price bracket.

You'll usually get two free pillows bundled in with your mattress, which is nice, but otherwise the extras are pretty standard – free delivery, 100 night trial, 10 year warranty. 

Like many bed brands, Leesa has regular sales. However, if you're looking for a particularly strong discount, your best bet is around a national holiday – the Labor Day mattress sales in September, Presidents' Day mattress sales in February, Memorial Day mattress sales in May, 4th of July mattress sales, and of course the Black Friday mattress deals at the end of November.

Leesa Oasis Chill mattress review: Comfort & support

  • Choose between cushion-firm (reviewed) or plush feels
  • Cushion-firm has a supportive but huggable feel
  • Most comfortable sleeping on back and stomach positions

I ordered the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid in the cushion-firm comfort level. Leesa doesn’t provide a firmness rating, but I can say that a 15lb weight sunk about half an inch when placed in the center. In my opinion, it’s a 6 out of 10 on a firmness scale.

When laying on the mattress, my body, which is 5’5” and weighs 175 lbs, does not sink in too much. It’s a supportive surface that isn’t hard by any means. I’d describe it as cloud-like, with an almost buoyant feel. The sleep surface is quite responsive and springs back immediately when pressure is removed. It doesn’t contour, but rather seems to hug the body instead. 

Sleeping in the back and stomach positions feels most comfortable on the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress. My hips and lower back feel completely supported, and the mattress seemed to relieve some pressure points in my hips. It’s not uncommon for me to want to sleep on my side too, however, that sleep position was not as comfortable. I felt like my hips and shoulders needed to dip in further into the mattress so that my spine could be aligned in the side sleeping position. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Perhaps a larger or smaller body would find the side sleeping position more comfortable on this mattress. 

Image 1 of 3

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress with reviewer lying on it

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 3

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress with reviewer lying on it

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 3

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress with reviewer lying on it

(Image credit: Future)

I had a friend sleep on this Leesa mattress who was smaller than me in height and weight. They found that sleeping on their back and side felt most comfortable. On a scale of 1-10, they rated it as a 5.5 in terms of a firmness level. 

Leesa Oasis Chill mattress review: Performance

  • Temperature regulation could be better
  • Exceptional edge support along the sides
  • Solid motion isolation capabilities

While comfort is important to consider when buying a mattress, I also made sure to assess the temperature regulation, edge support, and motion isolation, through an assortment of tests and personal sleep experiences. With all of this information, I can provide more insight into the overall value of the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress, and who it might suit best. 

Temperature regulation

As a hybrid mattress, the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid is inherently more breathable than, say, an all-foam mattress. However, as someone who doesn’t run hot at night, I was surprised by how warm I got sleeping on this mattress – especially given that it's specifically designed for cooling, with a copper-infused memory foam layer meant to absorb excess body heat and a quilt top cover with special fibers meant to keep your body at exactly the right temperature.

Close up of cover on Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress

(Image credit: Future)

I tested this mattress in October when nights were between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. I even used a fan and slept under lightweight sheets and a comforter, but despite that, there were quite a few nights where I woke up sticky with sweat and had to throw the comforter to the side. I have tested over a dozen [edit if required] mattresses, and I generally don't have this issue. 

This mattress may not be a good choice for couples – who create more body heat – or those who run hot at night. Perhaps, adding the cooling mattress cover protector to your order will help. 

  • Temperature regulation score: 3.5 out of 5

Motion isolation

Motion isolation refers to how well a mattress absorbs movements, and is important for light sleepers and couples who don't want to be disturbed by their partner's movements. To test the motion isolation on the Leesa Chill, I placed a wine glass in the center of the mattress and dropped a 15lb weight from a distance of 4, 10, and 25 inches away. The wine glass remained steady when the dumbbell was dropped at 25 inches away, but swayed a bit at 10 inches, and toppled over at four inches. These results are pretty common for most mattresses. 

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress with reviewer sitting on it

(Image credit: Future)

I combined this test with real-world experience by having someone else in bed. I didn’t feel the other person get in and out of bed, but I did feel them change sleep positions. If I was in a deep sleep, I probably wouldn’t notice them moving at all. Ultimately, I’d say this mattress has solid motion isolation capabilities and is a good choice for couples, unless one of them is a particularly light sleeper. (For the most complete motion isolation, look for an all-foam mattress – most of today's best memory foam mattresses absorb movements extremely well).

  • Motion isolation score: 4 out of 5

Edge support

Though it may seem trivial, you want your mattress to have good edge support so you don’t slip off in the middle of the night and can more easily get in and out of bed. The Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid has great edge support along the entire perimeter. This was expected as the two outer rows of coils around the whole mattress are comprised of higher gauge springs, which means they’re more reinforced.

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress with weight resting on edge

(Image credit: Future)

I never felt like I was going to slide or slip off when I slept near the side of the bed or even when I sat on the sides or the foot of the bed. The additional support became even more apparent when I placed a 15lb dumbbell on the edge. It didn’t roll off and only sank half an inch. 

  • Edge support score: 5 out of 5

Leesa Oasis Chill mattress review: Customer service

  • Mattress delivered vacuum-packed, rolled and boxed
  • Free delivery with set up and removal service option
  • 100-night trial with free return after 30 days

Customers will be happy to hear that the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid is delivered rolled and vacuum-packed in a box to your door – for free. Keep in mind that the mattress is assembled upon ordering, so it takes five to nine business days to be assembled before it’s shipped – if you're in a particular rush, there are beds with far shorter delivery times.

There is an option to add an in-home set up and old mattress removal service, but it’s a little different than you’d expect. Leesa delivers the mattress to you in a box and then their partner has up to seven business days to set up and remove the mattress in your home. 

Image 1 of 4

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress in its box

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 4

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress in its box

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 4

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress out of its box, but still in plastic wrapping

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 4

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress out of its box, but still in plastic wrapping

(Image credit: Future)

I was able to move the mattress on my own into my room and remove the packaging with ease. There were no off-gassing smells and the mattress seemed to inflate immediately. Leesa notes that it could take up to an hour for the mattress to fully inflate and days for it to fully firm up. 

Leesa offers a 100-night trial, which is pretty standard (again, some brands are more generous here, with some offering up to a full year's trial). You just have to sleep on the mattress for 30 days before you go through a free return process. The 10-year limited warranty offered is also standard, which means they’ll replace or repair the mattress if there is a defect in the craftsmanship and/or materials. 

One of the most notable aspects of Leesa is that it donates one mattress for every 10 sold to a child or family in need. 

  • Customer service score: 4 out of 5

Leesa Oasis Chill mattress review: Specs

Leesa Oasis Chill mattress review: Other reviews

  • A new mattress with very few reviews as of October 2023 
  • Buy direct from Leesa for best pricing
  • Also available at, Better Mattress, and other resale sites 

At the time of writing (October 2023), the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid is still fairly new to the market so there are only two reviews of the mattress online. For some reason, you can’t see these two reviews on the website, but I was able to see one of them via Google. The reviewer pointed out that this mattress’ reported cooling properties did not work well, and they found themselves sweaty and uncomfortable at night. 

If you’d like to look at the reviews on your own as they come in, you might find them on Leesa, Google, or other sites where they sell the mattress like and Better Mattress. 

Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid mattress set up in reviewer's bedroom

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Leesa Oasis Chill mattress?

Buy it if...

✅ You like to sleep on your back and stomach: The hybrid design offers incredible hip and back support that keeps your spine in line.

You suffer from joint and back pain: Sleep on this hybrid mattress that has a reinforced center and you’ll quickly find your joint and back pain disappearing. At least the cushion-firm version helped alleviate hip and lower back pain I’d been dealing with for months.

You have a fidgety partner: Enjoy a seamless night of sleep with the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid. Through our testing, we determined that you likely won’t feel your partner move or get in and out of bed at night. 

Don't buy it if...

❌ You have a tendency to get hot at night: Despite a design that is meant to promote cooling, the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid isn’t as breathable as I hoped – I found myself getting hot at night during the testing period. Head to TechRadar's cooling mattress guide for alternatives at a range of price points.

You prefer to sleep on your side: Due to the center coils of the mattress being reinforced, the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid doesn’t offer enough give in the hip area for side sleepers. Something like the Helix Midnight mattress would be a better choice for most side-sleepers.

You have a smaller budget: As an upper-premium mattress, the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid is fairly expensive. If you're on a tighter budget, check out the Cocoon Chill mattress, which is more affordable and comes with a phase-change cover that our testers found regulated temperature very effectively.

How I tested the Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid

I tested a queen-sized, cushion-firm Leesa Oasis Chill Hybrid in my Dallas, Texas, home for 3 weeks. The testing period was during October when night temperatures ranged from 60-75 degrees. The bed was made with a light comforter and microfiber sheets. I had a friend sleep on the mattress one night. I also ran standardized tests to determine the mattress’ softness, edge support, and motion isolation. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: November 2023
Helm Audio Bolt review: punchy high-quality audio that’s ultra portable
2:00 pm | December 2, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi | Comments: Off

Helm Audio Bolt: Two-minute review

The Helm Audio Bolt USB DAC/headphone amp is small, perfectly formed and elegant in its simplicity. It’s equipped to make the sound coming out of your laptop or smartphone far better than it otherwise would be, and it’s priced to make its talents available to as many people as possible.

Where high-resolution audio content is concerned, the Bolt is in its element – it can handle 32bit/384kHz, DSD256 and MQA stuff without alarms. It generates enough power to drive even quite tricky headphones to workable levels, and it’s small and light enough to accompany you even if you leave the house dressed for the summer.

Best of all, it’s a very enjoyable listen that's in line with some of the best portable DACs. If you really push on, volume-wise, it can sound a little hard and two-dimensional, but in every other circumstance it’s a pleasure to hear. Detail levels are high, frequency extension is impressive at either end of the range, the soundstage it creates is convincing, and – best of all – it’s entertaining. It’s a simple and affordable way to get the most audio enjoyment out of that device you already take everywhere with you.  

Helm Audio Bolt review: Price and release date

  • Released in November 2020 
  • Priced: $119.99 / £104.99 / AU$189

The Helm Audio Bolt DAC/headphone amp is selling for $199.99 in the US and and in the UK, you can pick one up for around £104. Meanwhile, in Australia, you’ll have to part with AU$189 or thereabouts. However, during 2023's Black Friday sales we did see it on sale, so you can get it cheaper. 

The world’s not short of reasonably affordable USB DAC/headphone amps, of course – everyone from Astell & Kern to THX has one to sell you. Not all of them are as aggressively priced as this, though, and not all as capable where specification is concerned.

Helm Audio Bolt review: Features

Helm Audio Bolt

(Image credit: Future)
  • USB-C and 3.5mm connections
  • 384kHz PCM, DSD256 and MQA compatibility
  • Three-stage display

Helm Audio is coy about the details of the DAC chipset that’s inside the Bolt, but what’s for sure is that it’s able to deal with PCM files up to 32bit/384kHz resolution and DSD256. It’s also an MQA renderer, so TIDAL users in particular should be able to exploit their subscription fee (yes, there is still plenty of MQA content available on Tidal).

To call it an ‘interface’ is to glorify it somewhat, but the single LED on the metal block lights up in one of three different colours depending on the type of file it’s dealing with. Blue indicates a sample rate of less than 48kHz, red means over 48kHz, and purple indicates MQA content. 

Other than that, there’s really only the little bag the Bolt arrives in and a tidy USB-C / USB-A adapter that count as ‘features’. But to be honest, I’m tempted to ask what more you might realistically expect? 

Features score: 4.5 / 5

Helm Audio Bolt review: Sound quality

Helm Audio Bolt

(Image credit: Future)
  • Detailed and insightful
  • Well-supervised punch and attack
  • Good separation and focus

If you subscribe to one of the best music streaming services, it’s possible to access a whole lot of high-resolution audio content – and if you have the service’s app on your smartphone, plugging the Helm Audio Bolt into its USB-C socket means you can hear it as fully as possible. And there’s no two ways about it, the sound of the Bolt is as far removed from the unassisted sound of any smartphone you care to mention as three courses at a decent restaurant is from a service-station sandwich.

It’s a rapid and politely attacking listen, the Bolt, with a whole lot of relevant observations to make about tone and texture – even the finest details can’t elude it. A 24bit/192kHz FLAC file of Chic’s I Want Your Love fairly motors along, the much-sampled bass-line delivered with straight-edged control and plenty of momentum. There’s decent brightness to the top of the frequency range, a similar level of attack and just as much detail revealed and contextualised. And in the midrange the Bolt communicates in generous fashion - the vocalists get more than enough room to express themselves, even when the strings and horns attempt to muscle their way to the front of the stage.

The frequency range is nicely integrated,  and rhythmic expression is confident too. It’s not the last word in dynamic headroom, to be absolutely honest, but that’s more of an observation than a criticism. What’s important is that the Bolt retains everything that’s fun and energising about the recording, rather than neutering it in the long-established smartphone manner. It can sound a little hard and relentless if you really decide to wind the volume up, sure – but did no one ever tell you not to listen so loud?

Sound quality score: 4.5 / 5 

Helm Audio Bolt review: Design

Helm Audio Bolt

(Image credit: Future)
  • Mechanical isolation of USB-C from decoding hardware
  • Flexible braided cable
  • Mostly made of plastic and aluminium 

If ever a product was ‘just enough essential parts’, the Helm Audio Bolt is it. At one end there’s a USB-C connection in a little plastic housing, and it’s connected via a short length of braided cable to a slightly larger metal block that contains all the necessary decoding and amplification hardware. This block has its single LED to let you know the broad state of play, and a 3.5mm analogue headphone output. It’s all very neatly put together and tidily finished.

Design score: 5 /5 

Helm Audio Bolt review: Usability and setup

The Helm Audio Bolt

(Image credit: Future)
  • Pug one end into your smartphone or laptop,
  • Plug some headphones into the other end, and
  • That’s all that’s required

I’m not the sort of person to talk down to anyone, but if you can’t set up the Helm Audio Bolt in seconds flat, I’m not sure you should be allowed anywhere near electrical equipment. The process is – and I have first-hand evidence of this – so simple, a six-year-old can do it. 

Plug the USB-C connection into the USB-C output of the smartphone or laptop you want to listen to. Plug some headphones into the 3.5mm analogue output. Put the headphones on your head and press ‘play’ on your music player. That’s job very much done.

Usability and setup score: 5 / 5

Helm Audio Bolt review: Value

  • Affordable compared to competitors
  • Offers great value

You can look at the Helm Audio Bolt one of two ways. The first view states that you’re spending more than $100/ £100 / AU$100 on a very small quantity of aluminium, and even smaller quantity of plastic, and a short length of cable joining them together. 

The second states that your money is buying profoundly significant improvements to the sound quality you enjoy from your wired headphones while you’re out and about. I know which view I take, and that’s why I reckon the Bolt represents very decent value indeed.

Value score: 5 / 5

Should you buy the Helm Audio Bolt?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Helm Audio Bolt review: Also consider

How I tested the Helm Audio Bolt

The Helm Audio Bolt plugged into a phone

(Image credit: Future)
  • Used for over a week
  • Connected to an Apple MacBook Pro and a Samsung S21 Ultra smartphone
  • Wired to Sennheiser IE900 and Campfire Andromeda headphones

The more responsibilities your source of music has, the less effective a source of music it is - I don’t naked the rules, it’s just the truth. So when unplugging headphones as capable as these from the headphone socket of the laptop and listening again via the Bolt, the differences in quality are almost comical. And even the best wireless headphones struggle to match the performance of good wired headphones when the Bolt is plugged into a headphone socket-less smartphone’s USB-C connection… 

First reviewed in December 2023

LumaFusion review
10:49 pm | December 1, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro Software & Services | Comments: Off

Editing on a computer is one thing, but why not edit on the phone or tablet you used to shoot your movie in the first place? This is nothing new, as ever since coders realised a phone was powerful enough to do some editing on it, we’ve been able to do that. But how far can that particular envelope be pushed? For instance, Final Cut Pro has finally made it to the iPad, but only on tablets with M1 chips or better. 

But they’re actually late to the party. One of the best video editing apps, LumaTouch’s LumaFusion, launched in 2016, and provides many advanced video editing features across loads of different iPads, iPhones, and Android devices.  

LumaFusion: Pricing & plans

  • Great balance - a simple, one-off price with some optional add-ons for those who want or need them 

LumaFusion isn’t free video editing software. And it’s not easy to compete in a field where many of your competitors offer their apps for free with ads, in-app purchases, or ongoing subscription. 

But if you’re in the market for an advanced professional-level video editor in your pocket, you might well find the $30 cost to be more than justified. And that’s a one-off fee, no never-ending subscriptions, with all future updates included in the price.

There are some in-app purchases as well, but these are for some advanced features that most will not need, so it makes sense to include them as optional add-ons. There are currently three available: 

Multicam Studio automatically synchronises up to 6 sources for you, letting you tap to switch between cameras, thus editing on the fly, for $20.

Export to Apple Final Cut Pro transforms all the work you’ve done on your project’s timeline into an FCPXML file, which, along with all the media you’ve used, is merged into a single file, ready for you to transfer to your Mac to carry on editing on Final Cut Pro… for $20. A kind of alternative to subscribing to Final Cut Pro for iPad.

And finally, we have the Storyblocks library, offering royalty-free music samples, songs, sound effects, videos, and backgrounds right from within the LumaFusion interface. This one’s a subscription, being either $10 a month, or $70 for the year. 

  • Pricing & plans: 4.5/5 

LumaFusion: Interface

LumaTouch LumaFusion mobile video editing app during our testing

(Image credit: LumaTouch)
  • Sleek interface in any orientation, looks great on large and small screens with good keyboard integration, although it’s not necessary to edit 

The designers at LumaTouch have done an excellent job here. The interface works great whether you’re working on a tablet or a phone, and in either portrait or landscape orientations. There’s even a way to choose between six different layouts as well. Everything works flawlessly, with panels resizing and reorganising themselves instantly whichever layout you choose and however you’re holding your device.

The interface is divided into sections. One’s the Preview, where you get to see your work as you build your edit, another’s the Timeline, where you add your clips, and essentially create your film, and the last one is where you access various elements, such as your clips, titles, transitions, effects, etc.

If you’re familiar with the best video editing software on desktops, you’ll feel right at home in LumaFusion. And if you’re in the market for one of the best video editing software for beginners on mobile, we really liked to see the app offer a series of tutorials to help you quickly understand the interface. It’s all very welcoming, whatever your experience level. 

Should you need to change the parameters of a particular clip in your timeline, simply double-tap on it. The interface will be replaced with your clip and all its alterable parameters. As you’d expect, you can also keyframe these, changing their values over time.

If you’re working on a tablet, you can hook up to a keyboard, and take advantage of various keyboard shortcuts, many of which are pretty much industry standard, like setting in and out points (‘i’ and ‘o’ respectively), adding a marker (‘m’), jump to the beginning or end of a clip (the ‘up’ and ‘down’ arrows), and so on. You certainly don’t need a keyboard to work with LumaFusion, but it grants you additional functionality if you have one.

  • Interface: 4.5/5

LumaFusion: Video editing

LumaTouch LumaFusion mobile video editing app during our testing

(Image credit: LumaTouch)
  • Great responsiveness, coupled with ease of use and loads of features - LumaFusion offers a lot and does it all exceedingly well.

Dragging and dropping is pretty much ubiquitous throughout the interface. Which isn’t surprising since it’s designed for touch. And here it works exceedingly well.

You’re able to work with up to six video layers and six additional audio tracks, allowing you to create fairly complex video sequences. Your timeline’s first layer has a ‘magnetic’ effect, which means that if you delete a clip, all subsequent ones will automatically move to the left to fill the gap left by the now-missing clip. This is a standard feature on Final Cut Pro and some others, and not only makes editing much faster, as you don’t have to deal with unwanted gaps in your project, but having to move all your clips by touch would be unbelievably tedious.

There’s a miniaturised timeline directly beneath the preview section. This represents your entire project. It is very useful to have when you’re zoomed into the timeline itself, as you can always see where you are within your project at a glance. It’s also a great way to scroll through your project, and see how all your clips are placed.

Your media can be accessed either from your device’s Photos app, a connected drive if you’re on tablet, and most of the best cloud storage providers. This includes services such as DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud. 

LumaTouch LumaFusion mobile video editing app during our testing

(Image credit: LumaTouch)

Editing videos felt surprisingly easy, even on a phone’s relatively small screen (although admittedly, the larger the screen, the easier it is to work). Rendering is pretty fast. The app even lets you work with 4K clips, and we can tell you, it handles these high-resolution clips with ease.

It’s not loaded with the best VFX software, but you will find a good number of transitions, titles, and visual and audio filters are available, and pretty much everything (aside from transitions) can be keyframed and altered over time, including colour correction effects. In addition to that, there’s all the usual tools you’d expect from such an application, like trimming and cutting, chroma and luma keys, and even a built-in image stabiliser.

One thing we really liked was how you’re given the ability to create your own presets, for anything like titles or keyframed effects for instance. This allows you to have at your disposal unique looks that you can reuse in other projects, greatly saving you time, and helping set a unique tone for yourself across your videos. You can also export these presets, and import other ones.

Once you’re done, you’ve the option to save your work back to your device’s photos app, send it to an online storage service, or publish it directly to YouTube or Vimeo.

  • Video editing: 4.5/5

LumaFusion: Verdict

LumaTouch LumaFusion mobile video editing app during our testing

(Image credit: LumaTouch)

LumaTouch has done an impeccable job packing in professional-grade video editing tools into an app like this. And somehow, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. 

If we had to nitpick, we could ask why we need to select “original” in the colour filters in order to gain access to a clip's colour parameters? Why can’t those values be available as you select the ‘colour and effects’ option, saving you a tap? And LumaFusion does put your battery to the test, but to be fair, this sort of software will chew through batteries on the best video editing laptops, let alone a phone. 

LumaFusion is a great piece of software and the designers have done a remarkable job fitting a powerful editing studio in your phone or tablet. Add to that the fact this app gets regularly updated, and you’ve got a hit on your hands. If you’re serious about editing on the go, give LumaFusion some serious consideration.

LumaFusion: Scorecard

Should I buy?

LumaTouch LumaFusion mobile video editing app during our testing

(Image credit: LumaTouch)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Kandao QooCam 3 review: an enticing Insta360 and GoPro alternative
8:38 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Action Cameras Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Action cameras are a great option for capturing sport, travel and a whole host of subjects; they're small, lightweight, and in most cases designed to withstand the rough and tumble these cameras typically endure. The Kandao QooCam 3 is a 360-degree action camera that provides an alternative to the likes of Insta360 One R and X3, as well as the GoPro Max, which are all among the best 360 degree cameras currently available.

360-degree cameras are becoming increasingly common, providing users with the ability to capture 360-degree photos and videos that can be scrolled around, as well as to reframe 360-degree video into a traditional 2D perspective where you can pan, zoom and change camera direction to create the illusion of being filmed by someone else. 360-degree camera manufacturers often describe this as like having a personal camera person filming you, and in many ways it is.

The QooCam 3 fits this profile well, and while it’s not the kind of action camera you’d want to drop due to the two fisheye lenses, one on each side, it is dust and waterproof to IP68. This opens up more possibilities for a camera that can capture 360-degree photos at 62MP in JPEG and DNG formats, alongside the ability to capture up to 5.7K 30 fps 360-degree video. Low-light performance is also a key feature thanks to the 1/1.55-inch sensors and large f/1.6 apertures for each of the two fisheye lenses.

Image 1 of 3

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 2 of 3

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 3 of 3

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)

QooCam 3: Release date and price

  • Launched in September 2023
  • Several kit options
  • Additional accessories available
Image 1 of 3

Kandao QooCam 3 accessories on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 2 of 3

Kandao QooCam 3 accessories on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 3 of 3

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The QooCam 3 was launched in September 2023, and is the second consumer 360-degree camera produced by Kandao. The QooCam 3 standalone kit includes the camera, a battery, a USB-C cable, and a soft case, and costs $349 / £278 / AU$531. The Travel Kit is the best option for most people – this includes all of the above plus an additional battery, a 64GB microSD card and a 120cm invisible selfie stick for just a bit more at $370 / £295 / AU$563. The Motorcycle Kit includes all of the above, plus a plethora of mounting accessories for $400 / £319 / AU$609.

Alongside the kits, you can also purchase additional batteries, the invisible 120cm selfie stick, and a Marsace x Kandao co-branded mini tripod. When the camera was sent to me for review it arrived with a car suction mount, which is a great accessory that works exceptionally well, but which unfortunately is not available on the Kandao website at the time of writing – hopefully it will be soon.

  • Price score: 4/5

QooCam 3: Design

  • Near square design
  • 1.9-inch LCD screen
  • Weighty at 7.76oz / 220g

The QooCam 3 is almost square at 2.8 x 3.3 x 1.0 inches / 71.5 x 82.7 x 26.6mm and weighs 7.76oz / 220g including a battery and microSD card. To say it looks familiar to the GoPro Max is an understatement, although the QooCam 3 is slightly larger and heavier. Controls are minimal, with just a power and record button on the top and a 1.9-inch rectangular touchscreen on which settings can be accessed easily by swiping from the sides and using the customizable Q menu.

The LCD screen isn’t the highest-resolution when compared to other action cameras, but it’s clear and bright enough, and provides a single camera view, which can be switched from front to back when capturing photos and videos. This is better than the phone app view, which shows a stretched-out 360-degree view and feels strange to use for composing, but the app does provide wireless control of the camera, which is useful.

Image 1 of 5

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 2 of 5

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 3 of 5

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 4 of 5

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 5 of 5

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Build quality is impressive, especially considering this is one of the less expensive 360-degree cameras available, and the dark grey and black body has an undoubtedly high-quality look. The two fisheye lenses are positioned on opposite sides of the camera, and as on any camera of this type feel vulnerable, but they're protected when not in use by a soft case, which can be attached to the camera even when the selfie stick is inserted into the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. There are four microphones, one on each side of the camera, that work well to record 360-degree sound in videos.

  • Design score: 4/5

QooCam 3: Features and performance

  • 1/1.55 in sensors and f/1.6 apertures
  • 6-axis gyro for image stabilization
  • 360-degree ambisonic audio

With the ability to shoot photos and videos in several capture modes, the QooCam 3 follows a fairly standard approach to 360-degree cameras and what they’re capable of. Operation of the camera using the camera itself and the touchscreen, where you swipe from the sides of the screen to access various settings and features, is incredibly easy and intuitive, as on most modern action cameras. The phone app is just as simple and intuitive in this regard, while also providing wireless control and Live View.

The headline features of the QooCam 3 have to be the 1/1.55-inch sensors with a 2μm pixel size and 4-in-1 pixel merging, alongside the fast f/1.6 apertures. These make the camera a solid performer in low-light conditions, although with such fast apertures, shutter speeds need to be fast in brighter light, so it’s impossible to use the correct shutter speed for capturing more cinematic motion in videos. That said, even if the aperture was f/2.8 you would still have this problem, so the low-light performance is a huge bonus.

The camera uses a 6-axis gyro, which works well overall, and when I tested this while running the bobbing of the camera was minimized, although not completely eliminated. The same goes for walking, although with most action cameras you do have to walk with slightly bent knees while keeping the camera steady for the smoothest results. This is easiest when using the invisible selfie stick, which also allows you to maneuver the camera into interesting positions and apply sweeping movements for more dynamic videos.

Image 1 of 3

QooCam 3 smartphone app

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 2 of 3

QooCamStudio desktop app

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 3 of 3

QooCamStudio desktop app

(Image credit: James Abbott)

One point to note is that image stabilization isn’t applied to the image viewed on the camera screen or in the app when connected, so this will appear unsteady during filming. Stabilization is applied during editing using the gyro data, where you can use Horizon Steady to lock the camera angle while maintaining the ability to add keyframes, or View Lock Steady to simply apply stabilization.

Sound can often be a secondary consideration for action cameras, but the QooCam 3’s four microphones capture 360-degree ambisonic audio (full-sphere surround sound) and do a reasonable job of recording sound. However, wind noise can be an issue when it’s windy or if the QooCam 3 is attached to a car using a suction mount – it has to be said that attaching the camera to a car to create faster and more dynamic timelapse videos, 360-degree videos, and reframed videos is a lot of fun.

The smartphone app and desktop app are both reasonably easy to use, but both lack the range of features and finesse of Insta360’s comparable apps for Insta360 cameras. The QooCam 3 phone app offers more functionality than the desktop version, including the ability to use templates to make faster edits, add one of five music tracks, and remove the original sound, although these options take some getting used to before you can confidently create the video effects you’re aiming for. It’s not rocket science by any means, but expect a small learning curve here – and the functionality is limited to just about what you need, rather than something slightly more impressive.

  • Features and performance score: 3/5

QooCam 3: Image and video quality

  • Up to 5.7K 30fps video
  • 62MP 360-degree photos
  • Decent low-light performance

The image quality produced by 360-degree cameras is never as good as that from standard action cameras, and the QooCam 3 is no exception here in general. It does, however, perform well in low-light conditions such as night scenes, thanks to the fast aperture. For example, when walking through Chinatown in London at night I only needed to increase the ISO to 640 while maintaining the correct 1/60 sec shutter speed for 5.7K 30fps video, and image quality was impressive.

The dual cameras on the QooCam 3 use fisheye lenses that provide a full-frame equivalent focal length of 9.36mm, with the images combined to create panoramic and 360-degree photos and videos. Camera control can be set to Auto, with control over exposure compensation and the ability to manually adjust exposure compensation and white balance, or Manual, which gives you full control over all settings except for aperture, which is fixed. Auto is best for situations where you’re moving from light to dark areas and vice versa, while Manual is generally best for everything else.

Image 1 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 2 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 3 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 4 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 5 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 6 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 7 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 8 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 9 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
Image 10 of 10

Photo taken with the Kandao QooCam 3 360-degree action camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Photo modes include Standard panoramic photo (360-degree), Interval Photo, DNG8 and AEB. DNG8 is where eight DNG files are captured and merged in the RawPlus software for increased detail and lower noise with HDR results. However, when editing photos in QooCamStudio (desktop) and with the RawPlus desktop app, I didn't always feel that I knew exactly what I was doing.

For this to work, you have to merge the eight DNGs with RawPlus and export a single DNG. This can then be processed in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, with no cropping, exported as a JPEG, and then further adjusted in terms of viewpoint in QooCamStudio, before a new JPEG can be exported at up to 4K dimensions. It’s a convoluted process, and I found a tutorial by a third party covering this after I was unable to find a guide on the Kandao website. This is a process that needs to be simplified.

QooCam 3 video

Photo editing is much easier with the QooCam 3 smartphone app, but often still leaves you wondering. That said, the 360-degree photos can be captured up to 62MP, but you have to attach the camera to the selfie stick on a mini tripod and be out of shot to avoid being photographed, or you can reframe photos into a 4K 2D photo. Video can be captured in Standard panoramic video (360-degree) and timelapse, with interval and resolution options for the latter. For video, you can capture 5.7K 30fps, 4K 60fps and 4K 30fps.

Image quality overall is good, and sits within the norm for this type of camera, but photos and videos have an over-sharpened appearance, and there’s no control over the sharpening level in the camera settings; this would be a useful addition via a firmware update. Over three weeks of using and testing the camera, three firmware updates were delivered, so Kandao is working hard to improve what is already a solid yet imperfect 360-degree camera. With a handful of upgrades in terms of the apps and the camera firmware, the QooCam 3 could be greatly improved to make it a highly competitive option, because the hardware is solid.

QooCam 3 360-degree video

  • Image and video quality: 3.5/5

QooCam 3: Test scorecard

Should I buy the QooCam 3?

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

QooCam 3: Also consider

Kandao QooCam 3 on a wooden table

(Image credit: James Abbott)

If our QooCam 3 review has inspired you to think about other options, here are two more 360-degree cameras to consider…

How I tested the Kandao QooCam 3

The QooCam 3 was tested over several weeks in a variety of environments and light conditions, including being attached to a car. This provided enough time to fully explore what the camera is capable of in terms of capture options, editing options, output quality using both the smartphone and desktop apps, and, importantly, overall ease of use while considering the learning curve of the apps.

With nearly 30 years of photographic experience and 15 years working as a photography journalist, I’ve covered almost every conceivable subject and used many of the cameras and lenses that have been released in that time. As a working photographer, I’m also aware of the factors that are most important to photographers, and aim to test cameras and lenses in a way that reflects this.

First tested November 2023.

Peloton Row review: Perhaps the best connected rowing machine around
8:26 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Health & Fitness | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Peloton Row: Two minute review

Peloton Row

(Image credit: Danielle Abraham)

The Peloton Row is a beautifully designed and easy to use rowing machine that delivers a full body workout in the comfort in your own home. First released in December 2022, it’s the latest fitness equipment in Peloton’s high-end line up that includes the Bike, Bike+, and Tread, the latter of which made it onto our best treadmills list. Peloton is known for creating reliable, long-lasting products and pairing them with fun, motivating virtual class content, but all that greatness comes at a high price tag. 

To make the most of the Peloton Row, you’ll need to be ready to shell out another $44/month for an All-Access Membership, in addition to the almost $3,000 up front. From there, you’ll get access to all of its classes, from yoga and meditation to cycling, running, strength training – and yes, rowing. Compared to other fitness memberships, like iFit from Nordic Track or a Hydrow membership, it’s honestly right on par, and in my opinion Peloton’s offerings a slightly superior. For people who love the livestreamed classes, it offers a ton of value, but its rival’s equipment costs significantly less. 

Peloton offers Row and Row Bootcamp classes that range from five to 60 minutes, making it easy to fit a class into your daily schedule. The regular rowing classes include more basic music based classes as well as HIIT, endurance, Tabata, and interval options, while the Bootcamp classes mix rowing with strength training.  You can even check the schedule and take live classes, though I find the times often cater to those on EST.  Peloton is great with community building, using leaderboards to compete against others in your class, creating hashtags for more niche groups, letting you high five others in your class, and follow friends. The instructors are also all top-tier, fun, and motivating.  There are a few scenic rows available for those looking to explore some waterways around the world, but there are still a limited amount available at the time of writing. 

The build of the Row is equally as impressive as the classes. It’s definitely bulky and heavy like most other rowing machines, but Peloton makes it easy for you to store it upright, saving space when it’s not in use.  You also don’t have to lift a finger during setup as a the delivering drivers do that, and then coach you through getting connected and calibrating the machine. All its components are durable and sturdy, and after over a month of almost daily use, work just as good as when I first got it. The large, 23.8-inch touchscreen immerses you in classes and is extremely responsive, bright, and easy to use. 

I’ve found this machine especially caters those new to rowing. Beyond being easy to use, there’s a standout feature called Form Assist, which uses sensors to track your movement in real time and offer feedback to correct your form. It’s helped me significantly improve my stroke, and you’ll even get a handy performance score at the end of each class. There are also Form and Drills classes that beginners will appreciate. But even veteran rowers will love everything that the Peloton Row offers. 

Peleton Row review: Specifications

Peloton Row: Price and availability

Peloton Row

(Image credit: Danielle Abraham)
  • $2,995 US plus a $44 per month All-Access Membership
  • Not yet in UK or Australia
  • Significantly more expensive than its rivals

The Peloton Row is only available direct from Peloton for $2,995. That’s after a recent price drop from $3,195. It’s currently only available in the United States, though there are plans to release the machine in the UK and Australia, similar to the Peloton Tread and Bike.

With the most basic Peloton Row package, you get everything you need, including setup, the 23.8-inch display, and a mount to store the machine upright. However, you’ll need to shell out another $44 per month for an All-Access Membership to access classes for the Row and all of Peloton’s other classes, from strength training and cycling to yoga and meditation. 

Peloton offers a few other Row packages with additional accessories like mats, weights, and a water bottle. Given these bundles range in cost from almost $100 to just under $400 more, save yourself some money and pick these up elsewhere. 

Don’t get me wrong the almost $3,000 price tag is hard to digest. But given the Peloton Row’s simple delivery and setup,  impeccable design, exclusive features like Form Assist, and access to endless classes with motivational teachers, I can see the value. There are some much cheaper alternatives, like the Hydrow and Nordic Track RW900 Rowing, but they still don’t touch what Peloton has.    

  •  Value score: 4/5 

Peloton Row: Design

Peloton Row

(Image credit: Danielle Abraham)
  • Simple setup 
  • Functional design with wheels and handle for easier moving/storage
  • Large, responsive full HD touchscreen

To say setting up the Peloton Row was simple would be an understatement, as you literally have to do nothing except let the delivery people into your home and show them where you’d like the machine. They do all the rest, including carting away all the boxes, ensuring you’re connected to the Peloton platform over WiFi, and answering any questions. All in all, it took about 15 minutes for them to set it up and another 10 to make sure you were ready to take your first class. Talk about convenience. 

It’s a good thing the machine is set up for you because it’s big, about eight feet longtwo feet wide, and weighing almost 160 pounds. Peloton also recommends you leave two feet of clearance on all sides, which I’d also recommend to avoid running into things during your row. But if you plan on taking Row Bootcamp classes, you’ll need even more room. Therefore, those tight on space should stay away from this machine and rowing machines in general, as they all have bigger footprints. It just barely fits my spare room. 

If you want to move the machine around, Peloton attempts to make the process as simple as possible by placing two wheels at the heavier end of the machine, and the back end is a loop shape, making it more functional for easier lifting. I’ve tried moving the Row around, and it’s heavy but manageable to do alone thanks to the wheels. 

To save space in your room,  there’s the option to store the Row upright (as long as your ceilings are over eight feet high).  However, you need to install a wall anchor, which involves screwing the anchor into place. I couldn’t test this since I rent and can’t put holes in my wall. I still put the machine upright, and it wasn’t difficult; the display’s arm folds down, and you use the back loop and a handle on the rail to lift it. Peloton says you should be comfortable lifting 40 pounds to do this. If you choose to store upright, only do so using the anchor. instructors even mention this in many of the classes. 

When it’s time to get rowing, there’s a large 23.8-inch full HD touchscreen that’s both bright and perfectly responsive. Colors are vivid and lifelike, while the 1080p resolution ensures decently crisp visuals. The display can fold down slightly and tilt to the sides up to 45°, which is handy for different viewing angles, especially when taking the Bootcamp classes.

At the top of the display, there’s a large speaker that’s clear and gets plenty loud, along with two rear subwoofers. You get an easy-to-reach volume button on the side, though you can also adjust the volume on the screen, and there’s a power button around the back. A seemingly useless camera with a privacy cover is included, which at the time of writing this review, only takes pictures for your profile. 

Peloton Row

(Image credit: Danielle Abraham)

Moving on to the rail of the Peloton Row, it’s made of anodized and powder-coated aluminum that feels exceptionally sturdy. On top of that rail sits a lightly padded seat that slides along the length of the rail. At the base, there’s a footrest made of sturdy plastic with a movable shoe sizer. It’s simple to adjust the size options from one to seven and fits a women’s size five to a men's size 13.5. To secure your feet is a woven strap with velcro, and after a month of use, everything holds up great and performs the same as the day I got the machine.

Beyond the footrest, just under the display, is a molded plastic and TPE handle that’s easy to reach and grip with a simple docking knob. But be prepared to get a few calluses as you adjust to daily rowing. The Row uses electromagnetic resistance rather than water or air, making for a super quiet, but powerful rowing. 

Unlike adjusting the resistance of an exercise bike, the Row uses a Drag Factor, which gets increasingly difficult as you pull the handle faster. You can change the Drag Factor between Light (100), Medium (115), and Heavy (130). Though it’s possible to go out of this range, Peloton recommends staying within those limits.

There’s not much else to the machine other than a little hub to put your water bottle, phone, and other smaller accessories. Overall, the Peloton Row is functional and well-designed, making it a joy to use.

  • Design score: 5/5

Peloton Row: Performance

Peloton Row

(Image credit: Danielle Abraham)
  • Form Assist feature to perfect your stroke 
  • Motivating instructors and great community-building
  • Worked flawlessly throughout testing

I’ve been rowing on the Peloton Row for over a month almost daily to see how it stacks up to regular use and experience all it has to offer. Beyond rowing,  the Peloton All-Access Membership gives you access to a massive volume of live and recorded classes, including cycling, running, strength, and meditation. You can watch all those classes on the Row’s screen, but for this review, I focused only on the rowing classes: rowing and row bootcamp. 

Before your first row, you calibrate the machine to you. The Peloton instructors guide you through the process. It only takes about five minutes, and you’ll learn about and take all the different positions for a proper row stroke. From there, the machine should be calibrated to your stroke, letting you use the almost life-changing Form Assist feature. 

Form Assist is available in every class you take, appearing on your screen and following your stroke in real-time using sensors, not a camera. A gray human-figure icon moves with you, and when the feature detects improper form, it’ll highlight the area in red, telling you what the error is and how to correct it.  It was distracting at first because the icon was constantly red, as I was relatively new to rowing and had no idea how to do a proper stroke. But at least it told me I was doing something wrong. Otherwise, I don’t think I would’ve known I had improper form, potentially injuring myself. It’s possible to minimize the Form Assist feature on the screen if you just want to focus on the instructor. 

At the end of your classes, you’ll get a Form Assist score, which gives you an overall form rating percentage and a form breakdown percentage for each part of the stroke. I was lucky to break 50% during my first few classes, but now I’m closer to 90%. You’ll also get awards when your form is above 80%, a nice little incentive. Form Assist puts the Row a notch above all the other rowing machines on the market. 

Beyond Form Assist, there are Form and Drills classes available to help you with your stroke. Anyone new to rowing should take these classes, as the instructors do an excellent job of breaking down each part of the stroke. I had no idea rowing involved more leg work than arms until I took these classes. I’ll still take Form and Drills classes from time to time to help improve my form. As your stroke improves, you’ll also want to recalibrate the machine, which is just as simple as the first time you do it. Peloton even offers programs to help your Row performance. At the time of writing, there are only two Row programs available, but clearly, if you’re new to rowing, this is the perfect machine to learn on. 

Speaking classes, there are few to choose from, with the most common being a basic rowing class that often focuses on music themes like Classic Rock, 90s Hip Hop, etc. Each instructor chooses their playlist, and it’s always fun to hear the songs. You can even connect your Spotify or Apple Music account to save the songs, but I experienced some hiccups during connection.

Some other rowing class options include endurance, Tabata, interval, and HIIT. Each provides a slightly different experience. The classes last from 10-30 minutes, and I found them easy to fit into my daily schedule. Peloton also just added Extra 5 classes, which are handy five-minute classes to push yourself a little further after finishing a longer class. I love the short class structure; it makes me work harder since I know the pain will be over soon.

Peloton Row

(Image credit: Danielle Abraham)

During all the classes, the instructors give you a pace and stroke rate target to hit for a certain amount of time. Before or during a class, you set your pace levels from 1-10.  Within each level are easy, moderate, challenging, and max targets you’ll want to hit based on minutes to go 500 meters. So, at level two, a max pace should be between 2:40-2:20.  Pace timings will be different for everyone, and it took me a good week to figure out how to increase my timing. It mostly involves your drive at the beginning of your stroke, not how fast you row. Stroke rate is how many times you complete a full stroke per minute. 

Peloton is big on cultivating a community, so during class, there’s a leaderboard that ranks you based on output, another metric that’s basically the power behind each stroke. As you take a class, you can compete against other users, attempting to pass them on the leaderboard. It’s extremely motivating, and even more intense during live classes, as the instructors see your output and occasionally call you out, providing an in-person class vibe. Users also create hashtags for more specific groups within Peloton, and you can even virtually high-five people during class. 

The instructors are all fun and motivating. Though similar to running on a treadmill or indoor cycling, I find rowing a bit repetitive and boring day after day, no matter who is teaching the class. Row Bootcamp classes add a little variety to your workout by combining rowing with mat strength training workouts to build up muscles to improve your stroke, using the machine’s rotating screen. These classes last a little longer, between 30 to 60 minutes. I’ve taken a few and enjoy them overall. However, I have limited space where my Row machine is set up, making them slightly more challenging to complete.  

Pretty much all of the classes you take were “live” at one point, and you’ll even see the date and time of the class on it. Of course, you can take actual live classes, and Peloton provides an easy-to-use calendar to find them. My only issue is many of the live classes cater more to those on the East Coast of the US versus the West, as they’re filmed in the New York studio. That means there are a lot of excessively early classes or ones in the middle of the day that don’t work as well for those like me on the West Coast. It’s really a hit or miss, depending on the day of the week. Coming out late last year,  the Peloton Row is still relatively new, so I assume as more people get the Row, demand will increase, and we’ll see more live classes. 

Beyond typical classes, there are self-led scenic rows that let you row in different locations from Greece to  South Carolina, putting you in the driver's seat of the boat traversing different waterways. It’ll pick up pace as you do. However,  there are still only a limited amount of scenic rows. There are even a few scenic row classes with instructors rowing an actual boat on the water that you follow along with, but these are also limited. 

Peloton is beta-testing an option to watch Netflix as you row, which is ideal for those who get bored of the repetitive exercise. One final rowing option is “Just Rowing.” It’s exactly what it sounds like, and the only thing you’ll have access to if you don’t pay for the $44 per month All-Access Membership. So, if you buy the machine, be prepared to shell out extra dough because even though the Row is great, the classes make it. 

For those that have the Row in a communal space, there’s Bluetooth connectivity to connect wireless headphones.  It’s super simple to set up and works flawlessly. I had no problem connecting my AirPods, so the only sound others hear is the machine going through the motions and your heavy breathing, and the machine is whisper quiet, hitting only dB.  I also connected my Bose SoundLink Mini II speaker with no issue blasting the volume during class, giving you even more of an in-person experience. The built-in speakers can get loud, but the sound gets distorted at super high volumes.  

To get even more health data when using the rowing machine,  it’s possible to connect a heart rate monitor or smartwatch to see and save your heart rate data as you work out. I attempted to use this feature, but unfortunately, my older FitBit Sense is not compatible. 

As for the actual machine’s performance, I have no complaints. All the components work just as great as the day it came. The seat still glides with ease, and the footrest feels secure with every stroke. I have gotten a few small callouses on my hands from gripping the handle, but instructors warned me about this, so it wasn’t a surprise. The Full HD touchscreen attracts tons of fingerprints, but it’s perfectly responsive, working just like a giant tablet. 

Maintaining the Peloton Row is as simple as can be. It mainly involves ensuring the area underneath is clear and occasionally checking for damage, especially near the power cord, handle strap, and foot straps. Beyond that, you’ll want to wipe down the machine monthly with a damp cloth and mild household cleaner, or possibly more if multiple people are using it. I can attest that things get sweaty, so keeping up with this is essential. And as they say at the end of pretty much every class, “If you’re storing the Peloton Row upright, be sure you’re using the wall anchor.” 

  • Performance score: 4.5/5

Peloton Row: Scorecard

Peloton Row: Should I buy?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we tested

For over a month, I have used the Peloton Row almost daily. My usual workout routine consists of pilates five days a week and walking or hiking every day. It wasn’t difficult to incorporate rowing into this routine, as many of the workouts are short, making for an easy way to add an extra dose of cardio. 

I tried out every type of row class available including HIIT, endurance, and tabata. There are also Row Bootcamp classes that are a bit more involved, and I took several of those. Finally, I took a few live classes to see what the experience was like. 

First reviewed: November 2023

SteelSeries Alias Pro review – a solid choice for streamers
7:32 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Comments: Off

The more premium big brother of the SteelSeries Alias, an all-in-one microphone that we called a “very impressive debut” from the gaming peripheral manufacturer in our recent review, the SteelSeries Alias Pro is an extremely high-end microphone geared almost exclusively towards content creators and streamers.

Based on the same eye-catching design of the Alias, but with the addition of a separate stream mixer that also functions as its digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), the Alias Pro benefits from a higher-quality XLR connection. This helps deliver absolute top-of-the-range audio that will be suitable for everything from professional podcasting to a cheeky ASMR stream. While it has undeniably increased the audio quality, the move to a separate stream mixer does remove some of the convenience that we appreciated so much with the original model. 

This version’s alternate placement of the gain indicator, which is now found as an LED ring around the gain dial itself, is also rather distracting in use, and the new style of microphone mute button feels unpleasantly mushy to the touch. The gain indicator itself is also rather inaccurate, failing to reliably reflect when sound is actually being broadcasted. This is a major disappointment in such an expensive device and, for all the impressive audio quality, could be a serious deal-breaker depending on your needs. 

SteelSeries Alias Pro - Price and availability

With a seriously high asking price of $329.99 / £319.99 / AU$699, the Alias Pro is one expensive microphone at least when you compare it to any of the usual cheaper USB alternatives commonly used by streamers. When it comes to the world of the more professional XLR microphone, where the use of an analog connection ensures far greater audio quality, this is actually a fairly modest price tag when you take the usual cost of a complete XLR setup into consideration. 

A quality XLR microphone from a trusted audio brand like Rode generally costs substantially more than the $200 / £150 / AU$280 mark and that’s before you factor in the price of a separate DAC, which is necessary to use the microphone with your PC. Those generally run above the $100 / £80 / AU$150 range at the very least, so all things considered you’re not paying substantially more for a visually attractive all-in-one package here.

The Alias Pro can be found on sale via the SteelSeries website or at Amazon in both the US and UK. Several other retailers also stock the microphone in the US, such as Best Buy and Walmart. Like the Alias, the Alias Pro is a little harder to find in Australia at the moment, but is currently in stock at JB Hi-Fi if you’re willing to pay a little more than other regions.

SteelSeries Alias Pro - Design and features

SteelSeries Alias Pro microphone

(Image credit: Future)

Making use of much of the same visually appealing design elements as the stunning SteelSeries Alias, the Alias Pro is a very attractive product especially when compared to the more utilitarian designs common with other XLR microphones. With a sleek black pill-shaped capsule covered in a soft fabric and adorned with an understated rubber SteelSeries logo, this is a microphone that’ll improve the look of almost any setup. This is particularly significant in the world of content creation and, if you frequently make use of a facecam, a microphone’s aesthetics can be just as important as the overall performance. 

The use of metal and smooth plastic lend everything from the capsule to the stand a suitably premium feel that certainly reflects the cost. Unlike the Alias, however, the microphone itself is only half of the story. All of the control features, like the microphone mute button and gain dial, have been moved over to a separate stream mixer. This mixer has similar high-end materials and is surprisingly compact, making it easy to nestle underneath one of the best gaming monitors. Although the microphone itself has a lone XLR port on its rear, which connects to the DAC in the stream mixer, there is no shortage of interface options on the mixer itself.

SteelSeries Alias Pro Stream Mixer DAC

(Image credit: Future)

The back features two USB-C inputs (which allow the mixer to be used with two separate PCs at the same time), alongside a clicky power button and a 3.5mm jack for audio monitoring. Another 3.5mm audio jack is located on the left hand side of the mixer too, this one intended as a general audio output for your speakers or headphones. The front of the mixer features a gain dial, surrounded by an RGB LED ring, and a larger volume knob above two big buttons - one is for microphone muting and the other for audio output muting.

Both buttons also feature RGB and can be illuminated with a choice of colors to reflect their current status. This is, unfortunately, a very necessary feature as the buttons themselves are incredibly mushy and require quite a bit of force to properly activate. During my use, there were a few frustrating occasions where it took a second, more firm press for the microphone mute to kick in which, while not the biggest issue, is a disappointing oversight given the cost.

Finally, the stream mixer of the Alias Pro features a bright RGB strip on its underside which is a major improvement on the comparatively lackluster RGB ring of the Alias. It features the same solid range of customization options too and the added visual flair seems entirely appropriate given the streaming focus.

SteelSeries Alias Pro - Performance

SteelSeries Alias Pro Microphone

(Image credit: Future)

The performance of the microphone itself is absolutely phenomenal. As you would expect from a pricey XLR microphone, it boasts simply incredible audio quality that sounds professional-grade with minimal software tweaking out of the box. This will be more than enough for the vast majority of content creation needs but especially shines when you’re recording locally and not constrained by the bandwidth or encoding limitations inherent in streaming. Although there’s only a single pickup pattern, it is very effective and proved more than enough to pick up my voice in any position around my desk; provided that I remembered to adjust the gain appropriately. 

Although a microphone with a dedicated omnidirectional polar pickup pattern may be more appropriate for larger groups, I found the SteelSeries Alias Pro was comfortably able to record multiple voices without any serious issues, ensuring that everyone remained heard which should also make it a viable option for those who want to podcast as well.

Unfortunately, the stream mixer itself suffers a few noticeable issues. In addition to the mushy buttons, the gain meter on the module seems incredibly inaccurate at times. Like the Alias, it uses a traffic light color system by default (starting at green when volume levels are normal before switching to amber or reaching red if the input is too loud). Even with multiple attempts at adjustment, however, I could never find the setting where the microphone accurately reflected the lower end of the spectrum. 

There were numerous occasions where my voice was perfectly audible in a recording or online call but failed to register as a visible input on the gain meter, which may prove a dealbreaker for some. While the gain meter will still tell you if you’re too loud, it can’t reliably provide that baseline level of reassurance that you’re broadcasting at normal levels.

As noted in my SteelSeries Alias review, the recommended SteelSeries Sonar software (which is used for both models) is also a bit of a mixed bag. It works well as a general volume mixer and an easy method to control the inputs when you’re making use of the SteelSeries Alias Pro’s dual PC support, but intrusive features like automatic game recording continue to frustrate.

Should I buy the SteelSeries Alias Pro?

SteelSeries Alias Pro Microphone

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we reviewed the SteelSeries Alias Pro

I used the SteelSeries Alias Pro as my primary PC microphone for well over a month. During that time, I used it for the majority of my online calls and tested its content creation capabilities by experimenting with audio recording software like Audacity. I also made sure to test its streaming capabilities in private streams to friends, who did appreciate the significant bump in quality compared to some of the other microphones I have lying around.

I endeavored to fully evaluate the features of the SteelSeries Sonar software too, tweaking settings and experimenting with all of the available options and features whenever I had the opportunity.

For more ways to upgrade your streaming setup, see our guides to the best microphones for streaming or pick for the best gaming desk available this year.

Next Page »