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Logitech G Yeti GX review: a master at minimizing artefacts
10:05 am | September 19, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Peripherals & Accessories | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Logitech G Yeti GX: Two-minute review

When Logitech told us it was going to release a new addition, the Logitech G Yeti GX,  to the Yeti lineup, rounding it out to four models, expectations were understandably high. 

After all, the original Yeti has sort of become a household name in the USB mic sphere. People don’t necessarily declare it to be the absolute best USB mic in the market, but it's definitely secured its place near the top for its audio quality, build, and design. And it set a standard that all Yeti mics that follow it have to live up to. 

The Logitech G Yeti GX takes a different approach, however. Whereas the Yeti looms over most of the other USB mics I’ve tested with its big and tall design with multiple pickup patterns, this new model is small and short and only supercardioid. And, just to make it clear to potential buyers that it’s meant for gaming and streaming rather than for podcasts, vlogs, and music production, it throws in RGB lighting for good measure.

Logitech G Yeti GX on the author's desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

That design choice is well-executed, though. The Logitech G Yeti GX is still an elegant-looking mic, with its beautiful capsule form, soft matte finish, solid build, and premium-feeling pop filter. Though it can be mounted on a boom arm – an adapter is included in the box for this purpose – it comes with a very stable desktop stand and has great articulation and robust build quality. It even has a dial to easily adjust the mic’s position and lock it in.

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Logitech G Yeti GX on the author's deskr

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
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Logitech G Yeti GX on the author's deskr

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

There aren’t many physical controls on the mic itself, just a mic gain dial with a light indicator and a mute button, but for what it’s made for, you really don’t need anything else. And to connect it to your PC or laptop, there's a USB-C port at the bottom. And that’s about it.

Be mindful when using that manual gain control dial, as this mic has a lot of gain, and you don't want it turned up all the way up. Between 30-50% volume should be good enough when you’re recording or talking to your teammates in-game. Luckily, it has a smart audio lock, a pro-quality audio-processing technology that holds mic gain level to prevent clipping and distortion. But more on that later.

As I mentioned, there is a light indicator, which is helpful. It tells you when the mic gain level is too high (it flashes red) and when the smart audio lock is on (it turns cyan). 

Logitech G Yeti GX on the author's desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Those who aren’t big fans of RGB lighting – yes, they exist – need not be appalled. The RGB lighting is tastefully done here, cupping the bottom of the mic and radiating a soft yet still bright glow that’s not at all obnoxious. There are 13 lighting zones, each of which is customizable via the Logitech G Hub app, where there are several lighting animations to choose from and the option to adjust brightness. If you’re too lazy to use the app, the mic itself gives you five effects on the fly.

Now, one might assume, due to its size and gaming aesthetic, that the Logitech G Yeti GX isn’t a USB mic to be taken seriously. But it’s actually pretty impressive, even if, admittedly, there’s room for improvement in terms of sound quality. 

Logitech G Yeti GX on the author's desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

It’s important to note that this is a supercardioid dynamic mic. That means it’s a cardioid mic with a tighter field of view – which should, in theory, make it better at side rejection – and a front address (it captures audio at the top). Now, dynamic mics are better at capturing sound that's directly in front of them, while condenser mics have a wider stage of sound and tend to sound better due to their fuller frequency range.

Keeping that in mind, it’s not surprising that the Yeti GX delivers audio quality that is a little cheap-sounding. I found that there wasn't much dimensionality to my voice – in my test recordings, it’s a tiny bit compressed, like it's about to distort. Having said that, it sounds more than good enough if you’re live streaming your gameplay or communicating with your teammates during an online gaming sesh – you will come through clearly and audibly.

Again, there’s a lot of gain here, so sticking at 30% to 50% volume or toggling the Smart Audio Lock is wise. Turn it up all the way and your audio will sound harsh with distorted mid-highs. To be fair, the audio will still sound clear, just not pleasant to the ears. I highly recommend utilizing that Smart Audio Lock feature. It works like a charm, and you can actually hear it gradually adjusting as needed. 

Logitech G Yeti GX on the author's deskr

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

On the upside, it’s very good at handling sibilance and plosives. It also has no proximity effect, which means you can speak right up on it, and you'll sound the same as when you're a foot and a half away. 

It’s also amazingly good at rejecting vibrations and background noise. I tapped on its stand until my fingers were raw, and none of those taps registered. If I’m button-mashing on a keyboard while talking, you’ll still hear the clicky noises, but they’re very muted, even though the keyboard is only a few inches away.

So, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re creating a podcast or YouTube videos that require a more professional-sounding mic. However, the Logitech G Yeti GX delivers a level of sound quality that’s great for gaming and game streaming, and it comes with the necessary features for those, which is really the whole point.

Logitech G Yeti GX: Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? $149.99 (about £120, AU$230)
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

You will be paying a hefty price for such a small USB mic, however. At $149.99 (about £120, AU$230), the Logitech G Yeti GX is almost as expensive as the Yeti X, the pro-level model in the Yeti line, and about the same as the fantastic-sounding Elgato Wave:3, which managed to secure our coveted five-star rating.

If you’re looking for something less pricey, the HyperX Duocast is a more affordable option that delivers a sound quality that’s fantastic for podcasting. Just remember that both the Wave:3 and the Duocast are condenser mics, and neither is supercardioid. 

  • Value: 3.5 / 5

Logitech G Yeti GX: Specs

Should you buy the Logitech G Yeti GX?

Logitech G Yeti GX on the author's desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Buy it if...

You stream your games
If you're an online gamer or you live-stream your games, this is a great USB mic to consider.

You want beautiful RGB lighting
Its radiant RGB lighting is elegantly executed so that it looks good and isn't obnoxious.

Don't buy it if...

You want the best value for your money
For something that doesn't have the absolute best sound quality, this is actually pretty expensive.

You need pro-level sound quality
You'll come through clear and audible, but there's not a lot of dimensionality to your voice.

Logitech G Yeti GX: Also consider

How I tested the Logitech G Yeti GX

  • Tested the USB mic for a few days
  • Used it for recording, on calls, and during gaming
  • Made sure to test its special features and employed my usual mic-testing process

Using the Logitech G Yeti GX for a couple of days on video calls, while gaming, and in recordings, I played close attention to sound quality and any artefacts it might have picked up. I also made sure to test its control, light indicators, and the accompanying software to see how easy it is to use, especially for beginners. 

During testing, I spoke from the front, as well as from the back, from the sides, and from different distances. I also checked how it handled things like vibrations and background noise by tapping on the surface it was on and on its stand and making noises in the background during recordings.

I’ve been testing devices like computing peripherals for years. Mics are a newer thing for me, having only started testing them last year, but my experience with audio devices like gaming headsets, headphones, and speakers made it easy for me to understand USB microphones and what matters most to users during testing.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed [Month Year]

USB C-to-C cables for iPhone 15 and 15 Plus handled: no MFi, USB 2.0 speeds
1:13 pm | August 24, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones news | Tags: | Comments: Off

There were some concerns over how Apple will implement USB-C on the upcoming iPhone 15 series. Researcher Majin Bu reports some good news: the new cables will not use Apple’s MFi chips for verification, so third-party cables and accessories will not be restricted (with Lightning, full compatibility is available only on accessories that have been licensed by Apple). It’s not all roses, though, Bu confirms that the regular iPhone 15 and 15 Plus will only have USB 2.0 capable ports. This means that they will be limited to 480Mbps data transfer speeds, same as the current Lightning...

Synology BeeDrive review: Pocketable storage with a twist
4:56 am | August 3, 2023

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

Synology BeeDrive: Two-minute review

In a world of commoditized personal storage, Synology’s BeeDrive portable SSD offers something new. When plugging the device into a PC (USB-C cable and USB-A adapter are included), it acts like traditional USB storage, but Synology’s BeeDrive online installer app appears and lets you pair the device to your PC by signing into your Synology account. You’re then presented with three options: Computer Backup, File Sync and Mobile Transfer.

The former acts as expected and can automatically backup files simply by plugging it into your computer (accidentally deleted files and five previous versions can also be preserved). File Sync (one-way or two-way) is designed to ensure you have the latest versions of each file on all your PCs – it’s been designed with an eye on hybrid workers who operate both at home and from an office. I’ve seen many similar hardware-app combos before, but the third is where Synology is focusing its attention.

The Mobile Transfer app enables you to simply send files straight to your PC over your Wi-Fi network. Choosing this option displays a QR code for downloading the mobile app via the Apple and Android app stores. Once opened, it asks you to pair your device with the BeeDrive using the same QR code.

You’re then asked whether you want to back up either all or just new photos, plus which folder you’d like them stored in. If you want to simply send individual photos, you’ll need to choose “Set up later”, which is a little ambiguous.

Once you’ve followed all the prompts, you can activate a one-tap backup or use BeeDrop for more varied sharing options – there are three here. First, you can take a live photo with the app and it will immediately beam to your BeeDrive. I’ve not seen many apps perform this so quickly, efficiently and smoothly. You can’t activate all camera functions or take videos, but you can select which of your device’s cameras to use. 

BeeDrop will also let you wirelessly transfer individual or multiple files and photos across to it. I saw a 350MB movie move to the PC in less than 20 seconds – a very respectable 175Mbps – but performance will obviously depend on your Wi-Fi network. This could be a game changer for content creators who hate having to tether their device and scroll through countless files before dragging and dropping the one they want. This is arguably its killer feature, but it’s a shame it won’t work when out and about.

Indeed, it’s not perfect. You can’t simply send files from your PC to your mobile device without setting up a convoluted backup/sync regimen. Also, none of the files stored on it are encrypted, meaning if you lose the BeeDrive, anyone can access everything. Perhaps we’ll see a BeeDrive Pro with these features in the future?

Beyond that, BeeDrive is a regular, speedy USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 (speeds up to 1050MB/s) storage device and that's available in 1TB and 2TB variants. Both have diminutive, 65mm diameter footprints and weigh less than 50g. Ultimately, despite feeling a bit ‘Gen 1,’ it works well and can usefully offer features not found in competitor's portable SSDs.

Synology BeeDrive review: Price and release date

  • $119 / £130 / AU$279 – 1TB version
  • $199 / £215 / AU$429 – 2TB version
  • Announced on June 7, 2023

The Synology BeeDrive is available in most major markets in both 1TB and 2TB capacities. The 1TB version costs $119 / £130 / AU$279. The 2TB version costs $199 / £215 / AU$429.

These prices aren’t a little dearer than other portable SSDs. Samsung’s similar, speedy and more mature rivals tend to sell for around two-thirds the price. You can also find more expensive portable SSDs with data security features and ruggedisation. However, they don’t have the BeeDrive's file management apps or Wi-Fi capabilities. SanDisk’s rivals are similar to Samsung’s and cost even less.

Alternatively, you can spend as little or as much as you want on a USB thumb drive and use third-party sync solutions.

  • Value: 3.5 / 5

Synology BeeDrive review: Specs

Synology BeeDrive review: Design and features

  • Slick, intuitive backup and sync software
  • Easy mobile-to-PC transfer
  • Core feature needs a Wi-Fi network
  • No security features

The BeeDrive is a cute little device that will fit comfortably into the palm of most peoples’ hands. Unlike Samsung’s rivals, there are no sharp edges here. However, its sub-50g lightweight nature belies its lack of robustness... you wouldn’t want to drop it or step on it. By only being available in black, I also kept misplacing it in the bottom of my bag or on shadowy areas of my desk.

Installation is generally simple, but there are some caveats. The bundled BeeDrive online installer app requires an internet connection and a Synology account to install, although this does come with the benefit of always having the latest version. The other thing to note is that the software actually needs to be installed on the connect PC for the apps to work. If that sounds silly, remember that if you’re wanting to sync files between home and work PCs (arguably a core selling point of the BeeDrive), few corporate IT departments will countenance this, due to both file and data-security concerns.

Still, when connected with the short USB-C cable that's included in the box (which comes with a USB-A adapter), as a straight USB storage device, the BeeDrive works as expected. It even shows up in Windows with a BeeDrive icon for quick identification. 

Synology BeeDrive with USB-C to USB-C cable

(Image credit: Future / Nick Ross)

BeeDrive's 'smart' functionality revolves around three core apps and they’re mostly slick, simple and intuitive. The Computer Backup app simply involves choosing the folders you want backed up. It then facilitates this manually, or activates automatically when plugged into your PC. Up to five previous file versions can be archived in case of accidental deletion or general computer SNAFUs. You’re told when the latest backup occurred and a log is available to check previous activity.

The Sync app is a little different. You can let BeeDrive create two folders, one on the BeeDrive and one on your PC, and it will keep them synchronized. You can also manually choose multiple folders to sync and (again) keep up to five previous versions of them. Plus, you can choose two-way sync or unidirectional sync – to or from the drive. You can also choose file extensions to exclude.

The Mobile Transfer app lets you send files straight to your PC over Wi-Fi. Just note, this is not a direct, device-to-device connection – both your PC and mobile device need to be on the same network. The first time you choose this option, you’re presented with a QR code for downloading the mobile app for either Apple or Android. You then use the same QR code to pair your device with the BeeDrive.

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Synology BeeDrive device home screen

(Image credit: Future / Nick Ross)
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Synology BeeDrive folder sync screen

(Image credit: Future / Nick Ross)
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Synology BeeDrive computer transfer screen

(Image credit: Future / Nick Ross)
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Synology BeeDrive mobile transfer and BeeDrop screen

(Image credit: Future / Nick Ross)
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Synology BeeDrive file transfer screen

(Image credit: Future / Nick Ross)

Next, you’re asked whether and where you want to back up all, or only new, photos. If you want to simply send individual photos, you must choose “Set up later” here, but it’s a minor niggle. You can then activate a one-tap backup or use ‘BeeDrop’ which has three transfer options: Files, Photos or Camera. The last option lets you take a live photo via the app which gets immediately sent to your BeeDrive. It works very quickly, efficiently and smoothly. You aren’t given access to all your camera’s features, though, and it won’t work with video.

Still, if you hate having to tether your camera to a computer, waiting for the thumbnails to organize themselves, scrolling through potentially loads of photos before finding the one you want to drag-and-drop onto your computer, it’s a killer feature. It’s a shame it won’t work without a Wi-Fi network.

Like I said, it’s not perfect. You can't use the unidirectional file transfer without setting up a backup/sync regimen, plus there's no encryption here so you can't afford to lose the BeeDrive.

  • Design & features: 4 / 5

Synology BeeDrive review: Performance

  • USB 3.2 Gen 2 (1,050MB/S) transfer speeds
  • Potentially fast Wi-Fi transfer

Synology BeeDrive performance report

(Image credit: Future / Nick Ross)

File transfer performance to and from the BeeDrive will largely depend on your individual setup. On my Wi-Fi 6 network, my Wi-Fi 6-enabled phone transferred files at a decent 175Mbps. Only huge files might feel slow.

The USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 wired connection – which offers theoretical speeds of 1,050MB/s – managed 1,049MB/s read speeds and 730MB/s write speeds recorded by CrystalDiskMark, which is very impressive. 

Still, it’s worth remembering that the BeeDrive isn’t really about speed: it’s mainly designed to back up and sync stuff in the background, or perform casual file transfers and it does this with aplomb.

  • Performance: 5 / 5

Should I buy the Synology BeeDrive?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

If you're not quite sold on the Synology BeeDrive, below are a few other options to consider.

[First reviewed August 2023]

Victrola ME1 review: your new portable party pal even if it lacks bass
6:47 pm | July 24, 2023

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

Victrola ME1: Two-minute review

You may have heard of Victrola from its futuristic turntables and record players, devices that blend retro form factors with modern features, and the Victrola ME1 is a hop, skip and a jump from the brand’s previous devices.

The Victrola ME1 is the brand’s first portable Bluetooth speaker. Released alongside the heavier and more static ME2, it abandons the elegant, classy and premium oeuvre of previous Victrola devices for something cheap and cheery.

Unlike many other ostensibly-portable Bluetooth speakers, the Victrola ME1 fits the bill. It’s small, lightweight and durable, so we found it a fitting companion for outdoor excursions, whether that was a trip to the park or a long drive to the beach. The speaker even has a wrist strap, which means you can keep it tethered at all times.

It’s a reasonably inexpensive speaker, too, at the sub-$100/£100 price point, making it well worth considering if you’re looking for an affordable counterpoint to the many high-price rivals on the market.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch – and we’re not talking about the place where you attach the wrist strap to the speaker – and that’s in the audio quality. The Victrola ME1 is fine for its price but it won’t blow audiophiles away, not when you’re trying to listen to a song and encounter more peaks than the Himalayas.

If you want a speaker to pump out some party tunes in a field, this’ll serve you well, but if you want high-quality audio to impress your music-loving fans then the Victrola ME1 will disappoint you.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what the ‘ME’ stands for, it’s ‘Music Edition’ – so if you’re that rare breed who uses a speaker for music, you’re in luck.

Victrola ME1 review: Price and release date

  • Released in January 2022
  • Officially priced at $99.99 / £99.99

The Victrola ME1 launched in January 2022 priced at $99 / £99 (roughly AU$150), with that double-figure price tag making it one of the more affordable portable Bluetooth speakers that are worth considering.

And that’s before sales prices – during writing this review, we saw the US cost of the speaker come down another $20 on Victrola’s website, so you can likely find a price reduction somewhere if you want.

At that price, the Victrola ME1 rivals the likes of the JBL Flip 6 or Cleer Audio Scene, which both balance pleasing looks with decent audio quality.

The Victrola ME1 with a picnic blanket as a backdrop.

(Image credit: Future)

Victrola ME1 review: Specs

The Victrola ME1 with a picnic blanket as a backdrop.

(Image credit: Future)

Victrola ME1 review: Features

  • A 12-hour battery life
  • USB-C charging but no USB out
  • No 3.5mm for aux in

Victrola cites a 12-hour battery life for its ME1 speaker, and while our test period found it came a little short of that, it was only a razor’s margin – expect at least 11 hours of playback on one charge.

There’s no USB out here so you can’t charge other devices with the ME1, but at least it has a USB-C charging port, letting you use the industry standard cable that you likely already have on your phone, tablet or computer.

Another port missing here, which may irk some audio fans, is a 3.5mm one – you can’t jack in with a cable, making the speaker’s Bluetooth connectivity your main option. There is, however, the ability to pair your phone to multiple speakers for some true surround sound jamming, though we weren’t able to test this due to only having one review speaker.

Pairing your phone is easy too, with no annoying apps you need to download to set your audio preferences – just hold the Bluetooth button on the speaker and connect using your device’s Bluetooth menu. Even compared to some other speakers, pairing on the Victrola was easy.

The Victrola ME1 with a picnic blanket as a backdrop.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Features score: 3.5/5

Victrola ME1 review: Design

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Durably designed
  • Looks like a cheese grater

Victrola tends to use a retro approach to design – other products it sells include speakers that look like boomboxes, radios, jukeboxes. The Music Edition 1 shakes things up by taking its aesthetic inspiration not from gadgets but from a cheese grater. That’s not wholly a joke – the speaker is a rectangular block with shredding holes, and from a glance it really does look like a kitchen implement used to grate cheese.

That is to say, this is a utilitarian design, and the ME1 won’t win any awards for its looks. It’s a monochrome block with scant distinctive features (it comes in gray and black in the US, though many other color options were announced). But that’s okay, because there are two key design elements in its favor.

Firstly, this is an incredibly portable device. Measuring 13.9 x 8.25 x 4.4 cm, it can easily fit in a bag pocket or similar carry space, and weighing 430g it’s easy to carry about too, whether in said bag or in your hand using its wrist carry strap.

Secondly, it’s very durable. The ME1 has a metal frame, which can withstand everyday drops or bumps, and it has an IP67 rating, protecting it against dust and splashes – feel free to leave this on the side at a pool party (but not literally in the pool).

Most of the body of the Victrola ME1 is taken up by its cheese-grating holes but there’s more. Along one edge of the speaker there’s the holder for the wrist strap and USB-C strap as well as the power on, Bluetooth, volume down, pause and volume up buttons. Simple, with no unnecessary extras.

The Victrola ME1 with a picnic blanket as a backdrop.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 4/5

Victrola ME1 review: Sound quality

The Victrola ME1 has one weak spot, and admittedly it’s a rather severe one given the usual use case of a portable Bluetooth speaker. It’s the speaker quality. Music quality is fine, but ‘fine’ doesn’t get you far in the competitive world of music gadgets, and the ME1 left us feeling a little blue. 

The speaker serves less bass than a vegan restaurant, which is somewhat surprising given Victrola’s use of a passive bass radiator. It’s not totally absent, but don’t expect any soul-shaking reverberations here.

Worse was treble though, with frequent peaking, which gave many songs a ‘crunchy’ quality, as though half the instruments had been replaced with flaky crisps (chips, for you Americans). This was most apparently in drum lines but cropped up frequently in lyrics for certain songs, and certain other instruments.

We can also see some people having trouble with the ME1’s max volume, which was fine for indoor gatherings, but we can imagine that larger groups of people might struggle to hear the thing even at max volume if you’re outdoors.

When you look at Victrola’s online listing for the ME1, it doesn’t go into detail for the speaker’s audio qualities, instead focusing on its design and features. That is to say, even Victrola apparently knows that the selling point of its speaker isn’t the audio quality.

The Victrola ME1 with a picnic blanket as a backdrop.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Sound quality: 3/5

Victrola ME1 review: Value

The Victrola ME1 isn’t a speaker for audiophiles, as its crunchy treble and lacking bass, as well as its omission of some popular features like 3.5mm inputs.

Despite this, we’d actually opt for the Victrola over some better-audio, higher-price and better-scoring speakers for its design features. It’s hard to overstate how great a portable, lightweight and durable speaker is for picnics, barbeques and outdoor parties – if you’re looking for something for these use cases, you could do far worse than the Victrola ME1.

The Victrola ME1 with a picnic blanket as a backdrop.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Victrola ME1?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

Victrola ME1 review: Also consider

CounterMail secure email review
10:22 am | July 18, 2023

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

Most popular email clients, such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail, are free. Yet, nothing is really free. In exchange for using these free services, you allow the providers to harvest your data for advertising purposes to make money. “If you’re not paying, then you’re the product” is a popular quote.

Many people aren’t comfortable with handing over their data to third parties, so they seek secure email alternatives. CounterMail is one of the best alternatives offered by a Swedish company. It allows you to send emails securely, with no third party having access to your data. 

Is CounterMail one of the best secure email providers? Read on...

CounterMail: Plans and pricing

CounterMail doesn’t have a free plan, which is a disadvantage. It only offers a one-week free trial with limited storage space.

CounterMail’s premium subscription comes with 4 GB of storage, which is relatively low. You can pay $29 for a six-month plan, $49 for 12 months, or $79 for 24 months. 

4 GB of storage is quite low, but you can expand it for a one-time fee. You can pay $19 for 250 MB, $35 for 500 MB, $59 for 1 GB, or $89 for 1.75 GB. The extra storage options are pretty expensive compared to the competition.

CounterMail in use 2.

(Image credit: CounterMail)

CounterMail: Features

CounterMail offers many good features, including: 

End-to-end email encryption

End-to-end encryption is a security protocol that prevents any third party from accessing information while it’s in transit. Your email gets encrypted on CounterMail’s server and decrypted at the recipient’s server. If anyone were to intercept it, the data will be useless to them because they don’t have the decryption keys. Even CounterMail doesn’t have the keys, so they can’t access your data.

CounterMail uses the OpenPGP email encryption standard; this standard is the most popular one email clients use to encrypt emails. The drawback is that you can only send encrypted emails from CounterMail to clients also using the OpenPGP standard.

OpenPGP encrypts your message body and contents but not the subject line because of the way it’s designed. To encrypt the subject line, CounterMail uses additional RSA and AES-CBC encryption.

Secure forms

CounterMail allows you to create encrypted web forms that others can fill out. When the recipient submits and fills out the form, it will end up as an encrypted email inside the creator's inbox. You can also embed the form on your website using custom HTML code.

Custom domains

Many businesses and individuals need emails with a custom domain name because it makes them look more professional. The good thing is that CounterMail allows you to set up emails with your personal domain name. You simply need to adjust your A records and MX records on your registrar to point to CounterMail's servers. Note that there's a one-time $15 set-up fee for each domain.


You can set up notifications for your CounterMail using another email address. For instance, the notification could be on your Gmail account. Each time someone sends a message to your CounterMail address, you’ll receive an alert on the other address.


CounterMail offers a password manager called SafeBox. This tool gives you a secure place to store your usernames and passwords. All the data in the Safebox is protected by a master password.

Safebox uses OpenPGP encryption separated from your account keys and password. The encryption and decryption process occurs entirely on your computer inside the web browser, so you can be sure no third party is accessing your data. 

Ensure you remember your master password because, without it, you won’t access any data on your Safebox.

Alias email

An alias email address is a forwarding address. Any email sent to an alias automatically gets forwarded to the main address; it's a creative way to interact with people or apps without giving out your main email address.

CounterMail allows you to create multiple aliases. You can create up to 10 such addresses if you have a premium subscription.

USB key encryption

You can use a USB key to protect your CounterMail account in addition to your password. The USB will have a custom key file that's needed to log into your account. Without this 512-bit key file, no one can access your account even if they somehow get hold of your password.

CounterMail in use 3.

(Image credit: CounterMail)

CounterMail: Interface and use

CounterMail doesn’t score high in ease of use. The platform’s interface isn’t as intuitive as what you’d find on many competitors. With a dark background and olive-green and white colors to highlight text, it looks like a tool designed for hackers instead of the everyday user.

Fortunately, signing up isn’t difficult. But the design looks out of date and unsuitable for an average email user. 

CounterMail: Support

CounterMail offers direct support via a ticketing system on its website. You can create a ticket and state your issue, and the company's support staff will respond to your ticket within a few days. There’s also an extensive Knowledge Base and FAQs section you can consult before filing a ticket. 

CounterMail: Competition

Posteo is the main competitor to CounterMail that we’ll like to highlight. It offers basic email encryption features but not significant complementary features, just like CounterMail. 

Posteo is a more affordable tool, costing just $1 per month. However, it doesn’t support custom domains. 

CounterMail: Final verdict

CounterMail is a suitable choice if you’re seeking a basic encrypted email tool to use. However, it doesn’t offer as many complementary features as various competitors. We also consider the platform lacking in customer support and ease of use; there’s no native mobile or desktop app, unlike many competitors. 

We've featured the best email hosting providers.

Sennheiser Profile review: impressive audio quality from an impressive audio company
5:00 am | May 29, 2023

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

Sennheiser Profile: Two-minute review

I honestly wanted to give the Sennheiser Profile that coveted five-star rating. This USB mic may not look like much, with its somber solid black style, but it delivers where it matters most – in build quality and audio capture – while keeping the price reasonably accessible to even hobbyist streamers and podcasters.

So, it’s really unfortunate that, for some reason, Sennheiser’s engineers have made weird design decisions, particularly when it comes to its articulations. These are, to be very fair, minor flaws that users can easily adapt to. But I also think that if you’re paying more than $100 / £100 for a USB mic, it should at least have those basics covered.

Coming in two sets – one with just a desk stand and the other offering a boom arm with a C-clamp – the Sennheiser Profile will set you back a lot more than many of the best USB mics on the shelves, with the latter set costing US customers $200. And, it’s kind of hard to look past its design missteps, no matter how small of a deal they are.

Sennheiser Profile on a desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

The most glaring issue here is the boom arm. Its hinges are so tight it feels like you’re doing an arm workout just to set it up. Granted, those should loosen up over time, and most people will probably have it in a fixed position anyway, but there’s also the fact that the mic itself mounts awkwardly to it. It's as if it’s a third-party budget boom you found on Amazon, instead of something that’s actually made for the mic. Setup, in other words, is tricky, and you really need to spend some time on it to figure out the least awkward position for the mic to be in.

Now, this mic is less than $130 / £110 if you just get the basic set that comes with a standard desk stand. That means you’re paying about $70 / £70 extra for that boom arm if you’re getting the streaming set. And, though it feels very premium and robust, that price is hardly fair if you consider its flaws.

Sennheiser Profile on a desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Go for the basic set, and you run into another hiccup. The yoke the USB mic is attached to doesn’t offer much in terms of articulation. You can tilt it up more or less 15 degrees, and that’s about it. So you have even fewer physical adjustments available if you just get the desk stand.

Sennheiser Profile on a desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

The good news is that the mic, like the boom arm, is built like a rock – or rather, a premium rock with a soft satin finish. And while the design is nothing to write home about, especially with that solid black (read: boring and overdone) color, it has all the physical controls you’ll ever need: a mic mute button, a mic gain dial, a mix control dial that allows you to balance audio between the mic and your PC, and a headphone volume control.

There are two LED ring indicators on hand, one around the mic gain dial and the other around the mic mute button. The former, the clipping indicator, turns green when you’re recording at an acceptable volume and orange when you’re in danger of clipping, while the latter turns red when the mic is muted.

Clipping is a very important factor to consider when you’re speaking to a mic. Exceed its recording volume range, and your audio will distort and have artifacts. So, most mics’ indicators have three colors to let you know if you’re at an acceptable volume, in danger of clipping, and already clipping. Unfortunately, this one only has two, which means you really can't risk recording at a higher volume because it’ll never tell you when your audio is indeed clipping.

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Sennheiser Profile on a desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
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Sennheiser Profile on a desk

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Design blues aside, there are things to love here: the cable management on the boom arm is a nice touch, the USB-C cable included is pretty lengthy, and the C-clamp mounting bracket does a great job of keeping the mic stable and in place.

The Sennheiser Profile also delivers on performance. The audio recordings I’ve made on it are incredible – as good as you can expect from USB mics. The sound is neutral, and even when I get really close, my voice still comes through clear and not overly boomy. And with the mic gain turned all the way, it still produces a clear, full sound without signs of distortion.

This mic will pick up some background noise, like when someone’s typing on a keyboard or talking a few feet away, but not to the point that it’s distracting. Sibilance is very minimal, while plosives are beautifully non-existent.

The one thing I really love about this is that despite its design flaws, the solid metal boom arm does an amazing job of minimizing vibrations. No matter how hard I tap on or shake the desk it’s mounted on or tap on the boom itself, the mic only picks up the tapping audio and never the vibrations themselves. 

Focus on its performance, and the Sennheiser Profile is a pretty darn impressive USB mic. Heck, if you can look past its design flaws, it’s an absolute ace.

Sennheiser Profile: Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? From $129 / £108 / AU$199
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

This is one of the most expensive USB mics I’ve tested, setting you back $129 / £108 / AU$239, and that’s just for the basic set, which comes with a desk stand. If you want the boom arm, you’re looking at a $199 / £176 / AU$349 splurge. Is it a little more than most people would want to pay for a USB mic? Maybe, but you’re getting your money’s worth in performance and build.

Still, if you’re looking for a cheap USB mic, you probably should look elsewhere. A good alternative, if you’re on a super tight budget, is the HyperX QuadCast S, which will cost you about half the Sennheiser Profile. If your budget has some flexibility, I highly recommend taking a look at the AKG Ara instead.

  • Value: 4 / 5

Sennheiser Profile: Specs

Should you buy the Sennheiser Profile?

Buy it if...

You want impeccable recordings
The Sennheiser Profile doesn’t just deliver crisp and clean audio recordings; it has a decent background noise rejection, does a great job minimizing sibilance and plosives, and has a boom arm that's impeccable at reducing vibrations.

You have a more flexible budget
Though this mic is well worth the splurge, it does cost more than most USB mics I’ve tested. That’s especially true if you get the streaming set.

Don't buy it if...

You’re cheap
If you’re on a budget, there are other great USB mics on the market that will suit your wallet and needs more. Their performance might not be as impressive, but they should see you through your streaming and podcasting needs.

You want a mic setup with a lot of articulation
The mic has a little bit of tilt, and that’s it. Plus, the boom arm is a little tricky to use, especially in the beginning. In fact, it doesn’t feel like it’s made specifically for the mic.

Sennheiser Profile: Also consider

How I tested the [Product]

  • Tested the USB mic for a few days
  • Did several audio recordings with it
  • Recorded at different distances and mic settings

To test the Sennheiser Profile, I used it for several days recording my voice at different settings and distances, pushing it to its limits to see how it handled things like plosives, sibilance, background noise, and vibrations.

Since I’m not a streamer or a podcaster, I utilized Windows’ Sound Recorder app to record my voice and listen to playbacks.

I have, however, tested a few USB mics for several months now, and have taken an unofficial crash course on mics so I can better understand the inner workings and give you guys fair reviews of the products that come to my desk.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed May 2023

Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X review – Simple for stellar streaming
1:01 pm | April 28, 2023

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

Chances are you’ve come across the name Audio-Technica if you’re at all familiar with audio equipment. The brand has been making some of the best headphones for decades. This latest USB microphone, the AT2020USB-X, builds on the foundations laid by the previous entries in the AT2020 models to deliver on the promise of one of the best microphones for streaming and one of the best USB microphones around. 

If you want to get involved in game streaming, then the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X provides an excellent high-quality starting point for online creation. You’re not getting the full range of XLR dynamics here, but for its size and price, there’s little to fault with this punchy little performer. 

Price and Availability

The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X was released in August and is currently available for $149 / £116 / AU$209 in the US, the UK, and Australia, respectively. As a point of comparison, that’s roughly $20 / £20 / AU$30, more expensive than what you can currently find a Blue Yeti for. It’s not terribly expensive as far as enthusiast-level streaming microphones go, but it doesn’t undercut some of the more established names either.  

Design and Features

AudioTechnica AT2020USB-X RGB

(Image credit: Future)

There’s nothing extraordinary about the design of the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X upon first inspection. While it’s pleasing to the eye, with its all-metal construction and black color scheme, things are kept simple and straightforward in its visual language until you plug it in. Once powered up, you’ll notice the bright blue LED from behind the grill, indicating that the microphone is on and ready for audio delivery. 

On the front of the controls is a touch-sensitive panel which mutes the mic completely silently, which means that broadcasts and recordings won’t suffer from any interference. The blue light shifts to a dark red, an obvious indicator that no sound will be transmitted. As audio shorthand does, it’s a great touch that helps separate the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X from its contemporaries. It’s powered by USB-C but connects to your computer, laptop, or console through a more standardized USB-A. 

On the technical side of things, there’s a 24-Bit/96 kHz sampling rate and 20-20,000 Hz frequency response, which aligns with many modern USB microphones as opposed to the older 16-Bit/48 kHz, which were common a few years ago. The dedicated 3.5mm audio jack and volume scroll specifically dedicated to microphone monitoring when broadcasting is nice to have. However, there’s no on-board gain control, as you’ll find on the Rode X XDM-100. It’s unlikely to be a massive hindrance, but something that deserves mentioning all the same. 


AudioTechnica AT2020USB-X

(Image credit: Future)

Using the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X as my daily microphone for work has been well-above average. Whether I was taking part in video conferencing meetings with my colleagues or conducting interviews, the sonic reproduction of this model has been genuinely surprising. At first, the lack of a gain dial left me feeling at an impasse, but I quickly became accustomed to this by testing how far I needed to be away from the pickup itself. 

Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X can pick up my voice with a level of clarity that I’ve not seen from USB-A microphones in this price range. It sounds significantly better fresh out of the box than the tried-and-true Blue Yeti and Blue Snowball that I’ve had knocking around my house for years. Things are noticeably stripped-back with the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X as there are no options for different pickup patterns for capturing a single voice instead of several, as you’ll find with Blue’s offerings. That means this is made for side-address, is all about putting you front and center, and does a faithful job of making you sound the part, too. 

The small footprint of the stand and the compact size of the microphone’s body is something that I can really appreciate as someone who frequently flexes between office and remote working. The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X is small enough to fit comfortably in my bag and is built sturdy to the point where I’m not worrying about it during commutes. If you have a cramped gaming or office desk, then you won’t have to worry about the stand taking up that much room. Just be warned that it could sit slightly lower than where your mouth may align. It’s nothing that had a significant impact on me, as the Cardioid condenser has a decent range to it, but it’s something to bear in mind. 

Should you buy the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X microphone?

Buy it if…  

You’re after a compact but capable USB microphone for streaming

While it may be no-frills in design and approach, the AT2020USB-X does everything it sets out to do with a powerful condenser pickup making for high-quality, distinctive audio playback. 

You have limited space in your setup 

The AT2020USB-X won’t take up much room at all with its considered footprint and small build size. This means it’s perfect as a replacement for the otherwise unwieldy boom arm stands and thicker USB microphones on the market.  

Don’t buy it if…  

You want to record in noisier environments

The lack of a gain dial and the sensitive nature of the AT2020USB-X means that it will not be the best at battling through a room that’s got some ambience to it. You’re better off finding a microphone with some passive noise reduction, such as the Rode X XDM-100. 

Ruark MR1 MkII review: the best small stereo Bluetooth speakers
5:12 pm | April 26, 2023

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

Ruark MR1 MkII: Two-minute review

If we’re cutting to the chase here (and why not?) then we’ll just go ahead and say the Ruark MR1 MkII is basically all gain, no pain. It’s small enough to sit happily on any remotely tidy desk, it’s built and finished to a standard that belies its fairly modest asking price (so pride of ownership is more-or-less guaranteed) and it sounds very accomplished indeed.

Choose between walnut veneer or ‘soft’ grey lacquer. Choose between the integrated control dial or the tidy little remote control. Choose Bluetooth 5.0, digital optical (with 24bit/192kHz compatibility) or analogue inputs. Attach a subwoofer if you need some grunt. And then simply enjoy the robust, detailed and entertaining sound the Ruark serves up via its high-quality Class A/B amplification.

Naturally enough, the Ruark MR1 MkII does its best work when given some content of a decent standard to work with – but it doesn’t give up the ghost if asked to play some free Spotify stuff from the headphone socket of a standard laptop. In every circumstance, it’s an enjoyable listen that that beats out the best stereo speakers at this small size and price.

Ruark MR1 MkII review: Price & release date

  • Originally released in 2017
  • Officially priced at $379 / £349 / AU$749

The Ruark MR1 MkII is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom it sells for around £349. In the United States it’s yours for $379 or thereabouts, while in Australia you’ll need to find AU$749 (or maybe a little less if you shop around.

You’re not short of choice when it comes to powered (or active) stereo speakers with lesser or greater streaming capability. But when it comes to combining affordability and small dimensions that are great for a desktop or small shelf, the MR1 MkII isn’t what you’d call overrun with competition.

Ruark MR1 MkII speakers viewed from above, showing the wood frame

(Image credit: Future)

Ruark MR1 MkII review: Features

  • Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX for high-quality wireless audio
  • Class A/B amplification
  • Crying out for a USB input

There’s a definite pecking order here. Both speakers feature a 20mm silk dome tweeter above a 75mm polypropylene mid/bass driver, both have a bass reflex port at the bottom of their cabinet – but after that it’s the right-hand speaker that is in charge. 

This is the speaker where the MR1 MkII keeps its amplification. There’s a total of 20 watts (which is nothing special), and it’s of the Class A/B type (which most certainly is) – virtually every alternative to the Ruark uses Class D amplification, and the use of Class A/B here let’s you know Ruark is deadly serious where sound quality is concerned.

All physical and wireless connectivity is handled by the right-hand speaker, too. It uses Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless streaming, and there’s compatibility with SBC, AAC and aptX codecs. Physical inputs consist of a 3.5mm analogue socket and a digital optical socket – not only does the digital input mean the MR1 MkII can work as speakers for your TV (as long as it has an optical output, of course), but it’s also equipped to deal with digital audio files up to 24bit/192kHz resolution. So the Ruark is a hi-res system… but not over USB, sadly, because there's the only major connection we really miss here, though it would be nice if it supported Wi-Fi and Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, of course.

There’s a pre-out for a subwoofer on the rear of the cabinet, a power connection, and an output for the braided cable that’s in the packaging to join the right speaker to its left-hand partner. If you don’t make that connection, though, the Ruark will automatically switch to single-speaker mono operation. And if you fancy taking your single MR1 MkII speaker out and about with you, there’s an optional ‘backpack’ battery that attaches to the rear of the speaker cabinet and should be good for 12 hours or so of playback as long as you’re not going for it in terms of volume – but that's a separate purchase.

The circular turn-and-click dial that’s been a feature of numerous Ruark products makes an appearance here, and it’s a welcome appearance, because it’s a useful and actually quite satisfying way of controlling the MR1 MkII. A press powers up the system, and Bluetooth pairing begins immediately – further presses allow you to scroll through your input options, a long press powers the system down again. And, of course, turning the dial adjusts volume.

If you’re using Bluetooth to stream music, of course, then control is available via your smartphone and/or your music streaming service’s control app. Nevertheless, Ruark provides a small, slim remote control of the clicky type that covers every eventuality.

The right-hand speaker needs to be reasonably close to power, of course, and the speakers can’t be further apart than the 2m length of the cable that connects them. That will be long enough for the vast majority of people, but it will be a limitation for some, and so is one of the few potential downsides here.

  • Features score: 4.5/5

Ruark MR1 MkII speakers rear image, showing the connections panel

(Image credit: Future)

Ruark MR1 MkII review: Sound quality

  • Open and well-defined soundstage
  • Impressive detail retrieval
  • Surprising punch and muscularity

Don’t let the Ruark’s size fool you – the MR1 MkII is all business. It sounds fuller, more open and more convincing than seems remotely likely.

No matter if you’re listening to Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion streamed via aptX, or a Netflix stream of The Power of the Dog using the optical input via a TV, or sending The Smile’s A Light for Attracting Attention into the analogue socket using the output from a MacBook Pro, the MR1 MkII (broadly speaking) maintains its sonic characteristics. 

Naturally, it prefers a digital signal on which it can bring its Cirrus 24-bit DAC to bear rather than the rather humdrum output of a laptop’s headphone socket – but it doesn’t get picky. It simply rolls its sleeves up and makes the best of things.

And given a fighting chance with some digital audio over Bluetooth or optical, ‘the best of things’ turns out to be very listenable indeed. The Ruark creates an open, quite spacious soundstage, with plenty of detail handed over and a very agreeable sense of clarity to its overall presentation. ‘Musical’ might seem a redundant term when describing a pair of speakers when they’re playing music, but there are some alternatives that don’t sound anything like as musical as the MR1 MkII – it’s a revealing, confident and entertaining listen.

Low frequencies are gratifyingly deep, punchy without becoming overblown or musclebound, and properly controlled, so the Ruark has no trouble motoring through recordings and expressing rhythms with confidence. There’s a degree of crunch and shine to the opposite end of the frequency range, but the sound never threatens to get unruly or in any way abrasive – overall tonality, in fact, it’s just slightly on the ‘warm’ side of neutral. And in a system of this type, that’s almost certainly a positive almost all the time.

There’s the same sort of solidity, the same level of detail retrieval and the same sense of completeness to the way the Ruark hands over the midrange, too. No matter if it’s a vocalist in a band or an actor in a movie, the MR1 MkII is distinct, positive and eloquent when it comes to the human voice. 

Despite the unspectacular power rating, the Ruark is capable of decent outright levels of volume and has a fair degree of dynamic potency when it comes to shifting from ‘quiet’ to ‘loud’. And it is similarly adept when it comes to the more subtle, but no less significant, dynamic variations apparent in voices and instruments too.

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

Ruark MR1 MkII speakers image, showing the gray fabric grille

(Image credit: Future)

Ruark MR1 MkII review: Design

  • 185 x 130 x 145mm (HxWxD) per speaker
  • Walnut veneer or ‘soft’ grey lacquer
  • Impressively built and finished

You either enjoy a retro look or you don’t – but in any event, Ruark has contrived to keep you happy. The MR1 MkII is of desk-friendly proportions at a mere 185 x 130 x 145mm (7.3 x 5.1 x 5.7 inches) per speaker, and its elegantly curved, beautifully finished cabinet are available in either a walnut veneer or ‘soft’ grey lacquer. 

Regardless of the finish you prefer, the speakers feature gray acoustic cloth grilles. The look is understatedly classy and actually quite sophisticated – certainly I felt compelled to tidy my desk up a bit during the course of this test to house them. 

Build quality is well up to standard, too – the Ruark speakers feel both as good as they look and ready to last the long haul. It’s not always an easy trick to pull off when a product is necessarily small, but the MR1 MkII looks and feels the part.

  • Design score: 5/5

Ruark MR1 MkII speakers image showing the logo on the rear

(Image credit: Future)

Ruark MR1 MkII review: Value

  • Best-in-class for the size and price
  • No USB input is the only major flaw

There are bigger-sounding desktop audio systems – but, without exception, they’re bigger or more expensive or, most usually, both. So the Ruark MR1 MkII represents great value for those who take desktop or bookshelf listening serious, but can't devote much space to it. 

It looks and feels more expensive than it is, and it sounds that way too – as long as you don’t just hook it to the headphone socket of your laptop, anyway. As it stands, the Mr1 MkII is without meaningful competition when you keep the price/size/sound quality ratio uppermost in your mind.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Should I buy the Ruark MR1 MkII?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Ruark MR1 MkII review: Also consider

Swann CoreCam review: an easy-to-install wireless security camera with an informative app
6:00 pm | April 21, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

One-minute review

With its wide range of products in the security monitoring and consumer electronics space, Australian company Swann is today well known in more than 40 countries worldwide. Swann sells a customizable range of wireless devices and wired CCTV surveillance systems that feature video resolutions from 1080p Full HD to 4K Ultra HD. The Swann CoreCam is just one model of off-the-shelf wireless smart camera that you can buy from the brand's online selection.

Stylish and fuss-free in design, the Swann CoreCam wireless smart security camera comes with a rechargeable 6,000mAh lithium battery. Screws and plugs are included in the box, which make it easy – even for a DIY novice – to affix the camera to a wall. Once I had charged the camera battery via the micro-USB cable included (note that a plug isn't supplied), the trickiest part of setting up was deciding where to place the CoreCam.

The smart camera is weatherproof and can be positioned inside or outside. I chose to place it on an external wall of my home, overlooking my driveway. While I received instant alerts when it detected a person or package at my front door, I did experience some delay of the live feed whenever I tried to access it via the Swann app – possibly a result of poor Wi-Fi coverage. As such, if you’d like to place the CoreCam outside, you'll need to make sure your home Wi-Fi signal is strong enough. 

Overall, however, the camera did well to send instant alerts whenever someone passed, and recorded clips that I could easily view on a timeline in the app. 

Keep scrolling to find out how the Swann CoreCam performed outside my home and head to our best home security cameras guide for more comparisons.

Swann CoreCam review price & availability

  • List price: $129.99/£99.99/$AU 179 
  • Available in US, UK and Australia

Swann sells a wide range of security cameras, which are customizable depending on your requirements. The single CoreCam wireless security camera works well on its own, or as part of a larger smart home security setup with multiple cameras and alarms. These can all be linked to work in harmony and controlled easily via the Swann app. 

The Swann CoreCam is sold direct from the brand's website or via resellers such as Best Buy,  Walmart and JB Hi-Fi.

It arrives with a local 32GB microSD card pre-installed, which allows it to store video clips. To get the best from the camera, you'll need to sign up to a storage subscription service to benefit from the warranty, the best detection smart alerts, and cloud storage. Subscription services cost from $2.99 / £2.99 / $AU5.55 per month; plus you get a free three-month trial when you buy the camera. This stores video footage for up to 60 days in the cloud and offers extras such as Package, Pet & Vehicle detection in addition to the Person heat and motion detection.   

  • Price: 4/5

Swann CoreCam review specifications

These specs are the same for US and UK Swann CoreCam models.

Swann CoreCam capturing a person on camera

(Image credit: Future | Photo by Emily Peck)

Swann CoreCam review design

  • 100-degree wide angle view 
  • Weatherproof casing 
  • Built-in speaker and siren

The design of the Swann CoreCam is simple, yet the camera feels solid and well built. Finished in white, it possibly isn't the most discreet security camera you can buy; but if you're looking for a small and compact shape that won't interfere too much with your exterior decor, it feels like a safe bet. 

The CoreCam arrives with a rechargeable 6,000mAh lithium battery inside, which took six hours to fully charge. Built into the camera head is the local 32GB microSD card and True Detect PIR heat and motion sensor. There’s a speaker and siren, and lens with 100-degree wide-angle view, all built into the weatherproof design.

The Swann CoreCam also offers a pretty decent night vision distance of up to 50ft / 15m, and I was able to see clearly once night had fallen. However, the camera doesn't move around with whatever it has captured, which I think would provide more scope for better monitoring. 

Getting the camera out of the box and onto the wall took less than an hour. It was simply a matter of ensuring the wall I was fixing it to was suitable for a screw and mount, and then use the mounting kit included in the box to attach the mount to the wall. The camera can then be easily screwed on and off for recharging. While there's a USB charging cable included in the box, there's no plug, so I had to use my own.  

  • Design: 4 / 5

Swann CoreCam app control

The Swann CoreCam app features a range of information and controls (Image credit: Future | Photo by Emily Peck)

Swann CoreCam review performance

  • Live feed and recording of video and audio
  • Wi-Fi connection (2.4GHz)
  • Two-way talk and night vision

The CoreCam camera comes with all the usual features you’d expect from an intuitive smart home security camera, including heat and motion sensing, night vision and two-way talk.

Having charged the camera, I screwed the camera head onto the mount. I downloaded the Swann app and paired the camera with my smartphone over Wi-Fi. This was a surprisingly quick and smooth process. I then simply needed to move the camera head around on its mount to adjust the live video footage that was being fed to the app.

In terms of view, the camera could then send a 1080 HD quality feed to the app on my phone, with a wide-angle view of 100 degrees. This isn’t as wide as I’d like, but it did capture an ample area by the main entrance leading to my house – with the stairs and part of the drive in frame. Purists may find the feed a little grainy, but I was generally impressed. The color night vision was satisfactory, too. You can actually adjust the live view quality in the app from low to medium to high, depending on your preference.

Featuring True Detect technology, the camera has the ability to detect people, packages, pets and vehicles (depending on the subscription package you sign up for). You get the first three months for free, included in the price of the camera. So once I was linked to the app, I could set up on the 90-day free Unlimited Plan. This meant that the camera could generate motion clips whenever it detected someone passing by, or thought there was a package left in its view, and send me push notifications on my smartphone to alert me. I found the alerts came through thick and fast in the first week; it was usually the postman, visitors or footage of myself walking out to put the rubbish bins out. Luckily, no intruders in sight. 

While the alerts came through instantly whenever there was something detected, I did notice that there was a slight delay when I went to view the live feed. This was possibly due to my Wi-Fi or 4G connection playing up. Sometimes I was able to connect faster than at other times. 

Swann CoreCam mounted on exterior wall

(Image credit: Future | Photo by Emily Peck)

While there's no 24-hour recording capability, I do like the way the camera can distinguish between a person or a package, generating a motion clip and sending an alert to my smartphone. 

However, after a while, the frequency of the alerts became rather annoying. I realized that I could adjust the sensitivity of the camera to lower the frequency of the alerts when I was at home, reducing false alerts and prolonging battery life as a result. You do this through the Modes section, which has settings for when you’re Home, Away and at Night. 

While these modes are useful for adjusting the sensitivity on a single camera, I think this part of the app really comes into its own as part of an extended home security setup with multiple Swann cameras and an alarm all linked up. 

  • Performance: 4/5

Swann CoreCam review app

  • Live view with siren, two-way talk and camera
  • Modes to adjust sensitivity
  • Playback tab for motion recordings

The smart app brings lots of useful features, although possibly more than you'll need for just one camera. As well as the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the camera and reduce/increase the number of alerts you receive, there's also a chart that presents stats on the level of motion detected, the number of people and pets the camera captured over the course of a day, and over a week. Although interesting, it was perhaps a little unnecessary for my needs. 

I found all the recorded activity clear to see under the Playback tab in the app. It's presented in a daily timeline that's stored in the cloud from seven up to 60 days (depending on the subscription package you sign up to).

Click on the Live View mode in the app, and you can also make use of all the extras. These include the ability to take photos of the live view, record footage if needed, turn on the siren if you see cause for alarm, or just speak to the person in the picture. I tried the two-way talk feature when the postman came past and it worked well. 

  • App: 4/5

Swann CoreCam app control

The app comes with lots of useful features  (Image credit: Swann CoreCam )

Swann CoreCam review battery life

  • Takes 6 hours to charge 
  • USB to micro-USB charging cable
  • Up to 90 days of battery life depending on how you use it

The CoreCam's battery can last up to 90 days, but of course this will depend on how much you use the camera to record extra clips, take photos and how you configure the sensitivity modes. With the Away mode on, which signals high alert, I found the battery lasted around 12 days before it needed recharging. If you were to use Home mode, which reduces the amount of times you are disturbed with unnecessary alerts, the battery is likely to last longer. 

To recharge the camera I simply unscrewed it from the mount and took it indoors; via USB cable, the unit took six hours to top up to full. Note that while the cable is supplied, the plug isn't, so you'll need to source one for yourself.

  • Battery life: 3/5

Should you buy the Swann CoreCam home security camera?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Swann CoreCam review: also consider

If you want an outdoor security camera but want to shop around before you buy, here are a couple more options to consider...

How I tested the Swann CoreCam home security camera

  • I used the Swan CoreCam in my home for one month
  • I monitored my home both day and night to see how well it performed 

I trialled the Swann CoreCam at home over the course of a month. I attached it to the wall on the exterior of my property and paired it with the Swann app on my smartphone to monitor any comings and goings. 

I took note of how quickly and successfully it sent alerts to my smartphone when it detected human motion or a parcel, both day and night. I tried logging into the app when I was away from home (over 4G) and when I was at home (over Wi-Fi), too.  

Read more about how we test

First reviewed February 2023

Rode X XDM-100 review – The definitive USB microphone
4:00 pm | March 16, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off

The Rode X XDM-100 is the latest leading dynamic microphone from the Australian audio brand, redefining what was previously thought possible from USB microphones. With its included preamp and processing, combined with its ease of use, this is the benchmark by which to judge all future premium options. 

The Rode X XDM-100 is one of the best USB microphones around and even gives similarly priced XLR options a run for their money with just how versatile and accurate the sound quality is here. If you’re in the market for an encompassing broadcast solution, the first in Rode’s gaming and streaming series is hard to beat.  

Price and availability

The Rode X XDM-100 is available in regions such as the US, the UK, and Australia for $249 / £249 / $AU359. It was launched in October 2022 and is the flagship of the Australian microphone brand’s new Rode X gaming and streaming brand. You can also buy directly from Rode in all three countries.  

Design and Features

Rode XDM-100 on the PSA1+ stand

(Image credit: Future)

The Rode X XDM-100 is similar in design to the company’s premium XLR models, such as the Procaster and the NT1-A. It’s a cylindrical dynamic microphone that comes in all-black with red accents and features a dedicated pop filter and shock mount for stabilization. You can screw the microphone into any number of stands and boom arms, such as the excellent PSA1+, which I used in my testing. You’ll need to invest in one of these separately, though.

As expected for a USB microphone, you’ve got a headphone monitoring jack through 3.5mm and a gain / volume wheel that lets you control how loud or quiet the Rode X XDM-100 is during recording and monitoring. There’s a decent amount of weight to this microphone, weighing in at 700g / 1.5lbs, and that certainly adds to the premium feel and construction. The pop filter shield that slides over the steel is also a great touch and subtly dampens sound without occupying any additional space. 

The Rode X XDM-100 connects via USB-C to USB-C, which means you’re getting a much faster and more powerful connection of 100w / 20v, as opposed to the 2.5w and 5v of USB-A, which is normally seen on a USB microphone. That extra power is needed for the internal digital signal processor with Aphex voice processing and Revolution preamp, something that’s usually reserved for the company’s XLR offering range. It’s plug-and-play without losing the sophistication of upper-pedigree options similar to the all-star Shure MV7

As with the other Rode X gaming and streaming line-up products, such as the compact but punchy Rode X XCM50, the Rode X XDM-100 is built with the brand’s Unify software in mind. This program essentially acts as a series of virtual devices for different channels, such as the gameplay you’re streaming, the chat, and the microphone itself, which gives you greater control over your audio balancing on the fly. It’s basic in its services, but it gets the job done well, and I found the interaction between this microphone and what I could do easy to understand. 


Back of the Rode X XDM-100 showing the port

(Image credit: Future)

The Rode X XDM-100 is the best USB microphone I’ve ever used. As someone incredibly familiar with the brand’s existing line-up, having used the PodMic and the Procaster for over a year, I’m blown away with the step-up in sound, even going from XLR to USB. It’s a clear sign that USB-C as a platform for audio, owing to that significantly more powerful output, really is a viable alternative to a proper audio interface and chunky XLR cables running through your setup. 

With that said, as a musician who owns a lot of high-end audio interfaces and recording gear, such as the Rodecaster Pro II, the ease of use with the Rode X XDM-100 continues to win me over. The convenience of being able to boot my gaming laptop up and know that my microphone will just work straight out of the box and sound this good is a novelty that I don’t think will wear off anytime soon. 

The included pop filter sleeve does an excellent job of filtering out unwanted popping and clicking noises. I also found that the Revolution preamp combined with the Aphex processing combined for a balanced, warm, and natural account of my speaking voice and various singing voices. I’m impressed by the reproduction's accuracy as someone with a less conventional voice. I also found that the level wheel was just sensitive enough to where I could filter out all background noise, be it from the button presses of my Victrix Pro BFG controller to the fans of the gaming PC in the background for noise reduction, I’ve not seen at this level. 

The zero-latency microphone monitoring is ideal if you’ve got a pair of high-quality studio headphones. In my case, I own the Rode NTH-100M, which sound excellent and pair with the Rode XDM-100 well. With a quick click of the level button, I can hear how loud I am talking while playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and Hotline Miami. Ultimately there’s very little I can fault this microphone on. It excels across the board by making high-end audio more accessible and easy to use with the build quality that ensures longevity. If you’re after a step up from the vintage USB options available, this is a sure-fire hit if you’ve got the cash.  

Rode X XDM-100 controls

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Rode X XDM-100 microphone?

Buy it if... 

You want a microphone that will last

The Rode X XDM-100 is built with all-metal construction and features a good amount of weight with its dedicated shock mount and pop filter. 

You want a plug and play microphone 

Despite appearances, there’s nothing complicated about using the Rode X XDM-100. All you need to do is plug it into a USB-C port, and it’s ready to go. 

Don't buy it if... 

You don’t have any USB-C ports

The Rode X XDM-100 connects only through USB-C, so if you’ve only got USB-A ports, you won’t be able to power it up and use it properly.  

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