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Before You Buy 114
Show Tease: Coming up! A gaming accessory that will blow your mind and maybe blow your chunks. We’ll also take a look at a new device that does something cool to your smart phone. Turns it into a real camera, from Sony. A giant laptop from Acer. And then I review the brand new, and very expensive, little big disk. It’s time to watch Before You Buy.
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Leo Laporte: Hey, welcome to Before You buy, Twits product review show, where we get the most interesting latest and greatest products. We bring it in here and let our TWiT staff play with it. Now there was one product we had here a couple of days ago that I wasn’t going to let anybody play with, this one was for me! A new gaming accessory. It’s actually on kick starter right now, they’re trying to raise money for it. But it’s got a working prototype and we were able to play with it. It’s called the Prio AR, and I recorded this review for you on Sunday. Usually on Before You Buy we show you products you can buy, but this is really Before You Buy, before you can buy. But I thought a very interesting technology. We’ve got Paul Yost here, he’s chief of R and D at a company called YEI technology. Hi, Paul, nice to see you. We’ve seen Leocules Rift, We’ve seen virtual reality environments before. You came to town, you’re going to go to JPL and show this to NASA, you’re also going to be here for the Game Developers conference, and show this to game developers.
Paul Yost: Right.
Leo: What is this technology?
Paul: Essentially what we have here with PrioVR is a full body motion capture suit, which allows you to very accurately, very precisely, and with very low latency, take the motions of a player, or user, if it’s a Siris application, and get them into either a game or a simulation to be used.
Leo: That’s cool. So it’s not a headset where I would see, you’re going to be looking at a screen here, but it’s not a motion capture. I know a little bit about motion capture, I was a motion capture character, on MSNBC, won an Emmy for it back in 1997. And I had to wear a suit with sensors all over it, we had a silicon graphics onyx commuter, million dollar computer, it broke all the time. In fact that guy right there, Carson Bundy who produced this segment, you rotated my hair, right Carson? I think he was responsible for my hair. So this has kind of gotten into consumer grade, the point where it’s affordable, is that right?
Paul: Essentially what we’re trying to do is take that professional quality motion capture experience, and put it in the hands of every day users so they can have that kind of experience at home. So, what it does for us is allows you to play games in a totally different way. Or have experiences in a totally different way, rather than being constrained by a game controller with a finite number of options. Essentially you can do whatever you want in those environments.
Leo: Right. So Chris is the Guinea pig. Hi Chris, are you a developer with WEI or…?
Leo: So he’s wearing the suit, I see he’s got sensors on his knee, sensors on his Thigh. He’s got a chest unit, which I presume is gathering the information, is that right?
Leo: He’s got sensors on his biceps, sensors on his wrists, you’re holding sensors. There’s even a head strap. What is that sensing?
Paul: That senses the head motion. And one of the things, you mentioned the oscules earlier, we are compatible with head mounted display.
Leo: So you could have an oculus on! And then, wow! Talk about…
Paul: And then when we go to the demo we’re going to have the oculus on, we’re going to make you try here.
Leo: Oh you’re kidding! You want to make me throw up, is that the goal?
Paul: That’s the idea.
Leo: That’s exciting! This will be the first. How much are we talking though? As I said, when I was Dev Knoll it cost more than a million dollars to do it.
Paul: Okay, we have a kick starter on right now. The price for the point that Chris is wearing is at $349.
Paul: So essentially we’re providing this professional motion capture experience at $349. And we have one step above this performance as well. That adds to the shoulder articulation, foot articulation, for essentially a professional quality mocap rig and that is under $400 its $399.
Leo: For a controller, especially one of this complexity, that’s completely reasonable price. That’s not out outrages at all, 350 bucks or even 400 bucks. Are there any, is there an API, and SDK, are there games that work with this? How does it work?
Paul: Essentially what we’re doing on the software side of things, is we’re providing a set of sample games with it that will be released with the kick starter.
Leo: Much like the oxbust wrist.
Paul: And we’re also doing a lot of work on the back end to make it as easy as possible for developers to use this in their development process. So we have an API, we have a pre compiled DLL, we have an SDK. So essentially no matter whether you’re an Indi developer, or using one of the engines like Unity, like UDK, or a prior developer, we’re making it as easy as we possibly can to get our systems data into those in an effective way.
Leo: So if it works with those engines it sounds like it would work on both PCs and Consoles. Because Unity and Krion are used on consoles too, right?
Paul: Our goal is to, we’re starting with a PC with the kick starter, our goal is to move into the console market arena shortly after that. There’s a little more to do since we’re actually a hardware perferel so that makes it harder to get into the console spaces.
Leo: Gotcha. This doesn’t show up as a console controller. Or does it?
Paul: It potentially could, but that is something we have to navigate going forward.
Leo: Right. How much smarts is there? Is there are CPU in this chest case?
Paul: Interestingly there is actually a high performance micro controller in every one of the sensors, and another one in the chest, so all of the computation, all of the difficult heavy lifting of computation is done on the suit of the host itself. Which frees the host from having to do any processing other than communication.
Leo: That’s one big change from when I did it. We had to have a million dollar computer because you couldn’t have the sensors have that much smarts. But now with microprocessor technology. What kind of microprocessors are you using?
Paul: Right. These are all 32 bit risk architecture. It’s actually a combination it’s a different architecture.
Leo: Are they arm processors?
Paul: These are arm processors, so it’s kind of a pun I guess, because they’re on the arm.
Leo: Arms on your arm!
Paul: This is another… and this is a prototype, so the one we’re using here isn’t the final one but this is actually a 32 bit AVR with a floating point unit with the one on your chest.
Leo: And the operating system?
Paul: The operating system is actually bare to the metal. There’s no operating system on this at all. In order to optimize it we wrote the code. It’s all in hardware.
Leo: So this is great. So this is a game you wrote to demonstrate it, right?
Leo: Is this what you’re going to show NASA?
Paul: This is what we’re showing to them, and this is what we’re going to be showing at EDC.
Leo: Good. I think we need to be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse. Even the NASA needs to prepare, the JPL needs to prepare. So he’s aiming and shooting with his hands. It’s kind of like a Nintendo WI, right?
Paul: A little bit except with our system rather than having a light bar at the top, there’s no optics here at all.
Leo: There’s no sensors here.
Paul: There’s no sensors here at all. It’s all in the suit itself.
Leo: So the Sony Move, or both the WI, both require sensors there.
Paul: Which essentially has this limiting facture on the capture space.
Leo: Ow! He’s pointing it right at me! (Laughs) Yeah this is good, so you can more anywhere in the living room, and you don’t have to move furniture out of the way, it doesn’t matter. He squats and he’s crouching. So this is going to be some exercise for some gamers, this is going to be fun! You know, the whole idea of gaming is to get it more immersive. That’s why the rift, so exciting with the rift. But the rift by itself, you know, I can move my head around. So the idea of having a mocap suit, which gives you complete mobility. With the 9 points you’ve got, or the more points you’ve got on the bigger machine, are you able to kind of… how much of the motion can you capture? It looks like he’s leaning and…
Paul: Pretty much everything. So he can lean around trees and can take cover, he can actually lie on the ground in the grass, prone and shoot. Pretty much whatever you want to do it’ll track.
Leo: Wow! That is pretty cool.
Paul: So interestingly, again getting away from the constraint of control, you can do anything you want. So if you’re running away from somebody and want to shoot behind you, you can actually point the gun over your shoulder, and shoot. You can shoot under the leg, behind the back. Pretty much anything you want to do.
Leo: And there he swings a bat, so it’s just moving his arm in a very natural motion. Kind of like the Connect, the Wii, or the Move, but without the sensors, which is really great. Is there anything else you want to show us?
Paul: I want to get you in the suit and get you in the monocules.
Leo: You’re going to get me in it? Oh alright!
Paul: We’ll get you in the monocules demo, and you can actually look down at your hands and fight some Zombies.
Leo: That sounds really nauseating. I mean really! Okay.
Paul: There’s a zombie behind you!
Leo: What? Oh hey! Boom! This is fun! It’s never been so easy to kill zombies!
Paul: And you can also, if they get to close, you can actually pistol or rifle with them.
Leo: Can I may lay them? How do I may lay them?
Paul: You swing your arms.
Leo: Hit them, huh?
Paul: If you want, we can switch you to a baseball bat, which is a lot of fun too.
Leo: Yeah, yeah, so that weapon is this thing? This button.
Paul: Yeah, so push that button and then you push the stick to the left and there you go. Oh there’s one behind you!
Leo: Oh I can tell! Hey where, oh! (laughs) This is fun! There is a little Dev Knoll coming out in this. What is that a helicopter! Boom! Boom! I can’t get around the fence, I guess I have to go around. Hey lets come over here. Come here! Whap, whop, whap! Hey are you dead? Is that guy a good guy or a bad guy?
Paul: He’s there to rescue you, but you can take it down if you want to.
Leo: I don’t need rescued! I can?
Paul: Yeah, if you take it back to one of the guns or the grenade launcher.
Leo: I’ve got to tell you, this is a lot of fun. And because it’s immersive, it’s really a much more realistic experience and one of the problems I have with uhh.. Where you going? Alright, let’s try a different, yeah. So I can shoot the, uh, Alright. Where’s that helicopter? I’ll sneak up on him eh? He helicopter, see that there, that’s my laser.
Paul: Oh, there’s a zombie getting you.
Leo: What? Oh stop it! Where are you! What are you doing down there? Pow! Pow, pow! Oh this isn’t like a rocket gun. I need a better gun. That’s the one? Alright. Where is he? Alright. I know this is really not right, but, so I have to aim this, huh?
Paul: That one you have to aim, high because it actually grenades that will arch.
Leo: Yeah, it’s good, it’s real. Oops! This is really, really fun! Alright. Pros, it’s affordable. It works great. It’s a really great gaming experience. It’s making me queasy, but that’s something you get use to, right? The price is right! Cons, you know, you need games, and as soon as you get game developers working with this thing I think this is going to be just huge! I am getting a little nauseous so I’m going to take my head off right now. That is fun! Wouldn’t you love to do this Michael? It’s very realistic, even with 720 P you feel like you’re in there. That’s why I feel like I’m getting queasy. Very nice! Thank you, Paul I appreciate it. Very nice! If you want to take part in the kick start, while they’re still doing it PROIVR. Just search for that on the kick starter. 350 bucks for the basic unit, are you selling the $400 one on the kick starter?
Paul: Yes, we are and we have a third tier, that’s the unit you’re wearing now, for people who are lazy and just want to set on their couch, we have one that’s at $279 for this one.
Leo: I like that. No knees, right. Couch potato version, but you’d want to move around a little bit! That is awesome! Thank you very much, what a great demo, thank you Chris!
Chris: Oh yeah!
Leo: Get me out of this thing before I barf. Literally, I was actually getting nauseous, somebody since written in to tell me that when they fly planes. Like you know the low gravity planes, he said this works every time, and gamers this is a tip for you. You keep a little bowl of ice cold water with wash clothes in it. And you just apply a cold damp wash cloth to the back of your neck. Boom! You feel better immediately. I wish I’d had that! I had to take a nap!
Shannon Morse: I believe it.
Leo: After that review, it was a little too realistic. By the way, the PrioVR is still on kick starter, but only until the end of the month. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get it, but there are only a few days left to back that project. I think even at the retail price, it’s a remarkably priced product. It’s fun, it really does work. I like it a lot! Anyway, that’s the review. Did I not say whether to buy it? I don’t know if we should say, try, don’t buy, try, and buy, because it’s not out yet. If you’re a gamer, I would buy it! Alright! I’m just saying! Let’s take a look now, at something very interesting and maybe you saw this when it first came out. It looks like just a lens, a Sony lens. Turns out you can clip it right on your smartphone, and turn your smartphone into a real camera! We gave it to one of our newest employees, our field editor, Victor Bognot, and we got this review.
Victor Bognot: Hi, my name is Victor from TWiT and today I’ll be reviewing the Sony DSC-QX10 smartphone attachable lens style camera. Now, this may look like it’s just a lens, but within this small form factor is a complete point and shoot camera. What you won’t find on this camera is an LCD screen. Because what it does, is it pares with your smartphone, or mobile device by WIFI to be able to see what you’re shooting. But before we get into how that works lets go into some of the hardware features. It has a Sony G lens, with a 10 times optical zoom. Connects to IOS or Android device by WIFI. You can even use NFC. It can shoot 1080P video at 30 frames per second. A rechargeable battery pack rated at 200 images. It charges by micro USB, and takes Micro SD, and memory stick micro cards. You can technically operate the camera without paring it to any mobile device, by pressing the shutter button. And there are even physical zoom rockers. There’s a tiny display showing battery life as well. When you take a picture, or take a video, even when you’re using your smartphone to preview, it is saving the full res image to the internal memory card in the camera. For remote operation, or to switch to video mode, you do need to download the Sony Play videos app on your IPhone, IOS or google play app stores. The app gives you the base controls like zoom, shutter, and has three preset modes. Program mode, and two auto modes. With program mode you can adjust aperture, and ISO settings, and touch an area to adjust focus. First time operating using the app is an exercise in frustration. Clipping the QS 10 to a smart phone and trying to use it as a point and shoot camera is very hard to do in normal settings, such as a party, because of startup time of the app, and connecting to the camera, makes it hard to shoot on a whim. The lag time when you’re getting an image, once pressing a shutter on the screen, it takes what seems like seconds, to find, focus, and take the picture. By the time the shutter clicks people have stopped smiling and have already started moving on their way. So if you’re getting this for a special event like the next day, I would give it a week or so in advance to get use to the lag and get the timing right to take pictures. Sometimes while shooting the video, the WIFI would disconnect and the qx10 would still be filming. Even when you were to reconnect the only way I found to stop the QX from filming was to press the power button on the camera. The final images are usually much better than the preview, but will throw you off when you’re initially using the camera. With the app you can also transfer pictures from the memory card in your camera to your mobile device for sharing. Although it transfers at a lower res preview over WIFI. To get the high res photos, you’ll have to take the memory card out of the camera and transfer using your computer. Interesting note, even though the camera is connected to your smartphone, the photo apparently does not save GPS location data. Which may be a reason for some to get a WIFI connected camera. You may think after hearing all that that there’s nothing good to say about this camera. But as a camera, I have to say, when you have good lighting the pictures and the video actually look really good. Much better than the smartphone camera. Even on par with many low to mid-range point and shoot cameras. In low light, or indoors a steady hand is needed to take point and shoot pictures because it will take longer to focus. Also there is no flash. So the pros for the QX10. The picture and video resolution actually look really good for a camera at this price point. The remote operation. Tripod mount. Using standards like micro SD and Micro USB charging, and the replaceable battery. For the cons, the WIFI lag is inconsistent and can be pretty frustrating. There’s a long start up time, the lighting on your devices screen is not a good indication of the final photo. Especially in low light situations, the hand held shots can be blurry. Battery life is something you also have to be aware of because it will be using WIFI, and you will be draining both the cameras battery, and the mobile device. For me this would fall on the specialized application category, like the sports cameras, such as the go pros. What you do get over the sports camera is an image without the fisheye distortion, and an optical zoom. I got the best results from leaving the camera on a tripod and remotely using a mobile device. If you do need to go handheld, it was more reliable to get a good picture using the shutter on the camera as opposed to the LCD screen. Seeing how the remote features still have some quirks to work out, I’m going to have to give this a don’t buy. I am, however excited to see what Sony is going to do in the second generation of these, if they come out with a second generation of these. I would love to see a small LCD screen so that you can see the images immediately while carrying around this camera. I’ve Victor from TWIT, and this is my review for the Sony DSC QX10.
Leo: Thank you Victor Bognot, for that review. I’ve got to say that I commend Sony for trying stuff! It’s a bizarre idea, but you know what? That’s what makes innovation happen is people trying things that you would say, that’s not going to work, and it does! Are you ready for snacks Shannon?
Shannon Morse: I’m always ready for snacks!
Leo: Shannon Morse is sitting here, she’s about to review the Acer. You know when you’ve got a review coming on, you’ve got to make sure you keep your blood sugar up. How about some delicious Fuji apples.
Leo: Just take the whole bag! It’s nature box time. We’re so happy to have Nature Box as a sponsor, in fact, if you look in our snack cupboard, yes we have a lot of those vending machines salty snacks, but we also have… It’s good isn’t it?
Leo: Or maybe you’d rather try my…these are Sour Cream and Onion Almonds. You can half of those too.
Shannon: Thank you.
Leo: Smokey barbeque peas. Now this is an odd one. Admittedly, but once you start eating these, you know what, if you’ve ever had wasabi peas, it’s kind of like that only it’s a Smokey barbeque flavor.
Shannon: Those are good!
Leo: Really good! Nutritionist approved. Nothing from nature box has high fructose corn syrup, there are zero Trans fats, no artificial colors or sweeteners, no partially hydrogenated oils. Only the very best, if you go to naturebox.com/twit. You’ll get a special deal on your first Nature box. You can subscribe, or just get one box and see how you like it. But I think a three, six, twelve month subscription is a great gift of healthy delicious snacks that just keeps on giving. Anywhere in the US, shipping is free. You can select by taste, savory, sweet, or spicy. You can do what we did where we just get a completely, you know mix of stuff, where you just get a lot of different…. There are things I wouldn’t try normally but boy when you try them you go, “cranberry Macaroon granola! Give me more!” You can also select by dietary need, if you need to. Vegan, soy, lactose, or nut free, gluten conscious, non GMO. What are you reading? The Fuji Apples?
Shannon: The ingredients. It’s funny. Apples! That’s it.
Leo: Well, see! But you know what? Look on the back of other dried fruits, there may be a little more than just Apples, not here, not from Nature Box, but the ones you get from the machine. Homemade Apple crisp is baking in the oven. Lite whipped cream is chilling in the fridge, and this cranberry and coconut kissed granola is perched on your countertop. Enjoy a few decadent bites before scattering it to the par baked apple crisp. And letting it toast, to a golden brown. Or just eat the whole bag in one gulp, forget the Apple crisp. Naturebox.com/twit. 50% off your first box. You are going to love it. And I’ve got to tell you, we’re going to have to get a bigger box! The staff keeps eating our Nature box up!
Shannon: My fault, sorry!
Leo: No, they’re good! No, no. That’s what we got them for! They’re good! Naturebox.com/twit. Shannon Morse, snubs. Now the host of techno and Tekzilla with my old buddy Patrick, how do you find working with Patrick?
Shannon: Oh it’s great! He’s a horrible person.
Leo: Has he broken out the sludge hammer yet?
Shannon: Not yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
Leo: It’s so fun. I’m just thrilled that you’re doing that with him. Tekzilla.com and of course it’s on revision 3. This is a pretty big laptop you’ve got here lassie.
Leo: it’s the Acer Aspire E1. Tell us about it.
Shannon: This is, so it’s a desktop replacement, obviously. It’s large, It weighs a little less than 5 pounds total.
Leo: Well that’s not that bad, for something that size.
Shannon: Not bad to be honest. Very plastic so definitely cheap, the total price of this version that I have is $599.99. $600. But you can find them for as little as $399 total. So pretty decent price, definitely budget friendly if you’re looking for something to replace an older laptop. One thing to mention is the battery life, it was only about 4 hours on this. So you’re not going to be traveling with this as much, especially since it weighs quite a bit as well. And it’s large, it’s 14 inches, the screen is. One thing to notice about the screen too, no touch screen, surprise! That drives me nuts with windows 8.
Leo: Oh! Yeah, Windows really want touch.
Shannon: Especially 8.1. It’s a necessary item when you’re coming to 8.
Leo: But frankly it’s often left out on these low prices.
Shannon: It is, yes. All the comparative models that you have on the market right now, from Lenovo, from Dell, all of them have no touch screen when they’re around that $400 to 600 dollar price range.
Leo: They usually have lousy screens too, how’s this one?
Shannon: They do, yeah. This one can only go up to 720p. It’s 1366 by 768. So it’s pretty low, yeah. I’m kind of spoiled with my newer laptops, these days. And I prefer something at least higher than that. At least 1920 by 1080.
Leo: But you’re newer laptops cost twice as much.
Shannon: That’s true. If you want something under 1000 bucks, you’re going to get the smaller resolution.
Leo: So let’s think about a market for this, who would this be for?
Shannon: This could be for a student, for somebody on a low budget, who doesn’t have a full time job for example.
Leo: There are a lot of XP users, who just use it for casually.
Leo: They just want to surf, do some email.
Shannon: They want to go to Facebook.
Leo: And they look at computer prices and say, I can’t afford 1200 bucks. Would this be a good choice for them?
Shannon: It would be, yeah. So one thing I was thinking about when I was checking this out, is I look for budget laptops for Lennox mint. Mint doesn’t require a lot of space, it’s also user friendly when it comes to a non-touch screen device. This would be complementary to run Lennox on. So I would switch to Lennox and just switch to Lennox full time. Or I could duel boot as well. But I don’t really like duel booting, myself. One thing to mention as well, this would be good for somebody who takes a lot of pictures, like your mother or somebody with a baby, or something like that.
Leo: Why’s that?
Shannon: It has a 500 gig hard drive, instead of a smaller state drive. So plenty of space for anybody who needs that. However, the boot time is a lot slower because of that hard drive.
Shannon: Quite a bit slower, it does have pretty good insides as well. It has an in video Gforce, 820SM graphics.
Leo: I’m surprised to hear that.
Shannon: Yeah, me too! It’s kind of weird, huh? It also has 8 gigs of memory, instead of just four, so quite a bit of memory. A lot of processing power as well, it has a core I5 haswell processer. So lots of good specs on the inside. It also has all the ports you would need as well. It has HDMI, VGA, USB 3.0, has an Ethernet port as well, which is great, and it has two more USB 2.0 on the other side.
Leo: no optical disk though?
Shannon: No optical disk, that’s true.
Leo: So it’s not quite a desktop replacement, or maybe nowadays, we don’t care.
Shannon: That’s true, yeah. We’re using a lot more USB flash drives, and things of that nature.
Leo: Ozzie, what do you think? Is the Acer 8.1 a good deal?
Shannon: Do you like it Ozzie?
Leo: (laughs) He says no but I’ll take that nature box of your hands if you want.
Shannon: He looks hungry.
Leo: How about the keyboard, and the track pad?
Shannon: The keyboard was good! I found this really interesting. Some of the newer Acer models, the ultra-books, they have squished keyboards.
Shannon: The page up and page down are right above the arrow keys. And the tabs key is squished right here next to the caps lock. They have spaced out everything really well for you. Especially if you have larger fingers, or if you have larger hands. You have plenty of room. I actually found it a little bit harder because I’m use to Chiclet keyboards, so it was harder for me to remember that I need to move a lot more. The touch pad, as well, is pretty good. It’s very responsive, so very good touch pad. And you have a right and left clicker at the bottom that’s separate, so you’re not going to accidently click those. And it’s very quick. I very much liked it.
Leo: Pros and cons?
Shannon: Pros and cons: Pros, it includes all the ports you would ever need. It’s less than 5 pounds, which is pretty good for a desktop replacement. And it has a great keyboard and touchpad. On the con side though, it does have a super slow boot up, there is no touch screen, if you are looking for a touch screen device you’re going to have to spend a little bit more. The 1366 by 768 is definitely low res, especially in this day and age, again that’s something that you’ll end of spending more for. And low battery life, and much bloat ware! There are a lot of extra things… See, there I go! Trying to touch the screen!
Leo: Yeah, you did! Wow!
Shannon: That drives me nuts, I do that every time. But if I scroll over, there’s a bunch of stuff that is preinstalled for you.
Leo: Well you’d expect that, unfortunately.
Shannon: So I’d replace it all with Lennox.
Leo: We don’t like that, it’s not a good thing, like you’re getting some great free stuff. It’s usually just kind of trial wear and stuff.
Shannon; Exactly. Now there are a lot of comparative models out there, like I said. There’s the Dell Experian 14. That one costs around 400 bucks. There’s also a Lenovo Z40 touch that will be releasing soon this month. And that one is going to be $600. So that’s going to be the same price and it’s going to have very comparative specs as well. So given the fact that there is so many on the market and they’re all pretty much the same right now. I would have to give this a try. Maybe buy, maybe don’t buy. It’s a try,
Leo: Really, it’s for who it is. That’s what matters, and I think try is a good choice, because it’s not for everyone but for someone this might be enough.
Leo: Acer does the high end stuff, and does the low end stuff.
Shannon: They do. They have the Acer Aspire S7, which is beautiful.
Leo: You and I love the S7. And so does Mary Jo Fuller. But this is 1200 bucks. It’s a nice high end laptop. Never been really blown away, by Acers inexpensive stuff, but if you understand what you’re getting for the price.
Shannon: Yes, exactly.
Leo: A try from Shannon Morse, Snubs, our producer and regular host on Tekzilla. Nice to have you, I’m glad you wore your twitter shirt today. Hey one thing you know, there is never enough of is juice, battery juice for our portable gadgets, we’re always running out. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get a portable battery that worked? That gave you all the juice you need? We’ve got one from a company, I really like, Anker. They’re Anker Astra. We have it to Aaron Newcomb. He’s a regular on All About Android, and Floss Weekly. We asked Aaron, what do you think? Let’s take a look.
Aaron Newcomb: Hi! I’m Aaron Newcomb, occasional show co-host here on the TWiT network, and I’m here today to talk to you about external batteries for your portable devices. I know it’s a sexy topic, we’re going to try to make it sexy. Today we’re going to be talking about the Anker Astro 6000mAh battery. Now this battery currently resells online for about 30 dollars. So it’s a really good deal. One of the things you’ll notice right off the bat is it has a really nice charging, or level indicator. All you have to do is shake it and the little indicator comes on, and it’ll show you exactly how much level the battery level is. Also the finish itself is really nice. It’s got a black matte finish, which prevents too many finger prints, but you can see maybe close up, even in the few minutes I’ve been using it there are a few fingerprints on it. So you may have to clean it off from time to time. But it shouldn’t be as bad as something glossy and reflective. It does have a very rugged feel it’s nice and sturdy. So you can put this in your pocket or put it in your backpack, and you’re not going to have to worry about it getting dings or messed up, or anything. It’s nice a solid, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart. And the other nice thing about the look and feel are the ports. Right here on the top, they are recessed, there’s nothing sticking out so when you actually put this in your Backpack or something, you’re not going to have to worry about something breaking off. So they’ve done a really nice job with that. Okay, let’s talk about size and portability. As you can see this is the size of about a candy bar, so it’ll fit really nicely into your pocket, or into your backpack, or your purse, or whatever. There will be no problems taking this with you wherever you go. As far as compatibility, they’ve done a really nice job on this device, making it compatible with both Apple devices, Samsung devices, Nexus devices from Google. Any kind of manufacture that you can think of. What they’ve done is they’ve built smarts into this little plug right here. So when you plug in an Apple device, it recognizes that as an Apple device, outputs the correct current into the device and does that on AC power instead of USB charging. Old USB charging devices like this or battery devices use to have two ports, one for Samsung type devices and one for Apple. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. As far as usability, this comes with a 6000 milliamp battery, and can charge at up to 2 amps. So what that means is you’re going to able to use this device to charge your Galaxy S5 2 plus times and probably you’re IPhone 5S 2 plus times. So that’s what you’re looking at here. Certainly good enough for a long trip on a plane, or for a train ride. You’re going to be able to use this to still watch those movies, or listen to music, or whatever you want to do. Reliability, these have had a really good rating on line. I’ve been a long time Anker battery user. I’ve had my own Anker device, which we’ll talk about in a minute and it has lasted great, I’ve had no problems with it. Parts don’t come flying off, it hasn’t run out, the battery hasn’t reset, or gotten to the point you can’t charge it up again like a lot of devices do. So in terms of reliability it’s really, really good. Now I’ve got to mention there are larger options. So if you say, “hey this is great but I want to do other things with my battery or I want to charge a really big tablet.” You might want to go with a larger option. I’ve got one here that I can show you. This is a, they know call this the pro model, the Anker Astro Pro, it looks a little different than this if you look at it online. But this is a 10,000 milliamp battery, and has a nice hard button there that you can press to see what your status is, what the battery level is. And it also has a number of ports, this is the old model so it also has the Samsung and iPhone port. But the really cool thing about this is it has an output that can be either 12 volt or a 9 volt. What that means is that I can plug that in to, for example, a raspberry pie connected to an old LCD display out of an old laptop, and I can run the whole thing off that battery, making my little project that I’m working on here completely portable for up to six hours. Which for me is awesome. So pros and cons. Pros price is great, reliability which is great. And also usability, the fact that you can plug in any device is great. So those are all the pros. Cons, you may want to buy a bigger battery if you have a bigger device like a tablet. That’s not really a con but there are options out there. And again, the price is reasonable. The 10,000 milliamp battery, the Anker Astro Pro is only about 60 dollars, so you can defiantly check that out if you’ve got one of those bigger devices. So I would completely give the Anker Astro 6000 milliamp battery a buy. If you need a little bit of extra juice for your phone, definitely go out and check that out. Thanks, now back to you.
Leo: This is the Anker external battery called the Astro. Anker makes a ton of stuff at very low prices, and I have been always very happy so I agree with Aaron, it’s a definite buy if you need more juice on the loose. Now I am excited, I’ve been waiting for this. You know I got my MacPro early this year. But the problem with the MacPro very, very fast. SSDs inside, and they’re not huge, 500 gig drive. You know pretty much the operating system and the apps do it. I don’t have room for anything else, so I’ve been looking for a fast external drive. You want to go thunderbolt 2, that’s the latest interface, it’s something supported by the MacPro, but there’s been a dearth of true thunderbolt 2 devices. I’ve been waiting for LaCies little big disk. It’s finally here! I’m going to walk away to our radio corner so you can see this. And before you get all excited about this, I do want to say one thing. It is very pricey, but of course, if you’re somebody who is using a MacPro, this will also work with any thunderbolt 1 device of course, and you know, you won’t get all the benefit of it, but if you’re somebody who can afford a MacpPo this is a pretty nice choice. It’s little, it’s small. That’s why they call it the little big disk. And most importantly, it’s fast. This is what you’re paying $1299 for! The little big disk 2, thunderbolt 2 and it’s true thunderbolt 2. I have a number of thunderbolt 2 devices that are actually just thunderbolt 2 USB devices. But this is true thunderbolt two and it is so fast. I’ll tell you it’s so fast, I’m going to pull up the benchmarks we did on this thing. It’s actually faster, it’s so fast, it outpaced the ability of the black magic speed test to measure it. And the reason I say that is, you see there’s the right speed. Is that right? A 1000 megabytes a second! That’s a gigabyte a second write speed. The read speed is showing somewhat less 717 megabytes a second. I think that’s an error because almost all SSDs you get a read speed that is faster than a write speed. Maybe that has to do with the zero I’m not sure. Enough said, this is really fast! I put it on last year, actually two years ago the, 2012 MacBook pro with retina display. That’s a thunderbolt 1, this was faster than the SSD internal. Internal to the Macbook pro! This thing is super-fast! Now I’ll tell you why, first of all 20 gigabytes per second on the thunderbolt 2 port and, by the way, you can daisy chain them so there’s a second port there, so you can half a number of thunderbolt devices. If you have a thunderbolt 1 device, you want to put this first so it doesn’t slow down the bus, you need all the speed you can get out of here. Also on the inside, this explains some of the expense, there’s not one, but two 500 gigabyte SSDs. As delivered from the box these SSD, these solid state drives, and by the way, they’re not sata, they’re PCI express, they come as raid zero. That’s what Alex Lindsay calls scary raid, and that’s because if either of the two drives fails, the whole thing fails. You can set it up, there’s software that comes with the little big disk, to set it up for redundant mode, raid 1. So it’s running in stripe but you can run it in redundant mode. There’s also a way to run this as a jay pod. Just a bunch of disks drive, and get the whole terabyte. I’m using it in scary raid zero, I’m just going to make sure I keep it backed up, mostly because I want all of this through put, The reason this is an important product for the Apple pro market place, is Apple specked MacPro for editing 4K video, and to do that you need a lot of speed. That’s why Black Magic makes this bench mark application. All these green checks, that means almost all the video format you can import, you can work with. Now it only goes up to 2K, but I can tell you the speed of this 4K video, it would have no problem at all. No problem at all. So pros on this, it is beautiful, beautiful design, as all the LaCia disks are. It looks like the bigger LaCia disks only it’s little. And I tell you what when you put it next to a MacPro you’ll have people saying, “Wow, you have a gorgeous set up, don’t you?” And it’s suitable in size too, you don’t want a big giant disk next to it. Speed, is unparallel. Thunderbolt 2 is super-fast, this user all the thunderbolt bandwidth by using duel PCIE SSDs for maximum throughput, really nicely done. I have to say, it’s as fast as the internal drive on the MacPro. And that’s really good news, it means you have the external drive that’s as fast as the internal drive, and that is very, very fast indeed. The cons, there’s just one, Its $1299 and I think, of course, if you’re using it in raid zero , the requirement that you back it up. And the people that are using this for video editing, they understand that. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. And I think they’re going to be willing to pay 1299 dollars for a solution that allows them to do 4K video. Buy, try,don’t buy? Well I’ve got to say it’s a buy, if you have a thunderbolt 2 computer. That means you’ve already spent a lot of money, and you have the need for this kind of speed. An absolute buy, couldn’t be happier with the LaCia, little big disk 2, featuring a Thunderbolt 2 interface. Another thing I’ve got to praise LaCia for before we run, they include the thunderbolt cable in here, and lot of companies don’t and that’s a big expense! That’s another 50 bucks. I guess for $1,299 you could expect the thunderbolt cable in here. Alright that’s it for Before You Buy this week. I want to thank all our reviewers, I want to thank you too, for watching. Remember before you buy, is on YouTube. Youtube.com/beforeyoubuy and there are a couple of reasons you might want to check it out there. Each review is individually wrapped on YouTube, so If you want to say to a friend, “Hey, I know you’re doing 4k video editing, here’s a review of that drive you’re looking at.” We want to have a review for you there to look at. Of course the whole show is there for you as well. And you’ll find the whole show on our website twit.tv/byb, and wherever finer netcasts are stored, audio as well as video but I think it’s probably better if you watch the show. And another thing is there… Oh if you have a product you’d like us to review, if you have a product you really want to know about, we are always interested in hearing from you. Bybemail@example.com. Thanks for joining us. I’ll see you next time. Remember you’ve got to watch Before You buy. Take care! Bye!