Sony

Sony’s 10″ Digital Paper Tablet is an ultra-light reading companion that needs to do more

Posted by | E Ink, e paper, Gadgets, hardware, Reviews, Sony, TC | No Comments

Last year I had a good time comparing Sony’s DPT-RP1 with the home-grown reMarkable. They both had their strengths and weaknesses, and one of the Sony’s was that the thing was just plain big. They’ve remedied that with a much smaller sibling, the DPT-CP1, and it’s just as useful as I expected. Which is to say: in a very specific way.

Sony’s e-paper tablets are single-minded little gadgets: all they do is let you read and lightly mark up PDFs. If that sounds a mite too limited to you, you’re not the target demographic. But lots of people — including me — have to wade through tons of PDFs and it’s a pain to do so on a desktop or laptop. Who wants to read  Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox by hitting the down arrow 500 times?

For legal documents and scientific journal articles, which I read a lot of, a big e-paper tablet is fantastic. But the truth is that the RP1, with its 13.3″ screen, was simply too big to carry around most of the time. The device is quite light, but took up too much space. So I was excited to check out the CP1, which really is just a smaller version of the same thing.

To be honest, there’s not much I can add to my original review of the RP1: it handles PDFs easily, and now with improved page jumping and tagging, it’s easier to navigate them. And using the stylus, you can make some limited markup — but don’t try to do much more than mark a passage with an “OK” or a little star (one of several symbols the device recognizes and tracks the location of).

It’s incredibly light and thin, and feels flexible and durable as well — not a fragile device at all. Its design is understated and functional.

Writing isn’t the Sony tablets’ strong suit — that would be the reMarkable’s territory. While looping out a circle or striking through a passage is just fine, handwritten notes are a pain. The resolution, accuracy and latency of the writing implement are as far as I can tell exactly as they were on the larger Sony tablet, which makes sense — the CP1 basically is a cutout of the same display and guts.

PDFs display nicely, and the grid pattern on the screen isn’t noticeable for the most part. Contrast isn’t as good as the latest Kindles or Kobos (shots in the gallery above aren’t really flattering, since they’re so close up, but you get the idea), but it’s more than adequate and it beats reading a big PDF on a small screen like those on your laptop’s LCD. Battery life is excellent — it’ll go through hundreds of pages on a charge.

A new mobile app supposedly makes transferring documents to the CP1 easy, but in reality I never found a reason to use it. I so rarely download PDFs — the only format the tablet reads — on my phone or tablet that it just didn’t make sense for me. Perhaps I could swap a few over that are already on my iPad, but it just didn’t strike me as particularly practical except perhaps in a few situations where my computer isn’t available. But that’s just me — people who work more from their phones might find this much more useful.

Mainly I just enjoyed how light and simple the thing is. There’s almost no menu system to speak of and the few functions you can do (zooming in and such) are totally straightforward. Whenever I got a big document, like today’s FCC OIG report, or a set of upcoming scientific papers, my first thought was, “I’ll stick these on the Sony and read them on the couch.”

Although I value its simplicity, it really could use a bit more functionality. A note-taking app that works with a Bluetooth keyboard, for instance, or synchronizing with your Simplenote or Pocket account. The reMarkable is still limited as well, but its excellent stylus (suitable for sketching) and cloud service help justify the price.

I have to send this thing back now, which is a shame because it’s definitely a handy device. Of course, the $600 price tag makes it rather a niche one as well — but perhaps it’s the kind of thing that fills out the budget of an IT upgrade or grant proposal.

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Microsoft is building low-cost, streaming-only Xbox, says report

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, nvidia, onlive, PlayStation 4, Sony, xbox | No Comments

It was revealed at E3 last month that Microsoft was building a cloud gaming system. A report today calls that system Scarlett Cloud and it’s only part of Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox strategy. And it makes a lot of sense, too.

According to Thurrott.com, noted site for all things Microsoft, the next Xbox will come in two flavors. One will be a traditional gaming console where games are processed locally. You know, like how it works on game systems right now. The other system will be a lower-powered system that will stream games from the cloud — most likely, Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

This streaming system will still have some processing power, which is in part to counter latency traditionally associated with streaming games. Apparently part of the game will run locally while the rest is streamed to the system.

The streaming Xbox will likely be available at a much lower cost than the traditional Xbox. And why not. Microsoft has sold Xbox systems with a slim profit margin, relying on sales of games and online services to make up the difference. A streaming service that’s talked about on Thurrott would further take advantage of this model while tapping into Microsoft’s deep understanding of cloud computing.

A few companies have tried streaming full video games. Onlive was one of the first; while successful for a time, it eventually went through a dramatic round of layoffs before a surprise sale for $4.8 million in 2012. Sony offers an extensive library of PS2, PS3 and PS4 games for streaming through its PlayStation Now service. Nvidia got into the streaming game this year and offers a small selection of streaming through GeForce Now. But these are all side projects for the companies.

Sony and Nintendo do not have the global cloud computing platform of Microsoft, and if Microsoft’s streaming service hits, it could change the landscape and force competitors to reevaluate everything.

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Microsoft and Nintendo release Minecraft trailer focused on cross-play

Posted by | Gaming, Microsoft, Minecraft, Nintendo, Sony, Startups, Switch, TC, xbox | No Comments

In the world of gaming, cross-compatibility between platforms has always bene a bit of a white whale. While most players hope for it, console makers and game publishers haven’t always been so willing. Until recently.

Microsoft, Nintendo and PC game makers have started making games more cross-compatible. Most notably, the companies have made Fortnite Battle Royale, the biggest game of the year, cross-compatible on the Switch, Xbox, iOS, and PC. Yes, there is a big name missing from that list.

Sony has yet to budge, forcing PS4 players inside of a walled garden. Obviously, players have been outraged.

But today, Microsoft and Nintendo are seemingly putting salt in the wound with a new trailer for Minecraft.

Rather than focusing on the game, the trailer’s entire thesis is centered around the fact that it offers cross-play between Xbox and the Switch. In the video, you can see a Switch player and an Xbox player gaming together in the wonderful world of Minecraft.

The tag line at the end reads “Better Together.”

Long story short, cross play is happening in the gaming world. Finally. Whether or not Sony chooses to catch up is anyone’s guess.

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Reflections on E3 2018

Posted by | e3 2018, epic games, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, nvidia, Sony, xbox | No Comments

After taking a year off, I returned to E3 this week. It’s always a fun show, in spite of the fact that the show floor has come to rival Comic-Con in terms of the mass of people the show’s organizers are able to cram into the aisles of the convention center floor.

We’ve been filing stories all week, but here is a very much incomplete collection of my thoughts on this year’s show.

Zombies are still very much a thing

I’d have thought we’d have hit peak zombie years ago, but here we are, zombies everywhere. That includes the LA Convention Center lobby, which was swarming with actors decked out as the undead. There’s something fundamentally disturbing about watching gamers get pictures taken with fake, bloody corpses. Or maybe it’s just the perfect allegory for our time.

Nintendo’s back

A slight adjustment in approach certainly played a role, as the company has embraced mobile gaming. But the key to Nintendo’s return was a refocus on what it does best: offering an innovative experience with familiar IP. Oh, and the GameCube controller Smash Bros. compatibility was a brilliant bit of fan service, even by Nintendo’s standards.

Quantity versus quality?

Microsoft’s event was a sort of video game blitzkrieg. The company showed off 50 titles, a list that included 15 exclusives. Sony, on the other hand, stuck to a handful, but presented them in much greater depth. Ultimately, I have to say I preferred the latter. Real game play footage feels like an extremely finite resource at these events.

Ultra violence in ultra high-def

Certainly not a new trend in gaming, but there’s something about watching someone bite off someone else’s face on the big screen that’s extra upsetting. Sony’s press conference was a strange sort of poetry, with some of the week’s most stunning imagery knee-deep in blood and gore.

Reedus ’n fetus

We saw more footage and somehow we understand the game less?

Checkmate

Indiecade is always a favorite destination at E3. It’s a nice respite from the big three’s packed booths. Interestingly, there were a lot more desktop games than I remember. You know, the real kind with physical pieces and no screens.

Death of a Tomb Raider

I played Shadow of the Tomb Raider on a PC in NVIDIA’s meeting space. It’s good, but I’m not good at it. I killed poor Lara A LOT. I can deal with that sort of thing when my character is in full Master Chief regalia or whatever, but those close-up shots of her face when I drowned her for the fifth time kind of bummed me out. Can video games help foster empathy or are we all just destined to desensitize ourselves because we have tombs to raid, damn it?

I saw the light

NVIDIA also promised me that its ray-tracing tech would be the most impressive demo I saw at E3 that day. I think they were probably right, so take that, Sonic Racing. The tech, which was first demoed at GDC, “brings real-time, cinematic-quality rendering to content creators and game developers.”

VR’s still waiting in the wings

At E3 two years ago, gaming felt like an industry on the cusp of a VR breakthrough. In 2018, however, it doesn’t feel any closer. There were a handful of compelling new VR experiences at the event, but it felt like many of the peripheral and other experiences were sitting on the fringes of the event — both literally and metaphorically — waiting for a crack at the big show.

Remote Control

Sony’s Control trailer was the highest ratio of excitement to actual information I experienced. Maybe it’s Inception the video game or the second coming of Quantum Break. I dunno, looks fun.

AR’s a thing, but not, like, an E3 thing

We saw a few interesting examples of this, including the weirdly wonderful TendAR, which requires you to make a bunch of faces so a fake fish doesn’t die. It’s kind of like version of Seaman that feeds on your own psychic energy. At the end of the day, though, E3 isn’t a mobile show.

Cross-platform

Having said that, there are some interesting examples of cross-platform potential popping up here and there. The $50 Poké Ball Plus for the Switch is a good example I’m surprised hasn’t been talked about more. Along with controlling the new Switch titles, it can be used to capture Pokémon via Pokémon GO. There’s some good brand synergy right there. And then, of course, there’s Fortnite, which is also on the Switch. The game’s battle royale mode is a great example of how cross-platform play can lead to massive success. Though by all accounts, Sony doesn’t really want to play ball.

V-Bucks

Oh, Epic Games has more money than God now.

Moebius strip

Video games are art. You knew that already, blah, blah, blah. But Sable looks like a freaking Moebius comic come to life. I worry that it will be about as playable as Dragon’s Lair, but even that trailer is a remarkable thing.

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Here’s what Sony announced at E3 2018

Posted by | e3 2018, Gaming, playstation, Sony | No Comments

Sony wanted its E3 2018 press conference to be an event. Not the “we have 50 new titles to show you” event Microsoft just put on, so much as the get up and walk around kind. 

It was kind of like one of those trendy experiential restaurants. The portions are small and you’re still hungry after the final course, but it’s kind of fun, I guess.

The Last of Us Part II

A trailer bookended with a passionate kiss showed up some extremely refined gameplay for the post-apocalyptic survival game. It was…gory. But, then, that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect from the series, and the crowd went predictably wild with each close up hack and slash on the big screen.

Ghost of Tsushima

Another stunning — and amazing gory — one on the giant display. This samurai story is set during a Mongol invasion, featuring a whole lot of sword to torso action and got its gameplay debut at the show.

Control

Not a lot to go on here, but the trailer has a real first-person shooter crossed with Inception, which is perfectly okay with us.

Resident Evil 2

A remake for the popular zombie murdering series got what may well have been the most excited crowded reaction from the bunch. Lot of reveals here, but man was that face eating shot nice and close. It’s up for preorder today and will hit retail January of next year,

Trover Saves the Universe

From one of the co-creators of Rick and Morty, the trailer was fishing for laughs, but came up short, even in a crowd full of Playstation fans. Looks colorful, though.

Death Stranding

Norman Reedus ripping off his toenail was somehow more unsettling than all of the zombie murders of the past half-hour put together. Definitely one of the most innovative trailers we’ve seen so far — beautiful landscapes, close up child birth and hey, neat future umbrella.

Marvel’s Spider-Man Game

Due out in September, we knew this one was going to get some solid face time at the event. Sony showed off a good deal of gameplay, featuring your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man battle some familiar supervillians inside the Raft super prison.

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How (and when) to watch the E3 2018 press conferences

Posted by | e3 2018, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony | No Comments

Sure, E3 doesn’t actually officially start until Tuesday, but the big news kicks off this weekend. Here’s a quick overview of some of the biggest new titles we expect to be shown off at press conferences from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, but there’s a lot more to the show than just the big three.

EA started several days of big announcements with a press conference in downtown L.A. this morning, focused on Battlefield V, Fifa 2019 and a bunch more. Microsoft, meanwhile, will be the first of the big hardware companies to hold court with an early afternoon event on Sunday, followed by Bethesda that night.

Monday is the most packed day of the week with events from Square Enix, Ubisoft and Sony. Nintendo, meanwhile, has Tuesday morning to itself, opting to again return to its pre-recorded streaming format in lieu of renting out a larger hall.

Here’s the full break down.

SUNDAY, JUNE 10

Microsoft: 1PM PT, 4PM ET

What to expect: Crackdown 3, Gears of War, Forza and (maybe?) a new Halo.

Bethesda 6:30PM PT, 9:30PM ET



What to expect: Rage 2, Fallout 76.

MONDAY, JUNE 11

Square Enix 10AM PT, 1 PM ET

Watch live video from Square Enix on www.twitch.tv

What to expect: Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Kingsom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy VII.

Ubisoft 12:30PM PT, 3:30PM ET 

What to expect: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, new Splinter Cell.

Sony 6PM PT, 9PM ET

What to expect: Death Stranding, Last of Us Part II, Marvel’s Spider-Man

TUESDAY, JUNE 12

Nintendo 9AM PT, 12PM ET

What to expect: Super Smash Bros 

What to expect: Super Smash Bros, Pokemon and (maybe) Fortnite

 

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What to expect from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony at E3 2018

Posted by | e3 2018, events, Gaming, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony | No Comments

It’s June, so that means it’s time to spend some quality time in downtown Los Angeles. E3 doesn’t actually begin in earnest until next Tuesday, but much of the big news will actually drop over the weekend, during press conferences from Microsoft, EA and Bethesda.

Starting Saturday, the video game news will be arriving fast and furious. We’ll be on the ground at the Staples Center to cover all things E3, but in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of what we expect to see at one of the gaming world’s biggest events.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s press conference is the first of the big three. The bad news: The company just confirmed a recent report that Crackdown 3 has been delayed until February. Bummer. Bad news for those aching to get their hands on the open-world action-adventure, but the title will almost certainly get some love during the event, regardless. After all, Microsoft has been talking up the title since way back in 2014.

It wouldn’t be a proper Microsoft E3 event without a Halo title of some kind. Halo 6 seems like a possibility — if not a certainty. The latest rumor has the upcoming game titled Halo Infinity, which may or may not be the first direct follow-up to 2015’s lukewarmly received Halo 5: Guardians.

New Gears of War and Forza titles have also been rumored for the big show.

Microsoft’s event kicks off at 1PM PT on Sunday.

Nintendo

One thing we know for sure: A Super Smash Bros. title is coming to the Switch. Based on Nintendo’s recent habit of focusing on a key game at E3, it seems a safe bet that the beloved fighting game will get the lion’s share of the company’s attention.

Metroid Prime 4 and Yoshi seem like no-brainers for the big event, along with recently announced Pokémon titles Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee. Oh, and did someone say Fortnite for the Switch? The rumor mill has also suggested a Star Fox racing title and even an N64 Classic Edition.

Nintendo is set to open the show at 9AM PT on Tuesday with a pre-recorded presentation.

Sony

Sony has already curbed speculation by announcing to the gaming world that there will be no hardware news at this year’s event. That said, there’s still going to be plenty of software firepower.

Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding has been appearing at these shows since way back in 2016. Even so, the game remains something of a mystery. Expect to see a fair bit more next week, as the title becomes something of a tentpole for Sony’s presentation. Kojima has certainly been talking it up on social media, including, compellingly, a tribute to late Joy Division frontman, Ian Curtis.

After debuting it at last year’s show, Sony has confirmed that Last of Us Part II will be making another appearance at E3. The eagerly awaited sequel appears to be largely focused on Ellie’s quest for revenge.

With a slated September release, Marvel’s Spider-Man also seems like a no-brainer for some serious stage time. Peter Parker will return as the webslinger this time out, and there will be a number of notable cameos for Spider-Fans, including Miles Morales and Mary Jane Watson, who will serve as a playable character.

Sony gets started at 6PM PT on Monday.

 

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Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches

Posted by | E Ink, e paper, Gadgets, hardware, Sony, tablet | No Comments

I had a great time last year with Sony’s catchily named DPT-RP1, an e-paper tablet that’s perfect for reading PDFs and other big documents, but one of my main issues was simply how big the thing is. Light and thin but 13 inches across, the tablet was just unwieldy. Heeding (I assume) my advice, Sony is putting out a smaller version and I can’t wait to try it out.

At the time, I was comparing the RP1 with the reMarkable, a crowdfunded rival that offers fantastic writing ability but isn’t without its flaws. Watch this great video I made:

The 10-inch DPT-CP1 has a couple small differences from its larger sibling. The screen has a slightly lower resolution but should be the same PPI — it’s more of a cutout of the original screen than a miniaturization. And it’s considerably lighter: 240 grams to the 13-inch version’s 350. Considering the latter already felt almost alarmingly light, this one probably feels like it’ll float out of your hands and enter orbit.

More important are the software changes. There’s a new mobile app for iOS and Android that should make loading and sharing documents easier. A new screen-sharing mode sounds handy but a little cumbrous — you have to plug it into a PC and then plug the PC into a display. And PDF handling has been improved so that you can jump to pages, zoom and pan and scan through thumbnails more easily. Limited interaction (think checkboxes) is also possible.

There’s nothing that addresses my main issue with both the RP1 and the reMarkable: that it’s a pain to do anything substantial on the devices, such as edit or highlight in a document, and if you do, it’s a pain to bring that work into other environments.

So for now it looks like the Digital Paper series will remain mostly focused on consuming content rather than creating or modifying it. That’s fine — I loved reading stuff on the device, and mainly just wished it were a bit smaller. Now that Sony has granted that wish, it can get to work on the rest.

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FTC warns companies that void warranties over using third-party services

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Government, hardware, hyundai, Nintendo, repairs, Sony, warranty | No Comments

The days of reading the small print to see whether a repair or new part for your ailing laptop will void its warranty may be coming to an end. The FTC has officially warned several companies that their policies of ceasing support when a user attempts “non-approved” repairs or servicing are likely illegal.

It’s the sort of thing where if you buy a device or car from a company, they inform you that unless you use approved, often internally branded parts, you’re voiding the warranty and your item will no longer be supported by the company.

The idea is that a company doesn’t want to be on the hook when a user replaces an old, perfectly good stick of RAM with a new, crappy one and then comes crying to them when the computer won’t boot. Or, in a more dire situation, replaces the brakes with some off-brand ones, which then fail and cause an accident. So there’s a reason these restrictions exist.

Unfortunately, they’ve come to encompass far more than these dangerous cases; perhaps you replace the RAM and then the power supply burns out — that’s not your fault, but because you didn’t use approved RAM the company takes no responsibility for the failure. The result is consumers end up having to buy components or servicing at inflated prices from “licensed” or “approved” dealers.

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” explained Thomas Pahl, from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the announcement.

The agency gave several examples of offending language in customer agreements, blanking out the names of the companies. Ars Technica was quick to connect these with the major companies they correspond to: Hyundai, Nintendo and Sony. Here are the statements the FTC didn’t like, with the company names in bold where they were blank before.

  • The use of Hyundai parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.
  • This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the PS4 altered, defaced, or removed.

It’s one thing to say, don’t overclock your PS4 or we won’t cover it. It’s quite another to say if the warranty seal has been “defaced” then we won’t cover it.

“Such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act,” the FTC announcement reads, and in addition “may be deceptive under the FTC Act.” The companies have 30 days to modify their policies.

This could be a major win for consumers: more repairs and service locations would be allowed under warranty, and modders of game consoles may be able to indulge their hobby without trying to hide it from the manufacturer. That will depend on the new phrasing of the companies’ policies, but this attention from the FTC will at the very least nudge things in the right direction.

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What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2018

Posted by | events, HTC, Mobile, mobile world congress, mwc 2018, Nokia, Samsung, smartphones, Sony, TC | No Comments

 The world’s largest phone show is set for Barcelona later this month, and it’s shaping up to be an interesting one — particularly in the wake of what amounted to an extremely lackluster CES last month. We’re still a couple of weeks out from the actual event, but the rumors have already started flying. Read More

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