15 best PC gaming headsets 2017

Having a great set of gaming headphones can revolutionise your gaming experience. Not does high quality sound quality make you feel like you’re part of the action, 7.1 surround sound can fully immerse you and make you feel like you’re really in the game.

Surround sound can also help improve your scores, as you’ll be able to hear enemies sneak up behind you.

Without the best gaming headset, you’re depriving yourself of full-on immersion from every angle – after all, who says you need VR for 360-degree fun? Pick the right pair of headphones outfitted with a clear quality mic and you’ll immediately notice a difference in the way you experience games.

Whether you need a USB or 3.5mm headset, a surround sound or stereo pair, or simply one to communicate with friends online, we’ve picked out the very best PC gaming headsets for your needs.

Though we haven’t had the chance to fully review every headset on this list, rest assured that each has been tested comprehensively prior to its consideration.

We called the original Astro A50 a “game-changing, experience-enhancing headset”, and thankfully its wireless successor follows the “ain’t broke, don’t fix” rule. Astro’s latest headset does what it says on the tin and adds wireless connectivity to an already stellar package. Though not the cheapest headset on the block, the Astro A50 Wireless has transferred amp controls from its predecessor’s cable right into the headcups themselves, giving you the ability to balance in-game audio and voice chat on-the-fly.

Add to that the A50’s solid aluminum construction, effective noise-cancelling microphone, booming bass and impressive mid-range sounds, and you have one headset that’s ready to rock on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It’s also suitable for using with the HTC Vive and other VR headsets thanks to the accommodating shape of the headband. We’ve found that few headsets can rival the A50’s comfort’s plush ear cups, which are large enough to give you a realistic sense of sound coming from all directions.

Siberia 840

Sometimes you’re prepared to pay a premium for a PC gaming accessory that does the lot, and in the headset category that’s the Siberia 840. Following on from the already impressive Siberia 800 (and the H Wireless before that from 2014), the upgraded Sibera 840 now works with Bluetooth and is lag-free within games. It also supports SteelSeries Engine 3 – a gorgeous and user-friendly app that lets you manage and tweak every element of the Siberia 840 – from profiles to equalizer settings and what to show on the OLED display on the side of the accompanying base unit.

All of that is, of course, secondary to the Siberia 840’s sound qualities which are nothing less than sublime. Activating Dolby 7.1 surround sound is like dropping you into the game. Enemies’ footsteps can be picked out across a room including behind you, leading to some heart-in-mouth moments in shooters like DOOM.

Who cares about style when it comes to gaming headsets? Certainly not Asus. Neglecting all the unwritten rules of fashion, the ROG Centurion 7.1 is a spectacle to behold, both for its garish looks and unruly knack for omitting crystal clear sound waves. It may be a living hellscape to set up, requiring that a pair of USB cables be connected to an amplifier at all times, but that’s not to say it doesn’t offer plenty of room for expansion.

In fact, the Asus ROG Centurion 7.1 not only bolsters full-fledged surround sound passthrough for an external set of speakers, but the onboard amp controls grant you complete control over the audio profiles and channel volumes being outputted. You can even take advantage of Asus’s own Sonic Studio software package, which gives you even more dominance over the headset’s functions. There’s a steep learning curve, but for those who don’t mind, this headset is a mighty surround sound offering.

V-MODA

If you’re more interested in the sounds coming out of your gaming headset, rather than glowing LEDs, macro keys and other nonessential extras, then the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless is the headset for you. These stylish cans are a treat for the ears, emitting booming sound that’s bass-heavy with fantastically crisp treble at the other end. Whether you’re being rocked by explosions in Battlefield or can hear the roar of the crowd in Fifa, they bring games to life and are equally suited to listening to music; You’ll be able to pick out parts of your favorite tracks that you never previously thought existed.

Stepping out of the soundscape for a moment, the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless feature comfortable memory foam ear cups that don’t irritate the ears even after hours of use, and you’ll get around 12 hours out of its battery life when connected via Bluetooth. This headset’s rugged build quality, funky travel case and optional USB connectivity add up to make it one of the best headsets on the market.

With VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift making their way into PC gamers’ rooms, specially-designed audio headsets for virtual reality were bound to follow. The Turtle Beach 350 Stealth VR is one of the most flexible out there, featuring a generous amount of adjustability thanks to its sturdy headband which can fit over the top of VR headsets worn on even the biggest heads. Sure enough, the 350 Stealth is designed for practicality rather than sharp looks. Its black-and-white color scheme isn’t the most exciting design out there, but an abundance of features makes up for that. There’s mic monitoring, which allows you to hear your own voice inside the headset, bass boost for booming lows, a detachable noise-cancelling headphone mic, and a groove in the ear cups that lets you tuck the audio cable out of the way. While it’s perfectly suitable for owners of PC-based VR headsets, it’s quite literally a great fit for PSVR gamers too.

Unlike some of its competitors, SteelSeries stresses subtlety in its headset designs. The Arctis continues this trend by flaunting sound quality and comfort over gaudy appearances.

When you pop an Arctis on your head, the goal is for your audience to see a professional environment rather than, say, a Dorito stain on your chair. The customizable lighting, however, gives you plenty of wiggle room, though, if the monochrome look isn’t your thing.

The SteelSeries Arctis comes in three distinct flavors: Arctis 3, Arctis 5 and Arctis 7, each one more expensive than the last. The Arctis 3 is pretty analog protocol while the 5 ships with an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and the Arctis 7 is wireless with 2.4GHz connectivity. Each model comes with digital audio control built-in, with an app available for those looking to take this one step further.

The only drawback, then, is a less-than-attractive suspension headband.

Razer ManO'War

Quick and easy to setup using an inconspicuous wireless USB receiver that stores inside the headset for transportation, the Razer ManO’War is a user-friendly unit that’s primed for surround-sound gaming. Sure, it’s a little chunkier than most other headsets, but two soft leatherette ear cups make it comfortable to wear for extended periods. They’re easy on the eye too thanks to customizable Chroma RGB backlighting configured through Razer’s Synapse software.

Though delivered through software, the ManO’War’s 7.1 channel virtual surround sound does a fine job of ramping up immersion in-game. Doom’s Imps are no longer somewhere around you – they’re breathing down your neck. The ManO’War’s range can reach up to 14 meters using the supplied USB extender, and its battery life is capable of stretching to just as many hours.

As a more affordable alternative, Razer has launched the ManO’War 7.1 Wired Gaming Headset. It comes with a USB digital-to-analog convertor (CAV) that provides superb surround sound and the same eye-catching design as the wireless edition (only without the RGB lighting).

Arguably one of the most affordable gaming headsets available today, the HyperX Cloud Stinger is designed to give players eSports quality audio at a bargain. While there isn’t much to write home about with the red on black plastic design of the headset, the stereo sound is superb. It also feels comfortable to wear for extended play sessions thanks to a set of memory foam earcups. Although this isn’t the ultimate gaming headset, it’s a great starting point if you’re trying to game on a budget.

More affordable than Sennheiser’s flagship PC 373D while still packing an audible punch, the GSP 350 carries over that headset’s stellar 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound and closed ear-cup design. It’s equally a suitable for marathon  gaming sessions thanks to its huge comfortable ear cups, with the right cup once again featuring a volume dial. The headset uses a closed-back design with an adjustable split headband, rather than the PC 373D’s more solid and thicker continuous band. The GSP 350’s noise-cancelling microphone is equally as good and once again mutes when lifted up while blocking out breathing sounds, much to the relief of your in-game team-mates. If you like the look of Sennheiser’s flagship gaming headset but can’t quite stomach its price tag, this one is a little lighter and slightly less solid, but still superior to many of its rivals.

G33 Artemis Spectrum

Logitech’s flagship gaming headset packs in plenty of bells and whistles, the most useful being its cup-mounted G-keys that provide handy shortcuts to performing actions in-game. In terms of design, The G933 is certainly one of the snazziest headsets around and oozes gamer appeal, and if you’re fed up of round ear-cups on headsets then you’ll appreciate its large and comfortable ear-shaped ones. Logitech has ran a multi-colored lighting strip all the way down the cup, rather than placing a flashing logo on the side, which in our eyes is more appealing than the small glowing areas on Corsair’s and Razer’s flagship headsets. On the negative side, this cuts down battery life to around 10 hours. Turning off the flashing goodness will help you eke out a few more,
Corsair Void RGB

If you’re looking for a pair of 7.1 surround sound cans with RGB lighting that won’t break the bank, Corsair’s latest entry should be high up your list. Its excellent 40-meter wireless range means you can go for a wander without your team-mates’ chatter cutting off, and the Void is capable of emitting fist-pumping bass that’s powerful without muddying the mix. You can configure its lighting colors using Corsair’s intuitive software and even make it dance in tandem with the company’s K65 or K70 mechanical keyboards. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way for adjusting the fold-down mic so its clarity often suffers, but it doesn’t put us off what is a solid and affordable option for surround sound gaming.
Cloud Revolver

Here we have a no-frills headset that offers build quality that comes close to pairs that cost almost twice the price. You may have already come across Kingston’s HyperX Cloud Revolver headset. Used by a number of eSports teams, its large interchangeable over-the-ear memory foam cups help block out unwanted noise, and the retractable mic allows clear and distortion-free communication with team-mates.

Despite its affordable nature, the Cloud Revolver is ready to rock. Its 53mm drivers have been tweaked to blast out punchy mid-range tones and pounding bass that’s best described as in-your-face. Subtle they ain’t. There’s no surround sound support or RGB lighting to be found here, and you’ll have to reach for the Cloud Revolver’s braided cable to get to its in-line volume and mic controls. If those factors don’t bother you then this value-focused headset comes highly recommended.

ROG STRIX WIRELESS

Looking like something straight out of Quake 2, Asus’ Strix 7.1 wireless gaming headset immediately caught our eye thanks to its large black-and-orange ear cups that are decked in a circular pattern resembling an owl’s eye. Those oversized ear cups makes them comfortable to wear for extended periods but there’s no RGB lighting on them, which on the plus side provides up to 10 hours of continuous gameplay using 2.4GHz wireless to connect.

Asus claims that it provides lower latency than Bluetooth, and while it’s difficult to verify that, bullets whizzing past our head in-game synched up pretty well thanks to virtual 7.1 surround sound being blasted into our ears from all directions. Asus’ Sonic Studio software provides an easy method of tweaking sound settings, and we found cranking up the (already sufficient) bass in the app’s equalizer particularly satisfying for both gaming and listening to music.

Turtle Beach

Aimed at PC and console gamers, using Turtle Beach’s Elite Pro feels like sitting down at a command station and gearing up for war. This headset oozes gaming appeal, right down to the subtle orange ruler-type markings on the headset’s automatically adjusting headband. It’s a funky piece of kit that’s reassuringly chunky while remaining supremely comfortable at all times thanks to its gel-infused Aerofit ear cushions. Most importantly, they sound great in the heat of battle. That’s down to Turtle Beach’s 50mm NanoClear drivers, which do an especially great job of bringing you into the heart of the action in shooters.

If you’re particularly hardcore, you might want to shell out for the Tactical Audio Controller. At $199 (around £149) it’s not cheap, but it grants an intuitive and fun of adjusting settings such as the game/chat mix, your own microphone level, in-game sounds, and there’s also a mute button to cut game sound out completely. It also lets you chop and change between four surround modes (Game, Music, Movie and off), which is a lot easier than fiddling around with controls on the headset itself.

There are an increasing number of PC gaming headsets impressing at the lower end of the price spectrum, including the new Cougar Immersa. Decked in the company’s trademark orange-and-black color scheme, this gaming headset is big, bright and bold. Its massive earcups envelop the ears and are comfortable when worn over long periods. The Immersa’s mid-range and bass tones are punchy and bright, though treble is a little lacking. The retractable microphone is convenient, and online gamers had no trouble hearing what we were saying in Counter Strike: GO. HyperX Cloud Stinger aside, there are few gaming headsets in this price bracket that have impressed us like the Immersa.

Nikon Shelves DL Series of Point-and-Shoot Cameras; Will Let Go of Over 1,000 Employees

Nikon early last year introduced its compact DL series point-and-shoot cameras in an effort to enter the premium compact camera market. The DL line, which included the DL18-50, DL24-85, and DL24-500, was scheduled to hit shelves in summer that year but was pushed back due to problems with the image processing circuits. The string of delays may have proved one too many as the company has officially decided to kill off the DL series.

Nikon Shelves DL Series of Point-and-Shoot Cameras; Will Let Go of Over 1,000 Employees

The Japanese camera manufacturer’s decision to abandon the compact DL line was due to concerns that the cameras would fail to turn a profit, according to the company’s press release. The company also cites the slowdown in the camera market as a reason to kill the DL series.

The company has had a rough year as its recent quarterly results suggest. Its restructuring plan, which was announced late last year, led to an extraordinary loss including writedowns in its semiconductor lithography business which totalled nearly JPY 30 billion (roughly Rs. 1,767 crores). The company’s sales were down 8.2 percent over the last year.

Furthermore, the company also announced that it is letting go of over a 1,000 employees via voluntary retirement. The expenses from this process, which the company estimates close to JPY 17 billion, will be recorded as an extraordinary loss in the next quarterly report.

Nikon’s dismal year in sales along with the end of the DL series gives a bleak outlook for the coming year. Its competition has managed to race ahead with newer, updated models such as Sony’s RX100 Mark V and Panasonic’s DMC-LX10. Meanwhile, apart from the Nikon 1 series, the company has nothing else show in the mirrorless category. However, Nikon continues to have a presence in the DSLR market.

Looking Ahead to CES: This Will Be a Big One

CES week is here, and it’s the one week of the year I look forward to looking back on. CES is a killer show — not because you are up to your armpits in interesting new products, but because it is so spread out that it’ll kill your legs as you hike all over the damn place. One year, I walked so much I actually ripped the soles off both shoes.

What is weird about this show is that it really comes too early for vendors to have much of what they intend to have in stores by the end of the year. So, it not only kind of messes up New Year’s for a lot of people who have to prepare for it, but also fails to deliver the impact it once did.

However, it remains one of the most powerful tech showcases in the world, and this year we’ll see a ton of things that likely will have us thinking more and more about the world of tomorrow.

I’ll share more on that and close with my first product of the week: the unusual Phab 2 Pro Phone from Lenovo, the first Google Project Tango phone.

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Flying Cars

Flying cars are a big deal for me, because I first got involved with this technology in the 1970s with a company that started with a flying saucer. My father put down a deposit on one of the vehicles — he died recently and clearly never got the car. This is how far the technology has come.

There was a showcase a year ago of an autonomous flying car that is actually a people-carrying drone, suggesting that Uber one day might fly to your house rather than drive, at least in rural areas.

Folks apparently realized that if you could get a car to drive itself, and if you could create a drone capable of carrying large packages, then you could create one that could carry people. It is this idea of push-button flying that makes flying cars interesting. I know of several vendors that will be talking about this or showing prototypes at CES.

Next-Generation Computing

Microsoft last year brought forward the Surface Studio, a product that blends a high-resolution touchscreen with a digitizer to create a unique all-in-one. It makes the iMac look so last decade — which, given it hasn’t changed much in the last decade, wasn’t a huge stretch.

This class of product has proven ideal for creators, and with the next version of Windows 10 designed specifically with creation in mind, the OEMs are stepping up. In short, there will be a ton of Surface Studio-like products at CES, each doing its best both to stand out against Microsoft’s offering, and to showcase the power of Windows 10 Creator’s edition. If you are a creator, this likely will be your year.

Prototype Cars

There will be a number of prototype cars at the event. One that recently came to light, Rinspeed’s Oasis, is equipped with Harman LIVS (life-enhancing intelligent vehicle solutions). It showcases the advantages of a car that is designed to be driven by computer.

It’s basically a living room on wheels, with the focus on entertainment, access and range rather than on handling or performance. Cool stuff includes active glass, a steering wheel that turns into a table, and a huge screen for both work and entertainment.

You’ll see a number of these examples, showcasing each company’s vision of the near-term future and the world of tomorrow. I’m a big fan of Rinspeed and have lusted after its Splash car for years.

8K HDR TVs and OLED

Yes, you thought that wonderful 4K HDR TV was the be-all and end-all, didn’t you, and that you’d have at least three years before someone made it obsolete. Well, surprise — there will be 8K TVs at the show. The good news is we don’t even have much 4K HDR content, so your 4K HDR TV likely is safe for three years. These 8K sets likely will be wicked expensive initially — so look, but don’t worry about buying until sometime closer to 2020.

Closer in are OLED sets, which combine the marvelous blacks of the old plasma sets with the reliability and brilliant colors of LCD sets. The manufacturers appear to have fixed the problem of the early OLED TVs’ short service life, and this year the prices of OLED, which have been up in the nosebleed range, should drop sharply. That could mean your new TV isn’t that safe after all.

VR Everywhere

CES will be the big coming-out party for low-cost dedicated VR headsets and gear. The initial wave from HTC and Oculus was way too expensive, and the next wave is supposed to be far more affordable.

A lot of vendors will be showcasing their VR gear, so be ready for your kid or spouse to start signaling they want one of these things for their next birthday, and be thankful that it likely will be well below US$500 this round.

Drones Flying High

Drones will continue to dominate CES. The DJI Phantom 4 was the hot product in market last year, largely because it was so easy to fly. Now the market is moving to smaller, more portable, collapsible products, and I’m expecting to see a ton of drones that are both easier to fly safely and easier to toss into a backpack for transportation — in other words, the FAA’s worst nightmare.

There already are several times the number of private planes as drones flying today, and things are likely to get a lot more crowded as prices continue to drop and capabilities continue to increase. I have a small air force of drones myself, and I expect, I’ll have a few more by year’s end.

Invasion of the Amazon Echo Clones

The Amazon Echo Dot was my 2016 product of the year, but Amazon recently licensed the technology, we are likely to be up to our armpits in Echo clones this year. I’m personally looking for one that is set up to work outside, because I really would like a better solution for my swim spa than a Dot with a battery tied to huge Bluetooth boombox.

I wonder if all of these things will start talking to each other in the CES convention center after everyone goes home for the night. That could be kind of spooky.

Wrapping Up

Of course, we’ll have tons of PCs, laptops, tablets, and wearable tech still looking for a market, as well as lots of tech accessories for cars, smartphones and other devices. This promises to be one of the most powerful tech shows yet, with showcases that will define not just 2017 but likely the rest of the decade.

From showcasing tech that will get you to work faster and very differently to showing off the tech that will entertain you on the trip, this promises to be a CES show for the ages. Now, if I can just find something that will ensure my legs and feet will survive it intact… . Here is hoping we all have a great time, and that by the end of the week, I’m still capable of walking by myself.

This is a weird smartphone and not the least of what makes it strange is that it is branded “Lenovo,” not “Motorola,” which is Lenovo’s phone division.

This Lenovo Phab 2 Pro has a huge, 6.4-inch screen, likely because it is the showcase phone for Google’s augmented reality platform, Project Tango. Now, there aren’t yet a lot of apps out for Tango, but what it brings is a unique camera that allows you to position virtual objects in the real world.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

From a practical perspective, this means you can buy furniture online after seeing what it would look like, to scale, in your office or room. You can play electronic games that run on your own table, and blend real and virtual elements to create a very unique experience.

While the lack of AR apps for the phone hampers it at the moment, I have to say that the 6.4-inch display is rather impressive, and so is the battery life under normal use. The phone has — and needs — a big battery for AR, but that battery also helps it out as a phone, making it one of the better phablets on the market.

It uses the top-of-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor, and it comes with 64 GB of memory. It has impressive Dolby Atmos Audio with 5.1 audio capture (3 microphones) and voices noise canceling (which makes it easier for folks to hear you in a noisy environment.

Be aware that there is always a bit of pain associated with being cutting edge, but if you want a phone that is impressively large, is a showcase for Project Tango, and has really impressive battery life and performance, check out the Lenovo Phab 2.

It is a precursor for what is coming in augmented reality. Because my first column of the year is about looking to the future, and the Phab 2 Pro is a future-facing smartphone, it is the obvious choice for my product of the week.

Snapdragon-Powered AR Smartglasses Are the Real Deal

Qualcomm on Tuesday debuted its groundbreaking Snapdragon 835 system on a chip at CES.

Following the 835 launch, the company joined Osterhout Design Group in unveiling two new ODG augmented reality headsets, the R-8 and R-9, which are the first Snapdragon 835-powered devices to be announced.

The Snapdragon SoC is the first chip built using the ultra-advanced 10nm FinFET process node, said Qualcomm spokesperson Liz Sweeney.

The Snapdragon 835 is 35 percent smaller and consumes 25 percent less power than its predecessors, which “equates to longer battery life and thinner designs,” she told TechNewsWorld.

The SoC is “designed for advanced AR/VR capabilities, cutting-edge camera capabilities, and enables biometric security capabilities,” Sweeney noted.

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A Game Changer

The Snapdragon 835 opens the door to a whole new connected future. Qualcomm has teamed up with Ericsson and AT&T to drive widespread adoption of 5G.

“We are actively working with industry leaders around the world to test 5G and 5G NR technologies,” Sweeney said.

The Snapdragon 835 has an integrated Qualcomm X16 gigabit LTE modem, and “it’s possible for a premium-tier 800 series Snapdragon processor with integrated gigabit LTE modem to be used in 5G mobile devices,” she explained.

The Snapdragon 835 “represents a change in strategy for Qualcomm,” said Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

It’s “the first generation of chipsets resulting from a new collaboration with ARM,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The Kyro processor used in the 835 employs ARM cores optimized for Qualcomm rather than Qualcomm processor cores, which “will free up resources to optimize future Qualcomm-designed processors for other processors for other applications,” McGregor explained.

“That’s a game changer,” he said.

ODG’s AR/VR Headsets

To develop AR-enabled mobile computing and entertainment applications for the R-8 and R-9 smartglasses, ODG has teamed with 21st Century Fox, which is also an investor; cloud rendering company OTOY; and PTC, which provides the Vuforia AR platform.

The R-8 and R-9 “are self-contained fully loaded computers,” said Nima Shams, VP of headworn at ODG.

ODG R9 Smartglasses

ODG R9 Smartglasses

“They can do anything your tablet or laptop can do, with additional AR and VR overlays to present digital information as a seamless part of your real world,” he told TechNewsWorld.

ODG is “pioneering the next-generation mobile computing platform, revolutionizing how we work, communicate and consume content,” Shams said. “Phones are reaching saturation, form factors are getting smaller, and people are looking for more out of their mobile devices.”

For those who might raise a skeptical eye over the AR/VR demos, they are actual representations of the technology’s capabilities, rather than video special effects, according to Shams.

Leap recently came under fire when news surfaced that the impressive trailer on its site actually was a special effects video and not a demo of its AR technology, as many had assumed.

“Our demos are real,” Shams said. “We’re on our ninth generation product … . We’ve been shipping to military and enterprise customers since 2011. We have a cool racing game demo that shows AR, VR and mixed reality.”

The R-8 will be generally available in the second half of this year for less than US$1,000, and the R-9 will be available in the second quarter for $1,800.

The price point “is still too high for mainstream adoption, but this is a real leap forward in consumer and industrial AR glasses,” said Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research

They are “state-of-the-art glasses and are still cheaper than Microsoft HoloLens,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The glasses “are very comfortable to wear” and the bright overlay displays “create almost a VR experience but maintain peripheral vision,” Krewell said.

Frost & Sullivan has predicted that “2017 will be the year of AR,” noted Michael Jude, a program manager at the firm, told TechNewsWorld. “ODG is pushing the device space.”

Floating Speakers, Neckbrace Audio, and Charming Caffeine Fixes

Welcome, dear friends, to another incarnation of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that occasionally peels its eyes from Super Mario Run to cast its gaze over the latest gadget announcements.

In the Mushroom Kingdom this time around are a levitating speaker, a speaker to hang around your neck, and an adorable coffee machine.

As ever, these are not reviews. The ratings reflect only how much I’d like to try each item with my own hands, tired as they may be from tearing apart wrapping paper.

 lg-levitating-portable-speaker

Phonically Flying

LG features twice in this edition of the column with two very different but similarly strange speakers. The “Levitating Portable Speaker” (pictured above) has as descriptive and accurate a name as the “Small Transparent Speaker” from last month’s edition of this column. You can call it “PJ9” if you prefer the duller moniker.

Yes, through the magic of electromagnets and a base station, this speaker will levitate and pump out audio in every direction. LG’s Dual Passive Radiator system is designed to provide strong high- and mid-range tones.

The base station houses the subwoofer, and naturally doubles as the charger for the floaty part of the set up. The Levitating Portable Speaker has a reported battery life of 10 hours, which is impressive, and the speaker automatically sinks back down to the base station to recharge when need be. You can play audio while the speaker’s charging, but it’ll lose a little in form if not function during that period.

The PJ9 is IPX7-compliant, which will help it stand up to a sudden downpour if you’re using it at a picnic, and there’s an option to connect two Bluetooth devices simultaneously via multipoint technology.

The feature set of the Levitating Portable Speaker shows it’s far more than just a party trick. As with any speaker, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how much I might want this as part of my everyday life without hearing the audio firsthand. However, I admire the graceful design and would enjoy impressing a guest or two with my latest technology party trick.

Hanging Out to Dry

The other LG speaker we’re taking a look at this time around is the LG Tone Studio. This is even stranger than its stablemate and no doubt has raised some eyebrows at CES. This is no ordinary speaker, friends. This is one you wear around your neck.

LG Tone Studio speakers

This futuristic neckbrace employs four speakers to direct surround sound toward the wearer’s ears. It includes a vibration function, and it aims to provide theater-style sound wherever you might be. That’s all well and good if you watch a lot of movies at home, don’t mind looking silly, and don’t really have the capacity for a complex speaker system or a soundbar — or if you want to hear the movie’s audio just as well while you’re fixing some mid-film snacks or beverages.

However, I dread the day I ever run into someone using one of these on public transport. People playing music through their phone speaker on a bus or a subway deserve the type of punitive measures reserved for the worst war criminals. Boosting their capacity to annoy everyone with a quartet of speakers thumping out surround sound sounds exactly like the kind of future I want no part of.

Thanks, LG, for potentially ruining everything for everyone should certain people actually buy this trifling gizmo.

Captivating Brews

If you’re a manufacturer (or part of a manufacturer’s marketing department) and want to convince me to buy the thing you’re trying to sell, the simplest, easiest way to boost your chances is to plonk a pair of googly eyes on it and tell me it’s cute.

A pair of students went one further when they affixed a pair of arms to a coffee machine and allowed people to control the system using Alexa. One arm grabs and inserts a filter, while the other grabs some grounds to brew delicious java.

If you’re so inclined, you can ask this glorious creation to provide you with weather updates and any other information you might wish Alexa to deliver.

Sadly, the creators haven’t figured out a way to make the machine brew coffee through voice instruction. That still requires manual operation. Still, it’s neat that you can get the coffee ready for brewing (assuming the water tank is filled), so all you have to do is tap a button.

Let’s get real, though. It could be the most useless hunk of junk on the planet, and I’d still want it thanks to those adorable googly eyes. What is it they say about suckers and births every minute, again?

Nvidia Lays Out Bold Strategy at CES

Nvidia offered a bold new strategy at this week’s International CES in Las Vegas. The company, which has been a leader in hardware graphics technology for decades, recently has expanded into the realms of artificial intelligence, deep learning and automotive tech.

Graphical support and video delivery will however remain a key component of the company’s strategy, according to Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.

Nvidia’s GeForce NOW Service will expand to millions more PCs and Macs, he announced in his keynote address at CES.

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Huang also launched a new version of Shield — Nvidia’s streamer technology. Shield is at the very center of Nvidia’s home AI strategy. It is the first third-party Android TV device to feature support for the hands-free Google Assistant, Huang said.

The open platform Shield will support 4K HDR casting via Nvidia GameStream, and allow gamers to access on-demand PC games, including Ubisoft’s catalog of AAA titles, as well as the vast library of new Android games.

Shield, which is optimized for TV, allows users to control various smart-enabled devices via voice commands. It is designed to learn and adapt to the user’s lifestyle.

Shield already allowed conversational searches. It now can respond to users’ voice requests to turn on or turn off lights, change TV channels, adjust the thermostat, and even call for an Uber.

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Nvidia on the Road

The other half of Nvidia’s new wide-reaching technology strategy is built around BB8, the company’s in-development self-driving car, which is outfitted with the Drive PX 2 AI self-driving computer.

In a demo video, it negotiates stop lights, stop signs and intersections, and even makes its way to the freeway before handing control back to the human in the driver’s seat.BB8 runs on Nvidia’s DriveWorks software, which was developed over the past 18 months to run on its PilotNet deep neural network. It allows the car to drive safely in complex and dynamic environments.

The AI Co-Pilot software uses natural speech recognition to pick up spoken commands, while face recognition technology allows the vehicle to set personal preferences.

Nvidia isn’t hitting the road alone. It is working with mapping companies Here and Zenrin, Huang noted, as well as two of the world’s leading automotive supplies, ZF and Bosch. Audi’s showcase vehicle also runs with an Nvidia car computer.

 Different Strategies

Nvidia’s moves into automotive, gaming and home tech may seem unconnected — but such an expansion strategy is not unprecedented. Many tech companies have ventured beyond their respective core businesses.

Google is no longer just a search engine company, for example, and Samsung did not start out as a TV and smartphone maker. It actually began as a trading company and was focused on food processing and textiles before entering the electronics industry in the 1960s.

“Essentially, Nvidia is looking at diversifying and moving away from pure computing and gaming hardware,” said Scott Steinberg, principal analyst at TechSavvy Global.

“They are expanding to other areas of the tech world as tech permeates more parts of our daily world,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Nvidia’s growth is a logical extension of a core strength, observed Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

“It is their key competency in display technology that is allowing them to extend to different markets,” he told TechNewsWorld. “That is the one thing that links this together but also differentiates them from a Samsung, which makes so many different things.”

Bold Move

However, the fact that Nvidia is developing AI is a bit of a departure for a company that was known primarily for graphics.

“Nvidia has been bolder than, say, AMD in branching into new businesses,” said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“Jen-Hsun Huang has a great degree of confidence in himself and his company, and therefore is willing to take risks others might not,” Kay told TechNewsWorld.

Those risks limited, though, suggested TechSavvy’s Steinberg.

“This is just a case where the company has identified some of the biggest markets and is expanding in those directions,” he suggested.

“Tech companies need to move with the market, and the market now moves at light speed,” Steinberg observed. “Many companies now expand into areas we may not be aware of, so it is natural that Nvidia is expanding their reach.”

A Stretch Too Far

The question is whether Nvidia can be taken seriously as both a gaming hardware and automotive technology maker. As Apple, Microsoft and Google have shown, it is possible to move in multiple directions successfully. Whether Nvidia can be as successful as those other tech giants is the question.

“Gaming is, of course, a strength for both Nvidia and AMD — but automotive is a pretty big stretch, as is TV,” said Kay.

“There’s no doubt that graphics engines and ARM cores will find their way into many new areas, including those — as well as robots, AI, VR and cloud computing,” he said.

“Nvidia is positioned to address these opportunities primarily through partners, who would use Nvidia engines in their environments,” noted Kay. “In other words, Nvidia won’t become a car company, but it will sell chips to car companies. And why not? It just has to beat the competition.”

CES 2017's Magic

CES was a fascinating show this year. One of the things that made it so fascinating was that everyone and their brother had cars demonstrating one form of technology or another. It kind of makes me wonder what we’ll see at the next car show — PCs, drones, tablets and smartphones?

That wasn’t the only surprise at the show, though. Nvidia, long thought of as living in Intel’s shadow, broke out, taking over the prime keynote spot in a big way and demonstrating that it has all but cornered the market for car brains.

I’ll close with my product of the week, the most important product at CES.

 ces-2017

Dell Embarrasses Apple

Apple for decades has rubbed Dell’s face in the fact that it builds a better creative set of products. When Apple launched the iPhone, it embarrassed all of CES by pulling virtually all attention away from the show. Well, this year, Dell got even.

Dell formally launched two products, the XPS 27 and the Dell Canvas 27, which together make the iMac look like last decade’s solution. Which it kind of is if you think about it.

Dell got there by bringing in a bunch of artists to help define the products. Animators, musicians and engineers worked together to create their dream tool, basically a touchscreen all-in-one with studio monitor speakers, incredible performance, and a touchscreen work surface that can transform into any digital interface the job requires.

This interface can represent everything from digital musical instruments to an animator’s canvas and digital ink. It can be pretty much anything the user or an application developer could imagine.

The CEO of Avid, along with an animator and a number of musicians, raved about the product at CES, and it made the latest iMac look pitiful in head-to-head comparisons. Now that’s revenge served cold.

Nvidia Steps Into the Lead

Nvidia is now the fastest-growing company in the fortune 500, according to the head of CES, who opened for Nvidia CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang. I don’t think many understand how amazing this is. Nvidia has long been viewed as a small player when compared to Intel. Like all of the PC companies, Nvidia bet heavy on mobile and lost badly. After its Tegra mobile platform seemed to crash and burn, many thought Nvidia was done.

Then it pivoted like I’ve never seen a company pivot before. It doubled down on graphics, pushed hard on gaming, and made huge bets on deep learning and artificial intelligence — and you know what? Those bets paid off — oh man, did they ever pay off — and now Nvidia pretty much has the market cornered for self-driving cars, and it supplies a critical part of the deep learning solutions of every major IT vendor. You have to admit that is pretty impressive.

Corning’s Glass Car

One of the most impressive marketing efforts I’ve ever seen is Corning’s “A Day Made Of Glass.” It is visionary, and it not only makes you believe in a future with tons of touchscreens and smart windows, but also makes you want to live in that future.

Well, Corning pulled out all the stops at CES and commissioned a car with displays all across the dash, in the steering wheel, in the doors, and even replacing the license plate. It is actually a pretty decent car — racy, electric, and apparently very fast. Sadly, I didn’t get to drive it.

The Gorilla Glass Windshield is one of the most interesting parts. It not only resists nicks and scratches, as you’d expect, but it is substantially lighter, far clearer, faster to defrost, and works better with heads-up displays. Even the roof is glass — smart glass, in this case — that can be electronically shaded.

The display license plate makes sense, given that it would be digitally connected to the car, arguably more secure, and could be used to broadcast a signal in the event of a stolen car or driver in distress.

Panasonic’s Robot Family

It never really occurred to me that a true home robot solution would require a family of robots, each with different skills to complete tasks around the house. A small robot to greet you at the door and patrol the home protecting it from bandits could be supplemented by larger robots that could clean and maintain the home.

That approach would be far better than trying to build a single robot to do everything, which is often the science fiction solution. The idea of a family of robots, each specialized to do a series of tasks, just makes more sense — and you have to admit that living with a robot family just seems kind of cool.

Given that one of the robots likely would be your autonomous car, the biggest robot could be impressively large. I should add that Panasonic showcased its idea of an autonomous car, and it was more like a rolling sitting room, with tables and chairs. If you don’t have to drive, there are likely a lot of other things you’d want to do during that time.

AMD’s Ryzen and the Power of the Desktop

CES marked the coming-out party for AMD’s latest processor, now named “Ryzen.” The company showcased some of the coolest PCs I’ve ever seen at its cocktail party, and I honestly had lust in my heart for a large number of them.

Most of the PCs on display were water cooled, with water blocks for the major components. Some even had coolant that looked like blood. I thought I’d entered techno geek heaven, and it was hard not to drool every time I turned around.

AMD is another company that is firing on all cylinders. Expect to see some amazing hardware when these PCs hit the market in a few months.

Wrapping Up

I’m writing this after midnight on my last day at the show. I’m beat, but I’m also kind of excited about the future. These products all promise a future when our homes will do much of the work, when we won’t care much about traffic because we are being entertained or sleeping and not driving, and when company turnarounds actually work.

CES promises that this future not only will be amazing, but also will arrive far sooner than most expect — and I think that is very cool.

The product that most stood out for me at CES is Norton Core, a router and security solution from Symantec. You see, with all of this connected and ever-smarter stuff, we really, really need to be secure — and our home networks are anything but.

What makes the Norton Core router special is that it secures not only against outside attacks, but also against inside attacks, and it is part of an overall solution in the home.

norton-core-router

It’s an overall solution because it is packaged with a subscription that contains 20 licenses for security software for your PCs, smartphones and tablets. Because it uses Qualcomm’s latest technology, it’s not only a strong security solution, but also is likely one of the highest-performing routers.

It will be upgradable to support a mesh network, allowing you to cover even the biggest home with WiFi. It is even pretty cool to look at, bringing back the geodesic dome and placing a halo light at the bottom for effect, so you can feel good about putting it in the open.

With all of this connected stuff, we desperately need a better home security solution. With Symantec’s Norton Core, we get one — and thus it is my product of the week.

The CES Spectacular Edition

Welcome, dear friends, to the latest edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares.

 CES is over for another year, and with so much to discuss from the event, I’ll get right to it.

As always, these are not reviews. The ratings reflect only how much I’d like to try each product, just as soon as I stop rolling around giggling at some of the more ridiculous items from this year’s show floor.

Razer Sharp

Trust Razer to come up with something completely ridiculous that I need in my life immediately. Trust Razer to bring along two such concepts in the same year.

The first is Project Ariana, a projector that incorporates Razer’s full-spectrum lighting system, Chroma (pictured above).

It uses a wide-angle lens to project images, but it seems there’s no lengthy setup process required here.

Ariana uses 3D depth-sensing cameras to detect objects in a room and adjusts for them accordingly so that it still projects a flat image.

You can use Ariana as a regular 4K projector when you’re not playing games.

It looks incredible, and as someone looking to make the switch from a hulking TV to a projector down the line, particularly for gaming, its feature set is impressive.

Project Ariana

I love that it can connect with the Phillips Hue system to paint your entire room to match the onscreen colors.

The other product to escape from Razer’s weird science laboratory is a laptop that goes big when it comes to screen real estate. The wonderfully absurd Project Valerie packs in three (yes, three) 17.3-inch 4K displays that automatically slide out to create a 180-degree viewing area.

It’s packed with power, too, and should have no problems running Oculus Rift and HTC Vive content. The machine weighs 12 pounds. While a far cry from modern ultralight laptops, that’s mighty impressive, all things considered. Razer somehow has managed to pack all of this into a 1.5-inch thick casing.

While there’s not much detail on the specs or pricing of Ariana or Valerie, it’s safe to say that each will make more than a little dent in your wallet. I’ve got a kidney I don’t really need. Just need to find out where my local black market is operating and I’m all set.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Who Needs All Their Organs Anyways

Super Speaker

I don’t have a great deal to say about Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay M5 speaker other than it’s another thing I need to have in my life immediately. It’s gorgeous, assuredly sounds great, and has all the connectivity you’d expect from a modern wireless speaker.

B&O BeoPlay M5

Controlling the music is a matter of pressing down on the top to play or pause, and rotating it to adjust the volume. It’s already available to purchase and costs US$599. I’m sure I can find a mechanical heart to replace mine once I sell it to pay for this lovely noise machine.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Speakers That Will Neatly Match My Bed’s Aesthetic

Ways to Waste

There’s a local composting program where I’ve lived for the last six months and I’ve yet to take part. I am a terrible person, I know. But hey, CES offered up a device to make composting easy, so there’s hope I’ll have lots of top-notch fertilizer by the time planting season rolls around.

After making sure the Whirlpool Zera Food Recycler has a carbon filter installed and a plant-based additive to help the breakdown process, dump your food scraps (other than bones and pits) down the chute. In around a week, you’ll have some fertilizer. Of course, it’s Web-connected so you can monitor and operate it remotely.

The device will retail for $1,199, though crowdfunding backers can still grab one for $899. That seems like a lot for a composter, even a smart one, so as much as I appreciate the idea and want to be more environmentally conscious, I’m not quite sure I’m prepared to sell an arm and a leg for it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Mulched Orange Peels

Vibration Station

I make regular trips to the movies and yet have never tried one of the 4D seats. I don’t much see the point in paying an extra $5 to feel some vibrations in my seat at the theater.

It seems odd then, that I’d welcome Immersit’s Vibes into my home. It’s a pair of pads you place under your couch and connect to your TV or other audio source. When those bass tones and high frequencies hit, you’ll feel them as the pads vibrate.

Immersit Vibes

I don’t especially need a little extra immersion to completely enjoy a movie, show or game. Just the experience of the thing itself is usually enough.

Then again, I do enjoy the vibration effect of my PlayStation 4 controller when it’s appropriately used in a game, and I would not at all mind trying out Vibes. If I have any body parts left to offer in trade, that is.

Logitech K375s Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard and Stand Combo Launched at Rs. 1,995

Logitech has launched its K375s multi-device wireless keyboard and stand combo in India, which will be made available for purchase from Logitech.com from Monday, December 26. As the name implies, the full-sized keyboard allows users to switch between multiple devices – up to three paired devices at a time – whenever required.

Logitech K375s Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard and Stand Combo Launched at Rs. 1,995The company says that as the keyboard can pair with several devices, it will help users stay connected across their preferred devices and platforms. “The K375s Multi-Device lets you easily switch between devices with the push of a button. You can start typing on your computer and finish an email message on your tablet or create a text on your phone with just one key. The full-size layout and special function keys provide a quiet and comfortable typing experience in a spill-resistant design,” Logitech said.

Apart from providing the option to switch between devices, the the Logitech K375s keyboard comes with a universal stand that helps users to keep their mobile device at the right typing angle and hence makes the typing faster, smoother, and more convenient, said Logitech’s Cluster Category India Head Ashok Jangra.
“The separate universal stand has a soft rubber base and a carefully designed cradle that holds mobile devices at the ideal angle to read or type. And, the keyboard is OS-adaptive, so whether you’re using Windows PC, Android or iPhone, the keyboard layout is familiar,” the company said in a statement announcing the Logitech K375s’s India launch.
The keyboard comes with a non-rechargeable battery that lasts up to two years, as per company’s claims. The Logitech K375s multi-device wireless keyboard has a wireless range of 33 feet. There is a wireless encryption between the keyboard and the computer and users can either use the company’s Unifying USB receiver or Bluetooth Smart tech to pair the devices.

Amkette EvoTV 2 4K Media Streaming Box Launched at Rs. 7,499

In April earlier this year, Amkette launched its media streaming device EvoTV 2 in India. Now the company has launched the upgraded version of its device with 4K resolution support for the country. The upgraded EvoTV 2 streaming box – called the EvoTV 2 4K – has been priced by the company at Rs. 7,499 but will be available at a launch price of Rs. 6,499 for a limited time exclusively through Snapdeal.

Amkette EvoTV 2 4K Media Streaming Box Launched at Rs. 7,499The EvoTV 2 4K runs on optimised Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and comes with 8GB of internal memory which is expandable up to 128GB. The streaming box comes with 1GB of DDR3 RAM. In terms of connectivity options, it has four USB ports, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and an Ethernet port.

“The built in Chrome Browser lets you browse your favourite sites. Install Skype and connect a camera to connect with loved ones or to host your business meetings. Install Gmail, or PowerPoint and connect a Bluetooth keyboard to enable productivity like you never imagines. The small and easy to carry device is essentially a PC in your pocket,” the company said in its release. The Evo TV 2 4K is capable of handling frame rate up to 60 frames per seconds, which company says is double compared to ordinary set-top boxes.

“We at Amkette have always worked towards creating products and solutions that caters to the needs of the users. EVO TV was one such innovative product that we had introduced in India, way ahead of time. With time, we have given a boost to the hardware, ensuring that the consumers enjoy seamless experience. Lately 4k viewing has taken the television/smart TV ecosystem to another level and we felt our users should enjoy this experience. This new device is faster, smarter and gives users a more stunning view. I am confident that the users would love this new, upgraded EVO TV experience,” Rajiv Bapna, director at Amkette, was quoted as saying in company’s release.