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Tech News

Google’s algorithm misidentified an engineer as a serial killer

Google’s algorithmic failures can dreadful consequences, from directing racist search terms to the White House in Google Maps to labeling Black people as gorillas in Google Photos.

This week, the Silicon Valley giant added another algorithmic screw-up to the list: misidentifying a software engineer as a serial killer.

The victim of this latest botch was Hristo Georgiev, an engineer based in Switzerland. Georgiev discovered that a Google search of his name returned a photo of him linked to a Wikipedia entry on a notorious murderer.

“My first reaction was that somebody was trying to pull off some sort of an elaborate prank on me, but after opening the Wikipedia article itself, it turned out that there’s no photo of me there whatsoever,” said Georgiev in a blog post.

[Read: Why entrepreneurship in emerging markets matters]

Georgiev believes the error was caused by Google‘s knowledge graph, which generates infoboxes next to search results.

He suspects the algorithm matched his picture to the Wikipedia entry because the now-dead killer shared his name.

Georgiev is far from the first victim of the knowledge graph misfiring. The algorithm has previously generated infoboxes that falsely registered actor Paul Campbell as deceased and listed the California Republican Party’s ideology as “Nazism”.

In Georgiev’s case, the issue was swiftly resolved. After reporting the bug to Google, the company removed his image from the killer’s infobox. Georgiev gave credit to the HackerNews community for accelerating the response.

Other victims, however, may not be so lucky. If they never find the error — or struggle to resolve it — the misinformation could have troubling consequences.

I certainly wouldn’t want a potential employer, client, or partner to see my face next to an article about a serial killer.

Greetings Humanoids! Did you know we have a newsletter all about AI? You can subscribe to it right here.



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Computing

Windows 11 Has a Killer Multitasking Feature You Need to Try

Windows 11 is coming soon, and there’s a lot that I like about it. After trying out a “preview” of Windows 11, I mentioned 11 things that excite me the most, including the new Start Menu and the centered Taskbar.

Yet there’s one killer feature that is the highlight of them all. The feature seems to be known as window grouping in its current state, and it makes me pumped for what’s next for Windows.

A journey from an app

Multitasking in Windows has always been a feature that sets it apart from MacOS and Chrome OS. A feature known as “snap assist” lets you snap your apps side by side with a keyboard combination, or hovering the window to a specific side of the screen. Basically, hit Windows key and left, and the app moves to the left. Windows key and right, and it goes right. Or, hover and hold the window right to move that window right and see a suggestion for a window on the left.

That already worked great as it is, and MacOS lacks such a native feature.  However, Microsoft took that further with the free Power Toys app in Windows 10, which lets you set “Fancy Zones” for your apps to make multitasking easier. You can create your own zones and grid of apps, set a canvas of apps, adjust the spacing around the grid of apps, and more. It was multitasking on steroids.

Windows 11 builds on that with some new window grouping controls, now native to the operating system, without the need for any apps.

Enter window grouping

Window grouping in Windows 11 is a real killer feature. It’s not as complete as Power Toys, but it is inspired by that app’s ability to tile windows easier. How do you use it? Well, it’s as simple as hovering over the maximize button. No more need to use a keyboard shortcut or even drag your window around. No need to download Power Toys, even.

Once you hover, with any other open apps in the background you’ll see one of six ways that you can tile the window. You can either tile side by size at an even length, side by side with one side bigger, straight down the middle with each being a vertical column, straight down the middle with the middle one being bigger, and other choices. You even can group the windows in a four-square grid, just like the Microsoft Logo.

The new Windows 11 window grouping features.

Why is this so useful and exciting? Well, it’s because a lot of displays on laptops are getting bigger. With manufacturers moving away from 16:9 to the 3:2 aspect ratio, and the 16:10 aspect ratio, which has more room for multitasking, this lets you fit more on your screen at once. Especially for ultra-wide monitors. It’s now even easier to stay in your multitasking workflow.

Makes your taskbar easier to understand

At the moment it looks like this Windows 11 feature is still a bit limited, but it does help clean up the Taskbar a bit.  In Windows 11, the Taskbar remembers any windows you’ve snapped through window groups and puts them together as one. This helps clean things up, keeping the bottom area of the screen clean, as it often is in MacOS and even ChromeOS.

Plus, it makes getting back to the apps you care about most easier. Yes, you’ll still see the app individually in the Taskbar as it is in Windows 10 if you hover the mouse. However, now you’ll also see the group it is paired with, allowing you to pull it up with the click of a mouse.  It’s a really good change, and shows that next-generation windows will be a productivity powerhouse.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

A quantum physics lullaby to ward off your killer robot nightmares

The reports of humanity’s imminent demise at the hands of sentient killer robots have been greatly exaggerated.

Based on the current state of artificial intelligence – that is, it’s really good at sifting through data and it can usually tell the difference between a dog and a cat – we don’t have to worry about “conscious” AI anytime soon.

I put “conscious” in quotes because, as every article you’re likely to read on the subject will point out, we don’t really understand consciousness.

There’s a contingency of experts who believe consciousness manifests in specialty organisms and there’s an emergent group who feels that everything – and they mean everything – is conscious.

The idea that consciousness only exists in certain entities is a fun one: it means we’re the cosmos’ special little people. And that makes us very, very important.

But let’s take a gander at the idea that doesn’t make us the center of the known universe too, just for fun: Panpsychism.

This snippet from an article by Caroline Delbert at Popular Mechanics does a fantastic job of explaining what universal consciousness could be:

The resulting theory is called integrated information theory (IIT) … In IIT, consciousness is everywhere, but it accumulates in places where it’s needed to help glue together different related systems.

The revolutionary thing in IIT … it’s that consciousness isn’t biological at all, but rather is simply this value, phi, that can be calculated if you know a lot about the complexity of what you’re studying.

If your brain has almost countless interrelated systems, then the entire universe must have virtually infinite ones. And if that’s where consciousness accumulates, then the universe must have a lot of phi.

I don’t know about phi, but if the universe itself is where consciousness is derived: that’s probably bad news for AI. At least under its current paradigm.

Simply put: non-algorithmic intelligence would be the baseline norm in a universe where consciousness manifested as a result of systemic perturbation. That’s another way of saying that the only reason we have free will is because you can’t brute-force consciousness using algorithms.

This is because the existence of algorithmic-consciousness would indicate that you could determine exactly what any given consciousness would do in perpetuity, if you could simply recreate the algorithms it runs on. And that means there’s no such thing as free will: we’d basically all just be pre-determined intelligence systems executing our code.

But this doesn’t really fit in with our experience of reality or the theory of universal consciousness. We appear to be quantum creatures. Our brains can surface thoughts based on a theoretically near-infinite number of parameters. And the amount of compute it would take in a binary system to imitate this could be unfathomable.

Have you ever tried to remember the name of a song or TV character for weeks and then had that memory triggered by a taste or smell? Ever made up a silly rhyme to help you memorize something for a test? This is evidence of the vast interconnected quantum neural network operating inside your skull. This indicates we’re probably operating as nonalgorithmic-consciousnesses.

If intelligence and consciousness are manifestations of quantum mechanics, it could very well be impossible to recreate them in a binary system.

So, the the bad news is that you’re unlikely to have a truly-alive robot pal anytime soon. We’ve only just begun to dabble in quantum computing, and if you believe the universal consciousness theory: we’re probably a very long way away from general quantum AI and cracking the consciousness code.

The good news is that this would also mean there’s almost no chance an AI will become sentient and decide to create killer robots to murder us all so the machines can rule the Earth.

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Computing

AMD Radeon RX 6800M Review: Is This AMD’s RTX 3080 Killer?

AMD is the only chip company that can power both the CPU and discrete GPU in a gaming laptop, and it’s finally starting to take advantage of that fact.

The company announced three new Radeon mobile GPUs, the RX 6800M, 6700M, and 6600M, as well as the ways these cards work in tandem with AMD processors.

How do they stack up? Well, I checked out the Asus ROG Strix G15, which came with both the RX 6800M and the Ryzen 9 5900HX. Is the AMD Advantage real, or is Nvidia still the king of gaming laptops?

Specs

These new graphics cards are based on RDNA 2, which is AMD’s second-generation graphics architecture. This is the same architecture that supported the excellent RX 6000-series desktop graphics, and now that same highly efficient performance is coming to gaming laptops for the first time.

AMD says RDNA 2 enables 1.5x performance gen-over-gen, helping push into higher resolutions for the first time on AMD graphics cards. Here’s how the specs break down for the three new cards:

AMD Radeon RX 6800M AMD Radeon RX 6700M AMD Radeon RX 6600M
Compute units 40 36 28
Game clock 2300MHz 2300MHz 2177MHz
Memory 12GB GDDR6 10GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6
Infinity cache 96MB 80MB 32MB
Power 145w 130w 80w
Architecture RDNA 2 RDNA 2 RDNA 2

As you can see, the RX 6800M and 6700M are closer in how they’re configured than between the 6700M and the 6600M. The RX 6800M has just 10% more compute units than the 6700M, and the 6700M has 22% more compute units than the 6600M. The differences in cache and wattage are also significant.

This sticks pretty closely to what Nvidia has done with its RTX 30-series lineup, though Nvidia has more cards in the stack to fill in the gaps, such as the RTX 3060 Ti.

Speaking of comparisons to Nvidia, the extra video memory on the 6800M and 6700M should come in handy during games. While 8GB was the standard in previous years, games are often able to use that extra video memory these days.

Laptop portfolio and design

The Asus ROG Strix G15 is among the first laptops to use these RX 6000-series graphics cards. It is a midrange gaming laptop with a focus on esports and high frame rates. The laptop has always been inspired by racing and sports, and the look is far from subtle. There are splashes of red, interesting design flourishes around the hinge and on the lid, and textured surfaces throughout.

It also features an oversized back end, where some of the ports and large vents are located. Of course, the laptop’s most noticeable design feature is the strip of light under the chassis that splashes RGB across your desk. It’s handy, though it makes the footprint of the laptop much larger.

The ROG Strix G15 also features a 1080p screen with a 300Hz refresh rate and a 3 millisecond response time. AMD says there will be options for 1440ps screens as well.

Of course, the ROG Strix G15 isn’t the only laptop to support AMD’s new graphics cards. The HP Omen 16 is another example AMD has pointed to that uses AMD on both CPU and GPU.

While AMD supports configurations that employ its own graphics with Intel processors, it’s not a combination we’ve seen happen very often. So far, it appears that many of the AMD laptops that will implement these new graphics cards will be paired with AMD processors.

There’s much more that can be said about the Asus ROG Strix G15, but it’s beyond the scope of this review. Let’s focus on the performance, which is where the Radeon RX 6800M comes into play.

Performance

In the past, the ROG Strix G15 has been configurable with up to an Nvidia RTX 2070, which was the second most powerful graphics card in Nvidia’s lineup at the time. The last time I reviewed the laptop, though, it came with a weaker Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti.

So, where does AMD’s selection of graphics cards fit into the stack? Well, my review unit came with the Radeon RX 6800M, which is the most powerful mobile graphics card in AMD’s stack.

According to AMD’s own slides, it’s supposed to compete with the RTX 3080 for the title of the most powerful laptop graphics you can buy. AMD shows it slightly beating the RTX 3080 in games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Resident Evil: Village.

The results from my testing, though, haven’t been so clear-cut.

I’ll start with the good news. The RX 6800M in the ROG Strix G15 benchmarks quite strongly in 3DMark. In both Time Spy and Fire Strike, the RX 6800M beats out the RTX 3080 by as much as 13%, tested here against the MSI GS66 Stealth. It’s also a significant leap over the RX 5000-series. While I was never able to benchmark the 5800M, there appears to be a staggering difference between generations in terms of performance.

ROG Strix G15 (Radeon RX 6800M) MSI GS66 Stealth (RTX 3080) Dell G5 SE (Radeon RX 5600M)
3DMark Time Spy 10504 9097 6323
3DMark Fire Strike 26800 19175 14949
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla 77 70 n/a
Battlefield V 109 117 n/a
Fortnite 108 140 85
Civilization VI 150 149 79

When I started testing game performance, though, results were less conclusive. The Radeon RX 6800M excelled in some titles, such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, beating out the RTX 3080. 77 fps at max settings is among the best frame rates I’ve tested on a gaming laptop in that heavy benchmark. Meanwhile, it just about matched the RTX 3080 in Civilization VI at 150 fps — again, at max settings.

Performance was less impressive on the lighter, esports titles and first-person shooters I tested. The Strix G15 was far behind the MSI GS66 Stealth in both Battlefield V and Fortnite, both games that benefit strongly from higher frame rates. AMD was unable to verify that these frame rates matched its expectations for performance.

However, I got the feeling the mixed bag of results was a fault of the implementation, not necessarily the raw strength of the graphics card. I toggled between the default “Performance” and “Turbo” modes in the Armoury Crate Asus software, which allows you to set different performance profiles. Sometimes, switching to Turbo made a world of difference and sometimes it did nothing at all. On average, Turbo got the fans spinning up to 5200 revolutions per minute, whereas Performance mode hovered around 4500rpm.

Take Cyberpunk 2077, for example. My first time bringing up the game, it was barely playable, eking out just 22 fps in High settings. And this is without ray tracing, mind you. I tried changing the settings in Armoury Crate to Turbo, which made the frame rate jump up to 79 fps, which is closer to what AMD quotes in its own testing. But after restarting the game, those numbers all changed, pushing the standard performance mode frame rates up to 67 fps. It left me scratching my head; clearly, not all the kinks have been worked out.

Regardless, a heavy game like Cyberpunk 2077 that utilizes both DLSS and ray tracing is never going to perform on AMD hardware as it does with Nvidia. There’s no getting around that.

Aside from some of the inconsistencies, the ROG Strix G15 kept temperatures in check. It can get loud, but the GPU temperature never rose above 80 degrees Celsius. Exhausting hot air from every possible spot, the surface temperatures were never uncomfortable either. Then again, the ROG Strix G15 is a large, chunky gaming laptop, especially compared to many of the thinner and lighter laptops on the market.

Price and value

Ultimately, it’s hard to argue with a 3DMark Time Spy that high. Clearly, AMD has delivered an RTX 3080-caliber gaming GPU, even if there’s work to be done on this particular system. With some inevitable tweaking, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these wrinkles weren’t ironed out in the coming weeks — and that’s assuming there wasn’t some kind of problem with only my unit. After many days of back-and-forth with AMD, though, we weren’t able to come to a determination about that.

If AMD can fix it, the extreme value of a laptop like the Asus ROG Strix G15 is going to make it an easy buy. This configuration has the Ryzen 9 5900HX, Radeon RX 6800M, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and a 1080p 300Hz screen — all just for $1,650, sold exclusively through Best Buy. It’s not the sleekest gaming laptop in the world, but that’s quite the bargain. It’s the same kind of excellent value that made the Dell G5 SE such a highly recommended laptop.

Don’t think I’m cutting AMD a break here, though. Getting consistent performance out of its products is key, and if it can’t iron out its partnership with laptop manufacturers, its powerful graphics cards are worthless. That’s especially true when AMD is promoting its advantage as a tight interlinking of components within the system.

AMD doesn’t own the whole system — and if it wants its graphics cards to expand beyond the very small selection that currently exists, it has its work cut out for it. If it can do that by the time these laptops start shipping to customers, it just may have a winner on its hands.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Amazon’s 24-hour PC gaming blowout packs deep discounts on killer gear

August was a quiet month for deals on Amazon, but the company is bringing the heat in the closing week before life returns to the usual routine in September. Amazon’s 24-hour Intel Gamer Days sale is offering great prices on monitors, keyboards, laptops, gaming mice, and more.

We sifted through all the deals to identify our top three picks from the sale.

First up is an Acer 23.6-inch 1080p curved gaming display with FreeSync for $150. That’s well below its usual price range, which jumps between $175 and $200. This monitor is rocking a 144Hz refresh rate, but it only supports FreeSync up to 75Hz via DisplayPort or HDMI.

Next is an expensive but solid deal on an Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming PC for $1000, a drop of $200 from its usual price. This clamshell has all the guts you need for an excellent 1080p experience. It packs a six core, twelve thread, 2.6GHz Intel “Coffee Lake” Core i7-9750H, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB NVME SSD. For graphics it’s rocking the GTX 1660 Ti, our favorite pick for high refresh rate 1080p gaming. The screen is a 15.6-inch IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate and a 3 millisecond response time.

True, the SSD is piddly, but there’s an empty hard drive bay if you’d like to slot in a cheap SATA III SSD. Just please, do yourself a favor and don’t put an actual hard drive in there. It’s 2019 and 2.5-inch SSDs with good capacities are cheap.

Finally, improve your home’s access to wired internet with the TP-Link powerline adapter kit for $50, a steep discount from its usual $75 to $90. Powerline adapters use your home’s electrical wiring to deliver Internet access.

There are tons of other deals including a Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse for $35–about $5 cheaper than the special edition we saw yesterday.

[Today’s deal: Amazon’s 24-hour Intel Gamer Days sale.]

Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn’t like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he’s not covering the news he’s working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.

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Computing

This killer Acer Aspire 5 deal gives you a 15.6-inch road warrior for $260

Black Friday has officially begun and the grab-em-while-you-still-can deals at Amazon are fully under way. For example: Right now you can get an Acer Aspire 5 Slim laptop for $260, more than $50 off its most recent price cut and a new all-time low.

This laptop has a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution. It’s packing a dual-core, four thread AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor with a base clock of 2.6GHz and a boost of 3.5GHz. It also has 4GB of RAM, a 128GB NVMe SSD, a backlit keyboard, and Windows 10 in S Mode. (If you don’t like Windows 10 in S mode you can upgrade for free to regular Windows 10, which lets you install traditional desktop apps. This is a one-way upgrade, however, so be sure you want to upgrade before you do it.) For ports, the laptop has one USB 3.1, two USB 2.0, and an HDMI with HDCP support. It has 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Acer says the battery life is about 7.5 hours.

This is a fantastic laptop to take on the road. It’s light, and the price is right so you won’t sweat being a little rough on it. It also has more than enough capabilities for web surfing, productivity, video streaming, and hooking up to a projector for PowerPoint presentations.

[Today’s deal: Acer Aspire 5 Slim for $260 at Amazon]

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn’t like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he’s not covering the news he’s working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.

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Computing

Killer Acer deals: Chromebook for $150, Ryzen Windows laptop for $375

Can you survive with just a Chromebook or do you need the full power of Windows? Either way, there are two Acer laptop deals available that have you covered. Walmart is selling an Acer Chromebook 14 for $150, while Acer’s online retail store has an Acer Swift 3 for just $375.

Both are solid laptops, and if you’re on the hunt for a low-cost portable PC, the decision of which one to get boils down to whether you want Chrome OS or Windows 10.

The Chromebook at Walmart features a 14-inch display with 1366-by-768 resolution, 32GB of onboard storage, and 4GB of RAM. In addition to all the web browsing that Chromebooks were built for, the Acer Chromebook 14 can also run apps from the Android Play Store, and Linux apps if you like. We’d prefer to see a 1080p-resolution display, but for just $150 we’ll take it.

If Chrome OS/Android apps/Linux isn’t your thing, there’s also a Windows notebook available for cheap. The Swift 3 features a four core, eight thread Ryzen 5 3500U Zen+ APU. It has a base clock of 2.1GHz and a boost to 3.7GHz. It’s also rocking 4GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.

The display is 14 inches and has 1080p resolution. It’s packed with a card reader, ethernet, Bluetooth 4.2, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. For ports, it’s rocking one USB 2.0, two standard USB 3.1 Gen 1, and one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port. That’s a great amount of value for less than $400.

[Today’s deals: Acer Chromebook 14 for $150 at Walmart, Acer Swift 3 for $375 at Acer.]

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn’t like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he’s not covering the news he’s working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.

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Computing

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro: 5 killer upgrades Apple delivered (and 5 it didn’t)

After long weeks of leaks and rumors, Apple has unveiled the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, bringing it up to date with the flagship 16-inch model that was released last year. As expected it brings a slew of important upgrades to Apple’s smallest professional notebook, but it still leaves room for improvement.

Here’s what we got in the latest upgrade, and what we still want in the future:

Got: Magic Keyboard

At long last, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a proper keyboard. The much-maligned butterfly keyboard that was noisy and prone to stuck keys and other problems is officially dead and buried. Following the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the most recent MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro sports Apple’s Magic Keyboard, with “a refined scissor mechanism with 1mm travel for a responsive, comfortable, and quiet typing experience.” That alone is worth the upgrade.

Want: High-fi audio

When Apple launched the 16-inch MacBook Pro last year, it brought more than a bigger screen. We also got “a completely redesigned six-speaker, high-fidelity sound system” with studio microphones and “Apple-patented force-canceling woofers [that] use dual opposed speaker drivers to reduce unwanted vibrations that distort sound.” Sadly, the new MacBook Pro has the same old stereo speakers with high dynamic range that sound fine but won’t be rattling any eardrums.

13 inch macbook pro open Apple

The new MacBook Pro looks exactly the same as the old one, but there are lots of improvements inside.

Got: More RAM

When the 13-inch MacBook Pro launched in 2016 with just 8GB of stock RAM, it was the absolute bare minimum needed to call it a professional machine. Nearly three years later, Apple has finally given its micro MacBook Pro an upgrade. While the two lowest models still get 8GB with a $100 16GB option, the higher-end configurations start at 16GB of RAM and are configurable to 32GB of RAM for an extra $400. That’s not quite as high as the 64GB in the 16-inch model, but we’ll take it.

Want: More USB-C ports

You have to spend at least $1,799 to get four USB-C ports on the 13-inch MacBook Pro since the base models still only have two. And Apple hasn’t changed the layout either, so they’re both on the same side, which makes for some tricky cord management.

Got: Twice the storage

Just like the MacBook Air, Apple has doubled the storage on the 13-inch MacBook Pro across the board, so you’ll get 256GB with the entry-level models and 512GB with the higher configurations before you need to spend extra on upgrades. And now you can bump the storage all the way to 4TB on the higher models—but it’ll cost you $1,200 for the pleasure, nearly the cost of another MacBook Pro.

13 inch macbook pro graphics Apple

Sadly, the bezels on the 13-inch MacBook Pro aren’t any skinnier.

Want: Lower price

While Apple lowered the price of the new MacBook Air when it launched last month, the 13-inch MacBook Pro hasn’t gotten any cheaper. It still starts at $1,299 and goes up to $1,999 for standard configurations.

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Tech News

OnePlus 7 Pro review: Not a flagship killer, a flagship contender

Update 10:00 PM ET: The unlocked OnePlus 7 Pro in Mirror Gray and Nebula is now available for purchase in all configurations through the OnePlus site.

The OnePlus 7 Pro is everything a OnePlus phone isn’t supposed to be. It has a better screen than the Galaxy S10+. It has a nicer design than the iPhone XR. And its front camera puts the Pixel 3 XL’s notch to utter shame.

You might notice that those three phones all cost upwards of a thousand dollars, a stark contrast to the $669 7 Pro. But beyond the tremendous value, it’s the first OnePlus phone I’ve used that truly feels like a flagship and not just a premium alternative. The previous OnePlus models all had attractive price tags while still packing top-of-the-line specs, but they never quite measured up to the phones they were challenging. The 6 and 6T were the phones to buy instead of a flagship. With the 7 Pro, OnePlus has made a phone that Samsung and Apple should fear.

It’s so good, in fact, that its deficiencies—namely the lack of wireless charging and IP-rated water resistance, and a camera that doesn’t quite measure up to the Pixel 3 XL’s—seem that much more glaring than they did on previous handsets. But even with those missing features and a few imperfections here and there, the OnePlus 7 is still a worthy entry to premium space. And we may never look at OnePlus the same way again.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best Android phones. Go there for information on competing models and how we tested them. 

Stunning curves and smooth edges

OnePlus introduces a completely new design for the 7 Pro that’s clearly inspired by the Galaxy S10+ and Huawei P30 Pro. Fans of those phones will note the obvious similarities with the “infinity” look, but the curved screen model here doesn’t feel like a mere imitation.

oneplus 7 pro 6t compare Christopher Hebert/IDG

The OnePlus 7 Pro’s curved Fluid AMOLED screen (left) looks even more gorgeous next to the flat-screen 6T.

We hear the term “all-screen” a lot, but the OnePlus 7 nearly lives up to it. The chin and forehead on the 7 Pro are barely-there slivers of black that give the 7 Pro a balanced and luxurious feel, though it bothers my eyes that they’re not quite symmetrical. The aggressively rounded corners of the screen match the body of the phone perfectly. Compared to the 6T’s flat-screen design, the 7 has a luxuriousness that rivals that of the Galaxy S10+ and iPhone XS. Once you run you fingers along its sloped edges, you won’t want to put it down.

The cherry on top: There’s no notch or hole to be found. OnePlus pulls off the 7 Pro’s greatest trick with a pop-up selfie camera that magically rises from the top edge when summoned. The mechanism is smooth, fast, and whisper-quiet, and it gives the phone a real futuristic feel. You probably shouldn’t overdo it, due to the natural tendency for moving parts to break, but you’ll certainly be tempted to.

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Tech News

Oppo announces the ultimate notch killer: an under-screen selfie cam

Smartphones are on a mad dash to eradicate bezels and notches, and already this year we’ve seen pop-up selfies, and flipping rear cams, and hole-punch displays. But now Oppo is showing off what could be the holy grail of notch killers: an under-screen camera.

The China-based smartphone maker unveiled the tech at MWC Shanghai, but it comes with some serious caveats. For one, it’s basically a proof-of-concept, so it isn’t available in a phone just yet and Oppo hasn’t given a time frame for when it will be. For another, it requires heavy lifting behind-the-scenes.

Due to the inherent quality hit with a camera that’s placed under a screen, Oppo says it’s developed algorithms for haze removal, HDR, and white balance to create a selfie cam “that rivals current smartphones in the market today.” That’s not very convincing, but Oppo has lots of time to tweak and refine its computational model, since no other company has announced an in-display camera.

Oppo said the tech “utilizes a customized camera module, an enhanced translucent panel material combined with advanced processing algorithms to take vivid pictures without a notch or motorized camera.” That means Oppo can design a phone with a true edge-to-edge display, something that has thus far eluded smartphone makers.

This isn’t the first time this year Oppo has unveiled breakthrough camera tech. At MWC Barcelona in February, the company showed off a camera with 10X lossless zoom, using an 8.6mm triple-camera system that includes a 48MP main lens and an 120-degree ultra-wide lens along with a 160mm zoom lens. That technology landed in the Oppo Reno phone that began shipping in May. 

However, while an under-screen camera solves what is arguably the biggest obstacle to removing the notch, there is still the issue of proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as facial recognition sensors for secure biometrics.

But those are all things that can be solved down the line. For now, we’re that much closer to removing the notch once and for all, and Pixel 3 XL haters everywhere can begin to rejoice.

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