Archive for the 'Hardware' Category

Jun 06 2023

First thoughts on the Apple Vision Pro

Published by under Hardware,Software,Thoughts

From a pure technical perspective, the freshly introduced Apple Vision Pro might be a very interesting and impressive piece of technology. It could be the first product that does Augmented Reality (AR) “right” – even though this product, naturally, only plays well with the rest of the Apple ecosystem and does not even bother to integrate with other industrial or office platforms.

Apple only showed a fistful of usecases, and those usecase only interest their usual target audience: The “creatives” that most of the time work alone somewhere. And content consumers, of course, who need a new way to consume their AppleTV and Disney+ subscription – somewhere.

Unlike when Microsoft introduced HoloLens, Apple did not show how this product could be used in an actual factory or during an actual surgery. Or in the cockpit of an airplane. Or, gasp, on a battlefield. The thing is: Back in the day, Microsoft showed what the HoloLens can do for real people in the real world at real workplaces in real situations where the product can actually help and be actually useful.

In Apple’s world, the Vision Pro is a compact, mobile home theatre that can also do the occasional video call in which you can also look at a presentation. Or play a game – even with a Sony PS5 controller.

But only adults with a (home office, remote) job can play games. They did not show children or adolescents using the device. Simply because the gadget at 3500 USD (without taxes) is way too expensive – and too fragile – for that audience, so they know that those kids won’t ever get one.

Of course, the device is also not outdoor compatible at all. With an expected max battery life of two hours, where the battery is even connected via a cable, you won’t be using the thing somewhere outdoors. First of all, you couldn’t use it long enough, secondly you would look like an idiot and thirdly, you would be way to afraid to break the expensive thing.

Just as they’ve shown, this thing was designed for being used in your home, on your couch or bed, maybe at a desk. It was designed for “affluent” First World customers that no longer leave their home and who already have everything else. The Vision Pro will make it even simpler to isolate oneself from the world. Maybe that really is a product we scared and rich members of Western civilizations need more than ever.

But in the Western hemisphere, there’s a gigantic majority of people who will never ever use a product like the Apple Vision Pro. For example all the homeless people that currently inhabit the streets of San Francisco, not far from Apple’s HQ who cannot even afford to rent a place in that city anymore, even though some of them still go to work every day. For them, as outlined in the novel READY PLAYER ONE, a device like this could be an escape from their hopeless reality, it could be “a place to go”. But not at that price tag, and not with an industrial design that only allows for using the thing within the safety of your bedroom.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the industry will respond to the concept of this gadget. Without a doubt, the hard- and software of the Vision Pro are ahead of other AR headsets on the market and there certainly are many use cases for it beyond the realms of entertainment, 3D photography and video conferencing. The next incarnation of the product will probably also address the ridiculous battery “solution” that Apple came up with for the initial product version. Heck, maybe version 2 will even be useable outdoors. But as we know Apple, it still won’t be affordable for average people who live in the real world and only make an average or low income working real jobs. You know, those folks who sell you your coffee at Starbucks or who flip your burger at McDondald’s. Or who take away your trash or who make your bed in your hotel room or the janitor who fixes the broken lightbulb for you. The wage slaves who work at the sweat shop that produces these expensive gadgets that they could never afford to buy with the salary they make in that shitty place.

But this all just fits with the way the product was even introduced and presented: Rich white people who have completely lost touch with the reality of the world were singing the praises of a new toy whose main purpose seems to be to allow wealthy people to consume (preferably woke) Disney+ content. Very obviously, no thought was wasted on how such a product could also improve the lives of the worker bees, the disabled, the handicapped and the not so fortunate.

The Vision Pro lacks actual vision.



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Nov 12 2020

Xbox Series X

Published by under Games,Hardware,Software

Yes, I was lucky to place a pre-order on Amazon, and yes, I’ve received my Xbox Series X on Tuesday, Nov 10, 2020.

It’s a very quiet console – unless you play a 4K UHD Bluray disc. Normal Blurays are fine and quiet. “The Predator” was nice to watch. “The Martian Extended Edition 4K UDH” however is quite noisy – you can hear the drive quite clearly. The same happens on an Xbox One X, though.

Okay, watching BluRay discs might not be the reason why you buy a next-gen console.

The only game that I currently own that has a native Xbox Series X/S version is Gears 5, which uses Raytracing in this upgraded version. And even though I first thought that it wouldn’t make a difference: After an hour or two in the game, I must confess that my initial perception was wrong. The game looks a LOT better, even on a Full HD display. And it runs buttersmooth. 

Another difference that I feel is the load time: Everything on the Series X loads much faster.

Especially in AC Odyssey, for example, that really, really makes a difference. Go visit Atlantis in AC Odyssey on an Xbox One X and then on a Series X. The difference is huge. One the One X, there will be an occasional stutter; on the Series X that just doesn’t happen. Ever.

But generally, if all you currently own or play are “legacy” games for Xbox 360 or Xbox One/Xbox One X, the load time is the main difference that you will notice. The Xbox One and One X were already quiet or even noiseless. The visuals will be exactly the same on the Series X.

Does it make sense to buy an Xbox Series X right now when you already own an Xbox One X? They nick-named the One X “the beast” for a reason. Unless you have Series X/S optimized games, the truthful answer is: No, not really, yet. The main difference will be the SSD, the games themselves, however, will feel and play the same. You might want to wait until there are more Series X/S optimized games on the market and maybe in a year or so from now buy the Series X with a nice next-gen game bundle when she goes on sale for the first time.

Does it make a difference when you use the console on a Full HD display/TV? Yes, but the experience varies depending on where you’re coming from or whether you have Series X/S optimized games. When your previous console was an Xbox 360, Xbox One or Xbox One S, it will be a major upgrade. The Xbox One X and Series X internally render the games at 4K resolution and then the game will get downscaled to Full HD. So a game will still look much better when it’s One X enhanced or Series X optimized.

Does it make sense to upgrade to the Series X when you own an Xbox One/One S or an even older Xbox? Hell, yes. See above — everything loads significantly faster and the games are rendered internally on a 4K resolution even if you only connect a Full HD or lower resolution display. Xbox One X enhanced games will look gorgeous. And again, on the Series X, framerate drops will be a thing of the past. Truth be told, though, if you find one on sale for 250 bucks or so, even at this point in time an upgrade to the One X would still be absolutely recommendable and significantly improve your gaming experience. The One X is an amazing piece of hardware and coming from a previous Xbox model, you will fall in love with it. The Series X, however, is like a One X on steroids and the future of console gaming. A game like AC Odyssey might already be pushing a One X to her limits; for a Series X, it’s a warming-up excercise.

The biggest thing you should keep in mind is: This is Microsoft. This is Xbox. We have Smart Delivery. You buy a game now, you’ll get the Series X of the game whenever it is available. You won’t lose any money. You have access to basically all games that were ever published for the original Xbox, the Xbox 360, the Xbox One and the Xbox One X. You can easily hop between generations.

Microsoft does not believe in next-gen-exclusive titles. For them, Xbox is a platform spanning multiple different hardware platforms: From PC over older Xbox consoles to the latest consoles and then, finally, their streaming service. For the foreseeable future, there won’t be any games that only run on the latest and greates Xbox console; by definition, you will be able to play new games on whatever hardware –you– have.

If you’re not sure whether you want to buy the Series X, even though she definitely is an amazing piece of equipment, you can safely wait with the upgrade until there are more Xbox Series X/S titles on the market that really interest you: You will lose nothing while you’re waiting. That’s the beauty of being in the Xbox ecosystem.

And no, I neither work for Microsoft nor does Microsoft pay me to write this. But the Xbox platform is something that Microsoft really, really got right. They’ve nailed it – and in all these years, I’ve never felt let down as an Xbox customer.

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