Logitech G Cloud Gaming Handheld Review

I just uploaded my review of the Logitech G Cloud gaming handheld. It’s great but way too expensive for what it is.

We’ve been covering handheld game systems since the beginning of the channel. Although Nintendo found crazy success in this space, most other attempts have outright failed or were relegated to niche status. Early in Android’s existence there was a major push from Nvidia, HP and others to develop gaming tablets but none lasted very long despite great performance.

So it was a surprise to see Logitech roll out the G Cloud, and even more surprising that they’re not even marketing its capability to run Android games and instead focusing on game streaming services. I wonder if Logitech had any idea Stadia would be wiped out just a week or two before the G Cloud’s release!

The hardware specs are middle of the road here: it’s powered by a Snapdragon 720g processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. It has an SD card slot too but lacks 4G/5G support. Additionally despite it being geared as a streaming device it does not have Wifi 6, just a 2×2 AC WiFi radio. It has a really nice 7 inch IPS 1080p 60hz display that runs at 450 nits of brightness.

But it feels great – its light weight and sculpted hand grips make this much more comfortable to hold than the Nintendo Switch. The G Cloud’s controls feel excellent with silky smooth analog sticks and triggers. Buttons are nicely sized and space too, but there does not appear to be any kind or rumble support.

I tested the G Cloud with Nvidia Geforce Now, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Steam in-home game streaming. With a good WiFi signal all the services worked fine and in line with what I’ve experienced on PCs and other mobile devices. Note that you’ll need to manually set GeForce Now to 1080p at the time of this writing and Xbox Cloud Gaming is currently limited to 720p on Android devices.

If your favorite game is supported by one of these services you’ll get significantly greater battery life than what you’d normally experience with a Steam Deck for example. Logitech says about 12 hours but I think a more realistic target is about 10 with the display at moderate to full brightness.

Although Logitech barely mentions this in their marketing, the G Cloud is a full-on Android gaming device. The Google Play store is visible front and center when you first boot it up and a bulk of the Android game library (including game emulators) will run on it. But many of the popular Android games (like PubG and Genshin Impact) do not support game controllers on Android.

Gaming performance is fine for Android titles and surprisingly good for emulators. As you’ll see in my video review it runs Dreamcast titles pretty much flawlessly with the Redream emulator and was able to run some of the lower impact Gamecube games with the Dolphin emulator at full speed. More demanding Gamecube titles will likely not be playable.

All in it’s great to see a major brand try to reinvigorate the Android handheld market even if they don’t market it that way. Unfortunately I think the G Cloud’s price tag and narrow marketing is going to limit the market for this and ultimately lead to another false start.

Fire Testing the IOSafe 220+ NAS!

Every couple of years the folks from IOSafe reach out for me to review one of their fireproof and waterproof NAS devices. Their NAS’s actually incorporate the guts of a Synology inside, so you get a pretty robust software package to match its battle ready hardware.

One thing we’ve never done was actually test its fire worthiness. You’ll find a number of examples on YouTube of various burn tests, including this great one from Linus Tech Tips, but most of those involved placing the NAS in a fire for a short duration as opposed to exposing it to high heat over a longer period of time.

So I reached out to the Essex Fire Department here in Essex, CT who offered us the opportunity to tag along on one of their training exercises. They put the NAS through three rounds of fire training where a fire was lit to high temperature and then put out with water. Each time we moved the NAS around to angle different portions of it towards the area with highes heat.

Each round exposed the NAS to temperatures around 700 degrees Fahrenheit followed by the water from the fire hose to put the fire out. All in the NAS was exposed to fire for approximately 60 minutes. It got so hot that its cooling fan completely melted!

As you’ll see in the video although the NAS hardware is no longer functional the drives inside worked perfectly fine after they were pulled out and placed in another Synology NAS. This is due to the endothermic material used to draw high heat away from the center of the NAS. The drive chamber is also waterproof to prevent extinguishing water from getting inside.

We interviewed the company’s found, Rob Moore, back at CES 2015 to learn more about its design.

Producer Jake and I had a great time putting this piece together. Also a huge thank you to the Essex Fire Department for their help! I set up a YouTube fundraiser to benefit their non-profit that you can find attached to the burn test video but you can also contribute directly to them here.

Fire TV Cube 3rd Generation Review

Amazon released their third generation Fire TV Cube the other day. Whenever Amazon announces a refresh of their high end TV streamer enthusiasts get excited, and every time they’re left disappointed. This time is no exception but it does remain a great choice for general consumers who are invested in the Amazon Alexa eco system.

You can watch my video review of the new cube here.

That’s not to say the new Cube is a bad product. It in fact combines two Amazon products – an Amazon Echo voice assistant and a Fire TV – into a single product. The Cube has a powerful speaker built in that works when the television is off for voice commands. Like other Alexa devices it can control any compatible smart home device.

The Cube can also be instructed to turn on specific devices hooked up to the television and select the proper inputs for those devices. So for example you could ask Alexa for the Xbox and it will properly power everything on and switch the television and/or audio receiver to the right input without picking up a remote control. While some of the Fire TV Sticks can accomplish the same tasks it does require picking up a voice remote to do it.

The Cube does have an HDMI input that’s designed to be used as a cable box passthrough. This is for simplicity for those challenged by having multiple devices connected to their television, allowing for the Cube and the cable box to work through a single input on the television.

It’ll also upconvert other sources plugged into that HDMI port to a 4k output resolution but my preference is to set things at their native resolutions and have my television’s built in scaler handle the job. Note that it’s not ideal for upscaling game consoles as the video processing does introduce some latency.

Amazon added Wifi 6E support to the Cube which performs well but not all that much better than what we experienced recently on the Fire TV Stick 4k Max. You will of course need a WiFi 6E access point or router to take full advantage of the enhanced networking performance. But it is of course backwards compatible with older WiFi standards.

Beyond that the Cube largely does what other TV boxes and sticks do: stream video from streaming services. It supports 4k HDR modes including HDR10, 10+, HLG and Dolby Vision. It also supports Dolby Atmos audio from supported providers. You’ll find most if not all of the popular streaming apps available on the cube. At least for now.

So the bottom line for most consumers is that if you’re heavily invested in the Amazon smarthome ecosystem the Cube will give you both Echo and Fire TV functionality in a single box with app performance that justifies its price point.

But why are enthusiasts disappointed? It’s because it doesn’t have quite enough built in.

The first involves its networking. Enthusiasts like to plug their devices directly into Ethernet for the best performance. The Cube has an ethernet port but it maxes out at 100 megabits per second. Most boxes that are in the Cube’s price range like the Apple TV and Nvidia Shield have gigabit ethernet. While most streaming services max out at around 40 megabits per second even with 4k broadcasts, many enthusiasts stream higher bit rate video with their home servers that require more than 100 megabits per second of bandwidth. Amazon also went with a slow USB 2.0 port that powers itself off when the box is switched off vs. the faster USB 3 ports we see on most boxes.

Audio support is also a bit flaky on this. The box converts most audio to PCM and does not pass it through directly. This means that movies stored on a personal server that play lossless Atmos or DTS audio will likely have the audio quality degraded by the player and not all surround channels will be activated.

Unlike some Android boxes out there the Cube does have an option for “frame rate switching” where it will switch the frame rate of the television to match the content. Most movies and many streaming shows are shot at 24 frames per second and televisions have special modes to play back that content properly. While it’s nice that it has the option most of the apps I ran on the Cube didn’t support the feature and played back 24p content at 60p. The Cube did do proper framerate switching in Plex, however.

The Cube does not support 64 bit applications just 32 bit ones. While this doesn’t matter much for streaming apps it is a bigger deal for gamers looking to emulate game consoles on the box. Some of the more modern emulators are only available as a 64 bit download. And when Android apps are “sideloaded” on to the Cube they often appear with blank icons. There’s a fairly lengthy process involved with getting those icons to appear properly.

So in many areas the Cube falls short of being an ideal experience. Although the same can be said for most competing boxes too. Which is why we all keep multiples attached depending on the task at hand. We all just want the box that does everything.

But for now my top pick for enthusiasts remains the Nvidia Shield. While it has its own shortfalls what’s amazing is how much Nvidia got right with that box seven years ago. To this day it remains the most graphically powerful Android box on the market.

Pepper Jobs XtendTouch XT1610F V3 Review

We’ve looked at a few products from Pepper Jobs over the years and all of them have been the excellent. They make the best versions of relatively generic electronics you might find on Amazon like mini PCs, remote controls, and portable displays. They do cost a little more than the generics but in exchange the products are of a higher quality and often come pack with more features.

The XtendTouch XT1610F V3 is no exception. On the surface it looks like a run-of-the-mill portable display but its feature set is extensive. For example:

  • It works with a Nintendo Switch without the need for a dock. Although it will not work with the Switch Lite that lacks a video output.
  • It emulates an Apple Magic Trackpad when an Apple machine is connected to it, adding some cool touch functionality.
  • It also works as a touchscreen with Windows and some Linux devices like the Steam Deck
  • It has a full size HDMI port for devices that don’t support USB-C video output along with a battery that can power the display for several hours

You can see all of these different scenarios in the review video:

Because it’s powered by a battery I found it was a bit brighter than some of the USB bus powered displays we’ve looked at previously. While it’s limited to 1080p at 60 hz I did find that its functionality more than made up for its lack of higher resolutions and frame rates.

You can see some other examples of other Pepper Jobs products here.

Orico USB 4 Portable SSD Review – 40 gigabit performance

Hot on the heals of my USB 4 overview video we take a look at an Orico USB 4 drive that supports the new Thunderbolt derived 40 gbps mode. You can watch the video here.

If the artwork looks familiar it’s because it’s based on the artist Piet Mondrian‘s work which has found its way into a variety of products from handbags to furniture.

The drive incorporates an NVME SSD that can take full advantage of the Thunderbolt data bandwidth, delivering north of two gigabytes per second of read and write performance. There doesn’t seem to be any noticeable thermal throttling either even when under load for an extended period of time.

On a Thunderbolt equipped PC or Mac it will appear as a Thunderbolt drive. On Windows you will also need to enable write caching to get its full performance potential. When activating that option be sure to eject the drive properly through the Windows interface before physically removing it to prevent data loss and corruption.

Unfortunately all of this performance comes at a high cost: $349 for the 1TB version and $599 for the 2TB. You can actually build your own version of this using an Orico USB 4 enclosure for less money.

While the drive is backwards compatible with USB 3.x equipped computers the performance will be no different versus other lower cost USB portable SSDs. Also of note is that the USB 4 standard does not require manufacturers offer the 40 gigabit speed option – only the 20 gigabit speed is required to meet the standard. We talk more about the confusing mess that is modern USB in this video.

Tech Gear Holiday Preview in NYC

Last week I attended the Pepcom holiday preview event in NYC. I really look forward to these events as there are usually several dozen tech companies exhibiting in one room which is a great opportunity for networking but also dispatch videos!

This show had 48 exhibitors with a nice mix of established brands and startups. We saw the new Roku branded Wyze smart home products, the new Lenovo gaming Chromebook, a smart watch that has no display (or hands) and a whole bunch of other tech gear.

The next big event like this will be at CES in Las Vegas where there are several hundred companies in a huge ballroom. Our flights and hotel are booked so look for that in early January!

Nreal Air AR / Display Glasses Review

My latest video review is of the Nreal Air display glasses.

I was excited to try these glasses out as I’ve been looking for a portable display that I can wear for watching movies & TV shows on long flights. While these can largely accomplish this goal for many people, like all VR/AR products your individual mileage will vary based on how they fit. And unfortunately these did not fit well for me at all.

First the good: the image is nice and bright and very visible even in a well lit room. The visual quality is pretty good thanks to their use of an OLED display for projection. The glasses also come with a lens cover that blocks out all of the ambient light so you can see nothing but the screen. Because the glasses don’t have a battery they are very light weight vs. a VR headset or similar device. They are powered by the device you plug them into.

I tested these on a variety of devices including an iPad Mini with USB-C connector, a Steam Deck,  a Macbook Air and a number of other USB-C equipped Windows PCs that can output video through their USB-C ports. Everything pops up just as quickly as it does with a traditional monitor. 

But there’s still a lot here that needs work:

1.  If your face doesn’t conform to who Nreal engineered this product for you won’t have a good experience. I tried all three nose pieces included in the box and could not get a comfortable fit. The big problem is that the areas where the image is projected sits slightly above my field of vision when I am seated looking forward.

As a result I had hard time seeing the bottom of the projection especially for vertically oriented tablet and phone screens. But even horizontally aligned screens presented difficulty seeing the very bottom. It would have been better if Nreal offered a way to reduce the size of the projected image which would have helped my situation.

You can see me struggling with fit in this livestream.

2. Compatibility for their augmented reality features is extremely limited to a small number of phones. While I don’t think most people buying these devices are getting them for the AR functionality it’s still important to note as the only way the image can be adjusted is in that AR mode. I’m not sure why they are advertising Steam VR compatbility when it’s clearly not able to do that. 

3. Smartphones will be hit or miss overall. Most Android phones with a USB-C connector don’t output video through the USB-C port so that will limit even mirroring usage to a small number of devices. iPhones and lightning equipped iPads will need to buy two adapters: one from Apple to get an HDMI video output, and another from Nreal to adapt that HDMI output back to USB-C.

The Nreal adapter will also work with other devices that have an HDMI output but not a USB-C port. It is also required for the Nintendo Switch but note the Switch has to be in its dock for this to work which limits the portability significantly. 

Overall this felt very much like a “minimally viable product.” It doesn’t fit everybody, the feature set is lacking, and while its core functionality of providing a wearable display works the image flickers a bit and is not adjustable. 

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 Review

My latest laptop review is of the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 (affiliate link). You can check it out on my YouTube channel here!

This is really a “concept car” for future ThinkPad iterations as it’s very different from the familiar ThinkPad look and feel we’ve come to expect over the past several decades. The Z13 has polished metal edges, a glass haptic clickpad, and a keyboard that feels very much like a mashup of a deep travel ThinkPad keyboard and something from Lenovo’s general consumer laptops.

The trackpad is much improved over Lenovo’s prior attempt at a haptic device. It anticipates gestures much more effectively and gets closer to Apple’s implementation of the technology.

But for those who are accustomed to the trackpoint nub this new input mechanism will take some getting used to. This is because the trackpad lacks the physical buttons found on more traditional ThinkPads making it very difficult to figure out where to place your thumbs. It works but I think a little bump or something that can help users feel their way around would work better.

Performance and battery life are great on this one thanks to the 6000 series Ryzen processors it ships with. Everything from gaming to video editing performed well for a machine lacking a discrete GPU.

The buried lede with this machine though has to be its USB4 connectivity. USB 4 finally brings Thunderbolt compatibility to Ryzen laptops. This allows for connecting external GPUs and other 40 gigabit per second Thunderbolt 3 & 4 devices. You can see more in my video last week about USB 4 which uses this laptop as a demonstrator.

All in this is another nice laptop from Lenovo. Will ThinkPad users buy enough of them to move the ThinkPad brand in a new direction? That I am sure is what Lenovo will be measuring in the months ahead.

The Week Ahead

Another week is upon us!

We had a great cost of shipping giveaway and gadget sale livestream on Saturday afternoon! I spent most of yesterday resetting stuff and packing things up. Due to the Columbus Day holiday here in the USA items will be shipped tomorrow. Be sure to subscribe to my Store Alert email to be notified for when we do the next one! I’m already finding more stuff to sell and give away.

I am actually two videos ahead coming into Monday which is always a good thing. Tonight’s video will be a review of the Lenovo Thinkpad Z13 Gen 1 (affiliate link), a “concept car” of what future Thinkpads might look like. This one already made it into my recent video on USB 4 but in the review we’ll take a look at the rest of the system.

Later in the week we’ll be look at an Orico USB 4 SSD drive that delivers full 40gbps performance on USB 4 and Thunderbolt equipped laptops. You can see the review now on Amazon.

In a few hours I’ll be doing a livestream unboxing and setting up the Nreal Air AR/video glasses. These are supposedly pretty decent and create a private large screen for playing back video (or playing games) from mobile devices and PCs.

Tomorrow I am planning at least two livestreams because it’s Amazon’s big fall Prime Day sale. I’ll be focusing on items that I have on hand that are on sale answering your questions. You can see me live on my Amazon page – I’m planning to start around noonish eastern time and likely will do the second one around 3 or 4 p.m.

Wednesday I’ll be taking a quick trip to NYC for another Pepcom mini trade show. There will be several dozen tech companies there showing off some of their products slated for holiday releases so I hope to have a dispatch video for you on that by Thursday.

After that I hope to get caught up on some other product reviews. Busy week ahead!

More Cores on the Analogue Pocket

The Analogue Pocket, like many of the previous Analogue devices, is the gift that keeps on giving. This is because these consoles are based on FPGA technology that allows for the chips to be reprogrammed on the fly to behave like anything developers can conjure up.

The Pocket is Analogue’s portable system that was able to initially play most of the portable game consoles of the last twenty years like the GameBoy, Game Gear, Atari Lynx, GameBoy Advance, etc. But now that they’ve opened up the system’s architecture a number of other systems are now playable too.

In my latest Pocket update video we take a look at the Neo Geo, NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive cores along with an arcade game. The community is also putting together some other things like an auto-update script that keeps everything up to date with a single click.

Mevo Multicam App Tutorial

My latest video is a new sponsored tutorial series I’m doing for Logitech, the owners of the Mevo streaming camera brand.

As a lifelong video nerd I’m always on the look-out for new and interesting video production tools.

Back in 2016 a little camera called the Mevo hit the market. I reviewed it back then and liked it because it was able to digitally crop and zoom the image to make it look a lot more dynamic than just a static shot. It could even automatically “switch” to the person talking with a medium close up.

Additionally the camera was able to livestream to popular platforms without the need for a PC. All that was needed was a smartphone and it could all work wirelessly thanks to the built in battery on the Mevo camera. I gave it to some friends who run a local news site and were able to add a whole new angle to their news coverage. It is a solid product for people who want more than a static shot but also simplicity.

Just before the pandemic hit Mevo came up with a new camera called the Mevo Start. It added a larger battery and integrated some additional features including the ability to have the camera output via NDI to the network.

One other feature of the Mevo line is to combine multiple cameras into a single production using their Multicam app. Like the single camera version it doesn’t require a PC and can run on a phone or tablet which can then stream it out to a provider and record at the same time.

This first video in the series will go from unboxing to livestream in about 20 minutes! We’ll dive into specific features in future videos in the series. See it here!

Ryzen Finally Gets Thunderbolt Compatibility with USB 4

The other day I got in a Lenovo Z13 Gen 1 (affiliate link) laptop to review. This one is powered by a Ryzen 6850U processor which performs great graphically on its own but of course would do better with an external discrete GPU.

Up until now you really couldn’t get a Ryzen laptop that could support an external GPU because most (if not all) did not have a Thunderbolt port. Thunderbolt uses a USB-C connector but the underlying technology was proprietary to Intel.

Recently Intel opened up the Thunderbolt architecture which allowed the USB IF to incorporate that technology into their USB 4.0 standard. You’ll now see 40&20 gbps USB 4.0 devices which are functionally the same as Thunderbolt devices along with Thunderbolt compatibility on USB 4 equipped computers.

In my latest video I put this compatibility to the test with the Z13 which has two USB 4 ports built in. I plugged in a Thunderbolt SSD, 10 gig ethernet adapter, and capped it off with an external GPU with an Nvidia GTX 1070 installed. Everything worked just as seamlessly as it does on a Thunderbolt equipped Intel PC.

USB remains a confusing mess but this development does help simplify things slightly for those looking to connect Thunderbolt devices. But don’t worry, the USB IF has plans to keep the confusion going with USB 4 2.0. Yes you read that right. We’ll talk more about that on the next Wrapup.

Steam Decks Sell Over a Million?

Gaming on Linux reports that some developers at a KDE conference said that Valve’s Steam Deck has sold over one million units:

Perhaps the biggest bit of info coming out of this is that according to Edmundson, Valve has shipped over a million.  At about 29:45 in the above video in response to a question on it Edmundson said “They have crossed over a million, and they’re still processing back orders”. Valve haven’t actually given out any numbers in public on it yet and Edmundson was not speaking for Valve but still, the answer was pretty confident and clear.

I had to wait awhile for my Steam Deck due to ordering system snafu’s on pre-order day but when it finally did arrive I was not disappointed. Valve did an amazing job on this device across the whole stack: both hardware and software. They also managed to hit a reasonable price tag on it which is no doubt driving so many sales. You can see my full review here:

If these sales figures are true this is by far the most successful hardware product Valve has put together to date. What’s interesting is that it incorporates technologies developed on less than successful products, namely the Steam Controllers and SteamOS / Steam Machines.

I reviewed one of the Steam Machines way back in 2015. While I liked the approach of a dedicated Linux gaming OS and the hardware felt solid, compatibility with Windows games just wasn’t there. I ended up installing Windows on it.

Valve has done a ton of work over the last seven years addressing the compatibility issues with their Proton project, which simplifies the compatibility process and has become so good that most Windows games will run on the Steam Deck and other future devices running Steam OS or other flavors of Linux.

The moral of this story is that even when things fail or fall short of expectations ideas can morph into something better. That’s clearly evident with Valve’s patient approach to the hardware business. Many other VC backed companies would have thrown in the towel years ago.

The Future of 4k on YouTube..

I’m back from a crazy travel period (for now) and getting back to a more normal routine. That means it’s also back to the usual cadence of Weekly Wrapup channel update and topic videos! Check out my latest one here.

This week in addition to talking about an upcoming giveaway and other housekeeping items I did a brief analysis on the potential for YouTube to require a premium subscription for 4k videos.

This topic originated from a Reddit post where a user encountered an “upgrade to premium” next to the 4k resolution option on his smartphone:

Reddit user Ihatesmokealarms

It’s likely this is one of Youtube’s “experiments” where they select a small sample of users and see how they react to a particular option or feature. My guess is that they’re looking to see how many people who get this message upgrade to Premium to determine whether or not this is a direction they should pursue.

I polled my subscribers to see what resolution they watch at, only about a quarter lock their YouTube clients in at 4k. Most opt for the automatic setting or select 1080p. So this likely won’t impact a vast majority users:

Unfortunately YouTube doesn’t include resolution in their analytics so it’s hard to say exactly what my viewership looks like. What I do know is that switching from a 1080p to 4k production workflow did not result in any change to my viewership one way or the other.

With the economy slowing down YouTube will no doubt be looking for new ways to find new sources of steady revenue. They’ll likely be experimenting with a lot of new features/restrictions centered around their subscription-based Premium tier over the next couple of months.

Personally I think YouTube Premium is a great value for users and creators. YouTube just works better without ads (it feels so much faster) and you also get access to the great YouTube Music app with its huge library of music. And YouTube shares a good portion of the subscription revenue their receive with creators.

What surprises me is that YouTube has never put together an affiliate marketing program for YouTube influencers to promote Premium subscriptions. It seems like a no brainer that a platform full of influencers would have something to promote subscriber growth.

Perhaps YouTube makes more on the advertising side of the business and did not want to heavily promote a product that could reduce those revenues. But now that advertising revenue is expected to drop off, perhaps that calculus is changing….

Do You Need a Plex Pass?

While you can do a lot with a Plex server on their free tier, many of the features we cover in my sponsored Plex series require having a Plex Pass (affiliate link).

This month’s sponsored Plex video takes a look at most of the features a Plex Pass brings you so that you can decide whether or not you need one. Plex maintains a full list on their support pages, but it’s always helpful to see how these features work in video form to get a good look at it.

For me the biggest feature is hardware transcoding. This allows you to efficiently stream high bitrate media at lower bitrates suitable for streaming over cellular connections. Plex’s support for hardware transcoding makes this process a seamless one that starts up immediately with minimal processing load.

But there are a bunch of other features too like downloads for offline viewing, DVR functionality with a TV tuner, a cool music player called Plexamp and more.

Learn more in the video!