ATSC 3.0 Patent Fight Continues – Industry Tells the FCC to Stay out of It

The FCC’s ATSC 3.0 docket lit up this week with stakeholders urging the FCC to stay out of a patent dispute that threatens the emerging over the air television standard. I summarized some of these filings in my latest video.

Here’s the background: a few weeks ago LG announced they were removing ATSC 3.0 tuners from their new televisions. This decision came as the result of lawsuit that found LG in violation of a patent owned by a small company called Constellation Designs. This was a significant development because LG is one of the key partners who helped developed the ATSC 3 standard, and the patent covers how the ATSC 3 broadcast signal works.

In announcing their decision, LG asked the FCC to seriously consider enforcing “reasonable and non-discriminatory” (RAND) practices for all patents related to the ATSC 3.0 standard. RAND terms ensure that even if a technologies that make up the standard are developed by competing companies everybody is treated equally and fairly when it comes to licensing that technology to implement the standard.

In the case of ATSC 3.0 there are patent pools that roll-up all of the patents with each manufacturer paying a very reasonable fee to license everything. You can learn more in my video on the topic.

RAND practices have been a part of the ATSC 1.0 standard from the beginning, with the FCC adding them to the regulation in 1996. But with ATSC 3.0, broadcasters and TV makers asked the FCC to allow them to regulate RAND behavior outside of government regulation. This means that the ATSC 3.0 standards body, not the FCC, enforces RAND requirements.

The only penalty for not complying is getting kicked out of the ATSC association. But in the recent patent case against LG, Constellation Designs was never a part of the association in the first place so they had nothing to lose. And now Constellation Designs will collect royalties for their single patent that are 6 times higher than the cost for licensing the entire patent pool.

The industry’s response to LG’s suggestion of FCC regulation of RAND practices is one of vehement opposition. The National Association of Broadcasters, the Consumer Technology Association, One Media LLC (a subsidiary of Sinclair broadcasting) and even one of the patent pool administrators all registered their strong opposition. They believe that the transition to ATSC 3.0 should remain voluntary and market-based even with the risk of patent trolls coming out of the woodwork.

So, what’s next for the ATSC 3.0 patent fight? I think it’s likely that one of the ATSC principles will buy Constellation Designs to remove them from the equation. However, the threat of other potential patent holders finding their way to court remains. Without regulation around the RAND requirement, there’s room for groups to exploit potential loopholes – especially as there is no penalty from patent holders outside the ATSC group from suing.

For now, LG will wait things out as they file an appeal and perhaps hope for a friendly suitor for Constellation Designs. Until then, their new televisions won’t have ATSC 3.0 tuners.

As this story unfolds, I’ll be here to keep you informed. Stay tuned for more updates on this evolving topic.

ATSC 3.0 DRM Absurdity Continues with Zapperbox’s DRM Plans

I just received the below email from Zapperbox .. Apparently it will soon allow for decrypting DRM protected over the air TV channels.

BUT – existing customers need to have Zapperbox customer service log in remotely and unattended to enable it. Yes – you essentially open full control to your Zapperbox (an Android TV device underneath) and give a stranger full and unattended access at at a time that’s convenient to them.

Presumably they have some root level control of it too. I’m more than a bit nervous about that since they don’t tell you when they’ll be accessing it or what kind of access their customer service representatives will have to the device or your local network.

And after that ? You guessed it – you need an active Internet connection to watch over the air TV. And it won’t record DRM protected channels initially. A future firmware update will not require an internet connection they say. But in the near term, Internet will once again be required to watch over the air television using an antenna.

If you’re curious about the Zapperbox you can see my initial review here. I’ll be updating my box to the DRM capability and will do a followup soon.

My iPhone “In the Field” Video Production Set Up!

Every so often, I venture out of my usual workspace to cover events in person like last week’s Pepcom New York City tech event. My workflow for these events has evolved significantly as portable video technology has improved.

These events used to be a two person job using a much larger camcorder, but a year or two ago I switched to a GoPro that allowed me to operate as a “one man band.” For my latest trip I experimented with using my iPhone 15 Pro Max which has superior video options versus the GoPro.

You can see how I used it in my latest video. I also have a list of everything I used up on Amazon (compensated affiliate link).

The iPhone’s versatility, especially with its camera options, make it an attractive alternative to the GoPro. The iPhone boasts ultrawide, standard, and telephoto cameras, providing a range of shooting possibilities along with the ability to switch between them even while recording. The video quality, particularly the ability to capture fine details, is a significant advantage over the GoPro. The iPhone’s optical and digital stabilization features also do a great job keeping things smooth and steady.

The foundation of my setup is a small Manfrotto “pixi” tripod, which doubles as a handle. This tripod’s adaptability make it easy to switch between handheld and stationary shots. To secure my phone, I used the Glif, a robust phone mount that I’ve come to trust over the years. Its sturdy construction ensures the phone remains in place, regardless of movement or angle. Unfortunately the Glif has been sold out for quite awhile and I’m uncertain if its manufacturer, Studio Neat, intends to make more of them.

Lighting is crucial for any shoot. I employed an old Lite Panels LED light that I’ve had for well over a decade. Its brightness and compact size, powered by AA batteries, make it a reliable choice.

Sound quality is paramount, and for that, I turned to the Sennheiser AVX handheld mic. Its reliability in congested areas, like trade shows, is unmatched. The cardioid head I added to the mic better isolates my voice from the surrounding noise, ensuring clear audio in the final footage. Note that the AVX handheld comes with an omnidirectional head. You can see an example of both microphones in a trade show environment here:

However, connecting the microphone to the iPhone presented a challenge. The iPhone’s lack of a headphone jack meant I had to use an Anker USB-C to headphone adapter, coupled with a TRS to TRRS adapter. This setup ensured seamless audio integration with the video.

While shooting, I primarily used the iPhone’s standard camera app. The absence of audio monitoring meters was a minor inconvenience, but the overall experience was smooth. The transition between shots, especially when switching from a subject to myself, was slightly rocky, but manageable. In terms of storage, the iPhone’s 256GB capacity was more than sufficient for the footage which I was recording with the phone’s HEVC codec.

The iPhone’s battery was surprisingly good throughout my coverage. The event spanned roughly two and a half hours, and by its conclusion, my iPhone still had about 75-80% battery left. To be fair I wasn’t shooting for the entire time but I did have the phone on the camera app, unlocked, for most of it. For added assurance, I carry an Anker battery pack, offering rapid charging via its USB-C output.

Overall I was pleased with how well this set up worked for a solo operation. For the next outing I’m going to use the awesome new (and free) video BlackMagic Camera App that provides much greater manual control along with on-screen audio meters. It apparently was released just a day or two after my live shoot!

A $379 Windows Laptop – Lenovo’s Ideapad Slim 3i Review

As the year winds down, we’ll be seeing more and more laptops getting reduced in price ahead of holidays. I came across this Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i the other day that is currently selling for $379 at B&H (compensated affiliate link). For those on a budget, this 15.6-inch display laptop seems to offer a lot of bang for the buck. Lenovo let us borrow the laptop for this review.

The first thing that struck me about the IdeaPad Slim 3i was its display. While it’s not tailored for creators seeking impeccable color accuracy, the matte finish IPS 1080p panel with 300 nits of brightness is impressive for its price. The review loaner they sent us was equipped with a touch display as well, but I’m not sure if all configurations at this price point will have one.

Under the hood, the laptop is powered by an Intel i3-1315U processor with 8 GB of RAM. A potential downside is that the RAM isn’t upgradeable, which might limit some high-end tasks. Storage-wise, it boasts a 256 GB NVMe SSD, which can be upgraded if needed.

In terms of build, the laptop is predominantly plastic, which means it lacks the polish of pricier Lenovo models. It’s not a 2-in-1, and the display can be a tad wobbly. Weighing in at 3.57 lbs, it’s also on the heavier side vs. more expensive devices. Battery life is decent, clocking in at around 6 to 8 hours, depending on usage.

It does have a backlit keyboard, which is a pleasant surprise for a laptop in this price range. The inclusion of a number pad is a bonus, although the number keys are slightly smaller than the letter keys. The trackpad, however, feels a bit springy and doesn’t match the quality of Lenovo trackpads found on their mid-range and premium devices.

In terms of connectivity, the laptop offers a decent array of ports, including USB-A HDMI port, and a full-service USB-C port. The USB-C port can also deliver power to the laptop if using a docking station. Additionally, there’s a headphone jack, a full-size SD card slot, and another USB-A port on the other side. For added security, a fingerprint reader is integrated for biometrics.

The 720p webcam is serviceable but not spectacular. It struggled slightly with LED lighting, but it’s adequate for basic video calls. A manual shutter allows users to block the lens when not in use, ensuring privacy.

Performance-wise, the laptop handles basic tasks with ease. Websites load quickly, and videos stream smoothly. However, when it comes to more demanding tasks like video editing, the limited RAM becomes a bottleneck. Gaming performance is decent for less demanding titles, but newer, resource-intensive games might pose a challenge.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i offers a mix of pros and cons. Its display and keyboard are standout features, but the non-upgradeable RAM is a limitation. For those on a tight budget, it’s a viable option, but it’s essential to weigh the trade-offs.

Lots of New Tech From My Latest NYC Dispatch!

On Thursday I hopped on the train to New York City for the latest Pepcom tech showcase event. I love going to these because they are media-only events that have several dozen tech companies in one place making it very easy to collect a whole lot of content in a very short period of time.

You can see some of the more interesting things I found in my latest dispatch video!

In the video you’ll see about 16 different things that cover a wide gamut of the consumer electronics space. Everything from arts and crafts devices to finger sensing table saws! I also spent some time talking to the folks behind the emerging ATSC 3 standard to relay the concerns that we all have with their DRM encryption. I’ll have more on that in an upcoming ATSC 3 update video.

At CES there’s always a “Mega Pepcom” that has several hundred companies set up like this. It’s one of my favorite events as it gets us access to many big brands all in one spot!

You can check out all of my prior dispatch reports from the field here. In addition to these trade show events I have ISP tours, rocket launches, and a whole lot more!

Amazon Tech Haul Episode 3!

I am a member of the Amazon Vine program and which gets me access to a lot of interesting tech gadgets for sale on Amazon.

What’s fun about the Vine program is that it surfaces devices that are not from well-known brands. Over the last few months I’ve been doing a series of fun tech hauls where I unbox and test out a bunch of devices in a single video. You can find my latest episode here!

This episode had a few hits like a neat portable charger/battery for the iPhone, Airpods and Apple Watch, and a huge dud of e-waste that is the “HaoPapa” game console.

I’ll have another haul in the near future so stay tuned!

Disclosure: These products came in free of charge through the Amazon Vine program. I had no contact with the manufacturers, no one reviewed or approved this video before uploading, and no other compensation was received.

Review of the Crucial x9 and x10 Pro USB-C SSDs

In my latest video I take a look at Crucial’s newest external solid-state drives: the X9 Pro and the X10 Pro. Unlike their previous drives that traded performance for a low price point, these new drives deliver read and write speeds comparable with premium offerings from Sandisk and Samsung.

While it’s always wise to check current pricing due to fluctuations, my initial observations found these drives to be competitively priced, especially when compared to offerings from giants like Samsung, SanDisk, and WD. In my video link above you can see what the current prices are on Amazon.

Distinguishing between the two models can be a tad confusing. The silver X9 Pro supports USB Type-C Gen 2, boasting a theoretical bandwidth of 10 gigabits per second. The black X10 Pro supports the USB 3.2 2×2 standard, which, in theory, should deliver double the performance of the X9. However, the catch is that most computers currently on the market don’t support this faster interface. This means that unless your computer is equipped with a USB-C 2×2 port, you’re unlikely to notice a significant performance difference between the two drives. USB-C 2×2 is an optional part of the spec and manufacturers are not required to include it.

When tested on a Mac and a Lenovo X1 Nano, the drives showcased similar speeds, with neither computer supporting the 2×2 standard. Yet, the performance was commendable for portable SSDs, making them suitable for recording high-quality video formats. This includes both sequential and random read and write operations.

Both drives are sturdily constructed, lightweight, and made of metal. They come with an IP55 rating, which suggests they can handle being splashed but not immersed in water. The solid-state nature of these drives means they’re devoid of moving parts, making them more resilient to drops and rough handling compared to mechanical drives. Both have an activity indicator light, which blinks when the drive is being accessed.

In terms of gaming, while these drives are compatible with game consoles, newer games designed for the latest consoles like the PS5 or Xbox Series S/X might not support running from USB media. However, older games should run fine.

Crucial also bundles some software trials with the drives, including a month of Adobe Creative Cloud and a special version of Acronis True Image. The latter, though, is limited in its functionality.

These are great performing drives that are every bit as good as competing products from the other big names in the marketplace. Although X10 Pro promises higher speeds, the majority of users won’t be able to realize that faster performance. Save your money unless you know your computer can support the USB-C 2×2 standard.

Disclosure: Crucial provided these drives free of charge to the channel. But they did not review or approve the video before it was posted nor did they provide any financial compensation for the production of the video.

Meta Quest 3 Review

The Meta Quest 3 VR headset, the successor to the popular Quest 2 is now available and is the subject of my latest review. You can find a Quest 3 headset here (compensated affiliate link).

In terms of design, the Quest 3 is notably more compact than its predecessor. The balance of the device has been improved, which could potentially offer users a more comfortable experience during extended use. The display quality has seen significant enhancements, with 30% more resolution than the prior edition. Each eye now gets a 2064×2208 image.

The device comes in two storage variants: 128 GB and 512 GB. The choice between the two will largely depend on the user’s app library. Most games at the moment max out around 10 gigabytes or so with many much smaller than that. Unfortunately Meta does not include an SD card slot so if you want more storage you’re going to pay a much higher price tag.

One of the standout features of the Quest 3 is its mixed reality capabilities. When I first donned the headset I was presented not with a virtual image but a 3D camera view of my environment. Although it was not at the same resolution of my actual eyes, I did not experience any disorientation and was able to walk around the room naturally.

The Quest 3’s Mixed Reality sensors can map out the user’s environment, identify potential obstacles, and set boundaries for safer use when using virtual reality games.

There are also games and apps that run in a mixed environment. Meta includes a pack-in title called “First Encounters” where the player’s environment is blended with a virtual one as little creatures invade the room and portions of it get destroyed to reveal a virtual scene of an alien planet.

But there’s not much yet that supports the Meta Quest 3 directly. Although the headset has a more powerful processor along with these new mixed reality features, the Quest 3 launched without many games enhanced for it. In fact Meta doesn’t even offer a means of filtering their store by Quest 3-only titles.

The controllers for the Quest 3 have been redesigned and are now smaller and more ergonomic. The also lack the plastic ring found on the prior iterations which should make them less prone to damage. Additionally, the Quest 3, like its predecessors, offers hand tracking, allowing users to interact with the virtual environment without the need for physical controllers at all. But not all apps and games support this feature.

For media consumption, the Quest 3 offers various environments, from virtual theaters to computer desktop replications. YouTube and Netflix have their own apps for consuming content on their platforms. But with battery life a short 2 hours or so, it may be hard to get through an entire movie.

The Quest 3 can also connect to a more powerful PC via a USB-C cable or over its Wi-Fi “Airlink” feature and run more robust PC titles. In my initial testing this feature was not working properly, but after I published my video it began working after a software update. The added resolution makes a big difference. Half Life Alyx, a real VR masterpiece, looks spectacular on the Quest’s new display.

The Meta Quest 3 is an amazingly engineered piece of technology, especially considering the hardware limitations its designers have to work with. Unfortunately consumers have yet to adopt VR tech at the levels they have with game consoles like the Playstation and Xbox. While the new Quest brings several enhancements over its predecessor Meta has longed struggled getting consumers to actually use the headsets after purchasing them.

Still when people are looking for a fun VR headset the Quest line are the only ones I recommend. They’re simple to use, completely self contained, but also have the capacity to work well with a PC too.

Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5i ChromeBook Plus Review

Earlier this week I talked about Google’s new Chromebook Plus specification that will be setting a standard for higher performing Chromebooks. In my latest video I review the new IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus from Lenovo, one of the first Plus devices on the market. You can find one here at Best Buy for $499 (compensated affiliate link).

The Flex 5i is equipped with an i3-1315U processor from Intel, 8 GB of non upgradeable RAM, and 128 GB of eMMC storage. The display is a 14-inch IPS running at 1920×1200, which is a 16:10 aspect ratio. Although it supports 45% of the NTSC color space, it might not be the best choice for color-critical tasks like photo or video editing. It is though adequately bright coming in at 300 nits.

The build quality is commendable, with a mix of metal and plastic. It’s a 2-in-1 device, allowing it to be also used as a tablet. The touch display complements the keyboard and trackpad, providing a versatile user experience. However, it’s a bit on the heavier side, weighing 3.57 lbs or 1.62 kg.

Battery life is around the 10-hour mark, depending on usage.

The 1080p webcam is decent, and Chromebook Plus has introduced some new features, allowing users to add blurring and noise reduction directly through an OS level control (more on that in my Chromebook Plus explainer video). There’s also a handy shutter to cover the webcam when not in use.

The keyboard and trackpad are impressive. The keys are well-spaced, and the keyboard is backlit. The trackpad is responsive, and the speakers provide decent sound quality. In terms of ports, it offers two full-service USB-C 3.2 ports, a USB-A port, a headphone/microphone jack, and a micro SD card slot.

Performance-wise, web browsing is smooth. Video playback, especially on platforms like Netflix, is better in the browser than in the app due to some DRM restrictions. For those interested in gaming, while it’s not ideal for Steam games, game streaming and casual Android games work well.

The 5i also supports USI compatible pens, providing a responsive drawing and writing experience. Additionally, it’s compatible with Linux applications, allowing users to run both command-line and graphical applications.

Google recently extended the support life for ChromeOS, with most devices now receiving updates for a full decade from their platform release date. This particular Chromebook will receive updates through June of 2032.

The Lenovo Flex 5i offers good value for its price point. While it’s definitely not the best choice for creative work or heavy-duty gaming, it does well in most other general computing tasks.

Recent Media Appearances

In addition to the work I do on my own channel I also show up in other places too! Last week I appeared on WTIC AM radio here in Connecticut talking about Amazon’s Prime Deal Days along with a number of other topics.

And as I announced a few months ago I started working with the folks at on some of their live coverage of Space related events. On Friday I covered the launch of the Psyche mission aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket.

And earlier today I co-hosted their livestream of the Annular Solar Eclipse that took place across portions of the United States today!

UPspec Gaming xScreen for Xbox Series S

The Upspec Gaming xScreen is a portable display designed specifically for the Xbox Series S. It attaches to the Xbox’s HDMI port and draws its power from the adjacent USB port on the back of the Xbox. This makes it possible to have the Xbox work completely “off the grid” if connected to a large power bank with an AC inverter. You can see it in action in my latest review including having the entire system running off a battery!

Once installed you lose access to the ethernet port and one of the USB ports. But Wi-Fi continues to function and the Xbox has another USB port on the front. The display also allows for external storage to be connected to the Xbox’s proprietary storage port.

The display quality is impressive. It runs at 1080p at 60Hz, and while it doesn’t support HDR or variable refresh rates, the image quality on the 11.6-inch display is decent and bright especially given the pixel density of this small display vs. a larger one. Colors are well balanced and the IPS display allows for decent viewing angles if you have some friends gathering around. The stereo speakers, although not extraordinary, are sufficiently loud for a portable setting.

The brightness was very good for a USB powered display. While they did not list the specifications it appears to be in the 250 nits range. The input lag was acceptable, making it suitable for gaming. While it’s not as responsive as a gaming monitor or high-end OLED television, it was much better than some of the projectors I’ve tested recently.

In terms of build quality it’s not a perfect. The white plastic does match the color of the Series S, but mine had a slight gap in the plastic on one side where the bezel attaches to the rear display lid. Additionally my display was lacking one of the rubber feet that protects the Xbox when the lid is closed.

One feature I appreciate is the ability to configure the display to turn off the Xbox when closed. However, lifting the display doesn’t automatically turn the Xbox back on; you’ll need to do that manually.

And because the display is powered by the Xbox you only need the single power cord to boot up and play. I was able to run the Xbox / xScreen combination off of my 100Wh Anker Powerhouse power bank. How long your Xbox will run for will vary greatly based on how demanding the game is and how large of a powerbank is used.

While there’s room for improvement in build quality, the display itself is a nice accessory for Xbox Series S gamers looking to take gaming out of the living room. It feels like having a mini Xbox laptop that you can carry around. Just note it is only designed to work with the Series S, not any of the other Xbox consoles.

What is a Chromebook Plus? Exploring Google’s New Chromebook Specification

When I first heard about the addition of the word “plus” to the ChromeOS brand, I initially feared it might be a new subscription plan. But it’s actually a new hardware specification for a more powerful configuration of Chromebooks.

In my latest video we dive into Google’s new Chromebook Plus specification and how it differentiates from a normal Chromebook. You can see the full line of Chromebook Plus devices over at Best Buy (compensated affiliate link).

To be considered a Chromebook Plus, the device must have a minimum of an i3 12th generation processor from Intel or a Ryzen 3 7000 series processor from AMD. Additional specifications include 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, a full HD 1080p IPS display, about 10 hours of battery life, and a 1080p webcam with noise reduction. If you already own a Chromebook that meets these specifications, it will soon upgrade to Chromebook Plus following an upcoming ChromeOS update.

Price points start at around $399 and on par with pricing for similarly equipped pre-plus Chromebooks.

On the surface, there isn’t much of a difference between a Chromebook Plus and regular Chromebooks. However, Google plans to introduce significant new features involving generative AI. For instance, AI will soon be able to insert text anywhere in the operating system where there’s a text input. Another feature will allow users to change their wallpaper with generative AI suggestions.

One feature I found useful was the ability to synchronize my Google Drive with the Chromebook’s local storage. This means you can carry all of your Google Drive files with you even when offline – provided your Chromebook has sufficient local storage available. Unfortunately there is not currently an option for “selective sync” where the user can specify which files or folders to synchronize vs. others.

The most notable feature is the new OS level webcam and audio controls. Users can adjust background blur, lighting and AI noise reduction from the task bar which ChromeOS then feeds to any app that uses the webcam and microphone. There’s no longer a need to set up these features in each app individually. This is something that exists on other platforms but usually requires third party driver software.

Google Photos on the Chromebook Plus now includes features typically found on Pixel phones, like the Magic Eraser tool. This tool allows you to remove unwanted elements from photos. Another feature lets you create portrait mode photos from regular pictures. Other features are more subtle. One example are the exclusive wallpapers for Chromebook Plus that will change throughout the day.

In addition to helping simplify things for consumers, Google hopes the new tier will also encourage developers to bring higher end applications to the platform. In the past Chromebooks have been a mishmash of processors and configurations – but now with a base performance requirement developers can target a single x64 minimum configuration specification.

Luma Fusion, a video editing app, is one such example. While it’s nowhere near as robust as DaVinci Resolve is on other platforms it did perform well on the Chromebook Plus review unit I received for testing.

So while the differences between a Chromebook Plus and a regular Chromebook might seem subtle now, I anticipate more differentiation in the future. One of the key immediate benefits are consumers being able to differentiate the lower tier of the ChromeOS line from higher performing devices. I will of course come back with more Chromebook Plus feature overviews as they roll out.

Disclosure: Lenovo sent us the Chromebook Plus featured in the video on loan for an upcoming review. This was not a sponsored video nor did anyone review or approve it before uploading.

Retro Review: An Original iPhone Time Capsule!

It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since the introduction of the original iPhone. There are kids today using iPhones who weren’t even born when the first one was introduced!

I bought my Mom an original iPhone as a gift in late 2007 after their controversial price cut. She used the phone all the way until 2010 when she upgraded to an iPhone 4, but never reset the old one. In my latest video, we take a look at this digital time capsule running iPhone OS 3.1!

I purchased my own iPhone on its release date in 2007 mostly on a whim. I went up to my closest Apple store in the evening after work looking to get some hands-on time with a demo unit and assuming there would be none left in stock. To my surprise my local Apple store was mostly empty and they had plenty of iPhones to go around even at 8 p.m. that evening.

In the days that followed my purchase I became the most popular person in any setting. People (mostly strangers) would gather around wherever I went, curious to see this new piece of technology. Perhaps in some ways it was the start of my YouTube career as I was peppered with questions and demo requests. Eventually I figured out what most people wanted to see and developed my own formulaic demo procedure whenever I made a new friend.

The packaging from that time was signature Apple. Back then, they included a lot more with your phone. From a charger to headphones, and even a little dock to charge it on. I also managed to hang onto the original retail bag and my original receipt! You can see both in the video. But I did sell my iPhone when I upgraded to the 3 the following year.

One of the most surprising discoveries on my Mom’s phone was that many of the original iPhone’s features still work. Google Maps, for instance, still fetches map data. The App Store still pulls data from Apple, even though you can’t install any of the apps. I also plugged it into my Macbook Air M2 and found that it was fully supported on Mac OS 13.6, allowing for photo, music and video transfer along with backups.

But most other functions did not work correctly. The web browser struggled with modern websites, and many apps that were installed no longer functioned. The phone’s interface design philosophy, known as skeuomorphism, definitely looks dated today.

Today’s iPhones are certainly orders of magnitude better than this original, but none captured the public’s curiosity more than this original one. I can’t think of any other products in recent memory (beyond perhaps the original iPad) that captured the same level of consumer interest. Apple certainly hasn’t captured that with their new $3500 VR headset.

Beelink SER7 Review: The most powerful Mini PC I have ever tested

I’ve been reviewing mini PCs for almost a decade now, with the first being this fanless Brix PC I looked at way back in 2014. Over time they seem to get incrementally better with newer and more powerful SOCs making their way to market. However, the past year has been quite remarkable, especially with the influx of Ryzen-based mini PCs. Among these, the Beelink SER7 stands out as one of the most impressive I’ve encountered, both in terms of features and performance. You can see more in my latest review.

The Beelink SER7, priced around $600 (depending on configuration), is powered by a Ryzen 7840HS processor. This eight-core processor, built on the Zen 4 architecture, delivers amazing CPU and graphics performance in a very small package.

The unit I reviewed had 32GB of DDR5 RAM and a 1TB NVMe SSD. It’s also upgradeable. By removing the bottom plate, you’ll find a second NVMe SSD slot. However, to get to the RAM and the other NVMe slot, you’ll need to dig a little deeper and remove a large heat sink. The system can support up to 64GB of RAM.

The front of the SER7 features a headphone/microphone jack and a USB Type-C data port. The back offers more connectivity options, including two USB 2.0 ports, a 2.5-gigabit ethernet port, a DisplayPort & HDMI output, and two USB4 ports that also support video output. These USB4 ports are compatible with Thunderbolt devices, allowing for connections to external GPUs or Thunderbolt hard drives. The ports can deliver 40 gigabits of data transfer each. The device can also be powered through these ports, with a maximum input of 100 watts.

In terms of performance, the SER7 is impressive. Web browsing feels almost instantaneous. I tested 4K 60fps video playback on YouTube, and while it dropped a few frames, it wasn’t significant. The speedometer benchmark test yielded a score of 333, which is consistent with other current-generation Ryzen and Intel processors.

For those interested in video editing, the SER7 handles it well. I loaded up DaVinci Resolve with a 4K 60fps project, and it rendered simple transitions in real-time without any lag. Gaming performance was also commendable. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2 ran smoothly at 1080p with frame rates often exceeding 50fps. Doom Eternal and Fortnite also performed well at low settings, delivering frame rates between 70-90fps at 1080p.

On the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark test, the SER7 scored 3258, which is comparable to a seventh-generation Intel processor-based mini PC with a GTX 1060 GPU. What’s notable is that the SER7 achieves this with a single chip that consumes far less power.

I also tested the SER7 with Linux, using the latest version of Ubuntu. While performance was snappy, there were issues with audio detection and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, ethernet worked without any problems.

In conclusion, the Beelink SER7 is a robust mini PC. Its construction is solid, and the performance is top-notch. The inclusion of USB4 with Thunderbolt support is a significant advantage. While there are some minor issues with Linux compatibility, if you’re a Windows user seeking a compact yet powerful machine, the SER7 is worth considering.

Disclosure: Beelink provided the Mini PC to the channel free of charge for this review however they did not review or approve my review before it was uploaded.

Are YouTube’s Advertiser Friendly Policies Too Draconian? Or Are Advertisers Not Being Fair to Independent Creators?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve delved into some pressing issues affecting small and medium-sized creators on YouTube. One of the most significant concerns is the invalid traffic issue, where creators have seen a drastic reduction in their ad revenue without any clear explanation from YouTube.

In my latest video, I discuss YouTube’s advertiser friendly policies. Are they too restrictive? I believe they are, especially when we consider the evolving media landscape. It seems that advertisers might be giving YouTube a harder time, or perhaps YouTube isn’t advocating enough for its creators.

For instance, YouTube, despite being one of the world’s largest websites with over a billion monthly viewers, faces challenges with monetizable video inventory. Not every video qualifies for monetization due to YouTube’s ad-friendly policies or other related criteria. This has led to frustrations among advertisers who are finding it challenging to place their ads on desired YouTube content. The introduction of YouTube Shorts has also reportedly cannibalized the core YouTube business, making it harder for advertisers to book long-form ads.

YouTube’s response to these challenges is to try and squeeze more advertising inventory out of their existing stock of videos. They’re doing this through becoming more aggressive in restricting ad-blockers and have removed most of the ad placement controls creators used to have when uploading videos. They’re also now automatically running mid-roll ads during livestreams.

Driving the problem might be that only a fraction of YouTube videos can be monetized thanks to the very heavy restrictions YouTube was forced to bring to the platform. The root of these restrictive policies can be traced back to the “adpocalypse” a few years ago. Major advertisers paused their YouTube ad purchases after objectionable videos were found to be paired with their ads. YouTube’s quick fix was to implement an algorithmically driven system to determine video suitability for advertising. Over time, these guidelines have become more restrictive, with many creators finding it challenging to navigate the ever-changing rules.

For example, Juane Brown from the Blancolirio channel, an expert in aviation, has faced numerous limitations in monetizing his insightful analysis of aircraft accidents. Combat Veteran Reacts, a channel that provides valuable insights into global conflicts from a US Army combat veteran, has also faced challenges in monetizing coverage of the conflict in Ukraine.

What’s even more concerning is that while YouTube’s policies are becoming stricter, major advertisers are placing ads on content on other platforms that would clearly violate YouTube’s guidelines. For instance, violent movies like American Psycho that violate numerous policies on YouTube are fully monetized on Peacock with ads from major brands like Subaru, Progressive Insurance, Adobe, TJ Maxx and more.

There was a time when pay-tv channels like HBO (now Max) could push the envelope as they did not have to worry about offending advertisers. But in this new era most of the major streaming providers, including Max, are running ads on that very same content.

So, how can we address this? Trust is a significant factor. Why can’t YouTube develop some level of trust with responsible professional creators who are contributing useful information and discussion to the world? Shouldn’t creators with a track record of responsible reporting be trusted with major brand advertising especially if those brands are advertising on similar content on other platforms?

Instead YouTube treats all creators with an equal layer of distrust, paying content moderators to watch every single video uploaded from channels that have never had an advertiser friendly violation.

Moreover, YouTube needs to advocate for its creators. If platforms like Peacock can have ads on content like American Psycho, why isn’t YouTube pushing back on advertisers to get them to loosen up for responsible independently produced content that is just as valuable as what major media organizations provide?

I fear this is another example of YouTube continuing their corporate march to make themselves more like TikTok and Instagram, rewarding fluff over substance. What sets YouTube apart are the many independent voices that for the first time in history can be heard at enormous scale.

I hope at some point they’ll get back to their roots and build upon their strengths versus emulating their competitors.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4k and 4k Max Review

Amazon recently updated their Fire TV Stick 4k and 4k Max streaming devices (affiliate link). The original 4k stick first came out in 2018 making this new one a pretty big upgrade. The Max, however, made its debut only a year ago so this new one is more of an incremental update. You can see my full review here.

While I delved deep into the Max version in the video, I also touched upon the non-Max version, especially since there isn’t a significant performance difference between the two anymore. Both have the same processor with the Max’s CPU clocked slightly faster. But that uptick in performance will likely go unnoticed by most consumers.

The Max offers more storage, 16 gigabytes compared to the 8 GB on the regular 4K stick. This might be beneficial for those who download a lot of apps, especially games. Another difference is the Wi-Fi support. While both devices support the newer Wi-Fi 6 standard, the Max also supports the 6 gigahertz band, part of the Wi-Fi 6E standard. However, in my speed tests, I didn’t notice a significant difference between the two bands.

The Max also comes with a fancier remote with more buttons, allowing for more device control options. The Max has a new “ambient experience” that pops up with widgets and changing backdrops when the device is sitting idle. This feature is not on the regular 4k stick.

Both sticks support various HDR modes including Dolby Vision and HLG along with Dolby Atmos audio. They also support the new Dolby AC4 standard, which is part of the new ATSC3 broadcast standard.

For gaming enthusiasts, both Fire TV sticks should suffice for game streaming. I tried out Amazon Luna, Amazon’s streaming app, and found the performance to be adequate even over WiFi. The Fire TV ecosystem also offers native games, but the library is quite thin.

In conclusion, for the casual user, the regular 4K Fire TV Stick should be more than adequate. However, if you’re looking for specific features like ambient mode, the enhanced remote or more storage, the Max might be worth the extra cost.

ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 3 Review

I recently reviewed the ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 3 from Lenovo. This as its name suggests is the third generation of Lenovo’s most portable ThinkPad device. The target market for these are business executives who need something lightweight but full featured. This was provided on loan from Lenovo for this review. You can find the purchase page here (compensated affilate link).

When I first picked it up, it felt as if there was nothing inside. It weighs 2.18 lb (or 991.5g) – not much more than iPad with a keyboard attached. Like the prior generations its casing is made from magnesium and carbon fiber. The material blend gives it a rigid and premium feel, much like other ThinkPad products. The balance is pretty good too – when I lift the display lid, the keyboard stays mostly in place.

The 13.3-inch display offers a 2K resolution with touch capabilities. It’s an IPS display with great viewing angles and an anti-glare matte finish. The laptop is powered by an i7-1360P processor, but its small size does affect its overall performance due to thermal constraints.

The keyboard, while not as deep as some traditional ThinkPads, is still comfortable to type on. It comes with the signature ThinkPad nub for navigation and a fingerprint reader for added security. In terms of ports, it offers two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone/microphone jack. The webcam is of high quality, shooting at 1080p, and is perfect for workplace video calls.

Performance-wise, for basic tasks like web browsing, watching videos, and office tasks, it’s swift and responsive. However, when I tried video editing and gaming, I noticed some performance drops, likely due to thermal throttling. Games like Fortnite and Red Dead Redemption 2 were playable but not optimal. The laptop’s fan is quiet, even under load, which is a plus for those who value a silent working environment.

Battery life is decent, with around 8 hours for basic tasks. The speakers provide clear and crisp sound, suitable for conference calls or casual listening. I also tested it with Linux (Ubuntu), and it ran smoothly with all features detected properly.

In conclusion, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 3 is a good choice for those who prioritize portability over high-end performance. It’s well suited for corporate executives and anyone who needs a lightweight yet capable laptop for everyday tasks.