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06 Oct 21:13

The future of indoor agriculture is vertical farms run by robots

by Andrew Tarantola
Back in the good old days, farming was easy. Throw some seeds in the ground, keep it watered, pray to your preferred deity to spare your crops from pestilence and wait for harvest season. But with the global population closing in on 7 billion mouths...
06 Oct 21:11

Alienware finally made a thin and light gaming laptop

by Devindra Hardawar
Gaming laptops aren't the lumbering bricks they used to be, as we've seen from the slew of offerings this year from ASUS, Gigabyte and Razer, all of which weigh under five pounds. But Alienware, Dell's flagship laptop line for gamers, has lagged behi...
06 Oct 21:11

Blizzard CEO and president Mike Morhaime steps down

by Richard Lawler
Mike Morhaime has been a part of Blizzard since it was founded in 1991 as Silicon & Synapse, Inc., and now he's stepping down from his role as president and CEO. Former executive producer and senior VP for World of Warcraft J. Allen Brack will ta...
06 Oct 21:06

Banksy painting uses hidden shredder to destroy itself after auction

by Jon Fingas
Banksy just delivered a masterclass in using technology to both create and comment on art. The mysterious artist hid a shredder in the frame for his 2006 painting Girl With Red Balloon, and when it was sold at auction for £1,042,000 (about $1.4...
06 Oct 18:58

The Roomba i7+ is the robot vacuum I’ve been waiting for

by Devindra Hardawar
Adulting is hard. But over the past 12 years, iRobot's Roomba made it just a bit easier for me by keeping my floors clean, no matter how lazy I felt. But while the company has steadily improved its robot vacuums over the years -- by making them more...
03 Oct 17:35

Chelsea Peretti is leaving Brooklyn Nine-Nine

by Dan Snierson

Get ready to have the opposite of a Floorgasm: Chelsea Peretti is leaving Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Peretti — who plays scene-stealing Gina Linetti, the cold-blooded civilian administrator, acerbic tormentor of Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), reluctant relative of Charles (Joe Lo Truglio), and human form of the 100 emoji  — will appear in the beloved cop comedy’s upcoming sixth season, and will depart sometime during the season. She is expected to return down the road in a guest capacity.

The actress/comedian revealed the news Wednesday morning on Twitter. “B99 fans. Hiiiiiiiiiiii. Chelsea Peretti, here,” she wrote. “I won’t be doing a full season of Brooklyn Nine Nine in Season 6. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever be back, winky face emoji, heart emoji. I want to thank you for the hours you spent watching Gina be Gina: confident, idiotic-but-smart, pithy, and infused with rhythm and cell-phone radiation. It is hard for me to know exactly what to say.”

Peretti then hilariously played off of the recent departure announcement of another TV star: “Perhaps Emmy Rossum said it best when she wrote about Shameless (I bolded the extra relevant parts in her quote below).”

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“From the moment Mike Schur and I decided to create this show, we wanted Chelsea Peretti be a part of it, and she always will be,” co-creator Dan Goor said in a statement on Twitter. “While it’s sad to see a member of the family leave, we are so proud of Chelsea and excited for what she does next. Also, I know for a fact this isn’t the last we’ll see of Gina Linetti.”

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has boasted a tremendous amount of cast stability, retaining its ensemble cast (which includes Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher) over its first five seasons. Fans did wonder if they might be losing Gina back in season 4 when she was hit by a bus (but she prevailed and lived to dance another day). In season 5, part of which she was absent from while on maternity leave, Gina announced that she was quitting her job in the precinct to run “a sports league for other people’s pets,” but returned quickly. This time, however, her departure appears to be real.

Peretti, whose recent credits include Game Night, Big Mouth, and Another Period, will star in the upcoming indie film Friendsgiving.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine aired for five seasons of Fox, passing the 100th-episode mark last season, before being canceled in May. A day later, though, it was revived by NBC, who ordered a 13-episode sixth season that will hit the air later this season. Last month, the network upped its commitment to the rescued show, ordering an additional five episodes that brings the total number to 18.

For more on what to expect in season 6 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, head over here.

03 Oct 17:34

Michael Rapaport on the importance of Atypical: 'It really resonates with people'

by Samantha Highfill

Watch the full episode of Couch Surfing streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

When it comes to Michael Rapaport’s career, his latest role might be one of his favorites. Rapaport stars on Netflix’s Atypical, which follows Sam, a teen with autism, and Rapaport plays his father. “I love the sentiment of this show,” the actor told Lola Ogunnaike while sitting down for a session of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing. “It’s not heavy-handed.”

RELATED: How Michael Rapaport knew Leonardo DiCaprio had star potential on The Basketball Diaries 

One of the things Rapaport is most proud of with Atypical, which released its second season on Netflix in September, is that autism is not the show’s central focus. “It’s not the whole of your parenting,” he says. Rather, it’s simply one element of one character in the larger scheme of the show. And as a whole, the show touches on a variety of themes. As Rapaport says, “It really resonates with people in a genuine way.”

Watch the clip above for more.

02 Oct 06:17

Brain-to-brain network allows three people to share their thoughts

by Jon Fingas
There have been experiments in direct brain-to-brain communication before, but that's now extending to full-fledged networks. Researchers have developed a three-person brain network that lets participants send thoughts to each other -- in this case,...
02 Oct 06:15

Google's Project Stream makes 'Assassin's Creed' playable in Chrome

by Jessica Conditt
Project Stream promises to deliver the holy grail to video game fans around the globe -- the ability to play the latest AAA games on any laptop or PC via a stable, no-lag streaming service. Google is preparing to publicly test Project Stream with a "...
30 Sep 07:01

Joker Director Reveals New Photo of Joaquin Phoenix in Clown Costume and Makeup

by Colin Stevens

Director of the upcoming Joker film Todd Phillips has posted another shot of Joaquin Phoenix in makeup on Instagram, though this time he is decidedly in a full clown costume.

Joker Phoenix

The Instagram post is simply paired with the caption “Work” suggesting that this is Phoenix playing Arthur Fleck, the Joker prior to making his full transition into the Clown Prince of Crime. It appears that this version of the Joker worked as a literal clown, perhaps providing entertainment to audiences before being completely "disregarded by society."

Continue reading…

30 Sep 07:00

Life is Strange 2 - Episode 1 Review

by Calum Marsh

Life is Strange 2 features none of the characters or settings of its predecessor. Its new hero, a 17-year-old Mexican-American boy named Sean Diaz, does not have a decision-reversing time-travel ability like Max Caulfield. But the moment an acoustic guitar begins delicately strumming over the sun-kissed title screen, it is unmistakable what you are playing. This may be an unfamiliar story among fresh faces and unknown locales, but in every other way this is Life is Strange.

This four-hour episode — the first of five — introduces us to a bigger, more complex story than was told by either the original Life is Strange or its prequel Before the Storm. That coming-of-age story concerns the fraught relationship of a pair of high school girls against a backdrop of an impending natural disaster — but its action is confined to the classrooms and bedrooms of small-town Arcadia Bay, Oregon. Life is Strange 2 is in every way a more elaborate affair: its action sprawls out from Seattle to the woods of Oregon and still farther afield, giving it the feel of a road movie in game form. It aspires to realize nothing less than an unsparingly critical portrait of the United States in the era of Donald Trump.

Continue reading…

26 Sep 06:21

New Amsterdam bosses talk creating a medical drama rooted in 'hopefulness'

by Shirley Li

Sitting at a coffee shop one day while writing the pilot of NBC’s new medical drama New Amsterdam, EP David Schulner (Reverie) felt a tap on his shoulder: A brain surgeon who works at Bellevue, America’s oldest public hospital and the inspiration for Schulner’s show, had seen his draft and the words “inspired by Bellevue,” and wanted to offer his two cents.

“He said, ‘I want you to know that if anything happens to me, my wife knows to bring me to Bellevue,'” Schulner recalls. “‘Not to any of the fancy private hospitals that I could go to easily, but to Bellevue.'”

To Schulner, that sentiment encapsulates New Amsterdam, a drama about the doctors who eschew potential higher pay and fewer hours, because they know their work provides the best aid. But it’s not just a drama about the goings-on at an extraordinary hospital — one that operates like a small city, with a psych ward, a courtroom, prison cells, and even a classroom — and the people behind it; it’s about inspiring change by furthering an ongoing, important conversation.

“Two years ago, during the presidential election, the whole country was talking about health care, and it was passionate and messy and smart and emotional,” Schulner explains. “I thought, ‘Why would I want to write about anything else, when this is what is gripping the nation?'” He came across Twelve Patients, a memoir by Dr. Eric Manheimer, the former medical director of Bellevue, whose story had “a hopefulness that was missing from all those passionate, smart, messy, argumentative conversations,” Schulner says. “It had someone at the center who was trying to fix the system.”

Enter Dr. Max Goodwin, New Amsterdam‘s version of Manheimer, played by Ryan Eggold. The 34-year-old actor, after four years of high-octane, at-times-preposterous spy games on The Blacklist, had been ready for projects a little more grounded in reality. “I was looking for relevance and honesty,” he says. “I was looking to do something different.”

He couldn’t have accomplished his goal better: Over the summer, he appeared in Spike Lee’s timely, based-on-a-true-story manifesto BlacKkKlansman as a white supremacist who unknowingly invites a black cop into his local chapter of the KKK. Now, on New Amsterdam, Eggold gets to explore the ins-and-outs of the health care system, delve into the mindset of an idealistic but embattled doctor striving for perfection, and have Manheimer as an accessible primary source. (Manheimer serves as an EP on the show.) “I had a lot of conversations with Eric about what his struggles were, and he reminded me that doctors are not always infallible,” Eggold explains. “That was a good reminder not to play a knight in shining armor but to play a human being, warts and all.”

“I feel like I’m in a moment of being a part of these amazing true stories,” he adds. “It’s been really, really fulfilling.”

Still, Peter Horton (Grey’s Anatomy), Schulner’s fellow executive producer, wasn’t easily convinced by Schulner’s idea to use the memoir and Manheimer’s experience as a basis for a new medical drama.

“I said no ,” he remembers, laughing. “I said, ‘I’ve already directed the pilot of Grey’s Anatomy, I’d produced it for three years, I’m over medical dramas, so, thank you, but let’s keep looking.'”

Schulner, though, didn’t keep looking. Instead, he convinced Horton the show had a story that needed to be told. “Do you remember watching The West Wing and how you felt like you were a part of the process?” Schulner asks. “It got people engaged in politics and created a whole generation of speechwriters and politicians… We hope we can get people to get into medicine for the right reasons.”

After hearing Schulner’s passion for the project and its potential influence, “I went, ‘I’m in,'” Horton says. “Finally, we can do a medical show that’s not about who’s sleeping with who and what’s the latest weird case of the week. This was a chance to talk about the bigger issues in the country through the guise of a medical show.”

And so far, they’ve found a fan in that very same brain surgeon who talked to Schulner in the coffee shop. While filming a scene on location at Bellevue, the doctor stopped by, dressed in scrubs on his day off. He asked about the lighting, the setup, and the scene — and then admitted he had to do surgery soon, only to return hours later. “We’re still shooting in the same area, and he comes back down, and he says, ‘So what scene are you guys shooting now?'” Schulner recalls with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘Dude, what happened to the patient?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, she’s fine. So, who’s in this scene?'”

In other words, Horton explains, “They’re fascinated with our world, and we’re much more fascinated with theirs.”

New Amsterdam premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

25 Sep 15:47

Zhaoxin Displays x86-Compatible KaiXian KX-6000: 8 Cores, 3 GHz, 16 nm FinFET

by Anton Shilov

Zhaoxin, a joint venture between Via Technologies and the Chinese government, this week for the first time displayed its upcoming x86-compatible CPU, the KaiXian KX-6000. The SoC features eight cores running at 3 GHz and increases performance over its predecessor by at least 50%.

The KaiXian KX-6000 is a successor to the KX-5000 CPU launched earlier this year. Both chips integrate eight-core x86-64 cores with 8 MB of L2 cache, a DirectX 11.1-capable iGPU with an up-to-date display controller, a dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory controller, contemporary I/O interfaces (PCIe, SATA, USB, etc), and so on. The key differences between the KaiXian KX-5000 and the KaiXian KX-6000 are frequencies and manufacturing technology: the former is produced using TSMC’s 28 nm fabrication process and runs at up to 2 GHz, whereas the latter is made using TSMC’s 16 nm technology and operates at up to 3 GHz. Zhaoxin claims that the Kaixian KX-6000 offers compute performance comparable to that of Intel’s 7th Generation Core i5 processor, which is a quad-core non-Hyper-Threaded CPU. Obviously, performance claims like that have to be verified, yet a 50% performance bump over the direct predecessor already seems beefy enough.

As the picture below shows, the thinner manufacturing process enabled Zhaoxin to make the KaiXian KX-6000 die smaller when compared to the predecessor, which will eventually shrink its manufacturing cost. Meanwhile, the two processors use different HFCBGA packaging and therefore cannot use the same motherboards. Meanwhile it is unknown whether the new KaiXian KX-6000 is compatible with Zhaoxin’s USB 3.1 Gen 2-capable ZX-200 chipset.

The Zhaoxin KaiXian KX-6000 relies on the LuJiaZui microarchitecture, which is an evolution of the WuDaoKou microarchitecture that powers the KX-5000 processor introduced in early 2018. Based on what we know today, the LuJiaZui is an x86-64-compatible superscalar, multi-issue, out-of-order microarchitecture that supports contemporary instruction sets extensions like SSE 4.2 and AVX along with virtualization and encryption technologies. Zhaoxin has yet to disclose differences between its LuJiaZui and WuDaoKou designs. Therefore, all we can do is speculate that since the microarchitectures are launched within one year from each other they are very similar, but the newer one has minor optimizations that, perhaps, enable higher clocks, improved caching, better memory support, etc.

Zhaoxin has not announced when it plans to start commercial shipments of its KaiXian KX-6000 processors, as right now it only displays its picture (which proves that it exists). Based on the previously published roadmap, we'd expect the CPU to hit the market in 2019, though when exactly is anyone's guess.

Zhaoxin's Kaixian KX-5000 and KX-6000 CPUs
  Kaixian KX-5000
WuDaoKou
Kaixian KX-6000
LuJiaZui
Core Count 4 - 8 Up to 8
L2 Cache 8 MB 8 MB
Frequency Up to 2 GHz Up to 3 GHz
ISA x86-64
ISA Extensions SSE 4.2, AVX ?
APIC Yes
Virtualization VMX technology, compatible with Intel's VT-X
Temperature monitoring, overheat protection Yes
Power States C1, C2, C3, C4, P-State ?
Hardware Encryption Engines Advanced encryption engine (ACE), SHA-1, SHA-256, SM3/SM4, Randomizer ?
Security TXT, EDB ?
iGPU DirectX 11.1 feature set.
Hardware-accelerated video encoding/decoding.
Outputs: DP, eDP, HDMI, D-Sub
Max Resolution: 4K
Number of Displays: 3
?
Packaging x-ball HFCBGA
37.5 x 37.5 mm
y-ball HFCBGA
37.5 x 37.5 mm
Process Technology TSMC 28 nm TSMC 16 nm FinFET

Related Reading:

Source: PC Watch

24 Sep 17:24

Game of Thrones epic sets to open as tourist attractions

by James Hibberd

Want to visit Winterfell?

What about Castle Black?

Soon, you can.

Several major Game of Thrones sets in Northern Ireland are going to be converted into tourist attractions.

So for the first time ever, fans of the Emmy-winning fantasy drama can visit locations and structures that have been strictly off limits for years.

“The Game of Thrones Legacy attractions will be on a scale and scope bigger than anything the public has ever seen,” says a release by HBO. “Each site will feature not only the breathtaking sets, but will also exhibit displays of costumes, props, weapons, set decorations, art files, models, and other production materials. The visitor experience will be enhanced by state-of-the-art digital content and interactive materials which will showcase some of the digital wizardry the series is known for.”

One thing that’s unique about many of the major GoT sets is they’re not just facades like that are typically built for most movies and TV shows. The Winterfell castle set, for example, is a sprawling area with interconnected rooms, courtyards and platforms along ramparts that allow you to walk around and feel fully immersed by the environment (which also allows a director to point a camera any direction without having to use green screen, or to follow actors from room to room).

Typically sets are torn down and scrapped after they’re used. But GoT has been an enormous boon for Northern Ireland tourism and given the global popularity of the show and lavishness of the sets, it makes sense that HBO would convert them into a destination that’s open to the public.

HBO is currently “considering” including the standing sets for iconic locations such as Winterfell, Castle Black, and Kings Landing along with a studio tour of Linen Mill Studios which will showcase a wide array of subject matter from the series.

“While fans have seen the stunning landscapes, coastlines and mountains in the series, we are thrilled they will now have the opportunity to fully experience the charm of Northern Ireland and immerse themselves in to the world of Westeros,” said John McGrillen, Chief Executive of Tourism NI. “The Game of ThronesLegacy project will be a game changer for Northern Ireland on the global tourism level.”

GoT recently won the Emmy for best drama series for the third time. The show returns for its final season in 2019.

23 Sep 10:45

Alphabet Bets On GitLab Following Microsoft's GitHub Acquisition

Alphabet backed GitLab in a new round of investment for the company, as Alphabet begins showing signs that it's worried Microsoft will not keep GitHub a neutral platform for developers.
23 Sep 10:43

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke just got dragon tattoos

by James Hibberd

Emilia Clarke is, quite literally, the girl with the dragon tattoos.

Yes, that’s tattoos, plural.

The Game of Thrones star showed off her new wrist tats on Instagram on Wednesday.

Check out the Mother of Dragons’ new ink she got to commemorate her eight seasons on the HBO hit:

View this post on Instagram

MOD 4 LYFE!!!!🔥@_dr_woo_ made sure this mamma ain’t NEVER forgetting her babies…. 😍 #dontworryionlybrieflypassedout #withfyreandinkbaby #modgothookedupp #couldntbehappierifitried #🙌 #🔥 #❤

A post shared by @ emilia_clarke on Sep 19, 2018 at 6:36pm PDT

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

Wrote Clarke: “MOD 4 LYFE!!!!” (that’s Mother of Dragons, of course). She credited celebrity inker @_dr_woo_ and noted: “this mamma ain’t NEVER forgetting her babies.”

Clarke previously told a reporter she was planning on getting the tattoo back in May. “‘I’m going to get a dragon right here kind of flying away. So I think that’s cool. A little kind of peace out.”

The move follows up on a couple of Clarke’s GoT co-stars also getting final season tattoos, with Sophie Turner getting a direwolf tattoo and Maisie Williams getting a tattoo of a certain line of dialogue.

GoT returns for its final season in 2019.

23 Sep 10:42

Veronica Mars reboot officially happening: New details released

by James Hibberd

The Veronica Mars revival is officially a Go.

Hulu confirmed for the first time Thursday the streaming network has picked up the former UPN/CW series for a new season — plus released some details about the project:

— The direct-to-series order is for eight, one-hour episodes.

— Veronica Mars will premiere in 2019.

— All past episodes of the original Veronica Mars are also coming to Hulu. Fans can stream seasons 1-3 (as well as the 2014 fan-funded feature film) starting in summer 2019.

Most excitingly of all, there’s some story description of the new show: “Spring breakers are getting murdered in Neptune, thereby decimating the seaside town’s lifeblood tourist industry. After Mars Investigations is hired by the parents of one of the victims to find their son’s killer, Veronica is drawn into an epic eight-episode mystery that pits the enclave’s wealthy elites, who would rather put an end to the month-long bacchanalia, against a working class that relies on the cash influx that comes with being the West Coast’s answer to Daytona Beach.”

So it sounds like this will be a serialized season rather a case-of-the-week format, which is interesting.

Kristen Bell is back on board to star, but no other cast is confirmed yet. Creator Rob Thomas will write the first episode.

23 Sep 10:41

Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission lands on target asteroid

by Jon Fingas
After months of hovering around its target, Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission has made contact. Two of the host spacecraft's landers (ROVER-1A and 1B) have touched down on the surface of the asteroid 162173 Ryugu and have already been hopping around as the...
22 Sep 21:14

Amazon's New Microwave Automatically Orders Popcorn When You're Getting Low

by Seth G. Macy

If you buy something through this post, IGN may get a share of the sale. For more, read our Terms of Use.

Amazon's Alexa-enabled microwave oven is a real thing, putting us even closer to realizing the promise of a voice-controlled future.

The AmazonBasics Microwave includes "includes dozens of quick-cook voice presets." That means you can cook food with the power of your voice, just like they do on Star Trek. Kind of.

"Customers only use a fraction of the features" of a microwave, Amazon said. It hopes voice commands and Ask Alexa integration will change that. The microwave also has integrated Dash Button functionality, so it can "automatically reorder popcorn."

Continue reading…

22 Sep 21:12

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson Share Men in Black Set Photo

by Michael Domanico

Chris Hemsworth gave a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming Men in Black spinoff, in which he stars alongside Tessa Thompson, his Thor: Ragnarok co-star.

Chris Hemsworth uploaded this photo to his Instagram with the caption, "#MIB #PIB #HIB #MWIB #legendsinblack #revengers4life @tessamaethompson." Chris Hemsworth uploaded this photo to his Instagram with the caption, "#MIB #PIB #HIB #MWIB #legendsinblack #revengers4life @tessamaethompson."

Continue reading…

22 Sep 19:26

Birds of Prey: Huntress, Black Canary Roles Cast

by Jim Vejvoda

Update: Following reports of possible casting considerations for Birds of Prey last week, new reports indicate WB and DC have decided on who will portray Huntress and Black Canary.

Variety reports 10 Cloverfield Lane's Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been chosen to play Huntress, while True Blood and Friday Night Lights' Jurnee Smollett-Bell has been picked to play Black Canary.

Both were mentioned in the earlier reports about casting surrounding the film.

Margot Robbie is expected to return as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, which recently got a 2020 theatrical release date.

Continue reading…

22 Sep 07:09

John Hancock will require fitness tracking for life insurance

by Swapna Krishna
Roumen.ganeff

ridiculous

Life insurance company John Hancock will stop offering traditional policies, according to Venture Beat. Instead, the company, which is one of the oldest and largest life insurance underwriters in the US, will only sell policies that track fitness and...
22 Sep 07:05

SpaceX gives us a glimpse of its Mars base vision

by Mariella Moon
SpaceX chief Elon Musk has tweeted two photos that give us a peek into the company's Martian dreams. One of the images shows the BFR, the massive rocket SpaceX is developing for deep space missions, while the other shows the BFR and what he called "M...
22 Sep 07:05

Apple paid its $15.3 billion Irish tax bill

Following Apple paying 13.1 billion euro ($15.3 billion) in back taxes, the EU antitrust regulator plans to withdraw legal action against Ireland. In 2016 the European Commission ruled that Apple was unfairly given tax breaks in an illegal ‘sweatheart' tax deal with the Irish government. Citing that it gave Apple an ‘significant advantage' over its competition, ruling that Apple had to pay taxes it owed from between 2003 and 2014 - plus interest. European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager took legal action against the Irish Government last year for failing to recover the...

22 Sep 07:03

Huawei gave away free power banks to people queuing for iPhones

Like every year, the new iPhones generate so much hype that there are thousands of fans queuing in front of the Apple stores worldwide. This time around Huawei seized the opportunity to do some old-fashioned trolling. In front of the Apple store on Orchard Road in Singapore, a few Huawei employees gave away about 200 power banks for the people waiting on the queue the whole night. The packaged power banks had a message: "Here's a power bank, You'll need it." It's been years now that the Android community, including the OEMs, is mocking Apple for the iPhone's unsatisfactory...

19 Sep 21:23

Renault’s EZ-PRO is a workspace, coffee truck and rolling post office

by Steve Dent
Renault, one of Europe's major automakers, is trying to help us imagine a world with fewer cars. Earlier this year, it unveiled the EZ-GO concept, a sort of anti-Uber autonomous ride-sharing vehicle for the masses. Now, it has taken the wraps off...
18 Sep 21:36

BlackBerry Key2 LE: A Competitive Android Offering

by Ian Cutress

As a person who works on my phone during my commutes to write news and stories, I have always batted around the idea of picking up a BlackBerry with a keyboard. The BlackBerry name is synonymous with devices that offer a fully functional physical keyboard with the display, something that is very unique in this era of touchscreen-everything. But for multiple reasons, it has never worked out.

Slowly but surely, however, the company is finally starting to meet those requests. Does anyone else want a fully functional up-to-date Android device, with a keyboard, and a device that is nice to hold? If so, then the Key2 LE may catch your eye.

So to start, I did have some hands-on time with the KEYone last year. It was a sizeable device, but it didn’t fit quite right in my hands. BlackBerry then released its new flagship, the Key2, in June 2018, and in the process refined it from many angles, both with regard to design and internals. Most recently, BlackBerry this month announced the Key2 LE, a cheaper variant of its Key2 that is even thinner and lighter (see the details in the table below). Meanwhile its keyboard has a slight indented angle to the center, allowing users familiar with the layout to find their position easily.

The highlight of the Key2 LE is certainly its design, in particular the Atomic Red color version and its red frets across the keyboard. Rather than being a single piece of chassis, the frets look separate and really bring the look together. BlackBerry is known for its business-focused devices and security, so while most business users will be going after the ‘Slate’ color, most of the press at IFA this year were fixated on the Champagne and Atomic Red designs.

In terms of software, the device a full-fledged Android phone, with the Play Store and BlackBerry-specific applications such as BBM. Even though my thoughts go back to the BB executive whom once said ‘we have the Google’, for anyone that had qualms about using Android on BlackBerry, the integration appears to be solid. The Key2 LE will ship with Oreo 8.1 as its base, with Pie 9.0 coming at a later date.

What users from non-BB devices might not get used to is the screen size. Having a physical keyboard eats up some of that real-estate, and the BlackBerry KEY-series phones only have a 4.5-inch display as a result.  The with that said, the 1080x1620 resolution hides an extremely respectable pixel density of 432 pixels per inch, similar to most flagships, and that resolution is actually a 3:2 aspect ratio (or 2:3 because the vertical is longer). By equipping all three KEY phones - the KEYone, the Key2, and the Key2 LE - with essentilly the same LCD, BlackBerry ensures that they all provide a similar user experience and eliminates any need to customize its BBM software for particular KEY models.

The new Key2 and Key2 LE smartphones are based the Snapdragon 660 and 636 SoCs (respectively), featuring four high-performance Kryo Gold cores and four low-power Kryo Silver cores. This provides considerably higher performance than their predecessor, the KEYone, which was powered by the Snapdragon 625 SoC and its eight low-power Cortex-A53 cores. The more expensive Key2 comes with 6 GB of LPDDR4 and 64 or 128 GB of storage, whereas the Key2 LE is equipped with 4 GB of DRAM (already better than the default KEYone) as well as 32 or 64 GB of NAND. A microSD card slot is present, and dual SIM models will be available.


Key2 and Key2 LE

Other features on the Key2 LE device include a fingerprint sensor in the spacebar, 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi, a 3000 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a USB Type-C port. For cameras, the rear of the phone has a dual camera setup combining a 13MP f/2.2 wide-angle camera with a 5MP f/2.4 telephoto camera for zoomed shots, while the front-facing camera is an 8MP fixed focus unit. BlackBerry states that the rear cameras can record up to 4K30 with HDR. By contrast, the flagship Key2 has a larger battery and better cameras (see the table below for details).

One of the additional things I stated when handling the device was that it felt light when I first picked it up. It did feel really light, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s because I was expecting it to be heavy with a keyboard – compared to some of my other phones, it is basically the same – but it was lighter than I expected.

BlackBerry promotes the Key2 LE as its thinnest smartphone to date, and will be available from September. The 32GB version is set to retail for $400.

*Apologies for bad photos. Taken in a dimly lit demo area at an after-show gathering at a restaurant

** The official styling is KEY2 LE. Our style guide calls for Key2 LE. Personally I think it looks better.

BlackBerry KEYone, KEY2, & KEY2 LE
  KEY2 KEY2 LE KEYone
SoC Qualcomm
Snapdragon 660
4 × Kryo Gold at 2.2 GHz
4 × Kryo Silver at 1.8 GHz
Qualcomm
Snapdragon 636
4 × Kryo Gold at 1.8 GHz
4 × Kryo Silver at 1.6 GHz
Qualcomm
Snapdragon 625

8 × Cortex-A53 at 2 GHz
Adreno 512 Adreno 509 Adreno 506
RAM 6 GB LPDDR4 4 GB LPDDR4  3 GB LPDDR3
Storage 64 - 128 GB
microSD
32 - 64 GB
microSD
32 GB (eMMC)
microSD
Display 4.5-inch 1620x1080 (434 ppi) with Gorilla Glass 3 4.5-inch 1620x1080 (434 ppi) with Gorilla Glass 4
Network 2G: GSM/EDGE
3G: WCDMA (DB-DCHSDPA, DC-HSUPA),
TD-SCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA1x
4G: depends on the version
LTE Down: 600 Mb/s
Up: 150 Mb/s
Down: 300 Mb/s
Up: 150 Mb/s
Audio Stereo speakers
3.5-mm TRRS audio jack
Rear Camera Sensor 1: 12 MP, f/1.8, 1/2.3", 1.28µm
dual pixel PDAF

Sensor 2: 12 MP, f/2.6, 1.0µm, PDAF

Dual LED flash
Sensor 1: 13 MP, f/2.2, 1/3.1", 1.12µm
PDAF

Sensor 2: 5 MP, f/2.4, 1.12µm, depth sensor

Dual LED flash
12 MP, f/2.0, 1/2.3", 1.55µm

Dual LED flash
Front Camera 8 MP, f/2.0, 1.12µm 8 MP 8 MP, f/2.2, 1.12µm
Battery 3500 mAh
QC 3.0
3000 mAh
QC 3.0
3505 mAh
QC 3.0
OS Android 8.0, upgradeable to 9.0 Android 7.1
Wireless I/O 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
Wired I/O USB 3.0 Type-C USB 2.0 Type-C USB 3.0 Type-C
Sensors Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, proximity, ambient light
Navigation A-GPS, GPS, GLONASS, BDS2
SIM Size NanoSIM, Dual SIM
Dimensions Height: 151.4 mm | 5.96"
Width: 71.8 mm | 2.83"
Thickness: 8.5 mm | 0.33"
Height: 150.3 mm | 5.92"
Width: 71.8 mm | 2.83"
Thickness: 8.4 mm | 0.33"
Height: 149.1 mm | 5.87"
Width: 72.4 mm | 2.85"
Thickness: 9.4 mm | 0.37"
Weight 168 grams | 5.93 oz 156 grams | 5.5 oz 180 grams | 6.35 oz
Colors Black
Silver
Black
Champagne
Atomic Red
Black/Metallic
Bronze
Black Edition
Launch Price from €649/$649 from €399/$400 from $549/€599/£499

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