Dell proves a Windows machine can have a trackpad as good a MacBook.
By Geoffrey A. Fowler You know how awesome drone photography looks? DJI, a leading quadcopter maker, is putting some of that tech into the palm of our hands. On Thursday, it unveiled its first non-flying consumer product: a 4K camera on a stabilizing arm called Osmo.Essentially, it’s a robotic selfie stick.Yet the term selfie stick doesn’t really do justice to the capabilities of the $650 Osmo. Sure, it’s a camera on a six-inch stick, but it offers consumers many of the smooth-video capabilities that normally require costly professional rigs. A motorized three-axis gimbal that surrounds Osmo’s eyeball-shaped camera works to keep shots level, even as your hand moves.The Osmo uses a rig that DJI built for its drones to keep aerial videos smooth as quadcopters vibrate, bob and weave in the wind. You press and hold a trigger button on Osmo’s stick to tell it to fix on a point in the horizon, then try to stay there as you move around. Double tap the trigger and it resets itself. Triple tap, and the camera spins 180 degrees and, yes, takes a panoramic video selfie.In addition to keeping video shots smooth, Osmo has a few still-photo tricks with its 12-megapixel camera. One mode makes its head pan 360 degrees for the perfect panorama. It can also be used to take longer night exposures, canceling out subtle hand vibrations that might normally lead to blurry shots.Shaky, potentially nausea-inducing shots are a growing challenge for Spielbergs-in-training. Some camera phones, including the iPhone 6s, try to smooth out shots, but software can only do so much. Osmo might appeal to filmmakers, journalists, and YouTube stars in the making. (DJI previously released a professional camera gimbal called Ronin. Camera sold separately.)I’ve had the chance to use the Osmo for a few days, and can’t wait to take one on a vacation. The removable battery lasts for about an hour of 4K shooting. My shots turned out remarkably smooth when standing still, and showed just a slight up and down jiggle when I ran. Osmo is usually smart enough to know the difference between a movement that would cause unwanted vibration versus deliberate panning or tilting of the camera, but it requires a little practice.As you can see in the video above, my shots looked like aerial drone footage brought down to earth. Osmo opens up more intimate video possibilities, like riding on a skateboard or chasing around a toddler, where noisy “flying lawnmowers” aren’t exactly welcome.Because Osmo is a camera as well as a stabilizer, the product puts DJI in direct competition with action-camera maker GoPro. The $500 GoPro Hero4 Black can also record in 4K (though any mount to hold it with is sold separately). GoPros use a 170-degree slight fish-eye lens that helps reduce the appearance of shaking. Osmo uses a narrower, 94 degree field-of-view lens on a 1/2.3-inch sensor.Like a GoPro, you can record directly with Osmo, or connect it via Wi-Fi to a phone app to preview your images, change modes or remotely command the camera to pan around.One downside: Osmo looks like a selfie stick, and being seen with one of those can elicit stigma in some corners of the world. One person yelled at me while using Osmo at a San Francisco tourist spot. Hey, buddy, at least I’m not flying a drone! Read more:
By Nathan Olivarez-Giles There may be no more recognizable speaker dock than the Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin. But docks are dead, and the English audio company knows this. Its latest Zeppelin is strictly wireless.On Thursday, B&W introduced the Zeppelin Wireless, a larger and more expensive take on its 7-year-old design. Unlike every previous iteration, there’s no Lightning or 30-pin connector. Instead, it links to phones, tablets and laptops via Bluetooth (AptX) and the Wi-Fi-based Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay standards. These wireless options should let users beam music to the Zeppelin from pretty much whatever app they prefer.The device’s settings are managed in a Control App, which B&W has built for iOS, Android, Windows PCs and Macs.Like the older Zeppelin docks, the new Zeppelin Wireless is designed as a standalone sound system. There is no stereo pairing to a second Zeppelin, and no multi-room stringing of multiple Zeppelins. B&W redesigned the speaker array with two double-dome tweeters on the outside, two mids inside and a 6-inch subwoofer in the center. Each individual speaker in the setup has its own amplifier, and the system also has a high-end digital-to-analog converter built in.I had a chance to demo the Zeppelin Wireless recently and it offers a significantly louder, clearer and more layered sound profile than the previous version of the speaker, the Zeppelin Air. It also costs $200 more: The Zeppelin Wireless will be priced at $700 when it hits stores Oct. 15.
By Nathan Olivarez-Giles Microsoft Corp. isn’t the only company introducing a new Windows 10 hybrid tablet-laptop this week. On Thursday, Dell Inc. revealed a trio of new XPS laptops, including the XPS 12: a tablet that docks with a sleek keyboard to become a laptop. The new XPS 13 and XPS 15 have their own bragging points: Dell claims it’s built the smallest 13-inch and 15-inch laptops on the planet. XPS 12 Dell is clearly challenging Microsoft’s Surface Pro with the XPS 12. But unlike previous Surfaces, this one sits rigidly upright, like a laptop, when locked into its keyboard base.The 12.5-inch tablet half of the XPS 12 boasts a resolution of either full HD (1,920x1,080 pixels) or 4K Ultra HD (3,840x2,160 pixels). Just be aware, by opting for more pixels, you lose battery life, which is 10 hours at best, says Dell.The tablet has a magnetic attachment to its keyboard base, locking in for most positions and releasing with a one-handed gesture when at a specific angle. Like Microsoft’s Surface Pro and upcoming Surface Book hybrid, the XPS 12’s display can handle touch input and stylus input (using Dell’s Active Pen stylus) for note taking, drawing, marking up screenshots of websites and other digital pen needs.No matter the resolution, the display has a 8-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front camera for photos and video chats as well. Since the XPS 12 can function as a tablet, its Intel Core M5 mobile chipset is situated beneath the display. Along its edge are two USB Type-C ports, which allow it to charge up as well as power external drives and monitors.The XPS 12 will start at $999—including the keyboard dock and a protective case. It will ship on Nov. 5. XPS 13 The design of the XPS 13 is already known, not least because it was arguably the best Windows laptop of last year. Despite its 13-inch screen, the device itself is about the size of a traditional 11-inch laptop. Dell pulled this off by making the bezel running along the screen’s edge dramatically thin. Like last year, the display still comes in two resolutions: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and 3,200 x 1,800 pixels. Only the higher resolution display will double as a touchscreen.The new XPS 13 has been rebuilt under the hood, however. Inside, the XPS 13 will be powered by Intel’s sixth-generation Core i7 processor and up to 16GB of RAM. Battery life is promised to come in around 18 hours. In addition to two USB ports, the new version gets a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 interface built in, so it can be used for drives and monitors alike. (You may have to track down some new cables, however.)The XPS 13 ships Thursday at a starting price of $799. XPS 15 The XPS 15 sits atop the new XPS lineup, and like the XPS 13, it will feature a thin-bezeled display. Your choices are full HD (1,920x1,080 pixels) non-touch screen or a 4K (3,840x2,160 pixels) touchscreen. Just remember, you’ll get far less battery life with the 4K display. Like the XPS 13, the XPS 15 mixes aluminum and carbon fiber for its body.The processor choice is more varied here, with the options of either Intel’s Core i3, i5 or i7 processors and as much as 16GB of speedy DDR4 RAM. It too gets a USB Type-C port with built-in Thunderbolt 3 interface.The dream configuration for the XPS 15 would be a 1-terabyte SSD, 16GB of RAM, the Core i7 chip, the GeForce GTX 960M and of course the 4K screen. While that powerhouse would set you back $2599, Dell says the XPS 15, which also ships Thursday, will start at $999.
By Wilson Rothman A startup called Light has invented a camera that it says will put the power of a DSLR in your pocket. The trick? It’s new L16 is really 16 tiny cameras that work together.Before we get to the technology—which has only just been unveiled and won’t ship until the second half of 2016 anyway—it’s helpful to identify problem areas that today’s smartphone cameras just can’t lick: low light, zoom and depth of field.Cameras in phones have shown remarkable improvement in overall picture quality lately. But they still have physical constraints. If phones had larger sensors, they could capture more light, so low-light images can be less speckled by noise or distorted by noise reduction. To magnify subjects that are far away, phones would need much bigger lenses. And the combination of larger sensor and larger lens means shots can have a shallow depth of field: the portrait effect you see when a person’s face is in focus while the background is pleasantly blurry.Ordinarily the WSJD Personal Tech team doesn’t jump on products that are still so far from consumers’ hands. When Light’s co-founder and CTO, Rajiv Laroia, came by with his team to show us the invention, however, it seemed like a product that should exist—even if it’s just a transition between today’s chunky DSLR and mirrorless cameras and the mystery imaging systems of the future.The L16 combines 16 lens-and-sensor modules of varying focal lengths ranging from 35mm wide-angle to 150mm telephoto—plus an infrared-laser range finder for good measure. It will use a variety of these elements to capture a scene, then merge the collected visual data into a 52-megapixel picture.So how does this technology address those three key problems?First, by using a collection of sensors, it will gather more light than a phone’s single tiny sensor—maybe even more light than a DSLR’s much larger sensor. Second, because each image will be composed of multiple overlapping images, it will be able to provide precise detail of even a small section of the overall shot. When you crop in, it should look like you optically zoomed in. Finally, because there are multiple lenses (using multiple focal lengths), the system will easily determine what’s near and far, and will be able to blur appropriately to create custom depth of field.The company showed us photos it said were taken by working prototypes, but the L16 units we were able to handle did not function. The camera isn’t svelte, but it’s thin enough to fit into a shirt pocket, or the pocket of a non-skinny pair of pants. It has a single shutter button and a large touchscreen.Light says it will have a touch-friendly interface when it launches, layered upon a custom version of the Android operating system. Light plans to allow developers to submit apps that make use of the camera array. If someone wants to build an interior-design app that measures a room in a click or two, they can. But the OS will be locked down: Light won’t allow people to run any old Android app on there.The camera is going on sale Wednesday through November 6 for a sum that screams “early adopter”: $1,299. At least, according to Light, that’s $400 less than it will sell for when it finally ships in “late summer” 2016. Read more: DxO One Review: Finally, an iPhone Camera Good Enough for a Pro