Is a Curved Monitor Better? The Pros Vs. The Cons

Computer monitors have come a long way. Color, resolution, refresh rate and just about every other image metric has reached incredible heights. Which means that monitor makers have to come up with new features to entice users into buying their products. Curved monitors are one such option, but is a curved monitor actually better, or is it just a pointless gimmick?

We can tell you right off the bat that curved monitors actually have quite a few substantial benefits, but they come at a few notable costs as well. Let’s look at why some people make a fuss about curved monitors and why they command the prices they do.

Didn’t We Just Get Flat Screens?

A traditional LCD or OLED panel is flat. In fact, as you might recall, flat screen displays were a holy grail for many years. Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors have a concave curve to them, which causes image distortion at the edges of the picture. CRTs achieved flatness towards the end of their time.

If a flat screen, free from distortion, is such a prized feature, why do people want a curved monitor at all? What makes a curved monitor different? 

It has to do with the type of curvature. Unlike curved CRTs, curved flat panels are only curved uniformly along a single axis. Distortion of the image is of course inevitable, but curved monitors are designed to minimize this. At least for the person sitting at the intended viewing point. 

What’s The Point Of a Curved Monitor?

Curved monitors are pitched to us with a few key claims about why they’re better. 

Immersion is the main reason, and that’s also why these monitors are also pitched at people who enjoy video games. It’s a way to mimic peripheral vision, because of course we don’t see the world as a flat image with defined edges. Instead, we have a field of vision with soft edges that wrap more or less a 180-degrees horizontally.

While a curved monitor isn’t going to fill your peripheral vision, it certainly fills more of it than a flat monitor. Which means that you may feel more immersed in games such as first person shooters.

With very large or very wide monitors, the colors can shift if you look at the pixels off-axis. A curved monitor can therefore provide a more color-accurate image. It does this by making sure that each pixel is angled towards you in an optimal way. In theory, this means you’ll get an overall better picture, but modern LCD panels already minimise off-axis color shifts, so the total benefit of this may be debatable.

Curvature Measurements

While all curved monitors aren’t flat, they don’t all curve to the same degree. Literally.

Every monitor will have an “R” rating. Such as 1800R, 2300R, 3000R and 4000R. The number is the total number of millimeters of the radius you would get if you extended the monitor into a complete circle. So if you took a bunch of 1800R screens and arranged them in a circle, the radius of the circle would be 1800mm.

The smaller the number, the more curved the monitor is. According to what we’ve read, the arc of the human visual field is about 1000R. Which means that a 1000R screen, assuming it was wide enough, would properly fill your peripheral vision.

Such “ultra curved” screens have only recently come to market. The Samsung T55 series of monitors are the first 1000R examples consumers can buy.

The general rule of thumb is that you should also sit no further from the screen than it’s radius rating. So, for a 1000R screen, the maximum recommended viewing distance is 1 meter.

Bigger Is Better

While you can find curved monitors as small as 24”, the effects of screen curvature diminish the smaller you go. To get any sort of real effect from a small curved screen, you’d have to put it closer to your face than would be comfortable. 

Screen curvature also makes more sense if the monitor has a wider aspect ratio. Ultrawide or wider aspect ratios work well with the curved design, because it helps put the entire picture in your field of view. Smaller screens with subtle curvature won’t do much for your sense of immersion, but may benefit you from  a color consistency point of view.

It’s a One-Viewer Device

Since a curved monitor has been tuned to show each pixel to the viewer from an optimal angle, it also means that any other viewers aren’t getting a good view. This is one of the main reasons that large, curved televisions have more or less failed. Since TVs are designed to be watched by groups of people, narrowing the optimal viewing position choices isn’t a great idea. 

So if you want a screen where you need to show something to coworkers or clients, you might want to reconsider going for a curved model. For better or for worse, a curved screen is best used as a single-viewer device.

It’s More Expensive

Given two monitors that are otherwise equally specified, you’re going to be paying more for a curved screen. This means you either have to live with lower specifications in other areas or pay more money specifically for curvature if you aren’t willing to compromise.

What sorts of trade offs would you have to make to stay on budget? Lower resolution, smaller panel size, lower refresh rate, no HDR and lower-end panel technology are the main places one can cut corners.

Space Can Be An Issue

Curved monitors are less space efficient than flat monitors. It might not be a huge difference, depending on the model and curve, but space is at a premium on most desks.

You may also not be in a position to mount your curved monitor against a wall or on a monitor arm. Curved monitors that do list support for VESA mounts usually need an adapter that lets the monitor fit onto flat VESA mounts.

It’s a Personal Choice

So is a curved monitor better? This is possibly one of the most subjective choices in the computing world. It’s very important that you actually test using a curved monitor before taking the plunge. Not everyone will experience curved monitors the same way. For some people it’s likely to be distracting, for others it might not really feel more immersive. 

If you buy from the right retailer, you can usually just return the monitor within a few days of buying it if you don’t like it. No amount of telling you what the advantages are can make you like curved monitors, but it’s definitely more than a gimmick. Hopefully you now have a clear idea of what curved monitors bring to the table and whether it’s something that will make any difference to you.

What Is a GoPro & How To Get Started Using One

GoPro is a company famous for pioneering “action cameras” and continues to set the gold standard in the market it created to this day. Its cameras are commonly referred to as “GoPros”, but each model has its own name. 

But what is a GoPro and how can you get started with them? This article will answer all those nagging questions.

A GoPro Is An “Action Camera” – What’s That?

The first GoPro was a groundbreaking device. A small camera that could stand up to knocks, bumps and whatever else nature could throw at it. Despite this, GoPro cameras offered very high quality footage. The final piece of the formula included an innovative mounting system, with a long list of first- and third- party accessories. The GoPro mount system has been so influential that other action camera brands are often compatible with it.

So an action camera is a compact camera, capable of taking high-quality, high frame rate footage with a very wide field of view. 

It’s ruggedized and, thanks to mounting options, can be put just about anywhere. The intended way to use a GoPro is mounted on your helmet, chest or on the vehicle you’re using such as a motorcycle. The footage should give the viewer a first-person view of what the action sport is like.

However, content creators have found all sorts of creative uses for action cameras. They’re not just being used for people who want to share their weekend exploits! Documentarians, big budget film makers, TV show creators, vloggers and more have taken to action cameras as an essential part of their toolkit.

Every Model Has Its Place

The mainline GoPro action camera is the “Hero”. The latest, top of the range model at the time of writing is the HERO 8 Black. So if you simply want the very best GoPro money can buy, go for that one. 

However, the various past and present models all have their places. Often it’s better to have two or three less expensive GoPro cameras than just one premium model. The HERO line is refreshed fairly regularly. For example, the differences between the HERO 7 Black and HERO 8 Black are not dramatic. 

Carefully look at the specifications of each model for sale and decide whether you absolutely must have the improvements at the higher end of the range. Most importantly, find footage online taken with the exact camera you’re considering to get a first-hand look at the end result.

Pick The Right Accessories

A GoPro camera in its bare, out-of-the box state is really only a platform from which to build. Unless you pair your GoPro with the right accessories, you’re not going to get the most out of it. For example, while many GoPro models are waterproof up to a moderate depth, if you want to take yours diving you’ll need to buy a good underwater housing.

If you want to mount it to a car window interior, you’ll need a suction cup mount. The list goes on and on, but there are mounts and accessories for just about any use you can imagine.

There really isn’t such a thing as a universal “must-have” GoPro accessory, but we’d strongly recommend all GoPro users consider getting a “skeleton” housing which offers its own mount point and a measure of drop protection. These housings also often have additional connection points for lights or microphones. Making them a good choice for vloggers.

The other accessory we can recommend is the GoPro “Jaws” Flex Clamp. This innovative clamp and gooseneck system lets you quickly attach your GoPro to just about anything, including something as thin as a pencil.

It’s generally a good idea to stick with official GoPro accessories, especially if it’s meant to protect your expensive camera equipment, but there are fantastic third-party products out there for careful shoppers to consider.

Taking The Lens Into Account

One of the most important things you need to know when getting started with a GoPro is the effect your lens will have on footage. Standard GoPro footage is made using a very wide-angle lens. Since you are putting such a wide field of view into a standard rectangular video frame, there will be significant distortion.

Objects at the edges of the frame will distort the most. The upside of this is that you get incredible sensations of speed, because it always looks like you’re warping around from place to place. However, many people use GoPros to make footage where this is undesirable. Newer models of GoPro, such as the HERO 8, let you choose different settings for the lens. 

The camera then compensates for the lens distortion and reframes the captured image according to different field of view preferences. If your GoPro doesn’t have this feature, it’s possible to correct distortion using software such as Adobe Premiere Pro.

Learn To Use The App

While some GoPro models have a full-color LCD screen on the back or otherwise offer some way to operate the camera by itself, there’s no escaping the GoPro smartphone app. This is really where all the magic happens and the sooner you get to know the app the better.

After adding your camera using the app,you can change any settings you want from your phone. You can also get a live view of what the camera sees, letting you frame your shot perfectly. Once the recording is done, you can transfer the footage wirelessly to your phone for safekeeping. 

Given that GoPros are often locked up in a case, the app is the go-to way for control and management of the device. 

Picking The Right Settings

GoPros are not a point-and-shoot camera solution. You need to think carefully about what you are shooting and what settings are appropriate. Here the key considerations:

  • Framerate: 60 frames per second for smooth extreme sports, 24 frames per second for a more cinematic look
  • Resolution: Do you need 4K? Do you need Full HD? Consider how it affects recording time and available frame rates.
  • Field of view: Wide angle with distortion? Linear with a cropped view? You decide!
  • Color: If you have the option for a “flat” color profile, that’s the best choice if you’re going to edit the footage first before sharing it. Use the GoPro color profile if you don’t plan on grading it yourself.

White balance, shutter speed and ISO settings are OK to leave on automatic if you’re a novice camera user. But you should do a little reading on what these settings do and how to tweak them for the best footage possible.

Editing And Sharing Your Footage

The GoPro app has some brilliant automatic footage editing features. You can automatically cut and package your GoPro clips, add music and then share it straight to the web. If you want to share your recording as quickly as possible, using the app’s built in tools is the way to go.

However, the best place to edit your GoPro footage is in a full-fledged editing package. These are our recommendations:

That’s the least you need to know to get started with your GoPro! Now go make some incredible content!

The Best Xbox One Headsets

Players are always in search of the fastest way to improve their skill at a game. They spend hours searching for the right controller or TV to give them just a few percentage points up on their foes, but often overlook the easiest improvement they can make: their audio. 

A high quality gaming headset is a better investment than any soundbar. Headsets provide clear audio quality that lets you hear an enemy approach from behind and enhances the audio experience of any single player game. The question then becomes which headset is the best choice for your budget.

We have compiled a list of the best Xbox One headsets on the market to help you decide which headset is the best pick for your style of gameplay. 

SteelSeries Arctis 9X Wireless Gaming Headset – $200

SteelSeries is a company on par with the best audio brands, and the Arctis 9X offers some of the best audio performance of any Xbox One headset on the market. This headset weighs in at 13 oz and is also compatible with PS4, PC, Switch, and mobile devices.

What sets it apart is its wireless functionality. While the Arctics 9X can be plugged in, no one wants to sit that close to their console, especially if they’re playing on a large television. The battery life lasts for over 20 hours on a single charge. You’ll have plenty of warning when the battery starts to get low, too. There’s no risk of it dropping in the middle of an important match.

The earpieces and headband are designed to be as comfortable as possible. The idea is that you don’t notice them during long gaming sessions. The microphone doesn’t have true noise cancelling, but does a solid job of drowning out ambient sounds. 

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X is a great all-around Xbox One headset that will give you an edge up in multiplayer matches.

HyperX Cloud Stinger Core – $40

The HyperX series is another  great option for gaming headsets, especially for those on a budget. While HyperX does have high-priced models, the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core is an entry-level headset that still provides good audio quality for a much more affordable price. 

You won’t get the same bells and whistles you might receive on a higher-priced Xbox One headset, but the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core will still give you a leg up on the competition using just their television speakers. 

The headset weighs in at just 7.6 oz, making it one of the lightest options out there. The ear pieces are soft and comfortable for long gaming sessions, and the headset fits almost all head sizes. If you have a small head, a baseball cap can go a long way toward making the headset fit properly. 

The microphone can be flipped up and out of the way when not in use. While the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core isn’t wireless, it’s still a solid choice for the gamer on a budget.

Microsoft Xbox One Official Headset – $58

It’s rare to see officially licensed gear perform well, but the official Microsoft Xbox One headset is a powerful option that is not only comfortable, but provides decent audio quality at a price that won’t break the bank. The Xbox One Stereo Headset has a unidirectional microphone that clearly captures your voice, but won’t do much for blocking out ambient sound.

While wired, the headset plugs directly into the controller rather than the console. This cuts down on the amount of stray cables you have to contend with. While wireless would be preferable, at this price, a cable is a small sacrifice to make for this level of quality.

The headset is 7.9 oz and uses breathable ear cups that help combat that dreaded ear sweat during long sessions of Halo. One thing to keep in mind is that the light weight is a result of a rather thin build, so the headset can’t stand up to much abuse. If you feel a rage quit coming, don’t throw the headset.

The Microsoft Xbox One Official Headset lacks many of the more advanced functions higher-priced headsets provide, but it is still a great option if you aren’t an audiophile. It also works on a PC if you find yourself switching between the two platforms.

SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset

The Arctis 1 marks SteelSeries’ second entry on this list, but it’s well deserved. Finding a wireless gaming headset for less than $100 is a hard feat, although this one makes the mark by only a single cent (thanks, marketing teams.) Better yet, this headset is Microsoft-certified for compatibility not only with Xbox One, but the upcoming Series X consoles.

The Arctis 1 uses 2.4 GHz wireless to provide great audio quality with minimal lag. The microphone can be detached when you don’t need it, and it uses noise-cancelling technology that means your teammates will hear nothing but your voice. 

The speakers use the same drivers as the Arctis 7. You’ll be able to make out the sound of footsteps even as explosions roar in the distance. The level of audio detail is impressive for a headset as affordable as this one and will help give you a leg up in tense multiplayer games.

The Arctis 1 headset is comfortable, too. It uses SteelSeries’ AirtWeave ear cushions with breathable fabric. You can wear these for extended gaming periods without much fatigue, and the headband itself is reinforced with steel to give it added durability. With proper care, the Arctis 1 should last for years to come. 

Something interesting to note is that while the Xbox one headset is sub-$100, if you’re willing to spend an extra $10, you can buy a limited edition Cyberpunk 2077 themed model—something fans of the upcoming title might be excited about.

These four best Xbox One headsets above range in price and performance from high-end to mid-range, but each one is worth your money and will help improve your game. 

What is your recommendation for an Xbox One headset? Let us know in the comments below. 

7 Google Home Mini Features You’ll Love

The Google Home Mini is one of the most popular smart assistants. It’s a small size, has a sleek design, and a wide range of functionality which makes it an appealing option for many people. Especially if they don’t want the air freshener design of the Google Home on display.

Another reason why the Google Home Mini is such a popular option is due to the number of functions it has. Outside of its basic smart assistant functionality (that is, answering questions, playing music, and controlling smart home devices), the Google Home Mini—or Nest Mini, if you have the most recent version) can do much more.

Here are the best additional Google Home Mini features that you will love.  

Google Can Find Your Phone

How often do you lose track of your phone throughout the day? Sometimes it’s as simple as the device slipping between the couch cushions, but sometimes you set it down and forget where you put it. It happens to everyone.

The good news is that Google can ring your phone for you. All you have to do is program your number into your account and then ask, “Hey Google, find my phone.” This function works with both Android and iPhones, so you can avoid bugging your spouse to call your phone.

Google Can Perform Daily Routines

One of the major benefits of owning a smart home is the ability to automate many mundane tasks. You might not think much of doing it, but flipping off every light (or even asking Google to do it individually) takes up a lot of time.

With Google Home Mini, you can create routines that will trigger when you say a specific phrase. For example, you can say, “Hey Google, good morning,” and the device can be programmed to turn on lights throughout the home, begin brewing your coffee, and start your morning playlist.

You can set up custom phrases for custom routines. Something like, “Hey Google, game time” could dim the lights, crank up the volume on a connected sound bar, and turn on your Xbox for a great night of gaming.

Google Can Broadcast To All Devices

How many times have you needed to gather every member of the family, but couldn’t find an easy way to do so without yelling at everyone in the house? If you have more than one Google Home Mini inside the home, one Google Home Mini feature is the ability to broadcast to every device at once.

You can say something like, “Hey Google, broadcast that it’s time for dinner.” After you give the command, a dinner bell will ring from each device. You can also use it like an intercom, even if you aren’t at home. Telling Google Assistant on your phone that you want to broadcast that you’re on the way home will pass the message to each device within the home.

Google Can Be A White Noise Machine

Many people find it impossible to fall asleep without some kind of sound in the background—a TV, a ceiling fan, or a white noise machine. If you fall into one of these camps, your Google Home Mini can help. You can ask Google to play a variety of sounds, and the device will respond.

The sounds aren’t limited solely to white noise, either. You can ask for specific tracks, like the sound of rain or the sounds of the forest. No matter what ambient noise helps you sleep best, there’s a better than average chance that Google can play it.

Google Can Function As A Phone

If you have linked your contacts to your Google account, Google Home Mini features hands-free functionality. It’s simple. All you have to do is say, “Hey Google, call mom,” and the device will dial your mom’s number.

Best of all, Google’s Voice Recognition function means that it will recognize the voices of regular users. Since everyone has “mom” in their phone, Google can distinguish who is speaking to it and call the right “mom” based on the speaker.

Google Can Be A Personal Assistant

How often do you set something down and think to yourself, “I’m going to forget where that is?” Instead of trying to remember where you put something, just tell Google. If you say, “Hey Google, my spare key is in my desk drawer,” Google will remember.

When you start to look for your key and can’t find it anywhere, just ask Google where it is and it will tell you where you last placed it.

Google Can Adjust The TV Volume

Misplaced the remote? No worries—just ask Google to turn the TV on, to stream your favorite show, or to adjust the volume. If you have a Chromecast plugged into the back of your TV, your Google Home Mini can act as a remote. 

If you have linked your streaming services to your Google account or your Chromecast, you can stream specific episodes, skip over those you don’t like, and much more with just your voice alone.

The Google Home Mini is a fantastic tool with an equally approachable price point. Many people see it as subpar because it is a previous model than the Nest Mini, but there are no worthwhile differences between the two devices.

If you’re looking for a useful, affordable smart assistant to use around the home (or even to serve as a Bluetooth speaker in an office), try and pick up a Google Home Mini. You won’t be disappointed.  

The 5 Best Budget Android Tablets

There’s no doubt that the premium tablet experience is on the Apple side of the fence when it comes to tablet computers. Unfortunately, even with the release of cheaper iPads, these are still very costly devices. 

The good news is that the best budget Android tablets can offer you most of what premium devices can, if you can live with a few compromises here and there. We consider tablets under $300 to be in the “budget” space and are going to highlight them from most affordable to most premium.

Affordable Media Tablet: Fire 7 Tablet – $49.99

There are two Amazon Fire tablets on this list and, as many would point out, these are not strictly Android tablets. Amazon uses a modified version of Android for their own tablets, but you don’t get access to the Google Play Store or the customizations most Android users enjoy. That being said, if you really want to, there are ways to sideload Google Play on to a Fire tablet.

So why even bother? The simple answer is that you won’t find better-specified tablets at this price with the sort of support and build-quality Amazon provides. Amazon can offer such tablets at these prices because you become part of their content ecosystem. If you’re OK with that, it’s more than a fair trade.

Looking at the Fire 7 itself, for fifty bucks this is a lot of tablet. These days 7” barely counts as a tablet, since many smartphones are just short of this number. Yet you aren’t going to find a decent smartphone at this size for the price either.

With such a (relatively) small screen, the Fire 7 is best-suited as an affordable content consumption device. Music, movies and eBooks will work just fine. Casual games without 3D graphics should also be a decent experience, but comic books are rarely a pleasure to read at this screen size. 

If you only have $50 to spend on a smart device, this is the best budget Android tablet you can buy in our opinion.

Fire HD 10 Tablet – $149.99

The second choice for the best budget Android tablet on our list is the Fire HD 10. The 32GB model sells for $149.99. An amazing offer for a 10.1” tablet. This new model has an octa-core CPU, as much as 12 hours of battery life, dual-band WiFi and USB-C.

That’s impressive at twice the price, but the 1080p screen on the Fire HD 10 has been designed specifically to match the aspect ratio of most modern video content. That is, 16:9. This model of Fire tablet can also go into “Show Mode”. This essentially makes it work like an Amazon Show Alexa device.

Of course, the actual quality of the screen, speakers and shell have to be seen in context of the price. None of it is premium, but if you need an entertainment tablet (or three) this is where we recommend most people start.

Lenovo Smart Tab P10 With Alexa – $249.99

Lenovo has a reputation for making quality tablets and laptops and the P10 is no different in that regard. Its budget price does mean you won’t get top-tier specifications, but it’s a well-balanced machine, all things considered.

This particular bundle is notable for the inclusion of a charging speaker dock with Dolby Atmos technology. So you can plop your tablet down in it and listen to music, watch videos and use it as an Alexa device through “Show Mode”.

The specifications of the P10 are pretty decent. A SnapDragon 450 octa-core chip and Adreno 506 GPU are perfectly competent mid-range parts. 3GB of LPDDR will be OK for most applications as well, with a moderate amount of multitasking. Also, surprisingly at this price, is the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor.

Apart from having four speakers, the dock also has three far-field microphones, which means you really are getting that Alexa Show experience included in the price. Lenovo intends for this to be used as a family entertainment tablet. From that point of view it’s brilliant.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 64 GB Wifi Tablet Silver (2019) – 279.99

The Galaxy Tab A 10.1” tablet is about as close as you’ll get to something that competes with the entry-level iPad model. It has incredibly slim bezels and a large, bright, colorful screen. The picture is accompanied by built-in Dolby Atmos speakers and you can upgrade storage by adding as much as 512GB of SD storage.

We’d strongly recommend the 64GB (or 128GB) model over the 32GB, because these two higher-end models have an additional GB of RAM. Well worth the price difference. While the Exynos 7904A isn’t going to compete with Apple silicon, that’s not the same as saying it’s not fast enough for most people. 

The Tab A 10.1 is a great all-round tablet for both work and play and we don’t think there’s a better general choice for less than $300 at the moment.  Add to this the build and component quality that Samsung are known for, and it’s an easy recommendation.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0″ with S Pen 4G LTE (2019)  – $286.00

It might seem strange that this 8” Samsung Tablet costs more than the 10.1” machine we just looked at. However, apart from having a slightly smaller display, the Tab A 8” is packed with some fairly impressive features.

First off, this is a 4G LTE model. Not only can it be used with mobile data, but you can also make and receive calls on GSM (the global standard for mobiles cellular standard) networks. Sadly it does not support CDMA (the code-division multiple access cellular standard), so check your own service type before making the purchase. This is then, in effect, a 8” phone as much as it is a tablet. Even better, this comes with a Samsung S Pen. So if you’re the artistic type or like to take notes, this is an excellent machine for the job.

In terms of sacrifices, you only get a mono speaker. There’s no fingerprint sensor either, but that’s not too surprising. The cameras are merely OK, but with 3GB of RAM and an octa-core CPU these are tradeoffs for the better. It’s only a mid-teri Snapdragon, so don’t expect a gaming beast. But day-to-day entertainment and productivity should be no issue at all. 

The Tab A also comes with an IP68 rating, another feature you’d expect from a phone and not a tablet. With an IP68 rating it’s essentially water and dust proof! This is really a device that blurs the line between smartphone and tablet computer.

If you can live with the 8” screen size, we have no trouble recommending this as one of the best budget Android tablets under $300 on the market.

“Budget” Isn’t Half Bad

While the tablet market in the budget segment is absolutely flooded with poor quality products, with a bit of research it’s possible to find incredibly well-specced and well-built devices. 

The five tablets highlighted above represent a variety of choices and, depending on your needs, there are plenty of great choices still out there. Feel free to give your own recommendations down in the comments.