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The Xbox reviews are in and Microsoft is off to a good start

The Xbox reviews are in and Microsoft is off to a good start


It’s not a blockbuster yet, though

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Something Tom Warren said in today’s Vergecast (forthcoming!) has stuck with me: the ideal next-gen gaming console would combine the games and controller from the PS5 with the chiller design and software ecosystem of the Xbox. Couldn’t agree more — but in consumer tech, as in all things, you rarely get everything you want.

His reviews of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S landed yesterday and we can expect reviews of the PS5 imminently. Tom’s reviews contain lots of fascinating little details about each console, but I came away convinced that I think most people will want to pony up the extra money for the Series X. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV now, your next set likely will be one and the Series X will work best with it. Plus, the money you will save on the Series S isn’t worth the hassles of its anemic storage.

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But before you pick between the two Xboxes, I suspect that many of you are in the same boat I am: trying to decide between one of them and the PS5. Unluckily for those of us in that particular boat, we’ll have plenty of time to keep waffling between the two. It looks like the impending launch days for each console are going to be nearly as chaotic and messy as the original preorders.

The PlayStation 5 won’t be available for in-store purchase on launch day, plus Best Buy won’t let you buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X in stores until 2021. On the whole it’s good that there won’t be lines of people waiting for store openings, because of the pandemic. But it’s still super strange to me that there would be a console launch without that tradition.

I can’t speak to the PS5 until the reviews are out, so let’s focus on the Xbox. I find Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription very compelling. There are a ton of games I haven’t gotten around to and even more that I would never buy but would enjoy trying out — Andrew Webster made this exact point back in August. Microsoft has also hustled some games out of EA like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and don’t forget it recently bought Bethesda, the company behind Doom, Fallout, Wolfenstein, and The Elder Scrolls.

Game and set, but I’m not sure it’s a match yet. Sony’s more traditional “just make a great console and have great exclusive games” strategy means there will still be games I dearly want to play but can’t on the Xbox. And Sony’s new controller may well be so good in actual use that it becomes a genuine reason to prefer playing cross-platform games on the PS5.

I could go on, but the point is simply that this next generation of consoles is exciting for reasons that go beyond graphics and ray tracing. I expected it to go this way, but now that reviews are coming out it’s gratifying to see it playing out. See, it was never a guarantee (or even much of a sure thing) that Microsoft would successfully execute on its next-gen Xbox launch plan. We’ve seen this company duff a console launch before, after all.

There’s still more work for Microsoft to do to keep this Xbox competitive with the Playstation 5 (launching Halo Infinite would be a good start). These reviews show us that the company isn’t tripping out of the gate. The catalog of current games that will be optimized is decent, flashy new games will (hopefully) come, and the early demand will give way to actually being able to buy the damn things. So far, so good.

Now it’s Sony’s turn.

Gadget news and reviews

┏ Sizing up the iPhone 12 mini and 12 Pro Max. Chaim Gartenberg got a chance to go look at all the new models of the iPhone 12 in one space. It’s the closest we’re going to get this year to a Apple Park hands-on experience, and Chaim did a great job explaining the size differences and what they could mean. Boy howdy does the 12 Pro Max look big. Like really big.

┏ Chinese brands are huge on crowdfunding, even if you’d never know it. Ashley Carman:

“In 2017, when we started to do this skateboard crowdfunding, we [had] to deemphasize the truth that we’re from China,” he says. It’s not that he and his team lied about where they live and where their product came from, but they preferred not to say so directly. He says other companies will bring in a Western actor as a spokesperson or will advertise a lower member of their team, who is white, as an executive to deemphasize where they’re from.

┏ Jabra Elite 85t review: noise cancellation isn’t the only big change. It’s been a long time since I’ve used Jabra headphones and honestly I’ve forgotten how damn convenient this is. I’ve been using hacks like Tooth Fairy on the Mac (highly recommended) and fussing with hitting the connect button on Android and iPhone for a year or two now. Chris Welch’s review is a reminder that Jabra solved all those problems a long time ago and it’s frankly baffling that they’re really the only ones who have gotten it right, at least in my experience.

Before we get to the noise cancellation, let’s quickly call out one of the best things about Jabra earbuds: multipoint. While most true wireless earbuds can only connect to a single device at a time, Jabra’s can handle two at once. You can be listening to music from your laptop and take an incoming call on your phone without having to manually switch the earbuds over.

┏ DJI’s palm-sized Mini 2 drone flies further and shoots 4K for $449. A ton of upgrades here, but it still keeps one particularly important spec the same:

While the new $449 drone might look identical to the original, even weighing the same 249 grams (which means you don’t need to register it with the FAA), it now comes with DJI’s OcuSync 2 wireless connectivity for up to 2.5 times the wireless range and more stable connectivity.

┏ Razer’s new Razer Book 13 is a productivity laptop with a 16:10 screen. I think this thing looks really good, but I worry it’s going to end up in an uncanny valley between people who know it’s not powerful enough for great gaming and people who think it’s not for them because Razer is a gaming brand.

Also a big YES, MORE PLEASE to the trend of switching from 16:9 aspect ratios to 16:10. It’s a subtle but important change, and maybe a good enough happy medium between media consumption (better at 16:9) and work (better at 3:2).

More console news

┏ Sony confirms the PS5 won’t support SSD storage expansion at launch.

┏ Fortnite will reportedly be playable on iOS again through Nvidia’s GeForce Now.

┏ You can borrow a friend’s Google Stadia library with new family sharing feature.

┏ The Nintendo Switch still keeps selling well.

┏ Razer’s Kaira Pro is a feature-packed headset for the latest Xbox consoles.

Just watch this, trust me

┏ First Lego Star Wars Holiday Special trailer teases a fun update to the original 1978 version. Okay I didn’t expect to have a huge massive face-hurting grin plastered across my face when I clicked play on this trailer but that is what happened. This looks so fun!

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 23 10 minutes in the clouds

Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.

James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.

Richard LawlerSep 23
Green light.

This week Friday brings the debut of Apple’s other new hardware. We’ve reviewed both the new AirPods Pro and this chonky Apple Watch Ultra, and now you’ll decide if you’re picking them up, or not.

Otherwise, we’re preparing for Netflix’s Tudum event this weekend and slapping Dynamic Island onto Android phones.

The Apple Watch Ultra on a woman’s wrist
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!

External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and

External Link
Corin FaifeSep 23
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.