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Samsung’s Latest Tablet Is Trying to Out Pro the iPad

August 1, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Tablets are in a tough spot nowadays. Do you go cheap and just push out something that’s essentially a big phone, or do you up the price and go for extra functionality like stylus and keyboard support? Over the past few years, Samsung has tried to make the most of Android by making tablets that were closer to convertible laptops than standard slates. And for 2018, Samsung is going even bigger with the upcoming Galaxy Tab S4.

Thanks to a new 10.5-inch AMOLED display, the Tab S4 is not only physically larger than its predecessor—its battery has been upsized by 20 percent to 7,300 mAh, so its longevity should improve as well. However, the biggest change for the Galaxy Tab S4 is the inclusion of Samsug’s Dex software to provide something close to a true desktop working experience no matter where you are.

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Previously, Dex was designed to enable phones like the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8 to perform traditional laptop duties by letting you hook up a mouse, keyboard, and monitor with a propriety external dock. But now, on the Galaxy Tab S4, Dex has morphed into a simpler solution that enables you to switch between a standard tablet mode running pure Android and a Dex-powered desktop mode that functions like a blend between Chrome OS and Windows 10.

On top of full support for all your favorite Android apps, you also get a task bar and notification drawer at the bottom while in Dex mode. You’ll even see icons on the desktop for frequently used programs. As you’d expect from a regular laptop, you can run multiple things in the background (up to 20), with easily re-sizable windows and the freedom to drag-and-drop files where you please. When you want to switch back to tablet mode, just hit a button in the S4’s notification panel, or set it to revert back whenever you disconnect its keyboard.

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Included in the box is the Tab S4’s stylus, which Samsung says draws power from the screen and doesn’t need to be charged. Like we’ve saw on last year’s Tab S3 and previous Galaxy Note phones, the S4’s stylus can handle a number of tricks such as screen-off memos—letting you jot down notes without needing to unlock the device—Air Command for all your screenshot and on-the-fly gif making needs, and even live translation.

Unfortunately, the Tab S4’s keyboard does not come bundled. Instead, it’s an extra that costs another $150. That’s a real shame because the optional keyboard actually feels pretty good. It’s got more key travel and bounce than what you get from one of Apple’s Smart Keyboards for the iPad Pro, though Samsung also made the mistake of not including a built-in touchpad. Sure, you can always bring your own keyboard into the mix, but to truly maximize the Tab S4’s mobile productivity, a keyboard kind of feels like a necessity. For people who really want to go for a full desktop-like experience, you can connect the Tab S4 to an external monitor using a USB-C to HDMI dongle (which is another optional extra) to get a big-screen view in front while the Tab S4’s display functions as a secondary screen.

As for the rest of the Tab S4’s specs, it’s got a somewhat underwhelming mix: an older Snapdragon 835 chip, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, 13-MP rear camera, and micro-expandability. That’s essentially the same components as what you got on last year’s Galaxy Note 8, but with 2GB less RAM. There also isn’t a built-in fingerprint reader, which means you’ll have to rely on the iris reader or stick with an old-fashioned PIN or password.

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Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

But why didn’t Samsung just go with something like Chrome OS? You’d still have the same support for Android apps and a UI built for productivity, but without all that complicated Dex-ness. A Samsung representative told me that, as a tablet, Android made more sense for the Tab S4 and that Samsung is “committed” to Android. As for me, I’m not quite as convinced. At this point, it’s clear that outside of Apple, tablets are moving towards Chrome OS.

My main concern is the Tab S4’s price. Starting at $650 without the keyboard cover and monitor dongle, the Tab S4 is considerably more expensive than a Surface Go and about the same price as a 9.7-inch iPad Pro. In my short time with the Tab S4, it felt like a totally competent device, and with the addition of Dex to make performing certain productivity-minded tasks a little smoother, it’s definitely a more well-rounded device than the Tab S3. But I still feel like Samsung could do better. Either way, stay tuned for more in-depth impressions. The device should hit stores on August 10.

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Mercedes' new, affordable A-Class sedan is as smart as it is sleek

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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There’s a lot to say about Mercedes-Benz’s US-bound A-Class. It’s a car of many firsts: The first A-Class model to appear in the US when it hits dealerships later this year; the first A-Class sedan, well, ever (earlier Euro-spec models were glorious hatchbacks). And since we’ve been dutifully tracking the ways our cars are becoming more like smartphones, it’s important to note that this is the first vehicle to feature Mercedes’ voice-driven MBUX interface.

That might not seem particularly impressive when you consider the A-Class — the carmaker’s least-expensive luxury vehicle — also packs a more-than-capable straight-four turbo engine under the hood. But Mercedes’ goal with the A-Class was to capture the imaginations of a new breed of luxury-car owners: They’re younger, they have more nuanced expectations from their devices, and Mercedes is keen on keeping them for life. No wonder the infotainment system has received so much attention.

Smartphones have raised the bar for the kind of thoughtfulness people expect from their devices, and Mercedes seems to understand that very well. As a result, you can issue commands to the A-Class with a simple “Hey, Mercedes.” Importantly, commands that deal specifically with the car’s hardware are processed immediately without pinging a far-flung server, to ensure your cabin temperature is just right as quickly as possible.

Other tasks, like asking Mercedes to show you nearby restaurants on its spacious, center-mounted touchscreen, do require the car to pass your query to the cloud. The A-Class we tried was unfortunately stuck on the roof of an overly fancy Brooklyn hotel and running European software, so we couldn’t get a proper feel for the hardware or software just yet. That said, I’ve jumped into my fair share of new, smarter cars (a fringe benefit of being one of the few Engadget NY employees with a driver’s license), and little I’ve seen out there compares to MBUX’s thoughtful utility.

The “Hey, Mercedes” commands worked surprisingly well when automotive journalists weren’t jabbering in the back seat, and a company spokesperson confirmed that none of the car’s interface methods get locked out while the car is in motion. For better or worse, that means you — or whoever is in your passenger seat — is free to browse the web on Google Chrome while barreling down I-95.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Best of all, MBUX is capable of surprising intelligence. Over time, the system adapts to your behavior and personalizes your driving experience. Are there certain songs you like to listen to on your commute to and from work? Are there certain people you call at specific times? These are factors MBUX takes into account, and as a result, it feels like the most seamless in-car control experience I’ve come across yet. It’s not dramatically different from interacting with Siri or Google’s Assistant, and considering its a car maker, that’s among the highest compliments I’m able

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Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones are ready for the gym

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Last month, Under Armour launched its Project Rock on-ear headphones, which are built for intense workouts and were designed in collaboration with Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock). But not every fitness buff is going to be a fan of him (even though they should be, because gains), so it only made sense for the company to introduce a model without all his Rock branding. Enter the Sport Wireless Train, Under Armour’s latest on-ear headphones, created alongside audio firm JBL. The new set was first revealed in 2017 and looks nearly identical to the Project Rocks, with the only difference being the UA and JBL logos on the earcups and headband, respectively.

Outside of the design, Under Armour and JBL tuned the Sport Wireless Trains to be more neutral than the Project Rocks, which are quite bass heavy. I was able to notice that right away when I listened to a couple of albums on the Sport Wireless Trains — the vocals just seemed to pop and be more clear in every track. The other main difference, and this is a big one, is that UA made the Sport Wireless Trains $50 cheaper than the $250 Project Rocks. $200 is a much more compelling price point, especially when it still has all of the features that make The Rock’s pair appeal to people who hit the gym frequently.

The Sport Wireless Trains are made from rugged, sweat-resistant materials (IPX4 rating) and come with breathable ear cushions that can be removed and washed — that’s going to make it easy to clean them after your workouts. They also feature 40mm JBL drivers, a 16-hour battery life (5-minute charge will get you one hour of listening), oversized volume and playback buttons, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack in case you don’t want to do Bluetooth pairing. Additionally, Under Armour is throwing in a 12-month premium subscription to its Map My Fitness service, which is usually costs $30 per year.

Unfortunately, as with the Project Rocks, there’s no active noise-cancelling — and that’s likely going to be a deal-breaker for some people. But if that’s something you can live without, the Sport Wireless Train headphones are hitting stores in early August, though you can pre-order on July 24th from the Under Armour and JBL sites.

Gallery: Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones | 11 Photos 11 +7

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Riding an autonomous shuttle through Times Square was reassuringly boring

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Yesterday afternoon, I rode an autonomous shuttle down a short section of Broadway in the heart of Times Square, and it was easily the most boring part of my day. I’m not saying that because my life is particularly exciting, either. The trip was boring because everything inside the Coast Autonomous P-1 worked exactly the way it was supposed to: the shuttle crawled up to a barricade on 47th St., paused for a bit, and scooted back in the opposite direction toward 48th. In this case, the vehicle wasn’t completely autonomous — Coast CTO Pierre Lefevre manually started each leg of a trip with an Xbox Elite controller — but the P-1 navigated its surroundings all own its own.

That short trip was one of many small-scale tests the company has put on over the years, all of which speak to the commercial viability of tiny, driverless buses. I can’t imagine those tests were any more exciting. The P-1 isn’t ready for roads just yet, but it’s a fascinating taste of what the future of urban transit could look like: simple, straightforward and easy to accept. For a company like Coast, that’s the best kind of boring.

Coincidentally, the shuttle itself doesn’t look like much, either. It’s basically a big, self-enclosed golf cart with massive tinted windows. Since the shuttle scoots around bi-directionally, there’s no discernable front or back — it’s the same all the way around. Meanwhile, a white, ring-like bench hugs the interior walls, and a pair of roof-mounted grab rails sit directly across from a display for route information. Coast says up to 20 people can fit inside (assuming some people choose to stand) but I wouldn’t want to ride one of these things with more than 10 or 12 people inside.

There are no seatbelts, either, which works out just fine since each shuttle is meant to move between 15 to 20mph at most. Those low speeds also help keep the shuttle’s runtime as high as possible — Lefevre says each one can run between 10 and 12 hours on a single charge, and that they charge on inductive panels the shuttles park on at the end of the day.

The interior starts to feel cramped quickly. Chris Velazco/Engadget

Both ends of the P-1 are kitted out with LiDAR for object detection and collision avoidance, while two camera arrays ensure the vehicle can see stop lights and traffic signs. The shuttle doesn’t map out its route on the fly, though: before the first P-1 rolls out to pick up customers, a car with a roof-mounted sensor drives the route first, capturing crucial mapping data. Once that data is offloaded, it’s processed for a few hours before the Coast team fleshes it out further with pick-up stops and other route-specific points of interest.

Coast’s approach is pretty straightforward, but despite performing similar demos dozens of

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Nerf’s latest laser tag kit takes a cue from FPS games

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Nerf guns are a lot of fun. But the arguments over whether someone got hit and picking up all those darts when you’re done? Not so much. Laser tag has a huge advantage there. Nerf even made its own laser tag guns a few years ago, and this week it updates the line with a video-game-influenced augmented reality upgrade. Now you can track your stats and target virtual opponents — things that fans of foam-dart-based weapons can only dream about.

Gallery: Nerf Laser Ops Pro | 15 Photos 15 +11

The new Laser Ops Pro line is launching with two models. There’s the $30 one-handed Alphapoint blaster (also available in a set of two for $45) and the larger $50 Deltaburst rifle. The designs are reminiscent of weapons you’d find in a game like Mass Effect or Gears of War, except for their white and grey color schemes with orange safety tips. They still look like toys, but not in an embarrassing way.

Both function as basic laser tag guns on their own, with the infrared sensor located in the tip of each weapon; no vest is required. Nerf actually thinks this makes the game more fair. Sure a player could cover up the sensor so they can’t be shot, but this means they won’t be able to fire at other players either. There’s a switch on each side that lets you choose between indoor and outdoor use, so the sensor can compensate for the amount of ambient light. You can assign yourself to a team or aim for a free-for-all. Each gun has a “limited” number of shots, with the small Alphapoint firing 12 to the Deltaburst’s 18. Of course, it’s only a virtual setback: Hitting the orange button on the bottom of each weapon reloads it in a second. The same goes for health: If you lose all of it you’re not dropped out of the game for good. It’s just a time out and the gun will let you know when you can jump back in.

The real point, though, is to connect them to a phone via Bluetooth for some video game flair. The Laser Ops Pro app allows you to sync multiple weapons to a single device so it can keep track of each gun’s kill records, status and even dole out power-ups like stronger shots or a health boost. The app adds more game options as well, like how long you want the game to run and whether you want to use power-ups at all.

There’s also a mode that lets every player use their phone, which gives them all access to information about the game in real time. You can see a list of players, if they’re reloading or out of health and even their location. It’s super useful when the other

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Audi’s latest infotainment system is a smarter driving companion

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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“Does the glass move or is the haptic feedback tricking my brain?”

Sometimes you have to ask dumb questions. I was 99 percent sure Audi’s updated MMI infotainment system was creating the illusion that the display moved when I pressed it. But, you have to ask questions just in case. I was informed that the glass does not move.

Gallery: 2019 Audi A7 MMI Touch Response | 19 Photos 19 +15

In addition to tricking your brain, the new infotainment system, called MMI Touch Response, has done away with the rotary dial found on the previous version; there are now two displays instead of one. The top 10.1-inch main screen handles navigation, media and most of the car’s settings and the new, smaller 8.6-inch display takes care of climate controls, text input and shortcuts. The setup is a leap forward for Audi’s in-car tech. That is, if you’re a fan of digital climate controls.

I actually liked the old rotary dial. It gave you quick access to the system without moving your hand too far from the shifter. The top of the controller also had a capacitive touchpad that let you “draw” letters. It was a huge improvement to the hunt-and-peck on-screen keyboard found in some vehicles.

Fortunately, when you do need to input letters into the new system, the lower screen becomes a giant tablet. Even better, the new MMI lets you quickly write out the letters in sequence and it keeps up. Just write the letters over one another and you got yourself a word. I thought I’d miss the rotary controller, but after a few days, I was fine with its absence.

As noted earlier (with the dumb questions), Audi has done a commendable job on the haptic and audio feedback for their infotainment system. Initially, it took a bit to get used to the amount of pressure needed to use the touchscreen — I wasn’t tapping hard enough for the first 15 minutes. But after an hour of driving up and down the autobahn, I adjusted to the pressure requirements. It’s a bit like when everyone got excited about Apple’s Force Touch glass trackpad? Audi’s basically done that for cars.

I’m happy to say that Audi’s plan to make a flatter menu system was a success. I never felt I was more than two taps from something I would interact with while driving. It’s helpful that the automaker moved the most used items to the left-hand side of the screen: Navigation, home screen, media, phone and radio. They’re available via a single a tap that doesn’t require you to stretch to the far side of the display.

Throw very little latency into the mix and you have yourself a winner. Well, mostly a winner.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of climate controls on

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Parrot's Anafi 4K drone is much more than a flying toy

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Drones come in many shapes and sizes. At their most affordable, drones are fun flying toys. And for industrial uses or professional filmmakers, you’ve got specialist machines that can run well into tens of thousands of dollars. Parrot’s new $700 Anafi falls somewhere in between, balancing a decent camera and plenty of features with a price tag that isn’t prohibitively expensive.

Gallery: Parrot Anafi | 18 Photos 18 +14

DJI is the dominant player in drones right now. From the $99 Tello to the $20,000 Inspire 2 Cinema Premium, it’s got work and play covered. Parrot, on the other hand, is supposed to be in something of a transitional period. Last year, it shed some staff and began moving away from consumer drones towards those built for specific business applications. But now we have the Anafi, which arrives just half a year after DJI’s Mavic Air, a similarly portable $799 quadcopter that’s serious about aerial photography.

DJI’s Mavic Air

Given I’ve played around almost exclusively with toy drones in the past, I was keen to try the Anafi — something with a more serious slant I could never justify buying for myself. I pulled it out of its neat little carrying case, delicately unfurled its arms and plugged it in for the initial charge. The Skycontroller 3 that comes with it looks a little bulky and cheap by comparison, but in use it turned out to be a well-balanced, solid and responsive pad, and that’s what you want.

Ahead of my first flight, I was pretty overwhelmed by the myriad settings and features in Parrot’s FreeFlight 6 app. You can tinker with so much, from the control scheme to UI appearance, top speeds on every axis, maximum altitude, and so on. Then there’s all the different piloting modes, pre-programmed shot types and camera settings. If I had a specific video project in mind, I’m sure that, with trial and error, I’d get the footage I was after — and that’s the whole point of this kind of drone. It’s not a toy, it’s not quite a pro filmmakers’ tool, but something for the semi-serious videographer.

Perhaps that’s why I went from gadget-giddy to a tad bored over the course of about 20 minutes, after getting relatively comfortable with the controls and moving from the slower Film preset to the nippier Sport mode. It’s a portable flying 4K camera after all, with several unique features intended to turn your head away from the DJI’s Mavic Air and in the direction of the Parrot Anafi. In other words, it’s not really supposed to exist simply to entertain a drone-starved editor.

One of the Anafi’s special features is the ability to record 4K HDR footage. Regular 4K clips

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The Rosinbomb Rocket is a panini press for weed

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

While medical cannabis is already available in more than half of American states and recreational cannabis nears its cusp of national legalization, cannabis culture still strongly values self-sufficiency. Even though this generation of stoners likely won’t have to worry about MacGuyvering their bongs together from household implements or growing their own herb instead of buying it from the corner dispensary, there are still plenty of DIY projects that they can take on.

Dabbing concentrates is often seen as being an efficient and cost-effective means of consuming cannabis. With just a teensy dollop of hash on the head of a nail, tokers can get stonier than a rock garden. But when you’re paying anywhere from $60 to $100 a gram for concentrate, those savings don’t always add up. What’s more, the process of extracting concentrate from the flower itself can involve a number of chemicals that you probably don’t want in your body. Of course, you could always make your own. And that’s where the Rosinbomb Rocket comes in.

The Rocket is a $600, 13-pound tabletop rosin extractor designed to squeeze and melt the THC crystals present on the surface of the flower into a solventless, dabbable hash similar to shatter. Think of it as a panini press for weed.

It’s super easy to use. Just plug in the Rocket, turn it on and wait a couple minutes for it to heat up to around 200 degrees F. While that’s happening, you prepare the flower by setting it between two pieces of heavy duty parchment paper. The press can handle loads from half a gram up to half an ounce. Obviously, the more weed you put in (and the stickier that weed is), the more rosin you’ll be able to extract. I found that using full flowers, rather than grinding the plant material beforehand gave the best results.

Once the press reaches the desired temperature, you slide the parchment-shrouded weed between the heated plates and press them together. These plates, driven by a near-silent electric motor, exert more than 1,500 pounds of force, squashing the flowers into a paper-thin puck and causing the liquified rosin to flow out. After around two minutes of pressure and heat, you separate the press plates and remove the flattened sheets. Give them a few minutes to cool down and you’ve got yourself some high test concentrate perfect for dabbing, vaping or just crumbling over a bowl of looseleaf — all without the residual hydrocarbons found in most commercial concentrates.

While the Rocket is much quieter than presses which rely on hydraulics for pressure, rather than an electric motor, it is purpose-built for home use. You’re not going to be able to start your own hash production business just because you pick one of these up. For that, you’ll need the industrial-strength $1,800 Rosinbomb M50.

The other stumbling point for the

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The Decode app spots fakes with NFC

July 3, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The global trade of counterfeit goods reportedly rakes in half a trillion dollars per year, which isn’t good for anyone. (Except for the counterfeiters themselves, I suppose.) As the fakes industry continues to grow, brands are looking to technologies like RFID (radio-frequency identification) and NFC (near-field communication) to help authenticate their products. This is where Blue Bite, a startup based out of New York City, hopes to come in. It has developed a system that relies on an iOS app, called Decode, that can tell consumers if an item is real by simply tapping their phone on it.

Blue Bite’s implementation of NFC will be particularly handy for those who buy a used product, or a new one from third-party sellers on sites like eBay or Amazon. Up until now, there hasn’t been an end-to-end authentication service that has been completely seamless or safe. RFID and NFC can be exploited if the chips are exposed, and brands have mostly used the technologies to create marketing experiences. Nike, for example, introduced NBA jerseys that featured NFC tags, but it wasn’t designed to be an anti-counterfeit measure. Instead, it was meant to be a door to exclusive videos, pictures and GIFs from players and team, as well as access to limited-edition shoes.

Nike told Engadget at the time it was certainly looking into all options available with NFC, but there was nothing in the works using it to crack down on fake goods. Even if it tried, though, the NFC chip in Nike’s Connect jerseys can easily be removed since it’s on a hangtag, rather than part of the fabric. That means it can be tampered with or put on an item that isn’t authentic. Blue Bite, on the other hand, is able to avoid this problem by working with brands that put the NFC chips inside their actual products. The company says its Decode app offers support for all major NFC tags, such as HID, LAB ID and SMT, which is important because it makes it easy for brands to adopt existing formats to authenticate their products.

I saw Blue Bite’s system work with Adidas’ official World Cup 2018 ball, the Telstar 18, which features an embedded NFC chip. The entire process was quite simple and only took about 10 seconds: All I had to do was download the Decode app, open it and then click on a tab labeled “Authenticate.” After that, I tapped the iPhone on an area of the Telstar 18 that’s marked by four signal waves, went to the “Scan for Authenticity” section of the app and, boom, I got a message that said “Authenticated” with a picture of the Adidas ball. You’ll also see an authentication ID, how many times the item has been checked and the first day of “digitization,” aka when the product’s NFC chip was originally scanned.

Blue Bite’s offering isn’t just about letting you know if your item is real

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Vivo's all-screen NEX S is a frustrating glimpse of the future

June 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

More than anything, Vivo’s NEX S is a fascinating machine. From a distance, it seems like any other big-screened smartphone. Look more closely, though, and the ambition becomes strikingly clear. An in-display fingerprint sensor? A pop-up selfie camera? This is no ordinary phone. I’ve been using it for a few days now — or trying to, anyway — and it’s an excellent example of a Chinese company embracing new technologies and taking risks. That said, if you were thinking about importing one from China for the sheer novelty of it all, you should really hold off.

The first thing everyone notices about the NEX S is its screen — it stretches almost completely across the phone’s face without a notch in sight. Vivo went with a 6.59-inch AMOLED display, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another smartphone out there with a better screen-to-body ratio. The only one I can think of is Oppo’s similarly ambitious Find X, and it’s worth noting that Chinese conglomerate BBK Electronics controls both the Oppo and Vivo brands, so the competition here is mostly internal. In any case, it’s a bright, punchy screen, though it only runs at 1080p — that means it’s quite a bit less pixel dense than other smartphones on the market.

Gallery: A closer look at the Vivo NEX S | 16 Photos 16 +12

Crafting a phone with basically no bezels meant Vivo had to rethink how to lay out some important components, and ditch others altogether. Just look at the phone’s earpiece. Oh wait, sorry, there isn’t one. Instead, Vivo built a vibrating exciter beneath the screen that basically turns the entire panel into a speaker. I’ve only taken a handful of calls on the NEX S so far, but I was surprised at how well that actually works. I was even able to hear the other party chattering on after pulling the phone away from my face.

And then there are the cameras. You’ll find a dual camera system around back that combines a 12- and a 5-megapixel sensor for bokeh-filled portraits. Shots taken with the NEX’s main camera were on the pleasant side of adequate, but honestly, no one ever going to buy this thing because of that. The phone’s real claim to fame is the 8-megapixel selfie camera that rises up from the top of the chassis with a vaguely Star Trek-sounding audio cue. I was skeptical about how well this overly complex system would work, but you know what? It functions as well as advertised — for now, anyway.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

It takes about one second for the camera to lock into place, and Vivo has said its engineers have fired