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Amazon Echo (2019) Review – CGMagazine



The Amazon Echo line has come a long way since it was first
introduced in 2014. Back then, smart speakers were at their infancy and Amazon
was at the forefront of the trend. Almost six years later, and Amazon has
released its third-generation Echo, a device that features a greatly improved
speaker with a very attractive price tag to boot.

 Out of the box, there is
little to differentiate the new Echo compared to its previous two generations.
It features a familiar slipcover body, circular progress bar and four-button
layout that has been there since Gen 1. Visually, the Gen 3 is a little shorter
and more circular than previous models, which makes for a cuter and more
pleasant looking device on the whole. Still, there is no drastic re-design and
it’s not entirely exciting to look at as a result.

 Instead, most of the improvements with the new Echo happen inside the actual device. The Echo Gen 3 features a 3-inch woofer with 0.8- inch tweeter that is identical to the one housed in the more premium Echo Plus. Having not reviewed an Echo device since 2018, I was surprised at how crisp sounding and bass-heavy the Echo Gen 3rd Gen is. While playing songs like Rise Up from the Hamilton Soundtrack, there is noticeable base tremble at half volume and at full volume, it’s enough to make small items move. Listening to a song and noticing instruments or themes for the first time is a great feeling and there were several times during my time with the Gen 3 where I experienced this. The Gen 3 isn’t quite loud enough to carry an outdoor get together in the same way that a Bose or Sonos speaker can, but for indoor use or smaller gatherings, it’s more than enough to get the room bumping.

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Amazon Echo (2019) – Photo by CGMagazine

It is a bit mind-boggling that the Echo line isn’t wireless yet,
and it’s a bit frustrating to have to wait between 30 seconds to a minute every
time you move the device or replug it in. The reason could very well be that
Amazon would rather sell multiple Alexa enabled devices to a single consumer,
as opposed to just one device that can be moved around easily. Regardless, the
boot process and lack of wireless capabilities are frustrating, whether you
have one Echo device or many.

Like all Echo devices, you need to install the Alexa app to get
the Gen 3 running. Since 2014, Alexa has been racking up more skills and
functionalities on the regular. It’s important to note that the skills are not
exclusive to the Gen 3 and almost all skills, save for some smart home
integration, are compatible with the original Echo devices. Still, daily news
briefings, appointment reminders, along with full music integration with
Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music makes for a useful smart system. What’s more is
that unlike many other tech companies, the Alexa upgrades still work on the
2014 Echos, and it’s comforting to know that the device will likely be
supported for years to come.

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Amazon Echo (2019) – Photo by CGMagazine

Perhaps the most significant selling feature of the Echo 3rd Gen
is the price. At retail, the Echo costs $129.99 CAD but has been on sale for as
low as $79.99. In comparison, the Echo Plus retails for $199.99 and the only
difference is that the Plus offers Zigbee Integration.

While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the Echo Gen 3 is an attractive
option for those looking for a great indoor speaker and smart device. The
upgraded speaker and consistent array of updated skills, combined with the
price tag make for a worthy addition to the Echo line.

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Why Pinterest Stock Was Gaining Today – Motley Fool



What happened

Shares of Pinterest (NYSE:PINS) were gaining today, even though there was no specific news on the image-discovery company. One potential driver of today’s move higher may be that Pinterest is now the No. 1 free app on Apple‘s App Store, ahead of other popular apps like TikTok and Zoom Video Communications.

As of 11:34 a.m. EDT, Pinterest stock was up 5.1%.

Image source: Pinterest.

So what

A number of Twitter users observed that Pinterest had risen to the top of the App Store chart this morning. There was no obvious explanation for the move — perhaps the back-to-school season or the beginning of fall is driving interest in the virtual pin board — but it adds to a narrative that Pinterest is seeing its user base blossom during the pandemic.

In its second-quarter report, the company said that its monthly active user base had jumped 39% on a year-over-year basis to 416 million, making it larger than Twitter and Snapchat. Additionally, Pinterest looks well-positioned for the remainder of the year, as e-commerce and online searches are likely to be elevated this holiday season due to the coronavirus pandemic, favoring the image-search tool. For the week of Sept. 9 to Sept. 15, Pinterest also ranked as the No. 2 downloaded app on the App Store in the lifestyle category and No. 1 on Google Play in lifestyle.

Now what

Pinterest shares have now more than doubled this year as the stock soared higher following its blowout second-quarter report in July. Still, the company appears to have a lot of growth in front of it as it’s only started to monetize its platform and its user base is surging during the pandemic. Additionally, the success of Facebook has shown how big the opportunity is in social media.

Pinterest’s financial results may have to catch up to the stock’s surge this year, but given the company’s numerous tailwinds, those gains look very much warranted.

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Microsoft's Purchase Of ZeniMax Gives Them Access To Orion Streaming Tech – GameSpot



Microsoft threw down the gauntlet for next generation recently with their purchase of Bethesda parent company ZeniMax, and in the wake of the deal there’s been a lot of speculation about what it all means for the Xbox Series X. Microsoft has said that this isn’t just about exclusives, and there could be some truth to this–not only with Microsoft benefit from having Bethesda’s games on Game Pass, but they didn’t just pick up games in this sale.

Windows Central has noted that Microsoft’s purchase gives them access to Orion, the streaming tech Bethesda announced at E3 2019. The technology was touted as “a game- and platform-agnostic technology that optimizes game engines for streaming,” but the technology might be less platform-agnostic following this sale.

Orion’s stated goal is to stream games at low bandwidth with high-settings–making accessible the sort of game experiences that are often reserved only for people with powerful PC set-ups. The technology aims to cut latency down and deliver an excellent streaming experience.

Microsoft has just launched their own streaming system for Game Pass called xCloud, and it’s pretty good. If Microsoft wants to push their streaming technology further, though, then the purchase of Bethesda could be instrumental in doing so.

It could take a while to see the fruits of this purchase, but it’s very likely that Orion factored into Microsoft’s decision. The tech giant now owns 23 creative studios.

The Xbox Series X/S launch on November 10. If you want to try and get your hands on a system at or close to launch, check out GameSpot’s preorder guide.

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Now Playing: Orion Is Bethesda’s Game Streaming Service | Bethesda Press Conference E3 2019

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ZeniMax's 'Orion,' and how it will boost Microsoft's Xbox xCloud streaming tech – Windows Central



Microsoft shook the industry this week when it revealed its $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media, which gives it the rights to legendary IP like The Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Fallout, and all of the talented studios known for making these epic, lasting experiences. One of the biggest criticisms of Xbox since practically forever has been the quality of its internal portfolio, which leaned incredibly heavily on Halo as its primary exclusive offering. With ZeniMax under its belt, that narrative is well and truly shattered — but there’s another vastly important aspect to this acquisition that is being overlooked.

At its 2019 E3 showcase, Bethesda revealed Orion, its patented cloud streaming SDK, which it says its easy to integrate into existing games. Bethesda claims Orion allows games to run at “max settings” with minimal bandwidth usage, even if you live far away from a data center. To demonstrate these claims, Bethesda and id Software who are leading development of this SDK, demonstrated DOOM 2016 at 4K 60 frames per second, running on a smartphone. We’ve uploaded the presentation clip so you can take a look below.

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ZeniMax has several job listings related to the Orion SDK on its website, and has a public test offering on its website as well, although it’s unclear if the closed tests are still open to new users.

Microsoft’s own streaming tech Project xCloud is potent in of its own right, but it only streams at 720p, up to 30 FPS, and even then, most of the time you can feel the latency. While this makes it perfectly usable for turn-based experiences and games that don’t require pinpoint precision, like brawlers maybe, 3D shooters do suffer a fair bit unless you’re in absolutely optimal conditions.

This could be a shot of adrenaline Project xCloud needs

Some of the biggest barriers to xCloud isn’t necessarily the speed of your network, but the conditions too, namely 5GHz WiFi, or high-quality 5G (with a compatible smartphone). Bethesda’s Orion demo showcases DOOM 2016 running at 4K, with 60 frames per second, with “no perceptible latency,” which is most likely the ideal end-goal of Microsoft’s xCloud tech for Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming.

If it truly works as Bethesda describes, this could be a shot of adrenaline Project xCloud needs to propel the user experience into meetings Xbox lead Phil Spencer’s vision of “console-quality” game streaming. The patents associated with this technology and the sole rights to distribution to the SDK will give Microsoft’s xCloud another big leap over Google Stadia.

Stadia is struggling to catch up on the basics right now — namely content — even if they have the technology and server infrastructure down. The acquisition shows that Microsoft isn’t complacent to the idea that one day, Google or one of Microsoft’s other competitors could pull ahead in this space.

It all just further slams home that ZeniMax was a perfect acquisition for Microsoft, with almost every aspect of the operation fitting nicely into Microsoft’s wider goals for its gaming division in 2021 and beyond. You can try Project xCloud gaming for yourself right now on an Android device, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Thanks for the tip Rekenber and thanks to YaBoyTwiz!

Today’s the day

Xbox Series S (Preorder)

Experience next-gen gaming for less.

Microsoft serves the next-generation for less with its budget-friendly Xbox Series S. The console packs the same high-performance CPU and SSD technology as Xbox Series X, while scaling back the GPU and removing the disc drive.

Act fast

Xbox Series X (Preorder)

The full next-generation experience.

Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s new flagship, as its most powerful console with over 12TF GPU performance and a custom SSD. It boasts up to 4K resolution and 120 FPS, full backward compatibility across four generations, and ray-tracing support.

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