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Parlee Sky Ridge Carbon Gravel Wheelset review

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Parlee is an American bike manufacturer known for high-end custom carbon frames, supplying a full range of road, triathlon/TT and gravel framesets. The company has just released the Sky Ridge Carbon gravel wheelset, with some bold claims. But can the performance justify the high price tag, especially considering some of the cheaper options in the best gravel wheelsets space?

Parlee might be a new brand to some, having specialised in creating custom carbon fibre bikes, and often pushing boundaries such as creating some of the lightest road bike frames available. The Sky Ridge wheelset is the first wheelset the brand has created to date, and just like some of their custom-painted frames, the wheelset stands out.

Parlee Sky Ridge Carbon Gravel Wheelset – Technical details

The hookless, tubeless compatible carbon rims are a collaboration with a US composite company, and they have several features that set them apart from other options in the segment. The construction, called FusionFiber, is said to improve damping while maintaining strength and the ability to make them lighter, a combination that differs from the more typical – stronger, lighter, stiffer trope. The recent Zipp 101 XPLR wheelset claims improved comfort, but they are heavier than the average wheelset. One element that makes the Parlee wheelset stand out against others is the fact they are recyclable. This is possible as the wheelset does not use any resins or epoxies.

Parlee_Sky_Ridge_Carbon_Wheelset_rim.JPG, by Matt Page

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The ‘built in the US’ tag continues to the hubs, built with Industry Nine Torch Classic hubs and finished with Sapim D-Light double-butted spokes. Claimed weight for the wheelset is 1,490g, and the measured weight, including valves and rim tape, was 1,520g (690g front, 820g rear). While this is quite light, it isn’t groundbreaking. They are lighter than other high-end wheels including FFWD Drift gravel wheels at 1,580g, and a big chunk lighter than the Zipp 101 XPLR we tested recently that weighed 1,710g. Parlee has said the rim alone is 400g, which is 70g more than the WTB CZR or ENVE G23 rims.

There are some nice touches, including the Parlee logos, which are reflective, and the finish of the rim looks brilliant, with a unidirectional weave visible – although it is quite tough to show in a photo.

Parlee_Sky_Ridge_Carbon_Wheelset_weave.JPG

Parlee_Sky_Ridge_Carbon_Wheelset_weave.JPG, by Matt Page

Parlee Sky Ridge Carbon Gravel Wheelset – Performance

I have used the wheels on a wide variety of terrain, including some tracks with rougher and more technical gravel descents and several big all-day loops. The wheels feel stiff, and precise with little sideways flex when either climbing or pushing hard through the corners. Compared to the very lightweight e*thirteen XCX Race Gravel wheels (1,280g) they replaced there is a considerable improvement.

The Sky Ridge rims have a 23mm internal diameter, which is a common size, but the trend is starting to see even wider rims. Parlee suggests they will suit tyre sizes 32mm to 47mm, and through testing, I used a pair of WTB Vulpine 700x36c tyres, and they measured up at their expected width. They were also really easy to install and inflate using a standard track pump.

Parlee states the Sky Ridge wheelset has a carbon structure that improves comfort but this is something that would be incredibly difficult to accurately test for a gravel wheelset. They certainly don’t feel rough, and there are no vibrations coming through, but you’ll likely make a bigger difference to comfort by dropping the tyres by a few psi or choosing to run something wider.

Parlee_Sky_Ridge_Carbon_Wheelset_I9.JPG

Parlee_Sky_Ridge_Carbon_Wheelset_I9.JPG, by Matt Page

The Industry Nine Torch hubs are a real highlight, with instant pickup from the six-pawl design, which gives 120 points of engagement. Freehub noise can be personal, but I think they are simply the best I have ever heard. The sound is a buzz, or you could even describe it as a purr and in terms of volume, you can hear them but it’s not overpowering as some hubs can be.

Parlee Sky Ridge Carbon Gravel Wheelset – Verdict

The wheelset is priced at £2,500, which is beyond most budgets and more than almost all other carbon gravel wheelsets. Beyond the ENVE G23, a wheelset with a very similar specification you move into truly exotic wheels such as the Lightweight Pfadfinder Evo, an eye-watering £42,00, with only 40mm max tyre width! For many components and certainly for wheels, there is a case of diminishing returns and the performance of the Sky Ridge wheelset may only be small over wheelsets such as the sub £1,000 VEL 30 or Scribe Carbon Wide++.

For riders who may have the budget for a top-end wheelset, the Parlee Sky Ridge won’t disappoint with incredible precision, great looks and a recyclable element that may swing things for some.

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Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2023: all the news and updates from the event – The Verge

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This year’s first Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event will take place in front of an audience in San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium, marking the first in-person event for Samsung in three years. It kicks off on Wednesday, February 1st, at 1PM ET / 10AM PT, and we’re expecting some exciting announcements.

There have already been tons of rumors (and plenty of leaks) about its Galaxy S23 phones, which could cost a bit more than their S22 predecessors. Other leaks indicate that the flagship S23 Ultra could come with an upgraded 200-megapixel camera along with a 6.8-inch OLED display.

Unlike Galaxy Unpacked events in the recent past, Samsung’s product reservation page suggests that the company’s also planning to release several new laptops instead of new earbuds or smartwatches. We could see up to five variations of its brand-new Galaxy Book 3 laptops, featuring thinner and lighter OLED panels with sensors embedded directly into the touchscreens.

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If you’re looking to stay up to date on this year’s Galaxy Unpacked, The Verge will keep you posted on all the news and product announcements from the event.

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    Feb 1, 2023, 2:00 PM UTCUmar Shakir

    These new 45W and 25W GaN fast chargers are compatible with Samsung’s Super Fast Charging 2.0 tech to quickly fill up the batteries in Galaxy phones.


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Why Live Casinos are Taking the Canadian Gaming Community by Storm

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Live Casinos

Were you aware that there are currently more than 2,100 online casinos which solely cater to Canadian players? Ever since the dawn of high-speed Internet, a growing number of fans have become attracted to these platforms thanks to their flexibility and decidedly user-friendly nature. Whether referring to slots, poker or a quick game of bingo, there are numerous options to explore.

However, it is also wise to take a look at some of the latest trends. Perhaps the most interesting involves the notion of live casinos. What do these portals offer, what makes them different than traditional platforms and why might live dealer games represent the next digital wave of the future?

The Basic Concept of Live Online Casinos

The main principle associated with any live casino involves the ability to interact with a human. This normally comes in the form of a dealer. As opposed to playing games that rely solely upon random number generation (RNG), a human dealer will be present via a live streaming portal. This helps to provide what some have called a rather “organic” nature to the games themselves.

For instance, a live casino ontario may offer players the ability to take part in a game of virtual poker. They will be competing against other members of the same table while taking careful note of which cards are dealt. In many ways, this level of interaction closely mirrors the experiences associated with a physical gaming establishment.

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What Games Can be Accessed?

Now that we have taken a quick look at the fundamental principles of live casinos, what types of games can users play? Answering this question will partially depend on the portal itself as well as the software technology that is present. However, live dealer games can nonetheless be segmented into a handful of general categories including:

  • Table games such as blackjack and poker
  • Bingo
  • Slots
  • “Combination” games such as poker that leads into a final round of jackpot slots

Those who wish to learn more should navigate to the site in question and peruse the types of live games that are offered. It could also be wise to contact a representative to address any additional questions.

Are There Any Possible Downsides?

Live casinos are certainly set to make their presence known throughout the nation. Still, it is wise to point out a few potential obstacles that may need to be overcome. One possible issue involves the relatively limited number of games when compared to standard online platforms. It could also be difficult to access certain competitions due to a sudden influx of players. Finally, live online streaming requires a relatively fast and extremely stable high-speed Internet connection. This may present a problem for those who live within the more remote regions of Canada.

Having said this, live casinos are already enjoyed by countless Canadian players. It is a foregone conclusion that they will become even more popular in the near future.

 

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Apple HomePod (2nd gen) review: A smarter smart speaker

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When Apple debuted the HomePod in 2018, it was already late to the smart speaker game. Sure, the company has never been worried about tardiness, choosing instead to focus on being the best. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with its first attempt. The HomePod sounded good, but lacked a lot of the basic functionality and voice assistant smarts the likes of Amazon and Google offered. Apple has spent the last five years improving both HomePod and HomePod mini, adding features like multi-room audio, multi-user support and an intercom tool.

In 2021, Apple discontinued the original model in favor of the $99 HomePod mini. But now, the larger version is back with a familiar look, but lots of changes on the inside. Like the first, the new HomePod ($299) is best suited for those who’ve committed to Apple’s ecosystem. So if that’s not you, I understand if you don’t want to go any further. If it is, just know that the company has given its speaker a lot more tools than it had at launch five years ago, including more capable assistance from Siri and more smart home abilities. Plus, the second-generation HomePod is $50 cheaper than the original was at launch.

A familiar design updated on the inside

If you were hoping for a wholesale redesign with the new HomePod, Apple undoubtedly disappointed you. However, there are some noticeable changes upon close inspection. First, the speaker’s touch panel is now slightly recessed like the HomePod mini. On the original version, that panel sits flush with the top rim. When you trigger Siri, lighting for that panel now goes all the way to the edge too. Next, the power cord is now detachable. This means if you have an issue with that very necessary component, it should be easier to get a replacement (via Apple Care). If you have excellent vision, you might also be able to discern the 2023 model is 0.2-inches shorter at 6.6-inches tall (vs. 6.8 inches) if they’re sitting side by side.

On the inside though, Apple made a host of changes. Both versions have an upward facing woofer with a group of tweeters around the bottom. For the second-generation, Apple reduced the number of tweeters from seven to five, angling them slightly upward where previously they were almost perfectly side-firing. The company also cut the number of voice microphones from six down to four. And perhaps the most important change internally, Apple swapped the iPhone 6’s A8 chip for the much more modern S7 – the silicon that powers the Apple Watch series 7.

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Software and setup

Despite the lack of changes on the outside, the second-gen HomePod is a better speaker because Apple has been improving it and the HomePod mini over time. The company added stereo pairing and multi-room audio alongside AirPlay 2 a few months after launch of the first generation model. Multi-user support and audio handoffs were added in 2019 and the intercom feature arrived ahead of the HomePod mini in 2020. And in 2021, HomePod gained the ability to play any TV audio via an Apple TV 4K over eARC and both spatial audio and Apple Music lossless streaming. So many of the key features Apple is chatting up on the new HomePod are things it has been slowly adding since 2018. And many of which, I’d argue, should’ve been there from there from the start.

Everything you need to set up and control the HomePod is found in Apple’s Home app. First, you’ll need to add a new speaker like you would any other smart home device with this software, including assigning it a room or location in your home. The app allows you to set up Automations and Scenes along with configuring how you’d like to interact with Siri.

Apple Home app
Apple Home app

You have the ability to disable voice cues or the long press on the HomePod’s touch panel in order to activate the assistant (both are enabled by default). You can also have the speaker light up and play a sound when using Siri – or do one or neither. The Home app will let you use Siri for Personal Requests too, where the speaker can recognize your voice for things like messages, calls and reminders so long as your iPhone is close by. The software allows you to disable the HomePod’s intercom feature as well, should you prefer not to use that tool.

Like the first HomePod, the 2023 model is equipped with room calibration. This detects reflections off of walls and other surfaces to configure the sound for the best performance. The HomePod does this the first time you play music, but it isn’t constant monitoring. Instead, like it did on the previous generation, the setup leverages an accelerometer to determine when it has been moved. If it has, the speaker will then reinitiate the room sensing process when music is played.

A smart home with Siri

Apple HomePod (2nd gen) reviewApple HomePod (2nd gen) review
Apple HomePod (2nd gen) review

When we reviewed the original HomePod in 2018, one of our biggest gripes was with Siri’s limited abilities. Sure the speaker sounded good, but the lack of polish with the voice assistant made it seem like a work in progress. Apple has done a lot to improve Siri over the last five years, so a lot of those issues with the original have been fixed.

First, the HomePod, like Siri on your iPhone, is capable of recognizing multiple users. Personal Requests can allow it to peek at your Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Messages, Find My and more when you ask. Plus, HomePod can give each member of your family (up to six people) their unique responses from certain iPhone apps. What’s more, Siri can create recurring home automations without you having to pick up your phone and swipe over to the appropriate app.

Even with fewer microphones to pick up your voice, the new HomePod doesn’t suffer any performance setbacks. It’s just as capable as ever at picking out your voice even in a noisy room. And, while playing music with voice commands used to be limited to Apple Music, services like Pandora, Deezer and several others can now be controlled via Siri.

HomePod is also a smart home hub, easily pairing with HomeKit and Matter accessories. The new model is equipped with temperature and humidity sensing, and that info is displayed prominently in the Home app. Of course, you can use that data to create automations with other smart home devices. I don’t have a compatible smart thermostat, but I was able to successfully trigger a smart plug once the HomePod detected a certain temperature in my living room.

Sound Recognition is arguably the most notable new feature that Apple is debuting with the new HomePod, but it’s not ready yet. It can listen for smoke or carbon monoxide alarms and send a notification to an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. What’s more, you’ll be able to “check in” on what’s happening via an audio feed or camera. Sound Recognition won’t arrive until later this spring, so we’ll have to wait to test it.

Sound quality

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt. Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.

Audio quality wasn’t an issue with the first-gen HomePod and it’s still great here. But like the first version, Apple’s choice for tuning won’t appease everyone. There’s a continued emphasis on voice, so things like vocals in music or dialog on a TV show or movie take center stage. At times it’s fine though, with some genres and content, it leads to a rather subpar experience.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part HomePod sounds outstanding, especially when you put it up against other smart speakers. The fact is many of those don’t sound very good at all, so Apple continues its track record for making a device that has serious audio chops and smart features. RTJ4 has ample bass for its bombastic hip-hop beats while Sylvan Esso’s No Rules Sandy gets enough low-end for its synth-heavy rhythms. Thanks to the HomePod’s excellent clarity, detailed styles like bluegrass and jazz shine. Sometimes the bass is a little too subdued for metal (Underoath’s Voyuerist) or full-band country (Zach Bryan’s 2022 live album), and the vocals too forward, but overall, it sets the standard for smart speaker sound. And the HomePod only shines brighter as a stereo pair.

When you add the second HomePod in the Home app, the software asks you if you want to use them together. Once you tell it which side the additional unit is on (left or right), the app completes the setup for you, assigning the appropriate channel to each speaker. Now everywhere you previously saw a single HomePod icon, you’ll see two, constantly reminding you of the stereo arrangement. The double speaker option is great for music. On Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart, the two-speaker arrangement adds a lot of dimensionality to each track. There was already a spatial element to the tunes, but dual HomePods heightens the sensation, making it seem like you’re in the middle of the musicians while they record each song.

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt. Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.

When you select a HomePod for use with the Apple TV you still need to deselect your TV speakers. Those aren’t disabled just because you’ve asked the streaming box to also send audio to a HomePod or two. TV audio with stereo pair is fine, but I can’t see using a single unit for the same purpose. In a multi-room setup you might want to send the sound from a live event like the Super Bowl to a solo speaker, but having just one as your lone living room audio from a TV isn’t a great experience. While the HomePod beams sound in all directions, with a single speaker it’s clear the sound is coming from a fixed location – something that’s a lot less noticeable with a pair or with a soundbar.

As is the case with vocals, dialog takes prominence with a HomePod and Apple TV. At times it can seem slightly muffled when watching things like live sports. Otherwise, there’s good clarity, nice bass and great dimensional audio when streaming Formula 1: Drive to Survive or Slow Horses. But, honestly, if you’re looking to improve your living room audio, a soundbar and sub is a better option. The driver arrangement in those speakers does a better job of filling a room completely and evenly. Plus, most companies give you the ability to use adjustments or presets to dial in how much you want those speakers to focus on dialog so you can fine-tune things to your liking.

The competition

Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt. Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.
Thanks to the work Apple has put in over the last five years, the second-gen HomePod is a much better smart speaker than its predecessor. The company has once again delivered stellar sound quality, though it can over emphasize vocals and dialog at times. However, expanded smart home tools and more room to grow shows Apple has learned from its stumbling first attempt.

Because the HomePod is best suited to people who have married themselves to Apple’s ecosystem, the best alternative to the second-gen HomePod is the cheaper HomePod mini. If all you’re after is some Siri assistance with your smart home and a speaker that’s good enough for casual listening and podcasts, the $99 option will work well for you. Plus, Apple just unlocked the smaller speaker’s inactive temperature and humidity sensor and it’s due to get Sound Recognition.

Wrap-up

Apple has been preparing for a new HomePod for five years, constantly improving both the original version and the HomePod mini. And the fact that the company has made Siri a more capable companion certainly helps. Plus, there’s more smart home abilities than before. Apple hasn’t strayed from its emphasis on the spoken (or sung) word for HomePod’s sound profile, but that’s okay. It’s clear that the company is focused on expanding the toolbox for its smart speakers after their debut, so I’d expect that much like the original HomePod, this is just the beginning for the second generation.

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