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Ultimate Christmas tech wishlist

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Powerful gaming consoles, premium smartphones, huge TVs, and sweet-sounding headphones are among the best types of gadgets you can gift a tech lover this Christmas.

Very few people can afford to spend thousands of rands to put a smile on the face of a loved one, particularly in South Africa’s current economic situation.

Nevertheless, we’ve assembled a list of the most sought-after tech gadgets we would like to see under our Christmas tree in 2022.

Because what better time is there to engage in some wishful thinking than the festive season?

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Here are 15 of the best gadgets you could buy your nearest and dearest geek if you had copious amounts of cash lying around.


Apple Watch Ultra — R19,999

Apple’s first rugged smartwatch is made specifically with adventurers and extreme sports enthusiasts in mind.

It boasts the biggest and brightest display on an Apple Watch yet, a programmable side button for physical control over several functions, precision dual-frequency GPS, dual speakers, and three microphones.

It can go for 36 hours of regular use between charges, which can be extended to 60 hours in low-power mode.


Huawei Mate 50 Pro — SQ

The Huawei Mate 50 Pro deserves a spot on this list for one big reason — having the top-ranked smartphone camera in the world, according to reputed camera review site DxOMark.

The Mate 50 Pro’s quad camera system handily beats heavyweights like Google’s Pixel 7 Pro and Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max.

While it’s another product that has not officially launched in South Africa, it might be on offer through direct importers. Just be extremely careful of scams.

Of course, you should not even consider the Mate 50 Pro if you don’t see yourself daily-driving a smartphone without Google’s official apps or Google Mobile Services (GMS).

Huawei Mobile Services fills many gaps, but requires you to use the YouTube mobile website or third-party apps, and access Gmail via another supported mail reader. There are ways to get Google Maps to work, albeit without being able to sign in and store your trip history.


Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones — R7,999

Numerous well-known tech sites and individual users have called these wireless headphones the best on the market.

Aside from boasting excellent sound quality and industry-leading noise cancellation, they are praised for their high comfort level and can be controlled using your voice with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.

They can also be connected to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, making it easy to jump between working on your computer and taking a wireless call on your smartphone, for example.


Valve Steam Deck — $399

Valve’s Steam Deck is not yet officially available in South Africa.

But if you can get your hands on one through an overseas contact in one of the countries where it is, it will make for one heck of a great treat.

The portable Linux-based gaming PC is incredibly capable for its size, with rave reviews praising its ability to run AAA titles at high frame rates while also having a reasonably long-lasting battery.


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 — R36,999

Folding smartphones certainly aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is one thing that most tech reviewers agree on — Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the best of the bunch.

Samsung has gradually convinced more sceptical consumers that foldables can be reliable, by improving the durability of the phone’s hinge and screen with every new generation.

The latest iteration was launched in August 2022 and features a folding display with 1,812×2,176 resolution, external display with 904×2,316 pixels, and support for Samsung’s productivity-focused S-Pen stylus.

Other features include a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, high-end triple rear camera system, and two selfie cameras — one on the external screen and another under the internal display.


Microsoft Xbox Series X|S — R11,999/R6,999

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X|S consoles are the most cost-effective way to play the company’s vast library of Game Pass titles.

The bigger and more expensive Series X can deliver up to 120 frames per second in the latest AAA titles running at 4K, while the more affordable Series S can do the same at a 1440p resolution.


Sony PSVR 2 headset and controllers — R13,999

Sony’s next-generation virtual reality headset and accompanying controllers for the PlayStation 5 promise to deliver a more immersive VR gameplay experience than its predecessor.

Its big new features include headset feedback, eye tracking, 3D audio, and adaptive triggers and haptic feedback on the controllers, similar to the PlayStation 5’s DualSense remotes.

The headset boasts a 2,000×2,040 resolution per eye, and the system requires no separate camera for tracking the player’s movements.

Instead, built-in cameras in the headset provide inside-out movement sensing.


Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 — R34,999

When it comes to an immersive gaming experience, there are few monitors on the market in South Africa that can beat Samsung’s 49-inch Odyssey Neo G9.

It boasts a dual quad HD resolution of 5,120 x 1,440, 240Hz refresh rate, and super fast 1ms response time.

Its panel consists of quantum mini-LEDs that support 2,048 local dimming zones, a 2,000-nit peak brightness, and 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.


Sony PlayStation 5 — R13,499

Like the Series X|S, the PlayStation 5 has been around for over two years, but it is still in low stock due to massive demand.

Sony’s extensive roster of exclusive AAA games is its strongest advantage over Microsoft. At the same time, the PS5’s DualSense controller also offers a unique in-game experience by responding to in-game environments, events, and player actions.


TCL 98-inch QLED 4K TV — R99,999

Not counting so-called “Laser TVs”, which are actually projectors, the biggest TVs generally available to consumers in South Africa measure 98 inches.

While you can get one of these from Samsung for around R200,000, you can pay half that price for the recently-launched TCL version.

TCL’s TVs are highly-rated in the US and often among Amazon.com’s best sellers.

The TCL 98-inch QLED 4K TV is Imax-Enhanced, supports Dolby Vision IQ and Dolby Atmos, and has a 120Hz MEMC refresh rate.

You also get access to a wide range of apps as it features built-in Google TV.


Apple iPhone 14 Pro — R26,899

The iPhone 14 Pro has a modest set of upgrades over its predecessor but is nonetheless the best smartphone running iOS that you can buy right now.

It boasts Apple’s fastest mobile chip — the A16 Bionic — coupled with a super-bright display, powerful rear and front cameras, and ditches the iPhone notch for a pill-shaped cutout called the “Dynamic Island”.

The latter integrates with iOS to offer some functionality — like displaying minimised versions of apps running in the background.


EcoFlow River Pro — R14,999

Give the gift of power during load-shedding this Christmas.

There are many compact lithium-ion-powered portable power stations on the market, but few are as refined as those sold by EcoFlow.

The River Pro unit offers 720Wh of capacity and 600W output, ideal for powering several electronic devices during a typical stint of load-shedding.

Its patented X Stream charging system is also capable of refilling the battery from 0-100% in a very short 1 hour and 40 minutes, making it one of the fastest charging power stations on the market.


Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro — R9,999

The Galaxy Watch 5 smartwatches are good options for those comfortable with Google’s software ecosystem, as they run its latest version of WearOS.

The high-end Galaxy Watch 5 packs an impressive array of fitness, health, and other “smart” features in a titanium case with strong sapphire crystal glass for its display.

It is powered by a 590mAh battery that can last up to 80 hours with GPS turned on.


Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 — Starting from R54,999

This gaming laptop is unlike anything on the market, with an additional display between the keyboard and main screen providing more room for in-game content or multimedia editing tools.

The entry-level model from Evetech with the pricing mentioned above boasts an AMD Ryzen 9-6900HX processor, 32GB DDR5 RAM, 512GB of fast NVMe SSD storage, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti 8GB graphics card, and 1,920 x 1,200 main display with 165Hz refresh rate.

The top-specced version, priced at R97,499, gets the same processor, but doubles the RAM to 64GB, bumps NVMe storage to 4TB, and upgrades the graphics card to an RTX 3080 Ti 16GB.

The display on the latter model also boasts a larger 2,560×1,600 resolution for crisper visuals.


Apple iPad Air 2022 — R13,199

Although iOS and Android fans often lock horns over what smartphone ecosystem is the best, many of the latter would quickly admit that when it comes to tablets — Apple reigns supreme.

Apple’s iPads generally provide snappier and more stable performance thanks to highly-optimised iPadOS software, and come in more premium-feeling chassis.

But at the top end of its options, the iPad Pro’s proposition becomes difficult to justify considering that it begins to cross lines with Apple’s MacBook laptops.

That’s why we’ve recommended the thin and light iPad Air, a much more affordable yet very capable tablet suited for the average user.


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A Quick Guide to Better CMM Maintenance

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CMM

A coordinate-measuring machine, also known as a CMM, is a specialized piece of equipment common in high-precision manufacturing. It uses coordinate technology to measure and replicate the dimensions of particular objects.

CMMs are a lot more accurate than regular measurement gauges. This characteristic makes them the equipment of choice for quality assurance in certain industries, like aerospace, defense, and medical manufacturing.

Despite being a powerful piece of equipment and the most versatile measuring tool in the metrology industry, CMMs can also be quite delicate. They require the right environment and proper maintenance practices to maintain accuracy and reliability.

The Importance of Proper CMM Maintenance

It’s essential to clean and inspect each part of your machine to ensure it stays efficient and accurate. Preventative maintenance ensures that your CMM remains accurate and performs at its best. It also improves your machine’s longevity.

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Without proper CMM maintenance, you could risk damaging your CMM. Repairs would involve operational delays and additional costs.

CMM Preventative Maintenance Tips

Preventative maintenance practices are ones your team could do by yourselves. It’s best to schedule regular maintenance checks for your CMM daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. These checks can alert you immediately to possible problems with your CMM.

Remove dust and dirt regularly

Clean and well-maintained air bearings ensure your CMM works as it should. These frictionless and stable bearings help ensure accuracy and efficiency. Dust and dirt can clog your machine’s air bearings, affecting its overall performance.

Aside from your machine’s air bearings, dust could also get into other surfaces and crevices. These tiny particles could affect your machine’s accuracy.

Handle Stylus Tips Properly

The stylus is the tip that makes contact with the object you want to measure with your CMM. Despite this significant role, the stylus can be fragile and require careful handling. Too much force could cause it to bend or break.

Clean your stylus with a cleaning agent and a lint-free cloth. Make sure to remove any residue from workplace materials.

Ensure Good Air Quality

Most CMMs use air bearings, and good air quality is essential to keep them running smoothly. Various air quality issues could affect machine performance and even burn out machine motors.

For air quality maintenance, ask and address the following questions:

  • Do the lines have condensation, oil, or other contaminants?
  • Is the airflow constant?
  • Are you using the proper pressure?

When To Call a Professional

Most preventative maintenance practices are simple enough to be performed internally. However, some issues require professional attention. You can also conduct regular professional maintenance checks to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Below are some procedures that require professional assistance. Many CMM suppliers also offer maintenance services alongside their machinery.

Conducting CMM Training

CMMs are highly specialized pieces of equipment. To handle them properly, your staff needs professional training.

Training courses allow you to get trained by CMM experts on the tools and knowledge necessary within your industry. Regular training sessions also help keep you updated on industry trends and standards.

Sensor Malfunctions

CMM sensors are critical to your machine’s speed and accuracy. They should be professionally inspected and calibrated annually.

Routine sensor maintenance can significantly improve the efficiency and accuracy of your machine. CMM sensors include the following:

  • Scanning probe
  • Single point laser
  • Line laser
  • Electronic touch trigger probe
  • Video camera

Faulty Bearings

Neglected air bearings could cause them to falter in their accuracy and stability. Properly maintained air bearings ensure a smooth, stable, and accurate measurement process.

A professional metrology company can thoroughly inspect your air bearings to prevent further machine damage.

A CMM is a significant investment for any business. Good maintenance practices help your machine last and perform at its best, thus making the most out of this investment.

 

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Nintendo’s discounted Switch game vouchers are back

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Nintendo’s Switch Online service has become a better deal over time, offering more perks than just the ability to play games online. On top of getting access to SNES and NES classics, and cloud save backups (for most games, save a couple dozen), Nintendo announced an even bigger perk yesterday: discounted game vouchers.

All subscribers can buy a two-pack of these vouchers for $99.98, and a huge range of first-party (in other words, typically discount-averse) Nintendo games are looped in. I encourage you to check out the full list, but some highlights include the brand-new Fire Emblem Engage, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon, Metroid Dread, Splatoon 3, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Important note: you both have to be a subscriber to buy and use these vouchers.

It’s great that this list is more expansive than Nintendo’s first swing at this deal in 2019. But this perk could actually turn Switch Online into a must-have service because it allows you to pre-purchase up to four sets of vouchers (totaling eight games), and keep them for 12 months from the date of purchase. With $20 in savings with each pair of vouchers, buying four bundles will save you up to $80, assuming that each title normally costs $59.99. If you buy a lot of games, this is a smart way to save a little bit of money on every forthcoming purchase.

I know what you might be thinking: “Can I use one on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?” Nintendo has not currently listed the deliriously anticipated sequel to Breath of the Wild, which is set to release on May 12th, 2023. Polygon has reached out to Nintendo to see if it’ll eventually become eligible, but did not hear back in time for publication.

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You can get a free seven-day trial for Switch Online here, and you can easily subscribe to the service directly from the Switch’s eShop (it costs $3.99 per month, $7.99 for three months, or $19.99 per year). However, you can purchase (or gift) a one-year subscription with a digital code via Best Buy for $19.99. With a family subscription that costs $34.99 per year, up to eight Switch accounts can reap the perks of Switch Online.

For players who want all the perks, access to Goldeneye 007 and other N64 and Sega Genesis games, and complimentary DLC for some Switch games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you’ll need Nintendo’s Switch Online plus the Expansion Pack tier, which costs $49.99 per year for one account, or $79.99 per year for a family subscription.

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Canadian discovery could help batteries last longer

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A chance discovery in a Canadian laboratory could help extend the life of laptop, phone and electric car batteries.

According to scientists from Dalhousie University in Halifax, common adhesive tape in batteries may be the reason many devices lose some of their power while off or not being used, which is a phenomenon known as self-discharge.

“In our laboratory we do many highly complex experiments to improve batteries, but this time we discovered a very simple thing,” Michael Metzger, an assistant professor in Dalhousie University’s physics and atmospheric science department, said in a news release. “In commercial battery cells there is tape—like Scotch tape—that holds the electrodes together and there is a chemical decomposition of this tape, which creates a molecule that leads to the self-discharge.”

The solution is simple, too, Metzger says: replace the polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic tape commonly used inside batteries with something more durable and stable.

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“It’s a commercially relevant discovery,” Metzger said. “It’s a small thing but it can definitely help improve battery cells.”

Metzger and his team have been trying to understand why lithium-ion battery cells in inactive devices tend to lose some of their power and self-discharge, something that has long frustrated consumers and manufacturers alike.

“Every manufacturer of lithium-ion cells in the world wants to make self-discharge as small as possible,” Metzger told CTVNews.ca in a joint statement with graduate student Anu Adamson. “In every battery there is a small rate of self-discharge that slowly drains the battery. This is very inconvenient for users and a big headache for industry.”

The electrodes that power batteries are separated by an electrolyte solution that is usually a form of lithium. After exposing several battery cells to different temperatures, researchers were surprised to see that electrolyte solution had turned bright red when it normally should be clear, which was something they had never encountered. The discovery was made by Adamson and two other students.

Chemical analysis of the red electrolyte solution revealed that at higher temperatures, a new molecule had been created inside the battery through the decomposition of common PET adhesive tape, which is often used to hold components together inside batteries. Strong and lightweight, PET is also frequently used for plastic packaging, drink bottles, clothing fibres and more.

Researchers realized that the red molecule, dimethyl terephthalate, was acting as a redox shuttle, meaning that it can transport electrons between a battery’s positive and negative electrodes, creating self-discharge and depleting power even when a battery is not in use. Ideally, the shuttling of electrons within a battery should only happen when a device is on.

“It’s a very simple thing—it is in every plastic bottle and no one would have thought that this has such a huge impact on how the lithium-ion cells degrade,” Metzger said in the news release. “It’s something we never expected because no one looks at these inactive components, these tapes and plastic foils in the battery cell, but it really needs to be considered if you want to limit side-reactions in the battery cell.”

The findings are outlined in a pair of studies published on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 in the peer-reviewed Journal of The Electrochemical Society. The researchers are now testing PET tape substitutes.

“Since the PET in the tape is the culprit that creates the redox shuttle, we need to replace it with a polymer that is more stable and does not decompose in the harsh chemistry of a lithium-ion battery,” Metzger and Adamson told CTVNews.ca. “So far, the results look very promising, and we plan to publish a new research paper on improved polymers for lithium-ion battery tapes soon.”

According to the researchers, their work has been attracting interest from “some of the world’s largest computer hardware companies and electric vehicle manufacturers,” which are eager to reduce self-discharge and improve battery performance.

“We visited some of these companies and they are planning to implement more stable polymers in their battery cells,” Metzger said.

In the release, Metzger noted: “One of the engineers said, ‘I heard you guys found out something is wrong with PET tape.’ So, I explained to him that it’s causing this self-discharge and asked him, ‘What are you using in your cells?’ He said, ‘PET tape.'”

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