Stef’s Select — September/October 2016

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Autumn has arrived in New York City, I turned 20-years-old, and I’m still reviewing gadgets and reporting on technology. So, what’s new? Well, all the select gadgets and products that I’ve used during the past month-and-a-half. Thankfully, I stopped my habit of buying Adidas NMD shoes (lol), while also making good use of a 17-inch gaming laptop with an Intel Kaby Lake processor and GTX 1070 graphics — having that sort of performance on-hand is neat.

Oh, and of course there are the elections, unaware NYC drivers and school — all of which are difficult, but necessary challenges. So, without further ado…

Nikon D500

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This isn’t a full-frame camera, but the full 16–80mm kit lens package is well over $2,500. That’s quite a tall order, which brings me to my next point: if this weren’t for the sake of review, I wouldn’t buy the D500. But regardless, it takes some wonderful photos, especially with the right glass, filter, etc. It’s a good looking camera, to boot, and its controls can be temporarily illuminated for use in dark situations. So, there’s that and all of it is good.

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The autofocus is pretty strong, but like any Nikon SLR, video somewhat falls short. This is a camera meant for taking pictures; good ones, if you know what you’re doing and have the right lighting conditions (real or artificial) as well as the correct lenses.

HP Omen 17

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This is a bit of a hit and a miss for me. For one, the hinge on this 4K screen is a little soft, and ultimately the overall design of the Omen 17 is pretty boring, but it’s an insanely powerful desktop replacement. A GTX 1070 GPU, plus a quad-core Core i7–6700HQ clocked at 2.6GHz with 16GB RAM means that most DirectX 12 titles will run without too much fuss, even on a G-Sync display (that’s a full 4K to top it off).

It’s priced decently considering what is out there ($1,800), but I feel like there might be cooler offerings in just a few month’s time. Still, HP has solidified itself as an actual source for computer gaming hardware. They even bundled an external DVD-RW player so you can keep all forms of media on the massive 1TB + 256GB SSD combo. There’s a lot to like here, even if the power brick is enormous and there’s no chance of moving the Omen 17 since it weighs more than six pounds. But hey! It’s still a powerful machine.

Boosted Board 2

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Ah, the Boosted Board. It’s more like a cultural icon at this point, rather than just a simple toy. The coolest YouTubers all seem to have been exposed to the Boosted Board trend, and generally, as a personal vehicle it’s hard to beat. The Dual+ model of the second-gen Boosted Board retain its 22mph top speed, but with 12 mile range, water-resistant electronics, better trucks and an expansion port that’s good for more detailed modifications.

I’m completely enamored by this gadget, despite the fact that New York City is an incredibly dangerous playground for this thing, with uneven roads and busy commuter traffic being an instant death wish if you’re not careful or observant of your surroundings or the surface of the road. Still, it’s hard to beat for running quick errands, looks great in other people’s vlogs, draws all types of (usually good) attention, and is joy to shred at high speeds.

So, are you feeling gutsy enough to try one? Well, that’ll be $1,500 — the best electric skateboard out there is truly priced like it.

Google Pixel XL

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Well, damn. The Note 7 burst into flames (literally) and Google appeared almost on-cue to debut the new Pixel phones. 5-inch and 5.5-inch phones that embody everything Google about Android, and everything Android says about Google. And, it’s beautiful. While the design might strike some as uninspired, there’s no doubt that there is a strong dedication to showing every other Android phone manufacturer that Google can do better than them.

Weirdly, they have.

The Pixel XL is faster, more consistent, and more thoughtful than any other Android phone out there. It’s the first Android phone I would recommend to anyone and its camera is actually really good, a first for Google phones that have come straight from headquarters. There’s USB-C fast charging, Nexus Imprint (that fantastic and fast fingerprint sensor) plus battery life that I don’t have to fret over.

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To top it off, Google Assistant is finally a conscious effort by Google to turn Google Now into a useful personal assistant. Shortcomings be damned, Google can update the Pixels whenever it wants for new versions of Android or for security fixes (if you buy it directly), so Google Assistant will get better with time.

Overall, the Pixel XL set a new standard for Android phones. Now hopefully, Google’s (startled) partners can match and beat the Pixel line — without exploding in the process. However, this is also a sad story for HTC: despite being the contracted builder of this device, they have not had a truly successful flagship in years.

Adidas NMD City Sock Wool

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Continuing my pursuit of NMD sneakers, this time with the City Sock. I was interested in this particular model for three reasons: firstly, its neutrality (my love of monochrome), the fact that the Primeknit is in fact using wool (making it comfy for the colder months), and of course, it’s a City Sock — comfort with no laces means it has a futuristic aesthetic of sorts.

Thankfully, the Boost sole is just as thick and comfortable as other NMD models, and the tightness of the wool Primeknit also means that there’s a very snug fit, akin to the Ultraboost shoes (caged and uncaged) and less like the regular NMD R1 and runner versions. Of course, these are impossible to find at the moment, but if you’re lucky you might find a decent resale price.

Also, Adidas: it’s not cool that the initial press images featured Goretex and 3M reinforcements, while the final shoe didn’t take on those improvements — just saying.

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