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The latest from ASUS includes updates of the company’s ZenBook, as well as devices for gamers, business people, students, artists, and more.

Image: ASUS

CES 2021 must-read coverage

Some exhibitors arrived at CES 2021 with a single product, with all attention focused on that one innovation. Others, like ASUS, came heavily armed with a cornucopia of new tech, something for just about everyone. Their standard ZenBook has been updated.There’s a new laptop designed for graphic-heavy work, a portable monitor, gamer-centric laptops, one designed for e-learners and one for artists.  There’s even something for the whole family: A projector for movies, TV, and sports. After all, when influencers are designing converted rooms into entertainment hubs centered around one of the new projectors, it’s bound to rise in popularity.

SEE: CES 2021: The big trends for business (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)

ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED (UX582)

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Image: ASUS

The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED is 15.6-inch laptop with the new tilting ASUS ScreenPad Plus, and a full-width 4K secondary frameless touchscreen. Inside, it has the latest generation Intel Core i9 processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 laptop GPU graphics, and is also validated as an NVIDIA Studio laptop. Ports include two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), with a 1TB PCIe 3.0 X 4 SSD and 32GB of DDR4 RAM. The ZenBook Pro Duo 15 will be available in April 2021.

ZenBook Duo 14 (UX482)

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Image: ASUS

The ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 is a 14-inch Intel Evo-verified laptop that features the secondary auto-tilt touchscreen ASUS ScreenPad Plus, the FHD NanoEdge display and has a 16.9mm profile with 11th generation Intel Core processors and Intel Iris X graphics or the option of NVIDIA GeForce MX450. Asus said battery life is now 17 hours, and a USB-C Easy Charge from either a USB-C power delivery-certified charger or any standard USB-C charger. ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 (UX482) will be available for pre-order starting on January 14, 2021 in North America at: Amazon and ASUS US Store (UX482EA-DS71T), ASUS US Store (UX482EG-XS74T), ASUS US Store (UX482EG-XS77T), ASUS US Store (UX482EA-ES51T). 

Both the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED and ZenBook Duo 14 feature upgraded ScreenXpert 2 software, an ASUS Control Panel, which works with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, Premiere Pro and After Effects, with compatibility to be expanded. Also included with both is a stylus, the ScreenPad Plus and the new Active Aerodynamic System Plus (AAS Plus), which uses the ErgoLift hinge and auto-tilting ScreenPad Plus to increase overall cooling airflow by up to 49%.

SEE: CES 2021: The big trends for business (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature)

VivoBook S14 (S435)

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Image: ASUS

The VivoBook S14 is an ultralight, Intel Evo-verified 14-inch laptop with 11th Generation Intel Core i7 processor with Intel Iris X graphics, 16GB memory, and Intel Optane Memory H10, up to a 1TB PCIe SSD, and an all-metal, deep green chassis, a yellow color-blocked “enter” key. It has a frameless four-sided NanoEdge display and a 90% screen-to-body ratio, certified by TÜV Rheinland for low blue-light emissions. Weighs 2.87 lbs, has a 15.9mm profile, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A and USB 2.0 ports and a microSD card reader, enabling users to easily connect peripherals, displays and projectors. ASUS VivoBook S14 (S435) will be available starting in February 2021 in North America. 

ExpertBook B9 B9450CEA (vPro)

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Image: ASUS

The ExpertBook B9450CEA (vPro) is a 14-inch Intel Evo platform verified business laptop which weighs 1.94 lbs, has a 33WH battery, and the 2.2lb model has a 66 WH battery with all-day battery life. Also new: The latest Intel vPro Platform, for data security and remote management by IT administrators. ExpertBook B9450CEA (vPro) has the 11th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, Intel Iris X graphics, up to dual 2TB SSDs, Wi-Fi 6 and a Kensington NanoSaver lock, and an optional Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 chip to store passwords and encryption keys for added security. Also, an infrared camera and smart proximity sensor enable biometric face logins. ExpertBook B9450CEA (vPro) also features Harman Kardon-certified speakers. It will be available, ASUS noted, starting Q1 2021 in North America.

The ZenBook, VivoBook and ExpertBook all have ASUS Two-Way artificial intelligence (AI) Noise-Canceling with machine learning to isolate unwanted noise from human speech. 

ASUS Chromebook CX9 (CX9400)

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Image: ASUS

The ASUS Chromebook CX9 has an 11th Generation Intel Core i7 processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics, and has Wi-Fi 6, Harman Kardon-certified dual-speaker audio, an anti-glare FHD display, an ultralight magnesium-alloy chassis that is 16mm and around 2.2 lbs. Ports include Thunderbolt 4, USB Type-A and HDMI. Titan C security stores sensitive information.  It will be available starting Q2 2021 in North America.

ASUS BR1100: Made for Education

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Image: ASUS

The 11-inch ASUS BR1100 has a rubber bumper surrounding all four edges, military-grade durability and a spill-resistant keyboard. There are two designs, convertible and clamshell. The convertible has a garaged stylus to enhance note taking and drawing and also has multiple modes. It has an antimicrobial keyboard frame and a TÜV Rheinland-certified display for eye protection. The Intel Celeron N4500 or Intel Pentium Silver processor has an ASUS Two-Way AI Noise-Canceling Microphone, a noise-reducing camera, Wi-Fi 6 connections, a webcam shield and a microphone mute key for privacy. There’s a 42WH battery and a 4G LTE option which provides mobile internet connections. Ports include USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 and USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, an HDMI slot and a microSD card reader. BR1100 offers up to 16GB of RAM and the storage option of up to a 128GB eMMC and a 1TB M.2 SSD.  It will be available starting Q1 2021 in North America.

Chromebook Flip CX5/C536 (CX5500)

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Image: ASUS

ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5/C536 is the first 15.6-inch Chromebook Flip powered by an 11th Generation Intel Core processor with Intel Iris Xegraphics, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, ASUS Wi-Fi Stabilizer technology and dual Harman Kardon-certified speakers. It supports Google Stadia and NVIDIA GeForce for gaming. The 57 WH battery in Chromebook Flip CX5/C536 provides battery life of up to 11 hours and has up to 16GB of memory, storage of up to a 512GB SSD and a microSD card slot for expandability. It will be available starting Q1 2021 in North America.

ProArt Display PA148CTV

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Image: ASUS

The ASUS ProArt Display PA148CTV is a 14-inch FHD IPS portable monitor with ASUS Dial and Virtual Control Panel to use with Adobe creative tools such as Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, and Lightroom Classic. PA148CTV delivers color with 100% sRGB and 100% Rec. 709 color spaces. It’s Calman Verified and factory pre-calibrated to provide Delta E less than 2 color accuracy. The display also has a responsive 10-point multi-touch panel, with an anti-glare film. Programmable hotkeys include adjustment dials, sliders, buttons, and wheels. PA148CTV has USB-C ports and a micro HDMI port. A tripod socket allows for mounting the display onto a tripod, and an adjustable metal kickstand props the display up. It also comes with a leather sleeve for elegant portability. It will be available starting Q2 2021 in North America.

ZenBeam Latte projector

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Image: ASUS

The ZenBeam Latte projector allows users to take movies or music on the go. It has a new cylindrical mug-shaped design and a fabric exterior to enhance audio with increased sound penetration. ZenBeam Latte has been awarded a CES 2021 Innovation Award Honoree, a Good Design Award 2020, and a Taiwan Excellence Award 2021.

A Harman Kardon 10-watt speaker is included and connects via Bluetooth to accompany projection visuals with incredible audio. The speaker can also serve as a portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers up to 12 hours of audio, and the projector features three audio modes—movie, music, and gaming. It will be available starting Q2 2021 in North America.

ASUS TUF Dash F15

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Image: ASUS

The UF Dash F15 gaming laptop has a slim design, developed for on-the-go or around-the-house use. Up to an 11th Generation Intel Core i7 processor and a GeForce RTX 3070 laptop GPU blitz can handle games as well as serious work. The Dash F15 has a gaming panel with up to a 240Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time that reduces motion blur. There’s also a Thunderbolt 4 port, an expansive battery that offers up to 16.6 hours of video playback, advanced cooling, a heat spreader and five copper heat pipes to distribute thermal energy while dual fans channel air through four outlets that expel heat faster and with less noise, a self-cleaning cooling module. It has Two-Way AI Noise-Cancelling technology, and the new TUF Gaming portfolio. It will be available starting Q1 2021 in North America.

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Apple TV+ Free Trial Subscription to Be Extended Till July for Eligible Customers: Report

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Apple TV+ free trial subscription will reportedly be extended once again for existing free trial users. All Apple TV+ users whose one-year free trial was going to expire sometime before June, will now instead be able to enjoy free access till July 2021, a new report suggests. The one-year Apple TV+ free trials were offered with new purchases of the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. All free trials of users who initially subscribed to the service when it launched, were set to expire on November 1, 2020. This deadline was extended to February 2021 last year, and now Apple has further extended it till July.

9to5Mac reports that the delay for this extension could be due to postponement of shooting Apple TV+ originals due to the pandemic. Customers who availed this free trial when the service launched, will now enjoy additional nine months of free access to Apple TV+. This new additional six month of extension is reportedly done by Apple to introduce new series in its content catalogue and increase the value proposition, before it begins to ask for a fee.

As mentioned, this is the second extension announced by Apple of the free trial that was slated to end last year in November. The report says that all eligible customers will be notified of this extension via email in the next couple of weeks. Existing paying subscribers will reportedly be compensated with store credit refunds to offset the cost of subscription.

Apple TV+ upcoming titles include Cherry starring Tom Holland, season two of popular series like For All Mankind, The Morning Show, and even See. All of these should release some time this year, after inevitable production delays last year due to pandemic restrictions.

Even now, Apple TV+ is offered for free for one year when you purchase an Apple device and redeem the offer within 90 days. Monthly subscription of Apple TV+ in India is Rs. 99 per month. It is also bundled with an Apple One subscription.


Is HomePod mini the best smart speaker under Rs. 10,000? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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The 8 best microphones to help you sound better in your next video meeting

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There’s plenty of technology available to help improve the quality of our virtual calls. A top-of-the-line microphone is a great start.

In recent weeks, there’s been a surge in video conferencing as many teams operate remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Needless to say, it only takes a few Zoom calls to realize that a standard laptop microphone simply cannot deliver high-quality audio. While some companies have provided employees with a stipend to upgrade their home office setups, many were not as lucky.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of tech to improve the quality of these virtual conferences and an aftermarket microphone is a smart way to immediately give your audio a healthy boost. Ranging from high-end broadcast-style microphones to lightning port audio accessories for recordings on the go, there’s certainly no shortage of models to choose from. Without further ado, here are some of the best microphones for the home studio.





Image: Amazon

When it comes to top-notch microphones, Blue is one of the heavyweights in the market. The Blue Yeti USB microphone is one of the manufacturer’s more versatile devices. This model comes with four different pattern modes from optimal sound quality in a host of situations. For example, those who are recording music or simply tuning in for a conference call may prefer the cardioid mode to capture the audio produced immediately in front of the unit. To more aptly record conversations between two people in the same room, the bi-directional mode captures audio from the front- and back-side of the microphone. Anyone in the market for a high-end microphone for the home studio should give this well-rounded, multipurpose mic a long look.


$130 at Amazon



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Image: Elgato

The Elgato Wave:3 is a versatile microphone for remote workers, gamers, and musicians alike. The microphone has a steel external grill that protects the internal components and uses a cardioid polar pattern to capture audio. The back of the device features a USB Type-C port and a headphone output. The front-facing dial adjusts headphone volume, input, and more. The stand features a u-mount for easy adjustments, and the padded base keeps the unit firmly in place. A mute feature allows you to cut the audio as needed, and Elgato offers a pop filter (sold separately) to further minimize audio disturbances.


$138 at Amazon



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Image: HyperX

The HyperX SoloCast USB microphone is a great option for frequent Zoom conference attendees; especially those who enjoy gaming and streaming after the workday. To prevent audio mishaps, the model features a dedicated mute button as well as an LED indicator to ensure the mic is muted or unmuted as intended. For added functionality, the model is also compatible with PS4 and popular streaming platforms.


$60 at Best Buy



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IMAGE: B&H

With a steel body, matte chrome finish, and zinc die-cast elements, the HEiL Sound PR-40 certainly looks the part of a first-rate microphone. Also, the internal technology backs up the image. The cardioid pickup pattern is ideal for broadcast-style audio capturing sound directly in front and to the immediate sides of the microphone. A built-in Sorbothane shock mount reduces the risk of interference and this design includes a pair of mesh screens to improve sound quality. For additional peace of mind, this particular model comes with a limited three-year warranty.


$322 at B&H



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While a more rudimentary microphone with minimal audio accouterments might fly for some, others might want to go all-in on a full home studio microphone setup. This FIFINE model includes a quality mic as well as many standard accessories for under $100. The home studio kit comes with an adjustable scissor arm for added versatility and precision placement. The included double pop filter is designed to reduce airflow immediately toward the instrument minimizing audio “pops” during recording. The package also comes with a microphone tripod stand for those so inclined.


$62 at Amazon



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Image: Amazon

The Shure MV5 is a solid compact microphone packaged in a vintage master of the airwaves build. Three separate preset modes (instrument, flat, and vocals) provide optimal sound quality based on the task at hand. The microphone itself easily detaches from the aluminum mount for a more low-profile tabletop fit. As is the case with other MOTIV products, this microphone also comes with the ShurePlus MOTIV app enabling users to more precisely fine-tune their recording quality and share these files.


$100 at Amazon



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Image: Amazon

Not everyone in the market for a high-quality USB microphone is looking for a personal home studio. This JUNIVO model acts as an excellent no-frills microphone with plenty of thoughtful design touches. The adjustable gooseneck mic body provides excellent maneuverability and the included noise-cancellation technology keeps audio crisp and clear. A central LED-equipped mute button along the base allows you to quickly cut the mic without searching from the digital button in the Zoom room. This is the perfect feature for those with pets roaming the home office.
At just four inches in diameter, the model is also appreciatively compact and ideal for desktops with limited space.


$26 at Amazon



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IMAGE: Shure

There are many situations where we need to record an audio clip on our portable devices. In fact, some professions depend on leveraging a cell phone as a modern dictaphone. Unfortunately, the low-quality onboard microphones on these devices can make transcription difficult and render live musical performances painfully inaudible. The MV88 is an exceptional microphone option for devices with Lightning ports and an adjustable joint along the mount allows users to focus the microphone closer to the sheets of sound. The aforementioned ShurePlus MOTIVE Audio apps grants users greater control over these audio files including trimming, sharing, and fine-tuning clips.


$150 at Amazon

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Studying Chaos with One of the World’s Fastest Cameras

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There are things in life that can be predicted reasonably well. The tides rise and fall. The moon waxes and wanes. A billiard ball bounces around a table according to orderly geometry.

And then there are things that defy easy prediction: The hurricane that changes direction without warning. The splashing of water in a fountain. The graceful disorder of branches growing from a tree.

Studying Chaos with One of the Worlds Fastest Cameras

A so-called chaotic optical cavity is designed in such a way that a beam of light reflecting off its interior surfaces will never follow the same path twice. Image credit: Caltech

These phenomena and others like them can be described as chaotic systems, and are notable for exhibiting behaviour that is predictable at first but grows increasingly random with time.

Because of the large role that chaotic systems play in the world around us, scientists and mathematicians have long sought to better understand them. Now, Caltech’s Lihong Wang, the Bren Professor in the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering, has developed a new tool that might help in this quest.

In the latest issue of Science Advances, Wang describes how he has used an ultrafast camera of his own design that recorded video at one billion frames per second to observe the movement of laser light in a chamber specially designed to induce chaotic reflections.

“Some cavities are non-chaotic, so the path the light takes is predictable,” Wang says. But in the current work, he and his colleagues have used that ultrafast camera as a tool to study a chaotic cavity, “in which the light takes a different path every time we repeat the experiment.”

The camera makes use of a technology called compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), which Wang has demonstrated in other research to be capable of speeds as fast as 70 trillion frames per second. The speed at which a CUP camera takes video makes it capable of seeing light—the fastest thing in the universe—as it travels.

But CUP cameras have another feature that makes them uniquely suited for studying chaotic systems. Unlike a traditional camera that shoots one frame of video at a time, a CUP camera essentially shoots all of its frames at once. This allows the camera to capture the entirety of a laser beam’s chaotic path through the chamber all in one go.

That matters because, in a chaotic system, the behaviour is different every time. If the camera only captured part of the action, the behaviour that was not recorded could never be studied, because it would never occur in exactly the same way again. It would be like trying to photograph a bird, but with a camera that can only capture one body part at a time; furthermore, every time the bird landed near you, it would be a different species. Although you could try to assemble all your photos into one composite bird image, that cobbled-together bird would have the beak of a crow, the neck of a stork, the wings of a duck, the tail of a hawk, and the legs of a chicken. Not exactly useful.

Wang says that the ability of his CUP camera to capture the chaotic movement of light may breathe new life into the study of optical chaos, which has applications in physics, communications, and cryptography.

“It was a really hot field some time ago, but it’s died down, maybe because we didn’t have the tools we needed,” he says. “The experimentalists lost interest because they couldn’t do the experiments, and the theoreticians lost interest because they couldn’t validate their theories experimentally. This was a fun demonstration to show people in that field that they finally have an experimental tool.”

Source: Caltech




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