Review of a 3D Printer That Prints Toys

This 3D printer was fun to review: The Toybox prints toys, like trains and tracks, minifigs and other stuff to nurture your inner child.

train1So, is this 3D printer going to replace a big box of Legos? No. The prints the Toybox produces are not as high quality as mass-produced plastic blocks, and some users will find the print times frustrating. But for older children who know where not to stick their fingers, and who want to add a creative angle to their play, the Toybox is a great and not overly expensive printer.

The High End: Review of the Ultimaker S5

I reviewed the Ultimaker S5, the latest high-end FDM printer from the Dutch company Ultimaker. It’s a great 3D printer, but dang, it is expensive.

Ultimaker S5-PLA before

The Ultimaker S5 is a serious printer for someone who’s serious about 3D printing and has a serious budget to match. We found the S5 performed flawlessly, producing prints large and small in a variety of materials…Still, people that do a lot of printing, be it for a school or at a company, will find the Ultimaker S5 fits their demands, especially if they want the best, most flexible filament 3D printing available, regardless of price.

Review of the Monoprice MP Mini Deluxe

Just posted: my review of the Monoprice $499 MP Mini Deluxe 3D printer, a low-cost SLA 3D printer. It’s cheap, but also frustratingly quirky, so those who don’t want to spend hours tweaking and fiddling with their printer should avoid it.

The MP Mini Deluxe is the lowest-cost resin printer we’ve yet tested, but it feels like a missed opportunity. It’s a very fussy printer that requires a lot of tweaking and configuration to use, and printing is very hit and miss. Inexperienced users would probably try a couple of prints, then give up in disgust because of the poor software, poor manual, failed prints and general complications of the printer.

Review of Parrot Anafi Drone

Just published: my review of the Parrot Anafi drone, the latest in the craze of folding portable video drones.

The Parrot Anafi has a lot to like. It’s one of the most compact full-featured drones we’ve ever tested, packing into a small, water-bottle-sized package that fits easily into a backpack. And when you reach the destination, it’s easy to take out and fly the drone. The Anafi has a good selection of flight modes to take interesting shots, and the video it captures is pretty good, delivering clean, smooth video with plenty of detail.

But there are a couple of caveats. It’s a small drone, which means it is easily buffeted by wind, and the lack of object avoidance requires more careful piloting. These factors mean we wouldn’t pick the Anafi over the Mavic Air, but it is worth considering if you are looking for a light drone that takes excellent video.

Appliance Science: How Surge Protectors Keep You Safe

Just published at CNET, How Surge Protectors Keep You Safe.

SurgeProtector_web_EDITYour appliances and gadgets love electricity. It’s the stuff that brings them to life, but too much can be a bad thing. If the voltage of the electricity coming in over your wires suddenly rises, that can damage them. Electrical engineers call this kind of problem a transient voltage surge, because it comes and goes quickly. This can happen when something like a transformer blowout or a faulty appliance sends a sudden spike of energy into your home wiring. This is why many people use a surge protector to block these surges.

Review Of The Yuneec Typhoon H

My review of the Yunnec Typhoon H, a rather cool hexacopter drone.

cameramoveIf you are serious about taking high-quality airborne video, you need a drone that offers serious quality and flexibility. The Typhoon H is the latest model from Yuneec for the high-end drone user, shooting very high quality 4K video and offering a lot of features. Relatively quiet operation, a 360-degree pannable camera and a big-screen HD video preview are among the features on offer in this attractive package.

Appliance Science: How Alexa Learns All About You

In my second column on Amazon’s Alexa service, I dig into how Alexa learns to understand and obey you.

MachineLearningWEB (1)In my last column, I looked at how Amazon’s Echo device and the Alexa voice service allows you to control things with your voice. You speak, it understands and obeys. Alexa is just part of a new wave of services that allow you to control things with your voice, from cell phones to intercoms and thermostats. You can even do things now likeask her to start your car. So, how do these listening devices transform your mellifluous voice into computer commands? The answer lies in two new fields of computer science, called machine learning and natural language programming.

Appliance Science: Alexa, How Does Alexa Work?

In my latest Appliance Science column, I look into how Amazon’s Alexa service captures your voice and translates this into commands.

ECHO_cropThere are plenty of things in my house that I yell at. Some of them answer back these days, though, and even do what I ask. My dog is still a work in progress as far as that goes, but my Amazon Echo has just about nailed it. The Echo is a device that uses speech recognition to perform an ever-growing range of tasks on command. Amazon calls the built-in brains of this device “Alexa,” and she* is the thing that makes it work.

Toms Guide Review: Extreme Fliers Micro Drone

I reviewed the Extreme Fliers Micro Drone for Toms Guide, a promising but  troubled small drone.

Microdrone1Crowdfunding sites have been the home of ideas that range from sublime to stupid. Fortunately, the Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 3.0 is a success story, because the result of this $3 million Indiegogo campaign is a simple drone that has some neat features and is fun to fly. It isn’t cheap, though: We looked at the $229 combo pack, which includes the drone, controller, Wi-Fi HD camera and a Google Cardboard FPV viewer. However, a few design issues dampen our enthusiasm.

 

 

Appliance Science: How Smoke Alarms Alert You To Fires

Just published on CNET, Appliance Science looks at the science of smoke detectors.

IONIZINGSmokeAlarm 3Smoke detectors save lives. By warning the occupants of a house when a fire starts, they give them more time to either deal with the fire or evacuate. But there is an increasing debate about how they are best used, and what type of smoke alarm is the best type to use. Let’s look at the science behind these early warning devices, and what this means for you.

Next Page