Author Archive: Gareth

Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.

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By October 10, 2016 Read More →

Kodak PIXPRO SP360-4K Review

p1030136The Kodak SP360-4K is a 360 degree camera offering 4K video at 30fps. the SP360-4K doesn’t use any revolutionary methods to capture 360, instead of a simple twinning of two cameras back-to-back and some editing software to stitch the images together.

 

The camera has a 12 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, and takes 8 megapixel still images using a 360×235 degrees ultra-wide f/2.8 lens. In addition to Video and still images the SP360 as manages time lapse, high speed, loop and continuous recording functions.

Utilising Wi-Fi there is no need for a large LCD screen on the camera, therefore they allowing the size to be significantly reduced. Instead the user controls the recordings with a mobile app  and playback the recordings from the MicroSD card inside the camera. NFC is onboard to help with pairing the two cameras and the mobile phone. However, it took me quite some time to get them all working and even then I wasn’t quite convinced I was in control of both cameras.

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In addition to the mobile app there is also a remote watch. This does not have a screen and could lead to some blind photography. However, one has to remember that this is a 360 degree camera setup so you are going to have to worry so much about framing.

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The cameras construction is quite durable, whilst plastic there is a metallic feel from the paint and, whilst you certainly wouldn’t want to you, this would take a knock or two. The cameras do feel vulnerable as there is so much glass around the lens, fingerprints are likely. There are a couple of lens caps included however I felt they popped off far too easily. There are sealed compartments for the ports and the device is both freezeproof alongside splash resistant.

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This particular pack has a load of accessories, including rubber lens caps, a protective lens cover, a number of mounts and the remote control watch. Looking around the camera on one side there is a 1 inch LCD screen, this is a low powered screen used for changing the modes and settings on the fly.

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There’s an on/off button that doubles as a Mode button and the up button for navigating the menus. Under that is down button. There’s a large record, again a double function button, that is the OK button for selecting items in the menu. Finally, there is a Wi-Fi button next to this.

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On the other side is the standard tripod screw hole, however this is plastic. Under this is a cover hiding the MicroUSB, HDMI port and the MicroSD slot.

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On the bottom is the battery compartment. The battery is charged externally and there is only one charger, a little bit of an inconvenience if you purchase the dual pack. The battery is 1250 mAh. According to Kodak the battery is good for 160 shots or 55 minutes at the highest resolution (4K, at 30fps) video, with Wi-Fi on (required for the app to connect.) This was a little disappointing however I can’t say I actually ran out of battery at any point.

There are no MicroSD cards included and given that camera records in 4K, fast cards will be required. When recording 4K videos, the camera records a maximum of a 4GB file. Without interruption another file is created. In 4K this will see around 10 minutes of footage, lower resolutions work out around 30 minutes.

Kodak’s PIXPRO 360 Stitch software is free to download from Kodak’s website, and lets you manipulate your footage a little. You can change the direction and rotation the video. The rotation was a god send as I had  mounted a camera upside-down. There are options for calibration and few effect settings, and finally you can export the video to YouTube. It would seem that Youtube is really the only viable option.

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In saying that, I found nothing but problems importing the video footage into the Stitch software. Output directly imported from the camera was apparently not compatible with the software. I obviously made a mistake with one of the settings when capturing, I can view the video in a localised media player however that loose some of the 360 degree aspect.

From what I managed to capture the camera, I have posted some highlights below. They work quite well in a Google Cardboard. Certainly there are fragments and the whole image isn’t dazzlingly high quality, however I would say that this might be a result of the software having very little to adjust in the editing process.

The biggest problem with the Kodak system itself is the mounts. Once in you will have trouble accessing the functions, battery, and SD card. You will be removing the camera from the mounts frequently and it’s just a bit of a pain.

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The Kodak PixPro SP360-4K is a good looking piece of kit. It’s hardly an action camera you can attach to your helmet and jump off something. It will likely appeal more to the landscape photographer who wants a camera they can leave outside in the evening without concern. The resulting images are acceptable if a little plain and flat.

Posted in: Cameras, Reviews
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By October 7, 2016 Read More →

A new dimension for the Vivitek H5098 Home Cinema Projector

A home cinema experience to remember is the dream delivered by Vivitek’s new H5098, a professional-grade projector for home cinema enthusiasts from a leading brand of visual display products. Comprising all that’s needed to create the big screen experience at home, the H5098 majors on both performance and flexibility – as well as Vivitek’s reputation for reliability and environmental-friendliness – to ensure a thrilling visual experience.

Image quality is assured thanks to its Full HD 1080p resolution and 50,000:1 contrast features. The H5098 leverages DLP® technology with BrilliantColor™ for accurate, long-lasting colour and improved efficiency in illumination optics to provide a wide colour gamut capable of creating over 1 billion colour shades. Combined with its 2,000 ANSI lumens and RGBRGB colour wheel, the H5098 delivers the ultimate performance in video projection in just about any environment, albeit in dark or ambient light.

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This cinematic image quality is backed up by the H5098’s flexibility, as it can be installed on the ceiling with a choice of five different lenses, to cover the different projection throw ratio distances, making it ideally suited to designated cinema rooms in premium properties or for city dwellers in compact apartments. It can be incorporated easily into existing home cinema settings, while its centre lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift and quick touch lens release design further aids its easy installation.

Film buffs will come to appreciate the enhanced viewing experience the H5098 offers thanks to its VividMotion frame interpolation function. This has been engineered to reduce motion judder to create a fluid and flawless video stream, providing a finely detailed viewing experience when fast paced movie-scenes or sports games are being enjoyed. For the home cinema enthusiast enjoying a 3D performance, the H5098 will pull you right into the scenes, even allowing 2D to 3D conversion to always guarantee the visual performance desired.

As users have come to expect from Vivitek, the H5098 is highly flexible, enabling users to enjoy full HD resolution images from Blu-ray players or game consoles with dual HDMI ports to connect them simultaneously.

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Key Features/ Specifications:

  • DLP® technology with BrilliantColor™ for accurate, long-lasting colour.
  • Full HD resolution and 50,000:1 contrast ratio for vibrant and dazzling images.
  • Enjoy great colour reproduction thanks to 6 segment RGBRGB colour wheel.
  • Enhance viewing experience with Vivid Motion frame interpolation function, which reduces motion judder and provides a cleaner viewing of film.
  • Great installation flexibility with 5 optional lens and lens shift capacity.
  • Built-in 12V trigger for screen or blinds control.

**Optional lenses**

Lens Name Short-Throw Short Throw Zoom Standard Long Throw 1 Long Throw 2
Zoom Fixed Zoom 1x 1.18x 1.25x 1.5x 1.67x
F Number 2.5 2.05 – 2.27 2.46 – 2.56 2.5 – 3.1 2.2 – 2.5
Focal Length (f) 11.46 mm 16.64 – 19.54 mm 22.8 – 28.5 mm 28.5 – 42.75 mm 44.5 – 74.19 mm
Throw Ratio 0.78:1 1.10 – 1.30:1 1.54 – 1.93:1 1.93 – 2.89:1 3.00 – 5.01:1
Aspect Ratio 16:9 16:9 16:9 16:9 16:9
Image Size 47″ – 290″ 35″ – 369″ 36” – 300” 32” – 468” 28″ – 301″
Projection Distance 0.8 – 5 m 1 – 9 m 1.5 -10.2 m 2 – 20 m 3 – 20 m

Pricing and availability:

The Vivitek H5098 is available immediately at a MSRP excl. VAT of £2199

Posted in: Uncategorized
By October 7, 2016 Read More →

Google WiFi in a nutshell

download-25One of the smaller announcements that seem to have been buried under the bigger stories was Google’s Wifi project. Google Wifi is set of little puck shaped wireless access points in sync with each other and can be placed around the home to build a strong wireless network around the home. The main emphasis here is for the WiFi to be able to support multiple devices, and to deliver high-bandwidth activities such as streaming video and gaming without congestion.

Google Wifi comes in packs of one or three, and one of the big features is allowing the user keep adding to the setup if you have a large home. Google recommends using one point in a small house or flat measuring between 500- and 1500 square feet, two in a medium house measuring between 1500- and 3000 square feet, and three in a large home between 3000- and 4500 square feet. Google Wifi uses mesh Wi-Fi, determining the best path for your data.
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A companion app for Android and iOS, allows the user to optimise your network however the system itself will work on the more complex aspects, like ensuring your Wi-Fi is operating on the clearest channel, so you don’t have to. The Network Assist app can even tell you where best to place a Google Wifi point or advise you to adjust your broadband tariff. One of the more interesting features is that you can pause a Wi-Fi connection to a particular connected device, such as the computer you child is glued to running League of Legends when you have called them five times for dinner. You can also see how much bandwidth these devices are using and prioritise particular devices over others. Google Wifi supports wireless encryption, verified boot and auto updates, keeping security and user privacy as high priorities.

As with most things at the Google event, nothing for the UK has been confirmed. Google Wifi is available to pre-order in the US from November, and will cost $129 for a single pack and $299 for a three pack.

Connectivity

  • AC1200 2×2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi
  • Expandable mesh Wi-Fi
  • Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz) supporting 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • TX Beamforming
  • Bluetooth Smart Ready
  • 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports per point (can be configured as WAN or LAN)
  • Security
  • WPA2-PSK
  • Automatic security updates
  • Infineon SLB 9615 trusted platform module

Hardware

  • 710MHz Quad-core processor
  • 512MB DDR3L RAM
  • 4GB eMMC flash storage
  • 15W power adaptor
  • White plastic build
  • 106.12×68.75mm
  • 340g
By October 6, 2016 Read More →

KARMA – Much More Than a Drone

d5Much More Than a Drone. Karma features a compact, fits-in-a-small-backpack design and includes an image-stabilization grip that can be handheld or mounted to vehicles, gear and more. Karma makes it easy for anyone to capture amazingly smooth, stabilized video during almost any activity. Karma features a painless out-of-the-box experience unlike any other drone in the market:
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  • Compact and foldable, the entire system fits into the included backpack that’s so comfortable to wear during any activity, users will forget they’ve got it on.
  • A game-style controller features an integrated touch display, making it fun, fast and easy to fly without the need for a separate phone or tablet t o see what your drone sees.
  • The 3-axis camera stabilizer can be removed from the drone and attached to the included Karma Grip for capturing ultra-smooth handheld and gear-mounted footage.Karma will be available October 23rd in the following bundles:
  • Karma without a GoPro camera for $799.99 MSRP
  • Karma bundled with HERO5 Black for $1099.99 MSRP
  • Karma bundled with HERO5 Session for $999.99 MSRP (available in early 2017)
  Learn more about Karma HERE.
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Posted in: Uncategorized
By October 6, 2016 Read More →

Google Home in a nutshell

download-31Tuesday the 4th of October saw Google enter into a new domain, launching an item of hardware that intertwines all of the smart technology brands they have been purchasing for the last number of years and packaging them up into a neat solution to become a central feature of your home, Google Home. What this boils down it is that Home is a voice-controlled speaker. As highlighted by the Google Pixel, launched the same day, Google Home is that it will be powered by Google Assistant. This app is Google’s updated  smart digital assistant, much like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa, and will help you get things done. Current Android users will know saying “Ok Google” to their phone provides much functionality, this does that and much more.

 

The hardware on display is a small, minimalist cylinder with an angled top. The bottom part of the casing is modular and can be replaced with bases of varying colours. Above this is white with four LED lights built into the slanted touch sensitive surface. Google mentioned the design is based on wine glasses and candles. No hardware specs have been confirmed for the innards.

Google Home works a speaker, it will streams audio over Wi-Fi, using your voice or smartphone as a control mechanism. Imagine the Chromecast functionality for music. So far only Google Play Music, Spotify, Youtube Music, TuneIn. iHeartRadio and Pandora have been mentioned as compatible. We would expect other sources to work when the Home ships worldwide. You’ll also be able to connect to multiple Home speakers at the same time too, so you should be able to create a Sonos-style multi-room system with relative ease.

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You’ll also get some home automation features, which means you’ll be able to control various connected products around the house. Much like the Audio side, only a few brands have been mentioned, Nest Thermostat, Samsung SmartThings and Philips Hue lightbulbs. IFTTT is listed so the potential is almost limitless!

Will the Google Home be a hit or the new Nexus Q? The price of $129 seems welcome and if you have Nest or Hue Lightbulbs it might be a no-brainer. However, I feel for many it might be an impulse purchase and will probably will only really benefit the family with the most hectic of schedules or perhaps Google Employee themselves.

By October 5, 2016 Read More →

GoPro HERO5 Cameras – Cloud-Connected and Simplified.

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HERO5 Session
The Best, Only Smaller. For $299.
HERO5 Session shares the same small design and brilliant convenience of the original HERO Session camera, but benefits from significant performance upgrades:
  • Video Resolutions up to 4K at 30 Frames per Second
  • Professional Quality 10MP Photos
  • Auto-Upload of Photos and Video to Cloud when Camera is Charging*
  • Voice Control with Support for 7 Languages (additional languages coming)
  • Simple 1-Button Control
  • Waterproof Without a Housing to 33 Feet (10m)
  • Compatible with Existing GoPro, Mounts Including Karma
  • Professional-Grade Electronic Video Stabilization
  • Distortion-Free Wide Angle Video and Photos with new Linear-View Setting
HERO5 Session will be available October 2nd for an MSRP of $299.99. Learn more HERE.
Posted in: Cameras, News
By October 5, 2016 Read More →

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL in a nutshell

download-4Most are saying farewell to the Nexus brand however I’m not committed to that mindset, as with Indiana Jones and Red Dwarf, never say never. The Pixel phone is the new phone on the block. A pair of super high-end offerings with price tags at one particular end of the spectrum. There was a lot of speculation and excitement right up until the announcement itself and then the controversy started.

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On the one hand, there was nothing along the lines of the recent Apple controversy. Google are not reinventing the wheel with the Pixel, it’s just another phone line with specs you would expect from any other high-end phone. There is a distinctive look that some, including myself, are not 100% on. There is a camera with some bold statements and, given the demonstration material, impressive results. However, many of the features of the Pixel’s announcement were down to the apps themselves, Google Assistant, Duo and Drive.

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Under the polished glass, the Pixel has a 5-inch, 1080p AMOLED display, not a Quad HD. Unlike the Pixel XL’s larger 5.5-inch AMOLED Quad HD display. A quad-core Snapdragon 821 chipsets (2x 2.15Ghz / 2x 1.6 GHz,) the first of its type in the US and the UK. Backed by 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM keeps things lightening fast. The Pixel has a 2,770mAh whilst the Pixel XL’s  sits at 3,450mAh.

On the back is a little imprint fingerprint sensor, nothing particularly special by today’s standards. However, above this is the 12.3MP, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus sensor with a 1.55µm pixel size, at the same number of pixels, bigger pixels in a camera sensor means more area for light to strike the sensor, larger pixel sensors meaning you will have more accurate color and luminance in each pixel. Helping Google outline this are independent researchers at DxOMark judging this as the best you’ll find in a smartphone. The front sees a 8 MP, f/2.0, 1/3.2″ sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size.

There is a 3.5mm headphone jack and every “ahem” and wink Google peppered into the presentation was accompanied by a little groan from myself.

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Three colours are to be made available and the naming system is quite cute. Quite Black, Really Blue and Very Silver.

Much of the Pixels launch was taken up by the Google Assistant demonstration. This can’t be considered a backbone of the Pixel as most Android users will be able to take advantage of the service once rocking Nougat. Assistant is a complex app, integrated with most of Google’s services to provide you with itineraries, news, search results and suggestions through a casual conversation. Assistant keeps track of your searches and preferences to cater better results as you use it.

The pricing is the same as the iPhone, a 32GB Pixel is £599 and a 128GB is £699. Whereas the Pixel XL is £719 for the 32GB, and £819 for the 128GB.

https://store.google.com/product/pixel_phone

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Posted in: News, Phones
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By October 4, 2016 Read More →

Griffin Elevator Unboxing

vlcsnap-00045Griffin has sent their Elevator for out appraisal. This is a simple stand that raises your laptop on the desk to make it more comfortable to use.

Elevator’s sturdy brushed aluminum and minimal design goes great with any desk decor.

 

Elevator conforms to health and safety standards, making your laptop safer and more comfortable to use all day long. Healthycomputing.com, the premier source for office ergonomics, recommends positioning the top of your screen level with your eyes and sitting at least an arm’s length from the screen. Both of these key ergonomic standards are made possible using Elevator with an external keyboard.

https://griffintechnology.com/us/elevator

By October 4, 2016 Read More →

GoPro, Now an End-to-End Storytelling Solution with Cloud-Connected HERO5 Cameras

GoPro, Inc. today unveiled new products and services that dramatically simplify the process of capturing, editing and sharing engaging content, establishing GoPro as an end-to-end storytelling solution. GoPro’s founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, introduced a new line of HERO5 cameras, cloud- based software, and drone, Karma, to international press at the base of Squaw Valley, CA, near Lake Tahoe. Here is the event as it was broadcast live:
With these new products, were delivering on our promise to make it easy to capture and share engaging stories, said Woodman. HERO5’s ability to auto-upload photos and videos to a GoPro Plus account dramatically simplifies mobile, on-the- go editing, sharing and enjoyment.
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This is a game-changing experience that we will continue to build upon. Woodman adds, We’re stoked to launch Karma and show how much more it is than a drone. Karma packs Hollywood-caliber aerial, handheld and gear-mounted image stabilization into a backpack for $799. It’s so easy to use, a beginner can have fun straight away.
In addition to significant gains in performance and convenience, GoPro’s all-new HERO5 line of cameras can auto-upload photos and videos to GoPro Plus, a cloud-based subscription service that makes it easy to access, edit and share GoPro content anytime, anywhere using a phone or computer.5Exciting features include:
  • 2-inch Touch Display + Simplified Controls
  • Video Resolutions up to 4K at 30 Frames per Second
  • Professional Quality 12MP Photos
  • Auto-Upload of Photos and Video to Cloud when Camera is Charging*
  • Voice Control with Support for 7 Languages (additional languages coming)
  • Simple 1-Button Control
  • Waterproof Without a Housing to 33 Feet (10m)
  • Compatible with Existing GoPro Mounts, Including Karma
  • Stereo Audio Recording and Advanced Wind Noise Reduction
  • Professional-Grade Electronic Video Stabilization
  • Distortion-Free Wide Angle Video and Photos with New Linear-View Setting
  • RAW and WDR Photo Modes
  • GPSHERO5 Black will be available October 2nd for an MSRP of $399.99. Learn more HERE.
By October 3, 2016 Read More →

BenQ EW2775ZH Eye-care monitor Review

1453360061This Benq EW2775 is a very standard looking full HD monitor, not 4k, a standard 1920 x 1080, a refresh rate of 60hz and a response time of 12ms. However, to separate if from the rest there is Brightness Intelligence Technology. This technology brightens certain areas of the screen to reduce strain on the user’s eyes when the areas are darkened.

In addition, there is Low Blue Light Plus. Some will have come to this review looking for this exclusively as it can be something of a Godsend. Working in the evenings in a darkened room, at the screen, blue-light causes can cause eye strain. There are various solutions out there, however, none are as effective as having the technology built into the hardware.

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Round the back are two HDMI inputs and a D-Sub connector (some might know this as a VGA connector.) There is a 3.5mm line-in audio jack so that you can connect audio to it when using the D-Sub connector, HDMI includes an audio line in the architecture. There are speakers on the back of the unit also, to make worse the weakest part of the screen.

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How does the AMVA panel square up against the more popular TN/IPS approach these days at 1080p/60Hz? IPS is generally recommended for better colour accuracy, etc, but with a 3000:1 contrast the picture looks great. One of the main concerns about VA or AMVA is that there can be a problem of direct viewing issues. On the one hand, this is a screen that you would have facing you so the likelihood of having problems with view angle are limited. In reality, I found it had to really notice any reports of weird colour shifting when changing positions. The picture and colours remained steady.

TUV Rheinland Certification for Flicker-free boasting on the packaging means Technischer Überwachungsverein or Technical Inspection Association is a German organisation who specialises in validating the safety of products.

So how does the Low Blue Light Plus work in reality? This isn’t entirely new technology, or particularly groundbreaking. Samsung has ‘Warm2’, Dell has ‘Paper’ mode and other manufacturer have ‘Warm’ or ‘Reading’ settings built into their settings. However, it’s predictable that Benq has their own variant. Then of course, if your monitor does not have it you could manually reduce the blue colour channel manually. Not the easiest thing to do and who could be bothered fiddling with setting when you want to achieve this. There are software options however in reality nothing beats a button on the front of the screen that does it.

In reality, it does put a lot less strain on the user’s eyes and can be combined with software efforts like f.lux to make your computer perfectly fine to use at night. When using it I realised just how much of a difference it makes. Sitting up late at night typing reviews or editing videos the screen I have always felt the screen cutting my eyes to pieces. The Benq simply eased the discomfort and I hardly noticed.

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The stand does not allow you to turn the screen to a portrait mode, a missed opportunity as this would make a great second screen at the price, and there is no mounting interface to make use of other solutions.p1030126

Another gripe is with the bezel. Certainly, it looks minimal when first out of the box. However, once up and running the screen does not reach all the way to the corner. Instead, there is a 3 mm black gap between the edge of the display and the bezel.img_20160925_123301

This Is a fine monitor in every sense of the word. Looking elegant on a desk, certain design flourishes extend a higher quality and the panel provides a crystal clear and acceptably bright picture. And that’s what counts at the end of the day.

Certainly the limitations of the mount will affect some, however, I wouldn’t imagine the vast majority would dismiss the quality of the panel and competitive price tag on this alone.

The Benq EW2775 opened my eyes to the world of blue light reduction and eye strain. From myths growing up about TVs turning your eyes square to the reality of eye strain disturbing sleep and headaches there this really is a perfect example of something that works better as a built-in feature. Certainly, you can download one of the software solutions and work that way, however, it when shopping for a screen it makes sense to just have it built in and this Benq is a decent screen, with some stand drawbacks, with an acceptable price tag.