Tech round-up for November 28: New iPhones are awesome, Beryl Laserlight keeps cyclists safer, digitize photos with Epson, Belkin's wireless charging stand, MSI's new laptops

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This week, a new bike light uses a laser to warn drivers you’re coming, digitizing photos like a boss, Belkin’s wireless charging stand, and MSI is expanding into the consumer laptop space. But first, the fuss about Apple’s latest iPhones is justified.

Newest iPhones refine Apple’s approach to mobility

Ever since test driving the iPhone X last year, I’ve been waiting to see how Apple would iterate the smartphone. After all, the device, developed and released as a tenth-anniversary model of the mobile device that disrupted the industry, had changed so much.

The iPhone XS and XS Max have all of the features that made the iPhone X such a delight to use. The edge-to-edge display (5.8-inch and 6.5-inch) is something that other handset manufacturers had been doing, but Apple’s face recognition technology is second to none, and that’s still what makes the XS and XS Max so amazing.

In low light, with glasses on or a hat, the iPhone XS Max has never failed to recognize me and activate. The integration of passwords into the iOS 12 operating system only makes this even more revolutionary. I can simply look at my phone to access payments and log in to accounts.

It won’t take long for you to adjust to not having a home button, either. The gestural controls that were introduced with the iPhone X are intuitive and obvious. My only problem is going to be having to return to using an iPhone 8s Plus, because I’ll have to unlearn everything.

One key area of improvement to be found in the XS and XS Max are in how the devices approach take photos. High dynamic range (HDR) has been improved to capture and display more details in highlights and shadows using the dual-camera system (a wide-angle and a telephoto, each with 12 megapixel resolution).

One of the most interesting additions to the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max is the addition of dual SIM support. While it’s not yet been rolled out, what that will do is allow a single iPhone to be used with two different phone numbers. For people who are bringing their device to work, this could be a game changer.

The iPhone Xs is available in three configurations:
• $1,379 for 64 GB of storage
• $1,589 for 256 GB of storage
• $1,859 for 512 GB of storage

The iPhone Xs Max is available in three configurations:
• $1,519 for 64 GB of storage
• $1,729 for 256 GB of storage
• $1,999 for 512 GB of storage

Both smartphones are available now in gold, silver, and space grey.

Bike light uses laser image to keep cyclists safer

Now available in Canada, the Beryl Laserlight (US$135) is actually two lights in one. It’s a standard light that has three brightness settings (it maxes out at a stunning 300 lumens) and has a flashing mode.

We know that using a light, day or night, keeps cyclists safer on the road because it makes them more visible.

But the Beryl also has a laser light that creates a green bike graphic on the road ahead of the bike. This lets others who are sharing the road know that there’s a bike in the vicinity. This can be helpful for drivers of motor vehicles who may not see a cyclist in their blind spot, but will see a bright green bike image on the ground when they look out their side window.

It can even be helpful for pedestrians who may be tempted to step off the curb into the street and may not see a cyclist in the dusk.

The Beryl is a solid, aluminum device that charges with an included USB cable and runs for some twelve hours. Bonus: it’s also waterproof.

It’s a premium light, and it comes at a premium price. But the materials and construction justify the cost. So does your safety.

Epson’s photo scanner will help you digitize and archive those memories

If you’re like me, you’ve got a box of photos stashed in a closet somewhere. Or you’ve got photo albums taking up space on a shelf, collecting dust.

Sound familiar? Then put Epson’s FastFoto high-speed scanner ($700) on your wish list.

This thing powers through scanning, processing photos at 300 dpi at the rate of one a second. It scans at much higher resolution, too, up to 1200 dpi so you can create enlargements of your favourite snaps.

Belkin’s Boost Up stand supercharges your wireless charging

Most smartphones these days are equipped with wireless charging. Belkin’s Boost Up stand (in black or white for $90) will work with nearly all of them.

The stand will hold your device, Google, LG, iPhone, Samsung, and others, either upright or on its side so you can charge while catching up on your video viewing.

The Boost Up delivers 10W of power, too, supporting fast charging even through basic protective cases.

MSI puts power and portability from gaming systems into laptops for creatives

Computer manufacturer MSI has a reputation for making some of the best laptops for video games. With the release of two new systems, the Taiwanese company is expanding out of the gamer space and into consumer computing.

In a briefing at a downtown Vancouver hotel in early November, senior sales manager Stephen Lin explained that two new systems, the PS42 and the P65, have the power and portability of the company’s gaming laptops, in a design that is more professional and suited to creatives.

Consumers, said Lin, were telling MSI that they appreciated the high-performance components – like faster processors and better graphics cards – that are typical in gaming systems. But some customers weren’t comfortable carrying a laptop designed for gamers into business meetings.

The new “Creator series” models are brushed aluminum, and MSI’s dragon logo, blood red on the gaming laptops, is rendered in a stylish silver. Powerful enough to be true desktop replacements, the PS42 and P65 have full-sized keyboards, fingerprint sensors in the track pad, and a wide array of ports, including multiple USB 3.1, USB-C, HDMI, and SD-card.

The Taiwanese company, which got its start creating motherboards for computers in the 1990s, benefits from owning the production facilities the components come from, said Lin.

By dramatically shrinking the bezel around the screens, MSI was able to get a 14-inch display in a 13-inch chassis with the PS42. The P65 has a 15.6-inch display in a 14-inch chassis.

The SRGB display in the P65 can be controlled with the included True Color software, which enables adjustments to colour saturation, contrast, and brightness.

The displays are not touch screen, however, nor do the new laptops come in convertible or 2-in-1 models. Lin said MSI’s consumer research found that customers were not interested in that feature.

The new MSI laptops are available now. The PS42 is priced from $1,299 to $1,599, depending on configuration, while the P65 Creator is priced from $2,399 to $3,499.

Until end of 2018, any purchase of a MSI Creator laptop comes with $400 software package.

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