The Wrap – April 28, 2017

Another player enters the world of OLED, a soundbar that doesn’t need a subwoofer, a stellar value with $299 wireless noise cancelling headphones, and a mobile made for rural Australia. This is The Wrap.

Transcript

It’s the end of the last week of April 2017, and this is Australia’s fastest technology news round-up. You’re tuned into The Wrap.

And this week we start the news with a bit of time travel, going back to a story we missed weeks before, and that’s the launch of a new TV. You might think “oh, ho hum, another TV, what could we possibly learn from a new TV”, and for the most part you’d be right, but there’s something to the importance of this one, with another entrant to the OLED world.

Currently televisions based on organic light emitting diode technology — that is TV panels that are basically grown in a lab and then assembled rather than merely just built — have been rather limited. LG has offered them for sometime, Samsung dabbled momentarily, and Sony used CES this year to announce one of its own, but other than that OLED TVs have more or less belonged to LG for the past few years or so, being the only player to release the goods.

Not so in 2017 as Panasonic joins, offering two OLED TVs from July, with the EZ950 and EZ1000 bringing thin and dynamic TV screens from a brand that has been working in TVs for a long time.

In fact, that history is part of what Panasonic thinks will set its OLED TV screens apart from the competition, as the company channels a bit of Hollywood with a drive to make the colour more like what the director, cinematographer, and film colour grader imagine, even calling on an expert to help bring the technology to life.

The screens are both 4K and understandably not cheap, but with a starting price of $4999, they’ll provide some much needed competition in the OLED TV world.

We also missed a bit on the sound side which we covered this week also, as Samsung announced the Sound Plus soundbar, a shift in soundbar approach that finds a way to cut out the subwoofer and throw all of that woofer technology inside the soundbar as a one piece design.

Samsung has been rather creative with this one, using some neat electronics to move six built-in woofers in very, very small ways to cut back on distortion. Essentially, Samsung is using this movement as a way of pushing the bass harder without needing to blow out the sound, allowing you to potentially get more subwoofer-like output from one box of a speaker.

We heard the speaker ahead of its launch, and it sounded good to our ears, so you can only imagine how eager we are to give it a spin for a full review, though it’s not the first time we’ve seen technology like this.

Years ago and practically when we started as journalists around 2008, Bose released desktop speakers called the Music Monitors which didn’t need a subwoofer and basically relied on two radiators set against a small air slot designed to cancel out vibrations which in turn could drive the bass a little harder.

In a way, Samsung’s technology is reminiscent of this, except handled without the airflow and with electronics, so we can see what the company is getting at, and how it will probably be successful in this approach. Still, we’ll let you know our thoughts with a full review soon enough.

One product we did put through the paces this week had to do with sound, with Plantronics’ BackBeat Pro 2 getting the Pickr patdown, and by patdown, we mean we put our hands and ears all over this thing.

And that’s understandable, because at $299, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 is a noise cancelling headphone worth checking out, carrying a low price and support for wireless over Bluetooth.

Plantronics has thrown a few neat tricks in for good measure too, with controls built into the side for easy volume and track changes, an ambient mode to let you hear the world around you, and a switch that will pick up when you’ve taken your headphones off, pausing the music until you’re wearing them again.

That means the package is fairly full-featured, and the sound is good and meaty too, with a warm sound and fairly punchy bass that if we’re honest can really handle pretty much anything.

The noise cancellation is usable too, though not the best in the business, and while it’s obviously made for use on flights, it will work when you’re out and about as well.

Really though, our major criticism is with the design, because they’re just not that pretty. Somewhere between a fake wood grain motif and this odd and slightly geeky design, they’re not going to be for everyone, though given the price and performance, it’s hard not call the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 headphones a bargain, because design-aside, they certainly are stellar value.

One more thing this weekand that’s the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are now both out, and in Australia, they’re even rated for use out in the bush with both Optus and Telstra. We’ve already heaped praise on the S8, and if you check out last week’s Wrap, you’ll even hear a spoken review, saving you from reading the 5400 word review that you’ll find on the Pickr website.

And with the S8 supported in rural Australia, it’s going to make the flagship phone fight for 2017 very, very interesting. We can’t wait to see what happens next from rivals. Apple, you know we’re looking at you.

And we’ll just leave those thoughts with you to end this week. Tune in next week when we wrap up the week’s tech news with a bit of analysis as fast as we can in about the time it takes to drink your coffee.

Until then, have a great week.

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