Welcome to the latest installment of Staff Picks. Each week, we’ll tell you about the tech we’re currently testing — everything from cameras to hi-fi headphones, extremely large desktop monitors to smart home appliances — as well as the grail items we wish we could buy. For last week’s last selections, click here.
Xbox One X
I’ve been testing the Xbox One X for a week and, as an Xbox One owner for years, my thoughts are twofold. On one end, Xbox’s “most powerful console ever” feels all too familiar. It can play the same games and has the same interface as the Xbox One I play every day. On the other end, the graphics are insane. There are only a few Xbox One X–enhanced games available at launch, but more are coming, and I can’t remember playing a game that looks and feels as phenomenal as Gears of War 4. Even non-enhanced (i.e., simply upscaled) games like Ori and the Blind Forest and Assassin’s Creed Origins look significantly better than when I played them on the Xbox One. At $500, the Xbox One X is pretty pricey, especially if you already have an Xbox One. But if you play a lot of games and you already have a 4K TV that supports HDR, this is really as good as it gets. (You can see the 4K TV we tested the Xbox One X with below). — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer
Samsung Q7F QLED 4K TV
You need a 4K HDR TV to get the most out the Xbox One X, so I’ve been testing the console on Samsung’s 2017 Q7F QLED TVs (55 inches). The TV supports HDR10 and has great brightness levels, meaning it helps the picture look really vibrant, no matter if the TV is located in a dark or light room. In Gears of Wars 4, the countless explosions and super beautiful (and scary) environments look, frankly, amazing. And watching the 4K HDR Blu-ray Planet Earth II on this TV was just brilliant. If you read other reviews of the Q7F, you’ll find its performance is pretty on par with similarly sized OLEDs by LG and Sony, but that its price has always been a stumbling block — however, the price has now been lowered significantly. You can find the 55-inch Q7F for $1,600, down from its original $2,800 several months ago. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer
Harman Kardon Invoke
If I’m being honest, the Harman Kardon Invoke just works for me. It’s the first smart speaker with Cortana (not Alexa, Google Home or Siri), and it sounds very good — much better than my current Amazon Echo (first gen) and Google Home. I’d argue that sounds as good as the Sonos One I’ve been reviewing, too. The speaker supports Spotify voice commands out of the box, which is great. And the speaker looks pretty nice, with a pleasantly playful LED light on top. Because Cortana is Microsoft’s virtual assistant, the Invoke is really optimized for somebody with a Windows 10 computer; it can tell you information from your Outlook and Office 365 accounts. But even if you’re not hedged deeply in Windows 10, or at all, the Invoke is a solid standalone speaker (multi-room audio isn’t supported — bummer) to listen to Spotify and iHeart Radio. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer