I know that someone, somewhere, shares my thinking that the virtual assistants we’ve grown fond of are mortal enemies somewhere in a digital parallel universe. But JBL’s new line of Authentics speakers has warped everything I thought I knew about the ancient rivalry, allowing you to call on either assistant without toggling a setting.
JBL is the first to attempt a harmonious partnership between Google Assistant and Alexa. The idea’s infancy shows in its implementation, as you’ll occasionally feel a disconnect between the two. You can start a playlist using Alexa and adjust the volume or stop playback with a generic Google Assistant prompt, for example, but Google Assistant might then have trouble skipping to a specific track. The Verge’s Jon Porter encountered a few of these issues while managing timers and other scenarios, but the two assistants play well enough together.
In terms of specs, the 500 is bigger and louder than the others thanks to its larger drivers, integrated subwoofer, and Dolby Atmos support, but all three deliver impressive sound for their size. The clean, retro-inspired design of these speakers could add a nice contrast to a wooded shelf, perhaps, which is where the AC-powered Authentics 200 and 500 would have to live (the 300 includes an eight-hour battery). All three also feature top-mounted dials for volume, treble, and bass, along with a 3.5mm audio jack and Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ethernet connectivity.
I love the convenience of built-in laptop webcams as much as anyone, but many of them are undeniably inferior to dedicated external webcams. There’s a good reason for that — they use bigger sensors for improved lowlight performance, and they often provide much sharper resolution and higher frame rates. The problem? No one wants to pack a webcam in their already bulging baggage. Opal’s Tadpole webcam addresses all of that, however, and is currently on sale at Amazon and direct from Opal for an all-time low of $129 ($46 off).
The Tadpole is a tiny webcam designed specifically for laptops. It’s a 1.25-inch square puck with a distinctive aesthetic that’s somehow bold yet simplistic. The 48-megapixel, 4K-capable Sony IMX582 sensor offers a noticeable improvement in sharpness and dynamic range over the webcam on the latest MacBook Air, and the rear clip gives you just enough room to mount it over your laptop’s built-in webcam. Given it’s roughly as thick as a pack of gum, you should be able to find ample room for it while traveling (even in your pockets if needed). Opal also built a touch-capacitive mute button into its USB-C connector, saving you from having to peck around in various apps when you want to disable the mic.