Sennheiser debuts its first wireless gaming headset, the GSP 670

During Computex last week, Sennheiser gave media a sneak peek at its first wireless gaming headset, the GSP 670, slated to ship starting at the beginning of next month.

The GSP 670 retails for €349 (about $393), significantly pricier then other popular wireless gaming headsets (as well as its wired predecessor, the Sennheiser GSP 600, priced at $249.95). Sennheiser is hoping its features, as well as the company’s reputation for excellent sound quality and comfortable headsets, will convince gamers to take the plunge. (When I tried on a pair at Computex, it delivered on wearability, connection speeds and audio quality, but of course it is hard to tell how headsets will feel and sound after hours of gaming, versus a few minutes of testing).

Despite the freedom afforded by wireless, many gamers stick with wired headsets to avoid reductions in sound quality and connection speeds or having to worry about battery levels, issues that Sennheiser addresses with the GSP 670’s features. Like other wireless headsets, the GSP 670 needs to be connected to a wireless dongle. Each one comes with a GSA 70 compact USB dongle with proprietary technology that Sennheiser developed to ensure a low-latency connection it promises transmits sounds with “near-zero delay.” The USB is compatible with PCs and the Sony Playstation 4. The GSP 670 also has Bluetooth, so users can pair it with their smartphones and tablets as well.

The GSP 670’s microphone is noise-cancelling and can be muted by raising the boom arm. The headset has two volume wheels to allow users to control chat audio and game audio separately. Gamers can also adjust the audio on the GSP 670 with Sennheiser’s Gaming Suite for Windows, a software tool that lets users switch between audio presets or customize sound levels, and also includes surround sound modes and an equalizer.

In terms of battery, Sennheiser claims the GSP 670’s quick-charging battery can run for two hours after a seven minute charge. When fully charged, it says the battery can last for up to 20 hours on Bluetooth and 16 hours when connected via the GSA 70 dongle. The headset has automatic shutdown to save power.

The GSP 670 is currently available for pre-order on Sennheiser’s website and will ship beginning on July 1.

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This year’s Computex was a wild ride with dueling chip releases, new laptops and 467 startups

After a relatively quiet show last year, Computex picked up the pace this year, with dueling chip launches by rivals AMD and Intel and a slew of laptop releases from Asus, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Lenovo and other companies.

Founded in 1981, the trade show, which took place last week from May 28 to June 1, is one of the ICT industry’s largest gatherings of OEMs and ODMs. In recent years, the show’s purview has widened, thanks to efforts by its organizers, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council and Taipei Computer Association, to attract two groups: high-end computer customers, such as hardcore gamers, and startups looking for investors and business partners. This makes for a larger, more diverse and livelier show. Computex’s organizers said this year’s event attracted 42,000 international visitors, a new record.

Though the worldwide PC market continues to see slow growth, demand for high-performance computers is still being driven by gamers and the popularity of esports and live-streaming sites like Twitch. Computex, with its large, elaborate booths run by brands like Asus’ Republic of Gaming, is a popular destination for many gamers (the show is open to the public, with tickets costing NTD $200, or about $6.40), and began hosting esport competitions a few years ago.

People visit the ASUS stand during Computex at Nangang exhibition centre in Taipei on May 28, 2019. (Photo by Chris STOWERS / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHRIS STOWERS/AFP/Getty Images)

The timing of the show, formally known as the Taipei International Information Technology Show, at the end of May or beginning of June each year, also gives companies a chance to debut products they teased at CES or preview releases for other shows later in the year, including E3 and IFA.

One difference between Computex now and ten (or maybe even just five) years ago is that the increasing accessibility of high-end PCs means many customers keep a close eye on major announcements by companies like AMD, Intel and Nvidia, not only to see when more powerful processors will be available but also because of potential pricing wars. For example, many gamers hope competition from new graphic processor units from AMD will force Nvidia to bring down prices on its popular but expensive GPUs.

The Battle of the Chips

The biggest news at this year’s Computex was the intense rivalry between AMD and Intel, whose keynote presentations came after a very different twelve months for the two competitors.

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Tibbits are colorful pre-programmed modules for building IoT devices

At first glance, Tibbits look like building blocks, but each one is a module or a connector that makes it easier to build connected devices and systems. Tibbits were created by Tibbo Technology, a Taipei-based startup that exhibited at Computex this week (it showed off a humanoid robot built from various Tibbits).

Pre-programmed Tibbit modules from Tibbo

Pre-programmed Tibbit modules from Tibbo

The heart of the Red Dot Award winning Tibbo Project System (the company used bright colors to make its modules stand out from other hardware) is the Tibbo Project PCB, which includes a CPU, memory and Ethernet port. Then you pick Tibbits, with pre-programmed functionality (such as RS232/422/485 modules, DAC and ADC devices, power regulators, temperature, humidity or pressure sensors or PWM generators), to plug into your PCB. Once done, you can place your project in one of Tibbo’s three enclosure kits (custom enclosures are also available).

Tibbo also offers an online configurator that lets you preview your device to see if it will work the way you want before you begin building, and its own programming languages (Tibbo BASIC and Tibbo C) and app development platform.

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Muro is a retro-style cylinder music box you control with an app

The light twinkle of an old-fashioned cylinder music box evokes many things: nostalgia, childhood memories, sometimes even horror (they are a trope in scary movie soundtracks). Most music boxes play one tune, but with the Muro Box, which exhibited at Computex this week, you can use an app to pick different songs or even compose your own. It even doubles as a smart alarm clock.

Created by Tevofy Technology, a Taiwanese startup, the Muro Box’s components are mounted on a wooden base and visible underneath a glass cover, so you can watch as a 20-note steel comb creates music by plucking pins on its cylinder. The key difference between Muro and traditional music boxes, however, is that Muro’s cylinder is programmable.

The Muro Box is a music box with a programmable cylinder

The Muro Box is a music box with a programmable cylinder

Instead of a fixed pattern of pins, Muro’s patented convertible cylinder features 20 stainless steel gears, to correspond with each tooth on the comb. Each gear is attached to an electronic magnet and commanded by an embedded microcontroller, which means Muro can play almost any melody.

A 2018 Golden Pin Design Award winner, the Muro Box is getting ready to launch its Indiegogo campaign, after completing a successful campaign on Taiwanese crowdfunding site Zec Zec last year.

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You can pry my keyboard from my cold, dead hands

If this week’s Computex is anything to go by, the laptop industry is sharpening its ax in order to kill the keyboard. It won’t happen overnight, but in the pursuit of thinner and lighter bodies, the mechanical, physical input will have to go. If, like me, you think that typing on screens will never be as accurate, or as fast, as hitting real keys, then it’s not great news.

The pitfalls of an all-screen laptop are the same as using a tablet as your primary machine for work. You’ll need to pack a wireless keyboard (more clutter in your bag) and remember to keep it charged (more clutter in your mind). Soon after, Logitech or some other company will crank out a case to fix the issue, but you’ll spend an extra $150 for something you used to take for granted.

Let’s start with HP’s Omen X 2S and ASUS’ ZenBook Pro Duo. Both have secondary displays in the laptop’s base that push the keyboard down towards the lower edge. If the trend continues, those screens will get bigger, and the physical keys will get progressively smaller and less useful until they’re pushed off altogether.

Intel likes to show off how it plans to guide the PC industry with concept devices it lets other manufacturers build, and at the show, the company displayed a machine, code-named Honeycomb Glacier. The prototype laptop had an articulated display that pushed the keyboard to the edge of the body, taking away the palm rest, making typing less comfortable.

Meanwhile, Intel’s other prototype, Twin Rivers, did away with the keyboard altogether, since the company is pushing the device for casual consumption. It has a low-power CPU, stylus and, of course, an external keyboard. In that example, the slender keyboard actually sits between the two halves and, wrapped in cloth, apparently won’t fall out. But that’s a shame because the prototype, at least, had sticky keys with almost no travel, much like a number of Bluetooth keyboards.

And it’s not as if there aren’t keyboard-free models already available to buy; although, they’re still in a small niche. Lenovo’s Yoga Book and C930 have keyboard-free devices on store shelves, and the company has a folding screen ThinkPad in the works for 2020. ASUS’s ZenBook Pro Duo, too, is a step on the road to its goal of making Project Precog a reality.

The problem is that touchscreen keyboards still aren’t as good as real ones. These companies must know that because these devices are always shown with wireless keyboards alongside them, and if manufacturers had any faith in their ability to craft a good software input interface, they wouldn’t be so quick to have the real thing around.

That is unless these keyboards are being kept around purely to pacify people like me, raised on real keys. If all goes to plan, these input anachronisms will be discarded by the smartphone and voice computing generations that follow.

And if manufacturers do succeed in killing the keyboard, we’re in for a lot of pain as we look for alternatives. The real beneficiary will be the accessory makers, who’ll make a fortune in the same way the audio market got a boost in the post-iPod world. In the absence of half-decent headphones bundled with our phones, companies like Beats became billion-dollar enterprises.

The same thing happened to the iPad, which was sold on the promise that its digital keyboard was decent enough to type on (it wasn’t). Shortly after, we saw a raft of accessory makers churning out wireless keyboards and cases to turn them into something like a laptop. And, ironically, in both cases, Apple chose to eat those markets whole, buying Beats, launching the AirPods and selling iPad (Pro) keyboards for $150 a pop.

Part of my concern is selfish, since I need a keyboard to work and am far more productive when touching real keys. More than that, I feel some companies are trying to rob us of essential components as a way of wringing more money out of us. The loss of the headphone jack may have been in a quest to make phones thinner and lighter, but it also pushed a lot of us into buying new Bluetooth headphones. You could say a similar thing about the disappearance of USB-A ports.

Killing the keyboard will be an expensive move in the short term, given the cost of touchscreens, but for some, it’s apparently worth it. But how much thinner and lighter do we need our laptops to be if it comes at the expense of comfort and usability? I don’t recall finding it that easy to type with my wrists digging into the edge of a table or desk, no matter the location. Will my arms suddenly adjust to the shallower angle of attack, or will I just have to start toting around a mechanical keyboard wherever I go?

Catch up on all the latest news from Computex 2019 here!

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After training to be an intellectual property lawyer, Dan abandoned a promising career in financial services to sit at home and play with gadgets. He lives in Norwich, U.K., with his wife, his books and far too many opinions on British TV comedy. One day, if he’s very, very lucky, he’ll live out his dream to become the executive producer of Doctor Who before retiring to Radio 4.

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