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China Must Prepare for ‘Long Tech March’ Following US Restrictions on SMIC: State Media

China must engage in a new “long march” in the technology sector now that the US has imposed export restrictions on Semiconductor Manufacturing, the country’s largest chip manufacturer, Chinese state-backed tabloid the Global Times wrote on Sunday.The unnamed author of an op-ed in the paper argues that the US’ dominance of the global semiconductor industry…

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China must engage in a new “long march” in the technology sector now that the US has imposed export restrictions on Semiconductor Manufacturing, the country’s largest chip manufacturer, Chinese state-backed tabloid the Global Times wrote on Sunday.The unnamed author of an op-ed in the paper argues that the US’ dominance of the global semiconductor industry supply chain is a “fundamental threat” to China.”It now appears that China will need to control all research and production chains of the semiconductor industry, and rid itself of being dependent on the US,” the author wrote.On Saturday, Reuters reported that the US had sent letters to companies informing them that they must obtain a license to supply SMIC.The letter stated that SMIC and its subsidiaries “may pose an unacceptable risk of diversion to a military end use.” SMIC has denied any ties to China’s military.The restrictions against SMIC, and earlier ones against Huawei, the op-ed author argues, illustrate that the US is leading a protracted battle of “high-tech suppression” against China.Although companies such as Tencent and Beijing ByteDance have made some tech breakthroughs, they are based on US chip technology, the op-ed argues.”The foundation of the entire industry is still in Americans’ hands. For now at least. China must leap from zero to one to provide solid support for the country’s competition with the US,” the author wrote.The Global Times is a tabloid published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, but does not speak on behalf of the party and government, unlike its parent publication.© Thomson Reuters 2020Are Apple Watch SE, iPad 8th Gen the Perfect ‘Affordable’ Products for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Best TVs for PS5 and Xbox Series X, Series S with 4K, 120fps input and VRR – CNET

The new PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S game consoles have a number of next-gen graphics features that require a cutting-edge TV to fully exploit. Just about every TV these days has UltraHD 4K resolution, of course, but extras like 120 frames per second (fps) input and variable refresh rate, which increase smoothness…

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The new PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S game consoles have a number of next-gen graphics features that require a cutting-edge TV to fully exploit. Just about every TV these days has UltraHD 4K resolution, of course, but extras like 120 frames per second (fps) input and variable refresh rate, which increase smoothness and reduce choppiness and tearing, are only found in newer TVs. You can connect these consoles to just about any TV with an HDMI input, but to take advantage of these new features, you’ll need a new TV. Thankfully, you don’t need to spend a fortune on an 88-inch 8K behemoth to get these console-friendly features. Some of the most important features are available in TVs that cost less than $1,000 for a 65-inch screen. The 2020 TVs Below you’ll find a chart with all of the 2020 TVs we know about that support advanced gaming features, including 120Hz input and VRR as well as the more-common Auto Low Latency Mode/Auto Game mode and eARC. All of those extras are roughly grouped under the HDMI 2.1 standard, but we’re in a sort of transition period for HDMI technology. As a result, not all of the TVs below include every feature nor deliver the full video and audio bandwidth HDMI 2.1 is capable of.Even more confusing, input capability can vary on the same TV. Behind the physical connection where you plug an HDMI cable is a subsection of the TV’s processing, namely a chip. These chips cost money, like everything else. In order to keep costs down, not every input on the TV is fully capable of all the latest features and frame rates. To put it another way, every road on Earth could be capable of highway speeds but building them all that way would be expensive and rather pointless. For example, one HDMI input might be capable of eARC, but not be able to handle 4K at 120Hz. Just something to keep in mind as you peruse. Also, there are some important brand and model specifics that didn’t fit in the chart; please check the bullet points below for details.TVs for PS5 and Xbox

Brand

Model

65-in. price

Max input Hz

VRR

ALLM/AUTO

eARC

LG

UN85

$720

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 3

Nano85

$1,050

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 3

Nano90

$1,100

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 3

Nano91

~$1050

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 3

CX

$2,300

120Hz (All)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 2

GX

$2,600

120Hz (All)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 2

BX

$2,100

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 3

Samsung

Q70T

$1,200

120Hz

Yes

Yes

Yes

Q80T

$1,700

120Hz

Yes

Yes

Yes

Q90T

$1,900

120Hz

Yes

Yes

Yes

Q800T (8K)

$2,300

120Hz

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sony

X900H

$1,000

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 3

TCL

6-series

$900

4K60/1440p120

Yes

Yes

HDMI 4

Vizio

OLED

$2,000

120Hz (HDMI 2,3)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 1

P

$1,200

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 1

PX

$1,500

120Hz (HDMI 3,4)

Yes

Yes

HDMI 1

M-Series

$750

60Hz

Yes

Yes

HDMI 1

Notes and specifics Prices are current as of press time but may fluctuate.There are some TVs that fit the criteria but weren’t included because they’re so expensive, namely 8K TVs like LG’s ZX series and Samsung’s Q950TS and Q900TS series.The PS5 and Series X can also output 8K resolution to compatible TVs, but we consider 4K/120Hz, VRR and other enhancements like ray tracing and even HDR more important than 8K for gaming.Samsung doesn’t specify which inputs can handle 4K120 or eARC. It is unlikely that all do, but when we asked they didn’t clarify.Sony says the software update that enables the X900H to accept 4K120 and eARC is “rolling out now” with VRR and ALLM coming “at a later date.”Vizio M-Series is only 60Hz but still has VRR.TCL 6-series can only accept 4K at 60Hz, but can accept 1440p at 120Hz.Our picksWe’ve only reviewed a few of the TVs from the chart above so far, so those are the ones we can recommend. We expect to review more soon. Note that all of the prices shown below are for the 65-inch sizes, and we’ve included our input lag measurements for both 1080p and 4K HDR sources.

David Katzmaier/CNET

The 2020 LG CX is the best-performing TV we’ve ever reviewed, and it’s also among the best-prepared for the new consoles. If you’re counting milliseconds, it also has the lowest (best) input lag of the three TVs.1080p input lag: 14ms4K HDR input lag: 14msSizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch.

Read our LG OLEDCX series review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With overall image quality on par with the TCL 6-Series and a price that’s not that much more expensive, the X900H’s suite of connections is actually better than the TCL. It’s the most affordable TV with full 4K/120Hz HDMI input capability.1080p input lag: 16ms4K HDR input lag: 15msSizes: 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch. 

Read our Sony XBR-X900H review.

120Hz input explainedDespite TVs being capable of 120Hz refresh for well over a decade, the ability to input 120Hz is a far more recent ability. This is largely due to the fact that other than a fairly beefy gaming PC, there just haven’t been any 120Hz sources. That all changes with the PS5 and Series X. Some of the TVs on our list can accept 4K at 120Hz on all HDMI inputs. Others can only do so on select inputs and one, the TCL 6-Series, can only accept 120Hz at lower-than-4K resolution (1440p). The Xbox Series S can also output 4K at 120Hz, but internally the game is rendered at a lower resolution (1440p) and upscaled before it’s sent to your TV. For more info, check out the truth about 4K TV refresh rates and beware fake 120Hz refresh rates on 4K TVs.

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NVIDIA’s G-Sync works similar to VRR. Ideally (1) the video card creates an image in enough time for the TV to refresh 60 times each second. Sometimes it takes longer to render the scene (2), so the TV is sent a duplicate of the previous frame. The image stutters and your mouse/controller movements become inaccurate. You could disable v-sync in your video settings so there’s less or no jutter, but the image tears (3). VRR, like G-Sync and ATI’s Freesync, lets the display and video card work together to figure out the best framerate (4).
NVIDIA
VRR VRR, or Variable Refresh Rate, is a new feature that you’d probably be surprised wasn’t already a thing. All modern TVs have a fixed refresh rate. A 60Hz TV is going to refresh, or create, a new image 60 times a second. The problem is a game console might not be ready to send a new image.  Let’s say you’re in the middle of a huge boss battle, with lots of enemies and explosions. The console struggles to render everything in the allotted time. The TV still needs something so the console might send a duplicate of the previous image, creating juddering on screen, or it might send a partially new image, resulting in the image looking like someone tore a page off the top and revealed the new page below. VRR gives the TV some flexibility to wait for the new frame from the console. This will result in smoother action and less tearing. All the TVs below have VRR. For more info, check out How HDMI 2.1 makes big-screen 4K PC gaming even more awesome. ALLM/Auto Game Mode Game mode turns off most of the image-enhancing features of the TV, reducing input lag. We’ll discuss input lag below, but the specific feature to look for is called either Auto Low Latency Mode or Auto Game Mode. Different manufacturers call it one or the other, but the basic idea is the same. Sensing a signal from the console the TV switches on game mode automatically. This means you don’t need to find your TV’s remote to find and enable game mode. Not a huge deal, but convenient. All the TVs listed above have, or will have, one or the other.

What about input lag? One thing missing from the chart above is any listing for input lag, or how long it takes for the TV to create an image. If this is too high, there’s a delay between when you press a button on the controller, and when that action appears on screen. In many games, like shooters, platformers, and more, timing is crucial, and a TV with high input lag could negatively impact your ability to pwn noobs.  As a longtime gamer myself, I can easily notice the difference between high (greater than 100ms) and low (sub-30ms) lag. The good news is, most modern TVs have input lag that’s low enough that most people won’t notice it. Largely gone are the days of 100-plus millisecond input lags… at least when you enable game mode. So as long as the TV has a game mode, you’re probably fine, though it’s worth checking CNET’s reviews for the exact numbers. Lower, in this case, is always better. eARC While not a console feature, eARC is a next-gen TV feature to keep in mind. It’s the evolution of ARC, or Audio Return Channel. This sends audio from a TV’s internal apps (Netflix, Vudu, etc.), back down the HDMI cable to a receiver or soundbar. With eARC, newer formats like Dolby Atmos can be transmitted as well. The issue is in many cases, eARC often precludes higher resolutions/frame rates on the same input. So if you’ve connected your PS5 to your receiver, and the receiver to the TV, you can have eARC audio back from the TV or 4K120, but usually not both. This is only important if you plan on using the internal apps in a TV (as in, not a Roku or Amazon streaming stick) and you want to use the new audio formats via eARC. For more info, check out HDMI ARC and eARC: Audio Return Channel for beginners and HDMI 2.1: What you need to know. As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.  You can follow his exploits on Instagram and YouTube, and on his travel blog, BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines, along with a sequel. 

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Best Nest and Google Assistant devices of 2020 – CNET

Google Assistant can adjust your thermostat, turn off your lights, lock your door, show you the forecast and more with just a voice command. The voice assistant from the popular search giant launched alongside the original Google Home smart speaker in 2016. Back then, it only worked with four smart home brands. Now, it works…

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Google Assistant can adjust your thermostat, turn off your lights, lock your door, show you the forecast and more with just a voice command. The voice assistant from the popular search giant launched alongside the original Google Home smart speaker in 2016. Back then, it only worked with four smart home brands. Now, it works with over 1,000 of them. The best Apple HomeKit devices for 2020 | The best Alexa devices for 2020

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Picking between Google Assistant and Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa comes down to splitting hairs and personal preference. If you’d prefer an Alexa app centered smart home, there are plenty of devices that work well with Amazon’s assistant including Android phones. Apple’s HomeKit platform isn’t as robust as far as number of products, but if you love your iPhone and the built-in assistant Siri, check out our favorite Apple HomeKit gadgets.  Best smart displays for 2020  | Best streaming device of 2020: Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, Chromecast and more If you’re ready to jump in with a Google-powered smart home, here are the best Google Home devices and Google Assistant devices from a variety of categories in smart home products. Get started with a smart display or smart speaker, then branch out with our picks for compatible lights, door locks, smart switches, thermostats and more as you desire.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Google Nest Hub (formerly the Home Hub) is a great way to kick off a Google-centric smart home. It uses Google Assistant to respond to all of the same voice commands as a Google Home smart speaker. The touchscreen will show you extra info when you ask about the weather, search for restaurants and more. Plus, you can use this smart home hub to watch videos or scroll through family pictures.In fact, unique adaptive brightness sensors make the Nest Hub a great digital photo frame, as it adapts to both light levels and color temperature so it always looks like a physical photo in a frame. You can play a scrolling slideshow of family pics as your screensaver.The Nest Hub is also a great kitchen helper, as it can walk you through recipes step-by-step and you can multitask while you cook. Set a timer, play music, add an ingredient to your shopping list and more — the Nest Hub will even keep your place in the recipe when you need to check it next. You can plug it in and set it up on your Wi-Fi network using the Google Home app and ask Google Nest Hub any question you’d ask the original Google Home. All of these voice control features make the Nest Hub useful in a lot of ways, but a simple control panel makes it the best choice for your central connected home device. Swipe down from the top for shortcuts letting you turn off the lights or check on your smart home security cameras. You can then tap to see a room-by-room (living room, kitchen, etc.) overview of all of your devices. The control panel is well organized and helpful, particularly if you have family members that struggle to remember what voice commands work. Now, they can just tap. The Nest Hub is our favorite smart display overall, and regularly on sale for even less than its reasonable $130 price. It’s useful even if you don’t have a lot of smart home gadgets, but it’s indispensable if you want a smart home that works with Google Assistant.

Read our Google Nest Hub review.

Read more: The best smart home gifts of 2019: Nest Mini, Echo Show 8, Botvac D7

James Martin/CNET

If having an extra screen in your house would annoy you, the Google Nest Mini makes another good smart home starting point. Google’s small smart speaker is now in its second generation and offers all of the same Google Assistant-enabled voice commands as the rest, plus helpful extras like intercom functionality and stereo pairing with multiple Minis. Control compatible gadgets, search the web, play music and more just by asking. The audio quality of the Nest Mini is surprisingly good, especially in this second gen model. The Nest Mini is also cute and comes in four colors. At $50, it’s the least expensive way to kick off your smart home without any sacrifices in voice control. The Nest Mini also makes for a good secondary device. If you put a Google Nest Hub in your kitchen, you can put a Nest Mini in a different room, and both will be able to control any compatible smart devices you set up. Even if they both hear you, only the closest one will respond.

Read our Google Nest Mini review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Once you set up control points with a smart display or a smart speaker, it’s time to figure out what smart devices you want. A smart lightbulb is a good first step, and the C by GE bulbs work particularly well with Google. These affordable Bluetooth smart bulbs can use a Google Home device (both the Home Mini and the Nest Hub will work) as a bridge. You can set up the bulbs from the Google Home app then control them from anywhere as long as the bulb is close to your Google gadget. Even better, because the bulb is communicating directly with your Google device, the response time is incredibly quick. (If you’re looking to smarten things up at the light switch, read more about the Lutron Caseta In-Wall Dimmer Switch.)

Read more about C by GE lights.

Read More: Best smart light bulbs for 2019 (plus switches, light strips, accessories and more) 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Changing the temperature of your thermostat with a voice command is a cool trick that never really gets old. Lots of smart thermostats work with Google Assistant. Check out our smart thermostat best list for options. Since Google owns Nest, the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat is the obvious choice here, but I’ll give the nod to the Ecobee3 Lite. Ecobee’s budget model and its companion app (for iOS and Android) offer most of the same smarts as more expensive competition, including the $250 Nest model. It responds to all of the same voice commands and the intuitive controls make manual scheduling easy.

Read our Ecobee3 Lite review.

Read more: The best smart thermostats of 2019
Here’s everything that works with Google Home and Home Mini
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Chris Monroe/CNET

A smart plug is a great way to efficiently add connectivity to dumb devices. Plug in a lamp or fan, and you’ll be able to control it with an app. The TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug offers smartphone app controls and Google Assistant compatibility. Plus, the smart plug is an attractive design and doesn’t block adjacent outlets. It won’t monitor energy, but the smart plug lets you control an old-fashioned floor fan with your voice for a reasonable price. Like most smart plugs, it works with a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network connection.

Read our TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The obvious choice from Nest makes the most sense here. The $300 Nest Cam IQ Indoor is a great security camera in its own right. You can check out a live stream remotely and get motion sensor alerts and person alerts for free. Sign up for Nest’s premium “Nest Aware” service and you can get alerts based on who the camera sees thanks to its built-in facial recognition.Even better, the Nest Cam security cameras have a built-in microphone so you can use them to talk directly to Google Assistant, making it a great choice both to secure your home and expand your connectivity with Google.

Read our Nest Cam IQ Indoor review.

Read more: The best home security cameras of 2019

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The $500 Arlo Pro 3 is an excellent outdoor security camera with solid performance and strong features. It comes in a two-camera pack, along with a required hub. Older Arlo hubs will work with this system too. Add-on individual cameras cost $200 each.The Pro 3 has a built-in siren and works with Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri. A USB drive in the hub handles local storage.The Arlo Pro 3 has stellar 2k streaming, fast alerts and a wide range of advanced features that set it apart from other outdoor security cameras. If you have the money to spend, the Arlo Pro 3 should be at the top of your list.

Read our Arlo Pro 3 review.

Read more: The best outdoor home security cameras of 2019

Chris Monroe/CNET

SimpliSafe’s wide variety of accessories rival professional options from companies like ADT. The starter kit is a reasonable $230. Unfortunately, you have to pay for remote app access, but $25 a month nets you that and professional monitoring. With the $25 monthly subscription, you also can control your system with Google Assistant, and Simplisafe’s devices will respond quickly to your voice commands. Again, Nest has an option here that poses a viable alternative. The Nest Guard has a loftier up-front cost, but you can do much more without a subscription. Thanks to all of the reliable accessories, SimpliSafe edges out Nest Guard especially if you want monitoring.

Read our SimpliSafe Home Security review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Speaking of locking down your home, the easy-to-install August Wi-Fi Smart Lock fits over your existing deadbolt. Built-in Wi-Fi lets you control it remotely and with voice recognition, so you can tell Google Assistant to lock your door. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock has lots of features, including open-close sensors so you can check to make sure you pulled the door shut on your way out. August is responsive and reliable as well, making the Wi-Fi Smart Lock a good choice if you want to put Google Assistant in charge of your smart lock, door and entryway.

Read our August Wi-Fi Smart Lock review.

Read more: Best universal remotes of 2020

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Wrapping this up with another one from Nest, but to be fair, the Nest Hello is our favorite video doorbell overall, so it’s definitely the best one for a Google-centric smart home. The Nest Hello has two-way audio sound and great video quality when you want to check on the feed from your Android or iOS devices. You’ll get an alert when someone rings the bell.Even better, if you have the Nest Hub, you can talk to the person at the door with your smart display. The Nest Hello even offers facial recognition for a premium subscription. It ties together well with other Google products, and it’s the smartest and most capable video doorbell out there.

Read our Nest Hello review.

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Originally published earlier this year. Periodically updated with new recommendations.

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Google Pixel 5’s wimpy camera is driving me to the iPhone 12 – CNET

Google’s Pixel 5 smartphone has ultrawide and wide-angle cameras, but no telephoto for more distant subjects. Stephen Shankland/CNET I’ve used Google Pixels and Apple iPhones for my daily smartphone photography needs for years. I’ve mostly relied on Pixels because of Google’s pioneering computational photography software, which wrings superior image quality out of limited hardware. My…

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Google’s Pixel 5 smartphone has ultrawide and wide-angle cameras, but no telephoto for more distant subjects.
Stephen Shankland/CNET
I’ve used Google Pixels and Apple iPhones for my daily smartphone photography needs for years. I’ve mostly relied on Pixels because of Google’s pioneering computational photography software, which wrings superior image quality out of limited hardware. My current iPhone, the XS Max, has been relegated to occasions when I’ve needed a telephoto lens. But two recent smartphone launches — of Google’s Pixel 5 and Apple’s iPhone 12 lines — have changed my mind. The midrange camera hardware on the Pixel 5, and the high-end array of cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, along with the gadget’s large image sensor and new software options, are pushing me to the Apple camp.It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’ve been impressed by Google’s ability to convert cutting-edge image processing research into superior smartphone photos. Google demonstrated how profoundly computers can modernize cameras, as it surpassed smartphone rivals and traditional-camera makers.

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Google’s decision to build a midrange phone with just two cameras feels like an abandonment. There’s just no way to make up for the multiple cameras that rivals like Samsung, Huawei and Apple employ. Sure, rivals haven’t necessarily matched all of Google’s camera software, but Google isn’t close to their hardware.To be clear, the Pixel’s cameras are good, as my colleague Lynn La details in her Pixel 5 review. From my perspective as a serious photographer, though, I’m looking for more.Telephoto vs. ultrawide camerasIn 2019, Google’s Pixel 4 took a step up by adding a second rear-facing camera, a telephoto option for distant subjects. That was the same year Apple added a third camera to its higher-end iPhone 11 Pro models, an ultrawide camera that sat alongside its main and telephoto cameras.The Pixel 5 photo at 2X telephoto, shot here with Google’s computational raw format, is fine viewed small but has only a 3 megapixel resolution. At right, the 12 megapixel image from a 2-year-old iPhone XS Max, shot as an HDR raw photo with Adobe’s Lightroom app, offers more detail and editing flexibility. Clicking to enlarge reveals the superior iPhone detail, though it’s scaled down to match the Pixel 5 photo.
Stephen Shankland/CNET
Google tried to match Apple’s prowess this year by replacing the telephoto camera with an ultrawide camera in the Pixel 5. But Apple made major camera improvements with its iPhone 12 Pro, including a bigger image sensor, a longer-reach telephoto lens, improved image stabilization to counteract shaky hands, Dolby Vision HDR video at 60 frames per second and Apple’s more flexible ProRaw format. It’s clear Apple is sinking enormous resources into better photography.Google may have made the right call for the broad market. I suspect ultrawide cameras are better for mainstream smartphone customers than telephotos. Ultrawide cameras for group shots, indoor scenes and video are arguably more useful than telephoto cameras for portraits and mountains.But I want both. I enjoy the different perspectives. Indeed, for a few years I usually carried only telephoto and ultrawide lenses for my DSLR.

In response to my concerns, Google says it’s improved the Super Res Zoom technique for digital zooming on the Pixel 5 with better computational photography and AI techniques that now can magnify up to a factor of 7X. The idea was “We studied carefully to determine what’s really important to folks, and then we focused on that — and shaved off literally hundreds of dollars in the process,” said camera product manager Isaac Reynolds. Having a telephoto camera would have helped image quality, but Google’s priority this year “was to produce a phone that compared well to the top end but at a much lower price — and we did that.”I’m not so convinced. When shooting even at 2X telephoto zoom, my 2-year-old iPhone XS Max and my 1-year-old Pixel 4 both offer far superior imagery compared with the Pixel 5. Zooming in at 2X, the Pixel 5’s Super Res Zoom technology generates a 12 megapixel image, but it looks artificial up close, as in this cropped view.
Stephen Shankland/CNET
What I do like so far about the Pixel 5 camerasI want to be clear: Google’s new phone has its merits, and I’ve experienced some of its strengths while testing the Pixel 5 cameras over the past few days. Here are a handful:Google’s computational raw offers photo enthusiasts the best of both worlds when it comes to photo formats. It marries the exposure and color flexibility of unprocessed raw photo data with the exposure range and noise reduction of the multishot HDR+ processing ordinarily used to make a JPEG.The ultrawide camera really is fun. It also dramatically improves video options, particularly indoors.Based on earlier Pixel phones, I share my colleague Lynn La’s concern that Google’s video stabilization can be “drone-like,” but my early tests of video I shot while walking looked more natural.Double-tapping the phone’s power button launches the camera app fast. It’s not new with the Pixel 5, but it’s so much faster than the iPhone’s lock screen icon.Night Sight, particularly astrophotography mode, still is amazing for low-light shots.Google also pointed to other Pixel 5 perks, including a portrait light ability to control the apparent light source brightening a subject’s face; portrait shots that work in Night Sight mode; 4K video that now works at a fast 60 frames per second, more advanced high dynamic range processing called HDR+ that’s now boosted by exposure bracketing for better shadow details like a backlit face, and better video stabilization.Here’s the rub, though: As Google slips in hardware, rivals are improving their software.Google’s rivals in computational photography are catching upApple didn’t comment on its photography plans for this story, but it spent more than 11 minutes touting the iPhone Pro photo and video abilities, and its actions speak volumes.The Pixel 5 offers a useful if not unique portrait mode that blurs the background for smooth “bokeh.”
Stephen Shankland/CNET
Last year, Apple matched most of what was best about Google’s HDR+ for challenging scenes with bright and dark elements. This year’s Pixel 5 boosts HDR+ with bracketing technology into the multishot blending technique. Apple’s Smart HDR alternative, however, is now in its third generation of refinement. Apple is improving the iPhone’s nighttime photos, too. And by using special purpose processing engines on its A14 chip, Apple’s Deep Fusion technology to preserve detail in low-light shooting works on all four of the iPhone Pro cameras.Photo enthusiasts like me prefer unprocessed, raw photo formats so we can fine-tune color balance, exposure, sharpening and noise reduction. That’s great for when the camera doesn’t make the right choices when “baking” raw image data into a more convenient but limited JPEG image. Google’s computational raw blended HDR processing with raw’s flexibility, but now Apple plans to release its answer, ProRaw, in an update coming later this year to iPhone Pro models.”We want to give our pros even more control over the images they capture,” said Alok Deshpande, Apple’s senior manager of camera software engineering, during Apple’s launch event.Relatively few people use Pixel phones, and that weighs on Google too. Imaging software powerhouse Adobe calibrates its Lightroom photo software to correct lens problems and adapt its HDR tool for some cameras and lenses. No surprise that Pixel phones aren’t on that list. “We tend to provide support based on the popularity of the devices with our customers,” Adobe said in a statement.In contrast, Adobe is “partnering closely with Apple” to tap into ProRaw abilities. And a Google computational photography guru, Marc Levoy, has left Google and is now at Adobe, where he’s building photo technology into Adobe’s camera app.Selling a midrange smartphone like a Pixel 5 or Pixel 4a 5G might well make sense when the COVID-19 pandemic has cost millions of jobs and made a $1,099 iPhone Pro Max unaffordable. But for people like me with a photography budget and appreciation for Google’s computational photography smarts, it’s tragic that Google has lost its lead.

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