Tag Archives: Reviews

Google Pixel 3 Review: The Other Way to Make a Killer Phone

The history of smartphone improvement has largely relied on companies cramming faster or more powerful components into the now ubiquitous glass slabs we carry around. But the Pixel 3 is something else. Instead of focusing on things like a brighter screen, tons of RAM, or multiple rear cameras, almost all of the Pixel…

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You Can Strap a GoPro to This New Hot Wheels Car and Ride Along on All Your Dangerous Stunts

Watching a race from the sidelines is never as fun as being in the driver’s seat, and with that obvious wisdom in mind, Mattel has partnered with GoPro to create a new camera-compatible Hot Wheels car that lets kids and grownups experience what it’s like to careen down those iconic orange plastic tracks. It’s also the…

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Our First Look at AMD’s Second-Generation Ryzen CPU Is Proof It’s No One Hit Wonder

Last year AMD finally gave us something we desperately needed with the release of Ryzen: A viable rival to Intel in the CPU space. The rivalry has meant faster CPUs for desktops and laptops as each company races to surpass the other, but there’s a potential problem for AMD. It doesn’t have the same track record for…

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OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
Images: Darren Orf/Gizmodo

In 2014, OnePlus arrived out of nowhere with a powerful idea: What if a phone could look good, be powerful, and not cost a crapload? The OnePlus One was a mic drop and the OnePlus 2 a successful sophomore follow-up, but the new 3 silences the haters—the OnePlus 3 is a “Flagship Killer” and at $400, with no more dumb invite system, it’s not just the best OnePlus phone ever, but one of the best cheap phones too.

No part of this phone sees a bigger evolutionary leap than its external design. Although admirable for sub-$400 phones, OnePlus never quite rivaled the design chops of its more expensive competition. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told Gizmodo that the original OnePlus used its famous sandstone finish because going all metal was just too expensive. For the 3, OnePlus ups the price a little to go full Terminator.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
OnePlus One, OnePlus 2, and the OnePlus 3. This version is called “graphite,” and a “soft gold” version will be available later.

Machined from a block of anodized aluminum and borrowing heavily from design quirks popularized by competitors, the OnePlus 3 finally looks like the “premium” phone it’s always wanted to be. The 3’s camera placement and antenna design look incredibly HTC-inspired while the 5.5-inch AMOLED 1080p display bubbles up from the bezels much like the iPhone.

But it’s not just a soulless copycat.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

Like the OnePlus 2, the 3 runs OnePlus’ own Android mod, called Oxygen OS. For smartphone nerds out there, that means the OnePlus has much more customization options than standard Android—dark theme, icon sizes, more multitasking options. Oxygen OS is basically Android Marshmallow, the current release of Android, but with some small tweaks to the user interface. To show you what I mean, here’s Android running on Nexus 5X and Oxygen OS running the OnePlus 3. Bonus points if you can guess which is which:

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
Answer: Android left, Oxygen OS right

The 3 has a similar spec checklist like the rest of the very best recent phones. USB Type-C? Check. Latest Snapdragon processor? Yessir. Fingerprint sensor, high megapixel camera, and fast charging? Yep, yep, and youbetcha. Really the only thing you could try to put in the minus column is a 1080p AMOLED display instead of a pixel dense 2K screen found on most other phones (minus the iPhone). But unless you’re going to be strapping VR to your face, you’ll likely be just as happy with the OnePlus 3.

But a major departure is the amount of RAM packed into the OnePlus 3—6 GB. Six! That’s as much as a laptop—a shitty one—but still! This really allows Oxygen OS to shine. Like Apple and iOS, OnePlus has optimized its in-house software to work especially well on the OnePlus 3, so it can take advantage of all that RAM in ways other Android competitors cannot.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
PDF Test, OnePlus 3 (right) versus iPhone 6s Plus (left)

In side-by-side testing, the OnePlus 3 easily keeps up with the iPhone 6s Plus. We opened the same giant PDF on both phones, and the OnePlus 3 just barely beat the iPhone. It even feels marginally faster when you consider Apple’s painfully slow animations.

When we tried to open the camera with over a dozen other apps running in the background the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge did so in a respectable 2.6 seconds. But the OnePlus 3 smoked it—opening in under one second.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy

Once the camera pops open, the OnePlus 3 clearly makes some impressive strides in terms of software and hardware. For one, you can use the 16 megapixel front camera to shoot in RAW—incredibly useful for saving badly exposed photos in post—and the updated camera app has manual control, so you can tinker with all the advanced camera settings that you want.

Sadly the ability to tinker can’t save optics that are just average. Here’s a comparison with the OnePlus 3 and three of its competitors—the Galaxy S7, LG G5, and the iPhone 6s Plus.

Although the photo captures the overall image even when shrouded in poor lighting, the details in Steve Jobs’ face (not Kutcher) are not as clear when compared to the Galaxy S7 and the 6s Plus. We’re not talking catastrophic differences, but possibly enough to deter someone looking for the very best mobile camera.

But it isn’t the slightly less-than-excellent camera that’s the OnePlus 3′s big flaw. It’s battery life. On at least two occasions during my week with the 3, it died late into the evening. At one point, it left me locked outside of my apartment unable to reach my roommates. I had to walk to a friend’s house, pound on the door, and beg him to let me sleep on his couch. It’s these moments where a phone that can last into the next morning (the Samsung S7′s battery life really is incredible) is immeasurably more useful than one that can’t.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy
OnePlus 3 comes with USB Type-C and quick charging with Dash Charge.

The 3 does come with its own blend of fast charging, called Dash Charge, which the company says offers a “day’s power in half an hour.” With the phone powered off and drained to zero, I was able to get 80 percent charge in 40 minutes on the 3′s 3000mAh battery. Good, but not astounding. OnePlus thinks people will just top off their phones periodically throughout the day, but that doesn’t fit my routine.

Aside from that, it’s hard not to look at the OnePlus 3 and marvel at how this unknown Chinese company has so quickly and confidently made a flagship phone for so cheap. This is—in every sense of the phrase—a top-of-the-line device. Where previous OnePlus phones were marred with compromises, the OnePlus 3 makes almost none. For the price, the OnePlus 3 is the absolute best phone you can buy.

OnePlus 3 Review: The Best Cheap Phone You Can Buy


  • Thanks to in-house hardware and software—not to mention 6GB of RAM—this phone flies with ludicrous speed.
  • The camera isn’t the best available—but it has RAW support so you can shout “FIX IT IN POST” just like a real photographer.
  • No expandable storage, but 64GB means you shouldn’t be worried.
  • Although it looks like stock Android, it definitely isn’t, which means you’ll be waiting for Android N for months, like the rest of the non-Nexus world.
  • Battery life is the real concern. Charge your phone so you don’t have to sleep on a friend’s couch.

Yelp Is Awful for Everyone Involved

Yelp Is Awful for Everyone Involved

“Your review on Yelp is destroying my business,” he says to me, clearly clenching his teeth, “How long do I have to suffer because of your negative review?” A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from a contractor because of a review I’d left. What ensued was a weirdly emotional conversation that ventured between harassment and a plea for empathy.

I’ve only written a couple of Yelp reviews in my life. Like many people, it was a negative experience that triggered it, because I felt like I had to do something. In this case, it was a botched home remodel job at my significant other’s house. It wasn’t a huge job, but it was expensive, and I felt like I had to warn others away from this contractor. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take this stuff lightly. I’ve had retail, restaurant, and blue collar jobs in my life, and I know that most complaints on Yelp are garbage from people who just don’t get it. But I also know that finding a home contractor is difficult, and the least I can do when I find one truly bad is say, “hey, don’t use these people.”

The review itself was what you’d expect from a negative review of a contractor. They took forever to get the job done, showed up late, left a mess, were unprofessional, and misrepresented the quality of their work in a variety of ways. It’s the same contractor-gone-wrong story you’ve heard before. The review wasn’t even vitriolic, it was mostly a play-by-play because the events spoke for themselves.

Things got interesting when, three months later, the owner called. It started with subtle threats, then moved into potential bribes. It was as weird as it sounds.


After one bad review, the bullying started…

Initially, the business owner called and left a message, mentioning that he’d talked with his lawyer about the review. In retrospect, I know this was a simple bullying tactic meant to scare me into deleting the review.

The initial voicemail went like this: “I spoke with my lawyer about this review and I need to speak with you immediately.” When someone mentions speaking to a lawyer, well, the first thing you do is speak to your own (or bluff, like I did). When I returned the call, my first question was, “I’ve spoken with my lawyer, do I need to get him on the line?”

“No, no, of course not” he replied, continuing, “I meant my lawyer suggested I call you so we can work something out.”

Of course, I don’t have a personal lawyer. But my guess is he was initially suggesting defamation, which I have a pretty good understanding of at this point. Yelp’s been loud about its support for consumer’s rights when it comes to defamation, and it took just a few seconds of Googling to confirm the law here. A quick call to a lawyer friend cleared up any remaining questions I had: as long as I wasn’t lying in the review, the owner had no cause to file a suit against me.

Many people won’t know the ins and outs of defamation, nor will they go through the trouble of searching for the information when they’re threatened by a business owner. My guess is the mere mention of a lawyer is enough to get most people to remove their negative reviews. I called his bluff, so the business owner took a different tactic.


…then came the pleading…

After it was clear I understood my legal protections, and I understood exactly what defamation means, he moved onto another tactic: pleading with me. Because I’m not a terrible person, this almost worked.

“This is a family business,” he said, “I have children.” He moved on to an appeal to my empathy, “how long must I suffer?” he asked. I’ll admit I contemplated this for a while. Was there some universal time period a contractor must suffer before retribution? Is that even a quantifiable thing?

“How much business do you think I’ve lost because of your negative review?” he continued, inflating my ego a bit now, he paused and waited for my reply, “I have no idea,” I said, leaving it at that. The phone line remained dead for a bit as we both tried to figure out what the game was at this point. He thought the ball was in my court now. I was too stunned at this guy’s audacity to reply, and decided to remain silent until he spoke again. When he did, he moved onto another tactic.

…and finally the bribes

Next up was the bribe. He offered a number of services from his company to “make things right,” which I scoffed at considering they couldn’t do the initial job correctly. Then, in a truly left field approach, he moved on to restaurant gift cards. This wasn’t a $20 gift card to Chili’s, either. He tossed around a number of fancy restaurants far too classy for me, with his final pitch being a $500 card for Patina.

It was clear he was willing to pay just about whatever it took for me to remove the review. I let him go on for a little bit in stunned silence before he asked, “Thorin, is there anything I can do to make this right?” I thought about it before replying, “I don’t want anything from you, but I’ll think about removing it.” I’d be lying if I didn’t consider any of these offers. The free work was a bit of a joke, but who doesn’t want a fancy meal? But it all felt too weird. It was a pay off, and the idea just didn’t sit well with me.

More than anything though, I just wanted the conversation to end. At this point, I was uncomfortable with the whole thing. I’d gone through a variety of emotions over the course of a five minute conversation. I started with a holier than thou, consumer-advocating attitude, but I ended in state of complete confusion. I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of all this, but I knew I wanted to hang up the phone.

Bottom Line: Yelp Isn’t Worth It

Digging through the other reviews of this contractor, I’ve found plenty of stories like mine. Other reviews describe identical situations, where the contractor did shoddy work, then months later the owner contacted the reviewer with a little bullying before moving on to bribery. Many of those reviews were published close to or after mine.

It’s no secret that Yelp makes running a business harder. The Wall Street Journal points out that business owners often see a dip in profits after a slew of negative reviews, and the fact you can be anonymous on Yelp means it’s possible for competitors to leave as many fake negative reviews as they want. It’s also possible for a business to pay someone to write fake good Yelp reviews to boost their scores. Business owners have also accused Yelp of extortion, claiming Yelp moves positive reviews to the top after a business pays to advertise. For its part, Yelp routinely denies these claims.

Business owners seem unsure of how to handle Yelp. I’ve had plenty of other weird interactions where a business owner asked me to leave (or offered discounts to not leave) Yelp reviews. I’ve heard similar stories from others, too. A tire shop recently fixed a hole in a friend’s tire for “free,” but the business owner asked for a Yelp review in return. That sounds nice on the surface, but it’s an odd business practice when you think about it. For that company, the $5 charge to fix that hole is worthless compared to a favorable Yelp review. After looking at their page, it was clear the tire shop had some bad reviews for bigger jobs. This goodwill repair was less to increase the chance for return business and more to push Yelp stars back in their favor.

By the way, review solicitation isn’t recommended by Yelp. For bad reviews, Yelp offers a way for business owners to reply, but suggests that owners stick to the “customer is always right” principle, and to be diplomatic.

It’s not just businesses trying to figure things out here. Beyond all this, I’ll admit my negative review was a last ditch effort. It was my sad revenge as a consumer who felt duped. I might have felt altruistic when I pressed that publish button, but it was a selfish decision meant only to make myself feel a little better. It was a form of venting. A one-star review on Yelp is more often a pleading rant than it is a useful review. I could have continued calling the contractor every day until they sorted it all out. Or I could have poured myself a glass of whiskey, opened up my web browser, and given them a piece of my mind where other people would see.

In the end, I deleted my Yelp account, that review included. I did it quickly, in a state of frustration and exhaustion after the company contacted me again, but thankfully this particular contractor is swimming in negative reviews.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

The 2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 Is The Best Bike If You Can Only Have One

We got up at dawn, threw the last of our camping gear in bags, and set our sights south down the Big Sur coast. The next hour and a half of my life saw a completely empty Highway 1 and speeds like I’d never ridden before, with only the birds, elephant seals, and whales off the coast to witness us. That was the morning I fell in love with sport riding and the morning I fell in love with the Ducati Hypermotard.

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The DJI Phantom 4 Is the Best Drone I’ve Ever Crashed

The DJI Phantom 4 is a slick, feature-packed drone. People say it’s the drone that anybody can fly, the quadcopter that you just can’t crash. Let me be painfully clear about two things: 1) Not everyone can fly the Phantom 4, and 2) It’s pretty damn easy to crash.

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What Do You Want To Know About The 2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939?

I spent several days this week on the press launch for the new 2016 Ducati Hypermotard 939 and Hypermotard 939 SP. Photos are being edited and the review is on the way, so get your questions in now.

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2017 Cadillac XT5: Meet The Escalade’s Kid Sister With Better Grades And Glasses

The Cadillac Escalade earned its place as an icon with classic American automotive values: it’s big and sparkly. But it’s also lumbering and inefficient. Can Cadillac distill that swagger into something that gets half-decent gas mileage without boiling off all the mojo? I drove the new 2017 Cadillac XT5 to find out.

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Ride Review: Sell Whatever You Own And Go Buy The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

With the 2016 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, Husqvarna has created a true do-it-all road destroyer. I’ve never ridden a bike perfect for the twisties and urban settings that could also do freeway stints without brutalizing my body into a painkiller addiction. Then I finally got to throw a leg over the 701.

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