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BMW i7 2022 Review: High Life, High-Tech

BMW i7 2022 Review: High Life, High-Tech

The Curved Display we know from the iX. It’s core to BMW’s push to digitalization and combines a 12.3-inch instrument display with a longer 14.9-inch main infotainment glass touchscreen. The whole thing is a sculpture in its own right and sits on slender brackets on top of an open-pore matte wood trim. Audio, navigation, Apple CarPlay, and so on live in individual, customizable tiles. There’s voice activation, too, which works (not all of them do), and passengers can now access the Personal Assistant. There’s even an unnecessary digital clock widget by Qlocktwo that spells out the time. Go for the Heat Comfort package and you’ll get a heated steering wheel and panel heating for the armrests and center console. This is a more efficient way of staying warm in an EV than cranking up the AC. 

Beneath the central screen is the Interaction Bar, new on the 7 Series, which has an unsubtle crystalline surface and backlighting and stretches pretty much the width of the cabin. BMW definitely has a jones for crystal at the moment. It takes its color cues from whichever of the My Modes you’ve gone for; red for Sport, green for Expressive, blue for Efficient. Recent BMW Art Car artist Cao Fei has even created a bespoke Digital Art Mode. These also alter the sound signature, as codeveloped with Hollywood movie soundtrack maestro Hans Zimmer, and they’re mostly variations on an escalating sci-fi pulse. 

The center console is lower and more conventional-looking than in the iX but has the same little (optional) crystal drive controller and other haptic touch points. It’s an easy, swift way to get going and feels satisfying. 

As on the iX, you push a button to get out. New on the 7 are automatic doors. There’s a little button below the wheel that closes the door from inside, or you can set the system so that the driver’s door shuts when you press the brake pedal. Or use the voice activation if you’re incredibly lazy. In fact, there are four ways to open the doors without touching the door handle. The doors’ gyros and sensors recognize inclines and possible hazards and obstructions, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t get out. 

The seats are absolutely magnificent, with multifunctionality and massage programs. The back of the headrests have wood trim with electro-plated accent strips. The (optional) wool cashmere trim is sustainable and looks and feels lovely. Various interior treatments are available for the wood and metals, and there is a vegan spec. The overall effect is as good as a car interior really gets this side of a Bentley, Range Rover, or Rolls-Royce. Interestingly, in the UK at least, the i7 will not be one of the first cars to feature BMW’s much-complained-about heated seats as a service model, otherwise known as “features on demand.” 

Driving Movies

Interior back seat inside of the 2022 BMW i7 with a smart display installed.

Photograph: daniel kraus/BMW

Let’s get to the much-anticipated 31.3-inch 8K Theatre Screen, which folds out of a recess in the roof lining, has built-in Amazon Fire TV, and runs Bowers & Wilkins surround sound. An optional pimped version gets you 36 speakers and 1,965 watts of output, with “exciters” in the seat backrests. The audio quality is stunning, as it should be for a car of this price and with so many pricey extras. Streaming capability varies according to territory, but I watched some “content” traveling down a twisty road without feeling unwell. The rear and side sunblinds automatically raised, and the panoramic sunroof closed. But the screen’s proximity is likely a little too close for some, and it will descend only with the front seats slid forward to a preordained position.

GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Vertical Video

GoPro Hero 11 Black Review: Vertical Video

As somehow who largely dreads postproduction video editing, I was far more excited about some of the other new software-based features in the Hero 11 Black, especially the Star Trails feature. If you’ve ever tried shooting star trails before, you know how laborious it is to stack hundreds of images, so this will probably blow your mind: The Hero 11 can shoot perfect star trail video with a single press of a button. Again, the ability to pull out a 24 megapixel still comes in handy. 

Other new software modes include a Light Painting mode if you want to have some fun with a flashlight, and a Vehicle Light Trails mode to easily turn nighttime car lights into rivers of white and red.

In keeping with the idea of less work for the user, there are now two modes available in the GoPro: Easy and Pro. The camera ships in Easy mode, which offers a streamlined interface for those who aren’t going to wade deep into the GoPro’s color settings and other fine-tuning details. If you are a pro, or are just used to the old UI, it’s, um, easy to switch to Pro, which is the familiar GoPro interface.

Another nice feature that isn’t directly related to the Hero 11 (in fact, it works with all GoPros going back the Hero 5) is more control over Auto Highlights video. You do need to be a GoPro subscriber, and you have to turn on Auto Upload. 

Once you do, the Quik app will automatically generate edits and put them in your Quik app. That much has been around for a while, but GoPro now introduces the ability to edit Auto Highlight video without downloading the source files to your mobile device. You’ll end up editing a low-res proxy, but when you export or share to another app it’ll send the high-res version. Theoretically this will solve my main gripe with Quik, which is that it’s just too much for my phone, but unfortunately this feature was not available to test when I was writing this review.

Alongside the new Hero 11, GoPro is introducing a new camera, the Hero 11 Black Mini ($450), which is a Hero 11 Black in a smaller form factor sans screens. That means there’s no way to review your footage and no way to even frame the shot in many cases. (You can pair it with the Quik app and frame that way.) That might sound strange, but for many of GoPro’s core use cases—that is, the people that really do strap GoPros to their body and go surfing or climbing or motocross riding—the weight savings and streamlined form factor trump screens. You can’t see a screen anyway, when it’s on your head. 

There’s another aspect I like about the Mini, though. A while back, Leica released a digital rangefinder with no screen. That is, there is no way to review your images. The Leica was impractically expensive, but I rather liked the message behind it: Just shoot. Stop checking to see if you “got the shot.” The Hero 11 Mini reminds me of that ethos. As GoPro’s head of product pointed out to me, it’s not the kind of camera that forces you to sit at a distance and shoot your kids party, not in the moment at all. Rather, you stick it in the corner, push record, and go back to living.

All that said, I did not actually test the Hero 11 Mini. I still think that, for most people, the Hero 11 Black is the best action camera to buy. If you have the Hero 10, is it worth upgrading? That depends on whether or not you need the extra vertical space in your shots. If you’re constantly editing video down to different formats, then the Hero 11 is definitely worth the investment.

Casio’s Flagship Keyboard Has a Voice of Its Own

Casio’s Flagship Keyboard Has a Voice of Its Own

You might want to learn music, but nobody wants to spend a thousand dollars on a keyboard only to realize they hate it. Most people buy a beginner keyboard to pound out “Hey Jude,” the kind of plasticky model that you probably remember from middle school. They work fine as tools to manufacture sound with your fingers, but the actual tones leave a bit to be desired.

That’s why I’ve enjoyed my time with the Casio CT-S1000V. It’s a sleek $470 model that acts as an excellent beginner keyboard, but with one particularly cool party trick: You can program lyrics into it and have the keyboard sing for you. It’s a rad tool for those of us with voices like angry crows.

Between solid construction, good sounds, and an easy-to-navigate interface, I think this board is the perfect place for beginners to start. The vocal synthesis engine is cool enough that even die-hard synth nerds will want to mess around when they come check your progress.

Classic Casio

Vintage Casio models are beloved by indie darlings like Mac Demarco for a reason. These basic, utilitarian keyboards sound as nostalgic as they are functional. Like many Casios before it, this one has a decent keyboard and 800 built-in sounds, with everything from boring piano to spacey synths represented. You also get 243 rhythms to play along with, should you need some inspiration.

You’d be surprised how far sounds have come since you last messed with a keyboard at Guitar Center before Covid. The team at Casio has included some legitimately great sounds, stuff you would have paid thousands of dollars for before the iPhone era (hear samples below).

You can plug the keyboard into an amp or use it as a MIDI keyboard with a computer, but I actually liked just using the built-in speakers on the top. It makes it easy to jam along with music, or to quickly sample sounds without the hassle of turning on an amp or opening the Casio Music Space app (which works for iOS and Android and pairs to the keyboard).

The included LCD display works well in dark rooms, and it gives you pretty granular control over everything you might want to adjust when playing. You can assign two knobs on the top left of the board to do various filters, effects, and EQ moves, and there is a very usable pitch-bend wheel on the far left side, for when you want to feel like Herbie Hancock in the 1970s.

Getting Connected

Casio CT1000V keyboard

Photograph: Casio

You can get sound information out of the keyboard four ways: through the aforementioned speakers, a headphone jack, stereo ¼-inch outputs, or via USB. You can also use the keyboard as a sampler for your favorite music, with the ability to capture sounds from Bluetooth audio and use an internal six-track sequencer to line up a beat.

Once you’re plugged in, you can easily mess around and save any sounds that you find you like for later. Speaking of mucking around and finding cool sounds, I really did fall in love with the new vocal synthesis engine. It’s easy to type lyrics into the Casio Lyric Creator app (iOS, Android) and then transfer whole songs of lyrics to the keyboard.

If you really hate to sing, or you particularly love Daft Punk or Peter Frampton, you’ll be in love. You can use 22 different vocal sounds and manipulate them with a fairly wide variety of effects and other sound parameters. The vocal synth is polyphonic, which means you can play really cool harmonies (hear below) over your own words.

How to Back Up Your Digital Life

How to Back Up Your Digital Life

The hardest thing about this step is figuring out which hard drive to buy. If you want something small, see our guide to portable hard drives (which don’t require external power). Backblaze, a backup company that currently stores more than 1 exabyte of data, and therefore has considerable experience with hard drives, periodically publishes its drive statistics, which have some helpful numbers to consider.

Unfortunately, what really jumps out of that data is that longevity varies more by model than by manufacturer. That said, I suggest sticking with known names like Seagate, Western Digital, and Hitachi. Still, even brand-name drives fail. I had a big brand-name drive fail on me recently, and it was only four months old. What you get by sticking with the brand names is good customer service. In my case, the company replaced the drive without question.

Even within brand names, though, some drives are better than others. Several of us here on the Gear team have had good luck with Western Digital hard drives. I like this 5-terabyte model ($108 at Amazon, $108 at Best Buy), which will back up this very article later tonight (it’s backed up to the cloud as I type, more on that in a minute). If you don’t mind a larger form factor, there’s a Western Digital 6-terabyte “desktop” version that’s not much more ($140 at Amazon). 

One nice thing about buying a drive for backing up your data is that you don’t need to worry about drive speed. Even a slow 5,400-rpm drive is fine. These slower drives are cheaper, and since the backup software runs in the background, you probably won’t notice the slower speed.

Get the largest backup drive you can afford. Incremental backups—which is how all good backup software works—save disk space by backing up only the files that have changed since the last backup. But even so, you need a larger drive for backups than whatever is on your PC. A good rule of thumb is to get a backup drive that’s two, or even three, times the size of the drive in your computer.

Set It and Forget It

A good backup system runs without you needing to do a thing. If you have to make a backup, you probably won’t. These days there is software that can automate all of your backup tasks.

Mac users should use Time Machine. It’s a wonderfully simple piece of software and possibly the best reason to buy a Mac. Apple has good instructions on how to set up Time Machine so it will make daily backups to your external hard drive. Time Machine is smart too; it will only back up files that have changed, so it won’t eat up all your disk space.

Windows 11 offers Windows backup, which will back up most of your personal data to your Microsoft account, but it isn’t intended to fully restore your system, should a hard drive fail. A WIRED reader tipped me off to the File History features in Windows, which performs automatic incremental backups on any folder you designate. While File History works quite well in my testing, and can take the place of something like Time Machine if you go through and set it up for every folder you need to back up, Windows still doesn’t really have a utility like Time Machine. 

The Traeger Timberline Makes Smoking Ribs Easy

The Traeger Timberline Makes Smoking Ribs Easy

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not accustomed to perfectly smoking nearly 50 pounds of pork shoulder using a smartphone while lying in your bed. But there I was with the new Traeger Timberline, hitting the “super smoke” button and checking my temps at 6 am before my morning coffee, making enough meat to feed 100 people at my town’s annual backyard kegger.

I haven’t just been cooking massive amounts of pork on Traeger’s freshly redesigned premium smoker. In fact, this summer, it’s become rare for me to cook anything that isn’t in some way smoked. Chicken salad? Smoke that chicken first. Steak? Smoke it before you sear it on the built-in induction burner. A fresh juicy melon? Throw it on the Traeger for 30 mins for a perfectly caramelized desert.

This smart smoker and induction burner provides the perfect all-in-one outdoor kitchen. Minus a middling Wi-Fi connection (you’ll want to make sure your yard has solid coverage), the new Timberline delivers everything I’d want from a modern smoker and more: You can bake, sauté, and smoke in a single unit that’s power- and fuel-efficient. After about two months, I’ve barely used a bag and a half of wood pellets. The fly in the smoke-ringed ointment? It costs $3,500. That’s a lot of cash for any kitchen appliance.

A New Rig

The Timberline comes in a large orange box with clear instructions for setup, but you may want a partner to help you move some of the heavier bits. The heart of the system is a sizable insulated smoke box with room for six pork shoulders, or about the equivalent racks of ribs or chickens (the company also sells an XL version with roughly a third more space for an additional $300). Inside the smoke box, there are three tiers you can put everything on, with a vent for the smoke cut midway along the backside of the smoker so that it circulates fully to the top before venting.

There’s a drip tray and ash/grease catch in an easy-to-detach compartment in the cabinet below the smoker, which also serves as a great place to store extra pellets and metal liners for the drip tray. You’ll get a lot of use out of those metal drip liners before you need to replace one; the six pork shoulders only filled one up about halfway.

Besides the smoke box, on the right of the unit you’ll find a box where you can fill your wood pellets of choice (Traeger sent me an assortment of their own in-house pellets, but you can use other brands). There’s even a plastic bin and special trap door so you can drop one type of pellet out of the auger for storage and put another type in if you want to smoke something with, say, hickory before switching back to applewood.

The main control area for the Timberline is on the right side of the unit via a very comfortable push-button knob and a color LCD display. The best way to use it though is to connect your phone to the grill via the Traeger app. Once you have it connected to your Wi-Fi, you can control every aspect of the machine (including setting timers and temperature alerts) from your smartphone. It’s pretty damn nifty. You just want to make sure your router has enough range because I experienced a spotty connection on the Traeger now and then. 

The left side of the Timberline houses an induction burner, which pairs perfectly with cast iron pans for searing items you’ve just cooked to perfection on the smoker, or for cooking companion dishes while you wait for something to finish smoking. 

Accessory rails surround the front and sides of the smoker and give you a place to put things like a paper towel holder, a pop-up holding tray, and hooks for grill tools. Traeger sent me those accessories, which are nice and all, but not necessary, especially since they cost a lot. You’ll pay $120 for a front shelf, $60 for a bin to store utensils, and $120 for a stainless steel grill tray. Yikes. The one accessory you need—a grill cover—costs an astonishing $180. No, it’s not made of silk.