Electric car company Lucid finally revealed the price of its least expensive vehicle and it will start at $77,400. US buyers also qualify for a $7,500 tax credit making the vehicle eventually cost $69,900.
This version of the Lucid Air comes rightfully less equipped than its more expensive counterparts. For $77,400 buyers get a 480 HP powertrain that Lucid says is good for 408 miles — though the EPA has yet to test it. A dual-motor, all-wheel drive version is also available.
This model is critical to Lucid’s success. The company previously unveiled the specs and prices of the higher priced Air sedans. This model is significantly less expensive than the others, allowing Lucid to reach more buyers while still offering competitive features.
Before today, the company would only commit to saying it would be under $80,000.
During a recent interview with TechCrunch, Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson told TechCrunch editor Darrell Etherington that the Air would be available at a price “surprisingly lower than $80,000.”
The Lucid Air is launching into a market dominated by Tesla. And at this price, the Lucid Air is still outclassed by the Tesla Model S, which for a similar price, offers the same range from a dual-motor, all-wheel drive affair.
Sustainable car-sharing brand Lynk & Co. launches in Europe — and we investigated
After peering out the window on a cold and wet October morning I decide against cycling across Amsterdam to visit the newly opened Lynk & Co location. It’s times like these I wish I owned a car, but only for the half hour I actually need it.
With its unique approach to mobility, this is the very opportunity that Swedish Chinese car maker Lynk & Co. is trying to tap into. It’s a car brand, but the car is far from the company’s centerpiece. In fact, when CEO Alain Visser showed me around the new Amsterdam location, we hardly talked about the vehicle that sat caged in the middle of the space — we actually spent most of our time in the toilets, but we’ll get to that.
If you’ve not heard of Lynk & Co. — I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t — that’s because it’s been quietly bubbling along for a few years making cars for the Chinese market. But now, its debut European location is open and giving us a first look at the Lynk & Co. experience, with the actual cars due to arrive next year.
Lynk & Co. isn’t a name that immediately screams “car brand,” Visser tells me this is intentional. The name for the company was thought up, almost jovially, during a taxi ride with his colleagues.
Before the brand was released it went by the code-name: “Lynk.” Thinking of fashion brands that often use a conjunctive — such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Pull and Bear — Visser thought it was the perfect name for his car brand which is consciously trying not to be your typical car brand.
Lynk & Co. is a car, a location, a way of doing things
Before I show you round its Amsterdam “location,” I’ll tell you a little about the car and how you can own or drive one.
Like marques of old, you can still buy a Lynk & Co vehicle if you want to, or you can become a “member.” As a member you can pay a monthly fee of €500 per month, on a one-month rolling basis, to get access to your own Lynk & Co. vehicle. When you decide you don’t need the car anymore, you can give it back and cancel with just a month’s notice.
In time (when the app is out), owners will also be able to make their vehicles available to “free members” to borrow as and when they need, in a form of ride-sharing or shared ownership model. There are car share programs like this out there, but Lynk & Co.’s vehicle is decidedly more premium in feel than most cars on other schemes.
That €500 a month covers all vehicle expenses except electricity, fuel, “and parking tickets,” Visser jokes. It makes the whole thing wonderfully simple, and to be honest, after seeing the car in person it doesn’t feel like a bad deal. And that’s before you consider the little extras that you’d gain access to at Lynk & Co.’s locations, like events, room hire, and so on.
The theme of simplicity doesn’t stop there, the car itself is refreshingly simple too. There are only two options, its color. Alluding to Henry Ford’s folkloric words, Visser says “you can have it any color, so long as it’s black… or blue.”
Everything comes as standard on the plug-in hybrid Lynk & Co. 01. I’ve not driven it yet, but having a look through the controls and infotainment system, there’s no sign that it’s lacking anything. It’s kind of refreshing to know that you’re effectively buying the best specified version of something, and that no one can show off by getting a better one. It’s almost egalitarian.
It also means that if you become a free member and sign-up to use Lynk & Co.’s vehicles on an adhoc basis, every vehicle is the same, so there’s no need to worry about getting used to new controls, menu layouts, and how things work.
While it’s a shame that the 01 isn’t fully electric, it does still put emphasis on sustainability. The seats are made from recycling fishing nets, and as Visser proudly proclaims, “we don’t use leather anywhere.”
It’s about much more than the car
Sustainability is central to Lynk & Co.’s approach to, well, pretty much everything it touches.
Having worked in the motor trade industry for over 30 years, Visser is a career car-guy. He’s had high-level roles at GM, Opel, and Volvo. After a conversation with his son, who asked what he’d done for the past three decades Visser realized he wanted to do more than just sell cars.
Watching the car evolve and change dramatically over his career, Visser grew frustrated with the way in which cars are sold, owned, and used. “It’s just not sustainable,” he said.
While we should pursue to lower emissions, sustainability doesn’t stop at the tailpipe. For Visser, there are two dimensions to running Lynk & Co. as an economical and climate aware company. There’s the core product’s impact on the environment, and then there is everything that comes with how it’s used and owned.
In the case of cars, most of the time they’re parked up. According to Visser’s research — others concur — cars spend 96% of their life doing nothing. It’s hardly sustainable to have so much time, effort, materials, and resources go into a product that then sits idle.
In this sense, it’s Lynk & Co’s mission to make and sell fewer cars than traditional car brands, instead, it wants to find ways of getting the vehicles out there, and used as much as possible.
This all begins with its locations.
As Visser showed me round the minimalistic and deconstructed Amsterdam location, his enthusiasm for what Lynk & Co. is trying to do became infectious.
We begin alongside the bar where customers can be served coffee, tea, and other soft drinks from a range of ethically sourced brands.
As we turn to face the main area of the space, Visser says: “Everything you see here is for sale.”
There are some items placed neatly on tables, bookshelves, and displays, which are obviously for sale. But the bar stools made by a local artist, the rugs, the round acrylic table made from recycled plastic, and the funky lamp that looks like a Salvador Dali painting, are also up for grabs. But the place doesn’t feel like a store either, which keeps it feeling comfortable and more like a gallery than a retail outlet.
The sunglasses for sale come from a Swedish company (remember Lynk & Co. is part Swede) that uses sustainably sourced plastics. There are tea cups and saucers from a Swedish designer who has her production in Taiwan where the company is run entirely by women, something that is decidedly unconventional in the country.
The hosts at the space even gave me a face mask (for social distancing of course) that was made using off cuts of material by Atelier Opnieuw, a local Amsterdam tailor who fled Syria five years ago and now makes high-end fashion using left over excess fabrics.
There are clothes from small sustainable companies that produce their wares using organic denim and cotton sitting on rails towards the back. On the walls sit photographs showcasing local artists.
“It’s not our intention to make Lynk & Co. merchandise, but to highlight local products that embody our brand and approach,” Visser says.
All the display cabinets are made from recycled and reclaimed materials too. There’s even feature tables being used to display plants that are made from crushed and compacted cars.
Visser’s enthusiasm peaks as he guides me to the toilets: “We’ve had a lot of jokes and discussions internally about what they should be like,” he says. Weary but intrigued, I follow.
“We said they need to be the joke of the club,” he adds. Indeed, they’re certainly a joke alright.
There are six doors, only two of which are actual toilets. The rest all hold gaffs, jokes, and quips behind them.
My favoriteis the Looney Tunes styled door which when opened, reveals another slightly smaller door. On opening the second door, another door, smaller still, is revealed. You get the idea…
It’s hilarious, but thinking back every time I’ve been somewhere with cool or fun toilets, I’ve told people about it. So I don’t doubt that it’ll get people talking.
Finally, Lynk & Co.’s location has an event space and a couple of meeting rooms which, when not being used by the company, can be used by members. The event space will be used by Lynk & Co. to host anything from music events, intimate gigs, art exhibitions, and so on.
So what is it?
I’ve been calling it a location, which sounds decidedly weak and vague, but I’m yet to find the right word for it. Ultimately, in business speak, it’s a brand showcase. That’s not a bad thing per se, particularly when that brand is championing other brands focused on sustainability, but it doesn’t do it justice.
The location itself isn’t the mobility concept, the car and Lynk & Co. app (out next March) is. The location certainly isn’t a car dealership, while the car is there, it’s largely a secondary or even tertiary element to what Lynk & Co. is doing there. And it’s certainly more than a trendy place to swing by and have a coffee at.
In a sense, it’s a kind of clubhouse for Lynk & Co. owners. But I don’t feel that’s the entire story. Sure, it’s a tiny part car showroom, but it’s also a coffee shop, art gallery, boutique, and event space. So it’s hard to pigeonhole.
Anyone is welcome to stop by, browse the sustainable wares, have a refreshing beverage, and spend 20 minutes trying to find their way out the loos. I sat in the corner for a while just to spectate, and a few dozen people wandered in inquisitively, which was a little surprising.
It’s on a high street in the center of Amsterdam, a city famed for the bicycle. On one hand, it doesn’t seem like a good fit. Then again, there are plenty of people here who don’t own cars and don’t want to, but might need one for a weekend every few months. Just because a place can be pro-bike doesn’t mean it’s totally anti-car.
My one concern is if people are going to understand it. To the traditional car buyer, it’s a big departure from the norm. There are no salespeople, there’s no complex car options to navigate, and the atmosphere is homely and chilled. It’s gezellig, as the Dutch would say, rather than sterile like most car dealerships I’ve been in. That’s before explaining the totally new ownership model.
Given that Lynk & Co’s vehicles and app won’t arrive until spring next year though, there’s plenty of time for people to get up to speed on how it all works.
For now, the marque is sticking to highlighting cool brands that champion a similarly mindful approach to their product. So when cars are here in spring people should hopefully know that Lynk & Co. is a car brand, but not like one you’ve seen before.
SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.
Published October 22, 2020 — 13:09 UTC
Corsair’s HS75 XB Wireless sounds better than most $150 gaming headsets
I mentioned in a recent review of the HyperX Cloud II Wireless that my ideal low-cost headset has to be comfortable, have great sound quality, and support for USB-C charging. Apparently, I need to raise the bar a little, as more headsets other than the HyperX can satisfy those requirements. The latest to do that is Corsair’s HS75 XB Wireless, a $150 gaming headset made to work on the Xbox Series X / S and Xbox One without the need for a USB dongle. It also works on PCs via Microsoft’s wireless Xbox USB adapter, which is how I tested this model.
The HS75 XB Wireless has open-back ear cups with 50mm drivers that push out a lovely, warm sound, with bass and highs coming through without stepping on each other. Compared to closed-back designs, this open-back design results in a fuller, more lifelike sound that doesn’t seem as compressed. Trying out songs like “Jewelry” by Blood Orange shows off the range nicely, providing twinkles of instrumentation to test its highs and a big beat coming through in the second half of the song to test out the bass.
Of course, this headset is made primarily for gaming, and its audio chops are put to good use there, too. I tested it for a few hours with Hades, my latest addiction. All of the action came through just as intensely as I wanted, making each run all the more gripping. The sound quality was great, and the free Dolby Atmos app helps to fill it out with virtual surround sound.
In Hades, positional audio isn’t necessary to do better or get more enjoyment. But where positional audio comes into play is with a VR game like Half-Life: Alyx, which I’ve been spending more time with since the Oculus Quest 2 released. Using the HS75 XB Wireless with Atmos enabled, the experience is more engrossing (and downright terrifying since I last left off in a headcrab-infested area). It actually got a little too intense at some point — so I’d consider that a success for this headset.
Sound aside, the HS75 XB Wireless looks and sounds more like a high-end set of headphones than gaming headsets I’m accustomed to testing. This wireless headset has solid build quality and doesn’t feel too heavy or tight on my head. The size adjusters on each side of the headband click rigidly into place, and it supports head sizes far larger than my own rather large head. A metal grille covers each of the cups, surrounded at the edges with grippy plastic. Unfortunately, the ear cups on this model don’t swivel to lay flat. I always like that for portability, though it’s rare to find in a gaming headset.
Corsair covers the inside of each ear cup in a leather-like material, and they don’t feel too toasty because of the open-back design that lets some air in. However, this will be more of a con than a pro for some gamers, as that design also lets a good amount of sound in and out. It seems a little contradictory that Corsair’s focus on positional audio comes in a headset that can’t effectively keep out the noise. On the other hand, as long as you don’t need pin-drop silence, it shouldn’t be much of a bother.
Using the HS75 XB Wireless’ controls is simpler than with most headsets. Corsair opted for a symmetrical layout for each ear cup. Visually, both sides mirror each other, but on the left, a dial controls the volume, with a button beneath it to mute or unmute the adjustable (and removable) microphone. On the right, Corsair put in a chat and game audio mix dial, residing above a power button. This isn’t the first headset to feature an intuitive way to adjust the chat / game audio mix, but it’s always appreciated.
As I touched on earlier, this model supports USB-C charging, improving over the Micro USB port used with Corsair’s HS70 headset. More and more headsets are making the jump to USB-C, and while it might seem like a small shift, it’s easier to plug in than Micro USB and usually results in faster recharge times. Corsair claims 20 hours of battery life per charge, and I haven’t yet been able to drain it fully. This isn’t best-in-class longevity, but it should last for a few sessions without needing to be topped up.
There isn’t an overwhelming number of wireless gaming headsets that work with Xbox consoles. But compared to some of the newer options, like the $150 SteelSeries Arctis 7X and the $120 Astro A20 Gen 2, the HS75 XB Wireless is a better option when it comes to sound quality, ease of use, and comfort. Not that any of those models are bad, but if you’re particular about attention to fine detail, Corsair’s $150 headset stands out just a bit beyond what’s currently out there.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge
Amazon Echo (2020) review: music of the sphere
The smart speaker competition this year is the hottest it’s ever been. Google has finally refreshed its midrange smart speaker with the impressively good Nest Audio. Apple has seen the error of its HomePod ways and is coming out with the much more accessible HomePod mini.
And Amazon, naturally, is not standing still. It has a brand-new Echo with the biggest overhaul in design and sound quality since the first Echo surprised the world back in 2014. And it’s all for the same $99.99 price as last year’s 3rd Gen Echo, the Nest Audio, and the HomePod mini.
Amazon also has a brand-new Echo Dot lineup that, well, echoes the design of the larger model, shrinking it down and bringing it to an even lower price point. I’ll be covering the Echo Dot in a separate piece, but if it’s anything like the larger Echo, it’s going to be impressive.
Because the new 4th-Gen Echo sounds incredible.
The Echo’s design has been completely overhauled — the cylindrical shape is out, everything is about spheres now. The new Echo is essentially a 5-inch ball with a flat side on the bottom, so it doesn’t roll off the table. It’s vaguely melon-like in appearance, though I also can’t deny the Death Star vibes it projects.
According to Amazon, the ball shape is meant to improve the speaker’s acoustic properties and allows for more flexibility with the placement of the drivers inside. It also offers a fuller cavity behind the woofer for better bass response.
And sure enough, the Echo is physically deeper than the Nest Audio, which is a little bit taller. That depth allows Amazon to use two tweeters (each 0.8-inch) compared to the Nest’s single one, while still fitting in a 3-inch woofer and enough space for it to radiate bass.
The net effect is the Echo has a greater sound stage than the Nest and fills larger rooms better with sound. It also has noticeably better bass — you can feel it in the floor as well as just hearing it. That’s something I haven’t experienced from a $100 smart speaker before.
The top half of the ball is covered in fabric, and you can get it in dark gray, light gray, or a new light blue. At the very apex are four buttons: volume up, volume down, microphone mute, and the “action” button, which puts the speaker into listening mode without you having to say “Alexa”. Around back you’ll find the power port and the same 3.5mm jack that’s on all of the other Echo speakers for hooking it up to a larger sound system. There’s also a built-in Bluetooth radio for connecting directly to a device and playing whatever audio source you want.
This new shape necessitates moving the signature LED light ring that lets you know when Alexa is listening for a voice command, when it’s muted, when you have a notification, or the volume level of the speaker. It’s now on the bottom, which might be harder to see from a distance. But in my experience that was a non-issue: the light ring’s glow reflects off the surface of whatever you put the Echo on and it’s bright enough to see from across the room.
Lastly, the design is also much more directional than the prior models. Instead of trying to splash sound in all directions, the Echo’s woofer is pointed towards the front at a 45-degree upwards angle, while the two tweeters are below it, facing slightly left and slightly right. It’s clear that you are meant to face the speaker when listening to it, and it isn’t expected to be placed in the center of a room.
In all, the design is a radical departure for both Amazon and what we’ve collectively come to expect a smart speaker to look like. I like it.
I also really like the sound that comes out of the new Echo. As mentioned, it sounds better than the Nest Audio thanks to its larger physical size and unique shape. It also utilizes the same kind of active room tuning that is typically found on more expensive speakers from Sonos, Apple, Google, and even Amazon itself.
The new Echo will use the mics built into it to listen to the room and continuously gauge its size and shape. It will then adjust its audio output accordingly. This isn’t a feature that’s been available on speakers at this price before — neither the Nest Audio nor the HomePod mini have it.
It’s hard to quantify the difference this room tuning makes, especially since I can’t turn it on or off at will. But in combination with the three drivers and larger size, the Echo produces an impressively full sound. It appears that Amazon designed it for slightly larger rooms — the company recommends sitting ten feet away (and no closer than six feet) from it for the best experience. If you’re in a smaller space, the Echo Dot’s more compact, yet similar, design is likely a better fit.
Amazon also claims that the Echo benefits from Dolby Audio tuning, but it stops short of supporting the 3D Atmos audio that the larger and more expensive Echo Studio is capable of (no big loss there).
In general, the Echo has a wide soundstage, deeper bass than typically found on speakers at this price, and some stereo separation thanks to those two tweeters. It also gets loud — when I compared it side by side with the Sonos One, a speaker that’s twice as expensive, the Echo was able to go toe-to-toe with the Sonos in terms of output.
The Echo isn’t quite able to match the Sonos on sound quality, and I do prefer the sound of the Sonos overall. But the differences are small: the Echo can sound more “processed” at times and it lacks the warmth in the midrange that the Sonos is so good at.
Those differences did not stop me from enjoying the music coming out of the Echo, however, whether that was the acoustic home recordings on the recent rerelease of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers; the driving, harmonized guitar riffs on Spirit Adrift’s Enlightened In Eternity; or the ambient Tycho beats I typically listen to while working. (I used Spotify for my testing, but the Echo supports all of the major music services, save for YouTube Music.) The Echo is good at allowing each instrument in the mix to shine, something prior models were horribly poor at, without drowning out vocals or mids with too much bass. I wouldn’t call the trebles “sparkly”, but they are pleasant and never grating, even at high volumes.
I’ve come to not expect much bass from smart speakers, especially at this price, so the fact that I could feel the bass drum in the floor was a nice surprise. It’s not going to replace a subwoofer at a house party, but it’s definitely more bass than the Nest Audio provides, even though both it and the Echo have the same size woofer.
It’s possible to pair two Echo speakers into a stereo configuration, and doing so produces a wall of sound that you’d expect to come from much larger or more expensive speakers. It also provides a much more obvious stereo separation than the two tweeters in a single Echo are able to manage on their own.
But I don’t think most people will find it necessary to buy two and use them in stereo — a single Echo gets plenty loud enough on its own, even in my open-concept living room with a high, sloped ceiling. (Two Echo speakers in stereo definitely makes more sense if you pair them with a FireTV for a home theater setup.)
The Echo also sounds good for spoken word audio, whether that’s a podcast playing through Pocket Casts or an Audible audio book. It remains a versatile speaker for a wide variety of uses.
As a smart speaker, the new Echo is capable of all the things that Echo speakers have been doing for years. You can ask Alexa to control smart home gadgets, set timers, give weather reports, add things to a shopping list, and so on. The list of things that Alexa can do continues to grow by the day, but most people still use smart speakers for the basics — music, alarms, timers, etc — and the Echo is very good at all of those.
It’s also very good at picking up the “Alexa” wake word, and I don’t have to raise my voice for it to hear me even when music is playing. That’s not something I can say about the Nest Audio, where I have to consciously speak over the music to skip a track or adjust volumes. We’ll have to see how the HomePod mini fares in this regard when we’re able to test it.
Amazon is using its new AZ1 Neural Edge processor in the new Echo, which is designed to speed up voice recognition. Unfortunately, that won’t be enabled until later this year, so I haven’t been able to test it. In general, Alexa on the Echo responds relatively quickly and faster than Google tends to on the Nest Audio. Siri has traditionally responded quicker than either Alexa or the Google Assistant on the original HomePod — again, we’ll have to see how the HomePod mini does when we get a chance to test it.
As if Amazon didn’t stack enough into the new Echo to make it a compelling option against the competition, it’s also included a full smart home hub inside of it. You can connect Zigbee devices such as lightbulbs, door sensors, and more right to the Echo without the need for a secondary hub, and then manage and control them through voice commands or via the Alexa smartphone app. There’s even a temperature sensor in the Echo, which can be used to trigger Alexa routines such as turning on a fan or air conditioner.
The Echo also supports Amazon’s new Sidewalk network, but until that actually launches, it’s hard to say what it will mean or how important it will be.
The progression of Amazon’s mainstream Echo speaker has been a long journey, from an odd, Pringles-can shape with admittedly terrible sound, to better-looking and sounding cylinders, to what we have now, a spherical speaker that legitimately sounds good. For a long time, if you wanted a smart speaker but cared even a little about sound quality, your choices have been to pay more for a Sonos One, a HomePod, or Amazon’s larger Echo Studio.
But now Amazon has brought excellent sound quality and a ton of features to a price that’s much more accessible. That price is likely to get better once Amazon’s frequent and aggressive discounts are available for the new Echo. If you already have Alexa speakers in your home, whether that’s a cheap Echo Dot or an older Echo model, the new Echo is a noticeable upgrade to throw into the mix.
And if you have been eyeing the smart speaker world for the past half-decade but haven’t jumped in yet, the new Echo is an excellent place to start. It’s a great-sounding speaker that also happens to do a million other things.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge
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