The Samsung Serif Television

Like the typeface it takes its name from, this TV is designed to be easy on the eyes

The physical form of the television has been problematic since the “fat to flat” evolution, as television-hardware geeks refer to the thinning of TVs over time.

Around the early 2010s, production of the last few CRT (cathode-ray tube) and rear-projection TVs ceased, and we had no idea where to put the large black rectangles that replaced them. To start, flat-screen TVs were a then miraculous three or so inches thick; now they are down to as little as 0.15 inches.

With old-school TVs, placement wasn’t up for discussion. If you wanted a television larger than a nine-inch portable, you had to make space in your living room for a sizable piece of furniture. Big TVs invariably had the dimensions and weight of a sumo wrestler.

Given a flat-screen TV, some bafflingly mounted it over a mantel, like an altarpiece, turning it into a sort of household shrine. Others so coveted the vibe of the dentist’s waiting room that they sought to reproduce it at home, hanging their TV high on a wall and gazing up at it from their couch for hours on end.

Your columnist has, for perspective, fought a long battle against ill-advised TV placement. For the past five years, a floor-standing Panasonic—the DX802, which is no longer being made—has served wonderfully, its downward viewing angle proving optimal.

But the Panasonic didn’t suit a recent move to an old cottage in a historic location, and the search for a replacement alighted on a strange and beautiful, French-designed Samsung, the Serif, which came out in 2016 and didn’t prove awfully popular.

What is novel about the Samsung Serif is that its screen is fatter (7.5 inches) than today’s norm, and it stands like a friendly little alien on four splendidly spindly legs. The TV faintly evokes a 1960s model but is, simultaneously, very modern. It can stand well out from a wall or lurk quietly in a corner.

It turns out that Samsung still makes the Serif, and an upgraded 2022 model is now available, with a great 4K Q.L.E.D. screen (Samsung’s excellent version of O.L.E.D.) and other advances—some useful, others gimmicky.

The picture on the updated Serif is magnificent, but the revelation is that the audio—a pleasing blend of crisp mid-tones and bass—is easily good enough to not require an ugly soundbar. So the soundbar-hating side of the household gets its wish, while the audio-sensitive side is also satisfied. Even music sounds pretty good. The interface and navigation are so-so but tolerable.

Meanwhile, the thing looks so unusual and beautiful from every angle that we love it on an hourly basis chez Landing Gear, and we even see passersby on the sidewalk outside (hopefully not members of the burgling community) sneaking an admiring look and pointing at it. The Serif comes in 43-, 55-, and 65-inch versions.

The Miele Triflex HX2 Vacuum Cleaner

The Miele Triflex HX2, from $749.

Germany’s appliance powerhouse finally provides suction without the cords and tow-behind canisters

The British Consumers’ Association, a charity with a fearsome reputation for integrity at all costs, has, for more than 60 years, published a magazine, Which?, that subjects products to rigorous testing and doesn’t pull its punches, happily labeling a test product a “worst buy” if it sees fit.

So for Which? to have pronounced a new cordless German vacuum cleaner, the Miele Triflex HX2, “phenomenal” and “the best we’ve ever tested” is quite an event in the housekeeping world. Especially in the U.K., the home of two of the best vacuum brands in the world—the globally acknowledged Dyson and, more niche outside Britain but phenomenally popular inside, the utilitarian Henry.

This column is a champion of the innovative and rather stylish Dyson V15 Detect, which has an amazing green laser on the cleaning head to reveal dust you can’t see with the naked eye, as well as a rather less useful but intriguing dust counter, which shows the seriously keen cleaner the amount they have vacuumed up in a session, in terms of the number of grains. Chasteningly, this number will usually be in the billions, even from what seemed a clean floor.

So even given the sensational Which? verdict on the new Miele, would we be sucked in by the German contender, which is a pound or so heavier and notably less slinky than the identically priced Dyson?

It’s the equivalent choice to, we’d suggest, that between the almost brutal efficiency of a Mercedes G-Class S.U.V. and the sometimes peevish but always winning flair of any one of several luxury British sports cars.

The Triflex certainly wins on robust build. We have Which?’s word that it’s the best dust collector. It’s also a little quieter than the Dyson by our measurement. And the model we tested, the Cat & Dog, came with a special pet-hair-removing head. The Triflex can also be configured in two different ways as an upright cleaner.

On the other hand, Landing Gear’s cleaner, Ana, declares the Dyson easier to handle, which, she says, makes it feel a lot lighter and a little better balanced. We prefer the Dyson’s trigger to the Miele’s sliding on-off switch.

On the other hand again, “phenomenal” and “the best we’ve ever tested” are some commendation. Difficult call, but with Miele’s stellar reputation for reliability, you may well go for it.

the DIVR Labs Virtual-Reality Experience

The Divr V.R. Experience, from $33 per person.

The future, as it turns out, is filled with dinosaurs

Virtual reality has failed to make much impact in the real world so far. Even the latest consumer V.R. headsets are expensive and bulky, and the images you see, arrestingly immersive as they are for a short while, still suffer from being displayed in pixels the size of Volkswagens.

Furthermore, given the space constraints of most houses, home V.R. setups don’t allow much by way of physically wandering around your virtual world. It may be that, as Meta calculates, we will soon all be yearning to live, meet, work, exercise, shop, and date in V.R., but even an enthusiast would likely conclude this will take a long time, if ever.

However, the technology is advancing, and nowhere can this be seen better than in three, frankly, mind-blowing V.R. “experiences,” which can currently be tried in London, Prague, and Stockholm. Divr Labs is a Prague-based start-up whose brainy staff spent most of the coronavirus years perfecting what we think is the best V.R. experience we’ve come across.

We tried the London option, situated in a remote corner of the giant and rather impressive Westfield mall, which marks the border between fancy-schmancy Holland Park and Brooklyn-ish Shepherd’s Bush.

You enter Divr’s studio, put on a sanitized HTC headset (fine for spectacle-wearers) and a flak jacket laced with equipment that generates haptic sensations. You are then free to wander around what was previously a store and is now a brightly lit V.R. playground, with heaters to simulate warm-air rushes and fans to produce wind.

Except that you don’t see a brightly lit hall. In our case, it was a prehistoric rain forest alive with creatures, mostly ferocious and genuinely scary. This is Divr’s “Meet the Dinosaurs” exhibition. Tacky and commercial though it may be to some, words honestly can’t convey how persuasive and enchanting we found it. If you have time to spare in any of the current locations, just do it.

The Grado Labs SR80x Headphones

The Grado SR80x, $125.

From the mean streets of Brooklyn, headphones that know sleight of hand … er, ear

Want simple, no-frills, wired headphone that give true hi-fi quality for a bargain price? There’s little need to look beyond Brooklyn cans-meister Grado’s $125 SR80x.

Like many of the products conceived and made in this family firm’s former fruit shop, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the headphones look and feel quite crude. The design finesse and manufacturing slickness are so nonexistent—cheap sponge ear pads; nasty plastic parts; a horrible, stiff, fabric-covered cable—they almost look like a joke.

For good measure, the headphones’ sound isolation is close to zero. You will prevent your neighbors from having to share your musical taste, but not your nearest and dearest.

Yet Grado knows what it’s doing and has been hyper-respected in audio for generations now. The sound of the SR80x headphones is sublime, and once the snake-like cable has been tamed, they’re also perfectly comfortable.

Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology