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20
Oct

Scientists want to bore holes through clouds using lasers from satellites


Most information today travels through underground cables and from satellites beaming radio signals. In the coming decade, satellite information may instead be sent via lasers, which, among other advantages, are more secure and can carry more data. But lasers have a big weak spot those other technologies don’t have — lasers can’t pass through clouds.

Now, researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have proposed a new technique for clearing cloud layers to aid in communication via laser technology. That solution? Add more lasers.

Using ultra-hot and ultra-short laser beams, the researchers say they can temporarily bore a hole through clouds so that the information-carrying lasers can pass through uninterrupted.

With all the information sent around the planet, radio frequency bands are crowded and long wavelengths limit the amount of information that can be carried. It can’t keep up with our modern-day demands, so researchers have begun experimenting with other technologies to fulfill our needs.

Lasers may offer one solution. Their short wavelengths can transmit thousands of times more information than radio frequency, according to the researchers, and offer more security. However, “as soon as there are clouds or fog, the usual light is scattered in every direction and not transmitted anymore,” Jean-Pierre Wolf, a physicist at the university who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “There are nowadays no active solution to this problem, and what we propose may provide a solution.”

“We have demonstrated that a certain type of laser — ultra-short lasers, producing pulses as short as 1/10th of one millionth of one millionth of a second — create a shock wave in the air, that blows out the water droplets on its way,” Jérôme Kasparian, a physicist at the university who worked on the project, said. “By doing so, it can clear the way through a fog or a cloud, and open a clear channel for optical communication through the cloud.”

The satellite laser configuration proposed by Wolf and Kasparian includes one ultra-short laser that produces a shock wave to clear the clouds and a second to carry the information to Earth. Kasparian pointed out that the lasers they’ve used rely on chirped pulse amplification, a technology that earned Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland a Nobel Prize in physics this year.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, particularly in distributing the laser energy evenly over long distances, but Wolf said they have close contacts in aerospace interested in licensing the technology. They’re testing the lasers on synthetic clouds in the lab but hope to test on real clouds soon, with potential implementation by 2025.

A paper detailing the study was published this week in the journal Optica.

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20
Oct

Google Pixel USB-C earbuds review



Research Center:

Google Pixel USB-C earbuds

Google’s Pixel Buds, the company’s first attempt at wireless earbuds, suffer from a variety of issues. The charging case feels flimsy, stowing the wire around the case is a chore, we often run into pairing issues, and the earbuds don’t always have the best fit. They also cost  $159 – they’re still sold on the Google Store — which is the same price as Apple’s superior “true” wireless AirPods.

Instead of taking another stab at a wireless product this year, Google went the simpler route with USB-C wired earbuds that are now included with every purchase of a Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL smartphone. You can also buy them for $30, and all features work on phones running Android 9 Pie or, eventually, higher.

We’re quite happy with these affordable and wired buds. Google has ported over many of the smart Google Assistant features that debuted in the Pixel Buds and make the earbuds even more useful, whether you’re listening to music or not. The sound quality is a bit better than what you get with Apple’s Lightning EarPods, and you don’t need to worry about charging or pairing.

Good sound, open-ear style

Google has carried over the “open-ear” style it used with the Pixel Buds to the USB-C earbuds. If you want earbuds that can block out the rest of the world, look elsewhere. We like being able to hear our surroundings, which is intended with this design, as it helps us stay aware in the bustling streets and subway stations of New York City. There were only one or two times we weren’t able to hear our music at full volume, and it was when the subway was pulling up at the station.

This style also means the earbuds leak sound, though not as much as Apple’s EarPods. They still might not be ideal for an open office where your co-workers don’t share your same indelible love of ABBA’s greatest hits.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel USB-C earbuds also share a similar design aesthetic to the Pixel Buds, except they’re much more miniature. There’s still a loop you can adjust to help keep the buds in your ear, but there are no touch controls. They also look a bit plain, with an all-white design that makes them easy to mistake as Apple’s EarPods from afar. We would have liked to have seen some visual flair here, like the colored power buttons on the Pixel phones.

The fit in the ear is comfortable, and we’ve never had the earbuds fall out — the adjustable loop helps make sure they stay in. Over time, they slide slightly away from the ear canal, and we found ourselves pushing them a tad inwards every now and then. This may depend on how the earbuds fit in your ear, though.

Surprisingly good sound

Quite frankly, Google’s in-ears sound much better than they have any right to given their $30 price tag. Based on their look, we expected a similar tinny sound signature to Apple’s Earpods, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as we popped them in and pressed play, we found an exciting and vibrant soundstage worthy of actual praise.

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Google Pixel 3 review


Google Pixel 3 XL review


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The Pixel USB-C buds punch well above their weight in terms of both musical weight and definition. We were astonished at the amount of low-end these eartip-less headphones could provide. They smack the meaty bass lines from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Outkast’s Southerplayalisticcadillacmusic out of the park, providing one of the most enjoyable listening experiences that we’ve ever had on such a cheap pair of headphones.

The high end is also something special, with acoustic guitars and string lines popping out of mixes like Star Rover’s densely layered new single Snow Moving, rather than glomming together in an overwhelming musical clump like they do on other affordable headphones.

We also enjoyed listening to classic lo-fi recordings like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska on the little earbuds, which seemed to lend a more authentic “listening to a cassette player in the 1980s” experience to Springsteen’s gritty tape recordings.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re seeking a utilitarian pair of earbuds to throw into a backpack, laptop bag, or back pocket and not have to worry about, we think that these are some of the best-sounding you’ll find. You really do get significantly better audio quality than you’re paying for — especially if these little in-ears were included with your recent Pixel purchase.

Assistant is fast, useful notification alerts

There’s a little button on the inline mic on the wire – just press it to play or pause music, and you can increase or decrease music volume by tapping the hidden buttons above and below. Our favorite feature is accessing Google Assistant, which you do by pressing and holding the black button.

Having Assistant at the ready just a button away dramatically changes the way we use our phone.

On phones running Android 9 Pie, just press and hold the button and speak a command, and Assistant will respond quickly. You can control your smart home products, get turn-by-turn walking directions, ask Google queries, play podcasts or music — basically anything you can do with a Google Home. Having Assistant at the ready just a button away dramatically changes the way we use our phone, as we often asked it to perform tasks like set reminders as we walked along a busy street. It’s great.

Accessing Assistant through the buds works with devices running Android 8.1 Oreo or lower as well, but you need to wait to hear a sound before you start speaking, and in general it’s just not as fast.

You can also get real-time translations just by asking Assistant to help you speak a language. It’s powered by Google Translate, so the results are often a little funky, but it does the job, and it’s incredibly fast. It’s handy if you don’t know the language in a country, and the translated audio plays from the phone’s speaker so the person you’re talking to can hear it.

What doesn’t work on phones running anything lower than Android 9 Pie is notification alerts. With Pie phones, Assistant will say the name of an app when you get a notification (you can choose which app notifications you want to hear), and if you press and hold the volume-up button on the inline microphone, Assistant will read out the notification. We love this feature so much we’ve found ourselves keeping the earbuds in our ears even when we didn’t want to listen to music, just to hear notifications as they come in because it meant we didn’t have to take out our phone. The downside is unlike the Pixel Buds, there’s no way to respond to notifications with your voice, which is disappointing.

You can also press and hold the volume-up button at any time to hear the time and all the latest notifications on your phone. A simple tap of the black button on the inline mic will make Assistant go silent.

Price and availability

The Google Pixel USB-C earbuds cost $30 and are available from the Google Store now.

Our Take

The Pixel USB-C earbuds do not require charging or pairing, which takes away a lot of the pain points we have with Google’s Pixel Buds. They sound good, are comfortable, have a good deal of smarts thanks to Google Assistant, and best of all, they’re affordable.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, but you may have to spend just a bit more. Shure’s SE112 cost $50, but they offer better sound and isolation. They will also work on a variety of devices as they use a 3.5mm headphone cable. Google’s Pixel USB-C earbuds are limited to computers and Android phones with USB-C ports.

Check out our best cheap headphones guide for more.

How long will it last?

We do wish Google used a more durable material for the wire, as it feels like it doesn’t take much to break them. We expect them to last you one to two years, provided you care for them well. We know some people who’ve eked out years on their cheap earbuds, but the Pixel USB-C earbuds aren’t the most durable on the market.

Should you buy it?

Yes, more so if you have a phone that runs Android 9 Pie. Chances are if you bought a high-end Android phone this year, you’ll be getting the upgrade at some point this year. Check out our guide to see when your phone will get version 9.0 Pie.

Google Pixel USB-C earbuds Compared To

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Audiofly AF45

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Beyerdynamic MMX 101 iE

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Bowers & Wilkins C5

Thinksound ts02

NOCS NS200

Thinksound ts02+mic

Jays a-Jays Three

Phiaton Primal PS 200

AIAIAI Y-com

Shure E3G

20
Oct

There’s now proof that quantum computing is superior to the classical variety


IBM Research

Researchers from IBM Research, the University of Waterloo, and the Technical University of Munich just proved quantum computing‘s mantra of “I can do what you can do, only better” true. Described as a major milestone in computer science history, the researchers ran an experiment, proving for the first time with a tangible example, that a quantum computer can do tasks that classical computers cannot. Prior to publication of this research, the benefits of quantum computing were mainly described in theoretical terms.

A quantum computer is described as a computer that uses quantum-mechanical phenomena, according to Wikipedia. Unlike a traditional computer, which encodes data into binary bits, quantum computers uses quantum bits, also known as qubits. “In a quantum computer, however, a bit can be both zero and one at the same time,” TechXplore noted. “This is because the laws of quantum physics allow electrons to occupy multiple states at one time. Quantum bits, or qubits, thus exist in multiple overlapping states.”

Quantum circuits are designed with a trade-off between the number of qubits on a circuit and the number of operations that can be performed on those qubits, Motherboard explained. This is known as the depth of a circuit, and increasing the number of qubits, or depth, will increase the computational abilities of a quantum computer. However, because of the trade-off, increasing the qubits would limit the number of operations, resulting in a shallow depth. This makes it hard to prove quantum computing’s benefit over classical computers in the past.

To prove that quantum computer is able to achieve tasks that classical computers can’t, the researchers used an algorithm based on the Bernstein-Vazirani problem. The problem would have been impossible for a classical computer to solve at a constant depth — a classical computer would require the circuit depth to grow.

However, by using the non-locality idea in quantum physics, Konig and his team designed a quantum circuit consisting of smaller, or shallow, parallel circuits. Combined, these circuits are still considered to be a single system based on the idea of nonlocality, and the system was able to solve the problem using a fixed number of operations. This means that the quantum computer was successfully able to solve the challenge using a “constant depth.”

“So as you increase the number of input bits, the depth of the quantum algorithm that solves the problem remains constant,” IBM Research researcher Segey Bravyi explained to TechCrunch.

Still, it will likely take years, if not decades, to deliver real-world results that take full advantage of the benefits of quantum computing. “Our result shows that quantum information processing really does provide benefits — without having to rely on unproven complexity-theoretic conjectures,” researcher Robert Konig from the Technical University of Munich said, according to Science Daily. Konig’s paper, titled “Quantum advantage with shallow circuits,” was co-authored by Bravyi of IBM Research and David Gosset of the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing.

Editors’ Recommendations

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20
Oct

Everything you need to know about the 2018 MacBook


Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

While Apple’s higher-range MacBook Pros received an update earlier this year, the entry-level MacBook options are in desperate need of an overhaul. Rumors have been swirling as to what exactly that device will be, but we know the company has something up its sleeve for a cheaper MacBook in 2018.

There’s been no official announcement thus far, but here’s everything we know so far about what Apple’s upcoming laptop.

Oct. 30 event in Brooklyn

Invites were sent out to an Oct. 30 event in Brooklyn, New York. While the invites didn’t specify this would be a Mac event, it’s highly rumored that we’ll see updates to multiple Mac systems at the event.

Chief among these is the debut of some kind of a new MacBook. Along that, we could also see products such as a new iPad Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini. The event will be livestreamed for the world to see what Apple’s been working on in the world of new Macs. It starts up at 10 A.M. EST, which is 7 A.M. PST.

So, is it a MacBook Air or just a MacBook?

There are a number of reports concerning what the 2018 MacBook will be like, but one important question remains: Will Apple be applying these changes to the traditional 12-inch MacBook or the old MacBook Air? So far, we don’t know for sure. Signs do point to at least one of the new MacBook models being an updated Air.

We’ll keep you updated when it becomes clearer which MacBook line Apple is making such significant changes to, but for now keep in mind that these MacBook 2018 updates could apply to either the Air or the 12-inch MacBook. Both are fairly outdated at this point in terms of both internal components and design. The Air brand has been halted in other lines such as the iPad, so we’d be surprised to see it continued in MacBooks.

Which model ultimately gets a big update is an important question. If Apple updates the MacBook Air with major changes but leaves the 12-inch MacBook untouched, it will be a strong signal that Apple prefers to continue with the Air and Pro lines, leaving the state of the MacBook up in the air.

New processors

The MacBook and especially the MacBook Air (stuck on a fifth-gen chip) are due for processor upgrades. The problem is narrowing down exactly what processor the new model will include.

Let’s say that Apple sticks with Intel chips, in which case we have another set of reports that shows the company is expected to upgrade to 8th-gen processors. That gives us a few different options for the newer, powerful chips. On the older side, we have Kaby Lake Refresh line. In the middle, there are Amber Lake chips, which have been reported to be included in the new MacBook model and would make us very happy. On other side are the Whiskey Lake Y-series processors, which would could show up in an entry-level configuration.

If you’re still waiting for Apple to leave Intel altogether, don’t hold your breath just yet. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, source of many Apple reports, believes that Apple wants to transition from Intel processors to its own chips (already used in many iOS devices), though it won’t be for a few years. This would switch MacBooks to ARM chips with Apple in full control, which may allow for additional efficiency.

Even thinner bezels

Bezels are officially the uncoolest kid at the party, so it’s no surprise to see brands cutting them out. The new iPhone models, for example, have as little bezel as they can get away with as a way to increase screen size. Reports suggest Apple is looking at a similar tactic for its new MacBook model, reducing bezel size and potentially increasing the display size.

This would be especially good news for the original MacBook, with a 12-inch display that hasn’t aged very well. The 2017 MacBook Pros cut down the bezel size, though they’re still a big bigger than on laptops like the Dell XPS 13. Could we see a notch on the new MacBook to leave room for a webcam position at the top of the display? Let’s hope not.

Retina display

Other reports from Bloomberg and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo indicate that one of the upgrades Apple is planning is a Retina screen for the MacBook. The MacBook Air is, of course, the only MacBook model that currently doesn’t have a Retina screen, which is a sign that a new Air may be the big MacBook 2018 model. This would significantly improve the resolution of the screen and bring it more up to date with the current MacBook Pros.

Whatever Apple has decided on, it’s safe to say that screen improvements will be part of it in some way.

Touch ID included, the Touch Bar left off

The Touch Bar was definitely a hit-or-miss feature on the last crop of MacBooks. We weren’t exactly big fans of the feature, which seemed promising on paper but wasn’t all that convenient in daily use. Perhaps Apple will revamp the Touch Bar for a new MacBook in 2018 — or leave it off entirely. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks that the Touch Bar is gone for good and that we will see a new feature hitting MacBooks instead: Touch ID.

Apple recently ditched Touch ID on its iPhones for facial recognition, but it may want a stepping stone on MacBooks before shifting to full facial recognition there (as Microsoft Surface devices offer, for example). Touch ID adds some nice biometric security without raising privacy concerns.

This would make a lot of sense, especially if the price of the new MacBook is to be on the lower-end. The Touch Bar was an expensive addition to the MacBook Pros that wasn’t received well, while Touch ID is a popular feature.

Potentially under $1,000

One phrase that keeps coming up in reports about the new MacBook is “low-cost.” Without a number attached to that phrase, it’s hard to say how much the MacBook will cost. The cheapest MacBook Air build is currently for $1000, so that’s probably the figure that we’re working with.

Meanwhile, the 12-inch MacBook starts at $1,300, which matches the price of the entry-level MacBook Pro. The pricing scale has always made the MacBook a hard sell, considering how much more powerful the Pro is. Apple could create a lower tier for a new MacBook or just slash the price altogether like it did with the iPad last year.

So, while the new MacBook model is likely to be around $1,000, don’t expect it to be much lower than that. Apple has never been very interested in selling laptops cheaper than a thousand bucks.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Apple preps production of updated MacBook Air for a 2018 launch
  • Apple’s new MacBook Air with Intel’s 8th-gen processors expected this year
  • A MacBook Air with Retina display and Mac Mini “Pro” could arrive this fall
  • Refreshed MacBook Air and iPad Pro are absent from Apple’s website leak
  • Apple could announce a new MacBook this week. Here’s what we want to see



20
Oct

This 3D-printed house made of earth and rice husks costs less than an iPhone


Regardless of where you live, houses are pretty expensive these days. That could change if the Italian 3D-printing company WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) has anything to say about it. The startup has just 3D printed a hut structure, called Gaia, using a combination of 3D-printed concrete and a mud-based material. And, of course, its giant, crane-based 3D printer. Total cost of the build? Around $1,000.

“The material consists of clay earth, rice straw, and rice husk,” Massimo Moretti, CEO of WASP, told Digital Trends. “The natural fibers allow [us to minimize] the shrinkage of the dry mixture and confer mechanical strength to the layered wall. By using the wet pan mill, the raw mixture has reached an interesting homogeneous plasticity that permits a good resolution in printed texture.”

In addition to the earth-and-rice-based material, concrete is used for the building foundations, while the roof is made of timber. The 215-square-foot build took around 10 days to complete, although more time would be required to furnish the place. It is also guaranteed that the cost would creep up north of the $1,000 price tag for a commercial build, since this only includes material costs and not labor.


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“Gaia represents an example of reduced costs, especially if compared on the thermal performances that usually are obtained only with different traditional systems,” Moretti continued. According to WASP, Gaia does not require heating or air conditioning, and is able to maintain consistent temperatures indoors regardless of what time of year it is.

“At the moment, the company is evaluating every possibility to enter the construction market,” he said. “Probably the most reliable strategy will be a construction service, with our team involved in the wall construction.”

WASP isn’t the only group working in this area. Scientists from Estonia’s University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences have developed a 3D-printable, concrete-style building material from milled peat, oil shale ash, and silica nanoparticles. Like Gaia, this material also promises to greatly reduce the cost of building new houses.

Still, if there’s anyplace where it’s good to have as many competitive products as possible in the mix, it’s building homes, quickly and cheaply, to house the world’s growing population.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Make the most of your compost by transforming it into 3D printing filament
  • Forget hands — this 3D-printed clock keeps time using nothing but marbles



20
Oct

It’s about time! A USB-C magnetic charger for the Apple Watch has finally arrived


Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

While most of the recent buzz surrounding Apple has been about the iPhone XR, the company has also introduced a new accessory to its lineup for the Apple Watch. First spotted by 9to5 Mac, a USB-C charger for the smartwatch is currently listed on Apple’s site and will be available starting October 24.

Featuring a 0.3-meter cable and coming in at $29, the new Apple Watch charger doesn’t look any different than its predecessors, you’ll now be able to purchase an Apple Watch charger that’s compatible with current MacBook models — aside from the MacBook Air.

The news comes only a day after Apple sent out invites to its hardware event on October 30, where the company is expected to debut its new iPad Pro, as well as new Mac models. While any rumors have yet to be confirmed, it’s been reported that the iPad Pro will ditch the Lightning port for USB-C as well — but we’ll have to wait until the end of the month for any concrete information.

The new charger also arrives just in time for those who purchased an Apple Watch following the release of the Apple Watch Series 4, which boasts a few new features. Since there’s a 30-percent larger display and a redesigned modular watch face, users can see more detailed information like stocks, heart rate, track scores, and more. The smartwatch also has the ability to screen your heart rhythm in the background and send you a notification if it detects irregular rhythm — which could point to atrial fibrillation.

Battery life on the Series 4 remains the same, with 18-hour all-day battery life. Apple increased outdoor workout time to 6 hours, with full GPS tracking for long bike rides. In our review of the smartwatch, we found that with only notifications turned on and shutting it off overnight, it was able to last close to 24 hours — but that’s without GPS, fitness tracking, or cellular.

As for the new USB-C charger, 9to5Mac notes that it won’t charge your Apple Watch quicker than the Type-A since the induction charger on the back of the Apple Watch remains the same. But it will be far more convenient for those who use their MacBooks as a power source.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Refreshed MacBook Air and iPad Pro are absent from Apple’s website leak
  • What to expect from Apple’s September 12 ‘Gather Round’ event
  • Apple’s September 12 Event: Everything Apple announced
  • Apple Watch Series 4: Everything you need to know
  • Is Apple planning an all-Mac keynote later this fall?



20
Oct

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Review



Research Center:

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

Kids can be considerably less respectful of electronics than adults, to put it politely. Most parents have at some point reclaimed their phone or tablet only to find it has developed a new scratch or crack of indeterminate origin, or perhaps finger smears of an unknown substance. You can only watch your iPad sprayed by an unguarded sneeze or dig it out of the bottom of the toybox so many times before you resolve to get kids a tablet of their own.

Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Kids Edition could be the perfect solution. Packed with curated, age-appropriate content, wrapped in a rugged bumper with a no-quibble replacement warranty, and coming in at just $130 this is the child-friendly tablet of your dreams.

Set it and forget it

While you could buy a standard Fire HD 8 tablet with 32GB of storage for $110, Amazon has packed in way more than an extra $20’s worth of value here. The Kids Edition tablets are some of the most thoughtfully designed kid-focused electronics around, but to be honest the bar isn’t very high.

No parent wants to allow their child free reign in the app store to install whatever they like, but that means kids are constantly asking if they can install this or that and you have to check it for suitability and then install it if you approve. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition dispenses with this problem entirely. During setup you’ll create profiles for your kids, and there is the option to create multiple profiles and allow them to share a tablet if you like.

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

You’ll set their age and the age range of content you feel is suitable for them and Amazon will serve up a carefully curated buffet of cartoons, apps, and games that are age-appropriate. The content rotates, so there’s always something new and it includes lots of recognizable characters from Disney, Cartoon Network, PBS, Nickelodeon, and more.

The Kids Edition tablets are some of the most thoughtfully designed kid-focused electronics around.

There are more than 20,000 books, movies, TV shows, and educational apps and games on offer as part of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited. It’s a subscription service that costs $3 per month for one child or $7 per month for a family of up to four kids if you have Prime membership, or $5 and $10 per month respectively without Prime. However, you get a one-year subscription included with your new Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet.

We’ve found that the kids love the content it serves up. They’ll watch Spongebob or Teen Titans Go, they’ll play Star Wars or Peppa Pig games, and they’ll even dip into the odd app that looks vaguely educational. They enjoy being able to choose their own content and install it without having to ask and the great thing is you have peace of mind they’ll never be accessing anything unsuitable.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Compared To

ReMarkable tablet

Apple 10.5‑inch iPad Pro

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017)

LeapFrog epic

Lenovo Tab 2 A8

LG G Pad 10.1

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1

Barnes & Noble Nook HD+

Dell Latitude 10

Acer Iconia Tab W700

Motorola Xyboard 8.2

Lenovo IdeaPad K1

BlackBerry PlayBook

Excellent parental controls

There’s still some argument about how much screen time is safe for kids, but everyone is conscious that we need to impose some limits. Amazon provides extremely granular tools for parents to dictate precise limits and even break allowances down into specific goals, so you might limit your child to one hour of screen time a day but specify that 30 minutes of it should be spent reading.

It’s relatively easy to set parental controls on a Fire tablet and you don’t have to drill down into specifics if you don’t want to. You could just set a daily time limit, bedtime hours when the tablet can’t be used, and an age range and be done with it. But if you want to get more specific, you have the power to do it.

Both Apple and Google are playing catch up when it comes to parental controls, although Google’s Family Link app is also very good and there are lots of third-party parental control apps out there.

With the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, when the time limit runs out or it’s bedtime, your child will see a message pop up on screen to tell them. They can come and ask you to extend the time, but you’ll have to enter your PIN to do so. It should go without saying that you need to guard that PIN well.

You can also check the Parent Dashboard on any device at the Amazon website to see precisely how your child has been using their time on their Fire tablet. It provides a breakdown of their activity over the last seven days.

Curated content with limits

The Fire HD 8 runs Amazon’s Fire OS over a forked version of Android, which means you won’t find any Google apps or services on it.

As good as the curated content is, there will be times when your child comes to you and wants that iPad game they played or an app a friend has been talking about. You can install things from outside the FreeTime Unlimited program, but you’ll need to do it manually and you are limited to Amazon’s App Store, which has far fewer options than Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store. When our kids were younger this was rarely an issue, but as they’ve grown it has definitely become a problem.

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Another issue you’ll run into is that some content can’t be streamed or played without an internet connection. Amazon has thankfully now added the option to download videos, but you’ll need to plan ahead to ensure you’re well stocked before a car trip or vacation. Irritatingly, some games also insist on an internet connection for no obvious reason, but thankfully many don’t.

Although you can remove the garish pink, blue, or yellow case to reveal a less embarrassing plain black tablet beneath, we think your kids will also outgrow the curated content. Amazon suggests the tablet is good for kids up to age 12, but our 9-year-old has abandoned his Fire tablet now, complaining about a lack of things he wants to play or watch. Much depends on your child’s tastes.

Performance is just good enough

We’ve bought and tested several gadgets and tablets for kids and there are plenty of manufacturers out there talking up their wonderful educational credentials and then packing their content onto the cheapest, nastiest hardware available.

While the Fire HD 8 is certainly no speed demon, it performs well enough. There’s a quad-core processor inside clocked at 1.3 GHz and backed by 1.5GB of RAM. We’d like to see that climb just a touch higher, because there are sometimes long loading times and irritating pauses.

The display is an 8-inch IPS LCD with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels, which translates to 189 pixel-per-inch (ppi). To give you a point of comparison, the iPad scores 264ppi. The screen is sharp enough and generally bright enough that content is always legible, though viewing angles aren’t great.

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

You also get 32GB of storage in the tablet and there’s a MicroSD card slot to expand that by up to 400GB. The dual speakers have Dolby Atmos support and they’re loud and clear. There’s also an audio jack and a built-in microphone.

The front and rear cameras are both rated at 2-megapixels and the main camera can also record 720p video. The quality of most photos and videos is awful, but our daughter enjoys making both, so it’s a nice feature to have. If you already have a Fire HD 8 Kids Edition and you’re wondering what has been upgraded this year, it’s just the front-facing camera which went from VGA to 2 megapixels.

While the Fire HD 8 is certainly no speed demon, it performs well enough.

The best thing about the performance is the battery life, which Amazon claims can stretch to 10 hours between charges. We think six hours or so is more accurate for kids gaming and watching movies, but that’s still good.

Sadly, you have to charge via Micro USB cable and that’s tough for adults to plug in the right way first time, so kids can really struggle with it. We recommend snagging a cable with a detachable magnetic tip that stays in the tablet – this has enabled our daughter to charge the tablet up herself really easily.

Price, availability, and warranty information

Amazon charges $130 for the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition and it comes with a special two-year worry-free warranty. That means, even if your child drops it and breaks it repeatedly, Amazon will replace it every time. The only thing you’re not covered for is theft or loss.

Our Take

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet is the complete, affordable package for young kids. It’s easy to set up, it works well, and it’s automatically filled with a rolling menu of good quality content. The case will keep it safe, but if it doesn’t you can get it replaced without any hassle. The limitations pale into insignificance next to the benefits.

Is there a better alternative?

For $130 the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is the best you’re going to do. If your kids want a bigger tablet, then check out the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition at $200.

If your budget allows, you might consider the Apple iPad (2018) at $330, but remember that you’ll also have to buy a case and a bunch of content which will bump the price up considerably beyond that.

How long will it last?

Thanks to the chunky protective case and the two-year warranty you can expect to get at least two years from your Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you have a child between the ages of 3 and 9 years-old, we think this tablet makes the most sense.

20
Oct

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs. P20 Pro: Which 2018 Huawei flagship is best for you?


It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Huawei P20 Pro burst onto the scene with its stunning twilight finish, upping the ante for smartphone cameras everywhere with a triple lens setup. Yet here we are barely six months later with a new Huawei flagship sailing into view. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is certainly bigger, but is it better than its predecessor?

At first glance, these phones share a lot of similarities, but we’re about to dig a bit deeper to uncover all the differences and help you choose between them.

Specs

Huawei Mate 20 Pro 
Huawei P20 Pro

Size
157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm (6.22 x 2.85 x 0.34 inches)
155 x 73.9 x 7.8 mm (6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches)

Weight
189 grams (6.66 ounces)
174 grams (6.14 ounces)

Screen size
6.4-inch AMOLED display
6.1-inch AMOLED display

Screen resolution
3,120 x 1,440 (538 pixels-per-inch)
2,240 x 1,080 pixels (408 pixels-per-inch)

Operating system
Android 9.0 Pie
Android 8.1 Oreo

Storage space
128GB, 256GB
128GB, 256GB

MicroSD card slot
No – features proprietary Nano Memory Card
No

Tap to pay services
Google Pay
Google Pay

Processor
Kirin 980
Kirin 970

RAM
6GB, 8GB
6GB, 8GB

Camera
Triple sensor 40MP and 20MP and 8MP rear, 24MP front
Triple-lens 40MP, 20MP, and 8MP rear, 24MP front

Video
2,160p at 30 frames per second, 1,080p at 60 fps, 720p at 960 fps
2160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 30 fps, 720p at 960 fps

Bluetooth version
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 4.2

Ports
USB-C
USB-C

Fingerprint sensor
Yes (In-display)
Yes (front)

Water resistance
IP68
IP67

Battery
4,200mAh

Fast charging

Qi wireless charging

4,000mAh

Fast charging

App marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store

Network support
T-Mobile, AT&T
T-Mobile, AT&T

Colors
Emerald green, midnight blue, twilight, pink gold, black
Black, blue, pink gold, twilight

Price
1,049 Euros (around $1,220)
$1,000

Buy from
Huawei
Huawei

Review score
Hands-on
4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The newer Huawei Mate 20 Pro has Huawei’s latest Kirin 980 processor inside. Huawei claims that it’s 20 percent faster and 40 percent more efficient than the Kirin 970 which graces the P20 Pro. Both phones are available with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM or 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. Only the Mate 20 Pro allows for storage expansion via a card, but it won’t take any Micro SD card, you will have to spring for one of Huawei’s proprietary NM Cards.

Not only does the Mate 20 Pro have a bigger battery, it also supports much faster charging at up to 40W, giving you 70 percent battery life in just 30 minutes, compared to just over 50 percent for the P20 Pro. Just to seal the deal, the Mate 20 Pro also supports Qi wireless charging which the P20 Pro lacks.

Winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro 

Design and durability

Both of these phones have notches at the top of the displays, but the P20 Pro’s is smaller. They also both have bezels at the bottom, though the P20 Pro is starting to show its age with that lozenge-shaped fingerprint sensor, while the Mate 20 Pro has an in-display fingerprint sensor. The sides of the Mate 20 Pro are also more curved. On the back, you will find Huawei’s gorgeous paint job — we especially love the twilight finish — but the P20 Pro’s triple lens camera module definitely looks better than the big square module on the back of the Mate 20 Pro.

Something Huawei has improved is the water resistance, with the Mate 20 Pro scoring an IP68 rating compared to the P20 Pro’s IP67 rating. Both can handle a short dunk without damage, but the Mate 20 Pro can handle slightly deeper water. Neither is going to handle falls well, so you’ll want to look at some good cases.

We’re going to give the Mate 20 Pro the nod here, but we do think the P20 Pro looks better from the back.

Winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro 

Display

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You’ll find top-quality AMOLED screens in both of these phones. The P20 Pro has a 6.1-inch display with a 2,240 x 1,080-pixel resolution which translates to 408 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The Mate 20 Pro has a slightly bigger 6.4-inch display with a 3,120 x 1,440-pixel resolution for a pixel density of 538 ppi. The taller display in the Mate 20 Pro isn’t just bigger, it’s also sharper and so it wins this round.

Winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Huawei has stuck with a triple lens setup on the Mate 20 Pro, just like the P20 Pro, but there are some differences. The Mate 20 Pro has a main lens rated at 40 megapixels with an f/1.8 aperture, with an ultra wide-angle lens with 20 megapixels and an f/2.2 aperture, and a telephoto 8-megapixel lens with an f/2.4 aperture. On paper, the P20 Pro set up looks familiar with 40-megapixel, 20-megapixel, and 8-megapixel lenses, but the monochrome lens we loved so much in the P20 Pro is gone. Huawei has essentially swapped the monochrome lens for a super wide-angle lens and the Mate 20 Pro camera is likely to be more versatile as a result.

Both phones have a 24-megapixel front-facing camera for stunning selfies, but only the Mate 20 Pro offers proper facial scanning and 3D Live Emoji.

Winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Software and updates

EMUI 9.0 Beta Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While the P20 Pro launched with Android 8.1 Oreo, Huawei has started to roll out the Android 9.0 Pie update. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro launches with Android 9.0 Pie on board. Both feature Huawei’s EMUI on top which adds various customization options and extra features. The software experience on these phones is going to be identical and we expect them to continue to get updates for a similar period of time, so there’s no dividing them here.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Although most of the special artificial intelligence features are available on both phones, powered by the dedicated neural processing unit, the newer Mate 20 Pro chip should prove faster and more capable. The Mate 20 Pro also supports much faster charging and a special reverse wireless charging ability that enables it to act as a wireless charger for another phone, though we’re not sure you will want to donate your extra battery life very often. Factor in the FaceID-like, front-facing camera capabilities and the Mate 20 Pro is the clear winner here.

Winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Price

The P20 Pro was never officially released in the U.S. and it would have cost you close to $1,000 to import one when it was first released, but that price has dropped considerably and you can pick one up now for between $700 and $800. By contrast, the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro is going on sale at 1,049 euros, which is a staggering $1,220. There is a chance Huawei will release it stateside in the new year, probably for closer to $1,000, but we can’t say for sure.

Overall winner: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

It’s more powerful, boasts a bigger screen, faster charging, and a more versatile camera, but the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is also considerably more expensive. The Huawei P20 Pro is still a strong flagship that outperforms many big competitors, so if you’re choosing between these two right now, we wouldn’t blame you for snagging it and saving the difference. If you already have a P20 Pro, the Mate 20 Pro isn’t enough of a jump to merit an upgrade, but it is definitely the better phone.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Huawei P20 Pro vs. Apple iPhone X: A battle of flagship smartphones
  • Apple iPhone XS Max vs. Huawei P20 Pro: Clash of the titans
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro hands-on review
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs. Mate 20 vs. Mate 20 X vs. Mate 20 Lite
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Flagship fight



20
Oct

Hunter Symphony Smart Fan: Pricey and niche, but great


With smart home technology booming – Apple, Amazon and Google all have their own respective platforms, among others – more and more appliances and gadgets are looking to get in on the game. Doorbells, deadbolts, light bulbs, even microwaves. And now, with the Hunter Symphony, smart ceiling fans. Retailing for $299.00 from Amazon, Home Depot and others, it’s not an inexpensive device, but it’s also pretty affordable compared to some of the more outlandish boutique fans on the market.

I’ve been using the Hunter Symphony in my game room in the tail end of one of California’s signature sweltering summers – here are my generally unfiltered thoughts on the connected ceiling fan.

Build

I don’t have a whole lot to compare it to, but the assembly and installation of the Hunter Symphony went smoothly. All pieces were both lightweight and sturdy, and fit into place precisely. The fan chassis doesn’t wobble on its downrod even at maximum speed, and the fan blades tightened in place with ease.

The Hunter Symphony features a triple-blade, 54″ design and a dual, dimmable LED light setup. It comes in three different finishes: Matte Black, Fresh White, and Matte Nickel. My Symphony is matte black, and it strikes a distinctive figure hanging from my ceiling. In retrospect, I probably would have gone with the Matte Nickel to complement the other hardware in my home.

Like most modern ceiling fans, the Symphony has a reverse flow option. This pulls the air up and pushes it across the ceiling, resulting in air circulation that’s indirect rather than pushing down on you.

Generally, the two airflow directions are useful in two different kinds of weather – counter-clockwise, direct downdraft in warm weather and clockwise, indirect updraft in Winter. This article on Del Mar really helps explain the process, if you’re curious.

What’s interesting about this particular fan, though is that you can change the flow of the air with a single button press. Many fans require you to manually flip a switch on the fan’s chassis, but the Symphony can be manipulated with the included remote – it’s all very convenient. The remote offers the usual controls – Light On/Off, Fan On/Off, and Fan Speed Up/Down.

According to my installer, the installation of the Hunter Symphony was straightforward for anyone with experience doing it, The instructions and diagrams included all made sense even to me, which is a promising sign for do-it-yourself types.

Connectivity

The Hunter Symphony features a WiFi technology called SIMPLEconnect, complete with its own companion app in the Google Play Store.

SIMPLEconnect allows the Hunter Symphony to link up with most of the Smart Home platforms on the market, including Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant.

While the Hunter Symphony is a wireless-enabled device and has its own companion app, its compatibility with modern AI assistants is a little improvised. Rather than using the typical Google Assistant interface, for example, in which you would add the Hunter SimpleConnect service from a list within the Google Home app, Hunter opted to make its voice commands a little less intuitive. Instead of saying something like “Hey Google, turn on the Living Room Fan,” we have to say “Hey Google talk to SimpleConnect” and then say “Brighten Fan Light” or “Turn On Fan,” etc.

I’d like to see a more integrated and intuitive interface, and fortunately, these problems can be fixed with a simple software update. Whether or not Hunter decides to make that fix is yet to be seen, but as it stands the AI integration and smart home capabilities leave something to be desired.

Performance

In my experience with ceiling fans – which is, admittedly limited to the fans in the three whole houses I’ve lived in – none have provided the smooth, consistent flow of the Hunter Symphony.

The Symphony features the SureSpeed guarantee, which – in Hunter’s words – “delivers optimized airflow for ultimate high-speed cooling” and features a 20% increase in airflow velocity compared to its competitors. I’ll let you decide if that’s buzzword marketing or not, but in my experience, the Symphony makes my game room – which is routinely much hotter than the rest of the house – much more bearable without Air Conditioning, even in the sweaty California summer sun.

Even better, that great airflow doesn’t come at the expense of sound. With Hunter’s trademark WhisperWind technology, the only sound I generally hear from the fan is the air movement itself – no low thrumming, no wobbling on the downrod, no jingly pull-chain. Just quiet, cool air.

Value

A quality ceiling fan will generally run you between $100 and $300. The Hunter Symphony is on the high end of that spectrum, at $299.00. Its feature list and performance back that pricing, with great airflow and quiet operation as well as the smart – if a bit janky – connectivity features. There aren’t many smart ceiling fans on the market – Hunter’s solutions and the $500+ Haiku fans are about it – and as such these smart features come at something of a premium. All things considered, the Symphony is an excellent ceiling fan that may be a touch expensive for the average consumer, but also may be a great addition to a Smart Home.

Get the Hunter Symphony from any number of online retailers, including:

Amazon  |  Hunter  |  Home Depot  |  Wayfair  |  Build.com

20
Oct

How to sell your old Google Pixel or Pixel 2 for the most money


Julian Chokkatu/Digital Trends

There’s never any shortage of ways to get rid of your old smartphone —  especially if it’s in good condition. You could trade it in at a carrier, sell it on eBay, or find a third-party buyer. But the key question is: How can you get the highest value possible?

While selling your Pixel or Pixel 2 can significantly offset the cost of a new device (the new $799 Pixel 3, for instance), it’s hard to know what route to choose. Options like selling it directly to a buyer might seem a little risky, while trading in a device may not provide you with the highest payout. It’s all a bit overwhelming and time-consuming. Thankfully, we’re here to help with that. Below is a comprehensive guide to selling your Pixel or Pixel 2, as well as how much you can expect to earn from the sale.

Trade it in

One of the simplest, and thus most appealing, options is to trade in your Pixel through Verizon and Project Fi (the exclusive U.S. carriers), Google’s own website, or stores like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and GameStop. However, this will only provide you with credit, not cash — so it will help you with the price of the new device, but won’t give you the freedom to do whatever you like with the proceeds of your sale. Still, it’s an easy way to get rid of your device. Additionally, while it might not be the most lucrative way to get rid of your old phone, the compensation is more than reasonable in most cases.

To get the credit, you’ll need to either bring your Pixel into a store or go through an online process in which you evaluate the condition and worth of your device. If it’s got a cracked screen or other issues, the value drops precipitously, but there’s no point lying since they’ll easily find out and cancel the credit. Before you hand it in or send it off, just make sure you’ve backed up all your data and wiped your phone.

Sell it via an online marketplace

Selling your phone directly to another person takes more time, but can be more financially rewarding. It depends greatly on the market environment when you put your Pixel up for sale, though, which is in itself an ever-changing thing. The best time to sell your phone is generally before a new generation comes out, but since that’s not possible with Pixel 2, you’ll have a bit of competition. Still, there are plenty of people looking for inexpensive Pixel 2s following the Pixel 3 launch (especially the notch haters out there), so it shouldn’t be too hard to find an interested buyer.

On Craigslist and eBay, you can set your own asking price. It’s worth it to put a little extra time into making your listing well-written with appealing photos — you’ll gain buyer trust and get higher offers. Make sure that you account for shipping so that you don’t end up with an unimpressive net amount. If you’re handing the device off in-person instead, make sure that you keep in mind basic safety precautions. Meet in a public space, or with a friend. Also, make sure all your data is scrubbed off the device.

For the risk-adverse, Swappa is an even better choice. It’s an online marketplace dedicated to mobile devices where each ad is verified by Swappa staff. You’ll have to go through a few extra steps of verification, there’s an added sale fee, and you’ll have to send the device out within two days if it’s purchased, but those are reasonable hoops to jump through for a little more peace of mind.

Sell it to a company

If you’d rather skip interacting with individual buyers as much as possible, there are several companies that make the process easier by buying up old smartphones (and subsequently reselling them). Among the most trustworthy options are Gazelle, uSell, Decluttr, and Glyde, which is a hybrid between a marketplace and an electronics purchasing site. As with trade-ins or Swappa, you’ll have to go through an appraisal process before the company makes an offer, then your site of choice will provide a postage-paid packing label for you to send the device away. Once the company has received it and verified the condition, you’ll receive your cut through PayPal or check.

How much is your old Pixel worth?

Now that you have all the options, let’s take a look at how they stack up, price-wise, with a few Pixel and Pixel 2 models. Keep in mind the following caveats: this information is accurate as of the time of publication — October 19, 2018 — and is based on the values provided for good condition Pixels with base levels of internal storage and the original charger (if the site asks for it).

The eBay prices listed are averages based on data from Bidvoy, while Glyde’s numbers are recommended listing prices, not guaranteed sales amounts.

Pixel (32GB)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • Glyde: $180
  • eBay: $145
  • Verizon: $145
  • Google Store/Project Fi: $119
  • uSell: $108
  • Decluttr: $102
  • Amazon: $65
  • Gazelle: $65
  • Walmart: $54

Pixel XL (32GB)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • Glyde: $230
  • eBay: $162
  • Walmart: $142
  • Verizon: $135 (note: yes, it is lower than the smaller Pixel — we double checked)
  • Google Store/Project Fi: $130
  • uSell: $126
  • Decluttr: $125
  • Amazon: $70
  • Gazelle: $70

Pixel 2 (64GB)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • eBay: $381
  • Glyde: $350
  • Google Store/Project Fi: $300
  • Amazon: $245
  • Verizon: $228
  • Gazelle: $210
  • Decluttr: $190
  • Best Buy: $180 (before potential in-store promo value, which varies)

Pixel 2 XL (64GB)

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

  • Glyde: $430
  • eBay: $390
  • Google Store/Project Fi: $325
  • Decluttr: $247
  • Amazon: $245
  • Gazelle: $245
  • Verizon: $231
  • Best Buy: $200 (before potential in-store promo value, which varies)

Helpful tips

  • Wipe your data. This point is worth reiterating because so much important information is stored on your mobile device. You really don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands. To completely erase personal info from your old Pixel, you can head to Settings > System > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset). Just make sure to get everything you want off your device first, or back it up to the cloud.
  • Do a thorough multi-site comparison. It doesn’t take long to browse each of the sites mentioned above to find the best price, or, if you’re strapped for time, you can also check out Flipsy, a handy comparison tool.
  • Keep future trades/sales in mind. The better you take care of your new phone — for instance, by purchasing insurance, a case, and/or a screen protector — the higher your eventual trade-in or resale value is if you want to undergo this process again in the future.

As for getting the best price on your new phone — take a look at our buying guides. Hopefully, with the credit or cash you earn from letting go of your old Pixel, you can get the shiny new device you’ve been hoping for at a reasonable price.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • How to fix a dead pixel
  • Google Pixel Stand hands-on review
  • The best Google Pixel tips and tricks
  • The best Pixel 3 cases and covers
  • Google Pixel 3 vs. Pixel 2 vs. Pixel: Picking the perfect phone for you



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