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The new MacBook Pro is more appliance than PC

It almost goes without saying that modern Apple devices are tough to repair or upgrade, but the Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro might just take the cake. An iFixit teardown of the 13-inch model reveals that there are even fewer replaceable parts than before. The solid-state drive is embedded on the motherboard (even the non-Touch Bar model has a removable card), to begin with — whatever capacity you choose is what you’ll have for the life of the system. The Touch Bar, as you might guess, isn’t exactly easy to replace. And while having a fingerprint reader in the power button is very convenient for sign-ins and purchases, that also makes repairs complicated. The button is tied to a chip on the motherboard (since it needs a secure element), so you can’t just slip in an aftermarket component and call it a day.

There are a few surprises. There’s an unusually beefy three-microphone array, possibly to improve Siri voice commands. And curiously, the speakers on the 13-inch Touch Bar system don’t actually sit underneath the grilles — those openings are only there for the more conventional model. Instead, sound blasts out the side vents.

There are advantages to this design. It’s more compact and lighter than its predecessors despite the improved performance and extra features. However, there’s no denying that the new MacBook Pro represents the end of an era for Apple’s pro machines. Although there weren’t that many people upgrading SSDs or otherwise tinkering with previous-generation MacBook Pros, this system effectively rules that out. It’s a powerful portable appliance rather than a conventional PC, and you’re expected to use it as-is until you need a full-fledged replacement.

Source: iFixit


12 gifts for the gaming geek in your life

Whether they’ve got a fully tricked out PC gaming rig or just looking to get a little retro button mashing done on their new 4K TV, we’ve got the gift for the gamer in your life. Obviously, with some new consoles on the scene, there’s an obvious upgrade out there for the hardcore in the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S. But you don’t need to drop $300 – $400 to upgrade your favorite geek’s gaming experience. A high-end mouse, top notch controller or a new headset can make a world of difference for those glued to online battles. And, for those in your life that prefer their gaming be a little more… let’s say physical, you can’t go wrong with a board game like Mechs vs. Minions or King of Tokyo.

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.


Amazon Music Unlimited now has a family plan

It’s hard to compete in the streaming music world unless you have a family plan, and Amazon knows it. The shopping pioneer has introduced a family plan for Amazon Music Unlimited that lets as many as six people listen to tunes for a low price. If you’re not a Prime subscriber, the pricing is a very run-of-the-mill $15 per month. You won’t save anything by leaving Apple, Google or Spotify. However, it’s another story for Prime subscribers — you have an additional option to subscribe for $149 per year, or $30 less than what everyone else pays. If you’re already devoted to Amazon and don’t care for rivals’ exclusives or features, this may be your obvious choice.

Source: Amazon


Wacom Cintiq Pro displays bring its Pro Pen 2 to desktop users

Wacom’s pen displays have long been an option for creatives looking to use a stylus to work directly on a screen while connected to a laptop or desktop machine. They were a staple in many creative studios long before the company began making standalone tablets. Today Wacom announced the latest versions of its Cintiq devices: the Cintiq Pro 13 and Cintiq Pro 16. What’s the difference? Size mostly, but there are some differences when it comes to display quality. While the 13-inch model packs a full HD panel (1920 x 1080), the larger 16-inch option has an ultra HD screen (3840 x 2160).

The upgraded display for the 16-inch Cintiq Pro also means the tablet covers more of Adobe’s RGB gamut. The larger model handles 94 percent while the 13-inch version wrangles 87 percent. Noticeably absent from these new Cintiqs are the handy ExpressKeys and TouchRing that offered easy access to the tools you use most right on the side of the display. Instead, Wacom opted to nix those controls, but you can regain the functionality with a separate ExpressKey Remote — if you’re willing to spend an extra $100. Both units also have ErgoFlex pop-out legs and an optional desk stand is on the way in February.

There is a major improvement over the Cintiq 13HD, the predecessor to these new pen displays. Multi-touch gestures are a standard feature on these new Cintiq Pros from the jump. With the 13HD, the company released a non-touch version before debuting a touch-friendly model almost two years later. The Cintiq Pro 13 and 16 also include Wacom’s new Pro Pen 2, an upgraded stylus that’s four times more accurate and pressure sensitive than the previous Pro Pen. And yes, these pen displays are compatible with both Mac and PC.

The Cintiq Pro 13 will go on sale next month for $1,000. If you’d rather splurge for the larger 16-inch model, you’ll have to wait until February. When the Cintiq Pro 16 does arrive, expect to pay $1,500 in order to nab one.


Facebook finds more exaggerated ad data

After Facebook realized that it had been overstating video views for years, it conducted an internal review to search for more flaws messing with its ad data… and it’s not happy with what it found. The social network reports that it found multiple problems with how it calculated or represented the info that marketers thrive on. It wasn’t always counting end-to-end video playback properly, for example, since clip lengths would occasionally change when you started streaming. Facebook also over-reported how long people spent reading Instant Articles, and included more clicks and views than it should in some dashboards.

The company is promising to not only fix those mistakes, but improve its transparency in the future. It’s boosting the number of third-party reviews of its data, creating more measurement tools and promising both clearer and more frequent discussions of its stats. In short: advertisers should spend less time scratching their heads over the accuracy of data and more time using that data.

The flaws are relatively few (just four of the 220 metrics Facebook tracks), and they weren’t there for as long as the video view glitch that started it all. In one case, a dashboard bug had only been around since May. However, it’s not hard to see why Facebook is scrambling to come clean and show that it’s interested in accuracy going forward. Facebook’s massive profits revolve around ads — if companies don’t feel they can trust its metrics, they may scale back their ad campaigns or even jump ship.

Via: Wall Street Journal

Source: Facebook Newsroom


Chromecast Ultra review: Better video quality comes at a cost

Google’s first Chromecast was a cheap and ugly little stick that nonetheless served a very important purpose. At $35, it was about the cheapest way to make a plain old TV “smart,” letting people get Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and movies from Google Play right on their televisions with zero fuss.

But things have changed since the first Chromecast arrived in mid-2013. 4K TVs are becoming more and more commonplace, while companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and, yes, Google are battling to bring video to your living room. Also, if nothing else, just about every TV these days has built-in Netflix and YouTube apps. Into this crowded market comes the Chromecast Ultra, an update to the 2015 version that adds support for 4K high dynamic range (HDR) streaming.

The thing is, that extra feature doubles the price: The Chromecast Ultra comes in at $69. It’s no longer in impulse buy territory for most people, so the question is: Does this improved video quality warrant a purchase?

Setup and hardware

If you’ve seen last year’s puck-shaped Chromecast, the Ultra will look familiar. It’s still a small, circular device with a short HDMI cable that magnetically attaches to the back. But, given the extra technology on board, it’s a little larger and fatter than last year’s model. It’s still ridiculously tiny, especially considering the extra capabilities contained within. You can still easily toss it in a bag and forget about it.

Just like the standard Chromecast, the hardware here is minimal: There’s the aforementioned HDMI socket, a mini-USB port for power and a reset button. That’s it. The power cord, however, is different this time. The brick actually has an ethernet port in it, all the better for quickly streaming 4K videos. Unfortunately, the Chromecast Ultra can’t be powered by your TV’s USB port anymore; you’ll need to plug it into a wall socket.

Setup is also identical to what you’ll find with a standard Chromecast. Install the Google Home app on your phone, plug in the Chromecast and the app will detect your new hardware. From there, it’s just a matter of getting it on your home network (WiFI or wired) and signing in with a Google account. Once that’s done, you’re free to start casting content to your TV using any compatible third-party iOS or Android app.

Features and hardware

I know I’m repeating myself, but there’s really no other way to say it. Using the Chromecast Ultra is no different from using any other Chromecast. The Google Home app presents suggestions for apps that are compatible with the Cast technology, including all the usual suspects like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, HBO Go and Now, WatchESPN, MLB.TV, and NBC Sports, among many others.

Once you start up a video stream in the app, tap the “Cast” button when it appears on-screen, select the Chromecast Ultra, and the video will start playing on your big screen. Most of the time, there’s a few seconds of buffering as you’re starting something up, but things loaded quickly and consistently for me after a few seconds on a 100-Mbps connection.

The big catch here is actually finding 4K content to watch. That’s not a fault of the device; it’s just the reality of the streaming space right now. The only apps I found that supported 4K streaming were Netflix, Vudu and YouTube, with the former two options being the only ones in the group offering shows and movies you’ve actually heard of. YouTube is heavy on tech demo videos, but lacking in things you’d actually want to watch.

While Netflix and Vudu have 4K content you might want to watch, the catalog is still very small. Just about all of Netflix’s original content is available in 4K now (as well as Breaking Bad) but that’s about it. And Vudu has a paltry 68 movies available to rent or buy in 4K. As for content that supports high dynamic range — arguably a bigger step forward in terms of video quality than 4K resolution — there’s even less of it out there.

There are other problems with the 4K experience on top of limited content. For starters, the standard $9.99-a-month Netflix plan doesn’t include 4K streaming. I totally forgot that was the case and spent half an hour watching streams in 1080p before remembering that I hadn’t upgraded my Netflix plan. If you want to watch 4K, you’ll need to sign up for the $11.99 plan that also lets you watch simultaneously on four screens rather than just two. This is something lots of customers likely won’t realize, and there’s no prompt in the Google Home app to remind you to upgrade your Netflix plan.
As for Vudu, a 4K rental costs a whopping $9.99, while buying a movie costs an even steeper $29.99. That is a lot of money for what feels like a marginal improvement in quality. (Your milage may vary, but more on that in a moment.) Again, none of this is Google’s fault — but it does make it harder to recommend buying any 4K streaming device right now, the Chromecast Ultra included.


As I mentioned earlier, the Chromecast Ultra performed quite well even over WiFi. Loading up 4K UHD content worked quickly and reliably. Of course, that’ll depend on your internet connection, but getting 4K streams working here wasn’t an issue whatsoever.

It’s worth taking a quick second to note that two of our main caveats about last year’s Chromecast refresh still apply here: You always have to use your phone as the remote and there’s no native Amazon Instant Video app. The latter is on Amazon, as it could certainly add Chromecast support, but would prefer you buy the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick instead. As for that first caveat, that’s just how the Chromecast has always worked, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t enjoy a simple remote to handle play and pause duties (like Roku and Amazon both include).

As for picture quality, there’s no doubt it’s stunning — but I give the vast majority of that credit to the wonderful 55-inch LG OLED TV I used to test the Chromecast Ultra. Senior editor Devindra Hardawar and I watched a bunch of Netflix shows (including Jessica Jones, Daredevil, House of Cards and Stranger Things) and streamed Pacific Rim from Vudu.

Things looked excellent across the board, but Pacific Rim looked particularly gorgeous. Guillermo del Toro’s brilliant color palette shined throughout the film, while both the monstrous Kaiju and massive Jaeger robots looked more detailed and terrifying than ever. Oranges and blues in particular looked incredibly vibrant throughout the film, thanks to HDR technology — but sometimes, it felt like things were just a bit too saturated. Of course, it was near impossible to discern any pixels, even when standing a foot or two away from the screen.

But I was surprised to realize as the day wore on that 4K generally added very little to the experience. If you purchase a new TV as nice as the LG we were watching, you’ll definitely notice big improvements in the quality — regardless of whether it’s in 1080p or 4K. We did lots of A/B testing, flipping back and forth between Netflix shows streaming through the Chromecast Ultra and the current Apple TV (which only outputs in 1080p) and I was hard-pressed to discern a real difference. Even 1080p video looked outstanding on this fine TV. So did the 4K stream, but it wasn’t nearly the quality upgrade I was expecting.

Ultimately, the question of whether this is a major upgrade is a subjective one. Colors were far less saturated when watching Pacific Rim in 1080p, while the 4K rental occasionally entered the realm of oversaturation, at least to my eyes. The 4K HDR version of the film was impressive, but I don’t think it was definitively better. The Netflix shows we watched in 4K didn’t quite have that same oversaturated sheen. Things looked marginally sharper, but I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference in a blind test.

The competition

Perhaps the most obvious competitor to the Chromecast Ultra is Amazon’s Fire TV, which was updated last fall to include 4K video playback. It’s currently selling for $89, twenty bucks more than the Chromecast Ultra, but it has two big advantages. First is a real remote, and second is Amazon Instant Video support. That means that the Fire TV automatically has a larger library of 4K content, as Amazon supports the format. Then again, Amazon doesn’t offer very much video in 4K yet, but that’ll change over time.

Roku’s new Premiere+ is another contender. The $100 device streams 4K video with HDR at up to 60 frames per second. It also includes an Ethernet port, a microSD card slot and a remote. Additionally, it supports Amazon Instant Video. If you’ve used and enjoyed Roku products in the past, the Premiere+ is certainly worth considering.

The other big competitor to the Chromecast Ultra comes from your television itself. Most, if not all 4K TVs are so-called “smart TVs.” That means you’ll get access to apps like Netflix and Vudu right on the TV itself, and those apps will take full advantage of your set’s resolution. Lots of smart TVs have pretty terrible interfaces and it isn’t always easy to add apps, so make sure your television has what you want before you buy it. But Netflix and YouTube are almost always there. Furthermore, lots of new TVs now support Google’s casting technology. They essentially have a Chromecast built right in, then — something that makes buying a separate device unnecessary.


Google’s original $35 Chromecast is so useful and so cheap that it was almost is a no-brainer. At double the price, I can’t quite say the same about the Chromecast Ultra. It works as promised, but the dearth of 4K content makes me hesitant to recommend it. Plus, chances are if you have a good 4K TV, it already has built-in Netflix and YouTube apps anyway.

Over time, as more and more video apps start supporting 4K, the Chromecast Ultra will serve more of a purpose. But the lack of video content coupled with the Chromecast’s higher price makes me feel like this device doesn’t quite have a purpose yet. If for some reason you have a great 4K TV that doesn’t have Netflix built in, though, this is probably the simplest way to remedy that situation. That has value — even if most consumers out there don’t need it.


Google Translate Update Bringing Easier-to-Read Translations to Web and App

An incoming update to Google Translate on the web and mobile app will enhance the service’s ability to translate whole sentences at a time, instead of going word by word. With the help of “Neural Machine Translation,” Google said that Google Translate will be able to look at the “broader context” of a phrase to parse out a more naturalistic representation in the native language of the app’s user.

With the update, Google mentioned that now translated paragraphs and entire articles are going to be “a lot smoother and easier to read,” thanks to the new end-to-end learning system introduced within Neural Machine Translation. Like other AI-learning software, Google said this “basically means that the system learns over time to create better, more natural translations.”

Neural Machine Translation has been generating exciting research results for a few years and in September, our researchers announced Google’s version of this technique. At a high level, the Neural system translates whole sentences at a time, rather than just piece by piece. It uses this broader context to help it figure out the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar.

With this update, Google Translate is improving more in a single leap than we’ve seen in the last ten years combined.

Across Google Translate on the web and in its iOS and Android apps, users will be able to put Neural Machine Translation to the test with eight languages to and from English and French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Turkish. The company plans to eventually roll the update out to all of its 103 supported languages, and any device Google Translate is available on.

Google Translate is available to download for free from the App Store [Direct Link]. Google didn’t confirm when Neural Machine Translation would begin rolling out, besides the fact that it’ll be coming to Google Search, the Google Translate app, and the official website first.

Tags: Google, Google Translate
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Apple Eyes Original Content, But Looks to Avoid Expensive Bidding Wars With Netflix and Amazon

Apple has shown a willingness to buy projects that can help promote its services, but its interest in acquiring original content remains tepid, according to The Information. The report claims Apple is not interested in getting into billion-dollar bidding wars over projects with rivals such as Netflix and Amazon.

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Apple bought an unscripted TV series based on James Corden’s highly popular “Carpool Karaoke” segment to promote Apple Music, for example, while it is also planning an original TV series called Vital Signs, described as a dark semi-autobiographical drama starring Beats co-founder and Apple executive Dr. Dre.

Meanwhile, Apple reportedly met with representatives for comedian Chris Rock earlier this year about a potential video deal, although the discussions did not lead anywhere and Rock ultimately signed a reported $40 million deal with Netflix to deliver two stand-up specials airing in 2017.

Apple’s lack of original content is seen as a disadvantage for the company, potentially hurting its efforts to expand the Apple TV’s market share.

Not having a slate of originals hurts Apple’s ability to differentiate its video-streaming offerings against rivals like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, each of which now make their own shows that get them lots of attention, while also licensing reruns from TV networks. That could stymie Apple’s ability to increase market share for its streaming video device, the Apple TV, and lock more people into the Apple ecosystem.

Apple has sent mixed signals to Hollywood about its interest in original programming over the past few years, the report adds.

Apple has reportedly met with TV producers and Hollywood studios about developing original TV shows to offer exclusively on iTunes, but services chief Eddy Cue later said Apple is “not in the business of trying to create TV shows.” Instead, he said Apple is willing to offer producers suggestions and guidance where possible.

Independent of its original content efforts, Apple has reportedly been getting more aggressive at landing movies for iTunes. The company was reportedly in discussions with the producers of the Michael Moore documentary “TrumpLand” very early in the process, for example, to secure an iTunes exclusivity window.

Apple got the right to offer “TrumpLand” on iTunes earlier than other online video services, in exchange for prominently promoting it on the iTunes homepage, according to a person involved in the discussions. Having Apple’s promotional commitment is significant enough to help get a movie financed, this person said.

Key players in Apple’s content discussions are said to be Jimmy Iovine, along with Apple Music executives Larry Jackson and Robert Kondrk.

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T-Mobile to Offer Four Lines of Unlimited Data for $120 Starting Friday

T-Mobile has announced a limited time promotion offering four lines of unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data for $120 per month. The deal offers new and existing customers with at least two lines an additional two more lines free, including families or individuals adding a smartphone and/or tablet to their plans.

T-Mobile ONE regularly costs $70 per month for the first line, $50 per month for the second line, and $20 per month for each additional line, totaling $160 per month for a family of four. However, an existing promotion already offers the third line for free, so the new deal offers an additional $20 per month in savings.

The promotion will be offered between Friday, November 18 and Sunday, November 20. A 24-month finance agreement is required.

Tag: T-Mobile
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How to properly hang art, every single time – CNET

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