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24
Nov

Android Central 316: How to bake a turkey


This week, Jerry returns to the AC Podcast rotation, along with Daniel, Andrew, and Alex, who jump right into Q&A — questions asked by you, the listener!

But that’s not all: they talk about the Google Pixel’s latest updates, and the excellent sales that have been reported. And the OnePlus 3T, Samsung Gear S3 and Google Tango are all now available, but do they live up to expectations?

Thanks to this week’s sponsor:

  • Harrys: Use promo code AC to save $5 off your first purchase — start shaving smarter.

Hero image credit: Animal Dreams

Podcast MP3 URL: http://traffic.libsyn.com/androidcentral/androidcentral316.mp3

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24
Nov

Samsung Gear Fit 2 gets updated with new workout tracking features


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The Gear Fit 2 gets even better at tracking your workouts.

Samsung is rolling out an update to the fitness-focused Gear Fit 2 that brings a slew of new features aimed at optimizing the tracking experience. There’s now an auto pause function that pauses activity tracking when it detects that you’ve stopped in the middle of a run or a workout. It automatically starts monitoring your activity once you resume, picking up from where it left off.

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The Gear Fit 2 does a great job of automatically registering running, walking and elliptical and rowing sessions, and the tracker is now capable of recognizing high-intensity exercises like basketball, table tennis, badminton, dancing, and football (the international version). The activity sessions are automatically categorized as a Dynamic Workout once you exceed 10 minutes.

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Finally, the Gear Fit 2 will start monitoring indoor exercises more effectively, particularly those that involve repetitive sets. You’ll be able to enter the desired number of repetitions and sets for crunches, lunges, squats and star jumps, and the tracker will start monitoring your progress as soon as you begin. It will also show appropriate break intervals between each set.

The update is now rolling out to the Gear Fit 2 globally.

Samsung Gear Fit 2 review

24
Nov

Google Pixel review: Jerry’s opinion


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Not enough words have been written about the Google Pixel. At least not by me

The Pixel is one of the phones on a very short list of candidates for a place in my pocket and I’ve taken my time to decide how much I love or hate it after relying on it for a little while. We don’t always get that luxury and each of us has based an opinion too early on something because we had to. Sometimes this job wants to paint you into a corner that way. Most everyone wrote a really glowing review for the product launch — including Alex, who I witnessed bust his ass to get it done on time while on a plane to China. But I didn’t have to put my neck out this time.

I agreed with everyone during that initial break-in period where everything is shiny and new. I still mostly do weeks later. The good far outweighs the bad when it comes down to the things I want when I get a new phone. Have a look and see how much you agree or disagree with me. Maybe it can help you decide if you’re thinking about getting one.

What I like about the Pixel

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I can be a little picky when it comes to the phone I’m using. First and foremost, I’ll only use a phone from a company with a data privacy policy that is clear and concise. I don’t necessarily have to agree with everything in it, but I do need to know exactly what is going to be done and what isn’t when it comes to my information. Because someone is going to ask, Google is one of those companies, along with BlackBerry and Apple and HTC. They’re not the only companies I think are being (mostly) honest, and I take the time to read every link to every policy made available when I sign into a phone or install software.

Knowing that Google sucks every bit of data they can out of my personal life isn’t something I particularly like, but they tell me what they will do with every byte of it instead of telling me what they can do, like some other big companies. I know what you can do, Microsoft. I’d rather know exactly what you will do. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t care about any of this, at least understand that by having people who care this much makes it better for the people who don’t. With the Pixel, I know exactly what data is collected, how it is collected, what is going to be done with it, and who else is going to get any of it.

I carry a phone to talk to other people so all the ways to do it have to be easy and dependable.

I also want a phone that does a few important things well instead of a long list of things that are tacked on and “sort of” work. If you want your phone to be a TV remote or the software to make animated clips from videos, that’s cool. Someone makes one for you and that is the one you should buy. For me, I want to be able to effectively and efficiently “talk” to people. Sometimes, that means an actual phone call, but messaging and networking and all other ways to communicate have to work as advertised. Whenever you hear me say the Pixel is Google’s iPhone, this is what I mean. All the basics are excellent. Anything that would keep them from being excellent is left out.

Part of the reason is because I can carry a laptop or most any other gadget everywhere I go — not everything about being in a wheelchair sucks and I throw a laptop bag over the rear handles whenever I leave the house. Besides making a phone call or sending a message, there isn’t anything a phone can do better than a good Chromebook. Including running apps from Google Play. The more stuff a company puts between me and the things I need a phone to do, the less appealing it is. We all have a threshold for excessive crap, and mine is just really low.

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I also like it when things work a little better than advertised. If a phone does something stupid like take too long to open the keyboard or double type the first letter of every word Or Type Every Sentence Like This, I’m not going to use it. The same thing goes if I try to accept a phone call and things don’t work exactly as planned. I don’t care what body part I can scan or how many different color schemes I can download or even what doodads I can swap and replace to add things the people making it was too cheap to include from the beginning. I want to use it as intended. That’s what turned me on to the Nexus One and why I kept buying replacements as I ruined them. It’s also what made me stop using the Nexus 5X after the first couple of hours and keep it in a drawer until it was fixed. I realize I’m in the minority here because we’re on a website that people searched for to read and talk about phones and the things they can do. That doesn’t make it any less important to me.

Not everyone hates a bezel that is just a bezel.

Another thing that I want to see is a phone that’s easy to use, and I don’t mean the software. I want to be able to do everything with the phone in my right hand and don’t want to have to pay attention to how I do any of it because there isn’t enough to hold onto. While most people groaned about the Pixel’s bezels, I was really glad that someone besides Apple built a phone with somewhere to hold that won’t trigger anything or hit any controls. I have big thick middle-aged man hands that aren’t as nimble as they used to be and I don’t want my phone to do stuff by accident every time I wrap my paws around it.

A smaller size helps, too, which is why I favor the regular Pixel instead of the bigger model. To me, the only way the business end of the Pixel could be better is by adding a trackball. Yes, I’m kidding. My thumb would bump a damn trackball every time I grabbed the phone and I would end up opening apps or randomly buying stuff from Google Play. This is also why I’m glad the new tap to wake feature is something you can turn off. Now please put the power button back on the top.

I don’t want my phone to do stuff by accident every time I wrap my paws around it.

It helps that the phone hardware isn’t terrible, too. The display on both the regular Pixel and the XL are among the best out there, where the only discernible difference comes from things that can measure what our eyes are incapable of seeing. The internal hardware is about five levels of overkill, but it does make things future-proof. It’s also probably not that much overkill if you start doing things like running Daydream apps or GameBoy Color emulators — both of which you can do without adversely affecting the other stuff the Pixel does right.

The fingerprint scanner is one of the best in the business, as is the storage controller and the memory modules and just about everything else. When combined with software optimized for the device itself from the people who are writing it in the first place, you get unmatched performance in the ways that give the Pixel the best user experience of any Android phone. If an app takes 500 milliseconds longer to open because other apps didn’t have to be closed in the background, that’s a win for the person using those apps. One of those things you can actually see and tell the difference, the other makes for 50,000 YouTube views.

What I don’t like about the Pixel

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So, yeah. The Pixel is the one phone that covers the most of my wants and needs list. But not all of it.

My list will again be different than yours. If all of us wanted the same things in a phone Apple would make one that did them and we would all have one. That doesn’t mean my wants are more important than yours unless you are me and in that case only I matter.

Enough with the glass/metal/plastic/wireless charging shell game. Like everyone else, I hated the way the Galaxy S3/Nexus S was built. Not because it was plastic, but because it was shitty plastic and the worst thing about the best Android phone thus far. LG made some incredibly well-built phones out of plastic. So did HTC. And nobody ever said they didn’t like the way any Nokia Lumia phone feels. You don’t have to use glass or metal or a combination of both to make a phone that doesn’t feel cheap. When the material a company uses to make the back of a phone means they can’t include wireless charging — something Google were big cheerleaders for just a few years ago — it’s done wrong in my opinion. And you probably wouldn’t have to use a big glass window on the back for radio reception, either.

Google told me wireless charging was the bee’s knees and then took it away without a good explanation why.

I also don’t much like the fact that I only have one choice from Google. OK, two if you count size. This isn’t about the Pixel per se, but making the Pixel phone didn’t force Google to stop making the Nexus phone. I’m completely happy with the Pixel as the Nexus replacement and probably would favor it over an experience without the added “bloatware” features from a new Nexus proper. But I still would have bought both and know more people would buy something from Google if they also offered the best $400 Android phone. Google gave that market away — something tells me that was a calculated decision — so the Axons and OnePluses of the world can fight over it. Choice of products means two things — consumers can easier find something they like and can afford, and it’s harder for a business to make money when there are more choices. Guess which one of those I care about?

Google “forgot” to offer a 256GB version. No. I don’t need and wouldn’t buy one (I went with 32GB and that will be more than enough for me) but your main competitor in the OH-MY-GOD-THIS-THING-IS-A-THOUSAND-BUCKS market offers one. I also don’t care about SD cards and can’t wait for the next best thing so those little floppy disks can die in a fire. This time, let’s make sure to use a more secure file system. too. But Google not supporting SD cards on their products is definitely something to consider for a lot of people and I say those in the no SD card means no sale department are just as right as I am and shouldn’t buy any Google products. But that isn’t keeping Google from offering a Pixel with 256GB of storage. It isn’t going to be popular, but there is a market and Google isn’t serving it.

I like the Pixel. A lot.

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There are also things that are good or bad to plenty of other folks that aren’t high on my list when it comes to buying a phone. I don’t care about the words water-resistant and think it’s all a scam when companies sell phones labeled as such but tell you water damage isn’t covered under warranty. The camera is impressive (especially the stabilization software), but I was happy with the Nexus 6 camera and almost anything from Samsung or LG in the past 3 years has a camera that satisfies my needs.

The Nexus program was the Pixel beta test. Everything passed.

Any product is going to be the same way and will suit some people and not suit others. Lately, the phones from Google have been the best choice for me. The Pixel takes that a step further by adding a layer of polish to it. The Google’s hardware folks could have said that we shouldn’t point our phones directly at a bright light instead of telling us that they’re going to fix it the best they can. Experimental features could have been left in the operating system that didn’t work very well. We would have accepted this for a Nexus phone because that is the reputation they have always had.

Not having to accept it on the Pixel makes it a better phone for me. It might not be as fun, but I trust that it will do what I need without acting stupid about it. I just wish someone made a phone to have fun with, too, because the Nexus 6P isn’t going to last forever.

I can’t tell you that this is the phone for you. I can tell you it’s a good fit for me and tell you why alongside the proper (and freaking excellent) reviews that we also have here on AC for phones. Hopefully, this helps you know how things could work for you.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
  • Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
  • Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
  • Pixel + Pixel XL specs
  • Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Join the discussion in the forums!

Google Store
Verizon

24
Nov

Chromecast now on sale for $25, includes three months of HBO Now


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Go buy a Chromecast already.

If you haven’t picked up a Chromecast yet, now is the ideal time to do so. The device is now on sale for $25, and Google is throwing in three months of HBO Now — a $45 value. The offer is limited to new users, so if you’ve already subscribed to HBO’s streaming service, you won’t be eligible.

The promotion is valid on the $69 Chromecast Ultra as well, and runs through December 24. You have until January 8 to claim the HBO Now deal, and following the three-month trial, you’ll be charged $15 a month to continue accessing HBO’s streaming service.

Interested? Hit up the Google Store to get your hands on the Chromecast. Don’t know if you should pick up the standard Chromecast or the 4K Chromecast Ultra? We have you covered.

See at Google Store

Chromecast

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  • Chromecast and Chromecast Audio review
  • Chromecast Ultra vs Roku
  • Chromecast vs Chromecast Ultra: Which should you buy?
  • Join the discussion in our forums

Chromecast:

Google
Best Buy

Chromecast Audio:

Google
Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Google
Best Buy

24
Nov

Best Stocking Stuffers Under $25 For Android Fans


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Fill those stocking with cool stuff, for less!

It’s just about that time when folks around the world will be hanging their stockings over the fireplace with care. Just what will end up in those stockings? Yet to be determined.

Here’s some quick gift ideas that will make perfect stocking stuffers for anyone on Santa’s list.

Google Play Store gift card

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Yeah, yeah, we know. Gift cards are pretty lazy as far as gifts go. But everyone can appreciate just how versatile a Google Play gift card is! You can not only spend Google Play cash on awesome Android games and apps, but also get music, movies, TV shows, books, and even magazines.

You can buy a Google Play Store gift card a over 40 different stores including most convenient stores, making them the perfect last-minute gift idea for pretty much anyone on your list.

Find a store near you

Phone cases

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As long as you know the type of phone your gift-givee is rocking, gifting a phone case shows that you care — about them not wrecking their expensive smartphone. This is an especially good gift idea if you’re buying it for your kids, and you know they’ll come asking for help buying a new phone when they drop their phone and shatter the screen. ShopAndroid has great deals on cases for all the most popular phones. Take a look around!

See at ShopAndroid

Portable power pack

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Everyone could use a little extra boost of battery life throughout the day, so a portable battery pack makes for a perfect stocking stuffer, both for its size and convenience. There’s a ton of options out there, but if you’re looking for an affordable external battery pack that will still provide ample charge for most devices, this 10400mAh power pack from Aukey will do the trick.

NOTE: This particular power pack is not compatible with Motorola phones.

See at Amazon

Touch Screen gloves

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but your phone is buzzing and you want to answer it — but that means taking off your gloves. Or not, if you’ve got a pair of gloves with conductive threads in the fingertips. Touch screen gloves make a great gift, and the one’s we’ve recommended below are more affordable than other options out there. They aren’t the best for those absolutely frigid, windy days, but you probably shouldn’t be loitering outside on your phone when the weather is that bad, either.

See at Amazon

Car charger

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Another great stocking stuffer option is a car charger, so your loved one can keep their phone topped up when they’re on the road. Again there are a number of different options out there for car chargers, and you don’t want to end up buying a dud. But we’ll recommend this dual-USB charger from Tronsmart. It supports Quick Charge 2.0, comes packaged with two Micro-USB cables, and is guaranteed to fully protect against over-current, overcharging and overheating.

See at Amazon

What’s in your stocking?

What little accessories have caught your eye this year? Leave a comment below.

24
Nov

These touchscreen stickers give your gloves a fingerprint, but be careful


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Don’t let convenience trounce security.

I’m all for Canadian entrepreneurship, and the winter is cold and all that. But TAPS, a Kickstarter project from Vancouver, B.C.-based Tony Wu, is probably not the best idea, especially if you take security seriously.

See, instead of asking you to buy a pair of touchscreen gloves, TAPS uses super-strong adhesive on one side to stick to your current winter gloves, pairing capacitive materials and a unique fingerprint sensor on the other side. Ostensibly, you just stick them on the thumb or index finger (or both, if you’re feeling sassy) and you’re good to go. Because each sticker comes with a unique fingerprint, it can work with the sensors on your Galaxy S7, Pixel, or any phone with a convenient unlocking mechanism.

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The problem is that unlike your finger, your winter gloves can be easily stolen, and losing a glove and your phone at the same time is a recipe for insecurity and potential disaster. We’d recommend just using them for their capacitive capabilities, to turn any glove into a touchscreen glove. Even though the company promises that the fingerprint tech is safe, as long as there’s this thing in your closet that can be used to unlock your phone, it’s just not that safe.

Still, it’s a good idea, and at $8 for a pack of four stickers, is considerably cheaper than most touchscreen gloves. And because they’re waterproof, hopefully the adhesive will last a long time, even when continually exposed to snow.

TAPS promises to ship before Christmas.

See at Kickstarter

24
Nov

Black Friday Sale: Get money off the sweatproof Mpow Goshawk Bluetooth headphones that are perfect for sweaty runners


Mpow Goshawk If you’re a runner or an avid gym goer, you probably wear headphones. But are they the right headphones for you to wear, especially if you sweat a lot? Mpow Goshawk believes it’s the right choice for you. Here’s everything you need to know about these buds.

What is the Mpow Goshawk?

Mpow Goshawk is a set of Bluetooth headphones. They are packed with loads of technology, including Bluetooth 4.1, a CSR 8640 chip, high-fidelity sound, noise reduction, and a sweatproof nanocoating. And all that’s wrapped in an all-metal, minimalist shell suited for both males and females.

Are the Mpow Goshawk headphones sweatproof?

Yes. Imagine if you are one of those people that find themselves sweating like a fountain when they go on a run, and your headphones are so soaked in sweat because of it, you’re worried whether they’ll break.

Mpow Goshawk

The Mpow Goshawk headphones are not only sweatproof, but to ensure they don’t get damaged, the circuit board inside the earbuds has been coated with waterproof and corrosion-resistant nano-material, which is supposed to protect it from sweat.

What does Mpow Goshawk feature?

Standout features include support for Bluetooth 4.1 technology, and a “Best CSR chip”, which results in a more stable Bluetooth signal for frequent high-fidelity sound.

You can stray roughly 10m from your device and still maintain a connection, but if you should get disconnected, you’ll automatically and seamlessly connect again when within range (as long as you’ve paired successfully the first time around).

The Mpow Goshawk, which is made of a sleek metal shell and comes with one micro USB charging cable, one wire clip, and ear caps in three sizes, also features “advanced APTX tech” in order to deliver “incredible sound quality with crystal clear treble”.

Mpow Goshawk

There’s CVC 6.0 Noise Reduction electronics integrated in each earpiece, too, to reduce external noise and make every phone call clear in loud environments.

They also feature a flexible over-the-ear hooks that promise to firmly hold the earbuds in your ears.

Yes, that’s right, with these sweatproof sports buds you also get hands-free calling and voice clarity on your runs if someone calls you.

How much does Mpow Goshawk cost?

The Mpow Goshawk are £23.99, however for a limited time (28 November 2016, you’ll be able to buy them from Amazon.co.uk for £17.99. Each pair comes with an 18-month “worry-free” warranty.

24
Nov

Amazon goes Black Friday mad with cheap PS4 and Xbox One S consoles from £200 with free games


Amazon has been offering some great deals on games and consoles over the last couple of weeks but you’d have to go some to better it’s special discounts for Black Friday itself.

From 8pm tonight and throughout tomorrow, you can nab a 500GB PlayStation 4, a copy of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and FIFA 17 for £199.99. Alternatively, you can opt for the console, FIFA 17 and a copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for the same price.

There’s also a 1TB PS4 on offer, with the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Bundle and FIFA 17 for £249.99.

Should Xbox be more your thing, you can get a 500GB Xbox One S with FIFA 17 and an extra controller for £229.99. A similar offer swaps FIFA 17 for Minecraft. And a 1TB Xbox One S with Gears of War 4 and an extra controller will set you back £274.99.

  • Best Black Friday UK games deals: Amazing PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo and Steam deals

Amazon is also doing special Black Friday games deals for both formats. Some triple-A games, such as The Division, Destiny and Fallout 4, will be available for under £20. Even some recent games will be heavily discounted, with Battlefield 1, Watch Dogs 3 and Dishonored 2 among those being offered for less than £33.

Lightning deals will be available throughout the day, but when stock is all snapped up it’s gone, so you need to keep a beady eye on them. Amazon is also slashing the prices of some of its own tech products for a few days, including the Amazon Fire tablet, which costs just £30 for the duration.

24
Nov

Engadget giveaway: Win a Foodsniffer to check the status of your leftovers!


Many lucky people across the US today will be presented with more food than they can handle, and that means… leftovers. Whether you’re an overstocked host or a guest who’s lucky enough to get the tupperware treatment, there’s a chance those extra eats will drag on for days, or even weeks. As time marches on, it helps to have a second opinion on the actual freshness of those vittles. That’s where Foodsniffer can help out. It’s an app-connected handheld sensor that scans for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted from decomposing beef, poultry and fish. It can verify if food is still fresh, on its way out or definitively spoiled. Foodsniffer has provided us with three units for a trio of lucky readers this week, saving them from potential stomach trouble over dubious leftover consumption. All you need to do is head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. Three (3) winners will each receive one (1) FOODsniffer food freshness tester ($130 value).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until Nov. 25th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!
24
Nov

Everything you should watch over the holidays


It’s the perfect time of the year to gather your family, consider what you’re grateful for and watch way too much TV. Even if you’re already a television connoisseur, there’s a good chance you haven’t been able to keep up with all of the great viewing options available today. Below, check out our collection of the best bingewatching options this year. And once you’ve exhausted this list, check out our recommendations from the past few years.

Black Mirror Season 3

The Twilight Zone of our era is back on Netflix with a bigger budget, more episodes, and plenty of familiar faces aboard. This season, Black Mirror explores scenarios where your entire life is based your social media score; a game company that’s developed all too realistic augmented reality; and your mind can be backed up forever. It’s an eclectic mix of stories, as always, but that unshakeable feeling of dread and techno-anxiety that the series is known for is still around. This time around, there’s even — dare I say — hope?

Watch if you like: The Twilight Zone; The X Files; 1984
Where to watch: Netflix

Atlanta

You probably remember Donald Glover from Community, which he left abruptly to pursue a music career. Now he’s getting back into TV with Atlanta, an authentic look at what it’s like to be young and black in the American south today. He stars as a perpetual loser who’s managing his cousin’s fledgling rap career, all the while trying to make ends meet. Atlanta is genuinely funny, but it’s also unafraid to be genuinely poignant at times. Ultimately, it’s brave and refreshing television.

Watch if you like: Louie, Donald Glover, Do the Right Thing
Where to watch: FX

High Maintenance

After finding success as a web series about the adventures of a New York City weed dealer, High Maintenance managed to outdo itself with its first official season on HBO. For the most part, the show uses the weed delivery man (AKA The Guy) as a way to connect completely disparate stories. One episode deals with a young, gay hipster who’s in a fundamentally destructive relationship with his roommate, while another tells a love story between a dog and the world’s best dog walker. It’s one of those “dramadies” that manages to be both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, but its sheer originality helps it stand out from the crop of shows about Brooklyn twentysomethings.

Watch if you like: Girls, Bored to Death, David Linklater films
Where to watch: HBO

BrainDead

If it seems like this election has been insane, perhaps it’s because there are tiny space ants invading the brains of our politicians pushing them towards extremist beliefs. At least, that’s the explanation given by BrainDead, a biting political comedy that isn’t afraid of having heads explode (literally). It’s like The West Wing meets The Good Wife (it’s from that show’s creators) meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And it also has Tony Shalhoub delivering one of the funniest performances this year as a raging southern conservative. Need I say more?

Watch if you like: The West Wing, House of Cards, Scanners, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Where to watch: CBS, Amazon Prime

Halt and Catch Fire

It’s not too often a show completely turns itself around, but that’s exactly what Halt and Catch Fire did in its second and third season. It starts out in the early 1980s, focusing on a group of tech wizards who have the moxie to build an IBM compatible PC for a small Texas computer firm. Exciting, right? Its early tech nostalgia was cool, but obviously an attempt at recreating the magic of Mad Men. Eventually, though, Halt and Catch Fire wisely learned to focus more on its characters and offer up a more expansive view of the tech industry. It’s as much about the creative process as it is about trying to figure out out what’s on the horizon for tech. (My suggestion: Watch the pilot and the latter bits of the first season, the good stuff really starts in season two.)

Watch if you like: Hackers, Mr. Robot, the ’80s
Where to watch: Netflix, AMC, iTunes, Amazon

Westworld

Chances are, you’ve already dived into Westworld. HBO didn’t waste any time hyping it up, because once Game of Thrones ends it needs another smash hit genre piece. A pseudo-reboot of the original Michael Crichton film, Westworld is set in a futuristic theme park where the very rich live out their Wild West fantasies with the help of incredibly realistic humanoid robots.

It’s ultimately an exploration of human nature: What would you do if you could play a complete villain in what’s ostensibly a very realistic video game? And at what points do the robots, who are routinely abused and have started going “off script,” become human? It’s well worth watching, with some of the best cinematography and production design you’ll see on TV this year. And even if it can’t satisfactorily wrap up its many mysteries, it’s worth basking in the tremendous performances of Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood, two bots rebelling against the system controlling them.

Watch if you like: Person of Interest, Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica
Where to watch: HBO

Channel Zero: Crystal Cove

You wouldn’t expect a show based on a Creepypasta — viral horror stories made popular by sites like Reddit — to actually be good, but somehow writer Nick Antosca ended up crafting one of the creepiest horror series in years. Crystal Cove centers on a child psychologist who’s trying to unravel the mystery behind a series of murders in his hometown (something he’s personally connected with). But, fundamentally, it’s about the existential dread of children’s TV shows and the power they can hold over kids. Channel Zero is more about psychological dread and slowly creeping horror than straight up jump scares, but I assure you the monster designs will work their way deep into your nightmares.

Watch if you like: Hannibal, Stephen King, Stranger Things
Where to watch: Syfy

Tickled

On the face of it, a documentary about competitive tickling competitions sounds pretty light. But as Tickled director David Farrier investigates, he quickly gets wrapped up in an exploitative online industry that’s taking advantage of young, good-looking men. It’s one of those documentaries that’s so strange, you’d think it would be made up if it weren’t completely true.

Watch if you like: Documentaries, The Witness
Where to watch: iTunes, Amazon

Days

A young high school kid joins the soccer team and is terrible at it — but through sheer determination he ends up playing an essential role in the team. There are plenty of sports anime shows out there, but Days’ strong handling of its characters and overall sweetness make it a joy to watch. Personally, it evokes the camaraderie and carefree days of playing soccer in high school. But it’s also a genuinely fascinating and inspiring exploration of the power of will.

Watch if you like: Sports anime, Friday Night Lights
Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is what happens when Marvel actually lets people of color handle one of their properties It has a style and vibe that’s completely unlike anything else from Marvel’s superhero factory. Mostly, that’s all due to Mike Colter’s towering lead performance (we saw him first in Jessica Jones last year), the show’s love of Harlem and its keen musical soul. Its original score is by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and there are plenty of choice cuts and tremendous live musical performances throughout. If you’ve ever wondered what a superhero show could look like when crossed with energy of a blaxploitation film, this is the show for you.

Watch if you like: Comics, music, blaxploitation films
Where to watch: Netflix

Honorable mentions:

  • Fireplace for Your Home (Netflix): Now in 4K!
  • American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson (FX): You need to see this dramatic reenactment of the O.J. Simpson trial. Trust me.
  • O.J. Made in America (ESPN, Hulu): This nearly eight-hour documentary dives deeper into the O.J. trial than ever before.
  • Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon): Few shows get the joy and pain of creating music as right as this.
  • Food Wars (Crunchyroll, Hulu): This food competition anime is incredibly addictive.
  • Thunderbolt Fantasy (Crunchroll): A wuxia fantasy epic with puppets. Puppets!
  • Pee Wee’s Big Holiday (Netflix): This might just end up being a holiday classic.
  • Goliath (Amazon): A reminder that David E. Kelly (The Practice, Ally McBeal) can still make a damn fine law series.
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