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Chromebooks are making a huge comeback in 2017


And they both look fabulous.

We’ve seen very high-end Chromebooks before. The HP Chromebook 13 G1 or the Dell Chromebook 13 could be configured with the best hardware available, and we can’t forget the Google Chromebook Pixel. They were really good laptops and using any of them let you know they were premium products. But what we’ve seen from CES 2017 (so far) is what happens when companies get serious and deliver specs that we need for the best experience.

Chrome is a little different that a traditional operating system. Windows and MacOS — both really good “desktop” operating systems that plenty of people are using — have different needs than Chrome. Extras like huge amounts of RAM or super-CPU configurations are wasted on Chrome, while features that make Chrome better and storage space have been mostly ignored. In 2017, ASUS and Samsung seem to get it, and their new offerings look pretty awesome.


Samsung is the undisputed king of adding features to almost everything they make. The things they do with Android phones put them in their own class and really shouldn’t be compared to anything else out there. Their new Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro bring one of Samsung’s best features to Chrome — the S Pen.

When you make a Chromebook that folds over on itself and becomes a tablet, you need to consider the different ways people can use it. Software and specific features become more important, and having a stylus that’s integrated into the OS is something people have found useful — just ask anyone who loves their Microsoft Surface. Chrome needed an injection of Samsung here, and that’s what we get.

You have the premium Chromebook hardware that you expect from a pricey model — the Pro comes with a 2.2GHz Intel Core M3 6Y30 and a 12.3-inch 2400×1600 LED touch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio — and software to make it great with the Pen. Notes, spreadsheets and other work “stuff” will benefit from having a better input device and app developers will find new ways to make good use of the hardware and fancy intelligent machine-learning software that drives the Pen. This will be very useful and very cool.


ASUS addresses the biggest issue with every other Chromebook available: they offer 128GB of storage on their new high-end Flip.

The rest of the specs are no slouch — a core M3 or core M7 CPU, 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a 12.5-inch FHD (1920×1080) 60Hz display — but all that means nothing when you run out of space because your expensive Chromebook only came with 16GB of storage. Add Android into the mix (the new Flip runs Android apps out of the box) and storage becomes even more important. In the near future we’ll be saying 128GB isn’t enough, but right now the Chromebook Flip 302 is the champ when you need room for all of your stuff.

One thing both of these products have in common is a price tag that is a good bit higher than most every other Chromebook out there. Neither Samsung or ASUS has offered complete details on pricing at the time this was written, but we know the base configurations start around $450 for Samsung’s lower-tier Chromebook Plus and $499 for the base model ASUS Chromebook Flip 302. When you’re used to seeing Chromebooks cost a few hundred dollars less this can be a bit of a shocker.

One thing both of these new Chromebooks have in common is a big price tag.

We can’t argue. Chrome runs well on a $250 Chromebook Flip and the Acer Chromebook 14 is able to offer that “premium” feel with a price tag under $300. Not everyone needs a $500 Chromebook and even fewer people will want to pay the price that will come with the Chromebook Pro or full-spec Asus Flip 302 (think close to a grand in both cases and you won’t be shocked when you see it). But this hardware is expensive.

The base model of either the ASUS Chromebook Flip 302 or the Samsung Chromebook Plus has a processor that costs $281 per unit when you buy in bulk. That’s about 20 bucks more than the smaller Chromebook Flip C100 costs. Big and beautiful touch-enabled displays aren’t cheap either. Add in the costs to build the aluminum body and special hinges and memory and storage and everything else and you’ll find that the price doesn’t come from an insane markup from the people making them. It’s mostly because the parts being used are just really expensive. People who want or need this kind of hardware won’t find it any cheaper no matter what operating system is running on it.

2017 has just begun and we’ll see more Chromebooks from more companies throughout the year. So far, we like what we see because it means that companies are more serious about selling Chromebooks for people who want to buy one as a luxury purchase or for a better machine to work from.



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There’s now a smart band specifically for Ingress addicts

Take your Ingress further with the Ingress Mod Band based on the new Nex Evolution smart wearable.

If you’re into Ingress — the smartphone-based AR game that formed the basis for Pokémon Go — you’ll be happy to know that there is now a wearable that works alongside it.


A partnership with Montreal-based wearable company Mighty Cast, whose second-generation “hackable” Nex Evolution smart band is being announced at CES 2017, the Ingress Mod Band allows users to customize actions that automate certain processes in the game.

The foundation is Mighty Cast’s Nex Evolution band itself, which adds a number of features to the so-called “IFTTT of wearables”. On the Nex Evolution are five programmable touch-sensitive areas, called Mods, that can be programmed using an Android or iOS app to perform various functions, such as taking a picture from your phone or turning on a set of lights.


And while the band itself lacks a screen, each of the five Mods has the ability to light up a different color, indication a successful action or a notification. The colors can also be combined to form particular messages as part of Mighty Cast’s “When/Do” platform. The Ingress version also has game-specific patterns that it can display.

Currently, Ingress users will be able to receive special in-game transmissions and unique perks to be revealed closer to launch. In-game, the core function will be dropping a pin on the map without touching your phone and making it so you can alert your team members when it’s time to mobilize. Additional functionality is planned for the future, possibly including hacks and weapon deployment without needing to unlock your phone.


Both the Nex Evolution and Ingress-specific Mod Band will go on sale in February. The standard Nex Band will be $79, but Niantic’s pricing for the Ingress Mod has not yet been announced.

See at Nex Band


Here’s how HTC’s new Vive Tracker works!


HTC announced a new wave of accessories headed to Vive owners later this year, but the one that stands above the crowd is the new Vive Tracker. HTC has built a small Vive controller with a data port on the bottom that third-party accessory manufacturers can add to just about anything, making it possible to then add that physical object to the virtual world you’re playing in.



Amazon set to expand brick-and-mortar bookstore business into New York

World’s largest online bookseller to open Manhattan bookstore this spring.

At a time when traditional bookstore chains are shuttering locations around the country, Amazon is planning continued expansion of Amazon Books, announcing plans for a new 4,000-square-foot brick-and-mortar store in New York City. The store will take up prime real estate in the Time Warner Center within Manhattan’s Shops at Columbus Circle.


Opening this spring, this will be Amazon’s first bookstore on the East Coast and their sixth store to open since 2015, with stores already operating in Seattle, Portland and San Diego and new locations set to open in Chicago and Dedham, Massachusetts. The online retailer is the leading booksellers, and that’s without even factoring in Amazon’s bustling ebook business via the Amazon Kindle.

Amazon is leveraging the strength of its online presence in its physical stores, organizing displays based on, pre-order popularity, sales, and customer ratings, even including customer reviews for the most popular books right on the shelves. The stores are also a place where folks can come in and test out Amazon’s devices, such as the Echo, Kindle, Fire Tablets and Fire TV. Customers can buy books or devices in store, or have them shipped to their homes, with Amazon Prime customers receiving applicable discounts and free shipping.

This is but the latest news in Amazon’s push from the online shopping space into the physical. The company made waves with its Amazon GO concept video, which showcased its vision for a frictionless shopping experience of the future. Given how successful Amazon has been at dominating the online retailing sector, it will come as no surprise to us if more physical Amazon stores continue popping up everywhere in upcoming years.

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Verizon rolls out Note 7 update that stops phone from charging

It’s the end of the line for Note 7 holdouts on Verizon.

Verizon is pushing out its update for the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which effectively bricks the phone for conventional by preventing the device’s battery from being recharged. Once the battery reaches 0%, the phone will only be able to be powered on when plugged into a wall outlet or external charger.


The fact that there are still people clinging to their Note 7s despite Samsung’s failed attempt to fix the problem with a recall and exchange program, and its eventual cancellation, is a real head-scratcher. T-Mobile was the first US carrier to issue an update to kill the Note 7, and the other two carriers — AT&T and Sprint — are expected to release similar updates this week.

It’s somewhat cheeky that Verizon kept its typical copy in place for this update, stating that it “has been tested to optimize device performance, resolve known issues and apply the latest security patches.” I suppose the ‘known issue’ being addressed here being is the continued reluctance of some to power down and return this discontinued and dead phone.

If you happen to be one of those Galaxy Note 7 holdouts on Verizon, you can read more about the carrier’s recall and exchange program here.

More: Galaxy Note 7 recall, fires and dumpsters

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What is Nvidia GeForce Now and how can it help you play PC games on a Mac?

Nvidia was chosen to host the opening keynote of CES 2017 and during the presentation announced that, alongside a new version of the Nvidia Shield Android TV, it will be dramatically refreshing and updating its GeForce Now cloud gaming service.

But what is GeForce Now and why is it of particular interest to Mac owners and those with older PCs?

What is Nvidia GeForce Now?

Nvidia GeForce Now was originally launched as Nvidia Grid and has been the company’s answer to PlayStation Now for a while. It is a cloud gaming service that has given access to games stored on dedicated GeForce graphics-enabled PCs which can be played on a Shield handheld console or Shield Tablet.

However, now Nvidia has improved the technology and offers a whole new facet to the service.

The new version of GeForce Now will also be available on PC and Mac. And it will give access to games bought through Steam, GOG, Origin and other online hubs to play whenever and wherever you want. The games will also be played on a GTX 1080 PC, so you’ll get the very best experience no matter what computer you are streaming them to.

The games are stored and played remotely and video up to 1080p and in 60 frames per second is streamed to your device with control codes being sent in the opposite direction over the internet. It is an extremely low latency service so there is very little lag and it responds as if the game were stored directly on your device. In many ways, you can’t tell the difference.

How do I get it and when?

The existing Nvidia GeForce Now service is still running on the current Shield TV and Shield Tablet devices, but the new version will launch in March in the US first. We’re still waiting on launch dates for other territories.

It will just require the download of an application for your PC or Mac. It’ll be hardbaked into the new Shield Android TV.

How much does it cost?

The existing Nvidia GeForce Now costs £7.49 a month for unlimited access to around 60 games, with a further 40 or so available to purchase outright.

The new version, however, has a different payment structure as you are technically playing your own bought games, download from Steam or another supplier, through the service. You will purchase packets of credit for $25 a shot and, depending on how high-end the experience and what PC it is run on at Nvidia’s end, those credits will give you playing time.

An example given by Nvidia during its announcement event was that $25 could get you around 20 hours worth of play on a decent PC set-up.

What games are available?

The big thing about the new GeForce Now is that your own games will be available to you. So if you have a healthy library of games on Steam, Origin, GOG or whathaveyou, you can simply install them on the remote machine and play them whenever you fancy.

It dramatically opens up the potential for the service over the 100 titles previously available.

Where are my save files stored?

All of your save files are stored in the cloud so you can pick up where you left off whenever you like.

Can I use Wi-Fi and what is the minimum internet speed it works on?

Wi-Fi works well (we had the former GeForce Now service running on a Wi-Fi connection in a hotel room with no problems whatsoever) and the absolute minimum broadband speed it will work on is 1.5Mbps. However, Nvidia recommends at least 6.5Mbps if you want to maintain a stable frame rate and ensure that latency is low.

Indeed, it told us that a 10Mbps connection is ideal as then there is enough bandwidth to have at least 6.5Mbps dedicated to the experience with the rest being used by other internet connected devices at the same time.

Can I play multiplayer games?

The new GeForce Now will be compatible with multiplayer online games.


Ad groups ask FCC to reconsider ISP tracking opt-in rules

If you ask most Americans which company they’d least trust with their data, the answer would probably be “Comcast,” or maybe “Time Warner Cable” — both ranked in the bottom four of Temkin’s 2016 trust ratings. That’s perhaps why the FCC decided to force broadband providers to get your permission before collecting private browsing data, rather than putting the onus on you to opt out. However, advertising groups have petitioned the agency to reconsider the rule, calling it “onerous” and a violation of first amendment commercial speech protections

The group said that the FCC “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner inconsistent with Congressional intent.” It also believes that industry self-regulation is enough to for “necessary consumer transparency, notice and choice for internet-based advertising.” With a new President, the departure of FCC chair Tom Wheeler and Republican board member promises to revisit net neutrality rules “as soon as possible,” the petition’s timing is obviously well-chosen.

Injecting tracking headers … without [users] informed consent, may abuse the privileged position that telcos occupy.

However, consumer groups that advocated for the new rules believe ISPs can’t be trusted on their own. Access Now, for instance, showed that carriers like Verizon (AOL and Engadget’s parent) are willing to sell consumer browsing habits to ad companies, even though you only signed up for an internet connection.

As the NYT points out, the new rules will hamper ISP’s ability to build user profiles and sell targeted ads. In their petition, the ad trade associations point out that such “data-driven” marketing helps generate over $200 billion and 966,000 jobs in the US economy, and say the rule “would seriously undermine many of those benefits.”

However, as Access Now points out in a paper, people pay a lot for internet services that the FCC now considers to be a public utility essential for daily life. Given that, “injecting tracking headers … without [users] informed consent, may abuse the privileged position that telcos occupy.”

Source: MediaPost


The many faces of Amazon Alexa: Cars, speakers, robots and everything else

If 2017’s CES has been about anything – other than inappropriately giving all your white goods touch screens to tweet from – it’s been about putting Amazon’s Alexa in everything. 

Amazon clearly doesn’t see a future where Alexa is confined to a Bluetooth speaker. Instead, the online retail giant has opened its smart voice assistant to be used in a whole slew of products. The only limit, seemingly, is third party imagination.

Here are some of the more interesting products to launch powered-by the friendly assistant. 


Huawei Mate 9

The Huawei Mate 9 is one of the biggest phones available. It’s the first Huawei phone to launch with Android Nougat and – in the US – will be the first phone to launch with Alexa on board. While it’s hard to fathom why exactly Alexa is there instead of Google Assistant, it’s certainly an intriguing move by Huawei and Amazon. 

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By the sounds of it, this partnership will go beyond just pre-installing an app on Huawei phones. The Chinese manufacturer wants its phones to slot in to Amazon’s ever-growing ecosystem-web of products. A statement read “Huawei and Amazon will collaborate to develop rich voice activated consumer experiences for mobile users.” 

Ford Cars

Ford drivers with Sync 3 in their car dashboards will be open to a full suite of Alexa functions later this year. Users will be able to give any voice commands through the centre console of their car. That means if you’ve forgotten to close your garage, lock your doors or switch off your lights, you can do it without having to turn back and drive home. 

The Alexa integration will also play nice with Sync 3’s built-in navigation system, so you can ask Alexa for nearby points of interest, restaurants and stores, then ask it to navigate there. Of course, it can read you Audible audio books and add stuff to your Amazon shopping list too. 

The downside to this is that the full Alexa in-car update isn’t arriving until later in 2017, at some point in the summer. Before then, however, you will be able to use your Amazon Echo, Dot and Tap to connect to your car. 


Lenovo Smart Assistant

If you ever looked at the Amazon Echo and wished it was a little prettier and better sounding, the Lenovo Smart Assistant is for you. It’s got a similar tall cylindrical design, but with added chrome trim at the top and a more attractive fabric covering over the bottom half. 

  • Lenovo Smart Assistant preview: Transformers, Alexa in disguise

You can use it exactly the same way you’d use an Echo, and choose from a handful of different colour combinations. You’re not just stuck to plain black or plain white. It will cost $129 (around £105) when it launches in May 2017, and if you want better audio, you’ll be able to pick up the Harman Kardon version for $179 (roughly £145). 

GE table lamp

GE showed off a cool-looking smart table lamp at CES which – similar to the Lenovo Smart Assistant – takes Alexa and places it inside a more attractive shell. It’s essentially another Echo replacement, that’s also a light. You won’t need an Echo to work it when it launches later this year. 

  • Amazon Echo tips and tricks: Getting a grip on Alexa

The light itself is a halo-style affair, with a solid cylinder base at the bottom which acts as the stand and the loudspeaker.

This ring is made up of two light strips. The outer ring is the main white light, while the inner blue ring is the one which denotes when Alexa is being activated, similar to the ring of light around the outside of the Amazon Echo speaker. 


A robot

This is the Lynx robot by a company called Ubtech, which is essentially an Amazon Echo speaker built in to a plastic humanoid. While it can take your usual Alexa commands and requests, it can also be controlled via an app to walk around, capture video footage and take photos. 

Unlike the Echo, however, the Lynx can be taught to recognise individual people and – using a program – play greetings and music based on who is interacting with it. As well as being able to play music, set reminders, manage tasks and edit calendar entries, the robot can follow you and be used to make video calls. 

The Lynx will be available to purchase later in 2017, sometime in spring. 


Lots of TVs

Seiki, Westinghouse Electronics and Element Electronics will all release large, flat-screen 4K UHD smart TVs running Amazon’s Fire TV user interface later this year. 

The three companies fall under the umbrella of Tongfang Global and will release 43, 50, 55 and 65-inch TV sets, each sporting 3,840 by 2,160 resolution panels. Each also comes loaded with the latest version of the Amazon Fire TV user interface out of the box. With that comes the ability to use voice control and Alexa.

  • Amazon Echo: What can Alexa do and what services are compatible?

Not only can you search for TV shows and apps with the voice assistant, but you can also set up Alexa to control all the other compatible smart connected products in your house. 

Sadly no pricing has been announced, but we do know that they’ll be available through Best Buy and Amazon in the States. 


These Bluetooth earphones

If you’ve watched Her, starring Jaoquin Phoenix, and since longed for the day where you could form a deep relationship with a digital assistant  in an earphone, Onvocal has the closest solution. 

Sadly, this isn’t an elegant single-ear solution. Rather, the OV headphones from Onvocal have a chunky plastic collar with earphones attached by cable. There’s a hands-free mic for taking calls, but also for summoning Alexa. They also have the ability to adjust how much ambient noise you have coming through, with an automatic music dimming system in chat mode. 

The important thing here is that Alexa is built right into the earphones. You can pre-order the OV for $399 (around £320) from Onvocal’s direct channel, and orders should make their way out in January 2017. 


Omaker WoW speaker

Another direct replacement for the Echo, but one that doesn’t just look exactly the same. Rather, it seems to take its styling more from the smaller Sonos speakers. 

The Omaker WoW uses a two microphone system to detect voice commands and has far field technology built in, just like the Echo. That means you can talk to it from the other side other room and it should still pick up your voice. 

While its Alexa-powered-ness means it can connect to music services like TunedIn, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Tidal, it also works as an AirPlay, DLNA and Spotify Connect speaker. It supports audio streaming from the cloud, NAS, USB disk/TF cards and third party apps as well as standard wired and wireless connectivity. 


A fridge

LG has built Amazon’s service in to its latest refrigerator. Because you always wanted to tell your fridge to dim the lights and play some John Legend while you poured Prosecco for two. 

The fridge door has a 29-inch touchscreen built in to it that reveals what’s inside and whether anything is coming close to its “use by” or “best before” dates. It does this using a wide angle camera inside, and lets you check the status from your phone if you want to. 


Lots more cars (in the future) 

Inrix is a company name you’re perhaps not familiar with, but it’s responsible for serving data to connected cars from manufacturers like Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Porsche among others. Its plan is to integrate Alexa into its OpenCar platform, which manufacturers can then use and adapt it with their own infotainment systems to be built in to their car dashboard consoles. 

From the second half of 2017, drivers who have OpenCar enabled vehicles will be able to access services through Alexa, pretty much the same way Ford announced they would be in its cars.

Not only will you be able to make the usual Alexa commands, you can connect to your car from your home using an Echo product. You could, for instance, ask your Echo for navigation to a specific location, then have it send the navigation instructions to your car’s built-in system before you get in and get going. 


Best smart home devices of CES 2017: Alexa everywhere, connected fridges and even smart windows

Along with a wealth of new televisions, laptops and other tech, CES is increasingly packed with connected devices for the home.

We’ve walked the show floor to bring you the most interesting smart home devices we could find at CES 2017.

Lenovo Smart Assistant


Lenovo has announced a smart speaker powered by Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based voice services, offering an alternative to Amazon’s Echo speaker.

For those looking for high-quality audio, there’s even a special edition Harman Kardon version.

  • Lenovo Smart Assistant preview: Transformers, Alexa in disguise

The Lenovo Smart Assistant will be available from May 2017 for $129.99. The Harman Kardon version will also be available from May, but cost a little more at $179.99.

Nvidia Shield Spot


The new Nvidia Shield TV set-top box offers a whole load of gaming and entertainment potential, but interestingly, it’s also a Google hub, offering Google Assistant. The more interesting development from a smart home perspective is the Shield Spot device.

  • Nvidia Shield Spot extends the 4K console’s reach through your home

You can place the Spots around your house as an extension of your Shield, meaning you can use those Google Home services from other parts of your house, to interact with your Shield TV, use voice control and so on.

The Nvidia Shield Spot will cost around $49 when it goes on sale, although a date hasn’t been confirmed.

Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm


Netatmo unveiled a new smart smoke alarm which is web-connected and sends alerts to your smartphone when smoke is detected in various areas of the house.

The company says you can buy multiple alarms and places them in different areas to get specific and useful warnings dependent on the location. Hopefully “there’s smoke in the kitchen” will be more than just burnt toast warnings.

  • Netatmo takes on Nest Protect with its own Smart Smoke Alarm

The Smart Smoke Alarm works with a range of other services including IFTTT and Apple Homekit. With a 10-year battery life and automatic warnings to your phone when the battery is getting low at least you’ll no longer have to worry about whether your home smoke alarm is actually working or not.

Netatmo hasn’t released the price yet, but have said the Smart Smoke Alarm will be available in the second half of 2017.

Velux Active windows


Velux Active windows represent a new light in the world of smart home products. These smart windows can be controlled by a range of sensors and your smartphone.

Netatmo and Velux have partnered here to combine their sensors and allow for automated opening of the windows in your home depending on the weather conditions and quality of air inside the house.

  • Velux Active windows achieve peak smart home with Netatmo sensor integration, smartphone control

Velux Active windows will be available in Q3 2017.

LG Hub Robot


LG has announced the Hub Robot, a little Amazon Alexa powered robot capable of controlling a swathe of the company’s own connected devices including everything from washing machines to refrigerators.

With a built-in speaker and camera, the Hub Robot is able to recognise and communicate with different family members and do a range of other clever things like tell you the contents of your fridge or reading a recipe from the web.

  • LG’s Hub Robot will be your home’s new best friend

LG are yet to announce price and availability.

Samsung Family Hub 2.0 refrigerator


The new and improved Samsung Family Hub refrigerator now boasts a bigger touchscreen and a range of news apps as well as an improved interface.

Multiple fridges in Samsung’s range will include the hub and be capable of doing everything from playing music from Spotify to mirroring a TV screen. Voice control is now included as standard and there’s the possibility of ordering food from Lidl straight from the interface too.

  • Samsung Family Hub 2.0 refrigerator preview: Spotify and sausages

Samsung has not yet released pricing or launch dates, watch this space and we’ll keep you updated when we know more.

LG Smart Instaview Refrigerator


LG also announced it’s own smart fridge in the form of the Smart Instaview Refrigerator. Boasting a 29-inch touch screen panel this fridge also includes the option to control it via Amazon Alexa integration.

All this means you can see what’s in your fridge or add items to a shopping list all with the simple command of your voice.

  • LG has an Alexa-powered fridge, move over Family Hub

There’s no current word from LG on release date or pricing.


Sennheiser cuts the cord on Momentum in-ear headphones, releases two new pairs of over-ears

Sennheiser appears to be eyeing a wire-free future with its latest headphone releases. At CES 2017, the headphone maestros launched three new pairs: the HD 4.5BTNC, HD 4.4BT and Momentum in-ear wireless.

Sennheiser has taken the wire cutters to its Momentum in-ear headphones. The new Wireless pair support Bluetooth 4.1, AAC audio and aptX for the best possible Bluetooth quality streaming. They come sporting a rather large neckband, which Sennheiser says “enhances the experience of listening to music on mobile devices”.

  • Sennheiser Momentum Wireless M2 BT review: Cut the cord in comfort

At least it should be comfortable with a layer of sheepskin nappa leather stitched to the inside. They too have a three-button control unit with integrated microphone for hands-free calls and will be available later this month for £170.


The 4.5BTNC and 4.4BT share a similar design aesthetic, with a splash of silver being the only real differentiator. It’s the technology inside that separates the two. While they’re both wireless pairs with aptX Bluetooth and proprietary 32mm drivers, the 4.5BTNCs further benefit from the company’s NoiseGuard noise-cancellation technology.

The same technology can be found in the Bose rivaling PXC 550s. Both pairs also pack in a microphone for hands-free phone calls. The Sennheiser HD 4.5BTNCs will be available from February for with pricing to be confirmed, while the HD 4.4BT will launch later this month for £170

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