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7
Feb

Apple patent describes headphones that flip upward to double as speakers


Why it matters to you

Apple’s patent for headphones that double as a pair of speakers may sound innovative, but Flips Audio already built something similar.

Patents are like the Wild West of product design: Romantic and imaginative, but often deceiving. They look cool but often don’t see the light of day. Such is probably the case with a new Apple application which shows a pair of headphones that serve double duty as loudspeakers.

The patent, granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, shows a basic pair of over-the-ear headphones that contain two cups connected by a head strap. Apple’s innovation concerns what is on the outside: Special sensors that determine the headphone’s current orientation. When the cups are facing inward and a built-in proximity sensor detects a nearby ear, the system recognizes they are in headphone mode. When the cups are flipped outward and on their side, on the other hand, the sensor signals that they have been removed.

More: Future iPhones could automatically censor music and audio books

That data is fed into built-in amplifiers that ramp up and down sound depending on the headphone’s orientation. When the headphones are on-ear, they function like an off-the-shelf pair of cans. But when the aren’t being worn, a special mode activates, ratcheting up the amplifier and effectively transforming the cups into speakers.

Apple envisions the tech applied to more than just headphones. The patent describes in-ear and clip-on headphones with the same sensors and amplifiers on a smaller scale format, much like the current generation of EarPods and AirPods. It also proposes snap-band headphones, a button that would activate the speaker on command, and secondary sound ports for earbud-style headphones.

Interestingly, the approach described is not exactly new. As Apple Insider points out, the iPhone 7 packs a speaker array that switches to a stereo-sound mode when the phone is in the landscape orientation. It achieves the effect by amplifying the audio output from the iPhone’s ear speaker and returns the speaker volumes to a level appropriate for calls when sensors detect that the device is in portrait mode and near a user’s ear.

More: Running Windows boot camp on the 2016 MacBook Pro may kill your speakers

But Apple was beaten to the punch. The Flips Audio work much as the patent describes: When the cups are fixed in headphone orientation, they function as a stereo model, and when the cups are flipped outward, they become loud enough to serve as an external speaker. The Zumreed X2 take a different approach: The cups flip downward, using a table surface as an amplifying sound source.

7
Feb

Long-term study shows that vaping really is safer than regular smoking


Why it matters to you

A significant number of people think that vaping is no safer than smoking regular cigarettes. A new study proves them wrong.

E-cigarettes are everywhere in 2017, but is vaping provably any safer than smoking? According to a new in-depth study, which analyzed the quantity of cancer-causing chemicals in the bodies of smokers, the answer is a definite yes.

“To date, most studies on e-cigs have either looked at the product itself, [by analyzing the vapor/aerosol] or e-liquid, or investigated its effects on animal and cell models,” Dr. Lion Shahab, one of the investigating scientists from University College London, told Digital Trends. “Very few studies have looked at actual body-level exposure in users of e-cigarettes to evaluate their safety, and this study is the first to explore this in long-term real-life users of e-cigs.”

In the study, which was backed by Cancer Research U.K., Shahab and his colleagues found that people who swapped regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes for at least six months had significantly lower levels of cancer-causing substances in their body. This was found by analyzing the urine and saliva of 181 participants. Significantly, levels of NNAL — a chemical which has been linked to lung cancer — was a massive 97.5 percent lower in ex-smokers, who now vape, compared to in continuing regular smokers.

More: The complete noob’s guide to e-cigs and vaping

“Our study also looked at dual users, i.e. people who both smoke conventional cigarettes and use e-cigarettes,” Shahab continued. “We did not find any increase in exposure to dangerous toxicants and carcinogens, but neither did we see any appreciable reductions. This means that if a smoker wants to reap the full health benefits of switching over to using e-cigarettes, they should discontinue any use of conventional cigarettes. Incidentally, the same was found for dual users of nicotine replacement therapy and conventional cigarettes. The take-home message for smokers and e-cigarette users is that using e-cigarettes long-term is likely to carry substantial health benefits, certainly in relation to cancer risk, compared with continued smoking. E-cigarettes are certainly safer than combustible cigarettes.”

The matter isn’t totally closed, though. Unlike research into the effects of smoking, studies into the effects of vaping are still in their relative infancy. Given that cancer is only one of a number of problems that can befall smokers, some of these other topics will need to be researched before definitive answers can be given.

“A next step would be to follow smokers over a longer period of time who switch over to using e-cigarettes and measure potential harm and risks not only in relation to cancer but also lung function and cardiovascular health,” Shahab said.

7
Feb

Add an LED notification strip to your Moto Z with the Moto Mod on Indiegogo


Why it matters to you

Devices like the Edge are exactly why Moto Mods were first created — adding a new level of customization to your phone.

Looking for an easier way to see what kinds of notifications you have? If you are a Moto Z owner, you may be in luck — the latest Moto Mod to hit Indiegogo adds a strip of LED lighting around the edge of the Moto Z that pulses to tell you exactly what kinds of notifications you’re getting.

Using the Moto Mod, which is called Edge, you will be able to set the color you want for each notification type — so, for example, you can set Gmail to have red notifications, games to have green notifications, and so on.

More: Motorola’s modular Moto Z series is getting a few new Moto Mods

The features on offer by the Moto Mod go beyond that, too — you will be able to set profiles for different times of day, unique lighting patterns, and more. Not only that, but the device can notify you when your battery needs charging and when it is charging, the LED light will increase in brightness to alert you to how full the battery is.

Of course, you may not need to charge the device as often as you otherwise would — the Mod also comes with a 2,000mAh battery pack or a wireless charging contact pad — so you can either opt for extra battery life or wireless charging capabilities. No matter which option you go for, the device will set you back $59. The battery pack version is called the Edge Force, while the wireless charging pad version is called the Edge Air.

The funding goal for the Indiegogo campaign is $15,000 and at the time of this writing, it had already raised more than $4,000. If it ends up reaching the goal in a month, you can expect to get yours in July. While the cheapest option, $49, has sold out, you can currently get it for $55 — although once the campaign is over it will cost the full $59.

7
Feb

The Google Pixel audio bug has been fixed with the February security patch


Why it matters to you

If your Pixel’s speakers don’t sound right, you’re in luck – Google has released a fix.

As the world has fallen in love with the Pixel, perhaps the biggest issue facing Google’s flagship right now is how to get the device in customers’ hands. For those who have been able to snag the phone, however, the problems are a bit different. Users have been reporting static distortion at high volumes through the device’s speakers since late last year, and up until now the company hasn’t been able to announce a clear-cut solution.

Thankfully, a fix for the issue is on its way — the February security patch for the Pixel has been released, and several Reddit users with the Pixel are reporting that they no longer encounter the bug.

The issue first came to light when a reddit user shared a conversation with a Google support specialist who said that the crackling audio woes are a hardware defect affecting “select builds of the device.” Two days later, another individual from the company offered a different explanation, claiming that the issue is actually software-based. Google is currently “working to resolve it in an upcoming update,” according to the representative who clarified the cause.

More: Demand for the Pixel and Pixel XL now exceed supply

Meanwhile, another customer raised a separate problem to Phone Arena. According to this user, the speakers on his device would produce little sound up until the halfway mark of the volume slider, when the very next attempt to increase it would result in maximum loudness. The representative responding to this issue also stated it was a software one, and that Google is aware of it and will rectify it in an update soon along with the other bugs.

The audio problems don’t appear to be restricted to either the Pixel or Pixel XL or any specific configurations, which is another positive sign that they can be circumvented through software. Evidently, a solution couldn’t come soon enough. One customer, who shared his misfortune on Reddit and in the video above, stated he replaced his Pixel XL four times without getting a device that was free of the crackling sound, and that his wife’s standard Pixel was no different.

While waiting for a fix, the community did manage a workaround in the form of custom firmware which utilizes a different audio driver. As always, messing with the stock firmware on your device carries a great deal of risk and is not recommended, so it’s encouraging to see Google has heard the complaints and hopefully will resolve them soon.

In any case, if you don’t already have the February patch for the Pixel and Pixel XL, hold tight, as it should arrive soon.

Updated on 2-7-2017 by Christian de Looper: added report that Google’s February security patch would address the bug.

7
Feb

Groundbreaking new prosthetic translates spinal cord signals into movement


Why it matters to you

This new robot arm developed by scientists at Imperial College London offers amputees far more control than previous alternatives.

Scientists at Imperial College London have developed smart sensor technology that allows a robot arm to be controlled via signals from nerves in the spinal cord.

In order to use the prosthesis, wearers think of actions, which are then interpreted as commands courtesy of electrical signals sent from the spinal motor neurons.

“Through means of advanced computational neuroscience, combined with the state of the art surgical techniques, we have shown that using non-invasive technology we can decode user’s movement intention all the way down at the level of the spinal cord,” Ivan Vujaklija, one of the researchers who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “With this, we have established highly functional and precise man-machine interface which can be applied in control of bionic limbs.”

The robotic arm potentially represents a significant step forward from existing robot prostheses, which often rely on users controlling them via frequently damaged remnant shoulder and arm muscles. It also compares favorably to some of the more cutting-edge robotic prosthesis projects that require users to wear EEG caps or percutaneous implants for brain signal recordings.

More: Robot arm can be controlled with thoughts, no brain implant needed

In lab experiments carried out at Imperial College, six amputee or partial-amputee volunteers were able to use the robotic arms to show off a greater range of motion than would be possible using a regular muscle-controlled prosthesis.

It all sounds extremely promising, although Vujaklija was eager to point out that a finished product is still a way off.

“The work presented is a proof of concept which involved strictly laboratory tests,” he said. “The next stage is to optimize the developed technology and commence the translational activities, which will include extensive clinical tests with focus on robustness and miniaturization of the system. The idea would be to adapt and evaluate the system across a larger population of volunteers with different levels of impairment.”

7
Feb

ZTE Axon 7 mini review


zte-axon-7-mini-product-90x90-c.jpg

Research Center:
ZTE Axon 7 mini

Two phones should come to mind when you hear the words, “flagship killer”: The OnePlus 3T and ZTE’s Axon 7. Both cost $440 or less and run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 and 820 — processors that power many 2016 flagships that initially cost upwards of $650.

With the Axon 7 Mini, ZTE is looking to sweep the mid-range category, but it missed the mark. Budget smartphones are a dime a dozen these days, and they’re all solid devices — from Lenovo’s $250 Moto G4 Plus and Huawei’s Honor 6X, to ZTE’s sub $200 ZMax Pro.

While the Axon 7 Mini may be a capable phone, its competition is priced lower and oftentimes performs better as well. At the price point of $300, you may as well shell out an extra $100 for the Axon 7, or save $50 with another, better, budget phone.

Let’s take a closer look.

Average specs, average performance

No one expects killer specs from phones that cost $300 or less, and there’s nothing too exciting about the Axon 7 Mini’s internals. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 617 processor and comes with 3GB of RAM.

The device has 32GB of internal storage, but you can expand it up to 128GB thanks to the MicroSD card slot.

Unfortunately, the Mini’s performance isn’t up to snuff.

Its 5.2-inch AMOLED screen has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, and a 2,705mAh battery keeps all the lights on. You can recharge via the USB Type-C port, though it’s only equipped with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, not 3.0.

The display is pretty solid — it’s a little undersaturated, but it’s bright enough to see outdoors in direct sunlight. The Full HD resolution is more than adequate for this smaller-screened device, and you won’t see any dramatic flaws unless you’re a display snob. Unfortunately, the Mini’s performance isn’t up to snuff.

Performance is inconsistent. Sometimes it runs fine — not as fast as the Axon 7, but not slow enough that there’s a problem. Other times, there’s visible stutter and lag, whether you’re scrolling through apps on the Play Store, swiping down the notification drawer, moving through home screens, or perusing websites on Chrome.

Games like Tiny Archers are just okay — performance slows down when certain animations crop up, and the device can get warm. Heat isn’t an issue though, as it’s never unbearable. You will run into issues if you try to play more intensive games, though.

Here’s a quick look at the Axon 7 Mini’s benchmarks:

  • Geekbench 4: 700 single-core score, 1,753 multi-core score.
  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 43,586
  • 3DMark Sling Shot: 531

Surprisingly, these numbers run just a tad lower than the Moto G4 Plus, which has the same Snapdragon 617 processor. The Moto G4 Plus runs an almost stock-Android experience, so perhaps it’s ZTE’s MiFlavor UI that’s slowing the device down.

ZTE Axon 7 mini review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

ZTE has kept the NFC sensor on the Mini — this, as well as the USB Type-C port give the device a leg up over other budget devices that cut these features to keep the price down.

Sleek design, loud stereo speakers

The Mini is a mirror-image of its big brother, the Axon 7. From the smooth aluminum design and unique speaker grills to the fingerprint sensor, they look identical.Their primary differentiator is size — the Axon 7 is 5.5-inches and the Mini is 5.2-inches.

The high-end materials on the Axon 7 Mini are a welcome change.

The difference may seem small, but 5.2-inches allows most people to hold and interact with their device with one hand. The pocketable size may be one of the Axon 7 Mini’s most compelling features. There aren’t a lot of compact devices with comparable specs at this price point.

The slick aluminum phone is a little slippery, but it’s not much of an issue because of its smaller size. The buttons are clicky and responsive, and there are no capacitive buttons like on the Axon 7. They’re replaced with on-screen buttons.

Most budget phones tend to feel cheap and plasticy, so the high-end materials on the Axon 7 Mini are a welcome change. It looks like a flagship phone. The only budget phone that can match the Mini for design is the classy aluminum Honor 6X.

More: ZTE Axon 7 review

One of the Mini’s best features is its sound. ZTE popped stereo speakers on the front of the phone, which is a great feature you don’t often see on budget, or even flagship, phones. The speakers are paired with a Hi-Fi audio chip, which should produce incredible sound. The speakers are definitely much louder and stronger than most phones, but the sounds is a little tinny on certain songs.

MiFlavor UI is scaled back

Android skins are known to slow down the overall operating system and sometimes overwhelm the user experience, but ZTE has scaled back with MiFlavor UI. The software has different colors from stock Android, but it still maintains a familiar look with slight design tweaks.

MiFlavor UI may still be the culprit in slowing down the OS, though. Our experience with the Moto G4 Plus, which has the same processor and an almost stock Android experience, was far superior in speed.

zte axon  mini review screenshot

zte axon  mini review screenshot

zte axon  mini review screenshot

zte axon  mini review screenshot

zte axon  mini review screenshot

However, ZTE’s user interface has a few gimmicky features that could be useful — like the touch-controlled functions with the fingerprint sensor. You can tap the fingerprint sensor to take a photo, and you can also accept a call the same way when when the device is ringing.

There’s also Mi-Pop, a floating circle that acts as quick-access to the navigation buttons. I found it fairly useless on the Axon 7 Mini, as the device is compact enough to easily reach the navigation buttons — I have large hands, though, so it could be helpful for someone with smaller mitts.

With the Axon 7 Mini, ZTE is looking to sweep the mid-range category, but it missed the mark.

But one of the worst, and most inconsistent experiences on the Mini is the fingerprint sensor. You have to get the exact center of the fingerprint on the sensor for it to work. Most of the time, angles and edges don’t work. Devices like the iPhone and Google Pixel can understand all edges of my finger, but I have to be specific with the Axon 7 Mini. It’s frustrating, and I often opt to use the pattern lock because it’s faster.

The Axon 7 Mini is also one of the first devices I have ever had to turn off vibration for — it’s obnoxiously loud when the device vibrates on a desk, and in the hand, vibrations feel far too vigorous.

MiFlavor on the Mini is based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, but a Nougat update should be on the way soon.  The December Android security patch arrived on the Mini in January, which is a good sign for security. However, it’s a real shame that the Mini has yet to receive the update to Nougat or a timetable for when to expect it.

An average camera

The Axon 7 Mini has a 16-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel front-facing selfie shooter. Image quality is okay, and the device is more than capable in broad daylight. Sometimes, the resulting images are even surprisingly lovely.

zte axon  mini review camera sampleJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

zte axon  mini review camera sampleJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

zte axon  mini review camera sampleJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

zte axon  mini review camera sampleJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

zte axon  mini review camera sampleJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

zte axon  mini review camera sampleJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Unfortunately, the experience can be hampered by the camera app. It’s sluggish, but worst of all, there is noticeable shutter lag. That’s the delay from when you press the capture button and when the camera actually snaps the photo.

It’s worse in low-light situations, where you have to stay steady a good two seconds after you press the shutter button to make sure the shot isn’t blurry. Still, photos in low-light conditions are noisy, offer poor detail, and are often blurry.

Typical one-day battery

With medium to high usage, our Axon 7 Mini usually lasts a typical work day. It’s usually at about 25 or 30 percent after 6 p.m. — but then again, we are power users. Others who don’t max out their phones as much as we do might see longer battery life.

ZTE Axon 7 mini Compared To

zte axon  mini review xiaomi mi mix product

Xiaomi Mi Mix

zte axon  mini review huawei mate product

Huawei Mate 9

zte axon  mini review asus zenfone deluxe special edition product

ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe Special…

zte axon  mini review meizu pro product

Meizu Pro 6

zte axon  mini review lg x power product

LG X Power

zte axon  mini review huawei honor product

Huawei Honor 8

zte axon  mini review motorola moto z product

Lenovo Moto Z

zte axon  mini review nextbit robin

Nextbit Robin

zte axon  mini review huawei honor

Huawei Honor 7

zte axon  mini review huawei p press

Huawei P8

zte axon  mini review motorola droid turbo press image

Motorola Droid Turbo

zte axon  mini review xperia z

Sony Xperia Z3

zte axon  mini review htc desire eye press

HTC Desire Eye

zte axon  mini review sony xperia z press

Sony Xperia Z2

zte axon  mini review lg g press image

LG G2

The 2,705mAh battery is only powering a 5.2-inch 1,080-pixel screen, and it should be plenty for you to use the phone for a day. We’ve had average results when leaving the phone on standby over the course of a few days, though.

Connected to Wi-Fi, it goes down to 60 or 50 percent by the second day if it’s left unused — that’s not too good. Still, you can get better results if you clear all your open apps.

Warranty information and pricing

ZTE offers a limited warranty that will cover your device from defects within one year of the purchase date.

The Axon 7 Mini is available for purchase from various retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and ZTE’s own website for $300.

Our Take

The Axon 7 Mini is priced appropriately. At $300, you get everything you can get from the $250 Moto G4 Plus — but you get NFC, an aluminum body, stereo speakers, as well as a USB Type-C charging port. However, we don’t think those additional features are worth it, since the phone offers sluggish performance.

The DT Accessory Pack

ZTE Smart Folio Case for Axon 7 Mini

$21.51

ative Union BELT Cable USB-C to USB-C

$29.99

Huawei Fit Smart Fitness Watch

$99.99

Are there better alternatives?

Most definitely. If you couldn’t tell from this review, we think the Moto G4 Plus is an excellent alternative to the Axon 7 Mini, and it’s cheaper. If those Mini-specific features are important to you, then you should stick with the device or upgrade to the Axon 7 — which is only $100 more.

How long will it last?

The Axon 7 Mini will likely get Android 7.0 Nougat, which will hopefully speed it up a little, but it’s unclear whether it will get an upgrade to the next Android version. It’s already sluggish for us, so we imagine it will only slow down even more over time unless you periodically factory reset your phone. No one should have to do that. It’s not water-resistant, either, so it’s not as durable as it could be.

Should you buy it?

No. At $300, even if it’s priced appropriately in terms of internal hardware, the processor isn’t capable of offering a smooth user experience — and it’s a clear fault of the software, not of the processor. Go get a Moto G4 Plus instead for $50 less, and you’ll be much happier.

7
Feb

Get $10 for the DVD drive in your old desktop or laptop that’s collecting dust


Why it matters to you

Customers that have an old desktop or laptop collecting dust in the basement or garage may be able to squeeze $10 out of the hardware.

Want to make a quick $10 from an old optical drive? Customers who purchased a computer with a built-in DVD drive between April 1, 2003, and December 31, 2008, can complete this form to receive up to $10 for the drive based on a recent settlement made by Sony, NEC, Panasonic, and Hitachi-LG. The settlement covers external drives, too, enabling customers to claim more than one optical drive. Claims must be submitted by July 1, 2017.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed against optical disc drive manufacturers years ago that accuses these companies of conspiring to inflate optical disc drive prices that were sold to the big device makers and retailers. Because PC builders like Dell and HP purchase in bulk, they look for the cheapest offer from optical drive makers. However, these suppliers were apparently sharing their bids with each other to inflate drive prices to artificially high levels.

More: Apple purposefully broke FaceTime on iOS 6 to save money, lawsuit claims

While this drove up the prices of desktop and laptops, the inflation also affected optical drives sold on store shelves. The settlement filed in December of 2016 specifically mentions Circuit City, which, during the “conspiracy period,” purchased large numbers of optical drives worth billions of dollars. This hurt the electronics retailer “to the tune of millions of dollars,” the settlement said. Circuit City closed its retail stores in 2009 and sold its brand to Systemax (TigerDirect).

Here are the remaining defendants accused of inflating optical drive prices during the conspiracy period:

  • BenQ Corporation
  • BenQ America Corp.
  • Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.
  • Lite-On IT Corporation
  • Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions Corp.
  • Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions USA, Inc.
  • Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
  • Toshiba Corp.
  • Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corp.
  • Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corp. Korea
  • TEAC America Inc.
  • TEAC Corporation, Quanta Storage America, Inc.
  • Quanta Storage Inc.
  • Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc.
  • Pioneer North America, Inc.
  • Pioneer Corporation
  • Pioneer High Fidelity Taiwan Co., Ltd.

Note that these companies may settle out of court as well. If not, the jury trial begins on February 12, 2018. One Hitachi-LG executive already went to prison over this whole price inflation fiasco in 2012, after pleading guilty to conspiring with others to rig bids for optical drives sold in bulk to HP. The executive agreed to serve six months in prison, cough up a $25,000 criminal fine, and help the Department of Justice in its investigation.

Unfortunately, the settlement isn’t for everyone, as it only covers individuals and businesses residing in the following jurisdictions:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Finally, the form states that customers who file a “valid and timely” claim will receive an electronic payment. It also states that the settlement payment will be based on “qualifying” purchases, meaning customers may be required to cough up serial numbers listed on the optical drives during the claim processing procedure.

7
Feb

Get $10 for the DVD drive in your old desktop or laptop that’s collecting dust


Why it matters to you

Customers that have an old desktop or laptop collecting dust in the basement or garage may be able to squeeze $10 out of the hardware.

Want to make a quick $10 from an old optical drive? Customers who purchased a computer with a built-in DVD drive between April 1, 2003, and December 31, 2008, can complete this form to receive up to $10 for the drive based on a recent settlement made by Sony, NEC, Panasonic, and Hitachi-LG. The settlement covers external drives, too, enabling customers to claim more than one optical drive. Claims must be submitted by July 1, 2017.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed against optical disc drive manufacturers years ago that accuses these companies of conspiring to inflate optical disc drive prices that were sold to the big device makers and retailers. Because PC builders like Dell and HP purchase in bulk, they look for the cheapest offer from optical drive makers. However, these suppliers were apparently sharing their bids with each other to inflate drive prices to artificially high levels.

More: Apple purposefully broke FaceTime on iOS 6 to save money, lawsuit claims

While this drove up the prices of desktop and laptops, the inflation also affected optical drives sold on store shelves. The settlement filed in December of 2016 specifically mentions Circuit City, which, during the “conspiracy period,” purchased large numbers of optical drives worth billions of dollars. This hurt the electronics retailer “to the tune of millions of dollars,” the settlement said. Circuit City closed its retail stores in 2009 and sold its brand to Systemax (TigerDirect).

Here are the remaining defendants accused of inflating optical drive prices during the conspiracy period:

  • BenQ Corporation
  • BenQ America Corp.
  • Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.
  • Lite-On IT Corporation
  • Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions Corp.
  • Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions USA, Inc.
  • Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
  • Toshiba Corp.
  • Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corp.
  • Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corp. Korea
  • TEAC America Inc.
  • TEAC Corporation, Quanta Storage America, Inc.
  • Quanta Storage Inc.
  • Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc.
  • Pioneer North America, Inc.
  • Pioneer Corporation
  • Pioneer High Fidelity Taiwan Co., Ltd.

Note that these companies may settle out of court as well. If not, the jury trial begins on February 12, 2018. One Hitachi-LG executive already went to prison over this whole price inflation fiasco in 2012, after pleading guilty to conspiring with others to rig bids for optical drives sold in bulk to HP. The executive agreed to serve six months in prison, cough up a $25,000 criminal fine, and help the Department of Justice in its investigation.

Unfortunately, the settlement isn’t for everyone, as it only covers individuals and businesses residing in the following jurisdictions:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Finally, the form states that customers who file a “valid and timely” claim will receive an electronic payment. It also states that the settlement payment will be based on “qualifying” purchases, meaning customers may be required to cough up serial numbers listed on the optical drives during the claim processing procedure.

7
Feb

Intel responds to AMD’s Ryzen onslaught with some Core i7 and i5 updates


Why it matters to you

AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs could force Intel to cut prices and pump up performance, giving you even more powerful PC gaming options.

AMD is getting ready to roll out its new Ryzen CPUs, promising significantly improved performance not only over AMD’s previous processor line but also in comparison to the best that Intel currently has to offer. AMD will be releasing a host of new CPUs ranging from quad-core versions with four threads up to octa-core versions with 16 threads.

Intel is rolling out its seventh-generation, or Kaby Lake, architecture, which is focused more on efficiency than outright performance. However, Intel isn’t standing still in the face of Ryzen’s impending release, Hexus reports.

More: Leaked roadmap shows AMD may release three classes of Ryzen desktop processors

According to Canard PC, a French publication, Intel is planning to both adjust Kaby Lake pricing and push out some new versions directly in response to Ryzen. The new CPUs could be unlocked versions of both Core i7 and Core i5 Kaby Lake, as such:

  • Intel Core i7-7740K, 4.3GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz, a thermal design power rating of 100W, and with 8MB of L3 cache.
  • Intel Core i5-7640K, 4.0GHz, TDP of 100W or more, 6MB of L3 cache, and support for Hyperthreading. This would be a first for recent Core i5 chips, which typically do not have Hyperthreading enabled.

AMD has not yet announced pricing for its Ryzen CPUs, and that will likely dictate how aggressively Intel adjusts its own cost structure for the Kaby Lake line. And, Intel will be releasing its own new generation Cannonlake architecture, which will be focused on switching to a new 10nm fabrication process and not necessarily on massive performance increases. In the meantime, it appears that Intel will be somewhat limited in its ability to respond to Ryzen.

We’re still not certain which of AMD’s new CPUs will be released the soonest and how long it will take the company to roll out the complete line including the highest-end parts. AMD will also be releasing its new Vega GPU architecture, meaning that Nvidia will face its own competitive pressures.

If you’re Intel or Nvidia, then AMD is giving you a headache about now. If you’re a PC gamer or anyone looking to build a high-performance machine, then you have good reason to be excited. Even if Ryzen isn’t your cup of tea, its mere presence in the market should force Intel and Nvidia to be that much more aggressive in rolling out their own improvements.

7
Feb

The best Amazon Kindle and Fire Tablet deals


For a short time, Amazon is cutting prices on its popular lineup of Kindle tablets and ebook readers. Rather than picking just one Kindle deal, however, we’ve put together a quick list of the top five models to give you a few more options. With Amazon offering discounts of up to 25 percent off, now is a great time to grab a Kindle if you’ve been eyeing one.

Kindle 6-inch ebook reader

Kindle deal - Kindle e-reader

The first Kindle deal on our list is the one that started it all. The classic ebook reader is now being offered for a 25 percent discount, bringing it down to $60. This is essentially the same basic ebook reader that kicked off the Kindle family years ago, the current eighth-generation iteration features a few new refinements like a thinner, lighter body and a greatly-increased resolution.

The touchscreen display uses a glare-free finish and multiple shades of black, white, and grey to mimic the appearance of paper and eliminate eye strain, just as if you were reading a real book. The Wi-Fi capable device lasts for weeks on a single charge and has enough room to store thousands of ebooks. Prime members can enjoy free access to thousands of titles, as well.

Buy it for $60 on Amazon

Kindle Fire 7-Inch tablet

Kindle deal - Kindle Fire 7

If you want a full-fledged tablet, Amazon has you covered with its Fire Tablet lineup. The basic model, available for just $40, is an excellent entry-level option that is now 20 percent off. The Fire boasts a vibrant 7-inch IPS touchscreen display and runs on a 1.3GHz quad-core processor.

The tablet comes equipped with the cloud-based Alexa service that gives you complete control of your device with easy voice commands, and Amazon Underground offers thousands of totally free apps and games. The standard 8 or 16GB of internal storage can be expanded via the MicroSD slot, and Prime members can enjoy exclusive access to millions of free movies, TV shows, books, and more. Coming in at just $40 after the current $10 discount, the 7-inch Fire Tablet is a great budget-friendly tablet.

Buy it for $40 on Amazon

Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader

Kindle deal - Kindle Paperwhite

Our third Kindle deal and a unique twist to the classic ebook reader, the Paperwhite brings a few upgrades to the standard model. Now $20 off the original price, the Kindle Paperwhite has a pixel density of 300ppi for razor-sharp text rendered in Amazon’s custom Bookerly font. Like the classic Kindle, the Paperwhite features a glare-free screen that mimics the appearance of paper for easy viewing in all daylight conditions, but with the addition of a built-in adjustable light for reading in the dark.

The unique illumination system guides light toward the front of the display, an improvement over eye-straining back-lighting. Educational features like Word Wise, Vocabulary Builder, Smart Lookup, and an instant translator make the ebook reader ideal for learners both young and old. The discounted Kindle Paperwhite can be had for $100.

Buy it for $100 on Amazon

Fire Tablet Kids Edition

Kindle deal - Kindle Fire Kids Edition

If you are considering a tablet for a little one, then our fourth deal should be right up your alley. The Fire Kids Edition Tablet features the 7-inch Fire Tablet along with a colorful kid-proof case that insulates the housing against bumps and bruises. The Kids Edition bundle also includes one year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited which gives complimentary access to more than 10,000 books, shows, movies, games, and educational materials.

Parental controls let you decide what content your child can access and for how long, and best of all, Amazon offers a free two-year worry-free warranty on the device. This guarantees that they will replace it if it gets broken with no questions asked. Taken together, the bundle extras represent a $110 value on top of the current $20 discount which brings the Kindle Fire Kids Edition down to just $80 for a limited time.

Buy it for $80 on Amazon

Kindle Voyage

Kindle deal - Kindle Voyage

With its sleek lines and advanced features, the Kindle Voyage is an expertly-crafted ebook reader for serious reading enthusiasts. The crisp high-resolution display features smart lighting that detects your environment and adjusts itself accordingly so you don’t have to fiddle with brightness settings. The paper-like picture can be viewed in bright daylight and pitch black with its adaptive illumination feature.

Unique PagePress sensors on the side of the unit eliminate the need for buttons – a press of your thumb creates a haptic response which turns the page. The lightweight 7.6mm-thin body can be comfortably held with one hand for hours of reading and the housing boasts an elegant and modern look. Now offered for $20 off the usual price, the Kindle Voyage can be yours for $180.

Buy it for $180 on Amazon

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