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8
Sep

Shift it yourself: How to drive stick in a manual transmission car


Driving stick is an art, so to speak. Mastering it might not bolster your reputation as a motor enthusiast, but remaining ignorant to the ways of the manual transmission could knock you down a few pegs in certain circles.

It’s true, you can almost always navigate from point A to point B without utilizing a stick shift and a clutch, but there will undoubtedly come a time when your only option will be something other than an automatic. Perhaps you’ll be forced to drive your friend’s pickup truck home after he or she had a bit too much to drink. Maybe you’ll find yourself looking at the perfect hatchback at your local dealership, only to discover it is, in fact, equipped with a manual. Or you might need to rent a car in Europe — in which case knowing how to drive stick is imperative.

Knowing how to operate this type of gearbox will serve you well — and it certainly can’t hurt, anyway. After all, manuals are easier to maintain and are known to help with fuel efficiency given their direct level of control. Here’s our simple guide on how to drive manual, so you can operate everything from compact economy cars to the best sedans to forklifts using a clutch pedal and a stick (self-driving forklifts are for wimps!). There’s truly no substitute for first-hand experience, but our simple instructions are a great place to start.

Familiarize yourself with the clutch and stick shift

Assuming you possess or have access to a vehicle with a manual transmission, sit in the driver’s seat and take note of the various features and components while the vehicle is not running. Get a feel for the clutch, the extra pedal that’s located directly left of the brake. It’s the heart of the difference between automatic and manual. Familiarize yourself with its resistance and when you can feel it grip. Afterward, locate the gear shifter or “stick,” which is typically located in the center console between the front seats or adjacent to the steering wheel. Make sure your seat is adjusted so you can easily reach all three pedals, and as always, ensure your seat belt is buckled.   

Next, examine the shift pattern, likely laid out on top of the gear knob. This diagram generally showcases a series of lines and numbers that correspond to each gear. Note the placement of the individual gears, most notably reverse, often accessed by shifting down from fifth gear. Occasionally, on many Volkswagen vehicles for instance, reverse is located by pushing down on the shift knob (or pulling up on the shift boot) and moving down from first. There’s also a neutral gear located in the “gray area” between every notch, allowing you to release the clutch pedal while keeping the car running. Pressing the clutch and positioning your shifter between first and second gear, for example, will move you into neutral. Automatic transmissions do all of this … automatically.

Practice shifting with the engine off and emergency brake engaged

Here’s the golden rule of manual transmissions: shifting begins with the clutch but ends with the gas. With the engine still off, press the clutch to the floor and move the shifter into first gear. Then, release the pedal while slowly pressing down on the gas. If the engine were on and the brakes were disengaged, this would propel the vehicle forward.

To move into second, release the gas and press the clutch down again. At this point, you’re just repeating the previous step, only you’re moving into second, then third, then fourth, and so on. Put simply, shifting gears requires the following three actions:

Depressing the clutch with your left foot.
Manually shifting with your right hand, typically in gear order.
Slowly depressing the gas pedal with your right foot while simultaneously releasing the clutch.

The faster you’re driving, the faster you can ease back the clutch, but keep in mind that smoothness counts more than quickness. Beginners should get in the habit of shifting from first gear directly to second gear.

Simulate a real driving scenario

Accelerating requires shifting to higher gears. In general, manual transmissions require shifting when your vehicles reaches 3,000 RPM, or when the engine seems to be overworking; keep an eye on the tachometer if you’re not sure when to shift. With the engine still off, practice accelerating to 15 mph or so and switching from first to second to third gear. Practice depressing the clutch and manually shifting up through fourth gear. Practice releasing the clutch while simultaneously giving the engine gas. Imagine you see a traffic signal in the distance.

Downshifting requires shifting into lower gears. If the engine seems to be puttering, you’ll need to downshift in order to bring the RPM up and access more of the engine’s power. Depress the clutch and carefully maneuver the gearshift from third gear to second gear to practice downshifting. Just like accelerating, make sure you slowly depress the gas pedal while simultaneously releasing the clutch. This instructional video may help you to visualize the correct action.

Coming to a complete stop requires drivers to depress the clutch and maneuver the gearshift into neutral, the position conveniently located in between gears. Neutral isn’t typically indicated on the gear shifter, but once you maneuver the stick into the correct position, you can take your foot off the clutch while keeping the car running. Again, you’ll want to shift gears when your car runs at roughly 3,000 RPM. 

Start slow and repeat

Practicing with the engine off is a great start (no pun intended), but it doesn’t quite compare to the real-world scenarios you’re likely to face on the road. The next step is to actually practice driving, preferably in a flat area relatively devoid of traffic and pedestrians — parking lots, back roads, etc. Secluded and low-traffic locations also provide plenty of time should you stall the engine. Try not to panic when it happens though; engine stalls inevitably go hand-in-hand with learning to drive a stick.

Although you could practice alone so long as you possess a valid driver’s license, consider bringing along a friend who knows how to drive stick. To start the vehicle, make sure the car is in first gear, press down the clutch, and turn the ignition key. Slowly drive forward when the car starts, releasing the clutch while simultaneously pressing the gas pedal. Whatever you do, don’t accelerate too fast. When the RPM gauge reads more than 3,000, or you’re going roughly 15 mph, press down on the clutch and shift from first to second gear, and repeat until you reach your desired speed.

Starting on a hill

The most complicated part of driving a car equipped with a manual transmission is starting on a steep hill. That’s because you need to operate the clutch pedal to engage first gear, the gas pedal to get the car moving, and the brake pedal to keep the car from rolling backwards. It’s tricky, — unless you have three feet.

This is when the hand brake — typically located directly between the front seats — is useful. After you come to a stop, pull up on the hand brake so the car doesn’t roll backward. When it’s time to move again, start like you normally would on flat ground while simultaneously releasing the hand brake. Timing is key here. Releasing the hand brake too slowly will prevent the car from moving, while releasing it too quickly will cause the car to roll backward. Get it just right, though, and the brake will keep the car still long enough for you to pull away.

Don’t sweat it if you stall; it happens to everyone. Re-engage the hand brake, put the car in neutral, start the engine, and give it another shot. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be stick-shifting your way through downtown San Francisco in no time.

Common Transmission Terms You Should Know:

Clutch: A clutch engages and disengages two independent shafts. In a vehicle, it is used to mate or decouple the crankshaft (which leads to the engine) from the driveshaft (which leads to the powered axle). The clutch is, by default, engaged, but depressing the clutch pedal disengages the clutch in order to change gear.

Gear: In a vehicle, gears transfer power from the crankshaft to the driveshaft. There are multiple gears to change how the engine’s power rotates the car’s wheels. Smaller gears are used to get the car up to speed. Larger gears are used to build and maintain that speed.

RPM (revs): Revolutions Per Minute is a measure of how many rotations on a fixed axis are completed in a single minute. In a car, RPMs measure rotations of the vehicle’s crankshaft. For example, if you idle at 1,000 rpms, then your car’s crankshaft is rotating on its axis 1,000 times every minute.

Tachometer: Within the gauge cluster, the tachometer measures your RPMs. Typically, the tachometer sits right next to the speedometer, but in some performance vehicles, it is centered among the gauge cluster. As you accelerate, the tachometer needle will climb until it reaches the “redline,” when the engine will cut power. You should be shifting before the needle reaches the redline.

Upshifting: Moving the stick from a lower to a higher gear is called “upshifting.” To shift, you need to engage the clutch and move the stick to the desired gear notch.

Downshifting: The reverse of upshifting. It’s when you move the stick from a higher gear to a lower gear.

Double-clutching: Usually, drivers will disengage the clutch and move the stick directly from one gear to another. This transition relies on the synchronizer to match the rotational speed of the crankshaft to the rotational speed of the driveshaft. To avoid using the synchronizer, drivers can disengage the clutch to move the stick to neutral, release the clutch pedal, then disengage it once more to move from neutral to a new gear. The pause in neutral allows the crankshaft and driveshaft to sync.

Double/dual clutch gearboxes: Double or dual-clutch gearboxes use two clutches, each with its own set of gears. For example, on a six-speed car, one clutch will be responsible for gears 1,3, and 5 while the other manages gears 2,4, and 6. The benefit of a dual-clutch is that the transitions between gears are quicker; while a gear is engaged on one clutch, the other clutch is readying the next higher or lower gear.

CVT: A CVT is neither a manual, nor an automatic transmission. In lieu of gears, a CVT relies on a belt and pulley system that provides an infinite number of ratios. In other words, the transmission never shifts.

Remember to have fun!

Learning how to drive stick isn’t easy — you’ll mess up, we promise. Don’t let it get you down! You’re probably learning in an ordinary car, and the sound of the gears grinding can put your teeth on edge. Always remember, it could be worse. Look what happened when we taught a rookie to drive stick in a $150,000 Corvette Grand Sport for the 2017 Digital Trends Car Awards:

Good luck and shift safely!




8
Sep

Cornell engineers show why a robotic third arm is the ultimate productivity hack


Why it matters to you

Whether it’s stabilizing objects or handing something to your coworker, Cornell’s robotic arm could make you more productive than ever.

The notion of possessing additional robotic limbs still sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but it won’t necessarily always be this way. At Cornell University, researchers have been working on building just such a technology — and, every bit as crucially, proving why it is useful.

“We are developing a wearable robotic third arm that can assist you in collaborative tasks,” Dr. Guy Hoffman, assistant professor at Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, told Digital Trends. “It essentially gives you an extra forearm below the elbow that has motion capabilities beyond a human arm. We envision it helping people in a variety of work-related tasks, such as picking up objects, stabilizing the person and objects, and aiding human-human collaboration.”

According to Hoffman, what is interesting about Cornell’s robot arm is not that it enhances or augments existing abilities, but that it makes entirely new capabilities available to the wearer. While previous research in this field has explored large, industrial-scale arms worn on a people’s back or shoulder, or else smaller additional fingers, this project fills in some of the ground between these two extremes.

In this case, that means a short arm and gripper that’s able to rotate 120 degrees and extend its gripper 16 centimeters. It’s undoubtedly severely limited compared to a person’s regular limbs, but nonetheless opens up new possibilities for users to more efficiently carry out moderately demanding tasks. Possible use cases may include package handling, warehouses, or supermarket stockrooms. It might also be useful in other small-space workplaces, such as manufacturing cells or restaurants. In some cases it could allow a single person to carry out a job that would otherwise require two people working together in tandem.

“We are now working to make the arm autonomous so that it can be a truly collaborative agent, but one unlike other robots: a collaborative robot you wear on your sleeve, so to speak,” Hoffman continued. “We are working on robot path-planners and controllers that can compensate for the uncertainties introduced by the human. We’re also looking at robot behaviors that can be learned from humans in the specific scenario of collaborative assembly.”

Although commercialization isn’t something the team has in mind for the short term, they’re doing invaluable work exploring possibilities for wearable robots a few years down the line. Who knows: were you to read this article in 2037, it may seem inconceivable that we ever managed with just two arms!




8
Sep

16 annoying LG G5 problems, and how to fix them


The most innovative entry in last year’s flagship fleet belonged to LG. The company’s G5 is a sleek, powerful smartphone with a great camera, and an exciting new modular system. Unfortunately, every phone has some issues and the G5 is no exception. We’ve been testing, perusing forum posts, and gathering a selection of the most commonly reported LG G5 problems in hopes of offering potential workarounds or fixes. Check them out below.

You may also want to swing by the best LG G5 cases and take a look at our LG G5 tips and tricks.

Issue: Bootloop

We have seen a handful of reports about the LG G5 getting stuck in a bootloop, where it continually restarts itself. This issue was widely reported for some other LG phones and it’s the subject of a lawsuit which includes the LG G5, though it does seem to be far less common on the G5 than it was on some of its predecessors.

Possible fixes:

  • Press and hold the Power and Volume down buttons at the same time until the device resets. This could take 30 seconds or more.
  • Try removing the battery, wait for a few minutes, and then replace it and boot the phone up again.
  • If you have a MicroSD card installed, try removing the battery and the MicroSD card, then replace the battery and boot the phone up again.
  • Your final option is a factory reset with the hardware keys, but if you do this you’re going to lose any data that’s not backed up. To try it, hold the Power and Volume down buttons until you see the LG logo, then let go of Power, but keep holding Volume down. You should see the Factory data reset option and you can use Volume down to highlight Yes and Power to select it. You’ll see Erase all user data and restore default settings and you can use Volume down to highlight Yes and Power to select it again.
  • If the issue persists after a factory reset, then contact LG and ask about a replacement.

Problem: Backlight bleed and blooming

There have been a number of reports about some issues with the LG G5 display. Some owners are reporting an unacceptable level of backlight bleed, with bright patches appearing at the edges or corners of the display. There are also some reports that the picture distorts or blooms when people press on the display. These complaints suggest some build quality or QA issues with the first wave of G5 handsets to hit the market. If you want to test the backlight, you can use the free Backlight Bleed Test app.

Solution:

  • If you find that the backlight bleed or blooming is bothering you, there’s really only one solution. You need to contact LG, your carrier, or your retailer and get a replacement handset.

Annoyance: Missing app drawer

By default, there’s no application drawer in the LG G5 user interface. Every app gets added to the home screens instead. Some people won’t miss the app drawer, but if you want it back on your LG G5, then you have a couple of options.

Workarounds:

  • Go to Settings > Display > Home screen > Select Home and tap EasyHome. This will bring the app drawer back, but unfortunately, it will also simplify the interface and make your font bigger.
  • A better workaround is to install a third-party launcher. We recommend the Google Now Launcher or Nova Launcher, but there are many more great Android launchers in the Play Store to choose from.

Solutions:

  • Open up the LG SmartWorld app, which should be pre-installed on your LG G5, and search for LG Home 4.0. Download and install it, and you’ll find that you have an app drawer again.
  • LG did eventually release an update that brought the app drawer back. Check in Settings >About phone > Update center > App updates and look for Home & app drawer.

Issue: Fast charging not working as expected

The LG G5 supports the latest Quick Charge 3.0 standard, but there seems to be a bit of confusion about how it works. It’s designed to charge your phone quickly, taking it from 0 up to 80 percent in around 30 or 35 minutes. Once you hit 80 percent, it will charge at a slower rate. You can swipe down the notification shade to see a notification that indicates fast charging is working. If you find that the G5 isn’t charging up as fast as expected, then there are a couple of things to try.

Potential solutions:

  • This should be obvious, but don’t use your phone while it’s charging. If you use the LG G5 while it’s charging, then it will significantly slow down the charging speed.
  • Make sure that you’re using a cable and charger that supports Quick Charge 3.0. You can pick up an Anker QC 3.0 charger for $16 right now.

Glitch: Notification LED not always working

A few people have run into a glitch where the notification LED fails to light up for some incoming messages. It might work with the default apps, but not with some third-party messaging apps.

Workaround:

  • Check out the Light Flow app to get more control over your notification LED. You can also try the free Light Flow Lite app to see if you like it, before you buy.

Potential solutions:

  • Go into Settings > Sound > Notification LED to make sure that the feature is toggled on and that you have the right notification types selected.

Problem: Poor battery life

A few people have been complaining about battery life with the LG G5, and weak battery life is something we noted in our LG G5 review. Keep in mind that during the first couple of days with a new phone, the battery will drain fast because it’s downloading and installing apps, and you’re probably using it a lot. If you find that the battery continues to drain rapidly after the first few days, then you may have a problem.

Workarounds:

  • The obvious place to start is to turn features off. Pull down the notification shade and turn off anything you don’t need.
  • Go to Settings > Display and toggle Always-on display off.
  • Reduce your screen brightness, and go to Settings > Display > Screen timeout and turn it down as low as you can stand.
  • Use the power saving modes in Settings > Battery & power saving.
  • The LG G5 does have a removable battery, meaning you can always purchase a spare battery and pop it in when you need more power. You may also be able to get a second battery and charging cable for free as part of an ongoing LG promotion. Check your eligibility at this LG website.

Potential solutions:

  • If you find that your power is draining fast, even when you aren’t using the LG G5, you may have a problem app. Take a look in Settings > Battery & power saving > Battery usage. Is there a specific app guzzling a lot of power? Check out its settings or consider replacing it.
  • Get rid of your cached data by going to Settings > General > Storage. It will take a few seconds to calculate. When it’s done, tap on Cached data and Yes to clear it.
  • Your final option is to factory reset the LG G5, which will delete all settings and data. Back up your files first. When you’re ready, go to Settings > General > Backup & reset > Factory data reset and tap Reset phone > Delete all > OK.
8
Sep

Find your fitness with our favorite health and fitness apps for Android


Why fork over your hard-earned cash on some newfangled wearable exercise gizmo when you’ve already got a smartphone stowed in your pocket? That compact computer hosts a multitude of sensors, and with the right selection of apps and a little discipline, it can be as powerful a workout companion as a dedicated trainer.

Whether you’re looking to track your miles, find a little motivation, eat healthier, or simply make exercise slightly more entertaining, there’s likely an app for that very purpose. We’ve taken the time to dig through the Google Play Store and bring you an in-depth roundup of the best fitness apps for Android. Now, you just have to stick to the routine.

Activity Trackers and Workout Guides

Activity Trackers

Simply looking to keep track of your runs and day-to-day activities with a little feedback in the form of charts and graphs? Check out the notable selection of apps below.

Runkeeper (free)

Runkeeper allows you to use your phone’s GPS transceiver to log your running pace and distance on various routes. Users can additionally set a goal pace, and the app will feed you audio updates to stay on track with the tempo. Our favorite feature remains the app’s music integration, which allows you to listen to your tunes and skip tracks without leaving the app. Why not pair Runkeeper with some of our favorite headphones for running?

Download now from:

Google Play

Runtastic (free)

Runtastic is smartphone staple, with a simple interface that doesn’t sacrifice advanced features. The no-frills app uses your smartphone’s sensors to track metrics, such as your distance and relative pace, as well as calories burned and your heart rate. A few extra features, such as 3D mapping and a workout diary, only complement the app’s wearable integration. And if you have a smartwatch with Android Wear 2.0, you can leave your phone at home and still be tracked.

Download now from:

Google Play

Strava Running and Cycling GPS (free)

Strava is an excellent tracking app that monitors your runs or cycling route via GPS. It gamifies your cardio workout and pairs with leaderboards, achievements, and challenges, bringing a competitive spirit to your routine. It also has Android Wear support.

Download now from:

Amazon Google Play

Moves (free)

The aptly titled Moves automatically tracks your daily movements — whether walking, cycling, or running — with your smartphone’s GPS. It then displays the data in an easy-to-read timeline that makes for an entertaining, intuitive diary. It also connects with other apps and recognizes specific places in your life, helping you better visualize your routines and habits.

Download now from:

Google Play

Map My Run (free)

Providing a detailed workout summary charting your distance and pace is MapMyRun’s bread and butter. The app also counts the amount of calories you burn and charts your elevation profile. Moreover, it allows you to control music and incoming calls directly within the app. The ability to save past workouts and share your success adds to the appeal.

Download now from:

Amazon Google Play

Argus (free)

Argus is a neat all-in-one activity tracker that monitors your sleep, heart rate, calories, and more. The app offers challenges to overcome, as well as the option to build your own workout plan. You can even add food you eat by scanning the barcode on the label to track your calories.

Download now from:

Google Play

Workout Guides

Coaches and personal trainers are great, but if you can’t afford to have Jillian Michaels come scream at you every time you hop on the treadmill, we suggest using these low-cost apps to help guide you through your workout.

Nike+ Training Club (free)

Nike Training Club offers hundreds of 30- to 45-minute workouts. The app provides detailed suggestions based on your own personal fitness goals. It excels when it comes to explanatory photos and video demonstrations that show you how to properly execute each exercise — all of which are stored directly within the app for added convenience when offline.

Download now from:

Google Play

FitnessBuilder (free)

FitnessBuilder offers a diverse catalog of workouts specifically designed to help you optimize your time at the gym. The hundreds of instructional videos are straightforward and explanatory, and if you prefer, the app even lets you convert and print your workout regimens in PDF form so you can keep your phone from becoming drenched in sweat.

Download now from:

Google Play

StrongLifts 5×5 (free)

Strong Lifts 5X5 is designed for experienced lifters who want nothing more than to gain muscle and lose fat. It’s likely too intense for inexperienced lifters, but the app can still coach you through three 45-minute workouts a week, focusing on the largest muscles in your body for optimal effect. Calendars and simple plate calculators take the app’s functionality even further.

Download now from:

Google Play

Workout Trainer (free)

Workout Trainer provides a fitness consultation before allowing you to choose from hundreds of workout routines tailored directly to your body. The app additionally lets you sync and set your music to play between verbal instructions and video, with an option to share your most popular workouts with the online user community via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Download now from:

Amazon Google Play

Sworkit Lite Personal Trainer (free)

Sworkit provides gym-quality routines without actually requiring you to go to the gym. The free app is devoid of in-app purchases and allows you to choose from hundreds of workouts, each of which is divided into one of four distinct categories (strength, cardio, yoga, and stretching). Hell, it even lets you create short, 5-minute workouts when you’re in a pinch.

Download now from:

Google Play

Jefit (free)

Initially designed for bodybuilders, Jefit keeps track of all your reps, sets, and the weight you’re lifting within a sleek interface. The app also provides a number of different workout routines designed to target specific muscle groups, while allowing you to curate custom workouts and share your achievements with the online community. The mere 1,300 training exercises are only the beginning.

Download now from:

Amazon Google Play

8
Sep

Need more juice? Here are the five phones with the best battery life


Sometimes it feels like, in the rush to make phones slimmer and more powerful, battery life gets lost in the shuffle. While the modern smartphone has been around for nearly a decade at this point, the length of time you can expect on a charge has remained roughly the same. All the while, processors are getting faster, and screens are getting bigger and sharper.

Fortunately, there are still a number of solid devices out there to choose from that won’t leave you high and dry halfway through the afternoon. Here are our picks for five phones with the best battery life.

BlackBerry KeyOne

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

BlackBerry’s KeyOne handset isn’t perfect — it makes quite a few compromises, particularly where performance and price are concerned — but it certainly doesn’t compromise on battery life. Underneath the physical keyboard, BlackBerry has stuffed a rather beefy 3,505mAh battery into the device. That’s considerably larger than what you’ll find in the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Google Pixel.

Combined with Qualcomm’s energy-sipping Snapdragon 625 chipset and the squat, 4.5-inch, 1620 x 1080-pixel display, the KeyOne can last upwards of a day and a half. That’s not quite the best on this list, but it’s certainly the longest-lasting device with a QWERTY keyboard. It’s comforting to know you won’t have to settle for constant charging and recharging just to get the typing experience you want.

HTC U11

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

On paper, HTC’s gleaming flagship appears as though it’d be pretty average in the battery life department. The U11 features a 3,000mAh unit — same as the Galaxy S8, and a bit less than the LG G6’s 3,300mAh. So we were surprised to find during testing that the U11 could last well beyond a day, even with heavy use. We averaged about 40 percent left in the tank by the end of the night, and that’s pretty good among similarly-specced handsets.

What makes the U11 particularly special in this list is that HTC didn’t have to significantly increase the size of the battery to deliver that kind of efficiency — and that makes the phone a snap to charge. Thanks to Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 technology, we were able to take our unit from 22 to 69 percent in just a half hour. Lengthy charging times are often the trade-off for devices with big batteries, so we were pleased to see HTC achieve long battery life in other ways.

iPhone 7 Plus

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you want an iPhone, but need the best battery life, the iPhone 7 Plus is the one to have. Apple improved upon the 6S Plus by enlarging the battery slightly, from 2,750mAh to 2,900mAh. The result is a device that should be able to last a day and then some. It’s not the best in class, and we wish Apple went a bit further in beefing up capacity with the larger model — but it’s above average and the best you can do right now if you’re looking to remain in Apple’s ecosystem.

That may change this fall, however. While we don’t expect the iPhone 8 to establish any new battery life records for Apple’s handsets, a reasonable bump in capacity for the 7S and 7S Plus is well within expectations. Watch for the 7 Plus’ successor over the next few months to see how it compares.

Moto E4 Plus

Adam Ismail/Digital Trends

The best smartphones on the market right now start at about $700 or $800, and they tend to offer decent, yet unremarkable battery life. With that in mind, you might expect the device with the best battery life to cost upwards of $1,000. Fortunately, you’d be wrong. The Moto E4 Plus puts them all to shame, and it just so happens to cost $180 unlocked.

How is it possible for a handset that costs less than a quarter of the price of most flagships to deliver such impressive battery life? It turns out all you need is a massive 5,000mAh battery, a frugal Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 chip, and an efficient 720p display. Thanks to that winning formula, the E4 Plus can manage well beyond two days of heavy use. Reaching past three isn’t out of the question, and you’d be hard pressed to find another product at any price that can compete with the longevity of Motorola’s latest budget offering. Of course, the E4 Plus is far from the most powerful phone out there, but it should be capable enough for most users.

Moto Z2 Play

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Say you like the Moto E4 Plus, but unfortunately it’s just not quite speedy enough for your needs. The Moto Z2 Play is the midrange alternative that sacrifices a bit in battery life, but makes up for it with power and expandability. It offers a 3,000mAh battery that can deliver up to two days on a charge. We were pleased with those results in our testing, though a little more capacity would have been welcome. Fortunately, that’s what Moto Mods are for.

Moto Mods are modular components that snap over the back of your device, and can enable a wealth of additional features, from wireless charging to more powerful external stereo speakers. They’re only compatible with devices in the Moto Z line, and a couple — like Incipio’s Offgrid, Mophie’s Juice Pack, and Motorola’s just-released TurboPower Pack — offer extra power, for those times when the stock battery just isn’t enough. Unfortunately, they’re not terribly cheap at $80 each — but combine the already efficient Z2 Play with the right Moto Mod, and you could have a device that lasts even longer than any of the ones on this list.

Right now, those are our picks for the five smartphones offering the best battery life. The market’s always changing though, and with the holiday season looming, we expect to see this roundup change some in the near future. Check back here for updates.




8
Sep

Asus G11DF gaming desktop review


Research Center:
Asus G11DF-DBR5-GTX1060

AMD’s Ryzen processors are quietly taking over the mid-range PC gaming market, and that’s a good thing for anyone looking to give PC gaming a try — or another try, if you’ve been out of the game for a while. After all, the less you spend on a processor, the more GPU you can afford. Our Asus G11DF review illustrates just how far you can go on a budget.

The Asus G11DF starts at $1,000 and features a Ryzen 5 1400 processor clocked at 3.2GHz, with 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, a 256GB solid state drive, and a 1TB hard drive. That’s a lot of computer for less than the cost of, like, 500 cups of coffee — or 250, if you dig no-whip white mochas.

Anyway, let’s see how it stacks up to the competition. The G11DF, that is. Not the mochas.

Ancient Mayan gaming rigs

The Asus G11DF certainly has a distinct style. The slate-gray Micro-ATX case is accentuated by glossy black panels on the front, inlaid with circuit-board designs which Asus claims are “Mayan-like.”

The ancient Mayans were, apparently, fans of budget PC cases from the mid-2000’s — because that’s what the G11DF looks like. Even without the potentially problematic “inspiration” for the exterior design, it’s not a great look. The G11DF does everything it can to remind you that it’s a budget PC by slapping cheap lighting panels all over the place.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The case features two lighting panels on the front, one on the side and one tucked awkwardly against the front edge of the case. All of them are rather small, and poorly lit. Some of them don’t even light up all the way, and they all look like they belong on a much cheaper PC.

You can change the lighting from Asus’ included ROG utility, and that’s easy enough, but it looks best with the lighting just turned off entirely. That’s mostly because only one of the lights actually changes. The rest are behind red-colored panels, so they’re red no matter how much you tweak your settings.

The G11DF is a lot smaller than an average gaming PC, with a Micro-ATX form factor. It offers a refreshing contrast to bigger, bulkier budget desktops like the Dell Inspiron 5675. A small gaming desktop can be a boon for gamers who live in a small apartment. It’s also easy to move the G11DF if you’re a fan of LAN parties.

Port-topia

AMD is bringing serious heat to the processor market, and that’s good news for everyone.

The desktop has a lot of ports, and they’re all conveniently located. On the back-side of the Asus G11DF you’ll find three audio input-output ports, an Ethernet port, two HDMI ports, two DisplayPorts, and a whole mess of USB ports.

There are enough USB ports to let gamers plug in a smartphone, a tablet, an external hard drive, a USB fan, a mouse, and a keyboard — and still have an extra USB Type-C port to plug in a Nintendo Switch.

Plus, there’s four more USB Type-A ports on the front-side of the case, for a grand total of 10, along with an SD card slot. The G11DF also features built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality, so no need for a separate Wi-Fi card or USB dongle.

Just a little snug

Internally, the Asus G11DF is a bit cramped, mostly due to its form factor. Built inside a Micro-ATX case, the Asus is smaller than your average desktop PC, and that means interior space is limited. However, the internal components have plenty of room to breathe, and cables are managed nicely — with one exception.

There’s an open RAM slot for future expansion, which is great, but there’s a big knot of cables in the way. To access the RAM slot, you have to shove them to the side, and even then it ends up resting against the new RAM. Plan to reconfigure the internal cables if you opt to use that RAM slot in the future.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Asus’ layout is like the larger Dell Inspiron 5675, but with less space overall. There’s an open hard drive bay, since the M.2 SSD lives on the motherboard, and the only hard drive bay in use houses the 1TB hard drive. However, the motherboard only features one additional SATA plug, so you’ll only be able to hook up one other internal storage solution.

The Asus G11DF and Dell Inspiron 5675 desktops feature metal brackets that mount the graphics cards to the interior of the case — a precaution to keep them from getting unseated during shipment. If you plan on upgrading your graphics card in the future, it’s not a bad idea to just pop that bracket out. Be sure to store it somewhere safe, in case you ever need to ship the G11DF for repairs.

That bracket also gets in the way of the SATA ports on the motherboard, so if you plan to do anything with the hard drive, you’ll have to do a little surgery.

At the price range where the Dell Inspiron 5675 and Asus G11DF reside, a less-than-spacious interior is par for the course, and more than adequate for most users. The snug interior isn’t an immediate issue, but it might become one when it comes time to upgrade the system.

Ryzen v Ryzen

By offering processors with solid all-around performance at prices that slightly undercut their Intel competitors, AMD is bringing some serious heat to the processor market, and that’s good news for everyone. The Asus G11DF benefits from that ongoing battle, pairing an AMD Ryzen 5 1400 processor with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card. This configuration aims to effectively balance price and performance.

In our Geekbench tests you can see that the 3.2GHz Ryzen 5 1400 in the Asus G11DF performs about as well as it should, coming in just ahead of the Dell Inspiron 5675, which also featured a Ryzen 5 1400. It’s still behind a processor like the Intel i7-7700, but that’s one of Intel’s top-end offerings, and one of the quickest processors you’re likely to see in a gaming desktop under $2,000.

It’s important to look at how well the Ryzen 5 1400 does against the Intel i7-7700 because both are quad-core processors with Hyper-Threading, so they’re comparable in workload and multi-tasking capability. The i7 beats the Ryzen 5 by a comfortable margin, which you would certainly notice if you were running apps like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere with any amount of regularity.

It’s not the quickest we’ve seen, but for a processor in the $160 to $170 price range, it’s an admirable performance.

For gaming performance, however, that margin is small enough that you could definitely get by with a Ryzen 5 1400, without noticing any serious reduction in overall performance. You might lose a few frames here and there, but a GPU like the GTX 1060 is more than capable of picking up the slack.

In our Handbrake test, we can see how the Ryzen 5 1400 performs with a real-world task: 4K video encoding. The Ryzen 5 1400 finishes strong, completing the encode in just nine and a half minutes. It’s not the quickest we’ve seen, but for a processor in the $160 to $170 price range, it’s an admirable performance.

The Dell Inspiron 5675 took a little longer than its Asus counterpart, illustrating that even identical processors aren’t exactly identical. There is always some small variations in performance. Still, these two competitors were within a hair’s breadth of one another.

Two drives are better than one

Looking at the Asus G11DF and Dell Inspiron 5675 side-by-side you’ll notice there are a few key differences, despite their striking similarity. Not only do they possess different graphics cards, but their storage solutions offer an important point of distinction.

As you can see here, the Inspiron’s mechanical 1TB hard drive is a lot slower than the G11DF’s 256GB SSD. That’s not much of a surprise, as mechanical drives are almost always slower than their solid-state counterparts. The difference here is that the Inspiron only has one hard drive, so you’re stuck with those slow speeds unless you upgrade at checkout, which is an option (Dell charges $100 for the SSD at time of this writing).

The Asus G11DF, on the other hand, ships with two hard drives — the aforementioned 256GB SSD, and an auxiliary 1TB mechanical hard drive. That way you not only have all the space you need, but you also have a quick 256GB SSD for your core applications — and games. Mostly games.

Quick and quicker

Here it is, the moment of truth. The G11DF may have weird external design, but that won’t matter if it blows away our benchmarks. You can always tuck it under a desk.

Right off the bat, you can see how the key difference between the Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop and Asus G11DF play out in our 3DMark tests. It’s a timeless battle, AMD vs Nvidia.

The GTX 1060 still comes out on top, despite a strong showing from the Radeon RX 580. To be fair, it’s closer than it should be given that the RX 580 is typically a cheaper graphics card than the GTX 1060 — or it would be, if not for bitcoin miners and shortages.

Let’s see if those margins carry over to in-game testing.

Both the Inspiron and the G11DF offer impressive performance at 1080p, but the Inspiron pushes ahead of the G11DF in a few games, despite the 3DMark result. Looking at Battlefield 1 for instance, the Inspiron hits 93 frames per second on average at ultra-high settings, while the G11DF hits just 77 FPS at the same settings. That’s a noticeable difference, the kind you’d actually feel during gameplay.

The margin narrows a bit in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, with the Inspiron hitting 46 FPS on average at ultra-high settings, to the Asus G11DF’s 41 FPS. That’s a much smaller margin, and it’s indicative of how different games handle GPU resources.

Moving up to 1440p, neither the Inspiron nor the G11DF have the horsepower to make the most of games at this resolution. Games were playable but, they weren’t anywhere near as smooth as they were at 1080p, and the G11DF even fell below 30FPS at one point. In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, for instance, the Asus G11DF’s GTX 1060 barely managed to hit a consistent 29 FPS, and frequently fell below that during actual play at 1440p.

It’s a timeless battle, AMD vs Nvidia.

The Inspiron’s AMD Radeon RX 580, on the other hand, kept up at 42 FPS on high settings. During gameplay, the framerate stuttered here and there, but it was noticeably smoother than the GTX 1060 had been.

In Battlefield 1, both PCs offered decent if less-than-stellar performance, with the Inspiron hitting 65 FPS at ultra-high settings, to the G11DF’s 51 FPS. So, games are still playable at 1440p with the G11DF’s GTX 1060, but with all the settings maxed you’ll definitely see some stuttering here and there. We certainly did.

We meet again

The Asus G11DF comes with a number of Asus ROG-branded utilities pre-installed, none of which are obtrusive, and all of them serve important purposes. There’s one notable exception though, and you probably know what it is: McAfee.

Once you fire up the G11DF for the first time, before you even install Chrome, just open your Start menu and type the word “uninstall.” That’ll pop open your uninstallation utility. From there, you’re only a few clicks away from purging McAfee from your system forever, and all time. Once you strike off those chains, check out those Asus utilities. One of them even lets you change the color of your PC’s lighting.

Included, whether you want them or not

The Asus G11DF ships with a mouse and keyboard to get you started, and you’ll want to part ways with them as soon as you can. Neither is responsive, or suitable for gaming. The keyboard in particular feels slow, even just when you’re typing. The keys are squishy, and have just slightly too much travel. On top of that, it features a bizarre silver paint job. It looks like it was spray-painted.

Asus G11DF-DBR5-GTX1060 Compared To

Dell Inspiron 5675

Asus ROG Strix GD30CI

Velocity Micro Raptor M60

Origin Neuron

Alienware Area 51 (2017)

MSI Trident 9S6-B90611-02S

Digital Storm Velox (Kaby Lake)

Cybertron CLX Ra

Acer Predator G1

Digital Storm Velox

Falcon Northwest Talon (2015)

Origin Millennium (2014)

iBuyPower Erebus

Gateway FX6800-01e

HP Blackbird 002

The mouse is more serviceable, but it’s just a standard cheap mouse – worse than what you could pick up on Amazon for $10. You’d be much better off picking up a new mouse and keyboard than using these two for long.

Warranty information

The Asus G11DF comes with a standard one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. It’s not the most generous warranty period for a gaming desktop, but for a $1,000 PC, it’s to be expected. The Inspiron, for instance, also features a one-year warranty.

Our Take

Asus’ G11DF runs modern games well enough that you won’t notice any serious slowdown for the next couple years, and it keeps up during everyday use. This desktop does have strong competitors, though, and they keep the G11DF on its toes.

Is there a better alternative?

The Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop, equipped with a Radeon RX 580 graphics card, keeps the Asus G11DF honest. At just $950, the Inspiron is the obvious alternative. It outperformed the Asus in a few games, and came close in others.

We did find flaws in the Inspiron, however, the most serious being its lack of a standard SSD means. You’ll have to either upgrade, or deal with slow load times.

There’s also the Acer Aspire GX-785-UR16, an Intel-based gaming desktop sold for around $900, depending on the configuration. It is a step down from both the Inspiron and the G11DF, though, since it starts out with an Radeon RX 480 graphics card, which the G11DF’s GTX 1060 outperforms.

How long will it last?

The Asus G11DF is well-built, despite its unfortunate design sensibility, and it’ll likely survive a few years of hard wear. The internal components are going to show their age before long, especially if you’re gaming at 1440p.

At 1080p, you’ll be able to squeeze a bit more life from that GTX 1060, and it’ll probably see you through the next couple years of major game releases without any hiccups. Just keep an eye on your settings, as you’ll have to start turning things down sooner rather than later to maintain a decent frame rate.

Should you buy it?

Probably not. Yes, for just $1,000 you end up with a reliable gaming rig that’s quick, capable, well-built, and small. That’s great — but for the same money, you could pick up the Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop, which offered slightly better gaming performance than the G11DF in our tests, and looks far more impressive. The Asus is only preferable if you need a small desktop that will fit in a snug den or office.

8
Sep

Here are the best apps and websites for tracking hurricanes and staying safe


Just as the 2017 hurricane season was starting to look like a dud (thankfully), Harvey, a massive Category 4 hurricane plowed through the Gulf of Mexico and ravaged the city of Houston. Now, with Category 5 Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storm systems ever recorded just starting to heat up in the Caribbean (and with pals Jose and Katie just behind her), we now have three hurricanes swirling through the Atlantic basin for the first time since 2010.

As is the case with any other severe weather system, it’s best to have the latest information to better withstand or avoid a disaster ahead of time. Thankfully, there are plenty of hurricane trackers to help you prepare for these potentially deadly events. Whether it’s the most advanced NOAA predictive models or simply tips for finding an emergency shelter, here are the best apps and websites to prepare for the worst.

Hurricane tracker apps

Hurricane Tracker ($4)

Initially released in 2009, Hurricane Tracker has been one of the most popular hurricane trackers for years. The app uses National Hurricane Center (NHC) data to relay audio briefings and maps. Hurricane Tracker also broadcasts all NHC advisories and maps in real time to keep you up to date on the latest developments. You can customize the app  to receive alerts as new storms form and/or as existing systems make landfall.

Similarly, the Model Watch feature uses predictive models to better prepare for any swerve Mother Nature decides to send your way. Unlike the other offerings on this list, this app will cost you a few bucks, but when it comes to tried and true dedicated hurricane apps, Hurricane Tracker is our pick.

Download now from:

iTunes GooglePlay

Hurricane — American Red Cross (Free)

The American Red Cross created the Hurricane app and it’s one of the best free hurricane trackers for Android and iOS. Hurricane allows you to monitor conditions in your immediate area as well as locations currently within a storm system. The app of course incorporates an interactive storm tracker map and also predictive models to help you plan for the worst ahead of time.

Like other apps, Hurricane will relay real time alerts and updates, however, one of the standout functions is the in-app communication feature. Anyone in the direct path of the hurricane or storm system can post custom messages or select status updates within the app. This allows you to easily to communicate with loved ones without leaving the app itself.

The Red Cross has compiled a series of step-by-step guides to help individuals prepare for a storm, and advice to heed during and after a hurricane. This includes a tool to lead individuals to their nearest Red Cross shelter, as well as tips for managing drinking water if your area has been flooded our plagued by power outages. It is important to note that the Hurricane app is available in both in English and Spanish.

If you do end up losing power during a storm, it’s best to keep a portable power source on hand just in case. That said, here are some of the choicest portable generators and power stations on the market.

Download now from:

iTunes GooglePlay

8
Sep

Here are the best apps and websites for tracking hurricanes and staying safe


Just as the 2017 hurricane season was starting to look like a dud (thankfully), Harvey, a massive Category 4 hurricane plowed through the Gulf of Mexico and ravaged the city of Houston. Now, with Category 5 Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storm systems ever recorded just starting to heat up in the Caribbean (and with pals Jose and Katie just behind her), we now have three hurricanes swirling through the Atlantic basin for the first time since 2010.

As is the case with any other severe weather system, it’s best to have the latest information to better withstand or avoid a disaster ahead of time. Thankfully, there are plenty of hurricane trackers to help you prepare for these potentially deadly events. Whether it’s the most advanced NOAA predictive models or simply tips for finding an emergency shelter, here are the best apps and websites to prepare for the worst.

Hurricane tracker apps

Hurricane Tracker ($4)

Initially released in 2009, Hurricane Tracker has been one of the most popular hurricane trackers for years. The app uses National Hurricane Center (NHC) data to relay audio briefings and maps. Hurricane Tracker also broadcasts all NHC advisories and maps in real time to keep you up to date on the latest developments. You can customize the app  to receive alerts as new storms form and/or as existing systems make landfall.

Similarly, the Model Watch feature uses predictive models to better prepare for any swerve Mother Nature decides to send your way. Unlike the other offerings on this list, this app will cost you a few bucks, but when it comes to tried and true dedicated hurricane apps, Hurricane Tracker is our pick.

Download now from:

iTunes GooglePlay

Hurricane — American Red Cross (Free)

The American Red Cross created the Hurricane app and it’s one of the best free hurricane trackers for Android and iOS. Hurricane allows you to monitor conditions in your immediate area as well as locations currently within a storm system. The app of course incorporates an interactive storm tracker map and also predictive models to help you plan for the worst ahead of time.

Like other apps, Hurricane will relay real time alerts and updates, however, one of the standout functions is the in-app communication feature. Anyone in the direct path of the hurricane or storm system can post custom messages or select status updates within the app. This allows you to easily to communicate with loved ones without leaving the app itself.

The Red Cross has compiled a series of step-by-step guides to help individuals prepare for a storm, and advice to heed during and after a hurricane. This includes a tool to lead individuals to their nearest Red Cross shelter, as well as tips for managing drinking water if your area has been flooded our plagued by power outages. It is important to note that the Hurricane app is available in both in English and Spanish.

If you do end up losing power during a storm, it’s best to keep a portable power source on hand just in case. That said, here are some of the choicest portable generators and power stations on the market.

Download now from:

iTunes GooglePlay

8
Sep

Best iOS app deals of the day! 6 paid iPhone apps for free for a limited time


Everyone likes Apple apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers put paid apps on sale for free for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up while you have the chance. Here are the latest and greatest iOS app deals available from the iOS App Store.

These apps normally cost money and this sale lasts for a limited time only. If you go to the App Store and it says the app costs money, that means the deal has expired and you will be charged. 

Earthlapse

Turn your iPad or iPhone into a window aboard the International Space Station. Experience stunning views of Earth captured by NASA astronauts. Control the views with your finger.

Available on:

iOS

Publisher Master

PublisherMaster for iOS is an advanced yet easy-to-use design and publishing app for creating stunning posters, fliers, cards, banners, wedding invitations, advertisements, and more.

Available on:

iOS

Aesop’s Fables Remixed

Aesop’s Fables Remixed is a collection of commonly known fables retold and remixed into intertwining stories. Give your child an opportunity to read the stories aloud by himself or herself, too.

Available on:

iOS

Beehive Weather

This is a clean, simple, and perfect weather app. It features six colorful themes for personalization as well as 7-day or 12-hour weather forecasts.

Available on:

iOS

Simpler Pro

Simpler Pro is a completely redesigned contacts app that makes your address book light, smart, and user friendly.

Available on:

iOS

Paper Keyboard

Forget bluetooth, use paper. Just print a PDF file on paper and use it as a keyboard. How? Put your phone where marked on the paper and see the magic happen: the phone’s camera detects your fingers with state of the art algorithms.

Available on:

iOS




8
Sep

Galaxy Note 8 teardown shows off familiar innards, a battery that (hopefully) won’t explode


iFixit’s Note 8 teardown gives us a detailed look at the phone’s innards.

The Galaxy Note 8 will go on sale starting September 15, and a few customers are already starting to receive their units. The folks at iFixit have managed to get their hands on a unit, priceeding to tear it down to give us a look at the innards.

note-8-teardown-2.jpg?itok=6hm5IvEO

With Samsung switching to extra-tall Infinity Display, there’s more room to house the internal components. Samsung opted to go with a 12.71Wh battery (3300mAh at 3.85V) on the Note 8, which is 6% less than the one it used in last year’s device and slightly more than the 12.32Wh (3200mAh at 3.85V) battery featured in the Note 7 Fan Edition.

Like previous years, the battery is sealed in with copious amounts of adhesive, but Samsung moved the location of the battery to dead-center at the back, with the vibration motor now located at the bottom right.

note-8-teardown-1.jpg?itok=n1uGnvkl

The phone has a total of four cameras — a front 8MP camera complemented by an iris scanner, along with two cameras at the back. Samsung’s dual camera setup at the back consists of a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens, with both sensors offering OIS (which iFixit was able to confirm).

As for the rest of the hardware, the Note 8 features Samsung’s own LPDDR4X memory module and UFS flash storage, Avago’s ICs, and a whole lot of Qualcomm components:

  • Samsung K3UH6H60AM-NGCJ 6 GB LPDDR4X SDRAM layered over a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • Samsung KLUCG4J1ED-B0C1 64 GB UFS flash storage
  • Qualcomm WCD9341 Aqstic audio codec
  • Skyworks 78160-11 power amplification module
  • Avago AFEM-9066 power amplification module
  • Wacom W9018 touch control IC
  • Qualcomm WTR5975 RF transceiver
  • Avago AFEM-9053 power amplification module
  • Skyworks 77365 quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE power amplification module
  • Qualcomm PM8986 PMIC
  • Murata KM7628048 Wi-Fi module

The phone retains the 3.5mm jack, and the port is completely modular, which means you’ll be able to replace it with ease should the need arise. The front-facing sensor assembly is also similarly modular. The Note 8 uses Phillips screws for the mid-frame and the NFC antenna, which should make it easier to conduct repairs.

However, the 6.3-inch display and the rear glass panel are held together by a large amount of adhesive, and the fragility of the panels means it’ll take a lot of effort to access the internal hardware. Overall, the phone picked up a repairability score of four out of 10.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

  • Galaxy Note 8 review
  • Complete Galaxy Note 8 specs
  • Galaxy Note 8 vs. Galaxy Note 5: Which should you buy?
  • Which Galaxy Note 8 color should you buy?
  • All Galaxy Note 8 news
  • Join our Galaxy Note 8 forums

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