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30
Oct

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017) review


Hey! Want to win a Huawei Watch 2 Classic?

The 2017 Amazon Fire HD 8 experience is perhaps the best tablet you’ll find in the sub-$100 price range. At only $80, it’s less expensive than last year’s take and yet features improved Wi-Fi and audio.

Whereas only a few years back we might have recommend proceed with caution on a tablet that carries a price tag of $100 or less, today that’s much easier to do. No longer is that space occupied by no-name and lesser known brands. Indeed, it’s now Amazon’s game to lose.

Don’t get us wrong, this is not a performance-based device. You won’t use this one for heavy work needs, it’s not rugged, and it doesn’t come close in benchmark tests. Hell, it still doesn’t even have the Google Play Store on it. There’s plenty here that would cause us to look elsewhere if we had different needs. The thing is, though, the Fire HD 8 tends to meet our needs again and again.

Available in black, blue, yellow, and red (the color we were sent), the Fire HD 8 measures 8.4-inches by 5-inches. Just a shade under ½-inch thick, it weighs about 13 ounces.

The HD 8’s LCD display is 1280 x 800 pixels, giving readers 189 pixels per inch. It’s not the brightest image we’ve seen and it sometimes skews a little bit yellowish, but we’ve seen worse in other tablets. Toggling the blue light filter feels much stronger than what we get in most phones and tablets. Nevertheless, it works just fine for games, magazines, and other media.

If there’s one thing we could say about the Fire HD 8, and other tablets from Amazon, it’s that we don’t know what orientation is the best. We’re torn between landscape and portrait, going back and forth depending on our usage. We like both settings but would appreciate if it felt “right” in one or the other.

Given its size we love to read magazines and books on it. To that end, portrait mode works well, spreading pages out to take advantage of the screen. But, just about everything else finds us flipping on its side. Or do we have it backwards?

The speaker and button placement try to answer this question. The dual stereo speakers are on the bottom when in landscape, moving to the left side when in portrait. It makes sense that you’d like a balanced audio experience when watching video or playing games. Reading, however, doesn’t require speakers so it matters little which side they’re on.

While in portrait orientation you’ll find the power button, microUSB port, microphone, headphone jack, and volume buttons. They run in that order from left to right. We might have preferred moving the headphone jack to below as the cord can sometimes get in the way of reading.

Operating System and User Interface

The operating system, Fire OS, is based off of Android, gives you most of the flexibility and customization that you get in other Android devices. To be clear, though, Amazon stops short of giving you an outright “tablet” experience.

If you’ve never spent time with an Amazon tablet, we’ll clear things up for you. It’s all about the Amazon ecosystem. Period. Not that this is a bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s gotten much better over time as the company continues to spread its wings.

If you’re not married to Google or Apple’s services, and don’t need to be overly productive with your tablet, the Fire HD line is a wonderful family of products. You can get most of the applications through Amazon that might otherwise be found in the Google Play Store. Moreover, a little bit of tinkering and time could yield a more traditional tablet or Android experience.

As for this particular build of the Fire OS, we’ve come to like it but have never really been in love with it. To us it feels a little bit too busy on the home screen. The mix of text and graphics can sometimes overwhelm; things aren’t always in the most intuitive place. New users might not feel the same way, but season Android tablet users, or those who have used older versions of Amazon’s tablets, may get discouraged in the first few days.

One of the best words to use to describe Amazon tablets is “consumption”. Whereas a more traditional, or powerful tablet/2-in-1 might lean more towards productivity, the Fire HD 8 is all about taking things in. That’s music, movies, books, audio, and games. Once you’re in the world of Amazon it’s hard to leave.

Should you already be someone who has purchased books, audiobooks, or other content from Amazon over the years, you’ll find it all here. Everything synchronizes nicely and is presented in a somewhat intuitive manner.

You’ll notice that just about everywhere you go on the Fire HD 8 you will be presented with some form of advertising or promotion. Amazon is the best company in the world for knowing its users and making smart recommendations.

Indeed, the longer you use the tablet, or Amazon as a whole, the less “in your face” this feels. Over time it becomes a case of, “Yeah, I should order more of those” or “I actually am interested in checking out that book”.

Those of you who have spent time in Google’s ecosystem might stumble a bit as you get started with the Fire HD 8. You won’t find any of the standard apps or services installed; they’re not in the Appstore, either. And, while most of the other big names in the mobile space are present, you will occasionally run into the rare dead end when trying to find an app.

As touched on before, you can go about installing the Google Play Store manually. Doing so doesn’t really void any warranty or cause issues and can open the door to a wider world of apps. If you go that route, proceed with caution and back up anything important first.

Amazon does a tremendous job giving users an experience that works great for the entire family. Parents can take advantage of Amazon FreeTime which lets mom and dad tailor the UI, background color, and fonts as well as handpick the apps and games. Additionally, parents enable set restrictions and daily limits on games and video and leave unlimited time for reading.

A $2.99 monthly subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited offers up thousands of books, games, educational apps, movies, and TV shows from industry heavyweights like Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, and PBS.

As you would expect, Amazon’s new tablets support Alexa, but it’s done a little bit differently. Rather than having the always listening “Hey Alexa” trigger, you’ll hold down the home button to enable the voice actions.

Performance

The 1.3GHz quad-core Mediatek processor is bolstered by 1.5GB RAM and is enough to get the job done. Thanks to the interface and tightly guarded ecosystem you’ll hardly notice that this is a fraction of the hardware that powers most devices. Should you start side-loading your own apps or tinkering with the UI you might slow things down or run into stutters.

Generally speaking we found the Fire HD 8 to be snappy with apps opening quickly. Magazines, books, and other media were speedy enough for our liking. The tablet offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections for Wi-Fi; we found the latter to be more efficient in our time with the tablet.

The Fire HD 8 comes in 16GB and 32GB storage capacities with about $30 difference between the two. A microSD card slot allows for more storage of media and apps. Our 16GB demo unit gave us roughly 12GB of space free after all of the pre-loaded apps and content.

We were impressed with the sound of the tablet’s two speakers. While you might find only one speaker on a budget-friendly tablet, Amazon gives us a pair of bottom-mounted (landscape mode) speakers. You’ll find a loud, clearly defined sound that complements video, music, and games well.

We wish there was something nice we could say about the 2-megapixel rear camera but it’s hard. Really, we’ve never actively sought to capture photos from an Amazon tablet, regardless of the model. Children, however, seem to enjoy it, and use it in select games.

As for the front-facing camera, well, it’s the same sentiment. It’s there if you need it but it’s VGA quality and doesn’t perform all that great in lower lighting conditions.

Battery life is rated at 12 hours but that is based on mixed usage. We didn’t track it by hours, but our experience was that roughly every few days we could charge it up for a short bit and not have to worry.

Watching video for longer periods, and at the brightest settings, we could get well beyond four hours out of the battery. Keep a portable power supply handy if you plan to travel over a weekend, especially if you have children.

Conclusion

Without question, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is best low-cost tablet experience you can purchase. With pricing that starts at $79.99, it works exceptionally as an eBook reader, magazine and comic book reader, audiobook device, and media tool.

Amazon has done a great job of evolving its family of products and services and the new Fire HD 8 is a solid way of delivering it all in a portable slate. It’s the right size to read in short bursts but can get a little heavier in extended use.

If book reading is primarily the feature that you care about, go with a traditional Kindle. For all other practical, and consumption-based purposes, the Fire HD fits the bill. If you’ve got Amazon Prime, or use Alexa on a regular basis, you’ll love having everything close at hand.

As much we advocate for stock Android and more traditional tablets, the truth is that we often grab a Fire first. The last few years have seen us packing and toting around the Amazon product line for kicking our feet up and taking in various forms of entertainment.

It’s easier for us to single-task and focus on a book or magazine when the tablet isn’t always trying to synchronize our Gmail or Outlook accounts. While we can add our email addresses and mange things here, we like leaving them off and unplugging.

Over the last five years or so we’ve found ourselves being slowly sucked into the black hole that is Amazon. The company has its hands in a number of areas that we like and is always looking for new ways to impress. The Fire HD 8 is an affordable way to stay connected to all things Amazon.

Where to Buy

You can purchase the Fire HD 8 in two storage capacities. For $79.99 you get the 16GB model with advertisements on the lock screen and occasionally throughout the experience. For $109.99 you get double the storage capacity at 32GB; the offers are still included. Amazon terms these tablets as “With Special Offers”

Spend $15 more on either one and you’ll have the advertisements removed. This shakes out to $94.99 for the 16GB and $124.99 for the 32GB. All models are available in red, blue, yellow, and black.

30
Oct

Here’s everything you need to know about SpaceX Starlink


Why it matters to you

Global high speed internet, for everyone.

Unless you’ve been living in a technological black hole for the last few years, you’re probably heard of Elon Musk, and read stories about his ambitious ideas and startups. Between sexy electric cars, “hyperloop” transit systems, reusable rockets, and Mars colonies; there’s certainly no shortage of things to look forward to from the guy. In this article, we’ll explore one of his more intriguing pursuits — recently dubbed “Starlink” — and the implications it has for both the internet and the world at large. Here’s a breakdown of what SpaceX Starlink is, and why you should get pumped about it.

Humble beginnings

In 2015, Musk began probing the FCC about testing a “global broadband” system, and in September of 2017 filed applications for a satellite based broadband network called (you guessed it) Starlink, with the objective of eventually building a low-cost, satellite based broadband network capable of delivering internet access to the entire globe.

Sounds pretty straightforward — but what makes Starlink special compared to conventional satellite internet? Well, to put it plainly: while satellite internet has been around for ages, it has generally suffered from high latency, unreliable connections, and spotty service areas. With Starlink, SpaceX intends to put a “constellation” of satellites in low earth orbit, thereby providing high-speed, cable-like internet to every corner of the planet.

Much like Musk’s other ideas, this one is extremely ambitious, and in order to achieve it, SpaceX’s launch schedule is going to get busy in a way the world hasn’t seen before.

The road ahead

To give you a sense of just how formidable a challenge this is, here are some numbers: There are currently only 1,459 satellites currently in orbit around earth, along with 2,600 inactive. SpaceX will need to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit to achieve its desired coverage. That’s going to require a lot of rockets, a lot of fuel, and a lot of money.

APRIL 12, 2017 -SpaceX Dragon satellite module

The project is ambitious to say the least, but the payoff will presumably be immense. Imagine having blazing fast internet available all the time, no matter if you’re were in the middle of a crowded city or deep in the Amazonian jungle. Slated for as soon as 2024, this theoretical blanket of broadband isn’t that far off. If this project comes to fruition, it would make low latency internet available to locations that previously had either poor service, or none at all. The impact such a network might have on Earth remains to be seen, but Elon Musk is already thinking beyond our pale blue dot. In the long-term, SpaceX intends to develop a similar system to deploy on Mars for future colonization attempts, and will use the Starlink project to lay the foundation for those efforts.

The end of the world as we know it (in a good way)

Considering the fact that SpaceX is one of the world’s most advanced launch service providers, it already has many of the resources needed to establish and maintain a fleet of satellites — most notably its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon satellite programs. With 13 successful launches in 2017 (and counting), getting satellites into the air on a regular schedule looks like it won’t be a problem — although SpaceX will need to scale up its launch schedule considerably to make it possible.

If Musk and Co. are successful in this endeavor, they will almost certainly cause waves in the telecom industry. After all, with global internet, who needs traditional cell phone service? ISPs and telecoms will likely start to feel the heat as Starlink (and similar projects from other tech giants) progress over the next few years. So while this might be bad news for SpaceX’s competitors, individual consumers like yourself have a lot to look forward to.

Editor’s Recommendations

  • SpaceX sees a payoff from its pioneering work with reusable rockets
  • SpaceX’s slim new spacesuits look straight out of sci-fi
  • SpaceX teases November launch of ‘world’s most powerful rocket’
  • ‘How not to land an orbital rocket booster’ – Elon Musk shares blooper video
  • Elon Musk’s latest crazy idea? Rocket-based travel. On Earth




30
Oct

One thing Apple does better than Google: The cheeseburger emoji


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This has caused quite a storm — and some would say rightfully so.

Emoji looking different depending on what operating system you’re using is nothing new. Send an emoji to a friend from your Samsung phone and there’s a good chance it looks different on a Motorola phone, Google phone or Apple iPhone — sometimes to the point of confusion. But now, we have a real crisis: look at Google’s “cheeseburger” emoji. Wait … why is the cheese on the bottom of the burger?

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Yes, this is one place where iOS unequivocally gets things right. Apple places the cheese on top of the patty, as we’ve all seen time and time again from backyard cookouts to fancy new american eateries. Someone at Google — presumably backed up by a vetting process — chose to put the cheese under the patty. Oh my.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted that fixing this was his top priority — provided people could come to a consensus on where the cheese belongs.

Will drop everything else we are doing and address on Monday:) if folks can agree on the correct way to do this! https://t.co/dXRuZnX1Ag

— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) October 29, 2017

He is slightly joking, of course, but seriously Mr. Pichai please get this figured out. Google is clearly on the wrong side of this argument.

Despite the canonical name for this emoji actually being “hamburger” and not technically a cheeseburger, all major platforms have taken it on as such. And every single one, aside from Google, puts the cheese on top of the patty. Additional accouterments like lettuce and tomato also find various placements across the companies, but none of those issues is as big as where you put the cheese — we’ll get to those arguments next.

Go look at your phone: is the cheese on the top of the patty, or do you have the wrong emoji? If the latter, it’s time to go follow Sundar Pichai on Twitter and make sure you keep up with the developments here.

30
Oct

Diagnose your Car Troubles with These OBD II Scanners


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What’s the best OBD II reader for Android? Here’s a few to get you started!

Car repair can be costly (duh!) and that Check Engine light could mean myriad issues with your car. Or, it could be a simple fix that you could do yourself — so why take it to your dealer or mechanic without knowing the problem first? Some places will charge you $100 or more just for the scan.

Don’t get swindled again. Get yourself your very own Bluetooth OBD II reader/scanner and figure out what’s wrong with your car, right on your phone or tablet!

  • BAFX Products 34t5
  • Panlong Car Diagnostic scanner
  • ScanTool OBDLink LX
  • iSaddle Super Mini

BAFX Products 34t5

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The BAFX Products 34t5 claims to work on all vehicles in the U.S. from 1996 or later, so chances are that if you’re driving, this will work with your vehicle. All you need is a third-party app (which range from free to rather expensive paid apps), and you can connect the 34t5 to your Android phone or tablet to read out diagnostic information.

While reading out diagnostic codes, you can even clear them out at will, thus turning off your check engine light – even for manufacturer-specific codes!

Depending on the third-party app your choose, you can get real-time sensor information right on your phone, life speed, balance rates, RPM, O2 readings, and lots more.

If you feel the need for speed, this reader will even send you ⅛, ¼, ½, and 1 mile times.

Don’t spend $100 just for someone to scan your car; spend about $22, read it yourself, and maybe you’ll even be able to fix it on your own!

See at Amazon

Panlong Car Diagnostic scanner

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Panlong’s small OBD II scanner is perfect for the do-it-yourselfer on a budget – you can find it on Amazon for around $13.

This reader will work on any car sold in the U.S. from 1996 or later – it just might not work with some hybrids. All you need is a third-party app, like Torque or DashCommand and you’ll be able to read and clear trouble codes, while receiving real-time data readings – and you’ll be able to turn off that damn Check Engine light!

If inexpensively is the way you like to maintain your vehicle (who doesn’t?), then opt for the Panlong scanner.

See at Amazon

ScanTool OBDLink LX

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The ScanTool OBDLink LX is a professional-grade OBD II reader that features its own app, which allows you to scan, read, and clear trouble codes in all cars sold in the U.S. since 1996 (except hybrid or electric vehicles).

All you have to do is plug it in, pair it with your phone, open the app, and you’ll see real-time diagnostic data, as well as information about performance.

You can even use your Windows PC to access and compile your information without ever having to see a mechanic. Fix the stuff you can fix yourself and only take it in when absolutely necessary.

Being a professional tool, the OBDLink LX claims to service a wider range of vehicles, given more complex algorithms, and the Amazon reviews seem to agree.

It may be about $50, but if you love your car and worry that the cheaper readers might not actually do the trick, then check out the OBDLink LX. $50 is better than the $100 the dealers will charge you!

See at Amazon

iSaddle Super Mini

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The iSaddle Super Mini supports all OBD II protocols and works on just about every car sold in the U.S. since 1996 (except hybrid and electric), allowing you to diagnose what ails your vehicle to help determine whether or not it really needs a trip to the shop.

For Android users, iSaddle works exclusively with the Torque app feeding you diagnostics and performance data via Bluetooth.

If you’re unsure about the DYI approach to car repair, the iSaddle’s only about $12, so you really have nothing to lose if you want to try it out yourself. If you can fix the problem yourself, go for it, but you still have the option of taking it to your dealer or mechanic if you’re out of your element.

See at Amazon

What do you use?

Do you read your car or truck’s trouble codes with another scanner that we didn’t mention? Do you read your own codes or just take your car to the shop whenever the Check Engine light comes on?

Let us know in the comments below!

Updated October 2017: These are still the best options for OBD2 card readers that work via Bluetooth.

30
Oct

Sprint owner SoftBank ends T-Mobile merger talks over ownership disagreement


We’ve seen this play out many times before.

The longstanding potential merger between Sprint and T-Mobile has taken another turn, and this time it isn’t a positive one. After rumors earlier in October indicating that merger talks were quite advanced, reports out of Japan claim that Sprint owner SoftBank has shut down the discussion after failing to come to agreement on details of ownership in the combined company. SoftBank, led by Japanese businessman Masayoshi Son, is expected to formally end merger talks with T-Mobile’s parent Deutsche Telekom as early as tomorrow.

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The disagreement between parent companies apparently centered around which would hold a controlling stake in the new company, with Deutsche Telekom understandably wanting control considering its subsidiary is the larger of the two companies pre-merger. SoftBank was apparently willing to negotiate some in this regard, but eventually decided it didn’t want to relinquish the idea of holding the controlling stake.

Sprint is half the size of T-Mobile, but SoftBank still thought it deserved a controlling stake.

Stock in both Sprint and T-Mobile took a nosedive immediately following the news, but have since rebounded partially. But no single-day change can erase the fact that T-Mobile is currently valued at over $52 billion, more than double Sprint’s $25.9 billion market cap. Stock prices aside, it’s clear that T-Mobile (and therefore Deutsche Telekom) is in the power position with the positive trajectory as Sprint falls further behind in the fourth position among U.S. carriers. It wasn’t long ago that Sprint was the larger of the two, but it seems there’s no getting back to that position now.

Rather than see that Sprint’s best possible way to profitability (and long term viability) is the combine with T-Mobile, it seems Mr. Son is willing to ride with what he’s got rather than relinquish control of the combined company to Deutsche Telekom despite its larger stake in the deal. Whether or not such a large merger would eventually pass through the U.S. regulator bodies is another question altogether — but it doesn’t seem we’ll even get there now.

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30
Oct

Meizu teaming up with MediaTek to create the ‘best facial recognition technology on smartphones’


Meizu’s facial recognition technology will be debuting sometime next year.

With fingerprint sensors now ubiquitous in the smartphone segment, brands are exploring new options for unlocking devices. Facial recognition is the obvious choice, and currently we have two very different implementations available: Samsung’s iris scanning on the Note 8, and Apple’s Face ID on the iPhone X.

The iris scanning feature on the Note 8 is meant to be an alternative to the fingerprint sensor, but Face ID is the default way to unlock the iPhone X. There are key differences in the way both companies approach the feature, but the premise is the same: using your face as a password to unlock your phone.

And now Meizu is looking to join the club with its own facial recognition tech. According to the company’s head of global marketing Ard Boudeling, Meizu is partnering with MediaTek to create the “best facial recognition technology on smartphones:”

We’re working together with @MediaTek to create the best facial recognition technology on smartphones. We hope to show you in 2018. pic.twitter.com/lYnFXMtblL

— Ard Boudeling (@ArdCB) October 30, 2017

The Chinese manufacturer is a relative unknown in Western markets, but Meizu has several firsts to its name. The company was the first to launch a phone with 128GB of internal storage, which it did all the way back in 2013 with the MX3. Then there’s the Pro 6, the first phone in the world with 10 cores.

This year’s Pro 7 Plus has a secondary display at the back that comes in handy when you’re tring to take photos using the rear camera. We’ll have to wait until 2018 to see what Meizu has in store for us.

30
Oct

CBS previews its All Access-exclusive cop comedy ‘No Activity’


CBS wants to remind you that All Access doesn’t just revolve around Star Trek: Discovery. It just premiered the trailer for its third All Access original series, the police comedy No Activity, ahead of its November 12th debut. The adaptation of an Australian TV show is produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Funny or Die, and it’s very much in keeping with their sophomoric style of humor. It centers on two cops (Tim Meadows and Patrick Brammall) involved in an agonizingly mundane drug bust and the hijinks that ensue. There are plenty of other odd couples roped into events, including police dispatchers, tunnel diggers and clueless crooks, while there are promises of big-name guest stars that include Will Ferrell himself.

Is this going to give Star Trek a run for its money? Probably not. The producers clearly have big-name actors and the creative freedom they wouldn’t get if they were producing a conventional TV show (the trailer is loaded with expletives and sex jokes), but there’s no denying that CBS placed its biggest bet on its classic sci-fi franchise. Nonetheless, this and The Good Fight give you an idea of what to expect. CBS is pursuing the streaming video model established by Amazon, Hulu and Netflix, where it offers a wide variety of genres and takes advantage of the looser restrictions that come with internet-only video.

#NoActivity is a new CBS All Access comedy from​ ​Will Ferrell, Adam McKay & @funnyordie. Contains explicit language intended for adults. pic.twitter.com/eki27dIPmV

— No Activity (@NoActivityCBS) October 30, 2017

Source: CBS Press Express, Twitter, YouTube

30
Oct

YouTube TV finally has an app built for your living room screen


When YouTube TV arrived earlier this year, it was focused on phones. Sure, you could send video to your TV via Chromecast or AirPlay, but thus far there haven’t been apps for the big video platforms like Roku, Apple TV or even Google’s own Android TV. That’s changing today, as YouTube TV will start rolling out to screen running Android TV. And in the coming weeks, it’ll be in plenty more places, including Xbox One, Apple TV and Roku, as well as Samsung, Sony and LG TVs.

Building a user interface for a full-sized TV is a lot different than making one for mobile, so the YouTube TV app for big screens is a good bit different than what we’ve seen so far. It’s pretty simple, though — when you start it up, you’ll jump into whatever you were watching last time you turned off YouTube TV. To find new things to watch, there’s a simple three-menu interface: Home, Library and Live. Not coincidentally, those are the same tabs you’ll find in the YouTube TV app.

The Home page focuses on five “shelves” of broadcast content that’ll be personalized for each user based on their viewing history and what programs they’ve saved to their cloud DVR. You’ll find shows, movies, family, news and sports shelves, and those will be rearranged depending on the relevancy of each. So the sports shelf might be up top on Sunday morning going into a big day of football, but not first thing on a Tuesday morning, for example.

The different content that’ll show up in each shelf will also be personalized and relevant your viewing history — if you’re a big football fan, you’ll see those games show up in the sports shelf ahead of other sports you’re less interested in. YouTube TV also lets you follow specific teams, so those games will be right up front as well. Finally, the Home tab also shows off top recommendations across all content types as well as a quick “resume watching” area that shows anything you’ve started but haven’t finished recently.

The Live tab, meanwhile, shows a more traditional list of all channels available and what’s airing on them; you can scroll to the right to see what’s coming and save shows to you DVR from there. The Library groups everything you’ve saved into shows, movies, sports and events, with additional tabs to show just what’s new or what you watch the most.

There’s a whole lot you can dig into further here, including finding shows and movies from specific actors, similar shows to what you watch most often, full show lists for each network YouTube TV offers and more. But the essential experience will be familiar to anyone who’s tried the service so far — you’ll just be able to initiate without having to go to your phone first.

As for why YouTube TV started with mobile in the first place, YouTube TV’s Product Management Director Christian Oestlien told Engadget that the company was trying to offer a totally different experience than most consumers were used to. “We wanted to break this association with the set top box in the living room, this idea that you have to have a cable company come in and install hardware that’s dated in a year,” Oestlien said. “There’s all this crazy stuff from the legacy [TV} business that we wanted to have a really clean break with.”

That’s a fair point, as the traditional cable TV experience remains fairly terrible. But Oestlien said that “the majority of our watch time comes from casting” — users sending video from their phones to their TVs using the Chromecast. “The most important thing we’ve heard from customers is that they want more ways to watch in the living room.”

So after six months, the YouTube TV large-screen experience is ready to go. Oestlien said that the app should be widely available. If you don’t have a screen with Android TV, it’ll be coming to set-top boxes, Xbox One consoles and other TVs within the next few weeks — it won’t be the slow roll-out that is often associated with Google launches. If you haven’t tried YouTube TV yet, the company is offering free seven-day trials. Just wait until the new app is on your set-top box of choice — because it’ll be a lot easier to give the service a fair shake.

Source: YouTube

30
Oct

Pandora adds curated playlists to its on-demand music service


For years, the main feature of Pandora’s music streaming service has been stations generated from the company’s vast Music Genome Project. A system that analyzes songs based on 450 different attributes, it helps Pandora build stations of songs that the company claims go together better than what other services offer. But, the company finally launched a full-fledged, on-demand service earlier this year, and now it’s expanding the kinds of music it curates for users.

Today, Pandora Premium is launching Featured Playlists, a set of 250 curated playlists across the categories you see on pretty much every other music service out there. Pandora says that in addition to genre-focused playlists, it’s also building ones for moods, activities, specific artists and “cultural moments.”

Premium subscribers will find them at the top of the “browse” section, with a top selection that matches up with the types of music that you listen to most frequently. Unfortunately, if you want to browse them all, there’s just a giant scrolling list that you’ll need to dig through. If you look under genres, moods or activities further down the browse section, you’ll only see Pandora’s typical stations. You can of course save any playlists you enjoy to your library so they’re easier to find later.

Pandora also noted that free or “plus” users (who don’t have access to Pandora’s full on-demand library) will get access to some stations based on the new playlists. Those stations might not have the exact same songs found in the playlist itself, but they should have the same general vibe. And Pandora says it’ll be updating and refreshing the playlists over time, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be with the frequency that Apple Music and Spotify update their lists. For that, you’re probably better off sticking with Pandora’s stations.

Most music services put a priority on either playlists (Spotify, Apple Music) or stations (Google Play Music, Pandora). But having a selection of both is a good addition to Pandora Premium, a service that’s still adding the features needed to compete with the bigger options. Pandora’s new playlists sound good at first glance, and if they make them easier to discover and update them on a regular basis, they’ll prove to be a worthwhile addition.

Source: Pandora

30
Oct

‘Sprint Vector’ brings VR foot racing to PlayStation 4


We were impressed with Sprint Vector’s unique approach to running in VR: you swing your arms in a way that feels natural and shouldn’t make you queasy. However, there were only plans to release a PC version. What about those of us who want to run in the living room? Never fear: Survios has revealed that Sprint Vector is coming to PlayStation VR. There weren’t any firm details (certainly not a release date), but it’s safe to say you’ll want a pair of Move controllers to play this futuristic foot racer, at least as it was intended.

To recap: the story is that an eccentric robot scoops up not-so-voluntary competitors from around the galaxy to participate in “cross-dimensional” races, but this is ultimately just a pretext for an extremely fast-paced VR experience. The arm-swinging mechanic lets you smoothly dodge around obstacles, soar through the air and vault over hurdles without having to rely on a gamepad, which could easily induce nausea. You won’t want to play this when other people are in arm’s reach, but it promises a kind of intensity you don’t often get with headset-based experiences.

Source: PlayStation (Twitter), Survios

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