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Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M1) review: A well-rounded budget smartphone

Asus smartphones have had a rollercoaster ride in the Indian market. While the company saw some success with quite capable mid-range Zenfone devices in the past, Chinese players like Xiaomi and Lenovo almost drove the company out of the budget segment and the minds of consumers.

The Zenfone brand has featured innovative, eclectic experiments like the Zenfone Zoom and the Zenfone AR. Within that portfolio, the Zenfone Max series brings bigger battery capacity and longer battery life.

The new Zenfone Max Pro (M1) packs in a big 5,000mAh battery and aims to be a well-rounded budget offering. It’s looking to reclaim the under-15,000-rupee (~$225) category, fighting it out with Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 and Note 5 Pro, which for many are an automatic choice in this segment.

This latest smartphone has been developed for the Indian market, but can it take a slice of the pie? Let’s take a look.

For this review, I took a pre-release variant of the Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M1) for a spin. Through the review period of this lower spec’d variant — the one with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage — there was more than one firmware update, with focus on improving camera performance and adding features like support for VoLTE and face recognition. These updates will be baked into the devices that will go on retail, so you’ll get all that out of the box.Show More


The Asus Zenfone Max Pro looks like most other smartphones in this segment, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The smartphone is solidly built and the aluminum frame gives it a nice structural rigidity. At 180 grams, it’s heavy and marginally thicker due to its large battery, but the additional heft gives a certain sturdy feel to the device.

The display has a tall 18:9 aspect ratio with rounded corners and narrow borders on either side. Asus claims it uses a durable, protective 2.5D curved glass but there’s no word on what kind specifically. Despite the slightly large dimensions, the phone is quite ergonomic and fits well in your palm.

The Zenfone Max Pro has a minimalist and functional design, even though there’s nothing special.

The rear metal plate has a soft matte finish which feels good but gets smudged with fingerprints a lot. I had to wipe smudges away between each shot when I took photos of the phone for this review, as they look quite pronounced on the dark exterior. One of the best design traits of the Zenfone Max Pro is the dual-camera module at the back is flush with the body with almost no camera bump. It looks quite neat.

Overall, the Zenfone Max Pro won’t win any design award, but the minimalist and functional design with good build quality would appeal to most users.


ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1)

The Asus Zenfone Max Pro sports a 5.99-inch Full HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. There’s no notch here, thankfully. Asus claims the display’s LCD panel offers a contrast ratio of 1500:1 with a maximum brightness of 450 nits. There’s also an oleophobic coating to ward off those greasy fingerprint smudges.

The display is first-rate. It’s quite bright and the colors are vibrant. Even in bright summer afternoons, the outdoor screen viewing is pretty good. The viewing angles are great and better than most phones in this segment. Its contrast ratio is great, though still no match for an AMOLED display.


ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1)

The Asus Zenfone Max Pro is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, the same processor as the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The 14nm chipset apparently offers a 50-percent jump in performance over Snapdragon 625 because it uses Qualcomm’s custom Kryo cores to efficiently push more power.

The device comes in two memory variants — one with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage and one with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, expandable up to 2TB with a microSD card. Asus announced another variant with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage (and better camera prowess) but that will launch later.

For this review, I used the 3GB variant, and the phone performed quite well. Hardcore gaming, multitasking, and everyday shenanigans — the Zenfone Max Pro sailed through everything I threw at it breezily with its snappy stock Android experience. During extended sessions of gaming, it heated up slightly but not to a degree that would cause any discomfort.

Abetted by the snappy stock Android experience, the Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M1) is a top-notch performer.

The Zenfone Max Pro boasts a 5,000mAh battery, but it doesn’t offer exceptional battery life. A few other smartphones in the market manage to offer similar battery life with a smaller capacity battery in a smaller frame. For most users, the phone will easily last a full day of active use with enough juice left to carry over to the next day. It’s plenty, but I’d expect a software update to optimize the power consumption even better.

The phone comes with a bundled 2A/10W charger for fast charging that charges the battery from zero to 100 percent in less than three hours, which is quite good.

ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1)

The Zenfone Max Pro supports Bluetooth 4.2 with Qualcomm’s AptX technology for clearer audio over wireless connections. Thanks to the built-in NXP amplifier and a 5-magnet speaker, the mono speaker on the Zenfone Max Pro is quite loud. For a budget smartphone, the Zenfone Max Pro has a pretty solid audio experience. To boost the audio even further, it comes with a Max Box accessory, which passively amplifies the audio without any electronics. It’s a plain vanilla cardboard and magnet setup, based on precision acoustics. While it’s gimmicky, it’s bundled free and music enthusiasts won’t complain.

Overall, Asus did quite well picking the latest innards and bundling it with stock Android for the Zenfone Max Pro. Even the 3GB variant should be enough for most people. Of course, power users and those who don’t mind spending the extra dough will appreciate the slight performance bump that 4GB of RAM would offer.


Although most of its competition is in the same boat, it is slightly disappointing to see a MicroUSB port instead of the USB Type-C on the Zenfone Max Pro. Of course, many people won’t mind, but it leaves a little sour taste. It’s a 2018 smartphone, after all.

The device supports dual SIM, with an extended tray that can take two nano-SIMs and a microSD card all at the same time. For a niche but vocal user base, this is an important consideration since they use two SIMs (mostly the second one for data) and hoard a lot of content, therefore requiring memory expansion. While you can use two 4G SIMs at a time, only one will run on 4G at any time while the other will be limited to 3G.


ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1)

The Asus Zenfone Max Pro sports a dual camera setup at the back with a 13MP primary camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5MP secondary camera for depth sensing.

In broad daylight, the smartphone manages to take some great shots. It manages to capture a large amount of detail and most shots are quite vibrant. The sharpness is hit-or-miss and often the white balance is way off. In low light conditions, it takes a while to lock focus, and once it does there’s considerable noise in the photos and the details get a little fuzzy. It is quite hard to manage a decent shot with HDR mode at night because there’s a lot of blur and loss of detail.

The depth mode works quite well for a budget smartphone. The edge detection is pretty good, and the blur is subtle, although often inconsistent.

The rear camera on the Zenfone Max Pro can record 4K video but there’s no stabilization option available. Whether shot at night or day, videos are good enough for sharing, but not much else.

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Hot on the heels of the launch of Xiaomi’s Black Shark gaming smartphone, Asus has appeared to confirm that it is working on a gaming phone of its own.

In an interview at the opening of Asus …

The front-facing 8MP shooter with an f/2.0 aperture manages to capture some really good selfies. There’s a good amount of detail and the colors and exposure are just right. The beautification also isn’t too overwhelming and doesn’t come off as artificial. The LED flash on the front is quite harsh — for most selfies, I preferred to keep it off.

The camera app on the Zenfone Max Pro is confusing and unintuitive. The controls aren’t well laid out, and simple toggles like flash are hidden under a menu instead of being accessible with a single tap. Asus should really overhaul the camera app to make it more appealing — in form and function.

The camera on most mid-rangers falls short especially in testing light conditions, and the Zenfone Max Pro just manages to scrape through. It’s a decent camera and better than most in the segment, but it doesn’t match the camera prowess of the Redmi Note 5 Pro. You can check out the camera samples in full-resolution here.


The Zenfone Max Pro is the first smartphone from Asus to ship with stock Android Oreo instead of the company’s proprietary ZenUI skin. While this isn’t part of Android One, Asus says it plans to deliver two major Android updates up to Android Q.

ASUS Zenfone Max Pro (M1)

While it’s stock Android, Asus snuck in some pre-installed apps, which can’t be removed. There’s Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, as well as the barebones mobile wallet Go2Pay. Some old ZenUI apps like the Voice Recorder, Calculator, and FM Radio too are carried over, though these are handy additions.


Display 5.99-inch IPS
Full HD+ (2,160 x 1,080)
18:9 aspect ratio
450 nits brightness
2.5D curved glass
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
64-bit octa-core CPU (8 x Kryo 260 cores)
Adreno 509 GPU
14nm FinFET technology
Storage 32/64GB
Supports microSD card up to 2TB
Rear Camera 13MP + 5MP depth sensing sensor
f/2.2 aperture
80-degree view angle Phase Detection AF
5-element lens
LED flash
4K UHD video recording
Front Camera 8MP
f/2.0 aperture
85.5-degree view angle
5-element lens
Soft-light LED flash
Battery 5,000mAh
Bundled 2A/10W charger
Software Android 8.1 Oreo
Dimensions and weight 159 x 76 x 8.61mm


Pricing and final thoughts

ASUS Zenfone Max Pro M1

The Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M1) is a well-rounded smartphone greater than the sum of its parts and the pros outweigh the cons. The performance is first-rate, there’s the stock Android experience, and the aggressive pricing undercuts Xiaomi’s offerings.

The Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M1) is a well-rounded device that ticks all the boxes for an affordable smartphone.

Available in two color variants — meteor silver and deepsea black — the lower spec’d variant of the Zenfone Max Pro is priced at 10,999 rupees (~$166) in India, while the higher end one is priced at 12,999 rupees (~$196).

The Zenfone Max Pro could definitely improve in the camera and battery departments, which is actually a great position to be in since a lot can be done there with future software updates. That said, the Asus Zenfone Max Pro (M1) is a top-notch value-for-money device that can take on the best in the market with ease.


Google’s Digital Wellbeing initiative: Everything you need to know

Here’s how Google is helping you take back control of your digital life.


At Google I/O 2018, Google announced Digital Wellbeing. It’s a brand new approach to OS and app development that’ll equip users with tools to help them find a better balance between their digital and real worlds.

Is it a new app? Is it Android P’s killer feature? Will it make you feel better and solve world peace all at the same time? We answer all those questions and more for you right here.

What’s Digital Wellbeing?

Digital Wellbeing is Google’s initiative to help you understand your tech usage and help take back control of your life if that’s something you feel you need. It’s a combination of many things, including data and insight, tools, apps, content, and more, all of which are designed to help you put the living part of life back into perspective.

It’s not just one app or one feature. It’s an entire idea. It’s a lifestyle change. It’s identifying and accepting the problem that mobile technology can and does command a ton of our attention in ways that can be unhealthy. Digital Wellbeing, then, is just one part of a bigger home remedy to help treat that root issue.

Why is Google doing this?

The harsh effects of too much internet and smartphone usage have long been talked about, with smartphones commanding more and more of our attention as the years roll on. Recent studies show an uptick in smartphone usage correlating with increased mental health issues in teens, such as depression.

This phenomenon is believed to be driven primarily by the prominence of social media, with folks spending less time living their own lives to try and check in with everyone else’s. It’s what’s generally referred to as “FOMO,” or the “fear of missing out.”

It’s about helping you get back to what’s important: your life.

It’s that feeling you get when you see everyone’s at a party having a good time while you’re at home studying, or when your relatives send a “Wish You Were Here!” postcard from their dreamy vacation destination. FOMO typically manifests as anxiety those affected, a common ailment that can open the way to clinical depression and other mental health issues.

The effects of FOMO are a real concern in today’s society, and smartphones and social media seemingly amplify those effects thanks to our ability to stay connected all day and digest the happenings of our favorite people, things, and media with the tap of a button.

And that’s what the Digital Wellbeing initiative aims to address. Google believes that technology should only be used to help improve your life, and not be the absolute center of it. Whether you agree is up to you to decide.

To their credit, Google’s homework suggests over 70% of smartphone users are looking for help in this area. Even if they’re off by half that mark, it’s enough to warrant an entire shift in the way they approach smartphone and app development.

Of course, Android being the world’s dominant mobile OS means much of their work in this area will become tangible through updates to the system software and their various apps. Here’s how Android will change in that regard.

How will Android help me?


While you’re obviously in control of your feelings, emotions, and life, Google wants to spread awareness about the issue at least, and for those who decide they want or need a little help disconnecting, they will build apps, services, and features to make it easier. Here’s how Android is changing to help you.

Dashboard keeps you informed

It begins with the app dashboard, a new feature coming as part of Android P.

The dashboard gives you an overview of your daily digital activity. It includes the overall time you spend using your phone, the time you spent within reach individual app, and how many notifications you get from those apps.

You can view all of this data by various time periods, so you’ll get a good breakdown whether you’re just interested in one particular hour or an entire week.

At its highest level, the dashboard is merely here to inform you of your habits, but if you want to take action, then it makes it easy to find the features that’ll help you curb your usage.

Your digital nanny keeps you in check

So, you’ve taken the data from the dashboard and found that you spend way too much time on Facebook during work. What now?

This is where what we like to call your “app nanny” steps in. This feature allows you to set time limits or restrict usage of apps to specific times of the day on a per-app basis to keep yourself in check. When you hit your limit, the app icon is greyed out and inaccessible.

Do Not Disturb mode evolved


Another useful feature coming in Android P is even more aggressive notification control. You can now completely hide all notifications when you enter Do Not Disturb mode.

There’s also a brand new Wind Down mode. It lets you automatically turn on a blue light or grayscale filter. The former is designed to reduce eyestrain to help you get to sleep at night, while Google’s thinking with the grayscale is that you won’t feel so compelled to use your phone if it doesn’t have those things called “colors” which stimulate our brains.

It will be possible to turn your phone onto its face and have it automatically enter Do Not Disturb mode. It’s not that it’s incredibly difficult to do it already — in fact, you could even have it activated automatically once the clock strikes your preferred hour — but having a simple and intuitive gesture like this will make it easy to enable Do Not Disturb on the fly.

Android Oreo’s notification features are still here

All of the above is in addition to notification channels, the granular notification controls that came as part of the Android 8.0 Oreo update. You can easily disable notifications for an entire app, but this feature allows you to specify which category of notifications you want to receive in any given app, so you can choose to be notified of nothing but direct messages on Twitter if you so wish.

What’s more is that you can also set the priority of those notifications which will let you specify how much of an alert you’ll get when there’s something new. It could be limited to something as simple as a card in your notifications shade for less pertinent things, while more critical notifications can come in with sound and vibration.

What’s changing with YouTube?


YouTube was Google’s first example of apps which can tap into the data and controls offered by the dashboard. As with overall app usage, YouTube can show you exactly how long you’ve been watching a video.

The app also allows you to set a reminder to take a break after you’ve watched a certain amount of video, and you can even get your subscription notifications delivered to you as a scheduled periodic digest, so you’re not constantly being badgered to watch the latest content from your favorite creators.

How to turn on YouTube’s reminders to stop watching videos

What other tools will Google offer for this purpose?

The truth is that Google has been ebbing toward this play for quite some time, with many of their apps already exhibiting traits of Digital Wellbeing. For instance, Gmail and Inbox already have things like bundled notifications, priority inboxes, and smart replies. Google Photos’ AI-driven library management already helps keep your photo albums organized. Android already lets you snooze your notifications to handle them at a later time.

That’s not to mention the benefits of using Android Auto while driving or using the Google Assistant to automate your life using your voice. All of that stuff is still here, and they’re likely to be refined over time as the bigger picture of this thing comes into focus.

It’s all about family, too


Google’s macro vision for Digital Wellbeing is to help you find balance in your life and your family, so family controls will be an even more significant part of what they do. Family Link is the central point of that realm. It gives parents the ability to monitor and manage their kids’ devices, whether that’s seeing which apps they’ve downloaded and how long they use those apps.

Parents will continue to get controls to manage screen time, set bedtime schedules, remotely lock devices, and approve or deny app downloads and purchases. In the future, they’ll also get recommendations on education contents to keep their kids learning.

And then there’s still the child-friendly YouTube Kids, Google WiFi’s higher level network management (just in case they’ve gone and found some way to circumvent that Family Link stuff), and digital edutainment content Google will continue to push.

Will Digital Wellbeing improve my life?

That’s up to you. Google is merely providing the data and tools. Ultimately, you make your own decisions about what is and isn’t important to you, and about how you use the products you own and services to which you’re subscribed.

There’s no pressure to change the way you go about your days. No one is forcing you to give up your morning meal of cereal and Facebook. If you love keeping up with friends and family on social media all day and it makes you happy, that’s OK. All of these features are there if you need them and completely out of the way if you don’t.

When is Digital Wellbeing available?

Would you believe us if we told you that Digital Wellbeing is available right now? Android Oreo has notification channels and snoozing. Gmail and Inbox have snooze and smart reply features, as well as priority inbox and notification bundling. There’s a Do Not Disturb feature on most phones today.

Digital Wellbeing begins with you. Today. Right now.

Even tighter notification control in YouTube can already be accomplished by managing individual alerts for each channel you subscribe to, and the changes announced at Google I/O will are already live in the YouTube app.

Long story short, Digital Wellbeing is already pretty much in full effect if you want it to be. The lone prerequisite here is that you have to want to disconnect. You could do that with actions as simple as clearing out your notifications tray. I can’t tell you how many times I avoided an anxiety-inducing trip down the digital rabbit hole by declaring that the 30 or so notifications living in my status bar at any given time are not that important.


To that end, Digital Wellbeing is less of a feature and more of an ideology, and it truly begins with you. Google will most certainly continue updating and building apps with these core principles in mind, with the company looking to employ unique approaches to the concept appropriate for each respective service.

And they’ll encourage third-party developers to do the same thing. There will be APIs for tapping into all this new data so developers can equip you with the information and means to block out all the extra noise these apps can create. There’s no telling how long it will be before your favorite apps follow suit, or whether they’ll do so at all. But history tells us developers will eventually take their cues from Google, so be sure to submit your feature requests and feedback to them if this is important to you.

That being said, there are some cool features coming specifically as part of Android P as it will serve as the spiritual launching pad for everything, with the forthcoming OS update tying it all together through the dashboard and further development of these wellness features. The ultimate goal here is to make these tools easier to find, use, and understand, and your decisions will be backed by real insight and metrics on how you use your device.


You can try a preview version of Android P on compatible devices right now, and you’ll find much of these Digital Wellbeing features on display there. Look out for Android P to arrive later this year, but don’t delay taking control of your digital life right now!

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Best Horror Games for Oculus Go


Everyone needs a good scare once in a while

Horror games are always a fan favorite no matter what device you’re playing them on. Nothing brings a thrill to gaming quite like fighting for your life, and nothing makes that feel more real than VR. Here are some of the best horror games you can find on your Oculus Go that you absolutely need to sink your teeth into. We did a horror game night here in nerd house playing these games which lead to a lot of screaming — and then a lot of laughter.

Word of advice, don’t jump at your friend who thinks they’re running from Slenderman. Turns out they might punch you!

Doors of Silence

Plug in your headphones and get yourself situated in a place where you won’t knock anything over from flailing. There is nothing that can prepare you for the horrors that the Doors of Silence will bring you. For $2.99 on the Oculus Store I found Doors of Silence, and my expectations of horror were blown out of the park. I cried, I jumped, I let out gasps of shock and I’ve loved every minute of it.

From one horror junkie to the other, you have to try out this game. It’s not just some cheese jumpscare that you feel more defeated than scared to encounter. It’s a psychological horror that’s going to put you on the brink of anxiety and then catapult you off the edge. This game captivated me early on and kept my attention the entire time.

See on Oculus Store

Buried Alive

Take a deep breath. Where are you? Looks like some psychopath put you in a coffin and then under about six feet of dirt. This maniac wants to watch you struggle and you’re just a source of entertainment. In this psychological horror, you are faced with puzzles and tasks to get yourself away from death. With each puzzle that you complete you will be given the key to the next puzzle. For $0.99 on the Oculus Store you can test to see if you can escape this serial killer’s clutches.

See on the Oculus Store

The Vault

The Vauls is $1.99 on the Oculus Store, and it’s not going to disappoint you. This game breaks the mold for the more traditional horror games. Instead of giving you jump scares or making you anxious for survival by having 100 zombies jumping at you, it tasks you with being quiet.

The goal is to appease your jerk of a boss who cares more about the materials on the ship than he does your own life. So much so, he’s willing to risk you for them. You’ll have to sneak your way around the ship, collect the resources, and then escape. The beginning of the game moves a bit slower than I’d like, but it definitely gives you enough time to get the hang of the game before throwing you into the pits. Think you’re up for it?

See on Oculus Store

Nightmare: The Escape

Slenderman is back and once again you’ve got to complete his sadistic puzzle in order to escape him. For $2.99 you can get Nightmare: The Escape right off the Oculus Store on your headset. Can you collect all the papers in time? Can you outrun the static? Test your ability to remain calm and focused during a life-or-death situation to see if you can beat Slenderman.

See on Oculus Store



What are your favorite horror games? What kind of horror games do you wish existed? Tell us in the comment section below!

Oculus Go

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Android Things is the smart home’s saving grace and it can’t come soon enough


Android Things could be what it takes to make all these smart things be simple things, too.

In an article gushing over my Logitech Harmony remote I mentioned that I had a horrible mish-mash of smart “stuff” in my house and tying it all together was a pain. That prompted a conversation where someone reached out to me with a really great question that I had a tough time answering: Where should I start if I want to build my own smart home?

What makes it tough is that there is just so much of everything out there that claims to be smart or work with smart things. The manufacturers, of course, tell us that their products are the best at what they’re supposed to do. When shopping around for things like smart hubs or controllers it’s common to see two competing products beside each other and both of them claiming they are the best. And best is a tough thing to define because something could be the best in one way and not another.


The conversation was both memorable and enlightening because in the end, you had two guys scouring the internet and comparing a mother lode of smart stuff trying to determine where someone should get started. I instantly typed HomeKit into Google search, thinking it would be the easy way out, and was quickly disappointed. I was sure that Apple would have an all-encompassing (yet initially expensive) pool of the right hardware and software to make the smart home of your dreams easy to set up and secure out of the box. But Apple is still in the learning stages when it comes to smart things, too. You’ll find plenty of things that work with HomeKit, but no single master HomeKit “starter pack” to buy.

Building a cohesive smart home is either difficult or expensive. And sometimes both.

Eventually, we came to the same two conclusions: you’ll have to be a bit of a geek to go beyond something simple, and you should start with SmartThings. That’s because SmartThings supports the right communications standards (Z-Wave and ZigBee) and has a great online community that can usually get the things which don’t work out of the box up and running.

We also both agreed on one other thing — Android Things can’t come soon enough.

Not because Android Things will be better or more secure (that’d be HomeKit which is why I went to Apple first) but because it will be free and easy to adapt. Existing smart products aren’t going to go away. A company like Lutron isn’t going to change anything or ditch their Caseta hub in favor of an Android Things solution, for example, but it wouldn’t be hard for a company to build an interface that can bridge them seamlessly. Some existing products that are already sort of a universal hub, like the previously mentioned SmartThings, will also be able to integrate seamlessly. The adaptability of Android Things is a big deal for consumers who don’t want to spend a boatload of cash.


Because Android Things is free to use, a lot of companies just getting started — even ones making things we never imagined could be smart — will use it. This is why Google is doing it in the first place: it knows that making it easy to adapt and free to use it will be adopted by companies big and small, and that gets Google in more and more living rooms.

Google will use Android Things to get in your living room the same way it used Android to get in your pocket.

Maybe the best part of Android Things is how we will interact with it all. No normal person should have to care about protocols or sequencing or any other geek factor when they want to upgrade to something like a smart door lock or smoke alarm. How it communicates with other smart devices to do its thing isn’t important to the end user, only that it works and is easy to operate. Google Assistant instantly comes to mind, and I can soon see myself saying, “Do I need to buy eggs?” to my phone and having my smart refrigerator answer. But that’s not the cool part — a web interface is.

And I don’t mean pulling out your phone or laptop to turn on the downstairs lights here. I mean that a proper web interface that can be made to run on a small controller or a display on an appliance or anywhere, and as long as it’s connected to a cheap Android Things-compatible hub you can take control of all your smart stuff. You can already do this with several existing smart hubs (like SmartThings; see the Android TV app) but if I’m right about the adoption of Android Things being huge, look for someone, somewhere to build the best user input/user interface device ever.

Best of all, Android Things will let the little guy have access to the same software as the big guys do. Little guys often do really cool things.

I like to tinker with stuff and am looking forward to seeing if I can adapt Android Things to replace my clunky home-built Python controllers for things like my aquarium lights or mailbox alert. I’ll bet I can. And if I can, imagine what someone more serious about IoT development can do. I’m pretty pumped about Android Things now that we know a bit more about it and can’t wait to see if I’m right or if it will be just another Google also-ran.


Here’s what we’re reading, watching, playing, and listening to this week


How we’re spending our leisure time.

Everyone has a bit of quiet downtime once in a while. Whether you’re sitting quietly at home or trying to relax on a plane or just giving your busy mind and hands a break, it’s important to relax.

A good way to do that is to read a book, listen to some music or watch a movie or show. See what’s caught our attention for the week of May 18th.

Ara Wagoner


Deadpool 2 is out this weekend, and I’m going to need something to offset all the amazingness and violence and X-Force gratuity that it’s going to overload my brain with, so thank the Disney gods that the cast recording for Frozen: the Broadway Musical released last weekend. If you’re a fan of the original film, you’re in good hands here because the story has been expanded and deepened, taking us further into all of the characters we loved and hated from the original.

As someone who absolutely adored the richness of Hunchback of Notre Dame’s extensive use its heavenly choir, Frozen’s chorus is not quite as robust, but definitely as commanding and enchanting. This is especially during the show’s opening number “Vuelie/Let The Sun Shine On” and chorus-narrated climax “Colder By The Minute”. The album has a lot of heart and a lot of charm in it, but the most fun track on the album is “When Everything Falls Apart”, which was dropped from the show. It’s catchy, it’s cute, and it’s the kind of classic turn-everything-around Broadway number that I live for. I understand it getting cut because it’s probably a bit too light for the scene it replaces, but it makes me smile and snort-laugh like the Disney nerd I am.

Frozen: The Broadway Musical Cast Recording

Daniel Bader

This week, I discovered that Amazon had released the fourth season of the excellent crime show, Bosch, based on a number of books by Michael Connelly starring an LAPD detective of the same name.

The show isn’t particularly innovative in its plotting or pacing, but the characters are all compelling, and like great serialized dramas, from Dexter (minus the last season) to The Wire, individual seasons stand on their own while weaving small plot threads throughout the series. In the case of Bosch, while he’s toiling away solving crimes in his beleaguered LAPD homicide division, he’s trying to solve the cold-case murder of his mother, which happened when he was a child.

There’s more than enough meat on the bones to keep the show interesting from episode to episode (there are 10 50-minute shows per season, and there are four seasons), but the thing that keeps me addicted is the larger arc of tension between the police and the LA citizens that crime continues to affect in disastrous ways year after year.

Highly recommended.

Marc Lagace

On May 5, Childish Gambino AKA Donald Glover dropped one hell of a music video for his latest track “This Is America” and it’s blown up like crazy. It has led to some great discussions about the layers of symbolism in both the lyrics and the video while amassing over 130 million views YouTube. The song itself debut at #1 on the Billboard Charts (if people care about that sort of thing these days), and Glover also crushed his live performance of the song on SNL.

I’ve been a huge fan of Donald Glover for years now and I just can’t get over how talented the dude is: from his stand up comedy, to playing Troy in Community, to his earlier rap efforts, I love it all!

Plus, he’s starring as a young Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story flick which… eh. But it’s Star Wars, so I’ll inevitably see it.

Joe Maring


After playing nothing but Fortnite for the past few weeks, I decided to expand my gaming horizons a bit by finally jumping into Moss. I’ve been a big fan of the PSVR since it was released, but few games have made me feel like I was truly transported into a completely new world.

Moss is one of those games.

I’m only a couple chapters into it so far, but I’m already hooked on everything developer Polyarc is throwing at me. The gameplay is fun, the implementation of virtual reality is one of the smartest I’ve ever seen, and Quill has got to be one of the cutest protagonists I’ve encountered in some time. The game costs just $30 on the PlayStation Store, and if own a PSVR and still haven’t checked it out, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.

See at PlayStation Store

Tom Westrick

This week was all about trying albums or artists I’d listened to before but disliked, but now I enjoy them. I purchased Leon Bridges’ debut album, Coming Home when it came out back in 2015, but rotated it out of my main library after a month or so because I didn’t really care for any of the songs. Flash forward to two weeks ago, and someone sang River — wonderfully, I might add — at one of my regular open mic bars. This prompted me to give Coming Home another try, and I’m glad I did. All of those songs are now back in my main library, and I’m in the process of learning a few of them. I also purchased his most recent album, Good Thing, which I’m becoming fond of as well.

One other album I decided to give another listen was Stay Gold by First Aid Kit. I’ve sung the praises (pun intended) of First Aid Kit’s newer work, but I don’t know why I’m just now enjoying Stay Gold. It was on sale on Amazon MP3 last week, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it. I listened to the album pretty much on repeat during a quick trip to Texas, and now the song Cedar Lane will always be associated with me walking around downtown Austin.

On the subject of repeat performances, I watched the entirety of The IT Crowd for the ninth or tenth time. It’s still funny, and since it’s a British series it never takes long to get through. I am not looking forward to the American remake of this because why mess with perfection?

Andrew Martonik


I’m not a father or expecting to be one anytime soon, but I found a fantastic podcast called Paternal that, as the name suggests, talks all about fatherhood. I was turned on to the podcast because the host, Nick Firchau, used to be involved with some soccer media and worked for my home club, and he’s a fantastic podcast host and producer no matter the subject.

Nick leads into each episode of Paternal with a quick story or background for a guest interview, where he tackles topics surrounding fatherhood, relationships, parenting and more. The episodes are one-off and don’t have any connection between them, so it’s easy to pick up a single episode at any time. Even as someone who isn’t a dad, I find something insightful in every episode.

Paternal is available on Pocket Casts and a whole host of other apps.

Mike Tanasychuk


I finally kicked my own ass back into reading this year (I hate making New Year’s Resolutions, but my timing coincided, so here we are), and I’ve just tucked into my sixth book of the year, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (his most recent solo fiction novel). He’s easily my favorite writer of all time, and it’s simply because he’s so versatile, starting in comics with Sandman, co-writing his first novel, and then delivering classics like American Gods and Stardust.

Like all of Gaiman’s books, The Ocean at the End of the Lane starts mysteriously, with the main character describing his childhood memories of a suicide, a secretive (and I’m thinking magical) family, and a simple duck pond that seems to become more ominous by the page. I’m not too far into it yet, but it’s the first of Gaiman’s novels I’ve read that’s from the first-person point of view, which adds a freshness to his writing that it didn’t really need to (since he’s always brilliant), and in true Gaiman fashion, it’s building toward a rich story that I know will leave me mulling it over well after I’ve finished it.

See at Amazon

Your turn

What are YOU reading, watching, or listening to this week? Let us know in the comments!

Update, May 18, 2018: This is a weekly series where we tell you what we’re into, so check back every weekend!


As Wear OS ticks to a stop, Google needs to wind it back up

Smartwatches make me mad. Really red-faced, fist-clenchingly, I-can’t-take-it-much-more angry. Actually, more accurately, it’s Google and its treatment of Wear OS that makes me huff and puff when I use a smartwatch. Almost every smartwatch I’ve used or reviewed over the last few years has always had the same problem: Google’s lackluster wearable operating system.

It has changed a little over the years, but the same problems that plagued Wear OS at the beginning still exist. Using it is a workout for your finger. It’s all press, swipe, swipe, press, swipe. Endlessly. Don’t dare let the screen go black in the middle of a process either, as it’ll throw you back to the start, and don’t expect it to always work properly, because it won’t. As Android continues to become better and better, Wear OS stands irritatingly still.

Android continues to become better and better, Wear OS stands irritatingly still.

My ire boiled over after the Google I/O 2018 keynote ended, because once again, Wear OS was completely ignored. A few new features were revealed behind the scenes, along with a preview of them in an upcoming version; but actual facts about why we should consider waiting to buy a Wear OS watch rather than just getting an Apple Watch or Samsung Gear Sport now? None whatsoever.

Google’s treatment of Wear OS is stifling smartwatch development, and it’s a crying shame.

Who cares?

If it seems like I’m coming down hard on Wear OS, I am, but it’s actually out of love. When Android Wear smartwatches first emerged, I hadn’t worn a watch on a regular basis since I was at school. It ignited my interest in watches of all types, opened up the doors to a new hobby, and I was genuinely excited to see where the burgeoning tech would go. Little did I know that it would peak very quickly, then stagnate.

This stagnation has curbed interest in the platform from tech brands. Samsung doesn’t bother with Wear OS at all, preferring to use its own, superior Tizen platform. Motorola gave up after the poorly received second generation Moto 360 range. Huawei hasn’t updated last year’s Watch 2 yet, and LG’s ridiculously massive Watch Sport has birthed nothing but rumors of an odd hybrid that may, or may not, ever arrive.

Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen Smartrwatch Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

Google has done the same. It closed the Android Wear section of the Play Store, and has routinely ignored Wear OS during Google I/O. At the end of 2017, Android Wear Vice President of Engineering David Singleton left Google after more than 10 years at the firm.

While the tech world has forgotten Wear OS exists, fashion brands are all over the platform. The synergy between fashion, watches, and tech means these companies have the know-how to give us what we want — great-looking watches that don’t sacrifice style for features. Tag Heuer’s Connected Modular 41 is a personal favorite — it’s no coincidence Wear OS executive Hoi Lam wears one, because it’s the best connected watch out there — along with Movado’s pretty Connect, the Kate Spade Scallop, and watches from Diesel, Fossil and Emporio Armani. Who needs dodgy Moto 360 watches when you can have one of these beauties.

It’s not just Google

Fashion brands are pushing smartwatches forward, but they’re still struggling to justify making more. Fossil didn’t release any new models at the Baselworld watch show, preferring to announce just some new colorways, because why should it? They’d all use the same size case, with the same chip, the same rubbish battery life, and the same damn operating system as the ones before them, and the ones before that.

Imagine if the latest phone used a Snapdragon chip from 2016. You wouldn’t buy it, would you?

Part of the blame for the lack of new — properly new, as in better than the ones that preceded it — smartwatches has to lay at Qualcomm’s feet, as the Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor these watches use is too old. Imagine if the latest phone used a Snapdragon chip from 2016. You wouldn’t buy it, would you?

Intel, which has been desperate to do something mobile-related for years, isn’t much help either, and thought better of further developing its wearable platform after making a big song and dance about its partnership with Tag Heuer on the Connected Modular 45. However, Google’s lethargy with Wear OS will has hardly served as motivation for these two giants to dedicate time and resources into a brand new chip.

The Apple Watch killed Wear OS

Google knows it’s in desperate trouble with its wearable platform, and essentially admitted it when it changed the name from Android Wear to Wear OS. It wasn’t coy about it either, stating one-in-three Wear OS watches are connected to iPhones, and removing the word Android would help take that percentage even higher. If you own an iPhone and want a smartwatch, why you’re not buying an Apple Watch is utterly beyond me. It has a proper, supported wearable operating system.

Most people know it, and the data is out there to prove how Apple has not only beaten Wear OS in the smartwatch race, it’s coming round to lap it, and still has time to stop for a refreshing beverage, a small snack, and an interesting conversation. Google is nowhere.

If you own an iPhone and want a smartwatch, why you’re not buying an Apple Watch is utterly beyond me.

Apple shipped more Apple Watches than the entire Swiss watch industry exported at the end of 2017, and in doing so became the world’s number one watch maker, according to data from IDC. The research company also stated Apple owns 21 percent of the wearables market, ahead of FitBit, Xiaomi, and Garmin. None of which use Google’s Wear OS. Huawei is fifth with 4.3 percent, but it makes plenty of cheap fitness bands in addition to the Huawei Watch range, which likely pushes it up the charts. Wear OS smartwatches are unceremoniously dumped into the Others category, fighting amongst themselves for a few percent market share.

Is Wear OS done?

Happily, it doesn’t look like Wear OS is going anywhere. Qualcomm is in the process of making a new wearable platform, which it has said will improve battery life, make watch cases smaller, and enable more features to run on more watches. It’s the first step towards reinvigorating Wear OS smartwatches, and hats off to Qualcomm for taking the plunge. It’s rumored to debut alongside a Pixel Watch from Google later this year, which is exciting, but a lot depends on the design. The Pixel phones are hardly the best looking devices out there.

Fossil said it has new watches coming later this year, likely around the fall, which will almost certainly be based on the new Qualcomm chip. These watches could also come from Fossil’s large list of partners too.

Will all this let Google off the hook? No. Wear OS needs more than a handful of new features based on Assistant. Yes, Google adores Assistant, and it’s great. On Google Home. But no-one on the planet wants to talk to their watch. It makes you look stupid. Wear OS needs an operational overhaul, a bug fix bonanza, and useful features we’ll actually use that work. Trying to sync Google Play Music playlists with a Wear OS watch is a basic requirement, yet it’s incredibly unreliable and time consuming with the current version. This process, and others, really shouldn’t make me want to bang my head repeatedly on the wall.

Wear OS can be saved, and it’s clear there are companies that want to do it; Google needs to realize that the weight of Wear OS’ future success ultimately falls on its shoulders.

It’s time to step up.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Everything you need to know about Google’s Wear OS for smartwatches
  • Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen review
  • Wear OS vs. Apple Watch: Which one will ‘wow’ your wrist?
  • 10 of the most annoying Wear OS problems, and how to fix them
  • Hublot’s luxury Wear OS smartwatch will give soccer fans World Cup updates


Sprint hopes to lure Always Connected PC owners with free LTE

Matt Smith/Digital Trends

Qualcomm and Microsoft teamed up to roll out its “Always Connected PC” platform at CES 2018, built around Snapdragon processors and always-on LTE connectivity. Now, cell carrier Sprint is cooking up a free data deal to lure Always Connected PC owners to its service. Anyone who brings an Always Connected PC — either the Lenovo Miix 630, HP Envy x2, or Asus NovaGo can get free LTE from Sprint until the end of 2018. That’s when the free data switches over to a standard monthly data plan.

The free LTE data disappears on December 31 but luckily Always Connected PC owners are not on the hook if they just want to swing by for the free data and cancel before the end date. That means if you currently have one of the aforementioned laptops, you can snag unlimited free LTE from Sprint without any obligation.

If you’re planning on taking advantage of the deal, be warned that you will be required to turn on autopay so remember to set a calendar reminder to cancel before December 31. Or stick around.

Qualcomm and Microsoft’s joint effort to put Always Connected PCs is still a work in progress.  By most accounts, the laptops come close to delivering on Microsoft and Qualcomm promises, but reviews so far have been problematic. These computers offer decent performance with exceptional battery life and always-on connectivity, but it remains unclear whether or not this new device category will pick up steam heading into 2019.

“Throughout the history of personal computing, a steady wave of progress has changed how we interact with technology in both our work and personal lives,” Microsoft’s Terry Myerson said in a statement. “Microsoft and our partners have led many of these shifts in technology like enabling the original mobile computer. We are again at the beginning of another major technology shift: The ability to be connected anytime, anywhere with Always Connected PCs that are instantly on, always connected with incredible battery life.”

This glowing endorsement of the platform comes in stark contrast to Microsoft’s more recent messaging, as illustrated in an interview with TechRadar.

“We don’t equate ‘Always Connected PC’ with Qualcomm,” Microsoft’s Erin Chappie toldTechRadar. “We’re about choice in the ecosystem and working across our partners.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • HP’s first Qualcomm-powered PC, the HP Envy X2, suffers a slight delay
  • Microsoft pulls list of limitations on ‘Always Connected’ Windows 10 PCs
  • Microsoft is giving Always Connected PCs a performance boost and more apps
  • What laptop are you looking forward to most in 2018?
  • Qualcomm’s ‘Always On’ PCs are coming to T-Mobile and AT&T


The best laptops for programming

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

There’s a lot to consider when shopping for the best laptop for programming. You don’t want to take out a bank loan for the device you need, but you certainly don’t want to rely on a snail to get the job done.

You’ll want something with a four-core processor is ideal given all the code crunching and everything else running in the background. On the memory front, programmers will need at least 8GB of RAM — although 16GB or higher is ideal. If you’re developing games, you’ll even want to consider a laptop with a discrete GPU. Even outside gaming, programming tools that rely heavily on graphics could benefit from a discrete GPU although the integrated graphics in Intel’s seventh- and eighth-generation CPUs may suffice.

There’s a lot to consider, but here are our picks for the best laptops for programming.

The Best

Dell XPS 13

Many programmers simply love Dell’s XPS ultrabooks. They’re thin and light and pack enough horsepower to get the job done. You can even get them loaded with Ubuntu if you’re into that sort of thing. It falls short of our desire for a discrete graphics chip, but it makes up for that shortcoming with the latest Intel processor, lots of speedy storage, and a QHD+ screen with one of the thinnest bezels you can find on a laptop. If you need something with some graphics prowess, upgrade to the XPS 15, which comes with a GTX 1050 Ti.

On this model you’ll find Intel’s eighth-generation Core i7-8550U processor and integrated graphics powering a 13.3-inch touch-capable screen with a 3,200 x 1,800 resolution. Backing the processor is 16GB of LPDDR3 system memory clocked at 1,866MHz, and 512GB of storage on a speedy PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD. All of this is crammed into a lightweight form factor that measures 0.60 inches at its thickest point and weighs a mere 2.7 poundsThe 2017 model starts at $800, while the new version starts at $1,000.

Buy one now from:


The Rest

Surface Book 2

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Microsoft actually serves up two sizes of its Surface Book 2, but here we chose the larger 15-inch unit. Technically the device is a detachable although the keyboard’s special hinge acts like a 2-in-1 supporting Laptop, Tent, Stand, and Tablet form factors. The Surface Book 2 also supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen and Surface Dial peripherals.

As the specifications show, the Surface Book 2 is based on Intel’s eighth-generation Core i7-8650U processor and Nvidia’s discrete GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip. That means the device isn’t just great for programming but should perform well playing the latest games in a Full HD resolution with high detail settings. It’s the GTX 1060 6GB variant too meaning there’s lots of dedicated video memory to handle large textures.

For this configuration and price, we’re locked to 16GB of system memory and a 256GB SSD. But for an extra $400 you can configure the Surface Book 2 with a 512GB SSD or pay an extra $800 for the 1TB SSD. Powering this laptop is a battery promising up to 17 hours of video playback.

Buy one now from:


Razer Blade

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Razer Blade is built for PC gamers, manufactured by a company that focuses on gaming hardware and peripherals. But programmers love this device given it’s sleek, powerful, and rather professional in appearance. That said, there’s not a lot of visual bling as seen with other gaming laptops, and it’s thin too, measuring just 0.70 inches thick. The starting weight is 4.10 pounds.

With this laptop, Razer provides two starting points: One with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and one with a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. Your storage options depend on these screens: 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB with the Full HD option, and 512GB or 1TB with the UHD option. All three storage selections rely on PCIe NVMe M.2 stick-shaped SSDs for fast boot and program load times.

Backing this screen is Intel’s Core i7-7700HQ processor, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 discrete graphics chip for mobile, and 16GB of DDR4 system memory clocked at 2,400MHz. The keyboard supports Razer’s Chroma lighting platform packing 16.8 million colors, meaning any connected Chroma-supported Razer device will synchronize its colors and lighting effects with the laptop.

Buy one now from:


Apple MacBook Pro 15

For fans of Apple, you can’t go wrong with the MacBook Pro and the power packed in the 15-inch model.

Apple’s MacBook Pro is served up in two sizes starting at $1,299, but here we chose the larger unit with the $2,399 set configuration. For that price, you get the Silver model packing Intel’s Core i7-7700HQ processor and AMD’s Radeon Pro 555 discrete graphics chip. This GPU is based on AMD’s Polaris 21 chip and is equal in performance with Nvidia’s competing GeForce MX 150 and the laptop version of the GT 1030. If that’s not enough, you can upgrade the GPU to the Radeon Pro 560.

Other notable features include four Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of which can be used for charging the device. You also get a 720p FaceTime HD camera, a backlit keyboard, Bluetooth 4.2, Wireless AC connectivity, and a battery promising up to 30 days of standby time (10 hours of movie playback). Audio consists of two stereo speakers with high dynamic range and a headphone jack.

Buy one now from:


System76 Oryx Pro

Okay, so maybe you don’t want Microsoft, Apple, or Google peeking at your workload. Linux is the obvious departure from the big three, and in this case, System76 supplies its in-house Pop! OS Linux variant along with Canonical’s highly-popular Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS build. If you’ve never heard of System76, the company launched in 2005 and solely focuses on Linux-based laptops, desktops, and servers. That said, if you’re on the market for a new Linux-based device, System76 is the place to start. 

Although the Oryx Pro product page showcases a 15.6-inch option, the “design and buy” button only lists the 17.3-inch screen. Here you’ll see various components you can throw into this laptop, such as the discrete GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip with 6GB of dedicated memory or the heftier GTX 1070 with 8GB of dedicated memory. Either way, the display supports Nvidia’s G-SYNC technology for smooth, tear-free visuals if you’re sneaking in gameplay on the side.

According to the specifications, this Linux-based laptop includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, three USB-A 3.1 Gen1 ports, an SD card reader, an Ethernet port, HDMI output, and two Mini DisplayPort outputs. 

Buy one now from:


Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best stealth gaming laptops
  • LG Gram 15Z980 vs. Microsoft Surface Book 2 15
  • Dell rebrands Inspiron gaming laptops to G Series, serves up four new models
  • The best cheap gaming PCs
  • The best 15-inch laptops of 2018


OnePlus 6 vs OnePlus 3T vs OnePlus 3: Is the new phone worth the upgrade?

The OnePlus 6 is finally here, and if you’re a longtime OnePlus fan, you may be considering an upgrade. We already looked at whether it’s worth upgrading if you’re coming from a OnePlus 5 or 5T, so now let’s see if the OnePlus 6 is worth the jump from the OnePlus 3 or 3T.


OnePlus 3
OnePlus 3T
OnePlus 6

152.7 x 74.7 x 7.4 mm (6.01 x 2.94 x 0.29 inches)
152.7 x 74.7 x 7.4 mm (6.01 x 2.94 x 0.29 inches)
155.7 x 75.4 x 7.8 mm (6.13 x 2.97 x 0.31 inches)

158 grams (5.57 ounces)
158 grams (5.57 ounces)
177 grams (6.24 ounces)

5.5-inch AMOLED
5.5-inch AMOLED
6.28-inch AMOLED

 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 pixels per inch)
1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 pixels per inch)
2,280 x 1,080 pixels (407 pixels per inch)

Android 8.0 Oreo
Android 8.0 Oreo
Android 8.1 Oreo


MicroSD card slot

NFC support

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845



16MP rear, 8MP front
16MP rear, 16MP front
Dual 16MP and 20MP rear with OIS, 16MP front

2,160p at 30fps, 1,080p at 60fps, 720p at 120fps
2,160p at 30fps, 1,080p at 60fps, 720p at 120fps
2,160p at 60fps, 1,080p at 240fps, 720p at 480fps super slow motion

Yes, version 4.2
Yes, version 4.2
Yes, version 5.0

Fingerprint sensor
Yes (front)
Yes (front)
Yes (back)

Other sensors
Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass
Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass
Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass

Water resistant


USB-C, headphone jack
USB-C, headphone jack
USB-C, headphone jack

Google Play
Google Play
Google Play

Color offerings
Graphite, Soft Gold
Gunmetal, Soft Gold, Midnight Black
Midnight Black, Mirror Black, Silk White (limited edition)

Unlocked (works with AT&T and T-Mobile)
Unlocked (works with AT&T and T-Mobile)
Unlocked (works with AT&T and T-Mobile)


DT review
4/5 stars
4/5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s clear the OnePlus 6 trounces the OnePlus 3 and 3T in terms of specifications. The much-improved processor is a surefire way of knowing that the latest phone will be faster and more powerful in every way imaginable. While the OnePlus 3 and 3T feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 821, respectively, the OnePlus 6 boasts the new Snapdragon 845 — which is significantly better than the Snapdragon 821. All three of the phones feature at least 6GB of RAM, however the OnePlus 6 boasts an option for 8GB. In terms of raw performance, the Snapdragon 845 is up to 30 percent faster than the 835, which is in turn up to 27 percent faster than the 821.

The battery on the OnePlus 3 is the smallest of the bunch, while the OnePlus 3T’s is the biggest. Still, differences in software and processor efficiency should ideally mean that the OnePlus 6’s 3,300mAh battery lasts the longest. All three devices support OnePlus’ Dash Charge, and none of them support wireless charging. It’s an easy win for the OnePlus 6.

Winner: OnePlus 6

Design and durability

OnePlus 3T Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 6 capitalizes on 2018 smartphone design trends with super-slim bezels, thanks to an edge-to-edge display and a small notch on the front for the front-facing camera and earpiece. There’s also now a glass back with a dual camera and a rear fingerprint sensor. It also swaps the mute switch to the right side of the phone, which will be easier to access for right-handed people.

The OnePlus 3 and 3T look dated. There are chunky bezels on the top and bottom of the phone, the fingerprint sensor is on the front, and there’s only a single-sensor camera on the back. It’s not a bad look, but they just don’t look as good as the OnePlus 6. On the bright side, if you absolutely hate the notch design, then the OnePlus 6 may not be for you — though you will be able to hide it via software through a later update.

The use of glass on the OnePlus 6 does subtract some points for durability; there’s less glass to break on the OnePlus 3 and 3T. None of these phones have any official water-resistant IP rating.

While we love the look of the OnePlus 6, the OnePlus 3 and 3T’s lack of excess glass make them more durable, so this one’s a tie.

Winner: Tie


The OnePlus 3 and 3T feature a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, and two years later the resolution isn’t that much higher. Because of the slightly longer shape, the resolution is now 2,280 x 1,080. In terms of pixel density, the OnePlus 6 has 407 pixels per inch (ppi), whereas the 3 and 3T have 401 ppi. You likely won’t notice much of a difference here.

You will notice the much bigger AMOLED screen on the OnePlus 6. At 6.28 inches, you get much more screen real estate. At the same time, the phone isn’t that much bigger than the OnePlus 3 or 3T, thanks to the minimized bezels. A bigger screen on a similar-sized phone is always a win.

Winner: OnePlus 6


Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 6 isn’t the first OnePlus phone with dual cameras, but the OnePlus 3 or 3T only sport one rear 16-megapixel camera. The OnePlus 6 has a 16-megapixel lens as well as a 20-megapixel lens, both with optical image stabilization. The second lens doesn’t have optical zoom like some other dual-camera setups. Instead, OnePlus said it helps with low-light photography. The new camera setup can also record video at higher frame rates, as well as in super slow motion at 480 frames per second at 720p.

The front-facing camera on the OnePlus 3 comes in at 8 megapixels, but both the OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 6 step things up to 16 megapixels. We’ll have to wait and see how good the camera on the OnePlus 6 really is, but at least on paper — and from what we’ve seen with improvements on the OnePlus 5 and 5T — it should easily be better than the OnePlus 3 or 3T.

Winner: OnePlus 6

Software and updates

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

OnePlus has its own version of Android called OxygenOS, and it’s close to stock Android with minimal bloatware. The OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T both shipped with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but they’ve both been updated to Android 8.0 Oreo. The OnePlus 6 ships with Android 8.1 Oreo, and will likely get updated to Android P and Android Q when they arrive. You’ll likely see support for the OnePlus 3 and 3T start to wane very soon.

The OnePlus 6 has a Gaming Mode, which switches off notifications and reduces latency by limiting data to background apps, but the OnePlus 3 and 3T also have this feature through an OxygenOS update. There’s not much else radically newer, software-wise, that the OnePlus 6 offers. It still takes the win, however, because it will be supported for a longer period of time.

Winner: OnePlus 6


At launch, the OnePlus 3 came at $400, while the the OnePlus 3T cost $440. The OnePlus 6 steps the price up a little to $530. In any case, there isn’t much reason to buy a OnePlus 3 or 3T today for newcomers — and the OnePlus 6 still boasts excellent value for money.

Overall winner: OnePlus 6

It’d be surprising if the OnePlus 6 wasn’t the best phone of the bunch. But if you have a OnePlus 3 or 3T, should you upgrade? We think so. It has been about two years since the launch of the OnePlus 3, and we think the OnePlus 6 is still a worthy upgrade for the OnePlus 3T as well, with overall improvements across the board. If you don’t feel the need to upgrade your phone, there’s likely a OnePlus 6T on the way later this year.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • OnePlus 6 vs. OnePlus 5T vs. OnePlus 5: Is it worth it to upgrade?
  • OnePlus 6 hands-on review
  • Everything you need to know about the 6-inch OnePlus 5T
  • OnePlus 6: Everything you need to know
  • OnePlus will help you buy a OnePlus 6 — if your old phone meets one condition


Surgery-free ‘nasal airway remodeler’ boosts airflow in congested patients’ noses

Tens of millions of Americans suffer from sinus pain and inflammation due to obstruction of the nasal cavity. This can cause chronic congestion, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. While it’s possible to temporarily alleviate some of these symptoms with medication, in the long term, the only proven solution is for a patient to undergo nasal surgery. That could be about to change, however.

A Sunnyvale, California-based startup called Aerin Medical has developed a noninvasive device to help solve this problem, which it can reportedly do with both minimal discomfort to the patient and, just as importantly, long-lasting results.

“This device helps to reshape the nasal valve region in order to improve airflow,” Ohio State University’s Dr. Brad Otto, leader of an ongoing clinical trial, told Digital Trends. “For many people, the nasal valve is a very important region in the perception of normal, good airflow. This solves the problem of nasal obstruction for those people whose nasal valve contributes to the obstruction.”

Ohio State University

The Vivaer Nasal Airway Remodeling device works by applying radio frequency energy to cartilage in the patient’s nose. Before the procedure is performed, computed tomography (CT) scans are taken to reveal exactly how the airflow through the nasal cavity is being affected by the blockage. The wand-like nasal airway remodeling device then targets energy toward the affected areas. No anesthetic is needed, and there’s no sustained recovery period, as would be the case after invasive surgery.

“We have performed the procedure on nine patients,” Otto said. “We plan to perform the procedure on a total of 15 patients for the purposes of this study. We do not have any publishable results related to the study at this time. The trial is aimed at determining the effectiveness of the procedure in improving nasal obstruction, and is also aimed at examining the effects the procedure has on nasal airflow, as determined by computational fluid dynamics.”

If you want to be among those in the clinical trial, you can get in touch to put yourself forward as a test subject. With the promise of greatly improved breathing, there’s not a whole lot for you to lose — and that includes your nose cartilage.

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