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17
Jul

Best Prime Day Baby Deals: Wipes, Monitors, Formula, Swings & More


Babies grow quickly, and they need lots of clothes, toys, and things to stimulate their minds. All of that can add up super quickly, but if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can easily reap the rewards of Prime Day and save big on tons of baby gear so that your little one can keep healthy and happy, and you don’t have to tear your hair out when you see your empty wallet.

Follow along with us all day as we bring your the best deals on everything baby-related as they go live.

See all the best Prime Day dealsPrime Day Live Chat

All Baby-related Deals

Prime Day has brought a ton of price drops to baby-related gear, and the Thrifter team has gone through each one to make sure that each one listed below is actually a good deal.

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Mama Bear organic baby food 12-pack 4-ounce pouches


$11.03


$16.00


Save $5

These baby food pouches have never been discounted on Amazon before.

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Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Stroll ‘N Trike


$55.53


$86.55


Save $31

This Radio Flyer trike can be adjusted to support children from 9 months old up to 5 years old.

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Safety 1st Grow and Go Car Seats

Keep your baby safe in the car with a trusted car seat from Safety 1st.

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Baby Nursery Essential Items

From cribs to sheets, sleepsacks, and even dressers, this one-day sale can help you complete your baby’s nursery.

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Skip Hop Stroller Organizer


$16.09


$22.99


Save $7

Keep your keys, credit cards, wallet, and more organized while pushing your stroller.

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Summer Infant Pop N’ Play Portable Playard


$51.05


$68.99


Save $18

Whether you’re heading to the beach or sitting by the pool, this portable playard is a must-have.

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Skip Hop Vibrant Village Smart Lights Activity Gym


$56.69


$80.99


Save $24

Activity mats are great to help entertain your kids and allow them to develop basic skills as they grow up.

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Melissa & Doug Toys

Save on well-made educational toys that will make your kids as happy as your bank account.

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Graco Pack n Play Playard


$33.24


$49.48


Save $16

From a place to play to somewhere to sleep, playards are essential to just about every new parent.

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Graco Baby Swing


$51.02


$99.99


Save $49

This thing is a life saver, take it from the parent of a 5-month old who would only nap in this.

17
Jul

Are you excited for new S Pen features on the Galaxy Note 9?


The possibility of Bluetooth and a battery has a lot of people talking.

The S Pen is a staple of Samsung’s Galaxy Note products, and this year with the Note 9, we’re expecting a few big upgrades to come over to it.

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Although we won’t know any of this for sure until August 9, the rumor mill is currently reporting that the Note 9’s S Pen will come equipped with Bluetooth, offer some sort of gaming-specific features, possibly act as a camera shutter button, and much more.

It’s exciting to hear that Samsung’s working on making its already great stylus even better, and as you might expect, our forum users have plenty to say on the matter.

avatar2597654_1.gifBlues Fan
07-16-2018 12:35 AM

The thing that concerns me with the Spen is the battery in it. The Note 9 battery is supposed to be 4000mah but how much of that will be used to charge the spen? Depending on how often you use the spen, battery like might not be a ton better than the Note 8.

Reply

avatar2840190_7.gifJewels81
07-16-2018 04:21 AM

I’m no battery expert but if it only takes 40 seconds to charge and last about 200 clicks, it shouldn’t take alot of battery from note9. Unless you click alot lol. If you a heavy spen user than I can see it taking up some battery. I’m not a heavy spen user so it might not be a problem for me. Like I said I’m no battery expert tho lol. Guess we will see.

Reply

avatar684514_6.gifRukbat
07-16-2018 04:23 PM

I’m guessing that the “battery” in the pen will be a supercapacitor. Batteries don’t charge that fast. But at least supercapacitors don’t wear out with age. (Meaning that if the phone is still working 10 years from now, and on its 3rd or 4th battery, the pen will still be on the original supercapacitor.)

Using Bluetooth, though, even low-power Bluetooth, is going to eat battery – and that…

Reply

avatar2369890_1.gifjhimmel
07-17-2018 04:48 AM

Honestly, the new SPen features do not seem that interesting to me, and I have a feeling I won’t really be using them. I mostly use the pen for marking up photos, but we’ll see…

Reply

Now, we want to hear from you — Are you excited for the Galaxy Note 9’s S Pen?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Best Amazon Prime Day Deals amazon-logo.pngprimedaylogolarge.png

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Lowe’s 10% Off Sitewide

If it’s at Lowe’s, it’s 10% off. You’ll also get a free Google Home Mini if you spend $150 or more.

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Anker 3-foot PowerLine Lightning Cables (3-pack)


$16.79


$22.00


Save $5

Replace your old cables with these shiny new ones at a great price.

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The Wife Between Us: A Novel (Hardcover Edition)


$11.81


$19.99


Save $8

This bestselling novel has gained wild popularity recently, which is why you should buy it while it’s on sale.

br30-bulb.jpg?itok=dghvywI5

TP-Link Kasa BR30 multi-color dimmable smart bulb


$34.99


$50.00


Save $15

Save some money and color your hanging lights.

  • Top Deals
  • Amazon Devices
  • TVs
  • Smart Home
  • Unlocked Smartphones
  • Kitchen
  • Audio & Headphones
  • Gaming
  • Home Improvement / DIY
  • Everyday Essentials
  • Kids & Toys
  • Entertainment
  • Fashion

Check out more Amazon Prime Day deals!

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 rumors: Release date, specs, price, and features!
  • Is it best to buy the Galaxy S9 or wait for the Note 9?
  • Do you plan on upgrading to the Note 9?
  • Galaxy Note 8 review
  • Join our Galaxy Note 9 forums

17
Jul

Everything that’s new in OxygenOS


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Have a OnePlus phone? Here’s what’s new with your latest update.

OxygenOS is the software that powers OnePlus phones, and even if you’re not enrolled in the Open Beta, it’s still frequently updated with new features and bug fixes to keep an eye out for.

It can be tough to keep track of what’s new, so we’ll be updating this guide with each new OxygenOS update that’s rolled out.

July 17, 2018 — OxygenOS 5.1.9 brings better dynamic range to OnePlus 6 camera, Google Lens integration

OnePlus is starting to roll out OxygenOS 5.1.9 build, with the update focusing on the OnePlus 6’s camera. The update will bring improvements to the autofocus and edge detection in portrait mode, as well as further enhancements to image clarity and dynamic range.

Additionally, the update will also bring Google Lens integration to the OnePlus camera app, allowing users to scan QR codes and get information about real-world objects. OnePlus says Google Lens will be making its way to the OnePlus 5 and 5T in addition to the OnePlus 6.

The update should be rolling out to select regions starting later today, and will be available more widely from July 20.

June 18, 2018 — OxygenOS 5.1.7 and 5.1.8 bring bootloader fixes

OnePlus is rolling out the OxygenOS 5.1.7 build, which includes the usual bug fixes and stability improvements along with a fix for the bootloader vulnerability that was discovered a few days ago. The build also includes fixes for scheduled DND settings.

The OxygenOS 5.1.7 build won’t be making its way to Indian users, and OnePlus is instead rolling out the 5.1.8 build, which offers the same fixes as the global build. The 5.1.8 build also includes system and network stability fixes, and features optimizations to the call quality.

June 8, 2018 — OnePlus 6 gets Portrait Mode for the front-facing camera and scheduled Do Not Disturb

OxygenOS 5.1.6 is now rolling out to the OnePlus 6 around the globe and comes with a bevy of new features to play around with.

There are two big updates to the camera situation, including a Portrait Mode for the front-facing camera and a Light Bokeh effect that can now be used with the rear camera.

Also included with this update is the ability to schedule Do Not Disturb to turn on at set times and dates. Additionally, you can create your own custom rules for DND to make it work just the way you want.

Other improvements with 5.1.6 include:

  • Battery percentage can be seen in the status bar
  • Improvements for sound quality and volume with ringtones
  • A dual 4G option now available in SIM & network settings
  • Stability improvements for dual SIM cards
  • Idea VoLTE now working in India
  • Optimized call clarity
  • Added smart answer for Bluetooth – automatically answer incoming calls when connecting to Bluetooth devices
  • Optimized power consumption and Improved system stability

Best Amazon Prime Day Deals amazon-logo.pngprimedaylogolarge.png

shopvac-lowes.jpg?itok=ABAtZjG8

Lowe’s 10% Off Sitewide

If it’s at Lowe’s, it’s 10% off. You’ll also get a free Google Home Mini if you spend $150 or more.

anker-powerline-3-pack.jpg?itok=Q4Cl9EgA

Anker 3-foot PowerLine Lightning Cables (3-pack)


$16.79


$22.00


Save $5

Replace your old cables with these shiny new ones at a great price.

the-wife-between-us.jpg?itok=pYrTaWyA

The Wife Between Us: A Novel (Hardcover Edition)


$11.81


$19.99


Save $8

This bestselling novel has gained wild popularity recently, which is why you should buy it while it’s on sale.

br30-bulb.jpg?itok=dghvywI5

TP-Link Kasa BR30 multi-color dimmable smart bulb


$34.99


$50.00


Save $15

Save some money and color your hanging lights.

  • Top Deals
  • Amazon Devices
  • TVs
  • Smart Home
  • Unlocked Smartphones
  • Kitchen
  • Audio & Headphones
  • Gaming
  • Home Improvement / DIY
  • Everyday Essentials
  • Kids & Toys
  • Entertainment
  • Fashion

Check out more Amazon Prime Day deals!

OnePlus 6

  • OnePlus 6 review
  • OnePlus 6 vs. OnePlus 5T: How much changes in six months?
  • OnePlus 6 vs. OnePlus 5: Should you upgrade?
  • These are the official OnePlus 6 cases
  • The OnePlus 6 doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint
  • Join the discussion in the forums

17
Jul

The iRobot Roomba 671 has dropped to $230 for the first time


Good for pets. Works with voice control systems. Great price.

The iRobot Roomba 671 robot vacuum is down to $229.99 as a Prime exclusive deal. This price is about $120 less than what it normally goes for.

The Eufy RoboVac 11 is also on sale for $159.99. That’s a Prime Day deal and a good budget option.

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The Roomba 671 is a relatively new entry in the iRobot lineup. So while it hasn’t been around long to have a lot of huge sales, this is the first real direct price drop we have seen, it does have some modern features. It works with Amazon’s Alexa for voice control and the iRobot Home app, which gives you freedom to schedule it from anywhere. The Roomba has a 3-stage cleaning system, intelligent sensors, and an auto-adjusting cleaning head to clean every surface and everything from small particles to pet hair to debris. The battery runs up to 90 minutes, then the Roomba will return to its dock automatically to recharge.

See on Amazon

17
Jul

Moto G6 Play review: The budget battery king strikes again


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The Moto G no longer sits in a vacuum, but the G6 Play is still a great option for just $200.

There’s no name more recognizable in the budget smartphone category than “Moto G.” Since its launch, the Moto G series has consistently been Motorola’s best-selling product line, taking people aback with great performance at a low price.

When Motorola launched the Moto G4 a couple of years ago, it segmented the series into three sub-brands; the standard Moto G4, the battery-focused Moto G4 Play, and the more powerful Moto G4 Plus. The names stuck, and a few generations later, we now have the Moto G6 Play — an inexpensive offering with a modernized design and an enormous battery.

Motorola Moto G6 Play



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Price: $199.99

Bottom line: Clean software and outstanding battery life rarely come this cheap.

The Good

  • Modern design and 18:9 display
  • Huge, long-lasting battery
  • Relatively fast performance
  • Compatible with all U.S. carriers

The Bad:

  • Slow and unimpressive cameras
  • Old Micro-USB port, rather than USB-C
  • No NFC means no Google Pay

See at Amazon

Finely crafted

Moto G6 Play The hardware

Operating System Android 8.0 Oreo
Display 5.7-inch, 1440×720 IPS LCD282ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 4274x Cortex-A53 1.4GHzAdreno 308 GPU
RAM 2GB / 3GB
Storage 16GB / 32GB
Expandable microSD up to 128GB
Rear Camera 13MP (1.12 micron) ƒ/2.0 phase detect autofocusLED flash
Front Camera 8MP Selfie flash1080p/30 video
Battery 4000 mAhNon-removable
Dimensions 155.4 x 72.2 x 9.1 mm

Just because the Moto G6 Play is inexpensive, doesn’t mean it has to feel cheap. On the contrary, this is a terrifically well-built phone, with a rounded plastic backing that you’d be forgiven for mistaking for glass. There’s a fingerprint sensor integrated into the Motorola logo on the back, with a matte texture and a slight indentation that makes it easy to find with your finger.

Around the front, there’s a first for the Moto G line — a 5.7-inch 18:9 display, with relatively small bezels above and below. The display isn’t the sharpest at only 720p, nor will the saturation or brightness wow you by any stretch, but I’m just happy to see a budget Motorola phone without enormous bezels for once.

That 720p resolution also plays a role in the phenomenal battery life that gives the G6 Play its namesake. With so few pixels to power compared to the 1080p and Quad HD panels out there, Motorola could’ve squeezed good endurance out of even a 2000mAh battery — though of course, they didn’t do that, instead packing a battery twice as large at 4000mAh. Combine that with the power-efficient Snapdragon 427 processor, and it’s no wonder this phone is able to eke out as much as three days of casual use — even with more involved workloads, two days is achievable.

The Moto G6 Play isn’t the thinnest phone in the world, but it isn’t too thick either, at about 9mm. Still, you might find yourself a bit annoyed at the slightly thicker camera housing that prevents the phone from laying flat on a table — at least, without the included soft-shell case that makes it all a consistent thickness.

Looking around the edges of the phone, you’ll notice that there’s no speaker grill to be found — instead, Motorola relies entirely on the G6 Play’s earpiece speaker. It’s far from the cleanest-sounding speaker I’ve used, but it gets plenty loud for notifications and simple media playback. Continuing around the edges, there’s a pleasingly tactile set of volume and power buttons along the righthand side, a headphone jack up top, and a Micro-USB port, because … cost savings.

Motorola may not offer any kind of IP certification on the Moto G6 Play (or any of its higher-end phones either, for that matter), but it protects the phone with a water-repellent nano-coating, both inside and out. You definitely shouldn’t try your hand at underwater photography with the Moto G6 Play, but an accidental spill or a phone call in the rain shouldn’t do it much harm.

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Clean and simple

Moto G6 Play Software and features

One of the most compelling parts of any Motorola phone is its clean, Pixel-like software experience. It’s still not technically stock Android, but it’s about as close as it gets, with only a few tweaks made that actually improve the experience.

Flipping through the home screens and app drawer, you’ll notice just how barebones Motorola’s software enhancements are. The Google Now feed still sits to the left of the home screen, and the only non-stock apps you’ll come across (aside from Amazon software — we’ll get to that in a sec) are Moto and Device Help. The former holds a collection of useful gestures and customizations to Moto Display, which I’ve found to be the best implementation of the always-on display around.

The customizable Moto Actions are the same ones found on most other Motorola phones. You can double-twist the phone in your wrist to launch the camera, double-chop to toggle the flashlight, flip the phone face-down on a table to enable Do Not Disturb mode, or use on-screen gestures to take screenshots or enable one-handed mode. Unfortunately, you don’t get the option for one-handed navigation, as found on the Moto Z3 Play, but I’m glad to still see such useful and simple gestures on a $200 phone.

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Speaking of price, you can actually save $10 and get free shipping if you buy the Moto G6 Play through Amazon’s Prime Exclusive program. This isn’t the nightmarish experience it used to be, with lock screen ads galore — instead, the phone just comes with a handful of Amazon apps pre-installed, all of which you can either uninstall or disable. Not a bad deal to shave a bit more off the cost of this already-affordable phone.

As far as performance goes, the G6 Play won’t turn any heads, but it shouldn’t disappoint you, either. It’s not as fast as the similarly priced Honor 7X, but the Snapdragon 427 handles most tasks pretty well, launching apps quickly and rarely showing signs of stutter when scrolling. You can even get away with running a windowed YouTube video while doing something else, but that does yield noticeably slower performance.

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Don’t expect much

Moto G6 Play Cameras

On the topic of slow performance, the camera is easily the slowest part of using the Moto G6 Play. Launching Motorola’s camera app (which I actually quite enjoy, largely thanks to excellent control scheme in pro mode that’s reminiscent of Nokia’s camera app on Windows Phone), you’re immediately greeted with a laggy viewfinder.

Once you begin taking photos, you’ll notice a few more things; while tapping to adjust focus and exposure is nice, the camera is very slow to do so, often pulsing as it hunts for focus. It’s also just not a great camera — it’s low on detail, even before zooming into your shot to pixel-peep, and dynamic range is pretty terrible, with outdoor shots either completely blowing out the sky or wildly underexposing the subject.

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In fairness, this is all fairly standard fare on a $200 phone, and the Moto G6 Play is far from the worst camera I’ve used in this price range. It still produces decent colors, and you can get an impressive amount of background blur — just don’t expect too much from it, especially in low light situations.

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The bottom line

Moto G6 Play Should you buy it?

If you can swing the extra $50, you should definitely get the proper Moto G6 instead of the G6 Play; you’ll get a faster processor, a much better camera, a better screen, and USB-C. That all adds up to a significantly better overall package, but make no mistake: the Moto G6 Play is still a great value, even without the extras.

The Moto G isn’t the only good budget choice anymore, though. For the same $200, you can pick up the Honor 7X, which features better build quality, faster performance, and an impressive pair of rear cameras. Honor’s EMUI software is a point of contention for some, but in most other ways the 7X is the more compelling option.

3.5
out of 5


Still, the Moto G6 Play stands uncontested in battery life, and the ultra-clean Android software is a nice bonus. If you’re working with $200, go ahead and pull the trigger on the G6 Play — you won’t be disappointed.

See at Amazon

17
Jul

Make your cord cutting experience even more affordable with these great Prime Day deals


It’s the perfect time to buy.

Amazon’s Prime Day has brought a ton of great discounts along with it, especially if you’re interested in making 2018 the year you leave your cable provider. From discounted streaming sticks to smart TVs, there are a ton of deals going on right now that you simply will not want to miss out on.

One of the most affordable devices is Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, which is down to $19.99 right now. It comes with the Alexa Voice Remote so you can search for media with your voice, and plugs right into the HDMI port on your TV. For an extra $15 you can treat yourself to the 4K version of the streaming stick. If you’ve already upgraded your TV or plan to in the near future, you’ll want this one.

The Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s newest hardware in this space, and it combines the best features of Amazon’s Alexa and Fire TV into a single device. It definitely has a few flaws of its own, but as a whole, it offers a pretty good experience. You can combine the Fire TV hardware with other Amazon devices to help you save even more as well.

If you’re in need of a new TV, you’ll probably want to look at a Smart TV now. These basically have Amazon’s Fire TV or Roku’s OS built right in, which means you don’t need any extra wires or dongles to access Hulu, Netflix, and more. Arguably the best TV deal right now is Toshiba’s 50-inch 4K Fire TV, which is on sale for $289.99. This is its only price drop, and at this price, it’s insanely hard to resist. You can grab the 43-inch version for $249.99 if you need something for a smaller space.

Prefer Roku’s operating system over Amazon’s Fire TV? If so, you’ll want to check out the TCL 40-inch for $194.99 or the 49-inch for $299.99. TCL has become the go-to name brand for Roku TVs, and at these prices, you should see why for yourself. There are a few other TV deals worth checking out today, as well.

Of course, you’ll need some media to play on your new gear, so be sure to check out all of our top entertainment deals that you can take advantage of right now.

17
Jul

Sonos Beam review: Raising the sound bar


The only living room speaker you need.

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To know a Sonos speaker is to love it. It’s that simple.

But to know a Sonos speaker is to know two, or five, or a $699 Sub or Playbar. Even though you get what you pay for, you still pay.

To some extent that changed with the now-$149 Play:1, which was succeeded by the $199 Alexa-touting Sonos One. But the speaker company, which has awkwardly stumbled into the smart assistant age, is alien to the average music listener because that industry is so heavily commoditized, and out of reach of its more attainable audience, TV watchers, because its existing products are so narrowly focused.

With the Beam that changes for the better. The way better.

Sonos Beam



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Price: $399

Bottom line: The Sonos Beam is a compact, powerful smart speaker that also happens to be a great TV soundbar.

Pros:

  • Huge sound for the size, especially from the low-end
  • Superb channel separation
  • Puts Sonos features right in front of you
  • Lets you control your TV with Alexa
  • Easy to set up

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Still doesn’t support Google Assistant
  • Alexa hot word is too sensitive

See at Amazon

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Sonos Beam What it is

The Beam is neither Sonos’ best music speaker nor its best sound bar, but it’s the most sensible product the company could have released in 2018. Unlike the massive and input-limited Playbar, the Beam supports HDMI ARC, which means it pulls double duty as a TV speaker and a remote control.

The idea behind the Beam is that it replaces your TV’s crappy built-in speakers, or gets rid of the need for a complicated receiver and separate pair of speakers. The latter was my setup — I have an expensive Yamaha multi-channel AV receiver and a pair of old Technics bookshelves — with my various set-top boxes polluting its HDMI ports and forcing me to use its awful remote. The prospect of simplification was enticing.

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So I unplugged my Chromecast, Apple TV, my Fire TV from the receiver and put them directly into my LG B7 OLED television, reserving HDMI 2, which supports ARC, for the Beam. ARC is intriguing, and this is my first time using the technology; it stands for Audio Return Channel, and it’s a standard that synchronizes the video on the TV with the audio from a connected speaker.

It also does one other really cool thing: it forgoes any setup or pairing, and it facilitates smart assistants like Alexa acting like a remote control. So not only does the Beam, when connected to a compatible TV, act as a rich, powerful speaker, but it lets you ask Alexa to turn on and off the TV, and on Amazon-built hardware, launch individual apps like Prime Video or Netflix.

But the Beam is two more separate products: it’s a Sonos speaker, which connects to nearly 100 streaming music and radio services like Spotify, Google Play Music, Apple Music, Audible, and others, and it’s an Alexa conduit, which means it’s a much better-sounding Echo, able to perform all the same smart home tasks and useful skills that Amazon has been adding to its platform since 2014.

The best streaming music services

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Sonos Beam What I like

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At $399, the value proposition is fairly straightforward: the Sonos Beam is an outstanding speaker. Even if it didn’t do all the things I described above, it would almost be worth its asking price by virtue of its sound output. While it doesn’t match the deep bass and ultra-wide soundstage of the Playbar, which is near twice the price and double the size, the Beam’s four woofers, single tweeter, three passive radiators, and five Class-D amplifiers manage to amply reproduce a stereo pair from a single unit that’s just 26 inches wide, 3 inches high, and 4 inches deep.

I appreciate that Sonos doesn’t cloud its equalization with bias, either: the sound emitted from the Beam is, by default, clean and approachable. It doesn’t create bass that isn’t there, and it doesn’t pretend to be a speaker double the size. Sonos recommends the Beam for a small or medium-sized living room; it probably wouldn’t do well paired with a 100-inch projector in a theater.

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According to Sonos’ head of marketing, Michael Papish, only 20% of homes have any sound equipment connected to a TV in the living room. When looked at in such a context, the Beam is an ideal speaker for them because it also gets rid of the need for a separate smart speaker, or Sonos speaker in general, in one’s living area.

The Beam sounds better than most soundbars, and way better than any Alexa-enabled speaker.

At the same time, the Beam benefits from being paired with Sonos’ other products. I was easily able to use a pair of Sonos Play:1 speakers as a stereo pair, and the excellent Sonos app makes it trivial to set up. And while I don’t have one of the company’s excellent $699 subwoofers, when mixed with the Beam Sonos does the work to separate the bass from the mids so frequency crossover is smooth.

Here’s an example of why I love using the Beam, and why pairing it with a smart assistant makes so much sense. I use my voice to turn on my TV — “Alexa, turn on the TV,” and launch right into Netflix. I start watching some Luke Cage and hear a song I love. It’s Faith Evans’ “Mesmerized,” but it only plays for a few seconds so I ask Alexa to play the full thing. This leads me down a Bad Boy rabbit hole, so I open my Spotify app and build a new hip-hop playlist, pushing it to the Beam using Spotify Connect. Once I’m done, I press play on the TV and my episode resumes.

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The genius of Sonos is that it just works, and works everywhere. You can use the new-and-improved Sonos app (seriously, it used to be garbage and now it’s amazing) to consolidate music from any number of music services — the app’s universal search is excellent — or just use it as a Spotify controller. If you have more than one Sonos speaker, you can combine or separate them at any time for whole-home audio. You can choose to use Alexa or ignore the functionality altogether, muting the five far-field microphones with a tap on the Beam’s capacitive console.

Even when my TV is off, I use Beam to listen to podcasts or my local radio station. It stands in for Bluetooth speakers, smart speakers, and TV speakers. It’s just that versatile.

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Sonos Beam What I don’t like

Let’s offer a counterpoint to what I said above: at $399, the Beam’s value proposition is straightforward. It’s also outlandishly high compared to buying an Amazon Echo and a decent soundbar. If you’ve no need for Sonos’ integrated nature, it’s easy enough to recreate a facsimile of the experience with a $99 Echo and a $120 RSR.

This becomes doubly true when admitting that the Beam’s Alexa integration is pretty basic unless you’re also using an Amazon Fire TV, and that the far-field microphones are far too sensitive, accidentally activating a half dozen times an evening. Every word that begins with “Al-” elicits the recognizable activation chime, and that’s despite Sonos saying the Beam is less prone to false positives than the notoriously finicky Sonos One.

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Then there’s the question of Google Assistant support. When Sonos announced it was getting into the smart speaker game, it approached the problem as it had with music: it would be as open as possible and support as many APIs as it could. But Google Assistant integration was supposed to launch earlier this year and has been pushed back to an indefinite date citing unspecific compatibility problems. Later this year, the Sonos Beam will be among three speakers in the company’s lineup to support Apple’s AirPlay 2, but that won’t provide Android users much solace.

The final concern is with the HDMI spec itself: ARC is built into most TVs these days, but Sonos can’t control that side of the equation. It can only hope that customers are savvy enough to check their televisions beforehand or upgrade their sets at the same time. The fallback is an HDMI-to-optical adapter in the box, which should even the oldest of modern-day televisions to work, sans intelligence, with the Beam. And in neither configuration does the Beam support DTS, just Dolby Digital 5.1.

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Sonos Beam Should you buy it?

Let me tell you something about Sonos. All of the problems I mentioned above? The investment, the platforms, the cables, the specs — they all disappear once you start using the product. Every Sonos product is solid, and the Beam is no exception. This is my favorite speaker in the company’s lineup to date because it checks so many boxes.

And it will get better. The Beam will eventually support Google Assistant and all its intelligence, along with the smart home integrations and routines you’ve already set up on your phone, and Sonos will add additional services like YouTube Music to its music lineup. And there’s a good chance, once you buy a Beam, you’ll want to spend more money on additional Sonos stuff.

4.5
out of 5


Even if you don’t, and just stick with the Beam as your sole Sonos product, you’ll be happy with its massive feature set and awesome sound.

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17
Jul

Best Android games with Bluetooth controller support


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Gaming is simply better with a controller in your hands.

Gaming on Android typically requires you to settle for using touchscreen controls. However, some gracious game developers do take the time and effort to include support for Bluetooth gamepad.

If you’re constantly on the lookout for games that support Bluetooth controller, you can check out Gamepad Games, which is an app that’s compiled a fairly comprehensive list of games with gamepad support. Unfortunately, when you actually start browsing through the apps you quickly discover that many are… not so good.

So, to save you some time, we’ve compiled some of the best games that support Bluetooth controllers. And if you’re looking for a quality Bluetooth controller recommendation, consider the SteelSeries Stratus XL, which is the controller I used to vet these selections.

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  • Evoland 2
  • Horizon Chase World Tour
  • Riptide GP: Renegade
  • Modern Combat 5: Blackout
  • Unkilled
  • Sega Forever titles
  • Skate Party 3
  • Only One
  • Pew Pew
  • Bomb Squad

Evoland 2

Evoland 2 is one of those premium games for Android that you just don’t want to put down. Initially released in 2015 on Steam, Evoland 2 is a fantastic sequel to the first Evoland and follows suit with graphics and gameplay that evolve as you progress through the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first Evoland game for Android and one of my few criticisms of the game was that the story was a bit short. That’s not the case with Evoland 2, which features over 20 hours of gameplay.

While the first game in the series explored the evolution of RPGs, Evoland 2 has expanded its nostalgic scope by incorporating even more gaming genres into the game. It starts out as a pretty typical action RPG, but as you progress through the story both the graphics and gameplay take dramatic shifts which work wonderfully for keeping the game feeling fresh.

Evoland 2 will have you laughing as it constantly breaks the fourth wall and there are more gaming and pop culture references than you can shake a stick at. This is another great game for fans of RPGs and video game culture and well worth the cost to play. Best of all, there’s support for both Bluetooth controllers and Android TV including the NVIDIA Shield TV

Download: Evoland 2 ($6.99)

Horizon Chase World Tour

Horizon Chase is a fun retro-style racer with gameplay reminiscent of the of the classic 80s arcade racer Pole Position. Featuring bright and colorful retro graphics over 70 tracks spanning 32 cities, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. You start each race from the back of a 20 car pack, and must weave your way past your opponents to take the crown. Keep winning to upgrade and unlock up 16 available cars.

Horizon Chase offers support for Bluetooth controls, which is the best way to play this game.

You get to play the San Francisco tracks but then must pay to unlock the full game. Given how beautiful and fun this game is, we bet you will.

Download: Horizon Chase (Free, $3.99 to unlock full game)

Riptide GP: Renegade

The Riptide GP series is one of the best racing games you can play on Android. The latest game in the franchise, Riptide GP: Renegade, is the best yet.

Harkening back to memories of games like Jet Moto or Wave Race 64, Riptide GP: Renegade features a story-driven career mode alongside options to run a quick race or battle against online opponents. The graphics are top notch, with water and motion blur effects really giving the game a good sense of speed.

There’s plenty to unlock and upgrade as you play through the career mode, and the AI is top notch, providing a real challenge compared to other racing games.

Download: Riptide GP: Renegade ($2.99)

Modern Combat 5 Blackout

Years after its initial release, Modern Combat 5 Blackout remains one of the best first-person shooters available for Android. With dazzling graphics and options to play through the solo campaign or take it online, you can get an edge on your competition with a proper controller in your hand.

If the name doesn’t already give it away, this is very similar to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, so if you’re a fan of that series and looking for a fun option to play on the go, you’ll definitely want to give this a look if you haven’t yet.

Download: Modern Combat 5 Blackout (Free)

Unkilled

Unkilled is another very polished first-person shooter that fully supports Bluetooth controllers and offers over 150 missions in the single player campaign, along with multiple online multiplayer modes to choose from. As you play online, you’re able to choose a preferred character class, and then upgrade your skills and weapon load-outs.

And again, using the Bluetooth controller should give you a distinct advantage against the AI zombies as well as your online opponents. Simply sync your controller with your phone and it’ll automatically work when you load up Unkilled.

Download: Unkilled (Free)

Sega Forever titles

Sega deserves praise for its Sega Forever program which has been porting the best gems from its vast game library to the Google Play Store. Whether you’re a huge fan of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (arguably the best Sonic game ever released) or DreamCast titles like Crazy Taxi or Super Monkeyball — they’re all available as free-to-play titles with ads, or can be unlocked with no ads for just $1.99.

There are more than 20 games currently available with more added on a monthly basis. All of them can be played with touchscreen controls or with a Bluetooth controller, which is another great move by Sega because these games were designed to be played with a controller in your hand.

Best Sega Forever Games

Skate Party 3

Do you find yourself staring longingly out the window thinking about how great Tony Hawk Pro Skater was back in the day? Me too.

While it’s almost criminal that no one has ported any of those classic games to Android, Skate Party 3 offers a comparable experience that’s also compatible with Bluetooth controllers. It’s a little finicky and takes some time to get used to, but if you’ve been jonesing for a great skateboarding game to play on the go, Skate Party 3 is it. The full version is available for $1.99, but if you’d prefer to try before you buy, you can try out the lite version to see if it’s worth investing in the full game.

Download: Skate Party 3 ($1.99)

Only One

Do you remember the final scene in the 2001 Jet Li movie The One? Something tells me the developers of Only One did, as the game basically plays like the final scene in that mostly forgettable action flick.

The premise is pretty simple: you stand alone on the top of a tall column with a magical sword as you fight off wave after wave after wave of enemies. The graphics are delightfully retro and the difficulty progressively as you progress through the levels. Best of all, you can connect your Bluetooth gamepad and play with more precise control. It’s a free game, but you will be pestered to cheat upgrade via in-app purchases.

Download: Only One (Free w/IAPs)

Pew Pew

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Keeping with the retro theme, Pew Pew is a classic-looking top-down multidirectional shoot ’em up that’s a great pick up and play option. There are five unique game modes to play: Pandemonium, Dodge This, Assault, Chromatic Conflict, and Asteroids.

The game plays well enough with touch screen controls, but playing with two physical thumbsticks really makes a big difference for a game like this that demands precise controls to dodge and destroy wave after wave of enemies.

Download: Pew Pew (Free)

BombSquad

Gaming is always more fun with friends, and BombSquad is an action-packed collection of mini games with multiple ways to join the game. With fun and cartoony graphics, you’ll be able to choose from eight different game modes.

Bluetooth controllers are supported, or you can get your friends to download the BombSquad Remote app and use their phones to control their character. This game is available for most Android devices, including Android TV, which means you and your friends won’t need to crowd around a tablet or — even worse — smartphone to play.

Download: BombSquad (Free)

Got any great game recommendations that we missed?

Sadly, support for Bluetooth controllers is not as widespread as it could be, but there are some gems that we may have missed. Let us know in the comments!

Updated July 2018: Added Evoland 2, Horizon Chase, Riptide GP: Renegade, and added a section for Sega Forever titles.

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17
Jul

What to do if your credit card won’t work on PlayStation Network


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Can’t purchase a game because your credit card isn’t working? Here’s how you can still take advantage of those sales when PSN just won’t cooperate

I won’t say “we’ve all been there,” but I’m sure this has happened to a good portion of people. Picture this: A sale’s going on. The PlayStation Store has some incredible deals. You go to buy that game you’ve been waiting for and… your credit card isn’t working. Nothing appears to be wrong with the card itself, but PSN is giving you a hard time. Here’s how you can hopefully fix that.

  • Billing Information
  • Troubleshoot
  • Restart from Safe Mode
  • Contact Sony
  • Add funds through PayPal/PSN cards

Billing Information

The PlayStation Network seems to make everything harder than it should be, with several stipulations in place that need to be followed. Let’s start with entering your billing information.

To begin, make sure the credit card you are using is either Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, or debit cards with an official Visa or MasterCard logo as these are the only ones accepted on the PlayStation Store.

Your card checks out? Now make sure that your billing information has been entered correctly so it matches up with your credit card statements. Special characters like slashes or hyphens may not be accepted, so try entering your information without them. If you live on a street that you normally abbreviate like Rd. or Dr., try spelling the whole word out like Road and Drive. The same goes for numbered street names (E.g. second instead of 2nd).

Remember that only a credit or debit card with a North American billing address can be used on the North American PlayStation Network registration system. If you have an international card, this will not work in North America.

Troubleshoot

Your credit or debit card should also support AVS (Address Verification System). This system, as the name implies, is a way to verify the address of whoever is using the credit card. Basically, the billing address that you provide needs to match up with the address that your credit card company has on file associated with your card. Cards that do not support AVS may not be accepted on the PlayStation Store, so you’ll need to call your card issuer to check if yours does.

Launch in Safe Mode and restart

The classic “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” method. Seriously, just try power cycling your console. You can restart it from the power options, but sometimes it needs a more intense power cycle. Make sure that your PS4 is turned off, and then press and hold the power button for several seconds. You’ll hear an initial beep the moment you press it, and then another beep five or so seconds later that indicates you can let go. Once this is done, your console will be in Safe Mode, and a prompt will tell you to connect your DualShock 4 controller to the console via the USB charging cable.

From here you’ll see a black screen with a list of options to choose from. Simply hit the first one: Restart PS4.

This will restart the system as normal and you won’t need to worry about losing any data or saved settings.

Contact Sony

All of the above done? Good.

First and Foremost, double check to make sure that you have typed in all of your information correctly. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to be only a number or letter off, rendering your credit card info useless. Now, if you’re certain that everything has been input correctly and you’re still receiving a message that says “Invalid Credit Card Information” or similar, you’ll need to contact Sony.

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, and that’s where Sony needs to step in. You can find all of the ways to contact them, from live support chats to their official support Twitter account, here.

Screw it: Gift cards

If all else fails or you just don’t want to deal with all of the aforementioned hassle, add money to your wallet using PSN cards or PayPal. You can buy PlayStation Network gift cards that range from $10 to $100 at your store of choice here. You can redeem these by turning on your PS4, navigating to the PlayStation Store, selecting “redeem codes” and then entering the code you were provided from the card.

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  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
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17
Jul

Google brings back blob emojis with sticker packs for Android Messages and Gboard


The blobs live on ❤️

Android Oreo’s quickly approaching its one-year anniversary, and while many of its features like picture-in-picture and Autofill have proven to be truly useful over the last few months, some people are still feeling the sting of Google’s decision to remove its blob-style emojis in favor of a more conventional design.

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Thankfully, we’ve got some good news. In honor of the 2018 World Emoji Day, Google’s adding blob sticker packs to both Android Messages and Gboard,

A similar sticker pack was added to Google’s Allo messaging service exactly a year ago today, but since Allo’s been put on the backburner in favor of further development for Android Messages and its “Chat” feature, it makes sense that Google would bring this over to its other, more widely-used platforms.

To grab the sticker pack on Android Message, go to a conversation within the app and then tap the + icon, tap on the sticker icon, and then another + button near the top to add it. In Gboard, just tap the emoji shortcut, tap the sticker icon, and you should see a shortcut for it already.

The blob stickers are already showing up for me in Gboard, but they’re still MIA in Android Messages. However, as Google advances with its rollout, they should be live across both platforms for all users over the next day or so.

From blah to blob: The history of Android emoji

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