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28
Aug

Bose Introduces HomePod Competitor With Display for $400, AirPlay 2 Support Coming in 2019


Bose today revealed the “Bose Home Speaker 500,” a new smart speaker that comes with Amazon Alexa built into the device and support for Bluetooth music streaming from iOS and Android smartphones. The Wi-Fi enabled speaker has many of the same features as competitor devices like HomePod and Sonos One, including music streaming, smart home automation, smart assistant inquiries, multi-room music syncing, and more.

In “early 2019,” Bose says that it will introduce support for AirPlay 2 in the Bose Home Speaker 500, as well as in a pair of smart soundbars also announced today, the Bose Soundbar 500 and Bose Soundbar 700. For the Bose Home Speaker 500, the device includes an eight-microphone array for near-field and far-field voice pickup — all when it’s both silent and noisy from currently playing music.

For music playback, users will be able to play Spotify or Amazon Music directly from the Bose Home Speaker 500 when it’s connected to a home Wi-Fi network. Buttons on the top of the speaker will also allow customers to set up to six different presets for playlists, Internet radio stations, and more. Of course, with Bluetooth any audio can also be streamed from a smartphone or tablet.

The company says the Home Speaker 500 has “the widest soundstage of any smart speaker available today,” and is encased in an anodized aluminum shell that measures 8″ high by 6″ wide by 4″ deep. Two custom drivers pointed in opposite directions ensure that sound reflects off surrounding walls to separate instruments and “place vocals where the artist did,” all without “artificial effects or distortion.”

“Voice-controlled speakers aren’t new, and there are plenty of great options to choose from. But we had a different vision for ours, inspired by what we could uniquely do to make the experience better,” said Doug Cunningham, category manager in the Bose Consumer Electronics Division.

“All of our new smart speakers double up on functionality. It takes just one Home Speaker 500 to deliver true stereo separation — there’s no need to pair two. Our Soundbar 700 and 500 are thin and discreet with jaw-dropping surround sound — whether you’re streaming Spotify or watching a movie. They combine Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for unbeatable ease of use, can be mixed and matched to play in sync or separately, and with new Alexa functionality and more VPAs on the way, they’ll only get better over time.”

Notably, Bose’s smart speaker includes a front-facing display, but it doesn’t appear to be a touchscreen. In the announcement, Bose says that, “when touch control is preferred … there are buttons for basic functionality located right on the top,” allowing users to skip track, adjust volume, and more. In the owner’s guide, Bose says, “The speaker display shows speaker information and icons as well as the streaming service, album and artist currently playing.”


To compare, the HomePod has a 6 microphone array that allows the speaker to hear spoken Siri commands even when loud music is playing. HomePod measures in at 6.8 inches tall and 5.6 inches wide, so Bose’s option is also slightly larger. Compared to the Bose Home Speaker 500’s aluminum, Apple went for a mesh fabric webbing around the HomePod, and it only has a small 272 x 340 LED display at the top to display Siri’s waveform when commands are invoked.

The Bose Home Speaker 500 will launch in October for $399.95, which is about $50 more than HomePod’s $349.99 retail price and $100 more than recent discounts for Apple’s speaker. The Bose Soundbar 500 and 700 will cost $549.95 and $799.95, respectively, and also launch in October at Bose retail stores, Bose.com, and at authorized Bose dealers.

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28
Aug

Deals: RAVPower Discounts, eBay Sitewide Sale, B&H Photo MacBook Pro Savings, and More


RAVPower today launched a new sale on Amazon, offering its 26,800 mAh Power Bank for $51.99 with the MacRumors exclusive promo code RUMORS058, down from $81.99. We’re also entering the final week of our current exclusive sale with RAVPower, offering seven charging devices at a discount until September 2.

At B&H Photo, you can save $100 to $300 on the latest MacBook Pro models during a sale that will end this Friday, August 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The cheapest model in the sale is the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2.3 GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) for $1,599.00, down from $1,799.00.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

15-inch models are also up for a discount, with the 15-inch MacBook pro with Touch Bar (2.2 GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD) for $2,099.00, down from $2,399.00. Check out every MacBook Pro on sale at B&H Photo right here, and if you prefer Adorama the retailer is also matching many of these prices.

Additionally, eBay’s latest sitewide coupon launched today, offering shoppers the chance to save 15 percent off nearly everything on eBay with coupon code PREGAME15. Exclusions to “everything” include warranties and protection plans, coins and paper money, gift cards and coupons, and real estate. Otherwise, you can shop today on eBay, add items worth $25 or more to your cart, and enter the code to get 15 percent off your order (capped at a maximum value of $100).

The code expires later tonight at 10:00 p.m. PT. As usual, eBay’s sitewide coupons are perfect for a wide variety of product categories, including smart home products, HomeKit devices, laptops, video games, smartphones, and much more. eBay’s Daily Deals page is a good place to start looking, but if you’ve been shopping around for something, chances are a seller is offering it on eBay and if it isn’t part of exclusions you might be able to save a little money during the flash sale today.


Lastly, if you’re on the hunt for App Store and iTunes gift card sales, Costco currently has the best discount online for its members: you can get the $100 gift card for $84.49 and the $25 gift card for $21.49. Both gift cards will be delivered via e-mail and the discounts expire on September 1. Costco also still has the HomePod on sale for $299.99, down from $349.99.

For more sales, head over to our full Deals Roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals
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28
Aug

Xiaomi Mi Band 3 review


The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 fitness tracker only has one truly unique selling point: its price. For around $25, you can get a fitness tracker capable of pretty much everything a casual user could need. Its feature set rivals Fitbits that cost significantly more, to the point that they risk becoming almost obsolete. Unlike other budget options, this tracker doesn’t feel cheap or poorly made either.

However, there are still some compromises. In this Xiaomi Mi Band 3 review, let’s take a look at how well the tracker keeps pace with its pricier rivals.

Xiaomi Mi Band 3 review

Design

The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 has a fairly by-the-numbers design, but it gets the job done. Like more affordable Fitbits, the device itself is separate from the band and can be popped out for charging, and the straps can be swapped out for different colors. Xiaomi sells blue and red straps directly, and third-party alternatives will undoubtedly appear in the near future as well.

Mi Band 3 strap

The band that comes with the device is rubbery and somewhat plain. Bailey was understandably concerned about the latching mechanism degrading over time. It’s made from the same material as the previous two Mi Bands, both of which had this same problem. So far it’s done just fine and replacing it is easy if something does goes wrong. It’s comfortable to wear too, thanks to its slim profile and light weight. There are ample size settings available, so it should fit most wrists.

It’s like a snow globe with a little screen inside it…

Compared to previous Mi Bands, the 3 is a looker. The face is made entirely of curved glass, which gives it a very premium feel given the price point. The OLED display sits in the middle of the screen’s glass panel with invisible bezels. This look works well, and it feels nice to swipe and touch. It’s also very responsive. The screen didn’t pick up any scratches during my testing, but only time will tell if this remains the case.

Mi Band 3 outdoors

Other than swipes and scrolling, the only other interactive element is the small indent at the bottom of the screen, which works like a back key.

The one downside with regards to this display is the severe lack of sunlight visibility. Bailey says this is an upgrade from the Mi Band 2, but that’s more an indictment of that device than praise for this one. It’s very hard to make out what’s going on in direct sunlight. However, since most interaction is handled on the phone (more on this in a moment), that’s not as big a problem as it could be.

The one downside with regards to this display is the severe lack of sunlight visibility

As an added bonus, the device is water resistant, meaning you can wear it in the shower or pool without worrying about ruining your new toy.

Xiaomi Mi Band 3 front

Features and performance

The real question is whether the Mi Band 3 can do everything you need. The answer depends very much on who you are and what you need.

As a basic health tracker, the Mi Band 3 can do a lot. It can track calories, count steps, monitor your heart rate, and register sleep. It does all of these things well for the most part. The heart rate monitoring seems fairly accurate and consistent with what I’d expect throughout the day, corroborating what devices like the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Motiv Ring have told me when worn simultaneously. You can decide in the app how frequently it checks your heart rate, allowing you to better balance the completeness of the data with the device’s battery life.

Mi Band 3 heartrate monitor

You can choose between one, 10, and 30-minute intervals for heart rate monitoring. This is a very welcome feature we wish more trackers offered — getting your heart rate checked every minute provides much more detailed and granular insight into your day. It lets you do fun things like observe how your heart rate goes through the roof during a date, or after a strong coffee. This is something a lot of trackers just can’t offer, even at the more expensive end of the spectrum.

With one minute tracking, the battery life is roughly two days. That’s still impressive, but certainly something to keep in mind if you’re switching from previous Mi Bands, which consistently offer weeks of battery life. With 30-minute tracking, it can impressively last for a couple weeks — more than enough juice for most people.

Mi Band 3 Battery

The sleep tracking is basic but accurate. You basically just get the total time spent sleeping, along with how that time was divided between light and deep sleep. Being told you aren’t getting enough deep sleep is a useful nudge to change some habits and it’s encouraging to see how smart sleep hygiene changes can benefit you in this regard. Sleep detection is also automatic, so you won’t need to remember to tell the Mi Band you’re going to bed. Again, this was accurate in my time with it — it even identified brief periods of wakefulness during the early hours of the morning.

Bailey mentioned he wished it worked for shorter naps, but this is less of a problem for those of us no longer in school (it wouldn’t hurt to have the option to manually begin sleep tracking — especially for those working night shifts or other unusual hours which will currently go untracked). The Mi Band falls short of the far more in-depth feedback offered by Fitbit’s more expensive trackers, but that is par for the course with a device this inexpensive.

Mi Fit App Sleep Tracking

Step counting is likewise very good, so you should be able to calculate your calories with reasonable accuracy, minus the caveats and limitations inherent to all such devices I’ve discussed previously.

Activity tracking

Activity tracking is less impressive. The Mi Band 3 only has four activity profiles: running, treadmill running, walking, and cycling. If you plan to lift some weights and monitor your heart rate during that workout — or even just log it for posterity — you will be sorely disappointed. The same goes for swimming, playing sports, or engaging in pretty much any other kind of activity. All Xiaomi had to do was to create a “misc” profile to avoid this, and perhaps give us the opportunity to rename workouts after-the-fact.

Mi Band 3 activity tracking

I’ve know talked about this glaring oversight before, but it’s a common gripe I have with trackers. In my experience, more people go to the gym to lift weights than those that run, and yet it seems running is the top priority of 99 percent of devices. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The only way to start a run is through the app. So not only do you need the app with you to track said activity, but you also need to get your phone out of your pocket to trigger or even pause it. It’s a bit of a nuisance.

Mi Band 3 health tracking

For what it’s worth, you get a fairly decent amount of detail after a run, including average speed, pace, stride, total steps, uphill, and more. You can also see your heart rate, pace, and other information over time in convenient charts. The app will also use your phone’s GPS to map out where you’ve been, and when running in completely random directions I’ve been unable to fool it. Although this is better than you might expect (and more detailed than some comparable devices from Fitbit), it won’t challenge any serious running watches or higher-end fitness trackers.

Software

The software experience with the Mi Band 3 is in keeping with the rest of its barebones approach.

Mi Band 3 software

Setting up the Mi Fit app is easy enough and navigation is fairly straightforward once you learn where everything is (not always where you expect it). Information on the home page is presented in a vertical list which lets you view paired devices, your sleep, your heart rate, weight, and goals. At the top of the page is a graphic showing your overall step count and calories at a glance. Tapping that symbol will give you a more detailed breakdown of your day, with autodetected elements like walks and “light activity.” These activities aren’t shown elsewhere in the app, and you can’t expand on them for more detail. This is where you might be able to see something like a workout appear, or a quick walk to the shops. It’s nice to have some record of your activity outside of runs, but it could be expanded on and made a lot clearer.

Mi Band 3 Fitness Tracking

There are some elements lacking here too. There’s no way to directly synchronize with MyFitnessPal, which a lot of dieters rely on. Thankfully, you can do this via Google Fit, which is a fortunate saving grace. Social features are limited to adding friends via QR codes, and you don’t get any of the “insights” or suggestions you get with some similar apps. The app presents the data, but you’ll have to draw your own conclusions about it.

You’ll be left to draw your own conclusions as to how this should inform your healthy choices going forward.

The software mostly gets the job done, but it isn’t perfect and bring nothing new to the table. If some additional time were spent on this part of the equation, we feel it would be possible to get even more out of the hardware. Xiaomi is generally pretty good in this regard, so we hope the software continues to improve. If not, hopefully an SDK will be made available so developers can plug the gaps, which has also happened in the past.

Mi Fit App

Smartwatch features & firmware

It would be generous to call the Mi Band 3 a smartwatch, but its smart features are still impressive, given its price. You can get notifications from five different apps, call notifications, and the weather. There’s a “find my phone” function (I wish this worked with all my possessions). It’s even got a stopwatch, with a few different watch faces. It’s not much but it’s all very welcome. Bailey and I both had the screen freeze up on us on occasion, however.

Mi Band 3 smart features

The biggest overall problem was an inconsistent Bluetooth experience. On my Galaxy S8 Plus, I had no problem pairing and syncing the device, and it reliably updated whenever I opened the app. On the Honor 10 however, I found it impossible to sync. The Honor 10 has been a little prone to these issues in the past, but it should still work with this watch. If you’re thinking of buying the Mi Band 3, you should do your research to ensure it works with your device first (or just be willing to return it if you have any issues).

Mi Band 3 bluetooth

The bigger concern was that my Mi Band 3 also unpaired from the S8 Plus without explanation or warning. The tracker didn’t stop syncing — it just completely forgot about my phone. I didn’t catch this right away (the S8 Plus is not actually my current daily driver — I was using it to check when I got home), so I actually lost over a day’s worth of data. It could be that the device only stores 24 hours of data — no sync, no record.

Bailey had no such problem, and you would hopefully be less likely to notice this issue if the device were to sync to your daily driver. However, it’s illustrative of an occasionally buggy experience.

Mi Band 3 firmware

Closing thoughts

We don’t want this all to come across as a whine — it absolutely isn’t. To reiterate, this thing is 169 Yuan (~$24.37). That’s incredibly cheap. It would still be a good deal with a fraction of the information it gathers compared with the competition.

Mi Band 3

It makes the price of something like the Fitbit Alta (otherwise a great device) pretty hard to defend.

This isn’t quite on par with the top-end trackers out there. It’s close, and it certainly beats a lot of significantly more expensive devices. However, the video reviews popping up on YouTube with titles like the “Best Fitness Tracker?” are clickbait nonsense. This is certainly not the best, nor is it meant to be.

Mi Band 3 Health Tracking

However, this might very well be the best value fitness tracker out there. It might even be the best for you. As long as you aren’t a serious athlete, you’ll probably get everything you need from this device — from notifications on your wrist to in-depth heart rate monitoring. Just keep the syncing issues and narrow selection of activity tracking options in mind when considering buying one.

The price here makes competition such as the Fitbit Alta pretty hard to defend

The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is cheap enough that even more serious users could probably buy this as a backup device and still get their money’s worth. If you’re on a tight budget or just looking to get your feet wet with an activity monitor, it’s easy to recommend the Xiaomi Mi Band 3.

28
Aug

Samsung’s external X5 SSD blazes like the stick-shaped drive in your desktop


If you’re looking for a quick way to save your files on an external drive, Samsung just introduced its first external NVMe-based solid- state drive: the Samsung Portable SSD X5. It requires a Thunderbolt 3 connection, meaning your files will transfer to and from the drive at up to 40Gbps. The X5 targets professionals and content designers who need a fast, durable drive while they’re on the go.

The key takeaway from here is the NVMe aspect, short for Non-Volatile Memory Express. It’s a specification for NAND flash memory for connecting a storage device to a host PC’s PCI Express bus. In other words, it communicates with the fast lines in your PC versus taking the slow routes used by standard hard drives and cartridge-sized SSDs.

As previously stated, Thunderbolt 3 promises transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps, depending on how many PCI Express lanes the connection can access. By comparison, the older USB 2.0 ports trot along at 480Mbps while the newer USB 3.1 ports are faster at 5Gbps (Gen1) and 10Gbps (Gen2). All three pale in comparison to Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.

That all said, Samsung’s new external drive boasts read speeds of up to 2,800MB per second, and write speeds of up to 2,300MB per second. That’s crazy fast for a hand-held external drive thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 connection and the NVMe-based NAND flash memory. According to Samsung, that read speed is 25.5 times faster than what you will find with a USB-based hard drive.

But Samsung isn’t just targeting speed. The new Portable SSD X5 features a shock-resistant internal frame and rugged metal housing capable of withstanding drops of up to 6.6 feet. This frame is enclosed with a full-metal body sporting a glossy finish. A non-slip mat lines the bottom so it’s not easily dropped or gliding across your desktop surface.

“The Dynamic Thermal Guard technology and a heat sink — a mechanical internal solution — safeguard the X5 from overheating, ensuring reliability while maintaining optimal operating temperatures,” the company says. “The X5 also offers powerful data protection with ‘Samsung Portable SSD Software,’ based on the AES 256-bit hardware data encryption, including optional password protection and easy configuration of security settings.”

Of course, Samsung’s new external SSDs don’t come cheap. The 500GB model retails for $400, the 1TB model sells for $700 and the 2TB version for a hefty $1,400. The drives won’t be made available globally until September 3.

Meanwhile, here are a few more specifications:

  • Capacity: 500GB / 1TB / 2TB
  • Interface: Thunderbolt 3 only (via USB-C)
  • Size: 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 5.3 ounces
  • Performance: Up to 2,800MB/s read – Up to 2,300MB/s write
  • Performance (500GB model only): Up to 2,800MB/s read – Up to 2,100MB/s write
  • Encryption: AES 256-bit hardware-based
  • Security: Samsung Portable SSD Software
  • Compatibility: MacOS 10.12 or higher – Windows 10 Creators Update (64-bit) or higher
  • Warranty: Three-year limited warranty

Editors’ Recommendations

  • How to choose an external hard drive
  • Intel’s ruler-shaped SSD packs 32TB of storage, aims to redesign servers
  • SSD vs. HDD
  • The largest flash drives
  • What changed on Apple’s new MacBook Pro (and why you’ll care)



28
Aug

How to create a good password


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You should always use a good unique password everywhere. Here’s how to create them.

Every person reading this needs to know a password or two. Probably a lot more than two. So much of what we do every day is done online where being able to safely and securely identify ourselves is uber-important, and companies offering services are obligated to give you what’s needed to make that happen. That means a username and a password.

It also means that your password simply has to be good. In this case, “good” means complex enough so it’s not easy to guess, difficult to brute-force, and there’s an easy way to manage them all because you never use the same password twice. It’s complicated and a part of everyday life.

Making good passwords and keeping track of them all can suck. Here’s a fun little test: open 10 instances of a blank page in any note taking app or program. In each, type out a random string of characters. Now go back and look at them all and see if you can find the places where your typing is anything but random. It will be because of ergonomics and whatever keyboard we use (physical or virtual) has the same characters in the same place. If furiously banging (or tapping) on keys can’t create a random password, what can we do?

A good password

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Typically, a good password is eight unique and randomly ordered characters, written in the form of a single word. That doesn’t mean a passphrase that’s eight characters long, but that there are eight characters — including numbers, symbols, and punctuation — in the passphrase that are not repeated. Why eight? Because that’s what researchers have determined: eight characters bring the minimum amount of information entropy needed to be secure. I’m a bit of a math nerd and in case you are, the formula used to calculate how much entropy a password has is:

H = log2 NL = L log2 N = L logN/log2

Where N = number of possible characters, L = number of total characters in the passphrase. H = entropy in bits (log is any base).

Android-password-management-2.jpg?itok=P

That’s not very useful to anyone who isn’t an information security analyst who specializes in cryptology, math nerd or not. It’s just here to show that there are people who have figured things out and recommended to Google that it require an eight-digit password. For our purposes, a good password is one that is complex enough to meet the criteria without making our head spin around in circles. According to those folks mentioned above a good human-generated password should:

  • Use a minimum length of 8 unique characters, and up to 15 if permitted.
  • Include lowercase and uppercase alphabetic characters, numbers and symbols if permitted.
  • Be unique.
  • Include no words found in any dictionary of any language.
  • Include no proper names.
  • Include no numerical information about yourself (no birthdays, anniversary dates, etc.).
  • Contain no numeric sequences based on well-known numbers (911, pi, 999, etc.).
  • Be accompanied by easy to guess password restore security questions.

OK, so this means we’re probably not going to want to use something like ABC123 or OICU812. There’s a reason for this, and it’s one we can all understand — computers have become incredibly powerful in a very short time and cracking passwords using brute-force attacks can be automated on rented equipment.

You can even try to crack passwords using a phone instead of a supercomputer. Technology has come a long way in the last 10 years.

An attacker can rent an unlimited amount of GPU cores from Amazon for as little as $3 each and use them to run dictionary-based attacks against lists of known accounts until Amazon catches on and shuts them down. The people who do this aren’t looking for you or me (unless we’re like rich and famous) and are instead just trying to breach as many accounts as possible. It really sucks when one of those accounts is yours.

Making a good password

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Now that we can appreciate how difficult a task researchers and cryptologists face when they decide what constitutes a good password, let’s talk about how to make one.

There won’t be any math here because the answer is simple — use the password generator tool that a good password manager has. There’s no reason not to do it — you’ll need some sort of password management system that you can keep with you and there are plenty of good password manager apps available for free in Google Play. If you insist on generating your own password by hand, remember the basic guidelines above and don’t keep a list of your passwords on your phone. It can be done, even though it’s a lot more work.

If you decide to let the pseudo-random wizard inside a password manager app build passwords for you, here are a few tips:

  • Make a strong master password and change it every six months.
  • Don’t keep a copy of the master password on your phone but do keep a copy somewhere safe.
  • Check if your password generator has options (it probably does). If so:
    • Make every password a minimum of 8 characters.
    • Blacklist characters that are hard for a human to read (the numbers zero and one, the lower case letter L, the upper and lower case letter O, and the piping symbol | are examples). You might need to enter the password by hand from time to time!

Also, make sure to keep your password manager app up to date and only use one from a company you trust. And don’t forget to use two-factor authentication for every account that offers it.

More: Best Password Managers for Android

28
Aug

Is it worth getting the Note 9 or should you wait for the Galaxy S10?


If you’re a Samsung fan, you’ve got a big decision to make right now.

The Galaxy Note 9 just came out last Friday, and if you caught our full review of the phone, you’ll know that we’re big fans of Samsung’s latest creation. The Note 9 checks off just about every box you could ask for, including a great display, long battery life, plenty of software features, etc.

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There’s no question that the Note 9 is an excellent phone, but is it the right device to get? We’re likely just a few short months out from the Galaxy S10, and as such, holding off for it may be the better move.

Here’s what some of our AC forum users have to say on the matter.

avatar38444_5.gifTechNut79
08-27-2018 04:02 AM

If you keep waiting, you’ll never get a device because a newer one is always on the horizon. Get the S9 or S9+ or pay a little more and get the Note 9.

Reply

avatar2693620_2.gifamyf27
08-27-2018 05:43 AM

Depends on your knees really. Are you having any issues with the S8 plus? I had that one for a while and it’s a great phone. And don’t 9 I have now and it’s absolutely fantastic but a bit of a price tag LOL just a few things to consider there. Depending on what carrier with there may be some decent offers on trade ins or other offers related to getting into the note 9. I would suggest going into…

Reply

avatar562453_24.gifNakrohtap
08-27-2018 05:47 AM

If you have no issues with it your current phone, just wait it out a few more months. It doesn’t sound like you really want a Note. If you have an S8+, it sounds like you have a little patience, anyways.

Reply

avatar1005363_5.gifdov1978
08-27-2018 07:29 AM

I’m waiting for the S10+ personally. I had the Note 8 and the Note 9 is only a minor update. The S10’s are shaping up to get a big overhaul with more new features etc so I’m way more excited by that

Reply

What do you think? Is it worth getting the Note 9 now or should you wait for the Galaxy S10?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review
  • Galaxy Note 9 vs. Note 8
  • Where to buy the Galaxy Note 9
  • Galaxy Note 9 specifications
  • Is the Note 8 still a good buy?
  • Join our Galaxy Note 9 forums

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28
Aug

Grab a new Acer Chromebook R down to $315 today only


Full touchscreen and convertible placement.

The Acer Chromebook R 13 convertible 13.3-inch touchscreen is $314.99 on Amazon today. It fluctuates a lot in price but regularly sells between $370 and $390. This deal is part of a larger one-day sale on Amazon featuring tons of PC gear including mice, keyboards, and more.

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The Chromebook uses a MediaTek MT8173C quad-core ARM processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 32GB internal storage, integrated graphics, two built-in speakers, and Chrome OS. The Chrome OS lets you take advantage of the cloud, especially through Google programs, to get as much functionality from this simple, inexpensive, computer as you would a much beefier laptop. The display is a 13.3-inch 1080p IPS touchscreen. It also has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, one USB-C port, one USB 3 port, HDMI, and 12 hours of battery life. Users give it 4.1 stars based on 231 reviews.

See on Amazon

28
Aug

How to enable 4K resolution on your PS4 Pro


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Sometimes if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.

One of the main selling points of the PS4 Pro is its power advantage over the PS4 Slim, allowing for crisper images and faster frame-rates. Not every game supports 4K resolution, but those that do are all the better for it. Though the PS4 Pro should automatically enable 4K resolution support when it detects a 4K-capable monitor, this isn’t always the case.

Here’s how to enable 4K manually when your PS4 Pro just doesn’t do its job right.

How to enable 4K on your PS4 Pro

For starters, you’ll want to make sure that your PS4 is indeed connected to a 4K-capable monitor, and that your display is also set to output at 4K resolution. How to access these settings may be different depending on the brand you are using. As for the PS4 Pro:

Navigate to Settings from the home screen.

Select Sound and Screen.

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Select Video Output Settings.

Set the Resolution to 2160p – YUV420 or 2160p – RGB.

ps4-pro-enable-4k-settings-2160p.jpg?ito

2160p – YUV420 allows the console to connect to older 4K displays that don’t support higher HDMI 2.0 bandwidth. 2160p – RGB doubles the bandwidth requirement, so this is what newer 4K televisions will support.

Choosing Automatic will also ensure that your PS4 Pro defaults to the highest possible resolution for your specific display.

How to enable 4K for specific games

Certain games, especially on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, feature multiple graphics options for you to choose from. These usually consist of a 4K at 30FPS mode or a 1080p at 60 FPS mode, but not always. If a game defaults to one or the other and you want to switch it, you can find these options within the game’s settings. We’ve provided an example of what this will look like in The Last of Us Remastered.

the-last-of-us-frame-rate-60fps-1080.jpgthe-last-of-us-screen-res-lock-30fps-4k.

Need some help enabling HDR?

How to enable HDR for PlayStation 4 on popular 4K TVs

PlayStation 4

ps4-controllers.jpg

  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
  • Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome

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28
Aug

OPPO Find X review: A beautiful disaster


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Despite its incredible hardware design, the software experience may ruin the Find X for avid power users.

The Find X feels like a direct response from OPPO to all of the jaded critics that love to say that smartphone designs have become “boring” or “iterative.” It’s hard to call this phone either of those things, with its incredibly unique slide-out camera panel and jaw-dropping bezel-less display. From a hardware perspective, this is probably the most interesting phone of the year, and maybe even a milestone for smartphones as a whole.

As with any industry-leading design, though, the phone isn’t perfect, and that’s before you even turn it on. Once you do, the Find X’s software isn’t nearly as futuristic as its hardware, and some of the ways OPPO changes the fundamental Android experience with ColorOS are hard to look past.

OPPO Find X



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Price: $960

Bottom line: The Find X has a jaw-dropping, innovative design and an almost entirely bezel-less display, but the ColorOS software is pretty hard to look past and its cameras are subpar for the price.

See at Amazon

Pros:

  • Gorgeous, unique design with high screen-to-body ratio
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Huge, bright display

Cons:

  • ColorOS is a travesty
  • Notifications are disabled on most apps by default
  • Cameras aren’t great for the money
  • No water resistance or wireless charging

About this review

I (Hayato Huseman) am writing this review after using the Find X (PAFM00) for two weeks in Indianapolis and New York City on the AT&T network. The phone was running firmware version PAFM00_11_A.23_7cd29206 with ColorOS v5.1 based on Android 8.1 Oreo, and hasn’t received any updates over the course of the review. The unit was purchased by Mobile Nations.

OPPO Find X Hardware

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The Find X is one of the most unique phones I’ve ever used from a hardware perspective. There’s just nothing like it, and that starts with its curved 6.4-inch display, front and center. It’s a great Full HD+ AMOLED panel with good color reproduction and outdoor viewing angles, but that’s clearly not its headline characteristic.

The display occupies an insane 93.8% of the face of the phone. Read that back, that’s just a few points shy of a completely bezel-less, 100% screen-to-body ratio. That absolutely topples over phones like the Galaxy Note 9, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, and even the Vivo NEX — the latter of which is closest in design to the Find X. While having virtually nothing but screen up front isn’t always entirely practical (we’ll get to that later), watching videos on this phone is nothing short of stunning, and it’s an experience unlike using any other phone.

The biggest problem with the coveted bezel-less design tech enthusiasts lust over is that phones still need somewhere to put all of the various sensors that typically sit above the display — things like the ambient light and proximity sensors, the earpiece speaker, and the front-facing camera. Most manufacturers have started cramming those sensors into a notch at the top of the display, but OPPO had something different in mind.

The Find X’s motorized camera panel is a stunning hardware component, but moving parts still give me pause.

At the top of the Find X is a motorized hidden panel that raises whenever you need to access the cameras and automatically tucks itself away when you’re done. It’s just as crazy as it sounds; you can actually hear and feel the motors whirring as the panel raises and lowers, and it’s just wild to watch. While the Vivo NEX pulled off a similar design first with its motorized camera tab, this is the first phone with a raising panel spanning its entire width.

Now if you’re worried about hardware longevity with a motorized panel … well, you’re right to be. OPPO says it’s tested its motor for up to 300,000 actuations, but at the end of the day it’s still a moving part, and moving parts eventually break. If that happens with the Find X, you’re not just out a cool party trick, you won’t be able to access your cameras.

That’s not just a big deal for photographers, either. Since the Find X doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor, it instead relies on facial recognition for authentication. Just like the iPhone X, when you first set up the phone, it uses infrared to create a depth map of your face, then the panel quickly slides out to read your face every time you turn on the display.

The whole system works surprisingly well; the motor is fairly quick to extend and retract the panel as necessary, and the facial recognition is almost instant once the panel is out. The process isn’t quite as fast as OnePlus’s facial recognition or even Apple’s Face ID, but we’re talking a second longer at most — this is perfectly fine for daily use. Just like the alternatives, the Find X won’t unlock if you’re looking away, which is a good security measure. The only time the phone gives me any trouble is when I’m wearing glasses; it’ll still recognize me eventually, but it often takes much longer than usual.

Screen 6.4-inch 19.5:9 (2340×1080) AMOLED
Chipset Snapdragon 845
RAM 8GB
Storage 128GB/256GB
Software Android 8.1 Oreo, ColorOS 5.1
Rear Camera 1 16MP, ƒ/2.0
Rear Camera 2 20MP, ƒ/2.0
Front Camera 25MP, ƒ/2.0
Security Face unlock
Battery 3730mAh
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Colors Bordeaux Red, Glacier Blue
Dimensions 156.7 x 74.2 x 9.6mm
Weight 186g
Price $960

It’s almost a shame how much the motorized panel and bezel-less display steer the conversation away from the rest of the phone, because it’s just as unique and gorgeous elsewhere. With all the cameras hidden away, the back of the phone is completely barren, with only the OPPO and Find X branding interrupting the otherwise blank slate. By this point, we’re all programmed to avoid touching the upper third of the backs of our phones to keep from accidentally smudging the cameras, but it’s oddly relieving to not have to worry about that here.

The Find X also has some pretty eye-catching, beautiful finishes. On my Glacier Blue unit, the center of the glass back is a glossy deep black, but the edges subtly fade into a gorgeous dark blue that permeates to the metal frame. The Bordeaux Red model features the same gradient effect, but with more of a dark magenta hue. They’re both incredible finishes that are unlike anything I’ve seen on other phones.

Now despite all of the Find X’s opulent hardware traits, there are a few letdowns here, too. There’s no headphone jack, nor are there front-facing speakers — instead, there’s a small speaker grill on the bottom edge that puts out disappointingly tinny audio. You also don’t get wireless charging, despite this phone having a glass backing, but most damning of all, it isn’t water resistant. This was a necessary trade-off to achieve the motorized panel, but it’s disappointing nonetheless — this phone is far too costly to be wiped out by a rainstorm or spilled glass.

OPPO Find X Software

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I’ve gushed on for nearly a thousand words about the Find X’s incredible hardware, but the software is a different story entirely. OPPO’s ColorOS software runs on top of Android 8.1 Oreo, but you’d never know it from using the phone. This is a fundamentally different Android experience than any Western user will be accustomed to, and the vast majority of OPPO’s changes do much more to harm the experience than improve it.

From the moment you first set up the Find X, all of your apps are scattered across multiple pages of the home screen without an app drawer, iOS-style, and what would typically be the Google Feed to the left of the home screens has instead been replaced with OPPO’s Smart Assistant. The latter makes sense, since Google’s services aren’t available in China, where OPPO originates, and Smart Assistant actually isn’t bad; you can use it to quickly check the weather, track steps, see upcoming calendar events, and so on.

Android Oreo on the Find X is completely unrecognizable through all of ColorOS’s changes.

The problems begin when you start trying to install … well, pretty much anything. OPPO has its own app store, but it’s all in Chinese, even if you set the phone up in English, and the selection is miserable at best. Instead, you’ll want to side-load the Google Play Store, which is as simple as downloading and installing the APK, but finding it takes a bit of work, no thanks to OPPO’s browser, which — you guessed it — is all in Chinese.

Once you’ve installed the Play Store and started downloading your favorite apps, you’ll likely start running into other problems. Using a third-party keyboard like Gboard works well enough, but much like iOS, the Find X reverts to its default keyboard any time you input passwords — a somewhat reasonable security measure, if not a bit annoying. If, however, you try to install a third-party launcher, you’ll quickly find out that the Find X doesn’t let you change launchers. The default launcher option in the system settings leads to a completely blank menu, no matter what you try, so … get used to ColorOS, I suppose. In fairness, OPPO says that’s been fixed in a new software update, but I have yet to receive it on my unit.

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I also had a ton of trouble with Google Maps on the Find X. On a recent trip to New York, I tried to pull up directions to my hotel from the airport, but the phone simply couldn’t lock onto my location. Despite having a solid 4G connection, I waited almost five minutes before the phone could pull up directions, which were entirely wrong because the phone had pinpointed me at a completely different part of town. Eventually I had to just give up and grab my Galaxy S9 to navigate around, but most people who buy this phone won’t have a spare to fall back on, and I can’t say I’d be confident getting around town with the Find X.

It’s easy enough to shrug these issues off and say that the phone wasn’t intended for Western markets or Google Play services in the first place, but the troubles with ColorOS aren’t exclusive to third-party apps. Dismissing individual notifications is a multi-step process now; you can’t just swipe them away like most other phones. Instead, you’ll have to swipe them to the left, which then slides out a trash icon you can tap to dismiss the notification. Every single time. For every notification.

ColorOS has a few convenient features, but it’s so broken in its current state that it makes the Find X hard to use.

That’s not so bad though, since you’ll hardly receive notifications in the first place — at least, by default. After a few minutes with the Find X, you’ll quickly start to notice that push notifications from apps aren’t coming in. That’s not because of aggressive background task management (though it has that, too) or a poor network connection; it’s because by default, notifications are disabled for every third-party app. You actually have to go into the system settings and enable push notifications for each app individually. I can’t overstate how awful of an experience this is, especially without a way to mass-approve every app at once.

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These issues are a real shame because the phone actually runs very smoothly — though that’s no surprise, given the Snapdragon 845 and whopping 8GB of RAM in tow. The software has some genuinely convenient and useful features, like the swipe-up gesture navigation that replaces the three-button layout to regain the bottom of the screen, or the app cloning that allows for multiple accounts on a single service like Facebook or Instagram. Sadly, though, the benefits of ColorOS are far outweighed by its shortcomings.

OPPO Find X Cameras

The Find X features two cameras on the backside of its motorized module, one a 16MP primary sensor and the other a 20MP depth sensor that aids in portrait mode photography — both with an ƒ/2.0 aperture. Considering the Find X is priced similarly to the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone X, I was comparatively underwhelmed by its cameras, but they’re still impressive given just how narrow the sliding enclosure for the cameras is.

Dynamic range is pretty great; I went on a hike with a few friends the other week, and even on darker paths shrouded from the sun by trees, the bright sky still came out blue in photos, rather than a blown out white. Colors are decent as well, if not a bit undersaturated, but I noticed a tendency for the cameras to overexpose. It’s a quick enough fix in post, but I’d rather the phone just properly expose in the first place.

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I’m mostly happy with the Find X’s cameras in daylight, but it gets pretty rough in even the slightest of dark conditions. While on that hike, I missed a lot of shots later in the evening because the cameras are just too slow in the dark, and despite the 16MP sensor’s built-in OIS, most of my photos came out blurry and undefined. Take the Find X into a truly dark environment like a bar, and it just gets worse. Colors become muddy and clarity becomes all but nonexistent. Low light is a weakness of any phone’s cameras, but I had hoped for better from a thousand dollar phone.

What annoyed me most about shooting on the Find X is that the camera app has absolutely no settings. Save for the small bits of iconography strewn across the viewfinder, OPPO’s camera software is a mostly take-it-or-leave-it experience, though I’m happy there’s still at least a pro mode (OPPO calls it “expert mode”) for manual controls. As far as video goes, you can shoot in 4K despite the display only reaching 1080p, but I more appreciated the option to shoot in 1080p at up to 120fps for smooth slow-motion shots.

OPPO Find X Battery Life

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Battery life is actually one of the Find X’s high points. It’s a sizable 3730mAh, and combined with ColorOS’s aggressive app management and the relatively low-resolution display (that’s not a knock — 1080p is plenty good enough for most people), it’s pretty hard to kill the phone in a single day.

Even with the unavoidable constant gaps in service of riding the New York City Subway, which are notorious for running down any phone’s battery, the Find X always made it through the day for me, typically with 20 or 30% to spare by midnight.

ColorOS doesn’t show screen-on time, but the Find X has no trouble making it through the day and then some.

If you don’t like how often ColorOS closes out idle background tasks, you can actually disable its app management in the system settings, though that’ll likely impact battery life pretty significantly. Then again, you’re still working with almost 4000mAh, so while endurance may be a bit worse without what OPPO calls “app freezing,” it’ll still likely last you through the day without a hitch.

When the phone does run down, it features OPPO’s VOOC rapid charging for quick top-ups. If you’ve ever used another phone from OPPO or OnePlus, you already know all about VOOC charging — it’s insanely fast; even with a 3730mAh battery, the Find X can reach a full charge in less than an hour, so long as you use the included charger.

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Even with a different charger, though, I was impressed with the charge times. I use my 15-inch MacBook Pro’s 87W USB-C charger interchangeably with my laptop and phones, and I’ve found that the Find X charges fully in about 80 minutes.

The only letdown with the Find X’s battery life is standby time. If I leave the phone off the charger overnight, it loses nearly 10% of its charge. With such aggressive throttling of idle apps, I’m really not sure what could be draining the battery so much with the screen off, but it’s definitely been disappointing whenever I pull the Find X out of my bag after a flight and notice how much it’s lost.

Should you buy it? Probably not

This far in, it’s pretty easy to guess my feelings on the Find X. I can’t remember the last time a phone’s design has captivated me the way this one’s has, from its unprecedented sliding mechanism to the incredible 93.8% screen-to-body ratio.

It’s not flawless — the camera panel traps dirt and dust pretty easily, and there’s no telling how long the hardware will last, both because moving parts eventually fail and because the phone isn’t water resistant in any way. But it’s no stretch to say that the Find X has some of the most fascinating and impressive hardware of 2018.

3
out of 5


Sadly, great hardware doesn’t get you very far when the accompanying software is as big a disaster as ColorOS. From annoying systemwide quirks to downright broken third-party app support and a complete disabling of notifications out of the box, the software on the Find X seems to combine all the worst parts of iOS and Android into a jumbled mess that make the phone hard to use — and even harder to recommend.

If you’re a hardware enthusiast with considerable money to spend, and you just want to marvel at the stunning design of the Find X, you can order one straight from Amazon for about $960. Who knows — with future updates that promise to fix broken features like the inability to use third-party launchers, the Find X might eventually offer a better software experience.

Until then, though, you can do a lot better than the Find X for a lot less money.

See at Amazon

28
Aug

Hardlight Blade shows off the Oculus Go’s limitations, but it’s a blast


Hardlight Blade makes you fend off killer robots with laser weapons… need we say more?

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The Oculus Go is a great device for enjoying entertainment within an immersive environment, but it can be a platform for gaming if utilized correctly.

I’ve generally been underwhelmed with gaming on the Oculus Go, but every once in a while there’s a game that just gets it. Hardlight Blade brings laser weapon combat to the headset, has a simple control system, and gets the most out of what the Oculus Go has to offer.

The game is free and available through the Oculus Store.

See in Oculus Store

Fighting against robots

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Hardlight Blade has a simple combat system that centers around swinging either a laser saber or a laser axe at killer robots. You move freely around the environment using the touchpad. This takes some getting used to because you have to navigate with the touchpad of your motion controller and use the same controller to swing at enemies. After playing for a while it was less awkward, but I wish the Oculus Go had a second motion controller that would let me separate these controls.

The game has some nice touches like being able to block laser beams with your weapons, and the addition of throwing your axe after the most recent update. It’s a simple game, but it’s fun to play and I could see this game being perfect for passing around at parties.

Fighting against barriers

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While Hardlight Go is an enjoyable game, it shows off the limitations of the Oculus Go. The headsets lack of movement tracking of an individual means that you have to use your motion controller for both navigation and combat. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that there’s only one motion controller. I’d love a Wii-styled nun chuck controller for one hand to focus on navigation while leaving the other hand to swing at enemies.

The game also is very basic with its graphics. I don’t expect hyper-realistic gameplay on the Oculus Go, but I wish gaming on the Oculus Go was better. I’m not a programmer so I can’t speak on the ceiling for graphics on the Oculus Go, but I haven’t played a game on it that impressed me graphically.

Overall thoughts on Hardlight Blade

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Hardlight Blade shows off the strengths and weakness of the Oculus Go. The headset is light, easy to hand to your friends, and the simple combat system of Hardlight Blade falls perfectly into party settings with people who want to try out VR, as well as some light gaming for individuals.

Tilt and motion control for your weapon of choice works extremely well, even to the point where you can swipe lasers out of the air, but the lack of motion controls for users means you have to rely on the motion controller’s trackpad to navigate the game.

Hardlight Blade is one of the better games I’ve tried on the Oculus Go and the developers seem keen on adding features, such as axe throwing, so I’d recommend giving it a try and keeping on top of updates, especially since the game is free.

3.5
out of 5


Pros

  • Simple to learn
  • Lets you swing laser weapons at robots
  • Free

Cons

  • Restricted by only having one controller
  • Has basic graphics

See in Oculus Store

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