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30
Aug

Apple Invites Media to September 12 Event at Apple Park: ‘Gather Round’


Apple today sent out media invites for its annual iPhone-centric event that will be held on Wednesday, September 12 at 10:00 a.m. at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park Campus in Cupertino, California.

The media invites released today give a first look at the theme of the event and feature the tagline “Gather Round,” likely referencing the main ring-shaped building at Apple Park.

There are a lot of product refreshes that we could see at the fall 2018 event. First and foremost, Apple is expected to be introducing three iPhones this year: a second-generation 5.8-inch OLED device, a larger-screened 6.5-inch OLED device, and a lower-cost 6.1-inch smartphone with an LCD display.

All three iPhones are expected to feature upgraded A12 processors, faster LTE, edge-to-edge displays, and Face ID integration, with Apple doing away with the Home button for its entire 2018 iPhone lineup.

Apple’s low-cost iPhone, which could be priced around $700, is expected to use an aluminum frame and a single-lens camera, keeping costs low. The two OLED iPhones, which could cost somewhere between $800 and $1,000, will use stainless steel frames with dual-lens cameras.


Along with fresh iPhones, Apple is expected to introduce the Apple Watch Series 4, which is said to feature a larger display likely implemented through a reduction in bezel size. Longer battery life and improved health monitoring capabilities are also rumored, but beyond that, we don’t know much about the new wrist-worn devices.

A mockup of what the Apple Watch Series 4 might look like
New iPad Pro models with Face ID, slimmer bezels, and no Home button are in the works, as are refreshed Macs that include a low-cost MacBook and a new Mac mini, but it is not clear if these products will come at the September event.

Apple may use a second October event to unveil new iPads and Macs as it has done in past years where Macs and iPads were introduced in the fall.

2018 iPad Pro mockup via Benjamin Geskin
New Apple Watch bands, revamped AirPods with “Hey Siri” support, and the long-awaited AirPower charging mat, which is designed to charge the Apple Watch, iPhone, and AirPods at the same time, will all likely be introduced in September.

Apple’s 2018 iPhone keynote event will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Apple will live stream the event on its website and on Apple TV, but for those who are unable to watch, MacRumors will be providing full event coverage both on MacRumors.com and through our MacRumorsLive Twitter account.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5, 2018 iPhones, AirPodsBuyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Caution), AirPods (Caution)
Discuss this article in our forums

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30
Aug

ZTE Axon 9 Pro hands-on


ZTE is having a hard year. Back in May, it was forced to “cease major operating activities” after the U.S. banned the company from buying U.S. goods (such as Qualcomm processors) due to the company violating sanctions against Iran. This ban was reversed after a month, under the condition that the company would have to pay a $1 billion fine to the U.S., with $400,000 extra left in escrow. This put a significant dent in the company’s operations, but ZTE is hoping for a comeback with a device it thinks will bring back the glory days.

Join us as we go hands-on with the ZTE Axon 9 Pro.

ZTE Axon 9 Pro

The Axon 9 Pro is a fairly sizable device. At 6.21 inches, its screen is definitely going to catch a few glances, but it’s crowded by a beefier chin and notch than most. Regardless, the 2,248 x 1,080 screen is the most interesting part of this device, due to a specialized chip that makes the viewing experience on this phone different from any other device on the market.

ZTE Axon 9 Pro

The Axon 9 Pro sports a dedicated display processor separate from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 powering the device. This processor interpolates all video data before it reaches the screen, similar to something you would find on a high-end TV. It artificially increases the frame rate of all video to 60fps, including media from local storage, YouTube, and even games.

This design decision is extremely interesting because not all video was made to be viewed at 60 frames per second. Things like movies and YouTube were specifically crafted at 24 and 30 frames per second, and it is a bit odd to artificially interpolate content to a higher frame rate. The biggest benefit I see from this technology is gaming.

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Fortnite on Android first look – you might want to wait off…

At this point, whether you’re a gamer or not, there’s a good chance that you’ve at least heard about Fortnite. This free-to-play game has taken the world by storm and has ended up earning the …

In gaming, a higher frame rate almost always directly translates to a better experience. Games like Fortnite are locked to 30fps on mobile, while PC players are playing on frame rates up to 240fps. A higher frame rate almost always translates directly to faster response time in the game, something nearly every gamer wants. Now, I should be clear that simply interpolating extra frames is not going to help you quite as much as truly generated frames, but it should lead to a better experience overall.

This feature can be turned off if you’re not so hot on it. While I would love to try this phone in a gaming scenario, general media is something most people would probably like to keep at their native frame rates.

ZTE Axon 9 Pro

Ignoring the screen, the ZTE Axon 9 Pro has all the specs you would expect out of a 2018 flagship. It’s packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB of internal storage, so ZTE is clearly trying to go head-to-head with the giants in the market. You’ll also find a 12MP regular and 20MP super wide-angle rear-facing camera setup on this device, which we will be sure to test rigorously during our camera review process. The 12MP camera is also optically stabilized, so we’re hoping for sharp images.

The camera is housed in a glass chassis we’re not used to seeing on ZTE devices. This phone feels relatively premium in hand, though it doesn’t stand out a lot from the loads other phones in this form factor. There is a fingerprint reader directly above the Axon logo. The phone itself is fairly minimalist, but the orientation of the components on the back of the device feels a bit busy.

ZTE Axon 9 Pro

With a 4,000mAh battery, wireless charging, IP68 water resistance and stereo speakers, it really seems like ZTE is trying to deliver an option for fans of the OnePlus 6 who were disappointed by the lack of bells and whistles. At 649 euros (~$757), this could be a good option for the user who wants it all but isn’t willing to spend a thousand bucks to get it.

The ZTE Axon 9 Pro will run Android 8.1 Oreo at launch, but ZTE told me it’s making Android Pie a high priority for the near future. ZTE is calling its software skin “Stock Plus” due to its extremely minimal UI tweaks and use of core Google apps. I quite enjoyed it during my hands-on time, but it will take more testing to see how this UI performs on a daily basis. Even Google’s news feed shows up when you swipe to the right — something usually reserved for Pixel and Android One devices.

ZTE Axon 9 Pro

What do you think of the ZTE Axon 9 Pro? Interpolating video content seems bold, but I want to see what it does for gaming before I pass it off as a complete gimmick. Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below, and be sure to check out our other Axon 9 Pro coverage below:

  • ZTE Axon 9 Pro is here: Everything you need to know
  • ZTE Axon 9 Pro specs: Does it tick all your preferred boxes?
30
Aug

BlackBerry Key2 LE hands-on: Lighter phone, lighter price


The BlackBerry Key2 made quite a splash when it landed earlier this year, borrowing the best aspects of the KeyOne and refining it for hardcore enthusiasts. While we liked that device, many considered the $650 price tag to be just a bit too hefty for a Snapdragon 660 processor. This time, BlackBerry has shaved off a few of the finer points of that device to deliver something much more manageable for your wallet.

This is our BlackBerry Key2 LE hands-on.

Blackberry Key2 LE front, keyboard with atomic red frets, and LCD display

The Key2 LE has an incredibly similar footprint to the standard Key2, though the body is just a tad shorter overall. This leads to a keyboard with 10 percent smaller buttons, but I personally didn’t notice a huge difference. The keys also come much closer to the edge of the body, making it feel like the device is utilizing space better than before.

The screen on this phone is the exact same 1080p IPS panel found on the original BlackBerry Key2, so I’m glad to see TCL isn’t skimping on such a core aspect of the phone. What it has opted to skimp on is the processor, RAM, battery, storage, and camera. This phone is called the “light edition” for a reason.

The BlackBerry Key2 LE feels remarkably similar to the Key2, but the company has definitely made compromises.

Inside, you’ll find a Snapdragon 636 processor. This chip is still pretty new, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. The 636 is clocked a bit lower than the 660 and has a slightly weaker GPU to boot. It’s certainly not a bad processor, but it won’t perform quite as well as the chip found in the Key2. This decision was likely made to save on battery power, which has been reduced to 3,000mAh from the 3,500mAh we saw before.

Blackberry Key2 LE front, keyboard with atomic red frets, showing preloaded apps and BlackBerry features

Storage and RAM options in this phone have been tiered down as well. Now you’ll find 32 and 64GB storage capacities, while the RAM is cut to 4GB. I personally think companies should be banned from selling 32GB phones at this point, but here we are. This decreased RAM also worries me a little bit, because BlackBerry Hub was notorious for RAM troubles after the 3GB KeyOne presented consistent stuttering issues within the app. Still, we’ll have to see if 4GB is the right amount of RAM for the job.

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The camera is in the same position as before, but it doesn’t jut out nearly as much anymore. Instead, the body of the device wraps around the camera instead of coming to a sharp corner and almost entirely eliminates the off-center wobble you get from setting the phone onto a table. That rear camera is now a 13+5MP pairing instead of the Key2’s 12+12MP, so it’s been downgraded a bit too. BlackBerry admitted to me that the Key2 tended to suffer in low-light circumstances, and that it’s received feedback and is working on improvements for the entire Key2 line. I’m hoping to see some improvements in the new phone, even if it’s not technically as good as the standard Key2.

Blackberry Key2 LE slate - close-up of the top of the back showing dual cameras and plush finish

The body is now made of a polycarbonate plastic with a soft touch finish, and honestly, it feels pretty great. The sides of the device still feel like metal, just softer. The back is cushier overall with a new finish, and BlackBerry has purposefully removed any hard edges and replaced them with curves. The chamfer on the sides of the phone are now gone, giving it a much more playful feel in the hand. Even the speaker grilles have been replaced with longer rounded cutlets, in absence of the perfectly machined circular cutouts from the Key2. BlackBerry told us the LE was always planned to have a more approachable aesthetic with design language that takes cues from “feminine touches.”

That feeling of playfulness is bolstered by the fact that the LE is 30 percent lighter than the original model. This was immediately evident in my hands-on time with the device, and I confirmed with BlackBerry that this was the case before the briefing even started. The phone still feels great to hold, and it’s light and feels less like an over-engineered slate of metal.

All three Blackberry Key2 LE color models showing backs, cameras, and convenience buttons

The most striking change in this device is probably the color options. The BlackBerry Key2 LE will come in slate, champagne, and atomic. The red accentuated atomic is the obvious centerpiece of the bunch. This colorway is vibrantly red, with color that bleeds onto the small slivers or frets of plastic between the keys. I personally thought it looked fantastic, though you might want to give the other colors a look if you’re looking for something more subtle. The slate model is deliberately more deep grey than black, and the champagne finds itself somewhere in the silver-turquoise zone.

The company is targeting a different market with the BlackBerry Key2 LE, in case the color options aren’t a giveaway.

BlackBerry told me the color options were a response to the profile of the consumer buying this device. While the Key2’s audience is likely to be much more productivity-focused, BlackBerry wanted to bring their keyboard and willingness to stand out to a new group. This is the audience that isn’t satisfied with the majority of the smartphone market looking virtually identical. Take this reasoning as you will, but I’m glad to see BlackBerry experimenting with a device that they don’t feel obligated to be super serious with.

Blackberry Key2 LE atomic color headphone jack

Like the Key2, the Key2 LE keeps the headphone jack, the customizable convenience key, and the fingerprint sensor in the spacebar which is handy. It lacks things like water resistance and wireless charging, while the keyboard scrolling feature has been removed as well, with BlackBerry reps explaining this device offers a bridge into the new world of BlackBerry, with capacitive scrolling potentially confusing to new users. You can make your own assessment of whether or not these are deal-breakers, as each user values a different set of specifications.

The Key2 LE will be available for $399 for the 32GB storage option, and $449 for the 64GB model. BlackBerry said availability starts globally “beginning next month,” meaning September, which is right around the corner.

Display 4.5-inch IPS LCD
1,620 x 1,080 resolution
434ppi
3:2 aspect ratio
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Keyboard 35 key backlit physical QWERTY keyboard
Integrated fingerprint sensor
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 (Kryo 260 octa-core, clocked at 1.8Ghz)
GPU Adreno 509
RAM 4GB
Storage 32/64GB
Expandable
Cameras Rear:
Main: 13MP sensor with an ƒ/2.2 aperture and 1.12μm pixels, phase detect autofocus
Second: 5MP sensor with an ƒ/2.4 aperture and 1.12μm pixels,
HDR, 4K video recording at 30fps

Front:
8MP fixed-focus sensor
1080p video recording at 30fps

Audio 3.5mm headphone jack
HD audio for improved audio playback
Battery 3,000mAh
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
IP rating N/A
Sensors GPS
Fingerprint
Accelerometer
Magnetometer
Gyroscope
Proximity
Ambient light
Hall
Network BBE100-1 — EU, Africa, AU, Japan
FD-LTE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 19, 20, 26, 28, 32
TD-LTE 38, 40, 41

BBE100-4 (dual-SIM) — EU, Africa, AU, Japan
FD-LTE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 19, 20, 26, 28, 32
TD-LTE 38, 40, 41

BBE100-2 — Canada, US, LATAM
FD-LTE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 28, 29, 66
TD-LTE 38, 39, 40, 41

BBE100-5 (dual SIM) — North America open market
FD-LTE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 28, 29, 66
TD-LTE 38, 39, 40, 41

Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n for 2.4GHz, 802.11 a/n and ac for 5GHz
4G mobile hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 5.0 LE
USB Type-C (USB 2.0)
USB OTG, NFC, FM radio
Software Android 8.1 Oreo
Dimensions 150.25 x 71.8 x 8.35mm
156g
Colors atomic, champagne, slate

What are your thoughts on the BlackBerry Key2 LE? Hit us with your comments below and let us know if you think this new model deserves to exist.

30
Aug

Sony Xperia XZ3 hands-on review



Research Center:

Sony Xperia XZ3

The Sony Xperia XZ3 is here and it boasts a gorgeous OLED display – the first in a Sony smartphone. As for the rest, it’s a refinement of the new design Sony established with the Xperia XZ2, which was unveiled barely six months ago. There are some intriguing highlights, but does the XZ3 offer enough to command a premium price tag and wrestle back some market share for Sony? Let’s take a closer look.

Ambient Flow design, fantastic screen

Sony’s smartphones were looking increasingly dated before introduced Ambient Flow, a new design language starting in the XZ2 series. The harsh angles were smoothed out as gentle curves came in and the fingerprint sensor made its way around the back.

We’re still looking at a glass sandwich here with an aluminum frame, but the curved back looks great and makes it more comfortable to hold. We like the feel of this phone, it’s nicely balanced, but it is also seriously slippery and quickly covered in finger smudges when handled.

The slimmed down bezels are still bigger than those you’ll find in most other flagships, but they’re not obnoxious and we’re glad Sony has resisted the urge to work a notch in there. It’s 5 percent bigger than the XZ2, but Sony has packed in a screen that’s 11 percent bigger, so it’s moving in the right direction of bezel-less phones.

The 6-inch OLED display with a modern 18:9 aspect ratio is the headline here. Sony has finally made the switch to superior OLED tech in its smartphones, just as it has done in its TV range. This translates to inky blacks and no risk of the backlight showing through because pixels are turned on and off individually.

Sony has finally made the switch to superior OLED tech in its smartphones, just as it has done in its TV range.

It’s also a Quad HD+ resolution, which means it’s not full 4K, but you’re unlikely to notice in a screen this size. More importantly, it does support HDR so colors really pop out of the screen. Make no mistake this is far and away the best display that Sony has put in a phone.

The display is flanked by speakers that are 20 percent bigger than the speakers in the XZ2, so we expect more treble, bass, and volume, which helps to make this a really attractive prospect for people who like to watch movies or game on their phone. There’s support for Hi-Res audio and Sony is sticking with its odd Dynamic Vibration System, which occasionally increases immersion with vibrations to punctuate the onscreen action as intended, but more often feels distracting.

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

We watched a quick video on the Xperia XZ3 and it looked fantastic. We were also able to hear it above the hustle and bustle of the show floor at IFA 2018 without having to crank the volume all the way up.

The exterior is about as durable as glass can be with Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the front and back, and the frame is made of a tough aluminum alloy that should withstand a drop without cracking. We still think you’ll want a case because this is a slippery phone and it will scuff or crack if you drop it and you’re unlucky. There’s also an IP68 rating, so it can be submerged in water without worry.

Flagship specs, single-lens camera

There are no real surprises inside the Xperia XZ3. The ubiquitous, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor is backed by 4GB of RAM, and will ensure this phone can handle anything you throw at it. There’s 64GB of storage and a MicroSD card slot for more space if you need it.

There are no real surprises inside the Xperia XZ3.

Sony dabbled with dual-camera tech with its XZ2 Premium, but it’s reverting back to a single-lens camera on the XZ3. It’s the same 19-megapixel camera, and in our Xperia XZ2 review we found it captured plenty of detail and accurate colors, but didn’t always get the exposure right.

There’s no doubt Sony has the skills to turn out excellent camera hardware, as evidenced by the fact that so many manufacturers use its sensors, but it’s software and tuning that really elevates camera performance to the next level and that’s where Sony can fall down. We need to test it out in the wild to see if there are any telling improvements, but we expect it be very capable, if not quite at the level of devices like Huawei’s P20 Pro, Google’s Pixel 2, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, or Apple’s iPhone X.

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

It’s a different story with the front-facing camera, which has been upgraded to a 13-megapixel lens — good news for selfie fans. The f/1.9 aperture should allow it to handle low light a bit better and there’s support for bokeh portrait shots and beauty functions in selfie mode. You’ll also find the usual collection of Sony’s camera modes and Google Lens in the main camera.

Pie for you, day-long battery

We’re pleased to see that the Xperia XZ3 will run the latest Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, but there is a Sony skin on top and the usual array of largely unnecessary bloatware. Just like every other manufacturer at the moment, Sony talked about A.I. but didn’t reveal a great deal. There’s a nice Smart Launch feature that detects when you hold the XZ3 up in landscape and automatically launches the camera, though we couldn’t get it to work when we tried it.

It will cost $900, which puts it in the top tier.

There’s also a feature called Side Sense, which reminded us of Samsung’s Edge Sense. It brings up a shortcut menu when you tap the side of the Xperia XZ3 display, but it’s not the most intuitive feature. It’s supposed to get more useful as it learns your routine, offering music on your commute or email when you’re at work, but we think it might be one of those things you forget about until you accidentally trigger it.

The battery is rated at 3,330mAh which is a slightly larger capacity than the XZ2, and should easily be enough to see you through a busy day. We’re also glad to find support for Qi wireless charging.

Price and availability

If you like the look of the Sony Xperia XZ3, then you’ll be glad to know that it’s coming to the U.S. and will be available to buy at Amazon and Best Buy from October 17.

The less welcome news is that it will cost $900, which puts it in the top-tier market, up against phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9. Whether it offers enough to compete in that kind of company is debatable, and with a new iPhone and the Pixel 3 around the corner, you’re not short of alternatives.

Sony Xperia XZ3 Compared To

Moto Z3

Moto Z3 Play

Moto E5 Plus

Nokia 7 Plus

Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS

Alcatel 3V

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra

Meizu M3 Max

Huawei Mate 8

ZTE Grand X Max+

LG G Flex

LG Optimus 4X HD

HTC One S

Samsung Galaxy S II

Google Nexus S

We’re keen to spend some more time with the Sony Xperia XZ3, and the OLED looks great, but when you consider that it will cost more than the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s too expensive.

30
Aug

Should you buy the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium?


sony-xperia-xz2-premium-xz2-comparison-1

Best answer: Unless you are a diehard Sony fan, or need the additional low-light performance of its secondary camera, the Xperia XZ2 Premium is an overpriced and poorly-designed premium smartphone that you should pass on. Instead, buy the cheaper Xperia XZ2.

  • Amazon: Sony Xperia XZ2 ($700)
  • Amazon: Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium ($1,000)

It’s an extremely awkward phone

sony-xperia-xz2-premium-xz2-comparison-2

The Sony Xperia XZ2 is a powerful, capable flagship for 2018 that has much of its desirability stripped away due to its design. Unlike the smaller Xperia XZ2, which negates the impact of its sizeable top and bottom bezels with a narrower, taller 18:9 aspect ratio, the XZ2 Premium reverts to a legacy 16:9 aspect ratio, making it both tall and wide. Its glass back is rounded, which prevents it from sitting flush on a table or desk, and because it’s so heavy, it slides easily off surfaces or out of pockets.

Using the phone in one hand is almost impossible, too, which can lead to frustrating moments of trying to manipulate a very slippery phone without dropping it. Suffice it to say, if you do decide to get the XZ2 Premium, you should pair it with a good case. I like this one from Anccer.

Furthering the awkwardness is the location of the rear fingerprint sensor, which is lower than your index finger thinks it should be. Instead, where your finger immediately goes is right on top of one of the two camera sensors that adorn the phone’s back.

The 4K screen is wasted on Android

sony-xperia-xz2-premium-xz2-comparison-3

One of the Xperia XZ2 Premium’s differentiating features is its 4K screen, which is admittedly beautiful. But it’s also wasted on Android, since so few apps actually support output at that resolution. And when an app does support it, like YouTube, 4K content, while stunningly sharp, does not impact the viewing experience as much as it would on a larger display. I spent quite a bit of time watching well-produced 4K video on the XZ2 Premium and then dropped the resolution to 1080p and had trouble telling the difference unless my face was right up to the screen, which normally it wouldn’t be.

Sony does claim that it upscales 1080p content to 4K, but I’m confident that most people won’t be able to tell the difference between this display and a nice QHD panel for most daily tasks.

That being said, the advantage of a 4K display — if your eyes are good enough — is that you can scale text down to tiny sizes and see everything perfectly clearly. I’ve really enjoyed reading on the Xperia XZ2 Premium because you can just fit so much text on the screen at once.

The camera is Sony’s best

sony-xperia-xz2-premium-xz2-comparison-6

The Xperia XZ2 Premium has Sony’s first dual camera setup, and except for one major omission, optical image stabilization, this is about as thoughtful a setup as you’ll see. The main sensor is identical to Sony’s other XZ2 phones, a 19MP MotionEye that’s proven to be excellent in most situations. The main difference is that the lens is sharper, at f/1.8, compared to the smaller XZ2’s f/2.0 lens.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium (left) | Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (right)

The other main difference is the secondary camera is a huge 12MP monochrome sensor with an incredibly fast f/1.6 lens. The upside is that the camera performs really well in low light, and features a true depth-sensing portrait mode. You’ll see how well the phone does compared to the Galaxy Note 9 in low light, retaining color and detail in very challenging conditions.

It’s easily the best, and fastest, camera Sony has ever made, but it’s let down somewhat by the company’s terrible camera app, which desperately needs a revamp.

The price isn’t right

sony-xperia-xz2-premium-xz2-comparison-8

If the Xperia XZ2 Premium was $799, my recommendation might be different, but the phone costs a hair under $1,000 and isn’t available on any U.S. carriers, which means you’re paying full price. Given how much more awkward it is to use than the Xperia XZ2, and how similarly the two perform, I feel like the obvious advice is not to buy the Premium and to instead buy the XZ2 itself. Or, if you’re looking to spend a grand on a phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 does almost everything better.

Bottom line

I really like the Xperia XZ2 Premium, and would recommend it if it were cheaper. But at $1,000, it’s too expensive, especially for how awkwardly designed it is. If you want a great Sony phone, get the much cheaper Xperia XZ2, or if you want to spend a thousand bucks, upgrade to the Galaxy Note 9.

Our pick

Sony Xperia XZ2

sony-xperia-xz2-render.jpg?itok=SFCYLIS7

$700 at Amazon

A better Sony phone for most people.

If you’re really interested in a 2018 Sony flagship, the Xperia XZ2 gives you nearly everything the Premium version does with a nicer design, less awkward usability, and a fantastic single camera.

For most people, the Xperia XZ2 will be more than enough phone. It’s got a large 5.7-inch display with a narrow body thanks to its 18:9 aspect ratio, and its 19MP camera takes awesome photos in all but the dimmest conditions.

A little bit more

XZ2 Premium

817lejvietl._sl1500_.jpg?itok=uHuMB5vE

$1,000 at Amazon

Too much of a good thing.

This is Sony’s best phone ever on the inside, but the Xperia XZ2 Premium is bulky, awkward, and far too expensive to recommend to most people.

If you want to spend the money

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

note-9-render-1.jpg?itok=8Erf0kIm

$1,000 at Amazon

The upgrade pick.

If you want to spend $1,000 on a phone, it’s probably a better idea to spend it on the Galaxy Note 9, which provides a better overall experience.

30
Aug

How’s your Galaxy Note 9 battery life?


Here’s what you can expect from the Note 9’s 4,000 mAh battery.

Following the disaster that was the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung decided to play it safe last year with the Note 8’s battery capacity. While the phone was much safer to use, it wasn’t a device you could rely on to last you through an entire day of full use.

note-9-purple-front-full.jpg?itok=IVk36_

This year, Samsung’s regained its confidence in itself and slapped a massive 4,000 mAh battery inside the Note 9. That sounds beyond impressive on paper, but how does it fare in the real world?

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

default.jpgkenlundy17
08-28-2018 09:26 AM

My note 9 literally loses battery at the same rate as my iphone x did. I usually take the phone off the charger at 6 a.m. Around 12, the battery is down to the 70s. I work from 8 to 11 so no access to the phone at that point. When I do use the phone, I am checking emails, Instagram, FB, and listening to a podcast on soundcloud. Is anyone else seeing their battery life not last “all day”?

Reply

avatar305138_2.gifdjrakowski
08-28-2018 09:34 AM

It’s easily lasting all day for me. It’s at least as good as my iPhone 8 Plus with similar usage patterns (a handful of phone calls, WhatsApp and text messaging, looking things up on the web now and then, and 1-2 hours of Spotify or Google Play Music while paired with Bluetooth headphones).

Reply

avatar1616182_2.gifandrew_ackley
08-28-2018 09:42 AM

Mine has just been so so. I’ve had it since last Wednesday and always have to top off early evening or I will run out. This makes me sad bc I still have it on crappy 1080p resolution. My Huawei phones recently have been way better.

Reply

default.jpgboufa
08-28-2018 10:45 AM

I left it off charge from about 10am yesterday until about 9am today. I still had 15% battery left. I had over 5 hours of screen on time, and did NOTHING to forcable extend the battery life. All features on like normal, allways on display, played games, checked emails, screwed around with new apps, etc.

Sure this was not “power user” level activity, but I would consider it normal for many…

Reply

What about you? How’s the battery life on your Note 9 been?

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?
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30
Aug

Can I use NVIDIA Shield TV Pro as a Plex server?


Best answer: Yes, you can. The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro and Plex is a match made in heaven, with plenty of internal storage (500GB) for all your favorite media.

Amazon: NVIDIA Shield TV Pro (500GB) ($299)

Simply the best TV streaming device you can buy

The Android TV segment is cluttered with cheap devices running outdated versions of Android and limited specs and functionality. Rising above the mess of generic media players is the NVIDIA Shield TV — a supercharged Ferarri in a world filled with clunky beaters.

The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is a full-featured streaming box powered by NVIDIA chipsets with support for 4K HDR content, functionality as a Chromecast device, and support for all your favorite media streaming apps. NVIDIA has also implemented great support for gamers — either through the Google Play Store, it’s own GeForce Now game streaming service, or by streaming PC games with NVIDIA Gamestream.

But we’ll save the topic of gaming for later. If you’ve got a massive media collection that you want instant access to in your home theatre setup — as well as across your other streaming devices — the NVIDIA Shield and Plex offer a great solution.

The Shield pairs perfectly with Plex

Simply put, Plex is one of the most powerful and beautifully designed media players you can use, and the NVIDIA Shield TV has offered great support for Plex users including compatibility as a Plex Media Server since 2016.

Setting up a Plex media server requires you to set up a Plex account and then go through the setup process in the Plex app. Plex has a solid guide for setting up a media server on the NVIDIA Shield TV, which explains how to transfer files over to your Shield’s internal storage and then how to set up the Media Server. The 500GB NVIDIA Shield Pro is the natural choice to store your media collection, but you also have the option to mount an external storage device via USB to use as your internal storage destination — a great option if you’d rather opt for the 16GB NVIDIA Shield TV.

Once you’ve got everything set up, your NVIDIA Shield will act as a Plex Media Server and let you stream content from your library to other streaming boxes or devices with the Plex app installed.

Our pick

NVIDIA Shield TV Pro

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$299 at Amazon

Simply the best Android TV device that works with Plex right out of the box

The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is the best Android streaming box even if you don’t use it as a Plex Media Server. However, if you have a large media library and want to keep it organized and accessible in your living room TV and beyond, the Shield and Plex are a perfect pairing.

30
Aug

You’ll be able to control the new Zipp 2 and Zipp Mini 2 with Alexa or Siri


A brand new Bluetooth speaker.

Libratone has announced a followup to the Zipp and Zipp Mini wireless speakers. The new speakers, the Zipp 2 and Zipp Mini 2, will be very similar but also include Amazon’s Alexa built right in.

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These speakers have 360-degree sound and will come in four possible colors: frosty gray, black, cranberry red, and pine green. Having sound in every direction gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to where you’ll place the speaker, and it’s a trend we’re seeing a lot lately with everyone from Logitech to Anker. They have a lot of connection options as well. In addition to Alexa, the speakers also support AirPlay 2 and can be controlled by Siri using Apple’s HomeKit. They have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, and a USB port so you can connect just about anything and keep the music going. They also have DLNA and a 3.5mm audio jack. You can connect up to 10 of these speakers together for a multi-room audio system.

Both of these speakers will be available on Amazon in October.

30
Aug

Canada Deal: Amazon’s Fire TV streaming stick is $10 off for a limited time


The Basic Edition of the Fire TV Stick offers access to all the streaming services you know and love.

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Amazon has reduced the price of its Fire TV Stick (Basic Edition) to just $39.99. Usually $49.99, this is the best price we’ve seen for the streaming device since Prime Day.

The Fire TV Stick connects your HDTV and hooks you up to a wide selection of video content from the likes of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube and more, as well as downloadable games and web browser support — check out the full range of apps available in Canada. A dedicated remote is included for easy navigation.

Amazon also announced yesterday that it is bringing monthly pricing for Amazon Prime to Canada, so you can now get access to its speedy delivery options and Prime Video and Prime Music without paying for a year of service up front.

For more Canadian deals coverage, be sure to keep an eye on Thrifter CA, sign up for the Canadian newsletter and follow the team on Twitter.

See at Amazon Canada

30
Aug

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Lenovo Smart Display


Here are a few things you might not know about the Lenovo Smart Display!

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The Lenovo Smart Display has quickly become one of our favorite smart home gadgets in a long time, mostly due to the fact that it takes everything great about the Google Home, slaps on a screen, and costs under $200.

The addition of that screen allows for a lot of neat tricks we’ve never seen before with display-less Google Assistant speakers, and after having a Lenovo Smart Display in my apartment for a few weeks, I’ve come across a lot of things I wasn’t expecting when I ordered it.

Here are 10 things you probably don’t know about the Lenovo Smart Display!

1. It can act as a Chromecast target

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Just like if you had a Chromecast plugged into your TV, you can send movies and TV shows from your favorite apps to the Lenovo Smart Display to watch them on it.

Not all apps that support Chromecast work with the Smart Display quite yet (Netflix is currently the biggest omission), but it is compatible with YouTube, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, and more.

2. The speaker sounds surprisingly great

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Whether you’re watching videos or listening to music, the speaker on the Lenovo Smart Display sounds much better than I was initially anticipating.

Sound comes through nice and clear, there’s a respectable bass-y punch, and I’ve not once dared to turn this thing up to max volume — it gets loud.

You’ll still find an overall better audio experience with something like a Sonos One or Google Home Max, but considering the $199 starting price and the fact that there’s a screen in addition to the speaker, Lenovo did a great job here.

3. You can make regular phone calls

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It’s no surprise that you can make video calls via Google Duo with the Lenovo Smart Display, but did you know that you can also make regular, audio-only phone calls?

You can ask the Smart Display to make a call to one of your contacts just like you would with Google Home, and thanks to the display, there’s an on-screen keypad you can use during a call, too.

In other words, this just might be the most convenient way to call the customer care team for your cable or phone service provider.

4. Support for audio groups is currently missing

There’s plenty to love about the Lenovo Smart Display, but one thing I wasn’t aware of before using the gadget was a less than pleasant surprise.

While audio groups in the Google Home app can be used to simultaneously play music on multiple Google Assistant speakers at once, the Smart Display cannot be added to these groups for whatever reason.

It’s unclear if this is something that’ll be changed down the road, but for the time being, it, unfortunately, makes the Smart Display feel like a separate beast compared to other Assistant speakers when it should feel like an extension of them.

5. There’s a lot to customize with Ambient Mode

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When you’re not using the Smart Display, it’ll go into something called “Ambient Mode.” There are a few different ways you can configure Ambient Mode, including:

  • Photo frame — Your favorite albums from Google Photos
  • Art gallery — Beautiful images and artwork
  • Clock — Any Ambient Mode can show the time, but this one has a choice of clock faces
  • Experimental — Try out new sources and content (currently Facebook and Flickr)

6. The camera can be hidden with a physical cover

The addition of the camera on the Lenovo Smart Display allows it to be an excellent Google Duo device for video calls, but if you’re someone that’s concerned about your privacy and don’t like the idea of another camera in your home, Lenovo’s made it easy to completely cover it up.

On the right side of the Smart Display is a physical switch that you can move up to completely hide the camera with a physical cover. When you want to make a video call, just move the cover back down and it’ll work like normal.

Well done, Lenovo.

7. Google Express lets you shop with your voice

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Amazon might be the leading site for online shopping, but Google’s been steadily building up its own alternative with Google Express.

On the Lenovo Smart Display, you can say something like “buy juice” or “I need to buy paper towel” and you’ll be shown results of items you can buy on Google Express. You can tap “add to cart” on an item if you find something you like, and at any time, just say “show me my cart” to see what you’ve added.

When you tap the “checkout” button, you’ll receive a notification on your phone to complete the purchase.

The interface could use a bit of work, but even in its current form, is still a great way to quickly add things to your cart as you think about them without having to go to your phone and open an app.

8. The quick settings menu is really helpful

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Although you won’t find a full settings page for the Smart Display like you will on an Android phone, there’s still a handy little bar at the bottom that can be used for controlling some simple items.

No matter what you’re looking at on the Smart Display, do a swipe up from the bottom of the screen and you’ll get a small black bar for adjusting the Smart Display’s brightness and volume. There’s also a settings cog that shows your Wi-Fi network, device info, a tab for sending feedback to Google, and a toggle for Do Not Disturb.

9. You can send recipes to it from your phone

Like we’ve already talked about before, the Lenovo Smart Display works great for finding and following recipes in the kitchen. This is never not useful, but you can also find recipes on your phone and then send them to the Smart Display.

While looking at recipes on Google Search, supported sites will show a “Send to Smart Display” button at the bottom of their cards. Tap this, say “start recipe”, and you’re ready to start cooking.

10. Weather info comes with adorable sound effects

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This last one’s pretty small, but it’s something that always puts a smile on my face.

When you ask about the weather on the Smart Display, certain weather conditions come with adorable sound effects. For example, sunny days are accompanied by chirping birds and stormy days play thunder in the background while the Google Assistant reads off the forecast.

What else have you found?

If you have a Smart Display, what other little nuggets have you found while using it? Let us know in the comments below!

See at Best Buy

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