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6
Oct

Sbode M400 speaker review: Waterproof, lightweight, and ready to rock


With True Wireless Stereo and concise connection controls, Sbode makes it easy to bring the party with you.

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Whether you’re looking to liven up study hall, rock out your tailgating experience, or looking for speakers that can play nice with your phone or computer, Bluetooth speakers just keep getting bigger sound, bolder features, and better prices. Sbode’s M400 Bluetooth speaker is one that seems tailor-made to the young, on-the-go music lover. Easy pairing and TWS stereo make pairing and switching playback devices a breeze, a rugged IPX6 enclosure ensures that a pop-up thunderstorm won’t rain on your Black Parade, and at the size of a large energy drink, the M400 is easy to slip into your backpack, glovebox, or tailgating kit.

A tall drink of music

Sbode M400 Bluetooth speaker



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$45 at Amazon

This Bluetooth speaker is ready to rock wherever the party takes you.

Sbode packs a lot of punch and power into a speaker the size of an AriZona tea. This IPX6 waterproof speaker can play via Bluetooth, FM radio, 3.5mm aux, or microSD card, and its six-button configuration makes connecting and controlling your music a breeze.

The Good

  • Quickly pair/disconnect/change tracks
  • TWS is simpler to connect and manage than Sbode’s smaller model
  • Good range with minimal sound distortion at higher volumes

The Bad

  • Volume controls aren’t granular enough
  • Controls on the back have me spinning speaker around a lot
  • LED under Power button is super bright, but facing away most of the time.

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Sbode M400 Bluetooth speaker What rocks

This speaker is the essence of grab and go: the rubberized top and bottom keep the metallic grills recessed and protected from drops and rough surfaces, and and a grippy black mesh wraps around the main body of the speaker, with a soft rubber strip on the back hosting the carry strap, six easy-touch buttons, and the silicone flap that keeps water away from the aux port, microSD card slot, and the Micro-USB charging port. The 2,200 mAh battery inside this tall drink of music can keep the jams flowing for 6-8 hours.

Much like most Bluetooth speakers on the market today pretty much all of the M400’s buttons pull double duty based on how they’re pressed. The power button also serves as the toggle between playback sources, and the Bluetooth button manages phone calls as well as Bluetooth connections, the volume buttons change tracks. The TWS button here is an upgrade from the Sbode 350, allowing you to end or clear a TWS connection without turning the speaker off entirely.

The sound from the M400 is an upgrade over the 350 as well, which for a speaker that’s almost twice the size isn’t terribly surprising. Single M400 can output more than enough sound to fill my one-bedroom apartment with clear sound. Yes, there’s a limited amount of bass you can get from a speaker this size, but the Sbode had very little muddiness and distortion at normal and even at higher volumes.

Sbode M400 Bluetooth speaker What falls flat

Get ready to play spin the speaker.

While the M400 offers up a much bigger sound than Sbode’s smaller Bluetooth speaker, the best sound is on the side opposite the controls, which have no distinguishing bumps or ridges to distinguish one button from another. More plainly: you’ll need to spin the speaker around to use the controls, then spin it back so the brunt of the sound faces you. If you use your phone or smartwatch to control the music — for small volume changes, using your phone will be easier anyway — then this won’t be much of an issue, but it’s worth mentioning.

It’s actually a bit of a good thing that the controls are facing away from you during playback, because the LED sitting below the Power and TWS buttons are on the bright side. I wish that the play/pause button was lit up, too, but cupping my hand around the power button is more than enough to bounce the light down and illuminate the other controls.

USB-C may have come to most new Android phones in the last year or two, but sadly, the same cannot be said of accessories like Bluetooth headphones and speakers. The M400 uses Micro-USB to charge, and while we’ve all still got a plethora of Micro-USB cables hanging around our houses, it’d still be nice to charge my speaker with the same reversible USB-C cable I keep in the car to charge my phone. Portable speakers could also benefit from USB-C’s fast-charging protocols.

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Sbode M400 Bluetooth speaker Buy it

This speaker is easy to pack, easy to hang from shower hooks, workout machines, or your bag, and with the diameter of a coke can, it’s easy to stow this speaker in the water bottle slot most on most backpacks. The Sbode M400 may not be the sexiest speaker around, but for less than $50, this durable, waterproof speaker can last you through a long work day and then keep jamming once you plug it in at home.

4.5
out of 5


Being able to quickly skip songs instead of having to press-and-hold the way many Bluetooth speakers do makes the M400 a welcome companion to listeners for frequently listen to algorithmic stations like Spotify’s Made for You mixes or YouTube Music’s Your Mixtape.

See at Amazon

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6
Oct

The PlayStation Classic may use standard USB ports for controllers


Nostalgia comes in small packages

It seems Sony has decided to get on the nostalgia bandwagon and create a mini version of the original PlayStation, often called the PSX. Called the PlayStation Classic, this miniature console could be another instant hit.

Nostalgia Machine

PlayStation Classic

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$99 pre-order at Amazon

A miniaturized version of the original PlayStation, the PlayStation classic looks to take us on a nostalgic ride down memory lane. Complete with twenty PlayStation games and two controllers, the PlayStation Classic will make an excellent addition to the Classic console market.

October 5, 2018 — The controllers are USB!

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After looking at the images in much finer detail I have noticed that the controllers while having the same long, thin plug as the original PlayStation may actually be a standard USB instead. When looking at the console from head on you can see the undeniable shape of a USB.

This opens up a lot of possibilities, both for the console and for the controllers. Does this mean we could use a standard PS4 controller plugged into the USB of the console? Or could we use the controllers that come with the Classic on our PC’s? Hopefully, Sony can give us an answer soon.

What does it look like?

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It looks almost exactly like the original PlayStation from 1994 but reduced in size by forty-five percent. Apart from the size, the major differences are found on the back. Instead of the analog ports from before, the Classic has HDMI and Micro-USB ports. Even the memory card slots are visible on the Classic although as far as we can tell they don’t do anything.

Down to the lack of thumbsticks and the long thin socket, the controllers are perfect replicas of the originals. It would be nice if they were made wireless, but I suppose they need to keep the nostalgia accurate.

How do all the buttons work?

Each of the buttons on the console works almost exactly like the original.

  • The power button turns it on as you would expect.
  • The reset button suspends the current game and we assume takes back to the game menu for you to launch new games.
  • The open tray button actually opens the virtual tray to allow you to swap discs on games like Final Fantasy VII that used to have multiple physical discs. This is a really nice touch from Sony as it makes all the buttons usable in some fashion.

What’s in the Box?

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The PlayStation Classic comes with the console, of course, an HDMI cable, USB-A to Micro-USB cable for power, and two controllers. I like this trend in the Classic consoles of supplying two controllers, and long may it continue.

The only thing missing from the box is an A/C Adapter, but Sony has said that a standard one amp, a five-volt adapter will work fine.

What about saves?

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PlayStation has said that the PlayStation Classic comes with “a virtual memory card” to save your games on, I assume player one and two can save on the same memory card.

Hopefully, it operates the same as the original as they were games that used the memory card in clever ways to unlock bonus content. Until we see a full list of the games though we won’t know for sure.

What Games does it have?

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There are twenty games preloaded on the PlayStation Classic and right now we only know the names of five. Final Fantasy VII as I mentioned before, as well as TEKKEN 3, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, Jumping Flash!, and Wild Arms. Sony has said more will be announced in the coming months so watch this space.

All the games seem to be playing on at their native 4:9 aspect ratio. No sign yet if the black edges caused by the 4:9 ratio will be covered up with frames like the SNES Classic allows you to do but I’m sure they will have something.

Where and when can I get it?

The PlayStation Classic will available in all regions on December 3 and is available for pre-order for $99 at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and Gamestop. With typical PlayStation flair, the PlayStation Classic will release exactly twenty-five years after the original.

Pre-order at Amazon

What have we missed?

Let us know in the comments section if you find out any new information and we will update this article. What games would you like to see on the PlayStation Classic? We want to know your thoughts!

6
Oct

Google Pixel 2 XL, one year later review: The most consistent flagship


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A year old, and a year better.

The Pixel 2 phones were announced close to a year ago, with few substantial changes from the 2016 Pixels. Despite some early teething issues with the Pixel 2 XL’s screen, the phones have proven to be solid choices for anyone buying a phone in most of 2018. But competition hasn’t stood still in the last year, and we’re close to seeing the Pixel 3. How well have the phones stood up over the last year?

I’ve been using the Pixel 2 XL as my daily driver since November 2017, without a case unless I was in the gym. The phone was running Android Oreo for most of the year until switching to the Pie beta in July, followed by the stable versions of Pie. The phone is currently running the latest patch for October 2018.

Rock solid

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Even a year later, if I had to choose one word to describe using the Pixel 2 XL, it would be “consistent.” Other phones may have more RAM, and 2018 has meant there’s a better, faster, stronger processor available. Still, the Pixel 2 XL is smooth as butter: apps open in an instant, there’s no lag when moving around the interface, there’s no stuttering when using the camera, and overall the phone is just pleasant to use.

That may seem like the bare minimum, but when the Pixel line is competing with phones that have better hardware on paper, it’s worth pointing out. I can’t remember the last time I had an app fall out of memory too soon or crash when I tried to open it. There’s a good chance that the Pixel 3 line is going to stick with 4GB of RAM, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Google knows how to write software, and they know how to make for a good user experience.

Other parts of the phone have held up as well. The fingerprint sensor is still easy to find, the cameras are still the best you can get (more on that later), and the stereo speakers still sound better than speakers on other phones.

Tastier with Pie

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Android Pie wasn’t the largest of UI overhauls we’ve had in the history of Android, but I’m enjoying it all the same. I’m still using the old-school navigation buttons for the time being, since it seems the new gesture UI isn’t completely done baking yet. I do like the new horizontal-scrolling multitasking interface, the new quick settings design and other little changes. Oreo felt great, but using the phone on Pie brings a whole new level of polish.

Battery life has degraded slightly with age, but it stills performs wonderfully.

When I first started using the stable version of Pie, battery life took a nosedive. Oddly enough, turning off the new Adaptive Battery feature greatly improved things for me, and now I get the same great battery I’ve had for the past year. It’s degraded slightly as the battery itself has aged, but I can still get through two days of light use — in my case, that’s listening to music through a Bluetooth speaker for most of the day, capturing some photos and videos of my friends and I playing music, at least ten minutes of phone calls and a healthy amount of web and social media use.

Even on heavier days when I traveled a lot — especially when moving to areas with little to no cell coverage — I still had no problems making it to the end of the day on 100%. If you buy a Pixel 2 XL second hand, the battery should still perform admirably.

Still the camera to beat

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Even a year after release, the Pixel 2’s camera is holding up strong. And by that I mean outperforming phones that were just released. No matter the subject or lighting conditions, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting a great photo from the Pixel 2. That’s not to say other phones have bad cameras, but if taking great photos is your priority, the Pixel phones are the still the ones to get.

Two more years of support

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If you’re buying an older phone, there’s always the question of just how much longer it’ll be supported. With the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, Google has been upfront from the start: the phones will keep getting feature and security updates until October 2020. That’s still a long life for an Android phone, so even if you pick up a Pixel 2 in the near future, you’ll have plenty of support to come.

What say you?

Are you liking the Pixel 2 XL a year after release, or are you ready for something new? Let us know down below!

Android 9 Pie

  • Android 9 Pie review: Greater than the sum of its slices
  • Everything you need to know about Android 9 Pie!
  • Will my phone get Android Pie?
  • How to get Android 9 Pie on your Pixel right now
  • Join the Discussion

6
Oct

Comfort beats bass in this battle between Mpow headphones


We’re a virtual company made up of tech experts from across the globe. An Android phone is only as good as the headphones you have to accompany it, so let us help you find the best way to jam out to your favorite tunes.

Mpow H1

Our pick

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$36 at Amazon

Pros

  • 40mm drivers for stereo sound.
  • 15-20 hours of battery life.
  • More comfortable design compared to Mpow 059.
  • Feels a lot sturdier.

Cons

  • Sound quality is just OK.

The H1 is Mpow’s newest pair of over-the-ear headphones and have solid upgrades over the 059. The design is much more comfortable, sound is less muffled, and battery life is excellent at 15-20 hours of use on a single charge.

Mpow 059

More bass

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$35 at Amazon

Pros

  • Up to 20 hours of battery.
  • Easy-to-access music controls.
  • Available in more colors.
  • Slightly deeper bass.

Cons

  • Cheap plastic build.
  • Not as comfy to wear.

The Mpow 059 is a really good budget headphone option. The battery life is great and sound quality is pretty good, but compared to the newer Mpow H1, they’re a slightly difficult recommendation.

Simply put, the Mpow H1 is easily the better all-around purchase. You’ll get a touch more bass with the 059s, but the H1s take the cake with a vastly improved design that feels sturdier and is much more comfortable for long listening sessions.

Why you should buy the Mpow H1 over the 059

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If you’ve narrowed your search down to the Mpow 059 and H1, you’ve got a fairly straight-forward decision ahead of yourself.

The Mpow 059 came out before the H1, and looking at the headphones on their own, they do a good job at providing a well-rounded experience for not much money. Having up to 20 hours of battery life is fantastic, the sound quality gets the job done, and there’s a multitude of colors you can choose from. The inline controls work fine, you can adjust the height of the speakers, and charging over microUSB works as you’d expect.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Mpow 059, but when compared to the H1, they start to lessen in their appeal in a few key ways.

For starters, the Mpow H1 has a noticeably better design. Not only do they feel a lot sturdier, but they’re also much more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The buttons on the side are also easier to press and the matte plastic looks a lot cleaner than the glossy finish on the 059.

The sound between the 059 and H1 is pretty similar, but the 059 does seem to offer a bit more bass at the cost of having a more muffled sound profile. The H1s don’t sound amazing, but audio does sound a bit crisper and cleaner compared to the 059.

Mpow H1

Our pick

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Mpow’s best budget headphones.

$36 at Amazon

Without a doubt, the Mpow H1 is the better purchase on this list. The sound quality and battery life are pretty much on par with the 059, but the overall design is a lot better. For only a dollar more, it just makes sense.

Mpow 059

More bass

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$35 at Amazon

Decent headphones that you probably shouldn’t get.

On its own, the Mpow 059 is a decent pair of budget headphones. However, compared to the much-improved design on the H1, it’s really only worth getting if you’re okay sacrificing a better fit + finish for slightly more bass in your songs.

6
Oct

The secret to robots with good balance? Shakira-level gyrating hips


As much as we might worry about what robots are going to do to humankind, they’ve got plenty of their own to be concerned about when it comes to how they are treated by members of the public. Whether it’s mean-spirited shoves or kicks or simply just the odd accidental bump, robots are going to have to get better at retaining their balance when they’re suddenly faced with an unexpected force without warning.

That’s where Mercury, a new bipedal robot created by roboticists at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, comes into play. Mercury is designed to exhibit an impressive dynamic, human body-inspired ability to stay balanced when encountering these scenarios. It does this using a smart system that lets it quickly work out the best possible move to make following a collision. Unlike other attempts to solve this problem, it reacts by adjusting its whole body — including some Shakira-style hip wiggling — rather than just readjusting its feet.

“What we’ve developed is a computational process by which bipedal robots can quickly recover from continuous disturbances, like those endured by people walking in crowds, without ever falling,” Luis Sentis, associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, told Digital Trends. “Such technology opens up the possibility that humanoid robots [can] walk and operate nimbly alongside us — for instance, during crowded sport events, getting inside transportation vehicles, holding groceries while shopping, or even dancing salsa with us.”

The team next plans to continue testing Mercury under additional experimental conditions to see how it copes under situations like carrying furniture, guiding a person by holding hands, or potentially playing soccer. Given that even the smartest robots can easily lose their balance, a more robust method for keeping robots upright would certainly be welcomed by the robotics community.

“One of the key questions we are considering is what capabilities and morphologies will allow robots to increase human comfort and productivity,” Sentis continued. “We believe that in addition to nimble locomotion and dexterous manipulation, endowing anthropomorphic attributes to robots increases our understanding of their behavior, much in the same way that we require artificial intelligence to respond to our questions in human-like ways.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Harvard’s latest robot can walk on water. Your move, Jesus
  • Want an extra arm? A third thumb? Check out these awesome robotic appendages
  • Spirit animals: 9 revolutionary robots inspired by real-world creatures
  • Moxi the ‘friendly’ hospital robot wants to help nurses, not replace them
  • Brain-controlled third arm lets you take your multitasking to the next level



6
Oct

Amazon Fire HD 8 review (2018)



Research Center:

Amazon Fire HD 8

With the exception of Apple and Huawei, tablet sales have been in a death spiral for years. As smartphone screens grow larger and unlimited data plans allow you to stream Netflix or Hulu anywhere, shelling out a lot of money for a slightly larger screen that’s usually beholden to a Wi-Fi connection doesn’t make much sense. Unless the tablet is hits a sweet spot in price. Amazon’s latest Fire HD 8 is a strong contender, being one of the cheapest on the market at $80. But there’s such a thing as too cheap.

Basic and durable design

The Fire HD 8 comes in four colors — Black, Canary Yellow, Marine Blue, and Punch Red — and that’s about the only notable part of its design. There’s nothing special here; it’s as basic as a tablet can get.

It’s an 8-inch screen on the front, and it’s surrounded by chunky bezels that help with holding the tablet. The back is constructed of plastic, and the only other flourish other than the Amazon branding is a  two-megapixel rear camera on the top left side. You’d expect the plastic body to feel cheap, but the Fire HD 8 is surprisingly durable. Its size makes it easy to hold in one hand, though you’ll want to use caution as the case is a bit slippery.

Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

All the buttons on the Fire HD are at the top (in portrait orientation). The headphone jack and the volume rocker are on the left side, while you will find a power button and a Micro-USB charging port on the right side.There’s also a MicroSD slot here that can add another 400GB of external storage in case the built-in 16GB isn’t enough.

We’d have really liked to see USB Type-C implemented here.

Considering the tablet is $80 this isn’t much of an issue, but we’d have really liked to see USB Type-C implemented here. Most Android phones have a Type-C charging port, and it would make things simpler if you didn’t need an extra charger.

The left side of the Fire HD 8 is home to stereo speakers that support Dolby Atmos. While they don’t pack a lot of bass and they can sound a little tinny, they’re sufficiently loud when the tablet is directly in front of you. It will hardly fill a quiet room, so don’t expect them to replace your Bluetooth speakers.

A disappointing display

The Fire HD 8 maintains the same 1,280 x 800 resolution for its LCD screen. While Amazon bills the display as “crisp,” it’s anything but: The screen is far from sharp and pixels are easily seen from an arms length. In fact, you’ll notice these pixels in just about every scenario, from the fuzzy text in books to low resolution movies in Prime Video. It also has poor viewing angles, so you’ll need to look at the tablet directly to be able to see everything clearly.

Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

On a more positive note, the screen did get bright enough to see in direct sunlight outdoors.

Performance can be frustrating, but battery life is great

The hardware in this year’s Fire HD 8 is nearly identical to the models Amazon released in 2017 and 2016. There’s a 1.3 GHz Mediatek quad-core processor, along with the same 1.5 GB of RAM. The base storage is still only 16GB, but there is a 32GB model as well (and a MicroSD card slot for up to 400GB more if needed).

We encountered a good deal of lag when using the Fire HD 8 for just about any and every task.

We encountered a good deal of lag when using the Fire HD 8 for just about any and every task. From the Prime Video app to the Bookstore, every app took a few seconds to open. Third party apps are even worse: It took nearly five seconds for the New York Times app to open, and nearly as long for Hulu and a recommended Sudoku app to load. It’s not unbearable, but it can be frustrating when you just want to quickly get into an app to read or watch something.

As for the battery, Amazon claims you’ll get 10 hours per charge. It’s a bit optimistic, but we had no problem getting six-and-a-half to seven hours when streaming Hulu and Netflix, with 15 percent battery life to spare. You can go for longer if you’re just using the tablet to read or browse the web.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Compared To

Microsoft Surface Book 2 13-inch

Microsoft Surface Go

Huawei MediaPad M5 Pro

Apple iPad 9.7-inch (2018)

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017)

Amazon Fire HD 8 (2017)

Xiaomi Mi Pad 3

LeapFrog epic

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (8-inch)

Lenovo Tab 2 A8

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Barnes & Noble Nook HD+

Toshiba Excite 7.7

Motorola Xyboard 8.2

BlackBerry PlayBook

Once the battery is drained, it took six hours to get a full charge, which is a little ridiculous. There’s no quick charging option for the tablet, all of which could have been avoided if Amazon went with a USB-C port.

It’s unlikely you’re buying a tablet for its camera, and if you are, you should know what to expect with an $80 piece of hardware. While both cameras on the Fire HD got a slight bump up to two-megapixels, photographs are still very low quality. The front two-megapixel camera is just okay for video calling, but that’s about it.

Fire OS and Alexa Integration

It’s 2018, but the latest version of Fire OS is still based on Android 5.1 Lollipop — a version of the Android operating system that was released in 2014. Amazon pushes out regular updates to its tablets, but the main issue is compatibility with newer third-party apps you may attempt to side load outside of Amazon’s App store. We often ran into the issue of trying to install apps that weren’t compatible.

Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends

Other than the new For You tab that directs you to recently accessed media and apps, this year’s Fire OS update doesn’t look much different than previous versions. Fire OS is set up a bit differently than the typical Android operating system to which you may be accustomed. Instead of finding all of your apps on the home screen or in an app drawer, Fire OS is separated into different pages that primarily highlight different Amazon products or services. Some of the pages include Books, Video, Shop, Music, and Audible. If you want to get the most from the Fire HD 8, you’ll want to be an Amazon Prime subscriber.

While you can download some third-party apps like Netflix and Hulu, your options are limited since it uses Amazon’s own app store instead of the Google Play Store. You won’t find apps like Google Maps or Tinder, and some “apps” like YouTube are simply bookmarks that lead you to web version.

Improved Amazon integration is a welcome and overdue feature on the Fire HD 8.

Improved Amazon integration is a welcome and overdue feature on the Fire HD 8. You can now trigger Alexa with your voice, and while the Fire HD 8 doesn’t have the same far-field microphones as Amazon’s Echo devices, it does a pretty good job picking up your voice from a few feet away. There’s also a new Show Mode that uses the tablet screen to provide useful information related to your Alexa queries. If you’re willing to shell out an extra $40, there’s a Show Mode Charging Dock that turns the Fire HD 8 into a makeshift Amazon Show while it charges.

Thinking of buying this Fire HD 8 to act as an Echo Show? Think otherwise. While the microphones can pick up your voice from a few feet away, Alexa isn’t as quick to respond, and everything in general feels much faster and smoother on the Echo Show.

Price, availability, and warranty information

Amazon’s Fire HD 8 starts at $80, and it’s now available for purchase through Amazon.

The tablet comes with a 90-day warranty that covers any defects in materials and workmanship. If you’re looking for a longer warranty, Amazon offers one, two, or three year warranties when you set up the Fire HD 8.

Our Take

At $80, the Fire HD 8 may be the best budget tablet on the market, but that’s not saying much. It can be slow and frustrating to use, which often makes us want to pull out our smartphone.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes and no. If you’re looking for a budget tablet, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option than the Fire HD 8. However, if you’re willing to invest a little more, better options become available.If you want to stay within Amazon’s garden, consider the Fire HD 10. For $70 more, you get a beefier processor, a and higher resolution screen. If you want a more traditional Android tablet, check out the Huawei MediaPad M5, which has a good screen and strong speakers for $319.

For iOS or MacOS users, you may want to consider the 2018 iPad. While it costs $250 more than the Fire HD 8, it’s a better tablet all the way around. It has a much better display, a more powerful processor, a good camera, far more tablet-optimized apps, and it has Apple Pencil compatibility.

How long will it last?

We think you’ll get one, maybe two, good years from the Fire HD 8. While durability is not an issue, performance may only get worse as time goes on.

Should you buy it?

No, unless you’re absolutely committed to spending less than $100 on a tablet. We recommend shelling just a little more cash for much better options.

6
Oct

Here’s who won the 2018 Nobel Prizes in Science and why


Love them or hate them, the Nobel Prizes in Science remain some of the highest accolades in the world. Awarded almost annually by the Nobel Foundation and Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the prizes honor individuals who’ve made outstanding contributions to physics, chemistry, and medicine. Some say the Nobel prizes fail modern-day science. Others have called them an absurd way of honoring achievement.

For their part, the Nobel Foundation probably thinks their awards help grease the wheels of progress and keep researchers doing the things they’re doing. One thing is for sure — the prize winners’ achievements are nothing short of extraordinary.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the 2018 Nobel Prizes in Science award winners, along with an explanation about why their work matters. (In case you missed it, here’s our breakdown of last year’s winners.)

Physics


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nobel prizes 2018 physics prize winenr arthur ashkin

Arthur Ashkin OSA

nobel prizes 2018 france physics

Gérard Mourou PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

nobel prizes 2018 physicist donna strickland wins prize with two other scientists

Donna Strickland Cole Burston/Getty Images

Winners: Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou, and Donna Strickland

Why they won: Arthur Ashkin from Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, United States, was awarded the prize “for his groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics.”

The second half of the award was granted to Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou for their chirped pulse amplifications, “a method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.” Strickland is a researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Mourner is from École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Why it matters: Ashkin’s lasers can be used like “optical tweezers” to manipulate particles as small as atoms, to probe how they function in biological systems. This sounds pretty sci-fi but it’s been widely used in the real world since Ashkin made his breakthrough in 1987. The minuscule tool may be used to unlock the ever-allusive secrets of the quantum world, and aid in the emerging field of quantum biology.

Through their research, Strickland and Mourou cleared the way for scientists to generate the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by humans. By stretching the laser pulses out over time, then amplifying the pulse, and finally compressing the pulse, they were able to pack a ton energy into a small amount of space. Chirped pulse amplifications are now used in millions of corrective eye surgeries each year. The two researchers made their first breakthrough in 1985.

It’s also important to note that Strickland’s win makes her only the third woman to win a Nobel in physics and the first woman in 55 years to be recognized with the prize.

Chemistry


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Frances H. Arnold FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

nobel prizes 2018 us chemistry smith

George P. Smith BILL GREENBLATT/AFP/Getty Images

nobel prizes 2018 speakers at the biotech gapsummit

Gregory P. Winter Chris Williamson/Getty Images

Winners: Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith, and Gregory P. Winter

Why they won: Arnold, from the California Institute of Technology, was awarded the prize “for the directed evolution of enzymes.”

Smith and Winter won “for the phase display of peptides and antibodies.” Smith is from the University of Missouri, Columbia and Winter is from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Why it matters: The winners each used genetic change and selection—inherent aspects of evolution—to create proteins that chip away at some of the chemical conundrums faced by humanity.

In 1993, Arnold conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, a class of proteins that kickstart chemical reactions. Over the next 15 years, she refined her technique, enabling the production of new enzymes that allow for chemical manufacturing techniques that are less harmful to the environment. Today, these enzymes are used to fabricate everything from pharmaceutical drugs that save lives to biofuels that could help save the planet as alternatives to fossil fuels.

Smith made his breakthrough in 1985 with the development of phage display, a method in which a bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria) is used to create new proteins. Winter later used this method for the directed evolution of antibodies that led to new pharmaceuticals, the first of which was Adalimumab, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases. More recent pharmaceuticals created through phage displays have been used to neutralize toxins and cure metastatic cancer.

Medicine

nobel prizes 2018 researcher james allison

nobel prizes 2018 japan medicine

James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo, winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Getty Images

Winners: James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo

Why they won: Allison and Honjo share the prize “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.”

Why it matters: In his research, Allison investigated a protein found on immune cells, which were known to act as a braking mechanisms for the immune system. The researcher’s breakthrough came when he recognized that, by easing off the brake, immune responses could be accelerated to target tumors. Allison’s innovative approach has since been turned into therapies, including for the treatment of an advanced form of skin cancer.

Honjo, meanwhile, identified another immune-cell protein, which also acts as a brake, but functions differently than the one studied by Allison. Over the following years, Honjo unraveled the role of the protein, while he and other researchers leveraged the findings to develop new and effective treatments for cancer patients.

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6
Oct

The Nokia True wireless earbuds have a miniscule form factor


These + your phone = a match made in heaven.

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Hot on the heels of the Nokia 7.1 smartphone, a new product is here that will pair perfectly with your smartphone.

Meet the Nokia True Wireless Earbuds. These sleek, minimalist headphones are super lightweight, coming in at just 5 grams per earbud. They come rocking Bluetooth 5.0 and feature IPX4 resistance, meaning splashes and sweat won’t pause performance. You’ll get up to 3.5 hours of stereo music playback and phone calls per charge, though that increases slightly if you’re only using them to chat on the phone. The included USB-C case acts as a portable charger which can bring your headphones back to life a full three times before needing to be recharged itself. It also features a spring-release button system to pop your headphones out. They’ll retail for about $150 when they’re released, whenever that may be. We don’t yet have a definite release date.

This is an interesting move, considering the Nokia 7.1 will have a headphone jack. However, these are a nice lightweight alternative to something like the Anker Soundcore Liberty wireless headphones, and you’ll be future-proofed should a future device be jack-less.

If you don’t want to lose any earbuds or your budget is slightly smaller, you may be more interested in the $79 Pro Wireless Earphones. These are connected by an around-the-neck wire and charge over Micro USB. The battery life is improved over the True Earbuds, and the neckband has built-in controls as well. The neatest features are all about tactile feedback. The magnetic earbuds can click together to end calls or pause music, and they vibrate when you have an incoming call. While you’ll be a bit behind with Bluetooth 4.2, you can also use these with various voice assistants which is always nice. The release date on these is yet to be determined as well, though we anticipate both pairs being available by the end of the year.

See at Nokia

6
Oct

Catch up on the entire Kingdom Hearts ‘Story So Far’ for PlayStation 4


Dive back into the originals before the new adventure begins.

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With Kingdom Hearts 3 less than four months away from its release, Square Enix is releasing yet another Kingdom Hearts collection on PlayStation 4 to get new players up to speed before the finale of the Xehanort saga, titled Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far.

This collection comprises the 1.5 + 2.5 HD Remix Collection with the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue Collection. Though all of these games have already made their way to the PlayStation 4 separately, this is the first time you’ll be able to grab them all at once. Purchasing them this way is a much more cost-effective method too.

The Kingdom Hearts series can be a confusing mess — take it from a fan — and the naming conventions of the games do not make it any easier. To clarify, The Story So Far collection will include six games and three films made of cutscenes; the games include Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2, Chain of Memories, Birth By Sleep, Dream Drop Distance, and 0.2 Birth By Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage, while the cutscene collections contain the stories of 358/2 Days, Re:coded, and χ back cover. Pro tip: just play them in order of release.

Jumping straight into Kingdom Hearts 3 after not playing games such as Chain of Memories and Birth By Sleep will be possible, as KH3 is set to include a series of videos to bring new players up to speed. However, you’re missing out on a majority of the story by doing so. The Story So Far collection costs just $40 and contains everything you’ll need to truly be prepared for KH3. It’s now available to pre-order via Amazon and is set to release on October 30.

If you’re definitely planning on buying Kingdom Hearts 3, another way to purchase all the games is by opting for the digital Kingdom Hearts: All-In-One bundle which includes everything in The Story So Far along with Kingdom Hearts 3 and an exclusive PS4 Dynamic Theme for $99.99 via the PlayStation Store.

Kingdom Hearts fans will need to keep an eye out during the coming months as a deluge of new products are released for fans, from a KH3 Sora Funko Pop to PDP’s Replica Kingdom Key Keyblade and the super cool Sora Pixel Pal.

Those who pre-order Kingdom Hearts 3 at Amazon will receive a $10 promo certificate around 30 days after it ships. That offer is not available on The Story So Far, however.

See at Amazon

6
Oct

Is your router vulnerable to attacks? New report says odds aren’t in your favor


A new study out by the American Consumer Institute shows that 83 percent of routers in the United States are vulnerable to cyberattacks.  The group finds that a majority of those routers have critical security vulnerabilities, primarily due to the lack of firmware updates.

In testing a total of 186 routers from leading manufacturers like Netgear and Linksys, the study found that over 155 were vulnerable to potential cyberattacks. Individually, there were 172 vulnerabilities per router, and 32,003 vulnerabilities in total.

The distribution of vulnerabilities (Chart from The American Consumer Institute)

Though a shocking number, the vulnerabilities were all ranked in severity, of low, medium, and high by the National Security Database. Each of these vulnerabilities takes a different set of hacking skills to exploit, with 21 percent being ranked high, 60 percent medium, and 12 percent low.

“High and critical vulnerabilities are more easily exploited, and it could cause more damage than low and medium vulnerabilities. High-risk vulnerabilities require very little knowledge or skill to exploit, but, unlike critical-risk vulnerabilities, they will not entirely compromise the system. The potential damage remains a concern, as exploited high-risk vulnerabilities can partially damage the system and cause information disclosure,” explains the report.

The entire sample considered, a total of 28 percent of the vulnerabilities were also ranked as high risk. There was also, on average, 12 critical vulnerabilities and 36 high-risk vulnerabilities, across the entire sample.

Unfortunately, the report also finds that the fix for these vulnerabilities belongs in the hands of consumers and router vendors. Manufactures provide firmware updates to address these critical issues, but they are not always easy to install.  Since the FBI warned of previous Russian intrusion in Wi-Fi routers earlier this year, there are serious implications here for business and consumers.

The world is every connected, and this poses risk for Internet of Things devices, network-attached storage devices, and anything that is connected to the internet. Even if it seems like a daunting task, always stay on top of your security updates, and check your router manufacturer website for more information on how to update your firmware.

If you’re concerned if your router is impacted, you can check out the final page of the study, which has a complete list of impacted models.

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