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11 months ago

Best screen protectors for Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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Whether you go with a PET film or a tempered glass screen protector for the Galaxy Note 5, having scratch security on that beautiful display is a smart move.

There are a lot of options for Galaxy Note 5 screen protectors available, but choosing the ones that offer a good fit with exceptional protection is key. The feedback on our Galaxy Note 5 forums and across the web suggest that even the most popular brands, including ZAGG and BodyGuardz have the possibility of adding the dreaded halo — a milky border around the edges of a screen protector that doesn't lay flush on the display.

Since the Note 5's display has a slight curve towards the edges, this known issue is why we're seeing different cuts with different manufacturers. These five Galaxy Note 5 screen protectors have proven to work fine, however, when applied with patience and precision.

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11 months ago

Karma Go mobile hotspot review

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Karma Go mobile hotspot

Having a pay-as-you-go hotspot is genuinely useful, and Karma Go offers a solid experience.

As anyone who has had a smartphone for any length of time knows, dealing with a mobile carrier and buying data is a pain. No matter what the situation is you always feel like you're getting the short end of the deal (spoiler: you are) — and even when you find a plan that you think is right for you, that might not be the case a month or two down the road. The choices are even slimmer when it comes to hotspots, where the prices per gigabyte of data are cost-prohibitive, and you have few options for plans.

Early last year, the Karma hotspot came on the scene to try and break away from the standard model of monthly plans and yearly contracts for hotspots, going purely on a pay-as-you-go system. We loved the flexibility and business model of the Karma for those who only need a hotspot from time to time, but it was hamstrung by Sprint's aging WiMax network.

But after a little stumble, the new Karma Go is here with better hardware, the same great usage model and yes, a proper LTE network behind it. Here's our full review of Karma's second shot at a hotspot — read on.

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11 months ago

Elite: Dangerous to explore space on the HTC Vive later this year

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The HTC Vive virtual reality headset will support the popular PC massively multiplayer space sim Elite: Dangerous sometime this "Holiday" season. The game's developer, Frontier Developments will update the game to support SteamVR, which the HTC Vive will use as its virtual reality operating system.

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11 months ago

Anki Overdrive races its way to retail stores, available now for $149

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The Anki Overdrive, the company's successor to the Drive, is now available, with prices starting at $149 for the Starter Kit. Anki Overdrive is a battle-racing game, that puts the controls on your smartphone, and lets you race against friends and family.

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11 months ago

Gadgets of the week: 4K Amazon Fire TV, Roomba 980, and more!

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I, for one, welcome our new Roomba overlords.

It's time for another round of the best new releases in the world of Android accessories. We keep tabs on Bluetooth audio, connected home, wearables, and anything else that can talk to your phone or tablet. The latest Roomba has added more intelligence for cleaning your home's floor independently, while the newly-updated Amazon Fire TV supports 4K streaming without cranking up the pricetag. There are plenty more new Android-friendly gadgets this week, so take a look!

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11 months ago

Hands-on the Spigen Premium Wallet Case for Galaxy Note 5

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Going for a flip cover? Spigen's Wallet Case offers secure protection and storage for your essentials, freeing up your pockets permanently.

There's a lot going for this Galaxy Note 5 flip case from Spigen, and if you're used to handling these book-style covers, this one's a prime example of quality design and functionality. The exterior is made up of a synthetic leather that looks and feels like the real deal — stitching and all. What holds the Galaxy Note 5 inside is a slim polycarbonate case that's attached to the pleather exterior with a strong adhesive. Once you snap the Note 5 inside, it's there to stay.

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11 months ago

Second-generation Chromecast with improved Wi-Fi and Spotify support may launch later this month

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Google may launch the second-generation Chromecast later this month, offering improved hardware and new features. According to 9to5Google, the upcoming Chromecast may feature Wi-Fi ac connectivity, which will be an upgrade from the Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n on offer with the first-gen model.

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11 months ago

OtterBox Symmetry Case for Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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It's not the slimmest case in town, nor does it have the bulk of the Defender — it's a perfect medium you can justify protecting your Galaxy Note 5 with.

The first thing that stands out about the Symmetry Case on the Galaxy Note 5 is that it just feels good. There's a moderate level of chunk that comes with its thick hybrid design, but its quick and painless installation and all-around access to the Note 5's features makes it work. And, you know, being friendly with wireless chargers helps too.

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11 months ago

Amazon's new Fire TV set-top box includes Alexa and 4K video

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Amazon is introducing three new members of its Fire TV family of streaming video products. All of them include support for Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant that was first introduced with the Amazon Echo connected speaker.

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11 months ago

The Inateck 4-port USB charging station that could have been awesome

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On any given day, my desk is cluttered with devices that I rely on — given those might be phones and or tablets.

I am always looking for a way to keep these devices organized as well as fully charged. The main issue with charging multiple devices in the same area is that you get a bunch of cables laying around and making the area look like a mess. In my mind, a charging dock should be able to charge one to multiple devices and make the whole process look clean and simple. When it comes to the Inateck 4-port USB charging station, this isn't quite the way it works out.

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11 months ago

Review: BB-8 by Sphero

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BB-8 by Sphero

It's a Star Wars-themed robot you drive with your phone, and you can speak to it. No-brainer?

Smartphone-powered toys are not a new idea by any stretch, and there aren't many lists of the best in this category that don't include at least one of the little robots from Sphero. When the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens found its way to YouTube and the small soccer ball droid raced across the screen, several of us here at Android Central immediately thought of Sphero.

In fact, when we ran into a couple of Sphero folks at CES this past year, their awkward and somewhat coy refusal to answer any questions set fire to our imagination. After nearly a year of waiting, BB-8 by Sphero is real and ready for a spot in your home.

Here's our review.

BB-8 by Sphero

slight learning curve

BB-8 by Sphero Driving Mode

As you might have suspected by its design and the company behind the project, BB-8 by Sphero is a rolling robot powered by your phone or tablet. Just like Sphero and Ollie, the app is designed to make an effortless connection to your robot and get you driving as quickly as possible. Just start the app, hold your phone or tablet near BB-8, and when it lights up you're good to go.

BB-8 by Sphero

The driving portion of the app gives you a large virtual joystick and an orientation pad. Point the orientation dot to yourself, and whatever direction you slide the virtual joystick is the direction BB-8 will travel. The interface for driving couldn't be more simple, but since you're driving a rolling ball there's a bit of a learning curve. If you've ever used the original Sphero ball you've got the basics, but the addition of BB-8's head adds a layer of complexity in driving.

You can drive BB-8 on just about any flat surface, but things are a little different on each surface. On most carpets, BB-8 will be the most stable but not quite as fast when you first give a movement command. Hardwood and similar hard, flat surfaces are the best for BB-8 for movement, but it's easy for the robot to slide out of control for a moment or two. Gritty surfaces like pavement are the best of both worlds as long as the surface is nice and flat, but if you're on a road or a similarly imperfect surface, BB-8 tends to overcompensate any time there's a bump which frequently leads to pauses while the robot re-orients.

BB-8 wobbles

As a brief aside, there's no need to worry about those gritty surfaces damaging the outer shell of BB-8 as long as it is driven on the ground. Like all Sphero robots, the outer plastic is tough and stands up to quite a bit of abuse. That having been said, one of the fastest ways to deal permanent damage to BB-8 is to drive it off of something and let it fall off a table or down a flight of stairs. As long as you drive it on the ground, and that ground is nice and flat, BB-8 is a lot of fun.

Above all else, BB-8 will try to keep the magnetically attached head connected to the body. This means it turns a little slower to keep the head on the top half of the body, and while its top speed is right around the same as a Sphero ball it takes a little longer to get there. If you're not happy with how long it takes to reach that top speed you can tap the boost button in the interface, but if you lose control and there are kids around the results can be a little on the traumatic side when the head goes flying. Fortunately, all you need to do to remedy the situation is set the head back on top of the ball.

BB-8 crash

The rest of the driving interface is accessories for making BB-8 feel more like the bot we'll see in the upcoming Star Wars movie. You can make it shake the head yes or no, spin all the way around, shake with fright, and perform simple movements like a square or a figure-8. Each of these actions is accompanied by some audio, much in the same way you'd hear R2-D2 chirp as it moved. These sounds all come from your phone, which is cool when you're in a small room where everyone can hear BB-8 but somewhat less exciting when outdoors. Ideally, BB-8 would have its own speaker for this sort of thing, but when it works the audio accompaniment is cute.

BB-8 patrol mode

little rolly robot

BB-8 by Sphero Patrol Mode

If you'd prefer BB-8 drive itself, you can slide the app into Patrol Mode and tap the play button in the center of the instrument panel that keeps an eye on the robot while it rolls around without you. The Patrol Mode interface also has a couple of visual options for your phone, map readouts and gyro visualizations that are fun to cycle through. If nothing else, it's a fun thing to keep on your desk while the robot roams around. As long as the app is open and running, BB-8 will patrol the area you place it in. By patrol. we mean it picks a random direction and rolls around until it bumps into something.

This mode is really more for messing with you cat or surprising your kids, and as long as you have a large clean space with few obstacles it's a cute demonstration of how lifelike Sphero made some of the behaviors. When BB-8 bumps into a wall, it surveys the area and attempts to course correct. The behavior is almost like a Roomba, but when it gets stuck somewhere BB-8 will keep trying to wiggle out until the batteries are low.

BB-8 by Sphero

"come in, BB-8"

BB-8 by Sphero Voice Commands and Messaging

While they weren't available at launch, it didn't take long for Sphero to sort out some bugs and bring voice commands to the BB-8 Android app. You can enable voice commands in the app settings, and in doing so you can call out "OK BB-8" or "Come in, BB-8" and the app will flip to a voice recognition screen to let you know it's time to speak your command.

The list of commands you have access to right now is a little on the slim side. You can instruct BB-8 to explore if you want a few seconds of random behavior, ask how it's feeling to get a yes or no animation, and a handful of other basic movement commands. It's a cute accessory for showing off to friends who don't have a BB-8 for themselves, but there's only so many times you can shout "it's a trap!" at your robot and watch it peel off in a random direction before you find yourself wanting either new commands or the ability to make your own.

BB-8 trap

Included in the original announcement for BB-8 was a holographic messaging system, that looked as though you could record messages and send them to others to view on their BB-8 droids, but in reality the feature is a lot less exciting. You can record a message and view it yourself, or hand your phone to someone so they can see it, but the experience is currently a little underwhelming. It works through an augmented reality interface, the thought here being you can point your phone at BB-8 and through your camera and screen it will look like BB-8 is projecting a holo recording for you to watch.

In our extensive testing of this feature across multiple phones, it never really worked as advertised. The video frequently jumped around or failed to sync with BB-8, which quickly removes any lingering fascination with the ability to see a message in true Star Wars fashion. Hopefully this is something that will improve over time.

BB-8 by Sphero

the movie isn't even out yet

BB-8 by Sphero Final Thoughts

It was difficult at first to separate the excitement over a Star Wars product you can drive with your phone with the excitement over another Sphero product. While it isn't lost on any of us just how weird it is to get excited over a toy verison of a Star Wars character none of us know anything about yet, there's something surprisingly emotional about using this toy. The familiar audiovisual experience when navigating the interface, the way BB-8 reacts when something goes wrong, and the highly personal way you interact with the toy make it easy to feel a desire to slam money on the counter that never really existed with the previous Sphero products, even though they are equally fun to drive and play with.

On a technical level, BB-8 does almost everything Sphero promises it will do. The battery lasts at least a full hour of constant driving, and with exception to the holo messaging feature everything works well. The most impressive part about that is knowing how great Sphero is at improving their products over time with software updates. Anyone who has ever owned a Sphero robot before BB-8 will tell you this is a toy that will undoubtedly get better with time, which is great.

It's a solid experience if you're a fan of phone-powered robots, and when we all get to see The Force Awakens later this year it's likely this will be the big toy everyone is trying to get someone for Christmas.

BB-8 by Sphero

Should you buy it? YES.

Without a doubt, if you like Star Wars and robots and smartphone-controlled toys, BB-8 by Sphero is worth the $150. It's a genuine pleasure to use, looks nice, comes in quality packaging with a nice charger that looks good enough to display somewhere when it's not in use. While there's no denying the price is steep for a toy, even a Sphero toy, this experience deserves a spot in the home of any fan.

Sphero BB-8

Amazon Best Buy

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11 months ago

A quick review of Samsung's Clear Protective Cover for Galaxy Note 5

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Things sure are slim with this OEM clear cover for the Galaxy Note 5, which doesn't mean much for protection, but it's something.

After a lackluster experience with the S-View Clear Cover, we figured there was still hope for a decent OEM option with the Clear Protective Cover for Galaxy Note 5. We weren't wrong, but there's still a lot to be desired at its particularly high price point.

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11 months ago

Dash and Dot robots review

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Teach kids to program with the Dash and Dot connected learning system Samsung Galaxy Tab 4

One of the coolest benefits of our modern smartphone and tablet-using culture has to be the advent of gear that connects to smart devices. Users can connect to their smartwatches, exercise bands, thermostats, car engines, and much more. Naturally, connected apps also have educational uses as well. Kids love touch screen devices and tech, so why not use that tech to help them learn?

Dash & Dot from Wonder Workshop is a connected learning system that works with a pair of real-world robots named Dash and Dot. Using the two robots and a handful of Android and iOS apps such as Blockly, kids will learn the fundamentals of programming, problem solving skills, and much more. We've put Dash & Dot and the Wonder Workshop apps through their paces to bring you our detailed review.

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11 months ago

Gadgets of the week: Jabra Eclipse, V-Moda Crossfade Wireless and more!

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We've got a fresh batch of new Android-friend gadgets this week, particularly on the audio front. Jabra's newest Bluetooth headset is slick and full of noise-cancelling goodness, as well as its own pocketable battery dock. V-Moda has upgraded their premium headphones with wireless audio, but what will really interest you are the wealth of accessories available for it, including precious metal shields. There are plenty of other new accessory launches to check out, so dig in!

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11 months ago

Android Central's Ultimate Tech Tailgater's Guide

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You can keep your tailgating setup simple, or you can go all-in like a true techie.

Picture pulling up to the stadium with gadgets designed for a good time like a WiFi grill, LED HDTV, gaming console, and smart cooler complete with all the essentials for a good time. Sounds dreamy, right? That's what we're after — the perfect pregame wishlist if you will. Let's dive in and tackle the selection.

Read on: The Ultimate Tech Tailgater's Guide

Davy Crockett WiFi Grill

For grilling up some grub, this easily portable WiFi grill from Green Mountain Grills weighs only 57lbs and folds open to run on 12V or 120AC. It comes packed with all the basics like a meat probe, peaked lid for ribs or large game, grease tray, thermal sensor that keeps track of the grill's ambient temperature, and of course a digital WiFi controller that allows you monitor grilling temps on meat, or even set timers on your food via the free Android app. This smart little grill retails for about $399 if you can stick a fork in that.

More info at Green Mountain Grills

BESTEK 300W Dual 100V AC Power Inverter

If your vehicle doesn't already come loaded with a power inverter, then this is an affordable option that'll get the job done for a few of your gadgets. Featuring 2 AC outlets and 2 USB charging ports (2.1A and 1A) you can run a TV, speakers, or your electric grill while connected to the cigarette lighter port. It's lightweight and easy to carry, packing a 40amp fuse and cooling fan with overload and short circuit protection. You can even get it with a pair of 3.8ft battery clips for a different setup.

Buy for $35 on Amazon

AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin HDTV Antenna

Pick up free HD channels from broadcast towers up to 50 miles away with this super-thin antenna that supports 1080p HD. As with most antennas, the quality of reception will depend on your surroundings and how far you are from the nearest towers. Included is an 18-foot coaxial cable for optimal flexibility to your TV. Channels including ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and FOX can be obtained — all without any subscription fees and straight to your parking lot pad. You can snag this antenna in a shorter or wider mile radius as well.

Buy for $48 on Amazon

VIZIO 32-inch 1080p Smart LED HDTV

Yes, our dream tailgating setup includes a proper 32-inch LED HDTV — what of it? Maybe not everyone has the room for a TV, but with proper planning anything's possible, right? It's capable of 1080p full HD and over 2 million pixels, providing a perfect picture no matter what you're watching. As a smart TV, it comes preloaded with a bunch of apps including Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and more. Hook it up to a WiFi hotspot and enjoy some Madden NFL 16 with your mates.

Buy for $248 on Amazon

Gaming Consoles: Playstation 4 and XBOX One

These next 2 choices are no-brainers. If you're going to do any kind of gaming while you party, you'll want the latest and greatest gaming consoles to push the the best graphics. The PS4 is great choice, rocking an octa-core Jaguar CPU, 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, and AMD Radeon GPU. If you're going the XBOX One route, good on you. It'll keep up with whatever games you throw at it with its octa-core AMD CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a GPU that's clocked slightly faster than that of the PS4, but a bit behind on shaders. Aside from just gaming, they're both excellent media centers, too. Just don't forget to load up on controllers if your plan on letting anyone else in on the action.

Playstation 4:

Buy for $379 from Walmart

XBOX One:

Buy for $399 on Amazon (Madden NFL 16 1TB Bundle)

Buy for $349 on Newegg (Console only)

Madden NFL 16

We're tossing Madden NFL 16 into our lineup as well for good measure. Get your friends or neighboring tailgaters together and dive into some head-to-head action. You can create the ultimate team of your favorite NFL players and even dictate the outcome of each play as the ball is in air. You can grab Madden NFL 16 for PS4, XBOX One, PS3, or XBOX 360.

Buy for $54 on Amazon

Razer Leviathan Elite Gaming & Music Sound Bar

Having a compact and easily portable sound bar doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on the sound quality of your games and mobile playlists. The Razer Leviathan provides an impressive 5.1 channel surround sound experience that's paired with a bass-thumping subwoofer. It features a total power output of 30W, two 2.5-inch full range drivers, two .74-inch tweeters, and a 5.25-inch driver on the sub. You can pair your mobile devices to the sound bar using NFC, Bluetooth v4.0, or connect directly to your audio source using a 3.5mm cable or optical connection. Its design is unique and at only 19.7-inches in length, you won't have to fight to fit it in your car.

Buy for $197 on Amazon

The Coolest Cooler

Sure, you could bring any old regular cooler with you to the game, but this is one that's designed to kick things up a notch. The Coolest Cooler's plethora of features include a high performance blender, Bluetooth speaker, LED lid light, cutting board, bottle opener, accessory deck, USB charger, and its rubberized wheels are built for easy portability. The company has come a long way since its initial Kickstarter campaign, succeeding far past their $50,000 goal. It may not be a YETI, but it's got a lot more to offer for its price.

Buy for $485 from Coolest

Honda UE1000i Super Quiet Inverter Generator

Depending on how long you're claiming your party space, you can't go wrong with an easily portable generator. Keeping control of ridiculous dB's is Honda's EU1000i, a super-quiet, fuel efficient, 2K watt inverter generator that provides stable power for all your gadgets on site. It'll run anywhere from 3.8 to 8.3 hours on a single 0.6 gallon tank, depending on how much of your tech it's powering. The loudest this generator gets is an acceptable 59dBA, which will sit well with your fellow sports fans nearby.

Buy for $799 from Northern Tool

iDevices iGrill Mini

Whether you're slow cooking or just want to keep a close eye on meat temps, the iGrill Mini snaps magnetically to your grill and allows you monitor temperatures straight from your Android or iOS device up to 150-feet away. After downloading the free iGrill App, you can use preset temperature alarms, create your own, find recipes, share on your social networks, and more. The smart LED on the front of the iGrill Mini lights up when you're in range, indicating the cooking progress by color instead of having to check your phone while so close. For keeping track of more than one item on your grill, the newer iGrill2 sports two temperature probes with a very similar design.

Buy iGrill Mini for $32 on Amazon

Buy iGrill2 for $88 on Amazon

What's your ultimate tailgating setup?

That's a wrap on our ultimate tech tailgater's guide! We'd love to hear what your ideal tailgating setup would be for this NFL season and many others to come in the comments below.

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