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1 year ago

Chromecast review

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Did this $35 dongle just make Google a player in your living room? We think so

Chromecast came out of nowhere and got a lot of people excited about what it had to offer. Everyone had been expecting Google to do something with the idea that was born in the Nexus Q, but the media and the public were both pleasantly surprised when Sundar Pichai showed us the little dongle that held so much power.

Chromecast is not quite Google TV, and it's not quite a Roku. It fills a happy medium between the two, and is a great way to get your content on to your television. With platform support from Android and iOS, as well as the Chrome browser and OS, it's useful for most people. With an open set of APIs for developers to use we can imagine big things from this little stick. If you're tied into the Google ecosystem, it's a no-brainer. Even if you're not, it's a cheap solution to get content from the web to the television without any wires or hassle. Let's have a look at what it is, what it does, and how you can use it.

More discussion in the Chromecast forums

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1 year ago

Security camera showdown: Dropcam HD versus Belkin NetCam HD

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Over the last year, I’ve been getting really excited about connected home gadgets, and with Talk Mobile's security week kicked off, now's a perfect time to dig in. To date, I hadn't really taken the plunge on any major phone-friendly home accessories — not even for the Nest thermostat. But I got in on the preorder for Lockitron (which is shipping shortly), and the other week both the Dropcam HD and Belkin NetCam HD landed on my doorstep. These Wi-Fi-connected security cameras are both sitting around the $150 price range and offer access to live video streams from Android, iOS, and web apps. Both can share those streams publicly or privately, and both have night vision.

I was already pretty familiar with Belkin’s WeMo system (the remote light switch works great), so was excited to see what they were doing on the home security side. Meanwhile, Dropcam has been a long-standing leader in consumer security, and I was eager to see if their product stood the test of time. So let’s dive in and see which of these two is the better big brother.

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1 year ago

Draco Hydra aluminum bumpers for the Galaxy S4 and HTC One

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It's time for a quick look at the Draco aluminum bumpers for two of the hottest Android phones available — the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. These are nicely crafted combinations of plastic and metal that wrap around your smartphone in the usual bumper style, leaving the screen and the back of the phone exposed. 

And they do so with a premium price. You need to know that up front. The Hydra bumper for the Galaxy S4 runs $99 direct, and the Draco One bumper is $79. These aren't cheap. But neither do they feel cheap. That's evident as soon as you pull them from their boxes.

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1 year ago

The new Nexus 7: Wireless charging feature

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The new 2013 Nexus 7 uses the same wireless charging standard as the Nexus 4 -- and the same chargers.

If you were one of the lucky ones who was already able to score a new 2013 Nexus 7, you might not know about a great feature -- Qi wireless charging. It doesn't charge your new tablet fast, and it still requires a cord be plugged into the wall, but it is a great feature for the nightstand or your desk. While the tablet is sitting there not being used to play games, surf the web, or browse your favorite social media network -- all things it does very, very well -- it can be collecting a few charged electrons to keep the battery bumped up. And it makes a great nightstand clock with the Dashclock extension and Daydream feature activated.

We've got a handful of Qi chargers laying around, so I've been fiddling with them all morning. I want to see which ones work the best out of the bunch, and fans of the Nexus brand will be pleased with the result -- the Nexus Charging orb is a perfect match for your new Nexus 7.

They all work. Nokia's charger seems to work fine on my tablet, but offers no compelling reason to choose it over any others. The big Energizer Qi charging mat works fine, too, but it's ugly as sin and life is too short for ugly accessories. The LG puck works really well, and the fact that the charging coil is mounted directly in the center of the back cover of the Nexus 7 makes it easy to place and it stays put. But that blinking light will drive you bonkers at night.

Enter the Nexus charging orb. You new tablet grips the funky rubber surface of the orb just fine and won't slip, and the angle it keeps your Nexus 7 resting at makes that big, beautiful screen easily viewable while it's charging. Combined with some of the great Daydreams available in Google Play, it's the perfect solution. And it's powered by holo. Ok, not really, but it does say NEXUS on the face of it.

If you've got a Qi charger laying around, by all means use that one with your Nexus 7. If you have to buy one, because come on, you have to, grab the Nexus Orb from Google Play. You can use the link above. There are a couple pics after the break, and plenty of room for all your comments.

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1 year ago

SD card showdown: Testing the SanDisk Extreme

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Earlier in the month we told you about a new SanDisk SDcard that offered the fastest speeds available. Those were some big words, and anytime we hear claims like that we have to try it for ourselves.

It just so happens that I'm the perfect test subject for this. I don't use SD cards in my phones, so I have no bias or preconceived notions about any brand or products. I do use SD cards in my cameras, so I understand how important fast read, and more importantly fast write, speeds are for users.

So I pitted two pricey models and one budget model against each other, to see how things measured up in the real world. Armed with my trusty Nikon and a Samsung Galaxy S4, I put things to the test. Read through, and see how things worked out.

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1 year ago

Anker announces 'highest efficiency' 12000mAh backup battery

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Astro3 offers 80-percent efficiency and charging for three devices at once

Anker, maker of phone accessories and backup batteries, has just announced its most efficient mobile battery to date -- the Astro3. This 12,000mAh battery pack, which Anker calls "flask sized" (4.4 x 3.3 x 1-inches), offers charging for three devices simultaneously over USB. The pack outputs up to 4a in total across the ports, meaning you'll have more than enough juice to power a tablet and two phones if necessary. There is also a circular LED power indicator that shows how much power is left in the pack, which is a nice touch.

Anker says that the Astro3 is the highest efficiency backup battery it has made, with 80-percent efficiency on its capacity offering a quoted 6-7 charges for most modern phones before it has to be recharged itself. For the road warriors among us this would be a great solution. The Astro3 is retailing for $49.99 and can be purchased from Amazon at the source link below.

More: Anker Astro3 on Amazon

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1 year ago

Belkin announces Android compatibility for their WeMo automation products

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In the future, home automation is going to be common place. Our Android phones can already control our TV's and unlock and start our cars, and now they can turn our lights on and off. Using Belkin's WeMo line of Wifi enabled switches and receptacles and the corresponding smartphone app, you can sit in your comfortable chair and control appliances and lights around your house using your local home Wifi or cellular network. The Android app is set to release today at 1PM PT today on Google Play, and be available right here

In addition, the products are compliant with IFTTT to enable a complete web app solution limited only by your imagination. This sounds really cool. So cool in fact, that I just ordered two of the switches and we'll have a closer look at how they work (provided I don't electrocute myself installing them). Stay tuned for that, and find Belkin's press release after the break.

More: Belkin

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1 year ago

The HTC One official car dock

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Here's a quick look at the official HTC One Car Dock. It's a car dock, for the HTC One. And if you're at all familiar with HTC's car docks for its other devices, you should be right at home here. 

There's nothing grossly different about the functionality here. It's got a substantial base that either suctions itself to your windshield, or to your dash via an adhesive disc. (I usually opt for the windshield, but then again I swap devices more than most normal folks.) You twist the textured ring at the base of the dock to trigger the suction mechanism. (It's easier to do when you're actually mounting the dock, so don't worry if you can't just get it to work in your hands.) There's a ball joint to allow for a full range of movement and positioning of your phone, and there's just enough friction to keep things from moving when you don't want them to.

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1 year ago

Exogear ExoLife S4 battery case

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Doubles your Galaxy S4 battery life, protects your phone at the same time

Here's a quick look at the ExoLife S4 battery case from Exogear. As the name implies, it's a battery case for the Samsung Galaxy S4 that packs an external 2,600 mAh battery into a fairly svelte case. 

It's a simple enough design. The case comprises as thin front that snaps onto the beefier rear. The phone slides into that rear search and connects via microUSB, just as you'd expect. It's a pretty good fit, and at no point were we worried about the case coming apart. We had no problems with sharp edges or anything like that. Nice build quality. Just make sure you get it snapped in place all the way around.

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1 year ago

Sony rumored to be prepping 'lens and sensor' accessory for smartphones

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High-quality imaging as an accessory could be Sony's answer to latest 'cameraphones'

Here's a crazy (but plausible) rumor for a Friday afternoon. While other manufacturers are releasing camera-centric smartphones — such as the Galaxy S4 Zoom and Lumia 1020 — Sony might decide to take a different route and offer high-end imaging as a smartphone accessory.

The latest rumors from Belgian camera site SonyAlphaRumors suggest that the manufacturer is preparing a lens with built-in imaging sensor and battery, that will mount to a smartphone and communicate wirelessly, after pairing over NFC. The device would also be usable on its own, though renders of the purported gadget seem to lack a screen of any kind. As such, the main use case involves attaching it to the back of a smartphone and viewing a live, wirelessly-beamed feed.

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