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6 months ago

How to choose the right Chromebook

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Knowing what to look for before you buy will make you happier and can save you money — which also makes you happier.

Whether you're buying your first Chromebook or upgrading from an older model, you need to know what to look for before you part with your cash. Really, most purchases are this way — especially electronics of any sort. We can help you figure out which Chromebook features are right for you so you can be an informed buyer.

If you're not yet sure that Chrome OS will work for you, go cheap.

Before you begin, you should set your budget. Thankfully, a fully capable and future ready (if not future proof) model can be had for well under $300 if you don't want to go for the top-shelf. And realistically, you don't. Chrome OS runs really well on hardware that might not have enough "oomph" for another operating system. In fact, there's a good chance your phone will have more cores, be clocked higher and have more memory than a Chromebook that can do everything it's intended to do. That's not to say you won't benefit from having a more premium model with better specs, but it's certainly not necessary.

And that makes the first thing on our buyer's checklist easy: if you're not yet sure that Chrome OS will work for you, go cheap.

The top selling Chromebook on Amazon (with a 4.5-star rating, too!) is the Acer Chromebook CB-3. It sells new for $149.99 (as of September 2016). And while it's not the nicest laptop you'll ever see, it has a great IPS screen and runs the very latest version of Chrome OS. And runs it pretty well. You will see things get bogged down a little if you're trying to do too much at one time, but a browser session with a handful of tabs open or a few Chrome apps or documents open won't be a problem at all. It's a perfect way to see how Chrome will handle doing the things you want it to do.

Amazon is also a great place to look for refurbished models that still carry a full warranty. I have seen Chromebooks for as little as $99 for Amazon Prime accounts, and any of them would be a good way to try a taste of Chrome OS so you know if you're ready to spend a little more.

See at Amazon

If you're already sure you want a little better hardware or are looking forward to Android apps, you still don't have to spend a lot of money. But you do need to know what to look for.

Android apps will change how we use a Chromebook.

Android apps are going to change how we use a Chromebook. Adding almost 2,000,000 apps to one of the fastest and safest operating systems available will also make it one of the most capable for many of us. Don't expect to run specialty programs like Adobe Photoshop or a CAD program, but for things like light video editing or 3-D drawing, you'll find a handful of apps that can handle the task. Chromebooks weren't designed for folks who need to use a high-end desktop or laptop. But most of us don't need a high-end desktop or laptop and will be served well with a Chromebook. If Android apps are going to be important to you, here are a few things you need to look for.

  • Make sure it's on the list. You'll find a list of Chromebooks that will be able to run apps from Google Play when it's launched later in 2016. Any existing model will be listed if it's going to support them. For newly-announced models, ask someone about Android apps before you buy. You can ask us — if we don't know, we'll find out.
  • More storage is better. This goes without saying, but we are saying it anyway. Chromebooks were designed as a cloud-centric device. Because of this, many don't come with a lot of storage space. Android apps can change how much you'll need. Consider some games for Android (which will play just fine on your Chromebook) are up to 2GB or more in size, and you'll see why. You can store a lot of data or documents or photos on the SD card, but apps will go on the actual device storage. Ideally, you'll want 32GB or more, but 16 can work if you're not interested in any games.
  • Know how you plan to use it. Some of us want a convertible model that we can use like a tablet. Others want a traditional clamshell-style. Spending a little more to get something you'll find more useful is worth it. Screen size comes into play here, too. If you're on the go a lot, you might want an 11-inch model. Or the 14-incher would be better for your desk. Think about how you'll be using your Chromebook before you buy one.
  • Get a model with a touch screen. Using a touch screen for "normal" computing kinda sucks. Editing something in Google Docs or writing a long email just isn't designed for touch input no matter which platform. That's why the people who make tablets also make keyboard covers. But that changes when you add in apps originally designed fro a phone. They are built for a great experience when poking and swiping with your finger, and that translates well from a 5-inch screen to a 13-inch screen. While you can use the trackpad for most any of it, it's just not as good.
  • How much memory do you need? That's determined by what you plan to do. A model with 2GB will be enough to have a few tabs open in the browser as well as an app or two running, but if you're the power-user type you'll want to go with 4GB. The video experience benefits from more memory, too. A 1080p video on YouTube or Google Play Movies can get a little stuttery with 2GB, but 720p runs great.
  • Buy one with the right CPU. For most of us, a Chromebook with an Intel Core i3 or Core i5 CPU is absolute overkill. They are also a good bit higher priced. Unless you plan to really tax the system or dual-boot with Linux, you don't need one. A late-model Intel Celeron (if you're not sure based on the spec sheet, just ask) or ARM CPU is more than enough for most of us.
  • How premium do you want to go? Every other item on this list can be had in a sub-300 dollar Chromebook. You can also spend upwards of $600 for one that works. The $300 model will handle most anything you throw at it, but the $600 model just feels better. I won't toss a silly car analogy in here, but only you know how much a nicer look and feel is worth. Of course, more expensive models tend to have nicer displays and smoother trackpads, too.

You'll have to decide which Chromebook is best for you, but we can toss a couple recommendations out. I've been using an ASUS Chromebook Flip for a while now (I'm writing this blog post with one) and for anyone who wants a tablet-like experience, it's marvelous. I have to try hard to get it to struggle and the screen, trackpad and keyboard are more than acceptable. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a smaller (11-inch) model.

See at Amazon

If you're ready to go all-in with Chrome and don't mind spending a little more, The Dell Chromebook 13 is what I consider the best Chromebook available today. It's not the most expensive model — that award goes to the HP Chromebook 13 which lacks a touch screen — but it's not exactly cheap either. For someone using a Chromebook for business or anyone who just wants the best (it's OK to treat yourself once in a while), the Dell 13 is the one to buy.

See at Dell

Of course, new Chromebooks are coming out all the time and something coming up may be even better. You can keep up to date on our Best Chromebooks page, and keep an eye out for our reviews. And as always, the forums are a great place to learn more about anything Chrome.

Chromebooks

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6 months ago

How your phone can help before and during a hurricane

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Hurricane season is upon us, and your smartphone is now one of the most important tools in your preparedness kit.

You don't want to be caught unawares when a hurricane hits, and as we've learned recently, they can arrive unexpectedly, and in unexpected places. There's no better time than now to bone up on some of the best ways to keep current on what's out there, and how to stay safe if a storm comes your way.

And just like with everything else, our smartphones now play an integral part with that.

I've lived on the Gulf Coast my entire life. I've been through storms. God willing, I'll never go through another. But either way, I'll be ready. Let's take a look at a few ways you can be, too.

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6 months ago

Has my Galaxy Note 7 been recalled?

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Samsung Galaxy Note 7

How do I know if my Note 7 has been recalled?

When it comes to product recalls, there's usually a process for finding out just which units have been recalled. In the case of the Galaxy Note 7 recall, Samsung has announced that every phone sold has been recalled, removing any questions you may have had as to whether or not your phone is headed back to the manufacturer.

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6 months ago

How to disable DT Ignite bloatware

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How do I get DT Ignite bloatware off of my phone?

If you own a Verizon HTC 10 and noticed it's felt a bit slower after the latest software update, the issue might be related to a pesky piece of bloatware called DT Ignite. Typically hidden from the list of installed apps by default, DT Ignite is used by a bunch of carriers install on Android devices. [AC's own Jerry Hildebrand wrote a primer on the bloatware that you should definitely read.

In a nutshell, DT Ignite is basically a system program that runs in the background and allows carriers to advertise and install other apps on your carrier-branded phone. Fortunately, it can be disabled.

How to disable DT Ignite

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to access the notification shade.
  2. Tap the Settings icon.
  3. Tap Apps (might be labelled Applications or Applications manager depending on the phone you're using). NOTE: Some phones may show DT Ignite as an installed app, while others will lump it in with the system apps. See steps 4 and 5 if you cannot locate DT Ignite in the Apps settings.

  4. Tap the menu button in the top right corner. It should look like three dots or lines.
  5. Tap Show system. This will reveal all hidden system apps running in the background.

  6. Find and tap on DT Ignite.
  7. Tap Disable.

And that's it!

AC has confirmed that AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Rogers, America Movi, Vodaphone and Deutsche Telekom sell phones with DT Ignite installed, but not every phone they sell will include it.

Your phone might also have a DT Ignite folder on the storage. Once you disable the app and uninstall anything it downloaded, you can safely delete this folder.

HTC 10

HTC Best Buy Verizon Sprint

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6 months ago

How to use Google Cast in Chrome

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Google Cast is now integrated into Chrome, making it easier to stream content to Cast-aware devices.

After two years, the Google Cast protocol has shed its beta tag and is now fully integrated into Chrome. Google launched the Cast extension as a way of connecting Chromecasts and Cast-enabled Android TVs to Chrome, but with today's native integration you no longer need the extension to stream content from the browser to other devices.

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6 months ago

How to set up the iris scanner on the Galaxy Note 7

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How do I set up the iris scanner on the Galaxy Note 7?

Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 is one of the best phones of the year. Aside from its great design and incredible feature set, it has one big thing that sets it apart: an iris scanner.

Here's what it is, and how to set it up.

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6 months ago

How to take better photos with a Galaxy phone

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How do I take amazing photos with my Galaxy phone?

Shooting phenomenal photographs with your DSLR can be relatively easy, but getting the same stunning quality and clarity with your smartphone is a bit more of a challenge.

Luckily there are some surefire ways to get high-quality photographs with your Galaxy phone. Here are a couple of things to try the next time you're lining up a shot to capture that picture-perfect moment!

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6 months ago

Pokémon Go: Common problems and fixes!

 Common problems and fixes

Pokémon Go is shockingly popular. But it's not the most stable app at the moment.

With tens of millions of players hitting the game, there are bound to be a few issues — particularly when the game relies on your phone's internet and GPS connections, as well as Niantic's servers.

Rather than have you track down things all over trying to fix issues, we've rounded up common Pokémon Go problems, and some solutions to fix them!

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6 months ago

How to enable Night Mode on your Nexus in Android 7.0 Nougat

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How do I enable Night Mode in Android 7.0 Nougat on a Nexus device?

During the Android 7.0 Nougat Developer Preview, Google experimented with a system-wide Night Mode that offered a number of improvements to compatible Nexus phones to allow them to work better at night and in other low-light situations. Unfortunately for tinkerers (but completely understandable for a variety of reasons), that mode was hidden in the run-up to Nougat's release — but with a little help you can get at least some of those features back.

While the overall dark theme is not available, Nexus devices running Nougat (5X, 6, 6P, 9, Pixel C) can activate a handy blue light filter similar to the one found on the Galaxy Note 7. Here's how.

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6 months ago

How to download and install MIUI 8 on the Redmi Note 3

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With an OTA update underway, installing MIUI 8 on the Redmi Note 3 is as easy as it gets.

Xiaomi started rolling out the stable MIUI 8 ROM on August 23, seeding the OTA update to the Mi 4i and Redmi Note. The update is now making its way to the Redmi Note 3. If you're rocking the budget handset, it's time to make the switch to MIUI 8.

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6 months ago

How to fix Google Now Launcher on the Galaxy Note 7 after using Secure Folder

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How to fix Google Now Launcher on the Galaxy Note 7

Samsung's Secure Folder gets in the way of Google's launcher.

Google Now Launcher is one of the most popular third-party launchers out there, but it unfortunately doesn't always play nicely with the Galaxy Note 7. It turns out that Samsung's KNOX security platform causes issues with Google Now Launcher when both are in use. That actually shouldn't be a surprise if you've used the Galaxy S7, Note 5 or S6, either — this longstanding issue has annoyed plenty of people over multiple generations of phones.

We have a couple of tips to hopefully get them both working together, though. Let us show you what you can do about it.

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7 months ago

How to take better photos with your Android phone

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How to take better photos with your Android phone

Take your Android photography to the next level with these tips and tricks for capturing masterpieces with your smartphone.

Many Android phones come with a high-quality camera designed to capture your subject's tiniest details and features, and while they're not technically on the same level as a DSLR camera, you can still take the perfect picture with just your phone if you know how to use it. Even if you're a beginner, you can quickly learn how to capture amazing photos with your Android phone (and if you actually are a beginner, be sure to check out our top 10 Android photography tips for beginners!)

Here are some helpful tricks to help you take better photos with your Android device!

Explore your camera settings

Get acquainted with your phone and all the camera settings before you start shooting, and you'll feel a lot more comfortable capturing your shots!

While shooting from your phone's stock camera is great for 99.9% of pictures — especially if you've got a recent Samsung, LG or HTC phone — playing around with the various modes and settings can really allow you to experiment and get creative.

Make sure your lens is clean

While this may seem like an obvious one, cleaning your phone lens can be a lot harder to remember than cleaning your DSLR lens. After all, there's no lens cap protecting your Android phone's camera from dirt and scratches like professional cameras have.

Carrying around a small lens cleaning cloth, or even having small micro fiber lens cleaning patches stitched to the inside of your purse or your jacket are simple ways to remind you to clean your phone lens and screen, so you're always ready to take the clearest shots with your phone.

Or just use your shirt.

Don't forget to clean your front lens, too! We break down how important cleaning your lenses can be in our top 8 tips to make you an Android photography expert.

Forget the flash: use external lighting

When it's dark outside, it's a knee-jerk reaction to turn on the flash to light up your photos, but it's not always the best for picture quality. In fact, we'll go one further: Don't bother using your flash. Nearly ever.

Always try to find a natural light source when you're shooting your photos. If you're at a restaurant and want to snap a picture of your meal, try to get a seat by a window, so you can capture all the meal's details with the perfect lighting. If you're looking to take a selfie, try posing in front of a big window. This won't only make your face and features light up – even on a cloudy day – but it will darken the background and make you the center of attention.

If it's absolutely impossible to capture your picture without natural lighting (and sometimes that's the case), try your best to find another external light source, like a lamp or even a candle. While it may seem silly, almost any other lighting will look better than the flash, especially since you then have more control of what you choose to light and highlight in your photographs.

Crop, don't zoom

Just like your Android phone's flash, zoom is another readily available option for phoneographers that should be avoided like the photographic plague.

Zoom can lower the quality of your pictures, and you might actually be cutting out something you didn't notice in the photo that you may find amazing when you glance at the picture during editing.

It's hard to remember when you're shooting, but your Android device is not the same as a DSLR camera: you can't just zoom in on something and have the quality stay virtually the same. A lot of professional photographers avoid the zoom altogether and prefer to crop strategically in the editing process afterwards, so they don't miss out on anything they captured in the picture.

If you really need to get in close with your subject, pick yourself up and physically move closer to it rather than using your zoom. This is the best way to get creative control over your photo subject without using zoom to mess up the picture's overall quality.

Burst first, ask questions later

Bursting may seem like a lazy way to take pictures, but it's probably the most efficient way to capture your perfect shot!

Whether it be selfies, landscapes, or a masterpiece of a meal, using burst is a great way to take a bunch of photos without stress: just hold down the shutter button and your phone will take rapid-fire shots that you can browse through later to find the perfect one.

While a bunch of the pictures you take with burst will be terrible and totally unusable, there are bound to be a few gems hiding in there. Take the time to go through your burst shots and pick out the best ones, and always remember to delete the bad burst photos so they don't take up space on your phone.

Find a favorite photography editing app

After you're done shooting, you're going to want to up your photo game by editing your pictures with your favorite editing app.

There are plenty of photo editing apps to choose from out there, and all of them do their own unique things like overlay certain filters, allow you to edit brightness and contrast, and even add text or stickers to your photos.

Photo editing apps are also a great tool to have if you're not confident with the photos you've taken. You can even salvage some photographs through a little bit of editing and tweaking if you're worried about quality.

Follow your favorite photographers on social media

Sometimes taking the best pictures with your Android phone doesn't start with your camera app; it starts with a quick visit to social media to get motivated from Android phone photographers who are already taking beautiful pictures!

Following some of your favorite photographers on social media is an amazing way to get ideas, see what kind of art other people are creating, and get motivated to go out and start shooting. Some may even respond in the comments if you ask them how they shot a certain subject in a certain style or how they managed to edit a specific photograph to look a certain way.

Creep around the discover page on Instagram and see what other Android phone photographers have shot. Start by mimicking a style you're fond of, and it will eventually evolve into your own.

Some photographers on social media even share their own tips and tricks for shooting, so be sure to check out a bunch of different profiles for inspiration.

Your turn

Are there any tips and tricks for shooting amazing photos with your Android phone that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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7 months ago

How to set up your fingerprint on Galaxy Note 7

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How to set up your fingerprint on Galaxy Note 7

How can I use my fingerprint to unlock my Galaxy Note 7?

The Galaxy Note 7 features a lightning-quick fingerprint scanner which lets you unlock your device with just a touch of the Home key. If you decided not to add your fingerprints during the initial setup, you'll be happy to know it's easy to add a fingerprint — or two, or three.

How to add a fingerprint on your Galaxy Note 7

  1. Tap to open Settings from the home screen or app drawer.
  2. Tap Lock screen and security.
  3. Tap Fingerprints.

    Launch **Settings** from the home screen or app drawer, tap Lock screen and security, tap Fingerprints.

  4. Unlock your phone with your unlock pattern or whatever method you've set up. This is a security check to make sure no one else is able to add their own fingerprint your phone.
  5. Next, you'll be prompted to place your finger on the home key, then lift it off.
  6. Keep placing your finger on the home key in different orientations until the meter reaches 100%. The more different parts of your fingerprint that your phone can scan, the quicker it will be to unlock your phone.

    Unlock your phone with your unlock pattern, next, you'll be prompted to place your finger on the home key, then lift it off. Keep placing your finger on the home key in different orientations until the meter reaches 100%.

  7. Tap Enable to allow your fingerprint to unlock your phone.
  8. Touch the Home key to confirm, or tap Close.
  9. Tap Add fingerprint if you want to enable another fingerprint to unlock your phone.

    Tap Enable to allow your fingerprint to unlock your phone, then Touch the Home key to confirm, or tap Close. Tap Add fingerprint if you want to enable another fingerprint to unlock your phone.

Adding additional fingerprints will let you unlock your phone regardless of which hand you're holding it in, or make it easier to unlock your phone if it's laying on a table.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

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7 months ago

How to fix a slow Android phone

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Galaxy S7 edge

Make your Android fast again — it is possible

We've all been there. You have a fancy, new, highly complex Android device that can do everything from checking your email to surfing the web to controlling your microwave so your popcorn doesn't burn. It's shiny, and screaming fast while doing all the things we wanted it to do. Everything is roses all around.

Android Central BasicsFast forward a year down the road, and besides the shiny wearing off, things aren't as zippy as they used to be. Apps take longer to open and run. Transitions between screens take longer to redraw than we would like. The speed demon that your device once was is starting to get a little frustrating to use. Your Android is slow.

Don't fret. This happens to every computer, even the Android one you carry in your pocket. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to alleviate your pain and get back to Speed Racer mode again. None are difficult, and we're going to take a look at the five best things you can do to "fix" a slow Android.

Note: To keep you up to date with the latest information, we're periodically updating this page.

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7 months ago

How to format the microSD card in the Galaxy Note 7

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The SD card slot is back with the Galaxy Note 7 — now here's how you get started when you first pop it in.

microSD cards are hardly new to Samsung phones, but after the feature was removed in Note 5 we wouldn't blame you if you'd forgotten the basics of using one in your phone. But Samsung has changed the software a bit in the Galaxy Note 7 as well, hiding a few basic features — chief among them being the ability to format the SD card after you insert it.

Want to know how to get it done? We have the steps right here.

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