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2 weeks ago

FAA 'strongly advises' against Galaxy Note 7 use, charging on planes

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The Note 7 recall saga continues, with government agencies now getting involved.

As Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 recall picks up speed, with retailers and carriers taking in and replacing phones, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has officially recommended that travelers not use or charge Note 7s on flights. Going a step further, the FAA says that you shouldn't put a Note 7 in your checked luggage either — bring it with you on board, but turn it off, is the message.

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2 weeks ago

Shoot for the moon with these lunar wallpapers

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Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars...

The stars might be too far away to dream of visiting, but the moon is so close. It's right up there in the sky, almost every night. It's taunting us as it twirls around the Earth in its near-monthly rotation. And even though most of us will never see it up-close, we'll continue to reach for it every day... as the wallpaper on our phone!

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2 weeks ago

BlackBerry brings whole productivity app suite to more Android phones

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Last month, BlackBerry announced they would be bringing their Android apps such as the BlackBerry Hub, Calendar, and Password Keeper to even more Android users through a new subscription offering called Hub+.

Now, they have announced an expansion of that access adding even more of the productivity apps to the mix.

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2 weeks ago

Here's what the new S Pen can do on the Galaxy Note 7

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Learn what you can do with the S Pen and the Galaxy Note 7

Samsung's flagship releases for 2016, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7, are arguably the top-class smartphones of the year. While there are a number of similarities in terms of design and features between the two phones, the most marked difference is the Note 7's S Pen, which adds a host of awesome features.

From tools to keep you productive and organized to instant translations and animated gifs, the S Pen will be at the center of your experience with the Note 7 if you embrace it. Here are the core features that use the S Pen and how they work.

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2 weeks ago

5 things I learned traveling with the Honor 8

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Honor 8 travel

Travel lessons from a week with the Honor 8 at IFA.

If you're a frequent traveler, you'll know that nothing taxes a phone like dragging it halfway across a continent, through airport security bins, onto planes and back again. So whenever I take a phone with me on a trip — as I did with the Galaxy S7 edge earlier this year — it's fun to reflect on the lessons learned.

This time around my phone of choice was the Huawei-built Honor 8, and the venue was IFA 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Read on to find out how it fared.

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2 weeks ago

Best Chromebook

Dell Chromebook 13

The Dell Chromebook 13 is the best Chromebook you can buy today.

Best overall

Dell Chromebook 13

Dell Chromebook 13

See at Dell

I can just come right out and say it — Dell has made the best non-Pixel Chromebook to date with the new Chromebook 13. This 13.3-inch Chromebook has a great metal build coated in durable soft touch material, along with a great backlit keyboard and a big glass-covered trackpad.

The bottom line: For anyone who wants to use a Chromebook on a regular basis, and values getting extra performance and hardware quality at an added price, Dell has made the Chromebook for you.

Why the Dell Chromebook 13 is the best

Dell has made the Chromebook for you.

The display on the Dell Chromebook 13 is a 1920x1080 IPS panel that looks great in the non-touch matte version, but there are also models with a Gorilla Glass-covered touchscreen of the same resolution.

At its lowest configuration — starting at $429 — you'll be getting a new Intel Celeron processor that's plenty capable when paired with 4GB of RAM, but if you have a specific reason for higher specs Dell will oblige and sell you one of a few different higher configurations. You can add a touch screen, up to 8GB of RAM and a Core i3 processor, all of which together add $200 more to the MSRP — but it could be worth it if you're looking for something higher end that doesn't say "Pixel" on it.

The Chromebook 13 offers fantastic battery life, is built super well and really checks all of the boxes aside from being a bit heavy at 3.23 pounds. If you're okay spending a little extra money to get something better than your standard cheap plastic Chromebook, this is the model to get — just make sure you choose the right configuration that works for your needs and budget.

The real question is which Chromebook 13 model you should choose. Dell doesn't have complete build-to-order configuration here but does offer plenty of different models, and I recommend you consider one of the first three. At minimum you'll want the Celeron model with 4GB of RAM, and optionally you could go for a higher model with a Core i3, 32GB of storage and a touchscreen for $629. Anything above that and it starts to be less of a great value, so be sure to weigh the features against the price before you buy.

Best on a budget

ASUS Chromebook Flip (C100)

ASUS Chromebook Flip

See at Amazon

The ASUS Chromebook Flip was rather unassuming and a little confusing when it was first unveiled, but has turned into a mini revelation. This little laptop with its 10.1-inch display and folding design that turns it into a pseudo-tablet is the go-to choice for anyone that wants a good, inexpensive and hyper-portable Chromebook.

For less than $300 you're getting a 1080p touch screen, a metal build, great battery life and solid performance out of a MediaTek processor and 2 or 4GB of RAM (do choose 4GB if possible). It's one of the first Chromebooks to receive initial Google Play Android app support, showing Google's confidence in this little device. On a budget and looking for a great Chromebook, you can't do much better than this.

Bottom line: The Chromebook Flip is also one of the first models slated to pick up Android app compatibility through the Google Play Store, which could tip the scales a bit for folks looking to be ready for the new feature addition.

Best for the future

Acer Chromebook R13

Acer Chromebook R13

See at Acer

Looking to the future, the Acer Chromebook R13 was just announced in September as the new mid-range offering from the company. The R13 represents the future of Chromebooks, carrying on from the ASUS Chromebook Flip. It has a 1080p IPS touch screen for interaction with Android apps, can fold back into various modes for an all-touch experience, and charges using the new USB-C standard rather than an older connector.

Beyond that, the Chromebook R13 offers a lot for its higher-than-average price. It has a solid metal build and nice-looking screen, with a solid (but quite standard) keyboard and trackpad. It isn't particularly light, but that's partially because of its large battery. The only real concern here is performance and configurability, as you're getting a MediaTek ARM processor and can only choose to get 16, 32 or 64GB of storage — there's no choice to get a higher-end processor or more RAM.

Bottom line: If you're happy with the base configuration and don't need something that's hyper-portable, this is going to be a great all-around choice to experience the future of Chrome OS.

Best to configure

HP Chromebook 13 G1

HP Chromebook 13 G1

See at HP

The HP Chromebook 13 G1 is nominally designed for the enterprise, but that's why it offers so much for a Chromebook enthusiast. No matter what model you get you're going to be using a full-metal laptop that comes in under three pounds, a crazy 3200x1800 touch screen, a backlit keyboard, and it charges up over USB-C (there's an additional USB-C port as well).

But here's the thing: you don't have to settle for the base model at $499. If you want more, you can have more — you can configure the Chromebook 13 G1 with up to 16GB of RAM and a top-end Intel Core m7 processor if you really need more performance.

The downside? Price. The base model at $499 is pretty good, but the whole idea behind getting the Chromebook 13 G1, for some people, is the configuration — and if you spec it up, this laptop will push over $1000. That's a lot of money to spend on a Chromebook, even when it's as nice as the HP is. The spec bumps when you configure it just lead to seemingly disproportionate increases in price.

Bottom line: If you have the money to spend, you're getting a great Chromebook here — but value-conscious buyers can choose better.

Conclusion

There's a Chromebook to satisfy most any need that you may have. Whether you're buying for yourself, as a gift, or giving guidance to someone else for their own purchase, be sure to start here before making a buying decision. For most people, though, most of the time, Dell Chromebook 13 is the overall best bet.

Best overall

Dell Chromebook 13

Dell Chromebook 13

See at Dell

I can just come right out and say it — Dell has made the best non-Pixel Chromebook to date with the new Chromebook 13. This 13.3-inch Chromebook has a great metal build coated in durable soft touch material, along with a great backlit keyboard and a big glass-covered trackpad.

The bottom line: For anyone who wants to use a Chromebook on a regular basis, and values getting extra performance and hardware quality at an added price, Dell has made the Chromebook for you.

Chromebooks

Android Marshmallow

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2 weeks ago

How to disable auto Bluetooth audio streaming on Samsung Galaxy phones

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Are you bothered by your music playing every time your Galaxy phone connects to your vehicle's Bluetooth? Here's how to fix it.

Owning a Bluetooth-enabled car stereo makes life easier in many ways. Once paired to your Samsung Galaxy phone, you'll be able to quickly connect your phone every time you get in your car and receive phone calls and text messages hands-free while you drive.

It also enables you to play music from your phone on demand, and by default you may notice it automatically playing the tracks stored on your Galaxy phone as soon as you turn on the vehicle. If you find autoplay to be more of a nuisance than a useful feature, here's how you can toggle media audio from playing in your Bluetooth car stereo.

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to pull down the Notification shade.
  2. Tap the Settings icon.
  3. Tap Connections.
  1. Tap Bluetooth
  2. Tap the Settings icon next to the paired device you're having issues with.
  3. Tap the Media audio toggle switch to turn it off.

This will turn off all audio media from playing via Bluetooth in your car — an admittedly extreme option for fixing autoplay issues. When you decide you want to play music through your car stereo, you'll have to go back into your phone's Bluetooth settings and re-enable media audio.

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2 weeks ago

Amazon brings Alexa to the $89 Fire HD 8 tablet

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Amazon has refreshed its $89 Fire HD 8 tablet, bringing Alexa functionality to the device along with a slew of spec upgrades. You can now interact with Amazon's voice assistant to control media playback, launch apps and games, check the weather, set a reminder, find news, and more.

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2 weeks ago

Wireless Fast Charging explained

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Qi Fast Charge brings faster and more efficient charging without any change in how we use it.

The Qi charging standard has come a long way since it was first specified. What started as a very slow and very wasteful technology to recharge low-power devices (like the battery in your phone) has expanded to include things that need more power like a laptop and the Wireless Power Consortium has even demonstrated the tech powering kitchen appliances at 1kW. But for most of us, the biggest advance has been the introduction of wireless fast charging.

Any Qi-enabled phone will charge on any Qi pad, even if Fast Charge isn't available.

Qi (pronounced Chee and roughly translated to "spiritual energy") is a charging standard. The Wireless Power Consortium — think a group of electrical engineers that really love chargers and the smart people who make things that need to be charged — developed the specification in 2009. The first version supported wireless power transfer up to 4.999 watts, and it works by using two coils and some computer logic that sends a signal across the gap when they get close to each other, then uses magnetic induction to produce electricity on the receiver side. In the early days, you had to waste a lot of power creating an oscillating magnetic field in the base that was strong enough to induce the same oscillation and field in the receiver in order to charge your phone. And even then it charged very slowly. It was more of a convenience thing than an efficiency thing.

More: Wireless charging, in plain English

The folks at the WPC have kept expanding and developing the standard and besides additions like a medium-power mode that can provide up to 120 watts, they have been working on three specific ways to make it better: a longer range (it's up to 40mm now), higher output done safely, and less wasted power in the form of heat.

In June of 2015, the WPC released the latest version of the standard and increased the power transfer to 15 watts without any increase in the amount of wasted electricity as heat. That means the power created by the receiver coil (the one inside your phone) has increased by 300% and charging is faster, without either coil getting any hotter.

Using a charger and a phone with the "Fast Charge" label you can charge a typical phone (for example, the Galaxy Note 5 and Samsung's Wireless Fast Charger) to about 50% in 30 minutes, or charge fully in 90 minutes. While not as fast as a wired quick charge solution, this is a lot faster than it used to be.

Like every quick charging specification the tech has to monitor the transfer rate, the temperature, and the amount of charge the battery has. From a "cold" state, it takes about a fair amount of time for things to reach the point where they need to be scaled back. Reducing the amount of electricity provided (the base modifies the frequency and wavelength of the magnetic field created by its coil) is done to protect the battery and electronics inside your phone from getting too hot. At this point, the power (watts are a measure of power) generated is dropped until the battery is full, at which point it shuts down. Your phone monitors itself and sends a signal to the base to indicate that things need to change.

A lot of engineer speech is involved here, because of the subject matter. Essentially, your phone and your charger carry on a little electronic conversation.

  • Phone: I need some power!
  • Base: OK, I'll start my end. Make sure you stay close enough so the way my coil hums makes your coil hum, too. If I see your coil stop humming I'll turn everything off.
  • Phone: Gotcha. Staying close.
  • Base: I see that you are using the latest Qi standard, so I'll go full speed ahead until you give the word.
  • Phone: OK, I'm getting warm, so scale things back a little.
  • Base: OK. Lowering the frequency and pitch of my coil's hum so things don't get any hotter. Let me know when we're done.
  • Phone: My battery is full. You can stop now.

This is exactly how Qi charging has always worked. The only differences are changes to the resonant circuits in both the phone and the base that allow the coils to oscillate at a higher frequency with less damping (resistance) and less radiated energy (wasted energy in the form of heat) production. The current generated is higher while the resistance and heat produced are lower than previous versions, so more juice can flow from the coil in your phone to the battery without things getting too hot too fast. These changes were part of an update to the Qi standard, and everyone who is part of the WPC — Belkin, HTC, Lexus, Motorola, Samsung, Verizon and the rest of the 230+ members — can use the design to build chargers and devices that need charged and be sure everything is compatible.

Qi Fast Charge can generate up to 300% more current than the original specification.

The Qi specification has nothing to do with any USB charging standards and is generally followed to the letter by everyone involved. It's also freely available to anyone after a short term of WPC members-only access so everyone can use it — even a startup who might not have an extra $20,000 for the annual fee. Generally, you don't have to worry about the things you buy not meeting the full specifications. It just works. And now it works even faster.

For us as consumers, there isn't a lot to think about. If our phone is Qi Fast Charge compatible and we use a charging base that's also Qi Fast Charge ready, our phone will charge faster — about as fast as using an old (not quick charge) wall plug and cable. The system is designed to slow down before things get too hot and shut off completely once the battery is full — we don't need to intervene at any level. Qi is also backwards compatible so all your devices that use it will charge with any charging base, even if Fast Charge isn't available. The one thing we should do is to use the proper wall plug to make sure the right amount of current is available to the charging base and it doesn't overheat or charge too slowly.

If you like the convenience of wireless charging, make sure the next charging base you buy is Fast Charge ready!

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2 weeks ago

Australian airlines ban Galaxy Note 7 use as FAA considers options

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Galaxy Note 7

Note 7 may not be used or charged onboard Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia flights following battery fires.

The latest development in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall saga: Three Australian airlines have banned the use of Note 7 handsets onboard their aircraft, citing safety concerns after at least 35 devices suffered battery fires or explosions. Meanwhile the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority says it's considering its options.

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2 weeks ago

Samsung giving free Gear VR to Note 7 customers in India following global recall

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Customers that have pre-ordered the Galaxy Note 7 in India will have to wait to get their hands on the phone.

Samsung was yet to commence deliveries of the Note 7 in India when the company issued a global recall of the phone over battery cell issues. The South Korean manufacturer has now clarified in a statement that all customers that have pre-ordered the device will receive a Gear VR for free as well as a ₹3,500 ($50) content voucher redeemable on the Oculus store.

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2 weeks ago

PlayStation 4 Pro already available to pre-order!

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Pre-order your PlayStation 4 Pro.

Sony's PlayStation Meeting in NYC today turned out to be a lot more exciting than a lot of folks initially suspected. On top of a new, slim PlayStation 4 we got a ton of details surrounding the PlayStation 4 Pro. It's going to be great for those interested in 4K and HDR gaming, and PlayStation VR gamers will find an even better experience inside the headset. As first impressions go, PS4 Pro looks to be well worth the $399 asking price.

Best of all, it's available to pre-order now! Amazon currently has delivery listed at December 29th, 2017, but since there's also no image for the listing at the time of this writing it's pretty clear the order page hasn't been fully realized just yet. Sony is planning to make PS4 Pro available on November 10th, and if history is any indicator Amazon will ship to ensure these matte black consoles arrive on that day.

See on Amazon

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2 weeks ago

SanDisk's 200GB card is back to its lowest price for today only!

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Amazon's Deal of the Day can once again score you SanDisk's 200GB microSD card for just $60, a savings of $20 from its regular price. We've seen a number of deals over the past few months on this card, with this being the lowest price that the card has hit. Whether you need some additional storage for your phone, tablet, camera or other electronic devices, you won't want to miss out on this deal.

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2 weeks ago

The PlayStation 4 Pro is official!

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The 'Neo' is real and it has a name. Say hello to PlayStation 4 Pro.

The much rumored, now official, beefed up PlayStation 4 is now official; The PlayStation 4 Pro is inbound! Alongside the new, heavily leaked PS4 Slim, Sony made the announcement at its New York City event while unveiling the first true details on the console.

And naturally, PlayStation VR will be right there with it.

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2 weeks ago

Android Pay's biggest expansion yet adds Chase, kicks off mobile web purchases

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Google is determined to not let Android Pay whither on the vine.

Confident in keeping its expansion going, Google has announced several important updates to the Android Pay experience this week. At the root of it all is adding more banks, with Chase now on board in the U.S. for its most popular cards (Freedom, Slate, Sapphire, etc.), and both Santander and TSB coming on board in the UK. Dozens of banks are now supported, from the big names down to small credit unions.

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