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1 week ago

Verizon debuts its own chatbot on Facebook Messenger

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The Fios customer service bot will answer your questions and help you find things to watch.

Probably the worst part about customer service is having to talk to someone on the phone when things go awry or you have a quick question. But would you rather have the conversation over Facebook Messenger?

Verizon has introduced the Fios chatbot on Facebook Messenger. You can use it to do things like search for content to watch, manage your DVR, and add channels to an existing package. It works for Verizon Fios internet service, too, so if you're wondering what the throughput is on your internet speeds, you can simply ask the chatbot to test the connection.

"The Fios chatbot is focused on entertainment content now," said Miguel Quiroga, head of digital for Verizon's Fios consumer business, in the official press release. "It will continue to evolve based on how people use it. In effect, our customers will be 'co-creating' the platform with us."

Automated customer service isn't a new concept, just as chatbots aren't new either. Facebook on its part recently announced its plans to double down on chatbots in an effort to give them substantial credence over time.

If you're a Verizon Fios customer, you can try out the Fios chatbot on Facebook Messenger right now. Search for Fios, and then select "Get Started" as the first chat entry to start the process of linking your account.

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1 week ago

How to connect an accessory to Samsung Health

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Connecting an accessory to Samsung Health makes tracking your progress easier than ever.

Samsung Health aims to be your one-stop-shop for tracking your health and exercise. While it contains plenty of features within the app to track things, you can also connect compatible accessories that will help you in this endeavor. Whether you're hoping to know what your fastest mile is or precisely how far you biked, you can do it all by connecting the right accessory. It's also an extremely easy process, and we have the details for you here.

Why connect an accessory to Samsung Health?

Connecting your Samsung Gear S3 Smartwatch, or Gear Icon X earbuds to Samsung Health can definitely enhance how well Samsung Health works. This is because the app is actually set up to connect to activity trackers, bike sensors, smartwatches, heart rate monitors, and plenty more.

Samsung Health really does aim to be an all-in-one place for you to build healthy habits, and then track them. To this end, they've included compatibility with a slew of different devices you may be using to aid you in a variety of ways. Whether these are smart scales to check your weight, glucose monitors to check your sugar levels, or just an activity tracker to get the stats from your morning run, this is a pretty big deal.

This makes tracking your progress easier than ever.

Being able to have all of your health information in one place, and to see the improvement day after day and week after week may be the motivation you need to get serious about your health. While the devices that you'll be able to connect are primarily Samsung's own, you can see a full list of supported devices within the accessory page inside of the app.

Now one thing to remember is that if you are connecting a Samsung Accessory, you'll need to go ahead and install Samsung Gear Manager first. Your phone won't connect to your smartwatch if the Gear Manager isn't on your phone.

Once you have an accessory connected then you'll be able to track specific information without having to manually enter it into the app. This makes tracking your progress easier than ever, especially if you tend to forget to input information after a workout.

How to connect an accessory within Samsung Health

  1. Open Samsung Health.
  2. Tap the overflow icon that looks like three vertical dots in the upper right corner.
  3. Tap Accessories to open the accessories page.

  4. Tap the Accessory you want to connect to Samsung Health.
  5. Tap Register in the upper right hand corner of the screen.
  6. Tap Connect to pair your accessory to your phone.

Have you connected an accessory to Samsung Health?

Connecting an accessory to Samsung Health lets you keep better track of information like your run, heart rate, weight, and plenty more. This makes it easier than ever to track your progress as you try to get healthier, without having to think about it or constantly input information. Have you made the jump and connected your smartwatch, or another accessory to Samsung Health? We want to know about it! Leave us a comment below!

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1 week ago

Verizon spent $3.1 billion for a 5G company that AT&T was going to buy for $1.6 billion

31

Verizon is getting spendy on some big 5G acquisitions, because it doesn't want to be behind again.

When Verizon decides it wants something, an extra $1.5 billion is no problem. According to the Wall Street Journal, America's biggest cellular provider has agreed to spend $3.1 billion — $1.5 billion more than AT&T's initial purchase offer — to acquire Straight Path Communications, which has one of the largest battle chests of potential 5G spectrum in the U.S.

The interesting part about this deal is that in April AT&T actually announced the acquisition on its website, claiming that with Straight Path, and a previous purchase of FiberTower back in January, it would have the spectrum necessary to roll out one major part of its impending 5G network (its real one, not the fake kind). Specifically, Straight Path controls hundreds of megahertz of so-called millimeter wave spectrum, up in the 28GHz and 39GHz range, which allows for immense amounts of data to be passed very quickly over short distances. Along with more medium and low-band spectrum, millimeter wave will comprise much of the 5G backhaul where wired options, such as cable or fiber, can't reach.

Clearly Verizon saw the value of such spectrum, since it nearly doubled AT&T's initial offer and spent nearly eight times what the stock was worth back in April. This is very good news for Straight Path investors — at least the ones that stayed with the company through an FCC investigation that targeted unused spectrum. Straight Path ended up paying a small fine to the regulator, but also inked a deal to pay 20% of the cost of the licenses; new suitor Verizon will have to pay those fees, along with a $38 million breakage fee to AT&T.

Considering the first 5G networks, which won't incorporate this millimeter wave technology, are not expected to roll out for another two to three years, it's interesting to see Verizon spending so generously on spectrum that may only be integral to next-generation networks in half a decade or more.

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1 week ago

Allo's next trick: Turning your selfies into emoji

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The new features takes advantage of Google's machine learning abilities to make a set of stickers based on your face.

Feel like your feelings could better be expressed through emoji that look like you? Well, you're in luck if you're an Allo user. The latest update comes with a feature that turns your selfie into a reusable sticker.

The feature was announced in an official Google blog, and then confirmed in an interview between Google's Jason Cornwall, Communications UX Lead at Google, and FastCo Design. Starting today, you'll be able to shoot and save your own emotive stickers to use within Allo conversations. Google's image-recognition algorithm will analyze your face and map each of your individual features to a preset selection of images illustrated by artist Lamar Abrams, who is best known for the Cartoon Network series Steven Universe. Then, you can choose the emotion that best suits your mood.

"The goal isn't accuracy," Cornwell said about the ability. "It's to let someone create something that feels like themselves, to themselves." Google estimates that there are 563 quadrillion possibilities. Once you create your stickers, you'll have 22 different moods to choose from.

The FastCo Design article continues with some background on Google's objective behind the sticker-making feature:

The project represents a long-running priority at Google—to figure out new ways that it can apply ML to broader and broader swathes of experience. The logic, for Google, is alluring: Google leads the world in ML, so if it can make ML into a must-have feature for apps and websites, then its products will be able to leapfrog competitors. Along those lines, Allo has become a test bed for all kinds of novel ML applications. "What we're doing with Allo is trying to find all the ways that ML can make messaging better," says Cornwell. "From saying the right thing at the right time to conveying the right emotion at the right time."

Unfortunately, I don't see the update available in the Google Play Store at the time of writing, which is quite a bummer. A sticker-making feature that uses Google's Machine Learning abilities is rather impressive, and I'm curious to see the end result in real time.

You can read the rest of the article, which includes background on how the stickers were designed, at FastCo Design. As for the app update, keep checking in the Google Play Store.

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1 week ago

BlackBerry KEYone: Seeing the forest for the trees

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The BlackBerry KEYone isn't trying to be the best phone ever — just the best BlackBerry ever. It's succeeded, and given the faithful something to use and abuse all over again.

It's easy to forget that on-screen keyboards weren't always as good as they are today. In fact, for years they kinda sucked. Those were the years in which BlackBerry ruled for pounding out message after message. It also was the only real source for secure(ish) messaging. And the cult following that became what we all know (and, yes, love) as CrackBerry was born.

A lot has changed since then, of course. The iPhone changed everything, actually. Android got good and spread everywhere. And the BlackBerry faithful — you fine folks — were left with a choice. Adapt, or languish.

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I was never a BlackBerry guy, but that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate a good physical keyboard back in the day. My first smartphone was a Treo 750. I had an HTC Touch Pro 2 — angled screen and all. I rocked a Motorola Q9h like it was nobody's business. The OG Moto DROID after that. But proper capacitive displays and multitouch — along with increasingly good text prediction — led me to give up the keyboard for the larger displays.

That leads us to the BlackBerry KEYone. It's as retro as it is forward-looking. It by nearly all accounts a very solid phone. We tend to overuse the word "workhorse," but not in this case. The internals give great battery life. The Android operating system gives flexibility.

This is the phone BlackBerry fans have deserved for years.

And the keyboard is a gift. It's not a necessity anymore. We've all gotten by just fine without them. And the world has mostly moved on from BBM to other forms of secure messaging, be it iMessage or Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger or Signal or something else.

But the rebirthed BlackBerry Mobile (with Alcatel parent company TCL on board as the manufacturer) has given us something special here. Maybe not a phone you have to have, but one that a good many people truly want to have. A phone with a keyboard. A phone with more special sauce tucked into those little plastic things than we'll probably ever see anywhere else. I really am in love with the fingerprint sensor in the space bar, to say nothing of swiping all over the thing to move the cursor around. (And a phone running Android — which really is the only way this was every going ton happen anyway.)

Nobody else has ever done that. No other company will ever do that, because they don't have to.

And I'd be remiss in not mentioning the fact that BlackBerry has consistently been the only other company to keep its phones on current software, second to only Google itself. (Yes, Apple, too, but you know what I mean.)

Add all that up. You have some seriously solid hardware. While not cutting edge, it's definitely built to last. You have software with customizations that folks will want, and updates that we should all require. And you have a keyboard experience that takes us back to the good old days when we actually needed keyboards.

This isn't a phone for everyone. It's not trying to be. It's not going to be.

It's a phone for people who love BlackBerry. It's a phone for people who still want to love BlackBerry. And for those folks, BlackBerry Mobile and TCL have nailed it.

Modern Dad

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1 week ago

How to move apps to your SD card on the Galaxy S8

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Samsung Galaxy S8 app on SD card

Save some internal storage by moving apps to your SD card.

With 64GB of internal storage on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ most people won't need to use their SD card for more than media storage, but if you're finding a crunch on internal storage you can move apps there, too. Not every app can be moved to the SD card, but if you shuffle a few around it could make a difference for you.

Thankfully, apps won't move to the SD card unless they know they can do so without issue. So long as you have a good SD card in your phone, you'll be good to go. Now here's how to move the apps.

How to move apps to your SD card

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Scroll down, tap on Apps.
  3. Scroll to find the app you want to move to the SD card and tap it.
  4. Tap on Storage.
  5. Under "Storage used" tap Change.
    • You'll notice that a majority of apps won't support moving to SD card. If there's no "change" option, it simply can't be moved.
  6. Tap the radio button next to SD card.
  7. On the next screen, tap Move and wait for the process to complete.
    • To move the app back to internal storage, simply go through the same process again and select "internal" in the settings.

Tap storage, change and then SD card

As noted above, you'll see that most apps can't be moved to the SD card. This is for good reason: many apps know that they can't keep high levels of performance when they're on the SD card, or need special permissions only allowed by being on the internal storage. If the app can't be moved, just move on and see what others can be moved instead.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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1 week ago

These are the Chromebooks that can run Android apps from Google Play

Android — and 1,000,000+ apps — on your Chromebook is awesome.

Updated May 2017: New products have been moved to the stable branch from AOpen and Samsung.

But not every Chromebook is going to get updated to have Google Play and Android apps. And most of the ones that will are in a long testing process.

We all hate waiting. And we all hate updates that break things. Google and the people who made your Chromebook are trying to make sure everything is good and keep the wait time to a minimum, but still — we all hate waiting!

Things are progressing. Here's the current state of Android on Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.

Chromebooks with Android apps available in the stable channel

Make sure you have the latest version of Chrome and look in your settings if you don't have a Play Store app. You can enable it there by checking the box.

Chromebooks with Android support in the beta channel

You'll need to switch to the beta channel to enable Android support. Further instructions on switching channels can be found here.

Chromebooks with Android support in the developer channel

You'll need to switch to the beta channel to enable Android support. Further instructions on switching channels can be found here. Be aware that the developer channel may be unstable and the opposite of what you're used to from your Chromebook.

Chromebooks with server-side support

These are the "special cases." It appears that Google has signed off and they can use Google Play as far as the store is concerned, but the setting has not yet been unlocked through an update. You can easily enable Android apps and Play Store support through Chrome's built-in terminal after you've switched to the Beta or Dev channel and enabled developer mode. Full instructions are here.

  • Acer Chromebook 14
  • Acer Chromebook 15 (not all models)
  • Acer Chromebook 11 c740
  • ASUS C201
  • ASUS C202SA
  • ASUS C300SA
  • Dell Chromebook 13
  • Edugear CMT Chromebook
  • HP Chromebook 11 G5
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 13
  • Toshiba Chromebook 2 (2015)

Chrome devices that will be supported sometime in 2017

These are the devices that will officially be updated to use Google Play. There is no word on when to expect the update, only that they will be supported.

Acer

  • Chromebook 11 CB3-111 / C730 / C730E / CB3-131
  • Chromebook 14 for Work
  • Chromebook 15 CB5-571 / C910
  • Chromebox CXI2
  • Chromebase 24

Asus

  • Chromebook C200
  • Chromebook C300SA
  • Chromebook C300
  • Chromebox CN62
  • Chromebit CS10

AOpen

  • Chromebox Commercial
  • Chromebase Commercial 22"

Bobicus

  • Chromebook 11

CDI

  • eduGear Chromebook M Series
  • eduGear Chromebook K Series
  • eduGear Chromebook R Series

CTL

  • Chromebook J2 / J4
  • N6 Education Chromebook
  • J5 Convertible Chromebook

Dell

  • Chromebook 11 3120

Edxis

  • Chromebook
  • Education Chromebook

Haier

  • Chromebook 11
  • Chromebook 11e
  • Chromebook 11 G2

Hexa

  • Chromebook Pi

HiSense

  • Chromebook 11

Lava

  • Xolo Chromebook

HP

  • Chromebook 11 G3 / G4 / G4 EE
  • Chromebook 14 G4

Lenovo

  • 100S Chromebook
  • N20 / N20P Chromebook
  • N21 Chromebook
  • ThinkCentre Chromebox
  • ThinkPad 11e Chromebook
  • N22 Chromebook
  • Thinkpad 11e Chromebook Gen 2 / Gen 3

Medion

  • Akoya S2013
  • Chromebook S2015

M&A

  • Chromebook

NComputing

  • Chromebook CX100

Nexian

  • Chromebook 11.6"

PCMerge

  • Chromebook PCM-116E

Poin2

  • Chromebook 11

Samsung

  • Chromebook 2 11" - XE500C12

Sector 5

  • E1 Rugged Chromebook

Senkatel

  • C1101 Chromebook

Toshiba

  • Chromebook 2

True IDC

  • Chromebook 11

Viglen

  • Viglen Chromebook 11

We will continue to monitor the list and add any new Chromebooks that Google notes will support the feature.

Chromebooks

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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1 week ago

Subgrid positioning: why I keep coming back to Nova Launcher

35

There are features on a launcher that keep you coming back.

Action Launcher has Quickdrawer. Aviate has its quirky app organization. Nova Launcher's got quite a few features that keep users coming back year after year, theme after theme. But beyond the ridiculous amount of launcher customization and the best damn launcher backups on Android, Nova has an ace in the hole.

And that ace is subgrid positioning.

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1 week ago

Portal Home Wi-Fi System review: Life in the fast lane is great if you're ready for it

7

Portal offers DFS "fast lane" technology, whether we're ready for it or not.

Portal promises something different when it comes to Wi-Fi. It advertises this difference as being able to bring "fast lanes" to the devices you connect to your router so the connection is, well, faster. It can do this by using wireless channels normally reserved for radar systems in the unlicensed 5Ghz spectrum. Don't worry if that sounds complicated, we'll explain it further down the page. Just know that Portal actually does something different than most routers to help speed things up, especially in dense places where there's a lot of interference from other wireless devices.

I've been looking at Portal's Home Wi-Fi System router for a while. Much longer than I would normally take to look at a router, because this tech is different than what most of us are used to, and I had some issues I needed to get to the bottom of. And because I love playing with routers.

So after an extra month or so using the Portal Home Wi-Fi System, is the verdict thumbs up or thumbs down? Both. It depends on the things you're going to connect to it.

See at Amazon

What is DFS?

We have to start here because most of us will have no idea what DFS is. And it's a very important feature of the Portal. DFS stands for Dynamic Frequency Selection. Within the 5GHz spectrum, there are multiple channels your router can use. There are also channels that the FCC has set aside for other things to use. DFS an extension of the 802.11 standard that describes how devices can use some of these other channels in the 5GHz range for Wi-Fi. These channels are traditionally reserved for radar installations, which makes the switching part of the descriptive name important. DFS started in Europe and is relatively new in the U.S.

80 and 160MHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi channels make DFS something we need, not just a luxury.

Because other, more critical, things use the same channels there are hard and fast rules about when and how a router can use them. Before a router switches to a DFS channel it has to make sure it won't interfere with anything and then continuously monitor to make sure it doesn't start interfering. Finally, a router can't just camp on a DFS channel like an annoying COD player on Xbox Live. If there is no activity after a certain amount of time, it has to leave and find another.

The channels designated as DFS in the United States (this varies by country) are all between channel 48 and 149. It's actually easier to check if a router uses DFS by seeing what channel it's not connected to. If you see a connection to any channel other than 36, 40, 44, 48, 149, 153, 157, 161 or 165 your router uses DFS. For network nerds, DFS channels are all in the 5260 to 5320MHz frequencies.

If you have a relatively new phone or tablet, it probably supports DFS. You can check any device at the FCC by entering the FCC ID of the device here. If you see support for the 5260 - 5320 range in the list, you're good.

So, DFS is a real thing and what it offers is carrying your signal and all the data on channels most other consumer wireless devices can't use. If you've ever lived in an apartment building where a lot of people had Wi-Fi routers, you know the struggle that happens at prime time when everyone is on the internet. DFS can bypass it by using a different channel.

So how good is the Portal router?

Think of this as two different reviews. One thing in common for both is that DFS works and there is an instantly noticeable difference in an off-campus apartment building near the University of West Virginia. Watching HD video or downloading gigantic files (we used the 58GB Fallout 4 High-Resolution Texture Pack DLC for testing) are no problem even when there are 25+ other routers (most with separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz SSIDs) in range. Wi-Fi speeds were effectively double what they were on a "regular" 5GHz router during the busiest times, and the Portal router lives up to its fast lane promise in this regard.

With the right equipment Portal's fast lane promise rings true.

A single Portal router is rated to cover 3,000 square feet and that's a conservative estimate based on my usage. If you need to cover a larger space, you can mesh two Portals together to cover 6,000 square feet. Each unit has 10 radios and nine high-gain antennas to push signal along five 5GHz operating bands and two 2.4GHz bands. In simple terms, this thing is a beast. I'm confident in saying that most of us will be able to put one Portal router in the middle of our home and have really good Wi-Fi signal everywhere you want a signal.

Portal's web interface

Setup is dead simple. You can use an Android or iOS app to set things up but there is also a web interface for people who prefer it. All the standard features like forwarding and MAC filtering are available, and while there were a few early hiccups the software has continuously been updated and there are no pain points for most users.

Most any modern router or mesh system can offer the same type of signal blanketing as Portal, but very few incorporate DFS technology to keep Wi-Fi fast when things get crowded. This is enough for me to say Portal is a winner. But there is one big problem and it's not Portal's fault — not all devices are DFS compatible and that's when things get ugly.

The slow lane

The "slow" lane, which is also the intermittent connection lane, is otherwise known as 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. That's where products that aren't DFS compatible live in what Portal calls Compatibility Modes. Most products with a 5GHz Wi-Fi radio will work just fine even if they don't benefit from DFS, but there are some pretty popular devices on the list of products that need special settings: Vizio Televisions, Amazon Fire TV and Firestick, all Roku devices and anything with an ASUS Wi-Fi adapter. I just so happen to have most of those connected to my home network (I could not test a Visio TV).

Going back to 2.4GHz is bad. Portal's 2.4GHz radios are worse.

Let's just say an Amazon Fire TV or Roku box is pretty worthless on a 2.4GHz "Compatibility Mode" connection. Network speeds are slow and the connection pauses at just the wrong time. This is a big reason why devices like a Fire TV or a Roku have a 5GHz Wi-Fi radio inside. To compound the issue, Portal seems to have very bad 2.4GHz performance compared to other routers here. It's just not stable at all. Until I realized what the issue was, I was ready to pull my hair out over my Chromebook Flip's connection three feet away from the router.

Another (potentially bigger) issue can be seen with an Amazon Echo and NVIDIA Shield TV. Neither will stay connected with any degree of reliability and several times one of these products has brought the entire network down. These products are supposed to be compatible with Portals automatic mode, but in real-world testing (at least with my Portal) they aren't. When both are removed there are zero network-wide issues.

Odds and ends

What's great

  • + Portal is fast when you're using devices that support DFS properly. It's also stable, even when there are too many routers in the same area.
  • + The range is huge. The listed 3,000 square feet is conservative, and one Portal router covers a bigger area than three Google Wifi routers.
  • + The company was quick to bring new features and fix issues with software updates. Portal is the Google Pixel of routers in this regard.
  • + A web interface is always a plus.
  • + Portal has a functional USB port and supports DynamicDNS and OpenVPN.

What's not so great

  • - You can only install the app on one device at a time. Change phones and you'll have to reset your Portal's firmware.
  • - You have to fiddle with settings to use any 5GHz devices that aren't DFS ready.
  • - 2.4GHz performance is spotty at best.

The verdict?

Check your devices. If you'll be using something that's not fully DFS ready, you're going to have a bad time.

If the things you plan to connect to your network are DFS ready, you'll love this thing.

It's not Portals fault that many devices aren't yet ready for DFS. You find that with any new tech, and early adopters sometimes are forced to buy more new equipment than they bargained for. But that doesn't change anything. Only buy a Portal router if you're sure your devices are ready for DFS or are willing to buy new devices.

It's a 👍 and a 👎 from me.

See at Amazon

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1 week ago

ZTE launches 6-inch, $149 Blade X Max with Cricket Wireless

8

Another budget phone for AT&T's discount brand.

ZTE and Cricket Wireless have teamed up to launch another budget device in the U.S. market, and this one is definitely worth looking at.

The Blade X Max, similar to the Max XL that launched at Boost Mobile last month, is a massive 6-inch device with entry-level specs for $149. For that, you get an octa-core Snapdragon 435 processor, 2GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage, along with a 13MP rear camera and a pretty sizeable 3,400mAh battery. That's all well and good, but the Blade X Max also ships with Android 7.1.1, and isn't too different from the stock Android experience you'll see on the Axon 7, the company's current flagship.

ZTE has made a name for itself in the U.S. in the past year, selling excellent unlocked phones like the Axon 7 and Blade V8 Pro, while partnering with carriers like Cricket and Boost to target the entry level market.

The phone will be available on May 12 at Cricket Wireless for $149.99, but new port-in customers can get it for $99.99.

See at Cricket Wireless

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1 week ago

How to improve Alexa's voice recognition

6

It's time to send Alexa to voice training school.

Out of the box, the impressive microphone arrays in most Amazon Echo and Echo-like products ensure your voice is clearly heard from across the room. Being heard isn't the same thing as being understood, and whether it's due to an accent Alexa doesn't quite process or some audio interference in the room, if Alexa doesn't get what you're saying, there's a relatively simple fix. Contained within your Alexa app is a tool to improve its ability to understand you, and as long as you have a couple minutes to spare and a quiet room that tool can make a significant difference in making the Echo, and Alexa, your best assistant friend.

Ready to send Alexa to voice school? Here's how you improve voice recognition!

Set your room up for the best results

Voice training is a process in which you are speaking predetermined phrases to Alexa so it can better listen to the differences in the way you say certain words. For the best results, the room needs to be completely silent. No music or television in the background, no one else speaking, and no chirps or beeps from your phone. Close any windows you may have open, and if you have nervous tic like tapping your ring on the counter you'll want to try avoiding that as well.

When you do start speaking to Alexa, don't alter the way you normally speak. If you try to speak with perfect enunciation when you normally don't Alexa will become trained to a speech pattern that isn't yours and it won't learn how you actually speak. Talk to Alexa casually, like your super casual robot friend that is always listening and can occasionally go shopping for you. It's not weird at all.

How to improve Alexa voice recognition

Setting up a voice training session is easy, and can be done differently for each Alexa device in your house if you want to personalize each one to a specific person. Go sit near the Echo you want to train, pick up your phone, and open the Alexa app. From there:

  1. Tap the menu button the in the top right corner.
  2. Tap Settings from the list of options.
  3. Scroll down until you see Voice Training and tap.

  4. Tap the downward arrow at the top of the screen.
  5. Select the Alexa device you want to train.

The app will now walk you through 25 Alexa commands for you to speak out loud to the device you're trying to train. Once you have completed all 25 commands, the session will be complete. You did it! From here you can choose to train other things if you have them, or you can close the app and enjoy your new and improved Alexa experience.

Amazon Echo

Amazon

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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1 week ago

Microsoft Build Day 2 is happening! Here's how to follow it!

9

Catch all the Microsoft Build announcements over at Windows Central!

Microsoft Build is like Google I/O, but rainier. I kid, I kid. This year, Microsoft's annual developer takes place in the company's hometown of Seattle, Washed Out (don't @ me, Andrew).

Starting May 10 at 8am PT / 11am ET, the event kicks off with a keynote by CEO Satya Nadella, and even though Microsoft just announced its new Chromebook competitor, Windows 10 S, along with a pretty new laptop, the Surface Laptop, there will certainly be some big announcements across the company's vast product line — including Cortana and some other Android-based initiatives.

On May 11, Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, gets on stage at 8:30am PT / 11:30am ET to talk about what's happening with Windows 10 and, perhaps, its smartphone strategy.

Microsoft Build Day 1 + 2 Keynote liveblog and livestream

Our buddies at Windows Central will be covering everything, including all the announcements, analysis and lack of smartphones. I kid, I kid. Sort of.

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1 week ago

Xiaomi kicks off retail push in India with its first Mi Home store

0

You no longer need to wait for flash sales to buy Xiaomi phones.

After selling its phones online for three years, Xiaomi has set up its first Mi Home in India. With the brand gaining momentum in the country, launching an offline store gives it a new platform to sell its devices.

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1 week ago

Most Secure Android Phone

Update, May 2017: The BlackBerry KEYone makes its appearance on the list.

Best overall

Google Pixel

See at Google See at Verizon

The Google Pixel is the most secure Android phone you can buy, and one of the most secure phones of any available today.

Without disabling any security protections, the Pixel and Pixel XL are updated to keep you protected against known public security exploits and remote installations are monitored by Google's scanning software which blocks potential malicious content. While security and privacy are two very different things, when you decide you want private things to stay private you need to make sure your phone is secure to keep them that way.

Bottom line: The open-source nature of Android and the dedicated Android security team work in tandem to make the Pixel and Pixel XL the best phones when it comes to security and privacy.

One more thing: The Pixel and Pixel XL also show us that a secure phone that's great to use is a reality.

Why the Google Pixel is the best

A phone you want to use can also keep your data safe — and it comes in two sizes to fit everyone.

Every device that can connect to the internet has exploits available that break the default security configuration. If your phone isn't getting timely updates to combat them, you're simply not secure. We keep a vast amount of private — and priceless — data on our phones, and we all should care about keeping it safe from outside attacks. After you read all the agreements and decide what you're willing to give away, you should expect the remainder to stay private.

The Pixel phones are updated directly from Google with the latest version of Android. Outside of any new features that may come with, the device security model has been updated and strengthened by a dedicated team who regularly audits and enhances the code used to build Android. On top of this, Google releases updates to the security model at the beginning of every month for the people who build Android phones to apply to its software. These are important. More important than any other update. the Nexus 6P will get every one of them for its lifespan.

Equally important, but often overlooked, is transparency. You shouldn't have to trust a company when it says something is secure or updated, and the Android code for both the platform version and all updates is available for anyone to take a look at. Plenty of people do, and despite any opinions to the contrary, Android, as written, has proven to be a very secure platform. A phone like a Pixel is the embodiment of this.

Most important of all is that both Pixel phones are not only secure but are also phones that you'll want to use. No compromise is needed and the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL both share the same fast processor and other internal components. A great — and secure — experience is available for fans of both sizes.

Best for typing

BlackBerry KEYone

See at BlackBerry Mobile

BlackBerry is legendary when it comes to mobile device management and security, and follows that trend when using Android to power its phones. With the KEYone, you also get the keyboard experience that only BlackBerry can offer. The KEYone is a great way to enjoy Android for people who still want a physical keyboard on their phone, and peace of mind that knowing a company is concerned about security.

Bottom line: BlackBerry continues its reputation of excellent mobile security and having a great keyboard with the KEYone.

One more thing: The BlackBerry is usually the first phone to get the monthly Android Security update — often hours before Google releases the bulletin itself!

Best for simplicity

BlackBerry DTEK60

See at BlackBerry

BlackBerry says the DTEK60 is the world's most secure Android phone.

The DTEK60 adds an enhanced version of the DTEK software tool to monitor application and system use to warn you when something isn't playing nicely. While this software is available as an update for the Priv, the out-of-the-box experience on the DTEK60 lets BlackBerry claim the "most secure Android "title. It's also pretty nice to use, too.

Bottom line:The DTEK60 is a welcome addition for many users and IT managers.

One more thing: Scott Wenger, VP of design and devices for BlackBerry says DTEK stands for "Detection."

Conclusion

Media outlets like to give Android a bad reputation when it comes to security, and it's difficult to blame them. Old, outdated software from manufacturers with no real concern for your security or privacy are the norm when it comes to phones running Android. But it doesn't have to be this way.

The Google Pixel delivers a great smartphone experience that ticks all the boxes for reviewers and users alike, and with no modifications, your personal data is very safe. A team of security professionals and engineers are dedicated to keeping it that way. Any of the phones on our list will do a great job when it comes to security, but the overall experience makes the Google Pixel the best.

Best overall

Google Pixel

See at Google See at Verizon

The Google Pixel is the most secure Android phone you can buy, and one of the most secure phones of any available today.

Without disabling any security protections, the Pixel and Pixel XL are updated to keep you protected against known public security exploits and remote installations are monitored by Google's scanning software which blocks potential malicious content. While security and privacy are two very different things, when you decide you want private things to stay private you need to make sure your phone is secure to keep them that way.

Bottom line: The open-source nature of Android and the dedicated Android security team work in tandem to make the Pixel and Pixel XL the best phones when it comes to security and privacy.

One more thing: The Pixel and Pixel XL also show us that a secure phone that's great to use is a reality.

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1 week ago

Blue Satellite review: Wireless headphones with real power

10

A great addition to the Bluetooth headphone canon from a company with the color in its name.

If you're a podcaster, Blue Microphones is a company you know, or need to know. If you're a headphone fan, not so much. But the company has been making inroads into the lucrative over-the-ear headphone business since it launched the powered Mo-Fis back in 2014.

Now the company is moving into the wireless headphone space with its Bluetooth-powered Satellite cans, and is bringing a lot of what it learned with it along the way. Active noise cancellation? Check. A powered headphone amplifier built in? Check. Apt-X codec support? Yep. 24-hour battery life? Oh, yeah. Amazing sound quality? Yes, yes, yes.

The phones, which are available May 12 for $399 from a number of retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, Fry's, Dell, and Microcenter stores, were unveiled at CES but remained elusive to the public. Blue said it was tweaking the hardware and ensuring the ANC was up to par, and I'm glad it put in the extra time because these things sound great — with a couple small caveats.

Let's start with the basics: these are big, over-the-ear headphones built mainly from rigid plastic, with small amounts of aluminum peppered throughout. The mesh headband and leather cups provide adequate comfort for long periods of listening — much more so than previous Blue headphones I've used — and despite their size, the Satellites don't feel heavy or burdensome.

Because they are wireless, the Satellites have all of the important toggles on the outside of the phones themselves: on the left bottom is a small power toggle and Micro-USB charging port; on the left cup are toggles for Bluetooth pairing, Active Noise Cancellation and the powered amplifier; and on the right are the play/pause and volume up and down buttons. These are sensibly located, and after a few days with the Satellites I was able to "touch" activate the various modes, though if you're not wearing them you can see a helpful white LED pulse flashing momentarily after pressing a button, which is a nice touch.

You'll be pressing those buttons a fair amount, too, if you're a traveler or an audiophile — or both. First, let's talk about the included amplifier; this is one of Blue's signatures, and it essentially bypasses the source's built-in amplifier, be it a phone or laptop or dedicated music player, for something that is likely more powerful. I say likely more, because while the 280mW amp is likely more powerful than your phone's powering these headphones, some audiophile devices, like the LG V20 or HTC 10, may sound fuller without the additional power. And the amplifier cuts down the battery by two-thirds, so it's better if you leave it off.

These are some of the warmest, most inviting wireless headphones I've used to date.

The Active Noise Cancelling is slightly more forgiving on the battery, but you'll likely only need it in bursts. The headphones themselves sound incredibly full and lush, thanks to the two 44mm drivers inside the cans, but Blue attempts to justify the headphones' $400 price by utilizing separate 30mm drivers for the ANC, which is, to my knowledge, unprecedented in this category. That accomplishes two things: it doesn't "paste over" the existing audio feed by using the same drivers; and it allows the ANC to operate independently, which improves the overall effectiveness. In practice, I didn't find the noise cancellation to be that much better than my current go-to ANC headphones, the Phiaton BT220 NC, but I have also yet to take them on a noisy airplane, and will update this review when I do.

Now let's get to the most important part, the sound. Though when connected to Bluetooth (the Satellites support the Apt-X codec, if you're interested) there is a slightly audible noise floor, once the music begins these are some of the warmest, most inviting wireless headphones I've used to date.

They're more accurate than the Bose QC35s, though not quite as boomy, and don't sound as accurate as the Sennheiser Momentum 2s, but they're certainly up there with some of the top choices in their class, especially with the amplifier turned on.

I do have a few gripes about the Satellites: they have no auto-off function, so for the many times when you take them off your head and inevitably forget to hold down the power button for three seconds to turn them off, you're going to come back to a pair of dead cans the next day. No big deal, but just something to keep in mind. As is the fact that the Satellites charge via Micro-USB, which isn't ideal in an office where I am trying to go all-in on USB-C.

Despite their size, the Satellites don't feel heavy or burdensome.

Finally — and this is my biggest issue — the Satellites will automatically connect to the last source it paired with, and will not allow another source to take it over. There is no grace period when turning them on either, like on most other Bluetooth headphones I've used, which means you actually have to disconnect them, or turn off the previous source, before pairing with a new one. Because I often go between my phone and my laptop, having to explicitly disconnect the one before engaging the other has proven immensely frustrating.

Foldable and easily stowed, the Satellites are Blue's best headphones to date, and aside from the small gripes, my favorite portable Bluetooth experience, too. At $399.99, they're on the same level as flagship headphones from Bose, Sony and Sennheiser, but I think they stand their ground.

See at Amazon

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