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2 weeks ago

Samsung's new Chromebook is a convertible with a stylus

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Ready for a Chromebook built for the Android apps era?

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Samsung made one of the first Chromebooks back in 2011, and has made a few different models over the years, but the new Chromebook Pro and Plus are making a big statement about Samsung's commitment to Chrome OS. Designed in conjunction with Google, these are the first Chromebooks to truly be designed for full hardware support of Android apps on Chrome OS.

The Chromebook Pro and Plus are full 360-degree convertible Chromebook, working in both the traditional notebook form factor or flipping around to work as a touchscreen tablet. Samsung made the device rounded all around, making it comfortable to hold in every orientation.

But convertible Chromebooks aren't a new thing, so what makes these different? Samsung built in the same accelerometers and gyroscopes you'd find in a smartphone, enabling the Chromebook Pro and Plus to interact fully with motion-controlled Android apps and games in a way that's simply not been possible before now. Want to play Asphalt 8 on your Chromebook? The Samsung Chromebook Pro can do it.

As this is Samsung's first Chromebook with touch support, Samsung did exactly what you would expect: they built in stylus support. The Chromebook Pro and Plus have a small silo on the right side in which you'll find what is essentially a Samsung S Pen stylus, just like you'd find on a Galaxy Note phone. Pop out the pen and a quick actions menu pops up from the bottom menu.

The cooperation with Google extends to the pen — Google's used machine learning from a corpus of anonymized handwriting and drawing to predict where your drawn line is going to go and reduce latency. There's no personalized profile of pen use, the handwriting corpus is supposedly "good enough that we don't really need it" and Google's argued that a personalized profile could lead to overcorrection and poorer predicition. This machine learning predictive pen use is supposed to offer a dramatic reduction in latency (faster than a Microsoft Surface Pro with the excellent Surface Pen, they say), but in our time with the Chromebook Pro the lag with the pen in handwriting was almost unbearable. But at least the fidelity of the results was quite fine and accurate.

Both versions of Samsung's new Chromebook are equipped with a 12.3-inch 2400x1600 LED touch display at a comfortable-as-a-tablet 3:2 aspect ratio, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of e.MMC SSD storage. They both are going fully all-in on USB-C, sporting a pair of the reversible USB connectors and a MicroSD card slot.

So what's different between the two? It's in the processors.

  • Samsung Chromebook Plus: hexa-core OP1 ARM processor (2x Cortex-A72 cores + 4x Cortex-A53 cores)
  • Samsung Chromebook Pro: dual-core 2.2GHz Intel Core M3 6Y30

The Chromebook Plus will be priced at $449 when it lands in February, while the Chromebook Pro will come later in Spring 2017 for an undisclosed but likely higher price.

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2 weeks ago

Amazon is building the next important OS, and Google can't keep up

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Alexa is an operating system, and that could mean trouble for Google.

Google made a fundamental mistake by launching Google Home two years after Amazon Echo, says Ben Thompson of Stratechery. Amazon's Echo and its growing lineup of first-party hardware, including the Tap and Dot, are less significant to the company's future than Alexa itself, the voice-enabled operating system that seems to be growing in reach and intelligence more quickly than any other.

The Echo created its own market: a voice-based personal assistant in the home. Crucially, the home was the one place in the entire world where smartphones were not necessarily the most convenient device, or touch the easiest input method: more often than not your smartphone is charging, and talking to a device doesn't carry the social baggage it might elsewhere.

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2 weeks ago

ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom joins the dual-camera train, adds a 5000 mAh battery for good measure

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ASUS heard cameras and batteries are a big deal right now.

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It's no surprise that two of the biggest things many people look for in a smartphone right now are camera quality and battery life. Photo quality has dramatically improved over the las two years, and manufacturers are trying new things to see what the most important next step is going to be.

In the process, many of these phones wind up in the 5-inch range with just enough battery to get you through a busy day. Sacrificing camera quality for battery life isn't fun, though, but if you look back at 2016 that's largely what happened.

ASUS seems to think they have the camera-focused phone with the least amount of compromise, and a big part of that experience is the 5000 mAh battery stuffed inside. Check out the new ZenFone 3 Zoom.

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2 weeks ago

Tango and Daydream finally coexist in a single phone thanks to the ASUS ZenFone AR

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Finally, Google's AR and VR vision in a single phone.

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Google's vision for augmented reality and virtual reality are built by separate teams with different goals, but the things they have in common are significant. First, despite not having massive user bases right now, Tango and Daydream have healthy lists of apps with high profile software exclusives.

Second, there are plenty of would be fans wondering if their next phone will support either of these platforms. The obvious answer for those eager to dive headfirst into VR and AR would be a single phone with both experiences onboard, but the first phone with Tango onboard was only built with AR in mind and would struggle to offer a quality Daydream experience.

Fortunately for those eager to be a part of Google's reality platforms, ASUS has stepped in with a single phone that handles both Daydream and Tango. Meet the ZenFone AR!

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2 weeks ago

The Ricoh R spherical camera is designed for 360-degree live streaming

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The Ricoh R offers 24-hours of 2K 360-degree streaming.

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Building on the success of the Theta, one of last year's best 360-degree cameras, Ricoh has announced the Ricoh R — a camera designed for long spherical live-streams.

Under the new "ruggedized" chassis are internals that mark an improvement on the predecessor in almost every way. The output stream is at 2K and 30 frames per second. The video can be stitched from the two fisheye lenses in real-time and use the EPF (Equirectangular Projection Format) standard for spherical streams. You can output the stream through HDMI or USB as well as stream directly to an SD card for offline use. For live-streaming, Ricoh says you'll be able to run a stream for a full 24-hours as long as you supply power.

While still not quite photo-realistic VR, it gets close. The Ricoh R should make for a great way to stream 360 videos without spending thousands of dollars.

Developer kits are expected to ship later in 2017.

See at Ricoh

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2 weeks ago

Grab a speedy charge in the car with this $4 charger!

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Update: This popular deal is back with a new coupon code. Use code YFZDDW52 for the savings!

Right now you can pick up Aukey's Quick Charge 2.0 car charger for just $4 at Amazon with coupon code YFZDDW52, a savings of $6. This Quick Charge 2.0 charger will ensure that whether you have a 10 minute or two hour commute you get as much of a charge on your phone as possible so you don't run out of battery during the day. The built-in safeguards will prevent any damage to your phone or tablet while charging it up to 75% faster than a standard charger.

At this price you may want to buy a couple of them to have around or to give as gifts. You'll want to ensure you have one in each car in your household so that everyone can stay powered up while on the go. Remember, you need coupon code YFZDDW52 for the full savings here.

See at Amazon

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2 weeks ago

Honor Magic hands-on: Huawei puts its design prowess on display

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Honor Magic

This hardware is exciting, and you aren't going to see it outside of China.

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Honor launched the sleek new Honor Magic in China just a few weeks ago, and though there are no plans for it to arrive in North America we had an opportunity to look at this really interesting phone at CES 2017.

The Magic is a completely separate device than the rest of the range of recent Honor releases, and that's immediately clear when you see it. The super-thin sculpted metal body with curved glass on both sides seems decidedly futuristic compared to its other designs. It initially gives the impression of a Galaxy S7 edge, but it's even more impressively thin and compact.

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2 weeks ago

Be resolute with these wallpapers!

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Happy New Year!

It's the beginning of the year, and that means millions upon millions of resolutions have been made — and probably broken — this week. In an effort to help you better yourself and your home screen, we have a selection of wallpapers to help remind you to remain resolute.

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2 weeks ago

Get an Eyeful of the New BlackBerry with MrMobile

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TCL has only kind of announced their new BlackBerry, as we don't have a name or any information about when and how it can be acquired, but we do have one thing: MrMobile's hands on preview. There's not a lot of information yet, but what we do have we're happy to share with you.

If you're like us and very interested in what the new BlackBerry has to offer, you'll want to check out this video. This short glimpse at what the future holds is sure to keep you engaged with the next step for BlackBerry.

Stay social, my friends

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2 weeks ago

LG's new webOS-powered refrigerator has Amazon Alexa voice control

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This will henceforth be known as the point when Amazon brought Alexa to everything.

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The battle over making average home appliances "smart" rages on, and LG just put an additional foot forward with its new InstaView smart refrigerator that integrates Amazon Alexa voice assistant control. The setup is simple: this is a big refrigerator with a huge portrait-oriented 29-inch display, and while the base operating system is webOS the smarts all come from Amazon's Alexa.

The experience is entirely the same as using an Amazon Echo, so you don't have any drop-off in features when you move the intelligence to the fridge. So you can simply ask your fridge to answer questions, tell you about the weather and yes even play music and audiobooks — though LG isn't making any claims about how good the speaker system is on the refrigerator.

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2 weeks ago

Mercury gives us reasons to be hopeful about BlackBerry in 2017

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It's time to pay attention to BlackBerry — again.

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Talk about déjà vu: I just finished handling a pre-production version of the "Mercury" smartphone by BlackBerry. This thing is a definite blast from the past, though it doesn't feel antiquated. Instead, it feels like the next generation of BlackBerry — essentially what we had hoped the Priv would be all along.

One thing is for certain: TCL is committed to reviving the BlackBerry brand in North America. In addition to giving us a peek at what's on the horizon, the company's president offered a road map of how it plans to proceed in reviving the brand over the next few years. I left the meeting feeling particularly optimistic about BlackBerry's future — the first time in five years. Here's why you might want to start paying attention again.

The next phone is truly a BlackBerry

Although the Priv was an impressive attempt on BlackBerry's part to establish itself as an Android brand, it didn't feel like a BlackBerry precisely because it was trying to be something else entirely.

The Mercury feels like fan service to BlackBerry's history.

Conversely, the Mercury feels like fan service to BlackBerry's design language. Rather than bundle BlackBerry apps and services onto an Alcatel device — as was the case with the DTEK50 and DTEK60 — the Mercury is simply a BlackBerry in modern clothing.

Unfortunately, I didn't get much time with the software installed on the Mercury because it wasn't finalized. But BlackBerry is taking its Hub in a positive direction. And if it adds in a few software and app exclusives to pair with this modern take on its own design, it may just convince the old fans to come back.

Better carrier partnerships

Steve Cistulli, the president of TCL — which now operates BlackBerry's smartphone hardware business in addition to building devices under the Alcatel name — walked us through his plans for the brand over the next few years. He believes that what TCL needs to do first and foremost is re-stabilize BlackBerry's business. And to do so, it needs to re-establish its relationships with the North American carriers. "I think what [we did with] Alcatel is a testimony that we have the ability to put BlackBerry handsets in that upward direction," he said. "We need to make sure the carriers understand what the [BlackBerry plan] looks like in the future years."

Cistulli wouldn't say which of the carriers the company is courting, but he did mention that this year would be primarily focused on "creating a portfolio for 2019."

It's still a major enterprise player

There is an enterprise waiting to be rejuvenated.

BlackBerry's biggest selling point during its hey-day (and to be fair, this enterprise management business is still strong) was its ability to play particularly well with company policies. TCL plans to leverage that past by building on it for the future. "We intend to use all that we've had with Alcatel to make BlackBerry a true competitor to Apple and Samsung," said Cistulli. "If we can make an end solution in the industry that is best in class in all regards … and then take what we do so well and put that on top of it — which is the efficient creation, manufacturing, distribution, and after-market care of a device — then you have a true win-win situation. "

Plus, added Cistulli, since the enterprise refresh cycle is so much longer than the consumer cycle, there is already an "enterprise waiting to be rejuvenated."

With the Mercury, the BlackBerry brand definitely has a phone it can ride into 2017 with that could spark that rejuvenation.

More: Hands-on with the BlackBerry 'Mercury'

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2 weeks ago

BlackBerry announces the 'Mercury' without actually confirming anything, including its name

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BlackBerry Mercury

Every company takes to launching phones a bit differently.

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BlackBerry chose the massive CES trade show to make an official announcement of its long-rumored new Android smartphone with a hardware keyboard. But in a rather awkward situation, it's keeping many of the details associated with the phone a secret for a while longer.

So even though we're now seeing the phone, and know that it will be released to consumers relatively soon, we don't know its specs, price or new features. The funniest bit about the whole announcement is that BlackBerry isn't even revealing the name of the phone at this time — instead simply referring to it as "the phone everyone has been calling Mercury."

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2 weeks ago

BlackBerry 'Mercury' hands-on: Riding into 2017 on a phone with no name

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BlackBerry Mercury

The BlackBerry brand continues to get much-needed TLC from its new owner TCL.

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Under the new direction of TCL, BlackBerry's smartphone business is poised for a relative revival. It's no big revelation to say that BlackBerry's market share and mind share are nowhere near what they were in its prime, but at CES 2017 BlackBerry is hoping to kickstart a new direction by announcing a new phone.

And even though the company won't actually tell us the specs, price, features, launch date or even the official name, many will recognize this smartphone as the rumored BlackBerry "Mercury." So in lieu of a proper name, that's what we're calling it. The Mercury is real, that much has been established now — it's a solid metal phone that fits the overall size mold of a modern slab smartphone, but manages to fit in a full hardware keyboard on the bottom without a Priv-like slider.

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2 weeks ago

5 Best Ways To Use Your Amazon Echo

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Amazon Echo can make your life easier in innumerable ways.

Millions of people bought an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot for their homes in 2016 — and maybe you were one of them! Thanks to the growing number of skills available for Alexa, Amazon's voice-controlled AI assistant, you can make use of Amazon Echo countless different ways in different rooms in your house.

In fact, thanks to the way you can set up multiple Amazon Echo and Echo Dots throughout a house, you might be inspired to get a Dot or two for more coverage throughout your home. Here's some of our favorite ways to use Alexa to make life easier at home.

See at Amazon

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2 weeks ago

BlackBerry launches a more secure software platform for autonomous cars

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QNX SDP 7.0 is BlackBerry's 'most advanced and secure' embedded platform for autonomous cars.

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In the lead up to CES 2017, BlackBerry QNX let it be known the show would be big for them and they're already off to great start, having now announced what they're calling their "most advanced and secure embedded software platform for autonomous drive and connected cars," also known as QNX SDP 7.0.

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