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2 days ago

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 vs. ASUS Chromebook Flip: Which one is better for productivity?

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Tthe Galaxy Tab S3 and the ASUS Chromebook Flip are exceptional as productivity machines. But one is better for productivity.

I've always been particularly dubious about whether a tablet could fulfill all my productivity needs. And that's why I purchased an ASUS Chromebook Flip: to write copy and edit photos, and then upload all that to the internet. I need to be able to do this quickly and efficiently, which is possible on Chrome OS.

I'd hoped the Galaxy Tab S3 could have shattered those preconceived notions I had about tablets since it comes bundled with a ubiquitous pressure sensitive stylus, the S Pen. But after a week with it as my secondary productivity machine, I went crawling back to my Chromebook. There are still some elements of the Android tablet interface that make it clunky to use for work, and even though Samsung's S Pen makes the Tab S3 such a pleasant experience, it's not enough that I could trust it out on the road as my only productivity device.

Scrawling is nice, but typing is faster

Typing is faster than writing.

I'd much prefer to type on the Chromebook Flip than scrawl out my notes with the Tab S3.

The Galaxy Tab S3's S Pen is incredibly convincing. It's easy to use, to wield, and to write with. You can use it to crop parts of the screen as you need to save a screenshot, or draw on parts of the screen and save that as a diagram. You can even write on the screen while it's off — sort of — and that's my favorite feature because I'm constantly scrawling throughout the day. I can even launch a new Google Keep post-it to scribble down what I need — another great feature to have, particularly if you're furiously jotting down shorthand.

But you don't need to pay the money that's required of the Tab S3 to get that sort of functionality from a tablet-like device. The Chromebook Flip flips into a tablet, which you can then use with a cheap stylus for diagram drawing. It's not as good at handwriting as the S Pen, but it is better for typing marathons; its keyboard is soft and velvety, and more comfortable to use compared to the constricted layout that's offered with the Tab S3's optional $130 keyboard.

See at Amazon

Apps are better with a desktop

The desktop can help you get more done.

The desktop can help you get more done.

Apps are a major part of the productivity realm, and thankfully, many companies have embraced the life of the mobile worker. You can find most of the Microsoft Office suite in the Google Play Store, for instance, as well as various titles from Adobe's camp. There are also apps for other services you might need for work, like VPN clients, chat applications, and collaborative boards. Since Chrome OS has adopted Android apps, these suites have also become available to the Chromebook ecosystem, though many of them also sport companion browser apps.

The Chromebook can use Android apps; Android tablets don't have the flexibility of Chrome apps.

Using Android and Chromebook apps interchangeably have made me realize that I have an easier time flipping between apps on Chrome OS not only because I have a choice between the app and the web app, but there's a desktop available for sprawling out that work. I can spread out windows and place them around as I need them to compare information between apps. I can also easily drag and drop between apps and services without having to tap a multitasking button and sifting between the apps I'm using. And though the Tab S3 employs Nougat's excellent multi-window feature, having to set up two apps side-by-side while up against a deadline is a major stressor. I can move faster on a Chromebook.

Dealing with photos

Photos aren't easy to edit on the Tab S3.

RAW photos aren't easy to manage on the Tab S3.

I'm sticking to the Chromebook Flip, primarily because it can handle a massive batch of those RAW files where the Tab S3 can't.

Neither the Galaxy Tab S3 nor the Chromebook Flip are particularly outstanding at importing a massive batch of RAW photos, but I've found that it's easier to develop a method to the madness with Chrome OS. I set up a virtual "My Documents" folder where I can store RAW files and import only the ones I need into an editing app like Polar. I also appreciate the physical sensation of dragging and dropping files around, which is possible on Chrome OS — even though the trackpad on the Chromebook Flip isn't very good.

I also tend to use a microSD card in an adapter in my DSLR, so that I can mount the card inside the Chromebook. I can do the same with the Galaxy Tab S3 and its expansion slot, but the way that Android handles SD cards means that some apps won't accept the methods of storage, and so I can't access those files or open a batch of them in an editing app.

Which is it? The Chromebook

Which one to use?

Which one to adopt for work?

I worry for my future as I'm realizing that I may be the last generation that's used to a desktop-style environment; that relies on that drag-and-drop sensation in our digital lives. Is my inability to catch on to the Tab S3's tablet interface a true folly of Android's? Or is it that I'm just not used to interface's mechanisms because that's not what I've been conditioned to use?

The answer to that lies in another story, for another time. For now, I'm sticking to the Chromebook Flip as the secondary work machine, primarily because it can handle a massive batch of those RAW files where the Tab S3 can't. Multitasking between windows is easier, too, and though the Chromebook doesn't play as nicely with a stylus, I hardly found myself missing the S Pen after putting it down.

Everyone has different needs, which is what makes the variety of technology that's available so exciting for the rest of us. My experience shouldn't deter you if you're looking to adopt a tablet-only lifestyle, and the Tab S3's S Pen capabilities may be worth the price for you. If you're an artist or a creative type who needs to physically write to be prolific, you're likely to have a better experience with Samsung's tablet than with a convertible Chromebook and some after-market stylus.

See Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 at Amazon See ASUS Chromebook Flip at Amazon

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2 days ago

How to set up Google Photos

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Never lose a photo again, once you've set up Google Photos.

Having access to all of your photos at a swipe is kind of like living the dream, at least for many photographers it is. If you're snap-happy, then you owe it to yourself to make sure that you never lose another photo again with Google Photos. This service will back up, store, and organize your photos so that as soon as you capture that moment it's protected from accidental deletion when your phone runs out of storage space. Getting everything set up is a quick process, provided you already have a Google account, and in many cases comes preloaded on your phone.

Why use Google Photos?

While we may think of our phones as a repository for our entire lives, they have finite storage space. When you broach that limit, having your photos backed up means that you can delete them off of your phone without losing them entirely. Likewise, if your phone suffers a tragic fall, or swim in the pool, and doesn't survive, your photos will.

By saving and uploading your photos to a personal cloud, you can share them and access them from whatever device you like. For parents especially this service becomes invaluable in ensuring that you get to keep every memory in technicolor.

Step by step instructions for setting up Google Photos

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Sign in to your Google account.
  3. Choose desired quality setting.

  4. Wait for your Photos to sync, and get started!

Step by step instructions for choosing device folders

  1. Open Google Photos
  2. Tap the overflow icon that looks like 3 lines in the upper left corner of your screen
  3. Tap the gear icon to open Settings

  4. Tap the first option, Back up and sync
  5. Tap Back up device folders
  6. Tap the toggle to choose which folders are backed up to Google Photos

Step by step instructions for choosing image upgrade quality

When setting up your Google Photos account, you also have a choice in your image upload quality. There are two options open to you, high quality, or original quality. Choosing high quality will score you unlimited storage, with photos stored at 16MP and videos stored at 1080p. Choosing original quality will count against your Google account storage, but all photos and videos are stored at the quality you shot them — including RAW files. This especially handy if you're shooting in resolutions higher than 16MP, or in RAW.

It's also worth noting that Pixel users get free storage of all photos and videos in original quality, without it counting against your Google account storage.

Choose your image quality while setting up Google Photos

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Follow the directions to set up an account.
  3. When the Back up and sync page appears tap on change settings.
  4. Choose between original and high quality for your uploads.

Change your image quality in the settings

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap on the overflow icon that looks like 3 horizontal lines in the upper left corner.
  3. Tap on Settings

  4. Tap on Back up and sync.
  5. Tap on Upload size.
  6. Choose your image quality to upload.

Do you use Google Photos to save all of the shots on your camera roll? Is there a part of setting up Google Photos that we missed? Do you still have questions about getting Google Photos set up and ready to go? Be sure to drop us a comment below and let us know all about it!

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2 days ago

Qualcomm licensing blocked Samsung from selling Exynos chips

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Exynos

Deal dating back to 1993 is reportedly why we're not seeing more non-Samsung phones running Exynos.

South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has claimed that Qualcomm blocked Samsung from selling its own Exynos processors to other manufacturers through a patent licensing deal, ZDNet reports.

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3 days ago

Best Replacement Watch Bands for Samsung Gear S3

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Gear S3 Frontier and Gear S3 Classic

What are the best third-party watch bands for Samsung Gear S3?

The Samsung Gear S3 is one of our favorite smartwatches, and a great alternative to many of the Android Wear watches out there. The Gear S3 supports standard 22mm watch bands, making it really easy to upgrade with something new.

Here are a few of the best third-party watch bands to consider once you pick up your brand new Samsung Gear S3!

ArtStyle nylon strap

ArtStyle nylon strap

Keep things simple, fun, and functional with the ArtStyle watch band made from a sturdy nylon material and a durable metal buckle! The ArtStyle nylon strap is easily adjustable and is hypoallergenic, making it the perfect band to wear if you have sensitive skin. The material is also breathable and waterproof on top of being extremely comfortable to wear day-to-day.

On top of the ArtStyle's practical design, the watch strap comes in a ton of different, bright colors, including red, blue/yellow, black, black/gray, navy blue, gray, khaki, orange, army green, black/blue, black/green/red, black/gray/blue, black/gray/orange, black/gray/green, black/red.

See at Amazon

Rerii leather band

Rerii leather band

There's nothing more simple and stylish than a classic leather watch band, and Rerii nails it with their affordable 22mm leather band that the Samsung Gear S3! Made from a high quality and sturdy yet lightweight and soft leather, the Rerii watch band comes with an easy-to-buckle stainless steel clasp, making it the perfect day-to-day band. Unlike some other watch straps, the Rerii's design is super simple and void of all logos, so it's perfect for people who want a classic-looking smartwatch accessory.

The Rerii leather band also comes in a number of vibrant, eye-catching colors, like black, brown, coffee, black with white stitching, brown with white stitching, or coffee with white stitching.

See at Amazon

TRUMiRR Milanese stainless steel band

TRUMiRR Milanese stainless steel band

The Milanese look has been a staple with traditional watch designs for decades, so incorporating the TRUMiRR Milanese stainless steel band might be the perfect fit if that's the particular style you're after. This 22mm watch band is designed with a mesh, woven, stainless steel wire, and is adjustable for a variety of wrist sizes, so you never have to be uncomfortable while sporting your Samsung Gear S3.

To attach and detach your watch band, all you need to do is release a small spring bar, minimizing annoying tools. The TRUMiRR may not come in a ton of colors, but it does come in a shiny silver or a clean, classic black design.

See at Amazon

Barton silicone band

Barton silicone band

After garnishing its fair share of positive reviews online and coupled with an easy-release design, vibrant colors, comfortable feel, and much more, the Barton silicone band is a great option to check out while you're customizing your Samsung Gear S3. The Barton silicone watch band is designed with a textured back, making the slipping and sliding of most smooth silicone bands a thing of the past. The silicone design also makes it a great tool for working out, as you can easily remove and wash it if it starts to look dirty or stink.

To change your watch band, simply turn the band over and flip the switch — no tools are required! You can pick your Barton band from a number of vibrant colors, including black, white, turquoise, forest green, brown, gray, burgundy, yellow, navy blue, orange, peach, dark gray, and baby blue.

See at Amazon

Ritche stainless steel watch band

Ritche stainless steel watch band

The Ritche 22mm stainless steel watch band is an affordable, high quality strap that keeps your Samsung Gear S3 looking classic and clean without any clutter or useless accents of other watch bands. Unlike some other straps, the Ritche cannot be adjusted to fit individual wrists with a simple tightening system; rather, users will have to remove the links near the band's clasps in order to make the stainless steel Samsung Gear S3 accessory smaller.

To remove the Ritche, you will have to use a small tool which comes with the band. The Ritche only comes in one color, silver, but if you're looking for a watch with a similar style in a different color, then we suggest taking a peek at the Vetoo.

See at Amazon

Your pick?

Is there a third-party watch band that you think would be perfect for the Samsung Gear S3? Drop a link in the comments with a brief description of why you like it so that others can check it out as well!

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3 days ago

From the Editor's Desk: Is Android O a boring release?

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Android O logo

The lack of new whizbang user-facing features in O is a sign of Android's maturity, but that doesn't mean we won't see big surprises for non-phone devices.

The big Android story of the week was Android O. Based on what we know about O so far, it would appear to be one of those Android releases, like KitKat or Marshmallow that tunes things up, adds under-the-hood enhancements and builds on already solid foundations.

There are important features for developers, like background app limits, which could significantly improve Android battery life. And new things for users, like native app badge support (finally!) and notification channels. But on the whole, normal Android owners could be forgiven for not really caring about O just yet. That's understandable. Few phones will get the update this year, if the OS's track record is any indicator.

Instead, Android O is what you'll see for the first time next year on your Galaxy S9 or LG G7 or Huawei P11.

The fact that we're not seeing any huge, sweeping user-facing changes since Nougat speaks to a couple of things. First, Android is a mature, stable OS, and Google isn't tearing anything down and rebuilding it just for the sake of novelty. Despite ongoing issues moving the billion-plus ecosystem off older OS versions, Android is working pretty well. Even longstanding security weaknesses are starting to be addressed.

That's not to say Android is going to stand still. O is still a very important release for developers, which is why they're getting an early look at what's coming. Eventually it'll be time to shake things up — with a big new release more akin to the changes of ICS or Lollipop, but that time hasn't yet arrived.

Read this excellent Jerrytorial to learn how Google might significantly change things up Android P and beyond, with the new Fuschia kernel.

The O Preview is important for developers, with more user-facing features likely to break cover at I/O.

It's also worth pointing out that what we have in this very first developer preview isn't anything close to a final, stable build. Dave Burke himself says in this blog post that new features are coming, and the likely venue for that is Google I/O this May.

Tablets are going to be a big piece of the puzzle. Google has struggled with tablets and convertibles, a category which fits between two current areas of strength — smartphones and Chromebooks. This is the weird, hard-to-define space that the rumored Andromeda OS, a new thing combining parts of Android and Chrome, may live. As the Pixel C heads towards unsupported status for new OS updates (in November 2017), Google essentially has to release a new tablet this year. It's going to be very interesting to see what form that takes, and I suspect the parts of Android O that we haven't yet seen could form a major part of that.

Aside from all that, the smartphone side of things will continue to tick along, in a year when phone hardware finally becomes interesting again. If recent Galaxy S8 leaks are any indicator, this next round of flagships will look and feel more futuristic than ever — an advance in smartphone design that comes along only once every few years.

So even if Android O isn't the most exciting release ever for phones, there's still plenty to look forward to.

Other odds and ends for a working Sunday:

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3 days ago

Best Chrome extensions you didn't know about but should be using

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10 Chrome extensions you didn't know existed but should be using

What are the best Chrome extensions I should be using?

Update 24 March 2017: We've refreshed this list to ensure you're kept up to the latest when it comes to the best Chrome extensions you should be using.

The amount of time most people spend browsing the internet continues to rise each year, and Google's Chrome browser attempts to be the most comfortable and versatile browser out there. To aid in its quest, Google allows for developers to market small software extensions that modify and (in most cases) ameliorate your browsing experience. Here are 10 Chrome extensions you didn't know about but should be using.

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3 days ago

Anonymously surf the web across all your devices for only $60

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Privacy is everything nowadays. It's hotly debated online, in political forums, and huge corporations are regularly selling our information so that other corporations can, in turn, make money off of us as well. A lot of folks are OK with that and view it as "just the way the world works" and other folks are tinfoil and don't even have a landline telephone. But you don't have to belong to either extreme camp — you can meet privacy and online freedom right in the middle.

Subscribe to Private Internet Access for $60 Learn more

What you need is a VPN or "virtual private network". A VPN helps you browse the web anonymously by masking your online identity, thus preventing data mining, blocking ads and malware, cloaks your IP address, and more. In an age where identity theft, cloud leaks, and more are made easier thanks to the internet, you can protect yourself and feel at ease online.

The Private Internet Access VPN allows you to use up to five devices at once without limiting bandwidth so that you and the rest of your family can browse the internet in anonymity. This type of service is usually $166 for a two-year subscription, but through Android Central Digital Offers, you can subscribe for $59.95, a savings of 63%. This VPN is perfect if you worry about your online privacy or if you like to view content from all over the world, since it bypasses censorship filters, freeing your from geographic filters. And, if the VPN connection is unexpectedly terminated, you can flip off your internet connection with a killswitch, so that you're not left open to any type of online attack.

If you hate online ads and you prefer your online identity and personal information to remain a secret, then a VPN is just what you need. Viewing unrestricted content from around the world is a bonus! You could end up spending hundreds on a VPN, especially if you're signing up for a multi-year period, but at Android Central Digital Offers, you can subscribe to Private Internet Access for only $59.95 and browse safely, securely, and most importantly: anonymously.

Subscribe to Private Internet Access for $60 Learn more

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3 days ago

Make your next smartphone repair easy with this $29.87 toolkit today!

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Ever try to do an at-home repair on your phone or tablet only to realize that you don't have the right tools? Don't put yourself in that position again, and instead pick up iFixit's 64 bit driver kit to ensure that you have the right tools for your upcoming repairs. Right now you can pick up this kit for just $29.87.

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4 days ago

An Android O deep dive [#acpodcast]

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Audio-only stream below

There's a lot to say about Android O, so we invited an expert to help us navigate what's new!

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4 days ago

Google Talk is dead, Hangouts is the new Slack, Project Fi users are screwed and everyone hates Allo

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It is impossible to go seven or more days without some messaging news from Google.

Google seems to understand that it needs to pare its messenger story down to a few apps that cover everyone's needs (so it's easier for people to ignore them all and use WhatsApp anyway). And, to some extent, that's what is happening, but everything feels so chaotic and is changing before replacements are ready.

It just feels like Google has gone off the deep end.

Some people use the word confusing to describe Google's strategy here, but no matter what words are used it all still feels rushed — something you would expect from amateurs instead of one of the biggest tech companies in the world. It just feels like Google has gone off the deep end.

I'm going to take responsibility for what every blogger or journalist has done wrong here because some of the confusion is our fault. It's easy (and fun) to write about seemingly random changes and follow with a jab at Google for doing them. But if you break things down you can guess at Google's strategy.

  • Hangouts is now a proper enterprise tool. Or at least it will be. Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat sound like, together, a potential Slack replacement for every company that uses Google Docs. Seeing what it will (hopefully) be capable of, I imagine Mobile Nations is going to give it a spin because we are a Google Docs shop.
  • Google Talk is dead. It needed to die so the places it lives can be used for Hangouts Chat. Nobody uses the Google Talk app on their phone or tablet, and while having it tied to Gmail is great, having Hangouts Chat there is better for the people who live in Gmail all day. They are the people who will use Hangouts Chat to talk to their demanding boss from Toronto (Ed note: Damnit, Jerry). Or something.
  • Allo is Google's app for people who don't want to use SMS. And that is a lot of people. I had hoped Google would use Allo and Duo to provide an iMessage-like experience, but instead, it's the Mountain View version of WhatsApp. It's also a really good app, but nobody wants to use it because WhatsApp has a gazillion more users. Had Google worked things out and brought Allo to us before WhatsApp exploded, things may be different.
  • Duo is Google's video calling app. It's a really nice app with a fatal flaw: you can't set up a group call. A lot of work went into making things easy and delivering the best video feed possible for every level of bandwidth, but Hangouts used to let 15 people get together and look at each other. We are not likely to forget that and will complain instead of using Duo, or at least complain while using it. I know I will. Especially when I use Hangouts Meet for work stuff and can't use it for anything else unless I get a Google Apps account or am invited to a Hangout by someone with a Gapps account. WTF, Google?
  • Android Messages is one thing Google is doing right. Too bad it depends on your carrier to also do it right, and that will take forever and an act of God because your carrier wants your friends to switch to it rather than make its features available to users on another provider. I wish Google was working on some way for people using Android Messages to have a great IM experience with each other without using SMS to do it. But, technically, they have Allo for that.
  • Google Voice has been improved so it's a nicer experience for when you want to send texts from your tablet or use the same number on more than one phone. Unless you use Project Fi. Then you're screwed. Also, why is there no screw emoji? They have "ear of Maize" so it will have to do. 🌽
  • Supersonic exists to give us one more thing to wonder about and for Russell Holly to talk to himself and the Supersonic help chat bot.

Now for the big question: How the hell do you make all these changes without pissing everyone off and confusing the hell out of a person who just bought their first Android phone and wants a replacement for iMessage?

This stuff is hard, and the way Google is doing it makes it seem even harder.

You don't. That means you probably should be changing everything all at once.

I won't pretend that I would be a good businessman. I have a hard time deciding what side to get with my steak or what socks to wear. I imagine some really smart people in expensive suits sitting at a giant mahogany table using slides and big words to make these decisions, but then I see them in action and realize it could just as easily be a bunch of folks who tumbled out of a clown car. I have no idea what Google is thinking, and it's kind of hard to assume they have a comprehensive plan.

Google I/O is coming. It would be a great time for someone to explain something. If they do, we'll tell you all about it. And if they don't we'll keep scratching our heads and guessing at what they have planned.

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4 days ago

Save an additional 25% on these Digital Offers thanks to our friends at Thrifter!

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4 days ago

1Password gives an early look at one of Android O's best features

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Android O is bringing a new way for password managers and other apps to autofill information. Here's how it works.

Whenever Google introduces a new version of Android, there's always a silent disclaimer to go along with it: few of these features will be available until developers add them to their apps. Well, one developer hasn't wasted much time showing what its implementation of one major O feature will look like: AgileBits, Toronto-based creator of popular password manager, 1Password, has uploaded a proof-of-concept showing off the new Autofill API.

Video Playerhttps://blog.agilebits.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/autofill-demo.mp400:0500:0000:16Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.

From 1Password's blog:

As you can see in the video, after navigating to the login page in the Twitter app, the Autofill Framework notified 1Password that there were some fields that could be filled. 1Password then responded by letting the Autofill Framework know it recognized those fields as a login form, but that it needed to be unlocked first. I was then prompted to unlock 1Password if I wanted to continue.

After I unlocked 1Password with my fingerprint, my example Twitter credentials were displayed in a dropdown provided by the Autofill Framework and automatically filled when I tapped on them.

It really does seem that simple, and I'm grateful, because auto-filling is one of the best features in 1Password today, but it relies on an accessibility hack that most people won't be willing to go through. Once O is released (and widely-available, natch) such a feature will be a breeze to activate.

Everything you need to know about Android O

Android O

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4 days ago

Moto G5 Plus review: Great value in a tacky shell

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Everyone wants the biggest, best, brightest phone to show off in front of their friends (and enemies). Usually, that means the biggest price tag. Enter the Moto G5 Plus, a great smartphone under $300 that performs amazingly well (even if it doesn't look all that great).

I'm Michael Fisher, AKA MrMobile, and I have sometimes found myself reviewing phones twice the price of this that I like half as much. This Moto G5 Plus review should put your mind at ease if you're interested in saving money and having a great phone. Watch it and see exactly what I mean.

The Moto G5 Plus is THE phone for the affordability-minded consumer. Check out Android Central's hands-on with the Moto G5 Plus and all of Android Central's coverage of the Moto G5 and G5 Plus.

Stay social, my friends

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4 days ago

Best Drones Under $300

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Best drones for under $300

You don't need to break the bank to buy a fun, reliable drone.

Updated March 25: Added the Holy Stone Predator and updated copy regarding Canada's new drone regulations.

If you're looking to buy your first drone, whether for racing or just for the fun of it, searching for the top-rated drones might result in sticker shock. Sure, the DJI Inspire 1 looks AMAZING, but at nearly $3,000, it's not worth the investment if you're a novice hobbyist.

If you're a beginner, you'll want a drone that's easy enough to fly to get a handle on everything but also tough enough to survive a crash caused by human error or technical malfunction. Fortunately, there are a number of great drone options out there for under $300. They may include cameras (of lesser-quality, of course) and first-person view (FPV) flying options, as well as bumpers to protect the blades and hardware while you're still learning the basics. Then, once you're confident in your skills as a drone pilot, you can decide whether to upgrade to a more expensive, professional drone.

Three of these drones fall below both the FAA requirements for registration which only costs $5 per aircraft and will save you from dealing with fines (or worse) if the authorities catch you flying an unregistered drone. The same three are also light enough to avoid falling under Canada's new restrictive drone laws, so you'll be able to fly them in your local park without setting yourself up to be fined.

Aukey Black Sparrow

The Aukey Black Sparrow offers a great value for anyone looking to take control of a full-sized drone for under $100. Some assembly is required out of the box, as you'll need to install the landing gear and blade guards with the included screwdriver. You'll also need to charge the built-in battery for a few hours before it's ready to fly.

Once it is, you'll get an average of 10 minutes of flight time. The included 2.4 Ghz controller all plastic, but capable with switches for calibrating the drone and switching to headless mode for easier controls. It allows for over 1000 ft of range, and the bright LEDs on the bottom also make night flying an option. You definitely need to take this drone out to a wide open field and fly it far away from buildings, people and powerlines. That's sound advice for flying any drone, but especially for the Black Sparrow — due to its combined power and lightweight, you don't want to lose control of it and cause damage or injury. The on-board 6-axis gyro helps to keep the drone stable in flight — a must-have feature for novice flyers — but can be difficult to control in windy conditions.

While the Black Sparrow doesn't come with a camera, you'll notice a video port and threads for mounting a camera attachment in the bottom. A camera accessory is not currently available, but is featured in the user manual as an optional upgrade.

See at Amazon

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 21.3" x 21.3" x 6"
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs
  • Camera: No
  • Average flight time: 10 minutes
  • FAA registration required?: Yes

Microdrone 3.0

Microdrone 3.0

The MicroDrone 3.0 raised over $3 million on IndieGoGo and, like the name suggests, is the smallest drone on this list, but don't let its small size fool you. This is a fully-capable drone with a ton of features jam-packed into a small, minimalist package.

Included in the full set combo, now available from Amazon, you get the drone, a 2.4 GHz handset, propeller guards, four replacement blades, four blades for inverted flying, the Wi-Fi Camera module, a smartphone holder that attaches to the handset, as well as a VR headset that holds most smartphones for FPV flying. Basically, it's everything you need to get started.

It's a capable flyer with three control modes (slow, fast, and insane), as well as a toggle switch for stunt mode, which lets you perform impressive flips and rolls. The camera literally snaps on in a second thanks to proprietary magnets that also deliver power to the camera. Connect your phone to the camera's Wi-Fi and control and record video through the Microdrone app.

Note that the folks behind the Microdrone are still working to fulfill their crowdfunding backers first, so you'll probably end up having to wait some time before it arrives.

See at Amazon

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 5.7" x 5.7" x 1.9"
  • Weight: .12 lbs (56 g) without camera, .16 lbs (71 g) with camera
  • Camera: Yes — removable, shoots 720 x 1080 HD at 30 FPS
  • Average flight time: 10 minutes (without camera)
  • FAA registration required?: No

Syma X8G

Syma X8G

This is another great option for beginners. It flies well right out of the box with a gradual learning curve and a build that's reportedly strong enough to survive multiple crashes into trees. It's also the biggest drone on the list and comes with the best camera with the ability to swap in a GoPro.

You'll get up to eight minutes of flight time on a full battery charge, but you'll want to invest in multiple batteries because it takes up to 3 hours to charge the 2000mAh battery, which is by far the biggest drawback for this drone. Otherwise, given the build, size, and price, this is a fantastic option for a novice drone pilot or someone looking to get sweet aerial shots on the cheap.

See at Amazon

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 19.7" x 19.7" x 7.5"
  • Weight: 3.4 lbs
  • Camera: Yes — removable, 8 MP, 120p and 1080p video quality. Also compatible with GoPro cameras
  • Average flight time: 5-8 minutes
  • FAA registration required?: Yes

Walkera Runner 250

Walkera Runner 250

If you're interested in the emerging world of drone racing, this would be the drone to start with — but it's not recommended for beginners. Made from lightweight carbon fiber, it's built to take a licking and keep on ticking. It doesn't look as pretty as the other drones on this list, but again, this one is built for speed over style and sure delivers on that front.

The Runner 250 is capable of going extremely fast — up to 24 miles per hour — while still offering good control with up to 1000 meters of range. Flying at those speeds, you'll want to make sure the battery is well secured, as it's been reported to come loose and cut power to the camera after major crashes. Everything comes assembled in the box, along with a tool set for making repairs as needed. Happy racing!

See at Amazon

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 18.5" x 11.3" x 5.2"
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs
  • Camera: Yes (800TVL built-in)
  • Average flight time: 12-15 minutes
  • FAA registration required?: Yes

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition

Parrot is a trusted name in drones, and the AR 2.0 is a fantastic entry point for someone interested in the hobby.

Unlike other drones on this list, this one is controlled strictly via a Wi-Fi connection with your smartphone; no handset is included. Simply download the Parrot control app to your phone and you're able to control and record video in 720p. There's also an optional Director Mode available for purchase within the app that allows you to set up cinematic shots if you fancy yourself an amateur filmmaker. There's even a USB plug in the base of the drone so you can record video straight to a removable drive.

The built-in sensors and navigation system allow the AR 2.0 to maintain stability, even in winds gusting up to 15 miles per hour, so you shouldn't lose control of your drone on a windy day. Even if you do, simply attach the foam blade protectors to help take the brunt of any crashes. Oh, and the Elite Edition means it comes styled in your choice of camo: jungle, desert, or snow.

See at Amazon

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 23" x 23" x 5"
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • Camera: Yes — 720p HD video
  • Average flight time: 11 minutes
  • FAA registration required?: Yes

LaTrax Alias Quadcopter

LaTrax Alias Quadcopter

This one is a fine option for beginners and experts alike. Built with a solid, molded composite frame, this thing is both rugged and extremely lightweight.

Including a 2.4 GHz handset for controls, this thing is built for speed and stunting. There's no camera or options, so if that's an important feature for you, you'll have to look elsewhere. It does come with multiple flying modes, from easy mode that keeps the speed in check, to a full manual mode that puts you in full control of stabilization and everything.

While the LaTrax Alias lacks features found in other options on this list, the build design and price make this a great option for someone looking for something fast, cheap, and fun to fly.

See at Amazon

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 12" x 12" x 1.6"
  • Weight: .22 lbs (100g)
  • Camera: No
  • Average flight time: 10 minutes
  • FAA registration required?: No

Holy Stone Predator

Holy Stone Predator

If you're brand-spanking new to drones and need a cheap drone to practice that avoids FAA registration or Canada's new drone laws, the Holy Stone Predator is a great option. It comes with its own controller that simple enough for beginners to pick up and fly, and is capable of pulling off stunts and withstanding light winds for outdoor flights. But the real bonus here is the size. It's small enough to allow for practice indoors if you've got the space. A fully-charged battery supplies six minutes of flight time; with replacement batteries really cheap and easy to swap in and out, this is a cheap drone with affordable accessories.

See at Amazon

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 5.3" x 1.6" x 5.3"
  • Weight: 1.42 ounces (42g)
  • Camera: No
  • Average flight time: 6 minutes
  • FAA registration required?: No

What did we miss?

Are you a drone enthusiast? Got any experience with the drones we've listed here? Got a suggestion for one that we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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4 days ago

Virtual Virtual Reality: It's time to rebel against our AI Overlords!

The future has been automated leaving only Activitude employing Artisinal Humans to AI clients. You, are one of those Humans.

The future is bright, clean, Virtual, and nearly entirely automated. I am one of the few humans able to find actual employment with a company, Activitude, that promotes it's use of Artisinal Humans as companions to their AI clients. With clients like a pinwheel who needs help with it's garden, and a stick of butter that wants to be covered in toast. The demands are ridiculous, and occasionally impossible, and that's just the start of your adventures with Activitude.

Virtual Virtual Reality is available on Daydream

Read more on VRHeads.com

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