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3 months ago

V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless review: My new favorite headphones

10

V-Moda's excellent Crossfade 2 Wireless headphones sound fantastic and are super comfortable, but the price tag may rattle you.

Headphone preference is almost as contentious and divisive as the phones they connect to. But one thing that isn't up for dispute is the proliferation, often by necessity, of the "hi-fi" Bluetooth headphone.

V-Moda isn't a particularly well-known brand, but it's been around for just over a decade. The company, like many others in the space, began building earbuds and cheap headphones to replace lost Apple EarPods and other cheap in-box headphones, but again, like so many others in the space, saw the burgeoning potential of the audiophile market.

The Crossfade 2 Wireless are the company's flagship Bluetooth headphone, modeled after its popular Crossfade M-100 wired model released a couple years back. It improves upon the original, released last year, in almost every way, with larger drivers, more reliable Bluetooth, better battery life, and more comfortable pads. And while the over-the-ear headphones' looks may be divisive, their sound won't be: these are incredibly good for the $349 price (though I've found them for nearly $100 less during sales).

What's good

While the Crossfade 2 Wireless looks a bit aggressive with its hexagonal cups and contrast-forward dual-toned finish, I rather like the overall aesthetic. My rose gold version is the only one (for some reason) that supports Qualcomm's aptX codec, which is increasingly being supported by most phones, for higher-quality audio, but I would have gone with this tone either way — I just think it looks good.

They look a bit aggressive, but they sound so, so smooth.

The cups themselves pivot gracefully on two hinges, making it easy to get the right fit around even the most stubbornly-shaped ear. Similarly, there is plenty of length within the customizable headband to accommodate even the largest heads. This is a headphone for all seasons. V-Moda considers the so-called SteelFlex headband to be "virtually indestructible," and while I don't plan on testing that theory, the whole outfit appears to robust and then some.

That the cups can be pushed upwards towards the headband to form a portable "pebble" shape is even better — V-Moda includes a carrying case to ward off abuse, but I've regularly thrown these in my bag sans protection with no ill effects.

There is a physical On switch on the rightmost cup along with three buttons — volume down, play/pause, volume up — and once learned they're simple to press while wearing. And these things get loud. V-Moda aims the Crossfade series primarily at DJs, which would imply a bass-heavy sound, but the default sound profile is fairly flat, with punchy bass, buttery mids, and smooth, sibilance-free highs. I am in love with the sound from these (though I'll admit to slightly preferring the sound from the slightly lighter wired V-Moda Crossfade M-100s, which appear to be nearly identical but for the wireless componentry).

The Crossfade 2s have almost no Bluetooth noise floor, which is impressive given that nearly every other pair I've tested, from Blue's Satellites to Phiaton's BT460s produce a fair amount of low-level static when they're connected to even the cleanest of sources.

The soundstage is wide and inviting, with clean separation on even the most challenging of jazz or vocal tracks. But the headphones do come with a cable that includes phone volume controls and a microphone and, when plugged in, bypass the wireless components completely.

Comfort is a bonus here, too: I've worn these for hours at a time without noticing, especially since I can get 14 hours of battery from a charge. Yes, they charge with Micro-USB, but I have to plug them in so seldom it doesn't really matter. And they work with the cord even when the cell is depleted.

Finally, despite not having active noise cancellation, the firm seal over the ears provides a fair amount of passive isolation that, while not great on planes, is good enough for the outside world. I'd rather wear these sitting in a coffee shop than the vast majority of larger, bulkier, heavier ANC headphones.

I've worn these for an entire eight-hour day without realizing it.

I've yet to encounter the company's post-purchase warranty program (and I hope not to) but I hear that it's quite good. It features a standard 1-year defective parts replacement schedule, which is normal, but there's also a 60-day return policy for those who don't like them, and an "Immortal Life" feature, which provides 50% off a replacement pair should they break out of warranty. Pretty generous if you ask me.

What needs works

My biggest gripe with the Crossfade 2 Wireless is the fact that the aptX codec, which enhances the quality of audio when connected to devices that support it, is only available on one model, the rose gold color that I picked up. The all-black or all-white models, which are some $20 cheaper, don't come with it installed.

Now, of course, aptX is licensed for a fee and V-Moda is merely passing it on to the customer, but it's short-sighted and confusing to the average person who knows little about the stuff but would benefit immensely from its presence. As much as I like the combination of black and rose gold, the other hues are inevitably going to be the most popular colors, and many buyers are going to miss out.

Others may find the lack of next and back buttons to be frustrating given that most headphones in this price range include such functionality, be it on the chassis itself or, like with Sony's MDR1000X, a touch-sensitive gesture area. I didn't much mind, but I did miss the ability to call on Google Assistant, which would allow me to skip tracks, adjust volume and do a whole bunch of other things without having to look at my phone.

The headphones, because they use a physical switch to turn on the wireless elements, have no auto-off functionality; more than once (in fact, nearly every time I leave the room) I forgot to turn them off, only to return to a pair of dead cans. While they only take three hours to recharge to full, I bemoan the auto-off functions that other, more intelligent (read: less analog) headphones have. I also wish the damn things charged via USB-C, but I've yet to find a pair of wireless headphones that do, so I guess I'll just keep waiting. Also useful would be a battery indicator; it's unclear when the Crossfades will die until I get the indication while I'm wearing them.

At between $320 and $350, depending on the model, many people are going to balk at this price, especially when you can get something like the aforementioned Sonys, or the popular Bose QC35s, for the same or less — and those come with Active Noise Cancellation.

Should you buy them? Definitely

I have been a big fan of V-Moda's headphones and overall sound signature for a long time. When the company put out a wireless version of its Crossfade M-100s, I bought it sight-unseen and haven't regretted the decision for a moment.

There are pieces of technology that just fit seamlessly into your life, and the Crossfade 2 Wireless headphones are such an example.

From an audio perspective, I have almost no complaints: they are punchy, accurate and fun. I don't profess to be an audiophile, but I'm a discerning listener of nearly every genre of music, and I have yet to find an album that doesn't sound fantastic. Moreover, I have a rack of headphones at my disposal, cheap and expensive, wired and wireless, and find myself constantly returning to the Crossfades. This isn't by accident; my ears know what they like.

See at Amazon

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3 months ago

This is Fitbit's upcoming smartwatch

46

Fitbit is nearing the release of its next fitness-focused wearable.

Fitbit went on a bit of a spending spree late last year, purchasing both wearable-veteran Pebble as well as nascent smartwatch maker, Vector. With both companies under its roof, a lot of users were curious to see just what Fitbit would do with them. We're now one step closer to knowing.

Wareable posted various photos of the upcoming watch from different angles, and it looks nice. There's a huge heart rate sensor on the underside of the watch, and the watch will also feature GPS and water resistance up to 50 meters. Wareable speculates the heart rate sensor may use a unique pulse oximeter to measure how much oxygen is in the user's blood, as well as a red sensor to provide a more accurate heart rate.

All of these components will be key to helping Fitbit compete with the Apple Watch and Garmin VivoActive line. There isn't any mention of battery life, but previous Fitbit fitness trackers have advertised five days of use, so we'll hopefully see close to that, too, especially given Pebble's legacy in that regard.

The photos show a silver case with navy strap version, as well as a rose gold case with lighter blue strap. There will also be a darker case with black strap option. While these don't look nearly as stylish as the round Vector Luna watch, they don't look bad.

I'm sure most folks could get away with wearing these to work to count their steps throughout the day. In fact, the smartwatch resembles the Fitbit Blaze, which debuted a couple years ago.

The fitness band market is crowded with Android Wear and the Apple Watch and the high end, Fitbit, Garmin and others in the middle and devices like the Xiaomi Mi Band at the low end. Time will tell how successful Fitbit's new watches are.

Are you looking forward to Fitbit's next watch? Let us know down below!

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3 months ago

Best smart thermostat for Amazon Echo

13

It's a trick question! If there's a Skill, there's a way. But it's still worth knowing what you can (and can't) say to Alexa to control your thermostat.

One of the things you need to know about Amazon Echo — actually, I'm talking about Alexa here — is that in a good many ways, it's hardware agnostic. You can hook all sorts of things into Alexa via Amazon's "Skills," and, for the most part, it shouldn't really matter what sort of hardware it's hooking into.

Nest and Ecobee4

A thermostat is a thermostat. You turn it up and down. Lights are lights. On, off, color, whatever. Sprinklers turn on and off and run on schedules. The brand and exact hardware really shouldn't matter — you build in functionality through the API, or Application Programming Interface, which we all know and love here as a "Skill." (Google has "Actions," Nest has "Works with Nest," etc., etc.)

Exactly what you can say to a particular device may vary a little bit, but by and large Alexa is going to be smart enough to figure out what it is you're trying to do without requiring too many specific keywords. (That gets us into the whole natural language processing thing, which is another post for another time.)

So what's the best thermostat to use with Amazon Echo? Whatcha got? I've used a Nest ($248 on Amazon) in my home and an ecobee ($249 on Amazon) in the office. Those are the two more popular smart thermostats, and each has its merits. There's the design of the actual thermostat itself. (I tend to prefer Nest there for its simplicity and the dial over a touchscreen.) There's the design and usability of the app that goes along with it. (Again, Nest wins out here for me because ecobee seems like it's trying a little too hard.)

But those are personal things. The good news here is that if you like ecobee more than Nest and want to use it with Alexa, it'll work just fine. One really doesn't work any better for me than the other when it comes to using your voice to control them.

One major caveat here, though, is that the ecobee 4 has a really neat feature in that Alexa is already built in. The thermostat has microphones that are waiting (and willing) for you to use your voice to control it. So you don't even need an Amazon Echo to control it — the thermostat takes care of everything. That's pretty cool.

All that said, let's take a look at what you can actually say to each thermostat through Alexa.

What you can tell Alexa to do with Nest

Nest

First, Nest says to make sure you know the name of your Nest. If you've named it "Living room," you'll tell Alexa to "change the living room to 72 degrees." You won't say "Set the thermostat to 72 degrees." And that's fine. "Thermostat" is a silly name.

And with that, here's what you can actually say to it.

  • Ask what the temperature is at the thermostat?
  • Ask what the thermostat is set to.
  • Set the Nest to a specific temperature.
  • Increase or decrease by a specific number of degrees. (You can say "warmer" or "colder," too.

There are third-party skills, too, that let you add even more functionality. Check out Voice Thermostat Controller for even more.

See Nest Thermostat at Amazon

What you can tell Alexa to do with ecobee

Ecobee

Like you've probably guessed by now, using ecobee with Alexa is pretty much the same as using it with Nest. Here's what's available via your voice:

  • Ask for the current temperature at the ecobee.
  • Ask what the ecobee is currently set to.
  • Set the ecobee to a specific temperature.
  • Increase or decrease the temperature by a specific amount.
  • Or just say "increase (or decrease) the temperature" to move it by 2 degrees.

See ecobee at Amazon

Pretty simple for both devices. For more (and because things change), be sure to check out the individual skills at the links below.

Amazon Echo

See at Amazon

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3 months ago

PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?

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Which PlayStation 4 should I buy?

Anyone looking to buy a PlayStation for family now have three options that look very similar. You've got the original PlayStation 4, the new slimmer PlayStation 4 with the exact same branding on the box as the original, and the new PlayStation 4 Pro. Do they all offer similar experiences? Is there a downside to buying the original over the slim? There are a lot of unanswered questions here.

It's confusing by anyone's standards, so your best bet is to know what you need before you head into the store.

What's the difference?

Sony has a history of releasing a "slim" version of the PlayStation a couple of years after its initial release. In the past, those consoles have been labeled a little differently at launch to make it easier to tell the new version apart from the old one. These slimmer versions typically offer more a physical difference than a functionality difference, and this year is no different. The significant feature and performance difference comes with the PlayStation 4 Pro, and even then the difference isn't huge unless you own a 4K television with HDR support.

Category PlayStation 4 (2013) PlayStation 4 (2016) PlayStation 4 Pro Price $229 $299 $399 Dimensions 10.83in x 12.01in x 2.08in 10.43in x 11.34in x 1.54in 11.61in x 12.87in x 2.17in CPU AMD Jaguar 8-core (x86-64) AMD Jaguar 8-core (x86-64) AMD Jaguar 8-core (x86-64) GPU AMD Radeon (1.84 TFLOP) AMD Radeon (1.84 TFLOP) AMD Radeon (4.2 TFLOP) Storage 500GB / 1TB 500GB / 1TB 1TB Optical out Yes No Yes AV out AV/HDMI 1.4 HDMI 1.4 HDMI 2.0 Power consumption 250w max 165w max 310w max 4K Streaming No No Yes USB USB 3.0 (x2) USB 3.0 (x2 ) USB 3.0 (x3) PSVR support Yes Yes Yes (Enhanced)

The biggest functional difference between the original PS4 and the new slimmer PS4 is power consumption. Sony claims the new PS4 has a max power draw of 165 watts, which sounds impressive next to the original 250w max of the first PS4 until you see most benchmarks. The original PlayStation 4 had an average power draw of 150w during its heaviest gameplay sessions, and never pushed anywhere near that 250w max. It is slightly smaller though, so there's that.

PlayStation VR performance is something altogether different.

As you can see, Sony is using the same CPU and a GPU that's a little more than twice the performance in the new PlayStation 4 Pro. There's also an updated version of the HDMI standard in the PS4 Pro, but there's no immediate difference in performance out of the box for video output. Games that struggled in the past to maintain 30fps or 60fps on a standard PlayStation 4 will be able to offer a more consistent experience with the PlayStation 4 Pro through its "boost mode" feature. This basically means games that appear a to stutter a little on a normal PS4 will look and play smoother on a PS4 Pro.

PlayStation 4 Pro also offers 4K video streaming and enhanced graphics on supported titles. Game developers will have the option to offer higher quality graphics to PlayStation 4 Pro gamers, which will be clearly labeled with PS4 Pro Enhanced on the box. Not only are most new PlayStation games being made to support this Enhanced ability, many of the more popular games from the past year are releasing updates to look better through the more capable console.

Category PS4 (2013) PS4 (2016) PS4 Pro HDR Output ❌ ❌ ✔️ 4K Streaming ❌ ❌ ✔️ Remote Play 720p 720p 1080p Share Play 720p 720p 1080p

PlayStation VR performance is something altogether different. PlayStation 4 Pro was built to better support PlayStation VR (You know, Project Morpheus and PlayStation Neo kinda go together and all that) but even here the differences is subtle.

Most titles that were available before the Pro was released look slightly better on the Pro, and those titles updated to support the enhanced graphics in the Pro are noticeably better looking than on the standard PS4. Because of the high focus on framerate in PlayStation VR, what you'll see in Pro Enhanced titles is more detail, not smoother transitions like you'd see on the television.

Which should I buy?

Now that you know everything you need to know about the differences between these consoles, lets break it down!

  • PlayStation 4 — This is the PS4 most likely to be available at a considerable discount, or the option you're most likely to find used or certified refurbished. If you're on a tight budget, this is still a great modern console.

See on Amazon

  • Slim PlayStation 4 — This is the PS4 you will see the most of on shelves this year, and it's the nicer looking of the three. This is also the most likely to be found in a bundle with free games and extra controllers if you're looking to get more than just the console.

See on Amazon

  • PlayStation 4 Pro — If you own a 4K HDR television, or you're interested in the best possible gaming experience from your PlayStation, this is the console for you. Also, if you're looking to go all in on PlayStation VR, you'll want this version of the console.

See on Amazon

Update August 2017: This article has been updated with new information on PlayStation 4 updates and new bundles available for the current models.

PlayStation 4

Amazon

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3 months ago

Best sprinkler to use with the Amazon Echo

10

The Rachio sprinkler system works great with your phone. And it's even better once you tie it into an Amazon Echo.

One of the cooler things I've had in my house the past few years is a connected sprinkler system. That's mostly because it's smart enough to tell when it's rained without a moisture sensor — but even more so because it's smart enough to know when it's going to rain, and thus it shouldn't bother watering.

But now that we've got Alexa running things, the Rachio sprinkler system (it retails for $199) is even better. And for that reason it's a top pick for the best sprinkler to use with the Amazon Echo. Because for as cool as Rachio is, it's still kind of a pain to have to whip out your phone and open the app and then turn the things off and one.

Way easier is to just bark orders at Alexa.

Like any thing else you want to hook into Alexa, you'll need to first enable the Skill. You can do so online here, or through the Alexa app for Android or for iOS. After that you'll log in with your Rachio credentials, then you're on your way.

Here's what all you can do with Rachio via an Echo device:

  • Turn Rachio on.
  • Turn Rachio off. (Duh.)
  • Set a rain delay, for a single day or for a given duration.
  • Cancel said rain delay. (Also duh.)
  • Run an individual zone.
  • Run ALL THE ZONES.
  • Run a zone (or ALL THE ZONES) for a given amount of time.
  • Stop a zone. (See how this works yet?)

You can see the full list of permutations here, but it's pretty self-explanatory.

How to connect Rachio to Amazon Echo


Amazon Echo

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3 months ago

Anker announces Alexa speaker with one neat trick

9

Similar to the Echo Dot, but less expensive.

Anker is well known for providing quality accessories at a fair price, primarily through its Amazon storefront. That relationship with Amazon grows deeper today with Anker's announcement of the Eufy Genie smart speaker. The Eufy Genie functions similarly to Amazon's Echo Dot, but is $15 cheaper. The Eufy Genie includes the ability to listen for Alexa commands, play back audio through its own speakers, and output audio to larger speakers. Anker says it plans to release an upgraded version of the Eufy Geenie that can connect to Bluetooth speakers — it'll cost $40.

Like all good genies, the Eufy has a bit more magic to hide. Anker says the speaker will be able to communicate with other devices in their Eufy line. This currently includes lights, vacuums, and health equipment and Anker says they will expand this to other categories coming up. Anker says the basic Eufy Genie will be released on August 16, while the upgraded version to come later.

The $10 to $15 saved may not seem like a lot up front, but those savings will quickly add up for those that want to outfit their entire house with an array of smart speakers. I'd like to see Anker make a version with Google Assistant, but Alexa is no slouch when it comes to the smart speaker game.

Thinking of picking up an Anker Eufy Genie? Let us know in the comments!

Amazon Echo

See at 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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3 months ago

Best gear for watching the 2017 total solar eclipse

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On August 21, the moon will completely cover the sun for 2.5 minutes. If you're planning on watching the total solar eclipse, you'll want to bring a couple of things with you.

2017 marks the first time in nearly 40 years that North America has seen a total solar eclipse. It's also the first time in nearly 100 years that a total solar eclipse will be seen from the East Coast of the U.S. to the West Coast. It's kind of a big deal. Hopefully, if you're somewhere near the Path of Totality, you've got plans for making a day trip to a wide-open field for the 2 minutes and 40 seconds of total solar eclipse. Here's a list of the gear you'll want for viewing the eclipse, plus essentials to have with you on the trip.

The best gear for viewing the total solar eclipse

It's very important that you only use ISO-certified 12312-2-compliant gear when looking directly at the sun. This can't be stressed enough. Do not use standard sunglasses and do not purchase cheap eclipse viewing glasses that are not certified. NASA provides a list of certified manufacturers of eclipse viewing gear. Here's the certified gear we think will be the best for viewing the eclipse this year.

American Paper Optics eclipse viewing glasses

My personal favorite eclipse viewing glasses come from American Paper Optics. I've got a five-pack of the astronaut-themed glasses. The company makes dozens of different themes (including Bill Nye), but the most important part is that they are ISO-certified. On Amazon, these glasses range in price from about $4 to about $6 each, but the more you buy, the better the deal is. Remember, only get the ISO-certified glasses.

See at Amazon

Celestron ISO-Certified 2X power viewers

If you'd like a slightly closer look at the solar eclipse, these $10 power viewers are perfect. They zoom in by 2x magnification, enough to catch a glimpse at sunspots. They're made from sturdy cardboard and fold up so you can slip them into your pocket. The lens film is made by American Paper Optics, and is certified to protect your eyes from the sun, even when you're looking at it magnified.

See at Best Buy

Meade EclipseView 60mm f/13 AZ Achro Refractor Telescope

If you're hoping to get a really close look at the sun during the solar eclipse (or any time, really), this refractor telescope is specially designed for viewing the fiery ball of light in the sky.The eyepiece is top-down and features a red dot finder and sun finder scope so you can line up the view without having to look directly at the sun. This particular eclipse viewing telescope is particularly cool because you can remove the white-light solar filter and use it for star-gazing as well. Meade is one of NASA's recommended certified manufacturers of eclipse viewing gear. As far as hobby telescopes go, it's relatively inexpensive at only $106.

See at Amazon

DayStar add-on solar filters for camera and telescope lenses

If you've already got a standard astronomy telescope or a DSLR camera, you don't have to spend a lot of extra money on a special eclipse viewing version. Instead, you can get a filter. DayStar is a NASA-recommended company that makes a variety of lens filters for different sizes. If you're only planning on using a sun-viewing filter on August 21, you can get an inexpensive cardboard one for about $25. If you prefer a more sturdy filter for long-term use, grab a polymer one for about $50 or an aluminum one for about $60. No matter which level of use you get, make sure it fits the lens you plan to use.

See at B&H Photography

AmazonBasics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod

If you're planning on taking pictures or video of the solar eclipse, do yourself a favor and make sure you have a tripod. Whether you're photographing with your phone or getting video with a GoPro, a tripod will guarantee a steady hand so you don't accidentally jitter while capturing the event. It will also make it easier for you to get pictures of things going on around you with one device while keeping another device perfectly lined up for the eclipse shoot.

We've selected this inexpensive lightweight tripod as a recommendation for anyone that isn't heavily invested in photography, but want a tripod for the eclipse event. If you're looking to get into serious photography, you might want something a little sturdier, but for a one-time shot, this is the perfect fit, and only about $14.

If you're planning on using your phone to take pictures, you can grab a universal phone mount adapter to go with it.

See at Amazon

Other essential gear for your trip to the total solar eclipse site

Battery charger

Just like you'd bring a portable battery charger with you on a road trip or day out, it's smart to have one on your trip to the eclipse event. You wouldn't want to be without juice just as the total solar eclipse hits, would you? Most location within the Path of Totality are going to be super crowded, so you can't assume you can just run back home for a charge up.

Best portable chargers

Sunscreen

Don't assume that, because it's not totally bright outside, that you won't get a sunburn while standing around under the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Make sure you reapply every two hour.

Water

Water is our source of life. We can go weeks without food, but might die from dehydration without water for only three days. Make sure you bring plenty of water on your trip to the total solar eclipse event. I don't mean one bottle of water to last you all day, either. Crowds within the Path of Totality are going to be huge, and a quick trip to the corner store for more water will probably be impossible. Bring a lot of water for you and your family to make sure you're properly hydrated for the day.

Protective sun wear

Sunscreen is great for keeping your skin from burning, but protective sun wear is even better. Grab a hat, a pair of UV-blocking sun glasses, an umbrella, and any other clothing or accessories you can think of to shade you under the hot sun.

Totality: The Great American Eclipses of 2017 and 2024

Brush up on your knowledge of eclipses with this educational book by Mark Littmann and Fred Espenak. It includes diagrams for showing how to view and photograph the eclipse, historical stories about total eclipses and what people thought of them in the ancient past, and information about the next total solar eclipse, coming in 2024. If you grab this book early, you'll be able to show off your smarts at the eclipse after party. It's only about $24 for the hardcover version or $13 on Kindle.

See at Amazon

What are you bringing to the total solar eclipse party?

Are you planning on taking a trip to somewhere within the Path of Totality? Where are you headed? Have you viewed a total solar eclipse before? What did you bring with you?

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3 months ago

Soul XTRA review: The Bluetooth headphones you can wash

0

Last year, I reviewed four different headsets with acoustic noise canceling (which actively eliminates external sounds so you can better hear your music). That feature can be great on a plane or a train, but those headsets tend to cup your ears in non-breathable cans that can feel like little mini-saunas in the summer time ... and there are plenty of places out in the world where you don't always want perfect acoustic isolation.

So for the past six months, whenever I've gone out for a walk to listen to one of my favorite podcasts, I've swapped out my usual Bose QC35s for the Soul XTRA performance Bluetooth headphones. They're lightweight sport headphones with safety lights and breathable earcups you can wash off – but you need to find 'em at the right price. Check out MrMobile's Soul XTRA review and then check out my take on the noise-canceling competition from Bose, Sony, Sennheiser and Plantronics!

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3 months ago

How to upgrade your PlayStation 4 Pro hard drive

2

Upgrading your PlayStation 4 Pro hard drive doesn't have to give you a headache.{.intro}

Your PlayStation 4 Pro is a gaming beast, capable of delivering you tons of excellent games, apps, experiences, and even VR if you've picked up a PlayStation VR. The time may come when you want to upgrade your hard drive, and when that happens, it isn't a super long and drawn-out process.

You will need some know-how, and a Phillips head screwdriver to do it, but accessing and replacing your hard drive isn't nearly so difficult as it was with earlier consoles. We've got the details you need right here!

How to back up your saved data

  1. Turn on your PlayStation 4.
  2. Log in to your account.
  3. Plug in a USB device.
  4. Open the Settings menu.
  5. Select Application Saved Data Management.

    Open the settings menu, select Application and saved data Management.

  6. Select Saved Data in System Storage.
  7. Select Copy to USB Device

    Select Saved Data in System Storage, and then select Copy to USB Device.

  8. Select a title.
  9. Press the x button to select the saved data you want to copy.
  10. Select copy.

How to upgrade your hard drive

  1. Unplug your PlayStation 4, and flip it upside down.
  2. Remove the HDD bay cover.
  3. Remove the screw.
  4. Pull the HDD bracket to remove it.
  5. Remove the four screws from the HDD mounting bracket.
  6. Remove the HDD from the mounting bracket.
  7. Insert your new HDD into the mounting bracket.
  8. Replace the screws. (be careful not to over tighten them)
  9. Reinsert the HDD mounting bracket.
  10. Replace the screw.
  11. Reattach the HDD cover.
  12. Install the system software.

How to get new system software

  1. Open system software on your computer.
  2. Download the software.
  3. Save it to a USB storage device. (it'll take up about 1GB of data)
  4. Plug that USB storage device into your PlayStation 4 system to install the software.

How to copy backed up saved data to your PlayStation 4

  1. Connect the USB storage device that contains your saved data.
  2. Open Settings.
  3. Open Application Saved Data Management.

    Open the settings menu, select Application and saved data Management.

  4. Select Saved Data on USB device.
  5. Select Copy to System Storage.

    Select Saved Data on USB Device, and then select Copy to System Storage

  6. Select a title.
  7. Press the X button to select the data you want to copy to your console.
  8. Select Copy.

Questions?

Do you still have questions about how to upgrade your PlayStation 4 Pro hard drive? Have you upgraded your hard drive, or had to transfer saves between consoles? Let us know in the comments below!

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3 months ago

Best Cases for Moto Z2 Force

3

Keep your Moto Z2 Force protected with these stylish cases!

Motorola's latest flagship, the Moto Z2 Force is a fairly rugged phone in its own right. It features Motorola's ShatterShield screen to help prevent the dreaded spiderweb screen — but what about the rest of the phone?

You'll want to keep it protected from any scratches, scuffs, and other damage from accidental drops. We've got a list of some of the best cases you should consider for your new phone. Lets take a look!

OtterBox Defender Series Case

It's no surprise to see OtterBox on this list, as it's known for making some of the best cases you can get for a phone. Its Defender Series case for the Moto Z2 Force features the triple-layer protection you'd expect from a rugged case — a soft inner shell, a tough outer cover, and an included screen cover around front.

The volume and power buttons on the side are covered with raised rubber buttons for tactile responsiveness, and the charging port at the bottom is covered to keep out dust and debris. The dual lens camera around the back is well-protected, too, which is great. Priced around $32, you'll get your money's worth with a case that will take all the abuse that you throw at it while keeping your phone safe

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Case-Mate Folio Wallet Case

Love the look and utility of a wallet case? Get the Case-Mate Folio Wallet Case for your Moto Z2 Force! Made from handcrafted genuine leather, this case blends functionality and style at a premium price.

For $60, you get a quality-made case that will keep your phone protected while also providing slots for three cards, along with another slot with a clear window that's perfect for your ID. There's also a pocket for storing a bit of cash, too. Ditch your wallet and get this wallet case for your Moto Z2 Force!

See at Case-Mate

Incipio Dual Pro Case

The Incipio Dual Pro Case is another reliable case option for any phone, and it's offered for the Moto Z2 Force, too. It combines a silicone inner shell with a tough polycarbonate cover with a soft-touch finish.

It's a rugged and stylish case that you can trust, and it can be yours for only $30. It's available in seven stylish color options, so choose the one that fits your personal style best!

See at Incipio

LK Ultra Thin case

Looking for a slim and cheap case to add a basic level of protection for your new phone? Look no further than the LK Ultra Thin Case, available from Amazon for just $8.

Available as a clear case or opaque black, this thin case will barely add any bulk to the sleek design of the phone. Made from tough and flexible TPU that's shock-absorbent and scratch-resistant, the buttons remain covered with cutouts around the camera and charging port. It's got an anti-slip finish, too, so you can be confident your phone won't slide off the table when you put it down.

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What do you use to protect your Moto Z2 Force?

Which case do you trust to keep your phone protected? Let us know in the comments below!

Moto Z2 Force

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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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3 months ago

This $14 Bluetooth speaker is a great addition to any shower

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Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a great deal on a highly-rated Bluetooth speaker.

Right now you can grab VicTsing's Bluetooth shower speaker for just $13.99 with coupon code FYYLBKB5, a savings of $5. This speaker is a great option for anyone looking for something durable and waterproof thanks to its silicon casing that allows it to be shock, dust, and waterproof.

Featuring a built-in mic, you could use it for phone calls as well as music playback, making it even more versatile. Inside it has a 5W speaker for nice loud sound quality, and with more than 5,600 reviews at Amazon, it maintains a 4.2-star rating!

Odds are this price won't last very long, so if you are looking for an affordable Bluetooth speaker that both looks great and is waterproof, act quick!

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3 months ago

Cord cutters, watch live TV for free with the $15 Mohu Leaf Metro antenna

2

Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with another way to help you cut that cord!

The Mohu Leaf Metro TV antenna is down to $15 right now on Amazon. Over the last year it has predominantly sold at $20, with a few drops here and there. The drop to $15 is one of its lowest prices ever and its first drop under $20 since May.

The Metro antenna is an non-amplified, indoor, HDTV antenna with a 25-mile range. It works best in an urban environment and can access plenty of over-the-air channels like ABC, PBS, NBC and others. It is small enough and light enough that you could actually travel with it if you wanted to.

Tom's Guide gave the Metro TV antenna 8 out of 10 and an Editor's Choice. They said, "the Metro did well in our urban test environment, pulling in 12 channels that we considered watchable. There were soap operas on CBS, NBC and Telemundo; The Avengers on an NBC subchannel; programs for kids on PBS; and cooking shows."

Unsure why you might want one of these antennas? Well, if you're looking to go fully wireless and stop paying so much for cable TV, an OTA antenna like this is essential to your setup for a number of reasons.

If you think you might get more success from an ampilified antenna, try the Mohu Curve. Amplified antennas can help if you're too far from the broadcasting stations, although for most people they shouldn't be necessary.

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3 months ago

Slip this thin 10000mAh power bank into your pocket for just $14

0

Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a slim portable battery that puts 10000mAh of power into your pocket for less!

We continue to demand more and more out of our phones these days, and that means battery life sometimes takes a hit. No one wants to sit attached to a wall all day to keep their phone charged, and luckily you don't have to. Aukey has recently released a new 10000mAh dual-USB portable power bank that is super slim, and right now you can pick one up for just $13.99 with coupon code 4WBMEFZL, a savings of $6. This power bank is 14mm thick, which is less than twice the thickness of a Google Pixel.

You can charge two devices at the same time using the cables of your choice, and at 10000mAh of capacity, you'll be able to charge most phones and tablets anywhere from 2 to 4 times per charge of the power bank. The side of it has four LEDs to show you how much power is left at a glance.

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3 months ago

At just $18 you won't be afraid to try some tricks with this mini drone

10

Our friends at Thrifter are back again, this time with a great deal on a mini drone!

Update: This popular deal is back again with a new coupon code. Be sure to use code AUKEYUA2 at checkout for the savings!

Right now you can pick up Aukey's mini-drone for just $17.99 at Amazon with coupon code AUKEYUA2, a savings of just under $10. You can control this drone with your smartphone, allowing you to fly it just about anywhere, and once you get good at flying it you can even start performing some tricks as well. It takes off and lands easily with just a single tap, and the controls are super responsive so you won't have to worry about delays. It comes with two extra sets of propellers, just in case you happen to crash and break one.

Being so small you can pack in just about any bag so you can keep it with you at all times. Remember to use coupon code AUKEYUA2 for the full savings. Will you be learning to fly with Aukey's drone? Let us know in the comments!

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3 months ago

Best MicroSD Cards for the BlackBerry KEYone

3

Double your KEYone's storage — or more — with these reliable microSD cards!

The BlackBerry KEYone is easily the most unique Android phone released in 2017. One of the best features included is expandable storage. With only 32GB of internal storage, you're probably going to want a microSD for storing all the photos and videos you'll shoot with your KEYone.

The KEYone can handle up to 2TB of additional storage — but those are hypothetical numbers at this point. Don't get suckered in by someone offering a 1TB microSD, and always be sure to buy your microSD cards from reputable sites — scammers are out there looking to make a quick buck selling fake microSD cards.

Consider checking out Android Central's breakdown of the best microSD cards for Android, or read on for some recommendations taken straight from the CrackBerry KEYone forums.

Lexar Professional 1000x microSDXC

This card was specifically recommended by VictorRight in the CrackBerry KEYone forums and receives top marks for being one of the fastest cards you'll find. It uses UHS-II speeds for reads and writes, which means you'll see no slowdown using the card with your KEYone.

There are four sizes available — the 64GB is your best value at around $50. You can go BIG with a 256GB card, but you'll also pay $260 — basically a dollar per GB.

See at Amazon

Samsung EVO+ microSDXC

Samsung's EVO+ microSD cards are top-quality, as you'd expect from such a trusted brand. These things are rugged enough to withstand pretty much any conditions you throw at them, so even if your phone gets zapped by X-rays, torn apart by magnets, or takes a dip in the pool, your data will remain secure.

You can add 128GB to your KEYone for only $50, which is an absolute steal and a must-buy if you're frustrated with the 32GB of internal storage.

See at Amazon

Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB U3 microSDXC

Sandisk emerged as the clear favorite in a CrackBerry forum thread on microSD cards, so if you're just looking for extra space and don't care too much about extreme read/write speeds, you can be confident that these cards will work with your KEYone.

You'll find options for 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB, with the latter coming in at just over $50.

See at Amazon

Which cards do you trust?

Brand loyalty is totally a thing for storage devices, so which brand do you trust most? Let us know what microSD card you use in the comments below!

BlackBerry KEYone

Amazon Best Buy BlackBerry Mobile

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