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3 months ago

Adding music to Nanoleaf's Aurora lights is a dream come true

4

This is a great first step toward the future of smart lighting.

My biggest complaint about smart lighting is that it doesn't play nice with the other things in my life. I want the lights to dim and change colors to match what I see on the television, or flash along with my PS4 controller when something exciting happens in a game.

While we know there are a couple of companies eager to see this kind of integrations with its products, the folks at Nanoleaf have made good on a promise made when the Aurora lights launched. It's called the Nanoleaf Aurora Rhythm, and it should probably be included with every kit Nanoleaf sells.

Not familiar with Nanoleaf? Check out our experience with the Aurora!

Simple set up

The Nanoleaf Aurora lights have an unusual but surprisingly simple to set up. Each light panel has three connectors, one on each side of the triangle. You can connect these triangles to each other in whatever configuration you want, as long as one panel in the array is connected to the power supply. The brilliance of this set up all comes together with the app, which allows you to add panels without disconnecting anything. The app immediately recognizes a new panel, and changes its color to match the rest of the panels in the array.

This setup detail is important, because the Rhythm accessory attaches to the light panel in the same way each of the panels do. You can connect it to any open port in the Aurora array, and as soon as you do the app becomes aware of its existence and extends the Rhythm features to you for use.

As soon as you have a Rhythm attached, there are two ways you can activate it. The Nanoleaf app has a Rhythm tab you can tap on and set your light panel to audio mode instead of the pre-set color patterns. If you'd prefer to avoid opening the app to access the feature, you can press the single button in the center of the Rhythm module. As soon as you press the button, the triangle in the center of the module will light up and the audio mode will engage.

It doesn't get much simpler than this setup, and like the other parts of the Aurora setup this is modular enough that you can control the design of your space. There's not much you can do to make this easier, and Nanoleaf deserves a lot of credit for how well this works.

Listen to the light show

The Rhythm module is fairly simple. It's a microphone that connects directly to your lights, so everything it hears gets converted into light. Spoken word, music, sound effects from a game, everything the microphone can pick up is translated on the Aurora lights. It's sensitive enough that a song played from across the room on a phone can be fully converted into dancing lights, but the clear design here is for higher quality sound from big stereo speakers.

As the music enters the microphones on the Rhythm module, what you see is a visualization of the sound equalizer. Each color you choose takes up a section of the equalizer, which gives you a lot of control over what colors show up for different kinds of songs. For example, if you're playing a bass-heavy song and want the colors to align with the bass, you put those colors toward the end of the equalizer. There's a lot of flexibility, and building the different color patterns to set yourself up with a lot of different options.

If that sounds like a lot of work, don't worry there are some options. Nanoleaf has an online community where other users can share their creations. If you find a light combination that really works well with your favorite kind of songs, you can share that easily and anyone with the Nanoleaf app can download it. This is great, because the alternative is using the pre-loaded options Nanoleaf includes with the app. Like the default color pattern options for moving patterns, Nanoleaf focuses on showing off as many color options as possible. Great for demonstrations, not always great for listening to a lot of different kinds of music.

The Nanoleaf app gives you a lot of flexibility with what colors you can use to create your light show, but there's a ton of flexibility in the app for creating the exact kind of experience you want. My personal favorite is setting most of the equalizer to black so the lights only react during the highs and bass while I'm playing a game. It's a great way to add some immersion, and the way Nanoleaf sets this up makes it very easy to create these experiences.

A solid addition to any Nanoleaf kit

The Aurora lights blur the lines between arty and practical lighting in a way that makes adding interactive music make a lot of sense. These light arrays are designed to be something that stands out in a room, so adding interactivity makes a lot of sense. Seeing Nanoleaf plan to release pre-made Aurora kits with a Rhythm included makes a lot of sense, but if you already have an Aurora set up these accessory is only going to set you back $65. If you're eager to add some interactivity to your Aurora, you should absolutely pick one of these up.

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3 months ago

Zizo cases for the Galaxy Note 8: Rugged, stylish, and a little bit weird

9

Zizo makes some uniquely designed rugged cases for the Note 8.

Starting at over $900, the Galaxy Note 8 is as expensive as flagship phones come. Keeping the Note 8 protected at all times will likely require a case rugged enough to withstand everything that life throws at you along with a tempered glass screen protector, too.

If you know you'll need that full protection Zizo shipped us their full line of cases for the Note 8 for us to check out so let's dive in!

Bolt Series case

The Bold Series case is Zizo's flagship case. It comes not only with a tempered glass screen protector but a 360-degree swiveling belt clip holster and an optional lanyard you'll need to install before inserting your phone.

The angled ridges on the back seem to indicate this case was designed to be held in your left hand — your fingers naturally find the ridges, and the plastic rivets are interesting touches. On the inside is a grid of shock-dispersing channels that will help keep your phone unharmed after a nasty drop.

This is a rugged, dual-layer case that also includes a reinforced kickstand on the back. Along with the screen protector and all the other includes accessories and features, this is a great value at just $18.

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Proton Series case

Combining the views provided by a clear case and the rugged bumper of a heavy duty case, the Proton Series case is perfect for anyone who loves the idea of a clear case but also doesn't want to skimp on protection.

It's actually a three-piece case that is easy to install but tricky to remove your phone from in our experience — better than the alternative when we're talking about accessories designed to keep your phone safe. The bumper is textured to ensure good grip.

This case includes covers for the charging port and headphone jack, and is available in six bold color choices — all for just $14.

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Retro Series case

As the name implies, the Retro Series case has a look that feels reminiscent of a classic car or retro diner. Zizo sent us the Baby Blue/Silver version and it certainly lives up to its name.

It's got a simple and elegant design on the back, with the ridged silver section doubling as a pop-up kickstand complete with magnetic closure. Also hidden under the kickstand is a card slot for hiding a credit card or ID — it's a really clever use of space. The bumper also features stylish ridges to help with grip, but it also may remind Star Wars fans of the design of Kylo Ren's mask, especially on the Black or Gray/Silver cases.

Even the inside of this case is stylishly designed, with an interesting pattern circles designed to help with absorbing shock. You can get yours in your choice of color for just $17.

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ATOM Series case

The ATOM series case is proof of the old adage that less is more. This is the most minimalist case in the Zizo arsenal, and feels the most rugged thanks to the premium aluminum bumper and the slick locking mechanism at the top.

It's a simple and elegant design that feels really well-built. Even the clear backplate feels sturdier than other cases we've tested. There's a thin strip of TPU between the aluminum of the case and the front lip provides protection for the screen.

If you're looking for a minimalist case that's also incredibly rugged and literally feels cool in your hand, grab the Zizo ATOM series case for just $22.

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Static Series case

Zizo has once again done a great job with the Static Series case, striking the balance of being rugged while also maintaining a slim profile.

Zizo sent us the red version of their Static Series of cases, which reminds us of a Ferrari with its sleek scoops and other design elements on the back. The design also features a kickstand that blends in nicely with the case when not in use.

It's available in six different color options and is one of the best values offered by Zizo at just $11.

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Shock 2.0 Series case

Another sleek and stylish case with a clear backing option, the Shock 2.0 case features a toned-down design with aesthetic flourishes on the back but otherwise clean and smooth surfaces around the bumper.

The buttons appear to be made of metal and contrast well against black or any of the five other color options available. As always there's shock absorbing grooves along the inside of the case and ample cutouts around the ports and S Pen at the bottom. You can get yours for just $17.

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These are our favorite Zizo cases but you can browse through everything that Zizo has to offer for the Note 8 they have to offer by clicking through below

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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3 months ago

Best Wallet Cases for the Galaxy S8

5

Cut down on your pocket carry with a sleek wallet case for your Galaxy S8!

If you're going to cover your Galaxy S8 in a case, you might as well choose one that includes some extra functionality. Wallet cases fit the bill, offering quality protection for your precious new phone while also letting you carry around a few cards and maybe even some cash.

Ditch your wallet and keep your phone, ID, and payment cards all in one place with a wallet case for your Galaxy S8.

Spigen Wallet S Case

The Spigen Wallet S case is perennially one of the best wallet cases you can get for your phone. With a premium design and build quality, you won't be disappointed.

This folio case provides full protection for your phone when closed with three card slots on the inside and a pocket for storing some cash. Your phone is held in place by an embedded TPU casing that offers protection around the corners (always important), and the front cover can be folded over to create a kickstand.

It's available in your choice of black or brown synthetic leather. While it's one of the more expensive case options on the list, it's a fantastic option that won't leave you disappointed. You can get yours for just $18!

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Maxboost Galaxy S8 Wallet case

Maxboost offers a wallet case that will keep your Galaxy S8 safe and secure while also letting you keep your traditional wallet at home. The wallet is held shut with a magnetic clasp and features slots for three cards on the inside cover along with a pocket for storing some cash. Made of PU for a leather-like feel, this case has been precisely designed for the Galaxy S8's ports and functions and can also be used as a kickstand for hands-free viewing.

At $11, it's also one of the best value you'll find for a wallet case and is backed by a lifetime warranty from Maxboost.

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Abacus24-7 Galaxy S8 Wallet Case

For a cheaper folio wallet case option, consider Abacus24-7. Its case offers two card slots, which provides RFID protection and include a clear window that's perfect for your ID. There's also a hidden pocket for storing cash.

Your phone is held in place by a sturdy polycarbonate case, while the synthetic leather on the front and back protect your phone from scratches, dirt, and damage; the cover also folds over to create a kickstand. This case is available in four different colors, but you'll get the best value if you stick with black. Get yours for just $10.

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ProCase Galaxy S8 Genuine Leather Case

Looking for a genuine leather wallet case for your phone without paying an arm and a leg? Get the ProCase wallet case for your Galaxy S8.

Made of premium, vintage leather and crafted with care, this case looks, feels, and smells of the highest quality. It's got all the features you'd expect from a folio wallet case: three card slots and a cash pocket on the inside, a magnetic lock to keep things secure, and the ability to fold over the front cover into a kickstand. It's available in your choice of black or brown leather, and since it's made of genuine leather, you can expect this case to look better with that distressed look as it ages and all for just $28.

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Spigen Slim Armor Wallet Case

The Spigen Slim Armor Wallet case looks like a standard case to the average person, but it features a slide-out panel on the back with room to store two cards — your ID and a debit or credit card.

On top of its card-carrying function, this is also just a really rugged case, constructed with a shock-absorbing TPU inner sleeve and a polycarbonate shell that includes the secret card panel. For a sleek wallet case that doesn't look like a wallet case, check out the Spigen Slim Armor wallet case — available in five different colors for just $19!

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Trianium Galaxy S8 Wallet Case

From the picture, you might expect this wallet case from Trianium to be made from a hard plastic, but it's actually a more rubber/silicone build that's grippy in hand. This case features a slot on the back that's cable of carrying cards, cash, or some combination of the two.

Unlike other cases on this list, the slot just remains open on the side, so if you only plan to keep one card and a couple of bills, in this case, you might find that your card slips out a bit too easily. However, if you keep at least two cards and a bit of emergency cash in there, you should be fine. This case features a front bezel to protect the screen and also airflow channels on the inside that help your phone keep its cool and help with shock absorption. Get yours from Amazon for just $11.

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Q Card Wallet Case

Another back-panel wallet case, the Q-Card case from CM4 stands out from the rest with its back pocket made of premium fabric. This texture is also along the edge of the case which helps to make this a very grippy case in your hand.

This case also features all the protective elements you'd want from a case, including air-cushioned corners to help disperse shocks away from your phone, a bezel around the front to protect the screen, and even includes a slim slot along the edge that can be used with a credit card to create a kickstand for hands-free media viewing. Get one of your own for just $25.

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What's in your wallet (case)?

Do you have a preferred wallet case for your Galaxy S8 that didn't make our list? Let us know in the comments below!

Update September 2017: Added the Maxboost case to our list.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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3 months ago

Amazon's new Fire TV 4K supports Alexa, starts at $70

13

Amazon's new Fire TV undercuts everyone on the market — by a lot.

Earlier this week, NVIDIA announced that its Shield TV got a price drop — from $200 to $180, as long as you don't need the included controller. Apple's new 4K TV also costs $180. Roku's Premiere+ set-top box starts at $80, and supports 4K and HDR; Google's Chromecast Ultra dongle is a reasonable $69.

Image credit: Martyn Landi

Now, Amazon has refreshed its Fire TV box with a lower $70 starting point, a new form factor and, of course, Alexa support. The company announced its new offering alongside updated Echo speakers at an event in Seattle today, and the Fire TV looks to be quite an attractive proposition. Like the previous $90 offering, it comes with a remote in the box. It supports 4K and HDR content along with Dolby Atmos audio, and can stream 2K content at 60fps. The remote has a microphone in it that lets you talk to Alexa, while the software is expanding to support many of the same skills that were first shown on the Echo Show earlier this year.

Pre-orders for the box begin today for $69.99 in the U.S., as well as £69.99 in the UK and €79.99 in Germany. Amazon says it'll ship later this year.

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Amazon Echo

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3 months ago

Best Bands for the Samsung Gear Fit 2

18

Update the look of your Gear Fit 2 with these stylish band options!

The Samsung Gear Fit 2 is a pretty good fitness band that includes a feature typically found on smartwatches: the ability to swap out the 22mm bands for other colors or styles.

If you prefer to wear yours 24/7, having a couple extra bands can help you accessorize your Gear Fit 2, whether you're attending a formal affair or just like to spice things up with a fresh splash of color. There's a number of great, affordable options out there, so let's dive in!

MoKo Soft Silicone Replacement Sports Bands

MoKo offers a wide range of color options of their silicone straps for the Gear Fit 2. Each strap is adjustable to fit small or large wrists (4.96" - 8.38") via the same style of metal plug used on the strap that came with the Gear Fit 2. Bands can be swapped in and out quickly with the one-button quick release for locking the watch band, making it convenient to have a fresh strap to swap out after a sweaty workout. With a price of only $10 compared to Samsung's stock replacement for the black, you can economically afford to get a couple of these in your favorite colors, then keep them in a bit of a rotation so your wrist always feeling fresh and looking fine.

See styles at Amazon

Moretek Fit 2 Wrist Straps

Moretek offers two different style of wristbands for the Gear Fit 2: a more traditional strap available in 12 different color and pattern options and a rugged strap (pictured) that offers impact protection for your tracker's watch face. Everything is made of a skin-friendly silicone material and held on your wrist with a traditional watch strap buckle. The rugged bands are definitely going to add some bulk to your wrist, but whether you're playing a high-impact sport or simply prone to banging it against doorways, that extra protection might save you from incidental damage.

See styles at Amazon

V-Moro Metal Replacement bands

If you're after a metal strap option for a more stylish look, V-Moro has you covered with two distinct styles — a classic metal link band and a Milanese loop band featuring a magnetic clasp. Both styles are available in silver or black, with the Milanese band (pictured) sold in small and large sizes, so choose accordingly.

The metal band includes a tool for adding and removing links for adjusting sizes. Both are great for incorporating your Gear Fit 2 as an accessory in a professional wardrobe. V-Moro also offers a medium-sized silicone strap on the same Amazon listing. In stark contrast to the stylish metal offerings, these are extremely utilitarian and offer that "classic" fitness tracker look, with five colorful options to choose for.

See styles at Amazon

Maxjoy Metal Replacement Straps

Not everyone digs the rubber strap look. While it might be ideal for getting sweaty in the gym, if you're planning to wear your Gear Fit 2 out on the town you might be after a bit more of a classy look.

Maxjoy has a line of stylish metal replacement straps for your Gear Fit 2 that included Milanese loop bands as well as metal link bands made of high-quality stainless steel. The Milanese bands are available in black, silver, and rose gold for just $17, or choose between a black or silver metal link band for just $20. All bands are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a 12-month warranty which means you can buy with confidence.

See at Amazon

MDW Security Clasps

Not digging the band recommendations above? We get it. Frankly, it's quite alright to love the band that came with your Gear Fit 2. However, there have been reports of bands coming unclasped or otherwise falling off people's wrists. Maybe this has happened to you.

Allow us to share this recommendation from the comments. You can get a 7-pack of these colorful security clasps that fit over the band and ensures your band never pops off. They should offer the extra protection from your Fit 2 falling off your wrist while also letting you add a splash of color.

See at Amazon

How do you accessorize your Gear Fit 2?

Are you a band swapper? What's your favorite style for your Gear Fit 2? Let us know in the comments!

Update September 2017: Added some handy clasps for those who are happy with the stock bands but want a bit of added wrist security.

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3 months ago

The Galaxy Note 8 Alcantara case is like a soft blanket for your phone

30

Remember Snuggie? This is not that. This is a case.

I've been meaning to put my thoughts on the Note 8 down for a few weeks now, but they're basically the same as Andrew's: it's a great, huge phone that has many redeeming qualities, including a beautiful screen, admirable performance, and an S Pen that I love and want to use, but don't. Oh, and battery life is fine. Not sure what everyone's on about in that regard.

BUT I do have something nice and effusive to say about the shag carpet Alcantara case, which I picked up alongside my blue Note 8 at launch. Samsung's first-party accessories tend to be hit-or-miss, and while I initially scoffed at the idea of putting a soft, suede-like cover on my phone, I have no regrets: this is one of the best I've ever used.

This is a first-party accessory that's worth the higher cost.

Let's start with the fit and finish. When a company makes its own accessories, they tend to fit better than those of third parties — not universally true, but there's a correlation. (You'd also hope for high quality if it costs $49.) This thing fits like a glove and finds the right balance between protection and bulk. The Note 8 is already an oversized phone, especially vertically, so I was concerned about using any case with it.

The Alcantara case hugs the sides and top while leaving the bottom area exposed, which, while not entirely protected, makes the most amount of sense from a usability perspective, especially when it comes to applying and removing it. Ideally, you want to easily access the S Pen, speaker, headphone jack, and charging port — the bottom is always busy on a Note device — so going with a full-perimeter case would have been too restrictive. And, selfishly, it lets me see just a little bit of that blue metal that, only available in Canada, I love so much. 🇨🇦

The case also does well to add a bit of a lip to the front of the phone, which is ideal when it comes to drop protection. Obviously, this isn't going to be considered a heavy duty case in any way, so if you drop the phone while it's in the Alcantara case expect some damage, but any lip is better than none. On the other side, there's a nice little groove in which the camera(s) module sits, also protecting against scratches against that rear glass.

Holding the Note 8 while in the Alcantara case is a revelation. I noted above that the glass back is fairly grippy and I rarely left nervous about clutching it naked (the phone was naked, not me — probably) but there really is something to this material.

Alcantara is fairly new to the tech industry — we've seen it pop up in a few cases, as well as Microsoft's beautiful Surface Laptop and Surface Pro Type Cover — but it's been used in cars and home furniture since the 1970s. In fact, it's a brand; Alcantara is the name of the company that creates the material.

That material is basically a mixture of polyester and polyurethane — in other words, mostly plastic — which gives it its tensile strength. In the manufacturing process, however, the fibers are woven similarly to other threaded textiles to form the suede-like outer portion that makes it so pleasant to hold. But unlike suede and other leathers, Alcantara doesn't tarnish quite as easily — sure, it can discolor over time, but if treated well, and occasionally washed with soapy water, it should hold up nicely.

Having only pawed the Note 8's Alcantara case for a few days, I can't say whether it will hold up as well as a typical plastic case, but so far, so good.

Interested? You can pick up an Alcantara case for the Note 8 in one of four colors — black, green, pink, and dark gray (shown here) — for $49.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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3 months ago

Grab a OnePlus 5 in the UK and get £30 for accessories!

5

If you've been considering picking up a shiny new OnePlus 5 in the UK, we've got a sweet deal for you. For a limited time, Android Central users can grab £30 worth of OnePlus 5 accessories free when purchasing a new device from oneplus.net by using the code ACdiscount2017 at checkout.

The OnePlus 5 is available in four variants, with 64GB models priced at £449 and 128GB models for £499.

Available models include:

  • Slate Gray - 6GB RAM / 64GB Storage
  • Soft Gold - 6GB RAM / 64GB Storage
  • Slate Gray - 8GB RAM / 128GB Storage

Buy at OnePlus

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3 months ago

Deal: OnePlus 5 now comes with free Bullets V2 earphones for a limited time

5

The OnePlus 5 now comes with a free pair of Bullets V2 earphones, but only until September 30.

Despite its overhyped camera and familiar design, the OnePlus 5 is still one of the best values in smartphones right now. As if the device didn't already offer enough bang for your buck, OnePlus is now bundling a free pair of its Bullets V2 earphones with the purchase of its latest flagship killer.

The OnePlus Bullets V2 aren't the greatest earphones ever made, but even at their regular price of $19.95, they follow the OnePlus 5's theme of offering a lot of value for the money you spend. OnePlus partnered with German audio company LOFO when designing the Bullets V2, and as such, the Bullets V2 offer professional tuning to kick out deep bass, pleasing treble, and a smooth midrange for all of your tunes.

Add this together with a super lightweight design at just 2-grams, anti-allergy silicon tips, inline audio controls, flat tangle-free cord, and a sleek design for earbuds themselves, and you're looking at a pretty awesome freebie.

You can get the Bullets V2 for free between now and Saturday, September 30, and if you want to take advantage of this deal, you'll need to order the 8GB RAM/128GB storage OnePlus 5 variant for $539.

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3 months ago

The NIFTY Mobile Charger is the smartest battery pack you'll ever buy

8

This NIFTY battery pack sure lives up to its name, but can its slick design justify the price?

Battery packs are essential phone accessories these days. We rely on our phones to do so much, and heavy phone users often can't rely on their phone's internal battery to get them through a full day without a recharge along the way.

Furthermore, few battery packs offer the same functionality and features, making it sometimes confusing as to which will best support your devices. Enter the 6800mAh NIFTY mobile charger, a stylish battery pack that aims to solve the charging needs of all your mobile devices

The folks behind the NIFTY battery pack sent me a unit to review this summer, and my first reaction was that this battery pack sure lives up to its name. Fans of well-designed products are sure to swoon over this battery pack. It's compact, sleek with no buttons to fuss with, and just two ports on the top, both of which can be used to charge devices simultaneously with 24W of dual output being intelligently split to give priority to the device that needs more juice. The USB-C port doubles as the one used for recharging the battery pack itself, which only takes a few hours.

NIFTY claims to have includes the most powerful chipset in a mobile charger, with support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, 3A Type-C output, as well as safe fast charging capabilities for iPhones, iPads, and even the latest MacBooks, too. There're no screens or buttons to fiddle around with — simply plug in and the NIFTY automatically detects and delivers the fastest charging speeds for your device.

A row of 5 LEDs give you an indication of how much charge is left, and all you do is give the NIFTY a tap and they come to life to show you the remaining charge. A tap also illuminates another LED ring located around the USB-A port on top, which is a fantastic feature for those times when you're fumbling around in the trying to plug in a USB cable in the dark.

I've kept it on me through most of my weekend travels this summer when I've often been away from a wall outlet. At 6800mAh, it's far from the beefiest battery pack you can buy and will reliably recharge a phone from battery warning to full no problem, but that's about it. On a weekend trip, I was able to get about a full charge and a half for my Google Pixel before the NIFTY needed to be recharged itself. The pack does get quite warm both when charging a device and while being recharged, so you're likely losing some energy in the heat transfer.

I accidentally left the NIFTY outside overnight during a rainstorm and was pleasantly surprised to find it still functioning perfectly the day after. NIFTY makes no claims of water resistance but it was nice to see it survive a wet night.

There's something to be said about great design, and the curvy design of the NIFTY's casing feels great in your hand.

The only drawback is the price — at $80, it's asking a lot for a battery pack with a battery capacity under 10,000mAh. You can buy an Anker PowerCore charger with three times the charging capacity for $20 cheaper than the NIFTY. For those who value capacity and bang-for-your-buck over anything else, that's bound to be a deal breaker.

But there's still something to be said about great design, and the curvy design of the NIFTY's casing feels great in your hand. Tapping to reveal the power levels is an ingenious feature and I love how you can plug any phone in and NIFTY delivers the fastest charge without hesitation. Whether the NIFTY is worth the money is ultimately a matter of personal preferences. The NIFTY serves my need for a compact and portable charger that gives my phone an extra boost when I need it most.

The NIFTY Mobile Charger is available in your choice of color —Signature Stone Red, Stone Grey or Suede Black — and comes with both a USB-C and Micro-USB charging cable.

See at NIFTY

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3 months ago

Best Ultra Thin Cases for Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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Keep your Note 8 protected without adding too much bulk!

The Galaxy Note 8 is a device that's so expensive you would have to be a fool not to try and keep it safe with a case — but it's also a gorgeously designed phone. So I can understand some folks' hesitation to cover it up with a thick layer of plastic and rubber.

That's what makes a slim case such a compelling compromise, keeping your phone protected from the daily bumps and scratches without adding superfluous features or accents. We've rounded up the best options from the most trusted brands. Thin cases will also work well with wireless charging pads, so you won't lose that functionality either!

Spigen Thin Fit Case

You're not likely to find a case thinner than Spigen's Thin Fit case. Just a millimeter thick, this case will snap on easily and keep the back glass of your phone protected from scuffs and scratches. There's also a very subtle lip around the front to offer face-down protection for the screen, too.

We all know that the best cases have reinforced corners, and unfortunately, this case falls short there in an effort to keep the bulk down. But that's why you're here, right?

You can get it in matte black for just $10.99, or opt for a more colorful option for a few bucks more.

See at Amazon

Spigen Rugged Crystal Case

Want a case that's nearly invisible while still providing rugged protection for your Note 8? Spigen has you covered with its Rugged Crystal case.

This slim case is made of a single layer of clear TPU and features reinforced corners to provide that rugged drop protection you may require. It's got a grippy in-hand feel and its flexible design means that it's super easy to pop on and off as needed.

You can get this slim clear case from Spigen for just $11.99 on Amazon.

See at Amazon

Caseology Skyfall Series Slim Case

Caseology's Skyfall Series of cases are always stylish and popular, mixing a clear acrylic back plate with colorful accents provided by the polycarbonate bumper.

The slim build of this case compliments the Note 8 well, while the two-layered design is capable of absorbing any drops that may occur. There's a raised lip around the front of the phone as well around the camera and fingerprint sensor, so all the features of your phone will be protected and functional.

There are four color options to choose from designed to match the different colors of the Note 8 itself, starting at just $12.99.

See at Amazon

Ringke Slim Case w/ slot card holder

Ringke's slim case for the Note 8 is pretty basic as you'd expect, but it has included a pretty nice accessory for cutting down your daily carry.

Along with this ultra-thin case that only adds about 2mm of bulk to your phone, Ringke includes an adhesive card slot holder that's capable of holding two cards — say your photo ID and a credit card. It's the perfect accessory for traveling or going out to the bar if you want to keep your carry light.

This one-piece case is made of rugged polycarbonate will keep your phone safe from bumps and scuffs while keeping the sleek design intact. You can get it in classic black for just $8, or opt for a powder blue or salmon pink option for $10.

See at Amazon

Ringke Transparent Air Case

Another great thin case option from Ringke, this clear case is just $7.99 on Amazon. You may even forget you've got a case on your phone it's that clear and minimalist.

Made of lightweight TPU, this case is designed to take abuse so your phone doesn't. Ringke uses its dot matrix technology to cut down on the rainbow effect on the backside of your phone, and the precise cutouts around the ports and S-Pen keep your phone entirely functional.

If you want to add a bit of flair to your phone, you can also get this case in transparent rose gold or smoke black, too.

See at Amazon

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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3 months ago

This $25 Bluetooth speaker has a crazy long 24-hour battery life

6

Keep the party going all night long with this loud Bluetooth speaker!

Amazon's currently has a pretty great discount on the extremely popular Anker SoundCore Bluetooth speaker. With this deal, the black version speaker drops down to $25.49 (the other colors are $32.99), from a usual street price around $36. Anker is well known for coupon code deals, which are hard to track over time, so it's possible this speaker has gone lower than this in the past. For direct price drops, though, this price only matches a previous drop back in 2016 on Black Friday.

The SoundCore has a 24-hour battery life, which means you can take it on any outdoor excursion without worrying about it fading for quite some time. It has a built-in mic so you can use Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls. It also comes with an 18-month warranty from Anker. The waterproof successor to this speaker, the SoundCore 2 is also on sale right now, and you can pick one up for just $40.

See at Amazon

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3 months ago

KeySmart Pro review: Tile tracking on a great key organizer is invaluable

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KeySmart Pro

If you lose your keys — or if you even think you might lose your keys — then this is a no-brainer.

I can't say that I've ever really lost my keys. I tend to put them in the same place every time I return home. And I keep them in the same spot in my bag when I travel.

Keys, they say, are pretty important.

Having written that, I now fully expect to lose my keys in the coming days.

That brings me to a new version of an old toy. I've long been a fan of KeySmart — sort of a Swiss Army Knife sort of thing for your keys, so you're not stuck with a mangled mess of metal, stabbing you in the pocket when you least expect it. And now KeySmart has gotten even smarter, teaming up with the Tile tracking service. So you can use your phone to find your keys. No extra dongles — it's just all built in.

Let's take a quick look.

See at KeySmart   See at Amazon

KeySmart Pro

The keys, please — what is KeySmart Pro?

First things first: KeySmart is one of those key organizer things, as opposed to a simple key ring. It takes maybe 5 minutes to unscrew it, plop in your keys and then put it back together. KeySmart has a bunch of weird little accessories, too, including (and most importantly) a bottle opener, a USB flash drive, a golf divot tool — you know, normal, everyday stuff like that.

What's new in the Pro is the integration with Tile. And that's required some changes to the hardware. The KeySmart itself is now plastic instead of metal, and it's about twice as thick. That's the tradeoff you'll have to make to cram electronics inside this thing (radio waves and metal don't play all that nicely together), including a battery, Bluetooth radio, Micro-USB charger, buttons, LED flashlight, and a tiny speaker.

There's a lot going on in this little thing, for sure.

Installing your keys is as easy as it's always been with KeySmart. You unscrew the thing, arrange your keys and spacers and accessories, then screw it all back together.

The Tile tracking part of the equation

What makes this one new, of course, is the ability to find your keys with Tile. The tracking system is built into the KeySmart Pro itself, so you don't need any dongles hanging off.

Setup was simple enough. Load up the Tile app (either from Google Play or from the iOS App Store, log in, and attach the KeySmart Pro to your account. (If you've been anywhere near the Internet the past, oh, decade, you're probably good to go here.)

Organizing your keys is great. Knowing it's much harder to lose them is even better.

If you're new to all this tracking stuff, here's how it works. I like to think of it as short range/long range. Say you just can't find your keys. They're somewhere in the house, but the damn things are just missing. Use the app on your phone to have your keys start playing a little 8-bit tune.

And that works the other way around, too, if your phone's gone missing somewhere nearby. Double press the Tile button on the KeySmart Pro, and your phone will start making noise. Clever.

That's short range. Long range relies on keeping track of your location in real time, and also on the kindness of strangers.

Say you lost your keys... somewhere. The KeySmart Pro also works in conjunction with your phone so that Tile always knows its most recent location. So when someone says "Do you remember where you had them last?" — you'll actually know where you had your keys last.

And should your keys come into range of someone else who uses Tile, it'll piggyback on their phone to let the Tile system know where they are. (That's far less creepy than it sounds, at least in my experience.)

So what's it like to use?

That's also standard stuff when it comes to KeySmart and Tile, though. The question for me is what it's like to use the KeySmart Pro.

And the answer is pretty much "If you've used a KeySmart, you know what you're getting here."

As I mentioned previously, I'm not crazy about switching from metal to plastic. (Though I certainly understand why it was done.) It just doesn't feel as nice — not that I'm all that worried about how nice my key organizer feels. Worse than that, though, is the additional thickness, though that'll vary a little depending on how many keys and accessories you have. (I've got six total; three on each side.)

There's also the asymmetry in the two halves, which definitely bothers me more than it should. And the addition of buttons tells my brain that I'm not using something that's much more complicated in its new iteration than it was previously. (On the other hand, that's a conscious choice I made. So pipe down, brain.)

I'm also not in the habit of losing my keys. So I'm going to consider the Tile integration to be insurance, not something I actively use. But since it's here...

KeySmart Pro and Tile on Android

Tile is super easy to use. You just load up your account on your phone with your device — you'll add KeySmart Pro in the "View all partners" section — and it starts working. It works with your phone to figure out location and where they KeySmart Pro was last. That'll get you in the ballpark.

Hit "find" and the KeySmart Pro starts playing a little tune, the better to find it with. (There are eight options for ringtones.) It's fairly loud, so there's a pretty good chance you can track it down.

KeySmart Pro LEDThen there's the whole Tile Network thing that goes into effect if you've really left your keys somewhere. Assuming your KeySmart Pro still has power, sending out the Mayday will cause anyone else who uses Tile to be able to passively "see" your KeySmart Pro and report back its general location. (And maybe they'll even hear it and turn in your keys somewhere.)

And that's pretty much it. Is it foolproof? Nope. Is it way better than dropping your dumb keys somewhere and hoping your dumb self can find 'em? Absolutely.

One more thing: the LED flashlight. It's a handy little addition. It's far from the brightest thing you'll ever see, and I wouldn't want to go solve mysteries out of the back off a van with a bunch of kids with this thing.

But it'll help you get your key into the lock.

(By the way, if you just want a KeySmart with the flashlight, they now have the KeySmart Bright.)

A word on battery life: First, saying to yourself "I need to charge my keys" is kind of ridiculous. Second, KeySmart Pro charges over Micro-USB, which is a previous standard and really shouldn't be used in any new products. (In other words, grrrrrrrr.)

Third, I don't actually know how long the 40mAh battery (yes, that's four-zero) lasts. Mine's been going strong for a couple weeks now. KeySmart says you should be able to get a couple months of use out of it "if you go easy on it." (I'll update here if I see something wonky.)

The bottom line

KeySmart Pro

Again, there are a couple ways to look at the KeySmart Pro. First is that it's a kick-ass key organizer, albeit not inexpensive at $70 retail. I've been a big fan of the less expensive original for a long time now. (And we're talking about a "my own money" kind of thing here.) And now I have a bottle opener and a flashlight on my keys? Awesome.

Second is that if you lose your keys — like, a lot — this is no-brainer. Pick one up ASAP. Or even if you worry that you might lose your keys. The Tile integration is excellent, and super easy to use.

It kind of makes you wonder why you weren't using this already.

See at KeySmart   See at Amazon

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3 months ago

Bose QC 35 II with Google Assistant are now available for $350

17

The first headphones with Google Assistant built-in are now available.

In the year or so since launching, Google Assistant has come to more and more form factors. Starting with the Pixel phones and Google Home, Assistant has expanded to most Android-powered devices. Starting today, the service will be available on headphones as well.

Bose says that the the QC 35 II headphones are now available to purchase. These are mostly the same as last year's highly praised QC 35's, with mostly the same button layout, same (glorious) Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and same basic construction. The one addition is a button on the back of the left earcup, specifically to trigger Google Assistant.

The headphones will still be reliant on whatever phone they are connected to, as Assistant on the headphones will only be used for speeding up voice processing and delivering notifications. The Assistant button can be remapped to toggle different ANC settings for those who don't care for having an assistant on their headphones. According to Bose, these will get the same 20 hours of battery life as the first generation QC 35's, so it seems like Google Assistant doesn't impact battery life. Finally, these are not the same headphones as the rumored pair that are likely to be announced at Google's October 4 event.

Are you interested in the Bose QC 35's II? Let us know down below!

Buy at Bose!

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4 months ago

Blue Satellite review: Sweet sound, bad basics

3

The Blue Satellite Headphones don't just stand out thanks to their striking looks. With an onboard analog amplifier, dual drivers per earcup, and one of the most well-known brand names in audio, the Blue Satellite should have been a shoe-in for first place in my ever-rotating selection of bluetooth headphones.

But after a month of using them in the real world, I can't bring myself to like them nearly as much as Daniel Bader did when he reviewed the Satellite this summer. Maybe that's because I'm not really an audiophile – or maybe it's because I think $399 is a steep price for a headset that doesn't even give you the courtesy of a warning beep before its battery dies. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between. Dive into my Blue Satellite review video for the full story!

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4 months ago

Best Wireless Headphones for Samsung Gear Sport, S3, or S2

5

Listen to your favorite tunes with your Samsung Gear with these great headphones!

Your Samsung Gear Sport, S3, or S2 are great for on-the-go productivity and pleasure. Whether you want to listen to your favorite tunes on your weekly jog, conduct phone calls using your smartwatch on the subway, or taking in a new audiobook while your significant other is sleeping next to you, a great pair of wireless headphones are essential to enjoying sound through your Samsung Gear.

Here are our favorite wireless headphones to use with your Samsung Gear Sport, S3, or S2.

Jaybird X3

Jaybird has been making quality headphones for quite some time and the Jaybird X3s are no exception.

You can get a full week of workouts on a single charge and a quick 15 minutes of charging will get you a full hour at least. If you rely on your tunes to get you through a workout, check out the Jaybird X3 wireless earbuds and enjoy.

PC Mag was more than satisfied with the overall quality of the headphones:

"Powerful audio performance with strong, rich bass and well-defined, bright highs. The gym-friendly Jaybird X3 wireless earphones deliver high-quality audio in a comfortable, secure-fitting design."

These headphones come in Blackout or Sparta (white) colors, and they're sweat- and rain-proof, so you can pour your heart and soul into every workout without worrying about frying them. Pricing starts around $100.

See at Amazon

Bose QuietComfort 35

The Bose brand has been the gold standard for active noise-canceling headphones for years, and it's Bluetooth QuietComfort 35 (QC35) over-ear model that carries the torch.

Though other brands have come close to matching Bose's quality, I still think Bose is the headphone manufacturer to beat, and I'm not the only one.

The Wirecutter has selected the Bose Q35 as its best wireless noise-canceling pair of headphones.

I know battery life is of extreme concern when it comes to anything that runs on Bluetooth, but the QC 35 has a 20-hour battery life. Plus, even if you do run out of power, you can use the included AUX cable to still listen to the audio. The noise-canceling feature, however, will not function if the battery is dead.

You can get a pair of the Bose QC35 in black or silver and they will cost you around $349.

See at Amazon

V-Moda Crossfade 2

If you're looking for a unique design in a pair of headphones, the V-Moda Crossfade 2 definitely sticks out from the crowd.

Coming with a compact carrying case, the V-Moda Crossfade 2 can be used both wirelessly and with a wired connection, making it perfect for toting around.

CNET was pleasantly impressed with the improvements V-Moda made from the previous model.

"The sturdily built, well-designed V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless delivers better battery life and improved sound over its predecessor, with more sculpted bass and better detail. The new larger earpads provide a more comfortable fit."

A pair of the V-Moda Crossfade 2 will set you back about $350 and comes in matte black, white, or rose gold trimmings.

See at Amazon

Bose SoundSport Wireless

If you're hoping to get the signature Bose sound in a much smaller and workout-friendly package, look no further than the Bose SoundSport Wireless.

The SoundSport Wireless earbuds are sweat- and weather-resistant, and the gel tips are wholly designed with comfort and stability in mind. Though battery life isn't the greatest in these (about 6 hours on a single charge), they still pack an aural wallop and the mic and music controls are handy.

Comes in Aqua, Black, and Citron for about $149. You can also pick up a pair of Bose SoundSport in Power Red, which has a heart monitor, for $199.

See at Amazon

Jabra Move

Although the Jabra Move is a couple of years old, it's still a great option for people looking to dip their toes into the wireless world without spending a ton of money.

They don't offer noise cancellation, but still, provide impressively good sound quality for their construction costs — and an 8-hour battery to get you through most any workday.

At only a fraction of the price of high-end headphones — about $99 — you'll keep a lot more money in your wallet and still have a very capable pair of cans to enjoy your favorite sounds.

See at Amazon

Which headphones do you use with your Samsung smartwatch?

Let us know in the comments below!

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