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1 month ago

Best microSD Cards for the Moto G5 Plus

0

Which microSD card is best for the Moto G5 Plus? Well, it depends what you need...

The reality is this: if you are buying a budget phone, you're kind of over the idea of paying a lot for accessories. No fancy, expensive case; no insanely high-performance microSD slot. You just want something that works.

Even though the $229 Moto G5 Plus has a pretty hefty 32GB of storage out of the box (and double that for an extra $70), if you're in need of extra storage for movies, music, or even large games, a microSD card can come in real handy.

The Moto G5 Plus even supports Adoptable Storage, which means that you can make the inserted SD card a permanent part of your phone's storage.

So which cards do we recommend? Take a look below!

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1 month ago

Google Home Mini review units had a bug that recorded everything, all the time

63

Google Home Mini is only shipping on October 19, but a major bug has already been reported — and fixed.

Google is no stranger to problematic hardware launches — recall how difficult it was to get a Pixel last year, or how frustratingly bad the Nexus 5's camera was in 2013 — but this one may top it all.

According to Android Police owner, Artem Russakovskii, review units of the new Google Home Mini had a bug that caused it to intermittently listen to everything in its surrounding area, even when not explicitly called using the "OK Google" hotword.

Russakovskii discovered the bug after realizing that his Home Mini was responding to dialogue from his television. He then checked his My Activity Portal, which is where Google stores all the data obtained by its various services, including Google Assistant. That's how he discovered that thousands of commands had been entered in the database without his knowledge.

The bug, which has since been fixed, turned out to be a malfunctioning touch panel on the fabric top of the Home Mini itself. See, the device, like the larger Google Home, can be manually activated by holding down on the center of the fabric; some early units were too sensitive and saw this touch panel activate with no actual human input.

Google has since released an update to fix the issue, and hopefully no retail units will have the problem.

Google has since released an over-the-air update to all early reviewer units (including mine) to disable the manual activation command entirely and plans to create a long-term fix before the product ships on October 19.

Of course, such a bug just reinforces the cliché that Google knows too much about its users, and that connected speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are constantly listening to its users. The reality is that these units are always listening to its users — that's how they detect the activation word — but they don't keep any of the data except for the terms expressly said after the hotword itself. In fact, there's no connection to the internet at all until "OK Google" is activated. That's an important distinction here, but some people are still going to be reticent to invest in a system that could be storing personal information it wasn't authorized to store.

Google Home Mini: Everything you need to know!

Google Hardware

Google Wifi:

Google Amazon

Google Home:

Google Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Google Best Buy

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1 month ago

Best Wireless Charging Pads for LG V30

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What's the best charging pad for LG V30?

The LG V30 supports wireless charging. Simply place your V30 on a Qi wireless pad and your phone will start charging instantly.

LG doesn't have fast wireless charging like Samsung's phones, but it's still convenient to not deal with wires when topping up your phone's battery. Here are some of the most reliable wireless chargers.

Samsung wireless charging pad

Samsung's $23 wireless charging pad is the most popular wireless charger on Amazon, with over 8,000 reviews, 70% of which are 4- or 5-star.

These charging pads look like mini-UFOs and are Fast Charge-compatible for devices that support it such as the Galaxy Note 8. It also comes with a Samsung 2A wall charger — always great — and comes with a standard one-year warranty.

See at Amazon

Spigen Qi Wireless Charging Stand

Spigen is one of the best accessory makers, and its Qi Charging Stand is a fine example to back that claim.

This charging stand is angled so you are still able to see your display easily while your phone is charging. If you need a way to quickly top off your phone on your desk or a new place to keep it safe on your nightstand, this may be the choice for you. Pick yours up for under $30 at Amazon.

See at Amazon

Aukey wireless charging pad

Aukey's wireless charging pad for Qi-enabled devices is sleek and minimalist, which might jive well with your personal tastes. It's an updated version of Aukey's coaster-sized charger, and has a pretty stylish and minimalist look to it and won't take up much space on your desk or nightstand. And unlike other options on this list, it actually uses a USB-C cable to supply power which should make for more an efficient energy transfer.

You can get one for your home or office for just $25.

See at Amazon

Seneo Qi wireless charging stand

Seneo's wireless charging stand features a couple cool features such as LEDs to notify you when your phone is charging or if there's anything blocking the connection between your phone and the charging coils. Other key features are its minimalist inclined design and its price — only $20 on Amazon.

It's available in your choice of black or white.

See at Amazon

Are you done with wired charging?

Do you find wireless charging pads to be convenient? Which is your favorite to use? Let us know in the comments below.

LG V30

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1 month ago

Vizio Crave Go is a Chromecast speaker that delivers big sound in a small package

2

Big sound in the right package and it's a Chromecast device!

There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to buying a wireless speaker. That can make finding the one that's right for you a little difficult. Most of us want the same thing when we're buying a speaker — the right balance between cost, features and sound quality. Vizio comes in with the right mix of each with its Crave Go Wireless speaker.

At first glance, the Crave Go looks like other high-end speakers on the market. You have a rounded corner rectangle, a stately two-tone silver and black exterior, all propped up with a built-in kickstand on the back. It's clearly designed to serve its purpose without looking out of place in most any setting. And while the Crave Go is a great size to carry along on an outing, it would also look right at home in your living room or bedroom.

The sliver and soft-black rubber finish looks great and should hold up well.

A look at the rear shows the inputs for power and auxiliary cable, a USB output to use it as a charger for other devices, and the power switch. The rest of the controls are on the right side, which is convenient as they would be difficult to reach while in use had they been positioned near the kickstand. There you'll find the Bluetooth pairing button, a volume rocker, and play/pause buttons. One thing I noticed is that the controls are spaced far enough apart that you can easily operate the speaker in the dark or without lifting it up to look at the buttons themselves.

See at Amazon

The features

The best feature of the Crave Go is wireless support through Chromecast or Vizio's SmartCast Mobile app. The speaker is a full-fledged Chromecast Audio device which means it is capable of use in a multi-room setup. In case you're not aware of how this works, once your Crave Go is set up on your Wi-Fi network you can stream audio from any Chromecast enabled app directly to the speaker without going through your phone. You can also start listening through Google Home or Google Assistant. I found the Chromecast feature to work just as well as it does with Google's own Chromecast Audio products, including multi-room setup.

Of course, you can also use the Crave Go as a traditional Bluetooth speaker for the times you're on the go. Pair it with your phone and you can send audio out to it like you would any standard Bluetooth speaker — the Wi-Fi abilities don't interfere with Bluetooth operation in any way. I found the Bluetooth connection nice and strong, with a range of about 35-40 feet before any noticeable stuttering or pausing. On the go, I was able to use the speaker for about 4.5 hours (less than the advertised six hours) before it needed to be plugged in.

Bluetooth while on-the-go and Google cast at home makes the Crave Go a double-duty device.

One pain point I did come across was the initial Wi-Fi setup. The Vizio SmartCast app was able to set up the speaker on my Wi-Fi network, but it never fully finished up to allow me to cast to the device using the Android version. I had no such problems with the iOS version of the SmartCast app. This was easily rectified by using the Google Home app to assign the speaker its name and could then send music out just as expected. This could be because of my network or the phones I tried, but in any case, it's worth a mention. As is the fix.

The sound

In a word, excellent.

The Crave Go is advertised as being able to output volume up to 88 decibels and frequencies as low at 75 Hz. That translates into a loud stream of audio with big booming bass, which the speaker certainly does deliver. Over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you'll be able to play music or any other audio at levels that border on uncomfortably loud without any crackle or distortion, and you really can feel a hint of the chest-pounding bass you experience from bigger and more expensive speakers.

With the volume at full on the speaker itself and adjusted through my phone while casting, I was able to get the right amount of sound to fill a small or a large room as well as get everyone in the backyard toe-tapping and singing along while using it outdoors for a cookout.

You won't have any complaints about how the Crave Go sounds, and that's because it sounds damn good.

The verdict

The Crave Go lists for $199, but it's on sale at Amazon (at the time of this writing) for $149. You can find plenty of Bluetooth speakers for a lot less. But this is not just another Bluetooth speaker.

I would buy this, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a great wireless speaker.

The excellent sound quality puts it above most Bluetooth speakers on the market, and the ability to also use it as an at-home Wi-Fi speaker with Google cast separates it from almost every other portable speaker out there. When you do find a speaker that sounds good and offers support for Wi-Fi play through Google Cast, you'll see that the price isn't out of line.

I have a bit of collectoritis when it comes to speakers and other audio products. When I find a good one, I'll buy it even if I don't need it. the Crave Go is a good one, and I'd totally buy it. I'll also recommend it to anyone else.

See at Amazon

Chromecast

Chromecast:

Google Best Buy

Chromecast Audio:

Google Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Google Best Buy

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1 month ago

Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers

14

Take your music with you with a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Portable Bluetooth speakers are one of the best ways to take those excellent audio waves with you everywhere. Compatible with practically every device out there, Bluetooth speakers will make sure that, as long as your phone, tablet, or laptop is around, your music is loud!

We've rounded up some of the best portable Bluetooth speakers that you can take with you just about anywhere!

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1 month ago

Best Accessories for the Samsung Galaxy S8

9

The Galaxy S8 is a big deal on its own, but it's even better with some fantastic accessories. Here are some of the best you can find!

A phone, naked, is just a phone. A phone, accessorized, is a... well, it's a phone with a bunch of awesome stuff connected to it. From cases to battery packs to chargers, camera add-ons and other cool stuff, here's what you need to know.

Galaxy S8 Alcantara case

Samsung makes great cases for its phones, and the best one right now soft, colorful and really grippy — it's the Alcantara case.

Not only does it look great, but the suede-like material makes the slippery phone more comfortable to hold and adds a bit of friction, too.

Then there's the fact that Alcantara is a pretty unknown material in the tech space (it's been around the furniture industry for decades) and will help your Galaxy S8 stand out in a sea of same-looking cases. And for around $40, it's not quite as expensive as the Galaxy Note 8 version.

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Spigen cases

Spigen is always on point with its lineup of cases for the latest smartphone releases, and it's rolled out a full line for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+.

If you've tried and loved one of their cases before, you'll be able to find the style that's right for you. The cases range from $10 to $30, but they're all high-quality and definitely worth your time.

A deep dive into Spigen's Galaxy S8 case lineup

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Samsung Wireless Charger Convertible

Samsung has completely revamped its wireless charger for the Galaxy S8 and it's pretty great.

The plush pad can charge the Galaxy S8 or S8+ wireless from pretty much any position, but the beauty of this new charger is in the name: you can prop up the phone on a desk to charge vertically, allowing you to peer at (and get distracted by) the Galaxy S8's awesome new always-on display while you work. It's really simple to change positions, and in either orientation the phone charges fast — almost as quickly as it would when plugged in. A bargain of convenience at $65.

And if you're not all that interested in a convertible charger, last year's fast wireless charger can be had for a steal of under $40 over at Amazon.

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Samsung EVO Select 128GB Class 10 microSD card

Samsung's own 128GB EVO Select microSD card is a bargain at $59. With read speeds of up to 100MB/s and write speeds of up to 90MB/s you can quickly and easily transfer files to and from the phone. It's also U3 classified which makes it perfect for 4K video.

With the speed and storage capacity comes a larger price tag on this card, but if you want the biggest on the market this is the way to go.

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Anker PowerCore+ 21000

Your Galaxy S8 already comes with a pretty big battery, but if you're the type to carry a backpack wherever you go, putting this slim, lightweight Anker PowerCore+ 21000 pack in there is a pretty good idea.

The charger comes with two USB-A ports and a dual-direction USB-C port for charging your phone and the charger itself. Genius! And because there's so much room in the battery, it should top up your Galaxy S8 five or six times without needing to be topped up itself. Grab it for around $65!

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Mophie Juice Pack

If a battery charging case is more your thing, Mophie has you covered. The Juice Pack line has been powering Galaxy devices for years, and this year's model is slimmer and more intelligent than ever.

The Juice Pack plugs into your Galaxy S8's USB-C port to top it up with 2950mAh of additional juice, and the case itself, like the phone, charges wirelessly using Qi technology, so you can use the same wireless charging pad you do for your phone — all for around $100.

Or, if you're looking for something a bit more unique, you can grab the Mophie Charge Force battery case and wireless battery charging pack, which is a little harder to buy right now, but if you should find it, it's probably a better product overall.

See at Amazon

Gear VR w/ new Controller

If you've never tried Samsung Gear VR before, you're in for a real treat. Samsung partnered up with Oculus to provide one of the best mobile VR experiences you'll find, with compelling games to play alone or with friends, tons of streaming video apps and VR exclusive experiences, along with its own functional social media platform.

Making things all the sweeter is the inclusion of the new touch controller, meaning you won't need to hold your hand up to the headset like you're Cyclops from the X-Men.

This new headset supports both the Galaxy S8 and newer Note 8, with an updated design and slightly larger lens, for $130.

Everything you need to know about Samsung Gear VR

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Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch

The Gear S3 doesn't get enough love. It's an amazing smartwatch with tons of features that work really well with the Galaxy S8. And, if you're running it with Samsung's latest smartphone, you get things like Samsung Pay, which isn't available on other devices.

But more than that, at under $300, Samsung has created a relatively affordable, long-lasting and feature-filled smartwach in the Gear S3, and one that, unlike most Android Wear products, will last more than a day on a charge.

See at Amazon

Which accessories have caught your eye so far?

What are your go-to accessories for a new phone? Anything you'll be picking up for your new Samsung Galaxy S8? Let us know in the comments!

Update, October 2017: This post has been refreshed with some new items and up-to-date pricing.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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1 month ago

Best MicroSD Card For Android

Best top-tier

Samsung EVO+ 256GB

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Samsung's very-highest-of-the-high-end microSD card isn't cheap. In fact, it's the priciest on this list. But you're also getting a winning combination of performance and storage capacity, with 90MB/sec write speeds and 95MB/sec reads, and an enormous 256GB of space.

That's more than you'll ever need in a smartphone, and the high read/write speeds will help if you're shooting lots of 4K video on a high-end phone like the Galaxy S8 (as too will that enormous capacity.) Better still, it's water, temperature, X-ray and magnetic proof, so you needn't worry about it getting damaged while you're out and about.

Best value - capacity

Samsung EVO Select 128GB

See at Amazon

If you want a nice high storage capacity without breaking the bank, Samsung's 128GB card is a good option — it provides a staggering amount of storage, and with pretty fast read and write speeds to boot — though remember your phone probably won't be able to achieve the maximum read and write speeds quoted here. It's about the lowest price we've seen for a 128GB card, and a great way to free up a ton of space on your phone or tablet.

What's more, you can pay an extra few bucks at checkout and get an OTG reader thrown in too.

Best value - speed

Lexar Professional 1000x 32GB UHS-II/U3

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If speed is more important, you might want to give this Lexar card a shot. It uses UHS-II flash memory and boasts read speeds of up to 150MB/sec — but only to supporting PCs and cameras, no phone we're aware of currently supports UHS-II speeds for reads and writes. The capacity isn't the greatest, but there are also 64 and 128GB variants available, if you're willing to pay more.

The Lexar card also comes with a USB reader for plugging into your PC and transferring data at higher speeds.

Best Balanced

Lexar High-Performance microSDXC 300x

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This Lexar card won't break the bank — it's just under $26 at the time of writing — but offers a great balance of speed and capacity. 64GB should be enough for most people's photo, video and offline music needs, while the card's UHS-I speed rating provides ample performance.

There's no full-sized SD adapter bundled with this card, but you can't argue with the price for this kind of microSD.


Update, October 2017: This list has been updated to reflect new pricing for some of these cards.

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1 month ago

Google has sold 55 million Chromecasts around the world

2

Google sold 25 million Chromecasts over the last 15 months.

At the Pixel 2 event, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh announced that the company has sold 55 million Chromecasts and Chromecast built-in devices in the four years since its launch. That number is a sizeable increase from the 30 million sales Google announced back in July 2016, with the company selling 25 million Chromecasts over the last 15 months.

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1 month ago

5 reasons it's worth buying an Android Wear watch right now

19

Android Wear is more awesome than ever, and now is definitely the time to buy.

Android Wear is the software that powers an increasing number of awesome smartwatches that sync up to your phone. From notifications to fitness to apps, they're better than ever, and now may be the right time to pick one up for yourself — be it a low-key LG Watch Style to a fancy (and expensive) Tag Heurer Connected.

It helps you work out! 💪

With the rollout of Android Wear 2.0 earlier in 2017, staying fit using your Android Wear device became even easier than ever. You'll get access to the features you may have already known about like step trackers, but the big change came with Google Fit.

Google Fit is now better able to communicate with your watch to tell what kind of activity you are engaging in. It also includes mini-games for working out and an update to cycle tracking for gym goers. All of these things add up to make your Android Wear device more invaluable than ever for getting fit and staying that way.

Track notifications

Android Wear has always been great at conveying notifications from your phone to your wrist. But with recent versions, it's getting smarter about sending the right ones, and allowing you to respond in the most convenient way possible.

With Android Wear 2.0, you can respond using your voice — that's not new — but there's also the option of using an on-screen keyboard, or emoji (🙄) or writing individual letters. Whatever suits your fancy.

Most people are programmed to pull their phones out of a pocket as soon as they hear a notification. When you wear an Android Wear watch, you realize, with great relief, how much less that happens. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Stay organized with Google Assistant and apps

There's something about being able to just say, "OK Google, remind me to pick up milk on the way home," and have it turn into a usable reminder on your wrist. Or to download an app like Bring! and have a cross-platform, Wear-friendly grocery app that works completely independently on the wrist.

Android Wear 2.0 comes with its own Play Store, and a bunch of apps that make it possible to do an increasing number of things without a phone nearby.

Easy-to-reach remote

Many people have opted into the Google ecosystem, using Chromecast or Google Home to help stream music and programs. If you like dancing around to Spotify when nobody is home, but need to pause the music to answer the door, fumbling for your phone can take just a few moments too long.

Android Wear acts as a remote control, letting you pause, play and even fast forward media all with just a few swipes and taps. Of course, you can always reach for your phone, but if you have the controls right on your wrist, then why worry about it?

Pay without a hassle

When Android Pay was released, it suddenly made picking up milk from the corner store a much quicker process (as long as the merchant supported NFC payments). Instead of having to reach for your wallet or fumble with cash, you had the option to just tap your phone and pay using the connected app. While it has taken a bit, with the addition of NFC chips to newer Android Wear devices, mobile pay has come to the wrist.

Of course, you still need to properly set up Android Pay on your device, and connect a card, but once you do that you can pay with a tap. Since your smartwatch can pay the bills it means you can just move your wrist without ever having to pull something out of your pockets.

See at Amazon

Do you have an Android Wear watch?

Android Wear watches have been around for a few years now, and they're only getting more awesome as time marches forward. Have you picked up an Android Wear watch? Do you use it for everyday things, or just specific reasons? Is there a reason to pick up an Android Wear watch that we didn't cover? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Android Wear

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1 month ago

aptX vs. aptX HD: What's the difference?

35

In a world where a 3.5mm headphone jack is on the verge of extinction, aptX HD can make a difference.

Whenever you read anything about Bluetooth, you'll come across plenty of letters and numbers and other cryptic specs. One of the latest on these is aptX HD, which takes a previously cryptic specification and adds HD on the end. We all know HD means "High Definition", but what about the aptX part? And what makes aptX (which is also a high-definition specification) different from aptX HD?

Don't worry if you aren't quite sure of the answer because you're not alone. And we're about to go through the details so we can figure it out together.

What is aptX?

aptX is a Bluetooth audio codec that can transmit 16-bit/44.1kHz audio with a compression ratio of 4:1 at 352kpbs.

That's not very helpful, but it's what you would find if you dug up the specifications for aptX. What it means is that a device — your phone, your computer, your A/V receiver or just about anything else that can send Bluetooth audio — transmits audio with "CD-like" quality. It sounds better as long as the source of the audio is CD quality or higher.

The original aptX codec promised CD-like quality, and it mostly delivered on it.

Notice the claim of "CD-like" quality versus CD quality. It's stated this way because of compression. aptX, like every other Bluetooth audio codec, uses compression on the audio before sending, and the receiving device — your headphones or any other speaker — decompresses it while it's playing. Compressing the data and sending it is necessary because Bluetooth can't stream stereo audio fast enough to send raw data that would still sound good. The aptX codec also was designed to reduce latency, which is the amount of time that passes between sending the audio and hearing it.

If you're listening to music, latency doesn't matter. There could be a fairly big delay between your phone and your headphones and you wouldn't notice it. But if you were watching a video you most certainly would! We've all seen streams get a little funky and the words just don't sync with the actor's lips!

Latency is bad news when you're watching Netflix.

There's even an aptX LL (Low Latency) codec for cases where latency is super important. The aptX LL codec cuts latency down to 32 milliseconds which is fast enough that our brains can't detect it. You'll find aptX LL in things like gaming headsets where latency is more important than quality, though aptX LL can transmit 16-bit/44.1kHz, too.

When it's all said and done, aptX makes audio sound better than most other Bluetooth audio codecs. Since we all want our audio to sound good, aptX is a feature of almost every device that can send or receive audio over Bluetooth.

What is aptX HD?

AptX HD is a Bluetooth audio codec that can transmit 24-bit/48kHz audio with a "gentle" compression ratio of 4:1 at 576kpbs.

Again with the numbers, but this time we can make more use of them. For starters, higher quality audio can be sent using aptX HD without increasing the latency or pausing the data stream. 24-bit 48kHz files are true HD files that people with expensive wired headphones appreciate, where you hear very little background noise and can hear each individual thing making sounds clearly. Phones like the LG V series can send higher quality audio through the 3.5mm headphone jack, but these numbers have almost reached the point of diminishing return once you get to 24-bit 48kHz.

aptX HD ups the ante and can transmit a true hi-res audio stream.

The difference between a 24-bit 48kHz audio stream over a wired connection and one over Bluetooth is the compression. aptX HD has a better compression algorithm than standard aptX (note the "gentle" 4:1 compression) but any compression introduces fuzz and hiss. You've heard this at play even if you didn't know it — rock guitarists use compression taken to the extreme in order to make their guitar sound more "chunky" and "fuzzy" and it works. The compression used in the aptX HD codec was specially developed to not make things sound chunky and fuzzy, but it still injects some noise.

A bigger bandwidth pipe means less compression is required, and that means better sound quality.

The final difference is the most important. Apt X transmits audio at 352kpbs and aptX HD transmits at 576kbps. The kbps stands for kilobits per second, and this is the same way we measure our internet connection speed. One Mbps (megabit per second) is equal to 1,000 kilobits per second. We all know that more bits per second with your internet connection is better, and that's true with Bluetooth audio as well. The higher bandwidth means more data can be streamed which means it doesn't need as much compression, or as we see with aptX HD, a looser compression algorithm can be used.

Note that this measurement is in bits (lower-case b) and not bytes (upper-case B as in kBps) and is talking about the data transmission rate and not the file sizes that can be sent.

After we cut through all the numbers and tech talk, aptX HD can send higher quality audio than standard aptX, without introducing any extra latency. That means it sounds even better and approaches the quality you can get over a wire.

Where to find aptX HD

aptX HD isn't something that any equipment can deliver. It's something Qualcomm developed (as was the original aptX and all variants of it) and you need their hardware as well as their software. Their current high-end solution, the CSR8675 Bluetooth Audio SoC delivers aptX HD, Bluetooth 5, active noise cancellation over Bluetooth and Qualcomm TrueWireless stereo on a single chip. Like all hardware that supports aptX HD, it's 100% backward compatible with standard aptX, too.

LG first brought aptX HD to the smartphone world with the G5 and continues the trend with current models.

The first phone with aptX HD to be sold was the LG G5. LG has spearheaded the aptX HD movement and you'll also find the codec present in the LG V20, the LG G6, and the LG V30. Sony delivers aptX HD in the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 compact, OnePlus has the feature in the OnePlus 3, 3T and 5, and a handful of lesser-known (in the smartphone space at least) companies like Sharp and Luna also make aptX HD capable Android phones.

On the listening end, you'll find aptX HD headphones from Sony, Audio Technica, and LG as well as other lesser-known brands. The list of aptX HD products will likely keep growing as the codec delivers better sounding audio without any extra work needed from the companies who use it.

As far as the sound versus wired audio, that's something each of us will have to evaluate on our own.

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1 month ago

Best Gamepad For Samsung Gear VR

Best overall

SteelSeries Stratus XL

See at Amazon

The folks at SteelSeries have a long history of quality controllers for mobile platforms, and the Stratus XL kicks that up a notch. Instead of focusing on portability and pocketability like the other controllers in this product line, SteelSeries focused on comfort and capability which makes it an incredible choice for the Samsung Gear VR. It has all the quality of a major console controller, with great battery life and a $50 price tag to match.

It pairs instantly to your Samsung phone and works with dozens of Gear VR games right out of the box. Stratus XL is an all around quality gamepad, with a layout that is easy to remember when you eyes are in VR.

Bottom line: If you want the best overall gamepad for your Gear VR, SteelSeries is where you want to be.

One more thing: This version of the controller only comes in black. If you see a white version of this controller, it's the iOS-only version and won't work with the Gear VR.

Why the SteelSeries Stratus XL is the best

Everything you need in a gamepad you'll be using without your eyes.

While the Samsung Gear VR comes with its own Controller now, there are plenty of VR games you play on this headset which require or are enhanced by a good ol' fashioned gamepad. It's just not as enjoyable to play Minecraft with a motion controller, which is why Samsung continues to support games and gamers who prefer this gameplay mechanic.

Three things matter most when it comes to a VR-friendly gamepad — comfort, battery life, and durability. SteelSeries has checked all three boxes with the Stratus XL. This is an Xbox-esque gamepad that looks and feels familiar with a button layout you will quickly become comfortable with despite not being able to look down at it while in VR. This gamepad will easily survive the occasional drop when you are spooked in VR thanks to its rugged plastic design, and the use of standard thumbsticks means the chances of breaking them on a drop is unlikely. On average this controller will get you through 30 hours of constant use, which means the only way you're charging this controller once a week is if you are really and truly invested in VR Minecraft. If you do run out of power in the middle of a game, the use of a microUSB port means just about everything can charge this controller quickly.

Best for portability

Moga Hero Power

See at Amazon

Having an Xbox-style gamepad is great for familiarity, but the Gear VR is a portable virtual reality platform and it makes sense that you'd want the gamepad to be equally as portable. That means it stows in a bag easily, and doesn't take up a ton of space. Moga's Hero Power gamepad offers this exact experience, with buttons and joysticks nearly flush with the casing and shorter palm grips that flow in line with the rest of the body. This gamepad also doubles as a more traditional phone gamepad with its foldable phone clip, which is pretty sweet when you consider it'll only set you back $27!

Bottom line: If you value portability above all, Moga Hero Power is what you want.

Best value

Beboncool controller

See at Amazon

It's portable, it's plasticky, and at $20 it's way cheaper than most other Bluetooth gamepads that play nice with the Gear VR. Beboncool makes a bunch of gamepads for tablets and phones alike, but this smaller controller is perfect for portable Gear VR gameplay. The battery is rated for 12 hours of constant gameplay, but the auto-off feature ensures you'll only be using power when you're actually playing.

Bottom line: If you want a better Gear VR gameplay experience without spending a ton, Beboncool has you covered.

Conclusion

If you're looking for console-class gaming on your Gear VR, SteelSeries is where you want to spend your money. There's always a place for portability, though, and Moga has what you need if you're on the go. If all you really want is an affordable gamepad to save you from constantly tapping the side of the Gear VR while playing your games, Beboncool is a great gamepad at a reasonable price.

Best overall

SteelSeries Stratus XL

See at Amazon

The folks at SteelSeries have a long history of quality controllers for mobile platforms, and the Stratus XL kicks that up a notch. Instead of focusing on portability and pocketability like the other controllers in this product line, SteelSeries focused on comfort and capability which makes it an incredible choice for the Samsung Gear VR. It has all the quality of a major console controller, with great battery life and a $50 price tag to match.

It pairs instantly to your Samsung phone and works with dozens of Gear VR games right out of the box. Stratus XL is an all around quality gamepad, with a layout that is easy to remember when you eyes are in VR.

Bottom line: If you want the best overall gamepad for your Gear VR, SteelSeries is where you want to be.

One more thing: This version of the controller only comes in black. If you see a white version of this controller, it's the iOS-only version and won't work with the Gear VR.

Updated October 2017: The Steelseries Stratus XL is still the best Bluetooth gamepad for the Samsung Gear VR.

Samsung Gear VR

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1 month ago

Best HOTAS Controller for PlayStation VR

Best HOTAS controller for PlayStation VR

Is there a HOTAS controller I can use with PlayStation VR?

Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controllers are extremely popular in the flight simulator community and are now gaining a lot of traction in the VR world. These controllers essentially give you a ton of control over your airplane or spaceship, and you can also look and feel like a boss while playing. HOTAS controllers will usually have a familiar joystick for one hand and a throttle for the other.

With rumors of War Thunder and Elite: Dangerous coming to PlayStation VR, and with a few VR games already supported, including EVE: Valkyrie and Starblood Arena, you might be tempted to set up a cockpit in your VR space. Here's the best — and so far really the only — one you'll want to get for PlayStation VR.

Read more at VRHeads!

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1 month ago

Best Cases for Moto G5 Plus

18

What are the best cases available for the Moto G5 Plus?

Motorola's latest budget phone, the Moto G5 Plus, is quite the follow up to the Moto G4 Plus.

If you recently picked one up on sale, you should reinvest some of the money you save on a case to keep it in tip-top condition. We've rounded up a wide variety of cases here —from heavy duty rugged to slim and sleek — so you can find the one that fits your lifestyle best!

Ringke FUSION case

Ringke has a good reputation as a solid case manufacturer, and for good reason: its Fusion series always fits and protects well without adding too much bulk.

The Moto G5 Plus version, available in Clear, Rose Gold Crystal, or Smoke Black colors, is no exception. All versions leave a clear back while the two colored options merely accentuate the sides of the phone. The case covers the ports with little flaps, preventing water from getting inside, and the TPU covering is reinforced at the corners to ensure MIL-STD 810G drop protection.

See at Amazon

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro with Built-in Screen Protector

Do you regularly head out into the great outdoors with your phone and need a case that's rugged enough to take on the elements? Supcase offers its Unicorn Beetle Pro case, which features rugged, dual-layer protection and a built-in screen protector.

It combines a rugged polycarbonate shell with soft TPU to create a durable case with a sporty design. Supcase brags that this case exceeded military shock standards by surviving a 4-foot drop test 26 times so if you're prone to dropping your phone this is the case for you. All the ports are covered to keep out dirt and lint with access to the phone's ports and buttons, and also comes with an optional swiveling belt clip holster. It's come in sleek all black, or premium color cases.

See at Amazon

Spigen Rugged Armor case

Spigen makes some of the best cases you can buy, with their Rugged Armor lineup offering a great balance between style and functionality without adding a ton of bulk to your phone.

This one-piece case is made from flexible TPU with an internal spider-web pattern to help disperse the shock from drops along with Spigen's Air Cushion technology in the corners. The screen is protected with a raised lip around the front, and on the back, you'll find a precise cutout around the camera along with glossy, carbon fiber textures at the top and bottom of the case which increases your ability to maintain a solid grip on your phone.

Precise cutouts around the ports and raised tactile buttons ensure the functionality of your phone is never impeded. For a great, lightweight case that offers rugged protection, you really can't go wrong with Spigen.

See at Amazon

Incipio NGP case

If you're looking for a lightweight rugged case, Incipio's NGP case is the right voice for you.

Featuring a textured back and bumper to ensure you maintain a solid grip, this one-piece polymer case is designed with enhanced drop protection — you'll notice the honeycombed interior which helps to disperse the shock when your phone inevitably hits a table or floor.

Precise cutouts mean you'll have full access to the charging port and headphone jack as well as the volume and power button on the side.

Choose between black and berry pink and keep your Moto G5 Plus protected!

See at Incipio

Tudia Ultra Slim case

Tudio's Ultra Slim case for the Moto G5 Plus is a very stylish option for protecting your phone. it features stylish carbon fiber designs at the top and the bottom of the backplate, which both looks great and helps with grip.

Made with high quality TPU, this sleek case won't add much bulk to your phone, while the raised edge around the screen help keep your phone protected when it's face down on a surface. It's available in three color options: black, grey and navy blue.

For a really stylish and slim option for protecting your Moto G5 Plus, the Tudia Ultra Slim case can't be beat!

See at Amazon

Cimo clear case

Cimo's cases always fit really well and their clarity is excellent. Made from flexible TPU, these cases have a great in-hand feel that's not slippery, so you won't be fumbling your Moto G5 Plus all the time.

There's a raised bezel around the front of the case to protect your phone's screen when you lay it face-down, and the ports and buttons are cut out precisely.

It's important to note that clear TPU will almost always yellow after some time due to the way it absorbs sunlight. But for around $8, you might as well grab a few.

Interested in checking out other clear case options? Check out the best clear cases for the Moto G5 Plus!

See at Amazon

Poetic Revolution

If rugged protection is the name of the game for you, you'll want to consider this Poetic Revolution case for the Moto G5 Plus. It offers full protection for your phone, including a front plate with a built-in screen protector that also adds water resistance to the mix.

This two-piece case combines polycarbonate and TPU on the back to provide a balance of shock absorption and scratch protection, while the front plate is made of solid PC and includes a screen protector to keep your screen protected better than any other case on this list.

There's a lot of smart design elements in play here, including grippy textures along the side edges of the phone, lint/dust flaps over the ports at the bottom, and 'edgy' corners that give the phone a fresh and unique look. Despite all the features and protection built into this case, the profile remains relatively slim so you're not carrying around a plastic brick in your pocket.

See at Amazon

LK Leather Wallet Flip case

If you're looking to keep your phone, ID, credit cards and cash all in one place when you're heading out for a night on the town, the LK wallet case is your best bet.

Available in both black and brown color options, this case features three card slots on the inside cover, including a windowed slot that's perfect for your ID, and also includes a pocket for carrying cash as well. Your phone is held in place via a soft TPU shell that offers quality protection in the spots you need it most: the corners. Fold over the front cover to use it as a kickstand for viewing, then use the magnetic clasp to keep your screen protected in your pocket.

Do note that some of the Moto G5 Plus' functionality may be impeded when the front cover is closes, including the twist and chop gestures for launching the camera and flashlight respectively. Those require the infrared sensor to work properly which is covered by the case when closed. It certainly shouldn't be a dealbreaker for most, but it's worth mentioning before you make the purchase.

See at Amazon

Which case will you pick?

We want to know which cases work best for you, so let us know in the comments below!

Update September 30, 2017: We've added the Ringke FUSION case because it's great and you should buy it.

Moto G5

See at Amazon

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1 month ago

The best wireless chargers for your new phone

11

It's been eight years since wireless charging first came to smartphones with the Palm Pre, but it took Apple building it into the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X to make it matter to the mainstream. That's no snarky jab at Apple or its customers; in fact the iPhone's newfound embrace of wireless charging is reason to celebrate for all those who've ever known the joy of cutting the (charging) cord!

That's because wireless charging is about to return to the scene in a big way – and this time, there's no pesky standards war to get in the way of progress. I'm MrMobile and here's everything you need to know if you're treating your smartphones to a wireless charger in 2017.

Featured Products

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1 month 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.

See on Amazon

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