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2 weeks ago

Eye tracking is coming to HTC Vive: Here's what you need to know

aGlass brings eye tracking support to the HTC Vive - here's what you should know!

Following the release of several high-end VR headsets, hardware manufacturers are beginning to search for the "next big thing" in virtual reality. While wireless VR and improved visual fidelity are seeing heavy investment, various new technologies are emerging which promise to deliver a more immersive experience. Enhanced tracking is one of these areas of interest, in an attempt to further bridge the gap between your physical body and the virtual world.

Eye tracking looks to be one of the more interesting technologies, potentially offer huge leaps in immersion and performance. With companies like "FOVE" taking orders for VR headset sporting full eye tracking, we're already beginning to see small companies push for technology. But what if you could use eye tracking on your existing VR hardware?

Read more at VRHeads!

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2 weeks ago

How to get the Android O beta 3 on your Pixel or Nexus (and how to roll back to Nougat)

23

Here's how to get the Android O beta on your Nexus or Pixel device.

The Android O Developer Preview 3 is here, and if you're looking to install it on your phone or tablet, you're now able to opt-in to the first public beta, which is also available as the second Developer Preview.

Which devices support the Android O Developer Preview?

The preview is supported on the following phones and tablets:

  • Pixel
  • Pixel XL
  • Pixel C
  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus Player

Download the Android O beta

If you don't want to mess with unlocking your bootloader or the command line, the third Android O Developer Preview is part of the public beta. That means that if you have one of the above eligible devices, you can simply visit the Android Beta portal and opt-in to the beta, which will then prompt Google to send your phone or tablet an over-the-air update.

  1. Head to Android Beta program portal on your Pixel or Nexus phone or tablet.
  2. Sign into the Google account associated with that phone.
  3. Scroll down to Your eligible devices.
  4. Find the device you want to enrol in the Beta program and tap Enrol device.
  5. Follow the prompts to accept the over-the-air download.

Note: To leave the beta program, simply press the button on the Android Beta program page to unenroll. Your phone will receive an over-the-air update to return to the stable version of Android 7.1.2 Nougat, but your phone will be wiped clean upon rebooting, so back up your stuff.

Install the Android Developer Preview from the command line

What you need to know beforehand

The Android O Developer Preview 3 is also being released as a factory image, which you can download from the Android Developer Portal.

In order to update a phone or tablet to Android O this way, you need to first unlock your bootloader.

Before we go into these steps, it is strongly recommended that you have previous knowledge of working with the Android SDK (software development kit) and Terminal (OS X or Linux) or Command Prompt (Windows), as it is possible to harm your device if something were to go wrong in the following process.

You'll need to download an updated Android SDK that has the latest Android O tools and images, and you can grab it from the Android Development website and follow their instructions on how to install it correctly. For the following process all you will need is the adb and fastboot files which are located in the Platform Tools folder.

Additionally, all the following commands are written as they would be in Terminal on a Linux or OS X platform. If you are following this guide and using a Windows machine, you will not need to use the "./" seen in the guide.

Enable developer settings and USB debugging

Before you begin, you'll need to have a compatible Nexus or Pixel device running Android 7.x Nougat.

  1. Go to your Settings and scroll down to About Phone/Tablet
  2. Tap on the Build number seven times until the dialog box says you are now a developer
  3. Go back to the Settings menu and you should find a new option called Developer options. Click into the Developer options
  4. Make sure that the developer options are turned on and that USB debugging is checked on
  5. Make sure Enable OEM unlock is checked.
  6. Plug your device into your computer and click "OK" on the dialog box asking you to Allow USB debugging while connected to the computer. You can also select to always allow access on that computer

If done correctly, this will be everything you will need to do on your phone or tablet for the moment.

Unlocking your bootloader

Nexus devices and Pixel phones bought from Google directly have a bootloader you can unlock. If you want to manually flash software, you'll need to do this.

To do this you must first boot into your bootloader. You can either manually turn off your phone or tablet and hold down the power button and the volume down button to enter your device's Bootloader Menu or you can enter the following commands into your terminal or command prompt.

Run the following command to make sure your device is properly connected to your computer. If it returns a string of characters it means that you are all set to start updating your device.

./adb devices

Now to enter into the Bootloader menu just run the following command.

./adb reboot bootloader

At the bottom of the screen there will be several things listed including the lock state of the device. This should say locked unless you have unlocked your bootloader in the past and never went back and locked it again.

To unlock your bootloader, which is required only when flashing a stock firmware image (not sideloading and update, which we'll get to soon), you must enter the following commands. Remember that when unlocking your Nexus' bootloader it will factory reset your device, so you will lose everything stored on it. If you have not yet backed up anything important on your device you can hit the power button while Start is highlighted in the Bootloader menu and this will boot you back into your device like normal. Now back to unlocking your bootloader.

Use the command:

./fastboot flashing unlock

A dialog will appear on the device asking if you are sure about unlocking. Again this will factory reset your device, so if you want to back out of the process you just need to select no with the power button. If you are ready to unlock your bootloader you press the volume up button and then the power button to confirm that you wish to unlock your bootloader.

./fastboot reboot-bootloader

It is recommended to reboot the bootloader just to give itself a check to make sure everything is working correctly before moving onto the next step.

Flashing the stock firmware image

Now that your bootloader is unlocked, it's time to flash the Android O image. To find the system images, head on over to the Factory Images page, find your device, and download the latest factory image available. It is easiest to then uncompress the file in the Platform Tools folder where the adb and fastboot files are so that you don't have to type the path to the different files when flashing the firmware. (Or if you know that you can drag a file into a terminal window to copy the path, just do that.)

To begin, make sure you are still in the bootloader menu on your device and double check that your bootloader is in fact unlocked.

First, make sure that your computer is communicating correctly with your phone or tablet. As long as your device's serial number comes back as a connected device you are ready to begin updating your device.

./fastboot devices

Now it is time to flash the updated bootloader with the following command.

./fastboot flash bootloader [bootloader file].img

You will not see anything on the screen of your device but there should be a dialog in your terminal or command prompt. When it is done flashing the bootloader you should reboot back into the bootloader as to make sure everything is still working correctly.

./fastboot reboot-bootloader

Next you flash the updated radios. This step is only necessary if you are updating the firmware of a phone or tablet that has cellular radios built into it.

./fastboot flash radio [radio file].img

./fastboot reboot-bootloader

Finally, it's time to flash the actual system image to your phone or tablet.

Warning: The following line of code will wipe your device. If you do **not* want your device to be wiped, remove the "-w" from the command. The update should still take just fine, and it will not wipe your user data.

./fastboot -w update [image file].zip

When this is done, your phone will restart itself and boot up normally. As this process clears all data from your device, it will take slightly longer for your device to boot up into Android O for the first time. Once you have been greeted with the device setup walkthrough process, you know you have successfully flashed a new version of the firmware.

If you do not want to enter the commands manually there are scripts included inside the compressed folder containing the system image that will do most but not all of the heavy lifting for you. The flash-all script files will automate the flashing of the bootloader, radios (if needed), and the system image. The problem with this process is that you must first make sure that your phone is in the bootloader menu and its bootloader must be unlocked before starting the script. Of course if these are not already done the script will fail to run and nothing will happen.

How to revert back to Nougat from the Android O Developer Preview

So you're not happy with an early beta and need to re-install Nougat. That's pretty easy! If you installed Android O using the factory image, all you need to do is find the right system image compatible with your handset or slate and run the same procedures as above but with the Android Nougat image.

When finding your Nougat image, make sure you are downloading the correct one that corresponds with your device. If you're running a Verizon or Rogers Pixel, for instance, you'll have to make sure you download the right one.

If you opted into the beta and want to roll back, just unenroll from the beta and restart your phone.

Should you install the beta?

Now that we're at the third beta, things are looking pretty stable. Not only has Google finalized the APIs for Android O, developers can publish apps with those new features in them — you may see your favorite app compatible with Icon Badges or Notification Channels very soon.

Even without third-party app support, the overall design of Android O appears to be near final, and we've had very few stability issues with the new version. And while performance isn't perfect, it seems pretty close, and that's good enough for any beta.

Problems? Confused?

If you're having issues or want to ask a question, come join us in our forums for all the tips, tricks and advice you can handle!

Android O

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2 weeks ago

PlayStation VR toubleshooting guide

Everything you need to know, just in case something goes wrong.

PlayStation VR is a great system that's introduced many people to VR, but even the best systems experience problems from time to time. From tracking issues to display issues to audio issues, here's how to fix pretty much any problem you experience with your PlayStation VR.

See more at VR Heads!

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2 weeks ago

What you need to watch live TV on NVIDIA Shield with Plex

9
NVIDIA Shield TV

The NVIDIA Shield TV and Plex are a match made in heaven. Here's how to get the most from your TV experience with them.

Plex's big recent announcement was that finally you can use it to watch live TV as well as record it. Throw in all your own media collection and you have a pretty complete package.

The NVIDIA Shield Android TV is one of the finest boxes out there for running Plex. It's capable of being both a server and a front end client, among all the other great things you can do on a Shield.

If you're looking to get properly set up for using your Plex-powered Shield for TV, here's what you need.

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2 weeks ago

Here's how to use the Edge panel on the Galaxy S8

12

What's that little tab that lives on your Samsung smartphone's home screen? We'll show you how to use it, customize it, and remove it altogether.

Sometimes, Samsung's smartphones are equipped with features that may leave you wondering whether they're actually worth using. Well, if you're the fast-moving type, or you're addicted to keeping your home screen as light on the icons as possible, you may want to consider diving into the utility of the edge panels on the Galaxy S8.

Now that both of Samsung's latest flagship models are equipped with cascading edge screens, you can take advantage of the Edge Panels that were previously limited to the edge variant of the Galaxy S8's predecessors. The Edge Panels can be extremely useful if you're looking to save space on the interface, add quick access links to your favorite contacts, or you like the idea of having a "shelf" for oft-used tasks. Here's how I use the Edge Panels on the Galaxy S8+ and how you can set up yours to fit your needs.

Quick access to making GIFs and editing photos

The Galaxy S8+ is my "social media" phone — it's quick to launch Snapchat, takes incredible pictures with its 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, and offers a ton of storage space due in part to its microSD expansion slot. As a result, I've set up the Edge Panels with the Apps Edge so that only the apps I use for editing photos are readily available.

galaxy s8

The Edge Panel on my Galaxy S8+.

I have 10 of my favorite apps at the ready for filtering photos, recording vintage-looking video, or adding neon colors to RAW images snapped with the Galaxy S8's manual mode. The shortcuts make it so that all I have to do is swipe my thumb a little from the edge to reveal the apps, and then tap to launch one right away. I can easily swap out apps as I download new ones, too, by tapping the Settings icon at the bottom of the screen. I still have the camera icon and Galaxy S8's quick launch capabilities set up, however, so that snapping the photo and then transforming it into social media art is a mere two step process.

galaxy s8

For those who need plenty of cropping options, there's Smart Select.

The other Edge Panel I'm finding to be particularly useful is Smart Select, which offers a multitude of cropping options while you're using the Galaxy S8. These are carryover features that were originally introduced on the Galaxy Note 5, but they've been since been iterated on so that they're easier to use. Smart Select gives you the option the crop out a rectangle or oval part of the screen, though you can also use it to make an animated GIF of a non-DRM video that's playing on screen. Additionally, there's a "pin it" feature that lets you crop out a part of the screen and then pin it to the top of the phone's interface — this is especially useful if, say, you need login credentials and the multi-window feature is too much to set up.

What you can do with the Edge Panel

It's convenient to have the most oft-used shortcuts readily available with the swipe of a finger. If you're sold on the idea of the Edge Panels, here is how to set them up.

  1. Launch Settings from the notification shade.
  2. Tap Phone.
  3. Tap Edge screen.
  4. Tap the switch next to Edge panels to enable them.
  5. Tap on Edge panels to customize the shelf.

Note: The above steps may be different depending on your location, since Samsung likes to make things different for different parts of the world. You may find Edge screen under Display in your settings instead.

Out of the box, there are 13 pre-packaged Edge panels to choose from, including the Clipboard edge, which stores and showcases the latest text you've copied to the clipboard, or Quick tools, which offers up shortcuts to a virtual compass and ruler. If you desire more options, you can download additional Edge panels, including a Spotify one, which offers easy access to your playlists, as well as one that integrates your Google Keep. Some of the panels are either free, or they'll cost a couple of dollars. Regardless, you'll have to sign in with your Samsung account to get more. Also note that you can only set up nine Edge panels at a time, so don't go too crazy.

The tab overlay for the Edge panel on the Galaxy S8 is entirely customizable.

When you're finished setting up what works for you, tap on the overflow menu button in the top right corner to reveal the Handle settings option. This will allow you to customize the virtual tab overlay that lives on the Home screen. You can set its placement, decrease its size, or set it to be transparent. You can also select whether there is haptic feedback when you touch the Edge panel tab.

What's in your Edge panel?

Are you using the Edge Panel feature on your Galaxy S8 or S8+? We're curious to hear how you've customized your Samsung device.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Main

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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2 weeks ago

4 reasons to buy a U.S. unlocked Galaxy S8, and 3 reasons to be cautious

47
Samsung Galaxy S8 and SIM cards

You have the option to break the carrier shackles.

Slowly but surely, Samsung is doing a better job of offering and promoting its unlocked phone options. With each year of Galaxy S phones on U.S. carriers we get a closer launch of the U.S. unlocked variants, and the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are prominently displayed as being available unlocked on Samsung's website.

But what are the pros and cons of buying unlocked in the U.S. versus buying from a carrier as so many do already? We have you covered right here.

Reasons to buy a U.S. unlocked Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8

We so often preach the importance of looking for an unlocked phone rather than going directly to a carrier, but perhaps don't always enumerate the benefits. Here's what you can look forward to when buying a Galaxy S8 or S8+ unlocked directly from Samsung.

No bloatware

One of the most annoying aspects of buying a carrier-sold phone is all of the apps and software it includes. Some carriers add a dozen or more apps and trials on the phone, cluttering it up with tons of things you don't need or want.

When you buy unlocked directly from Samsung, you don't get any of that. We wish we weren't all subjected to this time after time, but the carriers continue to leverage their market dominance by adding in all of these apps, and the only way to avoid them is skipping their sales channel altogether.

Not locked to any carrier

We all just want to be free. Free from being forced into using one carrier. And when you buy a phone directly from a carrier, chances are for some period of time your phone will be locked to use on that carrier — especially if you're buying the phone on a financing plan.

While you may not go hopping from carrier to carrier every month, just knowing that you have the option is empowering. It can be a practical feature, too, if you travel internationally and want to use your phone with a local SIM card rather than pay your U.S. carrier for data roaming charges.

But all big networks are supported

Even though the unlocked Galaxy S8 and S8+ don't have any of the carrier software or apps pre-loaded on them, Samsung has still done the work to certify that they will work fully on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. That means you don't have to worry about compatibility when popping in your SIM, or switching between carriers in the future.

That also means you'll have options to try lower-cost prepaid carriers, too, since they almost all operate on AT&T and T-Mobile's networks.

Samsung and Best Buy offer financing, too

Carriers moved away from two-year contracts, but found a new way to lock us in: financing plans. Now, people are so often incentivized to buy from carriers just so they can pay off their phone over time. But when buying a Galaxy S8 or S8+ unlocked, you actually have the same sort of offering from Samsung and Best Buy.

Samsung offers 24-month zero-interest financing when buying from its website, while Best Buy offers the same terms using a My Best Buy credit card. Consider these options instead of just jumping at the carrier because you're afraid of that big hit of a full $725 or $825 price.

See at Best Buy
See at Samsung

Reasons to be cautious

Galaxy S8 and S8+

For all of the big upsides of buying unlocked, it isn't all roses. Here are some potential downsides you should be aware of.

When will the updates come?

Here's the big question any enthusiast looking at an unlocked Samsung phone has: will I get software updates? Last year's U.S. unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 edge lagged way behind in software updates. And for all of the crap we give carriers for delaying software updates, some of the carrier models have actually been kept up to date — with most getting Android 7.0 Nougat well before the unlocked model.

Samsung says it can turn this around and get the U.S. unlocked Galaxy S8 and S8+ their updates on time — and hopefully before carrier models — but history isn't on its side in this regard.

Limited color options

For some, it's all about looks. While you may be okay with the black Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+, many are intrigued by the orchid grey or arctic silver colors — and those aren't available for the unlocked models (at least right now).

This is likely the case so that Samsung can limit its inventory of devices that aren't likely to sell that well, but with any luck we'll see the colors come later.

No carrier incentives

For as much as we dislike what carriers do to phones, they do still sometimes offer really good deals on phones. If you're looking to get a discount on service, a buy-one-get-one deal or maybe a gift card rebate of some kind, you're most likely to find that at a carrier rather than buying unlocked.

Some would say that getting a carrier-branded phone in the end isn't worth whatever discount you got, but for a lot of people money is the number one consideration for buying a phone — do your research and see what deals are available.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Main

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint Unlocked

About

The Galaxy S8, and its larger sibling the S8+, are Samsung's top-end devices for 2017 meant to appeal to the general consumer and power user alike. The two phones are only differentiated by screen and battery size: 5.8 inches and 3000mAh, and 6.2 inches and 3500mAh.

The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they're extra tall and narrow. Samsung moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7.

Though the batteries haven't increased in size from the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but has improved processing thanks to a new ISP and software.

Specs

Width Height Thickness 5.86 in
148.9 mm
2.68 in
68.1 mm
0.31 in
8 mm
5.47 oz
155g grams
  • Display:
    • 5.8-inch AMOLED display
    • 2960x1440 resolution
    • 18.5:9 aspect ratio
    • Dual-curve infinity display
  • Cameras:
    • 12MP ƒ/1.7 rear camera
    • Dual-pixel phase detection autofocus
    • 1.4-micron pixels
    • 8MP ƒ/1.7 front camera
  • Battery:
    • 3000 mAh battery
    • Non-removable
    • USB-C fast Charging
    • Qi + PMA wireless charging
  • Chips:
    • Snapdragon 835 processor
    • Samsung Exynos 8896 processor
      (varies by region)
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB internal storage
    • microSD card slot
    • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • GS8+
    • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    • 6.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 3500mAh battery
    • 6.28 in x 2.89 in x 0.32 in
      159.5mm x 73.4mm x 8.1mm
    • 6.10 oz / 73g

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2 weeks ago

How to listen to audiobooks using Amazon Alexa

6

Setting up alexa to read your audiobooks is a breeze.

Talking to Alexa can make keeping organized easier, but it's definitely useful for more than just an interactive to-do list and search engine. You can also use Alexa to listen to your Audiobooks when you're ready to relax. We've got the details on how to get listening to your favorite books in no time.

Alexa can read audiobooks

Alexa on the Amazon Echo can connect to a variety of different apps and services in an effort to make your life easier. This ranges from everything from shopping lists, to movies, and yes, even audiobooks. By just asking asking Alexa to open one of your audiobooks up, you can lay back and listen to the book you've been craving.

To access them you'll need to connect to either your Audible or Amazon account, depending on which service you prefer to listen to. This means that if a new book comes out that you just have to have, you can order it, and then lay back and have Alexa open it for you.

Getting set up shouldn't take any time at all, since your Audible account is connected to your Amazon account. The most you'll need to do is make sure you are signed in to the Audible app if you plan on purchasing more books. The app should automatically sync up your library, letting you listen to the books you are interested in within moments of purchase.

How to use the Alexa app to listen to an audiobook

  1. Open the Alexa app on your phone.
  2. Tap the overflow icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  3. Tap Music, Video & Books.

  4. Tap Audible.
  5. Tap the audiobook you would like to listen to.

Are you listening?

Alexa is here to make your life just a little bit easier, and that includes playing your audiobooks for you when it's time to relax. With virtually no setup required, this means you don't need to worry about anything but settling in to listen to the story you want to hear. Have you been listening to audibooks with Alexa? Let us now about it in the comments below!

Amazon Echo

Amazon

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2 weeks ago

4G in India: Everything you need to know

24

4G is finally going mainstream in India.

India's mobile market has seen a meteoric rise in the last few years, and it doesn't look like the growth will abate anytime soon. A key part of that vision is 4G connectivity, which has been rolling out in phases since 2012. One of the key stories in the country's digital transformation in 2016 was the launch of Reliance Jio.

Jio made its debut late last year, offering affordable tariffs and a robust network that's built entirely on 4G. The fact that the carrier gave away huge amounts of data for free for everyone for the first six months allowed it to climb up the ranks in a short time, amassing over 100 million subscribers already. When it comes to 4G, Jio is in the lead by a huge margin. Here's what you need to know about the state of 4G in India.

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2 weeks ago

Best legal add-ons for Kodi

47

Kodi has a ton of quality — and legal — content available.

Update June 2017: Added info on the Plex add-on for Kodi.

Kodi is one of the easiest ways to cut the cord and say adios to your monthly cable bill. Formerly XMBC, Kodi is a front end that streams media. It's also super easy to install on just about anything that runs Android. Even if it's Android in name only, like Fire OS on the Amazon Fire TV stick. If it can install and run Android apps, you can install Kodi.

Installing Kodi is only the first step, though. A media streamer doesn't do much without media to stream. Setting up your own storage space and connecting it to your Kodi install is easy, but there's a whole internet out there filled with media to stream. You just have to know where to start.

YouTube

Of course, YouTube is on our best list. YouTube is a free service where anyone can upload media. That means some of it is the worst media you can imagine, but there are also plenty of gems you can stream to your TV using the YouTube Addon. And installing it is simple.

  • Open the settings and click the icon labeled Add-ons.
  • Depending on the version of Kodi you're running, you'll see an icon that says Install from repository or Get add-ons. Click it.
  • Choose the Kodi Add-on repository
  • Under Video Add-ons you'll see YouTube listed. Click it to install.

Twitch

I love Twitch. I don't know why, but watching interesting people stream interesting games or other non-gaming content is almost as fun as playing them. And the Twitch add-on for Kodi is a great way to watch them.

It's easy to navigate and use, even with a remote if you don't have a keyboard. It also supports your account login and you can chat and spam Kappa just like you can from a PC. Though you might want a keyboard for that. But seriously, check out Paul and the gang from Windows Central on Twitch and tell them kappa sent you!

Installing Twitch is done the same way as the YouTube add-on above. Just search "Twitch" instead of "YouTube."

The master list

Instead of writing out hundreds of great add-ons through the official Kodi repository, I'll direct you to the master list. You'll find names you know like Hulu and Netflix as well as networks and programming you have never heard of. Every one of these add-ons is also 100% legal and above the board — nobody from your ISP is going to be sending you a nastygram.

You'll install any of them the same way, right through the settings app on your Kodi box.

Official Kodi Video Add-ons

Our next three add-ons either aren't listed in the official Kodi repository or are updated so often it's better to get them from another source that's quicker to add the new content. We'll be using SuperRepo to install them.

Not everything at SuperRepo can make our legal list, but these are fine.

SuperRepo has tons of add-ons for Kodi. Some, like these, are completely on the level. Others fall into that gray murky area where ownership and copyright aren't clear. That means you need to be careful and not just install every add-on that catches your eye if you want to comply with rules and laws.

And you really should comply with laws. Following even stupid laws you hate is a great way to stay out of trouble. But if you do dive in where words like legal don't apply, use a VPN. Comcast or Time Warner or whoever you get your internet from is watching you.

To install the SuperRepo repository:

  • In the System category, open the File Manager.
  • Click the Add source icon.
  • Click the list (it might say "none") to open a text box where you can add a new source.
  • Type http://srp.nu in the text box, and give it the name SuperRepo. Click Done.

Now you'll see Super Repo in your file manager. The files you see will all install an add-on just by clicking on them.

USTVNow

This is the first one to find in your new SuperRepo source. USTVNow is an online version of the cable channels you'll find through your cable company. CNN, NBC, Cartoon Network and a ton more are available and you'll always be able to find something to watch. You'll also find USTVNow in the official Kodi repository, but for faster updates and all-around better service, we recommend using the SuperRepo source.

USTVNow (the name is a clue) is for people in the U.S. only and requires an account. You can set that up, as well as stream to your computer, at USTVNow.com.

FilmOn TV

FilmOn TV is a service that offers both free and premium content. Good, current content. Whether you're looking for UFC matches, catch up on your favorite cable show or watch a-list movies you'll find them at FilmOn TV. You can also watch over 600 live TV channels or set up a recording to watch a show at your leisure. Paired with USTVNow, FilmON TV makes cord-cutting easy.

You will need to set up an account at FilmOn.com.

Dbmc (Dropbox)

Dbmc isn't a full Dropbox client. It's a way to view or listen to stuff in your Dropbox. You can be boring and productive while looking at TPS reports or you can watch any video you have collected and uploaded into Dropbox. It's also a great way to build a slideshow of your photos on the big screen.

Dbmc is also available through the official Kodi repository, but we've found the SuperRepo version to be quicker on the updates.

Of course, you need a Dropbox account.

Plex for Kodi

Plex is often viewed as a Kodi competitor, offering a great way to organize and watch your favorite content whenever and however you please with apps available for nearly all your devices. If you want the conveniences of a Plex Media Server but if you're already quite comfortable using Kodi's interface as your ultimate home theater media center you can combine the two services.

Plex Pass subscribers are able to preview a custom Plex add-on for Kodi that allows you enjoy all the features and customization that Kodi provides with the convenience and simplicity of using Plex to organize all your media. It truly is the best of both worlds.

Learn more at Plex.tv

What are your favorite Kodi add-ons?

If you're using Kodi and have a favorite of your own that's not on our list, shout out in the comments so everyone can check it out!

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2 weeks ago

How to set up and use Kodi on your Android device

28

Getting Kodi set up on Android might take some time initially, but it's worth it in the long run.

Update June 2017: Updated the section on using Kodi with Chromecast.

Kodi is a powerful open source media center, which is available across a multitude of operating systems, but its continued rise to prominence has come in large part due to its Android version thanks to "Kodi boxes" — essentially cheap Android TV boxes sold with the Kodi app pre-installed. This has garnered Kodi a lot of press and attention lately, because its open source add-on feature can be used for media piracy purposes.

But it's an unfair situation because the piracy add-ons are unofficial, unsupported, and the Kodi box industry is unwelcome, according to the Kodi developers. The base app is perfectly legal, and what you do get is one of the best experiences for organizing and streaming media onto any device — even your phone. Bring your own content like you would with Plex — or even link to your Plex server within Kodi if you've already got one set up.

It's entirely customizable, so let's walk you through the basic setup.

Kodi is optimized for Android

Previously, when you downloaded Kodi on your Android device, you would be required to go into the Appearance setting and swap over to a more touchscreen-friendly skin. With the latest update for Android, the developers have swapped over to a much more user-friendly skin by default, so you'll be able to just load it up and go.

Download Kodi from the Google Play Store

Once you've loaded Kodi up, you'll find the navigation menu on the lefthand side with categories for Movies, TV Shows, Music, Pictures, Add-ons, and more.

Importing your media files

With Kodi, you can keep all your media organized and accessible in one place — from pictures and music to videos, sorted by movies and TV shows. It's quick and easy to import your media into Kodi and simply a matter of setting a source for the media from your phone's internal storage or a microSD card if your phone supports expandable storage.

  1. Tap the type of media you wish to add. We'll use Pictures for this example.
  2. Tap Add pictures….

  3. Tap Browse.
  4. Find the folder containing the media you wish to add then tap OK.

Now when you tap the category from the main screen, you'll find your source available with all your photos, music, or videos organized. If you've ripped your favorite TV box sets onto your computer and transferred them to a microSD card, they will be organized by season within Kodi.

Diving into Add-ons

Beyond your own media, you can also install a variety of handy add-ons from the built-in add-on browser or by adding them from remote add-on repositories. For now, we'll look at what's available from right within Kodi.

When you tap the Add-ons menu from the main menu of Kodi, you may find that all your Android apps have been automatically linked and displayed within Kodi. While it's somewhat convenient to be able to jump right into another app from within Kodi, I've found it to be somewhat buggy and it's caused Kodi to crash on more than one occasion.

You want to get to the add-on menu with all the different add-on types listed along the left side of the screen. There you'll be able to tap the button to browse through the available add-ons.

You can find video add-ons for over 100 different TV channels' online streaming catalogs and media sharing websites such as YouTube and Reddit, along with many international options. To install an add-on and see what it has to offer, simply select it and tap Install.

Along with the add-ons found within the included Add-ons browser, you can go into the add-on settings and install from an online repository. Since those are often hosting add-ons that promote piracy, you're on your own if you choose to go that route.

Using Kodi with Chromecast

Watching Kodi on a tablet or phone when you're on the go is alright, but the best part is the way you can switch over to your Chromecast-enabled TV when you get home. While Kodi doesn't support Chromecast directly, but you can cast your phone's screen to the TV, you're able to use your phone's screencasting ability for a quick workaround or use LocalCast.

LocalCast is a great app for streaming content from your phone to a Chromecast, but it takes a few extra steps to get things working smoothly with Kodi. All you need to do is download and move an XML file into a Kodi folder on your device, and the next time you load a video in Kodi, LocalCast should launch giving you casting options to available Chromecasts.

Of course, there's nothing stopping you from adding Kodi to a NVIDIA Shield or downloading Kodi for your PC or Mac and streaming your content that way from home. Simply put, Kodi gives you all the customization tools for Android to make it fit into TV setups around your home.

Questions?

Let me know in the comments below!

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2 weeks ago

If you're buying Beauty and the Beast, make sure to connect Disney Movies Anywhere

35

Most digital copies are a letdown. Disney's are not.

We've all seen it: buy the movie before it's out on Blu-ray, and you don't get any special features, and your copy is stuck in one store forever. It sucks, right? WRONG! Disney has a digital system that makes buying the movie early an actually tempting thing to do, and it all has to do with connecting digital stores and awesome app implementation.

Before you go buy Beauty and the Beast, please download Disney Movies Anywhere. You will not be disappointed.

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2 weeks ago

9 things to know about the Sony Xperia XZ Premium

29

A big, beautiful new phone, but it may not be worth the price.

Sony's latest flagship is the Xperia XZ Premium, and it's really nice. It's one of those phones you don't want to touch because it's so nice to look at. You may also not want to touch it because the damn thing is incredibly shiny, exposing fingerprints as well as any mirror. And it may not be worth buying because, well, there are just better devices out there at a lower price.

Interested in this phone? Here are a few things you need to know about Sony's best phone ever.

This is Sony's second 4K phone, but its first with HDR

Sony debuted the 4K smartphone in 2015 with the Xperia Z5 Premium, and this year's follow-up has a better, brighter 5.5-inch 4K panel with a trick up its sleeve: HDR support.

Content that supports HDR — High Dynamic Range — will look more vivid and colorful on the XZ Premium's 4K display. Let's just hope that app developers get up to speed with supporting it — Netflix, at the moment, still only supports the LG G6.

Beyond that, the screen itself is really good for daily use. It's bright, crisp and colorful — and Sony gives you a few display settings to tweak it how you want it to look.

The camera is new, but isn't the best

People don't buy phones; they buy cameras that connect to the internet. Sony understands this and has designed its devices around the camera experience for years. But as much as it's tried to outdo the likes of Samsung, LG, and Apple, it continues to come up short.

There's a massive speed improvement, but the end results aren't matching the competition.

Sony thinks the XZ Premium has what it takes to beat the competition in 2017 with a new "Motion Eye" camera setup that lowers the resolution from 23 megapixels to 19 while increasing the size of the individual pixels, ensuring improved low-light results. At the same time, a new connection between the camera sensor and the phone's memory allows for caching of photos — predictive capture, as it's called — five times faster than any previous Sony phone, so no frames are lost during quick-shutter action shots.

The results are good, but not great. This is indeed the fastest Sony camera we've seen yet when it comes to opening and capturing — whether it's a single shot or a burst. But the results are mixed, not necessarily jumping to the top of the heap with the leaders such as the Galaxy S8, LG G6 and HTC U11. Sony still highly over-sharpens photos in "auto" mode and requires tweaking in "manual" mode if you want anything better.

You can capture slo-mo video at 960fps

Yup. Insane.

It may only be 720p but think about the contrast between a regular 30fps capture and something as smooth as 960fps, slowed down to look great on this big, beautiful screen.

You can only take very short clips and it takes a bit of time to get used to how the interface for super-slow-motion works, but it's a great trick that sets the XZ Premium apart from most other phones.

The glass back is reflective AF

Seriously, this is just about the most reflective phone we've seen — right on par with the HTC U11. The Luminous Chrome variant is the worst offender, offering an easily-tarnished mirror finish that shows off every fingerprint.

As long as you're not too particular, and walk around with a microfiber cloth in your bag or pocket, the Xperia XZ Premium could stay pristine, but it's likely to pick up hairline scratches pretty quickly — a problem with all phones, but exacerbated by the reflectiveness of the Gorilla Glass 5.

You get dual speakers and a headphone jack

It's easy to complain about the size of the bezels above and below the XZ Premium's display, but Sony is at least putting part of that space to good use. In an increasingly rare combination, Sony includes both dual front-facing speakers and a headphone jack on the phone.

The speakers sound pretty good and of course have the direct advantage of firing toward you rather than down and away, though I have to say the volume doesn't top out as high as the HTC U11's combined speaker approach.

There's still no fingerprint sensor in the U.S.

Seriously Sony, this is getting ridiculous. We know there's some sort of contractual obligation that's limiting Sony's ability to include a fingerprint sensor in its U.S. phones, but consumers don't care about the reasoning — they just want a fingerprint sensor.

For a phone this high-end and expensive, it's just downright frustrating to not have this core smartphone feature found in phones as cheap as $200.

It's water resistant and dustproof

Like most Sony phones of the last few years, the Xperia XZ Premium is IP68 water resistant and dustproof. The ratings mean you can submerge the phone in up to one meter for an extended period without incurring damage. And, of course, there are no port covers to worry about.

More: What do IP ratings mean?

It runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

We may be beyond it by the time the phone is released but the Xperia XZ is currently certified for Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which means that it will support all the latest goodies from Google, including rounded icons, image keyboards, and more.

Sony's skin continues to be very light and very fast, and there's no question that the company has learned its lesson in deviating too far from Google's recommendations. This isn't Samsung; Sony doesn't have the customer loyalty, nor the resources, to develop great custom skins, so the more it keeps to Google's Android the better.

Most of the XZ Premium's interface is unchanged from the Google Pixel, and the launcher even includes the Google Now feed to the left like Google's own launchers. Sure you get some Sony apps and icons, but it's nothing offensive or getting in your way. And of course because Sony sells unlocked and not through carriers, you don't get any extra carrier bloatware.

The price is high — probably too high

As you'd expect for a phone with the title "Premium" right in the name, the Xperia XZ Premium is expensive. It goes on sale in the U.S. on June 12, and the price tag is $799. That's the upper edge of what most people are willing to pay for a phone — the only other mainstream offering challenging that price is the Galaxy S8+ at $825.

With a price like that, it makes you really question whether the Xperia XZ Premium could be a true competitor. For all of its great improvements, features, and design, it still has a handful of missteps that are tough to overlook when there are other great phones out there for less money.

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2 weeks ago

Best T-Mobile Prepaid Phones

Update, June 2017: The entire list has been refreshed to show the best options for someone buying a phone to use on T-Mobile prepaid.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at T-Mobile See at Best Buy

The Galaxy S8 has slick redesigned hardware with tiny bezels that let it have a big screen in a small body, but inside it still offers everything you want: a high-end processor, lots of storage, an SD card slot, full waterproofing and a top-end camera.

Yes the fingerprint sensor is slightly awkward to use, but the GS8's iris scanner is dramatically improved to make up for it. And it only takes one look at the industry-leading display to start to forgive Samsung's decisions on the back.

Though its software can be a little overwhelming to novices, you can't argue that Samsung continues to pack in hundreds of features to a single phone, making sure there's something in here for everyone's needs. Samsung continues to take this approach of offering more more more with just a few compromises — and it continues to work.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 gives you piles of features in a beautiful body, and is a great choice for a wide range of potential buyers.

One more thing: Of course, you can always pay a little extra and get the larger Galaxy S8+ for a bit more screen and battery life.

Advertisement

Why the Galaxy S8 is the best

Samsung's Galaxy S brand carries considerable weight in the mobile world, and the Galaxy S8 continues to both leverage that brand while also offering a fantastic overall smartphone experience that today's consumers want. Once again, Samsung took its core principles of great hardware, a top-end display, waterproofing, solid cameras and mounds of features and updated it all for 2017.

The result is a fresh design that shrinks down the display bezels and really smooths out all of the sharp edges to give you a sleek, thin phone with a really large display that doesn't feel that large. The extra-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio comes in at 5.8-inches across on the Galaxy S8 and 6.2-inches on the Galaxy S8+, and in both cases feels quite a bit smaller than the numbers would lead you to believe.

The sleek body still packs in top-end specs, of course, starting with that magnificent Super AMOLED display and backing it up with a Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895, 4GB of RAM, larger 64GB of storage (plus an SD card slot), a new USB-C port and locking it all down with waterproofing. The batteries are no bigger than last year's models, but battery life hasn't taken any hit. On the other side of the hardware, there's one big downside: Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor to an awkward position on the back next to the camera, leaving you with the less-consistent and less-convenient face scanning and iris scanning instead.

Samsung continues to make phones with all of the design and features people are clamoring for.

The camera experience has actually changed more on the front than the back with a new 8MP unit that packs auto focus. But the 12MP rear camera is still no slouch — Samsung has improved its processing to get even more out of this setup, and it remains a competitor for the best overall smartphone camera out there.

The ongoing point of contention when it comes to Samsung phones is the software, and that's the same once again on the Galaxy S8. Samsung continues to put in a massive number of features without removing any from years prior, leaving you with lots of things to get in the way and confuse you when you're trying to get the basics done. On the other hand, it's hard to find someone who can't get done what they need to get done right out of the box on this phone. It truly is aimed at being relevant to as diverse a set of consumers as possible, and it succeeds on that point.

By putting up with a few of the out-of-the-box quirks and taking some time to set it up how you like it, the Galaxy S8 can do anything you want and get it done at a fast pace while looking great as well.

Best clean experience

Google Pixel

See at Google See at Verizon

The Google Pixel does almost everything right. Its metal body is well-built and easy to grip — in either the 5-inch or 5.5-inch size — and its spec sheet is still capable, featuring a Snapdragon 821 and 4GB of RAM powering its QHD display

But the Pixel really makes its case because Google owns both the hardware and the software. Even the best manufacturers can't achieve what Google has with its first-party powerhouse. It's fast, clean and lovely to use with Google's apps and services. The downside is the Pixel can't match the others in terms of raw features.

Then there's the camera, which continues to be one of the best in the business, helped along by Google's exemplary electronic stabilization that gives you silky smooth video recording.

Bottom line: Google doesn't compete in the raw number of features, but offers a sleek, consistent and holistic experience that absolutely deserves praise.

One more thing: The Pixel is available unlocked through Google's store in most countries, but if you're in the U.S. we suggest considering buying through Google Fi.

Best for less

LG G6

See at T-Mobile See at B&H

The LG G6 uses a tall 18:9 display and tiny bezels (hey, it even came out before the Galaxy S8) to give you a larger screen in a smaller body. The all-new metal-and-glass design may not be totally inspired, but it's built amazingly well and incorporates lots of little features — like waterproofing — to help it hold up over time.

All of the internal specs you expect are here, even though the battery isn't removable like its predecessors. The one downside here is regional differences: the higher-quality Quad DAC is exclusive to Asia, while wireless charging is only for the North American market.

LG's dual camera setup has returned but with a refined emphasis on the wide-angle camera so it packs the same sensor as the standard camera. The main camera takes fantastic photos to go toe-to-toe with the best of them, and the wide-angle shooter adds in something that no other phone offers.

Bottom line: This is LG's best flagship phone to date, and going a step further it's one that comes in at a notably lower price than the Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel XL.

One more thing: Shop around a bit before buying, and you may find a discount or deal.

Best inexpensive

Moto G5 Plus

See at Amazon

The Moto G line no longer really resembles its first couple of models, and now focuses on trying to offer a bit of a flagship experience at a much lower price point. The Moto G5 Plus, starting at just $229, aims to offer some high-end, interesting features in both hardware and software.

A Snapdragon 625 processor and 3000mAh battery give you fantastic battery life and performance, and you get up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage inside along with a couple other solid features like a fingerprint sensor and fast charging. The software is typical clean and useful Moto, though a couple of its features have started to reach toward the "gimmick" range.

Yes this is a phone launched in 2017 still using the older Micro-USB charging port, lacks NFC and isn't exactly the most beautiful phone to look at. But what you're getting here for a price of $229 or $299 is great.

Bottom-line: For a really good experience that isn't going to cost you a bunch, it's hard to beat the Moto G5 Plus.

One more thing: While you can get a lower-end model with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, we strongly recommend pitching in $70 more for the 4GB/64GB model.

Conclusion

For most people, the Galaxy S8 will serve as the best possible choice with its excellent design, top-end hardware, great camera and piles of software features. It's hard to go wrong with this phone, whether you're choosing the Galaxy S8 or the larger Galaxy S8+.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at T-Mobile See at Best Buy

The Galaxy S8 has slick redesigned hardware with tiny bezels that let it have a big screen in a small body, but inside it still offers everything you want: a high-end processor, lots of storage, an SD card slot, full waterproofing and a top-end camera.

Yes the fingerprint sensor is slightly awkward to use, but the GS8's iris scanner is dramatically improved to make up for it. And it only takes one look at the industry-leading display to start to forgive Samsung's decisions on the back.

Though its software can be a little overwhelming to novices, you can't argue that Samsung continues to pack in hundreds of features to a single phone, making sure there's something in here for everyone's needs. Samsung continues to take this approach of offering more more more with just a few compromises — and it continues to work.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 gives you piles of features in a beautiful body, and is a great choice for a wide range of potential buyers.

One more thing: Of course, you can always pay a little extra and get the larger Galaxy S8+ for a bit more screen and battery life.

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2 weeks ago

How to fix Galaxy S8 battery life problems

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Galaxy S8 power usage screen

Battery life on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ is actually pretty good — but it can always be better.

After the first couple of week using a phone where battery life seems great, things can go south as we load up our new phone with all kinds of things and turn on every last feature. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ aren't immune to battery shortcomings if you push them hard enough, and that means you'll be looking for ways to scale things back and return to great battery life.

We have a handful of solid tips here to help you get the most out of your Galaxy S8 or S8+ battery, whether you're currently happy with its longevity or not. Read on.

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2 weeks ago

YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Which one is worth the monthly subscription fee?

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Should you pick Google's live TV service that's limited by area, or does Sling TV's tiered pricing seem more up your alley?

The greatest gift given to me by Google and Sling is the promise of live TV wherever I am on whatever device I have in my hand — as long as I'm paying the monthly subscription fee, of course. I've missed cable so very much; the on-demand way of life is certainly appealing when your world is upside down and your schedule is constantly in flux, but as I've been adjusting my life to be more serene and scheduled, it means I've also found time to sit down and watch my favorite shows in real time.

At present, YouTube TV and Sling TV are the two over-the-internet television services worth choosing between if you want cross-platform watchability. (Hulu's Live TV is currently available in beta, but we'll revisit it once it's fully launched. Plex also offers a live option, but it's limited to Android TV.) They both offer ways to watch live television while you're on the go or at home, as well as a vast on-demand library and cloud DVR capabilities.

Their pricing structure isn't the same, however, and I found that overall, YouTube TV is the better deal for those who want a fluid television experience with recording capabilities. If only it weren't so limited by region.

Update: A correction has been made to the Sling TV Extra's list to explain that they're only available to Sling Orange subscribers. Also updated to add that Sling TV's DVR capabilities are supported on Apple TV.

The all-inclusive nature of YouTube TV

YouTube TV

There is a definite difference between marketing strategies for YouTube TV and Sling TV. The former seems more positioned as an add-on to your already involved YouTube experience — the fourth thing you see when you scroll through the app on an Android device is original YouTube Red content. But for the most part, the subscription content you view on YouTube and the television you watch with YouTube TV remains mostly segregated.

For $35 a month, YouTube TV offers 46 different channels, including the major network television stations, a bevy of live sports channels, and bilingual content from Telemundo. You won't get all the local channels like you would with regular cable, however, which means you'll miss out on PBS and public access television in the crawl. (Thankfully, PBS is already available to stream for free online.)

If you're aching for more than what YouTube TV currently offers, add-ons are pretty limited.

If you're aching for more than what YouTube TV currently offers, add-ons are pretty limited. You can add on a Showtime package for $11 extra a month, or Fox Soccer Plus, which offers access to all the big matches for $15 a month. If you desire more, you'll have to satiate your desire for more content by subscribing to a third-party video streaming service, like Netflix.

YouTube TV is only available in New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area (I've tested it as far out as San Jose and as far north as Petaluma), Chicago, and Philadelphia. If you're not in either of these areas, you won't have access to the service, nor can you watch any recorded content you may have set up beforehand. I had to pay Google Play on top of my monthly subscription to YouTube TV while I was in Iceland, for instance, to stay caught up on my shows regardless of the fact that I had programmed YouTube to record them. This isn't live TV on the go.

If you're a television buff, however, and you're wholly devoted to staying on top of your favorite shows as they debut on television, YouTube TV's built-in nearly-unlimited DVR feature is incredible. You can set it up to record any show or movie as it plays on live television, or follow your favorite sports teams for that matter. You can then access those recordings from your TV Library and they'll stay in your crawl for up to nine months or until you've finished watching them.

Perhaps my favorite feature of YouTube TV is the ability to enable family sharing with up to five additional people. My gal pals and I are all enraptured fans of the Real Housewives series, and I shared my account with them so that we can all stay up to date on the various shenanigans without each of us having to pay individually for the varying sessions through an on-demand video service. And if we feel like binge watching, the subscription to YouTube TV also provides access to all of Bravo's on-demand content right from within the app.

The a la carte offerings of Sling TV

Sling TV

Sling TV is a much better alternative to cable for the sheer fact that it offers more choice. In fact, it seems to have built a subscription model based entirely on the fact that it is a viable option to cable. What you pay monthly for Sling TV varies on which package you choose, as there are a multitude of tiers and add-ons to choose from. Here's a sampling of some of what's available.

Sling Orange

At the basic $20-per-month plan, you get ESPN, TNT, TBS, HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Travel Channel, CNN, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Comedy Central, AMC, IFC, A&E, History Channel, Lifetime, Bloomberg, Newsy, Flama, Viceland, AXS TV, and Cheddar.

Note that some of these channels, including Newsy and Cheddar, are already streaming for free on rival apps like Pluto TV.

Sling Blue

For $25 a month, Sling Blue offers access to the same content as Sling Orange — except for ESPN, strangely — as well as access to content from Fox, NBC, and Viacom's respective channels. Some of those channels include Bravo, NBC Sports, Syfy, and Univision. You'll also need to pay for this tier if you want to share your account, and even then you can only enjoy up to three streams at a time.

Sling Blue+Orange

Getting overwhelmed by choice? That's okay — that's often a byproduct when the service is a la carte. If you want to add a fourth person to stream, you can pay $40 a month for the Sling Blue+Orange tier, which also unlocks access to ESPN, the Disney Channel, and Freeform. (And if you've got a teenager in the house, you'll definitely want to subscribe to Freeform.)

The add-ons

But wait, there is quite literally more! If you'd like to watch any of the premium television channels in real time, you can subscribe to them for an additional fee. HBO is $15, for instance, while Cinemax is $10. STARZ is also offering a premium pay package for $9, and that includes STARZ Encore. Lastly, SHOWTIME and its affiliated channels can all be added on for an extra $10 a month.

And then, there are more

If you want even more content, here are a sample of some of the packages you can purchase for an additional $5 with a Sling Orange subscription:

  • Heartland Extra, which adds PixL, Family Net, Sportsman Channel, Outdoor Channel, World Fishing Network, and RFD-TV.

  • Kids Extra, which includes Disney Jr., Disney XD, Boomerang, NickToons, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Sling Kids, Duck TV, and Baby TV.

  • Sports Extra, which adds the SEC Network, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, NHL Network, Universal Sports, Univision Deportes, beIN Sports, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, Campus Insiders, and Outside Television.

  • Comedy Extra, which bundles MTV, TruTV, Spike, MTV2, CMT, Logo, TV Land, GSN, and El Rey.

  • Lifestyle Extra, which comes with the Cooking Channel, DIY, truTV, WE tv, FYI, LMN, VH1, BET, Vibrant, Oxygen, and E!.

  • Hollywood Extra, which includes both live and on-demand content from EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In, Sundance TV, Fandor, Turner Classic Movies (also known as TCM), and HDNet Movies.

  • News Extra, which includes channels from Fusion, HLN, News 18 India, Euronews, NDTV 24x7, France24, RT, BBC World News, MSNBC, CNBC , and TheBlaze.

  • And lastly, you can choose from Broadcast Extra, which only available in select cities. This package includes ABC, Univision, and UniMas.

There are also extra tiers if you speak Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, French, German, and Brazilian Portuguese. You can view the entirety of the constantly changing lineup here.

After reading all this, you might feeling a little overwhelmed. I don't blame you: signing up for Sling TV is a bit of an experience, as it's not merely a "tap to subscribe with your Google account" kind of service the way that YouTube TV is. Sling TV does do all of the calculations for you as you add on packages, however, so you can see in real time how much a monthly subscription will cost you. At the very least, the lowest Sling Orange tier seems to offer all the basic channel necessities, including ESPN for the sports buffs.

With so many options, just signing up for Sling TV is a bit of an experience.

Sling TV also has the advantage of working across a variety of devices. Whether you've got several set-top boxes, game consoles, or smartphones laying around, they're all capable of working with Sling TV's apps. However, as Android users you might find that Sling TV works better on a wired, connected device rather than through Google casting. I can report that I had several issues with regards to streaming Sling TV from my smartphone to the Chromecast, to the effect that the app would randomly freeze up during an advertisement or start over the video feed.

Perhaps the biggest caveat, however, is that Sling TV doesn't bundle in Cloud DVR like YouTube TV. It's a $5 add-on, though it's limited to the Sling Blue and Blue+Orange tiers. It also only offers a 50 hour recording limit, though the videos will stick around as long as it takes you to watch them — there is no nine-month limit like there is on YouTube TV.

Sling TV's DVR services are available on Roku devices, Roku TVs, the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Android devices, and Apple TV. It's a bit more robust than YouTube TV's offerings, too, since you can choose how to record, like whether it's limited to one time or all showings of a specific program. You don't get that kind of control over recordings with YouTube TV.

The apps

From left to right: YouTube TV's front page; your personal library in YouTube TV; the Live TV crawl.

As far as Android app capabilities go, YouTube TV has a number of user interface features working against it. The minute I log into my account, I'm bombarded with all the available content, which can be overwhelming when all I wanted to do was catch one particular show. The Android app also has a propensity to auto start whatever I was watching last, so if the media volume is loud for whatever reason, it can be pretty startling.

I was not a fan of Sling TV's Android app, but that's because of its constant crashing and casting issues, which I mentioned above. I have a Roku box as a backup for when things just don't Chromecast, but I much prefer to be able to grab my phone and send the stream to the television than have to navigate through another system just to watch TV.

Both interfaces have their quirks, but Sling TV's app wasn't as stable as YouTube TV.

Sling TV's user interface is a tad better than YouTube TV's in the sense of how it organizes the content, though I'm not a fan of its droll color scheme. When you start up the app, it takes you directly to your own customizable landing page, the idea being that you're immediately led only to the content you'd view. If it were me, for example, I'd set it up with Bravo and E! as my bookmarks, and HGTV as backup. This way, I'm always privy to what trash television is on when I launch the app. If you need to jump into the main channel guide, it's easily accessible in the overflow menu.

Conversely, YouTube TV requires you scroll over twice to the left. This is fine, and I appreciate the ability to quickly swipe over without even thinking about it to get to what's on TV, but with the aforementioned auto play issue it can be a little slow to load the latest even on my Pixel XL.

I'd wager the reason that Sling TV's app interface is so much more navigable is because the company behind it knows television. There's a bit of a standard to navigating TV; you know how to jump into it wherever there's a Guide button on the remote, for example, and Sling TV sticks to those typical conventions. YouTube TV, on the other hand, seems more designed for smartphone users, which results in one long, giant page that requires you scroll through a massive number of thumbnails to find what you want. The thumbnails are fine because I can more quickly scan what's on TV with them there, but man, they are not pretty to look at.

Which one to choose?

Choosing between YouTube TV and Sling TV can seem like a whopper of a choice to make, but the good news is that both services offer trial periods. YouTube TV is currently offering a promotion that gets you a month free of the service, plus a free Chromecast after you subscribe. Sling TV is running a similar promotion with a week free of service, plus a free Roku Stick when you subscribe.

There's another way to look at the two services if you're choosing between the two: YouTube TV is made for smartphone users and those who are deeply entrenched in Google's ecosystem. I like that the app is immediately visible from the Google Home app, for instance, and that all I have to do to log in to the service is link up my Google account. YouTube TV is meant for the Google user, which is also why it works nearly impeccably on both the first- and second-generation Chromecast streaming sticks.

Make your decision based on price and where you expect to use the service most.

Sling TV is made for people who want to ditch their cable companies. It offers the most variety and the most choice, but it's modeled after the way we wish cable companies would operate. Its services really are a viable option to a Comcast or Time Warner account, and the barrier to entry is relatively low. All you need is a little device that supports the service, which you can buy almost anywhere those things are sold.

In the end, your choice will rely mostly on price. I'd suggest tallying out what it is you pay for separate streaming services and attempting to whittle it down to which would be the most cost efficient and which works best in your region and with the devices you have in your home. Note that both services also offer a giant heaping of movies and on-demand video, which could help as you're deciding which streaming services to stick with.

Regardless of whether you choose YouTube TV or Sling TV, It'll be interesting to see how other rival services, like Plex and Hulu, will manage throw a wrench into the live television experience. It's also possible that this particular idea of live television anywhere will become merely another essential add-on to our already constantly-connected lives.

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