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5 months ago

RAM: What it is and when do you need more?

21

RAM: What it is and when do you need more?

RAM manager
OMG! It's red!  RUN RUN!!!!!11111
RAMbo VIII -- Cory's about to kill something
RAM
?!?
Triforce!
too many cards

Your phone needs RAM to operate, but why? And how much?

It looks like Vivo is going to be selling a phone with 10GB of RAM. That's almost as much as many gaming PCs, and about 6GB more than most phones. It has a lot of folks scratching their heads and asking why in the world does it need 10GB of RAM, and does that mean my phone with 4GB needs more?

This wouldn't be the first time we've seen phones come with oodles of RAM. The OnePlus 5T has an 8GB configuration, and seeing 6GB inside some phones is becoming fairly common. Let's talk about what RAM is, how your phone uses RAM, and why a phone would have 250% more of it than "necessary".

What is RAM

RAM (Random Access Memory) is short-term digital storage. Computers (and yes, your phone is a computer) use RAM mostly to hold data that active applications — along with the CPU and operating system's kernel — are using because RAM is very fast when it comes to reading and writing. Even the fastest hard drive or flash storage is slow when you need to read or write something "right now", and while the CPU inside your phone has its own cache to hold data that's being used for calculations, there's not a lot of it. The Snapdragon 835 (as an example) has 2MB of cache for the high-performance cores and 1MB for the low-performance cores. 2MB of cache is only enough to hold what's being used right now, so you need somewhere to hold what's being used next.

Reading and writing to and from RAM is fast. Super fast.

The OS kernel acts as a traffic cop for everything that goes on when it comes to using your phone's hardware. When a game or any app wants to draw a new screen, the data is created to use for it goes into the RAM where the OS can parse it, let the CPU and GPU do any processing needed, then send it off to the display, so the right color dots can be drawn in the right places.

It all sounds complicated, and it is, but all you need to understand are three basic things: RAM is a place to hold data for a short period of time, and data placed there can be read or written very fast. Data in RAM is erased when you shut your phone down. A portion of the RAM in your phone is used as soon as you turn it back on and no apps or even the OS is able to use that portion. This goes for just about any computer; they (almost) all have RAM and they use it the same way.

How your phone uses its RAM

RAM in your phone is mostly used as a place for apps that are running store their data. In the simplest terms, that means more RAM can let more apps run in the background without slowing your phone down. But like most things, it's not really that simple. The RAM in your phone is in use before Android is even up and running.

We're not going to talk about fancy low-level management or things like compcache here, but this is basically how your phone uses the RAM inside of it.

  • The kernel-space: Your Android phone runs on top of the Linux kernel. The kernel is stored in a special type of compressed file that's extracted directly into RAM during the device power-on sequence. This reserved memory holds the kernel, drivers and kernel modules that control the hardware and room to cache data in and out of the kernel.
  • A RAMdisk for virtual files: There are some folders and files in the system tree that aren't "real." They are pseudofiles written at boot and hold things like battery levels and CPU speed data. With Android, the whole /proc directory is one of these pseudofile systems. RAM is reserved so they have a place to live.
  • Network radios: Data about your IMEI and radio settings are stored in NVRAM (Non-Volatile memory that's not erased when you power off your phone), but get transferred to RAM along with the software needed to support the modem when you first turn on your phone. Space is reserved to keep this all in memory.
  • The GPU: The graphics adapter in your phone needs memory to operate. That's called VRAM, and our phones use integrated GPUs that have no stand-alone VRAM. System RAM is reserved for this.

Once that's done and your phone is up and running, what's left is the available RAM your phone needs to operate and run apps. A portion of this is also reserved for things that need to happen quickly (low-level operating system functions and housekeeping) but it's reserved a different way through what's called minfree settings. These are software-based settings the people who wrote the OS and built the kernel for your phone set, and it keeps a set minimum amount of RAM free (thus, minfree) so these low-level functions can be done as needed without having to wait for an app to free any memory.

All this is why the available RAM listing in settings isn't the same as the total amount of RAM installed inside your phone. The full amount really is inside, but a portion of it (usually about 1GB or so) is reserved. Your apps get to fight over the rest.

Unused RAM is wasted RAM

You might have heard this saying about Android and memory management. It's a Linux thing, and Android is a Linux kernel-based OS just like Ubuntu. What it means is that Android was built to stuff the RAM full of apps and their associated data as fast as possible and keep it full, leaving only the minfree amount from above open for housekeeping duties.

Android is not Windows 10 and they each do things differently.

This is different from the way Windows works, though if you're using a Mac, it's very close. Windows keeps RAM open and free for an app that needs it. Linux keeps an app in memory until the memory is needed elsewhere. That's also decided by the minfree settings the company that built your phone set. Apps and their processes are given a priority based on what they do, how they do it and when the last time they were on the screen. When you want to open a new app, the apps with lower priorities get closed so the new app has the RAM it needs.

As you use your phone, you'll use many of the same apps more than others. These apps will tend to stay resident in RAM and be running so they are available in an instant. Having that RAM free instead means the apps would need to restart the processes that allow you to interact with them, and that's slower and uses more battery power than keeping them resident in RAM.

It's a true saying for your Android (or iOS) phone, but not your Windows computer or Chromebook (also a Linux-kernel-based OS but uses zcache and sandboxing in a very custom RAM management scheme) because they manage RAM differently.

What does having more RAM inside my phone do for me?

You already know the short answer because it's above — allows for more apps to run in the background. But the long answer is really interesting.

The first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1, had 192MB of RAM. The Pixel 2 has about 22 times more with 4GB.

8GB or 10GB of RAM is complete overkill for a typical Android phone. Phones like a Nexus or an Android One/Android Go phone can get away with 1.5 - 2GB of free RAM after the phone is booted up. So can a Galaxy S8, but only because the minfree settings are set so that the home app (the user interface) is forced to stay open, and uses a portion of the reserved RAM. The Samsung interface is more resource intensive, and Samsung did the very smart thing here starting with the Galaxy S6 and killed most of the home screen lag. Nice work, Samsung!

Using what that tells us, we can see that a phone like the Galaxy S8 needs more RAM installed. Since almost every phone comes with 4GB of RAM, there is no real difference here and a Nexus phone just has a little more memory to have another app or two up and running because it's interface isn't using as much. It's also why Samsung, LG, HTC and others have included ways to kill running processes outside of the minfree settings for the times it needs a little boost in performance. If you kill all the apps you can, apps that were not already in memory will start a little faster.

If you take things a step further and do things like Samsung's DeX desktop setup, having more RAM can be a big benefit. DeX, for example, could use more RAM set aside before the phone is running for VRAM and have a nice chunk to use itself so other apps or processes can run without being interrupted. And you can even more creative if you're developing software for a phone with "extra" RAM.

Ideally, a phone with extra physical RAM (let's say 6GB gives an extra 2GB) could use a device driver that enables DMA (Direct Memory Access) for the user interface. This sets aside RAM at boot just for the home screen, touch input, and anything else that makes your phone uber-responsive regardless of anything else running or going on outside of the RAM set aside for DMA. Are you ready for instant touch response or scrolling? Because that is how you get it.

You don't need more, but you can always use more.

This would let the kernel manage a portion of the RAM, but in a different way than the memmap parameters set for minfree settings when the kernel was built. Software and the OS still control input and output to the Home user interface, but no app would ever be able to overwrite any of the data in this section of RAM, and the interface would always be ready to act on your input.

Now extend this idea into "game mode" or a desktop solution or any other special way an Android phone can be used. There would still be more than enough RAM for the system to do its thing while that extra RAM is there for playing a software-heavy 3D game without killing all the apps in the background, or putting your phone in a stand or laptop shell to use in desktop mode has the memory it needs set aside only for it to work.

RAM is cheap and having more RAM looks great on a spec sheet

Companies charge a lot for a model with more RAM, but most of that is because it means they have another model to manufacture and another parts list to maintain. The actual chips that go inside the phone only cost pennies when bought at volume. But being able to say your phone has 6 or 8 or even 10GB of RAM when it's announced can go a long way when it comes to the spec sheet.

It's impressive, especially to tech enthusiasts and early adopters. I'll admit, it gets me interested. I like seeing optimized software that can run well on minimal hardware because, to me, it's an art form; writing code can be beautiful. But I'm also intrigued by what having extra RAM can mean when the two have meshed together in the same device. Seeing 8GB of RAM in the specs instantly gets me interested, the same way a high-resolution display does.

Seeing better specs is a sure-fire way to interest early adopters.

Companies that build phones know this. They also know that putting more RAM in a phone means they can get away with less software optimization (a costly and time-intensive thing) or try and do more with their version of Android. Either way, some of us will be buying only because of the specs. That makes the added costs worth it because people talking about your product is priceless.

This is especially important in the East. Phones with more impressive specs sell better in India and China (the two markets that show the biggest potential for growth in the industry) because more people in India and China want impressive hardware. Catering to your customers is a smart thing.

When this is all said and done, you probably won't need more than 4GB of RAM for your phone today. That will change as phones start to do more, which is why the Nexus One shipped with 1GB of RAM and the Pixel 2 shipped with 4GB of RAM. But it's important to realize the potential of a 4 or 6GB surplus of fast digital storage has for new ideas and features. Don't let additional RAM be your only decider when buying a phone, but don't write it off as a gimmick.

5 months ago

Chromebook vs. Android tablet: Which is best?

40

Chromebook vs. Android tablet: Which is best?

Sometimes, even the biggest smartphone isn't big enough.

Mobile means more than just phones. Since the first Android tablet back in 2011, plenty of us have found that things, like watching videos or playing a game, can be better on a bigger display and there are some great tablet options to choose from, both cheap and expensive. Ask anyone with a Galaxy Tab S3 and they'll tell you about the incredible display and how thin and light it is. Or talk to people who are still using the trusty Shield Tablet and they'll let you know it's dependable, great for gaming, and NVIDIA just keeps updating it and updating it.

The Best Android Tablet

But there is another way to have Android apps — the same apps as you would find on your phone or tablet — on a big screen. Google has doubled down on Chromebooks and after a sluggish start, pretty much every Chromebook you can buy new today will be able to install Android apps through Google Play. This makes a Chromebook a lot more attractive for many of us.

The Best Chromebook

But which should you choose if you want the big-screen experience from the apps you use now and the apps you'll want to use? Form factor plays a part in your choice, but there are some other considerations, too.

Convertibles can feel clunky, but so are tablet keyboards

Soon some company will make a Chromebook with a detachable keyboard; it has to happen. In the meantime, most Chromebooks have a hinge system that allows you to fold the keyboard back under the display and use it as you would a tablet.

This works and also lets you stand your Chromebook like an easel for watching a video or sharing a presentation. But it's not the most svelte-feeling experience you'll ever find. Even the Pixelbook, which is paper thin and still nice and light when in "tablet mode" leaves you with an exposed keyboard on the back. A Chromebook will shut down the keyboard so you're not pressing keys willy-nilly, but it doesn't compare to a tablet when you're holding it in your hands. And unless a case company gets really creative, it never will.

At the other end of the experience, using a tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard can often be frustrating. You have one more thing to charge, Bluetooth can be finicky and connection issues are common, and if you're a fast typist you'll quickly notice the intermittent input lag. The keys themselves won't have the "action" of a laptop keyboard and there's no trackpad. It's obvious from the start that even the best tablet keyboard is an accessory, not part of the experience.

How you want to use your big-screen Android makes a lot of difference here. If you want something you can hold in your hands that's super-thin and will be using it this way most of the time, a tablet might be a better choice. That's how they are designed to be used, and a good keyboard folio or case will be there for the odd times when you need to do a lot of typing.

Android and Chrome is a software masterpiece

Android itself is mostly the same on a tablet and a Chromebook. Android apps designed for the home screen or the interface being the exception; icon packs, widgets, wallpaper apps, and the like aren't available for a Chromebook because they won't have anything to do. But you can find themes from the Chrome Store to spiffy up the desktop.

You'll also run across apps that won't work with your particular model because of hardware or software version. That goes for both tablets and Chromebooks and with well over a million apps in one place they will always be there. Other than these differences, apps look, work, and feel mostly the same.

A huge advantage for a Chromebook though is the web browser. Chrome OS has a fantastic desktop web browser. Even better than Chrome on Windows or a Mac. It's fast, efficient, and there are thousands and thousands of extensions and apps that can plug into it.

It's also completely siloed from any other app, which means there's no way for an Android app from Google Play to get to the private data — passwords, credit card info, or anything else — you have stored in Chrome. Android apps run natively on a Chromebook, but they are in what's called a "container" that can run independently from other parts of the software. This does have one drawback because for now, Android apps don't have access to SD card data. that's a solvable issue and we're pretty sure Google is working on a way to securely share the SD card with Android apps. Once that happens, you'll also be able to use an external hard drive or networked hard drive as SD storage for almost unlimited space.

So ask yourself, how important is the browser? If being on the web — and that includes things like the full interface for Facebook, YouTube, or Reddit — is important, the Chromebook is clearly superior when it comes to the software. You'll be able to play the same games, use the same social apps or work apps, and have the whole web available instead of the mobile-optimized web. Until the internet catches up and optimizes everything for mobile, that's a pretty big difference.

It's all about how you use it

Android isn't perfect on a big screen, and companies like Samsung have done what they can to make it better for their tablets, but for the most part, Android on a Chromebook gives you a better software experience than Android on a tablet.

Tablets were designed to be held and used, while a Chromebook is a laptop with a keyboard attached. That makes a difference if you plan to keep it in your hands while you're doing your thing. Tablet makers have some nice keyboards you can pair, but they don't offer the seamless experience a laptop will. And folding the screen over the keyboard can make a Chromebook into a tablet, but it's usually thick, can be a little heavy, and you're holding on to the keyboard around the back.

Decide how you'll be using it and what you want to do with it, and the answer becomes obvious.

Chromebooks

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6 months ago

These are all the Android devices updated to fix KRACK Wi-Fi vulnerability

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These are all the Android devices updated to fix KRACK Wi-Fi vulnerability

If you want to keep your info safe in the post-KRACK world, these are the Android devices you need to be using.

In October 2017, a big vulnerability with the WPA2 Wi-Fi standard was discovered. Referred to as KRACK, this is a vulnerability that essentially makes open season on all your personal data when connected to a Wi-Fi network using WPA2.

You can find all of the information about KRACK in Jerry's guide here, but when talking about newer Android devices specifically, it's important to note the following:

On phones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow and newer, the KRACK vulnerability can force the Wi-Fi connection to create an absurdly easy-to-crack encryption key of 00:00:00:00:00. With something so simple, it's easy for an outsider to read all of the traffic coming to and from a client, like a smartphone or laptop.

Attackers can't necessarily use KRACK to steal your bank account information or passwords, but it's still something that you want to protect yourself from as much as possible. Both Wi-Fi routers and devices connected to them need to receive a software update in order to be free form potential attacks, but at least in the case of Android phones and tablets, these are the gadgets that are safe to use.

  • BlackBerry DTEK50
  • BlackBerry DTEK60
  • BlackBerry KEYone
  • BlackBerry Motion
  • BlackBerry Priv
  • Essential Phone
  • LG G6 (AT&T)
  • Moto Z Play (Verizon)
  • Moto Z2 Force (Verizon)
  • Moto Z2 Play (Verizon)
  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus Player
  • Nokia 5
  • Nokia 6
  • Nokia 8
  • NVIDIA Shield Android TV
  • NVIDIA Shield Tablet
  • NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1
  • OnePlus 2
  • OnePlus 3/3T
  • OnePlus 5/5T
  • Pixel/Pixel XL
  • Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL
  • Pixel C
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (Verizon)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, International model)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 (Verizon)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (Verizon)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ (Verizon)
  • Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon)
  • Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon)
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 Active (AT&T)
  • Sony Xperia L1
  • Sony Xperia X
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
  • Sony Xperia X Compact
  • Sony Xperia XZ
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
  • Sony Xperia XZs
  • Sony Xperia XZ1
  • Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia XA1
  • Sony Xperia XA1 Plus
  • Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra

Update, December 29, 2017: Added AT&T Galaxy S8/S8+, additional Note 8 variants, and S7/S7 Edge models, and more. This list will continually be updated with new devices as they're updated.

6 months ago

Google Store drops Pixel C, but another detachable tablet is in the works

19

Google Store drops Pixel C, but another detachable tablet is in the works

Google's last Android tablet is dead.

We've said it before and we'll say it again – Android tablets are in a really awkward place right now. Devices like the Galaxy Tab S3 and Amazon's line of Fire tablets stick out as some of the best options, but as a whole, the interest in large touch-screen canvases with Android has died down a lot.

Now, it appears even Google is calling it quits with Android tablets. The Pixel C is the last Android-powered tablet that Google released, and it came out all the way back in 2015. The Pixel C's remained at its MSRP of $599 nearly its entire life with discounts being few and far between, and it's also been sold out for a while, too. Now, the Pixel C has officially been removed from the Google Store for good.

The only laptop/tablet you can purchase on the Google Store is the Pixelbook, and while it does run Chrome OS, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Jerry noted in his review of the Pixelbook that it "is as much tablet as a laptop", and a lot of this has to do with how well Chrome OS has evolved over the years for things like using apps, playing games, and watching movies. The Pixelbook is proof that Google's tablet future lies with Chrome OS rather than Android, and the axing of the Pixel C is just reinforcement of this.

Samsung's 'Nautilus' will likely have a stylus similar to the one on the Chromebook Pro.

On that same note, new details of an upcoming Chromebook have recently emerged, as well. There have been murmurings of a detachable Samsung Chromebook since last month by the name of "Nautilus", and according to a new commit, Nautilus is referred to as having a stylus that can be stored in the Chromebook itself (ala Samsung's Chromebook Pro).

This can be seen with text such as "PEN_EJECT" and "TEST=Verify that the 'stylus tools' menu gets launched when I eject the pen on nautilus", and while exact details on the stylus aren't mentioned here, it'll likely perform similarly to what we've seen from past Samsung Chromebooks.

We still aren't sure when we'll get a public announcement of Nautilus, but if the Pixel C had to die in order for it to live, you won't find us complaining about that at all.

Chromebooks

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6 months ago

Do you still use a tablet?

85

Do you still use a tablet?

Tablets might have lost some of their glimmer over the years, but there are still quite a few folks that use them.

A few years back, it seemed like everyone and their kid was using a tablet. Whether it be an iPad, Amazon Fire Tablet, or any random Android-based one, tablets were everywhere. The tablet hype train drove ahead at full steam for quite a while, but as time's passed and phones have gotten bigger, the need for them has started to phase out.

Some of our forum users recently got into a discussion about whether or not they still use tablets here in late 2017, and interestingly enough, it looks like a lot of them are still using one.

*/
mumfoau 12-24-2017 02:15 PM “

I use an iPad Mini 4 and am buying a used iPad Pro today.

Reply
*/
Soundman72 12-24-2017 02:38 PM “

tab s3 I use in fact I've completely done away with my laptop

Reply
*/
toenail_flicker 12-24-2017 03:01 PM “

I have a Tab S2 and an iPad mini (hand me down)

Reply
*/
donm527 12-24-2017 05:38 PM “

iPad Air 2 and iPad Air 2s and iPad Pro in the household and have had iPads since the original and still useful as hand-me-downs. Solid devices and I think for tablets, Apple continually to keep providing iOS updates for at least the next 3 years helps from them getting outdated and useful.

Reply
*/
kj11 12-24-2017 07:26 PM “

I have a Galaxy tab A 10.1 with SPen.... Because I can't live without a SPen apparently. I got it a couple months before the Note 8, I had been using a Nexus 7 for a while ("stock" Android is overrated, PS) and I wanted a larger screen tablet. I hadn't been in the market for one for a while and was surprised that they even had one with a SPen and at a reasonable price

Reply

How about you – Are you still using a tablet?

Join the conversation in the forums!

6 months ago

Best accessories to buy for your new Amazon Fire tablet

5

Best accessories to buy for your new Amazon Fire tablet

Fire HD charger
Microsd card
Fire HD case
Screen protector

Accessories are what make the Amazon Fire HD tablet a full experience and not just an inexpensive way to watch stuff.

So you've got a shiny new Amazon Fire HD tablet. Maybe it's the 7-incher. Or the 8-incher. Or even the 10-inch Fire HD. Either way, congratulations! Someone you know is pretty smart, because while these aren't the most powerful Android-based tablets you can find, they're easily the best value for your money.

Yes, really. A couple reasons for that. One is that Amazon has a really robust ecosystem these days. It's maybe not quite as streamlined as Google's, but once you're set up you've got access to movies, TV shows, apps, music, books — and of course all the online shopping Amazon can throw at you.

And if you've got kids, these are still the only tablets I'd had one.

But you're not done yet. It's time to accessorize. Here are the first accessories I'd look at for your brand-new Fire HD tablet.

See at Amazon

Buy a case

Fire HD caseDo yourself a favor: Just buy a case. Even if you don't think you'll drop your tablet. You will. And cases are more than just protection these days. They're also a handy way to prop up your Fire HD for watching movies or playing games.

(And, yes, they also protect your tablet.)

There are a ton of options out there, whether it's the first-party plastic case from Amazon, or something leather(Esqueda) from a third party seller.

See at Amazon

Buy a microSD card

Microsd cardThe thing about the Fire HD tablets is that there's not a lot of built-in storage space for apps and pictures and movies and games and stuff.

The thing about the Fire HD tablets is that it's also super easy to just pop in an inexpensive microSD card and increase that storage space exponentially. Which one should you get? It really depends on your budget.

Me? I always try to get more than I think I'll need. Because nobody has ever said "Ya know, I just have too much storage space."

See at Amazon

Buy a screen protector

Screen protectorThis one's especially true if you've got kids — a screen protector can mean never having to say you're sorry.

For one, they'll help keep your display free of scratches. But they'll also help keep that display clean of Kid Goo™ — that unexplainable stuff that kids secrete to no end.

Just trust me on this.

See at Amazon

Buy an extra charger

Fire HD chargerThe only thing worse than a dead tablet is ... not knowing where the charger is.

Fire HD tablets all use the older Micro-USB standard. (Seriously, Amazon, it'll be time to switch to USB-C at some point.) The good news is that if you don't have any extra Micro-USB chargers laying around, they're really just a couple bucks. It's worth picking up an extra charger or two.

And maybe snag one for the car while you're at it.

See at Amazon

Amazon Fire tablets

See more at Amazon

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6 months ago

Best apps to turn your Huawei MediaPad tablet into a laptop replacement

2

Best apps to turn your Huawei MediaPad tablet into a laptop replacement

Can I turn my tablet into a laptop? For the most part, yes.

The idea of replacing your laptop with a tablet has always been a fever dream, but with a Bluetooth keyboard and the right apps, it could actually be possible for the right kind of person. Here are a few great apps for the Huawei MediaPad that could help you leave your laptop behind.

See at Amazon

Best writing app: Google Docs

It's hard to beat Google's own writing app. Google Docs is a free and powerful writing app that syncs to the cloud to automatically save your progress as you write. There are plenty of useful tools for formatting, and Docs even has collaborative features to write with someone else remotely.

Best of all, it's able to open and export Microsoft Word documents, making it a versatile service for college students, businesses, or just about anyone else who needs a word processor.

Download: Google Docs

Best photo-editing app: Snapseed

Snapseed has long been one of the most popular mobile photo editing apps, and for good reason. Its gesture-based controls make it easy to quickly edit photos, and when it comes time to do some more involved edits, Snapseed offers professional features like tone curves, perspective shifts, and a healing tool.

Snapseed can even handle RAW photos, meaning you don't have to wait until you're at your computer with Lightroom to edit those unprocessed shots from your Galaxy S8 or LG V30.

Download: Snapseed

Best video-editing app: Quik

This is a pretty easy choice, since there just aren't many video editing apps on Android in the first place. Quik by GoPro uses the videos and photos you've already taken to create montages, highlight reels, or pretty much any kind of video you'd want to produce on the go.

You can set Quik to automatically sync your video clips to music with Smart Cuts, or dive in and handle the cuts yourself. You're also able to import media from your Google Photos library, even if that media isn't already stored locally on the MediaPad.

Download: Quik

Show off split-screen

The MediaPad M3 Lite 10 has a large 10.1-inch display, and there are plenty of ways to make good use of that screen real estate. I've always particularly enjoyed running Google Maps and a social network like Twitter to the side, and when I'm writing I usually have my note-taking app and Chrome open simultaneously for research and references.

Of course, if you're in the middle of an important conversation with a friend while you're watching a YouTube video or shopping on Amazon, you can always run Hangouts or Slack in a small window to the side.

See at Amazon

Read more: 5 reasons why you should consider the Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite 10 as your next tablet

7 months ago

5 reasons why you should consider the Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite 10 as your next tablet

8

5 reasons why you should consider the Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite 10 as your next tablet

There are plenty of reasons to still love an Android tablet.

It's easy to make the clichéd claim that Android tablets are dead, but the reality is that not every would-be tablet owner wants an iPad. The MediaPad M3 Lite 10 is a powerful yet affordable tablet from Huawei with a lot of compelling features for the price. Here are a few reasons why you might want to pick one up for yourself — or as a great holiday gift!

See at Amazon

Large display

As the name suggests, the MediaPad M3 Lite 10 boasts a 10.1-inch IPS LCD display with a respectably sharp 1920x1200 resolution. It gets impressively bright and has great viewing angles, meaning you'll be able to use it in dim rooms and the bright outdoors alike.

The MediaPad M3 Lite 10 is made for use primarily in landscape orientation, making it great for split-screen multitasking, and its 3 to 4GB of RAM help keep things running smoothly. In addition, the MediaPad's natural orientation makes it ideal for keyboard accessories, keeping features like the fingerprint sensor and navigation controls at the bottom of the device.

The MediaPad M3 Lite 10 also supports Eye Comfort, Huawei's blue light filter, displaying warmer colors and easing eye strain to prevent visual fatigue, irregular sleep cycles, and other negative effects of blue light.

Quad speakers

The MediaPad M3 Lite 10 has four speakers (two on top, two on bottom) for an immersive surround sound experience. Backed by Harman Kardon, the speakers deliver balanced and incredibly loud audio, and whether you're holding the tablet in portrait or landscape orientation, it's a fantastic listening experience.

Huawei also utilizes its own SWS 3.0 sound management software to custom-tailor the experience to best fit various situations, including watching movies, listening to music, or talking on live chat.

Expandable storage

Though microSD expandability is still fairly commonplace with Android phones, tablets are a bit of a different story. The MediaPad M3 Lite 10 is one of the few modern tablets that still features a removable microSD tray, making the default 16GB of storage much more usable. It accepts any microSD card with up to 256GB of space, exceeding the maximum capacity of many non-expandable tablets.

EMUI

Depending on who you are, this will either be a benefit or a disadvantage, but EMUI 5.1 on the MediaPad M3 Lite 10 brings some great additions to the standard features of Android 7.0 Nougat. You're able to customize the look and feel of your device with various EMUI themes, and Huawei has a myriad of in-house apps for weather, voice memos, contacts, backups, and more.

Tablet Manager is also a useful service that allows users to run virus scans, turn on power saving mode, and optimize their MediaPad for the best possible performance.

Kids Corner

Any parent or babysitter knows that one of the best reasons to own a tablet is to keep children entertained and occupied. With Kids Corner preinstalled on the MediaPad M3 Lite 10, you're able to set up parental controls and determine what apps your children can use, and how long they can be on the tablet.

By default, Kids Corner gives the options to record audio, take pictures, draw, or view saved content from within the app. Exiting the app requires a PIN, meaning kids won't be able to jump out of the app and into something they shouldn't be in.

See at Amazon

7 months ago

Amazon Fire Tablet: Which storage size should I buy?

11

Amazon Fire Tablet: Which storage size should I buy?

Amazon Fire HD 8
Amazon Fire 7
Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition
Amazon Fire HD 8

Amazon Fire HD 8

Spoiler: You want as much as possible. Always.

Nobody ever wakes up in the morning and says "Ya know, I really wish I hadn't gotten more storage for my tablet." It just doesn't happen. (We'll leave for another time the fact that most folks are normal and don't think about this sort of thing at all.)

No, when it comes to your phones and tablets and pretty much any electronic device, you can never have too much storage. Because not only will you need it for things like apps and movies and pictures and videos, but the system itself takes up a good chunk of the capacity you'll see listed on the side of the box.

That last part is key. When you buy a "16GB" tablet, you're not actually getting 16GB of storage to work with. So the basic rule of thumb is this:

Always buy more storage than you think you'll need.

If that's good enough for you, great. Max out the specs and go to town. But let's break down the different Amazon Fire tablets and take a look at where things stand.

Fire 7: 8GB or 16GB?

Amazon Fire 7

This is one of those times when you need to heed the warnings. Because remember that the Fire tablets are built on Android, and 8GB of storage is the absolute minimum of anything that should be on sale in 2017. And even then, I don't recommend buying anything with that small amount of storage.

That part above where I mentioned the operating system taking up some space? On the 8GB Fire 7 tablet, it's only going to leave you with 4.5GB of storage for things you want to use. That's about 56% of the available storage on the Fire 7 gone as soon as you hit the power button.

Yes, the Fire 7 with 8GB of storage starts at just $49 (you can get it on sale for even less than that), but please pony up the extra $20 to get 16GB of storage. You might well bump up against the ceiling at some point, but that Andrew Jackson is going to go a long way, leaving 11.6GB — or about 72% — left for you to use. That's a much better use of your money.

See at Amazon

Fire HD 8 — 16GB or 32GB?

Amazon Fire HD 8

Now we're starting to get into an area in which the math matters a bit more. The Fire HD 8 — which is one of the few tablets I'd actually buy a youngster — starts at $80 for the 16GB model and hits $120 for the 32GB model. (Again, sale prices can drop that way down.)

The smaller of the two storage options — that'd be the 16GB model — leaves you 11.1GB available at first boot, or about 69%. The 32GB model has 25.3GB left over for your priceless pics, or about 79%.

That's not nearly as much of a difference, but it is still a goodly amount of storage. Again, the rule of "buy as much as you can" applies here. But if you want to go the 16GB route, you'll probably be OK.

See at Amazon

Fire 7 Kids Edition and Fire 8 Kids Edition

Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition

Let's lump the kids' editions of the tablets (they've got a beefier exterior and a more kid-friendly user interface) into one section here because you don't actually get a choice of storage. The Fire 7 Kids Edition sports 16GB of storage, with 11GB available to your kiddo. The Fire 8 Kids Edition (in addition to being an inch larger) comes with 32GB of storage, and 25.3GB available at boot.

There's a $30 difference between the two — and a pretty big psychological difference going from $99 to $129. (And sale prices drop that even further.) But keep in mind that the 8-incher has a slightly better screen and bigger battery, in addition to having more storage available. That's the route I'd go.

See at Amazon

What about a microSD card?

Good question. All of these tablets let you stick a microSD card in them to increase the available storage. And you should do that if you've got one laying around.

Does that mean that adding a 16GB microSD card to a 16GB Fire tablet gets you the same thing as if you had a 32GB tablet? Not quite. microSD cards aren't as fast as having all that storage built in. And then there's the chance of the card being removed and lost. (Or worse, as kids tend to love the taste of microSD cards. Which isn't so bad, until you try to retrieve it later. But I digress.)

So, yes. Feel free to add in a microSD card. In fact, you probably should.

See memory cards at Amazon

Updated December 2017: New sales pricing is making these things a steal. But heed our warnings above.

Amazon Fire tablets

See more at Amazon

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7 months ago

Best streaming video apps for Huawei MediaPad

2

Best streaming video apps for Huawei MediaPad

With these apps, you will never run out of things to watch.

There are a ton of apps out there for watching videos on your tablet, but not all of them are great. Some don't look nice on larger screens, while others take advantage of the larger space to give you lots of options. It's not always obvious which is which though, so we've assembled this handy guide.

With your Huawei MediaPad in hand, check out these apps for maximum fun!

Movies Anywhere

While you certainly can buy all your digital movies from one place, not everyone does. Sometimes that DVD you picked up comes with a Vudu code, which can be weird if you've never felt the urge to use that service before. Movies Anywhere gives you a way to bring together a ton of movies from all of the different purchase and code apps into a single place. It's also a really nice app, which is cool.

Movies Anywhere will pull movies from Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and others into a single place. It will show you when new movies are available to purchase, so if you're moving from an iPad or a Kindle Fire you are still able to buy movies from those sources if you prefer.

Download: Movies Anywhere (free, in-app purchases)

Netflix

If you've never had a Netflix account before, or you let it lapse because you couldn't find anything you wanted to watch, now is the time to check it out. Netflix has spent a ton of money on new shows that can only be seen on Netflix, and almost all of them are examples of some of the best television you can watch today. On top of that, the app is built for tablets so you can quickly find things you want to watch and add them to your queue.

You still need to pay a monthly subscription to use Netflix, but if you're looking for a lot of amazing things to watch and would prefer to not pay for each individual episode of movie this is still the best option out there.

Download: Netflix (free, subscription)

YouTube TV

Everyone knows about YouTube, and you've already got that app on your tablet, but are you familiar with YouTube TV? This app gives you access to live streaming television just like you would have if you were at home in front of the TV. You can set a Cloud DVR to record shows for you and watch them anywhere, or wait until you have a WiFi connection and enjoy something live.

YouTube TV isn't available everywhere just yet, but for those with access to it you are opening a door to all the TV you can watch for a very low monthly fee.

Download: YouTube TV (free, subscription)

HBO Now

It took HBO long enough to make it possible for people to pay for its service without having a big cable package, but now that its here you really should take advantage of it. HBO Now gives you access to the full HBO library, which includes shows as soon as they finish airing on television and a massive selection of great movies.

There's nothing live here, but it's the closest thing you'll get without paying for HBO through a cable provider.

Download: HBO Now (free)

Hulu

The original streaming Video On Demand app is still one of the best ways to watch TV from your tablet. Hulu is built to take in what you watch and recommend tons of new things you might never have discovered before, and the app itself is easily one of the nicest looking tablet experiences you can get today.

Outside of watching TV live, Hulu remains one of the best ways to catch your favorite shows when you're not in the living room.

Download: Hulu (free)

What are some of your favorite video streaming apps? Sound off in the comments!

7 months ago

Amazon launches Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets in Canada

2

Amazon launches Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 tablets in Canada

Available starting today for $59.99 and $99.99, respectively.

The market for Android tablets isn't nearly as popular as it was just a few short years back, but Amazon's Fire series continues to offer the best tablets for people who don't want to spend more than $200. The Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 are Amazon's two most affordable tablet options, and starting today, December 7, are now available for purchase in Canada.

The Fire 7 will set you back just $59.99 CAD, and for that price you're getting a 7-inch 1024 x 600 IPS display, battery life that lasts up to 8 hours, and 8GB of storage that's expandable up to 256GB with a microSD card. The big advantage of the Fire HD 8 is that it has an 8-inch 1280 x 800 HD display, up to 12 hours of battery life, and 16GB of storage that's also expandable up to 256GB – all for just $99.99 CAD.

Both the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 come with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, VGA front-facing camera and 2MP rear shooter, dual-band Wi-Fi, and access to all of Amazon's many services.

Neither the Fire 7 or Fire HD 8 will blow your socks off, but if you've been looking for a tablet and don't want to spend any more than $100, these are now two of your best options.

See at Amazon

Amazon Fire tablets

See more at Amazon

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7 months ago

Which Android Tablets Should You Buy For Under $100?

46

Which Android Tablets Should You Buy For Under $100?

There are a number of reasons to buy a cheap tablet, but which ones are worth your money?

Tablets are incredibly useful, but if you're buying one for under $100, you're going to have to settle for some compromises. From durability issues to potentially out-of-date software, there's a reason why these are considered budget products and priced to move.

But there's still some good value to be had here, especially if you're planning to buy a tablet as a gift for a younger child. It can also be convenient to have a nice and portable device to take on trips, while leaving your more expensive tech safely stored at home.

Here's a breakdown of the best tablets you can get under $100!

Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet

Amazon has been producing some of the best budget tablets for years, and its latest HD tablet is the best yet. The Fire HD 8 features an 8-inch screen with battery life of up to 12 hours of reading, surfing, the web, watching videos, and listening to music. And audio is going to sound pretty decent with stereo speakers and Dolby Atmos support. It's also Alexa-enabled, which means you'll be able to talk to your smart home products from wherever you are in your home.

If you've never bought a Fire tablet before, you should know that Amazon has its own store for accessing content like apps, movies, TV, songs, books, and more. If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber you'll have Amazon Video and Amazon Music at your fingertips.

Our very own Phil Nickinson (aka Modern Dad) says it's the best tablet for kids because it's still a pretty capable Android tablet that you won't be distraught if dropped. There's also the Amazon Fire 7, which is $30 cheaper and another great option for kids, but the choice is ultimately yours — compare the specs and pick the one that's right for you.

See at Amazon

Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet

The standard Amazon Fire tablets are already pretty great for kids, but Amazon has smartly gone a step further by offering both the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 packaged with a kid-proof case that's designed to take all the abuse a younger child can throw at it.

It's got some built-in tools for parents that allow you to control what and when your kids can access on their own tablet, without sacrificing specs or feeling like a cheap toy.

If durability is at top of the list for you, you'll want to get this tablet. It's also backed by a 2-year worry-free warranty, meaning if anything happens Amazon will let you return and replace it for free, no questions asked. That's music to any parents ears!

See at Amazon

Lenovo Tab 10

This one is kind of a cheat because it's $7 over the $100 budget. But, if you're comfortable with that, the Lenovo Tab 10 is a solid buy for $107. It's a 10-inch tablet with a 1280 x 800 resolution display, Snapdragon 210 processor, 16GB of onboard storage and 1GB of RAM.

It won't set any records when it comes to performance, but it's got solid build quality and while it's still back on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it's far from the oldest version of Android you'll find on a super-cheap tablet. It's also fairly un-customized, so even with low specs should be ok for lighter use.

It also has a microSD card slot to expand the storage some, and the rear speakers support Dolby Atmos, which isn't something you find on most cheap tablets!

See at Amazon

RCA Viking Pro

The RCA Viking Pro is likely the only 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard that you will find for around $100. Sure, the internal specs are mediocre at best, but it comes with 32GB of internal storage along with a microSD slot, so that's pretty decent. It's a great option if you're looking for a cheap tablet with a larger screen for watching Netflix and other downloaded content — just make sure to use headphones or a Bluetooth speaker for audio.

The detachable keyboard is a nice addition, too, giving you the option to get some writing done on the go. It's running Android 5.0 Lollipop, so you might not be able to play the latest games, but at $100 it's a great portable option for blogging and watching videos.

There are limited quantities available on Amazon, but you can also buy this tablet from Walmart.

See at Walmart

Updated November 29, 2017: We've removed an older tablet and added in the Lenovo Tab 10 to our picks.

8 months ago

Please don't buy a crappy cheap tablet on Black Friday

16

Please don't buy a crappy cheap tablet on Black Friday

You owe it to yourself to avoid buying something terrible.

We've all been there, scrolling down the list of sales online or flipping through the heap of ads that arrive in the newspapers that week. A tablet that was "regularly priced at $199" is going to be available for $50, but only to the first 20 people in line who ask for them. That tablet never cost $199. The store probably didn't spend $299 to get those 20 units into the store to trick you into buying in the first place. If you go stand in line for that tablet, you will come home to find little more than sadness in the box.

Let's get this out of the way right here and now — there is no such thing as a good cheap tablet on Black Friday. They don't exist, and any company trying to sell you one knows you're going to get more use out of the box that tablet comes in than you will the hardware contained within.

If you are dead set on purchasing any kind of technology on Black Friday, here's what you need to know.

8 months ago

AT&T's Moto Tab is a $300 tablet for watching DirecTV

7

AT&T's Moto Tab is a $300 tablet for watching DirecTV

Available for AT&T customers starting November 17.

Motorola used to be one of the biggest players when it came to Android tablets, but it's been quite some time since we've seen the company dabble with larger-screened devices. Lenovo recently announced the Moto Tab, but despite having the "Moto" branding, this is very much so a Lenovo and AT&T tablet rather than a true Motorola one.

First, let's talk about specs. The Moto Tab comes equipped with a 10.1-inch Full HD display, dual front-facing Dolby Atmos speakers, Snapdragon 625 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage (up to 128GB), Android 7.1 Nougat, and a 7,000 mAh battery.

Lenovo is selling the Moto Tab exclusively through AT&T, and as such, it comes preinstalled with just about every carrier app you can imagine. Along with a host of AT&T applications, DirectTV and DirecTV NOW are also installed – not to mention a dedicated home screen and navigation button that take you right to "TV Mode" (aka DirecTV).

Lastly, Lenovo will also be releasing "Home Assistant" and "Productivity" packages to be sold alongside the Moto Tab. The former is an Alexa speaker that you dock the Moto Tab into, whereas the latter is a foldable keyboard case.

You'll be able to purchase the Moto Tab from AT&T on November 17 for either $15/month for 20 months on an installment plan or $299 outright without a contract. That's not an awful deal if you're someone that's completely invested into AT&T and DirecTV's services, but if not, you'd be much better off with something along the lines of the Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite or Amazon Fire Tablet HD 10 for considerably less cash.

Alexa as a Moto Mod is almost a good idea

8 months ago

Deal: Pixel C tablet down to £299 in the United Kingdom

12

Deal: Pixel C tablet down to £299 in the United Kingdom

New savings on an old gadget.

Android tablets (and really, tablets in general) have gotten a lot less popular over the past couple of years. The last tablet that Google ever released was the Pixel C that came out back in 2015, and while it offered a great design and gorgeous display, the high price and soemtimes wonky performance made it hard to justify its $599 asking price (not to mention the extra $150 for its keyboard).

Google never really did come off of that $599 listing, but for our readers over in the United Kingdom, you've finally got a deal that just might make the Pixel C still worth it in late 2017.

Right now on the Google Store in the U.K., you can buy the Pixel C for £299 (normally £479) and the keyboard accessory for £73 (rather than £119). Along with this, buyers in France, Germany, Ireland, and other countries throughout Europe can pick up the Pixel C for slightly more at £349. There's no sale in the United States, but that's because the Pixel C is out of stock there.

Google's likely running this discount to clear out whatever remaining units of the tablet it still has, and considering its age, we can't imagine that there will be a lot to go around. As such, if this sounds like a deal you've been waiting for, we advise acting on it as soon as you can.

See at Google Store

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