Author Archives: Valentina Palladino

Chromecasts are finally available from Amazon again

By | December 13, 2018
Chromecasts are finally available from Amazon again

Enlarge (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Amazon and Google haven’t played nicely with each other over the past few years, but consumers were just thrown a bone. Amazon has finally restocked Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra devices in its online store, selling them for $35 and $69, respectively.

Back in 2015, Amazon pulled Chromecast devices from its store after it dictated that it would only sell streaming devices that support its own Prime Video service. Since the Chromecast did not support the service, Amazon claimed it would cause “customer confusion” if it offered the Google device for purchase.

The same strange rule applied to the Apple TV, which Amazon didn’t sell for some time as well. But Amazon released its Prime Video app for Apple TV this time last year, and Apple’s set-top box reappeared on Amazon quickly after that.

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Samsung teases new Notebook 9 Pen with 15-hour battery life before CES 2019

By | December 12, 2018

Samsung

We weren’t impressed with this year’s Notebook 9 Pen, Samsung’s attempt at a high-end ultrabook, but the company will be trying again in 2019. Samsung announced two new versions of the Notebook 9 Pen—a 13-inch and a 15-inch model—that it will show off at CES in January and release sometime in 2019. At first glance, not much seems to have changed in the new convertibles, but upon closer inspection, Samsung has made some changes that will (hopefully) make the new devices worth their inevitably high price tags.

Regardless of how you feel about the blue-and-gold color scheme on this year’s Note 9 smartphone, Samsung clearly likes it because the company brought it over to the Notebook 9 Pen. The new device has that navy blue over most of its chassis, and its edges remain the only parts where silver pokes through.

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New 17-inch LG Gram laptop weighs 2.9 pounds, has nearly 20-hour battery life

By | December 12, 2018

LG

We’re just a few weeks away from 2019’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and some companies are drumming up hype by revealing some new products early. LG is one of them, as it announced the newest devices in its Gram family of thin-and-light laptops. Joining the lineup are a new 17-inch LG Gram, which the company claims to be the lightest 17-inch clamshell on the market, and the family’s first 2-in-1 device in the form of the new 14-inch Gram convertible.

The mammoth 17-inch laptop appears to take most of its design from the original LG Gram, which Ars reviewed last year. It looks like a standard ultrabook, with a nearly edge-to-edge display and a slightly larger chin bezel. LG claims to have put a 17-inch display in a 15.6-inch chassis, but it’s hard to tell how well that statement holds up through images alone.

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New Stranger Things 3 teaser confirms 2019 release, reveals episode titles

By | December 10, 2018

Netflix, YouTube

As 2018 comes to a close, Stranger Things fans continue to wait (somewhat) patiently for season three. Netflix has a bunch of new hints about next season’s adventures with a new teaser trailer that dropped Sunday and includes episode titles for the forthcoming season:

  • Suzie, Do You Copy?
  • The Mall Rats
  • The Case of the Missing Lifeguard
  • The Sauna Test
  • The Source
  • The Birthday
  • The Bite
  • The Battle of Starcourt

The episode titles play over the show’s recognizable intro sequence, featuring that foreboding, electronic theme song that many have come to associate with the antics of Mike, Eleven, Steve, Nancy, and the rest of the gang in Hawkins, Indiana.

The final lines of the teaser tell us that “the adventure continues” in the summer of 1985, the time period in which most of the third season will likely take place. The teaser also confirms what has been rumored for some time: the third season will debut sometime in 2019.

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Stranger Things 3 mobile game will let you jump into new Hawkins madness

By | December 7, 2018
Stranger Things 3 mobile game will let you jump into new Hawkins madness

Enlarge (credit: The Game Awards, YouTube)

The forthcoming new season of Stranger Things will be accompanied by its own mobile game. Series creators Matt and Ross Duffer announced a new mobile game, simply titled Stranger Things 3: The Game, last night at The Game Awards and dropped a short trailer to tease the game. The game will follow the events of season 3 and will reportedly be available on all mobile platforms.

The Duffer Brothers didn’t provide any more details about the game, and the trailer is quite short, so it doesn’t give too much away. However, it does show some of the show’s beloved characters, including Hopper and Steve, fighting enemies in messy storage rooms, a food-court-like setting, and in front of a movie theater. Users will reportedly be able to take control of characters and go through some of the season’s events, with surprises throughout.

The locations shown in the trailer jive with the mega-mall that will come to Hawkins, Indiana, in the show’s third season. The season’s cryptic yet nostalgia-filled trailer promised that the town will “step into the future” with the addition of the Starcourt Mall, where we can expect to see characters hang out, shop, and even work (Steve appears to be the newest employee of the Scoops Ahoy ice cream shop).

Developer Bonus XP partnered with Netflix to create this 16-bit title, following up their previous partnership that created Stranger Things: The Game. That was another mobile, top-down game that was based loosely on the first season of the popular sci-fi show.

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Apple’s anticipated ECG app rolls out today in watchOS 5.1.2

By | December 6, 2018
The Apple Watch Series 4 on a wooden table.

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

The newest update for Apple Watches is out now, bringing a highly anticipated feature to Series 4 devices. Apple pushed out watchOS 5.1.2 today, which includes its ECG app for monitoring irregular heartbeats.

Apple Watch Series 4 devices all have built-in electrodes that can measure electrocardiograms, or ECGs. At the time of the Watch’s debut in September, Apple’s native app with which the electrodes communicate wasn’t ready for consumer use. Now, it’s rolling out as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update.

The ECG app is for the Watch itself, while ECG data gets stored in Apple’s Health app on iOS devices. To take an ECG reading, users must place their finger on the flat side of the Digital Crown on their Series 4 Watch. The electrode on the Digital Crown communicates with the other electrode on the Watch, which sits near the heart rate monitor, to take a complete ECG measurement.

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Tim Cook: Apple won’t tolerate white supremacists, conspiracy theorists

By | December 4, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on as the new iPhone X goes on sale at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on as the new iPhone X goes on sale at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple CEO Tim Cook further condemned white supremacists when he accepted an award from the Anti-Defamation League at an event in New York on Monday. The ADL honored Cook with its first ever Courage Against Hate Award, and the tech CEO took his time on the stage to address Apple’s stance against hate speech and what he thinks are tech companies’ responsibilities to customers.

“From the earliest days of iTunes, to Apple Music today, we have always prohibited music with a message of white supremacy,” Cook said. “Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. And as we showed this year, we won’t give a platform to violent conspiracy theorists on the App Store.”

He went on to say that tech companies shouldn’t be afraid to take the moral high-ground and stand up against hate speech and discrimination of all sorts.

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Barnes and Noble’s newest Kindle competitor is a 7-inch, $49 Nook

By | December 3, 2018
Barnes and Noble’s newest Kindle competitor is a 7-inch, $49 Nook

Enlarge

Barnes and Noble hasn’t given up on its Nook tablets—quite the contrary, in fact. Last month, the bookseller debuted its biggest Android reading tablet yet, a $129, 10.1-inch slab with room for up to 256GB of storage. And today, Barnes and Noble came out with another, much more affordable tablet: an updated version of its two-year-old, 7-inch Nook that costs only $49.

The new Nook looks nearly identical to the previous model, which was the smallest Nook when it came out a couple of years ago. The black slate has a 7-inch, 1024×600 display on it, as well as a microUSB port for charging, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. The original tablet had a mere 8GB of onboard storage, but the new device starts at 16GB. With the microSD card slot, you can have up to 128GB of total storage—enough to support numerous e-books and a decent number of Android apps.

In addition, the tablet has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, front- and rear-facing cameras (the former being a VGA camera and the latter being a 2MP shooter), and up to seven hours of battery life on a single charge. It’s certainly not the most capable Android tablet, but at $49, it’s one of the most affordable available.

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Report: AirPods with wireless charging expected in early 2019

By | December 3, 2018
The first generation AirPods.

Enlarge / The first generation AirPods. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

The approaching new year may bring updated AirPods sooner than we thought. A report by 9to5Mac cites noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s predictions that Apple may release a new model of its truly wireless earbuds with “wireless charging support” in the first quarter of 2019.

The upgrade may only refer to the AirPods’ charging case rather than the earbuds themselves. Kuo claims the upgrade case will have a new “rigid-flex board” internal component, redesigned hinges, and support for better thermal management. He also notes that these changes will make the case more expensive to produce, possibly leading to a higher price tag for the new product.

However, Kuo also suggests that the new AirPods themselves will have upgraded Bluetooth specs (possibly Bluetooth 5.0, no word on a new Apple-made, W-series chip). This may mean that Apple will debut an upgraded set of AirPods with internal improvements that comes with the new wireless charging case, but it may also make that wireless charging case available as an add-on for current AirPod owners.

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Apple Music arrives on Amazon’s Echo speakers starting December 17

By | November 30, 2018
Apple Music arrives on Amazon’s Echo speakers starting December 17

Enlarge (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Apple Music subscribers will have a new way to listen to music soon. Amazon announced that Apple Music will be available on Echo devices next month, beginning the week of December 17.

“We are committed to offering great music providers to our customers and since launching the Music Skill API to developers just last month, we’ve expanded the music selection on Alexa to include even more top tier services,”said Amazon Devices senior vice president David Limp in the statement. “We’re thrilled to bring Apple Music—one of the most popular music services in the US—to Echo customers this holiday.”

Once the feature rolls out, users will be able to ask Alexa on Echo devices to play songs, artists, and albums from Apple Music after pairing their account to the Alexa mobile app. Subscribers can also ask Alexa to play curated playlists and radio stations, including Apple’s Beats 1 station.

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Pixel Slate review: Paying the “Google” premium for Chrome OS

By | November 29, 2018
Pixel Slate review: Paying the “Google” premium for Chrome OS

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Google spent a lot of time and effort trying to convince everyone that Chrome OS isn’t just for laptops. The fruits of the company’s labor have been slowly revealing themselves over the past year through software updates and the few Chrome OS tablets that are already available.

But Google officially ushered in the era of the Chrome OS tablet with its own Pixel Slate, which it announced last month alongside the Pixel 3 smartphone. The first Google-made tablet in three years is now available for purchase. And you can think of the Pixel Slate as a not-so-distant cousin of the company’s premium Chromebook, the Pixelbook, in that it appeals to those who have chosen Chrome OS as their primary operating system and demand only the highest-quality hardware for it.

The Pixelbook, while certainly the most Googley Chromebook, has proven to be only one of the best Chromebooks available. Similarly, the Pixel Slate has a lot of things going for it—namely its chic design, support for powerful Intel processors, and a bunch of storage and memory—but it falls into the same traps as the Pixelbook did regarding productivity and price.

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Bring in the ads—YouTube may let everyone watch Original shows, films

By | November 28, 2018
Actor William Zabka in Cobra Kai

Enlarge / Welcome to the story of Cobra Kai. Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy! (credit: Overbrook Entertainment/YouTube)

Going against the grain, YouTube is reportedly scaling back its original content plans. According to a report from the Hollywood Reporter, the online video giant will scale back the volume of scripted original programming it produces by 2020. YouTube’s new strategy, dubbed Single Slate, will combine ad-supported and subscription content, which will reportedly lead to its original shows and films becoming free for all to watch.

“As we look to 2019, we will continue to invest in scripted programming and shift to make our YouTube Originals ad-supported to meet the growing demand of a more global fanbase,” a YouTube representative told Variety. “This next phase of our originals strategy will expand the audience of our YouTube Original creators and provide advertisers with incredible content that reaches the YouTube generation.”

YouTube Originals are one of the many features included in the company’s $12-per-month Premium subscription service. The company somewhat consolidated its paid offerings when it launched the new YouTube Music subscription service back in May. Users can pay $10 per month for Music, which is similar to Spotify and Apple Music. YouTube Premium, in contrast, costs $12 per month and includes access to all Music features in addition to Originals, ad-free video streaming across all of YouTube, video downloads, and background listening.

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Kobo Forma review: A formidable opponent for Amazon’s Kindle Oasis

By | November 22, 2018
Kobo Forma review: A formidable opponent for Amazon’s Kindle Oasis

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Kobo has its work cut out for it. The digital bookshop company reentered the US market this year, teaming up with Walmart to sell Kobo e-readers, the millions of books in its e-book library, and a new audiobook subscription service. The Rakuten-owned company faces stiff competition not just from Amazon, the reigning e-reader and e-book king, but also the looming reality that e-reader technology hasn’t changed drastically enough to propel consistent sales growth in recent years.

But Kobo is convinced that it can thrive in the US by offering competitive e-readers that feature no ads and by using Walmart’s physical and online reach to introduce e-books and audiobooks to new customers. To do this successfully, Kobo needs a few things: solid e-readers at various price points, a vast e-book and audiobook library with deals and incentives that create loyal customers, and, hopefully, unique features that Amazon doesn’t have.

We tested out the $279 Kobo Forma, one of the company’s newest e-readers and its competitor for Amazon’s $249 Kindle Oasis. It’s decked out with all of Kobo’s advanced e-reader features—an 8-inch 300ppi E Ink display, a waterproof design, and zero advertisements, to name a few—and as a whole, the Forma dutifully showcases what Kobo can add to the US e-book market.

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Tim Cook defends using Google as primary search engine on Apple devices

By | November 19, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on as the new iPhone X goes on sale at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on as the new iPhone X goes on sale at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In an interview with Axios on HBO, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained the decision to use Google as the default search engine on Apple products. This decision has baffled some, considering Google’s business model of making money off of users’ data—something Apple has spoken out against numerous times.

“I think their search engine is the best,” Cook said in the interview. He followed up by diving into privacy features Apple has implemented in its Safari browser.

“Look at what we’ve done with the controls we’ve built in,” Cook stated. “We have private Web browsing. We have an intelligent tracker prevention. What we’ve tried to do is come up with ways to help our users through their course of the day. It’s not a perfect thing. I’d be the very first person to say that. But it goes a long way to helping.”

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HP Elitebook x360 1030 review: Small tweaks made to a stylish work 2-in-1

By | November 16, 2018
HP Elitebook x360 1030 review: Small tweaks made to a stylish work 2-in-1

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

It has been 10 years since HP launched the original Elitebook, and the company continues to improve upon this already stellar business notebook family. This year’s Elitebook x360 1030 is the follow-up to last year’s model and will replace the 1020 model in the Elitebook lineup.

The new Elitebook has been sprinkled with updates that you’d expect in a convertible that didn’t have many major problems: HP stuck a new processor inside, shrank some bezels, made the chassis’ footprint smaller and lighter, added an LTE option, and improved the optional Active Pen. There were a few sub-par aspects about the previous model, so HP addressed them in this device, too. However, those improvements, while thoughtful, may not be crucial enough to push current Elitebook users to upgrade.

Look and feel

HP changed little about the Elitebook x360’s skeleton—it’s still an all-aluminum convertible with a unibody chassis and slick, diamond-cut edges. It now has a 10 percent smaller footprint than the previous model, measuring 15.8mm thick and weighing 2.76 pounds, and the bezels around its 13.3-inch touchscreen are slimmer than ever before. The side bezels are 50percent thinner, and the chin is 39 percent smaller, too.

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Apple inks deal with A24 studio to produce original, feature-length films

By | November 15, 2018
Apple logo.

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Apple has lined up another partnership to boost its video-content offerings. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Apple signed a deal with A24 studio, a New York-based production company responsible for movies, including the 2017 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Moonlight.

Details of forthcoming projects haven’t been disclosed, but Apple reportedly signed a “multi-year partnership” to make “independent, feature-length films” with A24. Apple has numerous production partnerships and deals in the works already, but most are for serialized shows and other video content.

For the past year, Apple has focused on gleaning talent for its original content offerings. It began with the Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps series, both of which are exclusively available on Apple Music.

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Spotify officially releases first version of its Apple Watch app

By | November 14, 2018
The Apple Watch Series 4 on a wooden table.

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

After rolling out wearable apps across other platforms over the past few weeks, Spotify just released the first iteration of its Apple Watch app. The watchOS app will be rolling out to Watch users over the next week, and you must have the latest version of the Spotify iOS app on your iPhone to download the Watch app.

Much like Spotify’s other wearable apps, the program for the Apple Watch focuses on controlling playback on your iPhone from the Watch. Users can pause, play, skip, and rewind their music, podcasts, and other tracks. They can also tap a heart icon to add new music that they stumble upon to their libraries. Most of these features, aside from adding music to your library, are available in Apple’s native Now Playing app that lets users control playback from nearly any audio source on their connected iPhone.

The Apple Watch app also has Spotify Connect support, which lets users manage connections and playback with Bluetooth devices. Directly from the Watch, you can choose which devices—like laptops, speakers, headphones, and others—through which music should play.

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Apple’s T2 chip will block some third-party repairs of new devices

By | November 13, 2018
Apple’s T2 chip will block some third-party repairs of new devices

Enlarge (credit: Samuel Axon)

Small repair shops and tech enthusiasts who attempt to fix their new Apple devices may be taking a serious risk in doing so. According to a report from The Verge, Apple confirmed that its new T2 security chip is designed to lock down devices after repair if it doesn’t recognize certain authorized replacement parts.

Word of this new policy came out last month in an Apple document circulated among authorized service providers. In order to replace certain hardware components, such as the Touch ID sensor or the logic board on new Macs, the provider must run a specific piece of diagnostic software.

This program, called “AST 2 System Configuration,” works in conjunction with the T2 security chip. If this step isn’t performed on devices with the T2 chip, it could result in an inoperable machine.

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Tinkerers, repair shops will have mixed feelings about this iPad Pro teardown

By | November 12, 2018
Tinkerers, repair shops will have mixed feelings about this iPad Pro teardown

(credit: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPad+Pro+11-Inch+Teardown/115457)

Following the controlled destruction of the Mac mini and the MacBook Air, iFixit turned its gaze to the new 11-inch iPad Pro. Its teardown reveals lots of adhesive, even more magnets, and only a few surprises inside the newest Apple tablet.

Unsurprisingly, the super-narrow bezels make the new iPad Pro harder to get into than the previous models. Awkwardly positioned display ribbons make removing the display more difficult, but underneath it we find the usual suspects: the logic board, speakers, TrueDepth camera array, and batteries, to name a few components.

The new iPad Pro should be an entertainment powerhouse thanks to a total of eight speakers, composed of four woofers and four tweeters. Combine those with the Liquid Retina display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and you have a stellar music and video consumption device. However, the speakers proved impossible to remove without destroying a portion of them, thanks to their housings being carved into the aluminum case. Magnets also live under the speakers, and those are just a fraction of the magnets present inside the iPad Pro.

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Apple to replace unresponsive iPhone X touchscreens for free

By | November 12, 2018
Apple to replace unresponsive iPhone X touchscreens for free

Enlarge (credit: Samuel Axon)

If you’ve had problems with the touch responsiveness of your iPhone X’s display, you may be in luck. According to a support document, Apple identified a problem with some iPhone X devices that may cause a component of the display module to fail. The company has now launched a program to replace affected screens for free.

Apple claims that failed display components have caused touch response issues on some iPhone X devices. Part, or all, of the affected displays may not respond to touch input, or, in some cases, they may only respond intermittently. In other instances, displays react to touch even when they have not been touched.

Under the repair program, users can go to Apple or to an authorized service provider to get an iPhone X examined. If they verify that the device is eligible for the repair, the display module will be replaced free of charge.

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