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    Testing: Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch

    Our testing and review of the Pebble Time left us a bit underwhelmed. The second-generation smartwatch, equipped with a new color display, felt half-baked. Functionality was fragmented between iOS and Android users. Promised features like voice notes didn't make it to launch. Battery life was a little worse than the original Pebble. And annoying flaws like an aggressive vibration motor and recessed screen made the Pebble Time difficult to recommend at its $200 price.

    Since our initial review, Pebble has released two significant software updates to its platform, as well as a new $250 Pebble Time Steel model. Together, they address the many of the problems I had with the Pebble Time. I've had the steel model for about a week, and wanted to share some thoughts now that both models are available to order.

    First, the software fixes. Pebble's 3.2 and 3.3 firmware updates--along with corresponding smartphone app updates--provide some stability and bug fixes as well as useful features. Notably, users can adjust the intensity and time-out duration of the backlight (medium works great for me), tweak system font size, and set the strength of the vibration motor to one of three settings. Putting the motor on low feels right for my wrist and doesn't rattle my side table in the morning when emails start flooding in. Additionally, notifications are now synced between Android phones and the Pebble, so any notifications dismissed on the phone go away on the watch as well. Good stuff.

    The Best Wi-Fi Router (for Most People)

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy.
    Read the original full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    After spending a total of 200 hours researching and testing over 20 Wi-Fi routers, plus analyzing reader comments and feedback, the $100 TP-Link Archer C7 (v2) is the router we recommend for most people right now. This dual-band, three-stream wireless-ac router usually costs between $80 and $100—the same price as many older, slower routers. But unlike those slower routers, the C7 supports the fastest connections of every major device you can buy today.

    We compared the Archer C7 against 21 different routers over a 10-month testing period. On most of our tests, the Archer C7 was the fastest—outperforming routers that cost twice as much. You won't find a better-performing router than the Archer C7 for less, and you'll have to spend a lot more money to get a better one.

    In Brief: Amazon Prime Video Enables Offline Viewing

    As rumors of Apple developing its own original video streaming service get traction, Netflix competitors Amazon Prime Streaming and Hulu both make announcements to bolster the value of their own services. First, Amazon announced today that select Prime movies and TV shows can now be downloaded for offline viewing on mobile devices (Fire phones/tabletse, Android devices, and iOS devices). A "Download" option will appear in compatible videos, and subscribers will have less than 30 days to watch them. The content selection includes Amazon produced series, content from CBS and Paramount, as well as HBO shows. On the Hulu front, that service has signed a deal with digital video middleman Epix, whose catalog of films will leave Netflix in September. Netflix apparently isn't worried about that loss, and will spend that money on producing more original (and exclusive) shows.

    Norman 1
    Google Play App Roundup: TUFFS Notification Shortcuts, Framed, and Lara Croft GO

    Time once again to check in on what's new in the Play Store. This is the Google Play App Roundup where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just hit the links below to head right to the Play Store on your device.

    TUFFS Notification Shortcuts

    There are various ways to quickly access your apps on Android, but the notification shade is always just a swipe away. TUFFS Notification Shortcuts is a new app that lets you add custom shortcuts to the notification area, but unlike similar apps, it doesn't need a background service and won't take up space in the status bar or on the lock screen.

    The TUFFS shortcuts will appear in a notification item directly below the system UI in your notification shade. There are five icons in a single row to start, but you can increase the number of icons, and even add a second row. Apps are probably the most likely use for this, but you can also drop in any shortcut supported by your apps or system. For example, contacts, Maps directions, Drive files, and so on.

    By default, TUFFS shortcuts are hidden from the lock screen and status bar, which I think makes the most sense. This way it doesn't take up any space when it's not of use to you. Still, you can change that option if you want, but it means a status bar icon. There are actually plenty of settings to mess with. To make it blend in better with the system UI, you can change the icon framing (or shut it off), remove the labels, or even change the background color of the notification.

    Launching apps and shortcuts from TUFFS seems to work exactly as you'd expect. It's just like having an icon on your home screen, but it's in the notification shade. If you're having trouble matching the exact color and style of your phone, check the themes out. The developer has helpfully included several pre-packaged themes that match stock Android, Samsung, HTC, and a few more.

    The app is free to try, and most of the options are unlocked in this version. In the premium tier are a few themeing options, but most importantly, auto-start on reboot. There's an in-app purchase of $0.99 to permanently unlock all the features. If you like the idea of having shortcuts in your notifications, this is a pretty good way to do it.

    The Best Mirrorless Camera for Beginners

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article here.

    After 60 hours of research and 25 hours of testing, we found the $600 Sony a5100 is the best mirrorless camera for beginners. It stands out from the dozens of competitors we considered by delivering superior photo quality while being easier to use right out of the box thanks to simple menus and controls. Plus, it offers enough flexibility to keep up with a new photographer's developing skills.

    The Sony a5100 takes photos as well as cameras that go for hundreds more by employing a sensor that rivals DSLRs.

    How we decided

    We looked over the entire range of mirrorless cameras currently available for less than $600 and narrowed the field down to four final candidates for hands-on testing: the $550 Olympus E-PL7, Samsung's $400 NX3000, the $500 Panasonic GF7 and the Sony a5100. We toted them around everywhere to see how they performed in the situations most novice shooters find challenging, putting each camera's autofocus, low light and flash capabilities to the test.

    "MultiFab" 3D Printer Prints 10 Materials At Once

    Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab unveiled MultiFab, a prototype 3D printer that can work with up to 10 materials. That allows it to fabricate complex components and even embed electronics directly in what it's printing. Because different materials require different print parameters, MultiFab manages its print heads by building in a 3D scanning step into each print layer, which allows the machine to detect errors and self-correct. Read more about the MultiFab printer here.

    In Brief: The History and Technology of Nintendo's Virtual Boy

    Technology historian Benj Edwards (who writes the great Vintage Computing blog) celebrates the 20th anniversary of Nintendo's Virtual Boy with an exhaustive history of the failed game console for Fast Company. Edwards chronicles the development of Reflection Technologies' PrivateEye display which was featured in Virtual Boy, and the vision of its creators to build a true head-tracked HMD like today's virtual reality headsets. It's a great read that gives context to why the LED display tech was so interesting to Nintendo, despite its color limitations. To get a closer look at that tech, iFixit also did a teardown of the Virtual Boy a few years back.

    Norman
    Google Play App Roundup: Floatify, Pac-Man 256, and Gathering Sky

    Well, your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Floatify

    Android 5.0 added the heads-up notification paradigm and did away with our beloved statusbar ticker text. We mourn its loss, but life goes on. Floatify came out a while ago to make heads-up notifications a bit less annoying, and a new update (V8.0) really takes it to a whole new level. I haven't had a chance to cover this one in the past, so now seems as good a time as any.

    After setting up Floatify as a notification handler, it can essentially take over for the heads-up notifications built into Android 5.0 and higher. When you get a notification, the floatify banner will slide in from the top of the screen. You can do several things with this, depending on your settings. You can swipe up to hide, to the side to dismiss, and down to open all your notifications.

    What's new in this update is an improved version of quick reply called direct reply. Confusing names aside, what this means is that you can swipe down on a messaging notification to get a quick reply box. Just type your message and send it off. Yes, basically like iOS. The direct reply feature is a way to add some canned responses to your messaging drop-down. You can configure these in the settings to say whatever you want. Want to reply "okay, cool" or "you smell" without typing? That can be arranged.

    Floatify also extracts media playback controls from the stock notifications now. So each time a new song starts playing, you get a heads-up with the artist/song and playback controls in case you want to pause or skip. These can be hidden like any other heads-up too.

    Floatify is designed to work on the lock screen as well as elsewhere in the UI. You can disable the lock screen feature if you want, but leaving it enabled means you'll want to turn off the stock notification content so you don't double up. Floatify also tends to pop up notifications far unimportant things by default. You can tweak all that stuff in the settings as well. The basic settings are free, but a pro unlocker app ($2.49) is needed to access everything.

    10 Alternative Energy Solutions For Powering Your Mobile Devices

    Let's face it: remembering to plug your cell phone in at the end of the day is kind of a pain in the butt. For all the freedom that the mobile revolution has given us, we're still tethered to those damn wall chargers and watching our power bill increase. Thankfully, alternative energy is one of the hottest industries of the 21st century, and dozens of companies are working on products to replace the old-fashioned charger. Today, we'll show you ten amazing inventions that charge your phone in very different ways.

    In Brief: Amazon Echo Adds SmartThings Support

    Today SmartThings and Amazon announced that the Amazon Echo can now control SmartThings-connected devices. After a short setup process, I was able to control individual lights (or groups of lights) in my house using the power of my voice. I'll discuss in more depth on the podcast next week, once I've had some more time with it, but my initial results are very positive. This means if you want voice-controlled lighting in your home, you just need a SmartThings hub, some relatively inexpensive Cree Connected bulbs, and Alexa. While it isn't a cheap solution, that setup costs a fraction of a comparable home automation rig from a few years ago. The only bummer is that you can only adjust things (or groups of things), you still have to switch modes for the house using the SmartThings app. (via @Uncle_Spooky)

    Will 1
    Hands-On: Real Virtuality Multiplayer VR Demo

    Most virtual reality demos we've tried have been single-player experiences, but we get a sense of the potential of multiplayer in VR with the Real Virtuality platform. Developed by motion-capture firm ArtAnim, Real Virtuality allows for free (and wireless) movement in a large physical space, with the ability to interact with tracked objects and other participants. We chat with its creators to hear what they've learned from testing it.

    Nvidia Launches GTX 950 Video Card, In-Game Screen Sharing

    Nvidia today announced the GeForce GTX 950, a $160 video card aimed at MOBA players. It's a 90W part with 2GB of RAM, 768 CUDA cores, and a base clock of 1024MHz. In Nvidia's lineup, it sits between the 750Ti and GTX 960. Along with the card, Nvidia's GeForce Experience software now offers a low-latency feature for MOBA games, achieved by limiting the maximum prerendered frames in the GPU buffer so it's no longer the bottleneck in the graphics pipeline. According to Nvidia, tightening up the rendering cycle reduces click to action latency by up to 35ms, with minimal frame loss. This isn't something that'll affect the majority of gamers, but competitive MOBA players may find it useful.

    Additionally, an upcoming beta of the GFE software will come with a Share feature, utilizing Maxwell's built-in H.264 encoder to record 4K 60fps gameplay videos and send versions of them directly to YouTube or a Twitch streaming account. Share also has a unique "Stream" function, which gives you a private URL to send with one person who can then watch a direct stream of your gameplay via a Chrome extension. The advantage of this direct connection over streaming via Twitch is the real-time playback, as well as the ability of the viewer to play along with you with guest controls. This is pretty neat: the extension can send back gamepad or keyboard/mouse commands and effectively let you play a shared-screen multiplayer game (like Trine 3) remotely--though not on a Chromebook, yet. Direct game sharing is limited to 720p 30fps, and you can only share full-screen experiences (to prevent the guest from accessing your desktop). But Nvidia confirmed that it's not just limited to games--anything that uses the Maxwell GPU and runs full screen can be shared. This evolution of Nvidia's Shadowplay feature is a novel use of Maxwell's video encoder. You'll be able to try it out in the GeForce Experience beta coming early September.

    In Brief: Intel Gives More Skylake Details, Launch Impending

    While reviews of two desktop Skylake processors have been out in the wild for weeks, the launch of Intel's 6th generation Core processor lineup is far from final. And to the disappointment of PC builders, Skylake didn't get its big debut at this week's IDF, either. Intel reserved much of yesterday's IDF keynote to talk of IOT and smart home devices. But in a separate briefing, some new Skylake architecture details were released. As PC World's Gordon Ung reports, Intel is touting three features in the upcoming chips: power savings via a new "Speed Shift Technology", performance improvements from the use of "eDRAM+" cache in the CPU, and integrated graphics that can drive multiple 4K panels and encode/decode 4K video in hardware. How these features translate to real-world performance--especially on the mobile side--wasn't explicitly stated, so we'll have to wait a few weeks when Intel will likely give Skylake a proper launch at IFA.

    Norman
    Boston Dynamics Tests Its Atlas Robot Outdoors

    Marc Raibert, founder of Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google), shares some updates about the current state of its Atlas robot at the recent Fab Lab conference in Boston. The company has been testing Atlas outdoors--though still tethered--to demonstrate its mobility in uncontrolled environments. You can watch the full hourlong presentation, including talks from MIT and Harvard roboticists, here.

    The Budget Android Revolution: Pros and Cons of Going Cheap

    Not that many years ago, buying an Android phone off-contract for $250 would assure you of a terrible experience. Buyer's remorse was almost inevitable, and the only way to avoid it was to spend two or three times more on a "proper" android phone. My, how times have changed. A new era of Android has dawned, and the price of solid mid-range devices has come down dramatically. It's not all roses, though.

    Let's take a look at what you gain and what you lose with these budget-friendly Android phones.

    The How and Why

    One of the primary reasons you can get a device like the Asus Zenfone 2, Alcatel Idol 3, or Moto G for well under $300 is that chipset makers have finally caught up to Android's software requirements. Mid-range SoCs like the Snapdragon 410, 615, and MediaTek Helio X10 have enough power to keep Android running smoothly in most instances. Most of these chipsets even support LTE. NAND flash and memory has come down in price dramatically as well.

    There has also been a shift at the top of the market that has sent some OEMs looking for a new angle. It's actually very difficult to make a $600 smartphone and turn a profit while competing with Samsung, LG, and the other big players. Even some notable names in Android have had trouble competing in the premium bracket as of late (see: HTC). So what's an OEM to do? Well, go cheap, sometimes with the help of hardware partners.

    There's an interesting dynamic playing out in the supply chain right now that has pushed hardware costs even lower than they might otherwise have been. Intel is looking to make a name in phones, and its latest generation Atom SoCs are actually quite good. Qualcomm is stumbling right now with the toasty Snapdragon 810, so Intel has partnered with OEMs like Asus to get its chips into budget phones quickly and cheaply. The price of a device like the Zenfone 2 might not have been as reasonable were it not for Intel's aggressive moves as of late.

    Tested In-Depth: Nest Cam Security Camera

    We review Google's Nest Cam, their 1080p connected camera built for home or office monitoring. We compare its features to the previous Dropcam models, discuss the merits of home security subscription services, and try to figure out who this product is made for. Is this any more than just a pricey webcam?

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Recording Flight Data

    Last month, we covered the basics of RC telemetry systems – including how they work and why they're useful. Despite the apparent benefits, telemetry is not for every modeler or every RC aircraft. In fact, many hobbyists feel that only large, high-dollar models warrant the expense and added complexity of telemetry components. That opinion is debatable, but there are alternatives for those who would like the benefits of in-flight performance data without the overhead of telemetry. One way is to use a GPS recorder.

    Modelers often wonder how fast their airplane can fly or how far it travels during a flight. A GPS logger can answer these questions without the need for a real-time telemetry system.

    There are numerous GPS recording devices available, and many are tailored for the demands of specific activities such as hiking or driving. The Hobbico Big 5 GPS Meter ($90) is intended for use in RC airplanes. It collects time, location, altitude (present and peak values), and speed (present/average/peak) data. Following a flight, you can scroll to read selected parameters on the Big 5's LCD screen. Or, you can upload the data to a computer and plot out the entire flight on Google Earth.

    The Unit

    The Big 5 unit measures 2.56" x 1.57" x 0.82" (65mm x 40mm x 21mm) and weighs 1.4 ounces (40 gr). To invoke a common yardstick, it is very nearly the same physical size as a GoPro Hero 3 (but lighter). This size and weight make the Big 5 unit compatible with a wide array of RC airplanes. I'd say that most models weighing at least 12 ounces are fair game.

    Power for the Big 5 comes from a built in 200mAh LiPo battery that is recharged via USB. You can expect up to 150 minutes of operating time. This is adequate for any RC application that I can think of. It may fall short, however, if you want to repurpose the Big 5 for something else, such as a long bike ride. In any event, you can operate the unit with external power via the USB port or the 3-pin RC-style plug.

    The Hobbico Big 5 is a GPS recording device created specifically for use in RC airplanes.

    Up to six hours of data can be saved to the built-in flash memory. There is no provision to expand the storage capacity.

    This GPS unit can be attached to your model using whatever method you like. I use self-adhesive Velcro. The prime consideration when mounting the device is to avoid placing it such that electrically conductive material (metals, carbon fiber) are blocking the signal path up to the orbiting GPS satellites. You will also want to ensure that the Big 5 does not upset the model's center of gravity.