Cutting Edge Technology Resources​

Unlock the power of technology with our comprehensive collection of resources. Stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest in tech news, insights, and guides.

Rewards and incentives are a great way to boost your market research insights and response rates. But should you use instant rewards, sweepstakes, or points-to-rewards?

It is no exaggeration to say that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd is a company that built the history of Japan’s manufacturing industry.

There’s an art to growing leads and maintaining successful relationships with customers. When you want to give your sales and marketing teams a digital advantage,

Ultimately, the consistent and reliable flow of data across people, teams and business functions is crucial to an organization’s survival and ability to innovate.

Ultimately, the consistent and reliable flow of data across people, teams and business functions is crucial to an organization’s survival and ability to innovate.

Organizations’ top data priorities over the next two years fall into three areas, all supported by wider adoption of cloud platforms:

  • What is the industry printing? Soyang Europe reveals all

    Soyang Europe, the leading manufacturer and distributor of digitally printable wide-format and superwide-format media and surface coverings, and – through the acquisition of Josero – a supplier of leading edge wide and superwide-format print production hardware solutions from many of the industry’s biggest and best-known printer brands, is offering an insight into current industry trends by sharing a list of its best-selling materials over the past 12 months.

  • Embrace Building Wraps – The anatomy of an award-winning wrap

    Building wraps are among the most striking applications in the industry, with each project requiring meticulous planning and a high level of production quality to succeed. LFR speaks with Greg Forster, Managing Director of Embrace Building Wraps, about the secrets of producing an award-winning building wrap…

  • Soyang Europe - From Lancashire with Love

    While providing high quality products and solutions to the customer is of course critically important, here at Soyang Europe, we like to go that extra mile for all our clients, providing them with focused and friendly service each step of their journey.

  • Drytac on the wide-ranging benefits of hot melt adhesives

    First introduced back in the 1940s, hot melt adhesives have become a popular choice across many industries due to the unique adhesive properties that hot melt adhesives can offer.

  • Enhance your productivity with cost effective investment

    In many cases, the only way for any business to expand and grow is to invest in new technology. Simply put, they will not be able to access new opportunities or offer a certain level of service to customers without the right sort of machinery in place.

  • The value of partnerships

    As supply chain and logistics problems continue to impact the way companies operate, and increasing energy costs and supply uncertainty have far reaching implications for the future, it’s at times like these that reliable partners are more essential than ever.

  • What’s new in Rust 1.70

    The unique approach of the Rust programming language results in better code with fewer compromises than C, C++, Go, and the other languages you probably use. It also gets updated regularly, often every month.Where to download the latest Rust version If you already have a previous version of Rust installed via rustup, you can access the latest version via the following command:$ rustup update stable The new features in Rust 1.70 Debuting June 1, 2023, Rust 1.70 enables by default the “sparse” protocol for the Cargo package manager for reading the index from This feature had been stabilized in Rust 1.68 but using it with still required configuration. Users should see substantially improved performance when fetching information from index.To read this article in full, please click here

  • Getting started with MQTT in Azure Event Grid

    MQTT is an important technology for the industrial internet of things (IIoT), building on concepts from IBM’s venerable MQ Series message queue technology. MQTT was initially designed to deliver telemetry from SCADA control systems, with IBM handing the protocol over to the OASIS standards body in 2013.The standard is deliberately intended to evolve slowly, as it’s embedded in industrial device firmware, and used in hardware that may not get updates—ever. That’s because organizations typically deploy not just tens, or even mere hundreds of MQTT-enabled systems, but many thousands. Plus, MQTT devices are often deployed in inhospitable and hard-to-reach environments, like undersea pipelines, with rollouts often lasting years. MQTT is also relatively simple, with implementations for most common microcontrollers.To read this article in full, please click here

  • Serverless is the future of PostgreSQL

    PostgreSQL has been hot for years, but that hotness can also be a challenge for enterprises looking to pick between a host of competing vendors. As enterprises look to move off expensive, legacy relational database management systems (RDBMS) but still want to stick with an RDBMS, open source PostgreSQL is an attractive, less-expensive alternative. But which PostgreSQL? AWS was once the obvious default with two managed PostgreSQL services (Aurora and RDS), but now there’s Microsoft, Google, Aiven, TimeScale, Crunchy Data, EDB, Neon, and more.In an interview with the founder and CEO of Neon Nikita Shamgunov, he stressed that among this crowd of pretenders to the PostgreSQL throne, the key differentiator going forward is serverless. “We are serverless, and all the other ones except for Aurora, which has a serverless option, are not,” he declares. If he’s right about the importance of serverless for PostgreSQL adoption, it’s possible the future of commercial PostgreSQL could come down to a serverless battle between Neon and AWS.To read this article in full, please click here

  • JDK 21: The new features in Java 21

    Java Development Kit (JDK) 21, due in September as the next long-term support release of Oracle’s standard Java implementation, now has 16 features officially proposed for it, with three more features added in recent days.The latest proposals include previews of structured concurrency and scoped values and preparations to disallow the dynamic loading of agents. Other recently added features include a key encapsulation mechanism (KEM) API and deprecation of the 32-bit x86 Windows port. Three other features—a generational Shenandoah garbage collector, unnamed classes and instance main methods, and unnamed patterns and variables—also were added last month.To read this article in full, please click here

  • What is GitHub Actions? Automated CI/CD for GitHub

    GitHub Actions is a platform built into GitHub that automates software building, testing, and deployment. GitHub, owned by Microsoft, is a hosting service for software development using Git, an open source version control and collaboration program developed by Linus Torvalds. Git and GitHub are already used by many programmers and software shops as the basis for their development practices, including the automated continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines that carry projects through the build, test, and deploy cycle. GitHub Actions provides GitHub users with what GitHub calls an "API for cause and effect." You can use the platform to automate all sorts of behaviors based on various triggers.To read this article in full, please click here

  • Cloud-based generative AI won’t be cheap

    Even though many IT budgets are down, and belt tightening seems to be the clear trend, next year many enterprises are preparing for a rush to generative AI that they are not ready to pay for. It’s time to start thinking about how we’re going to make this work, and how cloud computing can be of assistance.AI-driven supply chains, AI-driven manufacturing, AI-driven healthcare are all business cases that are on the table. Industries are clamoring for them and for good reason. The value that generative AI can bring (or at least what’s been bantered about) is unheard of compared to any technology trend I’ve seen in my long career. I understand why those predictions are being made.To read this article in full, please click here

  • FedNow instant payments are about to unlock fintech investment opportunities

    The Fed’s initiative has opened up a window for innovation, the effects of which could be realized as early as next year. FedNow instant payments are about to unlock fintech investment opportunities by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch

  • Apple surprise-launches new Mac Pro with Apple Silicon

    At Apple’s WWDC 2023 event today (see our full coverage), the company surprised fans with a brand new, Apple Silicon-powered desktop and rack-mounted Mac Pro workstation. It’s the last of the Apple products transitioning away from Intel processors, and the new workstation is an absolute beast. Aimed at high-end professionals, the Mac Pro is powered Apple surprise-launches new Mac Pro with Apple Silicon by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

  • Apple announces the M2 Ultra with up to 192GB of memory

    Apple today unveiled the M2 Ultra, its most powerful Apple Silicon chip yet. With the M2 Pro and Max launching earlier this year and rumors pointing to Apple finally bringing the M2 generation to the Mac Studio and Mac Pro, the launch of the Ultra wasn’t a major surprise. In many ways, Apple is following Apple announces the M2 Ultra with up to 192GB of memory by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

  • Apple refreshes the Mac Studio with the M2 Max and M2 Ultra

    The Mac Studio, Apple’s small yet powerful desktop computer, is receiving a product update today. With this refresh, Apple is updating the silicon and replacing the M1 Max and M1 Ultra with the M2 Max and M2 Ultra. The form factor will look familiar to existing Mac Studio owner. It essentially looks like a tall Apple refreshes the Mac Studio with the M2 Max and M2 Ultra by Romain Dillet originally published on TechCrunch

  • Apple WWDC 2023 Liveblog: Watch as Apple unveils its AR/VR headset, iOS 17 and more

    It’s going to be a WWDC for the ages. Good, bad – it’s way too early to say yet. Either way, this will be a memorable one. Apple’s keynote kicks off the annual developer conference at 10AM PT on Monday morning, June 5. You can catch the event livestream by clicking here. And as with Apple WWDC 2023 Liveblog: Watch as Apple unveils its AR/VR headset, iOS 17 and more by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

  • Apple’s $1,299 15-inch MacBook Air is its largest to date

    When is an ultraportable not an ultraportable? It’s a riddle posed by Apple’s latest addition to the MacBook Air family. The much-loved thin and light line just got its largest model to date. The 15-inch MacBook Air is – by some measures – also the company’s largest consumer laptop, given the work/enterprise focus on its Apple’s $1,299 15-inch MacBook Air is its largest to date by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

  • Journal is Apple’s new journaling app for iOS

    Image: Apple Apple has unveiled Journal, a new journaling app for iOS that allows iPhone users to regularly log their daily activities. Announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Journal is the company’s latest step into the health and wellness segment, joining other iOS apps like Fitness, Sleep, and Breathe that help users track and manage aspects of their everyday lives. Journal will compete against third-party journaling apps like Day One, which initially launched for Mac and iOS in 2012 before expanding to include Android in 2018. The Wall Street Journal reported back in April that it had viewed documents detailing Apple’s plans for Journal — at that time codenamed “Jurassic” — noting similarities with existing journaling... Continue reading…

  • Apple announces iOS 17

    iOS 17 is official. Apple’s iOS 17 is official, making its debut on WWDC 2023’s keynote stage. Highlights include redesigned contact cards and live voicemail. Your contact book is getting an update with a new feature called posters, which turns your contact information into flashy marquee-like images that show up full-screen on your recipient’s iPhone when you call them. There’s also a new live transcription feature for voicemail that lets you view a transcript of the message a caller is leaving in real time. You can choose to ride it out or pick up the call. Image: Apple Posters show up on the iPhone of the person you’re calling, but unlike a contact photo, you choose the picture. Some updates to messages include transcriptions... Continue reading…

  • Apple announces Mac Pro with M2 Ultra, starting at $6,999

    It’s finally happening. Apple is bringing back the Mac Pro with new chips designed for 2023. It’s the first big update to the Mac Pro in four years, and it completes Apple’s transition to its own Arm-powered Silicon. The new Mac Pro model will be available starting next week for $6,999. The new Mac Pro looks the same as the old Intel version with the cheese grater metal front, but there are some major changes on the inside. The Mac Pro will come with Apple’s M2 Ultra chip, as well as six open PCIe Gen 4 slots for expansion, and offer eight built-in Thunderbolt ports. It can be configured with up to a 76-core GPU and 192GB of memory. With a fully specced model, Apple says it can be up to 3x faster than the old Intel version. ... Continue reading…

  • Apple’s Mac Studio gets an M2 Ultra and Max upgrade

    The M1-powered Mac Studio. | Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge Apple is updating its Mac Studio desktop system with M2 Max and M2 Ultra chips. The miniature desktop Mac Studio has the same design as last year’s M1-powered device but much more powerful processors inside. The updated Mac Studio will start at $1,999 and start shipping on June 13th. M2 Ultra is the big news here, with Apple describing it as “a monster of a chip.” It’s essentially two M2 Max dies connected with Apple’s ultra fusion technology, with a 24-core CPU and up to a 76-core GPU that’s 30 percent faster than the M1 Ultra. Apple claims that a single system with this type of GPU can train ML workloads that discrete GPUs can’t handle due to memory constraints. That’s because the M2 Ultra supports up to 192GB of unified memory, 50... Continue reading…

  • Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Air is the ‘world’s thinnest’

    Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Air | Image: Apple Apple has unveiled a new 15-inch MacBook Air at its 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple claims that the device will be “the world’s best 15-inch laptop.” The new model is 11.5mm thick, which Apple says makes it the world’s thinnest 15-inch laptop, and it will weigh just over three pounds. It has two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, a MagSafe charging connector, and a headphone jack and will come in both Midnight (dark, presumably) and starlight (light?) colors. Its 15.3-inch screen (sporting five-millimeter bezels) has 500 nits of brightness, a 1080p webcam, six speakers with spatial audio, and gets a quoted 18 hours of battery life. It’ll come with Apple’s M2 chip. The new model starts at $1,299 ($1,199 for education) and will be... Continue reading…

  • The SEC’s case against Binance, a live reading by Liz Lopatto

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Let’s enjoy some legal documents together! Continue reading…

  • Here are the best Kindle deals right now

    The latest Kindle Paperwhite is on sale at Amazon with a power adapter and a fabric cover starting at $169.97. | Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge When it comes to finding a device to use to read your ebooks, you have a few options to choose from. You can always buy a tablet or use your phone, but those devices are multipurpose and can be used for a ton of things, like surfing the web or doom-scrolling on Twitter. If you are looking for something to strictly read books, e-readers, while niche, are designed to store all of your books in a virtual library with limited functionality. Amazon, one of the pioneers of the e-reader, has dominated the space for years with its ever-expanding Kindle lineup, which consists of several unique models with their own pros and cons. The bulk of the devices function as simple ebook readers; however, with the Kindle Scribe, Amazon looks to be moving... Continue reading…

  • WWDC 2023: all the news from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference

    Illustration by Nick Barclay / The Verge Virtual reality, a bigger MacBook Air, updated OSes, and more are on the docket. Continue reading…

  • Live blog: Apple’s VR headset, iOS 17, and more at WWDC 2023

    Illustration: The Verge Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is here, and rumors suggest a brand-new virtual reality headset will get top billing. Continue reading…

  • The SEC is suing Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange

    Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, operated illegally in the US, the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleges in a new lawsuit. Changpeng Zhao, the exchange’s founder, was named in the suit as well. “Defendants have enriched themselves by billions of U.S. dollars while placing investors’ assets at significant risk,” the suit begins. It alleges that Binance and Zhao illegally solicited investors, engaged in multiple unregistered investment schemes, and “defrauded equity, retail, and institutional investors about purported surveillance and controls over manipulative trading on the Binance.US Platform, which were in fact virtually nonexistent.” “We are disappointed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chose to... Continue reading…

  • Everything Apple Announced at WWDC 2023

    Although Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference has always had a focus on software, the company always manages to include a few surprise hardware announcements during the event’s keynote address, and this year didn’t disappoint with our first look at the next chapter in Apple’s best-selling laptop, the MacBook…Read more...

  • Teen Behind Viral Lego Spider-Verse Trailer Recruited to Help Direct Movie

    With great Lego animating power comes great responsibility, apparently. Or so 14-year-old Preston Mutanga discovered after his elaborate, Lego-animated recreation of the Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse trailer went viral. Instead of just receiving praise from Spider-Verse producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller over…Read more...

  • Europe Aims for SpaceX-Like Commercial Cargo Missions to Earth Orbit

    The European space industry, lagging behind other industry players, is now seeking its own commercial vehicles that can transport cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and future low Earth orbit destinations.Read more...

  • Disney Has 50 Live-Action Movies in the Pipeline

    The Little Mermaid is only the newest of Disney’s animated adaptations. As live-action takes on Moana, Hercules, Lilo and Stitch, and Snow White are all churning their way through the Mouse House production factory, the man leading the “reimagination” is Walt Disney Pictures president Sean Bailey, who has at least 50…Read more...

  • Gravitational Waves Might Be Generated by the Debris Fields of Dying Stars

    A team of astrophysicists has determined through simulations that the debris shed by dying stars may be a source of gravitational waves—those ripples in spacetime predicted by Einstein over a century ago.Read more...

  • My Adventures With Superman's Final Trailer Treads Old Ground

    Superman’s newest action-comedy revival ages Kal-El down to a young man in his 20s just starting out in Metropolis. Originally called My Friend Superman, it was quietly put into production amid the Warner Bros. reshuffling in 2021 and 2022, and is now a month away from its official release on Adult Swim. Check out the…Read more...

  • Linda Yaccarino Takes Over Hot Mess Twitter as Ad Revenue Plunges

    Former NBCUniversal advertising chief Linda Yaccarino assumed her role as Twitter CEO today, taking the reigns from the company’s mercurial owner, Elon Musk, who months ago promised he would give up the CEO role once he “found someone foolish enough to take the job.”Read more...

  • Nearly 4,000 Jobs Were Lost to AI Last Month, Report Shows

    Companies are beginning to dive into the AI workforce headfirst—at least that’s what the data are saying. A new report says that AI is responsible for almost 4,000 job cuts last month alone.Read more...

  • LEGO Celebrates Disney's 100th Anniversary With Making Wonders Series

    Go behind the scenes to see how those LEGO stop motion movies come to life with the magic of Disney.Read more...

  • Jack Dorsey Endorses RFK Jr. for President

    Over the weekend, Twitter co-founder and CEO of Block Jack Dorsey officially put his outsized weight behind a leading anti-vaxxer for president. Dorsey can now join other tech execs like his strained friend Elon Musk endorsing extremist political candidates, helping to spread even more misinformation online like water…Read more...

  • Updates From Ahsoka, the Future of The Flash, and More

    There could, somehow, be even more Wrong Turn movies on the way. Riverdale is squeezing in one last unhinged Halloween episode while it still can. Plus, John Carpenter talks about a brand new horror show he’s been working on. To me, my spoilers!Read more...

  • Stack Overflow Moderators Stop Work in Protest of Lax AI-Generated Content Guidelines

    Moderators of Stack Overflow, the go-to Q&A forum for programmers, have announced today they will be going on strike citing the company’s prohibition on moderating AI-generated content on the platform.Read more...

  • LG's 27-Inch Touchscreen Briefcase-With-a-TV Might Be the Ultimate Screen Protector

    For those obsessed with protecting their mobile devices using cases and screen protectors, LG is introducing an even better solution with an update to its portable, 27-inch StanbyME tablet TV that now comes inside its own hard-sided briefcase so it’s easier to transport, and harder to break.Read more...

  • Everyone's Pulling Awkward Faces In This Weeks' Toy News

    Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular round up of the coolest new toy and merchandise news around the internet lately. This week: Hasbro resurrects a G.I. Joe classic, Across the Spider-Verse continues its excellent toy run with another Spider-Man 2099, and... Chester the Cheetos Cheetah? Check it out!Read more...

  • What to Expect at Apple's WWDC 2023

    It’s springtime in the tech world, so birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and the Apple campus is getting ready for its annual developer conference. WWDC 2023 is happening today at Apple’s spaceship HQ in Cupertino. Following last month’s Google I/O, WWDC is where we’ll learn about what’s coming up for the…Read more...

  • Plex’s AI music playlists are amazing. Here’s how to use them.

    Plexamp was already an excellent app for music aficionados, but now it’s even better with generative AI playlists. Using the same large language models that power ChatGPT, the new “Sonic Sage” feature allows for extremely detailed and specific playlists inside of Plexamp, Plex’s dedicated app for music playback. Some examples: “90’s grunge deep cuts, starting with Alone by Pearl Jam, no music by Mudhoney”“Just the funkiest smooth jazz you can find, lots of Jeff Lorber, Mike Stern, and Spyro Gyra” (Sorry.)“A playlist that alternates between thrash metal and classic show tunes” Tapping into this most excellent playlist generator isn’t exactly simple, though. To use it, you’ll need a Plex Pass subscription, an OpenAI developer account, and either a Tidal subscription or your own personal music collection (or both). All of this will cost you more than a basic subscription to Spotify, and each playlist itself will cost about two tenths of a cent in API fees. But that’s the price you’ll pay to punch up your music discovery and listening with state-of-the-art AI. Still on board? Here’s how to get it all set up: 1. Subscribe to Plex Pass The Plexamp app—and, by extension—a Plex Pass subscription is required for the new “Sonic Sage” feature.Jared Newman / Foundry Plex’s AI playlists are exclusive to the Plexamp music player app, which is available on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux. While the app is free to download, you’ll need a Plex Pass subscription to actually use it. That subscription costs $5 per month, $40 per year, or $120 for life. (Plex Pass is worth considering anyway if you run your own media server, as it has some extra features to improve that experience.) 2. Subscribe to Tidal Best Buy’s cheap Tidal trials are a great way to get into Plex’s AI playlists.Jared Newman / Foundry Although Plex’s GPT playlist generator can work with music on a personal media server, you’ll get the best results by plugging in a Tidal account. That way, the AI can draw from a much larger music catalog, including artists and songs you’ve never heard of. If you’re not a Tidal subscriber already, consider checking in on Best Buy, which routinely offers three-month trials for just $1. Otherwise, you can get a one-month trial directly through Tidal or through Plex. Don’t miss our in-depth Tidal review. 3. Connect Plexamp to Tidal Jared Newman / Foundry Once you have a Tidal subscription, you can link the account to Plex. Sign into Plex’s website, then click your profile icon and select “Account Settings.” Next to the Plex Pass icon, select “Other Services.” Click the option to link your Tidal account. Now, download Plexamp for iOS, Android, or your computer. Sign into the app, then choose either Tidal or your media server (if you have one) as your primary music library. You’ll be able to use AI playlists either way. 4. Set up your OpenAI developer account Jared Newman / Foundry To connect Plex with GPT-3.5, you must register as a developer with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. You’ll also need to set up a payment method and optionally set monthly spending limits to keep your playlist habit from causing bill shock. (Each playlist request will cost about $0.002, so 500 playlists will cost you roughly a buck.) Head to the OpenAI Platform sign-up page, and create an account.Click your profile icon and select “Manage Account.”In the Billing tab, select “Payment methods” and add a card to your account.Also in the Billing tab, select “Usage limits.” Under “Hard Limit,” set the maximum amount you want to spend on playlists per month. You can also set a “Soft Limit,” which sends an email alert when you reach it. 5. Create an OpenAI API key Jared Newman / Foundry The last step is to get an API key from OpenAI and add it to the Plexamp app. From your OpenAI Platform account page, select the “API Keys” tab, then click the “Create new secret key” button. Give the key a name, such as “Plex” or “Plexamp.” Now, you’ll see a pop-up window with your full API key, which looks like a long string of letters and numbers. Copy the entire thing to your clipboard. Once you close this screen, you won’t be able to view the API key again. 6. Connect your OpenAI account to Plexamp Jared Newman / Foundry After copying the API key, open Plexamp, click the ⚙️ gear icon, then head to Advanced > Sonic Sage > OpenAI API Key. Paste in the key from your clipboard. While you’re here, take note of a couple extra options: “Use GPT-4” generally creates better playlists, but costs more per request. “Only Server Matches” limits playlists to just whatever’s stored on your local music server. 7. Start making playlists Jared Newman / Foundry With all that setup out of the way, the fun begins. Click on Plexamp’s 🔎 search tab, then select “Sonic Sage.” In the search box, type in any playlist you can imagine. Plex provides some sample prompts that you can click on, but don’t be afraid to get specific. The AI will recognize things like “Don’t play Stairway to Heaven,” “Lots of Pink Floyd,” or “early Genesis.” You can also build sequential playlists with requests like “The evolution of Phish, from early years to their later stuff.” With a little practice, you can generate playlists that are far more nuanced than anything you’d get with the radio button in apps like Spotify and Apple Music. Learn to make the most of technology with Jared’s Advisorator newsletter. Streaming Media

  • Vimeo is tuning out its streaming TV apps

    First the bad news: Vimeo, the web video-hosting company and one-time YouTube competitor, is doing away with its streaming TV apps. The good news: There’s still an easy way to watch Vimeo videos on your TV. As spotted by Variety, Vimeo posted a notice on its website announcing that as of June 27, the company will deep-six its streaming video apps for Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku. That said, there is still a way to stream Vimeo videos on a bigger screen. The Vimeo mobile app supports both Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast, which means Apple TV, Android TV, Google TV, and Roku users can easily stream Vimeo videos to their sets via the app (or, in the case of Chromecast, via a web browser). Amazon’s Fire TV players don’t directly support AirPlay 2 or Chromecast, but there are workarounds for Chromecast users. In its announcement, Vimeo said that it “occasionally…retire[s] legacy products and features that are no longer consistent with our standards,” adding that “users looking to view Vimeo videos will receive a better ongoing experience by casting via our mobile app.” While Vimeo’s consumer-facing streaming apps are going away, its branded streaming apps for enterprise users aren’t going anywhere, the company notes. Vimeo’s decision to nix its streaming TV apps might be disappointing for those who used them regularly, but it’s not entirely unexpected. Vimeo first launched its Apple TV, Android TV, and Roku apps back in 2016, when it was still positioning itself as a destination site for streaming video and a viable YouTube competitor. The following year, however, Vimeo “made a major strategic shift,” pivoting away from being a streaming video destination site and focusing more on providing video-streaming services to businesses, as Digiday detailed in a 2019 profile. Streaming Media

  • IFTTT is killing its pay-what-you-want Legacy Pro plan

    Remember when IFTTT said it would allow its legacy users to set their own prices for the service’s “pro” plan, and that it would honor those prices “forever”? Well, it turns out “forever” has an expiration date. In a message posted on its website, IFTTT just announced that its pay-what-you-want legacy Pro plans are going away, with current users on that plan slated to be migrated to the $5-a-month IFTTT Pro+ plan at the start of their next billing cycles. In the notice, IFTTT argued that the “Legacy Pro” tier “no longer exists in our current offerings,” as the web applet service has added “nearly 200 new services, and dozens of new features” since first offering a pay-what-you-want option for grandfathered-in users. “Our decision is driven by increasing infrastructure costs that have created an unsustainable pattern for our business,” the IFTTT message concludes. IFTTT first made its “pay-what-you-want” offer back in September 2020, following the introduction of a paid Pro plan. Initially, the deal was that IFTTT users who signed up for the Pro plan before October 7, 2020 could pay whatever they wanted for a year, with a minimum monthly payment of $1.99. After an outcry from irate users, IFTTT relented and said that legacy subscribers could keep their pay-what-you-want prices “forever.” But now, it appears IFTTT is reneging on that promise, and furious users on the IFTTT subreddit are already talking about a class-action lawsuit. We’ve reached out to IFTTT for comment. The move comes just a couple of weeks after IFTTT announced that it would yank access to Twitter applets from its free users, as well as reducing the number of applets that free users could create to two, down from the original limit of three. IFTTT originally priced its Pro plans at $10 a month. After a series of changes, IFTTT paid subscription plans settled down to two: a $2.50-a-month Pro tier that (among other features) offers access to 20 applets, and a $5/month Pro+ tier that lets you create as many applets as you want. Short for “If This, Then That,” IFTTT allows users to create web-based applets that connect a wide variety of services, and IFTTT integrations have long been popular with smart home users. IFTTT was completely free to use until 2020, when the service first announced its paid “Pro” plan and began limiting free users to just three applets. Here is the complete text of IFTTT’s announcement that it is killing off its Legacy Pro tier: Nearly three years ago, we introduced a set your price option for our original Pro launch. Since then, IFTTTers have been with us as we have made many decisions about our business while maintaining our commitment to their existing price and plan. Since the initial purchase, our small team has continued to work hard. We have added nearly 200 new services, and dozens of new features, including the ability to add delays and our new AI tools. The Pro plan that we have supported for legacy users no longer exists in our current offerings.On an upcoming renewal, legacy accounts will be migrated from our Legacy Pro tier to Pro+. The Pro plan that legacy subscribers currently have is most similar to our Pro+ tier, with unlimited Applets, filter code, and access to services that are exclusive to subscribers. Subscribers will now be able to add multiple accounts per service, in addition to other existing benefits and features such as increased rate limits and faster polling times.Our decision is driven by increasing infrastructure costs that have created an unsustainable pattern for our business. It has always been important to us to have a starter tier that allows people to learn about what IFTTT can do and to keep our prices accessible for lifestyle users ever since we ended our model of being funded by partner organizations. Smart Home

  • The best smart sprinkler controllers of 2023

    Watering our lawns and gardens is a thankless chore, and it can be particularly wasteful when done with a hose in one hand and a beer in the other. Irrigation systems have made home watering simpler and more efficient, and while the bulk of any sprinkler system revolves around plastic pipes (hoses and drippers with a drip irrigation system) and a set of motorized valves attached to the water supply, the brains of the operation has always been in the controller. For decades, sprinkler controllers have hardly been elegant devices. They typically consist of a rotary dial, a handful of switches, and perhaps a crude monochrome LCD. This is rapidly changing, as smart sprinkler controllers enter the market. These have come from two angles: Startups looking to disrupt the market with brand-new devices, and old-guard irrigation companies that have upgraded their gear with smart innards. Both approaches to date have shown some merit. Here are our takes on the best gear on the market today. Updated June 2, 2023 with a link to our Rachio Smart Hose Timer review. The best smart sprinkler controllers Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller — Best smart sprinkler controller Pros Better Water Intelligence features improve conservation Revamped wire connectors make setup even faster Onboard controls offer easy access to manual runs Cons High-pitched squeal emanates from device Old Rachio units don’t get access to the same software treatment Expensive Best Prices Today: £460.26 at Amazon The world’s best smart sprinkler controller gets even better, with new features, better wireless connectivity, and smarter water management. (Note: There is also an 8-zone model that sells for less). Read our full Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller (16 zone) review Orbit B-hyve XR — Best smart sprinkler controller, runner-up Pros Lots of scheduling options, fairly easy to understand Onboard display is handy for at-a-glance status updates Dual-band Wi-Fi support Can be mounted outdoors without an accessory (though not fully waterproof) Cons Wiring leads might require some finagling to successfully connect Quite bulky in size Onboard hardware controls are far from intuitive Best Prices Today: £232.19 at Amazon Orbit might be a graybeard in the world of irrigation, but it’s giving Rachio a run for its money in the smart home market. Orbit’s second-generation B-hyve smart sprinkler controller has lots of bells and whistles, and it can even withstand being mounted outdoors without needing an accessory (although it’s not completely waterproof).  Read our full Orbit B-hyve XR (8 zone) review Wyze Sprinkler Controller — Best budget-priced smart sprinkler controller Pros Cheap, a third the price of most other controllers on the market. Easy setup, especially if you just need the basics. Cons Limited to 8 zones Weatherproof housing costs extra Read our full Wyze Sprinkler Controller review Irrigreen Digital Sprinkler System — Most promising new contender Pros “Water printing” technology keeps water from going where it isn’t needed App is easy to navigate DIY is an available installation option Cons Must be installed from scratch, you can’t retrofit an existing sprinkler system Weather-driven automatic watering may not be fully baked A little rough around the edges; the Irrigreen controller, for example, is a circuit board in a box This recommendation comes with some caveats, but the Irrigreen system is so unique and innovative that it earns a qualified thumbs up. By adapting technology originally developed for inkjet printers, Irrigreen’s sprinkler system can “print” water onto your landscaping with a degree of precision that must be seen to believe, following the contours of your lawn and flowerbeds so that no water goes where it’s not needed. Tired of your sprinklers spraying water on your driveway, sidewalk, or the outside unit of your air conditioner or heat pump? That won’t happen with Irrigreen’s system. And where a conventional system would need 40 sprinkler heads to achieve full coverage of a given area, Irrigreen’s system can get the job done with just five. Now for those caveats: You can’t retrofit an existing sprinkler system, you must replace all of it. Also, Irrigreen’s controller hardware looks a little rough, and its app needs a few improvements. All that said, we’re enthusiastic about where this product is at today and what’s in store for its future via inevitable software and firmware updates. Read our full Irrigreen Digital Sprinkler System review Orbit B-hyve XD — Best hose-based smart sprinkler controller Pros Very inexpensive Smart functionality greatly eases the headache of scheduling via hardware Reasonably easy to use Cons We encountered headaches getting the Wi-Fi bridge to work properly Smart Watering features require the added-cost Wi-Fi bridge Best Prices Today: $34.98 at Lowes If you water your landscaping with a garden hose or a simple drip irrigation system, as opposed to an in-ground sprinkler system, Orbit’s second-generation B-hyve XD is vastly superior to conventional non-connected timers, and Orbit’s app can control several of them independently when you add the optional Bluetooth-to-Wi-Fi bridge, which we heartily recommend.  Read our full Orbit B-hyve XD review What to look for when shopping for a smart sprinkler controller Do you have a sprinkler system already? While there are a few smart irrigation controllers that will work with garden hoses or other off-the-rack equipment, most are designed to work with true irrigation controllers that connect to their own water supply and which feature motorized valves and dedicated tubing to control the flow of water. Installing a real sprinkler system can be a big task that requires professional help—particularly if you have a large yard or garden—but upgrading to a smart controller from a “dumb” one isn’t difficult. Consult with a landscaping expert first if you are installing a sprinkler system from scratch, in order to plan out your zones in advance. On-device controls: Probably the biggest single decision you need to make with a controller is whether you want a device that includes onboard controls, i.e., buttons and a readout directly on the controller that allow you to use it without an app. This can be handy if you have multiple people using the system or, especially, want to give a gardener access to the controller without having to set him or her up on the app. Systems without on-device controls generally lack any kind of display whatsoever except for a status light indicating whether it’s working, so remember you’ll need the app on your smartphone or tablet to do anything with it. Indoor/outdoor mounting: Are you mounting the unit inside or outside? If outside, you’ll need a weatherproof enclosure for the system. Some vendors sell separate indoor and outdoor versions of their controllers. Others sell an outdoor enclosure as a separate add-on. Number of zones: In irrigation parlance, a zone is an area controlled by a valve and its connected irrigation tubing. If you have four valves, you have four zones. Your controller needs to have enough capacity to support all the zones in your system. Eight zones is common, but units supporting as few as six zones and as many as 16 zones are currently on the market. Scheduling flexibility: How often do you want to water? Every day? Every other day? On specific days of the week? Not every controller can handle complex schedules, so look closely at your options before buying. A few controllers can even import legal watering restrictions information for your zip code, to ensure you aren’t watering on prohibited days. Notifications: It’s helpful to be notified when your watering system is running, but different products deal with the mechanics differently. Push notifications are common, but many only notify you when the watering has completed, not when it starts (which is arguably more useful). Other forms of notification (email, text) aren’t common, so consider a unit that supports IFTTT if you want to get fancy with notifications. “Smart” scheduling: Once of the great promises of smart watering systems is that they can take into account your local weather and environment to optimize your water delivery. We’ve found that these don’t work all that well (they have a tendency to over-water), though options that skip watering when it rains can be a bonus feature. Otherwise, there’s not too much of a need to put weight on so-called “smart” scheduling features. Smart-home hub support: Want to tie your sprinkler system into your smart-home hub? Sounds great, but the reality is that most smart sprinklers exist as islands today: Only a few connect to anything at all, though Amazon’s Alexa has a modicum of support. Expect this to change as these products mature. Smart Gardens

  • Rachio Smart Hose Timer review: Green gardens with less water

    At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsWorks perfectly and runs leak-freeSkips watering sessions when it rainsCreates detailed logging of each run and skipConsLimited weather intelligence featuresNo push notificationsLengthy setup for such a simple deviceOur VerdictIf you want to automate watering runs through a standard hose connection, the Rachio Hose Timer is a no-frills way solution that uses the same app as Rachio’s excellent in-ground sprinkler system controller. You don’t need an expensive in-ground irrigation system to automatically water your plants and lawn. The Rachio Smart Hose Timer can turn an ordinary spigot and garden hose into a high-tech watering system with minimal fuss, complete with an app to schedule on and off times, and enough onboard intelligence to skip a watering cycle if it’s rained recently. Rachio’s concept isn’t new, devices like the Orbit B-hyve XD Smart Hose Watering Timer have been smartening up this market for years. But if you also have one of Rachio’s in-ground sprinkler controllers—one of TechHive’s favorite in the irrigation space—this hose timer will plug right into the same app and ecosystem. This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart sprinkler controllers. The roughly 3 x 2 x 7-inch Rachio Smart Hose Timer couldn’t be simpler. A snug connector attaches to your water spigot, and a hose attaches to the other end. Two AA batteries (not included) are secreted under a hatch secured with a pair of bolts. (You’ll need a very small screwdriver to get them installed.) A single weatherproofed button on the top of the device lets you manually start and stop water flow through the device and is also used for initial setup. The Rachio Smart Hose Timer ships with a Wi-Fi hub that can control additional timers on up to 4 spigots. Rachio’s hose timer, like Orbit’s, is outfitted with a Bluetooth radio, but unlike that device, you can’t connect your smartphone directly to the Rachio. You must first connect Rachio’s 2.4GHz Wi-Fi hub, which is included, to your network. Rachio says the hub must be within 200 feet of the spigot you attach the timer to, but one hub can support up to four hose timers. Add-on valves cost $70 each. The Rachio Smart Hose Timer is powered by two AA batteries that fit into a compartment on the back of the unit.Christopher Null/Foundry The hub plugs into wall power and is ready for configuration in less than a minute. From here, you just use the Rachio app to scan a QR code printed on the device and walk through a few basic steps to make the connection to your network. After a firmware update—which took about 10 minutes—the hub was up and running and ready for the next step. A similar, but slightly shorter, process is required to connect the timer to the hub, along with another firmware update that takes another 10 minutes or so. Once that final step is completed, you’re ready to start watering. If you’re familiar with Rachio’s irrigation controllers, you’ll immediately note that the hose timer offers much simpler operation, eschewing questions about soil type and shade levels, letting you quickly get down to business. Just give the timer a name and set up a schedule: daily, weekly, or somewhere in between. The hose timer can interact with Rachio’s most basic “rain skip” feature—letting you skip that day’s watering if a preset amount of precipitation has recently occurred in your area—but it does not include the more advanced Rachio weather intelligence features, lacking options to skip watering based on wind, freeze, or soil saturation conditions. Rachio’s well-designed app makes this hose timer easy to set up. Once  the device is in operation, the app will log each watering session and each skipped session.Christopher Null/Foundry Once your schedule is set and your hose is aimed at whatever you want to water (you can also use it with a drip irrigation system), you can largely forget about it, just like you would a standard irrigation system. In my testing, the unit didn’t skip a beat, successfully watering at prescribed intervals and skipping days appropriately when it rained. Manual runs are easy to kick off through the app (or you can just press the button on the device, as noted), and detailed logging chronicles every successful and skipped run watering session. The hardware offers a snug fit to your spigot and hose. I experienced no leaks whatsoever, throughout weeks of testing in a variety of weather conditions. (Rachio says not to leave the unit outside in freezing conditions but that it can withstand a maximum temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit, which it sometimes feels like here in Texas.) You can manually turn the valve on and off by pressing this button on the front of the unit.Rachio What’s missing? Aside from the aforementioned limitations to weather intelligence, I longed for a way to control the water pressure, as the Rachio timer is either 100% on or 100% off, though perhaps that is asking too much for a basic hose controller like this. A more notable miss: There’s seemingly no way to receive push notifications when watering events are logged (either runs or skips), a foundational feature that really needs to be present as part of any smart watering system. For what it’s worth, my Rachio 3 system abruptly stopped sending me all push notifications recently, and no amount of troubleshooting has been able to correct this; Rachio clearly has some technical work to do on that front. Rachio’s system is decidedly basic. You can connect only one hose, for instance, where Orbit offers its B-hyve XD in configurations with one, two, or four hose connections. It’s also pricey compared to Orbit’s offering, which gives you the option of buying just the hose timer and performing basic programming directly via Bluetooth (you won’t get any smart functions, such as rain delay, without a broadband connection). But if you’re already using a Rachio device to control your primary sprinkler system, and you’re just looking for a solution for your garden hose or drip-irrigation system for your flowerbeds or vegetable garden, the Rachio Smart Hose Timer will keep you in the same familiar ecosystem. Smart Gardens, Smart Home

  • How cord-cutters can watch the NBA Playoffs and Finals without cable

    The Miami Heat will face off against the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday, June 1 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 5:30 p.m. Pacific. The Nuggets had the better regular-season record, so the 7-game series will start in the mile-high city of Denver. ABC has the exclusive rights to air the NBA Finals, so you’ll be able to watch the championship series for free if you have an over-the-air TV antenna that’s capable of pulling in your local ABC broadcast affiliate; otherwise, you’ll need need a streaming subscription if you’ve ditched cable. You’ll find our top antenna picks here. Read on for your other cable-free options. Sling TV offers one of the least-expensive alternatives to cable, but you’ll need a TV antenna to watch your local broadcast channels. Over the air Winegard’s Flatwave Amped antenna (model number FL-5500A) is one of our favorite indoor antennas. Martyn Williams/IDG You can watch the playoff games with some combination of the following services. DirecTV Stream DirecTV Stream will give you access to ESPN, TNT, TBS, ABC and NBA TV through its Choice package for $100 per month. Currently, the service is offering $10 off the monthly rate for the first three months of your subscription. You can try the service for free for five days. Fubo Fubo’s $85-per-month Elite package includes ABC and ESPN, and NBA TV. None of its packages include TNT or TBS, though. A 7-day free trial is available. Hulu + Live TV Hulu + Live TV gives you access to ABC, ESPN, TBS, and TNT. As with most other services, however, the exact channel lineup varies by market. The service costs $70 per month, and there’s a 7-day free trial available. Sling TV Sling TV’s “basketball bundle” is one of the least-expensive ways for cord-cutters to watch the NBA postseason. Sign up for the Sling Orange package plus the Sports Extra add-on and you’ll get $20 off the usual $51-per-month price for the first month. That will get you ESPN, TNT, TBS, and NBA TV. Add a TV antenna to catch the ABC broadcasts, and you’ll have everything covered. Sling TV offers a 7-day free trial when you sign up through a Sling-compatible streaming device . YouTube TV YouTube TV is our top pick in TV-streaming services overall, and it includes local ABC stations (in 99.5 percent of the homes in the U.S.), ESPN, TNT, TBS, and NBA TV. Subscriptions are $73 per month, but the service is currently offering the first three months for just $63. A 7-day free trial is available. Entertainment, Streaming Devices, Streaming Media

  • TP-Link’s new Tapo outdoor security cam boasts color night vision

    TP-Link says the ColorPro night vision technology in its all-new Tapo C325WB needs just 0.05 lux of brightness—the equivalent of a moonless midnight—to capture full-color images in 2K resolution with HDR. That’s a neat trick, and it’s in stark contrast to outdoor security cameras that rely on activating onboard spotlights or floodlights to deliver color night vision. This news is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best home security cameras. Available now at Amazon for $119.99, the Tapo C325WB features a 1/1.79-inch image sensor and an F1.0 lens with a 127-degree field of view. Onboard AI can differentiate between the appearance of people, pets, and vehicles and will send push notifications accordingly when their presence is detected. Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, the TP-Link cam offers two-way audio, along with an onboard siren to deter intruders. The weatherproof camera offers wireless network connectivity, with an ethernet port providing a dependable cable option, but it depends on a 3-meter cord for power. Video recordings can be stored locally on a microSD card (up to 512GB, not included) or in the cloud with a Tapo Care subscription. The cloud subscription offers a 30-day clip history, with prices starting at $3.49 per month or $34.99 per year. Look for our hands-on review soon. Correction: This article was updated to report the correct minimum lux requirement and maximum capacity of a microSD card. Home Security, Security Cameras

  • Stanley Cup: How to stream the NHL playoffs and championship

    Well, so much for the Boston Bruins setting a new single-season win record, and for the second-year Seattle Kraken clinching their first playoff birth. It’s going to be the Florida Panthers and the Las Vegas Golden Knights battling for the Stanley Cup in 2023, with Game 1 of the NHL championship series getting underway Saturday, June 3 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific. TNT has the exclusive rights to air–and stream–the 2023 Stanley Cup Final, but that doesn’t mean you need to pony up for a cable or satellite TV subscription. You can stream the series using any of the services listed below: Sling TV Pros Lower base price than most other live TV services Easy-to-navigate app and grid guide Video quality settings help avoid data caps and buffering Cons DVR storage is frustrating to manage 60-frames-per-second channel support is limited Multiple base packages and add-ons can cause confusion Best Prices Today: $35.00 at Sling TV Sling TV offers ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, and TBS, and you can get them together in the Sling Orange package for $40 a month. Currently, you can get 50-percent off your first month. Read our full Sling TV review DirecTV Stream Pros Familiar remote for cable converts Great grid guide and fuss-free cloud DVR Smooth video and surround sound support Cons Optional streaming box doesn’t support Amazon Prime or Hulu More latency and less reliability than cable Best Prices Today: $69.99 at DirecTV Stream DirectTV Stream also offers ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, and TBS, and you can get them all in its Entertainment package for $65 a month. You might also be able to get ABC, but availability varies by package and location. You can enter your Zip code on the DirecTV Stream website to see if ABC is available in your area. If your sports viewing extends beyond hockey, DirecTV Stream might be the best streaming service for you year round. Over the last few years, Sling TV, FuboTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live TV have all dropped regional sports networks like Bally Sports Networks and NBC Regional Sports Networks from their product offerings. Not only is DirectTV Stream the only one to stream these, but it’s also the service with the most regional sports network coverage overall, including the NBC Sports regional networks, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, New England Sports Network, YES Network, and Spectrum SportsNet LA. It also offers FS1 and MLB Network. Read our full DirecTV Stream review Hulu + Live TV Pros Excellent value for Disney bundle subscribers Expansive on-demand catalog Recommendations and staff picks make the app fun to explore Cons Live TV can be inefficient to navigate Hard to figure out which programs allow ad skipping Can’t watch on TV devices while traveling Best Prices Today: $69.99 at Hulu’s live TV streaming service is available as a single, flat-fee package that includes more than 75 live and on-demand channels—including ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS. You get them all, in addition to Hulu’s original content, its streaming library, and ad-supported Disney+ for $70 a month. Read our full Hulu + Live TV review YouTube TV Pros Simple interface makes live TV easy to navigate Unlimited DVR allows for a huge on-demand library (with skippable ads) Broad selection of local, news, sports, and entertainment channels Cons Can’t delete recordings or mark them as watched on TV devices One-off recordings only work for live sporting events Menu doesn’t clearly separate DVR and on-demand video (with unskippable ads) Best Prices Today: $72.99 at YouTube TV YouTube TV also offers a flat-fee package of more than 85 channels that includes ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS. Subscriptions are $73 per month, but the service is currently offering the first three months for just $63 per month. If you’re also a football fan, YouTube TV is now available with NFL Sunday Ticket and NFL RedZone as added-cost add-on subscriptions. Read our full YouTube TV review Streaming Media

  • How to make the most of Google TV’s Live tab

    Want to browse through live TV channels without jumping through a half-dozen different apps? Google wants help with that. With the Live tab on Google TV devices, you can view a unified grid guide for live channels from free streaming services (such as Pluto TV and Tubi) and some pay TV services (such as YouTube TV and Sling TV). It’s ideal for when you want to quickly get to one of your favorite channels, or when you’re not sure what to watch in the first place. (The feature is also rolling out to Android TV devices.) To make those most of this feature, consider taking a few minutes to set it up with your favorite channels and streaming services. Here’s how: Which apps support the Live tab? Jared Newman / Foundry On Google TV and Android TV devices, you can use the Live tab to browse free channels from Haystack News, Plex, Pluto TV, and Tubi. You’ll also get more than 70 built-in free streaming channels from Google. Google TV devices can also show live channels from YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Philo if you have a subscription to those services. Their channels won’t appear in the Live tab on Android TV devices. For smart TVs with Google TV software built-in, you can plug in an antenna and view free over-the-air channels through the Live tab as well. Add or hide channels in the Live tab Jared Newman / Foundry To control which streaming services appear in the Live tab on Google TV, scroll to the ⚙️ Gear icon at the far right of the home screen, then head to Accounts & Sign-In > (your profile name) > Your services. Now, use the toggles to control which services appear on the home screen. For services that support the Live tab, they’ll be hidden from the guide as well. (Unfortunately, there’s no way to hide channels from the Live tab without removing their home screen recommendations as well.) Keep in mind that you’ll need to use this menu to hide channels from the guide even after you uninstall its corresponding app. Otherwise, the channels will continue to appear in the guide, and selecting them will prompt you to download the app. Set up favorite channels Jared Newman / Foundry To add a channel to your favorites list, scroll over to the channel icon, then click on it. A star will appear under the icon, and the channel will appear in a “Favorites” list at the top of the guide. Browse by genre Jared Newman / Foundry Google TV’s Live guide also lets you filter its free channels by genre, such as News & Opinion, Movies, and Classic TV. To find these filters, just scroll down through the left-hand column in the Live tab. (Filtering options are not available for paid services such as YouTube TV.) Find local news channels Jared Newman / Foundry Scroll to the bottom of the genre list, and you’ll find a “Local” section. You might think this would be tailored to where you actually live, but no, it’s just a big list of live channels from local news outlets around the country. Scan through this list for any channels in your area, and consider adding them to your favorites list. That’ll make them much easier to access in the future. Use the mini guide Jared Newman / Foundry After tuning to one of Google TV’s built-in free channels, click down twice on the remote to view the mini guide. This lets you see what’s on other channels without exiting the current one. Get back to the full guide Jared Newman / Foundry For other streaming sources, such as Pluto TV and Tubi, launching a channel will take you into the corresponding app, which will have its own, separate guide. To return to Google TV’s channel guide, press the back button—once for some apps, twice for others. Hide channels with mature content Jared Newman / Foundry To keep the Live tab family-friendly, scroll to the ⚙️ Gear icon, then head to Accounts & Sign-In > (your profile name) > Content restrictions > Google TV channels. From here, enable “Hide channels that may play content for mature audiences.” Get more streaming TV advice with Jared’s Cord Cutter Weekly newsletter. Cord Cutting, Streaming Devices, Streaming Media

  • Google Assistant to drop support for third-party notes apps

    If you’ve been using Google Assistant to manage your notes and lists with help from third-party apps like AnyList or Bring, you’ll need a new workflow starting next month. Google Assistant will drop its integrations with “non-Google” notes and lists apps beginning June 20, according to a notice on a Google Assistant help page. After that date, those who want to use Google Assistant to create notes and lists via voice commands will have to settle for Google Keep, or–if they want to use AnyList, Bring, or another third-party app–switch their allegiance to a new voice assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. In a blog post signed by AnyList founders Jeff Hunter and Jason Marr, the developers called Google’s decision to yank Google Assistant’s notes and lists integration with third-party apps “frustrating and disappointing.” “We are continuing to communicate with Google and hope to be able to support Google Assistant on Android devices again in the future, but we don’t have anything to announce at this time,” the AnyList developers wrote, adding that AnyList users who still wanted to use a voice assistant with the app should consider jumping to Alexa or Siri. Google Assistant has had a rocky history when it comes to integrating with notes and lists apps.  Google’s voice assistant originally integrated with Google Keep for notes and lists before switching over to the bare-bones Google Express, later known as Google Shopping. In 2019, Google finally switched the Assistant’s native notes and lists app back to Google Keep. Even better, it rolled out a Google Assistant integration for third-party notes and lists apps, opening the door to the likes of AnyList, Bring, and Now, just four years after rolling out its Google Assistant integration for third-party notes apps, Google is unceremoniously shelving it. While Google Keep is a powerful tool when it comes to creating and managing both notes and lists, it lacks some of the key features of third-party notes apps, such as AnyList’s database of recipes and meal-planning functionality. Google’s yanking of third-party app integration for notes and lists through Google Assistant comes on the heels of Google I/O earlier this month, where the Assistant was largely shoved aside in favor of Google’s AI-powered Bard. Smart Speakers

  • Amazon to pay $30M to settle the FTC’s Alexa, Ring complaints

    Amazon is about to pay the piper, with the e-tailing giant agreeing to pay more than $30 million to settle a pair of U.S. Federal Trade Commission complaints over its handling of data from Alexa kid profiles as well as its sharing of Ring video recordings with third parties. In a pair of filings released Wednesday, Amazon has agreed to fork over $5.8 million to settle the FTC’s Ring complaints, while the Alexa settlement will cost Amazon a cool $25 million. As CNBC reports, the Alexa settlement concerns the FTC’s accusations that Amazon illegally gathered information from the Alexa profiles of children, including voice recordings and other data. The Ring settlement, meanwhile, calls for Ring to do a better job of disclosing to its users the information it shares with company employees and third-party contractors, according to Reuters. For its part, Amazon fired off a pair of responses to the twin FTC settlements, pledging that it had–in both cases–already implemented policies to protect customer privacy, while also denying that it broke the law. But while Amazon took issue with the FTC’s Alexa and Ring complaints, the company chose to settle, adding (in the case of the Alexa complaint) that “this settlement puts the matter behind us.” In its Alexa complaint, the FTC alleged that Amazon violated COPPA–the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act–by storing the data of children, including voice recordings, that had been gathered in Alexa profiles without proper consent. Amazon’s handling of the data of children would naturally be a cause for concern, particularly given kids versions of Amazon’s Echo Dot speakers and Echo Show smart displays. As part of the settlement, Amazon must wipe inactive child accounts, and it is forbidden from using any data collected from kids to tweak its algorithms, according to the CNBC report. Amazon pushed back in its response to the FTC’s Alexa complaints, saying that it “work[s] hard to protect children’s privacy” and that it has “built robust privacy protections into our childrens’ products and services.”  Amazon also denied that it had violated COPPA, noting that it had “collaborated directly with the FTC” about the act before launching its Amazon Kids service on Alexa. In its second complaint, the FTC slammed Amazon-owned Ring for its “dangerously overbroad access and lax attitude toward privacy and security,” which allowed “employees and third-party contractors…to view, download, and transfer customers’ sensitive video data for their own purposes.” In a response to the settlement, Ring argued that it had “promptly” addressed such privacy issues prior to the FTC investigation. The Ring statement also claims the FTC “mischaracterizes our security practices” and “ignores the many protections we have in place for our customers.” Ring has long been dogged by criticism over its handling of user videos, including how it shared them with third-party contractors as well as law-enforcement officials.  Those complaints came to a head in late 2019, as reports emerged of hackers managing to crack Ring’s security and spy (or even taunt) unsuspecting users, while the Electronic Frontier Foundation accused Ring of using third-party trackers in its Android app.  Ring has also been criticized for handing over video footage to law enforcement, sometimes without a warrant. For its part, Ring says it has already taken steps to address the FTC’s concerns. In 2020, Ring began rolling out two-factor authentication to help prevent hackers from breaking into the accounts of Ring users. A year later, Ring began to implement end-to-end encryption, allowing users who enable the feature to ensure that they’re the only ones with access to their stored videos. Finally, Ring noted that it now has “strong policies and controls” that prevent its employees and third parties from viewing, accessing, or controlling Ring livestreams. Home Security, Smart Home, Smart Speakers

  • Google ends support for first Chromecast after 10-year run

    After a decade of service, the first Chromecast is heading out to pasture, with Google quietly ending updates and support for its original streaming stick. Google announced the news on its Chromecast support page (as spotted by 9to5Google), which was last updated in late April: Support for Chromecast (1st gen) has ended, which means these devices no longer receive software or security updates, and Google does not provide technical support for them. Users may notice a degradation in performance. Given the lack of future updates, those with the original Chromecast should probably consider upgrading to newer hardware, such as the Chromecast with Google TV 4K or the cheaper, 1080p-only Chromecast with Google TV HD. The original Chromecast received its last update (“bug fixes and improvements”) in November 2022, as 9to5Google notes. First unveiled back in 2013, the first Chromecast had an impressively long run.  The only Chromecast model to arrive in a streaming-stick design, the original Chromecast plugged directly into a TV’s HDMI port, with a micro-USB port providing the power. Rather than an elaborate on-screen interface, the first Chromecast (along with several subsequent models) simply displayed a screensaver when it wasn’t actively streaming video. And instead of a remote control, you used your phone or tablet to control the video stream. The clever design made it easy to add Chromecast capabilities to any HDMI-equipped TV set, and it was mimicked by the Chromecast Audio, a dongle with a 3.5mm jack that lets you add Chromecast audio streaming to practically any speaker or audio system. (Discontinued in 2019, the Chromecast Audio has become something of a collector’s item.) Google abandoned the first Chromecast’s stick design with the second-gen version, which arrived in the now familiar puck shape. Following the third-generation Chromecast, Google finally released a model with a remote: 2020’s Chromecast with Google TV, which (as its name implies) also packed an on-screen interface. Despite all the revisions, the first Chromecast remains a remarkable device (I still have a working model in a box somewhere), and deserving of a curtain call before it heads off the stage. Streaming Devices

  • Best smart speakers and displays: We pick the brightest and best-sounding models

    You don’t need to live in a smart home to benefit from smart speakers and smart displays. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and other digital assistants can help you in dozens of ways, and you don’t have to lift a finger to summon them—just speak their names. Here are our top picks in several categories. Looking for more guidance beyond our top recommendations? Scroll down the page to our in-depth buyers’ guide. Updated May 31, 2023 with a link to our Amazon Echo Pop review. Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th Gen) — Best smart speaker for most people Pros Larger display conveys more information Highly useful ambient temperature sensor Accelerometer for gesture recognition Can operate as a node on an Eero mesh Wi-Fi network Cons Audio performance still pales in comparison to a Sonos One 3.5mm analog audio output has been removed Mesh node feature is useful only to those with Eero routers Best Prices Today: £64.99 at Amazon Amazon is the strongest player in the smart home market today, and the Echo Dot with Clock (5th Gen) is a key reason for that position. Amazon could easily have left well enough alone with its third-generation entry-level smart speaker, but it just keeps innovating. While it’s true that you’ll spend $10 less if you buy the 5th-generation Echo Dot sans clock, that display adds much more than $10 in value. The one area that Amazon continues to trail with its entry-level smart speakers is audio performance. But if you’re buying a smart speaker mostly to control your smart home devices, this is the smart speaker to buy. Read our full Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th Gen) review Google Nest Mini — Best smart speaker for most people, runner-up Pros Improved sound quality Google Assistant rarely gets stumped Works great with other Nest devices Inexpensive Cons Capacitive buttons are easy to miss Sound quality still isn’t that great No cable management to go with the new mounting hole No analog audio output Best Prices Today: $49 at Google Google takes the runner-up spot despite the improvements the company has made to its rebranded smart speaker. Yes, audio quality has improved, and Google Assistant is still smarter than Alexa, but Amazon is ahead of the game when it comes to hooks into the smart home. If you want better audio performance, the Google Nest Audio delivers a lot of bang for the buck, but it costs twice as much as the Mini. The Nest Mini’s price also makes it the runner-up in the best budget-priced smart speaker category. Read our full Google Nest Mini review Apple HomePod mini — Best smart speaker in the Apple HomeKit ecosystem Pros The only smart speaker with Apple HomeKit support Impressive audio quality for its size Works as a Thread border router Easy to set up Cons We’ve heard better-sounding smart speakers in the Mini’s price range No physical mic mute control Intercom feature doesn’t support two-way calls Best Prices Today: $99 at Apple Apple’s HomeKit is a great smart home ecosystem that emphasizes privacy. If you’re an iPhone user looking for a smart speaker and you want to take advantage of all that HomeKit can deliver, the HomePod mini is the best way to get there. The HomePod (2nd generation) is just too expensive. Read our full Apple HomePod Mini review Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) — Best budget-priced smart speaker Pros A very inexpensive voice-powered smart home controller Best sounding audio in its class Pretty industrial design Cons Still not recommended for critical music listening Google Nest Mini offers tighter integration with Android smartphones We don’t know how much longer the third-gen Dot will be around, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive Alexa-powered smart speaker, this is the model to buy. If you’re looking for a budget-priced smart speaker based on Google Assistant, you can’t go wrong with the the Nest Mini, mentioned above as our overall runner-up. Read our full Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) review Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin — Best smart speaker for music Pros Best-in-class stereo performance from a tabletop speaker Impeccable industrial design Streams high-res audio Cons Alexa is the only supported digital assistant Control buttons are difficult to see If you’ve got the bread, Bowers & Wilkins has the best-sounding smart speaker on the market. It only supports Alexa, though, so Google Assistant fans might want to look elsewhere. The Nest Audio sounds good for a $99 speaker, but as you would expect, it is just not in the same league as this puppy. Read our full Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin review Sonos Era 100 — Best smart speaker for music, runner-up Pros Honest, full bodied, stress-free sound Unusually well carved bass, natural-sounding mids, and whistle-clean highs A great smart speaker with either Amazon Alexa or Sonos Voice No one does multi-room audio better than Sonos Cons No support for Google Assistant You might need two to fill your listening space Lacks the channel preset buttons found on some competing speakers Optional accessory required to get line-level input and/or hardwired ethernet connectivity Price When Reviewed: £249 Best Prices Today: £249.00 at AO£249.00 at Argos£249.00 at Currys The Sonos Era 100 is the best-sounding compact streaming smart speaker we’ve encountered; by itself, as a stereo pair, or performing as the rear surround channels with a Sonos soundbar. Read our full Sonos Era 100 review Sonos Era 300 — Best smart speaker for spatial audio Pros Dramatic, embracing, and exotic sound from a shockingly small package A great smart speaker with Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity Cons Doesn't support Google Assistant Trueplay Advanced Tuning depends on an iOS device; cross-platform Quick Tune isn't as effective Price When Reviewed: £449 Best Prices Today: £449.00 at AO£449.00 at Currys£449.00 at John Lewis The Sonos Era 300 is a party animal that delivers an exciting, atmospheric take on surround sound, by itself, in a pair, or as the surround channels reinforcing a Sonos soundbar. Read our full Sonos Era 300 review Amazon Echo Studio — Best smart speaker for spatial audio, runner-up Pros Great audio performance for the money Supports 3D audio (Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio) Can be paired with Amazon’s inexpensive subwoofer and/or a second Studio for stereo Cons Lack of Z-Wave support weakens its abilities as a smart home hub You must subscribe to Amazon Music to get 3D audio Speaker enclosure is insufficently isolated from the surface it’s placed on Amazon’s Echo Studio is a great value for $200, and it has an integrated Zigbee smart home hub to boot. It’s outfitted with three 2.0-inch mid-range drivers (one firing left, one firing right, and one firing straight up) and a 1.0-inch tweeter that fires straight at the listener. A 5.25-inch down-firing woofer handles the lower frequencies and is mounted directly above a slotted bass aperture. You can pair two for stereo, and Amazon even offers an optional subwoofer.  Read our full Amazon Echo Studio review Sonos Roam — Best portable smart speaker Pros Exceptional sound for its size Auto Trueplay now works over Bluetooth Sound Swap feature lets you “swap” music with other Sonos speakers Small and light, with a waterproof design Cons Slow wireless charging (at least with third-party chargers) Sound Swap doesn’t work across Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2 modes Price When Reviewed: 159 Best Prices Today: £119.00 at AO$169 at Sonos OK, the Sonos Move is a better-sounding portable smart speaker, but the Sonos Roam is just so much more practical when you want to take your music on the go. It’s not a big deal to take the Move out on the patio, but stuffing it in a backpack and taking your tunes on a hike? You’re going to want to Roam for that. The Roam also costs a lot less than the Move. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely love the Move, but when you want to roam, grab the Roam. Read our full Sonos Roam review Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) — Best smart display Pros Display can automatically rotate so it's always facing you Significant improvements in display brightness and image quality Strong home security features, including Alexa Guard and the subscription-based Alexa Guard Plus Very good audio performance Cons You might find the tracking feature to be creepy (it can be disabled) Wi-Fi and Zigbee radios onboard, but there’s no Z-Wave or Thread support Needs at least 5 inches of clearance all the way around if it’s to fully rotate The Amazon Echo Show (3rd Gen) features a 10.1-inch display that tracks your movement and rotates so that it always faces you. Amazon’s AZ1 Neural Edge processor tracks your movement right on the device, enhancing your privacy by not uploading your image to the cloud. It has a high-quality display and a very good audio system. As with most of its more-expensive Echo devices, there’s an integrated Zigbee smart home hub, plus a radio that taps into Amazon’s new Sidewalk neighborhood network technology. If you want an even bigger display, consider the Echo Show 15, but read our Echo Show 15 review to understand why we didn’t pick that model in this category. Read our full Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) review Google Nest Hub Max — Best smart display, runner-up Pros Impressive audio quality Excels as a digital photo frame Built-in Nest camera Google Assistant is one of the smartest assistants we’ve tried Cons No physical camera shutter No analog audio output Google Assistant’s smart home compatibility still lags Alexa Best Prices Today: $229 at Google The Google Nest Hub Max delivers great sound, fabulous picture quality, and tight integration with the Google ecosystem. Alexa is still the superior digital assistant when it comes to smart home compatibility, but that advantage won’t last forever. Read our full Google Nest Hub Max review What can smart speakers do? With the exception of Amazon’s Echo, smart speakers are powered by the same digital assistants used with smartphones. Siri comes from the iPhone, Google Assistant comes from Android phones, and Cortana from Microsoft’s now-dead Windows Phone platform (Cortana has since found a home in Windows 10). Alexa was created exclusively for the Amazon Echo, but can now be found in a host of other devices, ranging from the Ecobee Smart Thermostat to the Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer. At its most basic, a digital assistant is cloud-based software that understands natural language voice commands, performing tasks and fetching information for you. In the real world, digital assistants aren’t quite as sophisticated as that. While you don’t need to talk like a robot—e.g., “Alexa, set timer, 20 minutes”—they do get confused easily, and you’ll hear a fair amount of responses such as “Sorry, I don’t know that one” (that’s an Alexa phrase, incidentally) when you trip them up. The cool thing is that the algorithms powering digital assistants can learn over time and become better at predicting what you need. Here are just a few of the things that most smart speakers can do (you can add “and more!” to the end of each bullet list): Entertain Stream music over Wi-FiStream music over Bluetooth (most models)Work with Chromecast devices (Google Home models)Control your TV Stream music to multiple speakers (multi-room audio)Play gamesStream videos (models with displays) Retrieve news and information  News headlinesWeather forecastsTraffic reportsDate and timeWikipedia entries Manage your schedule Set appointmentsProvide remindersServe as an alarm clockMaintain to-do lists Help in the kitchen Recite recipes (and show them on models with displays)Set multiple timersGet measurement conversions (“How many cups are in one quart?”)Maintain shopping listsSet the temperature for a sous vide cookerGet nutrition information (“How many calories are in an apple?”) Contact friends and family Make and receive phone calls (video calls on models with displays)Serve as an in-home intercomSend text messages  Control your smart home * Turn your lights on and off (and dim them)Adjust your smart thermostatManage your smart sprinkler controllerClose your garage doorLock your smart deadboltArm your home security systemStream video from your home security camera (models with displays)Work with IFTTT * There are caveats when it comes to using a smart speaker for home control. Smart home devices that can be controlled via Wi-Fi don’t require any other hardware. Products that use the Zigbee or Z-Wave protocols depend on the presence of a smart-home hub, such as a Samsung SmartThings. Amazon’s higher-priced Echo models are exceptions to that rule, because they have an integrated smart home controller (although it’s limited to Zigbee) How to choose the right smart speaker An increasing number of soundbars double as smart speakers. The Sonos Beam can be configured with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, but not both at the same time. In a perfect world, smart speakers and smart displays would be interoperable, so you could buy one brand because it’s better for music, another brand because it’s the best for smart home control, and a third because it’s superior for retrieving general information from the internet. That’s not how it works in the real world. Once you commit to one platform, you’ll want to stick with it. On the upside, choosing one brand of smart speaker over another generally won’t tie you into that brand’s entire ecosystem. Buying an Amazon Echo, for instance, won’t limit you to subscribing to Amazon’s music services—you can also use it with Spotify, Pandora, Qobuz, SiriusXM radio, and lots of other services. And even if you have a smart home system from one company, you can use voice commands to control smart home products that would be otherwise incompatible with that system—provided those devices are compatible with your digital assistant of choice. That said, if you’re wedded to Google Play Music, streaming music from your account to an Amazon Echo is not perfectly seamless (the same goes for streaming music from Amazon’s services to a Google Home). And there are some major coexistence exceptions: Google is currently blocking its YouTube videos from appearing on the Echo Show and Echo Spot devices, for instance (although you can get there using a web browser on an Echo Show), and Apple’s HomePod will stream music only from Apple Music (or other services from a mobile device using AirPlay, but that ties up your mobile device). If you plan to mix and match third-party products with your smart speaker, do the research to make sure they’ll work together. Consumer Electronics, Entertainment, Smart Home, Smart Speakers, Speakers

  • Amazon Echo Pop review: The latest Echo flops rather than pops

    At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsCompact designSupports Matter and SidewalkOn-board AlexaActs as an Eero extenderConsOnly slightly smaller than the Echo DotNo motion or temperature sensorsIffy sound qualityFeels cheapOur VerdictThe Amazon Echo Pop isn’t much smaller or cheaper than the Echo Dot, yet it sounds worse, does less, and feels cheap. Our advice: get a Dot instead. Price When Reviewed£44.99 Best Prices Today: Amazon Echo Pop Retailer Price £44.99 View Deal £44.99 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Let’s just cut to the chase: With its new Echo Pop, Amazon has delivered an Echo speaker that looks worse, sounds worse, and does less than the only slightly larger and more expensive Echo Dot.  I’m not really sure what the thinking was behind Amazon’s latest Echo speaker, or who it’s supposed to be for. If the half-spherical device was significantly smaller than the Echo Dot, which the Pop replaces as the smaller and least-expensive Echo speaker, I’d be more forgiving. But the Echo Pop is almost precisely the same size as the Echo Dot, and at $39.99, its list price is only $10 less than that of the Dot. (We haven’t reviewed the latest Echo Dot, but we did review the fifth-generation Echo Dot with Clock, which is virtually identical save for its LED display and higher price tag.) The Echo Pop also drops a couple of the Echo Dot’s key smart home sensors, while its flat audio performance makes the Echo Dot’s middling sonics sound much better in comparison. At $40, the Echo Pop is only $10 less than the sturdier, better sounding, more capable, and only slightly larger Echo Dot. On the plus side, the Pop does come with Alexa and her usual bag of tricks, and besides supporting Amazon’s Sidewalk neighborhood networks and the new Matter smart home standard, the Pop doubles as an extender for Amazon’s Eero mesh Wi-Fi routers. But the Echo Dot does all those things too, and while it’s a tad deeper in size than the Echo Pop, it has a much more premium feel; the Pop, on the other hand, feels cheap. This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart speakers. So, at the risk of sounding glib: the Echo Pop flops more than it pops.  How big is the Amazon Echo Pop? Measuring 3.9 x 3.3 x 3.6 inches (WxDxH), the Amazon Echo Pop is roughly the same size as the Echo Dot. With its half-spherical design, the Echo Pop certainly looks somewhat smaller than the Echo Dot, but practically speaking, the Pop’s slice-in-half design only shaves about a half and inch of depth and a hair off the height. So yes, the Echo Pop is a tad smaller than the Dot, but it’s not that much smaller. On the other hand, the Echo Pop is considerably lighter than the Dot, with the speakers weighing in at 6.9 and 10.7 ounces respectively. Unfortunately, that loss in heft makes the Pop feel cheap compared to the weightier Dot. Making matters worse, the Pop is almost all plastic save for the flat, fabric-covered front, while the more handsome Dot has a more expansive fabric covering, giving it a more premium feel. Despite its half-sphere design, the Amazone Echo Pop is only slightly smaller than the Echo Dot. Ben Patterson/Foundry Where is Alexa’s light ring on the Echo Pop? The Echo Pop actually doesn’t have an Alexa light ring, per se; rather, it has a thin Alexa indicator light that sits along the top edge of the speaker.  Behind the Alexa light are a trio of buttons for volume up, volume down, and microphone mute. Eagle-eyed Echo Dot users will notice that the Pop lacks an Action button, which allows you to (among other things) silence alarms and put the speaker in setup mode. For the Echo Pop, the typical function for the Action button–snoozing alarms–can be performed by simply tapping the top of the device. On the back of the Echo Pop is a port for the roughly five-foot charging cable, which terminates in a (typically, for Echo speakers) chunky wall wart.  There’s no 3.5mm audio-out jack on the back of the Pop–not a huge surprise, given that the fifth-generation Echo Dot jettisoned the auxiliary audio jack, too. But while you can’t connect a secondary speaker to the Echo Pop using a wire, you can still do so via Bluetooth. How do you set up the Echo Pop? Getting the Echo Pop up and running is a snap for those who already own other Echo speakers. You simply plug in the Echo Pop, wait a few minutes until Alexa says the speaker is ready for setup, and fire up the Alexa app; within a few seconds, a prompt to pair the Echo Pop should appear. If you’re new to the Echo scene or Alexa as a whole, you’ll need to download the Alexa app and (if you haven’t already) register for an Amazon account. You’ll also be prompted to enter the credentials for your home Wi-Fi router, although once that step is done, you won’t need to repeat it for adding future Echo speakers. Can the Amazon Echo Pop control smart home devices? With the help of Alexa, the Echo Pop can take charge of your compatible smart home devices via voice commands, and the pool of supported smart devices just got wider thanks to Matter, the new standard that promises to (eventually) unite the big smart home ecosystems, including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings.  Like the Echo Dot and most other current Echo speakers, the Echo Pop acts as a Matter controller, allowing it to connect other Matter devices in your home together. The Pop can’t connect Matter devices to the internet, however; for that, you’ll need a Thread border router, such as an Amazon Echo speaker; an Apple HomePod, HomePod mini, or third-gen Apple TV 4K; or a Google Nest Hub Max, second-gen Nest Hub, or a Nest Wifi Pro. The Echo Pop also works with Sidewalk, Amazon’s budding neighborhood network that allows multiple Ring, Echo, and other compatible devices to work together, creating a low-power, long-range network large enough to cover an entire neighborhood.  With help from a Sidewalk network (and many U.S. neighborhoods are already blanketed by Sidewalk coverage), users can install (for example) compatible motion sensors, smart lights, and other devices outside of their homes without worrying that they will be out of Wi-Fi range.  The benefits of Sidewalk are still more theoretical than practical, however, and you can turn off the Echo Pop’s Sidewalk functionality if you’d rather. Even if you don’t take advantage of the Echo Pop’s Matter or Sidewalk support, you can still take charge of more than 100,000 smart home devices with Alexa, either via voice commands or Alexa routines. For more details on how the Echo Pop can control your smart home devices, check out our review of the fifth-generation Echo Dot with Clock. The Amazon Echo Pop has buttons for volume up, microphone mute, and volume down. Ben Patterson/Foundry Can the Echo Pop act as an Amazon Eero extender? Amazon recently added the ability for most of its current Echo line to double as range extenders for its Eero mesh Wi-Fi routers, and the Echo Pop is no exception. Each Echo Pop will add up to 1,000 square feet of coverage to your Eero mesh setup, a nice bonus given the Pop’s bargain price. Does the Echo Pop let you chat with Alexa? As with other Echo speakers, the Echo Pop lets you speak with Alexa. You can ask Alexa a broad range of questions, anything from “Alexa, what’s the weather?” to “Alexa, do I have any appointments today?” You can also set Alexa to listen to suspicious sounds, such as breaking glass or smoke alarm sirens (via the free Alexa Guard feature, or you can upgrade to the paid Alexa Guard Plus), set alarms or timers, or even shop on Amazon (you can set a PIN to keep your kids from going on Amazon shopping sprees).  Can you make phone calls with the Amazon Echo Pop?  Alexa offers most of the same communication features on the Echo Pop that are available on other Echo speakers. For example, you can ask Alexa to “drop in” on an Echo device in another room, allowing you to hear what’s going on in that room or speak to anyone nearby (Alexa will warn you if someone is dropping in from another Echo speaker). You can also ask Alexa to make an announcement (like “Dinner time!”) on all the other Echo devices in your home. Besides communication with other Echo devices, Alexa on the Echo Pop can make free phone calls to landlines in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (free Alexa calls are limited to 10 contacts at a time, unfortunately). You can also link Alexa to your AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon cellular account, allowing Alexa to place and answer calls using your mobile number. Can you play music on the Amazon Echo Pop?  Like other Echo speakers, the Echo Pop can double as a jukebox with help from Alexa. Using the Alexa app, you can sign into your favorite music streaming service, including Amazon Music, Apple Music and Podcasts, Spotify (including Spotify Connect functionality), Deezer, Tidal, Pandora, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM, and TuneIn; missing from the list is Qobuz and YouTube Music. With your music streaming account linked, you can ask Alexa on the Echo Pop to play a track, an album, an artist, or a genre (“Alexa, play Taylor Swift” or “Alexa, play classic rock”). Another option is to add music playback as an action in an Alexa routine; for example, you could make Alexa play “Happy” during your morning wake-up routines. What’s missing from the Echo Pop?  “Just like other Echo speakers” has been something of a refrain in my review of the Echo Pop, but there are a couple of key Echo features that the Pop decidedly doesn’t support. For example, the Echo Pop lacks the built-in motion sensor found in the latest (and, again, only slightly pricier) Echo Dot, and it’s also missing the Dot’s temperature sensor. Both of those sensors can be used to trigger Alexa routines, such as turning on the lights when someone enters the room or spinning up a fan when the temperature hits a certain level. Also missing from the Echo Pop is a Zigbee smart home hub that would allow the speaker to directly control Zigbee devices–although, to be fair, the Dot doesn’t have a Zigbee radio either. For an Echo device with a Zigbee hub, you’ll need to pony up for an Echo ($99.99), Echo Studio ($199.99), or an Echo Show 10 ($249.99). How does the Echo Pop sound? On paper, you might think the Echo Pop and its 1.95-inch driver has the sonic edge over the Echo Dot and its smaller 1.75-inch driver. The reality, however, is that the Echo Pop’s audio pales compared to the Echo Dot’s–and that’s saying something, given the Dot’s only so-so audio performance. Going back and forth between the two speakers, the Echo Pop sounded flat and tinny, with just a hint of bass response. The Echo Dot, in contrast, sounded deeper and fuller, with better high-end detail. Granted, the Echo Dot still sounds pretty meh to my ears, but at least its audio reproduction flirts with actual high fidelity. The Echo Pop, on the other hand, sounds like a cheap Bluetooth speaker, good for hearing your tunes rather truly enjoying them. Is the Amazon Echo Pop worth the cash? If the Amazon Echo Pop arrived with a $25 price tag, making it half the list price of the Echo Dot, then sure, it might be worth it. Heck, even a $30 price would make the Pop seem more appealing. But at $40, the Echo Pop is only $10 less than the sturdier, better sounding, more capable, and only slightly larger Echo Dot. Save for a price cut, the Echo Pop gets a hard “no” from us. Smart Speakers

  • Bluesound Node X: A superior music streamer gets even better

    At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsOutstanding audio detailEasy to set upRoon ReadyWorks with almost every imaginable audio sourceConsNo Chromecast supportLimited ability to customize EQBluOS app doesn’t display resolution of streaming tracksOur VerdictBluesound has played no small role in creating the market for hi-res streaming, and the Node X is a fitting way celebration of the company’s 10th anniversary. In the decade since the Canadian audio company Bluesound first launched its Node wireless streamer, audiophiles have embraced the idea of high-resolution streaming audio. The new Node X, released in a limited edition to celebrate the device’s 10th anniversary, is Bluesound’s best streamer yet. Think of the Node series as a Swiss Army Knife for all kinds of wireless playback. It can play your own music files from a local server (including Roon servers), stream music from subscription music services, tune in to internet radio stations, act as a Bluetooth receiver for a home audio system, and integrate with powered speakers (including Bluesound’s own). It can also operate with other BluOS devices as a multi-room audio system. High-end audio circuitry makes the Bluesound Node X an excellent partner to such hi-res streaming services as Qobuz and Tidal. What’s different about the Node X? Bluesound has given it a new silver finish, upgraded its DAC and internal headphone amp, and included a 1/4-jack for headphone playback. Most of the new tech will probably eventually show up in later Node models, but that striking silver case is likely to be exclusive to the Node X. Very few users will take advantage of every Node X feature, but Bluesound has designed a device that can handle any wireless music option you’re using now, and it will adapt if you want to change things up later with new sources. The Bluesound Node X has both analog (RCA stereo and subwoofer) and digital (Toslink, coax, and HDMI eARC) outputs for connecting to an amp or powered speakers.James Barber/Foundry Is the Bluesound Node X a well-built audio device? The Bluesound Node X is a sleek rectangular box measuring 1.8 x 8.7 x 5.7 inches (HxWxD) and weighing around 3 pounds. It has a recessed black band around the middle, creating a reverse ice cream sandwich look. There’s a Bluesound logo on the front top half and a 1/4-inch headphone jack on the bottom half. The top surface of the Node X has a touchscreen with a proximity sensor, so it lights up when your hand approaches it. The volume control is an LED slider and there are LED touch controls for play/pause, next track, previous track, and five station or playlist preset buttons. The Node X could be an excellent desktop audio system when used with powered speakers. That setup would make it easy to use the built-in THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier with headphones. I used the Node X with a home audio setup and controlled it with either the BluOS app or the included RC1 remote. The Bluesound Node X has a proximity sensor that lights up its LED control touchpad wwhen you move your hand close to the unit.James Barber/Foundry The heart of the Node X is a new ESS 9028Q2M Sabre DAC that supports resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz, with support for MQA playback. That’s the biggest upgrade in this unit and it’s the same DAC used in the lauded Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M. The DAC is paired with a quad-core 1.8GHz ARM Cortex A53 processor. There are multiple ways to input audio into the Node X, including HDMI eARC, Wi-Fi, gigabit ethernet, Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth (with support for aptX HD), and USB Type A. Bluetooth is bi-directional, so you can stream music from an Android device to the unit or send a signal to a wireless headphone and listen without being tethered to the device. Using streaming services with the Node X The Node X is the perfect partner for both Qobuz and Tidal. Listeners can take advantage of those service’s better-than-CD quality streams and control them via the excellent BluOS app for iOS and Android. I usually listen to Qobuz and Tidal with headphones and a DAC, since that’s been the best way to enjoy the immersive detail each service can offer with its high-resolution audio files. Listening to the 2023 remaster of Miles Davis’ 1960 album Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet via a 24-bit/96kHz stream via Qobuz, I was blown away by how much better it sounded than my CD copy. The silent parts are dead silent and the breaths that both Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane take have a presence I’ve never heard before. Would a mint LP copy from six decades ago sound better than this? I suppose it’s possible, but the Node X offers a listening experience that turntables or CD players in the same price range can’t begin to match. Other music services that can be controlled directly from the app include the Neil Young Archives, Spotify,, SiriusXM, TuneIn Radio, Deezer, Amazon Music, Napster, and iHeartRadio. The BlueOS app for the Bluesound Node X supports a wide variety of streaming services. James Barber/Foundry Unfortunately, Apple Music subscribers can’t get in on the hi-res action with this streamer. The Node X sounds great playing tunes from Apple Music via AirPlay 2, but the stream lacks the detail you’ll get from a Qobuz or Tidal stream because Apple limits output to CD quality on third-party devices. This is frustrating, since Apple Music playback sounds fantastic with headphones and a DAC. Spotify also sounds fine, but the Spotify Connect stream is still lossy. If Spotify ever delivers on its promise to deliver hi-res audio, the Node X will be able to handle any audio resolution that the streaming service might conceivably choose to use. The first streaming boxes touted their ability to stream radio stations over the internet, and the Node X continues that tradition. You can create station presets on the top of the unit and in the BluOS app and easily keep track of your favorite sources. Bandwidth costs broadcasters money, however, so you should realize that those radio streams usually come with a low bit rate. To be clear, the Node X is an outstanding option for any online streaming source you’d choose to use, and each one will sound as good as it possibly can. If your listening is limited to Spotify and internet radio, you just won’t be taking advantage of everything the Node X has to offer. Using the BluOS app The BluOS app for iOS and Android is well-designed and easy to use.James Barber/Foundry The BluOS app makes it easy to add supported streaming services to the app and access your catalog from within the interface. None of those interfaces quite match what you’ll see with each service’s freestanding app, but Bluesound has designed the BluOS app to present a consistent interface that’s easy to use once you get up to speed with how it works. For anything that’s not accessible from within the app—such as Apple Music, the game streams offered by Major League Baseball, or radio stations that don’t stream via one of the supported radio apps—users can employ AirPlay 2 or Bluetooth to fill in those gaps. Android users should know that BluOS does not support Chromecast. Users looking for elaborate equalization tweaks may be disappointed, because only treble and bass levels can be adjusted in the Tone Control setting. There’s also an option to adjust crossover if you’re using an outboard subwoofer. The best features in the BluOS app are the My Playlists and My Favorites options. Each function aggregates your selections from your subscribed services, and the favorites include artists, albums, songs, playlists, and stations. Each list is broken down by service, making it easy to keep track of your favorites without remembering which service you saved them on. This is especially helpful with radio stations, as many of them are exclusive to iHeartRadio and don’t appear on TuneIn or vice versa. The Bluesound Node X has a 1/4-inch headphone output in front for private listening sessions.James Barber/Foundry The worst feature of the app is that it doesn’t display the streaming resolution of the original track beyond “CD” or “HR” for Qobuz. Users can always switch over to the Qobuz app for the details, but that’s a pain because the track you’re playing won’t be the first thing you see when you switch. Maybe it’s a restriction from the streaming services or perhaps it’s a limitation in how the app was coded, but a solution to this problem would be welcome. Those of us who pay extra for high-resolution streaming services want to see that level of detail. Should you buy the Bluesound Node X? The Node X is a dynamite upgrade to a home audio system for anyone looking to integrate modern streaming music into a setup that’s been playing vinyl, CD, and tapes. If you have an open input on your preamp or receiver, you’ll have access to a world of digital music via the internet and from files stored on your home network. If you haven’t already invested in a home audio system, you can connect the Node X to powered speakers and you’ll have a digital music streamer setup that can play any file or online source you might choose. You could later add a Bluesound Hub ($319) nearby and plug in a turntable, CD player, or any other legacy format with an RCA connection to the Hub and enjoy the benefits of whatever source you want. If you’re already enjoying high-resolution audio from a personal collection of audio files or via a streaming service like Qobuz or Tidal, the Node X is a great value proposition at this price. There are other wireless streaming DACs that feature more expensive conversion chips and front-panel displays, but those can cost two, three, or even five times as much as the Node X. Quite a few vinyl purists are starting to recognize that high-resolution digital audio can be a compelling addition to an audio system setup rather than a replacement for turntables, cartridges, and their beloved round slabs of PVC. The Node X and its companion BluOS app make streaming a compelling proposition for integrating both formats into your system. Home Audio