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.
- Buying print hardware is a team game - your Operator matters
Investing in new equipment is crucial to the success of any print business; the wide range of options available means the actual buying process is far from straightforward. Here, LFR considers the importance of involving operators in this process and how this can help print companies buy correctly, install seamlessly and so get printing profitably without having to deal with avoidable issues.
- Preparing for outdoor cold-weather installations this winter?
When producing outdoor applications, printers and sign-makers have to take a wide range of factors into account. Will floor graphics stand the test of time under heavy traffic? How can you ensure colours on building wraps do not fade over time? What sort of laminate do you need on movie posters?
- LFR Spotlight on South African print tech specialist Midcomp
An established business which has been operating in the South African market for more than 30 years, LFR shines a Spotlight on Midcomp to find out how long-term partnerships with leading manufacturers and suppliers have helped drive growth and success.
- Interactivity in print: what is all the fuss about?
An increasing number of brands are including some form of interactivity in their marketing as a way of connecting with consumers. This is certainly true for print media, with interactivity fast becoming a common feature on packaging, posters and even business cards. But is it really worth it and how much value does it actually bring? LFR investigates…
- What should you consider when looking at new ink suppliers?
Selecting the right ink product is far from an easy process. Whether this is simply trying out a new ink on your printer or purchasing different ink products to support you in producing a new type of work, identifying the best solution is often tricky and time-consuming.
- How do we reach new heights with digital print in packaging?
Digital print has been promising broad transformation in corrugated for a long time. Significant progress has been made, but digital print today still only represents and addresses a small subset of corrugated print needs. New approaches are needed to broaden the reach and value of digitally printed corrugated packaging.
- Beeper Mini Turns Android's Green Bubbles Into Blue Bubbles on iPhones
The new app Beeper Mini lets Android users send texts that show up as blue bubbles on iPhones. We talked to the 16-year-old high school student who wrote the code to make it possible.
- 9 Best Password Managers (2023): Features, Pricing, and Tips
Keep your logins locked down with our favorite password management apps for PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, and web browsers.
- This Tandem Showerhead Turns Your Bathroom Into a Spa
Boona’s tandem showerhead is easy to install and has great water pressure. It’s one of my favorite pieces of gear this year.
- The Pilots Delivering Your Amazon Packages Are Ready to Strike
Pilots for Amazon’s largest air freight provider voted to strike, complaining of low pay and high turnover. If a strike happens in the new year, Amazon deliveries could be impacted.
- 6 Best Digital Photo Frames (2023): High-Res and Natural
Get your pictures off your phone and in front of your friends and family with these connected displays.
- A New Trick Uses AI to Jailbreak AI Models—Including GPT-4
Adversarial algorithms can systematically probe large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 for weaknesses that can make them misbehave.
- The Spy Who Dumped the CIA, Went to Therapy, and Now Makes Incredible Television
Joe Weisberg—the geopolitically entangled, heavily therapized creator of The Americans and The Patient—is the trickiest character he’s written (so far).
- The 'Grand Theft Auto VI' Trailer Is Here. And It’s Already Causing Mayhem
Rockstar's hugely anticipated Grand Theft Auto VI has fans in a frenzy. The new trailer brings big Vice City vibes and big action.
- Spotify Is Screwed
Spotify is the world’s biggest music streamer but rarely turns a profit and just cut 17 percent of its workforce. Its business model looks increasingly precarious.
- George Santos Is Now on Cameo
Ousted congressperson George Santos, accused of multiple scams and grifts, is now selling videos of himself on Cameo for $200 a pop.
- 10 Best Outdoor Security Cameras (2023): Battery-Powered, LTE, No Subscription
These weatherproof outdoor security cams keep a watchful eye on your property while you get on with life. Our list includes battery-powered and LTE devices and options that need no subscription.
- US Lawmakers Want to Use a Powerful Spy Tool on Immigrants and Their Families
Legislation set to be introduced in Congress this week would extend Section 702 surveillance of people applying for green cards, asylum, and some visas—subjecting loved ones to similar intrusions.
- Sony Access Controller Review: A Beautiful Addition for All Gamers
Sony’s first accessible controller is an excellent start and a welcome new part of PlayStation's lineup, but it has a ways to go before being truly incredible.
- Gravity Eye Massager Review: Multi-Functional and Compact
It’s the most stressful time of the year. This comfortable, compact massage tool helps you decompress at home—and it’s way more affordable than the competition.
- Want to Store a Message in DNA? That’ll Be $1,000
French startup Biomemory is rolling out a credit-card-sized storage device that uses DNA to encode a kilobyte of text data.
- Best Beats Headphone Deals: Save More Than $100 With These Offers - CNET
Beats headphones and earbuds are now available with some deep discounts, thanks to these deals.
- Take Hundreds Off EcoFlow Generators and Accessories With These Holiday Deals - CNET
Snag backup power for when power outages strike or you're off the grid at a more affordable price.
- Boost Infinite's $60/Month Unlimited Plan Comes With a Free iPhone 15 Pro - CNET
Plus, this Infinite Access promotion allows you to upgrade to the latest model every year.
- Best Exercise Bikes for 2023 - CNET
We've reviewed the best exercise bikes on the market so you can find the perfect one for your fitness goals.
- Best Mattress for 2023 - CNET
Shopping for a new bed can be difficult in a highly saturated market. Here are our best mattress recommendations based on our testing experiences.
- Best Internet Providers for 2023 - CNET
Searching for a new broadband provider? CNET breaks down the best, cheapest and fastest internet plans to help you choose the best fit for your home.
- Withings' $599 ScanWatch Nova Classes Up the ScanWatch 2's Temperature Tracking - CNET
The hybrid smartwatch combines the ScanWatch 2's new features with the looks of a diver watch.
- Today's Best Savings Rates: Dec. 5, 2023 -- The Top Savings Accounts Boast APYs of 5.25% and Above - CNET
You can still take advantage of the best savings accounts while rates remain high.
- King-Size Bed Dimensions: How to Know If It Will Fit in Your Bedroom - CNET
Here's everything you need to know about king-sized mattresses and what to consider before buying one.
- Best Web Hosting Services for 2023 - CNET
We compared popular web hosting services, like A2 Hosting, HostGator and many others, to help you find the best service to fit your needs now and in the future.
- How to Check Your Fitbit's Battery - CNET
Fitbit is rolling out upgrades to its app after it caused headaches for some users. In the meantime, here's how to find the battery life on your Fitbit.
- Charge Your Devices Anywhere With This $148 Portable Power Station - CNET
The Allpowers R600 can power up to eight devices at a time, weighs in at less than 16 pounds and it's over $120 off right now at Amazon.
- Today's Best CD Rates: Dec. 5, 2023 -- Experts Recommend Locking in a High APY Now - CNET
With CD rates starting to fall, now’s the time to secure a high APY.
- Score Unlimited Access to Babbel for Just $150 and Learn New Languages at Your Own Pace - CNET
Save $449 on a lifetime subscription to one of our favorite language-learning apps with this deal at StackSocial.
- Best Cellphone Plans of 2023: Our Top Picks for December - CNET
Looking for a reliable phone plan? Here are our top picks for the best ones on the market as we reach the end of 2023.
- One Year of ChatGPT: How A.I. Changed Silicon Valley Forever
ChatGPT’s release a year ago triggered a desperate scramble among tech companies and alarm from some of the people who helped invent it.
- AI-Generated Jimmy Stewart Reads a Bedtime Story for Calm App
The sleep and meditation app Calm released a new story featuring the late actor’s signature drawl — or a computer-generated version of it.
- Bitcoin Soars on Hopes of Investment Fund Approval
The cryptocurrency has gained roughly 150 percent this year, as investors bet that regulators will soon approve the first spot exchange-traded fund that is designed to track the price of Bitcoin.
- Bordeaux Wine Snobs Have a Point, According to This Computer Model
With machine learning, scientists are trying to chemically define the murky concept of terroir. The models might be useful for detecting wine fraud.
- Brain Implants Helped 5 People Recover From Traumatic Injuries
People with chronic problems after falls and car crashes scored better on cognition tests after getting a brain implant, a new study found.
- Who’s Who Behind the Dawn of the Modern Artificial Intelligence Movement
Before chatbots exploded in popularity, a group of researchers, tech executives and venture capitalists had worked for more than a decade to fuel A.I.
- What is the JDK? Introduction to the Java Development Kit
The Java Development Kit (JDK) is one of three core technology packages used in Java programming, along with the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) and the JRE (Java Runtime Environment). It's important to differentiate between these three technologies and understand how they're connected: The JVM is the runtime that hosts running programs. The JRE is the on-disk part of Java that creates the JVM and loads programs into them. The JDK provides the tools necessary to write Java programs that can be executed and run by the JVM and JRE. Developers new to Java often confuse the Java Development Kit and the Java Runtime Environment. The distinction is that the JDK is a package of tools for developing Java-based software, whereas the JRE is a package of tools for running Java code.To read this article in full, please click here
- Don’t make Apache Kafka your database
It’s a tale as old as time. An enterprise is struggling against the performance and scalability limitations of its incumbent relational database. Teams tasked with finding a newer solution land on an event-driven architecture, take one look at Apache Kafka, and say, “Aha! Here’s our new database solution.” It’s fast. It’s scalable. It’s highly available. It’s the superhero they hoped for!Those teams set up Kafka as their database and expect it to serve as their single source of truth, storing and fetching all the data they could ever need. Except, that’s when the problems begin. The core issue is that Kafka isn’t actually a database, and using it as a database won’t solve the scalability and performance issues they’re experiencing.To read this article in full, please click here
- Can cloud computing be truly federated?
Reporters often call me about whatever newfangled buzzword is out there and what it means to the typical enterprise. Recently, I’ve been questioned about the fediverse.The fediverse is a decentralized social network of independent servers that can communicate with each other. Are you sitting down? The term combines the words federated and universe. Clever. The concept is nothing new or unique, but the buzzword is. I’ve seen these types of architecture come and go over the years.Is a federated cloud coming? In the fediverse, users can communicate and interact with others across multiple storage and compute platforms while retaining control over their data and identity. Unlike the extensive social networks and public cloud providers, there is no centralized system. It’s federated, meaning that the processing and storage are distributed across any compute resources, such as a data center, a desktop, or your phone or smartwatch.To read this article in full, please click here
- AWS re:Invent 2023: 7 Takeaways from the big annual event
At the AWS re:Invent conference last week, the spotlight was focused on artificial intelligence, with the new generative AI assistant, Amazon Q, debuting as the star of the show. But there was plenty other news to spark the interest of database managers, data scientists, data engineers, and developers, including new extract, transform, load (ETL) services, a new Cost Optimization Hub, and revamped enterprise pricing tier for AWS' cloud-based development tool, dubbed Amazon CodeCatalyst.To read this article in full, please click here
- What is CI/CD? Continuous integration and continuous delivery explained
Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD), also known as CI/CD, embodies a culture and set of operating principles and practices that application development teams use to deliver code changes both more frequently and more reliably.CI/CD is a best practice for devops teams. It is also a best practice in agile methodology. By automating code integration and delivery, CI/CD lets software development teams focus on meeting business requirements while ensuring that software is high in quality and secure.To read this article in full, please click here
- Java's Simple Web Server: Static HTTP servers made easy
One of the handiest new features included in the Java 18 release (March 2022) was the new Simple Web Server, which makes it easy to spin up and configure an HTTP file server. It also exposes an API that extends the existing httpserver package for building simple use cases. The new Simple Web Server is a useful tool that every Java developer should have in their bag of tricks. Let's check it out! [ Also on InfoWorld: 7 reasons Java is still great ] Java's Simple Web Server on the command line Java's new jwebserver command makes it simple to run a basic web server. It is analogous to the popular SimpleHTTPServer tool in the Python world.To read this article in full, please click here
- Twilio might actually deserve activist investor attention
Twilio's stock has fallen from 2021 of $400 a share to somewhere in the $60s today. It's no wonder activist investors are circling. © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Why does MasterClass work? with David Rogier from MasterClass
Welcome back to Found, where we get the stories behind the startups. This week Becca and Dom are joined by David Rogier, the founder and CEO of MasterClass, the streaming service where users can learn from experts on a variety of subjects from baking to basketball. Rogier talked about leaving his job in VC with © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- With iMessage thanks to Beeper Mini, the OnePlus Open is my new favorite phone
Multi-platform messaging startup Beeper, founded by YC and Pebble alum Eric Migicovsky, delivered an iMessage experience for Android that doesn’t use any intermediaries and as-such, should be (always a big caveat here since we’re relying on the company’s word) private and secure. It has the potential to illuminate just how much lock-in value iMessage has © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Bing’s new ‘Deep Search’ feature offers more comprehensive answers to complex search queries
Microsoft Bing is getting a new “Deep Search” feature powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4. The feature is designed to give users more relevant and comprehensive answers to complex search queries. Microsoft notes that Deep Search is not a replacement for Bing’s existing web search, and is instead an enhancement the allows for deeper exploration of the © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Vercel makes it easier to ship better code at scale
Vercel today announced two new features for developers that aim to help them ship higher-quality code at scale. The first is conformance, which runs static analysis checks over a company’s codebase to find issues. The second is ‘code owners,’ which makes it easier to figure out who is responsible for a given part of the © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Goldman Sachs-backed ZestMoney, once valued at $450M, to shut down
ZestMoney, a buy now pay later startup whose ability to underwrite small ticket loans to first-time internet customers attracted many high-profile investors including Goldman Sachs, is shutting down following unsuccessful efforts to find a buyer. The Bengaluru-headquartered startup — which also identified PayU, Quona, Zip, Omidyar Network and Ribbit Capital among its backers — employed about © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Toyota reveals two new EV concepts as it plods along on its path to electrification
Image: Toyota Toyota, the world’s largest automaker and a laggard in vehicle electrification, announced two new EVs today that offer a glimpse of what the company’s future battery-powered lineup will look like when it actually gets around to building it. Yep, that’s right: more concepts from the company that environmentalists accuse of stymying the transition to an all-electric future through its government lobbying. The two concepts announced were the Urban SUV and Sport Crossover, which Toyota insists will be formally introduced as real cars within the next two years. The EVs are slated for Europe, though, with no word on whether they will eventually be made available in North America. The compact Urban SUV is “a close-to-production... Continue reading…
- Audio has vanished from Instagram’s oldest videos
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge Many of the earliest Instagram videos have lost their sound. More than a year of videos posted to the platform are now silent, displaying an error that says “video has no sound” when you try to play their audio. The issue appears to affect videos posted before late 2014. It’s hard to pin down exactly what’s going on, but here’s what we’ve noticed: it seems that videos posted from June 2013, when Instagram first added video, to October 2014 are now missing their audio. The audio isn’t working regardless of platform, whether the clip is played on desktop, iOS, or Android. And because this seems to affect most — if not all — videos in that timeframe, this appears to be an issue on Instagram’s end rather than some sort of takedown issue... Continue reading…
- Microsoft to offer consumers paid Windows 10 security updates for the first time
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge Microsoft will allow consumers to pay for Extended Security Updates (ESU) for Windows 10 when support ends for the operating system in 2025. The software giant usually only offers paid security updates for organizations that need to keep running older versions but now plans to offer them to individuals for the first time through an annual subscription service instead of extending the end of support date for Windows 10. “While we strongly recommend moving to Windows 11, we understand there are circumstances that could prevent you from replacing Windows 10 devices before the end of support date. Therefore, Microsoft will offer Extended Security Updates,” explains Microsoft in a blog post. “The ESU program for Windows 10 will include... Continue reading…
- Motorola Razr 2023 review: not enough of a good thing
The Razr 2023 folds, and it costs well under $1,000 — neat! But its small screen is too limiting to make it worth your time. Continue reading…
- Discord rolls out mobile update in quest to become better messaging app
Image: Discord Discord rolled out a long-awaited mobile redesign on Tuesday that is a noticeable departure from its desktop version, with the focus being on communicating and sharing with friends — including in group and individual direct messages. With the revamp, the Discord app will display navigation tabs as soon as you open the app, including a separate tab for servers, messages, and notifications and a “You” tab that lets users edit their profile and settings. There’s also a new global DM search function that searches through all your messages, pins, attachments, and other files — in other words, you don’t have to open up a friend’s individual direct message to find the specific thing you were looking for. And that long-rumored dark mode for... Continue reading…
- Keychron’s latest keyboard comes with magnetic, analog Hall effect switches
Mechanical keyboard specialist Keychron has launched a Kickstarter for its first keyboard with Hall effect switches, the Keychron Q1 HE. A fully assembled model costs $214 if bought as part of the Kickstarter, and there’s also a bare-bones model available without switches or keycaps for $194. Compared to traditional mechanical switches, Hall effect switches are notable for being analog and thus able to tell the difference between a slight and full press of each key. So with the Q1 HE, you can take advantage of this by customizing how far you want to press each key before it actuates, and there’s also a “rapid trigger” feature that’s able to register a keypress the second you re-press a key — rather than having to lift up past the reset... Continue reading…
- More layoffs at another Embracer Group studio
Image: New World Interactive New World Interactive, developer of Day of Infamy and the Insurgency series, is the next studio affected by Embracer Group layoffs. Earlier today, there were unconfirmed rumors that Embracer Group had completely shuttered the studio, but in an email to The Verge, New World’s parent company, Saber Interactive, clarified the studio would remain active. “There have been restructuring changes involving the New World Interactive subsidiary,” wrote Arman Teimouri, head of public affairs, in an email to The Verge. “Unfortunately, this reorganization has resulted in layoffs at the studio.” Saber did not share how many or what percentage of employees were let go. The statement also said that the company was working to place affected employees... Continue reading…
- How to use an external storage device with your iPhone
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge While many of us rely on cloud storage these days for backing up photos, videos, and other files, every iPhone that can run iOS 17 also supports external storage devices: that’s every iPhone back to 2018, so it includes the iPhone XR, the iPhone XS, and the iPhone XS Max. Maybe you would rather manage file backups manually than via iCloud. (It’s always worth remembering that cloud storage isn’t completely infallible.) Maybe you need to access photos taken with a DSLR on your iPhone. Or maybe someone has given you a drive with files that you’d like to move to your phone. There are a few reasons you’d want to save files via an external storage device, and it’s not difficult to do. With the arrival of the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro... Continue reading…
- Philips Hue’s Festavia and Nanoleaf’s Essentials Matter smart string lights are up to 25 percent off
Philips Hue’s Festavia lights can add festive cheer during the holidays or really any time of the year. | Image: Phillips Hue Whether you want to outshine your neighbors with the best light display or simply bring some holiday cheer into your home, Philips Hue’s Festavia string lights can help you do both. And right now, Amazon Prime members can buy the 65-foot string lights, which feature 250 color-changing LEDs, on sale for $186.99 ($33 off) when they clip the on-page coupon. The 130-foot string features double the number of smart LEDs and is also on sale when you buy it with the Hue Bridge directly from Philips Hue for $314.99 ($104.99 off) — a discount you’ll see at checkout after separately adding both to your cart. You can also buy it without the Hue Bridge from Amazon for $305.99 ($54 off) when you clip the on-page coupon. With their gorgeous colors and... Continue reading…
- The Verge’s favorite holiday gifts under $50
Photo Illustration by Amelia Holowaty Krales and Cath Virginia / The Verge Gift-giving doesn’t have to eat up all of your time and money — and we’ve rounded up an assortment of inexpensive gifts to prove it. Continue reading…
- Logitech's New Wireless Gaming Headset Completely Ditches the Dongles
The Logitech G Astro A50 X promises to solve a pretty common issue for console gamers. What issue exactly? Find a single wireless headset that works across multiple consoles and connects to your PC without needing to connect multiple USB dongles.Read more...
- Update: HP's Printer App Invaded My PC, and It Might Be Invading Yours
Update: Microsoft confirmed the issue was relating to a bug in the latest Windows update. Users on Microsoft’s forums complained that their printers were all being converted to the HP LaserJet M101-M106. All the printer metadata was being converted on both Windows 10 and 11 platforms as well as Windows Server 2012 or…Read more...
- 'Designer Shrooms' Could Be Coming as Scientists Unlock Genetics of Magic Mushrooms
Researchers in Australia have analyzed the genomes of over 100 commercial and wild-grown varieties of Psilocybe cubensis, a psychoactive fungi known as the magic mushroom. The findings may eventually help growers develop “designer shrooms” that have their own unique health benefits, the team says.Read more...
- Soul, Turning Red, and Luca Are Coming to Theaters for the First Time Ever
Better late than never. Read more...
- Mice Pass the ‘Mirror Test,’ Suggesting They Recognize Themselves
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? In all likelihood, you see a complex shape that you immediately recognize as yourself. Now, a team of researchers has found that mice appear capable of doing the same thing.Read more...
- PlayStation Permanently Suspends Online Accounts for No Clear Reason
If you woke up recently to find that Sony has “permanently suspended” your PlayStation account for no apparent reason, just know you’re not alone. Sony has kicked an unknown number of PlayStation IDs off its platforms, ostensibly for violating the company’s terms of service. Players claim they haven’t done anything…Read more...
- Russell T. Davies Talks Doctor Who Fandom's Wild Anniversary Expectations
Doctor Who fans, when given a speculatory inch, will take the most absurd mile you can imagine. This isn’t necessarily a criticism—Doctor Who itself is about the unexpected, and the joy of that is what makes its fans going a little doolally when they have no idea what to expect part of the fun. But showrunner Russell…Read more...
- ExpressVPN Adds Support for Apple TVs So You Can Watch Region-Locked Shows
Tired of not being able to watch region-locked content through your Apple TV? ExpressVPN declared it was launching an App for Apple TVs Tuesday, along with a few upgrades that make it a little easier to use and sign in.Read more...
- Meta and IBM Launch AI Alliance, Promise to Be ‘Open’
Meta and IBM assembled the Avengers of open-sourced artificial intelligence on Tuesday to form the AI Alliance, taking on leaders in the space such as OpenAI, Google, and Anthropic. The group of 50 companies, startups, universities, research institutes, and government bodies aims to foster an open-sourced community…Read more...
- Amazon's Spider-Man Noir Show Has Tapped Punisher's Showrunner
Dogpool returns in another new look at Deadpool 3. New Percy Jackson character posters take a look at its young cast. Get another look at Robert Eggers’ Nosferatu. Plus, what’s coming on Rick & Morty and Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. Spoilers, away!Read more...
- Virgin Galactic Hits Financial Turbulence as Richard Branson Halts Funding
Following Richard Branson’s announcement of halting further financial contributions, the stock price of Virgin Galactic experienced a significant drop of over 17% by Monday’s close. This latest complication adds to a series of challenges the company has faced, including recent layoffs and a suspension of commercial…Read more...
- These Were the Most-Read Wikipedia Pages of 2023 (and We're Not Surprised)
If you want to know what average online folks are trying to learn about, then perhaps the total view counts on Wikipedia might offer us a glimpse into what most people want to learn about. If the top 25 most-viewed Wikipedia articles of 2023 are anything to go by, then people really cared about the rise of AI and the…Read more...
- Grand Theft Auto VI Trailer Leaked Early, Coming in 2025
Tuesday was the scheduled day for the reveal of Grand Theft Auto VI, but someone got their hands on the trailer early. Not long after the leak showed up online, developer Rockstar Games pulled the trigger and the official trailer went live Monday evening. Read more...
- Theme Park News From Disney, Universal Studios, and More Fan-tastical Destinations
It’s approaching peak time for festive merriment, both for travelers packing for those winter trips and locals getting their holiday theme park fixes. Read more...
- Star Tours' New Adventures Could Add Ahsoka and Mandalorian Destinations Next Year
Season of the Force at Disneyland is returning to Disney Parks next year—and a beloved Star Wars ride will likely be getting an upgrade as part of the Star Wars attraction and experiences takeover, which annually brings new overlays, Lucasfilm merch, and galactic-themed foods. Read more...
- Visual Electric launches to liberate AI art generation from chat interfaces
It allows users to generate and drag-to-move their imagery around an infinite virtual canvas, allowing them to compare images side-by-side.
- Open-source SuperDuperDB brings AI into enterprise databases
While SuperDuperDB is just a few months old, it has already drawn significant traction from major data ecosystem players, including Snowflake, BigQuery and MongoDB.
- 1 in 4 American workers fear AI will take their jobs
Workers who worry about their job and automation may want to move to a company where continuing professional development is supported.
- Modern Warfare III review part 2: Why multiplayer saves the day again
When I reviewed the single-player campaign for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III a few weeks ago, I gave it the lowest score that I had in years. But multiplayer is better.
- Arcweave raises $850k to build AI-powered game creation tools
Arcweave has closed its seed round of funding to build out its narrative design platform as well as generative-AI powered tools.
- Withings unveils ScanWatch Nova, a luxury watch that can do health scans
Withings has unveiled the ScanWatch Nova, a new luxury watch that can do health scans.
- Sky Mavis teams up with Foonie Magus to take Apeiron to Ronin network
Sky Mavis and Foonie Magus have partnered to bring the Apeiron Web3 god game to the Ronin blockchain network.
- Amazon Prime Gaming offers in-game content for Gods Unchained Web3 game
Immutable Games has teamed up with Amazon Prime Gaming to offer exclusive in-game content inside the Web3 trading card game Gods Unchained.
- IBM, Meta launch AI Alliance with over 50 tech members to advance ‘open, safe, responsible’ AI
IBM and Meta launched the AI Alliance today along with over 50 global organizations to "support open innovation and open science in AI."
- How Arnica’s CEO foresees generative AI’s impact on DevOps security
Arnica's CEO, Nir Valtman, explores the future role of generative AI in cybersecurity and its implications for organizational strategy in a VentureBeat interview.
- Asato: A new AI copilot for CIOs
CIOs have difficult jobs: Low visibility, expanding tech stack and rising costs. How Asato, armed with $7.5 M in funding, aims to help.
- Looking Glass unveils Looking Glass Go portable holographic display
Looking Glass has introduced Looking Glass Go, a portable holographic display merging high-res holograms and the creative prowess of AI.
- News that we missed as the GTA VI trailer debuted
The Last of Us Part Two is getting a new survival mode with its remaster for the PS 5.
- Grand Theft Auto VI trailer — The big cultural moment is here for games, a day early
We were treated to one of the biggest moments in the industry as Rockstar Games released the trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI.
- Grand Theft Auto VI is set in Vice City, releases in 2025
Rockstar Games has released the trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI, the latest game in its biggest franchise set to release in 2025.
- Amazon’s live Fire TV Channels come to Echo Show displays
Looking for a quick hit of live–and free–streaming goodness on your Echo Show? Now you can channel surf on your Amazon smart display just by asking Alexa. As Amazon promised during its big hardware event back in September, live streaming Fire TV Channels have made their way to Echo Show devices, allowing you to tee up any of Amazon’s 400-plus linear and ad-supported streaming stations, Cord Cutters News reports. Just say “Alexa, watch TV” or “Alexa, open Fire TV Channels” on your Echo Show 5, 8, 10, or 15, and you’ll jump directly to the Fire TV Channels interface. This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart speakers. From there, you can tap the All Channels button to browse the roughly 400 live streaming channels in Amazon’s Fire TV Channels hub, from categories including News, Sports, Cooking, and Entertainment. Once you pick a category, you can scroll through related channels along the bottom of the screen. You can tap the “heart” icon to add a Fire TV channel to your list of favorites, or tap All Channels to browse categories.Ben Patterson/Foundry To jump to a particular channel, you can say (for example) “Alexa, watch CBS Sports HQ.” You can tap a “heart” icon to add a particular channel to a list of favorites, while a “For You” category gathers clips from channels you’ve previously watched. You can also dip into video playlists for each category, such as “Trending Recipes” or “Martha Stewart” in the Cooking section. Up until now, Fire TV Channels has only been available on Amazon’s Fire TV players, as Cord Cutters News notes. But Amazon’s FAST (short for “free ad-supported streaming television”) hub has always seemed like a natural fit with the manufacturer’s Echo displays, and Amazon telegraphed its intention to add Echo support for its live streaming channels during its annual hardware unveiling in September. Amazon launched its Fire TV Channels hub back in May, and it includes more than 400 free and ad-supported streaming stations from the likes of ABC, CBS, Fox, Martha Stewart, USA Today, NHL, Xbox, Tastemade Travel, and TMZ. Of course, you could watch live streaming video on Echo Show devices before the arrival of Fire TV Channels, namely via Hulu + Live TV and Tubi. Like Fire TV Channels, Tubi, is a free ad-supported streaming service, while Hulu + Live TV starts at $75.99 a month. Smart Speakers
- Noorio T110 review: Smart pan/tilt security cam, budget price tag
At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsMultiple intelligent detection typesSupports local and cloud storagePan-and-tilt enables broad coverageConsCloud storage requires a subscriptionNo color night visionOur VerdictThe Noorio T110 pan-and-tilt camera provides a raft of security features and makes them easy to operate with a smartly designed app. It’s low price should only increase its appeal to new and seasoned security camera users. With brands like Wyze paving the way, more manufacturers are going all-in on budget security cameras. Noorio’s T110 pan-and-tilt camera is one of the latest entrants in this space, and it successfully delivers on its promise of more for less, with 2K resolution, intelligent event detection, a slick app experience, and–at press time–a sub-$50 price tag (MSRP is $59.99). Like many recent budget cameras, the Noorio T110 has a simple and clean design. Its spherical body is flat on the bottom making it easy to set up on any tabletop surface. Alternatively, you can mount it to a wall or ceiling using the supplied bracket and screws. The camera runs on AC power, and drawing power from a USB-C port on its base. The quality of the video I captured in daylight and with night vision enabled was very sharp and well-lit. The camera rotates 355 degrees left to right and up to 60 degrees up and down. This pan-and-tilt capability pairs with AI-powered detection so that the camera can identify humans and pets and track their movements. Other, more typical features include black-and-white night vision and two-way talk. Video is captured in up to 2K resolution, though this can be reduced to 1080p or 720p to reduce bandwidth and storage consumption. A speaker on the back of the Noorio T110 (and a mic in front) enables two-communication. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry You connect the camera to your wireless network via the Noorio app, which prompts you through a short series of automated steps. The T110 is a Wi-Fi 6 device, so it can be connected to either 2.4- and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. You won’t have to futz with your router (by turning of the router’s 5GHz radio, for instance) to get it up and running. This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best security cameras. Using the Noorio T110 PTZ Camera Once set up, the Noorio T110 is simple to operate, thanks to a quartet of arming modes available in the Noorio app. Away mode provides the strictest security, automatically recording video and sounding the camera’s built-in alarm when it detects activity, while simultaneously pushing an alert of the event to your phone. In Home mode, the camera’s alarm is disabled but it will still record and alert you to any activity. Curiously, the camera’s Sleep mode behaves the the same as its Home mode, and its Disarmed mode is the same as its Away mode. Fortunately, you can customize each mode’s behavior to your liking, so I tweaked Sleep mode to send push notifications only when the camera detected motion, and its Disarmed mode to disable all behaviors. While you can manually activate any of these arming modes, the app also provides a geofencing option. When enabled, the app will use your phone’s GPS to automatically activate Home and Away modes based on your proximity to your home. You can also manage security modes based on a schedule. For example, you might have the camera’s Away mode active between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. every weekday, and its Sleep mode active between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. These features relieve you of the burden of needing to remember when to arm and disarm the camera. It’s easy to customize the operation of the T110 with the Noorio app. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry The Noorio app is well-designed and most critical features can be easily found by poking around, something users should do as they break in the camera. Geofencing, scheduling, and settings for the arming modes are all housed in a Security tab. Detection options, object tracking, and activity zones are found under Smart Detection in the settings menus. Camera functions are intuitively organized in this way, making it easy to fine-tune the camera’s operation as you spend more time with it. The quality of the video I captured in daylight and with night vision enabled was very sharp and well-lit. The AI detection was mostly successful in distinguishing between people and pets, and notifications were timely and accurate. Pan-and-tilt also worked well; the camera moved smoothly and with little discernible noise from its motor, so there’s little risk of it drowning out important audio captured in video clips. The T110 allows you to save video around the clock to a microSD card (up to 128GB, card not included) and back up event-detected clips to cloud storage. The latter requires a Noorio Cloud subscription. The Basic plan provides 30 days of rolling storage for one camera for $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year. The Plus plan provides the same for up to 10 cameras for $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year. A free 30-day trial is available. Should you buy a Noorio T110 pan-and-tilt camera? At press time, Noorio was offering the T110 for $49.99 direct from its website ($10 off its MSRP), and Amazon was matching that price. That’s an exceptional value given the camera’s range of advanced features and its polished app experience. Add the fact that its cloud subscription is optional, and it’s easy to recommend this camera to both new and seasoned security DIYers. Specifications Product: Noorio T110 pan-and-tilt camera Manufacturer: Noorio Connection: Wi-Fi 6 (2.4/5GHz), smartphone with Android or iOS app Video resolution: 2K Viewing angle: 355 degrees horizontal, 60 degrees vertical Audio: Speaker and microphone Motion sensor: Yes Motion zones: Yes Storage: Local via up to 128GB microSD; cloud storage with subscription (free 30-day trial included) Subscription cost per month: From $3.99/month Smart home integration: Amazon Alexa only Price: $49.99 from Noorio Home Security, Security Cameras
- You can now join Zoom meetings on your Apple TV
FaceTime finally came to the Apple TV a few months ago with the arrival of tvOS 17, and now you can join Zoom meetings using your Apple TV streaming box, too. Apple had previously said that Zoom would be making its way to the Apple TV shortly following the arrival of FaceTime for tvOS, and just as promised, the Zoom app landed on the Apple App Store over the weekend (as spotted by AppleInsider). As with FaceTime on the Apple TV, Zoom on Apple TV relies on an iPhone’s rear camera for capturing video. Specifically, you’ll need an iPhone that supports Apple’s Continuity Camera feature, which works on any iPhone released on or after 2018 (think the iPhone XR or better). This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best streaming media players. I gave the Zoom app for tvOS a brief once-over on my Apple TV 4K from 2021 (you’ll need at least the second-generation Apple TV 4K), and it works pretty much as advertised, starting with a simple setup process that allows for Zoom sign-in either over the web or via email. Next, you’ll need to enable Continuity Camera functionality between your Apple TV 4K and your iPhone (just follow the prompts) and then position your iPhone somewhere near your TV, with the rear cameras facing you. There are Continuity Camera mounts that will hold your iPhone so it’s peeking out from behind the top bezel of your TV, but you can also (as I did) just prop it up in front of your TV, below the screen. The iPhone’s Center Stage functionality will keep you centered, even when moving around the room. Once your iPhone is connected and in place, you can launch or join a Zoom meeting by navigating with your Siri Remote, or you can review upcoming Zoom meetings in a Today section. Similar to Zoom on other platforms, Zoom on tvOS lets you switch between Speaker, Thumbnail, and Gallery views. You can also summon emotes, including a heart, a thumb-up, a smiley face, or a raised hand, using either Zoom’s interface or with the Apple TV’s baked-in, gesture-triggered Reactions feature. You can use the Siri Remote to summon such familiar Zoom emotes as a heart, a thumbs-up, or a raised hand. Ben One feature that Zoom for tvOS doesn’t support is custom backgrounds, so you won’t be able to grace a Zoom meeting from a virtual hammock or from the surface of the moon. You also can’t set Zoom to touch up your appearance. That said, you can enable a Profile setting that applies a bokeh effect to the video image. A few other features include the ability to view in-call chat, and you can be assigned to a Zoom breakout room while on Apple TV. A couple of other settings including automatic echo cancellation and noise suppression during calls. Overall, the Zoom app for tvOS delivers a polished and easy-to-use but pared-down Zoom experience on an Apple TV—and for me, the simple Continuity Camera setup was a pleasant surprise. Zoom for tvOS is available now from the Apple App Store, and Webex for tvOS is expected soon. Streaming Devices
- Roborock Dyad Pro Combo review: A vac for messes wet and dry
At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsCleans wellCleans itselfLeaves no cloud of dust when you empty itAutomatically dispenses the right amounts of detergentConsTall, can’t reach everywhereNotch between its two front brushes is a dirt trapOur VerdictThis machine vacuums and mops at the same time, but it’s not quite as handy as that sounds. It’s easy enough to use, despite its bulk, and the accompanying app provides meaningful customization options. It comes with multiple attachments, too, so you can clean most of your home. But there’s one major drawback: It has a very tall brush head–the component that vacuums and mops–which prevented it from cleaning the toe-kick spaces under my kitchen cabinets and several pieces of furniture. Best Prices Today: Roborock Dyad Pro Combo Retailer Price £599.00 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Product Price Price comparison from Backmarket Roborock tries to deliver an all-in-one cleaning machine for your home, but unlike the company’s robot vacuum cleaners, this stick vac leaves a lot of the cleaning to you. The Dyad Pro Combo vacuums and mops at the same time, and when you need it, it can easily be converted into a handheld vacuum cleaner. It comes with several attachments to deal with the dust on your blinds, keyboard, and car. There’s also a handle with a smaller brush head that reaches under furniture and tackles your carpets. The Dyad Pro Combo slurped up everything I threw in its path: Sticky sauces, larger items like rice and cereal, and even dried stains. Battery life The Dyad Pro Combo’s battery should last up to 43 minutes vacuuming and mopping at the same time, enabling you to tackle up to 3,230 square feet on a charge, according to Roborock. The test home cleaned for this review is half that size, and I found the battery to be sufficient for cleaning the entire home along with several smaller cleaning jobs. The vacuum cleaner comes with a floor stand with an integrated charger. You can store its accessories here, which is practical, but you’ll probably want to to hide this away because it’s not pretty to look at. The upright vacuum cleaner itself is white with two dark containers: One in the back, which you’ll fill with clean water, and one on the front for collected debris and wet messes. Easy to use Roborock’s app is simple and easy to use. It allows you to customize the cleaning and self-cleaning processes, and you can download firmware as Roborock fine-tunes the vacuum’s features. The app will also report when the time comes to replace or clean the different parts of the vacuum. The vacuum itself has a few buttons on its handle to initiate cleaning, change cleaning modes, and to start self-cleaning. Foundry The Dyad Pro Combo will also talk to you, informing you when something gets stuck in its brushes, when you need to refill its water tank, and so on. There’s also an onboard display that shows you how dirty the area you’re cleaning is. The meter turns red if there are a lot of particles and blue if there are few, so you’ll know where you need to do some extra cleaning and when you can move on to the next part of your home. In auto mode, the machine adjusts its suction and how much detergent it should apply to the floor. Detergent is dispensed from a tank that’s separate from the water tank, which is a very smart design: If you won’t be using the machine for a while, you can empty the clean water tank without wasting any unused detergent. An all-in-one solution “Combo” is an appropriate name for this smart appliance. You not only get different nozzles, but you can reassemble the vacuum according to the task at hand: You can remove the motor unit from the larger wet/dry head and mount it to a secondary tube with a multi-surface motorized brush head for vacuuming up only dust. Or you can remove that head and replace it with other accessories, including a crevice tool and a dust brush. As versatile as this vacuum is, it still doesn’t do everything I would like. Ida Blix, Foundry Should you buy the Dyad Pro Combo? The Dyad Pro Combo slurped up everything I threw in its path: Sticky sauces spilled on the floor, larger items like rice and cereal, and even dried stains. It impressively tackled most clean-ups in a single go. Those dried stains required multiple passes more turns, but that’s not surprising. Although the machine is quite heavy–weighing more than 13 pounds–it’s self propelled and easy to maneuver. Roborock didn’t supply its own detergent for this review, so I used only water. There are three motorized brushes in its primary head–two in front and a third one behind those. The brushes extend all the way out to the left- and right-hand edges of the vacuum’s head, which means they can clean as close as 0.4 inches from the wall. The two sets of rollers rotate in different, which enhances their scrubbing power. There’s a small notch between the two front rollers, however, so if you run the vacuum straight over a stain, it sometimes leaves a small trace where the groove is. Fortunately, all you need do is take a swipe from a different angle to clean that up. A bigger problem with that notch is that the vacuum’s self-cleaning mode often left dirt stuck in that void. Roborock The vacuum’s primary head is quite tall–around 3 inches–which means it might not reach into the toe-kick space of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets or underneath your sofa, bed, or other raised furniture. While you could switch its motor to the other wand and use one of its other accessories, you’ll only be able to vacuum, not scrub the floor or clean up wet messes. Needing to mop a hard-surface floor under a sofa isn’t the end of the world, but needing to get on my hands and knees to clean the floors under my kitchen cabinets is a drag considering how much my family tends to spill while cooking. The Dyad Pro Combo comes with a lot of accessories for a variety of cleaning jobs. It’s self-cleaning mode is a plus, and it quietly dries its brushes when you’re not using it, so you don’t get any bad odors. It will leave your floors clean and tidy–at least wherever it can reach. But don’t buy one before measuring the vertical spaces where you want it to mop, to ensure it will fit. Specifications Model: Dyad Pro ComboManufacturer: RoborockBattery life: up to 60 min (43 min when mopping)Charging time: 4.5 hoursTank capacity: 0.77 litres (dirt), 0.95 litres (clean water)Air filter: HEPANumber of speeds: 3 (eco, auto, and max)Max suction power: 17,000 PaWeight main unit: 6.4 kgOther: 5 nozzles and a floor stand for chargingPrice: From $659.99 This review was originally published by TechHive’s sibling site, M3.se, and has been translated from Swedish. Vacuums
- Arlo Essential review: an affordable indoor/outdoor security cam
At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsWire-free indoor/outdoor installationMultiple types of AI detectionBudget priceConsRequires a subscription to unlock full capabilities1080p resolution No local storage optionOur VerdictThe second generation of the Arlo Essential Wireless Security Camera (model VMC2050-100NAS) is an impressive entry-level device with detection features competitive with pricier cameras, including those in Arlo’s Pro line. In the few years since Arlo launched its Essential line of entry-level security cameras, brands like Wyze and Blink have considerably undercut their competitors on price. The current Wyze Cam v3 Pro, for example, lists for $50; that’s roughly half the price of the original Essential Indoor Camera. It’s not too surprising, then, that Arlo’s second generation of Essential cameras arrives at more budget-friendly prices. To wit, the revamped Arlo Essential reviewed here costs just $49.99, nearly 40 percent less than Arlo’s first outdoor Essential cam, which sold for $130 back in 2020. However, most of the specs of the first-generation camera have been carried over here, including a 130-degree field of view, 1080p video resolution, a built-in motion-activated spotlight, color night vision, 12x digital zoom, and two-way audio with noise cancellation. Cosmetically, it’s similar, too; it has the same white casing, black face, and pod-like design, but it’s only about half as long as the original. The Arlo Essential Camera puts much of what users love about the Arlo experience within reach of more modest budgets. Note that while Arlo calls this model simply the Arlo Essential on its website and identifies it as an indoor/outdoor camera, but its accompanying documentation labels it the “Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera, 2nd Generation.” And you’ll want to know that the camera doesn’t come with a base for setting it up on a table. To install the camera, therefore, you’ll need to drill a pair of pilot holes into a wall and then secure a mounting plate using the supplied screws and wall anchors. Next, you’ll screw the mount to the back of the camera and slide the camera onto the plate. No tabletop stand is included with the camera. If that’s a problem take a look at the second-gen Arlo Essential Indoor ($39.99 for the HD version, $79.99 for the 2K model), which has a tabletop stand, but it lacks the spotlight and battery (it must be plugged in for power). On the bright side, both indoor models come with privacy shutters to cover their lenses when you’re at home. This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best home security cameras. The Arlo Secure app provides many options to control how the camera responds to detected activity.Michael Ansaldo/Foundry The camera works with the same Arlo Secure app as the Arlo Pro line. When you tap the plus sign on the app’s home screen to add a device, the app automatically recognizes the camera and prompts you through some steps to connect it to your wireless network. As with other Arlo cameras, an Arlo Secure subscription is required to enable AI-powered detection of people, vehicles, packages, and pets; smart notifications; sound recognition for smoke alarms; and smart activity zones, as well as to save video clips to the cloud. The basic Secure plan costs $4.99 a month for one camera or $12.99 a month for all your Arlo cameras. The $17.99/month Arlo Secure Plus plan adds the ability to call emergency responders from within the Arlo app. For $24.99 a month, you can add 24/7 professional monitoring with Arlo’s Safe & Secure Pro plan. I found using the Arlo Essential Camera about as easy as any of Arlo’s Pro cams. This is largely thanks to the Arlo Secure app’s system of operational modes, which gives you control over how your cameras respond to motion or sound in different situations. Arm Away mode provides the highest level of security by activating all your connected Arlo cameras with motion triggers when you’re not at home. Arm Home scales back security while you’re still on the premises, arming only those devices you select, such as your outdoor cameras. Standby mode is meant to be used when you want to minimize or disable monitoring. Each mode comes with preset rules around triggers, devices, and actions, but they can all be customized with additional rules to tailor them to your needs. The Essential Camera offers many of the features of Arlo’s Pro cameras at a budget price. Michael Ansaldo/IDG These modes can be activated with a tap from the Arlo Secure dashboard. You can also add automations to automatically change modes based on a schedule or upon detecting when you leave or arrive at your home. The video quality is very good, and all the clips I captured were sharp enough to capture details like facial features and license plate numbers. The app gives you the flexibility to record clips for a fixed length between 10 seconds to 2 minutes, or to let the recording run until the activity stops (up to 5 minutes). In addition to recording detected events, the camera can ward off unwanted visitors with its integrated spotlight and siren. Both of these can be manually activated as well when viewing the live stream. Should you buy the Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera? Arlo’s Pro products consistently rank among the best–and priciest–home security cameras. The new Essential Camera effectively puts much of what users love about the Arlo experience within reach of more modest budgets. If you want enhanced resolution, Arlo also offers a 2K version of the Essential Camera for $99.99, which is still an incredible value. In either case, you get a top-tier camera without breaking the bank. Specifications Product: Arlo Essential Outdoor Camera Manufacturer: Arlo Connection: Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz), smartphone with Android or IOS app Resolution: 1080p Viewing angle: 130 degrees (diagonal) Audio: Speaker and microphone Motion sensor: Yes Motion zones: Yes Storage: Cloud storage, subscription required (free 30-day trial included) Subscription cost per month: From $4.99/month Price: $49.99 from Arlo Home Security, Security Cameras
- Levoit LVAC-200 review: Tangled hair is no problem for this vac
At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsResistant to brush bar hair tanglesRemovable battery for rechargingHandy 2-in-1 attachmentsConsSmall dust binOnly runs for up to 30 minutes with vacuum headTakes 4-5 hours to recharge batteryLess effective on rugs and carpetingOur VerdictLevoit’s LVAC-200 cordless vacuum cleaner won’t be for everyone. It has a fairly small dust bin, and an absence of bristles on its beater bar means it’s better for hard-surface floors and low-pile carpeting. On the bright side, it’s sure to appeal to those who hate dealing with such common vacuum gripes as knotty tangles of hair, pet fur and dander, and generally messy maintenance. Price When Reviewed£169.99 Best Prices Today: Levoit LVAC-200 Retailer Price £169.99 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Product Price Price comparison from Backmarket You could be easily forgiven for not making Levoit one of your first choices for a vacuum cleaner. As a relatively young company, up until now, it’s been concentrating mostly on fans and air purifiers. Levoit’s LVAC-200 cordless vacuum cleaner, is worth adding to your wish list if you have more hard-surface floors than rugs or carpeting. That’s because it’s been designed to tackle cleaning those types of floors: featuring everything from an beater bar that resists hair tangles to five levels of filtration for capturing pet hair and even the tiniest particles of dander. Add to this an LED headlight for spotting dust, a pair of 2-in-1 attachments for crevices and upholstery, and easy maintenance, and it’s the ideal vac for keeping floors dust-free, hair-free, and fur-free. Hard-surface floors are where the Levoit LVAC-200 stick vac shines: it easily sucked up fur, hair, flour, and oats. Rachel Ogden / Foundry Design and Build Brushless roller Easy-empty 0.58 liter dustbin 6.2-pound weight Flip the main head of the Levoit LVAC-200 cordless vacuum cleaner around and you’ll notice something different about its brush. Where you’d usually see bristles–which is great for sweeping up dust and beating carpet, but prone to getting hair wrapped around it–you’ll spy flexible rubber/fabric fins, instead. Rachel Ogden / Foundry This material whisks dust and debris towards the vacuum’s suction, but resists hair tangling around them. Instead, more hair, or fur, ends up in the dust bin. The bin itself is on the small side–a compact 0.58 liters–but emptying it is effortless, whether it’s still attached to the motor or removed. All you need to do is press the catch at the bottom to release its contents into the garbage. Rachel Ogden / Foundry The vacuum itself feels pretty solid and robust, but not too bulky at 43.3 inches tall, with a width and depth of 7.7 inches and 9.8 inches respectively. Its slim overall design is sure to appeal to those with limited space, and, while it doesn’t stand unaided–you’ll need to lean it somewhere or lay it down if you’re moving furniture–there’s a wall mount for storage. Handily, you can either remove its the 2200mAh battery for charging or plug it in while it’s stored. A brushless DC motor provides varying suction power of 180W. It’s not the most powerful out there, but it’s enough for cleaning a variety of surfaces. While it’s labelled as a lightweight vacuum, its 3.2-pound weight is attributed only to the vacuum’s body and its battery; with its tubes and and vacuum head in place, that weight nearly doubles to 6.2 pounds. It’s still a light vacuum, it’s just not the featherweight Levoit makes it out to be. Performance and Features Two power levels 30 minutes max runtime Battery life bar indicator is imprecise Presented with a hard-surface floor that needs cleaning, the Levoit LVAC-200 cordless vacuum cleaner is pleasingly efficient. It can flatten to go under furniture–although you’ll need to bend low with it as its tubes are rigid, not jointed–and its attachments can fit either directly onto the motor unit or onto the tubes, so you can clean curtains as easily as a staircase. You can choose between two power levels: Eco, the default, and Turbo, for when you need more power. The latter mode, however, runs the battery down fast. You can clean for up to 50 minutes on Eco with the crevice or pet tools attached, but only 12 minutes on the Turbo setting. Likewise, with the vacuum head in place, it’ll deliver around 30 minutes of cleaning on Eco, but less than half that on Turbo. A countdown indicator on the side of the vacuum gives you an idea of how much battery power is left, but it’s not exact. Three bars can mean anything from 70 percent to full power, while one flashing bar could mean you have 10 percent power left–or almost nothing. In either mode, the Levoit LVAC-200 is fairly easy to move around. Most of its weight is concentrated at the top, and there’s not so much suction that it gets stuck on carpeted floors. In testing, it coped well with surface dirt on mid-pile carpets, picking up both oats (representing larger debris) and flour (representing dust) with a few passes, followed by a burst of Turbo mode to pick up the last few remnants. Rachel Ogden / Foundry Where it didn’t perform as well was after vacuuming: we noticed that some flour had gathered inside the brush bar and not been sucked up to the bin. This dropped over the carpet as we moved the vacuum to another room, meaning we had to clean again. In addition, when the LVAC-200 was tested as the main vacuum in a pet-owning household for a few days, it wasn’t effective at picking hair and fur stuck in carpets. We found we had to go over certain areas several times for a satisfactory clean; even then, fur and hair was still visible. Hard-surface floors are where this vacuum shines though: it easily sucked up fur, hair, flour, and oats; and while it could sometimes dropped a few pieces of larger debris afterwards, this wasn’t a constant issue. After vacuuming, we found emptying its dustbin to be mostly mess-free, with most of debris dropped out as one clump, although we did have to pull out a few bits of hair attached to a filter. There was no hair around the beater bar. Overall, we felt the level of cleaning was better than expected from a compact cordless vac. Perhaps the only design issues are the lack of storage for the tools: there’s no onboard storage for them on the vacuum, no place for them to attach to the wall mount, and no bag supplied to keep them together. Plus, the single supplied battery means that when you run out of power, you don’t have a second to reach for to carry on cleaning–nor is it immediately obvious where to buy a spare. Price and Availability The Levoit LVAC-200 is available direct from Levoit or at Amazon for $199.99, although there both sources were offering substantial discounts at press time. Should you buy the Levoit LVAC-200? If you think life’s too short for detangling a vacuum’s beater bar or clearing clogs of hair, the Levoit LVAC-200 cordless vacuum cleaner will be a great fit. It’s ideal for keeping hard-surface floors spotless while being versatile enough to keep your sofa pet hair-free as well. And, while it won’t suit those with deep-pile carpets or large homes, it might be handy as a secondary vacuum upstairs or for small-but-frequent clean-ups. The only real frustrations might be the length of time you can reasonably clean before recharging, and the time it takes to recharge its battery: in which case, it might be a good idea to invest in a spare one. This review was originally published by TechHive’s sibling site, Tech Advisor. Vacuums
- This free app makes Google TV so much better
Google TV is a solid streaming platform, but it’s still a few features short of greatness. There’s no easy way to access your full app list, for instance, and you can’t quickly switch between recent apps. Some Google TV devices also lack dedicated fast-forward and rewind buttons, making it harder to skip through video in certain apps. The upside is that you can fix those problems—and then some—with an app called TVQuickActions. While I mentioned it a couple weeks ago in my column on fast app switching, TVQuickActions includes a lot of extra functionality that’s worth exploring. If you have a Chromecast with Google TV, Walmart Onn 4K Streaming Box, Walmart’s new $15 streaming stick, or a smart TV running either Google TV or Android TV, follow these steps to achieve a more ideal TV setup. Getting started with TVQuickActions Jared Newman / Foundry TVQuickActions is a free download from the Google Play Store. A separate “Pro” version costs $4 and includes more customization features, including a recent app switcher and a sleep timer. After installing the app, you’ll need to enable a few settings to make it work properly: At the “Allow show overlay” prompt, hit “Allow,” then scroll down and enable the “tvQuickActions” toggle. This is required for some of the app’s additional menu features. Ignore the “Disable battery optimization” prompt. When the “Start accessibility service” prompt appears, hit “Agree.” You’ll be taken to your device’s Accessibility menu. Scroll down and select tvQuickActions, then hit “Enable.” This allows you to remap your remote’s buttons. Jared Newman / Foundry In the Pro version, enable usage access under Settings > Apps > Special App Access > Usage Access. Make sure tvQuickActions Pro is enabled this menu, as it’s required for switching between recent apps. Jared Newman / Foundry Now, you’re ready to start remapping buttons on your Google TV device. Below, I’ll walk through some ways to do that. Add an app launcher To view your full app list on Google TV, you must go to the home screen, scroll all the way to the end of “Your Apps” row, then click the “See all” button. That’s a hassle. To make things easier, TVQuickActions can map the app list to any button on your remote. I suggest using a long-press of the Home button: In TVQuickActions, select “Buttons & Actions,” then hit “Add Button.” Jared Newman / Foundry Click your remote’s Home button. Click “Button action type,” then select “Usual action.” Jared Newman / Foundry Click “Single press,” then head to the Action tab and select “Go to home.” Jared Newman / Foundry Click “Long press,” then head back to the Action tab and select “Open apps side menu.” Jared Newman / Foundry With these steps, pressing the remote’s home button should take you to the home screen as usual, but holding it down will show your full app list. You can use this shortcut at any time, even from inside other apps. On the downside, this will replace Google TV’s default quick settings shortcut, which normally appears when you long-press the home button. If you value this feature, you can map it to a double-tap of the home button instead: Back in TVQuickActions, select “Buttons & Actions,” then select “Button HOME.” Click “Double press,” then head to the Action tab and select “Open notifications.” Your configuration should appear as follows: Jared Newman / Foundry Remap the app buttons Jared Newman / Foundry Most Google TV device remotes come with preset shortcut buttons for apps such as Netflix and YouTube, with no official way to reprogram them. Unofficially, though, TVQuickActions lets you remap those buttons to whatever app you want. Here’s how: In TVQuickActions, select “Buttons & Actions,” then hit “Add Button.” Click the shortcut button you want to remap. Click “Button action type,” then select “Usual action.” Click “Single press,” then choose an app to assign to the button. Optionally, assign other apps to the Double press and Long press. Add fast forward and rewind buttons Jared Newman / Foundry Some Google TV devices, like the Walmart Onn 4K Streaming Box, don’t have dedicated fast-forward and rewind buttons, but they do have channel up/down buttons that you might not really need. Remapping those buttons to fast forward and rewind may be more useful: In TVQuickActions, select “Buttons & Actions,” then hit “Add Button.” Click the remote’s channel up button. Click “Button action type,” then select “Usual action.” Click “Single press,” head to the Action tab, then scroll down and select “Fast forward.” Repeat this process for the channel down button, choosing “Fast rewind” instead. Fast-forward and rewind functionality varies by app, but in some cases having dedicated buttons is more efficient than using the directional pad. Enable fast app switching Jared Newman / Foundry This particular feature requires the Pro version of TVQuickActions, which is a $4 one-time purchase. It’s worth the price if you want a quick way to bounce between recent apps, which we’ll assign to a long-press and double-press on the back button: In TVQuickActions, select “Buttons & Actions,” then select “Button BACK.” Enable the “Current button” toggle. Click “Double press,” head to the Feature tab and select “Previous app.” Click “Long press,” head to the Feature tab and select “Recent apps.” Now, you can long-press the back button to bring up an app switcher, or double-click the back button to jump directly to the last app you were using. Add a sleep timer Jared Newman / Foundry While some smart TVs with Google TV may have sleep timers built-in, external players such as the Chromecast with Google TV do not. The $4 Pro version of TVQuickActions lets you add one. Consider mapping it to one of your remote’s app shortcut buttons: In TVQuickActions, select “Buttons & Actions,” then hit “Add Button.” Click the shortcut button you want to remap. Click “Button action type,” then select “Usual action.” Click “Single press,” head to the Feature tab and select “Sleep timer.” Assign more shortcuts to a single button Jared Newman / Foundry As an alternative to basic button remapping the above, TVQuickActions offers a handy pop-up menu that can store up to five of your favorite apps or shortcuts. This can be helpful on the Chromecast with Google TV, whose remote doesn’t give you many buttons to reassign: In TVQuickActions, select “Buttons & Actions,” then hit “Add Button.” Click the button you want to remap. Under “Button action type,” make sure “tvQuickActions panel” is selected. Click “Button LEFT,” then choose one of your favorite apps. Repeat this process for the Button DOWN, RIGHT, and UP functions. Optionally map another app or shortcut to the Button OK function. Jared Newman / Foundry Now, when you press the selected remote button, you’ll see a little pop-up menu with the four apps or shortcuts you’ve chosen. Clicking the remote’s directional pad in any direction will load the corresponding option. Experiment with it TVQuickActions has lots of other functions to choose from, including a screenshot shortcut, a profile switcher, a power dialog menu, and more. Depending on your needs—and the number of buttons on your remote—you may want to create shortcuts for those functions instead of those ones I mentioned above. If at any point you want to restore your remote’s original functions, just uninstall the app. That’ll bring things back to how they used to be—limitations and all. Sign up for Jared’s Cord Cutter Weekly newsletter to get more streaming TV insights every Friday. Streaming Devices
- First-gen Nest Cam Outdoor makes its way to Google Home app
Google is making more progress—finally—toward adding the original Nest cams to the Google Home app, with the Nest Cam Outdoor now taking the first steps in the migration process. Public Preview users of the Google Nest app can now start moving the first-generation Nest Cam Outdoor to the Google Home app, Google announced Wednesday. Not all Public Preview users will be able to add their Nest Cam Outdoor to the Google Home app at once. Google notes that it may take “a couple of weeks” to see the prompt, as “more” Nest Cam Outdoor users are being added “each week.” This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best home security cameras. Once you do get the prompt, you’ll be able to control and manage the Nest Cam Outdoor next to your other Nest cameras in the Google Home app, complete with the ability to review videos in Google’s “updated” camera history experience, including quick switching between timeline and event list views. Until now, users of the Nest Cam Outdoor and other older Nest cams needed to use the legacy Nest app to control those cameras. For those with a mix of first-gen Nest cams and newer Nest cameras, that meant using two separate apps—the Nest app and the Google Home app—to control their Nest devices. The first-generation Nest Cam Indoor was the first of the older Nest cameras to make the move to the Google Home app back in August. To add either the Nest Cam Indoor or Nest Cam Outdoor to Google Home, you’ll need to be a member of Google’s Public Preview program for the Google Home app. If you’re not already a Public Preview member, anyone can request an invite. Here’s how video events captured by the first-gen Nest Cam Outdoor look in the legacy Nest app (left) and the Google Home app (center and right). Google If you’re a Public Preview user and you get selected for migrating your Nest Cam Outdoor app to Google Home, you’ll receive a prompt in the Favorites tab with further instructions. Also, if you have a change of heart, you will still be able to move your Nest Cam Outdoor back to the Nest app, with Google adding that there is “no change to the Nest app today” and that “you can continue to use the app as you do now.” Google didn’t offer any additional details on when the other original Nest cams will land on Google Home, nor did it give any updates on when the Nest Protect smoke alarm will finally get Google Home support. Separately, Google announced that Public Preview users of the Google Home app can now create and share “custom clips” from video events captured by their Nest cameras, just by selecting a start time and clip length. If you’re a Nest Aware Plus subscriber with 24/7 video history, you can trim a clip from any part of your video history. Supported cameras include the second-gen wired indoor Nest Cam, the Nest Cam battery, Nest Cam with Floodlight, and the wired and battery-powered Nest Doorbells. The first-gen Nest Cam Indoor and Outdoor will also work once migrated to the Home app. Finally, Google said it had added the ability for wired Nest cameras to warn you when a garage door has been inadvertently left open. The feature, which relies on “advanced AI powered image detection and improved built-in on device intelligence,” will be rolling out to Public Preview users this week, and it will be compatible with the second-gen wired indoor Nest Cam, as well as the battery-powered Nest Cam once it’s been wired for power. Security Cameras
- Plex users rage over Discover Together privacy concerns
It appears many Plex users got more than they bargained for with the service’s new Discover Together feature, which has been sending out emails divulging their viewing habits to anyone on their Plex friends list. While Discover Together, which emerged from beta testing last month, offers a series of privacy settings that control who can see your Plex watch history and other activity, users are complaining (with justification) that it’s all too easy to breeze past those settings during the onboarding process. Threads on Plex’s community site and on the Plex subreddit are buzzing with reports from users who were “horrified” to learn that their streaming activity had been shared with Plex friends via the “Week in review” emails, 404 Media reports, including to some Plex “friends” they’d never known they’d had. “What the hell are people at Plex thinking,” wrote one user on a Plex discussion forum. “Automatically opting everyone in for sharing their watch history with friends? Who in their right mind would do such a thing?” Officially launched early last month, Discover Together allows Plex users to share their watch histories, watch lists, and ratings of recently watched TV shows and movies with their Plex friends. The feature is part of Plex’s “Discover” tab, a universal directory and search tool that encompasses video titles across a wide range of streaming platforms (including Netflix, Max, Disney+, and Hulu) as well as Plex’s own selection of on-demand and live linear channels. While your Plex profile doesn’t automatically track what you’ve watched on third-party services (you must manually check those titles as “watched” in the Plex Discover tab), it can automatically track what you’ve watched from Plex’s own catalog of streaming videos, as well as videos you’ve streamed from a personal Plex server—including your own, or someone else’s–provided those titles can be “matched” on IMDb. (Titles marked as “adult” on IMDb aren’t shared in your Plex activity feed, but that wouldn’t exclude racy content that was matched on IMDb but didn’t get tagged as “adult,” Plex told 404 Media.) When Plex rolled out the Discover Together feature to its general user base last month, it served up a series of onboarding screens that included privacy controls, which are initially set to “private.” But your privacy settings will be changed to “Friends Only” for your watch history, watch list, and ratings, and “Friends of Friends” for your friends list, unless you manually change those settings back to “Private” before clicking the Finish button during the Discover Together onboarding process. Your Discover Together privacy settings on Plex are changed from “Private” to “Friends Only” during the onboarding process unless you take action before clicking Finish. Imgur, via Reddit Plex users are also complaining that they didn’t realize that anyone with whom they’d shared their personal Plex libraries were automatically added to their Plex friends list—meaning, in some cases, that near-perfect strangers were getting weekly email digests of their viewing histories. In a response to the 404 Media story, a Plex spokesperson admitted that while the service sent both email and “in-app” announcements about Discover Together, “many users became ‘aware’ of the feature for the first time last week when Plex sent out the activity emails,” and that some users “may have clicked through these [privacy] settings during the onboarding process without reading their selections.” Asked for further comment by TechHive, a Plex rep had this to say: We are currently having conversations about making changes to the onboarding page and will communicate those updates to our users. We understand that some users are upset by the current design of this page and we are listening closely to their feedback. We also know many of our users have made changes to their privacy settings from the current onboarding screen. The Plex spokesperson also promised changes to the “Week in review” emails, which (we’re told) were originally slated to go out daily rather than weekly: These weekly digest emails are not currently mentioned during the onboarding process, but we are working towards updating the screen to communicate this and allow users to choose their email settings up front. Of note, these emails were included during the beta period and were well received. And as for the issue of how those granted access to your personal Plex library wound up on your Plex friends list, here is Plex’s response: Until this summer, anyone you shared a personal library with had to be someone you’re friends with on Plex. During the beta period, however, we received feedback that Discover Together users wanted to share their personal libraries with one set of people and share their Discover Together activity with others. In response to this feedback, we made it possible for users to share their personal libraries with other users without being friends on Plex, and users can also unfriend someone without revoking their access. We did not change anyone’s existing friendships or shares once Discover Together went off beta. Luckily, you can go back and change your Plex privacy settings if you want to keep your watch history to yourself. First, log into your Plex account from a web browser (you can’t do this from the Plex app), click your user icon in the top-right corner, click Profile > Edit Profile, click Edit in the Privacy Settings section, then make your privacy changes—including, if you wish, changing each setting to Private. Second, to keep your Plex activity (including your streams on personal Plex servers) from automatically being added to your Plex profile, click your user icon in the top-right corner again, select Settings, scroll down to the Sync My Watch State and Ratings section, click Update this setting, then click the Stop Syncing Now button. You can also review a handy rundown of other Plex privacy tools and settings on this site, which includes instructions on how to manage your Plex friends list. Updated shortly after publication with comments from Plex. Streaming Media
- Proscenic Floobot X1 review: An adequate robot vac/mop hybrid
At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsSelf-emptying dustbinVibrating mop pad scrubs grime from hard floorsAffordableConsFrequently bumps into furnitureConstant scanning slows cleaning progressNeeds frequent recharging even in small roomsOur VerdictThe Proscenic Floobot X1 delivers strong vacuuming and mopping performance, but it lacks the polished navigation you get with higher-priced robovacs. The Proscenic Floobot X1 is a modestly priced robot vacuum and mop combo with a self-emptying dustbin. It’s a solid performer chock-full of options for customizing your cleaning experience, but its unique laser-navigation implementation compromises its cleaning efficiency in my testing. This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best robot vacuums. Design and setup The Floobot X1 and its auto-empty base have a sleek aesthetic, with eye-catching designs and glossy black finishes. Indeed, the Floobot X1 received the 2023 Red Dot Award for Innovative Design. These shiny surfaces, however, readily capture fingerprints and dust, so you’ll want to keep a microfiber cloth handy to keep them as clean as your floors. The robot vacuum’s base measures 12 inches tall and just over 13 inches wide, making it one of the most space-saving base stations I’ve come across. It also features an LED display panel, another first in my experience, that provides various status indicators ,such as when the dust bag is full, blocked, or not installed correctly, or when the cover is not closed. A plastic mat attaches to prevent the robot’s mop from dripping water on the floor after mopping jobs. The Proscenic Floobot X1 is a good value, offering strong vacuuming and mopping performance and an attractive design. The Proscenic Floobot X1’s mopping pad vibrates up to 3,000 times per minute to more effectively remove gunk and spills.Michael Ansaldo/Foundry The robot itself also has a short profile, measuring about 3 inches tall. That’s because it eliminates the LIDAR turret many robot vacuums have on top for laser navigation, instead integrating PathPro Laser-Assisted Navigation right into the robot body. A 240ml dust box slots into the back of the robot, and a mopping module with a 250ml water tank attaches to the bottom of this to vacuum and mop simultaneously. To set up the Floobot X1, you just need to attach its drip mat to the auto-empty station, then set the robot on it to charge. The auto-empty base comes with a 2.5L dust bag installed, with a spare one in the box. You can control the vacuum with its physical remote or with the Proscenic app, which will let you take advantage of the Floobot X1’s mapping capabilities. Connecting the app involves a typical pairing process for a smart device, which will prompt you to connect to the robot’s Wi-Fi and then to your home network. Performance and app The first time you run the Floobot X1, it will create a map of the space and divides the area into rooms. You can edit this map to make the room divisions more accurate and add no-go zones, no-mop zones, and custom cleaning areas. You can also create custom cleaning profiles room-by-room, assigning specific suction or water levels to each. You can specify that rooms be cleaned in a particular order, and you can designate rooms and areas for second cleaning passes. The app can save up to five maps, enabling you to save separate maps for each floor of your home. An LED panel on top of the auto-empty station provides status indicators, letting you know when the dust bag is full or the cover isn’t closed. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry During the first run of my downstairs level, it became clear that the Floobot X1’s integrated LiDAR is a mixed bag. Most laser-navigated vacuums house a rotating module in a turret on top of the robot. That allows them to scan 360 degrees, but it also adds height that can cause the robot to get stuck under low-profile couches and other furniture. The Floobot X1’s LiDAR module is set into the front of the robot, which removes the need for the trap-hazard turret but requires the robot itself to turn 360 degrees to scan its entire surroundings and locate its position within it. That frequent stopping and spinning means it takes longer for the robot to move through the room and, in larger spaces, it requires more trips than other robot vacuums need to recharge their batteries. That annoyance aside, the Floobot X1 navigated my home well, if a little roughly—it routinely bumped into chair and table legs, in one case hard enough to knock a plastic cup onto the floor. On the bright side, it didn’t get stuck on any of the throw rugs or floor thresholds in my downstairs space. It also found its way back to the auto-empty base after each cleaning job without issue. Proscenic rates the Floobot X1’s suction power at 3,000Pa, which is about right for a mid-priced robot vacuum. It was enough to capture dust, small debris, and pet hair from my hard and carpeted floors, though the last of these often got wrapped around the rubber-and-bristle roller and needed to be detangled with the Floobot X1’s cleaning tool. The robot cleans in an orderly S-shape pattern for general cleaning, and in a back-and-forth motion over a square area for spot cleaning. The Floobot X1’s mopping feature is a modest improvement over that of many competing 2-in-1 robot vacuums and mops. Its mopping pad vibrates up to 3,000 times per minute, enabling it to lift gunk and spills more effectively than simply dragging the mop across the floor. You’ll still need a stick mop for larger messes, but the Floobot X1 provides enough mopping power for small daily spills and for regular freshening of your hard-surfacer floors. The Proscenic app makes it easy to operate the Floobot X1, customize your cleaning experience, and track the usage of parts and accessories.Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Should you buy a Proscenic Floobot X1? The Proscenic app provides plenty of tools to customize your cleaning experience, and it’s fairly intuitive to get around. A status bar at the top of the home screen displays the current battery level, cleaning duration, and area cleaned. Cleaning modes are clearly labeled and the Start and Home functions have nice large buttons. The settings menu is well organized and makes it easy to manage your maps, set cleaning schedules, view cleaning history, and modify settings such as the frequency of dust box emptying and the robot voice prompts language and volume. Priced at $400, the Floobot X1 is a good value, offering strong vacuuming and mopping performance and an attractive design. But it lacks the polished navigation you get with higher-priced models. If that compromise is acceptable, the Floobot X1 will provide everything you need to maintain the luster of your floors with a mostly autonomous experience. If it’s not, consider the Yeedi Cube, which delivers the luxurious hands-free cleaning of higher-end 2-in-1 combos. It is, however, a more expensive vacuum. Proscenic Floobot X1 specifications Cleaning modes: vacuum and mop Charging dock type: auto-empty station Navigation: LiDAR Suction: 3,000Pa Dustbin capacity: 240ml onboard, 2.5L in base station Mopping type: microfiber cloth with sonic vibration Onboard water tank capacity: 250ml Carpet detection: Yes App control: Android and iOS Voice control: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant Vacuums
- Walmart’s new $15 HD Google TV streaming stick goes on sale
We knew it was coming, and now it’s here: a new HD streaming stick from Walmart with Google TV, a remote, and an enticingly affordable price tag. On sale now at Walmart for just $14.88, the Google TV Full HD Streaming Device from Walmart’s Onn brand (as spotted by 9to5Google) looks pretty much as we expected, with a streaming stick form factor, a Micro-USB power port, and a Google remote, complete with a Google Assistant button and shortcuts for a quartet of streaming services. We first learned of Walmart’s new Google streamer back in July, when documents for the player surfaced at the FCC. This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best streaming devices. As its name implies, the diminutive Google TV Full HD Streaming Device has a top video resolution of 1080p, and it’s powered by the Google TV OS. The stick boasts 1.5GB of RAM, versus 1GB for its predecessor, the HD-enabled and Android TV-powered Onn FHD Streaming Stick from 2021. Besides the remote, the Google TV Full HD Streaming Device comes packaged with three AAA batteries, a power adapter, and an HDMI cable. Walmart’s new, HD-only Google TV player arrives in the wake of the retailer’s Onn Google TV 4K Streaming Box, which made its debut back in April. The 4K unit comes with a boxy rather than streaming-stick design, and like the new HD Onn player, it’s affordably priced: just $19.88, versus $14.88 for the HD stick. The Onn Google TV 4K Streaming Box was tough to get when it first arrived in April; Walmart didn’t offer it for sale online, meaning you had to track one down at a brick-and-mortar store. Luckily, the 4K player is now readily available on the Walmart website, as is the new HD-only stick. Both of the Onn streaming players are considerably cheaper than Google’s official Chromecast with Google TV 4K and HD devices, which sell for $50 and $30 respectively. Of course, you’ll have to settle for some compromises if you choose the Walmart players; for example, the Onn Google TV 4K Streaming Box lacks support for Dolby Vision and Atmos. Still, our own Jared Newman was a fan of Walmart’s revamped 4K Google streamer, calling it “surprisingly solid” while noting that “no other streaming box gives you so much for so little. We’ll have a full review of the Google TV Full HD Streaming Device once we check out a review unit. Streaming Devices
- Ikea unveils three new smart sensors, delays Matter support
Ikea is fleshing out its smart home line with three new smart sensors, including a motion sensor, a water leak sensor, and a door and window sensor, all of which will work with Ikea’s second-generation smart home hub. And speaking of the Dirigera smart hub, Ikea has reportedly delayed its plans to upgrade the hub to Matter, the new smart home standard that (following a rocky start) promises to unite the big smart home ecosystems. First, let’s check out the three new smart sensors, which are all slated to ship next year: Parasoll door and window sensor Like other door and window sensors, the Parasoll arrives in two pieces: one that attaches to a door or window jam, and another that you affix onto the door or window itself. These contact sensors detect when they’re separated by the action of opening the door or window, thus triggering an alert; the sensors can also detect when the door or window is closed again. Besides warning you of potential intruders (or if you’ve forgotten to shutter your doors and windows), the Parasoll sensor can also trigger smart automations (such as turning on your lights) when you return home. Ikea Badring water leak sensor Designed to be placed anywhere in your home where there might be a water leak, the Badring is a compact wireless sensor that connects to the Dirigera smart hub. Place it under a sink, on a basement floor, near a washing machine, or in another spot that’s prone to unwanted moisture, and the Badring will ping you if it detects a leak, either through a mobile notification or an audible alarm from its built-in speaker. Ikea Vallhorn wireless motion sensor Capable of being used both indoors and outdoors, the Vallhorn motion sensor is designed to trigger your lights when it detects movement. All three of the new Ikea sensors use the wireless Zigbee protocol to connect to the Dirigera hub, allowing the sensors to send you status notifications even when you’re away from home. The Parasoll and Vallhorn sensors are set to ship in January 2024, Ikea says, while the Badring should go on sale next April. US pricing for the Vallhorn sensor will be $8.99, according to an Ikea rep. Stateside prices for the Parasoll and Badring sensors have yet to be determined, but Engadget reports that the EU pricing will be €9.99 each. Matter delay for Dirigera hub Meanwhile, The Verge has learned that a Matter update for the manufacturer’s Thread-enabled Dirigera smart hub has been pushed back. While Matter support for the hub had been promised sometime last year, Ikea has since “decided to delay this functionality,” with a date to be set “when it’s time,” The Verge reports. Ikea has been slowly filling out its smart home line, starting with smart bulbs, motorized smart shades, smart shades, smart air purifiers, and Wi-Fi-enabled Symfonisk speakers made in partnership with Sonos. The Dirigera smart speaker is the successor to Ikea’s original smart hub, the Tradfri (which wasn’t exactly our favorite). Updated shortly after publication with US pricing for the Vallhorn motion sensor. Smart Appliances
- Samsung The Frame (2023) review: Both a TV and a work of art
At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsCustomizable art frame bezelBright QLED picture with matte finishTizen smart platformLarge range of sizesConsOne Connect tuner box won’t suit everyoneNo Dolby VisionOur VerdictThe Frame range has been a huge hit for Samsung, and it’s easy to see why. This well-equipped 4K smart TV delivers the goods when it comes to everyday TV watching, and can double as a work of art when there’s nothing on the box. Price When ReviewedFrom £499 | Model reviewed £1,399 Best Prices Today: Samsung The Frame (2023) Retailer Price £414.00 View Deal £499 View Deal £549 View Deal £799 View Deal £949 View Deal £949 View Deal £949 View Deal £1031.28 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide View more prices Product Price Price comparison from Backmarket The Frame is a Samsung 4K smart TV that can double as artwork when hung on the wall, thanks to a unique matte screen and clip-on picture frame bezels. Despite this obvious novelty, The Frame doesn’t compromise when it comes to big-screen basics. This is a fully-fledged QLED with an excellent specification. The Samsung Frame comes into its own when you augment it with an optional artwork-style frame. 2023 updates to The Frame take some unpacking because they’re less than obvious. The 32-inch Frame, the only 1080p HD iteration of the lifestyle screen, promises an improved Art Mode experience, thanks to the addition of a motion sensor, and increased memory capacity. There’s also a change to the physical backside layout. For the 4K Frame fans, which start at 43 inches, the primary difference is one of power consumption. 2023 models are less power hungry, but does this mean picture quality has been affected? This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart TVs. Time to put the very latest version of The Frame on our test bench and see what kind of a picture it paints. Design & Build Customisable bezel Matte screen 120Hz HDMI support Straight from the box, The Frame looks much like any other Samsung flatscreen. It has a slim black plastic bezel and comes with slot-in feet for those who want to stand it on AV furniture. It’s slim, but not overly so, as it has a full-array LED backlight. Design-wise, the set comes into its own when you augment it with an optional artwork-style frame (hence the name). There’s a wide variety available, including a new modernistic metal frame for this season. Steve May / Foundry There’s also the option of a tripod-style Studio Stand, if that’s more your style. Connectivity comes via an external One Connect box. Everything plugs into this unit, rather than the back of the TV. A single connection runs from the One Connect box to the screen taking with it pictures, sound, and power. There are four HDMI connectors (HDMI 3 is HDMI-eARC), plus a digital optical audio output, ethernet (which offers a wired alternative to the set’s dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity), two USB ports, and a CI (Common Interface) card slot if required. There’s also the choice of terrestrial or satellite tuners. Steve May / Foundry The Frame comes with two remotes: a solar-powered Bluetooth controller and a standard zapper. Both have shortcut buttons for Prime Video, Netflix and Samsung TV Plus (UK model tested). Specs & Features Tizen Smart TV platform Game Hub Art Store Smart functionality is excellent. The Frame runs Samsung’s well-established Tizen OS, which offers a comprehensive selection of streaming services, including Samsung’s own linear IP delivered channel selection, as well as a dedicated Game Hub, and SmartThings dashboard. Steve May / Foundry There’s voice control via Bixby, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa, as well as support for Apple AirPlay 2. Smartphone viewing modes include Multi-View and screen mirroring. Navigating the Tizen OS is quite intuitive. You get a well-stocked app bar, followed by multiple rails of curated content, so you’re never too far from a show to watch. The Ambient Mode features a JPEG gallery with a variety of still images and animations, but what you really need is a subscription to Samsung’s Art Store service ($5.99 monthly), which offers a wide range of licensed art content. Want to display the best of The Tate, or something more seasonal? It’s there. Steve May / Foundry There’s also a dedicated Game Menu with an overlay for relevant gaming info, such as VRR, HDR, and input lag. There are actually two Game mode settings: original and Game Motion Plus, which applies some extra processing for additional picture enhancement. Input lag was measured at 10.7ms (1080p/60fps) in Game mode, and 13.7ms (1080p/60fps) in Game Motion Plus. Picture quality Bright HDR Less power hungry HDR10+ If you’re looking for a significant uptick in picture quality on this 2023 The Frame edition, you’ll be disappointed. It’s very much comparable to The Frame 2022. The performance jump relates to an improvement in power consumption, rather than image processing. The 2023 55-inch Frame I tested consumes 84kWh/1000h, compared to 103kWh/1000h on the 2022 model–any luckily, this power savings hasn’t diminished the image in any way. In its default Standard preset, pictures remain characteristically bright and color-rich. Steve May / Foundry Picture-quality wise, the set stands in comparison with the brand’s regular QLED models, albeit without that extra level of shine you tend to get with non-matte screens. Part of The Frame’s visual appeal is the matte display, which absorbs reflections and creates a more painterly appearance with digital artworks. Black level performance is fine, particularly if you view The Frame in a room with a low level of ambient lighting. Steve May / Foundry Watch in a fully dark room, though, and you’ll inevitably see the backlight at work. While watching Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (streaming in UHD HDR) the letterbox bars on the widescreen presentation were slightly greyed out. As we’ve come to expect from Samsung, there’s no support for Dolby Vision, although HDR, HLG and HDR10+ are all available. Sound quality 40W of power Object Tracking Sound Dolby Atmos The set’s audio performance is enhanced by 40W of amplification, and a quartet of speakers in a 2.0.2 configuration. My expectations were admittedly low, but this flatscreen offers more than a perfunctory listening experience. Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound system, which on this set features speaker drivers placed both low and toward the top of the screen, gives an impressive sense of movement. For everyday listening, and even uncritical movie watching, it’s surprisingly good. Steve May / Foundry That’s a good thing, given that adding a soundbar–even a neatly executed wall-mounted model–would undermine the screen’s gallery style. Price & Availability We’re testing the 55-inch The Frame 2023 (UK edition) in this review. You can buy the US version of The Frame 2023 from Samsung as well as the likes of Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. Besides the 55-inch version, The Frame is also available in 32-, 43-, 50-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch screen sizes. Steve May / Foundry Should you buy Samsung’s The Frame (2023)? The Frame (2023) can be thought of as a polite update to what has been a top-selling line for Samsung for many years. It’s less power hungry than its predecessors, but manages to deliver virtually the same picture and sound performance. The provision of a matte screen makes digital artwork look surprisingly convincing. The set comes with a polished smart platform, in the shape of the latest Tizen OS. In addition to a wide variety of streaming services, there’s a handy dashboard for control of SmartThings devices. The lack of Dolby Vision support would normally warrant an automatic demerit, but the gallery nature of The Frame means it’s less likely to appeal to home cinema fans, so we’ll give the set a pass. With its newfound energy efficiency, I remain a fan of The Frame. This lifestyle screen still comes highly recommended. Specs QLED LCD display technology Resolution: 4K (3840 x 2160) Dimensions: 48.7 x 27.9 x 1 inches (WxHxD) Weight: 37.3 pounds HDMI: x4 HDR support: HDR10+, HLG, HDR10 Tizen smart platform Freeview tuner Smart TVs
- Best TVs: Top picks and plain-language explanations of specs and features
LED-backlit LCD, quantum-dot, and OLED TV have never been better, and prices have never been lower. High-end 4K models cost about half of what they did a few years ago, and excellent mid-range models (55- and 65-inch class) are available for much less than $1,000. We’ll give you our top picks in each category, followed by an in-depth guide to the specs and features you’ll encounter when you shop. Even the prices for 8K TVs have dropped out of the stratosphere. Updated November 27, 2023 to add a link to our Samsung The Frame (2023) review. Samsung’s lifestyle-oriented TV doubles as a handsome photo frame when it’s not in use, and the latest version continues to impress with its matte finish and impressive picture quality. Consequently, the new Frame earns our Editor’s Choice for lifestyle TVs. LG Evo G3 — Best OLED TV Pros Excellent black levels Great contrast Best image processing we’ve seen in an OLED TV Cons Default reds drift slightly to the orange Not cheap We expect a lush picture from an OLED TV, and LG’s Evo G3 certainly didn’t disappoint on that front. But this TV’s image processing impressed even more, producing almost no visual artifacts. This smart TV is based on a WRGB OLED panel, with white subpixels that deliver higher overall brightness than RGB OLED panels that Samsung and Sony utilize. Those competitors’ TVs deliver more color saturation, but drive their red, green, and blue pixels harder to produce white. LG’s best-in-class image processing delivers an impressive picture. Read our full LG G3 Evo OLED TV review Sony Bravia XR A95K — Best quantum-dot OLED TV Pros Fantastic image quality Great sound Handsome industrial design Cons Very expensive Price When Reviewed: From £2,199 Best Prices Today: £1999.00 at John Lewis£2199 at Sony£2,487.97 at Amazon Sony applied its image-processing prowess and high-end audio technology to Samsung’s quantum dot OLED panel to build the best 4K TV we’ve ever seen. But buying the best requires very deep pockets. You could buy an OLED from LG or Samsung and keep upwards of a grand in your pocket. On the other hand, you might find you don’t need to buy a soundbar, because the Bravia XR A95K’s audio technology is also the best the industry has to offer. Read our full Sony Bravia XR A95K review Samsung S95C — Best quantum-dot OLED TV, runner-up Pros Lush color and deep blacks Lots of peak brightness Super thin thanks to Samsung's One Connect technology Cons Needs a more efficient smart TV interface Remote control needs more buttons Image processing lags behind LG We love the Samsung S95C’s velvety picture and richly saturated highlights–it’s a top three TV to be sure. That said, Samsung needs to up its image-processing game and rework its smart TV user interface if it wants to beat out the likes of Sony’s A95K and LG’s evo G3. Read our full Samsung S95C 4K OLED TV review Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED TV — Best value-priced 4K quantum-dot TV Pros Affordable Accurate quantum dot color Super-intuitive user interface Efficient voice remote Cons Slow guide and media player thumbnail enumeration So-so video processing While its image quality is merely on par with similarly priced smart TVs, the Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED’s user interface and Alexa voice remote control make for a genuinely superior user experience. Read our full Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED TV review Samsung QN90B — Best LED-backlit LCD TV Pros Great picture and HDR All 120Hz HDMI ports Excellent color acuity and saturation New RF-harvesting solar remote Cons Pricey No Dolby Vision support Interface requires too many clicks to get anywhere Price When Reviewed: £2,599.00 (65-inch) Best Prices Today: £1299 at Samsung Samsung’s best 4K UHD LCD TV delivers terrific image quality, particularly when it comes to HDR, and it serves up a quartet of 120Hz-enabled HDMI ports plus a nifty remote that can be charged via RF harvesting. We were annoyed by Samsung’s convoluted Smart Hub TV interface, which requires too many clicks for our taste. That said, the QN90B is the best-looking 4K LCD TV you can buy right now. Read our full Samsung QN90B Neo QLED 4K Smart TV review Samsung QN900C 8K TV — Best 8K TV Pros Fantastic detail Great color and contrast Upscales 4K and lower-res content One Connect breakout box Very thin profile Cons Wonky backlight artifacts with some test material Audio lacks thump Price When Reviewed: From £4,799 | Model reviewed £6,599 Best Prices Today: £3,999.00 at Amazon£4199.00 at Currys£4998 at Hughes Samsung’s latest 8K TV isn’t cheap, but it delivers fantastic image quality, whether it’s upscaling the 4K content you’re most likely to encounter in the real world to the amazing native 8K content that will blow you mind with its detail. This TV features quantum dots for accurate color and mini-LEDs for precision backlighting. And if you’re a SmartThings fan, it can be the brain of your modern smart home, too. Read our full Samsung QN900C 8K TV review Samsung The Frame (2023) — Best lifestyle 4K TV Pros Customizable art frame bezel Bright QLED picture with matte finish Tizen smart platform Large range of sizes Cons One Connect tuner box won’t suit everyone No Dolby Vision Price When Reviewed: From £499 | Model reviewed £1,399 Best Prices Today: £414.00 at Amazon£499 at AO£549 at John Lewis The Frame range has been a huge hit for Samsung, and it’s easy to see why. This well-equipped 4K smart TV delivers the goods when it comes to everyday TV watching, and can double as a work of art when there’s nothing on the box. Read our full Samsung The Frame (2023) review The state of TV technology CRT TVs were around for more 50 years and were still being improved when they fell out of favor. LCD TVs aren’t nearly that mature, and you’ll still find the occasional entry-level models with color and contrast issues. Color and contrast have nonetheless improved drastically in the last few years, and the improvements have trickled down almost to the lowest rung on the ladder. OLED remains at the pinnacle, but remains expensive to manufacture. I’ll talk more about LED versus OLED in a bit. There’s also a resolution “race” in progress, though it seems to have stalled for the nonce at 8K UHD. Buying a TV with resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels remains a pricey proposition, and there’s almost no content to take advantage of it. Apart from 4K Blu-ray, most video content is still delivered in 1080p resolution, even though 4K UHD TVs with resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels rule the roost in terms of sales. The best news, to expand on my previous point, is that top-end technology (quantum dots, mini-LED) has filtered down to the mid-range (defined as $750 to $1,250 for a 65-inch-class set). We haven’t seen one that quite puts it all together yet, but TCL’s 6-series come darn close. Too close, certainly, for the big three (LG, Samsung, and Sony) to remain comfortable. Even better, nearly all the high-end 4k UHD 65-inch-class TVs that cost $600 to $10,000 or more a few years ago have dropped to below $3,000. Even Samsung’s 8K UHD QN800A-series can be hand for $3,500 (65-inch class). LG’s 8K UHD OLED—the 88-inch-class model OLED88Z9PUA—is something to behold, but it costs $30,000. Ouch. Then again, if your entertainment center is big enough to require an 88- to 120-inch-class television, that price tag might worth the experience. What to look for (and what to watch out for) when TV shopping Resolution: While most content remains 1080p or lower resolution, the vast majority of TVs being sold now are 2160p (4K UHD, or 3840 x 2160 pixels). Unless you’re buying something for the workshop or tool shed, go 2160p. 4K streaming is now a thing. It’s heavily compressed, and it may run you over your data cap in short order, but it’s still a consideration. Good 2160p content looks spectacular, and most 2160p TVs will upscale lower-resolution content quite nicely. Just don’t believe any hokum about making 1080p content look like genuine 4K UHD. That said, we’ve been incredibly impressed with just how much better both 1080p and 2160p material looks on the latest 8K UHD (7680 x 4320) TVs. More pixels, more processing power. Screen size: 65-inch TVs are the hot commodity these days, but only you know which size TV fits best in your living space. Personally, I prefer 43-inchers. Go figure. You can save a lot of money—$600 to $900 on a top-of-the-line set—by downsizing to perhaps 55-inches and sitting a bit closer. How close? 1.5 times the stated size of the TV is the recommended distance. Note that the number of backlighting zones and other technologies aren’t always exactly the same across all sizes. Read the fine print carefully (if it even exists), as a 55-inch unit might not offer quite the performance of the 65-inch sets companies like to send to reviewers. HDR: The acronym stands for high dynamic range, and it has become the norm in better TVs. HDR simply means a larger difference in luminance between the darkest area of an image and the brightest area. It doesn’t sound like much, but a lack of contrast (a comparative washed-out appearance) in LED TVs has long been an issue, especially at the entry level. With HDR, which is created largely by significantly increasing peak brightness, light sabers and flames, highlights in hair, water, and other details really stand out. Trust me. You want it. Dolby Vision HDR versus standard dynamic range. All HDR will be similar, but only Dolby Vision and HDR10+ adjust the TV in real time over the course of the movie. So far, the TV industry has been scrupulously honest about labeling their TVs for HDR: HDR-compatible in the fine print means the set understands at least some of the HDR formats (HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HLG, etc.), but likely doesn’t have enough brightness to do anything with it. If it just says HDR, that means it can do something with it. How much it can do depends on the TV. You need at least 700 nits peak brightness at a minimum to achieve decent HDR pop (e.g., light sabers and flames that stand out), while 1,000 nits does the trick quite nicely. Vendors don’t really list nits or brightness in meaningful ways, so you’ll need to read reviews in which it’s measured. Non-HDR TVs generally max out in the area of 300 to 400 nits. HDR format support: One of true ironies in the TV industry is that arguably the top player, Samsung, doesn’t support Dolby Vision. Nearly nearly all the other vendors do (although not on every model). All HDR TVs support HDR10 as a baseline, but HDR10 only sends adjustment info to the TV once, at the beginning of a movie. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ relay it continuously throughout the movie, so each scene (each frame, if necessary) can be adjusted independently. HDR10 looks good. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ look better. HDR10+ is Samsung’s baby and its latest TVs support it. Alas, while many streaming services deliver HDR in HDR10+ (HDR requires very little extra data), it hasn’t caught on with most of the company’s competitors. On the other hand, many sets support the HLG standard that is common in Europe. Contrast: Contrast is the distance in terms of luminance between the darkest and brightest points in an image. Part of HDR is also increasing contrast. A high-contrast TV is an HDR TV, although we’ve never heard of one called that. It just doesn’t sound sexy, I suppose. Anyway, he higher the contrast, the more subtle detail the TV can deliver. Color: We’ve noticed a definite uptick in color acuity (realism), even in the middle of the market, with TVs from Hisense, TCL and Vizio showing much truer reds and greens (just about any TV will do blue well). This is largely due to the widespread adoption of quantum dots, but even those without them (Sony’s TVs, in particular) have increased the color acuity of their offeringss. LED-backlit LCD versus OLED: There’s a luxuriousness to the image that OLED TVs produce that appeals to many, including myself. Because each sub-pixel is its own light source, when a pixel is switched off, you get near perfect black. LED-backlit LCD TVs bleed light around and through the LCDs, which are not perfect shutters. Even the best LED/LCD TVs can’t match the blacks of OLED. (Mini-LED gets closer—see below). On the other hand, they can generate much higher peak brightness, which compensates with most material and really makes HDR pop. The main drawbacks of OLED as a technology are a relatively limited lifespan, and burn-in; i.e. ghosts of previous images remaining on screen. LG claims 100,000 hours to half brightness for its TVs: That’s where 500 nits becomes 250 nits, and that number of hours is calculated based on the TV displaying standard dynamic range material. HDR content will shorten an OLED’s lifespan. With normal use (two hours a day), those drawbacks will never bite you. Or for at least not for a very long time. Using OLEDs for signage, all-day long viewing, or for rendering static images, on the other hand, is not recommended. Micro-LED (not to be confused with mini-LED backlighting) is a non-organic self-emitter technology that doesn’t suffer any of these issues, but it’s still so expensive as to excuse itself from this conversation. Caveats and economics aside, OLED remains most users’ choice when simply using their eyes. Puppies on velvet! Viewing angle: While most TVs look great when viewed head-on, not all look that great when viewed from an angle. So, if you’re planning to host Super Bowl parties or other events where people will watch from oblique angles, make sure you check into this aspect. Anti-glare coatings, as well as the type of LCDs used: IPS (In-Plane Switching), TN (Twisted Nematic), VA (Vertically Aligned), etc., can affect the image when viewed from other than purely perpendicular. Use a light source with less than a quantum dot’s specific emitting frequency, and you get a pure color directly related to the size of the quantum dot. A layer of these can tremendouslyly increase a TV’s color acuity. Quantum dots: As noted previously, more and more vendors are using quantum dots to increase color acuity. Quantum dots are tiny re-emitters that produce nearly pure colors in strict correlation to their size. If you want super-accurate color, you want quantum dots. Backlighting: Two basic types of backlighting are used in LED-backlit LCD TVs: array and edge lit. As previously discussed, every element in an OLED (or micro-LED) panel is its own backlight. Array backlighting is simply a grid of LEDs placed directly behind the screen. It’s an advanced type of what was once referred to as direct backlighting. Edge lighting, as you’ve probably guessed, places the light source around the edge of the display. The photons emitted by the source are redirected by various means (tunnels, light pipes, reflective materials, et al) to the filter and LCD layers of the display. Edge lighting has generally been relegated to entry-level TVs. This image from Vizio illustrates how array backlighting with local dimming can reduce light bleed in darker areas. Array backlighting produces better blacks than edge lighting, though how much better depends on a number of factors, such as the quality of the LCDs (some leak less light than others), the algorithms used to darken the zones (the individual lights or light groups), and the material being displayed. Array backlighting can also produce significantly more brightness than edge lighting, which comes in handy for HDR. Mini-LED is the latest development in LED/array backlighting. TCL was first to market with it, but Samsung’s latest TVs also feature the technology. Basically, the LEDs are much smaller, there are far more of them, and they’re placed much closer to the filter and LCD layers, reducing bleed and deepening blacks while simultaneously increasing brightness. It’s not quite OLED, but it’s a lot closer than normal array or edge LED backlighting. That said, 100,000 backlights doesn’t mean 100,000 dimming zones. Vendors are free to group them as they see fit. We’ve seen anywhere from 600 zones (Samsung’s 55-inch QN90F) to several thousand in TCL’s 8 Series. While edge lighting is on it’s way out, it does have one advantage. It generally doesn’t suffer the odd artifacts—such as blocking (obvious dark or light squares), moiré, and shimmer—that array backlighting can produce. Screen uniformity: With very bright scenes, cheaper TVs will suffer cloudy areas due to either poor anti-glare coating or uneven backlighting. Poorly designed TVs might show dark areas, generally in the corners, where the backlighting doesn’t reach. These problems have been mitigated the last few years, but they’re still something you should look for—and avoid. Motion and refresh rate: Vendors like to combine the tricks they use to smooth motion, such as flashing the backlight with the actual hardware refresh rate (the number of times per second that the entire display can be redrawn, typically 60 or 120) to come up with indicative, but confusing terms such as TruMotion, Clear Motion, and so on. All things being equal, you have twice as many redraws to play with on a 120Hz set as on a 60Hz set, and motion will nearly always look smoother with a higher refresh rate. Case in point: the best LED-backlit LCD sets all have 120Hz hardware refresh rates. Look for the hardware refresh rate. Or ask; it can be hard to find. Bit depth: Most TVs these days are 10-bit (10 bits of each color, aka Deep Color), which means they’re capable of rendering just over one billion colors. There are still 8-bit (True Color) sets available, and these produce more than 16 million colors. That sounds like a lot, but you’ll still see banding. A panel with 10-bit color just about eliminates that problem. Ports and connectivity: At a minimum, your TV should have three or four HDMI ports for connecting disc players, media streamers, and outboard audio gear (via ARC or—better yet—eARC). You can also connect legacy composite and component video equipment using adapters. These days, HDMI 2.1—with its greater bandwidth, gaming features such as variable refresh rate, and eARC support that can deliver uncompressed surround sound in all its formats—are what you should look for. Gaming consoles can use the 120Hz modes of HDMI 2.1, so at least one port supporting that standard is recommended for gamers. Alternatively, many sets still offer optical digital and RCA/analog outputs for connecting older audio equipment, although those connections don’t have the bandwidth required for high-resolution audio such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. If the TV you want doesn’t offer legacy connections, there are HDMI-to-legacy adapters available for very little cash. You’ll also need USB ports if you want to connect a keyboard or mouse or play downloaded media from USB drives. Coax is required for an over-the-air antenna, and you’ll find one on any TV that features an integrated tuner. Vizio was making “displays” for a couple of years that didn’t have tuners, but the company added them back when cord-cutting gained traction. If you’re buying a used TV, be aware of that. Pay attention to the type and number of ports. This is only one of two port areas on an LG TV. Many TVs offer ports nearer the side as well, for the sake of easy access. As nearly all TVs are “smart” (using internet connectivity for browsing, streaming, gaming, and so on), you need a network connection. The majority have both hardwired ethernet and Wi-Fi, but it pays to check. Bluetooth can be used for peripherals and remotes, but implementations vary. Note that even low-latency Bluetooth has a lag of 40 milliseconds, so while you can connect Bluetooth speakers and/or headphones, you’ll notice a time lapse between lip movements and words. HDMI ARC/eARC, optical, or analog audio outputs are preferable for listening along with video. Apps and IQ: Just how “smart” your TV is depends greatly on which operating system it uses. Sony, and some Hisense models, use Android TV; LG uses WebOS, although it also offers the Roku OS to compete with budget-builder TCL; Samsung uses its own proprietary OS. (To give credit where credit is due, all of those operating systems are based on Linux.) Most of the recent TV operating systems support one or another of the popular digital assistants: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung Bixby, and so on. If they don’t recognize speech natively (via a mic in the remote), you can usually control them with a smart speaker (Amazon Echo, Google Home, or the like). The number and type of apps available varies wildly from one smart TV to the next, with some providing just the essentials for local and networked media playback and browsing, with others support the biggest streaming services (e.g., Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, et al). Smart TVs based on Android TV and Roku tend to have the broadest ecosystems. If there’s something special you’re looking for—HBO Max or Showtime, for instance—make sure it’s there to be had. At least one IDG employee found Sony’s integrated channel guide to be a key attraction. Some TVs lack this simple, but very handy feature (LG has a strong guide, too). Channel guides are particularly useful for cord-cutters who take advantage of over-the-air television broadcasts. Smart TV remote control and user interface While picture quality is king of the shopping criteria, the synergy and efficiency of the remote and user interface (how quickly they get you from point A to point B) can have a great impact on how much you enjoy your TV. All the operating systems are attractive, but after having lived with them all non-stop for the last few years, I can honestly say that Roku gets my vote as easiest, followed by LG’s WebOS, Android TV, and then Samsung’s Smart Hub. And I rate Roku number one despite Roku not supporting Bluetooth audio gear in favor of their own proprietary stuff—a marketing-driven decision I truly despise. LG’s Magic Remote and interface use a free-moving cursor (the pink plectrum) so you don’t need to step through lists to select things. It’s an absolute joy to use. As far as the remotes on their own, LG’s Magic Remote is the gold standard, with an honorable mention to the Roku remote. I love the look and feel of Samsung’s One Remote and its clever rocker channel and volume buttons, but too many common functions are off-loaded to the onscreen interface. It requires a lot more clicks than the others. Energy consumption: You know those yellow stickers on the TVs that estimate yearly power consumption? Unless you adjust your set to ECO mode or something similar (which hardly anyone does, because you won’t get the best picture quality), those stats are pure fantasy. Note that 4K UHD sets use more power than 1080p sets, and 8K UHD sets use more power than 4K UHD sets, though not as much more as you might think. Everything else: There are a few other factors you’ll want to consider, ranging from I/O breakout boxes, to bezel thickness, to the stand and what it will fit on, to how the TV looks mounted on the wall. But you should shop image first, and then worry about the bells and whistles. Tips for testing TV picture quality While I’ve described the features you should look for in a TV, as I said before, image quality is the biggest part of the equation, and that you largely judge with your eyes. That said, there are some handy, cheap, color- and brightness-measuring apps for smartphones these days. Even if they’re not 100-percent accurate, you can compare the results to spot differences. The questions you should be asking yourself when you judge are: How accurate is the color? Are reds orangish? Is there too much yellow in the green? Is there good contrast between light and dark when next to each other? Do details in dark areas stand out? Are the blacks black, or charcoal gray? How bright are the brightest spots? Is there banding in subtle color transitions, such as sky shots? Is there bleeding from the backlight in dark areas? Is there blooming around bright objects on dark backgrounds? (Some is normal and is created by the fluid in your eyes) Are motion scenes jerky? (Judder) While being panned or moved, do detailed areas shimmer or create ugly patterns? (Shimmer, moiré) Are there cloudy areas on a white screen? I’m sorry to say it, but even the best TVs will have issues—just fewer of them and less severe. The closest I’ve seen to perfect processing came courtesy of Samsung’s Q900 8K UHD smart TV. As I’ve already said, having all those extra pixels and subpixels to play with apparently helps. Again, you’ll also appreciate a 120Hz hardware refresh rate if you can afford it, as well as a faster processor. Vendors are loathe to discuss CPU details, though the better it is, the fancier or higher-ranking the name will be. You can safely assume that the more expensive the TV from a given vendor, the better the image processing will be. One issue you’ll run into when shopping (unless you’re just going by online reviews and opinions) is that most of the on-TV demos you’ll see running are designed to make that particular TV look good. Or, at the very least—not make it look bad. To accurately assess a TV’s capabilities, you might bring your own material on a USB stick. (It’s what I do.) What material is that? For your convenience, we’ve placed several screens for you to download below (right-click on each rectangle and save it as a picture). Use pure red, green, and blue to test color accuracy. Reds should not appear orangish, or pinkish. Look for too much yellow in the greens. LED backlights are heavily skewed towards the blue range of the spectrum, so most TVs will do well on this test. This image should not be tinged with any green. Blues are nearly always pretty accurate, but look for greens with too much yellow, and reds that are orangish rather than pure red. The black with a dark gray rectangle will reveal light leakage. (The gray is to keep the TV from shutting off the backlight completely.) The dark gray rectangle in the center of this otherwise black image should force the TV to keep its backlight on, so you can pick out light leakage. The white image below (it’s there, right-click) allows you to look for uneven coatings and dark spots where the backlight coverage is spotty. You’ll most often see that in the corners. Use this solid white image to look for cloudiness or dark areas in corners. You will see some with nearly all LED-backlit LCD TVs, but it should be minimal. You can search the web for 4K UHD HDR demos, and finding suitable ones, load them on your USB stick. Sony’s Contrast Demos are particularly useful to test blacks and backlighting. Beyond that, highly detailed scenes such as cityscapes, fine patterns, and forest scenes are handy for spotting shimmer and moiré. Quick pans over large patterns and car chases can be good for spotting jerky motion. YouTube is also a good source for HDR, 4K UHD, and even 8K UHD content to test TVs with. It’s often highly compressed, but generally indicative. There are even “zone counters” for counting the number of zones in the array backlighting. Watch the small white block move along the edge of a black screen and each time it dims (or brightens—your choice) it has traveled over a new zone. If you really want to go to town, you can buy the Spears & Munsil test disc, though obviously that will require an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player. For an even deeper dive into TV terminology, don’t miss our four-part series: TV tech terms demystified. Smart TVs
- Cyber Monday: Pixel Tablet with Nest-style dock is 20% off
Want a new Nest display but leery of buying years-old hardware? Well, Google’s new Pixel Tablet comes with a magnetic dock that turns the sleek tablet into a smart display, and it’s 20% off for Cyber Monday. Available now for $398.99 on Amazon—roughly $100 off its usual $499 list price—the Google Pixel Tablet came out earlier this year, and it’s Google’s most powerful tablet yet, complete with a 10.95-inch 2,560 x 1,600-pixel display, four built-in speakers, and a turbocharged Tensor G2 chip. The Android-powered Pixel Tablet will let you install just about any app on the Google Play store. Even better, the Pixel Tablet comes bundled with a handsome, fabric-covered dock. Snap the Pixel Tablet onto the magnetic dock, and the tablet turns into a smart display, complete with smart home controls, hands-free Google Assistant access, and the ability to display your favorite snapshots from Google Photos. The dock also has an integrated full-range speaker for playing tunes from Spotify and other streaming services. Pretty nice, but this Cyber Monday deal on the Google Pixel Tablet won’t last much longer, so don’t wait too long. Buy the Google Pixel Tablet for $398.99 on Amazon Smart Speakers