Most evolutions occur over eons of time. The evolution occurs so slowly that the steps in the evolution are not observable on a day-to-day basis.
The onset of remote work has led to a business world without boundaries. However, while hiring global team members is now easier than ever, you still need to know where to find the right talent, especially within the tech industry. In this guide, we unlock the keys to navigating the local tech talent shortage and highlight the emerging tech hiring hubs around the world. Find out why a global recruitment strategy is the way forward in today ́s ultra- competitive tech talent market.
It’s never been easier for companies to recruit top-tier talent on a global scale, thanks to remote working apps, platforms, and social media. However, employees are now embracing lifestyle over work – with many migrating to other jobs to find new opportunities that better align with their values and priorities.
Global events over the past several years have brought massive cultural changes to the workplace, be it the breakout of remote working, or unsettling trends like “Quiet Quitting.” As we head into a new year, what factors are likely to affect our working environments in 2023?
Leveraging the specialized skills of an independent contractor can be the most efficient route to success when looking to hire quickly internationally for a short-term solution. In this eBook, you’ll discover the intricacies of hiring independent contractors to ensure that your company handles compliance and classification correctly.
SonicWall has seen a number of organizational changes throughout its 30-year history, from its early days as an innovator in SMB network security to its decade as a public company, its five years as a part of Dell and the past five years of private ownership following divestiture.
- 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.
- The 23andMe Data Breach Keeps Spiraling
23andMe has provided more information about the scope and scale of its recent breach, but with these details come more unanswered questions.
- How to Stop Another OpenAI Meltdown
OpenAI designed its governance structure to protect humanity—and it imploded. The company could take pointers from Mozilla and other projects combining lofty goals with for-profit ventures.
- The 20 Best Shows on Apple TV+ Right Now
From For All Mankind to Hijack, here’s everything you need to be watching on the streamer.
- 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.
- These Are the Most Annoying iOS 17 Features. Here's How to Fix Them - CNET
iOS 17 has tons of great features, however some are just...annoying.
- Skipping Student Loan Payments: Here's What Happens if You Don't Pay - CNET
Skipping student loan payments could have you facing some serious consequences.
- December SSDI Check 2023: Here's When Your Money Should Arrive - CNET
The Social Security Administration has started sending out December Social Security Disability Insurance checks. Here's when the next batch is scheduled to arrive.
- Premier League Soccer Livestream: How to Watch Aston Villa vs Man City From Anywhere - CNET
It's fourth place versus third place in the key title race fixture at Villa Park.
- Android vs. iPhone: 15 Years of Rivalry and Innovation - CNET
Commentary: During the last decade and a half, Apple and Google's rivalry has helped each company become better.
- Vitamix Explorian Blender - CNET
64oz, low-profile, pro grade.
- Eufy Wi-Fi Video Doorbell - CNET
2K res, local storage.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick - CNET
TV and smart home controls.
- 6L Extra Large Humidifier - CNET
60hr, top fill, easy clean.
- Amazon Fire TV 65" TV - CNET
4K UHD smart TV.
- Keurig K-Compact - CNET
- Roomba Combo j5 Robot Vacuum - CNET
Vacuum with optional mopping.
- Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar - CNET
With Dolby Atmos plus Alexa.
- Bose QuietComfort Headphones - CNET
Noise cancelling, up to 24hr battery life.
- We Tried Pizzacraft's $280 Pronto Pizza Oven. See How the Budget-Friendly Model Performed - CNET
At-home pizza ovens are having a moment, but how much should you spend on one? We tried the cheaper Pizzacraft Pronto, which clocks in under $280.
- How Nations Are Losing a Global Race to Tackle A.I.’s Harms
Alarmed by the power of artificial intelligence, Europe, the United States and others are trying to respond — but the technology is evolving more rapidly than their policies.
- 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.
- Spotify Cancels Two Acclaimed Podcasts: ‘Heavyweight’ and ‘Stolen’
The shows will finish out their seasons on Spotify and then have the option to shop their shows somewhere else.
- 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.
- 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.
- Django 5.0 simplifies templates for form field rendering
The newly released Django 5.0, the latest version of the popular Python web framework, features capabilities such as simplified templates for form field rendering and database-computed default values.Announced December 4, Django 5.0 can be installed with the pip package installer: pip install Django==5.0.Django 5.0 introduces the concept of a field group and field group templates, which simplify the rendering of related elements of a Django form field such as its widget, label, errors, and help text, according to release notes. The new release also now shows facet counts for applied filters in the admin changelist when toggled on via the UI. This behavior can be changed through the new ModelAdmin.show_facets attribute.To read this article in full, please click here
- AI Alliance, led by IBM and Meta, to promote open standards and take on AWS, Microsoft, and Nvidia
The AI Alliance, a new collaboration among 50 companies and institutions led by IBM, Meta and AMD, is expected to bring the rivalry between open source and proprietary technology to new frontiers in generative AI, challenging current big players including AWS, Microsoft, and Nvidia.“Meta and IBM are both embracing open source and contributing to it hugely in contrast to Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, who do not contribute to open source near as much. This alliance alongside AMD and others is a strong foot forward for the open source community from software to hardware,” said Dylan Patel, chief analyst at semiconductor research and consulting firm Semianalysis.To read this article in full, please click here
- 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
- ‘Mega-deals’ could be inflating overall AI funding figures
A recent report from Pitchbook shows that 'mega-deals' could be inflating AI startup funding totals, giving a misleading picture of the sector's health. © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Twitch to shut down in Korea over ‘prohibitively expensive’ network fees
Twitch, the popular video streaming service, plans to shut down its business in South Korea on February 27 after finding that operating in one of the world’s largest esports markets is “prohibitively expensive.” Twitch CEO Dan Clancy said the firm undertook a “significant effort” to reduce the network costs to operate in Korea, but ultimately © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Avenir seeks to raise $800M for new fund
Avenir Growth Partners is seeking to raise $800 million for its fifth fund, it disclosed in a securities filing, two years after it began the paperworks for raising its IV fund. It ended up raising about $780 million for the fourth fund, it disclosed in a filing earlier this year. The New York-headquartered firm is © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Discord reimagines its mobile app to showcase its best social features
Discord launched a major refresh of its mobile app on Tuesday, putting messaging front-and-center while making a host of small improvements that users have been asking for. Inspired by user feedback, the redesigned app tailors the mobile Discord experience for on-the-go use compared to its popular desktop app, while changing things up to better organize Discord’s © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Google gives out offensive notebooks to Black summit attendees
On the inside of the notebook Google gave out at its K&I Black Summit, it reads verbatim, “I was just cotton the moment, but I came back to take your notes. © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Elon Musk is looking to raise $1 billion for xAI
Elon Musk is looking to raise 1/44 of a Twitter for his AI company, xAI. In other words, the man behind Tesla, SpaceX and X is seeking $1 billion in funding for his next venture. According to an SEC filing, Musk has raised about $135 million so far from four unnamed investors, with the first © 2023 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.
- Finally, non-MagSafe wireless chargers will fast-charge recent iPhones
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge Now that Apple has released a preview of the next iOS update, Anker says its upcoming Qi2-compatible wireless chargers will provide faster 15W charging for iPhone 13, iPhone 14, and iPhone 15 devices. Apple has not responded to a request for comment, but presumably, this support will extend to all Qi2 chargers. The only problem left is that despite companies like Anker, Belkin, and Mophie all announcing Qi2-compatible hardware a few months ago, there are no certified products available for purchase yet. Third-party chargers that work with iPhones at the same rate as MagSafe-branded tech is the way we’d hoped things would work, considering the updated Qi2 spec’s Magnetic Power Profile brings in magnets and authentication contributed by... Continue reading…
- Hollywood’s strikes are over
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images The guilds representing actors and writers have both ratified new deals with big media companies addressing concerns around streaming and AI. Continue reading…
- Reddit says a bug is letting slurs get added to its links
Image: Reddit A Reddit bug is allowing slurs to get added to Reddit URLs — and those URLs occasionally appear prominently on Google. Content warning: the following story includes mentions of a slur. Here’s what we’ve observed. While Googling something related to a lighthearted debate in The Verge’s Slack, one staffer found that some of the Reddit links that surfaced had a subdomain with unexpected characters and a slur before reddit.com: https://2goback-[f-word].reddit.com/r/[rest of the URL]. Despite the additional characters, the link points to Reddit (though the page had the Old Reddit layout). The slur didn’t just appear for that query. A Reddit site search on Google for the subdomain reveals a bunch of links from different subreddits that have... Continue reading…
- Spotify’s not going for Pulitzers anymore
Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge This is Hot Pod, The Verge’s newsletter about podcasting and the audio industry. Sign up here for more. The dust is still settling on Spotify’s latest round of layoffs. On Monday, Spotify announced it was cutting 17 percent of its workforce, or approximately 1,500 employees, as a means of making the company even more efficient. This round of layoffs dwarfs the past two this year, with the company cutting about 600 employees in January and another 200 employees (mostly from podcasting) in June. Details are still coming out, but it appears the cuts are impacting people across the company, from product to content to advertising. “I realize that for many, a reduction of this size will feel surprisingly large given the recent positive... Continue reading…
- Here are the best Kindle deals right now
Amazon’s latest Kindle Paperwhite is often on sale when purchased as a part of a bundle. | Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge When it comes to finding a device to use to read your ebooks, you have a few options to choose from. You can always buy a tablet or use your phone, but those devices are multipurpose and can be used for a ton of things, like surfing the web or doom-scrolling on Twitter. If you are looking for something to strictly read books, e-readers, while niche, are designed to store all of your books in a virtual library with limited functionality. Amazon, one of the pioneers of the e-reader, has dominated the space for years with its ever-expanding Kindle lineup, which consists of several unique models with their own pros and cons. The bulk of the devices function as simple ebook readers; however, with the Kindle Scribe, Amazon looks to be moving... Continue reading…
- The Looking Glass Go is a folding holographic display that fits in your pocket
We’ve been following Looking Glass for years — it’s one of the few startups dedicated to building 3D displays where digital objects appear to live inside or leap off the screen. In 2020, it introduced a cheaper 7.9-inch desktop model at $349, and today, it’s introducing its most affordable and portable screen yet: the $300 Looking Glass Go. GIF: Looking Glass The Looking Glass Go. With a six-inch screen that the company claims is 10 times thinner than previous Looking Glass displays, it’s the first one small enough to fit in your pocket — though you’ll need to plug in USB-C power or an optional external USB-C battery dongle, as it doesn’t have a built-in battery of its own. It’s also the first with built-in... Continue reading…
- iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 will get Qi2 support with iOS 17.2
The iPhone 14 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro. | Image: Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Apple just pushed the release candidate of iOS 17.2, and the upcoming update brings support for the Qi2 wireless charging standard to iPhone 13- and iPhone 14-series smartphones, according to the patch notes. Apple says the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro already support Qi2, though there aren’t actually any Qi2 chargers to buy yet (which might change soon). Qi2 adds a MagSafe-like ring of magnets to the Qi wireless charging standard and brings the charge rate up to 15W. For Android phones, that means faster, more convenient wireless charging and access to the huge ecosystem of magnetic wireless chargers that have sprung up to support MagSafe iPhones. For iPhones, it means MagSafe-speed charging without paying MagSafe prices. Right now, if you... Continue reading…
- Elon Musk’s xAI company is seeking up to $1 billion in investments
Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images xAI — the AI company founded by Elon Musk — seeks to raise up to $1 billion in equity investments, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (as spotted by CoinDesk). The company has raised $134.7 million so far. Founded in April, xAI is Musk’s attempt at jumping on the AI hype train. The company’s purpose is to “understand the true nature of the universe,” according to its website, something the launch of its Grok AI chatbot is apparently supposed to further. Grok pulls real-time information from X (formerly Twitter) to power some of its responses, but it’s currently only available in early access to X’s Premium Plus subscribers. Despite the close ties between Grok and X, xAI is separate from X Corp., X’s parent... Continue reading…
- Bing’s GPT-4-powered Deep Search takes its time with AI questions
Illustration: The Verge Microsoft is readying a new Bing feature that should take the hassle out of coming up with your own AI prompt. The GPT-4-powered capability, called Deep Search, takes your Bing query and expands on it, allowing the search engine to find answers about several topics related to your question on the web. As an example, Microsoft shows how Bing turns a vague search for “how do points systems work in Japan” into a detailed prompt that asks Bing to: Provide an explanation of how various loyalty card programs work in Japan, including the benefits, requirements, and limitations of each. Include examples of popular loyalty cards from different categories, such as convenience stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. Show a comparison of the... Continue reading…
- The Verge’s 2023 holiday gift guide for dads
Photo Illustration by Amelia Holowaty Krales and Cath Virginia / The Verge We’ve pulled together a king’s ransom of fun and unique gift ideas for all the dads in your life so you can spoil them no matter your budget. Continue reading…
- NASA Shows Off Concept for an Alien-Hunting 'Cryobot' Probe
Astrobiologists suspect there could be alien life just out of reach in our solar system, in oceans hidden beneath icy crusts on moons circling Jupiter and Saturn. But unlike the surface of Mars, which can be explored by rovers and landers, these mysterious oceans are currently inaccessible to us. In an effort to…Read more...
- Saw's Darren Lynn Bousman on His Latest Horror Movie, The Cello
Darren Lynn Bousman has directed four Saw movies—parts 2-4, and the Chris Rock-starring Spiral—and while his latest, The Cello, has some gruesome elements, it’s a big departure for the filmmaker in many ways. Ahead of the film’s release December 8, io9 got a chance to ask him more.Read more...
- These Quotes About The Legend of Zelda Movie Are Beyond Exciting
As a mega fan of The Legend of Zelda series, news of a movie adaptation finally happening instantly filled me with fear. How could anyone possibly take this franchise, which has spanned decades and dozens of games, and turn it into a worthwhile movie? And really? The dude who made The Maze Runner is the guy to do it?Read more...
- Andor Season 2 Likely Delayed to 2025
Cassian Andor will return. It’s just going to happen later than expected. Read more...
- 12 Million Android Users Downloaded ‘SpyLoan’ Apps That Blackmailed Customers
Android device owners downloaded malicious loan apps from the Google Play Store 12 million times since 2020, according to a report from ESET Research Tuesday. The report identified 18 fraudulent apps that market themselves as offering quick and easy high-interest loans. In actuality, the apps steal victims’ personal…Read more...
- Master & Dynamic MW09 ANC Earbuds Review: A Private Audio Oasis
If there’s one thing repeatedly brought up in our M&D reviews, it’s how stunning their products are. You do feel like you’re paying for something premium. The MW09, like the models that came before it, proves that M&D isn’t just about aesthetics. The buds sound as good as they look.Read more...
- Martin Starr Is Finally the Star in Holiday Horror Comedy There's Something in the Barn
What would National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation look like if Clark and his family had to fight a bunch of killer elves? You can get a very, very close approximation in the new movie There’s Something in the Barn. It stars Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Silicon Valley) as a happy-go-lucky father who moves his family…Read more...
- Microsoft's Copilot Is Getting a GPT-4 Turbo Boost
Microsoft Copilot, the company’s AI-fueled workflow companion, is getting an upgrade. The virtual assistant will soon be integrated with OpenAI’s latest batch of tools, including the new and improved GPT-4 Turbo, which promises to make the app’s usefulness factor improve by a matter of degrees.Read more...
- Microsoft Will Eventually Start Charging You for Windows 10 Security Updates
All good things must come to an end, and a decade after its first release, Windows 10 will finally be sent to a farm upstate. It had a good run, though Microsoft plans to keep dropping security updates after the OS’ demise on Oct. 14, 2025. Just be aware that the tech giant will force you to dip into your wallet to…Read more...
- 66% of Baldur's Gate 3 Players Too Cowardly for Druid Bear Sex
Baldur’s Gate 3 is an epic game of choice and consequence—who lives, who dies, who tells your story, who fails every possible perception check they can. But I fear, fellow wanderers across virtual Faerûn, some of you are making the choices of cowards.Read more...
- Killers of the Flower Moon Arrives on Streaming Today
If you’ve been curious about Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon—especially since its recent wins for Best Picture and Best Actress from the New York Film Critics Circle—you can now watch the director’s three-and-a-half-hour epic crime drama from the comfort of your couch.Read more...
- Universal Studios' Mario Land Is Getting a Bananas Donkey Kong Expansion
Universal Studios Resorts has unveiled its first look at its new Donkey Kong County area at the theme park in Osaka, Japan.Read more...
- Microsoft’s AI Narration App Expands to Android for Blind Users
Microsoft launched the Seeing AI app on Android devices Monday, expanding the free app that narrates the world to millions more blind and low-vision users. Seeing AI is now available for free in 18 languages on the Google Play Store with plans to expand to 36 languages next year.Read more...
- Crucial Rocket Parts End Up Crushed in a Landfill, Imperiling Satellite Mission
The final mission of the European Space Agency’s Vega rocket has encountered a bizarre setback. Key propellant tanks required for its last flight were found damaged in a landfill, jeopardizing the scheduled 2024 launch.Read more...
- Magic: The Gathering Gets Mysterious and Murderous in Its Latest Expansion
A new Magic: The Gathering set is nearly upon us—and taking players back to the grim world of Ravnica and its guilds for a bit of a twist: who drew blood at Karlov Manor? It’s a question fans will try and solve not just in the run up to the new expansion, but through its cards... and through a very peculiar Clue…Read more...
- Only 36% of PC games are purchased at full price | Ultra PC Gamer Study
In a survey of 2,000 PC gamers, only 36% of games were purchased at full price reflecting the shift to F2P and consumer price sensitivity.
- PlayStation Plus adds Powerwash Simulator in December
PlayStation Plus's final 2023 update includes Lego 2K Drive and Powerwash Sim. The games are also part of December's Season of Play.
- Prime Gaming adds Deathloop, Asteroids in December
Amazon has listed which free games are coming to Prime Gaming in December, including Deathloop, Asteroids and Akka Arrh.
- Twitch plans to shut down in South Korea on February 27, 2024
Twitch announced it will wind down operations in South Korea due to uniquely high costs to operate in the country.
- Sorry Dragon Age fans — Dreadwolf’s reveal won’t be at The Game Awards
Dragon Age fans can forget about Dreadwolf's full reveal coming at the fifth anniversary of its teaser at The Game Awards -- it's coming next summer.
- New reinforcement learning method uses human cues to correct its mistakes
Their method, RLIF, is predicated on a simple insight: it's generally easier to recognize errors than to execute flawless corrections.
- Bitcoin’s price dynamics: Unraveling the cryptocurrency’s volatility
CONTRIBUTOR CONTENT: Out of all cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin has made the greatest impact, capturing the attention of investors, traders and even the general public. This digital currency, introduced in 2009 by an anonymous entity known as Satoshi Nakamoto, has since undergone significant price fluctuations, making it a subject of intrigue and speculation. When the cryptocurrency’s volatility is unraveled,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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£4998 at Hughes£4998 at John Lewis 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