Cutting Edge Technology Resources​

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APIs are a contract between the service provider and service consumer. When any application uses an API, it needs to conform to an agreed-upon standard, with implicitly set expectations. What happens behind the scenes is of no concern to the consumer, enabling the service provider to use whatever means necessary to deliver the value. The service provider may choose any technology to deliver the service, and it may or may not optimize the resource being utilized to deliver the service.

The role of IT can feel thankless, whether you’re a team of one, wear a multitude of different hats, or are expected to have an answer for any number of issues, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Start making IT the heroes of the office by building a network strategy that delivers results, growth, and ongoing success.

Now, your data has left the data center and is everywhere, spread across hundreds of cloud apps. And your employees are embracing remote work—off the corporate network and away from your security controls.

Data is the lifeblood of today’s digital organizations. One of the biggest challenges organizations face is how to allow users to exchange data freely while keeping it from falling into the wrong hands. Nowhere is the tension between security and productivity more pronounced than when it comes to data sharing.

Phishing has long been one of the most pervasive cyberthreats, and it grows every year. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), phishing reported the most victims nationally in 2020, and according to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 35% of all data breaches involved scams trying to steal people’s sensitive information or login credentials.

Nell'ultimo aggiornamento alla Guida per gli sviluppatori puoi scoprire come iniziare a lavorare a qualsiasi progetto in pochi minuti grazie ad ambienti di sviluppo completamente configurati, sicuri e ospitati sul cloud. Scopri come ottenere il massimo dai servizi essenziali di Azure per aiutare l'organizzazione ad adattarsi alle esigenze del business in rapida evoluzione.

  • So Drupa… what was it really like

    A long time coming after an eight-year absence, much was expected from Drupa 2024. But did it live up to expectations and deliver what the market hoped for? LFR lifts the lid on the print industry’s largest trade event…

  • Soyang blog: Embracing personalisation with DTF

    Personalisation has been one of the stand-out trends in the print industry for some time now, offering customers the opportunity to create unique pieces and put their own stamp on products.

  • Why the Ricoh stand at drupa could not be missed

    The Ricoh stand at drupa was the subject of a lot of attention. It’s bold, colourful design is as distinctive as it is striking. Quite unlike anything else to be found in the sprawling Messe showground with its 17 halls.

  • Easy to apply, bubble-free graphics. What does this mean?

    Keeping bubbles out of signage and print applications is key to the success of a project. After all, there is little worse than producing a fantastic, eye-catching piece of printed work only for all this to come undone when unsightly bubbles appear during the installation process.

  • Dispelling the myths of digital corrugated printing

    In recent years, the corrugated industry has experienced a surge in demand for short and medium runs of high impact packaging, driven by growth in sectors such as the thriving craft beer market, where new product development generates a virtually constant stream of box design variations.

  • LFR on DTF - Is Direct-to-Film printing now a race to the top?

    While the fast expansion of the direct-to-film print market is on the one hand good news for the industry, this growth has left the sector rather commoditised, with huge competition in this area. LFR explores what companies in this market can do to stand out, ensure they move to the front of the pack and, ultimately, succeed.

    • Inside today’s Azure AI cloud data centers

      Azure CTO Mark Russinovich’s annual Azure infrastructure presentations at Build are always fascinating as he explores the past, present, and future of the hardware that underpins the cloud. This year’s talk was no different, focusing on the same AI platform touted in the rest of the event.Over the years it’s been clear that Azure’s hardware has grown increasingly complex. At the start, it was a prime example of utility computing, using a single standard server design. Now it’s many different server types, able to support all classes of workloads. GPUs were added and now AI accelerators.To read this article in full, please click here

    • When to use an abstract class vs. interface in C#

      When designing applications, it is important to know when to use an abstract class and when to use an interface. Although abstract classes and interfaces seem similar in some ways, there are key differences that will determine which is the best choice for what you’re trying to accomplish. In this blog post I’ll discuss those differences and how to decide when to use which.The short answer: An abstract class allows you to create functionality that subclasses can implement or override. An interface only allows you to define functionality, not implement it. And whereas a class can extend only one abstract class, it can take advantage of multiple interfaces. To read this article in full, please click here

    • 4 keys to writing modern Python

      Although Python had its 30-year anniversary in 2021, the explosion of adoption, growth, and forward-thinking development associated with the language is still relatively new. Many features of Python have remained unchanged since its inception, but with every passing year, and every new edition of Python, there are new ways of doing things and new libraries that take advantage of those advances.So, Python has its old ways and its new ways. Naturally, it makes sense to learn how to work with Python using its most modern and convenient features. Here, we’ll run down the key concepts you need to understand to write modern Python in 2024—software that uses Python’s latest and greatest idioms, concepts, and capabilities.To read this article in full, please click here

    • HTMX for Java with Spring Boot and Thymeleaf

      Not long ago, we looked at how to build an HTMX application with JavaScript. HTMX also works with Java, so now we'll try that out using Spring Boot and Thymeleaf. This awesome stack gives you all the power and versatility of Java with Spring, combined with the ingenious simplicity of HTMX.HTMX: A rising star HTMX is a newer technology that takes plain old HTML and gives it extra powers like Ajax and DOM swaps. It’s included in my personal list of good ideas because it eliminates a whole realm of complexity from the typical web app. HTMX works by converting back and forth between JSON and HTML. Think of it as a kind of declarative Ajax.To read this article in full, please click here

    • Oracle APEX adds generative AI assistant

      Oracle has updated its managed low-code application development platform, Application Express, or APEX, with a programming assistent driven by generative AI. The APEX AI Assistant debuts in Oracle APEX 24.1.Oracle APEX can be used via any of Oracle’s database services across the company’s on-premises and cloud infrastructure.The APEX AI Assistant can generate SQL code from natural language prompts, explain existing code, and suggest bug fixes to the code that can be integrated into the application, Oracle said.To read this article in full, please click here

    • How to use typesafe enums in Java

      This article introduces you to the difference between enumerated types and typesafe enums. You will learn how to declare a typesafe enum and use it in a switch statement, and you'll see how to customize a typesafe enum by adding data and behaviors. We'll also take a look at java.lang.Enum<E extends Enum<E>>, which is the base class for all typesafe enums.What you'll learn in this Java tutorial Why use typesafe enums and not enumerated types How to use typesafe enums in switch statements How to add data and behaviors to typesafe enums Details and examples of the Enum class (Enum<E extends Enum<E>>) download Get the code Download the source code for examples in this tutorial. Created by Jeff Friesen.   Why use typesafe enums, not enumerated types An enumerated type specifies a set of related constants as its values. Examples include the days in a week, the standard north/south/east/west compass directions, a currency’s coin denominations, and a lexical analyzer’s token types.To read this article in full, please click here

    • SpaceX debuts portable Starlink Mini for $599

      SpaceX unveiled Starlink Mini, a more portable version of its satellite internet product that is small enough to fit inside a backpack.  Early Starlink customers were invited to purchase the Starlink Mini kit for $599, according to an invitation sent to customers and viewed by TechCrunch. That’s $100 more than the standard Starlink kit. They © 2024 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

    • Brex’s compliance head has left the fintech startup to join Andreessen Horowitz as a partner

      Ali Rathod-Papier has stepped down from her role as global head of compliance at corporate card expense management startup Brex to join venture firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) as a partner and compliance officer, TechCrunch has exclusively learned. Rathod-Papier and a16z declined to comment on the move. According to her LinkedIn profile, Rathod-Papier now “oversees a16z’s © 2024 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

    • US bans sale of Kaspersky software citing security risk from Russia 

      U.S. officials imposed the “first of its kind” ban arguing that Kaspersky threatens U.S. national security because of its links to Russia. © 2024 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

    • Apple releases Final Cut Pro for iPad 2 and Final Cut Camera

      Apple has released Final Cut Pro for iPad 2 and Final Cut Camera, the company announced on Thursday. Both apps were previously announced during the company’s iPad event in May. Apple also released updates for Final Cut Pro for Mac. The iPad version has been updated with capabilities that are designed to take advantage of © 2024 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

    • Poolside is raising $400M+ at a $2B valuation to build a supercharged coding co-pilot

      Paris has quickly established itself as a major European center for AI startups, and now another big deal is in the works. © 2024 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

    • Gravitics prepares a testing gauntlet for a new generation of giant spacecraft

      The space industry is all abuzz about how SpaceX’s Starship, Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and other heavy-lift rockets will change just about everything. One likely consequence is that spacecraft will get bigger — much bigger — as engineers work outside the constraints of low mass requirements.  There’s one problem: the current testing regime for spacecraft © 2024 TechCrunch. All rights reserved. For personal use only.

      • TikTok makes its First Amendment case

        Illustration by Cath Virginia / The Verge | Photo from Getty Images TikTok says that the government didn’t adequately consider viable alternative options before charging ahead with a law that could ban the platform in the US. TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is based in China, claims that it provided the US government with an extensive and detailed plan to mitigate national security risks and that this plan was largely ignored when Congress passed a law with a huge impact on speech. In briefs filed at the DC Circuit Court on Thursday, both TikTok and a group of creators on the platform who’ve filed their own suit spelled out their case for why they believe the new law violates the First Amendment. The court is set to hear oral arguments in the case on September 16th, just a few months before the... Continue reading…

      • Samsung Galaxy Buds 3 leak shows off AirPods-like design

        Image: @TEQHNIKACROSS on X Samsung’s next Galaxy Buds have been rumored to resemble AirPods, and new leaked renders make the comparison clearer than ever. The renders, purportedly found on Korean retailer Coupang, show that Samsung might be moving on from its bulb-shaped buds in favor of wireless headphones with AirPods-like stems, AirPods-like vents, and even an AirPods-like case. I’ve made an image slider so you can compare one of the renders with a photo of Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro. The big difference with Samsung’s new buds is a metallic silver color and some more angular features. If this is indeed the new look for Samsung’s earbuds — Samsung is apparently working on standard and Pro versions of the Galaxy Buds 3, both with stems — it would mark... Continue reading…

      • YouTube is canceling Premium subscriptions bought using spoofed locations

        Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge If you used a virtual private network (VPN) to purchase a YouTube Premium in a country where it’s cheaper, your subscription might be on the chopping block. Over the past few days, several people who’ve used this trick reported having their subscriptions automatically canceled, as reported earlier by Android Police. The workaround involves using a VPN to change your location to a country where YouTube Premium is offered at a lower price. For example, YouTube Premium costs $13.99 per month in the US for ad-free access to videos, YouTube Music, and offline downloads, but just $1.05 per month (869 ARS) in Argentina. But now, it looks like YouTube is cracking down on subscribers who don’t actually live in these countries. In a statement... Continue reading…

      • Embracer Group believes AI will ‘empower’ game developers

        Image: Crystal Dynamics Embracer Group, the gaming giant that has the rights to big franchises like The Lord of the Rings and Tomb Raider, detailed how it’s thinking about the use of artificial intelligence for game development in its latest annual report. The conglomerate, which recently split into three separate companies, has adopted a “Group AI Policy” that it says is based on the notion of “empowerment.” While the report doesn’t include the text of the policy, there’s a chunk of text in the report’s “Risk and Mitigation Overview” section that seems to offer a summary of its stance on AI: AI has the capability to massively enhance game development by increasing resource efficiency, adding intelligent behaviors, personalization, and optimization to gameplay... Continue reading…

      • New York bans ‘addictive feeds’ for teens

        Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) signed two bills into law on Thursday that aim to protect kids and teens from social media harms, making it the latest state to take action as federal proposals still await votes. One of the bills, the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act, will require parental consent for social media companies to use “addictive feeds” powered by recommendation algorithms on kids and teens under 18. The other, the New York Child Data Protection Act, would limit data collection on minors without consent and restrict the sale of such information but does not require age verification. That law will take effect in a year. States across the country have taken the lead on enacting legislation to protect kids... Continue reading…

      • Anker’s fastest power bank is matching its lowest price

        It’s the ideal power bank if your office never stops moving. | Photo: Anker My army of portable chargers is eight soldiers strong. It’s a little ridiculous, but the variety gives me flexibility to pick the perfect charger for the day’s needs, whether it’s my sleek MagSafe charger to keep my iPhone going on longer days or a bigger brick for my iPad, camera, and other devices when I anticipate heavier usage. My collection ballooned as charging tech improved over the years, but it’s way more than any one person needs. I’m hoping to consolidate my kit with the Anker Prime 27,650mAh Power Bank (250W) I’ve been eyeing, and now seems a decent time to buy since it’s matching its all-time low of $124.99 ($55 off) at Amazon and directly from Anker with code WS7DV2MTYMJV. It’s compatible with an optional $69.99 magnetic... Continue reading…

      • Watch the trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition — coming June 25th

        Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was Ubisoft’s breakout hit of 2003, but the company’s cult classic Beyond Good & Evil, released just two weeks later, will beat it to an upgraded rerelease. Ubisoft has released a trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition that confirms it’ll arrive next Tuesday, June 25th — just five days after I write these words. I hope it stands up because I remember it as a phenomenal game. Jade and her pig buddy Pey’j were memorable characters with a remarkably lived-in sci-fi world, where you wield a camera and a mean stick rather than resorting to gunplay. It struck enough of a chord that gamers have been clamoring for a sequel ever since — but Beyond Good & Evil 2 has now been stuck in... Continue reading…

      • Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes ‘Raw Cut’ shows the movie pre-VFX

        20th Century Studios Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ stunning visual effects are nothing short of astounding, but for the film’s upcoming home release, 20th Century Studios is giving you the ability to see the motion capture performances that were key in bringing the talking apes to life. Though Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes will be available to download on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Fandango at Home starting on July 9th, you might want to wait until the movie’s physical release on August 27th when the 4K Ultra HD featuring Inside the Lens: The Raw Cut is in stores. Image: 20th Century Studios In an announcement about The Raw Cut, 20th Century Studios described it as a full-length, split-screen alternative cut that will allow... Continue reading…

      • Anker’s new dual-headed USB-C cable charges two devices at once

        Anker’s new 2-in-1 USB-C charging cable could reduce the number of wires you need to wrangle by half. | Image: Anker Anker’s trying something new that could potentially cut the number of cables you need to wrangle in half. Its 2-in-1 USB-C cable allows two devices to simultaneously charge from a single USB-C port with built-in “Smart Power Management” that automatically adjusts power distribution based on “each device’s power needs.” The four-foot-long cable features a single USB-C port on one end that splits into a pair of USB-C ports on the other, each with a foot of cable that can be shortened as needed to keep things neat and tidy. It’s all wrapped in a durable sheath that Anker promises will survive “over 10,000 bends.” Image: Anker The twin USB-C ports on one end each have a foot of cable that can be shortened as needed. ... Continue reading…

      • Car dealerships hit with massive computer system outage

        Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge CDK Global, the company that provides management software for nearly 15,000 car dealerships in North America, is down for a second day following a cyberattack, according to a report from Automotive News. The outage has left car dealerships across North America unable to access the internal systems used to track car sales, view customer information, schedule maintenance, and more. On Wednesday, CDK told dealerships that it’s “investigating a cyber incident” and “proactively shut all systems down” while addressing the issue. However, CDK restored its systems shortly after, only to shut them down hours later due to “an additional cyber incident.” Many car dealerships have had to go back to pen and paper while CDK’s software is down. Teddy... Continue reading…

      • Nic Cage Thinks His Mysterious Longlegs Monster Is Explosively Horrifying

        The bizarre marketing for Longlegs has raised the intrigue level for the summer horror movie sky-high. But one thing audiences have yet to catch a good glimpse of is its biggest star: Nicolas Cage, who plays the title character. And there’s a careful reason behind that.Read more...

      • 10 Freaky Horror Movies to Stream on Shudder

        The scariest horror movies are often the ones that present a version of reality where madness feels like it’s just part of the atmosphere, and evil is slowly infecting everything in the frame. These 10 picks from Shudder all have the power to make your skin crawl—and push your imagination to very dark places.Read more...

      • President Biden Bans Kaspersky Antivirus Software Over Russia Ties

        The United States announced it is banning the sale of antivirus software from the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs on Thursday, according to a release from the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. Kaspersky’s alleged close ties to the Russian government were found to pose a critical risk.…Read more...

      • Telehealth Company Accused of Being Pill Mill for Adderall Says It Will Continue Treating Patients

        Done Global, the online healthcare company that saw two executives arrested last week, issued a statement this week assuring patients it will do its best to continue operations despite the federal indictments by the U.S. Department of Justice. The executives were charged with providing “easy access” to Adderall and …Read more...

      • Marvel's Star Wars Comics Are Finally Moving on From the Most Unhinged Year in Canon

        Since early 2020, many of Marvel’s primary Star Wars comics—the main Star Wars series, Darth Vader, and the already concluded Doctor Aphra and Bounty Hunters—shifted to a new period in the timeline of the original movies: the immediate days and weeks after the events of The Empire Strikes Back. Like the first renewed…Read more...

      • Now Is Finally the Best Time to Run the Android 15 Beta

        If you’re a diehard Android user who can’t wait a couple of more months for Android 15, now is the best time to check out the beta. The third beta of Android 15 started rolling out several days ago and officially hit Platform Stability. That means that developers can code their apps to this version of Android without…Read more...

      • Oh No, It's the M3GAN Cin3matic Univ3rs3

        There’s a new eerily lifelike android coming from the same tech universe that created M3GAN—but this one’s aimed squarely at adults. Fans of the Blumhouse killer AI doll movie will recall that the invention’s files slipped out of company HQ, which could be the thread leading to the plot of the upcoming spin-off Soulm8t…Read more...

      • Will The MSI Claw Scratch Your Handheld Gaming Itch?

        Read more...

      • Meet 'Loki,' the Triceratops Relative With the Most Unbelievable Frill Horns

        Scientists have discovered a new, very cool-looking dinosaur. The intricately horned beast is a relative of the famous Triceratops and has been named Lokiceratops rangiformis. It’s thought to have roamed around the western half of North America over 78 million years ago, back when the continent was split into several…Read more...

      • This $300 Neck Speaker by Sony Is Choked by Its Own Limitations

        Let’s say you want to listen to high-quality surround sound without a sound bar or headphones. Or maybe you want to annoy someone trying to enjoy a book on the couch next to you? Perhaps you were looking for one of the most awkward gaming setups involving wired connections to your PlayStation 5 controller to console…Read more...

      • The Dark Universe Begins Again at Universal's Theme Park

        Universal Studios would not be the premiere cinematic experience theme park without the Universal Monsters. Influencing filmmakers from Spielberg to Peele, they are the blueprint of thrills and it’s about damn time that the almost century-old fandom will finally get its due with Epic Universe’s Dark Universe, the…Read more...

      • Here's the Voice of Bruce Timm's Next Animated Batman

        Now it can be told: Hamish Linklater (Midnight Mass) will voice Batman in Bruce Timm’s latest animated series, Batman: Caped Crusader, taking over for late Batman: The Animated Series star Kevin Conroy. You can hear a tease of Linklater’s performance in the below video.Read more...

      • Classical Astronomers Observed a Different Great Red Spot on Jupiter

        In 1665, astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini observed a massive storm raging on Jupiter. It became known as the Great Red Spot, a swirling oval of clouds that’s almost twice as wide as Earth. New research, however, suggests that the red-hued feature spotted by Cassini is not the same storm we see today.Read more...

      • New Security System Uses AI to Shoot Criminals With Paintballs

        A new home security system that uses AI-driven smart tracking to shoot potential intruders with paintballs might sound like something out of a Home Alone reboot set in the future. But it could be a reality soon if folks on Kickstarter get their way. The big question that’s still unanswered is whether it’s legal.Read more...

      • Mathematicians Are Excited About a Newly Discovered Shape

        In two dimensions, it’s the Reuleaux triangle: an equilateral triangle with curved arcs connecting each corner, creating a shape with a constant width but a smaller area than a circle. Now, a team of mathematicians say they’ve scaled up the shape into the third dimension and beyond, finding it resolves a math problem…Read more...

      • Roku put video ads on its home screen. How irritating are they?

        The next time you navigate to the Home screen on your Roku streaming video player, expect to see something new: a video ad that begins playing automatically.  Roku execs have long been promising new ad “experiences” for the Roku interface, and as Cord Cutters News reports, one of them has arrived—an autoplay ad that takes over the static “Marquee” ad spot on the Roku Home tab.  The video as marks yet another attempt by the big streaming video platforms to mix revenue-generating ads into their UIs without unduly ticking off viewers.   This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best streaming video players. The trick, of course, is not going too far with the ads—and indeed, some of the top streaming platforms have stepped well over the line separating tolerable from flat-out annoying.  So, how did Roku fare with its new video ad? Fairly well, as it turns out, with the streamer taking—for the moment—a cautious approach.  The new Roku video ads sits in a familiar spot on the Roku Home screen—the so-called “Marquee” spot, which sits to the right of the app grid on the Home tab.  Roku’s new video ads stick to the Marquee spot to the right of the screen, and for now, there’s no auto-playing sound. Roku’s new video ads stick to the Marquee spot to the right of the screen, and for now, there’s no auto-playing sound. Ben Patterson/Foundry Roku’s new video ads stick to the Marquee spot to the right of the screen, and for now, there’s no auto-playing sound. Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Previously, only static ads would appear in the Marquee space. But now, you may see an autoplay video ad showing up.   The video ad I saw during my testing was for Tubi, and it was reasonably unobtrusive. The ad stayed within the Marquee spot, and while it began to play automatically, there was—thankfully—no sound.  It’s also worth noting that Roku’s new video ads don’t appear the moment you fire up your Roku player; instead, they appear only on the Home tab, which you must click to view.  The new Roku video ad is just a baby step compared to what Amazon and Google have tried.   Amazon has led the way when it comes to obnoxious ads on its Fire TV players, complete with autoplay video ads that essentially take over the screen, complete with audio. Indeed, Amazon just dialed back the ads, which now leave a sliver of room at the bottom for your apps.  Google, for its part, has begun hawking physical products on the Google TV carousel, a change from ads that typically promote other streaming providers or services.  Of course, there’s no telling what Roku will try next with its home screen, but for now, this video ad experiment seems somewhat tame.   Streaming Media

      • This app tells you when to cancel your streaming subscriptions

        While plenty of apps can tell you which streaming services you need, a new iOS app called Seasons can help determine which ones you don’t. Like other what-to-watch apps, such as JustWatch and Reelgood, Seasons lets you search for shows, see where they’re available to stream, and save them to a watchlist for future reference. The difference is that Seasons can tell you when to sign up for each service and when to cancel, based on when new episodes from your watchlist are available. Seasons launched on iPhone and iPad at the beginning of June, and it’s clearly a work in progress. The core idea, though, is one that’s long overdue and sorely needed in today’s streaming landscape. Tracking subscriptions with Seasons Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry Seasons lets you specify not only which subscriptions you have, but what you’re paying for each one and how often they renew. That means you can factor in annual discounts, extended trials, and wireless carrier deals. The app’s “Subscriptions” tab gives you an overview of which services are coming up for renewal. Meanwhile, the “Browse” tab lets you look up movies or shows and add them to your watchlist. It also suggests additional movies and shows to watch, mostly based on what’s new and trending, though Seasons’ App Store page claims more personalized recommendations will be included over time. Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry All this information feeds into the “Calendar” tab, which shows the arrival dates for new episodes and, most interestingly, suggests when to renew or cancel each service. The app will only recommend subscribing while every episode of a show is available, so you can binge-watch them all within a single billing cycle, and it will suggest cancelling once there’s nothing left from that service on your watchlist. Seasons is free to download, but adding more than five shows to your watchlist requires a “Pro” subscription at $4 per year or $9 for life. The Pro tier also unlocks a couple of extra savings strategies in the Calendar tab, including a “Saver” mode that suggests cycling through one subscription at a time and a “Streamer” mode that tells you to subscribe as soon as new episodes are available. Room for improvement Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry While I love the idea behind Seasons, the app doesn’t yet live up to its potential. Managing your watchlist, for instance, is a chore, and there’s no way to sync Seasons with other existing what-to-watch services. Ideally, Seasons would integrate with a service like Younify, which automatically tracks your watchlists and viewing history from major streaming services. Being able to get subscription advice based on your actual viewing data would be incredibly powerful. The advice that Seasons does offer is also too limited. You can’t set up a subscription schedule to fit within a certain budget or put a cap on how many simultaneous subscriptions you want to maintain. You also can’t mark certain services as non-negotiable—for instance, if you want to keep Netflix year-round because your kids always use it. The app doesn’t help with the actual act of cancellation, either. I’m not expecting Seasons to manage subscriptions on your behalf, but just linking out to each service’s cancellation and account pages—as I’ve done myself—would go a long way. One other nitpick: While the “My Seasons” tab shows the daily average cost of your subscriptions, a monthly average would be much more useful, especially if you’re comparing to cable. Playing the churn game Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry Jared Newman / Foundry While subscription hopping was once a niche pursuit, it’s becoming more widespread as streaming services raise prices and crack down on password sharing. As Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw reported earlier this month, data from Antenna shows more than 50 million cancellations in the first quarter of this year alone. “Lots of people are still signing up for streaming services. But they are also canceling at record rates,” Shaw wrote. Streaming providers are now hoping you’ll bundle more services together so they’re harder to cancel even when nothing’s on. Seasons presents an alternative approach, in which you’re more empowered to cancel the services you’re not using. For more streaming TV advice, sign up for Jared’s Cord Cutter Weekly newsletter. Streaming Media

      • Dreame H14 cordless vacuum review: Easy wet and dry cleaning

        At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsVacuums dry and liquid messesSelf cleans and driesCan lie flat to clean under furnitureConsShort runtimeExpensiveOur VerdictThe Dreame H14 is a versatile vacuum that can streamline your cleaning routine with little effort. Dreametech has produced some of our favorite robot vacuums, but it also makes excellent cordless wet and dry vacuums. The Dreame H14 is the new top of that line, and it can handle everything from dust and pet hair to spilled liquids. The H14’s sleek, upright build and clean, matte finish should fit seamlessly into any contemporary decor. The vacuum’s slim body allows for easy storage in a closet the corner of a room, or in other tight spaces. While sturdy and well-built, it’s still lightweight enough to carry up and down stairs without much effort. The Dreame H14 tackles two unpopular chores at once while removing the “ick” factor of vacuum/mop maintenance. Dual-purpose cleaning The Dreame H14 seamlessly transitions from wet to dry cleaning, making it versatile for different messes. The vacuum pairs a powerful 18,000 Pa of suction with a dual-edge roller brush that allows it to reach into corners, along wall edges, and around table legs. A transparent 0.9-liter clean water tank slots into the front, and there’s a 0.7-liter waste-water tank on the back. Both are easy to detach and reattach when they need to be refilled or emptied. The vacuum offers multiple cleaning modes, including a suction mode for vacuuming dust and debris, an ultra mode for deep cleaning, and an auto mode that adjusts suction power based on the detected mess. On the handle, there’s a simple control panel with a power button and mode selector, and a self-cleaning button is set on the top. An LED display on the H14’s body provides real-time feedback on battery life and the selected cleaning mode to keep you abreast of the vacuum’s status. This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best robot vacuums. The vacuum is powered by a 4,000mAh battery, which offers a runtime of up to 35 minutes. This is adequate for cleaning most medium-sized homes on a single charge. The H14 reclines up to 180 degrees to clean under couches and beds. The H14 reclines up to 180 degrees to clean under couches and beds. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry The H14 reclines up to 180 degrees to clean under couches and beds. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Setup and operation Setting up the H14 is straightforward. Start by attaching the handle to the main body of the vacuum; it clicks into place with a satisfying snap. Next, plug in the charging base and place the vacuum on it. The battery takes about 4 hours to charge fully, and the LED display indicates the charging status. In the meantime, you can fill the clean water tank and add a capful of the provided cleaning fluid. Operating the Dreame H14 is equally user-friendly. When you power it on, the vacuum defaults to auto mode, which is ideal for everyday dust and debris. You just press the mode selector button to cycle through the other modes. Performance The vacuum performed solidly in my testing. It glides smoothly on hard floor surfaces, picking up dirt and liquid without leaving streaks. On carpets and area rugs, it provided a deep clean that rivaled my corded vacuum. I found the suction power to be sufficient for most household tasks, and the vacuum transitions easily between different floor types, with the rotation of the roller brush helping to propel it forward. I particularly liked the H14’s “lie-flat” design, which allows it to recline at a 180-degree angle while keeping the vacuum head flush with the floor, so you can clean under beds, couches, and other low-clearance furniture without having to move those heavy pieces around. The waste tank holds less water in flat mode, though—about 0.45 liters in total—so it’s best to empty it before going after any dust bunnies. An LED display keeps you on top of the H14’s status. An LED display keeps you on top of the H14’s status. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry An LED display keeps you on top of the H14’s status. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Self-cleaning The self-cleaning function addresses any accumulated dirt, hair, and other debris on the brush roller to help maintain the H14’s cleaning efficiency over time. After each cleaning session, you simply place the vacuum on its charging dock and press the self-cleaning button on the handle. Once activated, the vacuum uses a combination of 140-degree Fahrenheit water and powerful suction to flush out the accumulated debris from the brush roll, then dries and sterilizes it with hot air. The system offers two options for the latter function, which you access by long pressing the self-cleaning button: Quiet, which takes about an hour, or Super Speed, which does the job in five minutes. In practice, I found the flash cleaning best reserved for quick refreshes of the brush, such as after cleaning a small spill. Most of the time, though, Quiet mode delivered a more thorough washing. Specifications Suction power: 18,000 Pa Clean water tank capacity: 0.9l Dirty water tank capacity: 0.7l (0.45 in “lie-flat” mode) Battery capacity: 4,000mAh Maximum runtime: 35 minutes Charging time: 4 hours Self-cleaning: Yes Rated power: 400W Weight: 11.2 pounds Should you buy the Dreame H14 wet and dry vacuum? At $599.99, the Dreame H14 seems like a modest investment for the convenience of tackling two unpopular chores at once and removing the “ick” factor of vacuum/mop maintenance. If the opportunity to streamline your cleaning routine sounds appealing, the Dreame H14 is worth considering. Robot Vacuums and Cleaning

      • 11 ways to lock down your home security camera against hackers

        While just about any type of security device has potential weaknesses, home security cameras are particularly attractive targets for hackers, criminals, and other cretins intent on disrupting your life. Older cameras are particularly vulnerable to physical and electronic threats, but even the newest cameras aren’t bulletproof if you don’t take steps to lock them down.  Fortunately, it only takes a few basic security measures and a little forethought to defend your cameras against the most common threats. We’ll walk you through the steps. This story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best home security cameras. 1. Set a secure password The first and most obvious way to protect your security camera is to set a secure password as soon as you set it up. Of all the passwords you ever create, this one is among the most important as it protects not just your camera but your home as well. Make it a long one with plenty of special characters and ensure it’s only used for this one account. In addition, be sure to change it periodically in case it is ever compromised. Every six months is a good cadence, although you might want to follow the advice of business IT security policies and change it quarterly.  Use a password generator such as the one included in Dashlane to automatically generate and store secure passwords without a fuss. Use a password generator such as the one included in Dashlane to automatically generate and store secure passwords without a fuss.Martyn Casserly Use a password generator such as the one included in Dashlane to automatically generate and store secure passwords without a fuss.Martyn Casserly Martyn Casserly 2. Use two-factor authentication Two-factor authentication–2FA, also known as multi-factor authentication (MFA), is a common method of adding a second layer of security to your password. The most widely used type of 2FA is to require a time-limited access code to be sent to your mobile number or email address, which prevents hackers from getting into your camera’s account if they don’t also have access to your phone or computer. MFA takes this a step further by working in conjunction with an app on your phone that generates unique access codes every minute or so, which can be both easier to use and more secure than the email or text-messaging options. 3. Use end-to-end encryption End-to-end encryption is a security measure that basically scrambles a signal in such a way that only devices using special digital keys and signatures can decode it. This is an essential feature for security cameras, as it protects against the possibility that some third-party (such as a hacker) will intercept and monitor your camera’s feed over the internet or Wi-Fi. Most older home cameras did not come with end-to-end encryption, and were prone to remote interception. Newer cameras from major brands such as Google, Netgear, Ring, SimpliSafe, Philips Hue, and others generally do support end-to-end encryption, but you might need to enable it. In some cases, it might require you to install a firmware update.  To check whether your camera has end-to-end encryption, look in your app settings and ensure it’s an available option that’s enabled. (Some cameras, such as those from Ring, require you to opt in to end-to-end encryption.) If you don’t see the option in your app, check the tech-support pages on the camera manufacturer’s website to see if it’s included either by default or via an update. If not, consider upgrading to a camera that has it. This is now a common enough feature that there’s no good reason to keep using any camera that doesn’t have it. 4. Update your firmware Reputable security device companies release regular updates for their products to help protect against newly exposed vulnerabilities and to add new features. In many cases, such as Google Nest cameras, firmware updates are performed automatically over the network without needing any attention from the user. Check your device’s mobile app for firmware updates occasionally, and if there’s one that hasn’t been installed, go ahead and install it manually. 5. Use a dedicated account Security devices belong to a special class of trusted equipment, and should be treated as such. While it’s generally more convenient to set them up using your primary email account, that approach can backfire if your personal email address is ever compromised. Instead, consider setting up a dedicated email account just for your security devices. That way, the only communications you should receive on the account are security alerts, and the likelihood that the account will be picked up by spammers and scammers is low as long as you never use it for anything but your security gear. 6. Enable notifications All security cameras from reputable brands come with mobile apps that can notify you of suspicious activity seen by your camera. Often, however, these notifications become too frequent and annoying, leading users to disable them within weeks of buying the camera. Resist the temptation to ignore or disable camera notifications, as your awareness of an alert is often the only real defense the camera provides (other than acting as a visual deterrent for thieves who’d rather avoid detection). Be sure your camera is set up to catch your eye (or ear) with a push notification when it sees something. You can usually customize these alerts based on what the camera is detecting, which can help cut down on false alarms from trees blowing in the wind or cats walking by your porch. Setting a detection zone (sometimes called an activity zone) can help focus your camera alerts on areas that matter and ignore high-volume public areas.  Setting a detection zone (sometimes called an activity zone) can help focus your camera alerts on areas that matter and ignore high-volume public areas.  Foundry / Robert Strohmeyer Setting a detection zone (sometimes called an activity zone) can help focus your camera alerts on areas that matter and ignore high-volume public areas.  Foundry / Robert Strohmeyer Foundry / Robert Strohmeyer 7. Define zones to reduce false alarms and get more useful alerts A security camera with motion detection zones lets you draw an area inside the camera’s view and label it for use in notification rules. By excluding a sidewalk or street, you can reduce the frequency of nuisance alerts produced by cars driving by or people walking their dogs in front of your home, while ensuring you do get a notice if someone walks onto your property. Define zones for your driveway, lawn, porch, or any area that matters to you, and set your alerts for those zones only unless you’re really keen to get a ping every time anyone does anything on your street. If nothing else, seeing a zone mentioned in your push notifications can help you decide whether to check the feed when an alert comes in, and prevent notification burnout from undermining your security. 8. Secure any power cables One of the biggest weaknesses for a lot of home security cameras is the cable that feeds its power. Cable-powered security cameras are easier to maintain over the long haul, because you don’t need to recharge their batteries, but many people skip the step of routing the power cable to a secure, interior outlet and instead plug the camera into an easily accessible outdoor outlet. If a perp sees your camera’s power cable plugged into the wall nearby, that’s a no-brainer for them to defeat. Ideally, your camera’s power source should be in an interior location, such as a garage outlet or another indoor location. Failing that, consider mounting power outlets high and out of reach, inside a locked security box. While a truly dedicated thief could always find a way to defeat your camera, casual crimes of opportunity become a little harder if the job requires cutting a cable that’s routed through a wall or climbing a ladder to get to it. Route security camera cables away in such a way that they’re harder to tamper with or unplug. A locked outlet box mounted in a high location (left) can be a convenient method, but it’s even safer to route the power cables through a wall to an interior outlet (right). Route security camera cables away in such a way that they’re harder to tamper with or unplug. A locked outlet box mounted in a high location (left) can be a convenient method, but it’s even safer to route the power cables through a wall to an interior outlet (right). Foundry / Robert Strohmeyer Route security camera cables away in such a way that they’re harder to tamper with or unplug. A locked outlet box mounted in a high location (left) can be a convenient method, but it’s even safer to route the power cables through a wall to an interior outlet (right). Foundry / Robert Strohmeyer Foundry / Robert Strohmeyer 9. Charge batteries regularly If your camera is battery powered, be sure to check its charge level regularly and proactively charge it up when it’s below 30 percent. If your camera has a removable battery, as many Ring models do, consider buying spares so you can simply swap them out with suffering any down time. Many cameras will run for months on a single charge, so if you keep an eye on them and charge them proactively, you should never have to worry about them running out of juice. This is especially important if you have a vacation coming up, as there won’t be much you can do if your camera’s battery dies while you’re laying on a beach a thousand miles from home. 10. Mount the device securely Your camera can’t do much to protect you if it’s sitting in a thief’s backpack as they drive away from your home. Be sure to mount your camera securely to a wall or beam, and if possible set it up somewhere that would be inconvenient to a thief to reach. Many cameras can be hard-reset with a paperclip, meaning they can be resold on the street for a few bucks. If you mount your camera high enough that it’s slightly inconvenient to reach but still has an appropriate field of view, you can reduce the likelihood of it being stolen, removed, or blinded with spray paint.  11. Use multiple cameras with overlapping fields of view One camera by itself can be an easy target for perpetrators to circumvent or even steal. Multiple cameras with overlapping fields of view provide additional protection by being much more noticeable to potential thieves and signaling that you mean business. On my own home, I have three permanent cameras covering front approaches, including a doorbell camera, and each camera has a view of the approaches for at least one of the other two. Two are mounted high enough that they’re inconvenient targets for physical circumvention, and between the three nothing approaches my property without being noticed. This arrangement is probably my single favorite feature of my home security setup, because it lets me watch suspicious activity from multiple angles and approaches. Home Security, Security Cameras

      • Philips Hue’s new smart light is the one we’ve been waiting for

        We’ve seen plenty of Phillips Hue smart lights that support sunrise and sunset modes, perfect for waking up in the morning and winding down at night. But we’ve never seen a proper Hue bedside table lamp—until now.  The 13-inch tall Philips Hue Twilight boasts a compact design (the base is 4.09 inches deep) that should fit nicely on a bedside tabletop, and it comes with two separate light elements: an illuminated head that swivels from left to right (ideal for when you want to read a book in bed), and a rear array of gradient and overlapping LEDs that employ Hue’s new “ColorCast” technology to “mimic” a “wide palette” of sunrise and sunset colors.  Embedded in the top of the Twilight’s swiveling head is a pair of buttons: one that cycles though six new light scenes, including “Arise” and “Sleepy,” while the other sets off an automation that resembles a soothing sunset. You can also customize the function of those two buttons, provided you have a Hue Bridge.  The two buttons on the top of the Philips Hue Twilight let you cycle through light scenes or trigger a soothing sunset automation. The two buttons on the top of the Philips Hue Twilight let you cycle through light scenes or trigger a soothing sunset automation. Philips Hue The two buttons on the top of the Philips Hue Twilight let you cycle through light scenes or trigger a soothing sunset automation. Philips Hue Philips Hue Besides its discrete light sources and wake/sleep automations, the Philips Hue Twilight can get really (as in really) dim, with a brightness that goes as low as 0.5 percent, Hue says. That’s in contrast to some smart bulbs (such as the Hue filament bulb that’s currently in my own bedside lamp) that are still relatively bright even at their lowest brightness setting.  This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart bulbs. Natually, the Philips Hue Twilight offers tight integration with the rest of the Hue smart lighting ecosystem, including support for Hue automations, room or zone grouping, and voice commands. You can also control the Twilight with a Hue smart switch or the Hue app.   Twilight requires the Hue Bridge to unlock its most advanced smart features, including out-of-home control, but it also works via Bluetooth with a pared-down feature set.  Available in black and white flavors, the Philips Hue Twilight is available exclusively from the Hue online storefront for a cool $279.99 (Hue smart lights don’t come cheap).   Philips Hue also has some other new smart lights to show off, including four new handblown glass bulbs from Hue’s Lightguide line. (Hue appears to have recovered from its prior Lightguide woes.) The just-announced Lightguide shapes include a small globe ($79.99), a large globe ($99.99), a triangle bulb ($99.99), and the Edison ($79.99).  Also new is the Philips Hue Solo lightstrip, which comes in 10-, 16-, and 33-foot lengths ($69.99, $89.99, and $159.99, respectively), with its RGB+WW (or “warmer white”) LEDs capable of up to 1,700 lumens of brightness.   Next comes the Philips Hue Datura, a flush-mount color and tunable-white ceiling light that offers dual and individually controllable light sources. The Datura comes in two sizes: 384mm for $299.99, and 574mm for $399.99.  Finally, Hue is unleashing new dimmable-white, tunable-white, and color-capable GU10 bulbs that range in price from $21 to $99.99 (including separate bulbs and multi-packs).  Lighting

      • Best music streaming service 2024: Highest quality, best experience

        Streaming music is probably your best entertainment value. The top services offer vast and—with one notable exception—almost identical catalogs that give listeners access to a huge chunk of recorded music history. And you’ll pay substantially less than what you fork out for streaming video services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or HBO Max. The music catalogs that make up the raw materials for these services might be the same—again, with one exception—but audio quality and user experience differentiate the major players from each other. If you haven’t already picked one, our in-depth reviews will help you choose. If you have, you should know that a lot has changed in the past couple of years—it might be time to reconsider. To help you decide, here are our top picks according to listener type. Scroll down further and we’ll explain how we evaluated each service, provide links to our reviews of the services that didn’t make the cut, discuss how artists fare in this new world of music listening, and–because streaming royalties are a pittance for most musicians–show how you can reward your favorite artists for their work. Updated June 18, 2024: We’ve added a link to our news story covering Tidal’s decision to remove tracks in the MQA and Sony 360 Reality Audio formats, replacing them with tracks encoded in FLAC and the Dolby Atmos formats.. Best music streaming services Apple Music — Best music streaming service for most listeners Pros All titles stream in CD quality or better Curated playlists and genre recommendations display an intense commitment to a variety of music An outstanding value, especially when bundled with other Apple services Cons Personalized recommendations don’t exhibit the same attention to quality as the rest of the service Spatial audio isn’t always the best way to listen to a particular album. It’s on by default and not easy to turn off Apple Music now at minimum offers lossless, CD-quality streams of its catalog for $10.99/month. For listeners with access to the hardware to decode it, there are plenty of titles that stream at higher resolutions, up to 24-bit/192kHz. The service features highly curated pages in almost any genre you can imagine and, if you bundle Apple Music with other services like Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News, and Apple Fitness, your monthly costs will be the lowest for high-quality, on-demand music streaming. Read our full Apple Music review Tidal — Best music streaming service for explorers Pros Outstanding music curation with a strong point of view High-resolution streams sound great Tidal pays a monthly bonus to the most-streamed artist on its HiFi Plus Plan Cons Tidal’s HiFi Plus tier is more expensive than any major service MQA encoding has its detractors If you’re the kind of person who wants to know precisely which musicians, producers, and engineers contributed to the music you’re playing, Tidal is the first streamer to really attempt to surface all the hidden metadata in its music and use that information to improve its product. Its MQA high-resolution streams don’t have the same technical specifications as its competition, but in practice, Tidal sounds just as good as Qobuz or Apple Music—and some will argue it sounds better. The music recommendations in the app are based more on editorial taste than machine learning, and that difference will mean a lot to some music fans. Updated June 18, 2024 to take into account Tidal’s decision to remove of MQA and Sony 360 Reality Audio tracks from its library, replacing them with tracks encoded with FLAC and Dolby Atmos. Read our full Tidal review Qobuz — Best music streaming service for audiophiles Pros Best-in-class sound quality Outstanding curation Much-improved software Cons Less emphasis on current hits. (This might not be a con) No support for Dolby Atmos or Sony 360 Reality Audio (ditto) Best Prices Today: $12.99 at Qobuz Qobuz has built a following among serious music listeners with its lossless and high-resolution streaming options, and its integration into an array of high-end home audio streaming devices. When compared head-to-head with the same tracks from Tidal and Apple Music, the Qobuz streams sound ever-so-slightly better. Qobuz is 100-percent committed to high-res digital music, and recent improvements to its search function and artist pages have brought its service up to the same level as the competition. If you’re looking for a less corporate streamer, check out Qobuz. Read our full Qobuz review YouTube Music Premium — Best music streaming service for bootleg collectors Pros So much live and rare music to discover A true bargain when included with an ad-free YouTube Premium subscription Cons No lossless streaming Can be very difficult to search for specific music YouTube pays the lowest royalty rates to artists and rights holders YouTube Music Premium doesn’t offer lossless streaming. On a computer, you must access the service through a browser, because there’s no desktop app. In spite of those issues, YouTube Music Premium offers a unique feature that no other service will ever be able to match: Subscribers can listen to and make playlists from any song that’s streaming on the YouTube video site. Regular YouTube users know that the service is home to millions of alternate takes, live performances, and songs that might never be cleared for a standard streaming catalog. If you’re looking for obscure, easy-listening classics, independent hip hop from the 1980s, poorly distributed punk rock 45s from the 70s, or underground 60s rock from behind the Iron Curtain, YouTube Premium is a goldmine. Read our full YouTube Music Premium review YouTube — Best music streaming service for thrifty listeners Pros It's free You can play songs on demand or add them to playlists YouTube runs in the background when streaming on a browser with a laptop or desktop Cons It's free because there are ads When streaming on mobile devices, the YouTube app must be active Best Prices Today: Free at YouTube Several streaming services offer a free listening tier, but their ad-supported options come with restrictions that prevent on-demand listening. If you’re looking for a no-cost option that doesn’t come with required shuffle play or doesn’t limit your listening to pre-made playlists, YouTube is the answer. That’s YouTube the video streaming site, which is loaded with millions of tracks that you can play on demand or add to playlists in any order you want—provided you’re willing to tolerate the site’s advertising. The only hitch for mobile users is that the YouTube app must be active to stream on the free tier. Use it in a browser on a desktop and you can go about your business with the YouTube window in the background. Where’s my favorite music streaming service? Don’t see your favorite streaming service listed above? Rest assured, we’ve probably reviewed it—and found it wanting. With its massive user base and impressive music recommendation engine, you might have expected our Spotify review to place it higher on our list. Well, almost every other major streaming service now offers lossless—or better—streaming, so Spotify’s audio quality is no longer up to snuff. Our Deezer review led to the same conclusion. Our Amazon Music Unlimited review brought that service closer to making the cut, but it just isn’t as plugged into the contemporary music scene as our top picks. Finally, our Apple Music Voice review, by Jonathan Takiff, revealed that service to be a good value, but it comes with too many restrictions: For starters, it’s an iOS-only service; you can’t use it with Alexa, Android, Google Assistant, or Sonos. How we test music streaming services For Bluetooth wireless listening, I used Beats Studio 3 over-ear headphones, Apple AirPods Pro, and Astell&Kern’s excellent new AK UW100 earbuds. Results were consistent across each streaming platform with each headphone. For high-resolution streaming, I used a 2021 MacBook Air with an M1 chip and an iPhone 13 Pro Max. I used both a Dragonfly Red and an iFi hip-dac2 as a DAC (digital-to-analog converter), connecting the to the iPhone using the standard workaround with an Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. I used Focal Celestee over-ear headphones for all my high-resolution listening. The music streaming business Since approximately 70 percent of your subscription dollar is passed through to music publishers and copyright holders, all music streamers are operating on thin margins. The advantage that Apple, Amazon, and Google-owned YouTube enjoy is that music is only one of their revenue streams, so their success doesn’t depend on profits gleaned from streaming music. They might even be using their music streaming services as a loss leader. Spotify has looked for ways to compete with these deeper pockets since the company went public. Their moves into podcasting and content creation have created controversies that have already had some negative impact on their image and business, as several artists and podcasters have removed their work from the platform. Tidal, Qobuz, and Deezer are music-only companies. They’re still corporate entities looking to turn a profit, but they’ve staked out a position where success or failure is based entirely on their ability to deliver a quality listening experience. If you have issues with the big companies in the streaming world, you can consider those services as genuine alternatives. Compare music streaming to movie and television services. If you subscribed to Netflix ($15.49), Disney+ ($8), Prime Video ($8.99), HBO Max ($14.99), Paramount+ ($4.99), Apple TV+ ($4.99), Hulu ($6.99), Peacock ($4.99), Showtime ($10.99), Criterion Channel ($9.99), Starz ($8.99), and Epix ($5.99), you’d be at just over $105 per month and still have just a sliver of all the movies and shows available to rent or buy in digital format. And that’s not even counting the live TV content you can’t get with just a TV antenna. Ethical music streaming The overwhelming majority of streams at all the music services are from a handful of current hit acts. If you’re an artist at the top of the charts—Taylor Swift or The Weeknd, or one of the best-loved catalog acts (The Beatles or Led Zeppelin)—streaming royalties are a lucrative source of income. Things are much different for emerging artists, your old favorites from 90s alternative rock, or hip hop. Those acts are seeing pennies on their streaming statements. Cancelling all your streaming accounts is one solution, but that doesn’t really help artists or songwriters, either. Consider augmenting your streaming subscription by supporting artists in other ways. You can pay to attend live shows, buy vinyl or CD copies of their music, or purchase branded merchandise, like t-shirts, posters, or coffee mugs. Artists get a measurable cut of that money, but manufacturing and mailing costs (especially for LPs) do diminish their profits. If you’re really looking to target your support, buy tracks from a digital store like Bandcamp. Even better, support an artist’s Patreon account or just hand them some money after a show or when you run into them in a store or restaurant. The music economy has changed forever; streaming is never going away. If you’re interested in supporting artists, consider taking an extra step and spend a few more dollars each month directly with the creators themselves. Entertainment, Streaming Media

      • Blink Moments stitches video clips from several cameras into one

        Most people set up more than one security camera for the simple reason that no single camera can cover their entire property. Owners of Blink security cameras are about to get a new feature that stitches together the motion-triggered clips of multiple cameras to produce a single video with multiple perspectives. Dubbed Blink Moments, this new feature of the Blink app promises to eliminate the need to scroll through multiple video clips to get a complete understanding of what happened at a given point in time. And Blink says the new feature “works with all current and prior generations of Blink’s battery-powered and plug-in devices.” This news story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best home security cameras. “Moments is a whole new way for our customers to engage with their footage,” said Jonathan Cohn, head of product at Blink. “Whether it’s their family playing outside, packages being delivered, or pets exploring the yard, Blink Moments combines the moments that matter into one video.” Blink’s new Moments feature is similar to a recent Eufy feature called “cross-camera tracking,” which allows two or more Eufy cameras to follow a subject from one camera to another, and then automatically splice the footage into a single video.  It’s worth noting that Eufy’s cross-camera tracking feature works with only some of its cameras, while Blink’s Moments functionality is supported by all of Blink’s security cams. Blink makes some of our favorite budget-priced home security cameras, with both indoor and outdoor models as well as video doorbells and floodlight combos, with prices starting at $50. Blink Moments requires a Blink Plus subscription, which costs $10 per month or $100 per year. Blink Plus covers an unlimited number of Blink cameras and provides up to 90 minutes of continuous live streaming, 60 days of unlimited video history, and other features. Security Cameras

      • Eufy Security Indoor Cam review: Affordable AI-powered security

        At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsExcellent image qualityOnboard AI detection and trackingBudget priceConsRequires continuous electrical powerNo Homekit supportOur VerdictThe Eufy Security Indoor Cam balances advanced features with ease of use and a budget price. If you want to increase your security with minimal investment, start here. The Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) is a budget-priced pan-and-tilt camera with advanced AI features. Though Eufy doesn’t explicitly say so, the camera’s specs are similar enough to the Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan and Tilt we reviewed a few years ago to suggest it’s a redesign of that product. The camera features a sleek, matte white finish and a compact minimalist design that should blend into any room without drawing attention. The camera sits on a swiveling base enabling it to stand freely on any flat surface. This base also has rubberized pads, providing a bit of grip to keep the camera stable. The Eufy Security Indoor Cam C220 performed solidly in my tests, delivering crisp 2K video that made it easy to see fine details and well-lit night-vision images. Specifications The camera has a max resolution of 2K (2560×1440 pixels), with a 125-degree field of view that should be wide enough to cover most rooms without constantly adjusting the camera’s position. Nonetheless, it can pan 360 degrees horizontally and tilt 75 degrees vertically to extend coverage. The pan-and-tilt function is controlled remotely via the Eufy Security app, allowing you to adjust the camera’s view in real time when you want to track movement across a larger area or check different parts of a room without physically moving the camera. The C220 also incorporates onboard AI tracking, which allows the camera to automatically follow a moving subject, ensuring it remains in the frame. When the camera detects a person, it will record their route as long as they remain in view. This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best home security cameras. The Eufy Security C220 supports local storage via a microSD slot under its body. The Eufy Security C220 supports local storage via a microSD slot under its body. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry The Eufy Security C220 supports local storage via a microSD slot under its body. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Motion and audio detection, black-and-white night vision, and two-way audio round out the camera’s security features. It also supports smart displays using Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but it currently doesn’t support Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem. As with most Eufy security cameras, the C220 supports local storage via microSD (card capacities up to 128GB, card not included). It’s also compatible with the Eufy Homebase S380 ($149.99), a security hub that supports 16 connected cameras and up to 16TB of local storage. There’s a cloud option, as well, through Eufy’s two subscription plans. The Basic plan provides rolling 30 days of video history for $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year per camera. The Premier plan offers the same for up to 10 cameras for $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year. Setup and performance Eufy provides mounting hardware to attach the camera to a wall or ceiling, but for most indoor installations simply setting the camera on a table or shelf should suffice. The camera powers on as soon as you plug it into an outlet using the provided micro-USB cable and power adapter and its status LED begins flashing, indicating that it’s ready for setup. You’ll need to download the Eufy Security app, available on both iOS and Android, and create an account if you don’t already have one, then follow the prompts to add a new device. Once you select the Indoor Cam C220 from the list of available products, the app will guide you through several steps to connect the camera to your Wi-Fi network. The Eufy Security app allows you to customize features to your needs. The Eufy Security app allows you to customize features to your needs. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry The Eufy Security app allows you to customize features to your needs. Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Michael Ansaldo/Foundry Operating the C220 through the Eufy Security app is intuitive. The home screen displays a live feed from the camera, and you can swipe the toolbar on the bottom to access pan-and-tilt control, two-way audio, AI tracking, and other features. The pan-and-tilt controls are responsive, allowing you to adjust the camera’s view with a simple directional pad. For a quick scan of the environment, there’s a “round-look” option that prompts the camera to rotate 360 degrees horizontally with a single tap. The AI tracking feature can be enabled in the toolbar when you want to cede control to the camera. The app also offers customization options for motion and audio detection. You can set specific detection zones to focus on high-priority areas and adjust the sensitivity levels to minimize false alarms. Detection was quick and accurate in my testing. You can customize the content of notifications to include thumbnails to get a preview of detected events or exclude them for faster alerts. The C220 performed solidly in my tests, delivering crisp 2K video that made it easy to see fine details and well-lit night-vision images without excessive graininess. The two-way audio was clear and lag-free, which made it easy to communicate with family and pets. Should you buy a Eufy Security Indoor Cam C220? The Eufy Security Indoor Cam C220 is a versatile indoor security camera that nicely balances ease of use with advanced features. Its selling price of $34.99 is one of the lowest you’ll find for a camera with this feature set, and with the option to record video locally, there’s no requirement to add to the ownership cost with a cloud subscription. If you’re in the market for a user-friendly and feature-rich indoor security camera, the C220 should be high on your list. Security Cameras

      • Best home security camera 2024: Reviews and buying advice

        Today’s home security cameras are easy-to-install, easy-to-use, and incredibly affordable. They let you to keep an eye on your home–inside and out–from wherever you have internet access. They record video in response to motion, so you can review anything you didn’t catch when it happened, and many can distinguish between people, pets, and even cars. Close cousins of webcams, modern home security cameras require minimal installation and offer flexible setups and a range of security features, but deciding what to buy gets more daunting as this category grows ever more crowded–and sophisticated. Whether you’re looking to check on your kids and pets, or need a full-service sentinel with humans monitoring for intruders in real time, we’ll help find the right device for your needs. And don’t miss TechHive’s most-recommended video doorbells; you’ll find them at the preceding link. Updated June 18, 2024: We’ve added a link to our Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) review. This inexpensive pan/tilt camera is our new top pick in its class, packing 2K video resolution, a pan/tilt motor, and local storage (via a user-provided microSD card). That’s a lot of value for $34.95. We’ve also added a link to our news story covering the launch of the Safemo P1 solar-powered security camera system, which features two 4K cameras and an AI-powered central hub. Why you should trust us TechHive’s editors and contributors have been testing home security cameras for many years, and we regularly evaluate the latest hardware, along with their accompanying mobile apps. We’ve checked out wired security cameras, battery-power cameras, outdoor cams, floodlight cams, pan-and-tilt cams, and more. You can trust us to guide you to the right home security camera for your needs. Our top picks for home security cameras Arlo Pro 5S 2K — Best home security camera overall Pros 2K video resolution B&W and color night vision (using its spotlight) Automatic zoom and tracking Dual-band Wi-Fi Cons Arlo Smart subscription required for cloud recording and to enable many of its best features Requires Arlo Pro Smart Hub to record video locally No Apple HomeKit support Price When Reviewed: £219.99 Best Prices Today: £184 at Amazon£219.99 at Arlo Why we like the Arlo Pro 5S 2K The Arlo Pro 5S 2K keeps the Arlo Pro series near the top of the market with such high-end features as dual-band Wi-Fi support, a low-power mode (which extends battery life by 30 percent by taking snapshots of detected activity instead of full video clips), and Arlo SecureLink technology, which provides a more secure connection to protect your data while further optimizing battery life. Who should buy the Arlo Pro 5S 2K While the Arlo Pro works just fine with Alexa and Google Home, it does not support Apple HomeKit, so Apple users should look elsewhere. Also, be sure to factor in the cost of an Arlo Secure subscription to get the most utility from this camera. Read our full Arlo Pro 5S 2K (model number VMC4060P) review Nest Cam (battery, 2021) — Best security camera for Google Nest smart homes Pros Arguably the easiest setup in the industry Attractive industrial design Can be installed indoors or out Can operate on either AC or battery power (or AC power with battery backup) Cons Anemic night vision Proprietary and too-short power cable Subscription required to get full value ($6/mo minimum) Best Prices Today: $179.99 at Google Nest Why we like the Nest Cam (battery, 2021) Nest has long offered some of our favorite security cameras, and the new-for-2021 Nest Cam (battery) is a versatile offering packed with great features. The camera is supremely easy to set up, and it delivers fabulous performance under any lighting condition. Also, it can be deployed indoors or out. Finally, you’ll appreciate having three hours of event history stored on the device since you won’t have to pay for a subscription unless you want more history. Who should buy the Nest Cam (battery, 2021) Naturally, Google Home users will get the most out the battery-powered Nest Cam, while Alexa and Apple HomeKit users should steer clear. And while the Nest Cam (battery) does boast on-device person, pet, and vehicle detection, a Nest Aware subscription is required to review recorded video events beyond the last few hours. Read our full Nest Cam (Battery) review Ring Stickup Cam Pro — Best indoor/outdoor home security camera for Ring/Alexa smart homes Pros Excellent performance, indoors and out Radar-based motion detection Available in battery, solar, and plug-in configurations Fantastic night vision, with the option of color Cons You can have Bird’s Eye View or Pre-Roll, but not both Not fully compatible with Google Home or Apple HomeKit 1080p resolution Price When Reviewed: £159.99 Best Prices Today: £158 at Ring£159 at AO£159.99 at Amazon Why we like the Ring Stickup Cam Pro Yes, the Ring Stick Up Cam Pro is limited to 1080p resolution, but enabling HDR delivers gorgeous color-saturated images. Also, this camera has very strong night vision, with a color night vision option you might find you don’t even need. Who should buy the Ring Stickup Cam Pro This indoor/outdoor camera is a no-brainer for any Ring customer looking to expand their home security coverage. If you need just a single camera and can get by without so many advanced features, you’ll find a bevy of less-expensive options. The also-excellent Ring Spotlight Cam Pro has a very similar set of features, but its onboard spotlight boosts its price a little higher. Read our full Ring Stick Up Cam Pro review Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) — Best value in indoor pan/tilt security cameras Pros Excellent image quality Onboard AI detection and tracking Budget price Cons Requires continuous electrical power No Homekit support Why we like the Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) Cameras that have as many features and specifications comparable to the Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) tend to cost a whole lot more than this budget-priced device does. It’s uncommon to get 2K resolution, onboard storage (albeit via a microSD card with a maximum capacity of 128GB that you must provide), and a pan/tilt motor for $35. It doesn’t support color night vision, either, but you can solve that shortcoming with a smart speaker and a smart bulb or smart light switch. This camera is a great value. Who should buy the Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) This product is a great starting point for anyone looking to protect their home with home security cameras. Unless you’re firmly in Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem–or you already have a lot of another brand of home security camera–the Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) should be on your short list. Read our full Eufy Security Indoor Cam (model C220) review Eufy SoloCam S340 — Best outdoor pan/tilt security camera Pros Dual lenses deliver excellent image quality Subscription service is truly optional Included solar panel means its onboard battery should never need manual charging Cons Eufy's app can't flip the camera's feed, so it can't be used on a table or countertop Battery must be charged while inside the camera Provided USB-C charging cable is only 10 feet long Best Prices Today: £176.90 at Amazon£179.99 at Homebase UK£192.2 at Currys Why we like the Eufy SoloCam S340 If you’re looking for an outdoor surveillance camera that can operate without depending AC power, the high-grade Eufy SoloCam S340 sports two high-resolution lenses: one is a 2K (2304 x 1296 pixels) telephoto, and the other is a 3K (2880 x 1620 pixels) wide-angle. And since it comes with a solar panel, you never need to worry about plugging it into a charger. A built-in motor enables the camera to pan a full 360 degrees and tilt over a 70-degree arc, and it will track the movement of anyone in its field of view. You can also program set up to four way points, so it will patrol a broad swath of your property. Who should buy the Eufy SoloCam S340 Anyone who needs to surveil large areas of property should consider this camera. That goes double for folks who hate the ongoing cost of a subscription to store your video recordings. Eufy has one if you want it, but it’s truly optional. The camera has 8GB of onboard storage, or you can spend another $150–plus the cost of a hard drive or SSD–and pick up the Eufy HomeBase 3, a NAS-like network storage device that can accommodate up to 16GB of encrypted storage. Read our full Eufy Security SoloCam S340 review Wyze Cam v4 — Best budget-priced indoor security camera Pros Carries over all the great features of the winning Wyze Cam v3 Pro Crystal clear image quality with smart detections that work well Supports 24/7 continuous recording to local microSD storage Cons Dependent on hardwired power (no battery option) Subscription required to unlock all its best features Why we like the Wyze Cam v4 Wyze Labs continues to build outstanding home security cameras that deliver a whole lot of bang for the buck. While this model doesn’t move the needle on video resolution compared to the Wyze Cam v3 Pro it replaces, you will get a faster Wi-Fi adapter (Wi-Fi 6), a microSD card slot that can host cards with twice as much capacity, and an even easier onboarding process. Who should buy the Wyze Cam v4 Even when Wyze Labs’ introductory offer expires and its price tag goes up to $36, the Wyze Cam v4 will remain one of the best values in indoor/outdoor home security cameras. You’ll want to sign up for a subscription plan to unlock all of its best features, but those are affordable, too, starting at $2.99 per month for a single camera. Read our full Wyze Cam v4 review Blink Mini 2 — Best budget-priced indoor security camera, runner-up Pros Can be deployed indoors or out Extremely compact size Great video quality Cons Cloud subscription required to unlock all its features Local storage requires separate purchase of Sync Module No audio detection No option to run on battery power Why we like the Blink Mini Amazon’s Blink Mini 2 brings more utility to the original Blink Mini with the addition of a weatherized enclosure, an LED spotlight for color night vision, person detection, and a wider field of view. Who should buy the Blink Mini Devoted Mini users and newcomers alike should find plenty to love with the Blink Mini 2. This camera is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It’s also visually discrete and easy to install anywhere there’s access to AC power–but you’ll need to purchase a weatherized power supply if you’re deploying outdoors. Read our full Blink Mini 2 review Wyze Battery Cam Pro — Best indoor/outdoor camera with color night vision Pros Incredibly versatile: indoors, outdoors, and entirely wire free Great video quality, day or night Very affordable compared to the competition Cons Some features were still in development at press time Enabling all its features will really eat away at battery life Price When Reviewed: Not available in the UK Why we like the Wyze Battery Cam Pro Color night vision, a rechargeable long-life battery, 2K video resolution, easy setup and customization, and a very low price tag makes Wyze’s incredibly versatile indoor/outdoor security camera an outstanding value. We encountered a couple of bugs during our review, but no show-stoppers, and the most important ones were resolved by the time we finished our review. Who should buy the Wyze Battery Cam Pro Need a security cam that can weather the elements without wires–and on a budget? The Wyze Battery Cam Pro makes the grade on each of those counts, although as usual, you’ll need a Wyze subscription plan to make the most of this camera’s features. But as noted above, those are very inexpensive. Read our full Wyze Battery Cam Pro review Eufy Floodlight Camera E340 — Best security cam/floodlight combo Pros Dual high-resolution cameras Pan/tilt motor provides 360- x 120-degree field of view (HxV) Articulated, dimmable LED panels produce up to 2,000 lumens Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 adapter Cons Eufy doesn’t offer a strong home alarm system Onboard microSD storage limited to 128GB So-so industrial design Best Prices Today: £219 at Amazon£219 at Currys£219.99 at Homebase UK Why we like the Eufy Floodlight Camera E340 We’re growing increasingly fond of Eufy’s twin-lensed, pan/tilt security cameras. In this configuration, you’ll also get twin LED panels that produce a combined 2,000 lumens of brightness. For those times when you just want to enjoy an evening on the deck and don’t want it to look like a prison yard, those panels can be dimmed. The 3K wide-angle and 2K telephoto lenses capture crisp detail, and the pan/tilt motor they’re mounted to will cover every inch of your yard, panning 360 degrees and tilting over a 120-degree arc. Add up to a 128GB microSD card and you won’t need to worry about paying for a cloud storage subscription. Need more storage than that? Drop up to a 16GB hard drive or SSD in the Eufy HomeBase 3, park it on your network, and you can store your recordings that way. Who should buy the Eufy Floodlight Camera E340 If you’re looking for a camera that can monitor a wide expanse of your property coupled with flexible floodlights to illuminate it, the Eufy Floodlight Camera E340 is the product to buy. This camera can distinguish between people, pets, and vehicles, and you can set it to track the movement of any combination of those things. This camera will also cost less over its useful life because you won’t have to pay for a subscription to get more than live feeds from it, Eufy provides two excellent ways to store its recordings. Read our full Eufy Floodlight Cam E340 review Ring Floodlight Cam Pro — Best security cam/floodlight combo, runner-up Pros Unbeatable playback interface Birds-eye view of motion detection is unparalleled Affordable subscription plan Ring has one of the most complete home-security ecosystems on the market Cons No local storage; subscription required to get full use of the device ($3/mo for one camera; $10/mo for unlimited cameras) Must be electrically hardwired; there is no battery option Not as aesthetically pleasing as Netatmo’s Smart Security Camera Why we like the Ring Floodlight Cam Pro It doesn’t take much time using the Floodlight Cam Wired Pro to realize how incredibly powerful it is, starting with some of its impressive motion-detection features. The 3D Motion Detection with Bird’s Eye View feature is a game-changer. In addition to a great security camera, you also get dual floodlights that can illuminate your outdoor space with 2,000 lumens of brightness. Who should buy the Ring Floodlight Cam Pro It’s expensive at $250, but anyone deep into the Ring home security or Ring smart lighting ecosystems should give the Ring Floodlight Cam Pro serious consideration. Just be prepared to connect this cam to hardwired power, and a Ring Protect plan–while not strictly mandatory–is essential for reviewing recorded video events. Read our full Ring Floodlight Cam Pro review Blink Wired Floodlight Camera — Best budget-priced security camera/floodlight combo Pros Ultra-powerful spotlight Easy hardware installation Super affordable Cons Subscription required to view a live feed for more than 5 minutes, record and store video, and enable person detection Limited flexibility when it comes to aiming its camera and floodlights Industrial design trails Nest and Ring Why we like the Blink Wired Floodlight Camera Blink’s floodlight cam offers run-of-the-mill video resolution, but extremely bright outdoor lighting and an amazingly affordable price tag. You’ll need a subscription to record video to get the most value from it, but those plans are affordable. Who should buy the Blink Wired Floodlight Camera Need to have eyes on the outdoors while sticking to a strict budget? The Blink Wired Floodlight Camera is among the most affordably priced floodlight cams on the market, and it’s both easy to install and casts impressively bright light for the price. Read our full Blink Wired Floodlight Cam review What to look for when shopping for a home security camera Most home security cameras perform the same basic functions—they detect an event, record the event, and send you an alert—but they don’t all perform them the same way. And some cameras have special features that go beyond those basics. Here are some common features you’ll encounter while shopping and why they’re important. Alerts  Home security cameras push notifications to your smartphone when they detect events. Without watching the live feed all day, this is the only way to keep tabs on your home in relative real time. Depending on the camera, it may send text alerts when it detects motion, sound, a face (known or unrecognized), or all three. Some can send alerts to multiple people, usually anyone else in the household using that product’s app; others will send emails in addition to text messages as a failsafe in the event you can’t access your mobile device. Battery backup Power outages happen, and clever burglars cut electricity before breaking into your home. When that happens, your camera goes dark and, if there’s a crime taking place, you lose all forensic evidence. For this reason, some cameras can also run for a short time on battery power. It’s a feature worth looking for. There are also some models that run on battery power full time; you can either swap batteries as they’re depleted, or plug the camera into an AC outlet and recharge its battery that way. Environmental monitoring This is the feature that sets all-in-one home monitors apart from strictly security cameras. Though the home “vitals” that these units track vary by model—we’ve seen everything from motion to luminosity included in home health profiles—three tend to be ubiquitous: Temperature monitors for spikes and dips in indoor temperature and alerts when it falls outside a range you define. Humidity tracks relative humidity inside your home. Humidity outside optimal levels—usually defined as between 30 and 50 percent—can contribute to problems such as static electricity, sinus irritation, and mold growth. Air quality tracks pollutants ranging from cooking odors to carbon monoxide. However, most monitors don’t identify the pollutant in their alerts, merely warning that the air quality is “abnormal.” Because of that, this feature should not be considered a substitute for potentially life-saving devices like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. HomeKit Secure Video support This is a subset of Apple’s smart-home initiative, and while you don’t necessarily need to be an avowed Apple user to benefit from HomeKit Secure Video’s privacy-enhancing features, you will need to sign up for an Apple iCloud account and have a HomePod, a HomePod mini, or an Apple TV 4K. Where other types of security cameras send video to the cloud (often unencrypted), security cameras that support HomeKit Secure Video send thier video streams to one of those devices on your local network first. That device will process the video, performing tasks such as facial recognition and what have you, and then encrypting it before uploading it to your iCloud account. You can read more about HomeKit Secure Video on our sister site, Macworld. Integrated spotlight Like all cameras, home security cameras need adequate ambient light to capture clear images. While that is easy to come by during daylight hours, it’s in shorter supply as the sun goes down, often making it necessary to supplement with artificial ambient light. This can easily be accomplished with light fixtures inside your home and floodlights outdoors, but many cameras include an integrated spotlight that offers a few advantages. Because the spotlight is built into the camera, it directly lights the scene the camera is viewing, enabling the clearest possible image capture. And integrated spotlights can be configured to be triggered by motion detection, so they only switch on when a possible intruder is in view, eliminating the need to keep your home or yard lit up all night. As a bonus, being suddenly caught in the white hot glare of a spotlight is often enough to scare an intruder away. Local storage Some cameras include memory-card slots in lieu of, or in addition to, cloud storage, so you can store video right on the device. It’s an attractive feature as it can eliminate the cost of monthly storage fees. The downside (if there isn’t a cloud backup) is that if crooks steal your camera, they take your forensic evidence with it. Motion detection Assuming you’re monitoring your home when it’s empty, motion detection is one of the most desirable features in a security camera. Built-in sensors pick up movement within the camera’s field of view and trigger video recording. You’ll find an in-depth explanation of how motion detection works in this article. Because these sensors can be sensitive to any movement—even a shift in lighting or leaves blowing outside a window—it’s important the camera system also offer the ability to narrow the range of detection, adjust the sensor’s sensitivity, or otherwise customize this feature to cut down on false alerts. More and more security cameras now offer AI-powered motion detection that can identify people, pets, packages, and vehicles, allowing you to filter out such innocuous motion events as tree branches swaying in the wind or insects crawling across the camera lens. Such “advanced” motion-sensing functionality is often tied to a paid subscription plan, however. Night vision Most break-ins occur after dark, so this feature is nearly as important as motion detection. Technically, most home security cameras support infrared LED illumination, versus true night vision based on image intensification or thermal vision. Be that as it may, most cameras will switch to night vision automatically in low-light conditions, while others allow you to customize when and how it should be activated. Increasingly, cameras are equipped with full-color night vision, which enables video footage to capture important information that IR night vision can’t such as the color of an intruder’s clothing or vehicle. These cameras use hypersensitive light sensors, such as Starlight image sensors, which can reproduce color images in dimly lit environments, some as low as 0.0005 Lux (for reference, 0 Lux indicates no ambient lighting). To increase battery efficiency, some models include both black-and-white and color night vision, defaulting to black-and-white in low light and switching to color only when motion is detected. Pan/Tilt/Swivel Most security cameras can be manually tilted and swiveled to focus on a certain viewing area, but this is a purely set-it-and-forget it feature. A true pan/tilt camera is equipped with a motor so that you can move its lens—or even follow a moving object if you’re watching a live feed—using its app or browser-based app. Some cameras can even track a person moving within their field of view. Resolution No amount of security video will help you if it’s blurry, jittery, or otherwise distorted. Look for a camera that offers the highest possible resolution. There was a time when 720p (often referred to as “high definition” or HD) resolution was the standard, but most newer cameras now support 1080p (often referred to as “full HD”). Some models provide even higher resoution (2K or 4K), but keep in mind that higher-res cameras use more internet and Wi-Fi bandwidth as well as battery life (where applicable). Many cameras also offer a software zoom feature (which is not the same thing as having a physical zoom lens). Scheduling Scheduling features allow you to tell the camera to turn on and off, detect motion, and/or send alerts at specified times. This is useful when you, say, only want to be notified when your kids get home from school or just want to monitor your home when you’re away. It also reduces the amount of false alerts. Cameras that support geofencing can do this based on the location of your smartphone, activating themselves when you leave home and turning themselves off to enhance privacy while you’re home. Smart device integration If you have a home full of smart devices, consider looking for a security camera or an all-in-one home monitor that includes a Z-Wave, Zigbee, or—eventually a Thread—radio that can connect them. Support for an automation service like IFTTT is also useful. This allows the camera or monitor to react to various scenarios, such as taking a picture when your Nest Protect detects smoke, or telling your Philips Hue smart bulb to turn on when unexpected sounds are detected. Two-way audio While the idea of a security camera implies eyes-on monitoring, the ability to also hear what’s going on gives you a more complete picture of what’s happening on the home front when you’re away. It can also alert you to something occurring out of the camera’s field of vision. This feature can also allow you to speak through the camera, a great tool for remotely commanding an unruly pet or startling an intruder in the act. On some very low-end models, you might need to plug in a powered speaker for this feature to work. Viewing angle The camera’s field of view determines how much it can see. As you’re probably monitoring a single room, you want a wide viewing angle. Most current cameras fall in the 130-degree range. These wide angles can sometimes cause image distortion at the edges in the form of a fisheye effect, particularly when used in smaller rooms, but it’s not like you’re going to use a security to capture snapshots for your photo album. Frequently asked questions about home security cameras 1. What is cloud video storage, and how much does it cost? Many manufacturers offer cloud storage plans with their cameras. With one of these, your recorded video is sent to a remote server and stored for a predetermined time—usually anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks—and then deleted to make space for new videos. Though sometimes free, these cloud plans usually require a monthly subscription, but are worth it both for their convenience and if you want a surveillance record during a vacation or other extended time away from home. 2. Can security cameras recognize faces? A few newer cameras are experimenting with facial recognition. This feature could more accurately be called “facial identification,” as in practice it’s much better at distinguishing a face from, say, a lamp, than it is at actually distinguishing between one person’s face and another’s. If you opt for a camera with this feature, know that it typically learns faces through increasing exposure to them, so be prepared to spend a lot of time in front of the lens. 3. Can you access a security camera over the web? Many cameras can be accessed through a web portal. This is useful for times when you don’t have access to your mobile device or a wireless connection. The web app should closely mirror its mobile counterpart, so you don’t need to learn a whole new set of controls. 4. What’s the wireless range of a security camera? One of the benefits wireless cameras offer is the ability to move them around your home. Ideally, your home security camera should be able to maintain a Wi-Fi connection no matter how far you move it from your router, even in a large home. Some cameras come with an ethernet port as well, so you have the option of hardwiring it to your local network. A camera that supports power-over-ethernet (PoE) eliminates the need for an AC adapter and relies on just one cable (but your router or switch will also need to support PoE. Another alternative would be to use a PoE injector.) If you’re deploying a security camera beyond the range of your Wi-Fi network, models that connect instead to the same LTE network that your smartphone relies on are a good option, but they’re generally more expensive and you’ll need to pay your cellular provider for a data plan.  5. Are security cameras vulnerable to hackers?  There have been plenty of headlines about hackers compromising home cameras, baby monitors, and other Wi-Fi devices to spy on people, so be sure to check what steps has each manufacturer taken to eliminate this problem. Look for a camera that supports up-to-date wireless security protocols, such as WPA2, and make sure it encrypts internet transmission of your user name, your password, and the live feeds. Even better, opt for a security camera that supports end-to-end encryption, which ensures no third parties will be able to see your videos. Several security camera manufacturers, such as Ring, support end-to-end encryption. Never install a security camera (or a router or any other device on your home network) without changing its default user ID and password, and be sure to employ two-factor authentication if available. 6. Can you access your securty camera using a smartphone? Most of today’s home security camera’s are accessed primarily through a smartphone/tablet app. In addition to offering you a reliable way to view the camera’s live feed, it should offer plenty of options for customizing the way the camera performs. The ability to customize notifications, adjust motion and sound detection sensitivity, and set detection areas are some of the key features to look for. The app should also be intuitive and easy to master. Other notable security cameras we’ve tested We’ve evaluated many other home security cameras. If none of our top picks check all the boxes for you, take a look at these other products. We’ve also listed some security cameras that you should avoid. Arlo Essential: The 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. Arlo Essential Indoor: The revamped Essential Indoor has received a modest makeover, with a taller body and a shorter stand, while keeping the original’s 130-degree field of view, motion detection, black-and-white night vision, two-way audio, 12x digital zoom, a built-in siren, and an automated privacy shield. Best of all, though, is the greatly reduced $39.99 price tag. Blink Mini 2: Amazon’s diminutive security cam can be deployed indoors or, with its extra-cost weatherized power supply and cable, anywhere in your yard that you want to keep an eye on. Deep Sentinel DS2: Priced at $499, the Deep Sentinel DS2 security camera system is a significant investment, but it offers proactive threat deterrence you can’t get from many other DIY security camera, including live agents who monitor the camera feed in real time. Eufy Indoor Cam S350 and Eufy Solocam S340: Indoor and outdoor pan/tilt cameras respectively, both are outfitted with both wide-angle and telephoto lenses to deliver different views of the same scene simultaneously. LaView L2 Light Bulb Camera: This unique security camera plugs into a light bulb socket. It’s a clever idea, but its erratic and haphazard recording prevents us from recommending it. Noorio T110: This 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. Ring Indoor Cam (2nd gen): Practically identical to its predecessor, the second-gen Ring Indoor Cam adds a physical privacy cover while carrying over the same looks and features as the affordably priced original. Just be ready to pay more for a subscription plan.  Wyze Cam Floodlight v2: Wyze has upgraded its entry-level floodlight camera with better resolution, stronger lights, and a lower price tag. And don’t miss our comparison of all the major security camera subscription plans. Home Security, Security Cameras

      • End of an era: Tidal to drop last remaining MQA tracks

        So much for MQA on Tidal, with the music streaming service announcing that it will soon wipe any remaining MQA-encoded tracks from its catalog of tunes.  Also going out with the bathwater are tracks that employ Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format for spatial audio, Tidal says.  The news comes a little less than a year after Tidal declared the open-source FLAC codec would become its “preferred” format for high-resolution audio, a move that effectively knocked MQA off its perch as far as Tidal was concerned.  This news story is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best music streaming services. Tidal has been gradually phasing out the proprietary and controversial MQA format over the past year, leaving many to wonder when the Square-owned music streamer would finally leave MQA behind for good.   Well, the date has been set, with Tidal now saying that on July 24, any MQA tracks in its subscribers’ libraries or playlists will be automatically replaced by the “highest quality FLAC version” available to Tidal.  That leaves open the possibility that some soon-to-be-yanked MQA songs on Tidal will—for the time being, at least—be replaced by lower-quality FLAC tracks.  For its part, Tidal says that it has “at least” 16-bit/44.1kHz (or CD-quality) FLAC tracks for “nearly all” of its current MQA tracks. High-resolution music tracks can go all the way up to 24-bit/192kHz.   “We are working hard to ensure all existing MQA tracks will be replaced with a FLAC version in a timely manner,” according to a Tidal support page.  In the meantime, Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format for spatial audio will disappear from Tidal on the same day that MQA tracks get zapped, leaving Dolby Atmos as the spatial format “we will support going forward.”  Tidal first partnered up with Dolby in 2020, and it had offered spatial audio tracks in both Dolby Atmos and Sony’s competing 360 Reality Audio format until now.  Short for Master Quality Authenticated, MQA (as noted by our Tidal reviewer James Barber) is a format that can pack high-resolution audio into small file sizes. But MQA has a couple of key downsides, starting with the fact that it’s a proprietary format, meaning those who use MQA must pay a royalty for the privilege. Also, MQA files are lossy, not lossless, a serious point of contention for die-hard audiophiles who demand “bit-perfect” playback. Just like MQA, the FLAC codec can compress high-resolution audio at resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz. But while FLAC files are typically quite a bit larger than equivalent MQA files, they’re lossless rather than lossy. Even better, FLAC is an open-source format. Tidal’s abandonment of MQA leaves the format down but not quite out.  MQA’s new parent, Canada-based Lenbrook, recently announced that it’s teaming up with HDtracks, a digital storefront for high-resolution tunes, on a new music streaming service that will offer both FLAC and MQA tracks.  The still-unnamed music service will also boast a new MQA-developed wireless codec that can transmit lossless audio via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and UWB, similar to Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless codec. Streaming Media

      • Seauto Crab robotic pool cleaner review: stick with the Shark

        At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsCompact, attractive designReasonably inexpensiveConsAwful coverage levelsDirt from its filter drained back into the poolPoor pathfindingDifficult-to-reassemble filterOur VerdictThis robotic pool cleaner is difficult to use and does an awful job cleaning up debris. Skip it. Best Prices Today: Seauto Crab Retailer Price £708.33 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Product Price Price comparison from Backmarket Seauto’s first pool robot was a distinctive and largely capable underwater scrubber, thanks in part to its unique high-filtration system and aggressive approach to scrubbing the waterline tile. The newer, more compact, and much cheaper Seauto Crab lacks everything that made the Shark compelling. A new design gives the Crab—gray with black treads and yellow trim—a more streamlined and less bizarre appearance. While it still weighs nearly 20 pounds, it’s easy to move around and get in and out of the pool. The robot charges with a standard power brick that physically connects to a port on the robot that’s sealed with a rubber plug when not in use. A single power button up top turns the unit on and off and lets you cycle through three operating modes: floor only, walls only, or both, which Seauto calls “all-cover mode.” This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best robotic pool cleaners. A friendly voice announces each of these modes aloud as you cycle through them, as well as utterances of other notices, such as a low battery condition, although the constant repetition of the lattermost can quickly become tedious. The bot doesn’t come with a mobile app, so you can’t control it with your phone. The Seauto Crab’s three-part filter cover is very difficult to get properly seated. The Seauto Crab’s three-part filter cover is very difficult to get properly seated.Christopher Null/Foundry The Seauto Crab’s three-part filter cover is very difficult to get properly seated.Christopher Null/Foundry Christopher Null/Foundry Using the Seauto Crab Getting the Crab going requires little effort. Just power it on, drop it into the water, and it scoots along, fairly speedily but also haphazardly, with 1,614 square feet of coverage promised. Two large treads with a central scrubbing cylinder help it maneuver. Running time is specified at 1.5 hours from its 7800mAh battery. My test unit regularly managed close to 2.5 hours on a full charge. Since the Crab does not surface itself after a run, it must be retrieved manually with a pole and the included hook attachment. The Crab immediately struggled in my L-shaped pool, spending an inordinate amount of time in the shallow end before finally moving to deeper waters. In subsequent tests, I even tried manually moving the robot from the shallow end into the deep end, but regularly I would find it returning to the shallow water which it had already traversed multiple times. The Crab also has a strange approach to cleaning walls. While the Seauto Shark would climb the wall, then grind laterally across the waterline, scrubbing the tile as it moved, the Crab climbs the wall vertically, scrubs the tile in that spot for a bit, and then simply stops and falls back to the bottom of the pool, a foot or so away from the wall. While many pool cleaners will reverse and move back down the wall, scrubbing again as they make their way back to the floor, the Crab just drifts down to the bottom as if it had been dropped into the water. It’s weird to watch—and surely a missed opportunity to clean twice as hard. These clips, on either side of the filter cover, are both awkward and difficult to snap into place. These clips, on either side of the filter cover, are both awkward and difficult to snap into place.Christopher Null/Foundry These clips, on either side of the filter cover, are both awkward and difficult to snap into place.Christopher Null/Foundry Christopher Null/Foundry Making matters worse, the Crab just didn’t do a great job. After a big windstorm, I found my pool full of leaves and dirt: a perfect opportunity for testing. The Crab wanted nothing to do with it, though. After a full run, I achieved maybe 20 percent coverage, the bottom of the pool still caked with debris—dirt especially. When I removed the Crab from the pool to clean it, I watched a significant amount of the dirt that it did manage to capture drain from the base of the robot, back into the pool from where it had come. This is probably a failure of the filter basket design, but it’s a massive disappointment considering the dirt-grabbing capabilities of the older Shark. Even cleaning the Crab is difficult thanks to a complicated filter basket and cover that is tough to remove. The multi-step process requires unclipping two very stiff levers that snap into place on top of a clear plastic cover that is itself awkward to position properly on top of the robot. Rinsing out the basket itself isn’t particularly hard, but reassembling everything later is more complex and frustrating than any robot I’ve tested to date. Later runs with artificial leaves were more successful than my organic debris tests, providing about 75 percent coverage. That may sound like a big improvement over the 20 percent mark for organic debris, but a robot that can’t sweep up at least 90 percent of your pool’s grime is inevitably a big disappointment that will leave your pool looking decidedly dirty. Should you buy the Seauto Crab? At $399, the Seauto Crab is less than half the price of the Shark; but as I suggested earlier, you’re getting far less than half the robotic cleaner for that outlay. The lack of wireless features and the awkward filter cover would be forgivable if the unit did a great job of cleaning the pool, but the Crab doesn’t even get that right. Robot Vacuums and Cleaning, Robotics

      • Stream for free: 8 best streaming services with free trials

        Why pay for Max, Hulu, Peacock, and other streaming services when you can give them a try for free?   Many of the big streaming services will let you sample their wares for a limited time—generally a week, or sometimes even a month—for the ultra-low price of zip.  These free streaming trials come and go, so you’ll want to grab them while they’re still available. Also, most free streaming trials are only for new customers, although some services do offer free trials to lapsed subscribers.  Read on for 8 of the best free trials now available from the big streaming services, including some clever strategies for nabbing free trials that aren’t so obvious.  Free 30-day streaming trials  Hulu  Free trial: Yes Length: 30 days  New and “eligible” returning customers can sign up for a whopping 30 days of free Hulu, including both Hulu with ads and the ad-free version of Hulu.   That should leave you plenty of time to sample such hit shows as Abbott Elementary, The Bear, Better Things, Under the Bridge, Shogun, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Only Murders in the Building.  Sign up for 30-day Hulu free trial Amazon Prime Video  Free trial: Yes Length: 30 days  You can snag a full month of free Amazon Prime Video simply by grabbing a free trial of Amazon Prime, which includes such benefits as free and fast shipping, unlimited photo storage, ad-free music streaming, games, free Kindle books, and more.  Among the top shows on Amazon Prime Video right now are Fallout, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jack Ryan, Reacher, Gen V, The Summer I Turned Pretty, The Wheel of Time, and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.  Sign up for 30-day Amazon Prime free trial Apple TV+  Free trial: Yes Length: 7 day, or 30 days with Apple One trial Apple offers a free 7-day trial for its Apple TV+ streaming service, but get this: You can actually get 30 free days of Apple TV+ if you sign up for the month-long free trial of Apple One, Apple’s bundle of online services. The only catch is that Apple only offers free trials for services that you’ve never subscribed to or otherwise “experienced”–meaning you can’t get a 30-day trial of Apple One with Apple TV+ and then turn around and get the 7-day Apple TV+ free trial.  Apple TV+ offers such shows as Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, Severance, Slow Horses, Masters of the Air, Sugar, Palm Royale, Franklin, Dark Matter, Shrinking, For All Mankind, Foundation, Hijack, Trying, and more.  Sign up for Apple One 30-day free trial Free 7-day streaming trials  Max  Free trial: Yes Length: 7 days  Max doesn’t generally offer a free trial, but you can currently grab a 7-day free trial of Max if you act fast; the offer expires June 23, so don’t wait too long.  Top Max shows include Hacks, House of the Dragon, The Last of Us, Succession, Game of Thrones, The White Lotus, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Chernobyl, Big Little Lies, Euphoria, and True Detective.  Sign up for 7-day Max free trial Paramount+  Free trial: Yes Length: 1 week, or 30 days with code  Paramount+ generally has a 7-day free trial going for new subscribers, although the streamer is also known for offering one coupon code after another that grant a full month of free streaming.  Recently, those Paramount+ coupon codes have dried up, although The Streamable recently caught wind of a new code unlocking a month’s worth of free streaming.  If you can’t nab a code or you’ve burned through the standard 7-day trial for new Paramount+ subscribers, you can always get another week-long trial via Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV Channels, and The Roku Channel.  Popular shows on Paramount+ include 1883, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Picard, The Good Fight, Survivor, Halo, Yellowjackets, Tulsa King, and Mayor of Kingstown.  Sign up for 7-day Paramount+ free trial Peacock  Free trial: No (but yes, shhhh!) Length: Varies  Peacock is one of the few streaming services that doesn’t offer a free trial on its home page, but we found a sneaky way to get a free Peacock trial.  Instead of going straight to Peacock for free streaming, try his: Head over to Instacart and check out Instacart+. You’ll notice that one of the key benefits of Instacart+ is free access to Peacock, and—you guessed it—you can sign up for a free Instacart+ trial.   Keep in mind that the length of the Instacart+ free trial varies; as of this writing, it’s two weeks.  Top shows on Peacock include Poker Face, the Saved by the Bell reboot, Vanderpump Rules, The Office, 30 Rock, Girls5eva, Parks and Recreation, Mrs. Davis, and We Are Lady Parts.  Sign up for an Instacart+ free trial AMC+  Free trial: Yes Length: 7 days  The home of The Walking Dead and its many spinoffs still offers a 7-day free trial. Like most of its competitors, AMC+ restricts its free trial to new subscribers, although you can extend your free streaming by signing up for additional trials through Amazon Prime, Apple TV Channels, and The Roku Channel.  Among AMC+ biggest shows are The Walking Dead (natch), Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Hell on Wheels, Dark Winds, Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, and The Walking Dead: Dead City.  Sign up for 7-day AMC+ Free Trial Discovery+  Free trial: Yes Length: 7 days  Yes, you can still subscribe to Discovery+ as a standalone service following its merger with Max, and yes, there is a 7-day free trial—although again, it’s only for new subscribers.  Shows on Discovery+ run the gamut from Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed and Love Off the Grid to Naked and Afraid of Love, Queen of Meth, The Haunted Museum, Selling the Hamptons, and Million Dollar Wheels.  Sign up for 7-day Discovery+ free trial Free 3-day streaming trial Disney+ and ESPN+ with Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV There’s no month-long or even 7-day free trial for Disney+ or ESPN+, but you can get a 3-day trial of both in a bundle with Hulu + Live TV. Three days is better than nothing, right? Just be sure to cancel this 3-day trial for Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu + Live TV before your time is up; otherwise, you’ll be on the hook for a whopping $76.99 a month. Disney+ is your hub for all things Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Disney, while ESPN+ serves up a menu of live and prerecorded sports programming (note that ESPN+ doesn’t offer a live simulcast of the ESPN cable network). Sign up for 3-day trial of Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu + Live TV Does Netflix offer a free trial? Nope, Netflix doesn’t hand out free trials at this time, but we’ll update this story if anything changes. Don’t forget to cancel Most streaming services will begin charging your credit card as soon as your free trial runs out, so be sure to cancel your trial before the first billing date. While some free streaming trials will end immediately once they’re canceled, others will allow you to continue streaming for the remainder of the trial period. Streaming Media

      • Best smart locks 2024: Reviews and buying advice

        No smart home is complete without a smart lock. They represent the biggest improvement to home security since the lock-and-key system was invented more than a thousand years ago. In many cases, smart locks dispense with physical keys altogether in favor of PINs, fingerprints, NFC devices, and apps. They deliver lots of other benefits, too. Most smart locks have logging systems, so you can keep track of who’s coming and going–and when. That’s incredibly useful whether you have a teenager who tends to break curfew or merely want to give temporary access to houseguests, service providers, or Airbnb guests. Smart locks are an incredible upgrade over the old way of doing things. These are our top picks in several categories. Updated June 14, 2024: We’ve added a link to our Switchbot Lock Pro review. This Bluetooth retrofit smart lock won’t do much for your door’s interior aesthetic–it’s egregiously large–but it is a strong value and it can be accessorized with a matching numeric keypad or added to your Wi-Fi network with an optional bridge. Why you should trust us TechHive’s editors and contributors have been testing smart locks since the very first models came to market, and we continuously evaluate the latest models along with their accompanying apps. We’ve tested keyless smart locks, retrofit locks, locks with keypads, Bluetooth-only locks, locks that support geofencing, and more. You can trust us to guide you to the right smart lock for your needs. Our top picks for smart locks Level Lock+ Connect — Best smart lock overall Pros Understated industrial design that doesn’t scream “it’s a smart lock!” Supremely easy to install and set up Compatible with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit (including Apple's "home key" NFC tech Thread radio onboard for eventual Matter certification Cons No biometric security Pricey Why we like the Level Lock+ Connect Now bundled with the Level Connect Bluetooth-to-Wi-Fi bridge, the Level Lock+ Connect is fully compatible with all three of the major smart home platforms: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit (including Apple’s “home key” NFC tech), and Google Home. The inclusion of the bridge also erases the biggest cons we had for this minimalist lock that looks as good as it operates. It remains our highest-rated smart lock–there is nothing better on the market today–and it could get even better when its Thread radio is activated, adding Matter compatibility. Who should buy the Level Lock+ Connect While the Level Lock+ Connect is now compatible with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home, we believe Apple users will have the best experience with this lock. The arrival of Matter compatibility will presumably iron out the kinks for Alexa and Google Home users, but Level’s promised Matter update (the lock is Matter-certified, but its Thread radio is still dormant). Read our full Level Lock+ (now marketed as Level Lock+ Connect, which includes the Level Connect bridge) review Kwikset Halo Touch — Best mainstream smart lock Pros Effective operation with a top-notch fingerprint scanner Connects directly to Wi-Fi, no hub or bridge needed Smaller and more attractive exterior escutcheon compared to most of the competition Streamlined setup process Cons App becomes mired in lengthy delays every time a setting is changed Interior escutcheon is still industrial-class ugly Relatively expensive Why we like the Kwikset Halo Touch Kwikset has finally gotten into the biometrics game with the launch of the Halo Touch smart lock, and the lock benefits from a handsome exterior design, easy installation, a basic but fully-featured app, and–best of all–an effective, fast, and accurate fingerprint scanner. Who should buy the Kwikset Halo Touch Hey, we get it. Not everyone wants to spend big bucks on the absolute best product in any given category. That’s why we’ve made a distinction here between “best mainstream” (the Kwikset Halo) and “best overall” (the Level Lock+). The Kwikset’s lock isn’t compatible with Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem, but it doesn’t depend on a separate bridge to connect to your Wi-Fi network and it costs $110 less than Level’s offering–which doesn’t have a fingerprint reader. Read our full Kwikset Halo Touch review Wyze Lock Bolt — Best budget-priced smart lock Pros An amazing smart-home value Inclusion of a fingerprint reader is impressive at this price Worked perfectly throughout our evaluation You can establish temporary PIN codes from afar, even without Wi-Fi Cons Bluetooth only, no Wi-Fi connectivity Can't be incorporated into a broader smart home system Uninspired industrial design Can't detect if the door is open or closed No physical key Why we like the Wyze Lock Bolt At $70, Wyze Labs’ Lock Bolt Bluetooth smart lock is dirt cheap compared to what the rest of the smart lock industry has to offer. Even better, it even includes a few features even advanced smart locks tend to miss. Installation is easy, you can create temporary PIN codes from anywhere, a fingerprint reader is included (a rarity at this price), and best of all, the lock worked flawlessly during our testing process. Who should buy the Wyze Lock Bolt If you can do without Wi-Fi connectivity, the Wyze Lock Bolt is a phenomenal value for a full-fledged smart lock (this isn’t just a retrofit device), especially given that it includes a fingerprint reader. Just be aware that as a Bluetooth-only device, the Wyze Lock Bolt lacks support for geofencing, voice commands, or integrations with broader smart home ecosystems. Still, this lock is a great value for the money. Read our full Wyze Lock Bolt review Level Bolt Connect — Best retrofit smart lock Pros The champion of unobtrusive retrofit smart locks Very easy to set up and use Near flawless operation in daily use Cons Geofencing didn’t work Minimal activity logging iPhone users will need a HomeKit hub for away-from-home control Android phone users will need an Amazon Sidewalk bridge in order to control the lock while away from home Why we like the Level Bolt Level Home’s Level Bolt Connect is our favorite retrofit smart lock, thanks in large measure to its ability to disappear. The smart components of the Bolt hide inside your door, where they replace the interior mechanical elements of your existing deadbolt. You re-attach your existing interior and exterior components, so that your door’s overall aesthetic doesn’t change in the least. Who should buy the Level Bolt Now that it comes bundled with the Level Connect Bluetooth-to-Wi-Fi bridge, the Level Bolt Connect is compatible with all three of the major smart home ecosystems–Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home–making it a great choice for those looking to retrofit their locks regardless of their smart home platform. Read our full Level Bolt (now marketed as Level Bolt+ Connect, which includes the Level Connect bridge)  review Lockly Vision Elite — Most sophisticated smart lock Pros Every feature you could want in a smart lock—and then some PIN Genie touchscreen is brilliant Top-shelf fingerprint scanner Wi-Fi bridge and second battery are included Cons Incredibly complex installation Not the prettiest lock on the block Dazzlingly expensive Why we like the Lockly Vision Elite Lockly’s $500 Vision Elite is the most expensive smart lock we’ve tested, but its mountain of features and solid operation make it worth consideration. You should also take into consideration that it eliminates the need for a video doorbell, and that it features both a numeric keypad, a fingerprint reader, and a conventional key cylinder. It is the most sophisticated smart lock we’ve seen, but it’s hard to hide all of its features behind a pretty facade. It’s also very expensive. Who should buy the Lockly Vision Elite You’ll need deep pockets to afford the Lockly Vision Elite, but it does double as a video doorbell, so it’s a great choice if you don’t already have a doorbell installed. The Lockly Vision Elite is also ideal if you prefer unlocking your door using a fingerprint reader. Read our full Lockly Vision Elite review What to look for when shopping for a smart lock As you’ve doubtless realized by now, not all smart locks are made alike. Some smart locks are designed to completely replace an old “dumb” lock, while others are meant to retrofit an existing lock. Some smart locks will let you create PINs for guests, while others can unlock automatically once you cross a virtual geofence. Here’s a guide to some of the key design options and features in the smart lock category. Smart home hub integration If you have an existing hub like the Wink Hub 2, Samsung SmartThings, or an Apple TV, you’ll want to ensure your chosen smart lock is compatible from the start. Many smart locks support Bluetooth, so they work with your phone, but lack the technology needed to connect with your home network. Some Bluetooth locks, like the Yale Assure system and the August Smart Lock, offer a radio module as an add-on to connect to your home network. If you’re using a smart home hub like the Samsung SmartThings or Wink Hub, look for a lock that supports Z-Wave or Zigbee, instead. Then there’s Matter, the new smart home standard that promises to unite the major smart home ecosystems. The good news is that smart locks are included in the Matter specification; the bad news is that for now, only a few Matter-enabled smart locks are available. We look forward to checking out more Matter smart locks in the weeks and months ahead. Entry means From apps and keypads to fingerprint readers and good, old-fashioned keys, there are myriad ways to unlock a smart lock. Make sure to pick a model that supports the entry method (or methods) you prefer. Power backup What do you do if the batteries inside the lock die—and you’re stuck outside? Some locks allow for emergency power to be applied should this happen. Yale’s Real Living locks feature external posts to which you can connect a 9-volt battery, giving you enough juice to get the door open. Other models retain the traditional key cylinder for backup. Geofencing Bad about manually locking the door when you leave? A geofencing system automatically locks the door when it detects your phone has left the vicinity, and can be set to automatically open up when it finds you’ve come home. Guest access features Most smart locks let you set up temporary keys for houseguests, which you can delete when they’ve returned home. Smarter systems even let you set time restrictions around when each access code can be used. Frequently asked questions about smart locks 1. What benefits do smart smart locks deliver? You can thank the hospitality industry for finally pushing locks into the digital age. Hotels learned long ago that keys are easily lost, expensive to replace, and simple to bypass, as thieves can pick locks or simply make copies of a key to allow for unfettered future access. On the flipside, hotel guests have readily accepted key cards (and in some cases, smartphone-based solutions) as the primary means of getting into their room. The electronic solution is just so much simpler. Lost hotel key card? Replacing it is no big deal. But the biggest benefit of electronic entry systems is that they are highly configurable. Digital locks can be changed at a moment’s notice (which is why that old hotel key card in your wallet isn’t good for anything), and the property owner can generate a record of when each door was opened. In a more advanced setting, different keys can be generated for the same lock, so a homeowner can tell when each member of the family came in, or when the housekeeper arrived. 2. How do you pick a smart lock? (No pun intended) This is a young and wildly immature space, and many products on the market are still extremely rough around the edges. Even top products can balk when dealing with old or stiff deadbolts, doors that don’t shut well, or environments where non-standard fixtures are in use. The bottom line is that it’s tough to declare that any product is universally perfect for every home. That said, here are some key considerations to take into account to help you narrow down your shopping list. 3. Are some smart locks smarter than others? Some “smart locks” don’t work with a smartphone app or any smart home networking hubs at all; they’re really just electronic locks that use a code instead of a key to open up. One step up from that, you’ll find Bluetooth-only locks. These work with a smartphone app, but can’t be monitored remotely or via a smart home system. That’s fine if you’re looking to get rid of the keys in your pocket, but less impressive if you want to make your entrance portals a true part of your home network. Finally, there are full-on smart locks that connect to your smart home system via Zigbee, Z-Wave, or Wi-Fi. 4. Do I need to completely replace my old lock to install a smart lock? You’re forgiven if you don’t want to replace your antique doorknob on your vintage Victorian with a metallic device that looks like it would be more at home keeping people out of a strip mall bank branch. A sizeable number of smart lock products don’t require you to replace all your existing hardware. Instead, they are installed on the inside of the door only, replacing only the interior part of the deadbolt. You can continue to use a standard key from the outside or open the lock via a smartphone app. Other smart locks we’ve reviewed recently We’ve evaluated many other smart locks. If none of our top picks check all the boxes for you, take a look at these other products. We’ve also listed some smart locks that you should avoid. Abode Smart Lock: There’s nothing remarkable about this retrofit smart lock–apart from it’s $130 sale price at launch–and our enthusiasm for it was further dampened when the first review unit we were sent turned out to be defective. Eufy Video Smart Lock S330: This remarkable replacement smart lock features a touchscreen keypad, a fingerprint reader, and an integrated video doorbell. This lock’s gargantuan dimensions–and a few day-to-day operational glitches–temper our enthusiasm for this lock, but there’s no denying Eufy’s ambition level. Proscenic Smart Lock L60: Proscenic’s smart deadbolt proved to be a much more reliable product than its L40 smart lever lock (see link below). Proscenic Smart Lock L40: Kudos to Proscenic for stuffing this lock with features and keeping its price down, but numerous operational problems, including an erratic fingerprint reader that had a bad habit of locking out our reviewer, need to be addressed. Schlage Encode Plus Smart WiFi Deadbolt: This robustly built smart lock is compatible with nearly every modern smart home ecosystem: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit, including the latter’s “home key” NFC technology that allows you to unlock the door by holding your iPhone or Apple Watch next to it. Smonet Smart Lock: If you’re willing to deal with a tricky setup process and some operation hiccups, Smonet’s smart deadbolt is a reasonable and affordable Bluetooth lock with a Wi-Fi option. Securam EOS: Connectivity drops are a big problem with this otherwise innovative and solid smart lock. Lockly Duo: The Lockly Duo effectively combines a latch and deadbolt in a single smart unit, but the resulting device is enormous–and a bit wonky. Turbolock TL88: This Bluetooth-only, latch-style lock includes a quality fingerprint reader, but it’s short on tweakability. Yale Approach Lock with Wi-Fi + Keypad: Retrofit locks are an attractive option for enters who can’t change their locks and homeowners who don’t want to change the exterior aesthetic of their existing door hardware, but this Yale product took longer to install than a full replacement lock. Yale Assure Lock 2 Key-Free Touchscreen with Bluetooth: Yale is a strong player in the smart lock market, and its products are priced accordingly. This one is a Bluetooth only model, but you can add Wi-Fi connectivity with an $80 bridge. Smart Locks

      • Confused by Alexa’s light rings? Here’s what the colors mean

        One of the most confounding moments after I got my first Amazon Echo Dot was when its light ring began pulsing yellow, signaling… well, what exactly? Indeed, Echo devices such as the standard Echo, the Echo Dot, the new Echo Pop, and the Echo Show can display flashing indicator lights in seven different colors, and they can be pretty confusing–even aggravating–if you don’t know what they mean, or how to make them stop. Luckily, deciphering the flashing lights on your Echo device is simple, and once you know the code, the lights can warn you when something’s amiss with your Echo, let you know when you have incoming messages, alert you when Alexa is listening, and more. This story is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart speakers. Pulsing yellow light Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Let’s start with the light that confused me the most when I got my first Echo (the ever-popular Echo Dot). Generally accompanied by a cheerful “bum, bum!” alert tone, the flashing yellow light lets you know when Alexa has a notification for you, or if you missed a reminder. One of the most common times you’ll see the yellow light is when Alexa wants to tell you that a package from Amazon has been delivered, or when Amazon is about to ship a “Subscribe & save” item. Just say “Alexa, tell me my notifications” to hear your Alexa alerts, and the yellow light will disappear once Alexa has read them to you. If you want to delete all your notifications without hearing them, just say, “Alexa, delete all my notifications.” Solid red light Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Here’s another common and confusing Echo indicator light: the mysterious solid red light. The most likely culprit for the red light is a pressed microphone mute and/or camera-off button. Press the mic mute button again, and the red light should disappear. Seeing the red light, but no one pressed the mic mute button? If so, the red light means that there’s some kind of error, such as a glitchy Wi-Fi connection or a problem with Alexa. Blue light with spinning light-blue segment Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry This one’s pretty simple. Whenever you speak to Alexa, a blue light will appear with a light-blue segment that’s facing the direction in which she’s listening. You’ll also see the blue light when Alexa is processing what you just said. If there’s no blue light, Alexa isn’t listening (or didn’t hear you). Spinning orange light Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry When you first plug in a brand-new Echo speaker or display, the spinning orange light will let you know that the Echo device is in setup mode. If you see the spinning orange light and you’re not setting up your Echo for the first time, it means that the device is trying to connect to the internet, indicating that you might have a internet service outage. Pulsing or spinning green light Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry A pulsing green light means that you have an incoming call on your Echo device. Just ask Alexa to answer the call, or say “Alexa, ignore” to ghost the caller. If the green light is spinning rather than pulsing, it means that someone just did a “drop in” on your Echo device or that your Echo just started a call (either because you asked her to call someone or because she misheard you). To end the drop in or call, just say “Hang up.” Purple light Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Putting your Echo speaker in “do not disturb” mode (which blocks incoming calls and notifications, but not timers or alarms–more on this in a moment) will make a purple light briefly flash. A steady purple light while you’re initially setting up an Echo means something went wrong during the Wi-Fi setup process. Spinning white light Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry Ben Patterson/Foundry If you’re an Alexa Emergency Assist subscriber, did you set Alexa to “away” mode before leaving the house? If so, that’s the reason there’s a spinning white light on your Echo speaker. Just say “Alexa, I’m home” to make the white light disappear. The only other time you’ll see a while light on your Echo device is when you’re adjusting the volume. How can you turn off Alexa’s light ring? You can’t completely turn off Alexa’s light ring, but (as I noted earlier) you can keep the lights to a minimum by putting your Echo speaker into Do Not Disturb mode. While in this mode, Alexa won’t bother you with lights or other notifications unless an alarm or timer goes off. Open the Alexa app, tap the Devices tab, tap the Device Type filter, tap Echo & Alexa, tap Apply, then select an Alexa device from the list. Tap the Do Not Disturb button. To put Do Not Disturb on a schedule, go to the Settings screen for your Echo speaker, scroll down to Do Not Disturb, flick the Scheduled toggle, then enter the daily Start and End times for Do Not Disturb mode. Updated June 14, 2024 to note that a spinning white Alexa light ring now denotes that Alexa Emergency Assist (which has replaced Alexa Guard) is set to “away” mode, and to add a few more details. Amazon Echo, Smart Home, Speakers

      • The best smart dimmers & switches: Reviews and buying advice

        Screwing a smart bulbs into a socket might be the easiest way to get smart lighting, but installing smart dimmers and switches in your walls will yield far more sophisticated results–and it’s an easy DIY project. Besides, oone of the most common drawbacks of relying on smart bulbs with conventional switches is that someone inevitably turns the switch off. Boom! Your expensive smart bulb is now a dumb bulb that can’t be controlled with voice commands or be included in any lighting automations you’ve set up. If there’s a downside to converting to smart in-wall dimmers and switches, it’s installing them. Most–but not all–models depend on a neutral wire to supply constant power to their radios, even when the load they’re controlling is turned off. And then there’s the matter of dealing with your home’s electrical wiring in the first place–be sure to turn the breaker off first! The other alternative is to hire an electrician for the job if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself. There’s still a place for smart bulbs, too; if for no other reason than being able to change the color of the lighting in your room. I’ve lived with smart lighting in my home for more than 15 years, and I can’t imagine turning my lights on and off without the options of using a voice command, in response to motion, on schedules, or with a smartphone app. You won’t be disappointed in the results. Why you should trust us TechHive’s editors and contributors have been testing smart switches and dimmers for more than a decade, installing them in our own homes to gain truly real-world experience before we commit to our opinions. We continuously test the latest smart dimmers and switches, along with the apps that control them. We blend those experiences with our general knowledge of smart home devices, so we’re able to assess how well these products integrate with other smart devices you’ll want to use in your home. TechHive’s favorite smart dimmers and switches. Best smart dimmer overall — Lutron Diva Smart Dimmer (and the Lutron Caséta ecosystem) Pros Part of the robust Lutron Caséta smart home ecosystem Broadly compatible with other smart products and systems Doesn’t depend on a neutral wire Cons You must have Lutron’s Caséta Smart Hub wired to your home network Lutron’s uncertain stance on Matter Why we like the Lutron Diva Smart Dimmer (and its Caséta ecosystem) Lutron built its own smart home ecosystem based on its proprietary Clear Connect technology. By definition, proprietary standards far less open than standards like Matter, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Z-Wave; however, the Caséta Smart Hub you’ll need to connect Caseéta products to your home network supports Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, and Sonos speakers, and more. And all that is in addition to Lutron’s own lighting products, smart shades and smart blinds, ceiling-fan controllers, motion sensors, and other products. With that degree of compatibility, it’s difficult to imagine a complex smart home routine that couldn’t be accomplished. \ Who should buy the Lutron Diva Smart Dimmer (and its Caséta ecosystem) Anyone looking to incorporate lighting controls into a robust smart home network should consider the Lutron Diva Smart Dimmer and a Caséta Smart Hub. Lights can switch on when someone rings a doorbell or automatically turn off when you leave home. If you have a Sonos speaker, you can automatically play music when you return home. While Lutron’s technology is not Matter compatible today, Lutron is a member of the Connectivity Standards Alliance that is responsible for developing Matter, so it’s possible that Caséta could be Matter compatible one day. Given the broad compatibility the Caséta ecosystem already enjoys, that ultimately might not make a difference. Read our full Lutron Diva Smart Dimmer review Best budget-priced smart dimmer — Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer Switch, Motion-Activated (model ES20M) Pros Endlessly tweakable motion-sensing options Wiring design makes for easy installation Attractive design aesthetic Cons Requires a neutral wire Kasa app needs to be modernized Motion sensing range is a bit weak Why we like the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer Switch (model ES20M) TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi dimmer switch is remarkably inexpensive, and its Wi-Fi support means that it doesn’t require a smart hub to work. Users have immense control over how its motion- and light-sensing features work, with full support for fade-in/out options, motion sensing, and ambient light detection. Who should buy the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer Switch (model ES20M) The low price makes the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer an attractive alternative, but buyers will need to have access to a neutral wire at the installation point. This dimmer will not work with Apple HomeKit or 3-way circuits, but if you don’t need either of those functions, the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer is an absolute bargain. Don’t have a neutral wire in the box where you want to install a motion-activated dimmer? Consider the GE Cync Dimmer, below. Read our full Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Dimmer Switch, Motion-Activated (model ES20M) review Best Wi-Fi smart switch/dimmer — GE Cync Dimmer + Motion Smart Switch Pros Motion sensing works great Very easy to set up Can control Cync smart bulbs even if they aren’t wired to the switch Available in a version that doesn't require a neutral wire Cons Ugly industrial design Motion sensing settings aren’t always intuitive Pricey for this category Why we like the GE Cync Dimmer + Motion Smart Switch This isn’t the prettiest dimmer on the market, but GE Lighting’s Cync Dimmer + Motion Sensor Switch sure packs the features. An onboard motion sensor can turn the light switch on when the room is occupied, and an ambient light sensor will stop that from happening if there’s enough daylight that the extra light isn’t needed. The switch can also control GE Lighting’s Cync smart bulbs even if they’re not physically wired to the dimmer. Who should buy the GE Cync Dimmer + Motion Smart Switch The GE Cync Dimmer + Motion Sensor Switch doesn’t require a smart home hub, and GE now offers users a choice of a conventional version that requires a neutral wire at the installation location or a 3-wire version that doesn’t depend on a neutral wire. The technology is still up-to-date, but the Cync Dimmer + Motion Sensor Switch has seen a substantial price drop since its introduction in 2020. Read our full GE Cync Dimmer + Motion Smart Switch review Best Zigbee smart switch/dimmer — Jasco Enbrighten Zigbee In-Wall Smart Dimmer Pros SimpleWire technology effectively eases installation hassles Slim profile might help some users with space management in the electrical box Smooth installation and no operational trouble Cons Requires a neutral wire Broadsheet user manual will cause your eyes to glaze over Dependent on a third-party smart home hub with a Zigbee radio Why we like the Jasco Enbrighten Zigbee In-Wall Smart Dimmer The Jasco Enbrighten Zigbee In-Wall Smart Dimmer is perfect for less-experienced homeowners who want to DIY their smart lighting. The slimline design isn’t tough to shove back into the box when you install it, and Jasco has given the Enbrighten enough onboard intelligence to distinguish the line wire from the load wire, so you don’t need to worry about mixing them up. You will, however, need a neutral wire at the installation location. Who should buy the Jasco Enbrighten Zigbee In-Wall Smart Dimmer You’ll need a smart home hub that supports the Zigbee protocol. Several models of the Amazon Echo and Echo Show are well-known examples, but there are dozens of options—including the Samsung SmartThings Station, the Aeotec Smart Home Hub, or the Hubitat Elevation—if you decide you want to use Zigbee. You should be aware, however, that Zigbee support does not automatically mean Matter support. This device is not Matter compatible. Read our full Jasco Enbrighten Zigbee In-Wall Smart Dimmer review Most sophisticated smart switch/dimmer — Brilliant Smart Home Control Pros Touchscreen and built-in camera adds incredible flexibility Alexa onboard; plus great third-party integrations, including Ring and Apple HomeKit Impressive build quality Cons Devilishly complex to set up properly (at least in my house) Very expensive: $399 for single switch panel, $449 for a 2-switch panel, $499 for a 3-switch panel Why we like the Brilliant Smart Home Control The touchscreen and the touch-sensitive sliders on the Brilliant Smart Home Control smart switch/dimmer gives it some impressive capabilities, including the capacity to stream video from Ring and Google Nest video doorbells and control over Sonos multi-room audio systems. Don’t want to mess with the wiring inside your home’s walls? The company offers a model that you can hang on the wall and plug into a nearby electrical outlet. Who should buy the Brilliant Smart Home Control As you’d expect, all those sexy Brilliant Control features come at a price—both in terms of cost and installation complexity—but if you want the most sophisticated smart home controls on the market, this is it. Read our full Brilliant Smart Home Control review Best multi-function smart switch/dimmer — Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer with Amazon Alexa (model DWVAA) Pros Alexa with no footprint, exposed power cord, or wall wart No smart home hub required Lots of options for lighting control and integration with other smart home devices Cons Wi-Fi dependent, so range could be an issue Operates on 2.4GHz networks only Doesn’t support Alexa’s whisper mode Tinny speaker, and it can’t be paired with a Bluetooth speaker No HomeKit or Google Assistant support Just how many features can you cram in a single-gang light switch? Leviton squeezes a Wi-Fi radio, a dimmer switch, and an entire Amazon Alexa-compatible smart speaker into its Decora Smart Voice Wi-Fi Dimmer with Alexa. Yes, Ecobee pulled off a similar trick earlier, but with an on/off switch, not a dimmer. Leviton also has a deeper catalog of other Wi-Fi components—switches, dimmers, ceiling fan controllers, multi-button controllers, and more—to go with it. Apple HomeKit and Google Home users should look elsewhere. Read our full Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer with Amazon Alexa (model DWVAA) review How to choose the right smart dimmers and switches for your home You’ll need to make a raft of decisions before you choose which smart switches to install in your home, and your choices will be influenced by everything from the type of wiring in your walls to what flavor of smart home system you have now or plan to install later. Here’s what you need to know in roughly the order you’ll need to decide. Neutral wire requirement: Many smart switches and dimmers require the presence of a neutral wire—in addition to line (power from the circuit-breaker panel), load (power to the light to be controlled), and ground wires—in the electrical box inside the wall. Smart switches have radios that must be constantly powered, and the neutral wire is usually what supplies that juice. While all homes have neutral wires, many older homes don’t have a neutral wire in every box. If you’re not sure if there’s a neutral wire at the location you want to install a smart switch, this how-to story will help you figure it out. If you don’t have a neutral wire, Lutron’s Caséta smart dimmer and the GE Cync Dimmer (3-wire version) are among the few smart switches that do not require one. Most smart switches depend on the presence of a neutral wire to supply energy to their radios, but many homes built prior to the 1980s don’t have a neutral wire in every box. GE Cync and Lutron Caséta are among the few smart switches that don’t depend a neutral wire. Most smart switches depend on the presence of a neutral wire to supply energy to their radios, but many homes built prior to the 1980s don’t have a neutral wire in every box. GE Cync and Lutron Caséta are among the few smart switches that don’t depend a neutral wire. GE Lighting Most smart switches depend on the presence of a neutral wire to supply energy to their radios, but many homes built prior to the 1980s don’t have a neutral wire in every box. GE Cync and Lutron Caséta are among the few smart switches that don’t depend a neutral wire. GE Lighting GE Lighting Single- or multi-pole: If the light you wish to control is connected to just one switch, then you’ll need to replace it with a single-pole smart switch. If more than one switch controls that load—switches on opposite sides of a room, for example—then you’ll need to replace it with a multi-pole (aka 3-way) smart switch. This typically means that you’ll also need to buy a companion switch or switches for the other end(s) of the circuit. There are a few exceptions to this rule, so check the documentation accompanying whichever smart switch you decide to buy before you install it. Control protocol: You’ll undoubtedly want to control your smart lighting with your smartphone or tablet, and most people will also want to turn lights on and off with voice commands spoken to a smart speaker, such as an Amazon Echo or a Nest Hub. But to do that, the smart switch you buy must have some way of connecting to your home network (which explains why Bluetooth smart switches can’t talk to smart speakers). Some smart switches connect directly to your Wi-Fi network, while others require a bridge to your router. If you’ve invested in a smart home system—Samsung SmartThings, Hubitat Elevation, Vivint Smart Home, or any other ecosystem—you’ll want to make sure that the smart switch you buy is compatible with it. These are the most common communication protocols you’ll encounter. Bluetooth smart switches are controlled directly by an app on your smartphone or tablet. Bluetooth smart lighting is simple, because you don’t need a hub or a connection to your home network. That isolation also makes it secure, because you must be within about 30 feet of the switch to pair with it. On the other hand, authorized users also must be within 30 feet of a Bluetooth switch to control it, and you can’t control the switch when you’re away from home (although most Bluetooth switches can be controlled according to a pre-programmed schedule). The other major limitation of Bluetooth switches is that they can’t be controlled by smart speakers or smart home hubs, which generally rely on one of the other wireless protocols described here. As a result, Bluetooth-only switches have become relatively rare. Lutron Clear Connect is a proprietary wireless protocol used by Lutron Caséta Wireless smart home devices, including switches, dimmers, ceiling fan controllers, occupancy sensors, motorized blinds and shades, and battery-powered remote controls. You can also control a limited number of third-party devices with Lutron’s app—ranging from thermostats to Wi-Fi speakers—and incorporate them into smart home “scenes.” Clear Connect operates independently of your Wi-Fi network, but you must hardwire a Lutron Smart Bridge to your router to use it. You can control Lutron Caséta devices via Lutron’s app, with voice commands spoken to smart speakers, and from mobile devices anywhere you have broadband access. Some smart home systems, including Samsung SmartThings, can also incorporate Lutron’s smart home products. Matter is the most recent smart home standard. It aims to be an overarching standard incorporating several other smart home standards, including Thread, Wi-Fi, and Zigbee. Matter’s promise is that it will one day unite all the various smart home ecosystems: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings among them. Matter could become more important over time, but we don’t consider the absence of Matter support or compatibility to be a reason to avoid any smart home product today. Thread is a low-power networking technology that’s a core element of the Matter smart home standard. It’s similar to Z-Wave and Zigbee in that Thread devices can talk directly to each other; unlike those standards, Thread doesn’t depend on a central hub. Matter devices can use either Thread or Wi-Fi, but battery-powered devices are more likely to use Thread because of its low power requirements. Wi-Fi has gained a foothold in smart lighting thanks to the rise of mesh routers in the home. The attraction of Wi-Fi smart switches is that they generally don’t require a hub or a bridge to connect to your router (although Leviton does have some Wi-Fi products that communicate over a proprietary network with a plug-in bridge that connects them to Wi-Fi. While Wi-Fi is incorporated into the Matter smart home standard, that doesn’t mean every Wi-Fi device is Matter compatible. Z-Wave This is a wireless mesh network technology in which each node on the network is also a repeater that can forward commands to other Z-Wave devices nearby. It operates in the unlicensed 800- to 900MHz radio spectrum (specifically, 908.42MHz in North America). Its low power requirement means it can be incorporated into battery-operated devices that cannot be plugged directly into an electrical circuit, including door/window sensors, smart locks, water leak detectors, and motion sensors in addition to smart dimmers and switches. You’ll need a smart home hub, such as a Samsung SmartThings, to act as a bridge to your Wi-Fi network. There are fewer Z-Wave products available today, compared to the standard’s heyday, and the Z-Wave dimmers and switches we’ve reviewed from Jasco and Leviton are no longer in production, but some other brands are still available. Zigbee This wireless mesh network technology is very similar to Z-Wave, but it operates in the unlicensed 2.4GHz radio spectrum (same as single-band Wi-Fi). Like Z-Wave, Zigbee has a lower power requirement and can be incorporated into both battery and line-powered devices, ranging from sensors to smart switches. And as with Z-Wave, you’ll need a smart home hub or some other kind of bridge to connect Zigbee devices to your home network. This could be something as simple as an Amazon Echo Plus, which has an integrated Zigbee radio, or it could be on the order of a Samsung SmartThings hub, which has both Zigbee and Z-Wave radios onboard. Like Wi-Fi, Zigbee is part of the Matter smart home standard; also like Wi-Fi, not every Zigbee device is automatically Matter compatible. Lutron’s Aurora Smart Dimmer prevents a conventional toggle switch from shutting off the power to any Philips Hue smart bulbs that are connected to the switch. It can also wirelessly control those bulbs, including dimming them by rotating the knob. Lutron’s Aurora Smart Dimmer prevents a conventional toggle switch from shutting off the power to any Philips Hue smart bulbs that are connected to the switch. It can also wirelessly control those bulbs, including dimming them by rotating the knob. Lutron Lutron’s Aurora Smart Dimmer prevents a conventional toggle switch from shutting off the power to any Philips Hue smart bulbs that are connected to the switch. It can also wirelessly control those bulbs, including dimming them by rotating the knob. Lutron Lutron Switch mechanism: Since most people control smart switches and dimmers with voice commands, they soon discover that they rarely physically interact with the devices in their walls. But you’ll want to consider the type of mechanism the smart switch uses if for no other reason than to ensure its aesthetic matches the rest of your home. These are the most common types you’ll encounter. Relatively few manufacturers make smart switches that look like this type of old-fashioned toggle switch. Relatively few manufacturers make smart switches that look like this type of old-fashioned toggle switch. Michael Brown/Foundry Relatively few manufacturers make smart switches that look like this type of old-fashioned toggle switch. Michael Brown/Foundry Michael Brown/Foundry Rocker (aka paddle) This type of switch has a wide plastic panel that rocks back and forth when pressed to turn the controlled load on and off (one side of the switch raises when the other is depressed). These modern-looking switches hug the wall and are very easy to operate. Since a command issued over the air will override whatever physical state the switch is otherwise in, smart rocker switches typically don’t physically flip, so there’s no confusion when you see a lit bulb when the switch is ostensibly in the “off” position. A smart dimmer switch might have a secondary control—a vertical slider or a horizontal rocker—for adjusting brightness Toggle A toggle switch operates by moving a lever up and down (flipping the lever up turns the controlled light on, and flipping it down turns it off). These types of switches tend to look more old-fashioned than rocker switches, but you can find smart versions of them if you want something that at least resembles the other switches you have in your walls. As with smart rocker switches, they generally don’t completely change physical appearance when switched on or off. Touch High-end smart switches and dimmers feature touch-sensitive surfaces. Typically made of glass, touch-sensitive smart switches and dimmers are typically backlit by one or more LEDs that can be multiple colors. The touch sensitivity can be as simple as touch to turn the switch on and touch again to turn it off, or they can be as complex as displaying a user interface that supports finger swipes for calling up different lighting scenes or control elements. Needless to say, these types of smart switches and dimmers cost considerably more than simple plastic devices. Brilliant’s touchscreen panel lets you see and talk with a person at your door when a visitor activates your Ring Video Doorbell. Brilliant’s touchscreen panel lets you see and talk with a person at your door when a visitor activates your Ring Video Doorbell. Christopher Null/Foundry Brilliant’s touchscreen panel lets you see and talk with a person at your door when a visitor activates your Ring Video Doorbell. Christopher Null/Foundry Christopher Null/Foundry Wiring connections: Smart switches and dimmers tend to be larger than their dumb counterparts, so you should consider how the new switch will fit in your existing electrical box. This is particularly important if you’re installing multiple smart switches next to each other in a single box. Remember that there will typically be at least four wires to deal with—line, load, neutral, and ground—and that there will also be a traveler wire if you’re dealing with a multi-pole circuit. It can be challenging to stuff all those wires and the new switch back into the box. These are the most common types of electrical connections you’ll encounter in smart switches. Backstabs These are holes in the back of the switch into which you’ll push (“stab”) the appropriate solid copper wires coming out of the wall. Pigtails Some switches have short electrical wires emerging from the back of the switch that you’ll attach to the wires coming out of the wall, using wire nuts to secure them. This is generally the easiest technique, but if the switch is deep, it can be a challenge to pack the extra wires and the wire nuts tightly enough into the box so that the switch mounts flush against the wall. It can be particularly difficult if the box has other devices in it. Terminals With this type of switch, you’ll wind the wires coming out of the wall around flat screws on the sides of the switch and then tighten the screws down. This technique presents less of a challenge when it comes to pushing the wires and the switch back into the box, but the wires can be stiff and you’ll need to be careful to ensure the stripped wire doesn’t come into contact with stripped wires connected to adjacent switches in the box or the box itself, if it’s metal. Pigtails and wire nuts are one common way to connect a smart switch to your existing in-wall wiring. Pigtails and wire nuts are one common way to connect a smart switch to your existing in-wall wiring.Christopher Null/Foundry Pigtails and wire nuts are one common way to connect a smart switch to your existing in-wall wiring.Christopher Null/Foundry Christopher Null/Foundry How we evaluate smart dimmers and switches How easy are the dimmers and switches to install? Can a relatively inexperienced homeowner handle the wiring, or will they need to hire a professional electrician? What smart home platforms does the device support? The more protocols an individual switch or dimmer can work with, the more flexible it will be as smart home technology evolves in the future. Is there an app? If so, how polished is the interface and how easy is it to use the app to control the dimmers and switches. If they’re motion-activated, how reliably do they respond to movement in a room. If the dimmer and switch have added features like cameras or speakers, we look at how those features perform when compared to standalone devices that perform those functions. Other smart dimmers and switches we’ve reviewed Eaton Wi-Fi smart universal dimmer: Eaton is a very big name in the electric market, but this device failed to impress. GE Cync Smart Dimmer Light Switch: This is a decidedly odd-looking smart dimmer, but it’s a great choice if you don’t have a neutral wire in the box where you want to install it. It connects directly to your Wi-Fi network, so there’s no smart home hub requirement. Leviton Decora Smart Zigbee dimmer (model DG6HD): This is a Zigbee dimmer, but not a Matter-compatible one (to be fair, it predates Matter by several years). It’s a solid product, but its size gave us installation trouble. It’s worth noting, however, that it appears to be out of production at Leviton. Leviton Decora Smart Wi-Fi (model DW6HD-1BZ): This was the first generation of Leviton’s Decorea Smart Wi-Fi products; as such, it has been discontinued. We have not yet reviewed the second-generation product that replaced it. Treatlife Smart Dimmer: This incredibly inexpensive connects to your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network, but its performance is commensurate with its price. Treatlife 3-way Smart Dimmer (model DS02): This Treatlife product is much better than the one reviewed above. Its primary claim to fame is that it can be installed on a 3-way circuit without needing matching (aka companion) switches on the other ends of the circuit. Sinopé Smart Adaptive Phase Dimmer (model DM2550ZB): This Zigbee dimmer is very expensive, but the company’s smart adaptive phase dimming all but eliminates the risk that a connected load–LED lighting in particular–will flicker or turn off prematurely as it’s dimmed. Wemo Smart Dimmer with Thread (model WDS070): Wemo’s dimmer supports Thread, so it must support Matter, right? Well, no it doesn’t; and while you’ll still find this product available at Amazon and a few other places, it seems Belkin has discontinued it. Smart Home