Bluetooth

Brilliant adds a dimmer switch and smart plug to its smart home ecosystem

Posted by | Assistant, belkin wemo, Bluetooth, CES 2020, ecobee, electronics manufacturing, energy efficiency, Gadgets, Google, hardware, Home Automation, Honeywell, kwikset, lifx, lighting, operating systems, Sonos, TC, wemo | No Comments

Until now, Brilliant only offered its relatively high-end smart switches with a touchscreen, but at CES this week, the company is expanding its product lineup with a new dimmer switch and smart plug. Both require that you already own at least one Brilliant Control, so these aren’t standalone devices but instead expansions to the Brilliant Control system.

The main advantage here is that once you have bought into the Brilliant system for your smart home setup, you won’t need to get a new Brilliant Control for every room. Because the Controls start at $299 for a single switch, that would be a very pricey undertaking. At $69.99, the dimmer is competitively priced (and offers a discount for bundles with multiple switches), as is the plug, at $29.99. This will surely make the overall Brilliant system more attractive to a lot of people.I’ve tested the Control in my house for the last few weeks and came away impressed, mostly because it brings a single, flexible physical control system to the disparate smart plugs, locks and other gadgets I’ve accumulated over the last year or so. I couldn’t imagine getting one for every room, though, as that would simply be far too expensive. Brilliant’s system works with Alexa and Google Assistant, and includes third-party integrations with companies like Philips Hue, LIFX, TP-Link Lutron, Wemo, Ecobee, Honeywell, August, Kwikset, Schlage, Ring, Sonos and others. The different Brilliant devices communicate over a Bluetooth Mesh and connect to the internet over Wi-Fi.

“Before Brilliant, an integrated whole-home smart home and lighting system meant either spending tens of thousands of dollars on an inflexible home automation system, or piecing together a jumble of disparate devices and apps,” said Aaron Emigh, co-founder and CEO of Brilliant. “With our new smart switch and plug-in combination with the Brilliant Control, we are realizing our mission to make it possible for every homeowner to experience the comfort, energy efficiency, safety and convenience of living in a true smart home.”

One nice feature of the dimmer is that it includes a motion sensor, which will allow for a lot of interesting usage scenarios. You’ll also be able to double-tap the switch to trigger a smart home or lighting scene.

The plug is obviously more straightforward. It’s a Wemo-style plug that you simply plug in. Unlike Brilliant’s devices, which require that you either have to be comfortable with doing some very basic electrical work yourself (and Brilliant offers very straightforward instructions) or have somebody install it for you, this one is indeed plug and play.

Both the plug and dimmer switch are now available for pre-order and will ship in Q1 2020.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

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The new AirFly Pro is the perfect travel buddy for your AirPods Pro

Posted by | AirPods, Apple, audio engineering, audio equipment, Bluetooth, electrical engineering, Gadgets, hardware, headphones, iPad, iPhone, Reviews, sound cards, TC, technology, TwelveSouth, usb, USB-C | No Comments

Accessory maker TwelveSouth has a solid lineup of gadgets, many of which fill a niche that their products uniquely address — and address remarkably well. The AirFly Pro ($54.99) is a new iteration on one of those, providing a way to connect Bluetooth headphones to any audio source with a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s being sold at Apple Stores, too, as part of its launch today — and there’s good reason for that: This is the ideal way to make sure you can use your AirPods Pro just about everywhere, including with airplane seatback entertainment systems.

The AirFly Pro will work with any Bluetooth headphones, not just AirPods Pro — but the latest noise-canceling earbuds from Apple are among the best available when it comes to both active noise cancellation and sound quality, both great assets for frequent travelers and people more likely to encounter an in-flight entertainment system. But the AirFly Pro has additional tricks up its sleeve that earn it the “Pro” designation.

This is the first version of the product from TwelveSouth that offers the ability to stream audio in, as well as out. That means you can use it with a car stereo system that only has auxiliary audio in, for instance, to stream directly from your iPhone to the vehicle’s sound system. The AirFly Pro can also serve that function for home stereo sound equipment, speakers or other audio equipment that accepts audio in, but not Bluetooth streaming connections.

One other neat trick the AirFly Pro packs: audio sharing, so that you can connect two pairs of headphones at once. This is similar to the native audio sharing feature that Apple introduced for its own AirPod line in the most recent iOS update, but it works through the AirFly with any audio source, and any Bluetooth headphones. That’s yet another great feature for when you’re traveling with a partner.

I’ve had a bit of time to spend with the AirFly Pro, and so far it has been rock solid, with easy pairing and setup, and a convenient keychain ring/3.5mm connector cap for making it easier to keep with you. It charges via USB-C, and there’s a USB-A to USB-C cable included, too. The on-board battery lasts for 16 or more hours, which is more than enough time for even the longest of flights, and again, you’re getting that audio sharing feature which is super handy even around the house for just checking something out on the iPad on your couch.

Alongside the AirFly Pro, TwelveSouth also introduced new AirFly Duo and AirFly USB-C models. The difference is that neither of these offer that wireless audio input mode — but you get up to four more hours of battery life for the trade-off. The USB-C model also offers USB-C audio compatibility, for connecting to devices that use that connection for sound instead of 3.5mm, and both of these still offer dual headphone connectivity, for $5 less, at $49.99 each.

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Ember’s Mug 2 and Travel Mug 2 extend your coffee temperature sweet spot

Posted by | Battery Technology, Bluetooth, Ember, Ember Technologies, equipment, food and drink, Gadgets, hardware, mug, Reviews, smartphone, TC, Zojirushi | No Comments

One of the world’s most static technologies may be the humble mug, but startup Ember decided it was time for a change when they introduced their temperature-controlled smart mug to the market in 2016. Now, the company has launched its Ember Mug 2 — a follow-up that keeps the concept and design intact, but that improves the lineup in some key ways.

There are two separate new second-generation Ember mugs — the Ember Travel Mug and the Ember Mug, designed for home and office use. Both add extended battery life, thanks to swapping its old battery technology with “the most advanced battery technology on the market,” and both gain new redesigned charging coasters, while the Travel Mug 2 gets a new control interface for adjusting the temperature of the beverage within, and it’s a bit lighter while holding the same volume.

Ember Mug 2 (from $99.95)

Ember Mug and Travel Mug 2 3This sequel to Ember’s home mug comes in black, white and a pricier copper version, as well as in two sizes: 10 oz and 14 oz. Like its predecessor, it features an internal heating element and battery, Bluetooth connectivity for smartphone control from the Ember app and a durable ceramic coating.

The Ember Mug 2 has a customizable LED that shows you when it’s working, and that you can change to whatever color you wish, which is handy if you have a couple of these in use in one household. In order to set your desired temperature, you pair it with an app on your phone (a quick and painless process).

Ember will send you notifications when the liquid within reaches the desired temperature. I’ve long used one of their first-generation products, and the one thing I found was that on my three-a-day coffee schedule, sometimes my third cup would end up cold, because the battery, while decent, would run out before my appetite for caffeine did.

Enter the sequel, which offers up to 50% better battery life than the original version. It’s hard to quantify, as the speed with which I drink my coffee differs day to day, but I will say that in testing I haven’t seen the low battery warning before I was long done actually drinking coffee for the day. In short, if you make sure to pop the mug back on its charging coaster every evening, you should have plenty of juice for a full day of use the next day without any sense of mug range anxiety.

Ember Travel Mug 2 ($179.95)

Ember Mug and Travel Mug 2 5The Travel Mug 2 gets a slight redesign, as well as battery improvements. Whereas Ember used a physical dial to control temperature adjustments without requiring you to use your phone on the last generation, now there’s a touch-sensitive area on the cup just above where the body expands out toward the top. You can slide your fingers around this to increase or decrease the temperature of whatever you have within.

This tweak is likely what allowed Ember to slim down the design while keeping the internal volume (12 oz) the same, so that it’s a bit more lightweight and travel-friendly than before (while also offering as much as three hours of battery life). Ember also took the auto sleep and wake features that it introduced with the original Ember ceramic Mug and brought them to the Travel Mug 2, meaning that it’ll turn itself on and off automatically depending on whether it detects liquid inside, or motion from being picked up, to extend battery life even further.

Ember Mug and Travel Mug 2 7The design of the Ember Travel Mug 2 is top-notch, with a smooth matte surface and hand-friendly design, along with clear, easy to red LED displays that just disappear when not in use. The bottom display shows current temperature, as well as an indicator of remaining battery life, and you can add a custom name to show for avoiding confusion if there are multiple Travel Mugs in use.

Bottom line

Ember’s follow-up hardware to its initial lineup isn’t a dramatic change — but the collection didn’t need a major overhaul because it gets so many things right. The added battery life in the new generation is great, and the appeal remains the same: If you’re a coffee or tea fanatic and don’t love returning to a lukewarm or cold cup, then this is the stuff for you.

Could you opt for a vacuum-walled mug or travel tumbler? Absolutely, and the Zojirushi lineup of insulated travel mugs will keep liquids hot for days. But Ember’s home mug is without peer for actually keeping things hot in an open-top design, and the Travel Mug’s ability to actually adjust and increase temperature on the fly is also a unique value proposition that can’t be matched by any passive insulation.

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Logitech’s MX Master 3 mouse and MX Keys keyboard should be your setup of choice

Posted by | Android, Apple, apple keyboard, Bluetooth, Computer Mouse, controller, Gadgets, hardware, linux, Logitech, Microsoft, microsoft windows, operating systems, Reviews, TC, usb | No Comments

Logitech recently introduced a new mouse and keyboard, the MX Master 3 ($99.99) and MX Keys ($99.99) respectively. Both devices borrow a lot from other, older hardware in Logitech’s lineup — but they build on what the company has gotten really right with input devices, and add some great new features to make these easily the best option out there when it comes to this category of peripherals.

Logitech MX Keys

This new keyboard from Logitech inherits a lot from the company’s previous top-of-the-line keyboard aimed at creatives, the Logitech Craft keyboard. It looks and feels a lot like the premium Craft — minus the dial that Logitech placed at the top of that keyboard, which worked with companion software to offer a variety of different controls for a number of different applications.

The Craft’s dial was always a bit of a curiosity, and while probably extremely useful for certain creative workflows, where having a tactile dial control makes a lot of sense (for scrubbing a video timeline during editing, for instance), in general the average user probably isn’t going to need or use it much.

Logitech MX Keys MX Master 3 5The MX Keys doesn’t have the Craft’s dial, and it takes up less space on your desk as a result. It also costs $70 less than the Craft, which is probably something most people would rather have than the unique controller. The MX Keys still have excellent key travel and typing feel, like its bigger sibling, and it also has smart backlighting that turns on automatically when your hand approaches the keys — and which you can adjust or turn off to suit your preference (and extend battery life).

MX Keys has a built-in battery that charges via USB-C, and provides up to 10 days of use on a full charge when using the backlight, or up to five months if you disable the backlight entirely. For connectivity, you get both Bluetooth and Logitech’s USB receiver, which also can connect to other Logitech devices like the MX Master series of mice.

Logitech MX Keys MX Master 3 3The keyboard can connect to up to three devices at once, with dedicated buttons to switch between them. It supports Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS out of the box, and has multi-marked keys to make it easier to transition between operating systems. Plus, when you’re using the MX Keys in tandem with the MX Master 3 or other Logitech mice that support its Flow software, you can transition seamlessly between computers and even operating systems, for doing things like copying and pasting files.

AT $99.99, the MX Keys feels like an incredible value, as it offers very premium-feeling hardware in an attractive package, with a suite of features that’s hard to match in a keyboard from anyone else — including first-party peripherals from Microsoft and Apple .

Logitech MX Master 3

When it comes to mice, there are few companies that can match Logitech’s reputation or record. The MX Master series in particular has won plenty of fans — and for good reason.

Logitech MX Keys MX Master 3 9The MX Master 3 doesn’t re-invent the wheel — except that it literally does, in the case of the scroll wheel. Logitech has introduced a new-school wheel with “MagSpeed” technology that switches automatically between fluid scrolling and more fine-grained, pixel-precise control. The company claims the new design is 90% faster and 87% more precise than its previous scroll wheel, which is pretty much an impossible claim to verify through standard use. That said, it does feel like a better overall scrolling experience, and the claim that it’s now “ultra quiet” is easy to confirm.

Logitech has also tweaked the shape of the mouse, with a new silhouette it says is better suited to matching the shape of your palm. That new shape is complimented with a new thumb scroll wheel, which has always been a stellar feature of the Master series and which, again, does feel better in actual use, though it’s difficult to put your finger on exactly why. Regardless, it feels better than the Master 2S, and that’s all that really matters.

Logitech MX Keys MX Master 3 10In terms of tracking, Logitech’s Darkfield technology is here to provide effective tracking on virtually all surfaces. It tracks at 4,000 DPI, which is industry-leading for accuracy, and you can adjust sensitivity, scroll direction and other features in Logitech’s desktop software. The MX Master 3 also supports up to three devices at once, and works with Flow to copy and past between different operating systems.

One of the most noteworthy changes on the MX Master 3 is that it gains USB-C for charging, replacing Micro USB, which is fantastic news for owners of modern Macs who want to simplify their cable lives and just stick with one standard where possible. Because that matches up with the USB-C used on the MX Keys, that means you can just use one cable for charging both when needed. The MX Master 3 gets up to 70 days on a full charge, and you can gain three hours of use from a fully exhausted battery with just one minute of charging.

Logitech MX Keys MX Master 3 7Bottom line

Logitech has long been a leader in keyboard and mice for very good reason, and the company’s ability to iterate on its existing successes with improvements that are smart and make sense is impressive. The MX Keys is probably the best keyboard within its price range that you can get right now — and better than a lot of more premium-priced hardware. The MX Master 3 is without a doubt the only mouse I’d recommend for most people, especially now that it offers USB-C charging alongside its terrific feature set. Combined, they’re a powerful desktop pair for work, creative and general use.

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With a possible Apple tag waiting in the wings, Tile unveils Sticker, an adhesive device for tracking objects

Posted by | Bluetooth, Gadgets, TC, tile, tracking | No Comments

We are still waiting to see if Apple officially unveils a new spin on the business of tracking tags — the small devices that you put on “dumb” objects like keys, wallets and other objects you have a habit of losing or leaving places to be able to pinpoint their location — but in the meantime, Tile, one of the pioneers of this technology, is upping its game today with its least-obtrusive device yet: a sticker.

Today, the startup unveiled Sticker, a new waterproof tracking device that uses adhesive created in collaboration with 3M to attach to objects to be able to track them by Bluetooth to a range of 150 feet, or further using Tile’s community network by way of its app.

Alongside this, the startup is also announcing enhancements to its existing range of Tile tracking devices. The Slim is now in the shape and thinness of a credit card, designed for wallets and other places where you might insert card-shaped information (for example, in luggage ID compartments), and its range has been extended to 200 feet with a battery life of three years.

And the Mate and Pro tags — the square-shaped fobs that Tile is most famous for — are also getting their ranges extended respectively to 200 and 400 feet.

All four models are going on sale as of today at a range of prices: Tile Stickers are $39.99 for a two-pack, $59.99 for a four-pack; Tile Slim is $29.99; Tile Mate is $24.99; and Tile Pro is $34.99. The message here is that Tile is continuing to increase its flexibility and use cases with these updates and new Sticker release.

“Over the years we’ve seen our customers use Tile for a variety of items,” said CJ Prober, Tile CEO, in a statement. “From wallets to remote controls, power tools to backpacks, our customers have shown us they want a Tile for everything. We’ve designed our new product line to empower the Tile community to find literally anything.”

The moves come on the heels of a competitive time for Tile. On the one hand, the business area that it identified early on has clearly caught the attention of a number of other companies, underscoring the opportunity. But the flip side of that is a lot of new competition in an area that is already crowded and has seen some high-profile failures.

On the launch front, in addition to Apple’s reported interest in launching a competitor, earlier this year Verizon (which also owns TechCrunch) also launched its own IoT play in this area, and Google has also created tighter integrations for people to use its Home devices and Android platform to locate objects. At the same time, some of Tile’s earliest competitors have been heavily challenged to make a go of it: Trackr last year rebranded to Adero and just weeks later laid off nearly half its staff, a decline that we’ve heard has not been halted in the months since.

For its part, Tile last summer raised $45 million on the heels of some interesting strategic partnerships with the likes of Comcast — which, similar to Verizon, Apple and Google, sees an opportunity in doing more with item tracking as part of a bigger end-to-end connected home play. The feeling is that Tile raised the money to help leverage its bigger market profile in the hopes of staving off this wave of competitors and the many others that existed before that.

Indeed, if you search on something like Amazon for Bluetooth tracking stickers, you’ll see this is not exactly a new thing, and there are a number of alternatives out there (one of the big reasons why this market has been a challenging one).

The idea with the Sticker device (and others that use adhesive) is that you can attach it to items that might not be the kind that can hold a fob, but can just as easily be misplaced, lost or stolen. The dark and subtle look of the Sticker means it’s harder to spot, especially if you stick it on the underside of the object you’re tagging:

FY20 Sticker Skateboard

One big differentiator between Tile and the many other companies that makes products similar to its range has been the wider network and economies of scale that it promises to its users. Once you are out of the Bluetooth range of your tag, you are able to track the object by way of its app and the wider Tile community, which forms a Bluetooth-based P2P network of sorts to be able to locate items. Of course, the premise of this is that enough people are using Tiles to begin with to create the locating network in the first place, which is one reason why forming collaborations with the likes of Google and Comcast can be very critical longer term to Tile’s success.

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Apple’s iOS and iPadOS 13 support multiple PS4 or Xbox One controllers, which could be huge for Arcade

Posted by | app-store, Apple, Apple Arcade, apple tv, Bluetooth, Gadgets, Gaming, iOS, iPad, ipad air, iPads, iPhone, Nintendo, tablet computers, TC, Touchscreens, Xbox One | No Comments

Apple’s iOS 13 update (and the newly renamed iPadOS for iPad hardware) both support multiple simultaneous Bluetooth game controller connections. Apple added Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controller support in the updates, and after doing some digging, I can confirm that you can use multiple of either type of controller on one iOS device running the update, with each controlling a different player character.

That’s the good news: The bad news is that not many games take advantage of this right now. I wasn’t able to find a game in Apple’s new Arcade subscription service to try this out, for instance — and even finding a non-Arcade iOS game took a bit of digging. I finally was able to try local multi-controller multiplayer with “Horde,” a free-to-play two-player co-op brawler, and found that it worked exactly as you’d expect.

With Arcade, Apple has done more to re-invigorate the App Store, and gaming on iOS in particular, than it has since the original launch of the iPhone. The all-you-can-game subscription offering, which delivers extremely high-quality gaming experiences without ads or in-app purchases, has already impressed me immensely with the breadth and depth of its launch slate, which includes fantastic titles like “Where Cards Fall,” “Skate,” “Sayonara: Wild Hearts” and “What the Golf,” to name just a few.

Combine the quality and value of the library with cross-play on iOS, iPadOS, Apple TV and eventually Mac devices, and you have a killer combo that’s well-positioned to eat up a lot of the gaming market currently owned by Nintendo’s Switch and other home consoles.

Local multiplayer, especially on iPads, is another potential killer feature here. Already, iPad owners are likely to be using their tablets both at home and on the road, and providing quality local gaming experiences on that big display, with just the added requirement that you pack a couple of PS4 or Xbox controllers in your suitcase or carry-on, opens up a lot of potential value for device owners.

As I said above, there’s not much in the way of games that support this right now, but it’s refreshing to know that the features are there for when game developers want to take advantage.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 combines creative flexibility with great design

Posted by | Android, Bluetooth, computing, dex, Gadgets, hardware, ocr, Reviews, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, samsung galaxy, samsung galaxy tab, Samsung Galaxy Tab S6, tablet computers, TC | No Comments

The Android tablet market isn’t exactly a hotbed of excitement and activity, which makes it all the more impressive that Samsung continues to iterate its own tablet lineup in smart, meaningful ways that push the technology forward and deliver a stellar experience. Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S6 (starting at $649.99) is no exception, and this latest offering expands the definition of what a tablet can be while retaining or refining everything that’s been its predecessors.

Thin, light and luxe design

Samsung has been delivering outstanding body design on its tablet lineup since the introduction of the all-metal and glass Tab S4, and the Tab S6 continues this tradition with a full metal back and glass front that’s lighter and thinner than its predecessor. The look and feel is more reminiscent of the Tab S5e, which was released after the S4 earlier this year and which acts as a more economical alternative to Samsung’s flagship lineup. The S6 manages to feel just a touch more premium than the S5e, though both are class-leading in terms of their industrial design.

The brushed finish of the back looks great, and feels nice in the hand, and if you have larger hands you can even one-hand this device when reading for limited periods of time. Samsung has also shrunk the bezels, giving you a more front face-filling screen than on any previous tablet, which does a very good job of putting the gorgeous sAMOLED display in focus. More than ever, this feels like one big sleek, metallic hand-held display — the future, in your hand, reduced to the essentials in an awesome way.

Display and cameras

The display on the Tab S6 isn’t much changed from the one used on the Tab S5e and the Tab S4 — but that’s actually great news, because Samsung has the best tablet display in the business when it comes to watching media. The 10.5-inch 2560 x 1600 pixel Super AMOLED display gives you true blacks that are outstanding, and impossible to replicate on any LED-based display, and Samsung offers a range of color options from which to choose, including “natural” settings for photo-accurate editing, and enhanced saturation modes for getting the most out of eye-popping movies and videos.

That display now comes with a neat new trick on the Tab S6: an integrated fingerprint reader. This authentication and unlock method is new for this generation, and replaces iris/face scanning as the only biometric unlock option on the Tab S4. It performs very well in my testing, and has the added cool factor of being just an amazing bit of whiz-bang tech magic, especially if this is your first time encountering an in-display fingerprint reader.

tab s6 screen fingerprint unlock

The great display makes a fantastic editing surface for photos and videos, and that’s why it’s super interesting that Samsung went out of their way to upgrade the cameras on the Tab S6 — adding dual camera options, in fact. There’s now a super-wide-angle lens in addition to the standard one, which gives you a lot of creative options when it comes to both still photography and videos.

While the Tab S6 is great for editing, I still wouldn’t lean too heavily on the built-in cameras for actually capturing content. They’re fine cameras, augmented by Samsung’s built-in software, but the super-wide has a fair amount of distortion and not the best resolution, and in general I still think you should avoid shooting too much with tablet cameras. Still, it’s nice to have the option in case you’re in a pinch.

Your pen pal

I mentioned editing above, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 has an added advantage over other tablets in this area: The S Pen. Samsung’s stylus is updated in this version, with Bluetooth connectivity that gives it additional superpowers like the ability to act as a remote for the camera, presentations and other software.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 1The S Pen still performs best as an actual stylus, however, and it excels in this capacity. For pressure-sensitive applications, including sketching and painting, it’s fantastic, but where it really shines in my usage is in editing photos using software like Lightroom from Adobe. Stylus input means you can get super specific and accurate with your edits. This applies to editing video, too, where the stylus works well for making concise trims to video timelines.

You also can easily create handwritten notes with the S Pen, and if you do so using Samsung’s built-in Notes application, you get automatic OCR and search indexing. In my testing, I found that this worked really, really well — surprisingly so, considering how bad my handwriting is. For printed characters, the Samsung Notes app had no trouble at all identifying words accurately in my scrawl and retrieving the right results when searching by keyword.

Because this S Pen uses Bluetooth, it now has a built-in rechargeable battery. Like Apple’s Pencil, it charges wirelessly, attaching magnetically to the tablet to power up. Samsung has designed a groove in the back of the tablet to receive the S Pen for charging, and while this isn’t sturdy enough for you to trust it to hold the stylus when you throw them in your bag unprotected, the Tab S6 cover accessory nicely wraps the S Pen with a fold-down flap for easy storage.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 6

A true workhorse

Samsung’s official case options include a back panel protector/detachable keyboard combo that are probably the best accessory of this style available on the market for any tablet. The back cover includes a reusable sticky surface to ensure a solid fit, which will be more reliably fixed than a magnetic attachment, and it has a multi-angle kickstand that works wonderfully to support the tablet on any table or even on your lap.

As mentioned, there’s a top flap that provides protection and easy access to the S Pen, which is a very clever way to keep that stored without complicating matters. The cover has a finely textured surface that increases grippiness, and it has proven resilient in terms of not picking up dirt or grime so far.

The keyboard attaches via magnets to one side of the tablet, folding up to protect the display when not in use. It’s slim, but it still had defined keys with actual travel that feel really good to type with, and there’s something you probably weren’t expecting to see on an Android tablet keyboard — a built-in trackpad.

All of this is designed primarily for use with DeX, Samsung’s desktop-like software experience that’s aimed at boosting productivity (though you can use the trackpad in the standard Android interface, too). When it works well, the DeX experience truly makes the Tab S6 feel like a mini desktop, giving you the power to tackle tasks in multiple windows — including in multiple windows for the same apps. It’s great for things like seeing Slack open and working in multiple browser windows, along with your email client, for instance.

That said, there are definite limitations to DeX, including the need to re-open all your windows when switching back from standard Android mode, for instance. Not every app behaves well in this novel mode, either, as third-party ones especially aren’t designed for it, and there are quirks to the windowing (like overflowing and weird-sized windows) that make it occasionally a little strange to work with. Still, all in all, it’s great to have the option, and can really increase your ability to do work on the road in the right circumstances.

Bottom line

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 5

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is, without a doubt, the best Android tablet available. It combines top-notch hardware with Samsung’s evolving DeX approach to mobile productivity, and while DeX isn’t perfect in all settings, it’s at the very least not doing any harm, and you’re better off having it available versus not. Meanwhile, the Tab S6 working in standard Android mode is an excellent, super-fast media consumption and photo-editing powerhouse. If you’re in the market for a tablet, the Tab S6 is an easy choice.

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Zhiyun’s Smooth-Q2 aims to be the most portable quality smartphone gimbal available

Posted by | Bluetooth, Camcorders, cameras, contents, dji, equipment, Gadgets, Gimbal, gimbalstabilization, hardware, iPhone, Kickstarter, osmo, smartphone, smartphones, TC, technology, United States, Zhiyun | No Comments

Zhiyun has been steadily rolling out new gimbals for smartphones and dedicated cameras for a few years now, and the company’s quality and feature set has improved dramatically over time. Now, it’s launching the Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 smartphone gimbal on Kickstarter, with the aim of delivering a “truly pocket-size” gimbal that has all the bells and whistles you could ever want or need.

The Smooth-Q2 is indeed a portable powerhouse — the company sent me a pre-production unit to test, and though it’s not the final shipping hardware, it already works and feels like a polished, quality device. The first thing you’ll notice right away about the Smooth-Q2 is its size — it can indeed slip inside a coat or pant pocket, though you’ll need a fairly deep one to make that work. Even if you don’t necessarily have a compatible pocket, it’s hard to beat the Smooth-Q2 for sheer portability, and that’s bound to save you some packing space when you’re getting ready for your next trip.

Smooth Q2 1

There’s another recently released small-size smartphone gimbal on the market — the DJI Osmo Mobile 3. That has a clever method of folding down for easier packing, but the Smooth-Q2’s design, while similar in overall footprint, means it’s much easier to put in your actual pocket (or pack in a bag’s side pocket) than is the DJI version. And while both are incredibly easy to balance even if you’re a gimbal novice, I found the Zhiyun was actually the simpler of the two.

The Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 also feels more solidly constructed, though its simpler controls (it doesn’t have a trigger around or a zoom lever) may leave some creators wanting. There are some other advantages here, too, however — a quick release spring-loaded clip means you can detach your smartphone quickly for other uses without unbalancing the gimbal, and go right back to shooting when you’re done. Plus, you can connect via Bluetooth and control your smartphone’s native camera app directly, instead of relying on their ZP Play app — which you can still use for features like object tracking.

The Smooth-Q2 offers 16 hours of battery life, so you should easily make it through a day without requiring power, and it can do time lapses, with or without programmed motion, and a vortex mode for capturing crazy rotational footage. It has an aluminum body that should be able to withstand less-than-careful stowage in your bag.

In terms of quality, the Smooth-Q2 really delivers in early testing with my iPhone XS Max, and I’ve included two quick sample clips so you can see for yourself. These are shot in the gimbal’s basic PF mode, in which the camera pans as you turn the gimbal side to side.

Zhiyun’s crowdfunding these, but the company’s history and reputation mean that you can count on them to deliver. The entry-level price is set at $109 U.S. for backers, which is a $30 discount off the planned retail cost, and they should ship to backers in October, according to the company.

Smooth Q2 2

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Sonos Bluetooth-enabled, battery-powered speaker leaks ahead of official launch

Posted by | Assistant, Bluetooth, ethernet, Gadgets, Google, hardware, smart speakers, Sonos, Speaker, TC, technology, telecommunications, usb, wi-fi | No Comments

Sonos has an event coming up at the end of the month to reveal something new, but leaks have pretty much given away what’s likely to be the highlight announcement at the event: A new, Bluetooth-enabled speaker that has a built-in battery for portable power.

The speaker originally leaked earlier this month, with Dave Zatz showing off a very official-looking image, and The Verge reporting some additional details, including a toggle switch for moving between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modes, and a USB-C port for charging, along with rough dimensions that peg it as a little bit bigger than the existing Sonos One.

Screen Shot 2019 08 19 at 9.02.48 AM

Source: Win Future

Now, another leak from Win Future has revealed yet more official-looking images, including a photo of the device with its apparent dock, which provides contact charging. The site also says the new speaker will be called the Sonos Move, which makes a lot of sense, given it’ll be the only one that can actually move around and still maintain functionality while portable.

Sonos Move 1566013610 0 6

Source: Win Future

Here’s the TL;DR of what we know so far, across all the existing leaks:

  • Can stream via Wi-Fi (works with your Sonos network like other Sonos speakers) and Bluetooth (direct pairing with devices), with Bluetooth LE included for easier setup
  • USB-C port for power and Ethernet port for connectivity
  • Similar design to Sonos One, with more rounded corners, but wider and taller (likely to allow room for integrated battery)
  • Built-in handle in the back for easier carrying
  • Contacts on bottom for docked charging (as alternative to USB-C)
  • Supports Alexa and Google Assistant and has integrated mic (neither available via Bluetooth mode, however)
  • Suports AirPlay 2
  • Offer Auto Trueplay, which automatically tunes speaker sound to your place using onboard mic

No word yet on official availability or pricing, but it’s reasonable to expect that it’ll arrive sometime this fall, following that late August announcement.

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The ClockworkPi GameShell is a super fun DIY spin on portable gaming

Posted by | Bluetooth, computing, electronics, Emulator, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, linus torvalds, linux, microsoft windows, Nintendo Switch, open source software, operating systems, Reviews, Speaker, TC, vice, wi-fi | No Comments

Portable consoles are hardly new, and thanks to the Switch, they’re basically the most popular gaming devices in the world. But ClockworkPi’s GameShell is something totally unique, and entirely refreshing when it comes to gaming on the go. This clever DIY console kit provides everything you need to assemble your own pocket gaming machine at home, running Linux-based open-source software and using an open-source hardware design that welcomes future customization.

The GameShell is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, which began shipping to its backers last year and is now available to buy either direct from the company or from Amazon. The $159.99 ( on sale for $139.99 as of this writing) includes everything you need to build the console, like the ClockworkPi quad-core Cortex A7 motherboard with integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 1GB of DDR3 RAM — but it comes unassembled.

GameShell Clockwork Pi 3

You won’t have to get out the soldering iron — the circuit boards come with all components attached. But you will be assembling screen, keypad, CPU, battery and speaker modules, connecting them with included cables and installing them in the slick, GameBoy-esque plastic shell. This might seem like an intimidating task, depending on your level of technical expertise: I know I found myself a bit apprehensive when I opened the various boxes and laid out all the parts in front of me.

But the included instructions, which are just illustrations, like those provided by Lego or Ikea, are super easy to follow and break down the task into very manageable tasks for people of all skill levels. All told, I had mine put together in less than an hour, and even though I did get in there with my teeth at one point (to remove a bit of plastic nubbin when assembling the optional Lightkey component, which adds extra function keys to the console), I never once felt overwhelmed or defeated. The time-lapse below chronicles my entire assembly process, start to finish.

What you get when you’re done is a fully functional portable gaming device, which runs Clockwork OS, a Linux-based open-source OS developed by the company. It includes Cave Story, one of the most celebrated indie games of the past couple of decades, and a number of built-in emulators (use of emulators is ethically and legally questionable, but it does provide an easy way to play some of those NES and SNES games you already own with more portability).

There’s a very active community around the GameShell that includes a number of indie games to play on the console, and tips and tricks for modifications and optimal use. It’s also designed to be a STEM educational resource, providing a great way for kids to see what’s actually happening behind the faceplate of the electronics they use everyday, and even getting started coding themselves to build software to run on the console. Loading software is easy, thanks to an included microSD storage card and the ability to easily connect via Wi-Fi to move over software from Windows and Mac computers.

Everything about the GameShell is programmable, and it features micro HDMI out, a built-in music player and Bluetooth support for headphone connection. It’s at once instantly accessible for people with very limited tech chops, and infinitely expandable and hackable for those who do want to go deeper and dig around with what else it has to offer.

Swappable face and backplates, plus open 3D models of each hardware component, mean that community-developed hardware add-ons and modifications are totally possible, too. The modular nature of the device means it can probably get even more powerful in the future too, with higher capacity battery modules and improved development boards.

I’ve definitely seen and used devices like the GameShell before, but few manage to be as accessible, powerful and customizable all at once. The GameShell is also fast, has great sound and an excellent display, and it seems to be very durable, with decent battery life of around three hours or slightly more of continuous use depending on things like whether you’re using Wi-Fi and screen brightness.

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