Google Home Mini review: Google’s new smart speaker is great, but the Echo Dot is better

As sun surely follows moon, the appearance of the Google Home Mini was inevitable, ever since the search giant launched its first smart speaker this time last year. Now, at last, Google has a range of smart speakers to rival Amazon’s with a smaller, cheaper unit to go alongside the larger Google Home.

It was about time, too. Up until now, if you wanted to dip your toe in the water of smart speakers – but weren’t sure if it was for you – the only way to try it out for less than £100 was the £49 Echo Dot, a temptingly priced gateway drug into the Alexa universe.

READ NEXT: Google Home vs Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod

Google Home Mini: What you need to know

That’s basically what the Google Home Mini is: a cheap way to introduce yourself into the world of Google Assistant-powered smart speakers. Plus, if you already own a Google Home and love it, it’s also a more cost-effective way of spreading the net of assistants around your home. It’s a way of adding extra rooms to your Google speaker network for less.

Despite its smaller size, though, it does pretty much everything its larger sibling can, hooking into your home network and drawing on Google’s server-based AI smarts to answer questions, play music for you and control other third-party devices.

Buy Google Home from John Lewis

Google Home Mini review: Price and competition

The new Google Home Mini costs £49 in the UK and $49 in the US and is a competitor for the Amazon Echo Dot, which retails for exactly the same price. Also worth noting is that it’s free with all Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL purchases from the Play Store and Carphone Warehouse until 31 December 2017, or while stocks last. It’s £80 cheaper than the regular Google Home and is available to buy right now in the UK and six other countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the US and Japan.

That’s about it when it comes to direct rivals, but it might be worth keeping an eye on the third-party smart speaker market over the next few months. A number of manufacturers have committed to producing speakers powered by Amazon Alexa in the run-up to Christmas 2017. There are plenty of manufacturers, including Sony and Sonos releasing products this year.

Buy the Google Home Mini now from John Lewis

Google Home Mini review: Design and key features

If there’s one thing in the pebble-shaped Google Home Mini’s favour it’s the design. It’s available in three colours – chalk, charcoal and coral (I was sent the charcoal for this piece) – and the roughly textured fabric that wraps around the top of the speaker looks great. It’s a lot Ikea-home friendly than the rather utilitarian Echo Dot.

Now, you can’t swap colours or buy different base textures like you can with the regular Home, but it makes up for this slight disappointment with touch controls to the right and left, which allow you to control volume, and four pinprick LEDs that light up in the centre to indicate the volume and activity. (This used to be a touchpad, but Google had to get rid of that feature because of a bug that would leave the device constantly eavesdropping on you.)

Around the base, you’ll find a single Micro-USB port for powering the Home Mini and a switch to mute the microphone. That’s it for external features; on the inside, there’s a 360-degree speaker and a pair of far-field microphones to help it pick up voices not only nearby but across the room, just like the Amazon Echo and Echo dot.

And, just like the larger Home, the Mini has dual-band WiFi with MIMO and Bluetooth so you can connect your phone to it directly. What it lacks compared with the Echo Dot is a 3.5mm output jack, so you can’t hook it up to your Hi-Fi and use it as a voice-powered streamer. However, once again, there is some form of compensation in the form of Google Cast compatibility, which you can use to send audio both to the speaker itself and from the speaker to any Cast-compatible audio equipment.

Google Home Mini review: Performance

That’s a pity because compared with the full Home and Echo speakers, sound quality isn’t great. It’s fine for listening to talk radio shows, podcasts and the like, but music sounds thin and brittle and lacking in body. It’s hardly surprising that there’s no bass. It’s only wee, after all, but I’d like a bit more richness in the mids.

The sensitivity of the microphones, too, is a little on the disappointing side, certainly compared with the Echo Dot. I found I was repeating myself more frequently than with Amazon’s efforts; and don’t get me started on Google’s key phrase. Maybe it’s just me, but I hate saying “OK Google” all the time, and while “Hey Google” rolls off the tongue a little easier, it’s still a bit of a tongue-twister compared with “Alexa” or  “Siri”.

Which is a shame, because the Home Mini is a perfectly capable digital assistant. Indeed, if you own and run any other Google hardware, and you’ve ever used the speech recognition on your Android smartphone, you’ll know exactly how impressive Google’s technology is. And the fact that it works beautifully with other Google products gives it an edge over Amazon’s Alexa alternatives.

I particularly like the way it’s possible to play movies and control playback to my Chromecast Ultra by voice, to find directions and have them squirted directly to Google Maps on my phone and to even locate my phone when I’ve mislaid it. Better still, the hands-free calling feature that was only available in the US and Canada until recently is coming to the UK, too, as is the broadcast feature, which allows you to use multiple Google Home speakers as an intercom system.

That’s only a small sample of the Google Home Mini’s capabilities and these, like Alexa’s Skills, continue to expand as time wears on. You can, of course, access services such as Google Play Music, control your Chromecast and Chromecast audio, but there’s also support for Spotify and a bunch of smart home gear, including British Gas’ Hive smart thermostat, Nest, Philips Hue and Samsung Smart Things among others.  

Google Home Mini review: Verdict

I do like the Google Home Mini, despite my issues with the key phrase and the slightly weak microphone and speaker quality. It otherwise works really well, replicating the features of the larger Google Home beautifully, and offers an affordable introduction to the world of digital assistants.

If you already own a Google Home, it’s a no-brainer, and if you rely on Chromecast or Chromecast Audio to deliver your media you’ll find the Home Mini a fantastic addition to your home.

On its own, though, is it better than Echo Dot? The answer to that question is ultimately a no and that’s purely down to the ecosystem. Alexa as a system is not only more mature with more capabilities, but it also has wider support amongst third-party speaker manufacturers. That may change over time but, for now, my vote goes to the Echo.

Great, right up until you want to smash it in fury • The Register

Review At first, it wasn’t entirely clear whether it would be worthwhile doing a review of the new Google Home Mini.

The new, cut-down version of the digital assistant could probably have been summed up in a tweet. Something like: “Home Mini: smaller, cheaper, sound worse but still fine.”

But then, and it’s not entirely clear how or in response to what, the little puck-like device implied that it could call a mobile phone. This actually sounded pretty useful: you could be in the kitchen and say something like “call my wife” and have a conversation without having to find your phone or tap any buttons.

So let’s do exactly that; let’s test just how smart this AI technology that Sundar Pichai keeps swooning over really is. “Call my wife.”

Nothing happens, of course, because you have to say “OK Google” every damn time. OK Google, what’s the time? OK Google, set a timer. OK Google. OK Google. OK Google. Aaarrrrrgh. You wish the wake word could be literally anything else: “Hey Janice…” Anything.

Anyway, “OK Google, call my wife.”

Here we go, here comes the brave new world. This machine is going to understand “call”, it’s going to know from my voice it is me (a new feature, you can “train” it by saying, you guessed it, “OK Google” multiple times), and then take the words “my wife” to carry out some incredible Google AI to make the connection between me and my spouse.

Then it will fish into my contacts, identify the right person’s mobile phone and connect me – all in less than a second. I’m going to ignore the privacy implications and just enjoy its awesomeness.

And the little puck flashes some white spots. And decides it can’t be bothered. It doesn’t even reply.

Hmmmm

I try again: “OK Google, call my wife.”

More lights. Silence. Then after a pause, it decides not to be rude and ignore me again but says: “I’m sorry I don’t know what to do about that.” (Or something similar.)

A different tack. “OK Google, I would like to call someone.”

“You can use Google Voice to call…” Great, we’re building an understanding here.

“OK Google, I would like to use Google Voice to call my wife.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know anyone of that name. Perhaps you can say their first or last name.”

“McCarthy.” Nothing. Have to say “OK Google”, of course. “OK Google, I would like to use Google Voice to call my wife, last name McCarthy.”

“You can use Google Voice…”

“Yes, I know…” The Mini is starting to lose me here. But we get back to the last name option and I say “McCarthy” again. “I have one McCarthy: Kieren McCarthy. Calling…” And soon after, my mobile starts ringing.

To boil down the next 10 minutes, I go into two separate apps (Google Home and Google Voice) and make sure my wife’s number is in the system, and that Google Home is connected to the same Voice account, and try it all over again.

The end result? My mobile phone starts ringing and I give up on this wonderful new feature.

Smart home?

Let’s see if the smart home features have got any better. Our house has a range of smart home devices: Nest and Ecobee thermostats, August smart locks, Ring doorbells, several smart cameras, and smart power sockets and light switches and so on.

The Google Home app offers me just the Nest thermostat. With a little exclamation sign next to it. Tap. “You need to relink your (Upgrade!) Nest account.” Not sure what this means, but I tap the “relink account” link and my phone bounces me to a Nest webpage, where I logged into my Nest account, and then to a page where you “Accept” a connection (lots of terms and conditions) and then bounces to a Google assistant webpage (not the app but a webpage) and… stalls. Nothing.

Hit refresh on the blank page. Nothing. Back to the Google Home app. You need to relink your (Upgrade!) Nest account. Zero for two.

And this is the big problem with digital assistants. They have ended up doing some things really well: playing music, telling you the weather, setting a timer. Google’s Home and Mini even does a pretty good job telling you what’s happening that day by combining what’s in your (Google) calendar and news snippets.

But the next-level stuff: the phone calls and the smart home and basically anything that requires a connection to some other system is a royal pain in the arse.

I’m sure it is possible to get them to talk to one another if I am willing to log out of everything, reinstall apps, and log back into everything in the right order. But I’m not going to because it’s just not worth the hassle.

Get it, or pass?

So should you get a Google Home Mini anyway?

Sure, if you want. It is a terrifically small size. Considering its size, the speakers are pretty good. It’s not good sound quality – playing music can be a little grating compared to the larger Home, or Amazon’s Echo, or, you know, an actual sound system. But it is good enough.

If you have a Home or Echo and like the ability to ask it questions and you find yourself walking to wherever the device is in order to ask questions, then maybe having a second device in a different part of your home is a useful thing.

Some people clearly like this: hence Amazon’s cut-down Dot that Google is blatantly copying with this Home Mini. At $49 (and £49 because in the tech world the dollar and pound have 1:1 parity), it’s not that expensive. Could be a nice birthday or holiday gift.

Should you just buy the Mini over the pricier $129 Google Home? For this reviewer at least, it wouldn’t be worth it, mostly because the most common usage for these devices is playing music. If you want one, save up and get the larger Home.

Unless you have a large house, or two floors, the Home will also hear and understand your request if you shout it. The critical test, as ever, is: does the Mini stay in place once the testing is done?

And the answer is: no. It was unplugged and the Echo regained its rightful position in the kitchen.

Now, the next question is: so where do we plug in the Google Mini – which room does it go in? My wife and I run through the options. Lounge? No, don’t need it (the lounge is next to the kitchen.)

The bedroom? A raised eyebrow that means “don’t even think about it.” The bathroom? “Why? So I can ask what the weather is while showering?” The kids room? “Not in a million years.” The office? Maybe. But not now.

So there you have it: the Google Home Mini. Sort of useful so long as you don’t try to do too much with it. ®

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Amazon Great Indian Festival sale: Top deals, discounts on Apple, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and more mobiles

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 14, 2017 1:12 pm


Amazon, Amazon Great Indian Sale, Amazon Diwali Sale, Amazon sale, mobile discounts, Amazon mobile sale, Amazon smartphone discounts, OnePlus 5 discount, Apple iPhone 6 discount, iPhone deals, Xiaomi Redmi 4Amazon, Amazon Great Indian Sale, Amazon Diwali Sale, Amazon sale, mobile discounts, Amazon mobile sale, Amazon smartphone discounts, OnePlus 5 discount, Apple iPhone 6 discount, iPhone deals, Xiaomi Redmi 4 Smartphones including those from Apple, Xiaomi, OnePlus, etc are listed under a host of discounts, exchange offers, and more.

Amazon Great Indian Festival is now live, and the e-commerce platform has listed deals on products across categories such as mobiles, electronics, fashion, lifestyle, and more. People who shop using SBI debit and credit cards will get 10 per cent additional cashback, and those who pay via Amazon pay balance will get up to Rs 500 cash back. Amazon Prime membership is available at Rs 499. Smartphones including those from Apple, Xiaomi, OnePlus, etc are listed under a host of discounts, exchange offers, and more.

Amazon Great Indian Festival sale Apple deals

Apple iPhone 7 (32GB) gets 22 per cent off, and it is listed for Rs 37,999. The 128GB variant is available for Rs 49,999 (14 per cent off), and 256GB option can be bough at Rs 57,988 (22 per cent off). Apple iPhone 7 is listed in Silver, Black, Jet Black, Gold, and Rose Gold colour variants.

Promotional offers include 10 per cent (maximum up to Rs 500) cash back when shopping with Amazon pay Balance, up to 120 GB additional data from Idea, and no cost EMI.

Apple iPhone 6 (16GB) is available at Rs 30,380 as it gets 42 per cent off. The 32GB variant of iPhone 6 can be bought at Rs 22,999 (22 per cent off). Colour options include Gold and Space Grey.

Apple iPhone SE (16GB) gets 36 per cent off and is available at Rs 24,804. The 32GB variant gets 35 per cent off and it is selling for Rs 16,999. Colour options listed include Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, and Space Grey.

Amazon Great Indian Festival sale Xiaomi deals

Amazon will be hosting Xiaomi Redmi 4 sale at 12 PM today. The 16GB variant of the smartphone costs 6,999. Redmi 4 (64GB) gets 14 per cent off and it can be bought at Rs 9,499 instead of Rs 10,999. The 32GB storage option will be available at Rs 8,499. Users will get extra Rs 500 off on exchange and no cost EMI offer is applicable as well.

Also Read: Flipkart Big Diwali Sale: Top deals on iPhone 7, Redmi Note 4, Moto G5 Plus and other smartphones

Launch offers of Redmi 4 include additional 30GB 4G data from reliance Jio, free subscription of Hungama Music for 12 months, Hungama Play for three months, Rs 200 promotion credit for Kindle books, and damage protection plan starting at Rs 599.

Xiaomi Mi Max 2 (32GB) gets 13 per cent or Rs 2,000 off and it is available for Rs 12,999. The 64GB variant can be bought at Rs 14,999. Users will get extra Rs 1,500 off on purchase of Mi Max 2 (32GB). Other bundled offers include 30GB additional data from reliance Jio and free subscription of Hungama Music.

Amazon Great Indian Festival sale OnePlus deals

OnePlus 5 gets a host of offers from Vodafone, Cleartrip extra. People will get extra Rs 4,000 off on exchange, and up to Rs 25,000 discount vouchers from Cleartrip. Those who download and sign in to Kindle app will get Rs 500 promotion credit for Kindle eBooks. Vodafone is giving up to 75GB free data and three months of free Vodafone Pay. People can stream their Prime Video app on OnePlus 5 to get Rs 250 as Amazon Pay Balance.

OnePlus 5 (64GB) comes in Slate Gray or Soft Gold Colour options at Rs Rs 32,999. The 128GB option comes Slate Gray or Midnight Black colour options at Rs 37,999.

OnePlus 3T 64GB variant will be available at Rs 24,999 against the regular Amazon India selling price of Rs 29,999. Customers can avail additional Rs 2,000 on exchange, and Rs 500 eBook promotion credit from Kindle. Vodafone will give 45GB free data for five months. It is available in Gunmetal and Soft Gold colour options.

Amazon Great Indian Festival sale Motorola and Lenovo deals

Moto G5s Plus can be bought at no cost EMI. People will get extra Rs 1,000 off on exchange. Moto G5s Plus (64GB) can be bought at Rs 15,999 in Lunar Grey or Blush Gold colour variants. Users will get an additional 50GB 4G data from Reliance Jio and up to Rs 300 on eBooks.

Amazon is giving Rs 2,000 off on Lenovo K8 Note plus there’s an exchange offer as well. The 32Gb storage variant is priced at Rs 10,999 while the 4GB storage option comes at Rs 11,999. The smartphone is available in Venom Black and Fine Gold colour options.

Amazon Great Indian Festival sale LG deals

LG Q6 gets a massive 24 per cent discount, and the smartphone is selling at Rs 12,990 instead of Rs 16,990. It can be bought in Black, Gold and Platinum colour variants. People will get an extra Rs 3,000 off on exchange, and Jio is offering 50Gb additional 4G data.

Nokia 6 from HMD Global is listed at Rs 14,999 as it gets 13 per cent off. Available in Matte Black and Silver colour options, Nokia 6 can be bought at no cost EMI option as well. Amazon prime members will get up to Rs 1,000 off.

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A smart thermostat is a great investment, and now it’s cheaper than ever

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

61OlIVCeC L._SL1000_AmazonOne of the biggest barriers to smart home tech is its price. 

There are ways to start your smart home without breaking the bank, but you have to get creative.

One of my favorite smart-home accessories is the Nest Thermostat, and its new sibling the Nest Thermostat E has many of the same features for a far lower price. Both models are widely regarded as the best smart thermostats you can buy.

The biggest immediate difference with this E model is its screen. Instead of having a full color LED display, the Nest Thermostat E has a custom “frosted” one that shows only the current temperature and whether you’re conserving energy. It’s more basic, but you still see all the information you’ll need to know. 

While it looks different, the Nest Thermostat E acts just like the standard Nest Thermostat. You can still control the temperature with your voice if you have the Google Home or an Amazon Echo. You can also use Nest’s app on your phone if you don’t have a smart speaker, and you’re still able to turn the temperature up or down by turning the ring around the thermostat to the left or right. The Nest Thermostat E employs all the same energy-saving features to help save you money each year. Basically, it’s a Nest. 

The one other consideration to make when you’re deciding between the standard Nest Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E is compatibility with your heating and cooling system. According to Nest, the original model is compatible with “95% of 24V heating and cooling systems,” while the E model “works with most 24V heating and cooling systems.” You should check your system’s compatibility here before buying one.

If your system is compatible, and price is the only factor that’s held you back from buying a Nest in the first place, I can’t recommend one highly enough. Every time I’m faced with an old school thermostat I remember why I invested so heavily in the Nest Ecosystem. Both of these smart thermostats are featured in our buying guide to the best smart thermostats.

Anyone looking to make their home smarter without breaking the bank should consider the Nest Thermostat E a good investment. It’ll make your house a little less complicated, and may very well pay for itself over the course of a few years.

Nest Thermostat E, $169, available at Amazon

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback.

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Even a Great Performer Like NVIDIA Can Use a Rest

NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) has delivered great returns to investors over the past two years. Forget passive investing with index ETFs, if you can find the next NVDA. We reviewed the charts of Action Alerts PLUS, holding NVDA two months ago, and prices were temporarily weak.

We wrote more of a tutorial on technical analysis: “What is your cost basis? If you are long NVDA from below $110, then I probably wouldn’t panic. If you are long from around the last dip or in the $140s, then you need to think about how you would react or feel if prices broke below $140…When a stock position goes from a profit to a loss, a different mindset takes over. Offense versus defense. Can you make a decision to exit and come back in at a better trade location or will you get hung up on tax issues, and this and that?”

This morning, we can go back to our usual format and forecast. Let’s check the latest charts and indicators.

In this daily bar chart of NVDA, above, we can see that prices have nearly doubled from the last big consolidation pattern around $100 — from December to early May. Prices are above the rising 50-day moving average line but may too far above the rising 200-day moving average line.

Volume has been declining since June and the daily On-Balance-Volume (OBV) line has not made a new high to match or confirm the new price highs in the past few months. Momentum has been diverging since May, with lower and lower momentum readings contrasted to higher and higher price readings.

In this weekly bar chart of NVDA, above, we can see that prices are above the rising 40-week moving average line. This looks like the widest distance NVDA has been above this long-term indicator of trend and this could be the simplest measure of being overbought. Overbought readings can be resolved by sideways price action or a downward correction.

The weekly OBV line has not made much upside progress in the past three months and is a concern. The 12-week momentum study shows a bearish divergence from July to September, as prices make higher highs, but momentum slows. Prices are going up, but at a slower pace than earlier. A bearish divergence is am amber light, but not an automatic sell signal.

In this Point and Figure chart of NVDA, above, we can see an extended market, but also a $198 price target.

Bottom line: Slower volume, weaker momentum and diminished volume all point to caution ahead. Long NVDA? I would suggest raising sell-stop protection to a close below $170.

Finally, The Apple Look at Is Great For Jogging, Many thanks To LTE And AirPods

The Apple Look at Sequence 3 (with LTE) merged with the AirPods earbuds, for my income, is the most effective client technological know-how Apple has made in years.

The major explanation the LTE Look at is fascinating is not because it’s a telephone substitute (it’s not) but because it’s a significantly a lot more useful exercise session software. The new Look at connects with the AirPods earbuds a great deal far better, the Exercise routine application is a lot more consumer-friendly, and the mobile connectivity wholly negates the need to drag an Apple iphone together on exercise sessions.

Bluetooth Soreness Just before Sequence 3

Every Apple Look at I’ve tested has been terrific with coronary heart fee accuracy, move counting, and, in the Sequence 2‘s scenario, GPS tracking of runs. But the Sequence 1 and Sequence 2 watches I’ve applied have been fairly awful about cueing up the ideal tunes at the ideal situations for exercise sessions, and about connecting easily and continually with the AirPods. The older Watches held only a person playlist, and getting my outdated MP3s transferred from iTunes to the telephone to the Look at seemed fraught with pitfalls and friction factors (element of that is the fault of iTunes, which I think is a mess).

Right after I at last had a playlist prepared to go, it was usually tricky to get the Look at to permit go of the telephone and participate in tunes from the playlist saved in its personal memory. I usually acquired a little something was erroneous only just after the Look at went outside the house the iPhone’s Bluetooth variety. This commonly transpired outside the house when I was about 10 measures into my run. I’d then have to arrive again inside of and fiddle with anything again.

Connecting the AirPods was also a problem. You had to have the iPhone’s Bluetooth on to get the two to link, but because of that the AirPods usually would remain related to the telephone and not with the Look at. And all this fiddling all-around came at that critical time just prior to a exercise session when you just need to get yourself out the doorway and DO IT.  On best of that the AirPods suit only loosely in my ears, triggering me to continually jamming them into location in the course of my run.

Finally I went again to my outdated exercise session set-up, which consisted of single wired Logitech earbud (I minimize the still left facet off) duct-taped to my shirt and powered by an outdated beat-up iPod Shuffle clipped to my waistline band. Not exquisite, but strong and reliable. I realized the Look at/AirPods was far better technological know-how (and certainly far better looking), but it was just far too a great deal operate to make it operate.

Soreness Is About

As I bought prepared for my run previous night time, I set my Apple iphone into plane method to shut down its mobile relationship. I set my AirPods in. When I picked the tunes application on the enjoy a display screen popped up asking the place I wished to the tunes performed. I selected “Mark’s AirPods” and tunes commenced to participate in as a result of the earbuds nearly straight away. With watchOS 4, your most-performed tunes data files (on your telephone) are loaded onto your Look at for you. You can still make your personal playlists, far too.

The AirPods no for a longer period seemed bewildered about no matter if to link to the Look at or the telephone. Nor was there confusion about no matter if the Look at was playing tunes saved on its personal memory or if it was simply distant controlling the playback of tunes saved on the telephone. If there’s tunes cued up on both equally the telephone and the enjoy, a Now Enjoying display screen on the Look at asks you which you want to participate in, and the AirPods seem to link to the system you choose. As I still left the residence and still left the the iPhone’s Bluetooth variety, the tunes held ideal on playing (from the Look at). Now the Look at was helping me operate out, not holding me from it.

Also, in the course of runs, my outdated Look at, the Sequence 2 (running watchOS 3) usually had difficulties maintaining an uninterrupted relationship with my AirPods. I’d listen to sudden breaks in the tunes of up to a next in size. Apple will have to have set a far better Bluetooth radio in the new Sequence 3 enjoy or, perhaps, manufactured some computer software alterations to bolster the relationship in between the Look at and the AirPods. I listened to just a person little breakup about a few minutes into my initial run with the Sequence 3, but no a lot more just after that.

I placed various calls in the course of that initial run–all productive. The human being on the other stop of the line mentioned my voice sounded crystal clear and loud plenty of (on the other hand, observe that there was no wind at the time). My friend’s voice in the AirPods sounded crystal clear and complete-bodied, just like on calls placed as a result of my Apple iphone.

It was also wonderful to get messages at a glance on the telephone in the course of my run. So significantly I’ve gotten various notes and notifications in the course of runs, none of them vital plenty of to demand rapid notice. Had I viewed anything at all urgent, I could have just paused the Exercise routine application and messaged again or called in.

And the LTE Look at + AirPods killer application has not even been turned on still. Someday this thirty day period Apple will flip on the capacity to stream tunes from Apple New music specifically to the Look at to the AirPods. If this performs very well, cueing up the fantastic tunes for exercise sessions could get still simpler, and the alternatives for being pumped up in the course of exercise sessions will widen a ton.

LTE Is No Issue

Some of the initial reviewers of the Sequence 3 documented that the Look at was prone to allowing go of the LTE network and making an attempt to link to the world-wide-web by way of general public Wi-Fi networks it transpired to move by (these kinds of as Starbucks or lodge networks). Apple has now sent out a computer software update to appropriate the problem of the Look at leaping onto common networks.

Here’s the detail. The LTE radio in the Look at is a battery hog. So the Look at is constantly looking for techniques to permit go of the LTE relationship and latch on to a Wi-Fi network. Apple engineers have been evidently so apprehensive about the Watch’s battery everyday living that they manufactured it fairly a great deal unattainable to toggle off the (a lot more power-productive) Wi-Fi radio and default to the LTE radio.

The Look at prefers to link to the world-wide-web by way of the paired telephone, but when you are out on a run that is not a element. It is up coming option is to link to a Wi-Fi network that the user’s telephone, Mac, or Look at has related to prior to. Failing that, it’ll flip on the LTE radio.

For me, when I was away from the residence, my Look at stayed prepared to link to LTE. I passed inside of the variety of at the very least a person general public Wi-Fi network but the Look at held on to LTE.

As for the battery, I had my Look at on for about six several hours of frequent use prior to my initial run with it. During the run I manufactured a couple of telephone calls and held the GPS radio on throughout. When I bought residence, the battery degree was at 63%. I can live with that.

When I was accomplished with that run, I stopped a couple blocks from residence and questioned Siri the place the closest Walgreens was. I questioned it no matter if they have been still open. She gave me the several hours and questioned me if I wished instructions to the location. I realized the place it was but wished to make confident the GPS support would information me there the right way. It did. Just to total the photo I picked up a h2o in the store and then applied Apple Spend on the Look at to pay out for it.

Wanting at my telephone later at residence, I saw that the route of my run had been the right way mapped by the GPS. Also, watchOS 4 is doing a lot more with the coronary heart fee sensor details now. You can see your resting coronary heart fee, your coronary heart fee in the course of runs, and the fee at which your coronary heart fee returns to usual afterwards. All of this details is transferred into the Wellbeing application, the place I continue to keep my nutritional and slumber details.

The new Exercising application in watchOS 4 is a real move up. I clicked the application open when I bought outside the house, hit “Outdoor Operate,” and the countdown began. You really don’t have to faucet “Start” anymore. When you are running, you can swipe to the still left to provide up the tunes controls (in scenario a bummer song comes on), or swipe to the ideal to pause or stop the exercise session or lock the controls.

The application performs very well with the AirPods. As an alternative of emotion minor buzzes on my wrist when I passed a mile on my run, I listened to nice minor artificial bells in my ears. Of course, the minor items make any difference. They add to the a lot more polished feel of the complete working experience.

Now my only suffering issue with the Look at+AirPods combo for running is that I have to set minor foam covers all-around the AirPods to make them suit snugly inside of my ears. If not they rattle all-around in my ears or even fall out. No large offer, as very long as anything else performs.

I think running and other varieties of exercise sessions are the most effective use scenario for the LTE related Look at. I know persons who run with the large Apple iphone forearm sleeve, but I dislike the feel of them and I dislike the weight of the system on my arm. Leaving the telephone at residence (and the sleeve in the garbage can) is terrific.

There are several other everyday living scenarios (driving to operate, mowing the lawn, heading procuring, etc.) the place obtaining your telephone together with you just isn’t a problem. Which is why I believe the new LTE Look at is most effective recognized as a a lot more autonomous exercise system, and I hope Apple to continue to keep marketing and advertising it that way.

We’ll know just after the initial of up coming calendar year how several runners and exercise varieties believe the Watch’s new mobile methods are well worth the $399 setting up price tag. I’m guessing massive figures of them will.

The First Great Echo Dot Rival


Last winter, I — along with countless others — received an Echo Dot as a Christmas gift. Since then, Alexa has worked its way into my daily routine, enabling me to set alarms, turn the lights on and off, and play music, all with just my voice. But after testing out the $49 Google Home Mini, I’m almost ready to switch to team Google. Not only is the Mini more attractive than the Dot, but it also performs miles better as a stand-alone speaker. While Alexa still rules in some areas, the Google Home Mini is poised to eat into Amazon’s lead.

Design

While Amazon’s smart speakers are very functional, they’re not very attractive. The utilitarian Echo Dot, for example, is a black, hockey-puck-size device that doesn’t inspire any feelings of warmth.

So kudos to Google for making the Home Mini something that looks and feels friendlier. It’s small and round like the Echo Dot, but its curved sides give it a softer look. Like with the larger Google Home, the top of the Mini is swathed in a gray fabric, which only adds to its homeyness.

Hidden beneath the cloth cover are touch-screen controls, which let you play and pause music and launch Google Assistant. Tap one side of the Mini to lower the volume and the other side to pump up the jams. Similar to on the Echo Dot, a physical switch on the back of the Mini lets you deactivate the microphone.

Although the  LEDs on the top of the Home Mini light up when they detect your voice, they’re hard to see, especially if the Mini is across the room from you. I prefer the Echo Dot’s light ring, which encircles the top of the device, is much more visible and changes color when it hears your voice.

Kudos to Google for making the Home Mini something that looks and feels friendlier.

At 1.7 inches tall and 3.9 inches in diameter, Google Home Mini is slightly larger than the Echo Dot (1.5 inches tall and 3.3 inches in diameter), but you won’t notice the difference on your nightstand. I certainly didn’t.

Smart Home Performance

Adding smart-home devices to your Google Home isn’t as straightforward as it is with Alexa. To add a device, you first must select Devices from the side menu. Then, you have to select the smart speaker, press the three dots in the upper right corner and choose settings.

Google lags well behind Amazon’s Alexa in integrating with other smart-home devices.

From there, you go to Home Control, select the service (Leviton, Philips, etc.), then select the room in which the smart devices are located. With the Alexa app, there’s a specific Smart Home menu, from which it automatically detects smart-home devices in your network.

Once connected, I said, “Hey, Google, turn on my dining room lights,” and they responded instantly.

Google also lags well behind Amazon in integrating with other smart- home devices. While there are 50-odd manufacturers listed in the Google Home app, some notable missing companies include Logitech (and its Harmony remotes), the Ecobee smart thermostat and Yale locks.

One thing that Google Home has over Alexa is that you can use the Google service to control smart TVs running Android TV, as well as Chromecast devices. I liked that the Google Home app immediately recognized the Sony TV on my home network. You can then tell Google Home to play YouTube, Netflix or other content, and the stream will appear right on your TV. However, your TV has to support voice control; my Sony Bravia XBR-49X830C, from 2014, did not. I had to dig through several menus in the Google Home app to find that out.

Audio Performance

Neither the Home Mini nor the Echo Dot should be used as a primary music source, but if you want to do this, the Home Mini can suffice in a pinch. In a head-to-head audio test, the Home Mini simply blew the Echo Dot out of the water.

Bruce Springsteen’s vocals on “I’m on Fire” sounded tinny, hollow and distant on the Echo Dot. It was like listening to a bad AM radio. On the Home Mini, his voice was much fuller, the bass line was much more present, and you could hear more of the nuances in the track. Same thing when I played Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”; the song sounded full and strong.

I also liked that I could stream audio directly from a number of sources — such as the Pandora app on my phone and the Chrome browser on my laptop — directly to the Home Mini. That’s one thing you can’t do with Alexa.

However, the Echo Dot has both a 3.5mm audio jack and Bluetooth, so you can pair it with another speaker very easily. The Home Mini only has Bluetooth, and can only be used to stream audio to the Mini from, say, your smartphone, and not to an external speaker. The only way to do that is if another speaker is connected to a Chromecast device.

In a head-to-head audio test, the Home Mini simply blew the Echo Dot out of the water.

Google and Amazon are fairly evenly matched in streaming-audio services, as both support Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. Not surprisingly, Amazon has Amazon Music, while Google has Google Play Music and YouTube Music. However, only Amazon lists support for Sirius XM.

Microphone Performance

Without anything else playing, both the Home Mini and the Echo Dot were able to hear my voice from across the room, even when I talked in a low voice. However, once I started cranking tunes, I had to raise my voice to a near shout to make myself heard by the Mini. I didn’t have to speak as loudly for the Echo Dot to hear me, but then again, the Dot’s speaker can’t get nearly as loud as the Mini’s.

When I first started using the Home Mini, it would trigger itself unintentionally, and try to respond  to things it heard. I had placed it under my TV, so it was amusing at first when it tried answering questions from detectives Briscoe and Green from Law & Order, but quickly grew frustrating. And, because it was an issue with the touch controls, turning off the microphone did not alleviate the problem.

According to Google, a small number of Home Minis had an issue that caused the touch mechanism to behave incorrectly, and the company rolled out a software update that addressed the issue. A day after Google sent me this response, the Home Mini no longer triggered itself. If users are having any additional issues, they should feel free to contact Google Support at 1-855-971-9121.

Bottom Line

When it debuted last fall, the Echo Dot made big waves for its low price; it has never been easier to get Alexa in your home. The $49 Google Home Mini is poised to do just that for Google’s Assistant. Not only is it inexpensive, but it also outperforms the Echo Dot in audio quality and design. The Mini’s ability to cast both audio and video arguably makes it the better device for delivering smarts to your entertainment system. However, Google is still lagging well behind Amazon regarding skills and smart-home integration, and even the best-designed speaker can’t change that fact.

Credit: Tom’s Guide

SNES Classic interviews revisit the creation of 21 great games

To hype the launch of the SNES Classic Edition, Nintendo has been posting interviews with developers of the games that appear on it. Sure, they’re on a marketing page for the unit, but in the spirit of the great Iwata Asks roundtable discussions, they’re chock full of details on how and why the games were made.

For example, we get the real story on why Star Fox 2 was canceled. Dylan Cuthbert of Argonaut Software previously speculated that it had to do with the imminent launch of the Nintendo 64. He is partly correct. Shigeru Miyamoto said launching Star Fox 2 on the Super Nintendo would have required another chip, the Super FX 2 (successor to the Super FX developed for the first Star Fox) and that would have raised the price of the game.

“The price was high and the timing of the release was awkward, so we decided to cancel it and start from scratch with a new Star Fox game for Nintendo 64,” Miyamoto said.

Miyamoto said the system producer for the SNES Classic wanted to include Star Fox 2 on the console. “He said it had been through debugging and was a complete game, so it would be a waste not to put it out in the world,” Miyamoto said.

Other highlights:


F-zeroF-zero

Nintendo

F-Zero

The futuristic setting and vehicles were inspired by the look in Tim Burton’s Batman, which premiered in 1989. Kazunobu Shimizu, the F-Zero director, had been in the United States at the time of the craze, brought several Batman comic books back to Japan, and these helped the team create the look of the vehicles and courses.

Also, going with a future setting removed a big problem from animation: tires. Designer Takaya Imamura had been making pixel art for each vehicle, and doing that while showing tires rotating created a “staggering” number of frames. “So we decided to lose the tires and have the racers hover,” he said with a laugh.


Nintendo

Super Metroid

Kenji Yamamoto, Super Metroid’s ground-breaking sound designer, references one of the great traditions of baseball — Japan or anywhere — in describing how it felt to complete the game.

Hanshin Koshien Stadium, home to the professional Hanshin Tigers, has an all-dirt infield and was built as the home of the nation’s high school championships. In the tournament, an eliminated team takes home bags of infield dirt as a reminder of their time there.

“You know how the members of the losing high school baseball team cry as they collect soil to take home from the Koshien field,” he said. “I felt a desolation similar to that.”

Yamamoto burst into tears when Makoto Kano, his boss, said “Let’s master this up! We’re done!” Yamomoto had poured maximum effort into getting the most out of the SNES’ sound generator, creating themes that seemed to have choral accompaniments.


Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart’s genesis was “F-Zero for two players.” That was the task Miyamoto assigned to an eight-man development team (including himself). As the developers went to work, they realized that split-screen gameplay would not work with F-Zero, in which racers rocket down long straightaways at high speed.

“If you look back at the Super Mario Kart tracks, you’ll understand,” said Hideki Konno. “Instead of tracks with long straight lines, the track designs are compact, with lots of twists and turns so they fit well within a square.” On such a course “about the only vehicle that made sense within such tightly woven courses were karts,” he explained.

While karts show off characters more, that was never the intent. Early in development, placeholder characters had “young men in overalls” at the wheel. Judging that look boring, they explored other options, and came up with another character who wore overalls.

The Legend of Zelda DLC for Monster Hunter Stories is Seriously Great


Share.

You’ve got met with an lovely destiny, haven’t you?

The Legend of Zelda DLC for Monster Hunter Stories introduced September 28 completely for cost-free, and it features some quite lovely, super neat stuff. The Zelda pack will come with Link’s legendary tunic and sword, a Majora’s Mask outfit for the sweet feline sidekick, Navirou, and even Epona as a welcome lover.

zeldatriforce copy2

Majora’s Mask, termed the Cursed Mask in Monster Hunter Stories, even alters Navirou’s voice into an echoey, creepy variation of itself reminiscent of Cranium Kid’s off-placing laughs in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

The Hero’s Sword is finish with a spectacularly detailed Hylian Shield and an Elder Dragon slaying skill. Even a lot more useful are the Hero’s Clothing, armor that slightly recovers HP each flip in struggle and raises evasion when less than fifty percent HP.

Epona completes the unlockable established as a ridable lover with an additional amazing Kinship Skill, generally a super move that calls upon the ability of the Triforce. You can see all of this, as nicely as the sweet self-importance objects like stickers, in the small movie at the best of this posting. The armor, weapon, Majora’s Mask, and Epona all exhibit up in the replayable cutscenes in Monster Hunter Stories, as well. It can be really great looking at a Hyperlink lookalike get on a fierce Nargacuga with a Majora’s Mask-wearing feline sidekick.

To see how to unlock all of these goodies the moment the Zelda information is downloaded, head in excess of to the Monster Hunter Stories Legend of Zelda DLC wiki page. For a lot more on Monster Hunter Stories, make positive to test out the Monster Hunter Stories Overview and All Monster Hunter Stories Amiibo Unlockables.

Casey DeFreitas is an Associate Editor at IGN and enjoys each Monster Hunter and Zelda, so of class she performed this DLC straight away. Catch her on Twitter @ShinyCaseyD. 


Blackberry KEYone review – A great business partner

There was a time where it appeared as if everybody in South Africa owned a Blackberry.

The handset of choice for many was the Blackberry Curve 8320 and while it wasn’t very smart, the data was cheap.

Sadly Blackberry’s market share was eaten up by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the iPhone. Then last year the manufacturer came roaring back with the Priv.

An elegant handset with a slide-out keyboard and enough security features to keep even the strictest IT teams happy.

Now we have a similar handset in the KEYone which features an always visible QWERTY keyboard, touch-screen and Android software.

After two weeks with the handset I’m happy to say that Blackberry is back.

Blackberry KEYone review – Not just business

Let’s face facts, the KEYone is aimed at business folk. It’s chunky but not cumbersome and the keyboard screams “working professional” whenever you put it on your desk.

The display is great for watching videos with colours looking true to life and even photos look incredibly sharp on the 4.5inch display.

The KEYone’s speaker array sits at the bottom of the handset. While the speakers are plenty loud for a bit of YouTube before bed the arrangement of them means your hand will muffle the sound if you happen to place it incorrectly.

Blackberry KEYone review – KPI

Upon reading the KEYone’s spec sheet I was excited to see that the handset boasted mid-range specifications. My excitement was due to that meaning the price was going to be low and it is at R9 649 or R479 on a Flexi 200 contract.

Android is a great choice rather than Blackberry trying its hand at creating a new OS. The best news is that handset will support Android Oreo according to Crackberry, Phonearena as well as 9to5 Google.

Users can split the display so that two apps are open at the same time but this does only work with some apps. That having been said even while searching Google and browsing Twitter we never felt a performance lag.

As for raw performance numbers our benchmark results follow below.

The numbers above place the KEYone firmly in the middle range of smartphones. We can live with that considerinmg the KEYone retails for just under R10 000.

It’s also worth noting that during our benchmarking the handset performed incredibly when tasked with spreadsheets, word documents and web pages.

Blackberry KEYone review – A surprisingly good snapper

At the back of the handset sits a 12MP camera with a f/2.0 aperture which translates into great photos in well lit environments but slightly grainy ones in badly lit ones.

I must say that the camera is rather good for a phone that screams “business professional”.

The same can be said for the 8MP snapper at the front of the handset though in the realm of business this makes sense for video conferencing.

The camera also has a wealth of options that you can adjust to your heart’s content to get the best photo possible. It’s a wonderful experience.

Blackberry KEYone review – Consciously secure

My colleague Deon du Plessis reviewed the Blackberry Priv last year and one of his favourite features was the DTEK software. I must say, after using this handset I can understand why.

This software encrypts your data and then helps you use best practices such as setting a screen lock and adding a Google account.

Beyond that whenever you add a new account you are required to verify that it is indeed you that wants to add that account to your device.

Some might see this as a chore but to a paranoid user such as myself its a nice assurance that my device is not compromised.

It’s comforting to know that my smartphone is protected out of the box though it doesn’t hurt to add a third party solution as well.

The fingerprint scanner is located in the space bar and I have never had any issues unlocking my handset despite how small it is.

Blackberry KEYone review – Likes, dislikes and battery power

There is a lot to like in the KEYone but there are also a few things I dislike. For instance; just below the volume rocker is a button that seems to be the power/unlock button but it’s actually a programmable key. The number of times I pushed that key to unlock the handset cannot be counted by humans.

That programmable button also acts as a mute key during calls.

The layout of the KEYone also presents a few problems for those with bigger hands in that you will likely touch the navigation keys accidentally while typing.

It’s annoying but not a deal breaker.

I am positively in love with the physical keyboard. It takes a bit of getting used to but after one or two messages you get the hang of it. The keyboard also doubles as a scrolling wheel of sorts. Simply drag your finger across the keyboard and you can scroll through a webpage.

Perhaps my favourite part of this handset is the battery life.

Earlier in September we attended Leaderex; an all day event in Sandton. During that time I was snapping photos, using the KEYone as a mobile hotspot and it lasted all day. The kicker is that I started that day with 50% battery. I sipped an extra 10% of power from a battery bank but the handset lasted from 6am through to 7pm with no worries.

On average the KEYone lasted me two days with a charge only being required on the morning of the third. Charging back up to 100% took an hour and a half with Boost Mode enabled and two and bit hours without that feature enabled.

Blackberry KEYone review – Conclusion

So is the Blackberry KEYone worth your money?

At its core the KEYone is a mid-range phone. You have a Snapdragon 625 chipset, 4GB of RAM and a very capable camera. The specifications are hardly worthy of praise but the phone does operate at a reasonable pace and I never experienced any lag or slowdowns or hiccups in operation.

What sets the Blackberry apart however, is that it offers something unique. While Samsung and Apple can go on about how its handset is suited for business professionals, the Blackberry feels more suited to business than any of the others.

It’s also frighteningly secure considering how prevalent cybercrime has become in recent months.

The battery lasts for around two days, the camera is great for even the most creative of business people. It’s a very good handset and aside from the gripes I’ve already mentioned I see no reason why anybody would refuse to use this handset, even if your business is scrolling through social media.

Disclaimer: A Blackberry KEYone was provided by the manufacturer and will be returned.

 

There was a time where it appeared as if everybody in South Africa owned a Blackberry. The handset of choice for many was the Blackberry Curve 8320 and while it wasn’t very smart, the data was cheap. Sadly Blackberry’s market share was eaten up by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the iPhone. Then last year the manufacturer came roaring back with the Priv. An elegant handset with a slide-out keyboard and enough security features to keep even the strictest IT teams happy. Now we have a similar handset in the KEYone which features an always visible QWERTY keyboard, touch-screen and Android software. After two weeks with the handset I’m happy to say that Blackberry is back. Blackberry KEYone review – Not just business Let’s face facts, the KEYone is aimed at business folk. It’s chunky but not cumbersome and the keyboard screams “working professional” whenever you put it on your desk. The display is great for watching videos with colours looking true to life and even photos look incredibly sharp on the 4.5inch display. The KEYone’s speaker array sits at the bottom of the handset. While the speakers are plenty loud for a bit of YouTube before bed the arrangement of them means your hand will muffle the sound if you happen to place it incorrectly. Blackberry KEYone review – KPI Upon reading the KEYone’s spec sheet I was excited to see that the handset boasted mid-range specifications. My excitement was due to that meaning the price was going to be low and it is at R9 649 or R479 on a Flexi 200 contract. Android is a great choice rather than Blackberry trying its hand at creating a new OS. The best news is that handset will support Android Oreo according to Crackberry, Phonearena as well as 9to5 Google. Users can split the display so that two apps are open at the same time but this does only work with some apps. That having been said even while searching Google and browsing Twitter we never felt a performance lag. As for raw performance numbers our benchmark results follow below. The numbers above place the KEYone firmly in the middle range of smartphones. We can live with that considerinmg the KEYone retails for just under R10 000. It’s also worth noting that during our benchmarking the handset performed incredibly when tasked with spreadsheets, word documents and web pages. Blackberry KEYone review – A surprisingly good snapper At the back of the handset sits a 12MP camera with a f/2.0 aperture which translates into great photos in well lit environments but slightly grainy ones in badly lit ones. I must say that the camera is rather good for a phone that screams “business professional”. The same can be said for the 8MP snapper at the front of the handset though in the realm of business this makes sense for video conferencing. The camera also has a wealth of options that you can adjust to your heart’s content to…

Blackberry KEYone review – A great business partner

Blackberry KEYone review – A great business partner

2017-09-29

Brendyn Lotz

Score – 9

90

9

Berry Nice

Secure, snappy and long lasting, the Blackberry KEYone is a great business-minded smartphone. The snappers at the front and rear of the handset are great and while the physical keyboard takes some getting used to it’s really nice to have a physical keyboard again. Top notch smartphone!

User Rating: Be the first one !

9