These days, 4K televisions and monitors are becoming much more common. Operating systems support them well, and there is a lot of available UHD content -- including on Netflix and YouTube. Not to mention, prices have dropped dramatically -- these 4K monitors are finally achievable by the average consumer.
Philips has announced an all-new 4K display called "Momentum" (model 436M6VBPAB) that is downright breathtaking. First of all, it is huge -- a massive 43 inches. Size aside, it has Quantum Dot technology, an insane 1,000 nits max brightness, 10-bit color, and most impressive of all, it is HDR1000 certified.
Apple's iPad tablets are beautifully designed, but let's be honest -- they are not durable. If you drop it, there is a very good chance the screen could shatter. Even if the display is unhurt, it could become dented or scratched, which can really destroy the resale value. Money aside, it can be depressing to use a device with cosmetic blemishes. Look, you spent good money on your iPad, right? Well, you should protect it.
The best way to do this is with a rugged case. This way, if you do drop your precious iPad, it should hopefully survive unscathed. One manufacturer that produces reliable cases is Urban Armor Gear. Today, that company announces the "Plasma" case for both the regular iPad (9.7-inch, 5th and 6th generation) and iPad Pro (12.9 and 10.5-inch). Not only is it very rugged, but it looks quite beautiful too. Apple Pencil users should love the integrated holder.
Samsung solid state drives are the gold standard of storage. True, there are other brands that sell quality SSDs, but Samsung's offerings are not only blazing-fast, but very reliable too. If you can afford it, you shouldn't consider any other brand.
Today, Samsung announces its most impressive solid state drives yet -- the 970 PRO and 970 EVO, both of which are M.2 PCIe NVMe variants. The PRO model features capacities up to 1TB, while the EVO goes up to 2TB.
Mesh networking systems are all the rage these days, and it isn't hard to see why. Traditional wireless routers can be deficient in large houses, failing to reach all of the rooms. It can be quite frustrating to experience dead zones in your home, and fiddling with range extenders can be annoying. Mesh networks blanket your home in glorious Wi-Fi by utilizing several well-placed access points.
Today, ASUS unveils its latest mesh networking system. Called "Lyra Trio," it is comprised of three AC1750 access points. The 802.11ac devices are pyramid-shaped and contain vertical 3x3 MIMO antennas. If you don't have experience with setting up a home network, don't worry -- you can use a special smartphone app (Android and iPhone) to do so easily.
At the end of 2016, I found myself in need of a new laptop. Having never owned a Mac before, I was intrigued by the possibility of owning an Apple notebook. In the past, I never even considered a MacBook because they were too expensive. I'm not a rich man -- far from it -- but I justified the expense by telling myself it would be an investment. Apple's quality and service are legendary -- sure, I'd spend a lot up front, but the laptop would easily last me 5 years. Plus, it would integrate well with my iPhone and iPad.
And so, I opened an Apple credit card and bought a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for about $2,000 -- an enormous amount of money for me. As someone who is often on the go, I opted for a 13-inch model for portability. For specs, I stuck with the Core i5 and 256GB SSD, but did upgrade the RAM to 16GB. I mean, you can't upgrade the RAM yourself, so it would be foolish to leave the base 8GB configuration, right?
For 2018, I decided to take stock in my finances to see exactly where my money is going each month. I found many ways to cut costs, such as making my own lunch instead of buying something from a deli each day. In New York, a sandwich, bag of chips, and a Snapple can easily run you $13! Food aside, there was one thing in particular that was really destroying my budget -- cable.
When I say cable, I am referring to the traditional "triple play" service, where you get television, internet, and phone. For this, I was paying over $200 a month! This was without any premium channels -- no HBO, Starz, or Showtime. The most ridiculous part? I was being charged monthly rental fees for the cable boxes and modem. Well, enough was enough. Thanks to YouTube TV, I "cut the cord" and I couldn't be happier.
The concept of printing out your photos and putting them in an album is pretty much dead. Yeah, some folks probably still do this, but thanks to smartphones, tablets, and smart televisions, there is no reason to do so. There are much better ways to share and enjoy your precious memories these days. In other words, the digitization of photos has created a superior experience.
But OK, it can be fun to print out photos at a party or family get-together, where the images are essentially disposable -- kind of like a Polaroid. After all, not everything is worthy of framing. Today, Canon launches a new portable printer called "IVY Mini" that can do exactly that.
The voice assistant hardware market is exploding in popularity lately, with devices running software from Amazon, Google, and to a lesser extent, Apple. We can pretty much leave Cortana out of the conversation despite a very good hardware offering from Harman Kardon.
As Apple's HomePod fails due to a still-disappointing Siri, Google and Amazon's offerings remain the cream of the crop. Which of those two you prefer is a matter of personal preference, although I prefer Alexa having tried both. Today, Alexa is getting a unique new feature that sets it apart from Google even more. Called "Alexa Skill Blueprints," you can easily create custom Skills without any programming experience.
Solid state drives are in the future of computing, while hard disk drives are the past. With that said, despite being destined for the history books, HDDs are still a big part of the present. In other words, despite being older technology, mechanical hard drives definitely have their place these days. Why? Well, they offer huge capacities at affordable prices. True, solid state drives are dropping in price, but they still aren't financially feasible for data centers, for instance. SSDs will get there eventually, but for now, hard drives live on.
Amazingly, some manufacturers are still pushing the HDD envelope, delivering ever-increasing capacities. For instance, today, Western Digital -- one of the most respected storage companies -- announces a new 14TB HDD called "Ultrastar DC HC530." While that storage capacity has been done before, this is the first 14TB drive to use conventional magnetic recording (CMR).
Both Thunderbolt 3 docking stations and bus-powered USB-C hubs are nothing new. But what about bus-powered Thunderbolt 3 docking stations? Ah, that is a much more rare product. In fact, today, StarTech is launching two bus-powered portable Thunderbolt 3 docking stations that it claims are an "industry first." If you aren't familiar, "bus-powered" means there is no need for an AC adapter -- the port on your laptop powers the dock. This is great because, without a power adapter, you have one less thing to carry.
Why are there two models? Well, while they are both similar, they are are also quite different. The TB3DK2DP features two DisplayPort connections, a USB 3.0 Type-A port, and gigabit Ethernet. The TB3DKM2HD in comparison has two HDMI ports, gigabit Ethernet, a USB 3.0 Type-A port and a USB 2.0 Type-A port. Both portable docks can push two 4K monitors at 60Hz, but only the DisplayPort variant can do 5K at 60Hz. Neither feature female USB-C ports.
If you still haven't made the leap from HDD to SSD, what the heck are you waiting for? OK, true, mechanical drives are more affordable when capacity is considered, but come on -- the speed makes it totally worthwhile. It's not like you need a fancy NVMe drive either -- for most consumers, an inexpensive SATA-based solid state drive is more than adequate. Let's be honest -- outside of benchmarks and bragging rights, a blazing-fast PCIe SSD is probably overkill for the majority of consumers.
Today, Kingston unveils a new line of SATA-based SSDs. They are available in three form factors -- 2.5-inch, M.2 2280, and mSATA. Capacity ranges from 120GB to 1920GB depending on which of the aforementioned styles is selected. For instance, the mSATA model maxes out at 480GB, while the M.2 goes up to 960GB. The 2.5-inch takes things to another level, as it features capacities up to a massive 1,920GB! Best of all, they feature 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption.
If your laptop has Thunderbolt 3 -- and you want to connect it to a keyboard, mouse, and display -- a TB3 dock is a worthwhile investment. This allows you to both charge and connect your peripherals with a single cable. Don't have Thunderbolt 3? That's OK -- you can still utilize a USB dock. While it won't charge your machine, it will still offer much convenience.
While my MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3, my family and I have Windows and Linux notebooks that still use USB 3.0. For these computers, I have been testing a new USB 3.0 dock from VisionTek called "VT1000." Not only does it serve as a 3-port USB 3.0 hub (two Type-A on front, one on rear), but it also provides gigabit Ethernet, audio, and the ability to push two displays. For this, it offers very versatile connection options -- HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA.
For better or worse, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) initiative seems to be moving full steam ahead. There are some very respectable distributions available in the Microsoft Store, such as Debian, Ubuntu, and Kali to name a few. Not to mention, Microsoft is trying to encourage even more maintainers to submit their distros with a new tool.
Apparently, some Windows 10 users have been clamoring for the ability to copy and paste both from and to WSL consoles -- a reasonable request. Well, as of Insider Build 17643, this is finally possible.
Intel and AMD both make great processors, but the latter is more about value than raw performance. Don't get me wrong, AMD's products are plenty powerful, but they tend to be easier on the wallet compared to Intel. That is why I, and many other PC builders, choose AMD -- wonderful performance/price balance. It's Ryzen line in particular offers fabulous multi-core performance at a great price, making them excellent choices for all types of computer users -- including both gamers and video editors.
Today, AMD unveils the second-generation of Ryzen processors, and the company has managed to do something quite remarkable. You see, not only are these 12nm chips more powerful than their 14nm predecessors, but they are less expensive too! On top of that, the entire line of second-gen Ryzen processors come with high-end Wraith coolers -- enough for modest overclocking. The coolers that comes with the Ryzen 7 models even feature LED lighting.
System76 has long been a huge champion of both Linux and open source. If you aren't familiar, the company sells premium computers running the Ubuntu operating system. Recently, the company decided to create its own Ubuntu-based distro called "Pop!_OS" which uses the GNOME desktop environment.
Today, Denver, Colorado-based System76 takes its commitment to GNOME even further by becoming a Foundation Advisory Board member. It joins other respected companies on the board such as Google, Red Hat, and Canonical to name a few.