Google's Chromecast is a curious product. It solves a major consumer need -- getting media content from a smartphone's small screen to a larger television screen. And it accomplishes that goal fairly well. When it was first released in 2013, its biggest selling point was its low price. These days, the $35 asking price is far less impressive. For instance, for just $5 more, you can get a 4K Roku box with a remote.
Realizing that the Chromecast was in desperate need of an upgrade, Google today launches a new model. The $35 price remains, but the hardware gets a significant refresh. The processor is apparently 15 percent faster, enabling 1080p at 60fps -- a big upgrade from the 720p found on the prior generation. Sadly, it is apparently not capable of doing 4K. Also of significance, it now supports 5GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
If you are knowledgeable about home networking, and you have experience with wireless routers, I am sure you are not scared by setting one up. If you have never done it before, or aren't tech savvy, configuring a Wi-Fi router can be quite the daunting task. Sure, they are easier these days than they were years ago, but still, they can be rather overwhelming to the average consumer -- especially mesh.
Famed company Ubiquiti Networks has been trying to make setting up a home wireless network a simpler task, and it has largely succeeded with its excellent AmpliFi mesh router system. The company is not ready to rest on its laurels, however, as today, it launches a new affordable mesh router that makes configuration even easier. In fact, according to Ubiquiti Networks, the "AmpliFi Instant," as the new product is called, can be configured in less than two minutes. Seriously, folks, that is not a typo -- the average consumer can set up quality 802.11ac (aka Wi-Fi 5) mesh wireless in under 120 seconds using an Android or iOS device!
For many PC gamers, wired accessories are preferable to wireless. Why? Well, besides potential lag with keyboards and mice, there is a fear of having batteries die during a match. When gaming, nothing is worse than having your mouse, keyboard, or headset stop working. To lose because of such nonsense is utterly maddening.
What if you want the reliability of a wired headset, for instance, but crave the wireless freedom a Bluetooth model offers? Today, HyperX unveils a new headset that is both wired and wireless -- the best of both worlds. Called "Cloud MIX," the headset can achieve up to 20 hours of battery life when in Bluetooth mode.
With the exception of extremely low-cost budget models, all modern computers (laptops and desktops) should have Thunderbolt 3 these days. Why? Because TB3 is simply amazing -- it uses the USB-C connector, but is much faster than USB 3.1 Gen 2.
With Thunderbolt 3 being so fast, many consumers -- including yours truly -- have been waiting for external PCIe NVMe TB3 drives to begin hitting the mainstream. I am happy to say I have been testing one from VisionTek with my 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and as you can imagine, it is super quick.
While many people are familiar with popular Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and Mint, there are far more open source operating systems available. There are probably too many, but I digress. Please know, just because a distro isn't very well known, doesn’t mean it's bad.
One such quality Linux distro that isn't super popular is Mageia. It is a fork of the once wildly popular Mandriva operating system. Today, Mageia 6.1 becomes available for download. It features LTS Linux kernel 4.14 and updated Nvidia drivers.
The Nintendo Switch is much less powerful than both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. However, that being said, Nintendo’s offering is arguably the best of the three. Why? Well, it serves double duty as both a home and portable console. Not to mention, it has Nintendo exclusive games, featuring iconic characters like Mario and Link from Zelda. Let’s be honest, Nintendo’s own games are top shelf.
Today, Nintendo announces a special Fortnite edition of the Switch. No, the hardware is not different. The "Fortnite -- Double Helix Bundle," as it is called, simply features some exclusive content and bonus in-game currency. For fans of the wildly popular Fortnite game, this is sure to be quite enticing.
Traditional cable TV providers should be very worried. These days, it is easier than ever to cut the cord. Thanks to streaming media, a small box, dongle, or stick can deliver high-quality movies, TV, and music over the internet. Using myself as an example, I leverage YouTube TV, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix for all of media needs. The local TV provider no longer gets my money -- except as my ISP, that is.
Believe it or not, 4K content is becoming more and more common, and lately, 4K streaming devices have become very affordable. Last month, for instance, Roku unveiled new 4K devices starting at just $39.99 -- $10 more if you want the voice remote. Not wanting to be left out, today, Amazon unveils the Fire TV Stick 4K and it looks like an insane value. Not only does it come with an all-new Alexa Voice Remote, but it features Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and HDR10+ too -- all at a rock-bottom price.
For tech savvy consumers, buying a wireless router or adapter is a fairly simple affair. For the majority of shoppers, however, it can be very confusing. Let’s be honest, it is impossible to know that 802.11ac is better than, say, 802.11n without first researching it. I mean, hell, how is the average consumer supposed to know what the letter designation following the 802.11 really means? It is simply nerdy jargon.
Apparently the Wi-Fi Alliance wants to make it easier to decipher. Starting with the 802.11ax, numbers will be used instead. For instance, ax will be Wi-Fi 6, while n and ac will retroactively be called Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 respectively.
Gaming is a huge business these days, and no, I am not just talking about PC and consoles. Believe it or not, many people are playing legit games -- such as Fortnite -- on mobile devices too. Regardless of platform, there is one common theme -- online gaming. Yes, these days, gaming online is probably more popular than playing with one's self offline. And so, having a quality Wi-Fi router is a must.
Today, popular company Razer announces its own router (designed with Design Labs, maker of the "Portal Mesh Wi-Fi Router") and it is sexy as hell. Called "Sila," it leverages an impressive nine internal antennas. The design is basic -- a rectangle, more or less -- but there is beauty and elegance in its simplicity. It will look great in a teen's bedroom next to an Xbox, for instance, but also, it will fit perfectly in a family living room.
If you want a Windows 10 laptop, you can do much better than Microsoft's buggy Surface devices. Companies such as Dell, Lenovo, and HP make some excellent notebooks these days. I mean, look, Microsoft's homegrown computers aren't totally bad, but they are a bit overpriced and historically have had terrible bugs and driver issues. For a while, the much-respected Consumer Reports refused to recommend the computers -- something on which they've recently done a "180."
Today, with surprisingly little fanfare in New York City, Microsoft unveiled some new Surface devices, including the Surface Pro 6 -- a tablet with a floppy keyboard that needs to die already. The true star of the Surface line these days is the unimaginatively named Surface Laptop -- a surprisingly decent computer. Microsoft has upgraded the laptop's internals, given it a new color (black), and put the number 2 at the end of its name. Unfortunately, Surface Laptop 2 is a tragically boring upgrade -- very slight evolution instead of revolution.
Android smartphones are largely all the same these days. I mean, look, they are rectangular slabs that can run apps, surf the web, and take photos. Sure, specifications can vary, but for the most part, all modern Android phones are powerful enough to all run apps wonderfully. With that said, why would you spend a fortune on one? If you can score a solid smartphone without breaking the bank, you totally should!
If you want an elegant and inexpensive Android phone, look no further than Honor. That is Huawei's budget-friendly brand, but you know what? Low cost does not mean low quality. Today, the company officially launches the Honor 8X -- a drop-dead gorgeous Android smartphone with very respectable internals and a huge 6.5 inch display. Much like the iPhone Xs, you can unlock the device with your face, but unlike Apple's offering, it also has a fingerprint reader -- nice! Believe it or not, the Honor 8X even has a 3.5mm audio jack -- crazy, right? I guess Honor isn't as courageous as Apple! And yes, it has a notch, because... why notch?
For a while, it was hard to find a decent Thunderbolt 3 docking station. Oh, there were plenty of USB-C docks, but believe me, other than sharing a connector type, they are nowhere near as good as TB3 variants. From my experience, USB-C models can be a bit problematic -- especially with macOS.
Nowadays, however, there are many Thunderbolt 3 docks on the market. Today, Accell -- a company known for selling quality products at affordable prices -- launches a TB3 dock that looks quite beautiful and futuristic. Rather than being a simple rectangle, it slopes downward on the front. This is not just for looks -- it is designed to prop up the laptop for better viewing and typing angles.
Just yesterday, we shared with you the official Ubuntu Linux 18.10 Cosmic Cuttlefish wallpaper. And yeah, while it looks cool, it's not as exciting as, say, a Beta release of the upcoming operating system. Today, that is exactly what we get.
If you like to run pre-release Linux-based operating systems for fun -- which I do -- you can download the ISO immediately. With Ubuntu, these late-stage Beta releases are usually very stable. After all, the final version will drop next month. So while you should install it at your own risk, I would say you are probably safe with it.
Twice a year, a new version of Ubuntu is released -- in April and October. We are currently in September, meaning a new release is just around the corner. As per normal naming guidelines (YY.MM), it will be version 18.10. In addition to a number, Canonical assigns a fun name too -- based on an animal, alphabetically, preceded by a word that starts with the same letter. In this case, Ubuntu 18.04 is using the letter "C." What is it called? Cosmic Cuttlefish.
The name and version number is only part of the tradition, however, In addition, Canonical releases a special wallpaper based on the name. The animal is often a line drawing with the background using the classic Ubuntu magenta/orange gradient color. Today, on Twitter, Canonical unveils the official Cosmic Cuttlefish wallpaper.
When you buy a System76 computer today, you aren't buying a machine manufactured by the company. Instead, the company works with other makers to obtain laptops, which it then loads with a Linux-based operating system -- Ubuntu or its own Pop!_OS. There's nothing really wrong with this practice, but still, System76 wants to do better. The company is currently working to manufacture its own computers ("handcrafted") right here in the USA! By doing this, System76 controls the entire customer experience -- software, service, and hardware.
Today, the company announces that the fruits of its labor -- an "open-source computer" -- will be available to pre-order in October. Now, keep in mind, this does not mean the desktop will be available next month. Hell, it may not even be sold in 2018. With that said, pre-ordering will essentially allow you to reserve your spot. To celebrate the upcoming computer, System76 is launching a clever animated video marketing campaign.