I'm a big fan of value. Is that because I'm not a wealthy person? Partially. Even when I can afford something, however, I don't necessarily buy it. When buying a car, for instance, I try to get the most bang for my buck while getting a reasonable vehicle -- my only new car purchase was a Ford Focus priced below invoice. Could I have gotten a better vehicle? Sure, but the Focus provided value.
When it comes to monitors, I am the same way. My main computer these days is a 2016 MacBook Pro. Now, the obvious choice of a monitor wold be a fancy 5K variant from a company like LG. And yeah, I am sure a 5K display looks brilliant with macOS. But guess what? It is expensive. Instead, 4K is more than enough for my needs. When I want a monitor, I usually turn to AOC. Why? Its products are very good and budget-friendly. I've been testing the company's U3277PWQU 32-inch 4K UHD Professional Monitor lately, and I have some definitive opinions.
I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Cortana. She is actually quite the good voice assistant. When I used Windows 10 Mobile, I found her to be superior to Siri. With that said, I don't really need a voice assistant on my desktop computer, so it feels like Cortana is invading my space when I use Windows 10. In comparison, Siri is much less apparent on macOS -- I forget she is there, to be honest.
Since I no longer use Windows 10 Mobile, and I don't really leverage Cortana on my desktop PC, I guess Microsoft's assistant is largely out of my life, right? Not so fast. On October 22, the Cortana-powered Harman Kardon Invoke speaker hits stores. Actually, I got one early, and I will be playing with it this weekend in the BetaNews Lab. With this speaker, the virtual assistant can serve me in a standalone setup -- no need to go to my PC. Intriguing...
Regardless of your opinion of Bluetooth speakers, you can't deny that they usually sound better than the integrated speakers found on smartphones and tablets. Sure, many audiophiles will decry the use of wireless for speaker connectivity, but if you simply want convenience and improved audio, a Bluetooth speaker will make you very happy -- if you buy one from a reputable company that is, such as Bose, JBL, or Ultimate Ears.
Speaking of Ultimate Ears, the company's products never disappoint -- you really can't go wrong with its Bluetooth speakers. Not only do they sound great, but they are built well and look attractive. Today, the company unveils its latest such offerings -- the BLAST and MEGABLAST. They are very similar, but as you can expect, the "MEGA" variant is larger and louder. Not only do they feature Bluetooth connectivity, but they can connect to Wi-Fi too. What's particularly neat about these models, is that they also have Amazon Alexa support!
Nowadays, it isn't uncommon for young children to have parents that are into playing video games. Since many kids like to imitate their parents, they will undoubtedly want to get it on the action. Unfortunately, modern controllers are quite large and complicated. For instance, back in the 1980s, an NES controller was quite small, and just had a directional pad, 2 action buttons, plus "select" and "start." In comparison, a Microsoft Xbox One controller or Sony DualShock 4 can be intimidating.
Thankfully, there is a new officially licensed PlayStation 4 controller -- made by a company called "Hori" -- that aims to simplify the controller experience for young kids. The "Mini Wired Gamepad," as it is called, ditches the trackpad and some other features of the expensive DualShock 4 making it more approachable. It is even significantly smaller than the official controller -- perfect for the small hands of children. Best of all, since it has a cable, there is no need to worry about charging it.
For whatever reason, people seem to forget that Android is Linux. Remember, folks, Linux is just a kernel -- not an operating system. Actually, Android is the world's most popular such distribution. Even the father of Windows, Mr. Bill Gates, now runs his life from Linux by way of Android.
That's why Samsung's new "Linux on Galaxy" -- which it unveiled today -- is sort of maddening. Don't get me wrong, the possibility of running a desktop Linux distro using your phone's hardware is amazing, but Samsung smartphones are already running Linux! In other words, the name of the project is sort of a misnomer that could confuse consumers, but I digress.
Earlier today, Microsoft unveiled the all-new Surface Book 2. People all over the world are probably very excited about the device. Oh, what? You aren't excited? You mean, you don't want a super-expensive non-upgradeable Windows 10 tablet that plugs into a keyboard? What a shocker! All joking aside, that is very understandable. After all, most consumers would be better served by a traditional laptop.
If you don't want a gimmicky Windows 10 tablet, a laptop running a Linux-based operating system, such as Ubuntu, is a wise alternative. System76 is one of the best sellers of these types of notebooks, and today, two of its most popular models are getting huge upgrades. You see, both the Lemur and Galago Pro laptops now have 8th generation 'Coffee Lake' Intel Core CPU options.
Dropbox is one of my favorite cloud storage services for many reasons. As someone who uses Windows, Desktop Linux, iOS, and macOS regularly, I need a solution that works seamlessly between operating systems. Dropbox is the only major offering that meets that need. I appreciate the love and respect that the company shows to the Desktop Linux community in particular. This is something Google has famously failed to do despite maintaining two Linux distros with Chrome OS and Android, but I digress.
Today, "Dropbox Professional" launches, and no it is not a rebrand of Dropbox Business. Actually, this new "Professional" service is aimed at individual business workers. If you are in business for yourself, and not necessarily a part of a team, and still want access to business-level tools, this is for you. It comes with 1TB of storage and access to a really cool new feature called "Showcase."
How many times have you found yourself listening to your favorite music outdoors, and all of a sudden, you get very thirsty? Quite often, right? And then you reach for your bottled beverage and realize you don't have an opener. The horror! Even if you do manage to open your beer or soda with a stick or something, where are you going to put it? In the dirt? Ants and slugs can get in there, bro. If only there was an elevated place to put the drink.
What if I told you that your wildest dreams could be a reality? It's true, y'all. There is finally a giant Bluetooth speaker that not only has a bottle opener and cup holders, but it has a retractable handle and is on wheels so you can easily take it with you! Called "ECOXGEAR EcoBoulder+", it is quite possibly the most important device ever for camping, tailgating, or backyard barbecues.
If you are a fan of Android smartphones, this is surely an exciting time to be alive. While things have been boring for the last few years, 2017 has given us many excellent flagships. There is the Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy Note8, Essential Phone, LG v30, and more. It sounds crazy to say, but there is almost too much choice when it comes to wonderful Android phones!
Today, the market gets a bit more crowded (in a good way), as Huawei officially unveils the 5.9-inch Mate 10 and 6-inch Mate 10 Pro flagship Android smartphones. The company will even sell an elegant Porsche Design variant of the Mate 10 -- for a huge premium of course. Not only are these devices chock-full of top specifications, but they are very beautiful too. All models feature a glass body, a front fingerprint reader, huge 4000 mAh fast-charge battery, and the Android Oreo-based EMUI 8.0 operating system.
With many consumers owning laptops or tablets as their sole computers nowadays, the concept of installing a sound card -- let alone any add-on card -- can be totally foreign. Believe it or not, however, many people still use and love desktop computers -- including yours truly. Not only can a tower be more powerful than their mobile counterparts, but they can be much easier to upgrade too.
Even if you do own a desktop computer, a high-end sound card, such as the Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 which I have been testing, may not be in your best interest. This card is designed for computer enthusiasts that are audiophiles, gamers, or both with decent headphones or speakers; there is no point in buying a high-end sound card to use with $10 Walmart speakers, right? The big question is, should you purchase the card?
When you build a PC, you don't necessarily need the best and fastest. After all, most consumers have a specific budget with which to work. You don't want to blow your money on a top-of-the-line CPU and then buy no-name RAM or a flaky power supply. In other words, it is smart to balance things out.
But OK, if you do have a lot of money to spend, and you want the absolute best, I have some interesting news for you. Today, G.SKILL announces the world's fastest DDR4 32GB (4x8GB) RAM kit. Just how fast? An insane 4266MHz. Designed with special Samsung B-die DDR4 ICs, this RAM is made to work with the latest 8th Gen Intel Core processors. With that said, compatibility will likely vary from motherboard to motherboard, so keep that in mind when purchasing -- if you can even afford this kit.
Microsoft Surface computers are rather nice, but sometimes Panos Panay and team get a little wacky when describing the design process. Look, I get it, Panay is passionate about his job, and that is respectable. But come on, creating Surface devices isn't exactly like painting the Mona Lisa.
Today, Microsoft announces that some Surface accessories will soon be available in a new aqua color. Now, I suppose the color is decent, although it reminds me of a hospital. It is the type of color you paint the rooms of an assisted-living facility for the elderly. As Microsoft describes the process of selecting the color aqua, however, you would think they cured a disease -- the explanation is hilariously pretentious.
If you want to become the next YouTube star or record a thrilling podcast, content is king; you need to have interesting things to talk about so that you can develop an audience. Great content isn't enough these days, however. With so much competition, you need to have good production values too. No, you don't need fancy special effects, but exceptional audio quality is key -- no matter how good you are, people won't want to struggle to hear you.
If media creation is your goal, one of the best purchases you can make is a quality microphone. Believe it or not, you don't need to break the bank to get a respectable model. Today, Samson unveils a new professional-grade microphone, and it is rather affordable for all you get. Not only does it seem to be a good choice for vlogging or recording a podcast, but also for music creation. Heck, gamers and Twitch streamers should check it out too.
While you can read e-books on Android tablets and iPad devices, you really shouldn't. These screens can strain your eyes, causing discomfort and creating a negative experience. Not to mention, if you tend to read outdoors, the glare can be unbearable. Instead, an e-ink reader is the best option. It does a great job of simulating actual paper, which in turn, will make your peepers happy.
Not all e-ink readers are the same, however. Quite frankly, other than Amazon's Kindle devices, none are worth your time. While other companies offer decent enough hardware, nothing compares to Amazon's virtual bookstore. Today, the company unveils its latest such model, and oh my, it looks amazing. The refreshed Kindle Oasis gets a larger 7-inch screen (the previous generation is 6-inch), but arguably more important, it is the first Kindle to be waterproof (IPX8 rated)! In other words, you can use it at the beach or poolside without fear.
Once you build your first PC, it is hard to go back to buying pre-built machines. Not only is building a computer a great learning experience, but it is very personal too. You get to pick every component of your PC, piece by piece. It is super rewarding and very fun.
Unfortunately, a first build can go very wrong. It is not uncommon for first-timers to buy the wrong parts. Compatibility aside, they can dedicate too much of their budget on a certain component, when they should be putting more money towards another. If you have an unlimited budget it can be quite easy, but come on, not many people can claim that. Thankfully, online retailer Newegg is launching new kits that put "newbies" on the right track.