Thursday, November 2, 2017

Samsung offering free DeX or Gear VR with Galaxy S8 or Note 8 purchase

Available now through November 18.

Flagship phones are great, but they also have a tendency to be quite pricey. Samsung regularly runs promotions to help defer the cost of its Galaxy devices, and the latest one allows buyers to grab a free DeX Station or Gear VR with the purchase of a new phone.

You'll need to make your order through Samsung's website to claim your free gift, and with the DeX Station and Gear VR (with an included controller) regularly costing $149 and $129, respectively, this is a really solid deal to hop on if you're looking to do some early shopping for the holiday season.

Eligible devices include the Galaxy S8, S8+, S8 Active, and Note 8. The deal is live now through Saturday, November 18, so be sure to act fast to ensure you don't miss out.

See at Samsung



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What the heck are Zigbee and ZWave?

Your connected home can be built a lot of different ways, but likely starts right here.

Maybe the most fun part of new tech and internets of things and stuff is all the crazy names attached to it. And there are a lot of them.

Two of the most popular, for now anyway, are Zigbee and Z-Wave. They are fun to say and have similar sounding names, and are mostly used for the same things. But there are some differences. We've seen more than a few questions about them and since we like to geek out over this sort of thing, we can talk about what they are and what they are used for. And bees.

What is Z-Wave?

Samsung's SmartThings uses Z-Wave to control just about anything.

Z-Wave (or ZWave or Z Wave) is a way for two or more things to communicate wirelessly. It's a low-energy mesh network where devices can communicate directly with each other by sending very reliable and very small low-latency bursts of data, but it still requires a hub or gateway so a device can control all the other devices. It's almost exclusively used for residential applications — you use it around your home or small office — while other standards (like Zigbee, which we'll get to in a minute) are better suited for industrial and wide-scale commercial applications.

Z-Wave is represented by names we already know, and there are 1,700 different products that are Z-Wave-certified.

Z-Wave is very well suited for home automation. Devices like door locks, thermostats, and light switches don't send large packages of data and often only send or receive data while they are actually in use. Your garage may have a security system in place, but the door opener only needs to know when it's time to open or close the door. Data speeds are capped at 100kbps and the maximum recommended distance between mesh nodes is 40 meters, though older Z-Wave gear has a maximum throughput of 9.6 kbps and a 30-meter range. A data packet can hop between four nodes before it's discarded but Z-Wave's network mapping is pretty good so the shortest distance with the fewest hops will usually be used.

Z-Wave transmits on the unlicensed Part 15 ISM band (Texas Instruments .pdf file link) at 908.42MHz in North America and 868.42MHz in Europe. Other countries have specific frequencies that Z-Wave is regulated to use and all this is important because Z-Wave can use the same radio frequency bands as consumer cordless telephones. This isn't an ideal situation, but it does keep Z-Wave completely clear of the crowded 2.4GHz band that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a host of less popular standards use.

Z-Wave was introduced in 2001, and as of 2012 is an option in the ITU's (International Telecommunications Union) G.9959 standard for wireless devices under 1GHz.

What is Zigbee?

The new Echo Plus is also a Zigbee controller!

Zigbee is also a low-power wireless mesh network standard, designed specifically so devices will have a long battery life. Zigbee can be used for residential applications and it works well, but it's also well suited for industrial and large-scale commercial use. The network layer supports star (a central hub and devices connected to it) and tree (groups of star networks connected to one linear backbone) networks as well as a generic mesh node-to-node layout. Every Zigbee network needs at least one controller device but can support more than one.

Zigbee is designed to work well in places where wireless is congested, but it also works great in our homes.

Support for numerous types of network topology and support for multiple coordinating devices are part of what makes Zigbee a good choice for more complicated applications. Zigbee support is included in microcontrollers with their own flash storage so automation routines can be built and triggered as needed by software. Other types of Zigbee devices include routers which can act as a network extender and ZEDs — Zigbee End Devices which can only receive data from a coordinator device and can't relay data back.

Zigbee is one of the global standards covered by the IEEE 802.15 group. It operates in the unlicensed portion of the 2.4 GHz bands but can also operate in the unlicensed 902 to 928 MHz (Australia, North America, and South America) and the 868 to 868.6 MHz (Europe) ISM bands. Transfer rates cap at 250 kbps in the 2.4 GHz band, 40 kbps in the 915 MHz band, and 20 kbps in the 868 MHz band. Data rates will be slower than the maximum, partly because Zigbee has more overhead. It was designed to operate in "hostile" (think crowded, congested and always changing) 2.4 GHz band and has built-in collision avoidance and retry abilities. Typical range is between 10 and 20 meters depending on any obstruction, but in outdoor long-range applications, a range of 1,500 meters (line of sight) is possible as the output power of a Zigbee radio can reach 20 dBm at 100 mW (a lot stronger than you think).

Zigbee was named after the dance worker honeybees perform when they return to the hive. Bee's zig-zag. Zig. Bee. And yes, I'm serious. 🐝

So which is better?

That's going to depend on who you ask and what they are doing that uses either standard.

Z-Wave is more mature and easier to develop applications for. Almost every device will use the same Intel MCS-51 microcontroller and familiar names like Carrier, Honeywell, Black & Decker and Samsung are part of the Z-Wave Alliance and help keep Z-Wave robust yet simple in design and operation.

When it comes to consumer products, one is not better than the other.

Zigbee is great for devices that are hard to reach. A Zigbee certified device must have a battery life of over 2 years to pass testing. the protocol is just really friendly when it comes to power requirements. But Zigbee networks can be far more complicated, and even if you're producing a simple switch you'll need to be able to support any network configuration. Zigbee also competes for bandwidth with high-speed protocols like Bluetooth and IrDA (Infrared Data Association) that are built to use every bit of bandwidth possible for applications like voice or video transmission. This is why multiple network topographies and great collision and retry features are a big part of the standard.

So, yeah. It really depends on what you're trying to do! SmartThings is a perfect use case for Z-Wave. A small hub in your house lets you control up to 230 devices with your phone, or over the internet or through Google Home. Zigbee is a better fit for something that needs to be able to stay connected under any conditions. Something like this SHURE wireless microphone developed in 2011 that was able to transfer in real time and in a very congested area. Though these microphones are now end-of-life with the dawn of 600 MHz cellular connections.

For the things we as consumers love to use, both are great. The characteristics of Z-Wave make it more robust in a house filled with walls and multiple floors, but Zigbee devices are also trouble-free in the home most of the time. And there are cool gadgets that use either protocol or even both. you can do amazing things in your home with SmartThings or Wink hub and control it all with your phone or you watch or something like an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

These products and services work with Google Home



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Google Home: Everything you need to know!

Get to know your Google Home!

Google Home works as a hub for making your life easier. From listening to music to getting the news, to using Google Home to stream videos through Chromecast, there is plenty that it can do. With so much going on it can be intimidating at first, so we've put together this handy guide to help you get acquainted.

Keep reading for all the details!

What is it?

Announced at Google's hardware event in October 2016, Google Home is a smart speaker that hooks into Google Assistant. You're able to ask Home to do pretty much anything, from answering questions about sports and news, to finding a song from Play Music or Spotify.

The speaker sounds good -- better than the Amazon Echo -- and thanks to a growing ecosystem of skills, it's getting smarter all the time!

Google Home review

How to adjust the default apps on Google Home

Google Home makes it easy to keep track of your busy life and enjoy some music when you're relaxing at home. When you're ready for some music or you want to check up on the news, though, you'll want to be sure that the default apps are the ones that you want to use.

How to change the default apps on Google Home

Do I need more than one Google Home?

Google Home makes it easy to control your connected home. So what do you do when multiple people in the house all want to use your Google Home at the same time? Well, you pick up a second — or third! Even better, the Google Home Mini can be used to expand your Google Home network for much less money! Having multiple Google Homes only increases your benefits, and we have the details for you here!

Do I need more than one Google Home?

How to take advantage of Google Home offers

Google Home brings you a hub that lets you control your connected home, listen to music, and plenty more. Hidden inside of the menu in the Google Home app, you'll also find a tab called "Offers" filled with special deals that can let you enjoy everything this accessory has to offer at a discount. These include Play Movie rentals for just $0.99 or discounts on a SmartThings lighting kit and more.

How to take advantage of Google Home offers

What countries support Google Home?

Google Home has been helping out Americans with scheduling, playing music, and bringing their connected home together since November of 2016. While this accessory started out in the States, it's been slowly rolling out across the world. The United Kingdom and Canada are the two newest additions, but there are definitely more to come.

What countries support Google Home?

What you need to use Google Home

Google Home aims to make your life easier, but you will need a few things in order to use it. Don't worry though, chances are you already have access to the three integral parts of using Google Home.

What you need to use Google Home

How to buy things with Google Home

It seems as though every year our lives get even busier than they were the year before. Between your commute, working, hitting doctor's appointments, making it to the gym, and ensuring everything gets done on time, it can be hard to figure out the best time to run out to the store. That's where Google Home wants to make things a bit easier for you.

You can set up voice purchasing and even reorder items that you've ordered previously. It only takes a few minutes to set up voice purchasing, and we have the details on how to do it right here!

How to buy things with Google Home

How to set up Google Home with multiple users

Google Home works by recognizing your voice, letting you listen to music, add items to your shopping list and even check the day's news. With multi-user support, that goes a step further allowing up to six different accounts to link to a single Google Home. This means that every account can receive personalized responses from Google Home to help them on their day.

How to set up Google Home with multiple users

How to manage users on Google Home

Google Home makes it easy to control your connected home and linked accounts all with the power of your voice. While multiple accounts can use Google Home at the same time, the time may come when a roommate moves out and you need to remove their access. Have no fear.

We've got the details on how to add or remove a linked account from Google Home, and it only takes a few short minutes!

How to manage users on Google Home

How to listen to music with Google Home

Google Home has a great set of speakers, making it fully capable of filling the room with music. The speakers on the Google Home Mini aren't quite as good, but still sufficient. All you need to do is link up a music account, and you'll be good to go. With options like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music and Google Play Music, you'll always be able to listen to the music you're craving, and all you have to do is ask Google Home to play what you want to hear.

How to listen to music with Google Home

How to get Google Home to lull you to sleep

Finding it hard to fall asleep with the blaring summer heat? Google Home is good for more than turning off the lights or playing back your favorite podcast. You can use it as a noise machine of sorts for when the current environment just isn't your vibe. If you're in the U.S., you can use these quick tricks to get the Assistant-enabled speaker to drown out the noise of the trains, planes, and automobiles outside your window and instead transport you to a serene nature scene — or whatever else you need to be to fall asleep.

How to get Google Home to lull you to sleep

These products and services work with Google Home

Google first introduced Google Home to the world back in May at Google I/O 2016, later revealing the final product alongside the Pixel in October. From everything we've seen, Google Home seems primed to eventually link up with any smart device in your home and allow you to control everything with just the sound of your voice.

Google Home works with many smart home devices, including Nest, Phillips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Honeywell, Logitech Harmony and more. Of course, Google Home also works with Google's Cast ecosystem. Continue to check back to this article in the coming months, as we'll surely be updating this list as more products and services are added. We've broken things down into two categories — home automation products and supported services.

These products and services work with Google Home

6 Awesome Google Home commands you may not know about

Google Home has tons of great features that allow you to keep better track of things. If you aren't sure what it's really capable of, or how to use it, then it can be hard to get started. That's why we collected the six great commands you may not know about. These include listening to music, checking your schedule, controlling your home, and more.

6 Awesome Google Home commands you may not know about

Top 8 things to know about Google Home in Canada

Google Home is now available in Canada, and it's the first voice assistant-powered speaker to make the trip north (despite years of secret Amazon Echo smuggling). Available for $179, the diminutive speaker is terrifically cute and extremely useful, but there are a few differences between it and the U.S. or international versions that you'll want to know about. Additionally, Google Home Mini is also available in Canada for $80.

Top 8 things to know about Google Home in Canada

Top ten tips and tricks for Google Home

Using Google Home is fun. That's not unique to just Google Home — telling any computer, no matter what size or shape, to do stuff by talking is fun. And the more you talk to your Google Home the more things you'll find out about what it does and what it doesn't do.

Top 10 tips and tricks for Google Home

There's a mini version!

A year after announcing the standard size, Google unveiled the Google Home Mini. Everything you love about the Google Home is now available in a smaller, less expensive size. The only real downgrade is in speaker quality, since the Mini doesn't have as much room to push sound. But all voice commands work the same and all smart home accessories are also compatible with the Mini.

More: Google Home vs. Google Home Mini: Which should you buy?

Updated November 2017: Added references to the Google Home Mini and additional products and services that work with the Google Home ecosystem.



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Deal: Samsung offers $200 in credit with Galaxy Note 8 purchase as T-Mobile makes it $130 cheaper

If you want to avoid picking up a Google Pixel 2 XL now given the current worries over its display, the Galaxy Note 8 might be a good alternative. Arriving with 6.3-inch, edge-to-edge screen, outstanding camera capabilities and beautiful design, we awarded it 9.1 out of 10 in our review — one of our highest scores this year. And now might be a good time to buy one.

T-Mobile has reduced the price of the Note 8 on its website by $130, bringing the total price down to $820 from $950 (you'll still see the Note 8 widely available at the $950 price point too, it's not just a loose MSRP). This applies both to the outright price and the instalment price for the phone — which comes in at $30 per month for 24 months — and it's available Orchid Gray or Midnight Black color variants.

Editor's Pick

Meanwhile, Samsung is offering $200 in Samsung Pay credit when you pick up the phone at T-Mobile as an extra incentive. This can be used anywhere Samsung Pay is accepted: all you need to do is sign up for Samsung Pay, join the Samsung Rewards scheme and upload your T-Mobile receipt to receive it. Better still, anybody who picked up a Note 8 between October 20 and now can retroactively get the $200 credit — go here for more details.

If you're interested getting your hands on the Note 8, hit the button below, but act fast: the offer ends at midnight tonight (November 2). 



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Can Mophie make an argument for the $150 battery pack?

The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL is a big, reliable battery that gets the job done.

Search "battery pack" on Amazon and there's no shortage of high-quality options at reasonable prices. Once-unknown brands like Aukey, Anker, and RAVPower seem to have maneuvered their way to the tops of the search results, and hundreds of thousands of happy customers regale the user reviews sections with tales of successful deals on top-notch componentry.

When a battery pack that can charge a phone, a tablet, and a laptop at the same time costs a hair under $40, can Mophie convince people that it's worth spending nearly four times that amount on a portable charger that has less capacity and fewer ports? That's what we're aiming to answer here.

See at Mophie

This is definitely the nicest-looking battery pack I've used, but that doesn't mean much in the long run.

The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL is a two-port charger with a USB-C port and a USB-A port splitting the responsibilities. Its 19500mAh capacity is, while capacious — especially for its relatively small size — not the biggest we've seen, but the Mophie is programmed to release that capacity as quickly as possible right now.

That's because, in addition to the USB-A port that supports standard 2.4 amp output, the USB-C port uses the Power Delivery standard, allowing for up to 30W of output with a compatible device and proper cable. As we learned from the Pixel 2, most phones don't support such wattage — it technically supports a 27W charger, but will only accept 18 watts, likely due to heat concerns. Still, the Mophie can charge a phone and tablet at the same time, or a phone and USB C-capable laptop (say, a Pixelbook), which is pretty great.

For most products on the market today, the USB-C port will output 3A, which is roughly equivalent to Quick Charge 3.0 speeds.

The battery itself is hefty and solid, wrapped in a fabric outer layer that, after a few weeks tossed into the bottom of my bag, has worn incredibly well. The single button uses four white LED buttons to indicate battery levels, and unlike many other chargers, the Powerstation is intelligent enough not to need an "on" button to start charging something that's plugged in.

So why spend $150 on a battery when larger capacities are available at a third of the cost? Well, USB-PD is a burgeoning standard not supported by most battery chargers yet, and its licensing fees are reportedly higher than Quick Charge and other fast charging standards. Mophie is also well known for its high-quality components, and the Powerstation's two-year warranty should be reassuring for those willing to take the plunge.

I can say that the Powerstation USB-C XXL is not three times better than the average battery pack from RAVPower, Anker, Aukey, and others, but in my time with it, it's been incredibly reliable, useful, and hardy.

See at Mophie



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MIUI 9 global is now rolling out: Here's the list of eligible devices

The global version of MIUI 9 is now starting to roll out to Xiaomi's devices.

MIUI 9 was unveiled earlier this year in China, and now the global version of the ROM is starting to roll out to Xiaomi's entire portfolio of devices. The manufacturer is making the update widely available, with the five-year-old Mi 2 set to receive the latest version. To put things into context, the Mi 2 launched with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

There's a lot of exciting new feature additions in the global version of MIUI 9, including a retooled notification pane, new themes, animations, a native split screen mode, and much more.

Xiaomi shared statistics on MIUI usage around the world during the Redmi Y1 launch event in India. Globally, MIUI is available in 56 languages, and has 280 million active users in 220 countries. There's clearly a lot of interest in Xiaomi's custom ROM, and we'll delve into the new features in detail in the coming days.

Here's the full list of eligible devices for MIUI 9 global:

  • Mi Mix 2
  • Mi Mix
  • Mi Note 3
  • Mi Note 2
  • Mi Note
  • Mi 6
  • Mi 5
  • Mi 5s
  • Mi 5s Plus
  • Mi 4i
  • Mi 4
  • Mi 3
  • Mi 2
  • Mi Max 2
  • Mi Max
  • Mi Max Prime
  • Redmi Note 4
  • Redmi Note 4X
  • Redmi Note 5A
  • Redmi Note 3
  • Redmi Note 4G Prime
  • Redmi Note 2
  • Redmi Note 4G
  • Redmi 4
  • Redmi 4X
  • Redmi 3
  • Redmi 3S
  • Redmi 3S Prime
  • Redmi 2
  • Redmi 2 Prime
  • Redmi Y1
  • Redmi Y1s

The stable version of the ROM will be rolled out to the Redmi Note 4, Mi Mix 2, and the Mi Max 2 in the next two to three weeks, with a beta build available for all three devices right away. There's no mention regarding when the other devices will receive the update, but we'll share more details as we get them.



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Distressingly designed Gionee M7 Plus leaks, packs massive 6.43" 18:9 display

If you have fond memories of the 2014 Moto X with leather backing, the Gionee M7 Plus is comparatively more akin to a nightmare. Characterized as a "flagship" by prolific Android leaker Evan Blass, the M7 Plus apparently packs in an 18:9 6.43" display, and is coming "soon." The non-Plus Gionee M7 was announced and released in September, with a MediaTek Helio P30 and running Android 7.1.

As the photo indicates, the Gionee M7 Plus also has a dual camera setup with LED flash and a fingerprint reader.

Read More

Distressingly designed Gionee M7 Plus leaks, packs massive 6.43" 18:9 display was written by the awesome team at Android Police.



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