Xbox's has returned. Microsoft is offering deals on hundreds of Xbox and PC games and accessories over the next two weeks. Among the console titles you can save on are and (75 percent off at and , respectively), Battlefield 1 Revolution ( down 80 percent) and Forza Horizon 4 Ultimate Edition (, 55 percent off).
MLB The Show 21's standard Xbox One edition and Series X/S bundle have both been discounted by 35 percent to and respectively. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is half off at , as is . Other Xbox game deals include (25 percent off, ), Far Cry 5 (down 85 percent to ), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Game of the Year Edition (discounted from $50 to ) and (, usually $60).
There are discounts on as well. Gears 5, for instance, is down from $40 to . You can also save on Yakuza: Like a Dragon (, 40 percent off), Control (half off at ) and Halo: The Master Chief Collection (down from $40 to ).
There are many more deals to check out on the Ultimate Game Sale pages and . The sale runs until August 5th. Still, before you snap up any of the games on offer, it's worth checking whether you already have access to them through Xbox Game Pass or EA Play. There are details about that on each game's product page.
You'll also be able to save on PCs and accessories as part of the sale. Microsoft has cut the prices of several gaming PCs and laptops by up to $500. You can save up to $300 on the which starts at a sale price of $2,700. There are solid deals on VR headsets too, including the and Vive Cosmos Elite, which have been discounted by $250 to and respectively.
Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.
Facebook has become the latest company to offer a cloud gaming service on iOS, only once again you won't access it through the App Store. Starting today, you can visit the Facebook Gaming website to add a Progressive Web App (PWA) that acts as a shortcut to the service on your iPhone or iPad. To do so, visit the platform's website and tap the "Add to Home Screen" option from the Safari share sheet.
It's not an elegant solution, but it's the same one employed by Amazon and Microsoft. When Apple tweaked its guidelines last September to allow for cloud gaming clients on iOS, it said games offered in a streaming service had to be individually downloaded from the App Store. That's a requirement both Microsoft and Facebook said was not congruent with how every other platform treats cloud gaming services.
"We've come to the same conclusion as others: web apps are the only option for streaming cloud games on iOS at the moment," Vivek Sharma, Facebook's vice-president of gaming, told The Vergeof today's launch. "As many have pointed out, Apple's policy to 'allow' cloud games on the App Store doesn't allow for much at all. Apple's requirement for each cloud game to have its own page, go through review and appear in search listings defeats the purpose of cloud gaming."
The process of adding the web app is complicated enough that Facebook includes a short how-to when you first visit its Gaming website on Safari. You also have to know to navigate to the company's website in the first place. The reason for that is the App Store guidelines prohibit developers from using their applications to direct individuals to websites that feature alternative payment systems to those offered by Apple, and you pay for the in-game purchases offered in Facebook Gaming titles through Facebook's Pay platform.
Eargo recently announced its latest smart hearing aid — the Eargo 5. We don’t do a lot of hearing aid news here at Engadget, but the California-based company makes some of the most "gadgety" we’ve tried and the latest model certainly appears to continue that trend.
Like the Neo HiFi and the Neo before it, the Eargo 5 is a tiny, "invisible" (completely in the canal, or CIC) hearing aid that comes with a charging case. With older Eargos, that case doubled as a way to connect the “buds” to your phone. Unfortunately, that meant the buds had to be in it while they were updated. What’s new this time around is that you can perform profile changes and more while actually wearing the hearing aids. What's more, there are key new features that change how the hearing aids sound. It’s an exciting update for fans of the brand as it adds to Eargo’s already slick user experience, something sorely lacking in many of the mainstream brands you find at your local audiologists.
The most interesting new feature is “Sound Match." Hearing aids have long had different profiles, and will usually be tuned for your own needs by an audiologist, but Eargo’s direct-to-consumer (and the need for the buds to be in the case) approach has made this much-needed personalization difficult. Until now?
Sound Match is effectively a hearing test built-in to the Eargo app. Once you pair the case (via Bluetooth) you can remove the Eargo 5s and the app will walk you through the test. If you’ve ever completed a hearing test, you’ll be familiar with this one. The app plays a series of sounds and you tell it if you can hear it or not; at the end, you’ll be presented with the results for each ear.
As simple as this is, my initial experiences with it weren’t entirely smooth. Not least because it took a few tries (and some back and forth with Eargo) to even get the case to pair with the app. After trying several restarts and installations, I was able to get connected and access the test — most likely due to me having early hardware.
From then on the test was mostly straightforward, until I spotted there was a “replay” button. I noticed that sometimes when I didn’t initially hear a sound, I definitely heard it after tapping replay. As in, it was audible enough that I wouldn’t have missed it the first time around. This meant I had to re-do the test to make sure I hadn’t incorrectly tapped “No” when really the sound just didn’t play at all.
Minor hiccups aside, once I was confident I had completed the test properly, I could further customize the experience by changing what profiles are available on the device. There are six situational ones (restaurant/meeting etc) and four presets. You can store a total of four on the hearing aids themselves.
Previous Eargo models would simply tell you the number of the audio profile that is active as you switch through the four on offer (via a double-tap on your tragus). With the Eargo 5 it now tells you the name of that profile if you chose one of the "situational" ones to eliminate any guesswork. You can also further tweak these profiles in the app, or simply change the volume and noise reduction (there’s now noise reduction here too I should mention) without having to permanently change the profile. This includes adjusting the volume and the treble/bass.
Although you can now adjust the sound and profiles while actually wearing the Eargo (before, you had to take them out and plop them in the case, which is less than ideal), there’s no capability for music/audio streaming from your phone. Eargo uses ultrasonic commands to communicate between the case and the hearing aids. That’s a neat way to enable small updates, but not enough for anything more heavyweight. Remember, size is key here, and streaming on devices this small, that go fully in your ear, isn’t a simple thing to do.
With the Eargo 5, I find them much more assistive in my hearing, particularly on the side I have problems with. In fact, I personally prefer just wearing only one, as my hearing loss is unilateral and having a boost on the "good" side can feel a bit much. I also find wearing both a bit less comfortable. There’s no logical reason why wearing one for extended periods should be fine, but two isn’t, but I think the combination of too much "extra" hearing (on my good side) and the physical feeling of something in both ears is just a lot of sensory stimulation, for me at least. Obviously, if you have a bilateral hearing deficiency you’ll want all the assistance you can get.
If you own a pair of older Eargos and were wondering if the hearing test feature might come to your model via an update, sadly it's not possible. There's specific hardware here to enable the ultrasonic commands, that isn't present in previous models.
Beyond Sound Match, Eargo claims the sound has been redesigned from the ground up for “optimal audio and speech performance.” The company doesn’t elaborate further but, with the new customization feature, it’s fair to say this is a very different experience than previous models already so any other improvements are hard to pick out, but good to know they are there.
Beyond the core updates, there are some welcome usability tweaks, too. The charging case now has lights around where the hearing aids should be placed to help you correctly seat them at night. Those lights also provide feedback by changing color when there’s a software update or the aids aren’t charging properly. You’ll also no longer need to make sure the contacts on the buds meet the ones in the case. A new magnetic inductive charging system means they will click themselves into the right position automatically.
While Eargo's app remains a slick experience, there are a few small opportunities to improve it further. The volume control is nice and simple, and you can choose to boost either side individually, or both as a pair. What’s lacking is visual feedback or even a tone in your ear, to let you know when you’ve reached the top or bottom of the range. There’s also no indication of whether any changes you make to a profile are permanently saved or an obvious way to reset them to default, but these are minor UI issues.
Battery life is claimed to be around 16 hours per charge. Add to that the battery in the case and this means you won’t need to plug them in for a couple of days, which is handy for weekends away where you don’t want to have to worry about finding an outlet. Should you need to, though, the charger is USB-C, so likely something you already have for your phone or laptop (a cable is, of course, included).
All in all, it's a substantial update for a direct-to-consumer product. Eargo has been getting a lot of things right in terms of making its products user-friendly and appealing to a mass audience. This matters when it's estimated that over 40 million Americans could benefit from an assistive hearing device. What was lacking, until now that is, was a way to tune them to your specific needs. Which in the world of hearing loss, can be the difference between understanding the television a bit better and being able to pick out quieter sounds in a noisy environment. The latter is something that makes daily life feel a lot more natural and makes social situations much more comfortable, so it's something really valuable to have on a device this small.
Remember, though, hearing aids are not a cheap product category. A good pair will often run you a couple of thousand dollars, more if you want something bespoke. The Eargo 5, then, at $2,950 might seem steep compared to a pair of wireless headphones but is relatively affordable among its hearing aid peers. If you’re already an Eargo user looking to upgrade, there’s a “repeat customer discount” that can shave off $500 from the MSRP.
A bunch of gadgets went on sale this week, from Apple products to streaming devices. The latest iPad Air is $100 off at Amazon, bringing it down to an all-time low of $500. Plus, you can still grab a pair of AirPods Pro for $190 and this year's Apple TV 4K with 64GB of storage of $180. If you're more of a Roku person, many of the company's streaming gadgets are on sale — including the Roku Streambar, which is down to $99. And those looking for a new TV can save hundreds on some of the latest OLED sets from LG, Sony and Samsung in Best Buy's Black Friday in July sale. Here are the best tech deals we found this week that you can still get today.
The latest iPad Air is down to the best price we've seen it, just $500 for the base model. That's $100 off its normal price and a great deal on what we think is the best iPad for most people. We gave the slab a score of 90 for its fast performance, speedy WiFi, healthy battery life and support for the second-generation Apple Pencil.
Best Buy's Black Friday in July sale runs through this weekend and, while there are a bunch of gadgets on sale, OLED TVs stand out with some of the best prices. The retailer knocked hundreds of dollars off the latest LG OLED sets and you can also save on Sony and Samsung TVs, too.
The AirPods Pro are back on sale for $190, or $60 off their normal price. While not a record low, it's still one of the best sale prices we've seen all year. The AirPods Pro earned a score of 87 for their improved audio quality, comfortable fit, solid ANC and IPX4 water resistance.
Apple's 10.2-inch iPad is still on sale for $299, or $30 off its normal price. It's arguably the best iPad for new tablet owners and we liked its improved performance, familiar design and support for the first-generation Apple Pencil.
The latest MacBook Air M1 is down to $899 at Amazon, or $100 off its regular price. It's one of the best laptops for most people, and the M1 chipset only makes it a better buy. The Air M1 earned a score of 94 from us for its incredibly fast performance, excellent keyboard and trackpad, good battery life and lack of fan noise.
The 2021 Apple TV 4K with 64GB of storage is nearly $20 off right now, bringing it down to $180. This deal represents a new record-low price on the set-top box, and it lets you get the extra-storage model for the original price of the base model. We gave the Apple TV 4K a score of 90 for its excellent new Siri remote, improved performance, HomeKit integration and support for Dolby Vision and Atmos.
A bunch of Roku devices are on sale at Amazon, including the Roku Streambar, which is down to a record low of $99. This compact soundbar is a convenient gadget to get if you want to upgrade your home theater system without spending a ton of money. We gave it a score of 86 for its space-saving design, Dolby Audio support and built-in 4K streaming technology. If you want to spend even less, a handful of Roku streamers have been discounted, including the Express ($25) and the Streaming Stick+ ($39).
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp multi-cooker and air fryer is down to $98 at Amazon, or more than $50 off its normal price. You're getting 11 cooking modes with this appliance, including air fry, dehydrate, bake, broil and more, plus most of the accessories needed to try out all of the presets. While we have seen this model on sale for $79 around Black Friday, this is the best price we've seen on Amazon all year.
The Thermapen Mk4 has been discounts to $69 as ThermoWorks makes room for the new Thermapen One thermometer. The Mk4 is the best instant-read thermometer we've used so far —the backlit display makes it easy to read in almost any situation and the display rotates depending on how you're holding the pen. Plus, you never have to remember to turn it off because the pen automatically turns on when you pick it up and will shut off after some time of no use.
In Omaze's latest giveaway, you can win two seats on one of the first Virgin Galactic flights to space. In addition, you'll go on a tour of Spaceport America in New Mexico with Richard Branson. You don't have to pay to enter, but funds from all paid entries will support Space for Humanity, an organization that hopes to make space more accessible for all.
Omaze is giving away another $20,000 to build your ultimate gaming PC. This sweepstakes is free to enter, but funds donated with purchased entries will benefit Schools on Wheels, an organization that provides free tutoring and mentoring services to children experiencing homelessness across Southern California.
Pricing and availability is subject to change. No donation or payment necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes.See official rules on Omaze.
New tech deals
Mirror's summer sale knocks $400 off its high-tech fitness system when using the code JULY400 at checkout. The discount breaks down to $150 off the mirror device itself, plus free delivery and installation. Just know that the sale is only on the product itself, not on the subscription needed to take the Mirror's fitness classes.
Eufy's SpaceView Pro baby monitor kit is down to $130, or $40 off its normal price. It comes with one camera that's capable of shooting 720p video, and one video receiver that lets you see what your kid's up to at all times. In addition to the camera's 330-degree pan and 110-degree tilt capabilities, we also appreciate the display's 12-hour battery life when kept on.
Fitbit's Charge 4 tracker is back down to its record-low price of $100. If the smartwatch life isn't for you, this might be a good fit because it does a good job marrying fitness tracking with handy smart features. We gave it a score of 82 for its accurate built-in GPS, standard Fitbit Pay and multi-day battery life.
Arturia has knocks 50 percent off all of its individual software titles through August 8. That means you can get some of our favorite music software, including Pigments and Analog Labs, for $99 each. This is a good opportunity to add new synths and other software instruments to your collection for less.
A number of our favorite board games are on sale at Amazon, including Codenames for $11 and Star Wars: Outer Rim for $43. While you may be spending more time out of the house this summer, now's a good time to stock up on some new games to get you through the colder fall and winter months.
One of our recommended VPNs is running a good sale on a two-year subscription. You can sign up for NordVPN for only $89 for the first two years, which comes out to $44.50 per year — and an additional summer promotion adds three free months on top of that. We like NordVPN for its speed, its no-logs policy, the thousands of servers it has to choose from and that one account supports up to six connected devices.
Outside of your phone, your PC is likely the one piece of technology you use the most. If for no other reason than that, you should take care of it. Not only will it last for longer, but it will also work better over the time that you keep it. In this how-to, we'll share some tips on how to take care of your PC. Of course, it's impossible to cover this topic from every angle, so think of this guide as an introduction more than anything else.
How to clean your computer and peripherals
Windows PCs, especially desktops, come in various shapes and sizes, but the tips we're about to go through here will help you clean your computer whether you bought it prebuilt or put together yourself. If you own a laptop, look at our recent Mac organization guide. All the steps we detail there will work just as well for a Windows portable.
Before cleaning the inside of your computer, start with your display and peripherals. At this stage, all you'll need is some distilled water in a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth. You can buy the former at a grocery store or make it yourself. And if you don't already own any microfiber cloths, Amazon sells affordable 24-packs you can get for about $15. Once you have those in hand, spray the water onto a clean cloth and wipe down your computer's display before moving to the mouse and keyboard. You want to start with your screen to avoid transferring dirt and residue to the panel.
It’s possible to write an entirely separate guide on how to clean keyboards, but the short version is you'll want to pick up a keycap puller and use that to give you unobstructed access to any debris and gunk that has been building up under your keys. If the keycaps have a lot of dirt and residue on them, your best option is to soak them in warm water and use a toothbrush to scrub away the buildup. Give them plenty of time to dry before reinstalling them on your keyboard.
Once you’re done with those, turn off your PC and unplug everything that's connected to it. You'll also want to switch off the power supply unit (PSU) by flipping the toggle on its outside to the "O" position. Next, push down on the power button a couple of times to discharge any static electricity that you might be carrying around.
If at all possible, do most of the steps we're about to describe outside. The last thing you want to do is go through the trouble of cleaning your computer and then let it pull in all that dust again.
Once you've moved your computer, start by removing the side panels. Most modern cases allow you to do this without any tools, but you'll need at least one screwdriver for most of the work we'll detail in a moment. When it comes to most screws inside your computer, a 4-inch Phillips screwdriver should be all you need. Some components, such as your GPU, may include Torx screws and the like, but don't worry about those for now since we won't be taking them apart. If you don't already own a decent set of screwdrivers and have something of a DIY streak in you, a driver kit from iFixit is your best bet. The 16, 32 and 62-bit kits it sells are an excellent starting point, and they'll come in handy with more than just your computer.
If your PC has any dust filters, remove those now and give them a rinse at the sink before setting them aside to dry. Depending on how long your computer has been collecting dust, you may want to remove some components such as the GPU to make it easier to clean everything. If that's something you feel comfortable doing and it's your first time removing any of the internals, use your phone to take photos of the interior. The images will help you put all the parts in their original place at the end. That's important to do since there's an optimal way to install many of the components in your computer. For instance, you always want to install your GPU in the fastest available PCIe lane. When it comes to removing any PCI cards, first unscrew its mounting bracket and then push the corresponding release on your motherboard before pulling the card out.
Whether you decide to keep all your computer's internals in place or not, you'll need something to blow all that dust away. A can of compressed air is one option, but I like to use a Giottos Rocket Blower. It was designed for cleaning camera sensors and won't damage any of your components. It's also a one-time purchase. Whatever you have at hand, use it to blow away the dust that's been building up on your computer's internal components, fans and grills. Pay special attention to the heatsinks attached to your PC’s CPU, GPU, chipset and voltage regulators. They will likely have most of the hardest to remove dust in your system thanks to their tight fin stacks. What’s more, especially bad buildup can make them ineffective at cooling those components, which will, in turn, affect their performance.
When cleaning any exposed PCB, use an antistatic brush (like this one from OXO) instead of a microfiber cloth. You'll avoid damaging any of the sensitive components on the board. You can go over any non-electronic part with a dampened microfiber cloth.
At this point, all you need to do is put everything back in its place. As one final tip, if there's any way you can avoid leaving your desktop on the floor, you'll end up spending less time cleaning it since it won't be near all the dust and dander that collects there. If your desk setup or living space makes that not an option, a PC tower stand is a cheap but effective way to elevate your computer off the ground and help it pull in less debris.
How to organize your PC’s storage drives
If it's been a while since you've done an audit of all the software you have installed on your computer, the best place to start is in the Task Manager. It's here you can see how much of its resources your computer is devoting to specific processes. Since everyone will have different software installed on their PC, it's hard to offer blanket recommendations, but using the Task Manager you can get a sense of the apps that may be slowing down your computer. For most people, there will be two main culprits: bloatware and antivirus software.
If you bought your PC from a system integrator like Dell, it will almost certainly include software your computer doesn't need to operate. So you can safely uninstall those apps to improve performance and save on space.
This next tip may be contentious for some, but I believe as long as you avoid clicking on sketchy links and stay away from the dark corners of the internet, Windows Defender is all you need to protect your computer from the majority of malware that's out there. While there are good antivirus programs like Bitdefender and Malwarebytes, the majority cost far too much for what they offer and will only slow down your computer. If you don't feel comfortable uninstalling your antivirus software, then by all means, leave it on your computer.
While you're in the task manager, you'll also want to click on the "Startup" tab to see what programs your computer is launching when you power it on. You can speed up that process simply by limiting that list to as few apps as possible. As for the actual process of deleting any software you don't need, always uninstall programs from the Control Panel as this will leave the fewest leftovers when everything is said and done. If you've used Windows for a while, you'll have errant files, folders and registry entries all over the place. It's possible to cull those manually, but doing so can be time-consuming. So we recommend using a program like Iolo System Mechanic or CleanMy PC to complete a deep clean of your system.
If you have any mechanical drives installed in your computer, it's good to get into the habit of defragging them regularly. First, launch the built-in Defragment and Optimize Drives app and click the "Optimize" button. Depending on the size of your hard drive, this process may take a while. Don't defrag your SSDs, as you'll only shorten their lifespan for little to no performance improvement.
How to organize your apps, tabs and other windows
Say what you will about Windows 10, but the fact is it comes with some of the best window management tools built right into an operating system. You don't need to download any additional software to organize your desktop, but there are some settings you can tweak to get even more out of its signature Snap functionality.
As you may already know, you can press the Windows and Tab keys at the same time to bring up the Task View pane. It's here that you can add additional virtual desktops. If you're not already using virtual desktops, they're great for organizing your active windows so that you don't have to constantly rearrange them when you're trying to find a specific one. You can quickly press the Windows key, Ctrl and either the left or right arrow keys to move between desktops. But to make things even simpler, head to the Settings app and into the Multitasking section of the System menu. Under the "Virtual desktops" heading, switch both settings to "All desktops." You can now use the Alt-Tab shortcut or taskbar to switch to any app on any desktop.
When it comes to wrangling your tabs, a lot of that will depend on the browser you use. But as a decent starting point, all the most popular ones include a feature that allows you to pin tabs. I use this to keep the websites I visit most frequently throughout a workday (in my case, Gmail, Trello and Google Drive) open at all times and at the top of my tab bar. In that way, those tabs never get lost among the countless other websites I might have open for a story I'm writing. What's more, in the case of Brave, the browser I use, I can use a handful of keyboard shortcuts to jump to those tabs quickly.
In closing, we want to highlight just how much customization Windows 10 offers you when it comes to the organization of your computer. As just one example, you can right-click on items located on the taskbar and start menu to put the apps and shortcuts you use most frequently within easy reach. However, if you want to really dig into all the options Windows 10 offers on that front, websites like Windows Central have detailed how-tos that are an excellent starting point.
While it's a bit early to be thinking about the holidays, retailers jump on the opportunity to remind us that we're six months out from the festivities. Black Friday in July sales have been ongoing this month, but Best Buy's just began and will run through this weekend. A plethora of gadgets have been discounted across the site, but there are a number of sales on TVs that are worth highlighting. Best Buy slashed hundreds off TVs big and small, including some of the latest OLED sets from LG, Sony and Samsung. Amazon's matching many of the deals, too, so you have options when it comes to where you spend your money. Here are the best smart TV deals we found in Best Buy's Black Friday in July sale.
55-inch LG A1 OLED 4K TV
The latest LG OLED lineup just became available a few months ago and now you can grab the 55-inch A1 model for $1,300. The A1 series is the most affordable of the bunch, making these sets good options for anyone looking to upgrade to OLED while on a tight budget.
The 55-inch, mid-tier LG C1 OLED TV is down to $1,500, or $300 off its normal price. It uses LG's a9 Gen4 AI Processor 4K and supports HDMI 2.1, G-SYNC and FreeSync for gaming and voice commands using Alexa or the Google Assistant.
Sony's 48-inch Bravia A9S OLED TV has been discounted by $300, bringing it down to $1,500. It runs on the company's Processor X1 Ultimate and supports HDR and Dolby Vision, Acoustic Surface Audio, X-Motion Clarity technology, AirPlay 2 and more.
Last year's flagship LG GX OLED TV is on sale for $1,500 for the 55-inch mode, or $500 off its normal price. While the latest G1 flagship is also on sale (see below), it'll set you back an additional $500. If you can deal with a slightly older processor and fewer bells and whistles, this remains a solid OLED set to invest in.
This massive 82-inch Samsung Q60T smart TV is on sale for $1,580, or $420 off its regular price. You're getting Quantum Dot technology here with HDR support, a refresh rate up to 60Hz, Game Enhancer for a better gaming experience and support for multiple voice assistants including Alexa and the Google Assistant.
One of Sony's premium OLED TVs, the 55-inch Bravia XR A80J set, is down to $1,800 in this sale, or $500 off its normal price. It packs most of Sony's best TV technology into one set, including the Cognitive Processor XR, HDMI 2.1 support, 4K upscaling, XR Motion Clarity and improved sound with Acoustic Surface Audio+ and built-in subwoofers. It also runs the Google TV operating system, so you can call upon the Assistant for all your entertainment needs.
The 65-inch The Frame set from Samsung is down to $1,700, or $300 less than normal. This is the TV to get if you'd prefer to look at something more interesting than a black box when not actually watching a TV show or movie. Its art mode lets you select art to display on the screen whenever you want, and it also supports 4K AI upscaling and truer colors using Quantum Dot technology.
A 55-inch LG G1 OLED TV will set you back $2,000 if you grab it during this sale, saving you $200 off its normal price. It's part of the "gallery" series and it uses OLED evo panel technology, which provides better brightness and clearer whites than standard OLED displays. It also runs on LG's a9 Gen4 AI Processor 4K and supports features like G-SYNC, FreeSync, OLED Motion Pro and voice commands via Alexa and the Google Assistant.
If you're keen on investing in an 8K TV, this 75-inch Samsung Q900T QLED 8K set is $1,500 off, bringing it down to $3,000. It includes Quantum HDR 32X, precisely controlled LED backlights and 8K AI upscaling. Just keep in mind that there isn't a ton of 8K content available just yet, so it may be a while before you experience the full benefits of this smart TV.
If you've been on the hunt for a capable Android phone that won't break the bank, there's a solid deal over at Woot that's worth checking out. Google's Pixel 4 is on sale for $380, down from the usual $800 for the 64GB model. It's the lowest price we've seen for the smartphone in quite some time. Woot's parent company Amazon and B&H Photo were both selling the Pixel 4 for $400 earlier this month.
As you might expect from a Google smartphone, the Pixel 4 has great cameras. It has a "smooth" display system that can boost the refresh rate from the typical 60Hz to 90Hz. The device will also support Android 12 and it's quick enough for most use cases.
Overall, the Pixel 4 might be better value than the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 right now. The Pixel 4a, meanwhile, costs $350 and arrived a year after the Pixel 4, but Google downgraded some of the specs — the display only has a 60Hz refresh rate and there's just a single rear camera, rather than two.
There are a few provisos to bear in mind with the Pixel 4. Google will provide Android and security updates for the Pixel 4 until October 2022, but there's no guarantee it will continue to do so after that time. Phone and online support might not be available after then either. Meanwhile, the device's screen brightness and battery life don't quite match up to equivalent flagships from Apple and Samsung.
It's worth noting Woot's return policy is more limited than that of Amazon. You can send back most goods within 30 days and Woot will reduce the refund amount by the cost of return shipping (as long as the product isn't defective or damaged). So, if you do snap up a Pixel 4 while it's on sale, it's probably best to decide quickly if you want to hang onto it.
Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.
Alphabet has launched another company in its X moonshot factory, and this one may be its most ambitious robotics project to date. The just-opened firm, Intrinsic, plans to make industrial robots more accessible to people and businesses that couldn't otherwise justify the effort involved to teach the machines. You could see robotic manufacturing in more countries, for example, or small businesses that can automate production that previously required manual labor.
Intrinsic will focus on software tools that make these robots easier to use, more flexible and more affordable. To that end, the company has been testing a mix of software tools that include AI techniques like automated perception, motion planning and reinforcement learning. Company chief Wendy Tan-White has relevant experience, too. She started the "world's first" software-as-a-service site builder to make web development more accessible, launched early online banking and lending services, and helped nurture startups as a VP at X.
The technology is still early, but there are already promising results. During its development time at X, the team trained a robot to make a USB connection in two hours (instead of programming it over hundreds of hours) and had robotic arms build simple furniture (shown below). Automation wouldn't be "realistic or affordable" for efforts like these using existing technology, Intrinsic said.
The new company still has much work to do. It's now focused more on creating a practical product and "validating" its tech. It's also hunting for partners in car manufacturing, electronics and healthcare that currently use industrial robots. If Intrinsic succeeds, though, it could make robotics more equitable and fill gaps in production. The company even suggests that its work could help the environment — the closer robotic factories are to people, the lower the emissions needed to transport goods to customers.
This might prove challenging. Rethink Robotics spent years developing collaborative robots that learn through simple human guidance, only to shut down as sales fell short. X moonshot companies also aren't guaranteed to succeed — look at Loon's fate as an example. Alphabet's money could help where companies like Rethink struggled, however, and Intrinsic is focused more on solving overall robotics problems rather than specific scenarios. This effort might stand a better chance than most.
Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being cheap and limited, but that hasn’t been true for a while now. The combination of years worth of software updates and laptop manufacturers making more powerful and better-built Chromebooks means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. Of course, there are an unnecessary number of Chromebooks on the market, so choosing the right one is easier said than done. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough of them at this point to know what to look for and what to avoid.
What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows?
That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome OS? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. If you didn’t know, it’s based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly.
Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re, say, a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the vast majority of their work in a browser. Unless I need to edit photos for a review, I can do my entire job on a Chromebook.
Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching; other Android apps like Microsoft’s Office suite and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser.
What do Chromebooks do well, and when should you avoid them?
Put simply, anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common things people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform.
As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data.
Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system.
As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are good you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in fields like law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac, as well. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook.
Finally, gaming is almost entirely a non-starter, as there are no native Chrome OS games of note. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop. That said, Google’s game-streaming service Stadia has changed that long-standing problem. The service isn’t perfect, but it remains the only way to play recent, high-profile games on a Chromebook. It’s not as good as running local games on a Windows computer, but the lag issues that can crop up reflect mostly on Stadia itself and not Chrome OS.
What are the most important specs for a Chromebook?
Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally an eighth-generation or newer M3 or i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly good performance, though Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 runs surprisingly well on its MediaTek processor.
As for RAM, 4GB is enough for most people, though 8GB is a better target if you have the cash, want to future-proof your investment or if you’re a serious tab junkie. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of local files or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of local storage when using Chrome OS.
Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably have to settle for less.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but you shouldn’t settle for a mushy piece of garbage.
Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support.
How much should I spend?
Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as couch machines or secondary devices, but if you want a Chromebook that can be your all-day-every-day laptop, $400 is the least you can expect to spend.
There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you better design quality with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough.
Right now, there actually aren’t too many Chromebooks that even cost that much. Google’s Pixelbook Go comes in $999 and $1,399 configurations, but the more affordable $650 and $850 options will be just as good for nearly everyone. Samsung released the $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook in 2020; this luxury device does almost everything right but has terrible battery life. Samsung quickly learned from that mistake and is now offering the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with more modest specs, but vastly better battery life at a much more affordable price (more on that laptop later). For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $850 to get a premium Chromebook that’ll last you years.
Best overall: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook
Look beyond the awkward name and you’ll find a Chromebook that does just about everything right that’s also a tremendous value. It gets all the basics right: The 13-inch 1080p touchscreen is bright, though it’s a little hard to see because of reflections in direct sunlight. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the eight-hour battery life is solid, and the backlit keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop lately, Chromebook or otherwise. The Flex 5 is now a little over a year old, but it still holds up well and is even cheaper than it was when it first launched. It can now regularly be found for well under $400 on Amazon. (As of this writing, it’s priced at $329.) That’s an outstanding value for a Chromebook this capable.
Naturally, Lenovo cut a few corners to hit that price. Most significantly, it only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy a computer with those specs — but Chrome OS is far less dependent on local storage. Unless you were planning to store a ton of movies or install a huge variety of Android apps, 64GB is enough for moderately advanced use. I was concerned about the non-upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but my testing showed that the IdeaPad Flex 5 can run plenty of tabs and other apps without many hiccups. If you push things hard, you’ll occasionally have to wait for tabs to refresh if you haven’t viewed them recently, but other than that this is a solid performer, particularly for the price.
Other things in the IdeaPad Flex 5’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports and a 360-degree convertible hinge. I personally don’t find myself flipping laptops around to tablet or stand mode very often, but it’s there if you like working in those formats. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but those specs are also totally reasonable considering the price.
Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5 hits the sweet spot for a large majority of potential Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for any potential replacements Lenovo offers, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release.
Premium Chromebooks with more power, better design and higher prices have become common in recent years. If you want to step up over the excellent but basic Lenovo Flex 5, there are two recent options worth considering: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713.
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is infinitely more stylish than most other Chromebooks, with a bright metallic red finish and a design that looks far better than the utilitarian Flex 5 and Chromebook Spin 713. As I mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 fixes some of the serious flaws we identified in the original. Specifically, the 2020 Galaxy Chromebook had terrible battery life and cost $999; this year’s model starts at $549 and can actually last seven hours off the charger. That’s not great, but it’s far better than the lousy four hours the original offered.
Samsung cut a few corners to lower the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s price. Most noticeable is the 1080p 13.3-inch touchscreen, down from the 4K panel on the older model. The good news is that the display is among the best 1080p laptop screens I’ve seen in a long time, and the lower resolution helps the battery life, too. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is also a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but it’s still reasonably compact.
Finally, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor rather than the Core i5 Samsung included last year. All these changes add up to a laptop that isn’t as ambitious, but is ultimately much easier to recommend. Instead of pushing to have the best screen in the thinnest and lightest body with a faster processor, Samsung pulled everything back a bit to make a better-priced but still premium laptop.
Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713, by comparison, doesn’t look like much from the outside — it’s a chunky gray slab with little to distinguish it from many other basic laptops. While it doesn’t seem exciting, the Spin 713 is just as well-made as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, with a sturdy hinge and body. But what’s most interesting is the display, a 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That makes it a much better option than 1080p displays when you’re scrolling vertically through documents and webpages. It has a somewhat unusual resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, but it makes for a more pixel-dense display than you’ll find on your standard 13.3-inch, 1080p laptop. Long story short: The screen is great.
As for the rest of the hardware, the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad are solid, if not the best I’ve used before. The same can be said for battery life: I got about the same six to seven hours using the Spin 713 as I did using the Galaxy Chromebook 2. I wish it were better in both cases, but it’s in line with other premium Chromebooks I’ve used lately.
The Spin 713 configuration that I tested costs $699, the same as the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Because I’m such a fan of the 3:2 display, I prefer the Spin 713 (which also has a more powerful processor), but the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is worth a look if you want a laptop that has a little more style and a better keyboard.
Last year, Google’s Pixelbook Go was our pick for the best premium model. It’s still an excellent choice and one of my favorite Chromebooks to use, but it’s almost two years old. Its age coupled with its aging 8th-generation Intel processor make it tougher to recommend. That said, it’s still one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks around, and it still handles everything I can throw at it. It also has the best keyboard I’ve used on any recent Chromebook. There’s still a lot to like, but it’s harder to justify spending $650 or more on it. Hopefully Google will release an updated version this fall.
While Lenovo’s Flex 5 is inexpensive enough that you could get one for your kid, Acer’s Chromebook 512 might be a better option for young ones in your life. First off, it’s specifically built to take abuse. In addition to the military-rated (MIL-STD 810G) impact-resistant body, you can spill up to 330mL of liquid on the keyboard. A drainage system will flush it out and keep the insides working. (Note that I haven’t actually tried that.) The keyboard features “mechanically anchored” keys that should be harder for kids to pick off, too. Regardless of exactly how much water you can pour onto that keyboard, the Chromebook 512 should handle a child’s abuse better than your average laptop.
This computer isn’t a speed demon, but the Intel Celeron N4000 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be fine for basic tasks. The 12-inch screen isn’t a standout either, but it has the same taller 3:2 aspect ratio as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. That means you’ll get more vertical screen real estate than you would on the 16:9, 11-inch panels typically found in laptops of this class. (The Chromebook 512’s screen resolution is 1,366 x 912, whereas most 11-inch Chromebooks use a 1,366 x 768 panel.)
All in all, it’s a fairly modest computer, but grade-school kids, a computer that can take some abuse and runs an easy-to-use OS that’s well supported in education should fit the bill well. The Chromebook 512 is priced at $249.99 direct from Acer, but it's going for $219.99 as of this writing at other retailers.
You no longer have to spend upwards of $200 on a quality pair of active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones. If you don't mind settling for a slightly older model, we highly recommend the Sony WH-1000XM3. Weeks after they dropped to $190, the wireless headphones are down another $20 at Best Buy to a new low of $170.
We gave the XM3 a review score of 94 in September 2018 due to their excellent sound and comfort. Inside is a dedicated noise-canceling chip, the QN1, which does the heavy-lifting in terms of blocking background noise and boosting audio. For those unaccustomed to ANC, you may even notice new sounds on the tracks you love. Audiophiles will also take to the customization offered through Sony's app that lets you fine-tune audio.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the XM3's successors, the XM4. The newer headphones feature two major additions: Auto-pause and seamless multi-device listening. Hardly a deal-breaker when you consider they currently cost $348.
The XM3's design is also a crowdpleaser. The over-ear headphones come in black with bronze accents on the Sony logo and USB-Cport. In our tests, we found the plush cushioning around the pads and headband to be significantly more comfortable than some of the alternatives. You can also fold them up when you're not using them, making them great for travel. The XM3 offer around 30 hours of battery life, more than enough for regular commuters. A well-powered USB-C connection also provides five hours of charge after just 10 minutes.
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