Huawei Matebook X Review

Huawei has been making huge strides in the computing industry over the last couple of years, hitting the consumer market hard with the introduction of the Nexus 6P back in 2015. Since then, it’s been slowly creeping into US consumer awareness, and has started producing both smartwatches as well as 2-in-1 ultrabooks. Now, the company is looking to compete in the ultra-slim notebook market, and has built something which it thinks is ready to take on the 12 inch Macbook, the Huawei Matebook X.

This is the company’s first true laptop, with all of its past computers being 2-in-1 tablet designs. Though it lacks a touchscreen and is limited to just 2 USB-C ports, the Huawei Matebook X makes up for it with its ultra slim and portable design which should make any style-obsessive user swoon.

So can the company break past their tradition of producing tablet-style 2-in-1’s and move into the more traditional ultrabook market? It’s time to find out.

Design

The Huawei Matebook X has a design language which takes a number of cues from the 12″ Macbook. With a sturdy aluminum shell sizing up to 12.5mm and weighing in at 1.05kg, this laptop is as portable as it is functional, and features a beautiful 2k 2160 x 1440 display and bezels of only 4.4mm on each side. There is essentially no wasted space on this laptop, and everything from the screen to the keyboard is nearly edge-to-edge.

The footprint of the laptop is extremely minimal, with a diagonal distance of just 13 inches on the body. The Matebook X is made to go anywhere you do, and should fit easily into just about any backpack or laptop case you want to toss it in. The aluminum finish traverses nearly every inch of the notebook, from the top of the shell to the keyboard and palm rests. This gives the unit an extremely premium feel, especially with 2 of the 3 color options coming in with gold accents.

There is a speaker grill sitting right above the keyboard which features Dolby Atmos sound, and a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader for biometric sign in capabilities. This is an incredibly welcome addition, as you merely need to keep your finger on the button for an extra couple of seconds in order to sign in to Windows biometrically. The company brought this over from their mobile handsets, and we’re extremely glad to see some sort of extra security keeping your data safe.

Save the palm rests, very little of this laptop’s space is actually wasted. You can see how hard Huawei worked to make this thing as compact as possible, while still retaining the ability to get work done. There is a very minimal thickness increase as you move along the side of the device, but it is so minimal that you will only notice it if you go looking for it. This is to accommodate for the ports near the top of the device while allowing for a very minimal keyboard tilt.

The Matebook X uses a completely fanless design, meaning it makes effectively no noise, but also makes it quite susceptible to heat. There are four rubber pads and three screws mounted to the bottom of the unit, but overall it looks quite sleek. With nothing but a subtle shiny Huawei logo sitting in the top shell, this laptop looks very elegant and boasts simplicity over gaudiness.

Ports and Features

The left side of the device features a USB Type-C port for power input with a 3.5mm headphone jack resting right below it, and the right side of the notebook has another USB Type-C port for data only. This is a strange move for Huawei, since in theory the USB Type-C standard is able to house Thunderbolt 3 to transfer both power and data through the port. Forcing the user to use the leftmost port for power instead of either seems like a strange and limiting move, as the side you want to plug your laptop into can change dramatically depending on the situation.

Fortunately for consumers, the Matebook X comes with, you guessed it, a dongle. This dongle is called the MateDock 2.0, and expands your right-end USB Type-C port into another USB Type-C port, a full-sized USB Type-A port, full size HDMI, and VGA. In this way, you’re able to plug in an exterior display as well as transfer data, which is useful since the laptop itself does not have many of these capabilities.

I’m a bit confused about the evolution of the Huawei MateDock. This 2.0 “evolution” technically has less ports versus last year’s model, is more awkwardly shaped, and is made of plastic instead of metal like the initial release. One large benefit is the fact that this dongle comes with your Matebook instead of being an optional accessory, but we would have preferred to at least see an extra USB Type-A port like was present in the last iteration of this dongle.

Keyboard

I was originally a bit worried about the feel of this keyboard, as the overall thinness of the notebook would normally make for a sub-optimal experience. However, Huawei has managed to pack in a full-fledged board with 1.2mm of key travel. Combined with the tough metal keys, this results in an extremely positive typing experience. There is also next to no keyboard flex since it is embedded right into the aluminum chassis itself, giving the keys an extremely premium feel.

The keyboard has 2 different lighting settings available to the user, which can be either minimally or brightly lit. The laptop will adjust the light option automatically based on the available light in the room, but you can always force it to use one of the 3 modes if you choose to do so.

The keys on this laptop are splash resistant too, so you should be safe just in case you happen to spill some water or other liquid on it. Though you shouldn’t go around dunking this thing in a tub, you should be protected against more minimal accidents.

Touchpad

The touchpad of the device is quite a bit wider than it is tall, and has a very slick and soft finish that makes it a joy to use. There are right and left click buttons built right into the touch-pad with no visible separation, and there is nice feedback on the unit when compressed. The touch-pad is recessed into the device ever so slightly, but it is hardly noticeable in use. I do enjoy this feature however, as it separates the wrist rest from the area which you would actually be touching quite well.

The Matebook X uses Microsoft’s precision touch drivers which work very nicely and support multi-touch gestures. Tracking is great and feels smooth, and I actually enjoy using this touch-pad much more than something like the Dell XPS 15. While some might be wishing for a taller track-pad, the sensitivity is quite high and it only takes one fluid swipe to get from one end of the screen to the other.

Display

The Huawei Matebook X uses a 2k 2160×1440 IPS display with Gorilla glass, and it is absolutely stunning. The display covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut, making it a great option for someone who wants to do some professional color editing on the go. Adding to this, it can also get quite bright, with a peak brightness of 350 nits and a contrast ratio of 1000:1. If you were looking for a laptop with a bright, color accurate screen, this one fits the bill quite nicely.

The device also uses an aspect ratio of 3:2, which is quite a bit taller than the average laptop’s ratio of 16:9. This is nicer for content like websites, and gives a certain aesthetic feel usually only available on tablets. However, most video content is produced for 16:9 displays, so you are going to get some letterboxing on the top and bottom of the screen when watching most videos in full screen. This is barely noticeable however, and the benefits unlocked from a taller screen far outweigh the cons in my opinion.

Speakers

Huawei has partnered with Dolby Audio to produce what I think are some of the best sounding laptop speakers on the market. Even turned up to full blast, the audio experience on the Matebook X delivers clean crisp audio with extremely minimal distortion. Huawei has made a big deal about the speakers in this unit, and now I can see why. This is the first time Dolby has designed custom speakers for a PC, and it is evident that it was important to them that they get it right.

Huawei says that the Dolby Atmos software is able to analyze the incoming audio signal in real time in order to adjust for a better listening experience. This aids in creating a sound signature that is crisp and clean with wonderful bass response and extremely clear dialogue.

Atmos was originally developed for the cinema in order to create a 3D-like audio experience, but the company has finally opted to bring it to notebooks in order to help make the laptop media experience better. While I wouldn’t say the sound feels like it is coming from all around me like Huawei and Dolby are claiming, the experience is certainly much more rich and full than something from a competing laptop. This absolutely blows something like the Dell XPS out of the water in terms of sound quality, and you’ll never want to go back to other laptop speakers again.

There are two motors in each speaker placed within the grill above the keyboard which fire upwards to produce sound. This is a much better implementation than a bottom-firing option as it minimizes distortion, but I do love something like the Surface Book which fires sound directly into your face. Overall though, the audio experience makes me feel as though I don’t need external speakers, and I’m often finding myself wish I could use the laptop’s speakers instead of noise-canceling headphones in the workplace.

Performance

Our Matebook X sports a 7th generation Intel Core i7 7500U dual-core processor running at 2.7GHz with a 2.9GHz boost, 8GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. This is quite a nice set of specs for a laptop of this footprint, which absolutely blows similarly targeted laptops such as the Macbook out of the water. Priced at 1699 €, this notebook comes out to just about the same price as the top model Macbook as well, and it’s base clock is just about twice as fast. The boost clock does come in lower however, so Apple likely clocked their notebook lower in order to preserve battery life.

The Intel HD 620 iGPU isn’t exactly going to be pushing high frame rates in games, but it gets the job done in terms of displaying content and encoding video. When doing basic photo editing we found it to do just fine, but video editing makes it fall a bit short. If you’re simply surfing the web and doing light tasks on this thing, it will be a great option, though you’ll need to be wary of those Chrome tabs and streaming video in the background. While writing this review I had E3 2017 streaming on YouTube, and it caused some pretty major lag. This was while connected to an external display however, and most users will likely be using the laptop on the laptop display itself. That being said, it would be nice to get some smoother computing, so we would have liked to see a higher boost clock than is offered by this laptop.

Heat/Noise

The Matebook X can get quite hot. When I went to install Chrome on the notebook the CPU kicked it up a notch, and the bottom of the device got quite toasty. You’re going to want to use this in a cool or room-temperature area, since there are no fans present in the device. Using this thing on your lap may also get a bit uncomfortable when doing heavier tasks, so you may want to stick to a desk for most tasks. That being said, the heat is more targeted towards the top of the unit’s keyboard, so it’s not generally too uncomfortable to use on the daily.

The Matebook X makes essentially no noise since it is a fan-less design. This is awesome, since it means you will always be able to hear what you need to from the speakers, and you’re never going to be annoying the people around you. While other laptops can get quite loud while under load, the Matebook chugs along silently. This is especially useful for working in public places like coffee shops, where others might be bothered by extra noise. With such silent computation abilities, it’s hard not to love this little laptop.

Battery Life

Battery life is an area which the Matebook X saw very mixed results. Though the company says the laptop can get 10 hours of video playback with 1080p video, our testing indicated 3 hours and 35 minutes of general use using 3DMark’s Home battery test. This test continuously ran a number of tasks that you would do while using your device at home, including writing, photo editing, video chat, casual gaming, and web browsing. We ran the benchmark with the brightness set to 50% just as the company did in their video playback testing, though continuously playing back video may be much more efficient than running a bunch of other services. However, this test included heavier tasks such as light gaming, which is going to significantly decrease battery life on the device.

After using the laptop normally without any gaming included, we saw about 7 hours, so it was likely the gaming and video chat simulation that drained the battery in these tests. That isn’t to say these circumstances wouldn’t come about in day-to-day use, but it is a bit of a stretch to say you are going to do all of these actions in a single charge. My real-world tests included a lot of writing and a bit of YouTube streaming, and we saw much better results in that use case.

The Matebook X uses a 41.4Wh battery, and it charges very quickly. After I ran the battery test that drained this thing dry, I was able to charge it back up to 100% in about 2.5 hours, all while using it with an external display. If you’re someone who needs to be able to juice up your laptop on the fly for a bit of quick use, this laptop will do great.

Price & Specifications

Price
UK
1399 € 1599 € 1699 €
Touchscreen: No No No
Processor: Intel Core i5-7200U Intel Core i5-7200U Intel Core i7-7500U
OS: Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Home
Memory: 8GB DDR3 8GB DDR3 8GB DDR3
Storage: 256GB SSD 512GB SSD 512GB SSD
Graphics: Intel HD 620 Intel HD 620 Intel HD 620
Display: 3:2 13″ 2k
(2160×1440)
3:2 13″ 2k
(2160×1440)
3:2 13″ 2k
(2160×1440)
Battery Life: 41.4Wh – Up to 10 hours of video playback 41.4Wh – Up to 10 hours of video playback 41.4Wh – Up to 10 hours of video playback

Gallery

Final Verdict

I was immensely surprised at how much I came to adore the Huawei Matebook X. Though it’s not going to be doing any heavy gaming, its compact size, great keyboard, fantastic screen, and amazing speakers left me wanting to leave my XPS 15 at home most of the time. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have some serious caveats though. The body gets quite hot when under load, and performance can lag a bit if you aren’t great with your RAM management and want to stream video at the same time as doing work. The Intel 620 graphics work fine for general use but won’t get you very far if you want to do anything past productivity. Overall though, it is a great option for those who want a compact option on the go, and it will be more than enough to blast through your daily web surfing and writing activities.

What do you think about the Matebook X? For a first attempt at a full-fledged ultrabook, we think Huawei did a pretty amazing job. Though pricing has only been announced for Europe, we still don’t know when this thing is actually set to hit the market. For those who have been searching for a solid alternative to the Macbook, look no further.

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Nintendo Switch battery life – how to make the most of it!

Nintendo Switch battery

The Nintendo Switch is not just a great console for playing in your living room, but Nintendo has also placed a lot of emphasis on its portability. The concept of being able to play ‘Breath of the Wild’ wherever you want is very attractive, but it has one major shortcoming: battery life. Playing a graphically intensive title like ‘Breath of the Wild’ will only get you about 3 hours of play time when the Switch isn’t docked.

For long flights, the Switch will be unable to sustain its charge. Let’s try to fix that in this Nintendo Switch battery life guide!

Nintendo Switch battery tip 1 – Detach those Joy-Cons!

We’ll start with the controllers. When attached to the Switch, the Nintendo console might be super easy to hold but did you know that they also will keep charging up via the console? Detaching them means they’ll instead run off their own batteries, which should get around 12 hours of use. If you need more juice, then you should consider the Nintendo Switch Charging Grip which is charged via USB-C and also provides a more comfortable grip if you prefer a more traditional game controller.

For flights, you can then put the screen portion into kickstand mode and game with a more traditional controller setup. How much of a real battery difference will this make? Honestly, you’re probably only going to get an extra 15-30 minutes of usage, but when we are talking about such a limited battery life (3 hours) to begin with, every little bit helps.  Anything to help out your Nintendo Switch battery life even a little, right?

Nintendo Switch battery tip 2 – Turn down the brightness

The Switch’s screen is easily one of the most battery-draining components. The good news is that you can turn down the brightness in order to conserve a little energy. To do so, you simply hold the Home Button, pull up the quick settings and slide the brightness slider to the left.

Turning down brightness will make the screen harder to see in daylight, but it can make a huge difference in battery life. How much will depend on the game, but we’d say it’s entirely possible to extend things a good 30+ more minutes by going this route.

Nintendo Switch battery tip 3 – Consider airplane mode

If you’re not interested in playing in kickstand mode and want to keep those joy-cons attached, you might want to consider turning on airplane mode. This will turn off WiFi, Bluetooth, and other wireless connectivity options that typically put a fair amount of stress on the battery. Note that wireless controllers won’t work in this mode, and you’ll be limited to using the Joy-Cons (attached to the system).

The amount of life you save here can vary, but again, we’re talking about at least 15 to 20 minutes extra.

Nintendo Switch battery tip 4 – Battery packs for the win

Honestly, the best way to save battery life is to give up on saving battery life. If you want to play the system the way it has meant to be without resorting to lowering brightness, turning off connectivity, and other little sacrifices — get a battery pack! Just keep in mind you probably won’t be able to use the system in kickstand mode, due to the fact that the Nintendo Switch’s USB Type-C port is at the bottom of the console, and therefore will be blocked.

If you prefer playing with the joy-cons attached, however, battery packs a a great route to take.

A new product called the SwitchCharge is currently being developed with support on IndieGoGo. Expected to be released in August 2017, it fits securely around the Switch and contains a 12,000 mAh battery, estimated to bring the battery life to 12 hours! It too can be charged by an external battery pack and also comes with a more stable kickstand.

Or you can buy a more traditional battery pack, which you’ll find some great portable battery pack options over at our sibling site, Android Authority.

The Switch is beloved by many, and we hope that your battery life problems can be solved to provide you with hours and hours of fun. If you have any other methods that you personally use to keep your Switch alive, drop us a comment below, we would love to hear from you.

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Best smart helmets – keep your head safe while you ride!

According to the 2013 US Census, about 0.6% of Americans use a bicycle to commute to work. The number of registered motorcycles in the USA has grown to over 8 million, as of 2015. Statista also reports over 6.4 people participated in skateboarding activities in 2016. What do all these people (and other active citizens) have in common? They need to keep their heads safe!

There is obviously a high demand for protective headgear, but it’s 2017 and we won’t settle with the bare minimum. Everything is becoming smart and helmets can do much more than keep our heads together. Technology can make helmets safer, funner and more convenient. How? Let’s jump right into our favorite smart helmet products to show you.


Motorcycle helmets

Sena Cavalry Helmet

Any motorcycle rider will recognize Sena. The brand is very well known for its quality Bluetooth communication systems, and many claim they simply can’t be beat. But their devices are usually simple add-ons for any helmet out there. Not this one!

The Sena Cavalry Helmet is a motorcycle half helmet with all communication systems integrated. The unit connects via Bluetooth and has a set of speakers, as well as an integrated microphone. This is by no means a lackluster unit. It can communicate with other communication systems at up to 900 meters, supports voice commands, has a built-in FM radio and can even share music.

Interested? Do keep in mind Sena products are not cheap. This little helmet retails for $ 349, a pretty high price to pay for a half helmet. Its smart capabilities may be worth every penny, though.

Sena Inc Helmet

Now, if you do want a full-face helmet with all the benefits the Cavalry has to offer, Sena is also working on the Inc Helmet. Sena claims this is the first helmet with intelligent noise control, which pretty much means it applies noise cancellation to mute wind noise and other elements that make riding more dangerous and uncomfortable.

In addition, the unit does come with all the bells and whistles. Features include 8-way communication at up to 2 km, ambient audio mode, FM radio, audio multi-tasking, voice commands, Bluetooth 4.1 support and more.

The bad news? You can’t get it yet. This was supposed to launch in early 2017 for $ 799, but we haven’t heard a thing about it for a while. When launched, this is likely to be the best of its kind, though.

LiveMap Helmet

While competitors like Skully and Nuviz have risen and fallen, LiveMap continues standing after an unsuccessful 2013 Indiegogo campaign and years of work. Their complete motorcycle helmet experience is said to be launching in Q2 2018 and you can now pre-order your unit for $ 1500.

Wait, what?! That may seem like a very high price (and it is), but we must also take a look at what this thing can do. For starters, the helmet can project GPS navigation directions straight into your face shield. This means you don’t need to turn your eyes into a tiny display or look around for your phone. Just keep your eyes on the road and white for directions to appear. And that is not all the projector can display; you can also keep track of speed and other parameters.

The helmet carries a fully functional camera, which can record footage of your adventures, as well as evidence in case any accident or incident takes places. The mic and headphones will also allow you to use voice commands, listen to music, answer calls and more.

Neat, right?

Reevu MSX1

This is not exactly a “smart” helmet, but it would be a smart purchase if you like being safe. The one thing it does, it does very well – keeping you aware of what’s behind you.

The Reevu MSX1 turns your helmet into a rear-view mirror of sorts. It takes light from the back, bends it around the head and displays an image of the road behind the rider.

The company uses reflective polycarbonate material that is both more resistant and lighter than glass. There are no electronics going on here, which also means ther eis no need to charge or use batteries. Pretty cool, right?


Cycling, skating and other sports helmets

LifeBEAM Smart Helmet

Forget those annoying chest straps, watches and other accessories that get on the way of your performance. The LifeBEAM helmet gives cyclists the edge by offering seamless heart rate, calorie and performance tracking. You have to wear a helmet to stay safe, so why not add all this functionality right into it?

This gadget is for those who simply want to perform their best while cycling. Unlike most products in this list, LifeBEAM won’t keep you entertained or communicated with the outside world. The technology was originally designed to track pilot vitals, so you know this is no toy.

Interested? The LifeBEAM Smart Helmet can be found on Amazon and pricing starts at $ 175.

Lumos Helmet

Maybe you don’t care about entertainment, communication or vitals. You just want to get from point A to point B, and you want to do so safely. Having a bicycle as a main form of transportation is not as safe as one would wish. You are sharing the road with drivers operating multi-ton machines.

It’s partly our duty to make sure drivers know we are there, and this is where Lumos comes into play. This helmet is equipped with a series of lights that will keep you safe and predictable. The white lights in the front will keep you visible for incoming traffic, while the red lights on the back will keep your 6 clear.

There is a wireless turn signal controller you can mount on your handlebars. IT does exactly what you are imagining; simply press the left/right buttons to let drivers behind you know where you are going. The helmet can also sense when you are slowing down and turns on a brake light, but this is still a beta feature.

Interested? No need to wait! Just head over to the Lumos Helmet website and get this helmet for $ 169.

Airwheel C5

The Airwheel C5 is for the adventurous souls who want to have fun, share their experiences and keep themselves safe. It does come with speakers and a microphone, making it possible to listen to music, get audio directions and even answer phone calls.

The camera can be used for multiple functions, including photo shots, video and even security monitoring. That’s right! Just leave your helmet can keep an eye on your home and any abnormalities will be noticed upon your return. Its WiFi connection also allows users to share their adventures through social networks.

Interested? You can get one from Amazon starting at $ 124.99.

Classon Smart Helmet

The Classon Smart Helmet is very unique. Not only because of its features, but the helmet itself is designed in a very interesting way. It almost looks like a flat cap. But be sure that it has all the necessary materials and features to keep you safe.

The Classon Smart Helmet can detect when you are slowing down and signals a brake light for those behind you. It also knows when you are using hand signals and starts blinking its own turn signals to help you out.

My personal favorite feature is its ability to tell when a car is incoming. There are front and rear cameras keeping track of your environment, and a light will blink in your peripheral vision when something dangerous approaches your blind spots.

The unit’s lights can also help you navigate through town. And if you want to share your rides videos can be pulled from the camera feed.

The bad news is that this product is not yet available. It was launched via Indiegogo and is scheduled to ship this September. Those who want to sign up for one can pre-order it for $ 149.

Add-ons

Fusar Universal Smart Helmet System

These smart helmets are very convenient, but they are often not the best looking. Nothing beats getting your favorite helmet and simply making it smart; that is eactly what the Fusar Universal Smart Helmet System does.

The kit comes with a camera that mounts on top of your helmet, a handlebar remote control and a Bluetooth headset. The main unit features a 16 MP Sony CMOS sensor that can record video up to 1080p @ 30 fps (more modes will be added after the first update). It also comes with a gyroscope, magnetometer, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS positioning, IP67 certification and a 2300 mAh battery that can last up to 4 hours.

Meanwhile, the included headset has a rider-to-rider intercom with a 50 feet range, Bluetooth 3.0, DSP noise cancellation and a 1-hour battery life. And most functions can be controlled with the 3 buttons found in the remote.

Interested? You can pre-order the Fusar Universal Smart Helmet System for $ 499.99. It is scheduled to ship this summer, though, so you will have to wait a bit to get your hands on it.

BE-LINK Helmet Bluetooth Audio System

You don’t need all those fancy features? Maybe all you want is to rock to your tunes and the BE-LINK audio system (version 3.0) will do just that for a pretty low price. This thing goes for just $ 49.99 and can be installed into any helmet. Its battery can go for up to 9 hours and the company promises great sound coming from its 30mm drivers.

Sena 20S

Motorcycle communication systems are very popular among riders, so we thought it was important to add one to the list. The Sena 20S is not only what we consider the best bang for your buck, but it has become a favorite among many motorcycle enthusiasts.

This thing can do it all. Its Bluetooth 4.1 capabilities will keep you answering calls, listening to music and following directions seamlessly. Talking about doing all these things – you can do them simultaneously. The Sena 20S is special in that it uses audio multi-tasking. This means you can continue talking to your buddies while listening to music or following navigation instructions. No distractions or interruptions!

It does feature a universal intercom with up to 2 km of range and can connect with up to 8 riders. Voice commands, advanced noise control and FM radio will also help make that ride more comfortable.

Interested? Sena is not exactly cheap. This specific communication system currently goes for about $ 269 on Amazon.


Wrapping up

Stay safe and enjoy the ride, guys. We have shown you some awesome tools to do so, but please do hit the comments if you want to recommend some of your favorite helmet tech. Have any of you used these? How do you like them?

The post Best smart helmets – keep your head safe while you ride! appeared first on TabTimes.

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The best standing desks – pros, cons, and should you buy one?

Standing desks are all the hype these days. People are spending big bucks on these hot office commodities. Why? Should you jump off your chair and stand with this new trend? In this post we are going to tell you all about standing desks, their pros/cons and our picks for the best standing desk you can buy. Stick around for all the details!

But what is a standing desk exactly?

A standing (or stand-up) desk is a workstation designed to keep you on your feet or a high stool, as opposed to sitting on a more traditional chair. These desks can take multiple forms and shapes. Some move up and down to adapt to different positions, while others are static. Users even build or buy extensions to turn their regular desks into standing ones, but we will talk more about different versions later in this post.

The benefits and downsides of standing desks

So why would you want to stand while working? Good question, and it mostly has to do with potential health gains. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, a sedentary lifestyle has proven to be detrimental for your health, even if you try to counteract this with exercise after the fact.

Harvard experts claim not moving too much can affect more than just your cardio-vascular health. And there are studies backing this, linking higher risks of obesity, cancer and type 2 diabetes to sitting down for prolonged periods.

Let’s take a closer look at how these studies word things, though. A sedentary lifestyle and sitting for long periods of time is bad for you, that’s for sure. But this doesn’t exactly mean that standing up for long periods of time is exactly the solution.

Via Amazon

Whether you are sitting or standing, doing so statically is the problem. Not to mention that standing up for long periods of time can add back problems to the equation. And if you are thinking this will help you lose weight — nope, you need to do more than just stand to accomplish that! A study from the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) confirms standing still doesn’t burn enough calories when compared to sitting to make a difference on weight loss, yet it does affect your energy levels. This means you will just be getting tired without really helping the obesity issue.

The point here is that standing, in and of itself, won’t negate the effects of working in front of a computer all day. The clue to a healthy body is keeping it in active movement. With that in mind, let us remind you that just buying the best standing desk and using it won’t help. Instead, see it as a tool to keep your workflow in different positions and your body in constant movement. Sit down for a bit, stand for another while, try to keep your printer and other tools far away to inspire more activity and so on.


Best standing desk – Our top picks

With that in mind, we do still stand by the fact that using a standing desk correctly has its benefits. Are you looking to get yourself one? There is are tons of options out there, so let’s show you some of our very own top picks and help you find the best standing desk for your needs.

Fully Jarvis Bamboo Adjustable Standing Desk

Standing desks can be really expensive, but you don’t really have to spend thousands of dollars on a flat table that moves up and down. There are some great options for acceptable prices, and the Fully Jarvis is actually the cheapest option in this list at a starting price of $ 470.

The desktop is made of sustainable bamboo, with no pesticides, fertilizers or colorants. The frame can handle up to 350 pounds of weight, so be sure this thing can carry all your office items. Sizes start at 30×27 inches, and the biggest version is 78×30 inches. You can include extras, such as locking casters, pencil trays, monitor arms and desk lamps.


Uplift Height Adjustable Desk

Uplift’s prices can be pretty reasonable if you don’t go crazy with the upgrades. Basic Height Adjustable Desks start at $ 499 and measure 42×24 inches. The basic versions can be upgraded to 80×30 inches.

You can get pretty fancy with Uplift, though. L-shaped and corner desks are also available, but those can go up to the thousands of dollars, depending on the type of material, space, upgrades and other factors.


IKEA BEKANT Desk

No need to go looking for obscure manufacturers. IKEA has joined the standing party with their BEKANT Desks. Just like everything else IKEA makes, the BEKANT Desk is simple and clean. It does come in a multitude of colors and shapes, though, giving users plenty of options to choose from. And prices start at only $ 479!

The height can be adjusted between 22 and 48 inches, covering most statures and positions. It also comes with a 10-year warranty and has everything you can expect out of IKEA furniture, such as a seamless design, easy-to-clean surfaces and a very functional nature.


UpDesk Ultra UpWrite

UpDesk is not to be ignored. They created the UpWrite, one of the most popular standing desks. Every news source was talking about it for a while, and for good reason – it is a great tool with no bells and whistles. It is also pretty expensive with a base price of $ 899 for the 48×30 inch version. You can upgrade to 60×30 inches for $ 949 and 72×30 inches for $ 999.

Is it worth the cash? This desk is a favorite for many reasons. It can carry over 375 pounds of weight and is pretty quiet doing so. Not to mention its steel footings, integrated chord management, mounted power strip and easy-to-work motor system.


Get off your chair!

That’s the end of our best standing desk guide! Now get off that chair! Keep your body moving and extend your life! Then use that extra time to hit the comments and tell us your thoughts on standing desks. Are you buying any of these? Are there any others you would recommend?

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What is a meme?

what is a meme

We see them everywhere we go: memes. For a long time I had no clue what those funny pictures with the big block text on them were actually called. Maybe you are, or were, in a similar boat? Today, we will take a look at what a meme is and hopefully share a few interesting tidbits of meme history!

Definition of a meme

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that a meme (mi:m) is a noun:

1. An element of a culture or system of behavior passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.

2. An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

A few of you will know (okay.. VERY few) that the word takes its origin from the Attic Greek ‘μίμησις’ which translates to imitation or making a likeness (Perseus Encyclopaedia). So when you see something like the meme below, we can tell that the meme in question is by taking a popular image from the film ‘Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, and creating something similar.

what is a meme

 This imitation is achieved mostly by using the Candy Man’s expression to make it appear that he really could be saying the new line of text. The first official use of the word “meme” has been credited to the well known evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene”.

History of internet memes

One of the earliest internet memes came in 1996, when the 3D dancing baby model became one of the first viral hits. Versions of the baby showed up on a number of TV shows, most prominently on Fox’s hit dramedy Ally McBeal. Yet another early internet meme hit was the Hamster Dance web site in 1998, featuring animated GIF images of dancing hamsters and other rodents.

The popularity of the many internet memes that center on images with big blocks of white texts can be traced back to 2007. That’s when Eric Nakagawa and Kari Unebasami took an image of a cat found on the Something Awful site and placed a new caption on top: “I can has cheezburger?”. The image was posted on their website and the rest is history. While similar images were previously posted on the 4chan site, the “I can has cheezburger?” meme caused the trend to really take off for a more mainstream internet audience.

Uses of memes on the internet

In today’s internet-centric society, we have been rapidly moving away from proper long-form conversations and have been moving towards instantaneous communication brought about largely by social media such as Twitter. We may be only allowed 140 characters, but that does not mean that we cannot stick a meme into our tweets to make them more impactful. Pictures, as opposed to text, have much more pull on our emotions. Memes have also made their way into the political sphere, proving that they can be used to spread more serious information. Making someone laugh, by showing them a meme, can impact the way in which they view a subject, which is one way that people can use memes to change the public opinion.

Memes play an important part in bringing us all together, and Facebook has proved to be a wonderful platform for that. Just by searching on Facebook, you can find meme groups and pages for a variety of pop culture topics. Even college communities have been making pages for their memes, one of the first being the UC Berkeley page which quickly spread, and now most of the Ivy League have pages dedicated to their humor!

Let us know what you thought of our detailed discussion on memes in the comments. And if you want to see some of the finest memes available, check out our gallery of the best Android memes!

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Best smart thermostats – transforming heating and cooling for the better

smart thermostat

In an effort to make our homes truly smart, companies have been working on transforming multiple aspects of our everyday life into connected objects. Though we now have smart lights, smart home assistants, and even smart coffee makers, one of the first connected units to hit the market was the connected thermostat. Now that these smart thermostats have been on the market for quite a while, a number of companies have make their own versions that have their own unique appeal.

So which are the best? Let’s find out.


Nest Learning Thermostat

smart thermostat

When people think about smart thermostats, Nest is often the first option that comes to mind. The first generation of the system was released way back in October of 2011, and was one of the catalysts that started the smart home revolution that would eventually become it’s own industry. Nest was acquired by Google is 2014, but still retains it’s own company direction under Alphabet Inc. The company is currently on the third iteration of the product which was released back in 2015, but all consumer versions of Nest continue to be compatible with the latest firmware.

The Nest Learning Thermostat can be installed where any other thermostat was previously wired, and has a large screen to show you the current temperature, heating/cooling modes, and other statistics. There is a dial surrounding the round thermostat which lets you adjust the temperature on the fly, and you can also control the climate of your house with the integrated app. In addition, Nest works with Amazon Echo and Google Home, so you can use your voice to change the temperature of your house whenever you like.

Nest learns over time. If you start setting the house to warmer in the evenings and cooler during the day, it will build a schedule around this lifestyle. Eventually, you shouldn’t have to adjust anything at all, since Nest will know just what you like and when you like it. Nest can also use your phone’s location data to sense when you’re away, and will save energy while you’re not using your house.

Though a lot of products try to mirror Nest in terms of functionality, they really are the original smart thermostat. You can pick up the latest Nest Learning Thermostat on Amazon for $ 245.99.


Ecobee4 Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat

smart thermostat

The Ecobee4 Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat is one of the main competitors to Nest, and is aiming to do perform the same core function with some added smarts. The Ecobee4 can connect to your phone just like the Nest, and allows you to set the temperature from anywhere at any time. Ecobee4 can use room sensors to detect the areas of your house that need the most help, and will intelligently alter the climate to make sure you’re comfortable.

The room sensors that work with Ecobee4 can detect specific aspects of the individual rooms you place them in, and can tell the thermostat to supply hot or cold air to these rooms in particular in order to maintain a comfortable temperature. The Ecobee4 can also send you monthly reports on your energy usage and savings, so you can see firsthand how much more energy efficient your home is with the unit.

The Ecobee4 works with Amazon Echo, Apple Homekit, IFTTT, Samsung Smart Things, and more, so you’ll always have a convenient place to manipulate your home’s climate. Whether it’s with your voice, through an app, or an IFTTT module, the Ecobee4 can keep your home comfortable for years to come. Updated from the previous Ecobee3, the Ecobee4 actually has Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant built in, which means it can do any of the things that the Amazon Echo can do. Whether it’s setting timers, playing music, or even helping you with your cooking, your thermostat can now do it all.

Check out the Ecobee4 on Amazon now for $ 249.


Honeywell Lyric Round

smart thermostat

The Honeywell Lyric Round is very similar to the Nest learning thermostat in that it works as a round dial with a circular screen for data monitoring. The location-based temperature control monitors where you are in comparison to your home, and will wake the thermostat when you are nearby. It can also detect the humidity of your home, and will work to regulate it to a comfortable state. The thermostat can determine if it needs to heat or cool your home based on your unique temperature settings, so you will always have a comfortable feeling home.

Since this thermostat can also regulate humidity, it includes a “Feels like” setting which will make sure the temperature you get feels like the temperature you want. After using the thermostat over a bit of time, the Lyric Round will start detecting when you want your house to be certain temperatures, and can learn when to heat or cool your house.

The Lyric Round works with Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, IFTTT, and Samsung Smart things, so you shouldn’t have to worry about this thermostat not being “smart enough” for your needs. You can control the temperature and humidity with your voice, or adjust the settings easily with the manual dial on the unit. You can also enable push notifications to alert you when you need new filters for your heating and air conditioning units, or when there are extreme temperatures in your house that could be making your family or pets uncomfortable.

You can buy the Honeywell Lyric Round on Amazon for $ 169.95.


Neatatmo Smart Thermostat

smart thermostat

If you’re not in the US and looking for something a little more eccentric, the Neatatmo Smart Thermostat might be for you. The unit features a very boxy design which stands alone without being mounted on your wall, and features a number of different colors that can be selected to fit your home’s unique style. The Neatatmo doesn’t use a bunch of buttons, but rather relies on mobile app in order to change and monitor your cooling and heating usage. You can use their standalone monitoring website to see how much energy you’ve saved over time, and set schedules to keep you home set to your unique settings.

Because the Neatatmo is connected to Wi-Fi, you’re able to control it from anywhere in the world. You can also control it using multiple smart home platforms like Amazon Alexa and Apple Homekit, so your voice can be your remote if you prefer to use that. The company says that by intelligently regulating the temperature to use less energy while you are out and asleep, the Neatatmo can save you up to 37% on your energy costs every year. Since the thermostat is battery powered, you can house it in any room you like, or keep it on your wall if you prefer to have it mounted there. The boxy design lets it be placed nearly anywhere, so you’re able to take it around your house so you always know what temperature your home is without having to open your phone.

The Neatatmo is not currently available in the US, but the company says that it’s hoping to bring it to this market soon. It is most widely available in the UK, but you should be able to get one and use it in most European countries. Having the ability to use your thermostat as a piece of decor is pretty interesting, and we love that you can bring it around with you anywhere you like.

If you’re based in the UK, you can get the Neatatmo Smart thermostat for £86.62 today.


Schneider Electric Wiser Air Thermostat

smart thermostat

The Schneider Electric Wiser Air Thermostat isn’t quite as good looking as other options on the market, but it includes a variety of features that you’ll find difficult to get anywhere else. The wiser has special LEDs built into the physical unit that will tell you how your system is running, so you’ll always know if your house is being cooled or heated with a quick glance. It also has sensors that know when you’re nearby, and will change from a general temperature monitoring mode to a manipulation mode when you walk up to it.

The Wiser has a special feature called “comfort boost” which will burst out 15 minutes of hot or cold air in order to rapidly regulate your home’s temperature. This is great for scheduling right before you wake up or have guests over, as it can safe energy right up until you need it most. It can also rapidly humidify or dehumidify your home using the humidity balance feature, so you can always have a home that is just the right feeling. The thermostat can pull weather forecast data off the internet as well, and will use this information to prepare and regulate your home’s temperature effectively.

The thermostat works with an app that allows you to set schedules and unique temperature settings on the fly, and you can also hook it into IFTTT to automate many other features of your home that have internet access. If you aren’t too worried about having the best looking thermostat around but just want something with a ton of features, the Schneider Electric Wiser is worth a good look.

Check it out on Amazon for $ 174.38.


Are there any major options that we missed? A lot of these thermostats have extremely similar features, so you’ll really have to consider the little additions that make one worth it over the other for you. Let us know in the comments below!

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The best HDTV antennas for watching free TV

free TV

Over the last few years we’ve seen a number of folks abandoning traditional cable packages in favor of digital streaming. The reasoning is simple – services like Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video give you more control over the content you are buying, and are often much cheaper too!

Of course, regular television still has benefits, such as watching it live. Now, most of us probably never use the majority of channels that come with cable subscriptions, but channels like ABC and CBS have vast amounts of quality programming. Even better, did you know you can get them for free? That’s right, free TV is possible even in 2017 — and all you need is a quality HDTV antenna to get it.

With that in mind, here is our round-up of the best HDTV antennas currently available.


Channel Master Flatenna

best HDTV antennas

The Flattena gets its name from its incredibly thin design and flexible nature, measuring at just 0.2 inches thin. You will be limited in terms of where you stick it because of its short, 6 ft., coax cable which is attached to the product. But this can be easily remedied by purchasing an extension. It boasts a range of 35 miles, and at just $ 10 it is the cheapest antenna on the list, but still performs quite admirably.


Mohu Leaf 50

best HDTV antennas

The Leaf is quite a bit more expensive than our first pick, but makes up for its premium price of $ 69.99 by boasting a range of 50 miles. The leaf uses a USB cable to prevent the antenna from pulling energy from the TV all the time — only when in use, thus saving energy. You also get RF filtering, which will make picture quality better. In comparison to the Flattena, the Leaf comes with a 16 ft. coax cable. All in all, this is easily one of the very best HDTV antennas on the market.


HD Frequency Cable Cutter Mini

best HDTV antennas

This one takes a departure from the flat panel, and instead is a rectangular frame with two smaller frames inside it. It comes with a 12 ft. coax cable and a 3M adhesive hook which will ensure that you don’t tear up the wall when removing it. The range is up to 35 miles, which should be good enough to get most of the important channels. The ability to use it indoor and outdoor is a bonus!


Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse

best HDTV antennas

Also coming in a distinct shape, the Eclipse is circular. It’s selling point is that it comes with a 20dB inline amplifier to help weak signals. Combined with the excellent 50 mile range, you should have no problem getting a good amount of channels. The antenna is also paintable so you can colour match it to furniture and walls. The antenna comes with a 12 ft. coax cable.


Channel Master Smartenna

best HDTV antennas

The Smartenna is a compact antenna that can be used both indoors and outdoors. Unlike the others, the Snartenna does not come with a coax cable, so you will need to purchase one separately. It does come with excellent range: ~35 miles indoors, and ~50 miles outdoors. It has a mount for use outdoors and rubber feet for tabletop use indoors. Despite its lacking a coax cable, it is still an excellent antenna!

So that’s it for our list of best HDTV antennas for watching free TV! As a standard disclaimer, mileage will vary with any antenna depending on where you put it. Natural obstructions, such as mountains, and urban impediments, such as the city and roofs, will often result in less than great performance. If you have an antenna that you have been using, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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5 random Alexa commands you probably didn’t know exist

If you own an Amazon Echo, Dot or Tap, you’re probably already aware of the basic Alexa voice commands you can ask your Echo. Finding out how cold it is outside and asking it simple questions you could just as easily Google is one thing, but there are plenty of fun Easter eggs, games, and skills that might make owning one of these connected speakers even more worth your while.

Instead of walking you through the hundreds and hundreds of voice commands you can ask Alexa, we’re going to focus on something a little more obscure today. Here are 5 random Alexa commands you probably didn’t know exist.

Don’t miss: Amazon Echo vs Dot vs Tap: Which one is right for you?

#1 – “Alexa, ask Capital One to pay my credit card bill.”

If you happen to bank with Capital One, you can ask Alexa all about your bank account using the Capital One skill. Once you enable the Capital One skill, you can easily track your spending, check the balance on your Venture card, and even pay your bill, all with your voice. Just say, “Alexa, ask Capital One, when is my payment due?” or “Alexa, ask Capital One, what’s my Venture card balance?”

To see this skill in action, check the video below:

To enable the Capital One skill, just open the Alexa app on your smartphone, tap Skills, then search for Capital One. Then, tap Enable, accept the Terms and Conditions, enter your Capital One username and password, and that’s it. You can now talk to Alexa about your Capital One account.

#2 – “Alexa, ask TrackR to find my phone.”

Smartphones are expensive, so you’d probably be pretty upset if yours went missing. Thankfully, with the help of Alexa and the TrackR skill, your phone won’t go missing for too long.

TrackR is a simple little trick that will definitely come in handy if you tend to “misplace” your smartphone. Once the skill is all set up, just say, “Alexa, tell TrackR to find my phone.” The TrackR service will kick in and make your phone ring, even if it’s on silent. Pretty cool, huh?

TrackR is a service that’s primarily known for its Bluetooth tags. The tags cost about $ 30 a pop and will track your keys, wallet or any other valuable item you may want to keep track of. If you can’t find your keys, for instance, just open the TrackR app on your phone to make them ring. Unfortunately Alexa isn’t compatible with these Bluetooth tags as of yet, but we’re hoping this functionality will be added in the future.

To set up TrackR with your Amazon Echo, you’ll first need to download the TrackR app from Google Play or the App Store. Once that’s done, enable the skill by saying, “Alexa, enable the Find My Phone skill.” Open the TrackR app, select Add new device, then choose Alexa integration. Once the TrackR app asks you for a pin, ask Alexa for your pin by saying, “Alexa, ask TrackR for my pin.” Enter your 6-digit pin in the TrackR app, and press Submit. Now you can use TrackR and Alexa to help find your phone.

#3 – “Alexa, ask WebMD to tell me about Amoxicillin.”

WebMD is a powerful service that’s used for a lot of things. It can help you figure out where that headache is coming from, what side effects are associated with your new antibiotics, or what steps you should take if someone breaks a bone. Now Alexa can harness the power of the health service, thanks to the new WebMD skill.

Once you enable the WebMD skill, you’ll be able to ask your Alexa-powered device basic health-related questions. For instance, you can say, “Alexa, ask WebMD how to treat a sore throat” or “Alexa, ask WebMD to tell me about Tylenol”. It’s worth noting that the skill is, in its current form, a very basic version of the WebMD service, though. You’ll still be able to get surface-level definitions and side effect information, but don’t expect to be able to go much deeper than that.

I asked Alexa to ask WebMD give me information about headaches, and she responded with a pretty long and detailed definition. She followed that up with “Would you like to hear more about this?”, I responded with “Yes”, and she sent a link about headaches to the Alexa app on my phone.

Ben Greenberg, WebMD’s vice president of mobile products, told The Verge that the WebMD/Alexa user experience will improve overtime. In the future, users may be asked follow-up questions to help pin down more specific ailments.

Enabling the WebMS skill is easy. Just head on over to this link, tap the Enable skill button, and that’s it.

#4 – “Alexa, tell me a bedtime story.”

If you have kids that have trouble falling asleep, this next voice command is for you.

With the Bedtime Story skill, Alexa can tell you or your kids a short, relaxing bedtime story, personalized to your name. Now, we’re not saying that this is a valid reason for you to not read to your kids in bed every night, but it is a fun way to bring technology into the mix.

Just say, “Alexa, enable the Bedtime Story skill”, and it’s as easy as that.

If you’re not interested in hearing random bedtime stories, you can link your Amazon Echo to your Audible account. This allows the voice assistant to read any books you may have saved in your Audible library.

To enable Audible integration, open your Alexa app on your smartphone, open the menu on the left (three horizontal lines), tap Music & Books, then scroll down and tap Audible. Make sure you’re signed in, and that’s it. Now Alexa will be able to read any audiobook you have stored in your library.

#5 – “Alexa, how many steps have I taken today?”

Odds are, if you own a fitness tracker, you probably own one that was made by Fitbit. If you also happen to own an Amazon Echo, Dot or Tap, you can easily ask Alexa to spout off all the stats recorded by your Fitbit.

Once the Fitbit skill is enabled (instructions below), you can say things like “Alexa, ask Fitbit how I slept last night”, “Alexa, ask Fitbit how far I’ve walked today”, or “Alexa, ask Fitbit what my resting heart rate is”. Most of the time, you’re probably just going to want to glance down at your Fitbit and check your results with, you know, your eyes. But in certain situations, asking a voice assistant how many steps you’ve taken might come in handy at times.

Also read: The best fitness trackers

What’s more, if you and someone else in your house own Fitbit devices, you can both use the Fitbit skill on your Alexa-powered speaker. As long as you have your accounts set up in your Amazon Household profile, just say “Alexa, switch accounts”. You can now access your Fitbit stats like you normally would.

To enable the Fitbit skill, open your Alexa app, tap the menu button (three horizontal lines) on the top-left of your screen, then tap Skills. Type the word Fitbit in the search box, then tap the first result that shows up. Tap Enable, login to your Fitbit account in the Alexa app, then tap Allow.

So there you have it, 5 useful Alexa voice commands that you may not have known existed. Have any other fun ones for us? Be sure to leave a comment below.

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Best Smart Hubs – Centralize Your Home Automation

Once you’ve got the smart home bug, you’ll quickly find yourself with a group of smart gadgets, and the logical next step is to figure out a way to tie them together. Otherwise, you’ll have to manage multiple apps and accessories to keep them all under control, and soon your convenience factor will go downhill.

So, if you want to keep that level of convenience, what do you do? You’re going to need some sort of smart hub that can control most, if not all, of them. Check out the list below for our list of the best smart hubs to get you started!


Samsung SmartThings

Smart Hubs | Samsung SmartThings

One of the most popular choices in smart hubs for your home is the Samsung SmartThings. SmartThings has been around for quite a while now, and there’s a few good reasons why. For starters, it’s a continually supported device that has seen a couple of hardware refreshes over time. Another reason is that Samsung is a brand that consumers trust, and at the end of the day, it’s a pretty great price point at just $ 99.

The Samsung SmartThings smart hub is very well designed, and it offers a solid range of first-party accessories to customize and enhance your smart home. Those first party accessories include water sensors, motion sensors, and general multi-purpose sensors that can be used to detect when doors are opened, as well as temperature increases in specific areas of your house.

The Samsung SmartThings smart hub works with all of the major protocols, including Bluetooth, WiFi, ZigBee and Z-Wave, and though some people have criticized the app for being a bit cumbersome when it comes to setting up your various devices for the first time, overall, it’s a very intuitive means of tying together a slew of sensors and devices. For the price point and the quality that you can get with the Samsung SmartThings smart hub, this is a no-brainer starting point if you’re ready to take your smart home up a notch.


Vera Control VeraPlus

Best Smart Hubs | VeraPlus Controller

The VeraPlus smart hub isn’t as well-known as the Samsung SmartThings hub or the Wink Hub 2, but this is a very robust platform, not for the faint of heart. You’ll notice this device is on the higher end of our list when it comes to price at $ 140, but that boils down to the immense compatibility that it offers. Vera claims that the VeraPlus smart hub is compatible with over 2,000 devices, and you can have up to 220 unique devices connected to the smart hub at one time. That’s substantially more smart devices than the average person will ever have in their home.

Like the other smart hubs on this list, the VeraPlus smart hub supports the major protocols, including ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth and WiFi. However, the VeraPlus is edged out by the more affordably-priced Wink Hub 2 when it comes to the number of supported protocols. When it comes to managing the devices that are connected to your smart hub, Vera offers a seamless user experience across multiple platforms including iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps, as well as browser access.

At the end of the day, this is a powerful smart hub, but for the average consumer, you may be just as well going with one of the more affordable options.


Wink Hub 2

Best Smart Hubs | Wink Hub 2

Wink Hub is another smart hub that has been around for a good while. Wink’s latest iteration of its smart hub, the Wink Hub 2, brings along an impressive vertical stand design that can be tucked away on a bookshelf or entertainment center, or, if you want to flaunt your geekiness with pride, you can display right on the counter, front and center. At a price of $ 79.95, this is the most affordable smart hub on the list. But, don’t let that price point fool you. Outside of the sleek, modern design, the Wink Hub 2 is known for its lengthy list of supported protocols. These include Bluetooth, WiFi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Kidde and Lutron Clear Connect. The more supported protocols, the more devices you’re able to connect.

Another benefit here is Wink’s app. Like Samsung’s app, it can be a tedious process pairing specific devices manually. However, Wink’s app comes pre-loaded with a barcode scanner that allows you to (as you might imagine) scan some products’ bar codes in order to get them paired up almost instantly. Yay for convenience! If you really want to impress your friends, and you also happen to own an Amazon Echo, the two are able to work together to control devices around your house. Unfortunately, the Wink Hub 2 is not compatible with Apple’s HomeKit. Though this is the most affordable option on our list, it is also one of the most capable. If you want a solid smart hub on a budget, this one’s for you.


An alternative to hubs: Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomePod

Best Smart Hubs | Google Home

Ok, so this final section consists of products that aren’t what we would typically refer to as smart hubs. However, as technology advances, and more and more features are added, these devices draw closer to that product distinction.

Amazon Echo was the first to market in the realm of connected speakers/home assistants, and the device continues to evolve and meet more and more demand. Of course, the voice assistant aspect of the Echo is Alexa, and she (it?) has evolved significantly in terms of the capability to control devices in your home.

Further reading: Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Tap – which is right for you?

Google Home was the second mass market smart speaker/home assistant. For users that are already enveloped in the Google ecosystem, Google Home was almost a no-brainer to get started with smart devices. This one doesn’t have quite the level of third-party developer support at this time, but it’s steadily adding new features to enhance its capability.

Further reading: Google Home review

Finally, Apple’s recently-announced smart speaker, Home Pod will soon be hitting shelves. We don’t have all the details on what Home Pod will be able to do at this point, but it will surely have Apple HomeKit support, enabling to it to control some supported devices in your home.

Further reading: Apple HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo

At this time, tying these devices to existing hardware in your home can really unlock the potential of your smart home system. Amazon Echo and Google Home both have the potential to integrate with a number of smart home accessories and even hubs. For example, Amazon Echo can integrate with both the Samsung SmartThings Hub and the Wink Hub 2. Doing so will give you the ability to control your home with your voice, where previously you would have to open up an app and touch your commands.

Outside of hubs, Alexa can also integrate directly with Philips Hue bulbs, the August smart lock, and Nest thermostat – and that’s just scratching the surface. Google Home, on the other hand, can also integrate with Samsung SmartThings and the Wink Hub 2. Google Home doesn’t support quite as many smart devices at this time, but if you’re interested, you can tie in devices like Philips Hue, Nest, and even Rachio Sprinklers. Who doesn’t like voice-controlled sprinklers?

Wrap Up

Whether it’s locks, lights, thermostats or outlets, it’s definitely convenient to have one central point to manage all of your smart home devices. This list of smart hubs should give a number of options to think about. All of them will benefit you in some way, but it comes down to preference as well as which devices you’re trying to connect. Did we miss your favorite smart hub? Let us know in the comments below!

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Best Robotic Vacuums – Convenience at Its Finest

Best Robotic Vacuums | Neato Botvac D3 Connected vacuum

When thinking about smart home devices, your mind doesn’t likely go to vacuum cleaners. However, in today’s age, everything is getting the smart treatment, and vacuum cleaners are no exception. Smart vacuums – better known as robotic vacuums – are not a new thing, but here recently, they’ve become a bit more advanced, fitting nicely into the ecosystem of smart devices, and they are a huge win in terms of convenience.

If you’re looking to pick up a cool new gadget that makes cleaning a bit easier than going ‘old school’, check out this list of the best robotic vacuums. Keep in mind, as is true with most smart home accessories, you get what you pay for. We’ve segmented the list into two sections – the best and the budget.


The Best

Best Robotic Vacuums | Roomba 690 vacuum

Roomba 690

[Price: $ 374]

First up on our list of the best robotic vacuums is the Roomba 690. A very new addition to the lineup up of Roombas, the 690 brings a range of functionality that is sure to delight. Let’s get to the fun stuff straight out of the gate. The Roomba 690 has Amazon Echo and Google Home compatibility. So, you can give the vacuum voice commands when you want it to begin cleaning, or when you want to call it a day and have it return to its dock for charging. I can’t think of many better ways to use your Amazon Echo or Google Home

Speaking of charging docks, the Roomba 690, like many of the best robotic vacuums will automatically return to its dock for charging when the battery gets low. iRobot claims that the Roomba 690 will run for 60 minutes before needing to return home, so that should cover a fairly large area. However, that’s not quite as long as some of the competitors. As you might expect in a robotic vacuum of this caliber, the 690 will adjust to all floor types to get the job done, including carpet, hardwood, tile, and laminate. And, as an added bonus, you can program your Roomba to stick to a cleaning schedule so it does a little touch-up every day. Just don’t forget to empty the basin.


Best Robotic Vacuums | Roomba 960 vacuum

Roomba 960

[Price: $ 599]

Stepping it up just a bit in iRobot’s Roomba lineup, we have the Roomba 960. In this robotic vacuum, you’ll find very similar features to the lower models. What’s different you ask? In addition to the acoustic sensors that can be found in the 690 and 860 models, you’ll find the addition of an optical sensor. Basically, the 960 will be a little bit more efficient when it comes to locating areas of concentrated dirt and spending more time in those areas.

Outside of the new set of eyes, the 960 officially supports multi-room navigation. The multitude of onboard sensors makes it easier for the vacuum to navigate around obstacles – essentially it’s more comfortable going through doorways and keeping track of where it is in your home so it can still return to the charging dock when needed. The battery life gets a little bump here as well, adding 15 more minutes from the lower models, reaching up to 75 mins. For the extra $ 230 you also get an upgraded motor, more efficient brushless rollers, a 5x more powerful air system, and a smarter dirt bin that sends notifications to the Roomba app when it’s time be emptied. The extra money seems quite worth it.


Best Robotic Vacuums | Sasmung Powerbot Vacuum

Samsung Powerbot R7040

[Price: $ 399]

Stepping outside of the iRobot Roomba world, we have the Samsung Powerbot R7040. At a mid-range price of $ 399, the Powerbot R7040 has a battery that’s rated for 60 mins of run time. Like the Roomba 690, that should get you pretty decent coverage depending on the amount of furniture you have that the robotic vacuum cleaner will need to maneuver around, and if it gets low, the R7040 will automatically return to its charging dock. Samsung’s vacuum is also capable of cleaning all floor types, automatically detecting the type of surface it’s on. The device has large under-mounted wheels that help it transition smoothly from hard surfaces to something like a rug.

Samsung’s robotic vacuum has “visionary mapping” and a “full view sensor” to map out the layout of the room that it’s in. That’s fancy marketing jargon for “it won’t bump into stuff and it won’t fall off of stuff.” In total, the vacuum has 9 sensors. That’s enough to make you feel confident with the little guy roaming around your house. Unlike some of the others on this list, the Samsung Powerbot has a flat front edge. It doesn’t look quite as slick, but it makes the device much more practical in the sense that it can get into corners that other robotic vacuums would not.

Finally, for those of you who like the idea of barking commands at your robot, the Powerbot R7040 can be controlled with Amazon Echo, but it does require that you also have a Samsung SmartThings hub.


Best Robotic Vacuums | Neato Botvac D3 Connected vacuum

Neato Botvac D3 Connected

[Price: $ 348]

The Neato Botvac D3 Connected is another one of the best robotic vacuums – fitting a fair amount of features into a price that is still relatively affordable. Personally, this my favorite looking robotic vacuum on this list. It’s very sleek and almost looks like a stealth vehicle of some kind. Besides its good looks, the Botvac D3 has many of the same capabilities as others on this list. It has a 60-minute battery run time, it automatically docks and charges, and it connects to WiFi to be controlled by Amazon Alexa and Google Home. The Botvac D3 connected can also be controlled with the Neato app which will inform you when the vacuum gets stuck, when the battery is low and when cleaning is finished.

As with the other devices in this price range, the Botvac works on all floor types, and it also has a flat front edge like the Samsung Powerot to help get into those tricky corners. Unfortunately, unlike its bigger siblings in the Botvac lineup, the D3 Connected does not have side brushes to sweep dirt away from walls and into the line of the vacuum. Overall, this is a very slick device that packs in solid features for a little bit of better price than the Roombas and Samsung’s Powerbot.


The Budget crowd

Best Robotic Vacuums | iLife A4 Robot vacuum

iLife A4 Robot

[Price: $ 207]

If you’re looking to get into the world of robotic vacuum cleaners and add to your overall smart home ecosystem, you might start to look for a few options that aren’t quite as expensive as the first few on our list. The iLife A4 Robot vacuum might just be what you’re looking for. At only $ 207 (relatively affordable in this segment) you will miss out on a couple of features, but overall this is still a solid option to get you started. Like the other vacuums, the iLife A4 Robot vacuum will automatically adjust depending on what floor surface it is on. A small but useful addition of side brushes can found here as well to help draw some of the dirt and dust away from the edges of the room and into the path of the vacuum.

With a lower price point, you will, unfortunately, sacrifice internet connectivity with the iLife A4 Robot vacuum cleaner. Your control options to get the vacuum started, stopped and scheduled are limited to using the included remote, and you also won’t be able to activate the vacuum with Amazon Echo or Google Home. If you can stomach the lack of internet connectivity, however, you’ll find the battery life in this device to actually far surpass that of others in the category. Whereas some of the $ 600 and up vacuums will only get you 60-75 minutes of run time, you’re looking at up to 120 mins with A4 in optimal situations. That’s quite impressive considering the vacuum will also automatically dock and charge itself.


Best Robotic Vacuums | Monoprice Strata Home Cadet vacuum

Monoprice Strata Home Cadet

[Price: $ 110]

If even the iLife A4 Robot vacuum is a bit out of your price range, maybe you’ll consider the Monoprice Strata Home Cadet. The most affordable robotic vacuum cleaner on our list at only $ 110, the Monoprice Strata can still get the job done while obviously sacrificing additional features. Like the iLife A4, Monoprice’s vacuum also does not have internet connectivity. In addition to that, the Home Cadet does not include a remote. To get the vacuum started you simply push the power button on the top. Sure, you could say “ease of use” is a plus, but you might miss being able to schedule cleanings and never having to push a button at all.

Even though you can’t command your vacuum to start with your voice or with an app, the Home Cadet still offers decent cleaning power with its 10-watt motor, while also sensing the type of floor it’s cleaning and adjusting accordingly. Like all of the others on this list, you will find all the sensors necessary for the Home Cadet not to bump into furniture, walls or fall down stairs. One thing you want to make sure to note on this one. The Monoprice Strata Home Cadet is the only vacuum on this list that does not automatically return to a docking station to charge. In fact, the Monoprice does not include a charging dock at all. Yes, you actually have to plug this vacuum in for it to charge.


Wrap Up

Let’s call it like it is. There’s a lot of feature parity when it comes to robotic vacuums. Just by looking at the devices on this list alone, you can see a common theme amongst most vacuums. All of them adjust to the flooring type automatically, nearly all of the return to their charging docks automatically, and they all share a pretty similar product design. What it comes down to is the level of importance you place on things like internet connectivity, integration with other smart devices, battery run time, voice control, and other features like optical sensors.

If you ask me, if you’ve decided to ditch the stand-up vacuum, you might as well take the plunge and go for one of the more expensive, feature-rich devices like the Roomba 690. I mean, really – who doesn’t want to activate their vacuum with voice commands? That’s just awesome.

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