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UK police fail to use facial recognition ethically and legally, study finds

Use of live facial recognition (LFR) by UK police forces "fail[s] to meet the minimum ethical and legal standards," according to a study from the University of Cambridge. After analyzing LFR use by the Metropolitan (Met) and South Wales police, researchers concluded that the technology should be banned for use in "all public spaces."

LFR pairs faces captured by security cameras to database photos to find matches. China and other non-democratic regimes have used the technology to as part of their state surveillance tools.  

UK police have been testing its use in multiple situations to fight crime and terrorism. In two cases, LFR was used by MET and South Wales police to scan crowds and compare faces to those on a criminal “watch list." In another, officers used FRT smartphone apps to scan crowds and identify "wanted individuals in real time," according to the paper.

In those cases, the team found that police "kept from view" information about how they use the data and information about demographics. That has in turn made it difficult to determine whether the tools are promoting racial profiling, while raising questions about accountability. "Police forces are not necessarily answerable or held responsible for harms caused by facial recognition technology," said lead author Evani Radiya-Dixit.

The Met has claimed that the latest algorithms have improved LRF accuracy, with false alerts less than .08 percent, according to The Guardian. They boasted of a 70 percent success rate up to 2020, but an expert from the University of Essex hired by the police force found it was actually just 19 percent. "That the court of appeal explicitly stated in 2020 that South Wales police use of this technology was 'unlawful' makes it difficult to argue this technology should be used," he said.

However, the Met said its work was supported by law. "LFR is regulated by a number of sources of law. These sources of law combine to provide a multilayered legal structure to use, regulate and oversee the use of LFR by law enforcement bodies," it told The Guardian. UK's parliament has yet to weigh in, even though it's created legislation around internet privacy.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/uk-police-fail-to-use-facial-recognition-ethically-and-legally-researchers-say-082039619.html?src=rss

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The Morning After: Elon Musk wants Twitter users to pay for verification

Twitter started verifying public figures to prevent scammers from distributing fake news. New owner Elon Musk, however, thinks the blue check is just a status symbol, and one people should pay for. The platform’s new owner has reportedly decided users will need to sign up for Twitter Blue to maintain verification, which will increase to $20 a month. It’s also reported Musk has given Twitter employees until November 7th to implement the changes, or he’ll start firing people.

I’m sure the blue check is, for some, little more than a bragging right, but it’s also Twitter’s fix to a fairly knotty problem. Back in the day, it was easy enough to create an account posing as a respected newswire to pump out fake stock information. The speed of Twitter’s platform means people can retweet something controversial about a stock price to their followers before they’ve clocked it came from @WellStreetJourral. Although, given Twitter’s new owner was responsible for the Funding Secured tweet, maybe that’s just allowed now.

– Dan Cooper

The biggest stories you might have missed

Apple's M2 MacBook Pros could arrive next March

The 14- and 16-inch variants have been delayed.

If you were hoping to snag a 14- or -16-inch M2 MacBook Pro before the holiday season, brace yourself. A new report suggests while Apple had planned to launch the high-end machines this fall, the company has kicked things back. Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman now believes we won’t see those models until March at the earliest. Hopefully, nobody is losing too much sleep over it, especially given just how much power the existing models are still throwing around.

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Netflix renews 'The Witcher,' recasts Liam Hemsworth as Geralt of Rivia

In Hollywood, all square-jawed hunks are replaceable.

Netflix’s popular adaptation of The Witcher is getting a fourth season, but without the star power of its original leading man. Henry Cavill, who played Geralt of Rivia for the show’s first three seasons, is (reportedly) freeing up his schedule to once again play Superman. Taking his place on the show is Liam Hemsworth, the youngest member of the Hemsworth acting clan, with a jaw that’s only marginally less square than his predecessor.

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured an image of the sun ‘smiling’

A Happy Little Sun, there.

If Bob Ross were alive today, this is the sort of news that, I’m sure, would put a big ol’ smile on his big ol’ face. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has captured an image of the sun where it looks like it’s smiling. The cause of this is little more than the coincidental clustering of coronal holes, but it’s sufficiently cute that we imagine it’ll be everyone’s desktop background for the next month at least.

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Article source: https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-elon-musk-wants-you-to-pay-for-verification-111547920.html?src=rss

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Meta Quest Pro review: A next-gen headset for the VR faithful

Currently, few things make people's eyes roll harder than the metaverse. As someone who grew up reading sci-fi novels and dreaming about what virtual worlds might look like in the future, that's kind of sad, but I get it. Mark Zuckerberg is so thirsty to make those dreams a reality that he’s betting billions of dollars and the survival of his company on the metaverse being The Next Big Thing. Meanwhile, the average person is still wondering what the point of having a VR headset really is, aside from maybe smashing some polygons in Superhot or Beat Saber.

However, even though it feels like VR headsets have been around forever, we're still very much in the early days of virtual reality. It was only a couple of years ago when the company previously known as Facebook brought VR to the masses with the Quest 2. And now with the Quest Pro, Meta is trying to foster a new baseline level of tech designed to make digital worlds feel more lifelike, intuitive and immersive. And honestly, I think Meta has done it, because while its $1,500 price is hard to justify, it’s easy to see the potential of what this hardware can support.

Hardware and optics

Packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ chip, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, the Quest Pro delivers 50 percent more performance than the Quest 2, according to Meta. However, the real challenge in designing this headset was blending its standalone design with something that's simple and comfortable to wear, and I think Meta has struck an almost ideal balance.

By switching to new pancake lenses, the company was able to reduce the thickness of the headset while still delivering a relatively high resolution of 1,800 x 1,920 pixels per eye. For comparison, that's higher than what you get from the Valve Index (1,440 x 1,600 per eye) but a bit less than the Vive Pro 2 (2,448 × 2,448 per eye). Though topping out with a 90Hz refresh rate, the Quest Pro’s visuals aren’t quite as fast as most of its high-end PC-based rivals. For me, that hasn't been a huge deal, as graphics and gameplay have been smooth and stutter-free. But I should mention I've never really had problems with VR-related motion sickness, so your experience may vary.

My one nitpick is that I wish the Quest Pro's 96-degree vertical field of view was a little bit taller. I've found that due to the headset's visor-like design and its FOV, you tend to always have a bit of the real world peeking in across the bottom of your eye line. Thankfully, its 106-degree horizontal FOV is pretty much as good or better than all of its rivals except for the Vive Pro 2's 116 degrees.

Elsewhere, the Quest Pro features 10 sensors on the interior and exterior of the device. The five outward-facing cameras support full-color passthrough, hand-tracking and stuff like scene understanding without the need for additional external sensors. Meanwhile, the five inward-facing sensors track eyes and face movements for features like foveated rendering and enhanced avatar animations, but more on that later.

Design and fit

To balance the trade-off between power and fit, Meta cleverly used a curved battery built into the back of the headset, so there's no need for wires or a belt-mounted power cell. And when combined with a soft forehead cushion and a handy dial for adjusting the headband, you get a headset that's extremely easy to put on and wear. Further adjustments are provided via a small dial in front that changes lens distance, while IPD (interpupillary distance) adjustment is handled by simply moving each eyepiece left and right as needed. All told, it's an incredibly straightforward setup, and thanks to the Quest Pro's fit calibration feature, the headset can remind you to adjust your settings if it notices things aren't quite right. And when it comes to sound, you get speakers that support spatial audio built into the arms of the headset, though if you prefer to use your own headphones, there’s a 3.5mm jack too.

That said, even with all the attention Meta paid toward creating a comfortable and balanced headset, the Quest Pro's heft can still be a bit of an issue. If you're hopping in and out of VR, you might not notice much. But with a weight of just over a pound and a half, in longer sessions, I noticed my forehead sometimes got a bit sore. Usually fiddling around with how the Quest Pro sat on my head was enough to relieve excess pressure. But I also wouldn't be surprised if this setup gave some people a low-grade headache during extended use. And I'd also be remiss not to mention the sweat factor, as the leather forehead pad can get damp depending on your activity, and sometimes I wonder if having active cooling on a VR headset is what we need. Heck, developers could even use fans to mimic a breeze in a game or movie, which could be kind of nice.


The other big part of the headset's kit is the new Touch Pro Controllers. Meta is using the same basic design as what we got on the Quest 2. The big difference this time is that instead of relying on a big light ring with LEDs, the controllers now have their own built-in sensors for both hand and finger tracking. Not only does this help streamline their design, but I also found a noticeable upgrade in accuracy and responsiveness.

The controllers also have much-improved haptics that adds an extra level of immersion, especially in apps where you can flip the controllers over to use as a stylus. For example in Painting VR, brushes use a variety of rumbles and vibrations to convey a sense of size and weight. The overall effect feels much like HD Rumble on the Nintendo Switch's Joy-Con, but with even better fidelity for force feedback.

I also appreciate the controller’s subtly textured rubberized grips that make things feel secure even in the heat of virtual battle. However, I kind of miss the hand straps Valve uses on the Index controllers which allow you to quickly switch between buttons and finger or hand gestures without needing to set the controllers down.

General performance and apps

Of course the real magic happens when hardware meets software, and at least out of the gate, the Quest Pro offers some pretty impressive performance. The headset’s optics are sharp while eliminating nearly any hint of the screen door effect. Text is also very legible and I had no trouble writing part of this review in VR. Next, when my colleague Cherlynn Low visited my virtual office in Horizon Workrooms, I think the combination of Quest Pro’s eye and facial tracking to deliver more lifelike expressions on my avatar might have been convincing enough to get her to spend more time in VR. And on my end, support for spatial audio makes working in VR feel less like floating in a simulation and more like actually working in an office with someone else.So even though Cherlynn was sick that day, we were able to collaborate without me risking catching what she had, and it felt kind of heartwarming in a weird, nerdy way.

On top of that, a lot of tent-pole features like Meta's scene understanding just kind of work, at least most of the time. I found that the Quest Pro was pretty good at automatically detecting the position of floors and walls, so I didn't have to constantly redraw the boundaries for my room-scale guardian. It even automatically detected some objects like my desk (and remembered them in subsequent sessions), which makes it easier to set up a virtual workspace that mimics what I have IRL. Though I did notice in rooms that were more cluttered, things didn't always work quite as smoothly.

The Quest Pro's full-color passthrough is also really impressive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not as good as using your eyes to navigate meatspace. But it's more than accurate enough to let me walk from room to room to grab a glass of water without taking off the Quest Pro or bumping into anything.

In apps like Cubism, I had a blast positioning blocks to solve puzzles in three dimensions and in I Expect you to Die I got to live out my childhood fantasy of being a secret agent. And in Tribe XR, I was able to enjoy the basics of mixing and beat-matching while using the same equipment pro DJs use, at least virtually. The improved three-window multitasking in the Quest Pro’s desktop mode even makes it easier to switch between apps and stay connected while you're in VR. Or, well, it would be if there was a wider availability of 2D apps.

And that kind of brings me to the big issue with the Quest Pro: there just aren't a lot of optimized apps that really take advantage of its upgraded capabilities. For traditional 2D apps, while important stuff like Slack is supposedly on the way, there isn't even support for messaging software like WhatsApp. So if you're like me and aren't a frequent user of Instagram or Facebook Messenger, things can still feel a bit disconnected.

But perhaps the more telling thing is currently how few apps there are in the Quest Pro section of the store. Titles like Nanome, which lets you view molecules in VR are really neat and interesting, but rather niche. I don't know about you, but I don’t really spend a ton of time staring at various compounds and conformations in my free time – and I was a bio major in college.

This is sort of to be expected, as it's going to take a while for developers to take advantage of the Quest Pro's new features. This headset kind of feels like the Nintendo Switch at launch but without a tentpole game or app like Breath of the Wild to pair with it. Sure, you can go back and enjoy all the old Quest apps, as the Pro is fully backward compatible with existing software. But when you're spending $1,500 on a VR headset, you kind of want something you can lose yourself in for the next month or more.

My other gripe is that, while a lot of the big-ticket features work surprisingly well, a lot of the finer details seem half-baked. For example, it took almost an hour for Cherlynn to successfully visit my office in Horizon Workrooms. Because this is VR, you can't just send a link to a meeting like you would in Zoom, which meant she had to bounce back and forth between her headset, phone and laptop just to find where to accept my invite. And when I wanted to upload an image to pin on my virtual whiteboard, first I had to go back to my fake chair at my fake desk just to upload something, before needing to move back to the whiteboard again to post it. That's just convoluted, and that’s even with my having already set up Meta’s Remote Desktop app. And while Meta says it's working on it, there are other little frustrations like being limited to a single virtual desktop (which you can’t even move by the way, at least not right now) when connected to a Windows PC while Mac users get three.

Charging and accessories

While Meta doesn't provide official battery life claims for the Quest Pro, I've found that you're looking at between two and a half and three and a half hours on a charge, depending on the use case. This is typically longer than I want to be in VR in a single sitting, but if you need to be jacked in for extended periods, the Quest Pro also comes with a six-foot USB-C cable you can use to keep it running.

Other bundled accessories include a protective silicone cover and two light blockers that attach magnetically to the side of the headset, which helps cut down on potential distractions from the physical realm. But if you really want that complete VR-dive experience, you'll have to shell out $50 for Meta's Full Light Blocker. Or you opt for the low-tech solution and just move to a dark room. You also get two Quest Touch Pro controllers along with two wrist straps and stylus nibs that can be attached to the bottom of the gamepads to suit your needs.

When it comes to keeping everything juiced up, there's a really handy wireless charging dock that holds both the headset and the controllers. Admittedly, getting the controllers to sit properly in the dock is a bit tricky at first. But the secret is holding them as if you're using them, before twisting your wrists inwards and then dropping them on the dock. If you did it right, you'll feel a little rumble and see the tiny indicator lights fire up. There's also a dedicated cable for charging the controllers, but you only get one. So if you're traveling with the Quest Pro and you leave the dock at home, you'll need to charge the controllers one at a time.


Look, trying to review a next-gen VR headset feels kind of like evaluating a Mars colony based on the spaceship that takes you there: Ultimately the Quest Pro is a vessel to experience fancy new software that doesn’t exist yet. And right now, there just aren't enough apps to really say if that colony is a utopia or Autobot city after Megatron attacks – burned down and wasted.

But if we can ignore that issue for a minute, at least on a hardware level, there's a lot to like about the Quest Pro. It offers similar or, in some situations, better performance than other high-end consumer headsets — all without the need for wires or a beefy PC. You can switch between controllers and hand gestures at a whim, while the plethora of sensors makes the headset a really great standalone device. You get sharp visuals, a streamlined design and surprisingly good battery life — not to mention a really handy charging dock.

But for now, we're going to have to wait for the headset’s software and experiences to catch up, which is a lot to ask when it costs this much to strap on the goggles. Purchasing a Quest Pro, at least for now, is something you do on faith, because you believe in the promise of VR and where it might go in the not-too-distant future. So while the Quest 2 can handle basic VR, the Quest Pro adds power and finesse in a way that could unlock how people explore virtual worlds. The tech is there but are you willing to fork over big money to try it?

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/meta-quest-pro-review-a-next-gen-headset-for-the-vr-faithful-specs-price-130045313.html?src=rss

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The best robot vacuums for 2022

Robot vacuums have come a long way over the past few years. They’re smarter, more powerful and (marginally) better at avoiding chair legs than they ever were before, and you don’t have to shell out as much money to get one either. There are also many more robo-vacs available now than there once were, so deciding which to buy isn’t as simple as choosing the latest model from the biggest brand. We tested out many of the newest robot vacuums available now to see how they stack up against each other.

Engadget's picks

Are robot vacuums worth it?

We tackled this question in our budget robot vacuum guide and the answer is yes, especially if vacuuming is one of your least favorite chores. Robots take the hard work out of cleaning your floors – just turn the thing on and watch it go. Any robot vacuum worth buying is semi-autonomous in that it will suck up dirt around your home until its battery is low and then make its way back to its charging dock. You should only have to interact with it to turn it on, empty its dustbin and untangle it if it were to get stuck somewhere.

That’s not to say robot vacuums are perfect. They’re almost always less powerful and less flexible than standard vacuums. Since most robo-vacs are much smaller than traditional models, they often don’t have the same level of suction you’ll get in an upright machine. Plus, their dustbins are smaller, so they will need to be emptied more frequently. While WiFi-connected robot vacuums give you the flexibility to start a cleaning job from anywhere using an app, targeting a small area of your home can be more complicated. Some robo-vacs have spot-cleaning features that focus the machine’s attention on a specific area, which almost – but not quite – mimics the spot-cleaning you’d be able to do yourself with a regular vacuum.

What to look for in a robot vacuum

As we explained in our budget guide, WiFi is a key feature for most robot vacuums. Some of the cheapest devices aren’t WiFi connected, though, so if you’re looking at the most affordable devices, it’s best to check for that feature before you buy. WiFi connectivity allows a robot vacuum to do things like communicate with a mobile app, which then allows you to control the device from your phone.

Suction power is another important factor to consider. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard power scale that all robo-vacs adhere to, so it’s difficult to compare suction power among a bunch of devices. Some companies provide Pascal (Pa) levels and generally the higher the Pa, the stronger the vacuum will be. But other companies don’t rely on Pa levels and simply say their robots have X-times more suction than other robots.

Ultimately, we recommend thinking first about the floors in your home: Do you have carpet throughout, or tile and hardwood, or a mix? Robots with stronger suction power will do a better job cleaning carpets as they can get into the nooks and crannies more easily. Some machines have “max” modes as well, which ups the suction power but also typically eats at battery life faster than the “normal” cleaning mode.

Past a certain price threshold, you’ll find advanced features like home mapping, improved object detection and automatic dustbin disposal. Home mapping is exactly what it sounds like: The vacuum uses sensors to map your home’s layout as it cleans, allowing you to send it to particular rooms or areas in later cleaning jobs. Most robo-vacs have some version of object detection, but some will be better than others at actually avoiding things like chair legs and children’s toys. Some, like iRobot’s j7 series, even go so far as to promise to avoid things like pet poop that can potentially ruin your machine.

Finally, for peak convenience, consider a robot vacuum that comes with a clean base. These are basically garbage bins that are attached to the machine’s charging base. At the end of each job, the robo-vac automatically empties its small dustbin into the large clean base – that means you won’t have to empty the dustbin yourself and you’ll only have to tend to the base once every few weeks. Just keep in mind that most clean bases require proprietary garbage bags – another long-term expense you’ll have to factor into the cost of owning one of these devices.

Best mid-range robot vacuum: Shark AI Robot Vacuum with Base

Shark’s $650 RV2502AE AI robot vacuum with Base ticks all of the boxes that a mid-range machine should. It offers reliable performance, its mobile app is easy to use and it produces accurate home maps. On top of that, its base is bagless, which means you won’t have to spend money every few months on garbage bags for your robot vacuum.

Buy Shark RV2502AE with base at Amazon - $650

Setting up the Shark is as simple as taking it and its base out of the box, plugging the base in and downloading the companion mobile app to finish things up. The machine connects to WiFi, allowing you to control it via the app when you’re not at home, or using Google Assistant and Alexa voice commands. The first journey the Shark makes is an “Explore Run,” during which it produces a map of your home that you can then edit from the mobile app.

The Shark produced a pretty accurate floorplan of my two-bedroom apartment, and I was happy to see a “re-explore” option that I could use if the map wasn’t up to my standards. With a completed map, you’re then asked to label rooms in your home. That way, you can send the Shark to only the bedroom for more direct cleaning jobs, select “no-go” zones and more.

The first few times I ran the Shark robot, I had it clean my whole apartment. I was impressed by how quiet it was – or rather, how much quieter it was compared to other robo-vacs I’ve tried. You’ll have to turn up the volume on your TV if it’s cleaning in the same room, but it’ll be hard to hear when it’s sucking up debris down the hallway. It also did a decent job maneuvering its way around the cat toys I left out on the floor. The device’s object detection feature claims it can avoid things as small as four inches, but I found that it was much better at sensing and moving around the three-foot-long cat tunnel on my floor than the many tiny mouse toys.

But even if Mr. Mouse caught the edge of the Shark’s wheels now and then, the robo-vac took it all in stride. One thing I look for when testing robot vacuums is how much attention they need from me during cleanings. The best ones require no extra attention at all – once they start a job, they’re smart enough to putter around your home, move around objects and return to their base when they’re finished. With Shark’s robo-vac, I never had to tend to it when it was cleaning. Now, I did my due diligence and picked up pieces of clothing and charging cables off the ground before running the Shark (ditto for every other robot vacuum I tested), so those things were never in the way. Most companion apps will actually remind you to do this before starting a cleaning job.

This Shark machine comes with a clean base, so it will empty its dustin after every job – and also during a job if its bin gets full before it’s done. In the latter situation, the Shark will go back to cleaning automatically after it’s freed up its bin. That’s a great feature, but I found the best thing about the base to be its bagless design. Shark’s device is unlike most other robot vacuum clean bases because you don’t have to keep buying proprietary garbage bags to outfit the interior of the base. When you want to empty the base, part of it snaps off and opens to eject debris, and it easily locks back in place when you return it. Not only is this quite convenient, but it also brings the lifetime cost of ownership down since you won’t be buying special bags every few months.

Its worth noting that Shark has a couple of models that are similar to the RV2502AE that just have a different color scheme, a 30- versus 60-day clean base capacity and other minor differences. The biggest feature that would impact how you use the machine is the clean base capacity: we recommend springing for the 60-day models if you want to interact as little as possible with your robo-vac.

Runner up: Roomba j7

Not much has changed since Amazon bought iRobot a few months back – the Roomba j7 remains a great option if you want the latest obstacle avoidance technology from the company in an attractive package. The $600 j7 doesn’t come with a clean base, but you can get the same vacuum with one for $200 extra.

Buy Roomba j7 at Amazon - $600

The biggest selling point of the Roomba j7 series is its upgraded AI-driven computer vision which helps it detect and move around objects. This includes pet poop – a robot vacuum’s arch nemesis – and iRobot even promises that it will replace your j7 machine if it runs into pet poop within the first year of ownership.

That’s one feature I was happy I never got to test, as my cat kept all of her activity to her litter box. Otherwise, the Roomba j7 did a good job sucking up dirt and debris around my apartment and it didn’t make too much noise while doing so. All of the robo-vacs I tested at this mid-range level had roughly the same level of suction, so there wasn’t a big difference between them when it came to cleaning power.

Like other robot vacuums, you can set cleaning schedules in the iRobot mobile app so you never have to start a cleaning job on the fly. The app also has a “favorites” section, which lets you create profiles that you’ll use all the time like “clean the living room and the entryway.” And if you prefer to use voice commands, the robot supports Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant.

The Roomba j7 has Imprint Smart Mapping, but unlike the Shark, it took more than one runthrough of my home for it to create a complete map. iRobot’s app distinguishes between a regular cleaning job and a “mapping run,” so make sure you’re choosing the latter the first few times you run the machine.

I tested the j7+, which means I was treated to the roaring sounds of the machine emptying its dustbin into its clean base. The emptying process isn’t as simple as an automatically opening flat that shakes dirt from one garbage can to another – the base actually sucks the dirt from vacuum. This was the case for all of the machines I tried that came with clean bases; they’re all quite loud, but the Roomba j7+ was the loudest of them all. The whooshing sounds last for only five to 10 seconds, but it was shocking the first time it happened. Just keep that in mind if you ever decide to run the robot at night when others are sleeping.

Honorable mention: Anker Eufy RoboVac X8 Hybrid

You may be unfamiliar with Anker’s robot vacuums, but they’re often more affordable alternatives to the iRobots and Sharks of the world. The $649 Eufy RoboVac X8 Hybrid isn’t a budget machine by any means, but it’s a solid robot vacuum that offers a few key features that many competitors don’t have. Plus, you can often find it on sale for $549 or even $449.

Buy Eufy RoboVac X8 Hybrid at Amazon - $650

Unlike our other midrange picks, the X8 Hybrid doesn’t come with a clean base, nor is there one you can purchase separately. It’s just a standalone robot vacuum, but the “hybrid” indicates that it’s also a mop. It has both a dustbin for collecting debris and a 250-milliliter water tank that you can fill whenever you want to run a mopping cycle. Plenty of other robot vacuums have this feature, and it could be even more useful than a clean base if you have lots of tile or hardwood floors throughout your home.

Besides that, I was impressed with how easy it was to set up the X8 Hybrid, how accurate its mapping technology was and how many extra features it supports. It has four cleaning modes – auto, room, zone and spot – and four suction levels starting with Pure at the low end and topping out at Max. These features give you a lot of control over where the machine cleans and how powerfully it will do so. The X8 Hybrid was in Pure mode the first time I ran it, and I was surprised by not only how quiet it was but also how thoroughly it cleaned considering it was on the lowest suction setting.

There’s also a “tap and go” feature that lets you pinpoint any spot on your home map in the EufyHome app, sending the robot there to clean. Manual controls are also available, which isn’t something you see on a ton of robo-vacs. This option lets you control the machine almost like a slow and slightly clumsy RC car, giving you more control over where it cleans.

It may not have the name recognition that iRobot or Shark do, but the Eufy RoboVac X8 Hybrid is a solid choice nonetheless, especially if you don’t care to add a clean base into the mix. It’s an even more tempting choice if you can snag it when it’s discounted.

Best high-end robot vacuum: iRobot Roomba s9+

The Roomba s9+ is admittedly overkill for most people – but it’s nothing if not one of the best robot vacuums out there. You’ll notice its premium features as soon as you unbox it. The s9+ is the biggest but also the most attractive robo-vac I tried, with a corner-friendly design, copper accents and a 1.5-foot tall clean base. The setup was quick and easy, with the machine taking only a few minutes to connect to my home’s WiFi and the iRobot app.

Buy Roomba s9+ at Amazon - $999

While the s9+ doesn’t have the Precision Navigation feature that the newer j7 does, it has something called “Careful Driver” that uses a 3D sensor to detect and clean around objects. It seems that the main difference is that the s9+ isn’t specifically wired to avoid pet poop, so keep that in mind if you have furry friends around the house. However, with 40x the suction power of a standard Roomba, the s9+ does a great job cleaning up pet hair.

It’s aso louder than the j7 when it’s cleaning, but not irritatingly so, and I noticed a deeper clean in my carpets thanks to the extra suction. And it changes its cleaning mode automatically when transitioning from, say, a carpeted floor to tile.

Even this $1,000 robot vacuum bumped into a few table legs while cleaning, but it was noticeably better than other machines at navigating around my furniture and correcting itself when it got stuck. It also moves faster than the j7, so it was able to cover a bit more of my apartment before it had to return to the base for charging after about one hour of cleaning. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the s9+ wasn’t nearly as loud as the j7 vacuum when emptying its dustbin into the clean base.

With the iRobot app experience being the same across all Roombas, the s9+ stands out for its subtle premium features like its elegant design, elegant-looking clean base, superior cleaning intelligence and top-of-the-line suction power. Aside from the extra suction, those are all nice-to-haves rather than must-haves, so most people – including you! – probably don’t need the Roomba s9+. It’s the fanciest robot vacuum iRobot has to offer, but you’ll get a similar level of quality with the Roomba j7 while spending a couple hundred bucks less.

Honorable mention: Roborock S7+

Roborock’s high-end S7+ deserves a mention for its cleaning power and number of additional features that many other competitors don’t have. First, the S7+ is a vac-and-mop combo, and its mopping map automatically lifts itself out of the way when the machine reaches the carpet. That means you can have it clean your whole home, vacuuming and mopping in the right spots, without you giving it any extra attention (besides filling its 300ml water tank at the start).

Buy Roborock S7+ at Amazon - $950

The $950 machine has a longer setup process because its clean base comes in two pieces. You must attach the bottom of the base, where the robo-vac charges, to the garbage-bin upper portion using a few screws and a tool that attaches to the bottom of the base. Roborock provides everything you need to do this in the box, so while it takes a bit more time, it’s still an easy process.

What wasn’t so easy for me at first was connecting the S7+ to the Roborock app. The vacuum had trouble connecting to my home’s WiFi network, but I was able to connect it to the Mi Home app, which is Xiaomi’s main smart home companion app (Xiaomi is an investor in Roborock). There aren’t a ton of differences between the two apps when it comes to robo-vac controls, but the S7+ is designed to work with Roborock’s program. After troubleshooting with a Roborock representative, I was able to fix the problem by factory resetting the vacuum and that allowed me to connect it to the Roborock app properly.

That said, the Roborock app isn’t nearly as polished as those from iRobot, Shark and others. The main page shows your home’s map along with the battery level, cleaning time, cleaning area in feet, and buttons that let you quickly start a cleaning job and empty the dustbin. You’re also able to select specific rooms or zones to clean, but the rest of the control options live in the menu accessible by the three-dot icon at the top-right corner of the app. Things are a little buried, and that might make the S7+ harder for robot-vacuum newbies to use.

When it comes to cleaning, the Roborock S7+ did a great job sucking up dirt around my home. In addition to the usual features like cleaning schedules, zone targeting and others, the vacuum also has things like child lock, which will disable the physical buttons on the machine; different auto-emptying settings to choose from; “pin and go,” which lets you tap on your home map to send the robot to a specific location; and manual direction controls so you can move the machine like a toy car. This isn’t the robot vacuum to get if you want the most polished experience – and you may very well want that if you’re dropping $1,000 on one – but it remains a powerful vac-and-mop machine with a handful of extra perks.

Best budget: Roomba 694

iRobot’s $279 Roomba 694 is a great option for most people thanks to its good cleaning power and easy-to-use mobile app. We won’t get too deep into it here since we have a whole guide to affordable robot vacuums with additional recommendations. But suffice to say, the 694 gives you all the essentials you’d expect from a robot vacuum, along with all of the convenience that comes with iRobot’s mobile app.

Buy Roomba 694 at Amazon - $279

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/best-robot-vacuums-130010426.html?src=rss

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Bizarre Instagram outage leaves some thinking they’re banned

You're not alone if you're unable to check your Instagram feeds. Instagram has confirmed that some users are "having issues" accessing their accounts. The social network hasn't identified a cause as of this writing, but some users have received notices that their accounts were suspended, while others have seen their follower counts drop.

We've asked Instagram for further comment on the outage and will let you know if we hear more. Reports of failures started spiking on Downdetector shortly before 9AM Eastern. They're not consistent, however, as many users (including here at Engadget) aren't running into problems.

This isn't the first significant outage in the past year. Parent company Meta's social networks suffered a major outage roughly a year ago after a bug disconnected key parts of the company's backbone network. More recently, Instagram fixed a bug in early October that prevented iOS users from accessing the service. An instant crash bug in September didn't help, either. These hiccups aren't frequent, but they suggest Instagram still has teething troubles.

The situation is better than in years past. Instagram suffered a particularly rough 2019 where it endured two outages in the space of a month. That's on top of a privacy issue that left users' passwords exposed to employees.

Nonetheless, this latest failure comes at a bad time. Although Instagram's audience is continuing to grow and just topped 2 billion active users, Meta is bleeding cash as it invests in metaverse technologies like virtual reality hardware and its Horizon Worlds platform. The firm isn't in immediate danger, but it needs reliability if it's to keep growing its social media empire and offset mounting costs.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/instagram-outage-unable-to-access-account-145200289.html?src=rss

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The best webcams for 2022

That tiny webcam on your laptop has probably gotten more use in the last few years than it ever has before. Even if you’re back to taking some of your meetings in the office, chances are that back-to-back Zoom calls are now a permanent part of your professional life. Once an afterthought, your computer’s webcam has become one of its most important components — and the fact remains that most built-in cameras are not able to provide consistent, high-quality video call experiences.

This is where external webcams come in. They can do wonders for those with lackluster built-in webcams, people who spend most of their working hours on video conferencing, and those who picked up a new hobby of streaming on Twitch or YouTube over the past couple of years. But as with most PC accessories, it can be tough to sort through the sea of options out there and find the best webcams for your needs. We tested out a bunch of the latest webcams to see which are worth your money and which you can safely skip.

Engadget's picks

What to look for in a webcam

Resolution and field of view

While some newer machines have 1080p webcams, most built-in cameras have a resolution of 720p, so you’ll want to look for an external webcam that’s better than that. FHD webcams will give you a noticeable bump in video quality; ideally, you’re looking for something that can handle 1080p at 60fps or 30fps. If you’re considering a cheap 720p webcam, make sure to get one that supports at least 30fps (most will) or, even better, 60fps. However, if your primary concern is better image quality during video calls, 1080p is the way to go.

Some webcams can shoot in 4K, but that’s overkill for most people. Not to mention most video conferencing services like Zoom, Google Meet and Skype don’t even support 4K video. When it comes to streaming, Twitch maxes out at 1080p video, but YouTube added 4K live streaming back in 2016. Ultimately, with 4K webcam shots having such limited use, most people can get by with a solid 1080p camera.

Field of view controls how much can fit in the frame when you’re recording. Most webcams I tested had a default field of view of around 78 degrees, which was enough to capture me and enough of my background to show that I really need to organize my home office. On cheaper webcams you’ll usually see narrower fields of view (around 60 degrees), and those aren’t necessarily bad. They won’t show as much of your background, but that also means you won’t be able to squeeze as many friends or family members into frame when you’re having Zoom birthday parties. On the flip side, more expensive webcams may let you adjust the field of view to be even wider than average.

Autofocus and other “auto” features

Webcams with autofocus will keep you looking sharp without much work on your part. You should be able to move around, step back and forth, and remain in focus the whole time. Some models let you manually adjust focus, too, if you have specific needs. Devices with fixed focus are less convenient, but they tend to be more affordable.

In the same vein is auto framing, a feature that some high-end webcams now offer. Similarly to Apple’s Center Stage feature, the camera automatically adjusts to keep you in the center of the frame even as you move around. But you’ll pay a premium for it: The only two webcams I tested that had auto framing were the $200 Dell UltraSharp webcam and the $220 Anker Video Bar, and while that helped those models stand out from the pack, neither were great enough to earn a spot in our best webcams list.

You’ll also see other “auto” features listed in webcam specs, most notably auto light correction. This will adjust the camera’s settings to make up for a dimly lit room. If you don’t have a well-lit setup for your video calls, or often take calls in different places where you can’t control the lighting, this feature will be valuable.


Most webcams have built-in microphones that, depending on your setup, might end up being closer to you than your computer’s own mics. Check to see if the model you’re considering has mono or stereo mics, as the latter is better. Some even use noise-reduction technology to keep your voice loud and clear. While audiophiles and streamers will want to invest in a standalone microphone, most others can get by using a webcam’s built-in mic.


There aren’t a ton of fascinating breakthroughs when it comes to webcam design. Most are round or rectangular devices that clip onto a monitor or your laptop screen. Some have the ability to screw onto a tripod stand and others can simply sit on your desk beside your computer. But unless you really like having people stare up your nose, the latter isn’t ideal. We recommend clipping your webcam to your monitor and ensuring that it’s at or slightly above eye level.

A few webcams go above and beyond by adding hardware extras like built-in lights and lens covers, too. The former can help you stand out in a dark room, while the latter makes it so hackers can’t view you through your webcam without your knowledge.


Most external webcams that are just good enough to be a step up from your computer’s built-in camera cost between $60 and $150. If the webcam has the same resolution as the internal one on your laptop, you should look out for other specs like auto light correction, a wider field of view or an extra-long connecting cable that can provide a step-up in quality or ease of use.

Spending $150 or more means you might get advanced features like 4K resolution, vertical and horizontal recording options, stereo mics, customizable video settings and more. But unless you’re spending hours on video calls each day or streaming multiple times each week, you can settle on a budget webcam and safely skip most of those high-end options.

Best overall: Logitech C920s Pro HD

The Logitech C920s Pro HD webcam seems like a great value on paper, and it proves that to be true, too, once you take it out of the box. For around $60, you’re getting an FHD webcam that can shoot in up to 1080p/30fps, has a 78-degree field-of-view, dual microphones and auto light correction. It’s a fairly average-looking webcam measuring 3.7 inches at its widest point, with the lens in the middle and its two microphones on either side.

Buy Logitech C920s Pro HD at BH - $70

The adjustable base is quite sturdy and, while I kept it hooked to my external monitor most of the time, you could easily attach it to your laptop’s screen or sit it on your desk and angle the camera upward. There’s also a hole on the underside if you wish to connect it to a tripod. There’s an optional lens cover in the box that provides protection when you transport the webcam, but also gives you extra privacy.

I immediately saw an improvement in video quality when I took conference calls using the C920s Pro HD. I’m lucky enough to have one lamp and one large window in my small home office, so I’m usually not fighting for good light. But even on cloudy days with low light, the camera’s 1080p video was sharp and produced fairly accurate colors. While cheaper cameras struggled on rainy days with the lamp off, the C920s Pro HD illuminated my whole face and had minimal shadows.

All Logitech webcams can use the company’s Camera Settings app to adjust things like field of view, brightness, color intensity and autofocus, but I kept the default settings on this one. The C920s Pro HD does have autofocus and it was so good that I barely noticed it. I was always in focus during my video chats and I never saw the camera struggling to regain focus even if I moved around.

Runner Up: Anker PowerConf C200

Anker’s cube-like PowerConf C200 webcam has a lot of the same perks as Logitech’s C920s Pro HD, along with a few extras and a price tag that’s $10 more. Setup is equally as easy as with the Logitech cam – just plug it into your computer or docking station and start using it. You can download the AnkerWork software to edit things like brightness, sharpness and contrast ratio and, as with Logitech’s, I kept all of those settings at their defaults.

Buy PowerConf C200 at Amazon - $70

But you’re also able to control the camera’s resolution and field of view with this software, too. The C200 webcam defaults to a 2K resolution, but you can bring it down to 1080p, 720p or even 360p if you wish. Same goes for field of view: The default is 95 degrees, but I bumped mine down to 78 degrees to spare my colleagues a wider view of my messy home office.

I was immediately impressed with the C200’s video quality: 2K is likely more than most people need (1080p should do just fine), but the extra sharpness and clarity is a nice touch. The webcam’s autofocus is quite fast, and its larger f/2.0 aperture captures more light so you stay illuminated even in darker settings.

In addition to a built-in lens cover that you can slide closed for privacy, the C200 has dual stereo mics that actually do a good job of capturing your voice loud and clear. You can also choose directional or omnidirectional vocal pickup in the AnkerWork settings, with the latter being better if you have multiple people speaking on your end.

My biggest complaints about the C200 webcam are that it’s a bit cumbersome to adjust its angle when it’s perched on your monitor or screen. Unlike most other webcams, Anker’s doesn’t have a short neck of sorts that connects the camera to its adjustable base – it’s just one, chunky piece of plastic that I had to use both hands to adjust when necessary. Also, the C200 comes with a USB cable that’s much shorter than others. This won’t be a problem if you’re connecting the webcam directly to your laptop, but it’s not as flexible if you have a standing desk converter or a more complicated setup that requires long cables.

Best for streaming: Logitech Streamcam

Of all the webcams I tested, I had the most fun using Logitech’s Streamcam. While it’s a bit weird to say I “had fun” with such an innocuous piece of tech, I found the Streamcam to be remarkable in many ways. First and foremost, the video quality is excellent: It shoots in 1080p/60fps and its video is slightly sharper than that of the Logitech C920s Pro HD. Details in my clothing came through much better and, whether I liked it or not, so did some of the texture on my skin. The Streamcam was also one of the best webcams when it came to color reproduction.

Buy Logitech Streamcam at Amazon - $170

All of those perks remain the same even when you’re shooting in low-light conditions. The Streamcam’s auto-exposure feature made up for the darkness in my office on gloomy days. And it has the best kind of autofocus — the kind that you never notice in action.

The dual omnidirectional mics inside the Streamcam delivered my voice loud and clear during video calls. If you stream often and find yourself without an external mic, it’s nice to know that you could get by with the Streamcam’s built-in ones in a pinch. The microphones also have noise reduction to keep your voice font and center.

As far as design goes, the Streamcam is a bit larger than most. It’s a chunky almost-square that can easily be positioned on a monitor or on a tripod, and a unique feature of its design is its ability to shoot either vertically or horizontally. I kept mine in the standard 16:9 format, but some streamers who post to social media often will like the 9:16 format that’s best for Instagram and TikTok. Logitech also made sure the Streamcam was optimized for Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), XSplit and Streamlabs, so you can use it directly out of the box for your next live session.

The Streamcam is the best all-purpose webcam on our list; if you want one device that can do it all, from video conferences to Twitch streams to family video chats, the Streamcam is the best webcam option. However, not everyone will want to drop the $170 on one. Its higher price keeps it from our top spot because those who just want to look better on Zoom calls don’t need to drop $170 to do that.

Best premium: Logitech Brio

If you’re willing to spare no expense on a webcam, Logitech’s $200 Brio is the one to get. It has a lot of things going for it, but the best and most important feature is its 4K recording. It’s capable of shooting in 4K/30fps in addition to 1080p and 720p in either 60fps or 30fps. I kept it set at 4K and I never looked better on a video call. My feed was sharp and clear, and the only negative thing about it was the slightly inaccurate colors (they came off more saturated than normal).

Buy Logitech Brio at Amazon - $200

Low-light performance was stellar as well. The Brio’s light correcting technology with HDR made up for the cave-like environment in which I was sometimes forced to record. As far as sound goes, the dual microphones inside the Brio were some of the loudest and clearest of any webcam I tested. They also use noise-canceling technology to capture audio from up to one meter away while blocking out background noise.

The Brio also had the most customizable settings of the Logitech cameras I tried. In addition to brightness, contrast, color intensity, white balance and autofocus, you’re able to adjust HDR, field of view and image ratio in the Camera Settings app. While I kept most of the default settings, I changed my field of view from 65 degrees to 78 degrees (the third option of 90 degrees was too wide for my taste), and it captured just enough of my background but still kept me as the focal point.

I also opted to turn off autofocus because I found it to be finicky. Issues with the Brio’s autofocus have been documented online and I’ve reached out to Logitech for troubleshooting tips. An Engadget colleague who uses the Brio as his daily webcam hasn’t experienced the autofocus issues, so there just might not be enough contrast between myself and the background. Since I take most video calls from my home office desk, adjusting the focus manually to fit that environment worked well for me.

It’s hard to get excited about webcam design, but Logitech tried to make the Brio as sleek looking as possible. Instead of a mere rectangle, the Brio is an elongated oval with rounded edges and a standard base that clips securely onto a screen. The front is a glossy black, punctuated only by the camera lens, two tiny slits for the microphones and the IR sensors. The latter makes the Brio compatible with Windows Hello, so you can unlock your system using facial recognition. And when you want more privacy, you can use the included lens shade to cover the camera.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/best-webcams-123047068.html?src=rss

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FTC says ed tech company Chegg exposed data belonging to 40 million users

You may trust Chegg with your textbooks or tutoring, but regulators aren't quite so confident. The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint accusing education tech provider Chegg of "careless" security practices that compromised personal data since 2017. Among the violations, the company reportedly exposed sensitive info for roughly 40 million customers in 2018 after a former contractor used their login to access a third-party database. The content included names, email addresses, passwords and even content like religion, sexual orientation and parents' income ranges. The info eventually turned up for sale through the online black market.

Some of the stolen info belonged to employees. Chegg exposed Social Security numbers, medical data and other worker details.

The FTC further alleges Chegg failed to use "commercially reasonable" safeguards. It reportedly let employees and contractors use a single sign-in, didn't require multi-factor authentication and didn't scan for threats. The firm stored personal data in plain text and relied on "outdated and weak" encryption for passwords, the Commission adds. Officials also say Chegg didn't even have a written security policy until January 2021, and didn't provide sufficient security training despite three phishing attacks.

Chegg has agreed to honor a proposed order to make amends, the FTC says. The company will have to both define the information it collects and limit the scope of that collection. It will institute multi-factor authentication and a "comprehensive" security program that includes encryption and security training. Customers will have access to their data, and will be allowed to ask Chegg to delete that data.

The provider isn't alone in facing government crackdowns over security problems. Uber settled with the Justice Department in July for failing to notify customers of a major 2016 data breach, while the FTC recently penalized Drizly and its CEO for alleged lapses that led to a 2020 incident. The government is clearly eager to prevent data breaches and make an example of companies with sub-par security measures.

In a statement to Engadget, Chegg says it treats data privacy as a "top priority." The company cooperated with the FTC and will "comply fully" with the Commission's order. It adds that it didn't face any fines, and believes this is a reflection of its improved security stance. You can read the full response below.

"Data privacy is a top priority for Chegg. Chegg worked cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission on these matters to find a mutually agreeable outcome and will comply fully with the mandates outlined in the Commission’s Administrative Order. The incidents in the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint related to issues that occurred more than two years ago. No monetary fines were assessed, which we believe is indicative of our current robust security practices, as well as our efforts to continuously improve our security program. Chegg is wholly committed to safeguarding users’ data and has worked with reputable privacy organizations to improve our security measures and will continue our efforts."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/ftc-chegg-order-student-data-exposed-162414289.html?src=rss

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HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook review: The best of ChromeOS, but not worth the price

Google has been making high-end Chromebooks for almost a decade now, dating back to the $1,300 Chromebook Pixel in 2013. At the time, many people saw it as a beautiful but strange device. In the years that followed, both Google and its hardware partners have made premium Chromebooks more and more commonplace. Though, a still-unconfirmed report earlier this year suggests Google is giving up on making laptop hardware, at least for now. The company hasn’t said anything of the sort yet, but the reality is that Google hasn’t made a new Chromebook since the Pixelbook Go in late 2019.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped other manufacturers from making Chromebooks with gorgeous screens, great industrial design and powerful hardware. But HP’s Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, released earlier this year, might be the nicest I’ve used in a long time. It also has a jaw-dropping price point, starting at well over $1,000. Much like the original Chromebook Pixel, HP’s latest is a joy to use that is very hard to recommend because of that price.


Before we talk about the bummer that is the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook’s cost, let’s go over the good stuff. The Dragonfly is similar in stature to a MacBook Air, weighing in at about 2.8 pounds and measuring only .65 inches thick. Combined with a fairly spacious 13.5-inch touchscreen display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, the Dragonfly is comfortable to work on and easy to travel with.

Gallery: HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook review photo | 8 Photos

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

Gallery: HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook review photo | 8 Photos

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

  • HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

Design-wise, it’s a spartan affair, with a dark gray finish and only a few silver accents to be found. But given that HP is primarily targeting this computer at enterprise users, it makes sense that they went with a classic look here. There’s a decent selection of ports, despite the Dragonfly’s rather slim profile: it has two USB-C / Thunderbolt 4 ports, a USB-A connection, a headphone jack, HDMI and a microSD slot. That’s a lot better than you’ll get on a typical ultraportable.

HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

Screen and keyboard

There’s a handful of things that make the Dragonfly really stand out. For starters, it has an excellent display, with a 3:2 aspect ratio that provides a lot more vertical viewing space than your standard 16:9 screen. The configuration I’m testing has a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution, good for about 200 pixels per inch. Sure, there are more pixel-dense displays out there, but this one looks stunning, with sharp text and images and basically no visible pixels. It’s the nicest screen on a Chromebook I’ve seen in a long time. The only minor knock is its unremarkable 60Hz refresh rate, but that shouldn’t be a major issue for most people. Still, HP spared basically no expense on everything else, so it would have been nice to have.

Despite the refresh rate, the Dragonfly’s display is great beyond just the aspect ratio. It’s bright and has nice contrast without things being too over-exaggerated. It’s also rather reflective, which makes it not ideal if there’s a light shining on the display, but the screen is bright enough that it should be usable in all but the harshest of light.

The keyboard and trackpad are also excellent. The keys are firm, but not too firm, and have plenty of travel for a relatively thin laptop. The trackpad, meanwhile, is large and responsive. Nothing quite matches up to the trackpad on a MacBook for me, but this one feels pretty close. HP says it’s a haptic trackpad, with customized vibrations for some specific actions like pinning windows in split screen or switching between virtual desks, but I can’t say I noticed much of anything there.

HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

Good specs (for a Chromebook)

Finally, the Dragonfly mostly has cutting-edge spec options; the model I tested has a 12th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, built-in LTE, 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. LTE isn’t exactly cutting-edge anymore, and 8GB of RAM is a bit stingy on a computer this pricey. But aside from those quibbles, this is plenty of horsepower for basically anything you want to do in ChromeOS; I never experienced any stutters when switching apps or playing back music and video. Despite the high-resolution screen and powerful processor, battery life is solid if not spectacular. I got between six and eight hours of normal usage, which involved a lot of Chrome tabs, Spotify, Todoist, Slack, Google Keep, Trello and the occasional Android app here and there. It managed to play back a movie for 8 hours and 50 minutes in our battery drain test. If battery is your foremost concern, the model with a Core i3 processor or the lower-resolution screen will likely last even longer.

It also does a fine job running the handful of Android apps I tested it with. In the last year or so, you’ve been able to run downloaded apps in tablet, phone or resizable windows, and for the most part I was able to get Todoist, Spotify and Lightroom all working well in resizable windows. Even Instagram finally works properly, although now that the website now allows you to create posts, it’s not really necessary any more. Putting that aside, performance across basically all the Android apps and games I tried was solid. But given how many apps are in the Play Store, there’s still a good chance of running across some that don’t work well.

While Chromebooks aren’t known for gaming, the Dragonfly easily handled some cloud-based play via NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming – not a surprise given the powerful (for a Chromebook, at least) hardware. At this point, ChromeOS has pretty solid game controller support, and it obviously works with external keyboards and mice. So provided the titles you want are available, this is probably the best way to play games on a Chromebook at this point. That said, this hardware should more than meet the cut for installing Steam, once Google and Valve start rolling that out beyond its current limited alpha phase.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/hp-elite-dragonfly-chromebook-review-170025383-170025153.html?src=rss

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Amazon’s latest tablet sale brings the Fire HD 10 back down to $75

Amazon's Fire HD tablets are still worthy options if you just want a competent media consumption device for as little money as possible, and within that lineup, the Fire HD 10 provides the best value for most. This is especially the case when the device is discounted, and as of this writing the 10.1-inch slate is back on sale for $75 at Amazon and Best Buy, among other retailers. 

Amazon Fire HD 10

While this isn't the absolute lowest price we've seen — the tablet was briefly available for $55 at Target earlier this year — it does match the price we saw during last year's Black Friday sales and Amazon's latest Prime Day events. The 32GB model here technically has an MSRP of $150, though a handful of smaller discounts have dropped its average street price closer to $130 in recent months. 

This is a nice price for what was already one of the better values on the tablet market. Like Amazon's other Fire tablets, the Fire HD 10 is a no-frills device: It's largely made of matte plastic, the speakers and cameras are mediocre, and very little about its performance or design feels as premium as what you'd get from even an entry-level iPad. But for the money, it's all good enough if you're just looking for casual web browsing, ebook reading, video streaming, and Alexa stuff. Its eight-core MediaTek Helio P60T processor and 3GB of RAM won't blow anyone away — don't expect much in the way of gaming — but it can handle the basics without consistent slowdowns, and it's generally more fluid than the lower-cost models in the Fire lineup.

Similarly, the 10.1-inch panel isn't the brightest or most vibrant you'll see, but it's plenty fine for $75. Again, its 1920 x 1200 resolution is a firm step-up from the lower-res Fire 7 or Fire HD 8, and simply having more real estate makes it more pleasing for video streams and quick Zoom calls. The tablet gets a good 12-ish hours of battery life per charge, and it charges over USB-C. While the discounted model here only has 32GB of built-in storage, you can expand that with a microSD card. (A version with 64GB of storage is also on sale for $95.)

The caveat with any Amazon tablet is, as always, software. Amazon's Fire OS is still a forked version of Android that lacks access to the Google Play Store — and thus, native Google apps like Gmail or YouTube — and frequently pushes you toward the company's own apps, services and online store. There are still lock screen ads, and it still costs a $15 fee to get rid of them. It remains easy enough to sideload the Play Store and its more expansive app library, but that's clearly not the most user- or security-friendly solution. Instead, a Fire tablet will work best if you stick to Amazon apps like Kindle and Prime Video, popular apps like Netflix or basic web browsing. All that said, the OS is still fairly robust when it comes to parental controls and supporting multiple user profiles, and there's still a handy "Show Mode" that can essentially turn the tablet into an Echo Show-like smart display when you're not holding it. 

The deal here comes as part of a wider sale on Amazon tablets. The Kids and Kids Pro versions of the Fire HD 10, for instance, are both back to their all-time lows at $120. Those come with large protective bumper cases (the Pro's is a bit slimmer), two-year warranties and a year of Amazon's Kids+ child-focused content service, though their hardware is otherwise identical, and it's worth noting that you can set up a kid-friendly profile on the base Fire HD 10 as well. 

The Fire HD 10 Plus, meanwhile, is on sale for $105, which matches the lowest price we've tracked. That one adds another gigabyte of RAM and wireless charging support, which are nice upgrades — particularly if you want to use that smart display functionality — but nothing we'd call essential for most people in the market for a good affordable tablet. We'll also note that the Fire 7 is down to a new low of $42, but we'd recommend waiting for the recently-updated Fire HD 8 and its altogether superior hardware to go on sale if you're simply looking for the cheapest usable slate. 

Buy Fire HD 10 Plus at Amazon - $105
Buy Fire HD 10 Kids at Amazon - $120
Buy Fire HD 10 Kids Pro at Amazon - $120
Buy Fire 7 at Amazon - $42

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Bose’s QuietComfort 45 headphones are $80 off right now

When it comes to noise cancellation, few over-the-ear cans tune out the world better than Bose's QuietComfort. Right now, the $80 discount puts these premium headphones at $249, which is pretty close to their all-time-low price. The deal is part of Bose's pre-Black Friday sale, so it's likely the lowest they'll go before the holidays. While $250 is by no means a cheap for a pair of headphones, we are big fans of the QC45s. They earned an 86 when we reviewed them late last year, getting special recognition for their balanced sound quality that works nicely with virtually all music genres.    

Bose QuietComfort 45 Noise Cancelling Headphones

While this isn't the lowest they've ever been — they were $229 during the Prime Early Access Sale a couple of weeks ago — this remains a solid deal on one of our current top recommendations for wireless headphones. What's particularly nice is the deal applies to all four color options (black, white, navy and grey). 

Like the name suggests, the QuietComfort series are designed to stay comfortable for long periods of wear, and that's exactly what we found in our tests. The long battery life (we got a little over 22 hours on a charge) also lends itself to extended wear and that's what you want in a pair of ANC headphones — think long flights, workdays in noisy offices or co-working spaces/coffee shops, or just shutting out everything around you so you can finally catch up on the dragon show.

While we weren't crazy about their aesthetics (little was done to update the look from the previous models), the QC45 packs easy on-board controls and happily pairs with more than one device at a time — iOS, Android, Mac and PC included — while delivering clear, balanced audio in headphones that feel comfortable for the long haul.  

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