Time for something new in your life.

The Asus 10.1-inch Chromebook Flip is down to $249 on Amazon. It normally sells for around $270 and has recently been selling as high as $300. This drop matches what it sold for on Black Friday and has hit a couple times since. It’s the lowest price ever and a great deal.

The Flip features a flexible 360-degree hinge and a touchscreen, allowing it to be used in either tablet, stand or laptop mode. Housed in a sleek, aluminum metal body, it weighs just two pounds and is only .6 of an inch thick. Its battery can last for up to nine hours on a single charge.

It has 4GB RAM and 16GB of storage, though there’s also a microSD card port allowing you to beef up how much storage it has. You can pick up one of these 64GB memory cards for only $23 with the money you save. You’ll definitely want one considering this computer has access to the Google Play store, allowing you to easily download tons of apps and games straight to the device as if it were an Android smartphone.

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Having Alexa is just the start. Now you need smart things to connect to it.

More and more devices work with Amazon Alexa these days. In fact, if it’s got a microphone and a speaker, it’s surprising to not find support for Amazon’s voice assistant. The Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular Alexa controller out there, of course. But there are countless others as well.

That’s just the start of the fun, though. Once you’ve got an Alexa device, you’ll want something to control.

Here are the more mainstream categories that I’d check out, from thermostats to cameras to other speakers.

Philips Hue Starter Kit ($88 at Amazon.)

Smart lights

Whether you’re looking at something from Philips Hue, or Eufy, or TP-Link or others, smart lights probably should be your first stop when you’re looking for an Alexa-compatible toy to go along with your main Alexa device.

The idea is that you’ll have lights you can control from anywhere, as well as a hands-free way to set the scene for any occasion.

And because it’s all tied into Alexa, you’ll be able to do all kinds of fun stuff with the smart lights.

See at Amazon

Ecobee 4 ($244 at Amazon.)

Smart thermostats

Being able to control your HVAC with your voice is one of those things that’ll you not appreciate until you can do it, and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it once you can.

And there are some great options out there. Nest is the big daddy of the group, of course. Honeywell is another great option. And the latest iteration of the Ecobee actually has Alexa built in, so you don’t even need a separate device to control it.

It makes it ridiculously easy to control the comfort of your home, and it helps cut down on your electric bill, too.

See at Amazon

Ring Floodlight Camera ($199 at Amazon.)

Smart cameras

If you’ve got an Amazon Echo Show or Spot, or an Amazon Fire TV, you can keep tabs on all your stuff with any number of smart cameras. Just tell Alexa to show it, and you’ll get a live feed on your display.

So, yeah. You can watch your front yard from your living room. Or your backyard from your bedroom. The sky’s the limit as for how much (or how little) you want to keep tabs on things this way. It’s super convenient, though, and it’ll help keep things safe.

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Wemo Mini ($28 at Amazon.)

Smart plugs

Smart lights are great. But sometimes you just want to control something that’s plugged in. (Say, a set of string lights, or Christmas decorations.) A smart plug is great for that.

It’s a plug for your plug, which then hooks into your Wifi and ties into an Alexa Skill.

After that, it’s just a matter of setting a timer, or using your voice to have Alexa manually turn things off and on. Easy.

See at Amazon

Amazon Echo Plus ($149 at Amazon.)

Other smart speakers

Here’s the thing about the Amazon Echo — it can connect with other Amazon Echoes for multi-room music. That means the same thing will be playing on all your speakers. And all you have to do is use Alexa to tell Alexa to have Alexa play a thing.

Yeah, it’s a bit of Alexa inception. But it’s also way cool.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

These are the numbers that run your phone.

When Qualcomm launches a new processor (ahem, “mobile platform“), we take notice. The new Snapdragon 845 will be the go-to choice in just about every high-end phone in 2018 (and even into early 2019), just like the Snapdragon 835, 821 and 820 were previously.

The nerds among us use the opportunity of a new chip release to try and quantify just how much “better” it is, in an attempt to determine what to expect in terms of performance when devices launch with the processor. And that means running benchmarks. I had the opportunity to use a Qualcomm Reference Device running a Snapdragon 845, and put it through a full slate of benchmarks over the course of a couple hours. I saw lots of big numbers, and now I can tell you why none of them matter.

Alright, so the benchmarks. You’ll see the 12 I ran here, ranging through several different types that push the CPU, GPU, and memory. The top set are on-device apps, while the last four are web browser-based. As a whole, they do a pretty good job of showing how the Snapdragon 845, running in ideal conditions on a reference device with no other software, can perform. For a couple extra data points, this reference device has a 2560×1440 resolution LCD and 6GB of RAM. Here are my benchmark results:

Benchmark Result
AnTuTu Total: 259180
CPU: 87938
GPU: 107103
UX: 56409
MEM: 7730
Geekbench Single core: 2481
Multicore: 8452
GFXBench 4.0 1080 Manhattan 3.1 61 fps
GFXBench 4.0 1080 Manhattan 3.0 84 fps
GFXBench 4.0 T-Rex 151 fps
GFXBench 4.0 Car Chase 35 fps
3DMark Slingshot – Unlimited ES 3.1 Total: 4871
Graphics test 1: 32.1 fps
Graphics test 2: 18.9 fps
3DMark Slingshot – Unlimited ES 3.0 Total: 5930
Graphics test 1: 42.7 fps
Graphics test 2: 26.9 fps
Kraken (Chrome) 2422 (lower is better)
Octane (Chrome) 16086
Sunspider (Chrome) 448.5 (lower is better)
Jetstream (Chrome) 85.97

I’m intentionally not showing you benchmarks from other devices here for comparison. If you’re someone who pays attention to benchmarks you’ll know all of these tests, what the numbers mean and how they rank compared to other processors. I’m also not providing reference numbers because none of these numbers really matters or can be translated into being “good” or “bad” for your actual experience of using a phone with a Snapdragon 845 in it.

Qualcomm, which provided the reference device for benchmarking in the first place, even agrees with me.

The nomenclature of calling these “processors” will live on for some time, but you start to understand why Qualcomm wants to shift its branding to “Snapdragon 845 mobile platform” when you consider everything this SoC offers beyond just a CPU. The Snapdragon 845, of course, has an octa-core CPU and a powerful GPU — but it also has a secure processing unit, a super-advanced LTE modem, an image signal processor, two different audio subsystems and its own memory. This isn’t just a “processor” anymore, and that’s exactly why even Qualcomm is starting to care less and less about these benchmark numbers.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: Everything you need to know

Through that whole slate of benchmarks that I did, they at best covered the performance of the CPU, GPU, and on-board memory. Some only touched the CPU and GPU. Others were reliant on the applications themselves utilizing the SoC in the right way. None of them was running in a real-world environment on a phone with extra software and user-generated data. And that’s why these benchmarks no longer give a realistic view of what the Snapdragon 845 will offer consumers when they go to buy a Galaxy S9 or any other flagship in 2018.

The true evaluation of the Snapdragon 845 will come when we get our hands on retail devices.

The true evaluation of the Snapdragon 845 will come when we get our hands on retail devices that use it — presumably, the Galaxy S9 will be the first. Then we’ll see how well the manufacturer’s software has been optimized for it, how the ISP processes image data, how fast the LTE data speeds are in the real world, and perhaps most importantly how little power the Snapdragon 845 uses in the process. Qualcomm’s own research shows that consumers put lots of value on battery life, and making its chips more efficient while keeping the same or higher performance has been a massive emphasis in the last few generations because of it.

So little of the daily experience of using a modern smartphone is defined by how well that phone can perform a benchmark, and hearing one of the leading companies making these chips admit it tells you all you need to know. Seeing a reference device and getting to experience the Snapdragon 845 before anyone in public has an opportunity to is amazing, particularly for a smartphone nerd like myself. But seeing it get to work making hundreds of millions of phones in the next year do everything regular people want (and more) is far more exciting.

Based on everything I’ve learned about the Snapdragon 845 and Qualcomm’s commitment to creating great chips, it’s well-equipped to do just that.




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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |