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Is It Bad to Leave Your Laptop Plugged In All the Time?

A weak battery can make a perfectly good laptop unusable. This is a common problem for laptop owners, and there are plenty of tips out there for how to prevent it. If you want to extend your computer battery’s life as long as possible, just be careful about which advice you follow. The old idea that leaving a laptop plugged in for too long will hurt it is simply not the case.

According to Windows Central, this myth comes from the idea that laptops can be overcharged. Modern laptops use one of two battery types: lithium-polymer battery or lithium-ion battery. Both devices are designed to stop charging the moment they hit 100 percent power. Instead of passing through the full battery first, the power from the charging cord will be diverted directly into the computer. This means that keeping a fully charged laptop plugged in all day won’t damage the power unit.

As Protect Your Gadget points out, this does come with a caveat. A laptop battery is healthiest when it maintains a charge of roughly 70 to 80 percent. If the charge is kept too low or too high on a consistent basis, your laptop battery won’t last as long. Of course, keeping your charge hovering around 75 percent throughout the workday isn’t always practical. Instead of obsessing over the specific number, try to unplug your device periodically once it’s fully charged and plug it back in once it dips below 50 percent power.

Though the technology has improved significantly in recent years, the death of your laptop battery is still inevitable. The moment you power up your new computer for the first time, the lithium inside starts to degrade. The best way to extend its longevity is to make sure your laptop isn’t consuming more power than necessary. Do this by closing any unused apps that are running in the background and adjusting the battery settings on your device. Heat is another major factor when it comes to battery life. Too much of it can damage your lithium battery, so make sure the bottom of your computer is always properly ventilated.

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Heading to the Beach? Here’s How to Protect Your Phone from Water, Sun, and Sand

Even when we go somewhere to unplug, our smartphones are rarely out of reach. That includes our favorite beach destinations. Unlike many summer accessories, our phones aren’t built to handle excessive sun, sand, and saltwater. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your device from the elements on your next beach day.

HOW TO PREVENT YOUR PHONE FROM OVERHEATING
Your skin isn’t the only thing that needs protection from the sun when you’re at the beach. If your phone sits in direct sunlight for too long, it can overheat. This can drain your device’s battery, trigger a forced shutdown, and potentially damage its hardware.

The easiest way to avoid this is to keep your phone out of the sun. Make sure it’s in a shady place when you’re not using it, like under a beach umbrella or in a bag. Wrapping your phone in a small towel or tucking it into a drink koozie can also protect it from direct sunlight and keep it from overheating. If your phone does overheat, try blowing on it or cooling it with a fan—like the kind you might bring to the beach to cool down your face.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PHONE FROM SAND
Sand has the tendency to get wherever you don’t want it to be. In most cases this is annoying, but when it comes to electronic devices, it can be disastrous. Placing your phone in a resealable sandwich bag before stepping onto the beach should keep it clean and sand-free.

If sealing your phone away for hours isn’t an option, you can avoid the worst-case scenario by investing in some dust plugs. These accessories will block off your phone’s ports where sand can do the most damage. For an even cheaper option, look for any old cords you have lying around. Cutting off the plug part and sticking it into your phone will provide just as much protection as a dust plug.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PHONE FROM WATER
Even smartphones that are advertised as water resistant can still suffer from water damage. The good news is that the same plastic bag that protects your phone from sand can also protect it from any moisture you bring back from your swim.

It’s safer to skip the selfies when you’re standing in the water, but if you do drop your phone in the ocean, you need to take quick action. Samsung actually recommends quickly rinsing your phone with fresh water after it takes a saltwater dip, as the salt may clog the device’s openings. Remove excess moisture by wiping it with a dry cloth and gently tapping your phone with the charging port facing down. Setting it near a fan can also help it dry more quickly.

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Best Robot Vacuums: We Name the Most Effective Cleaners

Robot vacuums are all the rage—and why not!? Vacuuming is one of the most loathed household chores. While it doesn’t come with the ick factor of cleaning the toilet or the tedium of dusting, pushing and dragging a noisy, cumbersome vacuum is its own kind of torture.

Robot vacuums don’t have unwieldy cords or hoses to contend with, and they require little effort from you: You can run one from your couch using a physical remote or smartphone app, and the higher-end models can be programmed to wake up and start cleaning without any intervention at all. Robot vacs easily dispose of the most common household detritus—food crumbs, pet hair, dust—making them ideal for routine maintenance and quick cleanings when you’re expecting company.

Best all-around robot vacuum
iRobot Roomba 960
The Roomba 960’s flawless navigation, stellar cleaning, and advanced features set it apart from all other robot vacuums.

iRobot’s Roomba brand has become as synonymous with robot vacuum as Q-tips is with cotton swabs. The Wi-Fi-enabled Roomba 960 is ample evidence why. It turns a tiresome chore into something you can almost look forward to. With three cleaning modes and dirt-detecting sensors, it kept all the floor surfaces in our testing immaculate, and its camera-driven navigation and mapping were superb. Its easy-to-use app provides alerts and detailed cleaning reports. The ability to control it with Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice commands are just the cherry on top.

Runner-up
Roborock S6 MaxV
The Roborock S6 MaxV is a powerful, highly customizable robot vacuum. It’s obstacle avoidance feature is fairly unique and a great addition to an already exceptional household helper.

When a manufacturer builds one device that’s designed to perform more than one function, you all too often end up with a product that’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none. That wasn’t the case with Roborock’s vacuum/mop hybrid, and this update version features stereo cameras that enable the device to avoid obstacles like shoes and power strips that will trip up robots with simpler navigation systems.

Most sophisticated robot vacuum
iRobot Roomba s9+
The iRobot s9+ is the most advanced robot vacuum around, but it will be out of reach of many budgets.

iRobot has done it again, taking the robot vacuum to the next level by creating another model that can empty its own dustbin. A second powerful vacuum in the Roomba s9+’s docking station automatically sucks the dust and debris out of the vacuum when it docks, storing as many as 30 dustbins full of dirt. And it stores it all in a filter bag, so that nothing escapes in your home’s air when you eventually need to change the bag. But as you’ve probably guessed, this one comes with a very high price tag.

Best budget robot vacuum
iLife A4s Pro
The iLife A4s Pro is a powerful, no-frills robot vacuum that will clean your floors well without sucking a lot of cash out of your wallet.

Whether you’re budget constrained or you just don’t need all the bells and whistles (Wi-Fi connectivity, mapping, smart speaker support) that more sophisticated (and much more expensive) robot vacuums have to offer, the iLife A4s Pro delivers a tremendous amount of bang for the buck.

Runner-up
Wyze Robot Vacuum
The Wyze robot vacuum delivers advanced features and solid performance at a budget-friendly price.

If you can squeeze a little more money into your budget, Wyze Labs has a low-priced vacuum that delivers a number of extra high-value features, including LiDAR navigation, a smartphone app with editable mapping and virtual no-go zones.

Best robot vacuum for pet hair
Yeedi K650
The Yeedi K650 is a no-frills robot vacuum that’s tough on pet hair.

We’ve been impressed with several of Yeedi’s inexpensive robot vacuums, but the Yeedi K650 bowled us over with its ability to pull pet hair off the floor, using the silicone rolling brush you can swap out for its regular bristle brush. The silicone brush eliminates the problem of tangled hair impeding the vacuum’s cleaning.

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Anker Soundcore Motion Boom Speaker: Bluetooth for the Beach

If there was ever a speaker likely to stand up to a day around the pool or at the beach, it’s Anker’s $100 Soundcore Motion Boom. It’s easy to lug, IPX7-rated, and sports a rather massive integrated handle that gives it a very sturdy feel. As a matter of fact, my first thought was that I could heave the unit quite a ways out into the water. Yes. Nothing like starting a review with evil thoughts.

Design and features
I think Anker might’ve missed a bet by not offering the Motion Boom in bright colors. Not that the staid all-black the company chose isn’t attractive in a dark knight sort of fashion. But should some brat bring to fruition my devilish thoughts by flinging this beauty into the ocean, fluorescent orange or bright yellow would be a lot easier to spot. IPX7 means its waterproof under one meter of water for 30 minutes (you can read all about IP codes in this other story).

I measured the Motion Boom at approximately 12 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 4 -inches high with the aforementioned, integrated handle adding another two inches to the overall height. I mention my measurements, as they didn’t jive with the larger dimensions I saw on Amazon. The unit weighs around four and a half pounds.

Sound is pumped through twin 2.5-inch drivers facing forward, and passive radiators on either end of the unit. There was no power rating for the internal amplifier, but from what I heard, I’d guess between 10 and 15 watts RMS per speaker.

The controls for the Motion Boom are located on the top of the unit closest to the speaker face and include Bluetooth (5.0) pairing/status, power, BassUp (80Hz boost), volume up/down, and a multi-function button in the middle. The MFB takes care of play/pause/FF/rewind/answer/hang up and summoning your phone’s voice assistant. There’s also a TWS (True Wireless Stereo) button to link the speaker with another TWS-capable unit to form a stereo pair; i.e., one speaker reproduces the right channel, and the other the left.

On the back of the Motion Boom is a hefty rubber plug concealing both a USB Type-C port for charging the speaker, and a Type-A port for charging other devices. Anker handily includes a, you guessed it—Type-C to Type-A cable. It’s a rather clever arrangement to be sure. There’s no auxiliary analog input.

Sound and run time
Out of the box, I found the Motion Boom’s mid-range somewhat cloudy, which is a shortcoming in weatherproof speakers. It wasn’t horrible mind you, it just wasn’t what I’d call audiophile quality. I won’t say it recovered once the speaker got loud (and it gets very loud for 2.5-inch speakers), but the cloudiness was less noticeable.

What did make a huge difference was EQ-ing the unit using Anker’s Soundcore app. Dropping the 600Hz band a notch or two and upping the 2.5- and 5kHz bands gave me the clearer sound I was looking for. It still wasn’t audiophile level, but it sounded a heck of a lot better.

One thing there was more than enough of right out of the box was thump. The BassUp function is engaged by default and it produces a very round and prominent low end. The BassUp function won’t engage when you customize the EQ, however, so I just upped the 80Hz band to compensate. Voila! Same deal and more than listenable.

With the drivers so close together in the enclosure, there’s not a lot of separation of the right and left signals. However, Anker thoughtfully sent two Motion Booms, so I could pair them using the supported True Wireless Stereo featire. This resulted in a very loud, very bass-y, and decently sonorous combination that would be welcome at just about any beach party.

I wouldn’t call the Motion Boom sonically excellent under any circumstance, but the EQ saved the day as far as I was concerned. It was still running on the factory charge on the 10000 mAh battery at about the 4-hour mark. Anker claims 24 hours of run time (go home!) and 4 hours to a full charge. This of course will drop if you use the Motion Boom’s battery to charge your phone.

You’ll need your own USB AC adapter or a 12-volt power adapter to tap you car’s battery, as Anker doesn’t provide one. Chances are you have more than one already.

Conclusion
After EQ, the Motion Boom sounded good enough that I can recommend it without hesitation for outdoor use, and perhaps some time in the kitchen or garage. There’s no arguing the design’s ability to stand up to the rigors of the pool, beach, or playground. For the price of a similar JBL, you can buy two and have bona fide, recognizable stereo separation—albeit with a small deficit in audio quality compared to that worthy brand.

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T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet Service: Hands-on Report

T-Mobile’s new 5G home broadband gateway/wireless router matters for one big reason: It’s an alternative to the cable monopolies that dominate most major markets in the United States. Whether it’s a better option than cable is, unfortunately, a question we can’t objectively answer, for two reasons.

First, what T-Mobile officially calls its T-Mobile High Speed Internet Gateway (5G21-12W-A) is “5G”—and the quality and bandwidth of the wireless signal you receive in your home will be dependent on any number of factors, the most significant of which will be the gateway’s distance from your nearest 5G cell tower. You’ll also need to balance what we found against what your own, competing broadband ISP delivers. Fortunately, T-Mobile’s plan offering is flexible enough that you can probably create your own one-month trial.

In my case, cable still regrettably offers the best option for my family of four, living in a house filled with streaming media devices and gaming laptops. T-Mobile’s 5G router offered enough bandwidth for about half of my family, but not quite enough for all four of us and our many devices.

To be fair, though, we never experienced all that the T-Mobile High Speed Internet Gateway has to offer. While T-Mobile labels my house as ”covered” by its 5G services, the reality wasn’t quite as simple.

Specifications and setup
T-Mobile’s router plan is all-inclusive: after confirming your eligibility, for $50 per month, T-Mobile will send you a pre-configured router with an activated SIM inserted. (The $50/mo actually includes a $10/mo AutoPay credit, so the actual price is $60/mo.) There’s no annual contract, either. If you decide the service isn’t for you, you can simply call T-Mobile, cancel, and the company will send you a prepaid label to box up and return the 5G21-12W-A hardware.

T-Mobile’s pricing is already on par or lower than even the cheapest cable contracts, and T-Mobile promises unlimited internet with no data caps or throttling to boot. Still, T-Mobile says that the service is “not intended for unattended use,” so don’t plan to download Linux distributions via BitTorrent.

Because of its coverage map, T-Mobile knows if your home will be close enough to a cell tower to receive a satisfactory signal. If you’re feeling really nerdy, however, you can visit a site like CellMapper.net and discover just how close the nearest cell tower is, and what wireless bands those towers use.

Physically, T-Mobile’s router reminds me of the Harman Kardon Invoke, a now-discontinued cylindrical smart speaker, that, like T-Mobile’s router, included a color display at the top. It measures 8.5 inches high by 4.75 inches in diameter, and is powered by a wall-wart-like plug with a conveniently lengthy six-foot cord. That’s handy, as you’ll want to position the gateway as close to an outside wall or window as possible to receive the maximum signal available. Inside is a Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) radio with four antennas to create the wireless network your client devices will connect to. You can also tap its dual gigabit ethernet ports for wired network connections.

T-Mobile’s gateway does have some quirks: There’s a USB-C port, a UPS port for an unterruptible power supply, and an RJ-11 telephone jack on the back of the router. but none of them are functional—at least as far as I could tell. I tried plugging a USB power supply in, but that didn’t work. I didn’t have a compatible UPS to test.

The 5G21-12W-A does have an internal battery, which allows the gateway to be used cable free—well, sort of. Setting up the router requires first turning it on, letting it boot up, and then walking it around the house or apartment to find the best signal. The LCD screen on top communicates this signal information in real time, though it will turn off after several seconds unless you tap it awake. You can also “swipe” through several screens, which tell you the number of devices connected, any service messages from T-Mobile, and more.

Here’s another quirk: While on battery, neither the ethernet nor the Wi-Fi connections can be used. That’s odd, since as I drove around my neighborhood with the 5G21-12W-A gateway to check signal strength, the battery level only dropped by a percentage point or two, meaning that it should realistically offer internet connectivity in case of a power outage. That’s simply not the case.

You might also think that a “wireless” gateway could be set up anywhere, unlike a wired cable gateway that can only be set up near the coaxial cable’s entry to the house. Unfortunately not. Typically, the ideal location will be near a window, one that isn’t partially blocked by a mesh screen. And location does matter, more than you might think: your wireless network must also be organized to take the gateway’s location into account.

While the 5G21-12W-A gateway reported that my house is bathed in a “weak” (2 out of 5 bars) signal throughout, I was only able to establish a “good” (3 out of 5 bars) signal in a corner of my son’s room, next to his window. And that, right in the middle of his Legos, became my new wireless gateway location!

Setup took just a minute or two, overseen by T-Mobile’s smartphone app. Once the usual niceties were completed—picking an administrator password, setting an SSID, and so on—the gateway was up and running. T-Mobile’s app offers a quick and easy dashboard displaying current signal strength, which devices are connected, and so on. The web interface (which, by default, can be accessed via http://192.168.12.1 while the gateway is connected) offers a lot more detail, albeit without much in the way of explanation for people less familiar with 5G and networking tech in general.

Performance and everyday use
I used T-Mobile’s 5G21-12W-A gateway for about three weeks, wirelessly connecting entertainment devices like the Xbox game console, plus my sons’ tablet and PC. Given how much they’re in use during summer vacation, I figured that they would be an excellent test of whether the T-Mobile signal remained constant. The signal dropped three times in that period, according to my kids—usually just a few seconds, but once for a bit longer.

I also tested the speed, of course. With all devices disconnected, speeds ranged from a maximum of 180Mbps to about 120Mbps downstream—again, on what T-Mobile’s app considered to be a “good” signal, or three out of five bars. Upstream speeds, which matter if you’re uploading video to YouTube or backing up files or photos to the cloud, reached just under 50Mbps, which is still much, much faster than the 14Mbps my cable provider, Comcast, offers, with its 400Mbps service plan. These tests were performed with a wireless client close to the router, with no other devices connected to the gateway.

My kids certainly didn’t report any issues while gaming or chatting with their friends via Zoom or Facebook Messenger, and they were able to download game updates normally. I also streamed 4K/60fps video from YouTube without problems. Finally, I re-ran my video-stream test while simultaneously performing a speed test and saw download speeds of 111Mbps, this while Windows updates were wirelessly downloaded to a different PC. The video stream dropped 102 frames out of 18,000—nothing noticeable. Google’s Stadia gaming service also reported a connection of 59Mbps (again, while streaming video) and approved the connection as a candidate for the service, though I didn’t try it.

It’s worth noting that my T-Mobile gateway was not connected to 5G. The T-Mobile app’s “More” tab will show you which frequency band your device connects to, which was typically Band 4 (defined by T-Mobile as a 4G LTE band). A cellular signal app on my 5G-capable T-Mobile phone also showed that the phone (not the router) occasionally connected to bands 2, 66, or 71—again, all 4G LTE bands. T-Mobile does operate 5G services on cell towers aligned along Bay Area interstates, but that tower was on the other side of town, and I doubt that the router ever connected to it. There’s no way of forcing the router to use a particular LTE or 5G band, either.

The router aspect of T-Mobile’s gateway works well, within reason. In my house, a split-level tucked into a hill, Wi-Fi signals tend to get lost in the maze of walls, floors, and ceilings. My traditional ISP gateway built into the basement struggles to push signal throughout the home without repeaters. I was somewhat surprised to see my phone’s signal app report a 65Mbps Wi-Fi link from the router alone, but my notebook PC struggled to connect.

I had far better luck connecting T-Mobile’s gateway to a discrete mesh router. Coincidentally, I also received Vilo’s ultra-low-cost mesh networking system for evaluation, so I simply connected the tiny little mesh nodes around my house. That was an effective, inexpensive complement to what T-Mobile offered, blanketing my home with Wi-Fi coverage.

T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi services and management tools, however, are decidedly lacking. While T-Mobile does a nice job of telling you which devices are connected, you’ll find yourself hunting through the app’s UI to either disconnect each device individually, or else schedule a time to turn them off. I also couldn’t find any options either in the app or web interface to create a guest network, which is simply table stakes for home networking these days.

Finally, I couldn’t connect to my office VPN, GlobalProtect, via the T-Mobile router. This bug, at least, is well documented and attributed to an IPv6 configuration issue. While I was able to connect by adjusting some networking parameters on my PC, a longer-term fix involves rolling back the router’s firmware. The router also doesn’t seem to work with Hulu + LiveTV, according to T-Mobile’s customer-support forums.

Who should sign up for T-Mobile’s home internet service?
I approached my hands-on with the T-Mobile High Speed Internet Gateway (5G21-12W-A) from what now is a very timely perspective—breaking the stranglehold cable providers have on American consumers. The Biden administration is already taking aim at broadband monopolies, but it will be up to the FCC to enact change.

From my experience, I can’t say what the full potential of T-Mobile gateway may be. I imagine there are few places where 5G is available, but cable isn’t. For now, the performance advantage probably lies with cable broadband (or the even harder-to-get fiber broadband service). Folks living in rural areas, meanwhile, probably won’t have any more of a chance to get 5G broadband than they do cable broadband or fiber, leaving them to the mercy of DSL or satellite service providers or—if they’re lucky—an affordable, high-performing WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider).

Still, not everyone needs ultrafast broadband. If you’re a small household that streams video, checks email, and downloads Windows updates in the background, T-Mobile’s router is absolutely worth checking out. Most broadband connections can already accommodate these needs, and high-speed broadband (greater than 200Mbps) is more of a requirement for larger households with several active streaming devices or laptops in use.

And then there’s pricing, of course. Here, things change dramatically. A price of $50 per month is quite attractive, especially compared to cable bills that can easily top $100 per month (including TV service). Add data caps and possible overage fees, and costs also quickly climb there, too.

Remember, T-Mobile isn’t asking you to cancel your cable, or even switch broadband providers. For $50, you can simply call or contact T-Mobile and sign up for a month’s worth. A T-Mobile representative said that after a month’s time, if you choose to cancel, T-Mobile will send you a prepaid label to return the T-Mobile High Speed Internet Gateway (5G21-12W-A), and credit your bill accordingly. Even with T-Mobile’s current limitations, that’s an enticing offer.

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Bang & Olufsen Launches Beoplay EQ true Wireless Headphones with Active Adaptive Noise Cancellation

Venerable Danish luxury audio maker Bang & Olufsen today launched its $399 Beoplay EQ, the first true wireless earphones with adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC). Adaptive ANC is a more sophisticated kind of ANC that uses microphones and speakers to adjust noise cancelling automatically to your surroundings. Bang & Olufsen claims that the Beoplay EQ’s Adaptive ANC effectively eliminates surrounding noise to allow total immersion in the company’s signature sound.

To achieve the maximum noise-cancelling effect, Bang & Olufsen says it developed an adaptive ANC that combines excellent passive sealing. That one-two combination effectively blocks outside noise.

The Beoplay EQ work their adaptive ANC magic via a dedicated ANC DSP chip and six microphones that allow for automatic adjustment of noise-cancellation levels to create what the company calls, “a seamless audio experience.” The microphones do double duty with directional beamforming technology in an effort to deliver crystal clear call and speech quality.

Bluetooth wireless features
The Beoplay EQ headphones sport all the latest wireless goodies. Bluetooth 5.2 is on board with wireless range of approximately 33 feet, and support for both Apple’s lossy AAC codec and Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec. Aptx Adaptive can deliver high-res audio wirelessly with up to 24-bit resolution and sampling rates as high as 48kHz, with a maximum bit rate of 420Kbps. For those who switch sources often, the Beoplay EQ will remember the last eight paired devices. The Beoplay EQ are rated IP54 for dust (they prevent enough dust ingress to protect the earphones) and water resistance (water sprayed from any direction) respectively. The Beoplay EQ’s companion mobile app will perform over-the-air software updates as needed.

Pairing the Beoplay EQ with Apple and Android smart devices promises to be simple and painless thanks to Microsoft Swift Pair and Made for iPhone licenses.

The Beoplay EQ weigh a mere 0.28-ounces. The earbuds have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a total capacity of 85mAh. Bang & Olufsen says that you’ll get about 7.5 hours without ANC active, 6.5 hours with ANC turned on, and up to 5.5 hours of talk time.

The Qi-certified, 340mAh wireless charging case is crafted from spacecraft-grade aluminium, complementing Bang and Olufsen’s luxury brand. The compact 1.03 x 3.03 x 1.58-inch case was designed to be as small as possible to fit easily into a pocket while on the go. The case will give two charges with up to 20 hours of play time. The earbuds will reach a full charge in about 1.5 hours while a 20-minute charge will give you up to 2 hours of playback.

“When creating Beoplay EQ, we made a commitment to deliver on the expectations of our customers whether they are using their earphones for travel, business or pleasure,” noted Bang & Olufsen SVP of Product Management Christoffer Poulsen. “The ergonomic earphones have been designed for comfort and provide powerful and authentic sound, making them a must have for design and music lovers. Thanks to the durable aluminium charging case as well as the adaptive active noise cancellation, Beoplay EQ provides a revolutionary listening experience wherever you go.”

Finishes and included accessories
The new Beoplay EQ are available in two finishes: Black Anthracite and Sand Gold Tone. Black Anthracite is available starting today; Sand Gold will be available online and in Bang & Olufsen stores starting August 19th.

One of the biggest problems with true wireless headphones is that they tend of fall out easily. Bang & Olufsen says that the Beoplay EQ are luxurious yet functional. Thanks to their small and ergonomic shape, Bang and Olufsen says that the Beoplay EQ have a comfortable and secure fit.

In the box, you’ll find a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, 0.5m Comply sport 200 tips, and silicone tips in four sizes.

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Microsoft says Surface, Windows Sales were Hurt by chip Shortages

Chip shortages have hit one of the world’s largest software companies, Microsoft, and its lineup of Surface PCs.

Microsoft reported net income of $16.5 billion (up 47 percent from a year ago) on revenue of $46.2 billion, an increase of 21 percent over the same period. But two key businesses suffered as a result of ongoing supply issues.

Microsoft said that Surface revenue dropped 20 percent, or by $348 million, to $1.376 billion. In a statement, Microsoft said the shortfall was driven by “supply chain constraints,” without specifying what those constraints were. Microsoft also said that Windows OEM revenue decreased 3 percent, “with continued PC demand impacted by supply chain constraints.” (Unfortunately, Microsoft executives didn’t clarify what those supply-chain issues actually were during an earnings call.)

Microsoft launched the Surface Laptop 4 during the second quarter, a solid notebook. Otherwise, Surface sales were predicated upon the Surface Pro 7+, Microsoft’s latest entrant into the Windows 2-in-1 tablet market.

Interestingly, Microsoft’s other key hardware business, the Xbox game console, was apparently not affected. Microsoft said that division’s revenue, driven by the Xbox Series X and Series S, had increased 172 percent to an undisclosed amount, “driven by higher price and volume of consoles sold.” Xbox content and services revenue dropped, however, due to a decline in third-party titles, the company said. Also, strong sales during the 2020 pandemic made 2021 look weaker by comparison.

In general, Microsoft’s More Personal Computing segment, which includes PCs and Windows, reported $4.873B in operating income, compared to $4.091B a year ago. Revenue climbed from $12.9 billion a year ago to $14.1B in the current quarter. Productivity and Business Processes, which includes Office, reported $6.4B in operating income, up from $4.0B a year ago, on $14.7B of revenue.

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What Features to Consider in a Wi-Fi Router?

You’ll encounter a thicket of jargon when you shop for a new Wi-Fi router. We’ll explain some of the most common terms you’ll encounter (in alphabetical order).

AP steering A mesh-network router that supports AP steering will automatically direct its wireless clients to connect with whichever access point (AP) offers the strongest connection back to the router (and thus to the internet).

Backhaul The side of a network that carries data packets back to the router and out to the internet. Some tri-band mesh Wi-Fi systems, including the Netgear Orbi and Linksys Velop, dedicate an entire wireless network to backhaul. You can also set up wired backhaul by connecting the access point to the router using an ethernet cable, but that would require drilling holes in your walls and pulling the cable through, a job most people are reluctant to tackle.

Band steering A router with this feature can detect if a client device is dual-band capable (i.e., the client is outfitted with a Wi-Fi adapter that can operate on either the 2.4- or 5GHz frequency bands). The router will automatically push dual-band clients to connect to its least-congested network, which is usually the one operating on the 5GHz frequency band.

Beamforming An optional feature of the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard that improves wireless bandwidth utilization by focusing the radio signals so that more data reaches the client and less radiates into the atmosphere. Click here for a more in-depth explanation of beamforming.

Dual-band vs. tri-band A dual-band Wi-Fi router operates two discrete networks, one on the 2.4GHz frequency band and a second on the less-congested 5GHz frequency band. Some types of tri-band routers split the 5GHz frequency band, using one swath of channels available in 5GHz spectrum to create a second network, and another swath of channels in that spectrum to operate a third network. Other tri-band routers operate discrete networks on the 2.4- and 5GHz bands, and a third network using spectrum available on the 60GHz band, though this technology has fallen out of favor recently.

ethernet ports A router must have at least two hardwired ethernet ports (either 100Mbps or gigabit per second). One (the WAN, or wide area network) connects to your broadband gateway (a cable or DSL modem, for instance). The other (a LAN, or local area network) connects any hardwired client. Some mesh Wi-Fi routers have auto-configuring ports that become WAN or LAN based on what gets plugged into them. You can increase the number of ethernet ports available on your network by plugging an ethernet switch into one of the LAN ports.

Mesh Wi-Fi access points typically have two ethernet ports, so they can serve as a wireless bridge for devices that don’t have their own Wi-Fi adapters. Alternatively, you can use one of the AP’s ports for data backhaul using an ethernet cable that’s connected to your router at the other end.

Guest network This is a virtual network that gives your guests access to the internet while blocking access to your own computers, NAS boxes, and other network clients.

Hub-and-spoke vs. mesh network In a hub-and-spoke network topology, each wireless access point exchanges data packets directly with the router. A wagon wheel makes for a good visual metaphor here. In a mesh network, wireless access points that are distant from the router can exchange data packets with their closest AP neighbor until the packets reach the router (and vice versa). In this instance, you might visualize a fishing net; or perhaps abstractly, a firefighter’s bucket brigade.

MU-MIMO The acronym stands for multiple user, multiple input/multiple output. MIMO describes a method of sending and receiving more than one data signal using the same radio channel. This is accomplished using a technique known as spatial multiplexing. In its original implementation in routers, client devices had to take turns communicating with the router, round-robin style. The switching happens fast enough that the interruptions are imperceptible, but it reduces the overall transmission speed. This is known as SU-MIMO (single-user MIMO). As you’ve probably guessed, MU-MIMO lets multiple client devices communicate with the router at the same time without interruption, significantly increasing transmission speed. Both the router and the client must support MU-MIMO for the scheme to work.

Parental controls The internet can be an unpleasant and even dangerous place for children to visit. Router-based parental controls promise some protection by restricting where a person can browse and what they can do while they’re online. Such controls can also restrict the hours that a device is allowed to be online—at least while the device is on that router’s network. Methods and practices—and effectiveness—vary widely. I’ve yet to see a system that’s better than just having an open and frank dialog with your kids, but that’s just my opinion.

Quality of Service (QoS) This concept describes a router’s ability to identify different types of data packets traveling over the network and then assign those packets higher or lower priority. You might want your router to give network traffic such as streaming video or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls higher priority than file downloads, for example, because the former don’t tolerate interruptions. Waiting a little longer for a file to download is vastly preferable to watching a glitchy video.

Spatial streams The multiplexed signals described in MU-MIMO above are called spatial streams. The number of radios and antennas in the router determine how many spatial streams it can support; and the method used to encode the data, combined with the channel’s bandwidth, determines how much data can fit within each stream. An 802.11ac router using channels that are 80MHz wide can deliver throughput of roughly 433Mbps per spatial stream. Spatial streams operate in parallel, so adding them is akin to adding lanes on a highway. Where a 2×2 802.11ac router (two spatial streams to transmit and two to receive) can deliver throughput up to 867Mbps, a 4×4 802.11ac router can deliver up to 1,733Mbps. These are theoretical numbers, however; they don’t take into account protocol overhead and other factors, so you’ll never see real-world performance that high.

Wi-Fi speed ratings Vendors commonly market their 802.11ac routers (and 802.11ac Wi-Fi client adapters) by combining the throughput numbers for each of the router’s networks. A dual-band router capable of delivering 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency band and 867Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band might be described as an AC1300 router (rounding up from 1,267, naturally). You’ll never experience 1,300Mbps (or even 1,267Mbps) of throughput, of course, because it’s not possible to bond the 2.4- and 5GHz networks together. But the classifications at least provide a point of comparison.

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Best Mesh Wi-Fi Routers Advice

A great wireless router is an essential element of tech life, whether you’re building out a smart home or you just want the best experience streaming music and video at home. If you’re suffering with low wireless throughput or dead spots in any area of your home, we heartily recommend deploying a mesh network consisting of a Wi-Fi router with one or more satellite nodes that you sprinkle around your home, because it will blanket your home with coverage.

Twin and sometimes conflicting demands for high performance and ease of use are powering a thriving and rapidly evolving market. Innovation is one of the biggest upsides of this dynamic, and confusion its biggest downside. Today’s hero could be tomorrow’s has-been, as established brands like Linksys and Netgear try to one-up each other while simultaneously fending off new challengers such as Eero (now owned by Amazon) and Google. But it’s those challengers who have innovated the most.

Best mesh Wi-Fi system
Netgear Orbi Home WiFi System (RBK50)
When deployed with a single satellite, the Netgear Orbi is an excellent choice for moderate-sized homes, delivering higher TCP throughput than mesh routers operating with three nodes.

The secret to the Orbi RBK50’s success is Netgear’s dedicated 4×4, 1,733Mbps radio used for data backhaul between the router and its satellites (the RBK50 comes with one satellite, which Netgear says is sufficient to blanket 5,000 square feet). We also like the fact that the Orbi router has a built-in three-port ethernet switch (the satellite has a four-port switch), because those ports provide so much flexibility in terms of connecting other devices to your network, be it a NAS box for media streaming and data backup, a network printer that doesn’t support Wi-Fi, or an older ethernet-only A/V receiver in your entertainment center.

An Orbi network can also be expanded with a smart speaker (the Orbi Voice, which supports the Amazon Alexa digital assistant) and a purpose-built outdoor satellite (the Orbi Outdoor). Orbi devices, on the other hand, are among the most expensive mesh Wi-Fi components, and the RBK50 kit in particular is overkill for for smaller spaces.

Runner-up
Linksys Velop Whole Home Wi-Fi (three pack)
The Linksys Velop is one of the best true mesh-network routers we’ve tested, but many Wi-Fi enthusiasts will still prefer a more conventional model.

Like Netgear’s Orbi RBK50 kit, the Linksys Velop is a tri-band router that dedicates one of its three Wi-Fi networks to data backhaul. Unlike Netgear’s offering, however, the Velop dynamically chooses the least-congested channels for that task. On the downside, the Velop’s maximum data backhaul speed is 867Mbps, compared to the Orbi RBK50 kit’s 1,766Mbps. Two Velop nodes proved to be the sweet spot to blanket our 2,800-square-foot test home with Wi-Fi, which would cost $75 less than the three-node kit that we reviewed.

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11.6-inch Acer Chromebook

If you need a cheap laptop that can get online and run a few apps when you need them, then listen up. Walmart is selling an 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook with an Intel Celeron processor.

The Acer Chromebook 311 features an 11.6-inch display with 1366-by-768 resolution. The processor is a dual-core Intel Celeron N4020 with a base clock of 1.1GHz and boost to 2.8GHz. For RAM it has 4GB, which is more than enough for a Chromebook, and onboard storage is 32GB eMMC. There’s a microSD card slot if you need extra storage, and for ports it has two standard USB 3.1 Gen 1 and two Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1. For connectivity it has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.

As is the case with most newer Chromebooks, this one supports the Google Play Store and Linux apps, giving you the best of everything: an excellent simple browser OS when all you need is the web; Linux apps when you need a proper desktop program; and Android apps to fill in any gaps. For under $150 you simply won’t find a better laptop.

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