Top 5 Best MacBook Accessories Available in 2019

  • June 19, 2019

Apple’s laptops which are sold under the MacBook brand are renowned for their powerful hardware specs and beautiful designs. However, truth be told their full potential can only be unlocked when the laptops are paired with the right accessories. Although, this shouldn’t come as a surprise since Apple has made a fortune by selling accessories that enable features that their devices should feature out of the box such as support for multiple Lighting ports. This is why Apple fans are more than often required to purchase dongles.

Nonetheless, today we want to show everyone the best accessories for MacBook that Apple fans can find on Amazon. The rule of thumb when making this list of top five MacBook accessories has been to make sure that all accessories are of premium quality and that they bring powerful features which Apple fans are going to love. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.

#1 The PlugBug Duo

The PlugBug Duo

The PlugBug Duo is hands down one of the most useful accessories that MacBook users can purchase. This accessory is basically an all-in-one charger for MacBook and it also supports two additional USB powered devices such as an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch for example. What makes this accessory worthy of being featured on the number one spot on our list is the fact that it works with Apple MagSafe + USB-C power adapters and any other USB charging cables.
Price: $34.11
Purchase it from Amazon

#2 Classic Sleeve

 

One of the best things about MacBooks is the fact that their slim and beautiful design makes it easy for the users to carry them everywhere, thus making it possible for them to take care of work tasks wherever they might be. However, all Apple fans should make sure to never take their MacBook laptop out in the wild without getting some protection for it because you can never know what might happen and dropping a MacBook on the hard concrete is never going to have a good outcome. This is why we are advising all MacBook users to check out the Classic Sleeve for MacBook Pro 13-inch that is made by Incase Designs. The sleeve is made from 100% nylon with ariaprene and it supports Thunderbolt USB-C charging technology.
Price: $34.95
Purchase it from Amazon

#3 External Battery

External Battery

Is there anything worse other than running out of battery on your MacBook right in the middle of finishing up a work or school project? The worst thing about this is that it can happen anywhere, including in places where there are no outlets that can be used in order to charge the laptop and this is why the Mophie Powerstation makes an appearance on our list. This is a versatile external battery that features an AC adapter and up to 100W of power that can charge a MacBook laptop or any other types of mobile devices in record speeds.

The external battery features USB-C input/output and it charges devices at 30W. In addition, the total capacity of the external battery is 22,000 mAh and the battery features a variety of safety features that will help the MacBook avoid short circuits and overheating.
Price: $199.95
Purchase it from Amazon

#4 Logitech Keyboard

Logitech Keyboard

As we have previously mentioned, one of the best advantages that using a MacBook brings is the fact that users can get work done wherever they are. This is why we want to present the Logitech K750 wireless keyboard because what better way to improve your work productivity other than to use premium peripherals?

Logitech is one of the world’s best tech companies this is why no one should be surprised by the fact that this wireless keyboard is solar-powered. Yes, you read that right! The battery of the wireless keyboard can be charged with solar power which makes it the ideal accessory for people who love to take their MacBook outdoors. In addition, the wireless keyboard features an ultra-thin design that makes it look great in any office space.

The position of the keys on the Logitech wireless keyboard have been specially designed to feature the familiar Mac layout and not just that, but typing on this wireless keyboard feels good thanks to the concave key cap design that will improve the typing speed of anyone.
Price: $54.88
Purchase it from Amazon

#5 Acer Monitor

Acer Monitor

If you ever feel like your MacBook is not good enough in order to watch movies, TV shows or to work in general, then a large monitor might be what you are missing. We know that this accessory is quite expensive, but we assure you that it is definitely worth its money. The folks at Acer have created a premium 27-inch monitor that features USB-C 3.1, HDMI (v.20) and one standard display port connectivity options.

What makes this monitor stand out from all the other ones available on Amazon is the fact that it uses IPS WQDH widescreen technology which puts out a pixel resolution of 2560 x 1440. To top it all off, the Acer monitor features a refresh rate of 60Hz and an impressive response time of 4ms.
Price: $437.54
Purchase it from Amazon

iLintek Smart Bulbs Bluetooth Mesh Light System Review – MBReviews

  • June 12, 2019

The second version of the iLintek mesh smart bulbs are designed to use the BLE mesh technology in order to create a large network of devices which can be controlled simultaneously (or individually), therefore easily covering an entire office floor, a parking lot or simply your house and yard with a reliable lighting system. Bluetooth started as a means to connect one device to another and transmit packets of data from one end to the other, but it has soon mutated to a one to many approach (hub and spoke) and using the Low Energy implementation (LE), a single broadcasting device could connect to a larger number of devices (the BLE tech can be found in smartphones, some routers and almost all IoT devices).

ilintek

The Bluetooth mesh technology is the latest development which takes a many to many approach, so the data can move through multiple devices (hops) using what is called the flooding technique: any BLE device (node) can receive the data and transmit if further, which means that the network will function even if a node fails. The mesh technology is quite popular in the networking market (WiFi mesh systems such as Google WiFi and Netgear Orbi are highly regarded), but, the Bluetooth mesh tech is a bit different and, because of its nature, it allows for up to 127 hops, which means that you can cover a very large area, simultaneously controlling groups of light bulbs without having to be in the direct range of the originating BLE device.

To test this new tech, I used four iLintek light bulbs: a iLintek A19 (A60) smart light bulb, two G95 smart bulbs and a GU10 smart bulb (the package has two, but I only had one socket available); additionally, I used the iLintek WiFi to Bluetooth gateway (a necessary addition if you want to easily control your lighting system using a virtual assistant, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa).

Design and Features
1. iLintek A19 (A60) Smart LED Bulb

ilintek-a60

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The iLintek A19 (A60 in the EU) is an RGB smart bulb which is built in the same way as the traditional light bulb, featuring a heavier (and slightly taller) ceramic base and a circular plastic top (both parts are covered by a white finish), measuring 4.3 x 2.6 inches (height x top diameter), so it almost identical to the Gosund smart bulb, but the base weighs significantly more (6.4 ounces – the ceramic surface is thicker?). The light bulb was designed to be used indoors, but, if you put it inside an enclosure, it should work outside as well, although the temperature, humidity and other factors may shorten its life span.

ilintek-a19

In terms of features, the iLintek A19 has a luminous flux of 810 lumen (similarly to the Philips Hue A19), the dimming range between 5 to 100%, a color temperature of 6000 Kelvin (can go down to 2700K, so it’s perfect for a home ambiance, where you would want to relax, but it will also be decent in an office), it has a beaming angle of 180 degrees, a voltage rating of 110 V and 9 Watts (which is the incandescent equivalent of 65 W).

2. iLintek G95 Smart LED Bulb

ilintek-g95

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The iLintek G95 is an E27 (EU suitable) RGB LED smart bulb which features the same traits as the A19, such as the ceramic base and the circular plastic top surface, but it is a lot bigger, measuring 5.4 x 3.7 inches (the entire bulb is covered by a white finish, glossy on the base and matte on the plastic top). Similarly to the A19, the ceramic base is surprisingly heavy, so you need to be careful when you take it out of the box because the top is lightweight (despite its size) and you can easily drop it out of your hand. The iLintek G95 is also an indoor-suitable light bulb, but it can be used outdoors if kept in a proper enclosure (the elements will shorten its life).

ilintek-g95

The G95 features a luminous flux of 810 lumen (identical to the iLintek A19), 16 million colors, a color temperature of 6000 K (can go down to 2700 K), the beam angle is 180 degrees, the dimming range is between 5 to 100 %, it uses 220 V and 13 Watts (which is the equivalent of a 65 W traditional light bulb). The G95 cannot be used with wall dimmers.

3. iLintek GU10 Smart LED Bulb

ilintek-gu10

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Although the iLintek GU10 is a smart LED bulb, it is a part of a different category, featuring the GU10 double connector (it requires a special type of socket). The device itself is taller than the regular GU10 light bulb, measuring 2.67 x 1.9 inches (the traditional GU10 bulb is usually about 2.2 x 1.9 inches) and, if you’re familiar with this type of bulb, you know that the base goes all the way up, leaving only the top side for the LEDs to shine through. The iLintek GU10 also has a tall base (it’s made of ceramic and, just like its bigger siblings, it is significantly heavy), but it doesn’t go all the way up, allowing about 0.4 inches of the transparent plastic surface towards the top, so the beaming angle is a bit larger (45 degrees). As with the other iLintek bulbs, the GU10 should be kept indoors.

ilintek-gu10

Feature-wise, the iLintek GU10 is advertised to feature a luminous flux of 450 lumen (half than the A19 or G95) which is the average for this type of devices, the color temperature spans between 2700K and up to 6000 K (it’s powerful, but not blindingly bright), has 16 million colors, the dimming range is between 5 and 100 % (the bulb is not compatible with wall dimmers) and the iLintek GU10 is rated at 6W (the incandescent equivalent of 45W) for a voltage of 200 V.

Application and Functionality
All the iLintek smart bulbs (second version) can be connected to the EIQ Smart app (which is compatible with both iOS and Android OS) and to do so, you need to install and open the app: it will immediately launch the setup wizard that will require the location (CN, US or EUR), your email and a password, and after that, you’ll immediately be able to access the main UI (you will be asked if you want to allow the app access to the location, pictures, videos, microphone and camera – the reason for these requirements (except for the location) is because the app will need to access them afterwards for various color scenes). The first page that you’re going to see is the Device List and, if you click the blue button from the middle of the screen, it will summon a list of icons for various type of devices and, since we’re going to be adding light bulbs, you need to choose Lighting (if you have a iLintek hub, you can add it before the smart bulbs).

ilintek

This will display some instructions on how to put the light bulb in pairing mode, as well as an animation to make things even clearer; basically, all you have to do is to turn on the light switch for one second, wait five seconds and again turn the light on 10 times until the light bulb will start flashing green – I noticed that you don’t really have to wait five seconds – 1 to 2 seconds should also suffice. After the light bulb is in pairing (configuration) mode, tick the confirmation box and tap the BIND button.

Immediately afterwards, you’ll be able to see the device (it will show its name, MAC address and the signal strength): tick the small circle on the right and tap Connect and wait until the device is paired to the app. After that, you’ll be able to see the smart light bulb in the Device List, where you can turn it on or off with a single tap and, if you long press the icon, it will take you to the device’s settings.

ilintek

The first configuration section regards the Color of the iLintek smart light bulb and, while other manufacturer let you simply tap the color you want, the EIQ app let’s you choose it by rotating a circle (there are 16 million available) and, to set the light intensity or between a cooler and a warmer tone, you can use the two bars underneath the color palette (by tapping the star on the top right corner, it will save the color in the Favorite area). The next section is the Picture where you can tap on any part of the default images and the bulb will light up in that color – you can also add you own pictures or even take photos.

The third section is the Music which, if you accepted when the app asked to access your music folder, it will load all the music files in your phone which you can then play and watch the light change depending on the rhythm and, you can also notice that the light intensity is going to change depending on the volume level of your mobile device. The last section is the Mic which, as expected, will change the light using the live sound detected from the microphone of your phone or tablet.

ilintek-

Since I also have an iLintek WiFi to Bluetooth hub, I decided to also pair it to the app: on the Home window, I pressed the plus icon which summoned a small menu which allowed me to Add a new device, Add a gateway or Manage the rooms; I chose Add gateway which took me to a new window with pairing instructions and, after I long pressed the power button on the gateway to put it in configuration mode, I ticked the confirmation radio button and pressed next.

On the next step, I had to configure the network (choose the SSID and insert the password – only works with the 2.4GHz network) and, after the pairing process has been concluded, I was asked to link any pre-added device. After that, every new iLintek device that is going to be added to the app will have the choice of linking to the gateway. The iLintek gateway is not necessary for the Bluetooth mesh to function, as you can simply pair the light bulbs to the app and that will be enough, but the gateway increases the signal coverage and allows you to control the light bulbs using a virtual assistant, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

ilintek

That being said, I connected the rest of the iLintek smart LED bulbs and, out of curiosity, I tried to connect a smart bulb from another company, but, the app would not detect it, so the EIQ Smart app favors the proprietary iLintek environment (which is a bit of a shame since I would have preferred to interconnect all the smart LED bulbs in my home under a single controller app).

What other apps won’t allow you is the ability to control multiple devices at the same time and, to test this feature, after you have added all the light bulbs, you will be able to see the ‘All’ button next to the Device List: if you press it, all the connected smart bulbs will automatically perform the same action. For example, a single tap on a light bulb icon will either turn on or off all the devices and, if you long press any icon to enter the advanced settings, any change you make to that light bulb (Color, Picture, Music or Mic), it will reflect on all the smart bulbs from the network.

ilintek

To make things easier, it is advisable to group the bulbs by rooms, so you can control only certain portions of your home (or office): to do so, you need to press the ‘Plus’ sign from the Home page and select ‘Manager room’. Here, you’ll be able to see all the rooms that are already created and Add a new room. If you use a gateway, it will appear underneath the room name and, on the right, you’ll be able to change the name, link it to a gateway or delete the room.

Also from the Home window, you can navigate to the Scene section, where there are four default scenes (Return home, Leave home, Dinner and Sleep) to help you quickly control all your lighting system, but you can also add your own scenes: you can add devices and images to the scene, to set the light bulb to turn On or Off, the color and intensity and if it will quickly flash or slowly (or even go through different color pattern). Besides the Scene, there’s the Schedule section, where you can set a specific hour and day (or days) when certain room lights or scene will activate and lastly, there’s the Settings section which allows you to configure the connected Gateway, to pair the app to a virtual assistant (such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home), to view the picture Album, to view the favorite Colors, read the Help section or Logout.

ilintek

To test the reach of the iLintek Bluetooth mesh system, I first connected a single light bulb to a lamp in my bedroom and then I went as far as I could to be able to control the light bulb using my mobile phone (without the gateway connected). The signal became unstable at about 30 feet, so I decided to add another light bulb about 15 feet away from the first smart LED bulb and a third light bulb at 30 feet from the first device. The light bulb were kept in a straight line so, I went outside, at about 25 feet from the third iLintek light bulb and tried to control all three light bulbs. As expected, all three LED lights turn on one after the other (a delay of about one second for each bulb) and I could change the color, the intensity and more for all three devices.

Conclusion
The Bluetooth mesh technology is future-proof feature that I expect will be implemented on more and more smart devices and the fact that iLintek is exploring it in its current form is definitely praiseworthy. The fact that it is adjusted to be proprietary is understood, but, as a consumer, I would have preferred the possibility to control more smart light bulbs regardless of their brand name (or to simply use a different app).

The iLintek light bulbs themselves look similar to the traditional bulbs (the base is heavier) and, in terms of features, none lack anything important (there’s music and microphone synchronization), while the app, after you get to understand how it was designed, it will make a lot of sense. But, even if there is some documentation, it is still easy to feel lost about certain functions (such as how to control multiple bulbs at once). It’s clear that the current implementation still needs some polish, but, overall, for a small site, the iLintek Bluetooth mesh system can be a reliable solution.

Ulefone introduces the rugged Armor 2 phone

  • June 5, 2019

Ulefone Armor 2 Rugged Smartphone with Fingerprint Sensor

The Ulefone Armor was a budget-conscious rugged smartphone that didn’t sacrifice too much in the way of specs and was one of our top rugged smartphone picks. Now Ulefone is introducing the Armor 2 with significantly upgraded specs and a still affordable price.

Like the original Armor, the Armor 2 has an IP68 rating meaning it is dust, dirt, and sand-proof and can withstand submersion underwater to a depth of 1.5 meters for one hour. The Armor 2 is built to offer superior water resistance. Waterproof adhesive tape and film, sealed rings, and a high-density macro-molecule coating protect vulnerable parts of the phone, while key junctions are held firmly in place by screws. The casing is also very rugged and shock-resistant, built with TPU, glass fiber reinforced polycarbonate material, and metal. The phone is resistant to cold and heat with an operating range of -40C° to 80°C.

The Armor 2 increases in size and resolution to a 5-inch FHD (1080p) screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The phone is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P25 2.56GHz CPU running Android 7.0 Nougat, and is also equipped with a Mali-T880 GPU. 6GB of RAM and the 64GB of internal storage round out the impressive base specs. Other features include a front fingerprint sensor (which has so far been a rarity on rugged phones), 4700mAh battery with quick charge, 16MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, and LED notification light. The phone is 4G LTE-compatible with a dual nano sim slot and a USB-C charging port. Other communication features include NFC, 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4G/5G Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1. The Armor 2 measures 159 x 78.3 x 14.5mm and weighs 270 grams. It is available in two color schemes, dark gray and golden.

The Ulefone Armor 2 has a retail price of $299 which puts it in the budget range. It is a big upgrade from the first Armor model and offers a lot of value at this price. This is a phone that is powerful enough to serve as a main phone, yet tough enough to be used for hazardous work, outdoor recreation, and adventurous travel. The Ulefone Armor 2 continues the line’s tradition of ruggedness, performance, and affordability and is one of the top choices in the rugged smartphone niche.

ulefone.com

Buy Ulefone Armor 2 at Amazon

Ulefone Armor 2 Rugged Smartphone Back

Top Five Best iOS Games for iPhones and iPhones

  • May 29, 2019

There are lots of benefits that using an iOS powered device such as an iPhone or an iPad brings and one the most important ones is the fact that you will never get bored. The reason why we are saying this is because iOS fans can access the App Store and iTunes where they will find millions of useful apps and fun mobile games that are a perfect distraction for the times when you would usually get bored. To make things even better, Apple has a bunch of rules that guarantee that all games which arrive on the App Store are of premium quality and that they deliver fun gameplay experience.

While the variety in mobile games that iOS fans can download and install is great, this does come with a downside. It’s almost impossible to pick and choose a good game to play from a list of millions and with that said, we have decided that for today we are going to present a list with the top five games that can be found on the App Store in May 2019. Without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.

#1 Tropico

Tropico

If you like the idea of building and running an empire all by yourself, then you are going to love Tropico. This game was first made famous on PCs but now, it has arrived on smartphones as well. Players will take on the role of “El Presidente” and they will be given free reign over the proud nation of Tropico. The cool thing about this game is that players can actually do whatever they want which means that they can be either a good president or a bad one who only see his own interests. The choice is up to you!

Download Tropico

#2 Fortnite

Fortnite

 

You had to know that this game was going to be featured on our list. Fortnite is not only the most popular online game in the world, it’s also a global phenomenon. Everyone is playing Fortnite starting with famous movie celebrities, sports athletes and ending with even Drake himself.

What’s great about this game is that it features the famous Battle Royale mode where 100 players get thrown into the same map and they need to pick up weapons and other types of items in order to defeat their foes and become the last one standing. Fortnite is not only a fun game for iPhones and iPads, it’s also really challenging.

Download Fortnite

#3 Hearthstone

Hearthstone

Blizzard is one of the world’s most successful game developers with massive franchises such as Diablo, World of Warcraft and Overwatch under its belt. Hearthstone is a card strategy game that is based on the lore (story and characters) of World of Warcraft and what makes it stand out from all other card games available for iOS devices is the fact that Hearthstone’s cards feature lots of amazing spells and effects that make it possible for players to come up with rather interesting strategies. To top it all off, Hearthstone is updated on a regular basis which means that the game doesn’t really have a meta and that players need to always come up with new strategies in order to keep outsmarting their enemies.

Download Hearthstone

#4 PUBG

PUBG

We previously talked about Fortnite, but now we want to introduce its archnemesis, PUBG. PUBG is in fact the first game to bring the super fun and challenging Battle Royale mode to a global scale and this is why hundreds of millions of people from all over the world are playing the mobile version of the game which is also available for iOS devices.

The difference between PUBG and Fortnite is the level of realism and immersion that PUBG has to offer. Not just that, but the weapons of PUBG are amazing well done and shooting a big weapon such as a sawed-off double barrel shotgun does feel amazing, even on an iPhone or an iPad. In addition, PUBG is giving players the options to join matches solo or in squads of up to four players.

Download PUBG

#5 Lara Croft Go

The Tomb Raider movies and game series are some of the most famous ones in the world. In fact, Lara Croft which is the protagonist of these movies and games is one of the world’s first female heroes and this is what makes this series so beloved. If you have finished all the Tomb Raider games that are available for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, then you might want to consider giving Lara Croft Go a try.

This is a super fun game where players take control over Lara Croft’s actions and they need to solve difficult and rewarding Tomb Raider-themed puzzle games. The make the game sound even cooler, players will also need to take out enemies similar to a hitman. The last thing that we want to mention about Lara Croft Go is that each level in the game has been purposely made short so that it doesn’t take up too much time. The reason behind this is to make Lara Croft Go the perfect game to play during boring times such as waiting for the bus.

Download Lara Croft Go

These have been our top five games available for iOS powered devices. We hope that you like our picks and that you are going to give some of them a try, especially those which are free to play because you don’t have anything to lose, only a fun gameplay experience to check out. In addition, interested readers can also check out our top 6 iPhone XS Max rugged cases.

Linksys WRT3200ACM Dual-Band Tri-Stream 160 Router Review – MBReviews

  • May 22, 2019


The Linksys WRT3200ACM is among the two most powerful wireless routers from the Linksys WRT series (along with the WRT32X) and a successor to one of the most popular AC1900 router, the WRT1900ACS. As the name suggests, the WRT3200ACM is an AC3200 device, but this may be misleading for some, because we are not dealing with a tri-band router (which means that there’s no additional 5GHz radio and the router features the usual dual-band radios), but instead Linksys implemented the Tri-Stream 160 technology, therefore making the WRT3200ACM the first router to support contiguous 160 MHz bandwidth channels in 5Ghz.

I already had a look at another router which also supports 160MHz bandwidth mode (the NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S R7800) but it is implemented in a 80 + 80 MHz setup.
I’m glad that Linksys wanted to go further with the technology development, but even in 2018, the devices that do support contiguous 160 MHz bandwidth channels are very difficult to find, so, this new feature will be useful only if you have at least two devices of the same kind (two Linksys WRT3200ACM or WRT32X) linked in bridge mode (I did get fantastic results with the Asus PCE-AC88 as well). While the usual client won’t be able to take advantage of any of the main selling points of the WRT3200ACM, this router will help improve some networks, so let’s see if it’s worth upgrading over the WRT1900ACS and if it’s able to rise up to its newer competitors.

UPDATE 05.20.2019 A few days ago, it was disclosed that a significant number of Linksys routers are vulnerable to an info disclosure exploit so, considering that Linksys WRT3200ACM is a part of affected routers and Linksys hasn’t yet released any patch to fix the problem, the only way to be sure you’re protected is to install a custom firmware, such as OpenWRT. For this reason, I compiled this guide which should help you install OpenWRT (Project LEDE) on a Linksys WRT3200ACM router.

UPDATE 11.21.2018: I have been using the Linksys WRT3200ACM for the most part as the main router, so considering that almost four months have passed, I have retested the device in a new location (which is more difficult to cover with WiFi) and the results are consistent with what I got in July (comes at no surprise considering that Linksys hasn’t updated the router in a long time now). To give you some spoilers, I have not encountered any of the expected problems on the 5GHz band and the LEDs so far are still bright enough.

UPDATE 07.22.2018: The Linksys WRT3200ACM has gone through multiple radical changes during its two years of existence, so, while at the beginning the router would function properly and had a fantastic wireless performance, sometimes last year, lots of users started complaining that the WRT3200ACM was having serious issues with the 5GHz radio (some have hinted that it may be a hardware problem and that the Marvell chip needed to be changed) and that the LED lights would become dim after a few months of normal use. Considering that the review I did a year and a half ago may not portray the current condition of the WRT3200ACM, I re-purchased it and retested the device to see if Linksys has managed to release a stable firmware which would at least solve the 5GHz radio instability.

Design

linksys-wrt3200acm

A few years ago, Linksys made the decision to take inspiration from the design of the iconic Linksys WRT54G and create a soul successor which will take the Linksys legacy further. That’s how the WRT1900AC was born, a device which besides being one of the fastest AC1900 router on the market, it used a very unique case design which not only gathered the nostalgic fans, it also caught the attention of a new audience which was exasperated by the continuous release of the similar-looking black or white consumer-focused routers.

The designers from Linksys liked the new appearance so much that they decided to keep it for the entire series, making it pretty hard to tell the routers apart (except for the WRT1200AC, which has two antennas and the LINKSYS WRT32X AC3200 which is just completely black). I know that the design is the least important aspect in a router, but I find it a bit ridiculous that I can’t really tell apart the WRT1900ACS from the WRT3200ACM (it’s been almost two years, bring something new to the table!).

linksys

Despite borrowing the design of the WRT1900ACS, the WRT3200ACM looks a lot better than a lot of other routers on the market, the case being divided into two parts: the back side which is covered by a black matte finish and with lots of holes on top for a proper airflow and the blue front side, which is a bit glossy (but does not retain fingerprints). The dual-band removable antennas are positioned in the same manner, with two of them on the back side and the last two, each on one side of the router (since they’re reasonably small and close to the rear side, it won’t pose any inconvenience).

The footprint of the WRT3200ACM remains the same, with 9.68 x 7.63 x 2.04 inches and the weight is a bit lighter (28.16 oz), so it falls into the fairly large routers category (along with Asus RT-AC88U and Netgear Nighthawk R7800 X4S). By default, the WRT3200ACM can be positioned flat on a surface, but it can also be wall-mounted if you lack enough space to keep it properly ventilated (every feet has special holes to use for wall-mounting).

linksys

On the bottom side of the router, there are four rubber feet that are large enough to keep the device sturdy even if you connect all the ports and there are another two sections of numerous puncture holes that help keep the case well ventilated (and the WRT3200ACM definitely needs it since Linksys decided to remove the fail-safe fan on the early model of WRT1900AC). Also on the bottom, there’s a small label which contains various info about the device (such as the Serial Number, the MAC Address and the default SSID and password).

linksys

On the front of the device, on the black glossy plastic, there is a series of white LED lights (seven directly on the front and five slightly towards the right), which show the status of Power (if it blinks, it means that it is booting up or it’s in self-diagnostic mode), Internet (if it’s solid amber, it means that the connection is down because of some configuration issues and if the LED blinks an amber colour, then the connection is down because of hardware problems), the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band (if either of the two LEDs are blinking, then the router is receiving or sending data), eSata, USB 1, USB 2 (there are two indicators, on top of each other: the line and the dot indicates a USB 3.0 device has been connected and if the dot is turned off, then a USB 2.0 device has been connected), the four LAN Ethernet ports (every port has a primary T indicator and a secondary dot indicator: if the dot is turned off, then there is a device connected at 10/100Mbps, otherwise, the connection is at 1000Mbps) and for the WPS (if the LED is solid white for 5 seconds, then the connection has been successful, otherwise, if the LED blinks an amber colour, then the process has failed).

linksys-wrt3200acm

Source: FCC ID Image

UPDATE: A quick look inside the case has revealed that the port LEDs are big and will function properly for a long time, while the rest of the LED indicators are smaller and ‘forced’ to produce the same level of brightness, so this may be the reason why so many people have complained about the LEDs getting dimmer over time – after four months, the LED indicators are still as bright as the day I purchased the router, but this could still change in the future.

Flip the router around and you are greeted by lots of ports and buttons: from the left, there’s an antenna connector, a WPS button, four Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet LAN ports, an Internet port, a USB 3.0 port, a combo USB 2.0 / eSATA port (it’s nice to see that Linksys didn’t put any USB ports on the front or lateral sides), a small red recessed button (press it for 10 seconds to reset the router to factory default settings), the Power port and another antenna connector.

linksys

Just like with any other model from the WRT series, the WRT3200ACM does not really have an elegant design and it may not feel at home in a living-room with classic furniture, but, the case is not ugly by any means and it will fit in on a desk along with a modern desktop PC.
Note: Inside the package, you can find the Linksys WRT3200ACM unit, a Quick Start Guide, a CD with documentation, an Ethernet cable, the Power adapter and the four antennas.

Hardware
On the inside, the Linksys WRT3200ACM is equipped with a dual-core 1.8GHz Marvel Armada 88F6820 ARMv7, Marvell 88E6352 switch, 512 MB of RAM (Micron DDR3) and 256 MB of flash memory (Spansion NAND). Furthermore, the 2.4GHz radio band uses the Marvell 88W8964 chipset, along with a Skyworks SKY85309-11 2.4GHz front-end module and the 5GHz radio band also uses the Marvell 88W8964 chipset, along with the Skyworks SKY85728-11 5 GHz front-end module.

linksys

The Linksys WRT3200ACM features a maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 600 Mbps using the 2.4GHz radio band and the maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 2600 Mbps using the 5GHz radio band (added to the advertised 3200 Mbps).
Note: The power consumption, while operational, is approximately 33 Watts.

Features and Performance
The Linksys WRT3200ACM is a 3×3 AC3200 class router, but, as said in the introduction, we are not dealing with a tri-band router and one of the main signs is because it uses the MU-MIMO technology (as expected the AC3200 line is commonly used by routers that feature the Broadcom’s XStream Tri-band technology, such as the TP-Link AC3200, D-Link DIR-890L and Asus AC3200).

linksys

The usual tri-band router features an additional 5GHz radio band, besides the common dual-band setup and it helps a lot with the network stability by balancing the load between the three radios, therefore increasing the throughput (not the link rate!). This means that a tri-band AC3200 router will work as an AC1900-class device, but will be able to handle a lot more wireless connected clients and ensure a better network stability.

The Marvell’s MU-MIMO technology is a totally different beast and the way it works is that instead of serving one client at a time (the usual SU-MIMO approach), multiple users can be served simultaneously. This means that every connected MU-MIMO client receives an individual data stream (thus removing any competitiveness for the bandwidth), allowing users to play online games or perform any video streaming at the same time, without experiencing any latency. This technology sounds fantastic and a must-have in every household, the only problem is that the market hasn’t really caught up with the velocity of the networking technology development (there are still lots of people and companies that consider the 802.11ac standard as something exotic – this statement remain true even in 2018, when we’re already entering the realm of the 802.11ax!).

linksys

So, the MU-MIMO technology isn’t a solution for the present and more likely for a possible future where MU-MIMO compatible wireless cards are something usual and wide-spread (although at this point in time, I’m not holding my breath).
The main selling point and the reason why Linksys WRT3200ACM has been developed is the Tri-Stream 160 feature. To get a better understanding about how this tech works, let’s take the usual three-stream AC1900 router (3×3), with each stream maxing out at 433 Mbps using the 80MHz bandwidth mode (therefore going to the maximum advertised rate of 1,300 Mbps for the 5GHz radio band). The Tri-Stream 160 technology uses pretty much the same concept, but instead of using the 80MHz bandwidth mode, you get three streams at 160Mhz channel width, therefore driving data at 867Mbps on each stream (adding up to the advertised 2,600 Mbps on the 5GHz radio band).

The Tri-Stream 160 sure sounds like a game-changer, but can the usual person actually use it with any of the currently present devices? Umm, no. The only device that supports this tech is another WRT3200ACM router (internal data streams will be fantastic using the bridge mode, without a doubt) and, since there aren’t many compatible wireless adapter on the market (smallnetbuilder.com says that the Intel Wireless-AC 9260 supports this feature), but if you use 1×1 or 2×2 wireless adapters, the WRT3200ACM will perform similarly to a higher end AC1900 router and nothing more. This is a sin that almost all router manufacturers are guilty of, inflating the box number as much as they can, while the usual person will be hypnotized into thinking that they’ll get the link rates from the box.

linksys

That being said, the WRT3200ACM is definitely future-proof, but I’m not really sure that this is the future of the networking world (Linksys thinks so and it has prepared way ahead of time) and my opinion is that a tri-band router (while definitely not being superior), has the advantage of not needing any special compatible wireless adapters, just ones which use the 5GHz radio band (furthermore, the tri-band approach has worked out great for the WiFi mesh systems (such as the Orbi, Eero 2nd Gen or the Velop) that needed a reliable way of handling the backhaul traffic).
UPDATE: As an update to my previous statement, the 802.11ax may prove me wrong and the 160MHz channel bandwidth is going to become the norm, therefore indeed making the WRT3200ACM one of the most future-proof wireless routers that I have tested.

The last feature that I want to mention from the Linksys WRT3200ACM is the Beamforming technology which has the role of optimizing the network performance by scanning the area, identifying the connected devices (wireless) and focusing the signal directly at them, instead of broadcasting it everywhere, hoping it will reach the connected clients.

linksys

In order to test the wireless performance of the Linksys WRT3200ACM, I took a laptop with a compatible wireless adapter and a desktop PC (also with a built-in compatible wireless adapter equipped with one of the most powerful wireless adapter on the consumer market, the Asus PCE-AC88) and I measured the speed performance at different locations inside a large house.
UPDATE: I have kept the initial test results to showcase the improvements that Linksys has made over the years and the new tests have been done after three days four months from the purchasing date (in a new location) and the router has been kept running continuously during this period in order to see when (and if) I will experience the same problems with the 5GHz radio band – the WRT3200ACM has been updated to the latest firmware, the v1.0.6.186168 (Linksys decided that their router series is perfect and no updates are needed anymore).

So, using the 2.4GHz radio band (and implicitly, the 802.11n standard – 20MHz bandwidth mode), from the client to the server at close range (5 feet), I measured an average of 231 Mbps 151 Mbps (it peaked at 156 Mbps). Afterwards, at 15 feet, the speed decreased to 144Mbps decreased to 164 Mbps and at 35 feet, I measured an average of 115 Mbps 70 Mbps. Even if the new location is not that WiFi-friendly as when I tested the device in July, I still got better results than a year and a half ago, so the WRT3200ACM is still doing good on the 2.4GHz band. From the server to the client, at no more than 5 feet away from the router, I managed to measure an average of 182 Mbps, while at 15 feet, the speed went down to 129 Mbps and at 35 feet, I measured an average of 81.3 Mbps.

linksys-wrt3200acm

Since I got an overall better wireless speed performance on the 2.4GHz band, I switched to the 5GHz radio band (the 802.11ac standard and the 80MHz bandwidth mode) and using the Asus PCE-AC88, I got the following results from the client to the server: 5 feet away from the router, I managed to measure an average of 811 Mbps (with the peak at 930 Mbps), while at 15 feet, the speed went down to 720 Mbps (a welcomed improvement over the 647 Mbps from the last time I tested the device) and lastly, at 30 feet, I measured an average of 534 Mbps (obviously, unless you use the best WiFi adapters on the market, you won’t see this type of performance).

From the server to the client, I got the following results: at close range (no more than 5 feet), I managed to measure an average of 235 Mbps, while at 15 feet, the speed decreased to 233 Mbps. Lastly, at 30 feet, I measured an average of 165 Mbps. As you can see, the speed performance on the 5GHz radio from the client to the server has remained pretty much consistent to what I measured the second time I tested the WRT3200ACM, but the server to client performance is really nothing to brag about and significantly below what the Asus RT-AC86U can deliver.

linksys-wrt3200acm

Because the router has a USB 3.0 port, I had to measure the storage performance and see how it stands against its predecessor, the WRT1900ACS. So, I took a 2.0 GB folder containing multimedia files (videos, music and books) and I measured a writing speed of 88.5MBps and a reading speed of 113.1MBps. This makes it one of the fastest router from the storage point of view available on the market right now.

Setup and Interface

linksys
The setup process of the WRT3200ACM is as simple as with any other modern wireless router: connect your PC to the wireless name and use the password shown on the label (from the bottom of the device) and open a web browser to launch the Linksys Smart Router Setup (if the wizard doesn’t launch instantaneously, go to linksyssmartwifi.com). The setup wizard will guide you through configuring the Wireless Settings (the SSIDs and the password for both radio bands), create a new router password (along with a hint) and create a Linksys Smart WiFi Account (which allows you to access your network remotely). By default, the connection type settings are done automatically, but you can also get the option to perform the manual configuration. After finishing the initial setup, you gain access to the UI to configure your router at a more in-depth level.

linksys-wrt3200acm

UPDATE: The second time I configured the WRT3200ACM, I used the Linksys mobile app (the same that is used to configure both the tri-band and the dual-band Velop systems) and the steps were pretty much the same as on the browser-based interface: selecting ‘A Linksys Router’ instead of ‘A Velop System’, connecting to the router’s WiFi network and waiting until the device gets detected by the app, installing the latest firmware update, setting up the two WiFi networks and that’s pretty much it – from here on, you’ll be able to freely roam the mobile and the browser-based interfaces.

The main page of the browser interface has a menu on the left with all the important sections with options, each showing a new window in the centre. On the right side, you get nine small windows which show the Status of the Network, the Linksys Home Networking shortcut, the WiFi Settings, the Guest Access, the status of the Parental Controls, the External Storage, the Media Prioritization status and the Network Map. The first section is the Smart WiFi Tools and has the following options: Network Map (a graphical representation of your network, including the Guest Network and the Internet Usage), Guest Access (allows you to create guest network names with passwords and you can choose the maximum number of guests allowed), Parental Controls (you can restrict access to specific devices, block the Internet access during specific times or always and block specific websites), Media Prioritization (drag and drop devices in the normal or high priority section and choose the Applications along with the Online Games for those sections), Speed Check and External Storage (Status, Folder Access, FTP Server and Media Server).

linksys

Directly underneath the Smart WiFi Tools, you can see the Router Settings: Connectivity (the Basic settings – Network Name and Password, Router Password, Firmware Update, Time Zone and Activity Lights; Internet Settings – IPv4 or IPv6 Connection Type, MAC Address Clone and MTU; Local Network – Router Details and DHCP Server; Advanced Routing – NAT, Dynamic Routing and Static Routing; VLAN – VLAN, Internet(Trunk) and Ethernet; Administration: Local Management Access, UPnP and Application Layer Gateway), Troubleshooting (Status, Diagnostics and Logs), WiFi Settings (Wireless settings, MAC Filtering, WiFi Protected Setup and Wireless Scheduler), Security (Firewall – Firewall, VPN Passthrough, Internet filters and IPv6 Port Services; DMZ; Apps and Gaming – DDNS, Single Port Forwarding, Port Range Forwarding and port Range Triggering) and OpenVPN Server. While the app was quick and intuitive, I noticed that the web-based interface was slow and I had some trouble finding some options (such as something as simple as finding where to upgrade the firmware – as a hint, it’s under Connectivity).

linksys

Besides the MU-MIMO and the Tri-Stream 160 feature, the third main selling point of the Linksys WRT3200ACM is the support for Open Source firmwares. Since the router is made with this type of compatibility, the OpenWRT or DD-WRT custom firmwares will be more stable than on the other routers, but there’s something I did not quite understand. While the WRT3200ACM is advertised as being Open-Source Ready, on their website it is written: “Installing 3rd party firmware is done at your own risk and replacing factory-installed firmware with open source firmware will void your warranty.” So, while Linksys encourages you to go for third party firmwares, it will not fix the product if something goes wrong.

UPDATE: The support for open-source firmware has been one reason why so many people decided to go with routers from the WRT series, but, unlike other manufacturers that have been generally well regarded by third-party developers (such as Asuswrt-Merlin for Asus routers), Linksys seriously lacks in this department. At this moment, I would not recommend using DDWRT with the WRT3200ACM (it brings almost nothing new in terms of features and it feels dated), but I did notice a lot of positive feedback from the LEDE project team, so, if you want to use a third-party firmware, I would go for OpenWRT.

Conclusion
I’m not really sure what to think about the Linksys WRT3200ACM because for me, it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, you get an above average wireless performance (and as an update, the router did really well in a more difficult location), a fantastic storage performance and a simple-to-use app interface (while the browser-based interface is very slow – this hasn’t changed). But, on the other hand, all of these new features lack any usability in the real world and the only people to take advantage of them would be those that actually purchase two of these units and use them in bridge mode lacked usability for a long time, but the emergence of the 802.11ax standard could reshape the market and make the WRT3200ACM a device way ahead of its time (although it can be too outdated by the time this happens).

Furthermore, the support for custom firmwares had the potential to make this router one of the fastest on the market, but so far it didn’t happen, so considering the great advances of the LEDE Project, I’ll also try to install it on my unit and retest it after some time has passed. Overall, in its current condition (and four days since I have it four months since I got it), the WRT3200ACM is still performing really well, so I’ll keep it for a while longer to see if Linksys managed to fix all of the issues and has made the WRT series great again and although I can’t speak for the large majority of the devices out there, the Linksys WRT3200ACM that I have used until now performed better than expected.
Note: As a side note, I had to reconnect one client a couple of times during this period of time, the Android devices would stay connected to the 5GHz network without problems and, as for Apple device, unfortunately, during the last four months I had none to test the connection.

Check for the latest price here:

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Linksys WRT3200ACM

Linksys WRT3200ACM

Pros

  • Good Wireless Performance
  • MU-MIMO Technology
  • Tri-Stream 160MHz
  • Easy-to-Use Interface
  • Support For Custom Firmware

Cons

  • Not Many 160MHz Compatible Clients Available
  • LEDs Can Dim Over Time
  • The Support From Third Party Developers Is Underwhelming

CAT S41 and S31 rugged smartphones

  • May 15, 2019

CAT S41 IP68 Rugged Smartphone

The S41 is CAT’s latest rugged smartphone release. Known for its advanced S60 smartphone with a thermal imaging camera, CAT appears to be positioning the S41 as its mainstream rugged model with a mid-range price. The S41, successor to the S40, does not have thermal imaging but does offer some major upgrades from the S40.

The screen size has increased to 5 inches with full 1080p HD resolution and Gorilla Glass 5 with wet-finger and glove-on support. Under the hood is is a MediaTek P20 octa-core 2.3GHz CPU with 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM running Android 7.0 Nougat. Cameras include a 13MP rear with LED flash and 8MP front. The battery is a hefty 5000 mAh and can be used to charged external devices with the USB adapter. A micro USB port is used for charging and there is also a headphone jack. As a rugged model the S41 is “beyond” IP68 certified, waterproof up to 2 meters for 1 hour and drop proof to 1.8 meters. It is also resistant to vibration and extreme temperatures, with an operating range from -25°C (-13°F) to 55°C (131°F). Other features include 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 & 5GHz) wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, FM radio, GPS, and microSD slot. The S41 measures 152 x 75 x 12.95 mm and weighs 218 grams. The S41 will be released in single and dual SIM configurations.

The CAT S41 has a list price of $449 USD.

CAT S41 Promotional Video:

CAT S41 Official Site

CAT is also releasing the S31, a more budget-oriented rugged smartphone. The S31 has a 4.7-inch 720p HD screen with Gorilla Glass 3 featuring wet-finger and glove-on support. The S31 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8909 quad-core CPU with 2GB RAM and 16GB ROM. It is IP68 certified, waterproof to 1.2 meters up to 35 minutes, and drop proof to 1.8 meters. Battery size is 4000 mAh. Cameras are 8MP-rear with LED flash and 2MP-front. The S31 does not have NFC like the S41. The S31 measures 146 x 74.42 x 12.6 mm and weighs 200 grams. List price is $329 USD.

CAT S31 Promotional Video:

CAT S31 Official Site

Top Eight iPhone and iPad News Apps

  • May 8, 2019

If you enjoy reading the latest news, then you more than surely know just how fast the news can spread at times. This makes it difficult to stay ahead of the “curve” when it comes to the latest and most interesting topics. However, Apple fans don’t have to worry about that since they can access lots of premium news apps on iPhones and iPads that will keep them updated on everything that interests them.

Apple has recently announced that it is planning to launch a subscription service called Apple News+ which will provide subscribers with the world’s most trustworthy and reliable news publication. Although, picking the right ones to follow can be quite tricky since there are so many. This is why we have decided that for today we are going to present the top eight best news apps that iPhone and iPad users can follow in order to stay informed.

#1 Apple News

Apple News

We are going to start our list with the obvious choice, Apple News. The reason why we have picked Apple News to sit on the first spot is because this is a native iOS app that offers all types of coverage and a premium reading experience. What makes this app stand out from the rest is the fact that it features a “For You” section that is filled with the user’s favorite stories and topics. Therefore, making it easier for all iPhone and iPad users to learn everything that is going on in the world.

Download Apple News

#2 Pocket: Save Stories for Later

Pocket: Save Stories for Later

Pocket is an innovative news app for iPhones and iPads that makes it possible for users to collect stories that seem interesting and then save them in a special list in order to check them out later. To make things even better, saving stories for later with Pocket is fairly simple and the only thing that users need to do is to tap on the share button and then pick the “Pocket” option. In addition, Pocket offers a recommendation tab where users can find all their favorite stories and journalists.

Download Pocket: Save Stories for Later

#3 Google News

Google News

Even though Google News is renowned as being one of the best news apps that Android users can access, this doesn’t mean that the app is exclusive to them. Google News can also be downloaded on iOS powered devices and what this app does best is the fact that it collects news sources from all over the world and places them in the user’s newsfeed. Furthermore, Google News offers a cool feature called “Full Coverage” which provides additional details without Google’s curation system. Not just that, but there is also the option to save a story or download specification publications to read at a later date.

Download Google News

#4 Flipboard

Flipboard

Apple’s iOS operating system is renowned for offering a premium user experience, but what really makes it stand out is the millions of apps and mobile games that iOS users can download whenever they want. One of these apps is called Flipboard and it is known for being an established news app that provides users with a constant stream of all the latest headlines. Just like Apple News, Flipboard features a “For You” panel that iPhone and iPad users can customize to their liking.

Download Flipboard

#5 TL;DR

TL;DR

We know that some of you have busy lives and that you don’t have time to read all the news that might be interesting. Well, here is where TL;DR comes in and saves the day. For those who are unfamiliar with this acronym, TL;DR stands for “too long, didn’t read” and it automatically provides iPhone and iPad users with shortened versions of articles that they want to check out.

This is a really great app for iOS and it will definitely make it easier for all iPhone and iPad users to find out everything they need to know about the topics that interest them in record time. However, we do have to mention that there is a big downside to TL;DR. This app sometimes fails to provide detailed and accurate information since it’s restricted to a limited number of characters.

Download TL;DR

#6 Bloomberg

We think it’s safe to say that Bloomberg is one of the world’s most reputable business news outlets. Everyone who works in finances and wants to learn about all the latest reports in the business world should consider giving Bloomberg a try. Moreover, Bloomberg also provides users with great coverage on topics such as the stock market which can be quite helpful at times.

Not just that, but iPhone and iPad users who have their own investments can create a personal portfolio on the Bloomberg app and track all the latest news that include information about their personal portfolio.

Download Bloomberg

#7 CNN

CNN

When it comes to famous news publication, CNN is sitting in the top five. The folks who are in charge of CNN have also created an iOS app that will help iPhone and iPad users get access to all the latest headlines from the world’s biggest publishers. The cool thing about the CNN news app for iOS is the fact that it also provides video snippets, exclusive coverage and featured news. Furthermore, the app is equipped with a friendly and intuitive UI (user interface) which is easy to navigate and “scan” for all the latest news.

Download CNN

#8 Feedly

Feedly

Remember Google Reader? This used to be a really fun mode that made it easier on the eyes when reading news and unfortunately, the mode was removed. Luckily, here is where Feedly comes in and provides users with an alternative. Feedly is a reliable news app that offers Google Reader which means that users can select multiple publications, save articles for later viewing, sort them into topics and much more. Nonetheless, Feedly is a powerful news app and it can more keep iPhone and iPad users updated on everything that is going on in the world.

Download Feedly

The Best Rugged Smartphones of 2019 – MBReviews

  • May 1, 2019

kyocera-duraforce-pro-2

5. Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2

The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2 is the latest handset from the Japanese manufacturer to join the rugged smartphones market as a successor to the DuraForce Pro in an effort to improve some key elements and make the device more suitable for the exigences of the 2019. But, despite people craving for an elegant, yet rugged smartphone, the manufacturers are still having a hard time to keep their devices slim and with the latest features, while also being resistant against drops or other mechanical shocks.

Samsung and Motorola have made some interesting advancements with their waterproof and dustproof Active and Force series, but it’s worth noting that Kyocera has also pushed its rugged smartphones towards a more modern design, so while the Kyocera Brigadier was already a better looking rugged smartphone than its competitors, the DuraForce Pro 2 got a bit closer to the more elegant non-rugged flagships. At the same time, it doesn’t differ that much from its predecessor even if it comes with a redesigned case and it still carries the signature look, has better internal hardware and the same iconic sapphire screen.

kyocera-duraforce-pro-2-rugged-smartphone

As expected, you won’t find the glass and metal combination (which is definitely attractive, but fragile) and instead, you get a mix of polycarbonate and thick rubber. The case has a curved back, soft rounded corners – it’s less curved than the DuraForce Pro 2, the lateral sides protruding towards both the bottom and the top sides. Furthermore, on the rear panel, there are four patches of texturized rubber that slide towards the screen and, on centre of the rear panel, the plastic is a lot smoother.

All around the case, you can find pretty much the same buttons and ports as on any other smartphone (yes, it has a headphone jack), with every port opening being covered by protective flaps and, unfortunately, Kyocera decided to get rid of the three front buttons for Back, Home and Recent and instead, it went with capacitive buttons – this hasn’t been the best decision because the physical buttons remained operational in every type of environment (as a bonus, there are front-facing speakers). The PTT/Programmable key has been kept from the DuraForce Pro (by default, it will activate Verizon’s push-to-talk service, if you use Verizon, but you can program it to either launch any app or to automatically send help texts and the GPS location in case you get lost or are in danger), as well as the Fingerprint Sensor on the Power key (this feature has now become a standard even on rugged phones).

kyocera-duraforce-pro-2

Because of the curved back, the phone fits comfortably inside the palm of the hand, but the increased size over the DuraForce Pro 2 will not go unnoticed, since it now measures 5.91 x 2.89 x 0.53 inches and it’s got a bit heavier (8.57 oz). The bigger size means more screen real-estate, but bigger smarphones are usually more fragile and more prone to breaking than any other smaller handsets (until better technologies are developed, I’m not sure rugged smartphones should go over 5 inches). Another interesting aspect is that I found it hard to fit the phone in my pocket because of its thickness (so keep that in mind before purchasing).

That being said, the main attraction of any phone is the display and Kyocera has equipped the DuraForce Pro 2 with a 5-inch IPS LCD display that features 16 million colours, a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and a pixel density of 441ppi (so, nothing has changed in this department). Furthermore, you get the same Sapphire Shield protection, so the display becomes virtually unscratchable and it is a bit harder to break than the traditional screens (if it falls at a odd angle, the screen will shatter into pieces instead of cracking like the usual Corning Gorilla Glass protection).
Similarly to the DuraForce Pro 2, the display is greatly improved over the dim Kyocera Brigadier, so, even for a sapphire screen, you can clearly see everything even under direct sunlight.

kyocera-duraforce-pro-2

Still, you should not expect the vividness of AMOLEDs or the true colours of iPhones, but the DuraForce Pro 2 does a fair job on delivering a good visual experience, with images and text being crisp and clear, the colour accuracy is reasonably good and it has surprisingly good viewing angles. What I found annoying is that Kyocera left so much space unused on the front, while the display of so many other smartphones cover almost completely the front side (except for the dreaded notch).
Note: You can use the touch-screen even if you are wearing gloves or if your fingers are wet.

Similarly to Kyocera DuraForce Pro, the DuraForce Pro 2 has a Military Standard 810G certification, so the phone should withstand low pressure, temperature shock, any contamination by fluids, humidity, solar radiation, high altitude, mechanical vibration, pyroshock, icing or freezing rain and more, which makes the handset perfect for working in industrial fields (the device is also Class I Division 2 rated, so it can be used in hazardous places without causing explosions). This should ensure a serious protection from the elements and in case you accidentally drop it, know that the screen is not unbreakable (as said before), so be aware that if you drop it on a sharp object face first, it could shatter (there is a lip around the display which will definitely help a lot with keeping the screen’s integrity intact).

kyocera-duraforce-pro-2

Furthermore, the phone is IP68 rated, which means that it is protected against dust and it is waterproof, meaning that it can be temporarily immersed under water. To be more precise, the DuraForce Pro 2 will allow you to go as deep as 6.5 feet for up to 30 minutes and, at the same time, there is the Underwater Mode for all the camera options (you can film and capture photos under water).
And that leads us to the cameras. On the rear side, the DuraForce Pro 2 features a main 13-megapixel camera, with autofocus, LED flash and HDR, and a secondary wide-angle 8-megapixel camera (an upgrade from the 2-MP of the previous model).

In good light, the camera can capture some really good photos, with accurate colours, a low amount of noise and an overall good exposure. In low light, the camera struggled a bit, capturing photos with a lot of noise and grain. The secondary wide-angle camera is definitely an interesting addition, because it can capture super wide-view 4K videos (and the upgrade to the 8-megapixel sensor is definitely noticeable). The front 5-megapixel camera (no upgrade here) is good for selfies, but again, it will do a decent job in good light, but not so much indoors and in low-light environments.

Another great feature that’s been developed for the DuraForce Pro 2 is the advanced echo and active noise cancellation using four microphones which have the role of counterbalancing the external sounds, allowing you to better make phone calls (even using the speaker option) or simply listening to music or videos.

kyocera-duraforce-pro-2

On the inside, the DuraForce Pro 2 is equipped like a mid-range smartphone, sporting an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 chipset (octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU), an Adreno 508 GPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage memory, which can be augmented by 512GB using a microSD card. This hardware is specific to a mid-range handset and the performance will be as expected: great at multitasking, but not the best with 3D games that require a lot of resources. The phone also runs on Android v8.0 Oreo, but it has some pre-installed elements from Kyocera and some more from its carrier (the DuraForce Pro does not have an unlocked version, for now) – thankfully, the 4 GB of RAM will make a difference to contain the bloatware from the carrier.

Ignoring the carrier apps, the interface is reasonably clean and Kyocera added only a few native applications, such as the Outdoor Portal, which is a good tool for checking the weather, the real-time position of the moon and the sun, the correct altitude and even the tide with a fish activity rating. There’s also the Camera Underwater Mode which basically disables the touch-screen and let’s you control the phone using only the physical buttons.

kyocera-duraforce-pro-2

The last aspect that I would like to cover is the battery life. Just like the Duraforce Pro, the Pro 2 comes with a non-removable 3240 mAh battery which will get you through a full day of medium use (in the continuous loop video test, the battery died after almost 7 hours). The good news is that the phone comes with the UBS Type-C fast charging, so the battery will charge up to 60 % in about half an hour and there is support for the Qi wireless charging, but the charging pad is not included.

Verdict: The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2 is definitely a better smartphone than the Kyocera Brigadier, but less of a significant upgrade over the DuraForce Pro 2 (although it does have a slightly better camera and more powerful hardware). At the same time, some improvements have been made to the overall ruggedness from its predecessor (the case it completely redesigned), but I’m not really a fan of not having the option to purchase this phone unlocked from the start and being forced to go through a carrier (which this time has added an annoying amount of bloatware). This is the main minus of the Kyocera DuraForce Pro and of course, I have already signalled all of its pluses, so if it’s not a problem for you to go through Verizon, this is a worthy smartphone for active people that like rock climbing and swimming.

New Kindle Oasis 7″ waterproof e-reader

  • April 24, 2019

Kindle Oasis Waterproof E-Reader

Ten years after the first Kindle made its debut, Amazon is releasing the first waterproof Kindle e-reader which is now available for pre-order. The new Kindle Oasis is a follow-up to the original Kindle Oasis, a premium metal-cased e-reader that was thinner and lighter than other Kindle models.

The new Kindle Oasis has a larger 7″ 300 dpi touchscreen, 8GB or 32GB of storage, and Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus free cellular connectivity. The Oasis’ waterproof rating is IPX8 and can be submersed up to 2 meters for 30 minutes. The back case is made of anodized aluminum and has a tapered, ergonomic design that makes one-handed reading easy and comfortable. The adaptive front light automatically adjusts brightness based on the surroundings. The optional Audible feature provides audiobook support and Bluetooth connectivity for headphones and speakers. The Kindle Oasis pricing starts at $249.99 for the 8GB Wi-Fi version.

If water exposure is a concern then paying a premium for the Oasis is a no-brainer, but how do the other features compare to other Kindle models like the Paperwhite and Voyage? The Oasis is the only Kindle with the tapered design for better one-handed reading. The Paperwhite and Voyage do not have Audible support and while the basic Kindle does, it does not offer cellular connectivity. The Oasis has a 12-LED front light while the Voyage has 6 LEDs and the Paperwhite has a 4-LED non-adaptive light. The glass used on the Oasis is said to be stronger than all other Kindles. The Oasis’ maximum storage option of 32GB is massive compared to the maximum 4GB of all other models, and even the 8GB version is a significant upgrade. Weighing in at 6.8 ounces, the new Oasis doesn’t have quite the weight advantage of the old Oasis (4.6 ounces) but it is still lighter than the others. The new Kindle Oasis is simply the best Kindle available. Even if one doesn’t anticipate using it outdoors or in the bathtub it is still worth considering for the larger screen, bigger capacity, Audible support, ergonomic design, and premium build quality.

Buy Kindle Oasis at Amazon

Top Five Galaxy Watch Accessories

  • April 17, 2019

Galaxy Watch is the latest smartwatch from Samsung and it is renowned for delivering powerful performances. What makes this smartwatch stand out from Samsung’s previous Gear S3 Classic and Frontier models is the sleek design that it’s equipped with and the premium user experience that it offers. Although, the Galaxy Watch still needs help from a couple of accessories in order to reach its full potential.

We know that picking the right accessories is a difficult task and this is why we have decided to scour the internet in search of the best Galaxy Watch accessories. The common theme between the top Galaxy Watch accessories that we are going to show everyone today is that they all help unlock the full power of the smartwatch while also providing it with another layer of protection against damage. With that being said, let’s check out which are the best Galaxy Watch accessories.

#1 Protective Case Cover

 Protective Case Cover

Considering the fact that Galaxy Watch is a wearable device, it’s more than likely that it will get hit at least once a week. Everyone who wears watches on a daily basis knows that it is not rare to hit your wrist on a door or a desk and this is why the first accessory for Galaxy Watch that we are presenting is a compatible protective case cover.

This case cover features an electroplate design which doesn’t just increase the protection of the Galaxy Watch, but also give it a more premium and high-end design. The cover is compatible with the 42mm and 46mm of Galaxy Watch and it also features a 24-month warranty protection program.
Price: $9.99
Purchase it from Amazon

#2 Samsung Wireless Charger

Samsung Wireless Charger

Dedicated Samsung fans who own more than one Galaxy devices might want to check out the wireless charging pad that is highlighted in the image featured above. This is a 2-in-1 wireless charging pad which means that it can charge a Galaxy Watch and a Samsung smartphone at the same time without any problems. We should mention that the wireless charging pad supports all Qi-Enabled smartphones and this also includes iPhones and hundreds of Android powered smartphones.

What makes this wireless charging pad from Samsung stand out from the rest is the fact that it ships with a built-in fan that provides the required ventilation in order to keep the devices which are being charged at a safe temperature. Just like the accessory before, the wireless charging pad from Samsung provides a one year warranty program.
Price: $61.39
Purchase it from Amazon

#3 Special Holder CaseCharger Holder

We previously showed everyone a wireless charging pad made by Samsung, but for our third spot we something even better. This is a portable holder that has been designed especially for Samsung’s Galaxy Watch. The portable holder is made from environmentally friendly materials and it offers a sturdy, lightweight and compact design. This makes the portable holder the perfect accessory for Galaxy Watch users who like to travel a lot and don’t want to worry about damaging the smartwatch while carrying it in their backpacks.
Price: $11.96
Purchase it from Amazon

#4 Luxury Bands

Luxury Bands

Even though Galaxy Watch is famed for its sleek and premium looking design, it does come with a downside. The downside of Galaxy Watch’s design is the fact that everyone’s else smartwatch is going to look the same. Truth be told, this is not a major problem but people who enjoy being unique and classy will not like it. This is why we want to present the CAGOS compatible Galaxy Watch active band sets on our fourth spot.

As we can clearly see in the image featured above, these Galaxy Watch bands look amazing. They are going to give Galaxy Watch users that special “design” they want and make the smartwatch an ideal accessory when going out to formal events. In addition, the bands sport an “easy to install” system which means that Galaxy Watch users will be able to lock them onto the smartwatch in only a couple of seconds.
Price: $18.99
Purchase it from Amazon

#5 Ringke Bezel

Ringke Bezel

Just like we have previously mentioned, the biggest downside about using a Galaxy Watch is the fact that everyone’s else Galaxy Watch looks the same. Fortunately, this is where the Ringke Bezel comes in and offers an alternative. This bezel is available in multiple colors and its design has been optimized to fit on Galaxy Watch.

The rotating ring works just like the original Galaxy Watch bezel does. Nonetheless, the primary reason why some Galaxy Watch fans might want to consider getting the Ringke Bezel is to avoid scratching the original one because Samsung is going to charge quite a lot in order to replace it with a brand-new one.
Price: $22.99
Purchase it from Amazon

Conclusion

These have been our top five accessories for Galaxy Watch. We had a difficult time picking them because there are so many other ones that can be purchased from Amazon. However, we had one rule of thumb when picking these top five accessories and that was for the accessories to be of premium quality and for them to help unlock the full potential of Galaxy Watch while also enhancing its protection against damages (screen cracks, scratches, etc). The last thing that we want to mention is that the Galaxy Watch is an expensive device and therefore, spending a couple of dollars for a protective cover is more than worth it.