Proactive Computing | Optimizing IT for usability, performance and reliability since 1997

Category: #Reviews (Page 3 of 56)

Here are the winners in tech for 2021

Though this year is by no means one to celebrate, there were still some bright spots in the world of tech. It’s with plenty of loathing that we admit this: NFTs somehow won this year. They’ve taken over. Reddit’s day traders also deserve recognition for the way they’ve managed to manifest GameStop’s slogan, “Power to the players.”

Also (and this might be the most painful to acknowledge), the Metaverse (sorta) took off this year. At least in terms of our lexicon, with mentions of the word skyrocketing since Mark Zuckerberg uttered it while announcing plan for a richer VR and AR-focused world. Maybe people were confused between “metaverse” and “multiverse” as in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?

Besides the things we love to hate, there are some products this year we genuinely liked as well. Apple continued to impress with its M1 chips and, more importantly, gave users a way to repair their own devices (kinda). Google’s first-ever mobile chip powered clever experiences on the latest Pixel phones and showcased the company’s AI and software prowess at a competitive price. As we continue to be bombarded by depressing news every day, it’s worth taking the time to reflect on the wins this year, no matter how tiny.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 28: Digital artist FEWOCiOUS auctions five new unique NFT works of art, along with five physical paintings and never-before-seen drawings in a collection titled

Noam Galai via Getty Images


2021 has not been a quiet year, so NFTs deserve something approaching praise for securing a spot in the highlights reel. NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are an attempt to create an immutable digital asset in an environment where such a thing has historically been tricky. For the industry’s proponents, it’s a way of imposing some form of scarcity on digital artifacts that you can’t easily make scarce. Anyone can right-click and save a picture of a monkey wearing sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt after all. But only the person who paid a lot of money for the NFT can go around calling themselves the “owner” of the same. As Nietzche didn’t say, NFTs are the lie agreed upon, suggesting that people respect the owner of the certificated copy of something over everything else.

So far, the biggest and most notable moves in the NFT space have happened in the art market, with pieces being bought and sold for eye-watering numbers. On March 11th, digital artist Beeple sold Everydays: The First 5,000 Days at Christie’s auction house for $69,346,250. Those hefty sums are, in some people’s minds, justified because they believe that NFTs will become the new crypto, with everyone trying to get aboard the bandwagon before it goes big. After all, there are lots of folks who got rich during the Bitcoin boom that want to further enhance their fortunes, while some who were left behind now hope to get in on the ground floor on the next big thing. Others, meanwhile, think that the big craze in NFTs right now is to help folks move large quantities of money around away from the auspices of, you know, regulators.

The NFT market is so awash with speculator cash that it’s normal to have… questions. A recent Harvard Business Review article talks about how commerce can’t work without “clear property rights,” which NFTs help to impose. There’s also the matter of whether NFTs could better enable more reliable and secure ticketing and permission systems? I’ll be honest, I’m personally unconvinced by the argument that NFTs offer rights of ownership, since they don’t necessarily confer upon the buyer the proper rights of ownership.

These issues are, however, going to be worked out over the next few years, and it will only be when the speculation has died down that we’ll see if NFTs have any residual worth. And, hey, not every deeply-technical cryptographic ownership record gets their own SNL sketch shortly after they broke into the mainstream, do they. – Daniel Cooper, Senior Editor

The Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invent the term, but by rebadging Facebook as “Meta,” he helped kick off a wave of interest in the metaverse. While it was originally a dystopian view of cyberspace via Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, the metaverse now represents the next big online goldrush. You can think of it as the logical step forward from the mobile internet, a world where our online experiences can easily transition between multiple devices. And eventually, it could be something we interact with via AR and VR glasses.

To be clear, we still don’t have an exact idea of what the metaverse will be. The Meta renaming could easily be seen as a way for Zuckerberg to avoid his responsibilities as the leader of a fundamentally broken social media company. But other companies have been exploring this idea for years: Microsoft’s HoloLens has proven to be surprisingly useful for commercial and front-line workers, and it’s also core to Mesh, the company’s ambitious solution for virtual meetings. The Borg-like Google Glass was widely ridiculed, but its failure hasn’t stopped Google from thinking about its role in the metaverse, either.

Maybe it’ll take a killer new device, like Apple’s fabled AR glasses, to bring the metaverse into focus. Or maybe it’ll go the way of wearables — a category of devices that’s useful for some people, but not necessarily essential for everyone. Either way, it’s something that will forever be tied to 2021. – Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Home fitness tech is here to stay

As the pandemic kept many of us indoors and out of gyms, companies like Peloton, Apple, Tonal and even Amazon were able to pull us into new fitness habits and equipment.

Apple Fitness Plus


Meanwhile, major fitness studios and gyms like Equinox, Soulcycle, OrangeTheory and F45 have modulated (while some created from scratch) their online services. Many companies expanded replayable class options or added live lessons, leaderboards and more in a bid to keep members fit – and keep those membership dues coming in.

COVID-19 offered a chance to shift our workout habits and reduce gym costs. Why pay $50 for a high-intensity interval training gym membership when I can track myself in Apple’s Fitness Plus classes, SharePlay with my friends and jump in my own shower, all for just $10 a month?

Of course, the comparison isn’t oranges for oranges, and despite cheerleading Peloton trainers and form corrections from gym coaches over video livestreams, it’s very hard to get the degree of attention gained from in-person training. That’s likely one reason why at-home exercise injuries have never been higher. The Wall Street Journal reported that emergency room visits after home workouts increased by more than 48% from the end of 2019 through the end of 2020, according to a survey by Medicare Advantage.

However, just like traditional gyms did when the pandemic first hit, these businesses have to figure out how to hold onto their customers.

A woman using the Tonal wall-mounted workout system, performing a pulldown.


Tonal is a ‘Peloton for weight training’ product that Engadget tested back in 2018. When our usual bench-press machines and squat racks were locked inside gyms over the last year and a half, Tonal saw demand for its resistance-training system rocket. Sales grew more than eight times year-over-year. In a bid to hold onto these new customers, the company recently introduced live classes for Tonal owners, with direct feedback from coaches and classes reportedly calibrated for each user.

Meanwhile, Peloton, arguably the most recognizable at-home fitness company, faces more competition from (and litigation with) rivals and a tougher business outlook. After a rough earnings report in November, the company said it didn’t expect to be profitable again until 2023. Worse, its Bike was involved in the death of an important character in the Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That. But the company has plans (and cheeky responses). It’s integrated into many corporate fitness plans, launched its first exercise game, announced a fitness camera for strength training and finally — added a pause button.

The challenge will be keeping many of us from returning to our old gyms, cycling commutes, or our old, less healthy habits when things eventually return to normal. – Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief

An illustration showing a person using tools to repair a gadget while looking at a tablet.

Apple takes baby steps toward the right to repair

Apple continued to impress the industry with its M1 Pro and M1 Max chips this year, putting them in new MacBooks that garnered rave reviews. And though the iPhone 13 Pro is just catching up to Android phones with its 120Hz screen, it’s an undeniably good device with solid cameras and excellent performance. The Apple Watch Series 7 isn’t much different from its predecessor, barring its larger display, but it’s still the best smartwatch around. Plus, Apple TV+ gained much more credibility in 2021 with the giant pile of awards its original series Ted Lasso brought home.

But the biggest thing that Apple did this year was to start selling DIY iPhone and Mac repair kits to consumers. After it was discovered Face ID on an iPhone 13 would stop working if a third party replaced its screen, the company first issued a software fix for this specific issue and announced the repair kits shortly after. The move was hailed by activists as a victory for the right-to-repair movement, given the company’s history of making it obnoxiously difficult for you to get your Apple products fixed by anyone else.

Of course, Apple could still do better — activists say the company’s plans could be more comprehensive, for example. But this is a major reversal of policy that shows the company is opening up, ever so slightly. Last year, it allowed users to set third-party browsers and email apps as their default on iPhones and iPads. This year, it introduced FaceTime on the web as a means to allow PC and Android users to join calls that they had previously been excluded from. The company may never fully embrace integrating different ecosystems into its walled garden, but it seems they’re at least listening to what people want and taking small steps towards giving users what they deserve. – Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor


At the start of 2021, Gamestop’s share price was $17.25. As of this writing, it’s $136.88. This year has been so long that it’s easy to forget many things that happened in January, including the Reddit-driven short squeeze that pushed Gamestop’s stock price to as high as $500 at its peak. Despite subsequent criticism, calls for better regulation, a congressional hearing on what happened and multiple class-action lawsuits having been filed against parties like brokering app Robinhood, here we are 12 months later with the company’s stock still higher than it’s ever been before 2021.

People walk by a GameStop in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly / reuters

Of course, a company’s share price isn’t a true indicator of its overall performance and health. But this is a far cry from 2019 when GameStop was posting tens of millions in losses and planning to shutter up to 200 stores. In 2020, its main challenges were around trying to keep its outlets open in the face of stay-home mandates and making sure it had enough consoles to sell.

This year, in possibly the most 2021 combination of words ever, GameStop announced it’s working on an NFT platform based on Ethereum. It also signed a lease for a new 530,000 square-foot fulfilment center in Nevada and opened a new customer care center in Florida. It made $1.18 billion in the second quarter compared to $942 million in the same period in 2020. That could partly be due to the fact that Sony and Microsoft launched their consoles after the second quarter in 2020. Basically, 2021 has been a great year for GameStop, and not just for its business.

Discovery+ is even working on a documentary (narrated by “Wolf of Wall Street” Jordan Belfort) on the entire fiasco titled GameStop:The Wall Street Hijack. Nine other films based on these events are reportedly in the works, according to Vulture. Gamestop wasn’t the only company that Reddit’s day traders flocked to in their nostalgia-driven frenzy, either. Companies like BlackBerry and AMC also saw their share prices surge, with the latter’s stock jumping 480 percent at its peak. GameStop’s slogan uncannily sums up the situation: “Power to the players.” – C.L.

A screenshot of the Windows 11 desktop with a browser showing the Engadget homepage snapped to the right half of the screen.

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Windows 11

If you had told me in January that Microsoft had its Windows 10 successor primed and ready for release by the end of the year, I would have laughed in your face. But Windows 11 is actually here, and it’s a pretty solid step forward aesthetically (despite some clunky usability issues). I’d bet even Microsoft was surprised it managed to make that happen.

Windows 11 rose from the ashes of Windows 10X, an OS variant that was originally supposed to focus on dual-screen devices, but was eventually canceled in May. That would explain why Windows 11 feels more like a fresh coat of paint on its predecessor. But despite that inauspicious start, it’s still a worthwhile update: there’s more of an emphasis on security, and the facelift brings some Mac-like pleasantries into the typically stark world of Windows.

It’s not a complete success — upgrading is an annoying process if you’ve got a self-built PC, and very old computers won’t be able to upgrade at all (at least, not without going through a manual ISO installation). But at the very least, Microsoft managed to keep most of what made Windows 10 such a successful operating system, while also delivering a more mindful experience for PC users. – D. H.

The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro held up in mid-air with their camera bars facing out.

David Imel for Engadget

Google Pixel 6 Pro

The Pixel 6 Pro is my favorite Pixel yet. Yes, I wish Google offered a smaller handset in its latest flagship series, but that complaint aside, there’s plenty to love. The company’s first-ever mobile chip Tensor powers the phone’s impressive AI features like live translation in messages and captions, as well as smarter voice typing features.

Most of all, I adore the Pixel 6 Pro’s cameras. If I’m headed out somewhere that I have the slightest sense might warrant some sort of picture-taking, I make sure to bring the 6 Pro with me. Its portrait mode, which I abuse for my food photos, is superior to every other phone I’ve used, and frankly, I’m partial to Google’s colors and clarity.

Plus, bonus features like Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and Action Pan give me the option to add fun effects or clean up my shots. Everyone I’ve taken pictures of has been impressed by the quality. Of course, the Pixel 6 is not without its flaws. Setting aside my complaint about its size, the Pixel 6 Pro also has a finicky in-screen fingerprint sensor. Google has also had to issue several fixes in recent weeks to address bugs that themselves were caused by over the air updates. Still, as a showcase for Google’s strengths in software and AI, the Pixel 6 Pro fully delivers. Best of all, it does so for hundreds of dollars less than rival flagships. – C.L.

Samsung foldables 

In an admittedly niche industry, Samsung has pulled far ahead. Sure, it was one of the first to try its hand at foldables, but it’s also arguably the last one standing. The foldable phone race really kicked off when relative unknown Royole showed off the first working prototype at CES 2019. Soon after, Huawei and Samsung announced their own devices. The original Mate X and Galaxy Fold made the rounds at various press events after, but only Samsung eventually sold its first-gen foldable to the general public (outside of China, anyway).

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 laying open, flat on its back, on a window ledge.

David Imel for Engadget

Motorola jumped on the trend, capitalizing on the sheer nostalgia value of its Razr Flip phone. Alas, all these initial attempts were doomed to fail. Foldables, it turns out, with their soft, vulnerable displays and damage-prone hinges, are hard to nail. Worse, the Razr Flip’s screen just felt weird and flimsy, and its hinge would make a cracking sound when you open or close the phone.

After a slew of reports of broken review units, Samsung returned with updated iterations of the Fold. It also released the Flip series, a smaller, Razr-like version that received its share of early complaints. Yet, today, Samsung not only continues to produce these foldables, but at cheaper prices, too. The Z series is now in its third generation, and Samsung said it shipped four times more foldables in 2021 than in 2020. While Huawei also unveiled a third version this year, its foldables haven’t been available in most places outside of China. We’ve also yet to see a new version of the Razr this year, although Motorola did roll out a 5G-capable update in 2020 that we never got to test. Companies like Oppo and Xiaomi have also unveiled their own foldables recently, but they’re relatively new to the game.

By bringing the price of the Z Flip 3 down to a more competitive $999 while continuing to improve the durability and usefulness of its products, Samsung has shown it may be the only company with the resources and expertise to continue to deliver foldable phones, even if they may never gain mainstream popularity. – C.L.

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Engadget

LibreOffice vs. Google Workspace: Which Is Better?

With the heavily advertised Google Workspace now online, you may find yourself wondering whether it’s time to leave open-source LibreOffice behind and switch to something a bit more corporate. We compare the two to see which may be the better fit.

Read This Article on How-To Geek ›

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Fergus O’Sullivan

The Best Gadgets of 2021


A year after a global pandemic knocked all of us back on our heels, gadget makers are struggling to meet the demand caused by our dramatic shift in work and life routines. Coupled with an ongoing chip shortage, devices released this year were hit with delays, shipping weeks or even months behind schedule. Some…

Read more…

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Gizmodo Staff

Google Pixel 6 Review: This is the Android You’ve Been Looking For

Google Pixel 6 smartphone on wooden table leaning up against stack of books with fireplace in backgroundKevin Bonnett

After spending a few weeks with Google’s latest smartphone—the Pixel 6 (dual-released alongside the Pixel 6 Pro)—I can easily say that it is powerful, beautiful, and quintessentially Google. And priced well under $1,000, it should absolutely be your next Android phone.

The Pixel 6 has all of that classic Google goodness, like a spectacularly powerful camera, a simple—yet iconic—design, a fantastic UI, and a fleet of fantastic Pixel-exclusive features, like those dedicated to phone calls. And paired up with equally-solid hardware, like the company’s new in-house Tensor chip, the phone will readily keep up with whatever you throw at it.

Specs as Reviewed

  • Processor: Google Tensor
  • Display: 6.4-inch FHD+ (2400×1080) OLED, 20:9 aspect ratio, 90Hz refresh rate
  • Storage: 128GB UFS 3.1
  • Ports: USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
  • Battery: 4,614mAh, 24 hours+ (up to 48 hours with Extreme Battery saver, Qi-certified
  • Fingerprint Sensor: Under-display
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2
  • IP Rating: IP68
  • Sensors: Proximity, ambient light, accelerometer, gyrometer, magnetometer, barometer
  • Android Version: Android 12
  • Dimensions: 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Weight: 7.3oz

The Design and Hardware

As you’d expect from the Pixel line, Google kept things minimal yet modern (and totally unique) with the Pixel 6. Nothing on the smartphone is flashy, yet at the same time, elements like the rear camera bar demand your attention (cue the references to Daft Punk and Geordi La Forge). Though the bar is quite prominent, it houses all of Google’s stellar camera hardware, so it’s justified. Plus, it allows the phone to rest flat on the desk without rocking, as so many modern smartphones annoyingly do.

The Pixel 6 face-down on a wooden table, showing off the rear of the phone and camera barKevin Bonnett

The phone is a decent size—I expected it to be much bigger than it is but, genuinely, it feels and looks just right in hand. It features scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass Victus cover glass and an edgeless Gorilla Glass 6 back with a tactile alloy frame. It looks and feels gorgeous, modern, and premium … but it’s incredibly slippery (like, the sled from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation slippery) so make sure you slap a case on it stat.

One of the coolest features on the Pixel 6 is Quick Tap, located with the system’s Gestures menu. Once enabled, you can double-tap the rear of the device just beneath the camera bar and trigger actions like taking a screenshot, accessing your digital assistant, playing or pausing media, or showing notifications (among others). It’s even customizable for third-party apps. For example, I miss the double-tap to lock screen feature my previous Samsung phone had, so I found an app that integrates with Quick Tap allowing me to continue using that gesture. Heck, you can even tell Google to require stronger taps if you don’t want to accidentally trigger something.

Google also made the jump to an under-display optical fingerprint reader here, thus abandoning the much-beloved rear fingerprint sensor, and, man, do I have thoughts on this. Sometimes it reads my fingerprint instantly and other times it hangs for a second or two, almost tricking me into thinking it didn’t initiate the scan. It’s a little frustrating since it’s the process I use a hundred times a day to access the device, so it needs to be consistent and fast every time.

I’m also not a fan of the bright light the reader uses to light up my fingerprint. If you try to unlock the phone in the middle of the night and don’t perfectly line up your finger to the sensor, you’re in for a rude surprise. It’s absolutely irritating (and blinding).

And we can’t conclude talking about the Pixel 6’s design without mentioning Google’s Tensor chip. Yes, it’s impressive and adds some serious power to the phone, but it’s really about promise more than anything else. Pixel phones have never been slow, but at the same time, other phones have been faster. Now, the Tensor chip has already shown that lots of heavy Google processes—like voice dictation, translation, and photo processing, for example—got a seriously improved performance boost.

As a result? The Pixel 6 feels massively more powerful and capable than what could ever be expected from a $600 phone. It’s phenomenal, effortless, and, most importantly, fast.

The Display

Google gave the standard Pixel 6 a gorgeous 6.4-inch display with a nice 90Hz refresh rate, and left the 120Hz display for its 6 Pro. But in all honesty, unless you’re gaming (or scrolling through your apps or social media super fast for some reason), you won’t notice a difference.

The Pixel 6 leaned up against a wall with the display on, showing the clock widget and other Google appsKevin Bonnett

Sure, if it was between 60 and 120Hz (or, heck, even between 60 and 90Hz), the higher refresh rate there would win out. Between 90 and 120Hz? It’s just not that big of a deal for the average smartphone user. Yes, the higher refresh rate looks great on paper and it might be a better fit for the flagship 6 Pro, but the cost savings of a lower refresh screen is an acceptable compromise.

Google also opted for a flat display for the Pixel 6 instead of continuing the 6 Pro’s rounded display. I’m sure there are some folks out there who are die-hard fans of the curved display, but I think it’s a gimmick that most people are over now. The look and feel of this phone’s flat display are terrific and it’s nice to see Google make that choice here.

Additionally, the phone’s full-screen display always looks nice and vivid, while still bringing Google’s natural, never-oversaturated colors to the table. The only noteworthy faults of this phone’s display are that it’s not very bright, and the adaptive brightness is (currently) terrible. Between the two, I didn’t love using the phone in direct sunlight. In fact, the adaptive brightness was so consistently bad in low-light situations that I eventually just turned it off altogether and opted to control brightness manually. It over-corrects too much and too often to be useful.

The Camera

What about the camera, though? The Pixel 6 has a fantastic camera—just like pretty much all other smartphones out there do. But this time around, I wouldn’t necessarily say the phone’s great hardware is in and of itself a standout feature.

Close-up of the Pixel 6's camera bar on the back of the deviceKevin Bonnett

The primary 50MP Octa PD Quad Bayer wide camera and 12MP ultrawide camera both tick all the boxes you could hope for. Things like wide fields of view, LDAF sensors, 7x Super Res Zoom, optical image stabilization, lens correction, and more are all there, and the result is terrific and natural-looking (if not slightly muted) photos that pack Google’s great color accuracy and classic contrasty look.

Meanwhile, the 8MP front-facing fixed focus camera is good enough for selfies, video calls, and anything else you can throw at it. The hole-punch design also feels a bit more subtle than that of previous phones that have used it. Honestly, I didn’t even notice it in my daily use; software and whatnot works seamlessly around it, which I love. The cameras are all powerful enough and have bigger sensors than ever, allowing you to take terrific photos (like these ones, below, I took with it).

1 of 5

View of a waterfall in Oregon from the Pixel 6
Suzanne Humphries

A visitor center overlooking the Columbia River in Oregon, taken with the Pixel 6
Suzanne Humphries

View of the Columbia River
Suzanne Humphries

Flying into Portland, view out the window (I think of Mt. Hood?)
Suzanne Humphries

Trail to Multnomah Falls in Oregon
Suzanne Humphries

Navigate to Slide Number 1
Navigate to Slide Number 2
Navigate to Slide Number 3
Navigate to Slide Number 4
Navigate to Slide Number 5

What is a standout feature here, however, is the way Google leaned into its camera software for the 6. Once you take your photos with the solid (but otherwise uninteresting) camera, you’ve got a truly wondrous fleet of software at your fingertips. Take Google’s instantly-iconic Magic Eraser, for example. It lets you remove annoying stuff in the background of a shot—photobombers, trash, or a crowd of people—in an instant. Now every photo you take can look professional and cleanly shot with no unwanted clutter pulling focus.

You can mess around with tons of other cool features in post, too, like motion blur or focus blur to shots from portrait mode. It even rocks dual exposure controls that let you tweak shadows and brightness separately. Google also worked to improve its color accuracy for portraits to better represent the nuances of all different skin tones—a much-needed feature that needs to be improved on cameras everywhere.

Overall, it’s clear Google put a lot of thought into cameras with this Pixel iteration—just as I expected—despite focusing more on software than hardware. That said, the camera hardware for this phone is still its best yet.

The Battery

Google states that the Pixel 6’s Qi-compatible 4,614mAh battery lasts well over 24 hours on a single charge (as long as you’re not going crazy running a ton of intensive apps), and I consistently found that to be true. With regular use—which for me includes chatting and texting all day, checking socials, reading and writing emails, making occasional video calls, watching videos on YouTube or TikTok, and playing some lightweight games—I consistently make it to the end of each day with at least 30% battery to spare.

The rear of the Pixel 6, without a case, on a surface next to plantsKevin Bonnett

I imagine that’d be plenty for commuters and more intensive users, too, especially if you toggle Google’s Extreme Battery Saver feature. That helps the phone last up to 48 hours on a single charge (again, depending on usage—don’t go crazy with super draining apps).

Battery life on the phone is solid with average use. It’s a little less fantastic if you have Always On enabled, but overall, Google definitely improved its standby battery time which is always great to see if you don’t like having to stay near a charger, wireless or otherwise.

I also love the phone’s Battery Share feature. By simply toggling an option in the Quick Settings menu, I can reverse the flow of the internal wireless charging coil, thus allowing me to set my earbuds (or another compatible device) on the back of the Pixel 6 and charge it, all without a cable. This is such a thoughtful and user-friendly feature that’s perfect to have when you’re out and about.

The Software and User Experience

Software is where Pixels really shine. Not only will you get earlier access to brand new Android versions and features exclusive to the Pixel with this phone, but it also ships with Android 12 so you can hit the ground running. With the Pixel 6, you’ll have the best (and most pure) Android experience possible on a smartphone, which is something truly beautiful.

Android 12 is a welcome update overall, and most notable within it, is the remarkable Material You update. Google’s updated Android design language is a solid step forward from Material Design (the last big design language for Google). Now, in addition to having icons and cards (and everything else you can put on your screen) that look like something made of material and not a flat 2D icon, this new update makes everything less boring.

Material You offers up a consistent color theme across the UI, which automatically changes how things look based on your preferences. Have a blue wallpaper? Your widgets, system menus, and even certain apps like Google Messages are now a complementary blue, too. And when you get bored with your wallpaper and switch it to a bright sunset, the UI will dynamically adjust to match the colors of that wallpaper without you having to lift a finger. It sounds simple, but it’s just one more thoughtful choice that helps make the Pixel your phone and not just another mass-produced gadget.

The Pixel 6 on a table next to a book with the screen locked but onKevin Bonnett

Android 12 isn’t without a few quirks, though. I’m not a huge fan of the large Quick Settings buttons in the notification tray, or that I have to swipe up two times just to adjust the brightness. I also dislike that the “Internet” button now makes it two taps to turn off Wi-Fi, instead of being labeled “Wi-Fi” and only requiring a single tap to turn it off. These aren’t dealbreakers, but they’re still a little annoying.

Naturally, of course, the Pixel 6 also sports all of those fantastic Pixel-exclusive features. By far, the best one is audio recognition; the phone can recognize songs in seconds, while in a loud restaurant or bar, and even impressively, while the characters of a TV show speak over the music. Then, text-to-speech is insanely fast, as in just as fast as you think it should be and perfect for when you need to translate or voice dictate on the fly. And don’t forget the Pixel’s artillery of powerful phone call features or the camera features I mentioned in the section above.

Overall, the Pixel 6’s software offers up countless little features that make both the phone and your life run a little more smoothly. It’s Google’s software on Google’s hardware after all, so things communicate efficiently all the time; this is something that anyone who’s ever owned a Pixel knows well and undoubtedly loves. Android 12 runs well on the Pixel 6, and there’s nothing to hate about that.

Final Thoughts

Google’s Pixel 6 is impressive, no matter how you look at it. The well-thought-out smartphone looks good, and with Google’s powerful Tensor chip inside, it runs efficiently all day long without tanking the battery. It was also nice to see Google step up the phone’s camera software to match it’s stellar camera hardware. I have no doubts that the Magic Eraser tool is something we’ll be talking about for years to come.

Although I wish the under-display fingerprint sensor was consistently faster and didn’t rely on a blindingly-bright optical sensor, it is accurate every time. As I’ve continued to use it, I’ve been consistently wowed by the smartphone’s performance and battery life; the smartphone

Yes, the under-display fingerprint sensor could be better and faster, rock a few more potentially premium specs, and the display itself could be brighter. But overall, it’s tough to complain about the Pixel 6, especially given what else it has to offer at its affordable price point, because it just works. This is the Android you’ve been looking for.

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

I Thought Smartwatches Were Pointless, Then I Tried a Cheap One

The Amazfit Band 5

Although one in seven people own some type of smartwatch—it’s a gadget I couldn’t really understand. The thought of dropping a couple of hundred dollars on one from Apple or Samsung wasn’t something I couldn’t understand. That is until I spent some time with a cheap smartwatch on my wrist.

The whole concept just seemed like a mix of gimmicks and impracticality. I have a wristwatch and a cellphone. Why would I bother trying to combine the two and more than likely be left with something that probably isn’t as good as either?

As it turns out, though, my assumption was wrong—they’re actually pretty good! Here’s how I was converted.

Concerns I Initially Had

lifestyle concept: low battery smartwatch. Screen graphics are made up.McLittle Stock/

Battery life is a concern when it comes to watches and wearables in general—hence me opting for a couple of watches from the Seiko Solar range up until this point. Those are great, and as long as they see some form of light at least once every six months, you don’t have to worry about winding, charging, or changing a battery.

Conversely, having to plug my phone in or slap it on a wireless charger at least once a day is a bit annoying. Sometimes I forget, and even when I don’t, it’s yet another task to complete (and yet another thing to worry about failing). I don’t need something small like my watch adding to my to-do list if I can avoid it.

Standalone smartwatches exist too, but to get the best out of many of them—including Samsung and Apple’s efforts—many need to be connected to a smartphone. My thinking was, why would you want a watch with only some of the functionality of your phone when you need to keep your phone on you for that functionality to work? Just pull the phone out of your pocket—it’s always going to be more functional than a watch is.

That said, even the best smartwatch is going to be limited by its size, so it makes sense to use them as an accessory to a far more powerful phone. The question then becomes, “What does the watch bring to the table?” If you choose a smartwatch with LTE capabilities, the answer is plenty. Many newer smartwatches feature LTE and GPS, which make it easy to receive texts, track where you go (say, if you love hiking), and send you health alerts.

A lot of the other functions also seemed gimmicky. Society as a whole seemed to look down upon folks who were chatting on those Bluetooth earpieces of the early 2000s. Having a chat with your watch like a low-rent James Bond doesn’t look as cool as it sounded when you were ten. So if you’re even slightly self-conscious, there go calls and texts—theoretically two of the less gimmicky, more practical features.

Why I Got One Anyway

Close-up image of athlete checking their pulse on a smart watchDragon Images/

I tend to be quite active in my spare time. Hiking, calisthenics, VR boxing, and yoga are just a few of the things I get up to during the week. I wanted to better track my metrics and activity, and for this, a smartwatch with fitness tracking features seemed to make the most sense. Instead of adding worries, it would remove a bit of responsibility from my everyday life and make things a bit easier.

Standalone heart rate monitors are widely available and probably more accurate than most smartwatches at tracking your heart rate accurately. Amazon decided to wave the Amazfit Band 5 at me. It’s not top of the line, and it isn’t even the only option in that price bracket, but it looked like a bit of a bargain at around $30.

So, with my expectations about as low as you would expect, I waited for my first “smartwatch” to arrive, strapped it to my arm, got my head around the slightly awkward app that powers it all, then started taking a closer look at my workouts.

I Was Pleasantly Surprised

Due to a few app issues, my first moments with the Amazfit Band 5 weren’t exactly stress-free. A more expensive watch may have a more straightforward set-up process, but getting the app and finding the obscure menu where you add the device was frustratingly vague. And, of course, I had to create an account. However, these initial annoyances were soon dealt with, and the device almost immediately began to make it all up to me.

My anxiety about having to regularly charge the device disappeared quite quickly. The battery on this thing lasts for days, and it recharges in no time at all. Your mileage may vary depending on the watch you choose and how you use it—but with my cheapo wrist strap, I found placing it on the charger before I hopped in the shower did the job. It has yet to go below 50% battery. If I forget, it’s no big deal as there is enough juice to get me through, and the watch is waterproof anyway.

Apple Watch RA wireless charger AirPower. New technology. Minimalism.EKATERINA MESILOVA/

Call alerts are also more useful than I thought. I’m one of those people whose phone is always on silent or do not disturb, so a little buzz on my wrist is a very unintrusive way to make me more responsive. I responded to texts more quickly and actually answered the phone when people called me. The best bit is, it didn’t get annoying. Constantly hearing a text or ringtone bugs me for some reason, but a slight buzz on my left wrist is fine; it just makes me check my watch, then my phone.

As far as the fitness tracking goes, I have doubts about the accuracy of things like the heart rate monitor and step counter. This isn’t a shock, given the price of the device in the first place, but they do give me a way to roughly track things, which is good enough, and I believe the watch is accurate enough to help me keep myself in particular heart rate zones. Such a feature is great for targeting your workouts and would be difficult to do without any kind of heart rate monitor.

Many smartwatches have GPS functionality; this is either part of the device itself or piggybacking on your phone’s GPS. It should be helpful while hiking, though I’ve found it occasionally inaccurate. It is flatteringly inaccurate, though, despite giving me a couple of extra miles on some trails.

I would say a similar thing with regards to calorie tracking. The watch has data like your height, weight, heart rate, and distance traveled, so it should be able to make an educated guess when it comes to calories burned. Though this should be taken with a pinch of salt, though, so don’t rush to grab a milkshake on the way back from an easy five-mile hike.

The integration with Amazon’s Alexa is massive, too, though the handful of bugs I found was pretty frustrating. My device would randomly disconnect from the Alexa app, and I’d have to sign in again. Sometimes, once I gave a voice command, it told me I’d made too many commands, so I’d have to close and reopen Alexa again if I had a second command to give. Alexa also sets an alarm on both the watch and my bedside Echo Dot. Unfortunately, canceling the alarm via voice command or the Alexa app only canceled it on the Dot, so I had to go through the watch’s menus to cancel the alarm manually.

Still, issues aside, I found it incredibly convenient to have my voice assistant on my wrist. No more messing around with an app if I wasn’t near my Echo Dot or outside the home completely. Just a swipe to the left, and you can do pretty much anything you can usually do in your smart home, like having Alexa remotely turn off my lights, turn on my air conditioner before I get home on a hot summer day, and control my connected smart home gadgets.

Remember earlier when I said if a watch relies on a phone, the watch has to bring something to the table? Alexa integration is a delicious casserole.

Some Things Are Definitely Still Gimmicky, but Also Fun

Person Sleeping On Bed With Smart Watch Showing Heartbeat MonitorAndrey_Popov/

Overall, I quickly came to like having a smartwatch, and features that I thought would be incredibly gimmicky actually turned out to be quite fun. Sleep tracking is the standout example of just such a feature, though it’s not even that accurate on more expensive devices. However, it can still help you get a rough idea of how you are sleeping and give you some of the tools you need to work out why you’re not getting an ideal night’s rest.

Alongside sleep monitoring, the Amazfit Band 5 also offers stress monitoring. This is based on your average heart rate and is even less of an exact science than sleep monitoring. Although the same idea applies here, and it’ll give you a visual confirmation that you may be a bit stressed, it could lead to you making lifestyle changes to reduce that stress. It’s an easy way for tech to help you be more mindful.

Furthermore, given recent global medical events, smartwatches’ blood oxygen monitoring capacity may also provide peace of mind (though if you have a genuine medical reason for monitoring your blood oxygen levels, please buy something specifically designed for that). If you’re just occasionally curious, then that feature is just another prong on your digital Swiss Army knife.

Why I Want To Drop $250 on a Better One

best smartwatches and fitness trackers including garmin venu 2, fitbit versa 3, and samsung galaxy watch 4Garmin/Fitbit/Samsung

I’m one of those people that falls in love with a concept then obsessively chases the ideal version of it. I like the fitness tracking ability, GPS, sleep tracking, and smart home integration features my basic smartwatch offered me; now, I want to upgrade to something that does all of that, but with more accuracy. Fitness tracking was the reason why I gave it a go in the first place, so the more accurate the tracker is, the better picture I get of my fitness and progress. It’s worth the financial investment.

With better trackers also comes better app integration. The Band 5 has me using Amazfit’s Zepp app (Android/iOS), which isn’t great. Getting it to work with Samsung or Google’s fitness apps is more complex, but upgrading to a better smartwatch should fix that problem.

They also look a lot better. A simple black fitness tracker band doesn’t stand out and matches most clothing but can look cheap; that’s fine at the gym or on a hike but not ideal for every occasion. This thing has me obsessively monitoring things like my heart rate, so taking a night off to lob a dress watch on instead is frustrating.

So, in conclusion, don’t drop $30 on a cheap fitness tracker. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get hooked on the concept of a more powerful smartwatch and find that it’s worthwhile to splurge on one that’s far better and worth the extra cost). Here are our favorite smartwatches and fitness trackers:

The 7 Best Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers of 2021

Best Overall
Fitbit Versa 3

$229.95 Save 22%

Another Great Option
Garmin Venu 2

$399.99 Save 13%

Best Budget
Wyze Band


Best for Android Phones
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

$329.99 Save 12%

Best for iPhone Users
Apple Watch Series 7

Best for Runners
Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

$349.99 Save 21%

Best for Multisport Athletes
Garmin Forerunner 745

$499.99 Save 15%

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Dave McQuilling

The 9 Best YouTube Channels for Science Enthusiasts

You may think of science as something that can only be explored in universities or laboratories, but you’d be wrong. Science is accessible everywhere, of course, but most easily (and entertainingly) on YouTube. These fun channels talk physics, biology, math, and even perform cool experiments.

Read This Article on Review Geek ›

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

Best drones for beginners in 2021

Drones offer a very unique perspective for shooting photographs and capturing video footage that stands out. Flying drones requires a certain set of skills you must master as a beginner. Therefore, getting a drone that can fly straight out of the box without hassles is important. It’s not advisable to invest in a professional-level drone when you’re only starting out, … Continue reading

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Bharat Bhushan

7 Essentials You Need to Complete Your Twitch Streaming Setup


If you’re not streaming your gameplay to the world, are you really gaming at all? If you’re just getting started with livestreaming, or if you’re interested in upgrading from the basics, there are plenty of gadgets on the market to upgrade your audio, your video, and every other aspect of your streams.

Read more…

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: David Nield

Lenovo Yoga Tab 11 Review: An Affordable Android Tablet with a Cool Feature

Tablets are wonderful gadgets, sized comfortably somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop and offering enough power to handle everyday tasks. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 11 is no exception, offering up a stylish design with a kickstand, upgradeable storage, loud speakers, great battery life, and so much more.

Read This Article on Review Geek ›

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

« Older posts Newer posts »