The primary appeal of motorized top-down/bottom-up shades is their ability to open and close in two directions: They can open by dropping the top of the shade down from the window's head to the sill, and by lifting the bottom of the shade up from the sill to the head. But Hunter Douglas couldn't justify the lofty price tag of its Duette with PowerView Automation shades unless they were also the most luxurious and innovative shades we've reviewed to date. Top-down/bottom-up shades are a fantastic option because they enhance privacy without completely blocking light from entering the room. If your window faces a busy street, you can lower the shade down from the top to admit light without exposing your room to a view from the street. Or you can drop the top of the shade down in the early morning, so the room is bathed in morning sunlight without impeding your ability to move about the room freely--anyone looking toward your window will only be able to as much of you as you wish to expose. And since these are motorized smart shades, you can create automated schedules to reposition the shades as many times each day and night that you'd care to program, including at sunrise and sunset.
We once believed that Macs would never get a virus, closing apps would save battery life, and private mode was really private. For the record, switching to incognito in your browser probably doesn't do what you think. Tap or click for six practical reasons to use it, from keeping your search autofill clean to shopping without spoiling the surprise. And I'm sorry to break it to you, but like a Windows PC, your Mac is certainly at risk. Tap or click for five free downloads that will keep your Mac or PC secure.
Amazon's decision to design its second-generation Amazon Echo smart speaker with a removable sleeve makes the device customizable. But there's a hidden feature I wasn't aware of until I installed Ninety7's Sky Tote Portable Battery Base: a set of electrical contacts tucked behind a rubber plug on the bottom of the speaker. These contacts enable the Echo 2 to draw power directly from the Sky Tote's large battery, which is charged in turn by the AC adapter that comes with the Echo 2. Operating your Echo 2 on battery power allows you to take the smart speaker with you into any room in your home or even into the yard if your Wi-Fi network is strong enough to reach there. That's a much less expensive alternative to putting an Echo in every room for smart home control, or investing in a multi-room audio system so you can listen to music everywhere. You can also take a battery-powered Echo 2 on picnics and camping trips if you create a mobile hotspot with your smartphone.
The CES trade show is powering up again in Vegas. Most of the biggest names in tech and stacks of start-ups you've never heard of will compete for attention over the next week. Some products may launch new categories - past events presented a first look at video cassette recorders (VCRs), organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs and Android tablets. But many more will flop or never even make it to market. We've scoured the internet for hints about what will be on show... One of the biggest developments at the last few CES expos has been Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant's rival efforts to extend their reach in the home and beyond.
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions. Read Wirecutter's continuously updated list of Black Friday deals here. Not quite the best price we've seen, but this matches some recent sales. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is the budget pick in our guide to the best instant camera. Erin Lodi writes, "If you're not seeking high dynamic range and sharp detail from the family barbecue party pics, the Mini 9 is smaller and fun to pass around, and its results will be good enough to commemorate such casual occasions. Plus, at 3.4 by 2.1 inches (with borders), the photos are just a tad smaller than a credit card, making them perfect for toting around in your wallet."
I'm a big fan of Amazon's Echo line of smart speakers when it comes to smart home control, and the second-generation Echo is a big improvement over the first. But the Alexa-powered Fabriq Chorus delivers more bang for the buck and it sounds better, too. Where the Echo requires an AC outlet to operate, the Chorus features a 2200mAh rechargeable battery that Fabriq says can deliver up to 6 hours of performance, so you can take the speaker with you. The Chorus also comes with a contact-based charging cradle, so you don't need to bother with plugging and unplugging a USB cable to run the speaker--or charge its battery. The 6.3-inch tall cylindrical speaker is wrapped in wooly fabric (you can choose from four designs), with a thin LED ring around its base.
Not all consumers share the enthusiasm of Google and Apple though, and rarely - if ever - use Google Assistant and Siri. Whether you use them or not, by default the two assistants are always listening out for their trigger words, and this uses up battery life. On Android, you can switch this off by going to Settings, Google, Search, Voice and "Ok Google" detection. On iOS, go to Settings, Siri and Allow "Hey Siri". Virtual assistants are becoming increasingly capable, and therefore increasingly important in tech companies' eyes.
Updated 10-18-16: We've updated our recommendation for best Phablet (5.5 inches or greater) to the excellent Pixel XL. We haven't yet reviewed the standard-size Pixel, but one of the two is a likely candidate for best overall phone. The Android universe is teeming with options, from super-expensive flagship phones, to affordable models that make a few calculated compromises, to models expressly designed for, say, great photography. Chances are that whichever phone you buy, you'll keep it for at least two years. So choosing the best Android phone for you isn't a decision you should take lightly.
Google has been selling phones since the Nexus One landed almost seven years ago. In fact, there have been eight Nexus phones, one each year through 2014, and two last year. They have generally been good phones, especially in the last few years. But the Pixel is not a Nexus. With the Pixel, Google did more than partner with a phone maker to slap Android on an already-designed handset. It created its own hardware and software innovations on top of stock Android. The result is a phone that may displease Android purists, but should delight everyone else. This is Google's first real attempt to push a phone to the mass market, and the Pixel competes directly with the iPhone as well as pricey flagships from Samsung and LG. The Pixel is smaller, with a 5-inch 1080p display instead of the Pixel XL's 5.5-inch 1440p display. The smaller display--along with the Pixel's smaller battery--is the only difference between the two models.
If you're a member of Microsoft's Windows 10 Insider program, today is like Christmas. Build 14328 of Windows 10 for PCs and Windows phones packs Anniversary Update features like Windows Ink, changes to the Action Center, and better battery life into what's probably the largest Insider update ever. Get ready to freak out. Though Microsoft stuffed tons of updates into this new build, some should feel familiar. Bugs halted the deployment of Windows 10 Mobile build 14322 to PCs, for example, but its updates to the Action Center and other improvements have now been added.