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Moto Z2 Force Smartphone Review

Motorola’s smartphones don’t quite have the same recognition of the giants like Samsung or Apple, but the Lenovo-backed company still presses forward nonetheless. And we’re glad of it too. Motorola’s approach to flagship smartphones is much different and darn right interesting when compared to the competition, largely in part to its modular design. If you were a fan of those neat Moto Mods that could expand the smartphone’s functionality in a snap, you’ll be glad to hear that Motorola is progressing it this year.

Continue onward to our Moto Z2 Force Smartphone review to find out if Motorola has managed to sidestep the rest.

Overview

Price: $31.50/month or $756 retail on Verizon
Available: July 2017
Model: Moto Z2 Force

Summary: The Moto Z2 Force is a durable and cleverly designed top-end smartphone. Both the magnetically modular system and shatterproof screen are tremendous features that we wish we could find on other devices, giving the Z2 Force an edge where some other aspects are yesteryear, such as the considerable bezels and rear camera hump. It ultimately comes down to which features matter most to you, but you’ll be getting a solid and speedy smartphone regardless.

What We Liked

  • Shatterproof display
  • Interesting design and premium construction
  • Dual cameras
  • Moto Mod options are compelling

What We Didn’t

  • Camera hump
  • Scratch-prone display
  • Significant bezels
  • No waterproofing

Moto Z2 Force Specs

Moto Z2 Force
Display 5.5″ P-OLED, QHD resolution (2,960×1,440), ShatterShield protection
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (octa-core, 2.35 GHz, Adreno 540 GPU)
Memory 4GB of RAM
Storage 64GB internal and microSD expansion (up to 2 TB)
Rear Camera Dual 12MP sensors (1 monochrome, 1 color), f/2.0 aperture, 1.25µm pixels, PD and Laser Auto-Focus
Front Camera 5MP, f/2.2 aperture
Battery 2,730 mAh (non-removeable), no wireless charging
Software Android 7.1.1 (Nougat)
Colors Super Black, Fine Gold, Lunar Grey (depending market)
Price $756
Buy Now

Design

The second chapter in Motorola’s Moto Z story is more of a follow-up than an evolution. Many of the original Moto Z‘s features make a return, such as its exceedingly thin profile, premium construction, and ingenious magnetic pin system that is used for custom accessory attachments. Yes, unlike LG with the G5, Motorola isn’t giving up on the idea of a modular phone and has instead expanded on the available options with the Z2 Force debut.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

The Moto Z2 Force continues Motorola’s thin and modular-capable smartphone design, but this time with a more practical metal panel on the back.

This iteration is a great thing for fans of the Moto Z’s unique design, and we appreciate the switch of the back cover material from fragile glass to an attractive brushed metal…but we can’t help feel like there was some progression that Motorola missed out on. This notion is a result of the bezel-busting top-dogs this year from LG and Samsung (the G6 and Galaxy S8, respectively). If you’ve used one of these flagships, the front of the Moto Z2 Force may be an eye-sore, mostly because of its substantial bottom chin. This also means that despite the 5.5″ sized display, the phone is still almost the size of the 6.2″ Galaxy S8+. Some of it gets justified by a front-placed fingerprint scanner, which is miles ahead of the Galaxy S8’s compromised placement adjacent the rear camera lens.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

The front-placed fingerprint scanner on the Z2 Force works flawlessly – quick and reliable.

But that’s not the only aspect that puts the Z2 Force a step behind. The camera(s) bump is still prominent, there’s no waterproofing rating, no wireless charging, or no headphone jack. Sure, these particular features aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but the sum of them at a $750 price tag may be, especially in light of the direct competition at the same cost.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

New dual camera system on the Z2 Force utilizes a standard color and a black/white sensor to improve image quality.

Alas, these negative points don’t mean that we’re dealing with a missed opportunity whatsoever. The build of the Z2 Force is as solid as can be, and feels fantastic in the hand due to its extremely thin and light design. The matte-finished metal frame and brushed metal back cover are luxurious, further complimented by gleaming chamfers on all edges.

Performance

The Moto Z2 Force matches its top-end rivals for under-the-hood specs. That is, we have the latest Snapdragon 835 octa-core chipset coupled with 4GB of RAM. On-board storage is also at a generous 64 GB internally, with up to 2 TB microSD card expansion. Ultimately, this all means that the software of the Z2 Force flies like no tomorrow. The speed is also assisted by the fact that Motorola opts for minimal software bloat to the pure Android build. The smoothness and fluidity of the UI reminds us a lot of the clean Android experience in the Google-made Pixel phone.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

Our battery usage showed great consistency on Verizon’s network and WiFi. And idle time optimization is superb, with only 5% battery drainage overnight.

The Z2 Force’s exceptional thinness does mean that battery capacity takes a step back. That’s no understatement; we’re down to 2,730 mAh from the 3,500 mAh battery in the original Moto Z. But before reaching for that pitchfork, know that the Snapdragon 835 processor came with significant battery-saving optimizations. The downgrade here isn’t as drastic as it appears. In our use, moderate usage would comfortably get us through the day. But you may want to look elsewhere if you’re a heavy user, as the direct competition pushes above 3,000 mAh. Or you can opt for Motorola’s battery pack (covered further in the review).

An increasing trend in smartphones is the exclusion of the long-established 3.5mm audio jack, and Motorola is alreday on that boat. Like with the current iPhone, wired headphone users will have to carry around a dongle adapter that gets audio out of the charging port. Interestingly, we don’t see a speaker grill anywhere along the frame of the phone. This is because Motorola cleverly incorporated the loud speaker into the earpiece. It’s great to have the external sound pointing in the right direction, but its mono and tinny qualities are a far cry from those manufacturers that have a two-speaker implementation.

Display

One of the tricks Motorola has up its sleeve on its flagship phone is the ShatterShield display. As the name implies, it means that the Z2 Force display is impervious to shattering. Motorola achieves this by constructing the front with a multi-layer plastic panel. This technology is so robust that the company warranties it for four years, which is rather unheard-of.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

The quality of the Z2 Force’s 5.5″ QHD AMOLED screen is close to as good as it gets, but the screen-to-body ratio is quite lacking for a 2017 flagship.

One may think that this extra focus on screen durability may mean that the display quality makes a step back, which is fortunately not so here. The Z2 Force sports a QHD resolution OLED screen like the big boys. It is vibrant, colorful, and performs admirably against sunlight in the outdoors.

However, we must caution that the screens plastic and shatterproof quality does make it more prone to scratching than the Gorilla Glass 5 panels used in most of today’s flagship smartphones. We strongly recommend a screen protector with the Z2 Force.

Camera

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

Motorola’s camera software is a quick and no frills. The dual cameras allow for better bokeh capture and control.

Motorola jumps on the latest dual camera trend with the Z2 Force. Smartphone manufacturers vary on how they end up using the secondary sensor, such as LG tacking on a wide-angle lens or Apple with a 2x zoom on the Plus model of the iPhone. Motorola follows in the steps of Huawei and incorporates a monochrome sensor to assist the standard color sensor. Two primary advantages of this kind of camera system is better lighting data (the black and white sensor reads this information better) and better depth of field quality.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

In Auto mode, it’s not immediately apparent that we’re using a dual-camera system; pointing and shooting functions as normally would. Jumping into the camera options displays the extras. Aside from the typical Manual mode, we have a Depth mode and Black & White mode. The latter is self-explanatory (it shoots with the monochrome sensor). Depth mode is the most interesting benefit of the dual cameras, where we can substantially put a subject into focus. The background blur gives off a similar effect to Apple’s Portrait mode, but here we can edit the effect in post. Motorola includes a “Depth Editor” function that allows for changing the focal point and/or adjusting the amount of blur. Pretty neat.

That’s all fine and dandy, but does the extra sensor actually equate to boosted image quality of standard shots? You can judge them via our samples below.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

Mods

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

Motorola’s Moto Mod system is proving to be a tremendous feature.

A nice thing to be aware of is that due to the design similarities between the original Moto Z and its successor, all of the previous mods are compatible, such as the Hasselblad True Zoom camera, Style shell panels, or that neat Insta-share projector that we checked out in our Moto Z Review. We have a few to look at in depth, thanks to our friends at Verizon Wireless.

Moto Gamepad

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

This mod was one of my personal favorites. Since the existence of the Xperia Play back in the early Android days, a part of me has been longing for another attempt at a phone with a physical gamepad. Motorola has now come to the rescue.

While the mod’s implementation doesn’t have the most finesse (its horizontal length is a bit much), its shear benefit to heavy mobile gamers is sure to outshine any pickle about the design. It has all the buttons you’d expect in a gaming controller – analog sticks, d-pad on the left, 4-button array on the right, and bumpers on top – and feels tactile and right. Inside is also a 1,035 mAh battery that lasts about 8 hours.

Moto Turbopower

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

Another new mod is the Moto TurboPower. As implied, the shell contain a battery pack within, which will add a whopping 3,490 mAh of juice to the phone’s 2,730 mAh capacity. Sure, the combination adds a tad more thickness to carry around, but this is the most seamless way we’ve seen to insure you don’t end up with a paperweight on a busy day. There’s no cables involved, just snap the shell on whenever you end up in that dire low-battery situation.

JBL SoundBoost

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

Like the Hasselblad mod for the camera, the SoundBoost (as the name implies) takes the phone’s audio output to another level. Produced by JBL, it packs dual 27mm, 3W speakers for stereo sound. This mod essentially turn your phone into like that of a Bluetooth speaker.

Since that kind of audio power would take a toll on the phone’s battery, the mod has its own 1,000 mAh capacity within. It can last about 10 hours from a full charge before tapping into the phone’s battery.

Software

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

Earlier, we touched on Motorola’s excellently responsive take on Android. It is one of the best things about this phone, leaving us wishing that more Android smartphone manufacturers would lighten up their custom interfaces. Motorola maintains most of Android’s Material Design software elements, such as the floating overlays and animations, circular icons, and even the Google Now aggregator as the most left panel. What’s more, Motorola uses Google apps where applicable (i.e. phone dialer, photo gallery, calendar, calculator).

What’s also notable is that the Moto Z2 Force is running on a current Android Nougat build (version 7.1.1). The latest Nougat didn’t only bring software optimizations from the original build but some new features, like quick actions by long-pressing on app icons, a new set of emoji’s, and the ability to send GIFs directly from the keyboard.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone
Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

One of the largest software benefits of Motorola phones is the Moto app. Motorola doesn’t attempt to create its own voice assistant like some other manufacturers, but inserts some useful features not found in stock Android. The Moto app lays out three sets of these: Moto Actions, Moto Display, and Moto Voice.

Moto Z2 Force Smartphone

The ambient Moto Display is a nifty feature. It flashes whenever a notification pops up or when you wave your hand across the front of the phone.

Final Thoughts

The Moto Z2 Force is best thought of polished Moto Z. Many of the same qualities are carried over, such as the super thin profile, clean software, magnetic pin system for modular add-ons, and unfortunately those substantial front bezels. Motorola is essentially betting that improved internals, a secondary camera sensor, and wider variety of Moto Mods is what it takes to succeed. We’ll let buyers be the judge of that, but we will say that at the $750 price point, some of the competition has the clear upper hand in terms of features.

The post Moto Z2 Force Smartphone Review appeared first on Gadget Review.

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Customers of AT&T Put at Risk by New Hack

According to a blog post by security researcher Joseph Hutchins that first went live in August, upwards of 138,000 AT&T wireless routers may have a critical security vulnerability that could leave many of its customers open to an attack.

Five flaws altogether were discovered in the company’s “Arris”-branded routers, though even more are said to potentially affect other OEM AT&T U-verse modems regardless of make or model. The attack is able to bypass any security measures that a user may have put in place, as well as the internal firewall through a publicly-available set of credentials.

Once the hacker is in range of the router, he can either use the credential crack or a brute force of the half-completed MAC address to get in. The latter bug may have been a result of AT&T’s staff support methodology, which leaves a channel open that technicians can use to remotely troubleshoot internet issues without having to send someone out to the address physically.

https://www.nomotion.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/word-image-9-768x455.png

The bug allows root access to all of the AT&T router’s features.

Hutchins says that while a feature like this may be innocuous on the surface, something appears to have gone “terribly wrong” when it came to coding extra security layers around that backdoor.

A spokesperson for Arris wasn’t willing to release any specific details about the hack, saying only that “…ARRIS is conducting a full investigation in parallel and will quickly take any required actions to protect the subscribers who use our devices”.

In order to prevent these kinds of bugs and backdoors from effecting your internet security experience, we recommend picking up any one of the top 5 routers that made our list of the best routers for 2017.

The post Customers of AT&T Put at Risk by New Hack appeared first on Gadget Review.

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Our Best Standing Desk Converter Picks for 2017

If you’re one of the many who have been idly sitting by (no pun intended) as the standing desk craze has taken off, but aren’t sure if you’re ready to take the full plunge just yet, standing desk converters can be a great way to keep one foot in both ends of the pool.

Standing desk converters sit on top of regular desks and give extra height to your monitor, keyboard, and mouse so you can use them from either a sitting or standing position. But what are the best standing desk converters for 2017?

Read on in our quick guide below to find out!

1. Fully Cooper Standing Desk Converter

fully cooper standing desk converter review

The Fully Cooper can squeeze a whole lot of weight onto its adjustable surface.

The Cooper Standing Desk Converter is made and shipped by Fully, a company who has already impressed us with the Jarvis Bamboo, our pick for the #1 Standing Desk of 2017.  There are a lot of different designs that standing desk converter manufacturers will use to achieve the effect of getting your entire workstation to lift in the air like magic, but of all of them we prefer the x-bar ironing board style employed by Fully the most.

When we reviewed the Fully Cooper we found it was stable at both sitting and standing heights, and didn’t experience too much of the same wobbling problems that lesser converters might have once you’ve been using them for more than a month or two. More importantly perhaps, they also ditched the more traditional spring style for a hydraulic actuator, which can transition the entire desktop from sit to stand with the squeeze of a lever.

With stability to match the best and a price point that beats them all, it’s no wonder why the Fully Cooper Standing Desk converter is the best model on shelves (and desks) for 2017!

You can buy the Cooper direct from the Fully site found here.

2. VariDesk Standing Desk Converter

varidesk converter

The Varidesk is one of the longest running – but still the best – standing desk converters out there.

For years,the VariDesk Standing Desk converter was one of the only models out there that actually offered a stable platform that you could raise and lower to get the standing desk effect. The rest were either too cheap, too flimsy, or too wobbly to be worth the headache. But even though VariDesk may be one of the veterans on the block, that doesn’t mean it still can’t stand toe-to-toe with newer options like those from Fully above.

The VariDesk converter uses an older spring-style mechanism to raise your desk into 11 different standing positions, made that way so you can find the height that’s most comfortable for you and stick with it.

One small complaint that some users have raised about the VariDesk is that due to the way the mechanism actually raises your desk (up and toward the user), it can be a struggle for anyone in a more compact workspace. It also keeps you further away from your actual desk, so if you have anything on it you need to interact with often (drink, pencil, Post-It notes, etc), you’ll want to make sure it’s on the raised surface before you switch positions to guarantee it stays at an arm’s length.

You can buy this one from Amazon, with Prime shipping.

3. VertDesk Standing Desk Converter

vertdesk standing desk converter

The VertDesk is one of the most stable z-bar standing desk converters you’ll find today.

Unlike the Fully Cooper converter which utilizes an “x” bar style to raise up its platform, the VertDesk Standing Desk converter is one of the few to employ what’s known as the “z” style. Z-bar standing desk converters are prone to wobbliness on the front end, and may even tip over completely if you’re someone like me who wrests their wrists heavily on the surface in front of their keyboard.

Thankfully the engineers at VertDesk seem to have found a solve for many of the problems that previous z-bar standing desk converters faced, achieved through a ridiculously sturdy base that helps to redistribute weight and balance away from the front of the mechanism and back down to the desk itself, where it belongs.

This prevents tip-overs while also providing a super-sturdy work surface which can stand up to even the most heavy-handed typers among us (myself included).

You can buy the VertDesk Standing Desk Converter at BTOD.

The post Our Best Standing Desk Converter Picks for 2017 appeared first on Gadget Review.

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Sony Announces New Line of 4K HDR Projectors

While it’s only in the past few months that major projector manufacturers like Optoma and Acer have begun throwing their hat into the ring of the top rated 4K projectors, companies like Sony have been doing it since the very beginning.

Sony still holds the title of the first manufacturer to release a true 4K projector at a consumer-level price point (if the cost of a small car is something you’d consider “consumer”).

But while 4K may already be old news to Sony, more recent innovations like the HDR color spec have not crept by unnoticed. At the IFA show in Berlin this month, the company was ready to show off three new models that are all lighter, smaller, and more feature-rich than their corresponding predecessors.

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  • Sony VPL-VW260ES 4k Projector
  • Sony VPL-VW360ES 4k Projector
  • Sony VPL-VW760ES 4k Projector
  • Sony VPL-VW260ES 4k Projector
  • Sony VPL-VW360ES 4k Projector
  • Sony VPL-VW760ES 4k Projector

The first is the VPL-VW760ES, which uses a 2,000 lumen laser light source to project its images, yet another first in the consumer space checked off for Sony. With such bleeding-edge tech installed underneath the hood you can expect an equally bleeding-edge price, but Sony also took their time at IFA to reveal two other models which will supposedly be more focused on the budget home theater enthusiast.

These include the VPL-VW360ES and the VW260ES, the latter of which has a 1,500 lumen output and a much more petite profile than its older brother in the line. Other features stashed in all three projectors include Sony’s proprietary TRILUMINOSTM system which is said to up the color accuracy on lower-light pictures, as well as MotionFlow technology which interpolates frames between each other to create a smoother, overall less-jittery viewing experience for anyone who’s sat down to watch.

The Sony VW260ES and VW360ES are expected on shelves this month (no word on exact pricing just yet), while the VW760ES will go on sale for £13,850 this November just in time for the holidays.

The post Sony Announces New Line of 4K HDR Projectors appeared first on Gadget Review.

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Breville BOV845BSS Smart Oven Pro Toaster Oven Review

The Breville Smart Oven Pro easily ranks as one of the best toaster ovens that I’ve ever tested…but it isn’t without its flaws. Not only that, it also pushes the top end of the budget spectrum, costing $265 on Amazon which will likely cause many to consider cheaper options.

But as I see it, investing in the Breville Smart Oven Pro is worthwhile. Why so?  Well in short, it can replace your full size oven (and save you on energy costs in the meanwhile), functions like a high end appliance, has 1,800 watts of power, a whole mess of cooking options and fairly consistently toasted toast, browned food and more.

So keep reading my Breville Smart Oven Pro review to learn more.

Overview

Price: $260+ on Amazon
Availability: October 1, 2013
Model #: BOV845BSS

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Breville Smart Oven Pro isn’t a toaster oven, it’s an oven to replace your full size oven.

Summary: Temperature issues aside, the Breville Smart Oven Pro feels and operates like a high end (toaster) oven. And at this price point it should. It’s powerful and versatile enough to replace your full sized oven, save for the fact that it only ships with one rack and can’t fit a 9 x 13″ baking pan.

What We Liked

  • Can easily and unequivocally replace your full sized oven
  • Intuitive controls
  • Feels and looks high end
  • Temperature accurate (despite preheat tone confusion – see my testing section for more on this)

What We Didn’t

  • Temperature preheat accuracy is questionable; 450° F preheat tone sounded but thermometer showed 300° F. Update: According to Breville this was actually done with purpose. You can see the full explanation in the comments, but in short, Breville determined the total preheat time is less if you put your items in earlier due to the delta that occurs when the door is opened.
  • Doesn’t fit a 9 x 13″ pan

Design

Interior space of the Breville Smart Oven Pro is .8 cubic feet. That’s slightly less than Cuisinart’s comparable toaster oven offering. And while it may seem moot, and largely is, the biggest caveat is that you cannot fit a 9 x 13″ pan inside. And yes, the Cuisinart’s competition can. Which for some could be a non-starter, especially if you’re a big baker. I am not, but I did have one instance where upon I couldn’t us my 9 x 13″ to bake a gluten free chocolate cake.

Breville Smart Oven Pro Design

The Breville should look good in any kitchen thanks to its finish.

And like the Cuisinart, the Breville is clad in stainless steel all around. Leaving items, such as trays or the included pizza tray (metal not ceramic as found with the Cuisinart) will leave a slight discoloration on top. And like all other toaster ovens, this one will get hot to the touch, so you’ll have to look out for little ones and their curios hands.

As for footprint, the Breville measures 15¾ x 18½ x 11″. It’s a fair bit smaller than the Cuisinart and with that comes room for 6 slices of toast, 3 less then the competition.  That in mind, note the height size and make sure that this unit will fit under your cabinets. I had no issues with the space in my kitchen, but not all homes are built equally.

On the inside you’ll find a non-stick surface that makes for easy wipe downs. Though I still can’t help but wonder what a year or two of use will result in.

There is an interior light, which in my book is a must. That said, Breville makes another version of this oven called the Smart Oven Plus and the only real difference, based on their product page, would seem to be a lack of interior light in the latter product. So suffice to say, spending the extra $20 or so dollars is money well spent. Just keep in mind, you’ll want to wipe down the light regularly to maintain visibility.

And last, and most certainly not least, are the 5 independent quartz heating elements. I mentioned these in my Cuisinart TOB-260N1 review, but in short, these provide infrared cooking which is ideal for searing food while maintaining moisture, or moistness, because the air doesn’t have to heat for the food to begin to cook. Instead, the uncooked food directly absorbs the radiation and begins to cook.

Operating the Breville Smart Oven Pro

Operating the Breville Smart Oven Pro

The Breville Smart Oven Pro’s controls are straight forward and easy to use.

Operating the Breville Smart Oven Pro is intuitive and easy to do, no matter your knowledge of cooking. There is an easy to read LCD display, which turns from blue to red when the machines is toasting, baking etc.

To control the settings there are a total of three knobs and one button. Well, truthfully there are also 4 small buttons: one to activate additional time for frozen foods (such as bread), a convection oven button, a light button and a button to switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit.

The single, large button turns the machine on and off.

The smallest knob, located at the top of the control panel, allows you to select from 1 of 10 cooking function (Toast, Bagel, Bake, Roast, Broil, Pizza, Cookies, Reheat, Warm, Slow cook), where as the remaining knobs, in descending order, allow you to influence temp/darkness and time/slices.

The faster you move each knob, depending on the cooking function, the faster the display’s number will increase (or decrease). So sometimes it can be a bit finicky when it comes to nailing down the correct temperature, slices or time.

Total cooking time, for baking and roasting, maxes out at 2 hours. For slowing cooking you can achieve up to 10 hours of cooking. And in the case of broiling, you’ll be capped at 20 minutes of cooking time.

The limited broiling timer can be an annoyance, especially when you’re preheating the function and still prepping food. I generally resort to powering the machine down then up (very quickly) as the timer knob will no longer increase the time from what is remaining on the display. I’m not sure if this is an energy conservation feature or that the heating elements are best not used at this intensity for periods longer than 20 minutes.

At this point, I haven’t used the slow cook function since I haven’t had a meal that has called for it. I have, however, dried some figs in the oven over the course of a few hours, at a low temp, and it was fairly effective at doing doing so.

Compared to the Cuisinart, the Breville does feel more premium in both function and slightly form. Granted Breville doesn’t include a ceramic pizza stone in their accessory pack, but they do offer virtually the same, albeit smaller, 12 x 12″ enamel baking pan. It can also fit a 13″ pizza, as there is slight bubble in the back to accommodate.

Unlike the Cuisinart, the Breville has a set of magnets that pull the rack out of the oven slightly, provided it’s located in the middle position. It doesn’t make the machine but it’s a nice touch. As are the  knobs, which exude a nice clicking feeling that feels more premium than the Cuisinart offering. In short, the Breville just feels more solid and premium than the competition.

Cleaning the Breville Smart Pro

Lastly, cleaning the Breville Smart Oven Pro is pretty pain free, at least so far. I’ve had cheese drip all over the rack and bottom (crumb tray) and I’m happy to report it all wipes off quick and easy. The bottom of the oven, the crumb tray, removes for easy cleaning. It’s sturdy and is hidden when it’s back in its home.

Cleaning the Breville Smart Oven Pro

Cleaning is pretty easy thanks to the non stick interior.

I recommend wiping down the glass door after each use, or every other use to prevent food residue from building up and cooking into place. If you don’t, it can reduces the glass door’s intended purpose.

Testing and Results

So I’d be remiss if I didn’t perform a few objective tests to see how the Breville compares to the competition.

First up is the heat map. I used 6 slices of white bread (Sara Lee) to measure not only the heat distribution but the time it took to achieve what I generally like to refer to as good toast, or visually speaking, that ideal golden brown. Time to achieve this for 6 slices: 4:30. Keep in mind the less toast, the quicker it might be.

And you can see below the toaster’s heat map. It performs admirably, but lacks heat on the left and right sides. In this instance (picture), the bread was pushed slightly more to the right, hence why that side isn’t as toasted as the left.

Breville Smart Oven Pro Toast Test

To test the heat distribution (aka heat map) we used 6 pieces of white bread.

The next test is temperature accuracy and timing. As for accuracy, I’m looking to see if the preheat function – which sounds a tone when it’s reached the inputted temperature – is accurate, and how long it takes using this Thermometer (the same thermometer in all our toaster testing). I’m also looking to see how long takes to achieve select increments of temperature as well as measure the max temperature.

In the case of the Breville, it sounded the preheat beep after 4:56 minutes for 450° degrees when the our thermometer only showed 300° F.  Disappointing? Indeed. BUT WAIT…KEEP READING.

Update: Richard from Breville reached out to address this issue. To paraphrase, Breville sounds the preheat tone early on purpose. Why? After testing, the found at the they netted less preheat time if the food was put in earlier since less heat was sacrificed at a lower temperature when the door is opened (opening any oven door lets out heat).   Here is his full comment if you’re interested:

“Thanks for a really useful review. I worked on the Breville BOV845 Smart Oven project. You mentioned the pre-heat tone sounding when the oven had not reached full temp. This seems like the oven temperature is not accurate, but this is actually a deliberate feature. Allow me to explain. We wanted to make the pre-heat time as short as possible. While we were developing the product we graphed the temperature in the cavity. To pre-heat the oven to 450 F takes 10 minutes. When you open the door to put the food inside the oven cavity temperature drops dramatically (~120 F) and it takes a further 2.5 minutes at full power to recover to 450 F making the total heatup time 12.5 minutes.

We tried other options and discovered that if the food is put in at 5 minutes when the temperature is lower, the amount the temperature drops is less (about 60F) so then you then reach 450 F in 10 minutes which is 2.5 minutes faster! For this reason we made the pre-heat alert sound at 75% of the target temp in order to get you baking 2 minutes and 30 seconds sooner!”

You can see the remaining temps and the amount of time it took below. Lastly, the oven, while set to its max temp on bake of 450° F, was never achieved according to our thermometer, but it did come close at 440° F after over 15 minutes of preheating.

  • 350°F: 5:46 minutes
  • 400°F: 7:36 minutes
  • 425°F: 9:30 minutes
  • 440°F: 15 minutes
  • 450°F: n/a – we could never reach this temperature according to our thermometer
  • Preheat accuracy
    • Oven set to 450° but according to our thermometer it was 300°F at 4:56.

Lastly, and this is important, the Breville’s thermometer is in fact accurate. I set the oven to 400°F for 15 minutes, stuck the thermometer in, and it too read the same temperature.

Wrap Up

Temperature preheat inaccuracies aside, the The Breville Smart Oven Pro easily delivers the most premium experience of all the toaster ovens I’ve tested. I can live with the delta found during preheating as it’s by design on the part of Breville more a matter of waiting, though in my mind it does some what defeat the feature’s purpose.

If I could change one anything, it would be the Smart Oven Pro’s capacity. Not it’s overall capacity, but it’s width. It’s just a few centimeters shy of being able to fit a 9 x 13″ pan.

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GE’s New GTW750 Washing Machines Are Smarter and Integrate with Alexa

There is no doubt that GE (aka General Electric) is a trusted brand. After all, it’s been around since 1892. Yes, you read that, right. GE is 125 years old. And if you didn’t know, one off its founders goes by the name of Thomas Edison. But I digress.

So now it’s more than a century later, so what’s new? A new washing machine, that’s what. Well, a new line of top washers that boast a presoak feature, plus WiFi connectivity.

To kick things off, they’re launching with one model, the GTW750, which comes in black (GTW750CPLDG) or white (GTW750CSLWS). However, the black costs $899, versus the white’s $799. Specs are exactly the same, so yes, you’re paying a premium for that dark finish, which GE seems to believe is worth an extra $100 for the same functionality and specs.

So what’s this presoak function? In effect it allows you to manually run the water (aka water faucet) and presoak heavily stained clothes. You can do it with or without detergent.

According to Julie Muennich, director of marketing for GE Appliances’ laundry products. “The new onboard Water Station combined with the proven SmartDispense™ technology and WiFi®capabilities on GE Appliances’ top load models give you power.”

That being said, this line of machines also boasts an auto soap dispenser. It holds up to 75 oz of detergent, which means you’ll never have to manually add detergent to your loads again. Moreover, it automatically dispenses detergent based on load size, so in theory you should be able to save on detergent or at the very least not over use.

In addition to the aforementioned, there is on board WiFi, allowing you to connect your iOS or Android device. And that’s not all. It can also connect with Alexa, Amazon’s line of intelligent devices, allowing you to speak commands and continue the spin cycle or check on time remaining.

Home depot has both the white for $719.10 and the black for $809.10.

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Brid Air Purifier: Interesting Promise, But Short on Details

Even among the best air purification systems available, filtration takes a lot of work. Multiple filters specialize in particular jobs like odor control, killing spores, removing especially tiny particles, and more: most need maintenance or replacement, which can sometimes feel like a juggling act when you just really wanted clean air in a room.

That brings us to Brid, a new venture for a sleek, canister-like air purifier that does several things at once – with a single filter that doesn’t need any maintenance. Is it too good to be true? The secret behind Brid is a set of “nano-structured ceramic filters” that appear to be infused or “baked” with titanium dioxide. This titanium dioxide can apparently react with harmless LED lights and kill spores, viruses, and so on. Periodically wash the filter, and that’s all you need to do.

Those are a lot of claims to make about a new filter, and it’s always a good idea to look carefully at any Kickstarter product featuring suddenly-new technology. Brid may have grabbed a lot of headlines with its promises, but it’s not quite clear how this technology works. What specifically makes bonded titanium dioxide more useful? In what ways does it react with LED lights to avoid the needs of other photocatalytic converters? How does the ceramic filter absorb odors without carbon? Is there an ion exchange process? We don’t know the answers to these questions, because Brid doesn’t talk about it. Warning bells!

Air Purifier: Brid

Brid promises a lot, but does it deliver?

Much of the marketing seems to emphasize that the bonded titanium dioxide doesn’t require UV lights or ozone, which the Brid team tells us are bad: While UV light can cause sunburns and you definitely don’t want to inhale corrosive ozone, they aren’t exactly things you need to avoid. No one has ever gotten hurt from a little UVC light in an air filter, and we use ozone particles to help clean pools and clothes.

So we’re left with several dubious claims, some talk about patents with no detail, and a pretty design. Not much to hang your money on, especially when the cheapest option to preorder a filter is still $289.

However, Brid has been funded several times over, so hopefully the product will go to market soon and third party reviews can check out just how well it works in early 2018 (fake Kickstarters have a habit of never actually hitting the shelves, so this is another important test). If Brid really does excel at removing odors from the air and killing living particles, it could make a useful addition to your air filtration system, although it is not designed to help control allergies.

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Apple Rumored to Announce iPhone 8 on September 12th

According to a report first posted by Mac4Ever last week, Apple is set to announce (and possibly release) the iPhone 8 on September 12th.

While it wouldn’t exactly be the most shocking news that Apple is revealing its next phone in September – a company staple since 2012 – the article claims that Apple has been contacting telecoms in advance to keep the specific day of September 12th free in their calendars.

Expected at this year’s event is the new iPhone 8, which will supposedly feature an all-screen front that only leaves small holes for the speaker, camera, and LED. But that won’t be the only model hitting shelves this year, with Apple also expected to announce two more iPhones on the same stage: suped-up versions of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Other unveilings are said to include the debut of iOS 11, as well as an update to the Apple Watch that could bring LTE connectivity to the wearable device.

So if you’re going to grab a new iPhone 7 we’d recommend you hold off, but in the meantime it’s always good to get prepared for your new smartphone to come home! Check out our list of the the Best Smartphone Insurance Plans to make sure that your new iPhone 8 (or high-powered 7s) are protected throughout their lifespan from theft or damage.

Having a smartphone insurance plan is the most affordable way to guarantee you’ll never be left out in of the loop the next time your phone takes an unsanctioned dive straight into the toilet.

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ThinkEco’s SmartAC Conversion Kit Can Upgrade Your Old AC (for a Price)

These are good days for A/C; We’re seeing the rise of some of the top rated WiFi smart air conditioners in years, models that are starting to shake off the issues that prevented smart AC units from taking off in the past (generally shoddy quality, confusing apps, and noisy fans were among their numerous issues).

However, now that WiFi air conditioners are showing up in force and destined to become commonplace in houses and apartments, a new and interesting trend is emerging: smart AC conversion kits.

You see, many people with window/portable air conditioners like their current model are just fine, and don’t want to pay a couple hundred dollars (at minimum) for a new model. However, consumers do like the idea of smart features and controlling their A/C via their phones, especially if they can pick up some extra abilities as well.

That’s why ThinkEco’s WiFi SmartAC kit ($140) exists: this simple kit turns any plug-in AC unit into a smart device, allowing you to control it with your phone or computer. Once set up, the kit can help you set schedules, control temperatures from your mobile device no matter where you are at, and measure how much electricity your AC unit is using (and how you can cut back).

SmartAC

A simple plugin model.

ThinkEco isn’t the only conversion kit on the market, nor the least expensive, but it does have one of the simplest setup procedures, a boon to those who don’t have much experience with smart devices.

The model also comes with a variety of plug types for various voltage requirements, which means you can also use the SmartAC kit on larger air conditioners or units with more unique power needs (international units, etc.). It adds welcome clarity to an AC market that can get overly complex at times, but it also means that you’ll need to carefully pick the right voltage numbers for your unit, or otherwise deal with major problems.

SmartAC ThinkEco Report

SmartAC works on Mac or Windows computers.

Note, however, that this is a plug-based WiFi model. That means it works primarily by controlling power to and from the AC unit. It’s a very direct method, but it tends to have unpredictable effects on various air conditioners. You may not be able to control all advanced settings with the app, so some manual adjustments may be necessary. That being said, ThinkEco comes with a wireless remote for temperature control, so your hands won’t be entirely tied.

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Should You Microwave a Sponge? Science Knows!

It’s time to start asking the real questions: Have you ever microwaved a sponge? We’re serious – some of the best microwave ovens in the world are being used to cook sponges instead of food, with the understanding that this kills bacteria in the sponge and makes it safer to use. Because we’re excited about microwave tech and have never seen a sponge setting on even the most advanced microwave models, we decided to look into this practice.

Using Microwave

It turns out experts from the University of Furtwangen in Germany were also curious: they analyzed the bacterial content of household sponges, and what really happens when they get microwaved (besides heating up). Let’s make a list of their most important findings – all of you cooks and kitchen dwellers, take notice:

  • Sponges are really, really dirty: This isn’t surprising, but you may not know just how dirty they can get. Around 82 billion live in a cubic inch of the average house sponge, with hundreds of different bacteria species living together. That’s roughly the same density of bacteria that is found in human stool…so you can see why getting your sponge clean is a priority. Oh, and you know that nasty sponge smell that develops? That’s a sign that a lot of busy bacteria are creating fatty waste deposits that build up and start to smell.
  • Microwaving a sponge will kill some of the bacteria: Yup, bacteria doesn’t like being microwaved. A good round of microwaving will kill off a lot of those bacteria.
  • However, the strongest bacteria are left: Some strains can survive high temperatures, and they tend to come back madder than ever. Indeed, microwaving a sponge (like using hand sanitizer) is a way to weed out weak bacteria and make sure that only the strong survives – and since we’re talking about bacteria, that’s really not a good thing. Plus, your microwave will get dirtier.
  • There’s no good way to clean a dirty sponge: The microwave trick isn’t particularly effective, and most other methods of cleaning a sponge ensure it stays warm and moist, perfect for future bacteria growth. That doesn’t leave you with many options. The bottom line is that when a sponge gets dirty, it’s time to throw it away and buy a new version.

So, in summary, while you can microwave a sponge, and clean your microwave using one, it’s not very helpful for the sponge or the microwave. There’s no sponge button for good reason – microwaves have a tough time killing the hardiest bacteria, and only encourage their future growth. If your sponge is starting to smell, throw it out instead.

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