Are bone conduction headphones comfortable?

Best answer: Most bone conduction headphones are designed to be comfortable even when working out, so you can enjoy them for as long as you want.

Amazon: AfterShokz Trekz Titanium ($100)

Designed to disappear on your head

Bone conduction headphones are a little different from your average set of headphones. Instead of covering your ears with little speakers or tiny drivers you shove into your ears to drown out the world, these headphones rest near the ear and vibrate sound into your body. The vibrations travel through a special bone near your ear called the Mastoid Process, and the end result is you can hear both the sound from your headphones and the sounds in the rest of the world as though they’re coming from the same places.

These headphones are easy to wear all day without issue.

But what does that mean for comfort? These headphones need to be touching the sides of your head in order to work, and it needs to press with a little bit of pressure for the best experience. When you put these headphones on, they feel a little snug. But they’re also designed to be worn in almost every environment, so the material pressing against your head is similar to the softer sporty material you’d see on a fitness tracker you wear on your wrist. These headphones are designed to be worn as you work out, in particular outside. I wear mine for long distance cycling, specifically because it’s lightweight and comfortable and you can hear everything around you.

Perhaps most interesting about these headphones is how quickly you can forget you are wearing them. That pressure on either side of your head is fairly easy to adjust to, and once you do these headphones are easy to wear all day without issue. On multiple occasions I have walked in to a meeting and caught a funny look from someone wondering what I was wearing, because I’d forgotten to remove my bone conduction headphones. It’s easy to forget them if you can’t feel them!

The one thing I can’t do with most bone conduction headphones is lay down with them on. The design is often fairly rigid, and that includes the band that runs across the back of my neck. If I try to lay down on these headphones, the rigid band pushes back and either becomes uncomfortable or moves the headphones away from the place I need them to be in order to hear anything. In any other situation, however, I find these headphones incredibly comfortable.

Our pick

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium

$100 at Amazon

Fully active headphones, for fully active people.

Some of the best headphones for people who want to listen to music while working out or walking around a busy city. Easily the best bone conduction headphones you can buy.

Deal: Learn how to build a computer or upgrade your laptop

Build a Computer Bundle

I work on a laptop every day, but I’m at its mercy. I have no idea how it works. If it decides to stop working, I have to take it to a guy and ask for help. If he says a number of dollars I have to pay, because if I don’t my laptop doesn’t start working again.

I’m just being lazy. If I knew how my computer worked, I could maintain and upgrade it. After all, it’s not made of cobwebs and magic.

The How to Build a Computer Bundle is what I need. This five-part and five-star-rated learning kit is an extremely useful online guide if you don’t know the first thing about computer maintenance.

It’s not just about building and maintaining your machine either. You can learn how to pimp it out. A couple of the courses in this package are about how you can modify and upgrade your computer or laptop. You can have it running colder and faster than ever.

Build a Computer Bundle

Knowing these skills could save you money when buying too. When you purchase a computer you’re paying for the components and the labor that put it together. If you know how it all fits together, then you can buy the parts and build it yourself. You’d save a bundle.

The How to Build a Computer Bundle:

We’re spotlighting this deal today because there’s a huge price drop on this bundle right now. The entire learning kit is available for just $19.

The deal expires in a matter of days, so if you’re interested, head over to Tech Deals via the button below.

The AAPicks team writes about things we think you’ll like, and we may see a share of revenue from any purchases made through affiliate links. To see all our hottest deals, head over to the AAPICKS HUB.


Looking for a new phone or plan? Start here with the Android Authority Plan Tool:

This smart tool lets you filter plans by phone, price, data tiers, and regional availability. Stop overpaying for cell service you hate and a phone that you’re tired of. Use our Compare Phones & Plans tool to fully customize your mobile experience and painlessly transition from one carrier to another!

Honor Magic 2 review: A phone full of new tricks

The Honor Magic 2 is an exclusive smartphone to China markets, but it’s a very compelling device and could pave the way for future smartphones. It has a slider design, six cameras, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and a notch-free bezel-less display.

Is the experience as magical as it sounds or is this phone simply just smoke and mirrors? Find out in our Honor Magic 2 review.

Design

Honor Magic 2

On the outside, the Honor Magic 2 looks like your average flagship smartphone. It’s constructed of glass panels on the front and rear with a metal frame holding it all together. The build quality is exceptional. The entire phone makes heavy use of rounded corners, sides, and tapered edges for a sleek appearance that’s more comfortable.

Honor Magic 2 slider

The slider form factor allows Honor to achieve a nearly bezel-less screen with no notch and have the front facing cameras hidden.

What makes the Honor Magic 2’s design unique is its slider mechanism. This is similar to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and will give you feelings of nostalgia if you ever used old school slider phones from yesteryears. The slider form factor allows Honor to achieve a nearly bezel-less screen with no notch and have the front facing cameras hidden. Sliding the screen downwards will reveal the three front-facing cameras.

Honor Magic 2 front camera

Having a moving part on a smartphone undoubtedly raises concerns over hardware failure but I don’t see this slider failing anytime soon. The slider mechanism feels sturdy, durable, and solidly holds the front and back half of the phone into place whether the phone is opened or closed. The slider mechanism does, however, prevent the phone from being water and dust resistant. Dust actually collects quite easily in the areas exposed when the slider is open. So far this hasn’t negatively affected the Magic 2 in any way, but do your best to keep these areas clean all the same.

Honor Magic 2

Just like the Huawei P20 Pro from Honor’s parent company, the Magic 2 features gradient color schemes. The model I’ve been using is the black edition, but it looks more silver than black. The Magic 2 also comes in red and blue variants. The black model flows from a bright silver on the top half to a dark blue on the bottom half of the phone. The gradient color is beautiful and eye-catching, but the reflective finish makes the Magic 2 hard to keep clean from fingerprints. The protruding camera lenses on the rear are also a magnet for dust and equally difficult to keep clean.

Display

Honor Magic 2 display

The Honor Magic 2 features a large 6.39-inch full-view 2,340 x 1,080 AMOLED display with incredibly thin bezels surrounding all sides. As mentioned earlier, there is no notch, so you get a fullscreen experience with no cutout. The display looks gorgeous. Colors are vibrant, viewing angles are fantastic, and the screen is sharp and crisp. Viewing content on this display is enjoyable and text and graphics are easy to read. Outdoor visibility on the Magic 2’s display also posed no issues, it gets plenty bright to comfortably see in direct sunlight.

Performance

Honor Magic 2

Editor’s Pick

The Honor Magic 2 is no slouch in performance. The Magic 2 has the same horsepower as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, with a Kirin 980 SoC and 6GB or 8GB of RAM. The Kirin 980 is one of the most powerful chipsets on the market so it’s no surprise that the Magic 2 performs very well in benchmarks and real-world use. The phone is extremely fast to launch applications, multitask, and navigating through the UI is a silky smooth experience. Gaming is also great. High-end titles from the Google Play Store such as Shadowgun Legends runs smoothly with great graphics and consistent frame rates.





Battery life performance is equally impressive. Although the 3,400mAh battery is not as large as those of Huawei’s P series and Mate series, it’s been more than adequate for the Honor Magic 2. With a good mixture of reading emails, text messages, browsing social media, playing games, and watching YouTube, Magic 2 easily lasted me through a full day. Screen-on time consistently reached the five-hour mark which should be more than enough for most users. The Honor Magic 2 also features a 40W fast charger in the box that gets you a 50 percent charge in only 15 minutes.




Hardware

Honor Magic 2 usb c

Hardware on the Honor Magic 2 is fairly run of the mill. There’s a single USB Type-C port at the bottom accompanied by a single speaker. You won’t find a headphone jack anywhere on the device. There’s also no wireless charging or microSD expansion but the Magic 2 offers plenty of internal storage with 128 and 256-gigabyte options.

Honor Magic 2 fingerprint sensor

It isn’t frustratingly awful to use but it’s not as good as a standard fingerprint sensor.

The Honor Magic 2 has an in-display fingerprint sensor, similar to the Oppo R17 Pro and the OnePlus 6T. A small area of the display is illuminated with a fingerprint graphic to show you where to place your finger to properly unlock the device. One thing all in-display fingerprint sensors currently have in common is their slowness an inconsistency — the Magic 2 is no different. It isn’t frustratingly awful to use but it’s not as good as a standard fingerprint sensor. This technology will get considerably better over time but we probably won’t get to that point until next year.

Camera

Honor Magic 2 rear cameras

Another truly unique feature of the Honor Magic 2 is the camera setup, because it has six sensors — three on the rear and three on the front. The main camera on the rear is a 16-megapixel f/1.8 lens, accompanied by a 16-megapixel wide angle and 24-megapixel monochrome sensor. The monochrome sensor is used for capturing black and white photos and portrait mode photography.

Honor Magic 2

The main front-facing camera is also 16MP, flanked by two additional 2MP cameras. The main sensor is the only one for taking photos, while the 2MP sensors are meant for 3D facial unlocking, portrait mode, and portrait mode lighting effects. The 3D facial unlock works very well and is extremely fast. Slide the phone open to reveal the camera, and the phone unlocks before you know it. This is a much more secure option for unlocking the Magic 2, and it’s much faster and more reliable than the fingerprint sensor.

Both the front and rear cameras take advantage of the Kirin 980’s NPU, incorporating AI scene recognition. This means the camera can recognize scenes and objects like food, plants, urban landscapes, pets, and more, and adjust the image accordingly for the best results. While having the AI scene recognition enabled makes a difference in the way the images look, it isn’t easily noticeable in every scene. In some situations, you might even prefer your photos without the AI enhancements and it’s probably better to keep it turned off if you prefer to tweak your images manually.



General image quality from the rear camera is quite impressive and I found very little to complain about with the Magic 2 as my daily smartphone camera. The camera produces sharp images with accurate colors and excellent contrast. Dynamic range on the Honor Magic 2’s cameras provides great shadow and highlight detail and high contrast situations were handled very well. The camera also performs well in low light. Details are still very crisp and sharp, images are still full of color, and there is very little noise. Highlights in low light situations are handled very well thanks to the camera’s excellent dynamic range. There’s no blooming or overexposure which helps retain plenty of detail.

We’ve included a gallery below for easy viewing but you can see the full resolution images by clicking here.

Software

Honor Magic 2

If you don’t like EMUI, the Magic 2 won’t do much to change your opinion.

The Honor Magic 2 ships with the latest Android 9.0 Pie with Magic UI 2.0 on top. Magic UI is essentially the same interface as EMUI found on other Honor or Huawei devices, but it’s been rebranded for the Magic 2. If you’ve used EMUI before and enjoy the experience, you’ll feel right at home on the Magic 2. If you don’t like EMUI, the Magic 2 won’t do much to change your opinion. I prefer a more stock-like experience so EMUI’s colorful and cartoonish aesthetics aren’t exactly my cup of tea.




With Magic UI 2.0 Honor has implemented its own AI assistant called “YOYO.” This virtual assistant is machine-learning capable and supposed to have mind-reading capabilities, which sounds strange to say the least. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this feature, as it currently only understands Mandarin. This makes sense considering the Honor Magic 2 is only marketed in China. Because this is a device for China markets you’ll also find many Chinese applications pre-installed. Should this device ever come to other markets these apps will most likely not be installed but it’s something to be aware of should you decide to import the Magic 2.

Specifications

  Honor Magic 2
Display 6.39-inch AMOLED
2340 x 1080
403PPI
SoC Huawei Kirin 980
Octa-core CPU (2 @ 2.6GHz, 2 @ 1.92GHz, 4 @ 1.8GHz)
Dual NPU
GPU Arm Mali-G76 MP10
720Mhz
RAM 6GB/8GB
LPDDR4X
Storage 128GB/256GB
Non-expandable
Cameras Main: 16MP f/1.8 sensor
Second: 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide angle sensor
Third: 24MP f/1.8 monochrome sensor
Front:
Main: 16MP f/2.0 sensor
Second: 2MP f/2.4 sensor
Third: 2MP f/2.4 sensor
Audio No headphone jack
Battery 3,400mAh
40 watt SuperCharge
Sensors Gravity
Proximity
Hall
Ambient Light
Front 3D camera
In-Display Fingerprint
Connectivity Wi-FI 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4Ghz/5Ghz
Bluetooth 5.0
Dual frequency GPS
Glonass
Beidou
Galileo
QZSS
NFC
USB Type-C
SIM Dual nano-SIM
Software Magic UI 2.0 or EMUI 9.0
Android 9.0 Pie
Dimensions and weight 157.32 x 75.13 x 8.3mm
206g
Colors Black, Blue, Red

Pricing & final thoughts

Honor Magic 2 design

The Honor Magic 2 costs 3,799 yuan (~$545) for the base model with 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage, 4,299 yuan (~$615) for 8GB RAM and 128GB model, and 4,799 yuan (~$690) for the 8GB RAM version with 256GB of storage. Pricing is very competitive compared to many other flagship smartphones.

Considering how feature packed and powerful the Magic 2 is, it’s a great deal. The notch free display, six cameras, and slider design offer a wonderful and unique hardware experience. The unfortunate part is you’ll most likely pay a lot more to import it, as Honor has no plans to release it elsewhere. If you want a similar slider phone experience, the more widely available Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 might be a better option.

Next: Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 hands-on: The bezel-less slider

Best fitness trackers (December 2018)

Fitness trackers have come an extremely long way over the years. No longer are they glorified pedometers; they’re much more than that. Most standard fitness trackers nowadays can track your steps taken, distance traveled, how many calories you’ve burned for the day, and even your sleeping patterns. They’re handy little devices if you want a better look at how active you are throughout the day, and there are plenty to choose from.

Related: Best Fitbit fitness trackers | Best Garmin watches

We understand it can be a little daunting trying to choose which fitness tracker best suits your needs, so we’ve compiled a list of the best fitness trackers on the market. We’ve divided our list up into separate categories to help you narrow down your options. As always, if you feel like we missed something on our best fitness trackers list, be sure to tell us in the comment section below.

Without any further delay, here are the best fitness trackers you can buy right now.

Best fitness trackers update:December

This month we removed the Fitbit Charge 2 and Withings Steel HR to make room for the Fitbit Charge 3.


The best fitness tracker overall

Fitbit Charge 3

Fitbit’s Charge 3 is the best fitness tracker you can buy for most people. Its classy, versatile design means it’ll look good in the office and at the gym. It’s also water resistant this time around, and has one of the more accurate wrist-based heart rate sensors we’ve tried on a wearable.

Elsewhere, the Fitbit Charge 3 offers a great software experience, plenty of smartwatch features, and a battery that can last almost a week on a single charge. Unless you’re a runner, you probably don’t need GPS. For those folks, the Charge 3 is a great option. If you need a GPS, move on to our #2 pick.

Read more: The best Fitbit alternativesThe most common Fitbit problems and how to fix them

Garmin vivosport

garmin vivo sport

The Garmin vivosport is the best fitness tracker with GPS.

Editor’s Pick

It also packs in a heart rate monitor, which is pretty incredible considering its slim and lightweight design. It’s also waterproof up to 50 meters, will last up to seven days on a single charge, and comes with a Chroma touchscreen display that’s miles better than the display on the vivosmart 3. The display is a little small for my liking, however.

The vivosport is available now for around $149.99. That’s an absolute steal for the best fitness tracker with GPS.

Also read: Best GPS running watches

Garmin vivosmart 4

garmin vivosmart 4 review screen

Garmin’s vivosmart 4 might not have a built-in GPS, but it has almost everything else you could want in a basic fitness tracker.

Don’t miss: Garmin vivosmart 4 review

It’s thin and lightweight, has a much better screen than its predecessor, and it’s proven itself to be a reliable fitness tracker at its core. It also comes with advanced sleep metrics that are right up there with Fitbit’s, as well as a pulse ox sensor for keeping tabs on blood-oxygen saturation levels.

The big downside here is the lack of GPS and GPS phone tethering option, so this is purely a health and activity tracker, not so much for high-intensity workouts. If that doesn’t turn you away, the vivosmart 4 is a great option.


Best multisport fitness tracker: Garmin vivoactive 3 Music

Garmin vivoactive 3 Music

The standard Garmin vivoactive 3 is one of our favorite multisport fitness watches. Naturally, the vivoactive 3 Music made its way to our list right when it was announced.

Everything you loved about the vivoactive 3 is here, along with support for music storage of up to 500 songs. You can load up your favorite songs, or download playlists from iHeartRadio. Deezer support will be added in the future, too.

Don’t miss: Garmin vivoactive 3 review | Hands-on with the Garmin vivoactive 3 Music

Aside from a slightly redesigned bezel on the new watch (and music support, of course), the vivoactive 3 and Music version are basically the same. That means you get a fantastic running watch with a built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, 5ATM water resistance rating, Garmin Pay support, and seven-day battery life. You can check out our full vivoactive 3 review right here to learn more.

Also read: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?


Best fitness smartwatch

Fitbit Versa

Fitbit Versa

If you were underwhelmed by Fitbit’s first smartwatch offering, the Versa might be just the thing for you.

The Fitbit Versa is much better looking and more compact than the Ionic, and it doesn’t cost as much money. Now, that lower price tag will get you fewer features (no GPS, for instance), but that’s the whole point of this smartwatch — the Versa is a smartwatch for everyone.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Versa review | Fitbit Versa vs Ionic

With the recent addition of quick replies, you can now reply to just about every app notification you receive on your wrist. The Versa also recently received Fitbit’s female health tracking suite, making this a much more powerful health tracker for women.

The Versa also brings Fitbit OS 2.0, 24/7 heart rate tracking, on-screen workouts with Fitbit Coach, over 15 exercise modes, Connected GPS, and swim tracking thanks to its 5ATM rating. There’s also room to store your music, and if you spring for the Special Edition model you’ll have access to Fitbit Pay.

Fitbit Ionic

Fitbit Ionic

The Fitbit Ionic is a great fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrid if you need something a little more powerful than the Versa. It’s an incredible fitness and sleep tracker, comes with a built-in GPS, allows you to pay for things from your wrist, and it’s water resistant.

More: Fitbit Ionic review | Fitbit Flyer review

Just like the Fitbit Versa, the Ionic now has support for quick replies for notifications and female health tracking features.

The Ionic is one heck of a fitness smartwatch. It’s available now on Amazon and Fitbit.com for $269.95, and comes in three different color options.


Best budget fitness tracker

Xiaomi Mi Band 3

If you need a basic fitness tracker and you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, buy the Xiaomi Mi Band 3. At only $25, it’s hard not to recommend this device.

Not only has the design been improved from the Mi Band 2, it’s also received a few nice upgrades under the hood. The heart rate monitor is fairly accurate for a budget device, and it can still track all the basics — steps taken, calories burned, and sleep.

More: Xiaomi Mi Band 3 review

To get down to this price point, Xiaomi had to make some compromises. It doesn’t support many activity profiles, and the software is a little wonky at times. If that doesn’t bother you, the Xiaomi Mi Band is probably the best bang-for-your-buck activity tracker on the market.

Garmin vivofit 4

Garmin vivofit 4

Garmin’s vivofit 3 was one of our favorite inexpensive fitness trackers of 2017. Is the vivofit 4 a worthy successor? That depends.

Related: Garmin vivofit 4 review | Best fitness trackers for kids

In many ways, the vivofit 4 is an improvement over its predecessor. It’s more comfortable, has a new color display, and plenty of useful extras. But the lack of heart rate monitor connectivity is unfortunate, and we hope it returns with the next model.

Throughout our two weeks of testing, the vivofit 4 was so close to delivering accurate results but ultimately fell short more often than we’d like. To its credit, it does offer users a general idea of their performance levels, which is why most people will buy the vivofit 4. It’s an inexpensive fitness tracker that you basically never have to take off, and it keeps track of the basics. If you need a device you basically never have to take off, the vivofit 4 is for you. If you own a vivofit 3, it might not be worth it to upgrade.


So there you have it, the best fitness trackers on the market right now! How did you like our list? Did we leave anything out? If so, let us know in the comments!

The best Android games for the NVIDIA Shield TV

What are the best games to play on the NVIDIA Shield TV from the Google Play Store?

As NVIDIA proclaims in every piece of marketing, the Shield Android TV box is “the streamer for gamers”. So which games are worth checking out?

To start, NVIDIA offers it’s own GeForce Now service which lets you stream a whole bunch of great PC games from the cloud, including the insanely popular Fortnite. You’ll find many games available to play for free, while others AAA titles are available for purchase. NVIDIA Gamestream also lets you stream your favorite PC games from your gaming rig to your NVIDIA Shield TV — assuming your set up uses an NVIDIA’s graphics card.

For our purposes, we’re going to highlight some of the best games available via the Google Play Store that have been specifically adapted to play on Android TV. So let’s dive right in!

Death Road To Canada

Death Road to Canada is one of those incredible games that offers a unique gaming experience every time you play and is full of unexpected surprises. It’s a survival game where your goal is to outrun a zombie apocalypse by driving to Canada. Featuring randomly generated locations, characters, and events, it’s a game that’s chock-full of surprises that will keep you coming back for more.

This was one of my absolute favorite games released for Android in 2017, and it’s a blast to play on a small touchscreen — but fortunately, with the way the Google Play Store works, if you bought it to play on your phone you can also download the Android TV version to your Shield.

Playing with a controller just makes the game’s controls that much tighter, and I made it to the Canadian border on my first try playing the Shield version (quite the accomplishment, I know). One of the best benefits of playing it on the Shield is that it opens up the option for two-player co-op if you’ve got a second Shield controller kicking around. A great Android game just keeps gets better thanks to Android TV and the Nvidia Shield.

Download: Death Road To Canada ($9.99)

Morphite

Were you disappointed when No Man’s Sky failed to live up to its incredible hype? Still want to explore colorful planetscapes in a free-forming indie game? You gotta check out Morphite. It’s got a beautiful art direction and soundtrack that will instantly hook you in.

Originally released through the Steam Greenlight program, it made its way to Android late last year and is also available on the Shield. This is sort of a mix between No Man’s Sky and something like Metroid Prime, wherein there’s a whole universe of procedurally generated planets to explore like the former alongside a full-fledged campaign mode with missions that require space combat, puzzle-solving and platforming. While it played pretty well on a smartphone, it really reaches new heights playing it on a big TV screen with a controller in your hand.

The game is free to download and play, but you’ll need to pay an in-app purchase of $5 to unlock the rest of the story mode. Otherwise, you’re free to fly around in your ship exploring planets and collecting resources as you like.

Download: Morphite (Free w/Ads, $4.99 to unlock full game)

Metal Gear Solid 2 HD

Hideo Kojima is an absolutely legendary video game developer, responsible for creating one of the greatest video game franchises of all time: Metal Gear Solid.

The sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, is arguably the best title in the series — and the HD remastered version is now available for the NVIDIA Shield. Step into the role of Solid Snake as he sneaks through a heavily-defended tanker to gather intel on a new Metal Gear weapon in development, and then Raiden, a rookie Spec Ops agent who’s on a mission to infiltrate an evil corporation’s compound to save the President… and the world! This game, initially released in 2001 on the PlayStation 2, was a huge inspiration for the stealth-action genre and is still celebrated by many as one of the best games ever made.

If you loved playing MGS2 back in the day, you’ll love the nostalgic trip down memory lane. If you’ve never played Metal Gear Solid 2 before, you’re in for a real treat.

Download: Metal Gear Solid 2 HD ($9.99)

ClusterTruck

ClusterTruck is a frantic physics-based first-person platformer where your goal is to leap between semi trucks that are just barrelling down roads and getting blown up by falling rocks, laser beams, and all other sorts of crazy obstacles. You want to go as fast as possible, but if you touch the ground you lose.

You may have seen this game streamed by popular YouTubers because it’s just so ridiculous to watch. This is a great game to take turns playing with friends, as it’s basically like playing “the floor is lava” with super-human jumping powers. There are nine sets of 10 levels, so there’s a ton of content to play through here.

Download: ClusterTruck ($14.99)

The Witness

If you consider yourself a hardcore puzzle gamer, you owe it to yourself to check out The Witness, one of the most beautifully crafted and challenging puzzle games ever conceived. At first glance, this appears to be a rather standard puzzle adventure game, where you wander around a mysterious island solving grid puzzles all the live long day, things become quite layered as you start to unravel the true nature of the island and just how deep the puzzle theme extends.

I’ll keep the description vague and cryptic because it’s really one of those games you want to experience for yourself.

Download: The Witness ($13.60)

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

The Borderlands franchise is a gloriously unique first-person shooter, mixing genre elements from action, RPG, and FPS into an addictive experience, topped off with the beautiful cel-shaded graphics and a storyline featuring razor-sharp wit.

The Pre-Sequel was originally released in 2014 for the major consoles, and fits in story-wise between the first and second Borderland games. As such, it largely uses the game mechanics from Borderlands 2, while adding in some new weapons and elements. The game also supports co-op play, though sadly no split-screen co-op is available at this time.

Still, Borderlands: TPS plays like a dream on the NVIDIA Shield and should provide hours of fun.

Download: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel ($14.99)

Ultimate Chicken Horse

Ultimate Chicken Horse is a unique party platformer that’ll have you and your friends gather around the TV like it was 1998 again. The concept is that up to four friends collaborate to build out a challenging level — based on the different platforms and traps, made available to the group. Then, everyone simultaneously tries to complete the level.

Equal parts strategic and stupid, this game is great fun to get a few friends together and have at it (if you’ve got the right number of Shield controllers to accommodate the crew — third-party Bluetooth controller support is lacking). The goal is to set enough traps to sabotage your opponents while leaving a clean route for yourself to make it through the level and reach the goal. Everything is packaged in a fun, cartoony art style, with a host of farm animals as your disposal as playable characters.

Download: Ultimate Chicken Horse ($11.99)

GoNNER

GoNNER is one of my favorite games for the NVIDIA Shield TV, and it’s a real treat for folks looking for a challenging shooter-platformer. Levels are generated procedurally, meaning that you’ll never play the exact same level twice. The game seems to adapt the level difficulty to your skill and playing ability as you work your way through the multiple worlds.

But it’s worth noting that this game is tough. Like really tough. Before you head out to play, you choose your head and gun — you unlock more of both as you explore levels throughout the game — and then you’re tasked with dispatching the enemies as fast and efficiently as possible to continue to collect ammo for your weapons, and purple tiles which are used to heal up and upgrade weapons before boss battles, or save them to “delay” a game over screen.

I specifically chose the word delay because, again, this game is really hard. Are you up for the challenge?

Download: GoNNER ($9.99)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Right off the hop, for those wondering this game is nothing like the stealth action found in Metal Gear Solid, the crown jewel of the Metal Gear franchise. Instead, this is a slick-looking hack-and-slash action spin-off title starring Raiden, whom fans will remember best from the aforementioned Metal Gear Solid 2.

In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, players assume control of Raiden, a katana-wielding cyborg. Set in the far-off year of… 2018… the story revolves around conflicts between rival Private Military Companies, with some corporations actively looking to court chaos to keep the war economy chugging along. We won’t dive too much into the plot specifics, but just want to reiterate that this is nothing like the gameplay found in Metal Gear Solid games. Another thing worth noting is the file size — a whopping 5.5GB! If you just have the 16GB console, you’ll definitely want to look into expandable storage options for your Shield TV, or start clearing out some room before installing.

Download: Metal Gear Rising Revengeance ($14.99)

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 is a masterpiece of a game. Developed by Valve, it’s the sequel to 1998’s groundbreaking first-person shooter Half-Life and was developed alongside Steam and the Source engine platforms.

If you own an NVIDIA Shield and have never played Half-Life 2, you owe it to yourself to check this game out. You don’t have to have played the first one to jump into this one, but if you need a bit of the backstory, you play as Gordon Freeman, a very quiet scientist who previously worked for Black Mesa Research Facility and accidentally opened a Portal to another dimension.

Half-Life 2 picks up with Freeman being awoken from stasis, learning that the world has fallen under the control of the Combine, an inter-dimensional empire who have implemented a brutal world-wide police state to control the human race. You must evade the Combine soldiers and meet up with a band of freedom fighters to help save the world.

It’s a bloody, epic game that’s been celebrated for years and is still worth playing in 2017 due to its brilliant visual and audio design, fantastic storytelling, and outstanding gameplay. If you’ve played it all before, you may as well play it again as we wait for Half-Life 3 (any day now, right?).

Download: Half-Life 2 ($9.99)

Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka

Fans of the classic Tony Hawk Pro Skater games from back in the day who lament the storied franchise’s current state should check out Skateboard Party 3. It’s a throwback game to those classic games we loved from the late 90s and early 00s before things went… sideways.

The game physics and controls feel very familiar and you’re given a couple game modes to choose from. In Career mode, you get four minutes to explore the eight different locations and rack up a huge score, collect P-A-R-T-Y scattered around as floating letters, and find other hidden items. Things are unlocked by spending experience points, which you collect by completing challenges and landing tricks.

Now is this as polished as the classic THPS games? No. Who is Greg Lutkzka? No idea. Is it the best thing you can get on the Shield for just $2? Yes. And it’s worth checking out for that reason alone until Activision gets their act together and re-releases THPS 2 and 3 on Android.

Download: Skateboard Party 3 ($1.99 w/IAPs)

Portal

When making a list of best games, and Portal is one of the options, you always got to plug arguably one of the most fun and inventive games of all time. If you’ve never played Portal before, I’m actually jealous because it means you get to experience this outstanding game fresh for the first time.

This game is celebrated justly for its brilliantly subtle storyline, mind-bending puzzles, and one of the most celebrated video game villains of recent time. And it’s been ported beautifully over to the NVIDIA Shield TV via the Google Play Store.

Anyone who’s played this knows exactly why this game deserves every award it’s ever won. If you haven’t played it yet, spend the $10 and enjoy.

Download: Portal ($9.99)

Real Racing 3

So far every game on this list has been a paid title. Real Racing 3 bucks that trend. It’s already arguably the best-looking racing game available for Android phones, and it looks just as pretty on the big screen playing through the NVIDIA Shield TV.

Jump behind the wheel of one of over 140 intensely detailed vehicles based on real cars, and hit the track in over 4,000 events including Cup races, Eliminations and Endurance challenges on 17 race tracks based off of iconic circuits from around the world, including Silverstone, Hockenheimring, Le Mans, Dubai Autodrome and many more.

If you’re a racing fan and looking for a good title for your Shield TV, give Real Racing 3 a try.

Download: Real Racing 3 (Free)

What are your favorite titles for the NVIDIA Shield TV?

These are the games that piqued our interest, but what are your favorite games for the NVIDIA Shield TV? Got any opinions on the games that made our list? Let us know in the comments!

Galaxy Note 9 now being updated to One UI Beta 2

Get up to speed on Samsung’s all-new Android interface.

At the 2018 Samsung Developer Conference, one of the big announcements was a big refresh for Samsung’s custom Android interface. The Samsung Experience is gone, and in its place, we have One UI.

From understanding what in the world One UI is to seeing when you’ll be able to get it on your phone, here’s everything you need to know.

The latest One UI news

December 11, 2018 — Galaxy Note 9 now being updated to One UI Beta 2

Following One UI Beta 2 rolling out to the Galaxy S9 and S9+, it would now appear that the second beta version is finally making its way to the Note 9.

Similar to Beta 2 for the S9 series, the main focus here is all about patching bugs. The update weighs in at 553.88MB and some of the issues that are now patched include the following:

  • Freezing of Dialer app
  • Sometimes Autofill function does not work when using Samsung Pass
  • Alarm does not work
  • Update error in Play Store or Galaxy Apps
  • Screen does not turn on when receiving/making calls

Also included here is the December 2018 Android security patch.

If you haven’t already received the update, dive into the Note 9’s settings and make your way to the section titled “Software update.” It should be waiting for you there.

November 29, 2018 — One UI Beta 2 for Galaxy S9 fixes a laundry list of bugs

Bugs are bound to happen with any beta, and Samsung’s One UI has been no exception to that. Beta 2 recently began making its way to unlocked Galaxy S9 handsets in the U.S., and the main focus with this 748.52MB update is squashing a huge list of bugs/glitches.

We won’t go through every single one, but here are a few of the biggest bugs that are now squashed:

  • Swiping left or right does not work in Recent menu
  • Not able to log-in Samsung face, fingerprint recognition is not working
  • Alarm comes with vibration only
  • Alarm does not ring on scheduled time
  • Roar sound comes if a notification comes while listening to music
  • Impossible to join group call
  • Delay of displaying a screen with an incoming call
  • Rapid battery discharge during the Netflix streaming with Chromecast
  • Apps screen and app name is overlapped
  • Phonomon where multiple apps are closed

You can check out the entire changelog here, and in addition to all the bug fixes, Beta 2 also adds the November 1, 2018 Android security patch.

November 15, 2018 — Samsung One UI beta also available for Galaxy S9/S9+ in the U.S.

Not long after Galaxy S9/S9+ handsets in South Korea gained access to the One UI beta it’s also started rolling out to folks in the United States.

You should be able to register for the beta right now in the Samsung+ app, and once you do, an update will be waiting for you under Settings -> Software Update -> Download Updates Manually.

As with any beta, expect a few bugs here and there. Right now, Samsung warns that Sprint Calling Plus and biometric authentication with banking apps isn’t working.

November 15, 2018 — Samsung One UI beta now rolling out to Galaxy S9 handsets in South Korea

The day has finally come (for some of our readers, at least) to start playing around with One UI! If you own a Galaxy S9 or S9+ and live in South Korea, your phone should receive an update to the One UI beta anytime now if it hasn’t already. There’s currently no word when the beta will open for the Note 9 or when it’ll expand to the U.S, but I’d imagine those details will be made available soon.

All the big details

What exactly is One UI?

One UI is the name of Samsung’s new Android interface and serves as the successor to The Samsung Experience that previously replaced TouchWiz.

One of the biggest goals with One UI is to help users “focus on the task at hand.” To achieve this, One UI removes a lot of clutter from the Samsung Experience and makes things much cleaner. For example, the settings page is being simplified even more and regrouping certain settings together so that they’re easier to get to. The phone, notes, email, and other Samsung apps also have a new look to only show essential information.

Samsung’s also marketing One UI as being more natural, saying that it’s “restructured the way we interact with our devices.” Buttons that are traditionally towards the top of the screen have been moved closer to the bottom, and in many of Samsung’s apps (such as Messages and Clock), the top area is reserved exclusively for viewing content you don’t have to interact with.

Third, One UI aims to “be visibly comfortable.” Colors have been tweaked to provide better clarity, and based on the color of the phone you have, elements of the UI will be tweaked to match it.

What Android version is it based on?

One UI is based on Android 9 Pie, and as such, has all of the features from Pie that we’ve come to know and love.

That means One UI has new gesture navigation, a bunch of new emoji, improved notifications, and more on top of all of the One UI-specific changes.

What phones will be updated to One UI?

So far, Samsung’s confirmed that the following phones will be updated to One UI:

  • Galaxy Note 9
  • Galaxy S9
  • Galaxy S9+
  • Galaxy Note 8
  • Galaxy S8
  • Galaxy S8+

When can I get it?

As of November 15, 2018, Samsung’s begun rolling out its One UI open beta to users over in South Korea and the United States for the Galaxy S9/S9+. At some point soon, the Galaxy Note 9 should follow as well.

One UI will exit the beta stage and be officially released to the masses in January 2019 for the Galaxy Note 9 and S9/S9+. It’s been confirmed that the Note 8 and S8/S8+ will follow at a later date, but when that date will be is unknown.

How to get Android 9 Pie and One UI on your Samsung Galaxy S9

Deal: Perfect your pictures with Adobe Photoshop mastery

Adobe Photoshop is 30 years old this year and continues to be the gold standard of digital editing software. Whether you take photos for a living or just for social media, mastering this program takes your pictures to the next level.

There are many useful online courses out there which don’t cost the earth, and today we’re spotlighting a particularly good offer. Tech Deals have bundled together eight learning kits into one package, and it’s available today for just $29.

All the skills you need to ensure every photo is eye-catching.

A huge range of editing techniques is covered, including lighting styles, cinematic color grading, and portrait photography. Photoshop is complemented by Adobe Lightroom, and there’s even a crash course in this software included too. You’ll have all the skills you need to ensure every photo is eye-catching.

Also part of the package is a specialist guide on putting together your own photo book. For amateurs, this can be used to make thoughtful gifts for friends, or a collection of your own memories. For professionals, you’ll have the know-how to compile an impressive portfolio.

The Complete Photoshop Mastery Bundle

The Complete Photoshop Mastery Bundle:

Despite the huge combined value of these learning kits, the whole bundle is now on offer for just $29. That’s a huge saving, and thousands of people have already signed up. The deal is due to end later this week though, so you don’t have much time.

Hit the button below to find out more about this deal.

The AAPicks team writes about things we think you’ll like, and we may see a share of revenue from any purchases made through affiliate links. To see all our hottest deals, head over to the AAPICKS HUB.


Looking for a new phone or plan? Start here with the Android Authority Plan Tool:

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New Instagram update introduces voice messaging

Reported by TechCrunch, Instagram’s latest update includes a new voice messaging feature that works very similarly to voice messaging in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple’s Messages app.

The feature is easy enough to trigger — just tap and hold the microphone button when in Instagram Direct to record your voice message. You can record a voice message up to one minute in length and remains in your Instagram Direct threads indefinitely.

Finally, the voice messages work in one-on-one and group chats on both Android and iOS.

Voice messaging is rolling out now to Instagram on both aforementioned platforms.

Recent updates

Nametags and school communities

October 5, 2018: Instagram introduced Nametags. Likely inspired by Snapchat’s Snap Codes, Nametags display a scannable area that includes your username. The idea is to forgo searching for people and just scan their Nametags instead.

Instagram also introduced school-specific communities for current and former college students. You can add your school and graduation year to your profile, as well as any school-based organizations you might be a part of.

Once you add a school, you become part of the university’s directory on Instagram. You and other students can then search profiles based on class year.

Support for video chat, revamped Explore page, and new camera effects

June 26, 2018: Instagram introduced real-time video chatting within Instagram Direct. To start a video chat, go to the Direct tab, open a message thread, and tap the camera icon in the right corner. You can video chat with one friend or with a group of four people at a time.

Next up is the refreshed Explore page that includes new topic channels. When you open the Explore page, you now see a tray at the top with several personalized channels, such as art, sports, beauty, fashion, and “For You.” Each channel includes posts for that specific topic.

Finally, the new camera effects feature designs from Ariana Grande, Buzzfeed, Liza Koshy, Baby Ariel, and the NBA. You will have to follow any of those accounts to get the corresponding camera effects, however.

Mute users without unfollowing them

June 26, 2018: Instagram introduced a new feature called Mute. As you might have guessed, the new setting tweak lets you curate your feed by muting certain people and brands you follow. You’re still a follower of those people and brands, but they won’t clog up your feed.

When you mute someone you follow, you will still be notified of comments or posts you are tagged in. If the person has their account set to “private,” you will still be able to view their feed. The only thing mute does is prevent that person’s posts from appearing in your personal feed.

Instagram update lets you buy stuff without leaving the app

May 3, 2018: The payments feature lets Instagram users add their credit or debit cards, set up a security PIN, and buy stuff without leaving the app. One of the first businesses to support the feature is dinner reservation app Resy, though Instagram said additional businesses will support the feature over time. Eventually, you will be able to buy things like movie tickets through Instagram.

Instagram lets you upload your Stories all at once

April 24, 2018: Instagram not lets you upload multiple pictures and videos to your Story at once. You can up to 10 images or video files to your Story and re-order them to make your Story. Instagram will automatically suggest location tags for your Story media by using timestamps and geolocation.

Instagram now lets you ‘regram’ public posts to your story

February 7, 2018: Instagram is rolling out access to a new regram feature. Essentially, you can share and add public feed posts from other users to your story. As you can see from the video here, not only can you resize it, but you can also edit it by adding stickers or drawing on it before posting. Of course, you have the option to disable others from sharing your posts in the app’s settings.

Next: How to delete your Instagram account

Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition has a crazy rear screen and 10GB of RAM

  • The Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition has been launched in China today.
  • It offers a virtually bezel-less front screen and a smaller rear screen that’s used for selfies.
  • The phone also has a TOF sensor for 3D/AR effects, much like the Oppo R17 Pro.

We saw leaked images of a supposed dual-screen Vivo smartphone last month, but the Chinese brand has finally announced the device at a launch event in Shanghai today.

The Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition indeed packs two screens, featuring a virtually bezel-less 6.39-inch OLED screen (2,340 x 1,080) on the front and a 5.49-inch OLED display (1,920 x 1,080) on the back.

The rear-mounted OLED panel serves a couple of purposes. The main one is to allow users to take selfies – there’s no front-facing camera, so the triple-camera setup on the back doubles as a selfie cam. The rear screen is also used for a couple of software features – Mirror Mode and Pose Director. The latter displays a pose you want to imitate, if that’s your thing. Vivo also talked about using the secondary screen to control games you’re playing on the main screen, though we assume this will require game developers to adapt their games for the device.

There’s no front-facing camera, so the triple-camera setup on the back doubles as a selfie cam.

A set of LEDs run around the circular camera module. Called Lunar Ring, this feature serves as a notification light, and also as a diffuse flash for selfies.

Thanks to this arrangement, you don’t need a front-facing camera, allowing you to simply take selfies with the rear camera trio. And it’s a pretty odd, humped setup, consisting of a 12MP f/1.79 main camera, a 2MP snapper (presumably for depth effects), and a time-of-flight (TOF) sensor for 3D/AR effects.

We’ve previously seen the latter sensor on the Oppo R17 Pro, where it was used to quickly 3D-scan objects and subjects. Unfortunately, our own Lanh Nguyen felt it wasn’t “particularly useful” and was “very buggy.” Hopefully Vivo makes better use of the sensor…

You can also expect plenty of camera features, including AI scene recognition, portrait mode, “face shaping”, and AI portrait framing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vivo added the TOF sensor purely for a more advanced beauty mode and better filters.

In any case, the Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition is pretty stacked when it comes to core specs. There’s a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 10GB of RAM, 128GB of fixed storage, a 3,500mAh battery, and an in-display fingerprint scanner. The last feature is a pretty noteworthy inclusion for a phone with two screens, owing to the complexity of a dual-screen phone in the first place.

The Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition is pretty stacked when it comes to core specs.

Vivo tends to make affordable devices, but the new Nex’s specs and, in particular, secondary screen on the back cost a premium. It’s not as bad as we were expecting though: 4,998 yuan, or the equivalent of $725. The phone will go on sale from December 29 in China, with pre-orders starting today. No word yet on international availability or pricing.

Read next: OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition hands-on: What should you expect?

Stay tuned for our Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition hands-on, coming over the next few hours, and let us know what you think!

Deal: Become an in-demand Hadoop engineer

The Very Big Data and Apache Hadoop Training Bundle

There’s data, then there’s Very Big Data. For the latter, conventional analysis methods just don’t cut it. Big businesses need specialist Hadoop engineers, and they’re willing to pay specialist salaries to get them.

These skills can be learned, but face-to-face training from experts can be very expensive. Fortunately, online courses can be sold thousands of times, and therefore be brought to students at a much more affordable rate.

The Very Big Data & Apache Hadoop Training Bundle is the perfect example of this.

Data Scientists in the U.S. command a median base salary of $110,000. (Source: Glassdoor.com)

This five-star-rated series of 10 learning kits is a step-by-step guide to harnessing the huge processing power of the Hadoop software framework. Even as a complete beginner in Big Data, you’ll be introduced to the concepts of Hadoop, Apache, Hive, MapReduce and many more powerful data handling tools.

You’ll then progress to master them by applying them to real-world data analytics problems.

The Very Big Data and Apache Hadoop Training Bundle

Here’s the full Hadoop lineup:

In one of the biggest discounts we’ve found this year, the combined $3,000 value of all these learning kits has been temporarily slashed by 99 percent. Right now you can get the entire bundle for just $29.

With 30 hours of Hadoop training, you’re paying less than $1 per hour of expert-led instruction. You get lifetime access too, so you can crash-course it all in one week, or make it your New Year’s resolution. 

The offer expires in a matter of days so don’t miss out. Over 800 people have already enrolled. Hit the button below to find out more.

The AAPicks team writes about things we think you’ll like, and we may see a share of revenue from any purchases made through affiliate links. To see all our hottest deals, head over to the AAPICKS HUB.


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