Tools of the Trade: December 2017By
1. KINDLE OASIS 2
The Oasis 2 is a remake of the previous premium Kindle of the same name. What’s new with this version of the Oasis e-reader is a cheaper price (from $249), a larger screen, and a metal case; it’s also now waterproof, able to survive sitting in up to two meters of water for 60 minutes (IPX8 rating). The aluminum case improves durability and is more comfortable to hold one-handed. One side on the back is thicker and has an edge for your fingertips where the other side dips to 3.4mm (0.133″). The 7″ screen is the largest for any Kindle, and it can display 30% more text, making for fewer page turns. The paperwhite display features E Ink Carta, with 300 pixels-per-inch, and a built-in backlight with more LEDs. The Oasis is the first Kindle e-reader to have support for Audible books. There are no on-board speakers, so you have to connect to headphones or a Bluetooth speaker. The thicker side of the case provides room for a larger battery that will give you an amazing five to six weeks of reading time. www.amazon.com
2. GOOGLE HOME
One of the most interesting competitions this holiday season will pit Google’s Home Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana in a head-to-head contest for the same buyers. All are impressive personal assistants that can check the traffic, weather, and your schedule; create lists; play your music; and reach out to control other smart-home devices. Google Home, however, has the power of the best search engine and impressive AI functions. There are three Google Home modules—the original Home, the new Home Mini, and the much larger Google Home Max, which we reviewed last month. The smaller 3.9″-wide Home Mini looks like a compressed, fabric-covered sphere, but it will do essentially what the larger Home does at about one-third the price. Sound production obviously isn’t as good, but you could get several for more coverage throughout the house. You can see complete descriptions and listen to the Google voices online at https://store.google.com.
3. NIXPLAY WI-FI CLOUD FRAMES
The Nixplay Wi-Fi Cloud Frames are digital picture frames that let you add photos and videos over Wi-Fi from your phone or from online photo accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, or Google Photos. There’s direct email connectivity, so others can send photos directly to your frame. You have 10GB of free cloud storage, where you can create playlists and even connect up to five frames. A built-in HU-Motion Sensor automatically turns on the frame when anyone enters the room and off when they leave. See www.nixplay.com for a wide variety of these frames.
4. RAZER PHONE
What do you get when a computer gaming company decides to design the first smartphone for gamers? Razer calls it “the ultimate in mobile entertainment,” and actually it’s a pretty good start. Foremost, the Razer Phone has the first-ever 120Hz refresh rate for its 5.7″, 1,440 × 2,560 pixel display to eliminate motion blur. The processing power necessary for the best Android games is from a Snapdragon 835 CPU and a very generous 8GB of RAM. The 4,000-mAh battery claims to be good for seven hours of continuous gaming or 12+ hours of movies. The design has been called a brick by one reviewer, but the all-aluminum case is thin (0.31″). It has 64GB of internal storage, and the two cameras are 12MP on the back and 8MP on the front. www.razer.com