Smart Home

HomePod mini is a bite-sized smart speaker for your home

Launches along with the iPhone 12

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Besides the much-awaited iPhone 12 series, Apple also complemented its home ecosystem during today’s online event. The company’s biggest addition (and the show’s opener) is the new HomePod mini. Touting a smaller frame, the new HomePod mini is a bite-sized smart speaker for your home.

Complementing the HomePod family, the recently announced HomePod mini stands at just 3.3 inches tall. As you’d expect, the new smart speaker integrates with Apple Music to fulfill the “speaker” side of “smart speaker.”

The speaker sports the Apple S5 chip, an audio processor that detects and optimizes performance based on the music played. Owing to its engineering, the HomePod mini also directs sound effectively into a 360-degree experience. A three-microphone array can listen for the “Hey, Siri” trigger from anywhere in a room.

Speaking of Siri, the new speaker comes with all the functionalities of Apple’s voice assistant. It can integrate seamlessly with other devices in Apple’s ecosystem, including iPhones, Macs, and Apple TVs.

For new functionalities, the HomePod mini comes with a new Intercom feature. Users can send audio messages from one HomePod to another in one household. The feature also works with iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, AirPods, and CarPlay.

After some recent controversies, Apple is now assuring users that the HomePod mini will not record or ship any conversations without the user’s permission.

The HomePod mini will ship in either black or white. It retails for only US$ 99.

Hands-On

Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G: Fiber-like speeds within reach

The solution to Fiber-less homes

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When the world we live in requires us to stay connected and do our work through our preferred machines at the comfort of our homes, having a stable connection isn’t merely a desire anymore.

Sadly, not all homes are granted a fast Internet connection or fiber connectivity. Even I struggled to deal with intermittent connection from a certain Internet Service Provider (ISP). I remember using an extra 5G-capable smartphone as a mobile hotspot as my backup, especially when I was attending virtual conferences, team meetings, and client briefings.

It was costly, severely damaging my wallet in the process of staying connected. More importantly, not everyone is as privileged as I am. I get access to the latest technology and gadgets in the market.

Hope seems lost for most people, but there’s a new solution: the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G.

Design and capabilities

The Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G is designed like the routers you see in the market today. Its build is similar to the Huawei WiFi AX3, especially when the device dons a plain, white colorway across its body.

I got the limited edition unit plastered with a cover design, drawn by award-winning Illustrator Stephanie Bravo-Semilla. The artwork playfully depicts how high-speed connectivity can link families together as they pursue their passions.

The router uses WiFi 6 technology — which guarantees speeds three times faster than the commonly used WiFi 5. It’s also equipped with a 5G NR SA/NSA connection, allowing it to connect to two wireless access technologies. Further, it has a 5G PLUS 2NR Carrier Aggregation, which expands the coverage indoors as well as maintains the connection’s stability.

Right off the bat, you can see how the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G is built with six distinct external antennas as well, picking up better signals. It also have 9dBi high-gain antennas that extend the reach and support Gigabyte Ethernet Ports, WPA3 WiFi Security, and WiFi 22 MIMO.

Indicators, ports, buttons

You can find the LED indicators on top, displaying the status of your WiFi, 5G/4G signal, SIM, and System. There’s a pre-installed Smart SIM card that comes with 20GB of open-access data.

When you plug the router into a socket, it will boot up and the 4G signal will flash first unless it recognizes 5G connectivity in your area.

I used it inside my room, which is found in the innermost part of the house. At first, it didn’t pick up a 5G signal. The LED indicator for the 4G signal was on while the router was trying to find 5G.

That’s when I knew I had to place it outside my door. A few seconds later, the indicator for 5G connectivity lit up.

To confirm it, I turned on my mobile data using my 5G-capable smartphone and connected another one to the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G. Happy to report that I live in a place where there’s 5G — both my smartphones and the WiFi device are picking up the 5G signal.

At the back, you can find the power port, Ethernet ports, reset button, and WPS button.

GigaLife

When the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G was already up and running, I continued the setup by following the manual — which instructs you to access the web management page. I turned on my laptop, connected to the WiFi, and changed the network settings.

But that’s a grueling process — continuously going back to the web management page — just to check how your account is performing.

Luckily, you can use Smart’s GigaLife app. I like how it instantly reads the mobile number upon using the app. Even if I’m just connected to the WiFi. There was a prompt asking me if I was using a prepaid WiFi SIM.

Frankly, I dislike the hassle of adding and configuring accounts. I find it really convenient that the app easily recognized the account I’m using.

Through GigaLife, you can check your remaining balance, reload, and even monitor your subscriptions. Everything’s just easy when you have things sorted in one place.

Internet Speed for 5G-capable smartphones

I first tested the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G through 5G smartphones that I have. Using the Honor 50 and the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, I was able to do my everyday activities. Basically, the same stuff I would do had I been connected to my existing WiFi.

I played games without any delays, watched Netflix and other video content without buffering, and scrolled non-stop on social media.

I’ve connected two of my smartphones, my Nintendo Switch Lite, and my laptop. The router can supposedly handle 10 devices all at once. And even with four gadgets connected, not once did I feel any stutter in the Internet connection.

But then again, it really depends on the signal picked up in your area.

For laptops

Nevertheless, the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G gets speeds from 20 to 100Mbps. You can actually do your everyday tasks, including work and school.

My signal gave speeds between 60-70Mbps consistently, more than enough to let me upload and download creative assets for the projects I’m working on.

I’m privileged to have access to PLDT’s Fibr plans with an actual Fiber cable instead of copper lines. When I wasn’t using the 5G network, I get the same speed as I do when connected through the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G, albeit higher.

The experience is quite the same — in terms of speed, latency, and maintaining the stability of the connection.

For non-5G smartphones

Over the holidays, my cousin who was studying in the province visited our family for a month. Like most people, she hasn’t switched to a 5G-capable smartphone since 5G connectivity isn’t as prevalent in the province as compared to when you’re in Metro Manila and living in key cities.

There’s a preconceived notion that 5G connectivity can’t be enjoyed by non-5G smartphones, but we beg to differ. While you can’t reach sky-high speeds when you do a speed test, the experience is the same as when you’re connected to a WiFi with Fiber connectivity.

My cousin played Call of Duty: Mobile for hours while connected to the Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G, and she expressed interest in taking it home. Especially with how stable the connection was even if there were my other four gadgets connected to the router.

Should you get one?

The Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G is the perfect solution for fiber-less homes wanting to have wireless fiber-like connectivity. You just have to remember that it uses a mobile network. The quality and speed of the connection will always depend on your area. Somehow, it’s a  worthy investment for the everyday consumer living in the Philippines.

Students and budget-conscious consumers can monitor their data usage and spending since it’s prepaid WiFi. If you have spare money, it can be a backup plan just in case your Internet connection is interrupted. You won’t have to worry when you’re in the middle of a meeting, a conference, or an online class.

The Smart Bro Home WiFi 5G retails for PhP 15,995. It will be available at the Smart Online Store. For the same price, you can get the Smart Bro 5G Rocket WiFi. It’s perfect for anyone who needs to stay connected while on the go.

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Convenient Smart Home

LG Eclair QP5: Most compact soundbar yet rolls out in Singapore

Great fit for contemporary homes

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LG Eclair QP5

LG Electronics announced the rollout of the LG Eclair QP5 soundbar, its most compact model to date in Singapore.

The award-winning product is a great fit for contemporary homes with its compact design suited for limited spaces, all while delivering immersive sound.

Superior, immersive audio quality

LG Eclair delivers powerful performance with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support coupled with low vibration and a power bass subwoofer, which employs Meridian Audio’s tuning and technology.

The Horizon technology up-mixes two channel stereo content into multi-channel audio, delivering a wider soundstage.

LG Eclair also offers an enhanced viewing experience with its 4K-pass through support that allows viewers to enjoy 4K and HDR content on their favorite streaming devices.

Additionally, LG AI Sound Pro analyzes content being played, automatically applying the best sound settings for whichever genre – like news, music, or cinema.

Sophisticated design

Only a third the size of LG’s previously smallest soundbar (SP8YA), the LG Eclair features an oval design and jersey fabric in classic black or white.

Its minimalist design also makes it blend seamlessly with any decor or LG TV.

LG also designed the Eclair with the environment in mind, as it uses polyester jersey fabric made from Global Recycled Standard-certified plastic bottles.

Its outer mesh is also comprised of recycled fabric made from plastic bottles while the internal packaging, previously EPS foam, is now recycled molded pulp.

Full specifications

LG Eclair QP5

To check the full specifications of the LG Eclair (model QP5), visit its product page on the LG official website.

Pricing and availability

The LG Eclair QP5 retails at SG$ 999 and is available from mid-January at official LG KrisShop, LG Lazada, LG Shopee, and all authorized dealers including Audio House, Best Denki, COURTS, Gain City, Harvey Norman, Mega Discount Store, and Parisilk

 

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Features

Samsung The Serif: What’s it’s like to watch on an artistic TV?

You just can’t help but fall in love with it

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I have always been in love with Samsung — smartphones, tablets, accessories, and their digital appliances. There’s just something suave about their designs that please my aesthetic, evidently amplified in their lineup of lifestyle TVs.

That je ne sais quoi had my eyes set on having The Frame and The Sero for its bespoke vibe that somehow fits the lifestyle I’ve been dreaming of. But in a twist of fate, I found myself completely hooked over Samsung’s The Serif. And it’s far different from the lifestyle TV’s I’ve always been eyeing on.

Coup de foudre (Love at first sight)

The Serif, designed by the Bouroullec brothers, carries the Bouroullec principle in its design — practical, sensuous, exquisite, and sophisticated. Wherever you place this artistic TV, it certainly embellishes any space.

It fills a room with grandeur beauty, thanks to the fusion of art and technology resulting in an avant-garde form factor that makes it a sight to behold.

At a glance, The Serif is unconventional. Somehow, my eyes fell in love the first time I saw it. Maybe because it’s dressed in white? Or maybe because I’m a designer and The Serif, in some manner, is reminiscent of serif typefaces I’m familiar with all too well. Times New Roman. Playfair Display. Baskerville.

If you squint your eyes a little, it forms the shape of the letter “I” in those serif typefaces — with its strokes on both ends giving an impression of an expanded I-beam.

Cool, right? Maybe that’s why I’ve fallen in love right away. It’s not my usual type, but from the get-go, I knew I’m captivated like a firework show.

An exalted home decor

What makes it appeasing to the eyes of many — urbane or gauche — is its ability to look graceful and charming, and even elevate one’s home. Its evocative, 360-degree style along with its practical setup and artistic technology helps it blend anywhere. Whether it’s in your living space, your bedroom, your dining area, or even your sanctuary-like bathroom.

It has an elegant cable management system hiding unsightly wires needed for display, power, and connectivity. Further, it comes with a detachable floor stand so you can place The Serif on top of a TV stand or a raised, marble floor.

Or you can also place it in the middle of the living room as if it’s a cultivated sculpture. In some ways, I’d think of The Serif as prized ornamentation: Portable, versatile for any home style, and suitable for a culturally-refined taste.

When you’ve successfully placed the TV to your liking, you can turn it up a notch and use Ambient Mode to install and exhibit art pieces that can act as wallpaper. Instead of having a big, black box, you get a power-saving feature that spruces up your home.

Can’t take my eyes off you

Yes, The Serif is easily explained through Frankie Valli’s 60’s pop-rock “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” It’s my anthem for every time I fall in love — which is quite rare — but it also applies in the way I experienced Samsung’s Parisian-looking piece.

Its picture quality is breathtaking. I was mesmerized, awestruck at the sight of its QLED panel parading vivacious colors and exceptional contrast. I thought to myself, “the devil is surely in the details” especially with how its 4K resolution and AI upscaling worked hand-in-hand to present dynamic shows, even if it’s content from the distant past.

Samsung’s Quantum Dot Technology also put in the work, bringing out the best of any content down to the tiniest detail through a 100% Color Volume.

Though I’m no stranger to how QLED works, I’m still enchanted reveling in a spectacular display for months. It made me want to skip work and lounge around. At some point, I pondered how I could spend a day staring, marveling at The Serif’s beauty.

But instead of being smitten for days, The Serif helped me embrace the art of slow living — dilly-dallying, mellowing out, falling in love with life, and becoming more intentional with my time.

Meaning, less work and more time for things that give me joy. That includes basking in films and series with European sensibilities or catching up on dashing animés to serve as my muse for my art and poetry. Because if you have a TV as remarkable as this, how could you not make the most out of it?

Smart and good-looking

I like my partner the way I like The Serif — serving looks, intelligent enough to carry a conversation, and smart enough to make things work with ease. It’s just convenient when everything seamlessly connects. Part of the reason why I got my claws on Samsung’s ecosystem. I’m not giving it up easily.

SmartThings, Samsung’s app to connect their smart devices, has been central to my connected lifestyle. It helped me link my devices, and sync my smartphones and tablets to The Serif. At times where I misplace the gorgeous, curved remote control, I turn to the SmartThings app to activate the TV and navigate the screen.

Sometimes, I adjust its settings such as sound and brightness. Sometimes, I play around with Ambient Mode where I collage my memories, which I directly send using my smartphones.

When I’m feeling sprightly, I use the NFC technology feature by placing my smartphone on the top bezel — another way to connect instantly. The screen automatically turns into Ambient Mode to cast music from my smartphone and display visual effects that move along with the beat.

Moreover, it’s easy to cast videos on TV or mirror your smartphone’s screen whether it’s through Smart View or Tap View. The Serif is full of unique tricks that’ll make your exquisite watching experience a bit modern and convenient.

Je t’aime, Serif

Props to Samsung for producing a sculpture-like piece that can instantly add pizzazz to an otherwise boring space. Lifestyle TVs don’t get a lot of appreciation because of their unconventional style and features that are seemingly unfamiliar for most people.

Little do they know, they have a picturesque display and crystal-clear sound quality, too, that makes up for a remarkable experience. It’s like watching your favorite shows while touring Musée D’Orsay. That chic, classic Parisian aesthetic is all over The Serif.

It’s probably The Serif’s pièce de résistance: the je ne sais quoi, the allure that you can only experience when you’re graced by this perennial beauty, the one-of-a-kind experience that makes you fall in love with it, with yourself, and with the life you’re living. I guess it’s safe to conclude: I’m in love. Au revoir.

Samsung’s The Serif comes in two sizes: 43-inch (PhP 55,999) and 55-inch (PhP 79,999). The lifestyle TV is available in authorized Samsung dealers nationwide.


This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and Samsung Philippines.

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