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Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Chromecasts, Pixel C | Google Event Highlights

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When you see or hear the word Google, hardware isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But they do release devices. While their Nexus launch event, held last week in San Francisco, was a snoozefest, there is plenty to be excited about.

Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

The much loved Nexus 5, released in 2013, finally gets a refresh. Like its predecessor the 5.2-inch Nexus 5X makes a great case as being one of the best all around phones.

Starting at $379, it is competitively priced with a decent spec sheet and its polycarbonate shell is light and comfortable to grip. Can it draw the same level of interest and attention that the Nexus 5 did? We’ll have to wait and see.

Google pulled in Huawei to make the this year’s premium Nexus device. It helps Huawei position itself as a premium phone maker and they did a splendid job on the 6P.

The 5.7-inch 6P is made of aluminum. It is the first Nexus phone with a full-unibody construction. It also has, at least on paper, an impressive camera, 12.3 megapixels, but that’s not the number Google wants you to focus on. The company is touting the 6P’s 1.55 micron pixel size – larger than most phones on the market today.

Bigger pixels mean the ability to shoot with little to no light. We’re excited to see more sample photos to see if this is really the case.

The high-end Nexus 6P, which starts at $499, also has a host of other camera features including slow-mo capture, and a new smart burst mode. But I’m not feeling that whole band of black at the back of the device hosting the camera. Sure, it helps differentiate it from most other phones today but aesthetically, I wish Huawei went in another direction.

Both phones come with the new reversible USB Type-C for faster charging and will run the latest version of Android – Marshmallow.

The fingerprint scanners for both the 5X and 6P are located at the back right underneath the main camera. I had the chance to test a phone with a similar fingerprint scanner placement and I found it felt natural if you unlock the device while holding it up. But if you want to unlock the phone while its back is lying on the table, you might have to resort to using a lock code.

Google did well to address two needs with their 2015 Nexus phones – a value-for-money Nexus that most fans craved for after the pricey Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 of 2014, and the best of pure Android on a premium smartphone.

Chromecast and Chromecast Audio

Google tweaked the look of its media streaming device and made two of them – one for your TV, another for your speakers. Both are priced $35.

Instead of a stick, the redesigned Chromecast is now clearly more circular with a bendable HDMI arm that’s supposed to make it easy to hide the device behind your TV. It also has additional WiFi antennas for better range and support for modern wifi standards.

It comes in three colors: black, lemon yellow, and bright red.

Chromecast Audio, as its name suggests, focuses on music. With support for RCA, 3.5 mm, and optical inputs, Chromecast Audio should be able to take any speaker you have lying around and make it ‘smarter’.

Along with it comes the announcement that Chromecast now supports leading music streaming service Spotify. Now more than ever, it’s easier to blast your favorite playlists whether you want to rock out, dance, or, if the mood is right, ask someone to ‘Marvin Gaye And Get It On.’

Pixel C

In yet another crack at mobile productivity, Google announces the Pixel C (C stands for convertible).

It’s a 10.2-inch slate that pairs magnetically with a keyboard and it looks really promising. At the demo, Google showed off how the tablet seamlessly attaches to the keyboard without nasty ports and docks. You also don’t need to charge the keyboard as it is already charging the moment you stick it to the tablet.

It appeared the Pixel C will automatically come with the keyboard. Unfortunately that is not the case. The Pixel C tablet will retail for $499 and if you want the keyboard too, it’ll burn another $149 hole in your pocket.

That aside, the tablet, which runs Android Marshmallow, looks absolutely gorgeous and does appear like a step forward to actual productivity when you’re on the go.

Computers

Microsoft’s new patches may be harming your PC

The Meltdown and Spectre patches are duds!

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The Meltdown drama continues. Days after researchers confirmed the existence of the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, big firms like Microsoft and Apple started issuing patches against the bug. Microsoft’s fixes, however, might be doing more harm than good.

Microsoft’s series of patches have been causing issues among those who installed it already. Users are reporting that the patches have caused their PCs to run slower than usual.

Surprisingly, Microsoft themselves have confirmed the reports. A wide range of devices are indeed slowing down because of the patches. The firm has also listed down the affected PCs, as described below.

First, PCs that run Windows 10 on newer processors like Skylake and Kaby Lake show “single-digit” but hardly noticeable slowdowns. Meanwhile, PCs that run Windows 10 on fourth generation or earlier chips will suffer from noticeable slowdown. Finally, those that run Windows 8 or 7 on older chips will be most hit by the performance issues.

The chaos doesn’t even stop there. Some users have even reported that their PCs have stopped booting entirely. In an open thread on Microsoft’s support forums, a user suffering from a bricked PC has been joined by a torrent of users who are suffering from the same issue.

As with the performance issues, Microsoft has issued a statement regarding the unbootable state. This time, they have pinpointed that AMD processors are to blame for the issue, citing a lack of documentation on AMD’s part.

Microsoft has since halted distribution of the erring security patch to AMD processors. Their support team is working to resolve the issue among those already affected by the issue. Meanwhile, Microsoft and AMD developers are working to put out a more stable fix for the Spectre flaw.

Despite the lack of workable fixes for the issue, Microsoft is assuring its users that harmful exploits have not been discovered out in the wild. Not yet, that is.

SEE ALSO: Newly discovered bugs leave two decades of devices vulnerable

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Computers

All Apple devices are at risk of Meltdown, Apple says

Patch your devices now!

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“Macs never get viruses.” It’s an adage that Apple fans often use to defend their beloved devices against PC users. With the Meltdown and Spectre reveals, that may soon change.

As we reported earlier, researchers recently uncovered hardware flaws that left affected devices open to hidden attacks that leaked sensitive info. Meltdown and Spectre affect nearly every device working today.

Tech firms, including Apple, are rushing to release their own patches to ease consumer fears. Apple users have been waiting with bated breath for a statement, especially since the company usually lives in its own world outside of the PC.

Now, Apple has finally released a statement for the issue. And it’s a resounding yes: Apple devices are affected.

Not surprisingly, every single Apple device, from the small iPhone to the towering iMac, are vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre attacks. The firm remains one of the biggest chip makers in the tech world.

Despite the flaw, Apple says that there is nothing to fear; they haven’t discovered any exploits that take advantage of the two flaws.

Even then, the firm has already released patches for Meltdown in its latest OS updates — iOS11.2 and macOS 10.13.2. The updates have been available for download even before the reveals for Meltdown and Spectre.

Meanwhile, Apple shares in the difficulty of patching the Spectre flaw. The flaw itself is hard to exploit, but equally as hard to patch. Other companies are still developing their patches to the bug. Likewise, Apple is also only promising an update through Safari in the coming days to ease the risk.

Further, Apple says that the Apple Watch is safe from Meltdown and Spectre attacks.

SEE ALSO: Newly discovered bugs leave two decades of devices vulnerable

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CES 2018

Lenovo outs ultra-thin 4K ThinkVision monitors

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Aside from new business laptops, Lenovo also introduced a couple of desktop monitors which are designed to bring new visual technology to offices.

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