Reviews

Review: LG Music Flow P5

LG Music Flow P5 speaker on a railing

This portable speaker from LG is small and – thanks to a rubber base – can be perched anywhere.

The world of portable Bluetooth speakers is as saturated as a sponge that’s been sitting in a wet sink.

There are countless models out there from almost any manufacturer that makes any gadget imaginable. Even LG has multiple models within its Music Flow Lineup.

But the P5 is the most different from its other siblings in LG’s own Music Flow model line.

For starters, it’s the smallest. The speaker is about the size of a large mug, or a tallboy beer can (on its side). The P5 weighs 1.3 lbs., so it’s not going to drag down your bag when you carry it around.

My review unit was black with a silver grille. At the centre of the top panel was a round control button for volume as well as play/pause. The bottom was smooth and rubbery – key for keeping this thing on slippery surfaces.

Like most Bluetooth speakers, it’s not difficult to set this thing up and pair it with your device. In fact, I didn’t even read the instructions before I had this bad boy paired with my Android phone.

Speaking of pairing, you can pair two mobile devices with one P5 unit. Useful if you and your roommate/partner/friend can’t decide on which song to play.

You can also apparently get two P5s to create a truly stereo speaker set up with Dual Play. For example, you could have two on either side of a TV, or two on either side of a long bookshelf.

Not that you need more than one, however. This little P5 is plenty powerful.

Out on my patio, this speaker pumped out pretty clear and well-balanced sound for something of its size (and power source). In the laundry room, the sound was more deep and came through even stronger than outside.

From Spotify tracks to my own locally saved MP3s, the clarity impressed.

In terms of battery life, I found that I had just over 12 hours of use from this little guy. Not bad, but not quite the 15 hours of juice LG claims. Perhaps it was because my phone was across the room rather than right beside the speaker.

The LG Music Flow P5 isn’t all that cheap, with Canadian pricing at $149.99. But if you’re looking for small, solid sound with versatility for more than one controller – or more than one speaker – this thing is worth considering.

 

Rating: 4.1/5

Available: Online and in stores.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

When the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge first came out earlier this year, I thought it had a neat screen that was particularly useless.

The “edge” in the name reflects the phone’s curved edges along the longest sides.

At first I thought ‘Why do we need a curved edge on a screen?” Consumers usually want more battery life, a bigger screen and more space to store their cat videos and selfies.

Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Edgeplus

Samsung touted the fact that notifications could show up on the edges, so the whole screen wasn’t bothered by push alerts. It was not a bad idea. But the curved edge also seemed a little gimmicky.

Apparently, I was wrong. Consumers loved the screen so much, it’s back, bigger and better than before.

The latest iteration, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, has a name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Perhaps the freight-train-long moniker exists so consumers remember it. Regardless, it appears to be aimed to go up against the iPhone 6+.

The screen is spectacular. Measuring 5.7 inches diagonally, it’s the most vivid and sharpest display I’ve seen on a smartphone. Although on paper it’s not as sharp as its predecessor, the S6 Edge, the reproduction is top notch.

With an infinity pool-like screen, the Edge+ easily draws attention to itself and gets noticed.

To take advantage of the edge, the phone has a launcher-like application that lurks alongside the periphery of the screen on whichever side you choose. Swipe out to quickly connect with a contact or launch a favourite app. It’s not obtrusive at all, which sometimes meant I forgot it was there and din’t take full advantage of it.

When reviewing the first S6 Edge, I would often accidentally activate edges of the screen with the palm of my hand. That happens less now with the Edge+. Perhaps the software has been improved and the handset can better detect unintentional contact or I’m more vigilant of how much more of the phone is a touchscreen rather than the frame.

RAM has been upped to 4 GB from 3 GB, while the processor is an octacore.

Nothing appears to get in the way of this phone’s processing firepower. The increase in RAM helps to soothe any concern that Samsung’s Touchwiz user interface, which is slapped on top of Android Lollipop.

The look and feel is upscale, alongside that of Apple’s iPhone 6+. The glass back looks particularly luxurious, but be warned that it’s at the mercy of change and keys in your pocket (while the front display’s Gorilla glass is much hardier).

The camera captures the best images of any smartphone I’ve used. It’s a 16-megapixel unit with a f1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization. The latter is unusual for smartphone cameras, since most use electronic image stabilization, if at all.

In this case, it’s the lens that moves to capture a sharper image, not some software guesswork.

Details are sharp, colours balanced and the shutter is quick. There’s a RAW shooting mode too that will save uncompressed image files which can be better manipulated later on.

The phone can also shoot 4K video and it can stream live directly to YouTube (not at the same time).

Speaking of which, the phone features next-generation LTE technology, enabling a maximum download speed of up to 450 Mbps. (Hint: If you’re in range of a cell tower that offers such connectivity, perform a speed test with someone on a regular connection. Chances are you’ll win).

While the handsets don’t ship with a wireless charger, the device is capable of such charging with optional equipment. Regardless, the handset is also fast-charge compatible, meaning you can juice up completely in about 90 minutes. This feature is also designed to compensate for the fact that the battery is not removable.

Samsung says it found very few users ever removed their batteries, and improving the charging characteristics is a better solution for users looking to get an electrical boost.

With a price tag that starts at $949 for the 32 GB model, this Edge+ is one of the priciest handsets out there.

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge goes upscale

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Samsung’s Galaxy S line of phones, for the most part, stand out for solid screens, fast hardware and generally good cameras. But the construction never felt as solid as the specs would warrant.

It’s not like the handset of the S5 would shatter if it were to slide off a table, but the phone didn’t feel rock solid.

Not only does Samsung’s latest flagship Android device feature innovative hardware, it now feels like the premium handset that it deserves to be known for.

The perimeter of the device is wrapped in a metal frame, meanwhile the back cover is a solid, albeit permanent, slab of glass.

It survived several tumbles from a spinning bike, and one fall from my hand while I was trying to unlock my car in the freezing cold. The damage? Just a scratch on the edge from the pavement.

Despite the beefy feeling of build quality, the handset is still remarkably light, weighing in at only 136 grams.

The downside is that 1) there’s no option to add a microSD card for expandable memory and 2) you can’t swap out the battery. While many consumers are unlikely to replace the battery after a couple of years, some hardcore users may miss this flexibility.

On the upside, the phone is available in healthy storage configurations: 32 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB varieties.

The 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen looks stunning and is the best-looking display on the market right now. On the S6 Edge, the left and right sides of the display are curved away from the front, thus the ‘Edge’ moniker.

This unique bend in the design makes it appear as though images and video and displayed in pseudo-3D, kinda like icing on a cake that adds depth.

Why else would you want a curved screen? Well, another benefit is the potential to see notifications displayed along the edge, so as to not disturb the rest of what you’re seeing on the screen. Or perhaps it’s a subtle text message visible from the curved display lurking under your phone’s case. The curved screen is not a feature I fell in love with, and there are two other potential drawbacks to consider.

In addition to the ‘Edge’ premium (about $100), the curved display makes it a little difficult to pick the phone off a table without disturbing what’s going on on the screen itself. So, for example, you might accidentally exit an app playing a soccer game, or pause a YouTube video.

Maybe it’s my stubby man hands, but I’d save the $100 to avoid this problem.

The rear-facing 16-megapixel camera features optical image stabilization to help produce sharper photos, and what a camera it is. Inside the dark, dimply-lit Parliament buildings during a recent trip to Ottawa, the S6 captured images in rich in detail despite not using the flash.

That’s thanks to the fast F 1.9 aperture which really excels in low-light situations. It’s also a damn fast camera too, ready to snap stills in 0.7 seconds.

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When asking strangers to take a photo of my and some friends (sorry, no selfie stick here), they would inadvertently think the phone wasn’t taking photos because the shutter was just so fast.

Speaking of speed, the 64-bit octa-core processor provides more than enough juice for the S6 to crunch through everything from gaming to SnapChat.

With such a big screen and a fast processor, what is the battery performance like?

Not bad.

Yes, the battery in the Edge is smaller than what was used in its predecessor, the S5. But on that trip to Ottawa, the S6 helped me navigate through the city, take photos at touristy spots, browse the web, watch YouTube, use Instagram, hail an Uber, call the lost Uber driver, and then stream more YouTube to a TV late into the night.

Samsung has made its Android user interface, Touchwiz, less obtrusive, lending the S6 a fairly no-nonsense Android experience. Sure, it isn’t a pure Android phone (straight from Google, such as with the Nexus devices) but the latest Samsung likely won’t have users noticing the extra layer of software.

If you’re in the market for a smartphone with a big, gorgeous screen and a fantastic camera, the S6 should be on your list. And if you want to stand out from the crowd (and don’t mind paying extra for it), the Edge will turn heads wherever you go.

9/10

 

 

Google Nexus Player: Like Chromecast, but bigger – is it better?

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Google already has a gadget in the streaming video sphere: Chromecast. But the company’s new $99 Nexus Player and Remote is aimed to offer viewers something extra than just a physical remote.

First, let’s review what was already in the market.

Chromecast is a cheap $39 dongle that plugs into a TV’s HDMI slot, and can stream everything from Netflix to what’s open on your desktop web browser.

The Nexus Player, meanwhile, looks like a small, 12-centimetre flying saucer that is connected to any TV with an HDMI cable.

The Player packs impressive 802.11 ac MIMO connectivity, meaning that your home network will never be the reason video stutters or playback fails. Few devices support that standard, and chances are it’s faster than the speeds your own router can support.

Usually, some people would prefer a hard-wired Ethernet port over WiFi for video devices, but 802.11 ac is just as good without the messy cables.

Inside there’s a 1.8 Ghz quad-core Intel Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of built-in storage. The device runs Android TV, a version of Google’s mobile operating system optimized for the big screen.

A big draw for some users is the possibility to use the Player as a gaming console with the $39 Gamepad (available separately). I didn’t have a chance to try this out, but the hardware inside the Player coupled with the Gamepad suggests the two could work well for gamers.

Otherwise, it’s hard to screw up a streaming stick or a simple set-top box these days, and the Nexus Player doesn’t disappoint here.
Streaming video to the TV from a variety of sources is easy, whether it’s from YouTube, Netflix, Google’s Play store or your own media stash using Plex.

Just use the remote to navigate to what it is you’d like to watch, and the video is piped through to your big screen. The remote also has a built-in microphone, in which case you can just tell the Player what it is you’d like to watch.

The interface is a lot more user-friendly than it is with the Chromecast, and the performance is much more reliable.

The app selection could be broader, but that’s likely to improve over time. It would also be nice if the Player had a USB port or card reader so you could play content from storage devices directly.

For some, the Nexus Player will be an ideal device to get because of its gaming potential. For others, the device is a Chromecast on steroids. Either way, it does what it’s designed to do well

Review: The size is right with HTC’s Nexus 9

nexus9This holiday season, there are tablets for almost every price range and size. The newest entrant, the Nexus 9, offers users a pure tablet experience with no gimmicks.

The screen measures in just a tick short of the nine inches implied in its name (it is 8.9” to be exact). For the most part, the screen displays colours well and the brightness is good for most reading situations. The sharpness was quite good.

I found a bit of LED backlight ‘bleed’ when viewing particularly dark images, which can be distracting during gaming or when watching dark video. It’s possible this was due to my review unit being an early model.

Size-wise, the Nexus 9 is smaller than the iPad Air but is convenient enough to easily toss in a small bag for commuting or travelling.

Audiophiles, take note here. Front-facing stereo speakers means you hear the best of whatever sound is playing – not the people behind you.

HTC actually builds the Nexus 9 – and you can tell with the tablet’s quality feel. It has a smooth plastic backing and overall solid construction. Like HTC phones, the Nexus 9 is one of the best-designed tablets out there, and it’s a shame the company’s products don’t get more attention for sharp styling.

The camera 8 MP rear-facing and 1.3 MP front-facing cameras proved adequate for regular photography, but struggle in situations with dark lighting or fast motion. This isn’t the tablet to get for impressive photos, but really, few tablets excel in this area.

Inside sits a Tegra K1 2.3 Ghz dual-core 64-bit processor. True, on paper it’s no quad-core behemoth. But I found the Nexus 9 fluid and responsive for a variety of tasks, including gaming and just basic web browsing.

This likely helps battery life, as the tablet appeared to last for about three days with average use.

Another area where the Nexus 9 really stood out was in the connectivity department. The tablet has 802.11ac WiFi transmitters, which let it take full advantage of my equally fast router for quicker file transfers and great streaming performance. It’s a huge and noticeable step up from most tablets.

A lot of what makes the Nexus 9 unique is the operating system, Android 5.0 Lollipop. Compared to previous versions of Android, this one is faster than ever, streamlined and more efficient on a device’s hardware.

There are still some apps, however, that are not perfectly optimized for tablets and/or this device, and the scaled-up versions of phone apps don’t look great. At the time of testing, the BBC News app was one example.It’s likely this will improve as more app developers adapt.

Pricing starts at $429 for the 16 GB model. It’s not a bargain, but it provides users with a pure Google Android experience and fast hardware in a solid package.

Rating: 8/10

Review: Moto 360 smartwatch looks good, but segment still growing

moto_360The problem with most smartwatches is that they’re either ugly, or they’re as user-friendly as a modern computer running MS DOS.

The new Moto 360, however, is the first of several devices aiming to prove that’s it’s not just an uber-geeky timepiece.

For starters, it looks relatively normal-ish with a round colour touchscreen display and a lone button on the right side – there’s no hidden power plugs or extra buttons.

My test unit was black with a black leather wrist strap, but stone, light stainless steel and dark metal style combinations are also available.

The watch has an IP67 water resistance rating, which basically means you should be able to shower and wash your hands with it on, but take it off before going for a swim. And you probably shouldn’t get the soft leather wristband anywhere near water.

The 360 also packs a built-in pedometer and an optical heart rate monitor, but more on that later.

The watch runs Android Wear, a special version of Google’s mobile operating system designed for wearable devices such as, um, watches.

After you sync the 360 with your Android phone via Bluetooth, you’ll begin receiving push notifications on your wrist. This includes everything from emails to traffic delays to sports scores, whether you’re stuck in traffic or in a meeting, they can silently or obnoxiously alert you.

For the most part, the Android Wear scales the push notifications well so they make sense on the small 1.56-inch display.

The size felt well-suited for someone like me, who would never go a day without wearing a timepiece.

A variety of apps are designed to work specifically with Android Wear devices. I spent some time with a fitness app that displayed exercises, a countdown timer and rep analysis on my wrist. The watch senses when you’ve done a complete rep of an exercise, then once you’ve done a set it switches over to measuring your rest time.

Just as you can dictate voice commands to your phone, you can do the same with the 360. It works incredibly well when your hands are occupied, such as when you’re driving.

Just say “Navigate to…” and specify an address, then the 360 will pull up directions and begin provide step-by-step navigation to the destination you read out.

Something that didn’t work incredibly well was the battery life. With the ambient screen (the clock display) enabled, 360 ran out of juice before getting through a full day.

With ambient screen switched off, the Moto watch made it – just barely.  For someone who is used to looking down at their wrist to check the time, without necessarily used to flicking the write to ‘wake up’ the watch, keeping the ambient sensor off took some time to get used to.

When the 360 does run out of juice, just drop it on the cradle and the watch charges wirelessly.

The optical heart rate sensor is neat, when it works.  If you’re sitting at a desk, lying on the coach, snoozing in bed, it quickly shows your heart rate and relays that to relevant apps.

But in between sets during a workout, or trying to catch my breath after a run, the 360 struggled to detect my heart rate.

However, the 360 did keep up with my daily steps, and the phone it was paired with used that data to tell me how healthy a lifestyle I was living.

In fairness, the Moto 360 appears to be the best Android Wear smartwatch out there. If you can tame the battery use, and if fitness tracking isn’t at the top of your wish list, then the Moto 360 is a worthwhile option.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Review: Sturdy Android phone packs punch

Samsung_Galaxy_Note_4One of the first things I noticed about my introduction to the Samsung Note 4 was that the marketing director wasn’t really talking my ear off about the phablet’s software features.

That was kind of odd, considering how much time during previous Samsung product briefings was dedicated to things like S Note, S Health, and other Samsung touches.

Instead, the focus was on key things most people are immensely concerned with, such as battery life and the screen. There was also mention of the Note 4’s fast charger. It was all very straight forward, like going to a big-box retailer and not being pitched on the extended warranty.

The Note 4 is Samsung’s latest productivity phone, designed for professionals and average consumers who want a gigantic screen, a stylus and cutting-edge hardware.

Inside the Android-powered phone sits a 2.7-Ghz quad core processor and 3 GB of RAM, which provides for responsive and fluid use of the device.

Sharper screen, photos

That’s key, since the 5.7-inch display affords space for productive multi-tasking. You can compose an email in one window while watching a video in the other. Or scan Twitter in one third of the screen while browsing the web in the other chunk.

The 2,560 x 1,440 pixel Quad HD Super AMOLED screen appears sharp with such high pixel density, and the colours are deep and saturated — perhaps a little too much in some cases where photos may appear to pop a little more than you’d expect.

At a time when almost everyone from kids to CEOs snap selfies, this phone’s 16-megapixel rear camera seems almost irrelevant, although it’s quite good. The rear-facing camera also features optical image stabilization in order to snap sharp photos, even if you’re a little shaky.

If you have short arms, the next feature may be your favourite.

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The most noticeable photographic improvement here is with the front-facing camera, which features a 3.7-megapixel sensor and an f1.9 lens that’s designed to capture images from a 90-degree range.

Stronger handset

While Samsung spruced up the feel of the Note 3 with a soft faux-leather back, the Note 4 feels incredibly more solid and refined. The difference is like stepping up from a Toyota to a Lexus.

This improvement is largely due to the phone’s new metal trim, which adds a feeling of elegance and sturdy confidence to the handset.

The stylus that pops out from the phone’s edge – the S Pen – has been improved for the Note 4 and seems to be more natural to use and more precise on the screen.

Battery management

Honestly, all these features are useless if your phone is dead, or about to die, after a day (or less) of heavy usage. To that extent, the Note 4 features Ultra Power Saving Mode, which can selectively turn off features yet still let you make phone calls and send/receive texts for hours once the battery is down to 10 per cent charge.

There’s also the adaptive fast charger, which can drastically juice up the battery in a shorter amount of time. Samsung says a dead battery can hit 50 per cent charge in as little as 30 minutes.

From my experience, it went from 5 to 45 per cent in 25 minutes. Not bad.

While the phone’s battery capacity isn’t drastically improved compared to the Note 3 (3,200 mAh vs. 3220 mAh), the adaptive fast charger and improved power saving features helped me easily get through a day during heavy use.

Is the phone too big? Most would say yes. But the few who appreciate a big screen, a sturdy handset and improved battery life should consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Rating: 9/10

  • Screen: 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED
  • Processor: 2.7 Ghz Qualcomm cuad core
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB (internal, microSD expandable)C
  • Camera: 16 MP rear with OIS, 3.7 MP front
  • Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1

Available Oct. 24 for $299.95 on a two-year contract, $799.95 without.

Motorola Moto G LTE : a high-value Android phone

motorola_moto_gMany consumers are skeptical of cheap phones – especially inexpensive Android devices.

The phones may appear underpowered. They may have a lackluster screen with colours as dull as a 1960s photograph, a camera as sharp as your vision after a night of drinking, and a processor as fast as Toronto’s Queen streetcar during rush hour.

The Motorola Moto G LTE, currently $224.99 without a contract, could trigger such fears. But it’s far from that.

Sure, the 4.5-inch screen is on the small side compared to the larger 5-inch plus screens available from many other Android competitors. But this 720p HD display looks sharp, reproducing vivid colours that pop from a relatively small handset.

The phone’s construction is plasticky yet smooth and easy to grasp. Some may desire a sharper-looking handset, but that’s not what you get in this price bracket.

Images captured by the Moto G’s 5 MP camera appear better than what you’d see produced by last year’s budget Android phones, just don’t expect this handset to excel in low-light situations, or when trying to capture fast motion.

There is, however, the option to store all your images (and music, movies, apps, etc.) on an expandable microSD memory chip. This has the potential to vastly improve the phone’s standard 8 GB on-board storage capacity.

Battery life appeared to be on average, lasting about a day-and-a-half of above average use.

Now on paper, a 1.2-Ghz quad-core processor isn’t the fastest mobile phone brains out there. However, it zipped along quite well when running everything from games to HD video and apps. If you’re looking for the highest frame rates in intense first-person shooters, spend more on a faster phone. But coupled with the Android KitKat operating system (4.4), the Moto G pleasantly surprised in the speed category.

The Motorola Moto G LTE isn’t the fastest phone out there. But you know what? At it’s current price point and with smooth, fluid performance, the value for money proposition is strong.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

Toshiba Chromebook or Asus Chromebox – which is better?

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So-called Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are simple, lightweight computers that run Google’s Chrome operating system. In essence, it’s the company’s Chrome web browser, as a whole computer ecosystem.

I’ve had a chance to try out two Chrome-based devices: Toshiba’s Chromebook and the Chromebox from Asus.

The Toshiba laptop costs $349.99 while the barebones Asus goes for about $199,

With both devices, there isn’t a lot of on-board storage space because the idea is that the bulk of your stuff – from music to pictures to documents – is stored in the cloud.

One downside to this is that you’ll need an active Internet connection to access and make changes to these files.

But on the other hand, your stuff is accessible no matter where you go, and its always backed up. (No more nightmares of dead portable hard drives).

With both the Chromebook and Chromebox, boot up is virtually instant, like using a tablet or turning on a light switch. The same goes for putting these devices to sleep.

So, think you’re able to live almost completely in the cloud? In a world where almost everything is done through the Google Chrome web browser (and available Chrome apps?)

Toshiba Chromebook:

The laptop feels like a poor man’s MacBook Air. Painted silver, it’s plasticky and much more inexpensive, because you’re pretty much just getting a keyboard and a screen with a few chips in between.

A 1.4 Ghz Intel Celeron processor powers this guy, coupled with 2GB of DDR RAM and 16 GB of on-board storage in the form of a solid state drive (SSD).

The 13.3-inch LED screen does an average job of displaying content. There’s no blurriness or lack of vibrancy, although it’s not a memorable screen.

But, there is an HDMI port so you can easily plug this into a dedicated monitor or a big-screen TV to watch videos or enjoy more screen real estate.

This Chromebook also has an SD card slot for importing pictures and other types of files. Two USB 3.0 ports provide for more off-board storage.

Generally, the Toshiba was quick and nimble whether you’re watching a TV show or writing emails. Battery life is quite good too – it lasted for almost five days of pre- and post-work surfing.

Asus Chromebox:

About the size of a sandwich or two slices of toast, this device is more of a replacement for your desktop than it is a portable computer. Just like the Toshiba Chromebook, it has only a 1.4 Ghz processor and 2 GB of RAM along with 16 GB of on-board storage.

But it makes up for it with a heaping of plugs to keep you connected: four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DisplayPort (4K video, anyone?) Ethernet, SD card reader, microphone/headphones, etc.

While the Chromebox doesn’t ship with a screen, keyboard and mouse, the latter two are fairly affordable accessories you can pick up or reuse from a previous computer.

Chromebox_AsusThe enthusiast community is also finding creative ways to use this computer without actually running Google’s operating system, such as with XBMC, for example.

The model I tested initially crashed and would be in a reboot loop when I would log in with my Google account, but worked fine when using a different account. Performing a factory reset eventually solved my problem, which seemed to be a disappointment for a computer system that’s traditionally as easy to set up as it is to lace up Velcro shoes.

Whether you’re considering the Toshiba Chromebook or the Asus Chromebox, both devices offer an affordable way to get online and complete basic tasks for not a whole lot of money. But if you need to run Mac or Windows-specific applications, then skim over these two devices.

Linksys WRT1900ac router excels with coverage, speed

linksys_wrt_1900_ac_frontThere are parts of some people’s homes that are WiFi dead zones.

Despite the addition of a range extender, or the twisting of their wireless router, nothing can do the trick to get the radio waves through to certain rooms.

For example, I can’t seem to get WiFi reception in my bedroom, perhaps due to all the clothing my fiance has in her closet, which perhaps acts as a protective blanket on signals passing through.

If I step outside on the deck, the reception would also drop off like the playoff hopes of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Adding a range extender improved things upstairs, but not outside. Granted, the router is in the basement, but that’s where it works out best for various technical requirements.

My problems are not unique.

The latest router from Linksys, however, aims to address these challenges and improve in other areas of home networking needs.

If the “new” WRT1900ac looks familiar, that’s because it actually does. The router features a design reminiscent of the classic WRT54G access points many people once had (and might still be using) with blue and black plastic.

Whether you remember those old routers or not, you may have noticed most new ones don’t have any physical antennas at all. Well, Linksys is bringing those back as well.

The WRT1900ac sports four physical antennas designed to improve wireless performance. You can twist and direct each of them in different directions, or heck – remove them if they don’t make a difference in your situation (ie. apartment, small condo).

Linksys_wrt_1900_ac_rear

But if you value range, keep them on. Never before have I tried a router that can provide such great whole-home range. Not even with the help of a range extender.

This Linksys model supports traditional 802.11 standards a/b/g/n and also the newer ac – the latter of which can pump through data at the rate of 1,300 Mbps with other 802.11ac devices, such as newer smartphones, tablets and laptops. That’s almost like having things hardwired.

All you need to know is this: the WRT1900ac is super fast with enough range to boot.

Other physical features of this hefty router include a USB 3.0 port and a combination eSATA/USB port. The USB 3.0 port in particular is helpful to transfer files at bullet train-fast speeds, helpful if you’re using this as a media server.

On the back, there are also four LAN ports, which may seem a little limiting if you have a lot of hard-wired connections to hook up to.

The web portal and configuration menus appear to be improved over previous Linksys SmartWifi offerings, but computer enthusiasts may crave something a bit more rich and complex to sink their teeth into.

That being said, something like that is likely in the works – the WRT1900ac will run on open source firmware.

One more things – this router isn’t cheap, with a MSRP of $279.99.

For the speed, range and potential for running custom firmware, that price is worth it.

 

More info – Linksys

 

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