All posts in “Tablets”

These are the best deals on Amazon’s home tech devices for Black Friday

Black Friday is a battlefield, y’all. Tablets, smart home assistants, and all the other Amazon devices we’ve been drooling over all year are finally marked down.

Here’s what you need to know:

Life is easier with smart home assistants

If you’ve been wanting to get your hands on an Echo Dot, snag one at their lowest price ever for just $29.99.

Save on the bigger Echo products as well — grab the classic Echo for $20 off at just $79.99 and the Echo Plus for $30 off at $119.99.

Speaking of Echo, you can add a smart plug to any Echo purchase for only $5 — that’s $20 off.

The Echo Show is kind of like a mini TV with all of the Alexa-enabled features you love, and you can get it for a whopping $50 off at $179.99.

Bluetooth speakers are hot right now, but the Alexa-enabled Amazon Tap stands out from the rest and is $50 off at just $79.99.

Make grocery shopping a million times faster and get all Dash buttons for 50% off.

Find out who’s stealing your mail

Keep track of what’s going on in your home with the new Amazon Cloud Cam, which is $20 off at $99.99.

Kindle E-Readers, because you’re not always in the mood for Netflix

The Kindle Paperwhite has a battery that lasts weeks and is $30 off at $89.99 right now.

Prefer the classic original Kindle instead? Get it for $30 off as well for just $49.99.

Get the kids hooked on reading early — the Kindle for Kids Bundle (two year worry-free guarantee included) is $30 off at $69.99.

These Fire HD deals are…fire

If you’re tired of the kids asking to play with your tablet, get them their own: take $30 off the Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet for just $69.99, and save an extra $10 when you buy two of them for $129.98.

You can also take $40 off the newer Fire 8 Kids Edition Tablet for $89.99, and save an extra $10 when you buy two of them for $169.98.

The (adult) Fire HD Tablets are super steals as well. Take $20 off the Fire HD 7 for $29.99, $30 off the Fire HD 8 for $49.99, and $50 off the Fire HD 10 for its lowest price ever: $99.99.

The Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote is the ultimate Netflix and chill tool, and you can get it for $15 off at just $24.99.

Ball on a budget with these next-to-new refurbished devices

The Echo is a must-have this season, and you can snag a certified refurbished 1st generation Echo for $95 off.

Save $50 on a certified refurbished Amazon Tap as well.

Reading addicts can take $35 off a certified refurbished Kindle or Kindle Paperwhite, as well as $50 off a refurbished Kindle Voyage.

For even more Black Friday shopping, check out our Black Friday Deals Tracker. We’ll be updating it all day with the best sales around the web. Good luck out there.

Sony and reMarkable’s dueling e-paper tablets are strange but impressive beasts

Poor paper. It’s in that ironic category where those who love it the most are the ones trying their hardest to replace it.

Case in point: Sony and reMarkable, a pair of companies as unlike as you’re likely to find, yet with the shared mission of making a device that adequately serves the same purpose a few sheets of paper do. They have mixed success, each working and failing in different ways; but these devices left me optimistic about future possibilities — while at the same time clinging tenaciously to my notebook and pen.

Both tablets rely on e-paper displays, most commonly seen in Amazon’s Kindle devices but which have found niche uses outside the e-reader world as they have improved in contrast and response time.

Both support a stylus and fingertip for input; both have an unlit monochrome screen; both are refreshingly thin and light (350 grams, 6-7mm thick); both have their own dedicated app; and both aspire to replace printed documents and scrolling through PDFs on your laptop. (Both are also rather expensive.)

Yet there are clear differences between the two: Sony’s Digital Paper Tablet DPT-RP1 (I’ll call it the DPT) is the size of an A4 sheet of paper, which combined with its lightness makes it somehow alarming. It’s hard to believe it’s an actual device. The reMarkable, on the other hand, is smaller (about 10×7″) and a triplet of buttons on its lower bezel invite interaction. It’s equally light, but doesn’t give off that “how’d they make this thing” vibe. At least, not yet.

The short version of each device’s story:

Sony DPT-RP1

  • 13.3″ 1650×2200 screen
  • 16GB internal storage, PDF support
  • $700

This handsome devil is the sequel to one I remember handling at CES years ago, and it has been given a significant, if not radical, upgrade. The latest version got a much-improved screen, plenty of internal storage (16 GB doesn’t fill up too fast when you’re mostly looking at documents), and better handwriting and note-taking capability.

It’s specifically aimed at people who have to handle lots of wordy documents and are tired of doing so on a laptop screen, LCD-based tablet, or small e-reader. Think scientists reviewing studies, lawyers going over case files, and so on.

reMarkable

  • 10.3″ 1872×1404 screen
  • 8GB internal storage, PDF/ePub support
  • $600

The reMarkable (and yes, they do the camel caps thing) is the sort of crowdsourcing success I like to see. An original and ambitious idea accomplished with hard work and ingenuity, and at the end of it all, a viable product.

The team was simply enamored of the idea that an e-reader type device should be more interactive, allowing you to sketch, annotate documents, and share them live. To that end they worked for years, eventually even consulting with E-Ink, which makes the displays in question, to produce a screen that not only looks like a printed piece of paper, but feels like it when you write on it.

And now to judge the two devices on the three R’s: reading, writing, and interaction. What? Only one of the other three R’s starts with an R.

Reading

As far as providing a superior platform on which to read through documents that are mostly monochrome — studies, lawsuits, books — both devices succeed admirably. Neither has as good a screen as a Kindle Oasis or Kobo Aura One, but they’re more than good enough — and anyway, it would be excruciating reading an academic paper on a kindle.

If I had to give the edge to one of the devices strictly in display quality, it would have to be the DPT. Slightly whiter whites and better contrast give it the edge, even though technically the reMarkable has a higher DPI (226 vs 206). A grid on the screen is just visible when you look close, but rarely bothered me when reading from a normal distance. Text is rendered slightly better on the Sony to my eye, though it’s hardly a blowout.

But one also has to consider that the Sony’s screen is gigantic. The reMarkable and its bezel fit comfortably within the screen area of the DPT. Not everyone actually wants to read on such an enormous device, and documents not intended for that size can blow up to comical proportions. E-books as well end up looking like either children’s stories if you bump the text size up, or impenetrable walls of text with frequent carriage returns if you don’t.

This objection applies to the reMarkable as well, but less so. (Sony does address this problem with the ability to show two portrait mode pages at once while the device itself is in landscape mode.)

If I had to choose between one size and the other, I would go with the reMarkable in a second. It fits in more bags, doesn’t feel so awkward, and it’s not so much smaller that a full-page PDF looks crammed onto it; you hardly notice after a while.

As for build quality, both devices are extremely well made, and in particular reMarkable touts the near indestructibility of their device. The Sony doesn’t feel flimsy at all, but as I mentioned before its great size does make it feel like a liability, like a passing biker will clip the corner while you’re reading it in the park. I do however approve of its extra-minimal design, while the reMarkable’s silver back and multiple buttons make it rather the more gadgety of the two.

One other place where the DPT schools the reMarkable is in on/off quickness. One of the great things about e-paper devices is you can switch them on and a second or two later you are back in your book or article. The DPT is no exception to that, and it will maintain a charge for weeks and still turn on in a snap.

The reMarkable will do that when it’s in sleep mode, but it goes from sleep mode to fully off after some relatively short amount of time that you can’t modify. From being off, it takes 15-20 seconds or more to turn on — an eternity these days! No doubt this is to improve the battery life, but it’s annoying as hell. This is something that can and likely will be adjusted (or hopefully made adjustable) in a software update, but for now it’s a pain.

Writing

Here at least we have a solid winner. Writing on the reMarkable is a pleasure, and while it’s still not quite like pen on paper, it’s a hell of a lot better than active stylus on glass.

The near-instant response time of the reMarkable’s e-paper screen (it’s around 50 milliseconds) makes writing feel natural, not like a device catching up to something you did half a second ago. This is absolutely critical, since the feedback of what you see affects how you write — when you stop crossing that T or dragging out the descender of that y. The team was obsessive in getting the latency down, and succeeded to a greater extent than, honestly, I expected was possible on this kind of display. E-Ink itself, they told me, was incredibly impressed.

Above, the reMarkable; below, the DPT.

But not only does the line follow the tip of your stylus with a quickness, there is a world of expressiveness available should you choose it. The tablet doesn’t just track the tip, but also the pressure and orientation of the stylus. So with the pencil tool, you can make a thin, light line by holding the stylus nearly perpendicular to the screen and barely touching it, or make wide brushlike strokes by angling it down and pressing harder. This isn’t always useful, and it takes some time to get used to, but it really is amazing that it’s possible on an e-paper device, and I can see it being adopted by plenty of sketchers and note takers.

Furthermore, the tablet ships with a number of templates — grids, lines, etc — and supports multiple layers, which you can export as Photoshop files.

Certainly it impressed the TechCrunch crew. I had it with me for note-taking (and showing off) purposes at Disrupt SF, and everyone who touched it and wrote on it fell in love, asking how they could get one. These are people who see state of the art tech all day, every day.

I didn’t have the DPT with me, but I think it would have elicited a more polarized response. It’s so big — but once you get over that, you start thinking how nice it would be to run through SEC filings or Pew studies with this instead of on a laptop.

You can write on the screen of the DPT as well, but despite Sony’s best efforts it’s not nearly as responsive as the reMarkable. It’s close, sure, and way better than the devices I’ve seen before, but as they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. In this case, it’s close enough that I wouldn’t mind doing a few annotations of a long document, but I can’t picture taking notes with it or drawing anything but the simplest shapes. The lag and resulting feel that things are slightly off what you intended is just enough that you notice it.

Unfortunately neither supports handwriting recognition now, though it’s on the horizon.

Interaction

Here we have what is really the Achilles’ Heel of both devices. The fact is that at present, they’re just too limited in the content you can put on them, how you can edit and annotate it, and how you navigate it.

The DPT has the benefit of simplicity. It’s very straightforward: load items (probably PDFs) on it via the associated desktop app, and they appear in a list on the tablet. Open it up and you have the now-familiar touchscreen controls: swipe left or right to change page, or tap the edges of the screen; tap the center to open view options, change the pen style, etc. You can also quickly zoom in on an area, though considering the size of the thing I never felt the need to do this. A single button at the top opens a small, straightforward menu with recent documents and the option to return home.

The reMarkable, on the other hand, throws all kinds of things at you from the beginning. You still add your documents from a desktop app — and here I may as well mention that you need to set up a free, simple account on the site to do so, and to enable web-based syncing of documents (it was quick and seems harmless). Once they’re on the device, you navigate via a busy home screen that lists all docs, or just PDFs, or just e-books, or your notebooks, of which you can create as many as you like: one for sketches, another for work notes, another for to-dos, etc.

Inside documents, you’ll use the three buttons at the bottom of the device to go forward, back, or return home. Disappointingly, you can’t swipe or tap to go to next or previous pages. I much preferred the DPT’s simplified controls; buttons may be useful on a dedicated e-reader, where page turning is by far the most frequent action, but the reMarkable is meant to be like a piece of paper and the buttons seem at odds with that idea.

The real issue I have, however, is one I have with both. You’re very limited in what you can do with the documents. Reading them is great. But neither device is good at exporting the actions you take off the device. For example, if you find a portion of a document you want to remember, what can you do?

On the DPT, you can highlight it, but then what? On the reMarkable, you use the highlighter pen to mark it, but then what? The DPT has a clever system where you can put a star or other symbols on certain pages, then easily re-find those points later — but then what? The reMarkable lets you add annotations to any page in a trice — but then what?

All these actions end up staying on the device or facing some convoluted export process. Why can’t I select some text on the reMarkable and have it be copied to a clipboard in the app? Why can’t I drag out a rectangle and have it save a screenshot? Why can’t I have the starred paragraphs of the PDF on the DPT automatically highlight in the original document?

Ultimately you mostly interact with content by drawing on a transparent layer on top of it. That’s great for some stuff, but not particularly flexible. You can build a workflow around either one of these, but it won’t be pretty.

Furthermore, the content I can access is extremely limited. No time-shifting services like Pocket or Evernote are supported even in a limited fashion. Only PDFs and epub files can be read, or certain archives. Both devices have wi-fi, but neither one has even a rudimentary or text-only web browser. I would love to have any of these things, but for now the use cases for these devices are limited to “reading files you already have, and making a few limited changes to them.”

Long live specialty devices

Compared to something like the Surface or an iPad Pro, the DPT and reMarkable may seem somewhat limited. But that’s kind of the point.

You’re not supposed to be able to write a novel on your DPT, or play some complex 3D game. These are devices designed with a few very specific purposes, and they fulfill those purposes — pretty well, as you have seen. They’re light, they’re durable, they’re pleasant and quite simple to use.

The fact is that this is a pretty new product category, or at least a long-neglected one (RIP Kindle DX) and I think it’s fantastic that companies big and small are interested in doing something different.

On the other hand, they’re still figuring out exactly what these products should be capable of. Sony has a firm idea and is making its play for the scientific and legal markets where long documents are common and a handful of markup tools are sufficient. reMarkable has a broader vision and a technical solution for achieving it: more and faster interaction, better integration with existing services.

While I can say that the Sony has achieved its purpose, that purpose is intentionally limited and as such makes it attractive to a rather narrow slice of people. The reMarkable is potentially attractive to far more people — orders of magnitude more, I think — but it has yet to achieve its vision.

Fortunately reMarkable is aware of this and mainly just wanted to ship a working product. The roadmap for the next year has lots of interesting features on it, ones that will make the device more versatile and reliable.

That reMarkable has sold tens of thousands of its extremely niche device, and that Sony hasn’t given up on the DPT while letting its other e-readers die is promising. There’s a place for devices like these in my house and, increasingly I hope, many more.

This laptop flawlessly fits into any lifestyle

A laptop plays many crucial roles in our everyday lives. It’s a trusted travel companion, a workspace, a writing aid, a canvas. It’s a study guide, and a classroom assistant. It’s a lifeline to our social lives, to the news, to Game of Thrones

As arguably the most important piece of technology that we use on a daily basis, choosing the right laptop for your lifestyle is a weighty decision. But there’s one laptop on the market that can accommodate any and all of your creative, technical, professional, and academic needs: Here’s how the HP Pavilion x360 fits into four very different lifestyles — as it will surely fit into yours.

The jet-setting travel blogger

You’re a content-creating machine, churning out articles, photo essays, and vlogs on practically an hourly basis. As a frequent traveler, you appreciate better than most the beauty of items with two-in-one functionalities. After all, carry-on space is a precious commodity — and nothing beats a travel pillow that’s also a phone charger.

Image: pixabay

As one of the premier two-in-one laptops available, the HP Pavilion x360 easily transitions from serious work laptop (for when you need to set up shop in a local cafe to meet a fast-approaching deadline), to tablet (for when you’ve got 14 hours on a plane to kill and are in desperate need of entertainment). With diagonal HD touch display, the device makes photo management, storage, and editing easier than ever — so you can manage your entire Instagram outtake library faster than you can say “hot dogs or legs?”

The Inking feature is particularly handy for journaling: Jot notes directly onto the screen in the early stages of your creative process, and supplement with hand-drawn designs that add creative flair. You’ve never experienced easier edits, either: Screen capture your first drafts, mark them up, and fire them off to your editor instantly.

The over-scheduled university student

The world is your oyster, even if all you can afford for dinner is ramen and store-brand soda. Between classes, volunteering, running the university’s sustainability program, and a sometimes overwhelming social scene (and also occasionally remembering to video chat with mom), you’ve got a packed schedule. Now is the time for exploring your passions and figuring out who (and what) you want to be in the “real world” — oh, and remembering to have a little fun along the way.

Image: pixabay

Use the HP Active Pen to scrawl notes in class, create presentations that will blow your professors away, and send hand-drawn doodles to your BFFs on their birthdays. The laptop’s rich audio capabilities also mean that any small group study session can easily transition into a dorm-room dance party. 

For students on a budget, be sure to check out the student offers currently running on the HP site.

The hobbyist-turned-side-hustler

Despite the fact that you hold a degree in accounting, you’ve long dreamed about a career in the arts. These days, all your time and effort goes into your Etsy shop and the website you’re designing to promote your handmade jewelry line — and you’re one step closer to leaving your agonizing day job once and for all.

Image: pixabay

Just as you understand the art of work-life balance, you’ll appreciate the HP Pavilion x360’s perfect blend of performance and style. From fiddling around with your new logo design to typing out 200 versions of your elevator pitch, this laptop is a trusty sidekick for your entire side-hustling to-do list. Manage expenses, track sales, and begin developing your marketing game-plan with easy integration with Microsoft Office as well as with apps like OneNote and PowerPoint.

The take-no-prisoners startup CEO

You’re all about the hustle, all day, every day. Efficiency is your favorite word in the English language, right up there with “disruption” and “innovate.” Your product is going to change the world — as soon as you’re able to get an office space outside of mom’s garage.

Image: pixabay

The x360 has ample ports, so your work set-up can be as complex as you’d like: The laptop comes equipped with three USB ports (two 3.0 and one 2.0), a full HDMI port, an Ethernet port, and jacks for headphones and power cords. 

For your purposes, speed, storage, and serious battery life are musts in a laptop, and the HP x360 delivers on all fronts. The most robust model of the Pavilion x360 includes an Intel Core i7-7500U processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM — so you know you’ve got the brawn to keep chugging during those 18-hour days. If only you could find a co-founder this reliable.

From work to play and everything in between, the HP Pavilion x360 is the sidekick you can count on — no matter the lifestyle you lead.

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WATCH NEXT: This innovative punch card will make you more productive

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Crowdfunded reMarkable e-paper tablet ships on August 29


The idea of using technology to replicate the simplicity and versatility of paper is an enduring one, but no device has nailed it just yet. That may change with the reMarkable, a unique and ambitious tablet that aims to do what paper does, but better. And four years after the concept was first proposed (although less than a year after crowdfunding), the team is finally shipping its first devices on August 29.

You could be forgiven for mistaking the reMarkable for one of these cryptogadgets that solicit some hype, make some promises, maybe load up on money and then disappear forever. But the team is dedicated and seems extremely interested in their own device, a surprisingly uncommon occurrence.

They’re still working on it, so the first recipients may have to exercise a little more patience. I’ll keep that in mind when I test it out, too. But the main thing, and the part the team has spent the most time on, is the feel and basic function. I’ll be able to report on that within a few minutes of unboxing.

How tablets are transforming the lives of young refugees in sub-Saharan Africa

Fugia is only a teenager, but her sense of ambition is tangible. Just 15 years old, she has plans to be a doctor, and she understands education is the surest path to achieving her dream.

But getting an education isn’t easy. Fugia, whose parents are Somalian, is a refugee growing up in Kakuma, the largest refugee camp in existence, located in Kenya. Both logistical and cultural obstacles have prevented her from learning.

“This community of ours was not supporting the girls’ education,” she says of the camp, explaining that girls who went to school were often called “prostitutes” who don’t actually learn anything.

But there’s one thing helping her change the narrative: tablets. 

“It’s only education that can bring us out of the dark.”

Fugia convinced her mother of the benefits of education by showing her a photo of a tablet, explaining how the devices could help them find advice on a wide range of challenges. She can and even Google tips to help pass exams.

Now, a new initiative is using tablet technology to help Fugia and millions of refugee children like her gain a free education.

The Vodafone Foundation announced its Instant Schools for Africa program on Wednesday—a tablet-based education initiative providing free, unlimited access to online educational materials for young people and teachers. Developed with Learning Equality, a leading nonprofit provider of open-source educational technology, the program launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

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To allow for widespread access, the primary and secondary school materials (both global and local in scope) are available without any mobile data charges. Videos and web pages are all optimized to work over low-bandwidth connections, and will also be available offline when internet access isn’t possible.

“From refugee camps to remote parts of Africa with few schools, connectivity gives children the opportunity for a better future.”

Instant Schools for Africa already helps 43,000 young refugees each month, according to the Vodafone Foundation, and the goal is to reach 3 million refugees by the year 2025. The organization is working with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to deliver tablets and teaching resources to refugee camps. It will also support children across Africa, especially those in rural regions who don’t go to school.

There are currently more than 6 million school-age refugees in the world, but 3.7 million still don’t have access to education. The average period of time spent in a refugee camp is about 20 years. Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of primary school enrollment globally. A staggering 34 million of the 57 million out-of-school, primary age children in the world live in this region, caused in part by cultural norms and remote locations. 

“From refugee camps to remote parts of Africa with few schools, connectivity gives children the opportunity for a better future,” Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation, said in a statement.

“Instant Schools for Africa has the potential to transform the lives of millions of children excluded from education, giving them free access to the same materials used by children in developed markets to help them achieve their ambitions,” he said.

A similar initiative, Vodacom e-School, has proven successful for 215,000 children in South Africa. 

Sasha, 17, escaped an arranged marriage and fled to Kenya, where she now takes part in the Instant Schools for Africa program in the Kakuma camp.

Sasha, 17, escaped an arranged marriage and fled to Kenya, where she now takes part in the Instant Schools for Africa program in the Kakuma camp.

Image: Sala Lewis / Vodafone Foundation

Vodafone released a series of videos to show the impact of the program on young people’s lives, including Fugia. The series also features 16-year-old Jediva, who was abducted by a man in South Sudan and escaped, and Sasha, 17, who escaped an arranged marriage in Burundi so she could attend school. There’s also David, 21, from South Sudan, who’s earning his university degree completely online.

All four of them live in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

“This opportunity is very rare for many people, especially for us here in the camp,” Fugia says in the video detailing her story. “It’s a right. It’s like oxygen for us. A person can never live without oxygen.”

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Fugia’s passion for learning about medicine and science goes deeper than education. She lives with a heart condition, and showed her mother something on her tablet about the circulatory system.

“Continue learning,” her mother told her. “Maybe one day you’ll be able to cure yourself and other people.”

Instant Schools for Africa has the potential to transform young people’s lives, offering them opportunities many refugees and children in remote regions (especially girls) don’t usually have. Such resources can offer them a better future.

Most of the girls Fugia knows at Kakuma all believe the same thing now: “It’s only education that can bring us out of the dark.”

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