5G is just steps from becoming reality – CNET

Do you want to know what 5G is going to look like? In early Dec. Qualcomm went all-in on how next-generation wireless technology will take shape when it debuts in 2019.

Do you want to know what 5G is going to look like? In early Dec. Qualcomm went all-in on how next-generation wireless technology will take shape when it debuts in 2019. The maker of mobile chips, best known for the powerful processors that serve as the brains of high-profile phones, such as the Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9, held its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui the first week in Dec.

Qualcomm used it as a showcase for 5G technology, showing off a prototype phone that can tap into next-generation networks. Partners AT&T and Verizon pitched in too, setting up “live networks” at the conference hotel to show off their capabilities. Samsung showed off a 5G reference device at the event.

“A lot of the work went into getting the 5G logo to show on this phone,” Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said as he held up the company’s prototype during the keynote.

Samsung and Verizon already said they’ll launch a 5G smartphone in the first half of next year. AT&T and Sprint too. Already this year, Verizon has launched a variant of 5G as a home internet service, and in early 2019 it plans to begin a standards-based mobile service.

All of this means that 5G is going from years of hype — ever since Verizon talked about moving into the area three years ago — to becoming reality. Beyond a big speed boost, 5G has been referred to as foundational tech that will supercharge areas like self-driving cars, virtual and augmented reality and telemedicine services, such as remote surgery.

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But what exactly is 5G? Why are people so excited? The following is a breakdown of why the next generation of wireless technology is more than just a boost in speed, and why you should be excited.

What is 5G?

It’s the next (fifth) generation of cellular technology, which promises to greatly enhance the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. How fast are we talking? Think 10 to 100 times speedier than your typical cellular connection, and even faster than anything you can get with a physical fiber-optic cable going into your house. (In optimal conditions, you’ll be able to download a season’s worth of Stranger Things in seconds.)

Is it just about speed?

No! One of the key benefits is something called low latency. You’ll hear this term a lot. Latency is the response time between when you click on a link or start streaming a video on your phone, which sends the request up to the network, and when the network responds, delivering you the website or playing your video.

That lag time can last around 20 milliseconds with current networks. It doesn’t seem like much, but with 5G, that latency gets reduced to as little as 1 millisecond, or about the time it takes for a flash on a normal camera.

That responsiveness is critical for things like playing an intense video game in virtual reality or for a surgeon in New York to control a pair of robotic arms performing a procedure in San Francisco, though latency will still be affected by the ultimate range of the connection. The virtually lag-free connection means self-driving cars have a way to communicate with each other in real time — assuming there’s enough 5G coverage to connect those vehicles.

How does it work?

5G initially used super high-frequency spectrum, which has shorter range but higher capacity, to deliver a massive pipe for online access. But given the range and interference issues, the carriers are starting to explore lower-frequency spectrum — the type used in today’s networks — to help ferry 5G across greater distances and through walls and other obstructions.

The result is that the insane speeds companies first promised won’t always be there, but they’ll still represent a big boost from what we get today with 4G LTE.

Where do these carriers get the spectrum?

Some of these carriers already control small swaths of high-frequency radio airwaves, but many will have to purchase more from the government. The Federal Communications Commission is holding an auction for so-called millimeter wave spectrum, which all of the carriers are participating in.

Are there other benefits?

The 5G network is designed to connect a far greater number of devices than a traditional cellular network. That internet of things trend you keep hearing about? 5G can power multiple devices around you, whether it’s a dog collar or a refrigerator.

The 5G network was also specifically built to handle equipment used by businesses, such as farm equipment or ATMs. Beyond speed, it’s also designed to work differently on connected products that don’t need a constant connection, like a sensor for fertilizer. Those kinds of low-power scanners are intended to work on the same battery for 10 years and still be able to periodically send over data.

Sounds great, but when does 5G get here?

Verizon launched the first “5G” service in the world in October, but it’s a bit of a technicality.

The service isn’t mobile service, but a fixed broadband replacement. An installer will need to put in special equipment that can pick up the 5G signals and turn it into a Wi-Fi connection in the home so your other devices can access it.

There’s also some debate about whether the service even qualifies for 5G — it doesn’t use the standards the industry has agreed upon. The company wanted to jump out ahead, and used its own proprietary technology. Verizon argues that the speeds, which range from 300 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second, qualify the service for 5G designation. Its rivals and other mobile experts dispute that claim.

The launch is extremely limited in select neighborhoods in Los Angeles; Sacramento, California; Indianapolis; and Dallas. (Let us know if you’re one of the lucky few who get it.)

OK, but what about mobile 5G?

Verizon says it’ll launch its mobile 5G next year. AT&T is looking like the first company to launch a true mobile 5G service. It plans to launch 5G this year in 12 markets. Last month, it successfully tested a mobile 5G connection in Waco, Texas, using what should be the first consumer 5G device, a wireless hotspot built by Netgear.

Like the Verizon deployment, expect the rollout of 5G in these cities to be extremely limited.

AT&T said it plans to launch in 19 cities next year, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

No 5G phones? Can’t I just pick up 5G with my existing smartphone?

Sorry, no. 5G technology requires a specific set of antennas that aren’t available yet. Sprint says it plans to release the first US 5G smartphone next year, which will be built by LG. It’s also working on a 5G “smart hub” with HTC, but as with all of the 5G news so far, they’ve been light on details such as features, specifications, price or availability.

Many of the phones will use Qualcomm’s X50 modem, which is designed specifically to tap into 5G spectrum.

Generally, 5G smartphones are expected to come out in the first half of next year. Rumors point to Samsung being among the first to build a 5G smartphone. The company reportedly will put 5G in a version of its Galaxy S10. Samsung mobile CEO DJ Koh, however, teased of a specific 5G phone to launch ahead of its flagship.

OnePlus has also said that it’ll be among the first to have 5G in a phone as well, but that device won’t be coming to the US.

Anything I should worry about?

High-frequency spectrum is the key to that massive pickup in capacity and speed, but there are drawbacks. The range isn’t great, especially when you have obstructions such as trees or buildings. As a result, carriers will have to deploy a lot more small cellular radios, creatively named small cells, around any areas that get a 5G signal.

That’s going to annoy anyone who doesn’t want cellular radios near them. With concerns over potential health risks, as well as the possibility some people will see them as neighborhood eyesores, there may be some objections to these things.

Carriers using low-frequency bands may get away with fewer cellular radios, but 5G will almost certainly require companies to further build out their networks.

How broadly will 5G be available in 2019?

Here’s the other concern — 5G might still be a theoretical possibility for a lot of people.

T-Mobile says it’s launching in 30 cities next year, while Sprint will launch in nine cities. AT&T is launching in a dozen markets this year and 19 next year, and Verizon aims to launch next year too, but it’s unclear how wide the coverage will be. Globally, China, Japan and South Korea are racing to build out their 5G networks, with Europe behind as it takes the slow-and-steady approach.

So don’t feel like you need to rush out to buy that first 5G smartphone. Chances are, service won’t be widely available until 2020 or beyond.

Also, while some see 5G helping to improve coverage everyone, rural areas will likely miss out for a while since it lacks the infrastructure to support all of those cell radios.

Will it cost more?

That’s unclear. Indications are the carriers won’t likely charge any more, although then-Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in March that he saw 5G as a premium service. New CEO Michel Combes declined to comment on pricing.

You’ll remember that LTE didn’t cost anymore when it first came out — you just needed to buy a new phone. But pricing models could change over time. Since 4G launched, the carriers both took away unlimited plans and brought them back.

Verizon’s home broadband service costs $50 for wireless subscribers, and $70 for everyone else. Those are in line with other broadband costs. (You can find out if you’re eligible for the service here.)

Our 5G glossary

Do you want to show off your 5G knowledge to your friends? Or seem like the smartest person at a party? Check out our 5G glossary below.

5G NR

The 5G bit is pretty obvious, but the NR stands for New Radio. You don’t have to know a lot about this beyond the fact that it’s the name of the standard that the entire wireless industry is rallying behind, and it just came out in December.

That’s important because it means everyone is on the same page when it comes to their mobile 5G networks. Carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile are following 5G NR as they build their networks. But Verizon, which began testing 5G as a broadband replacement service before the standard was approved, isn’t using the standard — yet. The company says it’ll eventually adopt 5G NR for its broadband service, and intends to use NR for its 5G mobile network.

Millimeter wave

All cellular networks use airwaves to ferry data over the air, with standard networks using spectrum in lower frequency bands like 700 megahertz. Generally, the higher the band or frequency, the higher the speed you can achieve. The consequence of higher frequency, however, is shorter range.

To achieve those crazy-high 5G speeds, you need really, really high frequency spectrum. The millimeter wave range falls between 24 gigahertz and 100 gigahertz.

The problem with super-high-frequency spectrum, besides the short range, is it’s pretty finicky — a leaf blows the wrong way and you get interference. Forget about obstacles like walls. Companies like Verizon are working on using software and broadcasting tricks to get around these problems and ensure stable connections.

Small cell

Traditional cellular coverage typically stems from gigantic towers littered with different radios and antennas. Those antennas are able to broadcast signals at a great distance, so you don’t need a lot of them. Small cells are the opposite — backpack-size radios can be hung up on street lamps, poles rooftops or other areas. They can only broadcast a 5G signal at a short range, so the idea is to have a large number of them in a densely packed network.

Some cities have this kind of dense network in place, but if you go outside of the metro area, that’s where small cells become more of a challenge.

Sub-6GHz

Given how troublesome really high-band spectrum can be (see the “millimeter wave” section above), there’s a movement to embrace spectrum at a much lower frequency, or anything lower than 6GHz. The additional benefit is that carriers can use spectrum they already own to get going on 5G networks. T-Mobile, for instance, has a swath of 600MHz spectrum it plans to use to power its 5G deployment. Prior to sub-6GHz, that would’ve been impossible.

That’s why you’re seeing more carriers embrace lower-frequency spectrum.

But lower-frequency spectrum has the opposite problem: While it reaches great distances, it doesn’t have the same speed and capacity as millimeter wave spectrum.

The ideal down the line will be for carriers to use a blend of the two.

Gigabit LTE

You’re hearing more about Gigabit LTE as a precursor to 5G. Ultimately it’s about much higher speeds on the existing LTE network. But the work going toward building a Gigabit LTE network provides the foundation for 5G.

For more on Gigabit LTE, read our explainer here.

MIMO

An abbreviation of “multiple input, multiple output.” Basically, it’s the idea of shoving more antennas into our phones and on cellular towers. And you can always have more antennas. They feed into the faster Gigabit LTE network, and companies are deploying what’s known as 4×4 MIMO, in which four antennas are installed in a phone.

Carrier aggregation

Wireless carriers can take different bands of radio frequencies and bind them together so phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 can pick and choose the speediest and least congested one available. Think of it as a three-lane highway so cars can weave in and out depending on which lane has less traffic.

QAM

This is a term that’s so highly technical, I don’t even bother to explain the nuance. It stands for quadrature amplitude modulation. See? Don’t even worry about it.

What you need to know is that it allows traffic to move quickly in a different way than carrier aggregation or MIMO. Remember that highway analogy? Well, with 256 QAM, you’ll have big tractor trailers carrying data instead of tiny cars. MIMO, carrier aggregation and QAM are already going into 4G networks, but play an important role in 5G too.

Beam forming

This is a way to direct 5G signals in a specific direction, potentially giving you your own specific connection. Verizon has been using beam forming for millimeter wave spectrum, getting around obstructions like walls or trees.

Unlicensed spectrum

Cellular networks all rely on what’s known as licensed spectrum, which they own and purchased from the government.

But the move to 5G comes with the recognition that there just isn’t enough spectrum when it comes to maintaining wide coverage. So the carriers are moving to unlicensed spectrum, similar to the kind of free airwaves that our Wi-Fi networks ride on.

Network slicing

This is the ability to carve out individual slivers of spectrum to offer specific devices the kind of connection they need. For instance, the same cellular tower can offer a lower-power, slower connection to a sensor for a connected water meter in your home, while at the same time offering a faster, lower-latency connection to a self-driving car that’s navigating in real time.

Are you hearing more 5G-related terms that confuse you? Contact us and we’ll update this story with additional terms.

First published Feb. 8.
Updated Sept. 27, Oct. 17 and Nov. 13:: Added new details.
Updated Dec. 3 at 5:00 a.m. PT: Added details about the Qualcomm event.
Updated Dec. 4 at 2:00 p.m. PT: To include more details from the Qualcomm keynote.

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North Korea’s high-tech pursuits: Propaganda or progress?

North Korea often flaunts its military hardware but of late, it appears to be making progress in developing civilian technologies – or at least is claiming to be.

As with most things in the country, it is difficult to verify these claims, but it is significant to note the importance being given to technology.

North Korea often flaunts its military hardware but of late, it appears to be making progress in developing civilian technologies – or at least is claiming to be.

As with most things in the country, it is difficult to verify these claims, but it is significant to note the importance being given to technology.

In recent months, state media have publicly celebrated various achievements in advanced technologies, including an “intelligent home system”.

Beyond the purpose of propaganda, emphasis on the sector reflects North Korea’s desire to harness technology to improve its economy – a key goal for Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Growing tech prowess?

One of the latest tech ventures is a new wi-fi service called Mirae, which enables mobile devices to access a state-sanctioned intranet network in the capital, Pyongyang.

State-run Korean Central Television on 8 November showed an Arirang 171 smartphone being used to access Mirae during an “Exhibition of IT Successes”.

The US-based monitoring website 38North noted that this was the first time an outdoor wi-fi service had been mentioned in North Korean media, and that it runs alongside two cellular networks operating in the country that provide wireless data service.

Another device shown at the exhibition was an “intelligence home system” which recognises human voice to automatically operate electronic instruments such as fans, air conditioners, televisions and lights.

This system was developed by the Kim Il-sung University, which seems to be at the forefront of the country’s high-tech endeavours.

DPRK Today, a propaganda website, reported on 21 November that researchers from the university had developed a number of advanced artificial intelligence systems, including a Korean-language voice recognition programme.

An article in ruling Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun on 2 November said that The Intelligent Technology Institute at the university is “burning with ambition to hold supremacy in the artificial intelligence field…and to contribute to the establishment of the artificial intelligence technology industry in the country”.

Martyn Williams, who runs the respected North Korea Tech blog, told BBC Monitoring that the services cited in the country’s media “are real and do appear to be in use by people in Pyongyang at least”.

“North Korea does have talented software and system engineers so a lot of the software highlighted in reports is real and written inside the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name].”

‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

The driving force behind the technology investments seems to be restructuring of the economy and boosting “national power”.

During a ruling party meeting in April, Kim Jong-un said science and education should “serve as groundwork for state building and an important index of national strength” and put forth a policy that “a revolutionary turn should be made in the work of science and education”, according to the official KCNA news agency.

As part of efforts to nurture a scientific community, North Korea has offered incentives to scientists and engineers in the form of “lavish” apartments and other privileges.

The broader focus on science and technology has begun to appear in North Korean state media and propaganda outlets extensively.

In an unusual move, Rodong Sinmun carried an article on 29 October by Ri Ki-song, a professor at the Institute of Economy at the Academy of Social Sciences, in which he said that the North Korean economy should transition to a high-tech “knowledge-based economy”.

Specifically, he proposed developing information technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other cutting-edge science and technologies to world-class levels.

A “special article” in the same paper on 8 December said the North Korean economy is “developing in a more innovative direction than ever before in the past” and will “give priority to localisation and development of science and technology in developing its economy”.

How leisure time is changing for North Korea’s privilegedNorth Korean propaganda changes its tune

“Well aware that the introduction of high value-added industries would speed up economic development, the North appears to have embarked on its own fourth industrial revolution,” Lim Eul-chul, a professor at South Korea’s Kyungnam University, was quoted as saying by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on 21 November.

‘Tough balancing act’

So is North Korea on its way to becoming an innovation powerhouse?

It is not known for its technological advancements – unlike its Southern neighbour – so some degree of scepticism is warranted.

“North Korea does not have much strength in advanced manufacturing, so the phones and computers that are often paraded as domestic are from China,” Mr Williams notes.

In May 2018, Trend Micro, a Japan-based anti-virus company, said that the North Koreans had illegally copied its intellectual property or source code for its SiliVaccine tool.

Last year, the North Korean media used Apple’s trademark “iPad” name to refer to a locally-developed tablet, which was dubbed as the “Ryonghung IPad”.

“From direct copycat products to loose imitations, to the now blatant use of internationally famous trademarked names like the ‘iPad,’ the North Korean tech world is filled with examples of knockoffs of foreign made products,” a report in NK News website noted in 2017.

The limitations on North Korea’s pursuits extend beyond a supposed lack of technological ingenuity.

A report released by Seoul’s Korea Development Bank in 2017 noted that North Korea’s artificial intelligence industry is “expected to hit a wall, due to its strained financial resources, economic situation and international sanctions…”

Even if those tight sanctions were to be lifted, says Mr Williams, “some countries or companies still might want to avoid business with North Korea because it could hurt their image”.

What the North Korean internet really looks likeSouth Korean train crosses DMZ into North Korea

But he believes major investments could be possible from South Korean companies, “with government encouragement”.

In fact, a group of senior North Korean officials visited Pangyo Techno Valley, a technology hub in the South, on 15 November to learn about autonomous cars, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and gaming technology.

Another potential hurdle could be North Korea’s own “paranoia” over the spread of information, which could stifle any innovation.

“The North Korean government’s best hope is a slow opening up that satisfies people’s thirst for information and a better life while retaining control of the country. A tough balancing act indeed,” says Mr Williams.

The very best tech gifts this Christmas – for every budget

If you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet, don’t worry – if you move quickly, you can still get your gifts delivered in time, and to make things even easier, we’ve picked out the very best tech presents for everyone.

If you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet, don’t worry – if you move quickly, you can still get your gifts delivered in time, and to make things even easier, we’ve picked out the very best tech presents for everyone.

We’ve recommended only the gadgets we’d love to receive ourselves, so you can rest assured everything on this list is good quality and will serve your loved ones well in 2019 and beyond.

We’ve also organized all our recommendations by budget, so it’s easier to find the perfect gift for everyone on your ‘nice’ list, and found the lowest prices for every item so you don’t have to shop around for the best deal.

The best gifts under $50/£50

Whether you’re on a tight budget, or you’re just looking for some small stocking stuffers, we’ve picked out some affordable gifts that anyone would be delighted to receive – ourselves included.

Wireless earbuds are all the rage right now, but wired versions offer a better balance of sound quality and price. It’s possible to find Bluetooth earphones under £50/$50, they won’t sound anywhere near as good as the RHA MA390s.

Despite their modest price tag, these earphones are beautifully crafted from aliminum, with a braided cable for durability and a universal remote that works with iOS and Android devices. Great value, and special enough to make a perfect gift for the music-lover in your life.

The Home Mini is the cheapest way of buying into the Assistant for those looking to buy into Google’s smart home ecosystem. Its weak bass frequencies makes it a better desk buddy than a standalone speaker, but it could make a fantastic gift for a student who needs their speaker to be as compact as possible and is looking for something to make those long nights of studying go by a little easier.

It’s also a top gift for people who already have smart devices like smart lights, locks, and thermostats in the home, as it can be used as a hub to connect and control all of these devices, as long as they’re compatible.

Billingham’s Hadley One is a gorgeous messenger bag that’s aimed at those who want to travel reasonably light – perfect for wondering round the city or a short break. The stylish, classic design of the Hadley One certainly looks the part and is beautifully crafted from a premium leather.

As well as space for a mirrorless camera or DSLR, there’s also a separate 13-inch laptop compartment. If you want to treat someone to something a little bit special then the Hadley One, even allowing for its premium price, won’t disappoint.

Not all selfie sticks are built equal. Sure, you can find them for less than half the price of the CliqueFie online, but are they going to be as good?

In some cases perhaps, but CliqueFie has the backing of Apple itself, and this telescopic stick reduces to a pocket-friendly size and features a fully adjustable mount that supports Apple’s standard, Plus and SE iPhone variants. There’s a remote for snapping pics too, meaning you don’t have to reach up to your iPhone’s screen to take a image.

Amazon Kindle Unlimited works a little like a lending library, allowing subscribers to ‘keep’ 10 books at a time (though there are no return dates). Despite its name, it doesn’t let you grab absolutely anything from the Kindle Store, but it does provide access to over a million books, plus magazines and audio narration on any device (there are free Kindle apps for Android and iOS, plus desktop software).

Kindle Unlimited doesn’t let you keep books indefinitely (if your subscription expires, you lose them) so it’s not the right choice if you’re looking for reference books, but if you know someone who tends to devour novels then it could be the perfect option as a gift.

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The best gifts under $100/£100

If you have a little more cash to spend, these gadgets and accessories will put a smile on your loved one’s face. There’s something for everyone, including audio fans, PC gamers, and young tech fans making their first forays into coding.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of a good keyboard, and a quality mechanical board like this will make a world of difference to both work and play. It’s technically a gaming board, but is comfortable enough to use for everyday typing, too.

The Corsair K68 RGB features responsive Cherry MX Red switches, and a special rubber membrane under each key that protects the board’s internals from crumbs, drink spills and other accidents. This also makes the K68 a little quieter than many mechanical keyboards (though not at the expense of pleasantly tactile typing).

These Bluetooth sports headphones have one key advantage over many others: they simply won’t fall out, no matter how bouncy your running form.

These are the second iteration of Plantronics’ Backbeat Fit headphones, and offer improved sound quality (particularly in the bass range) and more tactile buttons that make it easier to change tracks on the move. There are also voice alerts that notify you when the headphones are connected, and if the battery is running low, whereas the previous version just beeped at you.

Open source platforms like Raspberry Pi have opened up DIY computing, but the learning curve is pretty steep – particularly for kids. That’s where LittleBits comes in, providing kits and instructions that let everyone enjoy the fun and challenge of building their own robot.

Not only can young engineers make their own R2-D2 using instructions provided in the companion app (accompanied by the iconic John Williams soundtrack), a recent update means they can also customize and re-program it using MIT’s Scratch code platform.

Adobe’s latest Creative Cloud Photography plan which includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC is perfect for those wanting a host of high-end features, but the monthly subscription payment model isn’t for everyone. That’s where Photoshop Elements 2019 comes in.

Incorporating many of the advanced features found in the high-end version of the software, including a host of raw conversion controls, Elements 2019 still packs a punch and is perfect for the enthusiast photographer looking for a versatile photo editing program.

Fitbit has extended its range over the past year to create an activity tracker with kids in mind. It has all the basics that little ones would need, including activity tracking, rewards and badges, and reminders to move.

It’s also waterproof, fairly durable and boasts up to five days’ battery life, making it fairly kid-friendly. This is a great gift idea if the rest of the family already have Fitbits so you can all compete and reach your step goals together.

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The best gifts under $500/£500

A gift in this price range is a serious investment, so we’ve chosen the tech that offers the best value in terms of entertainment for money. Everything we’ve chosen here will keep your friends and family occupied long after Christmas is over.

If you’re thinking of treating someone to a Nintendo Switch this Christmas (you lovely, generous person), there are some fantastic bundles available – and this is one of the best. Super Smash Bros Ultimate collects together every single character that’s ever featured in the series, countless classic and new stages and all manner of new systems to make its local and online multiplayer matches an endless joy.

So what better way to enjoy your new gaming obsession than a limited edition console with some of the roster adorning the dock and the Smash Bros. logo emblazoned across your Joy-Cons? The game comes as download code rather than in physical form.

Anki Vector is a cute little robot designed to teach coding fundamentals, and act as a kind of virtual pet connects directly to your home Wi-Fi network. Unlike many similar bots, there’s no need for a separate smartphone app (except for during the initial setup), so it’s a great option if your kids don’t have their own phones or you want to limit how long they spend staring at screens.

Vector has real personality (Anki employed an animation expert from Dreamworks to work on the animations) and is capable of learning faces and playing games. Four near-field microphones enable it to respond to voice commands, and a recent update has made it compatible with Amazon Alexa.

If the person you’re present hunting for is lucky enough to already own the new iPad 9.7, iPad Pro 11 or iPad Pro 12.9 (2018), then the new Apple Pencil is a great gift. It’s got a new, squarer design, a magnetic body allowing it to cling to the side of slate, wireless charging and gesture controls, making it more practical and easy to use.

In terms of gesture controls, you’re able to simply switch tools by tapping the side of the new Pencil. Plus, you can customize your own gestures, which should come in handy when using non-Apple drawing apps.

Their look may be controversial, but there’s no arguing that Apple’s AirPods are astonishingly easy to pair, use and pack away in their charging case. These truly wireless ear buds may be tiny, but they pack a decent audio punch, with superb sound quality delivered through a now-iconic Apple design.

Another bonus is the battery life, with the AirPods capable of five hours of playback from a single charge – and pop them into their case and they’ll use the internal battery in that to charge up again, keeping you away from a wall plug for longer.

Bragi The Dash Pro is a truly wireless earbud setup that not only offers onboard music but tracking too, meaning you can train and leave your phone at home. And you do get metrics like steps, distance, cadence, heart rate, breaths and more with the earbuds alone. Bragi The Dash Pro also auto-detects activity using its movement and heart rate sensors, so you don’t have to tell it you’re exercising.

While the Dash Pro has 4GB of onboard storage for around 1,000 songs it can also stream music from a connected phone. It’s IPX7 water resistant and comes with a charging case that extends the five-hour battery life for multiple charges when out and about.

The best gifts over $500/£500

When you’re really splashing out and treating someone, you want to be sure you’re choosing the very best gift possible. All of these presents are at the very top of their class, and anyone would be astonished to find one under their tree.

This is – bar none – the best Chromebook that money can buy. Not only can it run Android apps natively, it’s almost the most powerful and capacious of its kind. (It’s also by far the most attractive and pleasant to use.) When you throw in the impressive stylus and deep Google Assistant integration, it is no surprise that the Pixelbook is the best Chromebook of 2018 – even this long after its 2017 launch.

Bear in mind that it won’t run Windows or macOS software, so it’s not the best gift to someone who relies on something like Photoshop, but it gives the best possible ChromeOS experience and is ideal for anyone who’s invested in Google’s ecosystem.

The Epson SureColor SC-P600 is a brilliant printer for the enthusiast or professional photographer. It’s well made and easy to use, and the quality of the prints it’s capable of producing is stunning.

Consumables are pricey though (both inks and paper), but if you want do justice to your photography (or know someone who’s guilty of keeping their brilliant photos tucked away on a hard drive), then this is a stunning printer for the price.

Gamin’s Fenix line has long been the best-in-class multi-sport option for those serious about fitness and running – and this latest version of the Fenix is about as capable as they come.

It’s packing a whole host of new features, like built-in music and contactless payments along with fully routable color topographic maps. We gave the Garmin Fenix Plus 5 nearly a full five stars in our review and found time and time again that this is a device that can handle almost all the adventures you’re looking to throw it into.

If you really want to spoil the PC gamer in your life this Christmas, then you could buy them a brand new gaming laptop. Or, you could always spoil yourself with an amazing gaming laptop instead! Either way, you’ll want the best gaming laptop money can buy, which just so happens to be the MSI GS65 Stealth.

Coming in at just .69 inches thick and featuring impressive hardware like Intel Coffee Lake processors and Nvidia GTX 10-series graphics, the MSI GS65 Stealth packs a ton of power into a very svelte package.

The ultimate gift for any PC gamer, the newest high-end VR headset in town comes packing a lot of impressive specs, including a 2,880 x 1,600 pixel resolution offering a 78% increase in dots per inch than the HTC Vive. This means ultra-crisp visual fidelity that lets you experience textures and shadows in a way previously impossible in VR.

There’s also the addition of built-in headphones and new nose guards that do a better job of blocking out light than the HTC Vive. All told, the HTC Vive Pro is a clear evolution in both design and tech on the older HTC Vive.

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Prepare for the festive season with TechRadar’s ultimate Christmas guide

Facebook Portal now lets you play Words with Friends and zoom in on your victory dance – CNET

The Facebook Portal smart display is padding its resume as you decide which smart display to buy this holiday. The $200 Portal and $350 Portal Plus stand out for their high quality video chat features, but in addition to the privacy concerns, the Portal line doesn’t offer the same overall utility as competitors like the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub.

The Facebook Portal smart display is padding its resume as you decide which smart display to buy this holiday. The $200 Portal and $350 Portal Plus stand out for their high quality video chat features, but in addition to the privacy concerns, the Portal line doesn’t offer the same overall utility as competitors like the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub.

Today, the company rolls out enhanced video calling features, and the ability to watch new content when you’re not chatting with out of town family, among other things.

The coolest new feature will let you pan and zoom manually with the Portal’s camera. It already does that automatically to a specific person that you designate in the frame during a video call. Now, a Portal user can pinch and zoom or scroll over manually to keep the camera fixed on a person, or a specific location in the shot.


Smart displays give you new ways to interact with Amazon, Facebook and Google
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When you’re not on a call, you can now access a full web browser with the Portal. ABC News and CNN are launching news content for the device, and you can now play a bunch of ad-free games, including Battleship and Words with Friends.

Finally, Portal will now let you customize nicknames for contacts so you can call your “mom” or your “husband” with a voice command without using their full names. Facebook has also added extra AR effects to the device tailored for the season. You could previously wear a digital cat on your head or other goofy hats and glasses. The latest effects have a spa theme, a tropical theme and a North Pole theme. The company also added new books to the Portal’s “Story Time” feature and added iHeartRadio to its in-call music sharing feature letting you share synced music with the person on the other end of your call.

Facebook is smart to expand on its main feature with the ability to manually control the focus of video calls. Those other features are fine, too, if not game changing. If you want a smart display to keep up with distant relatives, the Portal might now be even more appealing.

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TP-Link Deco M5 mesh Wi-Fi kit is 33% off today with a £60 discount

If you’ve been at all tempted by the prospect of a mesh networking Wi-Fi system, but perhaps put off by the cost, you’ll doubtless be interested to learn Amazon has a really good deal on TP-Link’s Deco M5, having knocked £60 (a third) off the asking price.

If you’ve been at all tempted by the prospect of a mesh networking Wi-Fi system, but perhaps put off by the cost, you’ll doubtless be interested to learn Amazon has a really good deal on TP-Link’s Deco M5, having knocked £60 (a third) off the asking price.

A pack of two M5 devices – compact white circular gadgets that are designed to blend into your home, and look rather like smoke alarms in this case – normally costs £179.99, but has been reduced to £119.99 for today. Yes, this is a one-day offer, so you’ll need to move relatively fast.

The TP-Link Deco M5 two-pack gives you a claimed 3,000 square foot of Wi-Fi coverage. They are designed to be simple to set up using an app, and indeed in our review, we noted that it was incredibly easy to get up and running with the system.

While this mesh offering provides good coverage, we did observe it isn’t the fastest around, but it makes up for this in the affordability stakes – this is the number three product in our best wireless mesh routers roundup, and it secured that spot on the basis of value for money.

And with this Amazon discount, the system just became even more wallet-friendly. Indeed, the normal retail price for one device is £99.99, so you’re getting a pair of them for not much more than that.

These are the best wireless routers of 2018

Avoid the online Christmas crooks this festive season

According to new research, nearly a quarter of all UK shopping now happens on mobile devices. And with Christmas being the busiest time of the year for online and mobile shopping, this new statistic will be greatly received by hackers and scammers everywhere.

According to new research, nearly a quarter of all UK shopping now happens on mobile devices. And with Christmas being the busiest time of the year for online and mobile shopping, this new statistic will be greatly received by hackers and scammers everywhere.

Over the holiday season, shoppers, and the businesses that serve them, need to be aware of the potential traps cybercriminals will use in order to stay safe and avoid falling victim to the Christmas crooks. Here are my top tips:

1. Wi-Fi warnings

While free data sounds good to anyone, it sounds even better to hackers looking to piggy back on the access users readily volunteer to an unsecure public Wi-Fi network. Warnings offered by your phone or other device are easy to ignore when you’re trying to check your finances, buy last minute presents or check what time your train is leaving. In instances such as these, wherever possible, you would be safer online by using 4G data or a Virtual Private Network (VPN), offering peace of mind when out and about this Christmas.

2. Secret Smishing

Ever-increasing SMS phishing (Smishing) attacks are something many people can fall victim to every day without even realising. The theory behind both is the same; lure in your catch with an enticing and believable message asking you to simply click a link and, once you do, the hacker will take you to a page where you may start giving away personal and sensitive information such as passwords or credit card numbers.

The fear that some of these text messages cause can sometimes make you forget all your awareness training you may have received and make you panic into thinking your savings are under attack and should be moved ASAP. These convincing yet unexpected text messages are designed to unnerve you. If you are unsure, call customer services of the company contacting you on the phone – not within the message – to verify whether the message is legitimate. Reputable companies will never mind you calling to discuss any potentially fraudulent messages.

3. Check it twice: Trusted sites

When searching for the perfect gift online, all too often we end up on a website we have never been to before. If the price seems right, many of us may not think any further but there are some simple tricks we can apply to avoid falling into the Christmas crooks’ scams and help keep data secure.

First, do your research on the website you’re visiting. Read into the company as much as possible in reviews and also look for the company’s contact details. Second, although on mobiles a site’s web address can be easily hidden when using your mobile browser, make sure you check the site’s URL is secure with https. This security is provided by an SSL certificate, which protects sensitive information entered into that site as it travels from the site to a server.

4. Password pitfalls

From social media to utility bills to online banking, it’s understandable that you may want to use one memorable password across all your accounts. Yet while a simple password makes life easier for you, it can also make life easier for anyone looking to gain access to your accounts.

Many new websites that require you to set up an account recognise the problem of easily cracked passwords. That is why you will now find yourself being asked to use a password that has a minimum number of characters, contains numbers or symbols, and at least one capital letter. Quite rightly, the days of ‘yourcatsname.1’, all lower case and one word, are over. So, if you’re still using a password that’s considered ‘weak’ by today’s standards, it’s time for an upgrade.

But fear not – you don’t need to remember your new, more complex passwords off the top of your head, because password managers remember them for you. All you will need is one, strong ‘master password’, with the added security of using two factor authentication, to verify it’s definitely you and then all your accounts are safe.

Jake Moore, Cyber Security Specialist at ESET UK

We’ve also highlighted the best antivirus to help keep you safe online

Hackers target electric car chargers

Criminals could be hacking into connected car chargers gain access to home networks, according to new warnings.

Research from Kaspersky Lab has found that the chargers supplied by an (unnamed) major electric vehicle (EV) vendor carry vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyberattackers.

Criminals could be hacking into connected car chargers gain access to home networks, according to new warnings.

Research from Kaspersky Lab has found that the chargers supplied by an (unnamed) major electric vehicle (EV) vendor carry vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyberattackers.

Kaspersky Lab found that, if compromised, hackers could access the Wi-Fi network and alter the power usage to overload the connected charger, causing a surge that could take down its network.

As many EVs and their chargers are connected to private home networks, the likelihood is that the security protections are likely to be lower than a business network. Having gained this access, hackers could find the charger’s IP-address, allowing them to exploit any vulnerabilities and disrupt operations, such as disabling or damaging the vehicle or any others connected to the network.

EV charging security

“It’s very easy to forget that in a targeted attack, cybercriminals tend to look for the least-obvious elements to compromise in order to go under the radar and remain unnoticed,” said David Emm, Principal security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

“For this reason, it is important not only to investigate unresearched technical innovations, but also to look for vulnerabilities in accessories. Vendors must be very careful with connected vehicle devices, and initiate bug-bounties or ask cybersecurity experts to check their devices. We were fortunate in this case to have a positive response and a rapid patch of the devices, which helped to prevent potential attacks.”

The company says it reported the flaws to the affected carmaker, and that these have now been patched, but still recommends regular updates to all your smart devices, and changing passwords from the default.

Kaspersky Lab added that it recommends users isolate the smart home network from the network used by your or your family’s personal devices for basic Internet searching. This is to ensure that if a device is compromised with generic malware through a phishing email, your smart home system won’t be affected.

Stay safe online with the best antivirus of 2019

What’s New at Round Hill Hotel and Villas

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Dec. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The timeless Round Hill Hotel and Villas has been a beloved escape for travelers seeking a resort with rich history and modern luxury.

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Dec. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The timeless Round Hill Hotel and Villas has been a beloved escape for travelers seeking a resort with rich history and modern luxury. This year, Round Hill is introducing new additions and updates on property, including the renovation of four villas, redesigned lobby landscaping, the addition of three new Har-Tru green clay tennis courts, and more. These ongoing improvements to the property are one of many reasons why the resort has continuously been recognized as a leading luxury resort by the World Travel Awards. Also enticing travelers to Jamaica to escape the cold ahead are Round Hill’s seasonal offers, “Winter Warmth” and the “One Love.”

Managing Director of Round Hill, Josef Forstmayr, said he is thrilled about the award and to introduce the new renovations on property. “Round Hill is committed to continuously improving and maintaining the highest quality and standards since opening its doors in 1953,” said Mr. Forstmayr. “We are incredibly grateful to be recognized by the World Travel Awards, but we feel even more grateful that our loyal guests continue to return year after year.”

World Travel Awards
Round Hill Hotel and Villasis proud to announce its recent award as the “World’s Leading Villa Resort” at the 25th annual World Travel Awards. Each year, the World Travel Awards covers the globe to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries. Round Hill is committed to providing the best experience for new and returning guests and has been undergoing property upgrades throughout 2018 in an effort to remain one of the finest luxury resorts in the Caribbean.

Villa Renovations
Round Hill has recently unveiled the extensive renovation of four villas, including Villa 5, Villa 6, Villa 18, and Villa 22A. The upgrades include the installation of new flooring throughout each villa, as well as bathroom and kitchen renovations featuring modern fixtures, while continuing to maintain the uniquely relaxed charm of Round Hill’s aesthetic. The remodeling of several individual suites and new lush, tropical landscaping are also included.

Lobby Garden
The main hotel lobby garden has been beautifully redesigned with updated landscaping, as well as an intricately designed stone pathway, adding the feeling of a tropical-oasis for arriving guests.

New Tennis Courts
The resort has also renovated three (of the five) tennis courts, featuring three brand new Har-Tru green clay courts, which are the newest of its kind on the island.

Wright Life Eatery at the Round Hill Spa
New at Round Hill this winter season is the Wright Life Eatery with lunch offerings at the Round Hill Spa. Wright Life is the only live food eatery in Jamaica. The dishes (food and juices) are prepared with organic fruits and vegetables, no sugar, no preservatives. Guests may enjoy a protein shake with plant or hemp protein after their work out, or have a ginger shot to give that extra push. Or simply enjoy a healthy pizza or burger made from nuts and seeds.

Winter Season Packages
Travel to Round Hill has never been easier with two new special offers from the hotel for this winter season. Current offers include: The Winter Warmth package and the One Love package.

Guests who book the Winter Warmth offer will receive the fifth night free, complimentary Wi-Fi, daily afternoon tea and more. Guests who book the One Love package will receive the breakfast in bed on the first morning, a couples massage and round trip airport transfer.

For more information or to book an escape to Round Hill, visit www.roundhill.com

About Round Hill Hotel and Villas:
Round Hill Hotel and Villas is situated on a lush 110-acre peninsula just west of Montego Bay, Jamaica. Boasting a guest list of world leaders, cultural icons and Hollywood A-listers, this classic resort continues to attract a jet-set from around the world who enjoy timeless glamour and understated luxury along with pristine natural beaches and the inimitable Caribbean waters. Accommodations include 36 Ralph Lauren-designed oceanfront guest rooms, 90 luxurious villa rooms and suites or a selection of 27 private 2 – 6 bedroom Villas – most with private pools. Other highlights include open-air terrace dining and The Grill at Round Hill, award-winning family programs, an infinity pool, tennis courts, and an Elemis spa located in a beautifully-restored 18th century plantation house. For more information, please visit www.roundhill.com or call (876) 956-7050.

SOURCE Round Hill Hotel and Villas

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BICSI Announces 2019 Winter Conference & Exhibition Keynote Speakers

TAMPA, Fla., Dec. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — BICSI, the global association leading the advancement of the information and communications technology (ICT) community, is pleased to announce Shelly Palmer and Mike McCabe as the Keynote Speakers for the 2019 Winter Conference & Exhibition, to be held in Orlando, Florida on January 20-24.

TAMPA, Fla., Dec. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — BICSI, the global association leading the advancement of the information and communications technology (ICT) community, is pleased to announce Shelly Palmer and Mike McCabe as the Keynote Speakers for the 2019 Winter Conference & Exhibition, to be held in Orlando, Florida on January 20-24.

Named LinkedIn’s #1 Voice in Technology for 2017, Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on machine learning and data-driven decision-making. Palmer is well known as Fox 5 New York’s on-air tech expert and for his work on the Emmy-nominated television show, “Shelly Palmer Digital Living,” and is a regular technology commentator for CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox Business News.

Palmer also is the curator and host of technical briefings and floor tours for the Consumer Technology Association’s CES show, the world’s premier event for those involved in consumer technologies. During his interactive briefings, he highlights innovations being made in audio, wireless devices, wireless services, video and other topics. In his keynote address at BICSI’s Winter Conference, Palmer will share his vast insight on digital media and technologies that are transforming the way we live and work.

Mike McCabe is a highly decorated, experienced leader, former admiral and corporate CEO, who teaches others to lead teams to reach their potential. As head of all Naval Aviation, McCabe oversaw some of the deepest technological shifts and changes in the U.S. Navy.

In addition to being a retired CEO/President of a large commercial charter airline, the Executive Officer of TOPGUN and contributing to “Top Gun,” the movie, McCabe is a survivor of air combat, 9/11 attacks and intestinal cancer. Embodying the spirit of “Glad To Be Here®,” his keynote will bring his storied experience and passion to helping teams and leaders.

The BICSI Winter Conference showcases 31 technical-based conference sessions; an expansive Exhibit Hall featuring the industry’s leading technology and services providers, and special presentations in the BICSI Theater on new and emerging technologies. Attendees will hear from international industry experts presenting on the latest advancements in the world of ICT. Just a few of the conference presentations include:

Modern Intelligent Buildings and Their Role in the Network-Connected Economy Video: Transmission Choices and Network Impacts Arena Wi-Fi Installation Challenges – UF Exactech Arena Case Study The Millennial RCDD – The Evolution of ICT Connecting the World: Specifying Structured Cabling for International Markets

“We are thrilled to have Shelly Palmer and Mike McCabe join us as featured Winter Conference keynote speakers,” said BICSI President Jeff Beavers, RCDD, OSP, CFHP. “The benefit gleaned from such strong, world-renowned presenters is immeasurable and a true value to our conference program. Attendees can take what they learn during the BICSI technical sessions and combine it with the emerging technologies and principles of leadership our keynotes will share, to add value to a rewarding career in ICT.”

More information and registration for the 2019 BICSI Winter Conference & Exhibition can be found at bicsi.org/winter.

About BICSI

BICSI is a professional association supporting advancing the information and communications technology (ICT) community. ICT covers the spectrum of voice, data, electronic safety & security, project management and audio & video technologies.

Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, USA, BICSI membership spans nearly 100 countries.

SOURCE BICSI

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Best Buy announces ‘Nick of Time’ sale for last minute deals on gadgets – CNET

We’re in the heat of the holiday shopping season, but Best Buy isn’t done unveiling new deals.

On Thursday, Best Buy announced its “Nick of Time” sale.

We’re in the heat of the holiday shopping season, but Best Buy isn’t done unveiling new deals.

On Thursday, Best Buy announced its “Nick of Time” sale. The promo kicks off Friday Dec. 14 and only runs for three days.

Best Buy highlighted some of the upcoming discounts, including:

Up to $150 on iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus with qualified activation Up to $200 on MacBook Pro Touchbar Beats by Dr. Dre urBeats³ Earphones for $40 (Save $60) Samsung 65-inch Smart 4K UHD TV with HDR for $600 (Save $200) Save $400 on Lenovo Yoga 920 2-in-1 13.9-inch Touch-Screen Laptop (Sale price: $900) Save $300 to $500 on the Samsung Galaxy Note8, S8 or S8+ with qualified activation Neato Botvac D5 Robot Vacuum for $349 (Save $250) Save $15 on Instax Cameras LG 300W Sound Bar for $120 (Save $160)HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop 690-0024 for $730 (Save $100) 25-inch Alienware LED FHD Monitor for $350 (Save $250) Buy three Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance A19 Wi-Fi Smart LED Bulbs for $100

These deals will be available online at bestbuy.com and in-store.

The “Nick of Time” promo is just one of many post-Black Friday sales. Good news for people who still have shopping to do.


The best tech gifts of 2018
55 Photos

Best Buy is also having a 20 Days of Doorbusters sale until Dec. 20, where it’ll announce a new deal each day. Between these two promotions, you may be able to save a chunk of change on certain tech products.

Plus, if you order before Dec. 20, you’ll get free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Dec. 25. You can also buy online and pick up at a local Best Buy store.

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