Destiny 2 news, updates and DLC

Update: Good news for Destiny 2 fans who own an Amazon Alexa-enabled device – you have a new skill to try out! Announced by Amazon and Activision at the recent AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, the Ghost Skill will allow players to control their in-game guide and companion through their Alexa device.

Update: Good news for Destiny 2 fans who own an Amazon Alexa-enabled device – you have a new skill to try out! Announced by Amazon and Activision at the recent AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, the Ghost Skill will allow players to control their in-game guide and companion through their Alexa device.

For example, when playing the game it’ll be possible to say “Alexa, as Ghost to” and request anything from information on which of your friends are online, what you should pursue next in the game, or find out more about the in-game world. Conveniently, this takes away the need to click through menus for certain actions and has the potential to streamline gameplay.

This is the first time this kind of skill has been created for a voice assistant and according to Activision, the aim is to bring a part of the game into the player’s real world and make it more immersive as a result.

Voiced by Nolan North the skill is available to download for free from the Alexa app now.

For anyone that would like even more of Destiny 2 in their home, Amazon also announced a limited edition Destiny 2 Ghost speaker. This WiFi enabled speaker looks like in-game Ghost and even uses Nolan North’s voice to respond to your enquiries. However, it’s worth noting it does still require an Alexa-enabled device such as an Echo Dot in your home so it doesn’t work on its own.

The speaker is available for pre-order now from Amazon for £79.99/ $89.99 and it’ll be available from December 19.

Original article continues below…

Destiny 2 has arrived on all platforms but though the game has finally been released that doesn’t mean the news and updates are going to stop – this is a game that’s only going to grow over time.

With that in mind, we’ve created a one stop shop for all of your Destiny 2 update needs. Here you’ll find the latest news on what’s being added to the game and when updates are coming.

It is, however, still early days so in the meantime why not take a look at our definitive Destiny 2 review to get an idea of whether or not this is the game for you. Convinced it is? Then you might be interested in our tips and tricks for getting started. Whether you’re completely new to the Destiny universe or just need to brush up on all that jargon, this guide will ease you in.

Read on below for our pre-release coverage of the game.

Cut to the chaseWhat is it? The highly-anticipated follow up to MMO shooter DestinyWhen it is out? September 6, 2017 on console and October 24 on PCWhat can I play it on? PS4, Xbox One and PCDestiny 2 developers: Bungie and High Moon StudiosDestiny 2 publisher: Activision BlizzardPlanned improvements

Following some rather critical player feedback, Destiny 2 developer Bungie has announced that it’s going to be making some changes to the game over the coming months. The changes were detailed in a long blog post in which the game’s designer and director acknowledged the need to be more transparent and communicative with players.

A big issue that has risen with the game recently is that players were being misled with regards to the number of experience points they were earning. This was fixed with a hasty patch over the Thanksgiving period. However, it was just another problem for players who had already been reporting issues with a lack of variety in the game and PS4 exclusive content.

Many of the changes Bungie announced in its blog post will be coming as soon as December when the Curse of Osiris DLC is released, but others won’t appear until 2018.

The first changes, Bungie has said, will mainly make quality-of-life improvements to the game by giving players more rewards and more opportunities to spend their Legendary Shards. When 2018 rolls around further improvements will see better rewards for Prestige activities, Adventures and Lost Sectors, and private matches will come to the Crucible.

The full list of improvements is extensive and can be found on the official blog post.

DLC

Expansion I: The Curse Of Osiris

Not long at all after its release on consoles Destiny 2’s first DLC was confirmed as The Curse of Osiris.

The DLC was first reported by Kotaku and subsequently spotted in an Xbox Store listing where it says the expansion will take the player to the planet Mercury and something called the Infinite Forest to continue their “Guardian’s journey with all-new story missions and adventures.”

In the game they’ll ”Journey through time and space to learn the secrets of Osiris, avert a dark future, and rebuild the ties between the legendary Warlock and his greatest student—Ikora Rey.“

According to this listing there’s also going to be new story missions, themes weapons, armor and gear, new cooperative activities, new competitive multiplayer arenas and more besides.

The DLC was later confirmed at Sony’s Paris Games Week showcase where the release date was announced to be December 5. This DLC will mark the first appearance of the legendary Warlock via a brand new storyline.

It was also announced there’ll be new raid content, a new Mercury patrol area and the return of Destiny 1’s lighthouse as a third social space.

PlayStation owners will have exclusive access to a Crucible map, set in Titan’s New Pacific Arcology.

You can watch the trailer below:

Pre-release information
Destiny 2 trailers and screenshots

At Gamescom 2017 in Cologne we were treated to a launch trailer. With a mix of CGI and in-game footage this trailer sets up the high-octane excitement we’ve come to expect from Destiny very well. You can watch it for yourself below:

Destiny 2 got a brand-new trailer at Sony’s E3 2017 Keynote on Monday, June 12 that shows the three new classes in action and re-affirming the game’s September 6, 2017 release date.

We also learned that gamers that buy the game on Sony systems will receive an exclusive strike, ship, weapon and PVP maps.

That’s a compelling reason for guardians to go for PS4 over the other systems, although PC gamers will be the only platform with 4K.

Is that enough to persuade gamers to Sony’s systems? Check out the trailer and decide for yourself.

Destiny 2 PC

Bungie confirmed a PC release on the day it released the game’s debut trailer and now there’s no looking back. Only forward to its October 24 release. Bungie has said, however, it won’t be available on Steam.

This is a very good thing considering that PC gamers are clamoring for Destiny 2 – and it’s a perfect fit for the platform, which has long been the spiritual home of the MMO. It will also give Bungie access to a huge new audience.

And if that news wasn’t good enough, Bungie is going to reward to the PC faithful by making the PC version of the game 4K compatible. Yep, your favorite shooter is now going to have a 3840 × 2160 resolution.

Here’s images of the game in 4K to whet your appetite.

But its resolution isn’t the only unique thing about the game’s PC launch.

We’ve also learned recently that the game is going to be exclusive to Battle.net when it does come to PC … which, as it turns out, might be a few weeks after the console version is released. Destiny will be the first non-Blizzard game to be made available on Battle.net, however, so that’s quite an honor.

In terms of additional features, Activision has confirmed that the game will support text-chat on PC and will feature HDR graphics; plus Nvidia announced at Gamescom 2017 that it will support SLI, if you are a fan of using more than one video card, and 21:9 aspect ratio for if you like using more than one monitor.

PC hands on preview impressions

As Destiny 2 is the franchise’s debut on PC, I was excited to get hands on with the game at this year’s E3 to get even a small sense of how the massive multiplayer first-person online so popular on consoles would feel with a mouse and keyboard.

I got the chance to try out the very first mission of Destiny 2’s single-player campaign mode. Called Homecoming, the mission throws players right into the action of the invasion of The Last City lead by Cabal Red Legion commander Dominus Ghaul.

I might as well make it clear right now, I am absolutely not a PC gamer. Though I had played the original Destiny on console, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the game on PC as keyboard and mouse controls are utterly unfamiliar to me.

Keyboard is key

It’s to Destiny 2 on PC’s credit, then, that I found the keyboard controls very intuitive and clearly laid out. Nothing is lost by using keyboard and mouse, and gunplay felt as sharp smooth and satisfying as it does on console.

In fact, with the game running in 4K at a speedy 60 frames per second it might have been even better.

Something that was enjoyable about the game’s first mission was that despite it being a single-player mode in a game that’s more focused on multiplayer experiences, I didn’t feel abandoned and lonely when playing.

The planets are alive with the sound of NPCs

This is because Bungie has integrated its NPC characters into the campaign; characters like Ikora and Cayde-6 are there fighting alongside you and being an active and vocal part of the action. Not to mention the cutscenes.

In the short mission I played, the game’s environments were rich and detailed with an exciting sense of scale and life. The foreground of the action puts you in a crumbling almost completely destroyed city that feels like it’s coming down on top of you. Look past this though and you’ll see an expansive horizon filled with enemy ships.

Basically, this was a much more cinematic experience than anything the original Destiny offered and it made playing alone more exciting as a result.

Cinematic campaign

It’s worth going back to the fact that we noted the mission was short, though. I’m not sure if it was for demo purposes but I was surprised by how quickly I managed to make my way through it so we hope other sections of the campaign run slightly longer if only just to allow us to savor the experience.

Though we’ve only experienced a small part of it, we feel like it’s safe to say Destiny 2 is going to feel as fun and at home on PC as it does on console, if not more so with the extra effort Bungie has put in with its tailored PC version.

If the rest of the campaign looks and feels as good as the part we played, and the multiplayer is up to shape we don’t doubt fans will love it and newcomers will flock to it.

The PC version may be coming later but from what we can see, it’ll be worth the wait.

Destiny 2 features

Clans

Improving on Groups from the original Destiny, Clans will be an important feature in Destiny 2 that will allow players to team up and organize games for online multiplayer.

The structure of Clans in Destiny 2 will be similar to that of Groups: they’ll be capped at 100 members and those with Destiny 2 accounts will be able to be a member of one Clan per platform. The way they’ll differ, however, is in their new abilities and features. The biggest change is Guided Games, a new matchmaking system for Raids and Nightfall Strikes. With this system existing Clans that perhaps don’t have enough members for a higher-level missions will be able to seek another player outside their Clan in order to have a full party. This benefits high-level players who aren’t members of Clans as well as the Clans themselves.

Clan members can also invite other players to join their Clan from within the game and all members of a Clan will receive rewards for each others’ successes. What these rewards are is still unclear.

Bungie is making it possible for players to transfer their Groups from Destiny into Clans in Destiny 2 before the game’s release which should mean a thriving online multiplayer community as soon as the game is released.

Clan leaders are now able to visit Bungie.net and decide whether or not they want to move their Group over to Destiny 2. They’ll be able to transfer their title and permissions to another member if they feel they’ll need a better and more committed leader for the new game.

According to Bungie, this migration period will last for one month, after which the Clan creation service will go live on Bungie.net.

A cinematic story

Gamers will be glad to hear that the developers are placing more emphasis on the story and characters this time around. “The cornerstone…is a great cinematic story,” Activision exec Eric Hirshberg said earlier this year. “That’s been a real focus with a great cast of memorable, relatable characters.”

In our short hands on with game’s first campaign mission we definitely think Bungie have been successful here. We got a much greater sense of scale, spectacle and life here than we did in the original Destiny.

Goodbye Grimoire

As part of putting more emphasis on story and characters, Destiny 2 will drop Grimoire cards. Those who played the original Destiny game will know that Grimoire cards were cards unlocked for completing tasks in the game.

Unfortunately, they were only accessibly on the web, not in the actual game itself, which basically meant much of the game’s core lore and story was inaccessible while playing.

World design lead, Steve Cotton told Forbes that this time around there will be no Grimoire cards as the team want to keep most of the lore in the game itself and tell the story through the missions, characters and scannables.

Lots of expansions

This is hardly unexpected given the success of Destiny’s myriad updates and add-ons, but Activision has confirmed that it has “follow-on content plans” for Destiny 2. That likely means the team will be listening to players and tailoring the future experience – expect fresh content, gameplay changes, and cosmetic add-ons.

More accessible for “casual players”

‘Casual’ has become a bit of a dirty word in some gaming circles, but Activision and Bungie are clear about their intention to make their game more open to all. “We’ve made it more accessible to someone who just wants to have a great more casual first-person action experience… without losing anything that our core players love,” Hirschberg said. What that means in practice is not clear, but we hope it means a game with less grinding and more varied gameplay.

Character continuity with the first game (to some extent)

We don’t know how Destiny 2 will handle player’s Guardians from the first game (more on that in the rumours section below), but we know there will be some continuity. “That idea is that the Guardian you have created is something you can bring along with you on that adventure,” Community Manager David Dague told IGN in 2014. “If you take a look at the way people have played other games for a long period of time, they’ve had a relationship with the same character for a very long time.” Intriguing.

Micromax Canvas Infinity Pro launched with dual front cameras, 18:9 display

Micromax has launched its latest device, the Canvas Infinity Pro today in India. The device is an upgraded variant of the Micromax Canvas Infinity that was launched back in August this year.

Micromax has launched its latest device, the Canvas Infinity Pro today in India. The device is an upgraded variant of the Micromax Canvas Infinity that was launched back in August this year. The main highlights of the device are its dual front camera setup and the 18:9 display with minimal bezels.

Micromax had launched the Canvas Infinity with a 5.7-inch HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 18:9 and minimal bezels on the sides with a price tag of Rs. 9,999. Now, the company has launched the Canvas Infinity Pro that comes with a similar display, upgraded processor, increased memory, improved cameras and a slightly bigger battery.

Micromax Canvas Infinity Pro specifications

The Micromax Canvas Infinity Pro runs on Android 7.1 Nougat and features a 5.7-inch HD+ 2.5D curved glass display with a resolution of 1440 x 720 pixels and an aspect ratio of 18:9. The display is same as what we saw on the Canvas Infinity.

In terms of performance, the company has improved the device. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor clubbed with Adreno 505 GPU. The device comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage which can be further expanded up to 128GB via a microSD card.

Coming to the camera department, the device features a 16MP primary camera with an LED flash. On the front, the device sports a dual camera setup consisting of a 20MP primary camera and an 8MP secondary camera. It comes with a Soft LED flash for improved low-light images.

The Micromax Canvas Pro is powered by a 3,000mAh battery, which is 100mAh bigger than the Canvas Infinity. Connectivity options on the device include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS.

Price and Availability

The Micromax Canvas Infinity has been priced at Rs. 13,999 and will be available in Black colour option exclusively from Flipkart starting from December 6.

LG Q6 vs Micromax Canvas Infinity

How to get the best Wi-Fi coverage this Christmas

Christmas is all about the latest technology trends, and this year most wish lists will be topped with big ticket items like the Sony PS4 Pro, XBox One X or the latest smart TV.

Christmas is all about the latest technology trends, and this year most wish lists will be topped with big ticket items like the Sony PS4 Pro, XBox One X or the latest smart TV.

So whether you’re playing new releases or streaming your favourite festive films, you need a strong Internet connection that has the capacity to manage these devices all at once.

If you’re struggling to achieve complete coverage throughout your home with your router alone, then you could be saying ‘bah humbug’ on the big day.

Introducing devolo’s ‘whole home’ Wi-Fi solution

Wi-Fi can be unreliable for various reasons, from the placement of your router to the thickness of your walls. Luckily, devolo has got the perfect solution to bring Christmas cheer and resolve the issue of poor Wi-Fi coverage.

Devolo’s dLAN 1200+ WiFi Powerline adapter is the ultimate ‘whole home’ Wi-Fi fix.

Using your electrical circuit to provide new hotspots around the home with connection speeds of up to 1200Mbps, it works by connecting one of the adapters to your router and placing another adapter into a socket in a room with poor Wi-Fi signal.

The Wi-Fi signal is then passed through your electrical circuit to the adapter – the signal isn’t ‘stretched’ so your connection maintains strength.

All adapters are fitted with their own pass-through socket so you don’t have to worry about losing an outlet and it won’t affect your signal.

The great thing about the devolo Powerline adapter is that it allows you to use multiple adapters across your home, so you can extend your signal all the way to the attic, basement or even the ‘get away from it all’ shed.

Devolo’s GigaGate WiFi Bridge can also extend your Wi-Fi, so if your living room has a strong connection but your upstairs office is lacking coverage, you can connect the GigaGate WiFi Bridge to carry your router’s signal.

The connection is lightning-fast and up to 2Gbps, achieved simply by plugging the base unit into your router and placing the satellite unit where the connection is needed, whether that’s for TVs or games consoles that need an extra boost.

The GigaGate WiFi Bridge is a powering piece of kit, but it’s also one that can be extended thanks to the devolo GigaGate Satellite units. The main unit uses 4 x 4 Quantenna Technology that enables it to provide effective wireless connections.

Up to eight satellite units can be connected to expand your home network. They all have four Ethernet ports, a fifth high-speed Gigabit LAN port for extra connectivity options and each Satellite is a strong Wi-Fi access point.

With devolo’s dLAN 1200+ WiFi and GigaGate, getting great connectivity in time for Christmas is simple.

Winner Wonderland 2017 – CNET

The most wonderful CNET giveaway of the year is finally here! 🎁

We want to wish you a happy holiday season with a ton of prizes and extra ways of being one of the 10 lucky winners.

The most wonderful CNET giveaway of the year is finally here! 🎁

We want to wish you a happy holiday season with a ton of prizes and extra ways of being one of the 10 lucky winners. Here’s the scoop: the prize changes daily to get bigger and better. You can enter every day from Dec. 4 until Dec. 13 using the same form you see below, and you can get up to 10 extra entries by sharing the personal link you get at the end of the registration, but keep a close eye on the count of your referrals because you only 10 per day.

Now Playing:Watch this: Best TVs for the 2017 holidays
1:58

And now, let’s talk about the prizes – they are fun, useful, and smart. Here they are by day, and don’t forget to click on the links to find out more about the products you may be taking home.

Day 1: We start the giveaway with a Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug.

Day 2: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug and Sphero Mini with a special CNET shell.

Day 3: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini Robot Ball; and Apple TV 2017.

Day 4: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini Robot Ball; Apple TV 2017; and Philips Hue White A19 2-Pack 60W Light Bulbs.

Day 5: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini Robot Ball; Apple TV 2017; Philips Hue White A19 2-Pack 60W Light Bulbs; and Amazon Echo (2017).

Day 6: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini Robot Ball; Apple TV 2017; Philips Hue White A19 2-Pack 60W Light Bulbs; Amazon Echo (2017); and Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit.

Day 7: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini Robot Ball; Apple TV 2017; Philips Hue White A19 2-Pack 60W Light Bulbs; Amazon Echo (2017); Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit; and Sphero R2-D2.

Day 8: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini; Apple TV 2017; Philips Hue White A19 2-Pack 60W Light Bulbs; Amazon Echo (2017); Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit; Sphero R2-D2; and Google Wifi.

Day 9: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini Robot Ball; Apple TV 2017; Philips Hue White A19 2-Pack 60W Light Bulbs; Amazon Echo (2017); Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit; Sphero R2-D2; Google Wifi; and Amazon Cloud Cam.

Day 10: Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug; Sphero Mini Robot Ball; Philips Hue White A19 2-Pack 60W Light Bulbs; Amazon Echo (2017); Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit; Sphero R2-D2; Google Wifi; Amazon Cloud Cam; and PS4 Pro.


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For the tech splurge: Best gifts under $250

What do you need to do to enter? Please read our rules carefully, fill out the form, and agree to receive our CNET Insider, Smart Home and Appliances and How-To newsletters (you can opt out at any time) and keep in mind that we are only giving away the prizes listed and not any subscriptions that may come with their services.

Use this calendar invite to remind yourself to stop by each day to add an additional entry — it just takes a minute!

Here’s how to add this to your calendar:

Google Calendar: Download the calendar invite. Then on the calendar page, click on the gear icon and choose Settings. Click the calendar tab, Import Calendar, and the Browse button to select the invite you downloaded. Then click Import.

Apple Calendar or Outlook: Simply click on this invite.

Good luck, everyone, and please tell us which prize you’re most excited about in the comments section below.

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10 gadget stocking stuffers gifts that are under $100

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the best tech presents for 2017 conveniently fit into a stocking, or at least costs less than $100. Good things come in small, inexpensive packages, too.

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the best tech presents for 2017 conveniently fit into a stocking, or at least costs less than $100. Good things come in small, inexpensive packages, too.

Sure, big gifts are always exciting, but they’re also expensive and usually not what you can offer a friend, coworker, or relative who is not in your immediate family. That’s a real dilemma.

That why we have outlined 10 of the most exciting stocking stuffers you may have overlooked, but are scrambling to find before the holidays.

Here are the best gift ideas for under $100.

The Amazon Echo Dot ties your emerging smart home together better than red ribbon ties together presents. This mini Alexa speaker is just $29.99 right now on Amazon, and it has the smarts to play music, control lights and answer questions. It’s the smart, affordable gift that that just right for so many people on your shopping list this year.

The Fitbit Charge HR is still going strong in 2017 and it’s mainly because of the price: this is one of the few top-performing activity trackers for under $100. It goes beyond basic step counting and traditional calories burned metrics thanks to the heart rate monitor, as the HR name suggests. It also analyzes sleep and sets a silent alarm that vibrates for a peaceful wake up.

Finding the Tile Mate & Slim Combo Pack in your stocking means a new year of finding precious items you always lose all of the time. Keys, wallets, purses and backpack benefit the most from this tiny Bluetooth tracker. It can attach to a key chain, slip into a bag or stick to the back of an iPad or TV remote. This four-pack gives you your best value at $69.99.

Soft drinks are expensive and unhealthy, so a good alternative for a 2018 New Year’s resolution is the SodaStream Genesis Home Sparkling Water Soda Maker. At just $49.99, this gift conveniently puts the creation of carbonated drinks in your hands. Just choose your level of carbonation and flavor and you can go from tap water to sparkling water instantly. Your hardest decision will be choosing whether the black or silver design blends in your kitchen.

Instant cameras are all the rage right now and the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is the best and most convenient out there at $59.95. It has all of the great features of the Mini 8 plus the added bonus of a selfie mirror and fun new colors. Whether you go with Flamingo Pink, Ice Blue, Lime Green, Cobalt Blue, or Smokey White you are going to hit big with this popular gadget gift that’s almost like an instant Instagram camera.

Goodbye Withings Scale, hello Nokia Body+ Wi-Fi Scale. Nokia has rebranded the popular smart scale, but it remains one of the best ways to track and lose weight. It can monitor weight, body fat, water percentage, and even muscle and bone mass. It automatically syncs to an app so you can track your weight loss over time, and it helps you set a calorie budget to reach your weight goals. This high-tech scale can even give you the daily weather forecast.

The Oral B Pro 5000 is the Bluetooth, app-connected toothbrush that lets you properly manage your mouth in between dentist visits. This electric toothbrush tracks your brushing habits right on your phone while also giving you oral care tips and the weather. Maybe the best part is the pressure sensor that tells you when you’re pressing too hard against your enamel. It can be the tooth saver your life has been missing.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick now comes in 4K, allowing you to put Amazon Video tv shows and movies as well as thousands of apps on your big-screen TV with the added benefit of the maximum available resolution. That means Amazon and Netflix video in Ultra HD and HDR, and the bonus here is that the remote lets Alexa find programs for you to watch, all with the direction of your voice.

You (or someone you’re gifting to) is probably going to spend money on an iTunes in 2018. Music, movies, apps, games and books cost money, and there’s nothing better than remembering you have a gift card balance attached to your Apple account. Sometimes, you can even get iTunes Gift cards at a discount, letting you spend less and give more. How many times does that happen during the holidays?

This is the lightsaber of Amazon Prime members everywhere. It scans barcodes to reorder products around your kitchen and house, and queues them up in your Amazon basket. You can also tell the built-in Alexa system what you want or ask it questions. It’s one of the cheapest ways to get Alexa in your hand, and Amazon currently has a promotion essentially making it free.

Vodafone announces NBN plans with 4G backup during installation or repairs

Vodafone might be a tad late in joining NBN bandwagon, being the last major Australian telco to announce its NBN service, but the company is doing so in style.

Starting today, Vodafone NBN plans are available in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Geelong and Newcastle with some interesting perks.

Vodafone might be a tad late in joining NBN bandwagon, being the last major Australian telco to announce its NBN service, but the company is doing so in style.

Starting today, Vodafone NBN plans are available in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Geelong and Newcastle with some interesting perks.

Vodafone is offering a 30-day network satisfaction guarantee – you can leave Vodafone within 30 days if you’re not happy with the service – and a 4G backup service made instantly available during installation or when a fault has been detected in a customer’s line.

The backup service will make use of the telco’s mobile network and will work through a Wi-Fi Hub that Vodafone will provide at no extra cost on a 24-month plan or for $150 upfront on a month-to-month plan. The 4G backup will be available for up to 30 days with maximum download speeds of 12Mbps.

Planning ahead

Plans start at $70 for unlimited broadband and Vodafone promises that customers can change speed plans once per billing cycle with no fees incurred.

Speed checks will also be conducted for FTTN and FTTB connections within the first 15 days of installation.

To celebrate the launch of its NBN service, Vodafone is currently offering customers in the aforementioned five locations three months free on a 24-month plan, with the offer expiring January 31, 2018.

The Vodafone NBN rollout will continue over 2018, but you can check if Vodafone’s NBN is available in your location by heading to the telco’s website. A complete list of plans are also available on the site.

Looking for a broadband plan? Find the best one that suits your needs by comparing 40 providers.NBN speed tiers: everything you need to knowHow to test your NBN speed

7 kitchen appliances that will make you give cooking a try – CNET

It can be scary when you finally decide to take cooking seriously, especially if you’re more of a ramen-noodles-and-pizza-rolls type of chef. Fortunately, companies have made products that have made cooking more approachable by getting rid of some of the guesswork, addressing safety concerns and giving you some step-by-step instructions.

It can be scary when you finally decide to take cooking seriously, especially if you’re more of a ramen-noodles-and-pizza-rolls type of chef. Fortunately, companies have made products that have made cooking more approachable by getting rid of some of the guesswork, addressing safety concerns and giving you some step-by-step instructions.

Here are seven small appliances we reviewed this year that will give you a hand in the kitchen. Some of these products are pricey, so make sure you’re ready to make the investment in your cooking skills.

Dash Rapid Egg Cooker

If you have a hard time mastering a boiled eggs, start with the $20 Dash Rapid Egg Cooker. This tiny countertop cooker offers an affordable way to poach, boil and steam eggs without much effort. It’s easy to use, clean and doesn’t make a mess.

Hestan Cue

The $500 Hestan Cue uses Bluetooth to connect a pan, a countertop induction burner and an app to walk you through recipes and regulate your cooking temperature. The app’s recipes are delicious, and the accompanying instructional videos make it easy to improve your cooking skills.

iGuardStove Intelligent

Are you forgetful when it comes to leaving things on the stove? The $495 iGuardStove Intelligent is designed to help prevent kitchen fires. Once it’s enabled, it automatically shuts off your electric stove if you leave your cooking unattended, whether you’re using the oven or the cooktop. The iGuardStove Intelligent’s built-in Wi-Fi keeps you updated about how often the system has to shut down off your stove and send you alerts if it’s happening a little too often.

Meater

The $69 Meater wireless temperature probe is a good way to get over any anxiety you might have about whether your meat is throughly cooked. Meater measures internal temperature of meat at its pointed end and ambient temperature at its wider end. It connects via Bluetooth to your device, so you can easily track the internal temperature of your food while it cooks.

Mellow

The $400 Mellow is a Wi-Fi-enabled countertop sous vide machine that creates a temperature-controlled water bath in which you cook food that’s been vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag. But unlike similar appliances, the Mellow will also chill your water bath until you’re ready for it to heat your meal. So you can throw your food in a bag, schedule when you want it to be ready and go about your day without having to worry about overcooking.

Tovala Smart Oven

The $400 Tovala Smart Oven is one of a growing number of smart countertop ovens we’ve seen. You scan the bar code from Tovala’s prepackaged, refrigerated meals on the the oven and the appliance automatically cooks them. The Tovala meals are a gigantic leap ahead of the TV dinners you’re familiar with, and you do enough prep work as well as finishing that you feel like you’ve had a hand in producing a tasty meal.

Wallflower

The $170 Wallflower is like a pared-down version of the iGuardStove Intelligent. You insert the smart plug into your wall outlet and plug your electric stove into the Wallflower. You can use the Wallflower’s app to check your stove’s status, and it will send you an alert if it detects that you’re away from home while the stove is still on.


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These kitchen gadgets made an impression in 2017

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Project ZeroPhone: the ambitious DIY Raspberry Pi phone

The growth of open hardware is undeniable and we’ve had high-profile smartphone projects appearing such as Purism’s security- and privacy-focused Librem 5 smartphone.

The ZeroPhone project led by Arsenijs Picugins is no less ambitious but much less expensive.

The growth of open hardware is undeniable and we’ve had high-profile smartphone projects appearing such as Purism’s security- and privacy-focused Librem 5 smartphone.

The ZeroPhone project led by Arsenijs Picugins is no less ambitious but much less expensive. As we started this interview we noted, with some irony, his apologies for the intermittent mobile connection as he’s taking a break away from his home city of Riga to enjoy the countryside of neighbouring Lithuania.

While you’ll be able to make calls and send SMS with Picugin’s ZeroPhone, it isn’t as cutting edge as Purism’s smartphone. Instead, it sits firmly in the middle of the makery and hacking spirit that powers the big budget open hardware projects.

The phone’s design is pragmatic, with its use of the raspberry Pi Zero, surface-mounted switches and 1.3-inch, 128 x 64 monochrome OLED screen, but it’s a clever approach to a DIY Pi phone and Picugins, a 22-year-old student from Latvia, is hoping other enthusiasts will snap it up as a kit when he launches a crowdfund to cover manufacturing costs.

In its current form, the ZeroPhone is a Raspberry Pi Zero in a ‘PCB sandwich’ that has Wi-Fi (using an eSP8266), HDMI and audio outputs, a free full-sized USB host port and a micro-USB port for charging. One feature that has caught the attention of hardware hackers is the use of GPIO expansion headers for hardware add-ons and customisation – Picugins is still working on a 3G modem (more on that later). On the coding side, it uses Python and has a UI toolkit designed to make app development quick and easy.

Question: The big question is can you assemble a phone from easily available parts, using cheap boards running Linux?

Arsenijs Picugins: Well, I’m making sure it’s the case. Right now there are two people who are trying to assemble the phone independently. It’s a slow project and I don’t yet have all the assembly instructions published and polished, which is one of the things that I’m trying to finish for the Hackaday Prize deadline that’s in 20 days. But it’s one of the selling points from the beginning, as it’s possible. You can get components that make up a phone together, unite those components together and just assemble the whole thing and put some solder on it. This is pretty much what manufacturers do […]. Of course, they assemble the phones by using a lot of automation.

Arsenijs Picugins is 22-years-old and the creator of ZeroPhone. He’s taken time out from his university studies to concentrate on projects like the phone and helps manage the Make Riga Hackerspace

Q: Do you have to be reasonably competent at soldering to do this?

AP: Yes, I don’t think assembling this phone is suitable as a first-time project in soldering. I think it’s a second- or third-time project. Also, a large part of soldering can be automated [Picugins has access to a Pick&Place machine in the Riga hackerspace]. So I can provide kits with the hard-to-solder parts already assembled. Even then, without hard-to-solder parts already on, people still can assemble it themselves – I can just have to simplify the process.

For example, there’s a Github where all the schematics and board files are available. One example of hard-to-solder parts that are easy to automate are buttons – you don’t have to sell just the keypad and buttons separately. I can just solder them on and sell it to people like that in the form of kits. The parts that are either hard or expensive to automate, this is something that would be economical and reasonable to let the recipient do, because otherwise I’m afraid it will drive the price point too high.

Q: So you’re keen to keep it around $50 (around £37) for all the components?

AP: For all the bits, yes. But this is how much the bits cost, bill of materials. Right now it’s around $40 (around £30) and I might add $5 of components, but then if I’m selling kits myself and have to package them, test them and ship them, then the kits aren’t going to cost $50. But I want to stay below at least the $100 (around £75) mark, because it’s a psychological limit above which it’s harder to justify spending money on something.

Q: For the phone itself, what’s the situation with software? What OS are you using?

AP: So there’s an operating system which is Raspbian Linux. But Linux itself works great, because it’s on a Raspberry Pi. Among all things Raspberry Pi is famous for is software support. It’s really great, even though there are closed source bits, which are sometimes problematic. I think it’s one of the best for support right now, when speaking about single-board computers. They have the resources and take user feedback into account.

Q: So it’ll be running a cut-down version of the Raspbian distribution?

AP: It’s without the desktop environment. There’s a Raspbian Lite distribution and that’s what I’m using and it makes sense to run something without a desktop (by default) on a small phone like this. Speaking about the UI, right now it’s Python powered. There are no X server drivers, or something like Gnome native Linux support for it, so it’s a tad problematic, but there still isn’t a good UI framework for Linux phones with small screens. There are all types of Android frameworks, but I don’t know of any UI framework that I could use even if the screen had a frame buffer, so there just isn’t such a thing except for what I’ve developed.

So I had the option of using something of my own or using some kind of library for the screen and writing all the applications myself and not use all the terminal utilities that are available or I could spend a lot of time to make some kind of frame buffer bindings and then put up with the illegibility of the console because it doesn’t have enough characters – it can only have the standard 24 to 8 characters on screen, when standard is 80 x 24 and some apps require that. So I had to roll something of my own. [This interface was based on of one of Picugins’s earlier hackaday projects called pyLCI – see here.]

Q: Do you think down the line, you might go for a higher-resolution screen?

AP: Like touchscreen? Looking at the situation with screens that you could connect to the Raspberry Pi, the thing is this is one of most reasonable solutions as the interfaces that Raspberry Pi provides do not give that much leeway to work with. For example, there is an SPI interface, but the refresh rate is not going to be good and there’s not going to be hardware acceleration. There’s HDMI, but screens that use HDMI usually consume plenty of power. That would also complicate the hardware design, because HDMI lines require a lot of attention because of the requirements of the PCB layout.

There’s also DSI interface: it’s the interface to go [with] if you want to make a portable device with a large screen, but it’s neither accessible on the Pi Zero which I’m using, [nor] is it documented. They’ve not documented that interface and do not provide an API to connect your own screens. I have one interface that I can reasonably use for a mobile and that’s SPI, but the refresh rate is not that good for large screens. You can have SPI screens that are well built, but you’re basically limited to Adafruit or Sparkfun or some Waveshare product, but I didn’t want to specifically limit it to that selection as it’s not that accessible to me. They really don’t have much interest here.

Q: You’re saying distribution is limited?

AP: Yes, exactly. Also, this small screen is an interesting limitation. It’s an interesting mental exercise thinking about how to fit everything into such a small screen; make the interface usable and use physical buttons to a large extent […]. It works and it’s still cheap and it’s also a simple way.

With access to a Pick&Place machine at his local hackerspace, Picugins will be able to automatically pre-solder some parts of the kit

Q: In one of your posts somebody was looking at coming up with a different way to work with the UI? You’ve got people wanting to help collaborate?

AP: Yes, absolutely, people helped. There was a small road block from my side because I couldn’t send out hardware to contributors for quite some time, due to hardware problems I was solving. But now I’m sending out hardware that people can work with. For example, I’ve sent hardware to one guy who is interested in making Wayland run and he’s done some software demos of this small screen, e.g., this 128 x 64 pixels viewport working with openGL.

Q: That’s exciting – how is the chassis design going?

AP: I’ve sent out hardware to case designer volunteers. I’d really like to outsource. I’m mostly feeling overwhelmed because there’s so much to do, so people have been really interested in making a case [for the phone]. So I’ve sent out three phones and I’m going to send out three more. I’ll continue sending them out to those people that want to help. I don’t really have that much experience in 3D modelling. That’s why there’s not a case yet, as I can’t make it myself. I’d need to spend even more time learning how to do it myself.

Q: How is the crowdfunding project progressing?

AP: It’s not quite ready yet. I have the most important part, the financials, to be prepared. And there’s also the fact I want to make a stable hardware revision, which will be the next revision, so that I can account for the bill of materials changes that might be necessary, and make sure they don’t impact the manufacturing in any significant way. That’s been a blocker for the last five months. It’s been getting ridiculous even for me, but I want to make sure everything is going to be okay as even though I have people who can give me advice, I really want to make this project succeed and not stumble upon something unforeseen.

So I’m making sure that the crowdfunder is as good as possible. I know for example that this revision needs some more self-assembly instructions and I need to get more feedback and check the financials so there’s no chance of me running out of budget during the manufacturing. So, yes, it’s mostly about me being nervous.

There are two people that I know of that are already trying to assemble the current revision, but there are also six people that want to assemble the next revision. I’ve already bought parts for them, now I’m working on the PCB design. So, self-assembly is a real priority. After all, it’s something nobody really offers, but it’s completely possible to achieve.

Q: Have you managed to get the ZeroPhone to support 3G?

AP: It basically needs the 2G modem replaced with the 3G and it’s possible, but I’m constrained by the dimensions of the 2G modem that I’m using, so I’m trying to design around those dimensions.

Two weeks ago, when I was finishing the 3G upgrade board, I ran into limitations, so I’m thinking about a way around them by either increasing the vertical dimensions of the phone or basically having a part that sticks out a little. I’m waiting for a solution to come to me while I have PCBs to make for the next revision. But it’s definitely one of the priorities for the crowdfunding.

There’s a survey for those who want to get a ZeroPhone or are interested in the project, so I’ve been collecting replies and I think 3G is the most requested feature. So I have to have 3G to offer for the crowdfunder or it will be a serious disadvantage.

Q: You also have add-ons for the ZeroPhone. Can you tell us about those?

AP: I’m using some of the interfaces that the Raspberry Pi provides, but there are a lot of interfaces that are free as well. I’ve connected those interfaces to expansion ports on the sides of the ZeroPhone and I thought why not have some boards that would simplify tasks like programming and working with flash chips? Then I understood, for example, I could design a board that has a circuit for a laptop BIOS chip and use ZeroPhone to reprogram the BIOS off a laptop in order to, for example, deactivate Intel Management Engine (which truly worrying vulnerabilities were recently discovered in) or something like that.

I can desolder the BIOS chip from my laptop; I can plug it into a ZeroPhone add-on board and use available BIOS chip programming tools in order to read the BIOS contents, modify them using, for example, Me Cleaner, a utility from Purism. I can modify the BIOS image and flash it back into the laptop and I’m going to have a management-disabled laptop.

This has been one of my side projects and I’ve come to understand that ZeroPhone is also quite a powerful hardware hacking platform and those expansion ports will make it even better at it, and it’s something I can do to make hardware hacking more user-friendly.

Q: What do you think of Purism’s Librem phone?

AP: I find it extraordinarily important, and I believe this project, if successful, is going to be a breaking point in history of open source phones. How I see it is that we’re voting for our ideals with our money, and if we succeed, it’s going to make other companies listen to us and understand what we care about – even if a tiny bit.

Furthermore, ZeroPhone, postmarketOS and Purism Librem are going to have a big overlap in software, reducing effort duplication and therefore increasing quality – and I’m sure there has been sufficient evidence that software quality can make or break any open source project. I believe we can make a lot of changes in this field.

Purism is making really modern hardware and they do need a lot of money to accomplish that. PostmarketOS is taking old phones and giving them a new life with Linux, and I’m taking these accessible single-board computers and making them into phones and hardware hacking kits.

To learn more about the ZeroPhone project and possibly get involved, head to the main project page and its Github repository.

(This interview was first published in issue 184 of Linux User & Developer).

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GE GTW750CSLWS review – CNET

GE’s $799 GTW750CSLWS top-load washing machine is very similar to the brand’s $699 GTW685BSLWS model — with some key exceptions.

Related linksThis affordable GE washing machine cleans well, too

GE’s $799 GTW750CSLWS top-load washing machine is very similar to the brand’s $699 GTW685BSLWS model — with some key exceptions.

The pricier GTW750CSLWS has a built-in Wi-Fi module, so you don’t have to buy the separate $49 ConnectPlus accessory to use the GE laundry app, Amazon and Google voice assistants or IFTTT. It also comes with a detergent reservoir to autodispense soap as needed, as well as a dedicated “Water Station” faucet to wash tough stains before a cleaning cycle with a water/soap mix. But the GTW750CSLWS’ stain removal score was average, whereas the more-affordable GTW685BSLWS excelled.

The GE GTW750CSLWS washer is a solid choice, but only if you’ll make use of its smart integrations, the detergent reservoir and the faucet. If not, consider GE’s better-performing GTW685BSLWS instead — or Kenmore’s 26132 (currently on sale at a good price at Sears).


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A smart GE washing machine with decent performance

Getting to know GE’s GTW750CSLWS

The GE GTW750CSLWS comes in a white or a gray finish (which costs $899). The washer looks nice in white, but it doesn’t offer anything particularly unique or innovative in terms of design. It has a see-through lid so you can check on your clothes midcycle, and a light gray display panel to give it a slightly more premium look.

I like that GE made use of most of the display here, with power and start/pause buttons on the left, a dial for selecting among the 14 available cycles in the middle, and additional settings on the right side. The $899 Maytag MVWB765FW only makes use of half of its display, causing it to look cluttered. The GTW750CSLWS’ digital screen is a good size, too — about 3.25 inches diagonally — but it’s difficult to read how much time is left in a cycle at certain angles.

Special settings, such as the Water Station faucet and the Smart Dispense self-dispensing detergent reservoir, are easy to use. “Water Station” is a cycle option at the bottom of the dial; simply select it, chose whether you want to use soap and water or just water and press the start button. Use this option to hand wash or presoak clothes (or a particularly stubborn stain).

Smart Dispense is similarly easy. Select among the off, auto, small, medium and large settings in the top right corner of the display and add liquid detergent to the reservoir on the front left side of the washer drum. The reservoir can hold up to 75 ounces of soap; GE’s user manual says that’s good for roughly 50 “average laundry loads.”

Take a look at how the GTW750CSLWS compares to GE’s own GTW685BSLWS, the Kenmore 26132 and the $899 Samsung WA52M7750AW:

Cord Cutting 101: here are the devices and services you need to get rid of cable

Cable TV had a good run, but it’s 2017 now. Unless you have a very low-priced bundle with Internet and television, it no longer really makes sense to subscribe to cable television.

Cable TV had a good run, but it’s 2017 now. Unless you have a very low-priced bundle with Internet and television, it no longer really makes sense to subscribe to cable television. So what should you do instead? Stream, of course!

There are a ton of reasons to stream: internet speed has increased a great deal over the past decade, and the convenience that streaming offers is far superior to that of cable. With many streaming services, you can watch what you want, when you want, on the device you want avoiding the need to tune in at a particular time or miss your favorite show.

The most important difference, however, is price. According to Leichtman Research Group, the average cable bill sat at $99.10 last year. Netflix costs $7.99 (£7.49) per month for its standard service. Sure, you might subscribe to multiple services, but you would have to watch a lot of TV to hit that $100 mark.

The first thing to consider in switching to streaming services is whether or not your internet connection is fast enough – though, more than likely yours is.

Just to be safe, services like Netflix suggest a speed of at least 5 Mbps, but that kind of speed could lead to buffering issues and a low quality – more would be better. You can test your internet speed at speedtest.net.

If you have fast enough internet, and you’d like to keep your TV watching out in the living room where it’s always been, here are the devices you should consider to aid in your transition to a post-cable world.

Devices

Before you start streaming you’ll need something to stream on. If you’re fine using your computer and smartphone only, you can probably skip ahead to the ‘Services’ section, but if you prefer using your TV, check out these devices.

Google Chromecast($35, £30)

The Chromecast has fast become one of the most popular streaming devices, largely owed to its very modest price. The Chromecast itself isn’t able to run apps like Netflix or Sling TV – instead it connects to your phone or computer, which can stream from the Netflix or Sling mobile apps to the Chromecast. The Chromecast itself simply plugs into a HDMI port on your TV and then connects to Wi-Fi. You can then download apps for iOS, Android, and Google Chrome that allow you to connect your phone or computer to the device.

Apple TV($149, £129)

The Apple TV offers much of the same functionality as the Nexus Player, but many argue that it is, in typical Apple fashion, more refined. In reality, it’s down to personal preference: use the Apple TV if you’re an Apple user, use the Nexus Player if you’re an Android user. Like the Nexus Player the Apple TV allows you to install apps for streaming services, as well as access the iTunes store for content. The Apple TV also offers a touch surface remote, making it easy to control the device.

Roku Streaming Stick+($69/£79)

The Roku Streaming Stick+ is arguably the first of a new generation of streaming devices — it’s as compact as a USB drive, yet it offers many of the same features as a full 4K streaming video box, except for ports for ethernet and audio connectivity. Unlike the similarly-sized Chromecast, the Roku Streaming Stick offers a pretty comprehensive operating system, complete with apps for popular streaming services. It also comes with a remote, or you can connect your phone and use the Roku app to control the device.

Other Roku Devices

But the Roku Streaming Stick isn’t the only option on the table. Roku offers a range of other streaming players with similar features, including the Roku Ultra, which offers 4K video – perfect for that shiny new 4K TV – and 1080p-friendly Roku Express. These players range drastically in price and functionality, but each one comes with a remote and Roku’s same basic interface.

Amazon Fire TV(£69.99/$69.99)

The Fire TV is basically Amazon’s version of the Roku Streaming Stick+ or the Google Chromecast Ultra, being similar to the Roku device in that it has a remote and apps to access streaming services, including, of course, Amazon’s Prime Video.The device is perhaps best suited for you if you’ve already bought into Amazon’s ecosystem and are ready to make the leap to 4K HDR videos – if not, perhaps you might be better off with one of the other devices on our list.

Smart TVs

If you’re on the market for a whole new television, consider a smart TV. These come pre-loaded with operating systems that offer apps for streaming content from services like Netflix. Some smart TVs even offer web browsing. Still, make sure to try one out before you buy it – sometimes their operating systems feel a little cheap and their app stores a little barren, meaning you may be better off still buying a streaming device from the likes of Roku.

Streaming Services

Buying a device to stream is only one part of the cord-cutting equation, the other being the services you subscribe to. They all offer different content, and you might need to subscribe to more than one to get everything you want to watch, but hey, it will still be cheaper than your cable subscription.

Netflix($8.99, $11.99, £7.49 per month for ‘Standard’ tier)

Hailed by many as the streaming king, Netflix is a service you’ve no doubt either seen or used before. Over the years Netflix has grown into a service that not only offers content from third parties, but also its own content, such Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and House of Cards. Apart from the great content, Netflix also offers a great user interface and regular updates with new content. It’s a great start for those looking to cut the cord, and a subscription can be cancelled at any time.

Read: The best TV shows to watch on Netflix

Amazon Prime Instant Video($8.99, £5.99 per month)

Amazon Prime Instant Video is a serious contender in the streaming game, and for good reason. The service offers a number of things that the others don’t, including the ability to download content you want to watch on a car trip where you might not have Wi-Fi access. Amazon has also started making its own content, and the service offers a ton of content for kids making it perfect for families. Recently, Amazon announced that it would start selling access to Prime Instant Video a la carte, however the service is also included with an Amazon Prime subscription, which costs $99 (£79) per year, should you go that route.

Read: Best TV shows on Amazon Prime Instant Video

Hulu (7.99 per month, US-only)

Hulu is a little different than Netflix in that most of its best content comes from major TV networks like Fox, NBC and Comedy Central and is perfect if your schedule doesn’t allow you to watch your favorite TV shows exactly when they’re on the air. While most of the shows come to Hulu the day after they air, in some cases they come season-by-season in big chunks. There are two options for Hulu – a cheaper service, which runs for $7.99, and an ad-free version, which costs $11.99 per month. Hulu is currently only available in the U.S.

Sling TV($20 per month, US-only)

Sling TV is a relatively new service that many see as the obvious successor to cable TV. It offers a bundle of channels, all of which are live, and are streamed through the internet. Channels include ESPN, CNN, TBS, A&E, and more. Perhaps the biggest advantage to Sling TV, however, is the price, coming in at only $20 per month. If the core service doesn’t have what you want, you can also purchase channel “Extras” that might include extra sports or movie channels for $5 each per month. There are, however, a few drawbacks to Sling, such as the fact that the service generally doesn’t allow you to pause or rewind channels, and offers little in the way of video recording.

HBO Now ($14.99 per month, US-only)

HBO Now is a streaming service offering all the content from – you guessed it – HBO. Basically, if you still want your Game of Thrones fix after getting rid of your cable subscription, HBO Now is for you. It’s available on mobile devices, as well as many streaming devices, and while it’s a little pricier than other streaming services, coming in at $14.99, many think the extra dough is worth HBO’s great content.

There you have it! Match a streaming video device with a service of your choice and don’t forget to call the cable company to tell them to cut the cord.

Any cord-cutting strategies you want to share? Let us know in the comments.

Need a new TV entirely? Here are the best 4K TVs of 2017