Dell XPS 13 review (2018): Hands on with the slimmest 13in Windows-powered laptop

Update: 12% off all Dell laptops and desktops at Dell UK
Just as January 2018 is beginning to draw to a close, the folks at Dell UK have been very generous with their January sales. For a limited time – and this deal ends on 24 January – you can pick up a Dell laptop or desktop on the cheap, so long as you use the code SAVE12UK at checkout for 12% off.
Our pick? Well, as you’re here it makes sense to go for the latest Dell XPS 13 ultraportable, which can be yours from only £1,011. Bargain.

Take advantage of this excellent Dell deal

My Dell XPS 13 (2018) hands on continues below
Dell XPS 13 review (2018)
Dell’s XPS 13 is the physical embodiment of the “if it ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. Little has changed over the last few years and just as with the Apple MacBook Air, the faithful XPS has seen only the occasional internal upgrade in recent years.

READ NEXT: Best laptops of 2018

Well, things are set to change in 2018, announcing a significant redesign for the best Windows laptop you can buy in the week before CES officially kicks off, and it’s looking very nice indeed.
Dell XPS 13 review (2018): Key specifications and UK price

13.3in Full HD / 4K display
302 x 199 11.2mm (WDH closed), 1.2Kg
Intel Core i5-8250U / i7-8550U processors
4GB, 8GB or 16GB of RAM
128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of SSD storage
Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro
Price: From £1,269
Release date: 4/1/2018

Dell XPS 13 review (2018): Key features and first impressions
Okay, so the design is still very XPS-like. The now three-year-old 13.3in InfinityEdge display makes another appearance – although it’s now slightly less reflective – and the trademark wedge-shaped chassis is still in place.
It is different, though, and the new model is 30% thinner than last year’s effort and lighter, too. The 2018 XPS 13 is 11.1mm slim at its thickest edge and 7.8mm at its skinniest. It weighs 1.2kg, which is 6% lighter than the outgoing model.
Thanks to this skinnier body, the battery is slightly smaller this time around, although I’ve been reassured that stamina hasn’t taken a hit. Dell claims 20–hour battery life with the Full HD model, and up to 11 hours with the 4K variant.
Another area that sees cutbacks is connectivity. The New XPS no longer has a full-sized USB Type-A port on its edge, though it does make up for that by increasing the number of USB Type-C connections. The Dell has three of these, with one reserved for charging and the others supporting Thunderbolt 3, and there’s also an SD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The webcam is still as awkwardly placed as ever, set into the bezel below the screen rather than above it. This time, however, it’s fully Windows Hello-compatible, so you’ll be able to log in to Windows 10 with your face. Likewise, the circular power button next to the keyboard now does double duties as a fingerprint scanner.
As for the innards, this year’s Dell XPS 13 is equipped with Intel’s latest Core i5 and Core i7 eighth-generation “Coffee Lake” processors. Starting at £1,269, configuration options include a choice of either the Core i5-8250U or Core i7-8550U, with 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of RAM. Storage options range from hard disks in the 128GB to 1TB range and PCIe SSDs from 256GB up to 1TB.
There’s also a new Rose Gold colour this year, which has a white woven fabric-like palm rest. It’s a bit of a Marmite design choice, but at least the lid is more of a subtle copper tinge than a gawdy hot pink (hey, I like hot pink – Ed).
Dell XPS 13 review (2018): Early verdict
Dell’s latest XPS 13 might not be a dramatic shake-up, but this 2018 redesign is enough to reignite interest in the range, adding Coffee Lake CPUs, a Rose Gold model, weight and size reductions and more USB Type-C ports than you can shake a USB cable at.
I doubt I’d recommend eBaying your old model for this one, but Dell’s fresh-faced XPS 13 looks to be a decent step forward. Be sure to stay tuned for my full review in the near future to find out if it’s as good as 2017’s model, which for me was nigh on the perfect laptop.

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Facebook Lite is rolling out in the US this week

Facebook Lite, a version of Facebook made for developing countries that is designed to run on 2G networks, is rolling out to more countries, including developed ones, according to Reuters. Like Messenger Lite, the thought is that people with older Android devices or slower internet connections would benefit from the stripped-down app.
Launched in 2015, Facebook Lite was first tested in Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, but is now available in over 100 countries. It’s lightweight at only 252 kilobytes, and it’s based on the Snaptu version of Facebook that runs on feature phones, but with functionality like push notifications and camera integration. In the forthcoming rollout, the app available in countries including the US, Canada, Australia, UK, France, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand.
Facebook Lite will be available to download in these added markets beginning on Friday.
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Can Jimmy Graham be an elite fantasy tight end with the Packers?

Green Bay snags a red-zone threat for $30 million over three years. We look at the fantasy implications.
When the Green Bay Packers released wide receiver Jordy Nelson this offseason, they also let go of quarterback Aaron Rodger’s top touchdown target. Tuesday the Packers replaced Nelson for one of the best red-zone targets in the NFL. Green Bay and former Seattle Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham reached a three-year deal worth $30 million. Graham looked to be heading back to the New Orleans Saints before coming to terms to head to the Frozen Tundra.
Graham is a scoring magnet for any QB. The eighth-year big man has 69 career scores, 55 of which happened inside of the 20-yard line. He lost a step after suffering a debilitating knee injury in 2014, however, Graham managed to catch 10 touchdown catches for the first season in three years in 2017. He tied for second for the most touchdown grabs last season.
Fantasy impact: This is an out of character move that could really pay off for the Packers and Graham’s fantasy owners. The Packers rarely go after big name players in free agency. Also, Rodgers does not usually favor TEs. Though the Packers are still fresh from the Martellus Bennett experiment last season but with Nelson gone, Graham is poised to be a top touchdown target in Green Bay. He is still a TE1 and worth an early look in all fantasy drafts.
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Cheltenham Festival 2018: Penhill powers to Stayers’ Hurdle – live! | Sport

12.07pm EDT12:07

Here’s our report from the Stayers’ Hurdle, where Penhill rolled in after 323 days away, won one of Cheltenham’s classics, and will now roll off again until next year:


12.01pm EDT12:01

Chris Cook

4.10 Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase
A handicap which has been a reliable source of shocks, if that’s not an oxymoron, with winners in the past decade at 66-1, 50-1, 33-1 and 33-1. David Pipe and Venetia Williams have won it five times between them in that decade and both have fancied runners this time in King’s Socks and Willie Boy, though both trainers have also been operating well below their usual strike-rates in recent weeks. Gordon Elliott, who has found success easier to come by, runs The Storyteller, who was favourite for last year’s Martin Pipe until pulling a muscle the week before. He could be nicely weighted if he can brush up his jumping a bit. The same owner has Guitar Pete (14-1), a course winner in December, trained by Nicky Richards. Drumcliff couldn’t go with Saint Calvados in a quality contest at Warwick last time but had previously won two handicaps and looks a contender again.
Betting latest: King’s Socks 6-1, The Storyteller 6-1, Last Goodbye 8-1, Movewiththetimes 8-1, Guitar Pete 12-1, Willie Boy 14-1, King’s Odyssey 14-1, Ballyalton 16-1, Pougne Bobbi 18-1, rest 20-1 bar


11.58am EDT11:58

If anyone is still bothering to keep score, that’s four wins for Ireland today – they lead Britain 13-5 through the week.

Mascots playing basketball? WELCOME TO MASCOT MADNESS!

We simulated mascot games on NCAA March Madness ‘05 because… why not?
It’s that time of the year again. THIS IS MARCH! As a basketball fan, I decided not to fill out a bracket this year. However, I decided to put the mascots that made the tournament in NCAA March Madness 2005
Here’s how I did it.
Since there was only a fraction of mascot teams in the NCAA Basketball game I had to rearrange the bracket. The #1 seeds in each region of the real-life bracket received a bye, while the rest of the teams were randomized.

THERE IS NO SYRACUSE. When I made this bracket I didn’t know if Syracuse would make the round of 64 or not at the time. Look, If Jon Bois says he doesn’t care about the First Four games then I don’t either.
Kentucky vs Alabama
10-9 at half
It was an absolute dunk fest in the second half of the game as both teams were about to get out in transition.
Late in the second half, however, fans were upset about a controversial play late in the game. If you look at the replay it seems as if this player somehow dunked the ball while being out of bounds.


Despite the justified cries of Wildcat fans everywhere, the basket still counted and the Tide were able to take the game to overtime.
However, OT was ALL Kentucky due to Alabama’s defense breaking down. Look at this GORGEOUS dime from SG #32!

Final: Kentucky 40 Alabama 32 OT
Texas vs Auburn

The Longhorns were able to defend the paint fairly well

However, Auburn was able to get their shots from outside.

The game was down to the wire and the Longhorns had the ball up one when SF #2 decided to END THE GAME WHILE BEING TRIPLE TEAMED!

Texas 25 Auburn 22
Missouri vs Oklahoma
The Tigers start this game off with some exceptional team defense as they hold the Sooners to 8 points in the first half. Too bad they only scored 10 themselves.

Oklahoma fought back with some paint defense of their own. NO EASY BUCKETS

Missouri had the chance to dribble out the clock and end the game…


Oh wow. You hate to see that on the biggest stage. 0-4 in a crucial possession is never good. Ballgame.
Missouri 20 Oklahoma 16
Texas Tech vs Purdue

This was a defensive BATTLE in the first half. Purdue only scored twice and one of them was THIS!

Texas Tech stuck with their inside game, as their motion and off-ball cutting set up some easy baskets. Everything seemed fine for the Red Raiders until the game got SLOPPY.
There was this controversial no call.

Followed by Texas Tech not being able to BUY A BUCKET.

Texas Tech is the first team I’ve simmed that didn’t clear double digits. The offense just wasn’t there for them. That’s tough.
Purdue 13 Texas Tech 8.
Ohio State vs Arizona
The Wildcats jumped out to a 7-0 run thanks to a versatile offensive attack.

Their center was getting anything he wanted down low as the Wildcats took a 19-9 lead to the half.

This is a well-disciplined Arizona team that seems to be primed to make a deep run. It’s hard to run around an off-ball double screen in a mascot costume, but these ain’t no ordinary mascots.

This game wasn’t close.
Arizona 33 Ohio State 15
Tennessee vs Gonzaga
Gonzaga started the game unconscious from the three-point line starting off 4-4 from beyond the arc and jump out to a 16-5 lead.

Gonzaga’s stifling defense also lead to some exciting fastbreak buckets!

The Vols looked lost on offense.

and had no answers for Gonzaga on defense.

Gonzaga 26 Tennessee 8
Duke vs Cincinnati
Cincinnati used their athleticism early

While Duke countered with 3-point shooting.

The Bearcats took a 12-10 lead at the half. Duke made a halftime adjustment. The Blue Devils switched to full-court man and upping the tempo. The game went into the final minute tied at 14.
Duke had the chance to capitalize on these opportunities late with this transition play

Duke was playing defense straight up but had some sort of mental lapse as the shot clock wound down.

Duke had one final shot to tie up the game

What WAS THAT?! Doesn’t matter. Duke lost.
Cincinnati 17 Duke 14
UNC vs Florida
Two high octane teams face off here. The Tar Heels have weapons and highflyers

However, the Gators were able to scrap and claw.

To take a late lead.

The Gator got a crucial stop and were able to turn DEFENSE INTO OFFENSE

Florida 27 UNC 21
Arkansas NC State
Arkansas did a great job at getting their shots off

and causing NC State to turn the ball over for easy buckets.

The Wolfpack cleaned up their act in the second half, but the defense wasn’t there.

Arkansas 22 NC State 17
Here’s the Updated Bracket!

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Samsung Galaxy S9+ Battery Issues

Paul Briden

15/03/2018 – 12:58pm

We're currently testing the Galaxy S9+ and the battery is being, well, a bit weird

So currently I’m testing the Samsung Galaxy S9+ for our full review – which will be published soon – while testing the battery I’ve noticed some rather odd performance issues. I say odd because it’s basically a bit sub-par from what I’ve come to expect from testing previous Samsung Galaxy flagships, in particular the recent Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8+, but also going back as far as the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S6 series.
It might be fair to consider this article something of a spoiler or preview of what’s coming in the full review.
The Galaxy S9+ houses quite a sizeable battery cell; a 3,500mAh unit with fast wired charging via Quick Charge 2.0 on USB Type-C and fast wireless charging (WPC/PMA).
For the battery testing I fully charged the phone to 100%, turned brightness to maximum, and ran a two-hour film (Mad Max: Fury Road) which had already been pre-loaded onto the device. With the credits rolling the Galaxy S9+ was down to 80% charge.
Interestingly, that’s actually ever so slightly worse than both the Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8+ from the same testing routine – which showed 82% and 86% respectively – but even so, it’s not a big enough difference to gripe over and it still puts the Galaxy S9+ in the top tier of smartphone battery performance.
However, the performance went on to be more disappointing in other areas too.
After the video testing I then did what I typically do, which is to leave the phone idling for a while to see what the trickle-off rate is like when you’re not making it do much at all. I basically left the phone alone overnight, although I did allow it to run a software update.
Surprisingly, it went from 80% to 39% overnight. I’d be shocked if this consumption was due to the software update, as typically these are not big, lengthy procedures that will sap massive amounts of battery life. I can say from experience that with the Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy S8+, and Samsung’s other flagships, if you left them overnight on 80% there’s no way they’d lose half their charge idling in that time.
I’m a little surprised at the performance drop, though if I had to hazard a guess as to why this is the case I did notice the rear panel felt warmer than the Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 when under heavier workloads, suggesting to me the processor upgrade is being more demanding of juice. This is a bit weird considering it’s on the 10nm LPP (Low Power Plus) architecture, itself a supposedly more power-friendly enhancement on the previous 10nm architecture the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 use.
I’d like to be generous and put this down to either a faulty unit or some kind of software gremlin that could be patched out (perhaps the CPU isn’t being controlled properly by the necessary algorithms?), but this is all just optimistic speculation. Taken at face value it’s not looking too good.
It’s not awful by a long stretch – again it is still better battery performance than a lot of competitors – but it is a step back nonetheless, quite simply, Samsung has done a LOT better in recent history on the battery side of things.
I should note that a quick exploration of the interwebs doesn’t show up any other reviews with writers experiencing the same problem, which would suggest I’ve unfortunately got a lemon here (and in fairness, that has happened before).
I’m not finished with my testing, and I am going to try to account for the possibilty that the software update may have been a massive power drain (I think it’s unlikely). I’m going to run another idle test tonight, this time with no software update and from 100%.
Stay tuned for more on this as I continue to probe the Galaxy S9+’s battery.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Which should you buy?

The Samsung Galaxy S9 was revealed at this year’s MWC tech conference, and secured a solid four-star rating from our reviews editor, Jon Bray. It might be a great phone, but the question is, is it worth upgrading if you have a Galaxy S8, or even the Galaxy S7?
In some ways, the Galaxy S9 is a serious step up from last year’s effort. In particular, its new 12-megapixel f/1.5 rear camera performs far better in low light than its predecessor. Its new Exynos 9810 processor also promises significantly faster performance.
READ NEXT: Best phones in 2018
However, the Galaxy S9 looks a lot like last year’s S8 and rather than reinventing the wheel, builds on previous accomplishments. Consider the fact that Samsung’s latest flagship will cost you £739 SIM-free – which is £60 more than the original launch price of the Galaxy S8 and as much as £230 more than its current price – and it becomes very tricky to know which phone to buy.

Otherwise, it really is almost the same phone as the S8. There’s a 5.8in 18.5:9 QHD+ (2,960 x 1,440) display like the one found in Samsung’s previous flagship, which looks brilliant. Along the bottom of the phone, you’ll find a USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack (hurrah!) and on the right side, there’s a power button, volume rocker and dedicated Bixby button, just like on the S8. Both phones share the same microSD and nano-SIM card slot and also feature IP68 dust- and water-resistance.
Essentially, the phones look so similar that neither one has the edge over the other.
Winner: Draw
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Galaxy S8: Performance and battery life
The main differences between the Galaxy S9 and the S8 are on the ert_main_wide_image/public/2018/03/chart_2.png?itok=olISXkwV” alt=””/>

It scored 3,659 and 8,804 on single and multi-core Geekbench 4 tests, which represents improvements of 45% and 25% over the Galaxy S8. It’s a similar story with GPU performance, too. Running GFX Bench’s on-screen and off-screen Manhattan 3.0 test, the Galaxy S9 achieved average frame rates of 45fps and 77fps at native resolution, compared to the S8’s 40fps and 60fps averages.
However, all this power takes its toll on the Galaxy S9’s battery life. With the screen set to our standard 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode enabled, we were able to watch 14hrs and 23mert_main_wide_image/public/2018/02/samsung_galaxy_s9_6_0.jpg?itok=QbmqimqL” alt=””/>

Where things differ is that you get a much wider f/1.5 aperture on the S9. This allows much more light to the sensor, brightening up shots and capturing more detail. Best of all, you don’t need to do anything to use it, because the camera automatically widens the aperture once the lighting conditions hit below 100 lux (which is about the same as a gloomy, overcast day).
For brighter scenes, it’ll just switch back to f/2.4, so you get a bit more depth of field and higher image quality. If you want to manually switch from one aperture setting to the other, you can do this from the camera’s Pro mode.
The video hardware gets an upgrade too. The S9 can now record 720p footage at a ridiculous 960fps, stretching 0.2 seconds of activity out into six seconds of video. It’s extremely easy to use: you just draw a box on the screen and the slow-motion recorder kicks in whenever movement is detected within that space.
So, in terms of camera specs, the S9 is a clear winner. But that’s not to say the S8 doesn’t have a solid camera in its own right. In fact, if you’re taking shots outside in good light, you probably won’t notice the difference between the two devices. It’s only when it comes to low-light and shooting slow-mo video that you’ll real see a difference.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Galaxy S8: Features
One subtle update that gives the Galaxy S9 an edge over its predecessor is to do with the phone’s iris and facial recognition systems. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus introduced these biometric login options last year, but the Galaxy S9 brings them together, under the name “Intelligent Scan”.
If you enable this, the phone unlocks using one method, falling back to the other if it fails. It’s a simple idea, but we found it greatly reduced the occurrence of failed recognition attempts. The fingerprint enrolment process has also been improved, so it now takes only two swipes of your index finger to register ert_main_wide_image/public/2018/02/samsung_galaxy_s9_4_0.jpg?itok=i5qUz6N4″ alt=””/>

Samsung’s smartphone AI platform, Bixby has had an upgrade too: it can now translate text in real time via the rear camera. That’s an ability that Google’s Translate app has had for years, but we found Samsung’s implementation faster and more accurate.
So, the Galaxy S9 has the edge over its predecessor as far as features are concerned, but no single difference should be important enough to weigh heavily on your decision. Having said that, the S9 is also likely to get software and security updates for longer than the S8, so if you always want the latest version of Android, the S9 will keep you happier for longer.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Galaxy S8: Price
Obviously the S9 cannot compete on price against a year-old phone. SIM free, the S9 is available for pre-order at £739, while you can now pick up the S8 for little over £500 on Amazon. 
That’s a saving of around £240 if you pick up the older phone, or to look at it the other way around, nearly a 50% price hike to get the Galaxy S9. The S9’s price might drop a little over the coming months, but given that it’s started at £60 more than the S8’s original asking price, you shouldn’t expect a bargain any time soon.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Galaxy S8: Verdict
If you’ve been keeping count, you’ll already know the Galaxy S9 is the overall winner – but it’s a much closer run thing than the scores suggest. The designs of the two phones are so similar that this needn’t factor into your buying decision, and although the S9 is more powerful than the S8, for most people, this extra clout is probably much more than you’d need. What’s more, the super-fast processor also means the S9 has worse battery life – something that’s probably more important to the average user than sheer processing power.
You get a few camera improvements and software refinements with the S9 too, but nothing you’d lose sleep over missing out on. Finally, the Galaxy S8 is so much cheaper than Samsung’s newest flagship that this arguably makes up for all of the above shortcomings. If money is no object, the S9 is undoubtedly the better phone, but until the price of the S9 comes down a little, the S8 is the more sensible option. Essentially, you get largely the same phone for a whole lot less money.

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Google Chromecast tips and tricks: stream better with Android

As simple as the Chromecast is though, there are a number of advanced features available that you might not yet have come across or thought much about—it’s actually got quite a few clever tricks hidden beneath its matte black outer shell, and we’re here to share the best ones with you.

Google Home

Jump to:

Connect Chromecast to Google Home
Start the party with guest mode
Ask about the wallpaper
Stream audio from Chromecast
Show off your personal photos
Turn your TV into a personal dashboard
Connect an Ethernet adapter
Use Chromecast via 3G or 4G
Find compatible apps
Listen privately to your streamed content
Mirror your Android device screen
Play multiplayer games on your TV
Set up HDMI 50 Hz mode
Transfer your VR content to your TV 
Reset your Chromecast

Connect your Chromecast to Google Home
If you’ve already got Google Home, you can use your voice to search YouTube or access the weather forecast on your Chromecast-connected TV. It’s easy to make Chromecast part of your domestic Google ecosystem.

Google Home and Chromecast are family members that play great together. / © AndroidPIT

First, check that the two devices are on the same network, then open the Google Home app and go to More settings. From there, select TVs and Speakers to see a list of connected devices. To link the Chromecast to Google Home, just tap the plus symbol in the bottom of the screen and voilà.
Start the party with guest mode
Chromecast comes with a guest mode that means your friends can send content to the stick as well as you—as long as guest mode is enabled, anyone on the same Wi-Fi network (in your house, for example) is able to interact with the dongle via a PIN code.

Guest mode allows easy access to your Chromecast. / © AndroidPIT

From the Google Home app menu, choose Devices, then the cog icon by your Chromecast, then Guest mode. Slide the switch to On and your friends and relatives can get involved using the provided PIN. Note that guest mode doesn’t work on iOS devices yet.
Ask about the wallpaper
When not in use, your Chromecast displays eye-catching pictures from various sources. If you see something you like, open Google search on your phone and ask “what’s on my Chromecast?” You can access the same screen from the Devices tab of the Google Home app.

Find out what’s on your Chromecast. / © AndroidPIT

Tap on the view links inside the Google Home app and you can see the source for the picture (Google+ or Google Maps for example) together with the person who posted it (where applicable). You need never ask where a picture has come from ever again.
Stream audio from Chromecast
Many music apps such as Pandora, Google Play Music, and Spotify now offer Chromecast support, making it a great, notification-free alternative to using Bluetooth.
If you have a modern A/V receiver, amplifier, or powered speakers with an optical input, using the Chromecast to stream is as simple connecting an optical cable from your TV’s audio output to your audio device’s optical input. 

You can use Spotify or your favorite music player with Chromecast. / © AndroidPIT

In some cases you may need to enter your TV’s sound settings menu and set audio to “external speakers,” and select the optical output. This menu is typically found in the settings menu under sound.) If your amplifier is an older device with only analog inputs, you can buy an optical to RCA adapter online and plug it into the RCA input of your sound system.
If you feel your TV isn’t quite giving out the sound you want, you could try connecting your Chromecast directly to an HDMI input on your A/V receiver and using your phone as both the controller and the viewing window for your player.
Show off your personal photos
If you don’t like the sorts of pictures Google is displaying as part of the Backdrop feature than you can take matters into your own hands and show images from your own collections instead. Tap Devices in the Google Home app then the cog icon by your device.

Show off your own pictures. / © AndroidPIT

Tap Backdrop and then turn the Personal Photos switch to the on position—you can then select specific albums from your Google account. Depending on how well organized your collection is, you might want to create a separate folder just for Chromecast background images.
Turn your TV into a personal dashboard
Chromecast has also demonstrated it can be a great multitasking tool. Your TV can now be transformed into a personal dashboard, which can include your calendar, daily news and weather updates and even important notes. To set this up, all you need to have is Chromecast and install the Dashboard Cast app on your smartphone. Good news is that you don’t need Smart TV to set all this up, all you need is a HDMI input. 

Dashboard Cast

Add items to the dashboard

Install Dashboard Cast on your phone. With this app you can manage all the widgets in your personal dashboard from this app. To start adding items, just tap on the blue “+” icon in the right-hand corner of the screen. Just as an example, we’ll set up a calendar.
Customize your widget by adding a name. In “Select calendar view” you can select which format you want, so you opt to see everything or just your daily agenda. 
In “Select calendars to display” you can sync with national holidays, your own Google calendar or other apps on your phone. To finalize your options, just tap on the “OK.”
For another example, let’s add an option where personal notes can be activated to alert you about important information during the day. To activate this, select the “+” icon again and choose the “Note widget.”
To start customizing, give your note a name. Then in “Edit note content” enter the information you want to display on TV. Finally, change the “Content font size” and “Content scroll speed” to suit your needs. Apply these changes tap on the tick at the the top of the screen.
You can repeat this process to customize any of the widgets in your personal dashboard. 

With Chromecast your calendar takes on a whole new perspective. / © AndroidPIT

Customizing your dashboard

To rearrange the widgets, you can touch the side menu (indicated by three dots) and select Reorder widgets. Then just press and drag so you can have everything in the “right” order. To finalize things, just tap on the tick at the top of the screen. 
In the side menu select Theme to update your dashboard’s appearance. Here the user can customize the widget background color, the widget background opacity and change the font colors. All of these changes are applied automatically.
The Layout setting allows you to change the structure of the widgets, adding more horizontal and vertical space. In Dashboard spacing options you control the spacing of the dashboard as a whole. Under Widget spacing options you can adjust the amount of space, so they can be closer or further apart.
Under Backgrounds, as you might has already guessed, you can change the background. In the Collections tab, just activate the options to want to access on your dashboard. 
In the Settings you can choose a background color and change frequency of how often you would like the background color to change.


Now that your dashboard is all set and ready to go, just tap on the Streaming icon at the top right of the app. Then select which Chromecast you want to cast. For this to work you will need to ensure that both your phone and Chromecast are connected to the same Wi-Fi network;
After this, you’ll be able to take a look at what the dashboard looks like with your custom widgets on the big screen.

Chromecast has also demonstrated it can be a great multitasking tool.
What do you think?

Connect an Ethernet adapter
Wi-Fi woes suck, and you do need a good connection to use Chromecast to the fullest. While the Ultra version already comes with an Ethernet port, you can still enjoy the security and speed of a wired connection by buying an Ethernet adapter directly from Google. Perfect if you want to use Chromecast in an area with a weak Wi-Fi signal.
Use Chromecast via 3G or 4G
Chromecast is perfect to pick up and take with you – it was practically created with travel in mind. But what do you do when you can’t rely on WiFi? Don’t worry, there are a few options available. 
Two phones are better than one
The simplest way to use mobile data on Chromecast is through two smartphones. Here one device will create a Wi-Fi network over the mobile router. Once you’ve set this up, just use the second smartphone to set up Chromecast. 
The storage option
Google does allow you to cast locally stored content from your Android device to Chromecast without a Wi-Fi connection, thanks to mirroring. You can even mirror to your device without Wi-Fi. For those of you out there with more generous mobile data packages, this means you can stream content over 4G to your phone and mirror it to your Chromecast.
Not only does this save your precious tethering data allowance limits, it also saves you from running around trying to find a mobile hotspot.
Create your own modem
To take full advantage of the 3G or 4G modem on your Chromecast, you’ll need to call on the help of a computer. Here again, the trick is using the mobile connection to create a Wi-Fi network that mimics conventional broadband. Chromecast will identify the network, which can be configured and used by a nearby device – connected to the same Wi-Fi or not – or by the PC itself.
The idea is to temporarily turn one of your devices into a router. MacOS and Windows 10 both have native tools that create an internet access point and enable it to function like this. 
Use a smartphone
Even if you don’t have a PC or a second smartphone, you’re still able to connect Chromecast to the internet. However, this option is a little more ingenious. Here you’ll need to use a Chromecast that you have previously configured on a known Wi-Fi network. With this network name and password, you need to create an access point on your smartphone using those same parameters. Chromecast will then automatically connect to the Wi-Fi created by your phone.
Find compatible apps
There are more Android apps than you might think that can work with the Chromecast — Google has even created a special page for them so you can find them more easily. The available apps are split up into categories or there’s a search box to use instead.

The number of compatible apps is growing. / © AndroidPIT

When you’re in a compatible app (on Android or iOS) you’ll see a Chromecast icon somewhere in the interface that lets you sling the content over to your nearby dongle. In most apps you can still control playback on your phone or tablet while the content is streaming.
Listen privately to your streamed content
Watching shows or online videos on your television late at night or with busy people around you can be awkward, but don’t worry, there’s an app for that. Localcast lets you listen to videos you’re casting to your TV through headphones connected to your smartphone, tablet, or whatever Android device you may be casting from.

LocalCast for Chromecast

To do this, just install and open the the app, connect  a pair of headphones, and select the Route audio to phone option on the Now Playing screen. Now you can listen privately and discreetly to your casted content
Mirror your Android device screen
On compatible Android devices, you can send a live stream of your device’s screen up to the Chromecast — it’s a great way of showing off some of your favorite photos or playing a game on a larger display if the app doesn’t support casting natively.

Mirror your device’s screen. / © AndroidPIT

From Settings head into the Display menu and tab Cast screen. All you have to do then is choose the Chromecast in question to see your display mirrored up on the device the dongle is connected to.
Play multiplayer games on your TV
LAN parties are so ’90s, but you can still have fun playing video games locally with friends. Using Chromecast, you can turn any party into a multiplayer gaming session on the big screen. In fact, with the popularity of Chromecast, many games have incorporated special modes just for this kind of activity. To get started, check out our recommendations for best mulitplayer games for Chromecast.
Set up HDMI 50 Hz mode
You can configure Chromecast to operate in 50 Hz HDMI mode rather than automatically selecting the default option. This is a great way of avoiding issues with jittering or stuttering when you view programs live, and is great for travel as the 50 Hz frequency is very common in Europe and Asia. 

Make sure your phone or tablet is connected to the same WiFi network as your Chromecast device, and that the phone you’re using is the same one you used to set up the device on your TV. 
Open the Google Home app on your Android device.
In the upper-right corner of the app’s Home screen, tap Devices to see the list of available Chromecast devices. 
Scroll to find the device card for the Chromecast you’d like to use with the 50 Hz mode.
In the top-right corner, tap on the device card menu (the three dots) > Settings.
Scroll down and select Screen.
To activate, simply tap on the Use 50 Hz HDMI mode option.

Once you’ve set everything up it will be applied to your Chromecast. If it doesn’t appear to work immediately, restart your phone and then try streaming again.
Transfer your VR content to your TV via Chromecast
Thanks to smartphones, Virtual Reality has come a long way in the past year or so. That said, the VR experience is a difficult one to share so it does have its limits. That said, you can always transfer your VR content to your TV via Chromecast. To do this, in addition to having obvious things like a smartphone, TV and Chromecast, you’ll also need a compatible VR headset like Google Cardboard, Google Daydream View or Samsung Gear VR. 

Now everyone can share on the VR experience, thanks to Chromecast. / © AndroidPIT

Here again, Chromecast and Android smartphone will both need to be connected to the same network. To get started, open the Google Home app. Then open the Home app’s menu buy sliding in from the left side. From there, choose Cast screen / audio. This will bring up the screen casting page, so just tap on the “Cast Screen/Audio” option and then select your device.
After this, anything that is happening on the home screen for your smartphone will show up on the TV. All you need to do now is just move around normally: everything will work you would always expect it to, except now everything on your phone can also be seen on the TV.

Transferring VR content to TV via Chromecast will enable people to share the VR experience.
What do you think?

Reset your Chromecast
Chromecast is such a simple device that you shouldn’t run into many problems with it, but if you do find it’s behaving erratically or not as you expect, then a reset is likely to get everything working again. You can reset the dongle from the Google Home app on Android.

Reset or reboot your Chromecast. / © AndroidPIT

Head into the Google Home app, choose Devices, then tap the cog icon next to your Chromecast device. Tap the menu button (three vertical dots in the top right corner) and you can choose to reboot your Chromecast or run a factory reset and start from scratch again.
Which trick is your favorite? Do you have any tips we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

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Spotify tests native voice search, groundwork for smart speakers – TechCrunch

Now Spotify listens to you instead of the other way around. Spotify has a new voice search interface that lets you say “Play my Discover Weekly,” “Show Calvin Harris” or “Play some upbeat pop” to pull up music.
A Spotify spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that this is “Just a test for now,” as only a small subset of users have access currently, but the company noted there would be more details to share later. The test was first spotted by .

Voice control could make Spotify easier to use while on the go using microphone headphones or in the house if you’re not holding your phone. It might also help users paralyzed by the infinite choices posed by the Spotify search box by letting them simply call out a genre or some other category of songs. Spotify briefly tested but never rolled out a very rough design of voice controls a year ago.
Down the line, Spotify could perhaps develop its own voice interface for smart speakers from other companies or that it potentially builds itself. That would relieve it from depending on Apple’s Siri for HomePod, Google’s Assistant for Home or Amazon’s Alexa for Echo — all of which have accompanying music streaming services that compete with Spotify.

Spotify is preparing for a direct listing that will make the company public without a traditional IPO. That means forgoing some of the marketing circus that usually surrounds a company’s debut. That means Spotify may be even more eager to experiment with features or strategies that could be future money-makers so that public investors see growth potential. Breaking into voice directly instead of via its competitors could provide that ‘x-factor.’

For more on Spotify’s not-an-IPO, check out our feature story:

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Best online photography courses on Udemy

Want to be a better photographer? Of course you do. And while there’s no substitute for hands-on experience, a little expert assistance never goes amiss – and an online photography course is a great way to get that.
Udemy – the global marketplace for online learning – has more than 65,000 expert-led courses, of which no small number focus on photography. Need to get started with the more technical elements of snapping? Want to learn about off-camera flash, or landscape photography? Udemy has you covered.
But with over 300 courses covering a wide range of photographic disciplines – and at prices ranging from literally free to around the £200 mark – it’s worth giving a little thought to which one you want to sign up for. Here’s our pick of the best tutorials across a range of photographic disciplines, to help you find the one that’s perfect for your skill level and your ambitions.
How to find the best online photography course for you on Udemy
A good photography course, whether online or in person, will take your photography up a level. Even if you’re relatively experienced in a particular genre, you should hopefully still be able to get some decent tips or a fresh perspective, so courses that seem to cover familiar ground could still be worthwhile.
The important question is what you want to learn. Udemy is particularly useful for the more technical aspects of photography: snappers looking to take better pictures of food, or of architecture at night will find rich pickings. If you’re already comfortable with your camera, Udemy also offers a wealth of courses in processing your images in Lightroom and Photoshop courses. And for those looking to go semi-professional, there are plenty of courses aimed at helping photographers take the next step into the commercial side of photography.
How long should the course take?
Of course, the value of a photographic course isn’t solely measured in hours – but length is a clue to how much ground you can expect to cover, and for beginners, a longer course is likely to be better value for money than a short one. However, if you’re looking for specialist, specific techniques, a concise, hour-long course by a tutor with in-depth experience and knowledge might be of more use to you than a 12-hour course in general photography.
Can I share notes with other students?
Udemy’s star ratings are a great way of seeing how a course is received – but it’s also worth checking the size of the community you’ll be joining. If a course has many thousands of subscribers, that’s not only a sign of quality, it also means there’s a decent-sized community of students, who can leave questions for instructors and discuss the topics among themselves. A large community can be just as valuable as the course itself.
READ NEXT: Found the perfect photography course on Udemy? Put what you’ve learnt into practice with these amazingly affordable DSLRs, from just £350
The best online photography courses on Udemy from £20
1. Travel Photography: Take Beautiful Photos on Your Adventures
Price: £89 | Take the course on Udemy

Hosted by Phil Ebiner and boasting a packed audience of almost 25,000 students, this guide to travel photography covers far more than just how to keep sand out of your camera. Its 38 lectures – taking around five hours in all – cover a huge variety of topics, and are ideal for beginner photographers who want to get the most from their travels. Ebiner covers general questions such as choosing the right camera and beginning to use its manual mode, then moves on to specific advice on shooting nature and landscapes, portraits of people and so on. There’s also a chapter on image editing, which focuses almost exclusively on Lightroom.
The format isn’t groundbreaking – it’s mostly example images with Ebiner as a talking head – but the videos are easy to understand and cover a good range of styles, making this a great one-size-fits-all course. While the emphasis is on travel, it’s instructive and enlightening no matter what sort of photography you’re interested in.
Key specs: 38 lectures across five hours; 24,800 subscribers; automatically closed-captioned
2. Beginning Family Portrait Photography: Shoot Like a Pro
Price: £19.99 | Take the course on Udemy

Many learners are keen to get “better pictures of the kids” – and twenty quid is a small price to pay for two hours of professional tutelage. Hosted by Valerie Goettsch in a straightforward talking-head-and-slides format, Beginning Family Portrait Photography covers everything from the difference between crop- and full-frame cameras to the effect of aperture size on depth-of-field.
The best bits are where Goettsch speaks specifically about portrait photography. A wealth of made-for-the-course examples illustrate her points clearly, and her advice about understanding and making use of natural lighting is hugely valuable for all types of photography. There’s also a section on Lightroom which covers the basics of importing and organising images, plus portrait-related skills such as getting white teeth, natural skin tones and so on. Quizzes at the end of most sections of the course allow you to check you’re making progress, and since each section is only around three to five minutes long, it’s a great course to dip in and out of.
Even better, Goettsch herself is active on her course’s message boards, providing students with direct, simple answers to a wide range of questions. Money well spent for anyone looking to sharpen up pictures of their family.
Key specs: 36 lectures across two hours; 2,000 subscribers; automatically closed-captioned
3. Mac Photos 2: Organize, Edit and Share Photos On Your Mac
Price: £49.99 | Take the course on Udemy

Fifty quid for a course relating to a free app might seem a little steep – but macOS’ built-in photo-organisation and editing software is deeper and more capable than you might realise. Gary Rosenzweig’s course comprises 41 lectures over three and a half hours, and covers all the common photographic tasks: importing images from a camera, using iCloud’s photo library, organising images automatically, using face recognition and manually adding keywords or using smart albums. There’s a comprehensive section on Photos’ editing tools too: even experienced snappers might be surprised to learn just how powerful the app is when it comes to advanced touch-up jobs.
The format is straightforward – what you see is basically a screen recording, with the occasional zoom to focus on exactly what’s being done. There’s no talking head presence from Rosenzweig himself, so there’s less personality to this course than some others. But Gary is very present on his course’s message board, providing answers as well as follow-ups to questions. If you’re not interested in splashing out on a full-blown editing package, this is a cheaper alternative that will help you get the best from Apple’s Photos app.
Key specs: 41 lectures across three and a half hours; 2,700 subscribers; automatically closed-captioned
4. Adobe Lightroom CC: Photo Editing Masterclass
Price: £199.99 | Take the course on Udemy

If you’ve exhausted the potential of Photos, upgrading to Lightroom is the obvious next step. There’s a lot to it, though: Phil Ebiner and Jon Haase’s top-to-bottom course lasts seven-and-a-half hours, over the course of no fewer than 72 lectures. That explains the relatively steep price – although there are frequent price cuts and sales, so keep an eye out for a bargain.
The format is fairly familiar: Ebiner and Haase appear as talking heads, this time overlaid on the bottom corner of a Lightroom window. The course takes in everything from importing images to editing and exporting them. One standout part is the chapter on “Putting it all together”: sample images are provided, so you can follow along with the instructors – and experiment for yourself if you so wish.
The only aspect we’re not so fond of is the quizzes, which ask just a few questions at the end of some quite large chapters, so they’re not ideal for gauging your progress. However, if you’re just taking your first steps in Lightroom, this course can take you from zero to hero with a moderate time investment. The instructors also provide plenty of help on the course’s Q&A page.
Key specs: 72 lectures across seven and a half hours; 17,000 subscribers; automatically closed-captioned
5. Photography – The Ultimate Guide to Using Off-Camera Flash
Price: £34.99 | Take the course on Udemy

Udemy is well stocked with courses for beginner photographers. There’s not quite so much for more advanced photographers looking to challenge themselves – but this professionally presented course is a worthwhile next step for anyone who’s ready to move on from their little pop-up flash.
Hosted by Brit Bernie Raffe, and lasting just under four hours in total, it takes you through a shopping list of the first few bits of kit you’ll need, then explains how to bounce, soften and shape light both indoors and out. Raffe covers not just light positioning, but also the various accessories beginners might need to get their pictures looking right, using models to demonstrate his points. Crucially, you also get to see how his light setups translate into finished images, and his explanations are direct and easy to understand.
In all, it’s a phenomenally useful course for those who are comfortable with a camera and want to start pushing themselves further. And it’s particularly pleasing to see plenty of makeshift homemade kit as well, such as the home studio cobbled together from scrap cardboard and tracing paper, rather than oodles of high-end expensive kit.
Key specs: 36 lectures across three and a half hours; 3,500 subscribers; automatically closed-captioned

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