OnePlus 3T review: Good but gone

The OnePlus 3T has been usurped by newer models, with the latest being the excellent OnePlus 5T. The company no longer stocks the OnePlus 3T, but you can still get it second-hand on Amazon. If you’re looking for a newer device, the 5T is £449 and – in the words of our reviewer Jonathan Bray – quite simply the best mid-range smartphone money can buy. If you have your heart set on a 3T, read on. 
Jonathan Bray’s original OnePlus 3T review continues below.
The OnePlus 3 set a new standard for reasonably priced smartphones when it was launched in June 2016, and for five months it has ruled the roost. Offering an incredible combination of premium specifications and a ridiculously reasonable price, it carved out a whole new category; it was so good it had no close rivals.
Now, however, the OnePlus is ending the honeymoon with the new OnePlus 3T, a new replacement flagship smartphone with a faster processor, a bigger battery and, on paper, a vastly improved front camera – but also a much higher price.
READ NEXT: Best smartphones of 2016 — our favourite phones
OnePlus 3T review: Changes
So what’s new? From a physical perspective, there’s hardly anything new at all. Like the S versions of Apple’s iPhones, all the important improvements have taken place beneath the surface.
I liked the design of the OnePlus 3 when I first saw it and I’m still a fan. The OnePlus 3T is almost identical to its forebear, available in the same range of colours with an attractive anodised metal chassis with grippy, chiselled edges.
This is an area where I feel the OnePlus 3T forges ahead of even more expensive phones such as the Google Pixel XL and the iPhone 7 Plus (although perhaps not the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge). Those chamfered sides create more friction between the skin on your palms and fingers and the phone’s aluminium shell, meaning it’s a less stressful experience wielding the phone one-handed. That’s an important consideration for anyone who’s ever dropped their phone on a hard, unforgiving surface and cracked the screen or worse.
The one external difference between the OnePlus 3T and the original is its slightly flattened out rear panel and a tougher sapphire crystal lens cover for the camera. Otherwise it’s as you were before: a dual-SIM tray resides on the right-hand side, just above the power button, on the left edge lives the phone’s three-way do-not-disturb switch and volume rocker, while adorning the bottom of the phone is a six-pinprick speaker grille, the phone’s USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
OnePlus 3T vs OnePlus 3: Key specs compared
I could editorialise about what makes the OnePlus 3T better than the OnePlus 3, at least from a specifications point of view, but I feel a table is the best place to present that sort of information, so here it is: a point-by-point comparison of the two.

OnePlus 3T
OnePlus 3

Screen
5.5in AMOLED, 1,920 x 1,080 (401ppi), Gorilla Glass 4
5.5in AMOLED, 1,920 x 1,080 (401ppi), Gorilla Glass 4

Processor
Quad-core 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Quad-core 2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

Graphics
Adreno 530
Adreno 530

RAM
6GB
6GB

Storage
64GB/128GB
64GB

Dimensions
75 x 7.4 x 153mm
75 x 7.4 x 153mm

Weight
158g
158g

Rear camera
16MP, f/2, phase-detect autofocus, OIS, sapphire crystal glass lens cover
16MP, f/2, phase-detect autofocus, OIS

Front camera
16MP, f/2
8MP, f/2

Max 4G speed
Cat6 (300Mbits/sec download, 50Mbits/sec upload)
Cat6 (300Mbits/sec download, 50Mbits/sec upload)

Battery capacity
3,400mAh
3,000mAh

Price
£400 (64GB); £439 (128GB)
£329

That’s not an awful lot for your £70, although the new 128GB storage option is pretty tempting. Is it worth the premium? Well, no, but it will soon be a moot point. When stocks run out of the OnePlus 3, you won’t have any choice but to buy a OnePlus 3T.
And, judged on its own merits, this is still an extremely generous specification for the money. There’s no other smartphone at this price that comes close. We currently like the Motorola Moto Z Play for its superlative battery life and clever modular accessories, but it can’t match the OnePlus 3 for power and all-round appeal.

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The content sourced from: http://www.alphr.com/mobile-phones/1004852/oneplus-3t-review-good-but-gone

More EX Raid Passes Sent Out

Perhaps the most controversial feature in Pokemon GO at this point are the EX Raids. These exclusive, invite-only events allow small groups of players the chance to get together and take down a special Battle Raid boss that nobody else has access to. The system is meant to provoke excitement over the chance to catch an ultra-rare Legendary creature, but mostly it has just resulted in players being angry for not receiving invites or receiving invites for locations they can’t make it to during the small time window.

Despite the vocal complaints about the Pokemon GO EX system, Niantic is still rolling forward with it. There were some recent updates that were supposed to help get more players involved, but we haven’t exactly seen the results of that quite yet. The latest wave of EX invites have just been released and it sounds like a lucky group of players will be raiding early next week.
The invites went out yesterday afternoon and Reddit immediately started filling up with players from around the world who were announcing their excitement about the news.

In addition to the players who are excited about the new wave of invites, there is another section of the community who is upset about how the invites were determined. Apparently the theory is that Niantic followed its old invite algorithm, instead of the new one that was recently established. This means less invites and less gyms involved.

EX Raids are likely going to continue being tweaked throughout the game’s lifecycle, but hopefully Niantic is able to get things straightened out sooner than later. Many die-hard players who have been raiding since the feature was introduced still haven’t received the chance to participate in an EX Raid and the salt is very real.
Will you be participating in an EX Raid in the coming week? If so, good luck out there, trainer!

Pokemon GO is available now in select regions on Android and iOS devices.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ200 Review – Preview Images

Mac users, Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar 2018 is now available for just $69£64 for new users and $49£44 for upgrading users. We’ve rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended”. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10£9 on Luminar (new users and upgrades).
This special offer runs until February 26th and also includes 2 E-books from Andrew Gibson: “The Creative Photographer” and “Mastering Exposure”, Ultra Violet LUTs by Richard Harrington, Ultra Violet Preset Pack by Richard Harrington, and a Futuristic Preset Pack.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Windows users, Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar 2018 is now available for just $69£64 for new users and $49£44 for upgrading users. We’ve rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended”. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10£9 on Luminar (new users and upgrades).
This special offer runs until February 26th and also includes 2 E-books from Andrew Gibson: “The Creative Photographer” and “Mastering Exposure”, Ultra Violet LUTs by Richard Harrington, Ultra Violet Preset Pack by Richard Harrington, and a Futuristic Preset Pack.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Ahead of our full review, here are some sample images taken with a pre-production version of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ200 compact camera.

The Panasonic TZ200 is a new premium compact camera with a 1-inch image sensor and 15x zoom lens.
A gallery of sample images taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ200 compact camera.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ200 Sample Images

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Why LG decided to present a new V30 version at MWC

LG finally made it clear that it will be bringing some news to MWC this year. A new version of the LG V30 with more smart AI features; certainly a smart announcement from the manufacturer, but it’s not likely to steal the limelight right now.

Some say that smartphones have reached the peak. Or rather, a plateau. In other words, there are hardly any more development opportunities, and few new developments actually impress us. It seems that manufacturers are losing momentum. 
On the other hand, that isn’t totally true. A technical revolution is currently taking place in other areas. Image recognition functions don’t knock you off your feet, but they represent an enormously advanced and exciting technology. Speech recognition is the stuff of science fiction movies, and in a few years time it will become even more advanced.
Google introduced Assistant in October 2016. At the beginning, it was not all that useful. Fast forward to almost one and a half years later, Assistant has come a long way. Google Home, particularly the Home Mini are top sellers – only beaten by Amazon Alexa. Amazon Echo has gone beyond just simply being a smart speaker. With the Echo Show, Amazon is now offering video calling along with voice control and a fast Internet connection.  Amazon could soon turn out to be a big winner here.

Amazon Echo Show / © AndroidPIT by Irina Efremova

We know LG announced a new version of the V30 that will be presented during MWC. An update that focuses on artificial intelligence functions, with Voice AI improving the use of Google Assistant commands. Vision AI extends the smartphone’s camera to include object detection in order to recommend the correct exposure settings. For example, if the V30 detects a plate of pasta, the food mode is activated, producing warmer colors and a sharper picture. 
However, they are not ground-breaking new features and neither of them are set to wow the crowds at MWC as of course, competitors are also offering their own versions of these technologies. 
Us too!
We’ve seen it before: manufacturers are simply following the trends, and for this reason it wasn’t surprising that LG announced new AI technologies. Don’t start yawning too soon though. For LG, developing its AI is a life insurance policy. Why? Because LG doesn’t make its profits with smartphones, but with household appliances and TVs instead.
Anyone who walks through an LG trade fair stand will see washing machines, refrigerators, televisions and more, but without a smartphone, LG would be missing out on an opportunity. 

The LG V30 is getting smarter! / © AndroidPIT

In a few years time, electronics in your home will be networked with assistance systems, and LG is currently working with the ThinQ brand. Sooner or later, your smartphones will also be involved with this.  

Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

LG, Google, Samsung, Huawei and LG are setting the future course in the smartphone market
What do you think?

LG’s V30 needs a better camera
Are these AI functions really what the LG V30 needs? If you ask me, a much more important feature would be an improved camera. But I guess that will have to wait. For V30 owners, there is some good news however, as the AI functions may also be available on older smartphone models via a software update.
Is LG heading in the right direction? Do you think the camera should be a priority?

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Ultrasound could waken a sleeping smart home

The home of the future, we are assured, will be swarming with tiny sensors: security cameras, carbon monoxide detectors, speakers and everything else. Few need to be running all the time — but how do you wake them up when they’re needed if they’re off in the first place? Ultrasound.
That’s the idea being pursued by Angad Rekhi and Amin Arbabian at Stanford, anyway. Their approach to the problem of devices that can’t stay on, yet can’t be all the way off, is to minimize the amount of energy necessary to send and receive a “wake” signal. That way the Internet of Things really only consumes power when they’re actively in use.
Radio, which of course all these tiny sensors use to transmit and receive information, is actually pretty expensive in terms of power and space. Keeping the antenna and signal processor ready and listening uses more energy than these devices have to spare if they’re to last for years on a charge.
Ultrasonic sensors, on the other hand, are incredibly power-efficient and require very little space. Ultrasound — soundwaves above the human range of hearing, 22KHz or so — is a much more physical phenomenon, and detecting it is easier in many ways than detecting radio frequency waves. It’s a bit like the difference between a sensor that’s sensitive to nearly intangible x-rays versus one that detects ordinary visible light.

Rekhi (left) and Arbabian looking natural in the lab

Rekhi, a grad student in electrical engineering working under Arbabian, describes their approach in a paper just presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. It’s a simple idea in a way — a small switch that hits a bigger switch — but the results are impressive.
The system’s ultrasound receiver is efficient even for an efficient class of sensors; the tiny, super-sensitive microphone was developed at Stanford, as well, by the Khuri-Yakub Group. The receiver is always on, but draws an amazingly small 4 nanowatts of power, and is sensitive enough to detect a signal with a single nanowatt’s strength. That puts it well ahead of most radio receivers in terms of power consumption and sensitivity.
There’s one from a study last year that has it beat on both… but it’s also more than 50 times bigger. The ultrasonic sensor only takes up 14.5 square millimeters to the radio chip’s 900. That’s valuable real estate on an embedded device.
You wouldn’t be able to activate it from across town, of course — ultrasonic signals don’t travel through walls. But they do bounce around them, and the wake-up system’s sensitivity means even the smallest fragment of an ultrasonic signal will be sufficient to activate it.
It’s just a prototype right now, but don’t be surprised if this sort of mega-efficient tech gets snatched up or duplicated by companies trying to squeeze every ounce of life out of a watt-hour.

Featured Image: mrtom-uk/Getty Images
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The content sourced from: https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/20/ultrasound-could-waken-a-sleeping-smart-home/?ncid=rss

Gigabyte Aorus X9 review: An amazingly fast gaming laptop

The Aorus X9 is outrageous. It’s the first laptop we’ve seen with two GTX 1070 GPUs overclocked from 1,442MHz to 1,492MHz, and Gigabyte claims it’s the slimmest notebook to ever include these GPUs. It’s made from aluminium, inspired by supercars and it has two subwoofers, four fans and loads of RGB LEDs.
The keyboard and power button have LEDs, and a bar of lights above the power button indicate temperatures, battery level, speaker volume and more, plus you can program them with your own colours. There are RGB LED bars in the front, two more in the rear vents, and a final light in the lid’s Aorus logo. The lighting is paired with striking matte aluminium used throughout, and even the speaker grilles on the base panel are designed in the shape of Gigabyte’s Aorus logo.

READ NEXT: Best laptops of 2018

The X9 has strength and versatility, too. None of the panels move, no matter how much pressure you apply, and the sides contain Thunderbolt, USB 3.1 Type-C, mini-DisplayPort and HDMI connections. The base panel is tricky to remove thanks to tiny Torx screws, but the interior serves up two spare memory slots and a single 2.5in bay. Gigabyte claims the Aorus is the slimmest machine with this much hardware, but it’s still a 3.6kg lump. Its 30mm body is pretty slim for a high-end, 17.3in laptop, but you’ll need a sturdy bag to lug it around. 
It also has a mechanical keyboard. It’s a hybrid device, with switches that mimic Cherry Brown hardware beneath keys, with a small bump in their quiet typing action. 

Typing on the Scrabble-tile keys with mechanical hardware is initially a strange feeling, but you quickly get up to speed once you get used to using more pressure. It’s far more satisfying to type and play games on these keys than on the flimsy, low-travel buttons on most gaming laptops. 
The satisfying action is paired with a relative lack of noise from the keys, and the Aorus Fusion app can record macros and control the lighting. The touchpad is good, too: the buttons are fast and light, and almost as clicky as those on a proper gaming mouse. 
Meanwhile, the Core i7-7820HK CPU is a rare Intel mobile part that’s multiplier-unlocked. It has four Hyper-Threaded cores, and Gigabyte has raised its 2.9GHz stock speed to 4.3GHz by default. It’s not Coffee Lake, but it hardly matters. Elsewhere, there’s 16GB of memory and a 512GB Samsung SM961 SSD. That’s a fast drive, but that’s it for capacity – there’s no hard disk for extra data storage.

The rig is governed by Gigabyte’s Aorus software. The Command & Control tool has overclocking options, fan controls, monitor settings and more, and the overclocking section enables you to set the CPU and GPU clock speeds to five different levels. 
Gigabyte Aorus X9 review: Performance
At default settings, the GTX 1070s played Deus Ex: Mankind Divided at a minimum of 51fps, and the minimums blazed beyond 80fps in other games. This laptop will run any game at its 2,560 x 1,440 native resolution, although its overclocking features didn’t have much impact on games – you may as well leave it at its default settings for gaming. 
The processor is no slouch either, returning an overall score of 126,702 in our RealBench suite – a cracking result for a laptop. The SSD is solid too, with read and write speeds of 3,318MB/sec and 1,107MB/sec. It’s also possible to downclock the CPU, ostensibly to cut down on heat and noise. With no overclock, the X9’s overall score dropped by 11,000 points, which is still plenty quick enough for most people’s needs. 
Sadly, though, however much you tweak the clock speeds and fan control settings, the X9 will never be cool or quiet when gaming. Without any overclocking, the CPU hit a Delta T of 62°C in a gaming test, and the four fans churned out noticeable noise. During a system-wide stress test, the CPU was 10°C hotter, and the system was louder than most gaming laptops. The keyboard was a little warm, but the base panel was too hot to touch. The situation was similar with factory and maximum overclocks: the CPU was 1°C, the base panel remained too toasty to touch and noise levels remained high. 

There was some CPU throttling evident, too. No matter which overclock we chose, the processor ran around 200MHz slower during our gaming and system-wide stress tests. To be fair, most people are never likely to push the machine to these levels, but it’s worth remembering if you’re ever likely to run intensive tasks. On the plus side, the X9 was near silent when idle, and it handled less intensive games without making much noise. The GPUs never rose beyond a Delta T of 52°C. 
Meanwhile, the 17.3in matte screen is a WVA panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. It doesn’t support G-Sync, but it’s calibrated to Pantone standards before it leaves the factory. 
However, the screen only returned middling benchmarks. The 0.53cd/m2 black point is high, which means the contrast ratio of 669:1 is low – colours aren’t distinct, and dark areas aren’t deep enough. The colour temperature of 8,383K is also cool, even though the Delta E of 1.07 is excellent. Those colours may be technically accurate, but the former figure means they look a little washed-out. Uniformity and viewing angles are fine, and the middling benchmark results aren’t enough to disrupt gaming, but we expect better at this price.
The speakers are great, though. They have ample volume, booming bass and the rest of the tonal range is distinct – they’re easily good enough for gaming or movies. Finally, there are no surprises with battery life – the X9 lasted for less than 90 minutes in an application test, and half that when playing games. It’s portable, but it’s not really built for gaming away from the mains.
Gigabyte Aorus X9 review: Verdict
The GTX 1070 graphics cards and unlocked processor offer enough speed to handle any gaming or work task, but those same components make the X9 noisy and hot. The mechanical keyboard is good and the build quality is superb, but this machine is also heavy, noisy and hot-running. Also, while the screen is okay, it could be better, especially at the £3,099 inc VAT asking price. For £1,000 less money, you could build a mini-ITX rig to take to LAN events, or you could buy a lower-specced gaming laptop that’s cooler, quieter and still capable. 
Few laptops offer this much speed, but few people really need it. If it’s what you want, it’s worth accepting the downsides to get this amount of portable power – it’s an amazingly fast gaming laptop. The X9 is basically an experiment in excess, and while it nails some areas, it isn’t entirely successful in others. 

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The content sourced from: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops/1406677/gigabyte-aorus-x9-review

Bracketology 2018: Oklahoma fades toward the bubble as Kansas returns to top line

This is a fitting turn of events because “defeat” is the major theme of today’s post.
It’s another bracket with another new No. 1 seed. In the span of one week, we’ve gone from the Purdue Boilermakers holding down the fourth and final spot on the top line, to the Auburn Tigers replacing them on Friday, thanks to three straight Boiler losses, to the Kansas Jayhawks’ ascension today. Back on Saturday, Auburn suffered a double loss, as not only did the Tigers fall to the South Carolina Gamecocks, they also lost talented forward Anfernee McLemore for the remainder of the season to a severe leg injury.
Meanwhile, Kansas took down the West Virginia Mountaineers and fading Oklahoma Sooners to put itself into the thick of both the Big 12 title and the NCAA No. 1 seed chases. Saturday’s trip to Lubbock to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders, now a two seed (despite a Saturday loss at Baylor Bears), will be crucial in both.
A similar matchup in the Big East on Saturday — the Villanova Wildcats’ impressive 95-79 victory on the Xavier Musketeers’ home floor — led to a switch in the order of the top line. While the Virginia Cavaliers still remain No. 1 overall, Nova jumped Xavier for the second spot, thanks to the Wildcats’ season sweep of the Musketeers.
On seed line two, Tigers and Red Raiders are joined by the Duke Blue Devils and the Michigan State Spartans, who maintain a Big Ten presence in the top eight. Even though Purdue ended its three-game skid by surviving the Penn State Nittany Lions‘ visit on Sunday night, the Boilermakers now occupy the lead spot on seed line No. 3, ahead of the North Carolina Tar Heels, a Cincinnati Bearcats squad that lost twice last week and the Pac-12-leading Arizona Wildcats.
The Clemson Tigers slid down to line four following Sunday’s home loss to Duke, joining a pair of holdovers, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers, and newcomer, a Wichita State Shockers squad that followed up a Thursday home win over the Temple Owls by snapping Cincinnati’s 39-game home winning streak.
Looking back at the top line, sure, Kansas is a major outlier, as its six losses is three fewer than the nine total defeats Virginia, Villanova and Xavier have racked up this season. However, North Carolina picked up the fourth No. 1 seed last year with seven losses and three top seeds had six or more in 2016. So, the Jayhawks’ presence is not unprecedented, not recently at least. After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll return to the theme of losses, specifically the number of teams likely to earn at-larges despite losing 10 or more contests.

Also considered (in order): Georgia, Western Kentucky, Penn State, Boise State, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, UCF, Colorado, Oregon, Boston College, Maryland, SMU
While the Kansas State Wildcats and N.C. State Wolfpack both found themselves on the right side of the cut line in Friday’s bubble post, they return to the official bracket today. Meanwhile, the Syracuse Orange, absent Friday, is back, thanks to a crucial road victory at Miami. As for today’s final at-large newcomer, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, they only ended the Rhode Island Rams‘ perfect Atlantic 10 record and then-nation’s longest win streak of 16 games.
On the flip side, the Louisville Cardinals depart following a home loss to North Carolina, while the Washington Huskies slide out after splitting a weekend set in Seattle against Utah (loss) and Colorado (win). Temple, which disappeared on Friday after losing at Wichita State, now finds itself in the “Next Four Out” group thanks to an embarrassing home performance against the increasingly safe Houston Cougars on Sunday.

From the “college basketball comes at you fast” department, Oklahoma, a No. 1 seed in the first bracket of January, and Florida, a four seed back on January 23rd, now find themselves on the No. 8 line. While the Gators have dropped two in a row and fallen to 8-6 in the SEC — after a 4-0 start to league play, at least they’ve managed to win in February. The Sooners haven’t, as their Monday night loss in Lawrence was their sixth straight. And that total a sweep at the hands of the Texas Longhorns. Oklahoma’s struggles led Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg to bring up an interesting point on Twitter last night.

Oklahoma will have to find a way to beat Iowa State and either K-State at home or Baylor on the road. I don’t see how 17-13, 7-11 gets the Sooners into the field.
— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg)

Using RPIForecast.com’s RPI Wizard, the Sooners would finish with an RPI of 49 if they only managed to defeat Iowa State. However, winning both home games would get them to 32nd, which should be enough with an 18-12 record and 8-10 Big 12 mark, especially with good non-conference wins over Wichita State and USC and conference victories over Kansas and Texas Tech. However, dropping all three games would put the Sooners at 16-14 overall and 6-12 in the league. And at that point, they would have to win the auto bid in Kansas City. Even though the Vanderbilt Commodores were selected last season with 15 losses, that was the first time a team with 14 or more defeats had been selected since 2008.
However, the 11-loss Sooners are just an example of a bigger issue. Back when I reviewing profiles for Friday’s post, I was struck by the sheer number of teams I encountered with eight, nine, 10 and more losses with three weeks to go before Selection Sunday. And that got me wondering (never a good thing) — what’s the highest number of double-digit-loss at-large teams selected in a single NCAA Tournament? And what’s the total number of teams, both auto bid and at-large, to find themselves in the field?
Thanks to Sports Reference’s College Basketball page, I did the research and I didn’t have to go that far back to find the answer to both questions. Fully half of the 2016 NCAA Tournament field, 34 teams, entered the event with 10 or more losses, and nearly two-thirds of the at-large pool, 22 of 36 teams, found themselves invited despite posting double digits in the loss column.
Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 10 tournaments have featured 24 or more double-digit loss teams. But six of those occurrences have come after the expansion to 68 in 2011. You’d expect this, since you had to get those extra teams from somewhere. The lone outlier in the 68-team era was the 2012 NCAA Tournament. It featured just 22 double-digit-loss teams, and only 15 such at-large entrants.
And that brings me to this season. This field already features eight teams with 10 or more losses and another 14 entrants have either eight or nine losses. Plus, all of the teams in the “first eight out” group have at least nine defeats on their records. Since elimination play dictates that nearly all of these teams will lose in their respective conference tournaments, 2018 could at least tie 2016’s mark of 22 at-large teams with double-digit losses.
However, it’s going to take many conference tournament upsets to equal 2016’s total of 34 double-digit-loss entrants. Just two conferences, the MEAC and SWAC, are guaranteed to be represented by a double-digit loss team, while the ASUN, Big South and Patriot League each feature a single nine-loss team. Every other conference leader currently has seven or fewer total losses. Therefore, if those teams win their respective championships, they won’t be added to the total, barring some late regular-season struggles. Naturally, I’ll be keeping an eye on this bit of trivia the rest of the way.
One thing that is assured though, this season’s field will not feature a team that completed a perfect conference season. With Rhode Island losing at St. Bonaventure Friday night, the America East’s Vermont Catamounts entered the weekend as the final team chasing league perfection. But on Sunday, the Hartford Hawks stunned the Catamounts on their home floor.

BIG WIN for !
— #AEHoops (@AEHoopsNews)

That snapped Vermont’s 15-game win streak, the nation’s longest for not even 48 hours, and the Catamounts’ 33-game regular-season conference win streak. Curiously, the Grambling State Tigers now own the nation’s longest winning run — of 11 games (as informed me in a radio interview yesterday). Sadly, the SWAC leaders are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to APR penalties.
On Friday, I’ll be back with another look at the bubble picture. Maybe there will be some more locks named with a mere two weeks and two days left before Selection Sunday.

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Norse code: what’s the secret of the Norwegians’ Winter Olympics success? | Sport

Eleven days into the competition, Norway sit top of the medal table, out-performing much larger nations such as Canada, Germany and the US. How have they pulled it off? Here are some of the elements that have gone into their successful performance.
Long, long winters and lots of snow
From the middle of November until the end of January, the northernmost parts of Norway don’t see any sun. Much of the winter also brings sub-zero temperatures and snowfall – but that’s not enough to explain winter sport prowess on its own.
A nation born with skis on
“In Norway we are born with skis on our feet” is a folk saying with a ring of truth to it. Away from urban centres, even a trip down the road to the shops might involve a bit of cross-country skiing.
High GDP
There are only 5.2 million Norwegians, but what Norway lacks in population it makes up for in per capita GDP. Consistently listed as one of the wealthiest nations on the planet – alongside tiny nations such as Qatar, Brunei and Singapore – Norway has invested in the infrastructure and the training facilities to back up its Olympic ambition.
Brooding Nordic introspection
Norway endured a terrible 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, securing only two golds. Worse than that, they fell behind Sweden in the medal table, a moment of national shame. This led to an intense period of contemplation, with some of the Norwegian press reduced to claiming “partly Norwegian” medals for foreign competitors with Norwegian ancestry. As a nation, Norway vowed: never again.
A beautiful team experience
“We believe there is no good explanation or justification for why you have to be a jerk to be a good athlete,” Norwegian silver-medal-winner Kjetil Jansrud said this week. The Norwegian skiing team spends about 250 days of the year together, enjoys taco night together every Friday, and has been sweeping all before them at the Games. The emphasis on teamwork and a star-free team culture has paid dividends.

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Nikola Jokic’s free agency presents a unique conundrum for the Nuggets

He’s gonna get paid, and the only question is when. But that decision will have ripple effects for Denver’s cap sheet.
The Denver Nuggets should have no question that Nikola Jokic is worth a maximum contract coming off his rookie deal. The only issue is when that contract should come.
Jokic was a second-round pick in 2014, and he joined the Nuggets a year later on a contract fairly typically for a second-round pick. The first three years of Jokic’s contract (totaling $4 million) were guaranteed, and Denver also had a club option on the fourth season at $1.6 million.
Within a season and a half, Denver realized it had a star on its hands.

So there is no question that when that contract comes up, Denver will gleefully pay whatever it takes to keep their best player and continue to build a good, young team around Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris.
The question is whether that will happen in 2018 with no risk of losing Jokic, or if it will happen in 2019 with some risk.
If the Nuggets pick up Jokic’s cheap option for the 2018-19 season, due to league rules Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent in July 2019. That would mean that he could sign with any club in the NBA and Denver would not have the right to match.
This is a key difference between first- and second-round picks. Those drafted in the first round can typically only become restricted free agents after four years in the league and unrestricted free agents after five seasons. (The exception comes when teams decline club options at some point in a first-round pick’s rookie deal.) Those drafted in the second round can become restricted free agents after one, two, or three years in the league (depending on the contract) and unrestricted free agents the year after.
Because Jokic is a second-round pick, the Nuggets can reject the club option for 2018-19 this summer. Jokic would then become a restricted free agent on July 1. The Nuggets would then maintain the right to match any offer sheet he signs, if he doesn’t first sign a max contract with the Nuggets.
Doing this would ensure the Nuggets do not lose Jokic.

So what’s the downside?
Declining the club option to pay him sooner would be a huge strain on Denver’s 2018-19 salary cap sheet. That could force GM Tim Connelly to cut elsewhere, hurting the team’s trajectory at a critical point.
If he becomes a restricted free agent this summer, Jokic would be eligible for a contract with a starting salary around $25 million. The Nuggets already have $105 million worth of salaries committed for 2018-19 before accounting for Jokic. The cap is currently projected to be $101 million, with a luxury tax threshold of $121 million.
As you can see, signing Jokic to a max deal this summer would put the Nuggets over the tax threshold! Denver is not typically a team willing to pay the tax, and this would limit the Nuggets’ ability to add other free agents.
There are a couple of player options that, if declined, could open up some breathing room for Denver. Wilson Chandler, a full-time starter, has a $12.8 million option. Darrell Arthur, who seldom plays, can opt in for $7.4 million. Given how tight the market is expected to be, both should probably opt in (though Chandler could be looking to lock in a multi-year deal at a slightly smaller annual number).
If Chandler opts out and the Nuggets give Jokic the max this summer, they would come in just under the tax for next season, depending on what they do with their first-round draft pick.
Being above the tax in the summer is not the end of the world. Denver could wait until the trade deadline get back under, much as the Blazers did this season by unloading Noah Vonleh at the last minute. But for a team in a cluttered middle tier of the Western Conference, being tapped out financially with this roster isn’t ideal — and that’s before the big-money extension Murray will earn down the line.

That makes the option of waiting until 2019 to pay Jokic a little more appealing. If the Nuggets were to pick Jokic’s option this summer, they would have some room to add to the roster to make a real push in the West in 2018-19. Because they’d know Jokic’s payday is just around the corner, they’d need to remain sober in adding salary. But it provides some flexibility at a critical moment.
Still, the downside risk of losing Jokic in unrestricted free agency in 2019 — or angering his camp by delaying his payday — isn’t worth the benefit here. The Nuggets should decline Jokic’s option this summer and give him the max. You don’t tinker when you have a star: you keep them secure.
But it’s not without some pain in the short-term to do so, and you wonder if the timing here won’t prevent the Nuggets from reaching the heights they seek.

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JBL Link Speakers: The Perfect Google Home Alternative?

Richard Goodwin

20/02/2018 – 9:30am

JBL’s Link series of smart speakers are definitely worth a look if Google Home doesn’t do it for you

If you’re in the market for a set of new wireless speakers, and Sonos and HomePod are a bit too pricey, you definitely want to be looking at JBL’s Link series.
Why? Well, there’s plenty of choice, for one. Second, they’re great performers with great connectivity. The design of them is solid and they will look great in and around you home. They also WILL NOT mark wooden surfaces like Apple’s HomePod as well, which is always a good thing.
Why Not Google Home?
Pretty simple, really: for overall sound quality Google Home is not great; it’s not even good actually. Not compared to these JBL Link speakers or Sonos. If you want a decent Google Home audio experience you’re going to have to pony up for the Google Home Max – and that one’s pricey.
JBL’s Link speakers offer very good value for money, however, and they deliver where it counts: portability, sound quality, and connectivity. And if that wasn’t enough, they ALL feature Google Assistant, so they have Google Home matched in that regard as well.
But having an assistant like Google’s Assistant is not the be all and end all of a smart speaker. Case in point: I have three smart speakers in my home – Google Home, Google Home Mini, and an Amazon Echo – and I use exactly ZERO of them for listening to music on.
No, for music I rely on my SONOS system which is infinitely superior (and doesn’t have ANY sort of assistant ert_main_wide_image/public/2018/02/screen_shot_2018-02-20_at_09.24.12.png?itok=4DarRFEp” alt=”” />

If you’re after something small, say for your kitchen or study, the JBL Link 10 or JBL Link 20 will suffice. They’re not much bigger than Amazon’s Echo device, but they pack a punch when it comes to audio and will easily fill a small room with detailed, precise sound.
They’re also portable, and truly wireless, meaning you can move them easily and even take them out of the house if you wish – something you cannot do with Google Home or Echo, as they require a wired connection.

The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 are also ideal candidates for your living room, if you watch a lot of movies and/or play video games, as they bring quite a bit more sound performance in this context. And because they’re smart speakers, you can use them to control your TV with your voice.
The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 are more expensive than the smaller units, but they’re still A LOT cheaper than Apple’s HomePod and the Google Home Max. And, I’d argue, they kick our vastly superior sound quality too – though this is my own personal opinion.
You Can Pick Up The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 speakers via JBL For $199 and $399, Respectively.

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