How is the New Switch Lite Different from the Nintendo Switch?

Nintendo's new Switch Lite is a smaller, cheaper version of its smash hit console.
Nintendo

After a phenomenal introduction two years ago, Nintendo is doing what Nintendo does and releasing a revised version of its Switch console in September. This one’s a budget version laser-focused on portable gaming.

The Switch Lite will be released on September 20th, with a retail price of $200 ($100 less than the full-sized Switch). Here’s how it’s different from the original.

No Switching: All Portable, All the Time

The most notable change for the Switch Lite is that it doesn’t, well, switch: the signature TV dock is gone, and you won’t be able to add one in with a separate purchase—it’s simply not compatible with the Lite.  Other features designed around shared play, like the flimsy kickstand, have been removed as well.

"Here's the thing you can play on the thing you can't play it on."
“Here’s the thing you can play on the thing you can’t play it on.” Nintendo

Games will run in “portable mode” all the time on the Switch Lite, which might be a good thing for some of them. Sticking to that 720p display instead of running it through USB-C/HDMI will mean better performance on the NVIDIA Tegra-based hardware. Oddly, the USB-C charging port is still on the bottom.

Smaller Body and Screen With Control Tweaks

With that focus on portability comes a smaller body and screen. The Switch Lite is about two thirds the size of the Switch, and its controls are part of the main plastic body (no removable Joy Cons on this one). Since it’s only ever meant for a single player, Nintendo has done away with the mirrored left/right control setup and given the Switch Lite a proper Game Boy-style D-Pad on the left side.

Fighting game fans everywhere thank you.
Fighting game fans everywhere thank you. Nintendo

The touchscreen is just 5.5 inches, .7 inches smaller than the original. That doesn’t sound like much, but consider that we’re in smartphone display territory here: it’s about the difference between the iPhone XS and XS Max. It’s still using a respectable 720p resolution, and presumably, will use the same unfortunately vulnerable plastic construction. The Switch’s integrated brightness sensor is gone, so you’ll have to rely on manual control.

Battery size isn’t mentioned, but Nintendo says it will last a little longer than the original. That’s probably thanks to the smaller screen and singular body—it saves internal space and doesn’t need dedicated batteries for the Joy-Cons.

IR and HD Rumble are Gone

Nearly all Switch games will be compatible with the Switch Lite, in the same way that all 3DS games can be played on the 2DS, and the Lite has access to both cartridge games and downloads from the Nintendo eShop. Storage for games can be boosted with a MicroSD card.

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Wyze Cameras Add New “Person Detection” Feature for Notifications and Searches

An update to Wyze cameras allows users to be notified only if people are visible.
Wyze

If you’re using a security camera at home, you’re dealing with hundreds of hours of video a week. But if you need to retrieve any of it, you might only be interested in the bits with humans. Wyze gets that.

To help deal with constant live and recorded video, the company is rolling out “Person Detection” to its inexpensive cameras. With this feature enabled, the Wyze app will notify the phone app when a human walks into the frame of one of the cameras connected to your home network. Users can also search through recorded video, highlighting only the portions that include a human.

This sort of detection is much harder to automate than you might think—most of the consumer-facing software in the area has been focused on, well, faces. Wyze’s press release says that the company has partnered with Seattle-based software firm Xnor (pronounced Ecks-nor, not Znore) to perform AI processing on the Wyze Cam itself, no cloud server required.

Wyze says the person detection feature will reduce the number of false positives its users receive from the Wyze Cam v2 and Wyze Cam Pan. The feature will roll out in a firmware update starting today.

iClever Smart Outlets Are Effective, But Tricky to Set Up

iClever Wi-Fi outlet plugged in to a standard wall outlet.
iClever’s Wi-Fi outlets are a simple way to expand your smarthome. Michael Crider

It’s difficult to say much about smart outlets. They turn on, and they turn off. They do both of those things if you or an automated service tells them to. That’s about it.

Within those admittedly limited parameters, iClever’s smarthome outlets serve admirably. The IC-BS08 is the single-plug, indoor version, while the IC-BS06, offers double plugs rated for some splashy weather. Both models do what they say on the box and don’t cost much. The setup process, however, is pretty poor—even if all you’re trying to do is connect them to a management program, like Google Home.

I used both plugs to control some simple lights. I wanted to see if they would turn off and on as I indicated via the software switch on my phone and the scheduling system in Google Home. And they did! The IC-BS06 also allows you to control each plug separately (plug 1 or plug 2, as they’re helpfully labeled on the plastic case) or both together. To be thorough, I splashed it with some water to test the IP44 rating, which it’s supposed to be able to take (not soaking or sustained water pressure, however). It passed there, too.

The outdoor version of the iClever Wi-Fi outlet with a white cord plugged in to one if its two outlets.
The more elaborate outdoor version of the iClever Wi-Fi outlet includes two plugs and IP44 water resistance. Michael Crider

The problems started when I attempted to set up the plugs. Even getting to the app that allows you to set them up was problematic. iClever doesn’t have its own branded app; it uses “Smart Life by Tuya” (iOS, Android). It’s the first thing that came up in the Google Play Store when I searched for “iClever,” but it’s not very obvious it’s required.

Three menus from the Tuya app for setting up the iClever plugs.
The Tuya app for setting up the iClever plugs is a mess. Michael Crider

The generic setup process doesn’t help either. The outlets appear as generic icons without model numbers, so you have to guess which is which. I also had to put both of them in AP mode to set up the Wi-Fi. This is done by depressing the single device button and waiting for a long blinking via the light. This is, again, aided by illustrations in the app that don’t correspond to the placement or colors of the indicator lights. It took multiple attempts and 25 minutes to get both outlets working. This included having to disconnect the Smart Life app, and then re-connect it to Google to get the second outlet to appear in Google Home.

Once the connection was finally made, and the Smart Life app was connected to my Google Home system, the plugs appeared as promised. Manual and scheduled controls were also available, and they both worked. They’re limited to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks, but that’s standard for most budget smarthome equipment.

Google Home screen showing the iClever plugs and the On and Off options.
Once connected to Google Home or Alexa, the plugs are easy to integrate into your system. Michael Crider

In terms of value, iClever is fairly competitive. You can get the indoor Smart Plug for $12 or a two-pack for $22. The outdoor version is $26, but the extra environmental protection and its dual-outlet build justify the additional cost. These prices are within a few dollars of plugs from lesser-known, budget brands on sites like Amazon. However, they’re about half the cost of more “official” plugs that are better integrated with Amazon or Google but provide the same functionality.

There are certainly more intuitive smart plugs available with far less frustrating setup processes. But if you’re looking at price first, you might be okay with the temporary headache during setup, as long as it works consistently afterward—which these outlets do.

The other plugs I’ve tried in this price range have all had a similarly frustrating setup process with third-party apps that are no better or worse—so you can consider that an endorsement.

The Omni 20+ Battery is Made for a Specific User (Who Probably Isn’t You)

The Omni 20+ can charge via USB, USB-C, an AC outlet, a DC power cable, and !i wireless charging.
Michael Crider

When I was offered the OmniCharge Omni 20+ for review, I asked myself, “is it worth $200 to charge everything you could want at any time?” And the answer is yes, but you don’t necessarily need to spend that much.

The Omni 20+ offers three things on top of its competitors in the growing “big giant battery with a wall outlet” niche (sorry for using technical terms there). One, it’s very compact. Two, it offers wireless charging for phones and other gadgets. And three, it has a direct charge port for non-standard devices, like DSLRs or specialized industrial equipment. That last one is extremely important to a small sliver of users and makes this battery worth it for them. But the rest of us will be better served by bigger, cheaper batteries.

A Beautiful Brick

The Omni 20+ is a brick, but a beautiful one. Its smooth, tapered edges and thoughtful layout show a bit more design work than the usual rechargeable battery, and it’s shockingly compact for a 20,400 mAh unit. All the controls and ports are on the smaller edges: two USB-A ports on the front (18 watt maximum on both), USB-C (60 watt max out, 40 watt max in) and DC “barrel” port (100 watt maximum) on one side, and a standard American AC outlet (120 watt peak output) on the opposite. The top, bottom, and one edge are blank, so you’ll need to know ahead of time that there’s a 10-watt Qi wireless charger hiding beneath the top plastic.

The Omni 20+'s screen is handy, but its menu system is very obtuse.
The Omni 20+’s screen is handy, but its menu system is very obtuse. Michael Crider

There’s also a rare sight on a battery, and one of the features marking this model as a premium tool instead of a convenience gadget: an OLED screen. Though it only has three buttons, this control system allows the user to disable or enable various ports and features. It’s more necessary than you might think: it allows the DC barrel port to charge almost anything, ranging from 12 to 20 volts at five amps.

The DC barrel port on the Omni 20+ differentiates it from other batteries, but it's redundant on top of the AC outlet.
The DC barrel port on the Omni 20+ differentiates it from other batteries, but it’s redundant on top of the AC outlet. Michael Crider

It’s too bad that actually navigating this screen is such a hassle. The package includes almost zero documentation, so I had to go online to the OmniCharge website to figure out how the various buttons opened the menu system and turned the various ports on and off. Once I managed this, actually working the thing was easy…but it’s a long way from intuitive.

Where’s the Dang Charger?

That brings me to another omission from the package: any means of actually charging this massive battery in a timely manner. The box includes a USB-C-to-C and a USB-C-to-A cable, and yes, technically you could charge it off of those from just a phone’s “wall wart” or a computer. But depending on your setup, that could take you all day (or longer). To completely charge and drain this thing multiple times, I was lucky that I had an Anker 60-watt USB-C charger for my laptop. For a $200 battery, including no means of efficient recharging is a huge let-down.

The package includes an A-to-C and a C-to-C cable, but no means of quickly charging the battery itself. What?
The package includes an A-to-C and a C-to-C cable, but no means of quickly charging the battery itself. What? Michael Crider

In terms of actual performance, I have no complaints. After digging into the screen menu a few times, I was able to charge a smattering of mobile gadgets at their highest rates, even without using the AC wall outlet. That includes my Galaxy Note 8, HP Chromebook X2, Nintendo Switch, and Galaxy Buds all via the USB-C port, with the phone and headset taking a recharge from the wireless port, too. For my less universal gadgets, I resorted to the USB-A ports, and my clunky old ThinkPad happily slurped up juice from the AC outlet. I managed to use every port on the device, except the DC barrel, at once. Aside from a little heat from the body, it performed fine.

What Problems Does It Solve?

But therein lies the problem of value. If you’re looking at this battery over, say, this very similar RAVpower model for $120 less, that DC barrel port is what you’re probably most interested in. I couldn’t find a use for it. Everything I have that recharges via those cables uses an AC adapter, and the $50 accessory pack add-on (which still doesn’t include a means of quickly charging up the battery itself) wasn’t supplied to me. The wireless charging is likewise niche: if you’re going to the trouble of bringing a portable battery that weighs 1.3 pounds along with you, half an ounce for a USB cable and much faster charging doesn’t seem like an imposition.

 

The DC barrel charging port is highly adjustable, handy for enterprise gadgets.
The DC barrel charging port is highly adjustable, handy for enterprise gadgets. Michael Crider

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Buying a Smart TV? Get One That’s Actually Smart

Rear view of a smart TV with a Google Chromecast device attached.
Options for minimizing smart TV software are limited these days. Google

If you long for the days when a TV was just a TV, you’re out of luck. Every major TV manufacturer has switched exclusively to “smart” TVs, filled with onboard streaming software you may or may not want.

These flashy interfaces are, all too often, coming between you and the stuff you want to do on your TV. There’s also the problem of privacy and security. If you have to log into a television with yet another personal account (possibly connected to all of your streaming media services, to boot), it’s inherently less secure than an old-fashioned screen. That’s before you even throw in the different streaming accounts, payment systems, software updates, or built-in cameras and microphones. At present, there hasn’t been a wide-scale attack on smart TV software, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t vulnerable.

Unfortunately, if this is upsetting to you, your options are limited. But it might be worth it to go through the best of the few options you do have for security, convenience, or just making your television simple again.

Smart TVs Ain’t That Smart

There are many reasons why you might want to avoid the current crop of smart televisions. One of the most common is that, well, they’re “smart,” i.e., far more complex than the old screen-and-tuner variety. All you had to mess with on those were the inputs and picture settings.

The reason almost every TV sold now has smart streaming features is it’s cheap and easy to implement. With a few low-cost parts (often shared with budget smartphones sans the screen and battery), TV manufacturers can turn a “dumb” screen into something that streams video over Wi-Fi from dozens of sources. It’s so cheap and easy to do this that it seems like the entire industry has ticked over to smart TVs in just a few short years.

But cheap and easy isn’t the same as good. A lot of these manufacturers aren’t necessarily that great at software or interfaces, and slapping some ARM-powered guts into a decent screen won’t change that. So, you can find yourself using a now-unavoidable interface that looks like a stripped-down game console, without the benefit of the speed or input consoles have.

Samsung's smart TV security details, covering the platform, application, and hardware stages.
Remember when “TV security” meant locking your front door? Samsung hopes you don’t. Samsung

There’s also the problem of security. Most TVs want you to log into a new system with a username and password even before you connect the accounts of your streaming services. That creates yet another point of failure for personal security, which doubles if your TV or remote includes a microphone. Smart TVs use local internet connections to update their software, theoretically patching security vulnerabilities.

However, there’s no evidence that TV manufacturers are taking security seriously, so this is yet another thing to consider that you didn’t have to worry about with older designs. It’s been shown that some brands are vulnerable to hacking, so Samsung now includes encryption and anti-malware software on its platform.

It’s all quite removed from plugging a rabbit ear antenna into your old RCA. The options for simplifying a smart TV’s usage and minimizing its security risks are somewhat limited.

Option One: Go with Roku or Fire TV Designs

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