Wyze’s New Bulb Is the Fastest, Cheapest Way to Modernize Your Home’s Lighting

Two Wyze bulbs sitting on a table.
The Wyze Bulb is a cheap, easy way to expand smarthome functionality. Michael Crider

So, you want to get in on the smarthome craze, but aren’t crazy about the initial cost? Wyze’s new Bulb can help you out.

While it’s not the first all-in-one smart bulb on the market, it’s the cheapest from a reliable supplier. It also works with popular platforms, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, right out of the box. At $8 a bulb, with no need for a Hue-style hub (which is barely more than a conventional “dumb” LED light bulb), it’s an excellent choice for those who are just getting started or those who want to expand basic connected lighting to their entire home on the cheap.

There’s not much to the packaging: they sent me a four-pack of the new bulbs in a box that doesn’t look much different from something you’d pull off a hardware store shelf. It helpfully informs you that the bulbs inside work with Amazon, Google, and IFTTT, and they’re rated for 800 lumens of brightness.

Back of a Wyze bulb, sitting on a table.
The inexpensive bulb works in all standard lamps and lights. Michael Crider

What it doesn’t tell you (and what you might not assume) is that the bulbs are white only, offering a color temperature of 2700-6700 K. That covers a broad spectrum of “warm” to “cool” in conventional bulb terms, but Wyze’s budget bulbs won’t give you the rainbow colors you might associate with smarthome lighting.

That’s pretty much the only downside to this bulb, though, and it’s not much of a problem. If you want a cheap way to check out smarthome functionality, this works. And if you want to expand smart lighting to your entire home—with the small caveat that you can’t do it in Technicolor—it works there, too.

Wyze’s app is surprisingly adept at handling its myriad products, and the Bulb is no exception. You can add shortcuts, set them to different rooms (or “groups” in the Wyze app), change scenes for waking up or sleeping, and schedule events in an interface better than the major omnibus options (no surprise there). Link it to Amazon or Google instead, and it works exactly as you’d expect. For an inexpensive and simple gadget, you can’t hope for much more.

The Wyze app makes it easy to set up and manage the Bulbs. It also interfaces with Google and Amazon.
The Wyze app makes it easy to set up and manage the Bulbs. It also interfaces with Google and Amazon.

The bulb, at five ounces, is heavier than even the hub-free bulbs I’ve tried from other budget manufacturers. But unless you plan to use it in lamps that are oddly fragile or rely on tension to stay in place (like a Pixar-style desk lamp), this won’t be an issue for most people.

As a value proposition, next to products like Hue (which cost $15-$20 for a white-only bulb, not including the mandatory wireless hub or more expensive Bluetooth versions), the Wyze Bulb is phenomenal. It’s even cheaper than some of the no-name bulbs out there, and it doesn’t give you headaches from its branded app or when connecting to Google or Amazon.

Fill your smarthome up with these bulbs, and your bank account will thank you.

The Switch Lite Exacerbates Nintendo’s Portable Problems

The Switch Lite might exacerbate one of the Switch's biggest (and smallest) usability problems.

I love my Nintendo Switch. But I don’t love taking it with me in its much-vaunted portable form. The new Switch Lite won’t fix that—if anything, it will make it worse.

So what’s the problem? I won’t tease you: it’s that games are often too hard to see on the small 6.2-inch screen. Those of you blessed with perfect vision might not notice this, but it’s been a fairly consistent complaint about switch games since the very beginning. And to be fair, this isn’t exactly Nintendo’s fault: it’s more a problem with the game developers (often including Nintendo’s internal studios) not taking the practicalities of the Switch’s form factor into account.

Take a look at this screenshot from Breath of the Wild. It’s pretty standard stuff for an action-RPG: the menu system has to get a lot of information to you in an efficient way. And it’s plenty comfortable on the 55-inch TV in my living room, where almost all of my Switch gaming is done.

Breath of the Wild’s inventory menu, as seen on your television.

Now take a look at the same game menu on the Switch’s tablet screen, barely one-tenth of the size. It’s no bigger than my Galaxy Note phone screen, with one quarter the resolution and a notable drop in clarity on Nintendo’s cheap LCD panel.

The same screen as above, on the six-inch original Switch.
The same screen as above, on the six-inch original Switch. Michael Crider

Playing Zelda in handheld mode is an exercise in frustration for me. Ditto for Smash Bros, where the fighters are about the size of a Tic-Tac when the camera zooms out on a big battle. It’s telling that, when Nintendo released Smash Bros. on the 3DS in 2014, it gave players the option to have easy-to-see borders around the fighters, an option that’s unfortunately absent in the Switch-exclusive Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Trying to read text formatted for a television on a tiny handheld screen was the one real downside of playing one of my all-time favorites, Mark of the Ninja, on the go.

The Nintendo 3DS version of Smash Bros. has visibility assistance features, but Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch lacks them.
The Nintendo 3DS version of Smash Bros. has visibility-assisting outlines on fighters features, but Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch lacks them. Nintendo

Take Fortnite, the biggest game in the world right now. Developer Epic has copied the interface from the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation versions more or less exactly on the Switch…and in handheld mode, the smallest type on the screen is literally one millimeter high. On the 5.5-inch Switch Lite with the same 720p resolution, it will be even smaller.

The smallest text on this screen is only a milimeter high on the Switch's handheld display.
The smallest text on this screen is only a millimeter high on the Switch’s handheld display.

I’m no developer, but I’m going to guess that part of the problem is that the Switch has enjoyed such a robust library of ports from home consoles and indie PC titles on Steam. These games don’t take a huge amount of time or resources to port (at least compared to original development), and I’ll wager that developers and quality assurance teams test them almost exclusively on monitors and televisions, the format for which they were initially designed. Testing for a long time in handheld mode wouldn’t be practical, but as reviews show, it’s necessary.

The problem isn’t universal. Games designed with portable play in mind, like Pokemon Let’s Go, don’t have the same issues. Whether it’s the fact that the game comes from a long legacy of Game Boy and Nintendo DS portable games, or that it’s intended primarily for a much younger audience, the text in Pokemon is big and eyeball-friendly. Ports from iOS and Android like Fallout Shelter, not to mention Nintendo’s own 3DS, seem to fare a lot better. The principle is pretty easy to distill down: games designed to be viewed on a tiny screen don’t suffer from playing on a television, but games made for a TV can be brutal on a small display.

The camera angles and text in Pokemon: Let's Go is much more friendly for portable players.
The camera angles and text in Pokemon: Let’s Go are much more friendly for portable players. Nintendo

The Switch Lite is all portable, all the time, with no option for docked play on a television. And its screen is even smaller than the typical 2019 phone screen. Playing some of the Switch’s most popular games on it is going to be brutal.

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What Makes a Gaming Phone Different from Other Phones?

Man's hands playing a game on a Razer phone.

A few notable “gaming phones” have hit the mobile market over the last year. But any phone can play games, right? So, what’s the deal?

We’re seeing an interesting shift here. Smartphones became a popular platform for games because, well, it’s easy to play games on them. In the ’80s and most of the ’90s, PCs were only thought of as “game machines” in an ancillary, secondary way, when compared to the more singularly focused game consoles. PC gamers became so enthusiastic that specialized parts—and, eventually, entire machines—were dedicated to gaming.

Mobile gaming crossed that threshold, perhaps, even faster, since the smartphone is now the primary focus of most people’s digital interaction. But what makes a “gaming phone” different from a more conventional model, especially since top-of-the-line iPhones and Android phones already use the most powerful hardware around? The answer is a set of small, but sometimes crucial, design choices.

Bigger, Faster Screens

With the touchscreen being almost the sole point of interaction for mobile games, it makes sense that gamers want that screen to be as big as possible. Indeed, most of the new crop of gaming phones have screens above six inches diagonal, putting them among the largest on the market. ASUS has its ROG (“Republic of Gamers”) Phone, Xiaomi has Black Shark, at precisely six inches, and Huawei’s Honor Play is 6.3 inches. In that field, Razer’s self-titled Phone and Phone 2 are almost small at a mere 5.7 inches.

The Razer Phone 2 sitting on a table with a game on its screen.
The Razer Phone 2 has a 120 Hz screen—twice as fast as “normal” phones. Razer

There’s another element about the display that puts a gaming phone above the competition: the refresh rate. Most phone screens use a 60 Hz refresh rate, the same standard used on most monitors and televisions. But just like the bigger screens, a faster refresh rate means you can see more frames per second. Razer’s signature feature is a 120 Hz LCD screen. The Asus ROG Phone uses 90 Hz, as does the lesser-known Nubia (ZTE) Red Magic 3. To be fair, though, this feature is leaking into more conventional, high-end phones, like the OnePlus 7 Pro.

Most current mobile games look for a standard 60 frames per second performance rate, so the difference might be unnoticeable. But both Razer and Huawei are partnering with mobile game developers to make more games compatible with these speedy screens.

Louder Speakers

A man's hands playing a game on an Asus phone.
Gaming phones usually offer front-facing stereo speakers. ASUS

Naturally, sound is almost as essential to video games as, well, video. As more mainstream phone manufacturers are minimizing mono speakers to make their products even slimmer and free of bezels, gaming phone manufacturers want them big, clear, and loud. Most of the models currently on the market feature dual stereo speakers—the Razer Phone has particularly prominent front-facing blasters.

Fast Processors, Lots of RAM

To boost performance, gaming phones boast the latest-generation processors and plenty of memory. Again, this is not necessarily a big difference when compared to flagship phones, and plenty of those are even using the same processors from Qualcomm. But gaming phones often tune them differently, sacrificing battery life and efficiency for pure speed. This way, they can also feature custom cooling solutions for the extra heat, including liquid/vapor chambers or external coolers.

The ASUS ROG Phone.
The ROG Phone runs so hot, it has an optional external heatsink. ASUS

Of course, lots of speed and heat means…

Chunky Batteries

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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.

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.

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.