The Best 3D Printers to Buy in 2019

It might feel like consumer 3D printers are still an early-adopter technology, but the truth is very different. Just a few years ago your 3D printer would have arrived in a disassembled state, having been partly put together by some scruffy guys in a shed. Now the typical mainstream 3D printer product is as polished and shiny as any other consumer electronic device you can throw a credit card at.

Prices have also been plummeting, which means that tinkerer’s on a budget can get some decent, affordable 3D printers. That’s not what we’re looking at here however. The printers listed here are ones that have pushed the industry forward as far as consumer printers are concerned.

Their features, capabilities and quality represent a quantum leap over the virtually homemade machines of the early days. So feast your eyes on four of the best 3D printers you can buy in 2019.

da Vinci Color

XYZprinting has really made a name for itself over the last few years. Their printers are consistently innovative and there are many good choices in the product range. For example, their da Vinci AIO products also include a 3D laser scanner, which turns the printer into a 3D photocopier of sorts.

While FDM printers have become quite mature, most are still limited to printing in a single color. Dual- or multi-extruder models can be used to easily print in multiple colors. One for each extrusion head. However, if you want a proper full-color 3D object there haven’t been any consumer products up to the task.

Enter the da Vinci Color. This printer feels like a real step up for the technology. It combines FDM 3D printing with CMY ink printing technology. The end result is a system that can color the outer layer of your print however you like. So you no longer need to hand-paint your prints! The da Vinci Color feels like the beginnings of the sci-fi replicators we imagined 3D printers could be.

It’s not a one-trick pony either. There are many high-tech features under the hood. WiFi is a given on high-end models these days, but it also has a neat magnetic print bed and sports a sophisticated auto-calibration system.

The 7.9 x 7.9 x 5.9 inch print volume may be a little tight for some, but the vast majority of users will be perfectly happy with that much room. The only real gripe is that the 100 micron maximum resolution is quite a bit grainier than the 20 micron resolution on the da Vinci Pro. If the price of the Color is too rich for your blood, there’s a Mini version of the printer now available for pre-order.

Flashforge Creator Pro

Flashforge already had a good thing going with the original Creator model. This new Creator Pro model takes what was great about the original and dials up the quality. Better (and more expensive) materials were chosen for the Pro, making it sturdier and more attractive.

You get aviation aluminum guaranteed not to warp under heat and a metal frame, in place of wood. The new metal construction and guide-rod assembly are all aimed at precision and reliability. To top it all off, the built chamber is insulated, so that ABS (it also supports PLA) cools consistently.

This is also a dual-extruder printer, which opens up all sorts of possibilities. Yes, you can use filaments of different colors for two-color prints, but of much more interest is the ability to have different grades of material for supports and final product.

This is a no-frills printer that knocks out high-quality prints a clear step above most other machines in this price bracket. Speaking of which, the Creator Pro initially launched with a price well north of a grand and has seen consistent price cuts, now going for almost half of the original tag.

It was already a strong competitor at full price, but at the time of writing you’d be hard-pressed to find something this good for so little.

LulzBot Taz 6

Despite the goofy name, the LulzBot Taz 6 is anything but a joke. This is an advanced, open-source, open-air 3D printer. It sports a massive build volume of 11.02” x 11.02” x 9.8” and a price that’s equally voluminous.

It’s not overpriced by any measure however. This is a SERIOUS printer that’s reliable enough to run constantly in a factory setting. Indeed, Lulzbot actually does this, with 150 machines printing parts that go into the printers that customers ultimately buy.

While there’s no WiFi connectivity, you don’t need to hook the Taz 6 up to a computer. It supports SD card printing, which means you only have to walk over with the model files to get going.

Maintenance is also kept to a minimum, with self-leveling and self-cleaning features, making this a very convenient machine to own.

Of all the things that impress about the Taz 6, the print head is at the top of the list. The printer has been designed to be modular, which means you can upgrade or modify your existing printer to support dual material printing and a long list of printing materials, including wood and metal composites, nylon filaments and printing materials that haven’t been invented yet. That’s some serious future proofing and makes the fat price tag much more sensible in this context.

Dremel Digilab 3D20

Dremel is one of the top power tool makers in the world, so it makes a lot of sense for them to try their hand at making a desktop 3D printer. The Dremel Digilab certainly looks the part, with a pleasing metallic finish and enclosed build space.

There is absolutely no pre-assembly, making this one of the most consumer-friendly 3D printers on the market. Since this printer does not have a heated build platform, you are limited to PLA material. That may not be a bad thing, since Dremel is pitching the Digilab as a high-quality desktop printer.

PLA tends to be used for models that need better details and overall finish, not ones that will actually be used for practical parts. This focus on PLA means the Digilab is tuned to that material, making it much more likely that your prints will come out the way they are supposed to.

Dremel claims that the 3D20 is the most reliable 3D printer on the market, backing it up with their testing regime. Of course, we have no way of verifying reliability claims, but Dremel has a reputation for making reliable tools. This is why the brand is such a favorite among builders and makers of all stripes.

Other quality of life features include a full-color touch screen and the ability to print from an SD card. That means the Digilab can operate independently from a computer, with a very friendly UI.

The only potential drawback is the 9”x5.9”x5.5” build volume. If you want to print models that are larger than this, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Otherwise, this is probably the best “sweet spot” desktop printer you can buy today.

The Time is Now

Standard material deposition 3D printers are now ready for primetime. There’s no reason to hesitate on pulling the trigger when it comes to desktop 3D printers any more. While there is still a lot of innovation on the horizon, the next generation of 3D printing technology isn’t going to make it to your desk any time soon.

This means that waiting doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you buy a modern 3D printer now, it should stay relevant for years to come, until they find a way to bring true multi-material printing to the home market. If you’ve always wanted a 3D printer, 2019 is as good a time as any to finally buy one. Enjoy!

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The 10 Best Android Launchers of 2019

One of Android’s most popular features, and undoubtedly a primary reason for its dominance of the smartphone market, is the operating system’s (OS) limitless customization options. Personalization possibilities abound, at both the default OS level or by installing one of the hundreds of launchers (just under 300 at Google Play Store as I wrote this).

You can find launchers that cause your phone to emulate other devices, such as iOS (iPhone) smartphones, or to help integrate your phone into your home- or business-office ecosystem, or even to make your Android device behave more like another Android device. There are a few launchers, for example, designed to give your smartphone a look and feel of the popular (yet costly) Google Pixel.

All Android smartphones come with their own, or a default, launcher, which is usually the result of the joint effort between the phone manufacturer and the cellular service provider. As you probably know from cruising around in the Settings menus, your Android’s default launcher comes with a lot of its own customization options – so much so that the myriad of choices can be daunting.

If for no other reason than simplicity, often, letting a launcher do the bulk of modifications for you is preferable to trying to customize the phone yourself.

What follows is a list of the 10 “best” Android launchers available. Again, Google Play Store lists over 275 of them. Some are free; some cost a few bucks; all are easy to download and install and just as easy to either deselect and then switch back to your previous launcher or uninstall altogether.

Even so, to settle on these top ten launchers, I did not download, install, and evaluate them all. Instead, I narrowed them down to the top 20 by choosing those with the highest user ratings and the most downloads, then I installed and evaluated the results.

Note: The following list of the 10 best Android launchers, then, is derivative of a combination of user popularity, product circulation, and my experience with each app. Note also that the stats accompanying each launcher is solely Google Play Store data and therefore does not reflect all available info from all the various download outlets; also, install numbers reflect the current version of the app, not its entire history.

Action Launcher 3

User Rating: 4.2
Installs: 93,230
Price: Free w/$3.99 Adaptive Pack upgrade

Easy, quick, and adaptive are three words that aptly describe Action Launcher. It has been around a while and has seen several updates, including v38 at the end of last year.

This launcher comes with numerous attractive themes and a few of its own widgets, including weather, date, and calendar appointments. You can create and color folders, even circular-shaped ones, to your heart’s content, and a smart size icons feature automatically resizes icons to your layouts.

Action Launcher’s Quicks (Quicktheme, Quickbar, and Quickedit), unavailable in most launcher apps, provide a wealth of, well, quick customizable features. Quicktheme, for instance, color coordinates your home screen with the colors from your wallpaper, while Quickbar lets you attach shortcuts and apps to the Google search bar for quicker access.

Quickedit presents, based on an app selection, alternative suggestions, without your having to drill through numerous app packs.

Finally, a Shutters feature allows you to place shortcuts for widgets. When swiping a shutter, the widget (say, for example, your Facebook feed) is revealed, allowing you to preview feeds, your inbox, whatever, without actually opening the app.

There’s a lot more, but I’ve got nine other launchers to talk about.

Big Launcher

User Rating: 4.3
Installs: 10,000+
Price: Free Demo w/$10.99 upgrade

My first impression when I saw this app’s name was that it was, well, big in the loaded-with-features-and-customization-options sense. But that couldn’t be further from Big Launcher’s main focus.

Instead, it’s designed with the elderly, children, and anybody else who might have difficulty navigating and utilizing a standard-size home screen and icons. Oh, it’s big alright, but that means big, easy-to-see-and-touch icons, menu labels, page content, and more.

As you can see from the stats above, it hasn’t, like several of the other apps mentioned here, been downloaded and installed hundreds of thousands of times. Undoubtedly, that’s due in part to its somewhat steep $11 price tag. There’s also a Big Launcher Easy demo, or a free version that has been downloaded a few thousand times, but it has the following stringent limitations:

  • You can customize only the right column of buttons
  • Only 5 additional screens allowed
  • Only 5 most recent items in call log are visible
  • Only 5 most recent message threads are visible
  • Only 20 SMS can be written and sent
  • Password protection of the configuration and the preferences is not possible

In addition to big everything—icons, fonts, text, apps, and so on—you also get an SOS button that makes calling for help and getting located life-saving easy. It also comes in many different languages.

If your senior (child or impaired) smartphone user has trouble navigating and using his or her phone, Big Launcher is a relatively inexpensive way to bring both you and your loved one peace of mind.

Buzz Launcher

User Rating: 4.4
Installs: 254,577
Price: Free

Buzz Launcher is different from most other launchers in that it is less about configuring your smartphone manually and more about choosing from one of the many (over 700,000 at http://www.HomePackBuzz.com and over 1,000,000 on the internet at large) user-defined home screens and accompanying features.

And, if you create a Buzz Launcher theme or wallpaper (or both) you’re proud of, you can upload and share it to the Buzz community via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

All this is not to say that Buzz Launcher doesn’t come with customization options. You can, for example, create multiple transition effects, edit icons, wallpapers, and home screens, but the real power behind this launcher is the speed and ease with which you can deploy ready-made Homepacks with all new colors, themes, home screens, and so on.

If, on the other hand, you’re more into creating and customizing your own Android launchers and corresponding interfaces, you’ll probably have better luck with one of the other nine launchers in this list.

Evie Launcher

User Rating: 4.4
Installs: 254,577
Price: Free

Evie Launcher differs from the pack in that, while it offers a sophisticated array of customization features, it doesn’t try to be everything for everybody, and therefore doesn’t overwhelm you with options. Evie starts with a slick and easy install that creates a home screen consisting of only four icons, and the icon dock is turned off, leaving you a clean canvas to work from.

Light and fast, some of Evie’s features include an Adjustable Grid, Universal Search, Quick Navigation, and Custom Shortcuts.

  • Adjustable Grid: The standard grid size on Android phones has been 4×4 for quite some time. Evie Launcher’s default desktop of 5×6 accepts grid sizes ranging from 3×4 to 12×12. Today’s smartphones come with taller, larger screens, and the ability to adjust layout sizes helps you take advantage of that extra space.
  • Universal Search: Search for anything, anywhere, no matter where you are in your phone or which app.
  • Quick Navigation: Swiping up displays a complete list of your apps, without having to navigate back to the app drawer or dock.
  • Custom Shortcuts: Make any task a shortcut with its own icon. Do you text a loved one or family member frequently? Turn the task into a shortcut.

In addition to swiping up to display the app drawer, you can swipe down from the top inside app drawer to return to the desktop, or home screen, and there’s also a double-tap-to-lock gesture for handily locking the screen.

But mostly, compared to the others discussed here, this is a lite and fast launcher. Evie has undergone a lot of updates lately, and as a result it becomes increasingly more attractive overall.

Launcher iOS 12

User Rating: 4.8
Installs: 135,096
Price: Free

LuuTinh makes a couple iOS skins for Android, Launcher iOS 12 and Control iOS 12. Both are, in a sense, the quintessential poor man’s iPhone. Either one makes your phone look like, and to some degree, act like an iPhone. About that, the publisher says:

Launcher iOS 12 sets a new standard for the Android mobile operating system. It makes your phone better than before. And now it opens up to amazing possibilities for [a] launcher on your phone. With Launcher iOS 12, Your phone is the most powerful, personal, and intelligent devices they’ve ever been.

That’s a tall order, and the assumptions are mind-boggling. This launcher simply, wherever possible, makes your Android device mimic iOS 12. Your settings menus are organized into an iOS-like Control Center, and several gestures and other features perform similar to Apple’s Assistive Touch. It comes with the default iOS theme, and like iOS it lets you make various customizations.

You get the rounded-corner icons, animations instead of transitions, and so on. Other than financial considerations, though, I’m not sure why one would buy an Android device and then install software to make it run like an Apple device; that’s like putting a Harley logo on a Honda. But hey, users love it and it’s free. What more can you ask for?

Microsoft Launcher

User Rating: 4.6
Installs: 789,785
Price: Free

If you’re looking for a launcher to help make your phone operate like Windows 10, or Windows Phone, there are other launchers, such as Win 10 Launcher, more suited to that. Instead, Windows Launcher helps integrate your Android phone into your Windows ecosystem.

It works with your Microsoft account and Microsoft apps, such as Office 365, OneDrive, Skype, and so on, to help make all your gadgets and applications sync up and work together. We wrote a full review of Microsoft Launcher here.

This launcher’s features are extensive; here’s a smattering of the more important ones:

  • It’s All About People: Pin your favorite contacts to your Home screen, your dock, icon folders, or just about anywhere for easy access no matter where you are in your phone.
  • Continue on PC: Put your phone down, start where you left off on your PC. Edit a document in Word 365 at home; continue on your desktop at work. Take a picture with your phone and edit it instantly on your PC. You get the idea.
  • Search Everywhere Simultaneously: Search your apps, photos, documents, messages, and web results—everything—with Microsoft Launcher’s universal search bar.
  • Personalize Your Feed: Set your feed as your default Home screen and populate it your way, with your calendar events, your documents, your contacts, and your designated news topics.
  • Gesture Your Way: You tell Android how to react to your gestures; double-tap to open Outlook; swipe up to launch Skype, and so on.

Few apps play as nice in an environment dominated by Microsoft than Microsoft Launcher.

Nova Launcher

User Rating: 4.6
Installs: 1, 157,614
Price: Free/$4.99 for Prime version

One of the oldest and most popular launchers to date, Nova Launcher offers so many features and customization options that it’s difficult to know where to start. If you’re into tweaking to get everything just right, Nova is a good place to start. Here’s a sampling of the free version’s features:

  • Icon Themes: Find thousands of icon themes for Nova Launcher at Play Store
  • Subgrid positioning: Snap icons or widgets half way through the desktop grid cells, allowing a more finite control over layouts of your screens
  • Color controls: Use colors to define labels, folders, unread notifications, drawer tabs, backgrounds, and more
  • Customizable App Drawer: Create custom tabs, vertical or horizontal scrolling, custom transitions and other effects
  • Backup & Restore: A sophisticated backup/restore system allows you to backup your desktop layout and launcher settings
  • Scrollable Dock: Create multiple docks and scroll between them
  • Widgets in Dock: Place any widget in your dock, such as a 2×10 search widget

Adding the Nova Launcher Prime upgrade adds gestures, custom drawer groups, hide apps, icon swipes, and more scroll effects. Nova Launcher lets you do things your way but be prepared to spend a little time doing so, unless, that is you use Nova’s import feature to bring in a layout from another popular launcher.

One Launcher

User Rating: 4.3
Installs: 27,420
Price: Free

According to the publisher, One Launcher is:

An easy-to-use, no-frills launcher for Android. We believe Simple is Beautiful. Our Launcher does not hog your precious memory resources, nor do we use up your CPU cycles. We just give you a highly-optimized, better-than stock Android Home Screen replacement with a clean and polished interface.

One Launcher is similar in features and behavior to the launcher on the Google Pixel and it supports Google Now. One Launcher really is light and relatively elegant.

The home screen replacement is customizable with many theme options, as well as smart widgets, and special effects. If you’re not happy with your phone’s default configuration, One Launcher is a quick and clean replacement.

Smart Launcher 5

User Rating: 4.4
Installs: 519,518
Price: Free/$4.49 Pro

Smart Launcher is another of those themes that has been around for the duration, and this latest update, v5, is loaded with new productivity and convenience features. So, let’s dig right in to see what Smart Launcher 5 can do for you, starting with Ambient Themes, which automatically changes your theme colors to match your wallpaper.

Next up, Adaptive Icons, utilizes the icon format introduced with Android 8.0 (Oreo) that allows you to customize the shapes and sizes of your icons, increasing the attractiveness of your home screen and app drawers.

Automatic App Sorting sorts your apps by categories, and if you upgrade to the Pro version, you can add your own categories, and apps that you use the most are automatically moved to the bottom of the screen for easy access when using your device with one hand.

The Smart Launcher search bar searches and looks everywhere, quickly finding contacts, apps, actions like adding contacts, performing calculations and so much more. You get customizable gestures and hotkeys. Hundreds of theme icon packs are available, and you can hide apps and protect them against launching with PINs (think banking, not necessarily porn).

The Pro version requires fewer resources, adds notifications on your home screen, integrates notifications with the lock screen, increases security, and more. Smart Launcher 5 lives up to its name; it’s truly smart.

ZenUI Launcher

User Rating: 4.7
Installs: 1,165,876
Price: Free

Brought to you by the folks at Asus Computers, at one time ZenUI Launcher was available only on Asus devices, but it has been available for all Android devices for some time now and has become quite popular.

Features include, of course, changing wallpapers and widgets, applying transitions and special effects, swiping up to reveal all customization options, and organizing apps and folders in layer modes so that all apps are available from the home screen or from a single icon.

The list goes on and on; you can, for example, apply effects, such as Blur, to your wall papers, change icon size, alignment, and scrolling effects, as well as fonts and colors. Live previews allow you to see apps and widgets before you install them, and Contextual App Discovery helps you find apps by what they do. You can lock apps, hide them, and secure them with PINs.

While looking at this list of launchers, I saw many good-looking home screens, app drawers, and docks, but few were as simple and sleek-looking as ZenUI, the launcher that lends truth to the euphemism that simple is usually best. It may be too simple for some users, but ZenUI certainly has its own feel-good Feng Shui.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this list of the best Android launchers! I’m sure some readers will have a different launcher in mind as their best choice, which makes sense if it works better for your workflow. These are just the most popular ones, so be sure to check out others if none of these fit your needs. Enjoy!

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How to Stream Music Through Your Amazon Echo

Amazon Alexa offers your home a lot of utility and convenience. From the artificial intelligence that can help you manage your schedule to the myriad of skills that can make your day easier or more enjoyable, there are so many features to figure out that it can become a little overwhelming.

While some people will buy an Amazon Echo for the Alexa capabilities, it also performs quite well as a speaker for your favorite tunes as well. Below we’ll cover several ways to stream music through the Amazon Echo the easy way.

There are a variety of ways to access the Amazon Alexa settings, but this guide will focus on the process using an iOS device. Following the steps should be nearly identical on Android, and about the same using the web portal at alexa.amazon.com.

Follow the steps below, and you’ll be up and running and ready to stream in just a few short minutes! Also, be sure to check out our post on how to listen to Audible audiobooks on your Echo device.

Before we get started with the music aspect of your Amazon Echo, you’ll need to make sure you have the Amazon Alexa App.

Navigate to the App Store (iOS) or Play Store (Android) and download the app in the picture below.

Streaming Music Through Amazon Prime

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you’ll automatically have access to millions of different songs. Upgrading to Amazon Music Unlimited ups that amount to 10s of millions of tracks, encompassing pretty much any genre and artist you can think of.

Whether you’re using Amazon Prime or Amazon Music Unlimited, the process for getting the streaming service up and running is pretty much the same. You’ll also be able to connect services like Spotify, Pandora, or iHeartRadio following roughly the same process.

Step 1. Open the Amazon Alexa app and open the sidebar using the menu button at the top left of the screen.

Step 2. Select the option for Music and Books.

Step 3. There are two main parts to the next menu: device selection, and service selection. At the top of your screen, you can choose the Echo device that you’d like to stream to.

Below, there is a large list of compatible music services that you can connect to and control through the Alexa app. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll use Amazon’s own music service.

Step 4. The content of the next screen will depend on what service you selected, but for Amazon Prime, you’ll have the ability to choose between radio stations or playlists. Choose the content you like and your music should start streaming to your Echo device!

Once you’ve connected your accounts and have synced up the Alexa app with your chosen Echo speaker, you can bypass these steps and use commands like Alexa, play iHeart Radio, or Alexa, play Spotify.

Streaming Music Through Bluetooth

Once your Echo is plugged in and online, you can actually bypass the Alexa App entirely and use a Bluetooth connection to play music through your phone.

This essentially allows you to pass all audio from your phone through the speaker, which opens up the ability to stream audio from any service you can access on that device.

Step 1. Set up Bluetooth pairing by saying “Alexa, pair,” while your mobile device is nearby.

The next part of the process is to navigate to the Bluetooth menu on your phone. The steps below is for iOS, but Android should generally be some sequence of opening Settings and navigating to the Bluetooth menu.

Step 2. Open the Settings app.

Step 3. Tap on Bluetooth.

Step 4. If your Echo device is in pairing mode, you should see it listed on this screen under Other Devices.

Tap on it to add it to the menu, and ensure your phone is connected to the smart speaker within the Bluetooth list.

Step 5. Find the music you’d like to play through your speaker, and enjoy your favorite tunes on your chosen Echo device!

Once you’ve gone through this initial setup process, you can connect or disconnect your Echo device to your phone with voice commands like “Alexa, connect to [name of device],” or “Alexa, disconnect from [name of device].

While there are definitely a few hoops to jump through in order to get your Amazon Echo set up to stream music, you’ll generally be able to play tracks and adjust settings using just your voice moving forward.

Since the Echo is essentially a smart Bluetooth speaker, you’ll also be able to hook it up to your computer or any other media player that is compatible with Bluetooth in order to play audio across all of your devices. Enjoy!

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Best Robot Vacuums for under $500

Robot vacuums have quickly become a very affordable way to keep your home clean, but moving from a traditional vacuum cleaner for the first time can be quite confusing. We’ve created this buying guide to help you find your very first robot vacuum.

We’ve specifically focused on the top robot vacuums for $100-$500 and have explained how each model compares and what experience you get at different price points.

Hopefully, by the time you have finished reading this article, you’ll be much more knowledgeable about robot vacuums and you’ll be ready to make your first purchase.

Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930 – $463.99

Overview: Not only vacuums, but also mops. Powerful sensors can detect when and where to mop. Use the app to limit where the robot cleans. Alexa control available.

Starting at the high end, we have the Ecovacs Deebot 930. Ecovacs is a very reputable brand in this space and they have a range of different products at different price points. With the Ozmo 930, you are essentially getting the very best Ecovacs has to offer.

Functionality in the Deebot Ozmo 930 starts with the laser based mapping. With this, the Ozmo 930 can map out your floor plan and learn where it needs to avoid.

Sensors have been built in to automatically avoid walls or drops, too, so no need to worry if you are cleaning near delicate areas or next to a set of stairs. You can also add boundaries to the floor plan via the Ecovacs app, just in case there are areas you’d like the robot to avoid.

The Deebot Ozmo 930 also features adaptive floor sensing – it can detect what floor material it is currently on. With this information, it can determine whether it needs to simply vacuum or mop and vacuum simultaneously. Yes, if you didn’t know already, the Deebot Ozmo 930 can also mop floors whilst it cleans.

Water pumps and sensors have been installed alongside the vacuum to ensure that your hard floors are sparkling clean and dust free.

The Deebot Ozmo 930 also has Alexa voice control functionality, so you can stop, start, or charge the robot with voice commands. Speaking of charging, you’ll be able to get up to 100 minutes of run time before the Deebot Ozmo 930 needs to be charged up again.

Neato Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum – $319.99

Overview: Powerful option for automating your cleaning, Picks up dirt, dust and pet hair with ease. Use included barriers to restrict where your robot vacuum can clean.

Next up, we have the Neato Botvac D80, which is a step down in terms of pricing from the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930. Some sacrifices are made, but for the most part you are still getting a very high quality robot vacuum.

You lose Alexa voice control functionality and some additional app based control, but

smart laser mapping is still used to map out the layout of your room automatically. Once your room has been mapped, the Neato Botvac D80 will intelligently calculate the most optimal path whilst cleaning your room.

Once your robot has been set up to run through a specific route, all you need to do is press the start button and the Botvac D80 will run its route and then return back to the charging station once complete.

You can also set up automatic cleaning schedules so that you never have to think about cleaning your room again. On a full charge, the Neato Botvac D80 can go for 100 minutes.

There is no mopping included with the Neato Botvac D80, but you do get some strong brushes and a vacuum that can pull hair and other stubborn dust from all surfaces. You are also given special boundary markers that can be used to ensure the Botvac D80 doesn’t go outside of a specific area.

iRobot Roomba 675 – $248

Overview: Cheaper option for app and voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant. Works harder on stubborn dirt.

Roomba is perhaps the most well known name in the robot vacuum world, but how does their mid-range Roomba 675 fare? Surprisingly, pretty well.

There’s no mop included, but the powerful vacuum system ensures that your floors are clear from dirt and debris. The intelligent sensors built in allow the Roomba 675 to work harder on more stubborn dirt, and work around or under furniture when possible.

The edge-sweeping brush is also excellent at getting dirt away from the corners of your rooms. You also have 90 minutes of charge time, which is just 10 minutes less than the aforementioned options.

Unlike the Neato Botvac D80, the iRobot Roomba 675 has voice controlled support via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and the iRobot HOME app makes it far easier to stop, start, or schedule cleaning.

You do miss out on the virtual wall barriers that come with the Neato Botvac D80 or more expensive Roomba models, so if you need to section off specific areas, you’re out of luck.

However, if you have a contained area, the iRobot Roomba 675 could easily become a suitable and more affordable alternative to the Neato Botvac D80.

eufy Boost IQ RoboVac 11S – $169

Overview: Cheap option with great cleaning power, automatic mapping, and scheduling. Sometimes runs into issues or misses areas.

For just $169, you get a surprising level of functionality from the eufy Boost IQ RoboVac 11S. Just like the other models in this article, the RoboVac 11S will automatically map out your room and go through a cleaning routine. Once the cleaning is complete, it will return back to its charging station. Each charge provides 100 minutes of run time.

This model in particular is also great at getting underneath most furniture, and for the most part it can avoid walls and drops. When it comes to further customization, for example, adding virtual barriers or custom routes, you lose out.

There’s no included app and you don’t get voice control. You do get an included IR remote for controlling the vacuum from a distance.

On top of this, whilst it technically can map out your room, it can often get a little lost, meaning that it may take multiple cleans before it gets all of the spots in a room. For $169, it’s understandable that the programming isn’t as top notch as more expensive models.

Thankfully, if it runs into any major problems, it’ll stop cleaning and start beeping to alert the owner that it needs assistance. Overall, this is a cheap and cheerful option that provides a reasonable level of functionality.

Summary

Thanks for reading through our list on the top robot vacuums for $100-$500. Which of these suggestions takes your interest? If you have any specific questions about any of these models, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

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The 5 Best New Features in Windows 10’s 1809 Update

Every October Microsoft releases a major update to Windows that (hopefully) fixes the biggest bugs and gripes, while also bringing new features into this OS-as-a-service product.

While there were quite a few problems with the 2018 “1809” update that caused a two month delay, it should now be available through the regular update service.

If you’re already running 1809 or are just looking forward to it, here are some feature highlights you can look forward to in the newest Windows version.

Finally, Dark Mode for Explorer!

Microsoft already provided a Dark theme in a previous update, but unfortunately Windows Explorer itself retained its white background.

Dark modes and themes are pretty much everywhere these days. Not only do they make screens easier to read in the dark, they reduce screen power consumption. Most importantly, they look pretty cool to boot.

Enabling Dark mode for Windows apps couldn’t be easier. First Go to Settings – Personalization – Colors. 

 

Now scroll down to the bottom of the window.

Under Default App Mode choose Dark. Now Windows Explorer will have a dark background and your eyes will thank you.

The Snip & Sketch Screenshot Tool

Windows 10 had much better support for screenshot editing out of the box than previous versions. However, the tools available were a little fragmented and with the 1809 update there is now one tool to rule (and replace) them all. The Snip and Sketch tool.

You can find this tool with all your other apps or by simply typing its name in the Start Menu search bar. With it you can easily capture and edit screenshots with ease.

Your Phone App for Android Users

Like it or not, smartphones are now a part of almost everyone’s daily life. So Microsoft has decided to integrate Android phones into the Windows Desktop using a new application known as Your Phone.

There is no indication when or if other phone OSes will ever be fully supported, but if you have an Android smartphone you can now send texts and view photos. There are also some limited iOS functions. Specifically sending web pages from your iPhone to Windows.

You can find the app among your other Windows apps. The fastest way to access is is by searching for “Your Phone” it in the Start Menu.

To link your phone, just click “Get Started” and follow the prompts. Then enter your number here.

Enter your number and click Send. You should receive a text with a link to the Your Phone Companion app. Install it and then open it.

Now you just need to sign in with your Microsoft account to complete the link.

Now you’re ready to start sharing content between your phone and Windows desktop.

Start Menu Search Upgrades

The search functions in the Start Menu have been expanded substantially. Now when you search for something you’ll see several tabs to categorize the results. There are also more relevant web results, with shortcuts to download or install an app.

The search itself is also now much faster, coming up at the same time it takes for the Start Menu itself to appear.

The Supercharged, Cloud-powered Clipboard

The humble Clipboard has also received a major overhaul. Now when you copy something to the Clipboard there are more things you can do than just paste it somewhere.

For example,you can now stack your copied items by activating the Clipboard History. If you press Windows+V then you can see that history and pick the item you want to paste.

You can also choose to sync clipboard data to the cloud and then to you other devices.

Windows, Reloaded

The Windows 10 of today is already much more mature and refined than when it first launched. Despite a rough start, the 1809 update has brought some truly useful and welcome changes to the system. Enjoy!

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