The 10 Best Android Launchers of 2019One 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.

Read the entire review at OnLineTechTips.com



Microsoft Launcher Brings Windows Integration and a Lot More to AndroidAndroid smartphones are capable of many things that you just can’t do on Apple’s iOS (iPhone) devices. One of the slicker Android-only features is the ability to change how your device looks, feels, and behaves—a complete makeover—by simply installing a third-party launcher.

One of the more popular launchers is Microsoft Launcher (an upgrade of the Microsoft Garage project Arrow Launcher).

Designed primarily to help your Android integrate into the Microsoft ecosystem, Microsoft Launcher will not make your device look and behave like Windows 10.

Instead, in addition to providing a highly customizable user interface (UI), it helps ease your Android smartphone’s assimilation in to your Microsoft workflow of apps and services, as well as your Windows laptop or desktop PC.

Read the entire review at OnlineTechTips.com



Currently a contributing editor at PCMag, William Harrel has been writing about computer technology for more than 30 years, since well before the advent of the internet and has authored or coauthored more than 20 books.


A PCMag What’s New Now Top Review, September 25, 2018


My review of HP's new voice-activated smart home Tango X AIO at PCMag

  • PROS

    Small and spiffy. Voice control with supported smart home UIs. IFTTT scripting for extending smart capabilities. Impressive print quality. Competitive ink costs with Instant Ink, plus free snapshot printing from your smartphone.

  • CONS

    Borderless prints limited to 5-by-7-inch. Single, small paper input. “Scans” and “copies” only via smartphone.

  • BOTTOM LINE

    HP’s Tango X “smart printer,” the first we’ve tested with voice activation and smart home features, is all about printing from mobile devices. It’s not perfect, but given its unique free-snapshot printing angle, it will be a tough act for future models to follow.

Plenty of us shout things at our printers. But what if yours heard you? Of midpriced all-in-one (AIO) printers, none is more cutting-edge—and attentive—than the HP Tango X ($199) and its less expensive sibling, the HP Tango ($149), among the first printers to support voice control. They are designed to work primarily with mobile devices—desktop PCs and laptops are an afterthought—and they have the unique distinction of letting you print snapshots from your smartphone for free, in a sense (more on that later). We tested the Tango X, which delivers print speeds, output, and running costs comparable to similarly priced competitors without all the smarts. All these things and more elevate the HP Tango X to our first Editors’ Choice in a budding category: the smart, or smart home, printer.

Read the entire review at PCMag



Lifeprint 3x4.5 Hyperphoto Printer review at PCMag

    • PROS

      Prints cool “hyperphotos” that animate when viewed through the Lifeprint app. Easy social media integration. Prints are larger than more-common wallet-size photo printer output.

CONS

  • Prints are costly, and inconsistent in quality. A little sluggish at printing. Only prints from mobile devices.

  • BOTTOM LINE

    The Lifeprint 3×4.5 Hyperphoto Printer offers a unique technology that seemingly makes photos come to life, but it is more of a novelty than a must-have.

In the world of tiny photo printers designed to print exclusively from smartphones, the Lifeprint 3×4.5 Hyperphoto Printer ($149.99) has two big things going for it. The first thing: Its 3-by-4.5-inch prints are larger than the wallet-size photos from similar printers such as the Kodak Photo Printer Mini, HP Sprocket, and Lifeprint’s own 2×3 Hyperphoto Printer. (They’re midway in size between these models’ prints and 4-by-6-inch snapshots.) But what really sets the Lifeprint 3×4.5 (as well as the Lifeprint 2×3) apart from its peers is its nifty ability to print “hyperphotos”: seemingly ordinary prints that, when viewed through the Lifeprint app, appear to come to life.

Read the entire review at PCMag

 



 

Review of the Epson DS-780N Network Color Document Scanner at PCMag

  • PROS

    Networkable via Ethernet. Huge color touch screen control panel. 100-sheet ADF. Control panel supports up to 30 configurable users. Wide security options.

  • CONS

    Somewhat costly. No Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi Direct for mobile connectivity.

  • BOTTOM LINE

    The networkable scans relatively quickly and accurately, and it has a huge customizable color touch screen, but it’s overshadowed by some less costly competition.

[amazon_textlink asin=’B0733P29Y4′ text=’Epson DS-780N ‘ template=’ProductAd’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’fc9bd450-d063-11e7-b8c9-9bedd3cf227f’] Similar in features to the Editors’ Choice Brother ImageCenter ADS-3600W [amazon_link asins=’B01AD7I6P0′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’35092caa-d064-11e7-8cd2-c3441c74cc66′], the mid-to-high-volume Epson DS-780N Network Color Document Scanner ($1,099.99) [amazon_link asins=’B0733P29Y4′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’668d1479-d067-11e7-b24a-8dd9df1e70bc’] is designed for use in small- to medium-size offices and workgroups that need to do a fair amount of document scanning and archiving. It’s not quite as fast as the Brother model, and it doesn’t support wireless networking. It’s competitively accurate, has an intuitive, highly useful touch screen, and comes with efficient document management software, making it a strong alternative to the ADS-3600W, as well as a few other networkable document scanners we’ve reviewed recently. Its price causes it to fall just short of our Editors’ Choice nod, but otherwise the DS-780N is a fine document scanner.
Read entire review at PCMag


Editors' Choice

  • PROS

    Fast output. Good print quality. Excellent label design, print software, and mobile apps. Prints two-color, black/red labels. Good selection of label types. Good value for the price.

  • CONS

    Per-label media cost is somewhat high. Ability to print in red limited to one label type.

  • BOTTOM LINE

    The prints several sizes of high-quality label types from your PC, Mac, or Android mobile device via USB, making it an excellent value for its relatively low price.

 [amazon_textlink asin=’B01N49R9KP’ text=’Brother QL-800′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’104ac4b1-c42c-11e7-b438-7773138e77cc’]Like its higher-end QL-810W [amazon_link asins=’B01MTWGMRR’ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’32c0f1fe-c42c-11e7-ae61-151caa512527′] and QL-820NWB [amazon_link asins=’B01MTYE0X6′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’46ec3691-c42c-11e7-af19-dbf9e130b603′] siblings, the Brother QL-800 ($99.99) is a reasonably fast label printer that churns out good-looking labels in several different types and sizes, ranging from small one-line barcodes, to address labels, and everything in between. It can print labels up to about 0.5 inch wide by 1 inch long to 2.4 inches wide by 36 inches long.
Read entire review at PCMag


[amazon_link asins=’B01LB08BH6′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ed298214-c577-11e7-bc59-137fc9ea5efc’]The release of new Android-tablet contenders has slowed to a trickle over the past few years, and many of these models have been designed to mimic one or the other of the immensely popular Apple iPads. Take today’s review unit, the $259.99-MSRP Mi Pad 3 [amazon_link asins=’B01LB08BH6′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7800fc75-c577-11e7-b214-7560558b02e8′], for example, from Xiaomi. Aside from the Android operating system and the differences that brings with it, the Mi Pad 3 is an Apple iPad Mini 4 [amazon_link asins=’B016PW4NX6′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’91b09c49-c577-11e7-bb55-799ef44c3cff’] at any distance greater than arm’s length, and shares a lot with that iconic tablet if you look at it closer.

The review of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 3 at Computer Shopper

The Mi Pad 3 comes, for example, with a screen of the same size and same resolution: 7.9 inches on the diagonal, and 2,048×1,536 pixels. And, as you’ll see in the next section, the two tablets have several other like physical attributes. Where these Android-based iPad-alikes usually differ, though, is in their pricing. Unless you’re dead-set on Android, why would you pay the same price (or close to it) for a facsimile?

The Huawei MediaPad M3 [amazon_link asins=’B01LB08BH6′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a7ec9898-c577-11e7-b469-991f50198c46′], another iPad Mini lookalike we reviewed recently, for one, lists for $299.99, or $100 less than the Mini 4 (and $50 more than the Mi Pad 3). The question is, of course, do you get the same value and ease of use from an Android iPad clone as you do from an actual iPad? Obviously, given the popularity, build quality, and overall user experience of the iPads (including the Mini 4), and the strength of the Apple iOS app ecosystem, these tablets are tough to beat. But—we speculate—that isn’t what Xiaomi, Huawei, or any iPad lookalike maker is trying to do.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 3 (Introduction)

Instead, these iPad wannabes are offered as money-saving alternatives. For those who can’t afford (or aren’t inclined to spend) $400 or more for a small tablet, these “premium Android” models have a market opening. And some, we think, succeed more than others.

In the case of the Mi Pad 3, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on, it’s not the fastest tablet out there. But it holds its own, even against bigger, more expensive slates. And, from the user-experience perspective—without the benefit of benchmark comparisons—it runs well, with no real sluggishness, crashes, or other performance issues evident in our hands-on time with it. We also like the way it looks and feels. The Mi Pad 3 is thin, sturdy-feeling, and well-balanced, making it pleasant to hold and use.

Now, it does have a shortcoming or two. The body lacks an SD-card slot for expanding storage, for one thing, which is a semi-staple among Android tablets that gives them an (often much needed) edge over Apple’s stable of tablets and smartphones. Also, due to the sheer popularity of the iPad, the availability and frequent updating of tablet-specific apps is tilted a little in the iPad’s favor.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 3 (Contents)

Even so, there is no shortage of Android apps, including tablet-optimized ones. After spending a significant amount of time with the Mi Pad 3, we found little to dislike about it. We have little hesitation in recommending it as a lower-cost alternative to the iPad Mini 4.

FYI, in the U.S., the main source for the Mi Pad 3 is GearBest.com, which specializes in direct-from-Asia tech; you can find the product page here, and GearBest is also offering a coupon code at this writing (MIPAD3CANAL, good through the end of June) that knocks the price to $259.99. Just take heed, when and if you buy, of where it will ship from. It’s possible that if not warehoused in the U.S. at the time of your order, your tablet may ship direct from China, which could take longer than you might expect. Amazon Prime it ain’t.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper



 

Review of the Logitech K480 Multi-Device Keyboard at PCMag[amazon_link asins=’B00MUTWLW4′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’cf829050-c646-11e7-914d-450e3cc2e183′]Many of the keyboards we’ve looked at lately have been multi-device models, in that you can pair two or more computing devices—smartphones, tablets, PCs, Macs—to them simultaneously, and then switch back and forth with the touch of a button. Aside from Microsoft’s Universal Foldable Keyboard ($70) [amazon_link asins=’B00UBGU4PY’ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b7079fb3-c646-11e7-b6e8-edb52833b7d4′], though, none have been small enough to consider carrying around with you — except Logitech’s Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480.[amazon_link asins=’B00MUTWLW4′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d7e48ed7-c646-11e7-aad7-d986d0ccf020′]

The K480 is compact and light compared to many multi-device keyboards, including those in Logitech’s line-up. It’s also inexpensive. Logitech lists it for $50, but we found it at several online outlets for around $30. At that price, the only real issues left are — does it, as its more expensive siblings and competitors do, perform well, and is it really portable?

Read entire review at Digital Trends



 

Review of the LOGITECH K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard at Digital Trends[amazon_link asins=’B01LZTBKBG’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’88521aeb-c707-11e7-8006-add3a2d6d7bc’]Over the course of a day, many of us flip back and forth between two, sometimes three, computing devices, moving from the keyboard on a desktop to the virtual keyboard on a mobile device, and back again. Wouldn’t it be much simpler if you could switch between and enter data on these gadgets from the same keyboard? A while back, Logitech released such a solution, the K380 Bluetooth Keyboard ($30)  [amazon_link asins=’B0148NPH9I’ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’45f593db-c707-11e7-8d68-c9579cc53203′], which let users flip between multiple devices with the touch of a button.

While a terrific idea, a shortcoming of the K380 is that it doesn’t provide a way to hold your smartphone or tablet upright as you type. Logitech corrected via a groove, or gutter, carved into the top section of its Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480 ($30).[amazon_link asins=’B00MUTWLW4′ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’6870c9d1-c707-11e7-a763-031b22353af9′] Both the K380 and the K480 let you pair up to three devices and switch between them easily, but each has its limitations. The K480’s groove, for instance, is big enough to hold only one mobile device, and the keyboard itself has no number pad.

Those issues, as well as a few other shortcomings, have been addressed with Logitech’s premium device-swapping keyboard, the K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard.[amazon_link asins=’B06XHC2J4Z’ template=’CopyOf-PriceLink’ store=’store-1′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a050fc6e-c707-11e7-80e4-5d1b2815a4bf’] However, this new keyboard is $70 — more than its predecessors, as well as most competitors. Are its improvements worth the price?

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/keyboard-reviews/logitech-k780-review/#ixzz4fUAZ5URB



 

Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 Review and RatingsA few years ago, the Android-tablet market was flush with slates in two or three different screen sizes—and economy levels—from most of the big players in PCs. Nowadays? The pickings are pretty picked over.

Whether you’re talking about compact (7-to-9-inch) or full-size tablets (models with screens around 10 inches), we just haven’t seen that many new ones in recent months to choose from—or review, for that matter. Acer, Samsung, and Lenovo have trickled out a few, but most of the full-size Android tablets that have debuted over the past year or so have been upscale, premium multimedia devices with exceptional displays and sound.

In fact, while they can do many things, most of today’s full-size Android tablets are designed primarily for watching digital video. And, much like today’s review unit, Huawei’s $419-MSRP MediaPad M2 10.0, most of these slates are quite good at it—which requires, above all else, two predictable things: good speakers and good screens. (It’s also important to note here that our review unit was near the top of its family in both components and features. As we’ll discuss in a bit, you can buy a reasonably equipped MediaPad M2 10.0 for around $349 MSRP.)

Huawei MediaMate M2 10.0Another thing that most recent full-size tablets have had in common: a tendency to be durable and look upscale, even elegant, in appearance. Dell’s $629 mid-2015 Venue 10 7000 (Model 7040), with a detachable keyboard and touch pad) is an excellent example, as is Lenovo’s solidly built, $499.99-MSRP Yoga Tab 3 Pro. As you’ll see in the section coming up next, the Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 comes with not only an excellent 1,920×1,200-pixel screen, but also an excellent Harman/Kardon sound system with four loud, clear-sounding speakers.

But this MediaPad isn’t a one-trick tablet; media playback isn’t all it can do. It also supports 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity that, when coupled with Huawei’s active stylus (in the box with our review tablet), lets you annotate, draw, and take notes with Huawei’s bundled pen-enabled apps. Unfortunately, not all of the MediaPad M2 configuration options include the stylus, which we’ll address in some detail in a moment. Suffice it to say here that the differences in what you get for $349 and $419 are significant.

In either case, whether you buy the least expensive version of the MediaPad M2, the most expensive, or one in between, you’ll get a tablet that’s impressive in appearance (a dead ringer for the iPad Air 2) and build quality for a reasonable price.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.