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Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

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Companies often like to use product names that confuse, but no so with Amazon’s latest device; the Amazon Alexa Dot with Clock is exactly that. The bigger question is whether the decision to build a clock into an Echo Dot makes for a worthwhile product? The answer, in the main, is yes. Of note with this product is that Amazon has expanded its range of smart speakers to provide customers with yet more choice.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock design – Just like an Echo Dot (3rd Gen), only with a clock on the front

Unboxed and powered off, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock looks and feels identical to the Echo Dot (3rd Gen). The full product name (All-new Echo Dot (3rd generation) | Smart speaker with clock and Alexa, Sandstone fabric) should reveal that the reason the two products look the same is because they sport identical cases and both measure 83.5 x 83.5 x 32mm.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock screen off
Without the clock, this product looks like the current Echo Dot

This isn’t a problem in my eyes, since the Echo Dot 3rd Gen was a great product. Ditching the plastic, functional exterior of the previous generation Echo speakers, Amazon created a neat device that fit more easily into your home.

There is one slight disappointment with the Echo Dot with Clock, however: it’s only available in Sandstone (white). The standard Echo Dot is available in Charcoal (black), Heather Grey, Sandstone (white) or Plum (purple).

Powering on the Echo Dot with Clock showcases the point of differentiation: an LCD screen that shines through from beneath the material finish. It’s neatly done, turning the Echo Dot from being just a smart speaker into a handy bedside assistant. If you’ve been hankering after an Echo beside your bed, but haven’t wanted a device with a screen in the vein of the Echo Show 5, then you’ve got a winner here.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock clock
The clock looks great and is really useful if you place the speaker by your bed

Ports and controls-wise, it’s business as usual. The Echo Dot with Clock has volume buttons, a microphone mute and an Alexa activation button on top. At the rear is a power input and a 3.5mm output that you can use to hook up the product to a set of external speakers. You can also use Bluetooth to do the same job; if you’re going to do this, then the Echo Input might make more sense.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock controls
The controls are the same as for any Echo smart speaker

Related: Which Amazon Echo should you buy?

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock – Handy as a clock, but you can also see the weather and timers

At its most basic, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock’s screen displays the time. Head to the app to change the regular 12-hour clock to 24 hours. From the app, you can also set the screen’s brightness – although you can do this via voice instruction, too. Note that the default Adaptive Brightness setting does a pretty good job at regulating the screen.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock app
The app lets you control the display

You should be able to sleep with the screen on – the Echo Dot with Clock is no brighter than a regular LCD clock. However, if it does bother you then just say, “Alexa, turn off display”.

As well as  the time, the screen also displays an alarm when you set it, providing a visual indicator that you’ve set the right wake-up time. The display then switches back to the time, with a “dot” indicating that an alarm is set.

When the alarm goes off, you can tap the top of the Echo Dot to temporarily snooze the alarm; you have to use your voice to turn it off completely. In this regard, the Echo Dot with Clock is a perfectly serviceable alarm clock.

The display also shows any countdown timers you’ve set. If you set multiple timers, the Echo Dot with Clock shows the countdown for the one that has the least amount of time left. You can ask to see how long is left on the other timers to get visual and voice confirmations, although the display always switches back to the timer with the least amount of time remaining. Once the first timer has ended, the next timer will display on the screen.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock timer
Timers are shown on the display

As such, the Echo Dot with Clock could be a great kitchen accessory – although you may find it easier to buy an Echo Wall Clock, since it’s a bit easier to see. Finally, request weather info and the display will flash up the current outside temperature.

It’s a shame that the display can’t do a bit more – displaying the name of an incoming caller if you use Alexa Voice Calls, for example. The display might be small, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t show a scrolling message.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock features – Everything you expect and love from Alexa

Once again, as Amazon Alexa runs in the cloud, you get the same range of features here as you do on any other Echo speaker. For that reason, there’s a separate guide to Amazon Alexa that covers all the features you can expect, regularly updated with the latest information.

As with its predecessor, the Echo Dot with Clock works brilliantly if you’d like a device for smart home control. Thanks to its small size, this Echo speaker can be placed conveniently out of the way, providing voice control over smart devices around your home; even letting you create powerful Alexa Routines. When it comes to smart home control, Amazon Alexa is far ahead of the Google Assistant.

Alexa does well as a general assistant, too, answering questions, informing about upcoming appointments, and letting you make voice calls for free to UK landlines. More functionality can be added through Alexa Skills, thousands of which are available in the app.

Amazon uses four far-field microphones to pick up sound, with the Echo Dot with Clock generally responding to the wake word without issue. In particularly noisy environments you might need a louder “Alexa!” to make yourself heard, but I generally didn’t encounter any problems.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock sound quality – Pretty good for radio and voice replies, but you’ll want something better for music

With the Echo Dot (3rd Gen), Amazon worked hard at boosting the sound quality. The Echo Dot with Clock carries the same 1.6in speaker as the regular Dot, producing identical sound. Given how small the speaker is, the sound is impressively loud and clear.

In terms of voice responses, you can hear exactly what Alexa is saying, with each word clear and detailed. For the odd bit of radio or even the occasional music track, the Echo Dot with Clock sounds pretty good, with loud and clear audio.

Sure, you lose some of the detail, plus audio becomes compressed in the mid-range, but there’s some punchy bass on display, too. For occasional use or mostly radio, the Echo Dot with Clock is more than good enough. Those looking for a speaker specifically for music listening should check out the Echo 3rd Gen.

As with other Echo speakers, the Echo Dot with Clock can be put into an Amazon Echo stereo pair, providing proper stereo separation by using two Dots together. These needn’t be two Echo Dot with Clock speakers, either; you can stereo pair with a regular Echo Dot (3rd Gen).

You can even add in an Echo Sub to improve bass. Both tricks work to a degree, but there are limitations in terms of the Echo Dot’s capabilities; you’re looking at marginal improvements. Both the Echo Sub and stereo pairing are better used with the Echo Plus – or, even better, buy a Sonos One.

Should I buy the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock?

For only £10 more than the Echo Dot, the Echo Dot with Clock is well worth the extra if you’ll use the clock. For example, in a bedroom, the Echo Dot with Clock makes much sense, acting as both an alarm clock and a means by which to control your smart devices and use Alexa for more general purposes.

If you’re looking for a device purely for smart home control, in a room that already has a visible clock, then there’s little point buying this model. You’re better off opting for the standard Echo Dot (3rd Gen).

Ultimately, the Echo Dot with Clock expands the number of options on offer. If you can use the clock features, they’re implemented brilliantly, making the additional cost over the standard Dot well worth it.

The post Amazon Echo Dot with Clock appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen review: Better sound at last

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The Amazon Echo has been through something of a strange product journey. Starting out as the original smart speaker, it was soon joined by a number of relatives. More recently, the Amazon Echo 2nd Gen was slightly outshone by the Echo Plus 2nd Gen: sure, the Echo 2nd Gen was cheaper, but it didn’t sound as good. With the Amazon Echo 3rd Gen, the product line now makes more sense.

Effectively an Echo Plus without the smart home hub, the Echo 3rd Gen offers the same sound quality at a lower price. For many people, then, this will be the Echo speaker to buy.

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen design – A neat-looking speaker now available in an extra colour

The Echo Plus 2nd Gen was an attractive-looking device, so it’s nice to see that Amazon has stuck with the same design for the new Echo. In fact, both this and the previous generation of device are exactly the same size (148 x 99 x 99mm) and sport the same style of case. The difference is that the Echo 3rd Gen is available in an extra colour option, Twilight Blue, which accompanies the Charcoal (black), Heather Grey and Sandstone (white) options.

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen close up
The new Echo looks the same as the current Echo Plus

The control layout is identical, too, with the Echo home to volume buttons, a microphone mute and an Alexa activation button. Peek around the rear of the device and you’ll still see a 3.5mm jack. It can be used as an audio input, which could be useful if you want to boost the sound from an external device such as a TV.

If you’re going to use it as an audio output then you might as well save a fortune and buy the Amazon Echo Input instead.

Related: Which Amazon Echo should you buy?

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen rear
The 3.5mm jack is an audio input and output

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen features – No Zigbee hub, no problem

The main difference between the Echo 3rd Gen and the Echo Plus 2nd Gen is that the new speaker doesn’t have a built-in Zigbee hub for connecting smart home devices directly. Is that a problem? For most folk, it won’t be.

The presence of Zigbee means that some devices, such as Philips Hue bulbs, can connect directly – although the level of control doesn’t extend to that on offer when using a Philips Hue Bridge. As such, the lack of Zigbee isn’t such a disaster; Alexa has powerful Routines that can be triggered by devices coming from plenty of manufacturers, regardless of whether they’re connected directly, or via an Alexa Skill.

For example, if you have a Hue motion sensor or a Ring Alarm motion sensor, you can use that to trigger an Alexa Routine that turns down your heating in a particular room when you’re not in it. Amazon has put in much work with Alexa Routines – so much so that they’re now a powerful means by which you can automate your home, whilst also running multiple tasks through a single voice command.

As with all other Echo speakers, the Echo 3rd Gen connects to Alexa via the cloud, giving you access to the same range of features available on other smart speakers. For that reason, my Amazon Alexa guide is kept up-to-date with the latest features.

In short, Alexa is pretty good at answering general questions, and informing you about upcoming appointments – but particularly good when it comes to smart home control. In addition, there are always new features appearing online, such as the ability to make Alexa outbound calls to UK landlines and mobile numbers for free.

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen sound quality – A decent mid-range speaker

If there was one thing that I particularly liked about the Echo Plus 2nd Gen, it was the improved sound quality. Fortunately, the Echo 3rd Gen carries the same internal components, with a 0.8in tweeter and 3in subwoofer.

Bass is loud and punchy, and the high-end comes across faithfully. The mid-range loses slight detail, so some tracks don’t maintain their full subtlety. However, for the price – and particularly since the Echo 3rd Gen is £50 cheaper than the Plus – the sound quality is excellent. I’d happily listen to music on this speaker.

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen top
The speaker can reach good volumes and sounds detailed

Plus, you have the option to boost sound quality further. First, you can create an Alexa stereo pair using two Echo 3rd Gen speakers (or an Echo Plus 2nd Gen, if you have one). You can also add an in Amazon Echo Sub for more bass. The combination of both is quite impressive, creating a superb mid-range system that costs just under £300 – or not much more than a single HomePod.

It’s true that the HomePod sounds better as a single device, but you don’t get the same levels of stereo separation. And while two HomePods in a stereo pair is better than the Echo combination, you’ll be paying closer to £600 for this.

Should I buy the Amazon Echo 3rd Gen?

Trying to work out if the Echo was worth buying used to be more difficult: the speaker sounded better than a Dot, but it wasn’t as good as a Plus, despite being cheaper than a Plus. Today, the job is far easier: you get the same decent, mid-range audio here as you do on the Plus, but you save £50.

For that saving, you have to sacrifice the Zigbee hub, although this is unlikely to affect most folk; if you’re not sure if you need this feature, you probably don’t.

The overall result is that the Echo 3rd Gen now feels like something of a bargain. In addition, it’s a great starting point for building a better-sounding music system with the help of an additional speaker and the Amazon Echo Sub.

The post Amazon Echo 3rd Gen review: Better sound at last appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus

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What is Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus?

Bought by cloud storage giant Carbonite in March 2019, Webroot has been in the antispyware and antivirus businesses since the early 21st century.

Webroot’s software sadly isn’t as widespread as that of many rival anti-malware suites, which not only limits the number of test results we have available to inform our verdict, but also means that you’re not as likely to find cheap retail editions, although there are a few knocking around eBay.

This means the most reliable pricing for Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus is currently £22.49 for a year’s single-computer subscription at Webroot’s own UK website. That’s a 25% discount on the RRP, and it’s available to existing subscribers, although the price can change and the full renewal cost is £29.99.

If you want extra features, SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus adds a password manager – actually a LastPass subscription – and covers three devices for £37.49, while Internet Security Complete provides 25GB of online backup storage for a current price of £48.79.

Features, set-up and usability

Webroot makes it clear at install time that its online SecureAnywhere account is strictly optional, but even for the basic SecureAnywhere AntiVirus suite it provides helpful remote status information on your protected systems. At more expensive tiers, it provides access to your online storage, mobile antivirus and LastPass subscription, which can also be used to extend and existing LastPass subscriptions.

The SecureAnywhere desktop interface is attractive, clear and easy to use, although some font choices are a little on the small side. Buttons allow you to optionally disable core features such real-time protection and firewall, and there’s a web shield for all the usual browsers that alerts you to potentially malicious websites and search result links.

Webroot’s firewall enhances the Windows firewall with extra monitoring capabilities, using the company’s own contextual threat intelligence to alert users to online activity by unknown and potentially suspicious apps.

Also enabled by default are anti-phishing and tools that activate when you access a potentially sensitive website such as your online banking portal – these are all components that you should leave enabled.

All versions of SecureAnywhere come with a process manager with per-process blocking capabilities and a sandbox to run suspicious programs in, as well as the usual logs, quarantine management and statistics you’d expect from a decent antivirus suite.

Advanced settings allow you schedule scans, restrict access to SecureAnywhere’s settings and configure it to show more alerts – by default, it acts silently in the background.

Webroot – Performance

Testing facility AV-TEST AV Comparatives SE Labs
Real-World Threat Protection 73.8% N/A N/A

Webroot’s an established player in the anti-malware world, but its SecureAnywhere range of antivirus products don’t get tested very often. Fortunately, real-world live exposure and reference malware detection tests were carried out by AV-TEST in May and June 2019, allowing us to assess the software’s performance against a recent set of viruses.

Unfortunately, that performance was not very impressive. Both May and June results were little short of catastrophic in the vital real-world exposure tests: a test scenario in which the system is exposed to attacks of the kind you’d encounter in the wild, such as drive-by downloads of fresh malware via the web.

In the May tests, SecureAnywhere protected against 81.1% of malware attacks, but this percentage dropped to just 66.5% in June. By comparison, Microsoft Windows Defender – the antivirus solution that comes free with Windows 10 – protected against 100% of malware samples in the same test and again in AV-TEST’s latest follow-up.

It’s SecureAnywhere’s real-world test performance that most emphatically brings the software’s overall review score down. Its ability to recognise recent widely available malware samples from a reference was only a little worse than some of its rivals, at 99.3% in May and 98.9% in June.

It did relatively badly in AV-TEST’s usability ratings, falsely detecting 33 legitimate programs as malware, while most rivals’ false positive rates were in single digits and Windows Defender misidentified none at all. To its credit, SecureAnyway isn’t too much of a system hog, although it can slow down software installation and network file transfers more than most rivals.

Should I buy Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus?

Until Webroot works on getting both false positive detection rates down and malware protection levels up, it’s going to be very hard to recommend SecureAnywhere as a credible antivirus option. That’s a shame, because the interface is approachable and easy to get familiar with, and the ability to add extra features like cloud backup storage and a password manager is always welcome.

Verdict

Good prices and features can’t make up for the fact that recent performance has been seriously underwhelming.

The post Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

What to Buy: Dash Cams That Can Back You Up in an Accident

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When you can’t rely on people to tell what happened after a crash, a dash cam may be your only good backup. “My client says he had a green light while driving through an intersection,” said Ben Schwartz, a personal injury attorney. “But another driver, who came through the same intersection and struck him, claims he had the green light.” Who’s right? It’s in those situations when a dash cam can be your most reliable—and, often, only—eyewitness.

I’ve been writing about cars and car electronics for more than 25 years, and I’ve used more than 40 dash cams in my car while reviewing them for Wirecutter. I’ve found that I get asked for advice about dash cams right after someone has been in an accident or experienced a too-close-for-comfort miss. They want to be ready ”next time.” Here’s what people ask me about most often.

What to look for

While you’re driving, a dash cam records everything that’s in front of your car, from crazy drivers to stunning vistas to, yes, viral-ready mishaps. Normally, it records new video over the oldest footage on its memory card, but if it detects a crash, it automatically saves that section of video from being overwritten. That’s your insurance. (You can also manually save video.) But you can find huge differences between models, so here are the features I look for:

  • A sharp video image: Hands-down, this is the most important consideration for me. If you can’t see the fine details—including the license plates of surrounding cars—the dash cam could let you down when you need it most. The sharpest video I’ve seen has come from higher-resolution models that record in 1440p (QHD) or 2160p (4K). I usually see a big drop-off in 1080p (Full HD) video, which is what most dash cams record. And I would never recommend that someone buy a 720p model.
  • Easy-to-use controls: Reviewing video and adjusting the camera’s settings can be either super easy or annoyingly difficult, depending on the dash cam’s design. Models with a touchscreen are the easiest to use. In contrast, many dash cams have small, hard-to-use buttons or place the buttons out of the driver’s sight, so you have to navigate them by feel. That’s a hassle.
  • A versatile windshield mount: If you’re worried about theft, you should choose a dash cam that’s easy to remove from its mount and to reinstall. The simplest models have powered magnetic mounts that let you pop the unit on and off without having to hassle with a cord. How the mount attaches to the windshield also makes a difference. Those that use an adhesive pad are secure but very difficult to reposition or move between vehicles. Suction-cup mounts are much easier to move but can take up more space on the glass. Fortunately, many models give you a choice.
  • Owner reviews and ratings: Although I always check a model’s owner reviews and ratings, they’re definitely not something to rely on. A lot of dash cams with high ratings on Amazon, for example, get low grades—such as a D or F—on Fakespot. Still, owner reviews are good for learning about common problems.

The best we tested

I’ve had the best overall experiences with the Nextbase 522GW, Wirecutter’s pick for the best dash cam, and its smaller, less expensive sibling, the 422GW. Both record in 1440p, and they deliver some of the sharpest video I’ve seen at this price. In our tests, details in their footage were crisp, and I could easily read license plates that were fuzzier—or indecipherable—in the footage from other dash cams. Both dash cams have bright, responsive touchscreens, as well as a powered magnetic mount that makes them especially easy to remove or to reinstall on the windshield. The Nextbase smartphone app is also the best I’ve seen from a dash cam company.

That’s enough for me, but a notable bonus is that both models include Nextbase’s Emergency SOS feature, which can automatically direct emergency personnel to your vehicle after a crash (through the Northern911 service). That’s a rare and potentially life-saving feature. The 522GW and 422GW are on the pricey side, though.

How to get both front and rear recording

Another advantage of the above Nextbase models is that you can plug in an optional rear camera and then mount it to the rear window to record the view behind your car. But those combos can get pricey. For about half that much, you can get the dual-camera Papago GoSafe S810. It can’t give you the same overall experience, but its front camera is surprisingly sharp for a 1080p model. As with most other dual-cam models, the image from the S810’s rear camera isn’t as good as that from the front, but it provides usable video.

A dash cam under $100

I cringe a bit when asked what dash cam to get under $100. The cheapest models—especially those under $100—just don’t deliver the quality and the handy features I look for. In this range you’ll usually find models that have cheaper electronics, which as a result give you video that isn’t sharp enough for you to see finer details. And they often have iffy construction and hard-to-use controls. I’m usually reluctant to recommend any of these because I think such models could let you down.

If you can stretch a little above $100, I’d suggest the Nextbase 222 as a good no-frills choice. I tested its more expensive sibling, the 322GW, which produces the same 1080p video, and was impressed with the image. The 222 does lack the 322GW’s touchscreen, GPS, and connectivity features, though. I also recommend the small, stealthy Garmin Dash Cam Mini for drivers who want a model that doesn’t draw attention to itself.

Installing it yourself

Dash cams are simple to install on a car’s windshield; positioning it near the rearview mirror is best. But tucking away the long power cord, so it’s not dangling down, can require patience. This YouTube video does a decent job of showing how to perform a tidy installation.

If you don’t want to give up your car’s 12 V power outlet (aka cigarette lighter) to a dash cam, most major companies sell a hardwire kit that lets you connect the unit directly to your car’s fuse box, as you can see from this guide from Black Box My Car. This isn’t hard to do, but having some experience with automotive wiring and a circuit tester definitely helps. Otherwise, you can take it to a car-audio shop or a Best Buy store.

Before buying a dash cam, I recommend that you also check out Wirecutter’s full guide to dash cams, which has more info and recommendations.

Is It Shady to Leapfrog Debt From One Credit Card to Another?

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Extra Credit is Wirecutter’s biweekly column and Q&A about credit cards. Every other Thursday, Wirecutter Money’s team of personal finance experts publishes an in-depth response to a credit card question from one of our brilliant readers. Do credit cards have you confused, bothered, or frustrated? Email your questions to money@wirecutter.com.

The Best Deals We’ve Seen This Week on Small Kitchen Appliances

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The Wirecutter Deals team scans the virtual aisles of the Internet, searching for great discounts on Wirecutter-recommended products, so you don’t have to. In our deal blogs (like this one), we highlight the discounts that we think Wirecutter readers will love. For more deals content, check out our deals page, follow us on Twitter @WirecutterDeals, and subscribe to our daily deals newsletter.

Every few months, I look around my kitchen and think, “Huh, maybe it’s time for a new gadget.” Do I need more kitchen tools? Absolutely not. But will I get one anyway? All signs point to yes.

This feeling is especially hard to resist when the vigilant Wirecutter Deals team finds excellent discounts on shiny new kitchen toys, as they did this week. From an Instant Pot (think of all the stew you could make this winter) to an ice maker for Thanksgiving-dinner cocktails, these deals on Wirecutter-approved kitchen picks are worth checking out.