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Annaprashana Stotra

भोजन मंत्र

ओ३म् अन्नपते अन्नस्य नो देह्यनमीवस्य शुष्मिणः |
प्र प्र दातारं तारिष ऊर्जं नो धेहि द्विपदे चतुष्पदे ||

Om Annapateannasya No Dehyanamivasya Shushminah|
Pra Pra Dataaram Taarisha Oorjvam No Dhehi Dwipade Chatushpade||

शब्दार्थ :- हे {अन्नपते } अन्न के पति भगवन् ! {नः} हमे {अनमीवस्य }कीट आदि रहित{शुष्मिणः} बलकारक {अन्नस्य } अन्न के भण्डार{ देहि } दीजिये {प्रदातारं }अन्न का खूब दान देने वाले को {प्रतारिष } दु:खो से पार लगाईये{ नः} हमारे {द्विपदे चतुष्पदे} दोपायो और चौपायो को { ऊर्जं } बल {धेहि } दीजिये |

“O Lord of plenty (of food)! Vouchsafe us a share of food that invigorates us, and brings no sickness. O Lord, thou art our leader. Grant us nourishment (maintenance) both for bipeds and for quadrupeds.”

Thereafter the child is blessed by the mother and father of the child and also by the priests, the elders and the guests. The child is blessed with the sentence:

“Twam Annapatihi Annavo Vardhamano Bhooyaaha” meaning
“O child, May you be endowed by God´s grace with Anna (grains or food). May you grow in strength and may you live a long life.”

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ज्योतिर्लिंगांचं महत्व जाणून घेऊया.

आजपासून पवित्र श्रावण महिन्याला सुरुवात झाली आहे. आज पहिला श्रावण सोमवार असून भाविकांनी महादेवाच्या दर्शनासाठी वेगवेगळ्या मंदिरांमध्ये गर्दी केली आहे. या दिवसात देशातील १२ ज्योतिर्लिंगांवरही भाविकांची मोठी गर्दी बघायला मिळते. पहिल्या श्रावण सोमवारानिमित्त ३ ज्योतिर्लिंगांचं महत्व जाणून घेऊया.

शास्त्रातील मान्यतेनुसार या दिवशी महादेवाच्या ज्योतिर्लिंगांचे दर्शन घेतल्यास आयुष्यातील सर्व कष्ट दूर होतात. याच कारणामुळे भारतातील प्रमुख १२ ज्योतिर्लिंगांचे दर्शन करण्यासाठी या दिवशी भाविकांची गर्दी होते. त्यातील पहिली तीन ज्योतिर्लिंगे खालीलप्रमाणे आहेत.

१) सोमनाथ

सोमनाथ ज्योतिर्लिंग हे भारतातीलच नाहीतर पॄथ्वीवरील पहिलं ज्योतिर्लिंग मानलं जातं. हे मंदिर गुजरातमधील सौराष्ट्र क्षेत्रात आहे. शिवपुरानानुसार, जेव्हा चंद्राला दक्ष प्रजापतीने क्षय रोग होईल असा श्राप दिला होता, तेव्हा या ठिकाणी तप करून या श्रापापासून मुक्ती मिळवली होती. असेही मानले जाते की, या शिवलींगाची स्थापना स्वत: चंद्रदेवाने केली होती. विदेशी लोकांच्या आक्रमनांमुळे हे मंदिर ७ वेळा नष्ट झाले आहे, पण तरीही प्रत्येकवेळी नव्याने उभे केले गेले आहे. सातव्या वेळेले हे मंदिर बांधण्यात आले असून ते कैलास महामेरू प्रसाद शैलीत बनविले गेले आहे. हे मंदिर गर्भगृह, सभामंडप आणि नृत्यमंडप या तीन प्रमुख भागांमध्ये आहे. याच्या शिखरावरील कलशाचे वजन दहा टन आहे. ध्वजाची उंची 27 फूट आहे.

२) मल्लिकार्जुन

हे ज्योतिर्लिंग आंध्रप्रदेशमध्ये कृष्णा नदीच्या तटावर श्रीशैल नावाच्या पर्वतावर आहे. या मंदिराला भगवान शिवच्या कैलाश पर्वतासारखेच मानले जाते. श्रीशैल्यम्‌ मल्लिकार्जुन हे बारा ज्योतिर्लिंग मंदिरांपैकी एक मंदिर आहे. हैद्राबादपासून सुमारे २१० कि.मी. अंतरावर हे ठिकाण आहे. तसेच येथे कृष्णा नदीच्या काठावर जाण्यासाठी रज्जूमार्ग आहे. येथे श्रीशैलम् धरण असून भव्य जलविद्युत निर्मिती केंद्र आहे. येथे पूर्वी असलेल्या महाकाली मंदिरात नंदी तपस्या करत होता. या तपस्येत असलेल्या नंदीवर प्रसन्न होउन मल्लिकार्जुन आणि ब्रम्हरंभा रूपात शिव-पार्वती इथे प्रगट झाले.

३) महाकालेश्वर

हे ज्योतिर्लिंग मध्यप्रदेशची धार्मिक राजधानी असलेल्या उजैन येथे आहे. या ज्योतिर्लिंगाची खासियत म्हणजे हे एकमेव दक्षिणमुखी ज्योतिर्लिंग आहे. इथे दररोज केली जाणारी भस्मारती जगभर प्रसिद्ध आहे. उजैनचे नागरिक मानतात की, महाकालेश्वर त्यांचे राजा आहेत आणि तेच त्यांची रक्षा करीत आहेत. येथील लिंग महादेव तीर्थ स्थळाच्या वर स्थापित केले आहे. येथे गणेश पार्वती आणि कार्तिकेय देव यांच्या प्रतिमा आहेत. दक्षिण दिशेस प्रिय नांदी स्थापित केले आहे. असे म्हटले जाते कि, येथे बनविलेले नागचंद्रेश्वर मंदिर चे कपाट फक्त नागपंचमीस उघडले जातात. हे मंदिर पाच मजली असून त्यातील खालील पहिला मजला हा जमिनीत आहे. या शेजारी रुद्र्सागर सरोवर आहे.

4) ओंकारेश्वर

ओंकारेश्वर ज्योतिर्लिंग मध्यप्रदेशमधील प्रसिद्ध शहर इंदोरजवळ आहे. ज्या स्थानावर हे ज्योतिर्लिंग आहे, तेथून नर्मदा नदी वाहते आणि पर्वताच्या चारही बाजूस नदी वाहत असल्याने इथे ऊं असा आकार तयार झाला आहे. याने ज्योतिर्लिंगाने ओंकार म्हणजेच ऊं चा आकार घेतला आहे. त्यामुळेच या ज्योतिर्लिंगाला ओंकारेश्वर या नावानेही ओळखले जाते. नर्मदा भारतातली पवित्र समजली जाणारी नदी आहे. ॐकारेश्वर येथे एकूण ६८ तीर्थ आहेत. याशिवाय २ ज्योतिस्वरूप लिंगांसहित १०८ प्रभावशाली शिवलिंगे आहेत. मध्यप्रदेशात प्रसिद्ध १२ ज्योतिर्लिंगांपैकी २ ज्योतिर्लिंगे आहेत. एक महाकाल नावाचे उज्जैन मध्ये, व दुसरे अमलेश्वर नावाचे ओंकारेश्वर येथे आहे.

5) केदारनाथ

केदारनाथ येथील ज्योतिर्लिंग भगवान महादेवाच्या १२ ज्योतिर्लिंगापैकी महत्वाचे आहे. हे उत्तराखंड राज्यात आहे. बाबा केदारनाथचे मंदीर बद्रीनाथ मार्गावर आहे. हे मंदिर भारत देशाच्या उत्तराखंड राज्यातील केदारनाथ गावात मंदाकिनी नदीच्या काठावर बांधले गेले आहे. केदारनाथ समुद्र तळापासून ३५८४ मीटर उंचावर आहे. हे ज्योतिर्लिंग भगवान शिवाला अत्यंत प्रिय आहे असे म्हणतात. केदारनाथ मंदिराची निर्मिती पांडवांनी केली तर आद्य शंकराचार्यांनी ह्या मंदिराचे पुनरुज्जीवन केले असे मानण्यात येते. केदारनाथ सर्व ज्योतिर्लिंगांपैकी सर्वाधिक उंचीवर स्थित असून येथे भेट देण्यासाठी केवळ पायवाट अस्तित्वात आहे. गौरीकुंडहून १४ किलोमीटर लांबीचा खडतर प्रवास करूनच केदारनाथ मंदिराचे दर्शन घेता येते.

6) भीमाशंकर

भीमाशंकर हे ज्योतिर्लिंग महाराष्ट्रातील पुणे जिल्ह्यात सह्याद्री पर्वतावर आहे. भीमाशंकर ज्योतिर्लिंगाला मोटेश्वर महादेव या नावानेही ओळखले जाते. भीमानदीचे मूळ उगम ज्योतिर्लिंगात आहे, परंतु ती तिथून गुप्त होते आणि मंदिरापासून जंगलात साधारणपणे १.५ किमी पूर्वेला पुन्हा प्रकटते असे मानले जाते. ही जागा गुप्त भीमाशंकर म्हणून ओळखली जाते.

7) काशी विश्वनाथ

विश्वनाथ ज्योतिर्लिंग हे भारतातील १२ ज्योतिर्लिंगांपैकी एक आहे. हे उत्तरप्रदेशातील काशी येथे आहे. काशी शहराला सर्व धर्मस्थळांमध्ये अधिक महत्व आहे. या शहराबद्दल मानले जाते की, कितीही मोठा प्रलय आला तरी हे स्थान तसेच राहिल.

पूर्वी वाराणसी काशी विश्वनाथ मंदिर होते. हे काशीचे मुख्य विश्वनाथ मंदिर क्रूर आक्रमक कुल्बउद्दीन ऐबक याने पाडले. या मंदिराच्या ठिकाणी मशीद उभारली. अनेक वर्षे दुर्लक्षित आणि मुस्लिमांद्वारे प्रतिबंधित राहिल्यावर अकबराच्या काळात तोरडमल या अभिमानी राजाने या मंदिराचे पुनर्निर्माण केले. परंतु क्रूर आणि धर्मांध औरंगजेब याने हे मंदिर परत पाडून टाकले. अनेक शतके तशीच गेल्या नंतर तेथे अहिल्याबाई होळकर यांनी विश्वनाथ मंदिर बांधले. राजा रणजितसिंग या हिंदू देशाभिमानी राजाने त्याच्या मुख्य शिखरावर सोन्याचा मुलामा चढविला होता. परंतु तो मुसलमानांनी लूटमार करून नेला. १६ व्या शतकात येथेच सन्त एकनाथानी ” श्रीएकनाथी भागवत” हा वारकरी सम्प्रदायाचा महान ग्रन्थ लिहीला. येथे याची हत्तीवरुन मिरवनूक निघाली.

कैलासावर भस्म फासून रहाणाऱ्या शंकराची सर्व टिंगल करावयाचे म्हणून पार्वतीने ‘मला कुणी चिडविणार नाही अश्या ठिकाणी घेऊन चला’ अशी विनंती शंकराला केली.त्यामुळे शंकर येथे येउन राहू लागला.तेथे दिवोदास राजाने मंदिर बांधल्यावर ते त्यात रहावयास गेले.

8) त्र्यंबकेश्वर

हे ज्योतिर्लिंग गोदावरी नदीजवळ महाराष्ट्रातील नाशिकमध्ये आहे. या ज्योतिर्लिंगाजवळ ब्रम्हगिरी नावाचा पर्वत आहे. या पर्वतावरूनच गोदावरी नदीचा उगम आहे. तर भगवान शिवाचे त्र्यंबकेश्वर हे नावही आहे. येथे सिंहस्थ कुंभमेळा भरतो. हिंदू धर्मातील वैष्णवांमध्ये दिगंबर अनी, निर्वाणी अनी आणि निर्मोही अनी असे तीन आखाडे सर्वोच्च स्थानी आहेत. याच तीन आखाड्यांच्या नेतृत्वाखाली नाशिकमध्ये दर बारा वर्षांनी सिंहस्थ कुंभमेळा भरतो. शैवांचे आखाडेही त्र्यंबकेश्वरात जमतात. येथे निवृत्तिनाथ महाराज समाधी मंदिर आहे.

9) वैद्यनाथ

परळी येथील वैद्यनाथ मंदिर प्रसिद्ध असून भारतातील १२ ज्योतिर्लिंगांत परळीच्या वैद्यनाथ ज्योतिर्लिंगाचे स्थान जागृत समजले जाते. हे मंदिर देवगिरीच्या यादवांच्या काळात त्यांचा प्रधान श्रीकरणाधिप हेमाद्री याने बांधले आहे, असे म्हणतात. पुण्यश्लोक राणी आहिल्याबाई होळकरांनी या मंदिराचा जीर्णोद्धार केला. हे मंदिर चिरेबंदी असून भव्य स्वरूपाचे आहे. मंदिराच्या परिसरात लांबलचक असलेल्या पायर्‍या व भव्य प्रवेशद्वार ही लक्ष वेधून घेण्यासारखी ठिकाणे आहेत. मंदिराचा गाभारा व सभामंडप हे एकाच पातळीवर असल्यामुळे सभामंडपातून ज्योतिर्लिंगाचे दर्शन होऊ शकते. इतरत्र कोठेही नाही, पण फक्त वैद्यनाथ इथे देवाला स्पर्श करून दर्शन घेता येते. मंदिराच्या परिसरात तीन मोठी कुंडे आहेत. मंदिरापासून जवळच तीन किलोमीटर अंतरावर ब्रह्मनदीच्या किनारी ३०० फूट उंचावरील जिरेवाडी येथे सोमेश्वर मंदिर आहे.

10. रामेश्वर

रामेश्वर दक्षिण भारतात प्रसिद्धच आहे. रामचंद्राने याची स्थापना केल्यामुळे या मंदिलाराला रामेश्वर असे नाव पडले. स्कंद पुराण व शिव पुराणांमध्ये या पवित्र क्षेत्राचा उल्लेख आलेला आहे. रामेश्वर द्वीपाचा आकार काहीसा श्रीविष्णूच्या शंखासारखा असून श्रीलंकेच्या राजाने याठिकाणी मंदिर बांधले होते. रामेश्वर मंदिराची निर्मिती १२ ते १६व्या शतकात झाली. इ.स. १८९७ मध्ये स्वामी विवेकानंद येथे दर्शनासाठी येऊन गेले आहेत.

रामोश्वर हे बंगालचा उपसागर व हिंदी महासागर यांचे संगम स्थान असून द्रविड स्थापत्य शैलीचे हे मंदिर मानले जाते. येथील मंडपाची निर्मिती इ.स. १७४० ते १७७० या कालावधीत झाली. या मंदिर परिसरात २२ विहिरी असून गर्भगृहात चांदीच्या चौथऱ्यावर सुंदर शिवलिंग आहे.

विशेष म्हणजे या शिविलगावर केवळ गंगाजलाचाच अभिषेक केला जातो. महाशिवरात्रीस मुख्य उत्सव होतो. हत्तीवरून रामेश्वराच्या पालखीची मिरवणूक काढण्यात येते. दीपोत्सव साजरा केला जातो. या ठिकाणी तामिळ भाविक मोठया प्रमाणावर यात्रेसाठी येत असतात.

11. औंढा नागनाथ

औंढा नागनाथ पांडवांतील धर्मराजाने हे मंदिर बांधले असून महाराष्ट्रातील संत नामदेव आणि त्यांचे गुरु विसोबा खेचर यांची प्रथम भेट याच मंदिरात झाली. यांनतर अहिल्याबाई होळकरांनी या मंदिराचा जीर्णोधार केला.

या मंदिरात २५ फुट उंचीची तटबंदी असून चारही दिशांना चार दरवाजे आहेत. मंदिराचा खलाचा भाग काळ्या पाषाणात व वरील अर्धा भाग पांढऱ्या विंटापासून तयार करण्यात आलेला असल्याने मंदिर खुलून दिसते. महाद्वारावर शिवलीलेचे प्रसंग आहेत. यात नटराज मूर्ती, शंकर पार्वतीस काही तरी समजावून सांगत असल्याचे विलाभोनीय दृश बघावयास मिळते.

महाशिवरात्रीला येथे मोठा उत्सव होतो तसेच येथे होणारा रथौत्सव पाहण्यासाठी लांबून भाविक या ठिकामाला भेट देतात. रथाच्या ५ फेऱ्या मंदिराभावती मारल्या जातात. असं म्हटलं जातं कि, काशीची गंगा येथे प्रकट होते व कुंडाचे पाणी स्वच्छ करून टाकते. विजयादशमीच्या दिवशी नागनाथ महाराजांची पालखी निघते.

12. घृष्णेश्वर

स्कन्दपुराण व शिवपूराण, रामायण व महाभारत यांसारख्या पवित्र ग्रथांमध्ये श्री घष्‍णेश्‍वराचा उल्‍लेख करण्यात आलेला आहे. सुमारे 1500 वर्षापासून राष्‍ट्रकुट घराण्‍यातील राजा कृष्‍णराजने हे मंदिर बांधले आहे. इ.स 1730 मध्‍ये गौतमीबाई महादेव होळकर यांनी मंदिराचा जिर्णोध्‍दार केला.

मंदिराचे मुळ नाव कुंकूमेश्‍वर होते. हे मंदिर शिल्‍पकलेचा उत्‍तम नमुना होय. मुळ दगडी चौथरा सहा हजार आठशे चार चौरस फुट असून अर्धे मंदिर हे लाल पाषाणाचे आहे. मंदिरात सुंदर नंदीची मूर्ती असून खांबावर रामायण व महाभारत, दशावतार आदींचे चत्र रेखाटलेली आहेत. इ.स 1791 मध्‍ये अहिल्‍याबाई होळकरांनी एक एकर बागेत शिवालय तिर्थ बांधले.

महाशिवरात्रीची मोठा यात्रोत्‍सव भरविला जातो.शंकराची पालखी शिवालय तिर्थावर स्‍नानासाठी आणली जाते. रात्रीच्‍यावेळी अंलकार पूजेचा सोहळा होतो. श्रावण सोमवारी मोठया प्रमाणावर भाविक दर्शनासाठी येथे येतात.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - October 15, 2020 at 4:05 pm

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10 Things Every Parent With a Connected Kid Needs to Know

Internet access is just a given to them. Turn on the tap, you get water. Turn on the internet, you get cat videos, intense games, conversations with friends… just about anything! Face it, your kids are connected in ways no previous generation has been.

Pp: reading this story probably remember life before the internet—

Limits on gatherings and physical contact because of COVID-19 are pushing young people online more and more. Can’t go to the movie theater? Have a watch party with friends. Can’t sit down on the couch and play video games in person? With a good connection, online play is fine. Chances are good many schools won’t open for in-person learning this fall, so your connected kids will take their lessons over the internet.

It all sounds so convenient, but you may be left with a worry or two. In the pre- online age, parents could keep an eye on their kids. Their friends came over for playdates. You got to meet their teachers. If they went out, you knew where they were going (or at least, where they said they were going). But please, don’t worry. We’ve got some tips and ideas to help you care for your kids in their modern, connected environment.

If you set out to control your child’s use of technology, you’re likely to fail. Most kids can out-tech their parents. Some of you may remember having your own parents come to you for help setting the time on the VCR. It’s a generational thing. If your kids are the ones who set up your Wi-Fi, you might find it tricky to kick them off your network.

As far as online safety goes, youll have more success working on communication than on control. Instead of imposing strict limits on, say, gaming, take a step back and think about why those limits are important. Talk with the kids about your concerns, and listen to their take. Don’t be surprised when they text you a link to an article that supports their position.

You may choose to install a parental-control system, but you’d be wise to pick one that emphasizes cooperation over control. Do you know what a secure anonymizing proxy is? Your child probably knows exactly how to subvert parental content filtering by using one. A system that lays out straightforward house rules, such as Norton Family Premier, is a good start. Along with Kaspersky Safe Kids and Net Nanny, Norton can also display a warning rather than a hard block when your kid is about to enter an inappropriate site or run out of screen time.

Kids do crazy things. That’s their job! If they don’t go a little wild, they won’t learn what works and what doesn’t. There’s a literal change in brain development around age 25 that tones down the randomness. You’ve got the advantage of common sense, so you can help by gently reining in rash online behaviors and by installing software to head off the worst consequences.

You know you need antivirus on your computers, even though you try not to click suspicious links or visit sketchy sites. Your kids are surely more impulsive with their clicks, so they need that protection even more. Consider the following tools that let you manage protection for all your family’s devices: Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, Sophos Home Logo Light, and Emsisoft Anti- Malware. While these aren’t all Editors’ Choice top picks, they all let you manage your family’s protection from a single console. You don’t want antivirus that gets in the way—your kids may find a way to turn off the annoyance.

If you’ve already got an antivirus or security suite that works well for your family, take a moment to examine it. You may find that you already have at least some degree of remote control, or at least remote security monitoring.

It used to be so clear: Too much screen time is bad for kids, period! The American Academy of Pediatrics used to advise keeping kids up to 2 years old away from electronics altogether and then allow, at most, an hour a day for kids from 2 to 5 years old. But that’s not what they say now. The Academy has backed off from these specific limits, recommending a more holistic approach that includes setting aside time without tech and modeling good behavior for your kids. Yes, that could mean cutting back on your own habit of sitting for hours in front of ESPN or the news.

While some of us at PCMag are parents, we re not pediatricians or child- behavior specialists. We suggest you review reputable sources such as the Mayo Clinic for advice. One thing we do know: Counting online school time against an overall screen-time limit would be a terrible idea. You might consider the opposite—let kids earn extra fun time with their devices by completing schoolwork successfully. Note, too, that screen-time management is built right into many devices, particularly those from Apple.

In fact, some parental-control systems offer rewards alongside screen-time limits, letting the kids earn more time. Screen Time lets you list tasks and chores that kids can complete to earn more time; it’s up to the child to choose and finish a task and send a parental notification. Circle Home Plus also includes a rewards system that can give kids more online time, a later bedtime, or a pass to use the internet outside the normal schedule.

4. DON’T PICTURE YOUR KID AS A SLACKER

When home is school and school is home, kids may have a hard time focusing on studies. That doesn’t mean they’re lazy—it means they need some structure. Consider setting up a separate user account on your child’s PC or Mac that’s specifically for school, and equip it with the necessary tools for school. Next, clear away any distractions like games. Setting a specific time to work in the school account may be all the structure your child needs. If it becomes a struggle, you might consider using parental controls to make the “fun” account unavailable during school time. But some kids will take that as a challenge.

The youngest school-age kids haven’t really internalized the structure of a school day. For them, you may want to create a defined place for schoolwork. Put the homework computer in the family room or another public area, so you can keep an eye on their progress. Who needs parental-control software when you can just glance across the room and say, “Hey, what are you doing right now?”

Older kids may have been accustomed to spreading out homework on the dining table. That was awfully convenient when you wanted to shoulder-surf and get an idea of how the homework was going. But if kids are in their rooms working on a laptop or tablet instead, you don’t really know what’s going on. Consider making an attractive, inviting public space for schoolwork. Bring snacks!

One more thought about schooling at home: Many school districts will be opening only for online classes this fall, or for a combination of in-person and online teaching. And many teachers aren’t remotely ready for that. They trained for the standard in-school classroom, not for the high-tech wonders of distance learning. The first step is to familiarize yourself with the system they’ll be using. Have you ever laid eyes on Google Classroom? Has your kid? Time to get up to speed, if that’s the platform your school is using.

Put the homework computer in the family room or another public area, so you can keep an eye on their progress.

You can help by making sure everything is set up correctly at your end. Buy new equipment if needed—hey, you’re not spending money on pencils, lunchboxes, and Trapper Keepers, but you might need to lay out money for a new laptop for your kid. Chromebooks are especially good for tight budgets.

Going a step further, check with your school district to see whether there’s a program for students in need of computers and related tech. That old laptop hanging out in the closet might make all the difference for a child who needs it.

Before the internet, keeping your children at home all the time could have been sheer torture. No going out to play, and no interaction with their friends (except by tying up the landline). Modern kids are connected in so many ways that parents can hardly keep up. Texting? Old hat. Facebook? That’s for parents. What about WhatsApp, TikTok, Discord, and Twitch? The one thing they’re not is isolated.

In the past, some parental-monitoring systems promised to let parents track and control their children’s instant messaging. You could once configure Norton to send you the content of any texts from unknown contacts, at which point you could trust the contact (meaning no more snooping on message content) or block access. That feature ended when Android locked down texts, but it doesn’t matter, given the plentiful other ways kids can communicate.

Bitdefender’s Premium parental control went further, analyzing texts and images sent using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. Its AI- based analysis looked for patterns of abuse or bullying and warned parents as necessary, without violating the child’s privacy by giving parents access to messages. And it proved too difficult to maintain. Bitdefender will shutter this service in August.

Technology really can’t help you here. If you clamp down on one messaging system, your kid will find another. And do you truly want to read all your child’s messages? That seems invasive. I already mentioned that none of us at PCMag are child-behavior experts, but surely it makes sense to keep the lines of communication open.

Learning doesn’t happen just in school, and it’s also not the only thing that happens in school. There’s also socializing in the lunchroom, playing at recess, and going to after-school clubs for special interests. You can’t help much with socialization, but you can encourage your kids to take an interest in learning just for fun. Being able to make things happen with code is almost like learning magic spells, for the right kid.

The same resources that helped you survive no-school summer with younger kids don’t have to stop just because school starts. There are myriad free online educational apps and activities to help. Your kids are connected, so take advantage of that fact to point them at places where learning is fun.

Making sure your kids have the devices they need for school is the bare minimum. Once you ve accomplished that, consider whether you can do a little more to level up your tech. It’s not just laptops and desktops for the kids to work on. Can your router handle your work-from-home load along with everything your kids are doing? Maybe you need a new headset so your children’s long-distance gaming taunts don’t spill over into your video meetings.

But wait, you may think, my kid now has a laptop that’s better than my own! That may be completely appropriate, given the level of multitasking that comes naturally to kids. Streaming a video, having a conversation, working on homework—when all this happens at once, an old laptop may just not make the grade. Check with the local school district to make sure of any hardware or operating system requirements. If your kid isn’t using the accepted device, advice from the teacher may be confusing. Right-click? How do you do that on a Mac?

One more thing: Older kids in particular may be up late working on homework or having fun. Blue light can disturb the sleep cycle, so keep an eye out for monitors with reduced blue light levels, and take advantage of the time-based blue-light-reduction settings built into Windows and other platforms. And check out a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses.

Just because your kids are perfectly at home online doesn’t mean they (or you) should always be connected. Consider setting aside regular time for family activities to which connected devices aren’t invited. Just what that means will depend on what your family enjoys.

You might choose a family game night or a campout in the backyard.

Here’s a thought: Stoke up the old fire pit, sit around in the dark, and tell the kids scary stories. Stories about how you grew up with a dial-up connection—or no internet at all. Yikes!

Blue light can disturb the sleep cycle, so keep an eye out for monitors with reduced blue light levels.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - October 14, 2020 at 2:06 pm

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Bitdefender

Per year, starts at $39.99

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus: A Top Choice

The entry-level antivirus from Bitdefender boasts the name Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, and the Plus is very much deserved. This tool handles all the basic antivirus tasks effectively—and then goes way beyond in terms of additional security features. Feature-wise, it could take on many security suites and win. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus remains a top choice when it comes to protecting your PC’s security.

Some antivirus products, such as Cylance Smart Antivirus and F-Secure, stick strictly with the essentials, wiping out existing malware infestations and defending against new attacks. Bitdefender, by contrast, packs a huge collection of security-centric features, among them password management, enhanced security for online transactions, ransomware protection, and even a VPN. To be sure you realize how much you Te getting, the installer runs a slideshow detailing the features while doing its job.

At $39.99 per year for one license, Bitdefender’s pricing matches that of many competitors. More than a dozen others go for roughly the same price, among them Kaspersky, Webroot, Trend Micro, and ESET NOD32 Antivirus. F-Secure charges $39.99 too, but that gets you three licenses for the price. Three Bitdefender licenses will run you $59.99 per year. You can also get five licenses for $69.99, or 10 for $79.99. McAfee costs $59.99 per year, the same as Bitdefender’s three-license price, but with McAfee, you can protect every Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS device in your household.

This would have been the 2021 edition of the Bitdefender product line. But for some time, the company has been continuously refining the feature set of each product rather than holding back new features for one big version release. The latest products no longer carry the year as a version number.

Bitdefender’s main window displays a security dashboard, with a left-rail menu that offers detailed access to features. Security recommendations occupy the top of the rest of the window, with a collection of what the product calls Quick Actions below. The default Quick Actions let you launch a quick, system, or vulnerability scan; open the VPN; and configure Safepay online protection. You can configure the product to put the File Shredder or Wallet password manager in the main display in place of an action that’s not your fave.

Clicking Protection, Privacy, or Utilities in the left menu brings up detailed pages of features and settings, though some of the features are available only at the suite level. For example, on the Protection page, the Firewall and Antispam items require an upgrade. Under Privacy, the parental advisor and camera/mic protection aren’t available. Under Utilities, you can use the file shredder or configure the Profiles system, but that’s all.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus

PROS
Outstanding scores in independent lab tests and our web protection tests. Enhanced ransomware protection. Active Do Not Track. Banking protection. Offersa virtual private network (VPN). Many security-centered bonus features.

CONS
Unlimited VPN access requires separate subscription. With all real-time protection disabled, ransomware-specific features missed one uncommon sample.

BOTTOM LINE
With outstanding antivirus lab results anda collection of features that puts many security suites to shame, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is an excellent choice for protecting your PC.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - at 1:55 pm

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Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (2020): Top-End Power

The Razer Blade 15 is a mainstay among gaming laptops, the trailblazer for a category of thin and attractive mobile machines in the 2010s. The competition has caught up in many ways, but the premium look and feel of the classic Blade 15 design is still top-class. The 2020 version of the Blade 15 Advanced Edition boasts mainly internal upgrades—our pricey review unit includes an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) GPU and a 300Hz display—while some smaller tweaks iteratively improve the design. The performance doesn’t stand a level above competitors, but none can quite match the combination of aesthetics and performance. Those with deep pockets will enjoy its premium feel, power, and long battery life, but the Editors’ Choice Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 is a better value, and the Acer Predator Triton 500 delivers similar performance for less.

THE PROVEN BLADE DESIGN, WITH TWEAKS
This 2020 update is mostly internal-component upgrades and modest exterior tweaks, so most of what you re seeing is the tried-and-tested Blade 15 design of past models: a sleek, portable chassis that feels high- quality thanks to its fully machined aluminum build.

The Blade 15 has consistently one of our favorite gaming-laptop designs, and while others have caught up to this trend-setter, it’s still one of the most premium options available.My only design quibble is an ongoing one with the lid logo, which remains lime green. I much prefer the understated black-on-black etched version used on the latest version of the company’s Blade 13 Stealth.I know Razer wants to stay loyal to its long-serving symbol, but I can’t help but feel the color choice clashes with the Blade 15’s sleek, all-black look and undermines the style.

Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition
PROS
Best-in-class metal build. GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q can play AAA games at 60fps-plus. Can leverage 300HZz display in less- demanding games. Performance modes add frame-rate gains.

CONS
Pricey as configured. A smidge heftier than its competitive set.

BOTTOM LINE
The Razer Blade 15 combines some of the most powerful laptop components available with a slick all-metal design that stands above the rest. though the top configurations are very pricey.

In terms of build, Razer didn’t prioritize thinness above all here, since the extra few millimeters are worth way more in terms of thermals and performance than they are in portability. (Many manufacturers have relaxed on relentless trimming as the main goal, in some cases even slightly increasing thickness. ) For laptops that aim for top-end power, it’s a worthwhile trade-off. More specifically, the Blade 15 Advanced Model measures 0.7 by 14 by 9.25 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.73 pounds, which is slightly heftier than (and about the exact size of) the 2019 version.That doesn’t make it the lightest slim gaming laptop, in part due to the metal chassis, with the Acer Predator Triton 500 (4.63 pounds), the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 (4.55 pounds), and the 14-inch Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (3.52 pounds) weighing less. Even the dual-screen Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 manages to be lighter. These are ultimately all in the same tight weight class, and we do love the ROG Zephyrus G14’s size and style and the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15’s innovation, but the Blade 15 still retains its place as a top-notch build.The 2020 Blade 15 Advanced Model does have some physical changes, though. Chief among them is a slightly updated keyboard layout, which we saw reflected in the most recent Blade 13 Stealth, too. The older layout featured full-size arrow keys, which necessitated a half-length Shift key on the right side. When I used this unusual design, I often hit the Up arrow when I was intending to reach for Shift, and it was a common enough issue that Razer has heeded the cries of its users and changed to a more standard layout.The new design shrinks the arrow keys in favor of a full-size Shift key on that side, since they’re lesser-used keys for most users anyway, and it fixes the mis- hit problem. Otherwise, the keyboard is very comfortable to type on (if slightly on the shallow-travel side), and each key is individually backlit with customizable lighting. The touchpad remains best in class, among the most comfortable to use on any Windows laptop, with extremely smooth panning and a quality feel.There are more external changes in the form of ports. The 2020 version includes a UHS-III SD card reader as well as USB Type-C ports that support charging (in addition to the power jack and brick that charge the laptop).In total, the Blade 15 includes two USB Type-C ports (one with Thunderbolt 3 support, and both with 20-volt PD 3.0 charging), three Type-A USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI connection, and the SD card reader. That’s a generous mix.

COMPONENT CHECK: BLAZING FAST DISPLAY AND HIGH-END PARTS
There’s one more major physical change on our model, and while it is visible, you d be forgiven for not noticing it on first look. The full HD (4,920-by-1,080- pixel) display now boasts a blistering-fast 300Hz refresh rate, a feature that began making its way into a batch of high-end gaming laptops this year. It’s certainly a feature for enthusiasts, since only hardcore competitive gamers even seek out 120Hz or 144Hz displays.A 300Hz refresh rate kicks it up a major notch. While you may see diminishing returns as you get above, say, a 144Hz screen, you can really benefit from the upgrade in competitive multiplayer games with low visual fidelity. Higher frame rates mean smoother gameplay, though the GPU and processor need to be able to push a game that high. We’ll see how the new Blade 15 is able to perform in these scenarios a bit later in the performance section, but first let’s see what we re working with.The Blade 15 technically comes in two flavors, the Base Edition and Advanced Edition. As mentioned, ours is the latter, and they are technically different laptops due to differences in both chassis and internal design.

The Base Edition starts at $1,599, a much more affordable entry point, but we’re focusing here on the more premium Advanced Edition.The Advanced Edition starts at $2,599. With that, you get an Intel Core i7- 10875H processor, 16GB of memory, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super (Max-Q) GPU, a 512GB SSD, and the 300Hz full HD display. Our review configuration is the next step up, which is $2,999 for the same processor, memory capacity, and display, but also includes an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) GPU and a 1TB SSD. Two more content-creator-focused versions above ours include professional features such as a 4K display and/or a Quadro GPU. But our test machine is at the reasonable pinnacle for PC gamers, so let’s see how our configuration performed.

PERFORMANCE TESTING: COMPETING AT THE TOP LEVEL
For the sake of performance comparisons, I pitted the 2020 Blade 15 against some equivalent competition. These are all 15-inch-screen laptops that fall somewhere within the high-end price range, all over $2,000, varying by the particular configurations we received for review at the time. They are the Acer Predator Triton 500 (2020), Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 (GX550), Asus ROG Zephyrus S (GX50w), and Razer Blade 15 (mid-2019, OLED).It’s worth noting that the other Blade 15 used in these comparisons is the OLED-screen-bearing version that came out a bit later in 2019, rather than the first model launched last year. It was chosen because its processor was updated from the first 2019 model, and it matches the GPU in the 2020 version, and so is more relevant here. You can attribute a large part of its extra-large price tag to the (gorgeous) OLED screen.

Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests: PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both tests yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.The 10th Generation Intel processor does well here in a close-run contest, with the Triton 500 pulling ahead. The 2020 Blade 15 is plenty capable at multitasking, though this test really serves as confirmation of the minimum expectations for a laptop of this caliber. It’s fully capable of everyday multitasking given its game- ready components, and it can certainly serve as your general-use machine. The SSD is snappy as well, which will make both your files and games load faster.Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In this test, we put a stopwatch on review systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.The 10th Generation Intel processor does well here in a close-run contest, with the Triton 500 pulling ahead.We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and add up the total execution time. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here.Other than the Core i9-bearing Zephyrus Duo 15 clearly outperforming the lesser 17 processors, this is a very close group due to the processor similarities. The 2020 Blade 15 is the second-most-expensive laptop here, and its step-up CPU should be the second-best performer behind the Core i9. That doesn’t bear out 1:1 in these three tests, though it is among the more efficient performers on each. They’re all so closely matched, though, that the takeaway for all is the same. They can handle occasional media jobs with little to moderate lag or wait time, but none is quite as effective as a dedicated media-minded pro machine. Pros should look for a mobile workstation or a higher-tier processor.

Graphics Tests: 3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario for a second opinion on each laptop’s graphical prowess.This is a seriously powerful batch of laptop GPUs, and on these synthetic tests, the results are bunched very close together. Much like the processor situation, some of Nvidia’s Quadro GPUs may be better bets for professional media jobs than these gaming GPUs, but they’re very capable for 3D tasks and GPU- accelerated workloads. To get a clearer sense of gaming-specific performance, let’s move on to the next tests.

Real-World Gaming Tests:
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world gameplay at various settings. We run them at 1080p resolution at the games’ medium and best image-quality settings (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5 under DirectX 11, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider under DirectX 12).I’ll start with the basics. The Blade 15 and its Max-Q RTX 2080 Super push very high frame rates in these games, which bodes well for AAA gaming on this laptop. More-demanding modern titles will push that number lower, especially if you aim to run advanced ray-tracing lighting settings (which only RTX GPUs can do), but it’s good enough for 60fps minimum on most titles.

I also tested Rainbow Six: Siege as a representative of competitive multiplayer titles, due to its helpful built-in benchmark test. On the Low, Medium, and Ultra quality presets (all at 100 percent render resolution), the 2020 Blade 15 averaged 262fps, 244fps, and 200fps, respectively. All of those should be mouthwatering for hardcore players, and if you tend to play competitive games on lower settings to amp up the frame rates, you can truly make use of the 300Hz display. How much of a benefit that is over, say, 144Hz is up for debate and varies by the person, the game, and their skill level. But the components can live up to the presence of the 300Hz screen in practice.

Furthermore, the Blade 15 offers different performance modes via Razer’s Synapse app. You can use the Balanced performance preset for the CPU and GPU or manually set the CPU and GPU performance from Low to Boost. (The CPU has Low, Medium, High, and Boost presets, while the GPU has only Low, Medium and High. The default banks of tests were on Medium for each.)The fans are normally quiet while gaming (audible but not obnoxious, and better than some past Blade efforts), but the High and Boost settings definitely make them heard at all times, and the system gets much warmer. Using these presets did net some notable frame-rate gains, though. On maximum settings at 1080p, Far Cry 5 jumped from 95fps to 100fps, and Rise of the Tomb Raider from 112fps to 125fps. This is more than the usual improvement we see from these built-in manufacturer modes, even if using them doesn’t unlock a whole other level of performance.This leads me to the comparisons of this laptop to the others. The 2020 Blade 15 doesn’t lead in frames per second on either game, though the boosted numbers change that dynamic—if you don’t mind your laptop sounding more like a jet engine. With the normal performance mode, I was a touch disappointed, since this is the most expensive laptop on the list with the exception of the twin-screened ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, and you can’t point to thermal constraints, since it’s not any thinner or lighter than the competition.The Blade 15 is only 2fps to 5fps behind the Predator Triton 500 on these games, so we re not talking about much of a gulf—but the Blade 15 also has a step-up CPU, so I probably would have favored it. Given that the Triton 500 also includes a 1TB SSD and a 300Hz screen for $400 less, you’ll have to accept that you’re paying a premium for the Razer Blade 15’s build rather than for a marked performance gain.

Battery Rundown Test: After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Tears of Steel short—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.The Blade 15 is clearly the best of this lot in battery life. While a couple of machines come very close, within the margin of error for battery runs, none lasted longer. Seven hours of runtime with a high-refresh screen and gaming- grade parts is a good result and promotes this laptop’s use on the go for long stretches. If you’re looking at this to be your general-use laptop and a frequent travel companion, it’s a promising result.

.THE MOST PREMIUM BUILD AVAILABLE
The 2020 version of the Razer Blade 15 isn’t much evolved in design, but the tweaks and added features make it a more powerful gaming laptop than before. Our review configuration is very expensive, and I don’t think most gamers need this lofty a loadout (the $2,599 one is a bit more reasonable for most shoppers). But perhaps better than any of the alternatives, it successfully marries top-end power with a slick, high- quality design.Value for your dollar matters less to shoppers in the far reaches of a luxury category, and this is the most envy- inducing laptop of the bunch, as long as you’re not seduced by the Duo 15’s twin screens. It’s not the elite, unique design it once was in the gaming-laptop market, and we think the Editors’ Choice Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 is a better value at $2,199.99. But we can recommend our Blade 15 Advanced Edition configuration when cost is a secondary concern and aesthetics and power are tops. That said, if you really have cash to burn and want something less traditional, also consider the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, which is a one-of-a-kind design and an excellent innovation.Perhaps better than any of the alternatives, it successfully marries top- end power with a slick, high-quality design.

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Lenovo Legion 51: A Smart Refinement

Lenovo rebranded its midrange and high-end gaming laptops into the Legion line a few years back, and we’ve been fans of most of the Legion models since then. The Legion Y530 and the Legion Y740 were strong 2019 entries, and the new Legion 5i ($1,599.99 as tested) evolves the line further. Besides a streamlined naming scheme, the 5i features an evolved design with an updated keyboard, a more logically placed webcam with a privacy shutter, and a 10th Generation Intel Core i7 processor. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU and the 144Hz display in our review model provided a smooth, full HD gaming experience, and it’s all rounded out by plenty of storage and ports. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 edges it out currently as an unmatched value, but this is an appealing 15.6-inch midrange laptop that costs less than truly premium alternatives.

A CLEAN LOOK, WITH REFINED FEATURES
The Legion 5i shares a general design style with the previous generation of Legion gaming laptops, with just a few visual changes. It’s quite similar to the Legion Y530 and Legion Y740, which is largely positive, as we rated those builds nicely. While the design may be a little tame for some, it’ll be preferable to garish alternatives for others, and the quality of the construction is strong.

Though the chassis is plastic, its soft touch and sturdiness are satisfying and give you confidence in its quality. The lid is a polymer blend that has a decent feel, and the logo now has an iridescent shine to it when viewed at certain angles. The Legion 51 is compact and fairly portable at 0.93 by 14.3 by 10.2 inches (HWD) and 5.4 pounds. That means it’s hardly the lightest around (the 14-inch Zephyrus G14 and several premium gaming laptops beat it on both thinness and weight), but it’s right on the mark versus entry-level and midrange competition. (The Acer Predator Helios 300 is 0.9 inch thick and 5.1 pounds, while the Dell G5 15 SE is 0.85 inch thick and 5.5 pounds.) It’s still portable enough to throw in your bag and go, though it’s a tad heftier than you’d like on a daily commute.

Lenovo Legion 5i

PROS
The RTX 2060 GPU provides more than 60fps in demanding games. A 144Hz display for competitive multiplayer titles. Well-made, compact build, and good battery life. Comfy revamped keyboard. 1TB of SSD storage and plenty of ports, including Ethernet and USB-C.

CONS
Some may find the design plain. Not especially lightweight for its screen size.

BOTTOM LINE
The Lenovo Legion 5iisa smart refinement of last year’s Legion gaming laptops, delivering practical design updates, anew CPU, and solid 1080p gaming performance at a fair price.

Careful observers will note some physical layout changes compared with past Legions, chiefly involving the keyboard and camera. The keyboard now includes a full number pad on the right side, absent from the Legion Y740 and a welcome inclusion. The keyboard itself has also been improved, and it’s really comfortable and responsive. It employs Lenovo’s “soft landing” switches that do what the name implies, even when

you re bottoming out your keys. The keyboard is also lit across four customizable zones.

With 1.5mm of travel, sculpted keycaps, and larger arrow keys, it’s a satisfying typing experience. The presence of the number pad makes the rest of the keyboard a little condensed, but you adapt to the shape pretty quickly. The touchpad is also larger than before (by 39 percent), and has changed style from dedicated left- and right-click buttons at its base to a single clickable piece. It’s placed slightly off-center and ran up against my left palm somewhat while I was typing. It didn’t cause accidental presses; it just felt a bit odd.

The keyboard now includes a full number pad on the right side, absent from the Legion Y740 anda welcome inclusion.

As for the camera, Lenovo has improved it over past Legion laptops by making it more normal. The Legion Y530 and Y740 both had their webcams under the display on the bottom bezel. Most of the industry has decided this is a subpar solution to getting thinner bezels, and Lenovo has followed suit, placing it back up top. In this time of widespread remote work (and potential game streamers who may want to look better as opposed to chin-camming it), it’s a good change. There’s also a physical privacy shutter that you can flip into place to block the lens with a switch along the top bezel. The camera resolution is 720p and produces average picture quality.

Now, on to what’s between those bezels. Our unit is equipped with a full HD 144Hz display, a perfect fit for gaming (especially with the components in this model). We’ll get into frame rates a bit later, but the GPU can push above 60 frames per second (fps) on plenty of games, and approach the 144fps ceiling on less-demanding multiplayer titles, making this screen a good match. The IPS panel is adequately bright at 300 nits.

Finally, for the physical port layout: It’s a strong selection, with most on the rear block. The left and right sides of the laptop each host one USB 3.1 Type-A port, and the left also includes the headset jack. The rear is where youll find two more USB 3.1 ports, a USB Type-C port, an HDMI output, an Ethernet jack, and the Lenovo-specific power jack.

COMPONENT CHECK: MIDRANGE INTEL AND NVIDIA POWER
Most important for a gaming laptop, we come to the components. As noted earlier, prices start at $1,099.99, with our $1,599.99 review unit the most expensive option. These figures range from upper entry-level to midrange— no version of this laptop is either super cheap or overly expensive.

There’s alsoa physical privacy shutter that you can flip into place to block the lens witha switch along the top bezel.

Our test model carries a Core 17-10750H processor, 16GB of memory, a GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, and a 1TB solid-state drive. At the time I wrote this, it’s the standard listing at B&H Photo, with limited stock at a sale price of $1,299. The $1,599.99 model on Lenovo.com is the same as ours aside from the storage, with a 512GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. So you’ll want to hunt at various etailers and Lenovo itself to find the best price for this machine.

The $1,099.99 model comes with a Core 15-10300H processor, 8GB of memory, a GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, and a 128GB SSD. The two middle models on Lenovo’s site offer Core 15 and i7 options, as well as varied storage capacities and GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics. In all cases, I’d avoid the 128GB SSD configurations, as that storage capacity is just way too skimpy for modern game requirements.

PERFORMANCE TESTING: STRONG HD GAMING PROFICIENCY
To provide context for the Legion 5i’s performance, I’ve put together a batch of competing laptops. Most are other 15-inchers, though the ROG Zephyrus G14 has really broken the mold on value and performance, so it’s included as well. We don’t review as many midrange gaming laptops—roughly $1,300 to $2,000 models—as we do entry-level and premium machines (in part due to the configurations manufacturers choose to send for review), so there’s a mix of lower- and higher-priced models. The Acer Predator Helios 300 ($1,199.99 as tested) represents the best entry-level value over $1,000; the Dell G5 15 SE is an all-AMD alternative at the same price. The Zephyrus G14, as mentioned, is a superb midrange value at $1,449.99.

Last, the Legion Y740 is Lenovo’s 2019 equivalent model. We tested it in a higher $1,919.99 configuration, so even though it’s a generation behind our Legion 5i, it has a more powerful Nvidia GPU. On certain CPU-centric tests, the improvements of the 51 should show in its newer-generation processor, even though the GPU is a step down in our particular configurations.

Productivity, storage, and media tests: PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both tests yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.

The Legion 51 wasn’t the top performer in PCMark 10, but all these laptops show an aptitude for zipping through everyday home and office jobs and multitasking. Similarly, all of these SSDs are snappy, so you’ll be able to boot and load files and games quickly.

Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render complex images. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video-editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) toa 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.

We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and add up the total. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here.

The Legion 5i and its processor are decent performers here, with notably good results in Photoshop. As we’ve seen before, AMD’s Ryzen 4000 processors in like- priced machines tend to be a notch above Intel’s offerings in thread-aware media tasks, so you may favor those options if you intend to do media editing on the side. None of these machines is a specialist media workstation, though, and ultimately the Legion 51 and its cohort are just serviceable for these tasks. It’s all about gaming and, as youll see, the AMD Ryzen chips here cannot assert superiority on that front; gaming is mostly about the GPUs.

Graphics tests:
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.

Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario for a second opinion on each laptop’s graphical prowess.

All the scores were strong, demonstrating capable performance for 3D tasks and gaming. There isn’t much separation in the results, though, so it’s hard to draw firm conclusions among the laptops. The in-game benchmark results do a better job of that.

The Legion 5i and its cohort are just serviceable for specialist media tasks; ultimately, it’s all about gaming.

Real-world gaming tests:
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world gameplay at various settings. We run them at 1080p resolution at the games’ medium and best image-quality presets (Normal and Ultra for Far Cry 5 under DirectX 11, Medium and Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider under DirectX 12).

The 51 achieved pretty great results. On one hand, it stuck very close to the GeForce RTX 2070 in the Legion Y740, likely because that was the down-tuned Max-Q version of that GPU. On the other, it bested the AMD-based machines, even the Zephyrus G14 using the same GPU. That could be a part down to CPU and part to improved thermals (Lenovo’s so-called “ColdFront 2.0” thermal design does seem effective, and the G14 has less room for cooling with its 14- inch chassis), but it’s worth a few frames per second either way.

The Legion 5i also beat out the Helios 300 and its GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, though that machine hung close and represents good performance per dollar. I also found that the Legion 51 ran reasonably quiet and didn’t get especially warm, for which we can again thank the thermal design. You’ll hear the fans more with the higher-performance setting available in Lenovo’s software, and that trade-off is worth a couple of frames per second.

Outside of these head-to-head GPU comparisons, the frame rates here are objectively good. The RTX 2060 is perhaps better than some may think as Nvidia’s entry-level RTX GPU, even without considering its addition of ray- tracing capabilities over the GTX series. It produced well above 60fps in these tests, in fact closer to 100fps in AAA titles, while less-demanding games will approach the 144fps ceiling.

Battery rundown test: After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the same Tears of Steel short we use in our Handbrake test— with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.

The Legion 5i outlived its competitors. This result means the 51 can serve as your daily driver, lasting off the charger for school or a commute through most of the day. It doesn’t come close to rivaling the 15- or 20-plus-hour life of some ultraportables, but it’s long for a gaming laptop.

A SOLID ALL-ROUNDER AT A REASONABLE PRICE
There’s plenty to like about the Legion 5i, from its sturdy build to solid gaming performance. It’s not the lightest or most exciting design, but it feels well made and includes some advanced features. The keyboard is improved over past iterations, and the webcam placement is more sensible. Add a GPU that just about matches the performance of a more expensive option from previous- generation Legion laptops, as well as a superior processor, and this is an overall better value than before.

It’s not quite an Editors’ Choice, as the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 offers an as-yet unbeatable midrange value, and some premium gaming rigs deliver more power on the high end, but it strongly occupies an appealing space between.

HARDWARE
Starts at $2,599.00, $2,999 as tested

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Aorus 15G: Top Gaming Performance

Aorus new 15G is a premium 15.6-inch gaming laptop from Taiwan- A based Gigabyte’s gaming arm. Models of the 15G start at $1,699; our $2,299 tester is tricked out with an eight-core Intel Core 17 processor, a Max-Q version of the 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super, and a high- refresh 240Hz display. It sets itself apart with a handsome design and a mechanical keyboard that almost sells the laptop by itself. A few minor quibbles mean the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition and the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 remain our top picks in this category, but this Aorus performs just as well and offers even better battery life. It’s a worthy and slightly less expensive alternative.

AIM FOR THE HIGH END
Bargain shoppers probably won’t spend too much time looking at the Aorus 15G, at least if their goal is getting the most performance for the dollar. The Core i7- 10750H, 6GB GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, and 144Hz screen of the base model can be had for hundreds less in other competing models, which can also be said for the $1,899 model’s modest bump to a 6GB GeForce RTX 2060 GPU and a 240Hz screen.

The eight-core CPU is really what sets the model ’m reviewing (Aorus part number 15G XB-8US2130MP) apart from lesser laptops that top out with six-core chips, so it’s a situation where the pricier model makes more relative sense. You simply can’t get this level of hardware without spending this kind of money.

The Razer Blade 15 Advanced went for $2,599 as I wrote this, though with twice the solid-state storage (1TB instead of the 512GB that’s standard across the United States-bound Aorus 15G models), while the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 commanded $2,399 in its GX502LWS-XS76 guise equipped like the Razer. All in all, the Aorus 15G presents a fair value in that company. I’d like to see a longer warranty than the standard one year, but that’s the norm for gaming laptops.

Aorus 15G

PROS Powerful gaming performance. Stylish and well made. Fantastic mechanical keyboard. Built-in fingerprint reader. Long battery life.

CONS Awkward webcam location. Screen doesn’t support G-Sync. Fans get noisy while gaming.

BOTTOM LINE Aorus’ elite 15.6-incher, the 15G, offers top-shelf gaming performance and a splash of uniqueness from its Omron-switch mechanical keyboard, all for slightly less money than its competition.

The Aorus 15G’s gunmetal exterior and black chiclet keyboard look aggressive yet professional, leaving out the bright colors and look-at-me LEDs that sometimes adorn gaming notebooks. (Not that those features are bad, but they aren’t for everyone.) Aorus’ passively backlit logo is on the back of the lid, but that’s it.

The chassis makes extensive use of aluminum for the palm rest, keyboard surround, bottom panel, and lid for structural support, so it’s not just looks. The result is that it’s a trifle heavy at 4.9 pounds, though not by so much that it’s less portable than its competition. (The Razer Blade 15 Advanced is 4.7 pounds.) I like that the lid can be opened with one hand.

Meanwhile, the chassis is respectably trim at 14 by 9.9 inches. Its 1-inch thickness is more than the 0.7 inch of the Blade 15 Advanced and Zephyrus S GX502, but one keystroke on the Aorus’ keyboard is enough to forgive that.

MECHANICAL BLISS: OH, WHAT A KEYBOARD!
Perhaps this laptop’s headline feature, the keyboard features mechanical switches by Japanese maker Omron. Keystrokes make delightful clicks and clacks just like a mechanical desktop keyboard, so typing stealthily on this laptop isn’t an option.

The key throws are luxuriously long (the main reason for the extra chassis thickness), while the rock-solid keyboard deck tells your fingers precisely when you hit the bottom of a keystroke. It’s a superb tactile journey. The keyboard also gets points for its full-size function row (the F1 through F12 keys, which are usually half-size on laptops) and number pad, the last hardly being a given on 15.6-inchers that include one.

Its per-key RGB backlighting, something no gaming laptop in this price range can be without, is customizable from within the Aorus Control Center app. The app allows you to change the colors of individual keys and gives you a choice of more than a dozen lighting presets, but little else. The Razer Synapse app on the competing Blade 15 Advanced offers finer controls, including the ability to make layered patterns, save and use cloud-synced profiles, and enjoy integration into supported games. Unless you’re a serious tinkerer, though, Aorus’ app should satisfy.

The 15G’s buttonless touchpad is another high point, offering precise, tactile clicks that aren’t too loud. Its smooth surface is easy to swipe across and doesn’t show fingerprints. Inset at the top left is a fingerprint reader, making the 15G one of the few gaming notebooks to include built-in biometrics.

AN AWKWARD VIEW: RAISE THAT WEBCAM
The 15G’s 720p webcam could use some relocating. This isn’t the first notebook to place its camera beneath the display, but I hope it’s the last. The chin-up pictures (which are, fortunately, clear enough in the right lighting) are awkward. At least it has a sliding cover for privacy.

The 15G’s port locations can also be discomfiting, depending on what you need to plug in. Let’s start on the left, which has HDMI 2.0 and mini-DisplayPort video outputs, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port (5Gbps), an audio combo jack (headphone/microphone), and Ethernet. The last three are located more than halfway toward the front (that is, close to the user), so cables that jut out from them can intrude on external mouse space. The same is true of the USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A pair and the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port on the right edge.

The included power adapter has a right-angle adapter, so it doesn’t stick out too far from where the AC jack sits at center. On a positive note, the full-size SD flash-card reader (instead of micro) is a nice inclusion.

For networking, the 15G features a Killer AX1650x card supporting Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. It’s notable that the Ethernet jack is powered by Killer silicon, as well, model E2600.

Just beneath the front corners of the chassis are the 15G’s twin speakers. They lack for bass but are clear and loud enough for gaming or movie-watching in a quiet space.

NEVER ENOUGH HERTZ
The screen refresh rate on gaming notebooks has steadily crept up over the years; here in mid-2020, it tops 300Hz on flagships such as the Acer Predator Triton 500. The Aorus 15G has a 240Hz panel in our review unit, its highest option. That’s overkill, since this notebook, even with the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, won’t produce anywhere near 240 frames per second (fps) in all but a few minimally demanding multiplayer fraggers. (CS:GO comes to mind.)

The 15G’s twin speakers lack for bass but are clear and loud enough for gaming or movie- watching ina quiet space.

The full HD panel (4,920 by 1,080 pixels, the staple for gaming notebooks) is reasonably colorful and bright and offers a matte surface for glare-free viewing. The IGZO panel technology it uses is an alternative to the more common IPS, offering similar color reproduction and wide viewing angles.

Though the screen’s fast response times make for a fluid gaming experience, it lacks support for Nvidia G-Sync. I didn’t see frame-tearing issues in the games I tested when I enabled V-sync in-game, but G-Syne would have smoothed it out further. (Leaving out G-Sync isn’t without benefits, as you’ll see in the battery- life section below.)

SUPER-SIZE THOSE NUMBERS
The quartet of notebooks that I’m comparing to the Aorus 15G are all 15.6-inchers with top-of-the-line components. Gigabyte’s own Aero 15 OLED XB has an identical loadout, while the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 (GX550) should lead our CPU-focused tests with its Core i9. That chip is an eight- core/16-thread part like the Core 17-10875H in the Aorus, but it can reach even higher clocks. The six-core/12-thread Core 17-10750H chips in the Acer Predator Triton 500 and MSI GS66 Stealth are still heavy hitters.

The Nvidia Super laptop chips in these laptops aren’t a huge performance leg- up from their non-Super predecessors, but they do have beefier specs. These units use power-limited Max-Q versions so they don’t produce too much heat. (An important consideration; the GS66 Stealth is just 0.71 inch thick.)

Our benchmarks normally start with our PCMark 10 general system performance assessment, but my Aorus 15G review unit wouldn’t complete it for reasons I couldn’t identify. But there’s no question this laptop has more than enough oomph for the web browsing, office productivity, and streaming workloads that test simulates. It did score 4,954 points in our PCMark 8 storage benchmark, which was within 100 points of the others and indicates its 512GB solid-state drive is fast indeed.

CPU-crunching tests: Moving on, the Aorus 15G did well in both. Cinebench R15 stresses all available processor cores and threads while rendering a complex image, while in our Handbrake test, we transcode a 12-minute 4K video down to 1080p. As expected, its eight-core 17 expectedly outperformed the six-core 17- equipped Acer and MSI.

Photo editing is our last media benchmark, where we use an early 2018 release of Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud to apply 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG image, timing each operation and adding up the totals. This test is not as CPU-focused as Cinebench or Handbrake, bringing the performance of the storage subsystem, memory, and GPU into play. The Aorus’ time of just over two minutes is excellent for a laptop and not far off some of the high-end gaming desktops we’ve tested.

Graphics tests: We use two benchmark suites to gauge the gaming performance potential of a PC. In the first, UL’s 3DMark, we run two DirectX 11-driven subtests, the mainstream Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are more suited to gaming rigs. Our other graphics benchmark is Unigine Corp.’s Superposition, which uses a different rendering engine to produce a complex 3D scene.

The Aorus scored a tad low next to the Gigabyte despite using the same RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, though it could be argued that laptop is an overachiever, having beat or matched the others touting the theoretically faster RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.

Those patterns became more muddled in our real-world game tests. We use the built-in 1080p benchmarks in Far Cry 5 (at its Normal and Ultra presets) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (at its Medium and Very High presets). Far Cry 5 uses DirectX 11, while we flip Rise of the Tomb Raider to DirectX 12. The Aorus’ near or over triple-digit frame rates in these games means a butter- smooth gaming experience. The others were a few frames faster, but not to a degree that would be noticeable without running benchmarks like these. All in all, it’s a fine performer for full HD gaming.

The Aorus’ near or over triple-digit frame rates in these games meansa butter-smooth gaming experience.

Battery rundown test: For our last benchmark test, we measure a laptop’s unplugged runtime playing a locally stored video with screen brightness at 50 percent and audio volume at 100 percent. We use the notebook’s energy-saving rather than balanced or other power profile, turn off Wi-Fi, and even disable keyboard backlighting to squeeze as much life as possible out of the system.

The Aorus has its lack of G-Sync and a large 94-watt-hour battery, which is just shy of the TSA’s maximum for carry-on lithium-powered devices, to thank for its excellent showing of eight hours and 22 minutes. We look for at least four to five hours from 15.6-inch gaming notebooks in mid-2020.

A NOISY BUT COOL-ENOUGH CUSTOMER
The Aorus 15G’s cooling comes from two fans at opposite corners of the chassis, each sending air out the back and sides. The primary air intake is through vents on the bottom of the chassis, seen here, and through perforations above the keyboard.

The fan noise at full tilt is noticeably louder than household background noise, especially since it has a hint of motor whine. It’s not unusual for a gaming laptop to be loud, so the 15G isn’t unique in this regard. (In fact, I can’t remember the last time I reviewed a gaming laptop that Id call quiet.) Nonetheless, there’s room for improvement.

For temperature testing, I run through a game (Rise of the Tomb Raider, in this case) for 30 minutes while recording sensor temperatures with GPU-Z and using a Flir One Pro thermal camera to get outside readings. The The 15G latter showed the 15G handled its heat well, keeping handled its heat hotspots toward the top of the chassis, which you well, keeping wouldn’t normally touch. The upper-80-degree F hotspots temperatures around the WASD key cluster andthe palm toward the top rest aren’t more than 20 degrees above room of the chassis, temperature. which you wouldn’t Inside, the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q stayed in the upper- 70-degree C range, which is more than acceptable. The Core 17-10875H was a little toasty, topping out in the low gos. Intel rates the chip for more than that, of course, but it’s nice to have a margin of thermal headroom if you’re in a warmer climate. For reference, the room I tested in was an air-conditioned 77 degrees F. normally touch.

A UNIQUE HIGH-END GAMER
The Aorus 15G would be hard to beat with a relocated webcam. It’s not the thinnest high-end gaming notebook, but the extra few tenths of an inch buys room for a fantastic mechanical keyboard that has no equal among laptops this size. Its aluminum-clad chassis looks stylish, and its performance is as good as we expect from a laptop with its components, capable of maintaining triple-digit frame rates in demanding titles as reviewed. In fact, it could push well into what its 240Hz display is capable of in esports.

Aorus has the pricing right on the 15G, too, especially in the top-end model we tested. If you can get past its minor quirks, this one is just as deserving of your hard-earned dosh as any other elite 15.6-inch gamers we’ve tested.

HARDWARE

Starts at $1,099.99

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Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus: Wireless Charging

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus: Wireless Charging Amazon’s Fire tablet lineup has long been a favorite of ours as good,

simple value for the money. Each model uses a variant of the Android

OS that’s tilted heavily toward accessing Amazon services but is also good for streaming video and reading. The particularly important feature here is Show Mode, which makes the tablet act like a hands-free Echo Show smart display, displaying the time and responding to Alexa queries. The new gray Fire HD 8 Plus has more RAM, wireless charging, and a slightly higher- powered charger. That wireless charging, along with the optional charging dock, really makes a difference here, turning the Fire HD 8 Plus into an Echo Show you can take with you. The audio isn’t nearly as good as that of a real Echo Show, but that’s a fair trade-off for portability.

WIRELESS CHARGING
I’ve never been a big fan of wireless charging, but with this device, I get it. The HD 8 Plus works with a matching gray-plastic dock ($30 if sold with the tablet, $40 alone), which can prop the tablet up in a comfortable horizontal or vertical position. The dock becomes a key part of the tablet’s life as a quasi-Echo Show, sitting on your kitchen counter or by your bedside to give you the news, show recipes, or control your smart home throughout the day.

The dock’s wireless charging abilities mean that you can quickly and easily pick up the tablet to take it with you as backseat entertainment or toss it to a kid to use on the couch. Then you can pop it back in the dock without thinking, and as a result it’s almost always charged. This is an easier habit to form than remembering to plug your tablet in, and it’s a more aesthetically pleasing approach than just propping the tablet up on your kitchen counter and hoping for the best.

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus

PROS
Inexpensive. Long battery life. Wireless charging. Excellent Alexa support.

CONS
Limited app compatibility.

BOTTOM LINE
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Plus adds wireless charging to the low- cost tablet, likely changing its usage patterns.

NEARLY IDENTICAL PERFORMANCE
Like the Fire HD 8, the Plus runs Amazon’s Fire OS, based on Android 9.1. This OS is designed almost entirely for consuming Amazon content. While Amazon has an app store, it lacks many of the apps found in the Google Play Store, and often has older versions of apps. If you install apps that aren’t from Amazon’s store, such as ones from the APKPure store, they don’t appear in the main UI and can be hard to launch.

There will always be some intrepid folks who say that doesn’t matter, because you can hack the Google Play Store onto the tablet. But that’s an unsupported use, which Google can and periodically does break, where some apps work and some don’t, and where you end up as part of a cat-and-mouse game between Amazon and Google. It isn’t a great user experience. Your best bet is sticking to Amazon’s app store.

The HD 8 Plus uses the same MT8168A processor as the HD 8, but carries 3GB of RAM rather than 2GB. That didn’t seem to affect benchmarks at all. In PCMark, which simulates a variety of applications, we got 4,375 to the Fire HD 8’s 4,448. In the web-based Basemark test, we got 99.05 to the HD 8’s 101.32. Results on the GFXBench graphics tests were nearly identical as well.

In anecdotal testing, I could say that the UI appeared to be a little smoother than on the HD 8, but that might have been the placebo effect of knowing about the additional RAM. That said, it can’t hurt, especially if you’re using the tablet for gaming. But I wouldn’t consider it a deal-breaking feature, as I might when stepping up from the Fire 7’s 1GB to the Fire 8’s 2GB of memory.

The HD 8 Plus has the same battery and thus the same battery life as the HD 8. In our tests, that’s 9 hours and 25 minutes of video playback time—plenty of power for a full day. The Plus comes with a 9-watt charger instead of the 8’s 5-watt charger, but it still takes several hours to charge.

A BETTER KITCHEN COMPANION
Rarely does wireless charging make a difference in one of our reviews, but it does here. The Fire HD 8 Plus’s charging dock makes this tablet a much better bedside or kitchen companion than its lower-cost sibling—not only does it keep the tablet from sliding around, but you can pretty much pick up the device at any time and assume it will be charged. That’s really convenient.

The Fire HD 8 Plus’s major downside is the same as with the other Fire tablets: The software is devoted to making you consume Amazon content, and Amazon’s app store lacks many mainstream apps you can find in Google’s store. While you can hack Google’s store onto the tablet, it’s unsupported and may fail at any time, so I can’t recommend doing that.

This tablet’s $109.99 price is really $139.99 once you add the dock, but what Amazon offers here is enough for a lot of people. The HD 8 Plus makes a great little Echo Show-alike to display recipes or act as a fancy alarm clock, plus play videos for the kids, for instance. But if you need an inexpensive tablet with full Google Play app compatibility, check out Walmart’s Onn. 8-inch tablet instead.

The Fire HD 8 Plus’s charging dock makes it a much better bedside or kitchen companion than its lower- cost sibling.

HARDWARE

Starts at $1,699.00

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Motorola Moto Edge: Modest but Solid

Motorola has had a busy release schedule in 2020. The $699.99 Moto M Edge came to market a few months after the $999.99 Moto Edge+

we reviewed in April. While the two phones look and sound alike, a number of differences account for that $300 price difference. Where the Edge+ features a flagship-level camera and processor, the Edge is decidedly more

modest. Fortunately, it still delivers pretty solid performance, along with 5G connectivity, for a lower price than most other phones.

DESIGN, DISPLAY, AND DURABILITY
The Moto Edge is a handsome phone. It’s available in Midnight Magenta or Solar Black, both of which have a finish that resembles hand-blown glass. We received the black model, which is actually more of a deep navy. At 6.36 by 2.80 by 0.37 inches (HWD), the Edge is nearly the same size as the Edge+ and feels good in the hand. And at a well-distributed 6.63 ounces, it’s easy to hold for extended periods of time.

The front of the phone is dominated by the same 6.7- inch OLED display with 90-degree curved edges as the Edge+. Resolution comes in at 2,340 by 1,080, for a density of 385 pixels per inch. With an aspect ratio of 19.5:9 and a 90H z refresh rate, it’s one of the best displays we’ve seen at this price. It’s smooth, bright, and has a wide color gamut, with excellent color accuracy. The Endless Edge feature on the curves also looks great, though you’ll want to disable it when you’re reading an ebook, since it tends to warp text.

As with the Moto Edge+, the in-display fingerprint sensor on the Edge is solid. We tested it nearly 100 times, but it failed only four times.

The back panel houses four circular camera and flash sensors that sit vertically on the left side of the phone, and a monochromatic Motorola logo is positioned at the top center. Though the plastic panel looks as good as glass, it attracts many more fingerprints and smudges.

Motorola Moto Edge

PROS
Solid battery life. Nice display. 3.5mm headphone jack.

CONS
liediocre cameras. No IP rating. Lacks wireless charging.

BOTTOM LINE
The $699 Motorola Moto Edge delivers a solid 5G experience for less money than most competing phones right now.

A SIM card slot sits on the top edge, and a headphone jack, a USB-C charging port, and a speaker are all on the bottom. The left side is bare, and the right has a textured power button and a volume rocker. The latter two controls are positioned fairly high, so if you have small hands, you might have a hard time reaching them.

Durability is our biggest design concern with the Edge. Although Motorola uses Gorilla Glass 5 for its curved display, it’s unlikely to withstand a hard drop without damage. The plastic back is more likely to remain unscathed, as is the aluminum chassis. And while Motorola says the phone is safe from splashes, it lacks an official IP rating, which means it offers no official protection against dust or water. For a sturdier handset, check out the LG Velvet.

AUDIO, CALL, AND NETWORK QUALITY
The Moto Edge supports global low-band 5G. It supports LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/2 6/28/29/30/34/38/39/40/41/42/46/48/66/71, and 5G is supported on sub-6GHz bands n2/5/41/66/71/77/78.

Although Motorola uses Gorilla Glass 5 for its curved display, it’s unlikely to withstand a hard drop without damage.

We tested the phone on T-Mobile’s 5G network and recorded solid results. After completing more than a dozen tests across Philadelphia, the Edge turned in average speeds of 138.7Mbps down and 69.2Mbps up.

Call quality is excellent. Maximum earpiece volume clocks in at 89dB and is loud enough to hear on busy streets (and the earpiece doubles as a second speaker for multimedia). All of our test calls were crystal clear, and noise cancellation was able to stifle nearly all background noise, though some very loud construction sounds made their way through on one call.

The Edge features stereo sound tuned by Waves Audio, and volume peaks at 9odB. It’s very good for a phone, if not quite up to the standards set by the Asus ROG Phone 3 and the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro 5G. There’s also a physical headphone jack, which is always nice to see, and you can customize your own audio profile using the Moto Audio setting.

For additional connectivity, the phone supports Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, and dual- band Wi-Fi. Support for Wi-Fi 6, found on the more expensive Edge+, is missing here.

CAMERAS
The Edge features a triple-camera stack with a time of flight sensor. The primary lens comes in at 64MP with an f/1.8 aperture. Quad-pixel binning is supported for crisp 16MP shots. There’s also a 16MP ultra-wide and macro lens with an f/2.2 aperture, and an 8MP telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture and 2x optical zoom.

Daylight test photos with the primary lens were solid, showing excellent color accuracy and depth of field. When viewed at full size, there’s some loss of fine detail, but it’s not noticeable when you’re using the photos just for social media. The ultra-wide lens is similarly competent. We noticed some distortion in a handful of test shots but nothing out of the ordinary for this price range.

As with the Edge+, the telephoto lens is disappointing. Color accuracy is spot- on, but there is no depth of field. Fine details appear mushy, and we saw noise in many of our test shots.

Low-light performance is also a letdown. Our test photos with the primary and ultra-wide lenses in night mode lack detail and are filled with noise. Lens flare is often present as well. The telephoto lens turned in muddy shots with unnatural blurring, likely caused by over-aggressive noise cancellation.

For selfies, a 25MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture sits on the front of the phone. Like the 64MP rear lens, it supports quad-pixel binning. In good light, both color accuracy and depth of field in test shots were solid, though in portrait mode, bokeh looked unnatural around hairlines and glasses. Almost all of our low-light selfies were dark and lacking in detail. Blurring was present in the foreground, especially around the edges of our test subject, and there was noticeable noise.

For a similar price, the Apple iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 4 don’t support 5G, but they take much better photos.

SPECS AND PERFORMANCE
The Edge is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chipset, along with 6GB of RAM. Storage clocks in at 256GB, of which 240GB is available out of the box. If you need additional storage, you can add up to 1TB with a microSD card.

While the Edge doesn’t feature the same top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 chipset as its more expensive sibling, it’s by no means a slouch in the performance department. The Snapdragon 765 is more than powerful enough for most tasks, and we never experienced any slowdown no matter how many apps or Chrome windows were open in the background.

Even most gamers will be happy with the Edge. The combination of a 90Hz refresh rate display and Motorola’s Moto Gametime enhancements make for super-smooth gameplay. We spent more than an hour putting the Edge through its paces with Asphalt 9 without issue.

On PCMark Work 2.0, a series of tests that emulate typical smartphone tasks, the Edge scored an admirable 8,408. That’s slightly ahead of the LG Velvet (8,061) and the Samsung Galaxy A71 (8,048), though it’s not enough to make a noticeable difference in daily use. For comparison, the Moto Edge+ scored 11,721.

Motorola promises multi-day battery life on the Edge’s 4,500mAh cell. In our battery test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the Edge lasted 12 hours and 11 minutes. That’s a significant improvement over the LG Velvet (10 hours, 30 minutes), but both will easily get you through the day with more conservative use, if not quite the multiple days Motorola claims.

In addition to our traditional battery drain test, we also used the phone as our daily driver for several days, throughout which we consistently had a 5G signal. At the end of several busy 16-hour days, the phone consistently had more than 40 percent battery life remaining.

When the battery starts running low, the Edge supports 18W fast charging with the included adapter. Wireless charging support is noticeably absent.

SOFTWARE
The Edge ships with Android 10 along with Motorola’s updated My UX skin. My UX is a nearly stock version of Android, with a few productivity tweaks specifically for Motorola handsets. Moto Actions is the marquee feature here, allowing you to enable gestures to automate basic tasks. When you want to silence your ringer, for instance, just flip the phone. Need to take a screenshot? Tap the display with three fingers.

Moto Display has been optimized for the edge-to-edge screen. It allows you to create edge notification lights, as well as custom gestures that can be accessed by tapping or dragging your finger on the side of the phone.

The aforementioned Moto Gametime lets you tweak performance settings and turn off notifications. You can even map custom shoulder buttons on the edge of the display for your favorite games.

Motorola hasn’t officially stated whether the Edge will receive an upgrade to Android 11 when it comes out. Considering the company’s track record, however, we think it’s likely you’ll see at least one major OS update.

CONCLUSIONS
The Motorola Moto Edge is a solid phone for people who want 5G for less than $1,000. It offers better 5G support than the OnePlus 8 for the same price, though the OnePlus 8 has a faster processor, so you need to decide which is more important to you. For AT&T customers, meanwhile, the LG Velvet offers many of the same features of the Moto Edge, as well as official water protection, for $100 less. Ultimately, there’s still plenty of room in this price range for a 5G phone to come in and get things just right, but we’re happy to see a solid new option in the form of the Moto Edge.

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS

Starts at $109.99 | Rating: @@@® OO GOOD

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Hisense 65H8G: Strong Performance, Lots of Apps

“The Hisense R8F earned high marks earlier this year for delivering excellent color and contrast performance with a generous assortment of features at an affordable price. With the H8G, Hisense once again offers a reasonably priced TV that delivers very good color and contrast, as well as a solid feature set. It’s a 4K HDR panel based on the Android TV platform, and like its predecessor, the 65H8F, it offers lots of streaming apps, voice control, and a nice assortment of I/O ports. It’s an excellent TV for the price, though for $100 more, we give slight preference to the TCL 65R625, which offers similar performance with less light bloom.

DESIGN AND FEATURES
The 65H8G has the same basic design as the 65R8F that we reviewed earlier this year (and its Android TV equivalent, the 65H8F). It is virtually bezel-free on three sides and has a 0.7-inch bezel along the bottom edge that has a small Hisense logo in the middle, with a remote control sensor right below it. The TV is supported by two V-shaped metal legs that can be attached toward the ends of the set or closer to the middle to accommodate smaller surfaces. The back panel is outfitted with four VESA-compliant M6 holes for wall mounting.

A power connector is on the back in the right-hand corner. On the left, facing outward, are an HDMI port, a LAN port, a composite RCA AV input, and a pair of composite RCA audio jacks. Also on the left, facing sideways, are three additional HDMI ports, a digital audio output, two USB ports, and a cable/antenna jack. In addition to wired LAN, the 65H8G is equipped with a dual-band Wi-Fi radio.

Hisense 65H8G
PROS
Affordable. Solid color and contrast performance. Lots of Android apps. Low input lag.

CONS
Crowded, non- backlit remote. Some light bloom.

BOTTOM LINE

The Hisense 65H8G 4K HDR TV offers very good all-around performance and lots of Android apps for a reasonable price.

The TV comes with an 8-inch-long remote with 39 buttons and a four-way arrow controller. In addition to the usual 0-to-9 numbers, volume and channel up/ down, menu, and video control buttons, it has dedicated streaming-platform buttons, as well as a Goggle Assistant voice control button. The only thing missing is backlighting, making it hard to see the buttons in the dark. You can also control the TV using an Android TV remote app on your phone and with Amazon Alexa voice commands. Audio comes by way of two down- firing 10-watt speakers powered by Dolby Atmos audio technology.

Like the Hisense 65H8F, the 65H8G is an Android TV and comes with lots of apps and smart features, including pre-installed video streaming apps for Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Video, Netflix, Pluto TV, Sports Now, Vudu, and YouTube.

You can also access the Google Play store to download dozens of games and news, sports, education, fitness, lifestyle, and entertainment apps. Music streaming apps include Pandora. The H8G also supports Google Cast, which allows you to stream video and other content directly from your mobile device to the TV.

PERFORMANCE
The 65H8G is a Quantum Dot TV that uses Hisense’s ULED technology to deliver 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) video with a 240Hz motion rate and 90-zone full array local dimming. It supports the HDR10 and Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) video formats.

As we Saw in testing the 65R8F and 65H8F, there was noticeable light bloom on the 65H8G when viewing subtitles on a black background. That said, it isn’t a deal-breaker.

We tested the 65H8G set using a Klein K-80 colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Display’s Calman software. On our SDR contrast tests, the 65H8G showed a peak brightness of 418.861cd/m*2 when measured with a full-screen white field and 673.254cd/m*2 when measured with an 18-percent white field. It delivered a reasonably dark black level of 0.012cd/ m*2. That works out to a respectable 56,104:1 contrast ratio, which is just slightly lower than the 65R8F (57,686:1).

With an HDR signal, the 65H8G managed a peak brightness of 611.273cd/m*2 on a full-screen white field and 971.592cd/m%2 on an 18-percent white field. With a black level of 0.015cd/m%2, the H8G’s HDR contrast ratio comes in at a very good 64,772:1, though not quite as impressive as the Vizio P-Series Quantum X PX65-G1’s 153,006:1 contrast ratio. The TCL 65R625 gets brighter than the 65H8G (1,126.73cd/m%2), but its higher black levels (0.055cd/m%2) add up to a lower 20,486:1 contrast ratio.

The H8G delivers very accurate SDR (standard dynamic range) colors right out of the box. Whites, reds, greens, and blues are all very close to their ideal targets, as are secondary colors magenta and cyan. Yellow is spot-on. The H8G’s HDR color performance is not quite as accurate as its SDR performance. That said, although greens and whites are a bit off, they have no effect on overall picture quality.

In fact, the 65H8G did a wonderful job of displaying 4K video in testing. Colors appeared saturated and uniform in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, and image detail was exquisite. The panel’s black-level prowess came into play in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which is notorious for its dark cinematography. Shadow details were sharp, especially dark images against a black (or very dark) background in the opening scene of “The Mall Rats” episode.

Input lag measured 94.2ms in Theater mode, which is unacceptable for gaming. But when we enabled the H8G’s Gaming mode, that number dropped to 14.1ms. This measurement is taken using older equipment due to our current testing environments and is not directly comparable with the measurement we got with last year’s Hisense 65R8F (6.2ms), but the measured input lag is still well below the 20ms threshold we use to consider whether a TV is good for gaming.

CONCLUSIONS
Solid color and contrast performance, a robust feature set, and an affordable price make the Hisense 65H8G a great choice for anyone shopping for a 65-inch TV. It uses the Android TV interface, which is packed with useful apps for streaming movies, sports, news, and other entertainment content. It works with Google Cast apps from your mobile device and has plenty of I/O ports for connecting to cable boxes, game consoles, and other external devices. The H8G doesn’t produce the incredible brightness levels that we saw with our midrange Editors’ Choice, the pricier Vizio P-Series Quantum X PX65-G1, nor does it offer nearly as many local dimming zones, but it shows compelling performance in the budget range. The TCL 6 series remains another excellent pick for a 65-inch TV below $1,000, with similar performance though less light bloom than the H8G.

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS $699.99

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