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August 16 2018

19:35

Philips Hue kits, USB-C adapters, and more are discounted today

Whether you're looking for new tech gear or household items, we've got you covered.

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We found plenty of great deals today that include big discounts on a Philips Hue smart lighting kit, a USB-C 5-in-1 adapter, PNY's portable SSDs, and more!

If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you'll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

19:32
The EPA is about to commit regulatory suicide
19:30

What are Fortnite V-Bucks and what's the best way to spend them?

The gear you buy in Fortnite is all a matter of status.

To say that Fortnite is a big deal in the gaming industry right now is a bit of an understatement. It's now available across all platforms and, as reported by Forbes, regularly rakes in over $100 million on a monthly basis.

That's a ton of money being pumped into a video game which must beg the question: what's the smartest way to spend money in Fortnite?

How much is a V-Buck?

Before we talk about getting the best value out of your V-Buck, we should first break down the value attached to the currency itself. The smallest amount you can buy is 1,000 V-Bucks for $10, so that sets the base value of a single V-Buck around one cent, although you won't find anything in the Fortnite store for less than 500 V-Bucks. That makes the base in-app purchase around $5. Of course, Canadians and anyone living outside the U.S. will end up paying more based on the currency exchange rate.

Here are the pricing levels for buying V-Bucks via in-app in USD:

  • 1,000 V-Bucks for $9.99
  • 2,500 (+300 Bonus) V-Bucks for $24.99
  • 6,000 (+1,500 Bonus) V-Bucks for $59.99
  • 10,000 (+3,500 Bonus) V-Bucks for $99.99

It's worth noting that the V-Bucks you buy on a specific platform stay with that platform, so if you've bought 1,000 V-Bucks on Xbox One, you won't see them in Fortnite Mobile and vice versa. However, once you've spent your V-Bucks on items you'll be able to access them across all the platforms you play. Also, because Epic Games didn't launch Fortnite on the Google Play Store, you'll need to authorize payment through another means and can't use any Google Play credit towards your V-Bucks purchase.

What should you buy with your V-Bucks?

Battle Pass

To keep Fortnite free-to-play, Epic Games have implemented Battle Pass seasons. Each season sees players completing objectives to rank up through tiers and unlock in-game rewards along the way. Players are given a free Battle Pass with its own dedicated objectives and rewards, but the premium Battle Pass, available for 950 V-Bucks, lets you unlock up to 100 in-game rewards throughout the season. By comparison, the free Battle Pass for Season 5 (the current season) is just 16, and they've been spaced out over 62 tiers.

Epic Games says that you'll unlock 25,000 V-Bucks worth of content with a premium Battle Pass, but in case you're curious what that would actually look like, I'll break it all down using Season 5 as an example.

If you were to complete all tiers of the Season 5 Battle Pass, which Epic Games says typically takes 75 to 150 hours of gameplay to complete you'd get:

Consumables:

  • 1,500 in bonus V-Bucks (15 x 100 V-Bucks).
  • 19 XP boosts.

Cosmetic upgrades:

  • 7 character skins — two of which are gifted to you to start.
  • 2 harvesting tools.
  • 2 back blings.
  • 4 gliders.
  • 5 free-fall contrails.
  • 5 emote dance moves.
  • 6 toy balls.

Basically useless:

  • 14 battle icons.
  • 12 emoticons.
  • 15 spray designs.
  • 12 loading screen images.

Right off the hop, if you're able to make it through 90% of the season tiers you'll be able to win back enough V-Bucks to cover the cost of the next season's Battle Pass — pretty good motivation alone. You'll also get the hottest skins and features of the season in the form of outfits, harvesting tools, gliders, emote dance moves, and other goodies.

But as we go through the list you'll notice that out of the 116 total rewards offered, the majority fall under the category I call "basically useless"; these include profile icons, in-game emoticons and tags, and literally new graphics to stare at during loading screens — absolute filler. These represent roughly 50 of the tiers you're tasked with completing with your premium Battle Pass, so those cosmetic upgrades better be worth it.

If you'd prefer to pay a bit more to avoid grinding through the Battle Pass tiers, you're also able to buy 10 tiers for 900 V-Bucks. Keep in mind that your premium Battle Pass along with all your progress resets at the end of each season, so you'll want to buy your Battle Pass earlier rather than later so you have more time to work your way up through the tiers.

Cosmetic upgrades

On top of the stuff you can unlock throughout the Battle Pass season, you're also able to directly buy cosmetic upgrades from the in-game shop. The catch is that only a limited number of items are available at one time, and the items available rotate out every day. I found a great resource for tracking all the Fortnite cosmetics that lets you scope out what's currently available, wh

There are four categories available on your character to upgrade:

  • Outfits: These affect the overall look of your character and is the most significant cosmetic upgrade. There are a ton of outfits available and while some are much bigger it's worth noting that a bigger outfit does not necessarily increase your character's hitbox. It's also worth considering that the flashier the outfit the more you will stand out in the field, so that's something to keep in mind if you prefer stealth play. Outfits start as low as 800 V-Bucks for Uncommon outfits and up to 2,000 V-Bucks for Legendary outfits.

  • Harvesting Tool: By default, Fortnite gives you a generic pickaxe for busting down walls and harvesting building supplies but you can swap out your trusty pickaxe with a wide range of crazy skins for your trusty tool. These have no effect on your harvesting ability but can look pretty fun. There's also typically a corresponding harvesting tool for each outfit if you're a stickler for continuity. Harvester tools can be bought for as low as 500 V-Bucks and as high as 2,000 V-Bucks.

  • Glider: Upgrading your glider gives you no speed advantages over your opponents, although it can sure look intimidating to see an upgraded glider floating around your landing area at the start of the game. Uncommon Gliders start at 500 V-Bucks, while a Legendary Glider costs 1,500 V-Bucks

  • Emotes: There's nothing sweeter than busting out a quick dance move after you've knocked out an opponent, knowing that the other player has a front row seat for your antics on the kill cam. There are over 80 different Emotes to be unlocked or bought and they start as low as 200 V-Bucks.

What's the best value?

Buying cosmetic upgrades in a free-to-play video game such as Fortnite is akin to donating to the developer. You get a modest reward that helps your character stand out while investing in the longevity and profitability of the game itself. It's also 100% optional and can get really expensive if you get hooked on upgrading your character on a regular basis.

Let's take a look at how much someone could hypothetically spend to fully kit out their Fortnite character, based on the average price of items available in the item shop:

New Outfit: 1,500 V-Bucks New Harvesting Tool: 800 V-Bucks New Glider: 800 V-Bucks New Emote: 500 V-Bucks

Total spent: 3,600 V-Bucks, or $35 in in-app purchases

That's a sizeable chunk of change for some digital apparel. If you're a parent with kids begging you to buy them V-Bucks, you ought to know just how easy it is to blow through that $25 in-app purchase in just a few quick taps.

Should you buy V-Bucks?

In my opinion, you should only invest in V-Bucks if you're a diehard Fortnite player and you play across multiple platforms. A Battle Pass upgrade is a great place to start, as a thriftier gamer with just a Battle Pass upgrade has the potential to unlock a good collection of gear through just one season of play. The $25 pack that gives you 2,800 V-Bucks is probably your best value, as you'll be able to afford a premium Battle Pass for the upcoming season while maintaining a V-Bucks balance in case something in the item shop really catches your eye.

19:24
Notebooks are about to get interesting again
19:18
Gmail confidential mode on mobile: How – and why – you should use it
19:09
Beetle in 99-million-year-old amber found with ancient cycad pollen
19:00

AmazonBasics gaming headset review: Mucho boom for your buck

This gaming headset from Amazon provides great entry-level audio for cheap.

Editor's note: We reviewed this Amazon gaming headset on an Xbox One, but it's also compatible with PlayStation 4. However, PlayStation users' experiences may vary slightly due to the console difference.

For gaming accessories, the growing "AmazonBasics" line is among the best when on a budget. Backed by one of the world's largest retailers, the range strips products down to basics, while still maintaining a benchmark for quality and features. Amazon generally delivers on this claim, through its controllers, chargers, and more for the platform.

After getting hands-on with Amazon's take on gaming headsets, it provides the familiar blend of strong features at a low price.

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Audio from Amazon

AmazonBasics gaming headset

$17.99

Bottom line: Great all-around audio, despite some cut corners.

Pros:

  • Great price point.
  • Comfortable wear.
  • Flexible, clear microphone.
  • Additional premium touches are welcomed.

Cons:

  • Main headset frame feels cheap.
  • Better audio can be found elsewhere.

See at Amazon

What you'll love about the AmazonBasics gaming headset

Like much of the AmazonBasics range, this headset's low price is enticing, especially for those on a tight budget. While cutting commodities of some premium alternatives, it often nails the basics, while guaranteeing a high standard of build quality. This headset fulfills this proposition, stripping down to essentials for the average casual gamer. With an Amazon one-year warranty, this is a budget accessory you can buy with confidence.

The main body of the AmazonBasics gaming headset is comprised of a robust yet flexible plastic, featuring an adjustable headband and articulated on-ear speakers. Both units are padded with artificial leather cushions, with a matching padded headband overhead. This makes for a lightweight fit that remains comfortable over long sessions, although the cushions could sit firmer against the ear. This unit also features green highlights across its frame.

Dual stereo speakers output audio expected at this price, suitable for basic listening, but lacking the nuance of higher-end alternatives. You may miss the punch of top-tier audio, but across most games, movies, and music, it covers the average Xbox One owner. This is paired with a fully-retractable microphone arm bound to a fixed 140-degree hinge, which holds up for general voice chat. And when not in use, the microphone remains firmly tucked into the headset body.

The inline headset controls are welcomed, which allow for quick volume adjustment and microphone muting.

What you'll dislike about the AmazonBasics gaming headset

Although its lightweight frame makes for comfortable wear, the overall presentation of this headset packs sizeable room for improvement. The near all-plastic finish feels cheap in-hand (and on-head) which detracts from some otherwise smart design choices. Comparably priced headsets provide a much more polished feel at a similar price.

You'll also need to consider what you want from a headset, with alternatives better suited for certain gamers. These cans are well suited for immersive games or blockbuster movies, however, footsteps and directional audio in shooters is less perceivable.

Should you buy the AmazonBasics gaming headset? Yes

For the casual gamer, the AmazonBasics headset could fill a variety of boxes. It's a comfortable product that delivers on the essentials, while still allowing for a low price. Amazon never fails to deliver when catering to this crowd, sitting among the best low-end headsets to date. Provided its shortcomings aren't a deal breaker, there's a lot to love about this product.

4 out of 5

While the AmazonBasics gaming headset retails for $17.99, the accessory is currently out of stock in the U.S. For those in the UK, the headset is now available for £21.26 directly from Amazon UK.

See at Amazon

18:00

The best cases for the Moto X4

Own a Moto X4? These are the cases that deserve your dollars.

The Moto X4 is a big departure from past Moto X devices, but that doesn't mean it's a bad phone. In fact, it's one of the best mid-range Android handsets on the market right now.

It's the first entry in the Moto X series to feature a glass back, and while it looks downright gorgeous, this also makes the X4 rather fragile and easy to break. To ensure that doesn't happen and your phone continues to look as good as can, these are the cases we recommend checking out.

Dretal Full-Body Protective

Budget Option

If you prefer something more traditional, cheaper, and with increased protection, Dretal's Full-Body Protective case is certainly worth a look. The carbon fiber and anti-stretch TPU rubber design encase the Moto X4 is a durable shell, and the multi-texture design on the back adds a nice bit of flair.

There are a multitude of colors to choose from, including navy, black, gray, red, and mint, and all of Dretal's products come with a generous 30-day warranty. For under $8, it's hard to complain about this one.

See at Amazon

Spigen Liquid Crystal

Show it Off

The Spigen Liquid Crystal is a clear case for the Moto X4, and it does an excellent job of showing the sleek look of the X4's back. The case is made out of a durable and anti-slip TPU material, and in addition to keeping your phone nice and safe, it still manages to remain light as a feather.

Spigen uses a dot pattern for its case, and unlike a lot of cheaper clear options, this helps to drastically cut down on the smudges it picks up. For just under $13, this isn't a bad choice at all.

See at Amazon

Mustaner Dual Layer

Two-layer Protection

Mustaner's case features a two-layer design – including a soft TPU base layer and hard shell frame that goes on top of it. This combo allows for maximum safety no matter what happens to your Moto X4, and the built-in kickstand on the back is a really nice touch.

You've got six different colors to choose from, and all of this comes in at under $8.

See at Amazon

Encased Slim Fit Holster Shell Combo

Rugged Option

This case is made out of a reinforced polycarbonate frame, and as expected, offers ample protection against any accidental spills. You'll find a subtle texture on the back for increased grip, and along with a kickstand that can prop up your phone vertically or horizontally, Encased also includes a holster that your Moto X4 can slide into so you can easily attach it to your belt. For less than $14, that's a steal.

See at Amazon

Swoders Flower Case

Slim Option

A rubberized polycarbonate back combined with TPU bumper shields allows for maximum protection against any accidental drops, and the slim design makes it easy to carry with you no matter where you go.

Better yet, Swoders $8 case has four patterns to choose from (three of which are currently available) of varying flower designs. This helps the Moto X4 stick out from the rest of glass-backed phones on the market, and the end result is actually quite nice.

See at Amazon

Anccer Colorful Series

Most Stylish

The above two cases are great for buyers that prefer function over form, but if you like things the other way around, one of your best bets lies with the Anccer Colorful Series. This is the thinnest case on the list, measuring in at just 0.3mm, but even with the thin design, Anccer's case still manages to protect against drops, bumps, and shocks.

Available colors include black, blue, red, rose gold, gold, and silver, and these are available in either gravel or smooth finishes. This is a great case for adding some color to the Moto X4 while protecting it at the same time, and you can do so for about $11.

See at Amazon

KuGi Flexible Soft TPU

Non-Slip

The TPU material that's present on this KuGi case does a fantastic job at housing your X4 in a secure home from just about any element imaginable. Non-slip sides allow you to always have a confident hold on your device, bumper guards protect against unwanted shock during a drop, and the faux-leather material on the back looks and feels like a million bucks.

KuGi sells its case in navy, black, and gray, and you'll pay just under $8 before applying an extra 8% off.

See at Amazon

KwMobile Wallet

Best Wallet

Available in black, black/brown, and grey/black, for about $11, the fabric design of the case is great for both looking and touching, and the plastic shell the X4 sits in offers ample protection against any mishaps. The front of the case is held together by magnets, and you have access to a three-card compartment for carrying around your most important plastic.

See at Amazon

Cimo Heavy Duty

Heavy Duty

Cimo uses a lightweight design here, and this allows your Moto X4 to stay safe and secure without adding much bulk. The two-layer design offers more than enough protection against most all drops, raised bezels help to protect the X4's screen, and the grippy back is something we always love to see.

You'll pay just under $8 for this case, and it comes in armor black, gray, purple, and red color options.

See at Amazon

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What one do you choose?

Which of the above cases meets your fancy? Let us know down in the comments below and if there's another awesome pick we may have missed.

Moto X4 review: A mid-range phone done right

Updated August 2018: Trimmed down the descriptions of the cases so it's easier to figure out which one you should buy!

17:58
PlayStation VR hits 3 million units sold: Here are its 10 most-played games
17:56

Android Messages gets new Material Theme UI and dark mode with 3.5 update

DARK. MODE. IS. HERE.

Android Messages is one of the best texting apps on the Play Store, and with the new v3.5 update that's rolling out now, it's about to get even better.

Similar to Tasks, News, and Contacts, v3.5 refreshes Android Messages UI to match Google's new Material Theme aesthetic. This means that a lot of Android Messages' colorful accent colors have been replaced by even more white and the in-app text now uses the Google Sans font.

The new Android Messages v3.5

Hold on, hold on. Before you grab your pitchforks and start charging at Google full of rage, there is an upside to this for those that don't like all that white.

The old Android Messages

With Android Messages v3.5, there's now a native dark mode.

🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

To enable the dark mode, just tap the three dots at the top right of the app and select "Enable dark mode." To disable it, tap those three dots again but choose "Disable dark mode."

Android Messages v3.5 is rolling out to the Play Store now!

Download: Android Messages (free)

17:49

This $13 TrackR Pixel can help prevent you from misplacing your gadgets

What once was lost is now found!

Update: You can save even further by opting to pick up the eight-pack of this product which is currently on sale for $70. That brings the price of each down to just $8.75 apiece.

Right now you can pick up the TrackR Pixel for just $12.55 at Amazon, which is the lowest that it has ever sold for. Normally, this Bluetooth tracker sells for between $20 and $25, and has never dropped below $14 in the past. The device itself is on the smaller side, which means that you can easily attach it to just about anything that you find yourself misplacing.

It uses Bluetooth to find items at close ranges, and the free iOS and Android app can be used to ring your device and flash the light to help you find it even faster. There is a battery inside the TrackR, and the app will let you know when it's running low. You'll be able to order a replacement for free, directly from the app, meaning you don't have to replace the whole unit like you do with a Tile tracker. You can see where you last had your device on a map, and if you have the device but lost your phone you can simply press the button on it to ping your phone.

These are extremely useful, and at this price, you may want to pick up a few of them!

See at Amazon

17:40
Now MoviePass limits you to just six movie choices each day
17:39
Pixel 2 XL lag may lead to device (hardware) replacements
17:12
GLAS thermostat adds Alexa and Google Assistant support as preorders open
17:01
The Infiniti Prototype 10 previews an engagingly electrified future
16:51
ASUS ROG Strix SCAR II packs a big display into a small package
16:44
The best hidden Android Pie feature is LOCKDOWN
16:30

Pre-order the new da Vinci color mini 3D printer and save up to $600

3D Printing has never been so easy!

XYZPrinting has a new 3D printer called the da Vinci Color mini available on Indiegogo for $999. We have seen several 3D printers from XYZPrinting in the past, but this one is something altogether new. Where most 3D printers require multiple colored filaments or by-hand painting to create 3D objects in different colors, the da Vinci Color Mini will actually use three ink cartridges, similar to what you'd find in a regular printer, to stain the filament as it prints.

Originally developed last year, the da Vinci Color was called the "world's first full color 3D printer" by XYZPrinting. The mini version is designed for consumers like you and me. It's compact enough to fit in a small office or right on your desktop, and it can build objects up to 5.1 x 5.1 x 5.1 inches in size. It can work in a classroom, a business, or anywhere else you want to use it. Print gifts, create sculptures, or learn something new altogether.

The best part is the price. When the da Vinci Color mini fully releases it will retail for $1,599, which is already a huge chunk off the original 3D printer's value of $3,500. Right now if you pre-order through Indiegogo you can get it for $999, but that price is only available to the first 100 pre-orders. After that, you can still get it for $1,199. Not quite as magnanimous but still an amazingly low price for full color 3D printer. The estimated shipping date for your new 3D printer is November 15, which is right around the corner.

See at Indiegogo

16:30

The Walking Dead’s final season starts off with a bang despite rough pacing

Clementine's final journey may be her most perilous yet.

AC
Score
4

After following her journey since the beginning, Telltale is closing the chapter on Clementine's story with their final season of The Walking Dead. While we're only a few pages in with Episode One – Done Running, it looks to set up an emotional farewell in her coming of age story. Clementine isn't all grown up by normal standards, but in The Walking Dead's world she needs to be.

The Good

  • Season One role reversal
  • Unexpected twist
  • Solid performance
  • Guardian Clem

The Bad

  • Pacing
  • Doesn't find footing until the end

See at PlayStation Store

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Familiar waters

Since his birth in Season Two, AJ has been an integral part of The Walking Dead's identity, even without being a playable character. The history that Clem and AJ share isn't glossed over in its final season. When The Walking Dead isn't all about survival of the fittest, it's about the intimate character moments and their development.

At one point during Done Running, Clem has a chance to relax and play a game of cards with the new group of kids she ran into. It's during this game that Clem is asked if she's ever had to kill someone she's loved, and while Lee may be the first person that pops into most people's minds, she also had to make a difficult decision regarding Kenny at the end of Season Two that stemmed from AJ. It's clear that the choices she's been forced to make in the past are still affecting her to this day, and have shaped her into who she is. Remembering its past has always been what The Walking Dead has done well, and I'm glad to say that the tradition continues.

Remembering its past has always been what The Walking Dead has done well.

Its final season also sees a role reversal of sorts, adding a new angle to the retreaded 'parent/child' storyline fraught in post-apocalyptic media. Lee served as Clem's parental figure in the first season, helping her adjust and navigate to a world she was entirely unprepared for. Now it's Clem's time to be that parental figure for AJ. It's clear that Clem is much more equipped to deal with the situation than Lee ever was as it's been years since the dead started walking. She's been hardened by her environment.

This plays a role in how she interacts with AJ. He's only known the world after its devastation, which becomes even more apparent during a scene where he is confused as to what firemen and policemen were. Though he's ignorant of pre-apocalyptic life, Clem doesn't hold this ignorance against him, and in fact even trusts him with a gun. It's this duality of his innocence and the responsibility thrust upon him in this universe that makes for compelling interactions between him and other characters.

Clem simultaneously needs to treat AJ as a child that needs protecting while also realizing that he needs to grow up fast. She allows him to feel useful and help whenever possible, but she won't put him in direct danger. Even after just one episode, I'm interested to see how their relationship developers.

Uncharted territory

The new group of kids that Clem and AJ come across are survivors who have made a home out of Ericson's Boarding School for Troubled Youth. (X-Men reference, anyone?) The children all appear to be a group of misfits just struggling to get by, making a new life for themselves without adults, who abandoned them when everything went to hell. Interacting with other teenagers is a breath of fresh air from usual. They're all relatively the same age, meaning they have a lot more in common. Though a boy named Marlon appears to be the de-facto leader, everyone has their own importance within it. They're not shoved aside just because they're kids.

I look forward to witnessing the character dynamics and relationships develop as the season goes on. A few characters that grated on my nerves initially ended up becoming my saving grace by the end of the episode. If Telltale keeps it up, they may have even created some of my favorite characters in the series to date.

New threats

Since the beginning, The Walking Dead has pushed the idea that walkers aren't always your biggest threat. It's the people around you that you need to be just as careful of. We don't get a feel for the real threat until the very end up the episode, and since we don't get a good look at them, they're hard to judge. This does make most of the episode's direction seem bit aimless for a time as you can't see the larger picture, but the possibilities of what's at play will give you chills.

The Telltale Tool

Telltale's engine, the Telltale Tool, is on its last legs. Over the years the performance of the studio's games has gotten rougher and rougher. This season of The Walking Dead is expected to be the last of its game's to run on the Telltale Tool before they switch over to a Unity engine. Despite the old engine's age, however, Done Running may have been the best Telltale episode I've played in a long time in terms of performance. I didn't encounter the usual lag during quick time events, nor did the game freeze or cut dialogue. All in all, it made a good first impression for the rest of the season.

Conclusion

The Walking Dead: The Final Season is off to a satisfying start. The pacing for a majority feels uneven and it doesn't find it's footing until the end, but what an ending it is. While the final scene is shocking, it's the twist set up minutes beforehand that tees up the conflict going forward, and I can't wait to see how it ends.

This is also my open letter to Telltale asking them not to hurt Rosie the dog.

4 out of 5

See at PlayStation Store

16:28
Intel’s NUC mini PCs just got a serious upgrade
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