The best early Black Friday 2018 deals

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions. that support its work. Read Wirecutter’s continuously updated list of Black Friday deals here.

Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) – Refurbished

Amazon Echo

Street Price: $80; Deal Price: $60

Only available in Heather Gray, this $60 refurbished sale on our pick in our Alexa guide is the best price we’ve seen on this model to date.

The Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) is our pick of Amazon’s Alexa-controlled speakers. Grant Clauser writes, “If you want music without hooking up any additional speakers, the second-generation Echo offers the complete range of functions, minus the screen features of the Show and Spot. As a speaker, it’s good for kitchens, offices, dens, bedrooms, and other places where convenience and size (it’s about the size of a Foster’s beer can) is more important than audio performance. The speaker is designed for 360-degree dispersion, so placing it in the middle of the room will give you sound in all four corners.”

Audio-Technica LP60-BT Turntable

Audio-Technica turntable

Street Price: $150; Deal Price: $120

Down to $120 in both Black and White, this pricing matches the low we’ve seen for this Bluetooth-enabled turntable. We haven’t seen a deal on this turntable since the the summer.

The Audio-Technica LP60-BT Turntable is the budget pick in our guide to the best turntable for casual listening. Chris Heinonen writes, “If you want something that can just play records easily for as little as possible, the Audio-Technica LP60-BT will do the job. Unlike the other tables we considered, LP60-BT is fully automatic: Press a button and the table spins while the arm moves into position. Once a record is done, the arm goes back into place and the table stops. It has a built-in phono stage and you can even get it with a Bluetooth output for use with wireless speakers.”

Yeti by Blue USB Microphone + Fallout 76 (PC) Bundle

Blue Yeti microphone

Street Price: $150; Deal Price: $100

Back down to $140 from the typical street price of $180, this matches the low we’ve seen for this table-top streamer and includes the bonus of a free 3rd Gen (newest version) Echo Dot, around a $35 value.

The Yeti by Blue USB Microphone is the top pick in our guide to the best USB microphone. Kevin Purdy and Lauren Dragan write, “It provided the most reliably well-rounded, natural sound out of all the mics we tested―whether on Windows or Mac, or whether recording happened in professional studios or in a small square office… It offers live headphone monitoring and gain control, two key features for any recording setup (other mics lacked these or made using them too complicated). It is more stable on its stand than most microphones we tested, and feels far more solidly constructed and durable.”

PlayStation Plus 1 Year Membership

PlayStation Plus

Street Price: $60; Deal Price: $40

Matching Cyber Monday prices we saw last year, a 12 months subscription is back down to $40 from $60, still the best price we’ve seen.

PlayStation Plus is mentioned alongside the PlayStation 4 in our guide for the best game consoles. Thorin Klosowski writes, “The PlayStation Plus subscription service provides online multiplayer and two free games a month, equivalent to what you get from the Xbox Live Gold service. Most people should get the standard PS4 model, not the PS4 Pro, unless you have a 4K TV or plan to buy one very soon.”

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Street Price: $700; Deal Price: $520

A big drop from street price and a new low for all colors, this model comes unlocked with a US warranty.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a runner-up pick in our guide to the best android phones. Ryan Whitwam writes, “The Samsung Galaxy S9 and its larger sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S9+, have some features that the Pixel 3 phones don’t, such as a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. Plus, they’re available for purchase through any carrier. These phones have the latest curved OLED screens from Samsung—the best we’ve ever seen on a phone—and the bezel surrounding the screen is tiny. The Galaxy S9’s camera has an adjustable aperture, so it can take brighter low-light shots while also getting sharper photos in brighter light, though we still like the Pixel 3’s camera more overall.”

DJI Tello Mini

DJI Tello Mini

Street Price: $100; Deal Price: $80

The first notable drop we’ve seen since we started tracking this already affordable drone.

The DJI Tello Mini is an also great pick in our guide to the best drones under $100. Signe Brewster writes, “The DJI Tello, which is made in partnership with robotics company Ryze, is our pick if you’re looking for an inexpensive drone that can take pictures and videos. It has surprisingly advanced autonomous features normally found on much more expensive drones. And its 5-megapixel, 720p camera—about the same resolution of an iPhone 4—takes good enough photos to make it fun for basic selfies and landscape pictures. It also has a 13-minute battery life, which is the longest of any drone we tested.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Black Friday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go here.

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You can now sync Chromecast with Google Home speakers


PA Archive/PA Images

Starting today, Google is allowing Chromecast owners to add the streaming device to speaker groups along with Home speakers. The addition of the dongle to the Home ecosystem will allow you to queue up a song, playlist, podcast or audiobook and have it play in sync across all of the speakers and Chromecast-connected devices in your home.

XDA Developers spotted the functionality in Google’s Preview program that gives an early look at upcoming features. Google confirmed to Engadget that the capability is starting to roll out to users today. The feature makes good on Google’s promise to integrate Chromecast into speaker groups, which can be set up through the Google Home app. Now devices that connect with Chromecast, including televisions, can be added to a grouping. When a TV with Chromecast is synced to a speaker group, the display will show song information on screen, atop a rotating selection of background images.

Per XDA Developers, all generations of Chromecast devices should be compatible with the feature. Smart displays including Google’s own Home Hub and the LG Xboom WK9 will be able to be added to speaker groups in the coming weeks, according to VentureBeat. Earlier this year, Google made it possible to pair bluetooth speakers with the Home app to add voice control across your sound system.

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Fossil Sport review: Just another Wear OS watch

Smartwatches seem to be enjoying a minor revival this year, with major brands like Apple and Samsung continuing to push out intriguing new wearables like the Galaxy Watch and the Apple Watch Series 4. Google launched a redesign of Wear OS, and Qualcomm created a new processor specifically for watches. The Snapdragon Wear 3100 is built around a new architecture featuring low-power cores that claim to deliver dramatically better battery life. The Fossil Sport is one of the first watches to ship with the new chipset and is also the fashion company’s first fitness-focused smartwatch. Since this is the first Wear 3100 watch we’ve got our hands on, though, I’m eager to see if the new CPU lives up to its promises.

Gallery: Fossil Sport review | 10 Photos

Engadget Score


Poor


Uninspiring


Good


Excellent

Key

Pros
  • Stylish for a fitness watch
  • Affordable
  • Long-lasting battery-saving mode
Cons
  • Doesn’t make use of Wear 3100 Sports mode
  • Regular battery life isn’t significantly improved

Summary

Despite its name, the Fossil Sport is not really a fitness-focused watch. Its design has a sporty vibe, but beyond that it’s just another Wear OS watch. It’s one of the first watches to ship with the new Snapdragon Wear 3100, but it doesn’t do much to showcase the potential of Qualcomm’s first chip designed exclusively for smartwatches. For the price, though, the Fossil Sport is a decent, good-looking smartwatch.


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New Snapdragon Wear 3100 modes

The most important thing about the Fossil Sport is that it’s a showcase for Snapdragon Wear 3100. The chipset promises better performance and battery life by offering three new modes: Sport, Battery Saver and Ambient. Sport mode promises up to 15 hours of continuous heart rate and GPS tracking, while Battery Saver extends runtime by shutting down all functions and only displaying the time and the Fossil logo. It should give you a month of wear on a full charge, or a week with just 20 percent. Ambient mode is an always-on screen that shows slightly more detail, like a moving second hand and activity rings.

Inexplicably, Sport mode is absent from the Fossil Sport, and only available on select watches — which seems kinda strange for a device with “Sport” in its name.

Fossil Sport

Despite the Wear 3100’s new architecture, its performance on the Sport doesn’t seem significantly better than the Wear 2100. I’ve been using Fossil’s Q Venture HR Gen 4 with the redesigned Wear OS and the Wear 2100 for months, and frankly I don’t see any improvement. If anything, it’s slightly worse. Sometimes apps actually take longer to load and Assistant is slower to interpret my commands than on the older watch.

To be clear, Qualcomm hasn’t explicitly spelled out exactly what sort of performance bumps we should expect. It said the Wear 3100’s quad-core A7 processors and multimedia engine should help deliver “high performance” in rich, interactive modes, but didn’t provide actual numbers on estimated improvements.

Google also said it will continue to roll out performance updates to the software over time, so perhaps we’ll see more improvements. But for now the Wear 3100’s speed doesn’t appear to be much better than its predecessor.

Battery life

Battery life is similarly disappointing. Fossil said the Sport should stick around for more than a day, but it never lasted more than 18 hours. That’s a few hours more than the older Fossil watch, but still requires nightly charging. The Sport’s battery saver mode does get me a whole lot more screen time, though. I activated it at 9:30pm when the watch was at 39%, and was happy to see it was still alive the next morning, even hanging around till 12:15pm. At that time though, the battery was too weak for me to switch back to the full smartwatch mode.

I haven’t used the watch for long enough to see if it will live up to its battery saver promises, but it already beats existing options on Wear OS watches.

To be fair, the Apple Watch Series 4 only survives about 18 hours on a charge as well. But other smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch and Fitbit Versa run for days before needing a charge.


Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Hardware

As far as fitness watches go, the Fossil Sport is one of the prettiest around. I love my review unit, which has a pink case and strap, but for real I was torn between this and the version with a gold case and gray strap. With six case colors, two sizes and 28 new straps, there’s a ton of configurations to choose from and you’ll easily find one that suits your taste. It’s noticeably lighter than other Fossil smartwatches thanks to its aluminum and nylon case, but thankfully it doesn’t feel cheap.

The competition

There’s only one other watch packing the Wear 3100 right now — the Montblanc Summit 2, which costs $1,000 and has a very different aesthetic. We haven’t been able to test it yet, so I can’t speak to its performance and battery life, but that’s a ton of money and if you’re willing to drop a grand on a watch you’re probably not going to consider something as pedestrian as the Fossil Sport anyway.

At $255, the Fossil Sport is one of the most affordable Wear OS watches available, too. The only notable option that’s cheaper is the $200 Ticwatch C2, which promises up to two days of battery life. But it uses the older Wear 2100 CPU, which might not see future performance updates.

Fossil Sport

Wrap-up

Ultimately, the Fossil Sport is a decent Wear OS watch but it doesn’t do enough to show off the potential of Snapdragon Wear 3100. It’s a good-looking device that has some nifty tricks like ambient and battery saving modes that make it less obtrusive and longer lasting. Just don’t expect dramatic performance improvements over watches with older guts. As the first of a new generation of smartwatches, the Fossil Sport is an underwhelming debut that doesn’t live up to expectations.

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Submit your product for Mashable's 'Top Picks of CES 2019'

Heading into the future like...
Heading into the future like…
Image: bridget bennett/mashable

A new year of exciting new consumer tech is on the horizon, and CES 2019 will be the first stop to see what’s in store for our increasingly connected lives.

CES 2019 officially kicks off in Las Vegas on Jan. 8 and runs through Jan. 11. As always, Mashable will be on the ground bringing you the latest gadgets and blossoming tech trends before they become game-changers.

Do you have an innovative product that’s emblematic of one of those trends, or might even create one? We want to hear about it and why it should be recognized as a standout product at CES.

To be considered for the Mashable‘s Top Picks of CES 2019, the product must be:

  1. Aimed at the consumer market.

  2. Making its debut at CES 2019.

  3. Knock-your-socks-off amazing.

If your company has a product that qualifies, please submit it for consideration via the Google form below, and someone from our editorial staff will be in touch. If you have multiple products, please submit each one separately, although we encourage you to submit only the products you feel are true outliers (remember No. 3 above).

The deadline for entries is Dec. 26, but the sooner you submit, the better your chances of qualifying. Good luck!

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Alexa can now make Skype calls


Skype

Starting this week, you’ll be able to make Skype calls on your Alexa devices. Basically the entire line of Echo devices will have the ability to make voice calls via Microsoft’s VoIP platform. The Echo Show and its tablet-style screen will also be able to make and receive video calls.

In addition to calling your Skype contacts via Alexa, users will also be able to call mobile numbers and landlines using SkypeOut. The feature allows you to call existing contacts or a new number on Skype. You’ll get 100 minutes of free calls per month for two months when you link your Skype account with Alexa.

In order to set up Skype for Alexa, open the Amazon Alexa app on your Android or iOS device. Go to Settings > Communication > Skype. You’ll be prompted to login with your Microsoft account. Once you’ve successfully entered your username and password, you’ll be able to make and accept calls from Skype through Alexa.

The integration of Skype and Alexa, which was promised earlier this year, is just the latest example of Amazon and Microsoft teaming up. The companies announced a partnership last year to make Alexa and Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortona work together and earlier this year, Xbox One and Windows 10 got Alexa apps.

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Fitbit Charge 3 review: A better fitness tracker everywhere it counts

Disclosure

Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

The Fitbit Charge 3 Special Edition.
The Fitbit Charge 3 Special Edition.
Image: karissa bell/mashable
Fitbit Charge 3

Slimmer • more comfortable design • New touch screen is much easier to use • Superb battery life

Smartwatch features still feel half-baked • Fitbit app is confusing

The Bottom Line

The Fitbit Charge 3 is more comfortable to wear than its predecessors, and the touchscreen is much improved. If you don’t care about true smartwatch features, this is the fitness wearable for you.

Mashable Score4.0
Cool Factor4.0
Learning Curve3.0
Performance5.0
Bang for the Buck4.0

Smartwatches may still be getting a lot of hype, but there’s still plenty to be said for a dedicated fitness tracker. 

While smartwatches may have health and fitness features of their own, a big part of their appeal is that they can also act as an extension of your smartphone. Fitness trackers on the other hand, like Fitbit’s new Charge 3, put fitness first even though many models include some basic smartwatch features.

If that sounds appealing, then there’s a lot to like about the Charge 3, which improves on the company’s Charge 2 tracker in nearly every way.

The Charge 3 comes in two variations, the $149.95 Charge 3 and the $169.95 Charge 3 Special Edition. I reviewed the latter, but the only difference between the two are the bands that come in the box and the ability to make mobile payments.

But if you’re trying to decide between the two, the bands alone might be enough to help you make up your mind. In addition to the standard black rubber sport band, the Special Edition comes with either a lavender woven band or a white sport band that resembles the Nike Sport bands for the Apple Watch. You don’t need the Special Edition model in order to get additional bands — Fitbit sells them à la carte as well — but you’ll save money by buying them bundled together.

The black sport band that comes with the Charge 3 is thicker than the more premium bands.

The black sport band that comes with the Charge 3 is thicker than the more premium bands.

Image: karissa bell/mashable

The lavendar woven band, the black sport band, and the leather band.

The lavendar woven band, the black sport band, and the leather band.

Image: karissa bell/mashable

That alone makes it worth the extra twenty bucks for the Special Edition, in my opinion. If you’re going to wear this every day, you’re going to want to mix up your bands a bit, and the upgraded bands go a long way toward making the Charge 3 look and feel a little more elegant than the standard rubber band. (Fitbit also offers leather bands, which look and feel fantastic, but at $49.95 each, they’re definitely on the pricey side.)

Better in the details

New band styles aside, Fitbit has improved the design of its newest tracker in subtle, but significant ways. The Charge 3 is even smaller and slimmer than 2016’s Charge 2. The bands are much easier to swap out than the previous design, which, again, is an added bonus if you end up getting the Special Edition model 

It’s also much more comfortable: the bands aren’t as chunky, and the aluminum tracker has rounded edges on the back and sides so it hugs your wrist a bit better. Along with the new bands, this helps make the Charge 3 look and feel a bit less like a boxy fitness tracker.

The Fitbit Charge 3 is slimmer than the Charge 2 and has rounded edges to make it more comfortable.

The Fitbit Charge 3 is slimmer than the Charge 2 and has rounded edges to make it more comfortable.

Image: karissa bel/mashable

The back of the Charge 3.

The back of the Charge 3.

Image: karissa bell/mashable

The side button is no longer an actual button that protrudes from the side of the tracker. Instead, it’s a small haptic “button” (similar to the home “button” on the iPhone 7) that sits flush against the side and vibrates a bit each time you touch it. The sensors on the back also sit flatter against the actual tracker compared with the Charge 2. 

On the front, the display is improved: It’s now a full touchscreen, and it’s more scratch resistant (the Charge 2 had screen you could tap on to navigate, but it couldn’t recognize swipes and other gestures). The display is also noticeably brighter, which makes it easier to view in sunlight. 

Most importantly, though: the Charge 3 has far better battery life. It’s rated up to a week, according to Fitbit, but I found I was sometimes able to squeeze even a bit more out of it. Either way, though, it’s hard to overstate just how much of a difference this makes. One of the reasons I prefer fitness trackers over full-on smartwatches is precisely because having to remember to charge on a daily basis is a huge pain — particularly if you like to use your device to track your sleep at night. 

Fitness and health still come first

The Charge 3 may look a bit less like a traditional fitness tracker, but Fitbit hasn’t skimped on the exercise-tracking or health features. You track more than a dozen different exercise types, many of which will kick in automatically when you start your workout.

You can also choose presets for your favorite exercises to make them more easily accessible from your wrist. These presets aren’t new, but they’ve been upgraded; on the Charge 3, you can set specific goals for these exercises, like running a certain distance or lifting weights for a specific amount of time. When you reach the goal, the Fitbit vibrates and displays a little animation to “celebrate” you reaching your goal.

The Fitbit Charge 3 has a new swipeable touchscreen.

The Fitbit Charge 3 has a new swipeable touchscreen.

Image: karissa bell/mashable

Fitbit's new goal-setting exercise mode.

Fitbit’s new goal-setting exercise mode.

Image: karissa bell/mashable

The Charge 3 is also waterproof, so you can use it to record your swims or take it along for a run or bike ride in the rain. 

On the health side, the Charge 3 comes with newly improved sleep tracking features. The tracker approximates your bedtime, wake-up time, and the various stages of your sleep cycle based on your heart rate and movement throughout the night. All this is broken down into a graph in the Fitbit app where you can see your sleep cycle over the course of each night.

The Fitbit app shows you how much time you spend in each stage of sleep, as well as what’s considered “normal.”

One of my issues with these kinds of tracking features is that, while they’re neat to look at, it’s difficult to know what you should actually do with this information. Which is why I appreciate the “insights” Fitbit provides about your sleep. It’s still a little rudimentary — some of the messages, like one below, are a little obvious. But even so, it’s nice to have something to help you make sense of all the data it’s collecting. 

The Fitbit app’s sleep insights.

You may already know that you don’t sleep enough during the week, for example, but reminders like this can be nonetheless helpful if you want to make some actual changes. In the future, Fitbit says its sleep-tracking abilities will be able to go much further, with something it’s calling Sleep Score.

The feature is currently in a closed beta, so I haven’t been able to try it out, but the goal is to provide a more substantive look at how well your sleeping. The feature will provide a score based on a number of factors that will let you know how well you’re sleeping. And, according to the company, it could help detect warning signs of more serious conditions that can interfere with sleep, like sleep apnea or allergies.

Some smartwatch features

Like other recent Fitbits, the Charge 3 also tries to incorporate some smartwatch-like features. You’ll get calls, text messages, and some other notifications pushed to your wrist. It’s a convenient way to check your messages at a glance, or quickly accept or reject a call, but most of the notifications aren’t terribly useful because you can’t actually do anything once you receive them, especially if you have an iPhone.

If you have an Android phone, the picture is a little better: You can use quick replies to send brief, preset responses. 

A few of the available watch faces for the Charge 3.

You can also change up the watch face in the Fitbit app, which is a nice option but still a bit clunky. You have to tap into several menus in order to find the options, and actually changing them out takes much longer than it should. The options are also much more limited than with the Fitbit Versa, which is a full-featured smartwatch with a color display. 

These issues, though, are relatively minor if you think of the Charge 3 as a health- and fitness-focused device. If what you want is a smartwatch, there are plenty of better options out there that are much more capable.

At the end of the day, Fitbit’s biggest strength is fitness tracking. And if a dedicated fitness tracker is what you’re after, the Fitbit Charge 3 has just about every feature you could want and then some.

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The best speakers and DJ gear to give as gifts

There are people who like music — and then there are folks who can’t get enough of it. For the latter, the standard speakers and gear just won’t do. Luckily, our holiday gift guide has the equipment the music-obsessed person in your life needs. The Sonos One shows that smart speakers aren’t just for voice assistants — they can be for audiophiles as well. If you know a music lover who is always on the go, the UE Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 Bluetooth speakers offer top-notch sound that can travel. For people more interested in making music than listening to it, the Traktor DJ app for iPad is a professional-grade DJ app that doesn’t require the pricey equipment, or you can set them up to sample just about anything with the PO-33 K.O! from Teenage Engineering. Find all that and lots more in our full guide!

All products recommended by Engadget were selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company, Oath. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Check out the full list of selections in our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide here!

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What we're buying: RetroStone's smart take on retro handheld gaming

The recent spate of retro “classic” consoles might be switching a new audience on to vintage games, but some of us never left them. For most, a $60 – $100 machine with a few flagship titles on it is probably enough to scratch the itch, but Managing Editor James Trew has a much deeper itch: to play retro games on the go without someone choosing the library for him.


James Trew

James Trew
Managing Editor

Much to the bemusement of the rest of Engadget, I have a fetish for the Atari Lynx, of which I own many, and of course, every game ever made for it. So, I already have a portable with all the games I love, why would I want another one? Because logic does not apply here. But if it did, it would be because what was considered portable in 1990 isn’t really pocket-friendly now. Much as I love the Lynx, it’s cumbersome and guzzles batteries like an electric Cookie Monster. I decided to search for something, sleek, modern, and flexible (in case I want to enjoy other platforms too). To my surprise, there’s not a lot of off-the-shelf solutions that meet my weird, specific requirements. (Ok, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.)

The problem seems to be that retro handhelds come in a few different categories. There are portable “classics” which suffer some of the same problems as their living room counterparts (limited games and no flexibility). There are some that play original cartridges for various systems, but that just seems impractical. Then there are the murky unlicensed knock-off machines on Amazon. I actually bought one of these for comparison (more on that later), but needless to say they’re kinda shoddy, and who wants to play the classic Mario 14 or a sketchy Angry Birds NES port? Not I.

RetroStone

For a while, I had been using a modded PlayStation Portable. This worked pretty well. PSPs are fairly cheap to pick up (I picked mine up for about $50 on eBay), and easy to modify. This also meant I could play PSP titles as well as my Lynx library (I make an exception for ROMS for games I own). Before too long though, the batteries for the PSP kept crapping out and replacements would often be faulty on arrival, or expensive. I considered the PS Vita as an upgrade, but they still go for more than I really wanted to spend, and you need a specific firmware version which makes finding the right one a gamble.

The next logical step was to look at a handheld running RetroPie. There are a few options here, like the Pi GRRL Zero and GameBoy Zero (both, unsurprisingly, based on Raspberry Pi Zero boards). In terms of size, flexibility and functionality, these meet my weird requirements, except they both need to be put together and need a 3D printed case (or shopping around for one you don’t hate). It looks like a fun project, I’m just not after a project right now. I wanted something that had a professionally-made feel to it and was somewhat good to go.

Enter the RetroStone ($156), by 8Bcraft. The RetroStone, with its vintage Game Boy aesthetic, instantly caught my eye. Originally launched on Kickstarter, it runs on a system similar to Orange Pi (a Raspberry Pi alternative), has its own version of RetroPi, and enough buttons to be compatible with many newer systems. Importantly, it comes ready to go, though you have to install the operating system yourself, as open source software generally can’t be “sold.” Fortunately, installation takes about two clicks on a PC to write it to the SD card, and you simply pop that back in the RetroStone.

RetroStone

What I liked most, is that the RetroStone comes with four USB ports and an HDMI out, so you can connect four controllers, plug it into your TV, and voila, you have a living room console too. There’s also a good old-fashioned headphone port and micro-USB for charging (I’m getting about 5 hours of play per charge). Most of the above is true for all Pi-based systems, this one is just well made and requires very little setup. I also just love how it looks (though, I can see it might be an acquired taste). Price-wise it’s in PS Vita territory, but I love the vintage styling and its added desktop capabilities. More on that later.

8Bcraft isn’t a large organization. In fact, as far as I know, it’s a one-man outfit. The RetroStone is the second console from him/them, with the Raspiboy ($87) being the first. The two are similar, but the Raspiboy is a little too quirky-looking (even for my taste), and, as the name suggests uses a lower-spec Raspberry Pi board. It comes as a kit but doesn’t need soldering. As the RetroStone has more processing punch, it can emulate more modern systems (apparently up to the N64/PS1 era, and even some PSP games).

Turns out, that the RetroStone exists purely for people with similar desires as me. Pierre, the man behind the product told me over email “It was very difficult to make a Game boy zero, you had to be an electrician. And when you add the cost of all parts it was pretty expensive. So I thought, why not make something that is accessible and affordable? That’s when I made Raspiboy.” (And then, the RetroStone.)

Another benefit of these “Pi” systems (whichever fruit it is), is that you can use them as portable PCs too (this is their primary purpose after all). With the RetroStone, if I plug in a keyboard and mouse, then connect it to a monitor (or my TV), then you have a full desktop to play with. This is probably not that interesting to most people, but after handheld gaming systems, my next weird tech crush is weird, small, not very practical mini PCs (ILU Nokia N800). Not sure why, but I think it’s a throwback to when the very idea of a functional, pocket-sized PC was kinda mind-blowing.

Yes, I know that I already have a phone that is well made, has oodles of processing power for both gaming and whatever else that fits in my pocket. The thing is, I want something for time away from my phone, not just more phone time. Plus I hate onscreen controls, and grips/adapters aren’t in the spirit of what I want. Like I said earlier, logic doesn’t factor highly in my plans, it’s all about that pure gaming feel.

RetroStone

And the RetroStone has feeling in spades. Every time I glance at it across the room, I have the urge to pick it up and play. I spent far too long researching slightly shitty mini wireless Keyboards (for my wonky portable PC fantasy) and I also had to buy a WiFi dongle, as the RetroStone doesn’t have any wireless at all (it does have an Ethernet port though!).

When I hold the thing, it feels comfortable, and just like a handheld console should (slightly chunky, but not heavy or cumbersome). The buttons feel like an original Game Boy, and the D-pad doesn’t feel slack or spongy. There are four more “shoulder” buttons on the back, which I find a little hard to reach, but none of the games I play right now need them.

The 3.5-inch display is decent; it’s a little low in resolution at 320×240, but that’s more than adequate. The bigger problem is that it uses the composite output (as the board’s HDMI output was needed for the TV out). That said, when I compare it side by side with the PSP running the same emulated game, it’s notably sharper. The PSP is a little blurry/soft looking, despite any tweaking I do in settings (if I am missing something here, let me know).

Game

Also, despite the love and care that has clearly gone into making this thing, you are still reminded that it’s a barebones Linux machine in a nice case. While that $20 thing I bought on Amazon boots up instantly to the game selection menu, the RetroStone goes through a whole PC-like startup process that takes almost a minute. It’s also a little temperamental, sometimes taking a few restarts before it loads up properly.

Right now, the RetroStone is the closest thing to the comprehensive retro gaming experience I am looking for. I love that it has untapped potential as a mini-PC too (and all the other perks of RetroPie, like Kodi and so on). Much as I love my old Lynx (which I paid a princely sum to upgrade the screen on), the portability and design of the RetroStone have won me over.

As enamored as I am with the RetroStone, my quest isn’t over. I know there are likely more contraptions out there, with different reasons to consider (smaller? More powerful? Has other superfluous features that’ll appeal to me?). I’m still even thinking about the PS Vita, for reasons I cannot explain. So, fellow retro gamers, if you happen to know of other systems out there to add to the collection, I’m all ears.


IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

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Carbo brings its light and peppy electric bike to the U.S.

The Carbo is a new electric bike that weighs a mere 27 pounds and can pep up your morning commute. Created by the Montreal-based team that successfully shipped the Veco, this crowdfunded electric bike can collapse for travel and can go 40 miles with pedal assist and 28 miles on full automatic.

Early birds can get the single gear bike for $1,199 or upgrade to a seven gear bike for $100 more. The tema has already hit their $50,000 and they will ship in April 2019.

I saw an early version of the Carbo and was impressed. Although it looked thin and flimsy – the entire frame looks like you can bend it on a bad curb – it was very resilient and withstood my urban abuse. There are multiple modes including Sport which takes you almost immediately up to about 20 miles an hour with pedal assist, a great feeling. The battery is hidden inside the seat post and can be swapped out.

The bike seems like a good last-mile solution. Since you can collapse it almost completely it works as a portable mode of transport similar to a scooter but far more effective. As a fan of electric bikes, this thing really hits the sweet spot between price, portability, and power.

While the price is a little high, it’s on par with other pedal assist bikes and it should be considered legal in the United States when it ships because it does not have a full throttle system. Ultimately, however, this thing is about convenience and portability versus true power so it’s worth looking into if you want a boost to work or school.

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Ask Engadget: Is it OK to buy a tech toy for someone else's kid?

The support shared among readers in the comments section is one of the things we love most about the Engadget community. Over the years, we’ve known you to offer sage advice on everything from Chromecasts and cameras to drones and smartphones. In fact, our community’s knowledge and insights are a reason why many of you participate in the comments.

We truly value the time and detail you all spend in responding to questions from your fellow tech-obsessed commenters, which is why we’ve decided to bring back the much-missed “Ask Engadget” column. This week’s question comes to us from a reader who needs a great gadget recommendation for a child. Weigh in with your advice in the comments — and feel free to send your own questions along to ask@engadget.com!

I’m looking for a good tech gift for someone else’s child. What would be an appropriate choice for a kid in the 7 to 10 age range?


Terrence O'Brien

Terrence O’Brien
Managing Editor

It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a littleBits kit. For the super hero fan or movie buff there are kits themed around Avengers and Star Wars that let kids build their own R2D2 or Iron Man gauntlet. If they’re a budding musician (or just like making a ruckus), there’s the Synth Kit and Electronic Music Maker kits that allow them to create custom instruments. And, of course, the whole time they’re playing, they’re actually learning valuable skills, like circuit building and programming.

Those kits start at $100, though, and if that’s too big of an ask for a child you don’t know all that well, check out littleBits’ Hall of Fame lineup. They’re only $40 each and allow kids to build two different inventions. For example, the Arcade Machine kit comes together to form a very rudimentary pinball game. But the parts can be rearranged to create a catapult too. (Don’t worry, there are less destructive options as well, like a night light.)

As an added bonus, if they dig this year’s gift, you’ve got gift ideas for years to come since you can just buy more “bits” to expand their collection. So next year get the kid a light, sound and motion sensor to connect to the R2D2 and they can turn it into a guard for their room. Or buy them a temperature sensor to hook up to the synth kit so they can make weather-based music. Basically, you can just keep going back to littleBits well year after year and almost never run out of gift giving possibilities.

You can also consider the Sphero Mini. It’s just a small, cheaper version of the regular Sphero remote control ball. For $50 you’d be getting the kid a toy that connects to an app and has a whole universe of accessories that expand its potential. Race it with friends, navigate an obstacle course or go bowling with it. And, just like the littleBits kits, it’s sneaking some learning into their lives.

All products recommended by Engadget were selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company, Oath. If you buy something through one of our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Check out the full list of selections in our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide here!

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