Category Archives: Electronics

Already cheap Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet is now $20 less ahead of Amazon Prime Day

It’s easy to come across a cheap tablet, but it’s difficult to come across one that is also good. The Amazon’s Fire HD 8 6th gen tablet managed to be affordable and a compelling device on a budget.

Good news: Ahead of Amazon Prime Day 2017, the 6th gen tablet price just became even more affordable with a $20 discount on both the 16GB and 32GB models thanks to the arrival of the 7th generation tablet.

The Fire HD 8 tablet might not be the best tablet, but offers decent performance with a 1.3GHz quad-core processor capable of passable mobile gaming. Its screen isn’t the highest resolution, but Amazon apps use a special text smoothing to improve the experience.

The device also incorporates Alexa for those hoping to get the both a fully fledged tablet and the functionality of Amazon’s virtual assistant without the hefty price of an Amazon Echo.

One choice anyone buying an Amazon device is faced with is the decision to get one “with special offers” for a discounted price, or get one “without special offers” and pay extra.

The “special offers” are advertisements from Amazon that appear on the device’s lock screen. A surprising aspect of the deal on Amazon’s Fire HD 8 tablet is that the discount price for the tablet with and without the special offers is the same.

The 16GB Fire HD 8 tablet is $69 and the 32GB model is $89, both $20 down from their list price lock screen advertisements. Currently only the 16GB model shows up as available without lock screen advertisements, and it’s also $69, which is $35 off its list price.

Since the Amazon Fire HD 8 2017 doesn’t offer substantial improvements the 2016 Fire HD 8 looks like an even better deal right now.

      

A tale of two internets: how Content Delivery Networks are guzzling up the web

The internet: singular. A global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardised communication protocols.

There’s a problem with that definition, namely that there are increasingly two internets; one for the First World, and one for everybody else. Why? It’s because of the spread of content delivery networks (CDNs), which are fast guzzling up the worldwide web.

Cisco reports that the role of CDNs in data delivery is rapidly increasing. CDNs will carry 71% of total internet traffic by 2021, up from 52% in 2016, says the firm’s Zettabyte Era report. But why is this happening? And does it matter?

CDNs from the likes of Netflix will carry 71% of the internet by 2021 (Image Credit: Netflix)

What is a CDN?

A CDN is a geographically distributed network of distributed servers and data centres that serve a particular user group. That means streaming video providers like Netflix and Google’s YouTube, social media platforms like Facebook, WeChat and Instagram, it’s iTunes, it’s Spotify, and Amazon.

These are so-called ‘walled gardens‘, and they’re designed to ensure high performance and availability of content whenever and wherever it’s needed. CDNs are efficient, they’re customisable, and they’re hugely popular with users.

CDNs so far have generally been built, managed and provided as a service by two main companies – Akamai and Limelight – which handle the hubs for firms like Airbnb, IKEA, MTV and Reuters, the BBC, DailyMotion, DirectTV, Roku and Sky. Other players include StackPath, Fastly and Amazon CloudFront, with the latter rising swiftly.

However, this market is changing fast. Akamai used to handle Apple, Facebook, Bing and Twitter, which gives away a clue to the big trend in CDNs – they’ve gone private, with the likes of Facebook and Netflix building their own networks. They have a big future; Cisco reports that 68% of CDN traffic will be carried by private CDNs by 2021.

Walled garden-style experiences are becoming walled gardens proper.

Dropbox has built its own proprietary CDN

The swap to private CDNs

As we’ve just mentioned, private CDNs are those built and operated by content providers – such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Pandora – for their own content, and only their content. Why? A massive expansion is needed, and most of the big players now need a custom solution.

Internet speeds and bandwidth are very important if you’re someone like Netflix wanting to stream a lot of video, but such infrastructure is largely out of the provider’s control. “Although network performance is usually attributed to the speeds and latencies offered by the service provider, the delivery algorithms used by CDNs have an equal if not more significant bearing on video quality,” reads Cisco’s report.

These private CDNs use proprietary algorithms to route requests, but in the case of Netflix, the bitrate of the video also dynamically changes to suit the bandwidth. Users don’t have to suffer buffering video, which Netflix can only control because it owns and operates the CDN. Private, controllable and easy-to-expand CDNs are therefore much better for users, and now seen as utterly essential given the inexorable rise of one thing: streaming video.

Facebook and YouTube

The two biggest private CDNs out there – by far – are Facebook and YouTube. This week Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his social media platform has passed two billion active users, having reached a billion in October 2012. That’s an incredible number. Next comes YouTube (1.5 billion), WhatsApp and Messenger (both 1.2 billion – and both owned by Facebook), WeChat (889 million) and the fast-growing Instagram (700 million).

Video will represent 80% of all internet traffic by 2021

Cisco predicts that by 2021, video will represent 80% of all internet traffic (it’s presently 67%) and forecasts vast increases in live streaming video, AR, and VR across online entertainment patterns. Netflix may be a smaller CDN in terms of daily users – at ‘just’ 100 million worldwide – but it does very big numbers; about 100 million hours of video are streamed per day via Netflix, around half in the US and half for the rest of the world (though it’s not available in China).

CDNs generally use their own purpose-built data centres (Image Credit: Facebook)

The CDN gap

Private CDNs may be seen as essential by some companies, but they are causing a chasm in the worldwide web. They may be predicted to carry 71% of total internet traffic by 2021, but the regional divides are clear. Cisco reports that while private CDNs will carry the majority of internet traffic in North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific, that figure drops to a mere quarter in Latin America and Eastern Europe. In Africa and the Middle East, it’s barely 10%; the internet is very soon going to look vastly different depending on where you live.

The traffic gap

Meanwhile, Akamai reports that the global average internet connection speed increased by 15% in the past year. That last stat is key because the CDN’s success – and especially that of Netflix – is built on speed. CDN provider Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report reveals that the global average connection speed is 7.2Mbps, with Singapore having the fastest fixed broadband speeds (184.5Mbps) and the UK having the fastest average mobile speeds (26Mbps).

New media like VR will only intensify the move to CDNs

An internet of… everything

If the private CDN is creating a ‘second’ internet, a third now appears inevitable. Cisco predicts that the Internet of Things (IoT) will represent half of all internet connections by 2021. That’s so big that some think it deserves a more suitable name.

“This new research from Cisco confirms that we’re moving from the Internet of Things, to an Internet of Everything,” says Lee Nolan, Solutions Director for Insight UK. “With IoT connections set to double by 2021, we’re witnessing a technology revolution that is set to rival the birth of the PC, even the mobile.”

Cisco predicts that healthcare will be the fastest-growing industry in this space, growing 30% annually. “The IoT can be used to track patients and equipment,” says Nolan of connected health monitors and medicine dispensers. “The focus should be on investing in infrastructure that can cope with vast pools of data, whether it be cloud or network capacity.”

A tale of two internets?

Do we have two worldwide webs? As infrastructure and bandwidth increase, video is eating the internet, and the big internet companies are creating private CDNs to reshape it in response. But as the trend to video and rich media intensifies, growing to constitute over 80% of all traffic, what is today a phenomenon in only the West and Asia Pacific will surely spread to create a global internet dominated by CDNs. And now comes the IoT…

      

The 10 best 2-in-1 laptops of 2017: the best hybrid laptops ranked

Best 2-in-1 laptop

Convertible and detachable 2-in-1 laptops may have been around for only a handful of years now, but pretty much everyone has taken a liking to them. These tablets-that-double-as-laptops aren’t as limited in functionality as iPads and Android slates, but they’re far better travelers than traditional notebook computers, like the Surface Laptop.

Nearly every one of the top 2-in-1 laptops on the shelves in 2017 ship with Windows 10 pre-installed. Though there are some odd examples like the Cube iWork 1X that comes jam-packed with both Windows and Android, those hybrids are few and far between. The most common convertibles are transformative Microsoft machines.

Not all of the best 2-in-1 laptops are the same, however. Some are bundled with styluses as neat little designer-centric embellishments, while others are free of bells and whistles. At the same time, you’ll notice that certain 2-in-1 laptops make use of 360-degree hinges while the rest in the pack take advantage of detachable screens, independent of their physical keyboards.

Introductions out of the way, these are the best 2-in-1 laptops of 2017 so far:

With Kaby Lake now ruling the roost in terms of CPUs, HP decided it’s high time to flip the switch on its Spectre 2-in-1. With an overhauled keyboard and suave new logo, the HP Spectre x360 holds its own against anything Apple can show, but it also draws from it a few influences.

The four-speaker arrangement, reminiscent of the iPad Pro, ensures user-facing sound regardless of its orientation. Meanwhile, the new x360 dual-wields USB-C ports for faster charging and data transfers. Sound familiar? At the same time, none of this stifles the battery life, which manages to exceed 8 hours of straight use.

What’s more, the HP Spectre x360 can now be configured with a 4K screen and 1TB of SSD storage at a reasonable premium, making it even more deserving of the top spot on our list.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360

One of the few honest-to-goodness surprises from Microsoft last year was the introduction of the Surface Book with Performance Base, also known shorthand as the Surface Book i7. It’s the same design as the original Surface Book, so don’t expect Microsoft to have done away with the controversial fulcrum hinge. However, this version of the Surface Book is not only 131% more powerful graphically than its vanilla counterpart, but the battery has improved by 20% as well.

It’s expensive, sure, but for the price you’re getting a laptop that’s both faster and more versatile than an equally priced MacBook Pro. For creative professionals with an artistic side, the more capable GPU and extensive battery life (our movie test says 9 hours and 16 minutes) are tempting. So long as it’s necessary for your workflow, it may be worth the lofty price of admission, too, even if you’re getting the short end of the stick in memory and SSD space.

Read the full review: Surface Book i7

Best 2-in-1 laptop

Though Samsung is known for its phones more than its notebooks, this is one convertible worth taking for a spin. Equipped with a Skylake i7 CPU and discrete Nvidia graphics, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is nearly as fashionable as a MacBook Pro, but for roughly half the cost. It has all the trackpad real estate you could ask for combined with a snazzy, full-size keyboard – number pad and all.

The difference is that the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is equipped to flip… inside out. Though it’s confined to a 1080p display, it’s HDR-enabled, which beautifully distinguishes the Notebook 7 Spin from just about every other laptop on the market. Plus, unlike the latest round of MacBooks, it has an SD card reader and proper USB 3.0. It doesn’t exactly push boundaries on the graphics front, but the Samsung Notebook 7 still manages to succeed by offering sublime value for rather competent specs.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

Unlike the Asus ZenBook Flip UX305 before it, the ZenBook Flip UX360 ditches the MacBook Air doppelgänger approach in favor of a hybrid design with a whole array of ports. Everything from USB-A to USB-C is present, along with micro HDMI and a micro SD card reader. At the same time, it doesn’t neglect the wholly aluminum chassis of yesteryear.

Although it’s still strikingly thin, the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360 still manages to bear more weight than many other laptops in its class due in part to its reversible display. On the upside, the keyboard and trackpad, which are notably large and comfortable, also contribute to the laptop’s heft. While we’re still not sold on the practicality of Windows 10 in tablet mode, the ZenBook Flip UX360 is ultimately an excellent value.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook Flip UX360

Best 2-in-1 laptop

Somewhat inevitably, the hybrid nature of the Pavilion x360 leads to its undoing. It’s underpowered compared to similarly priced laptops, and lacks the responsiveness and lightness of dedicated tablets. It doesn’t do a great job of being a truly compelling example of either of these things.

But its usability, attractive and sturdy design, along with the impressive price tag mean that it shouldn’t be completely dismissed – especially if you really want a machine that offers both laptop and tablet use modes.

Read the full review: HP Pavilion x360

Best 2-in-1 laptop

Like every 2-in-1 on this list, the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 does it all. During the day it can be a laptop used for work or study, but flip that sucker inside out and it’s equally proficient as a tablet, optimal for watching movies or serving up a fresh dose of memes to your friends on Facebook. The Inspiron 13 7000 is not unwieldy nor is it overwhelmingly loud and sultry. Rather, it manages to pull of an exquisite design without any of the pitfalls that usually afflict notebooks like this.

It’s not perfect, however, seeing as the Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 is a tad weak in the speaker department. There’s a bit of a muffled sound dispelled from its middling speakers. This makes for a case where you’ll almost definitely want to shell out for a pair of nice headphones to go with it. Despite this, the keyboard feels great, the screen looks great and the tablet mode leaves plenty of room for procrastination. There’s nothing that particularly stands out with the Dell Inspiron 7000, but if it ain’t broke…

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1

The Lenovo Yoga 720 is a rare instance of a hybrid that feels just as homely as a laptop as it does a tablet. Although it’s the kind that flips 360 degrees rather than toting a detachable hinge, the modest pricing and formidable design choices more than make up for a slight deficiency in versatility. What’s more, the Lenovo Yoga 720 shows off the pristine capabilities of Windows Hello by means of a neatly placed fingerprint scanner.

For the price, the Yoga 720 gives you a nice, crisp screen (even if the 1080p starting model isn’t ideal) as well as a nice and comfy keyboard and trackpad. The only caveat is the ports, which are limited to two USB 3.1 Type-C’s and one very pertinent USB 3.0 slot. Everything else, such as HDMI output and SD card fidgeting will have to be done using pricey adapters. Then again, if you’re living in the future and handling everything through the cloud, there’s a lot to love about the Lenovo Yoga 720.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 720

      

Facebook Messenger wants to be buddy and business: but can it really be both?

Facebook Messenger is in an interesting stage of its existence, in the same week it launched a collection of fun Snapchat-style video add-ons and Discover, where you can find and communicate with businesses.

It makes sense for Messenger to be integrating businesses into the platform, as currently there doesn’t seem to be a way for Facebook to monetize the platform.

Our question is: is there room for both things to exist on the same platform? We were invited to a roundtable with David Marcus, head of Messenger for Facebook where we were able to discuss this with him.

“The experience itself works, it’s just the term is not compelling to consumers. You’d be hard pressed, even in the Discover surface of Messenger to find the term ‘bot’ because people want to interact with brands, with services, but not with bots, because they don’t know what that is.”

But we’re not sure we agree. We don’t think that people don’t want to talk to bots because they don’t know what they are; we think people don’t want to talk to bots because they aren’t yet developed enough that you can communicate with them naturally. Which makes the hiding of all references to bots feel a little suspect.

Who are you talking to?

Marcus was reticent to discuss exact numbers of users that are interacting with bots on Messenger, but he did tell us: “There are about 2 billion messages a month exchanged between businesses/services on Messenger. That number has doubled in a year, and that includes automation and human interaction.”

Clearly with the amount of interaction increasing at that rapid pace, there is a demand for someone (or something) to be handling that demand. And possibly a chatbot is the best way to go about it.

The problem is, we’re a long way from your standard brand bot in Messenger passing the Turing test. And what this means is that Messenger is in a place where you have dry, corporate conversations with an unnatural corporate chatbot at the same time as a frivolous video chat with your friends wearing a digital rabbit mask.

Marcus thinks that this disparity is not a problem: “I think this notion that people want to be serious on some platforms and fun on other platforms is pretty antiquated. You want to communicate. And of course, when you want to communicate with your bank, you’re not going to send them a pic of yourself with a rabbit mask.”

Digital Jekyll and Hyde

“The same way that you as a person can walk in a bank branch and be very serious and have a conversation,” Marcus continued, “and then go to the pub and goof around with friends. You’re still the same person, you just interact differently in different situations. We think the same is true in your digital life.”

And to a certain extent he’s right. In a browser window you can go from online banking to trawling Reddit with the click of a button, but that feels different somehow. Perhaps it’s to do with branding.

Messenger feels like a tool, and if you can’t tell if a tool is a hammer or a whisk, are you going to use it for either function?

This isn’t the first time that a company has tried to bridge the gap between fun and financial; Blackberry’s Messenger BBM tries to tread this line, and it has never fully managed to make it work while gaining the popularity of Messenger of WhatsApp.

Facebook does manage to be sprawling enough as a platform that it can handle a diverse range of content, so perhaps it is the best company to try and make this diverse Messenger work.

Discover has only just launched in the US, and will be launching worldwide in the not-too distant future, so we probably have a little while to wait before we can get an accurate gauge of how successful it is.

      

Nifty MacBook trackpad accessory adds a full number pad to your laptop

Number pads are handy in computing, but when it comes to laptop keyboards, there’s rarely space for them – heck, even some desktop keyboards (tenkeyless) do away with them these days. However, a new Kickstarter is offering a nifty innovation on this front by bringing number pad functionality to the MacBook.

Or more specifically, to the MacBook’s trackpad. Nums is essentially a thin sliver of glass which is crafted to fit exactly on top of your MacBook’s trackpad, and it’s overlaid with a full number pad grid – including a host of extra calculator buttons.

Once fitted on the trackpad, you just need to install and fire up the companion app, then you can use the full range of number pad functionality. Plus the good news is that the glass film (which is 0.26mm thick) doesn’t affect the normal use of your trackpad.

In fact, it actively protects the trackpad, being a scratchproof material.

Furthermore, there’s an added bonus in the ability to customize the individual ‘keys’ to launch certain apps, favorite websites and activate keyboard shortcuts.

Light in the darkness

It’s also worth noting that the symbols on the Nums glass use metallic ink, allowing them to reflect the light from the screen so they’ll show up even in a dimly lit environment.

Currently, Nums has early bird orders starting at $32 (£25, AU$42), which is for the 13-inch MacBook Air, 12-inch MacBook, and 13-inch and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro version. Those wanting the 15-inch MacBook Pro 2016 variant will have to cough up $45 (£35, AU$59).

You can get one shipped worldwide, and the accessory is expected to be available next month. The Kickstarter has almost reached the halfway point of its funding goal, having netted $22,000 (£17,000, AU$29,000) of a $50,000 (£39,000, AU$65,000) target.

Is this the sort of innovation that might inspire Apple regarding its next line of MacBooks? Hey, it’s happened before; just look to the Touch Bar and then back to Lenovo’s 2014 ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

Via The Verge

      

macOS High Sierra public beta is available to download right now

Apple promised it would drop the public beta for macOS High Sierra this week and it’s finally here at long last.

The early version of Apple’s latest operating system for Macs is available to download now, all you have to do is follow through this link, enroll your devices and follow our how to install guide.

Just be aware there are always inherent risks and potential device bricking bugs that come with new operating systems, especially untested betas such as this.

High Sierra is the second installment of macOS – since the name change from OS X – and it brings some big changes including a completely new APFS-based file system that replaces the aging HFS architecture. Now that won’t really mean a whole lot to you unless it complete borks all your files, but you should notice the new system is faster and save a bit more storage space.

Some changes you will actually notice include a completely reworked Photos app that adds more image editing options to make it a truer successor to Apple’s Aperture. Safari now has more options to disable autoplaying videos on websites and shield you from advertisers from tracking your online browsing. Mail has also been tweaked to take up to 35% less space and make searching easier.

  • Those were just a few of the changes that comes with macOS High Sierra, check out our hub article for everything else and good luck with the beta.

      

Facebook’s internet drone reaches new heights with first successful landing

Facebook’s internet-beaming autonomous drone Aquila has completed a successful second full-scale test flight, the company announced today.

While the solar-powered aircraft, designed to fly non-stop for 60-90 days at high altitudes, flew once before, the first flight ended in a crash landing. This time, Aquila “landed perfectly.”

This second flight took place on May 22 and lasted one hour and 46 minutes. The team constructed a special landing area for Aquila, and having made adjustments including adding wing spoilers, modifying the craft’s autopilot software and locking the propellers horizontally before landing, were able to pull off a smooth landing.

This is especially impressive because the lightweight Aquila, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737, lacks traditional landing gear; it basically lands on pads made of Kevlar as it skids to a halt.

According to Facebook, everything except the propeller locking function worked as they should have.

One standout stat is that Aquila’s climb rate was almost twice as fast as the first flight at 180 feet per minute, attributable to the changes Facebook implemented. Facebook didn’t provide a peak altitude, but said the craft reached at least 3,000 feet before continuing to climb.

There’s still more work to be done before Aquila is beaming internet to remote parts of the world, but this is a huge step forward for Facebook in its quest to connect everyone.

The social network turned all-encompassing tech company has forged ahead with its plans to deliver internet connectivity to more people, which is part of its newly revised mission statement to build community and bring the world closer together.

Aquila’s flight is an important milestone for these kinds of drone aircraft, and an even bigger one for Facebook.

      

Windows 10’s AutoPilot feature could see the OS take off with businesses

Microsoft has been spilling the beans on further goodies which will arrive for businesses in the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10, including a juicy new feature which will make it a snap to set up a business PC.

Of course, deploying a PC (or indeed multiple PCs) to staff can be a headache of a task, so Microsoft is gunning to seriously simplify the whole process with what’s called Windows AutoPilot.

As the name suggests, this takes all the hassle out of setting up a new Windows 10 PC, automatically doing pretty much everything for you. A new Windows AutoPilot Deployment Program will allow PC vendors to link a device to an organisation, and enable a new PC to immediately be made ready, and joined to Azure Active Directory, enrolled in Intune and so forth.

Specific settings can be automatically applied, appropriate business apps installed, Office 365 set up, and everything will theoretically be ready to go with a minimum of fuss.

AutoPilot should mean that a staff member can set up their own new PC without any help from the IT department; a pretty bold claim indeed.

This new feature could certainly help accelerate Windows 10’s progress in the business world, because anything that makes organising the deployment of a new OS easier is obviously going to be very welcome.

Microsoft says that the Surface team is already working with partners to get the scheme ready to roll, and Windows AutoPilot should be available to business customers ‘later in the year’ (obviously after the Fall Creators Update emerges).

The big autumn update will also incorporate Windows AutoPilot Reset, a quick and simple way to reset a machine to the last good working state without messing up device management and Azure Active Directory settings.

MDM magic

Speaking of mobile device management (MDM), new capabilities will be coming in this area, including the ability to configure and deploy Windows Defender Application Guard, as well as baseline security settings, making it easy to impose recommended security settings on managed devices across a business.

It will also be possible to configure Windows Firewall rules.

Furthermore, Microsoft also said that Windows Analytics will be getting a new feature by the name of Device Health. The idea here is to monitor system stability and health, pick out potential issues that the user may not have even noticed yet, and remedy them, thus avoiding future problems and downtime.

Along with AutoPilot, this should be a major boon for businesses who have made the leap to Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system.

      

The best cheap broadband only deals in June 2017

All of the major players on the telecommunications scene now offer broadband, TV and phone package deals. But if you don’t use a home phone and are happy with the standard TV channels, a home broadband only contract is all you’ll need.

Use our postcode checker above to filter down the broadband deals available to you and whether you can go for superfast fibre broadband. Then use our comparison chart to home in on the perfect package – they all include a phone line, so you don’t have to worry about getting one separately. And keep scrolling if you want some in-depth information about broadband plans and the broadband only plans offered by BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and others.

See also: Broadband deals | BT broadband deals | Sky broadband deals | Virgin Broadband deals | Fibre broadband deals

Cheapest broadband only deal this month

Sky Broadband Unlimited | 12 months | Up to 17Mb | Line rental inc. | No TV | £9.95 upfront | £18.99pm
BT-owned Plusnet had been leading the way for a while when it comes to the lowest broadband pricing – it was £17.99 a month back in May. But that’s now come to an end, leaving Sky to take the title. This tariff is the very cheapest way that you can get home broadband. Total cost over 12 months is £237.83

View this deal at Sky broadband

best broadband deals

What broadband speed do I need?

If you simply want broadband for the cheapest price possible, you’ll need to go for a standard ADSL connection. When you compare the prices of the cheapest standard speeds and unlimited superfast fibre, you’ll see that you can save more than a fiver a month.

But if you’re in the habit of streaming TV and films from the internet, or have lots of people in your household all online at once, then it pays to upgrade to fibre optic to allay annoying lags and slow webpage loading times. Broadband speeds are represented in megabits per second, or Mb – the greater the Mb, the faster the broadband speed (although your actual day-to-day speed will vary depending where you live).

0-25Mb It’s not an acronym you see so much these days, but ADSL broadband is now the entry-level connection you can get for your home. With speeds up to 17Mb – just over 2MB per second – it’s perfectly fine for small households who want to surf the web, handle their emails and stream non-4k catch-up TV.

25-50Mb Fibre broadband speeds start at up to 38Mb, so more than double what you get with standard ADSL. It’s the sweet spot between fast speeds and good value and just the ticket for a family household where four or five members are all streaming, downloading and surfing at once.

50+Mb If you want to stream uninterrupted 4K Ultra HD content from Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, then it’s well worth going for superfast internet. The same goes if you know that loads of people will be using your router simultaneously. BT Infinity deals, for example, start at up to 52Mb. While only Virgin Media broadband can offer 100Mb – that’s an incredible 12.5MB per second.

Fibre broadband checker – can I get fibre broadband?

If you’ve read our advice above but are wondering whether fibre broadband is actually available in your area (it can currently be accessed by around 90% of UK households), then wonder no longer! Head to the top of this page, bash in your postcode and if you see fibre broadband deals on the list, then you’re all good.

best broadband deals

What contract length should I go for?

Broadband providers can deal in 12, 18 or 24-month contracts, with some providers giving you the choice. If you’ve got commitment issues or aren’t sure how long you’ll be at your property, then it’s worth bagging one year deal. While getting an 18 month or two year deal often means that your price is guaranteed for longer.

If you need even greater flexibility, some companies offer 30 day contracts as well. Take Virgin for example. But bear in mind that they tend to charge higher set-up fees for the privilege.

best broadband deals

Will I have to pay anything upfront for broadband?

There are only a few exceptions to the rule that you’ll have to pay at least a little something immediately when you sign-up for broadband. The best case scenario is that it’s just to cover the cost of delivering the router, but some providers also charge a set-up or activation fee to get you connected.

But if you head to our comparison charge above and use the filter on the left, you’ll see that some providers don’t charge a penny up front. This varies from time-to-time, with companies such as BT, TalkTalk and Plusnet running limited-time promotions where they remove these fees completely. So fingers crossed…

best broadband deals

Can I get a phone line and TV channels with my broadband?

If you’re curious how much a combined broadband, phone and TV package might cost, you can use our filters in the comparison chart above to tailor the best broadband plan for you and your household. There are hundreds of combinations, allowing you to cherry pick the amount and type of TV channels you get or when you can make calls. So our table will take the pain out of choosing.

BT broadband only deals and speeds

BT Unlimited Broadband | Up to 17Mb
BT is still the most popular broadband provider in the UK. You get the Home Hub 4 with its standard internet, as well as a Reward Card that you can spend anywhere Mastercard is accepted (the amount varies from week-to-week, so check our comparison chart for more details).

BT Unlimited Infinity | 52Mb-76Mb
Infinity is the name BT gives to its fibre optic broadband service. Infinity 1 gives speeds of up to 52Mb (around 6.5 MB per second download speed), which is faster than most other companies’ entry-level fibre. Upgrade to Infinity 2 and crank the speed up to 76Mb. With both, you get the rangey BT Smart Hub router and a more bountiful Reward Card.

View and compare BT Broadband only deals

Sky broadband only deals and speeds

Sky Broadband Unlimited | Up to 17Mb
Sky Broadband Unlimited is one of the most competitively priced broadband plans on the market. Unlike the other Sky broadband packages that tie you in to 18 month contracts, Sky Broadband Unlimited is 12 months only.

Sky Fibre | 38Mb-76Mb
Opting for Sky Fibre is the cheapest way to get superfast broadband at 38Mb. But beware – if you go for its cheapest deal, you’ll be limited to using, downloading and streaming up to 25GB of data per month. Pay more for Sky Fibre Unlimited, or extra still for Sky Fibre Max giving you up to 76Mb speed (around 9.5MB per second) and a Sky Q Hub router.

View and compare Sky Broadband only deals

Virgin broadband only deals and speeds

Virgin VIVID fibre broadband | 100Mb-300Mb
Even to get Virgin Media’s cheapest cable internet package, you’ll need to pay over £30 a month. But you do get simply extraordinary speeds. Choose from 100Mb (12.5MB per second), 200Mb (25MB per second) or 300Mb (a jaw-dropping 37.5MB per second).

You can also choose VIVID 200 Gamer, which has better upload speeds and surpasses online traffic management to give you full speed even at peak times. Perfect for uninterrupted gaming.

View and compare Virgin broadband only deals

TalkTalk broadband only deals and speeds

TalkTalk Fast Broadband | Up to 17Mb
Don’t let the name fool you, TalkTalk’s fast broadband offers only standard ADSL 17Mb speed. You can choose between 12, 18 and 24 month contract terms, with a lower monthly premium if you choose a year-and-a-half.

TalkTalk Faster Fibre | Up to 38Mb-76Mb
TalkTalk’s fibre optic broadband plans are some of the cheapest around. And with its maximum speed of around 9.5MB per second, you can pay extra for Speed Boost and a Super Router – the TalkTalk broadband plan to go for if you have a multitude of data-hungry folk in your home.

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Plusnet broadband deals and speeds

Plusnet Unlimited | Up to 17Mb
Plusnet is owned by BT, but its prices are usually quite a lot cheaper than BT internet and Infinity. In fact, we often find that Plusnet has the cheapest broadband only prices in the UK.

Plusnet Unlimited Fibre | 38Mb-76Mb
You can choose between Unlimited Fibre and Unlimited Fibre Extra, where the latter gives you Plusnet’s fastest speeds. Either way, you’ll get unlimited usage, 365 days a year support and a Plusnet Hub One router delivered to your door for free.

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Vodafone broadband deals and speeds

Vodafone Standard Broadband 17 | Up to 17Mb
Better known for its mobile phone deals, Vodafone is an averagely priced broadband provider. Unless that is, you already have a phone contract through the network – in which case you’ll get a reduction on your broadband.

Vodafone Unlimited Fibre | 38Mb-76Mb
Unlimited Fibre 38 or Unlimited Fibre 76 – there are no prizes for guessing what the numbers stand for in Vodafone’s two fibre optic broadband plans.

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SSE broadband deals and speeds

SSE Everyday Broadband | Up to 17Mb
Already one of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies, SSE is offering cheap prices on broadband – which makes a change from its day job as one of the big six energy firms. There are special offers to be had if you use SSE as your energy supplier.

SSE Superfast Fibre Broadband | Up to 38Mb
You’ll have to go elsewhere if you need the very fastest broadband speeds, as SSE doesn’t have a 72Mb option. As with Everyday, SSE energy customers will see an automatic £25 credit on their next bill and there’s a 25% saving to be made on an additional landline phone package.

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John Lewis broadband deals and speeds

John Lewis Unlimited | Up to 17Mb
John Lewis is a tried and trusted retailer, and now it’s dipping its toe into the already crowded broadband market. But it has a lot going for it – there’s no activation fee at all, and even the cheapest ADSL package includes a phone line and evening and weekend calls.

John Lewis Fibre | 38Mb-76Mb
John Lewis has two superfast fibre plans to choose from, and both give you unlimited use and free set-up. Fibre is the retailer’s 38Mb tariff and Fibre Extra accelerates things up to 76Mb.

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Post Office broadband deals and speeds

Post Office Unlimited Broadband | Up to 17Mb
Yet another name that you’ll be more used to seeing in other contexts, and another internet provider giving weekend and evening calls. The Post Office tends to offer some of the cheapest broadband deals around.

Post Office Fibre Unlimited Broadband | 38Mb-76Mb
Yep, you guessed it – 38Mb and 76Mb fibre optic broadband are the two options available from the post office, with the latter called Unlimited Fibre Broadband Plus. Unlike its ADSL prices though, superfast broadband from the Post Office is on the dear side.

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Ultra-thin laptops like the MacBook and Surface could be endangering our planet

Greenpeace has produced a new report condemning some contemporary ultra-thin laptops – specifically Apple’s MacBooks and Microsoft’s Surface devices – for failing in a big way on the design front when it comes to being environmentally friendly.

The study compiled by Greenpeace East Asia, which uses the ‘repairability’ ratings from the teardown experts at iFixit, looked at electronic waste (e-waste) – laptops being chucked in the bin because they aren’t designed with being upgraded or repaired in mind.

Greenpeace examined a number of laptops and hybrids (as well as tablets and smartphones) launched since 2015, and singled out the new MacBooks (as well as some older MacBook models), Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 for criticism.

As we’ve seen recently, the new MacBooks (and also the Surface Laptop) have scored very poorly in iFixit teardowns, mainly due to the use of soldered components which mean the notebooks can’t be upgraded to keep them relevant in the future – and the overuse of glue to keep things like the battery in place.

Designers may be making modern laptops which are very thin and sleek due to being able to pack all the components in thanks to these sort of measures, but this makes them less repairable if anything goes wrong, and more likely to end up contributing to our landfill disaster (the specter of which is gradually creeping over the Earth).

Doing it right

Greenpeace further highlighted a lack of information on repairing devices, and of all the notebook manufacturers covered in the report, only Dell and HP provided a full set of spare parts, along with manuals for carrying out repairs.

And on a more positive note, some of Dell’s and HP’s laptops were strongly commended in the report for doing everything right in terms of needing no special tools to access the inside of the machine, and allowing for both the battery and display to be replaced easily.

Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, commented: “Electronics take a massive amount of energy, human effort, and natural resources to make. And yet, manufacturers produce billions more of them every year – while consumers keep them for just a few years before tossing them away. E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. We should be able to make electronics a more sustainable part of our lives.”

On the phone front, incidentally, both Samsung and LG were criticized for producing handsets which are becoming ‘increasingly less repairable’.

Via: ComputerWeekly