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Tern HSD S8i and P9 Review: Our Fave New Cargo E-Bike

Tern HSD S8i and P9 Review: Our Fave New Cargo E-Bike

Some people have resting bitch face; I have resting Tern face. The minute I walk into any electric bike shop, a salesperson cannot resist approaching me. “I’ve got just the bike for you,” they say, grinning. Yes, I’ve heard of it. It’s the Tern GSD S10.

To be fair, it's probably because of my height. I’m under 5'4", which means that I'm too short to comfortably ride a lot of large electric cargo bikes. Tern, however, is a spinoff from the Japanese folding bike manufacturer Dahon. Its bikes are designed to fit smaller people who live in small spaces.

Next year, Tern will release the HSD, or “Haul Stuff Daily,” bike. It’s 5.5 feet long, shorter than your average road bike and small enough to fit in Portland’s standard bike parking lots, which are 6 feet long. But it can still carry a hefty 374 pounds total—on its extended rack, front rack mounts, or a multitude of other carry options.

For two weeks, I’ve been riding a tester model to pick up my children from school and run errands. It’s fantastic, though you won't see it at a bike shop for some time.

Photograph: Tern Bicycles

So Many Choices

The HSD comes in several styles and lots of colors. The base model HSD P9 will start at $3,099, but Tern sent me the HSD S8i, which starts at $3,699. It has better hydraulic disc brakes than the GSD and a weather-resistant, low-maintenance Gates Carbon Drive CDX belt (the belt replaces the chain on a regular bike), which I appreciated in this truly vile, wet, early-autumn Portland, Oregon, weather.

It’s a compact, burly bike with an upright, step-through aluminum frame. The wide, comfortable seat and ergonomic handlebars have quick releases to adjust them for heights ranging from 4'11" to 6'5".

Tern shortened the wheelbase significantly by giving the bike small, thick tires. But with an electric bike, you don’t have to worry about pedaling like a clown. The HSD S8i has a Shimano Nexus 8 hub and a Bosch 400 Wh motor. You can change up to eight gears or switch between four levels of assistance, which you can see on a tiny Bosch Purion LCD screen along with the current speed.

It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden a Bosch motor and I forgot how smooth it is. Unlike cheaper powertrain systems, it doesn’t jerk when I push off or if I've miscalibrated the level of power that I need. That smoothness is vital when you're carrying a few bags and have a kid strapped in the seat on the rack.

Photograph: Tern Bicycles

Although the bike itself is short, the rack is still long enough to fit both a kid seat and a pannier basket on the side.

Unlike many other bike racks, you don't need an adjuster to attach the kid's bike seat, and it will safely carry up to 130 pounds. I have a Thule Yepp Nexxt Maxxi seat, which I attached without much hassle.

Big panniers aren’t compatible with the Yepp seat I own, but I found other options. Portland’s Clever Cycles attached a Hold ‘Em basket for me to the bike’s front mount. That's one option. You could also attach the bike seat to the front of the rack, freeing enough space for a Bucketload pannier or a Kontti basket behind it. You can modify the bike’s carry options according to your needs.

Tern’s proprietary cargo hold panniers are weather resistant, pack down flat, can hold up to 60 pounds of stuff apiece, and close securely with a magnetic clip. I really like them.

Table of One

The HSD also comes with all the bells and whistles—well, no actual bell or whistle, but those were the only things it was missing. It has a headlight and taillight, a front suspension fork to help ease bumps, and an integrated Abus frame lock in the front wheel. Oh, and it can be stored standing on its rear rack and the handlebar stem folds down flat (lovely bonuses!).

It was surprisingly easy to use the HSD. Instead of biking it home for 45 minutes in the rain—like I may have had to do with some bikes—I picked it up at the bike shop, folded down the handlebars, flipped up one of my Honda Element's back seats, and drove it home.

Photograph: Tern Bicycles

There's been a lot of unwelcome road construction around my house. The curbs are misaligned; the roads are full of gravel, with random 4-inch drops that threaten to wreck even very experienced bike commuters. And it's constantly raining.

One night, I was biking to my local convenience store in the rain, headlight on, with cars whizzing by, when I saw that a huge gap of asphalt had been cut out of the bike line in front of me. I braced for a spill as I steered through the hole, but the HSD's wide wheels and suspension took me through it. At the store, I quickly locked up the wheel with the Abus lock, picked up a six-pack, and headed home with no further hassle.

Comfy and Convenient

So many bike manufacturers think that the way to get more people on bikes is to make them bigger and plushier. That might make a bike more comfortable, but it's a hassle to maneuver those giant things around. The HSD is comfortable without losing its convenience. It has small, but noticeable perks. It was easy to maneuver out of my garage and through my front gate, for example, and the extended rear rack is much lower than most extended rear racks, so I didn’t feel unstable with my 30-pound toddler riding in a seat.

Multiple gear and power-assist options also made it easy to adjust the level of pressure I wanted to apply to the pedals. The Bosch motor didn't jerk me around if I didn't have my gear and assistance levels exactly right.

I know you can buy a lot of the accessories à la carte, but Tern's proprietary ones are convenient, and pretty great. If I wanted to make a grocery run at 8 pm, I could wheel it out of my garage, fill up the panniers with a car trunk’s worth of bread, milk, and eggs, and be home by 8:45. And with 25 miles on the odometer the ebike's battery is still at 60 percent—a respectable range.

The only criticism of the HSD I can muster is that the rear rack isn’t long enough for two seats, so this bike may not work for a two-kid household. Personally, I may have to continue saving up my pennies for a GSD. But for anyone for whom size and space is an issue, the HSD will be something to look forward to when it comes out in spring 2020.

Original author: Adrienne So
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Huawei's side businesses keep it all in the family

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - On a hot summer morning at Huawei’s new European-themed campus outside of Shenzhen, a man resembling a younger version of company founder Ren Zhengfei was dressing down two subordinates.

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FILE PHOTO: Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei attends a panel discussion at the company headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

“Use your brain to think!” he scolded, apparently dissatisfied at how they were handling visitors at the lavish facility, which features replicas of European cities and monuments.

The man was Steven Ren Shulu, 63, the younger brother of Ren Zhengfei, who joined Huawei in 1992 and is now supervisor of the board. The encounter was witnessed by chance by a Reuters reporter during a visit to the campus in August.

Huawei may be one of China’s most global companies - with more than 180,000 employees in more than 170 countries running a telecommunications and technology business that generates more than $100 billion annually - but it still has elements of a family firm, with members of Ren’s family playing key roles in web of side businesses, many of which have nothing to do with telecoms.

Often those side businesses, which range from hotels to food and wine, cater mainly to the Huawei employees and customers.

The role of Ren’s daughter, chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, is widely known, especially in the wake of her arrest in Canada last December on U.S. charges relating to sanctions violations.

Far less visible are Ren’s brother, son and wife, but all play big roles within Huawei’s subsidiaries.

The 74-year old Zhengfei Ren officially owns just 1.14 percent of privately held Huawei, but retains absolute authority, according to insiders at the firm, where he holds veto power and where his speeches are regularly circulated to all staff for study.

HOUSING AND HOTELS

With the title of Chief Logistics Officer at Huawei, younger brother Steven Ren’s broad brief includes overseeing construction, catering and hospitality.

That includes the final phase of the lavish new Songshan Lake campus in Dongguan, with offices for 25,000 employees, as well as a new apartment block for employees near Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters that is expected to be built by 2023.

Huawei declined to answer questions on the scope of its housing benefits for employees.

It is not uncommon for large Chinese state-owned or private corporations to build infrastructure including housing for employees and to provide hospitality for visiting potential customers, said Colin Hawes, an associate professor at the University of Technology, Sydney who specializes in Chinese corporate governance.

Ren Zhengfei’s son, 44-year-old Ren Ping, is now the boss of Shenzhen Smartcom Business Co. Limited, a Huawei subsidiary whose holdings include more than a dozen hotels and serviced apartments in China, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The hotels also mostly serve Huawei employees and clients, though some - such as the Amber House in Nanjing - can be booked by anyone online.

At the 5-star Amber Prime Hotel in Dongguan, next to Huawei’s new campus, the stylish rooms come with Huawei AI speakers as well as a special TV channel with clips of Huawei executives’ recent speeches.

Huawei declined to make Steven Ren, Ren Ping or another Smartcom executive available for interview.

WINING AND DINING

Ren Ping is also president of Shanghai Mossel Trade Co., Ltd, a subsidiary where Ren Zhengfei’s wife also works, according to Chinese company registration records. Named after Mossel Bay in South Africa, the company sells imported foods from around the world including Huawei-labeled wines, premium beef and fine rice, according to its website.

Most of its patrons are internal, though Mossel’s e-commerce platform and bricks-and-mortar stores on Huawei campuses are open to outside customers too. Huawei did not respond to questions about why it set up Mossel in 2010, though a story in the Guardian newspaper in April quoted a spokesman saying it arose after the company took part-payment in the form of wine and beef from an Argentinian customer seeking to avoid currency controls.

Some employees told Reuters they found the Mossel goods too pricey, though others said they liked its high-quality selection of wines and foods from around the world - and that the Huawei logo on the products make for good corporate gifts.

Huawei’s leisure travel subsidiary, HWTrip.com, another part of Ren Ping’s Smartcom business, appears to have fallen victim to the U.S. government’s campaign against Huawei: a notice on its website says it closed in August as Huawei needed to “focus on its main channel during war times”.

Hawes said Huawei’s family connections were nothing out of the ordinary for private firms in China.

“It’s partly an issue of whom the CEO can trust, and also a Confucian-style sense of obligation to share one’s success with family members,” Hawes said.

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Slideshow (4 Images)

Ren has stated on multiple occasions that none of his family members, including Sabrina Meng, would succeed him as Huawei CEO.

Interviews with nearly a dozen employees turned up no signs of resentment about the role of Ren’s family members.

“I don’t care what the boss’s family does as long as I get my pay and dividends,” said one employee-shareholder who declined to be named.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Alex Richardson

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Trump to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at 2:45 p.m. EDT/1845 GMT Friday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at 2:45 p.m. EDT/1845 GMT on Friday as the world’s two biggest economies try to reach a trade agreement, the White House said.

Trump said on Thursday he would meet with Liu, who is in Washington for trade talks, but the time of the meeting had not been announced.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Who's who in the high-level Chinese trade delegation in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese and U.S. officials are negotiating this week in Washington to try to end a debilitating 15-month trade war, with talks set to culminate on Friday when the head of Beijing’s delegation meets U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House.

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China's Vice Premier Liu He gestures as he arrives for U.S.-China trade negotiations in Washington, U.S., October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The Chinese team includes a deep bench of economists and veteran government officials, many of them Western-educated and with decades of experience in policy-making and managing China’s vast banking, agriculture, and infrastructure-building state owned entities.

They’re meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, and their deputies. The United States is pushing for Beijing to make structural reforms to the way it manages its economy, while China wants an end to tariffs that have been slapped on billions of dollars in Chinese goods imports.

Here are the key members of the Chinese delegation:

VICE PREMIER LIU HE

Liu, a 67-year-old Harvard-trained economist and trusted confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping, has been leading the Chinese delegation in the trade talks. Liu speaks fluent English, is well-regarded for his deep understanding of China’s economic issues, and is often seen following Xi on regional tours and meetings with foreign leaders.

PEOPLE’S BANK OF CHINA GOVERNOR YI GANG

Yi, 61, is a highly respected monetary policymaker with a PhD in economics from the University of Illinois. He headed the State Administration of Foreign Exchange from 2009 to 2016, and was seen as instrumental in helping to steer landmark policy shifts including the 2015 devaluation of the Chinese yuan. Yi is also a fluent English speaker. 

VICE FINANCE MINISTER LIAO MIN

Liao, 51, is also deputy director of the general office of the Central Finance and Economic Affairs – a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party. Liao, a popular folk singer in the 1980s, has had a long career in China’s banking and finance sector and is seen as a rising star in its government. Liao graduated from Peking University in 1993 and studied at Cambridge University in 2006. Yi and Liao are seen as the point people handing currency and finance issues in the trade talks. 

VICE MINISTER OF COMMERCE WANG SHOUWEN

Wang, 53, is a respected Chinese trade expert who has had a long career with the trade ministry. Wang, a fluent English speaker with a PhD degree in economics from Peking University, is seen assisting Liu on trade issues. 

MINISTER OF COMMERCE ZHONG SHAN

Zhong, 64, is Wang’s boss. He served under Xi in the coastal province of Zhejiang when Xi was the Communist Party secretary and governor of the wealthy region in the mid-2000s. Zhong was present at trade talks in Beijing last year, and joined a telephone call with Lighthizer and Mnuchin in July, but he had not attended the previous rounds of talks in Washington. Zhong’s attendance this week signals Beijing regards the current round as especially important.

HAN JUN, VICE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Han, 55, is China’s senior agricultural representative in the talks, in which Chinese purchases of U.S. farm goods have been a key issue for both sides. Han has previously warned that the United States will struggle to regain China’s agricultural market if it is lost as a result of the trade war.

NING JIZHE, VICE CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND REFORM COMMISSION

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Slideshow (4 Images)

Ning, 62, is a vice chairman of the NDRC, China’s top economic planning agency, as well as the head of the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. The NDRC’s vast remit stretches from approving major infrastructure projects to overseeing the energy regulator. The NDRC also drafts laws on economic restructuring and the economy’s opening to the outside world.

OTHER MEMBERS OF THE DELEGATION

Also in the delegation are Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology Wang Zhijun, 54, who has spoken out about the dangers the U.S. tariffs pose to global supply chains, and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Zheng Zeguang, 56.

Reporting by Ryan Woo and Echo Wang Editing by Heather Timmons and Paul Simao

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Google secures two Android phone makers' backing in fight against EU antitrust order

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is seen at the high profile startups and high tech leaders gathering, Viva Tech,in Paris, France May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Alphabet unit Google’s fight against a record EU antitrust fine related to its Android mobile software received a boost after Europe’s second-highest court allowed Android phone maker Gigaset and HMD Global Oy to intervene in the lawsuit.

Google is challenging the European Commission’s 4.34 billion euro ($4.8 billion) fine and an order to drop anti-competitive business practices aimed at blocking rivals in internet browsing at the Luxembourg-based General Court.

The EU competition enforcer in its 2018 ruling said Google gave itself an unfair advantage by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.

Germany’s Gigaset Communications GmbH and Finland’s HMD Global Oy, which is the exclusive licensee of the Nokia brand for phones, can take part in the process in support of Google, the court said in a document published on Thursday.

Judges also allowed tech lobbying group Application Developers Alliance, web browser Opera Software and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which counts Google among its members, to intervene.

Commission supporters allowed to intervene are the European Consumer Organisation, lobbying group FairSearch whose complaint triggered the EU case, Czech search engine Seznam, French search engine Qwant and two German publishing groups, VDZ and BDZV.

Court proceedings are expected to start next year. The case is T-604/18 Google vs European Commission.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Trump joins video streaming platform Twitch for re-election campaign

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for travel to Minnesota from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S. October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has joined Amazon Inc’s (AMZN.O) Twitch, his verified account on the video game live-streaming platform showed in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

A message about Trump's rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota figures on his channel www.twitch.tv/donaldtrump, which garnered more than 7,000 followers by Friday. With 15 million users, the platform is primarily a gaming site but also has channels on sports, music and politics.

U.S. presidential election candidate Bernie Sanders and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined the video streaming platform earlier this year.

Trump has been an active user of Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), with more than 65 million followers of his posts on new tariffs in the U.S.-China trade war and other political decisions.

Reporting by Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Apple pulls app used to track Hong Kong police, Cook defends move

SAN FRANCISCO/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Apple Inc has removed an app that helped Hong Kong protesters track police movements, saying it was used to target officers, after a Chinese state newspaper sharply criticized the U.S. tech giant for allowing the software.

Chief Executive Tim Cook defended the move in the face of criticism for appeasing mainland China, telling Apple workers that “this decision best protects our users.”

The move to bar the HKmap.live app, which crowdsources the locations of both police and protesters, from its app store plunges Apple into the increasingly fraught political tension between China and the protesters that has also ensnared other U.S. and Hong Kong businesses.

The company only just last week had approved the app after rejecting it earlier this month.

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Thursday said it had dropped a game from its app store that allowed players to pretend they were Hong Kong protesters, saying its policies forbid capitalizing on ongoing sensitive events.

However, Google said it had found no policy violation by HKmap.live, and confirmed that the tracking app was available on its app store.

The Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper on Tuesday called the tracking app “poisonous” and decried what it said was Apple’s complicity in helping the Hong Kong protesters.

Apple said in a statement on Wednesday it had begun an immediate investigation after “many concerned customers in Hong Kong” contacted it about the app and Apple found it had endangered law enforcement and residents.

“The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” it said.

Apple did not comment beyond its statement. The company also removed BackupHK, a separate app that served as a mirror of the HKmap.live app.

‘PRESSURE’

Maya Wang, a senior China researcher with Human Rights Watch, said there could be legitimate concerns of misuse of apps but that the statement from Apple was “disingenuous” because it did not make any reference to pressure from Beijing in the People’s Daily commentary.

“Given the context of how (Apple) has over the years removed apps and removed access to news particularly inside mainland China that the Chinese government doesn’t want, I think that the removal of this particular app strikes me as another shameful incident in which a multinational company bends to Chinese government pressure,” she said.

Republican U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn said, “Apple and American companies should not fold to a communist regime’s demands to shut down democracy activists.”

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The HKmap.live App is pictured on a phone screen in this photo illustration, in Hong Kong, China, October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Cook, in a letter to company workers, said it was a difficult decision.

“National and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts,” he said. The app was being used maliciously to target individual police officers and to victimize individuals and property, and so was in violation of Hong Kong law, he said.

On Twitter, an account believed to be owned by the HKmap.live app’s developer said it disagreed with Apple’s decision and that there was no evidence to support the Hong Kong police’s claims that the app had been used in ambushes.

“The majority of user review(s) in App Store ... suggest HKmap IMPROVED public safety, not the opposite,” it said.

The app consolidates content from public posts on social networks and moderators delete content that solicits criminal activity and would ban repeated attempts to post such content in the app, it added.

Neither China’s foreign ministry nor the information office of the State Council had an immediate comment when asked about the HKmap.live app removal. Hong Kong police also had no immediate comment.

Separately, Apple removed the Quartz news app from its App Store in China because authorities said it violated local laws.

Quartz Chief Executive Zach Seward told technology publication The Verge in a statement: “We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet, and have great coverage of how to get around such bans around the world.”

A Google spokesman said “The Revolution Of Our Times” app recently pulled from its app store, which lets users role play as Hong Kong protesters, violated a long-standing policy “prohibiting developers from capitalizing on sensitive events, such as attempting to make money from serious ongoing conflicts or tragedies through a game.”

ANGER IN HONG KONG

The People’s Daily newspaper, in its commentary on Tuesday, said Apple did not have a sense of right and wrong, and ignored the truth. Making the app available on Apple’s Hong Kong App Store at this time was “opening the door” to violent protesters in the former British colony, the newspaper wrote.

The HKmap.live app was taken down from Apple’s App Store globally on Wednesday but continued to work for users who had previously downloaded it in Hong Kong, Reuters found. A web version of HKmap.live was still viewable on iPhones.

Word of its removal spread quickly in Hong Kong, where residents had been campaigning for months, in sometimes violent demonstrations, initially to protest a now-withdrawn extradition bill and now in a broader push for democratic rights.

“Does the entire world have to suck up to the garbage Communist Party?” one commentator, Yip Lou Jie, said in an online forum, LIHKG, used by protesters in Hong Kong.

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But Simon Young, associate dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong, said Apple seemed to have a case, given the circumstances.

“It sounds like they are being responsible. To do nothing when it’s being used for a specific purpose that actually facilitates these protests, to do nothing would be rather irresponsible,” he said.

Apple’s action has come amid a furor surrounding the U.S. National Basketball Association after a team official tweeted in support of the protests in Hong Kong, which led Chinese sponsors and partners to cut ties with the NBA.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis and John Ruwitch; Additional reporting by Greg Mitchell, Paresh Dave and Peter Henderson in San Francisco and Elizabeth Culliford in London; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Bernadette Baum and Tom Brown

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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BT launches 5G smartphone plans for consumers and businesses

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FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a BT logo outside of offices in the City of London, Britain, January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s BT will launch 5G services in more than 20 towns and cities on Friday, offering its consumer and business customers its fastest connections across both fixed line and mobile.

BT’s mobile brand EE, the market leader, switched on Britain’s first commercial 5G services in May. Rival Vodafone followed with its own network in July.

BT said business customers and consumers signed up to broadband and mobile package BT Plus would be the first to be offered 5G, which will require a handset from a range including the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei Mate 20.

The company said on Wednesday it would launch a new bundled product called Halo next month that will offer unlimited data and calls on mobile and fixed lines.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Best mesh Wi-Fi routers: Reviews and buying advice

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A great wireless router is an essential element of tech life, whether you’re building out a smart home or you just want the best experience streaming music and video at home. If you’re suffering with low wireless throughput or dead spots in any area of your home, we heartily recommend deploying a mesh network consisting of a Wi-Fi router with one or more satellite nodes that you sprinkle around your home, because it will blanket your home with coverage. 

You can deploy a mesh Wi-Fi router without any satellites, but you’d be losing out on all the coverage benefits that mesh technology provides. We pick the best mesh systems here, because even those of us fortunate enough to have ethernet drops everywhere have devices—smartphones and tablets, for instance—that depend on Wi-Fi to connect to the home network and the internet.

Twin and sometimes conflicting demands for high performance and ease of use are powering a thriving and rapidly evolving market. Innovation is one of the biggest upsides of this dynamic, and confusion its biggest downside. Today’s hero could be tomorrow’s has-been, as established brands like Linksys and Netgear try to one-up each other while simultaneously fending off new challengers such as Eero (now owned by Amazon) and Google. But it’s those challengers who have innovated the most.

Scroll down a bit (or click here) and we’ll discuss the features you should look for in a mesh Wi-Fi system. We’ll also explain some of the jargon you’ll encounter when you shop for one. You can skip to our latest mesh Wi-Fi router reviews by clicking here.

Updated October 11, 2019 to add our in-depth review of the Samsung SmartThings Wifi router. It’s not the most powerful mesh router you can buy, but if you want an easy-to-use smart home hub and don’t need an expensive high-end router, it is a solid value on both scores.

Best mesh Wi-Fi system

imageNetgear Orbi Home WiFi System (RBK50)

When deployed with a single satellite, the Netgear Orbi is an excellent choice for moderate-sized homes, delivering higher TCP throughput than mesh routers operating with three nodes.

The secret to the Orbi RBK50’s success is Netgear’s dedicated 4x4, 1,733Mbps radio used for data backhaul between the router and its satellites (the RBK50 comes with one satellite, which Netgear says is sufficient to blanket 5,000 square feet). We also like the fact that the Orbi router has a built-in three-port ethernet switch (the satellite has a four-port switch), because those ports provide so much flexibility in terms of connecting other devices to your network, be it a NAS box for media streaming and data backup, a network printer that doesn’t support Wi-Fi, or an older ethernet-only A/V receiver in your entertainment center.

An Orbi network can also be expanded with a smart speaker (the Orbi Voice, which supports the Amazon Alexa digital assistant) and a purpose-built outdoor satellite (the Orbi Outdoor). Orbi devices, on the other hand, are among the most expensive mesh Wi-Fi components, and the RBK50 kit in particular is overkill for for smaller spaces.

Runner-up

imageLinksys Velop Whole Home Wi-Fi (three pack)

The Linksys Velop is one of the best true mesh-network routers we've tested, but many Wi-Fi enthusiasts will still prefer a more conventional model.

Like Netgear’s Orbi RBK50 kit, the Linksys Velop is a tri-band router that dedicates one of its three Wi-Fi networks to data backhaul. Unlike Netgear’s offering, however, the Velop dynamically chooses the least-congested channels for that task. On the downside, the Velop’s maximum data backhaul speed is 867Mbps, compared to the Orbi RBK50 kit’s 1,766Mbps. Two Velop nodes proved to be the sweet spot to blanket our 2,800-square-foot test home with Wi-Fi, which would cost $75 less than the three-node kit that we reviewed.

Best budget mesh Wi-Fi system

imageTP-Link Deco M5 (three pack)

TP-Link’s Deco M5 isn’t the absolute fastest whole-home Wi-Fi system on the market, but it delivers very good performance and a strong set of features.

TP-Link’s Deco M5 is a dual-band Wi-Fi system operating one network using radio spectrum in the 2.4GHz band and a second network using spectrum in the 5GHz band.  As such, the Deco M5 must rely on the same bandwidth for data backhaul. And that is the biggest factor that differentiates the Deco M5 from the more-powerful tri-band mesh-network offerings from Linksys and Netgear that use dedicated networks for backhaul. That said, the Deco M5 delivers a ton of value for the money.

Best mesh Wi-Fi system for smart-home enthusiasts

imageSamsung SmartThings Wifi

Samsung SmartThings Wifi is a much better smart home hub than it is a router or a home security system. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good value for the right buyer.

Like the Samsung Connect Home before it, the Samsung SmartThings Wifi isn’t the best mesh router on the market, but it is the best mesh router with an integrated smart home hub. Outfitted with Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth radios in addition to Wi-Fi, it can control just about any smart home device you can think of.

Runner-up

imageTP-link Deco M9 Plus (three pack)

TP-Link’s Deco M9 Plus delivers fast mesh networking, network-level antivirus, and a smart home hub all in one pretty package.

TP-Link’s Deco M9 Plus is a better mesh router than Samsung’s Connect Home, but it takes the runner-up spot in this category because it supports only ZigBee smart home devices where Samsung’s device supports both ZigBee and Z-Wave. This is a tri-band system similar to the top-rated Netgear and Linksys offerings that don’t have integrated smart home hubs, and it’s the only one we know of that can steal some bandwidth from its 2.4GHz network for data backhaul. The three-node system TP-Link sent us to review is hard to find, but Amazon sells a two-node kit for $250.

Choosing the right type of router

This guide focuses on mesh Wi-Fi routers because they are the most adept at blanketing a home with wireless coverage. A less-expensive conventional router might be adequate for smaller single-family homes, condos, and apartments if you can place the router near the center of your home. But that can be challenging since the router must be connected to the gateway (e.g., a DSL or cable modem) that provides your broadband access, and those connections are more typically located on a perimeter wall. 

Mesh Wi-Fi systems can be divided into two categories: Straightforward routers with one or more wireless satellite nodes that you strategically place around your home, and router/satellite combos that can also operate as smart home hubs. That is, mesh Wi-Fi systems that include the types of radios (e.g., Z-Wave and ZigBee) that can control smart home devices (smart bulbs, switches, thermostats, locks, sensors, and so on).

netgear nighthawk x10 Netgear

High-end conventional routers offer high-performance features you won’t find in mesh Wi-Fi systems. The Netgear Nighthawk X10, for instance, has a 10Gbps ethernet port for network storage.

Traditional routers tend to offer more granular control over your network, with tweakable settings for features such as QoS (Quality of Service), port forwarding, VPNs, FTP servers, and much more. Most have built-in ethernet switches (four ports or more), so you can hardwire network devices directly to the router. And they typically have one or two USB ports that can be used to share a printer or USB storage with all the devices on the network. I’d venture to say that most people who buy traditional routers never touch most of those settings or even use many of their advanced features; they buy them because higher-end routers deliver faster Wi-Fi performance.

A dual-purpose router with smart home features will have a ZigBee and/or Z-Wave radio that can communicate with sensors, smart lights, smart entry locks, motorized window shades, and lots of other devices that use the same protocols. Some smart home devices use Bluetooth, but all the routers with Bluetooth radios that we’ve seen so far use that protocol only for initial router setup.

smartthings wifi three pack Michael Brown / IDG

The Samsung SmartThings Wifi is the best mesh router system to include integrated smart home features, with Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and Zigbee radios onboard.

Features to consider in a Wi-Fi router

You’ll encounter a thicket of jargon when you shop for a new Wi-Fi router. We’ll explain some of the most common terms you’ll encounter (in alphabetical order).

AP steering A mesh-network router that supports AP steering will automatically direct its wireless clients to connect with whichever access point (AP) offers the strongest connection back to the router (and thus to the internet).

Backhaul The side of a network that carries data packets back to the router and out to the internet. Some tri-band mesh Wi-Fi systems, including the Netgear Orbi and Linksys Velop, dedicate an entire wireless network to backhaul. You can also set up wired backhaul by connecting the access point to the router using an ethernet cable, but that would require drilling holes in your walls and pulling the cable through, a job most people are reluctant to tackle.

Band steering A router with this feature can detect if a client device is dual-band capable (i.e., the client is outfitted with a Wi-Fi adapter that can operate on either the 2.4- or 5GHz frequency bands). The router will automatically push dual-band clients to connect to its least-congested network, which is usually the one operating on the 5GHz frequency band.

Beamforming An optional feature of the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard that improves wireless bandwidth utilization by focusing the radio signals so that more data reaches the client and less radiates into the atmosphere. Click here for a more in-depth explanation of beamforming.

beamforming Netgear

A beamforming router knows where its clients are located in physical space and can pack in more data by focusing the radio signals they exchange.

Dual-band vs. tri-band A dual-band Wi-Fi router operates two discrete networks, one on the 2.4GHz frequency band and a second on the less-congested 5GHz frequency band. Some types of tri-band routers split the 5GHz frequency band, using one swath of channels available in 5GHz spectrum to create a second network, and another swath of channels in that spectrum to operate a third network. Other tri-band routers operate discrete networks on the 2.4- and 5GHz bands, and a third network using spectrum available on the 60GHz band, though this technology has fallen out of favor recently.

ethernet ports A router must have at least two hardwired ethernet ports (either 100Mbps or gigabit per second). One (the WAN, or wide area network) connects to your broadband gateway (a cable or DSL modem, for instance). The other (a LAN, or local area network) connects any hardwired client. Some mesh Wi-Fi routers have auto-configuring ports that become WAN or LAN based on what gets plugged into them. You can increase the number of ethernet ports available on your network by plugging an ethernet switch into one of the LAN ports.

Mesh Wi-Fi access points typically have two ethernet ports, so they can serve as a wireless bridge for devices that don’t have their own Wi-Fi adapters. Alternatively, you can use one of the AP’s ports for data backhaul using an ethernet cable that’s connected to your router at the other end.

D-Link dir 890L Michael Brown/TechHive

High-end conventional routers, such as the D-Link DIR-890L, have four-port ethernet switches and USB ports.

Guest network This is a virtual network that gives your guests access to the internet while blocking access to your own computers, NAS boxes, and other network clients.

Hub-and-spoke vs. mesh network In a hub-and-spoke network topology, each wireless access point exchanges data packets directly with the router. A wagon wheel makes for a good visual metaphor here. In a mesh network, wireless access points that are distant from the router can exchange data packets with their closest AP neighbor until the packets reach the router (and vice versa). In this instance, you might visualize a fishing net; or perhaps abstractly, a firefighter’s bucket brigade.

MU-MIMO The acronym stands for multiple user, multiple input/multiple output. MIMO describes a method of sending and receiving more than one data signal using the same radio channel. This is accomplished using a technique known as spatial multiplexing. In its original implementation in routers, client devices had to take turns communicating with the router, round-robin style. The switching happens fast enough that the interruptions are imperceptible, but it reduces the overall transmission speed. This is known as SU-MIMO (single-user MIMO). As you’ve probably guessed, MU-MIMO lets multiple client devices communicate with the router at the same time without interruption, significantly increasing transmission speed. Both the router and the client must support MU-MIMO for the scheme to work.

deco m5 content filter Michael Brown/TechHive

A parental controls feature lets you filter the types of content that client device can access from your home network.

Parental controls The internet can be an unpleasant and even dangerous place for children to visit. Router-based parental controls promise some protection by restricting where a person can browse and what they can do while they’re online. Such controls can also restrict the hours that a device is allowed to be online—at least while the device is on that router’s network. Methods and practices—and effectiveness—vary widely. I’ve yet to see a system that’s better than just having an open and frank dialog with your kids, but that’s just my opinion.

Quality of Service (QoS) This concept describes a router’s ability to identify different types of data packets traveling over the network and then assign those packets higher or lower priority. You might want your router to give network traffic such as streaming video or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls higher priority than file downloads, for example, because the former don’t tolerate interruptions. Waiting a little longer for a file to download is vastly preferable to watching a glitchy video.

Spatial streams The multiplexed signals described in MU-MIMO above are called spatial streams. The number of radios and antennas in the router determine how many spatial streams it can support; and the method used to encode the data, combined with the channel’s bandwidth, determines how much data can fit within each stream. An 802.11ac router using channels that are 80MHz wide can deliver throughput of roughly 433Mbps per spatial stream. Spatial streams operate in parallel, so adding them is akin to adding lanes on a highway. Where a 2x2 802.11ac router (two spatial streams to transmit and two to receive) can deliver throughput up to 867Mbps, a 4x4 802.11ac router can deliver up to 1,733Mbps. These are theoretical numbers, however; they don’t take into account protocol overhead and other factors, so you’ll never see real-world performance that high.

Wi-Fi speed ratings Vendors commonly market their 802.11ac routers (and 802.11ac Wi-Fi client adapters) by combining the throughput numbers for each of the router’s networks. A dual-band router capable of delivering 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency band and 867Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band might be described as an AC1300 router (rounding up from 1,267, naturally). You’ll never experience 1,300Mbps (or even 1,267Mbps) of throughput, of course, because it’s not possible to bond the 2.4- and 5GHz networks together. But the classifications at least provide a point of comparison.

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At a Glance

When deployed with a single satellite, the Netgear Orbi is an excellent choice for moderate-sized homes, delivering higher TCP throughput than mesh routers operating with three nodes.

Pros

Strong Wi-Fi performance (with a satellite) Three-port gigabit ethernet switch on the router; four-port switch on the satellite Dedicated 4x4 radio for backhaul

Cons

Not nearly as fast as the competition when operating solo Physically larger and more visually obtrusive than the competition USB port is currently dormant

The Linksys Velop is one of the best true mesh-network routers we've tested, but many Wi-Fi enthusiasts will still prefer a more conventional model.

Pros

Robust feature set Exceptional performance under stress (and at range, with two nodes or more) Attractive, unobtrusive industrial design

Cons

Only two ethernet ports No USB port for storage or printer support Expensive

TP-Link’s Deco M5 isn’t the absolute fastest whole-home Wi-Fi system on the market, but it delivers very good performance and a strong set of features.

Pros

Very good overall performance Built-in antivirus and anti-malware protection for the entire network Unobtrusive industrial design

Cons

No dedicated channel for data backhaul Must use a smartphone or tablet for setup and configuration Available in three-packs only

TP-Link’s Deco M9 Plus delivers fast mesh networking, network-level antivirus, and a smart home hub all in one pretty package.

Pros

Adds extra bandwidth to its dedicated wireless backhaul on the fly Also supports hardwired backhaul, if you have the infrastructure for it Built-in, if basic, smart home hub

Cons

No Z-Wave support Not the fastest router on the market Low-profile enclosure keeps the antennas low, too

It's not the fastest Wi-Fi mesh router we've tested, but its smart home features make it a great value for DIY enthusiasts.

Pros

Integrated ZigBee-based smart home hub Network and smart home features can be voice controlled via Amazon's Echo You can add Z-Wave support with a $20 dongle

Cons

Not the fastest Wi-Fi mesh router by a long shot Dual-band only (doesn't use a discrete channel for data backhaul)

It’s not the fastest mesh network system we’ve tested, but it is very elegant. It’s also expensive.

Pros

Extremely easy to set up and manage Many advanced router features are exposed for customization Handy nightlight in the wireless access points (Beacons)

Cons

Not as fast as some less-expensive systems No ethernet ports on the Beacons for hardwired backhaul option Expensive, and the optional subscription service makes it more so

Google WiFi’s mesh network should eliminate the dead spots in your home, but it only scratches the surface of smart-home control.

Pros

Extremely well priced, given its performance and feature set Very easy to set up and install Flexible configurations

Cons

Relatively weak smart-home support No USB port for storage or printer support Still waiting for MU-MIMO support

The Orbi Voice is a great addition to our favorite mesh Wi-Fi system, extending its range and bringing Alexa along for the ride. It’s not a great loudspeaker, but it is a very good one.

Pros

Very good Wi-Fi performance, whether purchased as a bundle with an Orbi router or added to an existing Orbi network Extends the range of your Orbi network while adding an Alexa-powered smart speaker to the mix Attractive industrial design and audio performance influenced by Harman Kardon

Cons

Compatible only with Orbi-series routers Slightly inferior to the Sonos One in terms of musical fidelity Limited list of compatible music-streaming apps (and no Chromecast audio support)

Samsung SmartThings Wifi is a much better smart home hub than it is a router or a home security system. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good value for the right buyer.

Pros

A top-shelf smart home hub blended with a competent mesh Wi-Fi router Will blanket your home with Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and Zigbee coverage Supremely easy to set up and use

Cons

Smart home functions are highly cloud dependent No dedicated network for wireless data backhaul Not a great option for home security (no LTE radio to fall back on)

It's not as fast as the new tri-band mesh routers that offer a dedicated network for data backhaul, but it is a solid value.

Pros

Delivers three simultaneous spatial streams (up and down) on both frequency bands Four-port gigabit switch on the router Attractive industrial design, with a touchscreen LCD

Cons

No dedicated network for data backhaul Detachable antennas on mesh nodes could prove to be fragile Mesh points require grounded outlets

Chopping one spatial stream off Netgear’s dedicated wireless backhaul had a significant impact on its performance.

Pros

Tri-band router uses one network for dedicated wireless backhaul Has nearly all the features you’d find on a conventional router Satellites don’t require grounded outlets and won’t block the lower outlet

Cons

Plug-in satellite isn’t nearly as attractive as the second-generation Eero Satellite doesn’t have ethernet ports for hardwired backhaul You need to use a combination of the web app and two smartphone apps to exploit every feature
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Original author: Michael Brown
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Samsung SmartThings Wifi review: A sensible choice for smart homes, but far from the best router

Mesh tech is as beneficial to smart home devices as it is to home networking, so it makes sense to deploy a single product that can handle both missions—provided that single device offers best-in-class performance in both areas. While the second-generation Samsung SmartThings Wifi mesh router is a great smart home hub, it’s far from being a state-of-the-art router. But if you don’t need a top-shelf router, and not everyone does, the SmartThings Wifi’s price tag and its performance as a smart home hub renders it a good enough value.

SmartThings Wifi as a smart home hub

In some respects, the Samsung SmartThings Wifi three-pack reviewed here is an even better smart home hub than our top pick in that category—the third-generation Samsung SmartThings Hub—simply because it has three nodes to the Hub's one. That said, we’re sticking with our recommendation of the SmartThings Hub as the best smart home system for most people because the SmartThings Wifi router simply isn’t the best mesh router you can buy. You won’t want to replace a superior router with this one just to get a smart home hub.

Like the SmartThings Hub, the SmartThings Wifi router is outfitted with Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth radios, so it can control just about any smart home device on the market (although you’ll still need a Philips Hue Bridge to control that brand of lighting; ditto for Lutron hardware). Adding Wi-Fi expands SmartThings’ reach to smart home devices that don’t rely on Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Bluetooth (e.g., LIFX smart bulbs). If your home or apartment is small and you don’t need the range that this $280 three-pack promises, you can buy a single SmartThings Wifi for $120—that should be enough to cover 1,500 square feet. Likewise, if your home is larger than 4,500 square feet, you can buy more satellites to expand the network’s reach. I tested the three-node system in my own 2,800-square-foot smart home.

smartthings wifi smart home devices Michael Brown / IDG

SmartThings supports just about every smart home device you could possibly want.

Z-Wave and Zigbee are mesh networks, too, so every smart home device equipped with one of those radios can act as both a client and a repeater. As such, the more compatible devices you deploy around your home, the greater the range of the two networks.

A Z-Wave radio, however, can’t receive and repeat Zigbee traffic, and vice versa. Spread the three SmartThings Wifi nodes around your home, and you’ll effectively blanket it with coverage for all three networks: Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi.

Three downsides you’ll want to be aware of: First, both the SmartThings Wifi and the SmartThings Hub are very much cloud dependent. Many of their smart home features won’t work if you lose your connection to the internet—in the event of a power outage, for instance.

Second, SmartThings isn’t a great home security system because Samsung doesn’t offer a professional monitoring service. If there’s a break-in or a smoke detector goes off in the event of a fire, you’ll need to call the authorities yourself.

Finally, neither SmartThings device includes an LTE module for backup. If an intruder is smart enough to cut your phone or cable line before tripping a sensor, SmartThings won’t be able to alert you.

imageRing Alarm

If you find the last two features important, you might consider a Ring Alarm system as an alternative to SmartThings. To be clear, Ring Alarm does not have an integrated router. And like SmartThings, it is also dependent on the cloud, but signing up for an optional-but-inexpensive professional monitoring service ($10 per month) activates an LTE module for cellular backup. If you sign up for that service and someone breaks in while the system is armed, a Ring representative can dispatch the police to your home (they'll attempt to contact you first, to avoid reporting a false alarm).

On the other hand, the Ring ecosystem includes a fraction of the compatible smart home devices that you’ll find with SmartThings. Click here to see a list of Works with Ring devices, and click here to see a list Works with SmartThings components. In other words, SmartThings is the better smart-home system, but Ring is a better home security system that also has smart home features.

SmartThings Wifi as router

SmartThings Wifi is much less impressive as a router. It’s an AC1300-class, dual-band device, meaning it’s based on the 802.11ac protocol (Wi-Fi 5) and that it operates one network on the 5GHz frequency band delivering up to 866Mbps of bandwidth, and a second network on the 2.4GHz bandwidth offering up to 400Mbps (sum the two numbers and you get 1,266, but Samsung—like every other router manufacturer—rounds up).

smartthings wifi ports Michael Brown / IDG

Like many mesh Wi-Fi routers, the SmartThings Wifi has just a pair of gigabit ethernet ports.

Unlike higher-end mesh routers, such as the Linksys Velop ($385 on Amazon for a three-node system) or Netgear Orbi RBK50 ($295 on Amazon for a two-node system), SmartThings Wifi does not operate a third network that’s dedicated to data backhaul from the satellites to the router. So, in addition to delivering less bandwidth than more expensive routers, some of that bandwidth is consumed by data backhaul. TP-Link’s Deco M9 Plus mesh router also dedicates a third wireless network to data backhaul, and it has an integrated smart home hub. But the Deco M9 Plus supports only Zigbee and not Z-Wave.

All the nodes in the SmartThings Wifi three-pack are identical until you set the system up, at which point the first device that you hardwire to your broadband gateway becomes the router and the other two become satellites when you add them. Installation is handled through a mobile app, and the system is quick and easy to set up.

Each device has a two 1Gbps ethernet ports, so if you have the infrastructure to support it, you can hardwire the satellites directly to your router for wired backhaul that will be much faster than relying on Wi-Fi. This will also render the absence of a dedicated network for wireless backhaul moot, but most homes don’t have ethernet in the walls. (Mine does, but I didn’t benchmark the system that way.) If you have more than one device that you want to hardwire to the router, you’ll need to buy a switch.

samsung smartthings wifi performance Michael Brown / IDG

Compared to most of the other mesh routers we’ve benchmarked, the SmartThings Wifi is a slowpoke.

One feature that those more-expensive routers don’t have is Plume’s Adaptive WiFi technology, which Plume says will analyze your network traffic and optimize its performance so that each client connects to the node that will deliver optimal bandwidth for its needs. So, Plume might help make the most of the bandwidth that the SmartThings Wifi can offer, but that doesn’t change the fact that the SmartThings Wifi offers less bandwidth to begin with compared to some other routers.

samsung smartthings wifi plume app Michael Brown / IDG

The three dots on this screenshot of the Plume app represent the SmartThings Wifi router (green) and its two satellites. The dots orbiting each node represent the attached clients.

Samsung also relies on Plume for parental controls and anti-malware protection, which means you’ll need to switch back and forth between that and the SmartThings app, depending on what you need to do. (Clicking on the Advanced Settings tab in the SmartThings app launches the Plume app.)

You can assign each device on the network to a family member’s profile, so you can control when that device can access the internet and what it’s allowed to do while online. That type of parental control is increasingly table stakes for consumer routers these days.

Bottom line

Viewed as a smart home hub, SmartThings Wifi is an excellent solution unless you object to its dependence on the cloud, or you’re looking for a home security system that can be professionally monitored. Given that you can deploy it in multiples as part of a mesh network, it’s an even better smart home hub than the latest stand-alone SmartThings Hub. But don't give up a superior router you might already have just to get a smart home hub. Buy the SmarThings Hub, instead.

SmartThings Wifi is less impressive when viewed as a mesh router, because it doesn’t offer nearly as much bandwidth as many other mesh routers we’ve tested. If you need a smart-home hub and a high-performance home network, you’re better off buying discrete components for each job. If you want to build out a smart home, but you have just a few devices that need Wi-Fi access simultaneously, SmartThings Wifi will save you cash and be easier to manage. After all, there’s no sense in paying for router performance you don’t need.

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Roku Ultra (2019) review: It's all about the buttons

How much do you value a few extra buttons?

That’s the main question you must ask yourself when deciding between the 2019 Roku Ultra and cheaper Roku streamers. At $100, the Ultra is by far the most expensive Roku player, and it remains the only one with both a USB port for external drives and an ethernet jack for wired connectivity. This year, the Ultra also has a new remote, which for the first time includes a volume mute button and two programmable keys.

Compared to the $60 Roku Streaming Stick+, which also supports 4K HDR video, those extra buttons make the new Roku Ultra a slightly more enticing upgrade than it used to be. But looking out over the entire streaming device landscape, Roku is still behind the times in a few key areas. If you’re interested in voice control, smart home integration, broader 4K HDR format support, or easy browsing across different content sources, venturing outside the Roku ecosystem will get you a more capable streamer.

Improvements inside

From the outside, the new Roku Ultra looks no different than last year’s model. It still has a USB port for playing media from external drives, a microSD card slot for storing more apps, an HDMI port, and an ethernet jack that supports speeds up to 100Mbps. (The Ultra from 2016 also had optical audio output for sound systems that require a Toslink connection, but Roku eliminated it from subsequent upgrades.) In a nice touch, a button on top of the streaming box plays a sound on the remote to help you find it.

rokuultra2019back Jared Newman / IDG

The Roku Ultra remains the only Roku player with all these ports, including USB, microSD, and ethernet.

While Roku doesn’t give out exact tech specs, new Ultra has more memory and a higher clock speed on its quad-core processor than previous models, all in service of loading apps faster. With those hardware improvements and some software optimizations, the company claims that it’s seen an average 17 percent improvement in app launch times for the top 100 streaming apps, and a 33 percent improvement for live TV streaming apps in particular.

These claims held up in some of the apps I tested. PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and Tubi TV all launched roughly a couple seconds faster on the Ultra than they did on a Roku Streaming Stick+. Vue’s channel grid also loaded about a second sooner on the Ultra, and it was a split-second faster at refreshing program data when scrolling down the grid guide.

Still, the speed increases aren’t universal. I couldn’t discern any performance differences between the Ultra and Streaming Stick+ while using Hulu, Pluto TV, and Plex, and while Netflix launched about a second faster on the Ultra, navigation speed and content loading times were about the same.

Testing the Roku Ultra against Amazon’s new Fire TV Cube, the results were a wash, with some apps loading faster on the former and others loading faster on the latter. Keep in mind, however, that Amazon doesn’t completely shut down apps when you close them like Roku does, so it can jump back into recent apps much faster compared to the Roku Ultra.

For videophiles, Roku’s insistence on only supporting HDR10 on its streaming players, rather than HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, also remains a disappointment. If you have a 4K HDR TV, you’ll still get more vibrant colors in supported content, especially in shadows and highlights, but you won’t get the per-scene color adjustments that those advanced formats provide. And while the Roku Ultra will pass Dolby Atmos over HDMI for certain streaming services, Netflix isn’t among them.

It’s all about the remote

The bigger changes in this year’s Roku Ultra are not on the inside, but on the remote that comes with it.

While the previous Ultra had TV volume and power buttons on its remote, the new version adds a mute button as well. As before, the remote use either infrared or HDMI-CEC to control a TV, soundbar, or A/V system, and Roku’s initial setup process should detect your gear automatically.

rokuultra2019remoteJared Newman / IDG

Unlike other Roku remotes, the Ultra’s has a mute button on the side and two programmable buttons on top.

The remote also has a pair of programmable buttons. Hold either one down for a couple of seconds, and it’ll map to whatever voice command you entered last through the Roku remote’s separate microphone button. The most obvious use for this is launching specific apps, but you could also program a search for your favorite TV genre or have a button that launches music directly in certain apps, such as Pandora. It’s a neat feature, though it’s inherently limited by what Roku let’s you do with voice control on its platform. (More on that shortly.)

Also worth noting: While the Roku Ultra still has a headphone jack on its remote and a pair of JBL earbuds for private listening, Best Buy will soon sell a special version of the Roku Streaming Stick+ that also has a headphone jack (and non-JBL earbuds), and it costs the same $60 as the standard Streaming Stick+ available elsewhere. You can also use the Roku mobile app to listen through headphones with any modern Roku player.

Same software (mostly)

If you were hoping for Roku to make big changes on the software front this year, the Ultra’s new Roku OS 9.2 software will be a letdown. Conversely, if you appreciate Roku’s app-first approach to navigation, you can rest easy knowing little has changed.

rokuultra2019home Jared Newman / IDG

A big grid of apps is still the main way you’ll get navigate on the Roku Ultra.

Roku does continue to dabble in content discovery. There’s still a “Featured Free” section on the home screen that surfaces ad-supported movies and shows from across different apps, along with a “My Feed” section that tracks new episodes and price drops for TV shows, movies, actors, and directors. With OS 9.2, Roku has also started curating search results pages for certain genres, such as comedy and horror, with subsections for new releases, free content, 4K titles, cheap rentals, and more.

rokutvcomedyzone Roku

“Zones” are a new feature in Roku OS 9.2, showing up when you search for certain genres.

For the most part, though, you’ll watch things on the Roku Ultra by browsing through individual apps, arranged in a grid on the home screen. The approach stands in increasingly sharp contrast with Amazon’s Fire TV devices, whose home screen provides quick access to recently-watched Amazon Prime videos, live TV channels from services like PlayStation Vue and Fire TV Recast, and recommendations from apps like Netflix and HBO Now. Apple TV has also made big leaps in this area, with its TV app providing recommendations, news, live sports, and a watchlist that works across apps.

Roku remains a laggard on voice control as well. While you can use the Ultra’s microphone button to search, launch apps, and control certain functions such as closed captioning, only a small number of apps support launching movies and shows directly by voice. Netflix and Amazon Prime aren’t on that list, and I even had trouble getting some supported apps, such as Hulu, to work properly. You can’t launch live TV channels by voice on Roku players either, and while Roku OS 9.2 adds support for playing local media files by voice in the Roku Media Player app, this only works with personal media files, not movies or shows that you’ve acquired through other sources, such as an over-the-air DVR.

For hands-free voice control, Roku does have the advantage of supporting both Alexa and Google Assistant speakers, but the implementation is cumbersome and limited. I couldn’t successfully set up Alexa with the new Roku Ultra, and with Google Assistant, I couldn’t get direct playback to work. Besides, having to say “on Roku” at the end of every Google Assistant or Alexa command is a mouthful.

rokuultra2019featuredfree Jared Newman / IDG

Helping you find free stuff to watch is still one of Roku’s strengths.

None of that stops me from recommending the Roku platform to streaming newcomers. The software remains easy to use, it supports a wide range of apps, and its selection of free videos via The Roku Channel and the “Featured Free” home screen section is nice to have. But if you’re spending upwards of $100 on a streaming player, you might want a device that doesn’t feel as stodgy, like the Apple TV 4K or the new Amazon Fire TV Cube.

That is, unless you really care about those buttons.

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Original author: Jared Newman
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Microsoft's next Windows 10 feature update gets a name: the Windows 10 November 2019 Update

Microsoft has made it official: Windows 10’s “19H2” release will now be officially known as the Windows 10 November 2019 Update.

Microsoft is giving itself plenty of runway with what’s also known as the version 1909 release. Typically, the version number incorporates the month and the year, so that “1909” would be assumed to ship in September. That’s the schedule Microsoft committed to, anyway. Microsoft hasn’t changed the November 2019 Update’s version number to accommodate the revised shipping date.

Microsoft hasn’t committed to an official rollout date for shipping the Windows 10 November 2019 Update to the millions of “stable” PCs who aren’t in the Insider testing program, either, though sometime in November is a safe bet.

Brandon LeBlanc, the senior program manager responsible for the Windows Insider Program, wrote that the Windows 10 build 18363.418 that is currently in the Release Preview ring is anticipated to be the final release. That’s just a notch higher than the current version of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, which is officially 18362.418. (“Because they use the same servicing content, the build revision number (the number that comes after the dot) will always match between May 2019 Update and November 2019 Update,” LeBlanc explained.)

In part, that’s because the November 2019 Update was revised to be something more akin to a service pack than a full-fledged feature update. We’ve listed the features of the 19H2 or November 2019 Update here, and compared them against the so-called 20H1 update, due in early 2020. Given the list of features that’s emerged in the Insider beta builds, Microsoft’s slating 20H1 to be a more traditional “feature” release. Microsoft also hasn’t said when to expect 20H1, or whether that will even take place during the usual March, 2020, or some later date.

In any event, while the Release Preview ring has already received the “final” November 2019 Update build, the Insider Slow ring will be migrated to the Windows 10 November 2019 build in the coming weeks, LeBlanc said. As they normally do, Insiders will have to choose whether to remain in the Slow or Release Preview rings—which will eventually migrate over to the 19H2 track. 

If you’re not in the Insider program and want to test out the 19H2/November 2019 Update, you’ll need to join the Windows 10 Insider program (Settings > Home > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program) and follow the instructions, which involves signing in with a Microsoft account and rebooting your machine to download and install the update. Existing Insiders can switch rings to join Release Preview. Remember, there’s also an option to opt out of Insider Previews once the official “release” flight is shipped to your PC.

windows insider program settings edited Mark Hachman / IDG

Joining the Insider program always involves the potential for buggy software, however, so it’s only for those who understand the risks. Remember that every PC will receive this update in a matter of weeks. 

Now, Microsoft has to hope that its November 2019 rollout goes smoothly. Microsoft was scheduled to roll out its Windows 10 October 2019 Update automatically starting October 9, 2018. Several days later, the update (also known as “version 1809”) was pulled as reports surfaced of user files being deleted during the installation process. Though Microsoft later said that just 1 percent or so of users were affected, the numbers would have worked out to hundreds of thousands of users.

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Original author: Mark Hachman
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PC market grows again in Q3, as Windows 7 nears end of life

The PC market grew in the third quarter of 2019 year over year, largely due to looming tariffs and the end of the road for Windows 7.

According to IDC, the PC market grew 3 percent to 70.4 million units. Gartner, which measures growth slightly differently, said that the PC market grew 1.1 percent to 68.1 million units. Gartner excludes tablets like iPads and alternative OS devices like Chromebooks from its tally; IDC does not.

Both firms said that Lenovo, HP, and Dell represented the top three PC makers worldwide. U.S. PC sales grew in the low single digits, IDC said, without specifying numbers. According to Gartner, U.S. PC sales fell by 0.3 percent, to 14.8 million PCs,

gartner pc sales Gartner

Lenovo maintained its spot as the leading vendor of PCs worldwide, according to Gartner.

Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said the Windows 10 refresh cycle contributed most to the uptick in PC sales, though that varied by region worldwide. IDC attributed demand in the commercial segment to the growth, motivated by looming trade tensions between the United States and China. Gartner disagreed that the trade war had any influence, however, and also said the Intel CPU shortage, which was a worry earlier in the year, had no meaningful effect.

“The Windows 10 refresh cycle continued to be the primary driver for growth across all regions, although the magnitude of the impact varied according to local market conditions and the stage of the refresh cycle,” Kitagawa said.

Both IDC and Gartner highlighted the end of life for Windows 7, which officially ends support in January 2020. IDC predicted the demand should accelerate. “With January 14, 2020 drawing nigh, the commercial market should be able to digest the extra inventory over the next several quarters,” Linn Huang, vice president for Devices and Displays research at IDC, said in a statement. “Supply constraints may loom in subsequent quarters, so excess may not be a bad position for channel inventory through the remainder of the year.”

Worldwide, the top three PC vendors (Lenovo, at 24.7 percent; HP, at 22.4 percent; and Dell, now at 16.6 percent of the market) all experienced strong growth, widening their lead over smaller vendors, Gartner reported. IDC said that Lenovo, HP and Dell have market shares of 24.6 percent, 23.8 percent, and 17.1 percent, respectively.

Apple experienced a poor quarter, declined 3.7 percent worldwide, according to Gartner, and 6.1 percent according to IDC.

In the U.S., the top three PC vendors differ. HP, Dell, and then Lenovo make up the top three, with Gartner reporting their market share at 29.6 percent, 26.7 percent, and 15.0 percent respectively. Both HP and Dell declined. Apple is fourth in the U.S. PC market, with a 4.1 percent share, with Microsoft fifth at 3.2 percent of the market. 

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Original author: Mark Hachman
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The Full Nerd ep. 102: Intel price cuts, Radeon RX 5500, Dune Pro vs. Mac Pro

Opinion

Good stuff gets cheaper The Full NerdIntel price cuts, Radeon RX 5500, Dune Pro vs Mac Pro, Q&A | The Full Nerd ep. 110

Intel price cuts, Radeon RX 5500, Dune Pro vs Mac Pro, Q&A | The Full Nerd ep. 110

Closed Captioning Closed captioning available on our YouTube channel

Today's show covers the recent CPU price cuts from Intel, AMD's new Radeon RX 5500, and our upcoming Dune Pro case build.

In this episode of The Full Nerd, Gordon Mah UngBrad ChacosAlaina Yee, and Adam Patrick Murray wade into battlegrounds, digging deep into CPU and GPU price wars before revealing a new PC-centric rival to the Mac Pro. Well, at least the Mac Pro case.

imageIntel Core i5-9600KF 6-core desktop CPU

We kick things off by discussing Intel’s recent processor price reductions. They’re significant in the case of the massively multi-core upcoming “Cascade-X” Core-X chips, and milder (but still welcome) in Intel’s graphics-less F-series Core CPUs. After that, Brad reveals what we know (and don’t know) about AMD’s just-announced Radeon RX 5500 series graphics cards, which are coming to prebuilt systems before DIY enthusiasts can pick them up.

Finally, we dig into the stylish Mac Pro-mimicking Dune Case that Alaina recently tore down, and then we built back up in our monstrous “truly Pro PC” build. And of course, we answer questions from live viewers before signing off.

You can witness it all in the video embedded above. You can also watch The Full Nerd episode 110 on YouTube (subscribe to the channel while you’re there!) or listen to it on Soundcloud if you prefer the audio alone. 

Speaking of audio, you can subscribe to The Full Nerd in iTunes (please leave a review if you enjoy the show). We’re also on StitcherGoogle Play, or you can point your favorite podcast-savvy RSS reader to: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:226190044/sounds.rss  

Have a PC- or gaming-related question? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll try to answer it in the next episode. You can also join the PC-related discussions and ask us questions on The Full Nerd’s Discord server. Finally, be sure to follow PCWorld on FacebookYouTube, and Twitch to watch future episodes live and pick our brains in real time! 

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Coupon Codes

Original author: PCWorld Staff
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Brazilian fintech Nubank has grown to 15 million users: CEO

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Nubank, a Brazilian FinTech startup, is pictured at the bank's headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian financial technology start-up Nubank now has 15 million clients, the firm’s chief executive said on Friday, a figure which underlines the rapid growth of the Sequoia Capital-backed venture in Latin America’s largest economy.

Nubank founder and CEO David Velez disclosed the figure, which marks a 25% increase from the total it revealed in August, at the Brazil Investment Forum in Sao Paulo.

Nubank, which also operates in Argentina and Mexico, has become a household name in parts of Brazil through its bright green, free-of-charge credit card. The company, whose investors also include China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd, offers digital savings accounts and personal loans.

In late July, the firm raised $400 million in a funding round led by U.S. investment firm TCV. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that the company, which was founded in 2013, was valued at more than $10 billion.

Reporting by Aluísio Alves; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Richard Chang

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Portugal cautious about risks posed by Facebook's Libra

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FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook Libra cryptocurrency logo is seen in front of displayed German flag in this illustration taken, September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s Secretary of State for Finance raised concerns about Facebook’s digital currency Libra on Friday, stating that it should not circulate until the risks it could pose for the financial system are addressed.

“It is clear from the outset that it is a high-risk phenomenon with systemic implications,” Ricardo Mourinho Felix said at a conference. “It is essential that no ‘stable currency’ project - like Libra - is launched until all concerns have been duly addressed.”

The European Union said on Tuesday it would propose a new law to cover cryptocurrency projects like Libra, saying they posed a risk to the wider financial system.

Felix highlighted that Portugal shares the concerns expressed by other European countries about Libra.

Unlike a regular cryptocurrency, Facebook has stated that Libra would be backed by a basket of financial assets, which, in principle, means it could avoid abrupt fluctuations in value - hence the name ‘stable currency’.

However, Felix pointed to the “risk that Libra could limit the reach of traditional monetary policy tools”, and “could have a significant effect on the policies which today promote the stability of the financial system”.

Reporting by Sergio Goncalves, Writing by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Louise Heavens

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Boeing partners with Porsche on electric flying car

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An urban air mobility vehicle concept in an image courtesy of Porsche. Courtesy Porsche/REUTERS

(Reuters) - U.S. planemaker Boeing Co said on Thursday it was working with Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) sports car brand, Porsche, to develop a concept electric flying vehicle capable of transporting people in urban settings.

Boeing is already competing with arch-rival Airbus SE and other companies to introduce small self-flying vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

Earlier this year, the planemaker conducted an inaugural test flight of an aerial car prototype that could accommodate two to four passengers and fly up to 50 miles.

The test flight was within months of Airbus showcasing a prototype of an autonomous passenger vehicle in partnership with Volkswagen’s premium brand, Audi, that has the ability to both fly and drive.

Porsche has been aiming to build flying cars that can be used as taxis and for ride-sharing purposes.

As part of the deal, Boeing and Porsche will analyze the market potential for premium aerial vehicles and their possible use in highly populated cities and metropolises, the companies said.

The partnership comes at a crucial time for both Volkswagen and Boeing.

The German carmaker is trying to build its brand image following a diesel emissions scandal, while Boeing has been struggling with its worst crisis since two fatal crashes of its 737 MAX planes led to a worldwide grounding of its best-selling jet.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Toyota unveils revamped hydrogen sedan to take on Tesla

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) unveiled a completely redesigned hydrogen-powered fuel cell sedan on Friday in its latest attempt to revive demand for the niche technology that it hopes will become mainstream.

Japan’s biggest automaker has been developing fuel-cell vehicles for more than two decades, but the technology has been eclipsed by the rapid rise of rival battery-powered electric vehicles promoted by the likes of Tesla Inc (TSLA.O).

Ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show starting on Oct. 24, Toyota unveiled a prototype of the new hydrogen sedan built on the same platform as its luxury Lexus brand’s LS coupe. The new Mirai model boasts longer driving range than its predecessor and completely redesigned fuel cell stack and hydrogen tanks, the company said.

“We wanted to make a car that people really want to buy, not just because it’s an eco car,” Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the new Mirai, said at the unveiling.

“We wanted something that’s fun to drive.”

Its sporty redesign with longer wheelbase and lower-slung chassis is a marked departure from the first-generation Mirai, which looks like a bulked-up Prius hybrid.

The new car also has a 30% improvement in driving range over the previous iteration’s approximately 700 kilometers (435 miles), according to the company.

Tanaka said the latest Mirai would cost less to make than its predecessor, because of a shift to mass production. The current model is mostly assembled by hand.

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Slideshow (2 Images)

Costing consumers about 5 million yen ($46,500) after subsidies in Japan, the original Mirai is one of three fuel cell cars available to consumers. Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) sells the Nexo, while Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) leases out the Clarity.

Toyota has sold fewer than 10,000 of the Mirai, a fuel cell sedan it touted as a game changer at its launch five years ago. By contrast, Tesla sold 25,000 of battery-powered Model S sedans in its first year and a half.

Toyota declined to disclose a price for the model and said it would be available from late next year in Japan, North America and Europe.

Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Mark Potter

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Itochu lifts stake in Chinese EV maker Singulato, may invest more: sources

BEIJING (Reuters) - Japan’s Itochu Corp has invested nearly $100 million in Chinese electric vehicle maker Singulato Motors to lift its stake to about 7% and plans to boost the holding if the startup meets certain conditions, two people familiar with the matter said.

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Itochu Corp is seen outside the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The Japanese trading house, which owned around 1% of Singulato last year, could pump an additional “few hundreds of millions of dollars” into Singulato to become its No. 2 shareholder, one of the people said.

But that plan is dependent on Singulato speeding up development of its first model, a fully electric sport-utility vehicle called the iS6, and making proper preparations for an IPO, the person added.

The iS6 had been slated for a launch earlier this year but has faced some delays, the source said without elaborating.

The investment is a shot in the arm for Singulato. While it is valued at $3.5 billion according to China’s science ministry and is one of the more high-profile EV startups in the world’s biggest auto market, Singulato is like many of its peers facing a much tougher funding environment.

Not only have investors been put off by setbacks to profitability for Tesla Inc as well as sliding sales at fellow Chinese EV startup Nio Inc, the sector is also grappling with government cuts to subsidies and plans to phase subsidies out altogether.

Sales of so-called new energy vehicles in China, which includes electric vehicles, contracted for a second straight month in August, due to the cuts to subsidies.

A Tokyo-based Itochu spokesman said the trading house had recently made an additional investment in Singulato, but declined to specify the amount except to say it was a minor investment.

Asked if Itochu has conditionally agreed to further hike its investment, he said there were no such plans and declined to comment further.

Singulato’s biggest shareholder is Shen Haiyin, its co-founder and chief executive, with a stake of about 29%. Its current No. 2 shareholder with 16% is a company that holds shares for Singulato employees.

Itochu said this year it had formed a partnership with New York-based ridesharing company Via Transportation Inc.

The two people familiar with the matter said Itochu and Singulato might cooperate in China to offer mobility services which may include Via.

The deal with Itochu follows an agreement in April for Singulato to purchase electric car technology from Toyota Motor Corp - one that allows Singulato to accelerate development of a planned mini EV, a second vehicle for the startup.

Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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NASA aims for first manned SpaceX mission in first-quarter 2020

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (Reuters) - SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon astronaut capsule will be ready for its first manned flight into orbit in the first quarter of next year provided “everything goes according to plan” in upcoming tests, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday.

The pronouncement of a revised time frame signaled NASA believes SpaceX is getting the Crew Dragon project back on track following an explosion during a ground test in April and technical challenges with its re-entry parachute system.

Bridenstine said successful development of the capsule was key to achieving NASA’s top priority - the resumed “launching of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil” for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

The NASA administrator spoke to reporters at the end of a visit to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, just outside Los Angeles, where chief executive Elon Musk led him on a tour of the sprawling manufacturing plant.

Their joint appearance by a giant glass-enclosed “clean room” where engineers were working on a Crew Dragon marked a show of unity following a rare public spat over delays in the project.

NASA and SpaceX had previously aimed to launch the Crew Dragon on an initial test flight carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019.

The revised time line hinges on a series of system tests that SpaceX hopes to conduct by year’s end, Bridenstine said.

These include a high-altitude test of an in-flight abort system designed to propel the crew capsule to safety in the event of a rocket failure on the way to orbit.

The schedule also includes at least 10 more mid-air “drop tests” to gauge the resilience and performance of parachutes used to slow the capsule’s descent into the ocean after it re-enters the atmosphere from space.

GET THE PARACHUTES RIGHT

“If everything goes according to plan, it would be the first quarter of next year,” Bridenstine said when asked how soon he the capsule would be ready to fly astronauts into orbit. He was quick to add that the new time line could slip again.

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (L) and SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk shake hands after a tour of SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, U.S. October 10, 2019. REUTERS/ Gene Blevins

“We are not going to take any undue risk,” he said, standing beside Musk and the two astronauts slated to fly aboard the Crew Dragon - Doug Hurley and Bob Benkoe.

Bridenstine also praised SpaceX for its “fail fast, then fix” approach to spacecraft development, an ethos he said that differed from the cultures of other NASA contractors.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is paying commercial launch companies SpaceX and Boeing Co (BA.N) $6.8 billion to build rocket-and-capsule systems enabling NASA to resume human space travel with U.S.-made hardware.

SpaceX has so far never flown humans into orbit, only cargo. But the company successfully launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in March.

Musk said overcoming problems with re-entry parachutes had proved especially challenging.

“It’s a pretty arduous engineering job to get the parachutes right,” Musk said, declaring that Crew Dragon’s parachutes will be at least twice as safe as those used during NASA’s Apollo moon missions.

He expected that “testing will be complete and hardware at the Cape (Canaveral) by the end of December.”

The top executive for Boeing’s rival Starliner program, John Mulholland, said on Wednesday that its own key test of an abort system was slated for Nov. 4, while its unpiloted orbital test flight was set for Dec. 17. Under that time frame, the first Starliner manned mission is all but certain to slip into 2020.

NASA is currently paying Russia about $80 million per seat for rides to the space station.

Bridenstine said the agency was “still buying seats” for ride-alongs aboard Russia’s Soyuz as an “insurance policy” against future delays in U.S. crew capsule development.

While providing few concrete details on their joint investigation into an explosion during a ground test of Crew Dragon’s abort thrusters in April, Musk said such setbacks were inevitable in rigorous testing of complex systems.

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Slideshow (7 Images)

Bridenstine’s visit came after he and Musk had clashed over the past two weeks, with the NASA chief chiding Musk on Twitter for celebrating a milestone on SpaceX’s deep-space Starship rocket while the Crew Dragon project remained delayed.

Bridenstine sought to bury the hatchet on Thursday, saying he was merely “signaling” to SpaceX and other NASA contractors that “we need more realism built in to our development time frames.”

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; additional reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; editing by Paul Tait, Rosalba O'Brien and Richard Pullin

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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About Terminal Madness

Terminal Madness started out as a Computer Bulletin Board, ( BBS ) back in the early 90's. Fascinated that one could get all the information they ever wanted "on line", for FREE, the "BBS" was named Terminal Madness.

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