Anime film ‘Belle’ highlights when parasocial relationships aren’t enough

For the past few decades it’s been de rigueur for science fiction stories to be set in virtual worlds, from the early neon-lined stylings of Tron to the hedonistic pop cultural temple of Ready Player One. The stories once treated these places like a fantasy world on par with Middle Earth or Hyrule, but as we’ve edged closer to them existing in reality they’ve gotten a lot more humdrum, maybe even ordinary. With this shift we’ve seen the real and virtual worlds increasingly collide, and it’s that interconnection between the two that forms the core of the new anime film Belle, arriving in US theaters in January.

Belle is the latest movie from Mamoru Hosoda, the director who brought us time-travel adventures like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Mirai. But he’s also known for Summer Wars, a movie that posited a world where everything is connected in the virtual sphere, not just for play but also work, finance and healthcare. Back in 2009, this seemed like a bit of a stretch, but as companies like Google, Apple and Amazon have expanded the concept has become eerily prescient. Now Hosoda is once again tackling the divide between the real and virtual worlds with Belle, a film that splits its time between rural Japan and the computerized world of “U.”

Belle is the story of Suzu Naito, a “country bumpkin” living alone with her dad and still dealing with the trauma of losing her mom several years before. When a friend sends her an invite to U she finds it to be an escape from her trauma, a place where she is beautiful and can sing. Her first performance quickly goes viral, with the clip spreading rapidly and her phone blowing up with notifications in a sappy Dear Evan Hansen sort of way. She becomes a sensation, but her newfound fame goes off the rails when one of her concerts is interrupted by a player known only as “The Dragon.” Suzu/Belle becomes intrigued by the Dragon and begins an investigation into his identity, even as self-appointed vigilantes are working to track and expel him from U.

Bell's account
Studio Chizu

The world and technology of U are interesting, with access gained via an app and a set of special earbuds. The earbuds can apparently overlay sight as well as sound, and they build a person’s avatar using their biometric data. It’s certainly a leap ahead of the bulky VR headsets seen in Ready Player One, or just the “theater of the imagination” that a lot of movies and TV employ, where the virtual as an actual “space” with rooms and buildings and so forth only exists in the minds of the user. Here, it’s more like entering the Metaverse of Persona 5, complete with avatars that reflect a person’s true self.

In U there’s no “if you die in the game you die in real life,” but the biggest threat is still treated as such: to be “unveiled” is to lose your anonymity and have your true form revealed to the world of U, upon which a user will literally fade away from the virtual arena. It’s weird to see this used as a plot hook when real-life social media is overly concerned with real names and verified accounts, but this is a fantasy story, after all.

Belle and the Dragon
Studio Chizu

As such, it takes influence from other fantasy works, most notably Disney’s classic animated feature Beauty and the Beast. Both main characters are named Belle, and the design and temperament of the Dragon is very similar to that of the Beast; the mix of animals blended into one hunched, brooding creature, the mysterious castle with a squad of cutesy servant-sidekicks. There’s even a damaged portrait over the fireplace mantle! After years of anime fans complaining about American films “stealing” from anime (Kimba the White Lion, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water and Perfect Blue), it’s funny to see an anime borrow so blatantly from the West. I can’t wait for the inevitable shot-by-shot comparison videos on YouTube; Belle even recreates the iconic ballroom dancing scene (notable at the time for its early use of CG).

There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about the animation in Belle, though it is certainly a gorgeous film. The world of U is shown as a city of sweeping towers populated by flying avatars. Animation allows the filmmakers to give each character a unique avatar, of whatever size or shape fits that person best. Suzu becomes a beautiful woman, but others are depicted as babies, fairies and cute animals. The Dragon stands out for being such a dark character, with bruises spread across his back like a fungus.

Belle goes missing

Where Belle really differentiates itself is how it melds our current internet reality with its future fantasy visions. In early depictions of virtual worlds they were always treated as a separate place that never interacted much with the real world, a “secret life” that users had so very different from their actual existence. As technology moves forward, we’ve largely found that to not be true; our virtual existence is dominated by social media and live-streaming and parasocial relationships, and all of these are generally accepted as part of our “real” lives these days.

So it is that social media is heavily entwined with spectacle in the world of U, with messages flying as fast and furious as their avatars fly through the computer-generated cities. It isn’t just a thing that “the kids” are into; the residents of U are seen to be an incredibly diverse mix of ages and races, as seen from their messages and videos. But there is still a sense that this space matters more to a particular generation: Context clues reveal that Suzu’s village is a victim of the demographic crisis in Japan, where the populace is aging up with not enough children being born to replace them. Suzu is very much alone a lot of the time in her village, with various chat rooms and the world of U serving as her one constant connection to other people.

Suzu and a friend
Studio Chizu

In the end, it will be the other people in her real life that will push her to do what she needs to do to save the Dragon.The fantasy elements take a back seat to the fact that there are real people behind each avatar, and just as the service creates a look for them based on their personality, so are their problems in U are just reflections of their real life situations. And in that case, it won’t be Belle who can save the day, but an ordinary girl named Suzu Naito.

The best gaming deals you can get for Black Friday

When you’re a gamer, you’ve always got an eye out for good deals on your favorite titles. For hardware and accessories it’s a bit trickier though — they don’t go on sale as often, and it’s hard to tell what will serve your needs best. However, we’ve found a few intriguing picks worth checking out this Black Friday, either because you’re in the market to upgrade your battle station, or you just want to try something new but not spend a lot of money while doing so.

8Bitdo Sn30 Pro+

Engadget

8Bitdo has a reputation for making comfortable, affordable game controllers, and we thought the Sn30 Pro+ was its best yet for the Nintendo Switch when it first came out. The wireless accessory has a design based on the iconic SNES controller with a plethora of buttons and handles that rival the comfort provided by Nintendo’s own Switch Pro controller. On top of that, it comes with a removable battery pack and it supports AA batteries as well. Today only, you can pick up the Sn30 Pro+ for only $40, or 20 percent off its normal price and a new record-low.

Buy Sn30 Pro+ at Amazon – $40

Razer Blade 15 Advanced

The Razer Blade is one of our favorite gaming laptops thanks to its slick design, array of customization options and strong performance. Today only, you can grab the 2020 Razer Blade 15 Advanced for $1,400, or $1,200 off its normal price. This model has a Core i7 processor, RTX 2070 Super Max-Q graphics, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and a 1080p 300Hz display.

Buy Blade 15 Advanced at Amazon – $1,400

Razer Huntsman Mini

Razer Huntsman Mini in white
Engadget / Kris Naudus

60 percent keyboards are all the rage now, and the Huntsman Mini is one of the best. That’s all thanks to features like its super quick opto-mechanical keys, braided USB-C cord and brilliant RGB lighting. It’s great for people who don’t have a lot of space at their workstation, as well as anyone else who’d like to slim down their gaming space. Right now you can add this to your desk for only $80, so it won’t take up a lot of your space or money.

Buy Razer Huntsman Mini at Amazon – $80Buy Razer Huntsman Mini at GameStop – $80

Corsair HS60 Haptic

Corsair's HS60 Haptic in arctic camo
Engadget / Kris Naudus

I wasn’t entirely sold on haptics at first, but the HS60 won me over. The vibration actually ended up being a big boon during the stress of the last year, and the large, comfortable cups meant I never needed to take it off. The only real drawback was that this is a wired set of cans — but for $90 it’s still a steal for a high-quality gaming headset.

Buy Corsair HS60 Haptic at Amazon – $90

Elgato Streamdeck

Elgato Stream Deck for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If you or someone who know wants to break into the game-streaming world, Elgato’s Streamdeck is one of those gadgets that can make it much easier to do so. It’s a small desktop controller with 15 LCD keys that you can customize to manage programs like OBS, Twitch and others. It makes multitasking while on stream much easier and it’ll make your entire setup feel more professional, too. The Streamdeck is on sale right now for $100, or $50 off its normal price.

Buy Streamdeck at Amazon – $100

Blue Yeti microphone

Blue Yeti for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Blue Microphones

Having a good microphone is essential if you’re going to live stream, and Blue’s Yeti is one of the best values out there. It’s a USB mic, so you can simply plug it into your setup and start using it. It also has a special setting that’s ideal for streaming. The mic’s on sale for $90, or only a couple dollars shy of its all-time low, and the Blue Yeti Nano is also on sale for $80.

Buy Blue Yeti at Amazon – $90Buy Blue Yeti Nano at Amazon – $80

Razer Wolverine Ultimate

Razer Wolverine Ultimate
Razer

The controller that comes with your Xbox is pretty good, but sometimes you might need a little more features from your gamepad. The Wolverine Ultimate may be wired, but it also has interchangeable thumbtacks and d-pads, so you can actually tweak the controller’s layout according to the games you play and your own personal preferences. If you’re serious about your gaming it’s a good investment, made even easier by a price drop to $100.

Buy Razer Wolverine Ultimate at Amazon – $100Buy Razer Wolverine Ultimate at GameStop – $100

Razer Kishi

Razer Kishi in black on table
Engadget / Nick Summers

Touchscreens are fine for casual games, but when you’re tackling something a little more hardcore like Fortnite the Kishi is just the thing you need. It adds d-pads and shoulder buttons to your gaming experience, and folds up nicely when not in use. Since it connects to your device directly via Lightning port or USB-C and not via Bluetooth you don’t have to worry about keeping it charged, though you do need to make sure you buy the right one for your device. Right now it’s an affordable $45, a 44 percent discount, while a bunch of other Razer peripherals are on sale, too.

Buy Razer Kishi at Amazon – $45

Oculus Quest 2 + $50 gift card

Oculus Quest 2 in white, played by Devindra Hardawar
Engadget / Devindra Hardawar

The high price of many headsets plus the need for a computer that can run the programs has kept VR out of a lot of people’s reach. The all-in-one Oculus Quest 2 only needs a phone to set up an account with, and can give you plenty of excellent VR experiences for only $299. This week it becomes a whole lot more tempting with the addition of a $50 gift card from Amazon, Best Buy and Target, which can be used toward any product you want, though we’d recommend the Oculus Link cable so you can connect your headset to a computer.

Buy Oculus Quest 2 at Amazon – $299Buy Oculus Quest 2 at Best Buy – $299Buy Oculus Quest 2 at Target – $299

Google Stadia

Google Stadia with phone
Engadget / Jessica Conditt

Google’s Stadia service has seen a lot of upsand downs since its launch, but it still has a lot of promise. Right now you can grab yourself a Stadia Premiere Edition for only $22 over at the Google Store. The first month of the service is free so it’s not a lot of cash to drop to try it out, and even if you decide it’s not your cup of tea you’re still the proud owner of a Chromecast Ultra (normally $20 on its own), as well as a comfortable gamepad that can be used for PC games as well.

Buy Stadia Premiere Edition at Google – $22

PlayStation Plus

PlayStation Plus
Engadget / Sony

If you like to play online multiplayer on your PS4 or PS5, a PlayStation Plus is non-negotiable, but even if you’d rather go solo a subscription can be a big bonus. You get cloud backup for your saves, discounts on games from the PlayStation store, built-in game assistance for select PS5 games. But the best part of all has to be the roster of free games doled out monthly — November has Knockout City, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning and First Class Trouble, while previous months have seen AAA titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Mortal Kombat X. Usually a yearly subscription is $60, but right now you can sign up (or extend an existing plan) for only $40.

Buy PlayStation Plus (1 year) at Amazon – $40

Nintendo Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
Nintendo

Toys that blend the real and virtual worlds are a dime a dozen lately, but this take on the legendary Mario Kart series is one that even adults can enjoy. You can build your own courses at home, and race against virtual opponents on the Switch. The normally high price point of $100 for a single cart has kept this out of a lot of gamers’ hands, but right now it’s a much friendlier $60 — so all you need to worry about having room for building your dream track.

Buy Home Circuit at Best Buy – $60Buy Home Circuit at Target – $60

Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure

Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure
Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

If you want to feel a bit better about the amount of time you spend gaming, consider adding the Ring Fit Adventure to your repertoire. The game has you exercising in order to progress through the story while the Switch’s Joy-Cons, attached to the provided leg straps and ring, track your movements. You might be surprised by how quickly you break a sweat while fighting fantasy creatures and exploring the game’s world. The ring Fit Adventure sold out numerous times over the past year or so — likely thanks to many trying to make working out at home more fun — and it’s an even better buy at this $54 sale price.

Buy Ring Fit Adventure at Amazon – $54

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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

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A bunch of robot vacuums and smart home gadgets are on sale for Black Friday

Black Friday typically presents lots of opportunities to smarten up your abode, with everything from connected bulbs to robot vacuums undergoing deep discounts for the holidays. We’ve already seen a few of these items go on sale as part of early Black Friday efforts, and we’ll definitely see more today and over the weekend. These devices include not just the aforementioned bulbs and robot vacuums but also sous vide machines, Instant Pots, Nest Hubs and more. To prevent you from sifting through all these sales yourself, we’ve done the hard work for you. Here are some of the best ones we’ve seen so far.

iRobot Roomba 694

iRobot Roomba 694
iRobot

One of our favorite robot vacuums, the iRobot Roomba 694, is now $95 off, which brings its price down to $180. It does a great job cleaning both hard and carpeted surfaces, plus the app is easy to use. It has a three-stage cleaning system plus dirt detect sensors that will prompt it to clean high-traffic spots of your home more thoroughly. It navigates obstacles really well too. It’ll even suggest an extra clean during high pollen or pet shedding season. The Roomba 694 is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa as well.

If you don’t mind spending more money, iRobot’s higher-end Roomba i3+ is on sale for $300 (down from $400). It’s a little more intelligent with personalized cleaning suggestions and it automatically recharges itself too. You can also get the i3+ with an automatic dirt disposal unit, where it’ll empty itself out so you don’t have to.

Buy Roomba 694 at Amazon – $179

Shark AI Self-Empty XL robot vacuum

Shark AI Robot Vacuum
Shark

The Shark AV2501 AI robot vacuum with the extra-large HEPA self-empty base is usually $650, but is now at an all-time low price of $450. Not only does it empty itself, but the base actually has a 60-day capacity. That means you can go two whole months before having to take it out. On top of that, the true HEPA filtration captures 99.97 percent of dust and allergens, it has LIDAR technology to accurately map out your home, and you can set up schedules, on-demand cleaning, UltraClean Mode and more via the app, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Buy Shark AV2501 at Amazon – $450

iRobot Roomba j7+

iRobot Roomba j7+
iRobot

iRobot’s latest vacuum, the Roomba j7+, has dropped to $649 at Wellbots when you use the code ENGADGET200 at checkout for $200 off. This is one of the higher-end robo-vacs the company makes and it has new AI-driven computer vision technology that can detect objects and move around them as it cleans. That means it’ll better avoid things like chairs and table legs, as well as unexpected obstacles like pet poop. It also comes with a clean base into which the robot will empty debris at the end of every cleaning job.

Buy Roomba j7+ at Wellbots – $649

Instant Pot Duo Plus

Instant Pot
Instant Pot

Black Friday is usually a great time for those looking to score a great deal on an Instant Pot, and this year is no different. Currently, the six-quart Instant Pot Duo Plus is half off, bringing it from $120 to just $60. It’s one we think works great for most people due to its simple design plus it has plenty of features. Not only is it an excellent pressure cooker, you can also use it for slow cooking, sautéing, cooking rice, making yogurt, steaming, sous vide cooking and sterilizing.

Other models are on sale too. The six-quart Duo Crisp is now $100 ($50 off) while the six-quart Pro is $80 ($50 off) and the eight-quart Pro Crisp is $170 ($80 off). The Duo Crisp has many of the same features as the Duo Plus, except it has an additional crisping lid that adds additional features such as broiling, dehydrating and air frying. The Pro adds a few extra features for advanced users, such as five programmable buttons for your own recipes, while the Pro Crisp has an additional air fryer lid.

Buy Instant Pot Duo Plus at Amazon – $60Buy Instant Pot Duo Crisp at Amazon – $100Buy Instant Pot Pro at Amazon – $80Buy Instant Pot Pro Crisp at Amazon – $170

Ninja Foodi 8 Quart 12-in-1 Deluxe XL pressure cooker

Ninja Foodi
Ninja

Another pressure cooker on sale is the Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL. The price has dropped from $250 to just $140, which is a 44 percent discount. The Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL has an 8 quart capacity plus a crisping air-frying technology built right in, so there’s no need to buy two separate appliances. It has 12 different functions: pressure cook, air fry, steam, slow cook, yogurt maker, sear, bake, roast, broil, dehydrate, sous vide and keep warm.

Buy Ninja Foodi 12-in-1 at Amazon – $140

August WiFi smart lock

August Smart Lock 4th gen
Engadget

August has dropped the price of its WiFi smart lock to $170. If you’d rather upgrade your deadbolt entirely however, then August’s WiFi Smart Lock is the better option. It’s down from $230 to just $180. It easily installs on any door and you can grant access to friends and family using the app. It has built-in WiFi so you don’t need an external WiFi hub, and it’ll work seamlessly with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. Features like Auto-Unlock and DoorSense bring peace of mind, instantly opening the door when you’re nearby and alerting you when it’s locked safely behind you. We praised it in our review for its ease-of-use and security features.

Buy WiFi smart lock at Amazon – $170

GE’s CYNC Full Color Direct Connect

CYNC Full Color Smart Bulbs
GE

CYNC’s full color direct connect smart bulbs are discounted for Black Friday: the 4-pack is down from $45 to $35, while the 2-pack is down from $24 to just $17. These light bulbs are great because all you need to do is screw them in and connect them directly to GE’s app; there’s no need for a separate WiFi hub. They can change to all kinds of different colors plus different color temperatures as well. The app lets you schedule the lights for certain times of day, and you can also use either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to control your lights.

Buy CYNC Direct Connect (4 pack) at Best Buy – $35Buy CYNC Direct Connect (2 pack) at Best Buy – $17

Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance A19 LED smart lights

Philips HUE bulbs
Philips

Philips’ Hue White & Color Ambiance A19 LED Starter Kit is down from $190 to $140 for Black Friday. This kit comes with three bulbs, a Hue Bridge to connect them to, plus an included dimmer switch just in case you prefer not to use your phone to control the lights. You can sync them with your movie, music or game for a custom mood lighting. The app also lets you schedule wake and sleep routines with the lights. Plus, you can control them with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit.

Philips is also selling a Bluetooth version of the A19 in a 3-pack for $100 (down from $135). They have the same color profiles and dimming capabilities, and you can connect them to your phone via Bluetooth for instant light control in one room. If you want the full set of smart lighting features however, you’ll still want the Hue bridge mentioned above. If you’re more interested in Hue light strips, a starter pack that includes the Hue bridge is 55 percent off and down to $50.

Buy Hue starter pack at Best Buy – $140Buy Hue smart lights (3 pack) at Amazon – $100Buy Hue light strip starter pack – $50

Google Nest Hub Max

Google Nest Hub Max
Engadget

Google’s Nest Hub Max was originally priced at $230 but is now $180. The Nest Hub Max is basically Google Assistant housed inside a 10-inch display. It works as a digital photo frame and you can also use it to watch YouTube videos and step-by-step cooking instructions. There’s a built-in camera which can be used for facial recognition so that each family member can access their own notes and calendar. You can also use it for video calls via Google Duo, Meet or Zoom. It’s especially useful if you have Nest devices in the house, as you can use it to check out Nest cams and control various other smart home products.

If you’d rather have a smart display without a camera, then consider Google’s 2nd-gen Nest Hub. It is also deeply discounted for Black Friday, with a 50 percent discount that drops it from $100 to $50. It has all of the features of the Nest Hub Max but without the camera, which makes it more suitable for more intimate settings like the bedroom. In fact, the 2nd-gen Nest Hub even has a sleep sensor, which you can use to figure out your sleeping patterns.

Buy Nest Hub Max at Best Buy – $180Buy Nest Hub (2nd gen) at Best Buy – $50

Google Nest Audio

Google Nest Audio
Engadget

Google’s Nest Audio is the company’s best smart speaker to-date, and it’s currently down from $100 to just $60. The Nest Audio is attractive, minimalist and best of all, it has really great audio quality. The sound is even better if you have two paired in stereo mode, and since the Nest Audio is so affordable right now, you could afford to get two for not much more than the original price. Like other Google Assistant speakers, the Nest Audio lets you set reminders, ask various questions and control your smart home.

If you don’t care that much about audio quality and size is important to you, Google’s second-generation Nest Mini is on sale now too. Down from $50, it’s 50 percent off at just $25. The tiny hockey-puck like speaker might not sound as good as the Nest Audio but the audio is actually decent for its size. Of course, the main reason to get it is for Google Assistant, which will answer all your queries, let you set reminders and calendar appointments, and control your smart home too.

Buy Nest Audio at Best Buy – $60Buy Nest Mini at Best Buy – $25

Google Nest WiFi router

Google Nest WiFi
Engadget

Say goodbye to WiFi dead zones with this Google Nest WiFi router 3-pack, which is currently on sale for just $249 (originally $349). This bundle includes one mesh router along with two access points, which is ideal for those with mid- to large-sized homes. Not only does it have a simple installation process, but each access point comes with a built-in smart speaker. This means that you don’t need to purchase an additional smart speaker if you don’t want to; each will have Google Assistant’s smarts baked right in. Plus, the mesh WiFi network will improve your home internet considerably, making it faster and more reliable.

Buy Nest WiFi (3 pack) at Best Buy – $249

Google Nest Cam Battery

Google Nest Cam Battery
Google

Google’s outdoor Nest Cam Battery is down from $180 to $150, for a total savings of $30. This security camera is meant to be used outdoors due to its weather resistance, though you can use it indoors too if you like. As its name suggests, it’s entirely battery-powered so it doesn’t need to be hardwired into your house. You can have back-and-forth conversations with whoever’s on the other end of the camera and if you have a Nest Aware subscription, you’ll get 24/7 live view recording as well. It’ll even notify you if it sees a person, animal, or vehicle.

Buy Nest Cam Battery at Best Buy – $150

Google Nest Learning Smart Thermostat

Google Nest Learning Thermostat
Google

Google’s top-of-the-line smart thermostat is down from $250 to just $180 for Black Friday. As its name suggests, the Nest Learning Smart Thermostat will learn your home system over time. From there, it’ll change the temperature to make your home more energy efficient. So if you’re usually out of the house between 9AM and 5PM for example, it’ll automatically turn down the thermostat during those times without you having to prompt it. Plus, the Nest Learning Smart Thermostat looks quite sleek as well due to its metal trim.

The more affordable smart thermostat from Google is also on sale right now. The Nest Smart Thermostat has dropped from $130 to just $100 for Black Friday. You can get it in a few different colors — Snow, Charcoal, Fog and Sand. It’s slimmer than the higher-end Nest Thermostat, and it has a touch-sensitive edge and a mirrored display that looks great on the wall. It also has plenty of smarts, with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa controls, plus an Eco mode that’ll keep your home at a specified temperature when you’re out of the house.

Buy Nest Learning Thermostat at Best Buy – $180Buy Nest Thermostat at Best Buy – $100

Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8
Engadget

The Echo Show 8 smart display is on sale for $90, or $40 off its normal rate. It earned a score of 87 from us for its attractive design, stellar audio quality and improved camera for video calls. This smart display has arguably the best sized display for anywhere in the home — its 8-inch screen could work well on nightstand, a kitchen counter, an entry table and many other places. Both the first- and second-gen Show 8s have discounted bundles that include a Blink Mini camera for only $5 extra, too.

If you prefer something a bit smaller, the Echo Show 5 has dropped to $45, or $40 off its normal price. This is the best Echo smart display if you want one as a smart alarm clock. We like its ambient light sensor, smart home controls and tap-to-snooze feature.

Buy Echo Show 8 (2nd gen) at Amazon – $90Buy Echo Show 5 (2nd gen) at Amazon – $45

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo 2020
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Amazon’s Echo smart speaker is on sale for $60 right now. We gave it a score of 89 for its solid audio quality, attractive design and inclusion of a 3.5mm audio jack. Out of the popular $100 smart speakers, we think the Echo has the best audio quality of them all, and you’ll only enhance the experience if you have two of them playing together in stereo mode.

For those more concerned about space than audio quality, the tiny Echo Dot has dropped to $30, and you can grab the Echo Dot with Clock for only $35. These are much better suited for small spaces like a home office or a nightstand. We gave the Dot a score of 88 for its good audio quality for the price, compact design and tap-to-snooze feature.

Buy Echo at Amazon – $60Buy Echo Dot at Amazon – $30Buy Echo Dot with Clock at Amazon – $35

Blink security cameras

Blink security cameras
Amazon / Blink

The Blink Indoor and Outdoor one-camera kits are on sale for $50 and $60, respectively. These cams are totally wireless, so you can place them almost anywhere. They supports 1080p recording, motion alerts, two-way audio and temperature monitoring, too. If you want something even more compact and don’t mind dealing with a wire, the Blink Mini is also on sale for only $20.

Buy Blink Indoor at Amazon – $50Buy Blink Outdoor at Amazon – $60Buy Blink Mini at Amazon – $20

Lenovo Smart Clocks

Lenovo Smart Clock
Engadget

Lenovo’s Smart Clock is a few years old now, which is probably why it’s so deeply discounted; it’s down from $80 to just $35. It’s still a really solid alarm clock with plenty of Google Assistant smarts. You can use it to check the weather, stream your favorite tunes and control your smart home too. You can use it to check out compatible Nest cams around the house. It also has plenty of clock features such as different clock faces and the ability to set custom schedules, alarms and timers. You can also just yell “Stop” to shut off the alarm in the morning. There’s a USB port in the back that you can use to charge your mobile devices too.

Alternatively, you can get the newer Lenovo Smart Clock 2, which has dropped from $90 to $70 for Black Friday. It has essentially the same features as its predecessor, but it now has a wireless charging dock attached. That means you can charge a couple of devices at the same time; one on the Qi charging pad and one via a USB cable.

For something a little more basic, the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is down from $50 to $30. It’s a much simpler version of the two other Lenovo Smart Clocks. Instead of an LCD display, all it shows are big LED numbers. But it still has built-in Google Assistant and it has a nightlight as well.

Buy Lenovo Smart Clock at Best Buy – $35Buy Lenovo Smart Clock 2 at Best Buy – $70Buy Smart Clock Essential at Best Buy – $30

Facebook Portals

Facebook Portal
Facebook

Facebook’s Portal has dropped from $180 to just $80, making it a really good deal. The Portal is a smart display that’s mostly focused on video calls. It has a smart camera tech that can actually pan and zoom to keep you in frame as you move around the room. Plus, it supports a wide array of video call platforms including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Zoom, Webex and GoToMeeting. It has a lot of video call features as well such as AR effects, fun backgrounds, storytime animations and more. Built-in Alexa also gives it smart home controls and step-by-step cooking instructions as well.

Other Facebook Portal devices are on sale as well. The Portal+ is down from $350 to $300 while the Portal Go has dropped from $200 to $150. The Portal+ has the largest screen at around 14 inches, making it more suitable for larger spaces like a living room or a big kitchen. The Portal Go, on the other hand, is meant to be portable and carried from room to room; it even has a handle on the back.

Buy Portal at Amazon – $80Buy Portal+ at Facebook – $300Buy Portal Go at Facebook – $150

TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

TP-Link Kasa Smart Mini Plug
TP-Link

The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini has dropped from $18 to $13. It’s one of our favorite smart plugs due to its ease of use. It can turn any electronic item into a smart one, be it a simple lamp or a humidifier. When plugged into the Kasa, the devices can be controlled easily using the app. You can turn them on and off, create schedules and set timers using the app. If you want to use voice command, it works with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant as well.

Buy Kasa Smart Plug Mini at Amazon – $13

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera Security bundle

Arlo Pro
Arlo

Arlo’s Pro 4 Spotlight Camera Security Bundle is down from $600 to $400 for Black Friday. It includes three wire-free cameras, all of which can be used either indoors or outdoors. They can capture 2K HDR footage in color night vision. There’s also a built-in spot light, two-way audio so you can communicate with anyone on the other side of the camera, plus a smart siren that can be triggered automatically or remotely. They’re battery-powered so you don’t need to hard-wire them in too, which is great. The Arlo Pro 4 cameras are compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant plus the IFTTT protocol.

Buy Arlo Pro 4 bundle at Best Buy – $400

Netgear Orbi AX4200 Tri-Band Mesh WiFi system

Netgear Orbi
Netgear

Netgear has a few items on sale for Black Friday this year. One is its Orbi AX4200 Tri-Band Mesh WiFi System, which is down from $750 to $650. The company says it’ll cover up to 7,500 square feet with reliable WiFi. This bundle comes with three different Orbi units along with a built-in cable modem. It’s compatible with WiFi 6 and Netgear promises speeds of up to 4.2Gbps over 40 devices. The company is also offering the system in a pack with one router and three satellites for $550 (down from $650), which will cover up to 10,000 square feet instead.

Buy Orbi AX4200 (modem bundle) at Netgear – $650Buy Orbi AX400 (router + 3 satellites) at Netgear – $550

Eero 6 WiFi system

Eero 6 WiFi router
eero LLC

The Eero 6 dual-band mesh WiFi system is down to $77, or 40 percent off its normal price. One node can cover up to 1,500 square feet and it supports WiFi 6. The Eero Pro 6 is also on sale and it’s a bit more advanced than the standard 6: it’s a tri-band system that supports WiFi 6 and covers up to 2,000 square feet with just one node.

Buy Eero 6 at Amazon – $77Buy Eero Pro 6 at Amazon – $171

Breville Joule Sous Vide White

Breville Joule
Breville

The Breville Joule is one of our favorite sous vide cookers and its price has dropped by 20 percent; the white version is now $160 while the stainless steel option is $200. Sous vide cookers are wonderful because they’re able to cook foods at precise temperatures. This way you can get perfectly done meats every time, no guesswork required. The Joule is particularly impressive because it’s small, sleek and it fits perfectly inside the kitchen drawer. It works with WiFi and Bluetooth, and you can use the app to control the temperature from anywhere in the home.

Buy Joule (white) at Amazon – $160Buy Joule (stainless steel) at Amazon – $200

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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

British Idiot Unfortunately Granted Position of Power Says Doctor Who's Female Doctor Makes Men Do Crime

If there’s one thing we’ve come to learn, it’s that you cannot trust the British Government to get anything right about popular culture (or anything else, really). But the latest bit of genre farce from the halls of Westminster in the UK might just be taking the biscuit for its most ludicrous entry into the culture…

Read more…

The best deals on microSD cards, SSDs and other storage gadgets for Black Friday

Your friends and family may not have microSD cards and portable hard drives on their wish lists, but they are some of the most useful gadgets you can give someone. With so much of our lives stored on our devices, anyone could use a little more digital space for photos, documents, games and more. Black Friday has brought a ton of sales on storage devices, knocking hundreds off some of the most expensive models and bringing even the most budget-friendly accessories down to dirt-cheap prices. We gathered the best deals we could find here so you don’t have to go searching for them.

Crucial MX500

One of our favorite SSDs, the Crucial MX500, is on sale for $85, or just a few dollars more than its record-low price. It’s a standard 2.5-inch drive that works with both laptops and desktops, making it a good option if you need more space or just want to upgrade from a slow HDD. It also has AES-256 bit hardware encryption and integrated power loss immunity.

Buy Crucial MX500 (1TB) at Amazon – $85

Samsung EVO Select microSD

Samsung’s EVO Select microSDXC card in 128GB is down to $16, or 20 percent off its normal price. This is the latest model and while you can find microSD cards for less, EVO is a reliable brand and you’re getting a full-sized adapter with this one.

Buy EVO Select microSD (128GB) at Amazon – $16

Patriot Viper VP4300

Patriot Viper VP4300
Patriot

Patriot’s Viper VP4300 internal SSD in 2TB is 14 percent off right now, knocking it down to $370. This is our favorite SSD for the PS5 thanks to its sequential read speeds of 7,400MB/s and preinstalled heatsink.

Buy Patriot Viper VP4300 (2TB) at Amazon – $370

Samsung T7 & T7 Touch

Samsung T7 Touch SSD in black and silver against a white background.
Samsung

The Samsung T7 SSD in 1TB is down to a record low of $110, which is 35 percent off and the best price we’ve seen. You can also get the 1TB T7 Touch with a built-in fingerprint reader for 21 percent off, or $150. It has reads speeds up to 1,050 MB/s and write speeds up to 1,000 MB/s, plus it has a shock-resistant unibody and support for Dynamic Thermal Guard to control heat levels.

Buy Samsung T7 (1TB) at Amazon – $110Buy Samsung T7 Touch (1TB) at Amazon – $150

Samsung 980 Pro SSD

Samsung 980 Pro
Samsung

Samsung’s 980 Pro is one of the best internal SSDs you can get right now and it’s on sale for $170. It has sequential read speeds up to 7,000MB/s and it’ll work with the PS5 as long as you have a heatsink attached.

Buy Samsung 980 Pro SSD at Amazon – $170

SanDisk Extreme SSD

SanDisk Extreme PRO SSD
SanDisk / Weinberg-Clark Photography

SanDisk’s tough and tiny Extreme portable SSD in 1TB is half off for Black Friday, bringing it down to $120. This model remains a bit more expensive than others, but you’re paying for added physical protections. Not only is it small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but it’s also IP55 water- and dust-resistant and it can withstand drops from up to two meters. It also has password protection and 256‐bit AES hardware encryption.

Buy SanDisk Extreme (1TB) SSD at Amazon – $120

PNY XLR8 CS3040

PNY XLR8 CS3040
PNY

PNY’s XLR8 CS3040 SSD in 1TB is 31 percent off, bringing it down to a record low of $125. It has sequential read speeds up to 5,600MB/s, and while it’s compatible with the PS5, you will need to add your own cooling solution.

Buy PNY XLR8 CS3040 (1TB) at Amazon – $125

Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus

Sabrent Rocket Gen4 PCIe SSD
Sabrent

Sabrent’s Rocket 4 Plus internal SSD has dropped to $160. In addition to already being more affordable than many competitors, it provides read speeds up to 7,000 MB/s and write speeds up to 5,300 MB/s when connected to a PCIe Gen4 motherboard.

Buy Rocket 4 Plus at Amazon – $160

Crucial P5

Crucial P5 1TB 3D NAND NVMe Internal SSD
Crucial

Crucial’s P5 NAND NVMe SSD in 1TB is on sale for $145 right now, or 19 percent off its regular rate. This drive can reach sequential read speeds of up to 3,400MB/s and its M.2 format makes it a good option for both desktop and laptop users.

Buy Crucial P5 (1TB) at Amazon – $145

Crucial X6

Crucial X6 portable SSD
Crucial

The Crucial X6 portable drive in 1TB is on sale for $80, or 38 percent off its normal price. We like it for its fast 540 MB/s read speeds, durable design that’s shock, drop, vibration and temperature resistant and its compatibility with a wide range of devices — including the PS5.

Buy Crucial X6 (1TB) at Amazon – $80

Lexar Professional SD

Lexar Professional 2000x SDXC card
Lexar

Lexar’s Professional SD cards are on sale for $60 for a 64GB card and $100 for a 128GB card. These are good options for photographers and videographers and most capacities have been discounted right now, so you should be able to find precisely the right model you need.

Buy Professional 2000x (64GB) at Amazon – $100Buy Professional 2000x (128GB) at Amazon – $100

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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

Tile trackers are up to 30 percent off in an Amazon one-day sale

Tile trackers are among the many, many products that are on sale this Black Friday, and some of the bundles have hit all-time-low prices. The Performance Pack, which includes one Tile Pro and one Tile Slim (the credit-card sized one), has dropped from $60 to $42.

Buy Tile Performance Pack at Amazon – $42

The Pro Essentials bundle is also currently at the lowest price we’ve seen for it. For $70 (regularly $100), you’ll get two Tile Pros, a Tile Slim and a Tile Sticker.

Buy Tile Pro Essentials at Amazon – $70

It’s worth noting that the packs include the 2020 versions of the products, not the latest, more powerful versions Tile announced in October. The 2020 Sticker has a 150-foot range. Slim has a 200-foot range, and Pro has double that. Sticker and Slim are waterproof, and Pro is water resistant (and has the loudest ring). Each has a three-year battery life, though the Pro’s battery is replaceable.

Some of the latest Tiles are on sale too. A two-pack of the 2022 Tile Mate is down from $48 to $35, while you can save $15 on a two-pack of the 2022 Tile Sticker. That bundle is currently $40.

Tile devices are Bluetooth trackers designed to help you find misplaced items. There’s a crowdsourcing function that lets Tile other users ping the location of a tracker that’s out of your own Bluetooth range, a setup that’s become more commonplace in other trackers, like Apple AirTags.

If you’re interested in picking up these products at these prices, you might need to move swiftly. These are one-day-only deals.

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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

Amazon knocks 21 percent off a GoPro Hero 10 Black bundle for today only

We saw GoPro’s Hero 10 Black drop in price on Amazon earlier this month, but for Black Friday, you can get the action cam with a number of accessories for less. The bundle is $450, the same price as the camera alone was at the beginning of November, but this time you’re getting the Hero 10 Black along with an extra battery, a battery charger and a camera sleeve with a lanyard. This is a good deal if you don’t want to bother with a GoPro subscription — the company has its own bundles available for even less, but all of them include a one-year Go Pro subscription.

Buy Hero 10 Black bundle at Amazon – $450

The Hero 10 Black doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, but it has GoPro’s new GP2 processor, which makes significant improvements. Not only does it double speeds, but it also enables features like HyperSmooth 4.0, which stabilizes footage, tone mapping, noise reduction and a 5.3K maximum resolution at up to 60fps. It can also shoot in 4K at 120fps and 2.7K at 240fps. Like the previous model, the Hero 10 Black has a front screen to make it easier for you to shoot video of yourself, and it supports new horizon leveling option and faster navigation.

We knocked the Hero 10 Black for its higher price tag when compared to the Hero 9 Black, but more seriously, the battery life has taken a hit thanks in part to all of the new features the camera supports. In our testing, the Hero 10 Black lasted about one hour and 15 minutes when shooting video at 4K/30fps, but the previous model lasted a full half hour more than that. If you opt for this bundle, though, you’ll get a second battery and that will come in handy if you’re shooting tons of video in one sitting.

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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