The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system in the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 isn't all that new, itself. The system, with its 8.4-inch touch screen, was first introduced in 2011 and at the time was the largest touch screen on the market, pre-Tesla Model S and its massive 17-inch in-dash display. But even though it's a bit long in the tooth by tech standards (though updated by a recent software refresh), the Uconnect 8.4AN system in the 2015 Chrysler 200C that we tested (and that comes as part of the $1,395 Navigation and Sound Group option) is still one of the best available and our Editors' Choice, thanks to its large screen, intuitive interface, and useful features.
The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system makes good use of its ample screen by keeping the display uncluttered. Arrayed along the bottom are small icons for the seven main functions: Radio, Menu, Controls, Climate, Navigation, Phone, and Apps, while at the top are even smaller tiles for inside and outside temperature, audio and navigation info, and time.
Press one of the function icons at the bottom and the interface for that function takes over the center portion of the screen, allowing the features to be discerned and accessed with only a glance. For example, when the navigation function is being used, the center of the screen displays a various features as large icons, a map or info such as lane guidance. Even the app screen, the most cluttered of the menus, is logically laid out. The only screen that seems a bit overwhelming is the Settings submenu of the Controls screen, which presents a staggering list of choices that are best scrolled through while parked.
The in-dash display is complemented by an almost-as-large 7-inch LCD instrument panel (IP) in front of the driver that provides pertinent info from upcoming nav maneuvers to driver assistance status. The IP display is controlled by steering wheel buttons that, unlike the touch screen, take time to get used to and can distract from the road ahead.
In addition to the simplicity and intuitiveness of the Uconnect 8.4AN interface, the 2015 200C (like all Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles) has one of the best voice recognition systems on the market. While several automakers claim "one-shot" destination VR entry for navigation (the ability to say the building number, street name, city, and state all at once rather than in individual segments) Chrysler vehicles are one of the few that can actually consistently accomplish this.
Embedded and Brought-in Connectivity
The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system in the 200C comes with a 12-month trial of the Uconnect Advantage service, Chrysler's brand of embedded connectivity (a subscription costs $14.99 a month after the 12-month trial). Uconnect Advantage includes traditional telematics services like automatic crash notification, emergency assistance, stolen-vehicle location, plus a companion smartphone app that allows remote features such as door lock/unlock and engine starting. However, it only supports one app: Yelp for local search.
But as part of the free Uconnect Access Via Mobile, the system is compatible with four apps for streaming music and other content: Aha, Pandora, Slacker, and iHeartRadio. These use a Bluetooth- or USB-connected phone—and the data plan on the device—for access to the cloud instead the car's embedded 3G modem. Through the modem, an owner can also choose to add Wi-Fi hot spot capability to the car for $9.99 a day, $19.99 a week, or $34.99 a month.
While I've never seen much need for this feature, or paying for data when I already have it on my phone, it came in useful when I was test-driving the Chrysler 200. I had family traveling in Europe, and was looking for a Starbucks so that I could connect my iPhone to Wi-Fi to use the Skype app to call them. I then realized that I could connect my phone to the 200's Uconnect Wi-Fi system to make the call. I didn't even have to pull over to have the conversation, since the call was routed through the car's Bluetooth hands-free system. This points to another Chrysler technology advantage: From initial device pairing to its long list of features, the automaker's Bluetooth phone system has for years been one of the best.
The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system's combination of a touch screen and semi-configurable IP display is similar in some ways to the ill-fated MyFord Touch that's available on the Fusion, a strong competitor to the 200 in the midsize sedan segment. But, where MyFord Touch can be confusing and caused backlash from consumers and the press, the Uconnect 8.4 system is a rare example of simplicity and intuitiveness in infotainment. And with technology becoming a bigger selling point, the Editors' Choice Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system could tip help the scales for some buyers.
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If you have a business—or plan on starting a business—you'll need a Web presence so that potential customers can find your services online. To do that, you'll need to invest in a Web hosting company like GoDaddy (starting at $6.99 per month, or $3.49 per month with an annual commitment) that'll provide the foundation for your website. GoDaddy has flexible website creation tools, WordPress hosting/management, and surprisingly helpful customer service representatives, but its all-around package lacks the depth found in Arvixe, PCMag's Editors' Choice for Web hosting. Setting up my basic Linux-based GoDaddy site (Windows hosting is also available) complete with website-building software and e-commerce store cost $33.86, which is on the high side among services I've reviewed.
Shared Web Hosting Packages
GoDaddy, like 1&1 and Arvixe, charges a monthly fee for its hosting services, but it reduces the price if you commit to a multi-month or annual package. Unfortunately, GoDaddy requires you to sign up for its pricier Deluxe or Ultimate plans (starting at $8.99 and $14.99, respectively) for the option to pay for Web hosting on a month-to-month basis (the basic Economy requires you to sign up for a minimum of three months). This may have not have much (if any) impact on businesses, but a cash-strapped blogger may not appreciate GoDaddy's lack of a single month option in its Economy package. In that regard, Arvixe (starting at $7 per month) is a better option.
The Economy shared hosting package (which places your website on servers with other websites) includes a free domain name (in the form of yoursite.com) that you can keep as long as you use GoDaddy, 100GB of storage, the ability to host one website, unlimited bandwidth, 100 email addresses, and 200 apps. The Deluxe plan (starting at $8.99 per month, or $4.49 per month with an annual commitment) builds upon the Economy package by adding unlimited storage, unlimited website hosting, and 500 email addresses. The Ultimate package (starting at $14.99 per month, or $7.49 per month with an annual commitment) adds a premium DNS management tool, 1,000 email addresses, and a one-year SSL Certificate.
Dedicated Server Plans
GoDaddy's Economy (starting at $99.99 per month, or $79.99 per month with a two-year commitment), Deluxe (starting at $199 per month, or $159 per month with a two-year commitment), and Premium (starting at $299 per month, or $239 per month with a two-year commitment) plans offer more server power than shared hosting, and they are recommended for highly trafficked websites.
Those dedicated servers come in a variety of CPU, RAM, RAID, and storage configurations. GoDaddy's most-powerful dedicated server starts at a relatively low $299 (four-core Intel i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, two 2TB hard drives), but after you add RAID, Control Panel, and other features, the total cost quickly approaches those of 1&1 and Arvixe's dedicated servers. The highest-end 1&1 dedicated server starts at $599 per month (dual 2.1 GHz, six-core AMD Opteron 6272 CPUs, 64GB of RAM, 2,400GB HDD, RAID 6 alignment). Arvixe's high-end dedicated servers start at $719 (dual 2 GHz Intel Xeon CPUs, 32GB of RAM, four 240GB SSDs, Raid 10 alignment). GoDaddy has a 45-day money back guarantee for annual plans, but Arvixe one-ups it with an impressive 60-day money back guarantee. Read GoDaddy's terms of service for full details.
Setting Up a GoDaddy Hosted Site
GoDaddy's flexible Website Builder is an excellent site-building tool. I found it incredibly easy to add forms, social media links, Google Maps, slideshows, and other items to my site (superfuntechgo.com) by dragging them around the template. GoDaddy's Website Builder produced a far more attractive site than the competition.
Unfortunately, GoDaddy's WebsiteBuilder isn't free; you must shell out an extra $1 per month to use the tool. Granted, that's not a lot of money, but it's extra cash out of your pocket. 1&1 and Arvixe include their site tools for free.
GoDaddy has dozens of apps in its Installatron library that can be used to improve your website, including Homefinder, PayPal, and Yelp. GoDaddy also offers WordPress-centric hosting starting at $1 per month. Signing up for it has its advantages; GoDaddy has thousands of themes and plug-ins, nightly backups, and automatic WordPress software updates.
If you've ever wondered if your Call of Duty: Black Ops opponents are really that much faster than you or if something else is preventing you from getting in that all-important first shot, it's entirely possible that your monitor or HDTV is your real enemy. Today's monitors, HDTVs, and projectors suffer from a malady known as input lag, which is best described as the amount of time it takes for a display to react to a command from an input device such as a game controller. For example, if you're using a monitor with a high input lag, you may notice a delay between the time you pull the trigger and the time your on-screen gun actually fires. When fractions of a second count, this can be the difference between life and death for hardcore gamers. That's where the Leo Bodnar Video Signal Lag Tester ($114.74) comes in.
Here at PC Labs, we recently started measuring input lag of the monitors, HDTV, and gaming projectors we review using the Video Signal Lag Tester. Designed by Leo Bodnar Electronics, a small electronics manufacturer based in Northamptonshire, England, it's a relatively affordable standalone device that uses a photoelectric sensor to measure signal lag. In a nutshell, the tester sends signals to the monitor, HDTV, or projector via an HDMI cable, and the sensor measures the time it takes for the display to register the signal.
The Basics of Input Lag
Input lag is measured in milliseconds and should not be confused with pixel response, which is also measured in milliseconds (pixel response is the amount of time it takes for a pixel to change, either from black to white or from gray to gray). Slow lag times can be caused by a variety of things, including the monitor's signal processing, the graphics card's settings, a slow computer, a faulty controller, and the game itself. Once you determine there is significant lag, you can take steps to reduce it by upgrading your PC, tweaking the GPU, and dialing back game settings, such as anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, texture quality, and resolution, but the display will always introduce some level of input lag.
To help reduce input lag, many monitor and HDTV manufacturers have included a preset Game mode that shuts down most of the digital processing going on behind the scenes (noise-reduction and video-smoothing settings, for example). In most cases, Game mode does indeed lower the lag time, but picture quality usually takes a hit and may display artifacts like blurring and jaggies (jagged edges instead of smooth lines).
There are several ways to measure input lag; one method involves using a reference CRT with no known lag, a stopwatch, a PC with dual video outputs, and a high-speed camera. The idea is to send a signal to the reference screen and the screen being tested and take pictures to see how long it takes each monitor to process the incoming signal. Another method requires an oscilloscope, which can range in price from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on features like maximum bandwidth and sample rates. In our case, we decided to keep it simple with the Leo Bodnar Lag Tester.
Design and Features
The tester is slightly larger
than a deck of playing cards. It measures 1.0 by 3.0 by 4.5 inches (HWD) and has a red and black plastic housing. There are HDMI and mini-USB ports on one end, a yellow button on the top, and the aforementioned photo sensor on the bottom. Also on the bottom is a compartment for the two included AA batteries that power the tester; you can also use the mini USB port to supply power. There are no DisplayPort or VGA outputs, but you can use an HDMI-to-DVI cable if your monitor does not have an HDMI input. The tester supports only one output resolution, which by default is 1080p with a 60Hz refresh rate. If you want to test at 720p, you have to specify that when ordering, or you can send in your existing tester to have it reprogrammed. As of now, you can't have it both ways.
The Lag Tester is easy to use. Simply plug an HDMI cable into the tester and connect it to your HDTV or monitor, or gaming projector. Press the yellow button and wait for the screen to display three white bars and a timer. Hold the tester up to the middle bar with the sensor positioned over the center of the bar and wait for the lag time to be displayed. You'll get different readings from each of the three bars because the screen is refreshed from top to bottom, so you can expect a faster time from the top bar and a slower time from the bottom. The manufacturer recommends using the middle bar for an average result, which is what we do.
If your gaming skills are as sharp as ever, but you still can't keep pace with the competition, it may be time to add an input-lag monitor like the Leo Bodnar Video Signal Lag Tester to your arsenal. At around $115 (plus shipping), the lag tester may not make sense for the average consumer who may only use it a couple of times, but when you see as many HDTVs, monitors, and projectors as we do in PC Labs, it's a relative bargain.
Yahoo Aviate Launcher (free) is an Android app designed to simplify your phone and organize your apps. It's well designed to be dead simple at first glance, and the more you explore it, the more features you'll find. It's a great launcher app for anyone looking to simplify their Android experience.
With Yahoo Aviate is installed and activated, you're greeted with a new and simple home screen with ten app icons at the bottom.
You can change the set of home screen icons, but be careful when you do because Aviate won't prevent you from loading duplicates. You don't have to fill all ten slots, which is nice if you really want to keep your home screen simple.
Swiping once right to left brings up App Collections, or themed sets of apps, which Activate creates for you. These include apps for productivity, entertainment, music, social networking, and so forth. At the bottom of this screen is an option to create your own App Collection. You can change the order of Collections by pressing and holding one, and then dragging and dropping it.
One more right-left swipe brings you to a page of all your apps, alphabetized. I don't know why it brings me great joy to see this page (maybe it's just in my organized nature), but it does. A vertical list of letters on the right lets you jump quickly to that entry in the list of apps. Hit I, for example, to quickly get to your Instagram app.
Swiping in the other direction (left to right) from the home page brings you to a Space. Spaces are context-sensitive screens of apps and widgets. For example, you can have a screen for Work, which might have a shortcut button to draft an email, a list of your productivity apps such as Mailbox, and perhaps a widget for the task-management app Any.do. Different Spaces surface based on where you are or what time of day it is.
For example, for the Work Space, you start by setting your office location. Aviate automatically pulls up a traffic report when you're on your way to work. A shortcut to your Work space remains on the home screen while you and your phone and physically at the office. That works well for people who work in an office during regular hours, but it's less ideal for people who don't always work from the same location or work off hours.
Another Space that's handy is simply called Today, and it's preloaded with a widget listing upcoming calendar events, a weather summary, and news headlines.
One shortcut that some Android fans take issue with is swiping up to reach Favorite People, or shortcuts to people whom you contact frequently. There are two problems with it. First, vertical swiping gestures are not customary on Android, and second, you must list at least four contacts. You can't pick two or three or even one. It has to be four or more.
Also in the notes for Aviate, Android warns that Android +4.0 is recommended for the best Listening Space, one of the Spaces that supports your music, and that Samsung Galaxy users should upgrade to 4.3. Be forewarned. You might experience crashes and other instabilities if you don't.
One great features is that if you have your Android phone set to another language, you can use Aviate in that language, too. In addition to English, the app supports French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Bahasa, and Russian.
All in all, I love Yahoo Aviate Launcher. It's a wonderful launcher app that simplifies the Android experience. It's ideal for anyone who doesn't want to spend huge amounts of time customizing their phone manually.
The Virgin Mobile Supreme is a fine smartphone, but at 5 inches, it barely qualifies as a phablet by today's standards. Virgin Mobile subscribers looking for a bit more screen should turn their attention towards the HTC Desire 816, a 5.5-inch midrange Android phablet. It draws on the strengths of HTC's flagship One line, pairing a high-quality LCD with excellent front-facing speakers for a superior media experience. Granted, it's not the fastest or sharpest phone on block, but it closely approximates the design and features of handsets costing more than twice as much. The Desire 816 is an affordable, modern Android phablet that offers tremendous value at $299.99 (unsubsidized) and earns our Editors' Choice award on Virgin Mobile.
Design, Features, and Call Quality
From behind, the Desire 816's glossy plastic and rounded edges are reminiscent of the Apple iPhone 5c, while the front resembles HTC's One line with embedded BoomSound speakers on the top and bottom. It's not poorly built or cheap feeling by any means, but the all-plastic build lacks that same luxurious quality of HTC's beautiful aluminum unibody devices.
Size is a given, but the Desire 816 is pleasantly slim and light at 6.17 by 3.1 by 0.31 inches (HWD) and 5.82 ounces. The rounded, matte plastic edges feel comfortable to hold, but this is definitely a palm stretcher and pocket buster. Volume and Power buttons are on the left edge and far too high up—I had to adjust my grip and awkwardly stretch my middle finger or thumb to reach any of the buttons. HTC doesn't include the useful tap-to-wake gestures found on the One line, either, making it more of a nuisance.
The 5.5-inch, 720p LCD won't win any sharpness awards, but this is clearly a high-quality panel that will look good enough for most at 267ppi. The screen has a near-180-degree viewing angle, gets bright enough for outdoor use, and reproduces natural-looking colors. The BoomSound speakers aren't quite as loud as those on the One (M8), but they're still a big upgrade from typical smartphone speakers, especially in this price range. The speakers coupled with the expansive display make for one of the most enjoyable mobile media experiences since the HTC One Max.
The Desire 816 connects to Sprint's 3G CDMA network and 4G LTE network, including the faster tri-band Spark frequencies. In midtown Manhattan, I saw download speeds of 6-10Mbps and upload speeds of 5-8Mbps, which is on the slow side for LTE, but not unbearable. Call quality was about average in my tests, with strong performance from the earpiece, but weak transmissions through the mic. Voices came through the earpiece loud and clear with volume to spare, while my voice sounded muted and garbled at times. Noise cancellation worked well in my tests, but at the expense of voice quality—in louder environments, transmissions through the mic sounded overly digitized.
Also onboard are dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC radios. The Desire 816 easily paired with an Era by Jawbone Bluetooth headset.
Performance and Android
The Desire 816 is powered by a quad-core, 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with 1.5GB RAM. It's a setup we're all too familiar with at this point—it's featured in a whole slew of budget-friendly devices like the Motorola Moto G and Huawei Ascend Mate2. Just about everything runs smoothly, with the exception of more graphically taxing games like Asphalt 8, which is playable, but prone to jerkiness. For everyday tasks like Web browsing, media playback, or casual games like Temple Run, the Desire 816 has more than enough power.
HTC's Sense 6 skin runs atop Android 4.4.2 and functions nearly identically to what we've seen on the One (M8). That means BlinkFeed, Zoe, and HTC's custom camera, gallery, and music apps. HTC has done a nice job refining the once-bloated Sense, offloading features to the Google Play store and keeping things lean for smooth performance on midrange phones like the Desire 816. It pays off, but it would have been nice to have a multitasking feature like LG's QSlide or Samsung's Multi Window to take advantage of the extra screen real estate.
Of the 8GB of internal storage, only 3.76GB is available to users out of the box. Our 64GB microSD card worked fine for media, but with apps exceeding the 1GB mark, that paltry internal storage will fill up quickly.
We couldn't perform our usual continuous talk time battery rundown test, but in a separate test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to max and Wi-Fi on, the Desire 816 lasted 7 hours, 34 minutes. That's a positive result that bodes well for Netflix bingers who want to take advantage of the big screen and loud speakers here.
Cameras and Conclusions
Equipped with a 13-megapixel, rear-facing camera, the Desire 816 is capable of producing some really nice images. Outdoors and in good light, shots look incredibly crisp and full of detail. I much prefer the extra pixels here as opposed to HTC's UltraPixel sensor used on the M8—with the Desire 816, you have a lot of room for cropping after the fact. Image quality doesn't suffer much under indoor lighting either, which is impressive. Some grain and softer details are noticeable, but totally fine for online uploads. Video resolution tops out at 1080p, but frame rates can get a bit jerky in low-light scenarios, while footage itself can be overly grainy. Outdoors and in good light, video looks sharp and true to life.
On Virgin Mobile, the HTC Desire 816 is the best big phone for small budgets. Voracious media consumers will appreciate the expansive display and loud speakers, while performance is in line with the price. And $300 for this much phone is a fantastic deal. If you're looking for something smaller, the Virgin Mobile Supreme has a more manageable 5-inch display and still represents good value at $300, while the even smaller HTC Desire features the same front-facing speaker setup as its larger sibling. For phablet fans on Virgin Mobile, though, the Desire 816 is a top pick and earns our Editors' Choice award.
What you need from a Web hosting provider may be fairly simple: some storage for your content, network bandwidth so that people can access the site, and the ability to add tools and applications to make your life easier. If that's all you need, U.K.-based 123-reg (starting at $4.13 per month) offers a bare-bones Web hosting service worth considering, but for more than that, you'll need to pay. All the extra charges make 123-reg expensive, and it has no one stellar feature that makes the price tag worthwhile. I tested 123-reg using the Business plan, and after adding the 20 percent VAT, setup fees (£9.99, or $16.55, a one-time fee), domain registration fees (£10.99, or $18.21, a year), the ecommerce add-on, and the website builder, the total cost for my Business plan came out to $70 for the first year.
Most Web hosting service reviews we write at PCMag.com are based on the basic plan, but, in this case, I signed up for the Business plan at 123-reg because the Start Up package doesn't have most of the features competing providers offer in their basic plans. I discuss the plans in detail, below. The monthly price at the top of this review is for the Start Up plan, but this review looks at the features that come with the Business plan, so that I can accurately compare 123-reg with other Web hosting providers.
Packages and Plans
123-reg offers three hosting plans: Start Up, Business, and Professional. The base plan, Start Up ($4.13 per month, or $49.56 per year with a one-year commitment) is very basic, offering 1GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, 100 email mailboxes at 1GB each, some email security, and not much else. If you already have an existing HTML site (one that's not too big) you can upload via FTP, the basic plan is sufficient. The plan supports Ruby, PHP, ASP.NET and Perl, but that's about it. You can't install databases, so any application that requires a SQL database is out—popular forum software phpBB and any type of content management software are both no-go. There is also no command line access.
Business (starting at $6.89 per month) is comparable to what you would see with competitors such as the Editors' Choice Arvixe and Network Solutions, with 50GB storage, 500 email mailboxes at 1GB each, database support, website statistics, almost 70 third-party applications you can install, a stock image library, and access to website templates. 123-reg offers a choice of Linux or Windows hosting, which is unusual and welcome. So if you need Windows hosting, 123-reg is an option to consider, if you don't want to deal with Microsoft's Azure cloud environment.
The Professional plan (starting at $12.49 per month) offers unlimited email, mailboxes, and databases. Since the company is based in the U.K., 123-reg offers a co.uk domain for free in the Start Up Plan, three for Business, and five in Professional. Since I was registering a .com domain, I also incurred an additional £10.99 ($18.21) domain fee.
123-reg makes selecting a package harder than it needs to be. In addition to the plan choices, you also have the option to buy a Website Builder package, which is a hosting plan specifically for hosting a regular website, or an e-commerce shop. You can also look into hosting with Drupal, Joomla, or WordPress (starting at £4.16, or $8.27, per month). This kind of hosting provides you with a managed version of these content management systems. One nice thing is that you don't need to deal with updates or basic configuration of these systems, because 123-reg handles them for you.
High-Performance Web Hosting Packages
123-reg also offers high-performance hosting packages Virtual Private Servers (starting at $31.46 per month for a one-year commitment), Cloud Servers (starting at $59.74 per month for a one-year commitment), and Dedicated Cloud Servers (starting at $180.57 per month) plans. These offer more server power than shared hosting, and they are recommended for highly trafficked websites.
Dedicated servers come in a variety of CPU, RAM, RAID, and storage configurations, but the power will cost you: The high-end specification for 123-reg's dedicated server running CentOS 6 starts at $329 per month, or $3,626 per year (24 Core processor, 96GB RAM, four 2TB hard drives, RAID 10 alignment). The Plesk control panel is included, as are nightly backups and snapshots. The cost goes up to $483 per month if you are looking for a Windows Server 2008 dedicated server with similar hardware.