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The cheapest Kindle model suddenly got worth buying, as did Apple’s iPad Mini. Google’s streaming video game service stopped being the worst-kept secret in tech, and the no-fly zones for drones near UK airports just got a whole lot bigger.
It’s Travel Tech News time again!
Amazon’s Cheapest Kindle Just Got Better
Ever since it first came out, we’ve been recommending the Paperwhite as the best Kindle for travelers. It’s always had more to offer than the cheaper version, including an inbuilt light, higher resolution, and in the most recent model, proper water resistance.
That easy recommendation got a bit more difficult last month, when Amazon unexpectedly updated the basic Kindle model. In return for a small price jump, it’s now gained that super-useful front light, along with support for Bluetooth audio and a better touchscreen.
For us, the waterproofing, higher resolution, and extra storage of the latest Paperwhite still makes it our preferred option. If you’re on a tight budget, though, the basic model is suddenly a much better buy than it was a few weeks ago.
You can pre-order now, with shipping from April 10.
The iPad Mini Is Back From the Dead
Remember the iPad Mini? No, we barely do either, but Apple’s still been selling its pint-sized tablet in surprising numbers despite completely ignoring it for the last four years.
Finally realizing there’s still a market for tablets that fit easily in a handbag or daypack, the company announced an updated version of the Mini last month, and it looks pretty damn great for travelers.
Well, let’s rephrase that a little. It doesn’t look great for travelers, because the design hasn’t changed at all, and the big bezels and physical home button seem very dated. All the changes are on the inside, and they’re significant.
For your $399, you’ll get a 7.9″ tablet in one of three colors, with 64GB of storage and the same fast A12 processor that’s in the latest iPhones. Spend more, and you can bump the storage to 256GB, or buy an LTE-enabled version.
That second option is especially compelling for travel, since there’s both an e-SIM and physical SIM card slot that’ll help you stay connected anywhere in the world.
Charging is still done via a Lightning cable, rather than the USB-C port that’s in the latest Macbooks and iPad Pro’s. That’s a bit of an odd decision, but not as much as the choice to only support the first generation of the Apple Pencil, not the vastly superior second-generation version. It really makes no sense at all for a brand-new device.
iOS 12 runs like a dream on the new model, and everything from movies to browsing looks great thanks to the bright, colorful display. There’s a headphone jack, and battery life is good, with up to 10 hours of video playback.
All things considered, the iPad Mini is a compelling option for travel. The only real competition is Huawei’s MediaPad M5, which is cheaper and looks sleeker, but isn’t as fast and doesn’t have a headphone jack. If you’ve got the money, the Mini is likely the best small tablet on the market right now.
Nice work, Apple.
Google’s Game Streaming Service Is (Nearly) Ready for Primetime
A bunch of different companies from Microsoft to graphics chipset maker nVidia have been experimenting with streaming game services in the last couple of years, and Google’s now gearing up to release an actual product to the market.
Named “Stadia”, the service was announced last month with some flashy demos, but no firm pricing, and a launch date of “2019.” Not the most helpful, but journalists who attended the official event were impressed by how well it worked, at least in a controlled environment.
In simple terms, services like this remove the need for expensive graphics cards and other high-end hardware in your console or computer. Instead, all of the heavy processing is done on servers in the cloud, which then stream graphics and sound information to pretty much any device with a fast-enough Internet connection.
This opens up all kind of opportunities to gamers who travel, as they’ll be able to play their favorite games on almost any lightweight computing device, not just big, heavy gaming machines. The kicker, of course, will be having good-enough Internet to do so.
A few years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of ever having a connection fast or reliable enough to do something like this while traveling. These days, not so much — as an example, all the hotels and coffee shops I visited in Vietnam last month had Wi-Fi significantly faster than my current home broadband.
Given how well the move to streaming services has worked for music (Spotify) and video (Netflix), doing the same thing for gaming now seems inevitable. The only real question is which company will get there first.
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The Drone Exclusion Zone Around UK Airports Is Now Three Miles Wide
Until last month, you weren’t allowed to operate a drone within 1 km (0.6 miles) of any UK airport. That restricted space more than quadrupled on March 13, to 4.8km (3 miles).
In conjunction with the new laws, police now have greater stop-and-search powers for anyone suspected of maliciously using a drone near airports. This includes accessing electronic data (like flight records and camera footage) from the drone itself.
By the end of the year, operators will also need to have passed an online safety test and registered with the UK aviation authority if they want to fly a drone over 250g (8.8 ounces) anywhere in the country. Fines of up to £1000 await anyone who doesn’t.
The “wild west” days of drone ownership are coming to an end in many countries. If you own one, and especially if you travel with it, make sure you’re fully up-to-date about the latest regulations wherever you plan to use it!