Tech round-up for June 26: Apple recalls MacBook Pros, Deco M9 mesh router doubles as a hub, Amazon Prime Reading, Harry Potter Wizards Unite

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, TP-Link’s new mesh routers double as smart home hubs, unlimited reading comes to Amazon Prime, and the new Harry Potter mobile game. But first, Apple’s recall of select 15-inch MacBook Pro units.

Apple issues voluntary recall for 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops

Last week, Apple notified consumers that some 15-inch MacBook Pro computers sold between September 2015 and February 2017 may have faulty batteries.

There is a risk, the company says, of the batteries overheating and posing “a safety risk”.

If you’ve got an impacted MacBook Pro, Apple will replace the battery for free.

It’s simple to see if your computer needs to be repaired. Simply visit the website and enter your computer’s serial number.

The serial number is engraved on the bottom of the laptop, and is also found in the “About this Mac” information that appears when you expand the dropdown menu from the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen.

New TP-Link Deco M9 gives you mesh and a smart home hub

You know that mesh networks provide better Wi-Fi coverage in your home (or office) than a standard router. This is true even if you’ve got range extenders set up to stretch the signal coming from the router.

TP-Link’s Deco M9 takes the company’s mesh networking functionality and improves on it.

For one, the devices themselves are small, unobtrusive discs, as opposed to the cylinder design of the earlier M5 units. Despite the smaller footprint, the M9 pucks deliver much more robust coverage – each device can cover more than 2,000 square feet – and faster wireless transmission speeds.

The M9s have 8 antennas and tri-band functionality, automatically switching from 2.4 GHz to one of two 5 GHz channels. And with MU-MIMO technology built in, the M9 will manage the traffic jams that can happen when multiple wireless devices are using the Wi-Fi.

And if you’ve got the slightly older Deco M4 units, which are cylindrical in shape, they can be used to extend your mesh network, giving you a greater coverage map. These are available in a two-pack ($170) and a three-pack ($250).

But the most significant benefit of the Deco M9 is that it has smart hub technology built right into the device (the ZigBee system). That means that you can use the Deco M9 devices to manage your lightbulbs, doorbells, and thermostats. It even works with Alexa.

And TP-Link has included security functionality to protect your network and devices from viruses or malware.

As has become standard these days, set up and management of the Wi-Fi network is all done through the TP-Link mobile app, which is fairly simple to use.

You can get the TP-Link Deco M9 in a two-pack for $400. That’s on the high end of the scale, but because it doubles as a smart hub, there’s value there.

Amazon brings more benefits to Prime members: Access to books and comics

An Amazon Prime membership currently costs $79 annually ($8 a month).

In addition to free one- and two-day shipping on a number of products, access to music, movies and TV shows including some produced exclusively for Amazon, Prime members in Canada now get access to books and comics with Prime Reading.

Amazon will be rotating books and comics through the Prime Reading bookshelf that members can access on their Kindle devices or on Kindle apps that install on pretty much any device.

If you’re not a Prime member you can sign up for a 30-day trial.

New Harry Potter mobile game will have you wandering around casting spells

If you’ve played with the mobile game Pokémon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will be very familiar. The experiences are very similar. And those of you who are Pokémon fanatics may be underwhelmed by Wizards Unite.

But the worlds are quite distinct, and I suspect there are lots of people who were not interested in Pokémon Go who will be all over Wizards Unite. And they are going to have lots of fun with it.

The new game was developed by Niantic, which came up with Pokémon Go, and Wizards Unite also leverages the camera on your mobile device to deliver an augmented reality (AR) experience.

Available for Android and iOS, it puts you in the role of a wizard, roaming around collecting “foundables,” objects from the Harry Potter world that are in the muggle world and need to be returned. You need to cast spells, by tracing shapes on the screen of your device, to dispel the “confoundables” that are inhibiting the magical object.

Along the way you’ll collect ingredients so you can brew potions, you’ll choose your own wand and Hogwarts house, and you can even participate in group combat activities.

There are a couple of drawbacks of note.

To play the game you’ll need to have a Facebook or Google account which will be tied to your Wizards Unite profile, which is very limiting, especially for kids. And while the game is free, there are many prompts and reminders that you can spend real money in order to play the game more frequently and with greater success.

Wizards Unite is quite a deep and complex role-playing game, in fact, and there may be more going on than the casual player is interested in. But fans of Harry Potter will appreciate the narrative, which takes place in a future in which Harry and his friends are all working in the Ministry of Magic.

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