7 out of 10 Kodi users are pirates, say Hollywood copyright overlords

The scale of piracy being committed through the Kodi media player is staggering, according to new numbers shared by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The authority, which counts among its many Hollywood-related roles the protection of copyrighted material, claims that 26 million Kodi users have configured the player to access pirated materials. Of the 38 million estimated Kodi users, that’s roughly 7 out of 10 users accessing illegal materials.

The figures were presented by MPAA Senior Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs Neil Fried during a panel discussion held by the Copyright Alliance in conjunction with the Creative Rights Caucus.

Who’s counting?

However, speaking to Torrentfreak, a number of people related to the Kodi platform disputed the legitimacy of the figures.

XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen (XBMC being the original name for Kodi), made a pointed comment about user privacy, stating that: 

“Unfortunately I do not have an up to date number on users, and because we don’t watch what our users are doing, we have no way of knowing how many do what with regards to streaming. [The MPAA’s] numbers could be completely correct or totally made up. We have no real way to know.” 

The Kodi team, when still working under the XBMC banner, did have the ability to measure the popularity of add-ons however, even if this didn’t necessarily extend to how users were interacting with them.

A spokesperson for TVAddons, the repository that hosts many of the Kodi add-ons echoed the sentiment, stating it has “banned” the use of tracking software in the Kodi add-ons it provides. As a result, it claims the MPAA “is throwing around numbers without much statistical evidence.”

The anti-piracy battle is one fraught on many sides then, with the MPAA looking to protect its artists, TVAddons defending its community and Kodi, as ever, stuck in the middle as a platform with legitimate open-source uses, hijacked by those unwilling to pay for copyrighted materials. If the 38 million userbase figure is accurate, there’s obviously a great need to educate all users on the value of using legitimate services, regardless of the actual reach of the piracy-enabling add-ons.

  • Best Kodi / XBMC streaming boxes: great hardware for legitimate Kodi streaming

BBC releases its first Alexa-powered interactive audio drama

The BBC has a rich history in radio, after having been founded as a wireless broadcaster back in the 1920s. 

But now, the corporation is embracing the world of interactive audio stories with the release of The Inspection Chamber, a sci-fi comedy drama that you use your voice to participate in. 

The experience can be downloaded from the Alexa Skill Store or the BBC Taster website, at which point you’ll be able to play along as a fourth character. 

Interactive audio

The experience has been developed by the BBC’s R&D department alongside Rosina Sound. The BBC’s department has been embracing new technologies for years, including co-developing the first broadcast-ready HDR standard Hybrid Log Gamma, and investing heavily in VR experiences. 

The Inspection Chamber is not the first interactive story released for Alexa with the likes of Runescape: One Piercing Note, but the corporation’s history in radio makes this release an especially interesting proposition. 

This isn’t the BBC’s only experimentation with voice. Earlier this year the broadcaster announced that it was working on voice recognition for BBC iPlayer. 

  • If you’re looking to purchase an Amazon Echo, here’s our outline of the entire range

Freeletics helped me work up to my first workout

My workout gear has started heckling me. It’s been such a long time since my last proper scheduled workout that it’s started doing an impression of the Tell-Tale Heart, calling to me while I sleep.

Just to put things in context, I used to work out pretty regularly. I was a performer in some physically demanding stage shows, and I qualified as a personal trainer so that I could take care of my body. 

I was never ‘buff’ or ‘jacked’ or whatever the gym rats are saying these days but I could comfortably move my body from a lying-down position to a standing-up position without it feeling like a herculean task.

Now, those days are sadly long behind me. I still go for the occasional run, do a few push-ups here or there, review the occasional fitness tracker, but the joints are definitely a little rusty. 

Slow and steady wins the race

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in this situation, but the more time that passes, the harder it gets to motivate myself to actually slip my (slightly rounder) body into some workout gear and hit the mat. 

Gyms are pretty intimidating places if you’re feeling less-than-confident, full of testosterone fuelled meatheads and fitness models in training. I’ve always been a fan of working out at home, and I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to test out some of the fitness apps available that you would be able to use at home while also getting myself back in shape.

Here’s a demonstration of perfect form from a perfect human.

Because it takes at least six weeks for actual physiological adaptation to take place, I will be using different apps, and occasionally using this column for updates, both on what I think of the apps, and how I’m getting on with my road back to fitness. Don’t worry, if you’re not into fitness stuff, it won’t all be fitness.

That said, my hope is that you’ll join me on this journey. 

Hitting the mat

So, the first workout. The first app. 

Freeletics Bodyweight, is available for both iOS and Android devices. 

Each workout has a dictated set of exercises; you’re given the amount of both sets and reps, then you have to complete your allocated workout in the shortest time possible. 

For me, that immediately rings alarm bells, as speed over form is where all injuries are born, but Freeletics does a pretty impressive job of instilling good form in you. Each exercise has a video connected to it, showing an aggressively attractive demigod performing the maneuver with a skill and grace that you’ll never achieve. 

Continuing the theme, each of the workouts are named after characters from greek mythology, and there is something really satisfying about doing ‘Atlas’ rather than ‘core workout’. You can kid yourself into thinking you’re sculpting your body into a statuesque form.

Make no mistake, Freeletics is definitely aimed at people who are wanting to really push themselves and get that low body fat, big muscle look, and that means that the workouts are tough. 

The cost of fitness

There’s a free version of Freeletics that just gives you access to some of the workouts, but if you start paying the subscription, all the workouts open up, and more importantly, you get an artificially intelligent coach that gives you workouts specific to your fitness level and goals.

Which meant that actually hitting the mat wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it was going to be. There were some crunches, some mountain climbers, some side lunges, and finished off with an interval session. 

It wasn’t easy, but I definitely finished the session wanting more, which is probably a good indicator of the smartness of the AI. All I know is we’re off to a good start.

If you want to join me on this journey, or have any apps (or pieces of tech) that you want me to try out, send them over to andrew.london@futurenet.com or tweet me at @AndrewMLondon

  • Andrew London is a laughable excuse for a human being, barely held together with string and sticky tape. In Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself he will be sharing with you the different technology that he uses to try and pass for a proper functioning person.

Logo design courtesy of FreePik

Not got an iPhone X yet? Try visiting an Apple Store

If you’ve not yet picked up an iPhone X but you’re eager to get your hands on Apple’s latest and greatest handset, then your best option might be seeing what stock is like at your local Apple Store rather than going through the ordering process on the Apple website.

9to5Mac reports that the phone is widely available for same day in-store pick up at many Apple Stores, at least in the US. The situation might not be the same in your part of the world – and may not last for long – but we’d say it’s definitely worth checking.

On the official Apple website, shipping times are currently set at 3-4 weeks if you place your order today. That means heading into a store could mean you get your shiny new gadget up to a month earlier, though stock levels are likely to fluctuate pretty regularly.

Supply and demand

We’ve heard plenty of speculation about supposed production problems with the iPhone X, and how stock could be in short supply as Apple looks to source enough screens and Face ID detection units to be able keep up with demand. Those rumors started before the device went on sale and haven’t stopped since.

The iPhone X went on sale several weeks after the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and was quickly sold out online. Since then though, some delivery dates have been improving, and it looks like Apple might be over the worst in terms of a squeeze on available units.

The fact that many Apple Stores have the phone available to pick up the same day backs up that idea, and the situation should improve through 2018 as Apple irons out any problems in its supply chain. By the time we get around to next year’s iPhone, there shouldn’t be any problems with getting hold of a premium iPhone.

  • Here’s why the iPhone X might not be widely available until March

How deep learning is crafting the next generation of security software

For consumer and enterprise users, viruses and malware are a never ending cause of trouble. However in the enterprise market there are bigger things at stake – businesses have much more sensitive data and services in place that can’t afford to be compromised in any way.

Year on year, attacks on enterprise networks have steadily grown, and recently a surge of intelligent malware and ransomware have been crippling networks and systems around the globe. These systems do have measures in place to prevent these attacks from happening, but they often tend to be from different vendors or don’t provide adequate protection from all possible fronts.

“On the operational side of things a lot of customers have different solutions that work well, but there are just too many different consoles and portals to log into when managing them all,” comments John Shier, Senior Security Advisor, Sophos, at GITEX Technology Week earlier this year. “It just creates a lot of confusion and frustration. Customers just want a central solution for their security needs, and that’s where we step in to help out. We help businesses to bring all these different components together in a simple way, so that security isn’t the thing that’s holding a business back, but driving your business forward. Each component should talk to each other so that the security overhead is kept to a minimum – everything is just in one easy to use space.”

“On the threats side we’re still seeing a lot of ransomware and phishing that’s leading to compromise of credentials, and we’re able to help our customers in a couple of different ways. We have anti-exploit and anti-ransomware technologies in place in conjunction with traditional AV mechanics. We’re laying things on top of traditional security protocols to ensure that customers are protected at all costs.”

Malware and ransomware has seen an accelerated growth in the past few years, simply owing to the fact that there are now a growing number of affected organizations who are willing to fork out a payment in order to quickly restore their files and get their systems back online. “Malware and phishing is an ongoing problem in more developed countries, simply because companies in these regions can afford to pay the $400-500 that’s required as ransom for the data,” commented Shier.

When asked if there were any particular trends or system attacks that were unique to the region, Shier said that what the Middle East is experiencing is no different from any other region. “For companies in the Middle East they’re not being exclusively targeted – they’re under attacks as normal as any other company around the world would face. Ransomware was something that a couple of companies here did have problems with specifically, and that’s something we addressed quickly so that future attacks could be stopped.”

Even with security protocols in place, organizations often suffer because there’s some sort of loophole within the system, or some sort of way to circumvent the measures in place. Shier advises that companies look at security technologies as layers instead, which ensures a broader protection plan for the business.

“The advantage of layering different technologies is that the weaknesses of one technology is covered by the strengths of another,” explains Shier. “In the example of malware, we’re able to cut off its access to the Internet, so effectively it’s unable to connect to a foreign server and begin the encryption process, thus rendering it harmless for easy removal. We look for common exploit patterns and techniques all the time, so we’re able to intercept or flag up certain processes that we think are newer variants of previously detected threats.”

“Even if malware is able to get through and begin encrypting files, we have a component in place that specifically looks for that kind of behavior. If it comes across a process that is encrypting files at a rate that is not normal behavior, then it will convict the process and back up the encrypted files to a secure location before replacing them with decrypted ones. So there’s a complete chain of control in place that protects users, just thanks to the way that everything is layered.”         

What’s interesting to learn is that Sophos is already looking at more intelligent ways to anticipate malware attacks and have preventative measures in place before attacks can spread. As with any security provider, Sophos spends a considerable amount of time and effort on analyzing incoming email samples and new threats – time that could otherwise be spent on working with other projects. So the company is introducing machine learning as an ambitious front to its software, in an attempt to greatly improve the automatic classification of malware and similar attacks.

“Intercept X that’s coming out shortly is going to introduce machine learning – not only do we want to automatically detect and deal with threats in a system, but we also want to do it as efficiently as possible,” Shier adds. “We see on average over 400,000 new email samples a day, and other security labs will see the same kind of volume as well. Machines are very capable, but they can only deal with threats to a certain limit – there are some attacks that are more complex, and may very well fool machines. So that requires a human analyst to intervene and see what’s going on. What deep learning does is it helps us accelerate the amount of automatic detection that we can do on that vast amount of samples coming in. The analysts are then required less and less for those fringe cases, which accelerates the detection process and frees up our analysts to work on new innovations rather than working on malware.”

“We’re going to continue to take that machine learning to different product lines the more we work on it, so that it can ultimately communicate with our different products and help us better identify unknown threats. So if a malware email comes in and we block it if it’s opened accidentally, we can then ask the system to look at where else that email exists where it hasn’t been opened yet, and deal with it straight away. We want to provide the best threat intelligence that we can, and there’s a lot out there in the market that isn’t doing what it should. We want to make sure that what we offer is relevant to a business, and gives you the best protection from across as many platforms as possible.”

This is the emoji we’re all using the most, according to Apple

The iOS 11.1 update just dumped a whole load of new emojis on iPhones and iPads around the world, but most commonly used emoji is one of the all-time classics – according to Apple, we use “tears of joy face” more than any of the other cartoon symbols.

Based on a rather simple chart snuck into a privacy document published by Apple, the tears of joy face is way ahead of the red heart and the crying face in second and third place respectively – though there are no numbers attached to the graphic.

The document as a whole explains the way Apple tries to put forward useful suggestions – like the emoji you might want to type next – while balancing the need for user privacy and anonymizing much of the data that gets sent back to Apple’s servers, so it can’t be specifically linked to you.

Emoji ups and downs

It’s perhaps reassuring that the most popular emoji in use on Apple devices is one expressing such happiness. Based on previous statistics, the tears of joy face wins out in much of the world, including the US and the UK.

On a more serious note, a feud is brewing in emoji land, specifically in the Unicode organization which sets down the emoji standards that others follow: some members aren’t happy that a frowning pile of poop is about to join the standard poop icon.

The fear is from some at Unicode that the poop emoji isn’t in the best taste, and that allowing different facial expressions on it besides the default one will open the floodgates to a deluge of new poop-themed images. The debate continues for the next batch of emoji to be released next year.

  • Emoji is being used to teach computers sarcasm because that’s just what we need

Via Engadget

Where to buy the iPhone X in the UAE

Apple’s latest (and supposedly greatest) phone is finally here – the company has started to fulfill its pre-orders for the iPhone X, and customers are giddy with happiness over their precious new toy. We’ve already had our play around with the iPhone X, so if you’ve finally given in to the hype and want to get your own iPhone X, there are a few places you can still grab one from.

Directly from Apple

This is a no-brainer. You can jump onto Apple’s online store to pick up your snazzy new iPhone X, starting from AED 4,099 for a 64GB version. The only catch? You’ll have to wait 3-4 weeks for it to be delivered to you, so if you’re not the patient kind, then you’ll have to give them a pass.

You can also drop into your nearest Apple store to check for availability, but expect there to be limited stock with similar wait times for new units. You can also check online if your existing iPhone is eligible for a trade-in offer with Apple.

Etisalat

Pre-orders for the iPhone X with Etisalat kicked off from November 3rd, and the phone is available to purchase online and in select Etisalat stores. Customers can opt to purchase an iPhone X with the flexible smart pay plans on a 12, 18 or 24 months contract. iPhone X (64GB) can be purchased for as low as AED 185 and iPhone X (256GB) for AED 215 under the 24 month smart pay plan. 
 
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus customers who are subscribed to the ‘iPhone for life’ program and have completed their 12 month contract will have the opportunity to enjoy a free upgrade to iPhone X. A new subscription to the ‘iPhone for life’ program is also available for all new customers who purchase iPhone X on the 18 or 24 month Smartpay offer.

You can also purchase the handset directly for AED 4,099 (64GB), but as of the time of writing, it’s already out of stock on Etisalat’s website.

du

With du, customers can get 18GB data each month and 600 flexible minutes along with their brand new iPhone X when they sign up for a 24 month ‘iPhone every year’ program from du. This essentially entitles you to a new iPhone every year (assuming Apple announces a new phone in that year). The phone itself is available for AED 4,099 upfront, but as expected stocks are unavailable online at the time of writing.

Souq.com

There are a number of sellers on Souq.com that are selling the iPhone X, but prices start at AED 4,800 for a 6GB iPhone X (with FaceTime). No doubt that prices for the iPhone X are going to remain quite steep until stocks are back in official channels, so expect to pay a premium until then. Just be careful of who you’re buying the phones from, and ensure that the package is sealed and that warranty is valid.

Noon.com

New ecommerce giant Noon.com is selling the iPhone X from AED 4,700, with promises of next-day delivery. So if you’re willing to splurge the extra bit, you could have your shiny new iPhone X as early as tomorrow.

Carrefour

Surprisingly, Carrefour still has a few units of the iPhone X in stock (as of time of writing), retailing for AED 4,099. You can purchase it online and have it delivered within two business days – the short wait time is a small price to pay for not having to pay an exorbitant amount for the phone in the first place.

Axiom Telecom

It’s a similar story over at Axiom Telecom, with the 64GB model retailing for AED 4,099 with 2-hour delivery being available for select locations. Again however, they’re currently out of stock on all models.

Sharaf DG

While the iPhone X is in stock at Sharaf DG (according to their website), their delivery is slated for 4-6 weeks, which tells a different story. Expect normal prices to start from AED 4,099 for a 64GB model.

Jacky’s Electronics

If they top up their stocks again, you can get the 64GB iPhone from Jacky’s Electronics for AED 4,099 – you’ll just have to sit through the 4-5 week delivery window.

Letstango.com

With a dispatch date of 15th November, you can pre-order the iPhone X at Letstango.com, with prices from AED 4,799 for a 64GB version.

The best laptop docking stations 2017

Finding the best laptop docking station for your needs can make working on your laptop easier, more convenient and more comfortable, as while laptops are great for portability, they don’t quite offer the range of connectivity options desktop PCs provide in the office.

However, with docking stations, you can have the best of both worlds: a portable laptop that has the connectivity of a more bulky desktop PC.

This means that you’re able to chuck your laptop in a bag for meetings or when travelling, and then easily connect it up to a dock to turn it into a desktop computer setup back at the office (or indeed at home). That way, you can easily link the notebook to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer and so forth.

Searching for the best docking station isn’t easy, though. There are so many to choose from, serving different laptops and purposes. In this feature, we’re going to look at the best models that’ll give you everything you need to stay productive and to turn your trusted laptop into a fully-featured work machine.

  • You might also be interested in these 5 productivity gadgets that your laptop will love

StarTech claims its Thunderbolt 3 docking station is the most advanced dock ever. Often, docking stations require multiple leads, but StarTech’s latest offering avoids that. The device has been designed to work with thinner notebooks and uses only one cord. 

As the name suggests, it supports dual 4K displays (at 60Hz) and harnesses the raw power of Thunderbolt 3, offering 40Gbps bandwidth while keeping portability in mind. That’s not all, though. It can be used with up to three USB 3.0 devices and you also get Gigabit Ethernet capability. There’s also the ability to charge mobile devices, and you benefit from Direct DisplayPort integration. This accessory will set you back £312, which is a hefty whack, but not a bad investment if you’re in the market for a powerful dock.

  • Buy the StarTech Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station here

Targus offers this Dual Video Docking Station which won’t break the bank, and comes with integrated laptop recharging facilities that are compatible with most 90W notebooks. So even if you’ve forgotten your charger, you’ll be good to go with this nifty device.

You can hook up two displays to this dock, and in terms of ports, you get a pair of USB 3.0 ports, alongside a pair of USB 2.0 connectors, plus two powered USB 2.0 ports, and Gigabit Ethernet. Targus also offers a Multiplexer Adaptor which makes this docking station USB-C compatible.

  • Buy the Targus USB 3.0 Dual Video Docking Station here

Anker also makes a range of affordable laptop docking stations – and its USB 3.0 dual display model is one of them. You can connect up all your peripherals via six USB ports, and use two displays simultaneously. That’s certainly handy if you need multiple displays for work purposes. 

Four of the USB ports are version 2.0, while two are USB 3.0 – and they give you access to transfer speeds of 5Gbps. The dock has built-in automatic bandwidth prioritisation too, aiming for smooth, stable performance when all the ports are being used. This dock has been built for Windows devices.

  • Buy the Anker USB 3.0 Docking Station here

Kensington is a well-known and respected brand which has developed a reputation for its docking stations. Its latest USB 3.0 model can be used with MacBook or Windows laptops. 

The device lets you turn one USB port into six (it sports four USB 2.0 ports around the back, and a pair of USB 3.0 affairs on the front). You also get a DVI connector and adapters to use it with either HDMI or VGA leads, and there’s an optional multi-display adapter for hooking up more than one monitor. You also get an Ethernet port.

The dock will sit next to your laptop nicely and is placed in the midrange bracket in terms of pricing.

  • Buy the Kensington USB 3.0 Docking Station here

Toshiba is another big tech name that makes laptop docking stations. The Dynadock V3.0 is one of the firm’s most popular offerings, and is targeted at Windows laptop users who want to benefit from expanded capabilities.

Like most docking stations nowadays, the Dynadock offers USB 3.0 ports, although more than many as you get four of these here. There is also a DVI connector (with adapters for HDMI or VGA) along with an Ethernet port, and the dock uses one cable connection for ease-of-use and portability. And because the Dynadock sports an upright design, it’ll fit nicely on even the most cramped desk environment.

  • Buy the Toshiba Dynadock V3.0+ here

Microsoft is a company known primarily for its software prowess, but in recent years, it has been increasingly working on the hardware front. The Surface line-up of tablet hybrids demonstrates this perfectly. If you own one, you’ll be happy to learn that you can also reap the rewards offered by a docking station.

The Surface Dock will let you turn your Surface convertible into a fully-fledged desktop PC. It’s compatible with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. Connectivity-wise, there are two Mini DisplayPorts, one Gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.0 ports and an audio-out jack. This dock doesn’t come particularly cheap, though.

  • Buy the Microsoft Surface Dock here

The J5Create Ultra Station is a neat and compact dock indeed, being a thin bar which you can attach to the back of your notebook. It provides a variety of connectivity options for Windows laptops and MacBooks: you get a pair of USB 3.0 ports (one of which has power for charging) and a USB 2.0 port, along with VGA and HDMI ports, Ethernet, plus speaker and mic jacks.

However, that’s not all. There’s also a nifty ‘wormhole’ USB connection that allows you to hook up another computer – as well as your initial laptop – and do things like share files by simply dragging and dropping them across from machine to machine. This can also be used to share your keyboard and mouse between devices, and works cross-platform (i.e. you can hook up and share things between a Windows notebook and MacBook).

  • Buy the J5Create JUD500 Ultra Station here

Although there are universal laptop docking stations out there, of course, many models are built by manufacturers for their own notebooks. Dell’s USB 3.0 dock exemplifies this. It works with most of the company’s latest laptops in the Inspiron series and, like much of the competition, uses USB 3.0 as the prevalent port – it has three USB 3.0 connectors, along with two USB 2.0 ports.

As the name suggests, 4K screens are catered for, and you get a DisplayPort along with a pair of HDMI ports, meaning you can hook up a total of three external monitors (one of them 4K) if you wish. Dell bundles an HDMI to DVI adapter, to support older displays still using DVI, and this dock also boasts an Ethernet port along with audio/headphone jacks.

  • Buy the Dell USB 3.0 Triple Video Docking Station here

Top 6 best video conferencing services of 2017

Finding the best video conferencing service for your business can net you huge savings, as according to research from LyteSpark, businesses across the UK could save (on average) £27,000 per year (around $33,000, AU$43,000) on business trips.

With many businesses involving offices and employees from all over the world, the ability to use video conferencing services to allow workers to meet and collaborate no matter where they are in the world, can have a huge impact on the productivity of your workforce.

Gone are the days when conference calls needed complex dial-up procedures and login numbers, as there is now a large range of video conferencing services that make holding meetings over the internet, and collaborating between offices, easy, flexible and convenient.

In this guide we’ve chosen six of the best videoconferencing services that offer a range of features, from fast start to enterprise applications that enable you to hold large meetings from dedicated conferencing rooms. No matter what your needs or your budget, you can start using videoconferencing today.

  • You might also want to read our article on buying videoconferencing technology

Anyone who has used the consumer version of Skype will feel right at home with Skype for Business. As a replacement for Microsoft’s Lync, the videoconferencing application is pitched at Office 365 users. Being able to jump onto a video call with clients or colleagues from within Outlook makes the whole experience seamless.

As a meeting tool it offers the ability to use a digital whiteboard and also access standard Microsoft Office documents. And if you need enterprise-level SharePoint and Exchange support, this is readily available.

RingCentral may not be as recognisable a brand name as some of the other video conferencing services, but it comes with a range of features that put some of its more established competitors to shame. Office compatibility, video conferencing and – most importantly – a reliable backbone of servers, means this is a video conferencing service you can depend on for your business. It offers a range of subscription tiers, which makes it a flexible service for businesses of all sizes, and it runs as a hosted Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) provider, which means you need compatible phones – or use the provided mobile apps. There’s also a robust Quality of Service (QoS) feature that helps you set up your network for the best possible results.

The core aim of LyteSpark is to remove the complexity of hosting a videoconference. Completely hosted, there is no need to download and install any specialist apps, or circulate dial-in numbers. Simply give your ‘room’ a name and you are instantly ready to invite colleagues or clients into your conference.

The ability to open and create new Microsoft Office documents on the fly makes this system effortless to use. And if your business has adopted Slack as its comms tool, the integration with LyteSpark will add video as a rich communications channel.

As one of the leaders in videoconferencing, WebEx is aimed at larger businesses even though it has a free plan that enables just two people to connect for free. The WebEx Meeting Centre is infinitely more useful, as you can set up personalised videoconferencing rooms.

The application offers VoIP audio and integration with MS Outlook on Windows or Mac platforms. If you are new to videoconferencing and VoIP for that matter, beginning with WebEx and then graduating to WebEx Meetings, and subsequently onto WebEx Meeting Centre is a logical progression.

As part of the GoTo suite of applications that includes GoToWebinar and GoToTraining, the meeting component offers easy switching between the types of meeting you want to hold. If you have experience of any of the other products in the suite, adding video is a breeze and requires a very shallow learning curve.

With desktop and mobile equally supported and integration with standard office applications, GoToMeeting is a middleweight videoconferencing service that small businesses in particular will find a great boon to their communications across teams and with clients and customers.

All of the latest videoconferencing applications strive to remove any technical hurdles that might trip up the user. Not having to install apps or plugins, or remember dial-in codes and phone numbers is what makes Join.me a powerful and attractive way to get into videoconferencing for the first time.

You can try the system out with ten other people for free before opting for a premium service. It’s also the ability to share documents (including Evernote) that makes this offering a very practical way into videoconferencing for smaller businesses in particular.

The 10 best business projectors of 2017

Getting the best business projector for your work can help transform your presentations, and make meetings more engaging and interactive, which means you’ll want to invest in a business projector that provides both impressive image quality and dependability.

If you’re on the road often, then these projectors need to be portable as well – but that doesn’t mean you have to make compromises with connectivity, or with projection size. You’ll find that many small projectors these days can still produce large projections – while also coming with a range of ports for hooking your equipment up.

  • Best home cinema projectors

Buying a projector for work means you’re looking for different features than if you were buying a projector for entertainment purposes, so super-high resolutions and millions of inputs aren’t going to be high on your ‘must have’ list. 

Unfortunately, plenty of offices often cheap out in when buying business projectors, or not doing their research, and investing in headaches for years to come. So now is a good excuse as any to review our favorite options for your office’s projector unit.

Philips PicoPix PPX2055

Sure, we’ve reviewed some portable projectors, and many in this roundup qualify as portable, but the Philips PicoPix PPX2055 is shockingly small. So small, that you wonder what use case demands it be that small, aside from it being able to easily fit into a your briefcase, or even a jacket pocket. 

Philips has created a projector so small it could be used to surprise unsuspecting co-workers who were blissfully unaware that a meeting was in their future.

Selling for an affordable price, it features an easy setup and is able to project content only drawing power via USB. However, you’ll need a pitch-black situation to get the 55 lumen-capable lighting to show an image your team can see. It also failed dramatically to hit its advertised projection size of 120″ images, only hitting a still-respectable 50″ mark. Also, if you’re projecting video, which the device can handle (if not especially sharply) consider a secondary speaker to drown out audible noise coming from the spinning DLP wheel.

  • Read our Philips PicoPix PPX2055 review

Epson EX7235 Pro

If your meetings are never in the same location often, you’re going to want a no-nonsense projector that’s easy to carry. For that, we can recommend the Epson EX7235 Pro. Weighing in at 5.29 pounds, and measuring 11.7″ x 9.0″ x 3.0″ (W x D x H), it supports connecting via USB, WiFi, VGA, HDMI, or the mobile MHL. Not only is it easy to move around with, it’s extremely easy to use, so much so that booting and choosing your input source only took a mere 34 seconds in our testing. This is all with an intensely strong lamp, which maxes out at 3000 lumens.

It is ideal for those who need a simple, portable projector for anything except for streaming video, as we experienced quality issues there, with output being either grainy or stuttering. It also suffered from a moment reminiscent of IKEA, with Some Assembly Required. That in 2015 we’re requiring customers to find a screwdriver in order to set up WiFi sounds comically backwards. Sure, the EX7235 Pro doesn’t force users to rely on just WiFi for presenting, but when you’re dealing anything meant for on-the-go, WiFi is the connection of choice for most. Setting up said WiFi wasn’t easy either, but once it’s up, the EX7235 Pro performed like the four-star unit we believe it is.

  • Read our Epson EX7235 Pro review

ViewSonic Pro8600

If you’re looking to present in a bright room, or shopping with no worry about price, ViewSonic’s Pro8600, weighing 8.5 pounds and measuring 13.1″ x 10.4″ x 4.3″ (W x D x H), and Pro8520HD, also 8.5 pounds and a very similar 13.1″ x 10.4″ x 4.8″ (W x D x H) are especially relevant. The Pro8600 retails for about $1700 (around £1125, AU$2068) online, and the Pro8520HD can be found online at a bump up to around $1799 (around £1190, AU$2188).

Both machines run very loud and very bright, thanks to the Pro8600’s 6000 lumen and the Pro8520HD’s 5000 lumen capable lamps. So if you’re looking to make presentations to people who drift off when the lights go out, make sure you consider these options. Neither are great with USB, but if you’re looking to present video, both have HDMI slots – the Pro8520HD actually offers two, if that’s something you would need.

Both projectors render HD color video beautifully, although Pro8520HD arguably over-saturates the colors. While the video on the Pro8520HD is of great quality, you’re going to need to have any audio pretty loud, thanks to a whirring fan that hovered around 79 decibels in our testing. While the Pro8600 suffers the same noise pollution – its fan reaches 65 decibels – it does feature a useful ECO mode that can dampen the noise. As you would expect from projectors marketed on their HD quality, these units can get an image large enough for native HD proportions.

  • Read our ViewSonic Pro8600 and Pro8520HD reviews

Optoma ML550

The ML750e by Optoma may not be the smallest projector we’re talking about here, but it’s a lot more powerful than the pocket-sized PicoPix from Phillips. It weighs in at an ultraportable 380g with a small footprint that makes this easy to carry around. The differences in size between this and the PicoPix are negligible for the power you get in return: a 700 Lumens lamp that lets you present in rooms that aren’t completely darkened.

Not only is it port-rich with one MHL-ready HDMI input, a USB 2.0 slot for thumbdrives, a universal I/O slot, and a microSD card slot, but the ML550 handled our 90-inch test screen with impressive results, and peaked at a 60-inch-or-so size. Much like the ViewSonic PLED-W800, though, the ML750e had us grumbling because you need to buy a dongle to achieve WiFi. Which felt as arcane at the time of this projector’s release as it does today. And in another moment that felt anachronistic, there is no way to work with the projector via smartphone or tablet.

Usually when you choose a portable business projector you have to make a few sacrifices in order to have such as small device – but that’s not true with the Epson EB-S31.

Epson has an excellent reputation with business projectors, and it has brought much of its expertise to the EB-S31. Its 3,500 lumen brightness is much brighter than many other portable projectors, and means you have more flexibility when setting up the EB-S31 in environments where there is still ambient light.

The EB-S31 is small and light enough to carry around with you on business trips – but it also has a very large projection size – up to 300 inches – which makes this an incredibly versatile portable business projector.

Sony VPL-FHZ55

The Sony VPL-FHZ55 is designed to be installed once and not moved for a long time. At 26.5 pounds nobody will be volunteering to move it between floors, or even carting it between rooms. It measures 15.3″ x 19.8″ x 5.8″ (W x D x H) and we believe it best positioned on a ceiling, even though that will make it even harder to ever move. With all that size, there is a lot to say about it.

Noteworthy for being the first 3LCD projector – a projection chip technology popularized by Epson and Panasonic – with a lamp-less treatment, thanks to a blue laser light source deployed by Sony. For all that above hype and hubbub, the enormous price should not shock you.

It’s seriousness isn’t just from a top-out of 4,000 lumens, but the fact that it can go for 20,000 hours, reducing the routine expense of replacing burnt out lamps that projectors generally include.

It is connector heavy, as it should be with that price-tag. The right-hand side is a full set of BNC/component inputs, an RGB D-sub 15-pin slot, DVI-D, monitor output and an HDMI input. On the opposite side is S-video, composite video, various analogue audio ins and outs, an RS-232C control jack (beloved of Crestron control systems, among others), the DC inlet, and wired LAN.

Unfortunately, as we notice all too frequently even with the best reviewed units, there is no built in WiFi for the VPL-FHZ55, though it can be networked. And the last thing we’ll note is that the VPL-FHZ55 needs some room. To fill our 80-inch test screen we had to place the VPL-FHZ55 about 11.5 feet away!

  • Read our Sony VPL-FHZ55 review

Epson EB-X11

If you’re looking for the jack of most-trades option, Epson’s EB-X11 is a good place to start. The EB-X11 fits into the middle of the pack, with enough features to make most take it seriously. Measuring just 11.6″ x 11.9″ x 3.0″ (W x D x H) and weighing 5.1 pounds, the EB-X11 is easy to move between conference rooms, or even buildings.

One feature we were particularly keen on is the lens cover that instantly shuts off the lamp and speakers. The lamp inside the EB-X11 is more adaptable than some because of its relatively high brightness rating of 2600 lumens.

Unfortunately it comes with a handful of flaws. The machine only projects to the 4:3 aspect ratio, and when you’re showing photos (likely with black bars above and below, thanks to that ratio) you’re not going to see the sharpest reproduction thanks to the projector’s low resolution.

Unlike other projectors we’ve talked about in this round-up, the USB slot on the EB-X11 can only handle photos, and the machine has no WiFi options. If all of those red flags aren’t enough to dissuade you, and poor audio quality wouldn’t either, then still consider the EB-X11.

  • Read our Epson EB-X11 review

The Asus ZenBeam E1 is a beautifully designed pocket projector that’s small and light enough to carry around with you if you often make presentations on the road. 

Despite its small size, it can project images up to 120 inches in size, and it has a built-in 6,000mAh battery that can power the projector for up to 5 hours, which makes it rather flexible, as you don’t have to worry about finding a plug socket to power the device. In a rather nice touch, the projector can also double as a power bank for other mobile devices.

The Asus ZenBeam E1 isn’t the most powerful portable projector, but its versatility, ease of setup and eye catching design gives it a place on our list of best business projectors.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

Although it’s less expensive than other ViewSonic models mentioned here, the ViewSonic PLED-W800 still performs well. It earns its price tag thanks to ultra-portability, weighing in at 1.98 pounds and measuring 13.1″ x 10.4″ x 4.3″ (W x D x H). 

With a lamp that can reach up to 800 lumens, you can still run a presentation in whatever room you can bring it to, provided you can shade the windows and lower the lighting. It comes with an SD Card slot, a USB slot, an MHL-ready HDMI input (for connecting DVD/Blu-ray players and also smartphones/tablets) and a VGA input for laptops.

Much like other portable projectors we talk about here, just because you can pass video through this unit doesn’t mean you should. For it’s price, though, making you pay even more for an optional WiFi dongle (ViewSonic recommends its PJ-WPD-200, which brings Miracast and DLNA compatibility) feels like you’re getting nickel & dimed.

If presenting Microsoft Office documents is a large part of your practice, and it probably is, the PLED-W800 should stand out thanks to native support for presenting Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files directly from a USB stick or SD card.

  • Read our Viewsonic PLED-W800 review

If you really want to wow at presentations, or turn a whole wall into an interactive whiteboard for brainstorming sessions, then the Epson BrightLink 685Wi is definitely worth considering.

It’s an interactive projector that allows people to draw, write and modify the items it projects onto a screen. It comes with a range of software to help you create these impressive projections, and can wirelessly connect to a huge range of devices.

The Epson BrightLink 685Wi certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s a decent investment if you’re looking for a business projector that can be used in a large number of innovative ways.