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HTC Vive Pro review: Virtual reality without the rough, blurry edges

Tue, 2018-04-03 09:00

If virtual reality is an early adopter market, then the HTC Vive Pro is for the earliest adopters. The first refresh we’ve seen to consumer VR headsets in two years, it’s destined be niche—not so much a Vive 2 as a Vive 1.5, with all the connotations that brings.

But maybe that’s fine. There’s a certain (small) subset of people who have been on this train since the earliest days of the first Oculus Developer Kit, the DK1. People who, a year later, put down more money on the DK2, then probably bought both a consumer Oculus Rift and an HTC Vive a few years later.

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Origin supercharges the sleek EVO15-S with a powerful 6-core CPU, 144Hz display

Tue, 2018-04-03 09:00

The Origin PC EVO15-S wowed us late last year as one of the first gaming laptops wielding Nvidia’s potent GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics. Now the slim, sleek, and supercharged notebook is getting a CPU upgrade to match. On Tuesday, Origin announced that the EVO15-S and its classy professional cousin, the Origin NT-15, can be ordered with the 6-core Core i7-8750H processor that Intel just revealed. Before today, Intel’s fastest mobile CPUs topped out at four cores.

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Dell's updated XPS 15 could crush the MacBook Pro 15—again

Tue, 2018-04-03 08:00

Know why the MacBook Pro 15 is so thin? It’s because of all the times Dell’s powerhouse XPS 15 has stomped on it.

Yes, that’s a cheap shot, but it’s been mostly true—and Apple’s beatdown will only get worse as the newest XPS 15 (model 9570) ups the ante to a 6-core, 12-thread Core i7-8750H. Part of Intel's new enthusiast-class “Coffee Lake H” series of chips, the Core i7-8750H is essentially a mobile version of Intel’s powerful Core i7-8700K chip.

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The Alienware 15 and Alienware 17 pack 6-core Intel overclockable goodness

Tue, 2018-04-03 08:00

The Alienware 15 and Alienware 17 laptops are all about premium gaming, so not surprisingly they’re part of the big rollout of systems with Intel’s six-core Core i7 and Core i9 mobile CPUs, announced Tuesday.

To accommodate the new processors, Alienware is introducing a new cooling system, Alienware Cryo-Tech v2.0. The system features thinner fan blades and a vapor cooling chamber for the CPU. The company says the new cooling system allows the Alienware 15 and Alienware 17 to be 10 percent faster than before. 

There’s a lot more to like in these mobile powerhouses. We’ll go through the prices and specs first, then dive into some design tweaks and extras just for gamers.

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Intel's debut 6-core Core i9 CPUs could push gaming laptops past 5GHz speeds

Tue, 2018-04-03 03:01

For years, PC gamers have needed to pick a poison: Buy a desktop with the most powerful components available, or sacrifice some performance for a laptop they could take on the road. Intel’s new six-core mobile Core i9 chip, its fastest notebook CPU ever, paves the way for 5GHz gaming laptops, making that decision even tougher.

Using new “thermal velocity boost” technology to propel the new Core i9-8950HK from a base clock rate of 2.9GHz to a whopping 4.8GHz, the new unlocked 8th-generation Core i9 sits atop five new Core i5 and Core i7 high-performance mobile H-series chips, plus four more U-series Core chips aimed at lower-power systems. (All are “Coffee Lake” 14nm chips.) Intel also launched a new lineup of desktop Core processors, plus a new branding logo (Core i7+) to indicate the presence of hard drive-boosting Optane memory inside notebook PCs.

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Hands-on: The MSI GS65 is a gaming laptop that blends into business settings

Tue, 2018-04-03 03:01

The only thing better than a gaming laptop is the one you make your boss pay for.

That's the scenario MSI is apparently trying to tackle with its GS65, announced Tuesday. An update from the excellent GS63VR we reviewed, MSI said the GS65 is designed to be a little more sedate-looking, the better to blend into your business meeting. Although it still has MSI's dragon it, the word "gaming" has been removed, for instance. The keyboard sacrifices translucent key skirts for enclosed ones, to make the per-key lighting less obvious. 

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Gigabyte's Aero 15 gaming laptops boost the core count but keep the battery life

Tue, 2018-04-03 03:01

The new Gigabyte Aero 15 reminds us of that line from the Godfather: “Boost the core count, keep the battery life.”

OK, we made that up, but one of our favorite gaming laptops from last year just got a whole lot faster without giving up the one thing that mattered: Battery life. Gigabyte’s Aero 15 series now features Intel's new 8th-gen, Core i7 CPU inside. That means six cores of blistering Coffee Lake IPC in the same 45-watt footprint.

The Aero 15 remains mostly the same externally, but there are a few key differences:

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Intel's new 'Coffee Lake' Core desktop CPUs and chipsets swipe a trick from smart speakers

Tue, 2018-04-03 03:01

Lest desktop PC users think that they were being neglected, on Tuesday Intel launched a number of eighth-gen Core desktop processors, plus four new desktop chipsets that mimic the always-listening “modern standby” experience of a smart speaker.

While Intel’s powerful 6-core mobile Core i9 chip—and, to a lesser extent, the “Core i7+” and related brands that signal the presence of Optane within notebooks—were the major announcements, Intel also announced three new “standard power” Core desktop chips, as well as six low-power T-series chips. All of the new Coffee Lake 8th-gen chips are priced at $213 or less, save one.

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Intel ushers responsive Optane memory into laptops with Core i5+, i7+, and i9+ brands

Tue, 2018-04-03 03:01

As Intel migrates its Optane memory technology into the notebook space, a new “Core i7+” brand will answer the question: how will consumers know it’s there? 

For years, notebook and desktop buyers alike have instinctively been able to buy Intel’s “good, better, best” hierarchy of Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 chips. Last year, Intel added a premium brand, Core i9. With Optane, Intel has complicated its branding a bit more. New “Core i5+,” “Corei7+” and “Core i9+” stickers will adorn notebooks, and possibly desktops, that ship with Optane accelerator technology inside.

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The best Kindle: Reviews and buying advice

Mon, 2018-04-02 19:18

When someone says they want an e-reader, they most likely mean they want an Amazon Kindle. Knowing which Kindle to buy is the next question, and it depends on your budget and your reading preferences. With this guide and our in-depth reviews, we’ll help you find just the right Kindle for you or your lucky loved one.

In the decade since Amazon’s E-Ink slabs were first introduced to the world, the Kindles’ popularity has elevated its brand recognition to the same heights as Q-Tips and Kleenex—with good reason. Available in five models with varying feature sets, Amazon ensures there’s a Kindle to meet every bookworm’s needs and budget.

While Amazon’s competitors might offer more technologically advanced or less expensive hardware, not a one of them can hold a candle to the sheer volume of books, comics, and periodicals available to download and consume on a Kindle.

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April Fools' Day gags you may have missed

Mon, 2018-04-02 14:51
The joke’s on you online.

Steam Machines disappear from Steam's hardware tab, but their legacy lives on

Mon, 2018-04-02 11:45

Steam Machines no longer grace Steam’s dedicated hardware tabe, as GamingOnLinux noticed. You probably didn’t. Steam Machines carried thrilling potential but wound up doomed from the start, a catastrophic flop with consumers. The best concepts from the failed endeavor continue onward, though. 

Valve envisioned Steam Machines and SteamOS—a proprietary Linux fork intertwined with Steam’s Big Picture mode—during the Windows 8 era, while Microsoft was trying to turn PCs into tablets and lock apps down in the Windows Store. Cue the heroic reveal. Tiny, powerful Steam Machines by a legion of PC hardware makers were supposed to counter the threat of Windows becoming a walled garden while simultaneously dragging PC gaming into the living room.

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Give your outlets a dose of AI with these great deals on smart plugs

Mon, 2018-04-02 11:00

There may be new smart version of use about every device we use, but most of the lights and small appliances we already have in our homes are still too “dumb” to connect to our smart systems. To bring them up to speed, smart plugs can add convenience and control to any Wi-Fi connected home.

The Wemo mini smart plug is on sale for $24.99 on Amazon, the lowest price since Black Friday. In our four-star review, we especially liked this plug for its connectivity and simple, compact design. Once connected to Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to control your Wemo smart plug via voice or by using the Belkin app, and you'll be able to schedule at time for it to turn off or choose a “randomize” option to make it look like you’re home when you’re out of the house.

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Corsair's Crystal 570X, one of our favorite PC cases, comes with a free liquid CPU cooler today

Mon, 2018-04-02 10:15

One of our favorite PC cases is an even sweeter buy for today only. If you buy the Corsair Crystal 570X RGB ATX mid-tower case for its standard $180 price, Newegg will toss in a Corsair Hydro Series H60 liquid CPU cooler for free. The deal expires just before midnight Pacific time.

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Get an Apple Watch Series 1 for a ridiculously low $149 at Walmart today

Mon, 2018-04-02 09:36

If you’ve been watching for good deals on Apple Watch, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat Walmart’s current offer. You can get the 38mm Apple Watch Series 1 for a mere $149 while supplies last, which might not be that long. Apple normally sells the device for $249, which means today’s deal knocks off a full $100. The same $100 discount applies to the larger 42mm Apple Watch Series 1, which brings the price down from $279 to $179.

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Wrap your iPhone X in an Apple Leather Case for 30 percent less today

Mon, 2018-04-02 08:31

Apple’s leather cases are among the best ways to protect your iPhone, but they can also be among the most expensive. You can get one for cheap today for your iPhone X—but you'll need to act fast.

Amazon is selling several of Apple’s leather iPhone X case for up to 30 percent off. Normally priced at $49, the models that have discounts are:

The saddle brown and (Product)Red cases are the best prices we’ve seen for these colors, while the charcoal gray color is just $1 off the all-time low.

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The Acer Aspire S24 is an $879 all-in-one PC with touches of class

Mon, 2018-04-02 08:00

Acer’s Aspire S24 caught our eye in a way few all-in-one PCs do, because we almost didn’t catch it. At 0.235 inches, the display on the Aspire S24 is blink-and-you'll-miss-it thin, a refreshing change from the chunky, top-heavy profiles of most machines in this category.

The super-slim screen makes the the Aspire S24 look premium, even though at its heart it's still a mainstream PC. By focusing on the display technology, Acer gives it some distinction, balancing value with design. This is a machine you could place at a reception area or have out in the family room with no aesthetic risk. And it has one more forward-looking surprise, too.  

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Asus ZenBook Flip 14 UX461UN review: A sleek, solid 2-in-1 laptop that's eclipsed by our favorite

Mon, 2018-04-02 06:30

Peppy, slim, easy to look at and fun to type on, the $900 Asus ZenBook Flip 14 has a lot going for it. That said, it’s tough to recommend the Flip over our current favorite 2-in-1, the HP Spectre x360, which offers a more powerful CPU, a pair of speedy Thunderbolt 3 ports, and substantially better battery life, all for just $170 extra. Still, bargain hunters looking for a slightly larger display than the Spectre’s 13-inch screen may yet be swayed by the cheaper Flip 14.

Asus ZenBook Flip 14 specifications and price

We reviewed the $900 version of the ZenBook Flip 14, which boasts an Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor with integrated UHD 620 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. If you’ve got more money to burn, there’s a step-up model of the Flip 14 with an i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics chip.

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Brightswitch review: This light switch plus Android smartphone adds up to a mess

Mon, 2018-04-02 06:00
You can watch YouTube on a light switch, not that you’ll want to.

PC Building Simulator might be one of the most important DIY enthusiast tools ever created

Sat, 2018-03-31 09:43

It’s been almost exactly a year since we last checked in with PC Building Simulator. A productive year, it seems. What was once an extremely rough “pre-alpha build” on itch.io is now a more polished $20 Early Access production on Steam. Yes, you can buy it and start assembling your own dream PCs right now, complete with dozens of licensed parts. There’s even the skeleton of a career mode.

And I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I think PC Building Simulator might be one of the most important enthusiast tools since the advent of PCPartPicker. It’s one part tutorial, one part visualizer, and one part wish fulfillment—a perfect blend.

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