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Updated: 23 min 30 sec ago

The Microsoft-Amazon deal leaves Cortana speakers with one advantage: Skype

Wed, 2017-08-30 15:38

If Cortana will work on Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices, and Alexa will run on Windows, what's the point of buying Cortana-powered connected speakers like Harman Kardon’s Invoke? In a word: Skype.

The unexpected partnership struck Wednesday between Amazon and Microsoft—neither of which owns a digital assistant that’s natively built into a major smartphone OS—extends Amazon’s reach to the more than 400 million PCs running Windows 10, and ties Microsoft closer to another third-party hardware platform. 

Alexa will be available as a Cortana skill on Windows 10 PCs first, followed by the Cortana apps on Android and iOS in the future, a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email. Conversely, Cortana will be available as an Alexa skill on devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. Microsoft has yet to confirm whether Alexa will be included on the Invoke.

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Dash cam reviews: What you need to catch the maniacs and meteors of daily driving

Wed, 2017-08-30 14:50

August 30, 2017: Updated with our review of the Thinkware Dash Cam F800, which offers impressively sharp night vision.

Dash cams are already essential in many countries because of scam artists who try to create accidents so they can sue you. They’ve also proven useful for catching the occasional meteor, as happened in Thailand and in Russia a few years ago.

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Asus ZenBook laptops power up with quad-core CPUs and discrete Nvidia graphics

Wed, 2017-08-30 12:29

The battle over thin and light notebooks flared back to life at IFA 2017 on Wednesday. Mere hours after Acer revealed the Switch 7 Black Edition, a 2-in-1 laptop with a detachable keyboard and dedicated graphics chips, Asus unleashed an army of svelte new ZenBook laptops equipped with Intel’s new quad-core 8th-gen Core CPUs and discrete Nvidia GPUs of their own. We loved the last ZenBook Flip that crossed PCWorld’s test bench, so let’s dig in!

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The Asus ROG Chimera brings blisteringly fast 144Hz G-Sync displays to gaming laptops

Wed, 2017-08-30 10:31

Asus was the first company to bring 120Hz refresh rates to gaming laptops, and now it’s pushing even further for gamers who demand smooth performance at a fast clip. At IFA 2017, Asus revealed the ROG Chimera G703 laptop, a beast of a notebook with a blistering 144Hz, 1080p display made more buttery-smooth by Nvidia’s G-Sync technology.

Asus didn’t say much about what you’ll find inside the 17.3-inch laptop, but Laptop Mag reports that it includes an unlocked Intel Core i7-7820HK processor and Nvidia’s powerful GeForce GTX 1080, which should have no problem keeping that 144Hz display fed even if you crank up your game’s graphics settings.

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IFA news: Google is talking up new products that leverage its Google Assistant

Wed, 2017-08-30 09:45
A number of new smart speakers will be on the show floor, along with new smart appliances from LG.

Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa are going to work together

Wed, 2017-08-30 09:33

Cortana and Alexa just went from being rivals to being besties. Microsoft and Amazon’s respective digital assistants are teaming up to work together later this year, the companies surprisingly announced today.

That means you’ll be able to tap into Alexa’s smarts via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs and Microsoft’s mobile Cortana apps, or access Cortana via Amazon’s Echo devices and Alexa-enabled phones like the HTC U11 and Huawei Mate 9. You’ll need to specifically summon the assist, however, by saying “Cortana, open Alexa” or “Alexa, open Cortana.”

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38% off Dishonored 2 for XBox One, PS4 and PC - Deal Alert

Wed, 2017-08-30 09:08

Play your way in a world where mysticism and industry collide. Will you choose to play as Empress Emily Kaldwin or the royal protector, Corvo Attano? Will you make your way through the game unseen, make full use of its brutal combat system, or use a blend of both? How will you combine your character's unique set of powers, weapons and gadgets to eliminate your enemies? The story responds to your choices, leading to intriguing outcomes, as you play through each of the game's hand-crafted missions. Right now Dishonored 2 is discounted 38% down to $24.99, for the XBOX One, PS4 and PC versions. See this deal on Amazon.

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Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop gets serious with GTX 1060 and Nvidia Max-Q

Wed, 2017-08-30 09:00

Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop is getting a little more serious this year, graduating to GeForce GTX 1060 discrete graphics and using Nvidia’s Max-Q technology to put more power into (slightly) less space.

The jury’s actually still out on Max-Q—gamers are openly leery of potential compromises. Looking at the main differences between the refreshed line announced Wednesday, however, and the prior generation, you can see how Max-Q is starting to change how laptops are designed.

The Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptops will begin shipping in September. Prices start at $999 for FHD-based configurations and $1,449 for UHD-based configurations, with these main options: 

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Switchmate Bright review: The quick and easy path to smart lighting

Wed, 2017-08-30 07:00
You’ll spend more time downloading the app than installing this smart switch.

Acer's Switch 7 could overpower the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro

Wed, 2017-08-30 05:45

Acer's Switch 7 Black Edition is big, black, and ready to stomp on the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro 13. Sporting the latest quad-core CPU from Intel plus discrete graphics, it offers serious horsepower in a surprisingly slim package. Acer says the Switch 7 Black Edition will be available in North America in December with prices starting at $1,699.

Specs are still sparse, but so far we know that the 2-in-1 device with detachable keyboard (which Acer describes as a "laptop" rather than a tablet) features a 13.5-inch IPS touch screen with a resolution of 2256x1504. It uses a Wacom EMR digitizer with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity using the pen.

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Acer's Predator PCs woo gamers with 18-core CPUs, G-Sync HDR, and graphics cards galore

Wed, 2017-08-30 05:35

In a beleaguered PC industry suffering from sinking sales, gaming stands as a sparkling bright point. There’s never been a better time to be a PC gamer, and at IFA 2017, Acer revealed an army of powerful Predator hardware designed to entice enthusiasts who like their frame rates high and temperatures low: The Acer Predator Orion 9000 series gaming desktops, a drool-worthy Predator X35 G-Sync HDR monitor, and a new gaming headset and mouse to match.

Acer plans to offer several configurations in the Predator Orion 9000 series, but its ultimate form will be an utter beast, with Intel’s 18-core Core i9-7980XE, three M.2 SSD slots, and up to 128GB of DDR4 quad-channel memory. It’s no slouch on the graphics front either, offering a pair of ferocious GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards in SLI or four of AMD’s Radeon RX Vega cards in CrossFire. (Modern GeForce cards only support two cards in SLI for gaming.) Acer didn’t mention power supply specs, but it must be a hefty one to handle that sort of firepower.

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How to get out of Windows Safe Mode

Tue, 2017-08-29 16:50

You boot into Safe Mode to fix things. So it’s not right when Safe Mode ends up being the thing that needs fixing. If your Windows computer insists on booting into Safe Mode, you’ll have to figure out what’s causing the problem.

What made you go into Safe Mode in the first place? I assume you did it intentionally, but how? If you did it through the System Configuration tool, that’s your problem.

Press Win + R, type msconfig, and press Enter.

This opens System Configuration. Select the Boot tab. If the Safe boot option is checked, uncheck it. Then reboot.

For future reference, don’t use System Configuration to enter Safe Mode, unless you have reason to reboot multiple times into that environment. (See our instructions for how to properly enter Safe Mode.)

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Save Hundreds On The Ultimate CompTIA IT Certification Training Bundle ($49) - Deal Alert

Tue, 2017-08-29 15:16

Do you tinker with motherboards in your free time? Want to deep dive into network security? Transform a side hustle into your day job with the Ultimate CompTIA+ Certification Bundle, currently marked down to $49.

Beyond hardware and securing an organization's IT infrastructure, these courses will set you up to pass the top eight CompTIA certification exams in the industry, from Linux+ and Project+ to Healthcare IT technician certification and Cloud+. So you'll become proficient in anything from IT-specific medical business operations to network administration and cloud management. And you can even become a certified project manager--a valuable skill set regardless of your field.

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Observer review: A thrilling cyberpunk detective story with a psychedelic twist

Tue, 2017-08-29 15:00

Observer is not a horror game. Sure, it’s billed as one, and within the narrow confines of video game tradition I guess it’s the most fitting label—there are a few tense chases, some disturbing imagery, the oppressive atmosphere you might expect.

But as Frictional learned with the spectacular Soma, the horror label comes with certain expectations—and like Soma, Bloober’s Observer ($30 on Amazon) is not worried about catering to those limitations.

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Google's Tango becomes ARCore: Phone AR for the masses

Tue, 2017-08-29 14:29

For the past year or so, Google’s augmented-reality aspirations have been extremely modest, with its Tango AR platform running on just two phones (and one of them just came out a couple weeks ago.) But now Google is releasing ARCore, which will bring the power of Tango to millions more Android phones.

Like Apple’s ARKit, ARCore works without any additional hardware. The launch of the developer preview will be limited to Pixel and Galaxy S8 phones running Nougat and above, but Google is aiming to get ARCore on 100 million devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Asus, and others by the time the preview ends later this year.

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Best DVR for cord cutters

Tue, 2017-08-29 13:22

Updated August 29, 2017 to add our review of the Table Engine DVR software.

Here’s the hard truth for cord-cutters right now: The ideal over-the-air DVR doesn’t exist. And if you're on the fence about even needing one, you should read the June 22 installment of Cord Cutter Confidential.

While some products are better than others, all of them—from Tablo and TiVo to Channel Master DVR+ and HDHomeRun with Plex—have at least one critical weakness. If you want to record broadcast TV channels from an antenna, you must decide which of those weaknesses you’ll tolerate.

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Destiny 2's open beta launches on PCs today, and it's one of the best-looking shooters ever

Tue, 2017-08-29 09:41

Destiny 2 ($60 on Amazon) is out on consoles as of next week, but us poor PC folk have to wait until October 24 for the full release of Bungie’s shooter. A small consolation though: Destiny 2's PC open beta starts today (likely at 10 a.m. Pacific) and runs through Thursday, August 31 if you’re in a try-before-you-buy mood. Just remember you’ll need to download Blizzard's to play it—the game isn't on Steam.

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Geeni Vision 720P Smart Camera review: A basic and budget-friendly home security camera

Tue, 2017-08-29 06:00
Though short on advanced features, this less-than-$100 security camera is long on ease of use.

8 hidden Android Nougat features you still have time to try

Tue, 2017-08-29 06:00

Google used to produce a rather bare-bones version of Android, counting on OEMs like Samsung and LG to add in all the other cool features people might want. But today’s stock Android is more powerful, more feature-rich, and more attractive without any help from the device makers.

In fact, Google has pushed OEMs to use even more of the basic Android experience without making unnecessary changes. This could mean some awesome features are lurking inside your phone that you don’t even know about. So here are eight cool features inside Nougat (Android 7.0) you’re probably not using.

Split-screen Chrome

Android 7.0’s split-screen app capabilities are well known, but there’s one app that includes a very cool and useful feature that isn’t so obvious: The Chrome browser lets you run two different tabs on the screen at once.

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Crashplan alternatives: What home users can do, from staying put to exploring other services

Tue, 2017-08-29 06:00

It's been a week since Crashplan decided to call it quits on its personal backup service. But Crashplan isn't going away—it's just ending a program that probably wasn't profitable. After the initial shock, home users should realize there’s absolutely no reason to panic—or even be hasty. The company will keep your data safe for an extra 60 days past the end of your current subscription, and it will keep its servers online until October 23, 2018. But it's still a good time to figure out your next move, so we'll walk you through the options. 

Crashplan option 1: Upgrade to a business plan

You needn't leave Crashplan at all if you turn your home plan into a business plan. Just pony up the $10 a month for the small business plan and keep on keepin’ on.

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