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Assassin's Creed: Origins's Discovery Tour mode shows how great educational games could be

Sat, 2018-02-24 08:00

Do you know what a “Hippodamian Grid Plan” is? I didn’t until I played Assassin’s Creed: Origins’s new Discovery Tour mode.

Turns out Hippodamus of Miletus is known as “the father of European urban planning,” a Greek born in 498 B.C.E. who argued that cities should be built rationally (a.k.a. on grids) instead of devolving into haphazard labyrinths. Most important: His ideas were adopted by Deinokrates, principle planner for the city of Alexandria.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Walk like an Egyptian

I’ve been waiting for Assassin’s Creed: Origins’s “Discovery Tour” mode ever since Ubisoft showed it off to us last year. The gist: Ubisoft took the world from Origins, the sprawling recreation of Ptolemaic Egypt that played host to Bayek’s adventures last year, and stripped most of the “game” elements out of it. There are no missions here, no throats to slit, no Phylakes to fend off.

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This week in games: Final Fantasy XV adds Half-Life's star, Blizzard hosts a Warcraft III tourney

Fri, 2018-02-23 15:00

The Papers Please movie finished up its paperwork and nabbed a release date, Overwatch had puppies play Capture the Flag, Warcraft III is hosting a tournament, you’ll soon (probably) be able to buy Geralt’s bathtub figurine, and Final Fantasy XV is doing a Half-Life crossover.

Yes, it’s certainly been a weird week in video game news. Let's recap February 19 to 23.

Humble Classics

As far as bang-for-your-buck goes, the new Humble Classics Return Bundle (that’s a mouthful) might be the best the company’s ever featured. It’s full of those isometric CRPGs that suck up dozens and dozens of hours of your time, plus a few strategy and adventure games to boot.

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Walmart has the Intel Core i7-8700K for just over $300 today

Fri, 2018-02-23 13:28

Today's a good day to get a deal on a powerful Intel processor: Walmart has the Intel Core i7-8700K for $313. That's $26 cheaper than the retailer's competition, and one of the lowest non-coupon prices we've seen yet.

The Core i7-8700K is part of Intel's newest line of CPUs that rolled out in late 2017. These eight-generation "Coffee Lake" chips were a notable upgrade over previous generations, due to an increase in core count: While Kaby Lake (and earlier) Core processors offered two or four cores, Coffee Lake parts offer four or six cores. Thanks AMD.

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Massive EA Origin game sale slashes prices on Battlefield, Star Wars, Mass Effect, and more

Fri, 2018-02-23 09:58

Now's a great time to snag EA games on the cheap. The gaming giant is running a massive "Publisher sale" on its Origin storefront and Amazon through March 6, with more than 50 games and DLC packs discounted heavily. Let's look at some of the highlights.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is $10. Our resident games critic didn't think it was a particularly great game, but still called it "eminently playable," and you'll get a lot of hours out of your tenner. If you missed the legendary original series, you can dip your toe in the Mass Effect waters with the Mass Effect Trilogy pack for $7.49.

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Google takes Assistant worldwide with new languages and custom phone integrations

Fri, 2018-02-23 09:12

Google Assistant had its coming out party at Mobile World Congress 2017 with the announcement that it was expanding beyond Google’s own Pixel phones, and now it’s ready to take on the world. Literally. Google has announced it will be expanding Assistant to nearly two dozen more languages this year as it expands its influence to some “95 percent of all eligible Android phones worldwide.”

Google Assistant already speaks English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese (Brazil), but its linguist capabilities will be greatly expanded over the next 10 months as Google plans to add support for more than 30 languages. First up will be Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish and Thai, all of which should arrive by summer.

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TrackNet Tabs review: Security and location tracking in one very capable system

Fri, 2018-02-23 09:00
A slick mobile app powers both a solid security offering and an impressive locator system.

MWC 2018: Samsung's Galaxy S9 reveal and everything else you need to know

Fri, 2018-02-23 07:00

The new phones are coming! Mobile World Congress is nearly upon us, and soon we'll be feasting our eyes on the latest and greatest Android has to offer. So whether you're attending the big show or just checking out the keynote streams online, here's everything we expect (and hope) to see:

MWC 2018: Samsung Venture Beat

Renders of the Galaxy S9 and S9+ have leaked in all their glory.

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10 great PC games that recovered from disastrous launches

Fri, 2018-02-23 06:30

“Games as a Service” has become a buzzword in recent months, especially in the wake of November’s Star Wars Battlefront II lootbox controversy. The lootbox association has also tainted the term, tying it inextricably to what’s at best seen as a “necessary evil” in the industry.

But the basic idea behind Games as a Service is a net positive in theory: The games you like get expanded upon after release. Not just one big expansion or a handful of smaller DLCs, but near-constant support for years at a time. It’s what people liked about MMOs, but for all genres—the silver lining to this digital future, with its Day One patches and all the other stuff players like to grumble about.

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Origin EON17-X review: This monster gaming laptop challenges high-end desktop PCs

Fri, 2018-02-23 06:00

Spoiler alert: We’ve never tested a gaming laptop as all-around powerful as the Origin PC EON17-X.

This big, badass notebook pushes the pedal to the metal with the most potent hardware available, and then Origin PC cranks things to 11 by overclocking both the full-fat GeForce GTX 1080 and the Core i7-8700K processor. Yes, this laptop rocks a desktop processor, and not just any desktop processor—it’s the fastest one currently available. With 6 cores and 12 threads, the EON17-X demolishes CPU benchmarks. It blazes through triple-A games. Hell, it might be able to literally crush its slim, trim Nvidia Max-Q competition.

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Logitech Craft review: This $200 keyboard can do two things its competitors can't

Thu, 2018-02-22 11:41

The Logitech Craft keyboard is what happens when a keyboard engineer glimpses Microsoft’s Surface Dial hockey-puck peripheral and decides: We can do that, too. But if you want to spend $200 for just a keyboard, don’t bother: The only way the Craft makes sense is if you see value in its Surface-Dial-like navigation knob that also integrates with Logitech’s PC-spanning Logitech Flow software. 

Aesthetically, there’s room for improvement. The Craft weighs a ponderous 2.08 pounds, anchored by a broad metal bar that runs across the top of the keyboard and houses the 1,500mAh battery, plus the electronics driving the crown. You can’t adjust the Craft’s slope. And personally, I found the Craft’s scalloped keys to have a shallower travel than I’d like. 

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Intel expects PCs with fast 5G wireless to ship in late 2019

Thu, 2018-02-22 09:00

With the first deployments of 5G high-speed wireless technology within the U.S. scheduled for later this year, Intel and its PC partners are already thinking about the next step: rolling out 5G-equipped PCs late in 2019.

Intel, along with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft said Thursday that the companies expect the first 5G Windows PCs to become available during the second half of 2019. That’s about the same time that Intel plans to begin shipping its XMM 8000 commercial modems, marking the company’s entrance into the 5G market.

Intel will show off a prototype of the new 5G connected PC at Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. In addition the company will demonstrate data streaming over the 5G network. At its stand, Intel said that it will also show off eSIM technology—the replacement for actual, physical SIM cards—and a thin PC running 802.11ax Wi-Fi, the next-gen Wi-Fi standard.

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Nvidia's GeForce Now cloud gaming service feels like playing on a high-end gaming PC

Thu, 2018-02-22 07:15

The promise of cloud gaming holds clear appeal. High-end gaming on any Internet-connected PC, even crappy old laptops that couldn’t dream of running games normally? Yes please!

But the reality has been much more disappointing. Forebears like OnLive and Gaikai are remembered more for their bugginess and lag than genuine gaming goodness. The small horde of cloud gaming services popping up over the last couple of years likewise struggle with reliability issues.

Nvidia’s GeForce Now game streaming could be the real deal.

The GeForce Now beta finally landed on PCs in late January, and it’s the first cloud gaming service I’ve used that doesn’t require major compromises on a regular basis. Hell, it actively takes a lot of the headaches out of maintaining a gaming rig. If your network can handle it—and even my humble 25Mbps Comcast home Internet connection could—and you can wrap your brain around some weird interface quirks, you’ll be pulling off headshots and executing other precision moves in-game in no time.

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How to test how much Spectre and Meltdown hurt your PC's performance

Thu, 2018-02-22 07:14

With manufacturers again shipping Meltdown and Spectre updates to fix security exploits in CPUs, you may be wondering just how much of a hit your PC has taken.

After testing how much the updates affected older PCs and my own Surface Book performance laptop, and studying the benchmarks run by colleagues at Techspot and PCMag as well, we believe we've found a simple way for the average consumer to gauge the slowdown.

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GogoToro Outlet Evaders review: A fun, powerful, and portable power bank

Thu, 2018-02-22 07:00

GogoToro recently released a series of power banks inspired by classic video games: There’s the DexCharge, Cheeky-Charger, and Outlet Evaders. Each pack comes with a different color scheme, as well as a sheet of stickers for the user to customize the pack. For this review, I’m specifically evaluating the Outlet Evaders pack, available for $39 from GGTR’s site or Amazon.

Note: This review is part of our roundup of portable power banks. Go there for details on competing products and our testing methods.

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Spectrum quietly tries a la carte TV streaming, but restrictions apply

Thu, 2018-02-22 06:00
Hands-on with Spectrum's new a la carte TV streaming service

BrandPost: How new PCs can result in a smarter, more agile small business

Wed, 2018-02-21 16:16

For small businesses (SMBs) the margins between success and failure are tiny. So, it’s vital to do everything possible to maximise employee performance and minimise costs, and this is where the company’s choice of business technology plays a pivotal role.

Yet research has continually shown that many SMBs are slow to move to modern PCs, even though such a PC Refresh – the act of regularly upgrading computers being used in the organisation -- enables them to cut bottom-line costs and improve productivity.

A 2014 study by Techaisle[1] found that 36% of SMBs had PCs that were four years or older, which resulted in application and system performance issues, malware attacks and connectivity issues for many of the respondents. This, in turn, had a direct impact on diminishing productivity and employee satisfaction.

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Walmart's selling a white Philips Hue lightbulb for $10 today

Wed, 2018-02-21 15:25

Today's a good day to stock up on light bulbs for your smart home. Walmart is selling a single Philips Hue White A19 bulb for $10—or for 33 percent off the usual price. This deal is particularly nice since you can buy the exact amount of bulbs you want. Previously, the best price we've seen is a two-pack for $30.

The Philips Hue White A19 is a plain white LED bulb (read our review here). It doesn't have colors and doesn't come with a Philips Bridge. The Bridge is the go-between for the ZigBee-based Hue bulbs and a home network.

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Nest Cam IQ review: Lots of exciting features, but the price tag triggers less-desirable emotions

Wed, 2018-02-21 12:44
The latest security camera from Nest Labs is super powerful (and super expensive).

Hands on: Blade's Shadow cloud gaming service can be a bumpy ride

Wed, 2018-02-21 12:00

In a normal year, Blade’s Shadow cloud-gaming service might seem superfluous: Do you really need to stream games to your PC as components quickly drop in price? But that was before today’s cryptocurrency miners began snapping up GPUs left and right. Now, the Shadow service is something of an option for leasing a pricey GPU, rather than buying one. In our hands-on time with the service, it works acceptably—though a bit of lag, bugs, and an obtuse setup process muddy the experience.

The Shadow service takes a page from its spiritual ancestor, OnLive, the cloud-gaming service that disappeared in 2012, was reborn in 2014, and then sold to Sony. Blade provides a powerful virtual PC, currently housed at or near the company’s Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters. You, the user, are asked to pay $49.95 per month ($34.95 per month if you sign up for a year) to use it—and for now, it’s limited to Californians. 

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The Full Nerd episode 41: Nvidia rumors, Spectre updates, and will Ryzen APUs stay relevant?

Wed, 2018-02-21 09:28

In this episode of the Full Nerd, the crew mulls whether Ryzen APUs even matter, pick apart the Nvidia Volta / Ampere / Turing / Kardassian rumors, and update you on Meltdown and Spectre.

Gordon Mah UngBrad ChacosAlaina Yee, and Adam Patrick Murray kick things off by talking about AMD’s hot new Ryzen APUs and whether they’ll even be relevant if graphics card prices settle down. If you're a PC gamer without a graphics card, should you buy one of these or a cheap Xbox One? The debate gets heated!

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