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Updated: 13 min ago

Roku upgrade guide: Should you buy a new box?

Mon, 2017-11-20 15:35

Of all the companies making streaming TV devices today, Roku is the most prolific, having released more than two dozen streaming players and sticks over the last eight years.

With so many Roku players in the wild, the decision on when to upgrade can be daunting. I’m generally in favor of keeping what you have for as long as you can tolerate it; but if you’re curious what you’re missing by holding out on upgrading to a new Roku, here’s a rundown.

Do you want the latest apps?

All Roku players that launched in 2010 or earlier are no longer receiving firmware updates, app updates, or new app releases. By sticking with one of these “Classic” Roku models, you’re missing out on countless new apps, including some major streaming services such as PlayStation Vue, Starz, HBO Now, and CW. Consider upgrading if you’re not getting all the content you care about.

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AMD Ryzen Threadripper X399 motherboards compared: Specs, prices, and features

Mon, 2017-11-20 13:05

For the first time in a long time, AMD is battling Intel for high-end desktop supremacy with its Ryzen Threadripper processors. Its chosen weapon? Cores, cores, and more cores, culminating in the monstrous 16-core, 32-thread Threadripper 1950X ($999 on Amazon). But cramming that much hardware into a chip means bigger chips, and bigger chips need bigger sockets. Enter the new AMD X399 motherboards.

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C by GE smart LED bulb review: Not the right choice for enthusiasts

Mon, 2017-11-20 10:59
The C-Life is an inexpensive choice, but its value is undercut by the price of the C-Sleep.

Today, Eufy Genie Speaker With Alexa is Just $19.99 - Deal Alert

Mon, 2017-11-20 09:50

This Alexa-enabled smart speaker from Eufy is discounted 43% today on Amazon as part of their "Black Friday Week" event (see all of today's active deals here). Stream music from Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM and others. Control smart home devices. Ask for weather, sports score, news and more. Eufy Genie currently averages 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon where Its typical list price has been reduced 43% to just $19.99. See it on Amazon here.

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Need for Speed: Payback tweaks awful progression system amid loot box controversy

Mon, 2017-11-20 09:49

Reviewing Need for Speed: Payback earlier this month I said it was “the first game to be ruined by loot boxes,” calling it “a totally decent arcade racer undermined at every turn by rampant and predatory monetization.” And I evidently wasn’t alone in that, judging by the game’s OpenCritic page.

So while all the attention is currently on the changes EA is making to Star Wars: Battlefront II’s loot boxes, it’s worth highlighting that Payback’s getting tweaked too. Taking to Reddit, Ghost Games recently rolled out a lengthy list of updates.

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Roku Express review: Cheap, decent, and probably still not the streaming box for you

Mon, 2017-11-20 07:00
The new Roku Express is much faster than its predecessor, but the best Roku still doesn’t cost much more.

Best Bluetooth speakers

Mon, 2017-11-20 06:11
We'll help you find the best wireless speakers for pairing with your smartphone or tablet—whatever your budget, and whatever music floats your boat.

Five hidden features of Android 8.0 Oreo you should be using

Mon, 2017-11-20 06:05

Google is pushing Android 8.0 Oreo to Nexus and Pixel devices as device makers scramble to get their phones updated. Google's devices will be the only ones running the new software, at least for a while. What's this Oreo update all about, anyway? Everyone knows about the big stuff, like picture-in-picture and autofill apps, but a lot more is going on if you dig deeper. Here are six awesome hidden Oreo features to get you started.

Widgets via app shortcuts Ryan Whitwam/IDG

Google has changed the location and appearance of the home screen widget picker several times, and Oreo brings yet another alteration. This one might make using widgets much easier, though. All of an app's widgets are accessible with a long-press on the app icon. This works in the app drawer as well as on the home screen.

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Microsoft's Surface Book 2 has a power problem

Fri, 2017-11-17 20:33

Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 has a power problem. When operating at peak performance, it may draw more power than its stock charger or Surface Dock can handle. What we’ve discovered after talking to Microsoft is that it’s not a bug—it’s a feature.

You can understand our confusion, given how Microsoft initially positioned the Surface Book 2. “This is a desktop,” Microsoft’s corporate vice president of devices, Panos Panay, went so far as to call it. “For many, this is likely the most performant desktop they’ve ever seen.” Most models come with a discrete Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU (the lowest-end model has a GTX 1050). At the launch event, Microsoft showed off Cuphead and Gears of War 4 playing at high frame rates on the Surface Book 2, implying that it was capable of playing PC games.

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Asus ZenBook Flip (UX360CA-DBM2T) review: A sleek, affordable 2-in-1 for everyday tasks

Fri, 2017-11-17 16:38

Not everyone needs a beefy laptop, which usually comes with a beefy price. For many folks, a capable, portable, flexible device like the Asus ZenBook Flip is just the ticket. At just $749, the 2-in-1 Flip doesn’t try to be the most powerful or most advanced option. Instead, it offers a slim and portable design that’s affordable and easy to use.

Really, this laptop reminds us a little of the netbooks that existed about 10 years ago. However, unlike those painfully underpowered systems, the Flip’s Core m processor can actually get work done. Storage is plentiful, too: Asus offers two versions of this 2-in-1, and they’re essentially the same aside from the SSD. The base model comes with a 256GB SSD for $699, and the second model comes with a 512GB SSD for $50 more. Our review unit sported the 512GB drive, but our critique applies to both models.

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Acer Chromebook 14 review: You can brag a little about this laptop's luxury details

Fri, 2017-11-17 15:27

Chromebooks can be a crap shoot. It’s easy to get sucked in by a low price, only to find yourself with a disappointingly low-quality device on your hands. But you don’t have to step up into the higher-priced territory of the Dell Chromebook 13 or HP Chromebook 13 to find satisfaction. For a midrange price ($286 on Amazon), the Acer Chromebook 14 gives you an all-aluminum chassis and a very nice display, even if its performance and other attributes are less remarkable. 

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Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 review: HD video and stereo sound add polish to video calls

Fri, 2017-11-17 15:07

Don't settle for the built-in webcam on your PC. At best, it provides mediocre audio and video quality, which just won't do if you're trying to make a strong impression in a professional Skype call or as a serious online broadcaster. You'll get far more polish from Logitech’s HD Pro Webcam C920 provides, which offers 1080p resolution and stereo sound at a very affordable price (currently less than $50 on Amazon).

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This week in games: Battlefront II disables microtransactions, Total War goes to Britain

Fri, 2017-11-17 15:00

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a news wrap-up, thanks to a knee-deep pile of review games I’m still slowly churning through. But my Total War sensors went off this week, so it’s time to return.

That’s right, there’s news on an honest-to-goodness historical Total War—the first since Rome 2 spin-off Attila . Also up this week: Pillars of Eternity 2 hits beta, Thermaltake’s new gaming chair cools your butt off, the end of Marvel Heroes, the start for Verdun sequel Tannenberg, and of course all the internet (and real-world) drama surrounding loot boxes.

This is gaming news for November 13 to 17.

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Star Wars: Battlefront II review: The Dark Side

Fri, 2017-11-17 09:19

No review is ever truly conducted in a vacuum, but Star Wars: Battlefront II arrived in a storm. And rightfully so, I might add. Battlefront II is the perfect capper to a holiday game season plagued by predatory monetization schemes, a game so unabashedly toxic it finally became a scandal. You’ll find a rack of pitchforks in the corner, or for those who prefer to observe internet drama from a safe distance there’s a popcorn maker on level two. 

Consider: Monday, EA received the most downvoted comment in Reddit history over Star Wars: Battlefront II's progression system. Tuesday, it cut all hero costs in the game by 75 percent in response. Wednesday, DICE employees hosted a disastrous Reddit Q&A session that only further fanned the flames. Thursday, the scandal grew so large it hit mainstream sites like CNN, prompting a phone call between EA CEO Andrew Wilson and Disney CEO Bob Iger, and then the temporary removal of Battlefront II’s real-world currency.

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Hex TLS Bluetooth speaker review: 808 Audio delivers solid mono thump and good looks, but few amenities

Fri, 2017-11-17 09:00
This speaker is attractive, rugged, easy to pack, and it delivers an authoritative thump, but it's missing a few key features, including speakerphone functionality and the ability to charge other USB devices.

iMovie 10 review: Free video editing that's elegant and easy

Fri, 2017-11-17 08:00

Apple’s iMovie has been around for a long time, and it has always focused on one philosophy: ease of use in a clean and elegant interface. After many years, this hasn’t changed. It’s still a delight to use, if a little bit obtuse at times in its pursuit of minimalism. It lacks some of the formats and features supported in other programs, but what’s there is implemented beautifully.

iMovie doesn’t offer the tutorials or wizards that some other programs for beginners do—though there is a neat movie trailer generation tool. Rather, it keeps the interface as basic as possible while guiding you with simple tooltips as you mouse over specific buttons and features. Total beginners might end up scratching their heads a little more than they would in apps with more explicit tutorials, though.

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Buffered VPN review: It gets the job done

Fri, 2017-11-17 08:00

Buffered VPN in brief:

P2P allowed: Yes

Business location: Budapest, Hungary

Number of servers: 30+

Number of country locations: 46

Cost: $99 per year

Budapest-based Buffered VPN isn’t an exceptional product. It ‘s not particularly speedy, its Windows app is serviceable but nothing special, prices are a little high, and its server count and country locations aren’t that impressive. Still, in my time with it, I found the VPN to be pretty good.

Ian Paul/IDG

Buffered VPN’s primary interface.

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BTV brings local TV to your phone and desktop for free

Fri, 2017-11-17 07:00
There's a new way to watch local TV on your PC or smartphone—for free. Didja, a Silicon Valley-based company, is taking over-the-air TV channels and packaging them for streaming to a smartphone app.

WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD review: One of the fastest TLC drives you can buy

Fri, 2017-11-17 07:00

The WD Blue 3D SSD is a SATA SSD with a not-so-secret twin: Sandisk’s Ultra 3D SSD. They are in fact the same drive with different labels, WD owning Sandisk and all that. The ‘3D’ term means the drives use stacked (layered, vertical, etc.) NAND. Practically speaking, that means more storage in less horizontal space.

The only real differences between the drives are the outward appearance, the marketing, and the fact that the WD Blue 3D ships in the M.2 form factor, while the Ultra 3D does not.  Beyond that, they’re peas in a pod. Given their superior performance compared to other TLC NAND drives—that’s a really good thing.

Design and capacity

Though available in the 2.5-inch form factor, WD sent us the M.2 2280 (22mm wide/80mm long) Blue 3D, which is handy for upgrading laptops or desktops that feature an M.2 slot. It’s SATA, not NVMe—just to be clear. Be sure to check which flavor your M.2 slot is before you buy. Just FYI, NVMe is a lot faster.

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OnePlus 5T first thoughts: This phone could have made a great Pixel 2 XL

Fri, 2017-11-17 06:29

What would you pay for a phone with a 6-inch OLED screen, Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery? $850? $950?

Now consider this number: $390. That’s the difference in price between the 128GB OnePlus 5T and the Pixel 2 XL. For $559 (just $20 more than the OnePlus 5), you get a phone that looks an awful lot like a Pixel 2 XL, with slim bezels, a rear fingerprint sensor, and an OS that’s very faithful to stock Android. And the entry-level model costs less than $500.

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