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Best smart lock for a keyless home

Thu, 2019-12-05 06:00
Keys are yesterday’s tech, your smart home needs a smart door lock.

Best cheap laptops: We rate the best-sellers on Amazon and Best Buy

Wed, 2019-12-04 16:48

The best cheap laptops right now are the Black Friday specials! Click over to our special story on the best deals you’ll find this week. 

When you’re looking for a good, cheap laptop, knowledge is power. Every budget machine (which we’re defining as Windows laptops costing $500 or less) is the product of compromise—corners carefully cut here and there to hit a price point.

Your job is to find the one that checks off the most boxes for your needs—and doesn’t saddle you with features (or lack thereof) that you’ll regret in a year. We’ll show you what to look for by highlighting which budget laptops among the best-sellers currently listed at Amazon and Best Buy are worth buying. We haven’t necessarily tested these specific machines (we’ll let you know if we have), but we’ve seen enough similar ones to have a good idea of the pros and cons. We’re also focusing on 14-inch and larger laptops, because part of the great deal should be getting a decent-sized display.

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Inside the Snapdragon 865: Qualcomm reveals the features you'll find in 2020's best Android phones

Wed, 2019-12-04 14:00

Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 865 smartphone chip will support 5G, certainly. But more practical features will probably affect phone users in more immediate ways, such as 200 megapixel still photos, 4K HDR/8K video capture with optional portrait mode and Dolby Vision support, dynamic lighting options for mobile gaming, and real-time audio translation. 

Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 855 a year ago, and unveiled its successors—the Snapdragon 865, the Snapdragon 765, and the Snapdragon 765G—on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Qualcomm dove deep into what phone makers and end users can expect from its new processors. Improvements to each of its cores—the new Kryo 585 CPU, the Adreno 650 GPU, the Spectra 480 image signal processor, the Sensing Hub, and the X55 5G modem—will all add new capabilities to phones.

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Halo: Reach PC impressions: The prodigal son returns to the PC, with some quirks

Wed, 2019-12-04 11:11

The original plan, if I recall correctly, was to have the entire Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC by the end of 2019. Alas, that’s not going to happen. But 343 Industries did manage to get Halo: Reach out before the end of the year, the first Halo game to hit PC since Microsoft’s ill-fated attempt to use Halo 2 to sell copies of Windows Vista back in 2007.

So how is it? I won’t lie, it’s kind of janky. Given how many rounds of testing Reach went through this year, I expected a more exhaustive PC version. But it works! If that’s all you care about, if you simply need to satiate your nostalgia...well, you’re probably already playing. After all, Halo: Reach “reached” the top of the Steam sales charts on release day.

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Project Athena notebooks perform better on battery, and Intel has the numbers to prove it

Wed, 2019-12-04 09:34

Intel’s redesign of the thin-and-light notebook, known as Project Athena, may have struggled to be more than a name to most consumers. But Intel claims that its design partnership with PC makers has paid off in a way you might not think about: battery-powered performance.

“Performance” is usually synonymous with plugging a laptop in. Unplugging a laptop usually translates to long battery life at the expense of a slower clock speed. But Intel unveiled battery-powered performance numbers alongside the Qualcomm Snapdragon Technology Conference to bolster its design chops.

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The 5G phones you really want are coming in early 2020

Wed, 2019-12-04 09:09

Lost amid the 5G phone hype, analysts say, is a little-known fact: none of the high-priced 5G phones currently being sold in carrier stores can access both 5G mmWave and sub-6GHz networks. It’s one of the main reasons not to jump on the 5G hype train too early, but that will change, Qualcomm senior executives said, during the first quarter of 2020.

As it stands, 5G is basically an either-or proposition. the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition that T-Mobile announced as it “turns on” its 5G network on December 6 is a “lowband” phone, capable of accessing T-Mobile’s 600MHz 5G network. But it won’t be able to access the short-range, high-bandwidth, and extremely fast mmWave spectrum that Verizon is rolling out, and T-Mobile has deployed in a handful of cities. On the other hand, phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G for Verizon are optimized for high-speed mmWave communication, which yield the sort of eye-popping gigabit downloads that dominate headlines, but can't access sub-6GHz frequencies.

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How to use a Chromebook: 10 must-know tips, tricks, and tools for beginners

Wed, 2019-12-04 08:55

When Google first introduced Chromebooks in 2011, it seemed like a ridiculous idea. A laptop that can only run a browser? Who wants that? But over time, web apps slowly became more powerful and capable, while Google steadily improved the Chrome OS experience. Then, Google went even further and added the ability to run Android apps, and still further with Linux desktop apps.

All of this means the Chromebooks of 2019 and 2020 are nothing like that original experience. Today, Chrome OS feels like a modern operating system that offers a first-class web browser, the flexibility of mobile apps, and a desktop experience in one box. It can satisfy the needs of almost every user, with the notable exception of those who need video or advanced image editing.

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iRobot Braava Jet m6 review: a smarter robot mop

Wed, 2019-12-04 06:00
The Braava Jet m6 can map your rooms, recognize carpet, and even clean in sequence with select Roomba vacuums.

Best robot mops: We review the most scrupulous scrubbers for your home's hard surface floors

Wed, 2019-12-04 06:00
Skip the bucket and the back-bending labor and let one of these specialized robots scour the stains from your hardwood, laminate, tile, vinyl, linoleum, and other solid surface flooring.

PCWorld's December Digital Magazine: Google's latest hardware reviewed

Tue, 2019-12-03 17:23

Stay on top of the latest tech with PCWorld’s Digital Magazine. Available as single copies or as a monthly subscription, it highlights the best content from—the most important news, the key product reviews, and the most useful features and how-to stories—in a curated Digital Magazine for Android and iOS, as well for the desktop and other tablet readers.

In the December issue

The December issue has reviews of the new Google Pixel 4 XL and Pixelbook Go. We have details on AMD’s 32-core Threadripper 3970X and 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X. Plus, we review the HP Omen 17 and the new Brave 1.0 browser.

Other highlights include:

  • News: Microsoft's 10 biggest Ignite reveals include the new Edge, and more ways to tie Office to the web
  • GPUs: Nvidia reveals faster GeForce GTX 1660 Super, GTX 1650 Super GPUs boosted by GDDR6 memory
  • Hands-on with Microsoft's Project xCloud: Putting cellular cloud gaming to the test
  • Lenovo IdeaPad S340-15IWL review: Peppy quad-core performance, but a cheap display
  • Tall phones trend: If 2020 will be the year of the tall phone, I want no part of it
  • HDMI vs. DisplayPort: Which display interface reigns supreme?
  • Here's How: How to use Windows' Your Phone app to connect your phone to your PC
Video highlights

Watch: Google Nest Wifi is the second generation of the Google hub, now rebranded with Nest and incorporating the Nest smart home hub. The satellites now have Google Assistant built-in, too. Mike Simon goes hands-on at Google's hardware event in New York.

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Google's latest messaging service is basically DMs for Photos

Tue, 2019-12-03 14:30

OK, I know what you’re thinking—the last thing we need is another messaging service from Google. But this one might actually be good.

Instead of a whole new app, Google is building its new messaging service right into the Photos app. It’s basically Google Photos DM, as it only works if the person you’re sending a pic to has the Google Photos app installed, like Twitter’s or Instagram’s DM. Then when you share a message via Photos, you’ll be starting a conversation just like if you sent a MMS through Android Messages.

If the recipient doesn’t have messages, sharing will work like before—creating a dedicated album and then sharing that via a Google Photos link. But the new service definitely seems designed to keep people inside the app, despite Google’s claim that “this feature isn’t designed to replace the chat apps you already use.” As described, users can “like photos or comment in the conversation, and you can easily save these photos or videos to your own gallery.”

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Qualcomm's next-gen Snapdragon 865 mobile chip focuses on 5G

Tue, 2019-12-03 14:00

Qualcomm uncorked this year’s version of its Snapdragon Technology Summit by announcing the names of its two new upcoming Snapdragon chips, the Snapdragon 865 and the Snapdragon 765/765G. Not surprisingly, the emphasis this year is on 5G, and the “AI” which those chips will apply for software enhancements.

Because this is the Snapdragon Technology Summit, we expect to hear more details of each of these chips in the coming days. For now, however, Qualcomm is just teasing the names and their basic capabilities.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips are some of the most prevalent processors in smartphones and a mainstay in high-end flagships, powering the Samsung Galaxy S10 and OnePlus 7 Pro among others. Both of these phones incorporate the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 that was introduced at last year’s Snapdragon Summit, and it’s fair to say we’d expect the eventual successor of those phones to use the new chips, as well. 

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You can now stream music from Google Home to a Bluetooth speaker. Here's how

Tue, 2019-12-03 08:00

Google Home and Google Home Mini might be good at finding songs you want to hear, but they’re not the best at playing them. Compared to higher-priced speakers such as Google Home Max and Apple’s HomePod, Google’s diminutive devices sound exactly as you’d expect: small, tinny, and muddled.

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Fluance RT85 turntable review: A great-sounding turntable for the vinyl enthusiast on a budget

Tue, 2019-12-03 07:30
You'd typically need to spend hundreds more to get the upgrades and performance in Fluance's budget-priced turntable.

Goal Zero Sherpa 100PD review: A heavy battery pack that's become my go-to for trips

Tue, 2019-12-03 06:30

For the past few months, the Goal Zero Sherpa 100PD has been in my backpack for every business trip I’ve gone on, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s not the lightest battery pack, weighing in at 1.4 pounds, and I definitely notice that it’s in my bag, but it has essentially replaced the power strip I would bring with me on trips.

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

On the front of the Sherpa 100PD is a USB-C Power Delivery (PD) port, two USB-A ports, a power button, a display that shows the pack’s numerical charge level, and a button that turns on wireless charging. The USB-C port is two-way, meaning that you use it to both charge the pack itself and to charge Power Delivery devices. Included in the box is a USB-A to USB-C cable.

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Microsoft Surface Pro X review: This isn't the long-lasting tablet we were hoping for

Tue, 2019-12-03 06:00

Microsoft’s Surface Pro X was supposed to signal a new chapter for Qualcomm’s foray into Windows PCs and tablets, one where battery life was no longer the sole selling point. To its credit, the new, semi-custom Microsoft SQ1 chip (based on the Snapdragon 8cx) delivers improvements in graphics and performance. We also appreciate the appearance of USB-C and a marvelously-engineered pen cubby.  

But in a baffling turn of events, the Surface Pro X falls short in battery life. Meanwhile, the app compatibility issues and bugs that are an unfortunate staple of Snapdragon-powered PCs remain. Maybe it can be tolerated in a system like the Samsung Galaxy Book 2, which delivered 18 hours of battery life. But not the Surface Pro X, with a mere 8 to 10 hours. The tired chant of “this is a new architecture, give it some time,” doesn’t fly anymore. When a bug or another issue pops up—and it probably will—it’s painful.

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Cyber Monday deal: Give your dumb TV some smarts with this $35 Google Home Mini and Chromecast bundle

Mon, 2019-12-02 10:22
Walmart's exclusive Cyber Monday deal also includes a $10 Vudu credit.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 15-inch (Core i7) review: This is the one you should buy

Mon, 2019-12-02 06:21

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 (Core i7), also known as the Surface Laptop 3 for Business, finally delivers on what Microsoft has traditionally promised with its Surfaces: a great screen, a great keyboard, and great battery life. 

The Surface Laptop 3 with Intel’s 10th-gen Core i7 chip achieves roughly 10 hours of battery life. This is more than enough to get you through your workday, and siginificantly longer than what was achieved by the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 with AMD’s Ryzen 5 CPU, or the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 with Ryzen 7. Other than the CPU and storage variations, the Surface Laptop 3 units we’ve tested are largely identical. 

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Philips Hue Smart Plug review: Just the basics, except for the price tag

Mon, 2019-12-02 06:00
Is the Philips brand name worth double the price for a commodity smart plug?

We benchmark AMD's mobile Ryzen 7 vs. Intel's mobile Core i7: Which is the best laptop processor?

Mon, 2019-12-02 06:00

Comparing Intel’s Core i7 mobile chip to AMD’s Ryzen 7 mobile chip usually comes with the qualifier that every laptop implementation is different. Not this time. PCWorld had the chance to test the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 in both its Ryzen 7 and Core i7 versions, essentially identical laptops save for the CPU. This gives us the exceedingly rare opportunity to crown the best laptop processor of this generation, based on head-to head tests.

Granted, it’s not an 100-percent direct comparison. You’ll see differences in the size and manufacturer of the SSD used, for example, which has an impact on performance. Each platform has a slightly different type of Wi-Fi, which is something we didn’t test directly. And, of course, Microsoft is using the Ryzen 7 Surface Edition, a semi-custom version of AMD’s mobile Ryzen chip.

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