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Valve locks in Half-Life: Alyx's release date, but it's nearly impossible to buy a VR headset right now

Thu, 2020-02-13 16:18

Half-Life: Alyx will release on March 23. It’s not much of an announcement, maybe. We already knew Half-Life: Alyx was due to release in March. Now we just know the exact day it’s coming. For most games, that’s not a story—and yet when you’re discussing the first Half-Life game in over a decade, even “Hey, it’s coming on March 23” can be the biggest news of the day.

After all, Half-Life: Alyx is likely the reason nobody can buy a VR headset. More than a month after Christmas, all of the major headsets are sold out. Valve’s high-end Index headset? Unavailable. Oculus’s standalone Quest headset, which you can hook up to a PC with its $80 Link cable? Unavailable. The tethered Oculus Rift S, arguably people’s last choice for a headset these days? Also unavailable.

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Windows 10's first PowerToys app allows custom Snap resizing and looks amazing

Thu, 2020-02-13 12:00

Note: We're republishing this story from Sept. 6, 2019, because an update has added multiple-monitor support to FancyZones, which resolves one of its few outstanding issues.

If you’re a fan of Windows 10’s Snap feature, you’ve been waiting and hoping for Windows to allow you to design your own custom Snap layouts. Now you can! One of the first Windows 10 PowerToys apps, FancyZones, does just that—and it looks incredible.

If you don’t know what Snap does, head to a PC and open any window there—this story will do. Then press the Windows key and one of the directional arrows. If you hit Windows + the left arrow, for example, Snap snaps a window as a column attached to the left side of the screen. If you drag it toward any corner, the window will snap to that corner, allowing you to create a 4-window tiled effect.

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The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is the iPhone moment folding phones have been waiting for

Thu, 2020-02-13 08:57

As soon as I picked up the iPhone back in 2007, I knew that the future of the smartphone had arrived. I feel the same way the Galaxy Z Flip.

Michael Simon/IDG

The outside of the Galaxy Z Flip is a thing of beauty.

When I flipped it open for the first time, the Galaxy Z Flip was as much of a revelation as the first time I slid my finger to unlock the original iPhone. The other folding phones I’ve used from Huawei, Royale, and Samsung have all felt a little off, almost like they were movie props meant to look like futuristic phones. From the plastic screens to the uncertain form factors, folding phones might be wow-worthy, but they haven’t felt like the kind of product that could change the way we think about smartphones.

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What to expect in Microsoft's new Windows 10 20H1 release, due soon

Thu, 2020-02-13 06:30

Windows 10 20H1 (version 2004) looks like it’ll finally be giving Windows users something to talk about, after a year’s worth of vanilla updates. Using Microsoft's Insider builds as a guide, you can expect the most significant changes in the Windows Subsystem for Linux, Cortana, Windows Search, and Your Phone. There’s also the usual mix of small “utility” improvements and conveniences.

Before we dive deeper into the new features to expect, let’s talk timing. There's reason to believe that Microsoft’s already wrapped up development on Windows 10 20H1, given a mound of circumstantial evidence: Microsoft's Insider Fast Ring has moved to “future code," and the Insider Slow ring has seen little more than bug fixes since November. (The last Slow release was in January.) Microsoft has characterized 20H1 as version 2004, usually code for the fourth month (April) of '20, or 2020. But in Build 19033, Microsoft signaled that it chose “2004” to avoid confusion with Windows Server 2003, suggesting that the new version could arrive as early as March. 

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Cord-cutters: Here's how to audit your streaming TV subscriptions so you don't waste money

Thu, 2020-02-13 06:00
Avoid sneaky subscription charges by checking out these links and tools.

Acer Swift 3 (SF314-57-57BN) review: Thin, light, affordable, and Ice Lake, with Thunderbolt 3 to boot

Thu, 2020-02-13 06:00

With its slim profile and featherweight form factor, the Acer Swift 3 deftly balances size, power, functionality and price. Retailing for $700 and weighing in at about two and a half pounds, the Swift 3 is an enticingly affordable quad-core laptop. While its Ice Lake performance is decidedly middle of the road, it stands toe-to-toe with its competitors without the usual roar of cooling fans. The inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port is a nice bonus given the Swift 3’s price range, although the IPS display is on the dim side.

Configuration

Acer offers a wide variety of Swift 3 laptops in 15.6-inch, 14-inch, and 13.3-inch configurations, along with Core i3, i5, and i7 models ranging from 8th-gen Kaby Lake all the way to 10th-gen Ice Lake (not to mention a single AMD Ryzen 5 version). At the lower end of the Swift 3 spectrum you’ll find a 14-inch Core i3 Kaby Lake configuration with a stingy 4GB of RAM and 128GB of solid-state storage for $480. On the upper end sits a 14-inch Core i7 Whiskey Lake system with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics for $1,000.

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Amazon Echo Flex review: This tiny plug-in speaker puts Alexa in places where other Echo devices won’t go

Thu, 2020-02-13 06:00
Just plug the compact and inexpensive Echo Flex into a wall outlet and start chatting with Alexa.

Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest phone show, cancelled over coronavirus fears

Wed, 2020-02-12 14:31

This year’s iteration of the world’s biggest phone show, Mobile World Congress, has been cancelled, mere weeks before it was supposed to kick off in Barcelona, Spain, on February 24. Before the cancellation, many of the show’s exhibitors withdrew over the past week due to coronavirus fears.

John Hoffman, CEO of the GSM Association that runs Mobile World Congress, announced the cancellation in a statement.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event. The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions. Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

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The Full Nerd ep. 125: AMD's monster Threadripper 3990X, $300 budget PC build recap

Wed, 2020-02-12 13:53

In this episode of The Full Nerd, Gordon Mah UngBrad ChacosAlaina Yee, and Adam Patrick Murray talk about the most powerful consumer processor ever released.

Yes, AMD’s monstrous 64-core Threadripper 3990X has stomped onto the streets, carrying a just as staggering $3,990 price tag. Its performance is in a class all its own: Intel doesn’t field a high-end desktop chip anywhere near this potent, and Windows itself needs to pull off some tricks to be able to handle it. So who needs the Threadripper 3990X, and what can you do with it? The gang dives in.

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Hands on with Windows 10X: Microsoft's dual-screen OS is shallow but slick

Wed, 2020-02-12 09:13

Is it fair to call Windows 10X a casual OS? After spending a few hours with the emulated version of Microsoft’s upcoming dual-screen OS, I can share it feels a bit like a tablet OS mixed with a phone OS mixed with Windows 10—with a bit of fun and frustration mixed in.

After learning about Microsoft’s Windows 10X at a Microsoft developer day on Tuesday, I took the OS for a spin using the new Microsoft Emulator app, once designed for Windows phones but now adapted for dual-screen devices like the Surface Neo. What Microsoft demoed is essentially an alpha version running under a simulator. Performance was lousy, sure—but right now, that’s not the point.

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Microsoft's Windows 10X: A dozen ways it's cooler than just two screens

Wed, 2020-02-12 06:30

Before Tuesday, all we really knew about Windows 10X was that it would be some flavor of Windows 10, optimized for dual-screen devices such as Microsoft’s own Surface Neo and an unknown number of third-party competitors by holiday 2020.  Now we know much more, including what’s under the hood.

At a developer event Tuesday, the company made a Windows 10X emulator available—though you’ll need to assign a fairly powerful PC to the task, and dedicate it to the Windows Insider program. Microsoft revealed several intriguing characteristics of the new OS as well, including lightning-fast updates, a special way of handling Win32 apps, and no apparent need for anti-malware apps. 

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3 Samsung Galaxy S20 features Apple should borrow for the iPhone 12 (and three it shouldn't)

Wed, 2020-02-12 06:15
The Galaxy S20 is loaded with bells and whistles—some of which would be nice to see in the next iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S20 v S20+: How do the non-Ultra phones stack up?

Wed, 2020-02-12 06:00

If you’ve got your eye on a new Galaxy S20, chances are the Ultra is just too much phone for you. It’s huge, powerful, and, most importantly, crazy-expensive, so most people are going to be choosing between the classics: S20 and S20+. But just because they don’t have Ultra branding, doesn’t mean you’re getting a subpar handset:

Galaxy S20 vs. S20+: Design

No matter which S20 you buy, you’re getting a gorgeous phone, with extremely slim bezels, a stunning screen, and a striking camera array. Samsung isn’t straying too far from its tried-and-true formula, but the S20 definitely has a character all its own.

However, while anyone will be able to pick the S20 out of a lineup of S10’s, there isn’t too much of a size difference between the new phone and the old ones:

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Simplehuman Rectangular Sensor Can review: Have we taken voice control too far?

Wed, 2020-02-12 06:00
Sensors in this fancy trash can recognize voice commands and gestures, no smart speaker needed.

Activision Blizzard just pulled its games from Nvidia's GeForce Now, and that sucks

Tue, 2020-02-11 17:21

Nvidia and Activision Blizzard seem like close partners. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is one of the biggest games to take advantage of the real-time ray tracing capabilities in modern GeForce graphics cards, and games like Overwatch have graced Nvidia’s GeForce Now for most of the gaming-from-the-cloud service’s multi-year beta. But a mere week after GeForce Now fully launched and obliterated Google Stadia’s value proposition, Activision Blizzard’s games are being yanked from the service at the publisher’s request, effective immediately.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip: 6 features and facts to know before buying

Tue, 2020-02-11 16:40

Samsung wasted little time in getting to the good stuff at its first Unpacked event of 2020. Right off the bat, it took the wraps off the Galaxy Z Flip, its second folding phone and the first one that’s actually kind of affordable. Seriously, it’s cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Ultra (which has a starting price of $1,400).

As far as the specs go, the Z Flip isn’t a midrange device like the Motorola razr. Along with the Flip’s 6.7-inch 1080p display, the Flip has a very speedy processor. I’m not sure exactly which chip it is, but the specs say it’s a 7nm, 64-bit Octa-Core Processor with a max speed of 2.95GHz, which is actually faster than the S20. It also boasts 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. Its 3,300mAh battery seems small, however.

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Samsung's Galaxy S20 makes you choose between a high refresh rate and high resolution

Tue, 2020-02-11 15:00

There are plenty of new features in the Galaxy S20 to get excited about—the new cameras, the larger screens, the 5G modem—but the best has to be the high-refresh display. Samsung fans have watched from the sidelines as Google, OnePlus, and Razer all released phones with 90Hz or 120Hz screens. Even worse, those phones have actually used Samsung displays. But the S20 levels the playing field, bringing a 120Hz high-refresh display to Galaxyland for buttery smooth scrolling and crisp animations.

Samsung isn’t limiting the high refresh rate to the uber-expensive S20 Ultra either. Samsung offers its 120Hz display—which oddly doesn’t have a cute marketing name like the Pixel 4’s Smooth Display or the OnePlus 7T’s Liquid Display—on every version of the S20. And you don’t need to raise your brightness level to ensure it works properly. On paper, it seems like the best of both worlds: a glorious 1440p Infinity display and the fastest refresh rate around.

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The Division 2: Warlords of New York heads back to NYC, and makes you wonder why we had to leave

Tue, 2020-02-11 14:30

When The Division launched, bringing with it a snowy section of Midtown Manhattan, people assumed more would follow. Rumors of a Brooklyn-based expansion began circulating almost immediately, people filling in the blanks on the map. But whether planned or not, that expansion never manifested.

Until now, that is. Four years later, we’re finally headed to Brooklyn—not in The Division, but in The Division 2. Announced this morning, The Division 2’s new expansion Warlords of New York is taking players back to where the series began, albeit a few miles south and a few (in-game) months later. 

It’s an expansion so ambitious you wonder why The Division needed a sequel at all—and whether we’ll ever see another.

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Galaxy S20 Ultra hands-on: Samsung’s pro phone is a monument to excess

Tue, 2020-02-11 14:00

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is the most phone I’ve ever held in my hand. I’m not just referring to the screen size—a hair under 7 inches—or even the weight, which tips the scales at 220 grams. It’s the whole package, which oozes luxury and excess in a way no Galaxy phone has ever before.

Christopher Hebert/iDG

Like everything else, the Galaxy S20 Ultra's camera bump is significantly bigger than the one on the S20+.

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Watch The Full Nerd talk about Threadripper 3990x reviews live!

Tue, 2020-02-11 13:50

Join The Full Nerd gang as they talk about the latest PC hardware topics. Today's show dives into the reviews of AMD's 3rd Gen Ryzen Threadripper 3990x as well as Alaina's $300 gaming PC build. As always we will be answering your live questions so speak up in the chat.

If YouTube is not your thing you can also watch us on Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter.

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