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Updated: 46 min 42 sec ago

Closing Microsoft Stores means more support and buying headaches for Windows users

Fri, 2020-06-26 15:03

Apple Macs “just work” (for now at least). PCs are hobbyist machines. Both are stereotypes, sure, but they might offer some explanation why Apple Stores are thriving and Microsoft just decided to close all of theirs.

Microsoft spun the closure into a “new approach to retail,” one that would be driven through its website and online sales channels, rather than through a network of physical stores. (Amazon must be chuckling at this.) But the writing was on the wall: in 2019, Microsoft shuttered virtually all of its retail kiosks at malls and other shopping centers, leaving the larger Microsoft Stores on uncertain ground.

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The Full Nerd ep. 143: Macs ditch Intel, GeForce RTX 2080 Super laptops, Batmen ranked

Fri, 2020-06-26 13:51

In this episode of The Full Nerd, Gordon Ung, Brad Chacos, Alaina Yee, and Adam Patrick Murray dive into a new world where Apple ditched Intel and Nvidia’s potent GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPUs slip into svelte sub-5 lb. laptops.

Of course, the big news of the week is Apple ditching Intel and transitioning Macs to in-house Arm chips. We dive into the implications for Mac users and the PC ecosystem alike, leaning on what we know from Microsoft’s struggles to make Windows Arm laptops a thing worth caring about. This is a defining moment for computers, and we each feel passionately about the shift, so there’s a lot of wide-ranging, interesting discussion. Regardless, history proves you shouldn’t buy an Intel Mac now.

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Going to the movies in Fortnite: I did it for science

Fri, 2020-06-26 11:34
Inception, Batman Begins, and The Prestige are streaming for free in Fortnite today. Here’s what it’s like to see a movie in the world’s most popular game.

Microsoft permanently closes all of its retail stores

Fri, 2020-06-26 11:33

Microsoft’s retail stores mimick the look and feel of Apple’s iconic sales fronts, from the glass walls to the wood tables to the very design of the Surface hardware on display. But as anyone who ever wandered through a mall can tell you, Microsoft’s stores lack one crucial aspect: customers. Crowds never flocked to Microsoft stores the way they do Apple stores, and on Friday, Microsoft announced that it’s closing all but four of its brick and mortar locations.

“As we look forward, we start a new chapter for Microsoft Store,” Microsoft Store corporate vice president Brad Porter wrote on LinkedIn. “As part of our business plan, we announced a strategic change in our retail operations, including closing Microsoft Store physical locations. Our retail team members will continue to serve customers working from Microsoft corporate facilities or remotely and we will continue to develop our diverse team in support of the overall company mission and objectives.”

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Data caps on AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile will return June 30

Fri, 2020-06-26 06:25

Major Internet service providers are scheduled to end their quarantine benefits soon, once again subjecting Americans to data caps and removing protections if they are unable to pay their bills. 

The FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge is set to expire on June 30. Companies initially agreed to the pledge and rushed to add benefits. ISPs like CenturyLink, T-Mobile, Verizon, and many others said they would not discontinue service or charge late fees for those unable to pay because of the coronavirus. They also agreed to open their Wi-Fi access points for free. So far, the FCC has not publicly said that it would extend the pledge.

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Accell Power Dot surge protector review: A clever idea, but also a pricey one

Fri, 2020-06-26 06:00
You can plop your smart speaker in the middle of Accell Power Dot surge protector and have three outlets and four USB ports to power other devices.

Hands-on with the world's first miniLED laptop: MSI's Creator 17

Fri, 2020-06-26 05:58

With the MSI Creator 17, we have seen the light. As the name implies, the laptop features a 17.3-inch, 16:9 screen with a UHD 4K resolution panel. But it’s not the size, nor the resolution, that matters here. As the first laptop in the world with a miniLED screen, it's crisper and brighter (can you say 1,000 nits?!) than anything we've seen before. 

Typical laptops use standard LEDs that are larger and limit the density in a laptop screen. A typical display LED might be 2mm in size.

A miniLED could be a tenth the size of that conventional LED. Being able to pack LEDs closer together inside of a display means the potential for more zones, which gives you blacker blacks, and increased contrast, too.

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Google Meet for G Suite adds custom backgrounds, larger gallery view

Thu, 2020-06-25 18:46

After watching Zoom take hold with educators during the ongoing pandemic, Google said Thursday that its G Suite for Education is gearing up for the fall with features for Google Meet that include up to 49 participants, custom backgrounds, a “raise hand” feature, and better attendee controls and diagnostics.

Google says that 140 million educators and students are now using G Suite for Education. The new Meet features will be launching later this year, presumably before classes return in the fall. Meet already scored points with an amazing new de-noiser capability, though the new features are more practical.

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Cyberpunk 2077 goes all-in on ray tracing and Nvidia's DLSS 2.0

Thu, 2020-06-25 17:34

The first time we saw Cyberpunk 2077, we were convinced there was no way it would be a current-gen game, despite CD Projekt’s claims. Apparently we were wrong, but there’s no question the level of fidelity and sheer density of the game will make your graphics card sweat—especially because it’ll be a ray-tracing flagship.

On that note, while today’s hotly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay reveal felt pretty underwhelming after the stunning previews, Nvidia sent out more details on the ray tracing tech integrated into the game. It’s enough to stoke our excitement yet again.

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The Steam Summer Sale starts with deals on Borderlands 3, Assassin's Creed and more

Thu, 2020-06-25 13:17

Is it summer already? I locked the door to my apartment in March when it was cold and blustery outside and...well, it's June in San Francisco, so it's probably cold and blustery outside. But the point is that I'm reduced to marking time by the various Steam sales, and that means today it's summer.

Yes, the Steam Summer Sale kicks off Thursday, and runs through July 9 at 10AM Pacific. Like the last few sales, there's a points-driven meta layer that rewards you for purchasing games and such. "Rewards" is a bit strong of a term maybe, given it's all profile backgrounds and chat effects and the like, but hey, it's a "souvenir" of the sale, as Valve puts it. 

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Latest Cyberpunk 2077 footage shows off a 'braindance' and more of the prologue

Thu, 2020-06-25 13:02

Cyberpunk 2077 has been a highlight of the last two E3s, so of course we couldn’t have this year’s Fake E3 without it. Today CD Projekt ran its debut Night City Wire stream, where we got probably our best look at Cyberpunk 2077. Less guided and less constrained than the previous demos, I feel like this is the first time Cyberpunk 2077 felt like...well, a video game. A very good-looking game, but a game nevertheless.

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The Oculus Go is dead, and virtual reality is better for it

Thu, 2020-06-25 09:55

Oculus stopped selling its entry-level virtual reality headset on Tuesday, the Oculus Go. Usually this kind of announcement would be met with nostalgic retrospectives and beers poured on the floor. Much lamenting, and all that. Even the worst products usually get a rose-colored sendoff. 

But virtual reality is better off without Go around, and so is Oculus. 

[Further reading: The best VR headsets ]

The Gear VR era

You'll get no eulogy from me. Not a fond one, anyway. Oculus Go was a play for the mass market that completely misunderstood the mass market. Staring down the barrel of the $600 Oculus Rift, the goal was to get people into virtual reality as cheaply as possible. Break down the barriers. Build the ecosystem. 

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AMD's Ryzen exceeds its '25x20' power efficiency challenge

Thu, 2020-06-25 08:00

AMD said Thursday that the company has met and even exceeded the “25x20” goal that it set in 2014, in which it challenged itself to improve the energy efficiency of its processors by 25X by 2020.

AMD said the actual proportion was 31.7 times the energy efficiency of its 2014 processor, the AMD “Kaveri” FX-7600P, which was rated at 35 watts TDP. (Thermal design power, or TDP, typically refers to the “worst-case” scenario for thermal power.) AMD compared it to the Ryzen 7 4800H, a 45W part that can be configured down to 35W. 

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Lenovo Yoga C640 review: The battery life blows us away

Thu, 2020-06-25 06:30

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this particular model of Lenovo’s Yoga C640, a Best Buy exclusive with a relatively anemic dual-core i3 Comet Lake CPU, a puny 128GB SSD, and a $600 price tag. That said, this sleek convertible (officially the Yoga C640-13IML) has an ace up its sleeve: a beefy battery that just goes, and goes, and goes.

While this made-for-Best Buy system isn’t a great pick for users looking to process 4K videos or crunch big numbers (there are other Yoga C640 configurations better suited for such CPU-intensive tasks), it could be a great fit for users looking for a versatile 2-in-1 that can go all day long without an AC cord.

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House of Marley Redemption ANC review: Environmentally conscious wireless earbuds with mediocre noise cancelling

Thu, 2020-06-25 06:15

Will you be redeemed by wearing the Redemption ANC buds from the House of Marley? Likely not, but if you’re concerned about the usual Earth-unfriendly methods of making devices like this, you’ll probably at least walk away with a load off your conscience.

They’re not biodegradable, but they are made from recycled silicone, and House of Marley even found a way to work sustainable materials like bamboo and wood into the design. Along with their sound quality and general stylishness, that’s a good reason to be happy about these buds, but it may not take long before you start worrying about the shortcomings of some of the active noise cancelling and other features.

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The ad hater's guide to cord-cutting

Thu, 2020-06-25 06:00
A guide to ad-free options for cord-cutters.

How iOS 14 stole features from Android—and made them so much better

Thu, 2020-06-25 06:00

On Monday Apple unveiled iOS 14—and if you’re an Android user, the “new” OS might have looked a little familiar.

The latest upgrade to the iPhone operating system, due to release this fall, promises improvements including a new home screen, smarter navigation, faster apps, and a fresh coat of paint on everything. And it's clear that many of the best features are inspired, influenced, or just plain swiped from Android, from the new default email and browser apps to the picture-in-picture for videos. You can plainly see the influence on the new compact view for Siri and incoming calls, cycling directions in Maps, even the new home screen widgets.

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Anker Soundcore Rave Neo review: Fat, punchy bass for the dance floor

Thu, 2020-06-25 06:00
This oversized Bluetooth speaker not only pumps the volume and the bass, it delivers a light show and syncs with other Soundcore speakers, too.

Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards are now the first DirectX 12 Ultimate GPUs

Wed, 2020-06-24 15:39

Nvidia rolled out its latest Game Ready drivers for GeForce graphics cards on Tuesday. We don’t normally cover the hot-and-heavy world of graphics drivers releases (just keep them updated, okay?), but this one features a notable milestone: Game Ready driver 451.48 is fully DirectX 12 Ultimate compliant, meaning Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 20-series graphics cards are the first hardware to support Microsoft’s next-gen graphics API.

While it’s notable, it’s no surprise. DirectX 12 Ultimate unifies graphics support across PCs and the forthcoming Xbox Series X, rolling in features like an updated version of Microsoft’s DXR ray tracing API, variable rate shading tier 2, mesh shaders, and sampler feedback. Most of those technologies appeared first in Nvidia’s “Turing” graphics cards—the RTX 20-series and GTX 16-series—but haven’t been seen often in games, as they’ve been limited to Nvidia hardware.

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Why this Acer Aspire 5 is usually the bestselling laptop on Amazon

Wed, 2020-06-24 14:46

The AMD Ryzen 3-powered Acer Aspire 5 has been a bestseller on Amazon for months on end. What is it about this particular model of the Aspire 5 that makes it so popular?

For starters, this Windows 10 laptop has an eye-catching full-HD 15.6-inch display, not to mention a slim-and-trim chassis, and solid performance when it comes to day-to-day computing duties.

Most of all, however, this Aspire 5 model (A515-43-R19L) is way cheap. With a list price of $350, this Ryzen 3-powered laptop usually sells for closer to $310 on Amazon—not bad for a full-on Windows 10 laptop with a roomy display and a sleek design.

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