By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

The Google Chromecast is not only one of the most useful and innovative gadgets of the last few years, it’s also dazzlingly cheap. And if you’re looking to pick one up for the cheapest possible price, you’ve come to the right place!

Chromecast is a Wi-Fi HDMI dongle that you plug directly into your TV. From there you can use your smartphone or tablet to ‘throw’ video at your TV over Wi-Fi – whether it be Netflix movies, live football matches from the major broadcasters or simply just a funny YouTube video. On this page we’ll find you the best prices for the Chromecast Ultra, Chromecast 2 (or just Chromecast now) and Chromecast Audio and explain how they differ.

What is a good Chromecast deal?

This one’s easy. The standard price for a Chromecast 2 is $54. You should never, ever pay more than that because you can always find one for that price.

cheap chromecast deals

Chromecast 2 deals

The Chromecast 2, or ‘new Chromecast’ as it’s also known, is very similar to the now discontinued 2013 Chromecast. Sure, it looks a little different. And it’s got slightly faster network performance and a few other tweaks such as coming with a dangly cable instead of as a rigid stick. But essentially the same product in a different shape.

cheap chromecast audio deals

Chromecast Audio deals

While it doesn’t offer true multi-room streaming at the moment (fingers crossed that comes soon), this easy-to-use and affordable device modernises any trusty set of wired speakers you already own with wireless capabilities. In doing so, it also opens them up to features that will grow and get even better over time. Got an old set of speakers or an ancient iPod dock? Turn it into a wireless speaker with Chromecast Audio!

cheap chromecast ultra deals

Chromecast Ultra deals

The 4K Chromecast Ultra is the newest member of the Chromecast family. If you have a 4K TV or are planning on getting one, it’s certainly worth picking one of these up. The Chromecast Ultra is a cheaper alternative to Amazon’s Fire TV or the US-only Roku 4 for getting 4K content on your TV. Chromecast Ultra deals are usually around $88, so anything cheaper is an added bonus.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Video game streaming is big business. Since being founded in 2011, the leading video streaming service, Twitch, has amassed over 100 million monthly unique users watching over 2 million monthly streamers. 

In total around 241 billion minutes of video games have been streamed through the service as of February 2017, which is an impressive number indeed. 

It might not yet be a match for YouTube’s 1 billion users, but Twitch’s growth was enough to convince Amazon to buy it for $970m back in 2014. 

All this growth in the video streaming space has Microsoft interested, and the company has launched its own streaming service, Beam, which is receiving a significant update alongside the forthcoming Creators Update. 

New for the update will be Beam broadcasting through the Guide, and the Beam app on Xbox One. Broadcasting via the Guide will be available starting on March 29 for Xbox users and on April 11 for Windows 10 users. 

We sat down with Microsoft’s Partner Group Program Manager, Chad Gibson, to understand more about the service, and how it’s hoping to compete in a market that’s been cornered by Twitch. Here are five reasons to care about Beam. 

1. It’s super low latency

The first advantage Beam has is that it’s built to be low-latency. 

As Gibson explains, “both the native broadcasting features for the game bar and Xbox One are using the Beam ‘Faster than Light’ SDK, which enables all of the native broadcasting to be virtually no-latency. So that’s one fundamental difference.”

Gibson explains that this is a great for community growth. “When somebody’s streaming and somebody joins their channel for example, being able to greet them instantly and be able to have that dialogue without working around a delay is a pretty magical thing.”

“When [new viewers] join a channel they can start having that dialogue with a streamer immediately and for streamers they can have a real-time chat with the folks that are watching them. So it really helps with community growth, allowing that interaction between viewers and streamers to be fostered.” 

This low latency features might be helpful for chat, but they really come into their own when used with Beam’s interactivity options…

2. It’s increasingly interactive

The next big thing in streaming looks to be interactivity. Amazon has made this a focus on Twitch with its Lumberyard game engine, and Beam plans on having a full suite of interactive elements for its streams. 

These range from simple soundboard apps (which allow viewers to trigger specific sound effects) that can be applied to any game through to more complex interactive elements introduced as part of Microsoft’s ‘Interactive 2.0’ initiative which was launched at GDC earlier this year. 

As Gibson explains, “Perhaps it’s a scenario where a game allows viewers to vote on whether the non-player characters in the game should be aggressive or passive, or the game has allowed the viewing audience to vote on what weapon or what challenge the player should be playing the game at.”

Essentially the functionality, when implemented into a game, will allow viewers to be almost as involved in the action as the streamer themselves, “blurring the lines between playing and watching” as Gibson puts it. 

3. It’s integrated right into your Microsoft account

Microsoft might not have many streamers subscribed to its service but it certainly has a lot of users. Chances are, if you’ve ever owned a Windows PC or used an Xbox console then you’re the proud owner of at least one Microsoft account, and this means you’ve already got everything you need to participate in the Beam community. 

This means that if you’re using an Xbox One to stream then you just have a single login for both your console and Beam, which should reduce barriers to entry for new streamers. 

What’s also interesting however, is that Gibson has indicated that Microsoft is thinking about in the future extending this integration to accommodate using any money in your Microsoft account to donate to streamers. 

“We really want people when they’re watching they’re favorite streamer to, with their controller, to be able to quickly support that streamer via a channel subscription or donation just by hitting a button on their controller.”

4. You can use your existing software

Twitch has a big lead on Beam, but Microsoft is attempting to make it as easy as possible for streamers to switch to using the service by working with existing streaming software like OBS and Xsplit to allow it to support the new service. 

“Our goal is that we’re going to want to support software that streamers use today, and then we also want to make it easier with native broadcasting features,” Gibson says. 

But Microsoft is also keen to bring the benefits of native broadcasting to these third-party services by enabling low-latency streaming on both OBS and Xsplit. 

Native broadcasting is there if you want to take the simple route, but Microsoft is also hoping to entice power-users away from its rival. 

5. Its community has a positive vibe…so far

It’s no secret that Twitch has experienced some growing pains during its explosion in popularity. From racist language used in its live-chat during a Hearthstone event to sexist harassment and even instances of streamers having SWAT teams sent to their homes

So far, Beam has been relatively free of such instances, but Gibson is aware that Microsoft will have to work hard if it wants to maintain this going forward, “The Beam community is very positive and supportive and that’s something we want to keep growing, especially as the service grows.”

When we ask how Microsoft intends to do this, Gibson explains a number of avenues that they’re pursuing, “it involves both a set of folks dedicated on providing great moderation tools, great moderation experiences, as well as helping streamers know how to create the right moderation staff in their channel, and how to make it really clear what’s approved and what’s not really the right thing to do on Beam.”

Tentative steps in a competitive market

Beam still has a long way to go if it wants to take on Twitch. When we cycled through a couple of streams on the service it was unusual to find streams without more than a dozen or so viewers. 

Microsoft’s attempt is especially interesting given the big push Google put behind its YouTube gaming initiative, which has also failed to dethrone Twitch as the defacto streaming service. 

But Microsoft has a major advantage in controlling both Windows and Xbox. Whether you use it or not, Beam is going to be present on your operating system. Die hard streamers might never end up switching over, but for those who are new to streaming this omnipresence might end up being a silver bullet for Microsoft. 

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Lenovo has revealed another device in its range of ThinkStation computers, with the new offering being a VR-ready workstation PC with some real grunt.

The refreshed ThinkStation P320 can be purchased as either a tower PC or a small form factor (SFF) machine, and it’s ‘Pro VR’ certified, powered by a choice of either Intel’s Kaby Lake Core i3, i5 or i7 processors (boasting speeds of up to 4.5GHz with Turbo), or a Xeon E3-1200 v6.

Along with that CPU you can specify up to 64GB of 2400MHz ECC DDR4 system memory, and for the graphics card, the full-size tower can be loaded with (up to) an Nvidia Quadro P4000, with the SFF model able to benefit from a dual Quadro P1000 graphics combo.

Storage options include up to a 4TB spinning disk, or 2TB hybrid, an SSD of up to 2TB, and an M.2 PCIe SSD of up to 1TB in size (the tower can accommodate a total of 10 drives including a pair of M.2 SSDs, and the SFF case can fit up to 7 drives).

Flexing muscles

The P320 also supports Lenovo’s ‘Flex module’ for allowing easy customisation, with the user able to add various modules to give access to different connectivity options, like Thunderbolt 3, eSATA, or a media card reader.

Steve Carpenter, Sales Director at Virtalis, a VR and advanced visualisation company, commented: “The ThinkStation P320’s Pro VR certification, along with its performance credentials, makes it a perfect match for the Virtalis VR4CAD software. It delivers a superb balance of 3D CAD and VR performance without breaking the bank.

“It’s also perfect for small- to medium-sized companies looking to enhance their engineering workflow by taking their first steps onto the VR ladder.”

The ThinkStation P320 models will be available at the end of this month, with pricing to be confirmed.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Sonic screwdriver? Pah! In the BBC’s latest brainwave to get school kids excited about programming, it’s the Beeb’s own Micro Bit computer board which is the gadget to save the day against the Daleks’ latest dastardly plot.

Tying Doctor Who in with computer studies is a pretty innovative way of making programming more accessible and interesting, in order to stoke enthusiasm with the next generation of coders.

And that’s exactly what the BBC’s Live Lessons aim to do, streaming live broadcasts to classrooms across the UK.

In this interactive Doctor Who episode-meets-lesson, the Daleks have triggered a supernova causing a shockwave that is threatening to destroy Earth – and only the ‘combined power of a million Micro Bits’ can save the day.

This will be a 50-minute adventure that kicks off at 11:00 tomorrow morning (UK time), with students using their Micro Bits to help the Doctor defeat the alien menace we’re all too familiar with now.

Computational thinking

Specifically, the lesson is designed around developing the ‘computational thinking skills’ of 11 to 13-year-olds, and as well as the Doctor himself, it will also feature various guest experts from the spheres of computer games and web search.

This will be the first in a number of interactive Doctor Who adventures in the Live Lessons series, with a second mission already scheduled for April 24. Assuming tomorrow’s defence against the Daleks goes well, of course, and the entire world isn’t shattered into a billion fragments…

Here at TechRadar, we’ve also got a pile of content for Micro Bit enthusiasts, including a primer on how to get started with the computer board, and a guide on coding your own game with the Raspberry Pi-like miniature marvel.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Want to get free peripherals simply by playing games on your PC? Of course you do – and to that end Razer has now made it possible to earn reward points, in the form of its new virtual currency, which it introduced a couple of weeks ago, by playing certain games while using the Razer Cortex software.

Razer’s virtual currency lets folks exchange real money for zGold, with spending the latter giving you access to discounts and also earning you zSilver reward points – which can be redeemed for various freebies and further discounts.

Now Razer has added a new method of picking up these zSilver points, by playing specific games with Razer Cortex – software designed to optimize performance for better frame-rates, and perform other tricks related to streaming or recording game sessions.

Simply by playing Overwatch, League of Legends, Dota 2 or CounterStrike: Global Offensive with Cortex running, you’ll accrue six zSilver points per minute up to a maximum of 900 per day.

As mentioned, those points can be used to obtain discounts, or entirely free bits of hardware – although you’ll need to earn a lot to get anything decent.

In for the long haul

For example, if you fancy a free Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 it’ll set you back 220,000 zSilver – so at 900 per day, it’ll take you 245 days to bag that particular mechanical keyboard.

That’s the most expensive peripheral going, mind you. You can get a Kraken 7.1 V2 headset for 130,000 zSilver, for example, or a $20 (around £16, AU$26) discount on a Razer headset, mouse or keyboard of your choice for 10,000 zSilver. A laptop stand for the Razer Blade Stealth gaming notebook will set you back 65,000 zSilver.

Perhaps the best way to think of it is that if you’re playing these games a lot anyway, just fire up Cortex in the background and forget about it, and eventually you might find that you can get something tasty for free, or at least a solid discount on an accessory.

Oh, it’s also worth mentioning that a new and exclusive item has been added to the company’s lineup which can only be bought with zSilver – a Razer mug holder. It’s a little more fancy than it sounds, having Chroma lighting on the base, and it blinks to let you know when you should take a sip (based on an optimal hydration schedule, no less). That little accessory will set you back 100,000 points.

Via: Windows Central

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

TechRadar Pro wants to find out more about the computing habits of our readers. So we’ve concocted this simple survey asking a couple of questions about your PC and smartphone (yes, the latter is a computer too, albeit a pocket-sized one).

In return for your considered responses, we’re giving you the chance to win a fantastic technology bundle worth more than £1,000, consisting of the following:

To enter the competition and gain the chance of winning this not-so-little lot, all you need to do is answer the survey below:

Terms and conditions

  • By taking part in this competition, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions below, as well as the Competition Rules
  • The competition will take place between 23/03/2017 and 06/04/2017. It is open to UK residents over the age of 18. Readers outside the UK can participate but will not be included in the draw
  • The prize winner will be chosen at random. Our decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
  • There will be one (1) prize, details of which will be announced on 13/04/2017. The competition closes on the 6/04/2017 (entries made after 3pm on that day may not be counted).
  • There is no cash alternative
  • Note that some of the giveaway items are review samples and might have missing accessories, boxes and the odd scratch on them.

Also check out:

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Apple’s latest iPad launch may have been little more than an incremental upgrade, but the Cupertino company isn’t bereft of fresh ideas. Take this latest patent filing, for instance, which presents a potential marriage between the Mac, iPhone and iPad lines.

Spotted by Apple Insider, it details a Macbook-like iPhone or iPad accessory that has a recess to house the mobile devices, which in turn then benefit from the bells and whistles of a larger laptop-like enclosure.

The case would essentially be useless without a smartphone housed inside it – an iPhone would provide the CPU core for the laptop shell, while the larger unit would house a fullsize keyboard, larger (potentially touch) screen and even a discrete GPU.

Make-a-Mac

Communications and shared power between the two devices could be transferred over Lightning or a Smart Connector port, with the iPhone acting as a trackpad with Force Touch haptics. Indeed, the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is very close in size to the newer, larger MacBook trackpads.

Also described is a similar unit that uses an iPad housed where the previous design’s screen sat. It would in essence act as a souped-up iPad Smart Case, offering external additional processing power in the case:

In both instances, the casing enclosure is described as being aluminium, further mimicking what you’d expect from a MacBook.

It’s an interesting patent, taking cues from other modular computing devices, the likes of which we’ve seen from Motorola among others. It is, however, unlikely to bear fruit within a product – until some greater merger between iOS and MacOS takes place, or a way to switch between both on either laptop or smartphone devices is developed, there’s little benefit to trackpad input for an iOS device. And with the iPad Pro already existing as Apple’s halfway home between a mobile and work-focussed device, the Cupertino seems to already have the base covered that this curio would be looking to hit.

  • New iPad is cheaper, thicker and a bit more powerful

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Facebook Live is making the big leap from mobile devices to the desktop PC, opening up new possibilities for the famous game streamers who you may already watch on the likes of Twitch.

Facebook Live – which, as the name suggests, allows for the direct broadcast of live video footage – has been up and running on mobile since last year, but it now supports screen capture for users on desktop computers and laptops.

Of course, you’ll need a webcam attached to your PC, or built into your notebook, to be able to use the service.

Previously, since at least January of this year, businesses and brands with Facebook Pages have been able to broadcast live video from a desktop machine, but now everyone can.

To fire up a livestream, all you need to do is click the red Live Video button which you’ll find at the top of your newsfeed, and away you go. It’s obviously a much more stationary experience than broadcasting video recorded from a smartphone, but a number of options have been added…

Seamless streaming

Facebook noted that it has added a new feature for those who have dedicated streaming software or external hardware to go live directly from their PC with ease.

The social network said: “With this update, people can seamlessly share their screens, insert graphics, switch cameras, or use professional equipment in Facebook Live videos.”

All this could be useful for gamers trying to make their broadcasts more interesting, and indeed those concocting the likes of how-to guides who can superimpose text and instructions on footage, and so on.

Will this cause Twitch to quake in its (so to speak) boots? That remains to be seen, but for now this is definitely a very useful addition for PC users who fancy connecting with a new and potentially huge audience (Facebook has closing on two billion users worldwide).

Via: TechCrunch

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

One of the tweaks Microsoft is making in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update is forcing software patches over limited connections, or “metered connections” as Windows calls them – connections made over cell networks or with other restrictions.

As spotted by SuperSite Windows, updates will now be automatically downloaded and installed over metered connections, which hasn’t previously been the case. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, this only applies to “critical fixes” and not large updates.

In other words, you should get the most important bug fixes and security patches without a lot of the optional extras, but as yet Microsoft hasn’t been any more specific about how big or small a download will have to be to get under the threshold.

The updates that matter

In the past some users have switched to or simulated metered connections to get more control over how Windows updates are downloaded and installed, but it looks like that option won’t be available for much longer.

For those who are on metered connections it could cause a problem in terms of data limits or costs, but presumably Microsoft thinks it’s worth the inconvenience for users to make sure Windows 10 is safely patched and running smoothly.

We’re expecting the Creators Update to start rolling out from April 11, so we should have more details from Microsoft on the change before then. The significant upgrade is also bringing with it a bunch of features to benefit gamers and creative types.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

The Raspberry Pi is now the third best-selling general purpose computer of all time, MagPi magazine says, edging out the Commodore 64 in the all-time rankings. Over 12.5 million DIY boards have been shifted in the last five years.

The top two in the list are, as you might expect, the PC and the Mac – but even if the Raspberry Pi has little hope of ever overtaking those two computing juggernauts, it’s still a huge achievement for the basic little system.

We’ve been consistently impressed with the kit that the Raspberry Pi Foundation has put out since the first board was launched back in 2012. A total of eight different variations have been released since then, with tweaks made to the specs and on-board capabilities, and the 10 million sales milestone was reached last September.

The Pis have it

The Raspberry Pi Model 3 launched last year is the best-selling edition of the computer, according to official sources, accounting for around a third of all Pis sold. The latest Pi Zero W board, meanwhile, sold 10,000 units in its first four days.

“Outselling the Commodore 64 cements Raspberry Pi in the annals of history,” says MagPi magazine, although there are conflicting reports about how many Commodore 64s have actually be sold. “Not bad considering the original plan was to produce between 10 and 20,000 boards.”

It’s now hard to imagine the computing landscape without the Raspberry Pi and other basic boards like it, giving system builders and electronics DIYers the foundations to put together anything from a CCTV camera to a retro games console.

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