By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Super Bowl LI is almost upon us. We’ve already written about how to watch the Super Bowl online for free, but we’ve yet to answer the question of what, exactly, you should be watching it on. 

But every buying guide should have its constraints so let’s make this one’s the cost of a Super Bowl ticket. Sure, you won’t be able to attend the big game in person but the cash you would’ve used for a ticket could hugely upgrade your home theater setup to deliver a stellar experience come game time.

Not only is this more practical than figuring out plane flights and hotel stays ahead of the biggest sporting event of year, but those home theater updates will last a helluva lot longer than the three hours you’d spend sitting in the stands at NRG Stadium in Houston.

So, just what could you buy for the cost of one measly Super Bowl ticket?

Considering that ticket prices on TicketMaster.com start at $2,875 for a seat in the nosebleed section and jump up to $11,750 for something nice, the short answer is quite a lot.

What you could buy for half the cost of a ticket

But let’s start with something reasonable. Realistically most of us aren’t flying out to Houston on Super Sunday is because we honestly can’t afford it. 

That being said, let’s start with a more reasonable amount: $1,450, or roughly half the cost of a ticket to the Super Bowl before you factor in the plane flights, hotel fees, beers and snacks at the game.

That’s not exactly chump change, but it’s way more than enough to get your new home theater setup up and running. For now, let’s focus on the three essentials: a TV, a sound system and a streaming video player. 

Vizio M-Series

Samsung UN55KS8000 4K HDR TV ($1,000): It’s not hard to find a good TV for under $1,000. I could pick them out in my sleep. What is tricky however is picking out a great TV for under $1,000. If you’re looking for a senior-level screen at a freshman-level price, your best bet is the 55-inch version of the Samsung KS8000. It’s 4K, supports HDR10 and has an input lag of about 20.9ms, perfect for when it’s time to break out Madden after the game ends. 

ZVOX SoundBase 670

Samsung HW-J355 Sound Bar ($130): OK, with the biggest purchase out of the way, now we can start thinking about sound. As much as I love the KS8000, it doesn’t have the best sound quality in the world. For that, you’re going to need a soundbar. Samsung’s HW-J355 is one of the best-selling soundbars, and for good reason. Not only does it offer good sound quality from its four combined-120W tweeters, but also comes with a wired subwoofer to add some meat to the sound. 

Nvidia Shield

Nvidia Shield Android TV ($199): There are a ton of streaming video players for under $200 – Apple TV, Roku 4, Amazon Fire TV … the list goes on and on. But as great as those other streaming players are, only the NVIDIA Shield can do both 4K HDR video streaming AND play PC-quality games. Talk about a win-win.

What you could buy for the cost of a single ticket

Let’s up our game here. Say you had the money to spend on a Super Bowl ticket and didn’t want to shell out last minute to go down to Texas. 

If you actually had the $2,875 you would’ve spent on a ticket there are plenty of ways to spend it on a home theater system, from an awesome new TV to a great game system, even adding on a full surround sound package into the mix. 

If I were in your cleats, here’s how I’d spend it. 

Samsung JS9500

Sony BRAVIA XBR-55X930D ($1,299): Sony’s XBR-X930D series are probably some of the best non-OLED TVs you can buy. I love them because they have an astounding picture quality and great contrast ratio. A huge part of this is thanks to Sony’s Slim Backlight Drive technology. You’ll hear more about it in a minute (spoiler: Sony’s Z-Series is my top draft pick) but it does amazing things for this TV. On top of everything else, you’ll get Android TV built right in, meaning you’ve got a smart TV that’s bound to get even smarter as the years go on.

Onkyo HT-s7700

Samsung HW-K950 Soundbar with Dolby Atmos ($1,299): If you have the money, the best place to spend it in audio is on a Dolby Atmos soundbar. I’ve written about Atmos extensively for awhile now and while I could go on a John Madden-esque exposition of why it’s so good, I’ll just say that it’s a complete game-changer for sound quality. Instead of a tradition 7.1 system that can only process sound on a flat plane, an Atmos soundbar utilizes upfiring speakers to bounce sound off the ceiling to create a 360-degree sphere of sound.

PS4

Xbox One S – 500GB System ($259): But a truly sweet sound system and television need truly sweet content. Enter the Xbox One S, the first and only game console to support Dolby Atmos sound, HDR10 and 4K Blu-rays. With a massive online community and a strong catalog of titles, this is the system to beat in 2017. 

What you could buy for the cost of two tickets

One last scenario: Let’s say you had two tickets to one of the most memorable, influential sporting events of our era, and you thought, “You know what? I’m going to sell these online at the going rate, so I can buy tons of electronics that will probably last another 7 to 8 years before they go obsolete and I either put them in a guest room – [because you own one of those] – or donate them, just like I did my CRT TV 10 years ago.”

Now, to some, that might sound like crazy talk, but, to a true A/V enthusiast, nothing sounds more sane. Here’s how to spend your ludicrous sums of money before someone you love has you thrown into the insane asylum for giving up a chance of a lifetime.

LG EG9600

LG 65-inch E6 OLED ($3,195): If you want to one-up the neighbor that always buys the latest and greatest gadgets ahead of you, look no further than LG’s line of OLED TVs that display tone-perfect blacks, bright whites and over 1 billion colors in between. These TVs are downright gorgeous and thanks to some incredible upscaling technology make darn near anything look beautiful. 

Klipsch Reference Speakers

Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-280FA floorstanding speaker ($959, $3,836 for four): You know what you need? Four really big, really loud speakers. At nearly $1,000 apiece, the powerful, crisp RP-280FAs with ceiling-firing Dolby Atmos speakers will do the trick.

Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-450CA center channel speaker ($679): Looking for the extra point for those gigantic floor speakers? Check out the RP-450CA center channel speaker. But the audio package isn’t complete just yet.

Denon AVR-X7200WA

Denon AVR-X7200WA 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD A/V Receiver ($3,000): At this point, I realize I took us way over the budget. But, let’s be honest, if you can afford to drop $5,500 on two tickets to the big game, you can probably afford this, too.

Oculus Rift VR Headset ($599): Thus far I’ve only been able to get you as close as I can to the 2D version of the gridiron. Now it’s time to start thinking in 3D. If you have any money leftover after this epic home entertainment binge, you should spend it on an Oculus Rift – a virtual reality headset that promises to one day revolutionize entertainment. It may not be the way the world prefers to watch this year’s Super Bowl but, give it a few years, and you can bet this is how we’ll be watching Super Bowls 60 and beyond.

How would you spend two Super Bowl tickets worth of money? Let us know in the comments below! 

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

HP is likely to be feeling hot under the collar after it’s had to announce a recall on the batteries of select laptop models. 

HP is asking the owners of HP, Compaq, HP ProBook, HP ENVY, Compaq Presario and HP Pavilion laptops purchased between March 2013 and October 2016 to send their batteries back to the company for a free replacement just in case they catch fire. 

To remove any sources of doubt, if your laptop battery’s bar code starts with 6BZLU, 6CGFK, 6CGFQ, 6CZMB, 6DEMA, 6DEMH, 6DGAL or 6EBVA, the company says the safest thing to do is pull it out immediately and claim your free replacement.

Safety first

A notice of the recall has been issued by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission in conjunction with Mexican and Canadian authorities, who state that the recall affects around 101,000 computers.

This is actually an expansion on a previous HP battery recall which took place in June 2016. The original recall was for 41,000 batteries but now that HP has received “one additional report of the battery overheating, melting and charring and causing about $1,000 in property damage“ it’s being forced to start another round of recalls. Considering there’s only been a single report, it’s nice to see HP erring on the side of safety. 

It should be noted that if your battery was one of those deemed not affected in the June 2016 recall, that might have changed so you should double check. 

We’ve contacted HP to request comment on the matter and will update with any reply. 

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Hot on the heels of Apple’s battery bug-squashing update, the tech giant released a beta for the next installment of macOS Sierra, which includes a popular feature from its mobile cousin, iOS.

Night Shift – which changes the color temperature of your device’s display at night in order to reduce sleeplessness from staring at screens past your bedtime – is coming to macOS, according to 9to5Mac.

Released for iPhone and iPad last year as part of iOS 9.3, Night Shift reduces blue light shown after sundown, giving the display a reddish-orange tint. 

According to researchers from Harvard Health Publications, blue or ‘cool’ light from sources like the sun or LEDs may cause alertness in the brain and disrupt the viewer’s sleep.

Given their proclivity for bedtime reading, Amazon’s Fire tablets jumped on the tinting game early by introducing Blue Shade back in late 2015. Additionally, third party plug-ins like f.lux have also been around quite a while to help add color-correcting features for both Mac and Windows machines.

Seeing as Apple just released a new version of macOS Sierra this week, it may be a while before Night Shift makes its way to Macs and MacBooks. That said, eager beavers (or those getting eyestrain from burning the midnight oil) can opt to try out the feature via Apple’s Beta Software Program.

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The best free Photoshop alternatives

There are dozens of free photo editors designed to enhance your pictures with a couple of clicks, but far fewer could be called a genuine alternative to the industry standard editor Adobe Photoshop.

Simple photo-enhancing software has its place, but a genuine Photoshop alternative needs more than just red-eye correction and a handful of retro filters; it has to offer layers and masks, batch-editing, and a wide assortment of automatic and manual editing tools. It also needs plugins to fill any gaps in its feature-set, and enable you to work as efficiently as possible.

Some of Photoshop’s unique features (like asset-linking) mean it will always remain the professional’s tool of choice, but the rest of us have an excellent choice of free alternatives.

Have we missed your favorite Photoshop alternative? Let us know in the comments below.

It’s tough to find free software that can stand toe-to-toe with Photoshop, but GIMP is a genuine alternative thanks to the work of its huge community of contributors

1. GIMP

GIMP is the best free Photoshop alternative – powerful and almost infinitely expandable

Powerful and adaptable, GIMP is the best free Photoshop alternative. With layers, masks, advanced filters, color adjustment and transformations – all of which are fully customizable – its feature set it unbeatable.

One of GIMP’s best features is its wealth of user-created plugins and scripts – many of which come pre-installed and ready to use. Some of these replicate popular Photoshop tools (such as Liquify), and there’s even a package of animation tools for bringing your photos to live via blending and morphing.

If that all sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry – GIMP’s excellent user manual includes step-by-step tutorials and troubleshooting guides to get you started.

The latest version of GIMP offers a new interface that puts all of its toolboxes, palettes and menus together in one window. This gives it a smart, Photoshop-like appearance, though its extensive patchwork of user-created tools means you’ll have to spend a little time experimenting and perusing the documentation to learn how to get the best results from each one.

Download here: GIMP

Photo Pos Pro is a superb Photoshop alternative, with only the export size restriction holding it back from the top spot

2. Photo Pos Pro

Another remarkable free Photoshop alternative. Well designed, with just a few restrictions

If you haven’t heard of Photo Pos Pro, you’re in for a treat. This free Photoshop alternative aims to give the best of both worlds, offering interfaces for both novice and advanced users. The novice option puts one-click filters and automatic adjustments at the fore, while the latter closely resembles Photoshop. Both are well designed, and more intuitive than GIMP’s endless lists and menus.

Photo Pos Pro offers both layers and layer masks, as well as superb clone and healing brushes. All the expected color-refining tools are present and correct. There’s support for batch-editing and scripts to save time on routine tasks, you can import images directly from a scanner or camera.

Photo Pos Pro offers plugins in the form of extra frames and templates, and you can create and save your own filters for future use.

Its main drawback is the limit on the size of saved files (1,024 x 2,014 pixels), but if you like the basic version and want to upgrade, Photo Pos Pro Premium is currently discounted to £17.67 (US$19.90, AU$29.78) – a very reasonable price for a top-rate Photoshop alternative.

Download here: Photo Pos Pro

Like GIMP, Paint.NET is open source, so users are free to develop their own plugins

3. Paint.NET

A free Photoshop alternative that’s a little light on features, but easy for newcomers to master

Open source Photoshop alternative Paint.NET started life as a substitute for Microsoft Paint, but over the years it’s grown into a powerful photo editor in its own right.

Like GIMP and Photo Pos Pro, Paint.NET offers an excellent selection of automatic filters, plus manual editing tools for fine adjustments. It also supports layers, though you’ll need to install a plugin for masks. Batch editing is included by default, and its clone stamp makes it easy to erase blemishes and distractions.

Paint.NET isn’t quite as feature-filled as GIMP, but its smaller community of volunteer coders means its interface is more consistent and easier to use overall (though not as slick as Photo Pos Pro). Paint.NET is a particularly good choice for working with multiple photos thanks to quick-access tabs that use thumbnails to represent each open image at a glance.

Paint.NET is also very fast, and runs well even on low-powered PCs. There’s no limit on the size of saved images, but it takes third place due to its smaller range of options and customizable tools.

Download here: Paint.NET

Flash-based web app Pixlr Editor is a fully-featured Photoshop alternative for your browser

4. Pixlr Editor

A browser-based free Photoshop alternative that’s more robust than many desktop applications

Pixlr is no ordinary free Photoshop alternative – it’s the work of AutoDesk, one of the biggest names in computer-aided design and 3D modelling software, and is as impressive as its pedigree implies. 

There are several versions available, including web, desktop and mobile apps. Here we’re looking at the Pixlr Editor web app, which is the only one to support layers.

Pixlr Editor features a prominent ad on the right-hand side that limits the size of your working space but that’s its main drawback. You get all the expected image-refining tools (including sharpen, unsharp mask, blur, noise, levels and curves to name just a few), as well as artistic filters and automatic optimization options. Nothing is hidden behind a paywall. 

Pixlr Editor also gives you a toolbox very much like GIMP’s, with brushes, fills, selection, healing and clone stamp tools – all customizable via a ribbon above the workspace. There’s support for both layers and masks, and although Pixlr Editor doesn’t offer batch editing, it can cheerfully handle multiple images at once.

Sounds too good to be true? It might soon be. In 2015, Autodesk announced that it was working on an HTML5 version of its lightweight photo editor Pixlr Express, claiming that Flash “deserves everyone’s heartfelt salutation as it sails off into the sunset”. Pixlr Editor is also built in Flash, but no HTML5 replacement has been announced, so we suspect that it might not be long for this world.

For now, though, it’s a truly excellent Photoshop alternative – particularly if you don’t have the time or permission to download a desktop application.

Try it online: Pixlr Editor

If you just want Photoshop’s most popular photo-enhancing tools, try Photoshop Express. It delivers excellent results and doesn’t cost a penny

5. Adobe Photoshop Express

A trimmed-down app that bundles Photoshop’s best features in a mobile-friendly package

Adobe Photoshop Express is a lightweight version of the industry-standard photo editor available free for your browser, and as a downloadable app for Windows, iOS, and Android.

Photoshop Express is the simplest of the tools here, but Adobe’s expertise in photo editing means it’s far superior to other quick-fix software. It packages Photoshop’s most useful picture-enhancing  sleek, minimalist interface that’s particularly well suited to touchscreens. Sliders enable you to adjust contrast, exposure and white balance of your photo dynamically, and there are automatic options for one-click adjustments. Once you’re satisfied with the results, you can either save the edited photo to your PC or share it via Facebook.

The main appeal of Photoshop Express is its simplicity, but this is also its biggest drawback. There are no layers, plugins, or brush tools, and you can’t crop or resize your pictures.

If you’re looking for a powerful image editor for your smartphone or tablet, Photoshop Fix (for restoring and correcting images) and Photoshop Mix (for combining and blending images) are also well worth investigating. Photoshop Mix even supports layers, and both apps integrate with Adobe’s Creative Cloud software, making it an excellent counterpart to the desktop version of Photoshop, as well as a superb tool in its own right.

Download here: Adobe Photoshop Express

See all the free Photoshop alternatives available to download from TechRadar

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The Best PCs for CS: GO

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the biggest games in the world, and it’s also one of the most demanding eSports titles around. To get the best out of Valve’s shooter you need a seriously good PC – as well as a rapid-fire trigger finger.

Buying a desktop for CS: GO means looking at a set of specific requirements. It needs a high framerate to play at the top level, so you’ll need a top-quality graphics card – and the game’s solid CPU load means that graphics chips need to be paired with a decent processor.

The fast pace of the competitive scene means that it’s best to have a motherboard with some solid networking features, too – good and bad hardware here could make or break a crucial match.

Getting the perfect PC for CS: GO needn’t break the bank, though. We’ve trawled the internet to find the best systems for Valve’s shooter that are available on both sides of the Atlantic, and we’ve uncovered machines with different prices and form factors – perfect for any scenario. We’ve also highlighted some of the top peripherals for use with CS: GO, including monitors, keyboards and mice.

Alienware is a long-term big beast in the global gaming market – and the firm has churned out some seriously good machines in the last few years. Its systems aren’t ruinously expensive these days, and machines like the Aurora balance good components with eye-catching physical design.

The Aurora is a compact mid-tower with lashings of smart design: clever cooling helps chill the components, and the PSU swings out on an arm to allow tool-free access to the rest of the hardware. It’s got customisable lighting,

Under the hood, it’s got a Core i5-6400 processor, which has four cores and a 2.7GHz stock speed, and 8GB of dual-channel memory is plenty. There’s a 1GB hard disk, and Killer Ethernet on-board for world-class wired performance. 

The American configuration of the Aurora comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 on-board, while British buyers are given the AMD Radeon RX 480. They’re both stellar chips that’ll play CS: GO at 1080p and beyond, and Dell offers a huge array of customisation if you fancy something else. American gamers can choose from a huge range of Nvidia chips, while the British system can be configured with GPUs from both AMD and Nvidia.

The GPU isn’t the only component that can be customised. Beefier processors, faster storage and larger amounts of memory can all be included in this versatile rig. And, for online gaming, Killer Wireless can be fitted – a crucial upgrade for competitive players. An Xbox One wireless controller can be included with this rig alongside Dell’s own gaming monitors.

The American and British versions of this machine start at $1,000 and £949 respectively, and both are great deals. It’s a top-notch rig if you’re after a big-brand machine for Counter-Strike – and the perfect partner for one of these top-notch gaming mice

The Asus Republic of Gamers G20CB is one of the most striking gaming PCs on the market. It’s covered with the Mayan-inspired patterns that Asus loves to lavish over its ROG-branded hardware, and its small frame is decorated with imposing lights and dramatic angles.

The G20’s interior is packed in tightly, but that’s no surprise considering the wealth of hardware inside and this machine’s tiny 104mm width. There’s a GTX 1070, which is one of the world’s best graphics cards right now, and a Core i7 processor.

The former part will easily run CS: GO at its top settings, and the latter is a muscular CPU that outpaces Core i5 silicon thanks to a higher speed and better multi-tasking  capabilities.

Elsewhere there’s 16GB of memory, a huge hard disk, and the lighting can be customised with the full RGB gamut – so there are 16.7 million colours to choose from. 

There’s SonicMaster audio for mind-blowing sound, an Asus-exclusive performance monitoring app, and Intel’s Gigabit Ethernet with gaming tweaks to improve network traffic.

This is one of the smallest systems here, but it’s also one of the most potent – so CS: GO will run with ease alongside the rest of your games.

This full-size gaming tower is a beast that’ll breeze through CS: GO – and it’s ideal if small-form-factor machines or big-brand desktops aren’t your thing.

The powerful components inside this machine handle Counter-Strike with ease. The Core i7-6700K processor has four cores and a monster 4GHz speed, and here it’s chilled by future-proofed liquid cooling. There’s 16GB of memory, and an SSD for Windows alongside a hard disk for bulk storage.

The Xtreme 2000 comes with gaming-grade motherboards with Ethernet designed for gaming, and this is a proper desktop PC – so the motherboard and the eye-catching case are loaded with upgrade paths if you want to expand in the future. This machine even comes with an Avermedia video capture card – perfect for streaming.

American buyers get this PC with AMD’s Radeon RX 480, while Brits lock and load the GTX 1060. Both are fantastic cards with the grunt to handle CS: GO, and both can be customised with any current card you’d like. Both of those GPUs can handle 1080p and 1440p playback – so check here for our verdict on the market’s best monitors.

That’s one of the key advantages to buying from CyberPower: every component is customisable, with dozens of options available for every part. The machine comes with a great warranty too – its default deal is a three-year service plan – and that can also be improved.

CyberPower’s PC is bigger and more expensive than many of its rivals, but it’ll blitz CS: GO and will also handle most other titles. It also has more upgrade room than smaller systems, and its components can be overclocked.

This machine is the most expensive in our round-up, but it’s a deeply impressive PC that’ll handle CS: GO, other games, streaming, work and play with equal aplomb.

It’s immediately striking. The Y710 Cube is little bigger than a shoebox, and it’s decorated with smart, angular meshed sections. It looks the part, and it even has a handle – perfect for lugging to LAN parties or even just moving around the house.

This smart, sturdy machine has a surprising amount of power on the inside. The $1,973 (about £2,215) model we’ve examined has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 installed along its entire length: perfect for CS: GO, and also enough power to handle 4K gaming and VR headsets. It’s also got enough power to play games using top-notch Nvidia G-Sync screens at framerates beyond 100fps: the Asus ROG Swift PG248Q would be an excellent choice. 

The rest of the specification is similarly muscular. There’s a quad-core i7-6700K processor, lashings of memory, an SSD and a hard disk, and wired and wireless internet comes from gaming brand Killer – so CS: GO traffic will be prioritized and you’ll be able to play the game with more success.

Lenovo’s machine has customizable lighting, pre-installed software for Xbox controllers, and it’s also available with a Core i5 processor and GTX 1070 graphics – perfect if you don’t need 4K playback or want to save some cash.

This pocket-sized PC offers a deceptive amount of power in a sturdy, small chassis. If you want to play CS: GO and need a system where portability is key, look no further.

Read the full review: Lenovo Ideacentre Y710 Cube 

The most dramatic-looking machine in our CS: GO system selection comes from MSI. The Aegis is a small-form-factor device that steals the show thanks to a dramatic design that sees the components angled in a chassis that’s pitched forwards and stood on a solid metal base.

The incredible design contains components that offer impressive power. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 scythes through Counter-Strike and can easily handle other games and VR headsets, and it’s bolstered by a Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard disk.

The relatively modest price doesn’t mean this machine is lacking features. It’s got wireless internet, easily-accessible components and lashings of LED lights that can be customised in Windows 10. It has a handle for easy access, and it’s deceptively quiet even at full load.

It’s certified by peripheral experts SteelSeries, too, so you can pair this rig with top-notch keyboards and mice. If you’d like to check out a top-notch gaming peripheral, here’s our verdict on the top ten gaming keyboards.

This striking system has the power to play CS: GO alongside a wealth of exciting features. If you want your PC to make a statement, few are better than this.

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After regaining the recommendation of US review group Consumer Reports, Apple has released a new update for macOS Sierra designed to fix up a few issues owners may be experiencing with the MacBook Pro.

Graduating from beta testing starting today, the 10.12.3 update addresses (among many things) a bug in Safari seemingly responsible for the MacBook Pro’s erratic battery life – which had originally cost it Consumer Reports’ favor before retesting earlier this month.

The patch also addresses graphical issues on Apple’s latest laptop, primarily GPU errors that would occur during encoding video projects with Adobe Premiere on the Touch Bar versions of the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros, according to TechCrunch.

Is the Pro out of the woods?

For those rocking older versions of macOS Sierra-compatible hardware, Apple still recommends the latest version, with it including more broad updates for previewing or searching certain .PDF files, and fixing an issue that prevented some third-party software from correctly importing images from digital cameras.

The latest version of macOS is Apple’s second attempt to address issues some have had with the MacBook Pro’s problematic battery. The previous patch, released back in December, removed the laptop’s ‘battery remaining’ meter due to it giving out inaccurate readings.

While Apple appears convinced that the Safari bug Consumer Reports helped uncover was the scourge behind the MacBook Pro’s inconsistent battery, we will find out soon for ourselves if the problem is squashed for good.

Computers weren’t the only ones receiving a buff from Apple today, as the company also released new versions of tvOS, watchOS, and iOS – with the latter adding security updates for iPhone 5 and later, iPad (4th gen. and later), and iPod touch (6th gen. and later).

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Good news if you’re planning on purchasing a new Chromebook model this year – Google has confirmed it’ll support Android apps straight out of the box without requiring an update.

The news has come from a single but stand-out line of text on Google’s official list of Android app compatible Chromebooks which states: “All Chromebooks launching in 2017 and after as well as the Chromebooks listed below will work with Android apps in the coming future.”

Until now Android app support has been limited to select Chromebook models so if you wanted a Chromebook that allowed you to access and use apps from Google Play Store you had to consult Google’s list to make sure it was possible in the model you wanted. 

Appy days

Thanks to this change, that will no longer be an issue for those buying Chromebook models from 2017 and beyond. 

After Google began to introduce Android app support to select Chromebooks last year it was clear it would only be a matter of time before it was extended to more models as it significantly adds to the appeal of owning a Chromebook. 

We’ve contacted Google to request an official comment on the news and will update with any reply they make. 

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Since the Raspberry Pi was launched what seems like many moons ago now, there have been plenty of similar tiny computer boards which have hit the market, and now big-name PC vendor Asus has its own offering.

The Tinker Board has a name designed to appeal to the sort of computing hobbyists which are the target audience of Raspberry Pi-alikes – and indeed this effort is very much alike, although it beefs up bits of the hardware (and also the price, sadly).

If you go the Asus route for your tiny computer, you’ll get a quad-core 1.8GHz ARM Cortex-A17 processor backed up with a chunky 2GB of LPDDR3 system memory. (Compared to 1GB of RAM on the Pi 3, and a 1.2GHz Cortex A53 CPU – although note that the latter is a 64-bit offering).

Getting connected

Other specs for the Tinker Board include wireless connectivity comprising of 802.11n Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.0, and it has a Gigabit LAN connector along with four USB 2.0 ports, and a microSD slot.

There’s also an HDMI 2.0 port here, and the board can support the output of 4K footage if you’re planning to use it as a miniature media PC. On the software front, it supports Debian Linux with Kodi (media player software).

The Tinker Board is available to purchase right now, and in the UK you can pick it up for £55 (about $70, AU$90) – coming on for twice as expensive as the Pi 3 which retails at around £33 (about $40, AU$55).

Via and Image Credit: Engadget

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Today is my last day as TechRadar’s Computing Editor, and it’s been one heck of a ride. Over the past four years, I’ve interviewed rock stars, opened a data center using a pair of giant comedy scissors, and picked up PC building tips from a record-holding overclocker who looks like a world’s strongest man competitor.

Best of all, like any tech journalist, I’ve had the fantastic privilege of trying out the latest in computing and gaming tech before it’s hit the shelves without spending a penny.

The question is: which products impressed me to the point that I would empty the contents of my wallet on them? Continue reading to see just which ones I splashed the cash on.

Best overall laptop

So much negativity has surrounded Apple’s new MacBook Pro that it’s easy to forget the many things it’s got right. It’s compact, solidly built, rocks a searingly bright 500 nits-rated, color-packed display and the sound from its full-bodied speakers is so good that I can leave my Beats Pill at home. In addition to its huge and reliable trackpad, these are practical plus for points for me and worth carrying around a dongle or two. 

That it can play Skyrim on Medium settings at 60 fps in Boot Camp is the cherry on top. If Apple improves its lackluster keyboard (read: more key travel please), then its successor will tick every box going.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro 2016 (No Touch Bar)

Best Windows laptop

Dell’s larger machine remains one my favorite Windows laptop for many of the same reasons I love the MacBook Pro. It’s slim, durable and still the most compact 15-incher I’ve ever carted around, one that packs a dazzling 4K display with 100% Adobe RGB coverage for gorgeous color. It houses a ton of power under the hood and is a productivity monster and a gaming machine, unlike the MacBook. 

Like Apple’s machine, however, its keyboard isn’t great, and it doesn’t last long away from an outlet. Think of it as a compact portable desktop, however, and it really shines. I’ll be keeping an eye out for TechRadar’s review of the upcoming version with a GTX 1050Ti inside.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15 (960M)

Best mechanical keyboard

I’ve tried so many mechanical keyboards in the past two years that I’ve almost ran of places to keep them. Topre’s Realforce 87U is the one I’ve always returned to thanks to its relatively low profile form factor, perfectly weighted 45g keys and tenkeyless layout. Even Topre’s new Realforce RGB, which feels more like a Filco (boxier and sturdy, with pretty lights) can’t match it in the comfort stakes.

Best gaming keyboard

Mechanical keyboards feel great for typing, but gaming? I’ve never been convinced that hammering away on a Corsair K70 has ever done anything to help raise my kill/death ratio. The Razer Ornata is a semi-mechanical keyboard with mid-height key caps that sport the company’s new ‘mecha-membrane’ switches underneath. 

They give off an audible ‘click’ similar to Cherry MX Blue switches but require very little effort to press. Everything from typing to double-jumping in Quake Live feels fast, fluid and enjoyable. Its RGB lighting is mesmerizing too.

Best gaming mouse

Your gaming mouse can feel very personal to you. It has to fit your hand size, possess a button layout that works well with the games you play and not feel too heavy or light during lengthy session. For me, Logitech’s G502 Proteus Core ticks all of those boxes and has spent very little time away from my mouse mat. 

It’s perfectly sculpted for right-handed gamers, features a perfectly weighted free-spin scroll wheel, a color-coded DPI selector and an incredibly smooth glide mechanism that makes it a joy to wield. SteelSeries’ RIval 700 is another excellent mouse and more novel thanks to its LCD display, but nothing beats the G502 Proteus Core.

Read the full review: Logitech G502 Proteus Core

Best gaming headset

Sometimes you fall in love with tech over time, and others it’s instantaneous. It took me around three seconds to become enamored with the Astro A50 Wireless’ soft-padded earcups, which feel like a warm blanket in the middle of winter. Incredibly light yet well-put-together, they’ve been my go-to headset for both PC and PS4 gaming ever since they landed on my desk. And, once you go Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound, it’s hard going back.

Read the full review: Astro A50 Wireless

Best music/general headset

I unboxed V-Moda’s Crossfade Wireless not knowing what to expect and was blown away by the headset’s incredibly clear sound and booming bass. I like angry sounding music, and whether I’m listening to Castrovalva’s ‘Pump Pump‘ or ‘My People‘ by The Presets, the V-Modas do every fuzz-driven bass line and buzz saw synth justice. They don’t come cheap and feel a little flimsy, but if the music comes first then there are few better options.

Read the full review: V-Moda Crossfade Wireless

Best monitor

I’ve found it difficult to go back to 16:9 monitors after using ultra-wide monsters over the years. The LG 34UC97G certainly isn’t cutting-edge, featuring a somewhat pedestrian 2,560 x 1,080 pixel-resolution. However, I find that it strikes the perfect balance between providing ample screen-real estate on the desktop and how taxing it is on my PC’s graphics card. Its killer feature, a 144Hz refresh rate, makes gaming much more enjoyable than it was in the days of 60Hz, which feels like a prehistoric era in 2017.

Best portable monitor

I ordered a Packed Pixels portable monitor the second I returned it from review. A fantastic gadget for productivity freaks, my only regret is that it wasn’t invented earlier. This portable monitor clamps onto the side of my MacBook Air, providing a pixel-packed Retina display good for typing up documents, browsing the web or streaming YouTube videos all day long.

I’m splitting this award equally with another portable monitor, the Gechic OnLap 1303H, which is a pricey but very capable 1080p monitor with DisplayPort. That makes it pretty much the only 13-inch portable IPS display that you can use with a MacBook Air, and a lifesaver if you’re not interested in upgrading to one of Apple’s newer MacBooks.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Microsoft has pushed out the first ever firmware update for its Surface Studio all-in-one, along with a fresh update for the Surface Pro 4.

With this initial batch of tweaks, the Studio’s GPU is getting some attention, and whether you’re running the GTX 965M or the GTX 980M you’ll find that your machine now wakes quicker from sleep, and is also compatible with more of the latest games (should you use the PC for a bit of casual gaming on the side).

Then there’s a Surface UEFI firmware update targeted at making the machine more responsive to spring into life from sleep mode, and it also tunes up the accuracy of speech recognition.

The Ethernet drivers have been updated to achieve better connection stability, and finally Microsoft has introduced a pair of updates which apparently improve the reliability of Skype in terms of call audio and notification alerts. So if you’ve been having issues with flaky Skype calls, hopefully these will have been banished.

Beefing up the battery

The new firmware issued for the Surface Pro 4 also contains a number of reliability fixes, including one tweak that improves keyboard stability – although exactly what it does, Microsoft doesn’t say – and another that improves overall system stability (a few crash-causing bugbears have been squashed, in other words).

Perhaps the most interesting development is the attention given to the Surface Integration Service Device, with an update that improves battery longevity when the 2-in-1 is in sleep mode. More battery life is never to be sniffed at, of course.

A further adjustment improves storage performance in some measure, and an update for the Intel Precise Touch Device disables touch functionality whenever the cover is closed (as it should be).

Finally, Microsoft has a pair of updates which add support for some kind of upcoming product, although exactly what isn’t specified. Perhaps there’s some manner of new peripheral in the works, who knows.

As ever, you should see these updates come through on your device, but if you haven’t done so yet and wish to check manually for them, that’s easy enough. Go to Settings – in the Start menu – then click Update & Security, Windows Update, and then select Check for Updates.

Via: Windows Central

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