PC News

Microsoft's Surface Book 2 has a power problem

16 hours 3 minutes ago

Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 has a power problem. When operating at peak performance, it may draw more power than its stock charger or Surface Dock can handle. What we’ve discovered after talking to Microsoft is that it’s not a bug—it’s a feature.

You can understand our confusion, given how Microsoft initially positioned the Surface Book 2. “This is a desktop,” Microsoft’s corporate vice president of devices, Panos Panay, went so far as to call it. “For many, this is likely the most performant desktop they’ve ever seen.” Most models come with a discrete Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU (the lowest-end model has a GTX 1050). At the launch event, Microsoft showed off Cuphead and Gears of War 4 playing at high frame rates on the Surface Book 2, implying that it was capable of playing PC games.

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Mark Hachman

Black Friday deals: The cheapest gaming PC you can build

16 hours 37 minutes ago

The one thing we like more than building our own PCs is doing so for very little cash. Now’s the best time for that: Black Friday deals often include amazingly low prices on components, fantastic combo and bundle deals, and extras like a copy of a video game.

Last year, I decided to see just how low you could go using Black Friday deals. I came up with three budget gaming builds, all based around a Micro Center combo deal on AMD’s FX-8350 and a compatible AM3+ motherboard. The cheapest of them was $350, inclusive of the Windows license.

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Alaina Yee

Asus ZenBook Flip (UX360CA-DBM2T) review: A sleek, affordable 2-in-1 for everyday tasks

19 hours 58 minutes ago

Not everyone needs a beefy laptop, which usually comes with a beefy price. For many folks, a capable, portable, flexible device like the Asus ZenBook Flip is just the ticket. At just $749, the 2-in-1 Flip doesn’t try to be the most powerful or most advanced option. Instead, it offers a slim and portable design that’s affordable and easy to use.

Really, this laptop reminds us a little of the netbooks that existed about 10 years ago. However, unlike those painfully underpowered systems, the Flip’s Core m processor can actually get work done. Storage is plentiful, too: Asus offers two versions of this 2-in-1, and they’re essentially the same aside from the SSD. The base model comes with a 256GB SSD for $699, and the second model comes with a 512GB SSD for $50 more. Our review unit sported the 512GB drive, but our critique applies to both models.

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Josh Norem

Acer Chromebook 14 review: You can brag a little about this laptop's luxury details

21 hours 9 minutes ago

Chromebooks can be a crap shoot. It’s easy to get sucked in by a low price, only to find yourself with a disappointingly low-quality device on your hands. But you don’t have to step up into the higher-priced territory of the Dell Chromebook 13 or HP Chromebook 13 to find satisfaction. For a midrange price ($286 on Amazon), the Acer Chromebook 14 gives you an all-aluminum chassis and a very nice display, even if its performance and other attributes are less remarkable. 

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Melissa Riofrio

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 review: HD video and stereo sound add polish to video calls

21 hours 29 minutes ago

Don't settle for the built-in webcam on your PC. At best, it provides mediocre audio and video quality, which just won't do if you're trying to make a strong impression in a professional Skype call or as a serious online broadcaster. You'll get far more polish from Logitech’s HD Pro Webcam C920 provides, which offers 1080p resolution and stereo sound at a very affordable price (currently less than $50 on Amazon).

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Michael Ansaldo

This week in games: Battlefront II disables microtransactions, Total War goes to Britain

21 hours 36 minutes ago

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a news wrap-up, thanks to a knee-deep pile of review games I’m still slowly churning through. But my Total War sensors went off this week, so it’s time to return.

That’s right, there’s news on an honest-to-goodness historical Total War—the first since Rome 2 spin-off Attila . Also up this week: Pillars of Eternity 2 hits beta, Thermaltake’s new gaming chair cools your butt off, the end of Marvel Heroes, the start for Verdun sequel Tannenberg, and of course all the internet (and real-world) drama surrounding loot boxes.

This is gaming news for November 13 to 17.

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Hayden Dingman

Black Friday 2017: The best early deals

21 hours 43 minutes ago

Black Friday is no longer just the day after Thanksgiving. Now deals spill out willy-nilly from retailers at almost any given time in November.

Just a year or two ago, most discounts weren’t any good. But that’s changed.

While the deals that command headlines (those so-called “doorbusters”) are typically still available on only Thanksgiving or Black Friday, some worthwhile sales are already trickling out now. 

We’ve begun rounding those up here, so keep an eye peeled for further updates as the days tick by and we add new deals as we spot them. And don’t forget: Holiday return windows have just expanded (most will run into early January), so you can buy now and repent at leisure—assuming you can float the cash.

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Alaina Yee

The best SSDs of 2017

1 day ago

Switching to a solid-state drive is the best upgrade you can make for your PC. These wondrous devices obliterate long boot times, speed up how fast your programs and games load, and generally makes your computer feel fast. But not all solid-state drives are created equal. The best SSDs offer solid performance at affordable prices—or, if price is no object, face-meltingly fast read and write speeds.

This article was last updated on November 17, 2017 to include Intel’s Optane SSD 900P and the WD Blue 3D SATA NAND SSD.

SSD cheat sheet

Our quick-hit recommendations:

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Brad Chacos

Star Wars: Battlefront II review: The Dark Side

1 day 3 hours ago

No review is ever truly conducted in a vacuum, but Star Wars: Battlefront II arrived in a storm. And rightfully so, I might add. Battlefront II is the perfect capper to a holiday game season plagued by predatory monetization schemes, a game so unabashedly toxic it finally became a scandal. You’ll find a rack of pitchforks in the corner, or for those who prefer to observe internet drama from a safe distance there’s a popcorn maker on level two. 

Consider: Monday, EA received the most downvoted comment in Reddit history over Star Wars: Battlefront II's progression system. Tuesday, it cut all hero costs in the game by 75 percent in response. Wednesday, DICE employees hosted a disastrous Reddit Q&A session that only further fanned the flames. Thursday, the scandal grew so large it hit mainstream sites like CNN, prompting a phone call between EA CEO Andrew Wilson and Disney CEO Bob Iger, and then the temporary removal of Battlefront II’s real-world currency.

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Hayden Dingman

Buffered VPN review: It gets the job done

1 day 4 hours ago

Buffered VPN in brief:

P2P allowed: Yes

Business location: Budapest, Hungary

Number of servers: 30+

Number of country locations: 46

Cost: $99 per year

Budapest-based Buffered VPN isn’t an exceptional product. It ‘s not particularly speedy, its Windows app is serviceable but nothing special, prices are a little high, and its server count and country locations aren’t that impressive. Still, in my time with it, I found the VPN to be pretty good.

Ian Paul/IDG

Buffered VPN’s primary interface.

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Ian Paul

iMovie 10 review: Free video editing that's elegant and easy

1 day 4 hours ago

Apple’s iMovie has been around for a long time, and it has always focused on one philosophy: ease of use in a clean and elegant interface. After many years, this hasn’t changed. It’s still a delight to use, if a little bit obtuse at times in its pursuit of minimalism. It lacks some of the formats and features supported in other programs, but what’s there is implemented beautifully.

iMovie doesn’t offer the tutorials or wizards that some other programs for beginners do—though there is a neat movie trailer generation tool. Rather, it keeps the interface as basic as possible while guiding you with simple tooltips as you mouse over specific buttons and features. Total beginners might end up scratching their heads a little more than they would in apps with more explicit tutorials, though.

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Samuel Axon

WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD review: One of the fastest TLC drives you can buy

1 day 5 hours ago

The WD Blue 3D SSD is a SATA SSD with a not-so-secret twin: Sandisk’s Ultra 3D SSD. They are in fact the same drive with different labels, WD owning Sandisk and all that. The ‘3D’ term means the drives use stacked (layered, vertical, etc.) NAND. Practically speaking, that means more storage in less horizontal space.

The only real differences between the drives are the outward appearance, the marketing, and the fact that the WD Blue 3D ships in the M.2 form factor, while the Ultra 3D does not.  Beyond that, they’re peas in a pod. Given their superior performance compared to other TLC NAND drives—that’s a really good thing.

Design and capacity

Though available in the 2.5-inch form factor, WD sent us the M.2 2280 (22mm wide/80mm long) Blue 3D, which is handy for upgrading laptops or desktops that feature an M.2 slot. It’s SATA, not NVMe—just to be clear. Be sure to check which flavor your M.2 slot is before you buy. Just FYI, NVMe is a lot faster.

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Jon L. Jacobi

OnePlus 5T first thoughts: This phone could have made a great Pixel 2 XL

1 day 6 hours ago

What would you pay for a phone with a 6-inch OLED screen, Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery? $850? $950?

Now consider this number: $390. That’s the difference in price between the 128GB OnePlus 5T and the Pixel 2 XL. For $559 (just $20 more than the OnePlus 5), you get a phone that looks an awful lot like a Pixel 2 XL, with slim bezels, a rear fingerprint sensor, and an OS that’s very faithful to stock Android. And the entry-level model costs less than $500.

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Michael Simon

How to install PC game mods: A beginner's guide

1 day 6 hours ago

One of PC gaming’s biggest strengths is its flexibility, and that advantage shines brightest when you mod your PC games. While console games remain restricted to the gameplay and features shipped by developers, many PC games can be modified by the community to tweak almost any aspect of the experience. Mods can offer enhanced graphics, bug fixes, fresh quests, you name it. The best PC mods can change games completely—and sometimes kickstart whole new genres of their own.

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Kevin Casper

The FCC gives 4K, next-gen TV the green light

1 day 16 hours ago
The Federal Communications Commission has approved plans for the launch of next-generation TV broadcasting that could include 4K programming, improved interactive services and greater targeted advertising.
Martyn Williams

Dash cam reviews: What you need to catch the maniacs and meteors of daily driving

1 day 22 hours ago

Dash cams are already essential in many countries because of scam artists who try to create accidents so they can sue you. They’ve also proven useful for catching the occasional meteor, as happened in Thailand and in Russia a few years ago.

But while auto cons aren’t as common here, recording your excursions is a reasonable precaution to take—especially if you’re driving professionally.

November 16, 2017: Updated with our review of the Blackvue DR750S-2CH, which offers great day and night video, a convenient mounting system, and a handy phone app as well as browser access. But all these goodies will cost you. Read our full review

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Jon L. Jacobi

Blackvue DR750S-2CH dash cam review: A clever, high-quality two-camera bundle

1 day 22 hours ago

The Blackvue DR750S-2CH dash cam impressed us right out of the box. With similarly-styled front and rear cameras, a clever mounting system, and tubular good looks, it just looks like it will do its job well. It can also be accessed from across the Internet and uses Wi-Fi to communicate with the company’s Android and iOS apps.

But you pay for all the goodies: At $399 ($283 without the rear camera), the DR750S-2CH plays in the same rarefied pricing sphere as Thinkware’s top-of-the-line cameras. If this lies beyond your budget, check out all of our dash cam reviews for a better match.

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Jon L. Jacobi

Stardock's stellar Groupy organizes windows and programs like browser tabs

1 day 23 hours ago

Compelling free programs are a dime a dozen on PCs these days. But for years, Stardock has offered software worth paying for by following a simple formula: Identify a problem with Windows, then fix it for a reasonable price. Start10 restores the ho-hum modern Start Menu to the glories of its heyday. Fences helps manage disheveled desktops. And Stardock’s newest superb offering, Groupy, turns your myriad open windows into the equivalent of browser tabs.

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Brad Chacos
1 hour 17 minutes ago
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