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Kotlin 1.7.20 advances K2 compiler

JetBrains has published the production release of Kotlin 1.7.20, a planned upgrade to the programming language that introduces an operator for creating open-ended ranges and includes more work on the high-performing K2 compiler, which is still in development.

The production version was unveiled on September 29. With Kotlin 1.7.20, a new ..< operator enables the creation of open-ended ranges. While Kotlin already has the .. operator to express a range of values, the ..< operator acts like the until function and helps with defining the open-ended range. Research has shown that the new operator does a better job at expressing open-ended ranges and making it clear that the upper bound is not included.

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Materialize offers early release of its streaming database as a service

New York-based startup Materialize on Monday unveiled a streaming, distributed database as a managed service, offering the software to existing customers prior to general availability.

The company launched the initial version of its namesake software two years ago as a single binary designed to input data from Kafka, allowing users to use standard SQL to query and join streaming data.

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Mozilla is looking for a scapegoat

Mozilla recently released a 60-page report calling on regulators to take action to give consumers a “meaningful opportunity to try alternative browsers.” Alas, the problem for Mozilla isn’t anti-competitive practices from rival browser makers. The problem is competition itself, and Mozilla lost. Mozilla says its mission is to “rally citizens,” “connect leaders,” and “shape the agenda” to foster a “healthy internet.”

Maybe it should spend more time building a great browser.

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The importance of monitoring machine learning models

Agile development teams must ensure that microservices, applications, and databases are observable, have monitoring in place to identify operational issues, and use AIops to correlate alerts into manageable incidents. When users and business stakeholders want enhancements, many devops teams follow agile methodologies to process feedback and deploy new versions.

Even if there are few requests, devops teams know they must upgrade apps and patch underlying components; otherwise, the software developed today will become tomorrow’s technical debt.

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Bun JavaScript runtime is in the oven

Move over, Node.js and Deno. A potential competitor is emerging in the JavaScript/TypeScript runtime space, called Bun.

Now in a beta stage of development, Bun is billed as a modern JavaScript runtime akin to Deno or Node, built to start fast, offer new levels of performance, and be a complete tool, equipped with a bundler, transpiler, and package manager. Bun also features an NPM client that implements the Node module resolution algorithm.

Bun has ambitions. The goal of the project is to “run most of the world’s JavaScript outside of browsers,” providing performance and complexity enhancements to future infrastructure. Developer productivity and simpler tools also are goals. The project claims to support 90% of Node-API functions. Built-in web APIs include fetch, WebSocket, and ReadableStream.

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How to choose a cloud machine learning platform

In order to create effective machine learning and deep learning models, you need copious amounts of data, a way to clean the data and perform feature engineering on it, and a way to train models on your data in a reasonable amount of time. Then you need a way to deploy your models, monitor them for drift over time, and retrain them as needed.

You can do all of that on-premises if you have invested in compute resources and accelerators such as GPUs, but you may find that if your resources are adequate, they are also idle much of the time. On the other hand, it can sometimes be more cost-effective to run the entire pipeline in the cloud, using large amounts of compute resources and accelerators as needed, and then releasing them.

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What is Node.js? The JavaScript runtime explained

Scalability, latency, and throughput are key performance indicators for web servers. Keeping the latency low and the throughput high while scaling up and out is not easy. Node.js is a JavaScript runtime environment that achieves low latency and high throughput by taking a “non-blocking” approach to serving requests. In other words, Node.js wastes no time or resources on waiting for I/O requests to return.

In the traditional approach to creating web servers, for each incoming request or connection the server spawns a new thread of execution or even forks a new process to handle the request and send a response. Conceptually, this makes perfect sense, but in practice it incurs a great deal of overhead.

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Enterprises embrace devsecops practices against supply chain attacks
Healthy developer-team culture and adherence to devsecops best practices to protect against supply chain attacks are surprisingly commonplace in today’s security environment, according to a report from Google Cloud's DORA research program.
Deno 1.26 improves Node.js compatibility, npm support

Deno 1.26, the latest version of the TypeScript/JavaScript runtime that strives to improve on Node.js, emphasizes Node.js compatibility, among other improvements.

Deno 1.26 was unveiled September 29. The update includes implementations for several previously unsupported APIs in the Node.js compatibility layer, according to release notes. In addition, the compatibility layer’s test suite was updated for compatibility with Node.js v18.8.0, in preparation for Node.js 18 entering Long Term Support (LTS) status next month.

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The dirty little secret about edge computing

Edge computing is one of those confusing terms, much like cloud computing. Where there is a factorial of 50 kinds of cloud solutions, there is a factorial of 100 edge solutions or architectural patterns that exist today. This article does a better job of describing the types of edge computing solutions that are out there, saving me from relisting them here.

It’s safe to say that there are all types of compute and data storage deployments that qualify as edge computing solutions these days. I’ve even noticed vendors “edge washing” their technology, promoting it to “work at the edge.” If you think about it, all mobile phones, PCs, and even your smart TV could now be considered edge computing devices.

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MIT startup DataCebo offers tool to evaluate synthetic data

MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) spin-off DataCebo is offering a new tool, dubbed Synthetic Data (SD) Metrics, to help enterprises compare the quality of machine-generated synthetic data by pitching it against real data sets.

The application, which is an open-source Python library for evaluating model-agnostic tabular synthetic data, defines metrics for statistics, efficiency and privacy of data, according to Kalyan Veeramachaneni, MIT’s principal research scientist and co-founder of DataCebo.

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Should C/C++ be deprecated in favor of Rust?

Is it time to retire the legacy C and C++ programming languages, and turn to the high-flying Rust language instead? A prominent Microsoft official believes so.

In a tweet on September 19, Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, suggested that the day has come to move to Rust for new development not involving garbage collection languages. Russinovich wrote:

Speaking of languages, it’s time to halt starting any new projects in C/C++ and use Rust for those scenarios where a non-GC language is required. For the sake of security and reliability, the industry should declare those languages as deprecated.

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Where JavaScript is headed in 2022

Since 2016 the State of JavaScript survey has undertaken the monumental task of querying the JS multitudes about the multifarious frameworks, techniques, and features that they use to build applications. The latest incarnation of this Herculean effort occurred in the spring of 2022, and the results are now available. These results offer a gold mine of interesting data on the JavaScript space. Here are some of the key highlights and takeaways.

What comes after React?

Frameworks—front-end, back-end, and full-stack—have been a wildly active area for JavaScript over the last few years. This has settled out to some extent, but there are still quite a few new projects entering the space.

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Why developers hold the key to cloud security

In the days of the on-premises data center and early cloud adoption, the roles of application developers, infrastructure operations, and security were largely siloed. In the cloud, this division of labor increases the time-to-market for innovation, reduces productivity, and invites unnecessary risk.

In a data center environment, developers build software applications, IT teams build the infrastructure needed to run those applications, and security teams are responsible for ensuring that applications and infrastructure are secure. Developers must build software within the constraints of the underlying infrastructure and operating systems, and security processes dictate how fast everyone can go. When security discovers a vulnerability in production, the remediation process typically involves all stakeholders—and considerable rework.

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Cryptojacking, DDoS attacks increase in container-based cloud systems
Victims lose $53 for every $1 cryptojackers gain, according to a new report from Sysdig.
Microsoft .NET 7 bolsters WebAssembly support

Microsoft’s .NET 7 software development platform, due as a production release in November, improves support for running .NET on WebAssembly in JavaScript-based apps.

Developers can use the expanded WebAssembly support in .NET 7 to reuse .NET libraries from JavaScript or build new .NET-based apps. Featured as part of Microsoft’s effort is a rich JavaScript interop mechanism, according to a Microsoft blog post on September 26.

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GitHub for English teachers

In “GitHub for the rest of us” I argued that GitHub’s superpowers could serve everyone, not just coders. Ever since then (2015) I’ve felt that I overstated the case. GitHub was, and remains, a tool that is deeply optimized for programmers who create and review versioned source code. Other uses are possible but awkward, and the tools that I thought could make GitHub friendlier to non-coders mostly haven’t arrived.

Recently, though, I’ve been revisiting what GitHub can do for non-coders. As I’ve helped colleagues write blog posts and documentation I’ve been reflecting on my editing process and reaching for tools that can help me narrate the principles that guide it.

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Why the C programming language still rules

The C programming language has been alive and kicking since 1972, and it still reigns as one of the fundamental building blocks of our software-studded world. But what about the dozens of of newer languages that have emerged over the last few decades? Some were explicitly designed to challenge C’s dominance, while others chip away at it as a byproduct of their own popularity.

It's hard to beat C for performance, bare-metal compatibility, and ubiquity. Still, it’s worth seeing how it stacks up against some of the big-name language competition.

C vs. C++

C is frequently compared to C++, the language that—as the name indicates—was created as an extension of C. The differences between C++ and C could be characterized as extensive, or excessive, depending on whom you ask.

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SAS Viya analytics suite now available on Azure Marketplace

With enterprise customers unwilling to commit to big expenditures because of the unstable economy, SAS on Tuesday said that it is making its Viya analytics suite available on Microsoft’s Azure Marketplace to help enterprise users access all features of the suite in a pay-as-you-go model.

“The availability of Viya on the Azure Marketplace gives enterprises the option to run the suite with a single click and in a pay-as-you-go model. These options make for a perfect way to combat any headwinds around economic uncertainty in the future,” said SAS CIO Jay Upchurch.

Another reason to put Viya on the marketplace, according to SAS, is the growing trend among enterprises to buy software from marketplaces rather than from vendors.

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Cloud’s key role in the emerging hybrid workforce

Now that things seem to be getting back to normal—traffic, delayed flights, and all those things we didn’t miss during the stay-home phase of the pandemic—it’s time to look at what work is going to be like post-pandemic. I found this article an interesting description of some of the human issues that are popping up and how technology needs to address most of these challenges.

A few things are a reality. Although many employees may be showing up at work, a very large number are staying home. Or more likely, they’re operating in hybrid mode, working part of the time in the office and part of the time at home. This has been my personal way of working for the past 20 years, adding hotel rooms, client cubicles, airports, and Starbucks as default workspaces for consultants.

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SambaNova ships second-generation AI systems

SambaNova Systems is now shipping the second-generation of its DataScale systems specifically built for AI and machine learning.

You may not have heard of SambaNova, a startup led by ex-Oracle/Sun hardware executives and Stanford professors, but its work is likely familiar. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was an early adopter of DataScale and used the systems in its COVID-19 antiviral compound and therapeutic research in 2020.

“Our systems were deployed in supercomputers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which were then used by various parties for the research and development of COVID-19 antiviral compound and therapeutics,” said Marshall Choy, SambaNova’s senior vice president for products. “So, yes, they were a small part of that. As bad as the pandemic was, at least we got to do something good through it.”

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About a third of cloud users need to learn resiliency lessons from Ian

Beyond the human cost, natural disasters like hurricane Ian can take a high toll on business continuity, causing enterprise-infrastructure damage that takes days or weeks to fix while downtime costs in the six figures per hour. If Ian didn’t impact your operations, now is the time to prepare for a future disaster that might hit your network.

Vulnerable areas include cloud providers’ managed services that might require customers to explicitly specify they want their apps, compute, and storage housed in redundant, geographically separate availability zones. According to Uptime Institute, roughly one third of enterprises are architecting cloud apps that are vulnerable to outages in single cloud availability zones, rather than distributing their workloads across multiple zones.

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IBM, Vodaphone, GSMA form group to promote quantum-safe networks

The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), IBM and Vodaphone are teaming up to form a task force that will promote quantum-safe cryptography standards for telco networks and, ultimately, enterprise cloud service environments.

The idea behind the new group, called the GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce, is to define requirements and create a standards-based roadmap to implement quantum-safe networking and mitigate anticipated security risks.

“Telco networks are the underpinning of all enterprise services, regardless of what industry they are in, so it is critical that those networks [get] out in front of the security challenges quantum brings,” said Ray Harishankar, IBM Fellow, vice president, and leader of Big Blue’s Quantum Safe strategy. “The idea of the group is to start to develop a quantum-safe plan now, because the components and standards of that roadmap won’t be developed overnight.”

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BrandPost: How a Converged Networking and Security Solution Improves User Experience

 

“The Wi-Fi is down.”

These words are perhaps some of the most dreaded among IT professionals everywhere. Whenever users experience issues accessing the corporate network, they often assume the Wi-Fi is malfunctioning. Yet IT teams know that the problem is usually more complicated. A helpdesk ticket about a compromised user experience often sends IT analysts down the proverbial rabbit hole of their networks in search of the culprit, inspecting everything from Network Access Control (NAC) technology to wired switches and wireless access points to authentication solutions.

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ITU elects US candidate, quelling concerns about internet fracture

Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the US today defeated Russia’s Rashid Ismailov by a convincing 139 to 25 in a vote to decide who will become the next secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union, allaying Western concerns about nation-state control and interoperability of the internet 

Bogdan-Martin, who will become the first woman to head the ITU in its 157-year history, is seen by some observers as the candidate most likely to preserve the ITU’s status as a neutral arbiter of a free and open internet, in opposition to recent Russian and Chinese maneuvering in the group that would have placed much more control over the internet’s basic functionality in the hands of nation-states.

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MIT-based startup's cooling tech can cut data center energy costs, footprint

Thanks to innovative cooling technology developed by an MIT-hatched startup, data center managers may soon be able to acquire servers and HPC (high-performance computing) devices that will significantly reduce the energy cost and footprint of the faciities they oversee.

The startup, Jetcool, sprang from research conducted at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, and this month received an R&D 100 Award from R&D World magazine, marking it as a standout innovator for its use of what it calls “microconvection” liquid cooling of electronics.

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Highest paid IT certifications command $130K+

Cloud expertise dominates the most in-demand tech skills for enterprises today, according to Skillsoft.

The digital-learning company released its 2022 list of top-paying IT certifications, and AWS certs accounted for five of the 15 slots. Two Google Cloud Platform (GCP) certs and one Microsoft Azure cert also made the list.

The continuing value of cloud certifications isn’t surprising, but what’s noteworthy is a shift toward multi-cloud skills, said Michael Yoo, customer market leader for Skillsoft’s technology and developer portfolio. “The increase in importance of Google Cloud and multi-cloud certifications—not just AWS and Azure—speaks to the growing fraction of enterprises that now rely on more than one cloud computing platform.”

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BrandPost: How Secure SD-WAN Can Replace Traditional Branch Firewalls

By: Gabriel Gomane, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Originally created primarily to support WAN virtualization, SD-WAN capabilities have evolved to manage more aspects of the network—including security. Today, secure SD-WAN solutions have also enabled IT teams to eliminate branch firewalls in favor of a simplified branch WAN infrastructure.

The reasons are manifold. As network architecture continues to shift to the cloud, branch offices must now tackle new security challenges as the network grows more complex as more users connect outside the traditional security perimeter. At the same time, enterprises want additional flexibility to cope with the growing number of cloud applications, the ability to open new branches faster, or host new applications more quickly. The traditional network structure, built on MPLS, routers, and firewalls, simply cannot handle the flexibility enterprises need, due to the cost, complexity, and rigidity this hardware demands…especially as it was never designed to be part of the emerging cloud infrastructure of today. 

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Lenovo spends its 30th anniversary making 50 announcements

Lenovo Group is marking its 30th anniversary with its largest data-center product launch ever, with more than 50 new products covering servers, storage, and edge systems.

Specifically, the celebration is for the ThinkSystem server, and many of the announcements were about upgrades.

The next generation of ThinkSystem servers and storage, along with the ThinkEdge edge computing device lineup, as well as the ThinkAgile family of hyperconverged infrastructure appliances collectively are called Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions V3.

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Software vulnerabilities pose a risk to network infrastructure

As the Log4J crisis made clear, understanding what is in the software unpinning your applications is crucial to understanding your security posture. This is no less true of your network services.

Enterprise-network infrastructure is still very much about hardware in data center and LAN and WAN, but now it is becoming more and more about software.

In this era of software-defined networks, an ever-increasing number of network appliances are just proprietary software running on generic switching hardware or even a plain vanilla x86 server with extra network cards. That shift in emphasis from the hard to the soft has made the software stacks running the network a new source of risk and worry for cybersecurity.

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Fortinet targets SD-WAN, 5G with new AIOps support

Fortinet has added support for AI operations to its Secure SD-WAN and 5G/LTE gateways giving customers more insights into the networks linking their distributed resources and reducing  the time it takes to fix problems.

The company has expanded its FortiAIOps platform, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to collect network data and analytics to help identify and automate problem resolution. The addition of Secure SD-WAN and 5G/LTE fills out the FortiAIOps portfolio, which already supported WAN, wireless LAN, and LAN operations on a single console to manage and secure wired and wireless connectivity.

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Shortages force network vendors into creative product redesigns

Supply chain problems have triggered most major networking players such as Cisco, Juniper, Arista, and others to redesign or re-engineer some products in an attempt to overcome component shortages and deliver products to customers.

Lead times for some routers, switches and other gear is already delayed well beyond six months. Retooling to get hardware out the door can add is own delay and put additional pressure on engineers looking to reshape things like power supplies and board-level features without causing major problems themselves.

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BrandPost: Implementing a Zero-Trust Strategy? Start with Universal ZTNA

Currently, many IT departments are being challenged to make fundamental changes to their cybersecurity strategies. The changes required are necessary to meet their organization’s demands of digital transformation and the rapid growth of their work-from-anywhere (WFA) workforce. Because users from anywhere need to access resources distributed across their networks, organizations are faced with security gaps and vulnerabilities as their legacy, siloed point products are incapable of providing consistent end-to-end protection.

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Single-core vs. multi-core CPUs

In reviewing CPU and server benchmarks, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that testing covers both single-core and multi-core performance. Here's the difference.

In terms of raw performance, both are equally important, but single- and multi-core have areas of use where they shine. So when picking a CPU, it’s important to consider your particular workloads and evaluate whether single-core or multi-core best meets your needs.

Single-core CPUs

There are still a lot of applications out there that are single-core limited, such as many databases (although some, like MySQL, are multicore).

Performance is measured in a couple of ways. Clock frequency is the big one; the higher the frequency the faster apps will run. Also important is the width of execution pipelines, and the wider the pipeline, the more work can get done per clock cycle. So even if an app is single threaded, a wider pipeline can improve its performance.

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Using 'break' and 'continue' to exit loops in bash

The commands for looping in bash are extremely useful. They allow you to run a series of commands as many times as needed to process a large collection of data. The break and continue commands provide another special option. They allow you to exit a loop early or skip the remaining commands in the loop and return to the beginning.

Both the break and the continue commands are meant to be used only in for, while and until loops. In fact, if you try to invoke the break command on its own, bash will tell you just that.

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A third of Australian population likely affected in Optus cyberattack
Breached information includes names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, and, for a subset of customers, addresses, ID document numbers such as driver's licence or passport numbers.
Weekly internet health check, US and worldwide

The reliability of services delivered by ISPs, cloud providers and conferencing services (a.k.a. unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS)) is an indication of how well served businesses are via the internet.

ThousandEyes is monitoring how these providers are handling the performance challenges they face. It will provide Network World a roundup of interesting events of the week in the delivery of these services, and Network World will provide a summary here. Stop back next week for another update, and see more details here.

Get regularly scheduled insights by signing up for Network World newsletters

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IoT technology is hitting an inflection point for businesses

A new survey released by UK-based research firm Omdia bears out some of the industry’s rosier predictions for IoT uptake among businesses, finding that almost four out of five companies expect to be actively deploying IoT within the next two years.

The survey, which was commissioned by IoT connectivity vendor MachineQ and collected responses from more than 200 enterprises in the manufacturing, retail, real estate and construction, healthcare and life sciences industries, also found that 70% of respondents said that they planned to have more than 50,000 IoT devices deployed within the next 24 months.

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Nvidia strikes AI consulting deals with Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton

Artificial intelligence (AI) may be all the rage, but it's still slow to be deployed. The learning curve is steep, there are few people with adequate AI experience, and the rules of governance are unclear.

That explains Gartner's 2020 statistic that only 53% of AI pilot programs actually make it to deployment. The tools and experience needed are just not there for the average IT shop, especially a smaller enterprise.

Nvidia is looking to change that with a pair of AI-related alliances with consulting giants Deloitte and Booz Allen Hamilton. Both deals are designed to help enterprises plot AI strategies and gain access to Nvidia technology and expertise.

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Broadcom's VMware acquisition sparks concern

Chip powerhouse Broadcom recently announced its intention to acquire virtualization pioneer VMware for $61 billion. In light of Broadcom’s less than stellar track record with prior acquisitions (CA Technologies in 2018, and Symantec in 2019), VMware’s enterprise customers are understandably worried.

“Following the purchases of CA and Symantec, Broadcom raised prices, decreased support, and stopped investing in innovation,” says Tracy Woo, senior analyst for Forrester. “VMware customers would be wise to have an exit plan,” she cautioned.

IDC analyst Stephen Elliot sees it differently. Rather than advising VMware customers to identify the exits, Elliot believes customers should “double down” on their relationship with the vendor, moving towards a more strategic business partnership.

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- Kirsten Korosec

Spin, which was acquired by Tier Mobility earlier this year, has laid off about 10% of its staff — including a number of executives — and is exiting Canada and Seattle, TechCrunch has learned.

The micromobility company informed its workforce of more than 700 during a Friday all-hands meeting that lower-than-expected demand in the U.S. amid the waning pandemic, along with economic conditions such as rising inflation and a tightening VC funding environment, led to the decision.

About 78 people, the majority of whom are white-collar workers based in its San Francisco headquarters, have been laid off. The affected employees were notified prior to the meeting.

Staff was also told that it is exiting Kelowna, British Columbia, and Seattle, where it currently only operates e-bikes. Spin had operations in Edmonton, Red Deer and St. Albert, Canada, but never reactivated those cities after winter ended this year. Kelowna was its last remaining Canadian market.

Philip Reinckens, a Tier veteran who took the CEO spot in May, delivered the news to employees, according to sources who asked not to be named.

During the 20-minute meeting, Reinckens told workers that the company’s priorities are to preserve cash and achieve profitability. Notably, he said the entire micromobility industry was suffering from a perfect storm of events that included supply chain constraints, inflation, the war in Ukraine, and a tight labor market. While the company has cut costs such as downsizing its San Francisco office and rolled out programs to encourage more ridership and raise its bottom line, the company still wasn’t able to capture the demand needed to make profit and loss figures work, he said, according to an audio recording of the event shared with TechCrunch.

Lucas Beard, Spin’s VP of growth and marketing, also confirmed the layoffs and the decision to leave Canada and Seattle.

“While it’s impossible for us to predict the future in such a new industry, what we can promise is that we’ll continue to be as transparent and thoughtful as possible as we continue to evaluate our financial performance and external market conditions,” Beard wrote in an email. He added that Spin is also centralizing some areas with parent company Tier.

The layoffs come about six months after Berlin-based micromobility operator Tier Mobility acquired Spin from automaker Ford. The acquisition marked Tier’s move into North America and came after an aggressive expansion in Europe that included buying e-scooter company Wind Mobility’s Italian subsidiary and bike-share startup Nextbike.

The Spin acquisition gave Tier a global footprint of more than 520 cities and communities in 21 countries. It also added to its costs and ultimately led Tier to restructure. In August, Tier laid off about 16% of its workforce, or 180 people, due to economic conditions and a tightening funding climate.

The VC firms once gladly forked over funds to shared micromobility startups even as costs piled up and questions loomed about whether shared scooters and e-bikes could ever be profitable enterprises.

In the past year, micromobility companies still reliant on external funding have found a less receptive VC community. Bird, Superpedestrian and Voi are a few that have laid off workers in 2022. The lack of demand in some markets — including ones that once were teeming with users before the COVID pandemic — has forced companies to restructure their businesses and seek ways to cut costs.

Micromobility is fun, but perhaps that’s all it’ll ever be

Tier Mobility-owned Spin lays off about 10% of workforce, exits two markets by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch

- Rita Liao

One of the highest-profile sexual assault allegations against Chinese business tycoons ended abruptly this past weekend. Liu Qiangdong, the founder of Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com, also known as Richard Liu, has reached a settlement with Liu Jingyao, a former University of Minnesota student who alleged that the billionaire raped her in her apartment in 2018.

The announcement came in a joint statement from the two parties on Saturday, just two days before Mr. Liu was scheduled to face a civil trial in Minneapolis, during which the press would have been allowed to live tweet from the courtroom. The amount for the settlement wasn’t disclosed

The joint statement neither denied nor confirmed Ms. Liu’s claims, saying only that the incident between Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu (unrelated) “resulted in a misunderstanding that has consumed substantial public attention and brought profound suffering to the parties and their families.”

“Today, the parties agreed to set aside their differences, and settle their legal dispute in order to avoid further pain and suffering caused by the lawsuit.”

Some might see the result as yet another instance where powerful figures get to shun legal ramifications using their power and money. But others argue this is already a step forward for China’s beleaguered #MeToo movement. Mr. Liu has previously denied the rape allegations and could have used his financial prowess to defend his purported innocence through the trial. A settlement instead might suggest his silent admission of wrongdoings.

“It’s such a historic moment for the past four-year #Metoo movement in China, as the settlement remains significant for the results of struggle by Jingyao and feminists,” reads a blog post by the Free Chinese Feminist group. “The settlement also reconfirms the facts that have been denied by Liu Qiangdong and JD.com, and recognizes that Liu Qiangdong kept hiding the truth.”

The case has drawn widespread attention in China and many were waiting for the trial to uncover more details of the case against one of China’s wealthiest men, a scenario that would have been nearly impossible in China where sexual allegations have historically been silenced.

Online discussions about the #MeToo case at least seem to be allowed. On the microblogging platform Weibo, the hashtag for the settlement news has accumulated over 40 million views. That’s perhaps unsurprising given that Chinese censors are unlikely to side with an ecommerce boss at a time Beijing is reining in the unfettered power of the internet sector.

Mr. Liu, whose blunt speeches and marriage to an internet celebrity was often the topic of tabloid news, has largely retreated from public life since the case surfaced. In April, the 49-year-old executive stepped down as JD’com’s CEO after founding the online retailer, which is hailed as the Amazon of China, some 24 years ago. He remains the chairman of the firm’s board.

The four-year legal entanglement didn’t seem to wane investor confidence in JD.com. The company’s stock price has nearly doubled to $50 apiece from September 2018 when Mr. Liu first faced the sexual misconduct allegations, though the shares are still down 50% from a high point in February 2021. With a market cap of around $77 billion, JD.com is the 20th biggest company in China at the time of writing.

JD.com hasn’t fared too badly amid China’s tech clampdown overall. Most of the country’s internet giants have lost a substantial chunk of their market cap following a litany of regulations over monopolies, data practices, and more. Alibaba’s stock has shrunk 70% from a high in October 2020 and Tencent’s is down 66% from its peak in February 2021.

Shopify and China’s JD.com team up to capture cross-border sellers

What tech tycoon Richard Liu’s sexual misconduct case means for China’s #MeToo by Rita Liao originally published on TechCrunch

- Sarah Perez

Facebook parent Meta has settled a lawsuit in the U.S. against two companies that had engaged in data scraping operations, which had seen them gathering data from Facebook and Instagram users for marketing intelligence purposes, according to the original complaint filed in October 2020. The companies named in the suit, Israeli-based BrandTotal Ltd. and Delaware-incorporated Unimania Inc., agreed to a permanent injunction banning them from scraping Facebook and Instagram data going forward or profiting from the data they collected. They also agreed to pay a “significant financial sum” as part of their settlement, Meta says.

Meta declined to disclose the sum paid, however, and court filings didn’t specify the amount.

According to BrandTotal’s website, its company had offered a real-time competitive intelligence platform designed to give media, insights and analytics teams visibility into their competition’s social media strategy and paid campaigns. These insights would allow its customers to analyze and shift their budget allocation to target new opportunities, monitor trends and threats from emerging brands, optimize their ads and messaging and more.

Meanwhile, Unimania operated apps claiming to offer users the ability to access social networks in different ways. For example, Unimania offered apps that let you view Facebook via a mobile-web interface or alongside other social networks like Twitter. Another app allows you to view Instagram Stories anonymously, it claimed.

Together, the two companies developed and distributed products under the brand names UpVoice, Social One, Phoenix, Anonymous Story Viewer, Story Savebox, Calix and Restricted Panel.

Facebook sues two companies engaged in data scraping operations

The original complaint had specifically called out two browser extensions offered by the companies: Unimania’s “Ads Feed” and BrandTotal’s “UpVoice.” The former had allowed users to save the ads they saw on Facebook for later reference, but also opted users into a panel that informed the advertising decisions of Unimania’s corporate clients. UpVote had rewarded users with gift cards for sharing their opinions about the online campaigns run by brands.

According to the filing that detailed the proposed settlement, both companies agreed to stop scraping or assisting others in data collection practices, delete their software and code, and agreed to a ban on distributing or selling any data they collected through their operations, among other things. It also notes that they agreed to pay monetary damages in a confidential settlement.

The district court overseeing the case ruled in a summary judgment earlier this year that BrandTotal did “not violate the CFAA,” or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which governs what constitutes computer hacking under U.S. federal law.

This decision came weeks after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that web scraping is legal under the CFAA after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, but the Ninth Circuit did not rule on whether scraping could violate a company’s terms of service or other contractual agreements.

But in its summary judgment, the district court found that BrandTotal failed to show that Facebook’s terms of service are unenforceable.

Web scraping is legal, US appeals court reaffirms

The case is one of several filed by Meta designed to take on data scraping operations, including and following a 2020 settlement with the scraping service Massroot8. This year, the company also filed a lawsuit against a clone site operator and a company called Octopus, a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese national high-tech enterprise that had offered scraping services.

Meta last year disclosed it has a dedicated team of over 100 people devoted to detecting, blocking and deterring scraping. And, in a year’s time, it said it took over 300 enforcement actions against data scraping and other platform abuse.

The problem can still threaten user privacy, however. An April 2021 report revealed that the personal data from 533 million Facebook users had been leaked online, via web scraping operations; Meta expanded its Bug Bounty program to address scraping. More recently, it changed how uses Facebook Identifiers (FBIDs) to make it more technically challenging for unauthorized scraping to occur in the first place.

Meta settles lawsuit for ‘significant’ sum against businesses scraping Facebook and Instagram data by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

- Haje Jan Kamps

I’ve long been super against edited tweets, mostly for technical reasons. The core issue is that Twitter isn’t like other social media sites; unlike, say Instagram and Facebook posts, embedded tweets drive the news in many ways. Republishing and retweeting of tweets is the main risk around allowing users to edit it. Let me break down a few of the reasons why, and why Twitter’s rollout might be challenging, but still work.

Since its launch, but especially in the era where Trump’s presidency essentially couldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Twitter, the platform has become the fastest way for anyone to get any info to an audience. That has upsides, but it also means that information that is distributed goes far and wide. In a world where fake news runs rampant, that’s… a challenge.

The ability to edit tweets has always been technically trivial — you update a database, job done. Databases are great at the ability to update information, especially if you don’t care about edit history or (god forbid) immutability.

Twitter is a platform of immediacy: As soon as you hit “Tweet,” all your followers see what you just wrote, within seconds. That sets Twitter apart from every other social media. It also means that from a policy point of view, editing is complex.

The concept of instantly being able to re-publish content is a powerful feature of Twitter, and while opinions vary on whether a retweet constitutes an endorsement of sentiment or merely an amplification, an idea can be retweeted within seconds of being shared. This makes the concept of editing a tweet complicated, because it is very difficult to know what the edit actually means.

If you start thinking a little bit about what the implications of edited tweets are, you open up a whole series of questions, all of which have two or more perfectly sensible solutions — but each solution brings its own challenges. If someone tweets something, and you like the tweet, what should happen to your “like” once the tweet is edited? What if the edit means you no longer agree? Or what if your “like” in fact triggers a Zapier script that does something with the tweet — what should happen to the tweet?

Imagine that I write something about how incredible my local coffee shop is, they retweet it, and I edit the tweet to “I shoulda gone to Starbucks instead of LocalCoffeeShop”?

It seems like Twitter is trying to limit access to the ability for now, only to Twitter Blue subscribers.

Edit Tweet is rolling out! And with that, edited Tweet metadata is now available on the Twitter API v2 so that you can begin to retrieve edited Tweets and the associated history and fields.https://t.co/RHVB83emI6

— Twitter Dev (@TwitterDev) October 3, 2022

The platform also rolled out tweet editing to its API users, so they can access past tweets and use the API to make edits to tweets for accounts that have that functionality enabled.

It’s going to be beyond interesting to see how these features will be used by users — and abusers — on the Twitter platform. There are so many quirky edge cases to this; here are a few that make me break out in cold sweat as a product person:

What if you report a tweet that was abusive, but was edited afterward, so is no longer visible to regular users? What if you show tweets on a website, but you cache the content? How do you ensure you show the most recent version of the tweet? If you did embed a tweet, you take some degree of editorial responsibility for it as a publisher. How do you trigger a re-moderation of potentially very old tweets? What if you have a tweet open, and it gets edited between you reading it and you hitting retweet? What if you used a scheduling tool (such as Buffer) to retweet something with a comment later, but the original tweet was edited? If your comment no longer makes sense, how should that be handled? Should an edited tweet be re-inserted into the timeline for users who see it by “newest first”? What if I could go back in time and, in January 2015, suggest that Donald Trump runs for president as a joke? Okay, so I did actually do that, but now that editing exists, it would be much easier to fake that. Still wouldn’t be funny, though. Should there be a difference between a major and a minor edit? Like, a typo versus completely changing the content of the tweet? And, in a world where a comma can make a world of difference, how would the platform know what constitutes a major or a minor edit?

I am still curious if enabling editing is going to cause more problems than it is worth, but the limited roll-out to New Zealand, Canada and  Australia is going to get really interesting. The potential for abuse is great, but perhaps we can finally get rid of those dumb little typos in tweets that unexpectedly blow up.

Twitter’s edit button is rolling out to Blue subscribers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Edited tweets is still a minefield, but Twitter’s solution just might work by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

- Anita Ramaswamy

Kim Kardashian is the latest celebrity to land in legal trouble for unlawfully promoting a crypto product to her followers without disclosing she had been paid to do so. The reality star settled with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by paying a $1.26 million penalty for promoting a crypto security sold by EthereumMax.

While the action could be a win for the SEC in terms of stricter enforcement of crypto rules (Chairman Gary Gensler is already crowing about it on Twitter), others rushed to Kardashian’s defense (such as in this since-deleted tweet), arguing the action was unfair because Kardashian is a woman.

Before anyone else jumps to support her, remember this: Any defense of Kardashian on the grounds of her identity is inaccurate and misguided. Aside from the fact that Kardashian, alongside her family, is known for stealing, scamming, misleading, and exploiting, she’s far from the only celebrity at risk of being hit with penalties for shilling crypto products.

For example, the SEC charged Floyd Mayweather Jr. and DJ Khaled back in 2018 for promoting investments in initial coin offerings. Both paid tens of thousands of dollars in penalties and were banned from promoting any securities, digital or otherwise, for years.

Before anyone takes crypto advice, of all things, from a celebrity like Matt Damon on the internet, one should ask if Matt Damon takes financial advice from Matt Damon.

Many celebrities pushing crypto products have yet to face off with the SEC, though Gensler’s tweets could signal that for that group, the worst is yet to come. Mark Cuban is facing a class-action lawsuit alleging that his promotion of the now-bankrupt Voyager Digital crypto platform resulted in more than 3.5 million investors losing a collective $5 billion. Matt Damon has avoided any legal action against him for his multi-million-dollar spots promoting Crypto.com because they were explicitly labeled as advertising, but he’s certainly faced a good deal of criticism, especially after the exchange was hacked for $34 million in January.

Suggesting that Kardashian doesn’t deserve criticism of any wrongdoing because she’s a woman is a tired, old argument, and one typically only offered in defense of white women, usually by the same people who wouldn’t hesitate to pump crypto on their social media accounts in exchange for a $250,000 check.

In Kardashian’s case, EthereumMax was an unknown token worth almost nothing before she posted about it on Instagram.

Let’s not defend Kim Kardashian for shilling crypto by Anita Ramaswamy originally published on TechCrunch

- Alex Wilhelm

Silly season is out in venture capital land.

Today investors and founders alike will bore your ears off with notes about incremental cash flow positivity and their timeline to adjusted EBITDA profitability.

Lame.

Despite the general boringness of today’s venture capital landscape, replete with conservative valuations, falling deal sizes, and clucking investors sitting atop a mountain of capital, we learned today that at least some folks are having fun.

Enter Liquid Death, a direct-to-consumer water company that just raised a $70 million round at a $700 million valuation, per Bloomberg reporting. The transaction makes Liquid Death 70% of a unicorn, which is damn impressive given the state of most DTC companies — see here — that we can track on the public market exchanges.

Why the huge price tag? Because water is a growth business, baby! Bloomberg’s Katie Roof — a former TechCruncher — writes that the company is “on track for $130 million in revenue this year,” up from $45 million worth of top line last year. That’s the sort of growth that investors covet.

Wondering if those investors should've drank some Smartwater first https://t.co/ybVUf7AOMM

— Josh Inglis (@Propllrhead) October 3, 2022

Liquid Death has a few things going for it that make the deal somewhat reasonable from my perspective. Sure, it’s easy to dunk on a $700 million water startup when cheaper alternatives abound; other fizzy water brands, making your own bubbly, or drinking straight tap water like a peasant are all options.

I will defend the $700M fizzy water by Alex Wilhelm originally published on TechCrunch

- Lauren Simonds

Golden State Warrior and four-time NBA champion Draymond Green will take the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt on October 18–20 in San Francisco — and get ready for a plot twist.

He will bring his popular podcast, “The Draymond Green Show,” to the Disrupt stage with a very special guest — himself. Turning the tables, Green will hand host duties over to TechCrunch’s own Brian Heater for an interview covering the star athlete’s thoughts on disrupting media, podcasting and sports commentary.

Never one to shy away from straight talk, Green told CNBC of his desire to become a billionaire by the time he hits 40. He’s made several investments along the way, including Smile Direct Club, Blink Fitness gyms, Lobos 1707 (along with LeBron James) and Uninterrupted — part of James’s SpringHill Company.

For his most recent acquisition, Green teamed up with Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers — along with James and other investors — to purchase a Major League Pickleball team.

We can’t wait to hear more about where Green might focus future investments, his perspective on becoming a disruptive media mogul and how that billionaire status is coming along.

Green’s main gig, of course, is power-forward for the Golden State Warriors. He’s a four-time NBA champion, four-time All-Star, a two-time member of the All-NBA Team, a five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

His off-court career rose to new heights this year when he became the first active NBA player to sign a broadcasting deal with TNT. His podcast, “The Draymond Green Show,” features A-list guests and real talk from Green. He regularly appears on a variety of programs, is a voice-over artist and an executive producer of multiple entertainment endeavors. Green also stars in Prime Video’s “The Sessions: Draymond Green,” “Throwing Bones” and TNT’s “Opening Night.”

TechCrunch Disrupt takes place on October 18–20 in San Francisco. Buy your pass today and find out why Disrupt is the place where startups go to grow.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt 2022? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Draymond Green will flip the script at TechCrunch Disrupt by Lauren Simonds originally published on TechCrunch

- Aisha Malik

Twitter is rolling out the ability to edit tweets to Twitter Blue subscribers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the social network announced on Monday. The company says the edit button will roll out to Blue subscribers in the U.S. soon, but didn’t provide a specific launch date.

Twitter Blue subscribers in these countries can now edit their tweets for up to 30 minutes after posting. But users can only edit their tweets five times within this 30-minute time period. It’s possible that Twitter introduced these limits to stop people from abusing the feature by changing content drastically, while still giving users enough time to correct typos or add hashtags.

test went well, Edit Tweet is now rolling out to Twitter Blue members in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand!

US coming soon pic.twitter.com/7NNPRC0t1I

— Twitter Blue (@TwitterBlue) October 3, 2022

Once you edit a tweet, it will display a timestamp showing when the tweet was edited. People reading the tweet can tap the label to view the edit history of the tweet. When you’re scrolling through your feed, edited tweets will display a little pencil icon next to them to show others that the tweet has been modified.

Twitter previously told TechCrunch that it will observe how people use the edit button, and that the number of edits available to users in the approved time frame could change. The social network previously said it’s introducing the feature to paid users first to gather more feedback so that it can fine tune the edit button’s functionality accordingly. The edit button is arguably Twitter’s most requested feature, so it’s not surprising that the company wants to test it with a smaller group of people before launching it more widely. The limited release also gives Twitter the opportunity to see if people abuse the new feature, as it would give Twitter the time to implement additional safeguards if needed.

“With Edit Tweet, we’re hoping to make Tweeting easier and more approachable, giving people more choice and control in how they express themselves and how they contribute to the many conversations happening on Twitter,” the company said in a blog post last month.

hello

this is a test to make sure the edit button works, we’ll let you know how it goes

— Twitter Blue (@TwitterBlue) September 29, 2022

The official launch of the edit button comes a month after Twitter said it would roll out the feature. Since then, the company has been testing the feature on its own accounts to show users what edited tweets will look like.

Twitter Blue is currently only available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S. The social network hasn’t said when it plans to roll out the subscription plan to other countries — much less when it plans to roll out the edit button to the rest of its users.

Twitter is finally rolling out an edit button later this month, first to Twitter Blue subscribers

Twitter’s edit button is rolling out to Blue subscribers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

- Ron Miller

Heading into 2022, it seemed like we were poised for a big year in M&A. This was especially true for enterprise SaaS companies that saw their values begin to fall in late 2021, a trend that extended into this year. Why are we not seeing more aggressive M&A activity and some good old-fashioned bargain hunting while many software companies could be considered grossly undervalued?

It’s a reasonable question.

A quick look at a handful of SaaS stocks shows some deals to be had. While Zoom’s value is still a bit rich, perhaps, at $21 billion, consider that DocuSign is down to $10 billion, Dropbox is around $7.5 billion, UiPath is under $7 billion, Box is resting at just $3.7 billion worth of value, and Sumo Logic is valued at under the $1 billion mark.

Step right up, folks, because there are bargains to be had, whether you’re one of the usual acquisitive suspects (Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon) or a private equity investor looking for some good values.

It’s not as though we haven’t seen any activity. As you probably are aware, there have been some major deals this year, but with so many SaaS stocks down so far, why aren’t we seeing more activity? We decided to dig in and see if we could figure it out.

A quick look at 2022 M&A so far

Looking at the sizable M&A deals this year, the biggest by far is Microsoft grabbing gaming company Activision/Blizzard for a scintillating $69 billion in an aggressive move, one perhaps so aggressive that regulators are concerned. For now, that deal remains in regulatory limbo and is far from enterprise SaaS.

Why aren’t we seeing more aggressive SaaS M&A? by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

- Lucas Matney

While the broader virtual reality industry earnestly waits for Meta’s next announcements around new VR products at its Connect event next week, Google’s venture arm GV is placing an interesting bet in a startup building up an ecosystem around some of Meta’s hardware.

GV has led a $12 million Series A investment in SideQuest, the makers of an alternative app store for the Meta Quest VR headset, which allows developers to ship and market experimental games that may not initially meet Meta’s stringent store approval processes.

Since launching their app in early 2019 after the Oculus Quest first launched, SideQuest’s married founders Shane and Orla Harris have been streamlining the app’s user experience while building out a more mature jumping off point for VR game developers to reach communities of early users and get feedback before graduating to the official store. A handful of titles have already made that leap from SideQuest’s experimental arms, including VR basketball app Gym Class, which banked funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator earlier this year.

YC and a16z back virtual reality basketball app Gym Class

SideQuest’s founders have long been looking for ways to support VR game development. An early investment from Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey gave the couple runway to explore how they could turn their experiment into a company. While the Harrises have plenty of kind words to say about Meta’s VR investment, they are worried by the lack of platform diversity in the virtual reality industry, and hope that more open source projects like theirs can help.

“As much as we’re all pretty thankful for the investment that Facebook has made, we still want choice,” SideQuest co-founder Shane Harris tells TechCrunch.

The Oculus Quest’s unofficial app store gets backing from Oculus founder Palmer Luckey

SideQuest’s founders have so far managed to build an awful lot of functionality into their platform without too much pushback from Meta. SideQuest’s lack of store monetization (aside from in-store advertising) and an increasingly heated regulatory environment surrounding Meta’s VR investments are likely doing the startup some favors.

“Our relationship with Meta has been interesting; we’ve generally stayed out of each others’ way,” Shane Harris says. “SideQuest has a huge amount of value to their headset… but we have no plans to monetize on the Quest platform, in order not to compete with them.”

The company is looking at different paths toward monetizing its network of VR developers, including building more developer tools and potentially rolling out a publishing fund to back titles on their store that show traction.

SideQuest’s sell for its unofficial storefront has been muddied a bit by Meta’s introduction last year of an official “App Lab” for developers to ship experiences that weren’t quite ready for primetime, though SideQuest’s founders say they actually lobbied Meta to launch this.

“We advocated for App Lab because side-loading was so cumbersome; [Meta] worked with us for a year,” SideQuest co-founder Orla Harris tells us. “There was a risk that App Lab might replace us, but it’s just been another stepping stone in getting people to the store.”

The VR startup has big plans to aggressively expand and make the most of a quiet period for the VR market, which they hope won’t last long with new and upcoming hardware announcements from Meta and ByteDance’s Pico. The founders say they aim to “double or triple the team” with this funding.

As part of the deal, GV’s M.G. Siegler will be joining the company’s board.

The outlook is getting more complicated for Meta’s virtual reality dreams

Google’s GV backs SideQuest, an unofficial Meta Quest app store by Lucas Matney originally published on TechCrunch

- Sarah Perez
Bumble is testing a speed-dating feature where users chat before matching

Dating app Bumble has been experimenting with a new way for its users to connect. The company has been quietly testing a speed-dating feature in its U.K. market, which allows users to join the app on a designated night and time to engage in brief chats with other members before they’ve seen their photo or matched. If the date goes well, the members can choose to match to keep the conversation going.

Reached for comment, Bumble wouldn’t confirm the details of the new service, but did note it had a product announcement pending.

The speed-dating feature’s introduction follows a number of attempts by rival dating services to incorporate speed dating or fast chats into their own offerings as dating app users tire of the usual swiping. Some of these efforts have fared better than others.

Tinder parent Match Group, for example, leveraged technology from its acquisition of Hyperconnect to integrate audio and video technologies into various brands like Meetic, Match and Pairs, including for “blind date”-style features. Tinder also launched a blind-date feature involving in-app chats as well as a Fast Chats feature for connecting before matching as part of its larger social platform called Tinder Explore. Meanwhile, Facebook in 2021 tested a video speed-dating service, Sparked, but shut it down earlier this year after it failed to gain traction.

Image Credits: Bumble speed-dating feature via Watchful

In Bumble’s case, the new speed-dating service is being presented to end users as a game where users are referred to “players” who click a “play game” button to get started. The game starts when users see a “Live” icon appear in the Bumble app. Upon first launch, the players have to accept a set of dating rules — like “keep it respectful” and “don’t ask about their looks” — before they’re able to continue.

They can then chat with other participants in the app for three minutes before they’re shown each other’s photos. After the time is up, the players can decide to match and continue to a private chat.

According to data from product intelligence firm Watchful, Bumble has been offering speed dating on Thursdays at 7 PM in the U.K. However, according to some posts by users on social media, the service didn’t always have enough users to get the game started. Others who tried it had positive things to say about the experience, however.

 

Image Credits: Bumble speed-dating feature via Watchful

As younger users shift to new ways of connecting online, dating-app makers have also been experimenting with different ways to connect people beyond the usual swiping. Video dating, for instance, has popped up in a number of dating startups — like Snack, Feels and Desti — as companies try to appeal to the generation that’s grown up with TikTok. But often, younger users are ditching traditional dating apps for lower-pressure experiences that are more friend-focused and casual. Snapchat’s platform apps are an example of this trend in action, as is Gen Z livestreaming app Yubo.

Over time, as users turn to these newer apps to socialize and meet people, the trend could cut into the core audience for traditional dating apps.

Bumble wouldn’t provide additional information about its plans for speed dating’s expansion, but did acknowledge its interest in exploring new ways of facilitating online socializing.

“At Bumble, we are always testing new and different ways for our community to connect,” a Bumble spokesperson said. “Like all tests, we will collect feedback before deciding if we roll it out more widely,” they noted. 

Image Credits: Bumble speed-dating feature via Watchful

Bumble has also recently been spotted testing a number of other social networking-inspired features within a platform called Hive, as part of its revamp of its BFF friend-finding platform, including video calls, polls, chats and more.

On its Q2 2022 earnings calls, founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd told investors the company was interested in helping people find friends and connections through smaller communities and interests — like “moving to a new city, navigating parenthood, finding a partner for hiking” and more.

To date, Bumble has topped 100 million installs globally, according to data from Sensor Tower. In the first half of 2022, it saw approximately 13.3 million installs, up 34% since the same time last year.

Bumble is testing a speed-dating feature where users chat before matching by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch

- Ivan Mehta

YouTube’s Premium paid subscription includes benefits like ad-free viewing, video and song downloads for offline consumption, and background plays. Now, it might also be shifting video streaming in 4K resolution (currently free for all users) to the premium tier.

Over the weekend, users across Reddit and Twitter noted that YouTube had been asking them to upgrade to the premium tier to watch videos in 4K.

So, after testing up to 12 ads on YouTube for non-Premium users, now some users reported that they also have to get a Premium account just to watch videos in 4K. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDp

— Alvin (@sondesix) October 1, 2022

It’s not clear if the change is part of a limited test, or if the company is thinking about capping free users to 1440p resolution. Google refused to comment on the story when contacted by TechCrunch.

The company has tried various methods to convert free users into paying ones. One of the most notorious ones was showing them up to 11 unskippable ads before the start of a long video to let them have an uninterrupted experience.

Last year, Google said that it crossed the 50 million subscriber mark across YouTube Music and Premium. While the price of these subscriptions varies across regions, in the U.S., it charges $9.99 per month for YouTube Music and $11.99 per month for YouTube Premium.

In its Q2 2022 earnings, the search giant said that YouTube brought in $6.87 billion in revenue — which was much lower than analyst expectations of $7.51 billion. So it’s not unexpected that the company might try new ways to increase paid users for its video streaming services.

Last week, YouTube TV launched a new program to let users subscribe to add-on channels like Showtime, HBO Max, NBA League Pass and MLB.TV without purchasing a $64.99 a month base plan.

YouTube is asking some users to purchase a Premium subscription to watch in 4K by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

- Natasha Lomas

An antitrust win for Amazon and Apple in Italy, where an appeals court has cancelled a multimillion-dollar penalty the pair were hit with last year for alleged collusion following an investigation into the reselling of Apple and (Apple-owned) Beats kit on Amazon’s Italian e-commerce marketplace.

The original €203 million (total) penalty had already been reduced to €173.3 million, earlier this year — due to an error in the competition watchdog’s calculations. But today the regional administrative court of the Lazio region cancelled the fine altogether (via Reuters).

The competition watchdog, the AGCM, declined to comment on the decision.

The reason for overturning the penalty appear to be related to administrative procedures.

Italian press reports that the court agreed with the tech giants’ complaints that the regulator did not provide enough time for them to properly defend themselves; and also found that the AGCM had failed to conduct elements of its investigation efficiently — underlining the challenge facing regulators seeking to investigate well-resourced tech giants as all elements leading to an antitrust decision may be scrutinized on appeal and procedures must be robust enough to stand up to accusations of unfairness.

Amazon welcomed the Tar de Lazio ruling, sending us this statement:

We welcome the Court’s decision. Our business model across Europe relies on the success of small and medium-sized businesses, and we will continue to work hard to provide a great selection from Apple, and the value and convenience that our customers love.

Apple was also contacted for comment but at the time of writing it had not responded.

Both companies have plenty else on their antitrust plate in Europe, where other national regulators (such as in the U.K. and Germany) are probing a number of concerns linked to their businesses — including complaints about Apple’s App Store and Amazon’s use of third-party sellers’ data, among others.

The European Commission also has a number of open probes of Apple, including one investigating complaints against Apple Pay and another focused on the App Store rules for streaming music services — two areas where it has previously issued formal statements of objection.

While Amazon is also under EU probe over its use of merchants’ data, in relation to how it operates the ‘Buy Box’ on its ecommerce marketplace and over T&Cs it attaches to sellers being able to have their offers qualify for its loyalty program, Prime.

Italy fines Amazon and Apple $230M over alleged reseller collusion

EU urged to reject ‘weak’ Amazon offer to end antitrust probe

Beats: Italian antitrust fine for Apple and Amazon cancelled on appeal by Natasha Lomas originally published on TechCrunch

- Christine Hall

Jesse Pujji believes the future of mobile e-commerce will look more like TikTok, Instagram and Snap, and started Kahani, a SaaS company for merchants, to lead the charge.

Prior to Kahani, the serial entrepreneur was a founder in several companies, including Gateway X, Ampush and GrowthAssistant. After moving into the executive chairman role at Ampush in 2015, Pujji went looking for what’s next and started looking at starting a store.

While experimenting with Shopify, he realized that people were spending money, time and energy on TikTok and Instagram to create the right kind of content videos, but when the customer clicked on them, they would “go into this time machine that takes you 10 to 15 years in the past when you land on the website.”

Most websites look the same, Pujji explained. Some are doing it right, including Tinder, which “revolutionized dating,” he said, just by providing the ability to swipe left or right. He started thinking about applying similar features, especially those found on TikTok, Instagram and Snap, to mobile versions of websites to provide that same kind of experience while shopping.

“The big vision is, in three to five years, we think you’ll land right on a big picture or video and you’re going to swipe or tap, and it’ll be immersive and interactive,” he added.

Kahani’s first product is a “Stories-like” feature, for example, which shows clothes being worn and the model turning around and showing how it fits “live” versus static images of the front and back views.

Merchants can begin using the product with a two-line code snippet and Kahani’s self-serve content management system that enables merchants to change around photos and videos or set up the system to automatically pull top sellers into a “story” on the website.

The company was started in October 2021, and Pujji launched an open beta in September. Though it is still in the early stages, the company already onboarded 25 customers, including Tovala, SimpleModern, Hayden Girls, Hally Hair and Audio Range. Many of the brands are already seeing revenue per session lifts of up to 30%, he said.

https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/HG2.mp4

In addition, Kahani is already seeing $100,000 in annual recurring revenue since the beta launch and has $200,000 in ARR sitting in its waitlist pipeline.

It also picked up $3.5 million in seed funding co-led by Nextview Ventures and Sugar Capital, with a group of angel investors participating. This is Pujji’s first foray into VC after bootstrapping his other companies, which he said was “because we saw the potential for how big Kahani could be and getting.”

The funding will be invested in three areas: product engineering to automate more functions and accelerate the company toward a more general availability early in 2023, then marketing and R&D to test new features; for example, discovery pages and the ability to purchase from a photo or video through Kahani without having to redirect a customer to the merchant’s website.

Next up, the company’s goal is to get on hundreds of websites to learn and get data and to build more automation into the product and build out a full checkout experience.

“The content has to be dynamic,” Pujji said. “My happiest moment will be when someone lands on Kahani from Facebook or Amazon, taps through it and purchases while never even seeing the website. They do it all through our product.”

TikTok is a marketer’s shiny new toy, but how do you optimize campaigns?

Kahani wants to turn your e-commerce website into an interactive experience by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

- Lauren Simonds

We’re just a few short weeks away from the first in-person TechCrunch Disrupt in three years. The agenda is absolutely bursting with expert insight and information from the leading voices in the early-stage startup universe.

We want to take a moment to highlight a session led by our title sponsor, AT&T, who helps more than 100 million people in the U.S. connect in meaningful ways every day. Great partners make Disrupt possible, but they do more than just write a check. They show up and deliver information and resources that help early-stage founders succeed and grow.

That’s why we’re excited to share that Jeremy Legg, the chief technology officer at AT&T, will take the TechCrunch+ stage — along with Boddle Learning founders, Edna Martinson and Clarence Tan.

In a session called “Framing Innovation Through Collaborations Big and Small,” the panelists will discuss connectivity and the essential role it plays in driving innovation, opportunity and growth. You’ll also learn how AT&T collaborates with startups at every stage and hear from Martinson and Tan about their real-world collaboration experience and what it’s done for their business.

Jeremy Legg oversees the AT&T Technology Services (ATS) organization for business, consumer, data and analytics, IT and cloud, network architecture and AT&T Labs, security and new product development.

Legg’s organization is helping the company modernize its legacy IT infrastructure and migrate as much of it as possible to the cloud while retiring outdated systems. His team also includes business and consumer technology platforms, as well as experts developing new products and services built on AT&T’s leading-edge 5G and fiber connectivity.

Prior to joining AT&T, Legg served as executive vice president and CTO for WarnerMedia, where he was responsible for all technology strategy, development and operations, as well as the technology development of the video streaming platform HBO Max.

Edna Martinson is the co-founder of Boddle Learning — a gamified learning platform that helps K–6 teachers deliver engaging and adaptive math practice and assessments using gameplay and AI. The award-winning platform has served more than 2.5 million students and supports thousands of classrooms across the U.S.

Originally from Ghana, West Africa, Martinson came to the U.S. at the age of 16 to pursue her BS in international business. She also holds an MBA from the University of Missouri. A Forbes Next 1000 recipient, Martinson is a big believer in the importance of solid education at a young age. Her desire to help young kids succeed academically fuels her passion for the edtech space.

Martinson’s bold and visionary leadership stems from a strong background in building business relationships, executing on growth-hacking strategies, and building strong teams.

Clarence Tan is a co-founder of Boddle Learning — a gaming platform for children. Used by more than 2.5 million kids, Boddle makes learning seriously fun both in and outside the classroom.

Tan has over 10 years of experience designing games and user experience in the kid and learning space. He also speaks on classroom gamification for KCPT, the Kansas City PBS station, and at educational conferences such as International Society for Technology in Education, Learnfest and SXSW EDU.

Tan dedicates his work to creating engaging experiences that improve student outcomes in the K–12 space.

In addition to this talk, AT&T will be hosting several video breaks for attendees that share innovative tools and information to help startups grow.

TechCrunch Disrupt takes place on October 18–20. Buy your pass today.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt 2022? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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AT&T talks driving innovation through collaboration at Disrupt by Lauren Simonds originally published on TechCrunch

- Rebecca Bellan
Wisk Aero reveals its market-ready, self-flying air taxi

Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle company Wisk Aero has unveiled its go-to-market aircraft: a four-passenger autonomous air taxi that the startup will put forward for U.S. Federal Aviation Administration type certification.

Type certification, one of the three certifications an aviation company needs to secure before launching a commercial service, means the aircraft has to meet all of the FAA’s design and safety standards. To be able to launch its air taxis as a service, Wisk will also need to earn a production certification, which is the approval to begin manufacturing its eVTOL, and an air carrier certification.

In May, eVTOL competitor Joby Aviation received its air carrier certification, which will help the startup reach its stated goal of launching an air taxi service in 2024.

Wisk will likely come across more hurdles than Joby in getting its eVTOLs to market. The startup, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, Google co-founder Larry Page’s moonshot company that recently closed down, is pursuing a self-flying-first approach, which Wisk says is the key to reaching scale in the broader advanced air mobility (AAM) industry. As such, the Generation 6 eVTOL unveiled Monday is designed to be supervised by humans, who will take over the vehicle during flight when necessary, the company said in a statement.

The aircraft’s design features six front rotors, each with five blades that tilt either horizontally or vertically. The six rear rotors have two blades each and are fixed in a vertical position.

In terms of performance, Wisk’s Gen 6 aircraft, building off the lessons from the previous five generations, has a cruising speed of 120 knots, a 90-mile range, can reach altitudes of 2,500 to 4,000 feet and has a nearly 50-foot wingspan. The vehicle can carry four passengers comfortably with “ample storage” for luggage and personal carry-on items, the company said.

Wisk Aero Generation 6 evtol interior

The interior passenger cabin of Wisk Aero’s Generation 6 eVTOL is designed to seat four passengers comfortably, with room for luggage. Image Credit: Wisk Aero

The interior is meant to mimic automotive design, with plenty of visibility, comfy seats and amenities like Wi-Fi and charging.

It’s not clear what Wisk’s go-to-market strategy actually is or when it expects to begin passenger trials; Wisk did not immediately respond to TechCrunch’s requests for comment. However, in January, when Wisk secured $450 million from Boeing, the company said it intends to operate one of the industry’s largest AAM fleets across 20 cities within five years of certification of its 6th-generation aircraft.

The company said its Gen 6 aircraft is “designed to be a service for everyone, with a price target of $3 per passenger, per mile.” To put that into perspective, an air taxi flight from a vertiport — a structure where eVTOLs will take off and land — in New York City off the Lincoln Tunnel to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens would set you back around $60 and probably take around seven minutes at a speed of 120 knots.

If Wisk is to be believed, that’s a small price to pay to avoid sitting in an hour of traffic and paying for surge pricing with Uber or Lyft.

Wisk Aero reveals its market-ready, self-flying air taxi by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

- Lauren Forristal

Entertainment platform Fandom announced today its acquisition of seven entertainment and gaming brands from media company Red Ventures, including online publications Comic Vine, Cord Cutters News, GameFAQs, GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Metacritic and TV Guide.

Sources close to Fandom told TechCrunch that the deal cost somewhere in the mid-fifties — so around $55 million.

Founded in 2004 by Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales and entrepreneur Angela Beesley, Fandom today offers a wiki hosting service and fan platform providing 40 million pages of content and 250,000 wiki communities to inform and entertain fans about their favorite video games, movies and TV series.

Today’s announcement is notable as it greatly expands Fandom’s offerings to now include reviews, ratings and news.

“We’re thrilled to add these powerful, authoritative brands into the Fandom platform, which will expand our business capabilities and provide immersive content for our partners, advertisers and fans. The trusted insights, ratings and content they provide will make us a one-stop shop for fans across their entertainment and gaming journey,” said Perkins Miller, CEO of Fandom, in a statement. Miller had become CEO in February 2019, as the company rebranded from its former name, Wikia, and began to update its core platform technology.

Acquiring the seven brands will also help to expand Fandom’s gamer audience, which is one of its largest with 115 million video game fans, 17 million pages of content and 100,000 gaming communities, per Fandom’s 2022 State of Gaming report.

Also, the ownership of these digital assets will help Fandom increase its monthly user base to 350 million, making it the 14th ad-supported site in the U.S. The addition of monthly users keeps the company on track to reach its goal of becoming the No. 1 fan platform in the world.

With a recent slowdown in advertising, the acquisition couldn’t have come at a better time. The company noted in its announcement that the deal allows Fandom to “super-serve” its advertising partners as well as help power its data platform and gaming e-commerce business.

“In addition to creating exceptional fan experiences, these platforms will add to our FanDNA data offering, giving us sentiment and intent signals that will help improve the consumer experience as well as make our commerce and advertising businesses more impactful,” Miller added.

Fandom’s deal with Red Ventures joins various other purchases recently made by the company, such as the 2021 acquisition of Focus Multimedia Ltd., the parent company of Fanatical, an e-commerce retailer that sells video games, e-books and software.

In 2019, the company bought Curse Media, a network of gaming sites, from Twitch.

Online movie magazine ScreenJunkies was purchased by Fandom in 2018.

Entertainment site Fandom adds long-requested creator features, ‘Interactive Wiki Maps’ and ‘Fandom Trivia’

Fandom acquires Metacritic, GameSpot, TV Guide and other entertainment brands in deal worth around $55M by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

- Anita Ramaswamy

If crypto is going to reach “mass adoption,” the industry still has a lot of people it needs to bring on board. Approximately 83% of U.S. adults haven’t ever invested in, traded or used cryptocurrency, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted this summer.

While many builders and investors agree that it’s still relatively early in the life cycle of blockchain technology, there’s less of a consensus around exactly what applications will catalyze widespread adoption. Consumer-facing crypto startups are trying to build intuitive products that have low barriers to entry, but how will they actually convince people their products are worth using?

Mad Realities, an audience-owned TV production studio, is betting on content and entertainment as the next big on-ramp for the crypto-curious. The company debuted an interactive reality dating show called “Proof of Love” this year that engaged audience members through NFTs and attracted $6 million in seed funding from investors, including celebrity Paris Hilton and crypto venture firm Paradigm.

That’s why we are delighted to have Mad Realities co-founder and CEO Devin Lewtan at TechCrunch Sessions: Crypto in Miami on November 17, where we’ll discuss competitive dynamics in web3 media, how to make web3 products accessible and easy to use, and the opportunities and challenges Lewtan sees ahead as her company tries to recruit Gen Z into crypto.

Before co-founding Mad Realities, Lewtan was a product engineer at Sequoia-backed Clay.run and a founder of the viral Clubhouse show, Shoot Your Shot: NYU Girls Roasting Tech Guys, which went viral on Clubhouse during the peak days of the pandemic.

Lewtan and her co-founders are all in their twenties and remain deeply plugged into digital culture trends, so we’re especially excited to chat with Lewtan about how Mad Realities can continue to stand out in a sea of viral video content.

Take advantage of our special launch pricing — save $250 on General Admission passes while supplies last. Buy your pass today, and then join the web3, DeFi and NFT communities at TC Sessions: Crypto on November 17 in Miami.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Crypto? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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Mad Realities’ Devin Lewtan talks onboarding new crypto users through content at TC Sessions: Crypto by Anita Ramaswamy originally published on TechCrunch

- Amanda Silberling

At this point in the BeReal hype cycle, you might’ve seen some wild things in your friends’ once-per-day snaps (personally, I’ve seen a couple of “sitting on the toilet” posts, and I am grateful it hasn’t been worse). In the “Saturday Night Live” season premiere, the sketch comedy writers ask: What if the BeReal goes off while you’re committing a crime?

We’ve seen plenty of dramatic TikTok sketches that riff on the two-minute, daily timer to “be real,” so SNL is a bit late — but hey, they were in their off-season, what are they gonna do?

As two robbers (Miles Teller, Mikey Day) barge into the bank, everyone in the room falls to the floor and holds up their hands — but one banker (Bowen Yang) has his phone in his hand. When it pings, the robbers threaten to shoot him.

“I’m not calling the police, I swear,” Yang pleads. He explains, “it’s time to BeReal.”

Strangely enough, the three-minute skit actually gives a pretty straightforward explanation of what the app is, why it’s garnered 50 million downloads so far and why it’s so popular that TikTok completely copied it.

“Tell us what BeReal is!” Teller demands, pointing a gun in Yang’s face.

“It’s amazing. It’s this app that blew up over the summer. It’s the only honest social media,” Yang says.

“You think I’m an idiot?” Teller yells. “Honest social media doesn’t exist!”

Yang explains the general conceit behind BeReal: Once per day, at an unknown time, you get a notification telling you that you have two minutes to “BeReal.”

Outside of the SNL spoof, it’s not that necessary that you post immediately within the two-minute time frame — so you don’t have to actually “be real.” You just can’t see your friends’ posts until you share your own, and they’ll all know you posted late. And, as a frightened Yang explains on the ground of the bank, it takes both a front and a back photo (a feature that has been copied by Instagram and Snapchat).

“Do you all work for BeReal or something?” asks Day, putting his gun down.

In the end, Teller is so moved by the mission of the app that he vows to always “be real” — so real, that he posts a photo of himself robbing a bank and ends up getting arrested.

At least he wasn’t BeReal-ing trade secrets from his desk?

TikTok just launched a BeReal clone called TikTok Now

BeReal: Hype or hit? What to know about the Gen Z photo-sharing app climbing the charts

BeReal gets its own Saturday Night Live skit by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

- Aisha Malik
Venmo rolls out ‘Charity Profiles’ to allow charities to raise funds directly within its app

Venmo is launching a new feature called “Charity Profiles” that will allow charities to raise funds and receive donations directly within its app, the PayPal-owned company announced on Monday. The new profiles will be available to charities that have received confirmed charity status from PayPal.

The new profile option will allow charities to reach more people who are passionate about causes in their community, directly in the Venmo app. Venmo also notes that charity profiles offer charities seamless setup, low fees and an easy charity verification process.

To set up a charity profile on Venmo, PayPal confirmed charities can visit the Venmo Charity Profile setup page and log into a confirmed charity PayPal account. Next, Venmo will ask charities to create a new Venmo account to link to a charity profile. Venmo will use the charity information from PayPal to build an associated Venmo profile. Charities will then be able to publish their profiles and share them with their communities. Charities can confirm if they are a PayPal confirmed charity on PayPal’s website.

In addition to the launch of the charity profiles, Venmo announced that it will launch a charity hub in the coming months to give customers a new way to discover causes that they care about.

Venmo charity profiles

Image Credits: Venmo

“As Venmo has continued to grow and evolve over the years, we’ve seen the Venmo community come together in unique ways to send payments of goodwill and share random acts of kindness with people in their community and beyond,” said Denise Leonhard, the vice president and general manager of Venmo, in a statement. “We have been continually inspired by how Venmo customers help one another, and support causes close to their hearts. Today, we’re introducing the ability to create charity profiles on Venmo, so that charities can now raise funds and receive donations directly from Venmo’s app.”

Venmo says 61% of donors are most likely to hear about causes through word of mouth from their friends and family, and that charity profiles will allow Venmo customers to support causes they care about.

Today’s announcement comes a few weeks after PayPal expanded further into the charitable donations business with the launch of support for Grant Payments. The product allows Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) sponsors, community foundations and other grantmakers to move their donations electronically through PayPal’s platform. In addition to moving money quickly, the system includes an online Grant Payments dashboard available to grantmakers and charities alike where they can view all the grant details, including the donor information, which can be exported to help simplify record keeping.

PayPal debuts ‘Grant Payments’ to shift charitable giving from paper checks to electronic transfers

Venmo rolls out ‘Charity Profiles’ to allow charities to raise funds directly within its app by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

- Kris Holt
Twitter finally starts rolling out the edit button, but US users will have to wait

After years of users begging Twitter for an edit button, they're finally getting their wish. The company is rolling out the long-awaited feature in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but only for Twitter Blue subscribers. The option isn't available in the US just yet, but Twitter says users there will get access soon. It plans to offer the feature in other markets too.

Twitter Blue subscribers who send a tweet and realize they made a typo or two will have 30 minutes to make edits. They can make changes up to five times during that time frame. For the sake of transparency, edited tweets have a modified timestamp that reads "last edited" and the time of the last change. Click the timestamp and you'll see the entire edit history.

test went well, Edit Tweet is now rolling out to Twitter Blue members in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand!

US coming soon pic.twitter.com/7NNPRC0t1I

— Twitter Blue (@TwitterBlue) October 3, 2022

Twitter said in April that it was at long last starting to test an edit button. There were indications early on that the feature could include an edit history screen. At the beginning of September, Twitter said that it had, in fact, created an edit button. It published a test tweet at the end of the month and, a few days later, the edit button is going out into the wild.

The company is still technically testing the feature — it'll be available as part of the Labs section of the $5 per month Twitter Blue service. Moreover, you can only edit original tweets and quote tweets, according to a support page. Many types of tweets cannot be edited, such as threads, replies, retweets, pinned tweets, Super Follow tweets and ones you draft on third-party apps.

Still, it's a start. Twitter's approach to the edit button makes sense in terms of keeping things as transparent as possible. It's easy to imagine news organizations making changes to a breaking news tweet that's going viral as clarifications or more details come in. Maybe if Twitter opens up the edit button to everyone, they'll be able to fix innocuous typos like "sneak peak" without too much strife.

hello

this is a test to make sure the edit button works, we’ll let you know how it goes

— Twitter Blue (@TwitterBlue) September 29, 2022
- Jon Turi
Serato adds on-the-fly stem isolation and effects to its DJ app

If you’ve been following the progression of DJ apps lately, you’ve probably noticed that extracting stems on-the-fly from your existing library seems to be trending. Serato DJ has now joined the game, offering its own tool for doing just that: Serato Stems. While the final product is slated for a release later this year in both Serato DJ Pro Lite 3.0 and DJ Pro 3.0, existing users can test drive it with the public beta that’s available now. This lets users kick the tires on the upcoming release and provide feedback to help improve the final result.

Serato DJ’s stem-isolating tools are similar to other offerings, letting you separate vocal, melody, bass and drums from any track. Additionally, you get effects including a vocal echo, instrumental echo, instrumental braker and drums echo. These can be accessed directly in the desktop app or assigned to the slicer or sampler performance pads on supported controllers. As you use these tools, you’ll see grayed out or highlighted portions of the waveform corresponding to your selections.

The stem analysis does take a fair bit of processing power, so it’s ideal for users with an M1 or M2 Mac. However, for those on slower laptops, you can pre-analyze select files by dropping them into a “Stems” folder in the crates sidebar. This can take care of the heavy lifting in advance so you don’t have to worry about analyzing tracks as you go during a live set.

Serato has said the company didn't use AI for their results. Instead, it developed its own algorithm to handle the audio separation. We had a chance to briefly test the new Serato Stems feature and the results are promising. They do vary depending on the tracks you're using, but even on muddled tracks the quality of isolated segments sounds good and any sound leakage for the various channels seems minimal.

Overall, the Serato Stems feature is fun and easy to use. Plus, it opens up lots of creative opportunities when you consider both the stem isolation and the related effects. There will be more information about this new feature when it's officially launched later this year. For now, existing Serato DJ users can find the public beta on the company's website.

- Jon Fingas
FCC will start kicking voice providers out of its robocall database

Telecoms slow to adopt anti-robocall measures could soon face stiff punishment in the US. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now plans to remove seven voice service providers from its Robocall Mitigation Database for failing to comply with required anti-spam efforts, such as implementing STIR/SHAKEN call authentication to prevent spoofing. The companies have 14 days to "show cause" why they shouldn't be removed. If they don't, all their customers will be blocked from making calls. Effectively, their voice businesses are finished.

The companies include Akabis, Cloud4, Global UC, Horizon Technology, Morse Communications, Sharon Telephone and SW Arkansas. In all cases, the companies failed to share their anti-robocall plans even after the FCC warned them about violations. The FCC noted that STIR/SHAKEN is necessary for any provider with an IP-based network, and those without IP still have to show that they're mitigating illegal robocalls.

The FCC required that all carriers use STIR/SHAKEN by the end of June 2021. Major carriers like AT&T and Verizon (Engadget's former owner) were quick to adopt the technology. Small providers received extensions, but only so long as they detailed how they'd limit robocalls.

Removals aren't likely to significantly stem the tide of spam calls. However, the FCC's move (along with a campaign from state attorneys general) could discourage telecoms that either skimp on anti-robocall defenses or knowingly profit from scammers and telemarketers.

- Jon Fingas
Apple Music now has over 100 million songs

Apple Music just passed a symbolic milestone. Apple has revealed that its streaming music service now has 100 million songs. That's a significant expansion from the 30 million upon launch in June 2015, and suggests that you'll probably find the new tunes you want. The company also says it's adding about 20,000 new tracks to the service every day.

The 100 million mark might give Apple Music an edge over rivals. As of this writing, main competitor Spotify claims it has "over 80 million tracks." While that's still a very healthy selection, it does imply you'll have an easier time finding an indie darling or back catalog title on Apple's platform than you might elsewhere.

The question, of course, is whether or not that advantage is enough to prompt a switch from another service. It's not clear how many songs are exclusives, such as original DJ mixes and live sessions. We've asked Apple for more data. Those unique offerings might prove enticing if you can't get enough of a favorite artist, but won't necessarily sway you if you're happy to listen to album cuts. If nothing else, the 100 million-song figure gives Apple bragging rights — it can tout a larger library that might reel in first-time streamers worried about finding a favorite record.

- Kris Holt
A data-sharing agreement between the US and UK is now in effect

As of today, a data-sharing pact between the US and the UK is in effect, five years after it was first floated. The two sides claim that the Data Access Agreement, which was authorized by the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act in the US, will help law enforcement to combat serious crimes in both countries. The Department of Justice called the initiative the first of its kind, adding that it would enable investigators "to gain better access to vital data" to fight serious crimes in a manner that's "consistent with privacy and civil liberties standards."

Under the agreement, authorities in one country can request data from ISPs in the other country, as long as it's related to preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting serious crimes including terrorism, transnational organized crime and child exploitation. US officials can't submit data requests targeting people in the UK and vice-versa — presumably the requests can either be used to assist domestic investigations or investigations into foreign nationals. Authorities also need to adhere to certain requirements, limitations and conditions when they access and use data.

The UK Home Office's Investigatory Powers Unit will oversee the Data Access Agreement in the UK, while the DOJ's Office of International Affairs (OIA) will handle matters in the US. The OIA has put together a CLOUD team that will review and certify orders on behalf of federal, state, local and territorial authorities. It will directly submit orders to ISPs in the UK and ensure data is transferred to authorities who requested it.

Privacy advocates have blasted the initiative and the CLOUD Act. In 2018, just after the bill was introduced, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it "creates a dangerous precedent for other countries who may want to access information stored outside their own borders, including data stored in the United States." Fight for the Future argued that it would threaten user privacy.

The US is looking to forge pacts with other countries under the CLOUD Act. It signed a deal with Australia last December and entered negotiations with Canada earlier this year.

- Jon Fingas
Apple no longer activates its proprietary SIM cards for iPads with cellular data

You may need to perform some extra legwork to connect an earlier iPad to cell networks. MacRumors has learned the company stopped activations for the Apple SIM in certain iPads as of October 1st. If you're affected, you'll have to either contact your carrier (and likely obtain a SIM card) or use an eSIM in newer tablets. This won't affect you if cell service is already enabled.

Apple included a conventional SIM with cellular versions of the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4, 5th- and 6th-generation base iPads and the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro. An embedded version of the card was included with 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch and second-gen 12.9-inch iPad Pros. All iPads released from fall 2018 onward support eSIMs.

This decision is part of a broader trend. Apple has been shifting toward eSIMs in recent years, and went so far as to kill the SIM tray in US versions of the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro. The technology saves the cost and space of including a physical slot, and is more broadly supported than Apple SIM. Still, this could be a hassle if you planned to use cellular data on an older iPad and didn't set up the SIM until 

- Kris Holt
There’s an apparent PS5 jailbreak, but only for old firmware

Almost two years after the PlayStation 5 went on sale, it seems that modders have found a way to jailbreak the console, albeit with some significant limitations. As IGN notes, a modder known as SpecterDev revealed the apparent jailbreak, which is described as an experimental IPV6 kernel exploit that takes advantage of a WebKit vulnerability.

It appears the jailbreak will only work on PS5 systems that run firmware version 4.03 or earlier. If you have updated your PS5 since last October, you're probably not going to be able to try the exploit. Even then, it seems that trying to install the jailbreak only works around a third of the time.

As for what you can actually do with a jailbroken PS5 right now, you'll gain access to the system's debug menu. You might be able to install games from outside of the PlayStation Store as well, but it's not possible to run sideloaded software. 

It's... beautiful.

The PlayStation 5 has been jailbroken. pic.twitter.com/54fvBGoQGw

— Lance McDonald (@manfightdragon) October 3, 2022

Modder Lance McDonald tried the jailbreak and was able to install the PS4 demo P.T., Hideo Kojima's famed, delisted teaser for the canceled Silent Hills. (PS4 units with P.T. installed often pop up on eBay.) However, McDonald wasn't able to start playing the game. While the exploit offers read/write access to the PS5, there's currently no way to execute sideloaded files. P.T. isn't backward compatible on PS5 in any case.

As it stands, it doesn't seem likely that this jailbreak will be in widespread use anytime soon, due to its limitations and the fact that Sony could ban modders' accounts. On top of that, there's the risk of bricking the console at a time when it still isn't super easy to buy one. Still, this could give other hackers and modders a foundation on which to build more robust jailbreaking tools.

- Jon Fingas
Hackers release 500GB of data stolen in LA school district ransomware attack

The ransomware attack against the Los Angeles Unified School District just got worse. TechCrunchreports the group that took credit for the heist, Vice Society, has published a 500GB data cache from the early September breach. The collection includes extremely sensitive details like Social Security numbers, bank account info and health data that extends to students' psychological profiles.

Vice Society had given LAUSD until October 4th to pay the ransom. It's not clear what prompted the hackers to release the data a day early, but they alleged that the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) "wasted our time" and was "wrong" to tell the district to reject the extortion attempt. CISA, the FBI and other agencies have historically told ransomware victims to refuse payment as it simply encourages hackers to look for more targets, and doesn't guarantee the data will be restored.

LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho has announced the creation of a hotline at 855-926-1129 to provide support to parents and staff affected by the hack. It's available between 6AM and 3:30PM Pacific Monday through Friday, except for holidays.

The school district is still recovering, and hopes to achieve "full operational stability" for key technology services. The data leak could still pose a serious risk to students and their families through potential frauds and other privacy violations. To some degree, though, LAUSD is escaping the worst possible damage. Lincoln College shut down completely as the combination of ransomware and a pandemic-related enrollment shortfall made it financially impossible to continue.

- Jon Fingas
Samsung's 512GB Galaxy Z Fold 4 is $420 off at Amazon

Now's the time to act if you've pined for a Galaxy Z Fold 4 but couldn't quite justify spending nearly two grand for more than 256GB of storage. Amazon is selling the 512GB foldable for $1,500, a very nice $420 below the official price. That's substantially less than you normally pay for the base model, and matches an offer on Samsung's website.

Buy Galaxy Z Fold 4 (512GB) at Amazon - $1,500

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is ultimately a refinement of its predecessor, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Samsung has patched up some of the enthusiast phone's remaining weaknesses with better rear cameras, improved battery life and added design polish. This remains the device to get if you want a powerful phone that can double as a tablet, particularly if you like to juggle multiple apps.

The catches at this point are the same ones you've seen for past models, and to some degree foldables in general. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is bulky compared to conventional smartphones, and you'll have to live with quirks like the display crease. The rear cameras won't beat what you get on the S22 Ultra, and the under-display selfie cam is mediocre (if better hidden). If you're an early adopter or are willing to pay for the biggest screen you can get, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find better hardware at this sale price.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

- Kris Holt
Kim Kardashian will pay $1.26 million to settle SEC charges over a crypto post

Kim Kardashian will pay $1.26 million to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission over a cryptocurrency ad she posted on Instagram Stories. The socialite and reality TV megastar received $250,000 to post about EthereumMax's EMAX tokens but didn't disclose that she was paid to do so, according to the agency

The SEC determined that Kardashian violated the anti-touting provision of federal securities laws. She didn't admit or deny the charges, though agreed to pay a $1 million penalty and around $260,000 in disgorgement, which the SEC said covers the fee she received for the ad plus prejudgement interest. In addition, Kardashian pledged not to promote cryptocurrency assets for three years.

"This case is a reminder that, when celebrities or influencers endorse investment opportunities, including crypto asset securities, it doesn’t mean that those investment products are right for all investors," SEC chair Gary Gensler said. "We encourage investors to consider an investment’s potential risks and opportunities in light of their own financial goals."

Earlier this year, a class-action suit took aim at Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather for promoting EthereumMax tokens. It accused the defendants of participating in a pump and dump scheme, in which investors promote an asset and sell their interest in it after the value rises. The suit claimed the value of the token soared by 632 percent after Mayweather and former NBA player Paul Pierce (another defendant in the case) promoted it.

According to a survey, 19 percent of people who heard about an Instagram Story from Kardashian that mentioned the cryptocurrency invested in EthereumMax. The lawsuit asserts that the value of the token nosedived by 98 percent the day after Kardashian's post.

This is far from the first time that Kardashian has been accused of publishing sponsored posts without disclosing that they're ads. Federal Trade Commission guidelines suggest that those who are paid to endorse something on social media should include the #Ad hashtag or include terms like "Sponsored," "Promotion" or "Paid ad."

In an incredible case of serendipity, a new podcast narrated by Kardashian, who is studying to become a lawyer, premiered on Spotify on Monday. The System: The Case of Kevin Keith is a true-crime podcast.

- Jon Fingas
YouTube has begun asking users to subscribe to Premium to watch 4K videos

You might soon need YouTube Premium for more than ditching ads, background playback and trying new features. As MacRumorsnotes, users on Reddit and Twitter have noticed that YouTube is asking some viewers to upgrade to Premium to watch videos in 4K resolution. It's not clear which countries, devices or videos are affected, but this won't be thrilling if you were hoping for better than 1440p on your computer or tablet.

It's not certain if this is a test or broader rollout. We've asked YouTube for comment, and will let you know if we hear back. Premium normally costs $12 per month, or $120 per year.

So, after testing up to 12 ads on YouTube for non-Premium users, now some users reported that they also have to get a Premium account just to watch videos in 4K. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDp

— Alvin (@sondesix) October 1, 2022

A move like this wouldn't be unexpected. YouTube claimed a combined 50 million Premium and Music subscribers last September. That may sound like a lot of customers, but it's a modest amount compared to paid media services like Spotify Premium (188 million users as of the second quarter) and Netflix (220.7 million). In theory, locking 4K videos behind YouTube Premium could spur sign-ups and make it a larger revenue source for Google.

- Jon Fingas
What to expect from Google's Pixel 7 event on October 6th

Google’s fall hardware event promises to be special this year. It not only marks the official debut of the Pixel 7, it will launch the company’s first self-branded smartwatch — the Pixel Watch. But what will those devices bring to the table, exactly? And will there be any surprises beyond that? We’re here to let you know what to expect when Google’s broadcast begins October 6th.

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 ProGoogle Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro in teaserGoogle

The meat of the presentation will probably focus on Google’s latest phones, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. An official preview at this spring’s I/O conference revealed that they’ll largely iterate on the Pixel 6 line. You can expect an updated but familiar-looking design with a seamless aluminum frame that extends to the camera bar. There will also be a new Tensor G2 chip that promises improved performance for media, speech recognition and other tasks. They’ll run Android 13. The base model will have two rear cameras like the regular Pixel 6, while the Pro adds a third.

But what kind of performance improvements can you expect? Subtle ones, apparently. Prototype leaks hint the standard Pixel 7 will carry 8GB of RAM and start with 128GB of storage, much like its predecessor. A variety of pre-release scoops also suggest the Tensor G2 isn’t a dramatic leap forward, with slight improvements to graphics, power efficiency and clock speeds. Likewise, developer Kuba Wojciechowski claims the cameras will remain largely unchanged. There could be little reason to upgrade from a Pixel 6, then, although this year’s phone may be worth the investment if you’re coming from a Pixel 5 or earlier.

The biggest news might be what doesn’t change: the price. A rumor from Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii maintains that the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will respectively start at the same $599 and $899 prices as last year’s phones. They’ll represent significant value for money if the report is true, particularly at a time when many device prices are creeping upwards.

It’s not certain just when the Pixel 7 range will reach customers. Pre-orders will start the day of the event, but Google hasn’t said when the phone will be available. WinFuture’s Roland Quant has heard the devices will start shipping October 18th, though, so you may only have to wait a couple of weeks before the hardware reaches your hands.

Pixel WatchGoogle Pixel WatchGoogle

The highlight for many, however, will be the Pixel Watch. It’s Google’s first official smartwatch, and promises to serve as a showcase for Wear OS 3. You can expect tight Fitbit integration that includes fitness, sleep and general health tracking. The company is taking some design cues from the Apple Watch with an upscale-looking case, a prominent crown and easily swapped (if proprietary) bands, but it’s using a circular display like many other Wear OS devices.

Google hasn’t shared much about what’s inside, but a prototype left in a restaurant points to heart rate, blood oxygen and ECG monitoring that might be borrowed from the Fitbit Charge 5. We wouldn’t be surprised to see tap-to-pay Wallet functionality, either. 9to5Googlesources believe the Pixel Watch might use a stock Samsung Exynos chip instead of a custom Tensor part, but that it might pack a large 2GB of RAM (even the Galaxy Watch has ‘just’ 1.5GB), 32GB of storage and a coprocessor that keeps battery life in check. Emulator code also points to the introduction of Google’s next-generation Assistant on Wear OS watches, although it’s not known just how the AI helper will evolve on your wrist.

As with the phones, Pixel Watch pre-orders should start October 6th. It’s not yet known if the hardware will ship at the same time as the Pixel 7, though, and established leaker Yogesh Brar warned of a possible “limited release” (that is, only in a few countries). You might have to pay a premium compared to other options, too. A 9to5Googleprice leak mentioned a $350 starting price, with a cellular version bumping the cost to $400. That’s significantly higher than the $280 Galaxy Watch 5, and not far behind the $399 Apple Watch Series 8. The Pixel is clearly pitched as Android’s answer to the Apple Watch, and might be priced accordingly.

Wildcards: More Pixel device previews and Nest hardwareGoogle Pixel Tablet preview at I/O 2022Google

There haven’t been solid rumors of additional hardware at the event. Nonetheless, we wouldn’t rule it out. Few would have expected Google to preview the Pixel Tablet long before its 2023 release — it’s no longer out of the question that you might see a teaser for more products. But what, exactly? Besides more details for the tablet, there are longstanding murmurs of a foldable Pixel phone that might get an early peek. With that said, there’s no tangible evidence either Pixel product will make a cameo.

We also wouldn’t count on more Nest devices. Apart from a dearth of leaks, there are only so many things Google can do to upgrade some of its offerings, such as the audio-only Nest Mini and Nest Audio. That said, Google hasn’t touched some of its lineup for two or three years. The company may have an incentive to keep things fresh when Amazon just overhauled its smart home gear.

If there are any surprises, they’re most likely to involve AI-related features. At last year’s event, Google unveiled Pixel-first software tricks that included on-screen call center menus and as-you-type translation. A repeat wouldn’t be surprising this time around, even if some of those extras won’t require a Pixel in the future. Google used AI as a major selling point for the Pixel 6, and the sequel could easily get similar treatment.

- Steve Dent
Yahoo Mail app update makes it easier to manage receipts and track deliveries

Yahoo has launched its latest Mail app with a number of updates designed to help users track receipts, shipments, gift cards and "free trial" subscriptions that need to be cancelled by a certain date. A new design also aims to make navigation easier, with "top-of-inbox" contextual filters, one-tap unsubscribe, attachment organization and more. 

If you're one to sign up for free trials, the free trial tracker could help. It puts reminders at the top of your inbox to let you know when a free trial ends, so you can decide whether to keep or cancel it without panicking about the date. It also offers updated package tracking alerts to inform where your package is or if it's ready to be picked up. 

Another new view lets you see receipts of all your orders in one place, helping you track spend or easily make returns. And finally, the gift card view shows all your unused gift cards in one place, so you can use them before they expire.

Mail also get some new design features, particularly the updated top-of-inbox navigation that lets you toggle between inbox, attachments, starred and productivity reminders. It also now includes one-tap unsubscribe, group by sender and "email to myself" message you've sent as reminders. Finally, there's a new "attachments" filter that lets you display and filter all your attachments by type (PDFs, docs, photos) so you don't have to search every email.

While it doesn't get the attention of a Gmail or Outlook, Yahoo Mail is just behind those two services in popularity with around 225 million users as of 2020. The update is now rolling out to iOS and Android today, though it may take awhile to reach you

- Steve Dent
Wisk Aero's latest flying taxi has four seats and can fly itself

Wisk Aero has unveiled its 6th-generation semi-autonomous air taxi, calling it the "first-ever candidate for type certification by the FAA of an autonomous eVTOL." The design looks like a substantially updated version of the "Cora" air taxi we first saw fly and hover in New Zealand back in 2018. However, the company didn't show any flight or detail the certification progress.

According to Wisk, the four-seat aircraft can cruise between 110 and 120 knots (138 MPH) at a height of 2,500 to 4,000 feet above ground level. It's a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft with a 12-propeller design, featuring tilting propulsion units in front and fixed units aft for lift. It offers up to 90 miles of range and has improved control and efficient energy management over previous versions, according to the press release. 

The promotional video (above) shows passengers buckling in with shoulder harness-style seatbelts and going through a safety procedure demonstration using touchscreens. Wisk says there are "fewer moving parts, no hydraulics, no oil and no fuel," promising a safer flying experience. It also notes that it's "designed to exceed today’s rigorous aviation safety standards of a one-in-a-billion chance of an accident."

The company emphasized the autonomous technology, saying they believe that it's the "key" to air mobility. To that end, they aim to have improved sensors to detect and avoid obstacles, along with "multi-vehicle supervisors that provide human oversight of every flight," and can take control if needed. 

Wick said the new vehicle is a candidate for FAA certification that would allow it to fly passengers in the US. However, getting that coveted piece of paper is an arduous chore even for established airplane manufactures like Boeing using standard aircraft designs — let alone a new company with a brand new type of aircraft that's never flown passengers before. 

Aviation company Kittyhawk founded by Google co-founder Larry Page recently announced that it was shutting down, a strong indication of the challenges in this sector. Wick essentially sprang from that company, after Kittyhawk partnered with Boeing on the 5th-generation Cora aircraft.

Wick isn't the only company determined to see this air taxi thing through. Joby received FAA authorization for its air taxi services earlier this year, allowing it to operate commercially. However, that only allows it start testing its services — it still needs FAA certification for its prototype aircraft before it can actually transport people. 

- Steve Dent
Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Meta and Google to improve speech recognition for people with disabilities

The University of Illinois (UIUC) has partnered with Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft and nonprofits on the Speech Accessibility Project. The aim is to improve voice recognition for communities with disabilities and diverse speech patterns often not considered by AI algorithms. That includes people with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), Parkinson's, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other diseases that affect speech.

“Speech interfaces should be available to everybody, and that includes people with disabilities," UIUC professor Mark Hasegawa-Johnson said. "This task has been difficult because it requires a lot of infrastructure, ideally the kind that can be supported by leading technology companies, so we’ve created a uniquely interdisciplinary team with expertise in linguistics, speech, AI, security and privacy."

To include communities of people with disabilities like Parkinson's, The Speech Accessibility Project will collect speech samples from individuals representing a diversity of speech patterns. The UIUC will recruit paid volunteers to contribute voice samples and help create a "private, de-identified" dataset that can be used to train machine learning models. The group will focus on American English at the start.

The Davis Phinney Foundation (Parkinson's) and Team Gleason (ALS) have pledged support for the project. "Parkinson’s affects motor symptoms, making typing difficult, so speech recognition is a critical tool for communication and expression," said The Davis Phinney Foundation's executive director, Polly Dawkins. "Part of [our] commitment includes ensuring people with Parkinson’s have access to the tools, technologies, and resources needed to live their best lives."

- Mat Smith
The Morning After: TikTok has live shopping stream ambitions for the US

Based on a successful feature on TikTok's sister app in China, Douyin, the social network is reportedly planning to launch a live shopping TikTok Shop in the US later this year. According to the Financial Times, Douyin hosts nine million live shopping broadcasts a month and sold over 10 billion products in a single year, from May 2021 to May 2022. That’s triple what it sold the previous year. The technology will supposedly be provided by the US company TalkShopLive and support livestreams hosted by influencers and brands. The agreements are still under discussion, however.

The report comes just a day after Facebook announced it was abandoning its own Live Shopping feature. Facebook is now suggesting merchants showcase products via Reels. TikTok has had mixed success with the method already. Last year, it launched in the UK – the only country with availability outside Asia. TikTok Shop hasn't fared especially well so far, and TikTok postponed plans to expand elsewhere in Europe.

– Mat Smith

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It’s another Pixel Watch leak
This time: band designs, watch faces and Fitbit integration.

It seems an Amazon listing for the Pixel Watch went live early in Germany. The smartwatch is due to go on sale just after Google's October 6th event. There will be several colors in at least four band designs, including silicon, braided and leather. The Amazon listing, which has been removed, suggested users will receive six months free Fitbit Premium access, including deeper fitness metrics and other exercise goodies.

Continue reading.

USB branding could become a little easier to understandGetting rid of certain names may not make a huge difference.

The group that oversees USB wants to make it easier for you to understand what various cables and ports actually do. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) wants cable makers to use “USB 10Gbps” instead of “SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps” and “USB 20Gbps” instead of “USB4 20Gbps." USB-C cables certified by the USB-IF will need to list both data transfer speeds and charging wattage. Knowing which cable you need is already complicated enough. Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 connectors and ports look exactly the same as USB-C ones, for instance. The updated guidelines don't clarify whether a cable supports DisplayPort or certain fast-charging standards, either.

Continue reading.

Tesla built almost 366,000 EVs in Q3The figure was still below analyst expectations.

After pandemic-related disruptions in Q2, Tesla ramped up its manufacturing capacity again last quarter, leading the company to make a record number of deliveries between July 1st and September 30th. The company built 365,923 electric vehicles during that period. That marks a year-over-year production increase of nearly 54 percent.

Continue reading.

Magic Leap's smaller, lighter second-gen AR glasses are now availableThey’re expensive.TMAMagic Leap

Magic Leap has started selling Magic Leap 2 in 19 countries, including the US, UK and EU nations. The glasses are still for developers and pros, with a design 50 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter than the original. This should ensure they're more comfortable to wear over long periods. Magic Leap also promises better visibility for AR in bright light (think a well-lit office) thanks to dynamic dimming, which makes virtual content appear more solid. The Magic Leap 2 Base model costs $3,299, and developers who want extra tools will have to pay $4,099 for the Developer Pro edition.

Continue reading.

NASA and SpaceX will study the possibility of boosting Hubble's orbitIt could add years to the aging telescope's life.

NASA and SpaceX have signed an agreement to study the possibility of using a Dragon spacecraft to lift the Hubble telescope to a higher orbit. The Hubble telescope's orbit decays over time due to atmospheric drag, and boosting it to a more stable one could add years to its life.

Continue reading.

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- Steve Dent
Google's Pixel 6a is cheaper than ever right now

The Pixel 7 is being unveiled this week, but if you're looking for a new but more budget focused phone, Amazon has an excellent deal on the Pixel 6a. You pick one up at just $349 for a savings of $100 (22 percent off) — $21 cheaper than the lowest price to date. That's a significant savings on a smartphone that only came out a couple of months ago

Buy Pixel 6a at Amazon - $349

If you're in the market for a mid-range smartphone, the Pixel 6a is a top pick. It offers the same Tensor chip as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, while giving you the purest Android experience possible. At the same time, you get excellent camera quality for the price, thanks to the two 12-megapixel rear cameras and 8-MP front sensor delivering bright, colorful pictures and video. It also comes with a distinctive design, sharp 6.1-inch OLED screen covered with Gorilla Glass 3, long-lasting battery, IP67 water/dust protection and more.

You don't get everything available in the flagships, of course. The 60Hz refresh rate isn't as smooth as the higher-end Pixels or Samsung's A53. Storage is limited to 128GB, there's no wireless charging and Google dropped the headphone jack we loved on the Pixel 5a — so you'll need a dongle for wired audio. Still, at this new low price, there aren't many other phones that can match it.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

- Jon Fingas
Maserati's first electric GranTurismo is just as sporty as its gas counterpart

Maserati has finally revealed its electric GranTurismo in earnest, and the most interesting part may be what you don't notice. The GranTurismo Folgore coupe offers plenty of power with a tri-motor 760HP system, but it's also as low-slung as the gas versions (the Modena and Trofeo) with a 53.3-inch height. This is the lowest-sitting EV on the market, Maserati claims, with the improved agility to match. If it weren't for the aerodynamic wheels and the lack of exhaust pipes, you might not know it was an EV — even Porsche can't quite manage that.

The Italian brand hasn't detailed range, but the electrified GranTurismo includes a 92.5kWh battery with an 800V architecture that allows up to 270kW charging. You can get 62 miles of range in five minutes, Maserati says. The two-door also beats its combustion engine counterparts' performance with a claimed 0-62MPH time of 2.7 seconds (versus 3.5 for the Trofeo and 3.9 for the Modena) and the same 198.9MPH top speed as the Trofeo.

Maserati GranTurismo Folgore EVStellantis

As with the Grecale Folgore SUV, the GranTurismo's cabin tech represents as much of an upgrade over previous models. You'll find a 12.2-inch digital dash, a 12.3-inch central infotainment screen and an 8.8-inch "comfort display." A heads-up display keeps your eyes on the road, and a digital rear-view mirror can use the back camera to help with tricky parking maneuvers. Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available. And while this is a sports car, you'l find driver aids like active lane assist, a 3D road view (including nearby vehicles) and a 360-degree view to help navigate tight spots.

Maserati didn't mention pricing or exact availability, although it's safe to presume the GranTurismo Folgore will be expensive. Not that the company necessarily minds. In some ways, this is a shot across the bow of local sports car rivals like Ferrari and Lamborghini. While both those brands have offered hybrids like the SF90 Stradale and Sian, they've been reluctant to embrace full EVs. Maserati is effectively the only option if you want an Italian exotic without the massive emissions and equally large fuel bills.

- Steve Dent
Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition returns to a record low of $135

Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is the best e-reader for the money bar none, and you can now pick one up at the lowest price we've seen. It's back on sale at its Prime Day price of $135, for a savings of $55 (29 percent). Amazon has also knocked 29 percent off the regular Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis devices, so if you're in the market for an e-reader, it's a great time to pick one up.

Buy Amazon Kindle devices at Amazon

The Paperwhite Signature Edition scored an exemplary 97 in our Engadget review thanks to a number of nice features. With smaller bezels, it has a big and responsive 6.8-inch E Ink touchscreen, with gentle backlights you can turn on and off or adjust to suit your reading conditions. It offers USB-C and wireless charging (with up to 10 weeks of reading on a single charge), 32GB of storage, waterproof reading, automatic brightness and warm light options. The only complaint we had was the $190 price, but it's an easy decision at the $135 sale price

If you don't need quite that much storage, the regular Kindle Paperwhite is also on sale with 8GB of memory ($100, or $40 off) and 16GB ($105, or $45 off). You get most of the features of the Signature Edition, like the warm light, 10 weeks of battery life and waterproof reading, though it lacks the wireless charging and extra storage. 

Also on sale is the Kindle Oasis, available at $200 for the 32GB model instead of the regular $280 price. We called it "the perfect e-reader for the 1 percent" in our review because although it's insanely thin and light and comes with a charging case, $280 is quite expensive. The sale goes a fair way to mitigating that problem by knocking $80 or 29 percent off the price, making it a far more affordable indulgence.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

- Steve Dent
Disney's networks are back on Dish following a 'handshake agreement'

Disney stations including ABC, ESPN, FX and Disney Channel are back on Dish and Sling TV after the two parties reached a tentative agreement, Deadline has reported. A total of 17 Disney channels disappeared from the services on Friday, October 1st over a carriage disagreement.

"We have reached a handshake agreement with Dish/Sling TV, which properly reflects fair market value and terms for The Walt Disney Company’s... content," a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. "As a result, we are pleased to restore our portfolio of networks on a temporary basis while both parties work to finalize a new deal."

Dish had accused Disney of holding "viewers hostage for negotiation leverage, claiming that it wanted to include ESPN and ESPN2 into non-sports packages." At the same time, Disney said Dish failed to give it a fair offer to keep ESPN and National Geographic on Dish/Sling TV. "After months of negotiating in good faith, Dish has declined to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us for continued distribution of our networks," the company told Variety in a statement on Friday.

Last year, Disney channels vanished from YouTube TV in December over a similar dispute, but returned just a day later. Meanwhile, HBO and Cinemax went dark on Dish in 2018, and only reappeared last year (along with HBO Max). As of Q2 2022, Dish and Sling TV had around 10 million US subscribers combined, according to Statista

- Corey Gaskin
The weekend’s best deals: Apple MacBooks, Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, 4K TVs, and more
The weekend’s best deals: Apple MacBooks, Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, 4K TVs, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

It's the weekend, which means it's time for another Dealmaster. Our latest roundup of the best tech deals from around the web includes Samsung's Galaxy Watch 5, the company's speedy T7 portable SSD, solid options for TVs in a range of sizes from TCL, LG, and Samsung, and $150 off the latest-generation MacBook Airs in different configurations.

The MacBook Air deal brings the new M2-powered laptop down to its lowest price only a few months after its June release. Both the 256GB and 512GB are available for $150 off at $1049 and $1349, respectively. While storage is the main difference to consider here, you can also grab a 2021 MacBook Pro with 512GB storage for $1,049 and gain a bit better performance for sustained workloads and a nicer display.

We break down all the differences to consider in our MacBook buying guide, but the 2021 13-inch MacBook Pro falls right in between the 2022 MacBook Air (our pick for most users' basic needs) and the 2022 14-inch MacBook Pro (our pick for developers, engineers, and researchers) in terms of performance. While we feel the Air and 14-inch Pro are best for their target demos, the value of this deal may just tip the scales a bit further for the 13-inch Pro which we feel strikes balance between the two.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

- Knowable Magazine
Our ancestors ate a Paleo diet. It had carbs
A young Hadza bushman making an arrow for a hunting bow.

Enlarge / A young Hadza bushman making an arrow for a hunting bow. (credit: chuvipro via Getty Images)

What did people eat for dinner tens of thousands of years ago? Many advocates of the so-called Paleo diet will tell you that our ancestors’ plates were heavy on meat and low on carbohydrates—and that, as a result, we have evolved to thrive on this type of nutritional regimen.

The diet is named after the Paleolithic era, a period dating from about 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago when early humans were hunting and gathering, rather than farming. Herman Pontzer, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University and author of Burn, a book about the science of metabolism, says it’s a myth that everyone of this time subsisted on meat-heavy diets. Studies show that rather than a single diet, prehistoric people’s eating habits were remarkably variable and were influenced by a number of factors, such as climate, location and season.

In the 2021 Annual Review of Nutrition, Pontzer and his colleague Brian Wood, of the University of California, Los Angeles, describe what we can learn about the eating habits of our ancestors by studying modern hunter-gatherer populations like the Hadza in northern Tanzania and the Aché in Paraguay. In an interview with Knowable Magazine, Pontzer explains what makes the Hadza’s surprisingly seasonal, diverse diets so different from popular notions of ancient meals.

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- WIRED
The era of fast, cheap genome sequencing is here
Illumina says its NovaSeq X machine will get the price of sequencing down to $200 per human genome.

Enlarge / Illumina says its NovaSeq X machine will get the price of sequencing down to $200 per human genome. (credit: Illumina)

The human genome is made of more than 6 billion letters, and each person has a unique configuration of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts—the molecular building blocks that make up DNA. Determining the sequence of all those letters used to take vast amounts of money, time, and effort. The Human Genome Project took 13 years and thousands of researchers. The final cost: $2.7 billion.

That 1990 project kicked off the age of genomics, helping scientists unravel genetic drivers of cancer and many inherited diseases while spurring the development of at-home DNA tests, among other advances. Next, researchers started sequencing more genomes: from animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses. Ten years ago, it cost about $10,000 for researchers to sequence a human genome. A few years ago, that fell to $1,000. Today, it’s about $600.

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- Benj Edwards
Tesla shows off unfinished humanoid robot prototypes at AI Day 2022
The walking Optimus prototype demonstrated at the AI Day 2022 event.

Enlarge / The walking Optimus prototype demonstrated at the AI Day 2022 event. (credit: Tesla)

Today at Tesla's "AI Day" event, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled an early prototype of its Optimus humanoid robot, which emerged from behind a curtain, walked around, waved, and "raised the roof" with its hands to the beat of techno music.

It was a risky reveal for the prototype, which seemed somewhat unsteady on its feet. "Literally the first time the robot has operated without a tether was on stage tonight," said Musk. Shortly afterward, three Tesla employees rolled a sleeker-looking Optimus model supported by a stand onto the stage that could not yet stand on its own. It waved and lifted its legs. Later, it slumped over while Musk spoke.

Video of Tesla AI Day 2022

The entire live robot demonstration lasted roughly seven minutes, and the firm also played a demonstration video of the walking Optimus prototype picking up a box and putting it down, slowly watering a plant, and moving metal parts in a factory-like setting—all while tethered to an overhead cable. The video also showed a 3D-rendered view of the world that represents what the Optimus robot can see.

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- Beth Mole
COVID may have pushed a leading seasonal flu strain to extinction
A bottle of influenza vaccine at a CVS pharmacy and MinuteClinic on September 10, 2021, in Miami.

Enlarge / A bottle of influenza vaccine at a CVS pharmacy and MinuteClinic on September 10, 2021, in Miami. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

The pandemic coronavirus' debut wrought universal havoc—not even seasonal flu viruses were spared. Amid travel restrictions, quarantines, closures, physical distancing, masking, enhanced hand washing, and disinfection, the 2020-2021 flu season was all but canceled. That meant not just an unprecedented global decrease in the number of people sick with the flu but also a dramatic collapse in the genetic diversity of circulating flu strains. Many subtypes of the virus all but vanished. But most notably, one entire lineage—one of only four flu groups targeted by seasonal influenza vaccines—went completely dark, seemingly extinct.

Researchers noted the absence last year as the flu was still struggling to recover from its pandemic knockout. But now, the flu has come roaring back and threatens to cause a particularly nasty season in the Northern Hemisphere. Still, the influenza B/Yamagata lineage remains missing, according to a study published this week in the journal Eurosurveillance. It has not been definitively detected since April 2020. And the question of whether it's truly gone extinct lingers.

What B/Yamagata's absence might mean for future flu seasons and flu shots also remains an open question. For a quick refresher: Four main types of seasonal flu have been circulating globally among humans in recent years. Two are influenza type A viruses: subtypes of H1N1 viruses and H3N2 viruses. The other two are influenza type B viruses: offshoots of the Victoria and Yamagata lineages. (For a more detailed explanation of influenza, check out our explainer here.) Current quadrivalent vaccines target season-specific versions of each of these four types of flu viruses.

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- Eric Berger
Florida’s Space Coast on track after Ian, set for 3 launches in 3 days
United Launch Alliance moves its Atlas V booster into the Vertical Integration Facility  adjacent to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Monday, August 26.

Enlarge / United Launch Alliance moves its Atlas V booster into the Vertical Integration Facility adjacent to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Monday, August 26. (credit: United Launch Alliance)

Hurricane Ian cut a devastating swath across Florida this week, and its core passed directly over Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral on Thursday.

However, by then, Ian had weakened to become a moderately strong tropical storm, with the bulk of its heaviest rainfall to the north of the launchpads along the Atlantic coast. As a result, damage to NASA's launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center, and the Space Force launchpads at Cape Canaveral, was minimal.

Accordingly, by Friday, work was already underway at facilities along Florida's "Space Coast" for a rapid-fire succession of three launches in three days.

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- Kyle Orland
Nintendoes what Valve don’t: Game barred from Steam will launch on Switch
Nothing weird going on here. No siree.

Enlarge / Nothing weird going on here. No siree. (credit: https://www.nintendo.com/store/products/chaos-head-noah-switch/)

Japanese publisher Spike Chunsoft announced that the first official English translation of visual novel Chaos;Head Noah won't be coming to Steam as planned "due to Steam's guideline-required changes to the game's content." But while the game is apparently too risqué for Steam, the family-friendly folks at Nintendo apparently have no problem with a Switch version that Spike Chunsoft says will still launch in the US on October 7 as scheduled.

"Spike Chunsoft, Inc. believes these [Steam guideline-required] changes would not allow the game to be released to its standards," the publisher said in its announcement. "The company is looking into delivering the title through alternative storefronts, and when details are decided will make another formal announcement. Until then your patience and understanding is appreciated."

Nintendo says this scene is appropriate for its store page, so we figure you readers can handle it.

Nintendo says this scene is appropriate for its store page, so we figure you readers can handle it. (credit: Nintendo)

Chaos;Head Noah was initially listed for Steam pre-sale in April, but that page was taken down in August, according to tracking site SteamDB. At the time, that led to some concerns about the eventual fate of the Steam version, which Spike Chunsoft finally confirmed today.

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- Sam Machkovech
YouTube age-restriction quagmire exposed by 78-minute Mega Man documentary [Updated]
YouTube age-restriction quagmire exposed by 78-minute Mega Man documentary [Updated]

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Capcom)

A YouTube creator has gone on the offensive after facing an increasingly common problem on the platform: moderation and enforcement that leaves creators confused by the logic and short on their videos' revenue potential.

The trouble centers on a longtime YouTube video host whose content is popular among the retro-gaming devotees at Ars Technica's staff. The creator, who goes by the online handle "Summoning Salt," chronicles the history of various classic games' speedrunning world records. His hour-plus analyses demonstrate how different players approach older games and exploit various bugs. The games in question are typically cartoony 2D fare instead of violent or M-rated titles.

Summoning Salt asks why his YouTube video was age-restricted.

On Friday, Summoning Salt took to social media to claim that his latest 78-minute documentary about 1989's Mega Man 2, which went live in mid-September, has been "age-restricted" by YouTube's moderation system. Bizarrely, the video had been age-restricted roughly one week ago, only for YouTube to relent to the creator's appeal and claim that the restriction had been placed in error.

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- Kevin Purdy
Stadia controllers could become e-waste unless Google issues Bluetooth update
Ars originally liked the Stadia controller, describing it as "solidly built, with springy, responsive inputs." It could still be that way without a giant USB cord if Google unlocked its full Bluetooth capabilities.

Enlarge / Ars originally liked the Stadia controller, describing it as "solidly built, with springy, responsive inputs." It could still be that way without a giant USB cord if Google unlocked its full Bluetooth capabilities. (credit: Kyle Orland)

Google's Stadia game-streaming service will die a nearly inevitable death early next year. Google is refunding players the cost of all their hardware and game purchases. But, so far, Google is also leaving Stadia players with controllers that, while once costing $70, will soon do less than a $20 Bluetooth gamepad.

Stadia's controllers were custom-made to connect directly to the Internet, reducing lag and allowing for instant firmware updates and (sometimes painful) connections to smart TVs. There's Bluetooth inside the Stadia controller, but it's only used when you're setting up Stadia, either with a TV, a computer with the Chrome browser, or a Chromecast Ultra.

The Google Store's page for the Stadia controller states in a footnote: "Product contains Bluetooth Classic radio. No Bluetooth Classic functionality is enabled at this time. Bluetooth Classic may be implemented at a later date." (Bluetooth Classic is a more traditional version of Bluetooth than modern low-energy or mesh versions.)

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- Dan Goodin
High-severity Microsoft Exchange 0-day under attack threatens 220,000 servers
The word ZERO-DAY is hidden amidst a screen filled with ones and zeroes.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Microsoft late Thursday confirmed the existence of two critical vulnerabilities in its Exchange application that have already compromised multiple servers and pose a serious risk to an estimated 220,000 more around the world.

The currently unpatched security flaws have been under active exploit since early August, when Vietnam-based security firm GTSC discovered customer networks had been infected with malicious webshells and that the initial entry point was some sort of Exchange vulnerability. The mystery exploit looked almost identical to an Exchange zero-day from 2021 called ProxyShell, but the customers’ servers had all been patched against the vulnerability, which is tracked as CVE-2021-34473. Eventually, the researchers discovered the unknown hackers were exploiting a new Exchange vulnerability.

Webshells, backdoors, and fake sites

“After successfully mastering the exploit, we recorded attacks to collect information and create a foothold in the victim's system,” the researchers wrote in a post published on Wednesday. “The attack team also used various techniques to create backdoors on the affected system and perform lateral movements to other servers in the system.”

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- Scharon Harding
USB-IF says goodbye to confusing SuperSpeed USB branding
Usb-c cable type connect to laptop computer

Enlarge / The USB-IF no longer recommends SuperSpeed logos or branding for speedy USB ports. (credit: Getty)

When SuperSpeed USB was announced in 2007, the branding was a logical differentiator. The term launched with USB 3.0, which brought max data transfer rates from USB 2.0's measly 0.48Gbps all the way to 5Gbps. But by 2022, there were three versions of SuperSpeed USB in various connector types facing consumers, plus the potentially faster USB4. Looking ahead, USB products will continue to offer different performance capabilities while looking the same, but there's at least one thing we can all agree on: The word "SuperSpeed" isn't a helpful differentiator anymore.

SuperSpeed branding already felt pretty unremarkable by 2019, when the USB-IF, which makes USB standards, renamed USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 1; USB 3.1 to USB 3.1 Gen 2, and then USB 3.2 Gen 2; and USB 3.2 to USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. The group sought to make things easier for consumers by recommending to vendors that they label products not by specification name but by "SuperSpeed USB" followed by max speed (USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, for example, would be SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps).

Per updated guidelines and logos that started coming out this quarter and that you may see before 2022 ends, as reported by The Verge today, the USB-IF now recommends vendors label products as, simply, USB 20Gbps (for USB 3.2 Gen 2x2), USB 10Gbps (for USB 3.2 Gen 2), etc. No SuperSpeed necessary.

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- Ashley Belanger
Coroner lists Instagram algorithm as contributing cause of UK teen’s death [Updated]
Coroner lists Instagram algorithm as contributing cause of UK teen’s death [Updated]

Enlarge (credit: ljubaphoto | E+)

In a London court this week, coroner Andrew Walker had the difficult task of assessing a question that child safety advocates have been asking for years: How responsible is social media for the content algorithms feed to minors? The case before Walker involved a 14-year-old named Molly Russell, who took her life in 2017 after she viewed thousands of posts on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest promoting self-harm. At one point during the inquest, Walker described the content that Russell liked or saved in the days ahead of her death as so disturbing, the coroner said in court, that he found it "almost impossible to watch."

Today, Walker concluded that Russell's death couldn't be ruled a suicide, Bloomberg reports. Instead, he described her cause of death as "an act of self-harm whilst suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content."

Bloomberg reported that Walker came to this decision based on Russell's "prolific" use of Instagram—liking, sharing, or saving 16,300 posts in six months before her death—and Pinterest—5,793 pins over the same amount of time—combined with how the platforms catered content to contribute to Russell's depressive state.

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- Andrew Cunningham
Rewritten OpenGL drivers make AMD’s GPUs “up to 72%” faster in some pro apps
Rewritten OpenGL drivers make AMD’s GPUs “up to 72%” faster in some pro apps

Enlarge (credit: AMD)

Most development effort in graphics drivers these days, whether you're talking about Nvidia, Intel, or AMD, is focused on new APIs like DirectX 12 or Vulkan, increasingly advanced upscaling technologies, and specific improvements for new game releases. But this year, AMD has also been focusing on an old problem area for its graphics drivers: OpenGL performance.

Over the summer, AMD released a rewritten OpenGL driver that it said would boost the performance of Minecraft by up to 79 percent (independent testing also found gains in other OpenGL games and benchmarks, though not always to the same degree). Now those same optimizations are coming to AMD's officially validated GPU drivers for its Radeon Pro-series workstation cards, providing big boosts to professional apps like Solidworks and Autodesk Maya.

"The AMD Software: PRO Edition 22.Q3 driver has been tested and approved by Dell, HP, and Lenovo for stability and is available through their driver downloads," the company wrote in its blog post. "AMD continues to work with software developers to certify the latest drivers."

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- Jon Brodkin
Ex-eBay security execs imprisoned for stalking journalists who cover eBay
Former eBay executive James Baugh, wearing a suit, walks to court for his sentencing.

Enlarge / Former eBay executive James Baugh arrives at court for his sentencing in Boston on September 29, 2022. (credit: Getty Images | Boston Globe )

Two former eBay executives were sentenced to prison yesterday for cyberstalking and harassing journalists whose news coverage had rankled the eBay CEO. One other former eBay employee was sentenced last year, and four others await sentencing.

James Baugh, 47, eBay's former senior director of safety and security, was sentenced to 57 months in prison and two years of supervised release, a Justice Department press release said yesterday. David Harville, 50, eBay's former director of global resiliency, was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of supervised release. Baugh and Harville were also ordered to pay fines of $40,000 and $20,000, respectively.

Charges against those two and several other ex-eBay employees were announced in June 2020. The victims were Ina and David Steiner, who operate the website EcommerceBytes and live in Natick, Massachusetts.

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- Ron Amadeo
Chrome’s new ad-blocker-limiting extension platform will launch in 2023
Chrome’s new ad-blocker-limiting extension platform will launch in 2023

Enlarge (credit: Isaac Bowen / Flickr)

Google's journey toward Chrome's "Manifest V3" has been happening for four years now, and if the company's new timeline holds up, we'll all be forced to switch to it in year 5. "Manifest V3" is the rather unintuitive name for the next version of Chrome's extension platform. The update is controversial because it makes ad blockers less effective under the guise of protecting privacy and security, and Google just so happens to be the world's largest advertising company.

Google's latest blog post details the new timeline for the transition to Manifest V3, which involves ending support for older extensions running on Manifest V2 and forcing everyone onto the new platform. Starting in January 2023 with Chrome version 112, Google "may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in Canary, Dev, and Beta channels." Starting in June 2023 and Chrome 115, Google "may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in all channels, including stable channel." Also starting in June, the Chrome Web Store will stop accepting Manifest V2 extensions, and they'll be hidden from view. In January 2024, Manifest V2 extensions will be removed from the store entirely.

Google says Manifest V3 is "one of the most significant shifts in the extensions platform since it launched a decade ago." The company claims that the more limited platform is meant to bring "enhancements in security, privacy, and performance." Privacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) dispute this description and say that if Google really cared about the security of the extension store, it could just police the store more actively using actual humans instead of limiting the capabilities of all extensions.

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- Benj Edwards
Deepfake Bruce Willis may be the next Hollywood star, and he’s OK with that
Deepfake Bruce Willis as he appeared in a 2021 commercial for Russian mobile company MegaFon.

Enlarge / Deepfake Bruce Willis as he appeared in a 2021 commercial for Russian mobile company MegaFon. (credit: MegaFon)

Bruce Willis has sold the "digital twin" rights to his likeness for commercial video production use, according to a report by The Telegraph. This move allows the Hollywood actor to digitally appear in future commercials and possibly even films, and he has already appeared in a Russian commercial using the technology.

Willis, who has been diagnosed with a language disorder called aphasia, announced that he would be "stepping away" from acting earlier this year. Instead, he will license his digital rights through a company called Deepcake. The company is based in Tbilisi, Georgia, and is doing business in America while being registered as a corporation in Delaware.

In 2021, a deepfake Bruce Willis appeared in a Russian cell phone commercial for MegaFon.

Deepcake obtained Willis' likeness by training a deep learning neural network model on his appearances in blockbuster action films from the 1990s. With his facial appearance known, the model can then apply Willis' head to another actor with a similar build in a process commonly called a deepfake. Deepfakes have become popular in recent years on TikTok, with unauthorized deepfakes of Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves gathering large followings.

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- Jennifer Ouellette

Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities is a new anthology series coming this month to Netflix.

So-called cabinets of curiosities—aka wunderkammers ("wonder-rooms")—were hugely popular in the 17th century. They were largely random collections of strange-yet-fascinating stuff, including natural history specimens, archaeological artifacts, religious or historical relics, the odd work of art, and any other quirky item that caught the cabinet creator’s fancy.  The concept also inspired auteur director Guillermo del Toro when putting together a new anthology horror series for Netflix: Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities. The streaming platform just dropped the official trailer for the series, and it looks like just the right kind of fright fare to bring some stylishly spooky frissons to the Halloween season.

As we've reported previously, the series was first announced in 2018 and features eight episodes written and directed by filmmakers handpicked by del Toro. The list of directors includes Jennifer Kent, who directed 2014's phenomenal The Babadook; her episode, "The Murmuring," is based on an original story by del Toro and features Babadook star Essie Davis (aka Miss Fisher). "Dreams in the Witch House," based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Twilight).

"Graveyard Rats" is directed by Vincenzo Natali (In the Tall Grass, Splice), while Guillermo Navarro (Narcos) directed "Lot 36," also based on an original story by del Toro. Keith Thomas (Firestarter) directed "Pickman's Model," another episode based on a Lovecraft short story; David Prior (The Empty Man) directed "The Autopsy"; Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) directed "The Viewing"; and Ana Lily Amirpour—who directed the exquisite A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night—directed "The Outside."

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- Kevin Purdy
The best Mac desktop clients for Gmail aficionados
The best Mac desktop clients for Gmail aficionados

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images / Apple)

Here's the situation: I have a Mac, I need a desktop mail client, and I want it to work as seamlessly as possible with Gmail.

Just a small slice of Gmail's Vim-inspired keyboard shortcuts.

Just a small slice of Gmail's Vim-inspired keyboard shortcuts. (credit: Kevin Purdy)

Gmail has been my primary personal email provider since 2003. I've also had more than a dozen Google Workspace accounts over the years. I understand the issues inherent in an advertising company managing my email and keeping me locked into its ecosystem. But I dig Gmail's Vim-inspired shortcuts, its powerful search capabilities, its advanced filtering, its storage—and, of course, its availability in nearly any browser.

But browsers are often where focus goes to flounder. I want to give email a defined space, a visual context as a place I go to communicate. And, incidentally, I want to avoid Gmail's annoying nudges to use Meet, Spaces, or whatever the messaging focus is this week. So let's see what kind of Mac desktop client works best for someone with Gmail on the brain.

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- WIRED
Mystery hackers are “hyperjacking” targets for insidious spying
Mystery hackers are “hyperjacking” targets for insidious spying

Enlarge (credit: Marco Rosario Venturini Autieri/Getty Images)

For decades, virtualization software has offered a way to vastly multiply computers’ efficiency, hosting entire collections of computers as “virtual machines” on just one physical machine. And for almost as long, security researchers have warned about the potential dark side of that technology: theoretical “hyperjacking” and “Blue Pill” attacks, where hackers hijack virtualization to spy on and manipulate virtual machines, with potentially no way for a targeted computer to detect the intrusion. That insidious spying has finally jumped from research papers to reality with warnings that one mysterious team of hackers has carried out a spree of “hyperjacking” attacks in the wild.

Today, Google-owned security firm Mandiant and virtualization firm VMware jointly published warnings that a sophisticated hacker group has been installing backdoors in VMware’s virtualization software on multiple targets’ networks as part of an apparent espionage campaign. By planting their own code in victims’ so-called hypervisors—VMware software that runs on a physical computer to manage all the virtual machines it hosts—the hackers were able to invisibly watch and run commands on the computers those hypervisors oversee. And because the malicious code targets the hypervisor on the physical machine rather than the victim’s virtual machines, the hackers’ trick multiplies their access and evades nearly all traditional security measures designed to monitor those target machines for signs of foul play.

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- Ars Contributors
How hobbyist hackers are preserving Pokémon’s past—and shaping its future
How hobbyist hackers are preserving Pokémon’s past—and shaping its future

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Earlier this year, Pokémon Legends: Arceus reinvigorated developer Game Freak’s iconic series by shaking up a formula that had gone largely unchanged for more than 25 years. But that recent bout of experimentation doesn’t diminish just how long the Poké-formula has remained mostly static. For two and a half decades, the developer essentially released the same game over and over, and fans like me ate it up like pulled Lechonk. Perhaps disappointingly, the series appears to be resuming its usual course with the more traditional Scarlet & Violet launch this November.

Whether Legends will form an enduring and fresh new branch on Pokémon’s franchise tree is the kind of philosophical quandary that could make Xatu spend all day staring at the sun.

But for those who look beyond Nintendo’s official releases, the Pokémon series is anything but stale. While Nintendo, the games' publisher, hasn't worked to make older Pokémon games accessible on modern hardware—or affordable on older gear—a certain demographic of dedicated fans has taken it upon themselves to not just preserve legacy Pokémon titles but to actively improve them. These volunteer ROM hackers and preservationists work to keep the passions of an aging generation of Pokémon masters alive, all while fighting occasionally brutal legal crackdowns from Nintendo.

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- Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
The perfect smart home controller almost exists — but you probably can’t buy it
A silver touchscreen remote on a wooden background The Ava Remote smart home controller | Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

Last week, I visited the world of the professionally installed smart home. This is the promised land. Everything just works, your voice assistant doesn’t try to sell you toilet paper, and you can control your whole home with just one app. Of course, you pay a hefty price and have to give up lots of control for the privilege.

The Ava smart remote could be the love child of an iPhone and a Logitech Harmony remote

I was at CEDIA Expo 2022, the annual trade show of the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association (think CES, but less weird stuff and more stuff you — or someone with more money than you — can actually buy).

Here, I got to hold the almost perfect smart home controller: a sleek touchscreen, wrapped in a smooth...

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- Allison Johnson
The Pixel 4 and 4 XL’s last guaranteed software update has arrived
The Google Pixel 4 leaning against a small structure outdoors The Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL have reached the end of their three years of guaranteed software support. | Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Google has released this month’s Pixel security patch, and as Android Police points out, it’s the last one that the Pixel 4 and 4 XL are scheduled to receive. By no coincidence, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are set to be announced later this week. (When one device’s software support window closes, another one opens.)

While the more recent Pixel 6, 6 Pro, and 6A all come with a promised five years of security updates, the Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL launched in 2019 with three years of guaranteed security updates. This isn’t necessarily the very end of the road for the Pixel 4 since Google tends to issue one final security patch for end-of-life devices a bit after the official support window has closed. More than anything, it’s kind of symbolic:...

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- Jay Peters
Valve’s next Steam Next Fest is live now with hundreds of demos to try
A character select screen in Soulstone Survivors. One game you can try is Soulstone Survivors, which looks to take some inspiration from games like Vampire Survivors and Diablo. | Image: Game Smithing Limited

Valve has just kicked off another Steam Next Fest, where you can check out hundreds of free demos for upcoming games.

With so many games to potentially check out, it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start, but Valve has a few tools to make it easier to find something you might like. Right from the Steam Next Fest homepage, you can see a list of popular demos, most wishlisted games, and which demos have the most active players as well as filter each of those lists by things like genre and specific features. One that has already caught my eye is Soulstone Survivors, which looks like an interesting spin on whatever genre Vampire Survivors is.

Developers will also be hosting livestreams throughout the week to show off their...

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- Sheena Vasani
How to turn your Mac desktop folder icons into emoji
A desktop computer turned on. In the upper right-hand corner, there’s an emoji of a cat smiling with hearts in its eyes instead of a blue folder icon.

Why have boring blue folder icons on your desktop when you can turn them into cats? Well, cat emoji at least. As CNET first pointed out, it turns out you can quickly customize your Mac desktop folders with emoji of your choice. It’s a fun, amusing trick that’s also useful if you’re looking for a visual way to organize the folders on your laptop or PC. You can, for instance, choose a briefcase emoji so you can more easily identify work files or organize travel documents with a plane emoji.

Here, we’ll guide you through the quick process step by step so you can start transforming your blue folder icons into whatever your heart desires, whether it’s Halloween pumpkins, hearts, or even poop — we’re not judging.

How to turn your desktop...

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- Mia Sato
Pixelated clothing at Paris Fashion Week is metaverse fashion flipped on its head
Loewe : Runway - Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 Photo by Thierry Chesnot / Getty Images

At the Loewe fashion show at Paris Fashion Week this weekend, models stalked around an enormous model of an anthurium plant emerging from beneath bleach-white floors. As a whole, the show was largely what one would expect at one of fashion’s most high-profile events attended by industry people, celebrities, and influencers. But tucked between the diaphanous blouses and textured shoes were a few looks that made viewers do a double take: hoodies, T-shirts, and pants with jagged edges and smudgy shadows, like the clothes had just glitched mid-walk.

The Loewe brand presented clothes in the style of Minecraft - at Paris Fashion Week they showed a "pixel" collection. #Minecraft #우리도_언제나_찬이를_지켜줄게 #Live #women pic.twitter.com/Kq1KMZplrA

— ...

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- Makena Kelly
FCC threatens to block calls from carriers for letting robocalls run rampant
A phone screen showing an incoming robocall Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The Federal Communications Commission is threatening to block calls from voice service providers that have yet to take meaningful action against illegal robocalls.

On Monday, the FCC announced that it was beginning the process to remove providers from the agency’s Robocall Mitigation Database for failing to fully implement STIR/SHAKEN anti-robocall protocols into their networks. If the companies fail to meet these requirements over the next two weeks, compliant providers will be forced to block their calls.

“Fines alone aren’t enough”

“This is a new era. If a provider doesn’t meet its obligations under the law, it now faces expulsion from America’s phone networks. Fines alone aren’t enough,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a...

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- Mitchell Clark
Twitter’s actually rolling out editable tweets
A blue Twitter bird logo with a repeating pattern in the background Get ready to start seeing edited tweets in the wild. | Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter is rolling out the ability to edit tweets to Twitter Blue subscribers in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. According to a tweet from the company, it’ll be coming to subscribers in the US “soon.”

Last week, we got to see an example of what edited tweets would look like when the company made one of its own. The tweet will appear as normal, but there will be a pencil icon next to the date, along with text that lets readers know the last time the tweet was edited. Clicking on the icon shows you a page with the edited tweet, as well as a history of the edits. The person who tweeted will have up to 30 minutes to make changes and will only be able to make five edits, according to a Twitter support document.

now that Edit is rolling...

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- Matt Horne
First price drop on the Apple Watch Series 8, and more fitness tracker deals
apple watch series 8 apps Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

A fitness tracker is one of the most helpful gadgets when it comes to getting in shape. It won’t magically make you fit, but it can keep you on top of your fitness goals and stay motivated. Some manufacturers even offer fitness trackers just for kids. We’ve gathered deals from all of the major players, and you can check out our favorites below.

Related: The best smartwatches you can buy

- Ryan McNeal
Somebody just found Google’s unrevealed wired Nest Doorbell at a Best Buy
Nest Doorbell battery Ash lifestyle Credit: Google Google’s new wired Nest Doorbell is expected to be revealed during the company’s October 6 hardware event. A Best Buy shopper found the product on store shelves. A manager at the store told the customer that the doorbell wouldn’t be available for purchase until October 4.

With nonstop leaks of the Pixel 7 series and Pixel Watch over the last week, it should come as no surprise that another Google product has leaked before the company’s October 6 event. This time it seems that Google’s new wired Nest Doorbell has been spotted.

At Google’s hardware event this Thursday, we’re expecting to see a selection of new products. Outside of the Pixel 7 series and the Pixel Watch, one of the items we expect will make an appearance at the event will be Google’s yet-to-be-revealed wired Nest Doorbell.

- C. Scott Brown
October 2022 Android security patch here for Pixel phones
google pixel 6a back Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The October 2022 Android security patch is here! If you own a recent Google Pixel smartphone, you can perform a software update check now in System Settings to grab it. You can also update manually or simply wait for the OTA notification.

Related: How Google Pixel prices for phones changed over the years

- Matt Horne
The best Verizon deals: Save up to $1,000 on flagship Samsung and Apple devices

Verizon is the biggest US carrier, with great coverage and a decent selection of phones. But finding the best Verizon savings shouldn’t have to be a trawl for those seeking a new device but looking for the best deal possible. In this post, we’ve put together the best Verizon deals that we’re currently aware of.

Let’s dive in.

- C. Scott Brown
Google Pixel 7: Everything we know and what we want to see (Updated: Oct. 3)

google io 2022 familyshot Pixel 7 series pixel watch pixel tablet pixel buds pro

Credit: Google

Update: October 3, 2022 (010:32 AM ET): We’ve updated the Pixel 7 series rumor hub with info and leaks related to the price of the Pixel 7 for European markets.

- Ryan McNeal
YouTube could be considering locking 4K videos behind its Premium subscription
youtube screen download youtube videos YouTube is currently testing out requiring a Premium subscription for 4K and higher resolutions. People in Google’s experimental group who are non-subscribers are seeing Premium appear next to the 2160p option. This would add a new perk for YouTube Premium while taking away something that’s currently free for all users.

Google has been trying hard to get YouTube viewers to subscribe to its Premium subscription. While this has mostly come in the form of pushing more ads — both skippable and unskippable — the company seems to be testing out a new strategy. This new strategy could see 4K and higher resolutions locked behind its paywall.

Over the last month, pictures have started to pop up across Reddit showing a new feature for YouTube Premium — 4K video. It appears that Google is currently testing the idea of making its 4K resolution option exclusive for subscribers. Those who are in Google’s experimental group are reporting that they are seeing the word Premium next to the 2160p option when looking to select a new resolution.

- Matt Horne
Get an unlocked Google Pixel 6a for just $349, and more top phone deals
google pixel 6a back on table Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

A new phone is one of the most important purchases you’ll make. You probably use it more times each day than any other device, so you’ll want to pick one that’s just right. It’s easy to spend hours scouring the web looking for the best offers, but we’ve done the legwork for you. We’ve gone ahead and gathered some of the best phone deals available to save you time and money.

Related: The best Android phones

- Frederick Blichert
Shows like Bridgerton: What to watch while you wait for season 3
Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey dance at a ball in Bridgerton season 2 - shows like bridgerton Credit: Netflix

Netflix‘s Bridgerton has been a massive social phenomenon since premiering Christmas 2020. Its recent second season raced to the top of the streamer’s rankings too. It’s been watched across North America by huge numbers of people and discussed at length on social media and in the press. Now that season two is available, what other shows like Bridgerton are worth checking out?

See also: Everything you need to know about Bridgerton season 2

- Hadlee Simons
Here’s what you think Google will get wrong with the Pixel 7 series
Google IO 2022 pixel 7 pro 2 Credit: Google

The Google Pixel 7 series launch is only a few days away, so we’ll officially know everything there is to know about these phones on October 6. But history tells us that no Pixel handset is truly without issue.

So with that in mind, we asked Android Authority readers what Google would get wrong with the Pixel 7 series (if it got something wrong). The votes are finally in, and here are the results.

- Matt Horne
The best Metro by T-Mobile deals: Save up to $300 on the iPhone 14 range
Metro by T Mobile logo on phone stock photo 1 Credit: Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Metro by T-Mobile is the no-contract subsidiary of T-Mobile that was previously known as MetroPCS. Whatever name it uses, it has some excellent deals on both plans and phones. We have the best current Metro by T-Mobile deals you can get right now. Many of the deals are in-store only, so you’ll need to check your location carefully.

See also: Metro by T-Mobile buyer’s guide

- Hadlee Simons
This new OnePlus smartwatch is light on the pocket, but not on features
OnePlus Nord Watch official Credit: OnePlus OnePlus has launched the Nord Watch in India. The watch retails for ~$61 in the market.

OnePlus got into the smartwatch space last year with the OnePlus Watch, but we thought the company was charging too much money for what was essentially a fitness tracker. Now, OnePlus is back with the Nord Watch.

Yes, the OnePlus Nord Watch is the first smartwatch from the company’s value-focused Nord brand, starting at Rs 4,999 (~$61) in India. So what do you actually get for the price?

- Ryan McNeal
Here are the craziest stories from the new Hacking Google documentary
hacking google Credit: Google Google has launched a six-part docuseries called Hacking Google. The series discusses major industry-shaping events like the Operation Aurora cyberattack and more. Each episode is dedicated to each of the teams that make up Google’s cybersecurity arm.

From answering emails to watching YouTube videos, the web is a part of our everyday lives. Whether we’re checking our phone after waking up or logging on to start our day of work, we use the internet without a second thought. And not only do we often use it without thinking, but we also trust that the services we’re using will keep us safe from the dangers that lurk on the web.

However, keeping everyone safe while online is easier said than done. To reveal everything that goes into keeping you safe as you surf the net, Google has released a six-part documentary called Hacking Google. The series is focused on each of the company’s cybersecurity teams and their tireless efforts to thwart cyber threats.

- Andy Walker
Daily Authority: 😴 No more pillow talk

🛏 Good day, and welcome back to the Daily Authority. I’ve finally recovered from the cold I mentioned last Monday, just in time for Google Pixel launch week. While there will be plenty of time to get familiar with the Pixel 7, Pixel Watch, and whatever else Google might launch, I first want to focus on another important story today.

Stop scrolling, get snoozing

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus screen upright on bed

- Hadlee Simons
Pixel 7 series ads leak: Here are Google’s standout features
Pixel 7 Pro ad Snoopy Tech Credit: Twitter/Snoopy Tech A Twitter tipster has posted leaked video ads for the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. The ads focus on a Cinematic Blur mode, Macro Focus functionality, and more.

Google confirmed with the Pixel 6 series launch that it’s investing “heavily” in marketing for its new phones, and it looks like that investment could be continuing with the Pixel 7 series.

Twitter tipster Snoopy Tech has leaked two 30-second video ads, with one showing the Pixel 7 and the other showing off the Pixel 7 Pro. Both ads show off a Cinematic Blur mode for videos (ostensibly a take on Apple’s Cinematic mode), Magic Eraser functionality, Live Translate capabilities, and extreme battery saver mode. Check out the standard Pixel 7 ad below.

- Adamya Sharma
A flood of Pixel Watch material just leaked everything you want to know

Google IO 2022 pixel watch design

Credit: Google Marketing material for the Pixel Watch has leaked through multiple reliable sources. Thanks to the leaks, we now know most of the key specs and features of Google’s first smartwatch.

We’re just three days away from the Pixel Watch launch, and the latest barrage of leaks has now given us plenty to chew on before the wearable arrives.

- Hadlee Simons
Pixel 7 series specs leak: Bad news for charging speeds?

google io 2022 familyshot Pixel 7 series pixel watch pixel tablet pixel buds pro

Credit: Google A Pixel 7 series spec sheet has purportedly surfaced online. The Pixel 7 Pro is tipped to gain a 48MP 5x telephoto camera. Otherwise, it looks like we aren’t getting charging speed upgrades.

Google is expected to launch the Pixel 7 series on October 6 and we’ve already seen quite a few specs and features leak. Now, it looks like the entire Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro spec sheet has leaked online.

- Adamya Sharma
It’ll finally be easy to understand USB-C cables and connectors

USB C cable port wired charging

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Branding for USB-C devices is changing to reflect data transfer speeds. The organization responsible for maintaining the USB standard is killing the previous branding with version numbers and the SuperSpeed moniker.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a dilemma with all the differing USB version numbers and names, you’re in for some good news. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the industry body managing the USB standard, has come up with much simpler branding for USB-C cables and connectors.

Instead of using monikers like SuperSpeed or USB 3, USB 3.1, and such, the rebranding will reflect the data transfer speeds of USB devices.

USB-IF has also decided not to name the new standard USB 4, and instead go with the new naming scheme. Branding for USB-C cables will also reflect their charging wattage, apart from their data transfer capabilities. You can see the rebranded logos and names for different USB-C versions below.

USB Performance Logos

Credit: USB-IF

- Adamya Sharma
Samsung’s Expert RAW app comes to more Galaxy flagships. Is yours on this list?

Samsung Expert RAW manual controls shooting flowers

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Samsung’s Expert RAW camera app is coming to 2020 Galaxy flagships. The app is now available on the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Z Fold 2 through the Galaxy Store.

Samsung is expanding its all-powerful Expert RAW photography app to its 2020 Galaxy flagships, namely the Galaxy S20 Ultra, Note 20 Ultra, and Galaxy Z Fold 2.

The app made its debut on the Galaxy S21 Ultra in 2021. Since then, Samsung has expanded support to many other flagships, including the Galaxy S22 series, Galaxy Z Fold 3, and the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Other Samsung flagships from 2020, including the standard Galaxy S20, S20 Plus, Note 20, and the first Galaxy Flip, are not compatible with the app. Even on the supported phones, Expert RAW can only utilize the primary and 12MP ultrawide shooters.

If you are a Galaxy S20 Ultra, Note 20 Ultra, or Galaxy Z Fold 2 user, you can now download the Expert RAW app from the Galaxy Store. You’ll have to ensure that your phone has the latest firmware.

The official Samsung community post announcing the support notes that users might notice slower processing times and inferior image quality compared to newer flagships that support Expert RAW. This is due to the older processor and camera sensors in these phones.

If you’ve never used Samsung’s Expert RAW app, here’s a handy tutorial on how to go about it and up your photography game.

- Dhruv Bhutani
Fitbit integration will make or break the Pixel Watch

Google Pixel Watch Official

Credit: Google

Opinion post byDhruv Bhutani

It’s been a long time coming, but Google’s first Pixel-branded watch is finally around the corner. The mythical watch was initially rumored to launch in 2018 and then again in 2019 when Google acquired smartwatch IP from Fossil. Presumably, Google couldn’t find the perfect market fit for its wearable. However, a lot has changed since 2019. In 2021, Google completed its acquisition of the fitness tracking giant Fitbit, giving it the most significant ingredient it needs to make a killer product — incredible health tracking.

Related: What’s the best smartwatch? Here are our top picks

When Google introduced the Pixel Watch at its annual I/O conference, the message was loud and clear — Fitbit’s algorithms will be at the center of the Pixel Watch experience. But the more I think about it, algorithms alone won’t be enough to save the Pixel Watch. The Pixel Watch will have to nail the end-to-end Fitbit user experience to stand any chance at success. Here’s why.

The Pixel Watch needs a reason to exist

New Google Hardware Pixel 7 Pro Pixel Watch

Credit: Google

Google’s Pixel smartphone series has found its footing with excellence in imaging and balancing high-end specs at a great price. The Pixel Watch also needs a unique selling point. A few months back, my colleague Rita wrote an article questioning the value proposition behind Google’s smartwatch. It’s a fair question when even the best Wear OS watches haven’t set a very high bar.

Wear OS has been around for almost eight years, but I’d be hard-pressed to name a single watch that has been a breakout success. Practically every major smartphone vendor has taken a stab at creating a Wear OS watch that packed the best sensors, heart rate monitors, and all the accoutrements that go with health tracking, but none of those watches truly took off.

Even the most successful Wear OS watches pale in comparison to the Apple Watch.

It took Samsung and Google to collaborate deeply to create one of the few compelling Wear OS watches. That said, even the Galaxy Watch is barely a blip against the Apple Watch’s mammoth success, let alone the tens of millions of Fitbits sold. Moreover, despite being a Wear OS 3.0 watch, the Galaxy Watch continues to push Samsung’s ecosystem more than Google’s.

Fitbit is the key to the Pixel Watch’s success

Fitbit Sense 2 Review Weather App

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

With Fitbit in its kitty, Google has the most critical ingredient it needs to elevate the Pixel Watch from yet another Wear OS smartwatch to a genuinely desirable product. Fitbit users, by and large, tend to be highly engaged with their fitness wearables. A 2019 survey gauged that Fitbit users had the highest levels of interaction with their wearables — across platforms. 93% of the users surveyed used their watch daily, ahead of 92% of Apple Watch users. Meanwhile, Wear OS users lagged far behind at just 75% of the surveyed user base.

Fitbit needs to be a first-class citizen weaved into the fabric of health tracking on the Pixel Watch.

While the Fitbit Sense and Sense 2 try to replicate a smartwatch-lite experience with limited support for Fitbit apps, the fitness trackers are just too locked down and lack the horsepower to deliver a stellar experience. Fitbit users have been clamoring for a high-end smartwatch, and a top-class Fitbit experience on the Pixel Watch is bound to give Google a ready and willing audience. But for that to happen, something needs to give, and Fitbit needs to be a first-class citizen on the Pixel Watch.

I’d go as far as saying that Fitbit needs to be weaved into the fabric of health tracking on the Pixel Watch. Daily step counts, fitness activities, and sleep data need to go directly to the Fitbit dashboard enthusiasts have used for years. Leaderboards, activity charts, and challenges should have their own excellent watch faces.

An Apple Watch SE 2 displays the Activity Analog watch face.

Credit: Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Fitness training itself is largely a communal activity, be it through running clubs or virtual leaderboards. I’ve used Fitbit products for years to encourage myself to be more active, and watching friends zoom past 20,000 steps a day was a key motivator to take up running as an activity. Google needs to find a way to leverage Fitbit’s incredible community and guided workouts into the Pixel Watch experience. Moreover, Google needs to have its own shareable, competitive Activity Rings moment like the Apple Watch.

Also read: I used my phone to lose 55 pounds and run a marathon. Here’s how.

- C. Scott Brown
Every serious hiker should have something like the Garmin InReach Mini 2

Garmin InReach Mini 2 strapped to a red hiking backpack

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Opinion post byC. Scott Brown

If you’re like me, you love the outdoors. I spend the bulk of my weekends out hiking and backpacking. With my recent move to the Bay Area, I’m having a blast exploring all new trails with very different terrains when compared to my former location on the East Coast. A tech product that’s been helping me get acclimated to these new spots is the Garmin InReach Mini 2, which has become indispensable in my gear bag.

I first learned about the InReach Mini 2 at a Garmin-sponsored event earlier this year. I was impressed with it but thought it kind of took the fun out of hiking. Half the appeal of hiking is to “unplug,” as it were, and the InReach system keeps you connected no matter where you are.

Garmin convinced me I should take one home, though, so I’ve been using it on the trails. I’ll fully admit now that I was totally wrong. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll never go on a hike again without an InReach strapped to my backpack. If you’re serious about the outdoors — be it hiking, camping, hunting, mountain biking, or anything else — I think you should look into getting one as well.

About this article: I tested the Garmin InReach Mini 2 for one month. The unit was provided by Garmin, but Garmin had no say in the direction or published content.

Garmin InReach Mini 2 $384.99 at Amazon

What is the Garmin InReach Mini 2?

Garmin InReach Mini 2 with navigation controls on display

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

The InReach Mini 2 is a satellite communicator from Garmin. As its name suggests, it’s the follow-up to the original 2018 InReach Mini — itself a miniature version of the 2017 InReach SE Plus. All of these do the same thing: allow you to use the Iridium satellite network for various functions in places where traditional tower service does not exist.

Although the Mini 2 is one of the newer InReach products, they all function in three main ways:

Navigation: It can ping various GPS networks to track your location, either manually or automatically, depending on the model. Communication: You can’t make phone calls with an InReach, but you can send satellite-based text messages. For a fee, you can send and receive texts just like you usually would, albeit through a Garmin app and using a different phone number. Safety: Every InReach has an SOS button. Activating it results in a search and rescue team coming to your location to save you should something go wrong. This feature also requires a service subscription.

In addition to these primary functions, you can use it to obtain weather forecasts. Garmin also offers unlimited cloud storage for creating trips, crafting custom quick messages for sending/replying to texts on the fly, or syncing your settings.

Each of the three devices is slightly different, but I’ll be focused on what the Garmin InReach Mini 2 can do.

Don’t get lost on the trail!

Garmin InReach Mini 2 on hike

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Myself, I have never gotten lost on a hike. I’ve been turned around and needed some time to get my bearings, but I’ve never been straight-up lost. Regardless, it is a concern every time I head out on a treacherous route.

The InReach Mini 2 gives me a safety net in that regard. First, before I even head out the door, I can plan out my route. Using my computer, I can create a course (or download courses other InReach users have created) for trails all over the world. Once I’ve decided on my course, I can sync it with the Mini 2 and know that I’ll have a map with me wherever I may end up.

The InReach Mini 2 is a powerful navigation tool that doesn't need a cell tower connection to work.

On the tiny monochrome display, I can see my course as well as a navigation arrow that represents my current location. As I move in the real world, the navigation arrow follows. If I stray from my pre-determined course, the Mini 2 will beep, letting me know I’ve gone off-course. Once I’m back, it will beep again, letting me know I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Usually, though, the tiny display isn’t as helpful as my phone. Using the Garmin Explore app — which wirelessly connects to the InReach Mini 2 regardless of cell service — I can see a full-color TOPO map that shows where I am, where I’ve been, and where I should go next, as shown in the images above. The InReach Mini 2 has access to far more GPS satellites than my phone and can more easily connect to them, so this wouldn’t work as well with just my phone alone.

Explainer: What even is connected GPS?

There’s even a feature called TracBack. As you walk your course, the Mini 2 will ping a satellite every ten minutes (or more often if you’re willing to pay for it). This creates a series of breadcrumbs as you go. Should you find yourself lost, you can use the TracBack feature to get on-the-fly navigation back the way you came.

In other words, as long as this is with me, I’ll never need to worry about not being able to find my way home.

Essentially, it protects you from ever getting lost in the outdoors.

Even without getting lost, in my experience, this has been incredibly helpful for unplanned changes to routes. Recently, I was on a hike and decided I wanted to change up my route because it wasn’t going to a place I thought looked cool from a distance. Using my phone and the Mini 2, I was able to create a new course right there on the trail. That day was incredibly hot (California is in a terrible heatwave), and later on I realized my newly-planned course was too long for that much heat. Once again, on the fly, I was able to plot out a different third course back to the trailhead that got me home faster. It was literally as simple as using Google Maps, except no smartphone data connection was necessary.

Stay in touch with loved ones at all times

Garmin InReach Mini 2 Garmin Explore messaging app

Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Once you’re out in the wild, communicating with friends and family is impossible with just a smartphone. Even simple SMS messages don’t work. The InReach Mini 2, however, allows you to send as many text messages as you like (or can afford) thanks to its connection to the Iridium constellation. This works all over the world besides caves, underwater, and anywhere else that doesn’t have a direct view of the sky.

Before you head out on the trail, you can pre-load your InReach Mini 2 with various cut-and-paste messages. “I’m on my way back,” or “Here’s where I am right now” are good starter templates. However, you can create whatever you like and Garmin will store them all online for you free of charge.

You can text with pre-created messages on the Mini 2 for free, or compose texts in real-time using your phone for a fee.

A selection of these canned messages can be sent right from the InReach Mini 2. You could send out a canned “Heading out on the trail now!” message when you start your hike. Then, an hour later, let’s say someone sends you a message asking where you are now. That message will appear right on the InReach’s display. You could then respond to it with the “Here’s where I am right now” message. Every message you send has your current GPS coordinates attached automatically, so the recipient would be able to see the exact location you were at when you sent it.

Outdoor essentials: These are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign

For years, USB technologies have been an alphabet soup of terminology—when, really, all consumers care about is how fast the USB connection is. But now, finally, a new USB logo scheme solves this problem.

The USB Implementors Forum unveiled new logos on Friday for laptop ports, chargers, and cables that actually try to communicate what each one does. It’s a far cry from the nightmare naming scheme that the USB-IF implemented in 2009. It’s worth noting that the names of each specification apparently haven’t changed, but the logos have, and that’s all that matters.

USB-IF executives said the new logos were established alongside the new 240W USB-C power specification, which can now charge USB-C powered laptops at the levels required by even some gaming laptops. Now, the various USB specifications are defined by their speed. Charging specifications are defined by their wattage, with logos that actually indicate this.

“With the new higher power capabilities enabled by the USB PD 3.1 Specification, which unlocks up to 240W over a USB Type-C cable and connector, USB-IF saw an opportunity to further strengthen and simplify its Certified Logo Program for the end user,” said Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF President and chief operating officer, in a statement. “With our updated logos, consumers can easily identify the USB4 performance and USB Power Delivery capabilities of Certified USB-C cables, which support an ever-expanding ecosystem of consumer electronics from laptops and smartphones to displays and chargers.”

Check out the new logos, which will be used on packaging, ports, and device power ports:

USB performance logosThe new USB logos clearly communicate not just the speed of the port, but its capabilities.USB-IF

About the only drawback? There’s no obligation for device makers to actually inscribe the logo on their laptops, which could mean a continuation of the confusion around ports.

The new USB cable logos also feature clear communication of their speed as well as their charging capabilities. The big question is whether these cables will support Thunderbolt, or DisplayPort, or USB4 —any of the protocols, that is.

USB performance logosThe new logos for USB-C cables.USB-IF

Finally, there are the charging logos, which again state what the device is capable of.

USB performance logosThe USB-IF’s new charger logos.USB-IF

If nothing else, this is a huge step forward for clarity, communicating to the consumer what they’re buying. The only real regret is why this wasn’t implemented years ago.

Laptops, USB
Best Chromebook deals: Top picks before Prime Early Access Sale

Amazon is readying its second Prime Day sale for Oct. 11 and Oct 12, known as Prime Early Access Sale, aka Prime Day 2. We’ve begun curating the best Chromebook deals leading up to Prime Day 2, both from Amazon and other online retailers.

You’ll need to sign up for Amazon Prime (for free) to take advantage of Amazon’s best Prime Day/Early Access Sale discounts. Other retailers have announced similar sales: Target will hold its Deal Days on Oct. 6-8, and Newegg plans its FantasTech Sale II between Oct. 10 to 13. We’d expect discounts throughout this entire period.

Best Prime Early Access Sale Chromebook deals

You’ll probably find a good Chromebook deal somewhere, though it’s often difficult to tell which Chromebook is a good value. Manufacturers seem to be unloading older Chromebooks at steep discounts, taking advantage of consumer ignorance about processor generations and support lifecycles. We’ve factored in the Chromebook support window to our recommendations below, which tends to extend for between two to five years on discounted Chromebooks.

The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3 at the bottom of the list is a decent deal, but the display, processor and memory is skimpy. The Acer 317 at the top, however, seems like a very good value.

Acer 317, Celeron N4500/4GB RAM/64GB SSD, 17.3-inch 1080p display, $169.00 (54% off)Acer Chromebook 512, Celeron N4020/4GB RAM/32GB SSD, 12-inch 912p display, $166.00 (17% off)Lenovo 14e Chromebook, AMD A-Series/4GB RAM/32GB SSD, 14-inch 1080p display, $177.48 (41% off)Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5, Snapdragon SC7180/4GB RAM/64GB SSD, 13.3-inch 1080p display, $361.95 (16% off)Lenovo Flex 5i, Core i3-1115G4/8GB RAM/64GB storage, 13.3-inch 1080p display, $374.00 (32% off)Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, Intel Core i5-10210U/8GB RAM/256GB SSD, 13.3-inch 4K display, $829.00 (17% off)Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3, MediaTek MT8173/4GB RAM/64GB SSD, 11-inch 768p display, $168.00 (47% off)

Walmart is offering a Samsung Chromebook 4 with a 768p 11.6-inch screen for a terrific price of $109.99, or 63% off. But the specs (Celeron N4020/4GB RAM/32GB SSD) call out an N4020 Celeron processor in the title and a far older N3450 in the specifications. Make sure it has what you’re hoping for before you buy.

What to think about when buying a Chromebook

Generally, Chromebooks tend to fall into three categories: ultracheap models at about $100, which can offer solid discounts but can hide gotchas like a subpar screen; midrange $200-$350 Chromebooks, the typical price point; and premium Chromebooks at $500 and above. These expensive ones are essentially PC laptops with Google’s Chrome OS on top, and may be too expensive. Our story on laptops versus Chromebooks may help you decide, as might our 2022 recommendations for the best Chromebook.

Normally, we’d suggest you buy a Chromebook with 1080p resolution or above, but 768p displays can work fine, especially on smaller screens. Consider a USB-C dongle to connect to an external display. An Intel Core chip is pretty much a guarantee of solid performance, but can be more expensive, too. Celerons are much more common, and Snapdragon or Arm (MediaTek) chips are too.

Updated at 10:10 AM on Oct. 3 with additional deals.

Chromebooks
Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon

OLED monitors, with their vibrant colors and perfect black levels, are some of the very best screens you can connect to your PC. Unfortunately, they’re also crazy expensive: with only a few models on the market, the cheapest is still more than a thousand bucks. That might be changing soon, if a report on OLED mega-manufacturer LG Display is accurate.

OLED-info.com quotes unconfirmed news out of China’s manufacturing sector, saying that LG is ready to start manufacturing smaller OLED panels for smaller TVs and computer monitors. Specifically, it’s preparing to ramp up smaller displays using the cheaper WOLED panel technology, which can be produced much more economically than the older types of OLED panels seen in high-end televisions.

Despite being ubiquitous on smaller gadgets like phones and smartwatches, and extremely popular in high-end televisions, OLEDs have been slow to come to the PC market. We’re just starting to see them become a popular option on more and more laptops, but you can count the number of commercially available desktop OLED monitors on one hand. And, of those, LG’s own offerings have been focused on the ultra-high-end professional media market — it’s only this year that the company has begun supplying panels for gaming monitors to companies like Alienware and Corsair.

While we can’t verify the news without a more conventional source, it makes sense. The high-end television market is currently saturated (no pun intended) with OLED screens since there’s been relatively little innovation in the last few years and huge numbers of consumers upgraded their home theaters during the pandemic. OLED manufacturing technology is poised to go bigger (or rather, poised to hit the midrange between small and big) after spending a decade maturing in the mobile electronics market.

If all goes well, we might begin to see more affordable OLED monitors announced at trade shows like CES, E3, and Computex in 2023, with models hitting the market in the summer or fall. Keep your fingers crossed for some display bargains.

Monitors
The best laptops for graphic design: Top picks and buying advice

Whether you’re creating a sleek new logo for your company or a magazine cover that’s popping with bright colors and interesting shapes, graphic designers need the right kind of laptop to get the job done. The most important thing is powerful hardware. For tasks like 3D modeling, you’re going to need a powerful CPU and a good amount of RAM. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, you may need a processor with multiple cores. Another essential piece of hardware is the graphics card. This is important if you’re working with massive textures.

If you’re not sure where to begin your search, don’t worry. We’ve assembled a list of top picks. Not only are these machines graphically powerful, but they’ve also got awesome screens for those times when detail and color accuracy are paramount. We’ve also included options at different price points. So, whatever your budget may be, we’ve got something for every type of graphic designer. If you’re looking for something different, be sure to check out our comprehensive roundup of the best laptops for all purposes.

Updated 09/26/2022 Check out our latest review of the Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1. Besides its ability to easily transition from a laptop to a tablet, it also stands apart with its long battery life and attractive design. Also, be sure to take a look at our review of the Acer Predator Helios 300. You may give up some portability with this gaming laptop, but you more than make up for it with solid performance where it beats out some of the more expensive competitors.

Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED – Best overall Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED - Best overall

Pros

Beautiful 4K OLED display Long battery life Useful DialPad tool

Cons

Design lacks flair Lackluster webcam MSRP: $1,599.99 Best Prices Today: Not Available at Adorama | Not Available at Amazon

Graphic designers need a high-quality display for their projects, which is why you should consider picking up the Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLED. The 4K OLED display is absolutely stunning, as it produces vibrant colors and deep blacks. It’s also a good option for those who suffer from eye strain and tension headaches. If you’re to spend hours peering into a display, it might as well be a top-quality one. The VivoBook also packs a decent punch in the processing department.

The CPU is the Ryzen 9 5900HX, which should be plenty zippy for basic graphic design needs and general use. It also has 32GB of RAM and a whopping 1TB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage. That’s sufficient enough for multitasking or firing up a couple of applications simultaneously. There are a couple of trade-offs you should be aware of like the lackluster webcam and the temperamental fingerprint reader. Those shortcomings are fairly small, though. Overall, the VivoBook Pro is a great machine that any graphic designer would love.

Read our full Asus VivoBook Pro 16X OLEDreview MSI GF76 Katana – Best value MSI GF76 Katana  - Best value

Pros

Decent CPU performance Interesting design with plenty of flair Comfortable keyboard and trackpad

Cons

Lackluster GPU performance The display lacks brightness Audio produces less-than-stellar bass MSRP: $1,250 Best Prices Today: $1049 at Walmart | $1,227.47 at Amazon | $1250 at Microcenter

If you’re working with an inflexible budget, the MSI GF76 Katana is the best bang for your buck. It comes with an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCle 4 SSD storage. In other words, this machine should be able to handle most design tasks with relative ease as well as everyday workloads. The GPU is a little underwhelming when running newer games, but MSI offers up to seven different configurations, so you can always chose a more powerful option. The display is also dimmer than we like, but it’s 17.3-inches and that’s a lot of screen real estate to work on. So, if you’re a beginner graphic designer looking to save some money, you should definitely consider the GF76 Katana.

Read our full MSI Katana GF76review Razer Blade 17 (2022) – Best for video game designers Razer Blade 17 (2022) - Best for video game designers

Pros

Huge 17-inch screen in a relatively compact laptop Intel’s newest 11th-gen CPU and Nvidia RTX graphics

Cons

No USB-A port and no Gigabit Ethernet Hybrid charging likely sacrifices a little performance MSRP: $3,999 Best Prices Today: $3999 at Micro Center | $3999 at Razer | $3,999.99 at Amazon

The Razer Blade 17 (2022 version) is our top pick for video game designers. It’s got what it takes for graphically intensive projects thanks to its Intel Core i7-12800H CPU, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, 1TB of PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD storage, and beastly GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU that renders 3D scenes ultra-fast. The 17.3-inch QHD display is beautiful, too. Not only does it have an impressive 240Hz refresh rate, but the 2650×1440 resolution makes for a crisp and colorful picture. The Blade has a lot to offer, that’s for sure, but it’s incredibly expensive. If you’re in a position to spend the money, then it’s an awesome buy. If you’re looking for more options for both work and play, be sure to check out our roundup of the best gaming laptops.

Read our full Razer Blade 17 (2022)review ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) – Most portable ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) - Most portable

Pros

Powerful CPU and GPU performance in a very compact design AniMe Matrix screams unique It has a webcam

Cons

Half-permanent RAM Keyboard backlighting is subpar MSRP: $1650 (base price) | $2500 (Radeon RX 6800S, 1TB SSD, 32GB RAM) Best Prices Today: $1649.99 at Best Buy | $1,749.00 at Amazon

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is something of a rarity because of its compact form factor and powerful internals. It weighs just a little over three pounds, which makes it a capable traveling companion. It’ll also deliver reasonably fast performance thanks to the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU, the AMD Radeon RX6800S GPU, the 32GB of DDR5 RAM, and the 1TB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage. These components are a phenomenal combination for heavy-duty design work. The keyboard isn’t the best, though, as it feels a bit soft and the backlighting is subpar. That said, when it comes to a combination of portability and fast performance, the Zephyrus G14 is a fantastic pick.

Read our full ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022)review Asus ROG Flow Z13 – Best folio-style laptop Asus ROG Flow Z13 - Best folio-style laptop

Pros

Big performance in a small package Bright, crisp display Compatible with XG Mobile for GPU boost

Cons

Versatility doesn’t come cheap Detachable keyboard poor fit for gamers MSRP: From $1,799.99 Best Prices Today: $1799.99 at Newegg

The Asus ROG Flow Z13 is one of the more unusual entries on this roundup. Simply put, it’s a folio-style gaming machine. You can pop open the kickstand on the back and voila! You’ve got a clamshell laptop. You can also remove the keyboard and use it as a touch-enabled tablet. The versatility here makes it a cool pick for creative work. As for the components, it’s rocking an Intel Core i9-12900H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD storage. It’s powerful, that’s for sure. The 1200p IPS touch display also produces sharp, vibrant images. This kind of versatility costs a premium though, so it’s not the most budget-friendly option. That said, if you’re looking for something truly unique, the Flow Z13 is well worth it.

How we tested

The PCWorld team puts each and every Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them.

Windows laptops PCMark 10: PCMark 10 is how we determine how well the laptop handles lighter tasks like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on. Essentially, it’s how we simulate everyday use.HandBrake: HandBrake is more intensive than PCMark 10. It basically measures how long a laptop’s CPU takes to encode a beefy 30GB file. Cinebench: Cinebench is a brief stress test of the CPU cores. It does this by rendering a 2D scene over a short period of time. A CPU with multiple cores better divides the workload.3DMark: 3DMark checks if 3D performance remains consistent over time by running graphic-intensive clips. We check for things like lag, screen tearing, and so on.Video rundown test: To gauge battery life, we loop a 4K video using Windows 10’s Movies & TV app until the laptop dies. If you travel a bunch, you’ll want something that’ll last more than a full work day. FAQ 1. How much processing power will I need?

If you’re just beginning a career in graphic design, go for an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. If you work in video editing or motion design, we’d recommend an Intel Core i9. However, the number of cores is important for design work. That’s because the processor has to divide the workload when running a 3D-rendering program. A processor with four cores is the minimum requirement (in our book at least), but the more cores the better. As for AMD processors, the Ryzen 5 series is powerful enough for basic graphic design work. For more oomph, shoot for a Ryzen 9.

2. Do I really need a GPU?

For graphically intensive projects like 3D design, you’re going to want a dedicated graphics card. Fortunately, most gaming laptops have dedicated graphics and should be able chew right through those projects. If you’re looking to save some money, go for an Nvidia RTX 3060 or 3050 Ti. For a serious boost in graphics performance, we’d suggest springing for an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti or an AMD Radeon RX6800S.

3. What about memory?

Graphic designers are constantly juggling a bunch of files, so you’re going to want at least 8GB of RAM to keep things relatively speedy. That’s the bare minimum, though. For bigger projects, 16GB of RAM should be plenty.

4. Should I spring for a hard disk drive or an SSD?

For those massive video editing projects, you’re definitely going to need a high-capacity SSD. 256GB is the minimum amount we’d recommend, but 512GB is obviously better. If you work with large files, you may want to even go for a 1TB+ SSD. Again, the right amount of storage really depends on the size and complexity of your project.

5. How big should my display be?

Ah, the display. It may be one of the most important aspects of a laptop, especially for design work. The size and resolution really depends on the complexity of your project, though. First, let’s talk about the size. Do you regularly commute into the office? If so, you’ll want a 13- or 14-inch display, as it’s smaller and more portable. If you’re working on high-resolution files or something that requires a lot of screen real estate, you’re going to want a 17-inch. However, the bigger the screen, the heavier the laptop will be. As for the resolution, don’t settle for anything less than 1080p. That’s the baseline you want to go for. If you can stretch your budget, a 4K display is lovely and the ideal option for creative work.

6. How long should my laptop last on a single charge?

If you plan on carrying around your laptop, you’ll want something that can last 10 to 12 hours on a single charge. That’s more than a full work day. However, battery size directly impacts the portability of the machine. The bigger the battery, the heavier the laptop.

7. How diverse should my port selection be?

A wide array of ports is always a good thing, as it eliminates the need for an adapter. You should get a laptop that has both USB-C and USB-A. An HDMI port is good, too. This is useful for hooking up to an external monitor, especially if the laptop’s display is dim or not as clear.

Laptops
Best Amazon TV deals: Top picks before the Prime Early Access Sale

Amazon is readying its second Prime Day sale for Oct. 11 and Oct 12. It’s called the Amazon Prime Early Access Sale, aka Prime Day 2, and we’re already seeing some early Prime Day 2 TV deals drop. We’ve begun curating the best TV deals from both Amazon and other retailers as we await next week.

You’ll need to sign up for Amazon Prime (for free) to take advantage of Amazon’s best Prime Day/Early Access Sale discounts. Other retailers have announced similar sales: Target will hold its Deal Days on Oct. 6-8, and Newegg plans its FantasTech Sale II between Oct. 10 to 13. We’d expect discounts throughout this entire period.

Prime Day Early Access TV deals

No surprise: We expect Amazon’s own Fire TV products to be on sale, along with third-party Fire TV hardware. We’re betting that Amazon will also begin promoting all the new products that connect to the Fire TV service: the $249.99 Echo Show 15 with a Fire TV interface, the $139.99 Fire TV Cube, and the $799.99 4K QLED Fire TV Omni. Look for deals on all of these on the Amazon Prime Early Access site.

Retailers know that amid rampant inflation, consumers are feeling the pinch, so expect older hardware to once again go on sale. If you don’t need the latest HDR capabilities or voice integrations, you may find older premium TVs that are excellent deals. But in some cases, you won’t see big discounts, but that’s because price have already been marked down. For reference, you can consult our home technology site, TechHive, and TechHive’s best TVs for 2022 and how to shop for them.

Several of the Prime Day 2 deals we’ve listed here are within 5 percent of the discounts we saw during the July Prime Day event, and the TCL deal at the top is definitely worth a look. Are Echo Shows TVs? Maybe not, but they’re on steep discount right now.

TCL 65-inch 4K HDR Smart Roku TV, $429.99 (46% off)Echo Show 5 (2021 release): $34.99 (58% off)Echo Show 8 (2021 release): $69.99 (46% off)Vizio V-series 50-inch 4K HDR Smart TV: $299.99 (21% off)Amazon Fire TV 50-inch 4-series 4K Smart TV: $349.99 (26% off) TCL 32-inch 3-series 720p Roku Smart TV (32S335), $139.99 (39% off)Amazon Fire TV 50-inch Omni Series 4K Smart TV, $399.99 (22% off) Hisense U6 Series 50-inch 4K Quantum Dot QLED Smart Fire TV with Dolby Vision, $354.00 (34% off)Hisense 65-inch ULED Android 4K 120Hz TV w/Alexa, $748.00 (32% off)Samsung 55-inch QLED 4K Smart TV (QN55Q80), $887.95 (26% off)LG OLED65B1PUA 65-inch Alexa B1 Series (2021), $1,596.99 (35% off)Sony OLED 65-in. Bravia XRa80K 4K TV: $1,298.00 ($701.99 or 35% off) 4k TVs
Asrock sabotages its own motherboards with RAM slot sticker

You’d think that a company selling motherboards directly to desktop PC builders would have a little bit of faith that those users can assemble a PC. Apparently, that’s not the case for Asrock, at least on some variants of its high-end motherboards for the new AMD AM5 socket. Several Reddit users opened their X670E motherboards to find a huge sticker covering the RAM DIMM slots, which in at least some cases has caused damage to the slots when the user removed it.

According to the Reddit posts spotted by TechSpot, the sticker is ostensibly meant as a guide for installing the RAM. It shows where to place single or double DIMMs if you’re not using all four slots simultaneously and how long to expect the (very lengthy) first boot to take based on how much memory is installed. All helpful information and perhaps it’s understandable that Asrock would want to highlight it — maybe a lot of people were returning motherboards after putting one DIMM in the wrong slot and watching their computer fail to boot.

But there had to have been a better solution than sticking a piece of paper directly on top of hundreds of sensitive electrical contacts, complete with adhesive. Several users reported that the sticker tore when they removed it, leaving behind a sticky residue and an incredibly delicate cleanup job. Buyers ready to assemble brand new, screaming-fast Ryzen 7000 desktops with these very pricey motherboards were not amused. Some had luck removing the stickers by applying heat beforehand, but others were left with a sticky mess that made their RAM slots inoperative.

The story has a happy ending, or at least a satisfactory one. An official statement from Asrock says the company will accept exchanges on motherboards that have sticker residue on the RAM slots. It also says that an updated version of the BIOS solves the long initial boot problem, and thus new motherboards won’t come with the sticker. Even so, it’s an embarrassing illustration of what can happen when you don’t trust your customers.

Desktop PCs
Best cloud gaming services: GeForce Now vs. Xbox Cloud Gaming and more

Being able to play modern, high-quality video games on just about any kind of PC is the big pitch of the handful of cloud gaming services out there. Using a subscription model, these services allow people with a strong internet connection to tap remote servers in order to play video games of all kinds on even modest computer setups that wouldn’t be able to run them directly. We took the time to try out the biggest players in the cloud gaming space to figure out what works, what to expect, and why you may want to choose one service over another. From the game libraries to the user experience to the visual quality, read on to see what these cloud gaming services bring to the table.

Updated 09/30/2022 To remove Google Stadia as one of our best picks, because in a not-so-surprising move Google has decided to discontinue the service, as we explain in our news article. You can also learn how Google plans to make good with its Stadia customers.

1. GeForce Now – Best cloud gaming service overall GeForce Now - Best cloud gaming service overall

Pros

Very smooth and responsive experience The Free plan

Cons

Games are not included Limited time on gaming sessions Inconsistency in compatibility of games and platforms MSRP: Free tier I Priority tier ($9.99/mo or $49.99/6 mo) I RTX 3080 tier ($19.99/mo or $99.99/6 mo)

When it comes to the best all-around experience, GeForce Now is our strongest recommendation. While you do have to purchase many of the games that you can play on this service, the fact is that GeForce Now brings some of the best visual quality, a massive game compatibility list, and a free membership plan option. With those aspects in mind, there’s almost no reason not to jump in and at least try out some free games like Destiny 2 or Fortnite to see if it works for you.

Additionally, if you do end up wanting to purchase some games to play with GeForce Now, you are not tied to the service long term. The games you’re playing in GeForce Now are accessed through your own Steam, Epic Games Store, or other distribution service that you’ll be able to load up locally on your own computer if/when you get your own gaming PC. So if you’re just getting started in PC gaming, or simply want to check out cloud gaming in general, we’d recommend starting here at the very low cost of free.

Read our full GeForce Nowreview 2. Xbox Cloud Gaming – Best value Xbox Cloud Gaming - Best value

Pros

Impressive game library all included with subscription “Out of the box” functionality

Cons

Video compression makes a big impact on visual quality Not all games are staying in the game library MSRP: 14.99 Best Prices Today: $14.99 at Microsoft

There may be contention over which major gaming brands make the best hardware—but for most folks, it really just comes down to the games themselves to determine where you’re going to play them. Xbox Cloud Gaming, a component of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, grants access to the entire Xbox Game Pass game library, and that library is both impressive and ever-changing.

For $14.99/month, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers access to over 350 games, from Skyrim to Deep Rock Galactic to Boyfriend Dungeon to Battlefield V and plenty more. While the cloud gaming experience can have some notable amounts of compression artifacts from time to time, it still means playing some of the best games available without too much of an investment.

Read our full Xbox Cloud Gamingreview 3. Amazon Luna – Best casual experience Amazon Luna - Best casual experience

Pros

Very intuitive interface Some games playable with friends that aren’t subscribed to Luna Incredible deal to access very specific games

Cons

Game library is a few years behind Multiple channels with different costs can add up quickly MSRP: Various subcriptions from $4.99/mo to $17.99/mo Best Prices Today: 9.99 at Amazon

Amazon Luna is an extension of Amazon’s efforts in the gaming industry and it brings a fantastic and smooth user experience with a niche selection of games at a reasonable price. Amazon Luna splits its available games up into various channels, which can be paid for separately, making it both one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive subscription models in this list, depending on what you’re going for.

Notably, Amazon Luna offers a strong roster of retro and family-friendly games, if you’re looking to either dive into some nostalgia or enjoy some gaming with your family without having to buy and connect old and new game systems. Additionally, with a free rotation of games for Prime members and an incredible deal on playing Jackbox Games, it can make for a great party pick for you and your friends both locally and online.

Read our full Amazon Lunareview 4. Playstation Plus – Up and comer Playstation Plus - Up and comer

Pros

Visual quality can be spectacular Some really great games in the included library

Cons

The user experience and app interface needs a complete overhaul Questionable connection stability and a lack of troubleshooting tools to address it MSRP: 17.99 Best Prices Today: $17.99 at Sony

PlayStation Plus on PC is Sony’s follow-up to its now shuttered PlayStation Now service, and while their heart seems to be there, it still has some catching up to do. Largely, you can access quite a few games, including many PlayStation exclusives from the original PlayStation through PlayStation 4, but we did run into a few issues.

Similar to Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation Plus on PC is a component of a larger service, PlayStation Plus Premium, but unlike Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation Plus on PC needs a lot of help when it comes to what makes a solid PC service and application, from the user interface to connection stability. If you are a PlayStation Plus Premium member already, though, then do check the PC app out.

Read our full Playstation Plusreview What to look for in a cloud gaming service

There are three major aspects to consider when it comes to a cloud gaming service: technical requirements, game library, and your own plans for the future.

Technical requirements

When it comes to technical requirements, it’s mostly about having a fast and stable internet connection. The bare minimum seems to be about 10Mbps for some of these services, but 20Mbps or higher should be good to get started on any of them. They all recommend using wired internet connections, or they may have specific recommendations for what your Wi-Fi network at home needs. Additionally, if your internet service has data consumption caps, then be aware that these kinds of services will use a ton of that data, similar to streaming high-quality video.

Other technical requirements, such as processing power, RAM, and monitor quality are all going to vary by your needs. But generally speaking, if your device can handle a high-quality Netflix or Hulu stream, it should be able to handle cloud gaming streams. If you’re looking to get into the 4K experiences with GeForce Now or Google Stadia, then you will need a monitor to support that, too. Additionally, both Xbox Cloud Gaming and PlayStation Plus on PC do require a game controller to play games on their services—though that does not necessarily have to be their branded controllers, so long as it has enough buttons.

Game library

When it comes down to it, the games are what you’re here for. Every service has its own included or compatible game library, and you can look those up ahead of time. If you’re looking for specific games, then definitely look to see which services, if any, offer them. Otherwise, if you’re looking to keep up with the latest releases, then do note which services are getting those new releases activated ASAP. None of them seem to fully keep pace with modern release schedules, but both Xbox and Google seem to be trying their hardest to get there, with GeForce Now following close behind.

Cloud gaming goals

Lastly, think about what you want out of your cloud gaming experience. Are you just looking to have some games to play when you’re traveling or staying with family for an extended period? Are you just getting into gaming and want a more affordable option to see if you’d stick with it before buying into expensive hardware? Maybe you’re just looking to be able to play some specific games with a group of friends? Each of the major cloud gaming services seems to have a different approach to their offerings, making it possible to shop around for the right fit.

How we test cloud gaming services

We dove deep into all of these services to get the best feel for what they’re offering, including getting technical specifications when possible, testing each service in identical locations for comparisons, and trying to get the more subjective perspective of whether it feels good to play.

Our main test location was in Texas, U.S. on a home Spectrum internet connection with a minimum 400Mbps down and 25Mbps up, and a maximum of about +10 percent for both speeds. Latencies were tested against major server locations for each gaming session to ensure there weren’t any unexpected problems getting in the way there. GeForce Now was the only service that included its own speed testing and troubleshooting tools, so we confirmed that conditions were good there, and then recorded the other speed and latency stats to recreate that connectivity as best we could with the other cloud gaming services for as much consistency as possible.

All of our testing was done on a custom gaming PC with a Ryzen 7 1700X CPU, 32GB of Corsair DDR4-3600 RAM, an EVGA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB XC3 Ultra GPU, and both a 1080p and a 4K monitor. For controls, we used the same Razer Basilisk v2 mouse and Corsair K70 RGB Pro keyboard when relevant, as well as both an Xbox One and a PlayStation 4 controller connected to the PC with USB cables. All tests were done on the Windows 10 Pro 64-bit OS.

Some, but not all, services offer both a web browser interface and a standalone Windows application to browse and launch games. All of our tests were done with both when relevant, and our full reviews reference which seemed to provide the better experience in both browsing and playing. For the web browser access, we tested with both Firefox and Google Chrome with little difference between the two except for Stadia, which calls for Chrome.

When it came to game performance, we were not able to capture accurate frames-per-second or benchmarking data for every service, so data for those comparisons were not directly measured. This largely has to do with the obfuscation of information, and that most of the cloud gaming services are running console versions of the games on their platform, meaning much of the PC testing options simply aren’t available for in-game testing. Even if we could, our performance stats wouldn’t necessarily match anyone else’s since those results would be tied more closely to internet speeds and latency issues, which can depend simply on how far your PC is from a service’s data center.

The feeling of gameplay came down to a handful of tests. Some games are available on multiple services, so we would be sure to play the same game across multiple services to see if things like responsiveness felt the same between them. Additionally, we would specifically pick out games that required what people consider “tight” or quick response controls to play successfully, including various platformers, fighting games, and action RPGs. Additionally, we would compare the cloud gaming experience to just playing the same game locally on the test rig to see if anything did feel notably off. The results are subjective and are likely to be more noticeable for more experienced players, especially in the competitive gaming space.

FAQ 1. How does cloud gaming work?

Think of it as something between playing an online game and watching Netflix. You are connecting to a server somewhere on the internet, and that server has the hardware that your account and game is running on. The video feed of that game is then being streamed back to your device, where you send controls back through your connected controller or mouse & keyboard. In this setup, it’s important to have both a stable, high-speed internet connection and low latency to the cloud gaming service. GeForce Now explicitly references the importance of latency in its service, and we agree. Poor latency will mean longer delays between what you do on your controller and what you see on screen, and in many games, that’s just a bad time.

2. Can cloud games be played offline?

No. While some video streaming services allow you to temporarily download videos to watch offline later, cloud gaming requires an active internet connection to the cloud servers. The big point is that those cloud servers are doing the heavy lifting for the game’s performance, and gaming is a constant back-and-forth of interaction between you and the gaming system, so if you’re not connected to the hardware, you’re not able to play your games. If you’re looking to play games offline, you’ll need the local hardware to support it.

3. Does cloud gaming use a lot of data?

It sure does! At the lowest, cloud gaming is on-par with constantly streaming very high-quality videos, using seemingly a few GB of data per hour. When the cloud gaming services say they need a 15Mbps internet connection, they mean it, so you can extrapolate from there. While all of these services are figuring out the optimal quality and compression options, it’s fair to look at some of the long-time players in media streaming as the ideal for what cloud gaming data usage could be, but know it will be more. If you’re looking to take advantage of the 4K options where available, expect the data usage to go up to match.

Gaming
Ubisoft promises free PC codes for Stadia players

As a publisher, Ubisoft is all-in on cloud gaming, even if some of its partners aren’t. You can play its biggest titles on Xbox Game Pass streaming, Nvidia GeForce Now, and Stadia — in fact, Ubisoft was Google’s very first game streaming partner, offering Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for the service’s unnamed beta way back in 2018. Google Stadia is not long for this world, but Ubisoft wants to make sure its players aren’t left in a lurch: it’s offering Stadia players free codes on the PC platform Ubisoft Connect.

Ubisoft took to Twitter (spotted by KitGuru) to announce that it’s planning on offering Stadia players who purchased Ubisoft games replacements for the PC. Details are scarce — we don’t know if games claimed for free as part of the Stadia Pro monthly promotions will count, or if the company is considering offering codes for consoles as well. (After all, part of the appeal of Stadia and other streaming platforms is that you don’t need a powerful gaming PC to play.)

While Stadia will shut down on January 18, 2023, we're happy to share that we're working to bring the games you own on Stadia to PC through Ubisoft Connect. We'll have more to share regarding specific details as well as the impact for Ubisoft+ subscribers at a later date.

— Ubisoft Support (@UbisoftSupport) September 30, 2022

Ubisoft says that it will have more to announce later. Presumably the codes will be offered in addition to the full refunds for both Stadia hardware and software, already promised by Google.

The announcement of the Stadia closure has caused a lot of headaches for developers. Hitman maker IO interactive says that it’s “looking into ways for you to continue your Hitman experience on other platforms,” and Muse Games is offering Embr owners Steam codes for those who bought the game on Stadia. Developers of the very few Stadia-exclusive games are in a bit of a lurch. Both Q-Games and Tequila Works, developers of PixelJunk Raiders and Gylt respectively, say they’re looking at options for porting their games to other platforms.

Players aren’t thrilled, either. While Stadia’s userbase wasn’t huge, those that used the service regularly were passionate and aren’t left with an alternative that offers a one-to-one feature replacement. One Red Dead Online player reports that they’ve spent 6,000 hours in the multiplayer game with no clear way to continue their save file once Stadia shuts down in January.

Gaming
Best laptop deals: Top picks from budget to extreme

Finding the right laptop is hard work. Do you go with Intel or AMD? What about memory and storage type? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Whether you’re looking for a powerful gaming rig for those late-night gaming sessions or a portable 2-in-1 laptop for work, we’ve got a bunch of options to pick from. The team at PCWorld has been scouring the web for the best laptop deals. Not all laptop deals are considered actual deals, though. That’s why we’ve been parsing out all of the bad ones.

Right now, we’re seeing steep discounts on high-end gaming machines, Dell XPS laptops, and Chromebooks. As a way to better guide you, we’ve also included a shopping advice section at the end of the article. If you’re interested in perusing the top notebook options regardless of price, check out our roundup of the best laptops period.

The best laptop deals in 2022 Dell XPS 13

From Dell

Was: $999

Now: $849 ($150 off)

Dell XPS 13

Dell

The Dell XPS 13 is a lovely laptop for productivity, and the latest in a long line of beloved ultraportables that have been earning our strong recommendation for years now. It has an Intel Core i5-1230U CPU, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. That’s enough juice for checking e-mail, watching Netflix, spreadsheet work, and so on. The 13.4-inch non-touch display has a resolution of 1920×1080. It’s also rather lightweight at two and a half pounds, which really ups the portability factor. If you’re looking for a great all-around laptop with plenty of class, the Dell XPS 13 is definitely worth considering—especially at this price.

See the Dell XPS 13 at Dell

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

From: Best Buy

Was: $1,349.99

Now: $999.99 ($350 off)

Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Microsoft

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a great pick for anyone who values portability, but still needs processing oomph. It’s more compact and lightweight than traditional clamshell laptops thanks to the versatile 2-in-1 design with a detachable keyboard. It comes armed with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. That means this laptop is fast enough to handle productivity work as well as day-to-day tasks. The 13-inch display has a resolution of 2880×1920 and is touch-enabled. There’s even a 1080p webcam, which is always a plus. This is a fantastic deal.

See the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 at Best Buy

HP Envy

From: HP

Was: $1,749.99

Now: $1,449.99 ($300 off)

HP Envy

HP

The HP Envy laptop is a good choice for either work or play. Aesthetically speaking, it doesn’t look like a traditional gaming laptop, meaning you won’t find any red accents or sharp edges here. The silver chassis is chic and clean. That said, it’s more than just a pretty face. Inside, you’ll find an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. This potent laptop is capable of chewing through most games on high graphics. The 16-inch, edge-to-edge glass display is nice as well. It has a resolution of 2560×1600 and a refresh rate of 120Hz. HP even claims the screen is capable of up to 400 nits of brightness, which is pretty darn bright. Overall, this is an excellent deal. You better swoop in now before it vanishes into the nether.

See the HP Envy at HP

Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360

From: Best Buy

Was: $1,649.99

Now: $1,449.99 ($200 off)

Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360

Samsung

Between the convertible form factor and the impressive battery life, the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 is an excellent pick for business professionals or students. Under the hood, you’ll find Intel Core i7-1260P CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. That’s zippy enough for tasks like word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and so on. The roomy 15.6-inch AMOLED display also has a resolution of 1920×1080 and is touch-enabled. This is an epic deal. You better jump on it before it’s too late.

See Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 at Best Buy

HP Omen

From: HP

Was: $1,299.99

Now: $1,049.99 ($250 off)

HP Omen

HP

The HP Omen is a good option for budget-conscious gamers. It has an Intel Core i5-12500H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. That’s enough oomph to run most games on high graphics. However, when it comes to newer titles, you may want to scale things back to medium. The 16.1-inch display is rather spacious and has a resolution of 1920×1080. The refresh rate is 144Hz, which should provide you with smooth visuals. If you’re looking for solid gaming bang for your buck, the HP Omen is definitely worth considering.

See the HP Omen at HP

Lenovo Legion 5

From: eBay

Was: $899.99

Now: $589.99 ($310 off)

Lenovo Legion 5

Lenovo

The Lenovo Legion 5 is an excellent laptop for the gamer on a budget, and you almost never see gaming laptops going this cheap. It has an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. The display has a resolution of 1920×1080 and a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. Given the entry-level GPU, you may want to scale the graphics back to medium or high on newer titles. That said, this laptop shouldn’t have any trouble running older games. For ports, it has one HDMI, one USB Type-C, one DisplayPort, and one headphone/microphone combo. This laptop will likely sell out fast, as it’s a killer deal.

See the Lenovo Legion 5 at eBay

Lenovo IdeaPad

From: Best Buy

Was: $779.99

Now: $579.99 ($200 off)

Lenovo IdeaPad

Lenovo

The Lenovo IdeaPad is a great pick for productivity use. It’s armed with an AMD Ryzen 7 5700U CPU, AMD Radeon integrated graphics, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. That’s plenty of power for spreadsheet work, checking e-mail, and so on. The 15.6-inch display has a resolution of 1920×1080, which is perfectly suitable for most tasks. For connectivity options, it has one HDMI, one USB 2.0 Type-A, one USB 3.0 Type-A, and one USB 3.0 Type-C. This is a good deal for anyone who needs a laptop with some decent processing chops.

See the Lenovo IdeaPad at Best Buy

Samsung Chromebook Plus

From: Amazon

Was: $500

Now: $357.95 ($142.05 off)

Samsung Chromebook Plus

Samsung

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is a good option for someone who needs a lightweight convertible. It has an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of memory, and 32GB of eMMC storage. It’s a little light on storage and memory, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you store most of your stuff in the cloud. The 11-inch touchscreen display has a resolution of 1900×1200, and the Chromebook has two USB-C ports. It’s powerful enough for everyday browser tasks like checking e-mail, writing papers, listening to music, and so on. The 2-in-1 also weighs a little under three pounds, making it a capable travel companion. Plus, it comes with a stylus for doodling or note taking.

See the Samsung Chromebook Plus at Amazon

Dell XPS 15

From: Dell

Was: $1,899

Now: $1,499 ($400 off)

Dell XPS 15

Dell

The Dell XPS 15 is both powerful and easy on the eyes. It’s rocking an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU (4GB GDDR6), 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. This laptop should be able to handle some gaming as well as productivity and content creation tasks thanks to its powerful internals and discrete GPU. The 15.6-inch display is roomy and has a resolution of 1920×1200. Dell even claims the screen measures up to 500 nits of brightness. The platinum silver exterior is also chic and sophisticated, nicely complimenting the black interior. Overall, this is a really nice laptop, going for an even nicer price.

See the Dell XPS 15 at Dell

Dell Inspiron 7506

From: Best Buy

Was: $899.99

Now: $649.99 ($250 off)

Dell Inspiron 7506

Dell

The Dell Inspiron 7506 is a good laptop for productivity. It features an Intel Core i5 1135G7 CPU, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. The 15.6-inch display has a resolution of 1920×1080, which is perfectly fine for working on spreadsheets and writing e-mail’s. This laptop also happens to be a 2-in-1. That means you can prop it up like a painter’s easel for sharing information or swing the screen all the way around for when you want to use it like a tablet. It’s a really nice, versatile device. It’s definitely a solid option for business professionals or students.

See the Dell Inspiron 7506 at Best Buy

Asus Vivobook Pro 14 K3400 An Asus VivoBook Pro 14 facing from right.

Asus

From: Walmart

Was: $749

Now: $599 ($150 off)

If you’re into creative work, the Asus Vivobook Pro 14 is a fantastic option. This laptop has a 14-inch 2880-by-1800 OLED display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. OLED screens are great, so you can expect a sharper, more vibrant image. The Vivobook is also packing a Core i5-1330H, a Tiger Lake CPU with four cores, eight threads, and a boost to 4.4GHz. There’s even 8GB of RAM, which is a good amount for some video editing. Onboard storage is a 256GB NVMe SSD, and you’re getting Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.0.

This is a nice laptop with a very good display, but for storage you’ll likely have to rely mostly on the cloud. Speaking of which, you also get a free three month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud as part of the package.

See the Asus Vivobook Pro 14 K3400 at Walmart

Lenovo Slim 7i

From: Costco

Was: $1,499.99

Now: $1,199.99 ($300 off)

Lenovo Slim 7i

Lenovo

The Lenovo Slim 7i is a fantastic machine for editing work. It features an Intel Core i7 12700H CPU, Intel Arc-A370M graphics (4GB), 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. The real highlight here is the whopping 32GB of memory, though. That’s a rare find, especially at this price point. The 16-inch touchscreen display is lovely, too. It should provide a vibrant picture thanks to the 2560×1600 resolution and 144Hz refresh rate. When it comes to connectivity options, you’re getting one Thunderbolt 4, two USB Type-A, one HDMI, one headphone/microphone combo jack, and one SD media card reader. Overall, this is a real gem. You better jump on it before it’s gone.

See the Lenovo Slim 7i at Costco

Acer Aspire A5 (Intel) A silver laptop facing front running Windows 11

Acer

From: Amazon

Was: $389.99

Now: $322.99 ($67 off)

We already have a similar model from the same series available in this roundup, but this one is a little cheaper and swaps a Ryzen 3 APU for an Intel Core i3 processor. This version of the Acer Aspire A5 still has a 15.6-inch 1080p display, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard NVMe storage. It’s also rocking Windows 11 Home in S Mode. You can do a one-way switch to regular Windows 11 Home if you prefer, but you may not want to given the CPU.

The big difference is the processor. This model has the Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i3-1115G4, which has two cores, four threads, and a boost to 4.1GHz. That’s good enough for casual uses like web browsing, video streaming, and so on. It would likely struggle as a productivity laptop, but for someone with light computing requirements, it offers a nice size screen at a solid price.

See the Acer Aspire A5-515-56-36UT at Amazon

Acer Aspire 3 a silver laptop running Windows 11

Acer

From: Walmart

Was: $549

Now: $479 ($70 off)

You don’t often find a laptop deal with an Intel Alder Lake CPU, which is why we decided to highlight this specific sale. The Acer Aspire 3 features Intel’s Core i5-1235U with eight efficiency cores and two performance cores with HyperThreading for a total of 12 threads and a maximum boost to 4.4GHz. It also has 8GB of RAM, a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution, 256GB of onboard storage, Intel Iris Xe graphics, and it’s running Windows 11 Home.

See the Acer Aspire 3 at Walmart

Acer Aspire 5 A515 a gray laptop with Windows 11 on the screen

Acer

From: Amazon

Was: $399.99

Now: $367.89 ($32 off)

If you’re looking for a solid everyday laptop, you’ve come to the right place. The Acer Aspire 5 features a 15.6-inch 1080p display, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard SSD storage. The processor is a Ryzen 3 3350U, which has four cores, four threads, and a maximum boost to 3.5GHz. It’s packed with modern features like Wi-Fi 6, a backlit keyboard, and a fingerprint reader for biometric logins. Acer starts this laptop off with Windows 11 in S mode, but there’s no reason not to do a one-way upgrade to full Windows 11. This is being sold by a third-party retailer, but Amazon is handling shipping, which means it falls under the company’s return policy.

See the Acer Aspire 5 A515 at Amazon

HP Victus 15

From: Amazon

Was: $979.99

Now: $800.94 ($179.04 off)

HP Victus 15

HP

If you’re in the market for a reasonably priced gaming laptop, then you’ve come to the right place. The HP Victus 15 is affordable and has decent specs. It’s rocking an Intel Core i5 12500H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. It should run most older games on high or very high, but you’ll want to scale back the graphics on AAA titles. The 15.6-inch display is a good size and the 1920×1080 resolution is fine for most games. This is a good deal, but it’s not going to last very long. It’s part of Amazon’s gaming week sale, which runs until September 9th.

See the HP Victus 15 at Amazon

Lenovo 5 Pro

From: eBay

Was: $1,969.99

Now: $1,399.99 ($570 off)

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro

Lenovo

The Lenovo 5 Pro delivers some serious graphics power at a competitive price. This gaming machine features an AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. The processor has eight cores and a maximum turbo speed of 4.70 GHz. In other words, it should be powerful enough to run most AAA titles on high or ultra graphics. The 16-inch display has a resolution of 2560×1600 and a refresh rate of 165Hz. You can expect buttery smooth visuals as well as a vibrant picture. For connectivity options, you’re getting one HDMI, three USB 3.2 Gen 1, three USB 3.2 Gen 2, and one 2.3m headphone/microphone combo jack.

This is a hot ticket item, so we don’t expect it to last very long.

See the Lenovo 5 Pro at eBay

Laptop deal buying tips

If you’ve shopped online before for laptop deals you’re probably aware that there’s a vast range of laptop configurations available.

A good place to start is with the processor. Buy laptops with Intel 10-series Core chips or higher, such as the Core i5-10510U, or the Core i7-11800H (for even more details see our Intel 10th-gen mobile CPU buying guide); or go with an AMD Ryzen processor (but not an AMD Athlon or A-series chip). Avoid laptops with Pentium or Celeron processors unless it’s a Chromebook (running Chrome OS). You’re going to need to pay attention with gaming laptops, too, as some GPUs, like the RTX 3050 Ti, don’t offer much boost over their RTX 2xxx-series cousins, and Nvidia has dropped the Max-Q designation on certain low-power options. Our laptop CPU and GPU cheat sheet can help you shop smart.

Display resolution is a gotcha. If you see a laptop labeled as “HD” resolution that means 1366-by-768 and often isn’t worth your time for a laptop under 13 inches unless the deal is absolutely standout. What you want is “Full HD” or “FHD,” which means 1080p.

Don’t buy laptops with under 4GB of RAM or 128GB of SSD storage—though on a Chromebook, this configuration is acceptable. We have more explanation in our laptops versus Chromebooks buying guide, as well as in our primer on how to buy a budget laptop without getting screwed. Also watch out for eMMC storage, which is something we don’t recommend for a Windows laptop but works fine for a Chromebook.

Reviews can be helpful. Even if you can’t find a review of a specific configuration, try related models. They’ll often give you a good idea of the build quality and performance. Also buy from brands you trust. Amazon’s daily laptop deals right now are full of brands we’ve never tested or talked to (Broage, Teclast, DaySky, Jumper) and it’s just a good idea to be wary.

Most older laptops will run Windows 10, and that’s fine—there’s no rush to upgrade. Windows 10 in S Mode, though annoying, can be switched out of easily if you find it on a budget laptop. If you want to buy a Windows 10 PC with the intent of upgrading it to Windows 11, we recommend you start here with a list of older laptops that are Windows 11-eligible.

Updated on October 3 with new pricing and to remove expired deals.

Laptops
Save $200 on this ultra-luxurious Samsung convertible laptop

If you’re on the hunt for a swanky convertible laptop, the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 is worth considering, as it exhibits strong processing performance and long battery life. Luckily for you, it’s currently on sale. Best Buy’s selling the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 for $1,449.99. That’s a savings of $200.

When we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 back in May, we were so impressed that we gave it four stars and an Editor’s Choice badge. In addition to the awesome CPU performance, it also lasted 14 hours during our battery stress test, which is nothing to sneeze at. Inside, you’ll find an Intel Core i7-1260P CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. It should have no problem chewing through tasks like word processing, web browsing, video conferencing, and so on. The roomy 15.6-inch AMOLED display has a resolution of 1920×1080 and is touch-enabled.

This is an epic deal and a solid choice for students or business professionals. You better jump on it before it’s too late.

Get the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 for $1,449.99 at Best Buy

Laptops
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X review: A great CPU muted by AM5’s high costs

Announcements of CPU processors tend to focus on bigger, better, faster—which usually means concentrated attention on the flagship chip. But back in August, when AMD finally spilled details about Ryzen 7000, the most startling info wasn’t about the top-of-the-line, beefy Ryzen 9 7950X. Instead, Team Red shocked everyone by saying that the humble Ryzen 5 7600X could beat Intel’s flagship Core i9-12900K.

Ryzen 5 7600X Ryzen 5 7600X MSRP: $299 Best Prices Today: $299 at AMD | $299 at Newegg | $299.99 at Best Buy

Now that the 7600X is here, it’s clear that AMD wasn’t exaggerating. This 6-core, 12-thread chip is beastly in gaming, able to go to toe-to-toe with rivals far above its weight class. And it can do so in multiple titles.

We’d call it a clear win for AMD—except the chip is dragged down by the very advances that help its siblings shine.

Ryzen 7000, recapped

You can read our initial write-up about Ryzen 7000 for the full technical details of AMD’s first Zen 4 chips. (Alternatively, you can zip through the condensed summary if you’re short on time.) But in a nutshell, the launch chips sport substantial improvements in clock speed and performance over Ryzen 5000, their predecessor.

AMD Ryzen 7000 pricesThe launch line up for Ryzen 7000 is made up of four chips.

AMD

These advancements are the result of several firsts for AMD. Ryzen 7000 chips are the first on 5nm, first to use Zen 4 architecture, and the first compatible with the company’s new AM5 socket. AM5 offers a couple of major advancements over the long-lived, much-beloved socket AM4 platform—namely, support for lightning-fast PCIe 5 components and DDR5 memory, plus a shift to an LGA design that supports higher power use (and ends the era of bent CPU pins, as LGA moves pins to the motherboard socket instead).

AM5 socket (angled shot)Ryzen 7000 chips use an LGA design, which moves the pins from the CPU to the motherboard socket.

Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

And Ryzen 7000 definitely stretches into that higher energy draw. For the 7600X, you’re looking at an expected wattage of 105 watts drawn under load. If the chip draws more power while boosting, its cap as provided by its AM5 socket is 230W. The 5600X was rated at 65W, with a limit of 142W through its AM4 socket.

Ryzen 7000’s other major new feature is integrated graphics, which will make it easier to troubleshoot problems with your PC—you won’t have to have a dedicated graphics card plugged in to get a video signal. And when budget chips eventually launch, you can save cash by skipping the added expense of a discrete card for basic-use PCs.

Performance

As a 6-core, 12-thread chip, the Ryzen 5 7600X is ostensibly branded as a more affordable mid-tier option—a processor meant for focused use in gaming and productivity (Microsoft Office, web browsing, photo editing, etc.) But this CPU can often flex its muscles as hard as bigger, badder processors in those areas, if not harder. Let’s dive into the numbers.

A note about our data: The benchmark scores in this review were generously provided to us by our colleague Sebastian Schenzinger from our sister site, PC Welt. (You can read his Ryzen 7600X review in German.) For detailed info on the test machines used in his benchmarks, jump to end of this article.

Gaming

We’ll start with the unexpected battle between the Ryzen 5 7600X and Intel Core i9-12900K. It’s a riveting showdown—at 1080p (the most popular resolution for gaming), AMD’s 7600X edges out Team Blue’s flagship part in 5 of the 12 games in PC Welt’s benchmark suite.

7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks7900X Review DE - 1080p benchmarks

To view our benchmark charts at full size, right-click (PC) or long press (mobile) on the image and then open it in a new tab or window.

The size of the wins are uneven, however, with the Ryzen 5 7600X taking a clear lead in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and the 12900K punching harder in Cyberpunk 2077. In other games, the difference is much smaller—just bare percentage points. Regardless, you can still see that AMD’s claims weren’t just carefully curated marketing. Its 6-core, 12-thread processor can hold its own against Intel’s $589 20-core, 24-thread flagship CPU. Sure, the story would be more incredible if the 7600X won in every single benchmark, but this outcome is still a feat.

Also interesting is the 7600X’s performance compared to Ryzen 5000’s gaming demon, the incredible Ryzen 7 5800X3D. The latter (and its fancy 3D V-Cache tech) stole the gaming crown from Intel upon launch back in April, but despite being superseded by Ryzen 7000, it still has plenty of pep in its step. On the whole, the 5800X3D outperforms the 7600X across the board—an interesting fact to keep in mind, given sale prices for the 5800X3D have dropped it into the mid-$300s as of late.

SoTR - 720p DE 7900X reviewCyberpunk 2077 - 720p DE 7900X reviewAC Valhalla - 720p DE 7900X reviewDoom Eternal - 720p DE 7900X reviewF1 2020 - 720p DE 7900X reviewTotal War Troy - 720p DE 7900X reviewBattlefield V - 720p DE 7900X reviewRDR2 - 720p DE 7900X reviewBorderlands 3 - 720p DE 7900X reviewHitman 3 - 720p DE 7900X reviewWatch Dogs Legion - 720p DE 7900X reviewThe Division 2 - 720p DE 7900X review

To view our benchmark charts at full size, right-click (PC) or long press (mobile) on the image and then open it in a new tab or window.

Not convinced of the Ryzen 5 7600X’s accomplishments? We can drop down to 720p. It’s no longer a common gaming resolution, but reducing the number of pixels provides a less diluted measurement of CPU performance. Because the GPU has the easier job at lower resolutions, it’s on the CPU to keep up.

Like at 1080p, you’ll see similar trends in chip performance between the 7600X and the 12900K (including the same uneven variance between individual games), though the percentage differences widen. The same holds true for the 7600X and 5800X3D.

Production

Outside of gaming, you’ll most commonly use a processor like the Ryzen 5 7600X for light photo editing and infrequent encoding of game captures or a crunched-down home video. Impressively, the Ryzen 5 7600X sings in Adobe Photoshop—it even bests the Core i9-12900K by a tiny amount.

7900X DE review - PugetBench Adobe Photoshop

Sebastian Schenzinger / PC Welt

Move into tasks like video editing, encoding, and rendering, and the Core i9-12900K surges ahead, as you’d expect—those multithreaded tasks take full advantage of the 12900K’s greater number of cores and threads, which make it suited for heavy workloads.

7900X DE review - Cinebench R23

Sebastian Schenzinger / PC Welt

7900X DE review - Handbrake 1.3.3

Sebastian Schenzinger / PC Welt

The more fair head-to-head is against the Intel Core i5-12600K, the 7600X’s comparable rival. You can expect similar performance in programs like Davinci Resolve, Premiere Pro, and Handbrake, though the chips trade the top spot depending on the program. Incidentally, in Premiere Pro, the 12600K may be more of the true winner, even though the 7600X wins on raw performance. Because Adobe makes use of Intel’s QuickSync technology, which taps the chips’ integrated graphics to speed things up, it can give Team Blue a sizable advantage in performance. If you look at our Ryzen 9 7950X review, the 7950X gets beaten by the 12900K in Premiere by almost 20 percent. If for some reason you end up working in Premiere Pro, the time saved with an Intel chip can materially affect how much you can get done in one day—especially when you’re working on a side project or labor of love.

7900X DE review - PugetBench DaVinci Resolve

Sebastian Schenzinger / PC Welt

7900X DE review - PugetBench Adobe Premiere Pro

Sebastian Schenzinger / PC Welt

In these kinds of tasks, the 7600X also often comes very close performance to the Ryzen 7 5800X and 5800X3D. It’s particularly impressive, given that those chips launched at much higher list prices ($150 more) than the 7600X.

Final thoughts

AMD’s Ryzen 5 7600X is clearly an outstanding processor. But it has one major problem, and that’s cost.

Everything is more expensive these days, including CPUs. Two generations ago, the 3600X was $250, while the 8-core, 16-thread 3700X came in at $329. With the 7600X, you’re still paying more for fewer cores. 

Some folks, like my colleague Gordon Mah Ung, would argue that’s the entry fee to badass new tech—especially since AMD offers such top-notch performance. (Just as it did for Ryzen 5000.) That’s a fair point, but other core components are still pricier, too. DDR5 memory is still about twice as expensive as DDR4 memory, and an AM5 motherboard with full PCIe 5 support for graphics cards and storage carry a premium. Those features help the 7950X and 7900X scream in benchmarks, and help future-proof the AM5 motherboard platform, but they also add to the necessary budget for a mid-range gaming build.

MSI B650 motherboard on a pink/white gradientAMD’s B650 and B650E motherboards will cost less than X670 and X670E variants, but they won’t necessarily be cheap. This MSI Pro Wi-Fi model is listed on B&H for $220.

MSI

Of course, you don’t need to go to an extreme with future-proofing on a mid-tier system. And since it’s unlikely you won’t—there’s not much stopping you from considering reasonable alternatives.

Take the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. As we saw earlier, it outperforms the 7600X in games. You can find plenty of affordable options for DDR4 memory and AM4 motherboards, too. With the 5800X3D going on sale semi-regularly as of late, it comes out to roughly the same outlay as with a 7600X. (At the time of this writing, you could get a 5800X3D for $365 on sale at Newegg.) Depending on your preferences and upgrade plans, getting higher framerates could justify sticking with the now-stagnant AM4 platform, and its lack of PCIe 5 and DDR5 support.

Intel Raptor Lake 13th-gen Core processor specs pricesIntel’s 13th-gen Raptor Lake parts are just around the corner.

Intel

There’s also Intel’s 13th-gen Raptor Lake to consider, which is coming October 20th. Team Blue says its upcoming chips will be up to 24 percent faster than 12th-gen Alder Lake in games. A $319 Core i5-13600K could end up supplanting the 7600X as the best mid-tier gaming CPU. For added appeal, the company also renewed its support for both DDR4 or DDR5 memory, making it still possible to buy a DDR4 motherboard for lower-cost RAM.

And for people with a longer horizon, more Ryzen 7000 processors should eventually arrive. Though AMD has not announced their future plans for Ryzen 7000, a less costly Ryzen 5 7600 or similarly priced Ryzen 7 7700 will likely join the lineup down the road. DDR5 memory will continue to drop in price too.

The short of it is, the Ryzen 5 7600X screams, but isn’t quite a must-buy chip for mid-range gaming builds just yet. Budgets and value matter—even more so than incredible performance.

Ryzen 5 7600X Ryzen 5 7600X MSRP: $299 Best Prices Today: $299 at AMD | $299 at Newegg | $299.99 at Best Buy Ryzen 5 7600X test machine info Ryzen 7900X review DE - AMD test system info

PCWorld

Ryzen 7900X review DE - Intel test system info

PCWorld

CPUs and Processors
Why I switched to Bitwarden for my password manager

Like many former users of LastPass, I was miffed when the company delivered an ultimatum to non-paying customers last year. I’ve since switched to Bitwarden, and haven’t looked back.

Without a $36 per year subscription, LastPass now limits users to one device type—mobile or computer—per account. That means free users must choose between accessing their passwords on either a laptop and a phone, which isn’t much of a choice for a lot of people.

Bitwarden Bitwarden Read our review

While I’m not fundamentally opposed to paying for useful services, I don’t like being forced to pay for something when a company can’t make its freemium business model work. With password managers in particular, there are plenty of other options, both free and paid, that work just as well as LastPass did.

And so, I took my years of LastPass passwords and moved them over to Bitwarden, another password manager that’s free for basic personal use. The transition was mostly painless, though I ran into a few snags along the way.

While my colleagues Michael Ansaldo and Alaina Yee have written a full Bitwarden review, I thought I’d relate a bit more about my personal experience with the software, plus some ways to make it work even better.

Password managers: A recap

As a refresher, password managers are a great way to break the bad habit of using the same or similar passwords across multiple apps or websites, or even having to remember lots of passwords in the first place. Here’s how it works, using Bitwarden as an example:

Install the Bitwarden extension for your web browser and the Bitwarden app on iOS or Android.Create a Bitwarden account and set up a master password—ideally one that’s both strong and memorable. You’ll need this if you haven’t logged into Bitwarden in a while or if you’re setting up a new device, so consider writing it down and locking it away in a safe place.Whenever you log into a site with your web browser, Bitwarden will show a message offering to save your login credentials. Do this every time.While signing up for new services, use Bitwarden’s extension or app to generate strong passwords (like “7S$b@!QBA12”).When signing into an account, use Bitwarden to fill in those login details.

This admittedly sounds like a hassle, which is why I suspect a lot of folks don’t bother. But once you develop the muscle memory of using a password manager, it’s hard going back to not having one.

Why use Bitwarden as your password manager?

I’ll be honest: I picked Bitwarden mainly because it’s free, but also because it’s open-source, comes recommended by writers I trust, and works across a broad range of devices.

These days, you’ll find that the big tech companies have been beefing up their own password management features. On iOS and Mac, for instance, Apple can generate secure passwords on websites and in apps, and it now offers a Chrome extension for Windows. But looking up your passwords can be a pain if you need to do so manually, and there’s no support for Android devices, Chromebooks, or the Firefox browser. The password management features of Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome have their own limitations that can hinder you from using certain browsers, and besides, I like the idea of not tying all my online credentials to a tech behemoth.

In the long run, I think those built-in solutions will end up replacing password managers for a lot of people anyway, but I don’t think they’re quite ready yet. Bitwarden, meanwhile, is pretty much a drop-in replacement for LastPass, minus the subscription fees. Plus, Bitwarden’s migration guide made switching from LastPass super easy.

Making Bitwarden better

That’s not to say Bitwarden was perfect out of the box. To preserve some of LastPass’ creature comforts, I had to make a handful of tweaks.

On the web, for instance, I suggest heading to Settings > Options and checking “Enable Auto-fill On Page Load,” which fills your info on most login forms without any interaction on your part. Also under Settings, consider changing the Vault timeout action to “Lock,” then enabling “Unlock with PIN” or “Unlock with biometrics,” so you can avoid having to re-enter your master password whenever you open your browser.

Bitwarden settings tweaksTweaking Bitwarden’s auto-lock and auto-fill settings make it a bit easier to use.

Jared Newman / Foundry

You’ll also want to hook Bitwarden into your phone’s auto-fill settings. That way, when you save a login through Bitwarden’s extension, you can quickly access it through apps and websites on your phone.

On iOS, head to iOS Settings > Passwords > AutoFill Passwords, then check off Bitwarden.On Android, head to Bitwarden Settings > Auto-fill Services, then check off “Auto-fill Service.” This brings up another menu where you can select Bitwarden as your password source. (I’d suggest enabling the “Accessibility” and “Draw-Over” options as well.)Choosing an auto-fill service on mobileTo easily access Bitwarden passwords on your phone, make sure to choose it as your autofill service.

Jared Newman / Foundry

Finally, make sure to set up biometric unlocking in BItwarden’s mobile apps, so you don’t have to re-enter your master password for every login. You’ll find the “Unlock with Biometrics” or “Unlock with FaceID” option in the Bitwarden settings menu.

Free vs. Paid

Of course, Bitwarden isn’t just a free service. A $10 per year upgrade lets you generate authentication codes for services that offer two-step logins, plus it provides encrypted file storage and “health reports” that warn you of any compromised passwords. Many of these perks, however, can be worked around with other free services.

For instance, I’m using Authy for two-factor authentication codes. And if you use Chrome or Edge, you can simultaneously save your logins in either browser to take advantage of their respective leak alerts. For encrypted storage of sensitive documents, I use OneDrive’s Personal Vault feature.

Hopefully, BitWarden can do a better job upselling people to its paid service than LastPass did. But if not, this whole exercise has left me ready to switch again.

This story first appeared in my Advisorator newsletter. Sign up to get tech tips in your inbox every week.

Password Managers
Best computer deals: Top PC picks from desktops to all-in-ones

Whether you’re looking for a productivity desktop, a gaming PC powerhouse, or a stylish all-in-one Windows machine, we’ve got you covered. We at PCWorld sort through all of the daily computer sales and put together a curated list of the best deals available. But not all deals are really deals, so we only choose those offered by reputable companies and include great hardware to ensure you get the best value for your money.

Currently, we’re seeing some great deals on gaming computers from the likes of iBuyPower and CyberpowerPC. Dell is also running deals on all-in-ones and they have put some of their high-end line of Alienware gaming computers on clearance this week. We’ve also included some helpful answers to common questions about buying a computer at the bottom of this article. If you’re considering a laptop instead, be sure to check out our best laptop deals, updated daily.

Note: Tech deals come and go quickly, so it’s possible some of these computer discounts will have expired before this article’s next update.

Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 1

From: Dell

Was: $2,489.99

Now: $1,399.99 (44% off)

View Deal

The slick and futuristic computers from Alienware are usually worth the high prices, but it’s even better if you can score one on a clearance deal like this. This Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 comes with a Ryzen 7 5800, a Radeon RX 6800 XT, 16GB RAM, a 1TB PCIe SSD, and a 1TB 7200RPM HDD.

It’s a bit on the high end for a budget rig, but if you can, getting an RX 6800 XT and 2TB of storage for this price is a bargain.

Zotac Gaming MEK Hero G1 Zotac Gaming MEK Hero G1 2

From: Amazon

Was: $1,699.99

Now: $1,104.18 (35% off)

View Deal

Zotac might not be on your radar, but it has tons of near perfect reviews on Amazon and it is on a killer discount right now. This model sports a Core i7-11700KF, GeForce RTX 3060, 16GB RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD. Decent specs for a budget gaming PC and anything that pushes the lower $1000 range with these components plus liquid cooling will always represent a great deal.

HP Pavilion Gaming PC HP Pavilion Gaming PC 3

From: HP

Was: $1,299.99

Now: $949.99 (27% off)

View Deal

HP has its own line of less flashy gaming PCs apart from its premium Omen line of gaming computers. While they might not have all of the RGB and style of their more expensive brethren, they still pack great components and make solid options—especially when on sale.

This model comes with a Ryzen 7 5700G, GeForce RTX 3060, 16GB RAM, a 512GB PCIe SSD, and a 1TB 7200 RPM HDD.

CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme 4

From: Amazon

Was: $1,129.99

Now: $849.99 (25% off)

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This entry-level build from CyberPowerPC gets you all of the hardware to play AAA games without breaking the bank. It might not be able to deliver the best quality on all games, but for those on a budget it’s a great value. It comes with a Core i5-11400F, GeForce RTX 3050, 8GB RAM, and a 500GB PCIe SSD.

CyberpowerPC Gamer Master CyberpowerPC Gamer Master 5

From: Newegg

Was: $1,749.99

Now: $1,299.99 (25% off)

View Deal

Now is the apparently the time to grab a CyberpowerPC as there are some great options on sale. This CyberpowerPC Gamer Master is one of the better deals we have come across recently.

It comes loaded with a Ryzen 7 5700G, GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, 16GB RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD. Just to sweeten the deal, they also throw in a CyberpowerPC gaming mouse and keyboard.

HP All-in-One 24 HP All-in-One 24 6

From: HP

Was: $949.99

Now: $679.99 (28% off)

View Deal

If you’re in the market for a basic no-frills all-in-one for your business or home office, then this deal is for you. The HP All-in-One 24 comes with a Ryzen 5 5625U, AMD Radeon integrated graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe SSD, and a 1TB 7200 RPM HDD. The screen is 23.8 inches and has a resolution of 1920×1080. The specs might not be flashy, but it comes with a ton of storage and will work just fine for anyone looking to get a new budget-friendly desktop all-in-one.

iBuyPower PC SlateMR 281a iBuyPower PC SlateMR 281a 7

From: Amazon

Was: $1,299.99

Now: $949.99 (27% off)

View Deal

This iBuyPower PC SlateMR 281a is being offered at a pretty killer deal. It comes with a Ryzen 5 5600G, GeForce RTX 3060, 16GB RAM, and a 500GB SSD. It’s rare to find computers packing an RTX 3060 for less than $1,000, even with the recent decrease in GPU prices. The specs are pretty standard, but enough to do ray tracing and get you 60fps on most AAA titles. It is a solid budget gaming PC for an even lower price.

HP Envy HP Envy 8

From: HP

Was: $1,299.99

Now: $949.99 (27% off)

View Deal

Want a slick looking home office or family computer? This HP Envy desktop computer comes with everything you need to be productive and still has the chops for light gaming as well. It comes with a Core i5-12400, GeForce RTX 3050, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD. The onboard storage is quite low, but thankfully external hard drives are cheap enough that this still represents a good deal.

Inspiron 24 Touch Inspiron 24 Touch 9

From: Dell

Was: $879.99

Now: $759.99 (14% off)

View Deal

Dell’s Inspiron line of all-in-ones represent good value for the money and this deal is no exception. This Inspiron is a 24-inch touch screen AiO with a Core i5-1235U, Intel UHD integrated graphics, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD. It also has a display resolution of 1920×1080, a built-in webcam, and speakers. The touch screen is a nice added feature that will make this a good all-around option for a family computer.

Dell doesn’t typically offer stellar discounts on their AiOs, so while not outstanding, this deal is about as good as it gets outside of major consumer sales periods such as Black Friday.

FAQ 1. What are good websites to find computer deals?

There are a ton of sites that sell computers, and scouring through all of them would take you a lot of time—that’s why we do it for you here and highlight the best deals we find. However, to save you some time and frustration, you need to be smart about where you look at any given time of the year.

If you’re looking for a new computer during the holidays or around popular sale periods such as Black Friday or back-to-school, then you are likely to find great deals directly through first party vendor websites. These include the retail storefronts of popular computer manufacturers such as HP, Dell, and Lenovo.

However, if you are looking in between sales periods, it’s generally a good idea to search through large third-party retailers such as Amazon, Adorama, Walmart, BestBuy, and Newegg. Oftentimes these websites will offer limited Deals of the Day type sales in hopes of getting rid of excess stock. On the upside, you can score still-decent PCs at a steep discount.

2. When are the best times to find computer deals?

Generally speaking, the best deals are offered during the big sales events each year. These include Prime day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the back-to-school period, among others. You will typically see the lowest prices of the year for computers during these events.

That being said, there are opportunities to find one-off sales on computers throughout the year from both first- and third-party vendors. These sales are much harder to predict and usually have a time limit, such as one day or one week. Realistically, the only way to find these sales is by checking vendor websites every day.

3. What specs should I look for in a good gaming computer?

Since desktop computers don’t have the same restrictions on component size or portability as laptops, the price-to-component ratios are mercifully cheaper than they are in gaming notebooks. This means you can get more gaming bang for your buck in a desktop gaming PC.

When it comes to gaming, the two most important pieces of hardware you’ll want to focus on are the CPU and GPU. Think of the CPU as the heart of your computer, ultimately determining how your system will perform when running software. When looking at a computer’s CPU, you should pay attention to the processor core count which usually ranges from two to 16 cores. At a minimum, you will want four cores, but you might be able to get up to eight cores without stretching your budget too much. For high-end systems, you should be looking at between eight and 16 cores. Although even for high-level gaming, having more than eight cores won’t add much benefit.

A good GPU is essential for gaming and it is going to be the component you will want to splurge on the most. For budget gamers a card that offers affordability and ray tracing is the sweet spot. These include the Nvidia RTX 3060 or AMD RX 6600 or 6600 XT. If you want to game in 4K, it is probably best to go with Nvidia’s RTX 3080 or AMD’s RX 6800 XT.

Beyond the CPU and GPU, the other hardware components are less crucial. As for RAM, you should opt for a minimum of 8GB, but ideally 16GB is better—anything over 16GB is largely unnecessary for gaming purposes. RAM is also relatively inexpensive and easy to upgrade if you need more in the future.

For your hard drive, you will want to have at least one SSD, preferably an M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD if you can afford it. SSDs are faster than their spinning disc predecessors and will boot your games faster and provide improved load times. Storage size is more of a personal preference. You should consider the types of games you will want to play and how many you intend to download. If you plan to store a lot of games on your computer, then you will most likely want a 1TB or larger drive. Note that it’s not uncommon for modern games to have file sizes over 100GB.

4. What makes a good home office computer?

A home office computer should fulfill all of the needs you have for your work. If you work with spreadsheets and multiple programs, you will want a good processor. If you are a content creator then you will need lots of RAM and a blazing fast hard drive.

You should also consider other points such as available space and portability. If you are limited on space, you might want to consider an all-in-one which combines the computer component and monitor into one compact unit. If you don’t want to be fixed to one location, then you might consider purchasing a laptop over a desktop. If so, check out our best laptop deals section.

5. What are the benefits of buying a desktop computer over a laptop?

The main benefit is the cost-to-component ratio. Due to the nature of their use, laptops have design restrictions that desktops simply don’t have. This means you can generally find better hardware in a desktop for cheaper than you can in a laptop.

Desktops also have the unique advantage of being able to pack in better cooling systems. These dissipate more heat and allow your hardware to run more effectively. Also, desktops are easier to upgrade and expand if you choose to do so. 

For a more in-depth analysis you can read our 5 reasons to buy a desktop PC instead of a laptop.

Desktop PCs, Gaming PCs
The best laptops for live streaming: Best overall, most portable, and more

PC gaming isn’t just a pastime anymore. In fact, it’s entirely possible to evolve your hobby into a very profitable business. With the help of live streaming, fans from all over the world can watch as you play your favorite games. But if you’re looking to become the next Twitch mega-star, then you need a proper computer capable of HD streaming to all of your adoring fans. We rounded up the best laptops for streaming available today.

Not only do these picks deliver lightning-fast GPU and CPU performance, but some of them are even portable enough to travel with. We’ve also kept various budgets in mind. So, whether you’re just getting started with a tight budget or you’re looking to upgrade to a premium setup, we’ve got you covered with these picks. For even more laptop options, see our comprehensive roundup of the best laptops for all purposes, at all price points.

Of course, every live streamer also needs a good mic. Check out our picks for the best USB microphones to help your voice come through crystal clear while you trash talk the opposition or thank your new subscribers.

Updated 09/27/2022 Check out our latest review of the Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1. It sets itself apart with its long battery life, attractive design, and ability to easily transition from a laptop to a tablet.

Also, be sure to take a look at our review of the Acer Predator Helios 300. You may give up some portability with this gaming laptop, but it more than makes up with its great performance, beating out some of the more expensive competitors.

1. Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 – Best overall Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 - Best overall

Pros

Excellent CPU and GPU performance Robust and innovative design Comfortable and customizable keyboard

Cons

Trackpad requires some pressure Very high price MSRP: $2,200 (base unit) up to $3,700 (review unit) Best Prices Today: $1,599.99 at Amazon | $3699.99 at Asus | $3699.99 at Costco

The Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 is a streamer’s ultimate dream. This laptop features lightning-fast GPU and CPU performance plus a stunning 17.3-inch 4K display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The rugged all-metal chassis, six speaker sound system, and customizable keyboard really adds to the premium experience as well. However, you’re going to pay out the nose for it. If you’ve got a flexible budget and you won’t settle for anything other than the best of the best, the Zephyrus S17 is truly the bees knees.

Read our full Asus ROG Zephyrus S17review 2. ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) – Most portable ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022) - Most portable

Pros

Powerful CPU and GPU performance in a very compact design AniMe Matrix screams unique It has a webcam

Cons

Half permanent RAM Keyboard backlighting is subpar MSRP: $1650 (base price) | $2500 (Radeon RX 6800S, 1TB SSD, 32GB RAM) Best Prices Today: $1649.99 at Best Buy | $1,749.00 at Amazon

The ROG Zephyrus G14 is both lightweight and powerful. It weighs just a little over three pounds, which makes it a capable traveling laptop. Thanks to the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS processor and AMD Radeon RX6800S GPU, you can expect strong performance as well. The only weakness is the keyboard, which our tester describes as “meh.” It feels a little mushy and the backlighting is rather unimpressive. That said, if you’re in the market for a portable laptop that delivers zippy performance, the Zephyrus G14 is a great pick.

Read our full ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022)review 3. XPG Xenia 15 KC – Most quiet XPG Xenia 15 KC - Most quiet

Pros

Very light Very quiet (relatively) very fast

Cons

Subpar RGB Just barely adequate audio SD card reader barely adequate MSRP: 1999 Best Prices Today: $1,799.99 at Amazon

When it comes to gaming laptops, many, if not most, of them are pretty bulky and heavy, often tipping the scales at five or six pounds. Well, that’s not the case with the XPG Xenia 15 KC. It weighs a little over four pounds, which is fairly lightweight for a laptop that’s capable of delivering respectable gaming and streaming performance. Plus, it runs very quiet. According to our review, it “rarely makes noise under normal use.” That’s impressive, as most gaming laptops tend to sound like a rocket blasting off. If you’re looking for something that’s both quiet and portable, the Xenia 15 KC is an excellent choice.

Read our full XPG Xenia 15 KCreview 4. GE76 Raider 12UHS – Best premium option GE76 Raider 12UHS - Best premium option

Pros

12th-gen Core i9-12900HK simply sings New “AI” performance mode greatly moderates fan noise. 1080p webcam and good mic and audio makes for decent video conferencing PC

Cons

Third iteration in the same body MSI Center is confusing and cluttered UI Painful pricing MSRP: $4,200 (Core i9, RTX 3080 Ti) Best Prices Today: $4200 at Adorama | $4200 at MSI

The MSI GE76 is rocking a 17.3-inch 4K UHD 120Hz display and the latest 12th-gen Intel processor. In other words, it’s one slick machine. If it’s blazing-fast gaming performance that you’re after, this laptop will most definitely deliver. The display is pretty massive as well, which adds to the immersion factor. However, the biggest drawback is the astronomical price tag, as it costs over $4,000. Woof. But if you’re willing to cough up the cash in exchange for some serious power, you won’t be disappointed.

Read our full GE76 Raider 12UHSreview 5. Predator Triton 500 – Good battery life Predator Triton 500 - Good battery life

Pros

Velvety 165 Hz refresh rate in a 16-inch, 16:10 display Strong battery life for a gaming laptop Port selection includes HDMI 2.1, gigabit ethernet, and dual USB-A

Cons

Display could be more vibrant and better-calibrated out of the box Middling onboard speakers 16:10 aspect ratio isn’t ideal for all content types MSRP: $1749.99 Best Prices Today: $1749.99 at Best Buy

The Predator Triton 500 is a good option for both work and play. According to our tester, the design “doesn’t scream gamer,” which is a good thing, especially if you’re shooting for a more mature aesthetic. As for performance, it does a fine job “balancing productivity and gaming duties.” You can thank the Intel Core i7-11800H CPU and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 (Max-Q with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM) GPU for that. Battery life is decent as well (8 hours and some change) for a gaming laptop, though you’ll likely always use this machine at a desk, as it weighs close to five pounds.

Read our full Predator Triton 500review 6. HP Victus 16 (16-d0097nr) – Good value HP Victus 16 (16-d0097nr) - Good value

Pros

Very good value Surprisingly comfortable keyboard Large 16-inch 1080p screen with a high 144Hz refresh rate

Cons

Budget RTX GPU Audio doesn’t feel quite right Display hinge is a bit flimsy MSRP: $1,249.99 Best Prices Today: $888.91 at Amazon | $1249.99 at HP

From solid performance to a decent display, the HP Victus 16 is a well-rounded option for most people. The 16-inch screen has a 1080p resolution and a high refresh rate of 144Hz, and the keyboard is pretty darn comfortable. In our review, the tester was “happy to use the keyboard on a long-term basis.” HP even squeezed in a number pad, which is perfect for gamers. Although this laptop has a lot to offer, it isn’t the sexiest-looking machine in the world. But if you can live with the plain design, the Victus 16 is a good choice.

Read our full HP Victus 16 (16-d0097nr)review 7. Nitro 5 17-inch (2021) – Value alternative Nitro 5 17-inch (2021) - Value alternative

Pros

Strong CPU/GPU pairing for the price Roomy 1TB SSD with room to add second drive

Cons

Plastic chassis is bulky Dim display Terrible webcam MSRP: $1099.99 base price | $2099.99 as reviewed Best Prices Today: $2099.99 at Acer | $2099.99 at Newegg | $2099.99 at Walmart

The Acer Nitro 5 17 is a good buy if you’re looking for a decent value. It delivers respectable graphics performance and it can easily handle more demanding tasks like photo editing. Acer even provides the bits and bobs (i.e, screws) for swapping out the storage or RAM. That said, the bulky plastic chassis won’t have anyone mistaking this for a premium product and the display is pretty dim. If those trade-offs don’t bother you much, then the Nitro 5 is definitely worth considering.

Read our full Nitro 5 17-inch (2021)review How we tested

The PCWorld team puts each and every Windows laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them.

Windows laptops PCMark 10: PCMark 10 is how we determine how well the laptop handles lighter tasks like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on.HandBrake: HandBrake is more intensive than PCMark 10. It basically measures how long a laptop’s CPU takes to encode a beefy 30GB file. Cinebench: Cinebench is a brief stress test of the CPU cores. It does this by rendering a 2D scene over a short period of time.3DMark: 3DMark checks if 3D performance remains consistent over time by running graphic-intensive clips. Video rundown test: To gauge battery life, we loop a 4K video using Windows 10’s Movies & TV app until the laptop dies.What to look for in a streaming laptop

When it comes to picking the right laptop for live streaming, it really depends on what you want to do with it. Do you plan on broadcasting lightweight indie titles like Stardew Valley (no shade, I love this game) or something more visually demanding like Cyberpunk 2077? Are you going to use the machine for work as well as play? While it’s possible to get reliable streaming and gaming performance out of laptop that costs under a grand, you’ll need to take a hard look at the individual components. You don’t need a powerful GPU for something like Fortnite, say. It’s all in the individual components. That’s what matters.

GPU: The thing about the GPU is that it can’t be swapped out and upgraded later, so you need to be real choosy about which one you pick, as this component will determine how well your machine runs games. Luckily, you don’t need the best of the best to get reliable gaming performance. The GTX 1650 is an entry-level GPU that’s affordable and good enough for 1080p gaming with mid-to-high graphics settings. That said, expect lower frame rates on newer titles. If you’re looking for a bit more power, we recommend opting for a GTX 1660 Ti or higher, or a more current RTX 30-series GPU. CPU: Like the GPU, the processor can’t be upgraded either, so you’ll want to be selective. For Intel, we recommend an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7. For AMD, you’ll want to spring for a Ryzen 4000 or 5000. A processor with at least four cores is good, but six cores or more is better. RAM: You’ll want at least 8GB of RAM. If you can afford 16GB of RAM, go for it. Memory is normally upgradable, so you can always swap it out and add more later on.Storage: Storage impacts how many games and applications you can install on your laptop. Like RAM, storage is upgradable and can be swapped out later. However, you should aim for at least 512GB of SSD storage plus a hard drive, as AAA titles tend to eat up a lot of space. SSDs load games faster, as data is stored on chips rather than spinning disks.Display: 1080p with a 60Hz refresh rate is the bare minimum. As for size, that’s a personal preference. If you’re streaming and dealing with multiple windows, I’d recommend springing for something big like 17-inches.Battery life: Generally speaking, gaming laptops are known for having poor battery life. That’s because they use a ton of power. They also tend to be heavier than other laptops because they need more space for heatsinks and other cooling components. Depending on the use, most will last anywhere from four to six hours on a single charge. Laptops
Windows 11 printer bug blocks 22H2 upgrade, advanced features

If you’re a Windows 11 user whose been having problems with your printer’s more advanced features, Microsoft has some bad news: You may have to wait—on both your printer problems and the upgrade to the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2).

Microsoft has placed a compatibility hold on certain PCs trying to update to Windows 11 22H2. This is meant to prevent them from receiving the upgrade before the issue resolved, Microsoft says. (Thanks to Neowin for discovering this.)

The scenario is a catch-22 of sorts: Certain printers may have issues wirelessly communicating to their host PCs, and informing them of certain advanced features. In this case, Windows controls the printer with the Microsoft IPP Class Driver or Universal Print Class Driver, essentially a generic interface to allow the printer to print. The connectivity issues prevent the host PC from identifying the more advanced features, such as color printing, dual-sided/duplex printing, and more, and thus those features don’t work.

Unfortunately, the inability to print using advanced features can carry over to Windows 11 22H2, hence the hold. The problem is that Microsoft is taking a shotgun approach at the moment: If your PC’s printer uses an IPP Class Driver or Universal Print Class Driver, it wont be able to upgrade until Microsoft resolves the issue. Microsoft is trying to narrow down the solution to isolate the printers that fit within the constraints of the problem—generic drivers, inability to communicate, advanced features—but isn’t there yet.

If you’re desperate to upgrade, you can remove the printer via the Windows Settings menu (Bluetooth & devices > Printers & scanners) and then try to upgrade to Windows 11 22H2.

The caveat: That may not happen right away. Windows 11 22H2 may only appear in Windows Update after 48 hours, which means you’ll be left without the ability to print for up to two days. And no, downloading the update manually won’t help: “We recommend that you do not attempt to manually upgrade using the Update now button or the Media Creation Tool until this issue has been resolved and the safeguard removed,” Microsoft says.

Upgrades always introduce new bugs, but this is an annoying one. You may have to make a run to your local copy shop to print out any necessary documents while Microsoft sorts this out.

Printers, Windows 11
Should you splurge on Ryzen 7000 or save on Ryzen 5000?

AMD has a new generation of CPUs to drool over. And perhaps more importantly, it has a new CPU socket design for its main series, for the first time in five years. If you’re rocking an older Ryzen 2000- or 3000-series CPU, on an older AM4 motherboard, you’ve got a choice to make. Should you go for the now-cheaper, still-awesome Ryzen 5000 series, or dig deep in your wallet for a new AM5 motherboard, new DDR5 RAM, and a world-beating Ryzen 7000?

It’s a hard call for anyone, but luckily, Gordon and Adam are here to walk you through it in the latest PCWorld YouTube video.

The guys walk you through all kinds of upgrade scenarios, weighing the costs and benefits of a triple-component replacement for the latest tech, versus a much more affordable upgrade of a CPU alone. For the sake of easy searching, here are some of the head-to-head upgrade comparisons on the docket, with video timestamps linked:

Ryzen 7950X vs Ryzen 5950XRyzen 7900X vs Ryzen 5950XRyzen 7700X vs Ryzen 5900XRyzen 7600X vs Ryzen 5900XRyzen 7600X vs Ryzen 5600X

It’s a great deep dive if you’re on the fence for an upgrade, especially if you’re looking for analysis on overall performance versus gaming. For more great, geeky discussions and hands-on, be sure to subscribe to PCWorld on YouTube!

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X AMD Ryzen 9 7950X MSRP: $699 Best Prices Today: $699 at Antonline | $699 at B&H Photo | $699 at Newegg CPUs and Processors
Intel’s revamped Thread Director 2 could be the Core i9-13900K’s secret weapon

Getting into the weeds of how processors work, and how they work under load with different kinds of tasks, is always a big ask. Luckily, Gordon Mah Ung recently got some answers straight from the horse’s mouth at Intel’s Innovation 2022 conference. Check out the latest PCWorld YouTube video for a breakdown of how the Core i9-13900K and the Windows 11 2022 Update spread the load of professional media and games across its eight performance cores and sixteen efficiency cores.

As you can see in the video, the processor’s newly updated Thread Director 2 can go to max processing on all 24 threads when a single demanding task is running, like rendering lighting effects in Unreal 5. But if you throw another load on top of that, as Intel’s Senior Technical Marketing Engineer Roy Hill does on the demo machine, it’s smart enough to dedicate the performance cores to the foreground task while keeping the efficiency cores humming on the first program.

Not enough? What if you want to go hog wild and throw an intense gaming session on top of both of those tasks? The demo does just that, once again moving background processes to the E-cores while the game runs super-smooth on the P-cores, dedicated to the most pressing foreground task.

We’ll be able to break down the Core i9-13900K and its newly-announced stablemates more thoroughly when we get them in for review. In the meantime, go subscribe to the PCWorld YouTube channel for even more nerdy looks at the latest and greatest in computer hardware!

CPUs and Processors
Best online backup: We test the best services—Carbonite, iDrive, Backblaze, Livedrive

Online backup is an essential hedge against physical data disaster. Whether it’s an act of malice or an act of nature, you never know when trouble will threaten all the files and folders you have stored on your PC.

While we always recommend keeping a local backup for quick restores (see our roundup of the best Windows backup software for desktop solutions), uploading your data to an online backup service can be a reliable way to cover your bases. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best cloud backup services.

The good news for consumers is that all of the major online backup services we reviewed this year are exceptional products. But while all of the contenders received the same high verdict, each product has its own unique selling point. Our primary concern here is backup, but we do note other roles that a service can fulfill, such as sharing, multi-device support, and emergency-restore options. 

Below our picks, check out how we tested the services and information on how to choose the best backup service for you.

1. iDrive Online Cloud Backup – Best overall iDrive Online Cloud Backup - Best overall

Pros

Online and local backup in the same job Supports multiple PCs and devices on the same account

Cons

One of the pricier services, beyond the free version, though justifiably so MSRP: $79.50 Best Prices Today: $79.50 at iDrive

Just as when we originally reviewed all the major online backup services, iDrive remains the most comprehensive online backup service. And though it’s not the cheapest, it’s still affordable and comes with backup clients for nearly every PC and device. The company also provides additional storage for syncing all your devices and PCs, allows sharing of files with anyone, and has the ability to back up to a local drive. 

iDrive has two Personal plans that cover one user with unlimited computers and devices: a 5TB plan for $59.62 the first year (or $119.25 for two years), and $79.50 each year after; and a 10TB plan for $74.62 the first year (or $149.25 for two years) and $99.50 each year after. A Team plan can cover 5, 10, 25, 30, or 35 users, with an equivalent number of devices and terabytes of storage; prices range from $74.62 to $524.62 for the first year.

Read our full iDrive Online Cloud Backupreview 2. Backblaze – Best budget option Backblaze - Best budget option

Pros

Very affordable for unlimited backup Unlimited storage for one PC Just about foolproof

Cons

No sync service or other niceties MSRP: $70 Best Prices Today: $70 at Backblaze

If you’re not sure what you want to back up, or where it is, or just don’t want the pressure of trying to figure it all out—Backblaze is the online backup service for you. It offers unlimited storage, and backs up everything except items you explicitly exclude. Given all that, it’s ridiculously inexpensive compared to the competition: $7 a month, $70 a year, or $130 for two years for unlimited storage. Per PC. That’s it. It’s the same for business PCs.

Read our full Backblazereview 3. Carbonite Safe – Most streamlined Carbonite Safe - Most streamlined

Pros

Automatically selects most important files Integrates with Windows Explorer for selection and backup status Unlimited data

Cons

No file sharing features MSRP: $71.99 Best Prices Today: $71.99 at Carbonite

Carbonite Safe is, in its own way, as simple as Backblaze. The only real difference is that Carbonite doesn’t back up everything by default. It selects what it thinks you need to back up, then leaves the rest up to you. It’s pretty successful selecting data if you use the standard locations (My Documents, etc.), so most users won’t need to provide additional input. 

The price of elegance is a little steeper: Basic online-only backup is $72 for one computer for one year, $136.78 for two years, and $194.37 for three. If you want the ability to duplicate the backup to a local hard drive and back up videos, then you’re talking $111.99, $212.78, and $302.37, respectively. If you want the ability to retrieve your data via a hard drive couriered to you (much faster than downloading when there’s a lot of data), the rate rise to $149.99, $284.98, and $404.97, respectively.

Read our full Carbonite Safereview 4. Livedrive – Most polished Livedrive - Most polished

Pros

Flawless setup and client interface Good performance Syncing briefcase

Cons

More expensive than most MSRP: $107.88 Best Prices Today: $107.88 at Livedrive

If you don’t mind paying a premium for your online backup, Livedrive will reward your investment with its elegant setup, minimalist interface, and superb operation. There is something to be said for how reassuring it can be to use a product that is artfully designed and executed. That is especially true for an online backup service. When it comes to mission-critical operations, a bug-free experience makes for peace of mind. If you value impeccability, Livedrive is an excellent choice for online backup. The standard Backup plan for one PC and unlimited storage is $89.90 for the first year and $107.88 per year after that; a Pro Suite that covers 5 machines is $240 for first year and $300 for subsequent years.

Read our full Livedrive online backupreview How we tested

As noted above, the performance of online backup services will vary wildly according to their location and the network equipment between you and the data depository. We installed the software and backed up the same 2GB data set to check for any major issues or glitches in the client software. These are noted in the reviews.

How to pick an online storage and backup service

Cloud backup has unique considerations. Familiarizing yourself with the following key areas can help you find the cloud backup service that best meets your needs.

Capacity

Obviously, you’ll need as much storage as you have data, plus a little, or possibly a lot, more if you want to track changes and save previous versions of files. Some services keep multiple versions of files, some don’t. In many cases there’s a time limit.

Price

Nearly all online services charge for a maximum allowable amount of data, and generally uploads are free. Aside from the free tiers available from a service like Dropbox, pricing is fairly consistent across services, though you definitely get more capacity for your money from some vendors, notably Backblaze.

Features

As we mentioned previously, in addition to backup, you may want to share your files with others, work with them from mobile devices, or even edit them with office applications such as those available with Dropbox, Google, and OneDrive. If you do intend to work online, we recommend that you maintain a local copy as backup, and a hedge against internet downtime. 

OS and device support

Most services provide client backup software for the major operating systems (Linux, OS X, and Windows) and both Android and iOS. Make sure the service you sign up for supports your entire panoply of computers and devices.

Privacy

If you’re concerned about the privacy of your data, make sure you use a service that allows the use of a personal encryption key that you define. Do NOT lose it, as it is absolutely required to restore your data. Sadly, using your own key often limits the types of services (e.g., no mobile backup) available.

If private encryption keys aren’t available, read the privacy policy, especially with the free services—there are significant differences.

FAQ 1. How reliable is cloud backup?

Generally speaking, data centers are backed up to the hilt, and some of the larger ones even back up to different geographical locations. Availability (hopefully 24/7) can also be important. Check for news of outages and the vendor’s own service blogs. In truth, all the services we’re aware of are near-100% reliable.

2. What speed and data transfer rates should I look for?

Speed in many cases is far more dependent upon your broadband connection than that of the online service, though the geographical location of the storage and the equipment in between can make a significant difference. Check the location of the data servers if speed is important to you. Or, just give the trial a whirl and see if you can live with it.

3. How often should you schedule backups?

Ideally, you should back up your data as often as possible. This is especially true if you are working on an important project or have data that you absolutely cannot afford to lose. It’s a good idea to automate the backup process and have the cloud service back up your data every hour or so.

4. What’s the difference between cloud backup services and services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive?

Services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive are considered to be cloud storage services. This means that a user must place their files or data onto the service’s cloud manually. These storage services usually offer a free version with limited storage or a paid version with increased capacity. They can also come with basic services such as automatic cloud backup and the synching of file versions.

A cloud backup service provides continuous versioning and backup of all the file history on your device. They will continuously and automatically back up every specified file on a device. Cloud backup service providers also offer additional data security measures such as end-to-end encryption.

5. Is it safe to store my data online?

Yes! All cloud backup services offer encryption of your data both during the transfer to and from your computer as well as while your data is stored on the provider’s servers.

While this encryption stops others from being able to view your data, it doesn’t necessarily stop them from stealing it. But rest assured that the level of security against theft with these services most likely rivals that of your own device. So generally speaking, while not infallible, cloud backup services are one of the most secure options for storing your data.

Business, Cloud Computing, OpenText
Real trombone champs play Trombone Champ with real trombones

The latest “meme” game to take the world by storm is Trombone Champ, a rhythm title all about the titular giant brass slide whistle. The addictive freeform gameplay, in which a mouse is all you need to fully simulate the toot-toot, is perfectly balanced with some entertaining and sometimes even truthful lore about trombone history. But playing non-licensed trombone music on a mouse lacks a certain authenticity…which is why the most dedicated players are turning real trombones into game controllers.

As chronicled by PCGamer, there are at least a handful of players who have sought maximum realism by either mapping out the game’s controls to real instruments, or making Guitar Hero-style approximations for a more authentic sliding experience. Twitter user Dan Lew has simply tied in the game’s control to a PC microphone, playing a real trombone in his room and getting the game’s control scheme to match the pitch and activate when sound was playing.

Someone had to do it, and today that someone is me: Trombone Champ played with a trombone. pic.twitter.com/k6YLtI3Fwc

— Dan Lew (@danlew42) September 24, 2022

Here it looks like the game designers sacrificed a bit of realism for the sake of playing recognizable tunes. Twitch streamer Kupobucks finds the upper register of Trombone Champ‘s range nearly impossible to hit, since real trombones rarely go more than an octave above middle C, and (jokingly) asks the game developers to make a “pro mode” to transpose the game’s songs more realistically.

@HolyWowStudios please add "pro mode" or fix game plskthx XD pic.twitter.com/0AKlOl7SCC

— Kupobucks (@kupobucks) September 22, 2022

Rudeism, a staple name in the highly specific world of wacky custom game controls, gave it a shot as well. His version uses an ultrasonic sensor and microphone to map out a real trombone slide and audible notes to the game’s controls, which should eliminate lag and create more consistent motion.

BEHOLD, THE TROMBONE CONTROLLER

Ultrasonic sensor controls the slide, and a microphone controls the dooting. If only I knew how to play it IRL 😅

The ultimate way to play Trombone Champ @HolyWowStudios pic.twitter.com/Lvm5m2CT44

— Rudeism (@rudeism) September 27, 2022

But it’s not ideal, because the system can only use a little less than half of the real trombone’s full range of motion, and thus its actual musical range. It’s also worth pointing out that Rudeism is having a really tough time actually keeping up with the notes the game shoots at the player. That’s probably a combination of factors: one, you would need to be a real, skilled trombone player to accurately reproduce the notes the game simulates without going into hypoxia. And two, the music featured in the game is written more in a direct melody trumpet style, not the usual tenor-baritone role real trombones are typically used for in orchestra and jazz music.

That isn’t stopping plenty of other players from giving it a shot. The ever-popular Arduino is a good place to start: Greig Stewart created a tiny trombone simulacrum out of a kazoo, and needs only a range-spotting camera and a microphone to get the input into the game. As a bonus, the sound of a kazoo is perhaps more thematically appropriate for the ever-present goofiness of Trombone Champ‘s style.

I made a custom #trumbonechamp controller from a kazoo with an Arduino and a ToF sensor + mic trigger. Full video soon! @HolyWowStudios pic.twitter.com/ATZoB5sOiQ

— Greig Stewart (@ThereminHero) September 25, 2022

Real trombonist (not tromboner) Hung Truong might have solved some of the game’s transposing issues by using a soprano trombone, with a musical key and range closer to a trumpet. He used an esp32 microcontroller, an air pressure sensor, and a distance sensor to cobble together a system that combines some of the techniques above. The air pressure sensor is actually resting inside the trombone’s bell!

For a technical breakdown of his process in both musical and computer science terms, check out the full video above. His technique probably combines the most realism with the most musically-accurate scale of all these attempts, but it’s clearly difficult even for a real musician to keep the pitch control steady. He’s working on a second version with more accurate sensors.

You can replicate pretty much all of the above systems thanks to these DIY makers’ guides and instructions, such as Github repositories for microphone input. Of course, buying a $500 instrument and a bunch of custom components in order to play a meme game might not be the wisest use of your disposable income.

Video Games
PowerA Enhanced Xbox controller review: The perfect little brother controller

Game consoles have long since moved to wireless controllers as the standard, but there are still reasons to consider a wired version. For one, you don’t have to worry about connection issues or battery levels. More importantly, wired controllers like the PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller tend to be cheaper. That can be important when the first-party gamepads are reaching ever-higher price points. 

The PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller has all the features of the official version for just half the cost—it can be yours for under $30 most days. It even adds some useful extras like programmable buttons and a volume toggle. The cable is the biggest drawback, but the feel and build quality also take a step down compared to Microsoft’s Series X/S controller. If nothing else, the PowerA Controller is a great “little brother controller.”

At a glanceExpert's Rating ProsMuch lighter than official controllerPhysical volume toggleOnly costs about $30Programmable buttonsConsUses old microUSB port instead of USB-CMushy d-padNo wireless connectivityOur Verdict

The PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller might be a budget option, but it’s no slouch. It comes with tons of functionality both for use with the Xbox and those who need a controller for PC gaming as well. Ultimately, it performs almost as well as the official controller but costs only half as much.

Price When Reviewed

30

Best Prices Today: PowerA Enhanced Xbox controller Retailer Price Amazon $31.99 View Deal PowerA $37.99 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide PowerA Enhanced controller: Design and build quality

At first glance, you might not realize that the PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller is a third-party accessory. It has the typical Xbox shape, a glowing Xbox button in the middle, and all the buttons in the right places. However, it’s a bit chunkier, giving it a hand-feel closer to the previous-gen Xbox One controller. There’s a diamond texture etched into the grips, but it’s far less grippy than the tiny dots on the official controller that ships with the Series X and S. 

Even though the chassis is larger, the PowerA controller is surprisingly light at just 208g (7.33 ounces). The stock Series X controller with AA batteries installed is a whopping 300g. Thankfully, the cable is removable, but the port (between the triggers) is an old-fashioned microUSB. Current-gen controllers from Microsoft and Sony use the newer USB-C standard. These cables are reversible and more durable, but microUSB works fine, and the controller comes with a long 10-foot cable. 

The bottom edge hosts a 3.5mm headphone jack, and just above that on the face of the controller is the volume toggle. This is the most obvious departure from the stock controller, which doesn’t have any dedicated hardware buttons for volume control. Flip it over, and you’ll see the other hardware tweak—a pair of programmable buttons on the grips and a button in the middle to configure them. The controller also has eight exposed screw holes on the underside, making the PowerA controller look much cheaper than the official controller, which fits together with no visible screws. 

PowerA Enhanced Xbox controller

The PowerA Enhanced controller shares a lot of design elements with the Xbox Series X/S.

Ryan Whitwam

You might also notice that the d-pad is of the traditional plus-shaped variety, whereas the official Series X/S controller has moved to a more precise dish-shaped pad. The PowerA ABXY cluster has more travel (they protrude a bit more from the body) with less tactility than Microsoft’s controller. The other buttons look about the same—PowerA even has the share button introduced with the Series X and S (although, it’s round instead of pill-shaped, and it’s a bit wobbly)

.

PowerA Enhance controller: Features and hands-on experience

As we pointed out in the Xbox Wireless Controller review, Microsoft’s latest gamepad is louder than the last one. The PowerA makes that one seem whisper-quiet by comparison. Elements like the triggers and thumbsticks have very hard, loud landings when pressed. The thumbsticks are also stiffer and rougher than the official controller, but the difference is negligible enough that you won’t notice unless you have both of them side-by-side for comparison. 

The programmable buttons are placed conveniently on the inside of the grips—perhaps a little too conveniently. It doesn’t take much force to depress them, so they’re easy to hit accidentally if you squeeze the controller too tightly. That said, they can be handy if you don’t like the location of one of the other buttons. Simply long-press the program button in the middle of the rear panel and press the control you want to replicate. 

The old-style d-pad might be the biggest physical downgrade compared to the first-party Xbox X/S gamepad. It has the classic plus-shaped design, along with the classic mushiness. Fighting games and others that make heavy use of the d-pad won’t be as enjoyable with this controller. The addition of the volume-control toggle is nice, though. If you play online games with a wired headset, the switch lets you raise and lower the volume without digging around in settings. You can also press the switch to mute the microphone. 

PowerA Enhanced Xbox controller

Official Xbox Series X/S (left) and the PowerA Enhanced controller (right).

Ryan Whitwam

While the lack of wireless connectivity is a bummer, you’d have to expect that buying a wired controller. The lower controller weight is an appealing consolation, though. As long as you can run the 10-foot cable to your PC or console, the PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller is comfortable to use for long periods of time.

PowerA Enhanced controller: Compatibility

The PowerA controller should work with your Xbox just as well as an official controller. All you need is a free USB port on your console, and the same goes for a Windows PC. The only hardware feature you’ll completely lose is the option to attach accessories, like a keyboard or headset, that use the expansion port, which does not exist on the PowerA controller. Another drawback: This controller cannot turn on the Xbox Series X/S console. 

This controller also works with smartphones but not as easily as the stock controller. Since the official gamepad uses USB-C, you just need a C-to-C cable to connect to an Android phone, and it also supports wireless Bluetooth connectivity. With the PowerA, you need to use the cable (or another micro USB cable) and an adapter that can turn the rectangular USB-A into USB-C. We’ve tested this with Google’s Pixel USB adapter, and everything works despite being clunky.

PowerA Enhanced Xbox controller

The PowerA Enhanced controller can work with smartphones given the proper adapter.

Ryan Whitwam

Final thoughts

The official Xbox Series X/S controller is undoubtedly a better device—it’s wireless, looks nicer, and has better build quality. It’s also expensive at $60. The PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller has 90 percent of the functionality at just half the cost. We also appreciate that PowerA offers the controller in so many colors. 

The lack of a battery makes the PowerA controller much lighter than wireless ones, and most of the buttons feel almost as responsive and tactile as the official controller. There are a few extra buttons, too, allowing you to replicate any of the standard controls on the programmable grip paddles. We don’t love the old plus-shaped d-pad, which is mushier than the one on the latest Microsoft controllers, and the programmable buttons are a bit too easy to press by accident. 

The Xbox comes with one controller, and that’s enough for some people. If you need extra controllers for your console and don’t fancy spending $60 on each of them, the PowerA is a good purchase. For PC gamers, the PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller is a reasonable way to get all the Windows Xbox integrations on the cheap. However, anyone looking for a mobile controller should move along. The lack of wireless connectivity or a USB-C port means you’ll have to deal with cables and adapters just to get the PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller linked to your phone.

Gaming, Input Devices

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These fake US government job ads are spreading more malware

Cybercriminals are preying on job seekers in the United States and New Zealand to distribute Cobalt Strike beacons, but also other viruses and malware, as well. 

Researchers from Cisco Talos claim an unknown threat actor is sending out multiple phishing lures via email, assuming the identity of the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), as well as the New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA).

The email invites the victim to download and run an attached Word document, claiming it holds more details about the job opportunity.

Remote code execution

The document is laced with macros which, if run, exploit a known vulnerability tracked as CVE-2017-0199, a remote code execution flaw fixed in April 2017. Running the macro results in Word downloading a document template from a Bitbucket repository. The template then executes a series of Visual Basic scripts which, consequently, downloads a DLL file called "newmodeler.dll". That DLL is, in fact, a Cobalt Strike beacon.

There is also another, less complicated distribution method, in which the malware downloader is fetched directly from Bitbucket.

With the help of a Cobalt Strike beacon, the threat actors can remotely execute various commands on the compromised endpoint, steal data, and move laterally throughout the network, mapping it out and finding more sensitive data. 

Read more

> Fake Crypto.com job offers targeting developers and artists to spread malware

> This latest LinkedIn scam sends fake job offers to lure victims in

> Check out the best firewalls around

The researchers claim the beacons communicate with a Ubuntu server, hosted by Alibaba, and based in the Netherlands. It contains two self-signed and valid SSL certificates.

Cisco did not name the threat actors behind this campaign, but there is one prominent name that’s been engaged in numerous fake job campaigns lately, and that’s Lazarus Group. 

The infamous North Korean state-sponsored threat actor has been targeting blockchain developers, artists working on non-fungible tokens (NFT), as well as aerospace experts and political journalists with fake jobs, stealing cryptocurrencies and valuable information. 

Here's our rundown of the best endpoint protection tools right now

Via: BleepingComputer

Linus Torvalds is hyped about Linux 6.0 - and the next version

A stable version of Linux 6.0 has been released for users, bringing many new features to the table, while the merge window for Linux 6.1 is now open.

Linux core developer Linus Torvalds admitted that 6.0 "is more about me running out of fingers and toes than it is about any big fundamental changes", however, he did say that it is  “one of the bigger releases at least in numbers of commits in a while”.

Torvalds was more enthusiastic about the 6.1 updates, saying that they bring some "fairly core new things" to the table. 

What’s new for Linux 6.0?

The latest version brings tweaks that may improve power management and ACPi handling for x86 hardware, including Intel "Sapphire Rapids" Xeon processors and AMD's Ryzen 6000.

In addition, the update will reduce the performance hit from patching the "retbleed" speculative execution bug in some older Intel and AMD silicon.

Linux 6.0 is also set to bring additional support for open-source RISC-V technology and for Chinese-developed LoongArch microprocessor architecture.

Users will also get support for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8xc Gen3 support and Lenovo's ThinkPad X13s Arm laptop.

What's in store for 6.1?

Linux 6.1 is set to bring initial supporting infrastructure for the Rust programming language, a type of programming language that is currently skyrocketing in popularity,  tripled in 24 months to 2.2 million according to SlashData. 

Users will also gain the option to disable Spectre-BHB mitigation at run-time on Arm systems, as a result of the great impact, this has on the performance of Arm servers. 

Multi-Gen LRU, better known as MGLRU is also set to mainlined, which has as been billed as a superior alternative to the kernel's existing page reclamation code, which could a big win for users looking for better performance. 

READ MORE:

> The Linux Foundation wants to tackle digital wallets next

>
IBM gives its Linux mainframe a major update

>
Our guide to the best Linux business distros

In addition, Linux 6.1 is also set to include preparations for Intel Meteor Lake graphics Intel Meteor Lake Thunderbolt support as well as Improved Intel GPU firmware handling.

Interested in trying Linux out for yourself? Check out our guide to the best linux laptops
Amazon has a new plan for these tough economic times

Amazon has launched a new shopping hub called Amazon Access, which is still about shopping but, in a twist, is designed to help those living on government assistance.

Amazon Access starts by providing new features and support for alternate payment methods. This means customers can now buy food on the website with SNAP EBT (better known as food stamps) and various higher-priced items through Amazon Layaway. The latter allows people to pay 20 percent of an order’s total cost upfront and then pay the rest over time with no interest or extra fees attached.

Amazon is also renaming its discounted Prime tier to Prime Access while keeping its monthly subscription cost at $6.99. The company states the reason for the name change is to give Prime Access a unique identity thereby making it more visible to customers who need it.

Provided you qualify, the tier gives you all of the benefits found on a regular Prime account, like free games via Prime Gaming plus and “fast, free delivery.”  

Features

Each of the three main features of Amazon Access, has its own focus. The SNAP program, for example, is primarily focused on food products, including vegetables, meat, and non-alcoholic drinks. Not every food product found on Amazon can be bought with food stamps. The company states you’ll need to “look for items labeled SNAP EBT Eligible.” 

Amazon Layaway is designed for electronics (such as computers and TVs) and various household items, including furniture, tools, and appliances. To put something under layaway, you’ll have to check off the box next to “Reserve with Layaway” on the checkout page. Once you place the order, layaway starts and you have eight weeks to make four payments to fully pay it off. But you can always pay it off fully beforehand if you can afford it.

And as mentioned earlier, Prime Access gives you the same benefits as a base subscription from exclusive discount deals, unlimited storage on Amazon Photos, and access to the platform’s streaming service.

Other shopping features were highlighted in the announcement too, but they’re not locked behind a plan, meaning anyone can use them. These include coupons, which have their own page where you can “clip” them, and support for Amazon Cash. The company notes you can also, if necessary, change the site language to Spanish.

US exclusive

According to a company representative, both Amazon Access and Prime Access are exclusive to the United States. This doesn't come as a surprise considering the announcement specifically mentions US-only programs.

When asked about expanding to other countries, they said there’s no information to share, but that Amazon is looking into it. Eligible customers can try out Prime Access as a 30-day free trial. All they have to do is upload an image showing “valid proof of [identification] or government assistance documentation.” 

Amazon claims it created the Access hub to provide “accessible offerings” during these tough economic times. Although the company isn't afraid to hike up prices when it wants to. Back in February, Amazon raised the price of a monthly Prime subscription to $14.99 in the US. And a few months ago, the UK saw the same thing happen with no new benefits

It may interest you to know that Amazon is holding a second Prime Day from October 11 to 12. Be sure to read our coverage and see our predictions for what might go on sale.

Black Friday monitor deals: our expert predictions

It’s never too early to search for Black Friday monitor deals, as the sales can start as early as October. We’ve been tracking monitor price drops over the years and have found consistent patterns of sales leading up to and through November.

Black Friday 2022 officially starts on November 25, though previous years have shown us some solid monitor deals that started and continue to land throughout November. Often these deals are either nearly as or just as good as the ones live on the day itself, which is great for bargain hunters as you can find the perfect deal while avoiding the last-minute scramble of Black Friday itself.

This is supported by a recent report by Adobe that examined price changes for holiday shopping in 2021 and found that prices drop sharply at the beginning of November, kept low throughout the month, and rose again during December.

As such, while it is worth waiting a few weeks until November before buying a monitor, there are exceptions to this rule. Some sales will start happening in October and certain monitors won’t be on sale during November.

Though we expect many of the best monitors to receive price cuts during and around Black Friday, some simply won’t for various reasons. However, some sales come as a pleasant surprise. And we’ll ensure you get the best deals as we approach November including which monitors are likely to go on sale, the best deals in general, and which retailers have the best offers.

Today's best monitor sales

If you can't wait or need a good Black Friday monitor deal now, there are some excellent price cuts you can check out. Even though Black Friday is still a ways away, there are always some good monitor deals to take advantage of.

US monitor sales

Amazon: The best monitor dealsBest Buy: The best monitor dealsNewegg: The best monitor dealsWalmart: The best monitor dealsAdorama: The best monitor deals

UK monitor sales

Amazon: The best monitor dealsArgos: The best monitor dealsCurrysThe best monitor dealsDellThe best monitor dealsEbuyerThe best monitor deals Should you wait for a Black Friday monitor deal?

Black Friday is still two months away, and the important question is: should you wait to buy a monitor? The answer is a bit more complex since monitor prices drop significantly during November.

If it’s possible to, then waiting for around Black Friday would be a great way to capitalize on a great bargain that’s sure to save you tons of money. You’ll most likely also find that you can get more powerful monitors with better specs than the ones on sale on the market right now, which is beneficial since better specs mean a longer-lasting product.

However, PCs, especially now in this work-from-home economy, are incredibly vital to many households and some people can’t afford to wait so long for a monitor. If that’s the case, then definitely invest in one right now, as there are tons of great deals out there even if they don’t match the price drops of Black Friday.

Black Friday monitor deals: our predictions

Dell laptop on a wooden table in a restaurant

(Image credit: Future) When will the best Black Friday monitor deals start in 2022?

Black Friday will be on November 25 this year and, as per tradition, we expect to see some excellent sales before then. Traditionally the best discounts have been on the day itself and though that’s still generally true, recent years have seen an increase in retailers launching Black Friday pricing earlier, for instance at the start of Thanksgiving week if not before.

Even before that week, there are plenty of sales in the month leading up to the special day, with some as early as October. Based on last year’s deals, some of them can be either nearly or even equal to the deals on and around Black Friday. And that’s a pattern that should repeat itself this year.

And last year, many retailers like Dell, Amazon, and Best Buy launched early Black Friday monitor deals at the start of November. So definitely make sure to keep an eye out for them.

Where will the best Black Friday monitor deals be?


US:
Amazon:
great monitor deal
Best Buy:
great monitor deal
Newegg:
great monitor deal
Walmart:
great monitor deal
Adorama:
great monitor deal

UK:
Amazon:
great monitor deal
Argos:
great monitor deal
Currys: great monitor deal
Dell: great monitor deal
Ebuyer: great monitor deal

How good do we expect this year's Black Friday monitor deals to be?

Every year, the Black Friday sales are usually around the 15% to 20% margin, which can mean pretty good savings when it comes to higher-priced monitors and can lower already well-priced monitors to even better-priced ones.

Some sales, however, can be as low as 5% or as high as 30% or even 40%. Those are much rarer, though they get a bit more common as Black Friday approaches.

What Black Friday monitor deals do we expect in 2022?

Most likely, judging from previous years, well see plenty of decent deals ranging in the 15% to 20% ranges. And in terms of the types of monitors we'll see on sale, it tends to be a wide variety of monitors. 

So not only should we see tons of gaming-oriented ones, but ones for regular productivity use and professional grade ones that specialize in photography and video editing. There'll be a type of monitor for nearly any need, so the important thing is to check often for deals until the one you need goes on sale.

Last year's best Black Friday monitor deals

One of the best ways to predict which monitors will be on sale this year is to look back at the previous year's Black Friday. Doing so, we noticed the following patterns.

Below we've gathered some of the best Black Friday monitor deals from last year. For each deal, we left the original price, the discounted price, and our descriptions and opinions of the monitor at the time. This should help to build a better picture of what kinds of sales to expect for this year, and which retailers were offering said sales.

US: The best Black Friday monitor deals last year

Samsung Odyssey G9 curved 49-inch QHD monitor, 240Hz | $1,399.99 $999.99 at Amazon

SAVE $400
The Samsung Odyssey G9 is one of our favorite gaming monitors of all time, just because it's just so huge. This is a gaming monitor that will truly envelop your entire field of view, really immersing you in whatever game you play. And, right now you can get it for just $999.99 ahead of Black Friday!

Samsung 32" Class QHD Curved (2,560 x 1,440) Monitor | $799.99 $599.99

SAVE $200 There's a huge $200 off this incredible QHD curved gaming monitor from Samsung at Walmart now - act fast to enjoy 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms response times, G-Sync and more!View Deal

LG UltraGear 32GN600 QHD 32-inch Monitor| $349 $249 at Walmart

SAVE $100 Boost your gaming capabilities with this great deal on a 32-inch QHD monitor deal from Walmart. Featuring a 165Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth graphics quality, there's $100 off now!View Deal

UK: The best Black Friday monitor deals last year

MSI Optix MAG272CQR Curved Gaming Monitor - 27 Inch, 16:9 WQHD | £419.00 £279.99 at Amazon UK

Looking to boost your gaming rig this Black Friday? There's nearly £140 off this 27-inch MSI Optix curved gaming monitor at Amazon UK - that a saving of nearly 33%!

Samsung LU28E590DS 4K Ultra HD 28-inch LED Monitor | £299.00 £189.00 at Currys

SAVE £110 - There's huge savings on this Samsung 28-inch 4K monitor at Currys now. Perfect for work, media or gaming, this monitor also boasts a 60Hz refresh rate to make sure you don't miss a thing.

LG UltraGear 27GN88A 27 Inch Gaming Monitor QHD | £499.99 £289.99 at Amazon UK

SAVE £210 There's a huge 42% off this 27-inch LG gaming monitor this Black Friday, making it the perfect addition to your gaming set-up. What's more, this deal is an Amazon UK exclusive, meaning you won't find it anywhere else!

How can I get the best monitor Black Friday deals?

A monitor displaying a photo of a city

(Image credit: Future / BenQ) What specs should I look for when buying a monitor on Black Friday?

One of the most things to be aware of as you search for monitor sales on Black Friday is that retailers are trying to push off old stock. This means that you might come across what looks to be a great deal, only to find out later that the monitor is several years old with outdated specs. Of course, that doesn’t make it useless, as most monitors are still perfectly usable.

Keep in mind that monitors at the very least should be 1080p resolution which is the bare minimum HD resolution, preferably 4k if you can afford it but 1080p is still perfectly fine. From there, your needs will vary based on what kind of work you need your monitor for.

For instance, if you do professional work like photography or video editing, you’ll need a monitor with color spaces that allow for proper color correction. At least as high as DCI-P3 98% color gamut support, since this ensures that any other monitor viewing that professional material will see images and video in its proper colors across the board. Brightness is also an important factor for image color quality and accuracy as well, with the higher number being better. 200nits and above is a great starting place.

Meanwhile, for gaming monitors, the two most important factors other than resolution are refresh rate and response time. For the former, the higher the number the better since it represents the number of times per second that the image refreshes on the screen. Refresh rates of 144Hz and above are particularly good.

The latter needs to have as low as a possible number, as it represents the amount of time it takes to shift from one color to another, with lower numbers meaning a much sharper and clearer image. A response time of 1ms is especially great for gaming and is what you want to strive for.

What about Black Friday gaming monitor deals?

If you're purchasing a professional monitor, then a DCI-P3 98% color gamut support with a suite of color spaces like Adobe RGB, sRGB, Rec. 709 are vital to ensure the highest and most accurate color and image quality. For a gaming monitor, having a high refresh rate and a low response time is important for a smooth and responsive gaming session.

If you're looking for monitors at cheaper prices, be aware that some manufacturers may cut corners with certain other specs in order to lower that price. For instance, one of the inexpensive monitors on sale last year has a subpar sound quality to balance out the other high specs like 4k resolution. For more advice, take a look at our Black Friday monitor deals page.

The 3 best monitors to look out for on Black Friday

BenQ PD3200U

(Image credit: BenQ) 1. BenQ PD3200U

The best 4k monitor of 2022

Resolution: 4k (3840 × 2160 pixels) | Screen size: 32-inch | Color spaces: Adobe RGB, sRGB, Rec. 709 | Brightness: 250nits

4K resolutionLarge screenGood priceDesign may seem dull to some peopleSome pro features a bit too nicheYou'll need a big desk

If you're looking for a fantastic 4k monitor for professional use, look no further than the BenQ PD3200U. A large 32-inch screen with all the features of a great productivity monitor including a suite of color spaces for the most accurate color and image quality, a solid port selection, thin bezels for better screen real estate, 4k UHD resolution, and a slim yet elegant design. Most likely we'll see this monitor on sale for around 20%, as that tends to be the trend for pricier ones.

Read the full review: BenQ PD3200U

LG UltraGear 38GN950

(Image credit: LG) 2. LG UltraGear 38GN950

The best gaming monitor of 2022

Resolution: 4k (3840 x 1600) | Screen size: 38-inch | Refresh rate: up to 160Hz

160Hz refresh rateSuper-responsiveLarge screenLooks fantasticExpensiveMay be a bit too large for someHDR can’t compete with high-end TVs

This is one of the best 4k gaming monitors on the market right now. It sports an ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio, near 4k resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, and a pretty solid port selection. It also helps that it looks absolutely stunning with the use of RGB lighting on the back of the monitor. A monitor of this price will most likely see a sale of about 15-20%, which will chop off a nice amount of money.

Read the full review: LG UltraGear 38GN950

A Gigabyte M32UC gaming monitor against a white background

(Image credit: ) 3. Gigabyte M32UC

The best affordable 4k monitor of 2022

Resolution: 4k (3840x2160) | Screen size: 32-inch | Refresh rate: 144Hz

Not all 4k monitors need to break the bank, and the Gigabyte M32UC is proof positive of that. A crystal clear picture, great features, 4k resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, and large screen all comes together in a package that's currently less than $600. This monitor is already on the cheaper side, which means we'll see it discounted at about 10%.

Read the full review: Gigabyte M32UC

While Black Friday monitor deals are still weeks away, you can still save a good chunk of money with the best cheap monitor deals available right now.
Cyberattacks are getting more costly for victims

Cyberattacks are getting more costly for victim businesses, new figures 

Research by Atlas VPN on the destructive potential of virus and malware cyberattacks found that almost a quarter (22%) of victim businesses lost anywhere between $100,000 and $499,999 in such an incident. 

What’s more, 11% lost between $500,000 and $999,999, while 4% lost a million, or more. Overall, 37% lost $100,000 or more, while a quarter (24%) lost between $50,000 and $99,999.

Transparency issues

The exact financial impact is relatively hard to determine, too, as there are many moving parts to consider. Businesses also need to consider brand damage, partner and customer operation, and potential regulatory fines.

“Even though many businesses have invested more into cybersecurity lately, the most critical challenge is transparency,” comments cybersecurity writer at Atlas VPN, Vilius Kardelis. “Companies are afraid to report incidents for fear of losing customer trust. However, that makes cyberattacks more dangerous and prevalent, causing significant damage to businesses.”

Read more

> Cybercrime apparently cost the world over $1 trillion in 2020

> Cyberattacks costing businesses millions each year

> Check out the best firewalls for protection

That being said, Atlas VPN discovered that almost a third (31%) of victim businesses experienced disruption of either partner, or customer operations, as well as theft of financial information. Also, more than a quarter (28%) suffered a tarnished reputation, while 24% were forced to handle the disruption in their supply chains. 

Nearly a quarter (23%) were forced to address trading and business operations obstruction, while 19% experienced loss of business and contracts, and almost a fifth (18%) have straight up had their money stolen. 

All of these things make businesses want to keep potential cyber incidents to themselves and not disclose them to the public. 

In fact, 48% of IT leaders said they knew about the cyberattack against their organization but kept quiet about it. However, not disclosing these things makes cyberattacks even more dangerous and prevalent, and consequently - more devastating, the researchers concluded.

These are the best endpoint protection services right now
Samsung may snag a trick to beat the iPhone camera

A new patent application suggests Samsung is working to move its stabilization from the lens of its cameras to the sensor. Switching from the current optical image stabilization to sensor stabilization could improve image quality and reduce blur. Both the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Apple iPhone 14 Pro use image stabilization on the cameras, but the iPhone stabilizes the sensor while the Galaxy phone stabilizes the lens.  

We originally saw this as a rumor way back in 2021, while the Samsung Galaxy S22 was getting its first hints and leaks. Back then we reported that Samsung was testing this feature, and it could also be part of a partnership with camera-maker Olympus. That partnership never materialized, but now we’re seeing possible fruits of the labor. 

A stabilizer on the sensor means a larger bump

Apple was the first smartphone maker to use sensor stabilization, a technique that is closer to the way some professional very high-end DSLR cameras, like the Canon EOS R6, stabilize an image in the body of the camera, and not just in the lens. Of course, on a smartphone the distance between the sensor and the lens is much shorter, but Apple believes that stabilizing the sensor produces a better shot. 

This also means a larger camera bump. Image stabilization relies on tiny motors that actually move the lens or the sensor in response to an accelerometer - aka a gyroscope. It can be incredibly responsive, but it also takes up more space. 

Adding the hardware closer to the sensor adds even more thickness, and you can see the dramatic camera bump difference between the iPhone 11 Pro, which did not use sensor stabilization, and the iPhone 12 Pro, on which Apple debuted the feature. 

Rumors suggest this patent could apply specifically to the telephoto lens, but the actual patent makes no mention of this. Samsung already juices its telephoto lens with digital tricks that produce amazing results even up to a jaw-dropping 100x zoom. Better stabilization would certainly equal even bigger improvements here. 

Analysis: Probably not the for the Galaxy S23 Ultra

As we said, this sort of stabilization results in a larger camera bump. We’ve seen leaked images of the rumored Galaxy S23 Ultra phone, and it seems to have the same camera array design as the Galaxy S22 Ultra. That phone has five lenses poking through the back, but no bump. 

It’s entirely possible that Samsung is hiding all of the stabilization inside the phone. Samsung already hides an entire stylus inside the Galaxy S22 Ultra, and the phone is still sealed up water-tight. With its Galaxy Z Flip 4 and folding family, it has already proved contortionist capabilities when it comes to arranging phone guts. 

Patents are a good way to check the direction of the industry, but a bad way to predict a specific product feature. We hope to see the next Samsung Galaxy S phone constantly improve on the photos its predecessor took, if that’s even possible. Eventually, a stabilized image sensor could be one way Samsung makes that happen. 

The PS5 modding scene just had its gates thrown wide open

Two years after its launch, the PS5 has been jailbroken, unlocking the possibility of installing unofficial content on Sony's flagship console.

Demonstrating the PS5 jailbreak in action, content creator Lance McDonald posted a clip on Twitter showing the jailbroken console grants access to features not typically accessible to console owners. These include an extensive debug menu, and the option to download games and apps that are no longer available on the PlayStation Store, such as Konami's long-delisted P.T.

The jailbreak appears to only work on PS5s running firmware version 4.03. It's likely the jailbreaking process isn't as easy to perform on the PS5 as it is for other consoles, such as the Nintendo Switch.

Proceed with caution

It's... beautiful.The PlayStation 5 has been jailbroken. pic.twitter.com/54fvBGoQGwOctober 3, 2022

See more

PS5 jailbreaking could end up being a thorn in Sony's side, especially after a PS5 dev kit was discovered in the wild. Jailbreaking a console can provide access to delisted products, but also let players potentially download paid content for free via piracy.

Jailbreaks aren't used for entirely unsavory purposes, though. Bringing delisted content back from the dead is often used for game preservation. Take P.T., a beloved horror demo that you can't play unless you downloaded it back in the day, or have since bought a console from someone who did.

Jailbreaking is obviously not without its risks, though. You'll forfeit access to PS Plus and online multiplayer, it'll void your warranty, and you'll be immediately clapped by Sony if you attempt to access any of the online PlayStation Network ecosystem. You could even run the risk of being taken to court over it.

The jailbreaking scene on PS5 as it stands, then, is pretty volatile. And I can't condone PS5 owners attempting this on their own consoles, especially as the risks are abundant. Still, it's fascinating to watch from a distance, if only to see what discoveries modders make, and the customizations they're able to add to their newly cracked machines.

PlayStation Stars has an ultra-exclusive Diamond tier, according to datamine
Data leaked following LA schools ransomware attack

The breakdown of negotiations between the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and ransomware operators The Vice Society Ransomware saw the latter release a stolen database online.

The news was confirmed by LAUSD superintendent, Alberto M. Carvalho, who took to Twitter to announce the leak, with the board launching a new hotline where parents can learn more about the incident and what the company is doing to try and minimize the damages.

"Unfortunately, as expected, data was recently released by a criminal organization. In partnership with law enforcement, our experts are analyzing the full extent of this data release," the tweet reads.

"Better ways to spend cash"

News first broke out of an attack against LAUSD, which encompasses more than a thousand schools, 26,000 teachers, and 600,000 students, in September 2022. 

But this new leak came after the board said it would not be paying any ransom demands, as there are plenty of better ways to spend the cash.

"Los Angeles Unified remains firm that dollars must be used to fund students and education," the organization had said. "Paying ransom never guarantees the full recovery of data, and Los Angeles Unified believes public dollars are better spent on our students rather than capitulating to a nefarious and illicit crime syndicate."

Read more

> All Los Angeles schools were hit by a huge ransomware attack

> This new Royal ransomware is already asking for millions

> Here's our rundown of the best firewalls around

According to BleepingComputer, the Vice Society Ransomware stole 500GB worth of sensitive data, including folders named “SSN”, “Secret and Confidential”, “Passport”, and “Incident”. 

A source told NBC Los Angeles that the data also holds “confidential psychological assessments of students, contract and legal documents, business records,” and other data. 

LAUSD notified affected students and their parents, and offered free credit monitoring services to those that need them. While law enforcement agencies analyze the leak, students and parents are advised to stay vigilant, as phishing attacks are common after such leaks. Identity theft is also relatively common.

These are the best endpoint protection tools around

Via: BleepingComputer

Marvel's Avengers: Secret Wars has reportedly found its lead writer

Marvel Studios has seemingly tapped Loki season 1 head writer Michael Waldron to pen the script for Avengers: Secret Wars.

According to Deadline, Waldron – who also worked on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – has been drafted in to write the sixth Avengers movie. No director has been officially approached to helm Secret Wars yet.

The news comes hot on the hells that Jeff Loveness, who wrote the script for Marvel Phase 5 film Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, had been hired to write Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton has also reportedly boarded The Kang Dynasty as its director.

If Deadline's report is true, Secret Wars will continue Waldron's rise as one of Marvel Studios' most trusted scribes. Waldron served as head writer on Loki's first season, which is currently the best Marvel Disney Plus show, based on fans' and critics' reviews, as well as the reported number of minutes that Loki season 1 has been streamed.

Waldron hasn't returned to pen the scripts for Loki season 2 – that job has fallen to Eric Martin, who also worked on the series' first season. However, Waldron did pen the script for Doctor Strange 2, which earned Marvel another box office success with its $955.8 million global takings, with the superhero film's wild and crowd pleasing cameos were a key reason behind its success.

We've reached out to Disney for an official comment on Waldron's rumored hiring, and we'll update this article if we receive a response.

Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson as Loki and Mobius in Loki episode 1

Michael Waldron penned the scripts for Loki season 1. (Image credit: Marvel/Disney)

Avengers: Secret Wars will be the second Avengers movie that'll form part of Marvel's Phase 6 plans. As we mentioned, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty will precede Secret Wars, with the two films arriving in May and November 2025 respectively.

The Russo brothers, who helmed four Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies including the two most recent Avengers films, have long been rumored to be returning to direct Secret Wars. However, the duo have consistently played down suggestions that they'll be back, even though they'd be keen to work with Marvel again. The Russos are currently working on multiple projects for Netflix, including a sequel and spin-off to The Gray Man, with the spy thriller releasing back in July. The duo are also developing a live-action adaptation of Simon Stålenhag's Electric State book, which will reportedly star Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown and Marvel star Chris Pratt.

Recent online speculation has put Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever director Ryan Coogler at the front of the queue. Marvel fans have suggested that the close friendship between Coogler and Cretton makes them ideal picks for Avengers 5 and 6, with the pair's working relationship key to collaborating on an overarching narrative, style, and tone that's sure to fit together seamlessly across both movies.

For more Marvel content, check out the second trailer for Black Panther 2, which confirms the identity of the new Black Panther. Alternatively, read up on how to watch the Marvel movies in order, or check out every MCU Phase 4 project yet to be release.

There's finally a fix to this serious Microsoft Teams problem

The team behind Microsoft Teams has moved to address one of the most pressing security issues affecting the service in a new update.

Users of the video conferencing platform will soon be able to report suspicious Microsoft Teams messages as a security threat using Office 365's built-in safety protections.

The service will be available to Office 365 users via its Microsoft Defender service, and will work much the same way as the current process for reporting suspect emails.

Microsoft Teams phishing

In its entry on the official Microsoft 365 roadmap, the company notes that the new tool will help an organization "protect itself from attacks via Microsoft Teams".

Given the similarities to existing systems, this should be as simple as clicking on a Defender pop-up message alerting to possible threats, which should block the malicious message immediately.

The feature is still listed as in development for now, with a scheduled general availability launch set for January 2023. When released, the company says it will be available to all web and desktop users across the world using Teams and Microsoft Defender for Office 365.

Read more

Here's our list of the best headsets for conference calls right now

Microsoft Teams is getting a basic but mighty new security feature

>
Exclusive: The numbers that show Zoom, not Teams, is the king of video conferencing

The news is the latest in a series of upgrades to Microsoft Teams in order to help protect users from possible security threats.

Back in July 2021, the platform gained the ability to automatically block phishing attempts thanks to an expansion of Defender for Office 365 Safe Links. This tool automatically scans URLs sent in Microsoft Teams to determine if they direct to a malicious destination.

Microsoft said at the time that every month its detection systems discover close to two million distinct URL-based payloads used by cybercriminals to conduct credential phishing campaigns.

Microsoft Teams has long been an attractive target for hackers, offering a straightforward route into a business via its employees. A report in February 2022 found attackers are using Teams chats and channels to spread malicious executable (.exe) files throughout organizations, which once activated can deliver malicious files to any member of the organization, either via one-on-one chats or group channels.

Another recent Microsoft 365 phishing campaign looked to impersonate several departments of the United States government, including the Department of Labor and the Department of Transport.

The emails, targeted at government contractors, claim to request bids for government projects but lead victims to credential phishing pages instead. 

Check out our list of the best online collaboration tools out there
Diablo 4 leak shows you’ll be able to skip the whole campaign

Newly leaked screenshots of Diablo 4 suggest you’ll be able to skip the upcoming action RPG’s main campaign.

Following a massive leak that gave us our best looks at Diablo 4 yet, more screenshots of the game’s test build have appeared online. Uploaded to Imgur and spotted by GamesRadar, the images show various sections of its character creation menu from the Russian language version of the RPG.

The character selection screen includes several optional toggles. When translated through Google, one of these buttons reads “Skip Campaign”.

Get to the good stuff

A Barbarian fighting hordes of demons in Diablo 4

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

The details of how campaign skipping will work are unclear. It’s not obvious whether you’ll be able to sidestep Diablo 4’s campaign right from the get-go, or if you'll have to complete the single-player adventure at least once before having the option to skip it with future characters.

Diablo 3 allowed players to skip its main campaign following the release of the Reaper of Souls expansion. By completing the RPG’s main questline once, players can choose to ditch the campaign entirely with future characters and play Adventure Mode instead. The optional game mode replaces storyline quests with randomly generated dungeons called Rifts and a series of 25 objective-based quests called Bounties.

The mode is popular among series fans. Opening up Diablo 3 beyond its linear campaign, it lets you explore the entirety of the game’s map while testing out new classes and builds. Being able to jump straight into Adventure Mode without needing to complete the game’s 10-hour storyline every time you create a new character keeps the game feeling relatively fresh.

The screenshots also suggest Diablo 4 will contain six acts plus a prologue and epilogue, marking a departure from the five-act structure of Diablo 3 and Diablo 2. Images of the game’s character creator show players will be able to change the color of their character’s clothing, decorate them with a variety of tattoos and accessories, as well as pick between various body types.

Leaks from earlier this year suggest campaign skipping won’t be the only feature that’s returning from Diablo 3. A Smart Loot system will ensure enemy drops are targeted to your character’s class and stats, while a pared-down version of player trading also looks to be making a comeback. At least Diablo 4 won’t copy the panned monetization systems of Diablo Immortal. 

PlayStation Stars has an ultra-exclusive Diamond tier, according to datamine
Destiny 2, Hitman, and Assassin’s Creed devs want to help Google Stadia players

For Google Stadia players there are a lot of questions about what will happen to their games, hardware, and game progress when the servers shut down on January 18, 2023.

Google was quick to explain to players how to get a refund for Google Stadia hardware and software purchases – with details coming within 24 hours – and advice on how to download Google Stadia save data. But these solutions won’t solve every problem for disenfranchised Google Stadia players.

Thankfully, game developers are picking up the slack and trying to piece together the best way to save players from the sinking cloud gaming platform.

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

5,000 Guardians play Destiny 2 on Stadia every day (Image credit: Bungie)

Despite having as much notice as players that Google Stadia will be shutting down, Bungie (the team behind the hugely popular Destiny 2) is already trying to formulate a plan to help out the roughly 5,000 players that check into the servers daily on Stadia (via Forbes). While this isn't a massive number of players, Bungie is trying to find a way to make sure their progress doesn’t get permanently deleted along with the rest of Stadia’s data on January 18.

It may even try to find a way for them to keep playing Destiny as Ubisoft is doing with its games (like Assassin's Creed Odyssey). While players will be getting a refund for their Stadia library, Ubisoft said it has plans to issue players free PC copies of the Stadia games they own, too.

Not to be outdone, IO Interactive has told Stadia players that it is looking into ways for them to continue their Hitman 3 adventure on a different platform. 

For now, though, these plans are still in their early stages. The developers say they were given no advance warning of Stadia’s shutdown, so they’re having to come up with solutions on the fly rather than having the answers at the ready like Google.

As we get nearer to January 18, we’ll likely find out more about what these and other studios will do to keep Stadia players from feeling hung out to dry. Make sure to pay close attention to your Stadia account’s email for any guidance on what you can do.

As Google Stadia dies, spare a thought for its fantastic controller
Demand for HDDs is on the slide, but SSDs are caught up too

Kioxia has announced it will cut the production of 3D NAND chips at multiple facilities amid a slump in demand for solid state drives (SSDs).

Starting this week, the memory manufacturer will cut wafer starts by 30% at two Japanese fabrication plants, which will have a corresponding effect on production volume.

Kioxia has not said for how long its manufacturing facilities will operate below capacity, only that it will “continue to review and adjust operations as needed”.

SSD demand

Unlike the decline of the HDD market, which is suffering from a multitude of pressures from within the storage industry, the dropoff in demand for SSDs is being driven by macro factors.

As inflation pushes up the cost of living, the appetite for spending among consumers is evaporating. The market for expensive electronics is particularly susceptible in these conditions, especially since many took the opportunity to upgrade their laptops and PCs as recently as last year, during lockdown.

Similarly, cloud providers and businesses with on-premise server infrastructure are spending less freely. Microsoft, for example, recently announced plans to extend the lifespan of Azure servers from four to six years, which is expected to save roughly $4 billion in fiscal 2023.

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As Kioxia takes action to avoid oversupply, other market players are making similar moves. Micron announced last week that it is “reducing utilization in select areas in both DRAM and NAND”, which will amount to a fall in production volume. Other manufacturers are sure to follow suit.

However, it’s not just sales volume that 3D NAND manufacturers and storage vendors need to worry about. After a period in which prices were inflated by a combination of high demand and supply chain issues, the current economic conditions are now having the opposite effect.

Data published by analyst firm TrendForce suggests the price of 3D NAND wafers has dropped by roughly 30% quarter-on-quarter, with further decline expected as demand for devices and servers remains low. It may even be that some lines will have to be sold at a loss until the market recovers.

Our list of the best portable SSDs on the market

Via Tom’s Hardware

OnePlus Nord Watch: release date, price, specs and features

The OnePlus Nord Watch is a device that we knew was coming, as OnePlus extensively teased the wearable before launch, as it does with so many of its products. But now this budget smartwatch has arrived, so we know the full specs and details.

This even cheaper alternative to the OnePlus Watch – which wasn’t overly expensive in the first place – sports an AMOLED screen and up to 10 days of battery life, among other things, all of which you’ll find detailed below.

We’ve also included information on the release date and price – though that’s one area that there are still some questions about.

Cut to the chase What is it? An affordable smartwatch from OnePlusWhen is it out? Now in India, unknown elsewhereHow much does it cost? ₹6,999 (roughly $85 / £75 / AU$130) OnePlus Nord Watch release date and price

The OnePlus Nord Watch has so far only been announced for India, where it’s out now. It’s not clear if or when this wearable will come to other regions. The original OnePlus Watch did launch in the US and the UK, so it’s certainly possible the Nord Watch will as well, especially as those regions have also seen some Nord phones.

But some OnePlus products are made specifically for India, so there’s no guarantee that the OnePlus Nord Watch will get a wider release.

In any case, it costs ₹6,999 in India (roughly $85 / £75 / AU$130), though has a temporary introductory price of ₹4,999 (around $60 / £55 / AU$95). Note that while a release in the US and the UK is possible, we wouldn’t expect to see the OnePlus Nord Watch in Australia, as the company doesn’t sell its products there.

OnePlus Nord Watch in blue

(Image credit: OnePlus) OnePlus Nord Watch design and display

The OnePlus Nord Watch comes in a choice of Midnight Black or Deep Blue – a color which applies to both the silicone strap and the zinc alloy case.

It has a stainless-steel buckle, and including the strap it weighs 52.4g. The dimensions are 45.2 x 37.2 x 10.4mm, and the OnePlus Nord Watch is IP68 certified, meaning it’s both water and dust resistant.

As for the screen, it’s a 1.78-inch AMOLED one with a 368 x 448 resolution, 326 pixels per inch, and a 60Hz refresh rate. The typical brightness is 500 nits.

OnePlus Nord Watch fitness and features

The OnePlus Nord Watch has an impressive 105 different sports modes, including ones for yoga, cricket, running, and many other activities. It also offers automatic tracking for runs and walks, so you won’t have to manually start tracking those.

It supports 24-hour heart rate monitoring, plus sleep tracking, blood oxygen measurements, menstrual cycle tracking, and stress monitoring.

This data is fed into a dedicated N Health app on your phone, which the watch pairs to using Bluetooth 5.2. However, one big fitness omission is GPS, which is absent here. Though cheap wearables often lack this.

OnePlus Nord Watch displaying fitness apps

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Away from health and fitness, the OnePlus Nord Watch offers a library of over 100 different watch faces, so you can customize it to suit your style. It also includes standard smartwatch features like call and message notifications, music controls, and a remote shutter for your phone’s camera.

It works with both Android and iOS phones, but the actual operating system of the watch will probably be a little limited, as while we can’t see it mentioned, it’s presumably the same OnePlus Watch OS as seen on the standard OnePlus Watch.

This has the downside of meaning there are far fewer apps than with Wear OS or watchOS, as you’re limited to the pre-installed ones.

OnePlus Nord Watch specs and battery life

The OnePlus Nord Watch has 256MB of storage, though the chipset and RAM aren’t mentioned.

As for the battery, that’s 230mAh, and OnePlus claims that it will last for up to 10 days of 'typical use', and that it has a 30-day standby time. That has most smartwatches beat, and it’s a believable claim, as the OnePlus Watch also lasted a long time, and lived up to the company’s claims.

There’s no mention of charging speeds, but it uses a magnetic charger to juice back up.

While the verdict is still out on whether it can find a place among our pick of the best smartwatches, here's hoping OnePlus brings it to new markets so we can call it in for review.

Google says Intel-powered VMs are the way forward, despite cost

Google is pushing for some of its business cloud customers to offload their “most demanding workloads” onto pricey Intel virtual machines.

In a post on the Google Cloud blog, the company has announced the launch of the Intel Software Center of Excellence after a successful pilot scheme in 2021.

Businesses with use-cases such as video encoding, web transactions, databases, analytics, and AI inference are invited to apply for the free scheme, which will involve Google and Intel collaborating with accepted applicants to access and optimize their workflow performance.

Personalized cloud collaboration

The opportunity for Intel to personally review a business’ internal resources in order to deliver a personalized report on how it can implement specific optimisations to a workflow running on Google Cloud could seem enticing.  

However, while the scheme is free, Intel VMs will cost businesses more on account of the company’s Xeon Scalable processors, which offer built-in AI acceleration via the AVX-512 set of vector instructions - first introduced in 2013 - and the more recent Deep Learning Boost feature which leverages the technology.

While it's true that VMs fitted with Xeon Scalable processors can provide impressive speed boosts to some workflows, the software that powers them must be optimized by developers for use with the tech.

High costs and limited use cases could be the reasons why Google and Intel are only offering a hands-on, “white glove service”, and one that’s only available to certain “high-growth enterprises”, subject to application.

READ MORE

 > Check out our list of the best virtual desktop software right now

> Google Cloud taps AMD to bring confidential computing to VMs

> Google Cloud is launching an exclusive AI management platform 

Companies who don’t need, can’t leverage, or simply aren’t aware of the latest Intel processor technology could be put off by an automatic change to service.

While Intel has long been the only option for businesses looking to take advantage of AI acceleration, AMD’s latest raft of Epyc server processors will ship with support for AVX-512 this autumn.

Here's our list of the best remote desktop software right now
More Microsoft Exchange zero-days exploited in the wild

Two more zero-day vulnerabilities found in different versions of Microsoft Exchange Server are being exploited in the wild, the company has confirmed.

According to recent customer guidance that Microsoft released for reported zero days, a server-side request forgery (SSRF) flaw, and remote code execution (RCE) flaw, were identified as being used by threat actors.

The vulnerabilities were present in Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, 2016, and 2019 endpoints.

Chained flaws

"The first vulnerability, identified as CVE-2022-41040, is a Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) vulnerability, while the second, identified as CVE-2022-41082, allows remote code execution (RCE) when PowerShell is accessible to the attacker," Microsoft explained. "At this time, Microsoft is aware of limited targeted attacks using the two vulnerabilities to get into users' systems."

Exploiting the SSRF flaw isn’t as easy, though, as the attack can only be pulled off by attackers that were authenticated by the target system. Only then can they exploit the RCE flaw, too. 

What’s more, Exchange Online users are not exposed to any risks, the company confirmed, as its security team already placed detections and mitigations. 

"Microsoft is also monitoring these already deployed detections for malicious activity and will take necessary response actions to protect customers,” the company added. “We are working on an accelerated timeline to release a fix.”

Read more

> This dangerous Microsoft Office zero-day is now being exploited in the wild

> Microsoft just fixed a whole load of serious security flaws, so patch now

> These are the best antivirus tools right now

While Microsoft did not say who might be exploiting these flaws right now, BleepingComputer found GTSC, a Vietnamese cybersecurity firm, laying the blame on a Chinese threat actor. Apparently, the zero-days were being used to deploy China Chopper web shells for persistence, as well as data exfiltration. The same company also published mitigation measures that Microsoft subsequently confirmed. 

"On premises Microsoft Exchange customers should review and apply the following URL Rewrite Instructions and block exposed Remote PowerShell ports," Microsoft said. "The current mitigation is to add a blocking rule in "IIS Manager -> Default Web Site -> Autodiscover -> URL Rewrite -> Actions" to block the known attack patterns."

Check out the best firewalls out there

Via: BleepingComputer

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer confirms identity of new Black Panther

Potential spoilers follow for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The official trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has finally arrived – and it appears to confirm who will assume the Black Panther mantle in the highly anticipated sequel.

Released on October 3 to coincide with tickets for the forthcoming Marvel movie going on sale, the superhero film's second trailer gives us a better sense of the scale and emotional weight that it'll carry.

It's the final few seconds of the latest Black Panther 2 trailer, though, that'll pique MCU fans' interest as it seemingly confirms who'll become the African nation's new protector. Check it out below:

Yep, that's Letitia Wright's Shuri donning the famous superhero suit. Okay, it could be Lupita Nyong'o's Nakia or even Danai Gurira's Okoye. After all, it's a female character who is wearing the Black Panther suit.

However, it's the white, speckled pattern on the suit's headgear that gives the game away. Those spots are the same white face paint markings that Shuri is adorned with during T'Challa's funeral procession, which we previously saw in the Marvel movie's first trailer. You can also see the markings on Shuri's face at the 0:22 mark of the latest teaser.

To lend further weight to the fact Shuri will take up the Black Panther mantle after her brother's passing, Marvel also released the official poster for Wakanda Forever. It's a one sheet that puts Shuri front and center, and even shows her Black Panther headgear behind her:

#WakandaForever. November 11. pic.twitter.com/nKD4YxxOJ3October 3, 2022

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Clearly, Marvel wants to get out ahead of further rumors surrounding the identity of the new Black Panther. It's possible that this could be a bait and switch on the studio's part, but we'd be extremely surprised if it is.

There had been rumors that Shuri would follow in T'Challa's footsteps and become the new Black Panther in this MCU Phase 4 project. And, with toy leaks over the weekend (October 1 and 2) suggesting that Shuri would Wakanda's new hero, it seems Marvel wasn't going to wait until the film's release to hold back this surprise.

Speculation over Shuri's new role came after reports in late 2021 suggest that Winston Duke's M'Baku would be T'Challa's actual successor. Unless Wakanda Forever sees multiple characters don the superhero suit, though, it appears as if Shuri will be the new Black Panther. Well, for one movie anyway.

It is something of a disappointment that we've learned the identity of the new Black Panther in this trailer. Not only would it have made for a crowd pleasing moment when the superhero flick debuts in theaters, but it also overshadows some other fascinating elements contained in the teaser.

For one, we see Namor make waves (pun intended) by using the wings on his mutant feet to navigate the battlefield in rapid and compelling fashion. We're also given a much clearer insight into why Namor and his Tlālōcān people are gunning for the surface world, as well as the threat they pose to Wakanda and the wider world.

Additionally, we catch a few glimpses of Riri Williams' Iron Man-style superhero suit, which looks like it'll pay more than a passing tribute to Tony Stark's technology. Oh, and M'Baku delivering a powerful speech that says Wakanda shouldn't kill Namor as it'll risk "eternal war" between the two nations. 

All in all, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever looks absolutely stunning and is sure to be an extremely moving piece of cinema – and we can't wait to catch it on the biggest screen possible. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will launch in theaters worldwide on Friday, November 11.

For more MCU-based content, check out what projects are coming as part of Marvel Phase 5. Alternatively, find out how we've ranked every Marvel movie to date.

LG’s 27-inch OLED monitor could debut at CES 2023

LG is reportedly eyeing an early 2023 release for a 27-inch OLED monitor.

Sources recently told Korean newspaper Hankooki that LG Display, the panel-producing sister company to LG Electronics, expects to begin producing 27-inch and 32-inch OLED panels by the end of 2022, with the former set to be ready as soon as November.

LG is therefore anticipating being able to use these 27-inch panels in a new medium-sized monitor slated for release in the first quarter of 2023. The smallest LG OLED monitor currently available is the 27-inch LG UltraFine Display OLED Pro, though this is equipped with panels from Japan's JOLED, rather than LG Display.

Right now, the smallest LG product bearing panels produced by LG Display is the LG C2 OLED TV, which stands at 42 inches.

two people watching the lg c2 oled

The LG C2 OLED TV uses panels produced by LG Display (Image credit: LG)

LG Display’s upcoming 32-inch OLED panels are expected to debut shortly after its 27-inch panels early next year, while production of its 42-inch OLED panels – of the sort used in the LG C2 – is also expected to ramp up in the coming months.

LG is responsible for some of the best OLED TVs around, but gamers and stay-at-home professionals have been crying out for a medium-sized LG OLED monitor for some time. Demand for high-spec personal displays has been on the rise ever since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers continue to look to upgrade their home offices and entertainment setups in light of work-from-home regulations.

LG Display vice president Kang Won-Seok teased the imminent release of a 20-inch OLED panel back in August 2022, but no such LG monitor has materialized in the months since.

It’s promising, then, to hear that LG may indeed be cooking up a medium-sized OLED monitor for release in early 2023. If Hankooki’s report holds true, we’d anticipate seeing this new 27-inch display in some capacity at CES 2023 in January.

Can’t wait that long for a new PC screen? If you’re in the market for a new personal display right this second, then check out our pick for the best monitor to buy in 2022.

The Rings of Power cast already know who Sauron and The Stranger are

Potential spoilers follow for The Rings of Power.

The Rings of Power's cast already know The Stranger's true identity and which of them is actually playing Sauron.

Speaking exclusively to TechRadar after The Rings of Power episode 6 aired, Morfydd Clark – who plays Galadriel – hinted that the Prime Video show's cast know the answers to the high fantasy series' two biggest mysteries. Unsurprisingly, though, Clark wasn't forthcoming with further clues as to which character Sauron is masquerading as, or who Daniel Weyman's powerful Stranger really is.

Asked if any members of the cast knows the answers about The Rings of Power's biggest secrets, a wry smiling Clark teased: "Maybe. The interesting thing about Sauron is he's kind of everywhere. He can creep into anyone's mind, because he is despair and doubt."

Adar addresses his orc army by fire light in The Rings of Power episode 6

Some fans have suggested that Adar is Sauron in disguise. (Image credit: Prime Video)

Ever since The Rings of Power's first teaser dropped online in February, diehard Lord of the Rings fans and more casual viewers have posited theories about The Stranger's true identity. Additionally, many have pondered which of the series' 22 main characters is Sauron in disguise.

Weyman's Stranger, who crash landed on Middle-earth in a meteor in the Prime Video show's opening episode, has displayed magical and dangerous abilities throughout The Rings of Power season 1. Subsequently, many fans have suggested that The Stranger must be a wizard, with the most likely option being that he's Gandalf. That's down to his burgeoning relationship with the Harfoots, one of three precursor Hobbit races.

It's the identity of Sauron, though, that's kept the rumor mill going in recent weeks. Fans have suggested that anyone from Joseph Mawle's Adar, who finally debuted in The Rings of Power episode 3, to Charlie Vickers' Halbrand, and even The Stranger himself as the individual that Sauron is masquerading as.

Curiously, it isn't just those watching Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV show who discussed which cast member was really playing Sauron. Tyroe Muhafidin, who portrays Theo, exclusively told TechRadar that the show's cast also tried to get to the bottom of the Sauron mystery before they started receiving official scripts.

"Back in January 2020, when we'd only been given the first two scripts, Markella [Kavenagh], Nazanin [Boniadi] and I got together for dinner and to play some Monopoly," Muhafidin said. "About halfway through playing, we just stopped the game and started coming up with crazy theories. Markella said 'Oh, what if Charlie is Sauron? What if Theo is Sauron?', so I jokingly replied 'What if Nori is Sauron?'.

"Every time we got a new script, we read through to find out who it was. So we went through what the fans are currently going through, just a year or two before. Now we're getting to see the fans have the same theories and it's been really interesting to watch."

don't trust your classmate. don't even trust your mom. don't even trust me. anyone could be sauron right now.September 30, 2022

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With just two more episodes of The Rings of Power's first season left, audiences will be hoping that one of these two mysteries is resolved. If either are, it'll be a long wait for potential answers in season 2. Amazon Studios has renewed the TV show for another outing and, as Robert Aaramyo – who plays Elrond – told TechRadar in September, filming is expected to begin sometime in the next month or two.

"We will be filming very soon," Clark confirmed when TechRadar asked for an update on when principal photography would start. "I'm really excited about that because it's going be so nice to get back with the cast and to get to know a new crew."

For more on The Rings of Power, check out our exclusive chat with its showrunners and VFX producer about how that explosive episode 6 ending was brought to life. Alternatively, find out why the show's creators are just as confused about Lord of the Rings' new owners are you are, or read our spoiler-free review of the series' first two episodes. You know, if you're playing catch up on it.

PC gamers are shunning high-end GPUs – spelling trouble for the Nvidia RTX 4090

A new Steam hardware survey is out, and it could make for interesting reading for Nvidia. On the one hand, it’s clear that the company continues to dominate the GPU market with eight of the top 10 GPUs being made by Team Green.

However, these results also point to some potential difficulties for Nvidia, especially in regard to the current approach for its imminent RTX 4000 series of next-generation graphics cards.

This is because every one of those eight GPUs it has in the top 10 is either a budget or mid-range GPU. The GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU is the most popular graphics card used by PC gamers who have entered the Steam hardware survey, followed by the GTX 1060, RTX 3050, RTX 3060, and GTX 1660.

In fact, you don’t see a high-end GPU until you get to the RTX 3070 Ti laptop GPU at number 14. As for ultra-high-end GPUs, there’s only one in the top 30 – the RTX 3080 Ti – and that just squeezed in at number 29.

While it may not be too much of a surprise that PC gamers are gravitating towards more affordable GPUs, it appears that it’s news to Nvidia – as it continues to be fixated on pumping out high-end GPUs.

Analysis: Is Nvidia making an expensive mistake?

A very subtle image of money falling in front of Nvidia's HQ while GPUs pop out

(Image credit: Dmytro Balkhovitin / michelmond / ImageFlow / Nvidia)

With Nvidia’s upcoming RTX 4000 series of graphics cards, it looks like making affordable GPUs just isn’t a priority for the company. At the launch event, we only saw three GPUs – two versions of the RTX 4080 and the RTX 4090. While all of these GPUs will undoubtedly be incredibly powerful – and rather expensive – there was no mention of more affordable RTX 4000 GPUs, such at the RTX 4070 or RTX 4060.

Nvidia will almost certainly announce those GPUs in the future. However, for PC gamers who simply cannot afford those high-end GPUs to play the best PC games, it can feel like the company is ignoring them. It certainly doesn’t help that in a time when people are struggling to find GPUs they can afford, the only other GPU Nvidia released this year was the super-high-end RTX 3090 Ti.

While launching incredibly powerful GPUs to kick start its new RTX 4000 series – and to no doubt garner impressed headlines – Nvidia should not neglect the budget end of the market. Its main rival AMD will gladly take on more budget-conscious gamers who are feeling spurned by Nvidia, and Intel is entering the discrete gaming GPU fray with its series of Arc GPUs that look likely to seriously undercut Nvidia when it comes to price.

When the RTX 4080s and RTX 4090 launch, we can’t imagine them appearing anywhere near the top of Steam hardware surveys for a very long time – if at all. But, if Nvidia wants to continue its dominance, it’s must start appealing to regular PC gamers – not just enthusiasts.

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- Dean Takahashi
The DeanBeat: Two stories that show the opportunity and heartbreak of modern gaming
Google's Stadia game controller.Yesterday, two stories told the tale of the modern game industry. On the one hand, heartbreak. On the other, massive opportunity.Read More
Oh well, Adaptive Transparency for first-gen AirPods Pro in iOS 16.1 is a bug

After the third iOS 16.1 beta arrived last week, 1st-gen AirPods Pro users got a big surprise: Adaptive Transparency, one of the excellent new features announced with the 2nd-gen AirPods Pro, was added for the older model as well. Now, it seems as though that’s not actually happening.

According to Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, the addition of the Adaptive Transparency toggle in the iOS 16.1 beta is “a bug” and will presumably be removed before release. As it stands, Adaptive Transparency will only be available on the new AirPods Pro, and not the 1st-gen model or AirPods Max, which both have standard transparency mode.

I’m told this is a bug https://t.co/4BPBmpLbgI

— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) October 3, 2022

While transparency mode allows users to hear outside sounds while wearing their earbuds, Adaptive Transparency is a new feature for the second-generation AirPods Pro that lets you hear your surroundings while reducing the volume of any noise over 85dB. Apple says the feature uses on-device processing that relies on the “powerful H2 chip … which reduces loud environmental noise — like a passing vehicle siren, construction tools, or even loud speakers at a concert — for more comfortable everyday listening.”

You can read our review of the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro for detailed impressions and testing, but it seems like original AirPods Pro owners still have one more reason to upgrade.

Headphones
The best iPhone deals this month

You don’t have to pay full price to buy an iPhone, if you shop around you can find you a bargain. Every month the Macworld team hunts down the best prices on iPhones at all major retailers and cellphone operators, saving you the hassle of finding the best iPhone deals.

In this article we reveal the best iPhone deals, contracts and bundles available right now. We’ll help you find a discounted iPhone that is suitable for any budget, and cover all eight currently available models, from the mighty iPhone 14 Pro Max down to the humble iPhone SE. We even round up the best prices on discontinued handsets.

With a second Amazon Prime Day looming we also recommend you keep an eye on our Best Prime Day iPhone Deals round up. Plus, if you are buying a new iPhone be sure to get a case: see Best iPhone cases.

Best iPhone deals right now

In the U.S. we’ve seen the following deals on iPhones:

Amazon has the Apple iPhone 13 Pro (128GB, Gold) $899 ($100 off, but the iPhone 13 Pro has been replaced by the iPhone 14 Pro)

In the UK various resellers discount the iPhone so that users can upgrade without also updating their contract. We’re not seeing deals on the new iPhone 14 series, but we are seeing some discounts on other models.

Amazon U.K has the following deals:

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 1TB SSD, gold: £1,227.94 (£322 off) iPhone 13, 512GB SSD, Blue: £946.28 (£132 off)iPhone 13 mini, 512GB SSD, Starlight: £771 (£208 off)iPhone SE, 128GB SSD, midnight for £434.66 (£64 off) iPhone 12, 256GB SSD, black: £668.20 (£141 off)iPhone 12 mini, 64GB SSD, white: £473.35 (£106 off) iPhone 12 mini, 128GB SSD, white: £493.61 (£106 off) Where to buy an iPhone

Apple is the obvious place to look for a new iPhone. You can purchase directly from Apple’s online store (UK), which won’t give you savings, but does at least allow you to take advantage of trading in your old iPhone (see: How to sell or trade in your old iPhone). We also have a complete guide to every iPhone Apple sells.

Alternatively, Amazon UK regularly discounts iPhone models, so it’s well worth keeping an eye out there. If you think you’ll be doing lots of Amazon shopping, we’d recommend signing up to the 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime for free next-day delivery and access to deals 30 minutes early. You can sign up here.

Amazon US offers fewer savings on SIM free iPhones, but we do see them from time to time.

It’s always worth checking the price of the iPhones in the following US stores, which consistently provide solid savings:

AmazonWalmartBest Buy

And UK readers should try these shops:

John LewisCarphone WarehouseKRCS

In addition we recommend you check out our automatically updated price tables, embedded below, which gather the best prices from a wide range of retailers in your region.

Where to buy an iPhone on contract

Most of the major networks will offer the iPhone at a discount if you meet certain conditions (usually opening new lines, or buying on multi-year installment plans). Here are links to browse the latest deals:

AT&TT-MobileVerizon

UK readers should try the following providers:

O2VodafoneThreeVirgin MobileEESky MobileCarphone Warehouse (use the comparison tool by clicking View Deals, and remember to tick the box labelled “Show total cost of ownership”)Best iPhone 14 Pro Max deals

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the biggest and most advanced iPhone from Apple. It only launched in September 2022, so it’ll be a while before we start to see any significant discounts.

The 14 Pro Max starts at $1,099 / £1,199 (or less if you’ve got another iPhone to trade in).

Retailer Price Apple $1099 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Best iPhone 14 Pro deals

The iPhone 14 Pro is the most advanced iPhone from Apple, but with more compact dimensions than the Max. It also only launched in September 2022, so it’ll be a while before we start to see any significant discounts.

The 14 Pro starts at $999 / £1,099 (or less if you’ve got another iPhone to trade in).

Retailer Price Apple $999 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Best iPhone 14 deals

The iPhone 14 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the iPhone 14 Pro, but it does offer Action Mode filming and the cameras are better than the iPhone 13. It also only launched in September 2022, so it’ll be a while before we start to see any significant discounts.

The iPhone 14 starts at $799/£849 (or less if you’ve got another iPhone to trade in).

Retailer Price Apple $799 View Deal Best Buy $799.99 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Best iPhone 14 Plus deals

The iPhone 14 Plus is an entirely new iPhone for 2022. It’s the same as the iPhone 14, but in a bigger package (so if you want a larger iPhone you don’t have to fork out for the Max). The iPhone 14 Plus won’t launch until October though, although you can already pre-order it. See: How to pre-order an iPhone.

The iPhone 14 Plus starts at $899/£949 (or less if you’ve got another iPhone to trade in).

Retailer Price Apple $899 View Deal Best Buy Not Available View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Deals on older iPhones

That’s the new iPhone 14-series for 2022, but Apple still sells four other handsets, plus you’ll still be able to find older iPhones on sale at resellers for some time – which could be a great way to pick up a new iPhone 13 Pro or 13 Pro Max, which Apple no longer sells.

Best iPhone 13 Pro Max deals

The iPhone 13 Pro Max was phenomenally powerful and well specced. Apple no longer sells it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to buy one. Read our guide to the best iPhone 13 deals for dedicated advice on finding a low price on the four late-2021 Apple handsets.

You can find the iPhone 13 Pro Max it the following retailers and networks, assuming they haven’t run out of stock.

Amazon UK has the iPhone 13 Pro Max, 1TB SSD, gold: £1,227.94 (£322 off)

Apple used to sell the 13 Pro Max starting at $1,099/£1,049.

Retailer Price Amazon $749.97 View Deal Best Buy $999.99 View Deal Apple $1099 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Best iPhone deals: iPhone 13 Pro Max Best iPhone 13 Pro deals

The 13 Pro had a smaller screen and battery than the Pro Max, but is otherwise basically identical. Given that it cost less – when Apple still sold it – it will be a better option for many readers. Read our iPhone 13 Pro review for detailed analysis and testing.

Amazon US has the Apple iPhone 13 Pro (128GB, Gold) $899 ($100 off, but the 13 Pro has been replaced by the 14 Pro at the same price)

Apple used to sell the 13 Pro for $999/£949.

Retailer Price Best Buy $899.99 View Deal Amazon $1,299.00 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Best iPhone deals: iPhone 13 Pro Best iPhone 13 deals

Apple does still sell the iPhone 13, and since the launch of the iPhone 14 the price is far more affordable than it was. If you buy the iPhone 13 you still gets the mega-fast A15 Bionic processor, 5G support, a superb twin-lens camera with the new Smart HDR 4, Cinematic Mode and Photographic Styles, and improved battery performance compared with the iPhone 12.

Read our iPhone 13 review for the full picture.

If you want to buy one, the obvious starting point is Apple, where you’ll find that the iPhone 13 now starts at $699/£749 (it was previously $799/£779). As ever, trading in an older handset will earn you a discount if you purchase from Apple and some other resellers.

Unlike with the Pro models above, however, we are seeing some solid discounts on this model from other vendors, at least in the U.K.

In the U.K.

Amazon UK has iPhone 13, 512GB SSD, Blue: £946.28 (£132 off)Amazon UK also has iPhone 13, 256GB SSD, Midnight: £819 (£40 off) (Same discount for other colours)Also on Amazon UK – iPhone 13, 512GB SSD, Blue: £1,029 (£50 off) (Same discount for other colours)

Check the automated price table below for the lowest prices currently available from other retailers:

Retailer Price Best Buy $699.99 View Deal Apple $829.00 View Deal Amazon $1,129.00 View Deal Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Best iPhone 13 mini deals Best iPhone deals: iPhone 13 mini

There is no iPhone 14 mini to the iPhone 13 mini is the only small iPhone you can still buy (aside from the iPhone SE 3). In most respects it’s identical to the iPhone 13, simply squeezed into a smaller chassis and equipped with a smaller screen and smaller battery. That means you’re getting a great (but non-ProMotion) screen, 5G, a super-fast A15 processor and great cameras with Cinematic Mode.

Read our iPhone 13 mini review for more information and expert analysis.

In the UK we’ve seen the following deals:

iPhone 13 mini, 128GB SSD, Pink: £629 (£20 off) (Same discount for red, blue and green)iPhone 13 mini, 256GB SSD, Pink: £729 (£30 off)iPhone 13 mini, 512GB SSD, Pink: £811 (£107.80 off)John Lewis: £629 is worth consideration, thanks to its free delivery and two-year guarantee.

Apple still sells the iPhone 13 mini for $599/£649 (was $699/£679). But we’d recommend looking elsewhere for deals. Check our automated table for the latest offers:

Retailer Price Best Buy $599.99 View Deal Amazon $629.99 View Deal Apple $699