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Visual Studio Code 1.75 brings configuration profiles

Microsoft has rolled out the January 2023 release of its Visual Studio Code programming editor. Published February 2, VS Code 1.75 lets developers create profiles to configure extensions and settings, and offers easier multi-view resizing.

Previously a preview feature, profiles become generally available in VS Code 1.75. A profile can include extensions, settings, UI state, keyboard shortcuts, user snippets, and tasks, allowing users to customize VS Code for different development scenarios such as data science, documentation, and writing or for multiple languages such as Java or Python. VS Code setups based on workflows such as “demo” or “work” also can be saved as profiles.

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How multicloud changes devops

Devops or devsecops (I’ll use devops for this post) is more than just a fast way to build and deploy software within the cloud and on traditional systems. It’s now a solid standard, with best practices, processes, and widely accepted tools.

However, as multicloud becomes the new path to cloud computing, I’m asked how it will impact existing devops programs. Specifically, how development may change and what problems need to be addressed before and after moving to devops to leverage multicloud platform targets. 

First, let’s talk about the changes and the challenges. 

First: complexity. Yes, if it’s a multicloud, complexity will need to be managed, including devops. Managing multiple cloud platforms and technologies can be complex, especially if they each have different tools, processes, and security requirements. This can make it difficult for devops teams to effectively manage and automate their IT environment. 

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Images considered harmful (sometimes)

The Mastodon dashboards I’ve been developing and describing in this series are backed by a Steampipe plugin that translates SQL queries to Mastodon API calls. Like all Steampipe plugins you can use this one to run those queries in all sorts of ways: from psql or another Postgres CLI (perhaps via cron, perhaps in a CI/CD pipeline); from Metabase or Grafana or any Postgres-compatible BI tool; from Python or JavaScript or any programming language. The Steampipe core is a versatile software component that you can plug into just about any environment.

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What is garbage collection? Automated memory management for your programs

This article introduces garbage collection, including an overview of garbage collection algorithms and how garbage collection is implemented in some popular programming languages including Java and Python. Before we get into that, let's consider the pros and cons of garbage collection itself. Why is it such a common solution for memory allocation errors? We'll start with the perils of memory management in languages like C and C++, which do not use garbage collection.

The perils of memory management in C/C++

Memory allocation issues are only a subset of the problems common to C/C++ that cause potential bugs and vulnerabilities, but they are a large subset and are very annoying to track down and fix. Memory allocation bugs include the following scenarios:

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Go 1.20 previews profile-guided optimization

Go 1.20, an upgrade to the Google-developed open source language known for its simplicity, concurrency, and functional programming features, has arrived in a production release. The new version previews profile-guided optimization (PGO) for the compiler.

Announced February 1, Go 1.20 can be downloaded from go.dev. With Go 1.20, preview support for PGO enables the compiler toolchain to perform application-specific and workload-specific optimizations based on runtime profile data. The compiler currently supports pprof CPU profiles, which can be collected through the runtime/pprof or net/http/pprof packages.

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5 key new features in SingleStoreDB 8.0

SingleStoreDB 8.0 brings more cutting-edge features to the unified database—supporting both transactional and analytical processing—that runs in real time. The even faster analytics and greater ease of use in SingleStoreDB empowers developers to truly own all aspects of their data while helping to lower costs and reduce coding.

The new features in this release address the requests of SingleStore’s vast customer base and make the company’s already robust, lightning-fast database platform even more powerful.

Below are the key features of SingleStoreDB 8.0.

Real-time analytics for JSON data

With SingleStoreDB 8.0, users will benefit from fast seeking for JSON columns and string data, which enables performance improvements of up to 400 times faster than ever before.

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Gradient descent in Java

Most artificial intelligence today is implemented using some form of neural network. In my last two articles, I introduced neural networks and showed you how to build a neural network in Java. The power of a neural network derives largely from its capacity for deep learning, and that capacity is built on the concept and execution of backpropagation with gradient descent. I'll conclude this short series of articles with a quick dive into backpropagation and gradient descent in Java.

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Splunk to lay off 4% of its workforce to reduce costs

Data observability software provider Splunk is laying off 4% of its workforce as part of broader measures to optimize costs and processes ahead of uncertain macroeconomic conditions, a company filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed.   

The decision to downsize will affect 325 employees at the company, mostly in the North America region, according to an email from CEO Gary Steele to employees that  was attached to the filing.

“The early proactive steps we’ve taken over the past several months have minimized the scale of the changes we are making now. Unfortunately, today’s decision impacts about 325 Splunkers across the company,” Steele wrote in his email.

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What’s new in Rust 1.67

The unique approach of the Rust programming language results in better code with fewer compromises than C, C++, Go, and the other languages you probably use. It also gets updated regularly, often every month.

Where to download the latest Rust version

If you already have a previous version of Rust installed via rustup, you can access the latest version via the following command:

$ rustup update stable The new features in Rust 1.67

Rust 1.67, unveiled January 26, adds a compiler warning pertaining to #[must_use] and async fn. In Rust, async functions annotated with #[must_use] now apply that attribute to the output of the returned impl Future. The Future trait already is annotated with #[must_use], so types implementing [Future] are automatically #[must_use]. Previously there was no way to indicate that the output of the Future is itself significant and should be used in some way. In Rust 1.67, the compiler now will warn if the output is not used.

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How to use implicit and explicit operators in C#

One of the lesser known features of C# is the ability to create implicit and explicit user-defined type conversions, meaning we have support for both implicit and explicit conversions of one type to another type. We also have explicit and implicit operators, meaning some operators require an explicit cast and some operators don’t.

This article talks about these explicit and implicit conversion operators and how we can work with them in C#. To work with the code examples provided in this article, you should have Visual Studio 2022 installed in your system. If you don’t already have a copy, you can download Visual Studio 2022 here.

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Getting started with Azure OpenAI

Modern machine learning and AI research have moved rapidly from the lab to our IDEs, with tools like Azure’s Cognitive Services providing API-based access to pretrained models. There are many different approaches to delivering AI services, with one of the more promising methods for working with language being a technique called generative pretraining or GPT, which handles large amounts of text.

OpenAI and Microsoft

The OpenAI research lab pioneered this technique, publishing the initial paper on the topic in 2018. The model it uses has been through several iterations, starting with the unsupervised GPT-2, which used untagged data to mimic humans. Built on top of 40GB of public internet content, GPT-2 required significant training to provide a model with 1.5 billion parameters. It was followed by GPT-3, a much larger model with 175 billion parameters. Exclusively licensed to Microsoft, GPT-3 is the basis for tools like the programming code-focused Codex used by GitHub Copilot and the image-generating DALL-E.

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Working with Mastodon lists

Since the early days of the blogosphere I have cherished the ability to view the world through the eyes of people more qualified than me to understand and explain what happens in particular domains. Although Twitter lists were a great way to collect people who provide those perspectives, I made little use of them. Prompted by Martin Fowler’s frustration with lists I described my first steps toward reviving the technique in Lists and people on Mastodon.

First I encapsulated the relevant APIs in a pair of tables provided by the Steampipe plugin for Mastodon: mastodon_list and mastodon_list_account. Then I used those tables to enhance the Mastodon dashboard in a couple of ways. The followers and following tabs now show me who is or isn’t on a list.

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Red Hat Linux comes to Oracle Cloud

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) now will run fully supported on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) cloud platform. Although RHEL competes with Oracle Linux, Oracle says it is not stressed about what this could mean its own Linux platform.

The two companies announced the partnership on January 31. Boasting that more than 90% of the Fortune 500 rely on Red Hat and Oracle solutions, Red Hat and Oracle said the alliance would enable these organizations to standardize their cloud operations on OCI, a common cloud platform that stretches from the data center to the OCI distributed cloud. Customers can contact both Red Hat and Oracle support to resolve potential issues.

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nbdev v2 review: Git-friendly Jupyter Notebooks

There are many ways to go about programming. One of the most productive paradigms is interactive: You use a REPL (read-eval-print loop) to write and test your code as you code, and then copy the tested code into a file.

The REPL method, which originated in LISP development environments, is well-suited to Python programming, as Python has always had good interactive development tools. The drawback of this style of programming is that once you’ve written the code you have to separately pull out the tests and write the documentation, save all that to a repository, do your packaging, and publish your package and documentation.

Donald Knuth’s literate programming paradigm prescribes writing the documentation and code in the same document, with the documentation aimed at humans interspersed with the code intended for the computer. Literate programming has been used widely for scientific programming and data science, often using notebook environments, such as Jupyter Notebooks, Jupyter Lab, Visual Studio Code, and PyCharm. One issue with notebooks is that they sometimes don’t play well with repositories because they save too much information, including metadata that doesn’t matter to anyone. That creates a problem when there are merge conflicts, as notebooks are cell-oriented and source code repositories such as Git are line-oriented.

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Privacera connects to Dremio’s data lakehouse to aid data governance

Open-source based data governance and security SaaS provider Privacera on Tuesday said that it was integrating with Dremio’s open lakehouse to aid enterprise customers with data governance and data security.

A data lakehouse is a data architecture that offers both storage and analytics capabilities, in contrast to data lakes, which store data in native format, and data warehouses, which store structured data (often in SQL format).

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux arrives in Oracle’s cloud
Old rivals Red Hat and Oracle have teamed up for RHEL-based virtual machines running in Oracle’s OCI service.
Server-side rendering is having a moment

Today, front-end development and JavaScript are synonymous. And while a hot, new, cutting-edge JavaScript framework or ecosystem tool seems to arrive every few months, promising faster build times or snappier end-user experiences, “plain” React and React-based frameworks like Next.js continue to dominate. When we look at established browser UI frameworks used by Sentry customers, it’s no surprise that the React ecosystem leads—by a lot.

sentry ssr 01 Sentry

At Sentry, we look at both industry metrics and our own internal SDK adoption data to decide which frameworks to invest in. And with 3.5 million developers and 85 thousand organizations across 150 countries sending us ~800 billion errors and transactions each month, we have a lot of data telling us what developers want.

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MLops is the hot new cloud computing career path

ClearML, an open source MLops platform announced its new research report: “MLOps in 2023: What Does the Future Hold?” This study polled 200 machine learning decision-makers in the United States, examining key trends in machine learning and MLops (machine learning operations).

Putting the potential vendor self-serving bias aside for now, ClearML’s study found that MLops now enjoys wide-scale adoption within enterprises; 85% of respondents said they had a dedicated MLops budget in 2022. And 14% said they did not have budgets in place but expected they would in 2023. So, businesses are going to MLops now or soon.

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C++ creator Bjarne Stroustrup defends its safety

The creator of C++, Bjarne Stroustrup, is defending the venerable programming language after the US National Security Agency (NSA) recently recommended against using it. NSA advises organizations to use memory safe languages instead.

Responding to the agency’s November 2022 bulletin on software memory safety, Stroustrup, who designed C++ in 1979, stressed decades-long efforts to enable better, safer, and more efficient C++. “In particular, the work on the C++ Core Guidelines specifically aims at delivering statically guaranteed type-safe and resource-safe C++ for people who need that without disrupting code bases that can manage without such strong guarantees or introducing additional tool chains,” Stroustrup said in a published response.

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Google blew it with open source layoffs

Google has made impressive inroads against cloud leader AWS by aggressively open sourcing projects such as TensorFlow and Kubernetes. It’s true AWS makes more money than Google (or anyone else) by operationalizing this open source code, but Google’s open source strategy continues to deliver impressive dividends.

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NTT, Palo Alto partner for managed SASE with AIOps

A new offering from IT services provider NTT combines Palo Alto Networks' Prisma SASE offering with NTT's managed network services and AIOps infrastructure.

SASE – secure access service edge – has been gaining interest for its potential to reduce networking complexity while improving security. It combines SD-WAN with security services, including secure web access gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), in a single, cloud-delivered service model.

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What is a virtual network

A computer network as we usually visualize it involves various cables (Ethernet, fiber optic, coaxial) connecting to appliances like routers and switches, which direct data packets where they need to go.

The rise of Wi-Fi and cellular data networks have replaced some of those wires with wireless signals, but even radio waves are in the realm of the physical, and they connect back to cell towers or Wi-Fi access points.

In the seven-layer OSI network reference model, all of that network equipment, processing, and communication occupies the lowest three layers: Level 3 (the network), Level 2 (the data link), and Level 1 (the physical layer).

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Enterprises turn to single-vendor SASE for ease of manageability

Before the start of the Covid epidemic, a traditional WAN architecture with centralized security worked well for Village Roadshow. "Advanced security inspection services can be applied, firewalls can provide separation, and a demilitarized zone can be implemented," said Michael Fagan, chief transformation officer at Village Roadshow, the largest theme park owner in Australia.

But it required backhauling traffic from remote sites to a data center or hub for security inspection, which can hurt application performance, create a poor user experience, and cost the company in productivity, he said.

When the pandemic led the company to transition to a hybrid workforce, with most people working from home or from a remote site, it prompted Village Roadshow to rethink its network and security approach.

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AMD issues firmware fixes for Epyc, Ryzen processors

Earlier this month AMD quietly disclosed 31 new CPU vulnerabilities affecting both its Ryzen desktop chips and EPYC data center processors. AMD disclosed the flaws in coordination  with several researchers, including teams from Google, Apple, and Oracle.

AMD typically releases vulnerability findings twice a year, in May and November, but decided to release the fixes early due to the relatively large number of new vulnerabilities and the timing of the mitigations.

Despite the severity and number of flaws, AMD posted the lists to its security page. The flaws include BIOS/UEFI revisions that AMD has distributed to its OEMs. Since every OEM has a different BIOS/UEFI, it’s best to check with your motherboard maker or system vendor to see if you need the updates.

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Misconfiguration and vulnerabilities biggest risks in cloud security: Report
About 87% of container images include a high or critical vulnerability, while 90% of granted permissions are not used, according to cybersecurity firm Sysdig.
Free training from 8 top vendors to advance your IT career

Skill development has always been a must for anyone in an IT career, but this is especially true as cloud services mature and the components of cloud infrastructure trickle down into the rapidly evolving corporate data center.

Whether you are looking to refresh existing skills on the latest technologies or branch out into a new specialty there are a host of invaluable resources available at no cost to you from some of the biggest vendors in the computing industry.

The result for IT pros is that vendors’ marketing budget could very easily be your ticket to advancement should the skills they teach become needed where you work now or at a different organization.

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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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Startup ECL promises off-the-grid green data centers

Startup ECL has emerged from stealth mode with some mighty big plans: to reinvent the data-center industry with hydrogen-powered modular data centers that use no local power and water.

Rather than drawing power from the electrical grid the company will generate electricity for its data centers using hydrogen fuel cells. The only byproduct is water either as a liquid or vapor that is used for cooling with the leftovers being returned to the local environment. “So we can give back to the community some of the water that we’re producing,” said ECL founder and CEO Yuval Bachar, who previously helped design data centers for Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux arrives in Oracle’s cloud

Red Hat and Oracle announced jointly Tuesday that they have partnered to bring Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, broadening Oracle’s available public cloud options and creating a measure of détente between two long-standing competitors.

The announcement couched the news as step one in a broader partnership between Red Hat and Oracle, but provided details mostly of the OCI integration. RHEL will be available on Oracle’s VMs, ranging in size from 1 to 80 CPU cores and from 1GB of memory up to 1024GB. Initial support will be limited to the newer OCI virtual machine shapes, which use AMD, Intel and Arm processors.

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What is hybrid cloud computing? The benefits of mixing private and public cloud services

A hybrid cloud is a computing platform built from both private and public cloud components. A public cloud is what usually comes to mind when we talk about cloud computing: storage and compute resources offered by a vendor to customers who pay on a metered basis and don't have to worry about provisioning and managing the underlying infrastructure.

One drawback to using public cloud resources is that they often run in virtualized environments, and customers share hardware and other resources.  As an alternative, a customer could set up a private cloud themselves on their own infrastructure, offering the same sort of flexible access to compute resources to internal users.

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Global Microsoft cloud-service outage traced to rapid BGP router updates

Outages that made Microsoft Azure and multiple Microsoft cloud services widely unavailable for 90 minutes on Jan. 25 can be traced to the cascading effects of repeated, rapid readvertising of BGP router prefixes, according to a ThousandEyes analysis of the incident.

The Cisco-owned network intelligence company traced the Microsoft outage to an external BGP change by Microsoft that affected service providers. (Read more about network and infrastructure outages in our top 10 outages of 2022 recap.)

Multiple Microsoft BGP prefixes were withdrawn completely and then almost immediately readvertised, ThousandEyes said. Border gateway protocol (BGP) tells Internet traffic what route to take, and the BGP best-path selection algorithm determines the optimal routes to use for traffic forwarding.

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Using Linux hexedit and xxd commands to  view and modify binary files

Linux systems support a number of file editors – like vi, vim, neovim, ne, GNU Emacs etc. But you can also install an editor that allows you to view the contents of and make changes to binary files--hexedit.

With hexedit, you can edit images, executables and other binaries, though you have to know a lot about the format of the file you’re editing to make valid changes that don't disrupt the file's format. After all, you'll be editing one byte at a time. This is not meant to imply that you can't use this command for viewing or editing text files. There's just little or no reason to do that.

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BrandPost: Driving Impact: The AI Capabilities That Deliver Value

Your network is the heartbeat of the user experience. When it goes down, employees and customers get frustrated, which can lead to reduced productivity, abandoned sales, and other unwelcome business results. And there’s further frustration if users must call or submit a support ticket to IT. This extra step slows resolution. How can an organization avoid this scenario?

The answer is experience-first networking, which includes a strong network infrastructure with visibility into how it’s performing. This approach provides the best possible experience for network operators who must keep the network heartbeat thrumming, as well as end users who keep the business moving.

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BrandPost: Why You Need the Ability to Explain AI

Trust is a critical factor in most aspects of life. But this is especially true with complex concepts like artificial intelligence (AI). In a word, it’s essential for day-to-day users to trust these technologies will work.

“AI is so complicated that it can be difficult for operators and users to have confidence that the system will do what it’s supposed to do,” said Andrew Burt, Managing Partner, BNH.AI.

Without trust, individuals will remain uncertain, doubtful, and possibly even fearful of AI solutions, and those concerns can seep into implementations.

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BrandPost: A Close Look at a Retailer’s Modern Network – and its ROI

Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are grabbing headlines for good reasons. These technologies — which include intelligent automation, machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP) — are delivering business value and easing the workloads of IT and network teams.

For example, an AI-driven network can reduce the need for IT staff to:

Travel to remote locations to provision network capabilities Spend days pushing out updated network configurations to access points Manually stitch together information to gain visibility into incidents Spend hours or days troubleshooting network support tickets

AI-enabled network solutions can also help IT teams rapidly deliver network enhancements and get ahead of issues before they become problems. The combination of AI, ML, and data science enables automated event correlation, root cause identification, anomaly detection, and more. Together, these technologies optimize operations across wireless, wired, and SD-WAN networks.

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IDC networking trifecta: SD-WAN, automation, and analytics

To get the most out of SD-WAN, organizations should augment it with analytics and automation that can provide valuable insights and boost security as well, according to IDC.

“SD-WAN plays an important role in just about everything enterprises want to do from supporting distributed applications or multi-cloud applications to providing on-ramps to the public cloud backbone and connectivity to site-to-site or site to multi-site use cases,” said Brandon Butler, research manager with IDC’s Enterprise Networks practice speaking at a Cisco-sponsored webinar this week.

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Juniper targets data-center automation with Apstra update

Juniper Networks is releasing a new version of its Apstra intent-based networking software that includes more extensive configuration capabilities, additional multivendor hardware and software support, and improved environmental analytics.

Apstra keeps a real-time repository of configuration, telemetry and validation information to ensure a network is doing what the enterprise wants it to do. Companies can use Apstra's automation capabilities to deliver consistent network and security policies for workloads across physical and virtual infrastructures.

In addition, Apstra performs regular network checks to safeguard configurations. It's hardware agnostic, so it can be integrated to work with Juniper’s networking products as well as boxes from Cisco, Arista, Dell, Microsoft and Nvidia.

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How layoffs at Google could affect enterprise cloud services
Analysts are debating what effect the layoffs at Alphabet will have on the delivery of enterprise cloud services at its Google subsidiary, while investors call for deeper cuts.
Microsoft Teams and Outlook suffer global outages
Users across the globe were struggling to access multiple Microsoft products after the company implemented a network change.
BrandPost: Three Ways SD-WAN and Networking-as-a-Service Benefit Sustainability and ESG

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

Environment, social, and governance, or ESG, has become a hot topic in corporate strategy as a key component to driving shareholder value and interest. Sustainability, in particular, is often considered the main focus to attain ESG goals due to growing climate change concerns. That strategy, however, must look beyond traditional methods and expand to encompass IT and corporate computing practices, which in turn can drive a significant chunk of an organization’s carbon footprint through its vast energy needs.

In a recent Gartner survey, CEOs considered environmental sustainability as a key differentiator and placed environmental sustainability in the top 10 strategic business priorities. Additionally, 74% of CEOs agreed that increasing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts attract investors toward their companies[1].

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- Natasha Mascarenhas

Four months after closing its largest fund to date, Kapor Capital wants more. The firm is under new leadership after co-founders Freada and Mitch Kapor stepped back from the outfit, which focuses on funding social impact ventures and founders of color. Now, led by Uriridiakoghene “Ulili” Onovakpuri and Brian Dixon, Kapor Capital is hoping to raise a $50 million opportunity fund, according to an SEC filing.

The opportunity fund, if closed, would continue Kapor Capital’s new strategy of taking capital from outside investors. Up until last year, all of Kapor’s funds were directly from the founding partners; in September, though, the firm closed a $126 million Fund 3 backed by investors including Cambridge Associates, Align Impact, Ford Foundation, Bank of America, PayPal and Twilio.

At the time, Dixon told TechCrunch that turning to external investors helps the firm with access; Kapor is now writing checks between $250,000 and $3 million with a primary focus on participating in pre-seed and seed rounds. Onovakpuri said the larger fund would allow them to invest in more companies with bigger checks.

That said, with presumably a fresh chunk of capital to deploy, why would Kapor be eyeing an opportunity fund? It’s a trend-turned-standard among early-stage venture capital firms that want to get in on later rounds of their star portfolio companies. Last year, Khosla debuted an opportunity fund and last week, Cowboy raised its first of the kind as well.

Kapor Capital did not immediately return a request for comment.

Kapor Capital’s new leaders share which LPs are taking the firm ‘to a whole new level’

Kapor Capital’s new crew is raising an opportunity fund by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on TechCrunch

- Harri Weber

Rebellyous, a startup that’s striving to build “a better chicken,” has raised at least $20 million in fresh funding, TechCrunch has learned.

Based in Seattle, the venture-backed company calls its production tech the “most advanced plant-based meat manufacturing system on the planet.”

Rebellyous aims to raise as much as $30.7 million in total, according to a public regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The report names previously announced backers YB Choi of Cercano Management, angel investor Owen Gunden and Mike Miller of Liquid 2 Ventures among its directors. The filing indicates that at least 55 undisclosed investors chipped in on the latest round, but as usual the SEC disclosure leaves us wanting more.

Reached for comment on the fundraise, Rebellyous chief of staff Tina Meredith declined to share details on the startup’s plan for the money. Still, the company’s website lays out efforts to build “the next-gen meat machine,” dubbed Mock Two. Rebellyous calls its tech an alternative to factory farming, which it bluntly and justifiably describes as “fucking disgusting.”

The filing comes as some of the most prominent names in faux meat struggle to realize their overarching vision of disrupting big meat (which is more popular than ever in the U.S., per somewhat dated reports).

Impossible Foods could soon lay off 20% of its staff, according to a January 30 Bloomberg report. Likewise, Beyond Meat announced it would lay off 19% of its staff in October amid reportedly weak sales. For early-stage startups such as Rebellyous, all eyes will be on profitability, differentiation and, as always, cost. 

Plant-based foods investor says her focus is more on teams than taste

Plant-based Rebellyous is raising millions to ‘rethink the nugget’ by Harri Weber originally published on TechCrunch

- Taylor Hatmaker

Mentions of the “metaverse” were relatively few and far between in Meta’s quarterly earnings call this week — we counted a mere seven mentions compared to 23 for “AI” — but the company’s investment into its vision of a VR-connected social future remains colossal.

Starting in 2021, Meta began breaking out its Reality Labs VR and AR division into its own segment for financial reporting purposes. That makes it possible to see just how much Meta is pouring into those areas, and the numbers are staggering.

Meta reported $13.7 billion in operating losses for Reality Labs for 2022, more than the already jaw-dropping $10.2 billion it sunk into the division in 2021. Reality Labs brought in $2.16 billion last year in revenue, a drop from $2.27 billion in 2021.

For scope, remember that Meta bought Oculus — the pioneering VR hardware company that formed a groundwork for its efforts — for $2 billion back in 2014. The company’s investment in the area has only escalated, with the company picking up a number of major software companies including Beat Saber’s creator and now Within, developer of the virtual workout app Supernatural.

Meta hasn’t disclosed its headcount numbers for Reality Labs, but the company reportedly had 17,000 employees in the division prior to layoffs late last year. Staffing and hardware development account for the lion’s share of the cash it’s spent in the area.

Meta CFO Susan Li said that the company expects its annual losses for Reality Labs to be even higher in 2023. “…We’re going to continue to invest meaningfully in this area given the significant long-term opportunities that we see,” Li said, calling its AR, VR and metaverse software efforts “a long-duration investment.”

Meta plans to launch a next-generation consumer headset later in 2023, like a revamped version of its Quest hardware featuring mixed reality. Apple, one of the only consumer-focused companies poised to compete with Meta in the sector, is widely expected to launch a new AR/VR headset soon.

In this week’s earnings call, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized the fact that Reality Labs encompasses AR, VR and metaverse-related software (Horizon Worlds, etc.) at the company. “I think the software and social platform might be the most critical part of what we’re doing, but software is just a lot less capital intensive to build than the hardware,” Zuckerberg said.

Meta may publicly de-emphasize its metaverse efforts to please skeptical investors, but the company appears ready to the stay the course on VR and AR.

“… None of the signals that I’ve seen so far suggests that we should shift the Reality Labs strategy long term,” Zuckerberg said. “We are constantly adjusting the specifics of how we execute this, so I think that we’ll certainly look at that as part of the ongoing efficiency work.”

Meta stock perks up as the company promises a ‘year of efficiency’

Meta’s Reality Labs lost $13.7 billion on VR and AR last year by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

- Kirsten Korosec

Elon Musk was found not liable in a class-action securities fraud trial that centered on the Tesla CEO’s now infamous “funding secured” tweet.

After less than 90 minutes of deliberation, a jury announced the verdict in the trial that kicked off three weeks ago in San Francisco. The outcome of the trial sent Tesla shares up about 1.5% in after-hours trading to $189.98.

Musk tweeted Friday following the jury’s verdict: “Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed! I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case.”

The central question in the lawsuit was whether Musk was liable for losses suffered by shareholders after he posted in August 2018 several messages on Twitter that he had secured funding to take Tesla private. Musk initially tweeted “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” Another pair of tweets soon followed: “Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote” and then another stating that he doesn’t have a controlling vote now and “wouldn’t expect any shareholder to have one if we go private.”

Plaintiffs’ attorneys representing investors argued that these shareholders suffered financially as a result. Musk, Tesla and its board, faced billions of dollars in damages.

The trial was not to determine whether those tweets were true. That question had already been answered. Edward M. Chen, the federal judge overseeing the case, ruled that the tweets were untrue and Musk was reckless for posting them.

The three-week trial was largely a tug-of-war over language and intent.

Attorney Nicholas Porritt, who made closing arguments for the plaintiffs, argued that when Musk posted the tweets the company was nowhere near reaching a deal to go private, citing emails and texts to prove there was not an agreement or even a framework to reach one.

“To Elon Musk, if he believes it even just thinks about it, then it’s true no matter how objectively false or exaggerated it may be,” Porritt said. “That may work in his businesses. That’s not an issue for this trial. But it does not work in securities markets or public companies. Securities markets have rules governing what you can and cannot say. And one of those basic rules is that what you say must be true and accurate.”

Alex Spiro, who represented Musk, countered, stating throughout his closing arguments that funding was not the issue at all and Musk knew he could attain it if needed. Instead, Spiro pointed to a blog post several weeks after Musk’s tweets explaining that Musk would not take Tesla private because existing shareholders believed it was better off as a publicly traded company.

While Musk avoided a hefty bill in damages, the funding secured tweet has cost him.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in September 2018 alleging Musk lied when he tweeted that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share. The complaint was filed after Musk and Tesla’s board abruptly walked away from an agreement with the SEC. The board not only pulled out of the agreement, it issued a bold statement of support for Musk after the charges were filed.

A settlement was eventually reached anyway, albeit with stiffer penalties than the original agreement. Musk agreed, in the settlement reached on September 29, to step down as chairman of Tesla and pay a $20 million fine. Tesla agreed to pay a separate $20 million penalty.

Elon Musk, Tesla found not liable in ‘funding secured’ tweet lawsuit by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch

- Christine Hall
Daily Crunch: Apple says it earned $20.8B from 935M subscriptions last fiscal quarter

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Friday, cha cha cha! Fri-day! Cha cha cha! We’re doing a tiny, joyous, two-person conga line around our virtual Daily Crunch editorial Zoom meeting to celebrate the arrival of the first weekend in February. Yes, it looks ridiculous. No, we couldn’t care less even if we took every ounce we had and poured into less-caring.

Couple of quick ones for startups: If you’re going to MWC, we want to hear from you, and we want your votes for the TechCrunch Early Stage fireside chats, breakout sessions and roundtable discussions!

And for today’s Black History Month recommendation, we suggest Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. It’s an extraordinary read that, when it was published a decade ago, reignited the desire for criminal justice reform and is still as poignant and relevant today. — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3 The Big Apple of subscriber bases: Apple may have missed its revenue target (see the Big Tech section) for its fiscal first quarter, but the consumer tech giant is poppin’ bottles and tootin’ horns after announcing it now has 935 million paid subscriptions across all of its offerings. Ivan has more. Who’s at the door?: Christine got the scoop on Jokr’s new funding round. The grocery delivery company secured around $50 million to give it a bump in valuation, up to $1.3 billion now. Jokr plans to use that funding to double down on its service in Brazil. A tall order for some shorts: YouTube’s persistence of getting everyone to watch shorts has paid off: Google says YouTube Shorts crossed 50 billion daily views, Ivan reports. Startups and VC

TechCrunch Live is back, and Matt is thrilled to have hosted this conversation with Sameer Shariff, CEO and co-founder of Cambly, and Sarah Tavel, partner at Benchmark. During this hourlong event, you’ll hear how Cambly used a failed Series A fundraise to force the company into a cash-positive position. Of course, once the company didn’t need outside capital, it was suddenly available, and the company raised its next two rounds of funding.

And we have five more for you:

A second Nothing: Nothing’s second phone will take on the U.S. this year, reports Brian. Pumping the brakes: Rebecca reports that car-sharing SPAC Getaround lays off 10% of staff. Sendy takes the off-ramp: More job cuts loom as Sendy quits Nigeria, one of its four markets in Africa, Annie reports. A brighter future: SunFi aims to be the fastest way for Nigerians to find, finance and manage solar, Tage reports. Raising for Rebar robotics: Rebar robotics firm Toggle adds another $3 million to its fundraising tally, Brian reports. Pitch Deck Teardown: Laoshi’s $570K angel deck

Image Credits: Laoshi (opens in a new window)

The founders of Laoshi raised a $570,000 angel round to scale up their app, which helps users learn to read and write in Chinese.

To help other very early-stage founders, they shared 15 slides from their deck:

Cover slide Problem slide Market slide Solution slide Competition slide Road map slide Team slide Teacher growth slide Teacher retention slide Summary slide “Contact us” slide Appendices cover slide  Appendix I: Viral effect slide  Appendix II: Business model slide  Appendix III: “The ask” slide

Pitch Deck Teardown: Laoshi’s $570K angel deck

Three more from the TC+ team:

All about the Hryvnias, baby: Dmytro Bilash breaks down why it might be a good idea to invest in Ukrainian startups today. 4 activist investors walk into a Salesforce: Can 4 activist investors play nice in the Salesforce sandbox? Ron asks. Well, that’s useful: Usage-based pricing is rising, but not replacing other models, by Anna.

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

For all you “Seinfeld” fans out there, Amanda came upon this gem on Twitch, the “Nothing, Forever” AI ‘Seinfeld’ spoof, which she notes, “We’ve all seen far too many AI-generated gimmicks, but the AI isn’t what’s most interesting about “Nothing, Forever.” It’s the community that’s gathered around the stream, making the project feel like this generation’s “Twitch Plays Pokémon.” Enjoy!

Our team was on earnings overload, and now we have a nice collection of insights from Ford, Apple and Amazon:

Apple stock drops on rare earnings miss, by Brian and Natasha. Ford left ‘$2B of profits on the table’ in 2022, by Kirsten. Amazon ramped up content spending to $16.6B in 2022, by Lauren. AWS says growth dropped to mid-teens as customer cost-cutting continues, by Ron.

Now here’s some non-earnings items for your Friday enjoyment:

That is not chump change: Vodafone Idea was ordered by the Indian government to convert government dues into $2 billion equity, Manish reports. Cha-ching: Credit card companies in South Korea can now launch Apple Pay, Kate writes. Even more cha-ching: The U.S. Treasury signed off on more electric vehicle federal tax credits for Tesla, Ford and GM, Kirsten reports. SGN for NFTs: Jacquelyn reports some good news — that the NFT market is showing signs of recovery. Well, that didn’t last long: Twitter alternative Damus was pulled from Apple’s App Store in China. Rita has more on how that happened.

Daily Crunch: Apple says it earned $20.8B from 935M subscriptions last fiscal quarter by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

- Amanda Silberling

A group of 40 YouTube Music workers went on strike Friday. Employed by Alphabet subcontractor Cognizant, the striking workers allege that both companies’ management have leveraged unfair labor practices to get in the way of their union drive.

“Right now, the vast majority of our department is ready to vote yes in a [National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)] election,” said YouTube Music generalist Sam Regan at a strike in Austin, Texas, viewed via Facebook livestream. “In an act of retaliation against our organizing efforts, our employer is forcing an end to remote work before the vote, which would dramatically interfere with the fair voting conditions mandated by federal law.”

YouTube Music’s content operations team is expected to return to the Austin office on Monday. But according to the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), the majority of workers were hired remotely, and almost one quarter are not even based in Texas.

“Workers are paid as little as $19 dollars an hour and thus, cannot afford the relocation, travel or childcare costs associated with in person work,” the AWU said in a press release.

On January 23, the AWU — affiliated with the Communications Workers of America — filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. Per national law, it is illegal for employers to interfere with employee organizing, or retaliate against workers for participating in organizing efforts.

Two weeks ago, the company laid off 12,000 people, or 6% of its global workforce — despite this reduction in headcount, on Thursday, Alphabet announced in its quarterly earnings report that it made $13.6 billion in profit. As Alphabet delivered its results, about 50 employees protested the recent layoffs outside a nearby Google store.

Another set of Google workers, a group of “search raters” — who train, test and evaluate search algorithms — held an action at Google headquarters on February 1. Alphabet has stated that all members of its extended workforce in the U.S. should be paid $15 per hour or more, plus other benefits like healthcare, tax free tuition reimbursement and employee assistance programs. But search raters say they “earn poverty wages, with no benefits.” The group delivered a petition to senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan at Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters, calling on leadership to include these workers in Alphabet’s extended workforce.

Google did not respond to request for comment.

Google parent Alphabet cuts 6% of its workforce, impacting 12,000 people

YouTube Music contractors strike over alleged unfair labor practices by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

- Rebecca Szkutak

The venture secondaries market has been on the same roller-coaster ride as the broader VC market over the past few years, but it looks poised to break away in 2023.

Like venture capital as a whole, the secondaries market was hot in 2021 as a bunch of new players — sound familiar? — entered the space as crossover investors and traditional VCs forayed into buying secondary stakes as a way to get into hot deals they couldn’t access primary shares in. As the market turned in 2022, secondary deals quieted to the same volume as their venture counterparts amid mismatched valuations and expectations.

But while it’s unclear if the venture market has reached its bottom — some investors think it has, while others fear the worst is yet to come — secondary deals are breaking away. Data shows that transactions started to pick back up again in the second half of 2022, and multiple investors think 2023 could turn into a great year.

Venture funding has started flooding back in at least one area: Secondaries by Rebecca Szkutak originally published on TechCrunch

- Aria Alamalhodaei

Voyager Space, a company developing a private space station, has raised $80.2 million in new capital. The new funding comes as Voyager continues its development of the station, Starlab, which is no doubt an enormously capital-intensive undertaking.

The funding includes participation from NewSpace Capital, Midway Venture Partners and Industrious Ventures, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other documents viewed by TechCrunch. Seraphim Space also participated, TechCrunch has confirmed. The funding was filed with the SEC on January 27.

In October 2021, Voyager announced it was developing “Starlab,” a completely private space station, in partnership with Nanoracks (which is majority owned by Voyager) and Lockheed Martin. The project, which is not the only private station currently under development, is in part in response to the impending retirement of the International Space Station by the end of the decade.

NASA has already provided a large bulk of funding to Voyager, as well as two separate projects led by Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman. Starlab was awarded $160 million to further develop its plans under the agency’s Commercial low Earth orbit (LEO) Destinations program. In a recent report, NASA’s Office of Inspector General said that a habitable station in LEO was vital to conducting research needed to support human exploration missions to the moon and Mars.

TechCrunch has reached out to Voyager Space for comment and will update the story if they respond.

Voyager Space raises $80M as it continues development on private space station, Starlab by Aria Alamalhodaei originally published on TechCrunch

- Amanda Silberling

As more Twitter features break and glitch, users are becoming increasingly concerned about the platform’s stability.

We’re about three months into Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter, and a number of problems plague the platform, likely because so many staff have left or been laid off. Some people, including Musk and Libs of TikTok, have temporarily put their accounts on private to see if that boosts engagement. Android users are reporting that they can no longer DM people. Others can briefly see posts from people who have blocked them, posing a privacy concern. In a truly heinous crime of engineering, some users report that they don’t see birthday balloons anymore. The list goes on.

This helped identify some issues with the system. Should be addressed by next week.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 2, 2023

For anyone who loves to overshare on the internet, one possibly-broken feature is particularly concerning: Twitter Circle.

Over the summer, Twitter rolled out its Circle feature, which functions like Instagram’s Close Friends stories. Instead of making an alt account to privately reach the people you trust, you can add them to your Circle. When someone posts to their Circle (and you’ve been added to that group), you can see a green banner beneath their tweets, indicating that it’s a Circle tweet. Now, many users’ tweets are no longer appearing with that green banner, sparking some moments of panic that you accidentally tweeted to your entire following something intended for your friends.

We have observed that the green banner rarely appears when we see other users’ Circle tweets. Instead, you can tell that a post was sent to the Circle because it becomes unable to be retweeted. If the user is already private, there doesn’t seem to be a distinction. If you try to retweet these posts, a somewhat broken notice will arise, saying that “only (null) and their Twitter Circle can see these Tweets,” failing to populate the user’s name.

Some users have tweeted that their Circle tweets have been posted publicly, although TechCrunch has not been able to confirm this behavior. Whether tweets are actually seen beyond their intended audience or not, the confusion is enough to undermine the privacy-focused feature.

Some people have tweeted warnings to their followers that they should be careful with what they post on Circle, since it may not be as private as they think. Others have said that that they’re operating under the assumption that their DMs may become public one day and no users should have the expectation of privacy on Twitter at the moment.

Of course, it poses a real privacy concern if users cannot fully control who their audience is. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, warned us after he resigned that “If protected tweets stop working, run, because that’s a symptom that something is deeply wrong.”

We might not quite be there yet, but there’s definitely reason to be concerned if Twitter Circle is glitching like this.

The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To those who remain on Twitter staff, I implore you: If it ain’t broke, please just don’t touch it, because it will almost definitely crumble before our very eyes.

Twitter to end free access to its API in Elon Musk’s latest monetization push

Twitter’s iOS app is riddled with privacy settings glitches

Twitter Circle glitches have users worried about privacy by Amanda Silberling originally published on TechCrunch

- Taylor Hatmaker

Twitter’s new owner is making moves to build in more revenue streams for creators — or at least he’s tweeting about it.

Elon Musk announced Friday that the company would soon begin sharing advertising revenue with creators on the platform for the first time. The catch? Eligible users must be signed up for Twitter Blue, which starts at $8 a month.

Starting today, Twitter will share ad revenue with creators for ads that appear in their reply threads

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2023

The other side of the coin is that Twitter plans to begin serving ads in replies, a change that could clog the platform with sponsored content and invite even more reply spam.

Twitter was slow to warm up to the creator economy, but the mostly text-based social app eventually got on board. The company introduced a handful of features in recent years to help content creators earn money, including Super Follows, Ticketed Spaces and a special monetization dashboard.

Twitter’s creator features emphasize connecting creators and their followers directly with monthly paid subscriptions and ticketing, but Musk is apparently interested in adding an advertising revenue share into the mix.

YouTube has long split revenue with its creator community and is generally regarded as the best place to reliably make money from videos. The company pays out 55% of revenue earned through on-channel ads and recently introduced revenue sharing for its short form TikTok competitor, YouTube Shorts.

Other companies, most notably Meta, have been slow to adopt this monetization model. TikTok only announced its own ad revenue sharing program mid last year with TikTok Pulse, though the offer was only extended to accounts with at least 100,000 followers — a lofty cutoff. The ad revenue sharing model is even less common on platforms that emphasize text rather than video.

Recent tweets suggest that Musk wants to position Twitter as a creator haven that can compete with YouTube, but the platform has far less of a foothold in video and it’s far from clear that the company can build out resource-intensive video features while the platform’s most basic functions are already deteriorating.

“Let’s see what happens when Twitter offers good video with higher compensation for creators,” Musk wrote in a reply to MrBeast, YouTube’s most-followed user.

This week alone, many Twitter users flipped their accounts to private after anecdotal reports suggested that some people were seeing less engagement following changes to the recommendation algorithm. Other bugs, like retweets incorrectly displaying as deleted, have been popping up regularly and mostly lingering.

It’s also not clear that Twitter actually has the means to begin sharing its ad revenue with creators. That change would present an entirely new monetization option, presumably one that requires quite a bit of building on the back end to track, calculate and pay out a user’s cut of the ad revenue from their reply threads. To date, Twitter’s monetization options for creators have stuck to relatively simple direct payments for tickets and subscribers.

We’ve yet to witness any evidence that this ad revenue sharing program is active in the wild on Twitter, but we’ll be tracking the changes, how they impact creators and what comes of Musk’s quixotic plans to flip Twitter into a YouTube competitor.

Elon Musk says that Twitter will start sharing ad revenue with creators ‘today’ by Taylor Hatmaker originally published on TechCrunch

- Aisha Malik

Google worked to reassure investors and analysts on Thursday during its quarterly earnings call that it’s still a leader in developing AI. The company’s Q4 2022 results were highly anticipated as investors and the tech industry awaited Google’s response to the popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which has the potential to threaten its core business.

During the call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai talked about the company’s plans to make AI-based large language models (LLMs) like LaMDA available in the coming weeks and months. Pichai said users will soon be able to use large language models as a companion to search. An LLM, like ChatGPT, is a deep learning algorithm that can recognize, summarize and generate text and other content based on knowledge from enormous amounts of text data. Pichai said the models that users will soon be able to use are particularly good for composing, constructing and summarizing.

“Now that we can integrate more direct LLM-type experiences in Search, I think it will help us expand and serve new types of use cases, generative use cases,” Pichai said. “And so, I think I see this as a chance to rethink and reimagine and drive Search to solve more use cases for our users as well. It’s early days, but you will see us be bold, put things out, get feedback and iterate and make things better.”

Pichai’s comments about the possible ChatGPT rival come as a report revealed this week that Microsoft is working to incorporate a faster version of ChatGPT, known as GPT-4, into Bing, in a move that would make its search engine, which today has only a sliver of search market share, more competitive with Google. The popularity of ChatGPT has seen Google reportedly turning to co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin for help in combating the potential threat. The New York Times recently reported that Page and Brin had several meetings with executives to strategize about the company’s AI plans.

During the call, Pichai warned investors and analysts that the technology will need to scale slowly and that he sees large language usage as still being in its “early days.” He also said that the company is developing AI with a deep sense of responsibility and that it’s going to be careful when launching AI-based products, as the company plans to initially launch beta features and then slowly scale up from there.

He went on to note that Google will provide new tools and APIs for developers, creators and partners to empower them to build their own applications and discover new possibilities with AI.

In addition, Google announced that starting in the first quarter of 2023, the company is going to change its reporting structure for its DeepMind AI segment. The segment will now be reported as part of Alphabet’s corporate costs, as opposed to being reported in the Other Bets umbrella, which includes long-payoff projects. Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said the reporting change “reflects the strategic focus in DeepMind to support each one of our segments.”

The move is also meant to signal to the industry that the company is serious about investing in the advancing space of AI.

Shortly after the call, the tech giant revealed that it is holding a Search and AI event on February 8. The aim of the event is to show how Google is “using the power of AI to reimagine how people search for, explore and interact with information, making it more natural and intuitive than ever before to find what you need,” according to an invite sent to reporters. The invitation also includes hints about Google Maps, Lens, Shopping and Translate.

Google typically shares updates about Maps, Lens and other similar products during its I/O conference in May, which makes this new surprise event interesting. Because it’s taking place in a few days, it appears that Google is focused on addressing threats to its core business and reassuring investors it’s still an “AI-first” company.

“AI is the most profound technology we are working on today,” Pichai said during the call. “Our talented researchers, infrastructure and technology make us extremely well-positioned as AI reaches an inflection point. More than six years ago, I first spoke about Google being an AI-first company. Since then, we have been a leader in developing AI. We are just at the beginning of our AI journey and the best is yet to come,” he said.

Another new development showcasing Google’s focus on AI is the news that it’s investing $300 million in AI startup Anthropic. The news was first reported by the Financial Times and Google confirmed the investment to TechCrunch on Friday. Anthropic’s recently debuted AI model Claude is seen as a rival to ChatGPT. The new funding will value the San Francisco-based company at around $5 billion. The news comes as Microsoft recently announced a multibillion-dollar investment in OpenAI.

Throughout the call, Pichai reiterated that Google has been investing in AI for several years now.

Although this is true, the company hasn’t exactly made many notable strides in the space publicly. For instance, the company has the AI Playground application, which had the potential to be like ChatGPT, but was purposely limited. The company also unveiled an AI language model called PaLM, which stands for Pathways Language Model, at I/O last year. It’s the company’s largest model to date, but Google has yet to share its plans for the model or how it will be leveraged.

Despite Google’s assurances, investors are now watching closely to see how the search giant responds to the looming threat posed by ChatGPT. Although shares of Alphabet opened lower today after the company turned in a disappointing fourth-quarter earnings report, the company recouped all of its losses by mid-day.

Google tries to reassure investors on AI progress as ChatGPT breathes down its neck by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

- Ron Miller

Salesforce finds itself in a rather unusual situation, with four activist investors operating inside the company at the same time: Elliott Management, Starboard Value, ValueAct and Inclusive Capital. Experts suggest that having so many activist investors in play at once at a major tech company like Salesforce is exceptional.

What do these folks want from Salesforce, which is hardly in full distress? Sure, the stock is down, but Salesforce raked in $8 billion last quarter.

But that could be precisely why the investors are so interested — because they believe whatever they think is wrong can be fixed fairly quickly, and everyone can make a lot of money without a lot of fuss.

That may or may not be the case. When you have four strong personalities involved in the same game, even if their end goal is in sync, how do you get them all collaborating to pull CEO Marc Benioff and the board of directors in line with them? And let’s not forget that Benioff has a pretty strong personality himself.

If the investors have differing opinions about what’s wrong at Salesforce, it can create an opening for Benioff to negotiate, something that activist investors don’t typically like to do. Instead, they like to dictate terms and position themselves — usually by capturing board seats — to make sure the company does what they want. Salesforce did announce three new board members last week, including ValueAct CEO and chief investment officer Mason Morfit.

But with four firms, who gets additional board seats? Who negotiates these changes? Do they work together or do they come apart? It’s an interesting exercise in teamwork. Can these investors share the responsibility without driving each other crazy?

Searching for consensus

Can 4 activist investors play nice in the Salesforce sandbox? by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

- Kate Park

A South Korean financial regulator said on Friday that the country had approved the Apple Pay launch to allow local credit card firms to introduce the Apple Pay service.

The announcement comes nearly two months after South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) confirmed to TechCrunch that it is reviewing the Apple Pay launch clause submitted by local credit company Hyundai Card, a financial unit of Hyundai Motors.

Per previous media outlets, Hyundai Card had a one-year exclusivity partnership with Apple Pay in South Korea. In other words, only Hyundai Card holders will initially be able to use Apply Pay service via iPhones and other Apple devices.

But this time, based on the Financial Service Commission (FSC) statement, other local cardholders also will be able to use the Apple Pay service, meaning Hyundai Card does not have its one-year exclusivity partnership with Apple Pay anymore. TechCrunch could not reach Hyundai Card, which has yet to release an official statement, for more details.

The FSC noted that credit card companies should not have customers or merchants pay commissions incurred through Apple Pay; they should also be prepared to ensure users’ protection from risks caused by the theft of personal information. Apple would purportedly require the card issuer to pay a commission rate of 0.1% or 0.15% of the transaction amount. 

The competition in the local mobile payment industry, in which local players like Samsung Pay have the most widely used, is expected to grow more intense in the country after the launch of Apple Pay.

South Korea’s lack of NFC (near-field communication) support at payment terminals in retail stores could be a hurdle for Apple Pay because only about 10% of 2.9 million local retailers in South Korea reportedly have NFC enabled in their credit card terminals. Most Korean retailers use magnetic secure transmission (MST), a mobile payment technology allowing smartphones to transact wireless payments with traditional credit card swipe readers and terminals. Apple Pay’s core payment terminal is NFC, while Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST in the country.

In FSC’s statement, the financial authority said it expects Apple Pay service to promote the NFC payment service in the country.

South Korea is now the eleventh country in Asia Pacific to support Apple’s wallet and digital payment service. The Cupertino-based firm is already operating its payment services in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and New Zealand. 

South Korean financial regulator confirms it is reviewing Apple Pay service for launch

Apple Pay gets the green light to launch its service in South Korea by Kate Park originally published on TechCrunch

- Walter Thompson
TechCrunch+ roundup: SaaS pricing strategies, 2022 open source report, can Vine regrow?

I found an old leather jacket in the back of a closet recently. It’s a vintage item in fantastic shape — except for a huge tear in one of the front pockets.

Two clothing donation centers rejected it, so I decided to see if it’s worth repairing. It was pricey when new, but with some attention and care, maybe it could find a second life.

Vine, Twitter’s shuttered video-sharing platform that launched three years before TikTok, is much like my old jacket: Back in the day, it earned compliments, but if I wore it out now, it’d just look janky as hell.

Full TechCrunch+ articles are only available to members
Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription

In October 2022, incoming Twitter CEO Elon Musk polled his followers: “Bring back Vine?”

Nearly 70% responded yes, which means Twitter developers are “likely now asking themselves if they should try to revive the old codebase or start from scratch,” writes Marcus Merrell, vice president of technology strategy at Sauce Labs.

“Reviving parts of a codebase is like changing a plane’s engine while it’s mid-flight,” but rebooting involves an inordinate amount of technical resources.

Merrell draws on his experience as a developer to weigh the costs, benefits and challenges associated with resuscitating and refactoring old software.

“In both cases, you’re wasting time and resources,” he says. “I’d wager that the tech is the least of their problems.”

Thanks very much for reading,

Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

A Vine mess: The choice between rebooting and reviving old software

Teach yourself growth marketing: Which metrics really matter?

Modern car illuminated dashboard closeup

Image Credits: Rittikrai_PIX (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

In the final article of a five-part series, growth marketing expert Jonathan Martinez shares the key metrics he tracked at Coinbase and Uber, along with a framework for activating and retaining early adopters who drive revenue.

Tracking KPIs like lifetime value and customer acquisition cost are obvious, so the article includes a framework that will help you identify which channels and customers drive the most revenue.

“Find the reasons that make your product or service ‘sticky,’ and you will save a lot of time,” writes Martinez.

Teach yourself growth marketing: Which metrics really matter?

Optimizing freemium products: Challenges and opportunities

Seven different drinking straws in a cup

Image Credits: Richard 0rury (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Offering a free sample in the hopes that the recipient becomes a paying customer is a core tactic at food courts, cosmetic counters and inside software startups.

Freemium products are everywhere, but unless companies revisit and optimize their strategy, there’s no effective way to optimize conversions.

“Enabling freemium, especially for established products, can bring organizational and operational challenges even if it adds value to the business,” writes Konstantin Valiotti, product director of growth at PandaDoc.

In this article, he presents strategies for optimizing:

User activation Conversion paths Product changes Where to place barriers and limitations

Optimizing freemium products: Challenges and opportunities

Dear Sophie: What H-1B and other immigration changes can we expect this year?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I help several startups with HR. I heard the application fees for many visas and green cards are going to increase substantially.

When will those increases go into effect? Are there any other immigration-related changes coming this year? Any H-1B updates?

— Passionate People Person

Dear Sophie: What H-1B and other immigration changes can we expect this year?

The team slide is the most important slide in a startup pitch deck

Illustration of friends riding a tandem bicycle on blue background.

Image Credits: Malte Mueller (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Early-stage investors usually know more about the market than the founders who are pitching them.

Novices stack pitch decks with data points from Gartner studies, quotes from TechCrunch articles and outlandish TAM projections in the hopes that it will burnish their credentials.

None of those are driving factors, but a comprehensive team slide that explains why a specific group of people is qualified to attack a particular problem is far more compelling, writes Haje Jan Kamps.

The Team Slide is the most important slide in a startup pitch deck

Which open source startups rocketed in 2022?

Stock illustration depicting startups and technology

Image Credits: Swillklitch / Getty Images

In its yearly report ranking the fastest-growing commercial open source startups (COSS), Runa Capital looked at funding trends in the sector.

Using a methodology based in part on the number of stars in each company’s GitHub repository, the report identifies which companies and universities turn out the most COSS founders, along with their geographic distribution.

“Purists might also take issue with some of the startups that have been included in Runa Capital’s report,” notes Paul Sawers, “given that some have fairly lightweight open source credentials.”

Which open source startups rocketed in 2022?

Pitch Deck Teardown: Laoshi’s $570K angel deck

Image Credits: Laoshi (opens in a new window)

The founders of Laoshi raised a $570,000 angel round to scale up their app, which helps users learn to read and write in Chinese.

To help other very early-stage founders, they shared 15 slides from their deck:

Cover slide Problem slide Market slide Solution slide Competition slide Road map slide Team slide Teacher growth slide Teacher retention slide Summary slide “Contact us” slide Appendices cover slide Appendix I: Viral effect slide Appendix II: Business model slide Appendix III: “The ask” slide

Pitch Deck Teardown: Laoshi’s $570K angel deck

TechCrunch+ roundup: SaaS pricing strategies, 2022 open source report, can Vine regrow? by Walter Thompson originally published on TechCrunch

- Kirsten Korosec

A few more electric vehicle models now qualify for the federal EV tax credit, including GM’s Cadillac Lyric, the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla’s five-seater Model Y, thanks to a change by the U.S. Treasury.

The U.S. Treasury Department updated Friday the vehicle classification standard, revising a definition that determines which EVs are eligible for clean vehicle tax credits available under the Inflation Reduction Act. The change, which automakers had lobbied the Biden administration for, comes down to one question: what makes a vehicle a sedan, SUV, crossover or wagon?

That classification matters, because the federal tax credit had two different prices caps. A car, sedan or wagon would qualify if priced at $55,000 or below, while an SUV had an $80,000 price cap.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which was signed into law in August 2022, includes a complex set of requirements around which EVs and other clean vehicles do and do not qualify for a $7,500 EV tax credit. The IRA amended the Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit (also known as IRC 30D), which gave consumers up to $7,500 in tax credits for buying a battery electric vehicle and certain plug-in hybrid vehicles. This reworked law, now called the Clean Vehicle Credit, includes a reduced $4,000 credit for used EVs and adds other clean vehicles in the mix, such as “qualified fuel cell vehicles.”

Qualifying for the tax credit is another matter. There are a number of factors that determine if a vehicle will qualify for the EV tax credits, including the buyer’s income, the price of the vehicle and where it was assembled. Under the new law, battery electric SUVs had to be $80,000 or cheaper and sedans.

The U.S. Treasury said it updated the standard to make it easier for consumers to know which vehicles qualify under the applicable price cap. The agency will now use the EPA Fuel Economy Labeling standard rather than the EPA CAFE standard. That matters because it means crossover vehicles that share similar features will be treated consistently. It will also align vehicle classifications under the clean vehicle credit with the classification displayed on the vehicle label and on the consumer-facing website FuelEconomy.gov.

The upshot? Vehicle models like the Cadillac Lyric, which starts at $62,990, as well as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which depending on the trims is priced between $45,995 and $63,995, now qualify for the $7,500 EV tax credit. Other vehicles that now qualify includes the five-seater Tesla Model Y.

Tesla, Ford and GM win in EV tax credit change by Kirsten Korosec originally published on TechCrunch

- Ron Miller

Yesterday Amazon reported earnings, with AWS growing a modest 20% for the quarter over the prior year to $21 billion. But perhaps even more troubling, the company reported in the earnings call with analysts that growth dropped even further into the mid-teens for the first month of the new year, as the cloud continued a general slowdown with customers looking for ways to slash bills.

“As we look ahead, we expect these optimization efforts will continue to be a headwind to AWS growth in at least the next couple of quarters. So far in the first month of the year, AWS year-over-year revenue growth is in the mid-teens,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said in his comments to open the call.

For a division that has enjoyed high growth rates for years, mid-teens growth represents an extraordinary drop, and it didn’t go unnoticed during the earnings call. Analysts were certainly curious whether it was a longer-term trend, but Olsavsky really wasn’t ready to predict beyond this quarter.

“So on the AWS growth rate, I’m not sure I can forecast for you with any level of certainty what is going to happen beyond this quarter. This is a bit of uncharted territory economically. And as we mentioned, there’s some unique things going on with the customer base that I think many in this industry are all seeing the same thing,” he said.

It is worth noting that Olsavsky also reported an annual revenue run rate of $85 billion, suggesting that AWS remains an extremely healthy business in spite of the economic headwinds it’s facing. “That said, stepping back, our new customer pipeline remains healthy and robust, and there are many customers continuing to put plans in place to migrate to the cloud and commit to AWS over the long term.”

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who spent a good part of his career at the company running AWS, says that as customers look to cut costs, there will be a short-term growth deceleration, but still sees plenty of cloud market to conquer post downturn.

“So I think it’s also useful to remember that 90% to 95% of the global IT spend remains on-premises. And if you believe that, that equation is going to shift and flip. I don’t think on-premises will ever go away, but I really do believe in the next 10 to 15 years that most of it will be in the cloud…It means we have a lot of growth in front of us in the AWS business,” he said.

Perhaps, but for a business that has been a growth engine for the company for many years, the current slow-down at AWS still has to be worrying.

AWS says growth dropped to mid-teens to start new year as customer cost-cutting continues by Ron Miller originally published on TechCrunch

- Annie Njanja

In October last year, Sendy, a Kenyan logistics scale-up, wound up its supplies service, which enabled retailers to purchase FMCGs directly from manufacturers, saying it was directing all its focus on its end-to-end fulfillment offering.

Months later, the company is ceasing on-ground operations in Nigeria, one of its four markets in Africa. This means that it will no longer fulfill orders in the West African country, saying it has become “a fully-integrated tech solution” that will match online buyers with the right logistics providers. Its fulfillment service remains unchanged in other markets.

The new changes imply that Sendy will abandon its asset-heavy model that facilitated order fulfillment from parcel pickup, warehousing to last-mile delivery in Nigeria. The company, which launched in Nigeria at the end of 2021, said the move was necessitated by the need to find the right kind of product for the market.

Sendy ceases on-the-ground operations in Nigeria

It was not immediately clear how many employees would be affected by the closure out of approximately 220 employees, but Sendy confirmed that some jobs will be lost in its latest round of layoffs.

“Fulfillment continues to be at the core of what Sendy does. We are not pivoting. In Nigeria, we have made the decision to cease on-the-ground operations and focus instead on getting the right product. This means that we will continue to connect sellers to logistics providers but will no longer consign their goods,” said Sendy Nigeria General Manager Daniel Edeimu.

“Sendy as a fully integrated tech solution will receive orders via e-commerce plugins, ERPs or API and support with finding the best logistics partners and advising the sellers,” said Edeimu, adding that the company plans to offer additional services like financial services and storefronts.

Sendy, co-founded in 2015 by Kenyans Evanson Biwott and Don Okoth and American Malaika Judd, has in recent months changed its approach in its markets, including Kenya, Uganda and Ivory Coast, to improve efficiency while adjusting to macroeconomic headwinds that have made it hard to fundraise.

It had targeted to raise $100 million last year, and managed to raise some undisclosed funding from MOL PLUS, the corporate venture capital of Japanese transport company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, to scale its fulfillment offering, which remains its core service across several markets.

“The investment was both financial and operational…As for the operational part, Sendy and MOL are working jointly to unlock infrastructural and other operational hurdles to serving our customers. As previously mentioned, in the countries that have attained product-market fit, Sendy is seeing incredible growth. Partners such as MOL are enhancing our ability to meet the demand,” said Edeimu.

Sendy has so far raised $26.5 million in disclosed funding from a number of investors that include Toyota Tsusho, Atlantica Ventures, VestedWorld, Keppel Capital, Enza Capital, AAICA Investment Pte Ltd, Sunu Capital and Goodwill Investments.

Sky.Garden, Kenya’s Amazon-style marketplace, faces closure after funding fell through

African genomics startup 54gene lays off 95 as COVID testing business struggles

 

More job cuts loom as Sendy changes course in Nigeria by Annie Njanja originally published on TechCrunch

- Paul Sawers

GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke says that open source developers should be made exempt from the European Union’s (EU) proposed new artificial intelligence (AI) regulations, saying that the opportunity is still there for Europe to lead on AI.

“Open source is forming the foundation of AI in Europe,” Dohmke said onstage at the EU Open Source Policy Summit in Brussels. “The U.S. and China don’t have to win it all.”

The regulations in question come via The Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act), first proposed back in April 2021 to address the growing reach of AI into our every day lives. The rules would govern AI applications based on their perceived risks, and would effectively be the first AI-centric laws introduced by any major regulatory body.

The European Parliament is set to vote on a draft version of the AI Act in the coming months, and depending on what discussions and debates follow, it could be adopted by the end of 2023.

Open source + AI

As many will know, open source and AI are intrinsically linked, given that collaboration and shared data are pivotal to developing AI systems. As well-meaning as the AI Act might be, critics argue that it could have significant unintended consequences for the open source community, which in turn could hamper the progress of AI. The crux of the problem is that the Act would likely create legal liability for general purpose AI systems (GPAI), and bestow more power and control to the big tech firms given that independent open source developers don’t have the resources to contend with legal wrangles.

So, why would GitHub — a $7.5 billion U.S. company owned by Microsoft — be concerned about regulations on the other side of the pond? There are multiple reasons. Open source software by its very nature is distributed, and GitHub — which recently passed 100 million users — relies on developers globally. Indeed, a report from VC firm Runa Capital this week indicated that 58% of the fastest-growing open source startups are based outside the U.S., with Germany, France and the U.K. (though it isn’t governed by EU regulations) in particular central to this.

More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that Europe has emerged as a driving force behind tech regulations, evidenced by its GDPR data privacy and protection regulations. Put simply, what happens in Europe can ripple into other countries and quickly become a global standard.

“The AI act is so crucial,” Dohmke said onstage. “This policy could well set the precedent for how the world regulates AI. It is foundationally important. It is important for European technological leadership, and for the future of the European economy itself. It must be fair and balanced to the open source community.”

Big bucks

Microsoft and GitHub stand to benefit from a fertile open source landscape, evidenced by their potentially lucrative Copilot tool that helps developers code using technology trained on the work of open source developers. Microsoft, GitHub and AI research lab OpenAI, in which Microsoft is heavily invested, are facing a class action lawsuit for their endeavors.

Elsewhere, OpenAI’s much-hyped text-generating AI phenomenon ChatGPT is also in the spotlight, with the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton noting in an interview with Reuters today that ChatGPT’s transformative and wide-reaching applications underscores the need for robust regulation.

“As showcased by ChatGPT, AI solutions can offer great opportunities for businesses and citizens, but can also pose risks,” Breton told Reuters. “This is why we need a solid regulatory framework to ensure trustworthy AI based on high-quality data.”

Pretty much the entire world of AI as we know it today has been built on an open source foundation, and anyone with an interest in commercializing AI needs the open source status quo to continue. The big tech firms, including Microsoft, recognize that they might have more legal battles on their hands as a result of impending AI regulations, but at the very least they don’t want open source developers deterred from their work.

Dohmke said that the AI Act can bring “the benefits of AI according to the European values and fundamental rights,” adding that lawmakers have a big part to play in achieving this.

“This is why I believe that the open source developers should be exempt from the AI act,” he said. “Because ultimately this comes down to people. The open source community is not a community of entities. It’s a community of people and the compliance burden should fall on entities, it should fall on companies that are shipping products. OSS developers are often just volunteers, many of them are working two jobs. They are hobbyists and scientists, academics and doctors, professors and university students all alike, and they don’t usually stand to profit from their contributions. They certainly don’t have big budgets, or their own compliance department.”

GitHub CEO on why open source developers should be exempt from the EU’s AI Act by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

- Jacquelyn Melinek
NFT market shows signs of recovery as January trading volumes hit 7-month high

It appears the NFT market is slowly getting back on its feet. Trading volumes rose for two months straight, with January scoring the highest volumes since June last year, according to the Dapp Industry Report: January 2023.

The growth in January marked a stark difference from the trend of the past few months — October saw trading volumes dip to a low of $662 million — but in November, the market halted the downward trend to stay at $662 million, per the report.

Volumes then recovered in December, rising slightly to $683 million, and increasing 38.5% from that number to $946 million in January.

A number of blockchains allow traders to buy and sell NFTs, but Ethereum has held the leading position with over $36 billion in all-time sales, data from NFT aggregator CryptoSlam showed. In comparison, Ronin and Solana — the second and third largest blockchains by NFT sales volume in total — had about $4.2 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively.

January was strong for both Ethereum and Solana, which saw trading volumes of $659 million and $85 million, respectively.

A screenshot of DappRadar's chart showing top NFT blockchains by NFT trading volume in January 2023

Image Credits: DappRadar (opens in a new window)

February is showing signs of continued strength as well — at least so far. As of February 3, the Ethereum blockchain had $26.5 million sales across more than 25,500 unique buyers, according to CryptoSlam data.

While Ethereum accounts for the lion’s share of trading volumes, with more than 78% of all trades on the blockchain, Polygon had the biggest influx of traders in January, the report showed.

Polygon’s trading volume grew 124% to $46 million in January from $20 million in December. In the past week, NFT sales volume on the blockchain grew 43.5% to reach $2.8 million, indicating continued interest in the blockchain.

Magic Eden exec sees NFT gaming like the ‘early days of mobile gaming’

In late December, two large Solana NFT projects, DeGods and y00ts, said they would leave the blockchain in 2023, which stirred up conflicting sentiments across the community. DeGods said it would migrate to Ethereum, and y00ts plans to move to Polygon.

“At the beginning of the year, we noticed that much of the creator economy’s attention was focused on ETH and Solana,” Ryan Wyatt, CEO of Polygon Studios, previously told TechCrunch. “Therefore, we decided to go against the trend and focus on the untapped potential of web3 by onboarding large enterprise brands, DeFi platforms and gaming companies. We did this successfully through ecosystem fund investments and white-glove partnership support.”

As big NFT collections like DeGods and y00ts diversify their alliances to blockchains, it could also draw in other holders who are seeking new opportunities or see value elsewhere.

The consecutive growth of the past couple months could also point to a broader upward trend across the crypto market. It could also potentially help drive creators and projects to form new use cases in the NFT world as they look to capitalize on the bullish marketplace.

NFT market shows signs of recovery as January trading volumes hit 7-month high by Jacquelyn Melinek originally published on TechCrunch

- Lauren Forristal

Amazon detailed the costs of its content business during its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, citing that its content expenses jumped to $16.6 billion in 2022, a 28% increase from $13 billion in 2021.

According to Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky, around $7 billion of that figure went toward Amazon Originals, live sports programming and licensed third-party video content included with Prime. In 2021, Amazon spent $5 billion on those three areas of content, for comparison.

While the company didn’t break down exactly how much it invests in each title, it’s reported that Amazon is spending more than $1 billion annually for its NFL streaming rights. Plus, the first season of “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power,” the most-watched Amazon original series worldwide, cost more than $500 million.

Streaming services know by now that original content is the key to standing out amongst rivals and reducing churn. Amazon is likely boosting its content investments to better compete with Disney, Netflix and HBO Max. Disney spends approximately $33 billion on content, while both Netflix and HBO Max spend a reported $18 billion. (Note that a portion of Disney’s figure goes toward sports rights — around $11 billion.) Paramount+ also plans to increase streaming content spending to $6 billion by 2024, it recently said.

Amazon didn’t report subscriber numbers for its streaming business. However, Olsavsky boasted during the earnings call that its Prime Video content is a “strong driver of Prime member engagement and new Prime member acquisition.”

For instance, “The Rings of Power” was viewed by more than 100 million global viewers with over 24 billion minutes streamed. The company added that, during its launch window, “The Lord of the Rings” series helped drive more Prime sign-ups worldwide than any previous Prime Video content.

Amazon also touted that Thursday Night Football reached the youngest median age audience of any NFL broadcast package since 2013, and viewership among fans ages 18 to 34 years old increased by 11% compared to the 2021 season.

The company claimed the TNF games had an average audience of 11.3 million viewers. The first exclusive TNF game on Prime Video had 15.3 million viewers. Before the 2022 season began, Amazon expected to reach about 12.5 million viewers per week.

Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ starts strong with 15.3 million viewers

Other original content added to the streamer in 2022 includes “My Policeman” starring Harry Styles, the third season of “Jack Ryan” and the Western drama “The English,” among others.

Amazon is also benefiting from its 2022 acquisition of MGM for $8.5 billion. The company noted that “Wednesday,” the MGM-produced series on Netflix, premiered at No. 1 on Nielsen’s weekly streaming charts and earned two Golden Globe nominations. In December, “Wednesday” became the second most popular English-language series on Netflix, surpassing 1.02 billion total hours viewed in just three weeks since its streaming release. More than 150 million households watched the show.

Prime members in the U.S. also saw the return of HBO Max as a Prime Video Channel offering, giving customers access to approximately 15,000 hours of premium content.

HBO Max comes back to Prime Video Channels

Amazon ramped up content spending to $16.6B in 2022, including $7B on originals by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

- Karissa Bell
Jury rules Elon Musk is not liable for shareholder losses after 'funding secured' tweets

Elon Musk is off the hook for his 2018 tweets claiming he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private for $420 a share. A jury found that Musk was not liable for Tesla investors’ losses, following a weeks-long trial in San Francisco.

The verdict is a major victory for Musk, who could have been liable for billions of dollars in damages. Musk had testified in federal court that just because he tweets something, it "does not mean people believe it or will act accordingly." He also argued that he could have used his shares of SpaceX to fund the deal.

The shareholders who brought the class action suit had argued that Musk’s statements about funding were false, and that they lost vast amounts of money due to stock fluctuations in the aftermath of Musk’s tweets. But while the judge in the case concluded that the tweets were "objectively false and reckless," the jury didn’t find that Musk had deliberately misled the public.

While the verdict ends the years-long saga of the “funding secured” tweets, the posts weren’t entirely without consequences for Musk. He settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018, and stepped down from his role as Tesla board chair as a condition of the settlement. Musk has long decried the SEC settlement and has said he was “forced to admit I lied to save Tesla’s life.”

In a statement to Bloomberg following the verdict, Musk's lawyer, Alex Spiro, said "the jury got it right." Musk also weighed in — naturally, via tweet — saying he was "deeply appreciative." 

Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed!

I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2023

Update 2/3 7:19 PM ET: Added Elon Musk's tweet about the verdict.

- Jon Fingas
NASA satellite will use radar to map Earth's crust in extreme detail

Scientists will soon have a spaceborne tool to study environmental changes at a very high resolution, and you won't have long to wait to learn more about it. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is holding a question and answer session today (February 3rd) at 5PM Eastern to discuss NISAR (NASA-ISRO SAR), an Earth-mapping satellite built in tandem with the Indian Space Research Organization. It's not launching from India until early 2024 and is planned to operate for three years, but it includes breakthrough tech that could help understand Earth and cope with natural disasters. 

NISAR is the first radar imaging satellite to use dual frequencies (the L and S microwave bands). This will let it systematically map the Earth's crust at an exceptional level of detail — it can detect changes under 1cm (0.4in) across. That will let NISAR observe even subtle nuances of earthquakes, tsunamis and other disasters. It will also help monitor long-term processes, including the crust's evolution, ecosystem disruptions and ice sheet collapses.

See NISAR in @NASAJPL's clean room today at 5pm ET (2200 UTC). Set to launch from India in 2024, it will measure the movement of Earth’s surfaces to provide info on trends that affect global challenges like food security. https://t.co/6Hi8AyIQ1D

— NASA (@NASA) February 3, 2023

Access to data will also play an important role. NISAR offers worldwide coverage every 12 days, making time-based imagery more practical. The mission team hopes to make data readily available to the public in one to two days, but can deliver that data within hours in an emergency. Anyone willing to parse the information can make use of it.

With an estimated $1.5 billion price, NISAR is expected to be the most expensive Earth imaging satellite to date. The investment may be worthwhile, though. The satellite's data could help governments react to and prepare for natural disasters, and improve humanity's understandings of climate change and threats to food security.

- Will Shanklin
Researchers can now pull hydrogen directly from seawater, no filtering required

Researchers at the University of Adelaide announced this week that they made clean hydrogen fuel from seawater without pre-treatment. Demand for hydrogen fuel, a clean energy source that only produces water when burned, is expected to increase in the coming years as the world (hopefully) continues to pivot away from fossil fuels. The findings could eventually provide cheaper green energy production to coastal areas.

“We have split natural seawater into oxygen and hydrogen with nearly 100 per cent efficiency, to produce green hydrogen by electrolysis, using a non-precious and cheap catalyst in a commercial electrolyser,” said Professor Shizhang Qiao, the team’s co-lead. Seawater typically needs to be purified before electrolysis splits it into hydrogen and oxygen. The team says its results, using cobalt oxide with chromium oxide on its surface as the catalyst, had similar performance to a standard process of applying platinum and iridium catalysts to highly purified and deionized water.

Compared to freshwater, seawater is an abundant resource, and the ability to extract hydrogen fuel from seawater without pre-treatment could save money. However, even if successfully scaled, it would likely only be practical for coastal communities with plenty of seawater — not so much for Iowa or Kansas.

The team’s next step is to scale the system with a larger electrolyzer. Then, although it’s still early in development, the researchers hope to eventually apply the findings to commercial hydrogen production for fuel cells and ammonia synthesis. Co-lead Yao Zheng summarized, “Our work provides a solution to directly utilise seawater without pre-treatment systems and alkali addition, which shows similar performance as that of existing metal-based mature pure water electrolyser.”

- Jon Fingas
Endlesss turned its music collaboration app into a beatmaking arcade machine

Ever wish you could play an arcade rhythm game that fostered creativity, not just matching notes? You now have your chance. Endlesss has turned its remote music collaboration software into an honest-to-goodness arcade machine, complete with joysticks, a touchscreen, an XY controller and a sea of buttons. You can use it as a stand-up audio workstation with your own plugins and physical instruments, but it comes into its own in an arcade mode that challenges you to compose beats — you might have to loop drums, for example.

The cabinet is ultimately a community effort. Endlesss Discord member NJ Lang liked the idea of an arcade rig so much that he built one, and it proved a hit when the company took it to events. The firm then built a production prototype, and had a strong-enough initial reception that NBA veteran Baron Davis became the first to buy one — you can see his reaction (and an Endlesss sales pitch) below.

This won't be a trivial purchase. In fact, it'll make many retro cabinets seem affordable. Endlesss is releasing 25 Launch Edition arcade systems in late February for a $9,999 "introductory" price. You'll need to put down a $200 non-refundable deposit just to get into a pre-sale ahead of the public debut. You're buying this because you have an artistic side and plenty of money to spare — everyone else will want to save those funds for essential music creation tools.

- Kris Holt
'CrossfireX' and 'Knockout City' join the list of live service games shutting down soon

It's a rough time for fans of several live service games, which are titles designed to be constantly updated for a long time. A bunch are shutting down in the near future, and CrossfireX and Knockout City are among the latest to join the list.

CrossfireX is an Xbox console version of the massively popular tactical shooter Crossfire. After some delays, it arrived less than a year ago, but it wasn't a hit with critics or, more crucially, the public. Developer Smilegate has stopped selling the game (the multiplayer component is free-to-play, but the Remedy-developed single-player campaign is not) and is offering refunds for purchases made in the last two weeks. It will shut off the CrossfireX servers on May 18th.

Knockout City, meanwhile, is a fun dodgeball brawler that debuted in 2021. The game went free-to-play last year when developer Velan Studios parted ways with EA to self-publish it. Alas, Knockout City is shutting down too. Its ninth season will be the final one and the servers will close on June 6th. On a positive note, Velan will roll out an option for PC players to run the game on private servers.

We have an important announcement about the future of Knockout City.

Season 9 will be our final Season. All servers will be shut down on June 6th. We have more in store, so stay tuned!

Learn more about the upcoming sunset in our latest blog: https://t.co/15hTpzmSyq

— Knockout City (@knockoutcity) February 3, 2023

Smilegate and Velan are far from alone in closing down live service games recently. Meta's Ready At Dawn studio said this week it would shutter Echo VR, a zero-gravity frisbee title previously known as Echo Arena, on August 1st. It also emerged over the last week or so that Apex Legends Mobile, Battlefield Mobile, Rumbleverse, Crayta and others are closing shop. Development is ending on Back 4 Blood and Marvel's Avengers as well, but Turtle Rock Studios and Crystal Dynamics will keep the respective servers online

It's tough to make a game that's successful, let alone one that requires players to stick with it for the long haul. Major players like Fortnite, Apex Legends (the console and PC version), Valorant, Overwatch 2 and Genshin Impact aren't going anywhere anytime soon. But developers are all competing with each other and anything else that can soak up peoples' attention. Even though there are more than 3 billion gamers, there are only so many live service games that the market can sustain.

- Will Shanklin
YouTube Music workers strike at Google’s Austin offices

YouTube Music workers in the Austin, TX area who voted to unionize are striking. The Alphabet Works Union-CWA (AWU-CWA), which represents the contractors, says this is the first time a group of Google-affiliated workers has gone on strike.

Cognizant, an Alphabet subcontractor, staffs the (more than 40) striking workers. They say Alphabet’s current return-to-office date of February 6th threatens their safety and livelihoods since their $19-per-hour pay makes it hard to afford relocation, travel and healthcare costs. The AWU-CWA says most contractors were hired to work remotely, and nearly a quarter of them don’t live in Texas.

The YouTube workers say Alphabet and Cognizant only announced the abrupt return to office after they had already voted to unionize. In a statement, however, Cognizant said that these return-to-office plans have been in place and communicated since December of 2021, well over a year ago.

Additionally, they accuse managers of sending work to other offices to “chill” the union efforts while adding that a supervisor made implicit anti-union threats. Finally, the workers have appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to be recognized as “jointly employed” by Cognizant and Alphabet; the designation would force Alphabet to negotiate based on US labor laws.

"The layoffs showed we are just entries in a spreadsheet to Google executives. This isn't the Google I thought I joined. This strike is what I joined Google for. Thank you." - Google software engineer spoke out in support of striking workers #YouTubeStrike

— Alphabet Workers Union (AWU-CWA) (@AlphabetWorkers) February 3, 2023

Cognizant provided Engadget with the following statement: “Cognizant respects the right of our associates to disagree with our policies, and to protest them lawfully. However, it is disappointing that some of our associates have chosen to strike over a return to office policy that has been communicated to them repeatedly since December 2021. Associates working on this project accepted their employment with the understanding that they were accepting in-office positions, and that the team would work together at a physical location based in Austin.”

Although it wasn’t a labor strike, 20,000 Google workers from 50 offices participated in a 2018 walkout. That movement was in response to the company’s practice of rewarding executives accused of misconduct.

The YouTube Music strike began at noon EST today outside of the Austin Google Office. If you live elsewhere, you can check in on a livestream of the strike on Facebook.

Update, 2/3/23 4:15PM ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from Cognizant noting that it has communicated return-to-office plans since December of 2021. 

- Kris Holt
Elon Musk claims Twitter will start sharing ad revenue with Blue subscribers

Twitter Blue subscribers will receive a cut of revenue from ads that appear in their reply threads, CEO Elon Musk said. The new program starts today, Musk noted, but he hasn't yet provided additional details about how it works. The Twitter Blue support page doesn't include any information either. Twitter no longer has a comms department that can be reached for comment.

Blue subscribers in some territories already see half as many ads on their timeline as other users. Offering a cut of ad revenue could help Twitter keep users on board, especially if it offers them a reasonable split that could earn them some decent scratch for a viral tweet. Many other platforms already offer creators a share of ad revenue, including YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, Instagram and Facebook.

To be eligible, the account must be a subscriber to Twitter Blue Verified

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2023

Twitter Blue subscribers currently pay $8 ($11 if they sign up on iOS) per month, or $84 per year for the service. In return, they receive several perks, including a blue check, the option to edit tweets and bookmark folders. They also get longer video uploads (which some people have used to post movies) and prominent placement in reply threads when they respond to someone.

The company is trying to improve its bottom line to, among other things, ensure it can meet interest payments of over $1 billion per year on the loans Musk took out to buy the company. Finding more ways to maximize engagement (and in turn revenue) is key. So incentivizing users, especially those with large audiences, to subscribe to Blue and tweet more often by offering them a revenue share is a logical step. Twitter is also said to be working on another tipping feature using an in-app currency.

Meanwhile, Twitter is reportedlycharging businesses $1,000 per month to have a gold checkmark. Verification for affiliated accounts seemingly costs $50 per month.

- Jon Fingas
All the big tech layoffs of 2023

The tech industry is reeling from the combination of a rough economy, the COVID-19 pandemic, and not to mention some obvious business missteps. And while that led to job cuts in 2022, the headcount reductions have unfortunately ramped up in 2023. It can be tough to keep track of these moves, so we’ve compiled all the major layoffs in one place and will update as the situation evolves.

Amazon layoffs

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 15: An Amazon logistics center, on November 15, 2022, in Madrid, Spain. U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon is considering job cuts among its corporate and technology workforce of up to 10,000 employees. The layoffs are equivalent to 0.65% of Amazon's total global workforce of 1.54 million employees. The employee layoffs are focused on the company's devices area, where the Alexa voice assistant business is included, as well as in the 'retail' and human resources branches. (Photo By Alejandro Martinez Velez/Europa Press via Getty Images)Alejandro Martinez Velez/Europa Press via Getty Images

Amazon had already outlined layoff plans last fall, but expanded those cuts in early January when it said it would eliminate 18,000 jobs, most of them coming from retail and recruiting teams. To no one's surprise, CEO Andy Jassy blamed both an "uncertain economy" and rapid hiring in recent years. Amazon benefited tremendously from the pandemic as people shifted to online shopping, but its growth is slowing as people return to in-person stores.

Coinbase layoffs

A representation of the cryptocurrency is seen in front of Coinbase logo in this illustration taken, March 4, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/IllustrationREUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Coinbase was one of the larger companies impacted by the crypto market's 2022 downturn, and that carried over into the new year. The cryptocurrency exchange laid off 950 people in mid-January, just months after it slashed 1,100 roles. This is one of the steepest proportionate cuts among larger tech brands — Coinbase offloaded about a fifth of its staff. Chief Brian Armstrong said his outfit needed the layoffs to shrink operating expenses and survive what he previously described as a "crypto winter," but that also meant canceling some projects that were less likely to succeed.

Google (Alphabet) layoffsAn exterior view of building BV100, during a tour of Google's new Bay View Campus in Mountain View, California, U.S. May 16, 2022. Picture taken May 16, 2022.   REUTERS/Peter DaSilvaREUTERS/Peter DaSilva

Google's parent company Alphabet has been cutting costs for a while, including shutting down Stadia, but it took those efforts one step further in late January when it said it would lay off 12,000 employees. CEO Sundar Pichai wasn't shy about the reasoning: Alphabet had been hiring for a "different economic reality," and was restructuring to focus on the internet giant's most important businesses. The decision hit the company's Area 120 incubator particularly hard, with the majority of the unit's workers losing their jobs. Sub-brands like Intrinsic (robotics) and Verily (health) also shed significant portions of their workforce in the days before the mass layoffs.

IBM layoffsThe IBM logo is pictured in the Garibaldi-Porta Nuova modern district of Milan  on June 22, 2021. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)MIGUEL MEDINA via Getty Images

Layoffs sometimes stem more from corporate strategy shifts than financial hardship, and IBM provided a classic example of this in 2023. The computing pioneer axed 3,900 jobs in late January after offloading both its AI-driven Watson Health business and its infrastructure management division (now Kyndryl) in the fall. Simply put, those employees had nothing to work on as IBM pivoted toward cloud computing.

Microsoft layoffs

A person walks past Microsoft signage at the headquarters in Redmond, Washington, U.S., January 18, 2023. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnightREUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight

Microsoft started its second-largest wave of layoffs in company history when it signaled it would cut 10,000 jobs between mid-January and the end of March. Like many other tech heavyweights, it was trimming costs as customers scaled back their spending (particularly on Windows and devices) during the pandemic recovery. The reductions were especially painful for some divisions — they reportedly gutted the HoloLens and mixed reality teams, while 343 Industries is believed to be rebooting Halo development after losing dozens of workers.

PayPal layoffs

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 02: A sign is posted in front of PayPal headquarters on February 02, 2023 in San Jose, California. PayPal has announced plans to lay off 2,000 employees, nearly 7 percent of its workforce. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

PayPal has been one of the healthier large tech companies, having beaten expectations in its third quarter last year. Still, it hasn't been immune to a tough economy. The online payment firm unveiled plans at the end of January to lay off 2,000 employees, or seven percent of its total worker base. CEO Dan Schulman claimed the downsizing would keep costs in check and help PayPal focus on "core strategic priorities."

Salesforce layoffsSAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 01: The Salesforce logo is seen at its headquarters on December 1, 2020 in San Francisco, California. The cloud-based enterprise software company announced on Tuesday that it will purchase the popular workplace-chat app Slack for $27.7 billion. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Salesforce set the tone for 2023 when it warned it would lay off 8,000 employees, or about 10 percent of its workforce, just four days into the new year. While the cloud software brand thrived during the pandemic with rapidly growing revenue, it admitted that it hired too aggressively during the boom and couldn't maintain that staffing level while the economy was in decline.

SAP layoffs

The logo of German software group SAP is pictured at its headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Ralph OrlowskiREUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Business software powerhouse SAP saw a steep 68 percent drop in profit at the end of 2022, and it started 2023 by laying off 2,800 staff to keep its business healthy. Unlike some big names in tech, though, SAP didn't blame excessive pandemic-era hiring for the cutback. Instead, it characterized the initiative as a "targeted restructuring" for a company that still expected accelerating growth in 2023.

Spotify layoffsNEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 23: People are seen inside the Spotify headquarters building in Lower Manhattan on January 23, 2023 in New York City. Spotify announced Monday they will be cutting 6% of its global workforce. (Photo by Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress via Getty Images)Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress via Getty Images

Spotify spent aggressively in recent years as it expanded its podcast empire, but it quickly put a stop to that practice as 2023 began. The streaming music service said in late January that it would lay off 6 percent of its workforce (9,800 people worked at Spotify as of the third quarter) alongside a restructuring effort that included the departure of content chief Dawn Ostroff. While there were more Premium subscribers than ever in 2022, the company also suffered steep losses — CEO Daniel Ek said he was "too ambitious" investing before the revenue existed to support it.

Wayfair layoffsNATICK, MA - AUGUST 20: A virtual reality app is demonstrated at Wayfair's first store in the Natick Mall in Natick, MA on Aug. 20, 2019. Shoppers can don virtual reality headsets to see how furniture would fit into a space, using Wayfairs Room Planner tool. They can virtually climb onto a dining room table to get a 360-degree view of a digitally rendered room, then swap out chairs, chandeliers, and art on the virtual walls. Thats just one example of how the Boston-based e-commerce giant has used its digital DNA to create its first brick-and-mortar store. It opens Wednesday in the Natick Mall. Product information, including prices and customer ratings, is displayed on screens that update in real time to reflect online price changes. Staffers carry iPads with an augmented reality tool that makes furniture appear in a 3-D setting, or they can snap a picture of an item in the store and find dozens like it online. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Amazon isn't the only major online retailer scaling back in 2023. Wayfair said in late January that it would lay off 1,750 team members, or 10 percent of its global headcount. About 1,200 of those were corporate staff cut in a bid to "eliminate management layers" and otherwise help the company become leaner and nimbler. Wayfair had been cutting costs since August 2022 (including 870 positions), but saw the layoffs as helping it reach break-even earnings sooner than expected.

- Andrew Tarantola
ChatGPT is suddenly everywhere. Are we ready?

For a product that its own creators, in a marketing pique, once declared “too dangerous” to release to the general public, OpenAI’s ChatGPT is seemingly everywhere these days. The versatile automated text generation (ATG) system, which is capable of outputting copy that is nearly indistinguishable from a human writer’s work, is officially still in beta but has already been utilized in dozens of novel applications, some of which extend far beyond the roles ChatGPT was originally intended for — like that time it simulated an operational Linux shell or that other time when it passed the entrance exam to Wharton Business School.

The hype around ChatGPT is understandably high, with myriad startups looking to license the technology for everything from conversing with historical figures to talking to historical literature, from learning other languages to generating exercise routines and restaurant reviews.

But with these technical advancements come with a slew of opportunities for misuse and outright harm. And if our previous hamfisted attempts at handling the spread of deepfake video and audio technologies were any indication, we’re dangerously underprepared for the havoc that at-scale, automated disinformation production will wreak upon our society.

OpenAI logo displayed on a phone screen and Microsoft logo displayed on a screen in the background are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on January 10, 2023. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)NurPhoto via Getty ImagesOpenAI’s billion dollar origin story

OpenAI has been busy since its founding in 2015 as a non-profit by Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Elon Musk and a host of other VC luminaries, who all collectively chipped in a cool billion dollars to get the organization up and running. The “altruistic” venture argues that AI “should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as possible.”

The following year, the company released its first public beta of the OpenAI Gym reinforcement learning platform. Musk resigned from the board in 2018, citing a potential conflict of interest with his ownership of Tesla. 2019 was especially eventful for OpenAI. That year, the company established a “capped” for-profit subsidiary (OpenAI LP) to the original non-profit (OpenAI Inc) organization, received an additional billion-dollar funding infusion from Microsoft and announced plans to begin licensing its products commercially.

In 2020, OpenAI officially launched GPT-3, a text generator able to “summarize legal documents, suggest answers to customer-service enquiries, propose computer code [and] run text-based role-playing games.” The company released its commercial API that year as well.

“I have to say I’m blown away,” startup founder Arram Sabeti wrote at the time, after interacting with the system. “It’s far more coherent than any AI language system I’ve ever tried. All you have to do is write a prompt and it’ll add text it thinks would plausibly follow. I’ve gotten it to write songs, stories, press releases, guitar tabs, interviews, essays, technical manuals. It’s hilarious and frightening. I feel like I’ve seen the future.”

2021 saw the release of DALL-E, a text-to-image generator; and the company made headlines again last year with the release of ChatGPT, a chat client based on GPT-3.5, the latest and current GPT iteration. In January 2023, Microsoft and OpenAI announced a deepening of their research cooperative with a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar ongoing investment.

“I think it does an excellent job at spitting out text that's plausible,” Dr. Brandie Nonnecke, Director of the CITRIS Policy Lab and Associate Professor of Technology Policy Research at UC Berkeley, told Engadget. “It feels like somebody really wrote it. I've used it myself actually to kind of get over a writer's block, to just think through how I flow in the argument that I'm trying to make, so I found it helpful.”

That said, Nonnecke cannot look past the system’s stubborn habit of producing false claims. “It will cite articles that don't exist,” she added. “Right now, at this stage, it's realistic but there's still a long way to go.”

What is generative AI?

OpenAI is far from the only player in the ATG game. Generative AI (or, more succinctly, gen-AI) is the practice of using machine learning algorithms to produce novel content — whether that’s text, images, audio, or video — based on a training corpus of labeled example databases. It’s your standard unsupervised reinforcement learning regimen, the likes of which have trained Google’s AlphaGo, song and video recommendation engines across the internet, as well as vehicle driver assist systems. Of course while models like Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion or Google’s Imagen are trained to convert progressively higher resolution patterns of random dots into images, ATGs like ChatGPT remix text passages plucked from their training data to output suspiciously realistic, albeit frequently pedestrian, prose.

“They're trained on a very large amount of input,” Dr. Peter Krapp, Professor of Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine, told Engadget. “What results is more or less… an average of that input. It's never going to impress us with being exceptional or particularly apt or beautiful or skilled. It's always going to be kind of competent — to the extent that we all collectively are somewhat competent in using language to express ourselves.”

Generative AI is already big business. While flashy events like Stable Diffusion’s maker getting sued for scraping training data from Meta or ChatGPT managing to schmooze its way into medical school (yes, in addition to Wharton) grab headlines, Fortune 500 companies like NVIDIA, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, IBM and Google are all quietly leveraging gen-AI for their own business benefit. They’re using it in a host of applications, from improving search engine results and proposing computer code to writing marketing and advertising content.

A text-based conversation with the Eliza program talking about depressionWikipedia / Public DomainThe secret to ChatGPT’s success

Efforts to get machines to communicate with us as we do with other people, as Dr. Krapp notes, began in the 1960s and ‘70s with linguists being among the earliest adopters. “They realized that certain conversations can be modeled in such a way that they're more or less self-contained,” he explained. “If I can have a conversation with, you know, a stereotypical average therapist, that means I can also program the computer to serve as the therapist.” Which is how Eliza became an NLP easter egg hidden in Emacs, the popular Linux text editor.

Today, we use the technological descendents of those early efforts to translate the menus at fancy restaurants for us, serve as digital assistants on our phones, and chat with us as customer service reps. The problem, however, is that to get an AI to perform any of these functions, it has to be specially trained to do that one specific thing. We’re still years away from functional general AIs but part of ChatGPT’s impressive capability stems from its ability to write middling poetry as easily as it can generate a fake set of Terms of Service for the Truth Social website in the voice of Donald Trump without the need for specialized training between the two.

This prosaic flexibility is possible because, at its core, ChatGPT is a chatbot. It’s designed first and foremost to accurately mimic a human conversationalist, which it actually did on Reddit for a week in 2020 before being outed. It was trained using supervised learning methods wherein the human trainers initially fed the model both sides of a given conversation — both what the human user and AI agent were supposed to say. With the basics in it robomind, ChatGPT was then allowed to converse with humans with its responses being ranked after each session. Subjectively better responses scored higher in the model’s internal rewards system and were subsequently optimized for. This has resulted in an AI with a silver tongue but a “just sorta skimmed the Wiki before chiming in” aptitude of fact checking.

Part of ChatGPT’s boisterous success — having garnered a record 100 million monthly active users just two months after its launch — can certainly be marked up to solid marketing strategies such as the “too dangerous” neg of 2020, Natasha Allen, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP, told Engadget. “I think the other part is just how easy it is to use it. You know, the average person can just plug in some words and there you go.”

“People who previously hadn’t been interested in AI, didn't really care what it was,” are now beginning to take notice. Its ease of use is an asset, Allen argues, making ChatGPT “something that's enticing and interesting to people who may not be into AI technologies.”

“It's a very powerful tool,” she conceded. “I don't think it's perfect. I think that obviously there are some errors but… it'll get you 70 to 80 percent of the way.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: In this photo illustration, the OpenAI Leon Neal via Getty ImagesWill Microsoft’s ChatGPT be Microsoft’s Taye for a new generation?

But a lot can go wrong in those last 20 to 30 percent, because ChatGPT doesn’t actually know what the words it’s remixing into new sentences mean, it just understands the statistical relationships between them. “The GPT-3 hype is way too much,” Sam Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, warned in a July, 2020 tweet. “It’s impressive but it still has serious weaknesses and sometimes makes very silly mistakes.”

Those “silly” mistakes range from making nonsensical comparisons like “A pencil is heavier than a toaster” to the racist bigotry we’ve seen with past chatbots like Taye — well, really, all of them to date if we’re being honest. Some of ChatGPT’s replies have even encouraged self-harm in its users, raising a host of ethical quandaries (not limited to, should AI byline scientific research?) for both the company and field as a whole.

ChatGPT’s capability for misuse is immense. We’ve already seen it put to use generating spam marketing and functional malware and writing high school English essays. These are but petty nuisances compared to what may be in store once this technology becomes endemic .

“I'm worried because if we have deep fake video and voice, tying that with ChatGPT, where it can actually write something mimicking the style of how somebody speaks,” Nonnecke said. “Those two things combined together are just a powder keg for convincing disinformation.”

“I think it's gasoline on the fire, because people write and speak in particular styles,” she continued. “And that can sometimes be the tell — if you see a deepfake and it just doesn't sound right, the way that they're talking about something. Now, GPT very much sounds like the individual, both how they would write and speak. I think it's actually amplifying the harm.”

The current generation of celebrity impersonating chatbots aren’t what would be considered historically accurate (Henry Ford’s avatar isn’t antisemitic, for example) but future improvements could nearly erase the lines between reality and created content. “The first way it's going to be used is very likely to commit fraud,“ Nonnecke said, noting that scammers have already leveraged voice cloning software to pose as a mark’s relative and swindle money from them.

“The biggest challenge is going to be how do we appropriately address it, because those deep fakes are out. You already have the confusion,” Nonnecke said. “Sometimes it's referred to as the liars dividend: nobody knows if it's true, then sort of everything's a lie, and nothing can be trusted.”

BARI, ITALY - JANUARY 17: In this photo illustration - The Gpt Chat application, installed on a smartphone on January 17, 2023 in Bari, Italy. Chat GPT is a type of artificial intelligence technology that uses natural language processing and machine learning to generate human-like conversations. It is used in a variety of applications, such as customer service chatbots, virtual assistants, and automated customer support systems. (Photo by Donato Fasano/Getty Images)Donato Fasano via Getty ImagesChatGPT goes to college

ChatGPT is raising hackles across academia as well. The text generator has notably passed the written portion of Wharton Business School’s entrance exam, along with all three parts of the US Medical Licensing exam. The response has been swift (as most panicked scramblings in response to new technologies tend to be) but widely varied. The New York City public school system took the traditional approach, ineffectually “banning” the app’s use by students, while educators like Dr. Ethan Mollick, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School, have embraced it in their lesson plans.

"This was a sudden change, right? There is a lot of good stuff that we are going to have to do differently, but I think we could solve the problems of how we teach people to write in a world with ChatGPT," Mollick told NPR in January.

"The truth is, I probably couldn't have stopped them even if I didn't require it," he added. Instead, Mollick has his students use ChatGPT as a prompt and idea generator for their essay assignments.

UCI’s Dr. Krapp has taken a similar approach. “I'm currently teaching a couple of classes where it was easy for me to say, ‘okay, here's our writing assignment, let's see what ChadGPT comes up with,’’ he explained. “I did the five different ways with different prompts or partial prompts, and then had the students work on, ‘how do we recognize that this is not written by a human and what could we learn from this?’.”

Is ChatGPT coming for your writing job?

At the start of the year, tech news site CNET was outed for having used an ATG of its own design to generate entire feature-length financial explainer articles — 75 in all since November 2022. The posts were supposedly “rigorously” fact checked by human editors to ensure their output was accurate, though cursory examinations uncovered rampant factual errors requiring CNET and its parent company, Red Ventures, to issue corrections and updates for more than half of the articles.

BuzzFeed’s chief, Jonah Peretti, upon seeing the disastrous fallout CNET was experiencing from this computer generated dalliance, immediately decided to stick his tongue in the outlet too, announcing that his publication plans to employ gen-AI to create low-stakes content like personality quizzes.

This news came mere weeks after BuzzFeed laid off a sizable portion of its editorial staff on account of “challenging market conditions.” The coincidence is hard to ignore, especially given the waves of layoffs currently rocking the tech and media sectors for that specific reason, even as the conglomerates themselves bathe in record revenue and earnings.

This is not the first time that new technology has displaced existing workers. NYT columnist Paul Krugman points to coal mining as an example. The industry saw massive workforce reductions throughout the 20th century, not because our use of coal decreased, but because mining technologies advanced enough that fewer humans were needed to do the same amount of work. The same effect is seen in the automotive industry with robots replacing people on assembly lines.

“It is difficult to predict exactly how AI will impact the demand for knowledge workers, as it will likely vary, depending on the industry and specific job tasks,” Krugman opined. “However, it is possible that in some cases, AI and automation may be able to perform certain knowledge-based tasks more efficiently than humans, potentially reducing the need for some knowledge workers.”

However, Dr. Krapp is not worried. “I see that some journalists have said, ‘I'm worried. My job has already been impacted by digital media and digital distribution. Now the type of writing that I do well, could be done by computer for cheap much more quickly,’" he said. “I don't see that happening. I don't think that's the case. I think we still as humans, have a need — a desire — for recognizing in others what's human about them.”

“[ChatGPT is] impressive. It's fun to play with, [but] we're still here,” he added, “We're still reading, it's still meant to be a human size interface for human consumption, for human enjoyment.”

Fear not for someone is sure to save us, probably

ChatGPT’s shared-reality shredding fangs will eventually be capped, Nonnecke is confident, whether by congress or the industry itself in response to public pressure. “I actually think that there's bipartisan support for this, which is interesting in the AI space,” she told Engadget. “And in data privacy, data protection, we tend to have bipartisan support.”

She points to efforts in 2022 spearheaded by OpenAI Safety and Alignment researcher Scott Aaronson to develop a cryptographic watermark so that the end user could easily spot computer generated material, as one example of the industry’s attempts to self-regulate.

“Basically, whenever GPT generates some long text, we want there to be an otherwise unnoticeable secret signal in its choices of words, which you can use to prove later that, yes, this came from GPT,” Aaronson wrote on his blog. “We want it to be much harder to take a GPT output and pass it off as if it came from a human. This could be helpful for preventing academic plagiarism, obviously, but also, for example, mass generation of propaganda.”

The efficacy of such a safeguard remains to be seen. “It's very much whack-a-mole, right now,” Nonnecke exclaimed. “It's the company themselves making that [moderation] decision. There's no transparency in how they're deciding what types of prompts to block or not block, which is very concerning to me.”

“Somebody's going to use this to do terrible things,” she said.

- Jon Fingas
Tesla's five-seat Model Y and other EVs now qualify for the new $7,500 federal tax credit

Don't worry if the lack of a federal tax credit put you off from buying certain Tesla Model Y variants or other EVs — they might now qualify. The Treasury Department has revised its classification standard to treat more vehicles as SUVs rather than sedans, raising the price threshold from $55,000 to $80,000 and making more EVs eligible for the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) full $7,500 credit under the Inflation Reduction Act. As Autoblogexplains, that should cover five-seat versions of the Model Y (only seven-seaters qualified before) as well as the Cadillac Lyriq, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid and VW ID.4.

The Treasury expanded the classification by using the Environmental Protection Agency's public-oriented Fuel Economy Labeling standard rather than the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). This will help treat crossovers "consistently," the department says. This also helps the credit classifications line up with what you see both on the car label and the US government's FuelEconomy.gov website.

You can claim the full amount for any qualifying EV bought and put into service in 2023, including those that weren't eligible under the CAFE standard. Any vehicle that could receive the credit before will still pass muster, the Treasury says.

The change of heart comes after the IRS invited public comments on a proposed change. Tesla chief Elon Musk encouraged input from his Twitter followers soon afterward. It's unclear how much of a role Tesla's fanbase played, but the decision isn't surprising. Under the old criteria, some of the best-known EVs didn't qualify. The credits were meant to spur EV adoption and further the Biden administration's climate goals — that was going to be harder if customers couldn't get deals on the most popular models.

- Kris Holt
Ford is returning to F1 to build a hybrid engine with Red Bull

After almost 20 years away from the motorsport, Ford is returning to Formula 1. The automaker is teaming up with Red Bull to develop a next-gen hybrid power unit for Red Bull Racing and sibling team AlphaTauri. The teams will use the Ford-powered engines between 2026 and at least 2030. Ford will supply "expertise in areas including battery cell and electric motor technology as well as power unit control software and analytics," according to a statement.

Ford has a long history in Formula 1 dating back to the 1960s. As an engine manufacturer, it played a role in 13 drivers’ championships and 10 constructors’ championships before it stepped away from the sport in 2004. However, upcoming rule changes regarding increased engine electrification and fully sustainable fuels prompted Ford to make a comeback.

“Ford’s return to Formula 1 with Red Bull Racing is all about where we are going as a company — increasingly electric, software-defined, modern vehicles and experiences,” Ford president and CEO Jim Farley said. “F1 will be an incredibly cost-effective platform to innovate, share ideas and technologies and engage with tens of millions of new customers.”

Red Bull started building its own F1 engine for the first time as Honda, its current partner, is leaving the sport to place more of its attention on fuel cell and EV technology. Although Honda officially departed F1 at the end of 2021, it's continuing to support Red Bull until new engine rules come into force in 2026, as The Race notes. It was expected that Red Bull would need some assistance to build a hybrid system.

Audi announced last year that it will build a hybrid F1 engine. This week, it was revealed that the automaker has bought a minority stake in Sauber, which will become its works team.

- Amy Skorheim
Sonos gear is on sale ahead of the Super Bowl, plus the rest of this week's best tech deals

Even if you won't be watching the Super Bowl, you can still take advantage of the sales brands are running on home theater equipment ahead of the game. Sonos, which rarely offers discounts, just announced deals on some of their soundbars and smart speakers. TVs from Samsung are on sale too. This week, Samsung unveiled three new Galaxy S23 smartphones during Wednesday's Unpacked event. You can pre-order the phones now, and Amazon and Samsung are both offering a free storage upgrade plus a gift card when you do. We've got a discount code for $55 off Pixel Buds Pro and the price on the 2022 iPad Air dropped by $100. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

Sonos Arc Soundbar

Sonos keeps a short leash on their products, generally only selling through their own site and carefully regulating when things go on sale. Turns out the Super Bowl is one such occasion and a few of our favorite Sonos speakers are seeing decent discounts this week. One of the top speakers from our soundbar guide is the Sonos Arc. It's usually $899, but is $100 off as of today. We like it for the modern design and stellar sound. Thanks to internal smarts, it can also automatically calibrate to your living room and happily integrates with additional speakers.

The Beam Soundbar is $50 off right now, bringing that one down to $399. It's our top pick for a midrange soundbar, thanks to its solid sound quality, compact design and easy set-up. This newer model improves on the previous Beam — which we thought was already pretty great — with the addition of Dolby Atmos. The deals on both Sonos speakers will run through February 12th.

Sonos One

When we gathered up our favorite smart home gadgets, the Sonos One topped the list for the best smart speaker. We like that it's compact enough to fit most places in your home.

It’s compact enough to fit in most areas in your home, but more importantly, it delivers excellent audio quality that’s superior to a lot of other smart speakers out there. When tuned properly to the acoustics of your room — which requires the iOS app — the sound is fantastic, with punchy bass and clear highs. Unfortunately, the Android app doesn’t have TruePlay tuning (Sonos has not said whether it’s in the works), but the speakers should still sound admirable. It’s also compatible with a slew of streaming services, including major ones like Spotify and Pandora.

The main benefit that a Sonos speaker brings over the competition is that it’s a gateway to a multi-room audio setup that you can build out over time. It’s also convenient if you plan on building a home theater setup later on, as the One integrates well with Sonos soundbars, including the Arc and Beam.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1,200 for the smaller 256GB storage capacity. Right now Amazon, Best Buy and Samsung are all offering a free bump up to the 512GB size (which has a suggested price increase of $180). Both Amazon and Best Buy are throwing in $100 gift cards when you pre order through them, which will ship once the phones are released February 17th. At Samsung's site, you'll also get the free storage upgrade, plus $100 bonus in the form of a Samsung credit. The Ultra is the flagship phone, with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, a 200 MP camera and of course that built-in S Pen. Here are our initial impressions

The standard Galaxy S23 will also come with a free storage upgrade from all three outlets, bumping its base 128GB storage up to 256GB with no upcharge. That phone goes for $800 and comes with a $50 gift card at Amazon or a credit at Samsung. If you want the S23+ you can get 512GB of storage for the same $1,000 price tag as the 256GB size. The plus also comes with a $100 gift card at Amazon, and a credit at Samsung. Here's what we thought after seeing the S23 and S23+

Beats Fit Pro

We named Beats Fit Pro the best wireless earbuds for working out and they just dropped to $150 on Amazon. That's 25 percent off and just $5 more than their lowest price ever. We gave them a score of 87 in our review, admiring the great noise cancelling performance and the fact that they offer all of Apple's earbud features, without being AirPods. Big bass and a wing tip that makes sure they stay put when you move make them particularly suited to working out — as does the IPX4-rating for sweat and water resistance. 

The Beats Studio Buds are also on sale. They're $50 off, making them $100 at Amazon — that's also very close to a record low. We liked the comfortable fit and balanced sound when we reviewed them. They'll give you all the same sweat resistance and Apple integrations as the Fit Pros and AirPods. And while they are impressively small, they do lack on-board controls. 

Samsung S95B OLED TV

While we haven't done a full review on Samsung's S95B just yet, many who have reviewed it agree it's one of the best options out there for a top-end TV from 2022. Right now the 55-inch model is $1,448, or 34 percent off. That matches the low we saw during Black Friday sales. The bigger 65-inch model is seeing an even deeper discount of 41 percent off. Bringing that one down to $1,798. That's not its all-time low, but it's just $20 more than its cheapest price.

The QD-OLED panel on both sizes has earned props for delivering high contrast and deep blacks and puts out a higher level of brightness than some other OLEDs. It comes with four full-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 ports, and can deliver 4K video at a 120Hz refresh rate so when the big game is over, you'll get immersive and smooth graphics on the latest gaming titles.  

Samsung QN90B QLED TV

If a 43-inch TV is more your speed, here's a high-end option that hit a new low price this week. Samsung's 43-inch QN90B is down to a new low of $898, which is 25 percent off its MSRP. The 55-inch model is down to $1,298, which is an all time low. The QN90B is a more traditional LED LCD panel with a Mini LED backlighting to give it better contrast and HDR performance that most TVs of this type, and its great that its available in a 43-inch size. If you're going for the larger 55-inch size, however, we actually recommend Samsung's S95B, mentioned above, for its superior OLED panel. 

Vitamix Explorian E310

Vitamix blenders are ideal for sauces, salsas, dips and icy drinks — all of which may come in handy at a Super Bowl party. The Vitamix series we recommend in our smart kitchen gadget guide is from the Explorian lineup, which isn't the most powerful of the Vitamixes, but instead balances price and performance. We think it's the best option for most people. The E310 usually goes for $350, but is $50 off right now. If you decide you do want all possible power in your blender, go for the Ascent series, most of which are also $50 off, which takes a little of the sting out of their starting price of $500.  

iPad Air

Apple's 2022 iPad Air is $99 off right now, bringing the "almost future-proof" tablet down to $500 at Amazon. It dips down to this price fairly often, so it's wise to wait until you see the discount before hitting add to cart. This is the 64GB WiFi model of Apple's latest M1-equipped iPad Air. The larger-capacity 256GB model is also $99 off, bringing it down to $650. The M1 chip is fast enough for content creation, gaming and running other demanding apps. And you'll get an impressive 10 hours of battery life. The build is top-notch and overall, we think it's the best iPad for most people. Especially when it's nearly $100 cheaper.  

Pixel Buds Pro

In our estimation, Google's Pixel Buds Pro are the best earbuds for anyone who carries an Android device in their pocket. Right now at Wellbots, you can save a healthy $55 off the usual $200 price tag when you use the code ENGTSOUND at checkout. We called them Google's best earbuds yet, praising their ability to deliver deep and punchy base notes along with active noise cancellation that effectively blocks out world around you. On-board tap controls let you easily adjust volume, control your playlist and toggle the ANC and you can easily recharge the buds and case wirelessly. One of our complaints was the price bump over the previous models, but hopefully this discount makes that less of an issue. 

Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon just added two new colors to the backs of their Kindle Paperwhites and are offering a 27 percent discount to go with the new look. That brings the $150 e-reader down to $109, which doesn't beat the Black Friday sale price of $99, but is the best price the device has seen since then. The discount only applies to the 16GB capacity model in the new colors, green or blue. The 8GB capacity model isn't available in the new colors and the black version is still full price. 

The new colors — and discount — apply to the Paperwhite Signature Edition as well. We called it the "best e-reader period" in our review and this is one of the few times outside of the holidays that the device has gone on sale. Both the blue and green versions are on sale for $140, which is a 26 percent discount off the usual $190 price tag. 

Fitbit Charge 5

We named Fitbit's Charge 5 the best overall tracker in our 2023 guide and in our review, we praised the comfortable design and colorful, always-on display. Right now Wellbots is offering an exclusive discount code that will take $20 off the usual retail of $150. Enter FITENG20 at checkout to see the discount. The Fitbit Inspire 3 will also work with the same $20 discount code, bring that down to $80 instead of its usual $100. Both of those are fitness trackers as opposed to outright smartwatches, and if you'd prefer a more fully-featured wearable, the code FITENG50 will get you $50 off either the Versa 4 or the Sense 2

Chipolo Bluetooth tracker bundle

A bundle of three Bluetooth trackers from Chipolo are currently 35 percent off their list price. These small chips can help get you out the door faster by making sure you can easily find your keys, wallet or whatever else you attach them to. We tried out Chipolo’s One Spot, a version of the trackers that works with Apple’s Find My network and we're currently testing both that version and Chipolo’s standard trackers (that work with both Android and iPhone) for an upcoming guide. The ring is loud and the app is easy to use, and now that you can save on a bundle, it’s easier to keep tabs on all those little items that tend to go missing.

Disney+

To make it easier for us to afford the growing list of streaming services out there, many providers are offering ad-supported versions of their services at reduced prices. Right now, the Disney Plus ad-supported variant is down to $6.99 a month for your first three months. It goes back up to $7.99 after that, but you're free to cancel at any time. You may remember a time when Disney plus without ads was only $7, but just like manyotherstreamingservices out there, they've raised prices recently. Still, for the amount of content available, including Marvel movies, Star Wars shows, Disney features and Pixar fare, it feels worth the cost. 

Arlo Video Doorbell

Here's a chance to keep tabs on your front door — for half the price. Arlo's Essential Video Doorbell is on sale for 50 percent off right now at Amazon, bringing the $200 device down to $100. It's battery-powered, which is great for those without a wired already installed at their front door and gives you a 180-degree field of view. It'll send HD video with HDR to your smartphone or home hub and allows you to see, hear and speak to whomever is out there. The wired-only version is on sale for 47 percent off, bringing it down to $80. And Arlo's exterior security cameras are 38 percent off, or $80 each.  

Meta Quest Pro

Meta's Quest Pro headset only arrived three months ago, but it saw its first discount this week. It's a pricey device to begin with and even with a 27 percent discount, it will still put you back $1,100. We tried out the VR headset, and had a lot to say. Meta hopes the Quest Pro will become the device that starts to truly enable the Metaverse. Whether or not we want to live and work in VR just yet is still up for debate, but for those that do, this is a powerful (and relatively comfortable) way to do it.  

Spigen Ultra Hybrid MagSafe case

Spigen's Ultra Hybrid MagFit case made our list of the best iPhone accessories and is 44 percent off right now, making it just $25 at Amazon. It works with the iPhone. It fits the standard iPhone 14 and is a great all-purpose option. The clear cover has anti-yellowing properties, which should keep it looking clean and new for longer than other cases. Raised edges help protect the screen and camera array from making too much contact with other surfaces, and you’ll be able to use it with any magnetic accessories you want.

WD_Black SSD Cards

It's another good week to add extra storage to your computers and gadgets. Right now Amazon is running discounts on a range of storage cards and drives. Discounts range from 20 to 50 percent on Western Digital Black gaming SSDs and SanDisk microSDs. WD_Black's 250GB Internal Gaming SSD is down to $35, which is 42 percent off the original $60. The 500GB version is fifty percent off, or $40. 

As for the cards, SanDisk's 256GB Ultra microSDXC is down to $25, which isn't the lowest it's ever been, but is still a decent 25 percent off. SanDisk's 1TB Ultra microSDXC is 20 percent off, or $109. 

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

- Mariella Moon
Watch the trailer for CNN's documentary on the rise and fall of HQ Trivia

There was a time when HQ Trivia was on everyone's lips, and millions of people were playing it in hopes of winning some money from its prize pot. Then the trivia show app was beset by one problem after another until it fell off the radar, lost its audience and shut down. CNN announced last year that it ordered a documentary that'll tell the game show's story, with the promise of launching it in 2023. Now CNN Films, the news channel's motion picture division, has released a trailer for the documentary entitled Glitch: The Rise & Fall of HQ Trivia, which is scheduled to premiere on CNN on March 5th at 9PM ET/PT.

During the height of its popularity, HQ Trivia ran two games a day, and users could win part of the prize pot by answering several questions correctly in a row. It was hosted by Scott Rogowsky, though celebrities like The Rock and Kelly Clarkson would sometimes serve as guest hosts. In 2018, however, its controversial co-founder Colin Kroll passed away, and then Rogowsky left reportedly after having a disagreement with management over another hosting job he took. 

According to TechCrunch, more than half of HQ Trivia's staff also signed a petition to remove CEO Rus Yusupov, accusing him of mismanaging the startup. Yusupov then reportedly fired some of the people who led the petition before the company shut down following a failed acquisition in 2020. The trivia app quickly came back thanks to a new investor, but it only ran games once a week with a prize pot of $1,500. Today, the app is suspended in limbo and hasn't had a game since November 2022. 

The CNN documentary will be told through the point of view of Rogowsky, along with other insiders from the company. Based on what Salima Koroma, the docu's director said, we're in for an entertaining ride: "HQ Trivia was supposed to ‘revolutionize television’. But what happens when the people who are running it—'the smartest guys in the room’— don’t actually know what they’re doing? The CEOs who make the Vines and the WeWorks and the Twitters are hailed as the rockstars of our age. But a lot of them are simply emperors with no clothes on. It’s kind of absurd. And I wanted that absurdity to be felt all throughout the film."

Pay TV subscribers can stream the documentary when it premieres through CNN's website, its mobile apps and CNNgo. It will also be available for on demand streaming starting on March 6th.

- Will Shanklin
The PC release of 'The Last of Us Part I' has been delayed to March 28th

Naughty Dog announced today that it’s delaying The Last of Us Part I for PC until March 28th. It will follow the game’s PS5 launch last year and roughly coincide with the wrap-up of season one of the HBO series.

We found the console version of the remake to be a massive visual upgrade over the 2013 original — while staying faithful to its core gameplay. Subtler enhancements in the updated version included more intelligent AI, haptic controller improvements, new game modes and accessibility options. The PC launch was initially set for March 3rd.

“These additional few weeks will allow us to ensure this version of The Last of Us lives up to your, and our, standards,” Naughty Dog tweeted today. “We are so excited to bring The Last of Us Part I to a new platform, reaching new and returning players with Joel and Ellie’s unforgettable story of survival, and we hope that you’ll continue to look forward to its PC release on March 28.”

The Last of Us Part I PC will now be released on March 28. An update from our team: pic.twitter.com/lvApDT71Xj

— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) February 3, 2023

The new arrival date pushes it past the season one finale of the new HBO series based on the game, which is scheduled for March 12th. The show quickly became HBO’s third-largest streaming debut.

- Jon Fingas
LG brings Apple TV and Apple Music apps to more third-party webOS TVs

Apple services have been available on LG's TVs for a while, but they've been no-shows on many of the third-party sets running the company's scaled-back webOS Hub. That won't be a problem for much longer. LG has made Apple's apps and services available on webOS Hub, including Apple TV, Apple Music, AirPlay and HomeKit. The rollout gives TVs from 200 brands a taste of the Apple ecosystem, including Aiwa, Hyundai and Konka.

The Apple TV and Apple Music apps are effectively the same as you'd find on LG's own sets. Apple TV lets you stream Apple's shows, some third-party services and titles you've purchased or rented. Apple Music, meanwhile, offers access to both the all-you-can listen subscription and your personal music library. AirPlay allows casting from iPads, iPhones and Macs, while HomeKit gives you control of your TV through Siri or Apple's Home app.

The features aren't universally available. You'll need an OLED or 4K TV using webOS Hub 2.0 (released late last year) if you expect to use AirPlay or HomeKit. You may have to settle for just the media apps with certain sets.

Even so, this is a big move for Apple. The launch puts its apps on webOS TVs in over 100 countries, and many of those devices are budget models. That brings Apple TV+, Apple Music and the company's smart home tech within reach of more people, particularly those who can't justify the prices of TVs from LG and other major brands.

- Devindra Hardawar
The best 2-in-1 laptops for 2023

The perfect hybrid machine that’s just as good a tablet as it is a laptop still doesn’t exist. But throughout last year, companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google continued to improve their operating systems for machines that do double duty. Windows 11 has features that make it friendlier for multi-screen devices, while Android has been better optimized for larger displays. Plus, with the rise of ARM-based chips for laptops, especially Apple’s impressive M series, prospects for a powerful 2-in-1 with a vast touch-friendly app ecosystem is at an all-time high.

Even the best 2-in-1 laptops still have their limits, of course. Since they’re smaller than proper laptops, they tend to have less-powerful processors. Keyboards are often less sturdy, with condensed layouts and shallower travel. Plus, they’re almost always tablets first, leaving you to buy a keyboard case separately. (And those ain’t cheap!) So, you can’t always assume the advertised price is what you’ll actually spend on the 2-in-1 you want.

Sometimes, getting a third-party keyboard might be just as good, and they’re often cheaper than first-party offerings. If you’re looking to save some money, Logitech’s Slim Folio is an affordable option, and if you don’t need your keyboard to attach to your tablet, Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device wireless keyboard is also a good pick.

While we’ve typically made sure to include a budget 2-in-1 laptop in previous years, this time there isn’t a great choice. We would usually pick a Surface Go, but the latest model is still too expensive. Other alternatives, like cheaper Android tablets, are underpowered and don’t offer a great multitasking interface. If you want something around $500 that’s thin, lightweight and long-lasting, you’re better off this year looking at a conventional laptop (like those on our best budget PCs list).

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2020Chris Velazco / Engadget

When you’re shopping for a 2-in-1, there are some basic criteria to keep in mind. First, look at the spec sheet to see how heavy the tablet is (alone, and with the keyboard). Most modern hybrids weigh less than 2 pounds, with the 1.94-pound Surface Pro 9 being one of the heaviest around. The iPad Pro 12.9 (2022) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8+ are both slightly lighter. If the overall weight of the tablet and its keyboard come close to 3 pounds, you’ll be better off just getting an ultraportable laptop.

You’ll also want to opt for an 11-inch or 12-inch screen instead of a smaller 10-inch model. The bigger displays will make multitasking easier, plus their companion keyboards will be much better spaced. Also, try to get 6GB of RAM if you can for better performance — you’ll find this in the base model of the Galaxy Tab S7+, while this year’s iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 8 start with 8GB of RAM.

Finally, while some 2-in-1s offer built-in LTE or 5G connectivity, not everyone will want to pay the premium for it. An integrated cellular radio makes checking emails or replying to messages on the go far more convenient. But it also often costs more, and that’s not counting what you’ll pay for data. And, as for 5G — you can hold off on it unless you live within range of a mmWave beacon. Coverage is still spotty and existing nationwide networks use the slower sub-6 technology that’s barely faster than LTE.

Best overall: Surface Pro 9 (Intel)

There’s no beating the Surface series when it comes to 2-in-1s. They’re powerful, sleek tablets running an OS that’s actually designed for productivity. The Surface Pro 9 is Microsoft’s latest and great tablet, and it builds upon the already excellent Pro 8. It features speedy 12th-gen Intel CPUs and all of the major upgrades from last year, including a 120Hz display and a more modern design. It’s the best implementation of Microsoft’s tablet PC vision yet.

Don’t confuse this with the similarly named Surface Pro 9 with 5G, though, which has a slower ARM processor and inferior software compatibility. Built-in cellular is nice and all, but the Intel Pro 9 is a far better PC.

Like most of the other 2-in-1s on this list, the Pro 9 doesn’t come with a keyboard cover — you’ll have to pay extra for that. That’s a shame, considering it starts at $1,000. Microsoft offers a variety of Type Covers for its Surface Pros ranging from $100 to $180, depending on whether you want a slot for a stylus. But at least they’re comfortable and well-spaced. You can also get the Surface Slim Pen 2 ($130) for sketching out your diagrams or artwork, which features haptic feedback for a more responsive experience.

Best for Apple users: 12.9-inch iPad Pro

If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, the best option for you is obviously an iPad. The 12-inch Pro is our pick. Like older models, this iPad Pro has a stunning 12.9-inch screen with a speedy 120Hz refresh rate, as well as mini-LED backlighting. This year, it includes Apple’s incredibly fast M2 chip and more battery life than ever before.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard provides a satisfying typing experience, and its trackpad means you won’t have to reach for the screen to launch apps. But it’ll also cost you an extra $300, making it the most expensive case on this list by a lot. The iPad also lacks a headphone jack and its webcam is awkwardly positioned along the left bezel when you prop it up horizontally, so be aware that it’s still far from a perfect laptop replacement. Still, with its sleek design and respectable battery life, the iPad Pro 12.9 is a good 2-in-1 for Apple users.

Best for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+

While Windows is better than iPadOS and Android for productivity, it lags the other two when it comes to apps specifically designed for touchscreens. If you want a tablet that has all the apps you want, and only need it to occasionally double as a laptop, the Galaxy Tab S8+ is a solid option. You’ll enjoy watching movies and playing games on its gorgeous 12.4-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen, and Samsung includes the S Pen, which is great for sketching and taking notes. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip and 8GB of RAM keep things running smoothly, too.

Last year, Samsung dramatically improved its keyboard case, making the Tab an even better laptop replacement. You could type for hours on this thing and not hate yourself (or Samsung). The battery life is also excellent, so you won’t need to worry about staying close to an outlet. The main caveat is that Android isn’t great as a desktop OS, even with the benefits of Android 12L. And while Samsung’s DeX mode offers a somewhat workable solution, it has plenty of quirks.

Cherlynn Low contributed to this report.

- Kris Holt
Activision Blizzard will pay $35 million to settle SEC charges over its handling of complaints

Activision Blizzard will pay $35 million to settle charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it “failed to maintain disclosure controls and procedures to ensure that the company could assess whether its disclosures pertaining to its workforce were adequate.” The settlement also resolves charges that Activision Blizzard violated whistleblower protection regulations. The company is settling the charges without admitting to or denying them.

"The SEC’s order finds that Activision Blizzard failed to implement necessary controls to collect and review employee complaints about workplace misconduct, which left it without the means to determine whether larger issues existed that needed to be disclosed to investors,” SEC Denver regional office director Jason Burt said in a statement

The SEC claims that, between 2018 and 2021, the company “lacked controls and procedures among its separate business units to collect and analyze employee complaints of workplace misconduct." Because of that, Activision Blizzard higher ups didn’t have the information they needed to fully comprehend the substance and number of workplace misconduct complaints, according to the order. Nor did management review whether there were any material issues that would have warranted public disclosure, the SEC found.

In addition, the SEC determined that the company violated a whistleblower protection rule as a result of separation agreements it carried out between 2016 and 2021. Activision Blizzard allegedly required former workers to provide it with notice if the SEC contacted them for information. "Taking action to impede former employees from communicating directly with the Commission staff about a possible securities law violation is not only bad corporate governance, it is illegal,” Burt, one of the supervisors of the investigation, said.

"We are pleased to have amicably resolved this matter. As the order recognizes, we have enhanced our disclosure processes with regard to workplace reporting and updated our separation contract language," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. "We did so as part of our continuing commitment to operational excellence and transparency. Activision Blizzard is confident in its workplace disclosures.”

The agency started investigating Activision Blizzard over these issues by September 2021, according to reports at the time. Two months earlier, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued the company over allegations of systemic gender discrimination and widespread sexual harassment.

The SEC probe related to how Activision Blizzard managed complaints over such incidents. It says that the company changed its processes for handling complaints between 2020 and last year to make sure that it documented the complaints more thoroughly and better communicated them to its senior management and legal team. Last June, Activision Blizzard agreed to release an annual report that discloses how the company handles sexual harassment and gender discrimination complaints, and what it's doing to prevent such incidents.

In January 2022, Microsoft said it planned to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. The Federal Trade Commission has sued to block the takeover bid. Regulators in the UK and European Union are also scrutinizing the pending merger.

- Valentina Palladino
Google's Pixel Buds Pro drop to a record low of $145

Google’s latest and greatest earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro, are the best we’ve come across for Android users. That’s for a number of reasons, but importantly, they integrate fairly seamlessly with Android phones, and even better if you have a Pixel handset. Normally priced at $200, the Pixel Buds Pro are down to the lowest price we’ve seen right now at Wellbots. You can grab them for $145, or $55 off, with the code ENGTSOUND at checkout.

The Android conveniences in the Pixel Buds Pro almost make them a foil to Apple’s AirPods. Their dedicated Android app provides a bunch of customization options, and Pixel phone users will be able to access some controls directly from their Bluetooth menu. The Pixel Buds Pro also support hands-free Google Assistant access, so you can ask it to read out notifications and help you in other ways. It even has Google Translate functionality that will help you speak in another language on the spot.

Otherwise, the Pixel Buds Pro are capable in every way that matters. They have a small, oval-shaped design that’s comfortable for long-term use, plus reliable touch controls that let you pause, play and skip tracks. While Transparency Mode left a little to be desired, active noise cancellation is solid and these buds have much better sound quality than the Pixel Buds that came before them.

As for battery life, you’ll get a decent seven hours with ANC turned on and up to 20 additional hours with the buds’ charging case. You can also wirelessly power up the buds, which will be convenient if you have a bunch of those accessories scattered throughout your home.

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

- Steve Dent
YouTube's co-hosted livestreams arrive on Android and iOS

After teasing it last year, YouTube has rolled out a new feature called Go Live Together that lets creators co-host livestreams. Anyone with over 50 subscribers can invite a guest to host a livestream with them from iOS and Android mobile devices. Only one guest is allowed at any time, but the host can swap in new guests during the same livestream. 

You can schedule co-streams through YouTube's desktop app, but both the host and guest must use mobile devices during the livestream. To do so, open the YouTube app, tap "Create" then "Go Live Together." After entering stream details, select "Invite a co-streamer" and send an invite link to the co-streamer. They'll then be sent to the waiting room until you click "Go Live."

There's no minimum number of followers for guests, but the host will be held responsible for guests violating any community guidelines. Hosts can earn revenue for ads, which can appear in pre-, mid- and post-roll form. 

YouTube offered a similar feature that lets creators co-host shopping livestreams, which allows both co-hosting and redirects to a brand's channel. Twitch recently introduced a feature in beta called Guest Star which allows creators to bring up to five guests onto streams. That system is a bit simpler, as any viewer can raise a virtual hand and the host can invite them on, much like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces. Unlike YouTube's mobile limitation, Twitch's version is only available on desktop. 

- Valentina Palladino
The Beats Fit Pro earbuds drop to $150 at Amazon

Our favorite earbuds for working out are down to one of their best prices yet. The Beats Fit Pro have dropped to $150 at Amazon, which is 25 percent off their usual price and close to an all-time low. We've only seen them cheaper during a limited-time sale at Woot in which they were $145, so if you missed that, now's a good time to pick up a pair for nearly the same cost.

The Fit Pros were cut from a similar cloth as the Beats Studio Buds, but they include an wing tip for a more secure fit. They are comfortable to wear for long stretches of time, and the wing tip keeps them even more stable than other buds during fast-paced workouts. Beats didn't skip on other hardware features either: the Fit Pros have solid onboard controls, an IPX4 rating and a wear-detection sensor that will pause audio when you remove a bud.

Sound quality is pretty good here, and users will appreciate the Fit Pro's punchy bass when they need a little extra motivation during a tough workout. They also have good active noise cancellation that blocks out most surrounding noises. But the kicker for many might be their integration with Apple devices, which make them a good alternative to AirPods. The Beats Fit Pro quickly pair and switch between Apple gadgets, plus they support hands-free Siri and Find My capabilities, the latter of which will help you locate your buds if you misplace them. Android users will get some of these perks as well since the Fit Pros have a dedicated Android app that gives them fast-pairing features and customizable controls.

But if you prefer a more subtle design sans wing tip, you should consider the Beats Studio Buds, which are also on sale at the moment. Normally $150, these buds are down to $100 right now, which is nearly a record low. They do not have things like wireless charging, sound customizations or onboard volume controls, but they will give you all of the same Apple integrations along with a comfortable, IPX4-rated design, good sound quality and solid ANC.

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

- Beth Mole
Freak infection with an eradicated form of polio shows virus’ craftiness
Transmission electron micrograph of poliovirus type 1.

Enlarge / Transmission electron micrograph of poliovirus type 1. (credit: Getty | BSIP)

An eradicated form of wild polio surfaced in routine wastewater monitoring in the Netherlands last year, offering a cautionary tale on the importance of monitoring for the tenacious virus, researchers report this week in the journal Eurosurveilance.

The sewage sample came up positive for infectious poliovirus in mid-November and genome sequencing revealed a strain of wild poliovirus type 3, which was declared globally eradicated in 2019. Its potential revival would be a devastating setback in the decades-long effort to stamp out highly infectious and potentially paralytic germ for good.

For brief background, there are three types of wild polioviruses: type 2 and type 3 have been eradicated, with the former being knocked out in 2015. Wild poliovirus type 1 continues to circulate in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are also occasional vaccine-derived polioviruses that circulate in communities with low vaccination rates, which recently occurred in New York.

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- Jon Brodkin
Musk beats fraud charges; jury rejects investor claims in “funding secured” case
Elon Musk wearing a suit and mask as he leaves a federal courthouse.

Enlarge / Elon Musk leaves court in San Francisco on Friday, February 3, 2023. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Update at 6:15 pm ET: The jury sided with Elon Musk in a ruling issued about two hours after closing arguments on Friday.

"A jury rejected investor claims that Elon Musk violated federal securities law when he tweeted in 2018 about potentially taking Tesla private, handing a major win to the billionaire chief executive," The Wall Street Journal reported. "The nine-person jury said the investors who brought the class-action case failed to prove that Mr. Musk hurt them by tweeting about a possible deal."

Original story: The class-action trial over Elon Musk's false "funding secured" tweets ended today with closing arguments. A nine-member federal jury now must decide whether Musk and Tesla should have to pay damages to investors who lost money after Musk falsely claimed in August 2018 that he had secured funding to take Tesla private.

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- Eric Berger
Why would the Chinese government be flying a large stratospheric balloon?
Stratospheric weather balloons are released every day, such as this one from the Technical University of Munich in 2021. The Chinese balloon is likely much larger and more sophisticated.

Enlarge / Stratospheric weather balloons are released every day, such as this one from the Technical University of Munich in 2021. The Chinese balloon is likely much larger and more sophisticated. (credit: Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty Images)

On Thursday, US officials confirmed that a high-altitude balloon, launched days ago by the Chinese government, has been flying over the northern United States. This has since become an international incident and led the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, to delay a high-profile visit to China to meet with the nation's president, Xi Jinping.

The balloon's flight raises several questions—such as, just what the heck is it doing there? This story will address what is known and not known about the flight. The information below is based on public statements, other news reports, and an interview with a stratospheric balloon expert, Andrew Antonio, whose company, Urban Sky, is developing the world’s first reusable stratospheric balloons for remote sensing.

How big is the balloon?

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- Dan Goodin
Microsoft alleges attacks on French magazine came from Iranian-backed group
Microsoft alleges attacks on French magazine came from Iranian-backed group

Enlarge

Microsoft said on Friday that an Iranian nation-state group already sanctioned by the US government was behind an attack last month that targeted the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and thousands of its readers.

The attack came to light on January 4, when a previously unknown group calling itself Holy Souls took to the Internet to claim it had obtained a Charlie Hebdo database that contained personal information for 230,000 of its customers. The post said the database was available for sale at the price of 20 BTC, or roughly $340,000 at the time. The group also released a sample of the data that included the full names, telephone numbers, and home and email addresses of people who had subscribed to, or purchased merchandise from, the publication. French media confirmed the veracity of the leaked data.

The release of the sample put the customers at risk of online targeting or physical violence by extremist groups, which have retaliated against Charlie Hebdo in recent years for its satirical treatment of matters pertaining to the Muslim religion and Islamic countries such as Iran. The retaliation included the 2015 shooting by two French Muslim terrorists and brothers at Charlie Hebdo offices that killed 12 and injured 11 others. To further gin up attention to the breached data, a flurry of fake personas—one falsely claiming to be a Charlie Hebdo editor—took to social media to discuss and publicize the leak.

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- Kyle Orland
SEC gets $35 million settlement in Activision misconduct disclosure case
A magnifying glass inspects a surface covered in various corporate logos.

Enlarge / Taking a close look... (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Friday that Activision Blizzard has agreed to pay $35 million to settle a probe into the company's handling of widespread workplace harassment and discrimination allegations.

In an administrative order, the SEC said that complaints of workplace misconduct at Activision Blizzard "were not collected or analyzed for disclosure purposes" since at least 2018. This left Activision Blizzard management "lacking sufficient information to understand the volume and substance of employee complaints of workplace misconduct," and therefore unable to warn investors of any potential business risks those complaints entailed.

The SEC also found that Activision asked departing employees to enter into "separation agreements" that illegally asked those employees "to notify Activision Blizzard of any requests from an administrative agency in connection with a report or complaint." That violates SEC rules designed to protect whistleblowers and prohibit employers from impeding employee complaints to government agencies.

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- Jonathan M. Gitlin
Treasury decides Model Y, Lyriq, ID.4, are SUVs after all, not sedans
US Treasury Building. Washington DC

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Friday the US Treasury Department published an update to the way it implements the new clean vehicle tax credit. Introduced in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the new rules restrict the number of EVs that qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 with income and price caps, as well as a requirement for final assembly in North America and, once the Treasury has written some more guidance, a requirement for domestic content and value in the EV battery.

When the new rules came out in January, there were some complaints that some five-seat crossovers—the Cadillac Lyriq, Tesla Model Y, and Volkswagen ID.4—were being counted as sedans, with a $55,000 MSRP cap; anyone buying any of those EVs with a purchase price of more than $55,000 was ineligible for the tax credit, although the seven-seat Model Y was classified as an SUV and therefore only subject to an $80,000 MSRP limit.

The reason for that was the Treasury using the US Environmental Protection Agency's Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard classification, which categorizes light trucks (including SUVs and minivans) differently from passenger cars. But there's a separate EPA fuel economy labeling standard, used in consumer-facing applications, that already counted the Lyriq, Model Y, and ID.4 as crossovers and not sedans.

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- Ashley Belanger
Former Trump official led feds to Telegram group livestreaming child abuse
Former Trump official led feds to Telegram group livestreaming child abuse

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto / Contributor | NurPhoto)

New details have been revealed through recently unsealed Cook County court documents, showing how federal investigators in 2020 gained access to encrypted Telegram messages to uncover “a cross-country network of people sexually exploiting children.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents based in Arizona launched “Operation Swipe Left” in 2020 to investigate claims of kidnapping, livestreaming child abuse, and production and distribution of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). That investigation led to criminal charges filed against at least 17 people. The majority of defendants were living in Arizona, but others charged were residents of Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, DC, California, and South Africa. Ten children were rescued, including four children actively suffering abuse at the time of the rescue. The youngest victim identified was 6 months old, and the oldest was 17 years old.

Telegram became a preferred tool for defendants in this investigation, many of whom believed that police could never access their encrypted messages. At least one federal prosecutor told a judge that authorities never would have gained access; however, one of the defendants, Adam Hageman, “fully cooperated” with investigators and granted access through his account to offending Telegram groups.

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- Scharon Harding
Samsung Pro SSD reliability questioned as longtime partner shifts to Sabrent
Samsung 990 Pro SSD front and back view

Enlarge / Puget Systems won't be using the 1TB or 2TB Samsung 990 Pro anymore. (credit: Samsung)

Samsung has earned a strong reputation among PC enthusiasts when it comes to solid-state storage. Its Pro series of SSDs are often among reviewers' top recommendations for users seeking high-speed storage for large work files, apps, and boot drives. Over the past year, though, reliability concerns around Samsung's 980 Pro and most recent 990 Pro have marred this reputation. It has become so notable that custom PC-maker Puget Systems, a top proponent of Samsung SSDs since the SATA days, has pulled 1TB and 2TB Samsung drives from its lineup.

For Puget, problems with Samsung SSDs, which the 22-year-old boutique PC shop sells in its custom-built systems, started with the 980 Pro that came out in September 2020. On January 31, Puget wrote a blog noting it "received a surprising number of reports of failing Samsung drives, specifically with the 2TB version of the 980 Pro.

"The most common failure mode that we have found is that the drives are suddenly locked into read-only mode, rendering the drive unusable. If the failed drive is the primary drive, then the system becomes unbootable until the drive is replaced and the OS is reinstalled," Chris Newhart, a Tier 2 repair technician at Puget, wrote.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

- Ron Amadeo
It sounds like Google will unveil its ChatGPT clone February 8
A large Google logo is displayed amidst foliage.

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Everybody panic! Next week Google is hosting what can only be described as an "emergency" event. According to an invite sent to The Verge, the event will revolve around "using the power of AI to reimagine how people search for, explore and interact with information, making it more natural and intuitive than ever before to find what you need"—in other words, Google's going to fire up its photocopier and stick OpenAI's ChatGPT onto the platen. The 40-minute event will, of course, be live on YouTube on February 8.

Google's parent company, Alphabet, had its earnings call yesterday, and Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai promised that “very soon people will be able to interact directly with our newest, most powerful language models as a companion to Search in experimental and innovative ways.” Earlier this year, the company declared a "code red" over the meteoric rise of ChatGPT and even dragged co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin out of retirement to help.

Google has plenty of AI technology, but it is mostly not open to the public. It has a chatbot language model called "LaMDA" (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) and an image-generation AI called "Imagen." While OpenAI turns similar technologies into public products like DALL-E and ChatGPT that wow the world and earn the company a ton of attention, Google keeps everything internal and only ever talks about these projects in blog posts and research papers.

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- Kyle Orland
Donkey Kong cheating case rocked by photos of illicit joystick modification
Mitchell (right) at the 2007 FAMB convention with former Twin Galaxies referee Todd Rogers and what appears to be a <em>Donkey Kong</em> cabinet with a modified joystick.

Mitchell (right) at the 2007 FAMB convention with former Twin Galaxies referee Todd Rogers and what appears to be a Donkey Kong cabinet with a modified joystick. (credit: David Race)

Over the years, King of Kong star Billy Mitchell has seen his world-record Donkey Kong scores stripped, partially reinstated, and endlessly litigated, both in actual court and the court of public opinion. Through it all, Mitchell has insisted that every one of his records was set on unmodified Donkey Kong arcade hardware, despite some convincing technical evidence to the contrary.

Now, new photos from a 2007 performance by Mitchell seem to show obvious modifications to the machine used to earn at least one of those scores, a fascinating new piece of evidence in the long, contentious battle over Mitchell's place in Donkey Kong score-chasing history.

The telltale joystick

The photos in question were taken at the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers (FAMB) Convention, which hosted Mitchell as part of its "80s Arcade Night" promotion in July 2007. Mitchell claims to have achieved a score of 1,050,200 points at that event, a performance that was recognized by adjudicator Twin Galaxies as a world record at the time (but which by now would barely crack the top 30).

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- Jonathan M. Gitlin
Electrify America is raising its prices in March
A ford F-150 lightning charges at an EA station

Enlarge (credit: Electrify America)

Road-tripping in an electric vehicle might be slightly more expensive this year. On Thursday morning, Electrify America informed its user base that starting on March 6, the company will raise its prices.

"We’ve tried hard to maintain our current pricing, but rising operational and energy costs have now made adjusting our pricing necessary," the company wrote in an email to customers. "We shall continue to maintain simple, uniform pricing across the country, and this adjustment ensures we can uphold our commitment to drive electric vehicle (EV) adoption and the future of electric mobility."

Currently, guests (i.e., people without an Electrify America account) and Pass members pay $0.43 per kWh in states that allow billing by unit of energy. That's increasing by 11.6 percent to $0.48 per kWh starting next month.

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- Andrew Cunningham
The newest feature in the Microsoft Store is more ads
The newest feature in the Microsoft Store is more ads

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

If your main problem with the Microsoft Store is that you get too many relevant results when you search for apps, good news: Microsoft is officially launching Microsoft Store Ads, a way for developers to pay to get their apps in front of your eyes when you go to the store to look for something else.

Microsoft's landing page for the feature says the apps will appear during searches and in the Apps and Gaming tabs within the app. Developers will be able to track whether and where users see the ads and whether they're downloading and opening the apps once they see the ads.

Microsoft also provided an update on the health of the Microsoft Store, pointing to 2022 as "a record year," with more than 900 million unique users worldwide and "a 122% year-over-year increase in developer submissions of new apps and games." Microsoft has steadily loosened its restrictions on Store apps in the last year or two, allowing in traditional Win32 apps and also leaning on Amazon's Android app store and the Windows Subsystem for Android to expand its selection.

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- Eric Berger
When will United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket fly?
Vulcan's core stage is lifted into a processing facility at Cape Canaveral, Fla., in January.

Enlarge / Vulcan's core stage is lifted into a processing facility at Cape Canaveral, Fla., in January. (credit: United Launch Alliance)

The large Vulcan rocket, which has received dozens of launch orders from the US Department of Defense and Amazon for its Project Kuiper megaconstellation, is due to make its debut at some point this year. But when?

In response to a query from Ars, a spokesperson from the rocket's primary customer, Astrobotic, said the mission is targeted for a launch during the first quarter of 2023, i.e., before the end of March. A spokesperson for Vulcan's manufacturer, United Launch Alliance, did not specify a time frame, saying a launch date would only be set after additional testing was completed.

While there is no official launch date, some interesting clues have turned up in the last week or two, and it's therefore possible to make an educated guess. With much work left to do before the heavy-lift rocket takes flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a reasonable target for a no-earlier launch date is May 2023.

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- Jonathan M. Gitlin
Ford will return to F1 in 2026 as an engine builder
A Ford DFV engine installed in a 1960s F1 car

Enlarge / The Ford DFV is the most successful F1 engine of all time. Ford is returning to the sport as an engine builder in 2026. Note the suspension elements mounted on the engine, which is a fully stressed part of the chassis—a big revolution in F1 car design. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Formula 1 just can't seem to keep American car companies away. Last month, we were stunned by the news that Cadillac wants to enter F1 with the Andretti team, which is seeking an entry into the sport. While that bid remains in doubt, here's one that isn't: Today, the Ford Motor Company revealed it will be back in F1 starting in 2026, when the new engine rules come into effect.

"This is the start of a thrilling new chapter in Ford's motorsports story that began when my great-grandfather won a race that helped launch our company," said Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford. "Ford is returning to the pinnacle of the sport, bringing Ford’s long tradition of innovation, sustainability, and electrification to one of the world’s most visible stages.”

Ford's first foray into F1 began in 1967 when Colin Chapman, the head of Lotus, persuaded Ford to pay for the development of a new racing engine that would be a stressed part of the F1 chassis. (In other words, it was a structural element of the car rather than being mounted in a cradle or subframe.) After being initially rebuffed, Chapman convinced Walter Hayes, the head of Ford UK's PR, to help him lobby the suits, and the result was a development budget of £100,000—about $1.7 million today—given to Cosworth to create the engine.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

- Kevin Purdy
Deep Rock Galactic celebrates 5 years by letting players dig like it’s 2018
Dwarven miner outfitting their digger class

Enlarge / Five years later, there are still seemingly infinite upgrades to each class you'll get after just _one more run_. (credit: Ghost Ship Games)

Deep Rock Galactic, the grim vision of galactic extractive hypercapitalism that's also a wonderful community and great hang, will soon be 5 years old. The co-op first-person shooter is celebrating by letting you play the game as it launched in preview form in 2018.

Deep Rock Galactic (DRG) is a co-op shooter that's not like other co-op shooters. You and up to three other players choose a class of dwarven miner, enter a procedurally generated section of an insectoid-infested planet, and then shoot, dig, build, fix, collect, and goof your way toward objectives. One moment you're deep into a tough-as-nails, Aliens-esque blitz for survival, and the next you're picking out silly hats and tossing beer steins at a robot barkeep.

Some of <em>Deep Rock Galactic's</em> sales and engagement stats since its early-access release in 2018.

Some of Deep Rock Galactic's sales and engagement stats since its early-access release in 2018. (credit: Ghost Ship Games / Steam)

That game and other factors—lower system requirements, a generally friendly and welcoming online community, constant updates, Game Pass availability—have led to DRG selling more than 5.5 million copies by the end of 2022, across all platforms. Its daily active users have nearly tripled since 2019. And its Steam reviews have been 97 percent positive since its launch there.

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- Financial Times
Big Tech groups disclose $10 billion in charges from job culls and cost cuts
Montage of company logos

Enlarge / The job and cost cutting come after a decade of heavy spending in a focus on top-line growth. (credit: FT/Bloomberg)

Amazon, Meta, Alphabet, and Microsoft will collectively incur more than $10 billion in charges related to mass redundancies, real estate, and other cost-saving measures, as the Big Tech companies reveal the hefty price they incur to rein in spending.

The US companies that have been implementing the largest job cuts in the tech sector disclosed the high costs related to their restructuring efforts in earnings statements released this week.

The four groups had previously announced 50,000 job cuts to convince Wall Street they were heading into a “year of efficiency,” as Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg described it. This trend comes after more than a decade of heavy spending in a focus on aggressive top-line growth.

Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

- Dan Goodin
Until further notice, think twice before using Google to download software
Until further notice, think twice before using Google to download software

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Searching Google for downloads of popular software has always come with risks, but over the past few months, it has been downright dangerous, according to researchers and a pseudorandom collection of queries.

“Threat researchers are used to seeing a moderate flow of malvertising via Google Ads,” volunteers at Spamhaus wrote on Thursday. “However, over the past few days, researchers have witnessed a massive spike affecting numerous famous brands, with multiple malware being utilized. This is not ‘the norm.’”

One of many new threats: MalVirt

The surge is coming from numerous malware families, including AuroraStealer, IcedID, Meta Stealer, RedLine Stealer, Vidar, Formbook, and XLoader. In the past, these families typically relied on phishing and malicious spam that attached Microsoft Word documents with booby-trapped macros. Over the past month, Google Ads has become the go-to place for criminals to spread their malicious wares that are disguised as legitimate downloads by impersonating brands such as Adobe Reader, Gimp, Microsoft Teams, OBS, Slack, Tor, and Thunderbird.

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- Jonathan M. Gitlin
Acura and Cadillac shine, BMW and Porsche falter at the Rolex 24
Nine GTP race cars from Acura, Cadillac, BMW, and Porsche took part in this year's 24-hour race at Daytona.

Enlarge / Nine GTP race cars from Acura, Cadillac, BMW, and Porsche took part in this year's 24-hour race at Daytona. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

BMW provided flights from DC to Orlando and back, plus four nights in a hotel, so we could attend the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Ars does not accept paid editorial content.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.—With just one race on the books, it's probably too soon to declare this the dawn of a new golden era in racing, but that thought was on many minds at last weekend's spectator-packed Rolex 24 at Daytona. The grueling 24-hour race is the season-opening event for the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, and 2023 saw the introduction of a new class of hybrid prototype race cars called GTP (for Grand Touring Prototype).

The crowds were heavier than ever, buoyed by the debut of the new machines, which put on a good show. And the complicated new energy-based pit stop formula didn't appear to present anyone any trouble.

The same can't be said for the race itself. Twenty-four-hour racing is hard—I speak from some experience—and making it to the end should be, and is, a challenge. A 24-hour race as the first race of the year for all-new cars is even more difficult, despite the thousands of miles each car covered in testing over the past few months. As such, some feared we might be in for a repeat of 2003; that year saw a new prototype class introduced, the best of which finished 24 laps behind the winning car, a racing version of a Porsche 911.

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- Eric Berger
Rocket Report: Tearing down Ariane’s SUSIE concept; is ChatGPT a rocket scientist?
Starlink 5-3, SpaceX's 200th orbital launch, takes to the skies with a fitting 53 Starlink satellites early Thursday morning. (Thanks, cloud).

Enlarge / Starlink 5-3, SpaceX's 200th orbital launch, takes to the skies with a fitting 53 Starlink satellites early Thursday morning. (Thanks, cloud). (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Welcome to Edition 5.24 of the Rocket Report! I joined Ars more than seven years ago to write about space. It has been an amazing ride, and now I'm thrilled to say we're expanding our coverage. Come work with me as a space reporter! Pay is competitive, and you can work remotely. But you must be passionate about space and writing. At least some experience in space journalism is preferred. Here is the place to apply. Anyway, in a few months, I hope to have someone to help with the Rocket Report, so there will no longer be interruptions!

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

A deeper dive into the German launch industry. A German market research firm, Capitol Momentum, has published an extensive report on the financial and technical health of Germany's three most prominent small launch companies—HyImpulse Technologies, Isar Aerospace, and Rocket Factory Augsburg. The report (which requires an email address to download) provides a trove of data about the companies, which are all attempting to bring orbital rockets online within the next 12 to 24 months.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

- Ron Amadeo
Google isn’t moving Legacy G Suite users again, despite admin console warnings
Google isn’t moving Legacy G Suite users again, despite admin console warnings

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Grandfathered-in "Legacy G Suite" users got a scare recently when another new "transition" message started popping up in the Google Admin console. "The transition to Google Workspace has started," said the new message that suddenly appeared in people's accounts. This was after Legacy G Suite users went through a contentious transition last year, where Google's opening position involved shutting down their accounts if people didn't start paying, but eventually, it was talked into not doing that. A Google spokesperson tells us the Workspace transition message was "a bug that surfaced an old banner from earlier in the process last year, and our team is working on removing it. More changes are not happening at this time, and those who previously opted-in for personal use are not expected to take any further action."

We've received a few questions about this message, and this Reddit post has people wondering what the deal is, but it's just a bug. That's great because Legacy G Suite users have gone through enough already. To recap, Google currently offers businesses the option to pay a monthly fee for a Google/Gmail account that ends in a custom domain name instead of @gmail.com. Today this is called "Google Workspace," but due to Google's constant rebrands, it was first called "Google Apps for your Domain," then "Google Apps," and then "G Suite." Google's custom domain service was not always paywalled and not always exclusively aimed at businesses—it was free from 2006 to 2012. Google even pitched these accounts to families as a way to let everyone have similar email addresses. Some people did so, which means today they are getting a paid service for free.

Don't believe a word of this message.

Don't believe a word of this message. (credit: nativecode_)

Last year, the Google accounting department turned its Eye of Sauron on these long-term users and threatened to take away their nearly 16-year-old accounts if they didn't start paying a business rate for these formerly free and not necessarily business accounts. After a public outcry, Google eventually left these "Legacy G Suite accounts" alone after making users confirm that they were using their accounts for "non-business" purposes. After that, everything was settled.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

- Mitchell Clark
Contractors who work on YouTube Music are striking
YouTube’s logo with geometric design in the background Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Over 40 contractors for YouTube Music are going on strike — a first at Google, according to the Alphabet Workers Union (or AWU). The action is in response to an order to return to in-person work next week, something that many of the workers say they can’t do. They’re demanding a return-to-work policy that’s “fair, flexible, and does not threaten the safety and livelihoods of workers,” according to an AWU press release.

The workers are part of the YouTube Music Content Operations team via Cognizant, a subcontractor for Alphabet, Google and YouTube’s parent company. Their jobs are to “ensure music content is available and approved” for the platform, according to a prior press release from the AWU.

The objections to the return to office...

Continue reading…

- Andrew J. Hawkins
Elon Musk cleared of fraud in ‘funding secured’ trial
An image of Elon Musk in a tuxedo making an odd face. The background is red with weight scales on it. Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

A jury deliberated for about an hour, then found Tesla CEO Elon Musk is “not liable” for losses incurred by investors who accused him of fraud based on his tweets in August 2018 that he was thinking of taking the company private, adding “funding secured,” according to reports from The New York Times and CNBC.

The deliberation was exceptionally quick. While cases can be difficult to compare directly, juries took days to deliberate on verdicts for Elizabeth Holmes and Martin Shkreli, both of whom were on trial for fraud. The decision for Musk took a fraction of that time.

With Musk in attendance, the jury in the billionaire’s securities fraud trial heard closing arguments from an attorney representing a class of Tesla investors who claim...

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- Jay Peters
Friday’s top tech news: Jury rules in Elon Musk’s favor in securities fraud trial
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Plus fresh details on Meta’s next AI headset, and another smart home company begins its Matter transition.

Continue reading…

- Mitchell Clark
Nvidia says there’s a fix for Discord slowing down your GPU
Illustration of the Nvidia wordmark on a green and black background. Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Nvidia says there’s a fix for a recently discovered issue where Discord being open in the background limited the performance of some graphics cards. According to a tweet from the company, the patch will download automatically when you log into Windows, so you won’t have to go through the trouble of manually downloading a graphics driver or other software update.

The issue, which affected systems with cards like the RTX 3080 and RTX 3060 Ti, was seemingly caused by a recent Discord update. It kept GPUs from reaching their maximum memory clocks, missing by around 200Mhz. That came with a slight performance penalty when playing games, which isn’t exactly ideal given that Discord is made to help you talk to friends while gaming.

GeForce...

Continue reading…

- Cameron Faulkner
The best deals on 4K TVs
A photo of the LG C2 OLED TV displaying a screensaver of the Earth. We’ve got deals on all sorts of TVs, ranging from affordable (yet feature-packed) models to high-end OLED and Mini LEDs that can really wow you. | Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The future looks bright for those who are looking to nab a great TV in 2023 at a substantial discount. Although a fresh slate of new models was announced at CES 2023, it might be a while until many of them arrive — and even longer before they receive a discount. However, you don’t have to wait until later this year to land a great deal on a mid- or high-end TV from Sony, LG, TCL, or Samsung, as many models of the flagship models from last year are currently selling for hundreds of dollars less than their original list price.

Right now, there are a number of discounted 4K TVs to choose from, spanning a wide variety of prices, size configurations, and feature sets. Whether you want a secondary TV for the bedroom or a high-end OLED that’s...

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- Umar Shakir
Electrify America is increasing prices at its DC fast charging stations
two electrify America stations with two plugs each are divided in stalls with a “no parking except while charging” sign in the middle. A silver Porsche taycan is plugged into one of the chargers and is parked at an angle that takes up parts of two spaces. Photo by Umar Shakir / The Verge

Remember how rising gas prices weren’t a concern to electric car owners? Electrify America is giving users of its DC fast charging network a reminder about one of the biggest frustrations of owning internal combustion engine cars again — by increasing electricity rates at its stations (via Ars Technica).

Starting on March 6th, Electrify America will be charging US customers a standard rate of $0.48 per kilowatt hour. The company, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Auto Group, was charging $0.43 per kWh, but now, it is emailing customers to share the price increase details.

Tara Geiger of Electrify America’s corporate communications emailed the company’s statement on the price changes to The Verge:

Electrify America has been able to maintain...

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- Jay Peters
EA and Meta weren’t the only companies to ax games this week
A screenshot from Apex Legends Mobile. Apex Legends Mobile is one of the games shutting down. | Image: EA

Over the course of this week, the developers of several major live service titles announced that their games would be shutting down. That means that players who actively enjoyed those games — and possibly spent money on them — might have to move on to something else.

The shutdowns are a reminder of the challenges facing these ambitious online titles. If they don’t quickly become massive hits, they might be closed down before they really have time to find their footing. Any new entrants have to fight an uphill battle to compete against juggernauts like Destiny 2, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Fortnite.

That means, for many of these newer games, they’re stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation: they need players to become a hit, but players may...

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- Ryan McNeal
Apple’s Crash Detection is flooding 911 dispatchers with false alarms
A user enables Crash Detection on their Apple Watch. Credit: Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority Skiers are triggering Apple’s Crash Detection feature and unintentionally sending false alarms to 911 dispatchers. The problem became so bad it’s forcing ski resorts to put up signs asking iPhone 14 and Apple Watch owners to turn the feature off or update to the latest version of the software. The dispatchers say that they very rarely see this problem with Android devices.

Having to deal with false alarms is the last thing any 911 dispatcher or first responder needs. But that problem has seemingly ramped up ever since Apple released its Crash Detection feature. The most recent report of the issue appears to have Colorado dispatchers and responders increasingly frustrated.

Apple introduced Crash Detection — a feature Android has had for a while — during the launch of the iPhone 14. The feature is exclusive to the iPhone 14 and the Apple Watch Ultra. When the feature thinks you’ve been in a crash, it sends an SOS to emergency services.

- Matt Horne
Deal: Just $29.99 for a Microsoft Office lifetime subscription (ends soon!)
Microsoft Office Pro 2021 for Windows Deal Credit: Tech Deals

This offer demonstrates that high-quality software doesn’t always come at a high cost. If you act quickly you can obtain lifetime access to Microsoft Office Pro 2021 for a one-time fee of $29.99 ($319 off).

That deal is for Windows users, but Mac owners can enjoy almost exactly the same deal. Microsoft Office Home & Business for Mac 2021 is subject to the same price drop in this promotion, on offer for only $29.99 ($319 off)

- Ryan McNeal
Chrome to get feature that quickly erases 15 minutes of browser data on Android
google chrome android splash screen logo Credit: Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority Google may be adding a new feature to Chrome for Android. The feature will allow users to quickly delete 15 minutes of browser data. It’s unclear when the feature would arrive.

It’s not uncommon to forget to open up an Incognito window when you’re browsing, especially when on your phone. When that happens, however, you have to go through the hassle of going into your history and either deleting things individually or picking from a selection of time increments — that starts at an hour — to get rid of that data. But Google could soon give you an easier option.

As discovered by Chrome Story, there appears to be a new flag in Chrome for Android that suggests Google is working on a new feature. The new feature is a “quick delete” option that would allow Android users to quickly erase 15 minutes of browser data.

- Matt Horne
The best T-Mobile deals: Get a free Samsung Galaxy S23 without trade
T Mobile logo at MWC Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority

T-Mobile is the second-largest wireless carrier in the United States, climbing up from third place after the merger with Sprint. Its growth is thanks to the great T-Mobile deals and offers available for new and current customers, with discounts on phones and other accessories.

Related: Here are the best T-Mobile phones to spend your money on

- Nick Fernandez

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus hits a nice middle ground between the smallish Galaxy S23 and the feature-packed Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it’s still a fairly pricey phone that you’ll want to keep protected. With that in mind, we picked out the best Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus cases you can currently buy.

Want to learn more about cases? Check out our guides to the best phone case brands and the best mobile accessories you can buy.

- Ryan Haines

Samsung might not have invented Android, but the Apple vs Samsung debate is as old as time. Both brands stand at the top of their respective ecosystems — in Apple’s case because it’s the only ecosystem — which means they’ll be compared for as long as they exist. With the launch of the new Galaxy S23 series, it’s time for the comparisons to begin anew. Let’s compare every aspect of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max to see which one is right for you.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max: At a glance

- Hadlee Simons
Vivo X90, X90 Pro go global: Where’s the X90 Pro Plus?
Vivo X90 Pro official Credit: Vivo Vivo has announced the X90 and X90 Pro in global markets. The company isn’t bringing the X90 Pro Plus along for the ride, though.

Vivo announced the X90 series in China late last year, and the phones packed powerful processors, fast charging, and interesting camera tech. We’ve had to wait a fair while, but the series is finally coming to global markets.

Unfortunately, Vivo isn’t bringing the X90 Pro Plus to global markets, with the company only bringing the standard model and X90 Pro instead. The company didn’t give a specific reason for the Pro Plus variant missing global markets, with a representative only telling journalists that it will listen to consumer feedback regarding the X90 series.

- Hadlee Simons
Samsung has some lofty Galaxy S23 series sales goals
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Green Taking Photo Close Up Credit: Harley Maranan / Android Authority Samsung reportedly aims to increase Galaxy S23 series sales by more than 10% over the S22 series. The company also wants to grow foldable phone sales by more than 10% compared to 2022.

Samsung has just launched the Galaxy S23 series, bringing minor hardware upgrades on paper for the most part. Nevertheless, all three phones offer a powerful new processor, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra in particular is bringing a 200MP main camera.

Now, Samsung mobile chief TM Roh has told Korean journalists that the company expects Galaxy S23 series sales to increase by over 10% compared to the S22 series, ET News and Chosun Biz reported. The mobile chief also stated that the same sales goal applies to the firm’s foldable phones in 2023.

- Paula Beaton
Daily Authority: 😲 Google takes on ChatGPT

🌞 Good morning, and welcome to Friday’s Daily Authority. Paula here, covering for Nick. I’m still trying to decide whether to buy the Dead Space remake or wait for Hogwarts Legacy to come out next week. Dilemma! But first, all the day’s top tech headlines…

OpenAI launches ChatGPT Plus

chatgpt stock photo

- Adam Birney

As phones have become more capable of performing various tasks, the need to better allocate battery power has become crucial to maximizing its lifespan. Today, our phone’s SoC significantly regulates power consumption between the apps and features we use during the day. Let’s look at how Android’s Adaptive Battery works and how you can ensure it’s turned on for your device.

Read more: The Android phones with the best battery life

- C. Scott Brown
There is a Samsung Galaxy S23 performance toggle switch to turn off Game Optimizing Service (GOS). This feature carries over from the Galaxy S22, which went through an intense throttling controversy. Time will tell if the toggle is necessary on the Galaxy S23, but it is there.

In 2022, Samsung faced a lot of flak when it came to light that it was throttling games on the Galaxy S22 series via its Game Optimizing Service (GOS) but not throttling benchmarking apps. In essence, this allowed for artificial scores on benchmarks that users could sustain in the real world. In response to this, Samsung pushed an update within One UI that allowed users to turn off GOS manually. This allowed access to the full power of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor (as well as the Exynos 2200 model) in games.

Today, Samsung took the wraps off the 2023 Galaxy S phones. Now, Android Authority has learned that the Samsung Galaxy S23 has a GOS performance toggle as well, which appears to be exactly the same as what we saw on the Galaxy S22. Check out a screenshot below.

- Adamya Sharma
Poll: Are you planning to buy a new phone this year?

samsung galaxy s23 s pen and ports

Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Smartphone sales are at an all-time low. Even the past holiday season couldn’t compel people to buy new phones, and it seems things will remain down for a while as far as handset sales are concerned.

- Hadlee Simons
Google says its 2022 phones were its best selling devices ever

google pixel 7 back glass laying down

Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority Google has claimed that the 2022 Pixel lineup was its best-selling generation ever. The company further asserted that it gained market share in every supported locale.

Google offered a great lineup of Pixel smartphones in 2022, with the Pixel 6a being a solid mid-range handset while the Pixel 7 series earned critical acclaim. In fact, the Pixel 7 Pro was the winner in both our Editor’s Choice and Reader’s Choice awards.

- Hadlee Simons
Google has rolled out a fix for the Pixel Buds A Series pairing bug

The Pixel Buds A-Series earbuds in their case sitting on a wooden bench outdoors.

Credit: Zak Khan / Android Authority

Google is pushing out a fix for the pairing bug on the Pixel Buds A Series earbuds. The bug sees users being unable to switch to a second paired device.

Update: February 3, 2023 (12:07 AM ET): Google is now rolling out a fix for the pairing issue on the Pixel Buds A Series with firmware version 3.527.0 (h/t 9to5Google).

Original article: February 1, 2023 (4:56 AM ET): Google’s Pixel Buds A Series are a pretty decent pair of budget true wireless earbuds, offering great Android integration and a reasonable price tag. Unfortunately, a pairing-related bug has popped up in recent days, but it turns out Google is aware of the issue.

Some Pixel Buds A Series owners found that the earbuds refused to connect to a second, previously paired device as of the v3.519.0 firmware update. Fortunately, Google has now confirmed on its community forum that it’s aware of the bug and working on a fix that should roll out soon.

“We are aware of an issue with our latest firmware update for Pixel Buds A Series (v3.519.0) that affected some users’ ability to connect Pixel Buds A Series to a second device (e.g. moving the connection from your phone to your tablet),” the company explained.

It added that the fix would be pushed out to all users as part of an update on February 6. So if you haven’t updated your Pixel Buds A in a while, you might want to hold off on doing so until that date.

The buds don’t support Bluetooth multi-point for multiple simultaneous connections, but you’d expect that the basic ability to switch between multiple paired devices would work fine. We’re nevertheless glad to see Google addressing the issue.

- Adamya Sharma
Google is getting ready to take on ChatGPT, announces Feb. 8 Search event

Google logo loading

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Google is hosting a Search-related event on February 8, where it will talk about using AI to reimagine how people search for information. CEO Sundar Pichai also stated in Alphabet’s earnings call that the company is working towards bringing direct language learning model experiences in Search. That means you can expect Google Search to get a ChatGPT-like bot integration sometime soon.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT has become a real threat to Google Search, or so it seems. CNBC recently reported that Google is testing a conversational chatbot of its own called “Apprentice Bard,” which responds to questions in natural language just like ChatGPT. Word has it that Google wants to integrate such a bot into Search, and we might not have to wait long to find out what the company has in store.

Google has announced a Search event for next week (via The Verge), wherein it will talk about how it is “using the power of AI to reimagine how people search for, explore and interact with information, making it more natural and intuitive than ever before to find what you need.”

The Google event will be live-streamed on YouTube at 8:30 AM ET on February 8. The event’s timing also coincides with Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s remarks during Alphabet’s Q4 earnings call on February 2.

Google’s AI chatbot plans

Pichai answered a question about Google’s AI efforts: “Consumers are interested in trying out new (AI) experiences.” He announced that Google is working towards bringing direct language learning model experiences in Search. Google also said that its LaMDA AI would bet the first language model people will be able to interact with. However, it’s unclear when and how the company will implement this.

From Pichai’s statements, it’s clear that Google is ready to flex its AI muscles now that ChatGPT has taken the internet by storm. However, the executive still feels it’s early days and said that the company would keep testing AI products and features, iterate on what works, and take it from there.

- Ryan McNeal
Leaked Xperia 1 V image may give us our first look at Sony’s next flagship

Sony Xperia 1 IV camera housing 2

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

An image of what’s believed to be the Xperia 1 V has leaked online. Sony’s next flagship phone appears to lose the ToF camera and the RGB IR sensor. The Xperia 1 V could be announced at MWC Barcelona 2023.

Unlike Samsung or Google, Sony has done a pretty good job at keeping images of its next flagship phone from leaking. However, nothing lasts forever and it looks like we finally got our first look at the device.

A new leak from Weibo user Zackbuks has provided us with what appears to be an image of Sony’s Xperia 1 V. The image isn’t much — just a close-up of the back of the handset — but it gives us some information we didn’t have before.

If you look closely at the camera bump, you’ll notice that this device appears to be missing the Xperia 1 IV’s ToF camera and the RGB IR sensor. If this is indeed the Xperia 1 V, then Sony’s next flagship may only feature three sensors. It also seems as if Sony has moved the LED flash inside of the bump, instead of having it outside like in the Xperia 1 IV.

Sony Xperia 1 V

Credit: Zackbuks

To the right of the camera island, you’ll see an NFC logo. This suggests this is an international model as the Japan-exclusive model likely would’ve had a Felica logo instead.

In addition to the image, it’s also suggested that Sony is planning on announcing the Xperia 1 V at MWC Barcelona 2023. The event is scheduled to start on February 27 and last until March 2. So we may not have to wait long for a full reveal.

Sony has a bit of a habit of announcing its Xperia 1 line well ahead of the phone’s actual launch date. Case in point, the Xperia IV was announced on May 11, 2022, and later launched on June 11, 2022. If the rumor is true, Sony may take a similar approach of waiting a few months after the announcement to actually launch it.

- Joe Hindy

Early mobile games weren’t great when it comes to graphics. You may remember games like Snake, Doodle Jump, Fruit Ninja, and Angry Birds as the pinnacle of early mobile gaming. However, the times have changed. We now have plenty of games with excellent graphics. These games don’t provide the kinds of 3D experiences you get in an IMAX theater with 3D glasses. However, developers now use 3D graphics and environments to give players better immersion than ever before in mobile games. Here are the best 3D games with such graphics for your eyes to enjoy.

The best 3D games for Android Asphalt 9: Legends Black Desert Mobile Call of Duty: Mobile FIFA Soccer Genshin Impact GRID Autosport Lumino City Minecraft Monument Valley 1 and 2 Riptide GP: Renegade The Room: New Sins Sky: Children of Light Tower of Heaven Trials of Mana XCOM 2 Collection

Asphalt 9: Legends

Price: Free to play

Gameloft’s Asphalt series contain some of the most iconic racing games on mobile. However, the games are also known for their hefty and aggressive micro-transaction strategies. Still, Asphalt 9: Legends is among the most beautiful games on mobile with 3D graphics and it even uses some HDR techniques to get even deeper colors. The game features 60 cars to collect, an absolute ton of races to play through, an online PvP element, and decent controls. The controls aren’t as granular as previous generations, but this is an arcade racer, not a car sim, so it’s acceptable.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! Black Desert Mobile

Price: Free to play

There are a number of decent MMORPGs for mobile. Black Desert Mobile is among them. The game contains five classes, a metric boatload of quests and missions, and a surprisingly good character customization tool and no, not just for a mobile game. The graphics are among the best in the genre and you’ll definitely appreciate your phone’s screen prowess with this one. There are also modern features like auto-play for help with things like grinding. We this New School RuneScape (Google Play link) is quite good for an MMORPG, but Black Desert Mobile is gorgeous.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! Call of Duty: Mobile

Price: Free to play

Call of Duty: Mobile launched in 2019 to massive success. It’s a FPS game with all kinds of game modes, including a 100-player battle royale, a zombie mode, classic PvP deathmatches, and a lot more. The game’s in-app purchases are almost entirely cosmetic so the game itself is free to play. Some other features include above-average graphics for a shooter, clans for social gaming, and various other game modes. This is easily among the best FPS games ever released for mobile. Unkilled and Shadowgun: Legends by Madfinger Games are also excellent FPS games with excellent graphics.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! FIFA Soccer

Price: Free to play

FIFA Soccer is one of the most popular sports games on mobile, and it also has some of the best graphics in the genre. Players build a team, compete against other players, and try to improve their team as they go. The game revolves around this core premise with support for over 30 leagues with all of the players who play in them. It is, at its core, a management sim for a soccer team, but you do actually get to play soccer games as well. It looks quite good, and a lot of people enjoy the game. The microtransactions could be better, though, and there is an element of pay-to-win with this one.

Another big game in this space is Konami’s eFootball (Google Play), which also has pretty decent graphics.

Get it on Google Play Genshin Impact

Price: Free to play

Genshin Impact is an action RPG with gacha elements. It features a bright, massive world that players can roam around in. There are tons of quests, fun characters to summon, and plenty of other things to do. The graphics are part of what makes this game so good. The expansive world is well-detailed, and there are several different environments. In addition, the developers have done a good job continually expanding the game to include more and more places. You won’t finish this one anytime soon, and it’s a delightful game to look at.

Get it on Google Play

Check out more Android games:

15 best Android games available right now 15 best strategy games for Android GRID Autosport

Price: $9.99

GRID Autosport is one of the newer racing games and easily one of the best over the last couple of years. It features excellent 3D graphics, reasonably realistic physics, and plenty of content for racing fans. The game boasts over 100 unlockable cars, over 100 circuits to race through, scalable difficulty to keep the challenge alive, and support for external game controllers. Asphalt 9: Legends and Riptide GP: Renegade are two more excellent mobile racers and Mario Kart Tour is a fun game as well, but GRID Autosport feels like a console game while the others feel like mobile games.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! Lumino City

Price: $4.99

Lumino City is a puzzle game from Noodlecake Studios. This one is unique. The developers filmed real life items and used it in the game. Thus, the graphics are actually real life. The story takes about eight to ten hours to complete. Otherwise, you just engage with the world and solve the puzzles to progress. It’s truly one of the greatest 3D games out there. It runs for $4.99 with no in-app purchases or advertisements. Lumino City is also free with Google Play Pass if you have it.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! Minecraft

Price: $6.99 with in-app purchases

Minecraft is one of the most popular 3D games available. Most people know how this game works. You have a randomly generated world to explore and build. There are a ton of items to craft, online multiplayer, and a lot more. Updates in September 2017 allow mobile players to play with PC and console players as well. The number of things you can do is virtually limitless and you can play with your friends or strangers if you want. The graphics aren’t amazing, but the simplicity makes it easier for the entire game world to be altered by the player. The game runs for $6.99. The in-app purchases are for player skins and don’t affect game play.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! Monument Valley 2

Price: $4.99

Monument Valley 2 is one of the best puzzle games available. It’s also a great 3D game. It uses Escher-style level design and puzzles. Players need to rotate, move, or otherwise mess with levels in order to proceed. The game is rather short, but entertaining. It’s also beautifully done. The first Monument Valley game is also quite good and fairly priced. Those looking for huge games may be disappointed, though. This is definitely a quick play and an enjoyable one. It’s also free with Google Play Pass if you use it.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! Riptide GP: Renegade

Price: $2.99

Riptide GP: Renegade is the latest game in the Riptide GP series. It’s a series of racing games with jet skis instead of cars. The game features a deep campaign mode with an actual story line. In addition, there are various wave runners to unlock, an online multiplayer mode, and Google Play Games support for achievements and leaderboards. There is even some vehicle customization available. The game runs for $2.99 with no in-app purchases or you can grab it free with Google Play Pass.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY!

We have more Android games for you here:

15 best open world games for Android 15 best and biggest MMORPGs for Android The Room: New Sins

Price: $4.99

The Room: New Sins is the fourth game in the franchise. It plays similarly to the first three The Room games. You solve a series of intricate puzzles. The game features outstanding graphics, a bit of an exploration element, a storyline, and more. This is easily among the best puzzle games available on mobile, period. The first three games in the series are no slouches, either. This one goes for $4.99 with no in-app purchases or advertising. It also has achievements and cloud saving, two features we always like seeing.

DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY! Sky: Children of Light

Price: Free to play

Sky: Children of Light is an adorable little game with some pretty decent graphics. You roam around the world and solve puzzles to progress the story. The game is online and multiplayer, but it’s cooperative. Other players can walk up, grab your hand, and walk with you throughout the whole game. The non-competitive nature, calming graphics, and simple gameplay make this a difficult game to dislike. There are seven realms to explore, many puzzles to solve, and some very good story elements. This is one of the better mobile games, and it looks good too.

Get it on Google Play Tower of Heaven

Price: Free to play

Tower of Fantasy is an action RPG with gacha elements. It competes with Genshin Impact but features more of an MMORPG feel than its competitor. Players summon characters, roam around the large open world, and progress through the story. There are also a ton of side quests and other little things that you can do. Some other game features include social elements like a cooperative mode, decent combat mechanics, and plenty of places to go exploring. We personally like Genshin Impact better, but we understand why some of our readers may not agree.

Get it on Google Play Trials of Mana

Price: $23.99

Trials of Mana is an action RPG from Square Enix. The gameplay loop is pretty typical. You assemble a team of characters, progress through the story, and take down the big bad guy at the end. However, Square Enix has been doing this for decades, and the studio is pretty good at it. The graphics are good and blend together well with the art style and soundtrack. This port of the game is actually quite good, and better than the Switch version to some people. Square Enix also has Adventures of Mana on mobile, and it has 3D graphics as well. However, both games are pretty expensive, so we’ll recommend Trials of Mana first.

Get it on Google Play XCOM 2 Collection

Price: $19.99

XCOM 2 Collection is one of the more graphically intensive games on Android. It’s a turn-based strategy game where you move your troops around the map and take down the enemies before they do the same to you. The game uses procedural generation to randomize maps and objectives, so it’ll be a while before you run into the same scenario twice. As you progress, you improve your troops, unlock things, and get customizations for your squad. The game costs $19.99, which seems like a lot. However, this version of the game comes with all four DLC packs from the original XCOM 2, so you don’t have to pay any extra for the full game experience.

Get it on Google Play

If we missed any great 3D games for Android, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists.
Thank you for reading. Try these out too:

15 best puzzle games for Android 15 best RPGs and jRPGs for Android 

- Nick Fernandez
The 17 best Samsung Galaxy S23 cases you can buy

The Samsung Galaxy S23 might be the cheapest out of the three 2023 Samsung flagships, but if you’re going to buy one you’ll want to keep it protected. With that in mind, we tested and selected the best Galaxy S23 cases you can buy, from thin to rugged and everything in between.

Want to learn more about cases? Check out our guides to the best phone case brands and the best mobile accessories you can buy.

The best standard Galaxy S23 cases Caseology Parallax

Caseology Parallax Galaxy S23 case

Interesting design Good protection Very affordable Nice grippy backing

The Caseology Parallax is a perennial favorite of ours at Android Authority, and the version for the Galaxy S23 is no different. It features the same stylish 3D hexacore backing, which not only looks great but also adds a bit of texture and grip to prevent slipping. It’s not the thinnest or lightest case around, but the added weight does mean it meets military-grade standards for protection. Considering this is one of the cheapest Galaxy S23 cases you can buy, it’s an easy recommendation from us.

Check pricing Spigen Liquid Air

Spigen Liquid Air Galaxy S23 case

Excellent grip Good protection Relatively slim Affordable

Spigen is one of the most trusted brands in phone cases, and its Liquid Air case for the Galaxy S23 is the one we think is best for most people. The rubberized texture on the back feels great in the hand, affording a level of grip that few other cases this light can match. The streamlined design is also easy to like, although we would have liked to have seen more color options. Still, for the price, it’s hard to beat.

Check pricing Incipio Duo

Incipio Duo Galaxy S23 case

Great grip Good protection Three color options Not the thinnest

If you don’t mind a little extra bulk, the Incipio Duo is a great Galaxy S23 case. In many ways, it’s a very standard case, but it nails the basics. It offers 12 feet of drop protection with a grippy soft touch backing. Sure, it might not win any design awards, but it does come in a few nice colors.

Check pricing UAG Metropolis LT Pro

UAG Metropolis LT Pro Galaxy S23 case

Cool design Relatively lightweight Great drop protection Integrated magnets Pricey

UAG is mostly known for its ultra-rugged cases, but the Metropolis LT Pro really won us over. It still has a distinctly rugged look, with a kevlar finish, but it gets rid of most of the bulk associated with more protective cases. Granted, it’s still rated for 18 feet of drop protection. But the real star here is the integrated magnet array, which enables the use of a host of MagSafe accessories. It is quite pricey though, so you are paying for the privilege.

Check pricing

The best thin Galaxy S23 cases Samsung Silicone case

Samsung Silicone Galaxy S23 case

Slim and stylish Great colors Soft touch finish Not the cheapest

Samsung has really been on top of its game when it comes to first-party cases, and even the most basic Silicone case is worth checking out. It’s made of a soft touch silicone that adds a nice grip and feels good in the hand. It also comes in a variety of very nice colors to suit all styles and preferences. As an official Samsung case, it is a bit pricier than third-party alternatives, but in this case it’s worth the premium. If you want an even better grip, check out the Silicone Grip case, which features a fabric strap on the back.

Check pricing Spigen Thin Fit

Spigen Thin Fit Galaxy S23 case

Thin and light Decent protection Affordable Limited color options

When it comes to thin Galaxy S23 cases, the Spigen Thin Fit keeps things nice and simple. There’s nothing special or surprising about the case’s aesthetic design, but it does somehow manage to achieve military-grade protection while remaining ultra-thin and light. It’s also very cheap, although the color options are extremely limited.

Check pricing

The best clear Galaxy S23 cases Spigen Ultra Hybrid

Spigen Ultra Hybrid Galaxy S23 case

Crystal clear Good drop protection Relatively light Affordable

Of all the clear Galaxy S23 cases out there, the one we think is best for most people is the Spigen Ultra Hybrid. It’s a fairly standard clear case, but the price and value are hard to beat. It’s not the thinnest clear case, but it’s strong enough to meet MIL-STD 810G standards for drop protection, so you can rest a little easier. Like all Spigen cases, it’s also very affordable and the build quality is hard to beat. There are three designs to choose from, as well as a fourth with a metal kickstand.

Check pricing Otterbox Symmetry

Otterbox Symmetry Galaxy S23 clear case

Great protection Several design options Bulky Pricey

Otterbox’s take on a clear Galaxy S23 case is unsurprisingly a bit bulky, but it is more protective than some alternatives. It comes in a variety of different designs, although all of them tend to run a little on the expensive side.

Check pricing Kate Spade New York Defensive Hardshell

Kate Spade New York Galaxy S23 case

Attractive patterns Good protection Nice fit Pricey

Kate Spade New York’s continued partnership with Incipio means another round of attractive floral patterned cases for the Galaxy S23 lineup. Like previous editions, it’s a fairly standard clear case with decent drop protection. The real selling point (apart from brand appeal), is the floral pattern on the back. They look even better in person, and there are three options to choose from. Check them all out below.

Check pricing

The best rugged Galaxy S23 cases Otterbox Defender Pro

Otterbox Defender Pro Galaxy S23 rugged case

Great protection Dust ports Great color options Pricey

Otterbox is one of the best brands for rugged cases, and the Defender Pro is as rugged as it gets. In addition to excellent drop protection, it also features port covers to keep dust and debris from messing up your Galaxy S23’s internals. All this extra protection does make the case quite bulky, but the Galaxy S23 is fairly small, so it’s still usable with one hand. It also comes with a handy belt holster that doubles as a kickstand. There are a variety of colors to choose from, although it is a bit pricey.

Check pricing UAG Monarch

UAG Monarch Kevlar Galaxy S23 case

Great drop protection Rugged design Several versions available Pricey

Urban Armor Gear’s Monarch is one of the most durable Galaxy S23 cases around, with an impressive 20 feet of drop resistance. The Kevlar finish on the back looks great, too, and adds a nice premium feel. It’s also remarkably light and works great with wireless chargers. If you can afford to spend a bit more, there’s even a version with MagSafe magnets in the back for added useability. These are both pretty pricey, so if you’re looking for something more affordable the UAG Plasma is worth a look.

Check pricing Spigen Rugged Armor

Spigen Rugged Armor Galaxy S23 case

Not too bulky Good protection Affordable Other Spigen designs available

The Spigen Rugged Armor hits a nice middle ground between added bulk and protection. It still meets military-grade standards for durability, but it won’t make your nice, small Galaxy S23 feel two sizes bigger. It’s also very affordable, although there’s only one color available. If you want more variety, the Spigen Tough Armor is a bit bulkier but comes in more colorways.

Check pricing Incipio Grip

Incipio Grip Galaxy S23 case

Rubberized texture Exceptional grip Great drop protection A bit pricey

While perhaps not as rugged-looking as some of the Galaxy S23 cases above, the Incipio Grip does exactly what it sets out to do. The thick bumper has a ridged texture that adds a lot of grip and heft to the device. As far as protection goes, the Incipio Grip doesn’t disappoint, with up to 14 feet of drop protection. Most of this is due to the sheer thickness of the sides, so be prepared for some added weight. It comes in a simple black and Midnight Navy/Inkwell Blue.

Check pricing

The best Galaxy S23 wallet cases Samsung Frame Case

Samsung Galaxy S23 Frame case

Interchangeable backing Light cardholder design Versatile Design options still limited

This year Samsung put out a new type of cardholder case for the Galaxy S23 lineup, but with a twist. In addition to the simple cardholder backing, you can swap in a plain backing material for the days when you don’t need the space. In the future, there’s also the possibility that more designers create backings to supplement what it comes with (or you can make your own if you’re into DIY), which makes this a very interesting case for anyone who likes to keep things fresh.

Check pricing TUCCH Wallet Case

Tucch Galaxy S23 wallet case

Folio-style case Nice faux leather finish Many color options Great value

As time goes on, there will be a plethora of Galaxy S23 wallet cases released, but our early favorite is the TUCCH wallet case. It comes in a whole host of color options (the company has really leaned into two-tone designs this year), and the PU leather feels great in hand. The folio design also helps protect that beautiful AMOLED screen, and it’s held closed by a simple magnetic clasp.

Check pricing Smartish Wallet Slayer Vol 1 & 2

Smartish Galaxy S23 wallet case

Stylish designs Space for three cards Affordable Will not work with wireless chargers

The Wallet Slayer is another staple card-holder case with space for up to three cards. It does not use a clasp or enclosure to keep the cards in place, but we’ve found they stay pretty snug, even if you only have one card in there. They’re relatively affordable, but the big draw is the wide variety of customization options available. You can get it in a hard or soft finish, with tons of premade designs and the ability to upload your own images. They are a bit bulky though, and like most cardholder cases you won’t be able to use it with a wireless charger.

Check pricing

The best leather Galaxy S23 cases Samsung Leather Case

Samsung Leather Galaxy S23 case

Soft leather finish Great colorways Slim and light Pricey

Leather cases are still a bit rare for the Galaxy S23, but thankfully Samsung’s first-party case is a winner. It’s a fairly simple design, with a nice, soft genuine leather finish on the exterior. It comes in three attractive colors, although it does run a bit more expensive than typical cases. Also, you should be aware that leather cases are more prone to tearing, and likely won’t last as long as traditional cases.

Check pricing

- Aamir Siddiqui
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Should you upgrade?

Samsung has just launched the Galaxy S23 Ultra, marking a new entry in the best and most powerful Samsung phones you can buy. The S23 Ultra represents the peak of the company’s ambitions, with more cutting-edge hardware than most will know what to do with. That said, the latest Ultra will still feel quite familiar to fans of the series.

In fact, we can trace much of this latest model’s identity back to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the first of its name. If you jumped onto the S20 Ultra bandwagon, it’s been a good three years, and probably time to swap out to something new. But should the S23 Ultra be the device that you jump to? We compare the Galaxy S23 Ultra vs the Galaxy S20 Ultra to find out how far the company has progressed with its marquee flagship, and if it’s worth blessing it again with your money.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: At a glance

Here’s a quick summary of the big differences between Samsung’s 2023 flagship and Samsung’s 2020 flagship:

The latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 powers the new flagship across the globe, marking a clear departure from the split Exynos-Qualcomm regional strategy on the old flagship. The Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with an integrated S Pen stylus. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is missing a microSD card slot, but you can kit the phone out to a higher 1TB storage option in many regions. The camera hardware sees the biggest upgrade, with a 200MP primary camera as the highlight, up from the 108MP primary camera.

Keep reading to know more about how the Galaxy S23 Ultra and S20 Ultra differ from each other.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Specs

 Samsung Galaxy S23 UltraSamsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Display6.8-inches AMOLED Edge display (curved)
QHD+ resolution (3,088 x 1,440)
120Hz refresh rate (1Hz to 120Hz), LTPO 3.0
HDR10+
1750 nits peak brightness6.9-inches AMOLED
Edge display (curved)
QHD+ resolution (3,200 x 1,440)
120Hz refresh rate
HDR10+
1400 nits peak brightness ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2USA: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G
Global: Samsung Exynos 990 GPUQualcomm Adreno 740USA: Qualcomm Adreno 650
Global: Arm Mali-G77 MP11 RAM8GB or 12GB LPDDR5X12GB or 16GB LPDDR5 Storage256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
UFS 4.0
No microSD card support128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
UFS 3.0
MicroSD card support up to 1TB Battery and charging5,000mAh battery
45W wired charging
15W wireless charging
No charger in the box5,000mAh battery
45W wired charging
15W wireless charging
25W USB-C charger in the box CamerasRear:
- 200MP main
0.6 μm, f/1.7, 85-degree FoV
1/1.3-inch sensor
OIS and EIS

- 12MP ultrawide
1.4 μm, f/2.2, 120-degree FoV
1/2.55-inch sensor

- 10MP telephoto
3x optical zoom
1.12 μm, f/2.4, 36-degree FoV
1/3.52-inch sensor
OIS

- 10MP periscope
10x optical zoom
1.12 μm, f/4.9, 11-degree FoV
1/3.52-inch sensor
OIS

- Laser AF

Front:
- 12MP
f/2.2, 80-degree FoVRear:
- 108MP main
0.8 μm, f/1.8, 79-degree FoV
1/1.33-inch sensor
OIS and EIS

- 12MP ultrawide
1.4 μm, f/2.2, 120-degree FoV
1/2.55-inch sensor

- 48MP periscope
4x optical zoom
0.8 μm, f/3.5, 24-degree FoV
1/2-inch sensor
OIS

- 0.3MP ToF sensor

Front:
- 40MP
0.7 μm, f/2.2 VideoRear:
8K at 24/30fps (main lens only)
4K at 30/60fps (all lenses)

Front:
4K at 30/60fps Rear:
8K at 24fps (main lens only)
4K at 30/60fps (all lenses)

Front:
4K at 30/60fps AudioStereo speakers
Triple mics
No 3.5mm portStereo speakers
Triple mics
No 3.5mm port Connectivity5G (mmWave + Sub6)
Wi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC support
UWB5G (mmWave + Sub6)
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC support SecurityUltrasonic under-display fingerprint sensor
5 years of security updatesUltrasonic under-display fingerprint sensor
4 years of security updates IP ratingIP68IP68 S Pen supportYes, integratedNo SoftwareAndroid 13
One UI 5.1Android 10, upgradeable to Android 13
One UI 2.1, upgradeable to One UI 5 MaterialsGorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front and back
Aluminum frameGorilla Glass 6 on the front and back
Aluminum frame Dimensions and weight163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm
233g166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm
222g ColorsPhantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender;
Samsung.com exclusive: Lime, Graphite, Sky Blue, RedCosmic Grey, Cosmic Black, Cloud White

The Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Galaxy S20 Ultra are similar in a lot of ways — they’re evolutions of the same product line, after all. But with a three-year difference between the two phones, some facets that have changed substantially.

The biggest change is the use of the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC in the Galaxy S23 Ultra. In fact, the S23 Ultra has a special version of the processor, branded as “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy,” with a higher clock speed on the prime core compared to the regular variant of the processor. On the older Galaxy S20 Ultra, we have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G SoC in the US and the Exynos 990 in other parts of the world. These were flagship processors back in the day, but they can be squarely classified as mid-range chips now, thanks to impressive leaps in processing capabilities in recent years.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra quick settings menu full

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The second biggest difference between the two devices is the display. While the size and resolution remain roughly the same, the Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with an LTPO 3.0 panel which has a variable refresh rate range of 1Hz to 120Hz. The Galaxy S20 Ultra did not have an LTPO panel, so the phone can only choose between fixed steps of either 60Hz or 120Hz for its refresh rate. The S23 Ultra also has a higher peak brightness than the S20 Ultra, with this coming into play only for HDR content. The display curvature at the side edges is also different, as the new device has a slightly tighter curve, owing to its Galaxy Note ancestry.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra screen in the window 2

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Speaking of Note ancestry, the Galaxy S23 Ultra also boasts an integrated S Pen. The Galaxy S20 Ultra neither integrates an S Pen in its body, nor does it support an S Pen at all. When the S20 series was launched, the Galaxy Note lineup was in the midst of an identity crisis. Later on, Samsung merged the Note lineup with the S Ultra range, hence the presence of the S Pen on the 2023 flagship.

Galaxy S23 Ultra's integrated S Pen gives it a definitive edge against the S20 Ultra

While the S23 Ultra gains a style, it lacks expandable storage. The Galaxy S20 Ultra supported microSD expansion up to 1TB, and it was the last S series flagship to do so. SD cards are slower compared to the internal UFS storage and prone to failure, but they still came in handy for people who created or consumed a lot of local media. There is a 1TB storage option on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but as expected, it costs more. There’s a similar trade-off with RAM; you get more but slower RAM on the S20 Ultra (12GB/16GB LPDDR5), while you get less but slightly faster RAM on the S23 Ultra (8GB/12GB LPDDR5X). These are some areas where the Galaxy S20 Ultra is arguably the better device, as you get less base storage but expandability with it, and more RAM which is only slightly slower.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra colorways 3

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

When it comes to build materials, both phones have an aluminum mid-frame. However, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has the latest Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 as opposed to Gorilla Glass 6 on the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra also has a better camera setup on paper than the Galaxy S20 Ultra. But we’ll be talking about this in greater detail in a dedicated section below, so continue reading!

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra in the park

Another difference between the phones is their software support cycle. The Galaxy S20 Ultra launched in 2020 with Android 10 and One UI 2.1. Samsung promised three generations of Android updates and four years of security updates. Consequently, the Galaxy S20 Ultra has received its Android 13 and One UI 5 updates, as well as regular security patches up until this point. For the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Samsung is promising four generations of Android updates and five years of security patches. This means, the S23 Ultra will be upgradeable from Android 13 to Android 17 and will receive security patches up to 2028.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S20 Ultra: Size comparison

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra green in hand

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Both of these Samsung flagships are similar in size, with the S23 Ultra being very slightly leaner and taller. Though you wouldn’t notice unless you held them both side by side. The Galaxy S23 Ultra measures 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm, while the S20 Ultra measures 166.9 x 76.0 x 8.8 mm. Both phones also use an aluminum mid-frame construction with glass on the front and back.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra in hand 1

What you will notice easily are the different design approaches. The Galaxy S23 Ultra takes close inspiration from the Note lineup, while the Galaxy S20 Ultra maintains more of its S-appeal. The S23 Ultra has a boxier design with a flat top and bottom mid-frame, sharp corners, and a tight curvature on its sides. The S20 Ultra has rounded corners and a smoother curve on its sides. Make no mistake though, both of these are large phones and you will find it difficult to handle either with just one hand. The S23 Ultra is about 11g heavier than the S20 Ultra, accounting for the integrated S Pen and other internal layout changes.

Samsung's design language has changed, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra are both really big phones.

The back of the phones is another point of differentiation. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a clean look with individual islands for its camera sensors. The Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the other hand, has a very large camera island that demands attention. Both phones will rock when placed on a table.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S20 Ultra: Camera

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra camera housing 3

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

When it comes to cameras, both of these devices represent a significant jump in hardware for the S series. The Galaxy S20 Ultra was the first S series phone to come with a 108MP primary camera and periscope zoom lens; the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the first S series phone to come with a 200MP primary camera. The Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with four rear cameras, while the Galaxy S20 Ultra came with three cameras and a Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensor for measuring depth data.

The fundamental idea behind these large MP count setups is to capture a lot of data and then use pixel binning to merge several adjacent pixels into one. The S20 Ultra merges nine adjacent pixels (3×3) into one pixel to produce a 12MP image; whereas the S23 Ultra merges 16 adjacent pixels (4×4) into one pixel to produce a 12.5MP image. The result in both cases is impressive photos off the main camera, with ample light and good preservation of details.

Do note that since the S20 Ultra was Samsung’s early attempt at a large MP count camera, it has some trouble maintaining subjects in focus. Samsung subsequently resolved this by swapping out the ToF sensor for the Laser AF module on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which you’ll find on the Galaxy S23 Ultra as well.

The Galaxy S-series saw big camera jumps with the S20 Ultra and again with the S23 Ultra.

The 12MP ultrawide angle camera has not seen much change across these devices, but the zoom approach has changed a lot. The Galaxy S20 Ultra opts for a 48MP periscope camera that can output 4x optical zoom; whereas the Galaxy S23 Ultra has a 10MP periscope camera that can output 10x optical zoom and a 10MP telephoto zoom that can output 3x optical zoom. All the magnification ranges in the middle are handled with a combination of optical and digital crops on both devices.

samsung galaxy s23 ultra advanced camera features landscape

Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

As expected, the Galaxy S23 Ultra performs significantly better in zoom performance. The presence of optical zoom at 3x and 10x ranges allows you to get very crisp images at these points, without needing any digital zoom. The 3x zoom not only adds versatility in how close or far you can be from your subject but also helps out with portrait shots. Further, Samsung has also made improvements in 30x and 100x digital zoom performance — these shots are unusable on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, but you can get some utility out of the ones clicked on the latest models.

Samsung has added plenty of camera features over the years, and it has shared them across previous generation devices too through One UI updates. The devices remain largely at par on camera features for now but expect the gap to widen in the coming years once the Galaxy S20 Ultra stops receiving feature updates.

Right off the bat, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has an edge with features like 8K 30fps video recording, improved Nightography, and Ultra Stabilization for shake-free videos. These features are tied to hardware changes, and so the Galaxy S23 Ultra will retain its lead in the coming years as well. But to its credit, the Galaxy S20 Ultra was one of the best camera phones of its time, and we’re expecting the same for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, although we reserve our final verdict until we review the device.

samsung galaxy s23 ultra selfie interface

Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with a 12MP selfie camera, compared to the 40MP camera on the Galaxy S20 Ultra (binned down to 10MP). The higher MP count on the older device may appear to be better at a cursory glance, but the newer ISP on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, Samsung’s processing, and AI magic will give you marginally better results on the Galaxy S23 Ultra in all situations. Again, we reserve our final verdict for the full Galaxy S23 review.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S20 Ultra: Battery and charging

otterbox wireless power pack close up charging s20 ultra

Credit: Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Despite the age difference, Samsung has made practically no changes to the battery and charging situation. Both phones come with a 5,000mAh non-removable battery that should last you through a good day and some. As mentioned in our review, the Galaxy S20 Ultra lasted through a full day with a couple of hours’ juice left in the reserve.

However, it is important to remember that the Galaxy S20 Ultra could only do either 120Hz at FHD+ resolution, or 60Hz at QHD+ resolution, but not 120Hz at QHD+ resolution. The Galaxy S23 Ultra can run at 120Hz at QHD+ resolution, but we remain confident of its full-day battery life. There’s even a chance it offers better battery life, thanks to a much more power-efficient chipset and the variable refresh rate feature. But it’s not possible to know how much of a difference it will make in real life until we review the phone, so stay tuned for that.

Battery and charging capabilities haven't changed much over the years, but improved efficiency gives the S23 an edge.

Both phones support 45W Adaptive Fast Charge through a wired connection. Don’t be misled by the number though, as this 45W charging is barely improved from Samsung’s older 25W charging, even if you use a 45W charger. Expect to spend just over an hour charging either phone from zero to 100%. Both phone support 15W wireless charging, and also support reverse wireless charging.

What is different across the generations is that Samsung has removed the charging brick from the box. The Galaxy S20 Ultra comes with a 25W charging brick in the box, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra does not come with a charging brick in its box.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Price Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (8GB/256GB): $1,199 Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (12GB/512GB): TBC Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (12GB/1TB): TBC Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (12GB/128GB): $1,399 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (12GB/256GB): $1,499 Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (16GB/512GB):$1,599

Galaxy S20 Ultra costs ~$300 for a refurbished unit in 2023

Surprisingly, Samsung managed to bring down and maintain the lower pricing on its Ultra flagship from the Galaxy S21 Ultra onwards. The starting price of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is $200 lower than that of the S20 Ultra, but the S23 Ultra still is one of the more expensive phones out there.

You can make the price of the Galaxy S23 Ultra more palatable if you purchase during the pre-order window. If you pre-order the device, Samsung will give you a free upgrade to the next storage version. There are also enhanced trade-in discounts of up to $100, letting you get an even better deal. The phone is available for pre-order from February 1, 2023 to February 16, 2023, with open sales beginning from February 17, 2023.

Samsung no longer sells the Galaxy S20 Ultra in its new condition. You can spot refurbished units on Amazon and pre-owned units on Swappa, for ~$300 depending on the condition of the phone. As the device ages further, expect it to go out of circulation.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S20 Ultra: Should you upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S22 Ultra in hand

Credit: Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you’ve followed along so far, the verdict is clear: the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the better device. That’s no shock, but the margin between the two devices is surprisingly not as large as you might expect, especially considering that the Galaxy S20 Ultra was launched three years ago. That is testimony to the fact that overkill specifications age gracefully because of the extra headroom.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is a worthy upgrade for S20 Ultra owners.

Still, if you are out to buy a top-tier flagship, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the obvious and clear choice. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is an excellent chip that will not disappoint with its performance or efficiency. You also get an S Pen, which opens up new ways to interact with your device. And the fact that the Galaxy S23 Ultra will get up to Android 17 in the future and continue to receive security patches up to 2028 is also a big win when you are about to drop $1,199 on a phone.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra display top down

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The only advantages the Galaxy S20 Ultra has over the S23 Ultra are the presence of the microSD card slot and more RAM, but we do not consider both of these heavy enough to outweigh the upgrades the S23 Ultra brings to the table. While you can pick up the Galaxy S20 Ultra for cheap in a refurbished state and Samsung will still support your device with security patches (and you may possibly also receive a One UI 5.1 update), the longer-term prospects of the device are not that great. Instead, you might be interested in checking out other great budget phones.

Of course, you could likely keep an existing Galaxy S20 Ultra ticking over for another year, if your device is still in good condition. Overall though, those looking to upgrade shouldn’t hesitate to jump at the Galaxy S23 Ultra. It’s an excellent choice.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Gorgeous screen Blazing-fast performance Flexible cameras $569.99 at Amazon Save $ 50.00 Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra New 200MP main camera Beautiful display S Pen functionality $1199.99 at Samsung

- Ryan McNeal
Google may turn your Android phone into a plug-and-play USB webcam

Pixel 7 Pro selfie with rear camera through viewfinder edited

Credit: Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

Data was found in Android’s open-source operating system project repository that suggests Android is adding a “DeviceAsWebcam” service. The feature would turn an Android phone into a USB webcam without the need for an app. This would be the first time Android supported using a phone as a UVC device.

It’s no secret that the webcams that come installed on computers aren’t great. That’s why people often choose to use an external webcam. A lot of people have even started using their phones as webcams, but that requires installing third-party apps. Now it appears that Google could be working on a way to turn your Android phone into a plug-and-play USB webcam.

Frequent Android analyst Mishaal Rahman went on Twitter today to reveal that Google could add support for turning your Android phone into a USB webcam. Discovered in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository, Rahman found data that says Android is adding a “DeviceAsWebcam” service.

Android is adding a new “DeviceAsWebcam” service that “turns an android device into a
webcam.” Specifically, Android devices that support the standard UVC (USB video class) gadget mode will be able to send video data that hosts can read from /dev/video* nodes. pic.twitter.com/oOgIqr1KkE

— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) February 2, 2023

If you’re unfamiliar with AOSP, it’s the open-source operating system development project for stock Android, which Google maintains. It allows anyone to review and contribute code and fixes, under Google’s direction and oversight.

This “DeviceAsWebcam” service is described as “a new service that turns an Android device into a webcam.” As Rahman explains, this would work on Android devices that support the standard UVC (USB video class) gadget mode, which allows the sending of video data.

Turning your phone into a webcam wouldn’t necessarily be something new for Android. As mentioned earlier, there are apps that can help you achieve that. But this would be the first time Android has supported turning your phone into a UVC gadget that doesn’t require the help of a third-party app.

If you have a device with that config set, you can enable your device’s UVC gadget functionality right now with root access and an app called USB Gadget Tool: https://t.co/bHJMXiVMQn pic.twitter.com/GB9wNJJPm1

You can’t trust Google results for software downloads right now

Not even a month ago, sharp-eyed Redditors noticed that searching for AMD graphics card drivers on Google served up a shady text ad as the first result. Our advice then (as now) was to be careful when looking for Radeon software, plus maintaining good search habits in general. Life’s far easier when you sidestep malware.

At the time, this incident seemed more of a one-off reason for heightened awareness. Even with the more recent report about Bitwarden suffering from a similar issue, using Google seemed mostly business as usual. Turns out though our threat alert should be set much higher—other major downloads like Adobe Reader, Microsoft Teams, OBS, Slack, and Gimp are being targeted, too. 

As thoughtfully detailed by Ars Technica, the sharp rise in malvertising is a new phenomenon, stemming from Microsoft’s improved blocking of dangerous Word macros. When one field dried up, bad actors simply moved to another to farm. The trend is bad enough that security researchers have sounded the alarm—but so far, Google hasn’t squashed the issue yet, though the company commented to Ars that “addressing [the increase in malicious text ads] is a critical priority.” Until a proper fix goes live, that leaves everyone who uses Google search to fend for themselves in the meanwhile.

Results for "mcafee" in Google

One of these links is not like the others.

PCWorld

So what can you do? The pat answer is “Don’t click on results labeled as ads,” of course. You can also always check the link address to verify its authenticity, plus scroll down the page to see if you spot a duplicate result. Currently, if you see a second link for the same site, that one is usually more trustworthy, since ads get placed right at the top of results. And as a final safety net, you can install an ad-blocker on your browser, like uBlock Origin. Sites you trust and want to support can get manually added to the extension’s approved list (which allows ads to show), while all others (including Google) will get screened.

None of these precautions are bulletproof on their lonesome, but added all together, you should be able to steer clear of most bad links. And when you do click on a search result? Don’t download and install anything until you’ve had a good look at the page. Make sure you scan any downloads with antivirus software

Internet
Overwatch 2 started off rough. Season 2 made it so much worse

Ten seconds is a long time when you’re in Overwatch 2 and the other team lets loose hard on you. Well. Not even the other team. One lone character. One lone character with an ultimate ability that extends indefinitely so long as it’s dealing damage, letting them wipe your team completely.

“Lol,” came the match chat message from the Ramattra in question. “His ult is so overpowered right now”

In an often toxic game that yet increased in toxicity after going free to play, those words drove home just how terrible Overwatch 2 has been. The source of my team’s pain was apologetic. That person knew exactly what the rest of us did—OW2’s character balance is still never quite right. And even after Blizzard’s recent promises to address Season 2’s issues, this interaction remains the closest I’ve ever gotten to hearing someone say sorry for the all problems.

Everyone who played Season 2 deserves a dang apology, too. At the end of Season 1, things were looking up—server issues solved and gameplay feeling more balanced. I even came to enjoy ranked play more than unranked, because I got sorted with all the other noobs and we did fun, dumb noob stuff together. I loved it. My Diamond- and Master-ranked friends would watch my game replays and hurt inside; I simply looked forward to the next round of us clumsy puppies tripping over ourselves.

Promo image of Ramattra from the official Overwatch 2 blogThis is Ramattra. Ramattra is a problem if you are like me and still can’t aim Ana’s sleep dart properly. (I’m 100% not lying about being a noob.)

Activision Blizzard

Then came Season 2. My friends warned me the matchmaker would be broken for the first week or two, but I never anticipated the slaughter awaiting me. I queued for game after game in ranked, only to eventually realize I wasn’t getting paired with similar skill level players. The matchmaker was filling in with veterans on both sides. Occasionally, my team’s strongest players carried us newbs and weaklings, but mostly we all suffered through complete carnage. After dozens of matches in the first two weeks where I tried and failed to help my team, I gave up. So did most of my friends, which then killed the appeal of unranked mode—it’s easier to suffer through unbalanced teams when you can sigh about it with people you know.

Blizzard seems to finally be addressing player concerns about ranked mode, Ramattra’s ridiculous ultimate, and even the lack of earnable in-game currency in the upcoming Season 3, but it feels a little late. Especially since the developer seems to hold the player base responsible for their own discontent—in its blog post about Season 2, the developer said that “The new ranked mode suffered from poor comprehension” and “There was confusion around players’ real rank and how that translated to their skill level.”

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to take blame for not understanding a system when the people in charge can’t (won’t) clearly explain the system they created. Blizzard is the only entity in Overwatch 2 determining someone’s real rank and classifying the skill levels, much less how the designations change over time. However, instead of explaining it to the audience, we’re apparently the problem. If a developer doesn’t care enough about its players to properly explain things to them, what’s even the point of playing?

Overwatch 2 battle passBattle passes, meh.

Michael Crider/IDG

The good news is my investment in the franchise is relatively low. I started just six months before the end of the first game, and only for social reasons. I’ve cycled through Sea of Thieves, Halo Infinite, and now Overwatch 2 as a way to stay current with my buddies, and there’s no shortage of other games to continue in.

Blizzard probably doesn’t care if I quit, nor if my friends do. We’re not buying the battle passes each season. I’m not supporting a game in this state with my money—nor am I eager to with my time after the emotional dumpster fire of Season 2. But you know what? I paid for Overwatch. I would have paid for Overwatch 2 in a similar fashion if the tuning were better. Hell, I spent $30 last year on a cat game. All I ask from video games are enjoyable mechanics that I can learn and eventually master the basics. Overwatch 2 ain’t it right now, and I fully understand my colleague Michael Crider’s switch from loving the original to having zero interest in this successor.

Video Games
How to use personal photos for your Windows 11 background

Nothing makes your computer space quite your own like having a personalized background. It’s time to retire those boring photo backgrounds and replace them with something unique and inspiring. If you’re looking to spice things up, you’re in luck. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to add personalized photos to your desktop.

Changing your Windows 11 background image from file finder

Before you begin, make sure the image you want to use is saved to your computer. Once you’ve saved it, click on the file finder icon. A window of your files will open.

Select file finder

IDG / Alex Huebner

Select the file where you’ve saved the image. Once you’ve located it, you have a few options on how to set it as your background. The first is to right click the image icon to pull up a menu.

Right click image you want as background

IDG / Alex Huebner

Choose the “Set as desktop background” option toward the top of the menu.

Select set as desktop background option

IDG / Alex Huebner

Another way to set your desktop background from this location is to left click the image in the file and select the “Set as background” option at the top of the file finder window.

Select the "Set as background" option at the top of the file finder window

IDG / Alex Huebner

Changing your Windows 11 background image from the desktop

Another way to change the image and play with a few other settings is to open the settings from the desktop. Right click on your desktop without any icons underneath and select “See more options” at the bottom of the menu.

Select "Show more options"

IDG / Alex Huebner

A new menu will pop up. Select “Personalize” at the bottom.

A new menu will pull up and you will select "Personalize" at the bottom

IDG / Alex Huebner

Next, open the Background Settings window.

Next you will open the Background Settings window

IDG / Alex Huebner

In the first section, there’s an option called “Choose a photo.” Select “Browse photos.”

Select "Browse photos" in the "Choose a photo" option

IDG / Alex Huebner

This will pull up your photos folder automatically, but you can also browse other folders once the file finder is open and locate the folder you need, selecting the image and clicking “Choose picture” at the bottom. Once the photo is there, if you’d like to change the way it fits in your display, click the arrow to dropdown the menu of options and select through until it looks how you’d like.

If you want to change the fit in your desktop, click the arrow to the dropdown menu

IDG / Alex Huebner

Changing your Windows 11 background image from settings

Finally, you can also access these settings by selecting the windows icon on the task bar and clicking the gear icon to open “Settings” from the menu.

Click the gear icon to open "Settings" from the menu

IDG / Alex Huebner

This opens all of your system settings options. On the left side of the menu, select “Personalization.”

From the menu on your left, you will want to select "Personalization"

IDG / Alex Huebner

Select “Background” to open this settings menu.

Select "Background" to open this settings menu

IDG / Alex Huebner

Click “Browse photos” and choose the photo you’d like as your new background.

Click "Browse photos" and choose the photo you'd like

IDG / Alex Huebner

Adding a new background is just one of many ways to make your Windows 11 space more fun and personal to you. It’s easy to do and makes a huge difference in making your digital space feel a little more like home.

Windows
Epic Games is giving away Dishonored: Death of the Outsider for free

If you love stealth games, listen up. The utterly fantastic Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is available for free on the Epic Games store. Under normal circumstances, this game costs around $30.

If you’ve never played any of the Dishonored games before, be prepared for a good time. These games freaking rock my socks off. Although my personal play style is far from stealthy (I tend to rush in with fists swinging), I absolutely adore how immersive and unique these games are. They pose a real challenge for someone like me.

Death of the Outsider, developed by Arkane Studios, puts you in the role of an assassin with supernatural powers. You can teleport around the levels, assume the identities of your targets, and much more. This game is chock-full of interesting mechanics, non-lethal takedowns (if you so chose), and compelling characters. It’s a standalone game, which is perfect for those who are new to the franchise. If you like this freebie, I can’t recommend Dishonored and Dishonored 2 enough.

To get the game, just head on over to the Epic Games Store or find it in the Epic launcher, add it to your cart, and checkout. This deal ends on February 9th, so you better grab it now before it’s gone forever. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Video Games
Skip Hogwarts Legacy and watch some Harry Potter-style D&D instead

Hogwarts Legacy comes out next week. It is, bar none, the biggest video game to ever use the ever-popular Harry Potter license. A Dragon Age-style open-world RPG, made by Warner Bros. Games and Avalanche Software (recently of the scuttled Disney Infinity), it’s kind of a huge deal. The game been sitting at the top of the Steam sales charts even as a pre-order.

Even so, the game has become controversial. Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has been a lightning rod of controversy for several years, and while it doesn’t appear that she has any direct involvement in the game, it’s hard to deny that buying it means supporting her financially. Plenty of Harry Potter fans aren’t willing to do that, for reasons that are both well-known and beyond the scope of PCWorld’s coverage.

But neither Warner Bros. nor Rowling have an exclusive on the idea of teenage wizards and witches. So if you need to scratch that Harry Potter itch and you don’t want to buy the game (or go see increasingly terrible spin-off movies), I’ve got a humble suggestion: watch a bunch of nerds play Dungeons and Dragons instead.

Misfits and Magic, a Kids on Brooms actual play

Okay, some qualifications. The bunch of nerds in question are professional actors, comedians, and other masters of improvising in front of a camera. And the game they’re playing isn’t Dungeons and Dragons, though the actual play format is certainly inspired by it. No, in the Misfits and Magic mini-season of long-running D&D show Dimension 20, game master Aabria Iyengar chose to use the Kids on Brooms system to tell her story. It’s a tale that mixes the familiar and the deliberately subversive: four diverse American kids are invited to become the first exchange students at a prestigious British school of witchcraft and wizardry.

The cast is filled with veterans of the emerging, and booming, actual play genre. Lou Wilson (a regular Dimension 20 player and as of 2022 the announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live) plays Whitney Jammer, a Chicago high school athlete who’s all about the team, whatever team he might be on. Erika Ishii (whom gamers will recognize from Apex Legends, Deathloop, and Desitny 2) plays Karen Tanaka, AKA “:xxBrokenDreamxx”, AKA Dream, a terminally online kid from Seattle who knows the local Hot Topic layout by heart. Danielle Radford (a regular writer from YouTube’s Honest Trailers) plays Sam Black, a girl from Portland who’s already well into a successful influencer career. And Dimension 20‘s usual GM, Brennan Lee Mulligan, shifts into the player character chair to embody Evan Kelmp, a gawky but sweet homeless kid who may or may not be this world’s version of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Iyengar sets the stage with familiar scenes: all four of the Misfits are going about their regular lives in America when they’re delivered letters by owl, inviting them to Gawpenny Academy, a prestigious school that will be familiar to anyone who knows the skyline of a certain Scottish castle by heart. They’re dropped into a wizarding world that has little knowledge or care for the non-magical one they came from, instantly out of place as both Americans and fledgling wizards.

This seems familiar…

What follows are role-playing sessions that exhibit both deep love for, and skeptical takedowns of, the Harry Potter world. The player characters (and pretty much only the player characters) are very much aware of Rowling’s franchise, and the parts of it that are either problematic or ridiculous. During Gawpenny’s equivalent of the Sorting Hat ceremony, for example, the kids call out the practice as a medieval form of educational tracking, and wonder at the expectation of a school house that seems to be explicitly reserved for “evil” kids. Evan, very much aware of his status as a possible Damien-style world-ender, doesn’t appreciate it.

Misfits and magic illustration: Jammer orders a McRib from a magic table

Dropout.TV

The players, like the characters they embody, are also very aware of Harry Potter and some of the issues that have been raised with the series in the last four years. Iyengar’s setting, while generally conforming to the expectations of Hogwarts, welcomes the realities of modern kids (and particularly modern American kids of widely different backgrounds). The kids, unlike the adults, are more than willing to take on topics of race, classism, sexism, and the expectations that all of them can place on young people. Though it should be pointed out that there’s a bit of an incongruence in adults playing the role of teenagers: this show would get a TV-MA rating for language alone if it was broadcast on TV. It’s very much made for adult fans of Harry Potter, not those who are still within its recommended age group.

The show serves as a great introduction to both the actual play format, already made popular by shows like Critical Role and Dimension 20, and the Kids on Brooms system from Renegade Game Studios. The latter is a much simpler, easier-to-pick up role-playing game than D&D, using far fewer stats, dice, and general gunk than you might expect. The addition of adversity tokens, points earned by failing that can be shared between players and applied to future rolls, means that even a disastrous roll isn’t without its upside.

Misfits and magic: Lou Wilson, Erika Ishii

Dropout.TV

The shorter, punchier series of just four episodes (less than ten hours total) does without the impressive set dressing that Dimension 20 is known for. You won’t get elaborate miniature battle sets or fancy editing. It’s just five people playing in the theater of the mind, with the occasional illustration thrown on screen to help the viewer’s imagination. But the earnestness and depth with which Iyengar and company play their roles make it compelling from start to finish.

Mulligan in particular shines playing just one character rather than his usual dozens: Evan’s tales of desperately finding food or a place to sleep, in addition to possibly being an incipient dark lord, are alternately shocking and hilarious. Ishii’s Dream, coming to terms with the disappointment of both the world of magic and her own self-expectations, goes through a similar and deliberately mirrored arc.

Poking fun with pointy wands

Misfits and Magic takes Harry Potter to task even while reveling in its tropes. But it does so without the biting cynicism you might expect. While the characters do call BS on a lot of the actions of both the “real” Hogwarts and its in-universe equivalent, many of those points are just as salient hurled at real-world educational systems and the assumptions therein. Even so, the overall attitude is one of compassion and acceptance, at first between the player characters, and eventually the other students played by Iyengar.

And since pretty much everyone involved has at least some degree of comedy chops, the results are frequently hilarious. Four American kids trying to order a McRib from a magical British kitchen (this time without the weird inclusion of slavery) is a sight to behold, even if you’ll have to imagine almost all of the scene in your head. The “common fucking sense die,” which allows players to get tangible gameplay boosts for subverting the magical narrative with real-world smarts, is an especially brilliant addition. But as the series wraps up, the feeling is more of wholesomeness than comedy: watching these kids find a home and a second family tugs all the heartstrings that the Harry Potter books do, and then some.

The first episode of Misfits and Magic is available to watch for free on YouTube. The other three episodes, as well as the holiday special, are available on Dropout.TV for $5 a month. (You can watch all of it, and quite a lot more Dimension 20 besides, with just a month’s sub.) The Kids on Brooms tabletop game is $25 for the rulebook, and it can be played with standard sets of RPG dice. And incidentally, you can get all of them for less than half of the price of Hogwarts Legacy.

Video Games
14 popular Google Doodle games you can still play

Most Google Doodles revolve around art that transforms the iconic search engine’s logo to celebrate anniversaries and special events, or to raise awareness of ongoing issues, like Route 66 and Teacher Appreciation Day. But a few times each year, the Google Doodle team goes one step further and cranks out some high-quality games that take the drawings to another level—most recently in the form of a Studio Ghibli-esque celebration of bubble tea.

Usually these games are meant to last anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes, though some last even an hour or more. (One or two may even make you refuse to give up until you beat them properly….) In no particular order, here are some of the best Google Doodle games you can still play.

Pac-Man pac man

Pac-Man is a timeless classic, so it only makes sense to kick off our list with this world-famous 1980s’ arcade game. On May 21, 2010, Google released this fun Doodle to celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary. Experience the nostalgia by chomping down on some dots, assorted fruits, and maybe even a ghost or two.

The objective of the game is to clear the stage of all the dots while avoiding the ghosts. If a ghost touches you, it’s game over. You can control Pac-Man using the arrow keys on your keyboard. If you have a friend that wants to play with you, click “Insert Coin” twice and Ms. Pac-Man appears! Ms. Pac-Man is controlled using the A,S,D, and W keys.

Baseball baseball

The Baseball Google Doodle was released on the Fourth of July, 2019, and what better way to celebrate Independence Day than playing some good ol’ fashioned baseball! To make things even more ‘merican, you play as various foods that you may find at a baseball game, such as hotdogs or nachos and cheese, while the opposing team are peanuts.

When you start the game, a random food item walks up to the plate. Press the Spacebar to swing your bat when the pitcher throws the ball. The speed and style of the pitch will vary as you score more points. The game ends when you strike out. See how many points you can score!

Basketball basketball

Continuing with the sports theme, Basketball lets you shoot hoops in this single-player time-passer. This was actually part of a four-day Google Doodle run, where you could also test your skills in soccer, slalom canoe, and soccer. According to Google Doodle lead Ryan Germick, these four games were played over one billion times in the span of four days.

The mechanics of the game is simple—just press and hold the spacebar to build up strength, and then release it to shoot. If you build up too much strength (or don’t build up enough), you’ll miss. See how many balls you can net within 30 seconds!

Coding for Carrots coding for carrots

In celebration of 50 years of Kids Coding, the Google Doodle team released Coding for Carrots. This simple drag-and-drop game for kids introduces the concept of coding by using building blocks to send the rabbit in the correct direction to gather carrots.

Each block has an arrow pointing in a specific direction. To complete each level, players must add the correct sequence of blocks to direct the rabbit across the platform, collecting all of the carrots the level has to offer. The higher the level, the more difficult the sequence becomes.

Rubik’s Cube rubiks cube

Made up of six colors, six sides, and 54 squares, the Rubik’s Cube has been around since 1974. In 2014, Google released the Rubik’s Cube Doodle in celebration of 40 years of frustrating people around the world.

The objective of this game is to get each side of the Rubik’s Cube the same color by twisting and turning the blocks. To play the Google Doodle version, click and drag your cursor to spin the blocks or rotate the Rubik’s Cube. Good luck!

Pony Express pony express

The Pony Express was a mail delivery service back in the 19th century. The first successful delivery was on April 14, 1860. As a nod to that history, Pony Express, the Google Doodle team made a neat Pony Express game where you collect mail on horseback, dodging obstacles all the while.

To play, users must use the up and down arrow keys to move the rider up and down, respectively. Collect as much mail as possible while avoiding cacti, fences, rocks, holes, and many other obstacles. There are three levels in total—try to collect all of the mail in each level!

Sonic-like Pangolin Game sonic like pangolin game

Pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world and face extinction thanks to poachers hunting them down for meat, medicine, and fashion. In order to raise awareness of this problem, Google made a love-based Doodle on Valentine’s Day back in 2017 in honor of the endangered pangolin.

The pangolin Google Doodle is a Sonic-like side scroller. Move the pangolin using your left- and right-arrow keys, and make it jump with the spacebar. Collect as many items as you can and make it to the finish line before time runs out.

Meow-loween meow loween

Meow-loween is a spooky Google Doodle that was created to celebrate Halloween back in 2016. In Meow-loween, the player controls a cat named Momo who must save the School of Magic from the onslaught of ghosts.

In this game, each ghost has a symbol that appears over their heads. In order to send the ghost back to the realm of the unknown, the player must click and drag their mouse across the screen to draw the symbol. Be quick, because the longer you play, the more ghosts that appear!

Doodle Champion Island Games doodle champion island games

The Doodle Champion Island Games is one of the longest Google Doodle games to date, taking around two hours to complete. This was originally scheduled to be released during the 2020 Olympics, but due to the pandemic delaying the event for an additional year, the Google Doodle team had more time to work on it, bringing even more fun to the table than originally planned.

To play, move your character around the world map and approach each challenge that awaits you. The controls are different for each game, so be sure to read the instructions carefully. Compete in all of the competitions and see if you can make it to the top of the leaderboard.

The Garden Gnomes the garden gnomes

Ever get the urge to sling garden gnomes several meters across a garden using a catapult? Now’s your chance! To give a bit of background on the history of garden gnomes, including their origin and how they’re made, Google Doodle brings you The Garden Gnomes.

The objective of the game is to sling the gnomes from your catapult as far as you possibly can across the garden. The further you sling them, the more flowers they plant. To play, press the spacebar to prepare the catapult, and then press the spacebar again to release the gnome. The better your timing of release, the further you’ll sling the gnome.

Loteria loteria

Loteria, often referred to as Mexican Bingo, is a traditional Mexican card game. The announcer shows a card, and you have to quickly see if you have a match on yours. Unlike bingo, the pattern you must make on your card changes each game. This is also the second Google Doodle that allows multiple players to join!

To play, listen to the announcer call out the card, take a look at it, and then check your card to see if you have a match. If you do, quickly drag and drop a bean on the card. If you don’t, then just wait until the announcer shows the next card. Match the pattern required for a win to complete the game. This is a game of chance, so good luck!

Scoville scoville

We’ve all made the mistake of popping an entire spicy pepper in our mouth. Filled with instant regret, we try to remedy the burning sensation as quickly as possible. Thanks to Wilbur Scoville, we know that running to the fridge and grabbing a jug of milk is the perfect solution to easing the pain. Also thanks to Scoville, we know how to measure the level of heat each pepper gives off. In honor of Scoville’s 151st birthday, the Scoville Doodle gives you the opportunity to show that spicy pepper who’s boss by chunking a scoop of ice cream at it.

At the bottom of the battlefield, you’ll see a bar with a circle quickly moving back and forth. To hit the pepper with a scoop of ice cream, try to stop the circle as close to the middle of the bar as possible. You can stop the circle by clicking your mouse. The more you progress, the spicier the peppers get. See if you can defeat them all!

Crossword Puzzle Crossword Puzzle Google Doodle

PCWorld

This Doodle pays tribute to the 100th anniversary of the humble crossword puzzle and its inventor, Arthur Wynn. Google’s digital version operates just as its paper counterpart does—you fill answers, erase them, and re-enter them as you slowly piece the correct responses together.

No hints or easy outs here; if you need to ask for help, open a separate tab and use the Google search engine to ask for assistance. (Also known as “what exactly to fill in.”) If it’s been awhile since you’ve last done a crossword puzzle, this hint may make your life easier: Not all answers are a single word.

Savoy Ballroom Savoy Ballroom Google Doodle

PCWorld

Created in honor of swing dancing and the Savoy Ballroom, the legendary dance venue in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, this Google Doodle puts your rhythm game skills to the test. No need to be light on your feet or to dress in your best vintage outfits—instead, you’ll be sitting at home and tapping your keyboard for this one.

The challenges start simply enough as you match key presses to on-screen prompts, driven by music from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. But as the tempo rises with each level, so does the difficulty. If you’re naturally dexterous, take on the two-player mode solo to make the game far spicier.

This article originally was published on May 3, 2022. It was updated in August 2022 with additional games.

Gaming, Google Home, Internet
This featherlight HyperX gaming mouse is just $50

We’ve struck gold today, friends. If you’re looking to pick up a lightweight gaming mouse, you’re in luck, as we’ve unearthed an awesome deal. Amazon’s selling the HyperX Pulsefire Haste wireless gaming mouse for $49.99, which is a savings of $30. The incredibly lightweight mouse weighs a total of 61 grams and the honeycomb shell design is just super cool to look at, too.

The Pulsefire Haste mouse has a maximum DPI of 16,000, six programmable buttons, and customizable RGB lighting. HyperX even claims it has up to 100 hours of battery life on a single charge, which is nothing to sneeze at. Inside the honeycomb structure, you’ll find TTC Gold switches, which are a good option for first person shooter games, as the actuation point is rather high. The mouse is also water resistant and it comes with grip tape.

This is a killer deal. I love the design so much that I’m tempted to buy one myself!

Get the HyperX Pulsefire Haste wireless gaming mouse for $49.99 at Amazon

Mice
Razer’s ultralight wireless mouse costs $280, speed holes included

For the last few years mouse makers have been punching a bunch of holes in their designs to make them lighter, like that one car salesman on The Simpsons selling a car with “speed holes.” But it’s become a definite niche for ultra-twitchy gamers, and Razer isn’t one to shirk a trend. The Viper Mini Signature Edition combines a new magnesium alloy chassis (the same kind used in high-end laptops) with a holey hexagonal “exoskeleton” to make a 49-gram little monster.

The mouse has plenty of bells and whistles. We’re talking a 30,000 DPI sensor, third-gen optical primary switches rated for up to 90 million clicks, and Razer’s proprietary HyperSpeed wireless (sans Bluetooth, because l33t gamers can’t stand the latency). In wireless mode it’s good for up to 60 hours, and you can plug it in to a USB Type C cord when that runs short.

Razer viper mini signature edition

Razer

But that being said, there are a few omissions as well. There’s no dock charger, no tilt on the scroll wheel, and it uses the standard five-button shooter configuration. There’s only room for one saved profile in the mouse’s local memory, and perhaps most shockingly, Razer’s RGB lighting is nowhere to be seen. All that must have been necessary to cut in order to make the mouse so light. 49 grams isn’t the lightest on the market, even among wireless models. But it beats Razer’s previous best, the Viper V2 Pro, by almost 10 grams.

The Viper Mini Signature Edition comes with a surprising amount of add-ons. including a set of grip tape stickers, a set of feet in both PTFE (the same stuff that goes inside non-stick pans) and Gorilla Glass, and a microfiber cleaning cloth. You’ll need it: Razer recommends cleaning the mouse at least once a month, since its guts are on display and you’re constantly fondling it with your gross human sausage fingers. Good thing it comes with a three year warranty, a new best for Razer.

Viper mini signature box and accessories

Razer

How much will you need to pay for this ultralight luxury? Two hundred and eighty American greenbacks. It’s 319.99 euro, if you’re wondering. You can buy it from Razer’s website starting on February 11th.

Mice
Best laptop deals: Top picks from budget to extreme

Picking the right laptop for your lifestyle is hard work. Do you spring for a traditional clamshell or a versatile convertible? What about battery life and ports? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t sweat it. To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up the best laptop deals available today. From ridiculously fast gaming machines to lightweight 2-in-1’s, we’ve got a plethora of options to pick from below. We’ve also included a shopping advice section at the end of the article.

For more laptop options, check out our roundup of the best laptops.

The best laptop deals in 2023 Dell Inspiron 2-in-1

From: Best Buy

Was: $799.99

Now: $549.99 ($250 off)

Dell Inspiron 2-in-1

Dell

The Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 is versatile, peppy, and relatively lightweight. Inside, you’ll find an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, AMD Radeon graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. That means it ‘s more than capable of handling everyday tasks like watching YouTube, browsing social media, and so on. The 14-inch display has a resolution of 1920×1200 and is touch-enabled, which really ups the value factor. The Pebble Green color scheme is also rather unique and a welcome departure from the usual silver finish you’d see on most modern laptops. This is a great deal, so don’t miss out.

See the Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 at Best Buy

Samsung Chromebook 4

From: Amazon

Was: $229.99

Now: $135 ($94.99 off)

Samsung Chromebook 4

Samsung

If you’re looking for a barebones machine, the Samsung Chromebook 4 is a good option. Inside, you’ll find an Intel Celeron N4020 CPU, Intel UHD Graphics 600, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. That’s not a ton of power, but it’s enough for everyday tasks like checking e-mail and browsing the web. The display is on the smaller side at 11.6-inches and has a resolution of 1366×768. It’s not the sharpest picture we’ve ever seen on a Chromebook, but it’s fine for scrolling through social media and such. For a little over $100, it’s a good deal.

See the Samsung Chromebook 4 at Amazon

Acer Aspire Vero

From: Amazon

Was: $699.99

Now: $578.49 ($121.50 off)

Acer Aspire Vero

Acer

The Acer Aspire Vero is a fantastic option for eco-conscious buyers, as it’s made of recycled materials. It’s no slouch in the performance department either given the specs. This laptop has an Intel Core i7-1195G7 CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of NVMe SSD storage—a killer package for under $500. It’s zippy enough for everyday tasks like watching Hulu, writing papers, browsing social media, and so on. The 15.6-inch display should provide clean visuals thanks to the 1920×1080 resolution. This is an awesome deal for an everyday laptop.

See the Acer Aspire Vero at Amazon

HP 15 laptop

HP

Samsung Chromebook Plus

From: Amazon

Was: $499

Now: $249.99 ($249.01 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

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

From: Best Buy

Was: $1,199.99

Now: $899.99 ($300 off)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Microsoft

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is a nice laptop for productivity or everyday use. It has an AMD Ryzen 7 CPU, AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. The 15-inch display has a resolution of 2496×1664 and is touch-enabled. According to Microsoft, this machine can last up to 17 hours on a single charge. That’s positively bananas. However, with the brightness turned up, that number might be different in real world use. This is a great deal and a good pick for a student or young professional. Happy shopping.

See the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 at Best Buy

Asus ZenBook Pro 15 OLED

From: Newegg

Was: $1,399.99

Now: $999.99 ($400 off)

Asus ZenBook Pro 15 OLED laptop

Asus

The Asus ZenBook Pro 15 OLED is sleek, zippy, and $400 off. It’s a fantastic deal, especially for a laptop with an OLED display. This machine is rocking an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. This laptop is designed for creative folks, so it’s not that unusual to see one with a discrete graphics card to go along with the other potent internals. Still, it’s a welcome boost of power. he 15.6-inch OLED display is rather roomy with a resolution of 1920×1080. Asus even claims the display has a maximum brightness level of 400 nits, which is nothing to sneeze at. This is a fabulous deal and a solid pick for students or young creative professionals.

See the Asus ZenBook Pro 15 OLED at Newegg

LG Gram (2022)

From: Amazon

Was: $1,499.99

Now: $1,149 ($350.99 off)

LG Gram (2022)

LG

The LG Gram (2022) is the perfect laptop for frequent travelers, as it weighs just 2.54 lbs. Don’t let the lightweight form factor fool you, though. It’s packing a good amount of power in its thin frame. Under the hood, you’ll find an Intel Core i7-1260P CPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. This laptop should be capable of whizzing through most tasks like checking e-mail, streaming video, spreadsheet work, and so on. The 15-inch display features super narrow bezels and a resolution of 1920×1080. Overall, this laptop is a steal, especially at $500 off. Get it now.

See the LG Gram (2022) at Amazon

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

From: Lenovo

Was: $2,399

Now: $1,199.50 ($1,199.50 off)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10

Lenovo

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is the perfect laptop for productivity. It’s packing an Intel Core i5-1240P CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage. That means it’s capable of handling tasks like spreadsheet work, Word processing, videoconferencing, and so on. The 14-inch 1200p display has narrow bezels and, according to Lenovo, a maximum brightness level of 400 nits. The display’s taller 16:10 aspect ratio makes scrolling through documents a heck of a lot easier, too. There’s also a backlit keyboard and a fingerprint reader.

If you’re looking for a proper business laptop, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is well worth considering.

See the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon at Lenovo

Asus ROG Strix Scar 15

From: Newegg

Was: $2,199.99

Now: $2,057.99 ($173 off)

Asus ROG Strix Scar gaming laptop

Asus

The Asus ROG Strix Scar gaming laptop is an absolute powerhouse. It comes equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. This laptop will chew through most games on max settings. The 15.6-inch display has resolution of 1920×1080, a blistering 300Hz refresh rate, and a 3ms response time, so competitive gamers will find a lot to like here. Regarding connectivity options, you’re getting one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, three USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, one HDMI, and one 3.5mm combo audio jack. The keyboard is also an optical mech keyboard, which uses infrared light to detect key presses.

See the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 at Newegg

Acer Aspire 5 A515

From: Amazon

Was: $399.99

Now: $299.99 ($100 off)

a gray laptop with Windows 11 on the screen

Acer

If you’re looking for a solid everyday laptop, you’ve come to the right place. The Acer Aspire 5 has 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

Gigabyte Aorus gaming laptop

Gigabyte

Acer Nitro 5

From: Amazon

Was: $929.99

Now: $799 ($130.99 off)

Acer Nitro 5

Acer

The Acer Nitro 5 is a fantastic budget gaming laptop. It features an Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. This laptop is powerful enough to run most games on medium to high graphics settings depending on the game but will struggle if you try to play with strenuous ray tracing effects turned on. The 15.6-inch display has a resolution of 1920×1080, an aspect ratio of 16:9, and a refresh rate of 144Hz. That’s perfect for 1080p gaming. If you’re looking to save some serious cash, then the Acer Nitro 5 is definitely worth considering.

See the Acer Nitro 5 at Amazon

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro

From: eBay

Was: $1,969.99

Now: $1,399 ($570 off)

Lenovo Legion laptop

Lenovo

The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is a blisteringly fast gaming laptop. It has a AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of PCIe NVMe SSD storage. That means you should be able to run most competitive games on high or ultra graphics. The 2560×1600 display measures 16-inches and has a refresh rate of 165Hz. In other words, you can expect a sharp and vibrant picture. For connectivity options, it has one HDMI, three USB 3.2 Gen 1, three USB 3.2 Gen 2, and a headphone/microphone combo. This is a super hot deal and it’s selling out fast (20 sold in the last 24 hours as of this writing), so you better grab it now before it’s too late.

See the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro at eBay

Gigabyte G5 KE

From: Amazon

Was: $1,199

Now: $937.02 ($261.98 off)

Gigabyte G5 KE laptop

Gigabyte

The Gigabyte G5 KE gaming laptop is fast, sleek, and $260 off. It comes equipped with an Intel Core i5-12500H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. This machine should be more than capable of running most games on medium to high settings. The 15.6-inch 1080p display is rather spacious with a refresh rate of 144Hz. For connectivity options, this thing is rocking one HDMI, one USB 2.0, one USB 3.2 Type-A, one USB 3.2 Type-C, one Thunderbolt 4, one mini DisplayPort 1.4, one audio in/out, one RJ-45, and one MicroSD card reader. That’s a lot of connectivity right there, which is perfect for those times when you want to hook up to an external monitor or mouse.

See the Gigabyte G5 KE at Amazon

Asus ROG Flow X13 2-in-1

From: Amazon

Was: $1,359.99

Now: $1,148.99 ($211 off)

Asus ROG Flow X13

Asus

Rarely do we see 2-in-1 gaming machines, but that’s exactly what the Asus ROG Flow X13 is. This unique machine has a 360-degree hinge, which means you can rotate the screen all the way around. The device weighs a little under three pounds, which makes it a capable traveling companion. Despite the smaller size, it still manages to pack a punch. It has an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. That’s plenty peppy for playing most games on low to medium graphics, but Asus also sells an external RTX 3080 GPU that can connect to the laptop if you need even more firepower when your stationary. The display measures 13.4-inches and has a resolution of 1920×1080. It’s not the biggest or most vibrant screen, but it’s perfectly fine for most games. This is a fantastic deal, especially if you’re looking for a gaming laptop you can travel with.

See the Asus ROG Flow X13 at Amazon

Lenovo Legion 5i Gaming

From: B&H

Was: $2,029

Now: $1,349 ($680 off)

Lenovo Legion 5i Gaming

Lenovo

If you’re on the prowl for serious graphics power, the Lenovo Legion 5i Gaming is definitely worth considering. It has an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of NVMe PCIe SSD storage. That’s powerful enough to run most games on high or ultra graphics. The 15.6-inch display is roomy and has a resolution of 1920×1080 as well as a refresh rate of 165Hz. It’s also G-Sync compatible, which helps with any screen tearing or stuttering issues. This is an awesome deal. Availability is limited, though, so you’ll need to act fast.

See the Lenogo Legion 5i Gaming at B&H

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 11-series Core chips or higher, such as the Core i5-11510U, or the Core i7-12800H; 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 February 3 with new pricing and to remove expired deals.

Laptops
5 reasons gamers shouldn’t shun cheap mechanical keyboards

Enthusiasts may balk at my opinion and deem it heresy, which is fine—but I’m going to say it anyway: There’s nothing wrong with buying an inexpensive mechanical keyboard for regular use. Most gamers don’t even need all the bells and whistles of a luxury keyboard like a bazillion programmable keys and RBG lighting that syncs with your music. Often all you need is a simple set of clicky keys and an ergonomic design. A quick to trip to Amazon, for example, reveals a 60% mechanical board with hot-swappable Red switches and a lightweight design for only $30. Still not convinced? Don’t worry, I aim to persuade!

Looking for more options? Check out our roundup of the best wireless gaming keyboards.

1. You can get a full-sized mechanical keyboard at an affordable price

Full-sized mechanical keyboards typically have 104 keys, including a number pad on the right side of the layout. But you don’t have to pay out the nose for this option. If you’ve got the desk space to accommodate it, then the AK50 full-sized keyboard is worth considering. It has blue switches, white backlighting, and an aluminum frame. The best part about this keyboard is that it currently costs $50. Make sure you apply the 5 percent coupon at checkout.

2. Some mechanical switches aren’t all that expensive

When it comes to mechanical switches, Cherry MX typically reigns supreme. Cherry switches are durable and have high actuation points, which helps prevent inaccurate key presses. That said, they can be expensive. Luckily for you, there are more affordable options out there in the universe, so I encourage you to explore. Outemu switches, for example, are a fantastic option for budget mechanical keyboards. Essentially, they’re Cherry clones made in China.

Gamesir VX blue switches

GameSir

3. Most people don’t need the extra bits

Premium mechanical keyboards like the Razer Deathstalker V2 Pro often feature per-key RGB lighting, a scroll wheel, dedicated device buttons, and so on. Most folks don’t need all the extras. My recommendation is to spring for an affordable keyboard with the most important functions, namely the sound and feel. This is determined by the type of mechanical switch you use. Red switches (aka linear switches) require less effort to press down and don’t provide much tactile feedback. They’re also quieter than blue switches, which produce those pleasant click-clack sounds. For additional information on mechanical switches, check out this guide.

Deathstalker V2 volume wheel

Michael Crider/IDG

4. You need not sacrifice ergonomics

Just because a mechanical keyboard is inexpensive doesn’t mean it can’t also be ergonomic, with many options including a wrist rest can meet that need. That’s a good thing, since long gaming stretches require comfort. Nothing kills the mood faster than hand cramps. The AULA F2088, for example, comes with a magnetic wrist rest. This helps prevent hand fatigue during those marathon gaming sessions. Plus, the matte finish should provide a relatively smooth surface for your hands. As of this writing, the typewriter-style keyboard is currently on sale for just $45.99. Make sure you add the 5% coupon at checkout, too.

5. It’s a low-cost way to test drive a mechanical board

If you’ve never owned or used a mechanical keyboard before, they’re quite different from their membrane counterparts. The difference is really in the feel. Mechanical keyboards have keys that spring back when you press down on them. If you’re just dipping your toes in the mechanical keyboard world, then I’d suggest test driving a more inexpensive one first and work your way up. If you end up disliking how a mechanical keyboard feels, then at least you haven’t put a ton of money into it. Premium mechanical keyboards are a more costly, albeit feature-rich, way to try one out.

Keyboards
Ultrawide vs. dual monitors: Which should you choose?

Want to maximize your desktop’s real estate? You have two options: an ultrawide monitor, or a dual-monitor setup. Either choice will massively expand the screen space at your command. But ultrawide and dual-monitor setups are not the same. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  

Here’s how to decide whether an ultrawide monitor or dual monitors is right for you. For more concrete buying info, be sure to checkout our roundups of the best PC monitors and the best ultrawide monitors.

How wide is it?

Everyone looking to buy an ultrawide monitor or dual monitors wants more usable display space. But how much do you gain with each scenario?

A 34-inch ultrawide monitor, the most common size, is not as large you might think. This size of ultrawide is nearly identical to a 27-inch widescreen monitor in height and about 8 inches wider.  

Purchasing a second 27-inch monitor will, of course, net you a second monitor just as large as the first. A second 27-inch monitor adds 23.5 inches to the width of your setup. That’s about 15.5 inches wider than a 34-inch ultrawide monitor.

dellu2414h 3l

Besides offering a wider expanse than a single ultrawide monitor, a dual display is more flexible in terms of screen angles and orientation.

To reach the equivalent of two 27-inch monitors in a single display, you must go all-out with a 49-inch super-ultrawide with a 32:9 aspect ratio, such as Samsung’s Odyssey G9. That’s almost exactly as tall and wide as two 27-inch monitors side-by-side, but considerably more expensive.  

Going dual has another advantage, one no ultrawide can ever match: flexibility.  

You can use one of your two monitors in a portrait orientation, adding vertical instead of horizontal space. This is perfect if you need to display documents on a second screen or want to have multiple social media and chat apps open while working on your primary monitor. You can even mix-and-match monitors of different sizes to perfectly fit your desk.

Multitasking

The flexibility of a dual-monitor setup has advantages for multitasking, as you can change the shape of your setup to fit your needs. This isn’t the only way dual monitors beat ultrawide in productivity, however.

The best budget 1080p monitor Acer K242HYL Acer K242HYL Read our review MSRP: $149 Best Prices Today: $94.99 at Amazon | $132.99 at Adorama | $149.99 at Acer

Windows Snap, a feature built into Windows that can quickly resize and move windows for better multitasking, works best on dual monitors (and the supercharged FancyZones PowerToy tool is even better). Using Snap on an ultrawide leaves you with wide, short windows that are awkward to use. A dual-monitor setup also provides more locations to place windows.

The aspect ratio of an ultrawide monitor is a problem even when you’re not using Windows Snap. Most apps are programmed for use with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and have a user interface designed for that aspect ratio. Resizing an app to a 21:9 aspect ratio often leaves large, empty areas or forces portions of the interface to one side.  

Ultrawide owners end up manually resizing windows to an approximately 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s like playing a game of Tetris with pieces that don’t fit. You’ll struggle to find an arrangement of windows that doesn’t waste space.  

Pixel density Mentioned in this article Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q Read our review MSRP: 399.99 Best Prices Today: $309.00 at Amazon

Dual monitors are on a winning streak, thanks to another reason two is better than one: resolution.

4K monitors aren’t hard to find. You can pick up the Asus TUF Gaming VG289Q, our go-to recommendation among affordable 4K gaming monitors, for only $309—or you can buy two for twice the price. That’s an effective resolution of 7680×2160, putting over 16 million pixels at your disposal. 

Ultrawide doesn’t come close. LG’s 40WP95C-WRemove non-product link, one of the most pixel-dense ultrawide monitors, has a resolution of 5120×2160. That’s impressive but works out to barely more than 11 million pixels, and costs about twice as much more than a pair of Dell’s 4K screens.

lg 34wk95u w

LG’s 34WK95U-W offers an impressive 11 million pixels with its 5120×2160 resolution, but that can still be bested by a pair of 4K monitors.

Not everyone needs 16 million pixels, of course, but it has utility. Dual 4K monitors are great for editing ultra-HD video. You can view a full-screen preview on a second monitor while editing in the first. Photographers and creative artists might also find similar use for this setup.

Gamers, though, should stay away. Dual 4K might seem appealing at a glance but, like a bug zapper, the allure can only end in pain.

PC gaming

Ultrawide monitors have taken their thumps so far, but gamers can disregard the lashing I’ve dished out. Ultrawide is the king of PC gaming.

A dual-monitor setup has an obvious issue: the bezel running down the middle of the display. Even the thinnest, most miniscule monitor bezels are blatantly obvious when using two monitors side-by-side. Playing a game on two monitors at once is technically possible, but it’s a bad idea.

Ultrawide monitors offer not just more usable space for gaming but a more immersive aspect ratio. A wider aspect ratio means that, in most games, you can see more at once. Scenery and objects that remain outside your field of view on a 16:9 widescreen become visible on a 21:9 ultrawide.

the best overall ultrawide monitor is an OLED beast Alienware AW3423DWF Alienware AW3423DWF Read our review MSRP: $1,099.99 Best Prices Today: $1099.99 at Dell

A wider aspect ratio is especially useful in certain games. Landing a plane in Microsoft Flight Simulator is easier on a 21:9 monitor thanks to the improved sense of perspective a wide field-of-view offers. Gamers deep into Civilization IV or Humankind can see more map for a complete view of their empire. MMO fans can use the space to customize the user interface or load add-ons (in games where that’s allowed, of course).

Most gamers with dual monitors play on one monitor and use the second for Discord, a game walkthrough, or catch up on some reality TV while waiting in que to play Final Fantasy XIV. This is better than having a single monitor, to be sure, but can’t beat the seamless feel of an ultrawide.  

Console gaming

This point may seem obvious to veteran gamers, but it’s worth repeating for those new to using a game console with a computer monitor.  

Game consoles don’t support ultrawide monitors.  

Best HDMI 2.1 gaming monitor with console support Dell G3223Q Dell G3223Q Read our review MSRP: $1099 Best Prices Today: $769.99 at Dell | $799.99 at Dell Home | $799.99 at Dell Small Business

You’ll see an image if you connect a game console to an ultrawide monitor, but it will have a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio with letterboxing on each side. Resolution is also an issue. The most common ultrawide resolution is 3440×1440, which translates to 2560×1440 when connected to a 16:9 source. The PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch don’t support this resolution and instead fall back to 1080p.  

Don’t buy an ultrawide monitor if you plan to use a monitor with a game console.

Simplicity

Ultrawide can claim another important advantage over dual monitors. It’s just one monitor.  

One monitor means one display connection and one power cord. There’s no need to worry about how monitors are arranged in Windows’ display settings. You don’t have to fret over differences in image quality between monitors or calibrate monitors to fix it. A third-party monitor stand or arm won’t be necessary.

windows 10 display

With a single ultrawide monitor, you don’t need to mess around with arranging your monitors in Windows’ display settings.

Simplicity has value. More monitors mean more space and pixels but can also mean more headaches. A dual monitor setup is hardly uncommon and supported by modern operating systems, but you may still encounter edge cases where a particular laptop, desktop video card, or application doesn’t work as it should. Uncommon problems become likely as your setup becomes more complex.

A single ultrawide monitor is a plug-and-play experience that requires zero configuration. This is useful if you don’t want to spend time messing with settings or frequently switch computers.

Dual monitors for the win

The verdict is clear. In general, dual monitors take the win over ultrawide. Going dual snags you a more flexible setup that’s better for multitasking and, if you buy high-end 4K monitors, packs more pixels than any ultrawide in existence.  

The best budget 4K monitor would work great as a pair Asus ProArt PA279CV Asus ProArt PA279CV Read our review MSRP: $499 Best Prices Today: $449.99 at Best Buy | $492.50 at Adorama | $499 at Best Buy

This doesn’t mean a dual-monitor setup is better for everyone. I, personally, prefer an ultrawide monitor. Simulation, strategy, and MMO games are my favorite genres, so an ultrawide’s immersion really hits the spot. I also lack the surface space to use a pair of 27-inch monitors, while a 34-inch ultrawide is the right fit for my desk. 

Your choice should fit your needs, of course. Ultrawide is my preference because it works best for my niche needs. Still, it’s clear dual monitors win in most situations. Readers on the fence should stop worrying and buy that second monitor. Our roundup of the best monitors and our display buying guide can help you find the perfect fit.

Consumer Electronics, Laptops, Monitors
A eulogy for Titanfall, a shooter that deserved better

It’s been just under nine years since Titanfall landed on the PC and Xbox, and just under nine years since publisher Electronic Arts has been underutilizing one of its most interesting and promising franchises. With the rumor that EA has canned a third Titanfall game after years of development, I think it’s time we look back on what this game was, what it could have been, and lamentably, what it never will be. What is Titanfall right now? A damn shame.

Part of the first wave of Xbox One titles and one of the console’s very few exclusives, the original Titanfall was the first game developed by Respawn Entertainment, which was founded by former executives of Call of Duty creator Infinity Ward. It made a splash from its introduction at E3 2013, wowing gamers with a mix of fresh, parkour-infused multiplayer shooting and the titular Titan mechs as a fresh addition to the genre. When it came out for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC in the spring of 2014 it sold like hotcakes, perhaps helped by a somewhat tepid market at the time.

Unique modes and motion

Titanfall is, at its core, a fast-paced multiplayer shooter, as you might expect from the creators of Call of Duty. But with the sci-fi setting comes the opportunity to innovate, and Respawn did just that. It starts with the new, core mode of the standard multiplayer campaign mode: Assault. Both teams are supported by dozens of AI-controlled “grunts,” which have minimal weapons and armor, and none of the whiz-bang movement or special abilities of the player characters.

Players can zoom around the map focusing on taking out enemy grunts to rack up more points in a slower progression. This gives you plenty of targets on large, multi-level maps, where players on two teams of six might not intersect often outside of the control points. It also lets players who aren’t as familiar with the intense, super-twitchy gameplay of shooters like Modern Warfare and Battlefield reach for more attainable ways to contribute to their team’s victory.

Thoughtful use of the environment can annihilate groups of grunts and give you the advantage on players.

Another key innovation in Titanfall’s standard shooter setup was its movement. Player characters (“Pilots” in the game’s lexicon) can dash and bounce around the map almost as if it’s a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater level, utilizing wall-running, double-jumping, and other parkour-inspired tricks. The expanded, free-flowing movement is an integral part of the combat. Quick, thoughtful use of the environment can annihilate groups of grunts and give you the advantage on head-to-head confrontations with other players, even if they’ve unlocked more powerful weapons and tools.

Titans bring the sci-fi spice

Then there’s the signature feature, the Titans. Each match begins with a countdown timer until your customized Titan, being built in an orbital factory, is ready to drop into the arena like a 10-ton trump card. You can take chunks of time off by killing enemy players or grunts or by achieving map objectives. Once it’s arrived on the battlefield, you can either hop into the cockpit and take personal control against the other team, or continue on foot and let your Titan’s AI do the shooting.

Titanfall 2: titan battles

Respawn Entertainment

The chunky Titans might seem like they’re right out of MechWarrior, big, cumbersome metal beasts that are a sledgehammer to the footsoldier’s scalpel. But that’s not how it works in gameplay. While Titans are indeed bigger and slower than Pilots to make up for their more powerful weapons, they’re surprisingly fast and graceful, and can be made more so with tweaks applied between matches. In action they’re more like Gundams than tanks, and they make a wonderful counterpart to the whoosh-crikey movements of the pilots.

Combining gameplay with Pilots and Titans is where things get really spicy. While players on foot are of course more vulnerable, dying from one or two hits of the Titans’ giant weapons (or a viscerally squishy stomp or punch), the Pilot’s movement powers combined with the well-designed, multifaceted stages mean that you’ve still got a fighting chance even out of your personal giant robot. Specialized Titan-killing weapons, and the generally larger target that the Titans provide, mean that matches constantly weave and flow between Pilot and Titan combat as the steel behemoths are called in and destroyed. Pilots can even hop on the back of Titans, to rip open the enemy and shoot out its vital components or piggy-back on a friendly bot and shoot from its shoulder, like Rocket Raccon riding Groot.

pilot rides enemy titan in titanfall

Respawn Entertainment

Even the end of the multiplayer matches showcases innovation. Once one team or the other reaches the requisite amount of points, the losers will be directed to an extraction point. Getting to the dropship (or alternately, killing the fleeing players or destroying the ship) makes for an entertaining mini-game that utilizes all of the skill and strategy of the primary mode, eventually allowing the losers to snap a bit of validation for a 10-minute match. Or, of course, get an extra heap of humiliation on top of it.

The sequel adds a story

The first Titanfall reviewed well, but it seemed to lose steam after a couple of months. Part of this may have been its multiplayer-focused setup. The game’s short development time and relatively small development team meant that the story campaign, a rather placid tale of evil corporations and space rebels, was sandwiched into the multiplayer mode. Since the outcome of each story mission had to work in the narrative whether the rebels or the corpos won, there was very little tension or stakes.

Titanfall 2 launched with the focus squarely on the now fully-realized singleplayer campaign. It worked.

It basically boiled down to the same maps and modes you’d get in standard multiplayer, with some talking heads occasionally shouting at you from the corner of your screen. Reviewers noted the lack of variety and dinged the game accordingly. It didn’t help that EA wanted full price for this multiplayer-only title. With Titanfall 2, which released just two years later, Respawn would remedy this deficiency in a big way.

Titanfall 2 BT

Titanfall 2’s story mode focused on the relationship between the player and BT, your Titan robo-buddy. 

Respawn Entertainment

Titanfall 2 launched with the focus squarely on the now fully-realized singleplayer campaign. It worked. Both gamers and critics praised the mode, which gently introduced players into the combination bounce-house shooting/robot punching gameplay. You play as…honestly I can’t remember who the player character is, because he’s a blank slate for the personality of the Titan he inherits to play off. BT the giant robot might not be the most original AI character ever, but he has just enough charm and comedy in his writing to add a little enjoyment to the excellent levels and boss fights.

One level in particular caught the eye of the gaming public: Effect and Cause, which utilized a time travel doohicky reminiscent of the core mechanic in The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. With a combination of parkour shooting, mech piloting, and carefully triggering events in the past timeline to affect the present, it’s still considered one of the best singular levels in any modern game.

With incredibly unique multiplayer (now enhanced by grappling hooks and more Titan variety) and a single-player campaign head and shoulders above most of the competition, Titanfall 2 was poised to make a huge impact, like a giant robot dropping from orbit.

EA’s self-sabotage

Unfortunately, Titanfall as a franchise couldn’t catch a break. Titanfall 2 released at almost the same time as two other gigantic shooters in October 2016. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare directly lifted several of the movement mechanics from the original Titanfall, and included AI robot characters as a deep part of its single-player campaign. And if that wasn’t enough, EA released its own competition just a week before, the critically-acclaimed Battlefield 1.

Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty Infinite Warfare covers

Titanfall 2 was released at almost the same time as blockbuster shooters from Activision and EA itself. 

EA/Activision

With the two biggest shooter franchises duking it out on store shelves, Titanfall 2 was left in the dust. Perhaps owing to a lack of a breakout hit years after the studio was founded, and likely more to the general consolidation of the game industry via mergers and acquisitions, Respawn was fully acquired by EA in 2017.

Titanfall 2 managed to be a sleeper success nonetheless, getting big influxes of players every time it went on sale. Coming to the PS4 — excluded from the first game’s release for licensing reasons — probably helped. But with a profile far lower than the original game, the writing seemed to be on the wall.

Respawn moves on

Respawn’s next release was the free-to-play Apex Legends, which is nominally set in the same universe as Titanfall and has some of the same parkour movement. But Apex lacks the signature Titan giant robots and comes with a much more sarcastic, Borderlands-esque feel. It’s also a battle royale in the mode of PUBG or Fortnite — not exactly what Titanfall players were hoping for.

jedi fallen order and apex legends

Respawn’s two post-Titanfall games, Apex Legends and Jedi Fallen Order, were both hits.

Respawn Entertainment

After Apex, which remains a popular freemium game to this day, Respawn released Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. A single-player only game, translating the structure and difficulty of Dark Souls to the Star Wars universe, Fallen Order was a major departure for both Respawn and EA. The publisher gave the game a full court press of media support, taking advantage of the release of The Rise of Skywalker in theaters shortly thereafter. It worked: the game was critically acclaimed and a major seller. The sequel is coming out later this year.

Titanfall seems to be a victim of Respawn’s more recent successes.

With Apex Legends and the Jedi series both going strong, and the developer remaining a relatively small company even as a full EA subsidiary, Titanfall seems to be a victim of Respawn’s more recent successes. A small group of dedicated fans can’t keep EA from seeing dollar signs with lucrative free-to-play models and mega media licenses. Titanfall 2 remains a must-play for its single-player campaign alone, but multiplayer servers for the original game are abandoned, and even the sequel is a ghost town with apparently unchecked cheating issues.

Goodbye, robot friends

I never got into Apex, but I was a big fan of Fallen Order. Frankly, it’s the Dark Souls for people who don’t like Dark Souls, a sort of store brand take on the hard-as-nails formula with a story that doesn’t make you work for every last scrap of narrative. But I’d trade it for another Titanfall game in a heartbeat. The shooter’s mix of fast-paced ground movement and meaty robot fighting was utterly unique, and gaming is poorer as a medium now that its multiplayer is more or less gone.

Titanfall 2 BT at sunset

Respawn Entertainment

EA and/or Respawn scuppering the third Titanfall game doesn’t necessarily mean that the franchise is dead. But with Respawn’s hands full with two successful franchises, and EA apparently trimming its corporate fat, the odds of seeing it reemerge anytime soon are slim to none. It’s enough to make even an AI-powered giant robot cry.

Gaming
Microsoft turns the Elgato Stream Deck into a nifty work tool

Microsoft recently launched a Teams plugin for the Elgato Stream Deck, the ultra-popular tool used by Twitch streamers, YouTubers, and anyone else who wants quick commands available at the press of a button.

If you’re not sure what the heck this thing does, let me explain. Whether you’re creating a clip from your gameplay or setting your chat to subscriber-only mode, this device makes it simple. Instead of clicking around in multiple Windows, all you have to do is push one of the 15 physical buttons and voila! It runs your preprogrammed action. Microsoft is taking it step further by turning this play tool into a nifty work tool.

Rolling out this month – the official Microsoft Teams plugin for Stream Deck 👏🎉 pic.twitter.com/GFL7jRwFnW

— Julian (@JFest) February 1, 2023

The Teams plugin is now available to download. This extension allows you to easily record your Teams meeting, blur out your background, raise or lower your hand, toggle your camera on or off, and much more, all at the press of a button. It’s a useful plugin, that’s for sure, but you need an Elgato Stream Deck in order to use it, which costs $150 on Amazon. However, if you’re in back-to-back Teams meetings and happen to own a Stream Deck, then we’d strongly encourage you to go ahead and download it. It’ll make your professional life a heck of a lot easier.

If you want to set up your Stream Deck with this plugin, make sure you check out Microsoft’s Tech Community post. The company went ahead and provided helpful step-by-step visuals.

Streaming Devices
Intel Arc 3 month performance check-in: Impressive Call of Duty gains

Another month, another dutiful report on the state of Intel’s fledgling GPU drivers for its Arc series of graphics cards from PCWorld contributor Keith May. February sees the introduction of a new game to the roundup, the eye-catching but temperamental Forspoken, and some surprising framerate gains for a staple title. Plus, some exciting news that occurred mere hours after Keith’s video published: Intel is slashing the Arc A750’s price to $249!

Compared to last month’s driver release, the Arc A770 driver didn’t change much for most of our testing titles. In GTA V, Counter-Strike GO, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Total War: Troy, Borderlands 3, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Watch Dogs Legion, and Cyberpunk 2077, the results for the three-month test were in line with (or slightly behind) the two-month test. That’s a particular bummer for Cyberpunk, which just got a DLSS boost on the latest Nvidia cards.

There was one standout: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Whatever special sauce Intel put into the new driver, it’s showing about a 5-10 percent improvement across the board, while 1 percent lows saw a noticeable bump up to 51 frames per second at 1080p and 36 frames per second at 1440 — that’s some solid performance for such a new, graphically-intense game. The gains over the Arc launch are even more impressive.

Forspoken is Square Enix’s new magical melee combat title. It looks gorgeous… if you have the power to run its detailed graphics and whiz-bang effects. Forspoken has already earned a reputation as a resource hog even on high-end gaming PCs, and the Arc A770 isn’t a high-end card. But to Intel’s credit, the day one driver release did manage to boost 1 percent lows by a solid ten percent, even if it didn’t do much for the average FPS. At 1080p, the game runs above 60 fps on high settings — not bad!

For more testing of the latest graphics cards and other hardware, be sure to subscribe to PCWorld on YouTube.

Arc A770 Limited Edition Arc A770 Limited Edition Read our review MSRP: $329 (8GB) | $349 (16GB, reviewed) Best Prices Today: $349.99 at Newegg Graphics Cards
Pick up these sweat resistant Sony wireless earbuds for just $68

If you’re on the hunt for a pair of wireless earbuds, you’re in luck, as we’ve got an awesome deal for you today. Amazon’s currently selling the Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds for $68, which is 32 percent off of the original price. These earbuds are water resistant and have up to 20 hours of battery life with the charging case. They’re a great option for runners, commuters, or anyone looking to block out everyday sounds. Let’s get into the details then.

These earbuds offer hands-free calling and DSEE technology (aka Digital Sound Enhancement Engine), which restores high frequency sounds lost to compression. The design fits most ear cavities and you can customize your sound using the Sony Headphones Connect app. The earbuds also come with a pill-shaped case that’s small and easy to carry.

This is a fantastic deal, so you better swoop in now before it’s gone forever.

Get the Sony WF-C500 wireless earbuds for $68 at Amazon

Headphones
Best laptops for video editing 2023: Best overall, best screen, and more

Video editing can put a heavy burden on any computer. So, when shopping for a laptop for video editing, you’ll want to make sure you’re loading up with some heavy hardware firepower. While you might not need the absolute top of the line gear, simply buying a gaming laptop and calling it a day is probably not going to cut it. Serious video editors need to take into account a few things, including processor and graphics performance, the quality of the display, port selection, and other factors.

We’ve tested countless notebooks in our never-ending quest to find the best laptops. And through this we’ve developed a comprehensive view of the laptop landscape. This has allowed us to identify laptops that fit specific needs, such as video editing. We’ve taken note of the best laptops for video editing and curated a list to help you. Take a look at our top picks below, followed by buying advice and information on how we test our laptops for video editing purposes.

If you’re on a budget or just looking to save some money, you may also want to check out our daily roundup of the best laptop deals to scope out any discounts on content creation notebooks.

1. Dell XPS 17 (2022) – Best laptop for video editing Dell XPS 17 (2022) - Best laptop for video editing

Pros

Solid performance for the price Massive, bright, colorful display  Offers four Thunderbolt 4 ports  Long battery life

Cons

Heavy and thick  Mediocre keyboard Lacks USB-A, HDMI, or Ethernet RTX 3060 is the quickest available GPU MSRP: $2,799 Best Prices Today: $2999 at Micro Center

We consider the Dell XPS 17 the ultimate content creation laptop, so it’s no surprise to see this atop our list of the best laptops for video editing. The Intel 12th-gen Core i7-12700H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 inside deliver plenty of punch for intense edits, while a 1TB SSD delivers top-notch storage performance for moving big projects around.

The XPS 17 also includes crucial extras coveted by video editors, such as an SD card reader, Thunderbolt 4 ports aplenty, and a luscious 17-inch touchscreen panel with 3840×2400 resolution, and a more productive 16:10 aspect ratio. Dell even managed to cram all these niceties into a relatively portable-for-its-class 5.34-pound design that can run for 11 hours before needing a charge—improving upon the previous XPS 17 version by over one hour.

Read our full Review Dell XPS 17 (2022) 2. Dell XPS 15 9520 – Best screen for video editing Dell XPS 15 9520 - Best screen for video editing

Pros

Stellar OLED display Chassis is rugged and gorgeous Booming audio Roomy keyboard and touchpad

Cons

15.6 < 16 inches Underwhelming battery life Webcam is behind the times Limited ports MSRP: $2,299 Best Prices Today: $2049.99 at Best Buy$2299 at Dell

The Dell XPS 15 9520 has a stunning OLED display and with its latest Intel Core i7-12700H CPU and GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics, it has become one of our favorites for content creators and video editors. To add to an already impressive system, the rugged and beautiful all-metal enclosure is just the cherry on the top of a premium-quality cake.

Despite it being a 15-inch laptop, it is a bit heavy to carry on an everyday commute, and it lacks some of the ports that come with the XPS 17 model. But the gorgeous OLED display is the star of the show, and it doesn’t let you down with a 3456X2160 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio, and ultra vivid and accurate colors.

Read our full Review Dell XPS 15 9520 3. Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED – Best dual-monitor option Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED - Best dual-monitor option

Pros

Stunning primary display and easy to see secondary display Excellent I/O options and wireless connectivity CPU / GPU power meets the needs of content creators

Cons

The battery life is lacking for a productivity laptop The trackpad is small and awkwardly placed Rear orientated ports can be hard to reach MSRP: $2,000 Best Prices Today: $1849 at B&H Photo$1,849.00 at Amazon

Now for something a bit different. The Asus Zenbook Pro 14 packs decent firepower, including a Core i7 processor, GeForce RTX 3050 graphics, 16GB of DDR5 memory, and a fast 1TB NVMe SSD. It also has a 14.5-inch 4K touch OLED panel that dazzles at an ultra-bright 547 nits while covering 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut—a screen built for serious content creators. But the truly interesting part is the secondary 12.7-inch 2880×864 screen located just above the keyboard. Windows counts it as a second monitor and you can use bundled Asus software to put it to all kinds of helpful tasks, such as using it as a trackpad or displaying a panel of touch controls for certain Adobe apps.

The Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED is basically a portable midrange workstation, though the mediocre battery life may mean you’ll need to carry around a charging cable if you need to do some serious work. Despite this, the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED is a well-tuned machine for content creators, excelling at tasks such as 3D rendering and encoding and this latest version of Asus’ dual screen is the best yet.

Read our full Review Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED 4. Razer Blade 14 (2021) – Best ultra-portable laptop for video editing Razer Blade 14 (2021) - Best ultra-portable laptop for video editing

Pros

It performs capably in AAA games The QHD panel looks great It’s exceptionally quiet

Cons

AC adapter is heavy at 1.7 pounds Razer products are pricey No Thunderbolt 4 support Best Prices Today: $2,399.99 at Amazon

If pure portability is essential, consider the Razer Blade 14. This ultra-thin laptop measures just 0.66-inch thick and tips the scales at a mere 3.9 pounds, making it significantly smaller than most laptops with video editing chops. But Razer didn’t skimp on the firepower, loading the Blade 14 with AMD’s 8-core Ryzen 9 5900HX flagship CPU, Nvidia’s 8GB GeForce RTX 3080, a 1TB NVMe SSD, and 16GB of memory.

You’ll give up some perks in exchange for the Blade’s portability though: The 14-inch IPS-grade screen comes factory calibrated, but tops out at 2560×1440 resolution. 4K video editing is off the table, though the laptop supports the full DCI-P3 color gamut. Razer’s notebook also lacks an SD card slot. But if you need a fierce rig that can chew through edits and renders then slip easily into your bag, the Blade 14 is worth considering.

Read our full Review Razer Blade 14 (2021) 5. Dell Inspiron 16 – Best laptop for battery life Dell Inspiron 16 - Best laptop for battery life

Pros

Roomy 16-inch 16:10 display Long battery life Competitive application performance Comfortable keyboard and huge touchpad Quad speakers pump up the jams

Cons

Lone GPU upgrade is lackluster Can’t go bigger than 512GB SSD Large screen can feel awkward in tablet mode MSRP: $1,249.99 Best Prices Today: $1249.99 at Best Buy$1249.99 at Dell$1379.00 at Amazon

If it’s battery life that you’re concerned about, the Dell Inspiron 16 should cover you just fine. When we ran our battery benchmark, which cycles through a series of tasks and videos until the laptop dies, the Inspiron 16 lasted a marathon 16.5 hours on a single charge. That should allow you to edit to your heart’s content while out on the road. Due to the battery, it isn’t the most portable, however, weighing in at a substantial 4.7 pounds.

It’s rather inexpensive, but for the price you will have to make sacrifices. It sports a Intel Core i7-1260P CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. While that should get the job done with most video-editing projects, it does lack storage capacity, so you will need an external drive if your saving video files. What really makes this laptop shine though, is the outstanding battery life which is an often overlooked aspect of mobile video editors. And as a bonus perk, it also comes with a surprisingly robust quad speaker system. For ports, you’re getting two USB Type-C, one USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, one HDMI, one SD card reader, and one 3.5mm audio jack.

Read our full Review Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 6. MSI GE76 Raider – Best gaming laptop for video editing MSI GE76 Raider - Best gaming laptop for video editing

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

If you’re looking for the most raw firepower possible, on the other hand, nothing burns through video edits faster than a big, heavy gaming laptop. The MSI GE76 Raider chewed through the Adobe Premiere test in UL’s Procyon benchmark faster than any other notebook thanks to its burly 14-core Intel Core i9-12900HK chip, an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti tuned for a blistering 175 watts, and ample interior cooling. It even has an SD Express card reader hooked into the PCIe bus for high-speed card transfers. One downside to using last year’s model was its gamer-focused 360Hz 1080p display, but the higher-end version of this year’s 12UHS added a 4K, 120Hz panel that, while not tuned for content creation, should satisfy video editors much more, especially with its spacious 17.3-inch screen size. You sure pay for all that firepower, though.

Read our full Review GE76 Raider 12UHS 7. HP Envy 14 14t-eb000 (2021) – Best budget laptop for video editing HP Envy 14 14t-eb000 (2021) - Best budget laptop for video editing

Pros

Good value for the money Fantastic battery life Quiet fan, with no detectable performance throttling Thunderbolt 4 support

Cons

Slightly quirky keyboard layout Webcam’s signature feature is ineffective MSRP: 950.99 Best Prices Today: $950.99 at HP.com

You’ll need to spend up for heftier hardware if you want the fastest possible video edits and renders, but not everyone can afford to. If you want a solid, basic content creation laptop that won’t break the bank, check out the HP Envy 14. The entry-level GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU and Core i5-1135G7 processor aren’t barnburners, but they’ll get the job done, and at roughly $1,000 the price is certainly right. The 14-inch 1900×1200 display features a 16:10 aspect ratio for improved productivity, along with factory color calibration and 100-percent sRGB support (though not DCI-P3). Better yet, the HP Envy 14 includes crucial SD card and Thunderbolt ports, and it runs surprisingly quiet too.

Read our full Review HP Envy 14 14t-eb000 (2021) 8. Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 – Another gaming laptop that's great for content creation Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 - Another gaming laptop that's great for content creation

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: $2,442.00 at Amazon$3699.99 at Asus$3699.99 at Costco

The Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 is a video editor’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. Better yet for video editors, it also includes an SD card slot and Thunderbolt ports galore. 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 Review Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 9. XPG Xenia 15 KC – Powerful portability, with minor caveats XPG Xenia 15 KC - Powerful portability, with minor caveats

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: $1,699.00 at Amazon

When it comes to powerful 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 zippy performance across the board. 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, though its 1440p display and relatively slow SD card reader performance may make some content creators balk.

Read our full Review XPG Xenia 15 KC What to look for in a laptop for video editing

The most important thing to look for in a laptop for video editing is its CPU and GPU. The faster your hardware, the faster your edits, essentially. In addition to subjecting all of the laptops above to our usual battery of benchmarks, we also ran the UL Procyon Video Editing Test on several high-powered laptops to see which hardware performs best for this sort of work. The benchmark tasks Adobe Premiere with importing two different video projects, applying visual effects such as color grading and transitions, and then exporting it using H.264, H.265 at both 1080p and 4K.

UL Procyon Video Editing benchmarks

Right-click and select “open in new tab” to see in full resolution.

Gordon Mah Ung / IDG

The best performance came from big, heavy laptops running Intel’s 11th-generation processors, though notebooks with AMD’s beefy Ryzen 9 processors came in just behind, with 10th-gen Intel chips still putting up a respectable score. They’re not in the chart above, but newer Intel 12th-gen laptops run even faster still. The best-performing laptops all paired modern Intel CPUs with Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPUs, which isn’t surprising as both companies have invested a lot of time and resources into optimizing their Adobe performance.

The GPU matters more than CPU in Premiere Pro, though things reach a point of diminishing returns very quickly. Notebooks wielding top-tier RTX 3080 graphics are indeed faster at video editing than laptops with more modest RTX 3060 graphics, but not by that much. If you look at the scores from the Dell XPS 17 9710, its GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU is maybe 14 percent slower than the fastest RTX 3080 in the MSI GE76 Raider. That’s not a lot, especially when you consider how big and thick the GE76 Raider is compared to the Dell laptop.

In general, having any sort of discrete graphics is preferred, with at least an RTX 3060 recommended for serious video editing.

Video editing is very workflow dependent however. Your particular task and tool might be more CPU intensive, or lean more on the GPU than Premiere. If so, adjust your priorities accordingly. The selections above should all be great well-rounded options, however. Intel and Nvidia have spent years building up tools like Quick Sync and CUDA, respectively, and many video editing apps can see significant speed boosts because of it. AMD hardware does fine for video editing, but we recommend sticking to Intel and Nvidia unless you have a strong reason otherwise, especially if your workflow relies on their vendor-specific software optimizations.

Dell XPS 17 ports

If you’re transferring video from a camera, an SD card port (like this one on the Dell XPS 17) is essential, unless you’re comfortable plugging an SD card adapter into a high-speed USB or Thunderbolt port.

Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

It’s not all about the internals though. PCWorld video director Adam Patrick Murray stresses that an ideal laptop for video editing includes an SD card reader for grabbing video off a camera. He also recommends opting for a notebook with a 4K, 60Hz panel over the ultra-fast 1080p panels often found on gaming laptops that would otherwise be ideal for video editing. You need a 4K panel to edit 4K videos well, and blazing-fast refresh rates don’t mean anything for video editing like they do for gaming. If color accuracy matters to you—it might not if you’re only creating casual videos for your personal YouTube channel, for example—then support for the full DCI-P3 color gamut is also a must, along with Delta E < 2 color accuracy.

You won’t often find those sorts of specs listed for (or supported by) gaming laptops, but dedicated content creation laptops should include that information. That said, if you want the fastest possible laptop for video editing that can also satisfy your gaming proclivities, you can always pair that burly gaming laptop with a color-accurate external monitor for creation tasks.

If you’re looking for a more general purpose notebook, be sure to check out our guide to the best laptops for picks for every budget. You may also find solid laptops for video editing for cheap in our roundup of the best laptop deals, which we update daily with the latest sales.

Laptops
Microsoft rolls out Teams Premium with OpenAI superpowers

You’d think that collaborative chatting programs like Slack or Teams wouldn’t need too many bells and whistles in order to be effective tools. Microsoft would beg to differ. The new Teams Premium tier not only includes the usual unlimited messages and better organizational tools, it’s adding exclusive powers enabled by OpenAI’s GPT 3.5 language model. The new tier will be $10 per month per user starting on June 30th, but you can get a cheaper preview for $7 until then.

What does the fancy AI do? It’s mostly one headline feature, “intelligent recap.” This tool can “watch” meetings with Teams’ video feature and automatically generate meeting notes and recommended tasks, as well as a full transcription of what’s spoken in the meeting and by whom. It’ll also generate automatic chapter divides for recorded meetings, though at launch it only works if you use PowerPoint Live — which seems like something you could do without resorting to prodigious AI number-crunching.

Premium users will also be able to apply watermarks to Teams video and select which participants can record and which cannot, combining with sensitivity labels to create a larger focus on privacy and security. Less notable additions include expanded webinar tools and more robust alerts for meetings.

As noted by The Verge, the new Premium tier is also stealing some features away from the previous paid tier ($4 per user per month). Live translations for captions in 40 languages will remain on the bottom tier for the next 60 days, but will then be exclusive to Premium. Company-wide custom backgrounds and virtual appointments are also on the chopping block for less lucrative users.

GPT-powered additions to Teams are only the latest in the company’s wave of AI-infused tools. Microsoft’s Designer program uses extensive AI-generated art for publishing, and the company has been experimenting with ChatGPT in its Bing browser, among other pushes. Seeing all of these AI-powered additions to Microsoft software is a reminder of some of its less people-friendly actions as of late, like hosting an exclusive Sting concert for executives just a few hours before announcing 10,000 job cuts.

Professional Software
Windows 11’s big yearly update comes to your PC: 5 new features to try first

You may have found that your Windows PC recently updated itself, whether or not you wanted it to, as Microsoft began automatically upgrading Windows 11 PCs with its big annual update at the end of January. It’s been an optional upgrade since its September release. But that’s okay: there are plenty of new things to check out in the huge Windows 11 2022 Update, codenamed 22H2. The system has been given a bit of spit and polish pretty much everywhere — you probably noticed some of the more obvious interface changes, like new icons for changing volume.

Here are five of the more substantial changes you should check out first in the Windows 11 2022 Update. If you want to go even deeper down the Windows 11 rabbit hole, check out our guide to 10 Windows 11 tips and tricks we use to customize our PCs.

Clipchamp: A new, free video editor

Windows now has a new default video editor: Clipchamp. As a sort of spiritual successor to the likes of Windows Movie Maker, it’s simpler and more accessible than professional video editors — the kind of thing you can use for a quick cut or fade-in if you’re sharing a YouTube video with friends. The tool includes the usual basic timeline and editing capabilities, and it can upload directly to YouTube, TikTok, and various web storage services. 

Clipchamp timeline

Mark Hachman / Foundry

As of Windows 11 version 22H2, Clipchamp should be included in your operating system — just search for it in the Start Menu. If it’s not there, you can download it for free from the Microsoft StoreHere’s a full guide on the basics for this new tool.

Tabs in File Explorer 

Power users have been waiting for this one for a long time. Tabs are a feature that more advanced alternative file browsers have been using for decades, and Microsoft finally—finally—delivered a tabbed File Explorer in the Windows 11 2022 Update. Here’s a full guide on how to use them.

Windows 11 Tabbed File Explorer

Mark Hachman / IDG

To open a new tab in any Explorer window, just click the “+” button in the top most menu bar. Tabs work just like you’re used to in any modern web browser, though you can’t click and drag them into a new Explorer window (yet). While you’re here, check out the new, streamlined left-hand menu, with faster access to system folders and your most used locations. 

Folders in the Start Menu 

If you like to have a lot of apps within easy reach in the Start Menu, you’ll love the new folders feature. It works more or less just like folders do on the homescreen for Android or iOS (or perhaps more pertinently, Chrome OS). Any two or more shortcuts can be combined into a folder, and any folder can have a custom name. 

Windows 11 Start menu folders

Michael Crider/IDG

To get started, just click and drag one Start Menu icon onto another. When you see both of them shrink, release the mouse button and a folder will be created automatically. Click the new folder, then click the title to rename it. Any additional programs can be dragged in or out of the folder, and you can have as many folders as you like. 

New ways to use the Snap Bar 

The Snap Bar is one of the most useful multitasking tools in newer versions of Windows. You might have seen it if you frequently drag windows around by their title bar: it’s that thing that lets you move them to halves, thirds, or quadrants of your screen easily. But there are new ways to access it

Windows 11 snap bar

Michael Crider/IDG

Hover your mouse cursor (don’t click!) on the maximize window button, in between the close (X) and minimize (_) buttons in the upper-right corner. You’ll see the six most common layout options. Click on any of the sub-grids in this pop-up to send the window to that location. You can also activate this view by typing Win + Z, then a number, then a number again to “drill down” into the options. 

Revamped NotePad

NotePad is one of the oldest, simplest tools in all of Windows, but this basic text editor is a little more capable than you might remember. In the most basic version, it now follows the dark or light color scheme in your personalization settings. 

Windows 11 notepad dark and light

Michael Crider/IDG

Microsoft might have even more in store for the humble NotePad. As you read this, testing versions of Windows 11 are being updated with tabs in NotePad in a similar addition to Windows Explorer. Whether or not this will come to the full release remains to be seen. 

Want to discover even more cool computer tricks? Check out our roundup of 10 little-known Windows features that will blow your mind.

Windows
Best monitor deals: Gaming monitors, 4K workstations, and more

Picking the right monitor for your home office can be a time consuming task. That’s why we stepped in and curated a list of the best monitor deals available right now. From ridiculously high refresh rate gaming monitors to 4K workstations, we’ve got a wide variety to chose from. We also made sure to hit various price points as well as screen sizes, resolutions, response times, and other features. If you have any questions, we’ve even included a helpful FAQ section at the end of this article.

Everyday monitor deals

Sometimes all you need is a simple monitor for everyday tasks like web surfing, writing email’s, and so on. The picks below are great options for both work or personal use. They’re also good sizes for a home office.

Acer KA272, 27-inch 1080p display/75Hz refresh rate/1ms response time/FreeSync, $119.99 (36%/$70 off at Best Buy)Lenovo L27q-35, 27-inch 1440p display/75Hz refresh rate/FreeSync, $199.99 (13%/$30 off at Amazon)Sceptre E248W-19203R Series, 24-inch 1080p display/75Hz refresh rate/Adaptive Sync, $99.44 (20%/$25.53 off at Amazon)Acer R240HY, 23.8-inch 1080p display/60Hz refresh rate/16:9 aspect ratio, $99.99 (33%/$50 off at Amazon)

The Acer KA272 is a solid everyday monitor for the price, as the 1ms response time really gives it the edge.

Fore more options, check out PCWorld’s best home office monitor roundup.

Gaming monitor deals

There’s nothing more annoying than playing a competitive game on a monitor that lags. When every second matters, you need something that can keep up with the flow. That’s where gaming monitors come in. Their high refresh rates are designed to make your game look as smooth as possible.

Samsung Odyssey Neo G7, 32-inch curved 2160p display/165Hz refresh rate/1ms response time/FreeSync, $1,161.99 (11%/$138 off at Amazon)Samsung Odyssey G55A, 32-inch 1440p curved display/165Hz refresh rate/1ms response time/FreeSync, $328.88 (6%/$21.11 off at Amazon)

If you’re looking for the ultimate gaming experience, the Samsung Odyssey Neo G7 monitor is worth considering. The 32-inch curved 4K display is both sharp and beautiful.

For more options, check out PCWorld’s best gaming monitors roundup.

4K workstation monitor deals

Are you a content creator? If so, you should consider picking up a 4K monitor. These monitors are perfect for video editing thanks to their high resolution displays. They’re also a good pick for movie buffs. There’s nothing quite like watching your favorite flick on a 4K display, where the details are ultra-sharp.

ThinkVision P32p-20, 31.5-inch 2160p display/60Hz refresh rate/4ms response time, $499 (51%/$535 off at Lenovo)Samsung LU28R55OUQNXZA, 28-inch 2160p display/60Hz refresh rate/4ms response time, $299.99 (14%/$50 off at Best Buy)

When it comes to 4K displays, the bigger the better. You definitely want to see those details. The ThinkVision P32p-20 has a spacious 31.5-inch display, which is the ideal size for photo or video editors.

For more options, check out PCWorld’s best 4K monitors roundup.

FAQ 1. Which retailers offer good monitor deals?

Online retailers like Best Buy and Walmart have good discounts, that’s for sure. However, we’d recommend widening your net and buying directly from the manufacturers. Lenovo, for example, is currently having a Cyber Week sale. You can pick up a monitor or laptop for up to 78% off, which is nothing to sneeze at. Dell’s offering a similar sale in which you can save up to 60% and get free shipping.

2. What should I look for in a good gaming monitor?

When it comes to gaming monitors, refresh rate is important. The refresh rate is how fast a monitor can pull up an image on screen. The faster the fresh rate, the smoother your game will look. For competitive first-person shooters, where every second counts, we’d recommend 144Hz as the minimum rate. Anything higher is good enough for the eSports realm.

Resolution is another important feature to consider. Much like the refresh rate, the higher the number, the better. The resolution has a direct impact on image and video quality. 1080p is the best resolution for 24 inch monitors. For 27 inch monitors, 1440p is ideal.

Response time is a big one, too. Response time is how long it takes for a pixel to change color. A monitor with a 1ms (millisecond) response time, for example, is going to be faster than a monitor with a 5ms response time. This directly impacts how a monitor handles motion.

What about the size? Well, it depends on the distance from the screen. 24 inches is a good option if you’re about three feet from the screen, as it’s small enough to see everything without having to move your head around. 27 inches is better if you’re further than three feet away from the screen.

3. What should I look for in a good workstation monitor?

4K monitors produce ultra-sharp sharp images and video, so bigger is better in this case. In order to see all those tiny details, we’d suggest springing for a 31 inch monitor (at the very least). You need room for all those delicious pixels. That’s why 4K monitors are perfect for photo or video editors. Watching movies on these monitors is a delightful experience as well.

4. What size monitor should I buy?

In terms of monitor size, 27-inches is the most common. That’s a good size for a home office. For gaming monitors, 24 or 27 inches is best. You don’t want to be swinging your head around too much in the middle of a fast-paced match. Plus, a larger screen may cause eye strain if you’re sitting too close so it’s better to go smaller. For 4K monitors, go with a 31 inch. 4K resolution brings next-level visuals, so you definitely want to go bigger.

Monitors
AMD is ‘undershipping’ chips to balance CPU, GPU supply

As the PC industry flounders, Intel suffered from such disastrous sales last quarter that it instituted pay cuts and other extreme measures going forward. AMD’s client PC sales also dropped dramatically—a whopping 51 percent year-over-year—but the company managed to eke out a small profit despite the sky falling. So why aren’t CPU and GPU prices falling too? In a call with investors Tuesday night, CEO Lisa Su confirmed that AMD has been “undershipping” chips for a while now to balance supply and demand.

“We have been undershipping the sell-through or consumption for the last two quarters,” Su said, as spotted by PC Gamer. “We undershipped in Q3, we undershipped in Q4. We will undership, to a lesser extent, in Q1.”

With the pandemic winding down and inflation ramping up, far fewer people are buying CPUs, GPUs, and PCs. It’s a hard, sudden reverse from just months ago, when companies like Nvidia and AMD were churning out graphic cards as quickly as possible to keep up with booming demand from cryptocurrency miners and PC gamers alike. Now that GPU mining is dead, shelves are brimming with unsold chips.

Update: Drew Prairie, AMD’s VP of communications, reached out with the following clarification: “We are shipping below consumption because there is too much inventory in the channel and that partners want to carry lower levels of inventory based on the demand they are seeing and their expectations for their business…the idea we are doing this to keep prices “elevated” isn’t accurate. Our client ASP was flat year over year, and that is due to mix of CPUs shipped.”

This article originally published with the headline “AMD is ‘undershipping’ chips to keep CPU, GPU prices elevated” but it has been updated to reflect AMD’s clarification.

Despite the painfully high price tags of new next-gen GPUs, last-gen GeForce RTX 30-series and Radeon RX 6000-series graphics cards are still selling for very high prices considering their two-year-old status. Strategic under-shipping helps companies maintain higher prices for their wares.

The Flagship Radon RX 7900 XTX is on of the few 'worthy' next-gen GPUs Radeon RX 7900 XTX Radeon RX 7900 XTX Read our review MSRP: $999 Best Prices Today: $999 at B&H Photo | $999 at Newegg | Not Available at Best Buy

AMD isn’t the only one doing it, either.

“We’re continuing to watch each and every day in terms of the sell-through that we’re seeing,” Nvidia CFO Colette Kress said to investors in November. “So we have been undershipping. We have been undershipping gaming at this time so that we can correct that inventory that is out in the channel.”

Since then, Nvidia has released the $1,200 GeForce RTX 4080 and $800 RTX 4070 Ti, two wildly overpriced graphics cards, and tried positioning them as enthusiast-grade upsells over the RTX 30-series, rather than treating them like the usual cyclical upgrades. AMD’s $900 Radeon RX 7900 XT offers similarly disappointing value and the company recently released a blog post also positioning its new GPUs as enthusiast-grade upsells.

Overall gross margin is a key metric for chip companies, which burn through a ton of cash investing in R&D and cutting-edge technological processes. AMD’s market tricks helped it achieve a 51 percent non-GAAP gross margin last quarter, while Intel forecasted a terrifyingly low 34.1 percent gross margin for the upcoming quarter (hence its belt-tightening moves).

Intel Arc A750 Limited Edition Intel Arc A750 Limited Edition Read our review MSRP: $249 Best Prices Today: $249 at B&H Photo | $249 at Micro Center | $249 at Newegg

This all helps explain why street prices for standalone GPUs haven’t plummeted, even as deals on desktops and laptops have started ramping up. We expect—hope?—that as stocks dwindle down and competition ramps up, sanity will return to graphics card prices, mirroring AMD and Intel’s recent CPU price adjustments. Just this morning, Intel announced that its Arc A750 graphics card was getting a price cut to $250, instantly making it an all-too-rare tempting target for PC gamers on a budget.

CPUs and Processors, Graphics Cards

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Suspected Chinese Spy Balloon Prompts US Secretary of State to Cancel Beijing Trip     - CNET
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says it's a surveillance balloon, but China says it's used for meteorological research and that it drifted off course.
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Best iPhone in 2023: Which Apple Phone Should You Buy?     - CNET
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I’ve reviewed laptops for decades; and this $499 Core i7 2-in1 laptop is perfect for freelancers

When I first started writing about tech in the late 1990’s, Gateway 2000 was one of the computer companies that tried to do things differently, with its bovine-themed design filling the pages of computer magazines (aka dead tree with ink on it). “No matter how close you look, the quality shines through” reads one of the slogans. 

Fast forward to 2023, and Gateway 2000 is now an Acer brand that’s exclusive to Walmart, the world’s largest supermarket chain.

Gateway is probably one of the most underrated computer brands around, and the GWCC71416-BK, a svelte 2-in-1 convertible laptop that sells for $499 (down from $699), is perhaps the best example of the type of astounding value for money products Walmart can extract from its suppliers. 

Gateway 14.1 inch 2-in-1 Elite: A brief look

Three things make this laptop stand out for a freelancer: a Core i7 CPU, a stylus and a $499 price tag (with an optional $79, 3-year product protection warranty from Allstate). From afar, it looks like one of these expensive-looking Lenovo Yoga laptops but at a fraction of the price.

The stylus is particularly useful when paired with mind mapping software as part of a brainstorming session with a client or as an electronic sidekick with a note taking app like Onenote.

Other than the 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU (with an integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics card), there’s 8GB non-upgradable DDR4 RAM and a 256GB SSD (likely to be a PCIe NVMe Gen 3). 

The display is a 14.1-inch touchscreen full HD IPS with a rather large bezel to help with holding the device - a good choice given that the device is about 1.5kg/3.4lbs.

We're not sure what Wi-Fi card is bundled with the Elite but given the presence of Bluetooth 5.1, we’d say that the GWCC71416-BK uses an Intel AX201 NGW which offers Wi-Fi 6, with Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 being the faster wireless iterations. Audio is handled by THX technology and there’s two stereo speakers that should deliver good enough sounds.

Walmart also didn’t disclose the battery capacity of this laptop, but states that it can last up to 10 hours which is believable given the low power consumption of the Core i7. In fact, it is likely that the screen will be the biggest power hog of the system; which brings us to another important point. We don’t know how bright the screen is, although we’d expect it to be at least 300 nits.

While the keyboard is backlit, there’s no fingerprint reader and the 2-megapixel front facing camera doesn’t have a privacy shutter, two key features to make it a proper business laptop. That said, the GWCC71416-BK does have adequate expansion capabilities: two USB ports, a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. There’s no Ethernet or HDMI ports so you will have to get a docking station if you want extra connectors.

Lenovo Yoga 6
If you want a bit more oomph (and for an extra $160), consider the award winning Yoga 6 from Lenovo which comes with a more powerful 6-core processor, dual microphones, a fingerprint reader, a privacy shutter, a more compact/lightweight chassis and an infrared camera.

Many security teams are prioritizing prevention over detection, with disastrous results

When it comes to securing the premises, the majority of businesses are prioritizing prevention over detection, investigation, and response, a new report has found. However as a result, large numbers of firms are being hit by data breaches or other attacks, with the incidents constantly getting worse.

Researchers at Exabeam surveyed 500 IT security professionals, finding roughly two-thirds of the respondents (65%) prioritize prevention as their number one endpoint security goal.

For a third (33%) - detection was the highest priority. 

Too late to the party

To make matters even worse - the businesses are actually acting on this thinking. Almost three-quarters (71%) spend between 21% and 50% of their IT security budgets on prevention, while 59% invest the same amount as they do for detection, investigation, and response.

The trouble with this approach, according to Exabeam’s Chief Security Strategist, Steve Moore, is that the firms are focusing on prevention with crooks already inside the walls, rendering their efforts futile.

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“As widely known, the real question is not if attackers are in the network, but how many there are, how long have they had access, and how far have they gone,” Moore says. “Teams need to socialize this question and treat it as an unwritten expectation to realign their investments and on which to perform, placing the necessary focus on adversary alignment and incident response. Prevention has failed.” 

When asked if they are sure they can prevent attacks, most respondents answered positively. In fact, 97% said they felt confident in their tools and processes, to prevent and identify intrusions and data breaches. 

However, when asked if they’d easily tell their boss their networks weren’t breached at the time, just 62% would say yes, meaning more than a third had their doubts. 

In other words, Exabeam says, security teams are overconfident and has data to back it up. Citing industry reports, the company claims 83% of organizations experienced more than one data breach last year.

These are the best firewalls today
Sony’s new AV receivers with PS5 & Sonos support are the future-proof option we need

I recently had the opportunity to get an in-person and in-depth overview of Sony’s new ES AV receiver lineup at an event that happened in an atypically frozen-over Austin, Texas. Fortunately, the power remained on long enough – icy rains had knocked it out for 120,000 Austin customers during my stay – to get a thorough demo of these impressive models, the first new receivers to emerge from Sony in five years. 

There are five new models in total: four ES receivers aimed at the professional custom installation channel, and one consumer model. All receivers share many of the same features, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding and multiple HDMI 2.1 ports with 8K, 4K 120Hz, Dolby Vision HDR, and IMAX Enhanced support. 

They also support Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), making them a future-proof option for gamers. Sony TV and PlayStation 5-specific perks include pass-through of Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode, features meant to optimize picture quality for specific PS5 games on compatible Sony Bravia TVs.

The ES models are designed to fully integrate with many of the key whole-house control systems on the market such as Crestron, Savant, and Control4. Furthermore, they are Works with Sonos certified, which lets them connect up to a multiroom wireless Sonos system.

STR-AZ7000ES: 13.2 channel ($3,299.99)STR-AZ5000ES: 11.2 channel ($2,099.99)STR-AZ3000ES: 9.2 channel ($1,699.99)STR-AZ1000ES: 7.2 channel ($1,099.99)STR-AN1000: 7.2 channel ($899.99)

All receivers are available now for presale and come with a 5-year warranty.

ES series power output specs range from 100 watts-per-channel on the 7.2 model to 150 watts-per-channel on the 13.2 flagship. The 7.2-channel STR-AN1000 consumer model is rated at 165 watts. Sony’s new receivers all sport a range of design changes meant to improve both sound quality and reliability, with new 32-bit DACs, large capacitor power transformers, and a frame buffer board chassis. The ES offerings have also been beefed up with a 200% thicker bottom panel and 120% thicker side walls than previous models.

Sony 360 degree spatial sound mapping illustration

Phantom speakers generated by Sony's 360 Spatial Sound Mapping processing. (Image credit: Sony)

A new processing feature for Sony’s 2023 receiver lineup is 360 Spatial Sound Mapping. Previously used in the company’s HT-A9 wireless speaker system this can work to fill in sonic “gaps” in a typical 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker configuration. 360 Spatial Sound Mapping is enabled via the company’s new Digital Cinema Calibration IX, a feature that uses a stereo microphone to do variable height measurements of distance, angle, and sound pressure of each speaker and create a 3D sound map of the room. Once that’s done, you press the 360SSM button on Sony’s remote control and 360 Spatial Sound Mapping generates phantom speakers between the system's actual speakers to deliver an enhanced sense of immersion.

Along with phantom speakers, Sony’s new receivers also support wireless ones. The company’s SA-RS5 and SA-RS3S wireless models can optionally be added for use as rear-channel speakers, and the same option applies to its SA-SW5 and SA-SW3 wireless subwoofers.

New audio options 

Streaming music to Sony’s receivers is made easy with ChromeCast, AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect support. Works with Sonos also means you can integrate the receiver with your home’s wireless multiroom system and control music playback using the Sonos S2 app when a device like that company’s Port is connected.

The new receivers are also Sony’s first models to support 360 Reality Audio. Music encoded using Sony’s proprietary Spatial Audio mixing format can be found on services like Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited, and you can stream it to the receiver via Chromecast or play it from apps on a connected Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K or Apple TV 4K.

Sony STR-AN1000 AV receiver on white background

(Image credit: Sony ) Analysis: A/V receivers are finally ready for the future 

It’s been a minute since we’ve heard about a new Sony AV receiver, but these latest models appear well worth the wait. That delay might actually have been strategic on the company’s part, since HDMI 2.1 hardware supporting the full range of HDMI 2.1 features like 8K and 4K 120Hz pass-through wasn’t readily available to manufacturers, some of whom pushed through half-baked products with a promise of enabling more features in a “future firmware update.”

The best AV receivers now ship with comprehensive HDMI 2.1 support, making them perfect home theater companions for next-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X | S consoles. Sony’s latest models fit exactly into this category, and they offer a whole range of tech-forward expansion options on top, including Works with Sonos and other whole-home integration features.

At Sony’s Austin event I had the opportunity to listen to music encoded in 360 Reality Audio (Come Through, by H.E.R. and Chris Brown), and the adventurous object-based mix made generous use of 360 degree space. Two-channel music can also be upmixed to 360 Reality Audio, so it’s a feature that can be applied to legacy sources as well. 

The home theater demo room where I watched movie clips and listened to music was powered by Sony’s new STR-AZ7000ES flagship, and the 9.6.4 presentation – using KEF speakers and subwoofers, no less – was powerfully immersive. There were so many speakers on tap that the receiver’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping wasn’t needed!

I’m sure that 360SSM will improve the performance of my own 5.1.2-channel system, and since Sony sent me an STR-AN1000 to test, I’ll soon be able to report back on that.

Twitter API no longer free as platform will begin charging, angering developers

It’s a sad day for our favorite gimmick Twitter accounts, as we might have to soon say goodbye to them. Late Wednesday night, the official Twitter Developer account announced the platform will stop offering free access to the platform’s API (Application Programming Interface) on February 9.

Access to Twitter API v1.1 and v2 will soon be replaced with a “paid basic tier,” which may further cripple third-party support. Twitter API allows third-party developers to access publicly available Twitter data to create bots or apps for the site. We're not just talking about bots like RemindMe_OfThis that basically remind users of tweets they come across; researchers have, in the past, used the API to track online hate speech

It appears that the developers are trying to capitalize on the sheer amount of data on the platform. As the Twitter Developer account said in a thread, “Over the years, hundreds of millions of people have sent over a trillion Tweets, with billions more every week… Twitter data are among the world’s most powerful data sets.” The new price point for the tier hasn't been revealed. Rather, it was hinted at with the account saying it will give more details sometime next week.

Making money

It does appear this is another attempt by Twitter (and its contentious CEO Elon Musk) to make money off the platform. Purchasable APIs aren’t anything new on Twitter, but they’re more geared towards businesses. Enterprising users can collect a bunch of “Tweets posted within the last 30 days” based on a certain query using the Premium Search API, but doing so means paying Twitter up to $2,500 for up to 10,000 requests per month. However, is it a wise move when advertisers have been fleeing in droves?

That isn’t to say the platform will charge developer thousands of dollars to use Twitter’s API to build a bot (we don’t know that yet). It’s entirely possible developers will only have to pay $99 a month or less for access.  However, given the recent banning of third-party apps as a part of “enforcing... long-standing API rules” and the $12.5 billion mountain of debt Elon Musk is under because of his Twitter purchase, it’s hard to imagine things will stay cheap.

For mega companies like Google, this probably changes nothing. But for small-time developers, like the ones behind the Ace Attorney Court Bot on Twitter, this spells doom for them unless they can somehow scrounge up the money for the expected high costs.  

Update: Twitter CEO Elon Musk has recently hinted at how much the API will cost moving forward, stating the abuse of the free API "by bot scammers and opinion manipulators" as the main reason for this change. He says it'll cost around $100 a month for access with "ID verification". That last part appears to be referring to a recently leaked feature that allows users to upload their legal ID to become verified. So, it also looks like ID-verification on Twitter is real and in the works.

User outcry

Outcry has been deafening on Twitter. Look through the Developer thread and quote tweets, and you will find nearly 50,000 users criticizing the end of the free API. One user, Luca Hammer, said that “this change will destroy research, activism, and commercial projects” and he’s going to stop “work on non-commercial projects that use the API”. Hammer goes on to say he will “have to re-evaluate which commercial projects are still feasible.” Others bemoan the short notice, calling it “cruel”.

At this point, we would've liked to ask Twitter about this new move; however, their press contact is nowhere to be found. We'll be sure to reach out... if we ever find it.

It is a shame Twitter continues turning its back against developers. APIs are a great way for users to improve a service without the company having to spend time and money developing a new feature. If you’re thinking your hand at making bots with an API on another service, it’s recommended you utilize some endpoint protection to keep you safe

YouTube's Go Live Together lets you co-host a livestream – but there's a catch

YouTube is rolling out a brand new collaboration feature allowing two people to livestream at the same time – the aptly named Go Live Together.

The way it works is one creator can invite another user to co-host a livestream. You can only host one guest at a time, but other people can be rotated in and out during that same livestream. It’s similar to how a FaceTime call works minus the group capability.

Technically, Go Live Together first launched at the beginning of November 2022 when it was first revealed on YouTube’s own Creator Insider channel. Back then, it was only available to a handful of content creators, and by the looks of it, not much has changed since. 

The small catch is as the host channel must have at least 50 subscribers before they’re allowed to use the feature. The invitee, however, is not restricted by this requirement. It can be anybody: big or small channels. 

grab a friend & start a co-stream 🤝🤩 introducing Go Live Together, a new way to easily start a co-stream & invite a guest, all from your phone! 📱creators need 50+ subs to host co-streams, but anyone can be a guest! more info here: https://t.co/g6PdxJY7ux pic.twitter.com/lmDDogXQ5tFebruary 2, 2023

See more Availability

Go Live Together is now available on iOS and Android phones, so be sure to download the latest version of YouTube on mobile if you want to try it out. Instructions on how to get a shared livestream are available on Google’s support page, but to give a quick run down, you’ll have to first tap the plus symbol at the bottom of the YouTube app. “Go Live Together” will pop up in the bottom menu. Select that, invite your guest, and you’re good to go.

A desktop rendition of Go Live Together is currently in the works, but it’s unknown when it will launch. According to TeamYouTube on Twitter, they’ll keep everyone updated when there’s more to share.

Other reports state it’s possible for a host channel to schedule a co-stream via YouTube on desktop, but that’s as far as it goes. You ultimately have to use the mobile app to actually have the livestream. In the meantime until Go Live Together arrives on desktop, you can always try out Google Meet. Last summer Google Meet support was expanded to YouTube for hosting large scale events on the platform. 

If you’re interested in diving into the world of livestreaming, now’s a good time to give it a shot so you can be prepared for when YouTube expands Go Live Together –   since, let's be honest, a desktop version feels like an inevitability. Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best free streaming software featuring the likes of OBS Studio and Steamlabs on there.  

Cisco fixes security flaw that could have allowed sneaky hacking

Cisco has confirmed it patched a high-severity flaw that was impacting its IOx application hosting environment. 

Cisco IOx is an application environment that allows consistent deployment of applications that are independent of the network infrastructure and docker tooling for development. It is used by a wide range of businesses, from manufacturing, to energy, to the public sector.

The flaw, tracked as CVE-2023-20076, allowed threat actors to achieve persistence on the operating system, thus gaining the ability to execute commands, remotely.

Who is affected?

"An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by deploying and activating an application in the Cisco IOx application hosting environment with a crafted activation payload file," Cisco said in its security advisory. 

Users running IOS XE without native docker support are affected, as well as those running 800 Series Industrial ISR routers, CGR1000 compute modules, IC3000 industrial compute gateways, IR510 WPAN industrial routers, and Cisco Catalyst access point (COS-APs) endpoints.

Catalyst 9000 Series switches, IOS XR and NX-OS software, and Meraki products, are unaffected by the flaw, the company added.

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The caveat with this vulnerability is that the threat actors need to already be authenticated as an administrator on the vulnerable systems. 

Still, researchers from Trellix, who first discovered the flaw, said crooks could easily pair this vulnerability with others, in their malicious campaigns. Authentication can be obtained with default login credentials (many users never change them), as well as through phishing and social engineering. 

After authenticating, CVE-2023-20076 can be abused for "unrestricted access, allowing malicious code to lurk in the system and persist across reboots and firmware upgrades."

"Side-stepping this security measure means that if an attacker exploits this vulnerability, the malicious package will keep running until the device is factory reset or until it is manually deleted."

The good news is that so far there is no evidence of the flaw being exploited in the wild but still, if you use this solution, make sure it's updated to the latest version. 

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Via: BleepingComputer

Microsoft Visual Studio add-ins could be used to deliver malware

Following the demise of macros in Microsoft Office files, it seems that another alternative method is gaining popularity, new reports have claimed.

Cybersecurity researchers from Deep Instinct have discovered an uptick in the use of Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) among cybercriminals, as they build malicious Office add-ins which help them achieve persistence and run malicious code on target endpoints.

What hackers are doing here is building .NET-based malware, and then embedding it into an Office add-in, a practice that requires the threat actor to be somewhat more skilled. 

Bypassing antivirus

The method is hardly new but wasn’t as popular while Office macros were dominating. Now that Microsoft effectively eliminated that threat, VSTO-built threats are emerging in greater numbers. These add-ins can be sent together with Office documents, or hosted elsewhere and triggered by an Office document sent by the attackers. 

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In other words, the victim still needs to download and run an Office file and the add-in in order to get infected, so phishing will still play a major role. That being said, the attack vector is still quite dangerous as it is capable of successfully working around antivirus programs and other malware protection services. In fact, Deep Instinct was able to create a working Proof-of-Concept (PoC) that delivered the Meterpreter payload to the endpoint. The video demonstration of the PoC can be found on this link. The researchers said they were forced to disable Microsoft Windows Defender just to record the process. 

Meterpreter, a security product used for penetration testing, was easy for antivirus products to detect, however, all the elements of the PoC were not detected, they said.

In conclusion, the researchers expect the number of VSTO-built attacks to continue rising. They also expect nation-states and other “high caliber” actors to adopt the practice as well.

Stay safe online with the best firewalls today

Via: BleepingComputer

China's first practical quantum computer has been around for a year

Chinese firm Origin has produced the country's useable quantum computer that has real-world applications.

A report from Science and Technology Daily, one of the nation's state-run newspapers, confirmed that Origin's Wuyuan quantum computer has been in use for a year now, but did not say which client or industry was using it.  

China now joins the US and Canada as the only known countries to have this bleeding-edge technology on an applicable scale. 

More to come?

Origin's Wuyuan has some impressive specs, featuring a 24-qubit processor with superconducting chip technology. It also has its own suite of software, as well as the ability to work over the cloud, so it can be used remotely.

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IBM says quantum computing could be a big risk to the future of encryption

>
Sorry, quantum computing isn’t as mind-blowing as you think

What's more, Origin is working on its next quantum computer called Wukong, that is said to be coming in the near future. Interesting, in the ongoing chip war between USA and China, Origin hasn't been blacklisted from using US quantum computing technologies like other vendors have, suggesting that perhaps Origin's creations are wholly its own. 

Even though it looks as if there is only one Wuyuan in use, there are reports that more may be coming or in fact already be in use by other clients.

Quantum computers are the next stage in super computing, using the principles of quantum mechanics to radically change the architecture of how computers work to achieve exponentially higher speeds than standard supercomputers can. The high level applications of quantum computers include weapon development, complex problem solving, codebreaking and scientific research, to name a few. 

Major chip makers are getting involved in this state-of-the-art technology. IBM, for instance, recently developed a massive 433-qubit processor, and even hopes to rapidly progress beyond this, boldly claiming that a 4,000 qubit processor will be made by 2025. 

If such claims are realized and the general air of optimism around quantum computing turns out to be warranted, then there may be some seismic discoveries and breakthroughs in all kinds of fields laying in wait.

For now, you'll have to make do with the best computers you can currently buy
Samsung's stunning The Frame TV drops to a record-low price ahead of Super Bowl

Super Bowl TV deals are live at Samsung, and we've just spotted Samsung's best-selling The Frame TV down to a record-low price. For a limited time, you can get Samsung's 65-inch The Frame TV on sale for $1,599.99 (was $1,999.99). That's a whopping $400 discount and the lowest price we've ever seen for the art-inspired QLED display.

The 2022 Samsung The Frame TV delivers a stunning picture thanks to its QLED display and transforms into a beautiful work of art when you aren't watching TV. The Samsung set features a dedicated Art Mode, allowing you to choose from various picture frame options to display classic artworks or photography. You're also getting customizable bezels, so you can select a style and color to match your home decor, and smart capabilities with Amazon Alexa built-in for hands-free control.

If you've been wanting to get your hands on Samsung's pricey but gorgeous display, today's offer is the lowest price we've ever seen and beats the recent Black Friday deal. You can find more of today's best Super Bowl TV deals from Samsung further down the page, and we've got all the information you need on how to watch the Super Bowl too.

Samsung Super Bowl TV deal

Samsung 65-inch The Frame QLED 4K Smart TV (2022): was $1,997.99 now $1,599.99 at Samsung
Our favorite Samsung Super Bowl TV deal is the stunning 65-inch The Frame TV on sale for a record-low price of $1,599.99. The best-selling display transforms into a beautiful piece of art to seamlessly blend into your home's decor and includes customizable bezels, a QLED screen, and smart capabilities.

75-inch model on sale for $2,299.99 $1,999.99
85-inch model
on sale for $4,299.99 $3,299.99 View Deal

See the full Samsung Super Bowl TV sale More Samsung Super Bowl TV deals

Samsung 75-inch 4K Smart TV: was $799.99 now $679.99 at Samsung
Today's cheapest display from Samsung's Super Bowl TV sale is this entry-level 75-inch 4K TV down to just $679.99. A solid choice for a big screen on a budget, this 4K UHD from Samsung is one of the company's entry-level displays and packs a solid 'Crystal' UHD 4K processor, an easy-to-use Tizen operating system, and full HDR support.View Deal

Samsung 85-inch AU8000 Crystal 4K Smart TV: was $1,499 now $1,299.99 at Samsung
If you don't need a QLED display but still want a premium picture experience, Samsung's AU8000 Crystal series is a fantastic option, and you can grab this massive 85-inch model for $1,299.99. The AU8000 models omit fancy features like a local dimming backlight, quantum dots, and 120Hz input for gaming, but if you're looking for a great deal on a big TV, this here is it.View Deal

Samsung 65-inch QN90B QLED 4K Smart Tizen TV: was $2,599.99 now $1,699.99 at Samsung
We love Samsung's QLED TVs for their vibrant and crisp picture quality and smart TV capabilities, and in our review of the QN90B Series, we loved its premium features at a reasonable price compared to its competitors. This 65-inch model is on sale for $1,699.99, thanks to today's whopping $900 discount.View Deal

Samsung 85-inch QN900B Neo QLED 8K Smart TV (2022): was $8,499.99 now $4,999.99 at Samsung
Samsung's Super Bowl TV deals include this massive 85-inch Neo QLED 8K T for $4,999.99 - the lowest price we've ever seen. The 2022 QLED TV delivers brilliant colors with bold, crisp images that come to life thanks to Samsung's powerful 8K Neural Quantum processor. You're also getting Dolby Atmos sound, smart capabilities, and an ultra-wide viewing angle with a super-slim display - perfect for hosting a party for the big game.View Deal

See more of the best cheap TV deals happening now, and if you're looking for a more premium display you can see our best OLED TV deals roundup.

You can also see more upcoming bargains with our guide to the best Presidents' Day sales of 2023.

The horses in Dragon Age were lying to you

The creative director of Dragon Age, John Epler, has revealed that the game’s horses have been lying to us the entire time, thanks to the magic of creative thinking and camera angles. 

In the lead-up to Dragon Age 4, more and more gems have been dropping about the beloved action RPG game Dragon Age Inquisition. In a Twitter post, Epler dropped some hard truths about how sprinting on a horse didn’t actually make you go faster. 

In reality, the game engine BioWare used to develop Dragon Age Inquisition called Frostbite “couldn’t stream in levels fast enough,” Epler said. This meant that the team was forced to change the camera angle and add speed lines when you started sprinting on your horse to make you feel as if you were faster. 

Engine failure  

Dragon Age Inquisition landscape

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

This isn’t the only time Frostbite failed the dev team. According to a [report] by Kotaku, the engine was the bane of many devs' existence. “Frostbite is like an in-house engine with all the problems that entails—it’s poorly documented, hacked together, and so on—with all the problems of an externally sourced engine,” a former BioWare employee said.

BioWare also used Frostbite for their online multiplayer RPG Anthem. This engine could make expansive and stunning levels, but it wasn’t equipped to handle the finer details. This forced the team to cut back many features that could not function because of the engine.  

More lies  

While the lie about the horse speeds is certainly reality-shattering for me, it isn’t the only slip-up in Dragon Age Inquisition. This RPG has a somewhat complicated story with rogue Magi, civil war, and a space-bending rift that breaks a hole in the boundary between the physical world and the Fade, a place of spirits and demons. But one of the most crucial plot points is the mark left on your character's hand, which is the only thing capable of closing said rifts. 

Dragon Age Inquisition river

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

As you would think, this vibrant green mark gives your hero instant main character qualities and propels them into the center of this violent story. So I was pretty surprised when I saw this iconic and powerful mark on the wrong hand in all of Dragon Age Inquisition’s marketing material. In the posters, you can see the glowing green light emanating from the Inquisitor’s right hand when it should be on the left, according to the game.

While this isn’t as groundbreaking as the discovery that my horse has been lying to me all these years, I always thought that it was a weird slip-up to make. I’ve seen some reasons that this was a silent nod to The Legend of Zelda and Link, who has the same pose, while others just think telling right from the left can be hard sometimes. Either way, this adds to the strangely increasing list of lies and slip-ups in Dragon Age Inquisition, and I think that’s hilarious.

Everything we know about Solas, the Dreadwolf in Dragon Age 4
Tim Cook says Apple Pay Later will still launch - just not yet

Apple has confirmed it still aims to launch its own Buy Now Pay Later scheme later this year, despite growing concerns that ongoing delays might have meant the project's cancellation.

Apple Pay Later was first announced in June 2022, but has suffered multiple delays and setbacks since then. It was initially expected to launch alongside iOS 16 back in September 2022, but now looks set for release some time in 2023.

The company's official iOS website currently states that Apple Pay Later is, "coming in a future update" - but now the company's CEO appears to have shed some light on when this may be.

Apple Pay Later, soon

Speaking to CNBC around the company's Q1 2023 financial results, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that plans to launch the service are still underway - although he was unable to put a concrete date on the board.

“It will be launching soon,” Cook noted, with CNBC saying he had also revealed Apple employees were beta testing the service.

Read more

> Apple could be working on a whole host of financial and banking tools

Apple Pay Later could be facing some serious delays

These are the best mobile credit card processors

Built into Apple Wallet, and available both online and within apps, Apple Pay Later is set to be available as a payment option for high-cost products alongside paying in full whenever a user checks out with Apple Pay or Wallet.

The service is built on Mastercard's network, and gives users a clear view of exactly what payment amounts are expected, and on which date. Users have the option to pay early to clear a balance if wanted, with Apple saying the tool is "designed with users’ financial health in mind".

Apple has been trying to get into the financial services industry for some time, as it looks to offer its customers a full range of products alongside its popular hardware, such as the iPhone, iPad and Mac lines.

Apple's Tap to Pay on iPhone service launched in February 2022 in a significant show of support for small businesses everywhere, allowing thousands of them to accept payment via iPhone. 

Initially only available in the US, Tap to Pay on iPhone uses NFC to securely complete and process transactions, and will work on the iPhone XS and newer models.

The company recently announced Tap to Pay is now an option on the iOS apps for PayPal and Venmo, meaning merchants who already use these services will have more ways to accept payment without the need for cash.

Accept payments on the go with one of the best mobile payment apps
Your Android smartphone could be getting a popular iOS 16 camera feature

Usually, Android devices are the testbed for innovative smartphone features that Apple designers eventually improve upon and incorporate into their devices; but it seems that, for a change, Google wants to adopt a popular iOS 16 feature for an upcoming version of its OS.

At WWDC 2022 Apple unveiled an iOS 16 and macOS Ventura 13 update called Continuity Camera. Rather than relying on your Mac’s inbuilt webcam, you could instead use one of the best iPhones running the latest OS, and take advantage of its souped-up cameras, microphone, and video effects.

Third-party apps could allow the best Android phones  to be used in a similar way, but according to Google Open Source Project changelogs, it appears that a feature similar to Continuity Camera could become a baked-in feature for a future version of Android (via Mishaal Rahman on Twitter).

Currently named 'DeviceAsWebcam', it would (as you can probably guess from the name) turn “an android device into a webcam.” However, little else is known about the feature right now.

It does appear that it will allow for a wired USB connection – which suggests you won’t be limited to one computer OS, as is the case with Continuity Camera – though it’s unclear if Continuity Camera features like Desk View (which lets you see your desk and face at the same time), or Centre Stage and Studio Light (which keep you in the shot, and make you appear brighter than the background respectively) will appear in the Android iteration.

What’s more, there’s no guarantee we’ll see DeviceAsWebcam appear anytime soon. While it’s certainly possible that it will launch with Android 14, depending on how far into development the tool is, we could see it delayed until Android 15, which is at least a year away, or even Android 16.

We’ll have to wait and see what Google announces at Google I/O 2023 – it’s big annual developer’s conference, which we expect will be in May – but be on the lookout for DeviceAsWebcam among the list of new tools headed to our Android smartphones.

Google and VMware are finally working together in the cloud

Google Cloud appears to be opening up to a new series of cooperation with some potentially surprising new partnerships that could see it attract more customers who have loyalties to other brands, too.

According to a Google Open Source Blog post, Google Cloud Engine customers can now choose to use VMWare ESXi as their underlying hypervisor where they were previously required to use the open-source KVM hypervisor. 

Google explains that new users can, “migrate [their] VMware-based disaster recovery and backup workloads to Google Cloud to reduce management and storage costs, while using the same tools, processes, and policies that [they] use on-premises.”

Google Cloud VMWare Engine

A support document highlight’s its “key partners”, Zerto, Dell, Veeam, Cohesity, and NetApp, which have ”certified disaster recovery, backup and storage solutions that work seamlessly with VMware Engine.”

Google is inviting customers to try it out now, offering an enticing proposition of money-saving by reviewing whether users may be able to automate some of their current manual processes using infrastructure-as-code.

Read more

> These are the best cloud hosting providers around

> Zoom and Google Meet are coming closer together at last

> Microsoft Defender is getting much better at protecting Linux endpoints

The company has also recently announced plans to bring Microsoft 365 to its Chromebooks. Up until now, Microsoft users have had to use the progressive web app versions of its office software, however the company is set to offer a more fixed solution with installable apps.

A full launch isn’t expected for another couple of months, but developers and beta testers may be able to get their hands on the tools even sooner. 

More widely, some have been led to believe that such “improbable alliances” may become more commonplace, including The Register. In a world of growing economic pressure, companies may look to reduce overlap and share technologies in a cost-cutting measure, and this duo of Google announcements could just be the start of a new trend to grace the tech industry.

These are your top bets for the best cloud storage and cloud backups
7 new movies and TV shows on Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max and more this weekend (February 3)

Let’s cut to the chase: this weekend might be the worst in history for new things to watch on streaming services. Despite last week’s crop of headline-grabbing arrivals – which included new Netflix series Lockwood & Co. and another Harrison Ford-starring drama – the next few days are drier than the Sahara on almost every major platform. 

That’s not to say there’s nothing at all to watch this weekend – Netflix, in particular, has a couple of interesting projects up its sleeve – but the distinct lack of franchise and sequel content is sure to provide a much-needed boost to movie theater attendance the world over. 

Below, we’ve rounded up seven of the biggest new movies and TV shows to stream on Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max and more. We apologize in advance. 

Dear Edward (Apple TV Plus)

Apple will be hoping to continue its good run of form with new family drama series Dear Edward, which begins streaming on Apple TV Plus this weekend. 

An adaptation of Ann Napolitano’s novel of the same name, this 10-part story centers on 12-year-old boy (Colin O'Brien) whose life is upended when he becomes the sole survivor of a commercial plane crash that kills everyone on board, including the rest of his family. 

Granted, that synopsis doesn’t exactly make Dear Edward sound like a barrel of laughs, but the success of (and critical praise for) its source material could potentially land the series a spot on our list of the best Apple TV Plus shows. Its first three episodes are available to stream now. 

Now available to stream on Apple TV Plus.

Cunk on Earth (Netflix) 

Having debuted on BBC in the UK back in September 2022, acclaimed mockumentary series Cunk on Earth now finds its way onto Netflix internationally. 

Created by Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker, the show follows fictional investigative journalist Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan) –  a character who has appeared in several Brooker projects throughout the last decade – as she interviews unsuspecting academics about the greatest inventions in human history, Borat-style. 

Guest stars throughout the series’ five episodes include Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani, Hugh Grant and Tracey Ullman, so you’re guaranteed at least one laugh from Cunk on Earth.

Now available to stream on Netflix.

Harlem season 2 (Prime Video) 

Girls Trip creator Tracy Oliver’s acclaimed comedy series, Harlem, returns for its highly anticipated second season on Prime Video this weekend. 

Once again following misadventures of a group of stylish and ambitious girlfriends (played by Megan Good, Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai and Jerrie Johnsonin) in the eponymous New York City neighborhood, Harlem season 2 finds the gang reckoning with complicated questions of fertility and parenthood. 

Episodes 1 and 2 are available to stream on Prime Video now, with the remaining six installments set to arrive in pairs on a weekly basis every Friday. 

Now available to stream on Prime Video.

True Spirit (Netflix) 

If you’re in the mood for an uplifting and excessively saccharine family adventure this weekend, look no further than True Spirit on Netflix. 

This true story-inspired new Netflix movie dramatizes 16-year-old Jessica Watson's quest to become the youngest person to complete a non-stop solo sail around the globe. Teagan Croft, Anna Paquin and Cliff Curtis all star.

Judging by the film's trailer, we’re not expecting True Spirit to break onto our list of the best Netflix movies any time soon – but critics have nonetheless called this one “an empowering tribute to a magnificent achievement.”

Now available to stream on Netflix.

The Great British Baking Show: The Professionals (Netflix)

The judges of The Great British Baking Show: The Professionals

(Image credit: Channel 4)

The pro-grade spin-off to beloved UK import The Great British Bake Off returns for its sixth season on Netflix this weekend. 

For those not in-the-know, The Great British Baking Show: The Professionals swaps out its parent show’s tent, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith in favor of a luxurious catering kitchen, intentionally haughty judges and – you guessed it! – professional patisserie chefs as its embattled contestants. 

The bread-and-butter format of The Professionals, though, is identical to that of The Great British Baking Show, so existing fans will likely find plenty of culinary carnage to enjoy here. 

Now available to stream on Netflix.

Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over (HBO Max) 

This week’s documentary pick is Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over on HBO Max. 

Chronicling the titular singer’s iconic six-decade career in both music and activism, this feature-length production combines archive footage with commentary from Warwick herself, alongside revealing insights from the likes of Quincy Jones, Bill Clinton, Gladys Knight, Elton John and Snoop Dogg. 

This one is only available to stream on HBO Max in the US for now, but we expect UK viewers will be able to find it on Sky’s documentary channel in the coming months. 

Now available to stream on HBO Max. 

65th Grammy Awards (Paramount Plus)

The 65th annual Grammy Awards will be available to stream on Paramount Plus this Sunday. 

Kicking off at 5pm PT / 8pm ET / 1am GMT in Los Angeles, the star-studded ceremony will honor the best recordings, compositions and artists of last year in music. Comedian Trevor Noah, who hosted the 63rd and 64th Grammy Awards, is returning to the stage for a third time. 

We've attached the official nominations announcement above. 

Available to stream on Paramount Plus from Sunday. 

ION Group ransomware attack affects trading across the world

A recent ransomware attack against ION Group has sent ripples throughout the finance industry and trading world, being so disruptive that the FIA global trading organization released a statement saying it jumped in to help affected members.

ION Group is a UK-based software company that develops solutions for banks and other financial institutions, with its products used for trading, investing, financial management, and analysis. 

In late January 2022, it released a short statement saying one of its departments, ION Cleared Derivatives, was hit with a cyberattack.

Leaking sensitive data

“ION Cleared Derivatives, a division of ION Markets, experienced a cybersecurity event commencing on 31 January 2023 that has affected some of its services,” ION Group said. “The incident is contained to a specific environme