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Preview: PC World Latest Technology Reviews

PCWorld Reviews





Published: Sun, 30 Apr 2017 04:07:53 -0700

Last Build Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2017 04:07:53 -0700

 



Razer Ornata review: An expensive rubber-dome keyboard that comes with a mechanical click

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

Rubber-dome keyboards were dead. Or at least, they seemed to be.

Sure, you’d still encounter them out in the wild, used by people who either didn’t care or didn’t know about mechanical keyboards. For enthusiasts, though, it's been all mechanical for years now. Whether ear-splitting buckling springs or Cherry switches or any of a half-dozen Cherry knock-offs (Razer, Kailh, Omron), people have been upgrading from the lowly rubber dome en masse.

But rather than go quietly into the night, the rubber dome has reinvented itself. Well, Razer and Logitech have reinvented it. Both released rubber-dome keyboards last year that try to incorporate the feel of mechanical switches—a hybrid that Razer annointed with the catchy term “mecha-membrane,” which we’ll use from here on out.

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Asus Strix RX 580 Gaming Top OC review: Proof that size matters

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

AMD’s release of the new-ish Radeon RX 500 series gives us a chance to tackle a topic that isn’t covered often here at PCWorld: The effectiveness and design of custom designs by different graphics cards makers.

While AMD and Nvidia create the graphics processors used in every Radeon and GeForce video card, respectively, the companies that actually sell graphics cards—like Asus, Sapphire, EVGA, XFX, Visiontek—et cetera—put their own spin on things by customizing the hardware with bespoke cooling solutions, factory overclocks, and the quality of internal components. Those “personal touches” can potentially create vast differences in thermals and gaming performance between two custom graphics cards built around the same GPU.

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Samsung DeX: The Galaxy S8 desktop dock really works

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:01:00 -0700

Can you survive business travel with just a Galaxy S8+ smartphone and DeX dock? Seven days of dedicated productivity testing says yes.


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Scanner Sombre review: A weird and unsettling glimpse into darkness

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 07:00:00 -0700

It starts like a nightmare. You’re hundreds of feet below the Earth’s surface, plumbing the depths of a seemingly endless cave, and it goes pitch black. Darkness all around, so dark you can’t see the ground beneath your feet, the water dripping around you, or the backs of your own hands.

(image) Scanner Sombre

And then, a beam of light. Or rather hundreds of beams, all shooting out of a handheld LIDAR scanner. The world around you turns red and orange and green and blue, mapping your surroundings with thousands of tiny points of light. It’s as beautiful as it is cold and digital, a haunting Seurat landscape.

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Samsung DeX review: 7 productive days using the DeX dock and a Galaxy S8+ as a desktop PC

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

It’s amazing just how heavy an ultra-portable laptop becomes when you’re lugging it through airports, convention centers, and the streets of wherever the heck you’re doing business. Even a thin laptop can become a 2.5-pound problem, but now it’s a problem that could very well be solved by DeX, Samsung’s desktop-PC-in-a-dock for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones.

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Best DVR for cord cutters

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Here’s the hard truth for cord-cutters right now: The ideal over-the-air DVR doesn’t exist.

While some products are better than others, all of them—from Tablo and TiVo to Channel Master DVR+ and HDHomeRun with Plex—have at least one critical weakness. If you want to record broadcast TV channels from an antenna, must decide which of those weaknesses you'll tolerate.

The good news is that the lowly antenna is experiencing a rebirth, and we’re likely to see more over-the-air DVR products later in 2017 and beyond. But if you want to start recording broadcast channels now, here’s a rundown of where the current products stand:

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Tablo review: A complete over-the-air DVR solution with just a few flaws

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Tablo is an old hand in the nascent business of whole-home, over-the-air DVR.

The $220 box from Ottawa-based Nuvvyo records free broadcast channels from an antenna and streams the video to phones, tablets, PCs, and TV devices. The Tablo hardware first launched in 2014, and Nuvyyo has been refining its software and expanding to new platforms ever since.

Thanks to those refinements, Tablo is the most straightforward solution yet for watching over-the-air TV on all your devices. Still, it falls shy of broadcast DVR perfection due to some performance issues and missing features.

Chain of command

Tablo comes in two flavors: The $220 two-tuner model lets you watch or record two channels at once. The $300 four-tuner model allows four simultaneous recordings or live streams from a single antenna.

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Channel Master DVR+ review: Over-the-air recording that's a bit too basic

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

The Channel Master DVR+ is among the least-sophisticated ways to record broadcast TV from an antenna. The interface is crude, recording options are limited, and playback is tied to a single television.

That’s not to say a simplistic approach is without merit, especially in a market full of overly complex products. But Channel Master’s $249 box is a bit too bare-bones for setting up and managing recordings, and its additional streaming features are a waste of time. It’s only worth considering if you’re unwilling to spend a little more.

Plug and play

The DVR+ is a slim slab of plastic that connects to your television over HDMI. Plug an antenna into the back, go through the guided setup process, and Channel Master will scan for over-the-air channels, adding guide data based on your zip code. The box also has an ethernet port for internet-based channels (more on that later), an optical audio port, and an IR extender port.

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HDHomeRun and Plex DVR review: For hardcore do-it-yourself cord-cutters only

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

For a certain type of cord cutter, the demise of Windows Media Center has been rough. Microsoft’s media software provided an easy way to record free broadcast TV from an antenna to a PC, creating files that could be streamed to other devices with server software such as Plex.

Now that Windows Media Center is retired, Plex has stepped up with its own over-the-air DVR solution. With a Plex Pass subscription and SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun networked TV tuner, Plex users can record free broadcast channels through an antenna, and then stream those recordings to the Plex client app on practically any other device, both at home and on the road.

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TiVo Roamio OTA review: It feels like going back in time

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 18:01:00 -0700

If you want to ditch cable without losing the cable DVR experience—warts and all—the TiVo Roamio OTA is your answer.

TiVo’s $400 DVR for over-the-air channels has all the creature comforts of a cable box, from the traditional channel grid and button-packed remote control to the seemingly limitless recording options for TV shows and movies. And like TiVo’s own cable boxes, it comes with some powerful ad-skipping features.

But TiVo’s old-school approach to recording broadcasts from an antenna also brings some baggage. It’s easy to get lost in the Roamio OTA’s labyrinthine menus, or forget what button you’re supposed to press. And while TiVo tries to be a complete cord-cutting solution with both over-the-air and streaming video, its options for the latter can’t compete with dedicated streaming boxes like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Nvidia Shield TV.

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Wilson's Heart review: Not a perfect virtual reality game, but certainly the best so far

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 10:00:00 -0700

Wilson's Heart is the first can't-miss virtual reality game. That's my gut reaction.

Now, the reality of the situation is a bit more complicated. I've gotten plenty of use out of both my Oculus Rift and HTC Vive over the past year, experimenting with dozens if not hundreds of games and experiences. Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption impressed early on, Call of the Starseed took spectacle to a new level, and Arizona Sunshine was both lengthy enough and polished enough to feel like a "full game." To say nothing of Google Earth VR, Tilt Brush, Oculus Medium, and other non-gaming applications.

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Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update review: The future is increasingly uncertain

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 03:35:00 -0700

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update rides the coattails of the desktop OS, heavily leaning on improvements in Cortana and Edge to nudge Microsoft’s nearly comatose mobile platform further ahead.

As the free upgrade rolls out Tuesday, our review of the Creators Update can't help but conclude that it's even less of an improvement than the Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update. We can tell you that Windows’ new ability to buy and read ebooks within Edge represents its most potent addition. You can turn off a screen while using Continuum, a tweak that better approximates the PC experience. Cortana’s slightly smarter, as she is on the desktop. You can also pause updates, view the Glance screen while charging and enjoy a limited but refreshingly simple 3D content creation app, 3D Builder. 

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Petnet SmartFeeder review: Robot pet feeder meets smartphone app with mostly good results

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

When I first heard about the Petnet SmartFeeder, I bristled. How could something so basic as feeding a pet be in search of a smart solution? I deposit a half-cup of dry kibble in my dog’s bowl twice daily—done and done. Is no human endeavor sacred?  

Okay, maybe a tad dramatic. I can see that there are times when an automatic pet feeder makes sense: an unpredictable work schedule, say, or an impromptu invite, either of which could step on the toes of your pet’s meal time.

The SmartFeeder (which retails for $149) can dispense a precise measure of your dog or cat’s food at preset times of your choosing, and then let you monitor and revise the feedings via a companion app. Fido or Fluffy stays sated when your schedule is in flux.

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Finsix Dart-C charger review: Tiny, powerful, and worth the expense

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

If you accidentally left your USB-C laptop charger during a layover at Batman Airport (yes, it’s real), consider yourself lucky, because you now have an excuse to upgrade to a much sexier, much lighter power brick, like the Finsix Dart-C (available for preorder for $99.99).

I can’t confirm Finsix’s claim that this is “The World’s Smallest Laptop Charger,” but damn, is it small (approximately 2.5 x 1 x 1 inches) and it punches well above its weight.

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Optane Memory review: Why you may want Intel's futuristic cache in your PC

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 09:00:00 -0700

Intel’s Optane Memory gives mainstream users a rare first bite at the bleeding edge of technology. No matter how much hardcore PC enthusiasts yell, scream, and gnash their teeth, they're not going to be using this as standalone storage just yet. Instead, Optane Memory debuts as a caching drive that can—at times—make a hard drive competitive with even the fastest SSDs.

If this seems too good for your dog-slow drive to be true, don't worry. We ran the benchmarks, and you can see the results for yourself. You can also see the caveats in the system requirements, which unfortunately bar the vast majority of PCs from this speedy upgrade. 

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Notion Home Awareness Starter Kit review: Smarter sensors, but limited control

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

Don’t call it a security system: Notion is a “home awareness kit” that offers a somewhat different value proposition. Like a standard DIY security setup, Notion is built around a wireless hub and sensors that you place around your house. The wall-wart hub is fully wireless and requires no hardwired ethernet connection to your router. Just plug the hub into any power outlet and run through a few quick steps in Notion’s iOS or Android app and you’re ready to start placing sensors. Notion is sold in two bundles, with either three sensors or five. Add-on sensors are $49 a pop.

There’s just one type of sensor—a little hockey puck a bit larger than a Double Stuf Oreo cookie—and that’s by design. Rather than building different sensors for different applications, Notion’s single sensor does everything. One sensor can detect position changes (doors or windows opening or closing), temperature fluctuations, water leaks, light, noise, and more. A single sensor can serve multiple needs at the same time.

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LG G6 Review

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 21:00:00 -0700

LG reinvents its flagship handset with the G6.


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EVGA GTX 1080 Ti SC2 review: A ferocious graphics card with a radical cooler

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Ever since the monstrous $700 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti launched, the world’s been waiting to see what this beastly GPU was capable of in the hands of Nvidia’s hardware partners. The Founders Edition delivered damn near uncompromising 60-fps performance at 4K resolution with everything cranked to 11, and that was with a lowly reference cooler and stock clock speeds. How far can factory-overclocked versions with potent custom cooling solutions go?

Well, for the first time ever, a graphics card is so damn fast that it managed to largely push a game’s bottleneck off of the GPU and onto the CPU in PCWorld’s ferocious testing PC—while running 15 degrees or more cooler than the Founders Edition.

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Grillbot grill-cleaning robot review: The best thing to happen to barbecues since fire

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t enjoy good barbecue, but I’ve also never met anyone who enjoys cleaning the grill afterward. Whether you’re a vegan or a carnivore, scraping and scrubbing away the charred and greasy remnants of whatever food you just cooked, with the brush flicking the charred bits at your clothes on the backstroke, is about as enjoyable as cleaning the toilet. The only thing worse is not cleaning the grates until the next time you’re ready to grill. Just as robots have relieved us of the drudgery of vacuuming and scrubbing floors, the Grillbot frees us from cleaning the ‘cue.

The Grillbot is a battery-powered robot with three removable rotating wire brushes that automatically cleans your barbecue grill. You simply place it on the cool or warm grill, push a button, and put the lid on the barbecue. The surface temperature needs to be less than 250 degrees Fahrenheit, but a heat sensor will warn you if it’s too hot. If the grill is cool enough, the Grillbot’s brushes will spin, stop, and restart in a random fashion that makes the robot crawl across the surface of the grill. Things get a little noisy as the plastic chassis repeatedly bangs against the barbecue's lid, but enduring the clatter is vastly better than scrubbing and scraping by hand.

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6 portable keyboards for tech workers on the go

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 22:00:00 -0700

CIO.com writer, Sarah White looks at 6 portable keyboards for IT pros that want a light easy-to-use keyboard that can go anywhere.


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Samsung Galaxy S8+ and DeX Dock

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 13:28:00 -0700

Enterprise features stand out on Samsung's excellent flagship Galaxy S8/S8+ phones, especially the new DeX dock that turns a phone into a desktop.


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AMD Radeon RX 550 review: A thrilling budget graphics card with a perplexing price

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0700

The most popular games in the world don’t need a beefy graphics card.

Yes, I’m talking about e-sports. The likes of League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive dominate Twitch and Steam charts alike. There are a lot of reasons for their success, but the fact that they run on virtually any PC doesn’t hurt. Heck, you can even run e-sports games—including Overwatch—on an AMD APU’s integrated graphics if you’re okay with modest frame rates at lower resolutions.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 review: The best phone ever made, only smaller

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

If you haven’t yet read our extensive review of the Galaxy S8+, you should. Nearly everything said about that phone applies to the smaller Galaxy S8. It’s got the same gorgeous design, the same best-ever display, the same awesome camera, same processor, memory, storage, features...it’s just smaller.

The display is 5.8 inches instead of 6.2, and the battery is 3,000 mAh instead of 3,500. These differences, and a price tag about $130 lower, are all the separate the Galaxy S8 from the S8+. 

That means the problems with the S8+ are apparent here as well, namely an unbelievably bad fingerprint sensor location and the lackluster debut of Samsung’s Bixby AI assistant. Both are annoying, but generally avoidable, and thus only slightly tarnish the Galaxy S8’s shine.

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Best wireless router

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

A good wireless router is an essential element of tech life, whether you’re building out a smart home or you just want the best experience streaming music and video at home. Even those of us fortunate enough to have ethernet drops in every room have devices—smartphones and tablets, for instance—that depend on Wi-Fi to connect to the home network if not the internet.

Twin and sometimes conflicting demands for high performance and ease of use are powering a thriving and rapidly evolving market. Innovation is one of the biggest upsides of this dynamic, and confusion its biggest downside. Today’s hero could be tomorrow’s has-been, as established brands like Linksys and Netgear try to one-up each other while simultaneously fending off new challengers such as Eero and Luma. But it’s those challengers who have innovated the most, starting with Eero, the first manufacturer to bring mesh networking to the consumer router market.

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Microsoft Surface Studio review: Creativity is a sublime, pricey experience

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

We’ve never seen anything quite like the Surface Studio. No other all-in-one boasts a massive 28-inch 4.5K touchscreen that glides down to serve as a digital easel, a Surface Pen for inking, and an optional Surface Dial that you can spin and tap to navigate menus. Presto! You’re a digital creator.

We applaud this refreshing example of what a PC could be, and we’ll talk a lot about the new things it can do for you in this review. But we also expect the Studio to be more than just an aspirational machine that can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more than its competition. In real life, it still needs to be a productivity PC, a decent gaming platform, and the embodiment of the Windows 10 Creators Update. We’ll take a close look at these fundamentals, too.

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Securifi Almond 3 Smart Home Wi-Fi System review: An okay router bolted to a strong smart home hub

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Securifi’s Almond 3 has two features you won’t find in competing whole-home Wi-Fi systems: a touchscreen and a built-in smart home hub. It’s also unusual in the way it exposes its routing functions. Where other manufacturers take pride in hiding most of the inner workings of their user-friendly routers in the name of ease-of-use, Securifi gives the router enthusiast full access to all its levers and dials.

But you don’t need to be an enthusiast to appreciate the Almond 3—it’s super easy to set up using Securifi’s smartphone app, web interface, the router’s 2.8-inch touchscreen, or any combination of the three.

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Microsoft Surface Studio review: A magnificent, pricey all-in-one PC

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

In our review of the Microsoft Surface Studio, we'll show you how it and the Surface Dial propel the all-in-one PC category forward.


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Samsung Galaxy S8+ Unboxing

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:30:00 -0700

When our Galaxy S8+ arrived we were too excited not to share it with you.


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Galaxy S8+ review: The future of Android is now

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 -0700

Samsung has finally beat Apple at its own game.

While the Galaxy S has been regarded for years as the best Android phone money can buy (at least until the Pixel came around), it’s always existed in the iPhone’s lengthy shadow. Even with a higher market share, a dominant OS, and a years-long lead on features like screen size and water resistance, the Galaxy S has stayed just out of reach of the iPhone zeitgeist. No matter how much it tried to create its own end-to-end experience, Apple fans saw it as a copycat and Android enthusiasts lamented its aggressive TouchWiz interface overhaul.

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 -0700

The Galaxy S8+ is Samsung's first major phone release since the Note7 debacle, but does it live up to the hype?


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Full Throttle Remastered review: A new coat of paint doesn't quite hide this game's age

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 07:01:00 -0700

Another year, another LucasArts classic spruced up and spit-polished for the benefit of fans new and old. With Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle out of the way, this year Double Fine turns to 1995’s oft-overlooked motorcycle adventure Full Throttle.

Those who’ve played the previous remasters should know what to expect by now. It’s Full Throttle, warts-and-all, but with reworked graphics and an optional developer commentary for the diehards. The problem? Full Throttle has a lot of warts.

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Sapphire Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ review: AMD battles for PC gaming's sweet spot, again

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0700

When AMD’s Radeon RX 480 launched just under a year ago, it redefined what was possible with a $200 graphics card, delivering uncompromising 1080p gaming, darn good 1440p performance, and even the ability to play VR games—none of which was ever available in a graphics card that affordable before.

But it wasn’t quite a flawless victory, and not just because Nvidia’s comparable (yet pricier) GeForce GTX 1060 launched shortly after. The Radeon RX 480 suffered from a power-draw controversy that AMD fixed with admirable speed. Stocks of the card were limited for months, which led to inflated pricing and endless anguish in enthusiast forums. The 4GB Radeon RX 480 was hands-down the best “sweet spot” graphics card you could buy, but it had some baggage in Google searches.

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Aorus Radeon RX 570 review: The best graphics card you can buy under $200, barely changed

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0700

Meet the new sub-$200 graphics card boss, same as the old sub-$200 graphics card boss.

AMD’s new Radeon RX 500-series graphics cards are here, and they’re most notable for what they’re aren’t. The Radeon RX 500 lineup doesn’t include the hotly anticipated Vega GPUs, nor are they really new at all. Instead, the Radeon RX 500 series utilizes a second-generation Polaris architecture compared to the original RX 400 cards (the RX 470, in this case). Yep, the $180 Radeon RX 570 is a refresh, not a whole new GPU architecture.

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Vi AI Personal Trainer review: Heart rate-tracking Bluetooth earbuds with serious potential

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 05:00:00 -0700

It seems like every new fitness band on the market has a built-in heart-rate sensor, but now headphone companies are baking sensors into their devices, too. The ear has become a popular place to put a sensor, because properly fitting earphones will stay put and presumably measure your heart rate more accurately than a wrist-worn sensor prone to moving around during exercise. That’s why companies like Samsung, JBL, Jabra, and Bose are shipping biosensing Bluetooth earphones designed for workouts.

Wearable technology company LifeBeam raked in $1.7 million on Kickstarter last summer to produce a new kind of heart rate-tracking headphones called Vi. And while Vi has an optical heart rate sensor built in, that’s not really its selling point. What sets these headphones apart is Vi herself, a voice coach rooted in artificial intelligence that guides you through your workouts. There are several fitness apps with voice-coaching that aren’t tied to a specific pair of headphones, but those trainers sound like robots. Vi actually sounds like a person you’d want to talk to—and you can.

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TP-Link Deco M5 router review: This mesh network comes with a side of antivirus

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

TP-Link makes a strong entry into the whole-home Wi-Fi game with its Deco M5. This router performs very well and has one uncommon feature: integrated antivirus/antimalware (from Trend Micro) that can protect all the devices on your network. But if you want one, you’ll need to pay for a $300 three-pack, as that’s the only way it’s available right now.

TP-Link tells me that single units will eventually be available for $129 each, which is good news for folks living in smaller spaces. A single Deco M5 might be all you really need for a studio apartment. It’s not faster than pricier routers from Linksys and Netgear, but it is a very good value overall.

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Media Files:
http://zapt1.staticworld.net/images/article/2017/04/tp-link-deco-group-100718094-large.3x2.jpg




XYZ da Vinci Jr. 2.0 Mix 3D printer timelapse

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 12:45:00 -0700

As the da Vinci Jr. 2.0 Mix prints, watch the filament reels feed one color or the other to the extruder head.


Media Files:
http://www.pcworld.com/video/raw.do?id=76397




Digital Storm Velox review: 5GHz overclocked luxury out of the box

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 04:47:00 -0700

How long has it been since you could buy an off-the-shelf PC that’ll hit 5GHz? Too long. But your wait is finally over. Wrapped in an elegant and truly unique case, the Digital Storm Velox at last gives the consumer a rig that breaks the magical 5GHz barrier right out of the box. 

What’s inside

Inside are top-of-the-line parts that include a pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs in SLI mode, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a ludicrously fast 512GB Samsung 960 Pro M.2 NVMe drive, 3TB Toshiba hard drive, an Asus Maximus IX Hero motherboard and the star: Intel’s new Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K CPU.

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Media Files:
http://zapt4.staticworld.net/images/article/2017/01/img_3378low-100705775-large.3x2.jpg




Ryzen 5 review vs. Core i5: Ryzen 5 1600X wins for best mainstream power CPU

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0700

AMD’s $250 Ryzen 5 1600X is here to challenge Intel’s quad-core, $250 Core i5-7600K for the honor of being “The People’s CPU.” Everyone likes to read about expensive, gold-plated, $1,000 parts, but in the real world, most people can’t or won’t spend that much and are looking for the best price-to-performance ratio. 

While Ryzen 5 1600X may not have clock speeds as high as the Core i5-7600K’s, it does offer additional cores and virtual cores. We’ve run a battery of benchmarks to see if those cores will make up the difference.

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Media Files:
http://zapt3.staticworld.net/images/article/2017/03/ryzen_5_12-100715961-large.3x2.jpg