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Published: Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:40:48 -0800

Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:40:48 -0800


Black Friday 2017: The best early deals

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:37:00 -0800

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

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

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

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

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Neverwinter Nights is getting an Enhanced Edition compatible with 15 years of mods

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0800

Beamdog’s going to run out of classic RPGs to remaster here soon. Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II, Planescape: Torment, and Icewind Dale have all received overhauled Enhanced Editions so far, and today Beamdog announced yet another—Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition.

Neverwinter Nights was an ambitious project for its time. It ditched the Infinity Engine for the Aurora Engine, which in many ways made it age poorer than its predecessors. 2002-era 3D looks quite a bit worse than late-’90s 2.5D.

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The official Neverwinter Nights campaign was also just one tiny part of the package (and, most people would probably say, the worst part). Unlike Baldur’s Gate and its ilk, Neverwinter Nights was designed with a pseudo-MMO layer where dozens of players could log into a persistent server to play custom campaigns. Those campaigns aren’t anything to scoff at, either—BioWare released the Aurora toolkit alongside Neverwinter Nights, and there are literally thousands of user-generated campaigns (or “modules”) on the internet, some of them considered true classics.

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Black Friday deals: The cheapest gaming PC you can build

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 11:07:00 -0800

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

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

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Best home security camera: Keep an eye on the home front

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 09:48:00 -0800

A boom in wireless security cameras is inspiring a movement in DIY home surveillance. Follow our buying guide and read our reviews to find the best option for you.

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The best graphics cards for PC gaming

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 08:07:00 -0800

“What graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck?”

That simple question cuts to the core of what people hunting for a new graphics card look for: the most oomph they can afford. Sure, the technological leaps behind each new GPU can be interesting on their own, but most everyone just wants to crank up the detail settings on Far Cry and get right to playing.

Last updated 11/21/2017 to include a video on the best graphics cards right now and address current graphics card prices throughout. 

Answering the question can be a bit trickier than it seems. Raw performance is a big part of it, but factors like noise, the driver experience, and supplemental software all play a role in determining which graphics card to buy, too.

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Sonos One smart speaker review: Sonos and Alexa, a match made in heaven

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 07:54:00 -0800

Sonos has multi-room audio down to a science, but it desperately needed a speaker capable of voice recognition if it was to fend off the veritable flood of smart speakers coming to market. The Sonos One is that speaker.

Update: Effective November 21, you can ask Alexa to play music on Sonos speakers directly from your Spotify account—by default if you set Spotify as your default library in the Alexa app. 

It sounds better than the last entry-level Sonos speaker, it’s compatible with Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, and it will be compatible with Google Assistant soon. It’s a great speaker for the price, and it’s a must-have component for music lovers living in modern smart homes.

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Master Raspberry Pi Programming With This In-Depth Training Bundle, Now Over 90% Off

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 07:53:00 -0800

Learning the fundamentals behind computer programming and robotics doesn't have to be a mind-numbing slog through dense lines of code—or at least that's the philosophy behind the Raspberry Pi microcomputer and its suite of educational tools. Whether you're a programming savant or a complete novice, you can master the essentials behind building robust programs and robots with the Raspberry Pi Mastery Bundle, and it's on sale for over 90 percent off.

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Pay What You Want For 140+ Hours of In-Depth Coding Training - Deal Alert

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 07:49:00 -0800

The job market is changing, and according to a recent study by Burning Glass and Oracle Academy, more than half of the jobs in the top income percentile (paying more than $57k a year) require some coding knowledge. So, if you want to be included in that bread-winning number, you'll need to get familiar with today's top programming tools, like Python, JavaScript, and PHP. And with the Pay What You Want: Learn to Code 2018 Bundle, you can get started for a price you choose.

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AMD Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs get massive price drops ahead of Black Friday deals

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 07:18:00 -0800

Black Friday might be a few days away, but you can already find some smoking hot deals on AMD processors. AMD’s mainstream Ryzen and monstrous Threadripper chips dropped to borderline fire sale prices over the weekend. In the case of some of the higher-end chips, the discounts shave hundreds of dollars off suggested retail pricing.

Let’s split this up into separate Ryzen and Threadripper sections. We’re mostly linking to Amazon but similar pricing for AMD’s hardware can be found at many online retailers. Micro Center is offering even better deals on many of AMD’s high-end CPUs, but they’re available for in-store pickup only. Bummer. Micro Center’s deals on Threadripper are downright wild.

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Today, 75% off Lumina 5200 mAh Portable Power Bank Charger - Deal Alert

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 06:28:00 -0800

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Amazon Kindle Oasis 2017 review: The ultimate ereader adds audiobooks and a waterproof case

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 03:30:00 -0800

Amazon’s Kindle Oasis (2017 version) is the ultimate ereader. Two important features debut with this 2017 model: It’s waterproof, and it supports audiobooks via Audible.

Make no mistake: Reading on this device is a luxurious pleasure. With a starting price of $270 (or $250 with “Special Offer” lockscreen ads), however, the Oasis floats beyond many budgets. For everyone else, we suggest picking up a Kindle Paperwhite, which can be had for half the cost. 

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Dell XPS 13 (2017) review: Intel's 8th-gen CPU makes a great laptop even greater

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Forgive us if you’ve heard this one before but Dell’s latest XPS 13 is truly the best one yet. Seriously.

Newly upgraded with Intel’s 8th-generation CPUs, the XPS 13 offers unheard-of performance in an ultra-portable laptop. By “unheard-of,” we mean the XPS 13 offers performance approaching and occasionally surpassing that of much larger and much heavier powerhouse laptops.

Granted, it hasn’t changed much on the outside. As we go through the features and specs, though, you’ll see the significant changes happening on the inside. 

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Roku upgrade guide: Should you buy a new box?

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 12:35:00 -0800

Of all the companies making streaming TV devices today, Roku is the most prolific, having released more than two dozen streaming players and sticks over the last eight years.

With so many Roku players in the wild, the decision on when to upgrade can be daunting. I’m generally in favor of keeping what you have for as long as you can tolerate it; but if you’re curious what you’re missing by holding out on upgrading to a new Roku, here’s a rundown.

Do you want the latest apps?

All Roku players that launched in 2010 or earlier are no longer receiving firmware updates, app updates, or new app releases. By sticking with one of these “Classic” Roku models, you’re missing out on countless new apps, including some major streaming services such as PlayStation Vue, Starz, HBO Now, and CW. Consider upgrading if you’re not getting all the content you care about.

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HTC Vive vs. Oculus Rift vs. Windows Mixed Reality: What's the difference?

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 10:35:00 -0800

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AMD Ryzen Threadripper X399 motherboards compared: Specs, prices, and features

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 10:05:00 -0800

For the first time in a long time, AMD is battling Intel for high-end desktop supremacy with its Ryzen Threadripper processors. Its chosen weapon? Cores, cores, and more cores, culminating in the monstrous 16-core, 32-thread Threadripper 1950X ($999 on Amazon). But cramming that much hardware into a chip means bigger chips, and bigger chips need bigger sockets. Enter the new AMD X399 motherboards.

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C by GE smart LED bulb review: Not the right choice for enthusiasts

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 07:59:00 -0800

The C-Life is an inexpensive choice, but its value is undercut by the price of the C-Sleep.

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Need for Speed: Payback tweaks awful progression system amid loot box controversy

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 06:49:00 -0800

Reviewing Need for Speed: Payback earlier this month I said it was “the first game to be ruined by loot boxes,” calling it “a totally decent arcade racer undermined at every turn by rampant and predatory monetization.” And I evidently wasn’t alone in that, judging by the game’s OpenCritic page.

So while all the attention is currently on the changes EA is making to Star Wars: Battlefront II’s loot boxes, it’s worth highlighting that Payback’s getting tweaked too. Taking to Reddit, Ghost Games recently rolled out a lengthy list of updates.

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Roku Express review: Cheap, decent, and probably still not the streaming box for you

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0800

The new Roku Express is much faster than its predecessor, but the best Roku still doesn’t cost much more.

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Best Bluetooth speakers

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 03:11:00 -0800

We'll help you find the best wireless speakers for pairing with your smartphone or tablet—whatever your budget, and whatever music floats your boat.

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Five hidden features of Android 8.0 Oreo you should be using

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 03:05:00 -0800

Google is pushing Android 8.0 Oreo to Nexus and Pixel devices as device makers scramble to get their phones updated. Google's devices will be the only ones running the new software, at least for a while. What's this Oreo update all about, anyway? Everyone knows about the big stuff, like picture-in-picture and autofill apps, but a lot more is going on if you dig deeper. Here are six awesome hidden Oreo features to get you started.

Widgets via app shortcuts

(image) Ryan Whitwam/IDG

Google has changed the location and appearance of the home screen widget picker several times, and Oreo brings yet another alteration. This one might make using widgets much easier, though. All of an app's widgets are accessible with a long-press on the app icon. This works in the app drawer as well as on the home screen.

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Microsoft's Surface Book 2 has a power problem

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 17:33:00 -0800

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

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

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

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 13:38:00 -0800

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

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

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

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:27:00 -0800

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

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

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:07:00 -0800

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

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

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0800

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

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

This is gaming news for November 13 to 17.

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The best SSDs of 2017

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:40:00 -0800

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

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

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Star Wars: Battlefront II review: The Dark Side

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:19:00 -0800

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

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

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Hex TLS Bluetooth speaker review: 808 Audio delivers solid mono thump and good looks, but few amenities

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:00:00 -0800

This speaker is attractive, rugged, easy to pack, and it delivers an authoritative thump, but it's missing a few key features, including speakerphone functionality and the ability to charge other USB devices.

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

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 05:00:00 -0800

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

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

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Buffered VPN review: It gets the job done

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Buffered VPN in brief:

P2P allowed: Yes

Business location: Budapest, Hungary

Number of servers: 30+

Number of country locations: 46

Cost: $99 per year

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

(image) Ian Paul/IDG

Buffered VPN’s primary interface.

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