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Published: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:35:02 -0700

Last Build Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:35:02 -0700

 



Intel projects decline in chip prices, and AMD's Ryzen is one reason

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:13:18 -0700

Intel is forecasting a "slight decline" in its premium chip prices for the remainder of the year, and AMD's Ryzen chips could have played a part in that.

Prices of Intel's chips in both desktops and laptops went up in the first quarter. That helped drive up the quarterly revenue for Client Computing Group -- which deals in PC chips -- to $8 billion, which was up 6 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

But Intel's PC chips now face serious competition from AMD's new Ryzen chip, which was released last month. Ryzen chips offer competitive performance, and are priced significantly lower.

AMD's fastest Ryzen 7 1800X chip -- targeted at gamers -- has eight cores and is priced at $499. A comparable chip like Intel's Core i7-6900K is priced at $1,089. Intel's fastest gaming chip is the Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition chip, which is priced at $1,723.

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Google Cloud growth is outpacing the company's ad business

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:07:00 -0700

Google is still an advertising company, but the tech titan’s cloud business is growing faster than its advertising revenue. That’s one of the key take-aways from the company’s first quarter earnings report released Thursday.

Google Cloud Platform is one of the fastest-growing lines of revenue across Alphabet, the parent company that includes Google and other businesses like self-driving car maker Waymo, company CFO Ruth Porat said on a conference call with analysts. That growth is driven in part by a change in the way companies are working with Google Cloud.

“Over the last several months, we have noticed a change in the types of conversations that Diane [Greene] and her team are having with customers,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said. “Increasingly, we are being asked to partner for mission-critical projects and full migrations, moving data from on-prem data centers to the cloud. We are seeing a meaningful shift, and this momentum is resulting in a fast-growing business.”

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Hands on with the unusual Acer Predator Triton 700 gaming laptop

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:32:00 -0700

To prove it's going big in PCs, Acer held a product launch event at world's largest IMAX screen in New York City. It made a big statement with the Predator Triton 700, a super-thin laptop with some unusual features.

At first glance, the Triton 700 looks like any other thin gaming laptop. The surprises start when you open it up. The keyboard and touchpad trade locations. The keyboard is placed at the bottom, while the extended touchpad is above it.

The oversized touchpad is also transparent, giving a glimpse into cooling components of the laptop, like its unique AeroBlade cooling fan. That design was inspired by transparent gaming desktops, and it is something gamers will love, said Eric Ackerson, senior product and marketing manager at Acer.

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14% off iRobot Roomba 960 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner - Deal Alert

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:05:00 -0700

Roomba 960 seamlessly navigates room to room to clean an entire level of your home, recharging itself after working for up to 75 minutes, and then resuming until the job is done. Featuring the revolutionary AeroForce Cleaning System, Roomba 960 delivers up to 5x the air power and requires less maintenance. Just press clean or schedule Roomba on the go with the iRobot Home App, from which you can also monitor its cleaning status. Roomba works on all floor types, and at just 3.6 inches tall, is specifically designed to fit under most furniture, beds and kickboards. The 960 features the iAdapt camera, which helps Roomba continually build and update its map of rooms within a home. The very full featured Roomba 960 averages 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and is currently discounted $100 off its typical list price, making it available right now for $599. See this deal now on Amazon.

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The best fitness trackers at every price point

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:53:00 -0700

Fitness trackers are some of the best devices you can buy yourself or a loved one—if you think either of you will find activity-tracking useful. There’s no reason to buy a gadget that will just sit in a drawer. But if you’re on the hunt for the best fitness band, there are three things to consider: price, style, and the type of activity you want to track.

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a high-quality fitness tracker, but you might not want to spend more than $100 on one, either. And there’s no point buying a band that doesn’t suit your personal style, because you’ll never wear it. Don’t run or swim? A waterproof running watch is the last thing you need.

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Acer's new Holo 360 is a 360-degree camera in a smartphone

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:05:00 -0700

The effort to grow in the virtual reality market has Acer chasing weird, but rather interesting, devices.

The company introduced the Holo 360 camera, which is first and foremost a 360-degree camera. It can capture 3D content, much like other 360-degree cameras, and could be used to capture, view, and create content for VR headsets.

But, seemingly as an afterthought, the device also has WiFi and LTE connectivity. The device itself looks like a bulky smartphone and can be used to make phone calls. It has a small screen, much like those on candy-bar phones.

It's clearly not designed to be a full-fledged smartphone. No information about the chipset was provided. Different countries have different types of networks, and not all modems support all networks, especially in countries like China.

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Acer's Aspire GX comes out of nowhere to be the first prebuilt Ryzen PC from a major vendor

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:04:00 -0700

When AMD launched its disruptive Ryzen processors earlier this year, none of the major prebuilt PC makers were on board. Sure, AMD’s press release included canned quotes from Dell, HP, and Lenovo executives talking up their excitement about the CPUs, but thus far, Ryzen (and AM4 motherboard) availability has been limited to DIY hardware and systems from boutique PC builders like Origin PC and Maingear.

No more.

As part of its Next@Acer event in New York Thursday morning, Acer quietly—very quietly—became the first major PC vendor to announce a prebuilt Ryzen rig. The Acer Aspire GX didn’t get any onstage time at the event and only the briefest of blurbs in Acer’s press release, but digging deeper into the spec sheets revealed what we’ll find inside.

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Hands-on with Acer's Swift 5, a liquid-cooled Surface rival that runs silent

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:03:00 -0700

Microsoft has set the gold standard for tablet-style 2-in-1 devices with its Surface Pro, and other PC vendors have followed suit with their own designs. Acer’s latest Surface-style device, the Switch 5, offers a couple of advantages but lacks in other areas.

I had a chance to play with the Switch 5 at an Acer event in New York City, where new PCs and tablets were announced. The Switch 5 is a tablet first, but a keyboard attachment can be hooked up to make it a laptop.

As a tablet, the Switch 5 is quite light, about the equivalent of the Surface Pro 4. The device doesn’t look as polished as the Surface Pro, nor does it have the premium finish. But it does have solid technologies, like the latest Intel processor and liquid cooling, that set it apart from rival devices.

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FCC asks whether to 'keep, modify, or eliminate' net neutrality rules

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:16:00 -0700

A U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposal to scrap the foundation for its own 2015 net neutrality rules nevertheless asks for public comment on whether it should "keep, modify, or eliminate" basic protections.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal, announced Wednesday, would remove the FCC's two-year-old classification of broadband as a broadly regulated, telecom-like service. But the text of the plan, released Thursday, suggests the FCC will consider retaining some rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing web-based content and services.

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When to defrag a hard drive, TRIM an SSD and perform other storage tasks, or not

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:00:00 -0700

We still get quite a few questions about when and how to optimize storage devices. Easy answer: The care and feeding of storage devices is either taken care of automatically by Windows, or it's simply unnecessary. Mostly.

[Have a tech question? Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Defragging

Defragging hard drives (not SSDs) has been of limited benefit since Microsoft switched to the NTFS file system. Why? Because to a large extent, NTFS is self-optimizing. Add Windows’ various tricks such as pre-fetch, better ordering of files, and hard-wiring important files to set locations, and there’s rarely any noticeable degradation in hard drive performance even after years of use.

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Cloudflare launches service to secure IoT devices from external hacks

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 11:02:00 -0700

Many people are worried about putting smart internet-connected devices in their homes or offices because of flaws that could allow attackers into their private networks.

Web optimization and security firm Cloudflare is trying to alleviate those fears with a new service that could allow internet-of-things manufacturers to protect devices from attacks and deploy patches much quicker.

Cloudflare's content delivery network is used by millions of people and companies to increase the performance of their websites and to protect them from malicious traffic. The company's servers work as invisible proxies between websites and visitors, providing on-the-fly encryption and firewall protection.

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Google eyes massive AI expansion with new Assistant SDK

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:00:00 -0700


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13% off Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 - Deal Alert

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:00:00 -0700

The Backup Plus Slim Portable Drive is the simple, one-click way to protect and share your entire digital life. At 12.1 millimeters thin and a generous 2TB of storage, it’s ready to take with you and go. All your photos, movies, and videos can be backed up using the downloadable Seagate Dashboard software, including the ones you’ve shared on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. Run a one-click backup or schedule an automatic backup plan to protect your files on your Backup Plus Slim Portable Drive at your convenience. High-speed USB 3.0 and 2.0 connectivity offers plug-and-play functionality without the need of an external power supply. Compatible with both PC and Mac systems. The drive averages 4 out of 5 stars from over 11,600 people on Amazon (read reviews). The typical list price has been reduced 13% to just $69.99 for the 2TB model. See it now on Amazon.

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Acer's Nitro 5 is a laptop that lets casual gamers get reckless

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 09:53:00 -0700

Acer’s Nitro 5 laptop is designed for the casual gamer who feels lucky. This person may not game often, and may never have tinkered with a PC’s cooling system (as many seasoned gamers have) to get maximum power without singeing precious CPUs or GPUs. But the Nitro 5, introduced Thursday at an Acer event in New York, will let these casual gamers adjust the fan speed themselves, giving them an unprecedented amount of control over delicate thermals. 

Acer offered just a few tantalizing details on the Nitro 5, which is due to ship in July, but the company emphasized the target audience: the growing number of casual gamers. These users won’t shell out for the huge, expensive Predator 21 X, but they still want good gaming performance. Acer says the Nitro 5 is carefully balanced to give them exactly what they need: “all of the really important, necessary features without going too far overboard,” said Acer. 

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Newegg has lowered the price of HP's Stream 11 Pro G2 to $180

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 09:34:00 -0700

Newegg has a nice deal today for a lightweight travel laptop, so long as you don't mind an 11-inch laptop form factor. For $180, you can pick up the HP Laptop Stream 11 Pro G2. Newegg's official sale price is $210 (down from $240), but if you apply the code EMCSRECG5 at checkout, the price drops to $180.

This is a daily deal and expires just before midnight Thursday or when supplies run out.

HP originally conceived of the Laptop Stream as a Windows-flavored $200 Chromebook competitors back in 2014. The Stream 11's starting price is still around $200, but this particular model is the "upgraded" version with 4GB of RAM instead of the usual 2GB.

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Acer's Predator X27 G-Sync HDR monitor is infused with every feature you could ask for

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 09:23:00 -0700

After teasing it at CES in January, Acer pulled back more of the curtain on one of the most badass, feature-filled PC monitors ever at the company’s Next@Acer event in New York on Thursday: the beastly Predator X27.

The Predator X27 is one of the debut G-Sync HDR displays, infused with Nvidia’s stutter-killing graphics technology and glorious high-dynamic-range visuals that are only just starting to appear in PCs. While today’s brightest monitors top out around 400 nits of brightness, Acer’s flagship hits a whopping 1,000 nits via 384 separate backlights, which help it deliver the vibrant colors HDR is famous for—a vividness that makes HDR’s deep, deep blacks all the more impactful.

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60% off SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive, Speeds Up To 260MB/s - Deal Alert

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 09:08:00 -0700

The SanDisk Extreme PRO USB 3.0 Flash Drive features a sizable 128GB of storage, and read speeds of up to 260MB/s lets you easily transfer a full-length movie in seconds. The sophisticated design and durable aluminum metal casing help to protect against every day wear and tear on the outside, while the included SanDisk SecureAccess software provides 128-bit AES file encryption and password protection on the inside for your private files. The SanDisk Extreme PRO USB 3.0 Flash Drive is backed with a lifetime limited warranty. It currently averages 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 530 people (80% rate the full 5 stars: see reviews here), and its typical list price has been reduced generously to just $52.10. See this deal on Amazon.

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How to find the Windows 10 Creators Update's hidden desktop themes

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 07:50:00 -0700

If you're looking to pretty up the look of your desktop, there are just under 175 preset themes available in the Windows Store in the Windows 10 Creators Update at this writing—but finding them isn't so simple. Searching for 'themes' in the Store only gets you a bunch of apps and a random assortment of other items.

Nope, to find the cornucopia of themes available for the Windows 10 Creators Update, the only way in is through a link in the Settings app. But once you get there you can pick any number of desktop themes.

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Google Trips update reminds us Google has another travel app, and it's actually pretty great

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 07:37:00 -0700

Google has so many apps these days, it’s easy to forget what they all do. So, if you happened to see an update to the Trips app that you downloaded last year but didn’t use much, you’re probably wondering what’s new. Or maybe you just need a refresher on what it does.

A smart planner and city guide, Trips is meant to be the one-stop travel companion for all of your tourism needs. It pulls reservation information from Gmail, suggests places to go, and even lets you download everything for offline use. If you're a frequent traveler it's a way better option than Maps, and while the new update isn’t a huge one, it does bring a few features that might make people more apt to use it.

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AMD updates Ryzen drivers with a new power profile and the promise of better performance

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 06:58:00 -0700

AMD's Ryzen power management plan that aims to improve gaming performance for AMD's new processors is now available as part of a chipset driver update. AMD released chipset driver 17.10 WHQL on Wednesday. The new drivers include the AMD Balanced Power Plan, which first became available in early April as a separate download. The new drivers are only available to 64-bit Windows 10, according to AMD.

The new power profile included in the update hands greater power management responsibilities to Ryzen instead of relying on Windows. Ryzen has a built-in feature called SenseMI that dynamically manages voltage and frequency to improve performance. But to take advantage of SenseMI, the processor needs greater control of power management than the operating system—hence the update.

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BlackBerry's keyboard-equipped KeyOne Android phone will launch in May

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 05:35:00 -0700

The BlackBerry KeyOne, an Android-based smartphone with a hardware keyboard, will be available in the U.S. and Canada from May 31, the phone’s maker said Thursday.

TCL Communications, the Chinese company that acquired rights to produce BlackBerry-brand handsets, originally had said the phone would go on sale in April, so the delay may disappoint potential users. This could be a bad time to test the patience of potential buyers, as Samsung and LG are both heavily promoting their new flagship handsets, the S8 and G6.

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Galaxy Note 8 inbound: Samsung confirms a new flagship phone is coming later this year

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 05:13:00 -0700

Samsung Electronics said Thursday it was planning to launch in the second half of this year a new flagship phone, leading to speculation that the company is planning an alternative to the ill-fated Galaxy Note7 that had to be recalled last year.

The launch of a new flagship smartphone this year and continuing sales of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will help Samsung counter Apple’s launch of a new version of its iPhone. Apple usually unveils new phones in September.

“Samsung does announce a S series phone in the first half of the year and a Note series in the second half,” said Kiranjeet Kaur, research manager for client devices at IDC Asia/Pacific. “So I am not sure if Samsung is alluding to the next Note or if they want to introduce a new series to avoid any questions or doubts that may arise because of the Note7 debacle.”

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I dumped all of Google's messaging apps for Pulse. Here's how (and why) I did it

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

I'm tired of waiting for Google to figure out what it wants to do with its suite of messaging apps, so I dumped them all for Pulse. And I've never been happier.


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3 cool features in Ubuntu 17.04

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 03:30:00 -0700

April showers bring May flowers, and fresh versions of Ubuntu too. Canonical’s latest official Ubuntu release—17.04—arrived this month after news of the death of Unity 8 and the return to the GNOME desktop in 2018. For now, Ubuntu is still shipping with its Unity desktop.

I wrote earlier that most users who need stability and support over new features will probably want to stick with Ubuntu 16.04, which was released last April, until Ubuntu 18.04 arrives a year from now. However, there are a few small things in Ubuntu 17.04 that will appeal to users who are keen to get all the newest updates.

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Local channels in streaming bundles: Why they're hard to get, and how that's changing

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

If your TV diet includes major broadcast networks, cutting cable can be a challenge. Live streams from ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox stations are only available in a small number of markets, so without solid reception from an antenna, potential cord cutters are stuck.

But that might change in the coming months. TV networks and streaming bundlers are finally finding ways to get local stations on board with streaming bundles such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now. Once that happens, dropping cable will get a lot easier.

The affiliate issue

In the United States, the big four TV networks don’t own most of the local stations that broadcast their content. They’re not allowed to due to FCC rules aimed at maintaining competition and diversity among media companies. (The FCC has been going back and forth over the percentage of homes that a single company can reach, but that’s a whole other story.)

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Dell XPS 15 vs. MacBook Pro 15: Fight!

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Dell's XPS 15 vs. Apple's MacBook Pro 15 takes its place the same epic list of rivalries as Batman vs. Joker, Red Sox vs. Yankees, and Sheldon vs. Wil Wheaton. Both laptops are intended as workhorses for professionals on the go. And although there are many competitors out there with similar specs, the XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 15 just can't let the other have the last word.

So in the spirit of competition, we pitted the latest versions of both laptops in a knock-down, drag-out fight.

(image) Gordon Mah Ung

The XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 15 face off yet again.

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How HP reclaimed the title of world's top PC maker from Lenovo

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:16:00 -0700

In late 2015, HP was reborn as a PC maker following a split of its parent organization, Hewlett-Packard. At the time, HP was a lost cause, and its double-digit decline in PC shipments was a main reason for the split.

The new HP then set out to reclaim its spot as the world's top PC maker from Lenovo, a title it lost in 2013. It reached the goal in the first quarter of 2017, during which its PC shipments grew by 13.1 percent year over year.

A series of cool products and decisions to cut off low-margin products helped HP return to the top. Lenovo's struggles also played a part, but HP's strong performance in North America was a deciding factor, IDC said.

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The average ransomware payment has skyrocketed to over $1,000

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:09:00 -0700

The hackers spreading ransomware are getting greedier. In 2016, the average ransom demand to free computers hit with the infection rose to $1,077, up from $294 the year before, according to security firm Symantec.

“Attackers clearly think that there’s more to be squeezed from victims,” Symantec said in a Wednesday report.

In addition, the security firm has been detecting more ransomware infection attempts. In 2016, the figure jumped by 36 percent from the year prior.  

That doesn’t bode well for the public. Ransomware is notorious for taking over computers, and essentially holding them hostage. To do so, the malicious coding encrypts all the data inside, and then demands a fee, usually in bitcoin, in exchange for releasing the machine.

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33% off MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths For Screens and Other Delicate Surfaces, 30 Pack - Deal Alert

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

This extremely soft, high-quality 6x7 microfiber cloth from MagicFiber absorbs and safely removes dust, oil smudges, fingerprints, and dirt from eyeglasses, camera lenses, computer screens, televisions, and other delicate surfaces without any harsh chemicals. It's machine or hand washable, and is built to last. The cloths are highly rated on Amazon, where it currently averages 4.8 out of 5 stars from over 9,100 people (90% rate 5 stars: read recent reviews). Its typical list price of $29.99 has been reduced 33% to $20 for a pack of 30 individually wrapped, so you may decide to toss one in everybody's stocking this holiday season. See the discounted 30-pack of microfiber cleaning cloths now on Amazon.

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How to find out your Uber rating

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:09:00 -0700

Uber used to make it difficult to find out your passenger rating. To find out if you were a 5-star rider, you had to ask a driver (and they would usually tell you, but that’s kind of an awkward conversation) or toggle through some menu options to submit a request to Uber.

As of this week, finding your rating is simple. Super easy. In fact, you can’t miss it. Uber is putting your stars just beneath your name in the top left of the app.

Uber says the change is because riders “forget that their driver is also rating them, too, and things like eating in the car, slamming the door, or trying to pile in more people than seatbelts can impact whether it’s a 5-star experience for drivers.” I don’t know anyone who forgets that drivers rate them, too. Some people are on a quest to be 5-star passengers, while others just want to know if their behavior is costing them stars.

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