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Preview: PC World Latest Technology Reviews


Published: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 10:01:11 -0800

Last Build Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 10:01:11 -0800


Microsoft takes $550 off the Alienware 15 gaming laptop as time runs out on PC deals

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 10:39:00 -0800

Microsoft’s 12 Days of Deals has produced some amazing PC sales, and Microsoft is spotlighting one more: the rugged, powerful Alienware 15 R3 gaming notebook, a bargain at $550 off—and with the opportunity to save $100 more.

Microsoft’s 12 Days of Deals sales have produced some epic bargains, notably the $550 off the Dell XPS 13 steal that has, sadly, expired. But smart shoppers know the power of last-minute deals, and there’s still a few to be scored as Microsoft’s deals days expire.

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Best smart bulbs

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:25:00 -0800

Today’s smart bulbs are brighter and easier to control than ever, but choosing the right one for your environment remains a challenge.

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How to automatically mute a website within Google Chrome, forever

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:44:00 -0800

If you’re the type of person who detests autoplaying video ads with sound, Google’s Chrome provides some help. The beta of Google Chrome 64 allows you to mute a site permanently, so even if a video pops up—and Chrome can block some of those, too!—it won’t blow you out of your seat. The feature is expected to roll out to the general public sometime in January. 

Google’s Chrome 64 beta ships with a stronger popup ad blocker, which automatically prevents some dodgy ads from either appearing or re-routing you to other sites on the web. But it also applies some site-by-site controls, so that when you visit a website, you have better control of what media to allow and disallow.

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SteelSeries Apex M750 review: For people who prioritize RGB lighting above all other features

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:06:00 -0800

Earlier this year I finally got around to covering SteelSeries’s Apex M800 and its proprietary QS1 switch, and now it’s gone. Yes, after just one keyboard, SteelSeries has ditched the QS1 switch, with its square housing and centered LED. 

Taking its place is the Apex M750 keyboard designed around the all-new QX2 switch—still proprietary, but quite a bit more familiar. The QX2 falls squarely into “Cherry MX knockoff” territory, as with so many switches these days.

So how does it fare?

Note: This review is part of our best gaming keyboards of 2017 roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.

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This week in games: Crytek sues Star Citizen, Destiny 2 'The Dawning' holiday event revealed

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:00:00 -0800

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Every AMD Radeon RX graphics card you can buy for PC gaming

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 11:39:00 -0800

Radeon roundup

Image by Brad Chacos/IDG

Not all graphics cards are created equal. Both AMD and Nvidia offer a wide range of graphics cards designed for tasks as varied as adding basic video support to a home theater PC to playing gorgeous video games at crushingly high frame rates and resolutions.

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Best holiday laptop deals

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:41:00 -0800

The holidays are a great time for laptop deals, but with only weeks left in the season time is running out.

To help you out, we've pulled together the top laptop deals available. These options range from a fancy gaming laptop to an ultra-budget conscious clamshell and points in between. We'll be updating this article from time to time as deals change, so check back every so often to see what else we've found. Just be warned that if you wait too long, you may miss your opportunity to get anything in time for the holidays!

(If you're having trouble figuring out which laptop to get, our Holiday Laptop Buyer's Guide can help. It walks you through the different specs and what to expect from each pricing tier.)

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Amazon's Echo Show has dropped in price by $80

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:17:00 -0800

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Fallout 4 VR review: An epic sense of scale bolsters this janky VR port

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:08:00 -0800

Fallout 4 VR makes a terrible first impression.

Boot it up and it’s immediately clear it wasn’t built for VR first and foremost. The main menu does that thing where it’s just the original 2D menu projected in empty space. The “War never changes...” intro does the same. Then when you get into the actual game, you see a rudimentary version of the character creation sequence where you’re standing in front of a mirror—and if you step backwards, you can just walk straight through the wall.

This “Oh, someone didn’t even think of this or at least didn’t come up with a way to solve it” rough-around-the-edges aspect does not bode well. It continued, too. As I dove further into the game, I kept finding other aspects that annoyed me, that demonstrated Fallout 4 was never built with VR in mind—awkward controls, a terrible teleport system, objects that don’t react the way you’d expect in VR.

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Best smart thermostat

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:05:00 -0800

There are so many smart thermostats to choose from today. We'll help you pick the right one.

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Farewell, AIM: AOL Instant Messenger has signed off permanently

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:37:00 -0800

It’s the end of an era that realistically ended a decade ago. On Friday, AOL shut down AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) permanently. Plans for its death were first announced in October.

When I heard the news, my mind flashed back to the boxes full of America Online CDs in every store, to the dubstep-like beeps and boops of a 28.8K modem connecting to the Internet, and AIM chat rooms providing a real-time connection with people around the world long before social networks accomplished the same task.

But the rise of social networks like Facebook and Whatsapp were the final nail in AIM’s coffin. The company acknowledges that the times aren’t just a-changing now that we’re in the smartphone era—they’ve already been altered forever. “AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” wrote Michael Albers, VP of communications at Oath (the Verizon brand that gobbled up AOL).

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Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition review: Taming Vega's flaws with brute force

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:00 -0800

Four long months after AMD’s flawed Radeon Vega graphics cards launched, custom versions are finally starting to trickle out—and the wait was worth it. The monstrous, yet luxurious Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition relies on brute force to squash the most troubling problems that plague reference Vega cards. This beast sports the most wildly effective cooler to ever cross our test bench, and it manages to toss in a factory overclock while providing impressive tools for enthusiasts to push performance even further.

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How Microsoft is wading into 'fake news' with Bing opinion-based search results

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:30:00 -0800

On Wednesday, Microsoft told a roomful of journalists that, on Bing, “alternative facts” would be considered the equivalent of the Washington Post.

Sure, that’s just my opinion. But that’s also the new approach that Bing’s rolling out over the next week: striking out beyond facts into a brave new world in which opinions matter, too. Eventually, Bing will respond to certain questions with answers that represent both sides of an issue, not just a list of search results. One of those new voices will be Reddit, a popular online community with millions of contributors.

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Star Wars gift guide: Top picks for fans who are tech geeks

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:00:00 -0800

You need this Star Wars gift guide. There’s no way any human could navigate the millions of Star Wars-themed items available, thanks to Disney’s merchandising-industrial complex. But you want this Star Wars gift guide, too, if you are (or you’re shopping for) a Star Wars fan who’s also a tech geek.

“Tech geek” describes 100 percent of the staff at PCWorld, and as for Star Wars...well, I saw Episode IV more than 24 times in the first year (yes, I lost count), Episode V 14 times in the first year, and Episode VI 8 times (blame the Ewoks). Just call me OG Star Wars. Meanwhile, my esteemed colleague Gordon Mah Ung has three replica lightsabers, including one he gave to his wife for their first wedding anniversary. Awwww!

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Bosch Connected Control BCC100 Wi-Fi thermostat review: Pretty to look at, easy to program

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:00:00 -0800

It’s not as slick as some of its competitors, but it can control the humidifiers and dehumidifiers others don’t.

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The best video editing software: Reviews, buying advice, and more

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:50:00 -0800

Video editing software ranges from free versions that are pretty bare-bones to feature-packed prosumer versions. Indeed, they vary as much as the reasons why people take up video editing—whether to make home videos, to become YouTube stars, to create VR experiences, and more.

Most video editing software for consumers and mainstream users is best used for one or another of these specific functions, but there are a few generalists out there, too. We look at the full spectrum: Free video editing software; paid consumer video editing programs that cost $80 or less; and soon, "prosumer" versions that offer deeper feature sets for high purchase prices. 

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BrandPost: Tomorrow’s workforce, today. Orchestrated by CDW.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:30:00 -0800

How we work and where we work are changing. If handled properly, the opportunities are endless. If not, productivity is sure to plummet. At CDW, we can help you harness the latest in mobility and collaboration to allow both workforce flexibility and organizational agility.

Minnesota Wild Retools Tech for the Ultimate Fan Experience

The National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild updated the technology at their arena, the Xcel Energy Center, with one goal in mind: to create a better fan experience. The team is focused on engaging with fans and helping them interact with each other and brands during the games, and is using new technology platforms, especially for its core and Wi-Fi networks, to help enable that. 

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BrandPost: Less-risky business. Orchestrated by CDW.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:24:00 -0800

Evolving attacks. Scattered endpoints. Strained resources. Risks are changing, and you need to be prepared for anything. We can help you build a holistic solution that combines strategy and technology to keep your data accessible and secure.

Lessons learned from 4,000 security assessments conducted by CDW can prepare your IT troops to address common vulnerabilities. CDW has been in the IT security trenches for decades. Any organization can apply the lessons our experts have learned to fundamentally shift its approach to security. The infographic below shows how.

(image) CDW

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Windscribe Pro review: It's all about the extras

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:22:00 -0800

Windscribe in brief:

P2P allowed: Yes, on most servers

Number of servers: 321

Business location: Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

Number of country locations: 50

Cost: $49 billed annually

Metropolitan Toronto is something of a VPN hub these days. We’ve already looked at TunnelBear and recent Symantec acquisition SurfEasy, both based in Toronto. Now it’s time to look at Windscribe, a capable VPN based just outside of Canada’s largest city.

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BrandPost: Stronger Connections, Orchestrated by CDW

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:41:00 -0800

From shoppers and patients to students and constituents, client satisfaction is key. And technology is key to client satisfaction. We can help you develop a client-centric approach to IT that increases engagement, retention and your competitive advantage.

One example:

Every great musical composition has at least two components to make it come to life: talented musicians and top-notch instruments. The same is true of a K–12 classroom, where lessons sometimes are only as solid as the methods and tools used to teach them.  

Imagine the classroom as an orchestra, with the teacher as the conductor. Each child has individual learning needs met by a personalized learning model, which means it doesn’t matter what types of instruments these little maestros are playing — the conductor is prepared to help them harmonize and play a beautiful melody together by teaching them as individuals first.

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FCC votes to kill net neutrality in an unsurprising move. What happens now?

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:04:00 -0800

That noise you just heard was the sound of millions of modems across the U.S. crying. As expected, the FCC just voted 3-2 to kill its own net neutrality rules, and the Internet as we know it could be forever changed.

Under the current net neutrality rules (classifying ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act), which were only just enacted in 2015, Internet service providers are required to deliver all online content with the same speed and accessibility, meaning they can’t charge more for faster Netflix speeds or restrict YouTube access. There are particular exceptions for medical services, public safety communications, and other data that is deemed to be in the public good.

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Microsoft knocks $550 off the fantastic Dell XPS 13 as last-minute PC deals get crazier

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:29:00 -0800

Though Microsoft is actively encouraging you to buy its Surface Pro (2017) tablet at $200 off, an even better deal lies behind the scenes: a whopping $550 off the top-rated Dell XPS 13 9360, knocking the price down to $749. 

Both are part of Microsoft’s 12 Days of Deals

By far the most compelling offer is the Dell XPS 13 9360, which we considered a great deal when it was selling for $999 just last week. (In Gordon Mah Ung’s XPS 13 9360 review (4.5/5 stars), he calls the 8th-gen Core laptop the “best one yet.”)

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Save Hundreds On The 2018 CompTIA Security Certification Bundle (95% Off)

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:24:00 -0800

The world is becoming more connected on the digital plane, and as such, hackers and cybercriminals look to exploit these massive networks for vulnerabilities. That's why demand is high for IT experts versed in the fields of cybersecurity—but only if they bear the appropriate certifications. With the 2018 CompTIA Security Certification Bundle, you can fast-track yourself to join their in-demand ranks by preparing to ace three leading IT certification exams—and for a fraction of the usual cost.

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Oppo UDP-205 Ultra-HD Audiophile Blu-ray player review: Audiophile sound and price tag (plus Dolby Vision)

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 10:50:00 -0800

With 32-bit DACs and other upscale components, you won't hear better analog audio from an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. It's also the first player we've tested to support Dolby Vision 4K UHD discs.

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Amazon is selling the Ecobee4 at its Black Friday price

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 10:21:00 -0800

If you missed the Ecobee4 sale the first time around, Amazon has you covered. Today the retailer is selling the Ecobee4 for $200. That's the same price we saw at Lowe's and others (including Amazon) on Black Friday. Usually this latest model of the Ecobee sells for the MSRP of $249.

The big change with the Ecobee4 compared to its predecessor is built-in Alexa Voice Service. Prior to this, the Ecobee integrated with Alexa devices like most other smart home devices. With Alexa built-in, you can use the smart thermometer to get news, set timers, and many of the other things you can ask of an Echo device. The Ecobee4 works with the Google Assistant if you've got a Google Home device, too.

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Save 50% on the TP-LINK Wi-Fi Smart Plug, Works with Amazon Alexa - Deal Alert

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 06:22:00 -0800

The TP-LINK HS100 smart plug is quite simply a power outlet that you can control from anywhere. Using your smartphone, you can turn devices on & off, set programs to turn them on & off at set times while you're away, or engage a "countdown timer" which powers the switch off after a set amount of time. Installation is simple -- just plug a device into your smart plug and connect to your wifi network. The HS100 is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, for voice control. Buy multiple plugs and get creative.

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Star Wars: Battlefront II - Resurrection review: A disappointing end to Iden Versio's story

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 06:00:00 -0800

It doesn’t get any better. That’s all you really need to know about this week’s Star Wars: Battlefront II mini-expansion. Timed to land alongside The Last Jedi’s theater release, it’s the first bit of post-launch content for Battlefront II and adds stuff that’s theoretically tied to the movie—meaning Finn and Captain Phasma as heroes, plus a new ground map set on the planet Crait (which given the loot crate controversy is a pretty ironic name) and new space battle map set around D’Qar.

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iMac Pro first look: Apple’s most powerful Mac is a multiprocessing beast

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 05:30:00 -0800

Made for video editing, 3D graphics, VR, and software development, Apple's new pro Mac is an engineering feat.

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Samsung's Notebook 9 Pen is ready for your scribbles, drawings and more

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 04:11:00 -0800

Samsung's Notebook 9 Pen is a slender 360-degree laptop that's committed to the stylus way of doing things. Of course there's a keyboard, but this convertible laptop wants to make it easy for you to scribble, tap, and create with your hand.

Announced Wednesday night, the Notebook 9 Pen and several other Notebook 9 models will ship in Korea first, then the United States in the first quarter of 2018. Prices were not disclosed. 

Why this matters: Samsung announced the Notebook 9 Pen and several other laptops on Wednesday night to get ahead of the news deluge at CES. Samsung is a relatively small player in the huge U.S. PC market, so every model counts. By focusing on pen input for the Notebook 9 Pen and a few other models, it has a chance of attracting stylus enthusiasts.

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Excel functions: 7 ways to use Text functions to manage data

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 03:30:00 -0800

Excel’s Text functions are a major time saver if your job entails managing massive data, especially data that’s imported from other sources. Fortunately, all ASCII data is easily imported, but the format of that imported data can vary drastically from one source to another.

For example, fields may be delimited, such as  with tabs, spaces, commas, or periods. Aany other characters are all preferable to spaces. That’s because spaces not only exist in between fields, they also separate words within the fields, which makes sorting out the fields a real challenge. That’s where the following Text functions are very helpful.

A. Use the SUBSTITUTE function to replace one string of text with another

Function syntax: The syntax (or sentence structure) of the SUBSTITUTE function is this:

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