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Preview: PC World Latest Technology Reviews

PCWorld Reviews





Published: Thu, 20 Jul 2017 07:55:43 -0700

Last Build Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2017 07:55:43 -0700

 



CyberGhost 6 review: A speedy VPN out of Romania

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 10:24:00 -0700

CyberGhost in brief:

P2P allowed: Yes

Business location: Romania

Number of servers: 852

Number of country locations: 27

Cost: $30-$48 billed annually

Blazing-fast speeds are something that all VPNs promise, and most of them are fast enough for common use cases like high-definition video streaming. CyberGhost, on the other hand, has some consistently fast speeds across most of its network. CyberGhost is also good on privacy and anonymity, and offers an attractive user interface that will appeal to most, especially novice VPN users.

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Canary review: A sophisticated home-security system packed inside a camera

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 14:30:00 -0700

Originally published on June 10, 2015, this review was updated on July 18, 2017 to reflect a few new features along with information about limited Wink Hub and IFTTT integration, currently available membership plans, and the upcoming Canary Plus, which will support Apple's HomeKit ecosystem.

The Canary I’ve finally had a chance to review isn’t as sophisticated as the Canary I wrote about when its manufacturer was crowdfunding its development. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad product—it has a strong price/performance ratio for a $249 now $169 home-security system—it just means its developer’s ambition exceeded its grasp in a few key areas. And in some other areas, the developer wasn’t ambitious enough.

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Piper NV review: strong security features hampered by a buggy app

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 14:00:00 -0700

Connection problems and missing notifications drag down this otherwise solid smart home monitor.


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Surface Laptop review: Microsoft's MacBook Air killer nails what students need

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 12:33:00 -0700

Updated 07/18/2017: We've upgraded the Surface Laptop to Windows 10 Pro to run traditional benchmarks, and the results are...interesting. Click the Performance section in the TOC, or simply jump to this link, to see to all the numbers. 

Our Surface Laptop review considers Microsoft’s new notebook in three ways: first, as a stylish ultrabook, designed to compete with Apple’s MacBook Air on college campuses. It’s also a showcase for Windows 10 S, limiting users to Windows Store apps but with an unexpected benefit to battery life. But if you want more flexibility, you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro—and we’ve tested that, too. 

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Best smart home system

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 09:31:00 -0700

Your home is only as smart as the hub that orchestrates everything behind the scenes. These DIY tools are the best of the bunch.


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Best Windows backup software 2017

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 03:00:00 -0700

We need backup software because we don’t live in a perfect world. If only Microsoft provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the part of the user. 

Instead, Microsoft offers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware.

Plenty of vendors have stepped in with alternatives. None are as quite as slick as Time Machine (though occasionally it’s mimicked), but some come darn close. Most are effective—and many are free. Read on for our top picks. 

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Acronis True Image 2017 review: Fast and powerful image backup

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 02:30:00 -0700

It would be quite easy to simply say that Acronis True Image 2017 New Generation is the best backup program; It’s the fastest all-around imaging program we’ve tested, it’s dead reliable, and it sports every imaginable option. But backup in the real world isn’t about feature sets. While we love True Image in the enterprise or SMB venues, its heavy system footprint and cornucopia of options are likely a wee bit much for the home user.

Design and features

True Image 2017 has an attractive interface that’s relatively easy to use—once you’re familiar with it. It’s light years better than it was before a re-design several years ago, but there are still little oddities, such as thin scroll bars with light-colored sliders on a dark background (the exact opposite of the Windows standard) that require more cognitive effort than they should.

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EaseUS ToDo Backup 10 review: Local and cloud backup under one roof

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 01:30:00 -0700

EaseUS ToDo Backup Home 10 may not have the cachet of rival Acronis True Image, but it's nearly as capable. Perhaps more so for the average user if you count its ability to back up to online services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. It also supports LTO 4 tape, which alone warrants an upgrade to the program's $30 price tag if you're one of the diehards still rocking serial storage.

Design 

Having not seen ToDo Backup for several full versions, we were pleasantly surprised at the revamped interface. The appearance and organization are far cleaner, and the workflow is more intuitive. Icons are clearly labeled so there's no guessing what's what, at least if you understand the jargon. For instance, "mount" refers to opening existing backup images so that they appear as a drive letter, letting you browse their contents in Windows Explorer. Even we didn't understand what "Include all contents referred to Reparse Point" meant. It should read "referred to by the reparse point," which means if you have a shortcut to My Documents on your D drive, the contents of the actual My Documents folder will be backed up along with the D drive.

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Aomei Backupper Standard 4 review: A versatile free backup program

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 00:23:00 -0700

Would you rather pay $50 for your backup software, or get it for free? All things being equal, and with the free Aomei Backupper Standard they pretty much are, we’re generally going to opt for the latter. Backupper even sports real-time sync, mirroring files to an external folder whenever changes occur.

Design and Features

Backupper Standard’s bitmapped interface may be retro, but the layout and workflow are so intuitive, even beginners should have few problems figuring out what to do. At least you have some idea of backup concepts involved.

We spotted a couple of mild interface glitches in Aomei Backupper. When you increase the size of Windows objects in the Display Preferences (to 125% in this case), Backupper’s window actually shrinks. There are other tiny scaling glitches, such as the bottom of a dialog cut off, but nothing that renders the program unusable. Hopefully this will be addressed soon with a new look and a rendered (drawn in real time), not static bitmapped GUI.

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Macrium Reflect Free review: Great, no-frills image backup

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 23:30:00 -0700

Macrium was one of the first to release a free version of its backup software. Ten years later, to the benefit of users everywhere, Reflect Free 6 remains a stable, reliable way to quickly image and restore your system. It doesn't offer as much functionality as Aomei's Backupper, but there's something to be said for a backup program that hasn't failed its fans in over a decade.

Design and features

Though Reflect is a bit old-school in appearance, the look somehow works better with the free version. Fewer options, less clutter, cleaner lines. Reflect Free is limited to imaging disks or individual partitions (no cloning, file backup, or other choices), but there's an option to select only those partitions required to restore the Windows operating system.

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Paragon Backup & Recovery 16 Free Edition review: Easy backup with a twist

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 22:30:00 -0700

Paragon’s Backup & Recovery 16 Free Edition is not only free for home users, it’s unique among consumer programs in that it backs up using virtual hard drives as the container format. This can be Paragon’s own pVHD, VMware’s, or the VHD/VHDX supported by most flavors of Windows.

What’s the big deal about virtual hard drives? Windows itself will mount VHD files, so you can grab files off of a VHD with any PC, not just a machine with Backup & Recovery installed. You can also attach a VHD file directly to a virtual machine and use it there. It’s convenient for users in a number of ways a proprietary format is not.

Design and features

Beyond its signature VHD ability, Backup & Recovery 16 is a modernized, simplified version of Paragon’s well-established imaging technology and programs. All of the main imaging capabilities found in the company’s Hard Disk and Partition Manager are intact: imaging of entire system, whole disks, partitions, or sets of files you select.

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Sling TV review: In praise of the bite-sized bundle

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 17:15:00 -0700

Editor’s note: This review was been updated in its entirety. If you’d like to read our original opinion of Sling TV, you’ll find that review preserved for the record here.

Sling TV is a much stronger streaming service than it was when it launched a couple years ago. The interface is dramatically better, the channel lineup is broader, and it now offers optional DVR service.

Yet the best thing about Sling TV is what hasn’t changed: Its $20-per-month starting price is much lower than other streaming channel bundles, and its array of add-on channel packs make the service more customizable. Although Sling’s approach isn’t always cheaper than other services—and its claims of “a la carte TV” are bogus—it does feel less like an imitation of cable bundling, and more like a reboot.

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Netgear Arlo Baby review: A better baby monitor

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Ditch those staticky radio monitors. Netgear's nursery cam puts eyes on your most precious prize.


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Best external drives of 2017

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 03:00:00 -0700

External drives are a vital piece of hardware for backing up your data or copying a project from your PC to take with you. Anyone who uses a desktop or laptop computer needs one.

To help you sift through the stacks of external storage options, we’ve combed through our reviews of both external hard disks and SSDs to pick the top drives we’ve tested. We’ll also walk you through what you need to know to buy the best external drive for your needs.

Here are our top picks:

Best external backup drive

Our pick for best portable external backup drive for 2017 is Western Digital’s My Passport 4TB drive. Although it’s a tick or two slower than other backup drives (like our runner-up, for example) in sequential file writing (think copying movie files), it does better at writing small files (think hundreds of Word or Excel documents.) It’s not flashy or super-fast, but for most people who only whip it out once a month to run backups and then shove it back into a drawer, those things don’t matter as much as the capacity, price, and reasonable performance.

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DirecTV Now review: A decent deal—for AT&T subscribers at least

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 17:43:00 -0700

Editor's note: This review was updated in its entirety on July 16, 2017 to reflect our current experience with DirecTV Now after AT&T fixed a number of the service's shortcomings.

The past seven months haven’t been stellar for DirecTV Now. AT&T’s streaming bundle crash-landed last November with a load of glitches and missing features, earning it poor reviews and a reportedly stagnant subscriber base.

AT&T has made DirecTV Now more reliable since then, and it launched a Roku app alongside the existing Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android, and web versions. And while DirecTV Now has nixed its original promo rate of $35 per month for 100 channels, it’s sweetened the deal for AT&T wireless subscribers with streaming TV plans starting at just $10 per month when bundled with an unlimited data plan.

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Best wireless router

Sun, 16 Jul 2017 15:13:00 -0700

Updated July 16, 2017 to include our review of the Netgear Orbi RBK30 WiFi System. Unfortunately, it’s not as good as its pricier stablemate, the Orbi RBK50, which we’ve chosen as the best wireless router currently available.

A great 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. We pick the best models here, because 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.

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Seagate Backup Plus Portable review: A stunning 5TB of space

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 05:00:00 -0700

All things being otherwise equal, 5TB of capacity is better than 4TB. Things aren't entirely equal in this case, but close enough that the $140 Seagate Backup Plus 5TB 2.5-inch USB 3.0 hard drive is a tempting product. I don't want to let it go, and I have more USB drives than I need. 

Said temptation applies only if you're one of those who falls prey to the "stuff expands to fill available space" syndrome. You may not think of yourself as a part of that clan, but if you get anywhere near a 4K video camera, you might be a card-carrying member before you know it.

Design and specs

As shown at the head of the article, the Backup Plus 5TB is available in red, black, silver, and blue. The review unit Seagate sent us was basic, innocuous black. Color-coded drives are handy if you're storing separate projects, rotating backups, or just trying to keep track of what's what.

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Netgear Orbi RBK30 WiFi System review: It's not bad, but it's not great

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 03:00:00 -0700

It's still not a mesh system, but this time you might care.


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Reolink Keen review: a truly wireless security camera

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 03:00:00 -0700

This full HD pan-and-tilt camera combines strong security with battery-powered flexibility.


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TCL P-series Roku smart TV review: Dolby Vision hits the mainstream

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 15:00:00 -0700

Support for Dolby Vision elevates the TCP 55P607's image chops.


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LaCie Porsche Design Type-C Mobile hard drive review: Style for miles and clever setup

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 11:15:00 -0700

Some would say that there’s rarely anything sexy or unique about a USB hard drive. Some would say never. LaCie disagrees, and makes its point with stylishly designed products such as the 2TB Porsche Design Type-C Mobile hard drive. It’s undeniably eye-catching, and features a clever dual-partition/file system setup that combines top performance and near-universal compatibility.

Compatibility solved

The compatibility of which we speak concerns the FAT/FAT32/exFAT file system, which is supported by all major operating systems, including those embedded in car stereos, DVD players, industrial controllers, and other devices. Its weakness is the relatively slothful manner in which it writes large batches of small files. NTFS on the PC, and HFS+ are much faster with small files on their respective Windows and OS X platforms.

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WD My Passport 4TB review: A good budget choice that's just a little slow

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 11:15:00 -0700

WD’s My Passport 4TB mobile USB 3.0 drive lets you stuff a lot of data in your pocket without emptying it of cash. While not as fast with sequential transfers as the LaCie and Seagate drives we’ll be comparing it to, it’s certainly fast enough. And, at $115 on the street, it's considerably cheaper. 

Design and specs

Because the 4TB drive housed inside is 15mm thick, the My Passport 4TB isn’t as thin as many lower-capacity units, measuring 0.85 inch from top to bottom. It’s approximately 4.25 inches long, 3.1 inches wide, and weighs around 8 ounces. The My Passport is also available in $60 1TB, $80 2TB, and $100 3TB capacities, with the 1TB version being about 0.2 inch  thinner and 2 ounces lighter. All models come with a three-year warranty.

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Gigabyte Aero 15 Review: A near-perfect power user's laptop

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 03:30:00 -0700

Gigabyte’s Aero 15 is a powerhouse laptop that hits a lot of high notes. Quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU? Check. Dual M.2 SSD slots? Check. Up to 32GB of RAM? Check. Nice 15.6-inch screen? Check. Powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU? Check.

It’s this last point (well, and the garish colors) that will have many calling the Aero 15 a gaming-laptop rather than what it really is: a powerful, portable laptop that can do it all, and with decent battery life to boot. Even the weight’s bearable at 4.6 pounds. We have some objections to its design, but it’s still well worth a look.

(image) Gordon Mah Ung

The Aero 15 is green. Very green. (And orange and black, too.)

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PureGear PureSwitch review: A HomeKit-only smart plug with a high-speed USB port

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 03:00:00 -0700

It’s a little more expensive than its features warrant, but it’s well designed for what it does.


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Best color LED smart bulbs

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 17:35:00 -0700

Update: July 11, 2017: We've added a review of the Geeni Prisma 450 smart bulb to this collection. Smart color light bulbs—LED-based bulbs that can be controlled by a smartphone and “tuned” to emit any hue in the rainbow—are no longer a new idea. What is new is how far this technology has come since its advent just a few years ago. Also new: Products like the Nanoleaf Aurora that fundamentally change the light bulb concept. Aurora is a system of interlocking LED panels that let you decorate with light. You'll find our review here.

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Best DVR for cord cutters

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 08:44:00 -0700

Here’s the hard truth for cord-cutters right now: The ideal over-the-air DVR doesn’t exist. And if you're on the fence about even needing one, you should read the June 22 installment of this column. Editor's note, July 11, 2017: We've updated this story with a hands-on review of Emby paired with SiliconDust's HDHomeRun. 

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, you must decide which of those weaknesses you’ll tolerate.

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Best smart thermostat

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 03:00:00 -0700

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


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HDHomeRun and Emby DVR review: Power to the cord cutter

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 04:00:00 -0700

Emby's do-it-yourself DVR packs plenty of features if you have the right hardware and don't mind jumping through some hoops.


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