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Preview: PC World Latest Technology Reviews

PCWorld Reviews





Published: Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:08:58 -0800

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:08:58 -0800

 



Surface Book i7 vs. MacBook Pro: Fight!

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 03:31:00 -0800


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Oculus Touch controller review: Putting virtual worlds at your fingertips, with caveats

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 07:00:00 -0800

Before we talk about Oculus’s motion-tracked Touch controllers, I want to take a moment to discuss how badly the company miscalculated.

Back in April when the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and its competitor, the Valve-backed HTC Vive, launched it was easy for me to give them equal scores and say it was a toss-up. Sure, I had an inkling that once you dabbled with the Vive’s room-scale VR it would be hard to go back to the mostly-stationary (whether seated or standing) experience proffered by Oculus. But it was just an inkling, based mostly on anecdotal evidence. Would room-scale actually catch on? Would people even have space for it? Those questions loomed large.

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Heavyweight battle: Surface Book vs Macbook Pro

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 21:00:00 -0800

Microsoft and Apple have both recently added new devices to their high-end lineups but which machine is better for you? CIO.com senior writer, Sarah White matches these two machines up to see who is the victor.


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Watch Dogs 2 review: A fresh, interesting rebirth that ditches the stale Ubisoft formula

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 05:19:00 -0800

Bear with me for a bit. I’m going to get around to Watch Dogs 2, but it’s going to be by way of a semi-lengthy tangent into Assassin’s Creed—particularly, what Assassin’s Creed II meant to that now-juggernaut of a series.

It’s easy to forget, with almost a decade of sequels under our belt, that there was a time when Assassin’s Creed could’ve conceivably died off. Early on, too. After garnering quite a bit of hype, the original Assassin’s Creed released in 2007 to middling reviews. “Disappointing,” said many, or “Repetitive.” It had some great ideas, but was a boring mess of a game.

That might have been the end, but no. Assassin’s Creed II released in 2009, ushering in the “Ubisoft Formula” that propelled the publisher to new heights and then became the butt of industry jokes: 1) Climb towers 2) Unlock a million icons on the map 3) Grind out some missions 4) Repeat. Sure, it’s trite now, but at the time it marked a huge shift in the open-world genre.

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Hands-on with Propel's Collectible Star Wars Battle Quads

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 03:50:00 -0800

Ever wonder why they didn’t just fly directly to the exhaust port instead of taking that long trench run on the Death Star? And what kind of sound military strategy was it to let the TIE fighters shoot their way through Red 3 and Red 2?

Well, now you can find out yourself by reenacting  the last battle of Star Wars using Propel’s new Battle Quads. These licensed Star Wars quadrocopters/drones fly and look like typical “toy” drones but they’re a bit more advanced.

(image) Gordon Mah Ung

This TIE Advanced X1 was equipped with a Hyper Drive engine just so Darth Vader could escape into the next sequel. Besides the four inverted rotors, it looks pretty close to the original.

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Asus Transformer Mini review: This 2-in-1 delivers good-enough computing on the cheap

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 05:00:00 -0800

Buying a cheaper Windows tablet always means answering the same question: Can I do as much as I want while still paying less? In the case of the $399 Asus Transformer Mini (T102HA), the answer is yes, but just barely.

Your first impression of the Mini will almost certainly be of an updated Microsoft Surface 3 (now discontinued), with a redesigned, sturdy keyboard and a stylus to boot. But that image is only skin-deep. Inside its thoughtfully designed exterior lies a number of mediocre components. It’s like buying a shiny Red Delicious apple at a supermarket. What’s inside isn’t usually the crisp, sweet crunch you'd hoped for. 

(image) Mark Hachman

For desktop use, the Mini’s Surface-like kickstand suffices just fine.

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ZTE ZMax Pro review: A budget-friendly behemoth of a smartphone

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 04:00:00 -0800

ZTE has already shown us how much phone you can get for $200 with the Grand X Max 2 for Cricket Wireless. And now, in a bid to outdo itself, ZTE takes aim at the $180 price point with the ZMax Pro for T-Mobile users.

The ZMax Pro boasts a six-inch HD screen, expandable storage, fingerprint sensor, USB-C, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 5-megapixel front shooter, 2-gigabytes of RAM, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor.

Is the ZMax Pro enough phone for the budget-minded T-Mobile user? Let’s take a look.

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HP Spectre x360 review: Faster, smaller, and better than before

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 03:00:00 -0800

Computer makers, much like Hollywood film makers, love sequels. 

But just as with movies, there’s always a risk with sequels. Will it be a franchise-killing dud like Ghostbusters II or a modern masterpiece like The Godfather Part II?

The good news, folks, is that the next-gen HP Spectre x360 13 leans toward the latter, and is arguably even superior to the original.

That’s not to say the original Spectre wasn’t a great convertible laptop (convertible, in that its screen folds all the way back to simulate a tablet experience). In fact, it was one of our favorites when introduced. But it wasn’t quite perfect. With the reimagined Spectre x360, HP seems to have gone about correcting everything that irked users in the first go-round. 

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Plextor M8Pe NVMe SSD: Looks fast, is fast

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 10:00:00 -0800

If you have a PCIe slot in your PC, or an M.2 slot that supports PCIe in your laptop, you really should upgrade to an NVMe drive such as Plextor’s M8Pe. Why? Outrageously quick access times, 2GBps reads, and 1GBps writes. That’s roughly 15 times and 10 times the speed of a hard drive, respectively. The difference in the feel of your PC will amaze. That’s of course assuming you can boot from an NVMe drive, something many mainstream PCs are incapable of, unfortunately.

It’s red

But if you have a BIOS that can handle it, the Plextor M8Pe will not only deliver that scintillating performance, it will look good while doing it. Designed with gamers in mind, the M8Pe’s sleek red-and-black heatsink makes it look fast even before you turn it on. Hit the juice, and the triangular dome lights up, as red LEDs peek out from the top edge to flash the device’s status. Ooh. Ah!

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SteelSeries Siberia 840 review: A minor (and optional) upgrade to the old Siberia 800

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 07:00:00 -0800

The SteelSeries Siberia 800—once known as the “H Wireless”—has long battled it out with the Astro A50 as our favorite stupidly expensive gaming headset. The A50 had slightly more spacious audio and a more comfortable form factor, while the Siberia 800 had a more attractive base station, swappable batteries for worry-free charging, and a more professional-looking design.

And for 2016? Not much has changed.

Familiar faces

Outwardly, the biggest change to the Siberia 840 is that the facing side of each ear is now silver instead of black. Yeah, this is one of those “barely changed anything” refreshes.

(image)

Other than the fancy new earcup livery, the 840 is a clone of its predecessor. It’s a wholly unpretentious black arch, generic to the extreme but for the understated SteelSeries logo etched into each side and the orange stitching highlights. Circular earcups decked out in leatherette complete the design. Retract the microphone back into the headset and you’ve got something that could easily have come from Audio-Technica or Sony or Sennheiser or any other general-purpose headphones manufacturer.

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Astro A50 (2016) review: Better than ever, but the competition's still catching up

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 07:00:00 -0800

There was a time—not too long ago, even—when the Astro A50 was the de facto standard for wireless gaming headsets. It was attractive, had pretty great sound (for a gaming headset at least), good noise isolation, and intuitive controls. Add a built-in game/chat mixer, a feature we still don’t see on near enough headsets, and the A50 was an easy recommendation.

But it’s been a long time since Astro did a proper A50 refresh, and the competition got fierce. Corsair’s put out budget-friendly $100 headsets for the last few years now and Logitech’s $170 G933 impressed us even more. In this new market, the A50’s $300 price point began to look anachronistic. Unearned. Silly, even.

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Sony X930D 4K UHD TV review: Color and HDR done the Sony way.

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 03:00:00 -0800

Sony’s XBR-55X930D, one of the company’s latest 4K UHD TVs, demonstrates that you don’t necessarily need quantum dots or organic LEDs to push color and brightness beyond the LCD norm. The X930D’s picture is a bit subdued compared to what you get with those other technologies, but it’s far beyond entry-level and most mid-range sets in virtually every metric: color, contrast, black levels, and brightness.

The 55-inch class (54.6-inch) XBR-55X930D is street-priced at $1500, while the 65-inch (64.5-inch) model costs $1999 and the 75-inch (74.5) model $3999. That might sound like a lot of green, but it’s only half what you’d spend for an OLED or quantum dot TV with similar specs; and as I said, the XBR-55X930D’s picture far outstrips that of cheaper TVs.

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Le Pro3 review: Flagship specs, low cost, and a horrible user experience

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 04:00:00 -0800

Look at the LeEco Le Pro3’s spec sheet and you will find a phone that rivals Google’s very own flagship Pixel lineup.

The latest and greatest Qualcomm processor? Check. Massive battery? Check. 64GB of storage? Check. 4GB of RAM? Unlocked and compatible with GSM carriers? An impressive design? Check, check, and check.

Then you look at its $399 price tag, and begin to question if it’s too good to be true. Heck, at one point the Le Pro3 was priced at $299 during a flash sale promotion to kick off its availability in the U.S. market.

How can a phone on paper look so good, while at the same time requiring you to hand over so little of your hard earned money?

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Acer Predator 15 review: A fast, affordable gaming laptop trapped in a heavy chassis

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 03:30:00 -0800

Acer’s Predator 15 is kind of like the Facebook friend whose status we check once in a while, noticing a new component or some small change since last time.

This latest generation sports a new GPU in the form of the recently released, thin-and-light gaming laptop darling, Nvidia's GTX 1060. The catch is, this Predator is no thin-and-light, sporting a nearly identical design compared to the previous generation. 

It’s a bit odd, as the entire premise of the GTX 1060 is that it runs cool enough to allow smokin’ gaming performance in a relatively thin chassis, especially compared to the previous generation of Maxwell-outfitted laptops. MSI designed its Stealth laptop with the same CPU and GPU that weighs just four pounds. There are advantages to having a big case: a higher-capacity battery, a more spacious keyboard; larger, quieter fans, and plenty of room for components. But the fact that Acer didn't remove any weight compared to the predecessor is a real head-scratcher. 

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Vimtag B1 Waterproof Cloud IP Camera review: Easy outdoor surveillance

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 03:00:00 -0800

Monitoring the outside of your property is as important to home security as keeping an eye on the inside, and a number of manufacturers are introducing DIY outdoor cameras to fill that need. The Vimtag B1 Waterproof Cloud IP Camera is one of the best we’ve seen, offering a simple, intuitive way to keep tabs on what’s going on in your front (or back, or side) yard, and its presence could help you deter an intruder before they break in.

The B1 is a bullet-style camera, similar to the CCTV cameras you often see mounted outside commercial buildings. It features an aluminum-alloy body that’s designed to withstand the elements—it’s waterproof and has an operating temperature of 14- to 131 degrees F. A pigtail of three cables extends from the bottom of the preattached stand, offering an ethernet port, power port, and reset button. Attached to the side is a 3Dbi antenna for Wi-Fi connectivity.

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Frederique Constant smartwatch review: Good looks but no brains

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 03:30:00 -0800

I have a ridiculous problem: I love the classic look of a luxury watch, but I want the high-tech features of an activity tracker. (Hey, I never said it was a major problem). Unfortunately, most fitness bands are hideous. So when watch-maker Frederique Constant released a brand new line of gorgeous Swiss timepieces that promise to accurately track your sleep and steps, with notifications to boot, I had to have one.

The company sent me a stainless steel and rose gold-plated review unit from its new women’s collection. At $1,095, it’s definitely pricier than any smartwatch, activity tracker, or combination thereof. Frederique Constant makes slightly less expensive smartwatches—their newest women’s collection ranges from $750 to $1,295, and the men’s options are similarly priced—but they’re all significantly more than your average fitness tracker. But the model I used for two weeks looks and feels as luxurious as its price tag would suggest. Where the watch falls short is the smart part.

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Dishonored 2 review: New stealth highs hobbled by frustrating PC performance lows

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 06:10:00 -0800

There’s no getting around it, so let’s start with the bad: Dishonored 2 is busted on many, many PCs.

That said, it's lightly less busted after installing the new 1.2 patch that released on Tuesday. But things still aren’t great by any means. I’m still seeing wild frame rate swings, from 100+ down to 50 on Ultra settings with a GeForce GTX 980 Ti at 1080p, depending on where I am and what I’m looking at. Worse is that the settings still seem like window dressing. Frame rates stay almost exactly the same regardless of whether I’m on Ultra or Very Low, and the game relies on console-style upscaling as a crutch.

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Amazon Kindle (2016) review: Very inexpensive, but just a little too basic

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 04:06:00 -0800

Amazon jammed a number of great features $80 entry-level Kindle e-reader ($100 if you want to be free of Amazon’s “special offers”). It’s lighter than the combined weight of the company’s Oasis flagship with its battery cover attached, and with no backlight to power, it can run for far longer than more capable e-readers—a month or more, depending on your reading habits. And did we mention its sub-$100 price tag? Unfortunately, after spending the last several weeks using one, I don’t believe any of those perks compensate for this new Kindle’s copious shortcomings.

Weighing a mere 5.7 ounces and measuring 6.3 x 4.5 x 0.36 inches, the 2016 Kindle is light and compact enough to allow for long, comfortable reading sessions, even if you’re holding it with one hand. It feels surprisingly sturdy, too. I love the more-expensive Kindle Oasis for its size and weight, but I live in constant fear of dropping it or discovering that the heavier stuff it shares space in my backpack with has destroyed it. Not so the latest Kindle. It should survive most casual abuse, but be aware that it’s waterproof or even water resistant.

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Kobo Aura H2O review: This e-reader is pool and bathtub-ready

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 04:00:00 -0800

Bathtubs, swimming pools—liquids in general, really—are the natural enemies of books. Get one wet, even once, and it’ll never be the same again. So too electronics, which makes many of the places we like to read—at the beach, in the bathtub, or anywhere water is present—a risky location. That’s not the case with the Kobo Aura H2O. As its name implies, it’s designed to wade into water and come out the other side unharmed and ready to use. Unfortunately, a number of disappointing quirks prevent us from giving it a strong recommendation.

The H2O isn’t waterproof, but its IP67 rating means this e-reader is dustproof and highly water-resistant. The 6 means it can be submerged in just over three feet of water for up to 30 minutes and come out ready to use, and the 7 means it’s completely protected from dust. This is due in part to a plastic cover on the micro-USB port and microSD card slot located on the bottom of the device. I have some concerns about the long-term durability of that cover, which connects to the H2O by way of a thin plastic tang. Opening and closing the cover every time you want to charge the H2O or fiddle with a microSD card could cause it to break free of the e-reader over time.

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Kobo Aura Edition 2 review: It’s better than Amazon’s baseline Kindle, but it’s a lot more expensive

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 04:00:00 -0800

The $130 Kobo Aura Edition 2 e-reader is an odd duck. It occupies the mid-point in the Kobo product line, and it boasts such desirable features as backlighting, long battery life, and the ability to open a diverse array of file types. But a number of e-readers, including the Kobo Glo HD, deliver many of the same features—plus higher resolution—for nearly the same price.

Measuring 6.26 x 4.45 x 0.33 inches, the Kobo Aura Edition 2 boasts lightly smaller dimensions than the 2015 iteration of Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite. It’s lighter than the Paperwhite, too, weighing 6.35 ounces versus 7.5 ounces. This, along with its grippy, textured back, makes holding the Kobo Aura Edition 2 more comfortable for extended reading sessions. There is a drawback to that smaller size, however; the bezel around its display is atypically shallow, so I found myself accidentally turning pages when my thumb would drift over to its touch-sensitive display. That’s irritating.

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Kobo Glo HD review: This is a great e-reader for the money

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 04:00:00 -0800

The Kobo Glo HD isn’t Rakuten’s most recent e-reader. At the time of this review, that title belonged to the Kobo Aura One. It’s not the company’s least expensive e-reader, either—that would be the Kobo Touch 2.0, which we hope to review soon. The Kobo Glo HD is, however, Rakuten’s most well-rounded E-Ink device. Priced at $130, the Glo HD incorporates many of the more desirable features of the pricey Kobo Aura One at a price point that puts it closer to Amazon’s special-offer-free Kindle Paperwhite ($140).

Pick up the Kobo Glo HD and the first thing you’ll notice is how good it feels in your hand. Its backside is covered in a layer of grippy, perforated rubber that makes the device easy to hold. On the downside, that material did prove difficult to keep clean during testing, picking up fingerprints and filth from coffee shops far more easily than the smooth plastic bodies of other e-readers we’ve tested.

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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (3rd generation) review: The best e-reader for the buck

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 04:00:00 -0800

With its desirable features, pocketable size, and reasonable price tag, Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite has been a safe bet to gift or recommend to voracious readers since 2012. After its most recent design refresh, Amazon’s mid-range e-reader rivals e-readers that cost considerably more.

The third-generation Kindle Paperwhite measures 6.3 x 4.5 x 0.36 inches, and it weighs just over 7.0 ounces, whether you opt for one with Wi-Fi or with both Wi-Fi and 3G. That makes it heavier than Amazon’s pricier Kindle Oasis and Kindle Voyage, but lighter than the larger Kobo Aura One or Amazon’s $80 vanilla and feature-lite Kindle. For the first time, Amazon is offering the Paperwhite in white, as well as black. This, along with the a more matte look for the e-reader’s logo and a rubberized back plate are the only notable cosmetic changes this time around.

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Kobo Aura One Review: A big e-reader full of big ideas

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 04:00:00 -0800

E-readers are seldom exciting. They don’t take big leaps forward, but are typically updated and improved on in baby steps. Occasionally, something like the Kobo Aura One comes along, offering enough tweaks and smart upgrades to make a few waves. It has enough compelling features to be a serious contender in a market that’s been dominated by Amazon for years.

The Kobo Aura One is big e-reader, measuring 7.7 x 5.5 x 0.3 inches. But weighing in at just 8.1 ounces, it doesn’t feel unwieldy or uncomfortable to hold during a marathon reading session. A texturized backplate helps you grip the device, but the material used for this purpose feels a little less premium than it should considering its $230 price tag. A slab of mildly frosted glass covering the E Ink display and its bezel restores most of the premium feel. You can tap either the display or touch-sensitive areas of the bezel to turn pages or purchase and download books and magazines from the Kobo store. I found both regions to be highly responsive. The only physical button is located on the tablet’s backside and is used to power the device on and off.

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Marshall Kilburn Bluetooth speaker review: Vintage style and throwback sound

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 03:00:00 -0800

“That’s a Bluetooth speaker? That looks so cool,” was the first thing my wife said when she saw the Marshall on our counter-top. Of the half-dozen or so Bluetooth speakers I’ve had in for review over the past several months, none have struck up as much conversation as the Marshall Kilburn. The only other speaker I’ve had in for review that’s garnered as much attention has been MartinLogan’s sleek Crescendo.

Fans of Marshall guitar amps will want to know, however, that the company behind the famous Marshall Stack doesn’t actually build this speaker. The amplifier manufacturer licensed its brand to a third party, Zound Industries, the Swedish company behind Urbanears headphones.

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Planet Coaster review: This joyful theme park builder offers a world of pure imagination

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 03:30:00 -0800

There’s an easy way to judge “Builder”-style games, I think—maybe not the most scientific way, but certainly a gut-level instinct: Was there a moment while playing where I looked up to find that it was 4 in the morning and I should probably have gone to sleep hours ago?

And if we’re judging Planet Coaster on that criteria, then it’s a stunning success.

Six Flags wasn’t built in a day

Technically there were two different theme park builders released last week—Planet Coaster, our main concern for this review, being one. The other was RollerCoaster Tycoon World ($35 on Steam), which I don’t think is quite as bad as the reputation it’s racked up on Steam but does seem to have been rushed out the door in some weird attempt to “beat” Planet Coaster to the punch.

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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare review: In space, no one can hear you snore

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 05:00:00 -0800

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that this whole near-future and not-so-near-future experiment has been something of a misstep for Call of Duty.

Last year’s Black Ops III was a decent enough shooter, reworking the existential angst of the Cold War for an era of AI soldiers and virtual battlefields. But it’s the exception, the lone slightly-brighter spot in an increasingly tedious trajectory arcing through Ghosts, Advanced Warfare, and now Infinite Warfare.

We used to talk about “Call of Duty killers.” Little did we know Call of Duty would kill itself.

To infinity and beyond

It starts out well enough. Like many people, I actually watched Infinite Warfare’s E3 trailer with some amount of intrigue. “What is this game? It looks gorgeous,” I wondered, ships zipping around through the inky vacuum of space. And the campaign opens with some of that magic as your team plummets through Europa’s thin atmosphere to the icy surface.

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Dell Power Companion review: Charge your laptop on the go

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 07:00:00 -0800

We’re all conditioned to carry a spare battery charger when we’re hunting Pokemon, but when your Dell XPS needs more juice on the go, what do you do?

Enter Dell’s Power Companion (found on Amazon for about $95), essentially a big-ass battery that connects to a laptop for a quick recharge. While at first glance you might confuse the Power Companion with your run-of-the-mill giant smartphone charger, there are a few key differences. 

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Chromecast Ultra review: 4K HDR streaming with no frills

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 03:00:00 -0800

Compared to its predecessors, the Chromecast Ultra has three new tricks: 4K HDR streaming, shorter loading times, and an ethernet port for wired connections.

If you’re comfortable with how Chromecast works already, that’s pretty much all you need to know. The $69 Chromecast Ultra does what it claims to do, while preserving all the benefits—and the flaws—of the $35 model.

The bigger question, then, is whether anyone needs a premium Chromecast to begin with.

Still remote-free after all these years

As with the original Chromecast (and its 2015 refresh), the Chromecast Ultra doesn’t include a remote control, and there are no menus to navigate on your television screen. Instead, you control all of the action through your phone, tablet, or the desktop Chrome browser. After a super-simple setup process, apps and websites that support Chromecast—such as Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu—will automatically display a “Cast” button, which lets you launch videos and music on your television screen.

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Samsung SmartCam PT review: This pan-and-tilt camera lets you peer into blind spots

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 03:00:00 -0800

Samsung’s SmartCam HD Plus was one of the first DIY security camera’s we reviewed that improved upon the Dropcam blueprint. Now Samsung has added the SmartCam PT ($229) to its lineup. This pan-and-tilt model lets you see into the blind spots stationary home security cameras can’t reach, and it comes with a few well-thought-out features that set it apart from its many competitors.

If you’re of a certain age, the SmartCam PT (available at Amazon) will likely evoke the old Apollo command modules: a truncated cone that comes to a blunt point. The hollowed out center holds the camera itself, and the black upper part of the cone swivels on its gray base. Set on a shelf, it doubles as an interesting knick-knack, but you can also secure it to a supplied bracket with thumbscrew and mount to a wall.

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Computerworld Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Wonderful Wearables

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 02:30:00 -0800

If you're looking for a great holiday gift, here are five wonderful -- and wearable -- new devices.


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Awesome tech gifts that cost $25 or less

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 03:30:00 -0800

Affordable tech gifts do exist!
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Image by Rob Schultz

Great tech gifts don’t have to be expensive. Whether $10 or $100, the best ones improve our lives somehow.

With the holidays fast approaching (wasn’t it just summer not too long ago?), we’ve assembled a collection of helpful items under $25 that can slip into a stocking or even a fancy wrapped package. These cover wide ground, and mostly span across all divides—it doesn’t matter if your loved ones are Android or iPhone, city or country, Dodgers or Giants.

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Acer Swift 7 review: The world's thinnest laptop is starving for power

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 03:30:00 -0800

Acer boasts that its Swift 7 is the “world’s thinnest notebook PC.” While technically true, that marketing angle sells only one aspect of the machine—and it’s not the most important one.

PC vendors love to sell the idea of thin, and for good reason. Thin implies light, portable, and attractive. But a notebook can end up spreading outward (making it larger and more difficult to pack) or sacrificing performance in the quest to be the thinnest. The Acer Swift 7 does both.

So while this $1,100 13-inch notebook (available at Amazon) is slender and quiet, it’s bigger and slower than similarly priced ultrabooks. Rivals like the barely thicker HP Spectre 13.3 and smaller-but-heftier Dell XPS 13 easily outpace the Swift 7.

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