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Preview: PC World Latest Technology Reviews

PCWorld Reviews





Published: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 10:08:01 -0800

Last Build Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2017 10:08:01 -0800

 



LG G6 Camera Close-Up

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

One of the best ways LG takes advantage of its unique 18:9 display is in the camera. Let's take a closer look.


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For Honor review: Satisfying melee kneecapped by microtransactions and online woes

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 01:16:00 -0800

After two weeks circling opponents, sword held stiffly above my head, waiting for an opening, I think it’s time to slap an official score on For Honor. It’s not the score I wanted to give, and it’s not even a score I’m confident will apply long-term—Ubisoft has leaned heavily on games-as-a-service the past few years, with numerous instances of a stuttering launch experience turning around to an unabashed success. Looking at you, Rainbow Six Siege.

Maybe For Honor will find itself added to that list someday. It has the potential—there’s an excellent core concept here. But oh, there’s also so much reason to be disappointed. Worst of all? There’s no reason for it. Reverse a few key choices and this all could have been averted.

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Razer Blade Pro review: This gaming laptop deftly balances power and portability

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:25:00 -0800

Razer’s made the Blade Pro worthy of its name again—just prepare yourself for sticker shock.


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Cerise Circular review: This Mac Pro wannabe gets sidetracked by gaming

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Cerise’s Circular computer wants to be like Apple’s Mac Pro. The company, which primarily makes Windows PCs for digital content creators, has brought the same cylindrical “hot air rises” concept to a system that’s hand-built by one person, using a custom-designed, Mac Pro-like case that’s made in the United States. Cerise’s business model makes the Circular computer pretty unique, and pretty expensive—our test unit cost $3,339.

The puzzler is the specific configuration we tested. There’s nothing wrong with it—it’s just more like a gaming PC than a Mac Pro killer (unless you opt for a version with more powerful Xeon or Broadwell-E parts). Viewed from the obsessive bang-for-buck perspective of gaming builds, the Circular’s boutique pricing becomes a liability.

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Three easy to use activity trackers

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 02:00:00 -0800

CIO contributor Jim Martin tries out three of the easier to use fitness trackers for those who want something that doesn't require a steep learning curve.


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Unboxing the da Vinci Jr. 2.0 Mix printer

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 21:00:00 -0800

XYZ's latest 3D printer supports two-color printing at an affordable price. Computerworld reporter Lucas Mearian shows us what's in the box.


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Best surge protector

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

You only know for sure that you needed a surge protector after your equipment fries. Then it’s too late. For a very reasonable amount of money, you could put an almost literal firewall between your expensive (and cheap) electronics and the juice coming in from a wall socket. A surge protector throws itself into the line of fire, sacrificing its components again and again so that your devices stay functional.

These reviews are of surge protectors designed for a home office or cubicle, or a home-entertainment system. Such power mediators have a single function: keeping voltage from exceeding a certain rated level, beyond which equipment can blow a fuse, burn out its power supply, or completely fry its circuitry beyond repair. The surge protector takes a hit instead of your hardware or A/V system, and it could potentially save you hundreds to many thousands of dollars, depending on what you have connected.

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AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip review: Very little protection

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

We included this AmazonBasics model in our testing, because we wanted to see how a baseline, mostly old-style power strip with surge protection would work. The answer is: not well and we don’t recommend it for electronics of any kind. Its clamping voltage is too high, protection too low, and durability too short.

It’s almost a side note that the location and spacing of the outlets isn’t ideal for electronics. There’s one extra long gap at the strip’s end opposite the power switch, but I was only able to position four typical plugs among its six outlets.

To be fair, Amazon markets it at the top of its product page as for “small appliances, phones, and lamps,” but in the full description, Amazon says it “creates an important layer of defense, protecting electronic devices like hard drives against system crashes, data loss, and damage.”

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Accell Poweramid surge protector review: Packs a lot in a small footprint

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

When you’re on the road, in a hotel room, at a coffeeshop, in an airport, or in a conference or banquet room, the power outlets available often fall far short of what you need. The Accell 6-outlet Powramid has a cutesy name, but packs a wallop. With six outlets spaced at intervals around a circle, plus two high-speed USB charging ports, you can practically power an office. You’ll make a lot of friends when you plug this in.

The Powramid isn’t precisely portable. It’s just under 1.5 pounds and with the bulbous main unit plus the six-foot cord, so you won’t want to drop it into a laptop bag or a regular carry-on. But it is the kind of gadget you might throw into a car or in checked luggage if you’re routinely short of power or traveling with colleagues.

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APC SurgeArrest review: Very near the top of the pack

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

APC is a long-time maker of electronics-protecting products, including uninterruptible power supplies. Its 11-outlet SurgeArrest has excellent build quality, a good outlet layout, and nice extras that put it nearly at the top of the pack. (APC sent us the slightly older, now-discontinued PF11VNT3 for review, which has an almost identical feature set and layout. A cable organizer is no longer part of the design.)

The surge protector runs five outlets for standard 2- and 3-prong plugs down the middle, and then on either side has three outlets perpendicular to the center plugs and widely spaced. I was able to attach six power adapters of varying sizes and five plugs down in the middle with only a little cramping.

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Tripp Lite TLP1208TELTV review: Its outlets are packed tight, but it does everything else right

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Tripp Lite’s 12-outlet surge protector might lack a product name—model number TLP1208TELTV doesn’t exactly roll off one’s tongue—but it has nearly everything else. It’s your best bet for a surge protector that cuts power when its internal protection is exhausted, and it offers a relatively good outlet layout.

You want a surge protector that stops letting power flow when the internal protection can’t absorb a surge if you’re in an area or on an electrical system with regular surges or electrical strikes that cause voltage spikes, and you have a high degree of concern that you might experience damage before noticing the Protected light on your surge protector has gone out. If that’s the case and you have hard disk drives (HDDs) on attached computers rather than SSDs, or other hardware that could be damaged or corrupt data if the power is cut off, consider adding an uninterruptible power supply. A UPS comes with a back-up battery that can provide power long enough for you to shut the computer down in an organized fashion.

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RAVPower surge protector review: Too many unknowns for us to recommend

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

We picked RAVPower's 8-outlet, 3 USB port surge protector because we liked the features it offered and we've had good experiences with some of the company's other products. Despite its high build quality, good outlet layout, and three fast-charging USB ports, a lack of detailed specifications prevents us from recommending it or giving it a good rating.

RAVPower didn’t respond to several requests for information, so we’re unable to determine several technical elements. The product appears to lack a UL Listing, a baseline testing characteristic that should be present in every electrical and electronic device. It doesn’t have a UL Listing in its molding or as an add-on label, and we were unable to find it in the UL database.

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Belkin 12-outlet PivotPlug review: Clever design helps avoid blocked outlets

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

This best-in-breed affordable surge protector continues to let power flow even after protection is exhausted. If you have equipment that could lose data or be damaged if powered down abruptly, including a desktop computer with a hard disk drive (HDD) rather than an SSD, Belkin’s 12-outlet PivotPlug (model number BP112230-08) is the right choice.

Its $33 price tag makes it one of the more expensive surge suppressors we’ve evaluated lately, but it’s also the most flexible and it has the highest joules rating (4320) and the lowest clamping voltage (330 volts on all legs).

More clamping requires adding MOVs (metal-oxide varistors) to increase joules, because it’s more likely surges will eat away at the protection when the voltage threshold is lower, and this model lists durability in joules at 40 to 50 percent higher than its two closest competitors that we've reviewed to date.

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Halo Wars 2 review: Spinning its Warthog wheels in a stagnant RTS genre

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:00:00 -0800

I briefly wrote about Halo Wars 2 last week—mostly performance and issues I had with the PC controls at launch. Rather than rehashing those quibbles, head over here for PCWorld’s look at the technical side of Halo Wars 2.

This will be our official review of the actual game, focused primarily on the campaign and the “should-be-good-except” Blitz Mode, both of which I put more time over the past week. The short version? Halo Wars 2 isn’t bad, but it’s definitely not the real-time strategy genre’s long-sought salvation.

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LG Watch Sport review: Not the watch Android Wear needs right now

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800

Android Wear has a problem. Sales are slow. Motorola is backing out. Samsung has its own watch platform.

What Google’s watch ecosystem needs is a reboot. New software, new hardware, fresh marketing, the works. Unfortunately, the two LG watches chosen to be the launch partners for the new Android Wear 2.0 platform fall well short of the fresh, forward-looking, “gotta have it” hardware that’s really needed. The LG Style is missing some of Wear 2.0’s best features, and the LG Sport, which showcases everything Wear 2.0 has to offer, is laden with faults.

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Vizio SmartCast Crave 360 speaker review: Great features, but mediocre sound

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

Vizio is known for making great TVs that don’t cost all that much. Now the price-for-performance king is looking to disrupt the audio market in the same way, with a series of powered speakers that play music over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB media, and even hardwired ethernet. The SmartCast Crave 360 reviewed here is a good effort if you’re looking for something to play background music, but it doesn’t evoke the visceral excitement that audio enthusiasts crave.

As you’ve probably surmised from its name, you can “cast” audio from any mobile or computer app that supports Google’s Chromecast audio technology over your Wi-Fi network to any of the speakers in the SmartCast lineup. You can cast the same or different music to each speaker, but I didn’t get to test that aspect of Vizio’s offerings because the company sent only the Crave 360 for this review.

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Razer Blade Pro (2016) review: Now this is how you do a 'Pro' laptop

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

Despite its premium price, the Blade Pro has arguably been Razer’s weakest laptop ever since 2014. That’s the year the 14-inch Blade (no surname) received a massive performance upgrade, bumping up to an Nvidia GTX 870M graphics card and a crisp 3200x1800 screen.

Meanwhile the 17-inch Blade Pro stuck to the lower 860M-tier card and a 1080p screen—and at a higher price. Suffice it to say, it’s been awhile since the Blade Pro felt like it deserved its lofty moniker.

For a time I thought Razer had decided to abandon the Pro model entirely and stick to the 14-inch Blade, but instead Razer was apparently scheming a way to put the Blade Pro back on top. Successfully, I might add. The latest Blade Pro is one hell of a machine, and an incredible return to form.

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Aukey Wireless Indoor Surveillance Camera review: Its performance doesn't measure up to the features

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Aukey is a company more known for mobile accessories like car chargers and Bluetooth speakers than smart-home products. So it was a bit surprising when it announced its first home security camera would be an ambitious, full-HD, panoramic model. But while its features are impressive on paper, its rookie status was all to apparent when we put it to the test.

The Aukey Wireless Indoor Surveillance camera (model VT-CM1, $110) cuts an attractive hourglass figure with a shiny black finish. The head unit houses a 2MP 1080p camera with a 92-degree field of view. That’s not as wide as most cameras, which typically run in the 110- to 180-degree range, but that head unit rotates 360 degrees, allowing you to take in an entire room. Using the camera’s companion mobile app, you can pan, tilt, and zoom to ensure you don’t miss a thing. The camera’s wide base lets you set it securely on any flat surface, but you can also mount it to a wall or ceiling with the accompanying bracket and screws.

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Libratone Q Adapt wireless headphones review: You control how much of the world to allow in

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) can filter out the noise pollution that accompanies modern travel, whether it be the low-frequency rumble of a jet engine or the drone of a train or bus on your daily commute. Basic ANC technology has been around for years, and batteries are becoming good enough that it can be used with wireless models. Manufacturers have also started adding features that make ANC even more effective. For Libratone, that means giving you the power to control how much of the outside world is allowed in.

The $249 Q Adapt wireless headphones don't look all that special, but they do sport Bluetooth 4.1 and they support the high-quality aptX audio codec. If your smartphone, digital audio player, or other source also supports aptX, then you can stream near-CD quality audio. They sound great, delivering well-balanced sound without any glaring sonic shortcomings. These little headphones aren't high-end models, but they do have lots of features that set them apart from the crowd.

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ZTE Blade V8 Pro review: A decent phone that would be better off with a single camera

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800

ZTE's Blade V8 Pro is the company's latest push into the budget U.S. smartphone market. It's a $230 Android phone that boasts a dual-lens camera on the back, capable of taking the same style of bokeh photos Apple touted as the headlining feature of the iPhone 7 Plus.

Sounds fancy, right? Well, kind of.

Overall design

(image) Jason Cipriani

Both buttons are easy to reach.

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Creative Sound BlasterX Katana review: The soundbar finally makes its way to PCs

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 03:30:00 -0800

Considering the burgeoning popularity of soundbars in living room setups, it’s surprising they’re mostly missing in action on the PC side of things. By and large, the PC has stuck to 3.5mm input dual-speaker systems, occasionally with a subwoofer included. It’s strange for a few reasons:

1) Unlike TVs, monitors rarely ever come with built-in speakers.

2) Most dedicated PC speakers are terrible.

3) Desk space is often in short supply, and cable routing a pain.

But for some reason the soundbar hasn’t made its way to desktop PCs, even as it’s become a hit with everyone else. Razer sort-of made an attempt with its Leviathan a few years ago, but even that was more geared towards the living room.

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Ubiquiti Labs Amplifi HD Wi-Fi router review: A different take on the mesh network

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Note: This review is based on the performance of the Amplifi HD with Windows clients. If you’d like to read a version with analysis based on performance with Mac clients, follow this link.

Ubiquiti Labs is a relatively new player in the consumer router market, but it’s no babe in the woods. It’s a division of Ubiquiti Networks, a well-regarded manufacturer of enterprise and service-provider networking solutions, and an early player in the mesh-networking market. The company announced its first consumer product back in May 2016, but the model reviewed here is significantly better than that one.

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Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 impresses with it's 'all-screen' design and performance

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 21:00:00 -0800

Does Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 have what it takes to get you through you a full day of demanding work, streaming video and social media posting? CIO.com senior writer Sarah White runs Dell's newest hybrid through the paces to find out the answer.


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What I don't like about the iPad Pro

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 04:10:00 -0800

iOS on the iPad isn't all it could be—here are a few ideas on how to fix it.


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Sniper Elite 4 review: Lofty aims battle grindhouse roots in this ambitious sequel

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 05:00:00 -0800

Sniper Elite 4 is a very serious game about stealthily killing Nazi scum during the Allied invasion of Italy. Most of the time.

It's also a laugh riot of a game where each and every bullet is shown in glorious slow-motion, tearing through skin and internal organs, kidneys and livers and testicles and other fleshy bits all jiggling in a weirdly detailed nod to Newton’s laws.

Which Sniper Elite 4 you choose to focus on? Well, that’s up to you.

Shot through the heart, you’re to blame

As I wrote in our preview last month: “While the series may never wholly shed its grindhouse B-movie feel, there’s an increasingly smart stealth game hidden underneath the fountains of blood and guts.”

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Bose QuietControl 30 wireless headphones review: A nearly perfect set of active noise-cancelling earphones

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 04:10:00 -0800

Bose first brought its active noise-cancellation technology to its earphones with its QuietComfort 20. Until then, ANC headphones were bulky affairs. The closest you’d get to compact was if they collapsed down small enough to be jammed into your carry-on bag. Not so the QC 20s. The earphones, with their inline controls and combination battery pack/ANC hardware, were compact enough to tuck into a hip pocket. Other companies followed Bose’s lead, introducing similar hardware of their own. Last spring, with rumors swirling that the next iPhone would ship with no headphone jack, Bose saw the writing on the wall: it was time to innovate again.

No headphone jack on your new iPhone? No problem. Meet Bose’s QuietControl 30—the company’s first Bluetooth ANC earphones.

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Honor 6X review: A $250 phone that feels like a million bucks

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800

Battery life, processing power, and a headphone jack are all features to consider when shopping for a new phone. Most importantly, does the phone look good, feel responsive, and take great pictures?

But as budget phones continue to get smarter, another important question has emerged: Is it worth it? With high-end phones creeping into the four-figure range, it’s a question that’s begun to take on considerable weight. We expect a Galaxy S7 to have a better processor, camera, and display than a Galaxy A5, but is it twice or even three times as good? Or are we just paying extra because of its top-of-the-line specs and branding?

These are the questions that popped into my head when I picked up the Honor 6X for the first time. Right off the bat I was impressed. Had I not known the price, I would have probably guessed its price was similar to the OnePlus 3T, somewhere in the $450 range. It’s build and feature set feels more like mid-range offering than a budget one, and even with a higher price tag than its $200 predecessor, it still punches above its weight.

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Moov HR Sweat review: This heart rate-tracking headband will kick your butt

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 04:24:00 -0800

Fitness trackers come in all shapes and sizes at a variety of price points, and they all have the same basic features: step-counting, sleep-monitoring, and exercise-tracking, with some unique traits just to keep things interesting. But few of these wearable devices are designed to really get your heart pumping, even the ones with heart-rate monitors built in.

Moov’s new HR Sweat is a headband that promises to not only track your pulse accurately in real time, but also kickstart your fitness routine with workouts designed specifically around your heart rate. It’s an intriguing premise that positions Moov to compete with chest strap makers like Polar. But does it get the job done? I put it to the test.

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Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z review: This USB thumbdrive is small, secure, and device-agnostic

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

We were already fans of Apricorn’s keypad-sporting secure drives, especially the small Aegis Secure Key 3.0, which is only a little larger than your garden-variety USB thumbdrive. Now there’s the Aegis Secure Key 3z, which is the size of a standard thumbdrive—approximately 3.2 inches long, 0.75 inches wide, and 0.37 inches thick. Okay, a slightly long thumbdrive.

Lacking the 3.0’s keypad cover, the 3z looks like a 1/8-scale garage-door opener when you pull it out of your pocket, but so what? Exposing the keypad lets everyone know they’re not going to get the data off your drive, so don’t bother. On the other hand, if you’re really trying to fly under the radar, just keep it in your pocket.

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Beyerdynamic Amiron home headphones review: no high-tech gewgaws, just sweet sound

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

It seems Beyerdynamic didn't get the memo that analog jacks are out and wireless streaming and Lightning ports are in. The company's $599 Amiron home headphones tether you to your choice of musical source and practically insist that you stay put and take your music seriously.

And thank goodness for that. Instead of producing a mediocre pair of headphones following the latest trend, Beyerdynamic has delivered an astoundingly great-sounding headphone that’s sure to please anyone who cares about playing their music with the energy and dynamics of the original performance.

Steeped in tradition

In 1924 in Germany, Beyerdynamic’s founder Eugene Beyer started making loudspeakers for movie palaces (aka theaters) during the transition from silent to talking films. In 1937, the company began production of the first dynamic headphones, the DT 48 (which remained in production until 2012) and hasn’t looked back since. The Amiron home follows in that tradition and is the successor to the company’s model T90.

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Flash review: Ultimaker 3 3D printer

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Computerworld puts the Ultimaker 3 fused-filament 3D printer through its paces -- in 30 seconds.


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Quern - Undying Thoughts review: The closest we may ever come to a Riven sequel

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0800


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Dell XPS Tower Special Edition review: It's faster than it looks

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 10:45:00 -0800

Back in the day, Dell’s XPS desktops were fire-breathing gaming machines. They could take on the best from Falcon Northwest, Alienware, Origin, and the rest of the “money is no object” boutique builders.

Then Dell bought Alienware, and the XPS desktop lineup moved away from big, beefy gaming rigs to Alienware, and instead focused on “premium design.” (Read: desktop towers that you’d be hard-pressed to tell apart from their non-gaming counterparts.)

Judging by the redesigned XPS Tower Special Edition, Dell remains committed to that division between its brands. Instead of an all-out battlestation, this refreshed XPS offers a rock-solid gaming experience that runs coolly and quietly in an extremely understated design.

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Astell&Kern AK70 high-res digital audio player review: Sweet sound and strong features make it a winner

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Apart from hardcore music lovers and audiophiles, most people can’t understand why anyone would opt for a dedicated music player. You can play music right from your phone can’t you? Sure, but pair your phone with high-quality headphones and download high-resolution music files and you’ll be left wanting. Listen to Astell&Kern's AK70 and you'll change your tune.

In my experience, the major disadvantage with a dedicated music player is that it’s not only another device to carry, but it's often a big and bulky device to boot. While Astell&Kern’s AKJr’s iPod nano-like size was seemingly perfect, it’s sluggish user interface and Spartan feature set left me wanting more when I reviewed it last year

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HMA Pro VPN review: An easy-to-use tool for securing your online privacy

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

HMA Pro is a premium virtual private network (VPN) service operated by Privax Limited, an AVG subsidiary. Starting with version 3, HMA Pro (HMA is short for Hide My Ass) gained a much simplified user interface that makes it easy to get connected and online. This was a long overdue improvement that competing services such as ExpressVPN, SaferVPN, TunnelBear, and many others already offer.

If you’ve never used a VPN before the basic idea is that you route all your PC’s Internet traffic through a third-party server. This lets you spoof your real location with a virtual one, as well as secure your web browsing habits from prying eyes such as a nosy Internet service provider (ISP) or a hacker looking for victims on public Wi-Fi.

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The best laptops of 2017: Ultrabooks, budget PCs, 2-in-1s, and more

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 18:00:00 -0800

With a new year comes fresh laptop updates—companies like Dell, HP, Acer, and Asus have already begun to launch revamped versions of popular notebooks and spin-offs of existing lines.

These new additions to the scene (like Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 and the refreshed HP Spectre x360 15) just keep adding to the wide and varied options already out there. Expect to keep seeing even more convertibles, 2-in-1s, and traditional clamshells as the months roll by, and also keep an eye peeled for more laptops with discrete graphics. In January, Nvidia expanded its game-changing Pascal GPU lineup to include a mobile version of its budget-minded GTX 1050, and it'll likely become common as an option in larger thin-and-light systems.

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The new Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition is the little Linux laptop that can

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 03:00:00 -0800

Installing Linux on a laptop is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to adoption of the OS. After all, taking a perfectly good PC, nuking Windows, and replacing it with an unfamiliar OS can seem a lot like performing open-heart surgery to an inexperienced user. When you take into account that there are precious few laptops with Linux preinstalled, it’s no wonder that desktop Linux adoption numbers are so grim. (There are other reasons too, but I won’t go into those here.)

One of the few laptops to come correct with a Linux OS is Dell’s XPS 13 Developer Edition. I got a chance to benchmark the 2015 model a few months ago, and really enjoyed playing with the little ultrabook. Physically, it’s virtually identical to the consumer version of the XPS 13, only it came loaded with Ubuntu 14.04. Flash forward, and Dell has updated its Developer Edition with Intel’s Kaby Lake CPU and Ubuntu 16.04. I have to say, there’s not much to dislike about the revamp.

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