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Preview: PC World Latest Technology Reviews

PCWorld Reviews





Published: Sun, 28 May 2017 15:39:04 -0700

Last Build Date: Sun, 28 May 2017 15:39:04 -0700

 



Sony A1E 4K TV review: This could be the best OLED TV money can buy

Fri, 26 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

What do you get when you put an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display in the hands of the Sony with their decades of experience enhancing TV images? A better OLED TV. Having only seen another company’s OLED TVs in the consumer space, we’d gotten the idea that the technology was simply challenged when it came to rendering fine details. Not so with the A1E, whose facility with picture minutiae, while not LCD-like, is a substantial improvement.

We recently had the pleasure of setting an A1E next to a brand new LCD-with-quantum-dots Samsung Q9F (we’ll post our review next week) and having at it for an amazing week of viewing and testing. Sadly, the experience left us somewhat torn between which we liked most.

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Meridian Audio Explorer2 USB DAC review: An inexpensive path to high-resolution audio

Wed, 24 May 2017 11:40:00 -0700

Meridian’s Explorer2 portable digital-to-audio converter can play virtually any type of high-resolution audio file, but its most compelling feature is its ability to decode MQA files.

For me, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) was the best thing to come out of CES 2015. Developed by Meridian Audio, a company with a long track record developing high-resolution audio technology, MQA makes it possible for consumers to hear music that’s not only better than CD quality, but the same quality that the artist heard when they recorded it in the studio. And the artist can attest to that because MQA files include a digital fingerprint that indicates the artist, recording engineer, or producer has verified that what you’re hearing was sourced from the studio master.

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Audio-Technica ATH-AG1X review: A good gaming headset with one killer flaw

Wed, 24 May 2017 08:30:00 -0700

Do a search for the best gaming headset, and you'll see a common refrain pop up in forums: “Don’t buy a gaming headset. They’re overpriced garbage! Spend your money on a good pair of headphones and a standalone microphone from a reputable company instead.”

But reputable companies do make their own gaming headsets. I decided to investigate if these would be any better than the offerings from companies like Logitech, Corsair, and Razer. In this first round of examination, I looked at the Sennheiser's latest Game Zero and GSP 350 models, and Audio-Technica's ATH-AG1X.

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Sennheiser GSP 350 review: A gaming headset that sounds a lot better than it looks

Wed, 24 May 2017 08:30:00 -0700

Sennheiser's GSP 350 is one of three gaming headsets I've tested from mainstream audio favorites Sennheiser and Audio-Technica. Many gaming headsets are overpriced, given their feature sets and audio quality, and Internet forums often recommend buying a good pair of headphones and a separate microphone instead. That's why I thought I'd investigate a specific niche of headsets: ones made by the very same companies that produce excellent studio headphones.

I've also looked at Sennheiser's latest Game Zero model, as well as Audio-Technica's ATH-AG1X. Of the three, the Sennheiser GSP 350 is the affordable option at $140. Yes, really. It's also pretty dull-looking. Nevertheless, it delivers where it counts.

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Sennheiser Game Zero review: This headset's sound quality justifies its price

Wed, 24 May 2017 08:30:00 -0700

I'm reviewing Sennheiser's Game Zero headset to answer a question. Lately, it’s become increasingly common to hear the following advice on gaming headsets: Don’t buy one. Instead, you should spend your money on a good pair of headphones and a standalone mic from a reputable company.

But what about when a reputable company makes its own gaming headset?

I’ve been investigating that scenario for the last few months, looking at a selection of gaming headsets from mainstream audio favorites Sennheiser and Audio-Technica. Besides the Sennheiser Game Zero, I also evaluated Sennheiser’s GSP 350 and Audio-Technica’s ATH-AG1X.

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WallyHome Starter Kit review: An ultra-budget smart sensor system

Tue, 23 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Some backstory: WallyHome was originally a product developed by a Seattle startup called SNUPI (an acronym for Sensor Network Utilizing Powerline Infrastructure). The company was focused exclusively on water leak detection, and while the product got rave reviews, it didn’t take off, and the company ended up selling its technology to, of all places, Sears.

Three years later, Wally is back on the market, redesigned, upgraded, and priced to move at $99.99 for a starter kit that includes the hub and one sensor, and $34.99 for each additional sensor.

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JBL E55BT wireless headphone review: These modestly priced cans deliver strong features and good sound

Mon, 22 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

JBL’s E-Series headphones are designed to bring the company’s signature sound in a range of headphone models with a focus on style. At the top of the E-series lineup sits the E55BT wireless headphones. If you're looking to grab some signature JBL sound for less than $150, these headphones might just be your ticket.

Like all E-Series models, the E55BT comes in five bold monochromatic options: black, blue, red, teal, and white (my review pair happened to be red).  Included accessories are Spartan. There's a 3.5mm audio cable and a microUSB charging cable, but no carrying case or even a 1/4-inch adapter.

The JBL E55BT is a circumaural, or over-the-ear, design. The headband is wrapped in a soft, two-tone cotton mesh, with the underside of the headband a darker color than the top. Sizing is adjustable in typical click-stop increments. I had no problems getting a good, snug fit.

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Midia InkBook 8 review: This could have been a versatile e-reader had it not been built on such low-end hardware

Tue, 16 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

The Midia InkBook 8 has similar dimensions to Kobo’s Aura One, measuring 6.5 by 1.3 by 8.9 inches and sporting an eight inch e-ink display. It weighs just a bit more than its Kobo counterpart, coming it at just under nine ounces. In exchange for the e-reader’s extra heft, you’ll gain a microSD card slot that can use cards with a maximum capacity of 32GB.

Upgradeable storage on an e-reader isn’t a feature we see often, these days; probably because most people just don’t need it. The 8GB of internal storage the Aura One provides, for example, can hold five to six thousand ebooks. E-readers like the Aura One, Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Oasis are one-trick ponies: their operating systems and UIs are designed to read electronic periodicals, side-loaded documents, and books from a proprietary store. Period.

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Cinder Precision Grill review: It’s just like a sous-vide cooker, but with less water and more mess

Mon, 15 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

The Cinder Precision Grill promises to cook your food at a precise temperature, just like a sous-vide device, and then sear it so that you don’t need a grill or a second pan. It mostly lives up to those promises, but it’s big, very heavy, and is a pain in the neck to clean. And at $499 ($399 if you buy it during its Indiegogo campaign), it’s quite expensive.

In my home, the only appliance that’s earned a permanent spot on the countertop is the coffeemaker. Everything else gets stored in a cabinet, drawer, or the appliance garage. We made an exception for the Cinder not because we used it so often, but because it’s so big and heavy. We’re talking 27 pounds, 10 ounces—more than four times the mass of our 12-inch cast-iron skillet. And when we did use the Cinder, we had to pull it toward the edge of the counter so that its hinged lid could clear the cabinet above it.

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Sapphire Radeon RX 570 Pulse and RX 580 Pulse review: Solid gaming on a tight budget

Mon, 15 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700


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SpotCam Sense Pro HD review: expanding the idea of home monitoring

Fri, 12 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

With a few solid surveillance cameras in its stable, SpotCam’s latest offerings look to expand the idea of home monitoring by not only monitoring the security of your house when you’re away, but also its comfort levels when you’re home. The indoor SpotCam Sense ($150) and indoor/outdoor SpotCam Sense Pro ($190) are outfitted with all the surveillance features of a DIY home security camera along with a range of environmental sensors for tracking things like temperature and lighting.

(image) SpotCam

The SpotCam Sense HD Pro can be used indoors or outdoors and is protected from water and dust.

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Velv Wine Oxygenator review: Can a $300 gizmo instantly improve your plonk?

Fri, 12 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

The wine world has no shortage of gadgets designed to improve a wine while it moves from bottle to glass. Most of these work along the same principle as traditional decanting: The more your wine sloshes around between the bottle and the glass, the more its flavors open up and become more accessible. The gadgets work in lieu of a decanter, and most of them are handheld aerators that rapidly mix air into the wine as it pours from the bottle.

The Velv Wine Oxygenator is a little different. Rather than imbue your wine with ambient air, it uses replaceable canisters to diffuse “99.5% pure oxygen” into your wine.

(image) Velv

The mechanism is quite simple, and involves no electronics. A long wand extends from a chunky base: You screw a small oxygen canister (similar to a standard CO2 cartridge, but smaller) into the base and dip the wand directly into the wine bottle. Turn the switch to on and oxygen slowly diffuses down through the wand and into the wine, with tiny O2 bubbles percolating into the juice.

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Blue Microphones Satellite wireless headphones review: Active noise cancellation you can celebrate

Tue, 09 May 2017 08:00:00 -0700

Blue Microphones has finally convinced me that active noise cancellation needn’t be a crime against nature. Call me old-fashioned, but the concept of battling noise by introducing noise—albeit of an opposite frequency, so that the two sound waves theoretically cancel each other out—has long been anathema to me. If the driver is producing noise at that frequency, after all, how effective can it be at also producing music at that frequency?

Blue’s solution seems so obvious that you have to wonder why they’re the first to implement the idea: They put two drivers in each ear cup. There’s a 44mm set for reproducing music, and an independent 30mm set dedicated to active noise cancellation. Four omidirectional microphones monitor your listening environment and pick up the ambient noise that’s to be cancelled. I didn’t have an opportunity to use the Satellite in an airline cabin, but its active noise cancellation wiped out all trace of most background noise all around my home, including the whoosh of the too-loud fan on the aging homebrew desktop PC I used to play games on. I also auditioned the phones in a car driving at freeway speed (as a passenger, of course).

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

Mon, 08 May 2017 11:15:00 -0700

With the arrival of spring, new laptops are everywhere. Companies like Dell, HP, Acer, and Asus have been busy launching 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) just keep adding to the wide and varied options already out there, with more to come. Microsoft's recently announced Surface Laptop, for example, will be an attempt to revive the company's battle with Chromebooks.

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Prey (PC) review: System Shock's spirit lives in this mammoth, intertwined space station

Mon, 08 May 2017 07:01:00 -0700

There’s a story I like to tell about Prey. It was back in February, at a preview event—my first ever hands-on demo with the game. Twenty or thirty of us were packed into this room to play the opening hour, which is filled with all sorts of tantalizing areas just out of reach: Locked doors you can’t yet hack open, a room blocked by some crates too heavy to lift.

And a broken-down elevator, the words “REPAIR II NEEDED” appearing in red as you approach. “A whole second floor to return to later,” I thought, made a note of it, and wandered off.

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Galaxy S8 and S8+ case roundup: Protect your investment in style

Mon, 08 May 2017 04:00:00 -0700


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Dell Inspiron 15 7000 review: A gaming laptop at a decidedly non-gaming price

Mon, 08 May 2017 03:30:00 -0700

Inexpensive gaming laptops. They’re the order of the day, with component prices reaching new lows and non-gaming companies putting out quality products at a bargain. A few years back we were hyped about Lenovo’s selling its Y50 for $1,200. Now? You can pick up a Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming notebook for $850. That’s with a 1050 Ti thrown in.

Sure, it might not be the most powerful gaming laptop, but getting a system with a dedicated graphics card at this price is crazy. And if it weren’t for one major caveat, the Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming would be an insane deal.

Big red

The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming looks damn good—at least on the outside. Dell put it into a fairly standard chassis, about an inch thick and with the iconic Dell logo on the outside. The fan vents do sport some flashy grills, but otherwise this Inspiron looks like an enterprise laptop. You could take it to work, use it in meetings, and people would say “Ah yes, a Dell. Clearly that person is entering data into spreadsheets.” At least, that’s what I assume.

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Let's Play: Prey

Fri, 05 May 2017 15:51:00 -0700

Prey looks good and runs great. Join us as we investigate this System Shock successor's creepy Talos I space station.


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GoSun Sport review: Portable solar oven makes cooking fun yet goofy

Fri, 05 May 2017 05:30:00 -0700

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Hey, what’s the most impractical and bizarre way to cook dinner?” then good news: The GoSun solar cooking solution is here.

GoSun makes a wide range of solar ovens, and the GoSun Sport is billed as its fastest solar cooking solution. Portable and lightweight at 7.5 pounds, it’s specifically designed for camping and other on-the-go activities.

The concept is pretty straightforward. The device arrives as a 2-foot-long silver clamshell that unfolds to reveal two parabolic mirrors aimed at a glass vacuum tube nestled between them. A long, cylindrical tray, cut open on the top, slides into this hollow tube.

(image) GoSun

When the sun comes out, you use the adjustable legs to aim the GoSun Sport roughly in the sun’s direction. All of that solar energy gets directed at the vacuum tube (and the tray inside it), which makes the assembly heat up—as high as 550°F according to GoSun. If you fill the tray with delectable morsels of food, well, you’re cooking with nothing but the sun.

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Review: BlackBerry's KEYone phone brings back the keyboard

Thu, 04 May 2017 06:00:00 -0700

BlackBerry's new KEYone Android phone, complete with a real keyboard, could win back some of its enterprise customers.


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A deeper look at Samsung's Galaxy S8

Wed, 03 May 2017 21:00:00 -0700

Is it time to trade in your mobile device? If you're considering an Android smartphone, Samsung's Galaxy S8 seems to be the popular favorite but is it the right phone for you? Here, CIO.com senior writer Sarah White takes a more in-depth look at Samsung's newest offering.


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Everything review: Live a thousand lives in this ambitious recreation of the universe

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

I have lived a thousand lives.

I’ve been a single-cell speck in the primordial ooze that gave way to life. I’ve been a clump of grass, clinging to my makeshift desert oasis. I’ve been a wolf, tumbling through the icy wastes. I’ve been a pair of scissors, discarded on a city street. I’ve been a skyscraper, towering over the same street. I’ve been a continent, scarcely aware of the skyscrapers built upon it. I’ve been a planet, a solar system, a galaxy, multiple galaxies—as unknowable to the skyscraper as the skyscraper is to the grain of pollen. I’ve been a turd, covered in flies.

I’ve been, in a word, everything.

All god’s creatures

Everything is about perspective, its goal nothing less than simulating the entire universe. Each and every object, from a single electron to clusters of galaxies, is hypothetically represented here.

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Windows 10 S hands-on

Wed, 03 May 2017 11:52:00 -0700

We go hands on with Microsoft's Windows 10 S and one of its inexpensive partner laptops, the Dell Latitude 11 EDU.


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Four devices to get a better night's sleep

Wed, 03 May 2017 10:52:00 -0700

Network World Cool Tools columnist Keith Shaw shows off four gadgets (two sleep trackers, two noise machines) that can help you get more or better sleep at night.


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Wink Hub 2 review: This second-generation smart-home hub is one of the best choices for do-it-yourselfers

Wed, 03 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

If you have a mixed environment of smart light bulbs, smart appliances, smart thermostats, and smart everything else in your newly smart home, you might find that coordinating them all is, well, not as smart a process as you’d like. What you need is a smart home system that can gather them all up under a single app, letting you manage everything from a single interface.

The SmartThings hub, now manufactured by Samsung, has been the easiest mainstream product to recommend for some time. These days, the Wink Hub 2 is giving the tech behemoth some badly needed competition. The Wink Hub 2 also has a new parent, Flex; part of the aftermath of tech-incubator Quirky's bankruptcy.

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Waterfi Waterproofed Kindle Paperwhite review: A great e-reader that’s completely protected from water damage

Wed, 03 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

If waterproof is high on your checklist of e-reader must-haves, we recommend that most people consider the Kobo Aura H20. It’s a capable e-book reader designed to stand up to the occasional poolside splash or even an extended soak in a hot tub. For anyone already invested in Amazon’s extensive collection of DRM-protected e-books, periodicals and comic books, however, investing in another company’s incompatible hardware could be a less than attractive proposition.

If you fall into this latter group of readers, you’ll be happy to know that a waterproof version of Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite can be had, provided you’re prepared to pay through the nose for it.

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Mingis on Tech: H-1B visas and the future of Facebook Live

Wed, 03 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

While some changes may be coming to the controversial H-1B visa program in the U.S., the same can't be said for Facebook Live, which is under scrutiny after users posted disturbing videos.


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Microsoft Surface Laptop hands-on

Tue, 02 May 2017 15:27:00 -0700

Living somewhere between Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book in Microsoft's line-up, the Surface Laptop would seem to offer an ideal balance between portability, performance and price.


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V-moda Crossfade 2 Wireless headphones: Exceptionally good cans

Tue, 02 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

V-moda headphones, a perennial favorite among DJs, are designed in large measure by the company’s founder and CEO, Val Kolton. The all-new Crossfade 2 Wireless are the first over-the-ear headphone to ship since Roland acquired a majority stake in V-moda late last year.

The company sent the rose-gold edition for review, which support the aptX Bluetooth codec and cost $350, a $20 premium over the matte white and matte black models that don't include aptX support. Going by looks alone, you might conclude Kolton made just a few tweaks to the original design, which I reviewed just last September. You'd be mistaken.

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The Dell Precision 5520 lets you get to work in Ubuntu 16.04

Mon, 01 May 2017 23:48:00 -0700

Dell's Precision 5520 is one of the very few laptops to offer a Linux distribution as a pre-installed operating system. Another is Dell's XPS 13 Developer Edition, which offers great performance in a compact size. For people wanting something a little more powerful, the Precision 5520 (which starts at $1,399 but is $2,765.50 as configured) packs workstation levels of power while remaining just shy of four pounds (3.93, to be exact). 

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Garmin Dash Cam 55 review: A compact cure for common traffic hassles

Mon, 01 May 2017 17:49:00 -0700

Garmin's Dash Cam 55 adds an essential feature to the dash cam category. These little windshield-mounted watchers are already handy for protecting you from litigious pedestrians and drivers, or capturing a drive-by shooting or strange natural event. The Dash Cam 55 can also keep you from angering everyone stopped behind you at the red light.

The Dash Cam 55 senses when the car stopped in front of you at a light or stop sign has moved and lets you know about it. Universally applied, this could mean less noise pollution (cars behind you honking), less road rage, and less stupidity. In San Francisco recently, I saw a driver ignore three green lights in a row. Not one of the maybe 15 cars waiting behind ever honked. Go figure.

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Outlast 2 review: Fear turns to frustration

Mon, 01 May 2017 12:00:00 -0700

Familiarity breeds contempt, and there’s no genre more vulnerable to contempt than horror. Even the most creative scare becomes banal given enough repetition, with the magic replaced by mundanity as soon as we understand the trick to it.

Outlast 2 is proof of this fragility, of the delicate knife-edge developers walk between terror and tedium, mysterious and melodramatic. And the worst part is that, given the root cause, Outlast 2’s problems only become apparent late in the game when players have exhausted the bag of tricks and seen them again and again and again. It’s terrifying, until it’s not. Then it’s just disappointing.

Opiate of the masses

Horror is subjective of course—more than most genres. Not all of my complaints will apply to everyone, and if you’ve made it through Outlast 2 and love it then more power to you. Fear is a tricky emotion to gauge.

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Let's play Outlast 2

Mon, 01 May 2017 08:50:00 -0700

This horror game serves up fear and frustration in equal measure.


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AirTV Player + Adapter review: An imperfect marriage of Sling TV and broadcast televsion

Mon, 01 May 2017 03:00:00 -0700

Provide enough advice to potential cord cutters, and you'll often find yourself saying "yes, but." Yes, you can stream most traditional TV channels without cable, but you're better off making sacrifices. Yes, you can still use DVR, but restrictions may apply. Yes, you can get broadcast networks for free with an antenna, but they'll be isolated from the rest of your streaming channels.

That last "yes, but" is the one AirTV wants to eliminate with its first streaming box. The $100 AirTV Player is built for watching Sling TV, a low-cost streaming service for cable channels. And with an optional TV tuner bundled for an extra $30, users can also watch local broadcast channels from within the Sling app. By combining these two TV sources into a single interface, AirTV plugs the gaps in Sling's own channel lineup, keeps costs down, and aims to make cord-cutting less intimidating. (Both Sling TV and AirTV are subsidiaries of Dish Network.)

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Logitech G213 Prodigy review: An ambitious keyboard that's oversized and overpriced

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

Rubber-dome keyboards are back.

Sure, they’ve been around here and there. People who don’t care or don’t know about mechanical keyboards keep the market for them alive and well.

But for enthusiasts, they’ve been good as dead. Virtually everyone has switched over to mechanical switches, be it the Cherry, Cherry knock-off, or exotic variety.

Thanks to Logitech and Razer, however, the lowly rubber-dome keyboard has regained some prominence. Last year, both companies released keyboards that attempt to incorporate the feel of mechanical switches. These quasi-hybrids come with slick names—Logitech calls its creation a “mech-dome.”

Unfortunately, as I learned when testing the Logitech G213 Prodigy, it turns out you don’t get quite what the company promises. And you pay quite a bit for the experience, to boot.

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Razer Ornata review: An expensive rubber-dome keyboard that comes with a mechanical click

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0700

Rubber-dome keyboards were dead. Or at least, they seemed to be.

Sure, you’d still encounter them out in the wild, used by people who either didn’t care or didn’t know about mechanical keyboards. For enthusiasts, though, it's been all mechanical for years now. Whether ear-splitting buckling springs or Cherry switches or any of a half-dozen Cherry knock-offs (Razer, Kailh, Omron), people have been upgrading from the lowly rubber dome en masse.

But rather than go quietly into the night, the rubber dome has reinvented itself. Well, Razer and Logitech have reinvented it. Both released rubber-dome keyboards last year that try to incorporate the feel of mechanical switches—a hybrid that Razer annointed with the catchy term “mecha-membrane,” which we’ll use from here on out.

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Asus Strix RX 580 Gaming Top OC review: Proof that size matters

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 03:00:00 -0700

AMD’s release of the new-ish Radeon RX 500 series gives us a chance to tackle a topic that isn’t covered often here at PCWorld: The effectiveness and design of custom designs by different graphics cards makers.

While AMD and Nvidia create the graphics processors used in every Radeon and GeForce video card, respectively, the companies that actually sell graphics cards—like Asus, Sapphire, EVGA, XFX, Visiontek—et cetera—put their own spin on things by customizing the hardware with bespoke cooling solutions, factory overclocks, and the quality of internal components. Those “personal touches” can potentially create vast differences in thermals and gaming performance between two custom graphics cards built around the same GPU.

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Samsung DeX: The Galaxy S8 desktop dock really works

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:01:00 -0700

Can you survive business travel with just a Galaxy S8+ smartphone and DeX dock? Seven days of dedicated productivity testing says yes.


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Scanner Sombre review: A weird and unsettling glimpse into darkness

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 07:00:00 -0700

It starts like a nightmare. You’re hundreds of feet below the Earth’s surface, plumbing the depths of a seemingly endless cave, and it goes pitch black. Darkness all around, so dark you can’t see the ground beneath your feet, the water dripping around you, or the backs of your own hands.

(image) Scanner Sombre

And then, a beam of light. Or rather hundreds of beams, all shooting out of a handheld LIDAR scanner. The world around you turns red and orange and green and blue, mapping your surroundings with thousands of tiny points of light. It’s as beautiful as it is cold and digital, a haunting Seurat landscape.

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