Tech News

Facebook is tweaking how it ranks public comments so the worst ones get hidden

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 10:54

Facebook is taking more steps to try and limit negative comments and abuse on its platform, introducing an improved ranking system for comments on public profiles that will hopefully lead to more "meaningful conversations".

Public comments on busy pages (like those for a celebrity for instance) are already ranked to some extent, using considerations like how many interactions a comment gets and various other "integrity signals".

Now Facebook says it's also going to take into account whether owners of pages and their network of friends have interacted with a comment. So if your post on Cristiano Ronaldo's Facebook page doesn't get a response from the great man himself, it might not show up quite as prominently.

The new rankings system will continue to use multiple considerations for ranking comments, and as usual, Facebook is going to keep some of its cards close to its chest to stop people gaming the system.

Facebook changes

These ranking adjustments are part of a much bigger overhaul for Facebook that was announced last month, with changes happening across all of the platform's various apps and services.

Groups and private conversations are being given more prominence in the new design, while the more traditional ways of sharing and the News Feed take a back seat.

Facebook Dating is getting rolled out across more countries, while a new feature called Meet New Friends helps you do exactly that – expand your network of buddies based on shared communities and interests.

The changes to comment rankings on public pages are rolling out now, so you should see them in effect straight away, unless you've already moved all your social networking into private group chats.

Via Gizmodo

Categories: Tech News

Leaked renders of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro show up online

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 09:47

It's been a chaotic year for Huawei so far, but in the midst of uncertainty over the company's future, the first images of what could be Huawei's next flagship phone have made their way out onto the web.

These renders of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro come from Chinese site IT Home so we can't guarantee their legitimacy, but they look like they could be genuine images of the phone that's expected to launch later this year.

Like its predecessor the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the handset apparently features a rectangular panel to house the camera lenses – only this time there are four of them rather than three.

Around the front of the Mate 30 Pro we've got some very thin bezels and a hole-punch notch with a dual-lens front-facing camera in it. Black, red and blue are the colors shown off in these images.

The leaked renders (credit: IT Home)

Again, it's worth taking these images with a pinch of salt. The Mate 20 Pro arrived in October 2018 so we're probably looking at around the same time of year in 2019 for the follow-up.

Previous rumors about the handset have pointed to a 6.7-inch QHD+ screen, a 4,200mAh battery, and a Kirin 985 processor keeping everything running smoothly under the hood.

Newly leaked information suggests the screen is going to feature a 90Hz refresh rate, and the camera is tipped to be capable of 5x optical zoom.

We'll have to wait and see how Huawei's business woes affect the Mate 30 Pro roll out. The company is reportedly pulling back phone production at the moment and working on its own mobile OS to replace Android.

Via GSMArena

Categories: Tech News

Best tax software 2019

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 08:08

The IRS is not to be messed you. Tax returns need to be filed in a regular and accurate manner, covering both state and federal taxes as applicable.

However, managing tax returns can seem like a headache, not least if you're worried about managing records accurately, getting figures exactly right, and ensuring you've covered all technical points that you need.

Luckily there are a number of tax software packages available that aim to make everything easy and simple when it comes to filing your tax returns with the IRS. While most come with a basic fee, some add additional ones for additional filing.

Ultimately it's a case of looking to see which software pricing plan suits you best and for your circumstances. This is especially the case where you may have investments or rental property, which can make your tax return a little more complicated.

Here we'll list the best in tax return software, so you can make your own appraisal of which may be the best for you.

  • Want your company or services to be added to this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to desire.athow@futurenet.com with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line.

Image Credit: Intuit

If you want high quality tax software, then it makes sense to turn to a well-known and respected company like Intuit, which provides several options on this front, not the least of which comes under the QuickBooks brand.

QuickBooks is a comprehensive accountancy solution for small businesses – and indeed larger ones – with the Full Service Payroll option giving you expert payroll help for setting things up, and crucially, tax filing support. Intuit bolsters the latter with a guarantee of accuracy, so if anything should go awry with your taxes, you have the full backing of the firm.

You can pick up Full Service Payroll as an add-on for $80 per month plus $4 for each employee, and you also get the benefit of full integration with whatever QuickBooks package you’re running (from the basic plan to the Plus offering).

Alternatively, Intuit also produces a range of standalone tax software solutions which start with ProConnect Tax Online, which offers QuickBooks Online Accountant integration to easily import client data, and a dizzying array of over 5,600 forms for the likes of 1040, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120S, 709 and 990 tax returns.

There’s also no contract commitment with ProConnect, as it operates on a pay-per-return pricing model, so with Intuit, you have plenty of scope when it comes to exactly how you want to handle paying for your tax software.

Image Credit: TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer positions itself as a bargain tax solution, offering prices that undercut the competition across multiple tiers.  

The base tier of TaxSlayer for basic returns, known as SimplyFree, offers a Federal and State return, including the eFile, all for free, but only for 1040EZ forms. The more popular Classic tier includes all major Federal tax forms, and includes a W-2 import for a dirt cheap $24, but the State forms are an additional $4.95 fee, which should be fine for most users.

The offerings top out at $47, and cover the specific needs of the self-employed, including contractors and 1099’s, and also require the additional fee for a State return. There is an online guide to assist users in choosing the best version of the program for their needs.  

Even at these affordable prices, a notable feature is the included phone and email support (24 to 48 hour response) on the lower tiers, and live chat on the higher tiers.   

Image Credit: TaxAct

Sporting a simplified interface, TaxAct takes a no-frills approach to the chore of doing the taxes in the cloud, while undercutting the prices of the bigger players.

TaxAct has five tiers, of which the first is free, and good for filing simple returns such as a 1040. The Basic tier expands the service to include college expenses, dependents, and more, for $14.95. The Deluxe tier at $47.95 covers homeowners, deducations, credits, and adjustments, while the Premier tier at £57.95 covers investments, rental property, and provides priority support.

TaxAct has all the basics covered, including importing W-2’s, and importation of prior years’ returns. There is also mobile app support for calculating returns on the go, and you can even use your smartphone camera to capture your W-2 income form. 

TaxAct eschews email support in favor of phone and chat support. It also offers a $100,000 accuracy guarantee. 

Image Credit: H&R Block

Formerly known as Kiplinger’s TaxCut, H&R Block TaxCut has been around for many years, and is a full featured tax solution. With four tiers, it can handle just about any return.  

Unlike some other offerings, TaxCut has no free tier, and the simpler returns start with the Basic one which retails at $29.95. While it includes a Federal eFile, adding a State return means a hefty $39.95 extra, and for a State eFile it's an additional $19.95.

Unless you live in that few handful of states with no State income tax, such as Florida, most users are better served with the next tier up, Deluxe, which for $54.95 is better value as it includes both the Federal and State return, although the State eFile still adds an additional $19.95.  

The standout feature of TaxCut is that there are approximately 12,000 H&R outlets that are available to users of the program when some in-person hand-holding is needed to get the job done - for an additional cost. Online chat, like its competitors, is included for no extra outlay. 

Image Credit: Intuit

Ask someone to name a program for tax prep, and chances are they will say TurboTax. That’s not by accident as this firm is an old pro in this area, having its origins in the mid-1980’s when TurboTax was first created by the software company Chipsoft (and is now under the Intuit umbrella).

The online offerings start with a free tier for Federal taxes, and the State adds a reasonable $29.95; this is fine for a 1040EZ or 1040A return, but not a full 1040. The full 1040 requires a step up to the Deluxe tier, which goes for $59.99, and the State return adds $39.99 to the package.  

TurboTax includes the 'ItsDeductible' feature, which can assist in calculating the value of donated items. It can also store your documents online for safekeeping if they are needed later, such as for an audit. 

Image Credit: FreeTaxUSA

Getting your taxes done for free does sound like an attractive offer, and yes, the name of this product does indicate the truth. Federal taxes can indeed be done for free - for all returns including a full 1040, and even more complicated tax situations such as an Earned Income Credit, or a K-1. Adding a State return tacks on an affordable $12.95 fee.  

Compared to the competition, FreeTaxUSA does indeed represent the bargain here. There is a higher Deluxe tier offered, which adds Audit Assist, Priority Support and can handle amended returns, but true to the cheapskate origins, it's only an additional $6.99.

Categories: Tech News

How will smartwatches and fitness trackers make use of 5G?

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 08:00

Faster, better, and the future of mobile internet, 5G is certainly the connection you want on your smartphone. It means faster speeds for when you want to download something in a hurry, as well as being able to stream video more efficiently while sitting on the train during your daily commute. 

With speeds potentially being 100 times faster than standard 4G, the new norm is going to be spectacularly speedy (providing you live in an area that supports 5G). 

What does that mean for your smartwatch or fitness wearable though? It's not as though you'll find yourself often downloading hefty files to your watch or fitness tracker, after all. So, will 5G really make a significant difference to smartwatch users? 

With a growing trend for wearables to be self-sufficient rather than relying on smartphone connectivity, there's huge potential for growth here, but not necessarily in the same way that you'll see with your smartphone. The importance of 5G to wearables is a little more complicated than simply being faster. 

What we do know so far is that the way we use our beloved wearables could be set to change rapidly over the coming years. 

Speed isn't everything

So we all know that the best thing about 5G is its huge speed advantage over 4G, but there's more to it than that. 5G is smarter. It offers lower latency so its response times are speedier. 

For a phone, that might mean a faster-loading webpage due to a lower ping, but for a smartwatch that means exchanging data faster so, for instance, you won't have to wait for map updates or your step counter to sync up. 

In theory, it'll all just work automatically rather than leaving you to stand around waiting for your data to sync with relevant accounts. 

5G can also handle more users simultaneously than 4G because it can co-exist alongside other wireless signals without any risk of interference, as it operates on three different spectrum bands. 

For a smartphone, that means it can operate at a high enough speed to stream the latest Netflix hit uninterrupted – but the next-gen mobile network will also improve our wearables, too. 

Theories suggest that 5G devices could have two different modes available to them - a high-speed and high-bandwidth mode for streaming and downloading, and a low-power, long-life mode for a better battery life and improved reliability. While few smartphone users will be interested in the latter, a long and reliable battery life lends itself perfectly to smartwatches and wearables.

Through 5G, it's possible to have thousands of wearables connected within a small geographical area without disruption. Something that will be immediately appealing to those who live in busy cities that can have congested airwaves. 

Image credit: Shutterstock

The cloud just got bigger

With the rise of 5G, all devices may no longer need substantial physical storage to be built into them. With faster connections, lower latency and effectively instantaneous transmissions, users could simply store all their apps and files on the cloud rather than requiring their smartphone or wearable device to include physical storage. 

That has a few benefits tied into it. By turning your smartwatch or fitness wearable into a gateway for your data, it means that they can also become smaller. 

Instead of having chunky devices that contain lots of physical storage, manufacturers could focus on providing more advanced sensors and better batteries. Wearables could also simply look smaller, sleeker and more fashionable – something that's particularly relevant in the case of ring or necklace based trackers. 

Most wearables are able to track how far you've run, your current heart rate, and your location, but all of these features are typically somewhat inaccurate at times. 

With more nano sensors built into them, we could benefit from sleek-looking wearables that are also highly accurate, right down to being able to measure body temperature or other vital signs. For the avid runner, this could mean no longer needing a heart monitor strap as well as a smartwatch, for example. 

The idea of wearables that work as your own personal trainer or doctor is far more likely with 5G too, especially if it frees up storage space and makes data they capture more accurate. 

Image credit: TechRadar

Smarter use of smaller technology

More space for a better battery, in conjunction with 5G's more efficient use of power, could also go some way to reducing the smartwatch's biggest obstacle up until this point – its limited battery life.

Smaller wearables in the future may also lead to a growth in smart clothing. Smart clothing already exists, but it's limited in scope and popularity currently. 

5G and the implementation of wearable antennas within the material of clothing could be exactly what's needed to boost the popularity of smart clothing. It might sound like science fiction right now but a recent paper has suggested that 5G antennas could be manufactured from conductive threads and adhesives. 

What's next for smartwatches, fitness trackers and 5G?

Smartwatches and fitness trackers have come a long way in a short space of time. It wasn't that long ago that smartwatches relied on users to also have their smartphone with them at all times. 

Now, you can easily spend the day with just your smartwatch on your wrist and you won't miss out on key features like making contactless payments or tracking your exercise. That's important if manufacturers want wearables to continue to be popular. 

Right now, smartphones are seen as an essential part of daily life, but wearables and smartwatches are usually just a welcome 'bonus' to those that can afford them. 5G has the potential to change all that. 

If 5G technology is able to reduce the size of wearables, while enhancing the battery life, that could be exactly what's needed to convince the general public that they need smart technology on their fingers, wrists, or neck. 

Therefore, 5G has the potential to change how we consume wearable technology massively – simply put, it'll be fascinating to see what the first few 5G wearables offer. 

5G Uncovered, in association with Samsung, brings you everything you need to know about the next wave of connectivity - not just how fast it's going to be, but in just how many ways it's going to change your life. Our 5G Uncovered hub is carefully curated to show everything there is to know about the next generation of connection.   

Categories: Tech News

Samsung smartphones to benefit from US-China trade war

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 07:42

The escalating global politico-economic risks are expected to benefit Samsung smartphones but impact the overall global demand this year, especially for Apple and Huawei. Mia Huang, analyst at TrendForce, said that the demand has weakened even more than originally predicted due to the ongoing trade war between the US and China.

“We previously forecasted this year’s total smartphone production volume to stand at around 1.4 billion units (a 3.7% decline from 2018), with the worst case scenario previously forecast to be negative growth of 5% but we have now lowered that estimation to negative 7%,” she said.

Even though Samsung is expected to benefit from the stalled US-China trade talks, the top six vendors for this year remain the same Samsung, Huawei, Apple, Oppo, Xiaomi and Vivo. Therefore, TrendForce adjusts its predictions for Samsung's total production volume upwards back to a level of above 300 million units. 

TrendForce noted that Samsung produced 293 million smartphones and Huawei produced 205 million units in 2018.

Huang said that due to the enormous fluctuations in the market and the possible influences to shipments that may arise from the G20 negotiations, “we currently predict Huawei’s total production volume this year to go below 200 million units”.

“For Huawei’s smartphone production volume, our forecast made earlier this year may probably be cut by 30% as of now despite benefiting from domestic demand in the second half-year and softening the impact of markets abroad,” she said.

Huawei’s main markets consisted of Europe and South America in the past, but she said the competitor Samsung also has a long history in these regional markets and is predicted to emerge as the direct beneficiary from the politico-economic risks.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei had indicated that its revenues may continue decreasing towards the end of this year but the US ban will not lead to negative growth. After blacklisting Huawei, the White House has issued three-month reprieve to allow US companies to continue to do business with the group, until August 19.

“There is no clarity yet and we don’t know really what is going to happen. Right now, it is regarding the security threat coming from the telecoms equipment and as smartphone business is linked to it, Huawei and ZTE are under the microscope,” Anshul Gupta, Research director at Gartner, said.

Huawei to release its own OS

Tarun Pathak, Associate Director, Counterpoint Research, said that Huawei is making its mark in the premium segment, a segment which is growing fast, a seamless integration of hardware and software is a must to drive consumer experience. In the absence of Android licensing, he said that Huawei will have a task to cut out to drive or live up to the Android experience. 

Even if Huawei releases its own operating system based on Android, Pathak feels that it will be a “daunting task” for Huawei to maintain it and will have to rely on third-party Android app markets where users will have to sideload some of the core applications.

Moreover, he said that Huawei users will also lose access to critical security updates and scanning of Android apps from Google which could make it less reliable. “The quality of apps also could be an issue as some of them might be dated or less secure...thus making the out-of-the-box experience less appealing to Android driven users”. There are reports that Huawei is considers using Sailfish OS instead of its own OS.

For the near-term, until the US-China trade-war situation is amicably resolved, he said that Huawei will face a speed bump which would derail its ambitions to narrow the gap with Samsung and become the largest smartphone brand in the coming years.

On the other hand, Huang said that Apple is also feeling the effects of the trade war, suffering a blow to sales performance in Chinese markets. TrendForce predicts iPhone’s market shares in China to drop from the 7% originally projected to 5%, with this year's production volume adjusted down from 190 million units to 183 million.

And while Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo will feel the fallout from Huawei's outspoken domestic presence, Huang feels that the three brands may, however, find consolation in the gains made in Southeast Asian and Indian markets and hope to trend flat in production volume this year compared to 2018.

Categories: Tech News

Best UK tax software 2019

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 07:41

Of the people you need to keep on good terms with, the tax man probably ranks the highest. That means keeping good accounts and submitting them to Companies House in a timely manner, while ensuring that you file and pay all owed taxes, whether business or personal.

However, it's easy to become overwhelmed when trying to do your taxes. There's the regular record keeping for a start, plus getting your head around any technicalities, not least allowances.

Luckily, there are a number of software packages available that aim to make the whole process of keeping accounts and paying your taxes simple and easy.

Here we'll look at the best in accounting and tax software, both personal and business, currently on the market.

  • Want your company or services to be added to this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to desire.athow@futurenet.com with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line.

Image Credit: Sage

Unlike some of the other products featured here which are solely focused on tax, Sage offers a fully-fledged small business accounting package. This cloud-based platform is capable of handling a gamut of finance-related tasks, including tax returns, naturally.

Sage Business Cloud Accounting fully integrates with a number of Sage’s tax solutions, depending on your exact needs, but whichever route you choose, the idea is to provide a seamless all-round solution that means much less monotonous and repetitive data entry for you.

You might want Sage Personal Tax, which allows you to prepare compliant SA100 tax returns and file them with HMRC online. Or you could require Sage Business Tax, which can be used to work out the taxable profits of sole traders and partnerships, or Sage Corporation Tax for preparing compliant CT600 tax returns.

Whatever particular tax solution you need, all of them fully integrate with Business Cloud Accounting and can allow you to swiftly file accurate and compliant accounts and tax returns with HMRC and Companies House.

And of course the cloud-based platform takes care of all your bookkeeping and accounting needs besides, including calculating and submitting digital VAT returns to HMRC – so there’s a lot of power here for small businesses, particularly on the retail side.

Sage’s entry-level accounting plan starts at £10 (plus VAT) per month – with 40% off for the first three months at the time of writing – but you’ll need to contact the company for pricing on the various mentioned tax solutions. While Business Cloud Accounting doesn’t have a free tier, as we noted in our full review, it does offer a 30-day trial to give it a spin.

Image Credit: Freeagent

Freeagent is a fully featured accounting suite that covers tax records as well, and is a powerful, comprehensive option that suits small to medium businesses or individuals with a lot of records to keep. You can either opt to manage everything yourself or grant your accountant access to Freeagent as well, with the software able to make life easier for both of you along the way.

It's certainly one of the most modern tools here, with a slick and stylish interface on the web and mobile, and a pile of useful features: automatic bank feeds, project time tracking, support for invoices and payroll, and so on.

For tax management specifically, Freeagent keeps records of everything as you go, so you know exactly what you owe and why at the end of the year. You can submit your returns directly to HMRC through Freeagent with just a few clicks of the mouse, with tax forecasting and real-time updates included too.

Image Credit: GoSimpleTax

Unlike Sage or Freeagent, GoSimpleTax isn't a complete accounting solution for freelancers and businesses – it focuses specifically on getting your taxes in order, and it does a very good job of this. Depending on your setup though, you'll have to do more work or get extra software to handle all the other components like invoicing and payroll.

The software takes you step-by-step through the process of filing your taxes, making sure you're using the right terms and preparing the right forms, and looking out for any errors that might be creeping in (which could really cost you). You'll also get suggestions on where you could make some savings, which is always welcome.

Everything slots in neatly with the online HMRC interface, so you don't have to waste time jumping from one app to another. As well as the web interface, you've got mobile apps you can use to input figures and get a handle on how your tax burden is looking (the mobile apps can even scan in receipts).

What we like most about the software though is that you don't really need any expertise to complete a self-assessment of your tax responsibilities. As much as possible, the interface is written in jargon-free language, with clear indicators for where you need to input figures and how they get processed.

Image Credit: TaxCalc

TaxCalc is on a mission to make filing your taxes as simple as possible, and we'd say it's doing a pretty impressive job of it: the software is packed with useful features for getting your documentation in order, and the system is officially recognised by HMRC, so all submissions should go smoothly.

Whether you're an individual, a limited company or an accountancy firm, TaxCalc has a software solution tailored specifically for you, and it can even plug straight into bigger accounting packages such as Xero. In some cases you can get your documentation in order in as little as 30 minutes, TaxCalc claims.

The intuitive, step-by-step web interface guides you through the process of filing your taxes from start to finish – from picking the right form, through entering all the details about how much you've earned, to submitting the form and making sure there are no errors. The tax you owe is calculated in the background as you go.

This isn't the most comprehensive or the most well-designed tax software we've ever come across, but it is friendly, functional and accessible, and comes with all the tools you're going to need to hit that tax deadline.

Image Credit: Nomisma

No one wants to spend an age getting their tax affairs in order, and few products take you through the process of filing returns as quickly and as simply as Nomisma does. It also gives you a variety of basic bookkeeping tools, so if you're looking for something that does more than just taxes, Nomisma might be it.

On the business management side, the software lets you track invoices and orders, keep on top of bills and contracts, and produce a variety of reports on the state of your financial affairs (including VAT comparisons where needed). Not only can it save you time, it can save you money by letting you know where everything is at any given point.

In the tax filing and self-assessment components, you'll find the software is fully HMRC compliant and registered with the government, so you can submit your documents without leaving Nomisma. A lot of the data you're going to need can be auto-populated from the bookkeeping module, but you can buy the tax module separately if needed.

Throughout, Nomisma gives you a clean and modern-looking interface to work with on the web, and if you've got a mobile phone there's an app available for keeping tabs on expenses while on the go. It can also help your accountant calculate the figures at the end of the year, if you've got one.

Image Credit: ABC Self-Assessment

As we said at the outset, tax software packages come in all shapes and sizes, from very basic tools to get you over the line right at the end of the process, to fully fledged accounting suites that include everything you need to run a small business. If you just want some straightforward help as tax deadline day approaches, give ABC Self-Assessment a try.

Whether you're submitting your self-assessment as an individual or a partnership, or you have some other complication to contend with – you're non-resident in the UK maybe – ABC Self-Assessment will point you towards the right form.

While ABC Self-Assessment presents an interface that's not much different to the one you'll get if you log into the HMRC website and do your self-assessment there, it does streamline the process so you only see the questions and fields that are relevant to your circumstances. It's perfect if you don't want to spend much money but find the HMRC site a little overwhelming.

What you don't get are any accountancy or bookkeeping features, so the onus is on you to have kept decent records up until this point. You might find that ABC Self-Assessment works well with your existing financial software (or just your existing Excel spreadsheet).

Categories: Tech News

Best business accessories of 2019: Tech tools to help you be more productive

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 07:06

It's no secret that the modern office is becoming increasingly populated with gadgets and tools aimed at improving connectivity, efficiency and productivity.

But how can you spot the products that will give you that extra boost?

We've rounded up some of these clever extras, from an ultra-secure USB drives, through a tiny docking station, to one of the weirdest gadgets ever to land on TechRadar Pro, courtesy of a Kickstarter campaign.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Another Indiegogo/Kickstarter campaign brings us a product range that will put a smile on owners of Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops. The DockCase adapter is essentially a docking station that expands the number of connectors that the aforementioned notebooks offer.

Unlike previous attempts, the designers have opted for a enclosure that wraps around the Apple power supply unit and essentially augments its capacities: think of it as an exoskeleton for the USB-C power adapter. The 30W MacBook adaptor gets a HDMI connector (v2.0, so capable of handling 4K) and a USB 3.0 port, the 61W MacBook Pro 13-inch model gets an additional USB port while the 87W dock for its bigger sibling adds another two.

We had access to one of the first finished units and we’re glad to report that, after a few hiccups, it worked as advertised.  Check if the Apple power brick is well connected with the product; the light will be lit up once DockCase Adapter is connected to the MBP. Also use the cable in the box, rather than your original cable as the Apple cable for MBP can only transmit power, not data.

We’d love if DockCase’s bundle cable could be a tad longer and would wish that Seesaw use a sturdier white plastic case for the dock design. One thing we can't really complain though is how affordable it is, at least during the early bird period.

The MacBook HDMI model costs a mere $40, reaching $47 for the MBP 13 and $52 for the MBP 15 (costs are without shipping) with adding a pair costing $30, $35 and $44 respectively, great if you work at home and in an office.

We don't often get Indiegogo projects on our list but we're making an exception for the EyeDisk, which hails itself as the first unhackable USB flash drive. The concept is pretty simple; use your iris as your password rather than cumbersome passwords.

Research has shown that iris recognition is more secure than facial recognition and fingerprint encryption and as a working prototype, it works perfectly well even with the dark. It boasts a binocular registration method and a monocular/binocular verification one.

It is compatible with Windows and Mac but not Linux and you will have to run an app every time you plug it in a client. There's no password to log though, just your iris to be scanned and this takes a few seconds to be registered. You just need to look at a mirror on the side.

We'd prefer to have a sturdier model as this one is made of plastic and would probably not last long in a rugged environment. You will also need to carry a USB type-C at all time to activate the drive as it doesn't have an actual male connector. Other than AES256-bit encryption to keep your data secure, the EyeDisk flash drive consumes only 2W of power and weighs a mere 20g.

It managed some very decent numbers on CrystalDiskMark (130MBps transfer rate on read and 84MBps on write) which means that it won't keep you long. At the time of writing, you can only pre-order it via Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform, and it is scheduled for delivery from March 2019. 

With a starting price of $59 plus shipping for the 32GB version and $99 for the 128GB, it is reasonably priced although the prices are likely to go up once the early bird offer ends.

We'd love to see something similar come to Windows laptops equipped with a Type-C connector although one has to say, competition is likely to be far more intense.

Having a great display is becoming increasingly important in many home offices, especially as more of us move to a multi-screen environment. Dell's newest 32-inch 4K monitor, the Dell U3219Q. offers a bright and vibrant Ultra HD display that is perfect not just for video or gaming, but for workplace applications such as video-conferencing and data modelling.

The unit is fairly bulky once unpacked, but when set up can be adjusted to fit a number of different space allowances, and thanks to an moveable height option, should mean it's not a strain on the eyes or neck. 

The U3219Q features an incredibly useful collection of connectivity options, sporting not just HDMI, USB and DP ports, but USB-C as well, meaning it'll easily slip alongside your existing laptop or PC. The unit even ships with a USB-C and HDMI cable, meaning set-up is quick and easy - just what you need to smarten up your office.

The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL looks like no portable battery we've seen before. It uses a soft fabric finish and while it has some hard edges, it minimizes the risk of getting your items scratched by eliminating pointed corners altogether. At $149.95 though, it will be a tough sell with so many choices out there in the market.

Its relatively low capacity (19,500mAh) will be a concern when competitors routinely offer 30,000mAh or more. That said, Mophie claims that the battery will be able to add up to 14 hours to the battery life of a USB-C Macbook which is no small feat especially as Mophie says that this would be additional video playback time rather than having the laptop just sitting idle. 

Apple states that the MacBook has a battery life of up to 10 hours so you'd be more than doubling that. The battery charger also supports Fast Charge and can send 30W of power to any compatible devices. At 390g for a thickness of merely 23mm, it is very portable.

Add in a two year warranty and it looks like a decent deal. Bear in mind though that it has only two ports (one USB Type-C and one USB-A) and that the competition offers more features at less than half the price (albeit without the cachet). 

Jackery, for example, offers a 19,200mAh battery with a 45W output that can charge bigger laptops, ditto for the RavPower Turbo series which packs a larger 20100mAh battery. Both have three USB ports and come with a very significant discount compared to the Mophie (up to 67% off).

Note that there is an even bigger (and even more expensive) Mophie 3XL battery that comes with an additional port and a third extra capacity.

The D300S was announced by Kingston and is an updated version of the D300, launched in 2016, with the suffix S standing for Serialised; more on that later. The drive looks like a standard USB drive but sturdier and much, much more expensive. The smallest capacity - 4GB - retails for £100 while the largest one - a 128GB one - sells for a staggering £520. 

Now there is a reason why the D300S carries such a premium according to Kingston. The drive uses custom hardware for encryption (FIPS 140-2 Level 3 256-bit) and decryption which eliminates vulnerabilities associated with any process done on the host system.

That chip and the rest of the hardware is sealed in a tamper evident epoxy material that hardened when it dried.

The drive is also waterproof up to 120cm and should handle bumps and falls easily. The D300S also uses a digitally signed firmware which makes it impervious to the BadUSB attack and it will delete the encryption key after 10 invalid attempts, thwarting any brute force attacks.

Two additional features that separates the S model from the standard model is a barcode and a unique serial number; together they allow system administrators to scan or read the code when configuring the drive.

There's also a virtual keyboard that reduces the risk of having a keylogger storing the password. Sadly though, it does suffer from the fact that you need to install an application prior to using the drive on Windows and the write speeds claimed by Kingston are shockingly low at 40MBps. Read speeds are better at 250MBps.

All in all, Kingston delivers a solid product but this is a very competitive market with the likes of Aegis, Secure Data or Datashur providing some interesting alternatives.

Note that a Serialised Managed (SM) model will follow shortly if Kingston's website is to be believed.

If you need to have small amounts of sensitive data being carried around, then the 3NX could well be a life saver. It brings advanced data protection features to a mainstream market thanks to its attractive low price ($59 for the 2GB/4GB model) and $189 for the 128GB one.

What you do get is some military grade, enterprise-level features like FIPS 140-2 level 3, real time hardware-based encryption, a platform-agnostic setup and a rugged extruded aluminum enclosure.

The data is encrypted using an onboard 10-digit keypad and is powered by an onboard battery.

The 3NX comes with a three-year warranty as well as an IP67 rating. Apricorn claims that the device can hit read/write speeds of up to 77MBps/72MBps, which is more than decent for a USB 3.1 device.

As part of the package, the key can be configured to support independent admin and user PINs. Having the keypad on the key itself makes it near impossible to hack as the encryption hardware is sealed inside the USB drive, not on the host computer.

Furthermore, the buttons are wear resistant and designed not to reveal the most used buttons. Just make sure you don't forget your PIN as you will only have as few as four attempts before the drive deletes the encryption key and with it the ability to decrypt the data stored.

The thought of packing the equivalent of nearly 1,000 CD-ROMs on something barely bigger than the average human fingernail would have been unimaginable only a decade ago.

Now storage companies like Samsung, Sandisk or Integral are slowly pushing 512GB microSD cards in the market, fuelled by demand from mobile devices.

PNY is one of the latest to do so with the Elite, a card that has a rated reading speed of up to 90MBps and enough capacity to store over 80 hours of full HD video content, plus the bonus of having lifetime warranty.

At $350, it is comparable in price with other products in the same category but far more expensive than the 400GB SanDisk Ultra which can be had for about a third of the price for three quarters of the capacity.

We managed write speeds of around 21MBps and read speeds of 66MBps, which are decent numbers without being spectacular, 

Owning a 512GB card, the highest commercial capacity available, will allow you to dramatically increase available storage on your smartphone. 512GB is the maximum storage capacity available on phones likes the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and a 512GB card essentially doubles that amount; great for 4K footage of field visits or business videos.

Other devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 tablet will also benefit if you want to extra (removable) storage capacity although the read/write speeds are likely to confine the card to a pure secondary storage role.

Omnicharge's Omni Ultimate battery charger is not for everyone. It is big, it is bulky and expensive. Note that the Omni Ultimate has been approved as plane safe - so you can take it with you in the cabin when travelling. You just need a form to fill in for it pre-boarding, which you can get at the airport/gate.

For a growing community of demanding power users though, this battery pack is likely to be an absolute godsend. So much so that an Indiegogo campaign started beginning of October 2018 is likely to raise nearly $1 million from more than 4000 backers, nearly 20x its original flexible goal.

The external battery is built like a tank and is both dust and splash resistant with rubber flaps covering its power outputs. And its list of features is just as impressive: it has a power outlet that can delivery up to 150W DC or 120W AC output, a 40.3Ah/145Whr capacity, a USB Type-C connector that can deliver up 60W power, two USB ports supporting 15W (5V3A) each, a three-hour fast charging (QC3.0-compatible), pass-through charging and a useful OLED display that shows you battery capacity in real time (and to three decimal places).

You can charge it using a solar panel and it is equipped with pass-through charging plus you can even add a spare battery pack. Note that there is a 230V EU version available (but no UK because of the plug size).

With an SRP of $599 though, it will be a tough sell especially when there are cheaper (but less powerful) options around. The MaxOak K2 for example is cheaper and has a higher battery capacity but doesn't have AC output or USB Type-C connectivity. The RavPower AC Power Bank can output to AC but has a battery capacity of only 27Ah.

The Omni Ultimate will be available via Amazon in Q1 2019 (planned for end of January/start of February) in the UK and in the USA. Other territories will follow.

Ensuring your device is powered up on the go is a daily worry for many of us, and there's nothing worse than running out of battery at a crucial time. Linedock thinks it has the answer with its slim and stylish power bank to keep your Macbook charged up when you need it the most.

At just 9mm across, the device slips in neatly under your laptop and packs in a massive 20,000mAh rechargeable battery that should keep you powered up on the move.

Linedock has nine ports in all, including three USB-C ports, three USB 3.0 ports equipped with Qualcomm QuickCharge 3, an SD card and a DisplayPort hub, and multiple devices can be connected at once.

But that's not all - as Linedock can also act as a spare SSD for your device, with the option of adding 256GB or 1TB of storage as an extra bonus to make this a true mobile work hub.

Lindeock has been designed for 13in MacBook Pro devices, but the company says that it is compatible with any laptop powered by USB-C, meaning PixelBook owners are in luck. At $299, this is simply a must-have for Mac users that work on the go, offering style, power and flexibility.

With conference calls becoming an increasingly common part of modern business life, the need for reliable hardware to support this is greater than ever. The OfficeCore M2 is the latest release from Chinese firm EMeet, and looks to provide a smart and stylish way to make sure your calls go off without a hitch.

The OfficeCore M2 offers 360-degree voice recognition thanks to a number of embedded microphones, supporting a range of up to 26 feet away, with the company adding that should support calls with up to 12 people without interference. The device can also link to mobile smart assistants to facilitate greater communication, with Siri, Cortana and Google Now all supported via Bluetooth, although our tests found that this was often patchy to set up.

The major selling point of the OfficeCore M2 is its portability. Equipped with a 2500mAh battery that should easily last through even the longest conference calls, the device can quickly be picked up and carried around in a shoulder bag or rucksack. At $189, it's not the cheapest speakerphone on the market today, but if you're in the market for a device that can easily be taken on the go, this could be the one for you.

Staying online when working on the go has become an incredibly important issue for all mobile workers, as an unreliable connection can be a disaster.

Netgear is looking to solve these worries with its new Nighthawk M1 mobile router, which it says is the company's fastest yet. Capable of supporting Gigabit LTE speeds, the Nighthawk M1 uses four-band carrier aggregation and Qualcomm's Snapdragon X16 LTE modem to support mobile downloads of up to 1000MBps, as well as uploads of up to 150MBps. Our time with the device found the actual speeds to be fractionally lower, however streaming and uploading were both fast and reliable, both at home and out and about.

The Nighthawk M1 is slim and lightweight, meaning it can be easily carried around in a rucksack or messenger bag. Netgear says that the battery life of the can last 24 hours, and our tests found it comfortably survived a full working day. Set-up is a quick plug-in process, with no external software needed, and the device can even use its USB connectors to charge your mobile device.

In the UK, the Nighthawk M1 can be purchased from Amazon for £299, or via pay-monthly contract with BT or EE. Both options are fairly pricey, with EE offering the device for £29 a month for 24 months after a £99 upfront payment, but if you're looking for fast and reliable connections, this device is ideal.

Offices can often be noisy places to work, so if you are looking to cut yourself off from the world around you, Jabra's latest Bluetooth headset could be the answer.

The Jabra Evolve 75e is the company's latest attempt to help boost the productivity of office workers everywhere with a comfortable headset that offers long battery life and stylish design.

Jabra says that the Evolve 75e are the world’s first professional UC-certified wireless earbuds, making the device ideal for carrying out external or conference calls wherever you are without the need for tangled phone wires or complicated UC set-ups.

Set-up is simple, as the headset connects to your smartphone, laptop or desktop via Bluetooth and a USB plug-in. There's no need to download any extra apps or services, meaning you can jump on calls right away. The sound quality was excellent, with the buds cancelling out the noise of an active workplace, and the in-built microphone able to deliver a clear input.

The only issue we had with the Evolve 75e is that Bluetooth connectivity would occasionally drop for no apparent reason, but with the compact design and long battery life (Jabra promises up to 14 hours) provided, this seems like a minor hiccup.

As more and more consumers ditch cash for contactless and digital payments, businesses of all sizes also need to adapt. Square has long been one of the most exciting payments companies around today, and has now finally brought its Reader product to the UK for the first time.

The product acts as a mobile POS, allowing customers to quickly pay for their items using a contactless card, mobile or wearable device. Targeted predominatly at small businesses or traders, the Square Reader is slim and compact, easily fitting in the palm of your hand.

The £39 reader weighs in at just 56g, meaning it can be handheld, or tethered to a till or counter using an additional £19 dock, allowing for a truly mobile steup. Anyone signing up to Square's service can get approval to start using the system within the hour, taking much of the headache out of setting up a new payments platform, with Square’s own software system offering a POS service as well as in-depth analytics.

The tool seems like an invaluable asset to any small business looking to grow or expand, or any company looking for a more mobile setup. Perhaps our only gripe would be that the device is potentially too compact, and could be lost - but asides from that, a Square Reader could be the key to taking your business to the big time.


Dealing with a number of connectivity options is now an increasing challenge not only for office workers, but also those whose working habits are a bit more flexible. If you're someone who is constantly connecting in different locations, for example hot-desking in multiple offices, then StarTech has you covered. This new mobile hub hooks up to your smartphone or laptop via USB-C, coming with connections ports for USB, HMDI, ethernet and USB-C, meaning you should never be caught short - and it's small and light enough to be carried in your pocket. The HMDI connection supports UHD 4K displays, with the USB-A supporting Fast-Charge technology, meaning you can power both the adaptor and your device in one go.

Many of us know the pain of conference calls being ruined by poor connection or call quality, and with many businesses today choosing to embrace mobile working ideas and services, the need to stay flexible yet connected is paramount.

Sennheiser is looking to solve these woes with its ultra-mobile TeamConnect Wireless - in essence a portable conference room, which can be packed up and carried around for workers on the go. Made up of four speakers, all carried around in a stylish case which doubles as a charging hub, the system can be connected to any laptop, smart device or VC system via Bluetooth, USB or 3.5mm jack. 

Set-up is quick and easy, allowing users to get up and running in a matter of minutes, with Sennheiser saying the kit can support up to 24 participants at once. Our tests showed the audio quality to be very effective, even with multiple participants on different lines, with no connectivity issues.

The ultra-portable design of the TeamConnect Wireless is the major selling point here, as the stylish case is able to charge up the speakers to ensure you're never caught short, and takes up less space than a rucksack. 

However this stylish product doesn't come cheap, costing £3,940, meaning it may be out of the price range for some SMBs. For those that can splash out though, this is an eye-catching piece of kit that allows you to stay connected and conversant with your team or customers wherever you are.

Another option for workers constantly on the go, the TP-Link M4750 offers download speeds of up to 300Mbps, and 50Mbps. That's not enough to reliably stream high-quality media or teleconferencing, but if you need to work on documents or other files, the LTE Cat 6 network connection should be ideal.

Our tests found that the device was reliable in reaching these speeds, even in central London, and more than enough to enjoy reliable connections whilst on the move. The battery life for the device was excellent, lasting a full working day with ease, as TP-Link says that the M4750 can offer up to 15 hours of  juice, and recharging the huge 3000mAh battery is also quick and easy using the microUSB port. 

The M4750 is also light and portable, being small enough to fit inside a jacket pocket, and its rubber build will help protect from any accidental drops or bumps. Set up is remarkably easy, requiring you to just insert the SIM card and turn on, making this much more straightforward than other similar devices.

The device can also work as a wireless hotspot, supporting up to 32 devices at once, across 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, meaning you can set up multiple connections around the home, or even in a small office if needs be - although speeds will drop if you do so. 

However buying the device in the UK is a bit tricky, as you'll have to go through a reseller to get your hands on one - with prices varying among stores, so stay on the lookout for the best deal.

More and more industries are now choosing to use mobile devices in day-to-day operations out in the field thanks to their portability.

The FLIR ONE Pro offers a compact and powerful thermal imaging camera than can show up in-depth information about the world around you.

Attaching via USB-C, the device clips onto the bottom of your phone, acting as an extension to your normal camera, and displaying heat information on the world around you, with hotter objects showing up in brighter colours (see below).

The technology could prove incredibly useful for a number of industries, such as home inspectors looking to find insulation leaks, or electricians aiming to identify an over-heating connection.

You’ll need to download and register with the free FLIR ONE app in order to start using the device, which is an unneeded extra step for many, but does grant you access to the company’s helplines, galleries and app store.

The actual app was often slow to recognise when we had the device plugged in and turned on, however, and sometimes failed to detect it at all, which was slightly annoying for us, but for a worker in the field could be a major hindrance to getting your work done.

Once you do get it up and running, however, the FLIR ONE Pro’s VividIR imaging system reveals a wealth of information on the world around you, and the compact build and design means it’s easy to carry around (although could also make it easier to lose in a crowded toolbox as well….)

Battery life is also not very long, with our tests only finding the device lasting just over an hour, although re-charging was a speedy process. If you’re out working in the field with a cable though, this could be a major downside.

The FLIR ONE Pro also doesn't come cheap, costing £349.95 in the UK, but it could prove invaluable for workers in such specialised areas, and is definitely worth your consideration.

TP-Link says that the M7650 is the fastest Wi-Fi router it has ever made, offering speeds of up to 600MBps, which is easily enough to stream video to your laptop or tablet whilst on the move, as well as high-quality VoLTE audio through your phone - useful if you don't want to miss that conference call.

Our tests found that the device often reached speeds of over 500MBps, which is impressive for central London, and more than enough to enjoy reliable connections whilst on the move.

The M7650 can support up to 32 devices at once, meaning you can set up multiple connections around the home, or even in a small office if needs be - although speeds will drop if you do so. Set up is remarkably easy, requiring you to just insert the SIM card and turn on, making this much more straightforward than other similar devices.

Battery life for the device was excellent, lasting a full working day with ease, as TP-Link says that the M7650 can offer up to 15 hours of  juice, and recharging the huge 3000mAh battery is also quick and easy using the microUSB port.

The M7650 is also light and portable, being small enough to fit inside a jacket pocket, and its rubber build will help protect from any accidental drops or bumps.

However buying the device in the UK is a bit tricky, as you'll have to go through a reseller. This means you'll also need to be on the lookout for differing price options, but if you get the right deal, the M7650 is a must-have.

We love our smartphones so much so that we carry them all the time even at our work, prompting businesses to consider shedding regular landlines and simply embrace the BYOD (bring your own device) paradigm. 

Which is why it is so surprising that few companies have come up with a product like the Invoxia NVX200. In a nutshell, this £209 device converts/transforms your smartphone into a desk phone with a Bluetooth speaker and a charging dock thrown in. It comes with a bunch of connectors and adaptors to connect most smartphones.

Most Apple devices (including the iPod, iPad and iPhone) are supported, as are the latest Android smartphones, thanks to a USB Type-C port. A clever adjustable stand means that any device will sit snuggly on the NVX200. Connect the device via Bluetooth to the latter, put your smartphone in place and you’re ready to go.

Hold down the voicemail key bring up the settings and you will be able to configure the device to your taste, down to the ringtones.  Outwardly, it looks just like a normal desk phone, with lots of curves, a soft surface and a handset with a cable that’s sufficiently long for the user to stand up. Setting it up is straight forward: connect the device to a power socket, dock your smartphone, connect it to the NVX200 via Bluetooth and you’re ready to go. We did encounter some issues though.

The test smartphone, a Sony Xperia Z3, has a micro USB port located on the side rather than at the bottom of the device. To make matters worse, it is not anywhere near the middle which makes it impossible to dock in landscape mode. Things got a bit more complicated when you factor in the casing used to protect it.

Altogether a wireless solution, which integrates no-wires charging, might have been a better solution but would have restricted its appeal. We couldn’t get the speaker to play music wirelessly but it did somehow play music via the micro USB connector but only, and only if Bluetooth is disconnected.

Fed up with losing your connectivity when out and about? Then check out the Multivox Multisim. It is a service that allows access to multiple UK mobile networks from a single SIM card. 

No need to swap tiny pieces of PCB or opt for a sub-optimal dual-SIM smartphone to eliminate the issues associated with poor connectivity, especially when you are out and about. The technology works on almost any recent smartphones and feature phones and doesn’t need a dedicated app. 

If there is no coverage on the primary access network, then your phone will search for another available UK mobile network and if there is one available, it will connect to it. If there are multiple networks available, then it will pick up and run on the network with the strongest signal. 

The Multisim works without having to manually select a different network to switch to and you get to keep your phone number regardless of the network. The only caveat is that a call will drop when the network being used loses coverage altogether; there is no “incall” switching.

You get unlimited UK calls to mobiles and landlines as well as unlimited texts, all courtesy of EE’s network. Four data packages are available, ranging from 2GB (£29.40) to 10GB (£41.90) excluding VAT. The packages can be configured at Immervox.     

There are a fair few solutions available for digitally-savvy globetrotters looking who whiz across the globe for leisure or pleasure. We might have uncovered one of the best ones yet.

From Knowroaming comes a global hotspot that uses a Novatel Wireless Mi-fi, the 6630, and can connect you up in more than 140 countries with 92 of them offering unlimited data for a flat fee of $7.99 per day (about £6.40), a price that even include free, unlimited Whatsapp.

We tried it during a recent trip to Japan where the cost of connectivity is prohibitive and international data roaming is a no-no unless you want to spend hundreds. The Mi-fi device comes in a nice pouch with a few accessories; we just took it out and used it for a few days. It is sturdy enough to withstand a few knocks.

The 6630 is about the size of a Tic-tac box and its user interface is intuitive with only three buttons and a small screen on its front. On top is the power button as well as two USB ports, one for charging up and the other to provide power to external devices.

Inside the 6630 is a 4,000mAh battery that can power the device for up to 20 hours. It is compatible with Cat4 LTE although KnowRoaming only supported 3G for now and an LTE offer is in the pipeline. In use, the service was as seamless as it could be.

Switch it on and connect to it using the provided login details. Note that you can’t change these from the device itself; that can only be done by accessing the device via a browser. Various options exist on the Mi-fi device including the ability to set a number of restrictions, the ability to view your consumption, the number of devices connected at any time and the battery life left. The 6630 supports dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi but no 802.11ac.

Since this is primarily marketed as a business device, it comes with a number of security features including VPN pass-through, NAT firewall, security hardened web interface, Anti-CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery) and session timeouts. Sadly though you won’t be able to buy a consumer version of that yet. Instead, the device is only being sold to corporates for $199 (about £160) with discounts being offered for multiple purchases. 

As it stands, the service is meant to be managed centrally by an administrator or IT manager with an entire backend, cloud-based infrastructure provided by KnowRoaming. Suggested improvement to the Mi-fi device would include a thinner, more pocketable model, support for 802.11ac, the inclusion of a microSD card reader and having a smartphone app to allow you to access admin essential information from your smartphone, rather than through a browser.

Find out more at Knowroaming

If you've ever been stuck for mobile signal when travelling to a new country, then the NUU Konnect i1 could be the gadget for you.

Able to provide 4G connections in over 100 countries, the i1 looks to offer a simple, portable way to get online wherever you are in the world.

Most current mobile hotspots are only able to connect to 3G networks, so the Konnect i1 already has an advantage there, thanks to its LTE Cat 6 Qualcomm modem.

The device supports VPNs and Wi-Fi calling, and is equipped with LTE bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/17/20/39/40/41, meaning there's a wide range of possible connections.

NUU Mobile says that it is trying to target frequent travellers with the Konnect i1. The device itself is small enough and light enough to easily slip into your pocket, and is able to power up using its microUSB port.

Setting up is easy enough, with the capacity to connect up to five devices at any one time.

What's more, you'll only play a flat rate of $10 a day to use the device as much as you want, with no contract or sign-up fees.

However, after the first 500MB of data, you'll be dialled back to HSPA+ networks for the next 500MB you use, and then down again to just 128Kbps speeds for anything more than that, unless you spend more for further LTE usage.

For the moment, you can only get hold of the Konnect i1 if you backed the product on Kickstarter, with news of a wider release not available just yet.

If you're in the market for something a bit more heavyweight when it comes to your 4G roaming needs, then you may be interested in the YRoam YR4.

YRoam's services are available in over 100 countries worldwide, including popular business travel destinations such as the USA, Singapore and France.

Simply select one of the company's price plans, starting at 5.9p per MB when you buy a 2GB worldwide package.

If you're only travelling to one location, YRoam also offers a UK, US or EU specific package, lasting for 30 days.

Any data usage you purchase can be used either on a PAYG basis, or the ability to top up later.

YRoam also offers discounted rates for connections in your home country, say if you're out in a remote locations not served by your current provider, starting at just 3p per MB.

You can connect up to five devices at any time, meaning you could have a laptop, phone, tablet and more all online at once.

The device features a huge 6,000mAh battery, although this does mean that you're stuck with a fairly heavyweight build.

However this means that the device doubles up as a power bank to recharge your devices in case of an emergency, with a USB and microUSB port to connect up.

Overall though this is a sturdy hotspot that should serve you well wherever you are in the world.

If you've just started your own business, or need to work from home often, having a flexible and reliable technology set-up should be one of your top priorities.

In order to keep you from wasting time setting up complex systems, teleconferencing experts GoToMeeting have you covered with an all-in-one box of tools that should allow you to get up and running quickly.

The pack contains an Asus Chromebox PC, Logitech wireless keyboard, Logitech 1080p HD webcam and a FLX UC 500 conference phone from Revo labs - pretty much everything you need to get started. 

The products have all been specially selected to work seamlessly together, meaning most of the usual set-up process can be sped through quickly and easily - even if you're not particularly tech-savvy.

Setting up your new kit can be done in a matter of minutes - all you need is a monitor to hook the PC and webcam up to, with all the rest of the hardware able to just plug and play.

The tiny Chromebox PC is incredibly powerful for something so small (at just 12.4cm wide and 4.2cm tall), coming with a powerful 1.7Ghz processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB storage, making it a great choice if you are strapped for space in your office. The PC also features 4 USB ports alongside DP, HDMI and LAN connectors, offering everything you should need to get started.

Space saving is also helped by the Logitech wireless keyboard, which connects to the Chromebox via USB tracker, and also includes a trackpad in place of a mouse. If you do prefer using a physical mouse, you'll have to splash out on a separate piece.

All the devices work together quickly and easily, meaning you'll be able to start working, calling and even videoconferencing in no time. The webcam is once again surprisingly powerful for its size, offering a smooth video experience, although we did see some slowdown in some cases.

The only minor downside is the need to buy the entire package, meaning that if you only need a conference phone, or a compact PC, you may be better off buying these separately. 

At the time of writing, the kit is only available to buy in the USA, costing $999, with a subscription fee of $99 a month, making it a fairly pricey proposition - however if you're already an existing GoToMeeting customer, it can be built into your current subscription. 

As many jobs require more computing power, the need for extra connectivity is also becoming a common demand among workers. StarTech's latest hub allows users to connect two PCs, allowing for multi-hardware and screen access all from a single source. The hub supports two Mini DP PC connections, and resolutions up to 4K AT 60Hz, making this ideal for designers, animators, or other graphics-based roles.

Switching between the two connected PCs is as simple as pushing a button on the front of the hub, and users can also set up hotkeys to make usage even easier. As well as the PC connections, there are three USB 2.0 ports on the front, including a dedicated mouse and keyboard slot that offers plug-and-play support for Windows, Linux and Mac accessories.

The hub is also small and light enough at 845g to be carried around in a laptop case or backpack, making it an ideal partner for those moving around different locations.

If you're someone who travels for work a lot, staying powered up on the move may often prove a challenge. Although power banks for mobile devices have been popular for some time, anyone looking for a laptop equivalent could be caught short. However Orico's new SC28 offering provides a huge capacity that should be perfect for staying charged up on a trip. With a capacity of 28,800mAh, the SC28 provides easily enough juice for even the thirstiest laptops, which can be quickly recharged via USB or power socket. 

The latter features a number of adaptors for different markets, meaning you should never be caught short, with Orico promising five hours of life for a 13in laptop. The SC28 can charge up to three devices at once, meaning you can power your laptop, phone and router all at once for the ideal mobile working solution. The device itself looks stylish, with a sleek aluminium alloy body that weighs in at just under 1kg, but should still easily slip into a rucksack or laptop bag.

In modern busy offices, it can be tricky to get some quiet - particularly if you’re trying to carry out a conference call or video meeting from your desk. Sennheiser, which is perhaps better known for its consumer headphone line, is looking to address this with a new headset targeted at business customers.

The MB 660 may resemble normal ‘cans’ style headphones, but in fact can act as a Bluetooth-enabled wireless headset, allowing you to use them as a meeting accessory in today’s UC-dominated workplace.

As you would expect from a brand such as Sennheiser, the audio quality is excellent, whether that’s with a voice call, watching video or even listening to music. This is complimented by the noise-cancelling ability of the headset, which comes with three separate settings that allow you to select your level of isolation. This high-standard audio quality does come at a price, but if you value your calls and media, it may be worth shelling out.

The headset comes with its own stylish and compact carry case, which also house the charging cables and USB connector. Battery life was excellent, with the headset not needing a recharge during our week-long test - and when we did plug it in, recharging was quick and effective.

If you're looking for a slim and stylish accessory to help guide you through your presentations, then Logitech may have just the tool for you. The company has released a new edition of its Spotlight presentation remote, promising "a whole new standard" in presentation control.

The new product offers a stylish minimalist design made out of polished metal, weighing in at just 49g, with the slim build meaning it sits nicely in the palm of your hand. Three programmable buttons on the front giving you the opportunity to control your presentation however you like. The remote is able to highlight and magnify certain areas on screen, allowing you to focus on specific items or points, and has a range of up to 30 metres for those grander presenting occasions, connecting via Bluetooth to your Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS or Android device.

It even comes with a timer, which can show how long you've been speaking for and vibrate to tell you if you're about to run over your allotted presentation time. Battery life is substantial enough to last you through a working day, and is quickly recharged.

The only downside is the price - at £119.95, it is quite an expensive option, but if you're looking for an effective and stylish presentation helper, this is the tool for you.

If you thought that the era of writing stuff down using pen and paper was dead, then Moleskine is here to prove you wrong.

The iconic notebook provider, well-known for its leather-bound pages, is embracing the technology world with its new Smart Writing Set, which it says combines the pleasure of writing with pen and paper with the ease and speed of editing offered by modern word processing software.

The kit consists of a smart Pen+ tool, which, when used to write on the accompanying 'Paper Tablet', will also display what you are writing on an accompanying phone or tablet device. Connected via Bluetooth, your device, boosted by the Moleskine Notes App, then allows you to record and edit your scribblings, meaning you can add extra colour, highlights and more.

The app, which is available on iOS and Android devices, stores all the writing done in your Paper Tablet, meaning you can delete or move pages across devices, and even sync using your Google Drive or Evernote account.

As for the kit itself, it resembles your traditional writing tools, with the Pen+ taking after a standard fountain pen - albeit with a hidden camera by the nib which traces and digitises everything you write. The Paper Tablet is slightly thicker than a usual Moleskine, but features NCode technology embedded in every page to allow the Pen+ to pick up your writing or drawing.

All in all, the device works well - once you're registered on the app, using the Pen+ is smooth, and the data transfer is effective, even if like us, you aren't particularly artistically-minded. But whilst this is clearly a clever product (and at £199, a premium one too...) there remains a slight nagging question about what it's trying to achieve. 

Those of us used to writing with a pen and pad will find some advantages, most notably the chance to edit and remove notes, but with tablet devices and lightweight laptops so commonplace today, it still seems like an odd choice of platform for Moleskine. 

The idea behind the F3 is a simple one: provide with a stand that simplifies and organises a desk while maintaining a clean, functional style, without an expensive price tag.

Satechi achieves it with this product which packs some interesting features on top. It has two, rather than one, preset height options thanks to a pair of sturdy aluminium legs with rubber pads.

Physically, it is a fairly big slap of plastic (550 x 231mm) available either in white or anthracite. Plastic usually infers flimsiness but there wasn’t any in sight. This is proper solid stuff. The aluminium legs slot in within seconds after the shorter, permanent ones are deployed.

There’s plenty of connectivity as well; four front facing USB 3.0 ports plus headphone/microphone ports with long cables to connect to your PC or laptop.

It doesn’t require power as the ports are essentially passive ones. The F3 took the weight of a 27-inch monitor without flinching and there are reports of customers using it with a 34-inch behemoth.

You will be able to put items weighing up to 11Kg on top. There’s enough clearance (about 30mm) underneath the actual plastic stand to slot in a keyboard.

Adding the aluminium feet adds another 50mm. A few more USB ports or a smartphone stand might have been useful together with a couple of extra height options. There’s also the fact that a more premium material like glass or aluminium might have been a better, albeit more expensive, option.

A few vendors (Acer, Lenovo) have tried to deliver laptops with dual displays but these proved to be niche products with high prices and they were commercial failures.

Enter PackedPixels (£149 each, about $194, AU$252), a deceptively straightforward product from Dovetail Technology that brings multiple displays to laptops with one big caveat.

Your laptop will need to be equipped with a DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 1 or 2 ports. Newer Thunderbolt 3 ports won't work even with an adaptor, and obviously older ones like HDMI, DVI or VGA are out of the picture.

Note that you can use a USB 3.0 to DisplayPort converter according to the manufacturer. That is what you will have to do on non-Apple laptops.

If you have a DP or a TB1/2 port (Dell XPS 13 first generation, MacBook Pro etc) then using the bundled universal adaptor, you will be able to connect either one or two displays, each of them 9.7-inch in size and with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels.

That's a 4:3 aspect ratio, something that works well in cramped spaces and is actually the same screen as the iPad Retina Display.

The designers made the right decision to hide the connecting ports (DisplayPort and USB) where the stand is supposed to slot.

Bear in mind that using two extra screens will eat up your battery faster, although, as Dovetail technologies suggests, you might also use a mobile phone adapter or an emergency power bank (like the Aukey 30Ah) to help out.

Given the connector, you won't need any additional driver installation for any operating system. The screens are automatically adjustable and can be used in portrait or landscape mode.

Jackery is a little known company that focuses - like so many out there - on producing portable laptop and smartphone chargers. Its flagship product is the massive PowerPro, a 500Whr/140Ah Portable Power station rechargeable battery pack, The Jackery Titan S is a portable battery (72.4Whr) that can not only charge your mobile or tablet but also, according to its manufacturer, the popular Apple MacBook laptop. 

We didn’t have one at hand to test that claim sadly; note that it is also available in orange which for some reason has a lower capacity. Its black metal aluminium casing ensures that it will survive more than a few drops and it does feel very solid. Shame though about the sharper-than-usual edges on both sides and we’re not fans of the curvy profile of the Titan S as this caused it to slip a few times. 

This is a portable charger/battery pack so don’t expect too much innovation; it doesn’t switch off automatically but does identify the connected device by itself, charging it at the maximum permitted power.

Other than a big power button and a 4-led battery status indicators which means you will never really know when the item will be fully charged when you reach four blue dots or discharged when it shows one blue dot. 

There are two full size USB ports - a 15W one (5V, 3A) and an 18W one (supporting variable voltages thanks to Quick Charge, up to 3.4A) - and a USB Type-C one that can deliver 15W power (5V, 3A); the latter can also be used to charge the battery. 

At 155 x 80 x 22mm for a weight of 435g, it is a tad smaller (volume wise) and lighter than the Aukey Powerbank although the latter has a far superior capacity (30Ah compared to 20.1Ah). The Jackery Titan comes with a micro USB charging cable and a two-year warranty but no carry case. The item is out of stock in the UK at the time of writing. 

This printer is not for everyone. It is slow, expensive to buy and to maintain, and it is not even wireless! But then not all printers can list on their spec sheet that they're the world's lightest all-in-one printer, one that can not only print (obviously) but also scan and copy.

The Primera Trio uses only a normal microUSB cable to charge and to connect to the host computer, and unlike most of the competition, it is truly portable (as in it has a battery inside) and boasts a smaller footprint than most laptops.

Outside of this nifty gadget, you'll be hard pressed to find a compact device that you can take with you to print important documents that need immediate signatures (or at least draft copy). The scanning capability is not a big deal – you can always take pictures instead – although with the Trio, you will be able to do copies fairly easily.

Home working can often be a battle for space within a fairly cramped environment, so wireless accessories have become more and more popular in the past few years.

The Gyration Air Mouse Voice looks to take wireless mouse technology one step further, offering flexible use cases from the desk to the boardroom and beyond thanks to the power of voice.

The device, which costs $99, is able to act as a typical desktop mouse, connecting via Bluetooth, but thanks to in-built microphones, can also double up as an in-air meeting pointer, where it can work with voice recognition to skip through slides.

The voice commands can also be used to zoom in on specific details in a slide, and even open up your web browser - all activated just with a push of a button.

Asides from the voice control, the device can also be used as an in-air mouse, allowing to to navigate around a companion PC or laptop whilst in use, which could be super handy for launching new documents or finding specific details.

Set-up is quick and easy, with no special drivers needed, and each of the three device buttons able to be programmed to specific commands via a desktop app. The Air Mouse voice has a wireless range of 70 metres, meaning it’s ideal for both the boardroom and the conference hall, and works with both Windows and OSX software. 

The mouse itself may not feel particularly premium, with a rather fragile-looking plastic finish, but if you need to give presentations on a regular basis, this could be an ideal product to take your work to the next level.

Your daily meetings might be about to get even more interactive thanks to the GoTouch pen from Anyractive.

Comprised of a wireless pen and camera unit, the device is in theory able to turn any wall, table or even floor into a display that can be written on. The GoTouch works by connecting to a smartphone or Windows PC connected to an external display, which is then broadcast to your surface of choice.

Unfortunately setting up the device is quite fiddly, requiring a separate app download before you can start projecting. Linking to your Android or iOS device is then done by Bluetooth, which is rather spotty, and means connecting your display and smartphone to the app, which can take some time - not ideal if you quickly need to start a presentation.

Once we did get the GoTouch operational, the pen was largely successful when writing, but did cut out several times. As a pocket-sized projector, however, the GoTouch camera was rather more successful.

Battery life was good, with the camera staying operational for several hours of broadcast, and recharging speedily via USB, however the pen is powered by physical batteries, meaning it might need keeping an eye on in case of embarrassing power failures during a presentation.

Ordering the GoTouch may also be a bit tricky unless you are fluent in Korean, with the company’s online store not offering an English-language version just yet. This also means we have no idea how much it actually costs, as although Anyractive’s Kickstarter page (which says the GoTouch costs $89) smashed its initial $300,000 target, the device is yet to start shipping.

Overall, the GoTouch is a great idea, but one let down hugely by setup problems.

Monoprice's latest 27in monitor looks to offer a premium display without the high price, and for the most part, it succeeds.

The Monoprice 18545 comes with a 27in LED backlit IPS display sporting a 16:9 2560x1440 maximum resolution - equating to 1440p. This does mean it isn't 4K-equipped, however our tests showed the display to perform well with HD video content as well as regular day-to-day use.

The device comes with 178° viewing angles and the company's Pixel Perfect guarantee, which promotes the wide range of colours. Thanks to a flexible rear hinge, the device can also be angled for your viewing preference, with a tilt range from +15 to -5 degrees, which can be useful if you sit near a window.

The monitor comes with an incredibly slim build which is just 2.1in thick, meaning that the screen should easily fit into most workplace desktop environments - and the metal base is pleasingly solid, meaning you shouldn't be able to accidentally knock it over.

The polished grey metal design of the Monoprice 18545 should help blend in to your home or office, but be warned though, the corners of the aluminium build can be remarkably sharp if you catch it unexpectedly. The rear of the display was also quick to warm up quite alarmingly on several occasions, although this did not appear to impact performance.

Given that it isn't 4K-ready, the $279 price tag for the Monoprice 18545 is certainly reasonable, however if you are looking for a truly top-of-the-range offering, it might be worth spending a little more money elsewhere.

Keeping workplace data safe is a major consideration for many workers, and the Aegis Secure Key 3Z features one of the toughest alternatives around. 

Primarily targeting those workers who are out and about a lot, and also want to keep their valuable information secure, the device is equipped with a physical keypad to protect what's inside.

Despite only being the size of a regular USB stick, the Aegis Secure Key 3Z is one tough cookie, able to stand up to almost any work environments. The rubber exterior, which is IP58 protective against dust and water, safeguards a rugged aluminium build inside and out, meaning that there is no easy way to break into this device.

The Aegis Secure Key 3Z also features top-of-the-range encryption that meets government standards alongside the onboard keyboard to enter a custom PIN and access the data within. Despite all this protection, setting up and using the device is fairly straightforward, not requiring any extra software or complex processes, with all the protection contained within.

In fact, the only downside appears to be the high price - at $79 for the 8GB model we reviewed, this is a far pricier alternative than other devices around today. But if security is your number one concern, then this is the storage device for you.

With data security becoming paramount for many of us these days, the diskAshur Pro looks to offer a comprehensive security offering to ensure your important data stays intact.

The key selling point of the diskAshur Pro is its obvious physical security - the device comes with a keypad that will only grant access to the data stored within upon entering a PIN number. Far from your usual ATM PIN number though, the device requires an identifier between seven and 15 digits, offering far tougher security, with the number able to be quickly personalised and changed, in order to keep your data safe.

Asides from the physical security (which extends to IP56 water and dust resistance and even a self-destruct feature), the diskAshur Pro also comes with some enviable encryption, sporting XTS-AES 256-bit real-time full disk hardware encryption and EDGE technology to offer even more levels of safety.

This version of the drive offers 500GB of storage, which should easily be enough to store all your vital documents, media and more, and connects to your PC or laptop via a standard USB 3.1 port.

The diskAshur Pro works across all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux, and requires no extra additional software to be installed, meaning using the device is incredibly easy.

Getting hold of the product may be the main issue with the diskAshur Pro, with the company manufacturing and selling many other models of the device on its site. We found this particular model for sale on Amazon for £211.96, and on iStorage's own site for £209.

If you are able to get one, however, the diskAshur Pro is unparalleled in both its physical and internal protection, and the compact build and hard-wearing design make this a must-have for the security-conscious.

The Apricorn Aegis Secure Key cuts a familiar figure; it does look a lot like the iStorage one but has 60x more capacity while costing about five times more. Comparing it to other secure USB drives, it does come across as being a bit of a bargain if you want to store massive amounts of data although it costs around three times the cheapest 512GB USB drive.

The USB drive itself incorporates a full 10-key alphanumeric keypad with two function keys plus three status lights. It then slots into a hardened epoxy-potted rugged aluminum enclosure which makes it dust and waterproof; the device is also certified IP-58 and at 46g and 93mm long is fairly chunky, putting a bigger strain on a device’s USB port than most USB drives.

As expected, it comes with built-in hardware encryption (256-bit AES) which means that it is totally independent from the host client and OS-agnostic. No keyloggers and no BadUSB vulnerability. It can be used where no keyboards are present and doesn’t require any drivers or software. It also means that it is powered by a battery which, unfortunately, adds another potential point of failure, especially as it runs rather hot in use. 

The Aegis Secure Key has also received a FIPS 140-2 level 3 accreditation from NIST, the US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology, which oversees US government IT and computer security. Setting the drive up is the hardest part of the process. There is no factory default PIN so you need to create your own PIN (at last 7 numbers up to 16) to use it. 

The drive can be configured with an admin PIN and a user PIN, both of which are independent and is a particularly useful option in a corporate setup when multiple units are deployed. 

The presence of an on-device keyboard makes brute-force attempts difficult and after 20 incorrect PIN entry attempts, the drive automatically deletes the encryption key, rendering the data unreadable. What’s more, it auto-locks when it is disconnected from the host PC or after a set period. Note that it may not work with a USB-hub because of higher power requirements.

There is also a read-only mode that prevents the user from tampering with data on the drive. Add in a rated data transfer rate of up to 190MBps/160MBps (read/write speeds) and a three-year warranty and you get a very solid product. As always, bear in mind that such a device – especially of this size- doesn’t remove the need to have a secure backup; drives – even those with high MTBF - do fail, get damaged or lost.

Plug in the Kingston Ironkey D300 (IKD300/8GB) in your computer and the first thing you will notice is that the drive shows up as a CD Drive with a 14.4MB capacity.  Surely some mistake! Well, you actually need to initialise the drive before using it for the first on any computer.

Note that Kingston strongly advises not to use the drive via a USB hub. Launching the application will request that you create a password (between eight and 16 characters) and will go on to format the drive.

You will confusingly end up with two “drives”, one with the initialisation software and the other one being the actual empty drive. Insert it in another computer (Linux, Mac or Windows) and you will be prompted to enter the right password.

Otherwise, as for other similar solutions on the market, enter the password wrong 10 times in a row and your content will be erased. As for the drive itself, it is an 8GB model with a zinc casing – which also doubles as a heatsink as the D300 heats up a fair bit under use - and tamper-evident epoxy seal for physical security.

With its cap on, it is waterproof (up to 4ft) and dustproof and at 51g, feels solid. More importantly though, the more compelling protection happens inside the device itself. It is a FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified device with 256-bit AES hardware encryption.

There is a hardware cryptographic module inside the device itself which means that the encryption and decryption is done on the drive rather than on the host PC, with digitally signed firmware which makes the D300 immune to the notorious BadUSB exploit.

The D300, which comes with a five-year warranty, also offers a read-only option which allows any user, once authenticated, to open and view content on the drive but not change, update or erase the content.

There’s also a managed version of the drive which, as its name implies, allows the drive to be deployed en masse across an organisation but requires Ironkey EMS by Datalocker which allows for the drives to be centrally managed. This allows for drive-specific policies and allows administrators to disable lost or stolen drives remotely and more.

The drives are available in capacities ranging from 4GB to 128GB. The rated transfer rates of the drive vary between 80MBps to 250MBps (read) and 12MBps to 85MBps (write) depending on the capacity. Rule of thumb is the lower the capacity, the slower it will be.

The 8GB model performed better than expected with CrystalDiskMark benchmark results hitting 237.6MBps and 58.69MBps on Read and Write respectively.

The trend for thinner, lighter and more aesthetically pleasing laptop designs gave us the Apple Macbook, a stunningly beautiful device with only one connector, a lonely USB Type-C port.

There's a plethora of accessories - adapters and docking stations - on the market to solve that problem though, especially as more and more laptops are following Apple's lead and cutting the number of connectors to a minimum.

The Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-Port Adapter is one of them. Available in four Apple-friendly colours, this device quadruples the amount of ports of the aforementioned MacBook.

There's a pass-through USB Type-C as well as two USB Type-A ports and an HDMI connector capable of supporting 4K video content, albeit at 30Hz - we'd certainly have preferred a DisplayPort.

Physically, the device is about 105mm long and comes with a 150mm USB Type-C cable. The enclosure is made entirely of aluminium which has a propensity to get scratched and marked when flung around too often.Compared to other products on the market, having a cable is preferable to avoid accidental damage to your laptop's port.

Note that each USB port on the Slim Type-C hub can provide 5V/1A (or 5W) and that Satechi advises that the maximum power load on the hub shouldn't exceed 10W, which excludes using it for heavy duty activities (e.g. charging two tablets).

The product comes with a one-year warranty. 

Sandberg's Powerbank is neither the cheapest or the most powerful around. However, it does come with a couple of features that make it a rather enticing option.

It outputs to a number of voltages (12V, 16V, 19V and 20V), automatically choosing the right one depending on the device connected to it.

There are also two USB ports and these are obviously hardwired to output 5V on both. There are also 12 different charge tips but none would fit my Dell XPS 13, and they won't be useful for USB Type-C models like the Dell XPS 13 2016 edition.

There are a couple of things that differentiate this from most of its rivals on the market: it uses a brushed, premium, aluminium finish, with bright blue LED status lights that clearly indicate the amount of juice left or how close the battery is to being charged.

Speaking of charging, Sandberg decided to equip the Powerbank with a dedicated input port which allows the device to be charged in record time thanks to a 36W (18V/2A) power supply unit.

In comparison, the Aukey 30Ah we reviewed recently could only be charged using a 12W USB port which makes charging a lengthy process, often an overnight affair. It also means that you don't rely on your laptop or mobile charger to get the battery replenished.

Sandberg has equipped the Powerbank with an automatic 'switch on and switch off' mechanism to save power. It can deliver up to a total of 85W meaning that it can accommodate a massive 70W on its laptop/DC Out port. Note that the device comes with an industry-leading five-year warranty.

Quite a lot of Ultrabooks (and even a fair few graphics cards) now come with Mini DisplayPort connection as standard in lieu of the traditional D-Sub or HDMI ports; which can prove to be a pain if you're planning to deliver a presentation at a client's office and they only have a HDMI projector.

In theory, Mini DisplayPort – which is popular with Apple - has enough bandwidth to drive 4K monitors at 60Hz (HDMI can only do it at 30Hz) which results in a smoother end-user experience. However, today's product doesn't achieve this (it does reach 4K at 30Hz though).

What it does is merely converting the Mini DisplayPort to a HDMI port, all for just over £23 (about $35, AU$45), more specifically from DP m1.2 to HDMI 1.4 without the need for drivers or external power source.

Unlike other passive video adaptors, this one offers active signal conversion which means that it doesn't require a multi-mode DisplayPort source signal (like AMD's Eyefinity) which greatly expands its compatibility option. In addition, mDP supports 5.1 Surround Sound out of the box and is compatible with most Intel Thunderbolt devices. You will still need to have a HDMI cable at the other end though.

From a distance, it looks like a standard USB cable with a microUSB connector on one end and a bigger-than-average one on the other. 

But look closer and you will see that it is a mirroring and KM (keyboard and mouse) sharing accessory. The KMC6105 allows you to view and interact with your Android device regardless of the brand and platform (i.e. tablet, Chromecast, smartphone) as well as sharing your keyboard and mouse.

Perhaps more importantly, it charges your Android device while in use, something that the previous generation model did not offer. Unlike that one, it allows you to use your smartphone as an additional screen. It also offers copy/cut and paste as well as drag and drop across the platform.

You will need to install a small executable file that is located on the device itself. Otherwise it will only behave like a standard (expensive) cable. You will need to enable Developer Options in newer smartphones by clicking seven times on the "build number" menu.

Subsequently, you will need to allow USB debugging which is how the KMC6105 works its magic. The installation process will also download the device's driver where necessary. Note that the device carries a standard two-year warranty and is USB 2.0 only.

The Android OS Mirroring and KM sharing cable is on sale at Lindy for £24.96.

Audio has historically never been a forte for laptops and that hasn't changed for Ultrabooks especially for those at the lower end of the spectrum (one might even say that it became worse).

Which is why something like an external sound card comes in quite handy. USB devices in general usually carry a performance penalty mostly because they use the host's processing power.

They also have a small impact on the battery life. However, given how powerful the recent crop of Intel-based processors has been, that shouldn't be an issue. 

The ICUSBAUDIOMH External USB Card lets you add an S/PDIF digital audio output or a standard 3.5mm analog audio connection to your system through USB and essentially adds a 5.1 sound card.

The device, which is about the size of a lighter, has two 3.5-inch jacks for headphone and microphone (some Ultrabooks like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro only have one port).

Startech's external card comes at the end of a rather long USB cable, uses a Via VT1630A chipset and is capable of sampling audio at up to 96kHz.

Available in black or white, it does support Sony's PlayStation 3 gaming console and comes with a two-year warranty.

This USB Stereo Audio Adapter External Sound Card is available for sale at Startech.

Categories: Tech News

Fallout 76 Nuclear Winter pre-beta has been extended

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 05:44

The pre-beta for Fallout 76’s Nuclear Winter mode is going so well that Bethesda has announced it is extending it indefinitely. 

First announced during Bethesda’s E3 2019 conference, Nuclear Winter is the Fallout universe’s take on the increasingly well-worn battle royale genre. 

In Nuclear Winter, 52 players from Vault 51 are separated by the ZAX computer system into four squads. These squads must fight it out to be the last standing, while a ring of fire closes in around them, all in the hope of finding the next vault Overseer.

Although battle royale gaming is hardly anything new these days, the Fallout universe is one in which, admittedly, a battle royale scenario does make for a reasonably good fit and Bethesda has made an effort to put some distinctly Fallout features into it.  

Now is the winter of our free content

In an official blog post, Bethesda announced it’s been “blown away by the reactions and responses we’ve been seeing all week to Nuclear Winter. It has been so amazing to read all your experiences and see everything you’ve been sharing.”

As a result, the pre-beta of the game, which was originally only supposed to run for a week, "will remain on and continue to receive updates, so keep sharing your feedback.”

This appears to mean that the pre-beta will remain live beyond the free Fallout 76 trial which is currently available until June 17. If you’re looking to test out Fallout 76 for yourself and wouldn’t mind trying a new battle royale mode then now is the time to do it. Any progress made in the trial will carry over to the final game. 

Categories: Tech News

Nintendo has no plans to give up on the 3DS just yet

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 05:01

Nintendo of America may have a new president, but its approach to supporting the 3DS console is the same as ever: if you want it, we've got it. 

During E3 2019, the new president, Doug Bowser, told Time that the handheld console "continues to do quite well" and is still in demand from consumers and retailers. For that reason, and quite possibly because Nintendo also sees the console as "a great entry point for young gamers", the 3DS will continue to see support. 

And if you have any concern that the 3DS didn't really make much of an appearance during Nintendo's Direct at E3, don't fret. According to Bowser, Nintendo's focus on the Switch during the event wasn't a sign of bad things to come for the 3DS, it's just that it's not really the star of the show any more. 

Gateway console

"At this point," he explained, "we have no games to announce on 3DS at [E3], and in fact we're not really showing 3DS content here, because it is all about Nintendo Switch."

Continued support for the 3DS is a promise Nintendo has been making since the Switch launched in 2017 and it has kept it so far. However, the last significant release for the 3DS was Persona Q2 and, with a sparse first-party release schedule for the future, it's worth wondering how long consumer demand for the eight year old platform can actually continue with so little to encourage it. It certainly feels like its life is petering out.

That said, the 3DS and its two-dimensional sibling are reliable consoles with a great and extensive back catalog of games to dig into and enjoy. Although the rate of new releases is slowing down, it's likely people will keep finding reasons to pick up a 3DS, even if it is just because they've been handed one by an older, Switch-wielding sibling. As such, Nintendo's continued support for the console can only be a good thing for itself and players.

Categories: Tech News

Age of Empires 4: release date, trailers and features

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 04:35

After more than 13 years in hibernation, the Age of Empires series is coming back for its fourth outing. In August 2017, publisher Microsoft Studios announced that Age of Empires 4 was alive and kicking, and that it was being developed by Relic Entertainment, the team behind Homeworld and Company of Heroes (which is a hell of a lot of pedigree).

Since then, however, not much has been revealed about the game. As we get further in to 2019 hopes are rising that some news around Age of Empires 4 could be approaching. Until that day, this is everything we know about Age of Empires 4 so far.

[Update: Age of Empires 4 didn't make an appearance at E3 2019, but Phil Spencer has said that news will be coming before the year is out. Read on to find out more.]

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The latest installment to the historical real-time strategy series Age of Empires.
  • When can I play it? There's no release window just yet but it'll be late 2019 at the earliest
  • What can I play it on? Windows 10 PC is the only confirmed platform
What is Age of Empires 4?

Age of Empires 4 is the latest installment to the historical real-time strategy series Age of Empires, which began life way back in 1997. 

Follow-ups to the original were released in 1999 and 2005, and there’s been a couple of spin-offs during that period, including two Nintendo DS titles and the popular Age of Mythology, which took inspiration from myths and legends rather than history. Aside from those DS games, the series is only on PC. 

Age of Empires 4 is the first game in the series developed by Relic Entertainment – all the other Age of Empires games have been made by Ensemble Studios, which folded in 2009. Relic says it wants to “fuse historical context with deep strategic gameplay, and to bring this franchise back to the forefront of gaming and into the hands of its beloved community”. 

Age of Empires 4: release date 

Unfortunately, no release date has been announced for Age of Empires 4 – not even a rough one. It could be a way off though, because all we’ve seen of the game is a trailer filled with concept art in 2017, which suggests that at that point development was in its early stages. If we were betting on it, we’d saying it won’t be until late 2019 at the very earliest.

What platforms will Age of Empires 4 release on? 

So far, all we know is that it’s coming to Windows 10 PC – so bad luck if you’re running an older version (although this could be a good excuse to upgrade). However, with Microsoft Studios as the publisher the door is open for a release on Xbox One, too, although there’s been no word on that front. For the same reason, it’s unlikely to come to other consoles, such as the PS4 or the Nintendo Switch.

Age of Empires 4: trailers 

The announcement of the game was marked with a trailer – and it’s still the only one we’ve seen to date. It’s exclusively concept art for the game, depicting large scale battles between various groups. Check it out below:

Age of Empires 4: news and rumors

News is coming

After Age of Empires 4 was announced at Gamescom in 2017, everything went somewhat quiet. Those who were hoping to see some kind of update during Microsoft's E3 press conferences for 2018 and 2019 were left disappointed too. However, shortly after E3 2019 in an interview with PC Gamer Phil Spencer confirmed that the game is still making progress and that more news will be revealed in 2019. 

Spencer didn't give much away but he did say that Relic is making "good progress" on Age of Empires 4 and that they'll be ready to "talk about it more this year" when it's in "the right context". 

When exactly in 2019 we'll hear more about the game isn't yet known but there's another Gamescom conference still to come, which would be the ideal place for Microsoft to make an update given the game was first announced there. We'll just have to wait and see. 

Age of Empires 4: gameplay features

Previous Age of Empires games have focused on one period of history: Age of Empires 3 chronicled the European colonization of the Americas, for example. 

However, judging by the trailer above, Age of Empires 4 could paint with a broader historical picture, with lots of empires from across time returning from previous games in the series. 

In the trailer, you can glimpse Native Americans, British Redcoats, Romans and Japanese samurai. It’s possible that this could just be demonstrative of the art style and themes, but we’d be surprised if they didn’t end up featuring in the final game in some capacity.

That said, it’s unlikely to break history by pitting armies from two eras against each other in the campaign, so expect a story that plays out over an extended timeline. And then perhaps the Romans could clash with the Redcoats in online multiplayer.

In terms of actual gameplay, we wouldn’t expect it to deviate too far from the formula that fans of the series know and love – it would be odd for the developer not to mine that ore of support. So, there will be the usual 4X fare (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate). However, the last Age of Empires game was more than 10 years ago, so we’re expecting some changes in terms of UI and mechanics. 

Age of Empires 4: what we want to see 

A sleeker UI

The Age of Empires games have always had decent UIs – most of the stuff you need is two or at most three clicks away and, generally, if you hover over a button you can find out what it does. But going back to it now, it looks a bit old fashioned, with a large box covering most of the bottom section of the screen, and can be overwhelming at first glance.

If the series is going to attract new players (and the more the merrier) then the UI needs to be sleek and inviting. Age of Empires Online, another spin-off, might perhaps be a good guide: that game had much less on screen at any one time, allowing you to see more of the battlefield. Smaller, contextual menus that only appear when you click on certain elements would work well.

Revamped unit tactics

The Age of Empires games do boast military tactics, and the positioning and stances of your units can turn a battle. But largely, fights are won by the biggest army, and they are over quickly. We’d like to see tactics play a bigger role in battles, and for it to be easier to make small adjustments to groups of units so they do exactly what you want.

There’s hope here: Relic has a lot of pedigree in this field. Imagine Age of Empires with Company of Heroes-style unit movement when you got close to an enemy’s base. That’s not what Relic will be shooting for (this is about clashes of large armies rather than small strike forces, after all), but we’re confident it will be more finessed than anything else we’ve seen from the series so far.

Multiple cities

Age of Empires revels in its smaller scale. You start with a town hall and build out from there, never really expanding beyond a single settlement. Rise of Nations, also published by Microsoft, could be a good yard stick for how the game should expand; in that game you could build multiple cities and combine them into large territories.

If you apply that to Age of Empires then you get multiple hubs of production: one town could focus on food production, and transport the finished product to another nearby town, which is itself churning out military units. Planning out the structure of your empire, rather than just a single city, would add another layer to the game.

Categories: Tech News

Metroid Prime 4: everything we know so far

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 04:24

It's been 10 years since the last Metroid Prime game, so to say fans are hungry for more Samus would be an understatement. Then finally during its E3 2017 livestream Nintendo announced a brand new Metroid Prime game is coming to Nintendo Switch: Metroid Prime 4.

But that's all we got, an announcement that included a logo for the new Metroid Prime and little else. No release date, no developer information, no footage. Nothing.

A brand new Metroid Prime title for the Switch is an exciting proposition - the Metroid Prime games, released between 2002 and 2007, were critical gold for the GameCube and Wii consoles; to see the series return on Nintendo’s most successful console in years would be fitting.

However in January 2019 fans were disappointed to learn that Metroid Prime 4 is probably going to be a while off as Nintendo scrapped the project and decided to start again with the help of Retro Studios. 

Regardless of the extra wait time, we're excited to see Metroid Prime 4 on the Nintendo Switch (whenever that will be). So here's everything we know about Metroid Prime 4 on Switch so far.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it?  A brand new Metroid Prime game 
  • What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch 
  • When can I play it? No release date just yet, but don’t expect it for a while 
Release date

We weren't quite sure when Metroid Prime 4 would release but now we know it definitely won't be for a while as Nintendo announced in January 2019 that it had scrapped the project and started again with help from Retro Studios. 

Trailers

Back at E3 2017, Nintendo released a first-look trailer for Metroid Prime 4. 

Check it out below:

News and rumors

No appearance at E3 2019

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the recent changes to its development, Metroid Prime 4 did not make an appearance during Nintendo's direct at E3 2019.  At the moment it's not entirely clear when we will hear about the game again, though Nintendo isn't completely against hosting Direct presentations at short notice so we can only hope that we won't be waiting until E3 2020. 

E3 2019 Direct announced

E3 2019 is gaining on us and Nintendo has now confirmed the time and date it will be streaming its Nintendo Direct. The stream will begin on Tuesday June 11 at 5pm BST/ 9am PT/ 12pm ET. Nintendo has also confirmed that it will be bringing back its Treehouse livestreams which will go live each day of the show, showing off gameplay from upcoming releases. 

Nintendo hasn't released any kind of schedule for either its Direct stream or its Treehouse streams which means we can't be entirely certain that Metroid Prime 4 will appear. However, there's been little word since it was announced that Retro Studios took over development earlier this year and E3 would be the perfect time for Nintendo to update anxious fans. It seems unlikely, however, that the game would be a Treehouse livestream focus at this stage so a press conference mention is most likely if there's to be any sighting of Metroid Prime 4.

Retro Studios is hiring for Metroid Prime 4

It was something of a shock when Nintendo announced that it would be starting from scratch on the development of Metroid Prime 4 with Retro Studios. The latest news from this new phase in the game's development is that Retro Studios is now hiring and looking to increase numbers on its development team. The roles are wide-ranging and all are based at the studio in Austin, Texas. 

These advertisements suggest that the game is still in the early stages of development so it could be some time before we get any more solid updates on its progress. If you're a world class developer and a fan of Metroid, though, this could be your big break!

Nintendo scrap Metroid Prime 4 and start again

In a shock announcement back in January 2019, Nintendo revealed in a development update video that it scrapped the current project as it wasn't happy with the current progress. However, Nintendo still plans to reboot the project with help from original creators Retro Studios. 

“This change will essentially mean restarting development from the beginning, so completion of the game will be delayed from our initial internal plan,” Nintendo's senior managing executive officer Shinya Takahashi explains in the update video. “We strongly recognise that this delay will come as a dissapointment to the many fans who have been looking forward to the launch of Metroid Prime 4.”

You can watch the development update from Nintendo below:

The story

There’s so little Metroid Prime 4 information out there that piecing together the story is nigh impossible. What we will say is that Metroid Prime 3’s ending didn’t strike us as open enough for any kind of direct continuation. Though Samus’ went into hyperspace, giving the opportunity for a sequel to enter a new world or galaxy, we’d say the core story of the original trilogy is now closed. 

Back in 2015, Eurogamer interviewed series producer, Kensuke Tanabe, who stated that “the stories of Dark Samus and Phazon are done” adding that any new games in the series would focus on other Prime-series elements.

Given that the game is not being created by Metro Studios, this is likely to have an impact on the story or, the very least, the direction of the franchise.

Gameplay

One thing we can be fairly confident in is that, like other Prime games, Metroid Prime 4 is likely to be a first person shooter. Other than that we can’t say what kind of gameplay changes will arise from either the new developer, or the new Switch platform.

Coming in as a fresh start, there’s actually plenty of room for Metroid Prime 4 to innovate. Given The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario franchises have embraced more open worlds, we wonder if this is something that Nintendo will want to bring into the Prime series, too.

It’s like that, like other Switch games, there will be optional motion controls with the Joy-Cons - we’re imagining aiming, firing, an environment scanning, for example. 

What we want to see

A more open world

As we said above, this is a new start for Metroid Prime which means room for changes. Though we’re worried it could be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ we’d be interested to see the Metroid Prime games follow in the footsteps of Zelda and Mario to embrace a more open-world format.

The first three titles were already pretty big, but the Switch offers more scope. We think the Super Mario Odyssey approach of large interconnected worlds could translate well. The Metroid series is replete with interesting environments we’d love the chance to see more of and the Switch is the console that has enough power to make that possible. 

Be accessible

Just as a new start is a chance for innovation, it's also a chance to welcome a new generation of Metroid fans. It's the same with any series that goes on for a long time - there's a certain amount of assumed knowledge and lore that makes coming in as a new player feel more like a chore than a joy. 

We'd love to see Metroid Prime 4 take a Monster Hunter: World approach by retaining what makes it great while giving new players a way in. 

New weapons and abilities

The Metroid series has some seriously cool weapons and abilities for Samus’s armor and we’d like to see more of them. By all means, bring back the classics but bringing a couple of exciting new upgrades to the table will make us feel like we’re truly progressing in the game as well as the franchise as a whole. 

Make it feel like a true Switch game

With its motion controls and HD Rumble, the Switch has more than its portability to help its games stand out. We'd love to see Metroid Prime 4 make the most of them, though perhaps more of the HD Rumble and less of the motion control. 

Motion control could create some fun and interesting shooting and environment scanning opportunities, but integrating HD Rumble into puzzle solving or integrating it into combat situations to act as an enemy alert would be interesting.

Bring in Sylux

Back in 2015, producer Kensuke Tanabe said that the ship at the end of Metroid Prime 3 actually contained Sylux, a Hunter from Metroid Prime: Hunters. 

Tanabe said that he'd like to create a Metroid game which featured both Sylux and Samus and explored their dynamic, something which we'd also like to see happen; the characters have an unexplored and potentially interesting history. It's known that Sylux isn't the biggest fan for Samus or the Federation, yet he uses a Federation weapon. That alone has us thinking he'd make an engaging villain for a new title. 

(Image credits: Nintendo)

Categories: Tech News

The Last of Us 2: release date, news, and rumors

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 04:17

As endings go, The Last of Us's was pretty conclusive. But as it turns out, that hasn't stopped The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog from cranking out a sequel in the form of The Last of Us 2 – or, The Last of Us Part II if we're using its proper name. 

Given the first game was hailed by players and critics alike as a masterpiece with excellent, emotional storytelling and engaging, realistic characters, we have to admit that the decision to release a follow-up isn't particularly shocking. We'd probably have been more surprised if there wasn't one. And yet, when The Last of Us 2 was first announced, we'd be lying if we said our hearts didn't skip a beat. 

The Last of Us 2 was first announced by Naughty Dog at PlayStation Experience in 2016 alongside a teaser trailer and the last significant news drop around the game came at E3 2018. As we're now well into 2019, we're now hoping to hear an official release date any day now. 

And it really could be any day - after Sony decided to bow out of E3 2019 it's become increasingly hard to predict when news around the game could drop. Regardless, as this year goes on it's looking increasingly likely that we'll have to wait until late 2019 or maybe even 2020 before we join Ellie in her new adventure. 

[Update: After a recent interview with Ashley Johnson, it's looking increasingly likely that The Last of Us 2 will release in February 2020. Read on to find out more.]

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The sequel to the critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic game The Last of Us
  • When can I play it? It’ll be a while from now, late 2019 or early 2020
  • What can I play it on? PlayStation 4
The Last of Us 2 trailers 

The most recent trailer we have for The Last of Us 2 was shown during E3 2018. This trailer finally gives us a look at Ellie in an intimate scene before cutting away to some of the brutal but stealth-based combat we can expect to see in the game when it's launched.

The gameplay sequence gives us a look at Ellie fighting for her life in the wild. Success in a fight appears to require the right balance between stealth and all out attack as damage seems to have a more realistic impact. Ellie can move quietly between areas, taking weapons from bodies and crafting, before bursting out and taking down her enemies. It's a different creature in many ways to the original The Last of Us but it looks like something to look forward to, with more advanced enemies to challenge us and more complex gameplay to thrill us. 

See the gameplay for yourself below.

The Last of Us Part 2 had another trailer drop during PSX 2017. During a panel it was confirmed that the game will be set in the city of Seattle and the darker themes we know are coming were touched upon. You can watch the panel for yourself below:

Another trailer for the game was shown at Sony's press conference during the 2017 Paris Games Week. This trailer is around 5 minutes long, focusing on conflicts between the human factions in the game. It shows part 2 is going to have a dark story, perhaps even darker than the first, and the trailer is fairly harrowing to watch. 

Visually impressive though it is, do note that it's gory before you watch it for yourself below. 

The first look at The Last of Us 2 came with its announcement at PlayStation Experience in 2016. Despite the fact that the game was early in development, the trailer showed a full (non-gameplay) scene that features both Ellie and Joel. You can watch it below:

The Last of Us 2 release date

The Last of Us 2 has been in the works for a while but we're still waiting for a definite release date. Considering Naughty Dog has experienced the bad side of promising a solid release date and missing it before, it’s hard to blame them for not committing before being ready. 

In an interview with Vorterix, the game's composer, Gustavo Santaolalla, said that the game is going to launch in 2019. Naturally, this hasn't been confirmed so we'd take it with a pinch of salt. 

Making that 2019 release date seem less likely are the recent rumors suggesting we won't see The Last of Us 2 on shelves until early 2020, especially after another big PlayStation exclusive, Death Stranding, just had a November 2019 release date confirmed. It would be incredible to have two releases from PlayStation that are this big during the holiday season but it's unlikely.  

Adding fuel to the 2020 fire is a recent Variety interview with Ellie actress Ashely Johnson. When asked when the game is going to be released, Johnson appears to begin to say "February", which would tie up with the rumored release date after Death Stranding took the end of 2019 release slot. 

Of course, Johnson didn't actually get to finish what she was saying and a lot can change between now and February 2020. We won't know for certain until Naughty Dog makes it official. You can watch the interview with Johnson below (with that release moment being around the one hour and seven minutes mark).

What we know so far

Rumors of a delay

There was much excitement on May 29 as a result of PlayStation exclusive Death Stranding finally getting its release date confirmed as November 8 2019. This has, however, had a ripple effect which is concerning fans of The Last of Us 2.

With Death Stranding now slotted in as PlayStation's big exclusive release for the holiday season of 2019, it's been rumored (by Kotaku's Jason Schreier among others) that The Last of Us 2, also originally said to be looking at a late 2019 release, will now be pushed into early 2020.

This has not been confirmed by Naughty Dog or PlayStation so it remains nothing more than rumor at the moment. It's also worth pointing out that The Last of Us 2 has never had a set-in-stone release date anyway. 

However, an early 2020 release date for The Last of Us 2 does not seem impossible at this point as PlayStation having two such huge releases close together at the end of 2019 would be a surprise indeed.

A recent interview with Ellie actress, Ashley Johnson, has also added to those early 2020 rumors as, when asked by the interviewer when the game will release, she appears to begin to say February. However, nothing has been confirmed by Naughty Dog just yet so everything stands as rumor only at the the moment.

Into the final stages

News around The Last of Us 2 has been hotting up recently as the game inches closer towards completion. Naughty Dog has now confirmed that the final scene for the game has been shot and the game’s co-director, Anthony Newman, has tweeted out a recruitment call as the studio begins to “close out” the game’s development. 

As promising as these announcements are, they don't reveal anything about whether or not we can expect to see The Last of Us 2 this year or next. Regardless, development has reached a critical stage and though Sony won’t be attending E3 2019, that doesn’t mean it can’t make some announcements around the time of the show. In fact, recent rumors have suggested that we will see some kind of news around this time. Hopefully we’ll see a confirmed release date in the coming months. 

Mocap is underway

Things have been quiet on the official news front for The Last of Us 2 but we've been glad to see some studio insiders and actors from the game posting images on social media which show that the game's motion capture is well underway. Actors Ashley Johnson and Shannon Woodward have both posted images of themselves wearing mocap suits. They didn't give much away but the fact that Naughty Dog is this far into the motion capture process suggests we might at least be closer to hearing about a possible release date. 

Troy Baker is impressed

The Last of Us 2 is still in the works, but we now know that one of its lead voice actors, Troy Baker, has had an in-depth look and he thinks the game is 'awesome'. It's not clear whether Baker just saw some gameplay or had the chance to go hands-on himself but according to GameRant he said during MCM Comic Con at Birmingham “It’s a fantastic story. It’s a fantastic game. We just finished a playtest. It’s looking awesome. I can’t for it to be on shelves.” Though we can't be sure where exactly in the development process it is (during PSX, it was said that Naughty Dog had reached around the 50 to 60% mark) this playtest is an encouraging sign. 

Directors

With Neil Druckmann having been promoted to Vice President of Naughty Dog, The Last of Us 2 now has two confirmed directors. Druckmann will, of course, still be heavily involved in the creation of the game but it's now being headed up by Anthony Newman and Kurt Margenau, both of whom were lead designers on Uncharted 4. 

Story

Although it was no slouch in the gameplay department, it was the story told by The Last of Us that stuck with us for months afterwards. Naturally Naughty Dog had to give us some kind of hint about where the sequel would go. 

At the moment we know The Last of Us 2 will take place in the city of Seattle, five years after the end of the original game, with a 19 year old Ellie taking the starring playable role. Joel will still appear in the game but if the teaser trailer is anything to go by, he could be a much more passive presence. 

This time around, Ellie is extremely angry about...something. From what we saw from the teaser trailer she wants revenge, which to her appears to be a dish best served deadly. 

She does, after all, promise to “kill every last one of them.” It’s not clear who “them” is but it could signal that the Fireflies, the first game's well-meaning but morally grey antagonists, will make a return. Anger, hate and revenge are going to be key themes this time around so expect to be in for an emotionally heavy ride. 

In the trailer for the game shown at Paris Games Week in 2017, we got a look at how dark the game is likely to be. The trailer focuses on the opposing relationships between human characters in the game and features some seriously cringe-inducing violence. 

It doesn't tell us much about any new characters of how they'll relate to one another but it does confirm that we're going into a dark game world in The Last of Us part 2. 

In a recent panel at PSX both Druckmann and Gross said that though the game's story will indeed be dark and there'll be a focus on the theme of hate, "there is hope" and there will be "lighthearted moments." 

We can't pretend we're not relieved to hear this after the game's controversial Paris Games Week trailer which, Druckmann said, was intended to highlight the game's exploration of the pursuit of justice.

Ellie is one of the most real and refreshing characters we’ve seen in gaming so it’s exciting that Naughty Dog are going to take her story further and put her in center stage. 

The creative director of the game, Neil Druckmann has said that the story will be about Ellie and Joel’s relationship and that though the story would be complementary to the story of the first game, it would be much larger. 

When asked at a PSX panel whether or not Joel or Ellie may die, Druckmann responded that "no one is safe" highlighting that the game's story really could go anywhere. 

Hopes are particularly high for this larger story as it’s been revealed that one of the writers of Westworld, Halley Gross, will be co-writing the game’s story. Having someone who’s written scripts for such an incredibly popular and successful show should be a boon for the game's story. 

Gameplay

E3 2018 brought us our first proper look at the gameplay in The Last of Us Part 2. Given Ellie is now the leading playable character, it was expected that things would be a little different from the first game and the presentation at the show made this fairly clear. 

Ellie will have some moves similar to Joel but there are some things she'll be able to do that are completely different. For one thing she can jump - the new jump button should make the world of The Last of Us Part 2 more complex and more enjoyable to traverse. It also has the potential to make combat more interesting. Speaking of combat, Ellie doesn't really throw punches as her first form of attack, she has a stealthy knife. Melee combat generally appears to offer a little more than the original game, with evasions and an environment that can help as well as hinder your fighting.

Not only has Ellie matured as a character, the enemies she faces have developed and they're more realistic than ever. The Infected in The Last of Us Part 2 are smarter and more reactive than their predecessors, making them a tougher foe to face. AI has improved, allowing enemies to communicate with one another and to look for Ellie when she's hiding. Expect some tense moments to arise from this. 

Categories: Tech News

Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz live stream: how to watch tonight's boxing online from anywhere

Latest Tech News - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 00:08

His unique mix of boxing ability and undeniable showmanship means that any Tyson Fury fight is going to be worth watching. Tonight the Gypsy King looks to his extend his undefeated record against another blemish-free contender, the German Tom Schwarz. The showdown is all set for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (the ideal setting!) and you can live stream Fury vs Schwarz as it happens - it's even FREE to do so in some areas.

The 30-year-old Fury stands taller at 6ft 9in and has more wins at 27 with a draw in there, too. But even that was a controversial 12-round split draw against WBC World Champion Deontay Wilder.

Whereas Schwarz has the age advantage at 25 years-old but is shorter at 6ft 6in and also has less experience with 24 fights. He's won them all, but the list of defeated opponents is a lot less impressive than Tyson's. So will it be a foregone conclusion, or is this another Anthony Joshua-style upset in the making?

Fury has always wanted to fight in Las Vegas and this, as his debut, should make for a very excited and focused performance. Fury has said: "I really love my job at the minute, more than I have ever done before. I used to think boxing was a chore, a job to go to. I trained hard for a fight and then put a ton of weight back on. Now I enjoy what I do, keep fit even when I am not boxing. I almost live my life as a routine training camp now."

You can live stream Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz fight anywhere in the world using the guide below. The cost varies quite a lot over the world, with the UK hosting an expensive PPV that's undercut massively in the US by ESPN+ and even more by German channel MDR that has the whole thing absolutely FREE!

Live stream Fury vs Schwarz from outside your country

If you've been looking forward to this fight and already know where to watch, your plans may be scuppered if you're out of the country when it's on. That's because broadcasters geo-block their coverage if you try to watch from abroad.

But there's a clever workaround for this, which is perfectly legal (assuming the broadcaster's Ts&Cs allow it) and it involves using a piece of software called a VPN - better that than trying to get some dodgy stream from Reddit.

How watch the Tyson Fury fight in the UK

Live stream Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz in the US

Watch the Fury vs Schwarz fight FREE in Germany

How to watch Fury vs Schwarz: Australia stream

At the time of writing, we can't see any evidence that the Tyson Fury and Tom Schwarz boxing behemoth will be shown at all. As a last resort, we suppose you could try downloading a VPN service and then signing up for an option from another country. We'll be sure to update this section if we hear anything differently.

Categories: Tech News

Canada vs New Zealand live stream: how to watch today's Women's World Cup 2019 match from anywhere

Latest Tech News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 12:46

Group E is on a knife-edge at the Women's World Cup 2019 and a lot rests on the second games for Canada and New Zealand. Read on to find out how you can catch a Canada vs New Zealand live stream from anywhere around the world with our instructions below.

Canada opened their World Cup campaign with a hard-fought but deserved 1-0 win over Cameroon thanks to Kadeisha Buchanan's crucial headed goal. They can guarantee their place in the next round with a win today.

New Zealand will have to pick themselves up after a demoralising 1-0 defeat in their opening game against the Netherlands which saw them concede a header from Dutch substitute Jill Roord in the 93rd minute.

All eyes will be on Canada striker Christine Sinclair, who'll be itching to get on the scoresheet today. The 36-year-old hotshot is just four goals away from setting the record for the most international goals scored by a female or male soccer player worldwide, with retired USA forward Abby Wambach's incredible career tally of 184 within her sights.

Canada will certainly need Sinclair and her teammates to be more efficient in front of goal against New Zealand - the Canucks dominated play against Cameroon with 74 per cent of possession, but could only manage to scrape a win with a single goal. 

New Zealand won't be making it easy - they're a well-drilled side with one of the most well-organised defences in the tournament. Earning at least a point in this match will be crucial if the Football Ferns are to progress in to the next round, but can coach Tom Sermanni lift morale after such an agonising opening loss?

Don't miss any of the action by following the instructions below and grabbing a live stream of Canada vs New Zealand wherever you are in the world.

Watch a FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 live stream from outside your country

If you're in UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, we've got your viewing options listed below. If you're out of the country for today's match, you may find that geo-blocking will prevent you from watching your regular domestic coverage from abroad. You don't have to risk watching the match on a dodgy stream, however.

With the option of using a VPN service, you can tune into the match no matter where you are in the world, and its super easy to set up.

How to watch a Canada live stream in the FIFA Women's World Cup 

How to watch a live stream of New Zealand

How to watch Canada vs New Zealand: live stream in Australia

How to stream today's match in the UK 

Live stream Canada vs New Zealand in the US

- Discover our pick of all the US's best sports streaming sites

As well as opening up your viewing options for the Women's World Cup, using a VPN allows you to watch all your domestic sports coverage from abroad.

Categories: Tech News

India vs Pakistan live stream: how to watch Cricket World Cup 2019 grudge match from anywhere

Latest Tech News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 12:30

There are a lot of people who have been waiting for this 2019 Cricket World Cup a long time - India vs Pakistan. There were rumours of more than 500,000 people applying to buy tickets to watch this live at Old Trafford, and we're expecting a worldwide audience in the tens of millions. National pride is at stake in this one - as well as a potential spot in the last four of the World Cup - and we've created this guide for getting an India vs Pakistan live stream, regardless of where you are in the world.

We'll forget about the international geo-politics of this encounter, and concentrate on the game itself. It's all set up to be a cracker, with both teams showing signs of brilliance already in the 2019 Cricket World Cup.


Winners of this competition in 1983 and 2011, India arrived late to the 2019 tournament to recover from another intense IPL. But Virat Kohli's men have looked no-less fresh for that, with a stonking win over South Africa (thanks, in large part, to Rohit Sharma's outstanding century) and then a strong victory over pre-tournament favourites Australia. Their batting line-up is looking particularly intimidating, while Jasprit Bumrah continues to show why he has risen to the top of the world rankings in this format.

Pakistan are really living up to their reputation as cricket's most unpredictable team. From shocking against the Windies to pulling off a shock against England and almost doing the same against the Aussies, it's near impossible to forecast what version of the team will turn up against India. Pretty much all of their batsmen have contributed with runs and could convert higher, and they'll be hoping that Mohammed Amir can impress once again with the ball.

Both teams will be desperate to win this match that resonates way beyond the field of play and the Cricket World Cup. Getting an India vs Pakistan live stream is the easy bit and you can continue reading to see how to watch from just about anywhere on Earth.

Watch a Cricket World Cup 2019 live stream from outside your country

Watching in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, US, India or Pakistan? We've got all the details you need about the broadcaster in your country further down this page.

But if you're away from your home country today, the minute you try to watch your domestic broadcast you'll discover that you can't because of geo-blocking. That's annoying, but by using a VPN you can watch it anyway without reverting to some dodgy, illegal feed you've dug out online.

How to stream 2019 Cricket World Cup online in India

How to watch the cricket in Pakistan

How to stream India vs Pakistan live in the UK 

How to watch India vs Pakistan: live stream in Australia

How to watch India vs Pakistan: New Zealand live stream 

How to watch India vs Pakistan: US live stream 

Categories: Tech News

Intellivision Amico: can the retro revival console offer something new?

Latest Tech News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 10:00

When it comes to home technology, there's nothing quite as diverse as a modern-day video game console. Serving both as an all-inclusive multimedia experience and an angular box for keeping 12-year-olds occupied, the console we know today is far removed from its ancestral heritage. While it's important not to let nostalgia blindside us, sometimes it's hard not to remember a time when mindlessly blowing on cartridges was considered technical wizardry.  

As nostalgia for the early days of gaming continues to grip the community, we've begun to see the likes of Nintendo and Sony try and facilitate consumers, satiating their hunger with miniaturised classic consoles – like the NES Classic Mini or PlayStation Classic

But even the original game industry titans have re-emerged back on the hardware scene, promising core elements of classic gaming infused with modern hardware. 1977’s Atari VCS is seeing a modern update, while its one-time competitor, the Intellivision console, is being reborn as the Intellivision Amico.

With killer titles such as Earthworm Jim featuring on The Intellivision Amico, and a planned launch date in October 2020, will this resurrected console be able to teach the new dogs some old tricks? We spoke to the president of Intellivision Entertainment, Tommy Tallarico, to find out what the Amico could bring to today’s market after such a long time away.

Getting back to local multiplayer

The Intellivision Amico will be available in five distinct colors: Metallic Pearl, Obsidian Black, Vintage Woodgrain, GTO Red with carbon fiber (shown here) and Galaxy Purple. (Image Credit: Intellivision)

Tallarico is something of a rockstar in the industry, with his influence spanning over various generations of gaming. From Earthworm Jim and Metroid Prime to ambitious musical projects such as Video Games Live – an immersive concert event for classic gaming tunes – Tallarico has an impressive resume to bolster his new position.

On a transatlantic call between Scotland and California, we asked Tallarico what The Amico ultimately aims to achieve.  

"The big differentiator [today] is getting families and friends to play together in the same room, which doesn't happen anymore,” says Tallarico. “The idea of the console is to bring everyone together, similar to the way boardgames do. The reality is, your mom isn't playing Super Smash Bros and your Grandfather can't turn the PS4 on..."  

While this response might be a little tongue in cheek, it does highlight issues of accessibility of video games. Whether it's because someone can't find the time or is too intimidated to explore the world of gaming, the rapid growth and change in console gaming over the years has arguably alienated a huge group of past and potential gamers.  

"I don't mean to come across as putting these consoles down,”, he says. “I am a huge gamer and love everything these companies do, but there are 200 million of those consoles out there, and three billion people are playing on mobile, who don't consider themselves to be gamers.”

“We hope to pick up where the Wii left off, and focus on those ‘non-gamers’." 

Under the hood

Need more controllers? You can download a smartphone app to get more two players in the action. (Image Credit: Intellivision)

But what features, inputs, or – most importantly – games will actually be part of the Amico? 

Unlike the mystery around the new Atari VCS console revival, Intellivision has been anything but shy when it comes to the features behind their tech. While discussing the innovations the Amico hopes to bring to the table, Tommy detailed some new information about the console's connectivity.  

“Our entire system has RFID, which we'll be showing off at E3. It means I can take my Amico controller to your house, tap it on your machine – connecting automatically – and then play all of my games on your system.”

What is RFID? It’s a type of close-range wireless connectivity, which works in a similar way to the likes of Nintendo’s Amiibo figures, or wireless payment through cellular devices – and opens up possibilities for digital titles far beyond the original console. 

“My Mom, she likes bowling, right? I want to be able to buy her a bowling pin keychain which holds the new bowling game for Intellivision, with all she has to do is touch it right on the machine and within seconds, she’s playing the game. That’s what it’s all about.”  

Nintendo's Amiibo figures use close-range connectivity to add additional content to Nintendo titles. (Image Credit: Philip Hayton)

This is another example of the Amico paying close attention to innovations from big companies like Nintendo, with the likes of their Amiibo figures, but leveraging the technology in new ways. It will certainly be interesting to see how this unconventional form of video game collecting resonates – or doesn’t – with consumers.  

Tallarico also touched on the functionality of the Amico’s touch screen controllers, which bare a resemblance to the classic Intellivision joypads, equipped with a directional disc and touch screen in place of the original number pad. While these controllers are far from complex, their capabilities extend beyond what you’d expect from a controller with only a few buttons. 

“The controls we’ve created, with the disc and the touch screen, are unbelievable,” Tallarico says. “The whole disc is not only a button, but it’s 360 degrees, meaning you press right and it’s a button, or press left and it’s a button... it could actually be a thousand buttons in one. Every game will feel a little different, and you’ll hold it a little different.” 

Not only will the disc be used for traditional movement within a game, but also takes on the functionality of a classic button, it makes what seemed like a rather bare looking controller into something with a ridiculous amount of inputs. 

While it’s hard to tell what this will be like in practice, Tallarico continued to elaborate on how this might come into play when controlling some familiar arcade games.  

“Think about Missile Command, or Centipede. Both of those games had a trackball controller. I challenge you to try and play those games on a PS4 controller, it’s an absolute nightmare. Or on a mobile device, you can put your finger where you want the thing to go, but you can’t really feel anything – it’s not tactile. 

“When you hold our controller horizontal, with the screen on the left and the disc on the right, wherever your thumb goes is where the reticule goes. Want to fire a missile? You hit anywhere on the disc and it will fire in that direction.” 

The original Intellivision used two number-pad controllers, rather than the new model's touchscreen. (Image Credit: Philip Hayton)

Tallarico also let us in on some of the new gameplay experiences that we can come to expect from the Amico. We already know at this point that the Amico wants to involve as many players as possible, but this idea becomes even more intriguing when it comes to expanding the number of players on something that is traditionally single player. 

“Imagine we’re playing Missile Command in multiplayer. I'm the player on the bottom, you’re on the top of the screen, maybe a second and third player on the side. Now it becomes a completely different experience. Same with Centipede: what if everyone else in the room is the enemy, and the spider trying to get you? They’re trying to get away from you trying to take them out. Now, this single-player experience is for everybody.”

The return of Earthworm Jim

Anyone following the Intellivision Amico already will know that the console is getting its very own, brand new Earthworm Jim game, created with the franchise’s original development team. The exclusive title will commemorate 25 years of the iconic character – and utilize similar co-op to the other games on the system.

It bodes well for the resurrection of old fan favorites, though for the expected $3-8 pricing for the Amico's games, it doesn’t sound like it will be a fully-fledged AAA release.

“We got the exclusive rights to Earthworm Jim, 25 years after the release of the first game," Tallarico says, "and we’re doing a brand-new game exclusive to the Amico – but with the original team."

Earthworm Jim gets a brand new game, exclusive to the Amico. (Image Credit: Intellivision)

He added, “Again, the great thing about all these games is they’re all going to be couch co-op.” 

The idea of togetherness in video games is something that has changed dramatically throughout the years, with most video game socialising often taking place over a headset, rather than close enough to have a scrap when you lose against your friend. 

If there’s one thing we can say for certain, it’s that the Amico is going to give modernising core elements of classic gaming a good shot, with some throwback controller inputs that may still have a place in the gaming scene today. If nothing else, it may mean some lapsed gamers pick up a controller once again.

The Intellivision VCS is scheduled for release on October 10, 2020 in the US – with plans to come to the UK and Europe too. It is expected to retail for under $200 (£170 / AU$290), with games costing between $3 and $8 (around £4 / AU$7).

  • E3 2019 is the biggest gaming event of the year. TechRadar is reporting live from LA, telling you all about the biggest announcements of the week, from epic game trailers to shocking release date reveals. Follow our expert analysis of the keynotes and what we see on the E3 show floor.
Categories: Tech News

Samsung's Galaxy Fold might not show up until after the Note 10

Latest Tech News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 09:30

It's not easy launching a foldable phone in 2019, as Samsung is quickly finding out: the latest reports from Asia suggest that its innovative Galaxy Fold handset won't be going on sale until August.

That means the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 might be out and available to buy before the folding handset that we first saw demoed back in February.

The bad news for folding phone fans comes from the Korea Herald, which says Samsung itself has denied the handset is going to be appearing in July (that was a prediction based on comments from a Samsung Electronics official).

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Apparently "little progress" seems to have been made on sorting out the folding hinge on the device, which has been the cause of numerous breakdowns in early review units.

The waiting game

The launch date in the US had been set for April 24, but that came and went after the first units to get into people's hands started suffering some durability problems.

Samsung then postponed the official on-sale date until a specified date in the future – we're still waiting to hear when that might be. Pre-orders for the phone have been canceled in the meantime.

The Galaxy Fold isn't the only foldable handset having problems either: Huawei has decided to delay the launch of its Mate X foldable, citing concerns over the longevity of the handset.

Getting the technology right is obviously a massive engineering challenge, but let's hope we see the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X made available to consumers before too long.

Via The Verge

Categories: Tech News

5G and the tactile internet: what really is it?

Latest Tech News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 08:00

5G is the next generation of mobile internet connectivity. It offers speeds 10, or even 20 times faster than current 4G networks, with much faster data upload and download speeds, greater bandwidth, and more stable connections.

This will enable us to do everything we currently do with our mobile devices more quickly, including streaming live 4K video and downloading movies in moments.

However, the speed and capacity of 5G also opens up a wealth of new opportunities with other connected devices, including real-time interaction in ways that have never been possible before. 

One of the most exciting of these is tactile, or haptic communication – transmitting a physical sense of touch remotely.

What is the tactile internet?

The tactile internet will allow the sense of touch to be transmitted over long distances, with or without visual feedback – something that has previously been impossible due to the amount of data required, and the need for low-latency connections for real-time interaction.

It has the potential to make augmented and virtual reality far more immersive, help remotely-operated machines become more accurate, open up new avenues in healthcare, and provide new opportunities in education – and that’s just the start.

Image credit: vectorfusionart/Shutterstock

How does it work?

One of the biggest challenges for the tactile internet is creating the feeling of pressure against skin without a physical surface. There are several ways to achieve it – one of the most promising being tightly focused sound waves.

British company Ultrahaptics has developed a system that uses ultrasound to produce haptic feedback in mid-air. Its hardware features ultrasonic transducers (tiny high-frequency speakers), which are controlled individually to create different sensations on your skin. If you can't imagine that, think of the way you can feel the bass through your body at a loud concert.

These transducers are paired with a depth camera, which allows the system’s software to detect the position of your hand and react accordingly. A screen or VR headset can provide accompanying visuals and audio, making a virtual object tactile.

Microsoft is developing another form of haptic feedback, which uses air vortex rings. Like Ultrahaptics’ technology, the hardware is similar to a speaker diaphragm, but in this case the air is pushed through a small hole that turns it into a concentrated ring that can travel 8.2 feet with a resolution of 4 inches – much less precise than the ultrasound system, but at a far greater distance.

Augmented reality has already taken off in the fields of design and engineering, and the tactile internet would allow workers to interact more directly with their creations. Virtual objects will feel more solid, and together with the reduced latency of 5G, controls that once felt disconnected will feel tangible to the user.

Image credit:  PaO_STUDIO/Shutterstock

How can it be used?

One of the first uses of the tactile internet will undoubtedly be games – letting players feel the virtual environments they interact with – but it also has much wider potential.

One of the most important applications for the tactile internet is medicine . Once 5G becomes widespread, people in remote communities could get access to the kind of care that would once have required hours of travel. This will include real-time consultations via telepresence, but thanks to the tactile internet, treatment will also be possible vis remote-operated robotics.

Thanks to 5G, not only will it be possible to control robots remotely over long distances, doctors will be able to receive tactile feedback that will help them work with more precision.

For example, the tactile internet could allow a surgeon to feel the pressure being applied with a remotely operated scalpel, or enable an osteopath to manipulate a joint to help a patient recover from an injury.

The tactile internet, powered by 5G, also has the potential to improve life for people living with disabilities. Until now, braille smartphones have rarely evolved beyond concept drawings due to the difficulty of creating a surface that can physically change shape on the fly, recreating the necessary patterns of raised dots. With the tactile internet and haptic technology, braille telecommunication could become far easier, with emitters producing ‘bumps’ that can be felt and changed in seconds.

Image credit: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock

Together with augmented reality (AR), the tactile internet will also find uses in industry. For designers and engineers, it will allow them to manipulate 3D models in virtual space with more precision. 

Companies like Volvo area already experimenting with Microsoft Hololens and Google Glass to help with complex assembly on the production line, and the addition of haptic feedback could make work even easier and safer, providing tactile warnings if a components is misplaced and making it simpler to interact with instructions presented in workers’ field of view.  

For car manufacturers, the tactile internet will also make it easier to keep drivers’ attention on the road ahead. It will be many years before fully autonomous cars are widespread, and the popularity of infotainment systems with large touchscreens means modern cars are packed with potential distractions. With the tactile internet, drivers can interact with in-car systems by touch alone, without looking down at displays and controls. 

The possibilities are almost endless. If a task currently involves communication by audio or video, the tactile internet could add another layer of interaction.

When will it be here?

Microsoft’s vortex ring system is still at an experimental stage, but Ultrahaptics’ ultrasound technology is already commercially available as developer kits for anyone with an interest in the tactile internet.

At the moment, most applications have involved games in public spaces, but as 5G rolls out, we expect to see it put to much more novel use.

5G is set to transform virtual reality, with higher quality, smoother and more lifelike visuals and audio – and thanks to the tactile internet, you’ll not only be able to see and hear the virtual world, but feel it as well.

5G Uncovered, in association with Samsung, brings you everything you need to know about the next wave of connectivity - not just how fast it's going to be, but in just how many ways it's going to change your life. Our 5G Uncovered hub is carefully curated to show everything there is to know about the next generation of connection.   

Categories: Tech News

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 vs Mi Band 3: which affordable tracker is for you?

Latest Tech News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 08:00

Xiaomi just announced a refresh of its best-selling fitness tracker. The last-gen tracker has proven to be one of the most popular fitness bands on the market right now, and it's likely because the price is so low.

It’s hard to find a more affordable and feature-packed device than the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, and that has meant the company has excelled at getting the health tracker onto wrists all around the world.

Despite the Mi Band 3 only being around a year old, Xiaomi has now introduced the Mi Band 4 in China. It has confirmed the Mi Band 4 will be coming to the UK later this year, and we have reason to suspect it may be set for the US and Australia too.

Below we’re going to talk you through all of the new features, so you can see how it compares to the Mi Band 3 and what a major change to the fitness band formula it is for Xiaomi.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 vs Mi Band 3 display 

The display is perhaps the biggest change Xiaomi has made for its upgraded fitness tracker.

Every Mi Band product so far has had a black and white display, but that’s all changed on the Mi Band 4, as it’s the first one with a color screen and it’s also bigger than the Mi Band 3.

The Mi Band 3’s display is 0.78 inches with a resolution of 128 x 80. Again, that’s just black and white so you’ll just get to see your stats in monochrome.

If you opt for the newer Mi Band 4, you’ll get a slightly bigger display at 0.95 inches and a resolution of 120 x 240 as well as the benefits of a color screen. 

That’s likely to be a significant change for your wrist as it allows for a more vivid screen when you're cycling through different features and looking at the clock face. On that note, Xiaomi has included 77 different types of clock face on the Mi Band 4, allowing you to customize its look.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 vs Mi Band 3 design 

Apart from the slightly larger screen on the Mi Band 4, the design is fairly similar. Both products are long, thin bands that sit on your wrist with relatively light weights of 22g for the newest tracker and 20g for the Mi Band 3.

In both cases the fitness tracker itself sits within a silicone band, which can be changed out if you’re looking for a style change. Any of your existing Mi Band 3 straps can be used on the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 too.

In the west, Xiaomi only sold the Mi Band 3 in black, orange and blue. In the marketing materials so far we’ve seen at least five colors for the Mi Band 4 including black, blue, purple, orange and beige.

Maybe we won’t see all of those colors land in the west, but it's likely you'll have at least some extra color options for the newer tracker.

Both products are waterproof up to 50 meters, so you’ll be able to take them swimming, but they're not appropriate for anything more intensive such as diving or being submerged for long periods of time.

On both trackers you'll also find a capacitive button at the bottom of the display to wake the screen and to select certain features.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 vs Mi Band 3 features

Both fitness trackers come with similar fitness features including step tracking, a heart rate monitor, and a variety of automatic activity tracking modes for exercises such as cycling and running, though neither include GPS.

There’s a new six-axis sensor inside the Mi Band 4 though that allows for more accurate and automatic swim tracking. It can monitor Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly Stroke and Medley when you’re in the pool, so that may be a big selling point for you.

It’s worth noting that the fitness features here are relatively limited, but that’s just part and parcel of getting a fitness band that is more affordable than some companies top-end options. 

Both trackers are capable of displaying some notifications that you get through from your smartphone, such as incoming calls and instant messages from services like WhatsApp and Messenger.

They're both a little limited in this space though, as for example you won't be able to reply from your wrist.

There are a variety of features on board each tracker such as a weather forecast, an alarm and sleep monitoring. 

Both trackers are said to survive for around 20 days of average usage from a single charge. We found that claim to be true on the Mi Band 3, and we hope to see similar performance from the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 when we get to test it.

The Mi Band 4 is also set to support Xiaomi's own voice assistant, but it's unlikely the company will be introducing that feature to countries outside China. The same goes for NFC, which is available on both trackers in China.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 vs Mi Band 3 price 

The Xiaomi Mi Band 4. Image Credit: Xiaomi

We only know the price for the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 in the UK, where it's set to cost £34.99 (around $45 / AU$65).

The Mi Band 3 was even cheaper than that at launch with a price of £23 (about $30 / AU$35) but it hasn't dropped down much further since its launch.

Obviously the Mi Band 4 is more expensive then, but it's such a small price difference in the UK that it would take a hefty discount on the Mi Band 3 to make it worthwhile buying the older version.

Takeaway

The Mi Band 4 isn't the most dramatic upgrade to Xiaomi's fitness tracker range, but the price of the two products is so similar that it seems silly to recommend the older Mi Band 3 to most people.

If price is your biggest consideration and you really want to save that £10 or $10 it may be worth getting the Mi Band 3, but the color screen alone is likely to be worth the extra expense for the Mi Band 4. All of this said, we won't know for sure until we get to fully review the Xiaomi Mi Band 4.

Categories: Tech News

Wireless headphones vs true wireless earbuds: which design is best for you?

Latest Tech News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 07:00

There’s no doubt about it: wireless headphones are here to stay. Cutting the cord between your cans and your device, they rely on Bluetooth to transmit your music into your ears.

Just a few years ago, we might have persuaded you to opt for a pair of wired cans instead, as dodgy Bluetooth connections and poor sound quality plagued cordless options.

That’s all changed now – thanks to advances in Bluetooth technology like aptX HD, the best wireless headphones have never sounded better.

These advances have also paved the way for true wireless earbuds to dominate the audio market. You just have to look at the popularity of the Apple AirPods (2019), Beats Powerbeats Pro, and Samsung Galaxy Buds, to understand how successful the true wireless market has become in recent years. 

While regular wireless allows us to wear headphones a few feet from our music players, true wireless goes one step further by cutting the cord between the earbuds themselves.

But which kind of wireless audio tech is best for you? We take a look at some of the most important considerations when it comes to buying a new pair of headphones, including price, design, features, and sound quality, and give our verdict on whether you should opt for wireless headphones or true wireless earbuds.

The Apple AirPods are incredibly popular true wireless earbuds (Image credit: TechRadar)

Wireless vs true wireless headphones: what’s the difference?

Wireless headphones can be split into three different categories: wireless earphones connected via a neckband, wireless on-ear headphones, and wireless over-ear headphones – all are battery-powered and use Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone, laptop, portable music player, or even your turntable. 

For wireless over-ear and on-ear models, you simply lose the wire connecting them to your device – otherwise, they look pretty much the same as your regular pair of wired cans, and give you the noise-isolating prowess of over-ears without the need for cumbersome wires to connect to your device.

Wireless in-ear models, earphones, or earbuds (depending on your preferred vernacular), have a neckband connecting each earbud, making them ideal for runners who want the freedom of a wireless connection with the security of a wire keeping their earbuds firmly around their neck. 

True wireless earbuds on the other hand, have no cord whatsoever; no wires to get caught in your zipper, and nothing to keep each bud connected to each other. For some, this means true freedom; for others, untethered true wireless means constant danger of losing their expensive audio kit down the drain. 

The Sony WH-1000XM3 wireless over-ear headphones (Image credit: Sony)

Wireless vs true wireless: which is best on a budget?

Like all types of headphones, prices vary, and neither wireless or true wireless models will necessarily be more expensive than the other – it really depends on the brand. 

Our favorite wireless over-ear headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3 cost $349 / £300 / AU$499, for example, and offer superb noise-cancelation, a comfortable build, and an impressive 30-hour battery life.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get wireless over-ears and on-ears for budget-friendly price – skip out on the noise cancelation and premium materials, and you can get models like the Jabra Move Wireless headphones for $99 (£79, AU$126).

Wireless in-ear headphones tend to be even cheaper; our favorite model, the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4s are quite often on sale under $60 / £70 / AUD$85.

True wireless earbuds vary in the same way; with our favorite models ranging from the $299 / £259 / AU$449 B&O Beoplay E8s to the wallet-friendly, $99 (about £75 / AU$135) Optoma NuForce BE Free5s. 

Verdict: Both! Price depends more on the brand and the materials than whether your headphones are wireless or true wireless nowadays. 

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The Optoma NuForce BE Sport4s (Image credit: Optoma)

Do wireless headphones sound better than true wireless earbuds? 

Not necessarily – these days, sound quality depends more on the drivers inside your headphones or earbuds rather than whether they use wireless or true wireless technology.

With recent advances in Bluetooth technology like aptX HD, wireless and true wireless listening is getting better all the time; sure, audio purists will argue that wired headphones will always offer superior sound quality. 

This is because, traditionally, wireless headphones transmitted a compressed version of your music from your device to your headphones over a Bluetooth network. This compression lowered the resolution of your music, sometimes making it sound artificial and digital. 

While the latest versions of Bluetooth are able to transmit Hi-Res Audio wirelessly, you need a device and headphones that support these high-quality codecs to feel the full benefits – otherwise, you may find yourself listening to a compressed version of your tunes. 

Wireless headphones are vulnerable to interference from other devices. According to Decibullz, “any device that gives a wireless signal matching the frequency of the signal used by your wireless headphones can interfere and degrade sound quality”.

Over-ear and on-ear wireless headphones like the Grado GW100s (pictured) tend to sound better than in-ear models – but not always. (Image credit: TechRadar)

This can be an even bigger problem with true wireless earbuds – after all, there’s an extra step of Bluetooth transmission (between the left and right buds) than wireless models for problems to occur. 

That’s not to say wireless headphones sound better than true wireless headphones as a rule; in optimum conditions, with a decent music playback device, there’s no reason for one type to sound substantially better than the other. 

Instead, sound quality usually comes down to the drivers used inside your headphones’ speakers; powerful drivers in premium materials make bass frequencies sound more thumpy and give your music more oomph. 

Generally, over-ear headphones sport larger, more powerful drivers than their in-ear counterparts, and for some users, this gives a more enjoyable listening experience.

Don’t dismiss in-ear wireless or true wireless models, though; the Earin M-2 true wireless headphones sound fantastic despite their small size.

Verdict: Wireless over-ear headphones (usually).

The Sony WH-1000XM3s (Image credit: Sony)

Should I buy wireless or true wireless headphones for noise-cancelation?

Sound quality is also affected by the seal of your wireless or true wireless headphones; the more snugly they fit against your ear canal, the better noise isolation you’re going to get, and the better your music will sound. 

In-ear models, wireless or true wireless, tend to offer a more snug fit as they sit against the opening of your ear canal, creating a seal.

It’s also worth considering noise-cancelation; this is when your headphones block out sound from your environment, allowing you to enjoy your music in peace  an important factor for those listening in noisy environments like planes, trains, or loud offices. 

Noise cancelation comes under two categories: passive and active. Passive noise-cancelation is when your headphones physically insulate your ears from the noise of the outside world.

Over-ear headphones tend to do this better than in-ear models, by virtue of large, padded ear cups that enclose your entire ear. 

Active noise-cancelation (ANC), rather than using the physical barrier of an earcup, uses clever electro-acoustic technology to “make a mirror-image of the disrupting noise’s sound wave”, effectively canceling it out. 

As they don’t rely on the physical barrier of over-ear headphones, active noise cancelation can work with in-ear models too – but a combination of both passive and active noise cancelation is your best bet for blocking out the world around you. 

As you can’t get true wireless over-ear headphones (each can is of course connected to the other), you’re best bet for effective noise cancelation is to buy a pair of over-ear wireless headphones with ANC technology built-in – like the Sony WH-1000XM3s, for example. 

Verdict: Wireless over-ear headphones.

The Monster iSport Victory wireless in-ears are our favorite running headphones. (Image credit: Monster)

Are wireless or true wireless headphones best for working out?

No-one wants to wear a pair of over-ear headphones for a sweaty workout – so this one’s between wireless in-ears and true wireless earbuds. 

As long as they have a sweat resistance IP rating – IPX4 and above – and offer a decent level of bass to bolster your running performance (your workout is probably not the time to listen to contemplative folk music), either wireless or true wireless can be fantastic. 

The question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to additional security of the neckband afforded by wireless in-ear headphones – if you’re paranoid about losing a true wireless earbud down the drain, stick to wireless.

That being said, if you hate the feeling of a wire pounding against your neck as your run, true wireless is the way to go; no cords to get tangled in makes for a freeing running experience that can’t be rivaled by neckband models. 

Verdict: Wireless in-ear headphones or true wireless earbuds.

Categories: Tech News

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