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Updated: 5 hours 8 min ago

Google announces plans to acquire Alooma

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:56

Google recently announced its US expansion plans for 2019 and the company is already putting those plans into action with a new acquisition.

The company plans to acquire the cloud migration firm Alooma which helps businesses consolidate their data from multiple sources into one data warehouse.

At the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco this month, new Google Cloud Chief Thomas Kurian hinted at the possibility of new acquisitions in the cloud space, “You will see us accelerate the growth even faster than we have to date”.

As the cloud wars heat up, the company appears to be readying its full arsenal to better compete against  AWS and Microsoft Azure in the cloud space.

Alooma acquisition

Neither Google nor Alooma have revealed any financial details about the acquisition but it will likely be a relatively small purchase for the search giant.

Alooma, which is based in Israel and California, has raised around $15m from investors such as Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequioa Capital Israel.

In a blog post announcing its intent to acquire Alooma, Google Cloud's Amit Ganesh and Dominic Preuss explained why the company is a natural fit to become part of Google, saying:

“Here at Google Cloud, we’re committed to helping enterprise customers easily and securely migrate their data to our platform. The addition of Alooma, subject to closing conditions, is a natural fit that allows us to offer customers a streamlined, automated migration experience to Google Cloud, and give them access to our full range of database services, from managed open source database offerings to solutions like Cloud Spanner and Cloud Bigtable.”

Via CNBC

Categories: Tech News

Canceled Xbox game Scalebound could be Switch-bound, according to new report

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:50

Once considered one of Xbox One's most promising first party titles, Platinum Games' Scalebound was unceremoniously canceled by Microsoft in early 2017 for falling short of the company's high standards for exclusives (and yet curiously, Crackdown 3 exists...)

Thankfully, it appears the dragon-centric RPG could be getting a second chance at life on Nintendo Switch, according to a new report by Alex Seedhouse of Nintendo Insider

Citing comments made by Game Informer's Imran Khan on the Kinda Funny Games YouTube show, in which the senior editor describes a "game that’s thought to be dead that Nintendo’s reviving”, the report states that Scalebound is very likely the game in question.

"I have confidence in my sources to report that it is my understanding that Scalebound has been resurrected as a project to be released as a Nintendo Switch exclusive," said Seedhouse.

Of course, if Scalebound does make its way to the less-powerful Switch console, it's presumed the game's graphics will have to be scaled-down from the original gameplay footage shown off by IGN in 2015, which you can watch below.

Platinum Games CEO Kenichi Sato expressed disappointment over Scalebound's cancelation on the company's blog back in January 2017, with the title said to be a passion project for Platinum co-founder and game director Hideki Kamiya.

That said, Xbox boss Phil Spencer described the cancelation as a "difficult decision" and that the "result is better for Xbox gamers". Hopefully, we'll get a chance to decide that for ourselves.

Categories: Tech News

Apple revives Group FaceTime calls in upcoming iOS 12.2 release

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:19

Apple is now another step closer to publicly launching iOS 12.2, with the third developer beta version now available to download. Anyone who has signed up for Apple’s Beta Software Program can download the beta over the air on any iOS 12-compatible device.

Compared to the previous betas, the third version is relatively light on changes, but the most noteworthy would be the reinstatement of Group FaceTime calls. 

Apple had disabled this feature after the discovery of a bug that allowed users to eavesdrop on others. And while a fix was pushed out in the iOS 12.1.4 update released on February 7, no new beta versions were available between then and now, meaning the feature remained disabled as Apple kept the servers offline. 

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A touch more redesigning

Apple has already made some major changes in the previous beta versions of iOS 12.2, including the addition of four more Animoji and tweaks to the Control Center. 

The new design changes in the third beta are minor, with the first change coming to the Apple TV Remote. It now boasts a darker interface within the app itself and in the Control Center.

Apple TV Remote update | Image credit: MacRumors

The second change comes to the Apple News logo, where the word “Apple” has been replaced by the company’s icon.

iOS 12.2 beta 2 had a bug which displayed the iPhone’s charge on the lock screen instead of the date. This has been fixed in the latest beta version.

The About pane in Settings has also been given a refresh, with the device’s model name and serial number available up top.

A new section has been added under Settings > Siri & Search > Apple Store that will allow the digital assistant to suggest “Today at Apple Sessions based on your Safari and app usage”.

More betas to test

Apple has also released public beta versions of its other operating systems. 

While beta 3 of macOS 10.14.4 was released yesterday, the third developer betas of watchOS 5.2 and tvOS 12.2 are also now available for download.

Categories: Tech News

Samsung Galaxy S10e pre-orders: what should you expect to pay in Australia?

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:18

While it's not long now before all is revealed about the new Samsung Galaxy S10 range, we can't help but speculate on the exciting, first-time addition of a budget option in the lineup. While smartphones continue to climb in price – particularly the flagships – how much will the Samsung Galaxy S10e set us back?

There are several rumours floating around about the handset, such as the possibility of a brilliant Canary Yellow edition, but for a full list of everything we've gleaned so far, check out our Samsung Galaxy S10e news, leaks and rumours page. 

Key among the assumed highlights, however, is that the S10e will be a more affordable handset when compared to the flagship S10 and S10 Plus, but just how much will it cost?

Here, we'll take a look at when the S10e will be available, and we'll also take a stab at predicting the price of the outright handset and plans at launch. When they've been announced, we'll let you know the best deals when ordering the Galaxy S10e on a plan as well.

See also: Galaxy S9 review | Galaxy S9 Plus review

When can I pre-order the Galaxy S10e?

As we've mentioned on our outright pre-order page, the new range of Samsung Galaxy S10 flagship handsets will be unveiled at the company's February 20 Unpacked event in San Francisco at 11am, which works out as February 21, 5am AEST for Australia.

Traditionally, pre-orders have opened up simultaneously with the launch event, so we can expect it to be the same this year around. In the US, Samsung has promised users who pre-order the handset that they will be receiving it on March 8, and based on previous years, we can likely expect the same timeframe.

For a more detailed look at how to order your handset outright, check out our Samsung Galaxy S10 pre-order page.

Samsung Galaxy S10e price predictions

It's relatively easy to imagine what the price will look like on the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus as we have years of trends and similarly positioned smartphone products to look towards for guidance and extrapolation, but the S10e is a bit of a curveball in the way of Samsung's releases thus far.

With that said, we have a pretty good indication that the smaller, more affordable S10 model won't be that much cheaper, because much of the premium aesthetic, design and feature-set from its larger siblings will be retained. 

Considering we believe the Galaxy S10 to start at $1,349, and the S10 Plus to start at $1,499, we predict that all three handsets will have equally spaced pricing, which puts the Samsung Galaxy S10e at the $1,199 mark – certainly no budget phone.

Based on plan pricing trends, this would likely mean that Telstra, Optus and other major carriers will launch some relatively low data plans at the $80 per month price point, although the better value plans will be in the realm of $90-100 per month.

While our estimations here are based on years of evidence and carefully watching the smartphone market, we're still hanging out for the all-important facts to be unleashed. Stay tuned here for all the latest on Samsung Galaxy S10e plans and pricing.

Categories: Tech News

Tech toys 2019: the best new games and gadgets from the NYC Toy Fair

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 17:07

Toy Fair 2019 in New York City had just about everything we could have hoped for - between STEM toys that help kids become the next generation of NASA engineers, to AR toys that offer a new level of interactivity, there was a treasure trove of toys to entertain us throughout the conference.

That said, the only thing it didn't have was Avengers: Endgame toys, which Marvel refused to let the press see. Sorry, no spoilers here!

We ran up and down the halls of the Javits Center looking for the 2019 toys that your kids will be begging you for, the toys that the whole family will enjoy, and the ones that the pop-culture nerd in your life will love - that way, when their birthday rolls around, you'll know just what to buy them.

LEGO Hidden Side

LEGO Hidden Side, due out in August, is an 8-set series that is meant to combine physical play with an augmented app experience for "holistic fun" for kids. Like the LEGOs of yesteryear, each set will cost between $19 and $129. 

Half of the sets are locations—a haunted school, a graveyard, etc... —that they must essentially exorcise via their app; the other half are controllable vehicles that kids can drive around in the app. 

Unlike other connected LEGO sets like Lego Boost or the Lego Batmobile, Hidden Side isn't as dependent on the app for kids to enjoy it. The primary school set, for example, is rife with moving parts that transform it from a regular building into something much more sinister—with no phone required.

Image Credit: TechRadar

If your kids do open the app, though, they'll find some cute minigames to enjoy: Hidden Side essentially makes them ghostbusters as they track down possessed objects by physically interacting with the set's moving parts, drawing out the ghosts, and then battling them in a rail shooter. 

Once they've defeated the ghost, they'll add them to their collection.  

You only need one set to use the app, but each one will allegedly have unique ghosts with different personalities and animations. And the vehicle sets will have entirely different AR games involving moving them around—though we weren't able to test that one out at the show. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Hot Wheels TechMods

Launching on Indiegogo this April, TechMods are smart racing kits that you will construct yourself. With the free iOS/Android app, you can either drive it around like a regular RC car or use it as a motion-sensitive controller for a variety of video game experiences. It will retail for $50 and ship to backers in mid-2019. 

TechMod has an 8 mph max speed, which gave it plenty of zip as we drove it around the Mattel show floor. But inside the app, its virtual speed only grows as you play. You choose from a variety of modes—survival, race, and treasure hunt—and drive around a small arena, trying to collect points and dodge an increasing number of deadly obstacles. 

Our initial impression is that TechMod has much more replay value than Hot Wheels' more expensive Augmoto AR set we covered at last year's Fair: Augmoto's real-world track limited you to the same path, while your virtual TechMod car is only limited by the number of levels and maps in the app. (As of now, they have 20 survival challenge maps alone.) 

We tried out one of the early challenge levels, which truly was a challenge. As you drive around the obstacle-ridden map and pick up collectibles, each collectible becomes a new harmful obstacle. The TechMoto tracked our motions well, making it seem a bit like a bulky Wiimote or Move controller with wheels. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Star Wars Lightsaber Academy

Kids have been whacking each other with toy lightsaber replicas for decades in their quest to reenact their favorite Jedi vs Sith duels. Now, parents will be thrilled with Hasbro for making lightsabers that virtually dual with one another—though, let's be honest, kids will hit each other with them anyway. 

Lightsaber Academy launches later this year 2019 for $50, plus $8-$20 for each additional lightsaber. Each hilt has an accelerometer, gyro, barometer and bluetooth tech built in, to track movement and send the data to the iOS/Android app. 

In the app, Jedi instructors like Yoda, Rey and Vader teach children various sword techniques, grading their accuracy up to 100%. We found the tracking of the sword in the app to be impressively accurate, especially with the app surrounded by so many other competing signals. 

Kids can then dual one another in what the Hasbro rep called a "rock-paper-scissors type battle": blocking motions beat attack motions, force focus beats defense, attack beats focus. Winning duals or completing tutorials will improve the kid's rank until they become a Master.

It sounds cerebral in theory, but in practice children will likely just swing wildly until the app names a winner. Of course, if your kids ever grow tired of the app, they can just use the lightsabers as regular toy swords. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Giiker Super Cube

Rubik's Cubes can be incredibly intimidating for people who haven't tried them. But Xiaomi is trying to demystify learning how to be a Rubik's pro with its new Bluetooth-enabled Super Cubes. 

Already for sale in China and due out in the United States sometime this summer for $50, the Super Cube tracks the movement of the blocks in real time in the connected app. Within the app, newbies can take different tutorials, starting with getting one side to be the same color and progressing in difficulty from there. 

As I followed the app's instructions in the first tutorial, the screen showed the exact real-time location of each color—though there did seem to be a bit of delay between moving a row and seeing it move in the 3D replica.

The app will also record your stats and best times, let you compete against or chat with other Rubik's fans, and complete other Rubik's mini-games beyond just matching all the colors. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Pictionary Air

Take the Pictionary you know and love, add a light-tracking pen and an AR app, and use the air instead of paper for a canvas. That's the simple premise behind Pictionary Air, which comes out in late 2019 for $20. 

The set comes with 112 double-sided cards, ten clues each, for you to draw and your friends and family to guess. You simply hold down a button on the pen while you're drawing in mid-air; one of your friends, meanwhile, holds up a phone or tablet camera that tracks the movements; and then your sketch will appear on the screen. After each round, you can record the drawer's terrible creations for posterity.

Despite what it sounds like, the Pictionary Air pen was intuitive to use but difficult to master. Without being able to see what you've already drawn, it's difficult to draw straight lines or improve the picture if you forget where in the air you left off. 

Also, if you're facing the person with the tablet, your drawing is a mirror image of what you want the person to see. I tried to draw the United States for a clue, and California and Florida ended up flipped, making it pretty hard to guess. The Hasbro rep cheated and gave me the same clues he gave the woman above, so I don't know how legible I actually was. 

The best option would probably be to cast your tablet to a larger TV, and have the drawer face the TV (and tablet-holder) and see what he or she has created thus far. So if you want to give this to your non-tech-savvy family, you'll probably need to set it up for them. Once you get things rolling, though, it's quite fun.

Courtesy of Singing Machine

Carpool Karaoke, the Mic

Fans of James Corden's Carpool Karaoke, or anyone who loves to let their vocal cords loose on family road trips, will find a lot to love about Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke, the Mic, which will be available later this year for $50. 

Essentially, this Bluetooth-enabled microphone connects to your car's speakers, either via your phone or tablet or via your car radio's Aux port, and then lets you hear your voice over the speakers as you belt out your favorite ballad. 

You're not restricted to any proprietary music app with this Mic: you can simply hook up to the radio and sing along to your local broadcasts. Or, you can find an unoccupied FM channel, then pair the Mic to your favorite app—Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, etc.—and sing along to the road trip playlist.

With the Mic itself, you can adjust the volume or echo of your voice through the car radio, and the Mic's lights will flash in time with the music. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

PowerUp 4.0

Since 2013, PowerUp Toys has been Kickstarting smartphone-connected paper airplanes that you fold yourself, then fly via app, since 2013. Sometime in the fall of 2019, they will launch a new Kickstarter for the 4.0 version. 

This $60 plane, which you will once again have to fold yourself, features two propellers for double the power and more maneuverability; an autopilot-controlled flight feature that makes flying in windy conditions ultra-easy, and new on-board sensors that collect real-time flight performance data. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Tetris Micro Arcade

 Super Impulse has made a name for itself selling tiny arcade cabinets of classic games like Pac-Man for your desk or tiny-handed toddlers. Now it is releasing business card-sized arcade emulators of classics like Tetris, Missile Command, Centipede, Pac-Man and Pong. They'll be out later this year for $20-25.  

Image Credit: TechRadar

PaiBotz

For kids too young to use the more advanced coding and robotics toys, Pai Technologies is launching PaiBotz, aimed for kids 4+. 

These beginner kits, priced at $99, come with 150 physical blocks for constructing and customizing your bots, so young kids won't spend their entire playtime staring at a screen. Once the bot is built, your kid will use the free iOS/Android app for 30 AR coding puzzles, designed to instruct them in Block-based coding languages and techniques like sequencing and looping.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Artie 3000

A STEM toy that bridges robotics and art, the Artie 3000 opens up to let kids insert their favorite markers, then use remote controls or coding to draw. 

Artie connects to any smart device via a built-in Wi-fi server (no internet connection required), and the built-in app instructs the kid on multiple coding languages, including Blocks, Javascript and Python. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

The SLOW MOTION RACE game

As a runner, nothing will ever be more challenging than a race where you're forced to slow your roll. But that's the amusing premise behind the Slow Motion race game by Hasbro, due to release this autumn. 

For $20, you get two headbands that track your movement via accelerometers. Move too quickly, or make too jerky of a motion, and the headset blares and turns red. You're then required to stop and watch your opponent inch ahead, until the color dies and you're allowed to move again. 

During our "race", we were able to slide forward agonizingly slowly, just ahead of our opponent, only activating the alarm once when we lost our balance. But kids will likely eschew any caution and see how fast they can move while keeping their motion as fluid as possible. 

It's a simple premise, and one that may not keep your kids entertained for too long before they move on to the next toy. But at least it's one of the few tech toys we saw this year that doesn't require kids stare endlessly at screens.

Image Credit: TechRadar

The LIE DETECTOR Game

Sitting across from the Hasbro rep, he asked us solemnly if I had ever picked at a scab and then eaten it. I nervously answered "no" and waited, heart pounding, while the Lie Detector beeped cryptically for a few seconds, and made a positive beep. I had told the truth. 

My pounding heart, thankfully, wasn't tracked by Hasbro's new Lie Detector game, which costs $35 and hits shelves this August. Instead, the device focuses entirely on your voice. And the one time I did lie, it somehow knew from a simple "no" that I hadn't been truthful. 

Hasbro says it uses "Layered Voice Analysis technology" to gauge "emotional reactions" in your voice, and determine whether or not you're hiding anything. You score points every time you tell the truth—or disguise your emotions well enough to convince the machine you've told the truth.

While the box comes with 64 cards with embarrassing questions to ask your friends, you can obviously branch out to whatever horrible line of inquiry you want, which could make this a hilariously ill-advised, friendship-breaking party game of choice.

Categories: Tech News

Best free games: the top free games to download on PC

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 17:04

Everyone loves free stuff, and when it comes to the best PC games it’s no different. There are tons of free games out there right now. And, unlike PlayStation and Xbox, which have their own ecosystems for free games through PlayStation Plus and Xbox Games with Gold, the best free games on PC take on a different – and dedicated – approach.

The best free games will be available from Steam, GOG and even (brace yourself) EA’s Origin client, due to the huge popularity of free-to-play titles. You can even download the Epic Games Store app and get some premium indie games for free every couple weeks.

So, from Battle Royale free-to-plays, like Fortnite, to MMORPGs, like Lord of the Rings Online, the best free games cover a wide range of genres and styles. Let’s dive in.

 Linux, Windows or Mac - which one is best for you? Watch our guide video below:

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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Everyone knows Monster Hunter at this point – it’s basically become an overnight success on PC – even Capcom was surprised. However, what if we told you there was a cheaper way to get into some monster hunting action, that was also easier on your hardware? Enter Dauntless. 

Rather than the clear environmentalist focus of Monster Hunter: World, where you’re trying to preserve the habitats, Dauntless simplifies things a bit and just tasks you with slaying behemoths to protect a human colony. 

The gameplay itself is much simpler as well, free of some of the more obtuse gameplay systems that you either love or hate in the Monster Hunter series. But, the core DNA of the series is there – hunt monsters, craft gear, hunt more monsters. And, this time, it’s free to play.

1. Fortnite Battle Royale 

The Battle Royale trend is huge right now, and Epic Games has all but perfected it with Fortnite Battle Royale. Initially developed as a sort of add-on for Fortnite, Battle Royale took off in a way that nobody was anticipating, quickly becoming one of the most played games of 2018. 

The game is entirely based around a simple scenario: you’re dumped in a map with 99 other players in a free-for-all melee, and the only winner is the one who is left standing at the end. And, thanks to its meteoric success, Epic Games is hard at work adding new game modes and features all the time. Take Playground mode, for instance – it dumps you in the map and lets you build up structures for a set amount of time before the floodgates open and the carnage begins.

What’s especially cool is that Fortnite lets you play with your friends, no matter what platform they’re on. Whether you’re on PC, Xbox One, iOS, Android and even soon PS4, you’ll be able to be matched up against millions of other players from all different platforms.

Image Credit: Valve

2. Dota 2 

The Dota universe may have derived from a Wacraft 3 mod, but Dota 2 is very much its own entity, not to mention one of the most popular free-to-play games.

This top-down arena battler is incredibly active, attracting multi-million dollar prize funds for serious tournament players. It's not just for obsessives, though.

A brief tutorial now points out the ropes, with the Steam Community stepping in to provide guides to the original MOBA. Don't expect a warm welcome or easy learning curve from its sophisticated gameplay mechanics, but bring a few friends and Dota 2 will have you hooked on one of the biggest crazes in PC history.

 3. Planetside 2 

Two years before Destiny dropped into orbit, we had Planetside 2. It’s an epic, all-out first-person battle so unbelievable, you’ll have to pinch yourself every time you load it up to remind yourself it’s completely free. There are in-game purchases, sure, but you can still dive into the biggest battlefield in gaming and be useful with the default equipment.

There's simply nothing like taking part in a massed assault on an enemy base and coming out on top, or living in a world where an enemy convoy could appear on the horizon at any second. If you need any proof that 'free' doesn't mean uninspired, Planetside 2 will provide it.

Image Credit: Grinding Gear Games

4. Path of Exile

Path of Exile is a free dungeon crawler in the style of Diablo III, and it’s a bit different than most free games out there. It’s not just about fragging real-life people until they scream at you in shrill pubescent tones through their Skype headsets.

It’s a bit more slow-paced than your typical multiplayer fragfest, but if you give it time, you may just get addicted to this loot gathering hit – it’s really the best free games for Diablo addicts. There are hidden depths that you can uncover after playing for hours and a huge skill tree to slowly progress through. There are no game ruining issues like that short-lived real-money auction house, either.

Instead, even basic loot can be useful because there's always an opportunity to enhance even the simplest weapon with magic. If you got tired of the grind of Diablo III, it's a good one to check out.

5. League of Legends

Pick a champion and head into battle in this seminal free-to-play game from the creators of the Warcraft III mod, Dota. League of Legends’ automated matchmaking, diverse cast of characters and pristine maps have made it a multiplayer behemoth over the last few years, and one that will certainly stand the test of time. 

It’s an aggressive gameplay experience, but one that rewards good teamwork and careful tactics. You won’t master it overnight, but you’ll be having fun shortly after you hit that ‘play’ button.

Like Dota 2, League of Legends attracts many high-end players, and the top tournaments offer prize pools of over $1 million. The weird world of esports, eh?

Image Credit: Activision-Blizzard

6. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Ever played Magic the Gathering, the card game? Hearthstone is Blizzard’s attempt at making a free online version of it.

And, in typical Blizzard style, it’s awesome. It’s immediately inviting, lacking the terrifying learning curve you would expect from an online fantasy card game. Hearthstone plays quickly, boasts a very casual visual approach, and benefits from a basic rule set, all of which adds up to a very accessible card battler that will give you plenty of enjoyment – especially if you’re a World of Warcraft fan.

Despite being accessible, it's still quite challenging as well, especially if you're up against an opponent that plays their cards right.

7. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Taking the Star Wars MMORPG after Star Wars Galaxies went away (rest in peace), Star Wars: The Old Republic was not free at release. However, since then, like so many MMORPGs before it, adopted the free to play model. If you want to get Sith kicks, this is the best way to get them for free. 

Keep in mind though, that subscriptions are still available, and will give you more in-game potential and end-game content. All the story missions, however, are still available for free – it just might take a bit longer now.

It’s worth your time just to see the Star Wars universe from different sets of eyes, like the hyper-professional Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter. If you want to go with the dull option and just have a generic Jedi Knight, though – you can totally do that.

Image Credit: Microsoft

8. Forza Motorsport 6 Apex

When Xbox head Phil Spencer said he was going to bring the console's best franchises to the PC, he wasn't joking around. Among these notable series is Forza Motorsport.

Shunned by petrol-heads and embraced by gamers, Forza Motorsport may seem like an arcadey offshoot of its biggest rival on PlayStation, but it consistently looks and feels superb nonetheless. 

Forza Motorsport 6 Apex in particular brings a complete Forza Motorsport game to PC gamers for the first time – before Forza Horizon 3 came out in 2016. While it’s not quite the full-fledged experience you can expect with full entries to the series, Forza Motorsport 6 Apex is the best free game would could have asked for from Microsoft’s long-standing racing series. 

 9. Killer Instinct

Rare's classic fighting series Killer Instinct may not be the household name it once was, but the ability to play one character for free is enticing nonetheless.

What's more, characters can be purchased a la carte as downloadable content, which means you don't have to shell out a wad of cash unnecessarily for characters you'll never play. And, for the Xbox fans out there, this game is essentially Microsoft's equivalent of Super Smash Bros. and PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale since you can pick up numerous Xbox mascots. These include Arbiter (Halo), Rash (Battletoads) and General RAAM (Gears of War) in addition to a growing catalog of Killer Instinct-specific characters.

While Killer Instinct isn't as popular with the Fighting Game Community, there is a certain novelty of being able to control these classic Xbox-derived characters, and on PC at that.

Image Credit: Wargaming

10. World of Tanks

World of Tanks is a different kind of MMO – which you should have guessed from the title. Team-based, massively multiplayer action with a huge range of war machines to drive into battle awaits, with new players able to jump into the fray right away. 

The upgrade system adds a sense of personalization, while being surrounded by an entire army at all times reminds you that loners won’t survive on the battlefield. Get sucked in, though, and you may find yourself spending a chunk of your wages on great big chunks of virtual metal.

While some premium tanks cost just a few dollars, others are more expensive. You can see where maker Wargaming is earning some cash from World of Tanks enthusiasts.

11. Heroes of the Storm

It was only a matter of time before Blizzard dipped its toe into the MoBA phenomenon, and with Heroes of the Storm, we’re left asking: what took so long? It’s an incredibly approachable esports title, somewhere between League of Legends and DOTA 2 in terms of complexity, with the added bonus of characters you know and love. 

That’s right, the roster is completely made up of Blizzard characters from across its library of classic games. Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between Thrall and Kerrigan? Well, now you can see that fight play out on the battlefield. 

Blizzard knocked it out of the park here, making one of the best free games that keeps getting better by the day.

Image Credit: Daybreak

12. Everquest

Though its future was briefly uncertain after the sale of Sony's online entertainment division in February 2015, Everquest has returned better than ever with new expansion packs and continued support by Daybreak Game Company.

The first of its kind to commercially succeed with a 3D game engine, Everquest was released in 1999 as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and has since been documented as one of the most important games in the medium's history.

Featuring consistently released expansion packs (quite massive in scale, at least early on) with vast new areas, races and classes, Everquest brings to the table just about everything you would expect from an MMO – plus it's notably better at handling co-op than its alternatives.

13. Rift

Originally hailed as the game that would finally dethrone World of Warcraft, Rift had its moment – and is still going strong depending who’s talking. It brought innovation to a genre that was changing very slowly, letting you change your class whenever you felt like it.

The whole game is focused on separating giant boss battles and events that occupy entire zones. It’s ambitious, exciting and huge with dozens of interdimensional rifts that keep things fresh and unique from other MMOs. And, after Rift went free to play, Trion has stayed on top of things, releasing regular expansions for everyone to enjoy.

Plus, you can ride on a landshark.

Image Credit: Jagex

14. Runescape

Runescape is one of the biggest free-to-play MMOs out there, and now would be a good time to take a look. In 2013 it entered its third reboot – this is actually 'Runescape 3', although just jumping in now you might not appreciate it has been around in one form or another for more than 10 years.

It's certainly not the shiniest MMO in the world despite the revamp, but hanging onto this many players shows it's doing something right. The big change introduced in Runescape 3 that made it appear a lot more modern was the ability to see much further – in Runescape 2 the horizon quickly gave way to fog. Not so now.

You can download the game for free or run it in your browser using Java, making it much more convenient than most other online role-players of this epic scale.

15. Maplestory

If the bleak appearance adopted by the typical MMORPG is a turn-off for you, you’ll be delighted to see that Maplestory takes the traditional art style of the genre and turns it on its head. Described by Nexon as the original 2D side-scrolling MMO, Maplestory takes the classic Dungeons & Dragons-inspired genre and makes it kawaii.

The lighter tone and customization of Maplestory makes it feel more like Harvest Moon than World of Warcraft or Rift. It’s also more focused on improving cosmetics than many other MMOs, allowing players much more control over how their characters look. 

There’s even in-game weddings and dinosaurs that play guitar. Really, the only thing Maplestory is missing is an Oasis-composed soundtrack.

Image Credit: Digital Extremes

16. Warframe

If you're into third-person co-operative shooters, Warfarme is one of the best free games out there. Players take control of members of the Tenno, an ancient race at war with enemies such as the Grineer, the Corpus, the Infested and the Sentients. Your Tenno soldier uses the Crysis-style Warframe armor equipped with guns or melee weapons to fight back. 

Better looking than your average free-to-play shooter, much fun can be had in Warframe's player-vs-enemy raids — so much so that some gamers see it as, "The Destiny that never was". High praise indeed.

17. Smite

Gods from every pantheon come together in Smite to battle it out in a free Dota/MOBA inspired clash. Even though Smite wears its influences on its sleeve, it comes from the same developer that made the FPS smash Tribes Ascend – a completely different beast.

The camera is behind the characters this time, making for a more direct connection to the action than simply guiding your lord around with a mouse, but the premise will be either familiar if you've played its inspirations, or a way to get the feel for the style if you haven't. Gods include Zeus, Thor, Kali, Artemis and... Cupid? Well, at least he has his own bow…

Image Credit: Turbine

18. Lord of the Rings Online

There are so many MMOs that have been launched or relaunched as free-to-play games, but Lord of the Rings Online is one of the titles that most warrants a second look. Not only is it an excellent game in its own right, it’s one of the more mature MMOs on the market. 

You’ll probably have to pay eventually, if only to unlock adventure packs, but there’s no subscription fee and nothing to buy up front. If you missed it at launch, or even if you quit playing since then, it’s time to give it a try.

 19. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit 

Life is Strange, and its sequel, are among the best modern adventure games on PC in 2018, and luckily, there’s now a free way to get into this amazing series. Revealed back at E3 2018, the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit places you in the shoes of a 9-year-old Chris as he, and his alter ego, Captain Spirit, goes on, well, an awesome adventure. 

It’s a free-to-play single player adventure game free of any kind of malicious microtransactions or predatory monetization – just a nice prelude into Life is Strange 2. Just don’t go in expecting the longest gameplay experience in the world, you’ll likely get through it in just a couple of hours.  

Image Credit: CCP Games

20. Eve Online

In 2003, Icelandic developer CCP Games unleashed Eve Online, an immersive and in-depth “sci-fi experience” that would eventually garner the attention of well over 500,000 players. Eve Online is unlike any game in its category, thanks to the vast range of activities to take part in as well as its (appropriately) out of this world in-game economy. 

Unfortunately, the Eve Online player base has been dwindling since 2013. It shouldn’t be surprising that as time goes on, fewer and fewer gamers are interested in paying a subscription fee for a glorified space sim with a steep learning curve. However, since the Ascension Update, released back in November 2016, Eve Online has gone free to play – at least to an extent.

The new ‘alpha clones’ system featured in Eve Online is similar to the “unlimited free trial” featured in World of Warcraft. You can still engage with other player in piracy, manufacturing, trading, mining, exploration and combat, but certain skills will be off limits. If you don’t want to limit your access to some of the game’s most lumbering ships you can always opt for the Omega subscription – otherwise, the game won’t cost a cent.

21.  Apex Legends 

To say that Battle Royale games are popular in 2019 would be a colossal understatement, but the level of success that Apex Legends has enjoyed so quickly after launch shows that it really is one of the best free games. Not only is the game itself fantastic, bringing unique mechanics from the awesome Titanfall games to a Battle Royale, but the game itself has reached a whopping 25 million players after a week.

Apex Legends places 60 players in the middle of a gigantic map, armed with a bunch of unique abilities that make both combat and traversal extremely addicting. It’s not quite the chaos of 100 player battle royale titles like Fortnite or PUBG, but it feels balanced. If somehow you haven’t jumped on the Apex Legends bandwagon yet, trust us – it’s worth your time. 

Image Credit: 505 Games

22. Hawken

As it's been in beta since 2012 with little to no marketing push, you may have forgotten about Hawken or were unfamiliar with it in the first place. Most notably, Hawken is a game about mechs. But, not just any mechs – fast mechs. These are your average slow, lumbering tanks of MechWarrior Online. These are more comparable to the Exoskeletons of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Of course, being a free-to-play game, you can expect to pay for upgrades to your starter mech. However, you can still get a taste for Hawken without spending a dime. Plus, attach an Oculus Rift and you can see for yourself what VR games have in store for you. Admit it, you've wanted to know what it's feels like to power a mech for yourself since Pacific Rim came out.

23. Evolve Stage 2

Hey, remember Evolve? Yeah, we didn’t think so – it quickly fell off the face of the Earth after release, until it was eventually removed from Steam. Turtle Rock then re-released Evolve back into beta a year and a half after its initial release. It was then that Evolve was released as a free-to-play experience, and even given a new name: Evolve Stage 2.

Despite going free-to-play, the game's core structure remains intact. It's a game of humans vs. zombies, err, monsters, a new twist on a beloved pastime. A team of four players, called hunters, is pitted up against a single monster, with each hunter assigned their own class. Of course, with four players taking on one, there is a unique catch: hence the game's title, monsters start out at a basic level but evolve over time by killing and consuming wildlife in nearby areas.

Evolve cost $40 before, so rest assured you'll get access to a game that looks triple-A, even if much of the content is locked behind a paywall. Nevertheless you can give it a shot for yourself for the nominal cost of $0 on Steam.

Image Credit: Bethesda Softworks

24. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

While we sit, anxiously awaiting whatever The Elder Scrolls VI ends up being, you should take the time to give the classic The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall a try. This 1990s RPG is a precursor to those incredibly popular RPGs, and is a bit of a classic in its own right.

Its game world is many times the size of any of its sequels, and indeed it’s the size of a continent – and it’s absolutely packed with atmosphere. It might look a little rough by today’s standards, but it’s worth looking at if you’re an Elder Scrolls fan.

It's available direct from Bethesda. The publisher started offering it for free to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the game. As if we didn't feel old enough already.

25. Starcraft II

One of the biggest games to ever hit the PC/Mac landscape is Starcraft II, a competitive real-time strategy game whose Wings of Liberty installment is just one of three parts of the campaign. At one time, it was a phenomenon in South Korea, but the scene fizzled out a bit when MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota 2 took the world by storm. Maybe that’s why Blizzard decided to convert Starcraft II to the free-to-play business model.

As a result of its compelling strategy game mechanics, combined with brilliantly designed environments and a fascinating narrative that can only be expressed in a video game, Starcraft II is one of the most widely enjoyed eSports in the entire world. Of course, being a Blizzard game, you’ll need a Battle.net account to enjoy it, but otherwise, both the campaign and the multiplayer are free to enjoy. Only certain characters require your prized coin.

Image Credit: Bethesda Softworks

26. Wolfenstein 3D

Interested in knowing what Wolfenstein was before The New Order? Wolfenstein 3D is now free, and will take you back to the year 1992 when celebrity game developers John Carmack and John Romero teamed up to make a shareware game like nothing before it. 

Wolfenstein 3D took concepts from Muse Software's Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein to create a three-dimensional first-person shooter that would later inspire the development of Doom.

Keep in mind while playing, though, that while Wolfenstein 3D was impressive for its time, it's probably not what you would expect from a first-person shooter of today's standards. Nonetheless, it's an easy and free way to experience game history in an old-school World War II game rich with narrative about, well, shooting Nazis in the face. Don't expect to be blown away by the story in the same way as the Wolfenstein franchise's more recent entries.

27. Team Fortress 2

It may be an old vet in gaming terms, but nothing offers so much crazy fun as Team Fortress 2. Unlike most shooters of its age, players are still there to have a good time rather than hurl abuse at newcomers, and there's no shortage of cool toys to have fun with. Endlessly silly and amazingly fresh, it's still one of the shooter genre's kings, free-to-play or not.

As you might guess, there are some micro-transactions involved. You can buy additional items, often used to customise your character. You can create your own. It's fun, and gets you even more involved in TF2. Those cheeky devils at Valve know what they're doing.

Image Credit: Perfect World

28. Gigantic

Though it may have gotten lost in the fog of Overwatch, Lawbreakers and the like, Gigantic is yet another hero shooter in a jumbled sea of hero shooter fanaticism. The difference is that Gigantic, much like the unfortunately fated Battleborn, is a lot more MOBA-esque than Blizzard and Boss Key Studios’ similarly styled games. 

The gameplay largely revolves around two teams of five players who are both trying to defeat both each other and a mystical leviathan known as a guardian. Likewise, Gigantic gives players the choice between a wide variety of characters each with their own abilities and upgrades. Plus, it’s on Xbox One, too, in case you want to continue the fun in the living room.

29. Magic Duels

Magic: The Gathering is fun, right? But what if you could play it from the warmth and comfort of your PC? Luckily, Magic Duels will let you do just that. Whether you’re a first time player or a 20-year vet, Duels will let you do everything the card game does and more. While over 300 new cards are advertised as being attainable throughout the game, there’s also a unique story mode where you can experience Magic like never before. 

If narrative in your card games isn't your cup of tea, there's also a Battle Mode in which you can challenge your friends, a four-player Two-Headed Giant battle and even an offline solo mode you can use for practice against AI.

Image Credit: Daybreak Game Company

30. DC Universe Online 

Though it's yet another free-to-play MMO on this list, DC Universe Online takes characters like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and more into a massive (and shared) public world. 

Choose whether you want to be a member of the Hero or Villain faction then customize your character and you'll be sent out into the world of DC Universe Online at the hands of Daybreak Game Company.

After some training, the game assigns you a position as either a member of the Justice League or The Society depending on your choice of hero or villain. Unlike other MMOs on this list and outside it, DC Universe Online is designed to be much more interactive while still retaining traditional MMORPG elements such as leveling, raiding, inventories and post-game progression. Favorably, it's not difficult to play without using real-world currency too.

31. Paladins

It’s not hard to see why Paladins catches a lot of flack for its resemblance to Overwatch. At the same time, the team-based shooter bears many distinctions from that of Blizzard’s. Abilities are upgraded based on a collectible card system, which can completely change the way each character plays.

What’s more, unlike Overwatch, Paladins is completely free-to-play. While cosmetic items are available to buy using real-world currency, everything else can be unlocked simply by playing the game. For instance, you’ll start Paladins with a single deck of basic cards, and from there, more dramatically impactful decks can be unlocked.

Regardless of how you choose to play Paladins, you’ll get XP as you play. As long as you’re completing the daily quests and achievements featured in the game, you’ll be rewarded with Radiant Chests and Gold. These can be used to purchase more cards, costumes and weapon skins to make your characters more unique and skillful on the battlefield.

Image Credit: Konami

32. Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 Lite

You may be familiar with Fifa already, but Pro Evolution Soccer – or PES – is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all-time. It doesn’t have all the flair (or the licensing) of its EA Sports rival, but some would argue that it’s the better soccer game series, not to mention one of the better sports series overall. 

PES 2018 in particular isn’t too much of an improvement over its predecessor, but it does introduce better dribbling and makes an effort to perfect the fan-favorite Master League mode. The ‘Lite’ version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 gives you access to the Online myClub and PES League Mode in addition to the Offline Exhibition Match and Training Mode, entirely for free. There are in-app purchases along the way, but you can always upgrade to the full version later should this one not satisfy.

33. Spelunky

You can now get Spelunky on all sorts of platforms – it's pretty high-profile for an indie title. But it began its life PC-exclusive, and its original 'non HD' Classic version you can still get for free today.

The catch is that every time you play, the entire game is randomized. In one game you'll stumble through screen after screen of spiked horrors and swarming monsters; in the next, the software will bend over backwards to give you gold and help you on your way.

You learn how each randomized world ticks and which equipment will give you a fighting chance. And then you'll die some more. And scream. And restart. Again.

Image Credit: Perfect World

34. Neverwinter

As a free MMO, Neverwinter sets a high standard for itself as it's based on perhaps the most iconic role-playing game of all-time, Dungeons & Dragons. Like everything else in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, the game takes place in Forgotten Realms, specifically, as the name suggests, in Neverwinter.

Featuring eight character classes with groups of up to five players supported, Neverwinter is based on the fourth-generation rules of Dungeons & Dragons. However, the rules are slightly modified, letting players heal their allies in addition to allowing for the use of special abilities in combat after racking up enough action points.

35. Doki Doki Literature Club

An ostensibly charming visual novel on the surface, Doki Doki Literature Club is a game that’s best experienced blindly. It comes from Dan Salvato, a game developer known best for his work in the Super Smash Bros. Melee modding community, who says he developed Doki Doki Literature Club because of his indifference towards anime.

That’s ironic considering the main character in Doki Doki Literature Club is obsessed with anime and manga and has minimal experience with the writings of more prestigious authors. As engrossing as the trio of female supporting characters appear to be in Doki Doki Literature Club, we would advise getting too attached to them. 

Without spoiling the story, the first thing you see when you boot up Doki Doki Literature Club is a content warning, suggesting that those with severe anxiety refrain from playing at all. It’s not entirely unwarranted either, as you’re bound to learn the hard way that Doki Doki Literature Club is more horror than generic fan service.

Image Credit: Grey Havens

36. Puzzle Pirates: Dark Seas

For nearly 15 years now, Puzzle Pirates has been a household name for kids with unrestricted access to the computer labs at school. It’s a completely free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game originally developed by the Sega-owned Three Rings Design. The goal is to join a crew and ideally become a captain, by completing puzzles alongside other players. 

Puzzle Pirates: Dark Seas, on the other hand, is the Steam-exclusive version of Puzzle Pirates that introduces an entirely new ocean known as Obsidian. Dark Seas introduces factions and player-versus-player (PvP) combat in a way that didn’t exist prior to the Steam release of Puzzle Pirates. It also comes from a different developer, a nonprofit called Grey Havens founded by several former members of Three Rings Design.

Before the advent of Dark Seas, you could only get the multiplayer portion of Puzzle Pirates on Steam. Now it appears as though the single-player mode can be downloaded and installed from Valve’s client as well. Although it’s only in early access for the time being, early reviews suggest that it’s worth a shot for Puzzle Pirates veterans and newcomers alike.

37. Phantom Dust

Its development cycle was a disaster, but in the end, the Phantom Dust remaster turned out just fine. A new IP in the form of a Japanese budget card game for the original Xbox, it seemed to good to be true when Microsoft revealed back at E3 2014 that a complete remake was in the works… and, as it turns out, it was.

The remake was canned in 2016, but Microsoft still wanted to revive the cult classic one-off. As it turns out, the company did so with a remaster, not a remake. Luckily, the new version of Phantom Dust for Windows 10 (and Xbox One, for console-goers) doesn’t cost a thing to play unless you opt to purchase some of the in-game “multiplayer cards”.

Image Credit: Bay 12 Games

38. Dwarf Fortress

Inspiring the creation of Minecraft was no small feat for 2D sandbox game Dwarf Fortress. Dubbed a construction and management simulator, Dwarf Fortress takes simple text-based graphics into a more modern, 2006 piece of software. The game is often classified as a cult classic because of its open-ended nature and serving as one of the most iconic examples of a procedurally generated roguelike.

This means Dwarf Fortress both randomizes its environments and makes the game's permadeath system a much more difficult problem to avoid. This led to the unofficial slogan for the game "Losing is fun," which was either ironic or an accurate description of what happens in the game. Tough to say either way.

One thing's for sure, though. If you want to experience an important part of games history, Dwarf Fortress is a solid start, as it was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City back in 2013. Can't say that for a lot of free-to-play games.

39. Fable Fortune

After a troubled development cycle, Fable Fortune is the collectible card game that you probably thought would never release. Either that, or you’ve never even heard of it. We wouldn’t blame you. The team behind the Fable franchise – the illustrious group of individuals at Lionhead Studios – has since departed its doors, which were coincidentally permanently shut two years ago.

In the time following Lionhead’s closure, its parent company, Microsoft, licensed off Fable Fortune to a group of former Lionhead developers at a new company called Flaming Fowl Studios. It was there that Fable Fortune found private funding despite a failed Kickstarter campaign. The end result is a fairly competitive card game that’s completely free to play. 

Skeptics will be quick to compare Fable Fortune to Hearthstone. However, the two games differ drastically due to its more complex set of hero powers, less randomness and a morality system that rewards an understanding of its ‘good’ and ‘evil’ points.

Image Credit: Bethesda Softworks

40. Fallout Shelter

If you're more interested in the property management systems of Fallout 4 rather than the overwhelming majority of the role-playing game's content, Fallout Shelter is a great place to start. Up until recently, the simulation game was limited to mobile platforms Android and iOS. However, with the introduction of Quests in version 1.6 of Fallout Shelter, Bethesda Softworks also felt the need to port the game to PC by way of the Bethesda.net client.

All in all, Fallout Shelter doesn't feel much different on PC, and that's undoubtedly a good thing. Mouse controls work well in place of a touchscreen, graphics are optimized even for low-end hardware and with windowed mode enabled by default, it's easy to find yourself caring after your vault residents during your downtime at work. With an indisputably manageable price point (free), Fallout Shelter could very well become the next Solitaire in your office or at school.

41. Brawlhalla

Have you been watching all your friends play Super Smash Bros Ultimate, but missing out on the action because you don’t have a Nintendo Switch? Well, with Brawlhalla, you’re in luck. Brawlhalla is a 2-8 player 2D brawler that draws very heavy inspiration from Nintendo’s classic franchise.

And, it pulls it off. It’s an extraordinarily fun way to pass a few hours. And, with an esports league, you can rest assured you’ll always have people to test your skills against. It’s not quite the same as playing some Smash on a friend’s couch, but it’s close enough to be worth your time.

Image Credit: 2K Games

42. Battleborn

CEO and president of Gearbox Software Randy Pitchford will tell you differently, but Battleborn is free-to-play. Officially classified as a “free trial” on Steam, there isn’t much to differentiate the hero shooter from other free-to-play games on the market. You can play for as long as you want using six of the game’s 30 characters, rotated weekly to shake things up.

Battleborn was originally released in May 2016, the same month as Overwatch. The main difference is that Battleborn draws influence from MOBA games while Overwatch is a more traditional PvP shooter with an eccentric cast of characters. Battleborn also has a single-player campaign, which can be unlocked using real-world currency.

43. The Elder Scrolls: Legends

There’s an ostensibly neverending arms race developers are in right now to put out the next Hearthstone. That is, a wildly popular collectible card game (CCG) that’s “easy to learn but challenging to master.” Those are the words, verbatim, publisher Bethesda Softworks is using to describe The Elder Scrolls: Legends.

A CCG that draws from the lore of the company’s beloved RPG franchise, The Elder Scrolls: Legends differentiates itself from the likes of competing virtual card games such as Hearthstone and The Witcher 3’s Gwent by enacting a two-lane system that keeps players on their toes when it comes to devising strategies.

And, if you’re simply craving more Skyrim, you’ll be elated to know that the Heroes of Skyrim expansion for The Elder Scrolls: Legends packs in 150 additional cards, some of which are familiar faces like Aela the Huntress, J’Zargo and Delphine.

Image Credit: Freejam

44. Robocraft

Whether you loved or hated World of Tanks, you’ll be pleased to know that Robocraft is what you get when you take conventional vehicle combat and completely turn it on its head. From independent developer and publisher Freejam, Robocraft lets you commandeer jet cars (not jets and cars, but jet cars), tanks, flying warships, helicopters and drones.

In doing so, you’ll spend most of your time engaging in combat with other players online. Like a vehicle-based Fortnite, you’ll also experiment with different combinations of 250 preset blocks using a simple crafting interface, allowing you to equip the vehicle of your choosing with the weapons of your choosing as well. 

Likewise, Robocraft lets you create or join clans with up to 50 members. Within those clans, you can invite friends to ‘parties’ and play cooperatively in an effort to take down other teams. Once everything is said and done and you’re satisfied with your creations, you can show them off at the virtualized Community Robot Factory in exchange for likes and shares.

45. Total War Battles: Kingdom

Real-time Strategy (RTS) games don't come much grander than those in the Total War series, and the latest entrant, Battles KINGDOM, is free-to-play. Currently in open beta on the PC, it's also available to play on iOS and Android, so you can pick up where you left off when you're away from your battlestation. Set at the turn of the 10th Century, Total War Battles: Kingdom combines army management with kingdom building to deliver a bite-sized RTS game you can pick up and play anywhere, anytime.

Categories: Tech News

The best AT&T phones available in February 2019

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 15:54

The best AT&T phones you can get right now cover the spectrum from high-end, premium handsets down to some more affordable options. We’ve reviewed all the best phones available right now, and we’ve had opportunities to check out plenty of others as well. With that experience and our close eye on AT&T’s phone offerings, we can help you pick out the best phone for you.

With payments plans and other incentives available, you’ll have plenty of options for how you buy your new AT&T smartphone. That might be simply by splitting your payments up, getting two phones for the price of one, or simply going for an extra affordable phone or earlier model that’s had its original price slashed.

We’ve picked out a variety of smartphones offered by AT&T that offer a bit of something for just about anyone, so you can be sure to find a solid option to fit your needs.

And once you find your phone, we can help you figure out what the best AT&T plan is as well. 

AT&T phones: Your options explained

TechRadar's guide to finding the best AT&T phone for you

We've reviewed the contenders for best AT&T phone, and compared the value to the price. Ignoring any personal preferences and/or biases towards specific operating systems, be it Android, iOS or Windows, we've picked AT&T's best phones in a number of categories. 

All of these phones are available through an AT&T installment plan, which spreads the cost of the phone over a set amount of time. For this article, we'll be looking at the AT&T plans that spread the cost of the phone over 30 months, with an option for upgrade after 80-percent of the device's sales price is paid off.

How to choose the best AT&T phones for you:

From $6 a month to $30 or more a month, AT&T's best phones come in at all prices. And you always have the option to pay the full price of the device up front. How much you want to pay for a new phone is up to you, but the best phones don't come cheap.

Here we've done the tough work of going through what AT&T has to offer and picking out the best AT&T phones. Let's find the perfect phone for you.

The best AT&T phone options for every budget:

Now find the best AT&T plan

Once you've picked out the best AT&T phone, you're going to want to pair it with the best AT&T plan. We've looked at all AT&T has to offer and have all the details on AT&T plans here.

Categories: Tech News

The best cheap smart home devices and gadget deals in February 2019

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 15:47

Upgrade your living space into a smart home without breaking the bank with our hand-picked devices that include speakers, security cameras, light bulbs and more. These smart home gadgets can simplify your technology and help make your day-to-day life even easier.

Whether you want to personalize and control your lighting, stream music and videos or secure your home, we've found a variety of top-rated smart home gadgets to help you get started building your smart home. Most of your products work with Alexa or the Google Assistant so that you can control the devices with the command of your voice. We've also included the Aukey Smart Plug-in our list which gives any device you plug into smart capabilities.

Read on for our list of the best smart home gadgets that include the best prices and deals that are currently available. We have a variety of devices that will fit all smart home needs and budgets.

The best-selling Echo Dot is a voice-controlled smart speaker that works with Alexa to make calls, answer questions, set alarms, check the weather and so much more. The compact smart speaker can also control your compatible smart home devices with the command of your voice. Just ask Alexa to find TV shows, turn on lights, adjust the temperature and more. You can use your voice to play a song or artist through Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and others. Alexa has over 50,000 skills so you can discover new skills that will help you with everyday tasks.

The Amazon Echo smart speaker can play music, answer questions, set alarms and more all with the command of your voice. You can also control your other smart home devices with the Alexa-enabled speaker just ask Alexa to turn off the lights, adjust your thermostat, lock your door and more. The Echo can make calls and send and receive messages through the hands-free speaker. The smart speaker features a better audio experience than the Echo Dot offering a powerful audio with Dolby technology built in to the speaker.

Control your lighting from anywhere with the TP-Link Alexa-enabled light bulb. You can turn your lights on and off and adjust brightness with your tablet or smartphone using the Kasa app. You can connect the smart bulb with Alexa or Google Assistant devices and use your voice to control your lights. The easy-to-install light bulb can transform into any color to set the mood and personalize your lighting by adjusting brightness as well as light appearance from soft white to daylight. The TP-Link bulbs will also help you out with your energy costs by reducing energy use up to 80% without brightness or quality loss. 

Turn your electronics and appliances into voice and app-controlled devices with the Kasa Smart WiFi plug by TP-Link. The smart plug works with Alexa and the Google Assistant so you can turn your devices into a hands-free experience. You can turn on lamps, appliances and more from anywhere on your smartphone using the Kasa app. You can also schedule the smart plug to automatically turn on and off when you're away and reduce your energy by managing devices that use the most power. 

Help secure your home with the Ring Video Doorbell Pro that allows you to answer your door from anywhere. The Ring Pro works with Alexa and will send alerts to Echo devices which allows you to hear and speak to visitors entirely hands-free. The Ring Video Doorbell Pro also sends alerts to your smartphone when motion is detected or when someone presses the doorbell so you can monitor your home from anywhere. The Pro features advanced motion detection with a camera view that generates motion alerts within user-set motion zones. The Ring doorbell connects to your existing doorbell wiring so you don't have to worry about re-charging the battery and features four different faceplate options.

Control your thermostat from anywhere with the 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat. The smart thermostat uses technology to learn your habits and adjust automatically to help save you energy. On average the Nest thermostat saves 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills so the Nest will pay for itself in no time. You're able to control your thermostat from anywhere with Nest app using your phone, tablet or laptop. The smart thermostat also works with Alexa so you can adjust and control the temperature with the command of your voice. The Nest thermostat features a thinner and sleeker design than previous models and comes in four different colors.

Clean your floors with the command of your voice and completely hands-free with the Wi-Fi connected iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum. You can use the iRobot home app to clean and schedule your vacuum from anywhere and receive notifications when the job is complete. The Roomba 960 can continuously clean for up to 75 minutes and will automatically recharge. The robot vacuum features a three-stage cleaning system and a high-efficiency filter that captures 99% of allergens, pollen, and dust. The Roomba is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant so you can control the vacuum with your voice. 

Keep your home secure with the Arlo Pro two camera security system. The top rated security system includes two cameras, rechargeable batteries, power adapter and cable, wall mount, and a base station. The Arlo Pro cameras are weatherproof so they can be used indoors or outdoors and can operate in up to 122-degree temperature. The 100% wireless Arlo Pro records video in 1080p HD resolution and offers advanced motion detection to catch every angle so no moment goes unnoticed. The security system also has a smart siren that can be controlled remotely, or when motion or sound is detected. The security camera works with Alexa, and has a compatible app which allows you to monitor your home from anywhere.

The top-selling Anova Sous Vide lets you master the hottest cooking trend, sous vide. Just fill a pot with water, set the desired temperature and time, and cook everything (meat, souffle, carrots) to perfection. The Anova Sous Vide allows you to prepare restaurant quality meals by cooking your food at the precise temperature and not ever having to worrying about over-cooking. You can set the time and temperature manually on the device or through the Anova app. The app allows you to cook remotely, so you don't have to wait around in the kitchen waiting for your food to cook. The app also gives you access to over 1,000+ creative recipes and guides you through each recommended meal.

Categories: Tech News

Netflix cancels Jessica Jones and The Punisher – its last two Marvel shows

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 15:07

Netflix has announced that it will cancel all future seasons of Jessica Jones and The Punisher. The former is just about to release its third season on Netflix while the latter just had its second season debut in January. 

The scripts for the shows will join Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil in the great garbage bin in the sky and signify the end of an era for the streaming service.

In a statement sent to Deadline about the cancellations, Netflix thanked the casts and crews of the shows for their hard work and said that it still plans on releasing the last season of Jessica Jones later this year: “We are grateful to showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, star Krysten Ritter and the entire cast and crew, for three incredible seasons of this groundbreaking series, which was recognized by the Peabody Awards among many others”.  

In the same statement, Netflix also said that the series will still be available to watch on the streaming service for some time to come and thanked both Marvel and their fans for “five years of our fruitful partnership and ... the passionate fans who have followed these series from the beginning.”

Bye Felicia ... er, Jessica

The cancellation isn't too surprising given the recent cancellations of Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil, but it's still unfortunate nonetheless.

While neither Netflix nor Marvel has come out with a clean answer as to why these shows are getting canned despite decent viewership and stalwart fanbases, some suspect that it has to do with a disagreement between the two media powerhouses and the imminent arrival of Disney’s own streaming service Disney+.

As of now, Disney hasn't said that it will port the shows over to its streaming service and instead has announced plans on creating new series for its service that star Loki, The Vision and Scarlet Witch. 

All that said, if you had your heart set on another season of these shows don't give up - Marvel TV studio head Jeph Loeb said in a letter to the fans that "Our Network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters… but you know Marvel better than that. As Matthew Murdock’s Dad once said, ‘The measure of a man is not how he gets knocked to the mat, it’s how he gets back up.' To be continued…!"  

Categories: Tech News

Kaspersky launches free CyberTrace threat intelligence tool

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 13:42

As the number of threat intelligence sources continues to grow, a third of CISOs feel they can not consume cybercrime intelligence easily or effectively which is why Kaspersky Lab has launched a new free threat intelligence and fusion analysis tool.

Kaspersky CyberTrace aggregates and evaluates disconnected data feeds to help identify what threats pose a danger to an organization so that security teams focus on the right areas.

Network security controls often become overloaded with a large number of Indicators of Compromise (IoC) and given that threat data is provided in different formats only makes the situation worse.

To that end, Kaspersky has launched its new tool to make it easier for enterprises to keep up to date with the latest threats. Kaspersky Cybertrace retrieves continuously updated threat data feeds from multiple threat intelligence sources including Kaspersky Lab, other vendors, open source intelligence and even custom sources to help offload the burden from SIEMs.

Kaspersky Cybertrace

If IoC from threat intelligence feeds are discovered in any log source within an organization's environment, Kaspersky Cybertrace automatically sends alerts to SIEMs for ongoing monitoring and validation to help reveal additional contextual evidence for the security incidents.

The new tool also integrates with a variety of SIEMs including IBM Qradar, Splunk, ArcSight ESM, LogRhythm, RSA NetWitness and McAfee ESM as well as with other security controls such as firewalls and gateways.

Kaspersky Cybertrace provides analysts with a set of instruments for conducting alert triage and response through categorization and validation of identified matches to help prioritize tasks. The tool also helps accelerate forensic and threat hunting activities by offering on-demand lookup of indicators or scanning of logs and files which enables advanced in-depth threat investigation.

Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, David Emm explained why the company decided to release its new free threat intelligence tool, saying:

“Being aware of the most relevant zero-days, emerging threats and advanced attack vectors is key to an effective cybersecurity strategy. However, manually collecting, analysing and sharing threat data doesn’t provide the level of responsiveness required by an enterprise. There’s a need for a centralised point for accessible data sources and task automation. Kaspersky CyberTrace helps organisations better understand their risks, increase the productivityof their security teams and ensure a more robust protection against cyberthreats.”

Categories: Tech News

Major security issues found in popular password managers

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 13:19

A new report suggests that password managers aren’t quite as secure as you might first think, and they contain some worrying flaws on the security front, including – in some cases – storing the master password for the app in the PC’s memory in a plaintext form.

First off, though, before everybody starts hitting the panic button and considering uninstalling their password manager program, let’s clarify that the security researchers behind this report still advocate the use of these applications.

The Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) note that password managers are definitely a good thing, and the ones from the major players (which they looked at in this study) “add value to the security posture of secrets management”, and help avoid many bad password practices (like weak passwords, re-using passwords over and over, and so forth).

Bearing that in mind, ISE evaluated 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass on Windows 10, and found that in some cases, the master password for the app was kept in the system memory in a plaintext readable format.

As the firm points out, that’s no better than storing it typed out in a document on your computer, at least when it comes to a skilled attacker. In these cases, even if the password manager app is ‘locked’ – i.e. it’s running, but you need to enter the master password to access the many stored passwords inside the application – a hacker can potentially get in by sniffing out the plaintext master password in the PC’s memory.

And once they’re in, they can access all the victim’s usernames and passwords for every site and service they have signed up for.

The security firm observed: “Using a proprietary, reverse engineering, tool, ISE analysts were able to quickly evaluate the password managers’ handling of secrets in its locked state. ISE found that standard memory forensics can be used to extract the master password and the secrets it’s supposed to guard.”

Of course, we have to remember that the hacker still needs access to the computer, either physically, or if remote, via some sort of backdoor installed by malware.

Secrets sanitization

The ISE further notes: “It is evident that attempts are made to scrub and [sanitize] memory in all password managers [which were evaluated]. However, each password manager fails in implementing proper secrets sanitization for various reasons.”

The organization believes that an urgent remedy is required to facilitate password managers effectively scrubbing out all data that could lead to a potential compromise when an application is running in the background in a locked state.

Hopefully, the makers of these pieces of software are sitting up and taking notice, and will have a plan of action to tackle the aforementioned security flaws.

Meantime, until patches are deployed to squash these particular gremlins, the ISE recommends that you don’t leave a password manager app running in the background – even in a locked state – and that users should “terminate the process completely if they are using one of the affected password managers”.

However, it’s still worth underlining that any hacker would need access to your PC in some way to sniff out your password secrets, as we already mentioned. So as ever, it’s a sensible move to have a good antivirus installed on your system.

Categories: Tech News

Best cloud hosting services in 2019

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 13:00

Signing up for a simple website hosting package will usually buy you a defined block of resources on a single server: this much web space, that much bandwidth, maybe a set amount of RAM or CPU cores.

While this works well for many websites, having fixed resources can be a problem for larger projects. There's generally no way to temporarily allocate extra RAM or bandwidth if you experience an increase in traffic, and even a simple plan upgrade might require your website to go offline for a while.

Cloud hosting plans look much like virtual private server (VPS) products, where you'll initially pay for a set amount of web space, RAM, CPU time and bandwidth. But these resources are spread across multiple devices instead of just one, and changing your plan later – adding another gig of RAM, for instance – is generally as easy as dragging a slider, with the extra power coming online within moments.

This flexibility is great for delivering extra power when you need it most, and starting prices can be similar to regular VPS hosting (from £10 or $14 a month). Costs will rise as you add resources, but typically you'll only pay for the time in which you use these resources.

DigitalOcean's monster 192GB RAM, 32 vCPU and 3,840GB SSD product costs $960 (£685) a month, for instance, but this pay-as-you-go approach allows you to try it out for $1.429 or £1.02 an hour.

Cloud hosting still won't be for everyone, and small, simple websites are likely to be better off with regular packages. But the technology has a lot to offer anyone with larger or more ambitious projects, and many hosts run free trials which make it easy to explore their abilities for yourself.

Cloud hosting isn't just for big business. HostGator's cloud platform spreads your website load across multiple virtual server instances for more reliable and scalable hosting, but it's as easy to use as standard shared hosting, and only costs a little more.

For example, the baseline Hatchling Cloud plan gets you support for one domain, unmetered bandwidth and storage, a share of up to two cores and 2GB RAM, and distributed Varnish caching to speed up the loading of static content. You can get started for as little as $4.95 (£3.50) a month if you buy three years upfront, although the price leaps to $8.95 (£6.40) on renewal.

If you need something more powerful, the top-of-the-range Business Cloud plan supports unlimited domains, gives you up to six cores and 6GB RAM, and includes private SSL and a dedicated IP. Another chunky introductory discount means you can pay as little as $9.95 (£7.10) a month over three years, but after that you'll pay $17.95 (£12.80) per month.

Benefits of the cloud plans include (up to) twice as fast load times, along with more site statistics, and because your site is mirrored across multiple devices, the ability to switch your site to another server in the event of a hardware failure.

But the key advantage of all cloud hosting schemes is scalability. If your site can't cope with demand, you can scale up to eight cores and 8GB RAM with a click. There's no waiting around for someone to process your order and no downtime while your web space is reallocated – you get the extra resources right away.

1&1 IONOS Cloud Server Hosting is a powerful range of products which combine dedicated server resources with the performance, flexibility and scalability of the best cloud hosting technologies.

Seven standard root access (self-managed) configurations aim to cover everyone from the individual user (£9.99 or $12.80 a month for a single CPU core, 1GB RAM and 50GB storage) to big businesses (16 cores, 48GB RAM and 500GB storage for a monster £400 or $510.10 a month).

All plans have decent specifications, giving you unlimited traffic and email accounts, a bundled SSL certificate, DDoS protection, $127.5 (£100)  starting credit for the first month and a choice of US and European data centers.

A wide range of options includes Windows hosting, or managed hosting with your choice of stack: Apache + MySQL + PHP 7.2, Nginx + MariaDB + PHP 7.2, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress and more.

The highlight of the range is probably 1&1's Cloud Hosting Flex package. Not only does this allow for adjusting cores, RAM and storage on demand, and adding up to 99 servers to the same contract, but billing is by the minute and you're only charged for what you use.

Prices start at £15.84 ($20.70) a month including the management fee. There's no long-term contract and the first 30 days is free, giving you the chance to try before you buy.


At first glance, cloud hosting products seem to be divided into two clear groups: user-friendly but basic products from hosts like 1&1, and enterprise-level technology from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and more, which is so complex that even experts might struggle to set it up.

Cloudways represents an interesting middle path. The company offers managed cloud hosting which is powered by your choice of the top providers – Amazon, Google, DigitalOcean, Kyup, Linode or Vultr are supported – and comes packed with features, yet is configured from a simple web console which is just as easy to use as the more basic competition.

It's an impressive platform. Cloudways' ThunderStack covers all your core performance needs: Nginx, Apache, Memcached, MySQL/MariaDB, Varnish Cache, PHP 7, PHP-FM and Redis. There's one-click cloning, backup and restore, integrated Git and team collaboration tools for developers, and no less than 60 data centers strategically placed around the world (over 25 locations).

Despite all this high-end functionality, Cloudways products are generally simple to operate, and prices start at a beginner-friendly $10 (£7.15) a month for one core, 1GB RAM, 25GB storage and 1TB of bandwidth. It's all supremely configurable, and a free trial allows you to check out the product, with no credit card details required. Furthermore, a referral system is available, where both you and your friends can receive free hosting credits.


Founded in 2002, Bytemark is a UK-based cloud hosting company which has designed its own public platform using open source software.

This in-house experience brings some unusual advantages. Bytemark has developed its own hosting environment to set up a server, email and more. It covers everything from installing and managing PHP, MySQL, Perl and Ruby on Rails to helping you configure your firewall, spam rules and backups.

Experienced users can manage their account with a command line client, or even automate common tasks by integrating with Bytemark's API.

Pricing seems somewhat fair. The baseline specification costs $28 (£20) for one core, 1GB RAM, 25GB storage, 10TB bandwidth and one IPv4, plus – unusually – one IPv6 address. If you need more, everything is available via a simple flat rate: $14 (£10) per 1GB RAM,  $2.80 (£2) per 10GB storage, $28 (£20) per extra 1TB of traffic. Unusually, you can even get a Windows licence for $2.64 (£2) per GB of memory.

As ever with cloud hosting, there's plenty of flexibility. You can configure your servers with anything from 1 to 180GB RAM, 1 to 16 CPU cores, and 1 to 8 individual disks with either fast SSD or cheaper archive storage.

If you're interested, Bytemark's free trial gives you seven days to find out more.


While cloud hosting schemes always involve pooling resources from multiple devices, most do their best to keep you away from the low-level details. You may be able to scale your plan by adding CPU cores, RAM or storage, for instance, but the console will present this to you as a single system.

DigitalOcean's Droplets are based around similar resizable and customizable virtual machines, but that's just the start – the technology has much more to offer.

For starters, the system supports Droplets of different types. If the standard plans aren't enough – priced from $5 (£3.55) a month for one core, 1GB RAM and 25GB storage – Optimized Droplets aim to ramp up your performance by using the best Broadwell and Skylake CPUs, and providing more RAM and storage space.

Individual Droplets have more features than you might expect, including performance monitoring and alerts, snapshots and automatic system-level backups.

There are various interesting ways to work with your Droplets as a group, including setting up a cloud firewall, and using a load balancer to distribute incoming traffic across your infrastructure.

DigitalOcean's transparent pricing is a highlight. You're billed hourly, with monthly caps, ensuring you only pay for the resources you use. Many of the features come for free – monitoring, cloud firewall – while others follow very simple pricing rules. Snapshots cost $0.05 per gigabyte per month, for instance, while backups are priced at 20% of the cost of the virtual machine – easy.

If all you want to do is host a scalable WordPress site, this will probably be overkill, but developers, sysadmins and other more demanding users will appreciate the power and flexibility DigitalOcean offers. Browse the lengthy list of tutorials (which numbers 2,090 at the time of writing) on the DigitalOcean site to find out more.

You might also want to check out our other website hosting buying guides:

Categories: Tech News

Best VPN routers 2019: the best routers for Virtual Private Networks

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 12:39

If you're concerned about your online privacy, then our guide to the best VPN routers of 2019 is here to help. The routers in this list will help you get online using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), making it easy to browse the internet securely and anonymously.

The best VPN routers that we feature in this guide have been specially chosen because they make setting up and configuring VPNs quick and easy. If you thought that browsing the web via VPN is only for computer pros, then the best VPN routers will change your mind and show you that pretty much anyone can do it.

Not only that, but each of the best VPN routers we list on this page are platform agnostic, which means you can use them no matter what VPN service you sign up to. Plus, they will make sure that even with your network traffic going through a VPN, your internet speeds won't be impacted too much.

So, read on for our list of the best VPN routers of 2019, and at the end we have some expert advice on how to sign up for the best VPN for your needs.

Picking the right VPN for your needs

To compliment your VPN router, here are our guides to picking the VPN for your requirements:

The best VPN routers in 2019

The Linksys WRT 3200 ACM is our choice for the best VPN router of 2019. Its no-nonsense design hides a remarkably versatile and powerful router that is a great choice for VPN use. You can install DD-WRT firmware for VPN compatibility, and it comes with four antenna and three bands for fast and wide-ranging network speeds. It also has four gigabit Ethernet ports and USB 3.0, making it an excellent router in its own right, even without a VPN.

Read the full review: Linksys WRT 3200 ACM

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Synology RT2600ac.

Anyone who’s familiar with Asus, and especially its more gamer-centric products knows exactly what they’re getting themselves into here – especially regarding design. However, if you're not a gamer, and just looking for the best VPN router, then don't discount the Asus RT-AC86U. It has some excellent VPN features that makes it a fast performer that won't see your internet speeds dropping too much when using a VPN. You can also install third party firmware if you want greater choice.

Read the full review: Asus RT-AC86U 

The Asus RT-AC5300 is an excellent high-end gaming router that comes with a number of advanced features for making online and network gaming as lag and frustration free as possible. It also means it's a brilliant VPN router, and if you don't mind the expense, this is a great choice. The spider-like design won't be to everyone's tastes, but the eight antennae serve a purpose, as they can be used to direct your Wi-Fi signal throughout your home, giving this router an excellent range.

Read the full review: Asus RT-AC5300 Tri-band Gigabit Router

On the surface, the Linksys WRT32X might not look that different than Linksys’ heavy-hitter, the WRT3200. And, well, that’s not actually that far off. The WRT32X takes all of the successful components of that highly rated router, and puts them in a router with a custom firmware that’s extremely easy to navigate and a very subdued and attractive visual design, making it one of the best routers with VPN you can buy in 2019. You will be paying a premium for this repackaging, but if you’re looking for reliable ping performance that online gaming requires, the Linksys WRT32X takes one of the best VPN routers and tailors it to your needs.

Read the full review: Linksys WRT32X Gaming Router 



If you're looking for a dependable mid-range VPN router that combines speed with a great Wi-Fi range and features aimed at games, then you'll definitely want to consider the D-link DIR-885L/R. It has a good selection of ports, and the user interface for setting up and configuring the router is nicely designed and easy to use. It also supports  DD-WRT open-source firmware, which makes this a flexible and powerful VPN router that you can customise for your needs.

If routers had a fashion contest, Netgear’s D7800 would be among the top contenders. Its solid black finish is complemented by a quartet of antennas. Plus it’s damn fast and bettered by its inclusion of a duo of USB ports paired with an eSATA connector. The real centerpiece, though, is the VDSL 2 modem built into the Nighthawk X4S D7800, negating the need to buy or lease one separately. The outfitted software isn’t too shoddy either; a simple Dynamic QOS system makes it a breeze to govern a multitude of devices on a single home network. Best of all, it's a great router to use with a VPN.


Performance-wise, this British Virgin Islands-based provider delivered solid results in our performance tests. ExpressVPN also offers a native iPad app, and it supports iOS 8 (or better). It’s neatly organised so that you can connect with one click and immediately hook up with the fastest server available. For older iOS versions, there is a detailed setup instruction for configuring the VPN manually, thus making it a great fit for older-generation iPads.  

On the security front, ‘best in class’ 256-bit encryption is in place, along with support for OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP protocols, and a private, encrypted DNS. ExpressVPN doesn’t log any traffic data, DNS queries, or anything that could be used to identify the user.

A quick glance at the pricing scheme shows that the service costs more than most VPNs. You don’t get to try it out through a free trial, but there is a 30-day 100% money-back guarantee available. Going the yearly route is the most affordable option of the three price plans on offer. The packages available are:

Performance-wise, this British Virgin Islands-based provider delivered solid results in our performance tests. ExpressVPN also offers a native iPad app, and it supports iOS 8 (or better). It’s neatly organised so that you can connect with one click and immediately hook up with the fastest server available. For older iOS versions, there is a detailed setup instruction for configuring the VPN manually, thus making it a great fit for older-generation iPads.  

On the security front, ‘best in class’ 256-bit encryption is in place, along with support for OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP protocols, and a private, encrypted DNS. ExpressVPN doesn’t log any traffic data, DNS queries, or anything that could be used to identify the user.

A quick glance at the pricing scheme shows that the service costs more than most VPNs. You don’t get to try it out through a free trial, but there is a 30-day 100% money-back guarantee available. Going the yearly route is the most affordable option of the three price plans on offer. The packages available are:

Categories: Tech News

GandCrab decryption tool released

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 12:01

When the GandCrab ransomware grew in popularity among cybercriminals back in January 2018, cybersecurity firm Bitdefender released the first decryption tool to help victims take back their digital lives and now the firm has released an updated version of its tool.

The company's collaboration with the Romanian Police, Europol and other law enforcement agencies has produced a new decryptor for all GandCrab ransomware versions released since October 2018.

Users that have been affected by versions 1,4 and up through 5.1 of GandCrab can download and use Bitdefender's new tool to regain access to their sensitive data and other files.

So far, more than 2,000 home users, companies and non-profits have utilized the company's tool to retrieve their lost data and avoid paying millions in ransom.

Growth of GandCrab

Since it first emerged, the GandCrab ransomware has inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in losses globally and it is now one of the most prevalent families of ransomware on the market.

Last year for instance, GandCrab affiliates began using Remote Desktop Protocol instances to attack organizations by directly logging in with stolen domain credentials. After authenticating on a compromised PC, attackers then manually run the ransomware and instruct it to spread across the entire network. Once the network has been infected, attackers wipe their traces clean and contact the victim with a decryption offer.

GandCrab operators have also recently begun to deliver ransomware to organizations via vulnerabilities in remote IT support software used by MSPs to manage custom workstations.

To prevent falling victim to GandCrab and other forms of ransomware, Bitdefender recommends making sure that you are running the latest version of your OS as well as third-party software. The firm also suggests installing a security solution as any software purchase will be cheaper than making a ransom payment.

Categories: Tech News

Google GDC invite suggests a major play into gaming

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 11:55

Google has held plenty of Game Developers Conference events in the past, but this year it seems the search giant has something special planned.

Google has started sending around keynote invites to members of the gaming press with the promise that “all will be revealed.” The invite also includes an animated GIF of a hallway that leads to a light and some J.J. Abrams-esque lens flare, which then fades to white with a message telling us to “gather around” on March 19th.

Image Credit: Google

Unfortunately, there’s not much else we can read into to give us a hint as to what Google will announce. In years past, Google has held smaller developer-focused events for those creating games on Android, but this year it seems Google has something bigger in store.

One new area Google has gotten into recently is game streaming, with its aptly named Project Stream. The service launched in a limited beta test at the beginning of October, allowing users to play games (specifically Assassin’s Creed Odyssey) directly through their browser.

We’re hoping Google plans to announce a larger Project Stream rollout at GDC 2019, and it would seem like the perfect way to head off Apple’s own gaming ambitions.

Via The Verge

Categories: Tech News

New VR headset offers truly 'retina' resolution for an immense price

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 11:14

The pixel wars may be over already – as far as virtual reality (VR) is concerned – with the unveiling of the VR-1 headset by a firm known as Varjo. First teased back in 2017, the company’s VR-1 headset looks similar to its competitors, yet on the inside it employs what Varjo calls a “Bionic Display” with a pixel resolution matching that of the human eye.

This Bionic Display, according to Ars Technica, uses two panels like most VR headsets but in a different orientation. A single 1,920 x 1,080, micro OLED display sits directly within the center of the headset’s field of view, which is then surrounded by a supporting 1,440 x 1,600 AMOLED panel, delivering an 87-degree field of view for the user.

Oddly enough, the 1080p display in the center actually produces a clearer image than the surrounding one, with the panel wrapping the center one effectively providing peripheral vision for the user. According to Ars Technica, this produces a bit of a “halo effect” in the picture that’s ultimately displayed, but it’s still far superior to the HTC Vive Pro and especially the Oculus Rift.

The future of VR will cost you dearly

This level of sharpness and detail is thanks to micro OLED technology, which has allowed Varjo to cram an incredibly dense 3,000 pixels per inch (ppi) into the panel. 

To put that into perspective, Apple’s sharpest Retina display yet – in the iPhone XS – sits at just 458 ppi in total.

A VR image rendered by HTC Vive Pro (left) versus Varjo VR-1 (right).

Of course, if the iPhone XS costs a grand for just a 458 ppi display, it’s little surprise that this level of visual fidelity is going to call for an exponentially higher amount of cash. To be exact, the VR-1 is available now for $5,995 (about £4,620, AU$8,450), but will also cost users an additional $995 per year for an ongoing service license.

At this price, the VR headset is obviously intended for content creators and developers right now, but is also said to be ready for Valve’s SteamVR platform out of the box. 

While it will be some time before this holy grail of VR fidelity is within our grasp, we may start to enjoy the benefits of what’s created using these headsets much sooner.

Images Credit: Varjo

Categories: Tech News

The cheapest Xbox One bundle deals and sale prices in February 2019

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 11:09

Freshly discounted cheap Xbox One bundle deals have appeared this week and we've found some fantastic discounts. So if you've decided it's finally time to opt for a sweet Xbox One deal, then you're in luck. Microsoft is really pushing discounts on the 1TB consoles now too, which are much more accommodating for your library of games and their large install sizes than the regular 500GB models. Anthem, Battlefield V, Forza Horizon 4, Minecraft and more are all getting in on the Xbox One deals train today.

Microsoft still needs to pull its socks up as the Xbox One sales are way behind those of the PS4 and owners of Sony's console may by eyeing up a Nintendo Switch purchase soon instead.

Retailers are stocking some cheap Xbox One deals as standalone purchases, but the best value is to be found with the bundles with extra games. Xbox One bundles nowadays often cost less than the standalone consoles prices too, so be sure to check out our hand-picked list of the best Xbox One offers below the comparison charts. Or maybe you're looking for a 4K upgrade? Then you'll want to take a look at the latest Xbox One X bundles.

Looking to buy in the US or Australia? You'll want to head on over to our US page or AU page.

The slimmed-down design of the Xbox One S looks much better than the original chunky box and the power brick is now a thing of the past. The main draw though is 4K visual support meaning you'll be able to watch specialised Blu-Ray and Netflix content in 4K on your new 4K TV

The Xbox One S is now the standard console and has replaced the older model that's been phased out at retailers. The Xbox One S is cheaper too, so in all honesty we've generally stopped covering deals on the older model as you're getting better value with the newer version and we've not spotted any decent stock for months now.

More Xbox One deals

Still not found your ideal Xbox One deal in our highlights of the best offers out there? Why not check out more Xbox One bundles directly from the retailers from our list below?

The new Xbox One X is capable of displaying games in glorious HDR 4K and is the most powerful console ever made. Sadly, it has the price-tag to match too as it's way more expensive than the Xbox One S. The comparison chart below is mainly full of prices for the new console on its own. However, we're starting to see better offers appear online where you can get discounted (or sometimes free) games included too. For more details, head on over to our extensive Xbox One X bundles page for the best value deals.

If you're looking to play your Xbox games online or take advantage of the free Games with Gold initiative, you'll want to check out our cheap Xbox Live Gold deals page where's we've found prices considerably cheaper than the default RRP.

Categories: Tech News

Best dedicated server hosting providers of 2019

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 11:08

Opting for a dedicated server means that you get an entire server to yourself. There's no sharing of CPU time, RAM or bandwidth, which means your website stays responsive at all times.

Shared website hosting can appear to be amazing value, with feature-packed products available for just a few pounds every month. But the reality is often very different, and they're not always the bargains they seem.

Very low prices probably mean the host is cramming more customers onto each server, for instance. Performance will be poor as there aren't enough resources to go around, and the extra load could mean more server problems and downtime.

Dedicated hosting implies that you also get far more control over how the server is configured. You can add and remove software, install updates or tweak all settings, allowing you to optimize the server for your specific needs.

Best of all, dedicated hosting contracts often come with fast and knowledgeable support. The best providers will even monitor your server for issues, like failed services, and can often fix them before you've realized there was a problem.

This kind of power doesn't come cheap, and although there are some good signup deals around, you can easily spend $50-$140 a month and more on just a basic package.

With that kind of investment, it's important to make the right choice. In this article, we're going to highlight five top dedicated hosting providers who you might want to check out first.

German-based 1&1 (as October 2018 called 1&1 IONOS) is well known as a budget hosting provider, but the company doesn't just offer value for website newbies: its dedicated server range starts at a very low $50 (£45 for UK) a month for the first three months, then $70 (£65 for UK).

As you might imagine, 1&1 has had to cut a few corners to hit that price point. The cheapest plans are relatively basic, with limited hardware, although network bandwidth got an upgrade with 1 Gbit/s. Features like SSD drives and server management (1&1 updates, monitors and manages the server for you) cost extra. Oh, and there's also a setup fee of at least $50 (£50 for UK).

But there are plus points, too, including unlimited bandwidth, bundled Symantec SSL certificates, and the Plesk Onyx server control panel thrown in for free. Overall, even the most limited 1&1 dedicated server plan has enough power to handle many tasks.

Demanding users have plenty of paid upgrades to explore, including a faster CPU, more RAM and storage, a bundled backup service and more. Some of these add-ons include more than you might expect, too. Paying $14 (£10) a month for management doesn't just mean 1&1 will look after server admin: you also get a Website Builder, simple analytics, a photo slideshow service, automatic backup and restore for WordPress sites, and more. Sounds like a good deal to us.

Hostwinds is a capable hosting provider which crams a huge range of features into all its products, from the most basic shared hosting plans to its enterprise-level cloud-based range.

Its dedicated server range may start at just $79.50 (£57) a month, for instance – $106 (£76) on renewal – but even these baseline products include features that are premium extras elsewhere.

All systems have 1Gbps ports, for instance (some providers start at 100Mbps). Every server is fully managed, ensuring you're not wasting time running operating system updates or other basic maintenance tasks. Hostwinds monitors your server to detect problems as soon as they crop up, and automatic nightly backups ensure you can quickly recover from even the worst of disasters.

Storage is extremely configurable, too. Some servers have four drive bays available, and they can be equipped with any mix of 1TB to 3TB SATA drives, or 120GB to 1TB SSDs. That's considerably more flexible than providers like 1&1, where you can only use SSD drives on some products, and even then they're often available in fixed configurations only (1TB SATA or 800GB SSD, for instance).

There's more good news with the choice of operating system. Not only do Linux fans get a choice of CentOS, Debian, Fedora or Ubuntu, but Windows users can choose Windows 2008, 2012 or 2016 Server for a very low $17.50 (£12.50) – we've seen charges of up to $50 (£35.70) elsewhere.

Put it all together and the Hostwinds dedicated range is refreshingly honest. Servers aren't crippled by low specifications to hit a price point, and yet final costs remain low, with most updates very fairly priced. Well worth a look for anyone who needs a reliable, highly-specified server for a low price.


Opting for dedicated rather than shared hosting will speed up your website in itself, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. A2 Hosting's managed server plans blend multiple tricks and technologies to try and ensure you see the best possible performance.

This starts with a powerful set of server components: OPcache and APC may speed up PHP processing by 50%. Memcached holds key MySQL data in RAM for faster retrieval, while mod_pagespeed uses multiple tricks to optimize site content. SPDY and HTTP/2 accelerate page loads even further, and support for technologies like edge side includes and websockets allow more fine-tuned optimizations of your site.

A2 Hosting plans also include Cloudflare's free CDN and its Railgun Optimizer, which "compresses previously uncacheable web objects up to 99.6%" and may result in an average 200% performance increase. In reality you might not see anything like that – the boost will vary greatly, depending on your site – but it's still a technology worth having.

Elsewhere, performance-boosting add-ons include RAID 1 SSD storage of up to 2 x 1TB. An optional Turbo Boost feature costing from 42$ (£32) a month replaces Apache with the LiteSpeed server, apparently bringing up to 20x faster page loads, and another add-on can cache the HTML contents of a page, then speedily reload it later without needing to run PHP. We were happy to see cPanel is thrown in, too (it's often a chargeable extra with other hosts).

These kind of professional features come at a cost, with even the most basic Sprint plan priced from around $99.56 (£75) a month. But if speed is your top priority then this company could be worth a try, especially as A2's ‘Anytime Money Back Guarantee’ will refund your fees if you cancel within 30 days of your order.

It may not have the profile of the big-name competition, but OVH is a hosting giant, with more than a million customers using 25+ data centers around the world.

The OVH dedicated hosting range stands out for its long list of data centers, with hosting available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Singapore and the UK. Some of these locations offer cheaper hosting than others, and, unusually, OVH passes the savings on to you. For example, one of the UK server costs $86 (£64.99), but switching to Poland cuts the minimum cost to $79 (£59.99).

Experienced users will also appreciate the many advanced options that OVH makes available. You don't just get access to SATA or SSD storage, for instance – the company also supports SAS and the supercharged NVMe (non-volatile memory-based storage, potentially five times faster than SSD).

If you really know what you're doing, you could buy several servers, link them together in a private cloud, and maybe add a load-balancing IP to spread peak-time demand or keep your website running if one server fails.

Novice users are likely to be confused by over 50 available server configurations, and figuring out exactly what's available can take a little time and effort. But the range of data centers alone could make OVH an interesting choice for many users, and if you're the demanding type, its array of expert-level extras are also worth a closer look.


Liquid Web is a popular provider of high-end business hosting products ranging from managed WordPress and WooComerce plans, to cloud VPS, dedicated servers and private clouds.

The company's dedicated offerings may look expensive, with a starting price of $199 (£142) a month (at the moment, you pay $123.38 for the first four months), but they're also far better specified than most of the budget competition.

Even the cheapest dedicated server includes two speedy 480GB SSD drives, for instance. There's also a 1TB SATA backup drive provided, making it easy and convenient to run regular backups.

The plan includes a dedicated IP. Support for Cloudflare CDN should boost your website speeds, and your server can be hosted in one of three data centers (Arizona, Michigan, or the Netherlands).

Most importantly, all dedicated servers are managed by Liquid Web's professional support team. They monitor system health, proactively respond to notifications (for example, they’ll restart a failed service), alongside taking care of installing and updating the operating system. If you have any difficulties, support is available 24/7/365, and the company guarantees a 59 second response time via phone or chat, 30 minutes via ticket and email.

Factor in the wide range of optional add-ons – load balancers, firewalls, VPN – and the range has more than enough power for almost any purpose. If you're managing a heavy-duty website, Liquid Web needs to be on your shortlist.

You might also want to check out our other website hosting buying guides:

Categories: Tech News

Metroid Prime 4: everything we know so far

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 10:57

It was during its E3 2017 livestream that Nintendo announced Metroid Prime 4 for Nintendo Switch with a logo and little else. No release date, no developer information, no footage. Nothing.

To say fans were left hungry for details is an understatement; ten years is a long time sans new Samus. 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 now even further away 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 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 they had scrapped the project and started again with help from Retro Studios. 

Trailers News and rumors

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:

Bandai Namco developing Metroid Prime 4?

After it was first announced, Nintendo did tell us one thing about the developer of Metroid Prime 4 - Retro Studios, the studio behind the original trilogy, wouldn't be working on it. 

The developer was then a mystery, until a report from Eurogamer in February 2018 stated that it was Bandai Namco working on the game. 

With information from several anonymous sources, Eurogamer reports that Metroid Prime 4 was initially being worked on by Bandai Namco Singapore, before Bandai Namco Japan took the lead so that Singapore can focus on another title. 

Though nothing has been confirmed by Nintendo itself, this is a rumor that’s been going around since fans started to piece together the LinkedIn job descriptions on the pages of various Bandai Namco Singapore staff.

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 with a new developer, 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 and a new developer 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 with a new developer 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

Save on the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and other Fire TV device deals

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 10:38

Amazon has discounted its popular Fire TV devices which include the first generation Fire TV Stick, the 4K Fire TV Stick, and the Fire TV Cube. All of these Amazon devices will upgrade your TV so you can stream your favorite TV shows and movies. It's a cheap alternative if you don't have a smart TV and want to enjoy premium entertainment from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and more.

The most popular device on sale is the Fire TV Stick 4K that's discounted down to $39.99. That's a $10 discount and the best price we've seen right now for the popular streaming device. Unlike the first generation, the 4K Fire TV Stick will stream movies and TV shows in stunning 4K Ultra HD. The 4K TV Stick is also Alexa enabled so you can use your voice to control your TV and soundbar. Already have a smart TV? You can use the Alexa remote to ask questions, stream music, check the weather, and control your other smart home devices all from your TV.

If you don't have a 4K TV just yet, then you can get the first generation Fire TV Stick on sale for only $29.99. The streaming media player also features an Alexa voice remote so you can control your TV and other smart home devices with the command of your voice.

Amazon has also discounted the Fire TV Cube down to $79.99. That's a $40 discount for the Amazon device that streams movies and TV shows in 4K Ultra HD. The Fire TV Cube also features an Alexa-enabled remote and offers twice the storage of the 4K Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV Cube also has a built-in speaker so you can ask Alexa to play music, make calls and more without having to turn on your TV.

You can also find the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablet also on sale at Amazon. 

See more of the best Amazon Fire TV deals, prices and sales happening now and shop other cheap smart home devices and gadgets that are also Alexa-enabled.

Categories: Tech News

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