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The 35 best indie games on PC and consoles

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 17:50

Although the best PC games with cash to splash are quickly evolving, so are the best indie games you might not have heard of. 

One of the best things about our best indie games list is that most of the titles, unlike AAA game publishers, don’t try to manipulate you out of every penny any chance they can get. Free from corporate influence and constant badgering for your money, the best indie games represent the pure artistic vision of the developers – especially if you have one of the best gaming PCs.

However, just because the best indie games don’t enjoy mainstream success, it doesn’t mean that the games on this list can’t keep up with the latest AAA blockbusters. In fact, the best indie games regularly surpass mainstream games in both quality and scope, which is often due to their less repetitive nature. Unlike their big-budget counterparts, they don’t need to rely on tired tropes and cliches to appeal to a mass market.

This is all exciting stuff, and if you want to dive into the best indie games, you’re in luck. We’ve gathered up all the best indie games on the market today. We’ve included both in vogue indies like Return of the Obra Dinn and Dead Cells, and classic titles like Braid and Dwarf Fortress. Don’t worry, we’re going to keep this list updated with all the latest and greatest indie hits. So, if you’re looking for the next great indie title, keep reading.

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

Bill Thomas, Joe Osborne, Kane Fulton and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article

Described as a sort of combination of Pokémon, Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, we couldn’t help but recommend that you keep your eye on Ooblets until it releases at some point in 2018. This indie game is being developed by first-time studio Glumberland with the backing of the beloved Double Fine studios. The art style here curiously reminds us of Adventure Time. However, the game itself revolves around collecting creatures called ooblets in a town called, well, Oob. 

Upon doing so, you’ll be able to train and battle your ooblets against other ooblet trainers. At the same time, you’ll have to balance your ooblet training with the real-world responsibilities of being a farmer. That’s right, drawing influence from the likes of Stardew Valley, you can cultivate produce and decorate your house with various trimmings as well. You’ll also be able to join an Ooblet Club comprised of friends (NPCs) you’ll meet along the way. 

If you don’t know what to do in Ooblets, simply walk around and discover new shops and buildings that suit your interest. While you’re at it, you can open up your own shop and sell produce that you’ve grown on the farm in addition to items you’ve scavenged from throughout the world. Otherwise, you can feed the leftover crops to your ooblets to watch them level up and learn new techniques to be used in the turn-based RPG-style battles.

Expected: 2018

Jonathan Blow's masterpiece first appears to be a simple pastiche of Super Mario Bros, with a middle-aged curmudgeon replacing the titular plumber but still seeking to rescue a princess.

But, the longer you spend in the game, the more that’s revealed to you, moving from a series of time-bending puzzles to quiet reflective texts – which doesn’t stop it from being the smartest puzzle game until SpaceChem. Blow himself has subtly hinted that the ultimate story may revolve around the atomic bomb.

First released as PC freeware by Japanese designer Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya back in 2004 after five years of 100% solo development, Cave Story predates the recent indie renaissance by a few years. Because of when and how it was first released, it's often forgotten in discussions of indie gaming.

But this classic deserves to be on every best-of list for its loving homage to the classic action platforming games of the Super Nintendo era, its incredible music and its incredibly vibrant world. Oh, and don't forget the hugely intuitive controls, gobs of secrets and weapons that are entirely too fun to use. If you've yet to enjoy this one, just put it on your backlog already.

From family-owned and operated Studio MDHR, Cuphead has connected with millions of people around the world, many of whom normally wouldn’t touch a run-and-gun platformer with a ten-foot pole. 

Although its gameplay was inspired by classic games like Mega Man and Contra, most gamers would likely compare it to a Fleischer Studios cartoon, like Betty Boop. Because Cpuhead utilizes a hand-drawn art style likened to a 1930s animation, it’s been universally praised for its gorgeous visuals.

Cuphead is more than just its beautiful visuals – it’s a series of 19 challenging and engaging bosses, with platforming bits interspersed between them. It was already one of the best indie games, but Studio MDHR has announced the Cuphead: the Delicious Last Course DLC, slated for 2019, with a new isle to explore, new bosses to conquer and, most importantly, a new character to master.

Many AAA games serve as escapist power fantasies, where the player is ultimately able to dominate the game’s universe – right up until the game ends. However, many indie games serve as the opposite – like the IGF award winner and misery simulator Cart Life.

Papers Please is similar to Cart Life – it's also an IGF winner with elements of misery about it - but it's better, being a smart, weird sim about the compromised life of a border guard under a totalitarian regime. It's ugly and desperate, but also innovative, uproariously funny and terribly smart.

Among the hardcore gamers of my acquaintance, Spelunky is the go-to drug. Even today, several years after its release, some of them still play it every day, despite having completed it many times over. That's because Spelunky, an ostensibly rogue-like platformer with a definite end, is tough, varied and highly randomized.

It also has more dark secrets than a presidential candidate, meaning there are many, many ways to finish it, and its daily challenges are a sure-fire way to public humiliation.

Unfortunately, humor is often missing among games, mostly being restricted to slapstick comedy or crude one-liners. The Stanley Parable, however, is hilarious without being dumbed down. Players follow (or don’t) a very British narrator who changes the world around you, depending on your decisions.

No decision is punished, every play-through throws up new humor and weirdness. Being trapped in the closet in the Stanley Parable is more moving and funny than 9/10 of other games.

If you missed out on this ironic gem back when it first launched, the developer announced the Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe edition for 2019, with new content, more endings and a console release. Actually, that Ultra Deluxe edition sounds pretty tempting even for us – and we played it a bunch when it first came out.

It took more than nine years to make, but Owlboy was definitely worth the wait. Originally contrived for PCs and released in late 20166, the clever masterpiece of an indie game is now available to experience on Mac and Linux as well – and there’s even a Nintendo Switch version! Owlboy centers around a race of owl-human hybrid characters called, well, Owls. Of them, you control Otis, an Owl who is censured by his mentor for his inept flying skills.

The story sees Otis’ village dismantled by pirates who clearly have conflict with the Owls. As a result, Otis has to work with an assortment of villagers in-game to take out enemies. Of course, when boss battles arise, you’ll need to manage allies accordingly, as each character comes with their own set of unique skill sets to use in conjunction with one another. If you’ve ever played and enjoyed a Kid Icarus game, this is one for the books. Otherwise, play it anyway.

Similar to The Stanley Parable, Gone Home falls into the unofficially labeled ‘walking simulator’ genre. Where it diverts from the clever and philosophical Stanley Parable, however is its focus on life’s difficult realities, instead of light humor.

After arriving at your childhood home after an overseas visit, you play as 21-year-old Kaitlin Greenbriar who is greeted by a vacant house. While gameplay is basically limited to scavenging through notes to find out where your family is, the gripping story is a extremely emotional and compelling, as long as you keep an open mind. After all this time, Gone Home stands out as one of the best indie games out there.

Only SpaceChem has mingled education with entertainment as successfully as The Kerbal Space Program. The game is simple - design and build spacecraft to take the cutesy Kerbals to the Mun and beyond.

Yet its focused use of real physics means that you'll find yourself following NASA in building multi-stage rockets, space stations and exploring the Kerbal's strange universe on EVAs, before bringing your discoveries back to research on the Kerbal planet - that's if you can get off the ground at all. It's a huge, complex, challenging and fun game, that's smart without being preachy.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is the exact opposite of something like Kerbal Space Program – it’s an action roguelike par excellence. You play as a young boy attempting to kill his damned siblings, mother and possibly the Devil, using only your tears. Which he shoots from his eyes, of course – it’s matched only by the equally visceral Nuclear Throne.

With dozens of bizzare items to collect, endlessly procedurally-generated levels, and tons of secrets, the Binding of Isaac is a very dark take on the exploratory model established by Spelunky.

Though you might get put off by the pixel art graphics, Undertale isn’t a game that would have fit on the Super Nintendo. That’s because, in Undertale, you decisions make a huge difference in how the game ends and, more importantly, how it continues in New Game Plus.

While playing Undertale, you’ll come to realize just how much freedom the game gives you. Despite its ingenious and intense boss matches, you’ll be able to make it through the entire nine or so hours of Undertale as a complete pacifist. Plus, when you go through the game a second time, you’ll bear the weight of the consequences from your previous run. And, now Undertale is out on the Nintendo Switch, so you can take this masterpiece of game design wherever you go.

From developer Playdead, Inside is comparable to its predecessor, Limbo, in some ways but with an added layer of depth that inspires frequent wonder. This is mostly a result of the unspoken narrative, which revolves around yet another nameless boy. In Inside, however, the boy in the story is running away from a group of men who – if you fail to stay out of their sights – will try to mercilessly kill you.

Though it isn't quite clear why the boy is running from these men or why you should even care since you don't know who he is, Inside will leave you begging for answers. The bleak, lifeless setting of Inside is more than worth the price of admission. Its minimalist art style alone is avant-garde enough to feel right at home in a museum. Add in a game that's both fun to play and dripping with curiosity, though, and Inside is one of the best indie games money can buy.

Developed single-handedly by Eric Barone, Stardew Valley is undoubtedly a technical feat for that little facet alone. If you’ve ever played a Harvest Moon game, you’re already familiar with the premise of Stardew Valley – you may just not know it yet. Stardew Valley is an addictive farming simulator which sees you interact with townees to the point where you can literally marry them.

Stardew Valley isn’t just farming, though – it’s a whole bunch of things at the same time. You can go fishing, you can cook, you can craft stuff – you can even go explore procedurally-generated caves to mine for items and even attack slime-monster-things. However, you should keep in mind that your health and energy are finite, so you'll want to keep your character rested and fed to avoid suffering from exhaustion. Pass out and you’ll lose a considerable amount of money and items you’ve worked hard to attain. Stardew Valley will have you addicted for hours on end, for better or worse. (Definitely better.)

From Canadian game developer Alec Holowka, the creator of the award-winning Aquaria (also featured on this list) and independent artist/animator Scott Benson, Night in the Woods is an unconventional side-scrolling adventure game centering around a 20-year-old protagonist named Mae who drops out of college to move back in with her parents.

Featuring a story largely based around dialog choices and mini games that put a spin on mundane tasks, like carrying boxes up the stairs and eating perogies, Night in the Woods is a timeless coming-of-age tale. Not only will you experience middle class America through the eyes of a personified cat, but virtually every interaction in-game will have you laughing aloud. And now that it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch on February 1, you’ll be able to take it wherever you go.

If you’re a fan of the recent wave of games inspired by Dark Souls, you’ll absolutely love Hollow Knight. You take control of the Hollow Knight, and lead them through the deceptively adorable landscape to take on bosses and other difficult challenges. Much like Dark Souls, it’s not immediately clear what you’re actually supposed to be doing as the narrative is intentionally obtuse. 

The Dark Souls inspirations don’t end there, however. It also adopts Dark Souls’ ‘tough but fair’ philosophy, where the game is only as hard as you make it – you can overcome anything as long as you have patience and learn from your mistakes. Hollow Knight takes these lessons from Dark Souls and injects them into a MetroidVania, with all the side-scrolling and upgrades you could possibly want. You can even play it on the Nintendo Switch now.

If you’re looking for a game that’s as unforgiving as it is fun, look no further than Dead Cells. It takes gameplay inspiration from so many places – from roguelikes, to MetroidVania to even a hint of Dark Souls, to create a unique action game that will test your limits. 

Each time you play this game, it will be different. And, while you’ll lose some progress each time you die – and you’ll die a lot – the game will become more and more rewarding as the complex and fluid combat becomes second nature. In the final release of the game, you get access to over 90 weapons, skills and abilities that’ll let you tailor your gameplay however you want. 

Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged when you fail. Get up and try again, Dead Cells will only reward you in the end – which is why it’s one of the best indie games 2018 has to offer.

Introversions was one of the earliest 'indie' companies, releasing games like Uplink, Defcon and Darwinia whilst Vlambeer were still in short pants. After years of struggling, they've finally hit a huge success with Prison Architect, a game where you build, staff, outfit and manage a maximum security prison.

With smart prisoners who are willing to do anything to escape, you'll struggle to keep them all inside - or keep them from rioting - and turn a profit. It's still in alpha, but it's eminently playable right now..

While something like Kerbal Space Program can actually take you to the moon, To The Moon is a game about wish fulfillment, and thrives on narrative beauty. If we were to make comparisons to films, Kerbal Space Program is Gravity, The Binding of Isaac is Saw and To the Moon is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

You control two doctors who are exploring a dying man’s memories to implant a false memory so he can die in peace. Which is all depicted in a classic 16-bit Zelda style. It’s a rare, emotional, adult game.

Dwarf Fortress is its own genre, its own industry. This is a game that, before you've even set foot in it, has to generate the entire geography, mythology and history of its massive world. Then it tracks every single one of the dwarfs you're managing down to the hairs on their legs and the particular horrible elephant murder that they witnessed and they're now carving on an ornamental chair.

Your task is to keep the dwarves alive as they carve out their subterranean kingdom - given that insanity, monsters, and starvation plague are thrown at them at every stage that's not easy. And dwarves, always, always mine too deep.

Run. Jump. Die. Repeat. That’s essentially the gameplay loop of Super Meat Boy, a fiendishly addictive 2D platformer that’s also bloody hard, with an emphasis on bloody. Gallons of blood is spilled as the game’s eponymous meaty hero leaps over deadly drops, spinning saws and walking chainsaws in a bid to rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil Dr Foetus. Obviously. Boasting tight controls, plenty of humor and colorful graphics, Super Meat Boy lept onto the PS4 and Vita last year in style – with a Nintendo Switch release coming soon, as well. 

It might not be Playdead’s most recent game, but Limbo is timeless. Even five years after its release, the game’s haunting storyline still affects us. You play the Boy, a child with glowing eyes who’s cast into Limbo to find his sister. Making your way through a bleak and dangerous world full of hostile silhouettes, giant spiders and deadly gravitational fields, you’ll need to think quickly and perfectly time your movements if you’re going to survive.

But Limbo is much more than a simple platformer: it's an experience, and one that has you pondering the very essence of life by the time it's over. Deep, profound and absorbing, it's one indie game everybody should take time out to play.

If you're yearning for a retro-styled multiplayer archery combat game (aren't we all?), TowerFall: Ascension is the pick of the lot. Fast, frenetic and teeth-gnashingly hard in hardcore mode, the game's mechanics are simple: fire arrows at enemies or jump on their heads to stay alive until the round ends.

Arrows that don't hit are embedded in walls, making for tense scenarios when you have to traverse the map while dodging enemies to retrieve them. As such, practicing until you achieve Robin Hood-esque levels of accuracy is recommended. Ascension is best experienced with friends in local multiplayer mode, which recalls Super Smash Bros' most manic moments.

It’s not often that a platformer manages to balance challenging and engaging gameplay with an emotional and thought-provoking narrative, but Celeste pulls it off. From the developers of Towerfall, Celeste follows the story of Madeline, a young girl who decides to face her mental health issues by climbing to the top of the mysterious Celeste Mountain. Ind doing so, she learns more not only about the mountain, but about herself amid the heartwarming process. 

An inevitable classic, Celeste integrates the obvious jump, air-dash and climb controls into a brutal series of platforming challenges in upwards of 700 unique screens. And, if that’s too easy, you’ll unlock B-side chapters along the way, designed for only the bravest of hardcore players. Better yet, you don’t have to worry about waiting an eternity between each respawn. Instead, Celeste brings you back from the grave instantaneously, a welcome departure from the typically extensive load screens.

Admittedly, exclusive indie games always wind up with the short end of the stick. That continues to ring true for Golf Story, an homage to Mario Golf on the Game Boy Color developed by Sidebar Games. As it’s a debut title for the Nintendo Switch, you might have overlooked Golf Story considering it came out on the same day as Stardew Valley, but here’s what you need to know.

You don’t have to obsess over the PGA Tour to get into Golf Story, as you’re likely better off appreciating it for its RPG elements. Substituting combat for an athletic sport, you begin your adventure as a kid who is mentored by his dad before realizing he isn’t very good at golfing, something you’ll have to overcome as you pursue professional golf.

After the raging success that was the original Nidhogg, it’s a shame to see the superior sequel get thrown under the bus. Nevertheless, in spite of its controversial art style, Nidhogg 2 packs a refined, gorgeous look that the first version, a cult-classic, couldn’t even think to compete with. In still frames, we can see how this could get misconstrued, but fortunately, it’s the fun and addictive local multiplayer gameplay that makes Nidhogg, well, Nidhogg. And it’s all there in Nidhogg 2. Plus, every time you respawn, you get one of four unique weapons that only bolster the challenge.

Esteemed indie designer Jon Blow's follow up to Braid may look like an entirely different adventure, being 3D and all, but the two are more thematically alike than you might think. The Witness, at its core, is another puzzle game that tells an interesting story through said puzzles.

This puzzler takes place in an almost equally impressionist – albeit heavily Myst-inspired – world, but it's story is far more nuanced and mysterious than Blow's previous. At almost every corner of this island that you've simply woken up on (or beneath), there is a clue as to how you got onto this island and why you're here.

Don’t get us wrong, we liked Bastion, but we won’t deny that Transistor was SuperGiant Games’ best work to date. Much of that has to do with the convergence of action-based and turn-based RPG elements contained within its cyberpunk futurescape. Likewise, in classic SuperGiant fashion, those mechanics are complemented by a gorgeous art style and a music score so unforgettable it’ll make you want to buy the soundtrack.

Leaving key gameplay beats up to the player, the story isn’t so variable. Transistor’s main character, Red, is a renowned singer in the city of Cloudbank. However, she’s been attacked by a group of vicious robots who call themselves the Process, operated by another group called the Camerata. In her journey, she finds the Transistor, a mysterious sword with the voice of a man. Soon enough, she’ll learn more about him and how he will shake up her world.

It’s weird to think that Oxenfree came out before the first season of Stranger Things, and yet, the two properties coincidentally have a lot in common. The 80s-inspired heavy synth music composed by scntfc, for one, accentuates some truly gripping sci-fi horror centering around – you guessed it – a group of teenagers stuck on an island.

The story involves a handful of uniquely written characters, namely the main character Alex, along with her stoner friend Ren, her newfound stepbrother Jonas, her dead brother Michael’s ex-girlfriend Clarissa and her best friend Nona (who Ren happens to be in love with).

The plot is explained through branching speech dialogue, similar to Life is Strange or modern-day Telltale games, and features five different endings depending on your choices.

Exploring a surreal wilderness seems like quite the trend these days in gaming, and developer Campo Santo's debut only serves to keep it going strong. Set in the wilderness of 1989 Wyoming, you're Henry, a fire lookout that's all alone in the woods after exploring something strange in the distance.

That is, save for your partner on the other line of a walkie-talkie: Delilah. She's your only point of contact as you explore the wilderness. Will you make it back alive? Will the decisions you make help or harm the relationship with your only lifeline to the outside world, your boss? Don't worry about those questions just yet – just look at those forestscapes!

Rust is one of the more successful indie titles of recent times. By the end of 2015 it had sold more than 3 million copies, which isn't too shabby considering it isn't even finished — the game has been on Steam's Early Access scheme since launching in December 2013.

Still, it seems people can't get enough of the Day Z-inspired survival sim. It sees you use your wits and bearings to survive its harsh open world, starting off with nothing but a rock. After gathering resources needed to build a house and weapons to fend off attackers (other online players, in other words), Rust gradually becomes more intense as you defend your growing base — or attempt to breach others'.

Fans of the original Overcooked will not be disappointed by the second installment in the chaotic couch co-op series from British indie game developer Team17.

This time your task is to defeat the 'Un-Bread' (zombie baked goods) that have taken over the Onion Kingdom, by battling through brand new recipes including sushi, pizza, and burgers in increasingly chaotic kitchens with up to three other people.

To add to the frantic fun, you must battle obstacles including random fires, collapsing floors, and interfering passers by, all while getting your orders out to the pass in time. 

Things get complicated incredibly quickly, and relationships, friendships, and family bonds will be tested as you work together to complete your recipes on time, making it a fun and challenging couch co-op game that will make you truly understand the meaning of "too many cooks spoil the broth."

The natural progression of survival games, SCUM takes what both predecessors like Rust and PlayerUnknown’s battlegrounds succeeded at and iterates in impressive ways. And, while it’s still in early access, it offers a unique twist – combining the frenetic gameplay of battle royale games with the slow, thoughtful gameplay of a survival sim. 

SCUM, unlike other similar games, is extremely heavy on the simulation side of things, however. You shouldn’t expect to run in guns blazing, as you’re going to get tired quickly (just as you would if you tried running outside yourself with a ton of stuff in your backpack). But, if heavy statistic systems is something your into, you’ll find a lot to love here. It’s like spreadsheets with a physics engine.

Just don’t go in expecting a polished experience just yet. However, developer Croteam is promising to add more features over time, and as they’re backed by Devolver, you can trust that the game is going to shape up into something great.

Every so often there’s a game that perfectly merges aesthetic, gameplay and narrative – where everything feels like it just, well, fits. The best indie games are always the best at this, and Return of the Obra Dinn is a great example. A mystery taking place on a derelict ship, you’re tasked with figuring out how the crew of this lost ship died, disappeared or worse. 

The entire game has this old-school visual style that, combined with the simple controls and gameplay style make it feel like a nostalgic adventure. Right from the settings menu, you’ll get to choose what kind of monitor you’d like to emulate – we picked an old school Macintosh option – that should give you an idea of the type of retro revivalism on offer here. 

Return of the Obra Dinn is a game that will require critical thinking, exploration and a ton of reading. So, if that all sounds appealing to you, and you’re all good with retro aesthetics, you will find a lot to love – it’s one of the best indie games, in a season marked with AAA decadence.

If you’re anything like us, you’ve spent hundreds of hours playing Roller Coaster Tycoon during your childhood. And, while there have been plenty of amusement park simulators over the last few years, they’ve never quite hit the spot. 

Until now. 

Parkitect is the closest we’ve ever been to those early aughts park simulators, and we’re absolutely in love. From the cartoonish art style to the realistic simulation and Steam Workshop integration, Parkitect is one of the best indie games 2018 has to offer.

For years, thatgamecompany has been behind some of the best indie games on the market, only most of them had been exclusive to PlayStation. One such game was Flower. Serving as kind of a precursor to the beloved Journey, Flower puts you in command of a flower petal, surfing through the wind. 

You’ll activate different colors of flower beds to affect the environment, which will also get you different colored petals, until you have an entire trail of color surfing the wind. It’s an incredibly relaxing and artful experience, and it might just contain a message about the industrial world we all find ourselves living in. Trust us, give it a shot, it’s one of the best and most legendary indie games ever. 

Categories: Tech News

Opera updates Android browser with built-in VPN

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 17:12

In the latest update to its mobile browser, Opera has added a built-in VPN service which is free, unlimited and doesn't require users to login or create an account.

As consumers and businesses alike have grown more concerned about their privacy, the use of virtual private network (VPN) services has grown to over 650m people worldwide according to a GlobalWebIndex estimate.

However, this isn't the first time that Opera has experimented with VPNs. The company launched its own standalone VPN app for Android and iOS in 2016 called Opera VPN and then added VPN capabilities to its desktop browser shortly after that.

Last year, Opera shuttered its VPN app as the company prepared to add VPN functionality to its Android browser.

Free VPN

Free VPNs have come under criticism recently as security flaws were discovered in many free VPN apps on the Google Play Store and this, combined with the fact that the companies running these services are likely selling your usage data to advertisers and other third-parties, could be enough to turn some users off from VPNs entirely.

However, Opera's built-in VPN will be entirely free and the company won't attempt to monetize the service according to its VP of product marketing, Jan Standal who explained this to VentureBeat, saying:

“The service is provided fully free of charge as a unique feature to improve the privacy and security. Opera monetizes from other unrelated mechanisms, and unlike other VPN services, Opera doesn’t depend on monetizing the browser VPN service”

The latest version of Opera, which includes its built-in VPN service, is now available in the Play Store and users that do decided to give it a try can pick a server of their choice from a range of locations to browse the web securely using 256-bit encryption.

Via VentureBeat

Categories: Tech News

Best helpdesk software of 2019

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 15:34

Helpdesk software has become an important part of modern business platforms, not least for integrating with CRM solutions to ensure good productivity and efficiency within a business. This is especially as the larger the business and the larger the customer/client base, the more important it is to manage them effectively.

Automation remains the key for business efficiency, especially for dealing with high volume communications, and helpdesk software aims to help manage the workload. Working with other product platforms, this means that helpdesk software isn't simply a way to receive and response to messages from customers, but can become part of a larger integrated management approach that connects support with sales to better track marketing effectiveness.

However, finding the right helpdesk software for you can become a challenge when there are now so many different options available. Ultimately, your own business will have its own criteria, but no doubt issues such as features, volume handling, integration options, and-of course-cost will likely feature in there.

Here at Techradar we'll try and make it easier for you by highlighting some of the major helpdesk software platforms of note, along with their features, pricing, and any other concerns to consider.

Image Credit: Zendesk

Zendesk Support is a software package that provides organization to put a variety of customer support interactions in one accessible database. It has the features for an efficient workflow, including web widgets, the ability to search a customer’s history, and predefined ticket responses. Another standout feature is integrated surveys for customer satisfaction ratings, combined with analytics and performance dashboards to track ongoing performance. Zendesk support also works with other pieces of the Zendesk software family, such as Zendesk Talk, which is their call center offering.  

There are five main paid tiers for Zendesk: Essential, Team, Professional, Enterprise, and Elite. As expected, this come with an increase in both pricing and features. However, there is a free trial to use Zendesk, so you can get an idea of what actual level you may need for you business. The basic Essential plan is charged at $5 per agent per month, which allows for email and social channels, pre-defined business rules, and interaction history. The mid-range Professional plan is charged at $49 per agent per month and allows for custom business rules, performance dashboards, integrations, multilingual content, and CSAT surveys.

Image Credit: Freshdesk

Freshdesk is helpdesk software that has a number of features to foster efficiency of workflow based around the tickets created. These include a team inbox to manage incoming tickets from several channels to one location, the ability to designate and create custom ticket statuses that work for your organization, canned responses to common trouble issues, and a team huddle to bring in expertise on more complicated challenges. This software can also integrate information from multiple channels including email, phone, social media and chat.  

There are trials for each of the tiers, and the lowest tier, Sprout, is available for free. The next rung up is Blossom, which goes for $15 per agent per month billed annually, and adds satisfaction surveys, time tracking and an advanced social channel. 

Image Credit: Zoho

Zoho Desk is the cloud-based, helpdesk software offering that focuses on being context aware. It includes features such as prioritization of higher importance or overdue tickets, dashboards to track quality metrics, and the support to create a Knowledge Base for simpler issues that can be self-serviced. Zoho Desk can be used by agents with mobile apps for iOS and Android. Support for using Zoho Desk is provided via a number of avenues, including active user forums, a webinar series, a self-service portal, a user guide, and blogs, but live chat requires the top plan, and no plan has direct phone support.  

Unlike their competitors, a strong point of Zoho Desk is their simplified number of tiers which is only three, with the bottom being a free plan with a reasonable limit of three users, and the availability of free 15 day trials for the other tiers. Their most popular plan is the middle Professional Plan, which includes “Customer Happiness Ratings,” and cloud telephony for an affordable $12 per agent per month billed annually.

Even their uppermost Enterprise Plan, which adds custom ticket templates, role based access control, cross department reports and the previously mentioned live chat support option goes for a competitive $25 per agent per month billed annually, less than most other top tier plans. 

Image Credit: Kayako

Kayako is a helpdesk software offering that focuses on ease to use, and fosters a personal conversation with the customer. It is used by household name companies such as FedEx, Toshiba, Peugeot and General Electric.

Standout features include support for the creation of multiple help centers each with their own content (termed Multibrand), live chat support, canned responses for common questions, support for SLA’s, and the ability to automate the workflow with smart business rules. There is also dashboard to track quality metrics including customer satisfaction, and custom reports can also be created.  

Pricing is based on a three tier model: Inbox, Growth, and Enterprise with free trials available. The lowest plan, Inbox, starts at $15 per agent per month, billed annually. 

Image Credit: Jira

Jira Service Desk, from Atlassian, takes a ‘modern approach’ to helpdesk software, with an uncluttered, and simple to use interface. Standout features include integration with over 600 other platforms such as Slack via available Service Desk apps. The Jira Service Desk can be used via mobile platform apps, and notable customers include Twitter, Sotheby’s and Spotify.  

On the one hand, Jira Service Desk has the shortest trial of our offerings here, only seven days, and no available free tier at the lowest end. However, their bottom tier offering starts at a monthly flat fee of $10 monthly, and covers up to three agents, and the next step up covers up to 15 agents for $20 per agent per month, with a custom discounted price for 16 agents or more - with the same feature set across all the plans. For those looking to commit to a year long subscription, they will get two months of service for free making this an even a better deal. 

Image Credit: NinjaRMM

Other helpdesk software to consider

NinjaRMM is a cloud-based helpdesk solution that allows you to monitor everything in real-time. The GUI is simple and easy to use, which can make the learning curve in setting up, using, and customizing short and sweet. The developers are also proactively adding additional features, not least to increase the number of available integrations and improving the available toolkit.

AgilSoft is another helpdesk option that aims to streamline operations and efficiency, and make actionable insights more easily available. It's a very scalable solution but also offers some very good pricing options. AgilSoft have been a market leader since the 1990's, and the latest offering is slick and easy to both understand and use.

Freshservice is another option worth considering, that offer's multi-channel support as part of an integration IT solution for communications. Incident management, asset management, release management, and service catalogue are all brought together in an easy-to-use interface which has plenty of automated features. 

Samanage also aims to make it easier to manage customer communications and integrate IT operations to serve them, with a focus on automating basic tasks and simplifying complex ones. As a service desk it aims to make incident and IT asset management work seamlessly.

Categories: Tech News

Best presentation software of 2019

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 15:15

If there’s one type of software that’s been around for decades, it’s presentation packages. Systems for creating and displaying professional-grade slides have been available since the 1980s, and they’ve become a standard in the business world.

Of course, presentation software has come a long way since then, and modern apps give users the ability to create, edit, format and present some pretty stunning slideshows capable of really wowing an audience, complete with animations and embedded videos.

A good presentation program will provide you with all the tools you need to generate and manipulate graphics, and the main aim is that users are able to present their ideas effectively to other people – and do so with pizzazz.

There’s nothing worse than having to sit through a mundane, or possibly even boring presentation. Fortunately, these apps generally include stock themes and easy ways of personalising slides to make them interesting and attractive.

Microsoft PowerPoint is the most notable presentation software, of course, but it’s been covered to the nth degree (if you want to read up on it, check out our Office 365 review). You will, naturally, do fine with PowerPoint, but there are plenty of other great options out there – and here are five of the best.

Image Credit: CustomShow

Branding says a lot about a business, and it’s something firms need to get right from day one – from a good logo to a suitable font. CustomShow is business presentation software that puts all these elements of branding first.

Using the system, you can design and present customised, branded presentations that reflect your company and the products you offer, featuring the aforementioned logo and custom fonts. As well as this, you get a slide library and analytics to ensure your presentations are a success.

What’s more, you can import presentations into the software, and use it to tweak them further. There’s also integration with SalesForce, and because the platform is cloud-based, you can access your presentations on computers, tablets and smartphones. Considering the focus on branding, this offering could be good for marketing and sales teams, and it's used by major companies such as HBO and CBS Interactive.

Image Credit: Corel

Just like CustomShow, ClearSlide has a niche focus for companies. The platform is targeted at firms looking to generate successful marketing campaigns, pushing sales via presentations (and more), not least through a range of analytics and metrics to work for sales and marketing. Late in 2017, ClearSlide joined the Corel Corporation.

Previously, ClearSlide bought SlideRocket (a few years ago) and has integrated its presentation might into a wider sales engagement platform. With the product, you can upload a range of files, including PowerPoint, Keynote, PDF and Excel. ClearSlide is integrated with other platforms, including Google Drive, Dropbox and Salesforce.

This system is pretty complex and may offer too many irrelevant features for some businesses, but you can create customised content that reflects your company and the message you’re trying to get out to customers. There are also some good metrics and analysis features, and you can sign up for a free trial before making any decisions.

The real strength of ClearSlide comes from its focus on sales and marketing data, not least being able to track user engagement alongside other metrics. Pricing starts at $35 per user per month (when billed annually), but there are additional tiers that introduce more features and expanded limits for a higher cost.

Image Credit: Haiku Deck

Any presentation app will allow you to personalise your slides to at least some extent, but Haiku Deck goes one step further than the competition. It comes with a wide range of themes suited to different needs, and you also get access to 40 million free images from the Creative Commons collection.

When it comes to creating a presentation, you have the option to do so on the web, which means your presentation is accessible across the range of mobile devices as well as desktops. Regardless of the device used, you’re able to select from a variety of different fonts, layouts and filters to make the perfect presentation.

The great thing about these various customisation options is that they’re categorised into different industries and use-cases. For instance, you’ll find themes for teaching, cooking, real-estate and startups. Most of the features require you to be online, but hopefully you’ll have a sturdy net connection wherever you go.

Pricing for a regular Pro account is $9.99 per month when billed annually. However, if you only need Haiku Deck for the short-term, then it costs $19.99 per month you use it.

Image Credit: SlideDog

It’s all too easy to end up creating a presentation that’s unappealing, and the last thing you want to do is make the audience fall asleep. SlideDog lets you combine almost any type of media to create a rich presentation that’s sure to keep the viewers’ peepers open, avoiding the ‘cookie cutter’ look that makes presentations seem dull.

Marketed as a web-based multimedia presentation tool, it gives you the ability to combine PowerPoint presentations, graphics, PDF files, Prezi presentations, web pages, pictures, videos and movie clips. You can drag these into custom playlists and display them to your audience with ease.

You’re able to remotely control your presentations and playlists from your smartphone, the web or a secondary computer, and there’s also the option to share slides in real-time. Audience members can even view your slide from their own devices by clicking a link. That’s a handy feature if you’re looking to create an immersive presentation experience.

SlideDog is probably the cheapest of the presentation software featured, with a free account that will cover the essential features. However, for live sharing and premium support you can upgrade to a SlideDog Pro account for $99 per year, which is still a discount on most similar platforms.

Image Credit: Prezi

Prezi Business is one of the more unique presentation tools. Instead of presenting your graphics and text in a slide-to-slide format, you can create highly visual and interactive presentation canvases with the goal of “emphasizing the relationship between the ideas”.

Presentations can also be tailored to the specific audience, as this is a flexible platform that’s capable of skipping ahead, or veering off into a side topic, without having to flip through all the slides to get to a particular bit.

For business users, there are a variety of handy tools available. By downloading Prezi Business, you can build and edit presentations with your colleagues in real-time, which is perfect for companies with teams based around the globe.

When you have created a presentation you’re happy with, you can present it live (in HD) and send a direct link to viewers. There are some analysis tools here, too – you can see who’s accessed your presentation, which parts of it, and for how long. The app is available for Mac and Windows devices.

If you'd prefer the Prezi Business conversational approach to presentations, there are three tiers available. Standard, for personal use, is priced at $7 per month, whereas for more features you can go for the Plus package at $19 per month, or Premium for $59 per month.

Other presentation software to consider

Google Slides is part of the G Suite of office tools intended as an online alternative to Microsoft Office. It may seem a little limited by comparison to Powerpoint, but as it's browser-based that means cross-platform compatibility. Additionally, it allows for collaborative work, and Google Slides really works well here. On top of the fact that it integrates with the rest of the G Suite apps, not least G Drive, and you have a contender.

Zoho Show is another of the many, many tools and apps that Zoho have made available for business use. It also operates in the cloud so it's accessible to any device with a browser, and it also allows for collaborative work. You can also easily share the link for users to download, or provide a live presentation online. The updated version has a simpler and easier to use interface, and comes with a free version and a paid-for one with expanded features.

Slides comes with a lot of features in an easy to use interface, and involves setting up presentations using drag and drop into an existing grid. It's also internet-based so there's no software to download, and it only requires a browser to use and access. Pricing starts at $5 per user per month, and comes with 1GB of online backup storage and the ability to export to PDF. Collaborative options become available with the Pro plan at $10 per month, with unlimited available in the Team plan at $20 per month.

Evernote is normally thought of as just note-taking software, but it does provide the option to create a presentation you can share online or with an audience. In that regard it's a little more limited than the other options in not being dedicated presentation software. However, as an easy and handy way to pull together a presentation quickly it could serve as a back-up or last-minute option, especially if Evernote is already being commonly used by you.

LibreOffice Impress is part of the open-source suite offered as a free alternative to Microsoft Office, and comes with a powerful array of tool and editing options for your presentation, not least working with 3D images. It's supported by a large community, so its easy to find an array of additional templates. If there is a limitation it's that it's software you download and install rather than web-based, but any presentations created should be easily portable to the web if needed.

Keynote by Apple is the proprietary alternative for Microsoft Office, provided free on the Mac and for iOS. It's a simple to use and as expected has some really neat design features, not least through its use of animations. You can also use your iPhone as a remote when making presentations in person.

Adobe Spark does things a bit differently, as rather than just use images its geared toward video as well. This makes for potentially more powerful multimedia presentations, especially as Adobe also have a big selection of photos and images available for its users. There is a free tier for core features, but requires a subscription of $9.99 for custom branding, personalized themes, and support.

Categories: Tech News

Best Microsoft Office alternatives in 2019

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 14:59

While Microsoft Office dominates the productivity app sector there are many flexible alternatives. In this guide, you'll learn more about some of them.

Many free and open source suites such as LibreOffice support the Open Document Format, which is used by the UK government. Open standards are useful as when developers discontinue software, users may not be able to access documents stored in a proprietary format. This has happened in the past to former users of Microsoft Works.

If you manage an organisation, you may be unable to pay for MS Office software licenses for every machine. For this reason all the products discussed here are available free of charge, or offer a free tier such as WPS Office.

Some of the tools in this guide also incorporate useful features not found in Microsoft Office, like converting PDFs to DOC format. All of the suites listed below can both open and save Microsoft Office documents such as DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Image Credit: SoftMaker

If you are looking for a free and easy alternative to Microsoft Office, then FreeOffice is the suite for you. The company, SoftMaker, has been developing office software since 1987 and its office suite is their flagship product.

FreeOffice is a complete office suite that is free to use for both home and in the workplace. It is developed for both Windows and Linux, and offers a basic version for Android users.

The suite itself is fully compatible with all Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats. This means that you can not only view but save files in formats such as DOCX, XLSX and PPTX. It also supports older file types such as PPT and XLS.

The new interface that was launched this year gives you the option of either working with modern or classic menus and toolbars. This makes switching from Microsoft Office easy to do as the interface is eerily similar.

For those users who have the luxury of a touchscreen PC you can use touch mode with larger icons. This mode is available for both the newer version look and the classic menu-based interface.

In order to download FreeOffice you must register an account via the website first. The download link will then become available.

Image Credit: The Document Foundation

LibreOffice is the offspring of The Document Foundation and split from OpenOffice in 2010. The suite itself is free and open source, and is made up of a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software, and is available in 110 languages.

While LibreOffice uses the ODF (OpenDocument) format it still supports a range of other format types such as those used in Microsoft Office. LibreOffice is the default suite for most Linux distros and it is also available for use on Windows and macOS. There's also a LibreOffice viewer for Android.

As with most open source software all your technical support comes from online, but seeing how easy this is to use, support will be rarely needed. The platform also offers the option to export your files into PDF format amongst others.

You can add extra features to LibreOffice via extensions from its website. These include extra templates for documents.

While still a smaller download size than Microsoft Office, LibreOffice weighs in at 228MB so is still a fairly large suite to install.

One of the criticisms that has been noted in relation to LibreOffice is that if you create a document within its word processor and then open it within a Word document, it may interfere with fonts and formatting.

Image Credit: Kingsoft

WPS Office was released in 2016 by Chinese software developer Kingsoft. It is an office suite that is available for Windows, Linux, Android and iOS. The suite is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Russian.

It offers a free and a premium tier. The free tier allows you to use Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets, which are alternatives to the Microsoft Office suite which it also resembles closely. WPS offers a PDF to Word converter which is fast and easy to use. It supports bulk exportation and can also split-merge PDF files if needed.

The suite offers 1GB of free cloud storage for iOS and PC users, but this service is not yet available for Android.

The 'Premium' tier is $29.99 per year and allows the user to connect up 9 devices at once. It also gets rids of all those annoying adverts that are commonplace on the free tier.

WPS has been criticised for not allowing collaboration beyond those that track changes and allow users to insert comments. Users have also said that the interface can be quite slow at times when it comes to loading documents. Linux users have mentioned that not all fonts are automatically included and that they have to be installed separately.

For Android users installation is quite large and criticism has been levelled imploring the developer to make it more lightweight.

Image Credit: Apple

iWork is Apple's alternative to Microsoft Office. It consists of Pages, Keynote and Numbers. These are broadly equivalent to Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It is exclusive to macOS for a local install, but there are versions on the cloud that can be enjoyed by users of other platforms.

iWork is much more lightweight than MS Office and this would suit most users. There are a lot of features in MS Office that the majority of users do not even know exist nevermind actually use. That might be a pro for power users but many users may just want a straightforward interface with only a few tabs to choose features from. This is where iWork comes in.

iWork is free and can be downloaded from the App Store on your Mac. There are three separate apps, each for word processing, preparing presentations and for creating spreadsheets. Numbers, Apple's spreadsheet alternative, offers a blank canvas for you to begin on rather than showing a daunting grid view on your spreadsheet. It takes away that feeling of it being a ledger and it is very easy to use and add images, tables and charts as you go.

The word processor, Pages, is very simple and is perfect for straightforward documents, and it is not inundated with the layers of options that exist within MS Word. Pages also allows users to collaborate on their work and has now added a feature that supports EPUB, which can be created and shared to iBooks if you see fit to do so.

The presentation app, Keynote, has been referred to as the better alternative to PowerPoint by online users as it is easy to use. It creates beautiful presentations without the hassle that can be associated with PowerPoint.

MS Office may not be able to open documents created in iWork, but all iWork applications can export to other formats that are compatible with other suites.

Image Credit: KDE

Calligra Office suite was initially released in October 2000 as part of KOffice. It is an office suite developed by KDE as well as being suitable to use for graphic art design. It is available on Linux, macOS, Windows and Android.

Calligra is a free and open source software suite and can be downloaded directly from its own website or from KDE's downloads page. It is completely distinct from LibreOffice.

While LibreOffice has the familiar look and feel of MS Office, Calligra does not. A lot of the useable features tabs are set on the right-hand side of the screen and not on the top like MS Office and other office suites. This means that the page you are currently editing does not take up the full screen.

One of the extra features that makes Calligra stand out is that it offers a mind-mapping and project managing tool. Usually these cost extra.

Calligra allows you to read DOCX and DOX formats but you cannot edit them. This can cause difficulties if your contacts send you Microsoft Office documents, so ask them to use a different format such as ODT (Open Document Text) instead.

Image Credit: MobiSystems

OfficeSuite is an application that was developed by MobiSystems and is available for Android, iOS and Windows. Devices that are made by Amazon, Toshiba, Sony and Alcatel come with OfficeSuite pre-installed. The Android app has been named amongst the top applications for business.

You can synchronize between devices using your OfficeSuite account and only one license is needed for all your devices.

It has several tiers to choose from. The 'Basic' tier is free and allows users to view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. The suite has full compatibility with most formats such as ODT, RTF, CSV, DOC, and ZIP. The free tier also enables users to view PDF documents and offers cloud support via services like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive.

The 'Personal' tier enables the suite on one desktop, one tablet and one phone. This tier costs $29.99. It has all the free tier has to offer along with the ability to track changes, export PDF's to other editable formats and advanced PDF features such as digital signatures and passwords. The 'Group' tier is $49.99 per year and allows you to use across five desktops, five tablets and 5 phones. The 'Business' tier offers up to 100 licenses for $3.99 per user per month.

OfficeSuite has received much praise online but it has also been criticised for pushing users to purchase premium subscriptions.

Image Credit: Polaris

Polaris Office is developed by Intraware and was initially released in March 2014. It is a free office suite that is available for Android, iOS, Windows and macOS. It appears to be a popular suite amongst businesses and is used by the likes of Amazon and Samsung.

While the free version is very generous there is a business version to which you can upgrade. To enquire about the cost, you will need to send Polaris a 'Purchase Query form' which can be found on their website.

With this powerful suite you can edit many different file formats including PPT, XLS, DOCX and HWP. As your account synchronizes amongst your devices you will be able to edit and create from wherever you are. All your data is secured by AWS (Amazon Web Services).

With the latest edition of Polaris you can now convert and edit PDF documents. Users can also convert voice and image files to documents if the need arises.

The suite supports several different languages such as French, German, Korean, English and Russian.

The only real criticism there is of Polaris is that while the free edition offers a huge range of features the ads can be a little distracting at times.

Image Credit: Ascensio Systems SIA 

OnlyOffice is an open source office suite developed by Ascensio Systems SIA. It is available in over 22 languages and boasts of Oracle being one of their leading clients.

The completely free version, known as the 'Community Edition' is most suited for small business and allows up to 20 connections at once. This suite does not just offer the usual features such as word processing or spreadsheets but is very useful in relation to order fulfilment and for documenting sales.

The handy calendar feature allows user to keep up to date with personal and work-related tasks as well as keeping an eye on deadlines. Third party integration is also supported. You can create your own Mailboxes with the 'Mail' tool.

As with other office suites there is the ability to create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Users can collaborate on projects and make comments in files where necessary.

Users have reported that support can be hard to find and that the online chat forum community that is used to provide help can be a bit tricky to navigate.

Image Credit: Corel

WordPerfect was developed by Corel nearly 40 years ago and is available on Windows only. It was most popular in the 80's where it was known for its DOS and Microsoft Windows versions. It was soon eclipsed by Microsoft Office upon its release.

It is an all-in-one office suite. The standard edition costs $432 for the full version. It offers its own word processor, spreadsheet program and a slideshow creator.  The latest version now includes improved photo-editing and management. WordPerfect offer a free trial version which you can download from the main site.

Like other suites it can save to many different formats such as DOCX, PDF and HTML. The common file extensions for WordPerfect files is WPD. It also offers ebooks publishing and macro management.

The PDF feature gives users the ability to edit and fill in forms via PDF, as well as change the form's appearance e.g. font/color. WordPerfect supports opening multiple documents at one time.

Online reviews have critiqued the UI saying that it is not user-friendly and it can cause problem with fonts. You also sometimes have to delve into the manual to fix problems which would not be an issue if using MS Word.

Image Credit: Apache

Apache OpenOffice (AOO) is an open source office suite that is available across all platforms. With over 20 years of development behind it, the suite is a consistent all-round performer.

Like LibreOffice, OpenOffice uses the Open Document format (ODF). It can view and edit a large number of other file types, particularly MS Office files. OpenOffice cannot save or edit documents using the open XML format e.g. DOCX. You can however open these files and save them as a different format.

As it is an open source suite anyone who has the know-how can suggest improvements or fix any bugs. As with other open source applications it has a great online community who are always willing to lend a hand to other users.

While the formula tool, Math, has the basic features needed to calculate equations, it is not for advanced users. OpenOffice has the option to create basic presentations through Impress, but there are very few design templates compared to PowerPoint.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Other Microsoft Office alternatives to consider

While most people are used to paying for their office software, as above there are also a number of free alternatives to Microsoft Office. Below we'll continue this list with some more free office software applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.

G Suite aka Google Docs, Sheets and Slides is a free office software platform from Google. While the G Suite of office software applications don't yet have the reputation for user features that Microsoft Office enjoys, Google do throw in some nice additional ones. For example, Google Docs in G Suite allows for group collaboration on documents, a feature that normally comes with a premium price from Microsoft. Additionally, the G Suite apps save everything to the cloud using G Drive, so your documents can be easily synced between any device. Perhaps even better, as G Suite runs as a web application rather than downloaded software, it means it's accessible for any device giving it a cross-platform advantage. There are professional and business upgrade options from the basic platform, available from $5 per month for the Professional edition, and for business users it is priced at $10.

Microsoft Teams is a free office suite from Microsoft, which offers basic versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote from the Office 365 suite. Everything is run online from Microsoft's cloud, Sky Drive, with up to 2GB of storage per user. Surprisingly, there are also collaborative options available, so don't think you need the premium Office 365 suite for business use. Unsurprisingly, though, Microsoft is keen to push on Office 365 as an upgrade, available at $5 per user per month for the Business Essentials package, and $12.50 for the Business Premium package and features.

Zoho Office is another office suite worth considering as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Although it gets less press, Zoho Office is a pretty competent software suite, and includes word processing as Zoho Writer, spreadsheets as Zoho Sheets, and presentations through Zoho Show. All of the applications are run online through the cloud, and there are also collaborative options. Pricing is free for individuals and small team of up to 25 people, though there are business Standard and Premium upgrades available starting from less than $5 per user per month.

Categories: Tech News

The new AirPods aren't really the AirPods 2, are they?

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 14:53

I was 'lucky' enough to be one of those to get their hands on the first AirPods when they launched in 2016.

I landed back in the UK from the Apple launch, and had to head straight to an event where there would be many music journalists present. I popped them in on the street, and was instantly embarrassed by what people would be thinking about me.

That's because, from the second they were launched, the internet went bonkers, highlighting how stupid they thought the concept was. 'They look like toothbrush heads!' was the kindest comparison people were making. (One of my friends was less kind, suggesting something untoward was dribbling from me ear.)

At the event, multiple members of the music press were intrigued, trying to work out whether these new headphones from a brand like Apple were any good. 

Remember, true wireless headphones were in their infancy at this point, the Cupertino brand forced to bring out something flagship to offset the loss of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7.

Fast forward a couple of years, and it seems like every third person is wearing them. The high-quality microphones are good enough to have a conversation on the phone with. The pillbox-like carry case is instantly recognizable. 

Society has accepted people wearing AirPods readily - a complete change from the eyes I felt boring into me when I wore the wireless headphones outside for the first time.

Enough of a change?

So here we are, on March 20 2019, with new AirPods, two and a half years after the first iteration came out. We've been watching the interest in 'AirPods 2' steadily rise for the last year or so, as people wonder when Apple is going to bring out the new and improved versions of one of its most popular products.

After all, this is a brand that's made its name on a phone that gets refreshed every year without fail - so while there's not been any real need to bring out new versions of the white headphones, people have been wondering when they'll be appearing, in line with their annual expectations for new hardware.

Now that we've finally got new versions, there will be some who are disappointed in the lack of huge upgrade - it's iterative, rather than relaunching the concept with all new features. They're the AirPods S, rather than the AirPods 2.

(At this point I just want to say yes, we are calling them AirPods 2 in our coverage - but that's how they're being spoke of colloquially, and it's the simplest way to differentiate at the moment).

There's clearly a space that an 'enhanced' set of AirPods could move into.

Apple's had over two years to noodle away at its wireless earbuds, and what it's brought is a more advanced chipset inside for better battery life and connectivity, a wireless case and a pervasive Siri assistant that can be chatted to without physical touch.

That's not really a sequel, is it? It seems to be that this is a stopgap upgrade, something that keeps the headphones performing closer to the competition while doing enough to keep consumers interested.

If we follow the model of the phone launches, it means that Apple is likely holding something back for the launch of the 'true' sequel, the real AirPods 2 that cost more but offer real material upgrades. When the iPhone 6S emerged looking similar to the iPhone 6, the world wondered what the iPhone 7 might bring in terms of big changes.

If you look at the rest of the true wireless earbud market, you're seeing either a race to the bottom in terms of cost, or more features being thrust in: accelerometers, gyroscopes, heart rate monitors, longer battery life and enhanced sound quality to complement the innovative idea of no wires in sight.

Apple is clearly aware of this if the patents it's filing are anything to go by: cancelling vibrations when talking on noise-cancelling headphones, and biometric / fitness monitoring added into the mix to really enhance what Apple's headphones can actually do. 

There's the interest there, the desire to research making headphones that offer more than just the capability to listen to music and answer calls without needing to whip out the phone.

Image credit: Apple

That's where the feeling that Apple is holding back is coming from - you'd expect that if there were, truly, a sequel unleashed on the world that there would be a few more tweaks added in.

The biometric tracking would make the AirPods great for fitness - they're already loved by many for running and workouts thanks to shedding the wires, but they're not the most snug of fits so an enhanced grip would be really beneficial.

Like the Apple Watch 2, the desire to create something for the fitness fans can often come a bit later - there was no need to avoid GPS in the first iteration of the Watch, but it offered a timely and useful upgrade when it launched in later models.

New colors would be a nice touch, and an improved audio experience seems a nailed-on upgrade that everyone would enjoy - the fact we haven't had any word from Apple about the improvements to the sound quality on the new AirPods speaks volumes.

With two years to develop, as well as integrating the Beats team into its research and development team, you'd expect rapid audio improvements, but Apple is perfectly content with the output from its AirPod range - again, it would be something to add into the 'proper' AirPods 2 (or AirPods Series 2 as they could well be called).

All that would just be Apple doing what the rest of the market is attempting to achieve - it doesn't even take into account the possibility of what one of the world's largest companies could do to push the envelope of the wireless earbud. A set of AirPods that connects via its own data connection to Apple Music, anyone?

There's clearly a space that an 'enhanced' set of AirPods could move into - so the fact Apple hasn't done so means the AirPods 2 looks nailed on for the future.

So when?

Well, we've covered the various rumors surrounding the AirPods since before the first models were announced, and noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that 'a major upgrade' is on the way in 2020.

He predicted the latest upgrade would be minor with wireless charging, so it seems pretty likely that a larger change would be about a year away.

If that's the case then that's when we'd expect the AirPods to be upgraded with biometric sensors and a better sound quality, along with a more robust fit.

Given the AirPods are relatively crucial to many Apple products (the Apple Watch, the jack-less iPhones and even the MacBook range all use their seamless pairing to make the AirPods the easiest on-brand headphones for Apple lovers to use) it makes sense that Apple would keep plugging away at improving them.

So if you were looking forward to the Apple AirPods 2, then the recent launch might not actually be for you. The new AirPods 2019 are certainly an upgrade, but if you're looking for a true, material upgrade for Apple's stem-toting headphones, then that could well be coming down the line.

Categories: Tech News

Best office suite for Android in 2019

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 14:51

While Microsoft has released Android versions of its Office apps, there are plenty of other choices available for users who might prefer less space-hungry suites.

Google's own productivity apps such as Sheets and Docs are built for Android and take up less space. However, they sometimes lack advanced functions, such as the ability to export documents in a specific format. Some users also have privacy concerns about storing personal files in the cloud.

In this guide you will discover five excellent office suites for Android, which you can download today from the Google Play store. Some of these – such as SmartOffice – are designed to mimic Microsoft products as closely as possible. Others such as Quip are not concerned with imitation and use their own interface.

Whichever office suite you choose, remember to make regular backups of any documents you create in case you lose your Android device.

Image Credit: Google

Quip is an online collaborative software suite that is available on Android devices. The company was founded in 2012 by Bret Taylor, who was a former Facebook CTO, in conjunction with Kevin Gibbs, founder of the Google App Engine.

The main features of Quip are the spreadsheet and word processing functions which allow online collaboration as well as alterations on the corresponding Android apps. All members of the group can view and edit documents at the same time and also have the ability to add comments if need be. Quip also has its own chat rooms and it is used by major players such as Amazon and Dell.

Quip offers a free tier, although it’s based on the activity of the user, rather than on the number of days you use it for. So, the more you make use of it, the more free time you will receive.

The paid tier is $30 per month based on a team of five and costs an extra $10 per month for each additional member you want to add. This enables you to use spreadsheets, chat and Live Apps such as a Calendar. If you need assistance there is also excellent support available. The app allows you to work offline and sync documents when you are next online.

Some online reviews have criticized Quip's ability to load PDF documents saying that it is limited and sometimes can be time consuming. Further note that the app only supports a limited number of import/export formats.

Image Credit: Google

DataViz, the company that established Docs to Go, started off with a product that connected Macs and PCs together. Docs to Go was subsequently created for BlackBerry and is now a multi-platform app.

The Android app allows users to view Adobe PDF and Microsoft Office files. From here you can edit and create Excel, PowerPoint and Word files, all in the palm of your hand. Docs to Go has many formatting tools, such as word count, tables, font color and the ability to track changes.

There's a free and premium version of the app. Both support editing and formatting within the app, along with advanced Excel support. Some features such as cloud services, desktop sync, and password-protected file support require in-app purchases of between $5.99 and $14.99. Both the free and premium applications are optimized for use on a tablet with portrait and landscape views.

Docs to Go has its own versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. These are known as Word to Go, Sheet to Go and Slideshow to Go. The only criticism the solution seems to receive is that PDF files tend to cause the app to crash, with folks being advised to stick with a separate PDF viewer for this purpose.

Image Credit: Google

SmartOffice claims to offer the most accurate representation of Microsoft Office products that can be seen on a mobile app. It is one of the few free office suite solutions for Android out there. The company used to have a paid product, but in recent times has got rid of that to offer this free version, which comes with all the features needed to make a truly innovative app.

As the official Microsoft Office apps can take up a lot of storage space, this app is perfect for space-constrained users, as it only utilizes 16MB. The user interface is straightforward and simple to use, too.

The app offers password protection so that you have extra security when saving any documents you have been working on. Users can edit and share Microsoft documents easily and efficiently, plus all files can be converted to a PDF if needed. Documents can be opened and saved online with access to the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive.

SmartOffice supports several image formats such as PNG, JPG, GIF, TIFF and BMP. Wireless printing is also supported. It is compatible with all versions of Word since 1997 and supports over 37 different languages. The only real criticism of this suite is that the copy and paste options appear to be needlessly complicated, and as such, can take a while to figure out.

Image Credit: Google

WPS Office is an office suite developed by Chinese software outfit Kingsoft. The Android version was released in 2014 and weighs in at 38MB. The app is free to download but in-app purchases can be made and these range from $0.99 to $29.99. The suite comprises of WPS Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheet.

The WPS PDF reader has the ability to convert PDF to WPS and is able to read Adobe PDF files. The app supports a number of file types such as DOC, RTF, DOT, PPTX, TXT and HTML amongst others. All documents are fully compatible with Microsoft Office and Google Docs.

The app allows you to securely encrypt your files with passkeys, and you can edit your documents without fear of losing your work thanks to the auto-save option. Features include the ability to track changes, comments, and run spell checks.

Another handy feature supported by the app is the ability to present documents straight from your smartphone (or tablet) to a compatible TV or projector. WPS for Android also supports 47 different languages.

The downside here is that if you’re not a paid user, you get shown adverts, and they are seemingly quite intrusive.

Image Credit: Google

OfficeSuite was first released as a mobile app in 2004 on Palm OS, where it was mainly read-only until 2009. At this time Sony requested an Android version within a very short time span of 12 weeks. This was achieved and OfficeSuite for Android was born. The product is now a fully featured cross-platform productivity suite.

Although OfficeSuite is free to download, there are in-app purchases from anywhere between $1.49 - $49.99 per item. A Personal use subscriptions costs $29.99 a year, with a Group option for work charged at $49.99 for up to five people. A Business tier charges $3.99 per user per month.

If you purchase the Pro version you won't be forced to make certain in-app purchases (for example, paying for extra fonts), but you can still make purchases if you wish.

This suite is also fully compatible with a large number of file formats such as ODT, PDF, RTF, TXT and CSV. However, the free app is inundated with ads. Further note that you will need to upgrade to the premium version if you want to open certain file types such as ODT.

The OfficeSuite Drive allows you to store up to 5GB of files in the cloud. The new Chats feature helps co-workers to collaborate and swap documents online. The app is fully compatible with all Microsoft documents and boasts support for PDF files with features such as camera scanning and PDF exports.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Other Android office suites to consider

We've covered just a few of the office apps for Android above, but there are plenty more to consider. Here we'll add a few more than are also worth thinking about:

G Suite has already been briefly mentioned in the introduction, and while there are limitations to Google Docs and other apps in the G Suite compared to other offerings, it's still worth considering. This is not least because of the integration between the different Google apps and other Google services, not least GMail and G Drive (aka Google Drive) which means it provides a decent if sometimes basic all-in-one office software solution. Perhaps the bigger sell is the collaborative functions that are available to use across G Suite, which could make them ideal for small teams. Available as a web application via the G Suite website, or as an app for Android such as Google Docs the G Suite is worth considering as a personal or business solution.

Polaris Office is another big office software suite, providing word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations in a single app for Android. Advertised as an All-in-One Complete Office Suite, it's compatible with Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat files. In fact, it has a decent list of file types it can work with, not least DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, PPS, PPSX, TXT, HWP, ODT as well as PDF. Even better, it's free, though it is advertising-driven and in-app purchases are available to both remove the apps as well as expand the available feature list.

Zoho Sheet is just one of a large number of apps from the Zoho Corporation for office and business use, all of which should integrate easily with one another. As with some of the above, collaborative working is available on shared documents. Not only is Zoho Sheet free, it also works easily with Excel files for creating, editing, and saving.

AndrOpen Office works with the OpenDocument format and advertises itself as 'the world's first porting of OpenOffice for Android'. As with other office suites, it provides a platform for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, but also comes with a drawing feature as well as a math editor. AndrOpen Office certainly contains a lot of features and is compatible with a huge range of file types that most other applications can't touch, so for accessibility it's definitely a winner.

Thinkfree Office viewer is another one worth mentioning, as it's built to work with a lot of different file types for viewing, editing, and saving. The main focus is on accessibility through cross platform use. At 26 MB it's also a small file to download, no doubt to the simplicity of interface to make editing documents easy. The app is free to download, though there are in-app purchases available for additional features.

Microsoft Office remains the standard by which most other office software platforms compete against, and Microsoft Word is no different. While we've mainly focused on alternative's to Microsoft's flagship productivity software for office, some people will always find it difficult to transition to new and different software platforms. At least Microsoft provides free apps of its office software for Android, not least Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for those who would rather not change, at least yet. And if nothing else, you could always upgrade to Microsoft Office 365 if you'd prefer to pay for the full range of features.

Categories: Tech News

Well-known battlegrounds: the rise of battle royale games

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 07:35

It’s fair to say that battle royale games have seen phenomenal success in recent times, with massed ranks of players clamouring to face-off against each other in combat across various big-name titles.

And while it’s unlikely you’ve never heard of battle royale, you might not be fully aware of its origins, or exactly what this sort of gameplay is about – and the reasons why it has become so popular. So let’s dive into the arena of BR, as it’s often abbreviated online, and take a deeper look at what all the fuss is about.

Fortnite has grown to be hugely successful (Image Credit: Epic Games)

What is battle royale?

It’s a genre of online games which blend survival and combat, with a whole load of players dropped into a large level. The idea is simple: to be the last man (or team) standing. Typically, you drop down into the map armed with nothing (or little), and have to scavenge weapons, ammo, armor, and other equipment that might help you survive – or indeed make sure that your opponents don’t survive.

As time ticks on, the habitable area of the map shrinks – enforced by some manner of mechanism that damages the player, like a storm or radiation – to stop people camping or hiding from each other for ages. And eventually, there’s only one survivor, the winner (who gets a chicken dinner, naturally).

The concept wasn’t invented by video game developers, however, and actually originated in the Japanese film released way back in 2000 called ‘Battle Royale’ (strangely enough). The movie envisaged a dystopian future where the government quells the rebellious youth by forcing middle school students to fight to death on an island until only one victor remains. If this sounds like The Hunger Games, apparently any similarity between these later books and films is purely coincidental (ahem).

Historically, mind you, the term battle royale or ‘battle royal’ referred to a big rollicking scrap on such a grand scale it was fit for a king (or queen) to watch.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is another giant of the genre (Image Credit: PUBG Corporation)

A brief history of battle royale games

Way before the big-name games of today arrived, the initial battle royale scene sprang up with mods for popular games. Indeed, you could even trace ‘last man standing’ gameplay modes back to the likes of Unreal Tournament (and we think we recall a Quake 3 mod, too), or arguably further.

But the first true battle royale outing we’d recognize in terms of the contemporary genre was the Hunger Games-inspired Minecraft: Survival Games, which hit the scene in 2012. This essentially recreated the movie, with a central cache of goodies everyone starts in a circle around, giving players the choice of staying to fight over that stuff, or more prudently running away to locate chests and other loot in the further reaches of the map.

Then DayZ emerged, a zombie survival game which was a mod for ARMA 2, and in turn, that spawned its own BR mod produced by Brendan Greene in 2013, in which the loot was scattered about the map (with no central cache of weapons everyone starts around). Subsequently, Greene ported his mod to ARMA 3, then became involved in H1Z1: King of the Kill as a consultant, and then moved on to the big one when he created PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG) in 2017.

PUBG was the trailblazer for the modern battle royale game as we know it, surging in popularity even when it was in preview (early access) on Steam from March 2017. With subsequent releases on both Xbox One and PS4, as well as mobile versions on iOS and Android, the game soared past the 400 million player milestone mid-2018.

Fortnite Battle Royale, a spin-off of a co-op survival shooter where players build stuff to fend off a zombie horde, hit early access in September 2017. By 2018, it had spread across all the big console and mobile platforms, and had a player base of over 200 million as of November 2018.

Then there’s EA’s newcomer, Apex Legends, set in the Titanfall universe. This exploded onto the scene in February of this year, gaining 50 million registered players in its first month, a colossal achievement considering it took Fortnite four months to reach that. That speed of adoption shows that it’s either a fantastic game, or it’s a measure of just how popular a good battle royale title can quickly become. And it’s likely a bit of both.

Anyhow, let’s look more closely at these three contemporary battle royale giants next, and discuss why these games – and the broad genre itself – have become so popular.

The new kids on the block from Apex Legends pose for a selfie (Image Credit: EA)

Why are battle royale games so popular?

A key point is that something about this concept has captured our gaming imaginations at a very fundamental level. The thrill of against-the-odds survival, and battling to be the best out of a massive field of 100 players (or 60 for Apex).

But even though the competition is numerous, generally speaking, the map is large enough, and potential tactics diverse enough, that even a lesser-skilled player can perform relatively well in a match – which is rewarding. Particularly if they happen to get a fluky loot early on and stumble across a great weapon, piece of armor, shield or whatever. And this is another thrill or addictive aspect: running round popping loot boxes early on in the hope that you’ll hit the jackpot in some way.

And if your game does end quickly? Hey, fire up another one; it’s already forgotten. Indeed, the relatively quick matches are another positive for the non-hardcore audience.

Another major point of appeal to the more casual gamer is doubtless the fact that the main battle royale games are free to play – at least in the case of Fortnite and Apex Legends (PUBG is only free on mobile platforms).

Before we get too carried away with the casual-friendly vibe, though, we should clarify that these aren’t low skill ceiling games designed for ‘newbs’ – far from it. At the top echelons, they’re designed to be extremely competitive and intricately nuanced, and to appeal to the big esports organizations.

Just watch a top streamer playing any contemporary battle royale, and you’ll be treated to a dizzying display of dexterity, intuition, game and level knowledge, tactics, and of course incredible snap-shooting skills.

This is another element that drives the popularity of these games. Folks can watch the likes of the recent Fortnite tournament at the Intel Extreme Masters (ESL Katowice Royale which offered $500,000 – around £380,000 – in prizes), or renowned Twitch streamers like Shroud or Ninja – and they can aspire to be a gaming pro, or a streaming demon themselves.

In truth, battle royale is rather more focused on streaming, and less on esports, with its naturally more casual leanings in some respects. The competitive scene for shooters like Overwatch enforces a system of tight (chess-like) skill rankings for matchmaking, whereas BR games are generally more relaxed on this front, so there’s likely to be a wider spread of abilities in any given bout. This means that you may run into opponents you can (relatively) easily beat, and again, that can lead to a feel-good factor for obvious reasons.

Dizzy is an Apex Legends streamer with some, er, dizzying skills (Image Credit: Twitch)

Of course, the high-profile esports tournaments help, but it’s really the huge amount of streaming content that abounds which makes these games very visible. Developers are also highly aware of the power of platforms like Twitch these days, and work hard to court big-name streamers.

Battle royale also fits neatly with streaming in so much as there can be considerable periods of downtime where you aren’t fighting, which gives the streamer a chance to chat with the audience a bit more.

Most recently, Apex Legends, the latest BR star, has fired up a storm and propelled the genre forward with its player-amassing-antics because it’s so cleverly pitched within the broad tapestry of battle royale.

It offers a free-to-play alternative to Fortnite that has a more realistic feel and atmosphere. Apex Legends isn’t so ‘cartoony’, and you’re not running round throwing up walls in front of you on-the-fly, so it doesn’t have those flightier elements which can be a big turn-off for some PC gamers who are used to traditional shooters.

Yet at the same time, Apex Legends offers clean and satisfying-feeling shooter mechanics – with fast and fluid combat, featuring an emphasis on mobility – that you don’t get with the less polished PUBG (at least in our opinion, although the latter definitely has its own grittily intense appeal).

So, EA’s battle royale deftly hits a middle ground between its two rivals – between fun and deadly serious – and reinforces its appeal with a refreshing focus on team-based (three player squad) battles, with character choices and synergy therein, topped off with clever new team mechanics like the ping system that allows for quick and easy non-verbal communication (and which Fortnite has already rather shamelessly copied).

Will Apex Legends be able to sustain this momentum? Given the way it was successfully surprise launched and cleverly angled to carve out its own space in the BR arena, we are of the belief that the devs will have a longer-term plan which is similarly sound. So, in short, we’re betting it will.

Whatever the case, it looks like battle royale is set to keep growing fast, and with the likes of Battlefield V and other big-name players ready to get in on the act, we don’t think this hot gaming property is about to cool off anytime soon.

Categories: Tech News

France is tapping into AI's potential for humanity

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 07:30

Antoine Bruel, head of growth at Braincities and Céline Pluijm, key account manager at Wiidii share their thoughts on why France is fast-becoming a leader in establishing ‘AI for humanity’, fresh from Hello Tomorrow 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. Across industry verticals, it’s being used to enable businesses and organisations to work smarter and faster than ever before. From automating repetitive transactions and manual tasks to powering customer support platforms, AI is transforming the way we work, live and interact with the world.     

According to PwC research, AI is estimated to provide $15.7 trillion in economic growth by 2030, creating opportunities for innovation on a global scale. AI, however, is as much a source of fascination as it is a cause for concern. As experts and citizens alike worry over how ubiquitous robots have become and bias in algorithms, France is actively engaged in defining the ethical and legal framework around this game-changing technology - firmly establishing itself as a global leader in AI development.

AI with purpose

With that goal in mind, French mathematician and lawmaker Cedric Villani gathered a team of experts to define how a “meaningful artificial intelligence” would translate into action. The winner of the 2010 Fields Medal (the so-called “maths Nobel Prize”), Villani has identified four areas where AI could be used for common good: healthcare, defense, transportation and environment. By opening open data platforms in these fields, organisations could help researchers and entrepreneurs improve public services, for instance by predicting traffic jams and air pollution peak episodes more accurately, or planning housing construction, renovation and demolition better.

Stakeholders are also joining forces in the quest to promote “AI for Humanity”. The government recently launched its AI for Humanity programme coordinated by Inria, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation. As part of the programme, four academic networks (called 3IA institutes) across the country work on healthcare, self-driving cars, energy and safety issues. 

Image Credit: Shutterstock

AI for humanity

With the support of La French Tech, the government-backed movement bolstering France as one of the best countries in the world to start and scale up global tech champions, France is witnessing a boom in the number of ‘AI for good’-focused scale-ups aiming to better our world.   

One start-up, Braincities, is tapping into AI to identify and analyse emerging trends that will enable businesses to anticipate and adapt resource allocation strategies thanks to accurate and ‘context-aware recommendations. One use case for the technology is within the HR space, enabling employers to understand how jobs are evolving as well as to identify specific talents and skills, therefore matching the right person with the right job at the right time. What's more, Braincities is giving cities and public figures deep insight into the population's employability & wellbeing. The company leverages data (human capital data, industry & markets, social networks, media) in order to provide decision-makers with insight into the overall wellbeing & potential of workers in a certain area.

Wiidii is another promising French scale-up that is changing the way we think of AI and in making sure consumers lives are ultimately made simpler and easier. This innovative mobile application combines both a highly developed artificial intelligence with a human personal assistant – officially the world’s first hybrid personal assistant. Wiidii has endless applications across the business and consumer sector and in the new year, it plans to expand internationally and consolidate its presence in the digital assistance market.

As AI continues to permeate all aspects of our society, France has made it clear it intends to have a  strong say in the ethics of the use cases of AI. The French ecosystem advocates for a loyal and transparent use of AI, the only kind that can work for the common good and will continue to support and promote organisations that share those same values.   

Antoine Bruel, Head of Growth at Braincities 

Céline Pluijm, Key Account Manager at Wiidii

Categories: Tech News

The iPhone 11 could scan the veins in your face to unlock

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 07:02

Apple’s upcoming iPhone 11 may use a form of Face ID that scans veins to determine who’s picking it up, according to newly discovered patents.

The patent, filed in February 2018 and discovered by BGR, shows a front-facing camera on a device which scans the veins and blood vessels in a user’s face to determine who’s using it, a feature called 'subepidermal imaging'. 

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This camera would scan your face, possibly using infrared, and the device’s processor would compute the information using a range of processes that are also detailed in the patents, which involve scoring the scan based on previous templates and scans.

While a patent is no guarantee that a feature will be included in a device – this patent was filed before the release of the iPhone XS, and the feature didn’t make it into that phone – it would be a small but useful step in improving the security of Apple’s handsets. 

Why not Face ID? 

If Apple did choose to use this feature for the iPhone 11, it wouldn’t be the first company to use vein recognition as a way to unlock a phone – the LG G8 ThinQ will also have this tech when it releases at some point in mid-2019.

The reason many companies are moving from face recognition to veins is that some phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S10, can be tricked into unlocking for the wrong user by masks or photographs, but subepidermal imaging removes this risk.

The patent includes a rough sketch of whatever iPhone or iPad would use this technology, including its camera, which would have a flood illuminator and speckle illuminator, two forms of imaging technology, as well as the main sensor – but we can’t tell anything else about the device from the picture.

The iPhone 11 launch is still a way out, given that Apple always launches its flagship handset towards the end of the year, but until then we’ll keep you updated with all the latest iPhone news and rumors.

Categories: Tech News

eBay voucher: Save 15% on these gaming consoles, laptops, Fitbits and all other electronics today

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 07:02

Today's new eBay voucher code is a great chance to save some money on a huge range of electronics. You'll have to be quick though as the voucher code expires at 8pm today.

We've ran a fair few eBay voucher code deals over the years, with 10% off being something of a regular, so 15% off is certainly something worth taking note of. There are some minor caveats to consider, but nothing to stop you saving some big bucks on a range of electronics from a huge selection of professional online merchants.

eBay voucher code of the week
  • Voucher code: PLAY15
  • Minimum spend: £20
  • Maximum discount: £50
  • Expires: March 20th 8pm
  • Uses: Once per UK customer
  • Where:

So where do you start? We've added some highlight deals and sections below to take you through a range of categories to give you a head start if you have something specific in mind. Quick tip, if you want to work out the discounted price before you go through the checkout process, fire up the calculator app on your phone and times the price by 0.85 to see the sum you'll pay. Don't forget though, the maximum discount would be £50 as per the terms of the eBay deal, so if you see anything priced at £333 or higher, just take £50 off.

eBay deal highlights

We've got you covered with an extensive range of deal pages such as TV deals and cheap laptops. Nothing take your fancy? Check out our full range of deal pages to see if you can find the tech discount you've been waiting for. 

Categories: Tech News

Halo: The Master Chief Collection may support mods on PC

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:51

With a PC version of Halo: The Master Chief Collection now officially confirmed, 343 Industries, the developers, held an ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) session to answer questions from the community.

One of the biggest revelations from the Reddit AMA is that Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC could support mods in the near future, though the feature won’t be available at launch.

According to ‘ske7ch’, the community director at Halo developer 343 Industries, “we are working closely with the members of the modding community (including some friends on the ElDewrito team) to explore our options for "official" mod support, but we won't have this at launch.”

Mods are popular features of games, especially on PC, as it allows the community to modify the game – for example adding weapons or new levels, or even creating whole new games. 

Modding can prolong the life of games as players come up with ever more inventive mods, and including official support would make it easier for fans to create and add their mods to the game, while giving 343 Industries control over what sort of mods are available.

Multi-Windows support

Another interesting nugget of information from the AMA revealed that Halo: The Master Chief Collection won’t be a Windows 10 exclusive, but will also support players on Windows 7. This is an interesting (but welcome) choice, as Microsoft is trying to shift people from Windows 7 due to its upcoming End of Life.

The company is also apparently looking at Windows 8 support as well. However, it was also revealed that cross-play support with the Xbox One won’t be there at launch.

This will disappoint any PC gamers who were hoping to show console players how much better keyboard and mouse controls are for Halo.

It’s also been revealed that 343 Industries will allow Field of View (FOV) sliders and unlocked frame rates in all games in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection, while a wide range of aspect ratios, such as ultra-wide 21:9, will also be included.

There is a bit of bad news as well, as there are currently no plans to port Halo 5 to PC. However, as the PC version of Halo: The Master Chief Collection shows, Microsoft is no longer averse to having its flagship games series back on PC.

Via Neowin

Categories: Tech News

Xiaomi triples profits despite smartphone market slowdown

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:50

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi tripled its profits in the fourth quarter of 2018, as a focus on international markets and an increasingly diverse portfolio of products helped it combat device saturation and the economic slowdown in its homeland.

Profits rose from 550 million Yuan (£62.1m) to 1.9 billion Yuan (£214m) during the quarter, beating estimates of 1.7 billion Yuan. Meanwhile, revenues increased from 35.1 billion Yuan (£4bn) to 44.4 billion (£5bn).

The figures come at a time when smartphone shipments are decreasing due to a combination of longer refresh cycles, a perceived lack of innovation, and a lack of new markets to explore.

Xiaomi results

"Our entire operating expense for the year 2018 was still below 10 percent of our revenue and what we have done is, you know, we kept forcing ourselves to be more efficient as a company and return the savings to our users," Xiaomi CFO Shou Zi Chew told CNBC

"This is the reason why we were successful in 2018 and this is the reason why we will be successful going into the future."

Aside from China, Xiaomi has enjoyed considerable success in countries like India and Indonesia, while it plans to sell its high-end devices – such as the recently revealed Xiaomi Mi 9 - to European consumers through a partnership with Three’s parent company CK Hutchison.

According to IDC, Xiaomi increased its smartphone shipments for 2018 by 32.3 percent.

Xiaomi also sees connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) as areas for growth. Its range includes connected washing machines, vacuum cleaners and televisions, while it has overtaken Apple in terms of wearables shipped.

Xiaomi is also increasingly turning its attention to Internet Services, which it believes justifies its thin profit margins for devices.

The results are the company’s third since it floated on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last July, but investors were not as enamoured as might be expected, with shares falling by 5 per cent.

Categories: Tech News

Google to ask European Android users which browser they would like to use

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:40

Google has announced in a blog post that it will start asking "users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use."

The announcement comes after Google was slapped with an enormous $5 billion fine by the European commission for abusing the Android operating system’s dominance in the smartphone market in 2018.

While reminding users that they have a choice between many different browser may not seem like a bold move, it highlights what Google says is a "continued commitment to operating in an open and principled way", and probably an effort to avoid more costly penalties from the European Commission. 

Backing up the competition

Google also says it has "changed the licensing model for the Google apps we build for use on Android phones, creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and for Google Search," which means phone manufacturers have the freedom to "install any alternative app alongside a Google app."

This is a direct response to the European Commissions complaint that Google was illegally forcing Android phone manufacturers to preinstall Chrome and Search as a prerequisite for including the Play Store app.

Some people have suggested that this ruling could benefit the Android version of Microsoft's Edge web browser, which is ironic as in the past Microsoft has been hit with a similar fine for forcing its web browsers on its Windows operating system. 

However, whether we will see a spike in non-Google browsers being downloaded to Android phones as a result of this change remains to be seen.

Via Engadget

Categories: Tech News

AI, ethics and data bias - getting it right

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:30

As executives continue to ask how to implement and get value from artificial intelligence (AI), it’s no surprise that AI is top of the C-suite agenda. But with this comes a renewed focus on how we can ensure AI technologies are being created ethically, fairly and without bias. At the highest level we want to be able to answer the question: “How do we get the balance right between those benefits and the risks that go along with them?”

The benefits of AI are clear; we can make harder things become easier, we can automate the mundane jobs, we can support humans to be more creative, we can create new jobs and we can automate dangerous tasks. That said, the concerns being raised are justifiable and I am seeing data bias sat at the centre of these conversations. So how can companies deploy AI in ways that ensure fairness, transparency, and safety?

Understanding data bias

We find it helpful to think about data bias in three levels, the first being bias itself. The first question we need to ask ourselves when thinking about AI is whether the data set reflects the population that you’re trying to model.

For example, there have been various controversies around facial-recognition software not working as well for women or for people of colour, because it’s been trained on a biased data set which has too many white males in it. Or we risk building a system that – because it draws on historical data that reflect historical human biases – doesn’t build in a desired change such as prioritising underrepresented groups in job applications, or moving to a fairer system for parole or stop and search decisions.

You then get into fairness, which is a second level. At this point we need to think about the fact that yes, the data set we’re drawing on to build this model may accurately reflect history, but what if that history was by its nature unfair? So if the data set accurately reflects a historical reality of a population, are the decisions that we make on top of that fair?

Then the final consideration when thinking about ethics and data bias is whether the data sets and models that could be built and deployed could be used for unethical means.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Deploying AI effectively

To make AI work for a diverse range of consumers and businesses, I think executive attention towards these concerns can help create a world in which AI benefits us with minimal risks. Ultimately, it is humans who create the technology, meaning the responsibility lies with us when building AI programmes.

As a leader, thinking about how to manage the risks associated with AI and dedicating a bit of head space to really understand it is an important first step. Then, you need to bring in someone who really grasps the topic – someone whose full-time job is working on the project, who can ask the right questions and has the space to make this their focus.

In my view, we risk not innovating in this space and there is a huge danger of not embracing these techniques and technologies. There is a relationship between risk and innovation that is really important and a partnership between ethics and innovation. We need an ethical framework and an ethical set of practices that enable innovation. If this relationship works, there should be a positive cycle which allows innovation to progress and simultaneously allows for updates to be incorporated into the ethical framework. This is a necessity as we continue to evolve our understanding of AI technology

Chris Wigley, Partner, QuantumBlack a McKinsey Company

Categories: Tech News

Best mirrorless camera 2019: 10 top models to suit every budget

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:17

If you want to find out what's the best mirrorless camera you can buy in 2019, you've come to the right place. 

Since Panasonic launched the first mirrorless camera in 2008, the genre has grown massively, with models to suit every budget and ability. 

Mirrorless cameras allow you to swap and change lenses like a DSLR, but because the mirror inside the camera has been removed (hence the name, with mirrors used to bounce light from the path of the lens up into the optical viewfinder of a DSLR), it has allowed designers to make mirrorless cameras much more compact than DSLRs. 

No mirror means that instead of optical viewfinders to frame your subject, mirrorless cameras rely on electronic viewfinders instead. Be aware, too, that most cheaper mirrorless cameras don't come with viewfinders at all – instead, you compose the photo on the rear screen, just as you do with most compact cameras or smartphones.

You'll find that mirrorless cameras are also known as compact system cameras (or CSCs for short), with models ranging from the simple to use beginner models to sophisticated full-frame monsters that rival the very best DSLRs out there. 

Why are mirrorless cameras better?

Is a mirrorless camera better than a DSLR then? There are still quite a few pros and cons to both designs, so if you want to find out more, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences 

Mirrorless cameras certainly offer more choice. If you're looking to buy a DSLR, there's only really two main players in the shape of Canon and Nikon. If you opt for a mirrorless camera, the choice is much broader, with the likes of Canon, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Sony, Olympus and Leica all offering a wide range of cameras to suit most budgets. 

Things got really interesting in the last half of 2018, with big announcements from Canon and Nikon in the shape of the EOS R, Z6 and Z7. 

While it would be very easy to select 10 high-end models to make up our pick of the best mirrorless camera, we've tried to pick out some more affordable options as well. These models might not be dripping in features, but they represent great options for new users and those on a budget. That said, if you're looking specifically for a budget mirrorless camera, take a look at our best mirrorless camera for beginners buying guide

So whether you're after a better camera than the one featured on your smartphone or are looking for an advanced, high-end model to push your creativity even further, read on to find out what are the best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now. 

Best mirrorless cameras in 2019

As we've touched on, 2018 saw the mirrorless camera market really take off, with a flurry of new launches, from entry-level to professional-focused cameras.

2019 has already seen Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon and Fujifilm announce new mirrorless cameras in the shape of the Alpha A6400, OM-D E-M1X, Lumix S1R, EOS RP and X-T30. For now though, this is our pick of the best mirrorless cameras in 2019.

Nikon's Z6 rockets straight to the top of our best mirrorless camera charts, and just edging out its closest rival, the Sony Alpha A7 III. There's not much to choose between them, but we reckon the Z6 just nudges it thanks to its brilliant blend of features and performance which makes it a brilliant choice for the enthusiast photographer or pro photographer looking for a second body. The 24.5MP full-frame sensor delivers beautiful results with great color reproduction and detail, while the 273-point AF system (while not quite as sophisticated as the 693-point AF in the A7 III) and 12fps burst shooting should mean you'll never miss another shot. Handling is polished too, while the large and bright electronic viewfinder is a joy to use. 

The Alpha A7 III may sit on the bottom rung of Sony's full-frame mirrorless camera range, but it should no longer be seen as the poor relation to its pricier siblings. This is a brilliant choice for the enthusiast photographer or pro, and when you look at the specification, it's easy to see why. Sony has taken some of the best bits from its flagship Alpha A9 and A7R III cameras, and distilled them into a single camera that offers a fantastic mix of performance and image quality. The full-frame 24.2MP sensor is excellent in a range of lighting conditions, while the advanced 693-point AF looks set to get even better with a firmware upgrade in April. This is one advanced camera that's at a great price considering the features and performance on offer.

Like the sound of the Z6, but want more megapixels? Then the 45.7MP Z7 should do the trick. Sharing an identical design to the Z6, Nikon's first full-frame mirrorless camera is a real triumph. It may be a first-generation camera, but we think Nikon's knocked it out of the park with the Z7 right from the get-go. The densely populated 45.7MP sensor is brilliant, delivering some of the best results we've seen on a mirrorless camera, while the effective in-camera image stabilization also delivers. Factor in a beautiful EVF, excellent handling, very competent AF performance and great response throughout, and it's easy to see why the Z7 is such a pleasure to use. 

Like the look of the A7 III but want even more pixels? Step forward the 42.2MP Alpha A7R III. It has to be one of the most complete and versatile cameras available today. With a brilliant full-frame 42.2MP sensor, the Alpha A7R III is supported by an advanced 399-point AF system and 10fps burst shooting, proving you no longer have to sacrifice performance for resolution or vice versa. Did we mention it shoots excellent 4K footage as well? This is a camera that would be equally at home perched on a mountain shooting brooding landscapes, in a studio capturing high-end portraits or shooting fast moving sport or wildlife. 

The X-T2 was one of our favorite cameras for a long time, but the X-T3 improves on it in pretty much every single way. The new 26.1MP X-Trans sensor might not be a massive leap in resolution over the 24.3MP sensor in the X-T2, but noise control is even better. Focusing also takes a leap forward, with a staggering 2.16-million phase detect AF pixels (with a maximum of 425 selectable points) to help the X-T3 track focus smoothly. There's also now touchscreen control, 11fps burst shooting and a number of other improvements, particularly when it comes to shooting 4K video. That's not forgetting the array of body-mounted controls that's all wrapped-up in a tactile body, that all goes to make the X-T3 a brilliant camera. 

The OM-D E-M10 Mark III might not be a massive leap forward over the Mark II, with much of the camera's specification remaining the same. However, Olympus has refined and tweaked one of our favorite mirrorless cameras to make it an even more tempting proposition for new users and enthusiasts alike. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. Sporting a 5-axis image stabilization system, decent electronic viewfinder, an impressive 8.6fps burst shooting speed and 4K video, it's no toy – the E-M10 Mark III is a properly powerful camera.

You don't have to go full-frame to get the benefit of Sony's great camera technology and this APS-C format model makes a great choice for enthusiasts looking for an alternative to big, heavy DSLR. Sony's equipped the A6400 with a brilliant AF system that not only offers fast focus tracking, but a clever EyeAF system the locks focus on the eye. There's also s There's also an excellent electronic viewfinder that makes it easy to see when the subject is sharp and correctly exposed, while the touchscreen can be rotated round 180-degrees that makes it a good choice for vloggers. Image quality is very high and there's built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity to allow to share images via a connected smartphone.

Aimed at enthusiast and semi-professional photographers, the Lumix G9 is certainly very competitively priced; you get a lot of camera for your money. Some might view the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor as a bit of a compromise, but the pay-off is a compact and well-balanced system, and we were thoroughly impressed when we paired the G9 with the 200mm f/2.8 telephoto prime. Throw in 60fps shooting, polished handling and a wealth of advanced features and the Lumix G9 is a brilliant all-round mirrorless camera. Not to mention Panasonic's best mirrorless camera to date.

The Lumix GH5S is the latest in the line of Panasonic's top-of-the-range GH series of mirrorless cameras, which over the years have carved out a niche for themselves among videographers thanks to their breadth of movie-making features. While it can shoot stills quite happily (although at a pretty limited 10.2MP resolution), this should be seen first and foremost as a video camera – if you want to do both you've got the Lumix GH5 to fill that brief. While the absence of built-in image stabilization might be a disappointment for some, that issue aside the breadth of video features is incredibly impressive. It's certainly the best 4K camera out there before you start considering dedicated professional video cameras.

Fujifilm's X-T10 and X-T20 models squished the best bits from the X-T1 and X-T2 respectively into much smaller and cheaper bodies, and the new X-T30 does the same from the X-T3. The result? A powerful, mid-range mirrorless option that's no bother to carry around and is just as much of a star when shooting images as it is 4K video. With a relatively new 26.1MP backlit APS-C sensor, a better autofocus system than before, a tough body and plenty of direct control falling to hand, this is a great all-rounder for a very nice price. Those with larger hands may find its body a little too fiddly, though, which is where the X-T3 (above) has an advantage.

Finally, let's take a quick look at a camera that doesn't quite make the cut in our top 10 mirrorless buying guide, but represents great value. As you can see further up the top you'll see the Alpha A7 III from Sony is one of our favorite mirrorless cameras you can buy right now. If your budget can't quite stretch that far, then why not take a look at the model it replaces? Still available (so is the even cheaper Alpha A7), you get an awful lot of camera for your money. This includes a great 24.2MP full-frame sensor, high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a very capable AF system. Handling isn't quite as refined though as the newer camera, but for the incredibly tempting price, this can be overlooked. You'll be hard pressed to find a better camera for your money.

Categories: Tech News

The best Android tablets in 2019: The best slates with Google's OS

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:04

Looking for a tablet and thinking about an Android device? Well, there are other options out there with Windows 10, such as the Surface Pro 4 - but tablets running Android remain the main rival to the iOS-toting iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Pro 9.7 and iPad mini 4

Plus, there are so many choices and variants to choose from! Some Android tablets have 10-inch screens, others seven, while the rest land somewhere in between, with a handful pushing the boundaries past 10 inches. There are also big differences in battery life, processing power, RAM and price.

We've gathered the best the Android tablet market has to offer, across all price and size points, so read on to see which Google-powered slates you should be considering.

  • Want to include some iPads or don't have as much to spend? Step right up and see our: Best tablets

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is an impressively lightweight, compact Android tablet. It has a vivid display and long-lasting battery life, which makes it ideal for those who want a bigger, better screen for multimedia consumption.

It runs Android 9 Pie out of the box, and while the absence of a headphone jack might get a raised eyebrow, the box contains an adaptor that allows you to use your  regular wired headphones with the USB-C port. 

The camera performance isn't the best, and the back design is rather uninspired, but it's a solid option if you don't want to splurge on the fancier, pricier S4 tab. 

Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e review

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S4 is our favorite Android tablet right now and replaces the Galaxy Tab S3. It's got a large and bright 10.5-inch Super AMOLED display that's perfect to binge watch while also being equally powerful to run some graphic intensive titles. The S Pen comes in handy for taking notes but its real prowess lies in illustrating and drawing. All of this is powered by a huge 7,300mAh battery which supports fast charging.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 has a powerful processor and an excellent display that's prepped to show you HDR content, something even the iPad can't do yet. 

There's an S-Pen stylus included in the box on top of which you have the option of purchasing the keyboard, but do keep in mind that it's a little pricey.

Galaxy Tab S3 is expensive, but it's worth it when you look at all of the power and amazing features you'll get for that amount of money.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

Honor Mediapad T3 10

The Huawei MediaPad T3 10 carries a similar look to the MediaPad M3 Lite 10. Its aluminum back plate and rounded edges feel wonderful in your hands and make the phone easy to use.

The tablet is powered by the entry-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 quad-core processor which is capable of handling a set number of tasks easily including some heavy games. The two variants are 2GB/16GB and 3GB/32GB, the former obviously being cheaper.

It runs on Android 7.0 Nougat with the company’s own UI on the top. Considering the price, the tablet offers decent performance and good battery life.

Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro

The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro is packed full of media-focused features and sports a uniquely distinctive design.

There's a built-in stand to take the heft off your hands, while the integrated projector means you can enjoy big screen entertainment away from your TV. Even otherwise, the screen exhibits enough sharpness that you won't always feel the need to use a projector anyway.

All that technology heaped into one phone does make it less portable than most tablets on this list and the UI could be better, but it's a fairly unique option.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

There are plenty of reasons to invest in the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 - especially if you're after one of the best Android tablets on the market but at a cheaper price than the Galaxy Tab S3 above.

It's reading and web surfing-friendly, while the new 4:3 screen and general size and shape works for casual tasks. Videos work better on the Tab S3 as compared to its the Tab S2 thanks to its elongated aspect ratio - but they don't exactly look bad here.

You can choose between the 8-inch and 9.7-inch variants, which challenge Apple's iPad and iPad mini ranges, with the smaller option being more portable and cheap.

Almost impossibly thin, pumped full of power and with a slick version of Samsungs' TouchWiz interface on board, the Galaxy Tab S2 gives the iPad Pro 9.7 and Pixel C a real run for their money.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Amazon Fire

Tablets don’t get any cheaper than this – well, functional ones don’t anyway. The incredibly low price and sturdy design make the Amazon Fire a great choice to give to a kid – in fact, Amazon’s even built a (pricier) version specifically for children.

Even for the grown-ups,  the Amazon Fire far exceeds expectations, with a fairly bright 7.0-inch screen, acceptable speakers, solid battery life paired with reasonable performance. The snappy interface gives you the ability to run most of the games.

Fire OS won’t suit everyone and isn’t a tablet that impresses once you take the price out of the equation, but for what the Amazon Fire costs it would almost be rude not to buy it.

Read the full review: Amazon Fire

Categories: Tech News

Doom Eternal will bring hell on Earth to all your screens as Google Stadia launch title

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 05:59

Ready to take on the forces of hell in an all new way? Doom Eternal will allow you to do just that, as it's been announced as a launch title for Google's new game streaming service, Stadia.

While Doom Eternal will also have a traditional release on PS4, Xbox One and PC, it'll be among the first wave of games Google has signed up for Stadia, allowing players to stream the game in 4K / 60fps to any screen that can support a Chromecast or Google Chrome browser.

Latency issues solved?

Bethesda's backing of Stadia is significant – particularly by launching with a fast-paced shooter like Doom. Streaming services are by no means new, but have always suffered from overly-high latency issues which make them feel sluggish, putting a delay between your controller input and the action being reflected on screen.

But Google promises that a combination of its infrastructure and a new innovative controller that connects directly to the cloud will alleviate these issues. 

Google's Stadia showcase failed to reveal a few details however – namely price or release date, which means Doom Eternal's release date remains unknown too.

It also failed to share any concrete new details about the game, but that's unsurprising – we've already learnt that Doom Eternal will play a major part of Bethesda's E3 2019 conference. We'll be at the show, ready for to deliver all the details, so check back soon for more on both Google Stadia and Doom Eternal.

Categories: Tech News

Windows 10 April 2019 Update is almost finished and could be coming soon

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 05:57

Microsoft has released a new preview version of Windows 10 for the 19H1 build – in other words, the next upgrade expected to be called the April 2019 Update – and the vanishing amount of work to be done seems to indicate that this update is indeed imminent.

There were only two bug fixes to make in build 18361 – a cure for an issue with virtual machines, and a fix for some unexpected BitLocker prompts – compared to six bug fixes on the previous release.

And this new build comes just four days after that previous one, so the quickening pace of release, and the fact that hardly anything needs fixing now, suggests that Microsoft is on the brink of finishing work on the April 2019 Update.

Microsoft also reminded us that it has locked down Windows 10’s default apps, and the current versions of these applications are what will ship with the April 2019 Update when it’s released.

Green scream

At the same time, there are still a few known issues that remain with the current build 18361, including problems with Creative X-Fi sound cards, some Realtek SD card readers, and most importantly, the fact that some games which use anti-cheat software might trigger a crash (a full-on ‘Green Screen of Death’).

Obviously the latter is something that definitely needs to be solved in short order, at least for the gamers out there, but presumably that will be next on the list for bug-squashing.

And who knows, we might see the next big update arrive the week after next, just as April begins. Along with the prospect that some people may jump straight from last year’s April update to this one, given the still sluggish adoption of the October 2018 Update as we saw recently.

Via VentureBeat

Categories: Tech News

Leaked Samsung Galaxy Fold hands on video gives us another look at the crease

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 05:55

The Samsung Galaxy Fold isn't available yet, but someone has got a hold of it already and posted a video, revealing that the crease where it folds might be very visible.

YouTube user phoneoftime posted a hands-on video which you can see below, and the crease running down the middle of the screen when unfolded is noticeable throughout.

What's not clear is whether this unit – which is locked to AT&T – is a retail version or a pre-release prototype. If the latter, then it’s possible that the crease has been ironed out for the versions that will go on sale.

It’s also unknown just how much use this unit has had. After all, even Samsung admits that once the screen has been folded enough times a crease is bound to become visible – though Samsung puts the number of folds necessary at around 200,000, while a source speaking to Bloomberg said it can become visible after just 10,000 folds.

So a lot of questions remain on that front. As does the question of how much a crease really matters. 

It’s certainly worrying, particularly in a device that’s set to cost $1,980 / €2,000 (around £1,500-£1,700, AU$2,800-AU$3,200), but it could be something that you’ll cease to notice with use, just like notches and punch-hole cameras. Only time will tell.

Crease aside, there’s not a huge amount to see in this video that hasn’t already been revealed. But you can see that the Galaxy Fold looks predictably chunky when folded, but that the actual operation of the phone appears smooth, whichever screen you’re using.

With the handset hitting US stores on April 26 and European ones on May 3 we’ll have a better idea of how good Galaxy Fold is and how visible that seam is soon, but this might be one to wait for reviews of.

Via Engadget

Categories: Tech News