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The best writers' Christmas gifts in 2018

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 12:00

If you know someone who's always wanted to write a novel, or is in the middle of doing just that, the right gift could give them the boost they need to see it through to completion.

As writers ourselves, we've picked out the gifts we'd most like to receive. There are no novelty quotation mugs or inspirational scented candles here – just truly useful hardware, software and accessories for any budget.

We can't promise they'll cure writer's block, but whatever type of book your friend or loved one is working on, these gifts will help them stay comfortable and focused while they work their magic.

Horror author Stephen King famously said that if you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write. However, vociferous reading can be an expensive business – especially if your loved one takes King's advice and brings out their reading material anywhere possible (including family dinners). 

That's where Amazon Kindle Unlimited comes in, providing all the books an aspiring writer can read for $9.99/£7.99/AU$13.99 per month.

The service works a little like a lending library, allowing subscribers to 'keep' 10 books at a time (though there are no return dates). Despite its name, Kindle Unlimited doesn't let you grab absolutely anything from the Kindle Store, but it does provide access to over a million books, plus magazines and audio narration on any device (there are free Kindle apps for Android and iOS, plus desktop software).

Kindle Unlimited doesn't let you keep books indefinitely, so it's not the right choice if you're looking for reference books, but if you know someone who tends to devour novels then it could be the perfect option as a gift.

A good mechanical keyboard makes typing a pleasantly tactile experience, and these  switches tend to last much longer than the soft membranes in 'normal' keyboards that can be easily damaged by heavy hammering. 

This is technically a gaming keyboard, but it's also a great choice for writers because of its responsive Cherry MX Red switches. It also has a special rubber membrane under each key that protects the board's internals from crumbs, drink spills and other accidents, so it won't be ruined by blood, sweat, tears and coffee. 

Our reviewer lamented the lack of a gutter system to drain fluids away from the keys, but that seems a little extreme.

It's less noisy than some mechanical keyboards too, so you won't need to invest in a pair of earplugs for everyone else in the household.

Whichever keyboard your budding Tom Clancy is using to compose their magnum opus, a good wrist rest will help make it a more comfortable process and avoid developing repetitive strain injury.

This simple rest from Fellowes isn't expensive, but does the job admirably. It's made of comfortable memory foam that adapts to the shape of the typist's wrists, redistributes pressure points, and ensures hands are in the proper position while they work. 

It's available in three colors (black, blue and sapphire) and unlike plastic wrist rests, it won't get sweaty during long writing sessions. It's a great addition to the Corsair keyboard above, and proves you've really put thought into the gift.

Microsoft Word and Apple Pages are fine, but Scrivener makes it far easier to manage a manuscript, plus all the notes and plans involved in creating it. 

It's not just for novelists, either – it's great for any kind of long-form writing, including screenplays, essays and dissertations.

The software might look daunting at first, but the would-be Lee Child will soon come to appreciate its ability to keep everything organized using a system of index cards (without the risk of dropping actual cards all over the floor or losing them).

If that all gets a bit overwhelming, Scrivener also offers a distraction-free writing mode that hides away all the menus, notes and icons to leave only an empty page. It's possible to set targets and track work with statistics and progress bars if your writer is a fan of gamifying their typing experience.

Your friend of family member might be glued to their keyboard, but they'll still appreciate a good notebook. Inspiration can strike any time, and having somewhere to jot down ideas when they occur can be invaluable.

The RocketBook Wave isn't just a slab of paper, though. This is a smart notebook that makes it easy to send notes to any of the major cloud storage services using a mobile app. Marking the appropriate icon and snapping a quick photo of a page with your phone will fire it into the ether.

Once you've scanned your pages, you can erase the ink from your notebook by giving it a quick nuke in the microwave with a cup of water. It's not just useful – it's also delightfully weird.

When the writer in your life wants to concentrate, music with lyrics can put them off their stride, but searching for focus-enhancing music on YouTube often yields a weird collection of ocean noises and whispered subliminal messaging.

Focus@Will is different; instead of generic 'soothing' noises, it asks a series of questions about the listener and their preferences, and creates an endless concentration-enhancing soundtrack tailored to suit them. 

The aim is to help you achieve a 'flow state' – each piece of music is similar enough to the previous one that the change isn't jarring, but different enough to stop the listener getting used to it.

It's clever stuff, and was developed in collaboration with neuroscientists. It isn't cheap (gift accounts start at $29.99 (about £25, AU$40) for three months), but if you know someone who's easily distracted, it could be worth far more to them than a Spotify subscription.

Categories: Tech News

The apps to help you burn off those Christmas calories

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:59

Update: now with new apps to get you fit and healthy in the new year.

We all know that Christmas is a time for stuffing your face without too much thought for the consequences. Then several days later you find yourself surrounded by chocolate wrappers and empty bottles wondering how on earth you're going to get back into shape.

But fear not, we're on hand to help you start burning off the calories as you enter 2019.

These fitness and health apps will aid you in working off the Christmas pounds and many of them are available for both iOS and Android.


Endomondo has been around a long time and it remains a favorite among fitness fans, so you know it’s good. It’s also regularly updated, so it keeps getting better.

It’s aimed primarily at runners, walkers and cyclists, helping them track the likes of distance, route and speed, but it can also track over 60 other sports, so whatever you’re into or thinking of getting into, Endomondo can probably track you and help keep you on track.

With weekly goals, challenges, and alerts when you hit a personal best there’s plenty to keep you motivated, so you’re unlikely to give up on this two weeks into the new year.

But if you think you might still struggle, enlist some friends to get fit with you. That way you can follow each other’s progress through the app and keep each other motivated.

Available: Android and iOS, free


The hardest thing about dieting is working out what you should actually eat and in what proportions. This is where Lifesum comes in handy. It lets you manage your water and food intake, gives you feedback on what foods to go for, advises you on what to avoid and offers reminders and motivation throughout the day.

You can also work out what type of diet suits your eating habits and health needs. These include the 5:2 diet, the high protein diet, the low carb, high fat diet (LCHF) and the isocaloric diet. In other words, just about any diet you could think of.

Available: Android and iOS, free


One of the best ways to lose weight and get in shape is by going for a run, be it just around the block or for a 5K. However it's never the same without a friend or two to keep you company. On your own, you can feel alone and demotivated.

We can't all be in the same place at the same time, but the Racefully app gives you the ability to connect with runners from all across the globe who want to run and compete with each other in real-time.

Additionally, the app ensures fair competition with others based on differences in route, gradient and weather.

Available: iOS, free


In order to live healthy, you need a balanced diet. Easier said than done. Just opting for the odd over-priced salad isn't as effective as you might have convinced yourself. Meanwhile you're surrounded by plenty of unhealthy temptations.

Farmdrop, an online marketplace offering up fresh food and groceries directly from local farmers and producers, aims to make choosing the right foods a little easier.

Using the app, you're able to browse seasonal recipes, search for products using a wide range of food categories, select top picks and get inspired by the produce and ingredients of over 70 independent British producers. Once you've found something, you can place an order and get it delivered straight to your home.

Available (only in the UK): iOS, free


Unable to hire a physical personal trainer to help you get rid of that beer belly? No problem - Fitnet can help. The app lets you work out to videos from personal trainers while it uses your device's front-facing camera to analyze your performance.

It then provides you with real-time feedback. Other features include calorie tracking, 5/7 minute workouts to suit busy schedules, the ability to set goals and compatibility with Apple TV and Chromecast.

Available: iOS, free


As well as being costly, personal trainers can also be time consuming. So why not digitize the experience with Sworkit? Costing completely nothing, it provides you with video routines covering areas such as cardio, yoga and pilates that last from five to sixty minutes, meaning there's a lot of flexibility if you're busy.

You can also set the times you can work out, and the app adapts to your schedule.

Available: Android and iOS, free

Eat this, Not That! The Game

Who said losing weight has to be boring? Eat This, Not That aims to make shedding those pounds fun by gamifying the experience. To be fair, you don't actually do much exercise. Instead, the idea is that you sit in your favorite armchair while tapping through round after round of food items.

Your job is to work out which food is the healthiest. Once you've tapped, the "eat this" and "not that" labels are revealed - and hopefully you will have learned something. The game is split into several categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

Available: iOS, free

Weight Watchers

Let's be honest, going to your local Weight Watchers event and admitting you need to lose weight can be a tad daunting. However, the world-renowned weight loss program is available in app form.

It lets you track your food, activity and weight, search for thousands of foods and recipes, keep updated with your weight-loss progress by using a built-in interactive chart, add custom recipes, and scan barcodes to find out which foods are good and which aren't.

You should be on your way to losing weight in no time, as long as you can learn to lock those chocolate biscuits away.

Available: Android and iOS, free

Categories: Tech News

The clock is ticking as Amazon launches its Last Minute Christmas Deals event

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:52

Just because Black Friday is behind us now, that doesn't mean you've missed the chance to get a great deal on a Christmas gift - or a cheeky treat for yourself. Retailers are going to be pushing out bargains right until the final shipping day just before Christmas.

So it'll be no surprise to see Amazon launch its Last Minute Christmas Deals event today, which will continue through until December 16th. But just because you've got another 10 days remaining, doesn't mean you should wait as the sale includes lots of Deals of the Day, which expire at midnight each day or as long as stocks last. You can check out the full list of deals at Amazon, or you can take a look at our highlights first if you don't fancy wading through all the offers.

Keep your eyes peeled on this article and our deals guides for the latest bargains as and when retailers launch them ahead of Christmas.

Categories: Tech News

Dragon Age 4: everything we know so far about the open secret of a sequel

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:43

It's now been more than three years since the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition and although we're still squeezing fun out of the game, we think it’s pretty understandable that fans are getting somewhat inquisitive (sorry) with regards to when we'll hear about the next game in the franchise. 

Even though we all knew, on some level, that there would definitely be another Dragon Age game, it was nice to have a confirmation from executive producer Mark Darrah. Whether it will actually be called Dragon Age 4 is up for debate –historical naming patterns in the series meaning it could really go either way – but we can still get excited.

Named or not, now that we know Dragon Age 4 is in the works we think it’s time to start keeping an eye on the latest news, and start building a picture of what the game might eventually look like. So we’ve put together this hub of news and rumors to keep you up to date on the latest news from Thedas. 

[Update: Dragon Age 4 is at least three years away, announcement expected at The Game Awards 2018.]

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The fourth instalment in the popular RPG franchise, Dragon Age
  • What can I play it on? Not confirmed but it's likely to be Xbox One, PS4 and PC
  • When can I play it? It’s likely to be a couple of years away 
Dragon Age 4 release date

Despite the fact that the game’s development is currently a very open secret, Dragon Age 4 hasn’t actually been officially announced by BioWare. 

Back in May 2017, writer Alexis Kennedy revealed that he was working on a part of the game’s story in an interview with Eurogamer. This part of the story, he revealed, is “well-segregated from other parts of the game”. At this point in time, the game was still clearly in the very early stages of development. 

A later report from Kotaku suggested that some of the Dragon Age development team had been pulled off the title to focus on creating Anthem. 

In addition, a recent report by Venture Beat suggests Dragon Age 4's release date is at least three years away and a title for the fourth installation hasn't even been chosen yet "according to sources familiar with the studio".

Dragon Age 4 news and rumors

The Game Awards 2018

According to a report by Venture Beat (and understood to be correct by Eurogamer), it's likely we'll get some sort of announcement regarding Dragon Age 4 during The Game Awards 2018. 

Roundabout confirmations

Regardless of whether or not BioWare had confirmed it, Dragon Age fans were pretty certain that another game was going to be in the works. Partly because they had faith in the power of their sheer force of will and partly because over the last couple of years there have been hints from BioWare that something would indeed be happening. It’s the secret that was never really a secret. 

The most recent non-official confirmation has come from executive producer Mark Darrah, who tweeted in January 2018 that he’s working on both Dragon Age as well as BioWare’s next big IP, Anthem. 

Though he’s now left the company, BioWare veteran Mike Laidlaw was tweeting that there was still another couple of games in Dragon Age series yet back in mid-2017. Even before that, Alexis Kennedy became the writer that launched a thousand headlines after comments he made in an interview with Eurogamer were taken as a semi-official confirmation of the game’s existence and his place in it. 

In the interview Kennedy teased that he's been "given considerable autonomy to work on a storyline bit of lore which is well-segregated from other parts of the game.“ 

”I don't want to exaggerate the degree of the chunk [I'm writing],“ Kennedy he was at pains to add. ”It's nothing that grandiose, but it is distinct. It's a bit of lore which has not been addressed much to date in Dragon Age.“

Story and character

Every game in the Dragon Age franchise has had a heavy emphasis on story and character and fans will be glad to know that Dragon Age 4 isn’t likely to be any different.

After Mark Darrah tweeted that he was working on the game, BioWare general manager Casey Hudson chipped in with his own elaborative tweet. In this tweet he said it was “too early to talk details” but the game would be “story & character focused.”

It’s not clear whether this will be a brand new standalone game or whether it’ll continue on directly from Inquisition. Certainly, the end of Inquisition's Trespasser DLC suggests there is a story thread to follow with Solas, which would see the Inquisitor chase the elf down to stop his plans. 

We already know there are writers working on lore and side quests, following Alexis Kennedy’s interview with Eurogamer in 2017 in which he confirmed he was working on a part of the game that’s “well-segregated” from the rest and focuses on some lore that’s not been widely addressed. 

Kennedy, who has worked on titles such as Sunless Sea and Fallen London, said the subject matter would not be surprising to those familiar with his work. To us this implies that his quest (or quests) will include thoughtful choices, themes of tragic love and desire and an underlying sense of unease. 

New live elements

In the January 2018 Kotaku report on Anthem and Dragon Age, it was mentioned that sources had informed Kotaku that Dragon Age had been “rebooted” in order to implement more “live elements” into the game.

Naturally, there was some fan panic in response to this given EA’s increasing penchant for service-based games. Fans expressed concern that BioWare was going to take the Dragon Age series down a Destiny 2, always-online multiplayer route. 

That doesn’t appear to be the case, however. In his tweet, Casey Hudson also stated that the “live” elements being considered are actually ways of continuing the game’s story after the main story has been completed. This is something we’ve already seen in games such as Assassin’s Creed Origins

Things we'd like to see

A world like Dragon Age: Inquisition

We hope that the next Dragon Age game has a map similar to the one in Dragon Age: Inquisition, by which we mean we hope it's big and open without being overwhelming. It was the perfect follow-up to the closed and repetitive maps of Dragon Age 2 and we’d like this approach to continue. 

Explore more of Thedas

There’s one very notable part of Thedas that players have yet to be allowed to explore and that’s the Tevinter Imperium. Once the most powerful nation in Thedas, the Imperium is a shadow of its former self. Its history, stratified social structure and maintenance of a magocracy would make it an immensely interesting and different part of Thedas to allow players to explore, while allowing the franchise to continue to explore themes of social injustice, power and prejudice.  

The fact that the area is references throughout other Dragon Age games is enough to make us think it’s a viable setting for Dragon Age 4. However, the ending of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC makes us think it even more likely, as it sees the Inquisitor stab a dagger into a map of the Imperium with a vow to track down Solas.

Solve that cliffhanger

Our previous point brings us to this one – we’d really like that Solas storyline to continue to be explored. He’s the perfect focus for the next game and the player’s approach to him is the perfect narrative crux. 

  • Everything we know about Anthem, BioWare's next big game
Categories: Tech News

Far Cry 6: release date, news and rumors

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:26

Hot on the heels of Far Cry 5 - which only released in March 2018 - Ubisoft has revealed it's already working on the next entry in the Far Cry series. The new game was teased in a post-apocalyptic trailer which stated that the worldwide reveal would take place during The Game Awards 2018.

Though we don't know what the official name of the next Far Cry game will be, we're going to call it Far Cry 6 for now. So without further ado, here's everything we know so far about the upcoming Far Cry title.

[Warning: Spoilers for Far Cry 5 ahead.]

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? The latest addition to the Far Cry action-adventure series
  • When can I play it? No release date yet, but probably 2019 or 2020
  • What can I play it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
Far Cry 6 trailers

The first teaser trailer for Far Cry 6 was released on December 5, 2018 and was our first look at the upcoming title. Although we don't know much about the latest Far Cry, it looks like it will be set in a post-apocalyptic world following a nuclear explosion. 

You can check it out below:

Far Cry 6 news

Worldwide Reveal

According to the teaser trailer, the worldwide reveal of the latest Far Cry will be made during The Game Awards 2018.

Platforms confirmed

According to the teaser trailer, the next Far Cry will be available to play on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One and PC.

Far Cry 6 rumors

A direct sequel to Far Cry 5?

The upcoming Far Cry seems to take place in a post-apocalyptic setting. If you managed to finish Far Cry 5, then you know this seems pretty familiar. If you got the 'good' ending at the end of Far Cry 5, then Hope County, Montana was destroyed (probably with the rest of the world) by a nuclear explosion. 

The teaser trailer for the next game talks about how an explosion caused death and "The flames devoured everything" but eventually "years of rain and howling winds gave way to blue skies and a new world in bloom".

This would suggest the upcoming Far Cry follows either directly on from (or is in the same universe as) Far Cry 5 - most likely years after the nuclear explosion. This would be a first for a Far Cry game: usually, each new entry is a standalone title with a different setting. 

Categories: Tech News

Amazon's Microsoft Office deals can save you up to 45% off

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:00

So, you've just bought a new computer and want some productivity software that's a step above free offerings like Google Docs or OpenOffice.

Lucky for you,  Amazon has an amazing deal on Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2019 that's running today only, at the time of writing.

There are three varieties of the newest Office on sale, and they're available for anywhere from 33% to 45% off their list prices.

Specifically, this deal will save you $45 (or 45%) off the $99.99 list price for 12 months of Office 365 Home; $50 (or 33%) off the $149.99 list price for Office Home and Student 2019; and $30 (or 43%) off the $69.99 list price for 12 months of Office 365 Personal.

These are all sizable discounts for the most popular productivity suite in the world, as you're getting access to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Access and Publisher. And in the case of the Office 365 subscriptions, you're also getting 1TB of cloud storage through OneDrive.

You only have until 11:59pm PT to take advantage of these deals, so act quickly if you're still firmly an Office fan.

Categories: Tech News

Best iPhone and Android party games to play with your family this Christmas

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:48

Update: Now with more party games to help you get through the Christmas season with festive cheer.

You’re full of turkey, you’ve had a fair few alcoholic drinks and you’re drowning in wrapping paper, but then someone in your family plucks up and says, “shall we play a game?”

It’s then you realize all that’s on offer is Monopoly – which is set to last until at least midnight – or it's a case of making conversation with those around you, so what if you had some party games ready and raring to go on your phone?

For that exact reason we’ve put together this guide to the best party games you can play this Christmas. We’ve included games that work on both iPhone and Android phones as well as tablets, so this should be a good mix of titles for you to choose from.

Escape Team

  • Players: 2-4
  • Price: Free + IAP

Escape Team sees you working in a team to solve puzzles against the clock. These might involve translating Morse code, arranging pieces of a puzzle, solving a ‘Sudoku riddle’ or a number of other things.

A single mission in the game consists of a number of these puzzles, so to complete a mission you need to finish all relevant puzzles before the clock runs down.

Escape Team isn’t a purely mobile game – you’ll also need to print out some documents involved in the puzzles, so make sure you either have a printer accessible or do this in advance. That slight annoyance aside this is a great choice if you want a party game that makes you think.


  • Players: 2
  • Price: $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 on iOS, $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 on Android

Mobile games don’t have to be static affairs, with Bounden, you and a partner will get up and dance. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t matter if your dancing skills are non-existent. The game sees two players hold a phone, one grabbing each end, and then has them guide a sphere through a path of rings.

The act of doing this though turns into something of a dance, with players twisting and twirling to navigate the sphere.

So even if you can’t dance, you do alright, since the sphere acts as something of a guide. And if it all goes horribly wrong, well, that’s half the fun.

There are eight dances in all and with choreography by the Dutch National Ballet your movements have the potential to look surprisingly good. With practice, anyway.

Heads Up!

  • Players: 2 or more
  • Price: $0.99/£0.99/AU$1.49 on iOS, from free on Android

Perhaps the most popular on this list, Heads Up! was created by US TV host Ellen DeGeneres and you may have seen her play it with the famous guests on her show.

It's basically a super intense version of that game where you all write something to stick on people's foreheads and you have to work out what your note says by asking questions.

Here you'll choose the topic - options include animals, celebrities, movies and more - and you then put the phone on your head to wait for the countdown, and your family gather around to see what appears on the screen.

You’ll then have 60 seconds for your friends and family to try and explain what words they see on your forehead. Every game quickly devolves into people screaming words or making animal noises, so it's exactly what Christmas is all about.


  • Players: 2-8
  • Price: Free

An oldie – but still a goodie – Spaceteam is one of the best cooperative experiences that you can play on tablet or your phone. Everyone downloads the app to their device and you'll see a panel for the spaceship you’re meant to be flying together.

The thing is, everyone sees a different panel to help fly the craft. The idea is you get shown instructions, but much like Captain Kirk in Star Trek you need to delegate tasks to other team members, as the instructions you see are for other players. They're also often borderline nonsense, and tasks are time-sensitive.

Spaceteam starts off as simply saying the words "wash socks” or “burn toast”, but soon you’ll find yourself screaming much stranger phrases at each other to make sure the ship stays on course.

Jackbox Party Packs

  • Players: 2-8
  • Price: Varies

This one will require a little bit more than just your phone or tablet. Jackbox party games can be played through PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Apple TV, Android TV and a variety of other platforms, but you’ll also need everyone who wants to play brandishing either a smartphone or tablet too.

Once you’ve loaded up the game on your console, you’ll then be able to connect everyone’s phone to the game to use as a controller over the internet. Each Jackbox Party Pack comes with a selection of games for you to play, but we particularly like the first pack and the game Drawful.

Drawful is basically a game of Pictionary, but your creations are blown up to a big size on your TV. There are lots of wordplay, trivia and investigation games too that you can compete in.

HQ Trivia

  • Players: 1-unlimited
  • Price: Free

HQ Trivia is the sensation that has taken the Apple App Store by storm and we think it's worth playing it with your family this Christmas.

Much like how you'll tune in to a game show on TV over the Christmas period, this only takes place at certain times of day, so you'll need to time it perfectly around your Christmas meal.

But unlike a game show, HQ Trivia takes place within an app and allows you to play along too.

The aim is to answer each question right to stay in the game. If you get one wrong you'll then be kicked out, but if you answer all of them correctly you'll continue on to the end and everyone who is still left standing will get a portion of the prize pot.

Play this with all your family helping at Christmas and you'll perhaps stand a better chance of winning.

Psych! Outwit Your Friends

  • Players: 1-6
  • Price: Free (with microtransactions)

Made by the team behind Heads Up!, Psych! is a very different game. This is all about fooling your friends, and instead of playing on your forehead everyone will need to have this downloaded to their phones as it's played on the screen in front of you.

Each round you'll be greeted with a trivia question, but everyone in your game will then submit their own answers. Once you've submitted, you'll then see everyone's answers (plus the real one) and you have to work out which one is right.

You ultimately win the game by scoring the most points, and that means you can win by tricking people into choosing your answers, as well as by getting the answers right.

Evil Apples

  • Players: 4
  • Price: Free

You've played Cards Against Humanity right? What happens when you go to visit family at Christmas and you've left your deck at home? This is the next best thing, and it's called Evil Apples.

If you've never played this kind of game before, the aim is to make your friends and family laugh by playing the funniest answer card to the question card that has been drawn.

Evil Apples comes with over 4,000 different answers and there are more than 800 questions too, so you'll struggle to make your way through all of them before the end of the Christmas period.

Categories: Tech News

Crash Team Racing Remaster: release date, news and rumors

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:45

A Crash Team Racing Remaster has not officially been confirmed yet but if recent rumors are to be believed, and the success of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is anything to go by, it won't be long until Activision makes an official announcement. 

We've scoured the internet for rumors and news, so here is everything we know about the Crash Team Racing (CTR) Remaster so far. 

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? A remaster of the Crash Bandicoot PlayStation 1 racing game
  • When can I play it? It's not been officially confirmed yet, but probably 2019
  • What can I play it on? Probably PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch

Crash Bandicoot Team Racing release date

A Crash Bandicoot Team Racing Remaster hasn't been confirmed yet so we don't actually know any details. However we can assume that the remaster would release in mid to late 2019 as the Spyro Reignited Trilogy released seven months after it was announced and the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy released a year after its reveal at E3 2016.

Crash Bandicoot Team Racing rumors

Could CTR Remastered be confirmed at The Game Awards 2018?

Rumors have been flying around that the Crash Team Racing Remaster may be revealed at The Game Awards 2018. Several influencers in the gaming industry have received Crash-themed items such as Crash Bandicoot cookies, while PlayStation Access' Hollie Bennett received perhaps the least subtle teaser - a pair of fuzzy orange die with a note which read: "Sliding into the Game Awards on 6/12".

What is Crash Team Racing?

Crash Team Racing (or CTR) is a Crash Bandicoot-themed racing game which originally released for the first PlayStation in 1999.  

The game's main Adventure storyline sees you playing as one of 15 characters from the Crash Bandicoot series on a mission to stop the evil Nitros Oxide from destroying the planet. How do you do that? By racing, of course. Adventure mode sees racing on various tracks to win as many gems, trophies, CTR tokens, boss keys and relics as possible, allowing you to unlock new tracks and take down Oxide.

As expected, these aren't just any normal races. You can use special abilities such as speed boosts, power slides and rockets to attack fellow racers. Tracks include sewer pipes, temples and snowy mountains - all influenced by Crash Bandicoot levels. 

In addition to single-player Adventure mode, there are also Time Trial, Arcade, Versus and Battle modes to take part in. 

Categories: Tech News

The best Chromecast apps for Google's streaming puck

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:40

Finding the best apps on Google's Chromecast can be tricky to say the least. Despite it being the cheapest way to get your TV connected to the biggest streaming services (and now one of the best-looking since the introduction of the Chromecast Ultra), Google's little streaming dongle isn't known for having the most user-friendly content store.

Once upon a time that was because the tiny streaming puck didn't have a ton of apps that supported it and the ones that did were sort of tucked away inside the App Store. But, thankfully, over time more and more services have added the ability to cast. Too bad more choice makes finding the good apps even harder.

But that's where we come in.

Whether you're looking to stream some great new shows and movies, play a game or two with a friend on the TV or start a house party with some tunes, we've found some of the best apps to do just that. 

Watch the video below to learn how to stream to a TV using a Chromecast from an iOS or Android device.

If you want the most essential app for your new Chromecast, you don't have to look far. The Google Home app (formerly known as the Chromecast app) has always been a staple of the platform, but now it's more versatile than ever thanks to built-in universal search, content discovery and app recommendations. The app will also be your primary way to add more than one device if, say, you buy a second Chromecast for the upstairs bedroom.

The app itself is free, which is good because you need it to setup the device.

Netflix is one of the best Chromecast-enabled apps. Tossing a TV show from your phone or mobile device is as simple as hitting the Cast button, and the results are near instantaneous. Offering hundreds of TV shows and movies as well as some of the best original programming this side of a premium cable subscription, Netflix should be your first stop on the road to building your Chromecast app collection.

While the app itself is free on iOS and Android, you'll need to be a Netflix subscriber in order to stream content. Plans start at $8.99/£6.99 a month.

[Update: You can now talk to Netflix on your Android smart TV using your Google Assistant-powered smart speaker, which means you don't necessarily need to use Chromecast to watch Netflix at all.]

This is a two-fer. Before HBO Now hit the scene, HBO Go was a fantastic way to stream some of your favorite HBO shows to the big screen. There was just one problem with it: HBO Go required a cable subscription.It wasn't until HBO Now was announced that our eyes were opened to the bigger picture. 

As a standalone streaming service like Netflix and Hulu, HBO Now unshackled itself premium cable packages, allowing users to watch shows like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley without buying a whole cable package. After its short, three-month exclusivity contract with Apple came to a close in August 2015, it rocketed to the top as one of the best Chromecast-compatible streaming apps out there. All that said, if you've got a cable subscription with HBO already, HBO Go is still a fantastic functioning Chromecast app, too.

Like Netflix, the HBO Now app is free, but a subscription to the service costs $15/£9.50 a month. (Currently unavailable in Australia.)

Subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video are great in certain scenarios: because they're all you-can-stream, you never need to open up your wallet in between seasons. As a trade-off, however, you don't have the latest shows and movies at your fingertips. For that, we recommend the cross-platform compatible Google Play Movies & TV.

Using your Google account, you can instantly purchase and watch anything on the Play Store (think movies and TV shows from recently released blockbusters to videophile classics) without needing to download the content on your mobile device. Couple that with an easy-to-understand interface and seamless Chromecast compatibility, and the Google Play app quickly becomes the best piecemeal video service on either platform.

Google Play Movies & TV is free to download on both iOS and Android.

Even the stingiest of streamers can appreciate YouTube's fantastic and free Chromecast-enabled mobile app. It's interface is simplistically designed, just like the Chromecast itself, so it's only a matter of seconds from when you find a funny video until it's broadcast on your big screen.

As much as we love videos of puppies, though, when it's time to get back to watching real TV, we choose YouTube TV - the new live TV streaming service from YouTube. Like Sling TV or PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV allows you to watch cable TV all without a contract or expensive cable equipment. Not only is it a pretty great cable alternative, but it's a darn good Chromecast app, too. 

YouTube is free to download on both iOS and Android. YouTube TV costs $35 a month, and is available on PC, iOS and Android.

Once upon a time, we might've recommended that you download Rdio as your go-to Chromecast music streaming app. Unfortunately, however, the music streaming gods saw fit to cast Rdio into the abyss and, for awhile, the world was audio-less. But that was before we discovered Slacker Radio – the hip radio alternative that arguably does a better job finding music that you're going to like while sprinkling in little factoids about the songs and playlists you select. Set your stream to 128Kbps in the settings, sit back, relax and enjoy your new favorite streaming app. Let there be sound.

Slacker Radio is free on iOS and Android, but to hear songs at 320Kbps, you'll  need an Slacker Plus subscription which costs around $4 per month.

Google Play Music is the ultimate player for anyone heavily invested in the Mountain View company's audio store. Able to stream tunes from your library as well as from a massive catalog of on-demand music, Google one-ups the competition by adding Chromecast support to its iOS and Android Google Play Music apps.

Google Play Music is free to download on both platforms, but streaming music on demand requires a subscription to Google Play Music All Access, a service that costs $10/£10/AU$12.

PlayStation Vue, the new live TV streaming service that Sony intends to compete with Sling TV and the (assumed) upcoming Apple TV service, is shaping up to be quite the cable killer. When it first launched Sony only sold three types of packages that vary in price and amount of channels, starting at $49 a month and goes up to $69 for the all-inclusive pass and was limited to seven markets. Now the service is available everywhere in the country offering 55+ channels, including live cable TV, movies, and sports channels for $29.99 per month.

The app is free to download, but the service costs a monthly fee.

We've sung Plex's praises before: the media center app takes TV shows and movies stored on your PC and streams them conveniently to your phone. Plex's best trick, however, is that it can send this stream to your Chromecast, effectively giving you a set-top box with access to any movie or TV show you can possibly imagine.

Plex is free on both iOS and Android.

If you live in the UK, one of the best and brightest names in entertainment is the BBC. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being so big and so bright the channel offers a free app that works with Chromecast. On it you'll find new episodes of the Doctor and Looper, as well as need-to-know news stories. Of course if you don't have your handset handy you can always stream from your laptop or tablet to the big screen, too.

BBC iPlayer is free on both iOS and Android.

As well as its own Spotify Connect, the world's biggest streaming service also allows you to use Google's Chromecast to play music either through your stereo or TV.

If you opt for the latter then you'll see your currently playing track displayed on screen, but we imagine most people will opt to play Spotify through a Chromecast Audio to get their stereo streaming-connected.

With an increasing number of streaming speakers on the market now supporting Spotify Connect you might not need to plug in a Chromecast, but this is a great option for anyone looking to upgrade an old stereo.

AllCast is the Swiss Army Knife of Chromecast-enabled apps. AllCast offers an all-in-one way to take movies, music and pictures from your small screen and shoot it to your dongle. The free version slots in a few annoying ads and limits video length to a few minutes, but for frugal streamers it's the easiest, most effective method to taking your content from your mobile device to the big screen.

AllCast is available on iOS and Android. AllCast Premium costs $5/AU$5. Only the free version is available in the UK.

At this point we've covered the best ways to share movies, music, TV shows and photos with Chromecast, but what if you want to show off some good ol' web pages? For that your best bet is Chrome. Like using a web browser on a desktop, the mobile versions of Google Chrome essentially mirror your screen, letting everyone around see what you're seeing on your phone.

Chrome is available for free on both iOS and Android.

With Spotify Connect being included in an increasing amount of speakers, Tidal users were starting to feel slightly left out when it came to getting their music streaming to speakers around the house.

Thankfully a recent update to the service now means that Tidal users can enjoy lossless CD-quality music around the house, which continues to leave Spotify in the dust in terms of pure music quality.

Finding a rock-solid Chromecast game is the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. More entertaining games have made their way onto the system (see: Tricky Titans, Big Web Quiz and Monopoly Dash), but they're few and far between. Tricky Titans takes your standard rock-paper-scissors game and adds in up to four ogres dead-set on destroying each other's town by hurling pieces of your settlement at your opponents. It's silly, hokey and not overly complex, but Tricky Titans is a fun party game that will hold your attention just long enough to have a good time.

Tricky Titans is available for free on both iOS and Android.

Need to entertain your kids on a rainy day? Download Just Dance Now. With dozens of songs to dance along to, Just Dance Now is the perfect port of Ubisoft's long-running rhythm game. The magic of Just Dance Now is that it doesn't require any fancy technology to work - all you need is your smartphone and a Chromecast (or Apple TV, smart TV, etc) to get up and moving. How does it work if the game can't actually see how you're moving? Just Dance Now uses the gyroscopic sensors in your smartphone to get a sense of your movements. In practice it's a bit imprecise, but it's still a fantastic, fun and moderately inexpensive way to keep kids (or kids at heart) entertained.

Just Dance Now is available for free on iOS and Android, although the game does use microtransactions to play multiple songs.

Twitch is a gamer's paradise. With thousands of streams going on around the clock, there's always a new game to watch or streamer to laugh at. Best of all, because Twitch's app is Chromecast-enabled, the party doesn't have to stop on your small screen. Whether you're an eSports fan, a retro enthusiast or just want to watch someone beat Super Mario World in under 27 minutes ... blindfolded, this is the place.

Twitch is available for free on both iOS and Android.

Now TV is Sky Broadcasting's own streaming service, which allows you to get access to Sky's excellent portfolio of shows, movies and sports without paying for a full Sky satellite subscription. 

What makes it an excellent Chromecast app, however, is the fact that it can be used to stream the service onto platforms that currently don't have a native Now TV app. 

The prime example of this is Android TV, which currently does not have a Now TV app. However, if you have Now TV installed on your phone then you can use this to 'Cast content to your big screen. 

It's not the perfect solution, but it does make Now TV one of the prime examples of why Google Cast is such a great technology. 

While Dailymotion has long felt like the poor man's YouTube, the video streaming app has found an even footing on Google's small streaming dongle. The app here is just as easy to use as YouTube and, moreover, filled with a lot less advertisements. If you're looking to spend more time watching videos than you do watching advertisements, Dailymotion might be a better option.

Dailymotion is available for free on both iOS and Android.

It was only a matter of time until one of the most popular puzzle games on the planet came to Google's streaming device. Like the original, Angry Birds Friends sees the titular birds destroying structures of varying shapes and sizes but, this time, adds an extra level by introducing competitive play. You'll no longer need to wonder which of your friends have the high score – simply call them into your living room, pull out your mobile devices and settle it once and for all.

Angry Birds Friends is available for free on both iOS and Android.

All 4 is Channel 4's on demand and catchup streaming service, and it's completely free to download and use via Chromecast. 

There's something for everyone on All 4 - whether you're looking for reality shows, arty black comedies, or classic British sitcoms, you can't really go wrong.

You can download All 4 on both iOS and Android.

Owned by the e-commerce giant of the same name, Rakuten TV is streaming on demand service that's available to download for Android and iOS for free. 

You pay to rent each film or series, with prices varying between new releases, back catalogue, and whether you want to stream or download in HD or SD - it works in a similar way to Google Play, for example. 

The reason you may want to try Rakuten TV as opposed to subscription services like Netflix is because you can sometimes get access to early digital releases

Kodi is an all-purpose home media center that stores, streams, and records. As a 100% free and open source, it's always changing, adapting, and adding new features. 

You can use it to store your digital content in one easy-to-find place, or you can use it to download and access live digital TV and music streams from around the world.

It's worth noting that it’s impossible to stream Kodi on Chromecast with an iOS device without jailbreaking and/or altering your device in some way, which we definitely wouldn't recommend, as you could put your iPhone's warranty in jeopardy.

For all non-iOS users, we've put together a handy guide for installing Kodi with Chromecast.

Categories: Tech News

Copa Libertadores 2019 live stream: how to watch Boca Juniors vs River Plate online

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:33

The on-again off-again second leg of the 2019 Copa Libertadores final is finally going to happen...probably. The Superclásico has been moved to a mutual venue all the way across the Pacific Ocean to the Santiago Bernabéu, but at least world fans can watch the Boca Juniors vs River Plate grudge match via a Copa Libertadore live stream from anywhere in the world - and it's possible to do so absolutely FREE!

Forget Merseyside, North London or Milan - Boca Juniors vs River Plate is probably the world's most fiercely competed football derby. The two Buenos Airies-based clubs are bitter enemies. That's why the second leg of this Copa Libertadore final (think the Champions League but for South American clubs) has had to be pushed back and moved from Argentina to an entirely different continent. The crowd trouble surrounding the previous two attempts meant that the fixture had to be postponed.

The first leg that ended in a tantalisingly poised 2-2 draw. Both teams (and their fans) are desperate to come out on top in this once in a lifetime fixture. It's the first time ever that two Argentinian teams have played in the Copa Libertadores final. Serious bragging rights are up for grabs with Boca Juniors looking to add to their six previous titles, while River Plate have had the taste of glory more recently in 2015.

So now that the waiting is over, and we can finally get down to some football. Discover how to get a Copa Libertadores live stream by reading this page. You can watch it from anywhere using a VPN (even if your country isn't broadcasting it), and it's absolutely free in the UK.

Live stream the Copa Libertadores final for FREE in the UK How to live stream Boca Juniors vs River Plate anywhere else in the world for free 

The free Copa Libertadores live stream as described above is only accessible within the UK - if you're abroad you'll be told that you're not allowed to watch. Annoying, but there's a very easy way to get around it. The trick is to download and install a VPN to change your IP address to one in the UK and then go to the TVPlayer website to watch. Here's how to stream Boca Juniors vs River Plate live and for FREE from anywhere in the world with a VPN:

How to watch the Copa Libertadores final in the US 

There are several options for live streaming Boca Juniors vs River Plate in the US. Fox is the official broadcaster, so if you already have access to and want to watch at home or on the go with its app, then you're laughing.

If you don't have it, then try Fox Soccer Match Pass, Fubo or Sling TV. All do shorter term subscription options and, crucially free trials. And if you already subscribe but are outside the US, then be sure to grab a VPN service and port into a US location.

Live stream the Boca Juniors vs River Plate final in Australia

Well it's going to be an early one, but if you're an obsessive world football fan then you'll need to set your alarm for around 6.30am AEDT on Monday morning. Free-to-air channel SBS is showing the final Down Under.

If you're outside the country and want to tune in, then you can use one of our favorite VPNs above to watch the free coverage from Oz or another nation.

Main image courtesy of

Categories: Tech News

Securing the UK’s critical national infrastructure

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:30

While cyberattacks and data breaches targeting businesses tend to dominate the headlines, governments are just as at risk. Perhaps even more so according to the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) recent report highlighting the risks to the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI).

TechRadar Pro spoke with Carbon Black’s National Security Strategist and former FBI counterterrorism and counterintelligence operative, Eric O’Neill who explained why the country’s CNI is at risk and what a possible cyberattack targeting it might look like.

Eric O’Neill, National Security Strategist at Carbon Black

Categories: Tech News

PS5: what's the latest PlayStation 5 news and when will Sony release it?

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:29

Now that the PS4 is officially reaching the end of its life cycle (that's direct from Sony), our thoughts are inevitably turning to the PS5 – so what exactly is in store for the Sony PlayStation 5 and when can be expect it to release?

Sony is currently keeping tight-lipped when it comes to specific plans for the PS5: but we know that a PlayStation 5 release date will definitely one day exist, thanks to Sony Interactive Entertainment's President and CEO Shawn Layden confirming as much in an interview with In addition, Sony president Kenichiro Yoshida confirmed the company is working on a next-generation console in an interview with the Financial Times.

Back in May, Sony Interactive CEO John Kodera revealed to the Wall Street Journal that the PS5 would not be releasing until at least 2021. However, an investigation by T3 claimed the PS5 could release as soon as Christmas 2019 - earlier than the Xbox Two.

Even though we don't know exactly what to expect from the PS5 (or if that'll even be its name),  we do know that the rumors, wish lists and alarmingly convincing 'leaked' renders in the run up to a console reveal are a big part of the fun.

In that spirit, we've gathered together everything we most want to see from the PlayStation 5 and what its stand-out features might be when it arrives.

[Update: Sony has confirmed it's working on a next-generation PlayStation console.]


PS5: release date

With no official word yet from Sony on a PS5 release date, it's difficult to pin down exactly when we might get to see a PS5 console.

Some analysts are predicting the PlayStation 5 release date could be around 2020 or 2021, for example, while others say 2019 – so just the three-year window, then.

Speaking to GamingBolt, Michael Pachter said that though he thinks the PS5 will be a half-step and will be backwards-compatible with the PS4 Pro, he doesn't think we'll see it until "2019 or 2020 but probably 2019".

This would make sense as it would fall in line with predictions for when the 4K TV market in the US will reach 50%. "I think Sony has probably got the next console cycle lined up already," he says, "I think they already know what they've got to do."

More recently Pachter clarified this claim, saying that Sony would most likely release the new console in 2020. He added that at this time he thinks the PS4 Pro will become the base model PlayStation and will see a reduction in price. 

Meanwhile a recent report from Kotaku's Jason Schreier backs up this thinking. He spoke to a number of developers about likely release dates with most of the conversations pointing to a 2020 release. He writes: "There is information about the PlayStation 5 floating around at both first- and third-party companies, but it’s far more limited than it would be if the console’s release was imminent."

A recent Wall Street Journal report points to a release around three years away, with Sony's John Kodera stating: “We will use the next three years to prepare the next step, to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future." 

Not long after this, Sony's new CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida, released a three-year business plan for the company which predicted the company's profits would dip in the run up to 2021. This is the kind of dip that may come as the PlayStation 4 reaches market saturation, before the launch of the PS5.

So mark your calendars for 2019, 2020 and 2021 then.

PS4 DualShock

PS5: competition

Although we're hideously impatient for news of a PlayStation 5 release date, we can't fault Sony for taking another few years to really milk the last of the PS4, given it's huge and loyal player base. After all, the PS4 Pro is still relatively new to the market and its direct competitor, the Microsoft's Xbox One X, is an even more recent release. 

However, industry insider Jez Corden( and a recent Microsoft job listing) have hinted that Microsoft is already thinking about the next Xbox – the Xbox Two (codenamed "Xbox Scarlett"). That means it's highly unlikely that Sony isn't currently doing the same and is, perhaps, even further along in the process. 

According to gaming industry analyst Hideki Yasuda (via T3), and his firm Ace Economic Research Institute, "the introduction of the PS5 will be at the end of 2019". A 2019 release would be much earlier than expected and could give Sony a real advantage as the next generation console would release before the Xbox Two.

If we're honest, we can't really see any urgent need to start a new generation right now. And given Microsoft's growing commitment to backwards compatibility, we think it's key for Sony to really think carefully about its next steps. 

Despite Yasuda's report, a two to three-year wait make a lot more sense to us. However, it could be Sony is trying to throw Microsoft a sucker-punch from left-field by releasing earlier than expected.

PS5: news and rumors

Solid news on the PlayStation 5 is pretty thin on the ground at the moment, but as always, we do have rumors about what could be coming down the line – and we've collected and assessed them right here.

Kenichiro Yoshida confirms next-gen

In an interview with the Financial Times, Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said: “At this point, what I can say is it’s necessary to have a next-generation hardware."

Ace Economic Research Institute report

Gaming industry analyst Hideki Yasuda, from Osaka-based firm Ace Economic Research, has claimed in a recent report that the PS5 could arrive in time for Christmas 2019 (via T3). 

The report estimates that "the introduction of the PS5 will be at the end of 2019". If this is true, then it'll be a massive blow to Microsoft who has confirmed the Xbox Two (codenamed "Xbox Scarlett") will not launch until 2020.

John Kodera talks life cycles

PlayStation's John Kodera has been discussing the future of the PS4 at a Sony Corporate Strategy Meeting and, by extension, inadvertently creating space for prospective PS5 release year rumors.

During the meeting, Kodera made it clear that Sony is still very much behind the console but warned that sales are expected to slow this year, in line with expectations as market saturation approaches. As a console gets to this point in its lifecycle, it's natural to start looking forward to the next iteration. 

Kodera stated that the time passing from now until 2021 would be a period where Sony would hunker down – which suggests that a new big idea could be around the corner. Perhaps 2021 will be the time to expect the PS5?

No E3 2018 appearance

Now that E3 2018 has come and gone, we know there was no mention of the PS5 during the event. Instead, Sony offered up deep dives into four of its biggest upcoming games: Death Stranding, Spider-Man, The Last of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima. Watch this space for E3 2019.

Eurogamer tech analysis

A recent report from Eurogamer has attempted to narrow down a possible release date based on when technologies advanced enough to justify a generational leap will be available to Sony. The most important things that will need to advance will be the console's processor and its memory and in both cases, Eurogamer has determined that we're unlikely to see a new console released before the very end of 2019.

Even if Sony did manage to push its console out at this date, the cost of production would make the PS5 far too expensive, making it more likely that we won't see the console released until the end of 2020, if Sony has any intention of making it an appealing proposition. 

Cyberpunk 2077

Andrew House talks the next generation

Former Sony chief, Andrew House, has been speaking about what the next generation of consoles could look like at the GamesBeat conference recently. Though House refused to comment specifically on the PlayStation 5 itself, he did say that he believes physical discs will stick around for a while yet, as a result of the need to continue tapping into developing markets where downloadable titles may not be quite as compatible with limited internet infrastructure.  

In other markets, however, he thinks that streaming games will be a big part of the next generation of consoles.

House also stated that he thinks the PS4 and the PS4 Pro still have a long life in them yet. This doesn't necessarily cancel out the rumors that the PS5 will be with us in the next one to two years; if the reports that the console will be backwards-compatible are true then the PS4 generation will remain relevant long into the lifecycle of the PS5. Regardless, given that House was unwilling to comment on the PS5 despite being pushed, these details can only be considered speculation at the moment.

The SemiAcccurate report

SemiAccurate (via ResetEra) is claiming that it's received some leaked information on the yet-to-be-announced console and says that the number of dev kits which have been distributed suggests the console could be released sooner than expected. 

In addition to this, SemiAccurate also reports that Sony will use this console to push its VR efforts even further, with VR-tech baked in at the Silicon level, and will sport a GPU based on AMD's Navi architecture with a CPU that's potentially a custom item from AMD's Zen line.

Though SemiAcccurate has a decent track record with its reports, having accurately reported Nintendo's Nvidia partnership for the Switch and the PS4 specs back in 2012, we still say take this with a pinch of salt. 

Though the specs sound plausible, a 2019 release date seems a little far-fetched. Regardless of how many developer kits that Sony has distributed, it feels too soon after the release of the PS4 Pro for the next PlayStation console just now... and we're getting towards the end of 2018.

PS4 on stage

The Marcus Sellars claims

Renowned leaker Marcus Sellars has been making some bold claims on Twitter recently (via GameRant), alleging that PS5 development kits are already in the hands of third-party developers. He also claimed that Nintendo is planning a Direct stream for March 8 (something which has since proven to be accurate). In fact, Sellars has been accurate with his claims a few times: recently he revealed Metroid Prime 4 was being developed by Bandai Namco.

However, Sellars didn't provide any evidence to back up his claims so they really can't be taken as anything more than rumor at the moment. 

Something which may be interesting in relation to this, though, is that recently CD Projekt Red revealed that their upcoming title Cyberpunk 2077 was being developed for current and next generation consoles which came as a great surprise to many. Whether this means they're one of the third-party developers at work with these rumored kits is yet to be confirmed.

Even if development kits are in the hands of developers, this doesn't mean the PS5 is coming any time soon. It could still be another couple of years before any kind of reveal in terms of hardware.

The patent

Something that does help Sellars case is a recently updated patent for backwards compatibility that's been filed by Sony. Originally filed in 2015, the patent was updated in February to say “Backward compatibility testing of software in a mode that disrupts timing.” This is no guarantee that Sony is actually working on the technology for the PS5 (it could be creating an entirely separate peripheral that makes backwards compatibility possible) but it's not impossible that this could be for a new generation console. 

The PlayStation Plus news

Though there's been no official word from Sony on the development of a PlayStation 5 just yet, a recent announcement in relation to the PlayStation Plus service has ignited some speculation. It's been announced that from March 2019, PS Plus will no longer offer free PS3 or PSVita games and will instead focus on PS4 titles. This has led to some wondering over whether or not Sony is attempting to phase out these older generation titles in preparation for a new generation. This is, of course, pure speculation but it's interesting that Sony would be willing to reduce its game offering to only two games (as it informed Polygon) without any other excuse than wishing to focus on titles for an already highly successful console. Whether Sony is truly making way for the PS5 or whether it's going to offer a higher quality of PS4 game is unclear and it seems we'll have to wait a while to find out what the final plan for PS Plus is.

PS5: can we have proper 4K gaming?

The PS4 Pro offers a tantalising hint of what 4K gaming could be like. But the stark fact remains: it still doesn’t have the grunt to do native 4K consistently. 

Its “checkerboard” technique of taking single pixels and using each to render four pixels in 4K resolution is clever, and it can do native 4K output, but it often has to sacrifice resolution to keep performance consistent. 

Chris Kingsley, CTO and co-founder of developer Rebellion, dangles an even more ambitious technological carrot in front of a putative PS5: “Obviously new hardware should be able to support 4K TVs and possibly even 8K TVs at a push!” 

Native 4K support, surely, will be a basic requirement of the PlayStation 5. And if Sony cracks that particular problem with alacrity, it could even mean that a PlayStation 5 will arrive sooner than anticipated.

PS5 games

Aside from 4K visuals, if recent showings at GDC 2018 are anything to go by we certainly can expect the next generation to offer incredible visual advancements in terms of character models. 

During GDC, we got a glimpse of what the next generation of games might look like and it's left us extremely excited for the PS5.

Real-time ray tracing was revealed to be the next big thing in rendering while Epic Games gave us a taste of how it might be used to create the most lifelike characters ever. Using its capture technology, the Unreal Engine creator displayed a future with character models so realistic they bring us close to crossing the uncanny valley. Watch a performance from Andy Serkis below to see just how capable these new development technologies are:

“Honestly, between five and ten years from now, I don't think you're going to be able to tell the difference between the real and the virtual world,” Epic CTO Kim Libreri told, “You'll see hardware that can support these kinds of capabilities pretty shortly, and then, finally, the greatest blockbuster with the most complicated effects, within ten years, you'll be able to do that in real-time.”

When Libreri tells us we'll see hardware that can support this technology "pretty shortly" we can't be sure, but we like to think she's talking about the yet-to-be-announced PS5.

PS5: the VR effect

Sony became the first console manufacturer to embrace virtual reality, thanks to the PlayStation VR, but if you examine PlayStation VR closely – and observe how it operates on the PS4 Pro – it invites speculation about how a PlayStation 5 console might take VR to a new level. 

Currently, PlayStation VR operates at lower resolution than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive – but, as it stands, even its current incarnation almost pushes the base PlayStation 4 beyond its limits. Running a PlayStation VR on a PS4 Pro brings improved frame-rates, which are very handy indeed in terms of the overall VR experience, but even the PS4 Pro can’t overcome the resolution constraints set by the PlayStation VR headset.

Sony will want to return to the market with a second, markedly higher-tech iteration of PlayStation VR

So it’s a good bet that, presuming PlayStation VR is successful (and it already appears to be catching on) Sony will want to return to the market with a second, markedly higher-tech iteration: which would provide an obvious selling point for the PlayStation 5. 

And if a PlayStation VR 2 headset could be sold without an external black box, it should be markedly cheaper, further accelerating VR’s march into the mainstream. A recent report from SemiAcccurate, which claims that the PS5 will have virtual reality capabilities built-in at silicon level, suggests this will indeed be the case. 

PlayStation VR

Rebellion’s Kingsley makes another good point about second-generation VR. “Anything that reduces the leads has to be a good thing,” he says. 

The umbilical cord which currently attaches VR headset-wearers to their consoles or PCs obviously goes against VR’s entire immersive nature, and we’re already beginning to see, for example, a third-party implementation for the HTC Vive that renders it wireless. It’s a safe bet that the capacity for running a wireless PlayStation VR 2 will be built into the PS5. 

But Kingsley’s PlayStation VR 2 wish-list goes further: “Wide vertical and horizontal field-of-view would be top of my list, and of course, that would require 4K resolution per eye, and high dynamic range would be great too.” 

HDR and wider fields of view should be achievable but sadly, we don’t reckon full 4K VR is likely to be a possibility even for the PS5. As Kingsley points out, that would require 4K rendering per eye, which equates to 8K rendering overall, which we expect to be beyond the PS5’s capabilities. 

That said, perhaps Sony will find some clever technological bodge to get around that before it releases its fifth PlayStation console.

Ratchet and Clank

What form will the PS5 take?

It has been suggested that future consoles like the PlayStation 5 could take radically different forms to current ones, thanks to advances in cloud computing and game streaming, doing away with the components that make today's devices so bulky. However, we reckon it's unlikely that Sony will take a more Nintendo-like approach and put the PS5 in a tiny box.

One reason for that is that with the PS4, Sony has only just committed to using what are basically the innards of a PC – the first three PlayStation variants used proprietary components (and which in the PS3 impacted sales). Developers, certainly, were massively relieved that the PS4 took the PC route. 

"We always want fast CPUs and GPUs, but lots of fast RAM is also very important – it’s no use having fast processors if they are starved of data.”

Chris Kingsley

“Developers want the ability to make the best games using the minimum amount of effort. We want to focus on being creative and getting things to just work,” Kingsley says. “So the hardware should be based around current console hardware, which is in turn based on PC hardware. We always want fast CPUs and GPUs, but lots of fast RAM is also very important – it’s no use having fast processors if they are starved of data.” 

All the above are achievable, but will the PS5 still have a hard disk? 

Sony Computer Entertainment President and CEO Andrew House spoke at the PS4’s launch about how deciding to put hard disks and 8GB of RAM in the PS4 were both “billion-dollar decisions”. The fact that Sony has now made external hard drive support possible for the PS4 and Pro is a step in the right direction and this is something that could be carried over to the PS5, which will undoubtedly have to deal with even larger 4K assets. 

It seems certain that Sony is very keen to hear what its community thinks – recently a group called PlayStation Voice sent out surveys to members of its closed community asking them what their expectations of the PS5 are. One community member posted the email they received and found themselves removed from the group for breaking its non-disclosure agreements. 

According to PSU, PlayStation Voice is a community run by third-party consumer insight agency, Join the Dots. Once information has been gathered, it's fed back to clients (the client in this case presumably being Sony PlayStation).

Admittedly, this doesn't tell us much about PS5 itself, other than that things are likely to be still in the very early stages. While it's unlikely that Sony would use the information gathered from its communities to decide exactly which features will be included in the console, the ideas of fans can certainly spark a good deal of inspiration.

PS5 and streaming games

Of course, if games were just streamed to the PS5 that problem would disappear entirely, and Sony already has a game-streaming service in the form of PlayStation Now

So why isn’t this more of a definite feature rather than something on our wishlist? Well, Sony is remaining tight-lipped about PlayStation Now uptake figures, but we suspect they are pretty unimpressive. It has certainly had issues with setting the right subscription charges, given that PlayStation Now effectively gives backwards compatibility – a “luxury” that was previously free for owners of PlayStation 2s and 3s. 

There would be nothing to stop Sony launching a small form-factor cloud-based version of the console for those with mega-fast broadband

But the biggest issue is broadband speeds. Even 4K TV requires a minimum of 25Mbps broadband in order to provide satisfactory streaming, and it’s doubtful whether 4K game streaming – with extra information on top of the visual side – would even work reliably at such speeds. There would be nothing to stop Sony launching a small form-factor cloud-based version of the PS5 console for those with mega-fast broadband, perhaps with a mobile phone-style subscription model that has an upfront hardware costs (something Microsoft is thinking about). 

But for the PS5 to sell anything like its predecessors, there would have to be a conventional version with similar innards to the PS4

Chancellor Philip Hammond has previously announced an infrastructure investment aimed at bringing fast broadband and 5G mobile data to the UK – but the earliest that would have an impact would be 2021, and the PS5 will almost certainly arrive before then. Perhaps its first mid-cycle update, though, will be a streaming version which takes advantage of burgeoning 5G networks?

PS5 games

PS5: optical discs or not?

The rise of downloadable games, which continue to eat into the physical disc market, means that pundits have been predicting that consoles will go discless for about a decade now. However, our guess is that the PS5 won’t be the first system to risk venturing down that road, at least not until it catches wind of Microsoft doing the same thing. 

Sony has taken a lot of (justifiable) flak for not putting a 4K Blu-ray drive in the PS4 Pro – making it a less attractive purchase for film and TV buffs than the Xbox One S or the Xbox One X.

Surveys continue to show that gamers are still attached to the possibility of buying games on physical discs – not least because they can then sell them (a practice that the games industry hates), and keep hard disk space usage at a manageable level.

If Sony were to axe the Blu-ray drive from the PS5, gamers would expect several terabytes of storage in compensation. 

Kingsley gives a developer’s view on the topic: “I think the days of delivering films and games via disc are on the decline, as most people are going digital; however, some people like physical discs, so who knows  whether that decline will level out and remain present but at a lower level than now?”

Download figures have been on the rise over the last year but EA CFO Blake Jorgensen has said that he thinks consoles and disc drives will continue to stick around.

“Consoles and disc drives probably stay around for a long period of time [...] I think it's the consumer deciding what's the easiest way for them to buy a game.

“And it may mean they no longer have a store down the street from them so they decide to buy it [digitally] maybe it's easier for them to do.”


So when can we expect the PS5?

Given that the PlayStation 4 was launched in 2013 and Sony’s previous consoles arrived in six-year intervals, it would be easy to project that it will launch the PlayStation 5 in 2019 at the earliest. The sort of technology available then should easily allow full native 4K games without saddling the PS5 with a massive price-tag and, by 2019, 4K TVs will be the norm, rather than the exception, in the average household.

2020 might be the year in which Sony unleashes the PS5 on the world, as the first native 4K console with wireless VR ... as long as Microsoft doesn’t get there first

So it would be a surprise if Sony doesn’t want to capitalize on that at the earliest possible juncture. However, Kingsley points at the PS4 Pro, and reckons that could have an effect on the length of the current console cycle: “It’s a difficult one to judge, but overall I think it’s fair to say that the overall cycle will lengthen slightly.” 

Especially if the PS4 Pro wildly outsells the base PS4, which admittedly isn’t something we anticipate happening once it has reached a critical mass of households with 4K TVs. 

So perhaps 2020 might be the year in which Sony unleashes the PS5 on the world, as the first native 4K console with wireless VR... as long as Microsoft doesn’t get there first.

What games can we expect to see on PS5?

If the backwards compatibility patent mentioned above is actually applied, we can expect to see the whole PS4 library available to play on the PS5. Or, perhaps we'll see another round of remasters as we did when moving from the PS3 to the PS4. However, we imagine there will be some games being developed specifically for this new PlayStation 5 console generation and the extra power it's likely to offer.

Already we've seen CD Projekt Red mention that it's developing for this generation as well as the next, and alongside the rumors that there are already developers kits out in the open, we think there's a good chance that Cyberpunk 2077 will be one of the early PS5 titles. 

Check out our PS4 vs PS4:PSVR compared and explained video below.

Categories: Tech News

AMD Radeon RX 3080 could match GeForce RTX 2070 for half the price

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:57

Fresh gossip from the GPU grapevine contends that AMD is preparing to launch Radeon RX 3080, RX 3070 and RX 3060 graphics cards to compete with Nvidia’s new Turing models – and potentially in a big way on price, if this leak is anything to go by.

This comes from AdoredTV, the YouTube channel which has been the source of various leaks in the past – some of them pretty accurate – and has spilled alleged details of AMD’s Ryzen 3000 processors which we’ve already highlighted.

The three alleged graphics cards – remember, take all this with a suitably sizeable dose of salt – are incoming 7nm efforts headed up by the RX 3080 based on the Navi 10 GPU.

Obviously, specs are sketchy at this point, but the contention is that this card will have 8GB of GDDR6 video RAM, with a TDP of 150W, and will be priced at $250 (around £195, AU$345). It will apparently perform around 10 to 15% faster than an RX Vega 64.

According to AdoredTV, the RX 3080 should be competitive in terms of performance with the RTX 2070. (Or the GTX 1080 from Nvidia’s last generation, of which there is still plenty of stock kicking around by all accounts.) This makes that price is a bit of an eye-opener – we’ll talk more about that in a moment.

Then there’s the RX 3070, based on the Navi 12 GPU, and also running with 8GB of GDDR6, with a slightly lower TDP of 120W, pitched at $200 (around £155, AU$275). Performance-wise, it’s supposedly competitive with AMD’s Vega 56 GPU, or on the Nvidia side of the fence, the GTX 1070 (and the RTX 2060, when it emerges – or indeed GTX 2060, depending on how Nvidia brands the product).

Rounding things off is the RX 3060 which is also built around Navi 12, but in this case it’ll be a cut-down spin, with the card having 4GB of GDDR6 and a TDP of 75W – with no need to hook it up to the PSU. This will be competitive with AMD’s own Radeon RX 580 and Nvidia’s GTX 1060, while being priced at a bargain basement $129 (around £100, AU$180).

Price is right?

So, pricing: for the RX 3080 to be pitched at $250 (around £195, AU$345) – and competitive with the RTX 2070, which is generally speaking around twice that price – would be quite something.

Of course, all this is just speculation, and this early indication of pricing is likely to be rough guessing rather than anything else. But, it’s interesting that AMD is apparently looking to be highly competitive, but then again, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After all, we’ve recently heard AMD assert that it will “be very competitive overall and that includes the high-end of the GPU market,” with some impressive GPUs launching in 2019.

As ever, we’ll just have to wait and see. The other interesting point is the names that this rumor purports AMD will use: at least to us, the RX 3000 range has more than a bit of ‘Spinal Tap’ about it (in that it’s ‘one better’ than Nvidia’s 2000-series Turing products).

Via Techspot

Categories: Tech News

Super Smash Bros Ultimate: our review in progress of Nintendo's ultimate showdown

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:55

Welcome to TechRadar’s review-in-progress of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, on Nintendo Switch. 

After months of waiting, it’s finally here. When Nintendo first announced its incoming Super Smash Bros. game back at E3 2018, many were convinced it would be a re-skin of the previous Wii U and 3DS versions (not that we wouldn’t have bought it anyway). But don’t be fooled: this is a brand new, fully-fledged entry in Nintendo’s iconic crossover fighting series, and boy is it a big’un.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate packs in more fighters, more stages, more gameplay modes, and more tactical elements of any game in the franchise. This is, for all intents and purposes, the definitive Super Smash Bros., with everything that entails.

While we’ve sampled near all the game modes available in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, no review would be complete without mention of online competitive multiplayer – which we’ll be testing out over the next few days, along with the rest of you who bought copy of the game. (See you on those leaderboards, chum.) 

For now, here are our thoughts so far.

Mario smash

The core experience of any Smash Bros. game is the multiplayer, whether that’s local co-op on the couch, or smashing heads in competitive matches online. 

Like its predecessors, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks to the tactical mechanics of traditional fighting games, and then chucks them into a sandpit of all your favorite toys - throwing together characters from Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Metroid, Animal Crossing, and countless other Nintendo or third-party IP. The result is a chaotic, joyous, maddening, sometimes incomprehensible mess of blows, items, assist trophies, and finishing moves. In short: it’s very, very fun.

As ever, each fighter comes with a variation on standard attacks (A button and directional pad), special attacks (B button and directional pad), grab attacks (L / R), and shields (ZL / ZR). That’s not to mention the seismic ‘smash attack’ that fighters earn from capturing a floating orb called the ‘Smash Ball’ that wanders onto the stage – a massive and over-the-top special move with the potential to brutally damage the other fighters onstage.

A smash attack might see a fighter jet fly into the fray (Fox McCloud) a ball of lightning knock players off the stage (Pikachu), or a vampire-slayer banish an opponent into a virtual coffin (Richter Belmont). Smash Bros. has a flair for the dramatic, and Ultimate is no exception.

Despite the huge amount of action going on onscreen, playing Ultimate remains surprisingly accessible, with enough luck thrown in that you never quite know how a match is going to turn out. Veteran gamers may have mastered the moveset of their top fighters, but a chance smash ball or couple of unlucky slips off the edge of the stage could swing a match either way. Jumping around and button-mashing remains a valid – and crucially, fun – way to start out, given how dynamic the stages and interfering items tend to be.

Local co-op can support up to eight individual players around one console, with either a Pro Controller, paired Joy-Con grip, or single Joy-Con. Sure, the single Joy-Con may feel a bit cramped for grown-up, adult hands, but it’s still somewhat incredible you still get all of the same button functionality and HD rumble features in such a small piece of hardware.

The chaos is part of the charm, of course, and Ultimate ramps up the overall speed for livelier, faster-paced combat. Other mechanical changes that prevent skidding, stop fighters from ‘phasing’ past each other, and make grabs bounce off each other, make this a game where you can’t as easily run or avoid attacks, and it’s all the stronger for it.

The ability to customize matches, though, means you can either ramp up the heat or strip the back the experience for something simpler.

You can cull all the items, or only allow banana peels and Pokeballs. You can pick your favorite stage to battle on – out of the immense 103 options available – allocate one at random, or set the game to jump to a different stage at an unspecified point in the match. You can vary the number of lives, turn off damage counters, restrict character selection, and too many other things to list here. 

There's no shame in sticking to default settings, but if that sort of detail and customization interests you, you may spend as much time experimenting with small settings changes as you do actually brawling.

The whole gang's here

The sheer number of fighters on the roster – 74, at launch – may look daunting, and it is. To start, however, players will be starting with only eight: Mario, Pikachu, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Samus, Link, Kirby, and Fox. And yes, this is the starting roster from the original 1999 Super Smash Bros. (Boy, do Nintendo know how to do a throwback.)

You’ll then have the ability to unlock other fighters through the single-player modes, or in chance encounters that literally spring out at you when navigating the game’s menus.

The main point here is that near enough anyone sitting down the play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will know one of the characters on the roster. Whether you’re a veteran gamer who grew up playing Ice Climbers and Pac-Man, a long-time Metroid or Super Mario fan, or someone who bought a Nintendo Switch just to play Splatoon 2, you’ll recognize some of the faces, and likely have played some of the IP featured here.

While the mechanics are complex, and painstakingly tweaked to ensure balance between the huge number of characters – we couldn’t even guess how many hours of playtesting Nintendo needed – anyone can pick up a Joy-Con and start swinging their fists as Kirby or Donkey Kong. By going big with its character list, Nintendo have opened up the franchise far beyond any of the previous games.

You’ll see this with the 11 brand new fighters added for Ultimate. While the likes of Ridley and King K. Rule both offer small variations on ‘heavy’ fighters, and Daisy and Dark Samus copy the moveset of existing characters, others bring something far more experimental. The Inklings from Splatoon have an ink meter that needs to be recharged every few moves – literally by submerging yourself in paint – though this will leave you vulnerable to melee attacks. The Pokemon Incineroar too offers big offense, but has a tendency to launch itself offstage if you’re not careful about where you’re facing.

While we haven’t got to try out the incoming DLC characters – the first of which, Piranha Plant, will be free for anyone who buys the game by the end of January – the range of options is huge. There’s an immense feeling of community, of disparate faces and characters coming together, even if they do so to pummel each other into the air.

The remaining four DLC fighters are yet to be revealed, but we know for a fact they won’t be Echo Fighters. (Our money’s on Detective Pikachu making an appearance.)

A mode for every occasion

But there’s still so much more than just smashing. The recently revealed World of Light mode functions as a single-player campaign, based on a cataclysmic event that tears the entire world’s souls from their bodies. (Yup.)

Everyone except pink little Kirby, that is, who’s presumably too cute to be doomed with the others.

You set off as Kirby on a quest to fight the possessed bodies of your friends, who have been inhabited by ‘spirits’, in order to add other fighters to your roster and choose your route across the World of Light map as you make your way to the final boss, Galeem: some sort of feathery-light-serpent-god that's to blame for messing with everyone's souls.

These spirits offer the main departure from previous Smash Bros. games. Spirits are essentially a form of collectable sticker you can allocate to fighters to increase their stats, alter their weight and speed, or add special effects and items in battle.

Spirits replace the collectable trophies players would collect by battling and defeating characters in previous games, with a far more tactical element. The spirits also take the form of hundreds of other Nintendo and third-party characters that are likely to inspire joyous nostalgia and puzzled looks in equal measure. 

That’s not to mention the Classic Mode, with a unique series of stages and opponents for each fighter. Or dedicated challenge modes and All-Star Smash stages (where you fight every single fighter on the roster). Or the camera mode for replaying battles and picking the perfect angle for your heat-of-battle stills. Or the new training mode that lets you test out the exact distance, power, and angle of each of your fighter’s moves on a literal giant graph.

But whether you’re here to hone your skills, take some fun snaps, or just smash that controller to high heaven, Ultimate has something for you, and enough fighters to offer near endless replay value - even if you're only ever likely to stick with a handful that suit your play-style.

The whole spirit conceit is slightly nonsensical, and rests on tenuous connections between little-known video game characters with the big names on the roster (Ultimate tries to match them together for the single-player mode, but the whole thing feels pretty forced). Just labelling them collectables, or adding stat changes to trophies, might have been simpler.

But for the gamers who recognise Mega Man’s Skull Man boss, Advance Wars’ pilot Hawk, or the Slime from Dragon Quest, finding and collating those stickers is a treat unto itself, and will offer a whole other layer of tactical complexity to those who are looking for it.

Fan service

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is all about giving players what they want.

Say what you want about Smash Bros. on the home console Wii U or lower-spec handheld 3DS – few people bought into the hardware to play on the former, while it was never going to feel like a complete experience on the latter.

The line-up of games for the Nintendo Switch has had no shortage of Wii U ports, like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Pokken Tournement DX, or Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze – and we could well have got a port of the Super Smash Bros. entry that came to Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.

But Nintendo went further. We got a brand new Smash Bros. game, built from the ground up for Nintendo Switch. We got every character ever featured in the series, along with a host of new faces, and a fully fleshed-out single-player mode.

That’s 74 fighters total, with another five coming in DLC. For comparison, Street Fighter V has a roster of 34 characters, while the latest Tekken game lists 48.

We may never get to play as Waluigi (sadly relegated to an Assist Trophy) but there’s more than enough here to distract ourselves.

You may not use half the settings, or end up trying 80% of the roster, or bother about collecting every 'spirit' character throughout the game. And if there's anything to criticize in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it's that there's almost too many fighters, modes, and options packed in.

But as exciting and inclusive as the roster is, 74 or 79 fighters are a lot for players to keep track of, and the increasingly serious focus of Nintendo on competitive play / eSports - with the complexity and intensity that entails - may well mean drifting away from the casual nature of much of its intended fanbase. 

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate may try to do both - and do them well - and this 'definitive' Smash Bros. may feel to some like its soul is split down the middle. Whatever you're playing for though, Ultimate is a lot of good fun.

Categories: Tech News

Top Christmas gifts for iPhone and iPad fans

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:48

Struggling to think of the perfect Christmas gift for a friend or family member this year? 

Well, if they have an iPhone or iPad, we've got you covered with our run-down of the best Christmas gifts for Apple device owners.

Whether it's the latest AR fighting robots, or a simple selfie stick or case, there's something for everyone here – and we've tried out all these products to make sure they're up to the task. So let's dive in…

iPhone and iPad Cases

iPhones and iPads are expensive bits of tech, so it's always worth protecting them, and cases are a cheap yet very effective gift – is there anything better than giving the gift of a non-smashed screen?

We've rounded up the best cases on offer for a range of iPhones and iPads, from the latest iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR models, to older handsets and slates that many still own, so click the link in the box that's relevant to you.

In our iPhone cases round ups you'll find a variety of styles, shapes and price points to suit all needs - whether you're looking for simple, stylish protection, or rugged, all-action security.

Not all selfie sticks are built equal. Sure, you can find them for less than half the price of the CliqueFie online, but are they going to be as good?

In some cases perhaps, but CliqueFie has the backing of Apple itself, and this telescopic stick reduces to a pocket-friendly size and features a fully adjustable mount that supports Apple's standard, Plus and SE iPhone variants.

There's a remote for snapping pics too, meaning you don't have to reach up to your iPhone's screen to take a image.

Beasts of Balance fuses evolution with Jenga skills in a battle of mutational dominance.

Easy to learn, but devilishly difficult to master, this isn't just a game for the kids. You can bring the plastic model animals to life via the accompanying app for iPhone and iPad, which also keeps track of the different beasts you create.

We had great fun going head-to-head to see who could create the most beasts, and it's something that will go down a treat once all the turkey has gone.

Get past its slightly smirk-inducing name, and you'll find the Apple Pencil is great to use – although it's only compatible with the 2015 (Pro 12.9), 2016 (Pro 9.7) and 2017 (Pro 12.9 and Pro 10.5) iPad Pro slates.

For the new iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) you'll need to see the second generation Apple Pencil below.

Results using the Pencil are rather good (the latency when taking notes is great), although it's not quite the same as the feel of writing using traditional implements. 

For those who like to take quick notes and/or sketch on their iPad though, there really is no better tool than the Pencil.

If the person you're present hunting for is lucky enough to already own the new iPad 9.7, iPad Pro 11 or iPad Pro 12.9 (2018), then the new Apple Pencil is a great gift.

It's got a new, squarer design, a magnetic body allowing it to cling to the side of slate, wireless charging and gesture controls, making it more practical and easy to use.

In terms of gesture controls, you're able to simply switch tools by tapping the side of the new Pencil. Plus, you can customize your own gestures, which should come in handy when using non-Apple drawing apps.

Know any Star Wars fans with an iPhone or iPad? Then they'll love this R2-D2 droid, complete with pop-out third leg and full remote control via the Sphero app.

R2-D2 is an impressive connected toy and one that comes more to life the more droids you have, interactivity that will only improve over time.  

But even on his own, he's still a lot of fun. Sit down to watch your favorite Star Wars film and R2 will watch with you, beeping his approval at certain scenes. Own an Apple Watch? Then you can also control him from your wrist.

LifePrint can print photos and videos from your iPhone's Live Photos gallery, Snapchat, Vine, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, GoPro videos and more.

While the printouts themselves are still images, you can fire up the Lifeprint app on your iPhone or iPad and move it over an image to play an embedded video. 

The images also have a sticky back, allowing you to stick the photos pretty much anywhere you like.

Their look may be controversial, but there's no arguing that Apple's AirPods are astonishingly easy to pair, use and pack away in their charging case.

These truly wireless ear buds may be tiny, but they pack a decent audio punch, with superb sound quality delivered through a now-iconic Apple design.

Another bonus is the battery life, with the AirPods capable of five hours of playback from a single charge – and pop them into their case and they'll use the internal battery in that to charge up again, keeping you away from a wall plug for longer.

MekaMon Robots take battling to a whole new level. Not only were we wowed by the robotic brilliance of the MekaMons themselves – their spider-like legs see them walk in a wonderfully creepy fashion – we also liked the AR experience you can have using your Apple device.

We'd recommend using the iPad, utilizing its big screen to get the most from your MekaMon Robot as it dances around the floor firing virtual missiles.

The Mekamon is at its most satisfying if you’ve got two that can fight each other, but that will mean shelling out close to $600/£600 for the pleasure.

Wearables are hot property these days, and while the Apple Watch 3 may not be the latest smartwatch from Apple (that's the Apple Watch 4), it's new, lower price makes it a great Christmas gift for someone special.

There's a lot to love on this watch, from the clear, bright OLED screen and improved fitness smarts to the easy-to-change straps and wealth of apps available. 

The big addition on the Watch 3 is LTE capabilities, allowing you to leave your phone at home and still make and receive calls, send iMessages and get online.

The DJI Spark is the firm's most approachable drone, with intuitive gesture controls, a compact frame and a low-enough price to compete with other affordable quadcopters. 

From the PalmControl to Quickshots and deeper smartphone integration, DJI has broken down multiple barriers to entry that can make drones seem intimidating.

If you head over to Apple, you can bag yourself the exclusive DJI Spark Drone Fly More Combo for $599.95/£629, which includes the Spark drone, extra propellers, an extra battery, a storage box and a shoulder bag.

Categories: Tech News

Getting an iPhone for Christmas? Download these apps!

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:45

Update: we've added new apps to this list ready for Christmas 2018.

Ready, steady, woah!

You've unwrapped your shiny new iPhone, signed in with your Apple ID and you're ready to rock - but what exciting apps should you ask Silicon Santa to leave under your tech tree this Christmas?

Don't worry, we're done with the festive puns. These are the must-have apps you should download on your new iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, iPhone 8, 8 Plus, 7 or 7 Plus.

Pocket Casts LastPass Amazon Kindle Carrot Weather Google Photos Fantastical 2 WhatsApp Citymapper Better Blocker Spotify Pocket Snapseed VLC Dropbox Tweetbot OneNote Uber Skype
Categories: Tech News

Symantec goes all-in on securing critical infrastructure

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:01

Symantec has revealed a new offering that it says will greatly help boost the security of critical infrastructure in key industries across the world.

The new Industrial Control System Protection (ICSP) Neural is the industry’s first neural network and scanning station able to defend critical infrastructure and operational technology, safeguarding against possibly catastrophic cyberattacks.

Symantec says that the likes of energy providers and manufacturing facilities are facing more cyberthreats than ever before as hackers look to broaden their attack horizons, and is looking to provide effective protection through an easy-to-understand and use platform.

USB attacks

This includes the threat of hackers using USB devices to gain access to critical networks, a tactic seen to devastating effect in the Stuxnet worm several years ago.

However many critical infrastructure systems rely on USB devices to deliver much-needed updates to what are often antiquated systems. Symantec's new release protects against such flaws by continually monitoring and protecting against malicious USB devices, even in remote locations.

“USB devices are given away at events, shared between co-workers, and reused again and again for business and personal use, introducing the risk of accidental or malicious infection. The impact of connecting an infected device to a critical system can be devastating,” said Patrick Gardner, senior vice president, advanced threat protection and email security, Symantec. 

“Behind the scenes, ICSP Neural retrofits existing infrastructure with a central nervous system utilizing artificial intelligence to protect critical infrastructure. On the front end, a rugged aluminum design embodies a simple, intuitive user experience that clearly highlights potential threats.” 

Categories: Tech News

Buy a Blink XT Home Security Kit and get a free Echo Dot

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 08:50

Even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, Amazon is still releasing deals on some of its most popular devices.

Right now you can get the Blink XT Home Security Camera System and an all-new Echo Dot for only $77.99. The one-camera kit normally retails for $129, so with this deal, you're getting a 40% discount and a free Echo Dot. That's a total savings of $82 if you were to buy each device separately. You must add both items to your cart to receive this limited-time bundle deal. Here's a link to the Echo Dot too.

The weather-resistant home security camera is also Alexa-enabled, so you can control your Blink system with any Amazon device. The top-rated Blink Security System includes the Blink XT camera, a mounting kit, a set of 2 AA lithium batteries, a quick start guide, a sync module, and a USB Cable and power adapter.

This bundle deal also extends to the Blink XT Home Security Kits that include more than one camera. You'll receive a free Echo Dot with each home security bundle once added to your cart.

This is a limited-time sale - so grab this fantastic deal while it lasts.

Categories: Tech News

Quora data breach: The industry reacts

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 08:30

The question-and-answer website Quora announced on Monday the company had suffered a major cyber attack, resulting in the names, email addresses, encrypted passwords, user account settings and IP addresses of 100 million of its customers to be compromised. 

It is reported that public actions and content including questions, answers, comments and blog posts were also accessed.

Law enforcement has also been notified, but the company has since stated the incident had been “contained” and it is believed that Quora users who had contributed data to the platform anonymously are not affected as the company does not collect identity information for those users that post anonymously.  

Another day, another breach

In the statement, the company said: “On Friday we discovered that some user data was compromised by a third party who gained unauthorised access to one of our systems.” The company added “that it is investigating the hack, and that its own internal security team will be working in tandem with a digital forensics and security firm in order to get to the bottom of the matter.”

With the world seemingly still trying to recover from last week’s Marriott hotel breach, which impacted roughly half a billion individuals, the Quora attack is another reminder for organisations to ensure security is in check. 

As a security measure, Quora is logging out those that are suspected to have been affected. The company is also sending out a password reset. 

Security experts take

In light of this, cybersecurity experts from the UK and across the Atlantic have had their say on the latest breach:

Javvad Malik, security advocate at AlienVault stated the breach was “significant, not just for the number of records taken, but also the information about individuals that was contained within. As we saw with the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, access to personal likes, tastes, and other preferences can be used against individuals.” Malik stresses the importance for companies that gather or possess a lot of personal information to seriously invest in security saying “this can start with the act of reviewing all data it holds and assessing whether all of it is necessary. Companies should also look so segment data, so that if a breach should occur, the damage can be limited to a subset of the data, as opposed to exposing it in its entirety.” 

Tim Erlin, VP at Tripwire believes time will tell as to the full reason why the attack occurred. He said, “unauthorised access” is a phrase that could cover any number of scenarios, from accidental disclosure to a sophisticated attack. While we might learn more about the details of this breach, they’re likely to come out well after the newscycle has moved on to the next incident.” Individuals should also be wary of any information they provide to organisations and this breach should act as “a good reminder that your personal data may be exposed through sites and services you don’t think of as sensitive.”

Disclosing all the details

The first line in Quora’s statement is rather telling for Julien Cassignol, senior IAM and PAM solution architect at One Identity, who feels Quora has a lot to answer for regarding their security.

“Firstly, Quora stated, “some users data”. Which data was accessed and compromised? Who accessed what? What was the motivation for that access? This clearly underlines the need to enable companies to be able to audit accesses made to data, both by automated actions and users. Deploying a sound logging infrastructure and enable auditing of privileged accesses to data provides this type of information.

“Secondly, the breach was initiated “by a third party”. How could a third party have the access to such sensitive data? How were they identified? Did they have the appropriate entitlements to access this data? Having a proper repository containing this information is therefore necessary. It should also be a requirement for organisations to log the reason why access is given to individuals or third-party organisations. This entitlement and the automated process to revoke these rights, if they're not appropriate anymore, isn't just optional – it has become standard procedure. 

“The final piece missing in the jigsaw is “who gained unauthorised access.” Once an organisation knows what is being done, whom it's being done by, and the entitlements that are needed to perform such an action, it will have a clearer picture of how the breach occurred. Gaining unauthorised access to certain systems means that, at one point during this incident, policies were not enforced, which made the breach possible. Therefore, it is vital that organisations understand the infrastructure that is in place, who's able to access the system and the operating powers that these individuals hold. This can greatly reduce the threat of an attack going forward.”

And so, another day, another breach. 

Categories: Tech News

Xiaomi set to enter the camera race with 48 megapixel sensor

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 08:14

Lin Bin, President of Xiaomi, posted on Weibo that the Chinese smartphone maker is working to release a smartphone with a 48-megapixel camera. Soon afterward, MIUI confirmed an upcoming smartphone that would run the MIUI 10 system, which would be based on Android 9 Pie.

Xiaomi’s smartphone cameras have never been their strong point; with this new teaser, they seem to be moving in on this issue. It’s as yet unclear how many lenses the 48MP camera will contain, but based on the photo teased by Lin, it’s right next to a volume rocker, which would place it at the top left corner on the back of the phone.

The exact model of this smartphone is another matter of mystery- rumor has it that it’s the Mi 9, but it’s no sure bet yet. The mystery phone could feature either the Sony IMX586 48-megapixel sensor (which was announced in July) or the Samsung ISOCELL Bright GM1 48-megapixel sensor (announced in October). Sony reportedly began shipping the samples of the IMX586 in September, whereas the South Korean company has kicked off mass production of the ISOCELL GM1. 

If all goes well, Xiaomi could well jump to the front of the camera race with the world’s first 48MP smartphone camera, overtaking Nokia’s record 41MP on the Lumia 1020, or more recently, Huawei’s Mate20 Pro and P20 Pro offerings, which feature 40MP sensors.

Categories: Tech News