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Updated: 10 min 46 sec ago

Game Boy Advance: why it's the best way to play classic Nintendo titles

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 13:13

When it comes to retro consoles, the ferocious success of the Game Boy is a legacy to behold. Its long lineage of hardware spanning over 21 years has made the classic handheld a pop culture icon. Gamers of all ages and backgrounds will have some sort of memory of the Game Boy, from struggling to see the screen in the darkness of bedtime curfew to fitting in a few rounds of Tetris in between the tribulations of parenting. It’s easy to remember the fuzzy nostalgic memories that we hold for the Game Boy, but we might not always consider what solidified its claim to the handheld throne.

Sure, certain Italian plumbers and collectable monsters may take some of the credit, however we must also consider how perfectly versatile this joyful piece of pocket technology actually was. The Game Boy Advance was the pinnacle of Nintendo’s handheld offerings, supporting 32-bit graphics and an extensive library that caters to almost every genre. 

This surprisingly capable device became a home for beloved titles old and new, accommodating the classics from across multiple console libraries. Not to mention that the Game Boy Advance was backwards compatible with the legendary library of titles that belonged to its predecessors. Considering that the GBA boasts such versatile prowess, is it possible that it could be the key to the ultimate retro gaming experience?

Heavy on wholesomeness, light on your pocket

 Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. (Image credit: Nintendo)

Finding that perfect balance of variety and cost when tailoring your vintage gaming solutions can often prove tiresome. Gaining access to childhood consoles and their games can be a bit rich for the average gamers blood, with many options having a collector's value attached. Of course, emulation could be an all-encompassing answer, but achieving both accuracy and legality is a difficult feat. Luckily, the mighty Game Boy Advance was actually the home to countless classics that appeared on a multitude of systems, with the added bonus of being drastically cheaper. 

A great example of the cost efficiency of the GBA is the range of Nintendo Entertainment System titles that found their way onto the system. Known as the Classic NES Series, titles such as Metroid, Legend of Zelda and Castlevania all received reliable ports, with their packaging resembling that of an original NES game. This might sound like nothing special, but when you compare the price of these releases to their original counterparts, it becomes clear why this is a brilliant and authentic option. 

Take Metroid for example, original copies of the game can cost up to $60, while its GBA counterpart is usually available for around just over $10. The fact these editions can be collected and displayed in a similar fashion to any other console means that this could be a real alternative to collecting for a system that will more than likely break the bank.

Metroid Fusion. (Image credit: Nintendo)

Just like its predecessor, the Super Nintendo also received an invitation to Nintendo’s portable party, with various new editions of classics being released. This is most notable with the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, in which its port expanded on the title with its new multiplayer feature, ‘four swords’. Not only is this version cheaper than an original $50 copy, priced roughly at $15, but it also includes a whole new co-op element that can only be experienced on the GBA. 

Our beloved moustached labourer also received the revamp treatment, with Super Mario World also making a comeback. With this edition of the classic platformer, features such as being able to save at any point on the map and Luigi being a playable character were added, all without compromising its authentic gameplay. At under $10, this definitely a worthy alternative to picking up the original, which tends to go for around $40.

The cost saving benefits of the GBA don’t end at Nintendo originals, with many other expensive titles also appearing on the platform. One of the best examples of this is the Phantasy Star series, an RPG from the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis that retains a high value on the second-hand market. With each title costing a minimum of $60, you can understand why going for the drastically cheaper Phantasy Star collection at $30 on the GBA is a more feasible option. 

These examples demonstrate the Gameboy Advance’s potential to provide access to various classics, despite being kind to your bank account. You'll also find the console itself is much cheaper than most Nintendo hardware, with the NES and SNES often costing $50, in contrast to roughly $20 for a standard GBA. While this in itself is enough reason to invest in the system, you can also enjoy the exclusive experience of the Game Boy linage.

The extended legacy of classic gaming

Game Boy Advance. (Image credit: Nintendo)

There’s definitely a trend when it comes to the capability of handhelds, in which the technology is usually a generation behind the current home console of the time. The Sega Game Gear, for example, was comparable to a Master System, rather than its dark and brooding Sega Genesis/MegaDrive counterpart. This is also technically true for Game Boy titles, yet Nintendo seemed to use this caveat to its advantage, creating unique experiences that draw from games we already know and love.

Nintendo’s talent for making the most of hardware limitations stems from its work on the original grey brick, with likes of The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening proving to be classics in their own right. This formula of new experiences within familiar settings was carried on throughout both the Game Boy Color and Advance consoles, with beloved franchises such as Castlevania, Metroid and Final Fantasy all having exclusives on the system. Not only did these spinoff’s and sequels provide brilliant fan-service, but they also introduced those who were still a bit wet behind the ears to some of history’s best adventures.

It was this sheer devotion to making the most of its 32-bit capabilities that has solidified the GBA as a nostalgic monolith. Delivering on mechanics and gameplay from one of the most loved eras of gaming, Nintendo provided gamers with a refreshing break from the somewhat infantile 3D graphics of generations past. That’s not to say, however that the Advance hardware was incapable of being technically impressive, with many titles making remarkably good use of what could be considered a low spec’d piece of kit. A surprising number of PC titles managed to squeeze themselves into tiny cartridges, such as Doom and Duke Nukem, which despite being scaled down from their original versions, are brilliant ports in their own right. 

There’s no disputing the sheer brilliance of the Game Boy Advance library, with countless genres to choose from and stories old and new being delivered in a familiar way. In spite of this, you might find yourself either put off by the fact it’s a handheld console, or overwhelmed by the hardware choices available. This however is where Nintendo’s hardware gets its chance to really shine, as there are a vast range of ways to play the GBA library, which isn’t too dissimilar to the versatility of modern gaming.

Play it your way 

Game Boy Player. (Image credit: Phil Hayton)

If you managed to have a look at our Game Boy modification guide, you might already be aware of the vast amount of options available for playing your favorite Nintendo classics on the go. If you have a passion for portability, your priorities may lie with getting the best experience from your aging piece of pocket tech. From customized exteriors to fancy new screens, the ability to construct the ultimate GBA is easier than you might think. Yet, some will love the sound of the platforms library while yearning for a way to access them using them like a conventional console. This is where the alternative hardware options could be the final checkbox on achieving the perfect portal to nostalgia.

The official way to play your GBA games on the big screen is in the guise of The Game Boy Player, which is an add on for the Nintendo GameCube. This nifty device allows you to play any Game Boy cartridge using the controller and video output of your existing console, without having to use the GBA console. Unfortunately, this can prove to be pricey trying to acquire the Player and the included software it requires, not to mention another $20 on top if you don't already own a GameCube. 

Alternatively, the market does have a variety of options that can help fulfil your needs, such as emulation-based systems like the Retr0n 5 and even some third-party options that support some sort of AV out capability. Having the versatility to play both on the go and in your living room is something many people associate with the Nintendo Switch, but considering that the Game Boy Advance managed to deliver this feature as early 2003, shows that this mighty handheld was a lot more than something to keep your thumbs busy.

More than just a handheld

Pac-Man Collection. (Image credit: Namco)

The Game Boy Advance has more than proven itself worthy of being an iconic piece of gaming history. Not only did it accommodate many gamers with a diverse library of high-quality titles, but it also kept the art of 32-bit gaming alive past the retirement of its generation. 

Where some vintage consoles and games may have fallen into the trap of collector's value and rarity, the GBA stands as a pillar of hope for those who want a reliable way to revisit a golden age of gaming. The GBA definitely delivers a strong case for being the ultimate retro experience, although it’s important to keep in mind that each individual's preference is unique to them, usually based on life's experiences and memories. The fact that this handheld console manages to be more accommodating that many other systems throughout history however, definitely earns it the right to try and convince you to adopt it as your main source of reminiscence.

Categories: Tech News

Facebook shutters Onavo VPN app

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 11:59

Facebook is removing its Onavo VPN app from the Google Play Store and ending its unpaid market research programs following backlash over how the social network paid teens to spy on them.

The company's Onavo Protect app will stop collecting user data through its virtual private network (VPN) and will eventually shut down after giving users time to find an alternative app to replace it.

Facebook will also stop recruiting new users for its Facebook Research App that is no longer available on iOS but is still operating on Android.

When Apple discovered that the company was misusing its Enterprise Certificate program, which is meant for  internal company apps only, it revoked all of the social network's certificates and broke Facebook's own apps in the process.

Onavo VPN

Facebook first acquired Onavo back in 2013 for around $200m with the aim of using its VPN app to secretly gather data about how consumers use their smartphones. 

Even before its Research App existed, this data revealed that consumers were sending twice as many WhatsApp messages than those sent from its own Messenger app which led it to purchase the company for $19bn.

Facebook then tried to convince users that Onavo was a great way to reduce data usage, block dangerous websites and protect their internet traffic from snooping while it secretly analyzed their web usage itself.

The company has now decided to remove Onavo from the Play Store before Google decides to block it while ending recruitment of new Facebook Research testers. 

Facebook has certainly made the right move in this scenario but lawmakers and regulators could still seek legal action against the company for the way in which it mishandled user data so greatly.

Via TechCrunch

Categories: Tech News

Xbox Two: what we want to see out of a new Xbox

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 11:39

For the past few years, the new Xbox was nothing more than a dream. We had hoped Microsoft was working on the next Xbox, and even suspected that might be the case, but until recently, we weren't sure.

Now we can confidently say that not only is a new Xbox - the Xbox Two - now in development, but it's closer than ever to being unveiled (and there is more than one next generation console on the horizon).

The official story started last year when Xbox Chief Phil Spencer told the thousands of attendees at E3 2018 that the console - or, rather, series of consoles is in development: "Our hardware team is deep into developing the next generation of Xbox consoles, where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming." 

Since Spencer's announcement details have slowly bubbled up all around the net on the purported system. First we got a codename – Xbox Scarlett – and now we've heard rumblings of the first games to be designed for the next-gen Xbox: The Elder Scrolls 6, Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite.

But perhaps the biggest revelation has been a recent leak which reported the alleged specs of two upcoming next-generation consoles (codenamed Anaconda and Lockhart). The report also claims these consoles will be announced at E3 2019, with a release date rumored for 2020.

[Update: Next Xbox console specs leaked, rumored to be announced at E3 2019 .]

What's the latest on Microsoft's next Xbox?

Thanks to a report by a French gaming site, we may finally know the specs of the allusively codenamed Lockhart and Anaconda consoles. 

According to a report by french gaming site JeuxVideo, two next-generation Xbox consoles will be revealed at E3 2019 - you may know them by their codenames Lockhart and Anaconda.

In addition, the site claims the next Xbox specs which were leaked last year weren't far off what we can actually expect Microsoft to announcement later this year.

According to the report, the Lockhart console will be the entry-level machine, with lower performance and therefore a lower price. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the alleged Lockhart specs is that it won't have a disc-tray – essentially functioning as a cloud streaming box for digital games, apps and other media. 

However, the Anaconda is rumored to be much more high-end system, with very high performance and a higher price point to match – allegedly similar to the Xbox One X's on release.

Both consoles will allegedly have SSDs, which should improve overall performance and loading times.

According to the report, both consoles are due for release in 2020 alongside Halo: Infinite (which will be one of the generation's launch titles)

So what were the alleged specs leaked last year?

Xbox Lockhart specs:

CPU - Custom 8 Cores (16 zen threads 2)

GPU - Custom NAVI 4+ Teraflops

RAM - 12GB of GDDR6 memory

Storage - SSD 1TB NVMe 1 + GB / s

Xbox Anaconda specs: 

CPU - Custom 8 Cores (16 zen threads 2) 

GPU - Custom NAVI 12+ Teraflops

RAM - 16GB of GDDR6 memory 

Storage - SSD 1TB NVMe 1 + GB / s

Xbox Two news and rumors

How would streaming work?

Rumors of a streaming-only Xbox started emerging in July 2018 and now we know a lot more about how it might actually work.

According to a new report, the Xbox Scarlet Cloud will utilize a semi-custom AMD Picasso chip. In case that series of APUs sounds familiar, these are the same chips AMD is rumored to introduce as its next-generation Ryzen 3000 mobile processors, which have been recently spotted in a few HP laptop benchmarks and even in an upcoming AMD-powered Surface Laptop.

This new streaming Xbox won’t just be powered by a laptop CPU of course. Microsoft will undoubtedly want the chip stripped of unnecessary components and have a custom packaging made for its upcoming console. Interestingly, this new chip is said to offer even better performance to power, which may allow it to fit into an even smaller form factor than the Xbox One S and Xbox One X.

While it'd be nice to have a new console ready for E3 2019, work hasn’t gone so far that we can expect to see the console any sooner than 2019. According to Windows Central’s Jez Corden, two years would be too soon to expect the new Xbox but it would likely still be backwards compatible with the rest of the Xbox family. 

Interestingly, 2019 to 2020 is around the time that analysts are predicting Sony will launch the PlayStation 5

If you ask us, we think it's unlikely that Microsoft would let Sony launch a brand new console without answering with its own within a year, but we don't think the company would try to beat Sony to the post given Microsoft’s first foray into true 4K gaming hasn't even been on store shelves even a year yet.

That said, however, that's not going to stop us from thinking ahead to the next Xbox and what it’ll bring - corroborated by information scoured from across the web.

Next Xbox consoles are codenamed 'Anaconda' and 'Lockhart'

According to Windows Central, two consoles are expected to arrive alongside an additional 'Scarlett Cloud' Xbox console - codenamed 'Anaconda' and 'Lockhart'

The 'Anacondo' is rumored to be replacing the premium Xbox One X model, which may ship with a solid state hard drive to improve frame rate performance, and is likely to see a boost in graphics and all-round performance. The 'Lockhart', on the other hand, is due to be a successor to the Xbox One S - offering a cheaper alternative. 

It will house some impressive tech

A new job listing suggests that Microsoft is hard at work on the next Xbox. The company is looking for a senior electrical engineer to "come be a part of what's next" in Xbox hardware. 

Xbox is seeking for an engineer to “lead the DRAM solutions for the Xbox console hardware development team" adding that the “DRAM solutions include DDR3, GDDR5, GDDR6 and future DRAM technologies."

This person will be working on "currently shipping and future Xbox design projects." It was already suggested by Jez Corden in 2017 that the next Xbox is being designed and this gives greater credence to that.

Andrew House talks the next generation

Former PlayStation chief, Andrew House, has been talking about the future of consoles at GamesBeat Summit in California recently. Though House wasn't willing to go into specifics on the next PlayStation itself, he did say that he thinks physical media will be around for all consoles for some time to come, thanks to the need to continue breaking into new markets. One would assume this is something that would also be relevant to any future Xbox console. 

In his interview, House said, "I don’t have any firm knowledge on this, but my sense is that you will see the disc around in the industry for a while. If you’re going to tap into some of these [developing] markets, then allowing for that more traditional physical purchase model as an option is probably no bad thing."

Despite this, though, House also believes that streaming will be big in the future of gaming – an opinion which ties neatly with Microsoft's Phil Spencer's who emphasised the need for a 'Netflix for video games'. This would be, one would imagine, a natural extension of the download-based Xbox Game Pass in the next generation

A console just for streaming

Recent reports from Thurrott suggest we may even see a streaming-only console launch alongside the mainline Xbox Two, to help establish Microsoft's nascent streaming model as a fully-fledged gaming experience of its own.

It would likely be pitched as a low-cost alternative, given the reduced hardware requirements when streaming games directly from the cloud – probably higher in price than a standard streaming box but cheaper than other Xbox consoles. Though it's pretty certain you'd require a monthly subscription to access the Xbox library.

Thankfully, all next-gen games are still expected to run on both consoles (that would get confusing quickly). And if Microsoft manage to fix the latency issues currently holding back the streaming model, we could really see this taking off.

What will the new Xbox be called?

The hardest part of this future-gazing is actually trying to guess what the console might be called, given the naming progression that’s come before. Microsoft isn't going to abandon the Xbox brand anytime soon, surely, but the subtitle is a little harder to pin down. It's unlikely the next Xbox will keep the codenames Xbox Scarlett, Xbox Anaconda or Xbox Lockhart.

If it’s a brand new console generation it’d make sense to call it Xbox Two, but Xbox 720 made a retrospectively perplexing amount of sense at one point so let’s not be too confident in that. We wouldn't be entirely surprised by an Xbox Zero – or even Infinite, to take a leaf from the next Halo game.

The rumored streaming console may also ditch the numerical naming altogether – Xbox Cloud, anyone?

What will it the new Xbox be capable of?

What’s slightly easier is predicting the features that are likely to appear in this new Xbox. 

The Xbox One X is a huge step forward for Microsoft, bringing native 4K gaming and near-PC power into a console. It's currently the most powerful console on the market so where can Microsoft go from here?

A powerful console focused on games

We like to think Microsoft has learned a lot of lessons from the difficult launch of the Xbox One. The Xbox One didn’t have the advantage of being the only HD console option on the market like the Xbox 360 did, and additionally its launch ended up being marred by a Kinect bundle that pushed its price way higher than it should have been.

As a result, the PlayStation 4 took (and has maintained) a commanding lead in terms of market share. 

Microsoft has definitely addressed a  lot of these issues with the Xbox One X. It's  a piece of hardware that's almost entirely focused on games, and it's not bundled with any superfluous hardware. In fact, Microsoft's gone so far as to drop the Kinect port entirely. We imagine this focus will continue into the future. 

Budget and premium options

With the One S and the One X Microsoft is embracing both an iterative and a tiered model. The company is not only launching incrementally better pieces of hardware over time, but it's also supporting previous versions of the console and allowing them to exist as budget options.

As a case in point, the One X is still expensive (much more so than the PS4 Pro), but the Xbox One S is still being presented as a worthy and attractively priced 4K upscaling alternative that will still be capable of playing all the same games, not just from this generation but the previous generation too.

However, after each console has had its chance at being the budget model, they've each fallen away into obscurity. We've already seen this with the original Xbox One, and it's likely that the Xbox Two will eventually have the same effect on the Xbox One S.

We imagine Microsoft may want a certain degree of market saturation for the Xbox One X (or at the very least 4K TVs) before launching the Xbox Two but when the console does launch it’s less likely to feel like the same leap that moving from Xbox 360 to Xbox One did.

An additional streaming-focused console could also prove to be a low-cost alternative, given the reduced hardware requirements needed for cloud-based play.

Trial and error, rather than a jump into the unknown

In some senses we feel that it’s reasonable to assume we’ll be slowly drip-fed a lot of the technology that will end up in the Xbox Two. 

This has the big advantage of allowing Microsoft to establish what works and what doesn't work over time rather than having to take a big leap of faith with a brand new piece of hardware. 

VR and AR support is likely

We've learned that certain things are unimportant for consoles this generation, like motion-sensing and touch-screen, but the new technologies like VR and AR are proving to be very exciting fields for developers.

Microsoft has already confirmed that the Xbox One X will support Windows 10 virtual and mixed reality headsets but it’s not being forceful with pushing them. They were notably absent from the console’s presentation at E3 2017 and we still have plenty of questions.

If PlayStation VR continues to grow in strength we expect Microsoft will be more clear about the Xbox One X’s stance on these headsets and much more active about developing the technology for its successor. Xbox Two could very well be the HoloLens console. If the technology flops, Microsoft can easily phase it out from its next generation plans like the Kinect but much more neatly and less to the detriment of initial sales.

Meanwhile, if the Xbox One X’s 4K visuals fail to make the console appeal as much as Microsoft hopes they will, we don’t doubt they’ll still be a feature of the Xbox Two, but they may be less of a focus in the overall marketing. 

The latest and greatest audio visual technology

Recently Microsoft has been really keen on integrating the latest audio visual technologies into its consoles - Dolby Atmos support, 4K and HDR are all here. This is something we can see continuing into the next generation. 

It’s clear Microsoft wants gaming on Xbox to be a full sensory experience and it’s possible that the next console will include some kind of projection system similar to Project Ariana that Razer showcased at CES 2017 whereby gaming environments were extended beyond the screen and into the player’s room. With something like this, Xbox Two has the potential to be an immersive gaming machine and we already know technology of a similar ilk was being considered in the Illumiroom project from back in 2013.

An increasingly cross-platform ecosystem

In the way that Nintendo is bridging the gap between its handheld and home console divisions with the Switch, we can see Microsoft moving its PC and console users closer as we move onto the Xbox Two. 

Cross-platform play, accounts and digital purchases are being encouraged in the Windows 10 and Xbox stores and this is something we can see Microsoft continuing to push into the new generation, particularly if it’s going to continue to manufacture consoles that boast near-PC specs. However, Sony has vehemently said it will not take part in cross-platform play with competing consoles. 

Learnings from the PC

It’s likely that the new Xbox will likely have more of a Steam-esque interface that puts games first and doesn't confuse the customer. A system with a more indie- and mod-friendly focus is also important (we’re already seeing this with Indie@Xbox), and if the console consumer base doesn't jibe with mid-lifecycle console upgrades, perhaps a more PC piecemeal approach with more swappable parts will be in order. 

When will the next Xbox be released?

So we know we're getting another console (or two), but how soon will it really be with the Xbox One still in its first year?

Rumors suggest Microsoft is planning a 2020 release, which would be only 3 years after the iterative Xbox One X, but 7 years after the Xbox One first came to market and a good time, perhaps, to move onto the new generation. Even if the reports are reliable, we still envisage this being pushed to early 2021, though if the PS5 launched before that it's likely Microsoft won't want to be too far behind.

With the steady and considered steps Microsoft is making and the way the company seems to be listening to feedback from its users more than ever, we anticipate that the Xbox Two could be its most considered launch yet. In the meantime, a lot hinges on the Xbox One X.

Categories: Tech News

The best cheap US TV deals and sale prices - 4K TVs for less for February 2019

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 11:25

We've gone through the top retailers such as Amazon and Walmart to find the best cheap 4K TV deals that are available online. So if you're ready to upgrade to a 4K or smart TV or if you're just looking for bigger screen size with Ultra HD features, take a look at the highlights of the best TV sale prices below. Whether you're looking for an XL 4K TV to serve as the focal point of your home theater system, a modestly sized set for the bedroom or kitchen, or an entry level TV for the kids, you're sure to find something that meets your specifications and budget.

You will find all of our carefully curated deals below. We've divided them into three different size categories immediately after our pick for the best cheap TV deal of the week. These days you really don't have to pay much more to get a Ultra HD 4K set instead of an older-style HD one. If you're after the hottest tech in TV though, you may want to take a look at the cheapest OLED TV prices.

Whether you want a small TV with a price tag to match or something to show all the colors of the rainbow (and a few million more) with HDR, we've found plenty of options. Read on to find the TV you want at a great price!

TechRadar's cheap TV deal of the week Cheap TV deals (40-49 inch) Cheap TV deals (50-59 inch): Cheap TV deals (60-85 inch): More cheap TV sales:

Not found the right cheap TV for you today? Or maybe you'd prefer to directly browse the TVs at your favourite retailers instead of our highlights of the best cheap TV deals? We're updating this page on a regular basis, so you may have better look another day. If you want to take a look for yourself now though, here are the direct links to a the full collection of TV deals at multiple stores. 

Categories: Tech News

Best free and public DNS servers of 2019

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 11:25

DNS (Domain Name System) is a system which translates the domain names you enter in a browser to the IP addresses required to access those sites.

Your ISP will assign you DNS servers whenever you connect to the internet, but these may not always be the best choice. Slow DNS servers can cause a lag before websites start to load, and if your server sometimes goes down, you may not be able to access any sites at all.

Switching to a free public DNS server can make a real difference, with more responsive browsing and lengthy 100% uptime records meaning there's much less chance of technical problems.

Some services can also block access to phishing or infected sites, and a few offer content filtering to keep your kids away from the worst of the web.

You need to choose your service with care - not all providers will necessarily be better than your ISP - but to help point you in the right direction, this article will highlight six of the best free DNS servers around.

OpenDNS

Founded in 2005 and now owned by Cisco, OpenDNS is one of the biggest names in public DNS.

The free service offers plenty of benefits: high speeds, 100% uptime, phishing sites blocked by default, optional parental controls-type web filtering to block websites by content type, along with free email support if anything goes wrong.

Commercial plans enable viewing a history of your internet activity for up to the last year, and can optionally lock down your system by allowing access to specific websites only. These aren't going to be must-have features for the average user, but if you're interested, they can be yours for around $20 (£14.30) a year.

If you're an old hand at swapping DNS, you can get started immediately by reconfiguring your device to use the OpenDNS nameservers.

If you're a newbie, that's okay too, as OpenDNS has setup instructions for PCs, Macs, mobile devices, routers and much, much more.

Cloudflare

Best known for its top-rated content delivery network, Cloudflare has extended its range to include a new public DNS service, the catchily-named 1.1.1.1.

The product doesn't have any of the extras you'll often see elsewhere. There's no anti-phishing, no ad-blocking, no content filtering or other attempts to monitor or control what you can access, and what you can't.

Instead, Cloudflare has focused much more on the fundamentals. These start with performance, and independent testing from sites like DNSPerf shows Cloudflare is the fastest public DNS service around.

Privacy is another major highlight. Cloudflare doesn't just promise that it won't use your browsing data to serve ads; it commits that it will never write the querying IP address (yours) to disk. Any logs that do exist will be deleted within 24 hours. And these claims aren't just reassuring words on a website. Cloudflare has retained KPMG to audit its practices annually and produce a public report to confirm the company is delivering on its promises.

The 1.1.1.1 website has some setup guidance, with simple tutorials covering Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and routers. These are very generic - you get one set of instructions for all versions of Windows, for instance - but there are some pluses (IPv6 as well as IPv4 details) and you should be able to figure it out.

If you have any problems, Cloudflare offers a community forum where you can ask questions or see what others are doing, a nice extra touch which we'd like to see followed by other providers.

Google Public DNS

Google has its fingers in most web-related pies, and DNS is no exception: it's free Public DNS is a simple and effective replacement for your own ISP's nameservers.

Privacy can't quite match the 'we don't keep anything' promises of Cloudflare, but it's not bad. The service logs the full IP address information of the querying device for around 24 to 48 hours for troubleshooting and diagnostic purposes. 'Permanent' logs drop any personally identifiable information and reduce location details to the city level, and all but a small random sample of these are deleted after two weeks.

There's a further benefit for experienced users in Google's detailed description of the service. If you'd like to be able to assess the significance of Google's privacy policy, for instance, you can read up on absolutely everything the service logs contain to find out for yourself.

Google's support site offers only very basic guidance targeted at experienced users, warning that "only users who are proficient with configuring operating system settings [should] make these changes." If you're unsure what you're doing, check the tutorials from a provider such as OpenDNS, remembering to replace its nameservers with Google's: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4.

Norton ConnectSafe

UPDATE: Norton ConnectSafe retired and the service isn't available anymore.

Norton ConnectSafe is a free DNS service which can automatically block access to fraudulent, phishing and malware-infested websites, as well as optionally filtering sites by content.

This is a familiar idea - OpenDNS and Comodo, amongst others, do much the same thing - but ConnectSafe has one important advantage. It takes its data from Norton Safe Web, a comprehensive database on more than 50 million websites in 23 languages. The service delivers probably the best web filtering performance around, and the ability to get it for free, without having to install any software, is a major safety plus.

Setting up the service requires choosing from three levels of protection.

The Security policy blocks malicious and fraudulent websites only, and uses the nameservers 199.85.126.10 and 199.85.127.10.

The Security and Pornography policy adds support for filtering sexually explicit material, and uses the nameservers 199.85.126.20 and 199.85.127.20.

The very strict Security and Pornography and Other scheme extends the filtering to block 'sites that feature mature content, abortion, alcohol, crime, cults, drugs, gambling, hate, sexual orientation, suicide, tobacco or violence' by using the nameservers 199.85.126.30 and 199.85.127.30.

That's likely to lock you out of a lot of content, but it might appeal as a way to protect young children, and you don't have to use this policy everywhere. You could lock down your kids' tablet with this policy, for instance, but stick with the plain Security policy for your own laptop.

There are only very basic setup instructions on the ConnectSafe site, but if you run into trouble, the tutorials on competitors such as OpenDNS may point you in the right direction. Just be sure to use Norton's nameserver IP addresses when you change your device settings.

Comodo Secure DNS

Comodo Group is the power behind a host of excellent security products, so it's no surprise that the company also offers its own public DNS service.

Just as you'd expect, Comodo Secure DNS has a strong focus on safety. It doesn't just block phishing sites, but also warns if you try to visit sites with malware, spyware, even parked domains which might overload you with advertising (pop-ups, pop-unders and more). Furthermore, you can try out the Comodo Dome Shield service, which adds additional features to Comodo Secure DNS.

Comodo claims its service is smarter than average, too, detecting attempts to visit parked or 'not in use' domains and automatically forwarding you to where you really want to go.

Performance is key, of course, and the company suggests its worldwide network of servers and smart routing technology give it an advantage. DNSPerf's Comodo stats are less impressive, unfortunately. As we write, DNSPerf reports its average query time as around 68ms, ranking it ninth out of the ten services tested.

That said, Comodo may still be interesting if you're looking for an extra layer of web filtering, and the support website has some short but useful instructions on setting the service up on Windows PCs, Macs, routers and Chromebooks.

Quad9

Quad9 is a young DNS outfit which has been providing a fast and free DNS service since August 2016.

The company sells itself on its ability to block malicious domains by collecting intelligence from 'a variety of public and private sources.' It's not clear what these sources are, but the website says Quad9 used 18+ 'threat intelligence providers' as of May 2018.

That's a little too vague for us, and we're not convinced that using a large number of threat intelligence providers will necessarily help – the quality of the intelligence is generally more important than the quantity.

There's no arguing about Quad9's performance, though. DNSPerf currently rates it seven out of ten for average worldwide query times, lagging behind Cloudflare and OpenDNS, but effortlessly outpacing contenders like Comodo.

Drilling down into the detail reveals some variations in speed - Quad9 is on the fifth place for North American queries - but overall the service still delivers better performance than most.

Setup guidance is a little limited, with tutorials for the latest versions of Windows and macOS only. They're well presented, though, and it's not difficult to figure out what you need to do.

Got further questions about DNS? Here are some common queries along with our answers.

What is DNS?

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a phonebook for the internet, a framework which translates domain names, like facebook.com or twitter.com, into the IP addresses necessary for devices to load those internet resources.

The mechanics of DNS can be quite complicated, as information isn't held in a single database, but rather distributed in a worldwide directory including a vast number of DNS servers.

Fortunately, the average internet user doesn't normally have to get involved in any of the low-level technical details. Your ISP automatically provides you with access to a DNS server whenever you go online, and whenever you enter a URL into your browser, this will find the relevant IP address for you. 

Your ISP DNS isn't performing? Verisign is one of many big-name companies offering a free alternative

Why might DNS matter to me?

DNS servers can vary hugely in speed, particularly in areas which don't always have the best internet coverage (Africa, South America, Oceania.) To take an example of a single day when we tested, DNSPerf.com reported Cloudflare achieved an average 4.43ms query time for Oceania, while Yandex was left trailing at 350.24ms. That's potentially more than a third of a second in extra waiting time before your browser is able to access any new website.

This is an extreme example, to be fair. European or US lookups may see less than 30ms variation between most DNS services, and as your device or router will probably cache the address for reuse later, even this delay will only occur very occasionally. Still, a sluggish DNS server can noticeably slow down your browsing in some situations, and trying an alternative – especially as the best options are all free – is generally a good idea.

There's a second possible benefit in terms of uptime. If your ISP DNS server fails, you might not be able to access some or all of your favorite sites. Big-name providers such as OpenDNS claim they've had 100% uptime going back years.

How can I find the fastest DNS service?

DNS speed depends on many factors, including your location, the distance to your nearest server, and that server having enough power and bandwidth to handle all the queries it receives.

DNS Jumper is a portable freeware tool which tests multiple public DNS services to find out which delivers the best performance for you.

The program has a lot of options, but isn't difficult to use. Launch it, click Fastest DNS > Start DNS Test, and within a few seconds you'll be looking at a list of DNS services sorted by speed.

DNS Jumper can be useful, in particular because it's checking how servers perform from your location, but it doesn't run enough tests over a long enough period to give you a definitive answer.

DNSPerf tests multiple DNS services every minute from 200+ locations around the world and makes the results freely available on its own website. This gives a very good general idea of performance, and also enables seeing how services compare on different continents, as well as assessing their uptime.

How can I switch DNS servers?

The steps involved in changing your DNS service vary according to your hardware and possibly your operating system version.

Generally, you must start by finding the primary and secondary nameservers for the DNS service you'd like to use. These IP addresses are normally displayed very clearly on the service website, so, for example, Cloudflare DNS uses 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1.

The simplest approach for home users is to update their router to use the new addresses. Most other devices will then pick up the new DNS settings automatically, with no further work required.

To make this happen you must log in to your router (the default password may be printed on its base) and look for the current DNS primary and secondary nameservers. Make a note of the current values in case of problems, then replace them with the nameservers you'd like to use.

If you run into problems, check out your DNS service website for any setup guidance. Keep in mind that you can also use the tutorials of other DNS providers, as long as you remember to replace their nameserver IPs with your preferred options. OpenDNS, for instance, has specific guidance for many different router types on its support site.

If router tweaks aren't right for your situation, you may have to change the DNS configuration of each individual device. Cloudflare has short and simple guidance here, while the OpenDNS website goes into more depth.

How can I find my current DNS servers?

If you're troubleshooting your internet connection, or maybe thinking of switching DNS servers, it might be useful to check which DNS servers you're using at the moment.

The simplest way to do this is to visit DNSLeakTest.com and tap the Standard Test button. Within a few seconds the website will usually display your DNS server IP addresses, host names, and sometimes (if appropriate) the name of your ISP.

After that, life gets more complicated as there are several potential options. Your device could be set up to use specific DNS servers; it might ask your router to give it the best DNS servers every time it boots; or it might not know anything about DNS servers, and leave your router to handle everything.

On Windows, you could get started by entering IPCONFIG /ALL in a command line window. Look for your network adapter and you should see its DNS servers specified in the list.

If there's a single DNS IP address which points at your router – 192.168.x.x – that suggests the router is handling all DNS queries. Enter that IP address into your browser, log in to the router if necessary and your DNS servers should be listed amongst the settings.

How can I test a DNS service?

If your browser is telling you a website's 'server IP address could not be found', even though you're sure it's up and available, then this could be due to a problem with your DNS. But you might not want to go to the trouble of changing your DNS service to find out.

Windows users can use the command line tool nslookup.exe to look at the results of any DNS server without touching their system settings.

Run cmd.exe to open a command line window, then type:

nslookup website.com

Then press Enter (replace website.com with the address of whatever website you're trying to reach).

Nslookup uses your default DNS server to look for the IP address of website.com. If it tells you it 'can't find website.com', this means your DNS server doesn't have a record for that domain.

Next, tell the tool to use another DNS service by entering a command like:

nslookup website.com 8.8.8.8

The 8.8.8.8 address uses Google DNS – replace that with any DNS service you like, such as 1.1.1.1 for Cloudflare.

If nslookup returns errors using multiple servers, this doesn't look like a DNS issue. If one server returns an IP address and another doesn't, you might want to try setting up your system to use the working DNS and see if it makes any difference.

You might also want to look over our many web hosting guides:

Categories: Tech News

Next Xbox alleged specs point to 2020 release date and disc-less console

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 11:18

Microsoft has been pretty quiet about the next generation of Xbox consoles but, thanks to a report by a French gaming site, we may finally know the specs of the allusively codenamed Lockhart and Anaconda consoles. 

According to a report by JeuxVideo, two next-generation Xbox consoles will be revealed at E3 2019 - you may know them by their codenames Lockhart and Anaconda.

In addition, the site claims the next Xbox specs which were leaked last year weren't far off what we can actually expect Microsoft to announcement later this year.

Image credit: TechRadar

What do we know?

According to the report, the Lockhart console will be the entry-level machine, with lower performance and therefore a lower price. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the alleged Lockhart specs is that it won't have a disc-tray – essentially functioning as a cloud streaming box for digital games, apps and other media. 

However, the Anaconda is rumored to be much more high-end system, with very high performance and a higher price point to match – allegedly similar to the Xbox One X's on release.

Both consoles will allegedly have SSDs, which should improve overall performance and loading times.

According to the report, both consoles are due for release in 2020 alongside Halo: Infinite (which will be one of the generation's launch titles). Microsoft has not confirmed this leaked information or specs but, if true, these new consoles are sure to put a spanner in Sony's plans for the PS5.

 Via VG247

Categories: Tech News

A Japanese startup is set to go hunting for ice… on the Moon

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 10:46

Last night, Israel's first mission to the moon launched successfully on a SpaceX rocket. Israel now looks set to become the fourth nation to briefly put a lander on the moon, but a private company in Japan has much more ambitious plans.

Called HAKUTO-R, a two-pronged mission from Tokyo-based ispace intends to conduct tech tests on the lunar surface and eventually locate, extract and deliver lunar ice to space agencies and private space companies.

Can Japan become another ‘lunar nation’ by its target of mid-2020? Japan Airlines (JAL) thinks so. A major backer of the project, it's one of three companies that today released details of how they're going to help ispace get to the Moon – and what they're going to do when they get there.

ispace was one of the five finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Image credit: HAKUTO/ispace

What is ispace?

ispace describes itself as a private lunar exploration company. With an HQ in Tokyo and offices in Luxembourg and the US, it has 85 staff. Headed up by entrepreneur Takeshi Hakamada, it's got a similar pedigree to the SpaceIL team that just launched its Beresheet spacecraft to the Moon.

Like SpaceIL, ispace was also one of the five finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to encourage the building, launch and landing of an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon by a private company before March 31, 2018. The XPRIZE – reward $20,000 (abour £15,000, AU$28,000) – proved just a little too ambitious, but some of the companies it helped create are now on the cusp of going to the Moon.

ispace was so successful is raising funds from investors during that process, including from JAL, that is going ahead despite the lack of a financial prize. It’s using a chunk of its US$95 million fund to purchase two SpaceX flights. Since Israel just sent Beresheet to the Moon for US$90 million, ispace should be taken seriously.

Founder and SCEO of ispace, Takeshi Hakamada. Image credit: ispace

What's the plan?

When it comes to space exploration, you need a vision. This one is about the new lunar frontier and the expansion of human activity in space. "We're trying to establish a structure for a transportation system," says Aaron Sorensen, global communications specialist at ispace's HQ in Tokyo, talking to TechRadar at January's CES in Las Vegas. "So our lander will provide transportation for space agencies or companies or individuals that want to send things to the moon, such as research equipment, supplies, and tools."

However, another critical part of the mission is surface exploration. "We want to identify where water ice exists and map that out so that we can eventually learn how to use it as a resource," said Sorensen. Technically speaking this is about developing a way of separating the Moon's water ice into hydrogen and oxygen to create basic rocket fuel for spacecraft orbiting the Moon. That could enable a self-sufficient moonbase, or lunar operations, but could also make the Moon a useful staging post for missions to Mars.

"To get out of Earth's atmosphere the gravitational pull is very heavy, so if you could just use enough hydrogen fuel to get to the moon you could then use it as a refueling station to go to Mars and into deeper space," said Sorensen.

However, ispace’s vision goes deeper even than that. "We want to be able to provide a vehicle for private companies so that they can see the moon as an extension of their business, and basically incorporate the moon into the Earth's economic system," said Sorensen.

The first missions will land somewhere on the near-side of the Moon.

CAPTION: HAKUTO-R is the world’s first private lunar exploration program. Image credit: HAKUTO/ispace

What is HAKUTO-R?

HAKUTO-R is the world’s first private lunar exploration program consisting of multiple missions. So far, it's two missions: a Moon orbit in mid-2020 followed by a Moon landing in mid-2021 involving a lunar rover. Both will be launched as secondary payloads on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, just as SpaceIL's Beresheet was yesterday. They are tech demonstrations, for sure, but they could pave the way for a regular 'Moon shuttle' system that would give private companies predictable and affordable access to the lunar surface. That's the big idea.

Once the tech is proven by the first two missions, ispace is planning to send seven more missions to kick off an Earth-Moon transport system, and will also include a lander to look for water at the Moon's poles.

A prototype for HAKUTO lander was part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Image credit: HAKUTO

What companies are supporting it?

This morning JAL announced that it's become a full corporate partner. Already one of ispace's major financial backers, JAL will provide a facility near Narita International Airport in Tokyo for the assembly, integration and testing of HAKUTO-R’s lunar landers, as well as technical support. It will also fly the spacecraft to the US launch site. “Japan Airlines has been one of our most dedicated supporters over the years,” said Hakamada. “We are grateful they continue to push us toward our dream.”

Another Japanese company has already set its sights on live technology tests on the lunar surface. Nagoya-based NGK Spark Plug announced today that it will test its solid-state battery technology on the Moon on the 2021 mission. Since its way too cold on the Moon to use lithium-ion batteries, which use liquid electrolytes, stable energy storage will be a key technology if any moon-base is ever built. Or if mining operations commence.

Arguably just as critical in actually encouraging private moon missions is Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance's announcement of a lunar insurance service. “The availability of lunar exploration insurance will encourage new players to participate in the lunar industry by reducing the risk of entry,” said Hakamada.

Another investor in ispace is KDDI, a Japanese telecommunications operator interested in providing communications between the Earth and the Moon.

HAKUTO-R will launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Image credit: SpaceX

Why do we need new private companies in space?

Once dominated by national, government-funded space agencies, the private space industry is mushrooming. The US has plenty of private space companies, among them SpaceX and Orbital ATK, which take supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX and Boeing could soon take astronauts there. Other notables include Astrobotic and the very ispace-like Moon Express.

Not surprisingly, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) want to examine the Moon in more detail to see if it can be used as a staging post to Mars. Cue a race to provide those space agencies with a lunar landing system. Nine US companies are currently are developing landers to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon’s surface, while SpaceIL's cut-price Beresheet is an effort to impress ESA. ispace's HAKUTO-R could be JAXA's way of getting to the Moon.

However, there's something a little more ambitious about HAKUTO-R in that it's not just trying to get government contracts, but wants to kick-start a new commercial space industry.

With SpaceX already launching private satellites, last night launching a private mission to the Moon, and now also lined-up to launch HAKUTO-R, the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place for a self-sustaining private space industry.

Categories: Tech News

Best Apple Watch screen protectors: our top picks and what to look out for

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 10:17

Let’s start with a question. Does your Apple Watch really need a screen protector? If yours is stainless steel, the answer is probably no: its sapphire crystal glass is incredibly tough and very scratch-resistant.

For aluminum Apple Watch models, things aren’t so clear-cut: the Ion-X glass is pretty tough, but we found our watch soon accumulated a lot of little scratches. They weren’t enough to annoy us in everyday usage, but they did affect the resale value.

Scratches aren’t covered by your warranty, because they’re everyday wear and tear. Smashes are, though. If you really damage your screen and you’ve got AppleCare, Apple will replace the screen two times for a fee of $69/£49/AU$99 each time.

The out-of-warranty fees are much higher, starting at just under $200/£200/AU$300 and reaching the heady heights of $800/£749/$1,199 if you have the ceramic Apple Watch 3.

Even if you do have AppleCare, it’s better not to have to pay the fee: protecting your watch from damage is cheaper than fixing it after damage has occurred. Even the most expensive option here is a fraction of the price of an Apple Watch screen repair.

Repairing an Apple Watch is expensive, so it's best to protect it. Image Credit: TechRadar

If you want to keep your watch pristine and protected, there are three main options. There are plastic screen protectors, very similar to smartphone ones, where you peel off the backing, stick them to the screen and push out the bubbles.

These are by far the cheapest screen protectors you can buy, and while they can be a little bit fiddly to fit – getting them onto your watch without leaving any bubbles requires patience and a bit of skill – they do a decent job of standing up to everyday scrapes and bumps.

If you’d rather add something a bit tougher, a tempered glass protector may be a better option. These are much harder to fit – as they’re glass, they’re not as flexible or as forgiving as plastic.

Finally, there are cases that surround the whole watch. Inevitably, they add bulk - and some models are hideous. But if you’re likely to be in an environment where your watch faces various hazards, a case may be a worthwhile investment unless that environment is hot and humid, or wet.

Most protective cases aren’t waterproof or airtight, so they’ll often get steamy in the gym or will let in water when you swim. That doesn’t affect your watch but does make it hard to see.

These are products that we haven't had in our test labs, but based on our experts' opinion and knowledge of the most reputable brands around, we think these are worth looking at.

Our selections, ranked from cheapest to most expensive, take into account online reviews, brand reputation, product capability or unique features to help you pick through the maze of choices available to you.

Image Credit: IQ Shield

Most screen protectors just cover the screen. Not this one: it’s a full body protector with sections to cover the entire Apple Watch body, although we’re not entirely sure why you might want to do that. At the time of writing the full coverage model is available for the Apple Watch 3 but not the Apple Watch 4.

It’s a 'liquid skin' film that you apply while wet, although some reviewers have found that the little sections for the sides of the Apple Watch are very, very fiddly to apply. The main screen bit is a doddle, though.

Image Credit: RinoGear

Here’s a great deal for US Apple Watch owners: the same liquid skin film you get in other firms' protectors at a rock-bottom price. RinoGear’s top-rated screen protectors are available for just $7.85 for a pack of six at the time of writing, which is a dollar thirty per protector.

There’s a lifetime guarantee, but who cares when these are so cheap? If one gets damaged, just throw it out and stick another one on. As with other liquid skin protectors the RinoSkin protectors are applied when wet, can self-heal from minor scratches and are pretty easy to put in place.

Image Credit: Misxi

If you want to protect your Apple Watch with a case, this is one of the thinnest, least obtrusive ones around. It’s made of the same TPU as rugged watch cases, so it’s tough and scratch-resistant, and it’s easy to fit.

The main downside to this kind of case is that it can trap moisture between the case and the screen, so for example it’s not one to wear to the gym or when you go for a swim. Make sure you get what you order, though: some customers say they paid for a two-pack but only got one.

Image Credit: Spigen

Spigen makes a whole bunch of Apple Watch cases with differing levels of protection: this, the Rugged Armor version, is one of the cheaper options. It’s a solid TPU case that protects your watch from impacts, though it’s bulky in a Casio G-Shock kind of way.

This case doesn’t include any direct screen protection – the raised lip around the screen should be enough – and that means it won’t suffer from the misting or water ingress that can affect some full-coverage cases.

Image Credit: LK

This is Amazon’s choice for the Apple Watch 4, and it’s also available for all generations of the Apple Watch.

The protectors are made of laser-cut liquid skin film that can be washed and reapplied; unlike some film protectors the LK ones are designed to be applied while wet, which makes it easier to get rid of the dreaded bubbles.

There’s also a lifetime warranty, although we’re not sure why you’d bother invoking it when a six-pack of these protectors is so cheap: it’s much quicker to just chuck on another protector than to write an angry email to the manufacturer.

Image Credit: Dalinch

There are lots of brands offering very similar tempered glass screen protectors with very similar photography, which makes us think they’re coming from the same factories.

That means the buying decision here is largely down to price and reviews: look for ones featuring customer images rather than just endless “Best protector EVER!” hyperbole.

Tempered glass is tougher than film and less prone to air bubbles but there are three minor downsides: it’s slightly fiddlier to apply, it costs more, and film doesn’t smash if something hard hits it. That means even fairly minor knocks can mean it’s new-protector time.

Categories: Tech News

The high costs of storing data locally in a cloud native era

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 10:00

The rise of cloud computing has led some businesses to forego local storage entirely and run their entire operations online. However, many organizations still depend on their own data centres and storage but in the era of GDPR, this could end up leading to compliance issues. Storing outdated IT hardware is also quite costly for businesses with two in five organisations spending over $100,000 a year to do so.

To better understand why some businesses are still storing large amounts of data locally despite the financial and compliance risks, TechRadar Pro spoke with Blancco’s Vice President of Enterprise and Cloud Erasure Solutions Fredrik Forslund.

Image Credit: Pexels

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Pixabay

Categories: Tech News

What is AI? Everything you need to know

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 09:55

Far from being the stuff of science-fiction, artificial intelligence, or AI, is becoming an increasingly common sight in today's world.

Combining the latest powerful software with top-of-the-range hardware, AI tools are being used to transform many areas of everyday life, from healthcare to traffic problems.

But what is AI, and how is it being used today? Here is our guide to everything you need to know, and some of the most innovative and interesting use cases around today.

What is AI?

For years, it was thought that computers would never be more powerful than the human brain, but as development has accelerated in modern times, this has proven to be not the case.

AI as a concept refers to computing hardware being able to essentially think for itself, and make decisions based on the data it is being fed. AI systems are often hugely complex and powerful, with the ability to process unfathomable depths of information in an extremely quick time in order to come to an effective conclusion.

Thanks to detailed algorithms, AI systems are now able to perform mammoth computing tasks much faster and more efficiently than human minds, helping making big strides in research and development areas around the world.

Some of the most notable real-world applications of AI are IBM's Watson, which is being used to power research in a huge range of fields,  with Microsoft's Azure Machine Learning and TensorFlow also making headlines around the world.

But AI-powered smart assistants are becoming a common presence on mobile devices too, with the likes of Siri, Cortana and Alexa all being welcomed into many people's lives.

There seems no limit to the applications of AI technologies, and perhaps the most exciting aspect of the ecosystem is that there's no telling where it can go next, and what problems it may ultimately be able to solve.

AI latest news and launches

13/02 - IBM frees Watson AI to work on any cloud

Watson Anywhere plan looks to free up AI platform across multiple clouds...

11/02 - Trump administration orders research into AI

American AI Initiative calls for increased investment into AI research and development...

11/02 - AI, 5G and the race to completely autonomous vehicles

Now is the time to implement a data-centric architecture...

08/02 - Securing the playbook: safeguarding robotics in the AI-age

Cyberattacks against robots are on the rise...

06/02 - How AI can prevent a Marriott situation from happening again

Early detection is essential to limiting the effects of breach...

01/02 - AI is transformational for businesses of all sizes

The case for democratizing artificial intelligence...

31/01 - US and China take worldwide AI lead

Race for AI dominance heats up as US and Chinese tech giants file AI patents...

21/01 - Over a third of companies now use AI in some way 

AI deployment has tripled in the past year...

17/01 - Amazon's new AI, robotics and space conference promises a glimpse of the future 

Astronauts get in free...

14/01 - NHS trials AI software to beat breast cancer 

The race to train AI to read medical scans is on...

14/01 - How AI is transforming the way doctors treat patients 

New technologies lower risks and provide richer insights...

14/01 - How AI is struggling to keep a lid on the social media tinderbox

Can artificial intelligence really keep it under control?

09/01 - UK leading the way in AI jobs 

Though most are located outside of London...

28/12 - Step away from the AI fanfare and focus on software reliability

Creating a robust and bug free foundation for AI...

24/12 - DeepRay’s use of AI technology makes it better than the human eye

Digital imaging and video is getting smarter...

21/12 - Could 2019 be the year AI and automation become mainstream?

Businesses find new ways to utilise AI and automation...

19/12 - The AI checklist: making artificial intelligence a reality

Six ways to get the most out of AI...

17/12 - AI took over the world in 2018 

AI Index Report reveals massive growth in investment and development of new tech...

17/12 - Google's latest AI experiment lets you conduct an orchestra in your browser

Maestro, your webcam awaits...

14/12 - Could AI remove the need for humans in HR?

AI and machine learning are already being used to aid in the recruitment...process

12/12 - Get ready for an AI Christmas

Accenture report finds AI will play a major role for many this Christmas...

11/12 - UK workers still doubt AI will steal all their jobs

Even as employers replace current roles with technology...

11/12 - Reaching the level of trust needed for mass AI adoption

AI has an increasingly ubiquitous presence in the lives of consumers...

11/12 - AI is helping people regain mobility and control over their lives

Facial gestures could be the way forward...

11/12 - AI is not here to take jobs, just to make work more meaningful  

Accomplish more with AI...

30/11 - AI as banking’s WD-40: five examples of a frictionless future

The business opportunity applied AI presents can't be overlooked...

29/11 - Qualcomm pledges $100m to AI startups

Qualcomm targets on-device AI firms...

28/11 - Amazon is bringing AI to help read medical records

Deep learning trained algorithm compiles patient data into a spreadsheet-like report...

28/11 - Enabling better patient care with AI automation 

Hospitals are utilising automation to provide a better patient experience...

26/11 - Transforming the recruitment process with AI

Using machine learning algorithms to match the right freelancer with the job...

21/11 - Apple acquires AI software firm

Tech giant reportedly purchased the AI startup Silk Labs earlier this year...

16/11 - BlackBerry signs $1.4bn AI cybersecurity deal

Acquisition of Cylance sees BlackBerry double-down on cybersecurity...

15/11 - Samsung invests $22bn in AI and 5G

Korean tech giant aims to control 20 per cent of the network equipment market...

14/11 - AI and the next generation of search engines

How can users claim and enforce ownership of their own self-generated data?

14/11 - Oracle ramps up UK AI investment

Software giant looks to double AI team in Reading as part of major UK expansion...

12/11 - Microsoft: The future of security is AI

AI and Machine Learning set to play a major part in Microsoft’s security strategy...

31/10 - IBM and RFU team up for technology grand slam

IBM partnership promises technological innovation at all levels of English rugby...

31/10 - UK businesses falling behind by not embracing AI

Microsoft report calls on British firms to step up their AI activities...

30/10 - Telefonica reveals its rulebook for AI  

"Principles of Artificial Intelligence" covers equality, transparency, security and much more...

29/10 - Employees don't want work software on their personal devices

Vast majority object to being forced to install company software on their smartphones...

29/10 - Artificial Intelligence gives businesses real insights into their customers 

Feefo's Neil McIlroy tells us why AI can transform a number of industries...

26/10 - The future of work in the age of AI

In future we will all work side by side with robots and sometimes even closer than that...

25/10 - IBM has created an AI perfumer that can design brand new fragrances

To boldly smell what no man has smelled before...

23/10 - Checks and balances in AI deployment

Preventing the robot takeover...

22/10 - What does AI in a phone really mean?

Machine learning is used in a lot of ways in our phones...

17/10 - This AI litter tray analyzes your cat's health and uses NASA tech to clean itself

Smart toilet eliminates stink at the molecular level...

10/10 - Why are enterprises slow to adopt machine learning?

A lack of understanding about machine learning is holding enterprises back from adopting this emerging technology...

04/10 - Steve Wozniak: Don’t worry, AI won’t kill us all - yet

Apple co-founder casts doubts on how AI could take over...

04/10 - In-car AI could soon know if you're having a good or bad day

Take it at face value...

30/09 - The regional gap in AI adoption

A look at how different regions are adopting emerging AI technologies...

27/09 - Human plus AI – that’s how automation creates the real digital workforce

AI makes employees more productive while opening up access to new capabilities...

25/09 - Behind the scenes: powering AI transformation with High Performance Computing

High Performance Computing is helping developers create powerful AI and machine learning applications

24/09 - Deezer could make song playlists smarter with AI mood detection

Hooked on a feeling...

19/09 - Certification for AI technology could soon be a reality

A spanner in the works of the robot uprising...

19/09 - IBM is opening up the secrets of AI

New service will give reasons behind algorithm decisions and remove AI bias...

18/09 - AI could be the secret weapon of the security industry

Harnessing AI systems could help combat rise in IoT attacks, Aruba study finds...

18/09 - Can AI actually make work more human?

Study finds AI could help streamline work processes to boost efficiency...

18/09 - Healthcare leads the way when it comes to AI investment

New report reveals how AI is set to transform the future of healthcare...

18/09 - Start experimenting with AI to improve your customer service today 

A step by step guide for starting out using AI and machine learning...

09/08 - Intel reveals major AI chip push

AI hardware brought in over $1bn last year, Intel says...

08/08 - AI drones could work as aerial sheepdogs to herd birds away from airports 

A new way to prevent bird strikes...

08/08 - Samsung invests billions in 5G and AI

Samsung's £17bn investment programme looks to guard against smartphone slowdown...

02/08 - Why AI is the best tool to help build your next website

Wix chief tells us about AI's influence on the web design world...

31/07 - Worldwide AI investment to top $200bn by 2025  

KPMG report highlights major opportunities for AI, machine learning and RPA...

25/07 - Google is bringing AI to the call centre

Call centres set to get smarter than ever as Google also reveals new Machine Learning tools...

19/07 - Elon Musk and fellow tech giants pledge to only use AI for good

Hundreds of firms sign up to promise not to build AI weaponry...

17/07 - AI may not be a UK job killer

AI will create as many jobs as it is claimed it will destroy, PwC report predicts...

16/07 - Huawei is preparing a major AI hardware push

Mysterious "Da Vinci" project could mean super-smart networking equipment and AI chips...

14/07 - Wimbledon 2018: How IBM Watson is serving up the best viewer experience

We see how the world’s greatest tennis tournament is using IBM Watson for its smartest viewing experience yet...

12/07 - No more noise? NVIDIA researchers develop AI that removes image noise

Noisy photos could one day be just a bad memory...

05/07 - UK and France sign major AI agreement

Cross-government partnership will see British and French organisations work together on cutting-edge AI technology...

04/07 - Facebook buys British AI company to help it better understand human speech

Facebook has bought Bloomsbury AI, a British company specializing in natural language processing...

28/06 - Two thirds of UK workers want more duties automated

A study of 1,200 UK workers has found that many people believe machines shouldn't replace people in boring meetings, but they're welcome to take the minutes...


22/06 - Microsoft gives Marks & Spencer an AI facelift

One of the UK's oldest shops is set for a technology makeover after Marks and Spencer announced a new partnership with Microsoft. The computing giant will be working with M&S to bring its AI technologies into the company's stores and customer experiences, helping transform the 134-year-old institution into a "Digital First" retailer...


19/06 - Facebook's AI can take your blinking selfies and digitally open your eyes

Using a machine learning technique called 'generative adversarial network,' or GAN, Facebook researchers taught an AI to observe a picture in which you blinked, compare it to an unblinking photo of you, and then use “in-painting” to substitute your closed eyelids for open eyes...


19/06 - Hisense's AI TV will make you an armchair World Cup expert

At CES Asia, China's biggest technology show, Hisense demonstrated its vision with an AI-powered TV that works as a virtual football pundit to help even non-fans wrap their heads around all the tournament's finer details...


15/06 - Gmail turns to AI for smarter email notifications on your phone

As part of the recent Gmail redesign, Google unveiled a new feature, currently for iOS only, that ensures your Gmail app only sends you push notifications when “high-priority” emails come in...


15/06 - Major Windows 10 updates are getting better and faster with AI

Microsoft has revealed that it used artificial intelligence to drive the speed and efficiency of the rollout of its latest April 2018 Update for Windows 10...


11/06 - London hailed as AI capital of Europe

London has been named as the AI capital of Europe in a new report that highlights the UK's standing as one of the top technology hubs in the world...


08/06 - Google creates its own AI rulebook - promises it won't go all Terminator on us

Google may have quietly dropped its Don't Be Evil tagline but it is still firmly in the 'we're not planning to end the world' camp when it comes to AI. To prove it, it's released a comprehensive list of guidelines that it is going to adhere to when it comes to everything it is doing with AI...


07/06 - MIT creates 'psychopath' AI using the dark side of Reddit

To study how AI can become corrupted by biased data, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) decided to intentionally turn its AI into a psychopath named Norman—a reference to the villain in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho... 

07/05 - Microsoft wants to empower people with disabilities through AI for Accessibility

Microsoft is greatly expanding its mission to help those with disabilities through AI for Accessibility. The software maker announced the new $25 million, 5-year program designed to empower one-billion people with disabilities around the world through AI. To this end, Microsoft will put its money and resources towards helping developers to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions...

Categories: Tech News

Will Samsung enjoy first mover advantage with 5G?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 09:53

The news of a 5G edition of the Samsung Galaxy S10 might not have been the most exciting development from Samsung Unpacked, but it is a significant move in the firm’s battle against market saturation.

Over the past decade, the success of the Galaxy S range and a wide portfolio of handsets at different price tiers has catapulted Samsung into its positions as the world’s largest phone manufacturer, the Android flagship carrier, and main competitor to Apple.

But for the past few years, the Korean electronics giant has been wary of market saturation, looking towards the business and infrastructure markets as sources of new revenue. This need has become even more apparent in the past year as shipment volumes contracted.

Market saturation

Sliding smartphone sales weren’t too much of a concern while the average selling price (ASP) of its devices increased. But relatively poor sales of the Samsung Galaxy S9 were attributed to a lack of innovation and a high price tag at a time when other Android manufacturers were launching more affordable, feature-packed handsets.

As a result, Huawei is threatening Samsung’s leadership of the market and there are concerns about growth going forward. The challenges facing Samsung aren’t unique and are applicable across the industry, but the company has the most to lose.

The announcements made at Samsung Unpacked will go some way to satisfying some of these concerns. The flexible Samsung Galaxy Fold shows the company can still innovate, but the device’s big price tag means it sales of the Samsung Galaxy S10 that will be more important.

New features and different versions of the S10 at different price points will hopefully drive uptake and help solve the issue of affordability.

First mover advantage

The 5G version of the S10 is important for a different reason in that it gives Samsung first mover advantage.

Analysts believe that flexible displays and 5G compatibility will be two of the biggest catalysts for smartphone sales in 2019, so it is a shrewd move to steal the march on other manufacturers expected to launch 5G handsets at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next month.

The manufacturer has also beaten great rival Apple to the punch. Although 5G connectivity might not be enough to steal customers from Apple, which enjoys significant user loyalty, it does at least ask the question of consumers. The first 5G-compatible iPhone is not expected until 2020.

There’s no escaping the fact that the 5G-enabled is a first-generation handset that lacks many of the features expected of future 5G smartphones, but the device has immediately become the flagship in the market segment.

It will find favour among early adopters of 5G, encouraged by the fact they will be able to use a market-leading smartphone on next generation networks. In the UK, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be available on EE later this year.

No silver bullet

That’s not to say 5G is a silver bullet for Samsung, however.

GSMA research has found that there is a lack of 5G awareness. Only half of people understand 5G means faster speeds and only a quarter expect 5G networks to deliver new types of services. Just a fifth acknowledge 5G will enable new types of devices.

And it’s worth remembering Apple was just fine when it was behind the curve in 3G and 4G adoption.

But for now, this is a major development. 5G compatibility might not generate as many headlines as Samsung’s other announcements, but it does show the faith the company is placing in next generation networks to deliver growth.

Categories: Tech News

Best managed WordPress hosting 2019

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 09:50

As a content management system, WordPress offers one of the easiest and quickest ways to set up your own blog or website. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can select from one of hundreds of templates, as well as create interactive content such as contact forms.

The usefulness of WordPress has not been lost on website hosting providers. In this guide, you’ll discover some of the very best vendors on the market today who offer managed WordPress hosting. 

This is a great way to avoid the time and trouble of hosting your content from scratch as managed Wordpress hosting providers take the trouble of creating and maintaining your website away from you.

The best Managed WordPress hosting provider of 2019

WP Engine might be a slightly more onerous proposition for the casual user, but a more demanding audience will love WP Engine's speed, power and high-end premium features as well as the profusion of high quality WordPress themes it can provide through StudioPress

WP Engine

WP Engine is the leading WordPress digital platform. It hosts excellent uptime, WordPress specific security and unlimited monthly transfers.

WP Engine includes many great tools needed for web hosting. These range from automated backups to 24/7 support (phone support on Growth and Scale packages). 

You can use WP Engine’s ‘actionable intelligence’ to gain insight into the performance of your pages, content and applications.

WP Engine has four different price plans. All include free migration and free page performance. If you pay for a year’s subscription upfront, you get four months free.

Prices start off at $35 per month which include a 60-day risk free guarantee. WP Engine also have a ‘Custom’ tier for larger businesses who want a plan more tailored for their individual needs.

Some users have asked for a mid-range pricing option between the $35 and $115 tiers with the most expensive tier, Scale, costing $290 per month and offering support for up to 15 sites. At the moment, there is a 20% discount on all plans for your first payment.

GoDaddy Pro

GoDaddy Pro is part of GoDaddy Inc, founded in 1997. It offers users a more robust, wider range of tools for developers and businesses. While it doesn't mention WordPress in the opening few introductory phrases, GDP is actually wholly focused on WordPress installs.

GoDaddy Pro offers client management tools and advanced support. This solution allows developers to add multiple clients and manages their accounts from one single dashboard. 

GoDaddy gives users access to a management dashboard. From here all products and clients can be viewed. The dashboard can alert the user via SMS and email to any issues the client may have.

As GoDaddy Pro has been designed to make developer’s lives easier, the platform is user-friendly and everything is at your fingertips via the dashboard.

Access to the dashboard is free and includes reporting and basic maintenance for as many WordPress sites as needed. Paid services include cloud backups, migration, uptime monitoring and automated security checks. These can be purchased as add-ons to your free plan.

Users have noted that bandwidth monitoring is not included.

Bluehost

Bluehost is a web hosting company owned by Endurance International Group. It was founded in 2003. It’s part of a web hosting family that includes HostMonster, FastDomain and iPage.

Bluehost tries to make the daunting task of starting a new web site easy. It offers plenty of options to those new to web hosting while still offering tools for the more experienced user.

All new subscribers can set up a WordPress site with a single click of their mouse. Also, newbies can rely on Blue Spark, a specialized service that helps new users with everything WordPress related. 

Bluehost are currently offering all their WordPress plans at a reduced rate. Prices start at $3.95 (£3.09) a month for a single WordPress site complete with 50GB of website space. The ‘Plus’ and ‘Premium’ packages are on offer for $5.95 (£4.64) per month. These both include unlimited WordPress sites and unlimited website space. The ‘Premium’ package includes domain privacy and SiteBackup Pro.

More inexperienced users have reported that the dashboard can be difficult to navigate if you do not know all the terminology.

WordPress VIP

WordPress VIP is a fully managed cloud platform. Users of VIP have access to expert guidance, code review and around the clock support.

Users get their own Git repository and ZenDesk account. Once your code is ready, you send it to the VIP team. Experts at VIP go through each line of code in your repository. This can take 4-6 weeks. If any issues are found, they’re raised on GitHub. Once these have been removed the code is transferred to your project and you are online. VIP adhere to strict coding standards.

One of the main attractions of VIP, is their ‘always on’ support. VIP engineers watch for any issues that may arise and fix them proactively on behalf of the client. Once rectified, a report will be sent to you explaining what occurred.

Users will need to contact VIP directly in order to get a quote.

Some users have reported delays with setting up and building sites.

SiteGround

SiteGround was founded in 2004. It provides shared hosting, cloud hosting and dedicated servers.

SiteGround lets you choose from one of their five data centres on which to host your website. These are based in the US, Amsterdam, Singapore and the UK.

SiteGround offers users CloudFlare CDN, free SSL certificates and daily backups of their website’s data. All of their shared hosting plans include managed WordPress.

The platform’s customer support includes live chat as well as a phone in option. All support services are available 24/7.

The ‘StartUp’ plan begins at $11.95 (£9.28) per month ($3.95 for initial payment) which includes one website, 10GB web space and is suitable for 10,000 visits monthly. The ‘GrowBig’ plan for $19.95 (£15.47) monthly ($5.95 for initial payment) allows for multiple websites, 20GB of web space and is suitable for 25,000 visits. SiteGround’s ‘GoGeek’ plan starts at $34.95 (£27.08) per month ($11.95 for initial payment) which includes 30GB of web space and is suitable for 100,000 visits monthly. SiteGround do not offer a free trial but do have a 30-day money back guarantee.

Some users reported issues with being automatically logged out when signing in on multiple devices.

DreamHost

DreamHost is owned by New Dream Network, LLC which was founded in 1996. It’s both a web hosting provider and a domain name registrar.

DreamHost’s ‘Shared Starter’ plan starts at $4.95 (£3.87) per month. This includes a shared hosting server, 1 WordPress website, unlimited traffic, 1-click SSL certificate, fast SSD storage, 24/7 support and an upgrade to add email.

The ‘DreamPress’ package starts at $19.95 (£15.47). This includes all of what the ‘Shared Starter’ plan has to offer along with 30GB SSD storage and JetPack free preinstalled.

All of DreamHost’s hosting solutions are a fully managed service.

Inexperienced users have reported issues with getting started. 

InMotion

InMotion Hosting is an employee-owned and -operated domain name and web hosting company founded in 2001.

InMotion offers dedicated, shared, virtual private server and WordPress hosting along with several Ecommerce tools. 

Their WordPress hosting plans start off at $4.99 (£3.8) per month (for initial payment) and include one website, 40GB SSD storage and is suitable for 20,000 visitors a month. InMotion have six price plans available and all of them offer unlimited data transfers.

Besides having numerous price plans for each of their hosting options, InMotion have numerous free add-ons, free ecommerce tools and unlimited emails. While they do not have a free trial, they do include a 90-day money back guarantee.

Some users have complained that InMotion is not as competitively priced as other hosting providers.

HostGator

HostGator was founded in 2002. It provides shared, reseller, VPS and dedicated web hosting.

HostGator’s Website Builder comes with a handy drag and drop feature. The builder includes a wide range of themes. Some of the features are pre-built to help make the process easier and faster.

HostGator claim that load times for WordPress sites are up to 2.5 times faster than other providers due to their superior server architecture.

The utility offers a WordPress Cloud Interface where you can manage backups, access all your email accounts and other hosting options. You can also allocate server bandwidth from here.

HostGator offer three WordPress cloud hosting plans. The ‘Starter’ plan is currently $5.95 (£4.64) per month for 1 site, 100,000 visits per month, 1GB free backups and a free SSL certificate. The ‘Standard’ plan is on offer at $7.95 (£6.19) per month for 2 sites, 200,000 visits per month, 2GB backups and a free SSL certificate. 

HostGator’s ‘Business’ plan is also on offer at $9.95 (£7.73) per month. This includes 3 sites, 500,000 visits, 3GB backups and a free SSL certificate.

According to online commentators, the purchase price for additional domains can be quite steep.

1&1 IONOS

1&1 (called 1&1 IONOS since October 2018) is owned by German company, United Internet. It was founded in 1988. It offers domain registration, cloud servers, virtual private servers and dedicated servers.

1&1 boasts excellent customer support and easy to use web creation tools. More inexperienced users might find this provider more suitable to their needs.

1&1’s ‘Basic’ packages starts at $1 (£1 for UK) per month for the first 6-months and then $9 (£6 for UK) per month thereafter. This includes 1 WordPress project, 25GB SSD storage, unlimited visitors and managed WordPress. Upon registration you are offered a domain name free for 12 months. This is only valid upon purchase of any of their plans.

Users that sign up for the ‘Business’ plan receive 2 WordPress projects, 100GB SSD storage and unlimited visitors. This plan starts at $1 (£1 for UK) per month for the first 12 months and then $11 (£8 for UK) per month thereafter. 

The ‘Pro’ plan starts at $1 (£1 for UK) for the first 6 months and then $15 (£1 for UK). It includes 5 WordPress projects and 200GB SSD storage, as well as SiteLock malware protection and RailGun CDN.

Online commentators have complained about long periods of downtime. 

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

Categories: Tech News

Asus announces four GeForce GTX 1660 Ti variants

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 09:00

The rumors were true and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti does exist, and Asus has now officially announced that it's releasing four different variants of the affordable graphics card.

Each of Asus' GTX 1660 Ti cards slots into the company's product lines: ROG Strix, ASUS Dual, TUF Gaming, and Phoenix, with the cards tweaked to appeal to different markets, while providing the same underlying Turing architecture of the GTX 1660 Ti.

According to Asus, each of these cards is "ideal for gamers seeking an uptick in performance on a budget," and are aimed at people gaming on 1080p and 1440p gaming monitors.

Asus ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

The ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is Asus' top-of-the-range 1660 Ti, and is aimed at enthusiasts who want the very best performance. 

As with other GPUs in the Strix line, it has a specialised cooling setup to keep the GPU cool when under load or when overclocked.

It will cost £339.99 (around $440, AU$620) and is available worldwide right now.

Asus TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

As with other products in Asus' TUF product line, the Asus TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti has been designed to be as tough and durable as possible, passing a "144-hour validation program involving both synthetic and live in-game benchmarking" that makes sure it is built to last.

It's also reinforced with backplates to make the graphics card itself stronger, and its fans use dual-ball bearings that should last a long time.

We're chasing up prices for the Asus TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti,  which will go on sale worldwide slightly later in March 2019.


Asus Dual GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

The Asus Dual GeForce GTX 1660 Ti comes with (as the name suggests) two large fans for keeping the GPU cool, and they have IP5X dust resistance which means the performance of the fans shouldn't drop over time.

It goes on sale today, February 22, for £308.99 (around $390, AU$550).

Asus Phoenix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

Finally, the Asus Phoenix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is a compact variant that is designed for small form-factor builds. It comes with one fan, which uses a patented Wing-blade design that keeps the card cool despite its small size.

This GPU is also available right now for £259.99 (around $340, AU$475).

We'll be testing out Nvidia's stock GTX 1660 Ti, so we should see just how much power this affordable graphics card can provide, and it's good to see manufacturers like Asus get behind the product by releasing a number of versions for different budgets.

Image credits: Asus

Categories: Tech News

Best AV receivers 2019: which home cinema AV receiver should you buy?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 08:36

If you love the cinematic experience when you go to the movies but not the huge ticket prices and other people chattering away, then turn your living room into a home cinema instead. You'll just need to make sure you have the right kit, including an AV receiver.

That's because buying yourself the best TV on the market may bring that huge cinema screen feel to your home, but it rarely brings the audio to match. That means if you want high-end sound to make the most of your 4K TV you'll need to buy an AV receiver as well.

If you're not as clued in about the latest receiver tech as you are about the latest TV tech, don't worry. AVRs essentially act as the brains behind your AV setup. 

AV receivers will take the audio track from whatever TV show, movie, CD or video game you're playing or watching, process the audio and send it through to any connected speakers you have. 

AVRs are the only way to power 5.1 and 7.1 speaker setups outside of a soundbar, and they also host a bevy of ports that allow you to keep all your devices connected all the time.

This is important because the best AV receivers are essentially the central base that all of your entertainment equipment will need to connect to and communicate with.

Even if you have lots of other devices, this means that the transition between them will be seamless, regardless of what you’re trying to play, watch or listen to, you’ll always get an amazing entertainment experience to rival your nearest cinema screen.

If you have a 4K set-up at home, then you need to be on the lookout for a receiver that has a wealth of HDCP 2.2 compatible HDMI ports. If you want to get really high-tech with your set-up, and invest in multi-room streaming, you need to think about which wireless speaker system is best for you – Chromecast, Heos, or even Yamaha MusicCast. Even if that's not something you're interested in right now, it makes sense to future-proof your set-up.

For many people, Dolby Atmos will be the killer app. This 3D audio system is now the gold standard in immersive audio. It may be available on soundbars, but only an AV receiver offers true overhead Dolby Atmos audio. 

All you'll need to do is decide if you want a seven or a nine-channel system. (However, that said, you may not need Dolby Atmos at all, in which case a standard 5.1 sound system will fill your surround sound needs nicely.) 

Have we convinced you that you need an AC receiver yet? The next step is figuring out which is the right one for you and luckily we've got a big list of all the best AC receivers you can get your hands on today. 

Best AV receivers under $699

Gone are the days when buying a surround-sound-supporting receiver with multiple HDMI ports meant spending an arm and a leg. These days, you can get a great receiver with support for a surround sound setup at well under $500/£600. Like, for example, the Onkyo TX-NR676.

It's not the only receiver in its price range with a great set of features features or a plethora of inputs, but there are few comprehensive packages that are as easy to assemble, set up and use as Onkyo's. 

In terms of expected sound performance, Onkyo has long offered a great sound-quality, and this receiver is no different. The receiver supports DTS:X and Dolby Atmos, which helps give sound a much more immersive feel to it. 

We found that the receiver was generally great-sounding at all volumes. At low volumes, there was still plenty of clarity and detail, while higher volumes produced little distortion, which was nice to hear. Extremely tuned ears might miss a little detail in the high end at louder volumes, though the receiver still shoots well above its price range when it comes to sound quality. 

If you’re looking for a great A/V receiver and have a maximum budget of $400/£600, the Onkyo TX-NR676 is the way to go.

Read the full review: Onkyo TX-NR676

It might be late to the party, but Sony’s debut Dolby Atmos AV receiver entertains with some cool functionality. While it’s ostensibly a seven channel design (which means it can run in a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos configuration) there are also two phantom rears which create a pseudo seven channel surround soundstage. The receiver can even virtually relocate the physical position of your speakers, to create a better sonic balance.   

Build quality is commensurate with its price tag. This is no heavyweight, and the fascia looks overly fussy, but the hairline finish is a premium touch. Connectivity is good. We get six HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 enabled. There are also two HDMI outputs, for combi TV and projector use. There are also two analogue AV inputs, plus a pair of stereo phonos and two digital audio inputs.  

The AVR connects via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth with NFC for quick pairing, plus Airplay.  The AVR also boasts Chromecast Built-in. That’s all the main wireless boxes ticked.

Setup is helped along by the latest iteration of Sony’s Auto Calibration software, which now features a 31-band graphic EQ and a stereo calibration microphone that adjusts phase, distance and level.

Usability is average. The receiver relies heavily on its UI, which is pretty but sometimes a little frustrating.  

Performance is excellent for the price. Tonally the STR-DN1080 may not be particularly warm, but it is exciting. Movies benefit from seamless panning and pronounced dynamics. Power output is quoted at  7 x 165W into 6 ohms. The biggest surprise is the effectiveness of the phantom rears, which really do help fill out the rear surround stage. This sonic trickery positions the STR-DN1080 somewhere above a standard 5.1.2 design, but below a true nine channel amp.

Overall, this is an innovative, exciting AV Dolby Atmos receiver. Consider it a brilliant value home cinema offering.  

The latest update to the popular slimline NR line, Marantz’s Dolby Atmos enabled NR1607 packs a load of features into a low profile frame. 

Choose from either a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration, or 7.1 flatbed surround. Wireless connectivity comes via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or AirPlay.  

All seven rear-side HDMI inputs support 4K with HDCP 2.2. There’s only one HDMI output though. This is joined by two digital audio inputs (one coaxial, one digital), plus three AV analogue inputs. On the front panel, there’s another HDMI input and USB with iOS Digital Direct.  

Auto room correction is provided by Audyssey, viaa supplied microphone. It does a reasonable job EQing the receiver to the listening room.   

The 50W p/c power rating may be modest, but this little box can slam loud and hard when it needs too. The subtle, immersive 3D audio of Atmos is also well handled here; audio panning around and overhead is thoroughly engaging. 

The receiver is more than confident with two channel sources, although it lacks the sparkle of some of more expensive rivals.  While the power output is plenty good enough for smaller rooms, larger theater spaces could be a challenge. Edge past 80 on the volume gauge and the mid-range dries out. 

Overall, the NR1607 can be considered a potent slimline Dolby Atmos receiver. HDMI connectivity is class leading, and our only grumble is the solitary output, which could limit options if you want to run both a screen and a projector. 

Best AV receivers under $1,000

The Yamaha RX-A880 is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a powerful, affordable receiver. Not only does it sound great, but it boasts a ton of ports, support for a range of wireless standards, and works with MusicCast, too. 

If you’re looking for a receiver that boasts Dolby Atmos support and can be calibrated to your room, and have the money to spend, then the Yamaha RX-A880 is the way to go. If, however, you’d prefer to save some cash but still want support for 7.1 channels, then we recommend the Onkyo TX-NR676

New and improved for 2018, the RX-A880 boasts a whopping seven input HDMI ports - all of which support HDCP 2.2 as well - which solves one of the biggest issues with the receiver’s predecessor, the Yamaha RX-A860, and there are also a few other analog input ports, so even older sources should work.  

The receiver is capable of outputting audio at 110W per channel at 8Ω which is plenty of volume for those that want a powerful and loud overall sound. Even in larger rooms, this receiver should have no trouble filling the room with powerful audio, as long as you have a decent set of speakers too.

Plus, don't forget the RX-A880 supports Dolby Atmos. If you have enough speakers to set up the full system, you’ll find that you’re intensely immersed in whatever you’re watching thanks to the Dolby features. But, even when we had just a 5.1-channel setup, we felt like we never needed to go to a cinema again.

It’s not often we see something radically different in the world of AV receivers, but this HEOS model definitely qualifies. For starters, it looks fundamentally different to the herd. There’s no front panel display. Rear connectivity has also been stripped back. Standing just 90mm tall, it’s refreshing compact.  

Build quality is superb. Only a volume knob on the extruded aluminium fascia gives the AVR game away. 

There are four HDMI inputs, and a single output, all with HDCP 2.2 support. There's just two digital audio inputs (coaxial and optical), plus analogue stereo, 3.5mm minijack, lone USB and Ethernet LAN. Wireless connectivity covers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is a 5.1 channel design and doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. Key to the receiver’s appeal is HEOS wireless speaker integration. While there is provision for wired rear speakers, the system is designed to work with wireless HEOS rears. In most systems, only the front L/C/R will be tethered. It can also partner with a dedicated wireless HEOS subwoofer. 

While a remote is supplied, it’s a basic zapper. There’s no onscreen display either. Setup and control is done through a HEOS app. 

For our audition, we partnered the AVR with a pair of HEOS 1s at the rear, and the wireless HEOS subwoofer. With speakers grouped, the package becomes a working 5.1 system. There’s no further calibration required.

The HEOS AVR may not be a powerhouse, but it’s a bright, lively listen. The receiver delivers multichannel movie soundtracks with gusto. It’s crisp and exciting, particularly when there’s plenty going on around the soundstage (try it with Edge of Tomorrow Blu-ray, then duck as the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack unloads chaos in every corner).   

This isn’t a particularly musical AVR though. Pop and rock are entertaining enough, but throw a throw it something classical or jazzy and its spatial delineation turns a bit mushy. 

Using wireless rears can invite some problems. While latency isn’t an issue, we were aware of occasional low-level pops and fizzes.

As an ambitious reworking of the classic home theater receiver, we rate this first HEOS AVR as an qualified success. The cosmetics are admirable, and for dedicated HEOS multiroom users the wireless interactivity is a boon. Employing an app for control seems to make perfect sense, the only snag comes if your streaming audio sources are also app controlled and need to be juggled outside of the HEOS app. This may not be the future of AV receivers, but it’s a refreshing rethink nonetheless. 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Marantz NR1607 
  • Looking for a great movie to put your sound system to the test? Check out our list of the best sci-fi movies.
Best AV recivers over $1,000

If you want a no-compromise Atmos experience, then stepping up to a nine channel AV receiver is well worth the premium. With this big Denon, you can opt for 5.1.4, or 7.1.2 - and that makes a big difference to the overall performance. There’s actually processing for eleven channels if you want to add additional amplification. 

But there’s more than just wraparound audio to this beast. The H suffix denotes that it’s also HEOS multiroom compatible. It can play, or route, content to and from other HEOS connected components. Spin a CD on your Blu-ray deck, and you can Party Zone the music through both your cinema system and any connected HEOS speakers.

Build quality is stellar. The receiver has a copper plated chassis with monoblock construction. There are seven rear HDMI inputs, plus one on the front fascia. All support 4K HDCP 2.2 sources. There are also three HDMI outputs. 

There’s also a forest of other inputs, including four digital audio inputs (split between digital optical and coaxial), six analogue stereo pairs and phono (MM) turntable support. You can also stream over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Power output is prodigious, at 9 x 200w into 6 Ohms. This doesn’t mean you should go super-loud, more that it can effortlessly bludgeon without strain or distortion.  

The user interface is slick, with high-res graphics guiding you through the setup routine. Auto calibration is via Audyssey.  

The Denon’s performance is outstanding in every regard. It does a fabulous job with multichannel Dolby Atmos soundtracks, both explosive and atmospheric, and is no slouch when it comes to music either.  Beneath the hood are fourth-gen SHARC DSP processors. Spatial imaging and transient attack is excellent. 

Overall, we rate this class-leading Denon as a home cinema superstar. It’s feature heavy, and massively powerful. But there’s agility behind the brawn. In short, it’s a fabulous home theater performer.

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

While the Arcam AVR850 is unlikely to win any Best Value accolades – it’s unashamedly expensive for a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos design – its overarching musicality is hard to beat. This is arguably the UK audio specialist’s best sounding AV receiver to date.   

The AVR850 uses Class G power amps, conservatively rated at 100W-per-channel.

The design is understated, with a nice matte cabinet finish and big central volume knob. It tips the scales at a reassuringly heavy 16kg.  

Connectivity is good. There are seven HDMI inputs, all with HDCP 2.2 support, plus three HDMI outputs. Audio options include six analogue inputs, and six digital audio inputs.  

The really significant difference here, compared to previous Arcam home theater boxes, is the provision of Dirac Live room calibration.

Arguably the most sophisticated auto calibration technology available, it does a extraordinary job fine tuning the receiver to the listening room. Dirac tuning is not carried out by the receiver with a microphone, but via a laptop. Sounds complicated? Don’t fret. Buyers will have room calibration done by the dealer that supplies the receiver.

While Dirac is the height of sophistication, the user interface is pretty basic, just a plain text box. Arcam isn’t even trying to impress here.

Still, the receiver sounds sensational, with precise imaging that really makes the most of Dolby Atmos encoding. It’s tight and forceful with action sequences, and delicious melodious with two channel music. That feature count may look frugal for the price, but when it comes to performance, your investment will be repaid in spades.    

The Arcam AV850 may be ruinously expensive for a seven channel amplifier, but tuned with Dirac, it’s clearly a premium performer. We’re prepared to forgive it any foibles.

Image Credits: TechRadar

Categories: Tech News

Metro Exodus gets fixes for GeForce RTX graphics cards and low-end PCs

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 07:31

If you’ve been experiencing issues with Metro Exodus and your GeForce RTX graphics card – or indeed if you have a lower-end PC, as these have also been struggling with the game – then help is hopefully at hand courtesy of a new patch.

The patch (version 1.0.1.1 on the Epic Games Store, version 1.0.0.1 on Steam – for those who pre-ordered on Valve’s platform before the game went exclusive to Epic) contains fixes and optimization measures for RTX GPUs. There are also DLSS fixes and “improvements to sharpness” (DLSS being Nvidia’s much-touted frame rate accelerating tech, another benefit of RTX graphics cards alongside ray tracing).

4A Games also promises that Metro Exodus has been better optimized for lower spec PCs, so if you have a machine which isn’t much above the minimum requirements for the game, then with any luck, everything will run a bit more smoothly now.

A raft of general stability fixes have also been implemented here, which will doubtless be useful too, and a new ‘bug trap’ tool has been added. The latter captures information on any crash that occurs and spits out a diagnostics report which you can send to the developer via the game’s support site.

Obviously that could help to cure common problems going forward, and the devs promise anonymity, with no user identifiable data collected in the diagnostics (and you can review the report yourself before you send it).

Future’s too bright?

From what we’ve seen, the reception to the patch has been broadly positive, at least going by comments on Steam. The update for DLSS supposedly now makes it usable, and the results sound impressive, but there’s a reported issue in that enabling DLSS effectively breaks HDR (blowing out the brightness levels), at least for some folks.

There’s seemingly still some work to be done, then, but at least we’re making progress in the right direction.

As we saw at launch, the post-apocalyptic shooter got off to a very shaky start on the PC, with the game’s EXE file going missing (yes, just a minor omission) – and even after that was swiftly fixed as you’d expect, PC gamers continued to report problems with the game crashing just after it had been fired up.

Via Wccftech

Categories: Tech News

Huawei: We make it cheaper and simpler to deploy 5G

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 07:31

Huawei has put its well-documented challenges to one side ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) by touting the capabilities of its 5G equipment portfolio to mobile operators.

The company is facing exclusion from several countries’ rollout of 5G due to fears of national security – allegations Huawei has repeatedly denied. But there is little appetite among mobile operators for a ban as they fear this would increases prices and decrease innovation.

Speaking at a pre-MWC event in London, the head of Huawei’s carrier business group Ryan Ding said the firm’s kit would make it easier and cheaper to deploy and maintain 5G networks.

 “As of today, we have shipped more than 47,000 5G base stations and won more than 30 commercial contracts worldwide,” he said. “This is exciting progress.”

Huawei’s 5G promise

Ding espoused the benefits of its equipment over the competition, claiming Huawei’s ability to offer end-to-end 5G solutions that cover device, network and data centre would give it an advantage, noting the recent announcement of its Tiangang base station chip.

He also said that cheaper, smaller and lighter kit meant it only required four man-hours to upgrade a site from 4G to 5G compared to seven and a half for 3G to 4G. Not only that, there is no need to hire a crane.

During the presentation, Huawei detailed new base station technology such as the 5G AAU 64T64R, which is purported to offer 20 times the capacity of a traditional base station while being three times smaller.

In addition to the cost savings in upgrading sites, Ding argued 5G operators save operational costs. Huawei believes as much as half of operator spending is on maintenance, with energy bills a significant contributor.

“Our base station energy consumption is at least 30 per cent lower than our competitors,” said Ding. “If you use Huawei 5G base station, then 90 per cent of sites don’t need an upgraded AC power supply.”

“With the equipment we announced this morning, the cost-per-bit with 5G will be reduced by five to ten times.

“I firmly believe that all of our competitors have usable 5G base stations. However usable is different from good. I strongly urge you to compare our products with the competition in terms of power, size and power consumption.”

UK a 5G leader?

During his presentation, Ding participated in the “world’s first” 5G multi-operator call with representatives from EE, Three and Vodafone and declared the UK to be a leader in 5G.

When asked by TechRadar Pro to elaborate, Ding explained: “Globally, for 5G development, South Korea is the fastest and the UK is one of the fastest to deploy 5G in Europe … the UK was the first among European countries to release spectrum and operators are very innovation minded and open to new technologies.

“That’s why for the last few years we’ve been working with almost all the operators in the UK in the innovations released to base stations and overall site solutions for 5G.”

In general, Huawei is optimistic about 5G. It is encouraged by the accelerated rate of smartphone development, claiming this is the first generational shift in which the mobile ecosystem hasn’t lagged behind infrastructure. It predicts it will take just three years to get 500 million connections, compared to the five years it took 4G to achieve the same figure.

“At MWC next week, you might see that the 5G phones are a more popular topic than 5G base stations … and there might be more vendors showing 5G phones than there were for 4G in 2011,” said Ding. “The economy might have an impact on 5G [adoption], but generally speaking we are optimistic.”

The elephant in the room

But there is always an elephant in the room. The US effectively frozen Huawei out of its telecoms infrastructure for some time, but Australia has issued a formal ban for 5G and other countries have also expressed concerns. When asked what impact this will have on the company’s record revenues, Ding replied:

“In 2019, I believe we will have better growth as 5G is coming. I can say that there is some impact in some countries, but not in 95 per cent of our markets.

“In [some] markets, Huawei has become a very popular topic and we have become better known so in many ways [the US’s actions are] free advertising. What’s more, because of the security pressure from the industry, Huawei is even more motivated to improve our products and engineering.

“I believe this misunderstanding will exist for some time but if we continue to create the best products and services and be more transparent … this [scrutiny] will [eventually] turn into new opportunities.”

Categories: Tech News

The best Fitbit Alta and Alta HR bands and accessories

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 07:30

So you've chosen either the Fitbit Alta HR or the Fitbit Alta - here are our favorite accessories for your tracker, including a selection of bands and extra add-ons you might want to buy.

You should note that some of the accessories on this list may not work with the newer Fitbit Alta HR, but we've also clearly stated which ones we are certain to work with your newer tracker.

These are products that we haven't had in our test labs, but based on our experts' opinion and knowledge of the most reputable brands around, we think these are worth looking at.

Our selections, ranked from cheapest to most expensive, take into account online reviews, brand reputation, product capability or unique features to help you pick through the maze of choices available to you.

Image Credit: Cotop

The screen on your Fitbit Alta/Alta HR can easily get damaged, so we'd recommend you take a look at getting a display protector for your wearable.

These are cheap and should mean you won't scratch up the display when you put the Alta down or if you bump your wrist into anything.

Image Credit: Tomall

There are lots of replacement bands on this list, but what if you don’t want to wear your Fitbit Alta on your wrist? In that case you might want to consider this clip holder from Tomall.

It works with both the Alta and the Alta HR, and includes both a silicone holder for the Fitbit and a stainless steel clip, which you can use to attach it to a belt, a pocket, or any other piece of clothing.

The clip is also available in twelve different colors, so you’re sure to find a shade you like, and it’s cheap enough that you could buy several, so there’s always one to match your outfit or mood.

Image Credit: Degbit

Want your Fitbit Alta in a metal band? Here's one of the best cheap options we could find that will work on your Fitbit Alta.

It's made of stainless steel and comes with a link remover tool in the box, so you should simply be able to swap it out and make sure the metal strap fits your wrist properly. Whether this band will work with the Fitbit Alta HR is uncertain.

Image Credit: DingTool

We’ve included a screen protector elsewhere on this list, but it’s not just the Fitbit Alta’s screen that can get damaged, it’s also the body of the device.

With that in mind you might want to consider this sleeve protector from DingTool. It fully covers and protects the sides of your Fitbit, as well as the edge of the screen – combine it with a screen protector for complete protection.

It also comes in a 10-piece multi-pack with each one being a different color, so you can swap to a new shade every day of the week, or whenever you feel like it.

Image Credit: Wearlizer

Here's the cheapest leather band we can find for the Fitbit Alta, and it should give you a more stylish look than the silicone option included in the box.

It's not as premium as the leather option supplied by Fitbit, but then it doesn't cost anywhere near as much either. There's no certainty this will work with the Fitbit Alta HR though as Wearlizer hasn't updated its listing yet.

Image Credit: Fitbit

Metal not your thing? If you're after a classier look for your Fitbit Alta or Alta HR, this is the option to go for over the silicone or third-party metal bands. 

There are three color options to go for - grey, brown or pink - plus it looks comfortable and should look good when in an office setting or on a night out.

Image Credit: Fitbit

The Fitbit Alta and Alta HR both come with a fairly plain yet functional strap, but if you've got money to spare you can upgrade it to a far more stylish and premium one like this metal offering.

It's made from stainless steel and looks far more like something that you'd wear by choice than just as a means to track your fitness.

Image Credit: Public School

A collaboration with US designers Public School, this bracelet can be bought directly from Fitbit – always good for peace of mind when buying expensive products. 

Turning the fitness tracker into a fashion watch, it’s made from surgical grade stainless steel but while it looks great, it isn’t sweat proof so not one to use in the gym.

Image Credit: Public School

The second design from Public School is military-inspired with gunmetal stainless steel hardware. 

This is a band that’s more about the looks than function, as it’s not water proof or suited to intense workouts. It’s fine for day to day walks though. But watch out, as with most loose-fitting accessories, if you have an Alta HR, the heart rate monitoring may not work.

Categories: Tech News

Older Samsung devices will soon let you customize the Bixby key

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 07:26

One of the new features of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 range is Bixby key customization, which lets you choose what the Bixby button on the side of the phone does. 

Now Samsung has confirmed that this feature will also come to its other Bixby-enabled devices, in order to encourage more users to interact with its somewhat maligned voice assistant.

Bixby lets phone users navigate their handset via voice commands, but it hasn’t caught the public imagination as much as other personal assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, and Samsung is clearly trying to change that by improving its accessibility on older devices.

The pre-S10 Samsung devices that have Bixby are the Galaxy S8 and S9, Note 8 and Note 9, and each of these will be receiving key customization. 

The one requirement is that the handset needs to be running Android Pie – but most of these devices already use the latest version of Android, and it’ll be reaching the rest soon. 

Key customization means that pressing the Bixby key in different ways activates different options – instead of simply pressing it once to open the assistant, that function can be mapped to either a single or double-press. The other press can then be assigned to open a specific app, such as Spotify or a social media platform.

Samsung hasn’t confirmed when exactly key customization will reach the pre-S10 devices, only stating it "will be available via a software update", but we don’t expect to be waiting long.

Bixby key customization is a minor addition alongside the Galaxy S10’s stable of other new features – the 'punch-hole' front camera, Snapdragon 855 chipset and wider screen are far more appealing to users than easier Bixby usage – but by adding the feature to older devices Samsung will be hoping to encourage users of its older phones to make more use of a feature they may not have embraced to date.

Categories: Tech News

The best Three mobile deals in February 2019

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 07:21

Three mobile has for a long time been well known in the UK for offering good deals, especially for customers looking for some seriously big data bundles. In the early days, the network was blighted by poor reception in many areas but these days Three mobile doesn't have any such issues and its prices can be stellar.

So take a look at our comparison tool to see what you can get for your money with Three. And below that we've also handpicked the best the network has to offer on flagship handsets such as the iPhone XR and Samsung Galaxy S9.

And if you're perfectly happy with your current handset but are at the end of your contract, then we heartily recommend that you consider the 100GB Three SIM only deal for £20 per month

Want to browse the best phone deals at other networks too? Simply head over to our best mobile phone deals page.

Samsung's newest release, this phone is rocking a completely flat, notch-less screen with a pin hole camera, giving it a unique style. Whether it's the triple cameras on the back, fast processor or reverse charging, there is a lot to love here.

Samsung's brand new budget flagship, the S10e features high-end specs for an affordable price. If you want the best Samsung has but don't want to have to pay through the roof to get it, this is the way to go. With all of the same features as the S10 with a few cutbacks, this is a high-end phone with mid-range pricing.

The iPhone XR hits a sweet spot between high tech and reasonable pricing. It looks a lot like its more powerful brethren - both in appearance and on the spec sheet - and boasts a glorious 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display and A12 Bionic chipset without a £1,000 price tag.

OK, so the Samsung Galaxy S9 doesn't make massive strides on the S8, but that doesn't mean it's not still one of the premier Android phones on the market. The cameras in particular are awe inspiring and tangible improvements have been made to the biometrics and position of the fingerprint scanner.

Oh gosh, Apple went and did it. After years upon years of incremental upgrades, it finally made something special to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. For the iPhone X it has dropped the bezel altogether, while the 5.8-inch Super Retina HD is scarily good - and then it tweaked things a year later for the XS. Marvellous!

Samsung has now well and truly put the flaming memory of the Note 7 behind it. If the Note 8 was exceptional (6.3-inch infinity display and 6GB RAM), then the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is even bigger and better (6.4-inch infinity display and 8GB RAM). If you want the best big screen Android phones on the market, then look no further.

Thanks to the spectacle that was the iPhone X launch, the reception for the iPhone 8 was a little bit flat. Perhaps unfairly - it improves on the iPhone 7 with wireless charging and an improved camera. Plus, it's quite a bit cheaper. So if you're looking for the best iPhone but balk at the iPhone X expense, try the 8 on for size instead.

There's no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a fantastic phone.  The lightning fast chip-set and abandonment of a large bezel around the screen makes it the premier Android experience. And now that the S9 is here, it's no longer even that expensive.

The iPhone SE looks and feels exactly the same as the iPhone 5S. But instead of sporting two-year-old hardware it's been updated, with a faster CPU and graphics, and the 12MP iSight camera straight out of the iPhone 6S. It's a modern iPhone in the shape of an old iPhone, for people who like the old iPhones but want more up-to-date hardware.

The Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL are relatively new devices on the flagship scene but they have very quickly become two of our favourites. Powerful processors, loud speakers, but most importantly they have what is arguably the best cameras you can get on a phone right now.

Categories: Tech News

The best Vodafone deals in February 2019

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 07:18

Vodafone is one of the biggest networks in the world and by far one of the most powerful brands in the UK. Not surprising when they so frequently offer excellent tariffs on flagship handsets like the iPhone XR, Galaxy S9 and the market's other favourite phones.

Vodafone seems to go through fits and spurts when it comes to how competitively it's priced. It can go from the cheapest on the market, to pretty poor on our mobile phone deals comparison charts. Unfortunately, Vodafone seems to be going through one of its more expensive periods.

We've seen prices across devices rise on Vodafone lately, especially the bigger devices like the iPhone XR and Note 9. However, there are still tonnes of great deals floating around, it just takes more searching and luckily we've done that part for you. 

If Vodafone appeals to you though - or if you want to bag a Red Entertainment package that gives you a year's subscription to Spotify Premium, NOW TV Entertainment or the Sky Sports app - then that's where this page comes in! We've rounded up all of the best Vodafone phone deals so that you don't have to, just take a look at TechRadar's bespoke comparison chart below.

Samsung's newest release, this phone is rocking a completely flat, notch-less screen with a pin hole camera, giving it a unique style. Whether it's the triple cameras on the back, fast processor or reverse charging, there is a lot to love here.

Samsung's brand new budget flagship, the S10e features high-end specs for an affordable price. If you want the best Samsung has but don't want to have to pay through the roof to get it, this is the way to go. With all of the same features as the S10 with a few cutbacks, this is a high-end phone with mid-range pricing.

The iPhone XR hits a sweet spot between high tech and reasonable pricing. It looks a lot like its more powerful brethren - both in appearance and on the spec sheet - and boasts a glorious 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display and A12 Bionic chipset without a £1,000 price tag.

OK, so the Samsung Galaxy S9 doesn't make massive strides on the S8, but that doesn't mean it's not still one of the premier Android phones on the market. The cameras in particular are awe inspiring and tangible improvements have been made to the biometrics and position of the fingerprint scanner.

Oh gosh, Apple went and did it. After years upon years of incremental upgrades, it finally made something special to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. For the iPhone X it has dropped the bezel altogether, while the 5.8-inch Super Retina HD is scarily good - and then it tweaked things a year later for the XS. Marvellous!

Samsung has now well and truly put the flaming memory of the Note 7 behind it. If the Note 8 was exceptional (6.3-inch infinity display and 6GB RAM), then the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is even bigger and better (6.4-inch infinity display and 8GB RAM). If you want the best big screen Android phones on the market, then look no further.

Thanks to the spectacle that was the iPhone X launch, the reception for the iPhone 8 was a little bit flat. Perhaps unfairly - it improves on the iPhone 7 with wireless charging and an improved camera. Plus, it's quite a bit cheaper. So if you're looking for the best iPhone but balk at the iPhone X expense, try the 8 on for size instead.

There's no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a fantastic phone.  The lightning fast chip-set and abandonment of a large bezel around the screen makes it the premier Android experience. And now that the S9 is here, it's no longer even that expensive.

The iPhone SE looks and feels exactly the same as the iPhone 5S. But instead of sporting two-year-old hardware it's been updated, with a faster CPU and graphics, and the 12MP iSight camera straight out of the iPhone 6S. It's a modern iPhone in the shape of an old iPhone, for people who like the old iPhones but want more up-to-date hardware.

The Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL are relatively new devices on the flagship scene but they have very quickly become two of our favourites. Powerful processors, loud speakers, but most importantly they have what is arguably the best cameras you can get on a phone right now.

Categories: Tech News

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