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Add security to Azure applications with Azure WAF

As much as we might like to think otherwise, cloud-native applications are web applications. We may build services, but their APIs are often RESTful, and where we may have used various remote procedure call technologies in the past, we’re now transitioning to the QUIC-based gRPC. All that means we’re running most of our applications’ interactions with the outside world over web protocols through the same limited set of ports.

Back in the early days of the internet, we were able to segregate applications by IP ports, using firewalls to block unwanted traffic by preventing access to unwanted ports. Attackers needed to scan the entire range of possible port numbers before finding vulnerabilities, reducing the size of the available attack surface and keeping risk to a minimum. Now, however, they can simply go to the familiar HTTP, HTTPS, and QUIC ports and try to break in using a reduced set of tools.

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The best new features and fixes in Python 3.11

The Python programming language releases new versions yearly, with a feature-locked beta release in the first half of the year and the final release toward the end of the year. The feature set for Python 3.11 has just been finalized, with a beta version available for testing. Developers are encouraged to try out this latest version on non-production code, both to verify that it works with your programs and to get an idea of whether your code will benefit from its performance enhancements.

Here's a rundown of the most significant new features in Python 3.11 and what they mean for Python developers.

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Bootstrap 5.2.0 bolsters CSS, custom components

With the latest planned upgrade to the Bootstrap web development framework, builders are offering CSS variables for all components, along with new helpers and utilities.

Bootstrap v5.2.0-beta1, published May 13, is being called the biggest release of the framework since Bootstrap 5.0 two years ago. Components now include easier theming and CSS variables to enable real-time customization. Color-mode support, beginning with dark mode, will be added soon. Component pages have been updated to include a reference guide of relevant CSS variables. Values for most CSS variables are assigned via Sass variables; customization via CSS and Sass are both supported.

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Career roadmap: Data engineer

Data engineering combines elements of software engineering and data science and is one of the fastest-growing roles in IT. According to Indeed.com, data engineers develop and maintain the architecture used in data science projects. They are responsible for ensuring that data flows between servers and applications uninterrupted.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Career roadmap: Machine learning scientist ]

Data engineers must be familiar with a range of operating systems and databases and able to write and program software. They are experienced with data warehousing and data analysis and must possess excellent critical thinking and communication skills. Data engineers may learn their skills through a combination of education, on-the-job training, and ongoing certificates. Indeed notes that acquiring a certification is an excellent way to showcase abilities and move ahead in the field.

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Google Cloud boosts open-source security, simplifies zero-trust rollouts
New Google Cloud security services aim to strengthen open-source security, simplify zero-trust adoption, and improve cloud governance.
You’re doing cloudops planning too late

I often remember fondly the days of the waterfall software development life cycle. Each task had a beginning and an end. One work product was the input for the next documentation or code, and while it took much longer and had very little opportunity to change directions, it was easier to plan around.

Those days are over. Today’s cloud development—or development altogether—is iterative, agile, and can change at a moment’s notice. Often amplified by very robust devops toolchains, our approach to development these days is both automated and fluid, and that’s a step in the right direction if you ask me.

[ Also on InfoWorld: 5 signs your agile development process must change ]

But some things are falling by the wayside. Often operations planning is either done at the last moment or not at all. Developers push out code and data structures to ops, and the ops teams must figure out quickly how to make the thing run successfully long term. Many ops and cloudops positions are going unfilled these days because they’re becoming the IT jobs that set you up for failure.

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Kotlin 1.7.0 beta alters builder type inference

Kotlin 1.7.0, a planned new version of JetBrains’ cross-platform, multipurpose programming language, has reached a beta release stage, featuring changes to the builder type inference and a new memory manager.

Builder inference, a special kind of type inference useful when calling generic builder functions, brings the platform closer to builder inference stabilization. With the 1.7.0 beta, builder inference is automatically activated if a regular type inference cannot get enough information about a type without specifying the -Xenable-builder-inference compiler option. Developers now can write their own builders that use builder type inference without applying additional annotations or options. Builder type inference helps the compiler infer the type arguments via type information about other calls inside a lambda argument.

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Only DevSecOps can save the metaverse

Defined as a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on enhancing social connections through conventional personal computing and virtual reality and augmented reality headsets, the metaverse was once a fringe concept that few thought much, if anything, about. But more recently it was thrust into the limelight when Facebook decided to rebrand as Meta, and now consumers have started dreaming about the potential of a completely digital universe you can experience from the comfort of your own home. 

While the metaverse is still years from being ready for everyday use, many of its parts are already here, with companies like Apple, Epic Games, Intel, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Roblox working hard to bring this virtual reality to life. But while most people default to visions of AR headsets or perhaps the superspeed chips that power today’s gaming consoles, there’s no question there will be a massive volume of software needed to design and host the metaverse, as well as an endless number of business use cases that will be developed to exploit it. 

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CNCF launches ethics in open source training course

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has launched an Ethics in Open Source Development training course that explores the ethical implications developers should consider when building open source software.

The new certification has been developed by the vendor-neutral CNCF, in partnership with Linux Foundation Training and Certification, and AI ethics specialist firm Ethical Intelligence.

The free online training course takes 2-3 hours and is primarily aimed at product managers and software developers who want to learn how to incorporate ethics-by-design and critical thinking techniques into their workflows.

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Top technologists have job options: 5 tips for retention

Developers, test automation engineers, site reliability engineers, and other technologists have more employment options today than ever before. Although there’s been a battle for talent for more than a decade, technologists can now seek remote work options well beyond commuting distances and may not have to relocate for new job opportunities.

In one recent study, “Leveling the Playing Field in the Hybrid Workplace,” 58% of knowledge workers who work with data, analyze information, or think creatively are likely to look for a new job during the year. This number increases to 72% for workers who are dissatisfied with their current level of flexibility. 

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More money for open source security won’t work

Here’s the good news. According to the Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF), it will cost less than $150 million to secure open source software. More good news, industry giants Amazon, Intel, Google, and Microsoft have already pledged $30 million. Just $120 million to go toward a secure open source future, right?

Well, no, because the bad news is that no generalized approach to open source security is going to work. OpenSSF has a fantastic 10-point plan to foster a multifaceted approach to security. This approach has a better chance of succeeding than the more piecemeal approaches of the past, argued Brian Behlendorf, general manager of the OpenSSF, on a recent press call, because “there’s not one root cause or one root approach that’s going to address them all.”

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Review: YugabyteDB does PostgreSQL proud

When I reviewed YugaByteDB 1.0 in 2018, it combined distributed ACID transactions, multi-region deployment, and support for Cassandra and Redis APIs. At the time, PostgreSQL support was “on the way,” meaning incomplete and barely tested. Fast forward to May 2022, and the Postgres train has pulled into the station.

YugabyteDB integrations, drivers, and PostgreSQL compatibility

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(Insider Story)
Microsoft .NET 7 Preview 4 brings Regex improvements, cache metrics

Microsoft’s latest preview of .NET 7, the forthcoming next version of its software development platform, features enhancements for working with regular expressions and caching.

Downloadable from the Microsoft .NET website, the fourth preview of .NET 7 was published May 10. The production release is due in November.

[ Also on InfoWorld: What’s new in Microsoft .NET 6 ]

Microsoft .NET Preview 4 adds remaining planned APIs that add support for span types to the Regex (regular expressions) library. The changes add support for matching with ReadOnlySpan<char> inputs and overhaul the handling of RegexOptions.IgnoreCase. The new span-based APIs include:

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JDK 19: The features targeted for Java 19

Java Development Kit 19, due this September, has just had a sixth feature proposed for it: a preview of record patterns, for data navigation and processing. Record patterns joins five previous features, ranging from a preview of a foreign function and memory API to support for the open source Linux/RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA).

JDK 19, or simply Java 19, potentially could host a vast number of features, ranging from universal generics to value objects, according to plans underway for enhancing Java. JDK 19 would follow JDK 18, which arrived March 22. Standard Java is on a six-month release cadence.

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Cloudflare to take on AWS, Azure, Google with D1 distributed database

Building on top of its recently launched serverless application platform Workers and the R2 object storage service, Cloudflare is releasing a new serverless database, dubbed D1, to take on databases from AWS, Microsoft Azure, GCP and Oracle.

The company claims that the D1 distributed database, which will reside in its 250-plus global locations — Cloudflare's edge — will reduce latency and data transfer fees for developers compared to other databases.

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What is JDBC? Introduction to Java Database Connectivity

JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) is the Java API that manages connecting to a database, issuing queries and commands, and handling result sets obtained from the database. Released as part of JDK 1.1 in 1997, JDBC was one of the earliest libraries developed for the Java language.

JDBC was initially conceived as a client-side API, enabling a Java client to interact with a data source. That changed with JDBC 2.0, which included an optional package supporting server-side JDBC connections. Every new JDBC release since then has featured updates to both the client-side package (java.sql) and the server-side package (javax.sql). JDBC 4.3, the most current version as of this writing, was released as part of Java SE 9 in September 2017 as JSR 221.

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How to build changeable cloud solutions

One of the things I learned early on is to design systems that allow for easy ongoing change. How? Cloud or non-cloud system, you build for change by compartmentalizing system components so that they can be configured or changed on their own. A simplistic analogy would be how we can interchange car parts to mix and match system components, having the ability to replace or update components without redeveloping the entire vehicle.

Other approaches leverage services and microservices to centralize and reuse some application behavior and data. This means that updating a specific service in a single location will change the behavior of all systems using that service, for instance, replacing a tax calculation, changing a database model, or even updating a component’s enabling technology, such as moving to containers and container orchestration.

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TypeScript 4.7 adds ESM support in Node.js

TypeScript 4.7, now in a release candidate (RC) stage, offers ECMAScript module (ESM) support for Node.js 16 as well as a multitude of coding enhancements.

The RC was unveiled May 11. TypeScript 4.7 is the latest planned version of Microsoft’s strongly typed JavaScript. The TypeScript 4.7 beta introduced April 8 backed ECMAScript module support in Node.js 12, something that had been planned for TypeScript 4.5 late last year but was delayed.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Builder CEO: Where JavaScript is headed is super interesting ]

However, because Node.js 12 is no longer supported, TypeScript’s builders have started the stable target at Node.js 16, which should provide newer ES module functionality such as pattern trailers while also defaulting TypeScript to a higher target that supports top-level await.

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Jetpack Compose 1.2 packs text improvements

Jetpack Compose 1.2, Google’s toolkit for building native Android UIs, is now available as a beta release. Highlights of the update include text improvements such as font padding and downloadable fonts.

With downloadable fonts, app developers gain new APIs to access Google Fonts asynchronously and to define fallback fonts without a complex setup. Benefits include smaller APK sizes and improved system health, Google said, because multiple apps can share the same font through a provider.

[ Also on InfoWorld: The best programming language to learn now ]

Addressing a top-voted bug in the Android issue tracker, Jetpack Compose 1.2 makes includeFontPadding a customizable parameter. Google recommends setting this value to false, which will enable more precise alignment of text within layouts. The plan is to make false the default value in a future release.

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Google Flutter 3 backs macOS, Linux

Google has launched Flutter 3, a major release of the cross-platform development toolkit that adds stable support for building macOS and Linux desktop apps. Flutter already provided stable support for iOS, Android, web, and Windows targets.

Unveiled May 11, Flutter 3 features new interaction and input models, compilation and build support, and platform-specific integration for macOS and Linux. For macOS, Flutter backs both Intel and Apple Silicon processors, with Universal Binary support allowing apps to package executables running natively on both architectures. Flutter also takes advantage of the Dart language’s support for Apple Silicon.

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Pure Storage, Snowflake partner for on-premises data warehousing

Pure Storage and data-warehouse developer Snowflake have partnered to bring Snowflake’s cloud-based data-warehousing technology on-premises.

Under the new relationship, the Snowflake Data Cloud compute engine will be run on Pure Storage’s FlashBlade file- and object-storage array. Pure has another line of storage devices, called FlashArray, but those serve a different purpose, notes Rob Lee, CTO of Pure Storage.

“I look at FlashArray as our scale-up platform, and FlashBlade as our scale out platform,” he said. “We tend to see FlashArray applied much more to transactional database-type workloads, like OLTP, trading databases, billing databases, where you have high update rates, and we tend to see FlashBlade applied to data warehouses or analytics types of environments where you don't have a ton of transactional change, but you've got a lot of analysis, a lot of read-type workloads,” he said.

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Suprise! The internet of things doesn’t necessarily include the internet

When the now-familiar concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) was new, what we really were envisioning a massive deployment of “things”, mostly sensors, connected directly to the internet and, like the internet, available to many companies to form the basis for new applications. Neither the business model nor the privacy/security issues of that approach were easily validated, so we’ve fallen back to something that largely takes the internet out of IoT. 

But what replaces it?

Answer: The Network of Things or NoT, and if you’ve never heard of that concept, you’re at the first step of understanding the problem.

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8 questions to ask vendors about Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

The increased deployment of core business applications in the cloud and the shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic have obliterated any notion of the traditional “corporate moat” style of security.

Today’s hybrid workplace, where employees are on the road, working from home and maybe visiting the office once or twice a week, has forced network and security teams to adopt a more flexible approach to managing the network, identities, and authentication.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) has emerged as the preferred approach to address today’s security challenges. The concept is relatively simple: Instead of building a layered perimeter defense of firewalls, IDS/IPSes and anti-virus software, Zero Trust assumes that every user or device is untrusted until it becomes sufficiently verified.

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Google Cloud boosts open-source security, simplifies zero-trust rollouts

Google Cloud is rolling out new security services designed to address enterprise challenges including securing open-source software and accelerating the adoption of zero-trust architectures.

At its annual Google Cloud Security Summit, the company said it's building on its Invisible Security effort, which promises to bake security into tools and services that enterprises and other customers use most.

One example is a new service called Assured Open Source Software (Assured OSS), which is aimed at making it easier for organizations to securely manage their open-source dependencies.

"Today patching security vulnerabilities in open source software often feels like a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole: fix one, and two more pop up," wrote Sunil Potti, vice president and general manager of Google Cloud Security, in a blog about the new services. "This helps explain research done by Sonatype software that shows that there’s a 650% year-over-year increase in cyberattacks aimed at open source software (OSS) suppliers."

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Weekly internet health check, US and worldwide

The reliability of services delivered by ISPs, cloud providers and conferencing services (a.k.a. unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS)) is an indication of how well served businesses are via the internet.

ThousandEyes is monitoring how these providers are handling the performance challenges they face. It will provide Network World a roundup of interesting events of the week in the delivery of these services, and Network World will provide a summary here. Stop back next week for another update, and see more details here.

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Extracting substrings on Linux

There are many ways to extract substrings from lines of text using Linux and doing so can be extremely useful when preparing scripts that may be used to process large amounts of data. This post describes ways you can take advantage of the commands that make extracting substrings easy.

Using bash parameter expansion

When using bash parameter expansion, you can specify the starting and ending positions for the text that you want to extract. For example, you can create a variable by assigning it a value and then use syntax like that shown below to select a portion of it.

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AMD makes steady gains on Intel in server chip market

AMD continues to increase its share of both the overall x86 chip market and the server x86 market in particular, despite a large-scale general downturn in shipments, according to a report released this week by Mercury Research.

The majority of the fall-off in x86 shipments was felt in the desktop market, the report said, but the server market was also down on a quarterly volume basis — despite reaching record highs in revenue.

Dean McCarron, president of Mercury Research, said that the decline was due to a combination of factors.

"There's a pretty heavy uplift in Q4 on consumer systems due to holiday buying, and it drops off in Q1," he said. "Typically, the worst drop of the year happens in Q1, so not only did that happen, but there's also some excess inventory that got built up and negatively impacted sales."

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What is a private cloud?

Private clouds make efficient use of storage, compute, and memory resources, can provide faster response times for enterprise applications, and help comply with regulations about where data is stored.

What is a private cloud?

The concept of a private cloud is relatively simple and straightforward. NIST defined it in its NIST Cloud Computing Standards Roadmap back in 2013 with this description: “The private cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units).”

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5G uploads aren't fast enough for enterprise needs

Wireless operators around the world have been heavily focused on providing the best possible consumer 5G download speeds, but a new survey from the research division of French managed services provider SmartCIC says that upload connections—which enterprises need to enable important applications—are lagging behind.

In fact, according to the survey, 4G/LTE networks, on average, have 1ms of latency, compared to 8ms for 5G networks. The researchers said that there’s a possibility that a large proportion of tests being run on low-band 5G networks skewed the results somewhat, but also noted that even tests on very high frequency mmWave (millimeter wave) networks showed up to 10ms of latency on 5G networks.

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BrandPost: 4 Key Reasons Universal ZTNA Makes Sense

After the pandemic sent many people home to work, interest in hybrid work and the work-from-anywhere (WFA) model has skyrocketed. A forecast analysis from Gartner® reveals that “by the end of 2024, the change in the nature of work will increase the total available remote worker market to 60% of all employees, up from 52% in 2020.” Also, according to Gartner, “Organizations are facing a hybrid future, with 75% of hybrid or remote knowledge workers saying their expectations for working flexibly have increased.”

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Western Digital unveils 26TB hard drives, 15TB enterprise SSD

Western Digital introduced new high-capacity and high-performance products this week during its What’s Next event in San Francisco.

First up, WD announced it is sampling conventional 22TB and shingled 26TB hard disk drives to cloud service providers, with widescale availability expected this summer. The drives, named Ultrastar DC HC570 for the 22TB version and DC HC670 for the 26TB version, are what WD calls UltraSMR disk drives. It's a means of packing greater amounts of data onto a disk platter. 

02.ultrastar dc hc570dc hc670 834x400 transparent Western Digital

WD’s previous high-end drive was the 20TB Ultrastar DC HC560. It packed 2.2TB per platter and came with nine platters. The two new drives managed to pack a tenth platter into a 3.5 drive form factor. All of these drives are helium-filled to reduce friction of the spinning platters and feature Western Digital’s triple-stage actuator (TSA) with multiple independent read/write heads.

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Nokia launches SaaS services to tackle energy consumption and home device management

Nokia has announced two new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, aimed at helping communication service providers (CSPs) and enterprise customers reduce energy consumption across their networks and automate device management control for smart home devices.

The first, dubbed Nokia Analytics Virtualization and Automation (AVA) for Energy SaaS, uses artificial intelligence to monitor network traffic and help reduce the amount of connectivity resources used during periods of low demand. It also looks to spot network anomalies and benchmark the energy efficiency of passive infrastructure, such as batteries and power supplies. Nokia says AVA for Energy SaaS can help CSPs achieve up to five-fold energy savings.

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How many jobs are available in technology?
IT hiring is on a record pace this year, but CIOs are under pressure to meet company goals to recruit talent related to security, blockchain processing, and cloud computing. Overall, the unemployment rate for tech jobs is 1.3%, compared to the US unemployment rate of 3.6%.
Cisco issues alert for defective memory sticks in its servers

Cisco is urging customers to replace flawed memory sticks in some of its Unified Computing System (UCS) servers before they fail.

The problem is caused by a manufacturing error in 24 dual in-line memory modules (DIMM) that exhibit persistent correctable memory errors that if left in place could knock the servers offline. The problem is found in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB memory DIMMs.

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Cisco describes the flaws as manufacturing deviations that affect memory modules used to make up the DIMMs. All of the problem parts were manufactured during the middle-to-end of 2020, according to a Cisco alert.

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Red Hat debuts edge features for Linux, Kubernetes platform security

Red Hat, one of the open source software world's biggest players, rolled out a raft of new features for its flagship enterprise Linux distribution — several of which were focused on edge computing — this week at its annual Summit gathering,

The Red Hat Edge initiative is a project designed to streamline the processes of deploying and managing edge infrastructure, and, under its banner, the company announced several new features like automation technology via Ansible and advanced cluster management for Kubernetes, among others.

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Juniper's enterprise networking business on a roll

Enterprise networking has never been so prominent for Juniper Networks as it is right now.

For the first time in Juniper’s history, its enterprise networking business was the largest of its three core divisions – cloud, service provider and enterprise – in the first quarter of 2022. Enterprise networking revenue grew 18% year-over-year in Q1 to $433 million, while Q1 cloud and service provider revenue came in at $307 million and $428 million, respectively.

A variety of things came together to make that happen – everything from pent-up demand and pandemic-delayed network refresh cycles to enterprise digital transformation and an influx of spending to support hybrid workers, said Manoj Leelanivas, Juniper Networks' chief operating officer, in an interview ahead of the company’s Global Summit event this week. 

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AMD integrating Xilinx tech, pushing software development

AMD is looking to quickly integrate Xilinx technology into its CPU business, but perhaps more significantly it’s developing software to enable a broad portfolio of applications for its hardware.

On a recent earnings call, AMD CEO Lisa Su said the company sees opportunities to deliver stronger products as a result of technology it gained when it merged with Xilinx in February.

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“As one example, we are integrating Xilinx’s differentiated AI engine across our CPU product portfolio to enable industry-leading inference capabilities, with the first products expected in 2023,” Su said.

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6 top network security threats and how to beat them

It's a war zone out there. In the seemingly endless game of cyber cat and mouse, accurate intelligence remains the best tool for beating attackers at their own game.

Here's an analysis of today's six top network threats and tips for how to identify and quash them.

1. Ransomware

Ransomware is easily the greatest network threat, since it gives attackers the biggest bang for the buck with a relatively low probability of getting caught. "There's also a low bar in the skill category to break into this sort of thing," says Andy Rogers, a senior assessor at cybersecurity and compliance firm Schellman. "There are plenty of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) businesses that will be more than willing to ensure you have the tools you need to unleash a ransomware campaign."

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IBM wants a 4,000 qubit quantum computer by 2025

IBM has grand plans for its quantum-computing systems but acknowledges much work needs to be done.

IBM announced its goal to build a 4,000 qubit system by 2025 at its Think! event this week saying it wanted to build practical quantum-computing systems that feature an intelligent software orchestration layer to efficiently distribute workloads and remove infrastructure challenges.

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“We think by next year, we’ll begin prototyping quantum software applications for specific use cases,” IBM stated. “We’ll begin to define these services with our first test case—machine learning—working with partners to accelerate the path toward useful quantum software applications.”

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Intel details IPU roadmap to free up CPUs

Intel is betting that future data-center operations will depend on increasingly powerful servers running ASIC-based, programable CPUs, and its wager rides on the development of infrastructure processing units (IPU), which are Intel’s programmable networking devices designed to reduce overhead and free up performance for CPUs.

Read more: SmartNICs set to infiltrate enterprise networks

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- Ram Iyer
Max Schireson Contributor Share on Twitter Max Schireson, the former CEO of MongoDB, is an executive-in-residence at Battery Ventures, where he helps advise the firm’s cloud and data portfolio companies on a variety of strategic and tactical business issues. More posts by this contributor Tracking the explosive growth of open-source software The Money In Open-Source Software

“Are you gonna hire a bunch of useless salespeople like they have at Oracle?”

This was the first of many memorable interactions I had with Eliot Horowitz. Eliot was the founder and CTO of MongoDB, and in late 2010, I was interviewing to come aboard as president. Product-led growth was far from the common buzzword it is today, but the founding team at MongoDB had built a product that developers loved — the very developer love that would drive much of the company’s rapid growth.

My topic today isn’t product-led growth, but the relationship between a founder, such as Eliot, and a hired CEO and the key factors necessary for that relationship to succeed. That dynamic was always important, but focusing on it is critical in today’s more volatile, fast-changing technology markets.

On the surface, Eliot’s question was about business models and sales hiring. But it went much deeper: Our discussion was a live experiment on how we would work together, getting to the heart of a startup’s decisive partnership between a CEO and a founder. The territory we covered that day included:

Was I open to unorthodox thinking? Could I justify my plans on first principles? Was I willing to engage with a young technical founder on business issues? Did discovering that the founders wanted to challenge the established way of doing things make me excited to join — or want to run for the hills? Could I make a business decision contrary to the founder’s views and have us both feel good about the process?

All of those are valid questions and examples of potential tension points between a technical founder and a new leader brought in from the outside. How a founder and a CEO work through these points of tension could help determine the ultimate success of a company.

Beyond product-market fit

Lots can go wrong with a startup, but to succeed, two things have to go right: First, the product must fit the market well, which is almost always the domain of the founder(s), and second, the company has to execute successfully, which is sometimes the domain of a hired CEO.

In almost every case, the initial product and market vision come from founders. They started the company because they had an insight that something could be done better and an idea of how to do it better. When that idea resonates with a broad audience, you have the kernel of product and market fit. Without that, there is no company.

But that initial product-market fit isn’t nearly enough. A company needs funding, a team, and, ultimately, it needs to execute on engineering, sales, customer success and marketing. In some cases, a founder is interested in and has shown an initial aptitude for leading all these areas. In other instances, they don’t, and in these cases, they need a partner to lead the company’s operations.

The four years I spent at MongoDB — first as president, then as CEO — were a great experience. The company grew explosively and changed the market for databases and how developers built web applications. Perhaps more importantly, we laid some of the foundations for what would later become a hugely successful cloud business that transformed how enterprises delivered and consumed infrastructure software.

We wouldn’t have been able to do that without a strong partnership between the founders and me, particularly with Eliot and Dwight Merriman (founder and initial CEO, who eventually became chairman). Decisions didn’t neatly divide into categories of product for them and operational for me.

- Catherine Shu

Indonesia’s 60 million blue collar workers contribute 20% to its gross domestic product, but they face a lot of uncertainty. Many are forced to bounce from job to job, some fall victim to scam job postings and without a steady employment history, are unable to qualify for financial services, say the founders of Pintarnya. That’s why they created the app, which includes verified job postings and financial services, like loans, for blue collar workers. The startup announced today it has raised $6.3 million in seed funding led by Sequoia Capital India and General Catalyst. The funding includes a $100,000 grant from Sequoia Spark, a program for women founders that co-founder Nelly Nurmalasari participated in.

Pintarnya was launched this May in major Indonesian cities by Nurmalasari, Henry Hendrawan and Ghirish Pokardas. Nurmalasari and Hendrawan were formerly senior executives at lifestyle super app unicorn Traveloka, while Pokardas was a KKR executive who worked with portfolio companies in financial services.

In an email, the cofounders told TechCrunch that Nurmalasari also owned a hair salon and as an SME owner, she experienced the pain points of trying to hire, filter and verify applicants for blue collar jobs. She also saw that they struggled to obtain loans from traditional financial institutions because of their lack of verifiable employment and income history.

“The problem became clear when the spillover of her employee’s struggles became hers as these challenges impact employee performance,” they said. “This fortified the vision for a one-stop digital platform that can help in tackling this challenge, to be more employable and access financial services products.”

Pintarnya focuses on the food and beverage, hotel and retail sectors, now reopening after COVID lockdowns, and logistics. It plans to expand into other sectors as well and is open to partnering with employers from other industries.

Job seekers register and create a profile, then Pintarnya uses that information to recommend job openings based on their requirements, location, skills and other data. Key criteria include the distance between a job and their home, their profile and job history and their self-determined capabilities. The team said that as they build a track record of successfully connecting and placing jobseekers with employers, Pintarnya’s recommendation algorithms will become better by “understanding what other jobseeker traits have a higher propensity of converting their application into a successful job placements.” Variables that it takes into consideration include a jobseeker’s current salary and availability, whether or not they have a photo on their CV and the frequency in which they switch jobs.

Pintarnya also works with employers to screen and recruit the most suitable workers for their needs, including online tests. It also verifies job listings’ authenticity to avoid scams and highlights verified job posts using green shield markers. Verification includes checking that a job listing came from a real employer and curating them based on new posts, jobs closest to a jobseeker, jobs for people without experience, salary information and other factors that the platform is experimenting with.

“Technology has transformed the kinds of jobs being created in Indonesia, but the process of hiring, especially in the blue collar segments, continue to be broken,” said Sequoia India managing director Abheek Anand in a statement. “Pintarnya’s founding team brings years of exceptional experience building tech and financial products to solving this problem, and we are thrilled to partner with them in their journey to help millions of Indonesians realize their full economic potential.”

5 lessons from ‘Star Wars’ that can transform startup managers’ strategies and tactics

 

- Devin Coldewey
Behold NeuroMechFly, the best fruit fly simulator yet

Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, is in some ways a simple creature. But in others it is so complex that, as with any form of life, we are only scratching the surface of understanding it. Researchers have taken a major step with D. melanogaster by creating the most accurate digital twin yet — at least in how it moves and, to a certain extent, why.

NeuroMechFly, as the researchers at EPFL call their new model, is a “morphologically realistic biomechanical model” based on careful scans and close observation of actual flies. The result is a 3D model and movement system that, when prompted, does things like walk around or respond to certain basic stimuli pretty much as a real fly would.

To be clear, this isn’t a complete cell-by-cell simulation, which we’ve seen some progress on in the last few years with much smaller microorganisms. It doesn’t simulate hunger, or vision or any sophisticated behaviors — not even how it flies, only how it walks along a surface and grooms itself.

What’s so hard about that, you ask? Well, it’s one thing to approximate this type of movement or behavior and make a little 3D fly that moves more or less like a real one. It’s another to do so to a precise degree in a physically simulated environment, including a biologically accurate exoskeleton, muscles, and a neural network analogous to the fly’s that controls them.

To make this very precise model, they started with a CT scan of a fly, in order to create the morphologically realistic 3D mesh. Then they recorded a fly walking in very carefully controlled circumstances and tracked its precise leg movements. EPFL researchers then needed to model exactly how those movements corresponded to the physically simulated “articulating body parts, such as head, legs, wings, abdominal segments, proboscis, antennae, halteres,” the latter of which is a sort of motion-sensing organ that helps during flight.

Image Credits: Pavan Ramdya (EPFL)

They showed that these worked by bringing the precise motions of the observed fly into a simulation environment and replaying them with the simulated fly — the real movements mapped correctly onto the model’s. Then they demonstrated that they could create new gaits and movements based on these, letting the fly run faster or in a more stable way than what they had observed.

Image Credits: Pavan Ramdya (EPFL)

Not that they’re improving on nature, exactly; they’re just showing that the simulation of the fly’s movement extended to other, more extreme examples. Their model was even robust against virtual projectiles…to a certain extent, as you can see in the animation above.

“These case studies built our confidence in the model. But we are most interested in when the simulation fails to replicate animal behavior, pointing out ways to improve the model,” said EPFL’s Pavan Ramdya, who leads the group that built the simulator (and other D. melanogaster–related models). Seeing where their simulation breaks down shows where there’s work to do.

“NeuroMechFly can increase our understanding of how behaviors emerge from interactions between complex neuromechanical systems and their physical surroundings,” reads the abstract of the paper published last week in Nature Methods. By better understanding how and why a fly moves the way it does, we can understand the systems that underlie it better as well, producing insights in other areas (fruit flies are among the most used experimental animals). And of course if we ever wanted to create an artificial fly for some reason, we would definitely want to know how it works first.

While NeuroMechFly is in some ways a huge advance in the field of digitally simulating life, it’s still (as its creators would be the first to acknowledge) incredibly limited, focusing solely on specific physical processes and not on the many other aspects of the tiny body and mind that make a Drosophila a Drosophila. You can check out the code and perhaps contribute over at GitHub or Code Ocean.

- Haje Jan Kamps
Withings doubles down on the classy with ScanWatch Horizon

I tried out the brand new Withings ScanWatch about six months ago, and concluded that it was a great smartwatch for people who prioritize their health over wearing a tiny iPhone-like device on their wrists. Today, the French company announced a classier-looking version of the same watch, borrowing design language from dive watches of yore.

As an avid scuba diver, I’m always a little confused by “dive watches”. Sure, the 10-bar water resistance means that you can go to 100 meters (300 ft), which is deeper than any recreational diver would — but if you’re going to those depths, you’d be well advised to bring a real dive computer along. Still, the style is snazzy; the luminescent watch face and the rotating bezel make it look even less like a smart watch, which is a bonus, if you, like me, care about such things.

Carrying a $499 price tag, it isn’t cheap, but with an impressive set of health-focused features and good looks, it’s still reasonably priced. The watch can go up to a month on a single charge, and can run ECGs, heart rate and O2 sensors, activity tracking and sleep tracking.

“The luxury design and robust health features of ScanWatch Horizon are a great complement to the existing ScanWatch line and we are delighted to bring it to the U.S.,” said Mathieu Letombe, CEO of Withings. “Sophisticated health devices that monitor advanced vitals do not have to look like hospital equipment. With the original ScanWatch, the elegant Rose Gold version and now ScanWatch Horizon, we have a style option to meet every fashion preference, social occasion and budget.”

Available in blue and green. Image Credits: Withings.

Indeed. The watches are available from today, priced at $499, and come with blue or green watch face backgrounds.

- Rebecca Bellan

A U.S. federal agency is investigating a crash involving a 2022 Tesla Model S that may have been operating in Autopilot during a crash that killed three people.

Autopilot is Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) that performs automated functions such as steering, accelerating and automatic braking. Bloomberg first reported on the news.

The accident, which happened earlier this month, occurred in Newport Beach, California when the Tesla hit a curb and slammed into construction equipment, leaving the car totaled. This is one of more than 30 crashes being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), all of which potentially have involved Autopilot. Out of the 35 special crash investigations into Tesla since 2016 involving the electric vehicle company’s ADAS, Autopilot has been ruled out only in three.

A total of 14 crash deaths have been reported in those investigations.

This month’s collision is the 42nd included in NHTSA’s special crash investigation of ADAS systems like Autopilot, a probe that began in 2016 after a fatal accident in Florida involving another Tesla Model S that had Autopilot activated.

While Tesla’s website says that “Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous,” the company’s branding has been accused of misleading drivers of their vehicles’ capabilities. Simply by choosing names like Autopilot and “full self-driving software,” which is Tesla’s newer, more advanced ADAS, the company lulls drivers into a false sense of security despite the fact that its technology is nowhere near full self-driving.

US safety regulator opens investigation into Tesla Autopilot following crashes with parked emergency vehicles

- Lucas Matney

Andreessen Horowitz is launching a new vertical fund exclusively focused on opportunities in the games industry.

The new $600 million fund brings a pool of dedicated capital and a new internal structure dedicated to sourcing deals inside the games vertical. The new vehicle, called Games Fund One, joins other industry-specific arms at a16z, including its crypto and bio divisions.

The fund is led by general partners Andrew Chen, Jon Lai and James Gwertzman.

“With [Games Fund One], we will continue to add more functions and develop deeper networks that are tailored to the games ecosystem so we can help our portfolio companies with everything from building digital communities, to managing their virtual economies, to IP licensing best practices, to helping build their development teams,” a blog post announcing the fund’s formation reads.

The fund’s backers include a number of executives in the games world, including co-founders at such companies as King, Discord, Roblox, Zynga, Twitch, Blizzard and Riot Games.

Andreessen Horowitz has already placed a number of bets in the world of gaming and MMOs, including Zynga and Oculus. The formation of the games vertical comes as another one of its bets, Facebook (now Meta), postures loudly about the opportunities in gaming when it comes to the metaverse.

The new fund arrives at a moment of retraction for the broader tech industry as investors encourage startups to hunker down and preserve cash while public tech stocks continue to get hammered. Gaming infrastructure company Unity is trading more than 80% below its November 2021 highs while games platform Roblox is trading some 75% below the highs reached during the same period.

- Taylor Hatmaker

New York Attorney General Letitia James will launch an investigation into the role that social media and online message boards played in the tragedy that unfolded in Buffalo over the weekend.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old shooter opened fire at a Tops supermarket, killing 10 people and wounding three others. In online materials, the suspected shooter describes how discovering white supremacy on 4chan radicalized his thinking and ultimately inspired him to carry out the deadly attack.

The investigation was prompted by a referral from New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who called on social media companies to monitor content more aggressively for dangerous extremism in the days following the mass shooting.

“I am seeking your assistance to investigate the specific online platforms that were used to broadcast and amplify the acts and intentions of the mass shooting that took place in Buffalo on May 14, 2022 and determine whether specific companies have civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating, or providing a platform to plan and promote violence,” Hochul wrote in a letter to the AG’s office Wednesday.

The attorney general’s office plans to examine social apps and sites “including but not limited to” Twitch, Discord, 4chan and 8chan.

“Time and time again, we have seen the real-world devastation that is borne of these dangerous and hateful platforms, and we are doing everything in our power to shine a spotlight on this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again,” James said.

Her office did not provide much detail on the investigation, which lumps mainstream social media services with content moderation together with notorious, anything goes hubs of extremism like 4chan and 8chan. While the former will likely comply with the AG’s office, the latter two web forums are less likely to humor the investigation.

8chan, which is run out of the Philippines, in particular is a hotbed of activity for extremists planning racist violence. Mass shooters in El Paso, Christchurch, New Zealand, Poway, California and now Buffalo all posted their plans and screeds to 8chan prior to their deadly attacks. In a journal entry prior to the attack, the Buffalo shooter noted that he would publish his writing on 8chan and 4chan in addition to sending it to his Discord servers and friends list.

The web forum that appears to be the main source of the suspected shooter’s ideals, 4chan, refuses to make any proactive efforts to moderate content and has long incubated white supremacy and other dangerous forms of extremism.

Amazon-owned Twitch detected the shooter’s livestream within two minutes of the violence beginning and removed the video, though it continues to circulate openly on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. It’s not clear if the AG’s investigation will also examine the spread of the graphic video, which has been copied many times and shared around the web.

The suspected shooter published his plans in detail to a private Discord server and on Google Docs, but neither private digital space is scanned to detect extremist threats. The question of how much online platforms should monitor non-public spaces is a difficult one given privacy concerns and existing laws, but it’s also a conversation we’re likely to be hearing a lot about in the coming days.

Buffalo shooter invited others to his private Discord ‘diary’ 30 minutes before attack

There are no easy answers for tech in the aftermath of the Buffalo tragedy

- Rebecca Bellan

Joby Aviation, a California-based company developing electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL) for commercial passenger service, announced the acquisition of Avionyx, an aerospace software engineering firm, on the TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility stage on Wednesday.

The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, but Joby said that Avionyx will become a wholly-owned subsidiary with resources to expand its team. It also likely means that this was a combination equity and cash deal.

Joby’s piloted five-seat eVTOL aircraft can carry four passengers at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, with a maximum range of 150 miles on a single charge, the company said.

Taking on Avionyx, a company with over 30 years in the aerospace environment that has been working with Joby since last year, allows Joby to do what many companies are trying to do: become vertically integrated.

“We believe [being vertically integrated is] the fastest way to get to market because we don’t have to worry as much about some of the supply chain issues. We can think about, what are the regulations for certifying the pilots, how do you actually build the simulators?” said Bonny Simi, head of air operations and people at Joby, onstage on Wednesday. “You know, when you certify a plane, you then also have to certify a simulator at the same time.”

At the moment, Joby is focusing on vertical integration around aircraft development and certification. The company’s first Systems Review and Compliance Review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was first approved in March, but the Avionyx buy will help support Joby’s aircraft type certification program with the agency. Avionyx has worked extensively with the FAA, as well as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, in the past.

Software verification is critical to meeting FAA regulations and standards because it allows engineers to review, analyze and test the software deployed across the aircraft, according to Joby. It also ostensibly helps to avoid vehicle crashes, like the one currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board based on a Joby aircraft crash in February. 

By not relying on third parties, Joby also can be more flexible in managing its platform, responding to challenges nimbly and applying learnings more quickly, according to the company. 

Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk Aero, another eVTOL company that’s focusing on autonomous air operations, disagreed with Simi onstage at TC Sessions: Mobility about the benefits of vertical integration, saying that not owning all of the components will actually give Wisk a faster path to market, so it looks like the game is afoot. However, because Wisk isn’t aiming for piloted rides, Gysin did concede that Joby’s aircraft will likely hit the skies before Wisk’s. Joby is targeting aerial ridesharing service in 2024.

Avionyx’s experience in the sector will be able to help Joby advance operations at its Vehicle Software Integration Lab in Marina, California, where Joby uses flight and hardware simulators to rapidly conduct thousands of pre-programmed tests to validate and verify the performance of its different aircraft software systems. The company said a similar facility will be set up in San Jose, Costa Rica, where Avionyx hails from, to accelerate those software verification efforts.

In addition to supporting Joby’s FAA certification program, Avionyx, an AS-9100D-certified supplier, will continue its work in support of the broader aviation community.

Joby Aviation partners with Japanese airline to launch air taxi service

- Christine Hall
Daily Crunch: Plaid product updates signal push to ‘own’ more of the account funding process

It’s Wednesday, May 18, 2022, and we are hanging out at our Mobility event, ogling cars that fly, drive themselves and have various identity crises. Wish you were here if you’re not, and hope to run into you if you are! — Haje and Christine

The TechCrunch Top 3 Fintech finds footing in fraud: Prevention, that is. Plaid is providing new tools so users can share data more securely via its platform. It is not alone: Down in the “Big Tech Inc.” section, you’ll see Stripe is getting out of its comfort zone, too. Ironically, all of these new offerings put Plaid and Stripe on an even more competitive footing. Bob Iger joins team Gopuff: Now that former Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger is investing and advising Gopuff, the instant delivery company may be handing him his first assignment: how to keep momentum going in an overcrowded market. Gopuff confirmed it had to make some layoffs already as part of its restructuring, and we are seeing companies in the sector slash their valuations à la Instacart. It’s a recipe for one challenging project — we’re eager to see how Iger takes it on. Tesla is not immune: A U.K.-based company said it was able to unlock Tesla doors by hacking into the Bluetooth Low Energy technology used by Tesla to unlock and operate the car via its app or key fob. It’s not just Tesla — anyone using this type of technology is vulnerable, the company said. It recommended a four-digit PIN to enter before the car could be driven, which is smart, but it’s also yet another number you have to remember. Startups and VC

The green, green grass of climate investing just got a $1.7 billion boost from Generation Investment Management, a sustainability-focused public and private equity firm co-founded by Al Gore.

Over on TC+, Alex wonders, in a world where everything is a little overpriced, whether crypto startups are suffering from being even more mispriced than their non-crypto siblings.

Ugh, we really do get to work with some of the smartest, most thoughtful humans. This week, on Equity, Natasha asks how digital health startups build successful businesses in a post-Roe world.

More? You want more? Alrighty, then:

In the jungle, the mighty Jungle: Singapore-based venture firm Jungle Ventures is digging deeper into Southeast Asia and India with the close of its fourth fund. Fund IV totals $600 million, with $450 million for new investments and $150 million earmarked for follow-up investments, Catherine writes. I think I’ll use my credit card: Mary Ann reports that payments and software startup SpotOn has closed on $300 million in a Series F financing that values the company at $3.6 billion. Because cancer is like a snowflake: Every cancer is unique because every person is unique, and one of the most important weapons in any cancer battle is information. Isabl received a breakthrough designation from the FDA and raised $3 million to bring its approach to market. Pay off your loan by not leaving: Keep Financial is building a platform to help employers provide retention bonuses in the form of forgivable loans, writes Ingrid. Better safe somewhere else than sorry where you were: AmEx Ventures bets $5 million on Trellis, which is making it easier to switch insurance providers. Five construction tech investors analyze 2022 trends and opportunities

Well bought construction workers building house

Image Credits: Donald Iain Smith (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The technological advances we’ve made over the last 2,000 years are stunning, but the construction industry still relies on centuries-old technology.

Configuring a robot to mix cement is relatively easy, but delivering a CementTron 3000 to a job site, training workers and keeping it maintained are not the kinds of disruptions builders are looking for — especially when margins are thin and workers are hard to find.

Even so, investors are backing startups bringing robotics, data management, automation and augmented reality into the construction process. To learn more about the market forces shaping this sector in 2022, we spoke to five investors:

Nikitas Koutoupes, managing director, Insight Partners Heinrich Gröller, partner, Speedinvest Momei Qu, managing director, PSP Growth Suzanne Fletcher, venture partner, Prime Movers Lab Sungjoon Cho, general partner, D20 Capital

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

5 construction tech investors analyze 2022 trends and opportunities

Big Tech Inc.

It’s apparently “new features day” (though we guess that could be every day with the way Big Tech is slinging them around). Here’s what we saw:

Ooh! This bit is my favorite: YouTube rolled out a bunch of changes for its video player, including being able to find the most popular parts. It also has some tools lined up for its livestream shopping experiences. OnlyFans, but Twitt-ier: Now that Twitter has the Super Follows, it is enabling creators to design Spaces just for those folks. Not very inclusive, but it’s all in the name of having a “conversation with their biggest supporters,” right? TikTok has a twofer: A new creator crediting tool so users can cite where they got their inspiration from, and a chance for users to partner with marketers on branded content. Stripe connects the data dots: Stripe unveiled Data Pipeline, which we report lets “users create links between their Stripe transactions data and data stores that they keep in Amazon Redshift or Snowflake’s Data Cloud.” It’s a product that propels the company into more of a “financial infrastructure platform” rather than just a payment provider. This follows the Financial Connections offering from some weeks ago. Class-y act: Apple adds some new online training courses for IT pros working with Apple products. Your IT guy who typically works on PC is rejoicing right now.

Speaking of Apple, the tech giant is running a new ad campaign targeting data brokers. In it, the company highlights ways it is enabling its users to take back their private information. Meanwhile, over in Spain, the country slapped Google with a €10 million fine for not being in compliance with the EU’s data protection program.

Over in India, Amazon launched Smart Commerce, which is a way for neighborhood stores to join the digital storefront wave by creating their own e-commerce sites. It’s certainly something moving through Latin America, so we’ll see how this plays out in India, where 30 million stores are up for grabs.

- Taylor Hatmaker

Discord has provided more insight into how the shooter who opened fire in a Buffalo, New York supermarket over the weekend used its service prior to the tragic act of violence.

The shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, is charged with first degree murder in the mass shooting, which left 10 people dead and three injured. In the month leading up to the attack on the Buffalo Tops grocery store, which he researched and selected in an effort to harm as many Black people as possible, he used Discord to document his plans in extreme detail.

According to Discord, the suspected shooter created a private, invite-only server that he used as a “personal diary chat log.” The server had no other members until 30 minutes before the attack began, when a “small group of people” received an invite and joined.

“Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server,” a Discord spokesperson told TechCrunch. TechCrunch reached out to the company for more details about the server’s activity and insight into how it handles moderation for private servers and messages.

Discord, a text and voice chat app, is best known for its large, public messaging rooms but it also allows users to create private, invite-only servers. In updates to the Discord server, which shares a username with the Twitch channel he used to livestream the shooting, the suspect documented his violent, racist views in depth. He also detailed the logistics of how he would carry out the mass shooting, including the gear he would use, his shopping trips leading up to the shooting and his day-of plans.

While it’s unknown what other Discord servers Gendron was active in, he references his activity on the app in the chat logs. “I didn’t even think until now that the people in my discord groups are probably going to get no knock raided by ATF and FBI agents,” he wrote. While Discord served as a kind of digital journal for the atrocities he would later carry out, he also compiled a nearly 200-page screed about his beliefs, weapons and plan to commit violence in Google Docs.

In early May, he expressed concerns that Google might discover his plan for violence in messages sent on the private Discord server. “Ok I’m a bit stressed that a google worker is going to see my manifesto fuck,” he wrote. “WHY did I write it on google docs I should have had some other solution.” Unfortunately, those concerns were unfounded. After the shooting, Google did remove the document for violating its terms of service.

The suspect, who livestreamed the shooting over Twitch, also spent time on 4chan’s /pol/, an infamous submessage board rife with racism, misogyny and extremism. Unlike mainstream social networks like Discord, 4chan does not do any proactive content moderation and only removes illegal content when required to do so. In Discord chat logs reviewed by TechCrunch the shooter notes that he “only really turned racist” after encountering white supremacist ideas on 4chan.

There are no easy answers for tech in the aftermath of the Buffalo tragedy

Five years ago, Discord was implicated in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, an open gathering of white supremacists and other far-right extremists that ended with one counter-protester dead. The rally’s participants and organizers came together in private Discord servers to plan the day’s events and discuss the logistics of what would take place in Charlottesville. The company responded by cracking down on a number of servers hosting extremism, though maintained that it did not read messages on private servers.

Like Reddit, most of Discord’s hands-on moderation comes from community moderators within its chat rooms. And like most social media companies, Discord relies on a blend of automated content scanning and human moderators. Last year, the company acquired Sentropy, an AI software company that detects and removes online hate and harassment, to bolster those efforts.

In the years following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Discord successfully sought to distance itself from its association with the far-right extremists and white supremacists who once called the social network home. More recently, Discord has also put some distance between its current brand and its origins as a popular chat app for gamers, reframing itself as an inviting hub for a huge spectrum of thriving online communities.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families,” a Discord spokesperson said of the tragedy in Buffalo, adding that it is assisting law enforcement in the ongoing investigation. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to combating violence and extremism.”

Discord is working on premium memberships, a new monetization option for creators

Discord shuts down alt-right server and accounts for ToS violations

Facebook shuts down a Unite the Right counter-protest event linked to fake accounts

- Rebecca Bellan

Aurora Innovation, an autonomous vehicle technology company, has expanded its self-driving freight pilot with FedEx to include a new lane from Fort Worth to El Paso, Texas.

The startup has been hauling freight for FedEx between Dallas and Houston since September 2021, which has involved making the 240-mile trip every night. The new lane challenges Aurora’s trucks to a much longer journey of about 600 miles, on which they will operate on a weekly basis, according to the company.

Texas has become a battleground for autonomous freight companies looking to commercialize, with competitors Waymo Via, Kodiak Robotics and TuSimple all piloting their vehicles on many of the same highways.

Aurora has been hauling freight between its new terminals in Fort Worth and El Paso since March, the company said. Shipments carried out on its first commercial lane between Dallas and Houston have all been delivered on time 100% of the time, according to Aurora, which noted that it has provided thousands of FedEx customers with autonomously transported packages.

Aurora’s trucks, which are based on the new Peterbilt 579, are capable of operating during various weather conditions and all hours of the day and night. To date, Aurora and FedEx have completed a total of 60,000 miles with zero safety incidents, according to Aurora.

“Some time ago, I was asked why the general public should care about autonomous trucking. This is why. In six months of working with FedEx, we’ve safely, reliably, and efficiently transported packages for tens of thousands of FedEx customers,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer, in a statement. “This lane expansion came ahead of schedule and we’re delighted to continue building the future of trucking with one of the country’s biggest and most important transportation companies.”

Aurora’s Sterling Anderson and FedEx’s Rebecca Yeung discuss the future of autonomous trucking at TC Sessions: Mobility 2022

- Ram Iyer
Dear Sophie: Can I do anything to speed up the EAD renewal process?
Sophie Alcorn Contributor Share on Twitter Sophie Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law in Silicon Valley and 2019 Global Law Experts Awards’ “Law Firm of the Year in California for Entrepreneur Immigration Services.” She connects people with the businesses and opportunities that expand their lives. More posts by this contributor Dear Sophie: What are the visa options for international founders? Dear Sophie: Any USCIS updates on automatic work extensions and premium processing?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I’m on an L-2 visa as a dependent spouse to my husband’s L-1A.

My EAD (work permit) is expiring in May — we filed for the extension of both my visa and EAD a few months ago. How long is the current process?

Might there be anything I can do so my employment isn’t affected?

— Career Centered

Dear Centered,

I’ve got fantastic news for you and other L-1 spouses — and your employers! As long as your visa remains valid, you are no longer at risk of having your employment interrupted due to delays in getting your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Thanks to a policy change by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), getting work authorization is now easier for L-2 spouses of L-1 visa holders as well as a few other categories. As Elon Musk said this week, for anybody who wants to work hard in the U.S., immigration should be a “no-brainer.”

Soaring processing times

During the past two years, processing times for EADs soared due to a combination of backlogs prompted by the pandemic, funding issues and paper-based USCIS processing procedures.

Depending on which USCIS service center processed the EAD renewal application (Form I-765), timing ranged from about 90 days to more than a year. Interesting to note, it can take anywhere from 7.5 to 14.5 months to process EADs at the California Service Center. At the Texas Service Center, it can take two to 13 months.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

Lawsuit prompts big policy changes

Last September, a group of spouse-dependent visa holders filed a class-action lawsuit against the Secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees USCIS. The suit was filed on behalf of dependent spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, many of whom had been forced to stop working when USCIS failed to approve and send out new EADs before the current ones expired due to substantial processing delays.

The situation was compounded by the fact that EAD renewals can’t be filed more than six months in advance of their expiration date.

- Amanda Silberling
What’s more stable than Bitcoin or UST? AriZona Iced Tea

ICYMI, stablecoins are in deep shit right now, and the chaos that unfolded this week has thrown the entire crypto ecosystem into turmoil with over $400 billion in losses from just one coin alone. In these times of uncertainty, all we can rely on is that we can purchase a can of AriZona Iced Tea for 99 cents, the same price that the refreshing beverage sold for in 1996. Mossy, a collective of three techy artists, thinks that an (unofficially) AriZona-backed stablecoin can save the crypto economy.

A stablecoin, as the name implies, is supposed to be stable because it tracks the value of another asset — similar to how gold bars once backed the U.S. dollar during gold-standard times.

In the case of TerraUSD (UST), formerly one of the largest stablecoins that fell from grace this week, each UST coin was supposed to stay consistently equivalent in value to one U.S. dollar. But there were no physical reserves — instead, the group behind UST used algorithms and reserves of other cryptocurrencies to manage its price. That system went haywire, leading some holders of UST to withdraw their money, and before investors knew what had hit them, the panic and fear compounded and UST was trading as low as nine cents on the dollar. UST’s sudden collapse has led to over $400 billion in losses for investors over the past week or so, leaving people to question the, well, stability of stablecoins as a whole.

Mossy’s solution for the calamitous sector, a stablecoin called USDTea, is backed by what they claim is America’s most stable asset: cans of AriZona Iced Tea. For over 30 years, AriZona founder Don Vultaggio has been working tirelessly against inflation to keep the cost of each can at exactly 99 cents, playing hardball with suppliers to keep input costs low and sacrificing his own profit for the sake of consistency.

As for Mossy, you may have seen their work before. The group launched the “Non-fungible Olive Gardens” project that got them in some hot water over copyright laws as well as the “Blockedchain” NFTs that only Twitter users who have been blocked by famed (and pugnacious) venture capitalist Marc Andreessen can mint.

Mossy quietly announced the USDTea stablecoin project on Twitter one and a half hours before selling out all 1,000 tokens they initially supplied. We sat down with Brian Moore, one of the three members of the artists’ collective — another member is Mike Lacher, who recently went viral for his AI that harshly judges your music taste, while the third member chooses to remain anonymous. Moore regaled us with his (mostly) straight-faced, highly serious explanation of Mossy’s ambitions to bring stability to an unstable world — one can of iced tea at a time.

Image Credits: USDTea (opens in a new window)

TC: So, who are you? What is this collective that tries to save crypto through AriZona Iced Tea?

BM: We’re a little group called Mossy, and the last three things we’ve made have all been web3 projects. We created non-fungible Olive Gardens, and then we did Blockedchain, which was an NFT series that you can only mint if you’re blocked by specific people on Twitter, like Marc Andreesen. And now the latest is USDTea, which is a stablecoin that’s linked to the most stable asset we know on planet Earth, which is AriZona Iced Tea.

Can you literally connect your wallet to this and get a token? 

Well, first of all, I just got word that we are fully out of the 1,000 that we started with [after about an hour and a half post-launch]. That’s the weirdness of this world. It was the same thing with non-fungible Olive Gardens; we quietly released it, and then it was gone within I think 10 hours.

AriZona Iced Tea might be $0.99, but what about gas fees?

The way the flow works is the fees aren’t super high. It’s an ERC 20 token. I bought some and I think it was, you know, negligible, like $4 or something in gas fees. And then, just like any other stablecoins that are pegged to currency, you can always switch back. In this case, you can burn your USDTea and we will ship you cans of AriZona Iced Tea, because it wouldn’t be backed by it if we didn’t actually do that. So we have our strategic reserves of AriZona Iced Tea to use if people want to convert it back at any given time.

Do you actually have 1,000 cans of tea? 

It’s 1,000 cans where we’re starting. That might expand in the future. And if we do that, I think we’d probably be open to external auditing depending on the situation, but currently, we’ve got 1,000 cans basically, and we will distribute them as necessary. Right now we do have reserves split around different locations around the U.S.

Do you make these satirical web3 projects as your full-time job?

The more we do this, the more it becomes something that is more full time, but I’d say we’re mostly artists.

How many people are you?

We’re three people. So we’re pretty … I guess the word would be nimble. It allows us to make things very quickly. In the case of the destabilization of currency-pegged cryptocurrencies, you know, when did that whole snafu go down? We’re trying to bolster the crypto economy as quickly as possible, and we can only do that with a small team.

Image Credits: USDTea (opens in a new window)

Did you conceive of this idea last week when Terra was collapsing?

Exactly. There’s something to be said about the stability of stablecoins, right? That’s half the word, stable. And then you think, what’s the most stable thing you can imagine? AriZona Iced Tea, you really can’t beat it.

How do you make money off of this, or is making money not the goal? 

It’s not necessarily the goal, really, but I think we want to support ourselves at some point. We’re in the interest of making interesting work on the internet, and that is the ultimate goal. If it makes us money, great, and if it doesn’t, then that’s fine too. Ultimately, we’re just making interesting things — making people think, making people laugh, or, you know, stabilize their assets in canned iced teas.

How would you make money?

These are fungible assets, so it’s meant to be more of a currency replacement than, say, an individual art piece. One USDTea is equal to one USDTea. There’s no one of them that’s better than the other or rarer than the other. They’re all equal to one can of AriZona’s Iced Tea.

AriZona stablecoin when??

— AriZona Iced Tea (@DrinkAriZona) May 16, 2022

But to redeem your can of tea, you have to pay a $20 flat processing fee. What is that fee?

That’s just literally the logistics of shipping. That’s not a money-making scheme to make profit off of the transaction; it’s to get you your personalized tea assets that you can store in your own location.

On your website, you have the question “what happens when ETH crashes?”, and you say that you update the ETH/USDTea to match ETH/USD from time to time. What does that entail?

It just means that as Ethereum might change in price, we want to match that so the rate ends up being around 99 cents.

How often will you do that? I imagine you don’t have an algorithm.

No, there’s no algorithm yet. That might come in the future — it all depends on how wide we expand this. We’re taking it one step at a time. This has been about 90 minutes worth of launch time, so once we stabilize our own situation, we’ll figure out what we need to do.

Obviously, Terra was the inspiration for this project. Do you have any opinions or takes about what happened, and how Terra’s handling that? 

I think our company speaks through the work itself. We’re here to try to stabilize an unstable world, so I think that backing our assets in a new, innovative and most importantly stable asset … I think that sort of says all that we need to say about that situation.

An anteater is pictured

An anteater. Image Credits: MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images

Would you say you’re bullish or bearish on crypto? 

Are we bullish? Are we bearish? I don’t know. I think we’re exploring it. We love it as a medium through which to make interesting art pieces. I don’t think we necessarily have an answer or have an animal to assign to it. You can just say anteater or something like that.

Terra’s UST crash will make life harder for crypto as regulation looms

Binance halts Luna and UST trading following meltdown

- Jaclyn Trop
Zoox reveals close-up of its autonomous robotaxi

Zoox shared a close-up of its commercial electric robotaxi at the TechCrunch Mobility 2022 conference in San Mateo, California, on Wednesday.

The Amazon subsidiary’s four-passenger, fully autonomous vehicle features a cubelike body with large black sliding doors, floor-to-ceiling windows, beam-forming speakers to direct audio alerts to distracted pedestrians and a 60-watt USB-C port with enough power to charge a 15-inch MacBook.

The sleek, square silhouette lacks a front and rear end. Instead, the bidirectional robotaxi is symmetrical, with the same sloped face featuring cameras, lights, speakers and a large window on either side. “Internally, we call it a north side and a south side,” Zoox co-founder and CTO Jesse Levinson said during an interview onstage.

Zoox autonomous driving vehicle

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The design features a sensor pod atop each corner of the robotaxi, which allows the vehicle to see in all directions. The corner architecture helps “see basically everything, including things behind things.”

“The shape of the vehicle is perfect for autonomous driving because each of those sensor pods has a 270-degree field of view,” Levinson said. “Because there’s one on each corner, not only can we see everything 360 degrees but we have an overlapping, redundant field of view that helps us see around things.”

The company revealed the robotaxi in December 2020 on a closed course in San Francisco and has been working toward making it safe and legal on public roads. Levinson declined to give a time frame, but said the company is “really close.”

The sliding doors create a wide aperture that opens to a low floor, making it easy for passengers to enter and exit. Each side displays a strip of speakers above the headlights. The beam-forming speakers can shoot sound in any direction with a targeted focus, alerting specific distracted pedestrians with a ping that’s more polite than a honk, Levinson said.

“They’ll hear it and everybody else won’t.”

Each of the four seats features a seven-inch screen, comparable in size to an iPhone. The simple interface allows passengers to operate the vehicle’s four-zone climate control, check the route and change music.

The simplicity is designed to reduce visual stimuli. “It’s not about super-fancy 3D gaming,” Levinson said. “We’re not bombarding you with like screens and advertisements everywhere.”

The passenger experience “actually is quite boring after 30 seconds,” he added, “but that’s a good thing because people just want to get on with their lives, have a conversation, read a book, play with their iPhone or whatever they want to do.”

Each seat also comes with a wireless charging pad and a 60-watt USB-C port.

The ceiling features a pinpoint light display Zoox calls a “celestial headliner,” modeled after Rolls-Royce’s five-figure starry headliner option.

“It’s a little bit of our prestige feature,” Levinson said. “If we ever have to build a lower-cost version, that’s probably the first thing to go.”

- Amanda Silberling
Grubhub’s free lunch promo creates a literal ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ for NYC restaurants

Grubhub offered free lunch to everyone in New York City yesterday. What could go wrong?

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., New Yorkers could use a Grubhub promo code to get a $15 discount on lunch. Naturally, restaurants got flooded with an unexpected deluge of orders. According to Buzzfeed, a worker at a Mexican restaurant in Harlem hand-delivered orders herself via Uber, since their in-house delivery driver was too overloaded. An employee at Greenberg’s Bagels in Brooklyn also told Buzzfeed that they received 50 orders in an hour, whereas they typically receive about 10 orders from Grubhub per day.

Across New York City, Grubhub said that it received about 6,000 orders per minute. Within an hour, some users tweeted that the promo code was no longer working, or that restaurants had marked themselves closed to avoid receiving any more orders. All in all, many orders got delayed and/or cancelled, but restaurant workers and delivery drivers were most adversely impacted, struggling to fulfill orders at an impossible rate.

Grubhub said that it modeled this promotion after a previous one, but this time, customers used the promo code six times more, causing unexpectedly high demand.

“To help businesses prepare for yesterday’s promotion, we gave advance notice to all restaurants in our network, which included multiple forms of communications across email and in-platform,” Grubhub said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Even with that preparation, no one could anticipate the level of demand and unfortunately that caused strain on some restaurants. We’ll undoubtedly have a lot of learnings from this that can help us optimize and mitigate issues in the future.”

Evidently, many restaurant workers didn’t get the memo — and even so, taking proactive measures like adding an extra driver to a shift wouldn’t have prepared a restaurant to meet such a dramatic surge in demand.

New Yorkers went as hard for free lunch as the Rangers did in game 7.

Our restaurants and drivers are still working hard fulfilling your orders. Make sure to show them love today (and every day). 🍕🧡

— Grubhub (@Grubhub) May 17, 2022

This is not the first time that a Grubhub promotion inadvertently served restaurants the short end of the stick.

In March, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine sued Grubhub for “misleading District residents and taking advantage of local restaurants to boost its own profits.” One incident the lawsuit referenced was Grubhub’s early-pandemic-era “Supper for Support” promotion, which was discontinued. Launched in late March 2020, Grubhub offered restaurants the opportunity to offer a $10 coupon on orders over $30, but the restaurant had to foot the bill for that free food. On the consumer end, Grubhub encouraged customers to “save while supporting the restaurants [they] love,” even though their promotion actually put more strain on restaurants by pressuring them to lower profit margins.

For yesterday’s promotion, Grubhub paid for customers’ $15 coupon, not the restaurants. The company says it fulfilled 400,000 lunch orders, which at $15 a pop, would put the company out $6,000,000 for what was largely a screw up.

Grubhub has also faced scrutiny and legal troubles for false advertising, listing restaurants on their app without the business’ consent. That means that a consumer might place a Grubhub order for a restaurant that doesn’t know they’re even on Grubhub, meaning that the business could pay a fee to Grubhub without knowing it. Or, once a Grubhub courier arrives, the restaurant might not even know that they were expected to prepare that takeout order.

Despite an uptick in delivery orders during the pandemic, food delivery apps have still struggled to turn a profit. But customer acquisition promotions like yesterday’s likely won’t encourage customers to keep coming back to Grubhub.

Food-delivery profits remain elusive

Lawsuit prompts Grubhub to add disclosures about hidden fees

- Sarah Perez
YouTube teases livestream shopping expansion with co-streams, live redirects

In recent years, YouTube has been working to transform its platform into more of a shopping destination with product launches like shoppable ads or more recently, the ability to shop directly from livestreams hosted by creators. Now, it’s furthering that investment with new features for live shopping experiences. At yesterday’s YouTube Brandcast event, where the company pitched itself to advertisers as a better place for their TV ad dollars, YouTube teased upcoming features that it claimed would make it easier for viewers to discover and buy from brands.

The company touted its forthcoming tools as offering advertisers a better way to engage viewers and make connections with their audience.

One new feature, explained YouTube, will allow two creators to go live at the same time to co-host a single live shopping stream. This could effectively double the draw for the event, as each creator would bring their own fanbase to the stream.

This feature arrives shortly after YouTube in March announced a pilot program called “Go Live Together,” a new mobile collaborative streaming feature that would enable creators to invite guests to their livestream with a link before going live together. This trial suggested YouTube had its eye on developing tools to better power joint livestreams — just as it’s now planning to introduce with its upcoming two-person live shopping streams. The addition could also make YouTube more competitive with Instagram, which launched the ability for creators to go live with up to three people last year.

In addition to leveraging creators to build an audience for a live shopping event, YouTube’s shopping livestreams platform also offers other tools specifically designed to drive sales. The brand-integrated shopping experience actually allows viewers to shop the products shown in the video by tapping on a built-in “view products” button that then brings up a list of items featured by the creators.

The company says its new two-person live shopping feature will roll out sometime later this year.

Another upcoming option announced at Brandcast is something YouTube calls “live redirects.”

In this case, creators will be able to start a shopping livestream on their channel, then redirect their audience over to a brand’s channel for fans to keep watching. This allows brands to tap into the power of the creator’s platform and reach their fanbase, but then gives the brands themselves access to that audience — and the key metrics and analytics associated with their live event — directly on their own YouTube channel. This will also roll out sometime this year, says YouTube, but didn’t provide a timeframe.

YouTube’s announcements follow the broader growth of the live e-commerce market in the U.S. — a trend inspired by the livestream shopping activity surging in China, where streamers can pull in billions of dollars in a matter of hours. Today, a number of startups have also entered this space, including TalkShopLive, PopShop Live, NTWRK, Whatnot, ShopShops, Supergreat and others. Klarna even added virtual shopping capabilities to connect its buy-now, pay-later customers with live product demos from retail partners.

Retailers, too, are getting in on the action. Nordstrom launched a live events platform, while Forever 21 and Macy’s are among those that added live shopping to their apps.

Meanwhile, big tech platforms are wooing brands by touting their wider reach.

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen Walmart pilot testing TikTok’s first livestreamed shopping experience; Facebook’s live shopping boosting sales for brands like Petco, Benefit, Samsung, Anne Klein and others; and Instagram hosting live shopping events to cater to holiday crowds. Twitter even began to test livestream shopping, also with Walmart’s help on its pilot run — but it’s unclear where such initiatives will land if the Elon Musk buyout comes to pass.

While YouTube is certainly one of the largest creator platforms for video, there is some indication that it needs to catch up to its big tech rivals in livestream shopping, however. An eMarketer study from Jan. 2022 found that only 14.4% of survey respondents said YouTube’s platform drove them to purchase during a livestream event compared with 15.8% for TikTok, 45.8% for Instagram and 57.8% for Facebook.

Image Credits: eMarketer/Insider Intelligence

YouTube’s new livestream features — and particularly the one that pushes a creator’s fanbase to a brand’s channel — could make its solution more compelling.

“People come to YouTube every day to make decisions about what to buy, and 87% of viewers say that when they’re shopping or browsing on YouTube, they feel like they can make a faster decision about what to purchase because of all the information that we have in videos,” said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, speaking to the audience at the Brandcast live event last night. “We have so much shopping activity that is already happening on YouTube, so we are making it even easier for viewers to discover and to buy,” she said.

- Rebecca Bellan
Waymo is expanding its driverless program in Phoenix

Waymo is pulling the human safety driver out of its recently expanded robotaxi operations in downtown Phoenix, Dmitri Dolgov, co-CEO of Waymo, announced on the TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility stage on Wednesday. 

“We will be starting fully autonomous, rider-only operations in the downtown Phoenix area that will…be on the fifth generation of our system on the Jaguar I-PACEs,” said Dolgov.

The news comes less than two months after the self-driving unit of Alphabet announced the expansion of its drivered robotaxi service from the East Valley of Phoenix into the city’s downtown area. At the time, Waymo also said it had opened up driverless rides for employees in San Francisco. 

Waymo simulator downtown phoenix

The Waymo Driver autonomously navigating through a busy intersection to pick up a rider at the Phoenix Convention Center. Image Credits: Waymo

Employees were also the first to receive autonomous rides in downtown Phoenix with a human safety operator, but last week, Waymo opened that up to its “trusted testers.” Driverless rides in the area will only be available for employees for the time being, but Waymo said it will make that program available to members of the public in the coming weeks. 

Waymo has been testing in Phoenix since 2016, and began offering a fully autonomous public ride-hail service there in 2020. This milestone serves to deepen the company’s roots in the city, where it currently has a dominant position in the robotaxi market. 

Driverless operations in downtown Phoenix will kick off in the northeast part of the area and gradually ramp up operations into all of Waymo’s trusted tester territory, which covers central Phoenix, including downtown, midtown and south central, according to a Waymo spokesperson. 

Waymo’s initial Trusted Tester service area in Downtown Phoenix. Image Credits: Waymo

In addition to opening up driverless pilots in downtown Phoenix, Waymo says it’s beginning to drive at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with an autonomous specialist present. Waymo’s fleet of Jaguar I-PACEs will drive autonomously at the airport 24/7, with operations focused on the area around 44th Street PHX Sky Train Station, which is near the pickup and drop-off location for other ride-hail services, according to Waymo. 

Again, Waymo employees will be the initial guinea pigs, hailing rides between downtown Phoenix and Sky Harbor, before the company opens the service to members of the public. 

“What we learn at Sky Harbor Airport will benefit us in other locations and help accelerate our progress,” wrote Waymo in a blog post. “As we bring the Waymo Driver to more people in more places, we will be able to deploy in every new territory even faster and focus on some inherent challenges specific to each location—like driving in snow in New York City, human-like mannequins in Los Angeles’ Fashion District, or the notorious Pittsburgh left.”

While Waymo wouldn’t share the size of its fleet operating in downtown Phoenix or at the airport, the company did say that it has more than 300 cars in the city.

In terms of further expansion, while Waymo wouldn’t share many details, Dolgov did hint at plans to launch a service in a third city. Aside from Phoenix and San Francisco, Waymo has tested in cities and states like Seattle, Michigan and New York City, said Dolgov.

Dolgov noted that Waymo will follow its playbook, in which the company identifies a market that it is interested in based on its fifth-generation Waymo Driver capabilities, test there for a few months and then, as we’re seeing, be prepared to pull out the safety operator.

“We’ve been investing and moving qualitatively forward on the technical side to that fifth-generation system that is designed to work everywhere,” said Dolgov. “Now we’re exercising that muscle of deploying but doing it on the new system, and we’re moving much faster than we’ve ever been before. You’re seeing that in San Francisco. You’ll see that in downtown Phoenix, and we will exercise the playbook as we go after new markets.”

As Waymo moves forward, Dolgov noted that the company is focused on expanding its latest generation of the Waymo Driver onto more Jaguars, but not onto the Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which are powered by Waymo’s fourth generation Driver and operate in Phoenix’s East Valley where the company runs its public fully autonomous service.

The fifth generation driver is the same system that Waymo is currently using on Class 8 trucks to pilot autonomous freight operations. 

Waymo is also working with Geely’s luxury EV brand Zeekr to manufacture a custom-built autonomous vehicle. Dolgov didn’t provide any timelines on that, but he did say that Waymo’s path going forward would be to work with partner OEMs to build the right platforms for its Driver.

Correction: A previous version of this article captioned the GIF above as Waymo’s simulator. 

- Manish Singh

Slice is adding the popular railroad UPI on its eponymous app as the Indian fintech looks to broaden its offerings and pushes to become a one-stop payments app for consumers in the world’s second largest internet market.

The Bengaluru-headquartered startup, which became a unicorn late last year, said it is rolling out UPI feature to all its existing users as well over 10 million of those who have been on its waitlist.

Slice offers customers credit card-like features, and through its app gives them access to a range of deals with popular merchants. The UPI feature is the latest addition for the Slice app, which is aiming to drive engagement as it gives users more reasons to interact with the startup’s offerings.

Rajan Bajaj, founder and chief executive of Slice, said in an interview that by leveraging UPI the payments app is opening the app to every smartphone user in the country.

UPI users on Slice will be able to create unique IDs that will allow them to search for their friends by their names instead of their phone numbers, as is popular on other UPI-supported apps. These unique IDs are powered by Andy, a web3 project that Slice has been working on since last year.

“While building our UPI product, we ensured that we removed all the friction — there is no advertisement, there is no cross-selling, and there are no 100+ CTAs. The question we keep asking ourselves is ‘how can the user do this in one second or even less time?’ And we wanted to make this happen, now,” he said.

TechCrunch reported in late March that Slice was working on launching support for UPI and was revamping the app.

With UPI support, Slice is entering a crowded market. Google’s Gpay and Flipkart-backed PhonePe currently lead the UPI chart with over 80% of the market share. Scores of other players including Paytm and Tata Neu also offer support for UPI payments.

UPI, a five-year-old payments protocol built by a coalition of retail banks, is the most popular way Indians transact money online. In the month of April, the UPI network processed over 5.5 billion transactions, up from 7.2 million during the same period four years ago.

The payments network, which is supported by over 300 banks, allows users on one app to send money to any other user on any other UPI app.

“The payments network in India is very open with interoperability,” said Bajaj. “I believe that a product with the best consumer experience will eventually win people’s hearts. The significant growth which we have seen in the last few years on our slice super card proves that we have really struck a chord culturally with our consumers and they would love to use us for all their payment needs.”

Slice, which is backed by Insight Partners and Tiger Global, said it aims to turn its credit business profitable in the coming months. “As Slice turns profitable in the core product, the company will increasingly be using the free cash flows from there to increase the scope of what Slice stands for its consumers,” it said.

- Rebecca Bellan

Ben Bear, the CEO of shared micromobility operator Spin, is stepping down from his role just a couple of months after the company was purchased by Tier Mobility, another shared operator with a large European presence.

In Bear’s place will be Philip Reinckens, a Tier veteran who, as of June 6, will be responsible for leading the new direction of Spin, including accelerating the integration with its new parent company.

“It’s been a whirlwind since I took over last year,” Bear told TechCrunch. “Really from the first day that I took over, the top objective that I got from Ford was to find a partner, and I feel like we’ve landed the plane on that and it’s a perfect time to step aside and accelerate us becoming one company while keeping the DNA that has made Spin the top choice of cities.”

When Tier acquired Spin from Ford in March, it marked the German company’s entrance into the North American market.

Reinckens, who is relocating with his family from Munich to San Francisco, has held several roles at Tier in Germany, including most recently the VP of business transformation. Prior to that role, Reinckens served as general manager of a European region comprising six countries.

Before joining the micromobility landscape, Reinckens worked as a strategy consultant in the automotive industry for companies like Volkswagen and Faurecia, a Tier One supplier.

We sat down with the new CEO to talk about Tier’s plans for Spin’s future growth, and why he’s the person to lead that transition.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

TC: You come from an automotive background. What lessons have you taken from that world and applied to shared micromobility? 

Philip Reinckens: After working for Volkswagen and Faurecia, I switched sides to external consulting, but still focused on the automotive and mobility industry. That was back in 2013. We were supporting OEMs and suppliers with all the hot topics of the day around electrification, autonomous mobility, connectivity and all that, I was really drawn into that.

Normally with consultants, either you stay until you become a partner or you look for a good opportunity to go out into the field and do something on your own. For me that came in 2019 when the German market opened to micromobility. I knew that the scooter segment was really going through the roof in North America with a lot of heavy VC funding, so I was super curious about doing consulting for a startup.

So what I take out of automotive, but especially my background as a consultant, is the willingness to work and deliver fast and focus on what’s important. I think being quick in execution and also doing long hours is something you learn in consulting, and when we launched Tier in the German market, I was working way more than I used to because suddenly we had eight cities to manage from day one. I really like the independence and the speed of a startup.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for change and growth with Spin?

Spin already excels at a lot today. They were the first to do sidewalk riding detection, everything they’ve done around winning university campuses, the hubs and charging systems…those are really excellent USPs. So it’s worth focusing on and strengthening those.

I want to focus on the consumer experience, having the right features but also providing reliable mobility, which means having the right scooter at the right point in time at the right spot. Tier has a lot of learnings there that we can bring over.

We want to go all in on swappable batteries. It changes the way operations need to be run because simply you cannot put scooters every morning in the same place where you know that the conversion is great, but you have to find ways to reallocate and rebalance the scooters in the most efficient manner. And so my strategy for the next 12 months is to really make sure that this integration is a success, that we are tapping into the synergies and efficiencies as a joint company and build on what Spin is already great at, while also finding some some levers into the European market. We are already in talks over some great initiatives and partnerships to potentially look into further expansion.

You mentioned Spin’s sidewalk riding tech, which comes from Drover AI. Tier also recently purchased Fantasmo, bringing its camera positioning technology in-house. Given Bird and Lime’s recent announcement about working with Google’s ARCore tech, which is similar to Fantasmo’s, is Tier thinking of bringing those capabilities to the U.S., either alongside Drover’s or instead of it?

Everybody at the moment is looking into these kinds of technologies. Parking and rider behavior is the number one criteria for winning cities. But if you look and compare the different competitors, like Luna, Fantasmo and Drover, they seem to be similar, but in terms of capabilities, they’re very different. One is advanced in this direction. The other one is advanced in that direction.

Fantasmo’s biggest asset is around parking, and Drover is especially strong on sidewalk detection. At the moment we’re super happy to be working with both of them and everyone has the right tech for different use cases. In the U.S. it’s different than in Germany.

So parking isn’t an issue in the U.S.?

Not as much compared to Germany because here there are lots of racks and physical locks which can be used. There’s also a lot more free floating and free parking in Germany and France and the U.K. where Fantasmo’s tech makes more sense.

How do you envision Tier in Europe working with Spin in North America?

It’s clear that you need to focus one brand on one continent. But between the companies and the different USPs and strengths and capabilities, clearly the entire acquisition is there to leverage the strength and to make both companies better.

Consumers in North America at the moment have a very strong relationship with Spin, and Tier is a completely unknown brand. At the moment, switching that would risk losing customers.

Tier has been on a buying spree lately, both vertically and horizontally, in order to expand into new markets. Is Tier considering any more acquisitions in North America? 

At the moment, it’s unclear to say. As you can imagine with nextbike, Spin and Fantasmo, we have a tough integration to do. Quality goes first. Quantity second.

Spin has a lot going for it in terms of tech and relationships with cities, but some have said being backed by Ford resulted in a lot of cash burn. And obviously, the unit economics for micromobility aren’t quite there yet. So is there anywhere in particular where you see room for improvement in terms of decreasing overhead or increasing revenue?

Having worked for big car companies before, I really know how corporations look internally and how they’re sometimes comfortable in terms of spending. I believe this is the biggest difference between Spin and Tier. Tier has 100% startup DNA where we we really look out for our cash burn. I think that’s also what brought us into the position to be able to compete with Bird and Lime and others, that we were the most capital-efficient companies. I mean, otherwise we would not have been backed by SoftBank and Goldman.

It’s in our DNA to be cost-conscious, and to tie ecological sustainability to financial sustainability. We can only provide an alternative mobility solution if the unit economics behind it are sustainable, and that means not losing money on a per-ride basis. This is one of the big strengths we have and where we can certainly help Spin get better going forward.

Can you give me an example of how Tier’s been good at cost saving?

Well, we talked about swappable batteries, and we were the first player to go all in on that technology, which allowed us to lower variable costs significantly. When I look back at the days of the first Corona wave in Europe, we saw that due to our cost advantages, which we got through swappable batteries and in-housing all our operations, we were able to keep our scooter fleet on the streets even during lockdown when all the other competitors in Germany had to pull theirs.

We were able to provide basic mobility even though movements on the streets were significantly lowered, but we caught that little bit of demand. And people were scared then of using public transport so a lot of customers then saw that micromobility is a good alternative.

Zooming out to the industry at large, your biggest competitors in the U.S. are Lime and Bird, and in Europe, possibly Bolt and Voi. Is there anything you think your competitors are doing right? Or alternatively, doing wrong? 

Let me start with Bolt. They have recently raised a massive round. But you really have to also acknowledge that their business is just different. They’re using micromobility as an acquisition tool for their ride-hailing and food delivery/quick e-commerce business. So it’s not entirely comparable.

When I look at Bird, for instance, I am surprised to see that they have not invested into swappable batteries. I understand the reasons from their perspective. But as the whole industry has moved toward swappable batteries, I’m just surprised that they’re the only ones, out of the big ones, to still stick with that. Also, with their platform model, they haven’t focused on the city. And I think right now we’re in a phase where we see that focusing on the city is crucial.

Bird is one of the only public shared micromobility companies. Does Tier have any plans to go public soon?

Right now? Look at Bird’s stock. I think the elephant in the room is that Bird didn’t choose the right timing. That’s just bad luck. Maybe also the vehicle itself as a SPAC — I’m not a big fan of SPACs, to be quite honest. But I mean, it’s just sad that as a representative of an entire segment, that they are getting bashed so heavily. I think the market is overreacting on Bird, and it doesn’t do the industry any good.

- Lauren Forristal

Programming that was originally meant to live on the now-shuttered streamer CNN+ will now move over to CNN and HBO Max, Warner Bros. Discovery announced today at its first Upfront presentation for advertisers. Shows moving to the linear CNN network include “Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico” and “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” Another title that had been meant for CNN+, “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” —starring former longtime Fox News anchor Chris Wallace — will move to both HBO Max and CNN in the fall.

It is unknown at this time where the rest of the CNN+ slate will end up, however, or if select CNN+ titles will later arrive on HBO Max further down the road.

Before the launch of CNN+, HBO Max was the streaming home of many CNN titles, including “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” HBO Max is a good place for these shows, as Warner Bros. Discovery shared with advertisers that HBO Max and discovery+ are enhancing the consumer experience with a light ad load, with less than four minutes of commercials per hour on average. Additionally, 80% of viewers watch HBO Max and discovery+ on their TV screens, and half are cord-cutters. According to the company, this extends the reach of advertisers into non-cable homes.

We aren’t sure what the combined streaming service will look like once HBO Max and discovery+ fully merge. However, the variety of content — including CNN titles — offered will certainly attract a diverse audience.

Also, at the company’s Upfront presentation, Chris Licht, chairman and CEO, CNN Worldwide, announced the launch of a topical, long-form news show as well as upcoming titles like “The Story of HQ Trivia,” “See It Loud: The History of Black Television,” “The 2010s,” “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” and “Little Richard: I Am Everything.”

The 2023 programming slate is an attempt made by CNN for a comeback as the recently launched streaming service. The short-lived streaming service, CNN+ reportedly saw under 10,000 viewers a day and was shut down at the end of April. It seems that CEO David Zaslav was not about to let this tarnish the newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery.

CNN+ streaming service pulls a Quibi, will shut down a month after launch

On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Zaslav said, “We looked at it, and we looked at the data, the number of users … They had spent an enormous amount of money trying to sell an independent product. The subscribers weren’t there. The users weren’t there … when we looked at the data, the business wasn’t there.”

Lasting nearly 30 days, the cable news network’s streaming service spent $250 million to launch the product and another $100 million to promote it. The New York Times reported CNN had planned to spend more than $1 billion on CNN+ over four years, according to sources familiar with the matter. Thus, Zaslav was (rightfully so) unwilling to invest any further into the platform.

But CNN itself isn’t going anywhere, and the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO is bullish on the brand. At the Upfront presentation, the company expressed its determination to reinforce CNN’s role as a top news organization. Licht boasted that CNN is “the number one digital property in the world.”

He added:

The next chapter of CNN is one where we aspire to be a beacon for the kind of journalism essential to a functioning democracy. The time when extremes are dominating cable news. We will seek to go a different way, reflecting the real lives of our viewers and elevating the way America and the world view this medium. We intend to challenge the traditional philosophy of cable news, delivering programming and commentary that questions the status quo, shatters groupthink, holds our leaders on both sides of the aisle accountable to facts and fights fearlessly to get to the truth.

CNN+ launch may be off to a bumpy start, numbers suggest

- Mariella Moon
Apple Store workers at the World Trade Center accuse the company of union busting

The Communications Workers of America has filed a second Unfair Labor Practice charge against Apple this week. This time, the labor union is accusing the tech giant of violating multiple federal labor laws at its flagship World Trade Center store. The complaint alleges that Apple interrogated workers at the WTC store regarding their "protected concerted activities." Apple also allegedly monitored those activities, or at least made employees believe that they were being monitored. Based on the group's filing, those incidents happened on or about May 3rd. 

By May 15th, the group said Apple "unlawfully implemented" a rule at the store that prohibits employees from posting union flyers in work areas during their breaks. Further, it's accusing the tech giant of conducting "captive-audience" speeches designed to discourage them from unionizing. 

Earlier this year, Apple Store workers across the US started planning to unionize in an effort to get the company to increase their pay, which they claim isn't keeping up with the cost of living. Apple reportedly hired anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson, which counts Starbucks and McDonald's as clients, in response. According to a Motherboard report, the company also recently started arming its Store managers with anti-union talking points. They were apparently instructed to tell employees that they could lose career opportunities, as well as personal time off and work flexibility, if they join a union. 

The Communications Workers of America also filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint against Apple on behalf of workers at the Cumberland Mall store on May 17th. In it, the group accused the company of holding mandatory captive audience meetings regarding the upcoming union election for the Atlanta location that's scheduled to take place in early June. 

Tim Dubnau, CWA's Deputy Organizing Director, said:

"Apple retail workers across the country are demanding a voice on the job and a seat at the table. Unfortunately, and in contradiction to its stated values, Apple has responded like a typical American corporation with heavy-handed tactics designed to intimidate and coerce workers. The best thing Apple can do is allow workers to choose for themselves whether or not they want a union. When we learn of situations where Apple is violating labor law, we intend to hold the company accountable and help the workers defend their rights under the law."

- Amrita Khalid
Facebook issues $397 checks to Illinois residents as part of class-action lawsuit

More than a million Illinois residents will receive a $397 settlement payment from Facebook this week, thanks to a legal battle over the platform’s since-retired photo-tagging system that used facial recognition. It’s been nearly seven years since the 2015 class-action lawsuit was first filed, which accused Facebook of breaking a state privacy law that forbids companies from collecting biometric data without informing users. The platform has since faced broad, global criticism for its use of facial recognition tech, and last year Meta halted the practice completely on Facebook and Instagram. But as Voxnotes, the company has made no promises to avoid facial recognition in future products.

Even though it was first filed in Illinois, the class-action lawsuit eventually wound up on Facebook’s home turf — at the U.S. District Court for Northern California. Nevertheless, the court repeatedly denied the platform’s many motions to dismiss the lawsuit and eventually certified the Illinois class-action. Facebook tried to appeal the case certification with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but was rejected. After Facebook initially agreed to settle the lawsuit for $550 million — which at the time was the largest payout from an online privacy class-action lawsuit — a federal judge fought back and said the amount was too small. Finally, the company last year agreed to a settlement total of $650 million.

The issue at hand was Facebook’s old photo-tagging system, which relied on facial recognition to recognize users in photos and videos. Attorneys representing Illinois residents argued that the platform’s “Suggested Tags” feature violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act. Any Facebook user in Illinois who posted a photo of themselves or was tagged on the platform during a certain time period was eligible to file a claim. Nearly 1.6 million Illinois residents in total were included in the settlement.

A number of Redditors reported receiving their settlement checks via direct deposit or in the mail this week, though not everyone has received their payment yet. “I did mine and my wife’s at the same time and got one yesterday and the other today. This was through Zelle,” noted one user on Reddit.

Some who opted to receive a check in the mail were a little thrown off by its non-descript appearance. “Honestly I almost threw mine away. It was sent in a brown envelope made of recycled paper. Felt just like a paper bag. I thought for sure it was junk mail,” said a user on Reddit.

- Igor Bonifacic
A pregnant worker and labor activist says Amazon made her pick up trash alone

Two Amazon employees have accused the company of retaliating against them for their efforts to organize workers at a warehouse in Liverpool, New York. Ashley Mercer and Jason Main filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on May 17th.

According to Vice News, Amazon tasked Mercer last week with picking up cigarette butts, broken glass and other discarded trash in the parking lot of its SYR1 warehouse in Liverpool. Mercer told the outlet her manager sent her out alone and without water or sunscreen on a day when the temperature went above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Making the optics of the situation worse, Mercer is about six months pregnant, putting her at the end of her second trimester. “Approved for 10 hours parking lot clean-up,” an accommodation report obtained by Vice states. 

On the same day, the company suspended Mercer's partner, Jason Main, who is also named in the NLRB complaint. Amazon later fired him for reportedly not using a step stool for moving merchandise. Mercer and Main have both been involved in agitating on behalf of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) at a variety of warehouses in New York. Additionally, the two have come to work at the Liverpool facility wearing ALU-branded shirts and masks, while Mercer has also done the same at two warehouses in nearby Syracuse, and passed out leaflets at JFK8, the Staten Island facility that became the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the US last month.

“It wasn't until I started mentioning that I am part of Amazon Labor Union that they pulled me out of my position and put me outside the building,” Mercer told Vice. “I think it’s retaliation because I’m a big part of [the ALU] and it feels like as soon as you bring up the union, they treat you differently.”

We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment.

Amazon has yet to recognize the ALU. In April, the company challenged the result of the JFK8 vote, accusing the organization of threatening employees unless they voted to unionize. It also recently fired two employees who were involved in organizing that facility, and ALU itself was born out of the company’s termination of founder Christian Smalls, a former worker at the JFK8 facility.

- Igor Bonifacic
Ubisoft's free-to-play 'Roller Champions' heads to PC and consoles on May 25th

After it first unveiled the game at E3 2019, Ubisoft will finally release Roller Champions on May 25th, the publisher announced today. The free-to-play title will be available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – as well as Xbox Series X/S and PS5 through backward compatibility – to start, with availability on Nintendo Switch, Stadia and Amazon Luna to follow later. Roller Champions supports both cross-platform play and progression, so you can not only group up with your friends no matter where they download the game, but your progress will also carry over between systems.

Roller Champions pits you and two other players against a competing team of three in a variation on classic roller derby. Going into each match, your goal is to be the first team to score five points. You earn a single point or more by skating around an oval track and maintaining control of a ball before taking a shot at the goal. Complicating things is the fact that the players on the opposing team can tackle you to take possession of the ball. Each match lasts about seven minutes, and there’s an external progression system where you can earn gear for your in-game avatar. Ubisoft will sell premium passes players can complete to earn cosmetics that aren’t available through the game’s item shop.

- Kris Holt
Google's Russian division is filing for bankruptcy

Google's Russian division submitted a notice of intention to declare bankruptcy after officials seized its bank account. That "has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations," a Google spokesperson told Reuters.

Like many other companies, Google suspended most of its commercial activities in Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine in February. Despite that and the bankruptcy filing, it will continue to provide Russians with access to free services such as Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps and Android for the time being.

In May last year, Russia fined Google around $82,000 for failing to delete thousands of pieces of content it deemed to be illegal. Authorities then fined the company approximately $98 million in December for similar reasons. That was estimated to be around 5.7 percent of Google's 2021 turnover in Russia.

In recent months, telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor has been pressuring YouTube to lift restrictions on access to Russian media. A Russian TV channel reported last month that bailiffs seized around 1 billion rubles (approximately $15 million) from Google after it declined to restore the station's access to its YouTube account.

While Russia has blocked many other platforms and services, including Google News, it doesn't currently have plans to prevent users in the country from accessing YouTube. It said this week that residents would likely suffer as a result of such a move. Reutersreported that the streaming platform has around 90 million Russian users. 

Russia's minister for digital development also said that, despite testing its own, closed-off version of the internet, the country plans to stay connected to the global network.

- Jon Fingas
New York State AG investigates Discord, Twitch roles in Buffalo mass shooting

New York State wants to understand the part internet services may have played in the deadly Buffalo mass shooting. Attorney General Letitia James is launching investigations into Discord, Twitch, 4chan and 8chan over concerns they let the attacker "discuss and amplify" his plans. It was "chilling and unfathomable" that the shooter could post his intentions months in advance without facing consequences, James said.

The perpetrator reportedly talked about his plans for racism-fuelled violence on Discord, 4chan and 8chan. He tried to livestream the entire attack on Twitch. The service took down the shooter's channel within two minutes and has clamped down on attempts to reshare the video, but that didn't stop others from trying to distribute the video on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. On Discord, meanwhile, the culprit invited others to review his plans half an hour in advance. Both 4chan and 8chan have long focused on an anything-goes approach to content and have been accused of harboring hate speech.

A Discord spokesperson told Engadget the company would cooperate with the investigation. We've also asked Twitch for comment. Discord has a long history of banning extremist chat servers. Likewise, Twitch has previously pulled violent streams and curbed efforts to share the associated clips.

The investigations won't necessarily lead to action against the involved sites. Whether or not they do, the move underscores the pressure on internet services to proactively remove hate and threatening speech, rather than reacting to incidents.

- Igor Bonifacic
Democratic lawmakers want FTC to investigate controversial identity firm ID.me

A group of Democratic lawmakers led by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate ID.me, the controversial identification company best known for its work with the Internal Revenue Service. In a letter addressed to FTC Chair Lina Khan, the group suggests the firm misled the American public about the capabilities of its facial recognition technology.

Specifically, lawmakers point to a statement ID.me made at the start of the year. After CEO Blake Hall said the company did not use one-to-many facial recognition, an approach that involves matching images against those in a database, ID.me backtracked on those claims. It clarified it uses a “specific” one-to-many check during user enrollment to prevent identity theft.

Following that statement, the IRS began to distance itself from ID.me, announcing it would reconsider its use of the platform in late January. It subsequently began allowing taxpayers to authenticate their identity without the use of facial recognition. But as the letter points out, many state and federal agencies continue to require Americans to submit photos and documents to ID.me before they can access vital services, including unemployment insurance.

“Americans have particular reason to be concerned about the difference between these two types of facial recognition,” the senators write of ID.me’s turnaround, noting a one-to-many approach inevitably means millions of people will have their photographs “endlessly” accessed. “Not only does this violate individuals’ privacy, but the inevitable false matches associated with one-to-many recognition can result in applicants being wrongly denied desperately-needed services for weeks or even months as they try to get their case reviewed.”

In making the statements it did, the group is asking the FTC to determine whether ID.me committed “deceptive and unfair business practices.” The company already faces an investigation from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In a statement it shared with Bloomberg, ID.me declined to comment on the specific concerns mentioned in the letter from Senator Wyden. Instead, the company pointed to its track record of preventing unemployment fraud.

“ID.me played a critical role in stopping that attack in more than 20 states where the service was rapidly adopted for its equally important ability to increase equity and verify individuals left behind by traditional options,” the company said. “We look forward to cooperating with all relevant government bodies to clear up any misunderstandings.”

- Devindra Hardawar
Honda shows off its first electric SUV, the Prologue

After announcing the very cute Honda E and a long-term collaboration with GM, Honda has made its EV ambitions clear. But it's still lagging behind most other carmakers—especially its closest rival Toyota, which is rolling out its first mainstream electric car this year. To whet our appetites a bit, Honda has revealed a teaser image of the Prologue, its first electric SUV launching in 2024. And, well... it looks pretty much like what we'd expect from a Honda SUV.

The lone image, which is just a render and not a photo of the Prologue in action, shows off the SUV's clean body lines and beefy tires. The Prologue is a design collaboration between its studios in Los Angeles and Japan, and it was also developed together with GM. There's a bit of old and new here, for sure, but its relatively plain aesthetic makes Toyota's BZ4X look practically radical in comparison.

Honda plans to unveil 30 new EVs by 2030, with expected sales of 2 million units. After kicking off sales of the Prologue in 2024, Honda plans to start producing and selling new EVs based on its e:Architecture in 2026, and it'll have affordable EVs (also developed with GM) in 2027. You'll find the Prologue first in Zero Emissions states, but it should start heading to more states in the US afterwards. 

Honda dealership with EV upgradesHonda

There's only so much we can learn from a single render, but it's still helpful to see that Honda has its eye on the EV ball. The company also plans to bring Level 2 and fast-charging to dealerships around the US, as well as some slightly more modern building designs.

- Jon Fingas
You can finally stream YouTube Music on your Wear OS watch

YouTube Music on Wear OS now works the way you'd expect. As The Vergenotes, Google's music service now streams directly from its Wear OS app, whether you're on LTE or WiFi. You'll need to pair with an Android phone for full functionality (cellular streaming isn't an option for iPhone users), and a Premium subscription is necessary regardless of platform. If you meet those criteria, though, you can leave your phone at home knowing you'll still have access to all your tunes.

The upgrade also lets you add a YouTube Music tile for quick access to the browse section or your most recently played playlist. If you do need offline listening, Smart Downloads will automatically refresh your on-watch library whenever you're connected to WiFi. The streaming upgrade should finish rolling out this week.

First-party music streaming on Wear OS has been problematic, to put it mildly. Google Play Music was available on the platform, but the app didn't carry over when the company shut down the service in 2020 and transitioned to the YouTube offering. YouTube Music came to Wear OS (with offline-only playback) in summer 2021, but it was initially restricted to the Galaxy Watch 4 and didn't come to Wear OS 2 devices until September that year. You've had to turn to Spotify and other third-party services for streaming, and in some cases it wasn't an option at all.

There's plenty of pressure to add streaming, though. Google is releasing the Pixel Watch this fall with optional LTE, and it wouldn't look good if you couldn't stream the company's music service on its official smartwatch. The improved YouTube Music app should ensure a consistent experience when the Pixel wristwear arrives, at least if you're determined to use an all-Google setup.

- Kris Holt
Apple faces AirPods lawsuit after an Amber Alert allegedly caused hearing damage

A lawsuit has been filed against Apple alleging that a boy suffered hearing damage when using his AirPods Pro. A couple from Texas filed the suit, NBC News reports. According to the suit, their then 12-year-old son (referred to as "B.G.") was using AirPods to watch something on his iPhone at a low volume when he received an Amber Alert.

The alert "went off suddenly, and without warning, at a volume that tore apart B.G.’s ear drum, damaged his cochlea and caused significant injuries," the suit said. The boy's parents say he suffered from dizziness, vertigo, nausea and tinnitus following the incident in 2020 and that he'll need to wear a hearing aid for the rest of his life.

They claim AirPods don't "automatically reduce, control, limit or increment notification or alert volumes to a safe level that causes them to emit" and that Apple doesn't provide instructions to limit the volume of alerts to prevent hearing damage. The couple argues that Apple hasn't fixed the problem and if it wasn't aware of the issue, it should have known.

Other Apple users have complained about AirPod volume spikes on the company's support website. Engadget has contacted Apple for comment.

- Igor Bonifacic
Twitter is now testing its Spaces tab on Android too

Last fall, Twitter began testing a dedicated Spaces tab within the iOS version of its mobile app. The tab, as you can probably guess even if you don’t have access to an iPhone, allows users to see a curated list of active live audio rooms, with the option to filter them based on your interests.

Spaces let you be a part of live audio conversations, from anywhere. To help you discover popular Spaces from around the world and search for ones about your interests, we’re testing a Spaces tab –– available on Android and iOS in English only for now. pic.twitter.com/Ru9PaxDonT

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) May 18, 2022

On Wednesday, Twitter announced it was expanding the test to include Android users. If you have access to the trial, you can open the Spaces tab by tapping the newly added microphone icon at the bottom of the interface. As before, the tab is only available in English for the time being.

Since Twitter began testing live audio in late 2020, the company has gone on to iterate on the format at a fast clip. What started as a relatively sparse offering has in recent months gained features like audio recording. This past, Twitter also added the option for users to share co-hosting duties. Those all came as the company worked to give all users the option to host a Space.

- Igor Bonifacic
Hacktivists are spam calling Russian officials and they want your help

The invasion of Ukraine has seen hacktivists from around the world come to the aid of the country in its war against Russia, with groups like Anonymous carrying out DDoS attacks against Kremlin-affiliated websites. But as far as we know, Russian government officials haven’t had to contend with a flood of spam calls. That changed on Wednesday with the launch of a website called WasteRussianTime.today.

Created by a hacktivist collective known as Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade (a reference to Arabic folklore), the website connects two random Russian officials in a three-way call so you can listen to the confusion (and annoyance) that ensues. The group claims its database contains more than 5,000 Russian government phone numbers, including ones linked to the country’s FSB intelligence agency. The group describes its actions as a “civil intervention,” noting “if you are hanging on the phone, you canʼt drop bombs, you canʼt coordinate soldiers, you canʼt make invasion plans.”

Outside of listening, you can’t participate in the call. That’s a deliberate decision the group told Wired it made to protect the identity of anyone who ends up using the website. If you can’t speak to the people on the other end, you won’t have the opportunity to give up identifying information.

How Russia might respond to the robocalls is unclear. When Engadget tried to place a call, an error message came up. “Sorry, we’re currently experiencing some issues with our phones,” it said. “Give us a few moments.” Gizmodo had better luck than us. For them, the system successfully connected a dozen Russian officials with one another, though those calls ended in static.

At the onset of the war, it was expected the Kremlin would go on a digital offensive, using its hacking expertise to weaken western infrastructure. But outside of a few incidents, it’s mostly been Russia on the defensive. In recent weeks, hackers have targeted everything from smart TVs to the country’s largest video platform in protest of the war in Ukraine.

- Jon Fingas
YouTube's player now shows the most popular parts of a video

YouTube is making it easier to find the best moments in a video. The service is updating its desktop and mobile video players with a previously experimental graph that shows the most popular (that is, replayed) segments. You might not have to use guesswork or chapter markers to jump past the fluff and get to the content you're really there to watch.

The company has also teased plans to test an "easier" method of seeking the exact point in a video that you want to play. Rather than simply displaying a thumbnail for a given point, the player will show a visual timeline (below) that can indicate a scene change. The test will come "soon" to Premium subscribers through YouTube's "new" section.

YouTube test with advanced seekingGoogle

The additions join an existing wave of improvements, including an enhanced full-screen mode, auto-generated chapters and single-video looping. These latest upgrades are more targeted, however— YouTube is clearly aware that you might not want to sit through a whole video just to find the snippet you're really looking for.

- Karissa Bell
It's still really easy to game Facebook's algorithm

Meta’s accounting of the most popular content on Facebook continues to be a confusing mess to untangle. The company released the latest version of its “widely viewed content report,” which details some of the most-viewed Facebook posts in the United States.

And, once again, the latest report raises questions about the company’s ability to limit the spread of what Meta euphemistically refers to as “lower-quality posts.” Between January and March of this year, six of the top 20 most popular links on Facebook were from a spammy website that has since been banned by the company for inauthentic behavior.

“In this report, there were pieces of content that have since been removed from Facebook for violating our policies of Inauthentic Behavior,” the company wrote in a blog post. “The removed links were all from the same domain, and links to that domain are no longer allowed on Facebook.”

The links all came from a Vietnam-based “news” site called Naye News. Unfortunately, Facebook didn’t share details about the actual URLs that went viral and were later removed, so there’s not much we can glean about the actual content. What we do know is that Naye News, which as Bloomberg reporter Davey Alba points out has never before appeared in a widely viewed content report, was able to reach a vast number of Facebook users before the company banned it. Links to Naye News appeared six times on the list of the top 20 URLs, including the two top spots. Together, these links got more than 112 million views, according to the report.

This website wasn’t the only source of questionable content that made it into the top most-viewed list. The fourth-most popular link on the list was a YouTube clip from a town hall meeting with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, featuring a nurse making provablytly false claims about COVID-19 treatments.

During a call with reporters, head of Facebook Integrity Anna Stepanov, said that links to the YouTube video were demoted in News Feed after it was debunked by fact checkers. The company also added warning labels to discourage it from being reshared. “Without these features, this link would likely have received even more reach,” Stepanov said.

But even with those measures, the link was still viewed more than 22.1 million times on Facebook. That’s more than the number of views on the original YouTube video, which currently has about 6.5 million views.

Meanwhile, another URL on the report, which got 12.3 million views, is a link to a website called “heaveemotions.com,” that now redirects to a website that appears to be meant to trick visitors into installing malware. On Facebook though, the link originally rendered a preview with meme-style text that reads: “They told me the virus is everywhere. I told them so is God. Can I get an Amen? I Bet you won’t repost.”

This looks like a typical meme but it now links to a website that appears to be filled with malware.Screenshot/ Facebook

It’s not the first time overtly spammy content has appeared in one of these reports. In the last version of this report, the top Facebook Page was one later removed by the company for breaking its rules. Reporter Ryan Broderick later identified the page’s origins as a Sri Lankan content farm.

The reports, which Meta began releasing in part to rebut data suggesting far-right personalities consistently dominate the platform, are one of the only windows the company offers into what’s popular on Facebook. That’s been a key question for researchers trying to study the platform and how information, and misinformation, spreads across it. But researchers have also raised questions about how Meta was compiling these reports, which in the past have surfaced bizarre results.

Notably, Meta now says it’s changing the way it evaluates what content is the most “widely viewed” on its platform. Previous reports identifying the top links on Facebook were based on any public post that contained a URL, even if the was just appended to the body of a text post. This meant that popular Pages could effectively spam their followers with random links — like to a website representing former Green Bay Packers football players — embedded in a text or photo post.

Researchers had widely criticized this approach as a widely distributed text post with a link at the end is a lot different than a link post in which the linked content is fully rendered as a preview. Now, Meta is reversing course. “Moving forward, links will need to render a preview in order to be counted as a view, as that more accurately represents what people are seeing.”

Even so, these reports are still only a limited look at what’s most popular on Facebook. The company says the list of the top 20 most-viewed links — the list that included Naye News and COVID-19 misinformation — “collectively accounted for 0.03% of all Feed content views in the US during Q1 2022.” But as always with Facebook, its sheer size means that even a fraction of a percent can equate to millions of views. At the very least, these reports show that it’s still relatively easy to game Facebook’s algorithms and spread “low quality” content.

- Valentina Palladino
It’s Cooking Week at Engadget!

If we're honest, we're kind of obsessed with food here at Engadget. Senior news editor Billy Steele is a backyard pitmaster and has the finsta to prove it. Editor-in-chief Dana Wollman treats her NYT Cooking recipe box the way gamers treat their backlog. Commerce writer Nicole Lee has channeled her passions into Instant Pot, sous vide and rice cooker experimentations. And my transition into an Italian grandmother is nearly complete with my preference for laboriously homemade pasta sauce over the stuff in store-bought jars. We turn to foodie YouTube and TikTok late at night; we trade recipes in Slack; and we often use this stellar Guy Fieri emoji when things are, as the kids say, chef's kiss.

We live for food when we're not living for tech, so many of us jumped at the opportunity to cook for work. Enter Cooking Week, our first kitchen-focused series, where we explore the intersection of cooking and tech, while also testing out some of the most popular — and wackiest — kitchen gadgets available right now. We dove into the worlds of grills, immersion blenders and, yes, air fryers, and tried out some high-tech appliances that were intimidating at first, but that we eventually mastered.

Long-time Engadget readers will know that we've written about kitchen gadgets before. We've been able to squeeze in mentions of electric kettles and pizza ovens over the years, but we see Cooking Week as our first official love letter to food on Engadget. We hope that you enjoy reading these stories as much as we enjoyed writing them (or, even better, as much as we enjoyed eating the spoils of our testing).

Check out all of the Cooking Week stories right here.

- Kris Holt
CNN is making a documentary about the fall of HQ Trivia

Which of these has greenlit a documentary about HQ Trivia?

Netflix

CNN

Quibi

If you read the headline and correctly chose CNN, congratulations! You've won some internet points, I guess.

An untitled documentary about the trivia app that everyone seemed to be playing a few years ago is scheduled for a 2023 release. As Deadline reports, CNN has lined up a director, Salima Koroma (Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street). 

HQ Trivia, which was built by the creators of Vine, debuted in August 2017 and it initially ran two live trivia games per day. The concept was pretty simple. Answer several questions correctly in a row and you'd split the prize pot. Along with the chance to win cash through a mobile app, charismatic main host Scott Rogowsky helped turn HQ Trivia into a phenomenon. At one point, more than 2.3 million people were playing the game simultaneously.

The good times didn't last, however. Co-founder Colin Kroll died in 2018, while Rogowsky departed in 2019 to host a baseball show on DAZN. The app ran out of money in early 2020 and shut down, though it returned a month later thanks to the help of an anonymous investor.

HQ Trivia is still around, though it now runs just one game per week. The latest edition had a commendable 21,000 players. However, at $1,500, the prize was a far cry from the $300,000 the app offered at one point when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a guest host.

The Ringer also told the story of the app in a podcast called Boom/Bust: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia. A CNN spokesperson told Engadget that the documentary is being developed independently.

It also emerged during Warner Bros. Discovery's upfront presentation that Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico is moving to CNN. The docuseries was initially a CNN+ exclusive, but the high-profile streaming service was killed less than a month after its debut.

Update 5/18 3:07PM ET: Clarifying that the documentary is being developed independently and that it's not based on The Ringer's podcast.

- Jon Fingas
Homeland Security 'pauses' disinformation board three weeks after creating it

The Biden administration may be struggling in its efforts to fight security-related misinformation. The Washington Postsources claim the Department of Homeland Security has "paused" a Disinformation Governance Board just three weeks after its April 27th announcement. Officials reportedly decided to shut down the board May 16th, but that decision appears to be on hold after a last-minute effort to retain board leader Nina Jankowicz. She resigned from the board and the DHS today (May 18th).

While the leakers didn't directly explain why the Disinformation Governance Board was frozen, they claim the White House neither had clear messaging nor a defense against misinformation and threats levelled against Jankowicz. The board was meant to examine approaches for fighting viral lies and had no power over content, but far-right influencers and outlets misrepresented it as a censorship tool and villainized Jankowicz. The campaigns led to harassment and threats against the board leader — in other words, the board was the victim of the very sort of attack it was supposed to prevent.

We've asked the DHS for comment. In a statement to the Post, the department said the board's role had been "grossly mischaracterized" and that Jankowicz had been targeted by "unjustified and vile personal attacks and threats." Previously, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House press secretary Jen Psaki have respectively tried to clarify the board's objectives and debunk falsehoods with little effect.

There is a chance the board could survive depending on a Homeland Security Advisory Council review. If the reports are true, though, the US government may have to rethink its anti-disinformation efforts if they're going to survive both criticism and internal scrutiny.

Update 5/18 2:20PM ET: Homeland Security provided its full statement to Engadget. The department defended both the board and Jankowicz, and noted that its Advisory Council will conduct a "thorough" review to improve its anti-disinformation efforts as well as increase transparency. Final recommendations are due within 75 days. You can read the full statement below.

"DHS created an internal working group called the Disinformation Governance Board to ensure the Department’s disinformation-related work protects free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. It was intended to ensure coordination across the Department’s component agencies as they protect Americans from disinformation that threatens the homeland – including malicious efforts spread by foreign adversaries, human traffickers, and transnational criminal organizations. The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights. However, false attacks have become a significant distraction from the Department’s vitally important work to combat disinformation that threatens the safety and security of the American people.

"To help instill trust in our work, Secretary Mayorkas has asked former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to lead a thorough review and assessment, conducted through the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).  This assessment will focus on answering two pivotal questions. First, how can the Department most effectively and appropriately address disinformation that poses a threat to our country, while protecting free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. Second, how can DHS achieve greater transparency across our disinformation-related work and increase trust with the public and other key stakeholders. The Secretary has requested the HSAC’s final recommendations within 75 days. During the HSAC’s review, the Board will not convene and its work will be paused, but the Department’s critical work across several administrations to address disinformation that threatens the security of our country will continue."

- Kris Holt
TikTok nudges users to credit the videos that inspired their posts

TikTok is rolling out a feature that will make it easier for users to give appropriate credit to a creator who inspired one of their videos. A new button that's rolling out over the next few weeks will allow you to tag, mention and credit a video in the description.

Users have long been able to tag each other, but this is a bigger push to encourage them to give proper credit to the original work. When you riff on someone else's dance move, joke, meme or audio, adding attribution for their TikTok will be more straightforward.

After you create or edit a TikTok, you'll see a new "video" icon on the posting page. Tap that, and you'll be able to choose a video that you've favorited, liked or posted, or that shares the same sound as your TikTok. Once you pick a video that inspired you, TikTok will add it as a mention in the caption. The app will explain the crediting feature after you tap the video icon for the first time. Users will also be notified when one of their videos is tagged in this way.

TikTok's TikTok

"Today, we're introducing new tools to better enable creator credit and equitable attribution for our creator community and content originators," Kudzi Chikumbu, TikTok's creator community director, wrote in a blog post. "These features are an important step in our ongoing commitment to investing in resources and product experiences that support a culture of credit, which is central to ensuring TikTok remains a home for creative expression."

Attribution (or lack thereof) is a thorny issue on TikTok and other platforms. Last June, many Black creators on TikTok went on strike. They stopped sharing dance challenges and instead called out the lack of credit they were receiving in an attempt to gain more recognition.

Rick Lewis, for instance, appeared in one TikTok as though they were about to share a dance they created for a Megan Thee Stallion song, before flipping the bird at the camera and switching to a caption that read "Sike. This app would be nothing without Black people." Their TikTok, inevitably, was co-opted by another creator, who racked up nearly a million views (twice as many as Lewis' original) with their spin on it.

The move follows the rollout of the YouTube Shorts remix feature, which automatically includes attribution for the original video's creator. TikTok's approach, however, will require users to manually add credit for the original work.

Meanwhile, Chikumbu says TikTok is working to lift up the creators of trends through initiatives like its Originators series. The Creator Portal also stresses the importance of including proper attribution for trend originators, including tips on how to find them.

- Billy Steele
Sony’s LinkBuds S are $200 noise-canceling earbuds with Auto Play

It hasn't been a great spring for Sony in terms of new product leaks. The company's new flagship headphones, the WH-1000XM5, broke cover early, as did its latest earbuds. Today, the company officially announced the LinkBuds S: a set of $200 true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) and a host of handy features. Sony says they're designed for a "never off wearing experience," with transparency mode allowing you to tune into your surroundings as needed. 

Joining the open wear LinkBuds that debuted earlier this year, the LinkBuds S have a more "traditional" closed design. The shape is similar to Sony's other recent earbuds, the flagship WF-1000XM4 and the $100 WF-C500. The LinkBuds S are much smaller though, making them more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time, which also serves Sony's mission of all-day use. In fact, the company claims the LinkBuds S are "the world's smallest and lightest, noise-canceling, hi-res" true wireless earbuds. And the IPX4 rating means they can withstand workouts too. 

Inside, 5mm drivers deliver "powerful bass and stunningly clear vocals," according to Sony. The company's Integrated Processor V1, which is also on the WH-1000XM5 headphones, works to maintain sound quality, minimize distortion and bolster noise cancellation. The LinkBuds S also support high-resolution listening via Sony's LDAC codec and DSEE Extreme upscaling. The latter technology recovers finer details that are typically lost to compression of digital audio content. A low-latency mode is on the way for gaming and Sony is working with Niantic to bring spatial audio and head tracking to the AR mobile game Ingress.

Another key difference from the first set of LinkBuds is the addition of ANC. On the LinkBuds S, there's enough noise-blocking ability to reduce background clamor, but Sony is clear the tech isn't as robust as the WF-1000XM4. While this new model doesn't let the outside world in by design, it's equipped with transparency mode to get that job done. What's more, the company's Adaptive Sound Control can be configured to change noise canceling and ambient sound settings based on your activity or location. Plus, Sony's handy Speak-to-Chat feature is available here, which automatically senses your voice, pauses the audio and activates ambient sound mode when you begin to talk. 

Sony LinkBuds SSony

The main feature Sony is hyping for the LinkBuds S is called Auto Play. True to the rumors, this tool automatically plays or resumes audio based on your activity when you put the earbuds in or complete a call. If you're on a walk, for example, you can have a specific playlist selected for that behavior. Auto Play is limited right now in two ways. First, it's only available in the Sony Headphones Connect app on Android right now. The company plans to bring it to iOS in early June. Second, it only works with Spotify and soundscape app Endel. 

For calls, Sony says its Precise Voice Pickup Technology "optimally controls the microphones on both earbuds." Combined with a mesh cover for the mics, the company explains that you can expect clarity walking down a busy street or on a windy day. These claims vary widely from product to product, so we'll be sure to put this through its paces during our review. Other convenience features include compatibility with voice assistants, a full suite of customizable touch controls and support for both Google Fast Pair and Windows Swift Pair. 

In terms of battery life, Sony says you can expect up to six hours of use with active noise cancellation enabled. There's another 14 hours in the charging case too, but the company didn't specify any non-ANC listening times. The case doesn't support wireless charging, but it does offer a quick-charge option. Just five minutes will give you an hour of use. 

The LinkBuds S are up for pre-order starting today with general availability starting May 20th. You'll have black and white color options to choose from at most retailers, but Best Buy will carry an exclusive beige (Ecru) version. This $200 model will sit in the middle of Sony's true wireless lineup, with the flagship WF-1000XM4 at the top and the affordable WF-C500 below. The open design LinkBuds also occupy the mid-range for $20 cheaper, and Sony plans to deliver the Auto Play functionality to that model via firmware update. 

- Nicole Lee
A beginner's guide to smart sous vide

Sous vide cooking has been the province of professional chefs for decades, and for good reason: A temperature-controlled water bath ensures perfectly cooked food. Instead of worrying about whether a steak is medium rare or whether that chicken breast will be dry, simply dial in the desired temperature, dunk in your vacuum-sealed food ("sous vide" is French for "under vacuum"), wait a while and your food will be done to perfection, with little to no guesswork required.

If you haven’t tried this method yet, it’s not as complicated as you might think. Wand-like immersion circulators have been on the market for several years now, making sous vide cooking affordable and accessible to home chefs. Several Instant Pot models even have a sous vide mode that holds the water at a set temperature, though it’s not quite as accurate as dedicated machines. If you’re curious about giving sous vide a go, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing the right machine for you and share some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned through our own experiments.

How to pick a smart sous vide machine

Almost all of the immersion circulators on the market work the same way, so you really can't go wrong whichever you choose. That said, there are a few criteria to keep in mind when comparison shopping. For one, you'll want it to keep an accurate temperature and to maintain that temperature for an extended period of time, especially for foods that take over a day to cook. (This isn't uncommon, especially for tough cuts of meat.) It's better if it's powerful enough to heat up water quickly, though you could always help it along by using hot tap water to start.

AnovaEngadget picks

Several Engadget staffers tend to prefer the sous vide devices from Anova, as the company has a strong track record for precision and the interface is intuitive. Anova offers several different models at varying power levels (and price points). The lower-end Nano, for example, won't heat up water as quickly and doesn't have an adjustable clamp, but it's only $129 and will likely suit most home cooks. If you're a little more ambitious or see yourself cooking a lot of things via sous vide , upgrading to the higher-end Precision Cooker or Precision Cooker Pro might make sense.

We’d recommend the Anova Precision Cooker Nano for most people on account of its affordable price, compact size and intuitive controls. The companion app is helpful as well, as it comes with hundreds of recipes that will get you started on your sous vide journey. The Breville Joule is our runner-up because, while it lacks onboard controls, it’s a little more compact than the Anova, while the companion app has a “visual doneness” guide that lets you know what the food should look like when it’s cooked.

Joule

Another popular choice is the Breville Joule (formerly known as the Chefsteps Joule, until Breville acquired the brand), which is a personal favorite of mine due to its small size. It's a little more powerful than the aforementioned Nano and can heat up water a few minutes faster. I also like that it has a magnetic base, making it easier to attach to certain pots. The one downside is that it lacks onboard controls; the only way to use it is via the companion app. I personally don't find this to be a problem, but if you simply need to be able to see the temperature at a glance and dial it up or down with ease, this might not be for you.

It's also worth mentioning the Monoprice Strata, which is the cheapest of the lot at only $70. There's no WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity here, but it gets the job done all the same.

What else to consider

At a minimum, the other items you need to cook sous vide are a large metal pot (big enough to fill with water) and zipper-lock freezer bags to put the food in. Alternatively, you can use reusable silicone bags such as these from Stasher. Rather than using a vacuum sealer to get rid of air, you would use the water displacement method: Immerse the bagged food in the water while partially unsealed, and water pressure will push the air through the opening. Once everything is mostly underwater, you can seal the bag and it'll stay submerged.

If it still floats, you can stick one or two spoons in the bag, and that will hopefully weigh things down. (J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats also suggests using a large binder clip attached to the bottom of the bag along with a heavy spoon.) If you're concerned about water getting in the bag, you can attach the bag tops to the pot with binder clips, thus keeping the bag upright.

If you're really serious about sous vide, you might want to invest in some specialty equipment. Instead of pots, for example, you could opt for large restaurant-grade plastic containers by Cambro or Rubbermaid. Not only is plastic a better insulator than metal, but there's generally more space for more food, which is handy when you're cooking for a crowd.

Whether you use a pot or a plastic container, it's best to cover the vessel with plastic wrap when cooking for long periods, to keep evaporation to a minimum. Some companies, like Chefsteps, offer custom silicone pot lids that are made specially to accommodate their sous vide cookers. Alternatively, Lopez-Alt offers a much cheaper and more ingenious solution: cover your water in ping pong balls. They'll slow down evaporation.

Rubbermaid

Additionally, while zipper-lock bags work well for most tasks, it's still not a bad idea to get a vacuum sealer along with thicker plastic bags designed specifically for sous vide. For one, this lets you sous vide vegetables or braised meats, which typically require a higher temperature. (Zipper-lock bag seams might fail when it's that hot.) This also lets you freeze a bunch of food, vacuum seal them and sous vide packets straight from the freezer, which is convenient for batch cooking.

You likely already have this at your disposal, but another handy tool is a good skillet to sear your meat. That sous vide device might be able to cook your steak to medium rare, but it won't be able to brown it. A cast iron skillet, on the other hand, will. You could also consider a torch like the Bernzomatic TS8000, and we've seen others use a Searzall — but a cast iron skillet is far more affordable than either option. Of course, if you have a grill, you can use that too.

There are other miscellaneous items that could prove useful. Lopez-Alt likes having a pot lid organizer immersed in the container to help separate several submerged bags. If you want to make custard, yogurt or breakfast cups with your sous vide cooker, you should get yourself some mason jars too.

One more indispensable item worth considering: a trivet to rest your water vessel on so you don't destroy your countertop.

Sous vide recipe resources

Since affordable sous vide cookers have been in the market for a few years now, there’s no shortage of recipes and guidelines online to help you figure out what to do with your newfangled kitchen gadget. The links below are some of our favorites, though bear in mind that a lot of this is based on personal taste. Your mileage may vary.

Anova

It only makes sense that the maker of one of the most popular sous vide machines also has a deep library of sous vide recipes. If you're ever at a loss as to what to make via sous vide, simply peek at this website, where you can search for recipes from professionals and amateurs alike.

Serious Eats

We've mentioned it several times here already in this guide, but Serious Eats truly is a remarkably useful resource for all things sous vide. Its guide to sous vide steak is a favorite among Engadget staffers, as is its take on slow-cooked sous-vide style eggs, which results in some of the best eggs I've ever had.

Chefsteps

Years before making the Joule, Chefsteps made a name for itself as a cooking school with a heavy emphasis on food science, tech and molecular gastronomy. That's probably why the sous vide recipes from Chefsteps are some of the more creative ones we've seen. One recipe, for example, teaches you how to make that perfect chicken breast along with the perfect accompaniment for said chicken breast — perhaps a crunchy apple fennel salad and a buttery carrot puree. Other favorite recipes include wonderfully tender salmon filets, juicy pork chops and Chefsteps' own interpretation of the "sous vide egg bites" you sometimes find in certain Starbucks shops.

Sous Vide at Home

This is actually a cookbook from the people behind the Nomiku WiFi sous vide machine (which has since been discontinued), but the recipes in it will work with any sous vide device. Not only does it have beautiful photographs, but it also offers fantastic recipes like jerk chicken wings, duck confit and chocolate pots du creme.

Other noteworthy recipes:

Gooey apple pie

Overnight sous vide bacon

Turkey porchetta (Turchetta)

Yogurt

Eggs Benedict

Sous vide pork ribs

Rump roast

Sous vide alternativesInstant Pot Smart WiFiInstant Pot / Best Buy

Aside from immersion circulators like the ones mentioned here, you could also opt for multi-purpose appliances that offer sous vide-like functions. Several Instant Pots, for example, offer such a feature. They include the Instant Pot Pro, Duo Plus, Pro Plus, Duo Crisp and Max. Unfortunately, however, they do not circulate the water like the aforementioned immersion circulators, and the temperatures aren’t quite as precise (which is a definite downside if you need something cooked to a specific temperature). But if you don’t really care about that, or you just want to dabble occasionally in sous vide, this might be a viable option.

If you’re dead set on a multi-tasking appliance and you have the money to spend, consider the Anova Precision Oven. Thanks to its use of steam, you can indeed use it to cook foods via sous vide but without the need for plastic bags. It also uses a fan to circulate the moist air around the food and a probe thermometer helps keep foods at a precise temperature. And, of course, the Precision Oven can be used as a regular oven as well, and is great for baking breads and bagels. It is, however, quite expensive at $600 and takes up a lot of counter space.

Images: Will Lipman for Engadget (Anova / holiday light background)

- Dan Goodin
2 vulnerabilities with 9.8 severity ratings are under exploit. A 3rd looms
2 vulnerabilities with 9.8 severity ratings are under exploit. A 3rd looms

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Malicious hackers, some believed to be state-backed, are actively exploiting two unrelated vulnerabilities—both with severity ratings of 9.8 out of a possible 10—in hopes of infecting sensitive enterprise networks with backdoors, botnet software, and other forms of malware.

The ongoing attacks target unpatched versions of multiple product lines from VMware and of BIG-IP software from F5, security researchers said. Both vulnerabilities give attackers the ability to remotely execute malicious code or commands that run with unfettered root system privileges. The largely uncoordinated exploits appear to be malicious, as opposed to benign scans that attempt to identify vulnerable servers and quantify their number.

First up: VMware

On April 6, VMware disclosed and patched a remote code execution vulnerability tracked as CVE-2022-22954 and a privilege escalation flaw tracked as CVE-2022-22960. According to an advisory published on Wednesday by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, “malicious cyber actors were able to reverse engineer the updates to develop an exploit within 48 hours and quickly began exploiting the disclosed vulnerabilities in unpatched devices.”

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- Beth Mole
North Korea’s COVID outbreak hits over 1.7M; WHO is “deeply concerned”
People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a military parade at the Seoul Railway Station on May 4, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea.

Enlarge / People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a military parade at the Seoul Railway Station on May 4, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea. (credit: Getty | Chung Sung-Jun)

A mushrooming COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea has reached over 1.7 million cases, with nearly 233,000 new cases reported on Wednesday alone, according to state media reports. It's a startling rise given that North Korea claimed to have zero COVID-19 cases a week ago.

But now the secretive, authoritarian country is acknowledging that the pandemic virus has been spreading "explosively" in since late April. Many experts have interpreted the admission as a sign of a dire situation in the country and a plea for international aid. North Korea has a weak health care system, and many of its people are undernourished due to an ongoing food crisis. Moreover, the country previously shunned offers of vaccines from the United Nations-backed COVAX program and China, leaving its population unvaccinated.

After North Korea acknowledged the outbreak for the first time last Thursday, South Korea offered aid, including vaccines. But North Korea has reportedly not responded. But, the country may have accepted aid from its closest ally, China. According to unnamed diplomats who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, three North Korean cargo planes flew to the Chinese city of Shenyang on Monday, returning the same day carrying basic medical supplies.

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- Samuel Axon
Apple details new iPhone features like door detection, live captions

Door detection will use the lidar scanner and machine learning to identify doors and relay information about their location, labeling, and more to blind or low-vision users. [credit: Apple ]

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is Thursday, so Apple took to its newsroom blog this week to announce several major new accessibility features headed to the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac.

One of the most widely used will likely be Live Captions, which is coming to iPhone, Mac, and iPad. The feature shows AI-driven, live-updating subtitles for speech coming from any audio source on the phone, whether the user is "on a phone or FaceTime call, using a video conferencing or social media app, streaming media content, or having a conversation with someone next to them."

The text (which users can resize at will) appears at the top of the screen and ticks along as the subject speaks. Additionally, Mac users will be able to type responses and have them read aloud to others on the call. Live Captions will enter public beta on supported devices ("iPhone 11 and later, iPad models with A12 Bionic and later, and Macs with Apple silicon") later this year.

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- John Timmer
A collision strips dark matter, starts star formation
The dark matter-poor galaxies are so diffuse that you can see right through them.

Enlarge / The dark matter-poor galaxies are so diffuse that you can see right through them. (credit: NASA, ESA, and P. van Dokkum)

The Universe's first galaxies are thought to have formed at sites where a lot of dark matter coalesced, providing the gravitational pull to draw in enough regular matter to create stars. And, to date, it's impossible to explain the behavior of almost all the galaxies we've observed without concluding that they have a significant dark matter component.

Almost, but not all. Recently, a handful of galaxies have been identified that are dim and diffuse, and appear to have relatively little dark matter. For a while, these galaxies couldn't be explained, raising questions about whether the observations had provided an accurate picture of their composition. However, researchers recently identified one way the galaxies could form: A small galaxy could be swallowed by a larger one that keeps the dark matter and spits out the stars.

Now, a second option has been proposed, based on the behavior of dark matter in a galaxy cluster. This model may explain a series of objects found near the dark matter-poor galaxies. And it may suggest that galaxy-like objects could be formed without an underlying dark matter component.

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- Jon Brodkin
Texas social media law will cause “chaos” online, Supreme Court is told
US and Texas flags seen in daytime outside the Texas State Capitol Building.

Enlarge / US and Texas flags flying outside the Texas State Capitol building in Austin. (credit: Getty Images | PA Thompson)

More than two dozen groups have urged the US Supreme Court to block a Texas law that prohibits large social media companies from moderating content based on a user's "viewpoint."

The Texas law, HB20, "results in blatant violations of the First Amendment rights of platform providers," said a Supreme Court brief filed yesterday. The law taking effect means that "chaos will ensue online with disastrous and irreparable consequences," the brief said, continuing:

With platforms unable to effectively moderate scammers, messages preying on vulnerable populations, including the elderly, will proliferate online. The uptick of this content will predictably result in yet more people being tricked into sending money to scammers or disclosing financial information, leading to identity theft and financial ruin. Platforms will be powerless to regulate speech praising terrorists and those who engage in murderous campaigns, with horrendous potential ramifications if even a single person engages in copycat activity. And they may be precluded from protecting children from age-inappropriate content, including reprehensible messages encouraging our youth to engage in self-destructive activities.

The brief was signed by 20 tech-industry and advocacy groups, including the Chamber of Progress; Anti-Defamation League; Connected Commerce Council; Consumer Technology Association; Engine Advocacy; Family Online Safety Institute; HONR Network Inc.; Information Technology & Innovation Foundation; Interactive Advertising Bureau; IP Justice; LGBT Tech Institute; Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Hispanic Media Coalition; Our Vote Texas; Software and Information Industry Association; Stop Child Predators; TechNet; Texas State Conference of the NAACP; and the Washington Center for Technology Policy Inclusion.

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- Beth Mole
Shkreli released from prison to halfway house after serving
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a congressional hearing.

Enlarge / Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a congressional hearing. (credit: CSPAN)

Infamous ex-pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli has been released from federal prison after serving less than five years of a seven-year sentence for a securities and wire fraud conviction. He is now moving into a US Bureau of Prisons halfway house at an undisclosed location in New York until September 14, 2022.

Shkreli was convicted in August 2017 on two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in connection to what federal prosecutors called a Ponzi-like scheme involving two hedge funds Shkreli managed. In March 2018, a federal judge sentenced him to seven years, which he was serving in minimum security federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.

His early release—slightly more than four years after his sentencing—reflects time shaved off for good behavior in prison, plus completion of education and rehabilitation programs, according to CNBC. It also includes a credit for the roughly six months he spent in jail prior to his sentencing.

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- Andrew Cunningham
Microsoft previews a new, totally redesigned Outlook for Windows app
The new Outlook client for Windows will unify the web and offline clients—when it's done, anyway.

Enlarge / The new Outlook client for Windows will unify the web and offline clients—when it's done, anyway. (credit: Microsoft)

For years now, Microsoft has been planning behind the scenes to unify its disparate Outlook clients across the web, Windows, and macOS. Today, that goal moved one step closer to completion with the introduction of a new Outlook client for Windows users that closely mirrors the interface and functionality of the Outlook web client.

The new app is available to Office Insiders in the Beta channel who have work or school Microsoft 365 accounts. Regular Microsoft accounts aren't currently supported. This appears to be the same version of the Outlook client that leaked to the public a couple of weeks ago.

A unified Outlook client, also known as "One Outlook" or "Project Monarch," will be an especially welcome change for Mac users. The Mac version of Outlook has always looked different from and been less fully featured than the Windows client, though the current situation is much better than the bad old days of Microsoft Entourage.

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- Sam Machkovech
WarCraft Arclight Rumble impressions: High production values, questionable costs
Welcome to the mini-styled smartphone-RTS universe of <em>WarCraft Arclight Rumble</em>.

Enlarge / Welcome to the mini-styled smartphone-RTS universe of WarCraft Arclight Rumble. (credit: Blizzard)

Blizzard Entertainment's first real-time strategy game for smartphones, WarCraft Arclight Rumble, is slated to launch on iOS and Android later this year, with a tech beta going live sooner in various regions. Ahead of that launch, we were invited to test the game's current version for a couple of days, and we can confirm that Blizzard is still pretty good at designing games for phones. (Even if they've brought at least one related gaffe upon themselves.)

In Arclight Rumble's case, however, a certain chicken-and-egg question comes up: When comparing this game to the wildly popular Clash Royale, exactly who is ripping off whom?

CGI intro emphasizes that you're tossing plastic figurines onto a table, which then come to life and do battle on your behalf. Gotta... WarCraft 'em all? [credit: Blizzard ]

Both games overlap, as Blizzard's new smartphone game adopts more than a few of Supercell's well-trodden, touchscreen-friendly conventions. Yet Supercell's game arguably borrows a lot from the original WarCraft series on PC—not just in its adherence to RTS traditions but also its medieval, primary-color aesthetic.

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- Ron Amadeo
Google Russia forced to declare bankruptcy after bank account seizure
The Google doodle for Russia National Day 2016.

Enlarge / The Google doodle for Russia National Day 2016. (credit: Google)

Google's going... out of business?! That's apparently the case in Russia. As Reuters reports, Google's Russia subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy after "the authorities seized its bank account, making it impossible to carry on operations." Reuters has a statement from Google:

The Russian authorities' seizure of Google Russia's bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations. Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy.

A regulatory filing showed Google Russia has been expecting to file for bankruptcy since March 22. The division did $2 billion in revenue last year, but that doesn't matter much when authorities take your entire bank account.

Unlike many tech companies that have abandoned Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Google has tried to keep doing business in the country. Heavy hitters like Google Search, YouTube, Maps, Gmail, and Google Play are all still running in Russia. Google's most important product, the ad platform, was shut down on March 3 in Russia after the Russian government started demanding it censor ads about the war. Over the next few days in March, the big four credit card companies all pulled out of Russia, making normal business transactions very difficult. Google cited this "payment system disruption" as the reason for shutting down Google Play paid apps.

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- Jon Brodkin
Twitter board tells Elon Musk: We will not alter the deal
Twitter's bird-shaped logo on the outside of the company's headquarter building. The camera angle also shows nearby tree branches, making it appear as if the bird is sitting on a branch or flying through the branches.

Enlarge / The Twitter logo is seen at the company's headquarters on April 26, 2022, in downtown San Francisco, California. (credit: Getty Images | Amy Osborne)

With Elon Musk waffling on his commitment to buy Twitter for $44 billion, Twitter's board of directors yesterday said it intends to enforce the merger agreement at the original price.

"The Board and Mr. Musk agreed to a transaction at $54.20 per share. We believe this agreement is in the best interest of all shareholders. We intend to close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement," the Twitter board said in a statement reported by CNN and other media outlets. Twitter on Tuesday also released a preliminary proxy statement laying out reasons shareholders should approve the deal.

"Twitter is committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable," the company said in a press release announcing the proxy statement.

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- Kyle Orland
We made a PlayStation Plus explainer that’s better than Sony’s [Updated]
Layers upon layers.

Layers upon layers.

[Update: Added tables outlining what types and quantities of games are available at each tier.]

Since Sony announced its upcoming transition to a new, multi-tiered PlayStation Plus subscription service in March, the company has tried to explain that service's many benefits with thousands of (sometimes confusing) words across two blog posts and an FAQ. We have tried to break down those benefits with our own posts comprising thousands more (hopefully less confusing) words.

As we've struggled to make sense of the new offerings, though, we've found ourselves wanting a more concise, readable summary that breaks down each tier of the new PlayStation Plus at a glance. And we figured if we wanted that kind of quick reference, some of our readers might, too.

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- Jennifer Ouellette
Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany goes green in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law trailer

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, starring Tatiana Maslany, starts streaming on August 17 on Disney+.

Marvel has released the first trailer for its latest spinoff series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. Bonus: Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Bruce Banner/Hulk and teams up with She-Hulk, played by Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany. Marvel also announced that it has begun production in Atlanta on Echo, a nine-episode spinoff series centered on the deaf gang leader Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who was introduced in last year's Hawkeye.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has described the series as a "half-hour legal comedy" (with superheroes) and said it would hew closely to John Byrne's take on the character in the comics. That would be The Sensational She-Hulk series, known for its metafictional approach, in which She-Hulk occasionally broke the fourth wall, walking through ads and even arguing with Byrne as the writer. The character has been a member of The Avengers, the Fantastic Force, and S.H.I.E.L.D., and it's expected that She-Hulk will eventually appear in the MCU films.

Per the official premise: "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law follows Jennifer Walters as she navigates the complicated life of a single, 30-something attorney who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk." In addition to Ruffalo's "Smart Hulk," Tim Roth will reprise his role as Emil Blonsky/the Abomination from 2008's The Incredible Hulk, and Benedict Wong will be back as Wong, most recently seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Jameela Jamil plays Titania, a super-strong rival of SheHulk; Ginger Gonzaga plays Walters' best friend; and Renee Elise Goldsberry plays Amelia.

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- Dan Goodin
New Bluetooth hack can unlock your Tesla—and all kinds of other devices
New Bluetooth hack can unlock your Tesla—and all kinds of other devices

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

When you use your phone to unlock a Tesla, the device and the car use Bluetooth signals to measure their proximity to each other. Move close to the car with the phone in hand, and the door automatically unlocks. Move away, and it locks. This proximity authentication works on the assumption that the key stored on the phone can only be transmitted when the locked device is within Bluetooth range.

Now, a researcher has devised a hack that allows him to unlock millions of Teslas—and countless other devices—even when the authenticating phone or key fob is hundreds of yards or miles away. The hack, which exploits weaknesses in the Bluetooth Low Energy standard adhered to by thousands of device makers, can be used to unlock doors, open and operate vehicles, and gain unauthorized access to a host of laptops and other security-sensitive devices.

When convenience comes back to bite us

“Hacking into a car from hundreds of miles away tangibly demonstrates how our connected world opens us up to threats from the other side of the country—and sometimes even the other side of the world,” Sultan Qasim Khan, a principal security consultant and researcher at security firm NCC Group, told Ars. “This research circumvents typical countermeasures against remote adversarial vehicle unlocking and changes the way we need to think about the security of Bluetooth Low Energy communications.”

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- Scharon Harding
Acer’s new portable monitors can make 2D look like 3D
Acer's SpatialLabs View portable monitor.

Enlarge / Acer's SpatialLabs View portable monitor. (credit: Acer)

Good portable monitors improve your computing experience by providing more screen real estate. But two 4K portable monitors announced today, Acer's SpatialLabs View and SpatialLabs View Pro, have a trick up their sleeves: making content look like it's coming out of the screen. Using Acer's proprietary hardware-software solution, SpatialLabs, the monitors can convert 2D content, like supported games, photos, and CAD designs, into stereoscopic 3D.

Certified by Adobe and Autodesk, SpatialLabs uses a specialized optical lens, two eye-tracking cameras, and AI to make 2D work look 3D without pesky glasses or other clunky headgear. SpatialLabs works by creating a set of images for each eye and projecting them through the optical lens to where you're looking.

Acer's idea is that creators, like CAD designers, 3D animators, and developers, quickly see how their work looks in 3D. The stereoscopic 3D environment doesn't require time-consuming rendering, so it can provide a helpful and more immersive way to preview work.

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- Samuel Axon
MacBook buying guide: The right M1 laptop for each use case
Two 2021 MacBook Pro models side-by-side.

Enlarge / Two 2021 MacBook Pro models side-by-side. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Over the past two years, Apple has completed an overhaul of its entire laptop lineup. That means it’s as good a time as any for people who have been holding out on upgrading an older MacBook to dive in.

But which MacBook is the best one to pick up? That depends a lot on your specific use case, and that’s what we’ll explore here today.

Typically, buying guides pick the diamonds out of the rough—the “rough” being hundreds of subpar products. But when recommending a MacBook, it’s a simpler affair. There aren’t that many of them to pick from. But because they typically cannot be upgraded, there are some consequential choices you’ll need to make before buying.

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- Ars Contributors
How to build a wormhole in just 3 (nearly impossible) steps
How to build a wormhole in just 3 (nearly impossible) steps

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

You’ve got yourself a fancy new spaceship and you want to start on a five-year tour of the galaxy. But there's a problem: Space is big. Really big. And even at the fastest speeds imaginable, it takes eons of crawling across the interstellar voids to get anywhere interesting.

The solution? It’s time to build a wormhole.

A shortcut. A tunnel. A bridge through spacetime that lets you skip through all that boring space travel and speed to the fun stuff. It’s a staple of science-fiction, and it’s rooted in science-fact. How difficult could it be?

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- Jennifer Ouellette
For All Mankind sets its alternate timeline sights on Mars in S3 trailer

The space race shifts to Mars in For All Mankind S3.

The fictional battle for the domination of space between the US and Russia shifts its focus from the Moon to Mars for the third season of For All Mankind. Ars staffers have dubbed this relatively underappreciated gem "Moon Show," and Apple TV+ has now released the official trailer for the show's third outing on the streaming platform.

(Some spoilers for the prior two seasons.)

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- Beth Mole
FDA obliterates formula maker’s defense of contamination linked to baby deaths
The Abbott manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, on May 13, 2022.

Enlarge / The Abbott manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, on May 13, 2022. (credit: Getty | Jeff Kowalsky)

Formula maker Abbott continues to firmly deny that its infant formulas sickened four babies, killing two. The denial is despite the same dangerous bacteria that sickened the infants—Cronobacter sakazakii—being found at the company's formula factory in Sturgis, Michigan, which the Food and Drug Administration alleges was producing formula "under insanitary conditions." And at least one container of Abbott's formula tested positive for the same Cronobacter sakazakii strain found infecting one of the infants.

Still, Abbott argues that the link hasn't been confirmed, and its formula isn't to blame. In a lengthy Twitter thread on May 13, the company made the blunt assertion: "The formula from this plant did not cause these infant illnesses."

But that is a brazen and misleading claim, according to the Food and Drug Administration. In a press briefing Monday evening, agency officials thoroughly dismantled Abbott's defense.

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- Samuel Axon
iOS 15.5 and macOS 12.4 bring updates to Podcasts, digital payments, and more
Apple's Studio Display received a firmware update today to improve its webcam performance.

Enlarge / Apple's Studio Display received a firmware update today to improve its webcam performance. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Apple released new software updates for all of its platforms on Tuesday. That includes the following:

iOS 15.5 for iPhones and the iPod touch iPadOS 15.5 for iPads macOS 12.4 for Macs watchOS 8.6 for the Apple Watch tvOS 15.5 for the Apple TV HomePod Software 15.5 for HomePods Studio Display Firmware 15.5 for the Studio Display Swift Playgrounds 4.1 for iPad and Mac

These are almost certainly the last updates before the company's annual developer conference, which is scheduled to kick off on June 6. Among other things, Apple will announce iOS and iPadOS 16, macOS 13, and watchOS 9 at the conference, but those updates won't arrive until later this year.

iOS 15.5

Today's iOS update offers just enough new user-facing features to earn that 15.x label instead of 15.x.x, which is usually reserved for bug fixes and the like.

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- Ron Amadeo
Google backtracks on legacy GSuite account shutdown, won’t take user emails
A battered and bruised version of the Google logo.

Enlarge / An artist's rendering of Google's current reputation. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Google finally launched a solution for people with "legacy" GSuite Google accounts. After initially threatening to shut down free GSuite accounts if users didn't start paying for the service, Google has completely backed off. Once users jump through some sign-up hoops, Google will allow their ~16-year-old accounts to continue functioning. You'll even get to keep your email address.

The saga so far, if you haven't been following, is that Google has a custom-domain user account service, currently called "Google Workspace" and previously called "G Suite" and "Google Apps." The service is mostly a normal Google account that lets you use an email that ends in your custom domain name rather than "@gmail.com." Today this service is aimed at businesses and costs money each month, but that was not always the case. From 2006 to 2012, custom domain Google accounts were free and were even pitched at families as a geeky way to have an online Google identity.

In January, some bean counter at Google apparently noticed this tiny group of longtime users was technically getting a paid service for free and decided this was unacceptable. Google posted an announcement in January declaring these people "Legacy GSuite users" and basically told them, "Pay up or lose your account." These users signed up for a free Google service and stored data on it for as long as 16 years, and there were no indications it would ever be charged. Google held this decade-plus of user data hostage, telling users to start paying business rates for Workspace or face an account shutdown.

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- Alice Newcome-Beill
The best gaming headset deals you can get right now
Logitech’s budget-friendly G435 boasts color and comfort, as well as a host of solid features. | Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

A good gaming headset is practically a necessity these days. Clean and precise audio is essential for competitive gaming, allowing you not just to pinpoint your enemies but to communicate effectively with your teammates. Moreover, recent developments in spatial audio and virtual surround sound have allowed headsets to meet — and occasionally surpass — more expensive audio setups, allowing even the most budget-conscious gamer to obtain a competitive edge at a fraction of the price.

While you could always invest in a massive pair of speakers, they’re likely to earn you the dubious distinction of the worst roommate of the decade. Thankfully, the right headset will allow you to keep the running and gunning to yourself, which is why we’ve...

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- Alex Heath
Meta freezes hiring for shopping team, Messenger Kids, and other products
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Meta is pulling back its investments in a number of products, including the teams it spun up early in the pandemic to compete with Zoom and build shopping features, The Verge has learned. In addition to a hiring freeze for certain engineering roles, the company also recently paused the hiring of recruiters and low-level data scientists.

While the hiring freezes have caused employees to fear that layoffs are around the corner, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an internal all-hands meeting last Thursday that job cuts are not being planned. “I can’t sit here and make a permanent ongoing promise that as things shift that we won’t have to reconsider that,” Zuckerberg said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by The Verge. “But what I...

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- Emma Roth
Survey shows Netflix is losing more long-term subscribers
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

More long-term Netflix subscribers are canceling their subscriptions, according to a report from The Information. Survey data viewed by the outlet revealed that subscribers who have been with the service for more than three years accounted for 13 percent of cancellations in the first quarter of 2022.

The Information says it got its data from Antenna, an analytics firm that gathers data from 5 million Americans who share their streaming subscriptions anonymously. The data showed that overall cancellations hit 3.6 million people last quarter, an increase from the 2.5 million cancellations in the past five quarters.

As the number of cancellations overall has grown, The Information reports that new users are accounting for a smaller share...

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- Umar Shakir
Now non-Tesla EVs can use its Superchargers in the UK, Spain, Sweden, and Austria
Electrc car charging - London Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Tesla is expanding its open Supercharger pilot program in Europe that lets owners of non-Tesla EVs take advantage of the company’s extensive charging network. Previously, the pilot consisted of select stations in The Netherlands, Norway, and France, but now it’s also available in the UK, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, and Austria.

Non-Tesla owners in both Belgium and Germany originally could only take advantage of Tesla’s network if traveling to a country that has the open Superchargers. With Belgium now added to the program, German residents remain the only oddity that can use them outside of its borders, but not domestically.

Non-Tesla vehicles can now charge at select Superchargers in Austria, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and the UK via the...

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- Allison Johnson
The best smartphone you can buy for under $500

You can get a great smartphone at this price, whether you want an iPhone, a 90Hz screen, or 5G support

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- Corin Faife
Costa Rican president says country is ‘at war’ with Conti ransomware group
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Ransomware — and particularly the Conti ransomware gang — has become a geopolitical force in Costa Rica. On Monday, the new Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves – who began his four-year term only ten days ago – declared that the country was ”at war” with the Conti cybercriminal gang, whose ransomware attack has disabled agencies across the government since April.

In a forceful statement made to press on May 16th, President Chaves also said that Conti was receiving help from collaborators within the country, and called on international allies to help.

“We’re at war and this is not an exaggeration,” Chaves told local media. “The war is against an international terrorist group, which apparently has operatives in Costa Rica. There are very...

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- Emma Roth
NY attorney general is investigating Twitch, Discord, and 4chan over Buffalo shooting
Vigil Held In New York City For Victims Of Buffalo Hate Crime Shooting New York Attorney General Letitia James. | Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday that her office has launched an investigation into Twitch, Discord, 4chan, 8kun (previously 8chan), and other web and social media platforms in response to the racist attack in Buffalo, New York. The investigation will focus on “platforms that may have been used to stream, promote, or plan the event.”

James is focusing her attention on the platforms the shooter used to “discuss and amplify” the attack. The gunman reportedly planned his attack in a private server on Discord before the shooting. In a document written by the shooter, he mentions using and getting influenced by both 4chan and 8chan, two sites known for a lack of moderation.

“As we continue to mourn and honor the...

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- Mitchell Clark
Here’s how Microsoft’s new One Outlook email app will work
The new Outlook will feature support for Loop components. | Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has announced the beta for the new Outlook for Windows, which will make the desktop email client a lot more like the web version. While screenshots and an entire build of the app were recently leaked, Microsoft’s announcement gives us a good look at what kind of features we can expect to see coming to our inboxes.

According to Microsoft’s Tuesday post, Outlook will be getting quite a few new features in addition to an updated design. For starters, it’ll integrate with Loop, Microsoft’s system for collaborating on things like polls, task lists, and more throughout Office. There’s also a new system for attaching files. If you’ve got something stored in the cloud, you can type the “@” symbol and then the filename, and you’ll get a...

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- Charles Pulliam-Moore
Marvel Studios is licensing Stan Lee’s likeness from the company he sued before his death
Stan Lee as he appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron. | Image: Marvel Studios

Even though Stan Lee has been dead since 2018, a new deal between Marvel Studios and POW! Entertainment may be a sign that the legendary comics creator’s going to be appearing in more than a few Marvel-branded projects in the near future.

POW! Entertainment, the production house Stan Lee co-founded in 2001 and subsequently sued in 2018 for allegedly forging his signature on legal documents, has entered a licensing agreement with Genius Brands and Marvel Studios granting the Hollywood giant the right to use Lee’s likeness in its upcoming projects. In a press release about the 20-year deal, Genius Brands CEO and chairman Andy Heyward expressed feelings of pride and stewardship for “the incredibly valuable rights to Stan Lee’s name,...

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- Jasmine Hicks
Fewer Americans think Big Tech should have more regulations
capitoldome-congress

How people feel about Big Tech has changed since last year.

A new study from the Pew Research Center found that fewer people in the US want more regulations for Big Tech companies. This decline, which spans across the political spectrum, showed that 44 percent of Americans are in favor of more government regulation compared to 56 percent of those surveyed last year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all in favor of less regulation; for example, 32 percent of liberal Democrats surveyed say that the current amount of regulation is just right compared to the 23 percent who thought so in 2021. However, 27 percent of moderate or liberal Republicans do support less regulation, up from 13 percent, and 36 percent of conservative...

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- Adamya Sharma
Huawei AppGallery flaw let’s you download paid Android apps for free

Huawei P40 AppGallery

A flaw in Huawei’s AppGallery can be exploited to download paid Android apps for free. The issue remains unresolved weeks after a developer brought it to Huawei’s attention.

A newfound vulnerability in the Huawei AppGallery makes it possible for anyone to download paid apps for free.

- Curtis Joe

The Nintendo Switch is a special console. Unlike its predecessor the Wii U, the Switch provides a great handheld experience on top of its capacity as a gaming console. To experience this for yourself, you’ll need to know how to take advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s docked mode. Let’s go over how to connect a Nintendo Switch to your TV using the included dock.

Read more: How to turn off the Nintendo Switch (and its controllers)

- Curtis Joe

One of the glorious advantages of PC gaming is the seemingly endless library of titles optimized through Steam. Your library of available titles expands even further once you consider other platforms like Origin and the Epic Games Store. If you’re switching over to PC gaming for the first time but are used to using a controller, don’t worry! Many people choose to game on a controller rather than using their mouse and keyboard; in fact, it can often be an advantage. For example, some shooting games like Halo Infinite, Overwatch, and Call of Duty: Warzone have built-in “aim assist” to help you track enemies when using a controller. Let’s go over how to connect your Nintendo Switch Pro Controller to a PC.

Read more: How to turn off the Nintendo Switch (and its controllers)

- Adam Birney

Online meetings can be a bit awkward, especially when trying to time when to interject when you have something to say. Instead of abruptly shouting into the microphone, you can raise a virtual hand, signaling to the host that you are ready to speak. Here’s how to raise your hand in Zoom.

Read more: How to set up and host a Zoom meeting

- Frederick Blichert
Sam Raimi movies ranked (including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness)
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - best sam raimi movies ranked Credit: Disney

Cult auteur Sam Raimi was one of the first filmmakers to prove the viability of the modern superhero blockbuster with his celebrated 2002 Spider-Man and its sequels. The genre has grown and shifted a lot in the decades since, but he’s now back in the game, directing the MCU’s latest outing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

See also: Every M. Night Shyamalan movie ranked

- Matt Horne
Get the Galaxy Tab S8 for $150 with trade-in, and more great tablet deals
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus rotate display on desk Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Tablets haven’t replaced laptops like some predicted they would, but they’re still popular gadgets for work and play on the go. Apple keeps improving the iPad line, and Amazon’s Fire tablets are as affordable as ever. We’ve tracked down some of the best tablet deals available right now to help you choose.

See also: Best tablet guide

- Matt Horne
Rare $250 price drop on the Google Pixel 5, and more Google Pixel deals
Google Pixel 5 in hand sunset front 1 Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The Google Pixel family has long had a list of features that make it a go-to for die-hard fans. Whether it’s the vanilla Android experience or the powerful camera, the Pixel packs some features that set it apart from the pack. As Android nerds, we’re always on the lookout for Google Pixel deals.

See Also: Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5a

- C. Scott Brown
Amazon refreshes Fire 7 tablet with USB-C, finally
Amazon Fire 7 Tablet 2022 Credit: Amazon The new Amazon Fire 7 tablet for 2022 has a USB-C port, finally. Amazon also upgraded the processor, RAM, and battery life. However, the tablet is also more expensive, starting at $59.

For years now, the smallest and cheapest Amazon tablet has been the company’s best seller. Its incredibly low price of just $49 no doubt helped the tablet be a success. However, the last time the device got a refresh was in 2019, so it’s been overdue for some love.

Thankfully, Amazon issued a 2022 refresh for the Amazon Fire 7 tablet today. Most notably, the tablet finally has a USB-C port for charging. Since its inception, the Fire 7 has had the long-outdated Micro-USB port instead, so this is a welcome change.

- Eric Zeman
Acer Chromebook Spin 714 hands-on: The next step in pro Chromebooks

The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is one of many products announced by the company at its “next@Acer” event. This convertible Chromebook is aimed squarely at tech lovers who desire a machine that both works hard and plays hard. With a 14-inch screen, the latest 12th gen Intel processors, and high-grade video call capabilities, it can easily bridge the work and home divide. Find out what the machine is like in our early Acer Chromebook Spin 714 preview.

Pick your power

Acer Chromebook Spin 714 right profile

- C. Scott Brown
Wallpaper Wednesday: More great phone wallpapers for all to share (May 18)
Wallpaper Wednesday 2022 05 18 Credit: C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

Welcome to Wallpaper Wednesday! In this weekly roundup, we’ll give you a handful of Android wallpapers you can download and use on your phone, tablet, or even your laptop/PC. The images will come from folks here at Android Authority as well as our readers. All are free to use and come without watermarks. File formats are JPG and PNG, and we’ll provide images in both landscape and portrait modes, so they’ll be optimized for various screens.

For the newest walls as well as all the ones from previous weeks, check out this Drive link. Want to submit your own? Head to the bottom of this article.

- Kris Carlon

With the global launch of the Mate Xs 2, Huawei resurrects its original “outie” foldable in a new, stronger chassis. At first glance, there’s very little that’s “new,” with almost every part of the Mate Xs 2 looking like its two-year-old predecessor. But the devil is in the details, and Huawei has made several improvements here that really give the outie form factor a fighting chance. Whether they’re enough to truly challenge the more prevalent inward-folding design seen in the likes of the Mate X2 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 is something we’ll only know after spending more time with it. For now, here are our first impressions of the Huawei Mate Xs 2.

Huawei Mate Xs 2: Hands-on impressions

First things first: the display. The Mate Xs 2 has a single 120Hz foldable OLED panel, measuring 6.5 inches on the diagonal when folded and 7.8 inches when unfolded. Because there’s only one screen — at 2,480 x 2,200 pixels when open — you get the same high refresh rate screen whether the phone is open or closed. From my short time with it so far, it looks like a really nice panel.

- Hadlee Simons
Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro, Watch Fit 2 launch globally: That ceramic watch is pricey
Huawei GT 3 Pro night moon watch face on wrist Credit: Kris Carlon / Android Authority

Huawei launched the Watch GT 3 Pro in China earlier this month, essentially being a Watch GT 3 with ECG functionality. Now, the company has brought the watch to global markets, along with the Watch Fit 2 and several other watches and accessories.

Starting with the Harmony OS-toting Watch GT 3 Pro, it’s available in a 43mm Ceramic variant and a 46mm Titanium option. The differences boil down to more than just size and material, though, as the Ceramic option has a 1.32-inch 466 x 466 OLED screen while the Titanium model has a 1.43-inch 466 x 466 OLED display.

This $800 network certification training bundle is just $35

There’s money to be made in IT, but only for those with the right qualifications. Want an easier way to earn the certifications you need without attending college classes? Then the 2022 Cisco Certified Technician Training Prep Bundle, discounted to $34.99, might be an ideal alternative.

This package features four courses that help students prepare for key Cisco and CompTIA certification exams. They’ll learn the basics of network theory, get acquainted with the components, and discover how to build and implement their own networks. By the end, they’ll be equipped to earn their Network+ designation, plus CCNA and CCNP certifications from Cisco.

Though the 2022 Cisco Certified Technician Training Prep Bundle is offered at a bargain, the quality of instruction is anything but. Ozgun Arslan facilitates the courses through Networkel Inc., a respected source for online learning with a near-perfect rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. That means that students who purchase this package face an equal chance for success, and they spend way less to get there. 

The 2022 Cisco Certified Technician Training Prep Bundle – $34.99

See Deal

Prices subject to change.

Cisco Systems
The best USB-C hubs for your laptop or tablet

Laptops with USB-C ports are now almost ubiquitous, as the world moves away from slower USB-A ports to this faster, more versatile connection standard. Some laptops only have USB-C connections—which means a USB-C hub is essential if you want to connect a wired USB-A mouse or keyboard, or an older wired printer. Of course, a hub or dongle is also a handy way to add an HDMI connection, an SD card reader, or simply more USB ports for storage.

There’s no shortage of USB-C hubs featuring various combinations of modern and legacy I/O, so finding the right hub for your needs can be like ordering off a menu. 

We’ve tested numerous USB-C hubs to experience details you don’t get from the published spec list alone, such as whether the ports are crowded together or the hub runs hot. Our recommendations for the best Thunderbolt docks—an upgraded version of a USB-C hub, essentially—can be found in a separate story. We also explain those differences as part of our buying advice, which you’ll find below our products recommendations.

Updated 5/17/22 to adjust our recommendations to account for hubs that have gone out of stock. We’ve also added a specialty hub adapter from OWC for running dual 4K monitors. Scroll down to learn more.

lenovo yoga c740 15iml left side

A USB-C hub connects to the USB-C on the side of your laptop, such as on this Lenovo Yoga C740. In this example, the left port is used for charging, so you’d need to buy a USB-C hub with a charging input to use with this slot. (Of course, you could also buy a hub without charging capabilities and use it in the other USB-C port, to the right of the charging port.)

The best USB-C hubs Anker 7-in-1 USB-C Hub (A83460A2) – Best overall USB-C hub Anker 7-in-1 USB-C Hub (A83460A2) - Best overall USB-C hub Pros Good value for the money Excellent build quality Supplies 85W of power Good mix of legacy and newer ports Cons 4K output is just 30Hz MSRP: $39.99 Best Prices Today: $34.99 at Amazon | $39.99 at Anker

Can a USB-C hub feel elegant? This one does. Anker’s 7-in-1 USB-C hub feels surprisingly weighty (3.5 ounces), with a premium metallic (aluminum and polycarbonate) sheen. It’s also a bit more expensive than its rivals. Anker’s hub was among the coolest we’ve tested under load, at about 87 degrees.

Overall, Anker’s hub is well designed, with adequate spacing between the two 5Gbps USB-A ports. There’s also a 5Gbps USB-C connection for data, plus a second USB-C port for power input at up to 85W rated. (The charger allows up to 100W in, but supplies 85W.) An HDMI port allows for 4K/30Hz video or 1080p/60Hz video to a single external display, standard for the category. Ethernet is excluded, however, so you’ll need to use Wi-Fi instead. Cord length is about 8.5 inches, above the standard 6-inch length.

Anker’s hub was among the fastest we tested to deliver data under load, including simultaneous data transfer between USB-A ports while the SD ports were active. The hub offers an 18-month warranty, and it even ships with a carrying pouch. 

We recommend not buying the more expensive $79.99 Anker 8-in-1 Hub on Amazon unless you’re happy connecting to two 1080p (and not 4K) displays…which is perfectly fine. Otherwise, the two HDMI ports will only support two 4K displays at an eye-wearying 30Hz, not 60Hz.

Yeolibo 9-in-1 USB-C Hub (RU9A) – Best value USB-C hub Yeolibo 9-in-1 USB-C Hub (RU9A) - Best value USB-C hub Pros Incredible price (at press time) and value Cons No ethernet MSRP: $19.95 Best Prices Today: $24.99 at Amazon | $44.99 at Newegg

Yeolibo may not be a name you recognize, but this USB-C hub is impressively detailed, with a small but extremely informative manual, clearly labeled ports, and well-rounded functionality.

This hub offers three USB 3.0 (5Gb/s) Type A ports, one USB 2.0 Type A port, a USB-C (5Gb/s) port, a USB-C PD charging port rated at 100W of input power, and an HDMI port. There are also microSD and SD slots capable of SDXC cards up to 2TB and SDR25 (25MB/s) data rates. There’s no ethernet connection. The USB-C cable measures a comfortable six inches, though the connector at the end was a little stiff and took some fiddling to insert.

We didn’t have a 100W USB-C charger on hand to test, but the hub accepted 62.5W from our 65W USB-C charger. It stayed cool throughout. The hub played back protected content via its HDMI port, as expected, but dropped more frames than we hoped for when playing back 4K content over YouTube. (Only 4K30 resolutions are supported, but that’s not unusual.)

QGeeM 7 in 1 Type C Hub – Best value hub runner-up QGeeM 7 in 1 Type C Hub - Best value hub runner-up Pros Excellent price Cons No apparent warranty Customers have complained of overheating MSRP: $27.99 Best Prices Today: $24.99 at Amazon

The QGeeM 7-in-1 Hub I received tried to buy me off with an in-box promotion that promised a $10 Amazon card if I left a positive review. But I didn’t need to be bought off to appreciate this compact, lightweight little hub that covers all the basics, save ethernet.

The three USB 3.0 ports are adequately spaced. An HDMI port at the end of the dock supports a single 4K display at 30Hz (or 1080p at 60Hz)—par for the course with a typical USB-C hub. QGeeM’s hub includes support for both SD and microSD slots, using the older, prevalent UHS-I SD card standard. Both cards share the same controller, allowing them to be used one card at a time. QGeeM’s documentation varies on how much power it can provide; Amazon’s page says it can accept 100W (3A) and supply 85W, though the in-box documentation says 60W. The latter is correct. Nevertheless, a USB-C charger connected to the port reported that it was charging adequately.

Under load the hub warmed to about 94 degrees, a comfortable temperature. (Some customers have complained that the hub gets too hot and will shut down, but we didn’t see this.)

QGeeM doesn’t seem to offer warranty support, and the packaging skimps on niceties like a carrying bag. But this lightweight hub offers everything else a typical user will need, and for a great price. 

Lention USB-C Hub with 4K Output (CB-C35sH) – Best value USB-C hub with 4K/60 output Lention USB-C Hub with 4K Output (CB-C35sH) - Best value USB-C hub with 4K/60 output Pros Worked flawlessly 4K HDMI output at 60Hz Cons Feels a bit cheap No SD/microSD slot MSRP: 39.99 Best Prices Today: $39.75 at eBay | $39.99 at Amazon | $39.99 at Walmart

Lention’s CB-C35sH feels a little cheap out of the box, with a bit of a rattle that indicates a corner or two were cut in the construction. It worked flawlessly, however. This USB-C hub is slightly wider than most, with a power input rated at 60W next to a HDMI 1.2 input (allowing 4K resolution on an external display, at 60Hz) that allows protected content to be played back with no problems. (Power input only reached 55W in our tests.) The entire hub remained cool, even with a charger attached.

In addition to the USB-C input port and HDMI output, there are four 5Gb/s USB Type A ports, and that’s it—no microSD slots, ethernet, or audio connections. We would have liked to see the latter as an option for those who need it. But connecting a mouse and keyboard, as well as transferring data over the ports, worked well within the constraints of the USB-C connection.

Both our current overall top pick, the Anker A83460A2, and the Yeolibo 9-in-1 a are better overall options, with one exception: their HDMI output is only at 30Hz, which can fatigue the eyes over long periods. Lention delivers a more comfortable 60Hz at the same resolution. And if you have issues, Lention offers a 12-month warranty with a 24-hour support turnaround.

Lasuney Triple Display USB Type C HUB – Best compact full-featured hub Lasuney Triple Display USB Type C HUB - Best compact full-featured hub Pros Incredible port flexibility Cons USB-C bus throughput won't allow all ports to be used simultaneously MSRP: $59.99 Best Prices Today: $69.99 at Amazon

Lasuney’s 10-in-1 hub (two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two HDMI 1.2 ports (4K@30Hz), DisplayPort gigabit ethernet, microSD/SD, USB-C power input) offers a lot for your money, including an unusual mix of not one, but two HDMI ports, and even a DisplayPort. Thanks to ethernet support, the hub can replace many of your wired connections. Power input is rated at 100W in, with about 87W available to the laptop.

But the USB-C bus the hub runs on top of simply won’t support all of the ports being used at once, which is a bit of a gotcha. While we really like the pair of HDMI ports for dual-display configurations, the fact is, you’ll probably need to limit yourself to a pair of 1080p displays to avoid saturating the bus and slowing down the connection. Customers on Amazon have reported that they only got one to work, probably because the bus itself was saturated. The other problem we found is that the SD card slot is way too slow. It took twice as long to transfer data compared to other hubs we tested. In all fairness, our other disk-to-disk tests took about the same amount of time.

Lasuney’s hub is well made, with good port spacing. It doesn’t get uncomfortably warm, either. Just be realistic: We really like the flexibility that the Lasuney hub offers, but don’t buy it thinking you’ll be able to use everything at once.

AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Type C to 3 Port USB Hub with Ethernet (L6LUD001-CS-R) – Best basic USB-C hub AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Type C to 3 Port USB Hub with Ethernet (L6LUD001-CS-R) - Best basic USB-C hub Pros Simple, cheap, to the point Cons For a few dollars more you can add tons of additional functionality MSRP: $23.45 Best Prices Today: $23.45 at Amazon

The AmazonBasics L6LUD001-CS-R provides three USB 3.1 Type A ports plus gigabit ethernet to your laptop’s existing USB-C port. There are no HDMI or charging inputs; this is merely an incremental step up from the AmazonBasics L6LUD012-CS-R, which forgoes the ethernet capabilities.

This hub is handy for those who don’t have or don’t trust Wi-Fi on the go. The lengthy 14-inch cord adds some flexibility to your desktop layout. The hub performed comparably to the others we’ve tested, and there weren’t any issues with temperature or power.

At press time, the price was only $3 or so above the price of the aforementioned AmazonBasics L6LUD012-CS-R, which makes this a no-brainer if you just want a basic hub. Though the hub ships in both black and white, we noticed Amazon will occasionally discount one or the other by a few dollars. Honestly, though, the heated competition in the USB-C market means that the value this hub offers isn’t as strong as it once was.

IOgear Dock Pro (GUD3C02B) – Best full-size USB-C dock IOgear Dock Pro (GUD3C02B) - Best full-size USB-C dock Pros Best USB-C dock (not hub) Supplies power to your laptop Good display options Cons Takes up an enormous amount of desk space Won't quick-charge phones MSRP: $124.95 Best Prices Today: $129.95 at Amazon | $129.95 at Amazon | $129.95 at B&H

This is the Big Kahuna of USB-C docks—and, given what it does, you almost wonder why it wasn’t made a Thunderbolt dock instead. At 2.9 x 11.02 x 0.5 inches, it’s a thin, long, slanted wedge that props up your laptop with a grippy rubber strip. It’s a true dock, with a number of rear-facing ports optimized for dual displays, with a foot-long USB-C cable to boot.

Specifically, there’s three USB 3.0 (Type A ports), one HDMI 1.4 port for 4K30 video, one DisplayPort 1.2 port, gigabit ethernet, one SD/SDHC port and a microSD slot (both USH-I), VGA, a 3.5mm jack, and a USB-C port for up to 100W of external charging. Some of the additional ports come with some caveats: The VGA connection must be used solo, for example, and not in conjunction with either DisplayPort or HDMI. Remember, all that data passed along the USB-C cable can interfere with one another, but IOgear plays it a bit conservative; the manual says that two hard drives can’t be connected simultaneously, but that’s not true.

Be advised that the BC 1.2 port provides up to 1.5A of power for quick-charging phones, though the port isn’t compatible with the specialized quick-charging schemes of OnePlus or Samsung. (Phones from both manufacturers reported “charging” when connected, rather than “Fast charging”.) Thermal issues weren’t a problem, and performance was surprisingly good, even with HDMI and ethernet connected. The doc supports Power Delivery 3.0 up to 85W, and consumes 15W by itself; in other words, if you have a 100W laptop charger feeding power to the hub, 85W will be left over for your laptop to use.

A price of about $125 or so is way more than you’d expect to pay for a USB-C hub, but it’s still less than a higher-speed Thunderbolt dock. Still, this USB-C hub is more of a USB-C dock; it’s not really portable, and the form factor lends itself to a permanent spot on your desk.

Plugable UD-6950H USB 3.0 Dual 4K Docking Station – Best full-size USB-C dock runner-up Plugable UD-6950H USB 3.0 Dual 4K Docking Station - Best full-size USB-C dock runner-up Pros An alternative full-sized USB-C dock 4K/60 video is supported Cons Bulky DisplayLink connection requires a driver Enormously expensive No power delivery MSRP: $179.00 Best Prices Today: $179.00 at Amazon | $179.00 at Newegg | $179.00 at Walmart

This powered USB-C dock measures 3.25 x 9.5 x 1.25 inches, with a 3-foot USB-C to USB-C cable (or USB-C to USB-A), with four USB 3.0 (5Gbps) ports on the front and two more on the rear. Display ports are plentiful: two HDMI 2.0 ports and two DisplayPort 1.2 ports, allowing either a single 4K display at 60Hz or two at 30Hz. There’s gigabit ethernet and a headphone jack, too.

You’ll need to install a DisplayLink driver, which is a slightly different interface that runs over USB-C. The dock doesn’t supply any power to the laptop itself, another black mark. But the inclusion of DisplayPort and its HDCP capabilities means you can watch Netflix, and in 4K if you’d like. But all that data streaming over a USB-C connection also means that video playback is going to be stuttery. Nearly $180 is a ton of money to spend on a dock, too, though it comes with a two-year warranty.

As we point out below in our buying advice, the USB-C connection will be what limits this dock, not the dock itself. For a smoother connection, invest in a Thunderbolt dock if your PC supports it.

Lenovo USB-C Travel Hub (GX90M61235) – Best hub for VGA displays Lenovo USB-C Travel Hub (GX90M61235) - Best hub for VGA displays Pros Just the basics, including VGA Cons An odd, boxy shape Best Prices Today: $45.00 at Amazon

Lenovo’s GX90M61235 USB-C travel hub retains the same black, boxy aesthetic as generations of ThinkPad laptops. The odd pairing of connectors—VGA, HDMI (4K at 30Hz), a single USB 3.0 port, and gigabit ethernet—means you’ll be using your laptop’s keyboard, possibly a mouse, and either display connector. We’d rather see Lenovo pick either VGA or HDMI and add another USB port.

To be fair though, all of the ports performed as expected and there was no perceptible heat increase when we tried to saturate the ethernet link and USB-C port simultaneously.

There are better deals elsewhere, in terms of price and ports. But if you need a VGA connector, this is one of the few options available.

RSHTECH USB C Hub Powered 4 Port USB Splitter (RSH-516) – Best hub for external hard drives RSHTECH USB C Hub Powered 4 Port USB Splitter (RSH-516) - Best hub for external hard drives Pros Push-button on/off switches are a rarity For external hard drives that spin up and down, button control is great Cons A strange need for power MSRP: $21.99 Best Prices Today: $21.99 at Amazon

This Rshtech RS-516 USB-C port splitter uses an unusually long 2-foot cable to split a 5Gbps USB 3.0 input (over USB-C) and divide it among four USB 3.0 Type A ports. It’s also uncommon to see those ports controlled by LED-lit button switches, and an optional 5V/2A adapter powering the whole affair.

The port splitter takes the 5Gbps input and splits it among the ports, which are only active if the corresponding LED-lit button is depressed. This applies to both power (the hub will charge, though not fast-charge phones) and data. Port spacing isn’t an issue, and the ABS/aluminum construct handles heat well.

The Rshtech hub wouldn’t always identify and connect to a bus-powered SSD, but it found every other device we connected to it. The performance of a powered external hard drive plunged to about 20 percent when all ports were occupied, but surged to about 67 percent when the optional power cable was plugged in—which Rshtech recommends when connected to external storage.

That cable (with a proprietary plug) is a pain, and the issues finding our SSD gave us pause. But we really liked how the hub allowed us access to and control of external hard drives, which spin up and down loudly and randomly.

OWC USB-C to Dual HDMI 4K Display Adapter -Best hub for dual 4K displays OWC USB-C to Dual HDMI 4K Display Adapter -Best hub for dual 4K displays Pros Allows for two 4K displays Pass-through power, too Cons It does nothing more than add displays MSRP: $119 Best Prices Today: $119.00 at Amazon | $119.00 at OWC

There are much cheaper options to simply add support for two 1080p displays to your laptop, such as the (awfully named) $40 Selore&S USB-C adapter, which includes a pair of HDMI ports and nothing else. So why buy this $119 OWC device instead? It’s really one of the few ways to connect to at least one 4K display using a USB-C cable.

For one thing, it’s cheaper than the Plugable UD-6950H above, which contains dual HDMI and DisplayPort ports plus some additional I/O. OWC’s adapter simply provides two HDMI ports and a passthrough USB-C port, which allows you to plug in a 90W USB-C charger and charge your laptop. OWC’s adapter requires you to download DisplayLink drivers, then adjust your Windows display settings to re-enable 60Hz refresh rates one one display. (only 30Hz is allowed on the other.) Sound like a pain? It is, but that’s what happens when you try to force a pair of high-definition displays across a bus that wasn’t really designed for them.

IOGEAR Travel Pro USB-C Mini Dock (GUD3C460) – Best compact USB-C dock IOGEAR Travel Pro USB-C Mini Dock (GUD3C460) - Best compact USB-C dock Pros One of the smallest docks on the market Minimizes desk clutter Cons No cable Can block ports MSRP: $41.99 Best Prices Today: $39.95 at Amazon

At 2.8 x 0.31 x 1.22 inches, IOgear’s Travel Pro Mini Dock is an odd duck: an inexpensive, relatively tiny USB-C dock that plugs directly into your laptop, without a connecting cord.

“There’s no way this will work,” you might think—but it does, with just enough room for your laptop’s USB-C charger to sneak in one side of the dock, next to an HDMI cord, then a USB key or cord, and a 3.5mm jack. (The Mini Dock supports up to 60W of power in from an external charger.)

That’s fine, of course, if your laptop’s USB-C port is all by its lonesome. Otherwise, the Travel Pro Mini Dock will block ports as it tries to offer expansion capabilities—and that’s a problem for laptops like the Asus ZenBook, which forego a 3.5mm headphone jack but cram their USB-C ports too close together to make IOgear’s dock feasible.

We like the idea, but there are cheaper, better docks out there with more flexibility.

How to choose a USB-C hub 

Here’s where to start: Take a look at the peripherals you own, or plan to buy. Do you have an old external hard drive that uses a traditional USB-A cable? Do you manually back up photos from an SLR via its SD card? Or is your Wi-Fi connection unreliable enough that you’d prefer ethernet? Figure out what ports you’ll need. This advice is also for Windows users; Macs have their own limitations on USB-C connections.

usb c hub power shot

This laptop has several USB-C ports, but if yours has just one, you’ll want to daisy-chain the laptop’s power cord by plugging it directly into the hub, like so.

It’s also important to take stock of your laptop or tablet’s ports: Does it have one USB-C port or two? If your device only has one port, is there a separate charging connection? If your laptop or tablet has a USB-C port and uses it exclusively for charging, you’ll want to buy a USB-C hub with a dedicated charging input port. (In this case, it’s also possible that only the charging port on the hub will work, though this isn’t typical.) Note how much input power it allows, and confirm that will be sufficient for your laptop. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to choose between charging your laptop and accessing other devices, which makes little sense.

Keep in mind that the hub’s power port is for taking power in to your laptop, and not out to a phone. But your hub may still be able to charge your phone, with some caveats. A “bus-powered” USB hub connects to your laptop and pulls power from it, which it has to share with several devices. A powered USB dock will take power from the wall, route it through your hub, and share it with any device connected to it. These devices will make more power available for fast charging your phone. (Your hub won’t enable specialized charging like the Samsung Galaxy S20’s Super Fast Charging, however, even if you use the supplied Samsung cable. You’ll still need to connect your phone to its charger for that.)

Some newer, pricier laptops now come with Thunderbolt connections, which offer a greater amount of bandwidth than a traditional USB-C connection. If this is the case, consider buying a Thunderbolt dock instead. A USB-C port typically provides 5 or 10Gbps, while USB-C with Thunderbolt typically provides 40Gbps. (Consult your owner’s manual or the published specifications of your laptop if you aren’t sure.)

The bandwidth difference matters more as more devices are attached to the USB-C hub. For low-bandwidth devices like a mouse or a keyboard, bandwidth will never be an issue. External storage shouldn’t be, either. But a USB-C hub with a display, and Ethernet, and external storage, and a mouse and keyboard all attached to it may clog the USB-C port. In the real world, that may mean slower data transfers from an external hard drive, or stuttering when playing a high-definition YouTube video. Normally, we’d think that is the fault of the PC. In this case, it’s not — it’s all of that data flowing through the USB-C port.

Seriously, take this “don’t let your eyes get bigger than your stomach” advice to heart. We were sent a Plugable USB-C Triple 4K HDMI and DisplayPort Display Horizontal Docking Station (UD-6950PDZ) for review, which supposedly supports three 4K displays, Ethernet, and six USB ports, all running over a standard USB-C connection. Even with DisplayLink software compressing the video stream, that’s just way too much to run over a generic USB-C connection. Two or three 1080p displays will be a better choice.

Mentioned in this article IOgear Thunderbolt 3 Travel Dock (GTD300) IOgear Thunderbolt 3 Travel Dock (GTD300) MSRP: $129.95 Best Prices Today: $129.00 at B&H Photo Video | $183.00 at Amazon

You can get around this, in part. Instead of using a dedicated Ethernet connection, you can use a separate Wi-Fi connection instead. The main exception is displays. USB-C delivers enough bandwidth to drive an external 1080p or 4K display, even two (provided your hub has a pair of HDMI or DisplayPort connectors). But while USB-C can drive a pair of 1080p displays at a good 60Hz, it can only run 4K displays at 30Hz, which can be fatiguing on the eyes. So simply keep that in mind when considering a USB-C hub or dock.

Remember, you’ll need to own or buy a Thunderbolt-equipped laptop if you want more bandwidth. Again, the general reason to prefer Thunderbolt over USB-C are a desire for higher-resolution displays: if you want to run at 60Hz with your 4K monitor/s, you should choose from our roundup of the best Thunderbolt docks. If you pursue this route, pay attention to details: You’ll need to ensure the dock and monitor support Dual-Mode DisplayPort 1.2 (DP++) ports, and the HDMI ports are rated at HDMI 2.0. (The vast majority already do.)

thunderbolt 3 USB4

Thunderbolt cables and ports include the little lightning-bolt icon, which differentiates them from the otherwise unmarked USB-C cables.

Because USB-C is common among Macs, Windows PCs, and phones, some hubs align their branding with a particular platform. Go ahead and use that USB-C that’s billed as being “for MacBook Pro, Chromebook, and XPS” with any Windows PC—we did, and it works just fine. You won’t need any special software or drivers. 

How we test USB-C hubs

We used bus-powered peripherals to test each hub: an SSD, a hard drive, and a rewriteable DVD drive, all to make sure enough power was being delivered. We also ran speed tests on those hubs with ethernet connections, just to detect any anomalous results. We performed spot checks with other peripherals.

flexpow hiearcool usb c hub

Even though two USB-C hubs may have wildly different brand names, you may sometimes find that they’re otherwise identical or just very similar.

We conducted standardized tests to transfer a file from the SSD to the laptop; from the hard drive to the SSD; and then from an SD card to the PC, while simultaneously transferring files from the hard drive to the SSD. In some cases we used AJA’s System Tool app to run read and write tests on connected drives. In almost all cases, the performance was identical, with a spread of about 3 percent—good news for you, as that’s one less thing to worry about. 

We measured the surface temperature while these tests were run. You’ll see some buyers on Amazon pages complaining about how hot a hub gets; some do get on the warmer side. Also, where we could, we measured the power input for each hub.

We looked at how SD cards were inserted—you’d be surprised how many don’t work unless they’re inserted upside down! 

We also noted the cord length, as shorter cables limit your options when positioning the hub around your laptop or tablet. Worst case, a short cable causes a hub to dangle from a tablet whose USB-C port is mounted toward the top.  

usb c hub keys 2

Why bother testing something as ridiculous as the spacing between the USB Type A ports? Because if you don’t, you can run into this situation: Because the ports are spaced too closely together, only one of these USB keys can be inserted at a time.

After testing about a dozen USB-C hubs, we can confirm that some no-names perform just as well as their more well-known counterparts, and for less money, too. One thing to keep in mind: Because price is so critical to our recommendations, know that some of the prices may change as manufacturers offer sales. Therefore some hubs we didn’t recommend primarily based on price could become more purchase-worthy. 

Updated on May 17, 2022 with additional recommendations and buying advice.

Computers and Peripherals, Holidays, USB-C
Microsoft unveils the future of Outlook, and you can try it right now

The future of Outlook is here, albeit with some caveats.

Microsoft officially released the new Outlook for Windows on Tuesday afternoon, with features that integrate Microsoft’s futuristic Loop interface as well as more practical innovations such as quick document attachments, a “My Day” summary, and reminders to respond to important email. For now, though, the new features are only available to members of the Office Insiders program, specifically the Beta Channel.

We’ve seen the “future of Outlook” many times over the years, from 2015’s simple, effective Outlook apps for iOS and Android, to 2017’s more cohesive approach toward unifying Outlook across various platforms. We’re also seeing the first fruits of “Project Cortex,” in how Microsoft (and its rival, Google,) are blurring the lines between various applications. But Microsoft has also been working to clean up the various versions (the Web, Office 365, Web apps and so on) and provide a unified version of Outlook for the PC. That leaked out earlier this month, and it’s here now.

Microsoft designed Outlook to look familiar, and it does—especially if you’re used to the Outlook web app. Unfortunately, it’s not available to many users. To be a member of the Office Insider program, you must either be subscribed to Microsoft 365’s consumer edition or ask your corporate administrator to enable it. Consumers can easily switch to the Insider program (from any Office app on Windows, click File > Account > Office Insider > Join Office Insider, then agree to the checkbox next to “Sign me up for early access to new releases of Office”). But you’ll need to also use a paid commercial or education account as your primary email to try the new Outlook, which can complicate the process.

Here are the new Outlook features that Microsoft says you’ll want:

“Namechecking” documents: Within Outlook, you can quickly type an “at” symbol (“@”) and then the name of a person, and it will be called out in their email. You can quickly “call out” files by using the same “@” symbol in front of files and documents. They need to be stored in the cloud, however. Unfortunately, that probably means that you’ll need to search the full name of “SalesPresentationMarch2022final3really” to attach it in this way.

new Microsoft OutlookNote the list of files that pops up when you begin typing an “@” in Outlook.Microsoft

Respond to requests: We’ve seen Microsoft’s AI in Cortana and the like “sniff” your inbox for what it considers an important message, such as a request to respond to a customer. If Outlook thinks it has found such an email, it will be pinned to the top of your inbox until dismissed. You can also manually pin an email message to the top of your inbox by clicking the “pin” icon.

new Microsoft OutlookImportant messages will be pinned to your Outlook inbox by default.Microsoft

“My Day” and “To Do”: You should start seeing a more visible “To Do” column to the right of your inbox. Also referred to as “My Day,” you’ll be able to use this space as a location to drag emails into, which will become tasks that you can check off.

new Microsoft OutlookExpect more prominent placement of the “To Do” section of Outlook.Microsoft

An updated Calendar: It appears that while the Calendar will remain largely unchanged, a new “Board” view will essentially turn your Calendar into a bulletin board, where your work calendar can be added as a card, alongside tasks, important documents and tips. You’ll also be able to reserve space on your calendar and let people know you’ll attend their meeting either in person or virtually.

new Microsoft OutlookMicrosoft will use tiles and cards as the new way of organizing your Calendar in Outlook’s “board” view.Microsoft

Sweep up the clutter: Microsoft is also encouraging you to use tools we’ve described before, such as Rules, to automatically manage and control email as they flow into your inbox. Microsoft calls this “Sweep.”

Loop and the future: Microsoft thinks the most important addition to the new Outlook client is Loop, which Microsoft described as making documents a sort of widget. It blurs the line between a document and a shared workspace — which for some users will be anathema, and for others a natural extension of a close-knit team. We’ll have to see how Loop evolves over the coming years and months.

For now, the new Outlook is in the hands of just a few, as it fixes bugs and adds features. Unfortunately, some of the basic capabilities you’d expect aren’t there: offline support, multiple accounts, and so on. Expect Microsoft to widen its audience as it improves its new Outlook client.

Email Clients, Microsoft Outlook, Windows
Best laptop deals: Top picks from budget to extreme

Whether you’re buying a new laptop for school or trying to find a high-end gaming laptop, it’s possible to find good laptop deals no matter the season. We’re scouring the web daily to find the laptop deals you don’t want to miss.

Mind you, not all advertised laptop deals are actually deals, so we’ve only included the ones we consider actual bargains—and we’ve explained why. We’ll add new laptop deals as we see them daily and remove any expired sales. Right now, we’re seeing strong discounts on gaming laptops, Microsoft Surface devices, and more. If you’re looking for Chromebooks we’ve got those deals in here too!

We’ve provided a handy list of laptop-specific shopping tips at the end of this post, and immediately below are the deals themselves.

The best laptop deals in 2022 Acer Aspire 5 refurbished a silver laptop facing front with Windows 10 on the screen

Acer

From: Acer via eBay

Was: $349.99

Now: $249.99 ($100 off)

This Acer Aspire 5 (refurbished) has a lot going for it. First of all, it comes with a 30-day refund window and it includes a two-year warrant from Allstate if you live in the U.S. It has a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution, and the processor is a Ryzen 3 3350U. The APU has four cores and threads, and a boost to 3.5GHz. AMD processors are typically excellent for productivity, though RAM is a little light at 4GB, which may pose a problem if you’re doing any heavy duty data work.

Onboard storage taps out at 128GB, which isn’t a lot. That means this laptop would be best for anyone who does a lot of work in the cloud. However, the operating system is Windows 10, so you can run desktop apps without issue when necessary. This laptop should also be able to run Windows 11.

See the refurbished Acer Aspire 5 at eBay

Dell Inspiron 7000 A Windows 11 convertible laptop facing from right

Dell

From: Best Buy

Was: $799.99

Now: $549.99 ($250 off)

The Dell Inspiron 7000 doesn’t have much in the way of storage, but it does have a good processor and touchscreen. It features a 14-inch 1080p display and 8GB of RAM, which is enough for productivity tasks. The processor is an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U. This CPU has six cores, twelve threads, and a boost to 4GHz. As for the storage, you only get 256GB, so this isn’t what you’d want for full-time use. If you need something to take on business trips or you do a lot of work in the cloud, then this is worth a look.

See the Dell Inspiron 7000 at Best Buy

Acer Chromebook Spin 514 Acer Chromebook Spin 514

Acer

From: Best Buy

Was: $499

Now: $289 ($210 off)

Android apps on Chromebooks are helpful, but there’s no question that using a mobile app with a trackpad can be a little odd. With this deal, you won’t have to worry about that. The Acer Chromebook Spin 514 features a 14-inch 1080p touchscreen. Powering it is AMD’s Ryzen 3 3250C, which has two cores, four threads, and a boost to 3.5GHz. It also has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage.

This is a very useful device at a great price, and Google’s auto updates are guaranteed for this device until June 2029.

See the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 at Best Buy

MSI Katana GF66 a windows 10 laptop with a red LED-lit keyboard facing front

MSI

From: Microsoft (via eBay)

Was: $1,099.99

Now: $657.99 ($442 off)

This laptop is quite a bargain, but we’re not sure how long it’ll last. This version of the MSI Katana features a 15.6-inch 1080p display with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. It has a Core i5-11400H with six cores, twelve threads, and a boost to 4.5GHz. The GPU is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050. That means you can play 1080p games at high and sometimes down to medium with the occasional game at ultra. For RAM, you have 8GB, which is the bare minimum you need for gaming. Onboard storage is a 512GB SSD. It’s running Windows 10, but it should be just fine for Windows 11 when the time comes.

See the MSI Katana GF66 at eBay

MSI Sword a silver laptop with keys that have a blue outline and a martial arts fighting scene on the wallpaper

MSI

From: Best Buy

Was: $1,199.99

Now: $899.99 ($300 off)

Most of the other laptops with a 3050 Ti in this round-up are $750 to $800. However, the MSI Sword has the added advantage of a higher-end processor. Namely, the Intel Core i7-11800H, which has eight cores, sixteen threads, and a boost to 4.6GHz. The display is 15.6-inch at 1080p resolution with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. This allows for smoother visual experiences, which leads us to the GPU.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti is good for 1080p gaming, but it’s not perfect. There will be times when you’ll need to bring the graphics down to high or medium to exceed 60 frames-per-second. However, it’ll be worth it for the added visuals.

For RAM, the MSI Sword is packing 8GB. That’s a little low, so you may want to check on whether the RAM is upgradeable. 8GB is just fine, but 16GB hits the sweet spot between usability and overkill. For storage, you get a 512GB NVMe SSD. That’s enough for a few games and you can always look into external storage if necessary. Last but not least, this PC is running Windows 10 but it’s Windows 11 ready.

See the MSI Sword at Best Buy

Asus TUF a slate gray latpop facing from right with transparent A,W,S,D keys on the keyboard

Asus

From: Best Buy

Was: $999

Now: $699.99 ($249.01 off)

Are you in the market for a budget gaming laptop? If so, the Asus TUF laptop is an awesome choice. The CPU is a Core i5-11260H, which has six cores, twelve threads, and a boost to 4.4GHz. The RAM is 8GB, which is a little low. However, you may be able to upgrade the RAM yourself if don’t mind a little DIY. For onboard storage, you get a 512GB NVMe SSD. This will help keep your laptop relatively zippy.

As for the GPU, the TUF is armed with a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. This is a good GPU for 1080p gaming, but you’ll have to dial down the graphics depending on the game. The good news is that it’ll be worth the sacrifice, as the GPU can push out more frames and the 17.3-inch display has a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. This should result in a smoother visual experience.

See the Asus TUF gaming laptop at Best Buy

Lenovo Chromebook S330 a black laptop facing from right with the Chrome OS app grid on the screen

Lenovo

From: Amazon

Was: $200.41

Now: $188 ($12.41 off)

The Lenovo Chromebook S330 is nice sub-$200 deal. However, it might underperform compared to Intel-powered Chromebooks. This one is powered by a MediaTek MT8173C processor, a budget ARM-based quad-core SoC. These Chromebooks aren’t as snappy as their Intel-based counterparts, but they’re still very usable, especially if you stick to Chrome OS. This laptop will run the Android App Store and Linux desktop apps.

The S330 has a 14-inch display with 1080p resolution, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. It also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and a 720p webcam. Security and feature support for this Chromebook runs out in June 2025.

See the Lenovo Chromebook S330 at Amazon

Gateway GWTN141 a silver laptop facing front

Gateway

From: Walmart

Was: $499

Now: $399 ($100 off)

The Gateway GWTN141 would make an excellent productivity machine. It’s a 14.1-inch laptop with 1080p resolution and the processor is the Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i5-1135G7 with four cores, eight threads, and a boost to 4.2Ghz. The CPU is also loaded with Iris Xe Graphics. The laptop has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of onboard storage. It also has a fingerprint scanner, and it’s running Windows 10 Home (it’s Windows 11-ready).

See the Gateway GWTN141 at Walmart

Acer Swift 3 An Acer Swift 3 with a silver chassis and Windows 11 on the screen.

Acer

From: Walmart

Was: $799.99

Now: $499 ($300.99 off)

The Acer Swift 3 would be an excellent laptop for work or study. It’s part of the Evo platform, so it’s light enough for travel. The display’s resolution is 2256-by-1504 and the processor is an Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i5-1135G7, which has four cores, eight threads, and a boost to 4.2GHz. It also has 8GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe onboard storage. There’s a fingerprint reader for biometric login, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 access, and the keyboard has backlighting.

See the Acer Swift 3 at Walmart

HP Chromebook x2 an HP Chromebook tablet with kickstand displaying a mountain background

HP

From: Best Buy

Was: $599

Now: $299 ($300 off)

The HP Chromebook x2 11 features a lightweight form factor and all-day battery life. It also has a fingerprint reader, a detachable keyboard and kickstand, and a rechargeable pen. As for performance, this Chrome OS tablet is capable of handling general use tasks such as web surfing and writing papers. The 11-inch touch-enabled display has a resolution is 2160-by-1440. You can expect a rather vibrant picture.

This Chromebook uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor. It’s running ChromeOS, but you can still download apps from the Play Store. However, Linux is running the ARM version. This may restrict which apps you can use, but finding the major applications or a usable alternative shouldn’t be a problem. Last but not least, it’s packing 8GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage.

See the HP Chromebook x2 at Best Buy

Dell G15 a gray dell laptop with an RGB keyboard

Dell

From: Dell.com

Was: $1,284.98

Now: $799.99 ($484.99 off)

The gaming laptop deals just keep on rolling in.

The Dell G15 has a Ryzen 7 5800H and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. The Zen 3 CPU has eight cores, sixteen threads, and a boost to 4.4GHz. The 3050 Ti, on the other hand, is a solid option for 1080p gaming. The display is 15.6 inches with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. To hit that height, however, you’ll likely need to tone down the graphics from ultra in some games. This laptop is also packing 8GB of RAM. To get the price quoted above, make sure you select the 512GB of storage option.

See the Dell G15 at Dell.com

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i facing from right.

Lenovo

From: Office Depot

Was: $629.99

Now: $309.99 ($320 off)

If you’re in the market for an affordable Windows laptop, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is a good option. The CPU is a Core i3-1115G4, which has two cores, four threads and a boost to 4.1GHz. It’s packing 8GB and storage is a 1TB hard drive. Yes we said hard drive, not NVMe storage. That’s one of the trade-offs with this laptop. You get a lot of storage, sure, but it’s the old school kind.

This laptop is zippy enough for lighter tasks like web browsing and email, but it’s not a powerhouse. So, if you need a productivity machine, then this laptop is well worth considering.

See the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i at Office Depot

Acer Aspire 5 A silver Acer Aspire 5 with a green-blue background on the screen facing from right.

Acer

From: Walmart

Was: $499.99

Now: $399 ($100.99 off)

If you’re looking for a solid travel laptop, the Acer Aspire 5 would be a good fit. It has a 14-inch 1080p display and the processor is an Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i5-1135G7 with four cores, eight threads, and a boost to 4.2GHz. This laptop is packing 8GB of RAM to keep things snappy and 256GB of NVMe storage. That’s not a ton, but for travel it’s fine. The CPU is very good for office applications or regular web browsing and video streaming. The laptop also has Wi-Fi 6 and Windows 11 Home. The deal only applies to the Safari Gold version.

See the Acer Aspire 5 at Walmart

Gateway Ultra Slim Notebook a gray Gateway laptop running Windows 11.

Gateway

From: Walmart

Was: $499

Now: $399 ($100 off)

The Gateway Ultra Slim Notebook features a 15.6-inch 1080p display and an AMD Ryzen 7 3700U with four cores, eight threads, and a boost to 4GHz. It also has 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. This is a nice well-rounded laptop with a good amount of storage that’ll easily help you get some work down whether you need something for travel or school.

See the Gateway Ultra Slim Notebook at Walmart

Gateway Creator Notebook a black laptop opened, facing from right

Gateway

From: Walmart

Was: $1,169

Now: $699 ($470 off)

The Gateway Creator Notebook is a serviceable 15.6-inch 1080p gaming clamshell. It features an Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i5-11400H, which has six cores, twelve threads and a 4.5GHz boost clock. The GPU is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050. It also has 16GB of onboard RAM and a 512GB SSD.

There’s a few extras you get with this rig like a Windows Hello-ready IR camera, THX Spatial Audio, and a free month of Xbox Game Pass for PC. It’s a pretty good deal all around, so don’t miss out.

See the Gateway Creator Notebook at Walmart

Asus Vivobook Pro 14 K3400 An Asus VivoBook Pro 14 facing from right.

Asus

From: Walmart

Was: $749

Now: $599 ($150 off)

If you’re into creative work, the Asus Vivobook Pro 14 is a fantastic option. This laptop has a 14-inch 2880-by-1800 OLED display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. OLED screens are great, so you can expect a sharper image. The Vivobook is also packing a Core i5-1330H, a Tiger Lake CPU with four cores, eight threads, and a boost to 4.4GHz. There’s even 8GB of RAM, which is a good amount for some video editing. Onboard storage is a 256GB NVMe SSD, and you’re getting Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.0.

This is a nice laptop with a very good display, but for storage you’ll likely have to rely mostly on the cloud. Speaking of which, you also get a free, three month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud as part of the package.

See the Asus Vivobook Pro 14 K3400 at Walmart

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 A Lenovo laptop facing from with Windows 11 on the display

Lenovo

From: Micro Center

Was: $949.99

Now: $499.99 ($450 off)

The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 has a 14-inch 1080p IPS display with an Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i5-1135G7 driving it. The CPU has four cores, eight threads, and a boost to 4.2GHz. It also has 8GB of RAM and a 512GB hard drive.

This is a solid laptop for getting some work done. It doesn’t have a special GPU, but you might be able to get some casual gaming out of this with the onboard Iris Xe graphics. It’s a great laptop for general use and you can’t really beat the price, either.

See the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 at Micro Center

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming A black IdeaPad gaming laptop facing from right

Lenovo

From: Micro Center

Was: $999.99

Now: $749.99 ($250 off)

Micro Center is famous for its awesome deals that are pick-up only, but this particular laptop is actually shipping. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming laptop has a Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, which is a Zen 3 processor with eight cores, sixteen threads, and a maximum boost to 4.4GHz. It has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of onboard storage. The GPU is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, which is a dependable enough 1080p card. You should be able to play most games on high graphics, perhaps dipping down to medium on particularly demanding games. The display is 15.6 inches with 1080p resolution and a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. It also has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

See the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming at Micro Center

HP 17-cn0273st  A silver HP laptop facing front with a Windows 11 desktop on the screen.

HP

From: Staples

Was: $599.99

Now: $429.99 ($170 off)

Getting a solid workhorse computer with a good amount of storage for under $500 isn’t easy these days, but the HP 17 laptop is one of those rare finds. It includes a quad-core, eight-thread Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i3-1125G4 CPU with a maximum boost to 3.7GHz. It’s also packing 8GB of RAM, which is a good amount for productivity tasks.

As for storage, this HP has 512GB, which is rare for a sub-$500 computer. It’s also rocking a 17.3-inch display at 1080p. The laptop is running Windows 11 Home, so you don’t have to worry about upgrading this one.

See the HP 17-cn0273st at Staples

HP Victus 16 An HP Victus 16 laptop showing a sci-fi game on the display.

HP

From: Walmart

Was: Unknown

Now: $699

The HP Victus 16 is a nice little AMD-based 1080p gaming machine. The CPU is a Ryzen 5 5600H. That’s a Zen 3 processor with six cores, twelve threads, and a maximum boost clock of 4.2GHz. The processor will do nicely for gaming and productivity. The laptop is also packing 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

The 16.1-inch IPS display has a resolution of 1080p and a refresh rate of 60Hz. The graphics are handled by the AMD Radeon RX 5500M. It’s all about bringing AMD’s RDNA architecture to budget gaming in a capable package. You should expect good 1080p gaming, though you might not be able to run every game with the graphics maxed out. It’s not a high-end machine, but it’ll get the job done for under $700.

See the HP Victus 16 at Walmart

Gateway 15.6-inch Ultra Slim A bright blue Gateway laptop facing from right.

Gateway

From: Walmart

Was: $449.99

Now: $249 ($200.99 off)

Bargain basement laptops are a beautiful thing, especially if you need a laptop that performs well while and can survive getting banged around a bit during your travels. This affordable Gateway at Walmart features a Ryzen 3 3250U processor, which has two cores, four threads and a max boost to 3.5GHz. It’s also rocking 128GB of onboard storage, 4GB of RAM, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display. This laptop ships with Windows 10 S, which can only run apps found in the digital Microsoft store, but you can go to full Windows 10 via a one-way free upgrade.

See the Gateway 15.6-inch Ultra Slim at Walmart

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i A gray Lenovo laptop facing from right.

Lenovo

From: Walmart.com

Was: $699

Now: $399 ($300 off)

The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is well priced. It features a 14-inch 1080p display and a quad-core, eight-thread Intel “Comet Lake” Core i5-10210U with a boost to 4.2GHz. It’s packing just 8GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe SSD storage. This laptop is also running Windows 11 Home, so there’s no need to worry about upgrades.

If you want a larger screen, Walmart has an alternative version of this model with a 15.6-inch 1080p display for $433.89. That said, you get only 4GB of RAM and 256GB of onboard storage. The CPU is newer but has fewer cores with the dual-core, four-thread Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i3-1115G4 that boosts to 4.1Ghz.

See the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i at Walmart

Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ The Surface Pro 7+ on a deck near some water in sunlight.

Mark Hachman/IDG

From: Walmart

Was: $929.99

Now: $599 ($330.99 off)

If you’re looking for a well designed Windows tablet, there’s no beating Microsoft’s Surface line and this Walmart’s sale offers an excellent bargain. This version of the Surface Pro 7+ comes with a Core i3 processor, 128GB of onboard storage, 8GB of RAM, and a black Type Cover. We reviewed the Surface Pro 7+ nearly a year ago, giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars and an Editors’ Choice Award. We called it “the most potent upgrade Microsoft’s Surface Pro line has offered in years.”

See the Surface Pro 7+ at Walmart

HP 17-by4061nr HP17

HP

From: Walmart

Was: $679

Now: $499 ($180 off)

This HP laptop has a lot going for it. The CPU is an Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i5-1135G7 with four cores, eight threads and a boost to 4.2GHz. The processor is packing Iris Xe graphics, which will provide surprising performance for an integrated GPU. It also has 8GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD, and a 1080p display. If need a new laptop to kick off 2022, then this is a nice choice.

See the HP 17-by4061nr at Walmart

Asus L510 Asus L510

Asus

From: Walmart

Was: $279

Now: $219 ($60 off)

This deal puts us in an odd position. We’re not huge fans of laptops with just 128GB of onboard storage (especially this one’s onboard eMMC storage) and generally don’t recommend Windows PCs running Celeron processors. For a price around $200, however, we’re willing to overlook these shortcomings but with some big caveats.

First, you’ll get exactly what you pay for with this clamshell, but that just might be a good thing given the price. It’s running Windows 10 Home in S Mode and we would not recommend upgrading this laptop to regular Windows 10. Instead, use this laptop like a Chromebook, so focus on using it for web apps like Google Docs or Office Online. Then, if you absolutely need a desktop program download, run whatever you need from the selection in the Windows Store. We wouldn’t try editing a photo on this since it has just 4GB of RAM and deathly slow flash storage. Still, the Intel Celeron N4020 will get the job done for basic uses and a 15.6-inch 1080p display offers a bigger display than what you’d get from a Chromebook around the same price.

See the Asus L510 at Walmart

Laptop deal buying tips

If you’ve shopped online before for laptop deals you’re probably aware that there’s a vast range of laptop configurations available.

A good place to start is with the processor. Buy laptops with Intel 10-series Core chips or higher, such as the Core i5-10510U, or the Core i7-11800H (for even more details see our Intel 10th-gen mobile CPU buying guide); or go with an AMD Ryzen processor (but not an AMD Athlon or A-series chip). Avoid laptops with Pentium or Celeron processors unless it’s a Chromebook (running Chrome OS). You’re going to need to pay attention with gaming laptops, too, as some GPUs, like the RTX 3050 Ti, don’t offer much boost over their RTX 2xxx-series cousins, and Nvidia has dropped the Max-Q designation on certain low-power options. Our laptop CPU and GPU cheat sheet can help you shop smart.

Display resolution is a gotcha. If you see a laptop labeled as “HD” resolution that means 1366-by-768 and often isn’t worth your time for a laptop under 13 inches unless the deal is absolutely standout. What you want is “Full HD” or “FHD,” which means 1080p.

Don’t buy laptops with under 4GB of RAM or 128GB of SSD storage—though on a Chromebook, this configuration is acceptable. We have more explanation in our laptops versus Chromebooks buying guide, as well as in our primer on how to buy a budget laptop without getting screwed. Also watch out for eMMC storage, which is something we don’t recommend for a Windows laptop but works fine for a Chromebook.

Reviews can be helpful. Even if you can’t find a review of a specific configuration, try related models. They’ll often give you a good idea of the build quality and performance. Also buy from brands you trust. Amazon’s daily laptop deals right now are full of brands we’ve never tested or talked to (Broage, Teclast, DaySky, Jumper) and it’s just a good idea to be wary.

Most older laptops will run Windows 10, and that’s fine—there’s no rush to upgrade. Windows 10 in S Mode, though annoying, can be switched out of easily if you find it on a budget laptop. If you want to buy a Windows 10 PC with the intent of upgrading it to Windows 11, we recommend you start here with a list of older laptops that are Windows 11-eligible.

Updated on May 18 with additional deals, and to remove expired deals.

Laptops
Amazon’s massively upgraded Fire 7 tablet finally supports USB-C charging

Lingering Micro-USB ports are the bane of consumer electronics. Every time I see an allegedly “new” gadget with one of those fragile, asymmetrical charging tips I cringe. Following in the footsteps of its Kindle e-readers, Amazon is updating its phenomenally popular base model Fire Android tablet with new hardware, and a USB-C charging port is first on the list.

But it’s far from the only change. The 7-inch standard Fire hasn’t been updated since 2019, so the new model gets some dramatic refreshes. The new quad-core system-on-a-chip is allegedly 30 percent faster than the previous model, and perhaps more importantly, 2GB of RAM instead of just one. That’s still pretty sparse for any modern Android-powered device, but it should alleviate some of the multitasking and performance issues that are endemic to low-cost tablets.

Amazon says it’s improved the battery life of the Fire 7 by 40 percent, up to 10 hours of video playback. With all those improvements (not to mention a pretty steep increase in component price and inflation over the last three years), it’s no surprise that the base price is jumping from $50 to $60 in the US. The new Fire 7 will launch on June 29th in black, blue, and pink hues. You can upgrade from 16GB to 32GB of storage for an extra $20, and remove lockscreen ads for $15 on top of that.

Fire 7 kids edition

Amazon

As with previous versions, the Fire 7 will also come in a “Kid’s Edition,” packed with a spongy impact-resistant kickstand case in vibrant colors. The kid’s version is also pre-loaded with a child-friendly interface and apps, and comes bundled with the Kids Plus service for streaming videos and games. This more protected model also comes with an expanded 2-year warranty with a no-questions-asked replacement for broken tablets, if that case should prove to be less “kid-proof” than advertised. The standard Kids Edition costs $110, but a 32GB storage upgrade is available for $130. It’s also shipping on the 29th.

Tablets
Acer refreshes Swift, Aspire notebooks with gaming-class hardware

You may have to rethink how you view Acer’s Swift and Aspire laptops. Today, Acer announced refreshes of both lines that include, believe it or not, gaming-class hardware.

In fact, Acer announced a sweeping refresh of its entire laptop fleet, including the Swift 3 OLED, a new Aspire 5, and many new entries in Acer’s eco-friendly Vero lineup, too. The company made the announcements in conjunction with its next@Acer event, held virtually.

Acer’s new Swift 3 OLED

Just two years ago, we called Acer’s Swift 3 underpowered, with performance that was frankly disappointing. It’s hard to imagine that will be the case now that Acer has responded with the Swift 3 OLED, featuring four 12th-gen Core-H options, ranging from the Core i5-12450H on up to the Core i7-12700H. Intel launched the 12th-gen Core H processors earlier this year, touting them as the “world’s best gaming platform.”

Acer’s Swift 3 OLED (also called the SF314-71) will include a 14-inch (2880×1800) OLED display, the 12th-gen Core H processors, up to 16GB of LPDDR5 memory, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, and up to a terabyte of Gen4 NVMe SSD storage.

Acer Swift 3 OLED specsAcer’s new Swift 3 OLED.

Acer

The Swift 3 is an Intel Evo laptop, meaning it carries with it certain characteristics: a light weight (3.09 pounds), Intel’s Killer Wi-Fi 6E, and up to 10 hours of battery life. (A 30-minute quick charge will yield four hours of battery life.) You’ll be able to buy Acer’s Swift 3 OLED for as little as $899, beginning in July.

The new Aspire 5 adds an RTX GPU option

Acer’s Aspire lineup consistently appears among Amazon’s low-priced offerings, perhaps giving the impression that these large-screen laptops are only intended for budget buyers. But we’re seeing a version that would seem to bely that: the Aspire 5 A514-55 and the A514-55G, which ship with a range of either Intel’s new “P” (performance) class 12th-gen Core chips, or U options, both ranging from Core i3 processors to a Core i7.

What’s new, though, are the GPU options: the choice between familiar integrated Iris Xe and Nvidia MX550 GPUs, but also something new—a GeForce RTX 2050 option. Nvidia’s GeForce RTX GPUs provide real-time ray tracing, which adds more realistic reflections and lighting in 3D games. (Acer previously offered RTX graphics within the Acer Aspire 7, but not the Aspire 5.)

Acer Aspire 5 specsAcer’s Aspire 5 offers the option of an Nvidia RTX 2050, the first time the laptop has offered an RTX option.

Acer

Of course, the RTX 2050 won’t compare at all to the powerful RTX 3000-class hardware within true gaming laptops, but it’s still an interesting tweak. The tradeoff appears to be a smaller 14-inch 1080p screen, as opposed to the new A517-53G, for example, which includes a 17.3-inch 1080p display. (There’s also a 1600×900 option, which should bring the price down even further.)

All but one of the new Aspire models will use Intel’s Core processors. The A515-47 will offer the choice of a Ryzen 3 5425U, a Ryzen 5 525U, or a Ryzen 7 5825U and Radeon graphics. Unfortunately, Acer didn’t provide any pricing information for the new Aspires.

Acer’s Spin series moves to 12th-gen Core

Acer’s Spin 5 has traditionally offered somewhat of a middle ground. As the name suggests, Acer’s Spin series reflects the fact that they’re all 360-degree convertibles, which tend to offer slightly less performance than a traditional clamshell. Acer announced a new Spin 3 (the SP314-55 / SP314-55N) and the Spin 5 (SP514-51N). They, too, offer a mix of 12th-gen Core chips, with up to 16GB of LPDDR5 memory and up to 1TB of PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSDs.

Acer Spin 5 specsAcer’s Spin 5.

Acer

The SP514-51N, however, adds a 2560×1600 14-inch display, which is a step up from the 1080p displays offered on the other Spin models. According to Acer, the Acer Spin 5 convertible laptop (SP514-51N) will be available in the United States in July for $1,349.99 and up, and the Acer Spin 3 will launch in August for $849.99 and up.

Acer launches a Vero notebook, AIO, and mouse/keyboard

Acer is also offering an eco-friendly twist with the Aspire Vero, with both a 14-inch (AV14-51) and a 15-inch (AV15-52) model. Both will be available in September with a starting price of $749.99.

Acer’s Vero lineup tries to reuse plastic and other industrial materials that would normally end up in a landfill. Vero models use 30 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic inside the chassis, according to Acer, and the PCR plastic is also found in the screen bezel and keycaps. Vero notebooks are also deliberately designed with screws in the bottom of the chassis to allow the SSD and memory to be upgradable.

Acer Aspire Vero specsAcer’s Aspire Vero.

Acer

The Aspire Vero includes processors up to a 12th-gen Core i7, and with the AV15-52 15-inch model, Acer is offering up to 24GB of LPDDR4 memory, more than the traditional 16GB. Only integrated Iris Xe GPUs will be offered, and up to 1TB PCIe SSDs. With the move to a 12th-gen Core, the Vero lineup is moving to Thunderbolt 4, too.

Acer is also offering a wireless Vero mouse and keyboard, which will be available in November for $79.99, as well as the Veriton Vero all-in-one, a 24-inch standalone PC that Acer will sell for $799 and up beginning in October.

Laptops
Acer’s latest gaming laptops include a glasses-free lenticular 3D display

Acer is refreshing more or less its entire product lineup today. While its standard gaming laptops and creator-focused ConceptD machines get fairly standard processor and GPU upgrades, its newest high-end Helios laptop is more eye-catching. That’s almost literally true: it’s coming equipped with a rarely seen lenticular 3D display, and the software and publisher support to make it more than a gimmick.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition

Acer’s new flagship gaming laptop variant gets an utterly unique feature: a stereoscopic 3D screen. The SpatialLabs 15.6-inch panel requires no 3D glasses (similar to the lenticular display of the Nintendo 3DS) despite its advanced specifications. In standard mode the IPS panel is 4K, but with the stereoscopic 3D enabled it’s reduced to 1920 x 2160, since it’s displaying two images at once. According to Acer, more than fifty “modern and classic” games will support the 3D display at launch, with more profiles coming later.

Acer predator helios 300

Acer

In addition to the jaw-dropping screen, the Helios SpatialLabs Edition gets access to the latest in high-end hardware. The base model comes standard with a Core i9-12900 processor, an RTX 3080 GPU, and 32GB of RAM. Buyers can select “up to” 2TB of PCIe Gen 4 SSD storage. The laptop comes with a 90 watt-hour battery and Killer Wi-Fi 6E, with the usual full RGB keyboard (complete with number pad).

Despite the huge battery and power-hungry hardware, the laptop can be charged via USB-C, though the proprietary barrel port is faster. On the rear you get said USB-C port, full-sized HDMI, and a mini-DisplayPort, with three USB-A ports and a full-sized Ethernet port spread around the sides. Prepare some room in your bag and your wallet: the 6.61-pound laptop starts at $4400 when it launches in the fourth quarter.

Predator Helios 300

Acer

If you’re interested in the 3D panel without the laptop, Acer will be selling SpatialLabs monitors. The SpatialLabs View Pro uses the same 15.6-inch screen in a portable format with HDMI and USB video inputs, complete with both a kickstand and a VESA mount. The non-Pro version drops the mount. It’s still pretty pricey, with the non-pro version starting at $1100 when it launches in the summer.

Acer SpatialView 3D monitor

Acer

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

If the fancy 3D screen is a bit much for you, Acer’s Predator Triton laptops are also getting refreshed. The 14-inch Triton SE model gets access to new processors: Core i5 12500H, i7-12700H, and i9-12900H. Graphics choices are the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti or RTX 3060, but the biggest improvement has got to be the screen. A luscious 2880×1800 OLED panel is available on the high end. The refreshed hardware can be equipped with up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

Acer Triton 300

Acer

If that isn’t enough for you, there’s a new 16-inch variant of the same Triton SE. It can be equipped with a more powerful GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, but oddly the Core i9 isn’t available. You get the choice of up to a 2TB SDD and a spacious 99.98 watt-hour battery. But for the larger model that OLED screen isn’t along for the ride; the best the 16-inch model can do is a still-impressive 1600p IPS with 500 nits and 240Hz refresh rate.

The latest revisions to the 14-inch Triton SE will be available in the US in July starting at $1600. Europe, the Middle East, and Asia get it a month earlier at €1600. The 16-inch model will follow a month later, respectively, for $1750 and €1600.

ConceptD laptop and desktop updates

Acer’s stylish, creative-focused ConceptD line is also getting updated with the latest components. The ConceptD 5 and 5 Pro laptops are a standout thanks to a new 16-inch OLED 4K screen option, which comes along with new Intel processors topping out at the Core i7-12700H. The standard model gets access to new Nvidia GPUs up to the RTX 3070 Ti, while the Pro variant gets the workstation RTX A5500.

Acer conceptD 5 laptop

Acer

The striking ConceptD desktops also get a refresh. The 500 Desktop can be configured all the way up to a 12th-gen Core i9, while the 100 model tops out at an i7. The larger model can handle Nvidia cards at up to the RTX A4000 or RTX 3070, depending on your preference, while the more compact design must make do with a T400 or T1000. (Of course, being desktops, you can always swap them out for whatever you like.)

Acer Conceptd dekstop

Acer

The refreshed ConceptD 5 laptop starts at $2500, landing in most markets in June and the US in August. The ConceptD 5 Pro arrives in September in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia starting at €2600, with no US release confirmed at the moment. The updated ConceptD desktops land in September for €1200 and €1000, respectively. Again, no US release has been confirmed.

Gaming Laptops
Acer unleashes some of the swankiest Chromebooks we’ve ever seen

Stop the presses! Acer is launching, quite possibly, the swankiest Chromebooks I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. On Wednesday, the laptop manufacturer announced the impending launch of a refreshed premium convertible Chromebook and tablet lineup. The 2-in-1 laptops feature 12th-gen Intel processors and the tablet is packing an Arm-based Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 chip.

These machines are designed for students, business professionals, and everyone in between. Not only do they sport a rather sophisticated-looking design, but the 12th-gen Intel processor in the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is a serious bump in power. This really redefines what a Chromebook is capable of. Read on to learn more.

[Want to check out PCWorld’s best picks for laptops? Check out our roundup here]

Acer Chromebook Spin 714 Acer Chromebook Spin

Acer

The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 and the Acer Chromebook Enterprise Spin 714 are the real standouts here. These convertibles are equipped with 12th-gen Intel processors (up to Core i7), which means they should be able to handle more demanding tasks like streaming, gaming, and video editing. Chromebooks are generally low-powered machines, more suited to running general use tasks like web browsing and checking e-mail. Not anymore! Acer is changing the game, and pressing the advantage even further by pairing Intel’s chips with up to a 512GB NVMe SSD.

Let’s talk about the form factor for a second. These convertible laptops make great travel companions. The design allows you to swing the screen around and prop it up like a tent, making it easier to participate in video calls or binge an enticing show on Netflix. You can also tuck the keyboard away and use the display like a handheld tablet. The 2-in-1 design is nothing new or groundbreaking by any means, but it’s still versatile and useful, especially if you travel a bunch.

The 14-inch touchscreen will be available in two resolutions: 2560-by-1600 and 1920-by-1080. It’s made with Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass, which is supposed to be resistant to stains and odor-causing bacteria. The 16:10 aspect ratio is nice because it leaves more room for taking notes or working in Excel. For port options, there’s a wide array, including HDMI and two Thunderbolt 4. The Spin also includes Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, a backlit keyboard, DTS audio, an optional fingerprint reader, and more.

Between the abundant features and powerful hardware, these are some of the most premium Chromebooks around. The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 and the Acer Chromebook Enterprise Spin 714 launches in August with a starting price of $749.99 and $1,099.99. Acer also announced similar Spin 514 laptops packing AMD’s powerful new Chromebook processors inside.

Acer Chromebook Tab 510 Chromebook Tab

Acer

The Acer Chromebook Tab 510 is a cool little device built with portability in mind. The keyboard is detachable (and optional!), which is perfect for those times when you need to use the tablet as a handheld device. The detachable keyboard also has a built-in cradle for the tablet and a kickstand that pops open on the back. I’m unable to speak to the durability of this device, as I haven’t reviewed it personally, but I’d love to get my hands on it to see if there’s any flex in the keyboard tray. That’s where a lot of folio-style laptops tend to fall short.

The 10.1-inch IPS display is a little small, but that’s not unusual for a tablet, as it’s designed to be both lightweight and portable. The resolution is 1920-by-1080 with an aspect ratio of 16:10. As for what’s going on under the hood, you’ll find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 chip, which is designed for entry-level laptops and Chromebooks. That means the Tab is best suited for general use tasks. According to Acer, the Tab can last up to 11 hours on a single charge. That’s more than a full work day.

The Acer Chromebook Tab 510 will launch in July with a reasonable starting price of $399.99.

Laptops
Game without compromise on this RTX 3060-powered HP desktop for $849

It’s a good day to start gaming on the cheap. Walmart is selling a budget 1080p gaming desktop rig for just $849. That’s $250 off the MSRP and a good price all around. That said, there are a few tradeoffs for that lower price.

First off, let’s talk graphics. This desktop is running an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060. That’s a no-compromises level GPU for 1080p gaming, which means you should meet or exceed 60 frames-per-second with most games. It’s also an RTX graphics card, so you’ll get Nvidia’s various modern improvements like real-time ray tracing and deep learning super sampling (DLSS).

Storage is light at 256GB. However, since this is a desktop, you should be able to easily add your own extra storage. For RAM, you get 8GB, which is enough for gaming. The processor is the Intel “Comet Lake” Core i5-10400F. This CPU is two years old now, but it’s still very good with six cores, twelve threads, and a boost to 4.3GHz.

In addition to the tower, you also get a free keyboard and mouse. Overall, this is a nice little starter rig for a beginning gamer.

[Today’s deal: HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop for $849 at Walmart.]

Gaming PCs, Gear
Get this AMD-powered Acer laptop for $250

We don’t often feature refurbished goods, but every now and then we find some that are well worth considering. Right now, Acer’s own refurbished store on eBay is selling a 15.6-inch Acer Aspire 5 for $250. That’s Chromebook-level pricing for a Windows laptop with reasonably good specs. As with any laptop at this price point, there are some definite tradeoffs, but that’s life in the deal zone.

This laptop is a good option for those who like the idea of a Chromebook, but need the desktop convenience of Windows. This machine would be a solid fit for someone who lives in Google Docs or does a lot of work on a remote server.

The Aspire is running Windows 10 Home, but it should be upgrade ready for Windows 11. As for power, it’s packing an AMD Ryzen 3 3350U with four cores and threads and a boost to 3.5GHz. It also has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The display is 15.6 inches with 1080p resolution.

As for the refurbished part, there’s a lot to feel good about here. It’s recertified by “an Acer approved vendor” and then resold by the company itself. It also comes with a two-year warranty from Allstate (US only) and it has a 30-day return window.

[Today’s deal: 15.6-inch refurbished Acer Aspire 5 from Acer via eBay.]

Gear, Laptops
Tested: Multi-gig fiber internet is too fast for your PC

If you’re about to bite the bullet on a blazing-fast multi-gig internet deal, you might just have to upgrade your PC’s storage drive and CPU too.

I know this because besides having to upgrade my networking hardware, which was too slow for my new Sonic 10Gb internet, I discovered that parts of my PC were also too slow to keep up with the firehose of data. And yours probably will be too—even if you have a reasonably powerful gaming rig with an SSD and a solid 6- or 8-core processor.

[ Further reading: The hidden costs of multi-gigabit fiber Internet: A cautionary tale ]

How it started

It all started when a friend, who was himself contemplating an upgrade to 10Gb internet, and the potentially costly upgrade of his networking gear, asked me to run a test on my own multi-gig network.

“Do me a favor,” Greg Vederman asked one morning. “Download a 20GB Steam game—something large enough that there’s enough time to ramp up to the max speed, and then tell me what you actually max out at, and whether it’s just a spike or if it’s sustained. I think that’ll be the deciding factor on whether or not I deal with this upgrade to multi-gigabit internet right now.”

While running those tests for “The Vede” I realized that although I knew downloading a game could easily outstrip the raw write performance of a SATA SSD’s theoretical 6Gbps write speeds, I didn’t know how much of an impact it would have in practice.

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To quantify that, I sat down and measured download times using four different targets: a 480GB NVMe Optane drive, which Crystal Disk Mark measured at about 2.7GBps sequential write speeds; a very old NVMe PCIe SSD with a write speed in the 1GBps range; an older Sandisk SATA SSD, which had a measured write speed of 450MBps; and finally, as a reference, a 10TB Seagate hard drive with a measured sequential write speed of 171MBps. The hard drive should be of particular interest to the many gamers who continue to store their game libraries on hard drives due to their price-to-capacity advantages.

During testing, I switched off real-time antivirus protection to prevent that from being a potential bottleneck. Because downloading from a live server across the open internet can be unpredictable—similar to judging how fast a car can go during rush hour traffic—I decided to try to reduce traffic interference by simply doing all of my testing between midnight and 3 a.m. Pacific Time when most people are asleep.

One final element that could be a factor is the network adapter in the machine. In this case, it’s a 10Gtek PCIe SFP+ network card using an Intel 82599EN controller chip with the default adapter settings.

10Gb Multi-Gig download performance

Multi-gig internet download speeds in the Steam Client can be bottlenecked by the speed of the drive it’s writing

on. While a fast SSD can download 23GB in as little as 2 to 3 minutes, a SATA SSD might take 8 minutes.

IDG

Steam’s servers usually topped out at 2Gbps to 2.7Gbps for me, which is below the theoretical write speed of most SATA SSDs. However, Steam actually seems to be sending compressed game assets to you to reduce bandwidth loads because, despite Steam reporting a maximum of around 260MBps during downloads, the actual writes to the drive were around 800MBps to 1.1GBps according to the OS. That’s likely why we’re seeing such a pronounced difference between the SATA SSD versus the two NVMe SSDs despite 260MBps being within SATA’s speeds.

Besides downloading a game using the Steam client, I also downloaded the 5GB Windows 11 ISO from Microsoft’s servers, which concurred that a hard drive is too slow for ultra-fast internet. But the difference between the SATA SSD and NVMe SSDs was fairly small. I should also mention that 5GB over a 10Gbps connection is ridiculously small, and the margins of error and variability can be vast. Still, the upshot is that whether it’s a large file transfer or a sustained game download, a hard drive is largely the bottleneck when you’re running a multi-gig connection.

10Gb Multi-Gig download performance

A typical download of a Windows 11 ISO isn’t as pronounced as a Steam download since the game is also being decompressed in real-time as well.

IDG

If you’re wondering why this doesn’t match the results you’re getting on your 10Gb or 5Gb connection in the speed tests (where your machine might push 8Gbps downloads, as the in the image below), that’s because those tests are intentionally very small and designed to test your potential download (and upload) speeds, not test the potential bottlenecks that exist elsewhere in your system. In fact, the result below is from using the Windows Store client of Ookla’s popular Speedtest, which aggregates info from four different Ookla servers to measure the download performance. The browser version, for example, would put the performance closer to 2Gbps since it relies only on one server.

Speedtest Windows client result

The windows Speedtest client needs to aggregate from four different servers to properly get a bead on how fast 10Gbps internet is.

IDG

Your CPU might be too slow, too

In addition to your drive being a potential bottleneck, your PC’s CPU could be a limiting factor. While that wasn’t the case in the machine I used for write-speed testing, not everyone has an 18-core CPU on board. So to test different scenarios, I kept all of the hardware the same and manually disabled CPU cores in the BIOS for an older and slower Core i9-7980XE to simulate the impact of using a 2-core, 4-core, 6-core, 8-core, 12-core, and 16-core CPU while downloading the same 23GB Steam game. For the target drive, I used the fastest SSD for all of the tests and, again, switched off real-time third-party AV monitoring.

So is a 2-core, 4-core, or even 6-core CPU too slow for multi-gig internet? The answer, surprisingly, is yes to all three.

10Gb Multi-Gig download performance

Multi-gig internet download speeds can be bottlenecked by the speed of the CPU in your PC.

IDG

You can see the results above. The blue lines represent the total time it took to download the 23GB Steam game, while the red line represents Steam’s reported peak download bandwidth. Surprisingly I saw performance scaling at 8-cores and up, with the highest peaks using all 16-cores. If you look at the actual time it takes though, it’s really no big deal. At times, I’d see the 16-core configuration taking more time than the 12-core, which I’d chalk up to what happens when you’re using a network you have no control over. It could also be Steam’s servers frowning at me for downloading half a terabyte of the same game over and over and over again. Valve, after all, does have to pay the bill for the amount of bandwidth its consumers use on downloads.

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What I can say without a doubt is that if you’re going to sign up for a shiny-new 10G or 5G plan, your 10-year old dual-core or quad-core is unlikely to really push it for real-world downloads. Yes, it might be fine for a short speed test, but in reality that CPU is a serious bottleneck.

Perhaps the best news about using an older dual-core or quad-core machine to download files over a 10G internet connection is that it means the speed of the target drive just won’t matter as much either. In fact, an older dual-core or quad-core with a SATA SSD is fine—until you realize you basically aren’t exceeding the speeds of even a gigabit connection.

Don’t overreact

Still, this shouldn’t cause you to overreact and shy away from multi-gig internet. First, this situation applies to a single wired desktop hunting for the absolute fastest downloads speeds and connected to the router using a 10Gbps connection. Yes, that lets me download a 100GB game in just a few minutes, but for most people, moving to a multi-gig setup will help you no matter what, even if every PC can’t take full advantage of it.

10Gbps download using an NVMe SSDDownloading a game on a 10Gig Internet connection and a hard drive.In this image you can see the difference between downloading a 23GB game onto an NVMe SSD and a standard hard drive. The NVMe target drive is pushing 2.2Gbps speeds and heavily taxing the CPU as Steam decompresses the game, while the hard drive’s limited write speeds is such a bottleneck that download speeds are held to 700MBps and also greatly reducing the CPU load.

For example, with a multi-gig internet connection to your router (assuming it can at least hit 2.5Gbps through its WAN port), wired clients such as gaming desktops can download at up to gigabit speeds, while wireless clients such as laptops, tablets, and media streaming still have plenty of bandwidth left over for them.

So if you can get multi-gig internet for the same price, or not much more, it’s well worth it. Just know that if you aren’t getting the speeds you expected, you can’t just blame your router. It might be the relatively slow CPU and slow storage you’re using. If so, our guides to the best CPUs and best SSDs for any budget can help.

Internet
Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh review: A powerful—and expensive—Wi-Fi mesh system
At a glanceExpert’s Rating ProsExtremely high throughput on the 6GHz band Plays nicely with IoT devices Small footprint Separate IoT network for easy setup Netgear Armor is very robust security 10Gbps WAN and 2.5Gbps LAN ports ConsVery expensive Size may make it hard to place Best features are subscription-only Warranty is only one year  Best Prices Today: Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh System Retailer Price Delivery Amazon $1,499.99 Free View Netgear $1499.99 View Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide

The newest entrant in the Orbi line is a mighty machine. This quad-band AXE11000 mesh router has a combined potential throughput of 10.8Gbps and has 12 beamforming antennas, a 10Gbps WAN port, a 2.5Gbps LAN port, and not only promises, but delivers wireless speeds well in excess of 1Gbps. It’s faster than any internet plan available in most markets, if you have the gear to take advantage. And you’d better have that gear, because at $1,500 for a three-pack, this is the most expensive consumer mesh package on the market.  

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh cooling ventsThe summit of Mt. Orbi features cooling vents, so you’ll want to give them plenty of headroom when placing them. 

Wes Davis / IDG

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh: The hardware 

If you’ve only ever seen pictures of an Orbi router (as I had, prior to this review), you will be astounded when you first open the product box—the thing is massive. For better or for worse, though, most of that bulk is vertical, so its footprint is mercifully small, even if its 11-inch height limits the shelves you can put it on. And while it definitely sticks out like a sore thumb, the air freshener–chic motif makes it pretty inoffensive to look at. Beyond the aforementioned ethernet ports, there are no other ports or really any buttons to speak of. As I mentioned above, the primary router has a 10Gbps WAN port, a 2.5Gbps LAN port, and three additional gigabit ports. There are no USB ports, which feels like an odd omission. The two satellite units each have a single 2.5Gbps LAN and three gigabit ethernet ports, and similarly have no USB ports. The power supply is, like with most routers, external, and it’s a chunky brick, but most will probably be able to fit it onto a power strip without kicking anything else off. 

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh primary ports 10Gbps and 2.5Gbps ports are a nice, premium addition. 

Wes Davis / IDG

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh: The setup 

Setting up the Orbi 6E and pairing its satellites is a process that can either be quick and straightforward, or pretty involved, depending on which subscription model you go with. The no-subscription path takes you through connecting your satellites and setting up your SSID, and provides tips and tricks during the self-configuring parts. It’s not as fast as some other mesh systems can be, but I was still able to get the whole network up and running in a little more than 10 minutes without signing up for subscriptions—you’ll want to set aside closer to 15 to 20 minutes if you choose to use those services.  

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh setup screenSetup is fairly straightforward and pleasant, so long as you don’t mind ads. 

Netgear

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh: Managing your network 

Once set up, management of the system is accomplished through either the Orbi app or the web interface. As is typical, the phone app is the more user-friendly experience, with a simple grid layout for accessing various settings or viewing information. If you want to view all the devices connected to your account, create profiles to assign them to (more on this later), update your SSID, toggle guest and IoT networks, or view simple network traffic metrics, the app is the place you’ll want to turn, for the most part. It’s also where you’ll want to mess with all the security and parental controls, if you’re paying for Netgear’s subscription services. Unsurprisingly, you can’t configure separate SSIDs for the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz bands—at least, not in a way that’s self-evident, and not specifically in the app. Only in the web interface can you set up a separate 6GHz band, and if you set the IoT network to 2.4GHz, you’ve essentially accomplished separating that band. That’s more than you can do with a lot of mesh systems, though it’s annoying that you have to deploy some lateral thinking to get it done. Router configuration through the app can be achieved both locally and, if you have the “Anywhere Access” feature turned on, remotely. For most people, the app will be the only way you interact with the mesh system. 

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh smartphone screenThe smartphone app is pleasant and easy to use, if a little feature-light without subscriptions. 

Netgear

For more technical administration of the network, many users will want to turn to the web interface, which can be accessed by typing its local IP address in the browser. Here, you’re presented with a pair of tabs labeled “Basic” and “Advanced.” For the former, your options are generally the same as those you’ll find in the app (minus Netgear Armor and parental controls), while the latter is where you’ll handle things like setting up static identifiers for your devices—say you want a particular one to keep the same IP address all the time—configuring VLAN tagging, pointing your network to a custom Domain Name Server, or DNS, and more. There’s also a network traffic meter, but it’s no more detailed than that found in the smartphone app, showing overall data consumption on your entire network, with no insight into which devices are responsible for the bulk of consumption.  

Feature-wise, in both the smartphone app and the web UI, the Netgear Orbi is a little sparse when you don’t account for the subscription-only offerings. There are some standard configuration options, but generally, the experience ends up feeling more about pushing you toward Netgear’s subscriptions than providing a quality user experience. 

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh: IoT network 

There is nothing new about a separate guest network, but what about an Internet of Things (IoT) network? Netgear offers this with the Orbi 6E, but it’s not necessarily what you’d expect. The IoT network is not a fully separate network—devices on it can see others on your primary network and vice versa—and has no specific security features. Instead, it exists as a means to simplify setup of smart devices like light bulbs, motion sensors, and more, by giving them an SSID that is always on the 2.4GHz band (which many smart home devices exclusively use) and uses only WPA2 authentication, rather than WPA3, which can cause compatibility issues with some smart home devices. You can configure this network to use WPA3 and 5GHz Wi-Fi as well, if you want to. 

This makes for greater convenience, but I don’t know that it’s made clear that this network isn’t necessarily a more secure option, which should be top of mind for most people using a lot of smart home devices. Regardless, it’s a cool idea, and although it’s generally safer to choose a non-IP-based smart home device (think Z-Wave, Zigbee, or Thread), many of us, myself included, still have some Wi-Fi smart home devices hanging out on our networks. 

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh: Subscriptions 

Netgear wants you to buy more than just its router—it wants you to get in on its services. And boy, do they have services! You can easily drop an additional $340 in year-long subscriptions and one-time purchases. Thanks to a free 30-day trial that comes with the system, I tried out the two most prominent options: Netgear Armor and Smart Parental Controls.  

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh Netgear ArmorNetgear Armor may be pricey, but it has a lot to offer, and at least it goes on sale sometimes. 

Netgear

Netgear Armor has a lot in common with the likes of Eero’s Secure+. It comes with malware protection, network scanning for risks, and it shows users a breakdown on blocked threats. Where it differs from the Amazon brand’s router is in providing a more active role for the user, with more technical feedback on potential issues. After scanning your network, Armor will identify security risks and assign a 1 to 100 score to your network, where 100 is more secure. Factors impacting your score can be vulnerabilities—the three Wemo plugs I’ve had forever, for example, were identified as possible vectors for a denial-of-service attack—or just how many devices haven’t yet installed the Bitdefender security app. It mostly judged this right, although it kept asking me to add the app to my HomePods, and there was no way to tell it they aren’t what it thinks they are. 

Netgear Armor also gives you free access to a limited version of Bitdefender’s VPN service for up to 10 devices, with 200MB of daily data encrypted and routed through Bitdefender’s servers—during my time with this, I noticed some of that characteristic VPN slowdown, particularly when I asked my HomePods to do anything that required authentication through my phone. I also noticed my iPhone having a lot of trouble connecting and staying connected to the network when the VPN was turned on. I’ve had similar issues in the past with other VPNs and my iPhone, so it’s hard to say whether this is Bitdefender’s fault, the router’s, or the phone (or just a mix of all of them, which is as likely as anything). It’s easy to bump up against that 200MB data limit though, so if you’d like to upgrade to an unlimited plan, that’s another $50 per year, which is actually pretty affordable as VPNs go, particularly with so many devices covered. 

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh Parental Controls Parental controls are a nice network-level feature, but feels like it should’ve been included with the price of the router.

Netgear

Smart Parental Controls is the other big subscription. Similar to Apple’s built-in Screen Time software, this $70-per-year feature allows you to set time limits and content filters (labeled “child,” “teen,” “adult,” or “none”) on a per-profile basis. This allows parents to both monitor and restrict the apps and websites their children use and see, as well as view attempts to connect to blocked sites or reward their kids with extra time as they see fit. 

Going further, choosing your content filter level is as involved or as hands-off as you want it to be. Each profile has pre-configured settings for child, teen, and adult filters, with lists that allow you to toggle certain apps or websites that you think your kid can handle. There are also toggles for safe search and YouTube Restricted Mode, which is a version of YouTube that ostensibly blocks sensitive content. Finally, you can set bedtime and dinner time internet restrictions per profile, to the consternation of many kids, I’m sure. 

The last thing you can buy is an extended warranty—this boosts the hardware warranty from one year to two for $50, while paying $120 will extend Netgear’s tech support from the initial complementary 90-day period to a full two years. The extended warranty option is a shrewd one, however, and I’m always a little miffed about companies only offering tech support for such short periods of time.  

Overall, the subscription suite is a mixed bag. Netgear Armor is roughly in line with what other companies are offering, both as it relates to pricing and features; however, Smart Parental Controls are, frankly, largely features that should either be rolled in with Armor or offered for free. It’s a nice feature set, but when you’re spending the kind of money that could buy you a full-fledged desktop computer—and a pretty nice one, at that—it feels like a slap in the face to have a feature like this be hidden behind a paywall.   

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh: Performance 

Now we come to the meat and potatoes of the review: performance. Just how did this mesh system do? Comparing this system to a regular mesh system, while useful for contextualizing what this generation of routers can do, feels almost unfair, so most of this section will focus on the performance of another pricey three-pack of Wi-Fi 6E mesh system: the Linksys Atlas Max 6E.  

I used three devices in my testing: an M1 MacBook Air with a Plugable 2.5GbE USB-C network adapter, a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (which was lent to us by Netgear for the purpose of testing the 6GHz band), and a 2019 Lenovo Yoga with an Intel AX201 wireless networking card. Throughput tests were conducted using the network testing software iPerf 3 on both the Lenovo and Apple laptops, as well as an app called Magic Perf on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. I ran several consecutive TCP transfer tests at each testing location, switching over to the Yoga for 5GHz and 2.4GHz testing, then averaged them together to get the speed, presented here in Mbps. The MacBook Air served as the server device, while the Samsung phone and Lenovo laptop were my client devices. 

One of the things that immediately sparked my curiosity about this mesh system was the fact it’s a quad-band system—one of the big drawbacks of a Wi-Fi 6E system is that, often, in gaining a 6GHz band, tri-band routers lose their second, higher-throughput 5GHz band. From the user standpoint, this is still true of the Orbi 6E Mesh system, as it uses its second 5GHz band not as an additional access point for the user, but as a dedicated backhaul, meaning it’s a data connection only shared between the mesh points—some mesh systems, such as Eero’s, prefer a dynamic backhaul, where the band being used changes based on local conditions. Which is best is not for me to say, and my only direct comparison is with the 2nd-generation Eero Pro and Eero routers I use at home. The Orbi completely crushes Eero’s system, as it should, given the five-year gulf between them. 

Netgear Orbi 6E mesh benchmarks

Brad Chacos/IDG

Out of the gate, the Wi-Fi 6E contest wasn’t even close. Netgear’s Orbi, with the right hardware talking to it, is intensely fast for this day and age. Transfer tests between the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra—which was lent to me by Netgear for testing, as it’s one of few smartphones on the market with a 6GHz radio—to the hardwired MacBook Air averaged over a gigabit per second in my dining room (reaching 1,610Mbps on one test), where the router was located, as well as my front room, about 15 feet away with no physical impediments. Only two locations dropped below 900Mbps, and both were in my basement, where I still managed to get almost 600Mbps transfer speeds in one location, and 86Mbps in the other, much more challenging location (this spot has the worst signal in the house due to being near several water pipes and AC ducts). The Linksys Atlas Max 6E never broke 900Mbps in any tested location on the 6Ghz band, with its highest speed being 892Mbps when the client device was within 5 feet of it. The Orbi, at worst, was 6.5 percent faster than the Linksys, while every other test had it performing from 30 percent better up to 70 percent better. 

Netgear Orbi 6E mesh benchmarks

Brad Chacos/IDG

Netgear Orbi 6E mesh benchmarks

Brad Chacos/IDG

As testing moved to the 5GHz band, the story shifted, with the two performing pretty equally in 5GHz Wi-Fi 6 tests, and the Linksys mesh taking the lead in old-fashioned Wi-Fi 5 tests on the same band.

Netgear Orbi 6E mesh benchmarks

Brad Chacos/IDG

Netgear Orbi 6E mesh benchmarks

Brad Chacos/IDG

Wi-Fi 6 testing on the 2.4GHz band continued this trend, with Linksys’ mesh system besting the Orbi in most locations. It was even worse for the Orbi when using the ancient—but still in use by most smart home IoT devices today—802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) protocol, where the Linksys beat the Orbi in all tested locations. 

How practical are these differences, though? The Orbi system is clearly superior in 6GHz performance, but things were much closer on the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands, and the winner here could easily flip on a different day. Benchmarks are an important piece of the puzzle but, of course, they only tell part of the story.  

In the day-to-day, the Orbi was unnoticeable, in a good way. No matter where I was in my home, I never felt like there was a particular dead zone or troublesome spot, apart from in my alley, where I usually have to disconnect from my network to toggle my Wi-Fi garage door opener. Outside of that, media streamed without buffering, smart home devices were responsive, and I simply didn’t notice the router in daily use. I could say the same for Linksys’ network, but the one crucial difference is in the behavior of my smart home devices when the network goes down—with the Linksys, certain repeat offenders had trouble reconnecting, but I never had this issue with Netgear’s system. 

Wireless gaming was generally smooth—during concentrated testing in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which I use for testing because of the developer console tools that let you view stats like frame rate and ping in real time, I observed ping generally in the 20ms to 50ms range, and occasional spikes to around 100ms, but rarely did I find this disruptive. When wired to the router, ping never generally got above 30ms. Orbi currently has no specific gaming features, but that’s due to change in coming months, when Netgear releases its gamer-centric DumaOS features for Orbi routers, adding another subscription service to the list. 

Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh: Final thoughts 

The Netgear Orbi 6E mesh system is among the best of the current crop of extremely high-end consumer mesh routers. It’s incredibly fast, easy to set up, and it played nice with all of the 40-plus devices I had connected to it. Management is straightforward and fairly easy, whether you’re using an iOS app or the web interface. The subscription features found in Netgear Armor and Smart Parental Controls are robust and add a great deal of value to the system. 

However, at $1,500 for a 3-pack, this router is definitely priced like a luxury item, yet I can’t help but feel like it’s not quite appointed like one. It has a lot of the configuration options you would expect from a Netgear router, but the subscriptions feel excessive. The security subscription I understand—were you to buy the Bitdefender Box, you’d get many of the same features for the same yearly fee, and anyway, the security features they offer need constant updates—but the parental controls feel like something that should just be a part of the router. Then you throw in paying quite a bit extra to get more than 90 days of tech support and extend the warranty to two years, and you really wonder why not just build this into the price?  

At the end of the day, while the Netgear Orbi 6E Mesh is a truly killer mesh system, particularly if you have a lot of smart home devices, its hefty price and reliance on subscriptions takes off some of shine. In raw throughput, it swapped hits with the Linksys Atlas Max 6E it was measured against, and I would call it a draw if not for Orbi’s generally more-agreeable relations with the 40-plus devices on my network. But I could really only recommend this product for those who really want the fastest Wi-Fi 6E mesh system around, and don’t mind a subscription or two extra thrown on the pile. For most people, there are just too many options that cost half or even a third the price of this system while offering perfectly acceptable performance. 

Routers, Wi-Fi
Best dash cams: Your second set of eyes on the road

Dash cams are your second set of eyes on today’s mean streets. Unlike a passenger, a dash cam is ever alert to what’s happening, keeping a record complete with timestamp and GPS coordinates. There are different things to consider when choosing the best dash cam for you, such as whether you want a front, front/interior, or front/rear model. We have reviews and recommendations of all types, and at various price levels. For even more information on what features to look for in a dash cam, scroll to our buyers guide beneath our best picks.

You can also save yourself a lot of confusion and aggravation by checking out our instructions on how to install a dash cam.

1. Cobra SC 400D – Best premium front/rear dash cam Cobra SC 400D - Best premium front/rear dash cam Pros Excellent video captures, day and night, front and back 3-inch touchscreen display Voice control Alexa support (if you care) 2160p (4K UHD) if you want it Cons Very expensive Rear camera isn’t removable MSRP: 399.95 Best Prices Today: $399.95 at Amazon | $399.95 at Cobra

Our review of the Cobra SC 400D left us smitten. It’s pricey, yes, but it delivers the goods with stunning images—4K for the front, 1080p in the rear—day or night. In addition to that it has all the trappings of a premium product: a sturdy magnetic mount with integrated GPS, a crisp 3-inch touchscreen display, and Alexa support for finding businesses and the like when you are on the road. It can also be expanded with an optional 120-degree FOV cam for the interior.

Read our full Cobra SC 400D review 2. Nextbase 622GW – Best premium front/rear runner-up Nextbase 622GW - Best premium front/rear runner-up Pros Stellar day and night captures Modular add-on 1080p cameras provide interior and rear coverage Alexa voice control and automatic emergency notifications Cons Expensive MSRP: $399.99 Best Prices Today: $319.99 at Best Buy | $399.99 at Amazon | $399.99 at Nextbase

Prior to our review of the Cobra SC 400D above, the 622GW front/rear system was our hands-down favorite. And, really, it shares virtually all the same attributes as its rival—nice design and build quality, excellent day and night captures, drive mapping, a wonderful 3-inch display, emergency response to accidents, Alexa support, and the ability to add a third camera for interior views. Like the 400D, it carries a premium price tag. But in the end, you can’t go wrong with either model.

Read our full Nextbase 622GW Dash Cam review 3. Viofo A129 Pro Duo – Best midrange front/rear dash cam Viofo A129 Pro Duo - Best midrange front/rear dash cam Pros Excellent 4K UHD front captures. Great 1080p rear captures. Easy to use Cons Cameras don’t detach from mounts MSRP: $249.99 Best Prices Today: $249.89 at Amazon | $249.99 at Viofo

Another of the 4K-front/1080p-rear camera setups, the Viofo A129 Pro Duo was the first to win us over to the benefits of 4K. It’s been matched in those abilities by newer models, but the A129 comes at a competitive price that can’t be ignored. Plus it offers integrated GPS and a pleasant user experience.

Read our full Viofo A129 Pro Duo review 4. Nextbase 222X – Best budget front/rear dash cam Nextbase 222X - Best budget front/rear dash cam Pros Good front/rear-view day video Decent front/rear-view night captures 48-hour, battery-supported parking mode and after-incident capture Cons Modest video quality compared to pricier Nextbase models Modular port, but no add-on modules No GPS MSRP: $99.99 Best Prices Today: $80 at Walmart | $99.99 at Nextbase | $109.00 at Amazon

If you really want to save money, this Walmart-exclusive Nextbase 222X front-and-rear camera duo offers great value. The 1080p/720p video is a compromise, but video quality is still good, it has a nice magnetic mount, a clear 2.5-inch screen, and a battery-supported parking mode.

Read our full Nextbase 222X Dash Cam review 5. Miofive 4K – Best front-only dash cam Miofive 4K - Best front-only dash cam Pros Compact, fully integrated design Very affordable for 4K with GPS Friendly voice notifications 64GB of internal storage Good day and night captures Cons Internal storage isn't replaceable macOS won't read the internal storage MSRP: 149.99 Best Prices Today: $149.99 at Amazon

Prior to our review of the Miofive 4K, we would have tapped the Car and Driver Eye2 Pro as the best front-only dash cam with 4K, a fine product in its own right. But the Miofive costs $100 less, and offers integrated GPS as well as great video captures, 64GB of internal storage, a compact design, friendly voice notifications, and a super straightforward setup. So not only is this our favorite front dash cam with 4K, it’s our favorite front cam overall.

Read our full Miofive 4K dash cam review 6. Garmin Dash Cam 57 – Best front-only runner-up Garmin Dash Cam 57 - Best front-only runner-up Pros Colorful, detailed captures day and night Small enough to hide behind your mirror Super-convenient magnetic mounting Phone and cloud connectivity Cons No rear camera option MSRP: $229.99 Best Prices Today: $229.99 at Amazon | $229.99 at Garmin

This small but mighty front dash cam has it all: great 1440p video with a 140-degree field of view, integrated GPS and driving assistance, good phone connectivity, an easy and convenient magnetic mounting system, and the backing of Garmin’s good name.

Read our full Garmin Dash Cam 57 review 7. iOttie Aivo View – Most stealth front-only cam iOttie Aivo View - Most stealth front-only cam Pros Easy to set up and use Very good day and night captures Magnetic mount Minimalist styling and operation Cons Requires iOttie account to set up and use MSRP: $149.95 Best Prices Today: $139.95 at Amazon | $149.95 at iOttie

For minimalist types, iOttie’s Aivo View consists of just a small camera that magnetically attached to a semi-permanent mount. It uses your phone as the interface and viewer. It can capture at up to 1600p/30 frames per second, or as low as 720p to save space on your inserted SD card. It also offers integrated GPS. The Aivo View does require that you set up an iOttie account.

If that doesn’t sit well with you, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 is another excellent choice for stealth operation, measuring just 1.23 x 2.1 x 1.5 inches—small enough to remain hidden behind your sun visor. It doesn’t have GPS, however.

Read our full iOttie Aivo View dash cam review 8. Garmin Dash Cam Tandem – Best front/interior dash cam Garmin Dash Cam Tandem - Best front/interior dash cam Pros Very easy to install and use Compact profile Excellent magnetic mount 360-degree front/interior view (minus obstructions) Cons Expensive Average captures MSRP: $289.99 Best Prices Today: $273.01 at Amazon | $299.99 at Best Buy

Garmin’s front/interior camera is easy to install, features a compact body that helps it avoid detection, and has an excellent magnetic mount—all useful features that make up for the average 1440p/720p video capture quality. The Tandem doesn’t have a display; it nicely uses Bluetooth (as opposed to Wi-Fi) to connect to your phone, where Garmin’s easy-to-use app lets you configure settings—although the defaults are spot-on.

Read our full Garmin Dash Cam Tandem review 9. Cobra SC 201 – Best budget front/interior dash cam Cobra SC 201 - Best budget front/interior dash cam Pros Excellent video, especially at night Front and interior cameras for ride-givers GPS with automatic setup Included 16GB SD card Cons No captures without 12-volt Buggy software at the time of testing App does not support smartphones running Android 7 or older MSRP: $179.95 Best Prices Today: $159.95 at Cobra | $179.95 at Amazon | $179.99 at Best Buy

Dash cams are all about capturing the action, and few do it better than the front/interior Cobra SC 201. The exterior night video, especially, is unsurpassed in its ability to show details in dark surroundings and it offers a laundry list of features including GPS and cloud uploads. The company even includes a 16GB SD card. It’s well worth the money for what you get—just don’t try to use the cloud functionality with an older phone OS.

Read our full Cobra SC 201 Smart Dash Cam review What to look for in a dash cam

We’ll step you through what to think about when you’re shopping for a dash cam, from video capabilities, recording options, power connections, and more. 

Video capabilities Dual-channel support: This is what you’ll need if you want to run both front and rear, or interior (cabin-view) cameras. Interior cameras are generally situated on the dash cam, but rear cameras are separate and require additional cabling. A decently wide field of view: You’ll see cameras with as little as 90-degrees field of view, but you’ll catch more of what’s around you if you go for 120 to 140 degrees. Some cameras offer 160- to 180-degree lenses. Note that the wider the field of view, the more fish-eye distortion there is, and more processing is involved to compensate.Day and night video recording (night quality is a big variant)Infrared lighting is important if you want to assure good captures of nocturnal events inside the cabin of your vehicle.HDR (high dynamic range) isn’t necessary, but it does make for more detailed video because of better contrast. It also generally indicates richer color.WDR (wide dynamic range) is much like above, except it usually refers to only color and not contrast.Do you need 4K UHD? It’s easy to fall victim to the specsmanship of a higher-res image. In our tests, the gain in detail from 4K video (2160p) can vary, but the storage investment is consistently heavy: four times the storage of 1080p, or around 1GB for every three minutes of video. For most purposes,1080p is the more frugal everyday choice. Don’t avoid 4K UHD—which is a feature in our best overall picks—but read the reviews first so you know whether the cost is justified.Recording options Continuous loop recording to minimize storage requirements. Video is recorded, then immediately overwritten at a specified interval unless saved. Video is saved (protected from overwriting) automatically when an incident is detected. Most dash cams will overwrite older recordings when they run out of space. Cloud storage is available with a few dash cams. Uploading to the cloud in real time is a nice hedge against damage and theft—assuming the thief isn’t smart enough to kill the dash cam immediately. It’s handy for those managing fleets of vehicles, too, as incident videos are safely stashed online.Self-powered recording when power fails, so that you can be sure to capture all of an incident. This requires a battery or large super-capacitor (see below in “Power connections”). The camera should have a setting that allows you to specify how long the camera runs off 12-volt before shutting down.  Incident recording triggered by impact (G) sensors, or when in parking mode (see below), by motion detection. MicroSD card storage. Pricier dash cams bundle a storage card. Some come with larger cards, and some budget models come without. There are often bundles available with the card. Some cameras opt for hard-wired internal storage, like the Miofive 4K. Power connections

Something most people don’t consider before they buy is that dash cams connect to a power source in your car via a physical cable. That cable can sometimes be tucked out of the way, but more likely than not you’ll have loose cable hanging somewhere. You can sometimes fix this with a longer or shorter cable (or a professional installation). Keep that in mind as you consider your power options:

Auxiliary 12-volt power (adequate): Most vendors have stuck with powering their dash cams via the auxiliary 12-volt power socket (also known as the cigarette lighter) and USB cables. It can lead to an unsightly cable run, and the power disappears when you turn off the car, but it’s universal and easy.Hard-wired 12-volt power (better): Most vendors offer kits that connect the dash cam directly to a constant 12-volt source in your wiring harness behind the dash. This provides always-on power, but it isn’t particularly easy to install.OBD-II 12-volt power (better): Outliers like the Owl and PureCam use the OBD-II connector for constant 12-volt power. OBD-II-to-USB power cables are now available separately (as an alternative to hardwiring kits that draw constant 12-volt power from the wiring harness). I recommend one with a USB Type-A port, which will accommodate any dash cam. Most of those with captive cables I’ve seen are mini-USB. The only downside is a long cable run, as the OBD-II port is usually next to the driver’s left knee, under the dash.Rearview 12-volt power (better): Another option that features a super-short cable run is powering your dash cam using your auto-dimming rearview mirror. You can find adapters for this at Dongar Technologies. If your car qualifies, this is by far your best option.Battery (or super-capacitor) power: Many dash cams come with super-capacitors, which allow the dash cam to operate for a brief period after losing regular power—such as during a collision. They don’t record for very long though, and sometimes not at all. A battery gives you a better chance of recording an entire incident, even when 12-volt power is lost. If run time is sufficient, it also allows you to record for a while with the car turned off. Other handy features Phone connectivity is not essential, but can make offloading video and configuring the dash cam easier. We’ve noticed just recently (12/15/2020) that phone apps are starting to require later versions of Android. If you’re rocking anything older than 8, keep that in mind.GPS: This feature could be the tipping point if you use your captured video to resolve a dispute. Watermarking the video is common, but when embedded into the video, GPS info is also immensely useful for mapping your travels. GPS will also automatically set the time in better cameras.Parking monitoring: This can mean two things. Running the dash cam continuously in low frame-rate mode to save card space and battery, or running in standby mode and awakening when motion or g-forces are detected. We’ve reviewed cameras that have a battery large enough to monitor the car with the 12-volt turned off for several days, but most cameras require a constant 12-volt source.How we test dash cams

Few people are as well situated geographically as I am to test dash cams. Within two blocks there are major four- and six-lane thoroughfares, numerous bike lanes, joggers, dog walkers, oblivious ear-budded pedestrians, and a major bus nexus serving both public and private coaches. The opportunities for near-accidents are endless.

For every dash cam, I mount it in my car, judging the ease and convenience of doing so. Tip: Many dash cams rely on adhesive for mounting to your windshield. Hot conditions can make it next to impossible to remove the film that protects the adhesive. Remove the film in a cool environment, or place it in the fridge for a minute or two before installing it.

I put each dash cam through several days’ and nights’ worth of driving, recording video and judging the image quality. All the dash cams I’ve reviewed in the last couple of years take good daytime video. However, night video is often plagued by murky shadows and headlight flare. That said, quality is improving rapidly with the introduction of new sensors. Take a close look at the night shots in each review. 

I try all the features: Buttons, display controls, apps. Aside from rear-view support and GPS, the most salient differences between the products are the interface controls and extra features, such as the lane departure and collision warnings that you get with some models. I try them…and I turn them off. In practice, they usually tell me I’m changing lanes, in heavy traffic, or have just been cut off. I know that. Additionally, the collision warnings generally come too late to do anything but distract you at exactly the wrong time. 

Note that the one thing I can’t relate to you is the longevity of any dash cam, as my testing occurs over a relatively short amount of time. Please check user reviews on various sites and pay attention to the warranty.

Car Tech, Cars, Holidays
Sejda review: A free PDF editor that puts function over frills
At a glanceExpert’s Rating ProsOnline and desktop versions availablePerforms dozens of PDF tasksNo frills interface is easy to useConsThere are daily usage limits without a subscriptionLimited font optionsOur Verdict

Sejda offers everything most users need to modify PDFs, though its daily usage limits can be a hindrance if you need to process a lot of files.

Price When Reviewed

Free

Best Prices Today: Sejda PDF editor Retailer Price Delivery Sejda $0 View Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide

Sejda is a no-frills PDF editor available in free and paid versions. The free version is offered as an online tool and as a desktop editor. The primary difference between the two is that the online tool processes your PDFs in the cloud, while the desktop version does it on your hard drive. However, both versions limit you to three processing tasks per day, working with files no bigger than 50MB or 200 pages and images up to 5MB, combining no more than 30 files and 50 pages, and working with one file at a time.

The online and desktop tools are nearly identical, and both prioritize function over flair. The interface is essentially a list of categorized tasks. You choose a task first, then upload your document to process it. You can upload a PDF directly from Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or your computer’s hard drive. There’s also an option to open a PDF from a web address if someone provides you with a direct link to the file. Though it’s intuitive to use, Sejda helpfully includes step-by-step instructions for how to perform the chosen task on that task’s page.

This review is part of our best PDF editors roundup. Go there to learn about our testing and how all the competitors performed.

Sejda

Sejda’s editng interface is simple and intuitive to use.

Michael Ansaldo/IDG

The PDF editor has a simple text-based toolbar that highlights common editing tasks like adding images and annotating documents. You can add text and edit existing text but matching old and new text can be fraught as the online tool has limited font options—at least common fonts like Helvetica and Times New Roman are among them. You can bold and italicize text, change font size and color, and easily delete blocks of text.

In addition to editing text, you can add images and shapes to your document, create form fields, annotate and redact content, and create and add signatures. Once you’ve completed your tasks, click the “apply changes” button and download the modified document.

Sejda

Sejda allows you to convert PDFs to a variety of file formats.

Michael Ansaldo/IDG

On top of editing, Sejda allows you to perform dozens of other operations. You can extract, split, merge, and combine pages; compress files; convert PDFs into other file formats; Bates stamp, encrypt, and watermark PDFs; and edit file metadata. OCR is also supported.

Both free Sejda tools are capable and easy to use, and they offer most of the same features you find in prettier, paid PDF editors. And even if you find the usage limits too restrictive, a paid subscription of $63 per year, which enables unlimited use of both the web and desktop tool, is still less than most other paid tools in our buying guide.

Productivity Software
Today only: Get speed and size with this blistering 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD for $150

Right now, you can add some super speedy PCIe 4.0 storage and keep things cool at a good price. Best Buy is selling the 1TB WD Black SN850 with heatsink for $150. That’s $120 off the MSRP and a better price than you’ll find elsewhere right now. The deal ends just before midnight Central time on Tuesday evening.

We reviewed the SN850 and gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars plus an Editors’ Choice Award. “The WD Black SN850 is a fantastic NVMe SSD,” we said. WD says this drive features a maximum sequential write speed of 7,000 megabytes-per-second and a maximum sequential read speed of 5,300 MB/s. In our tests with the 2TB model, we found that the sequential writes were close, but the sequential read speeds were a little slower at just under 6,300MB/s.

This is a PCIe 4.0 drive, so you’ll need a system of the same generation of PCIe to hit those speeds. That requires a recent AMD or Intel CPU and motherboard. If you have a PCIe 3.0 system, you can still use this drive, but it won’t be able to run as fast. Either way, this is a good drive at a good price.

[Today’s deal: 1TB WD Black SN850 for $150 at BestBuy.]

Gear, NVMe
Snag this Asus mesh router for $70 off and saturate your home in ultra-fast Wi-Fi

It’s a good day to make your Wi-Fi signal reach past the driveway. Today only, Newegg is selling the Asus ZenWiFi XD6 mesh Wi-Fi system (2-pack) for $230. That’s $70 off the usual price. To get the deal, you need to use the code SSBSA728 at checkout. The deal ends just before midnight Pacific time on Tuesday evening.

With this mesh system, you can cover up to 5,400 square feet. It’s compatible with Asus’ AiMesh technology. This lets you mix and match a variety of Asus routers into a larger mesh system if you need it. The only requirement is that the other routers are AiMesh compatible.

The XD6 system provides a total wireless speed of 5,400 megabits-per-second. It comes with onboard security from Trend Micro to keep the network secure as well as parental controls such as URL filtering and scheduling. You can also tell the XD6 system to prioritize certain kinds of content if, for example, you need to keep your movie streaming smoothly while someone else is uploading a ton of photos to OneDrive.

[Today’s deal: Asus ZenWiFi XD6 Wi-Fi6 mesh system for $230 at Newegg.]

Gear, Mesh Wi-fi Routers
Inside Intel’s Arc graphics plans: “We’re taking a completely different approach”

After Arc’s initial hype, led by the hire of AMD Radeon graphics head Raja Koduri in 2017, Intel embarked on the long grind towards releasing its debut discrete graphics chips. The competition has only strengthened since. Nvidia is riding high on wins in both the enthusiast and enterprise world. AMD, meanwhile, is placing pressure on Intel with an intensity not felt since the early days of Athlon.

In short, it’s a tough time to be the fresh face in discrete graphics. But Roger Chandler, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Graphics and Gaming team, thinks that’s exactly why Intel can succeed. He believes Arc can build on Intel’s history of strong partnerships with hardware OEMs and software developers to offer a unique alternative for both creators and gamers.

Whether Intel can deliver remains to be seen, but my time at Intel’s Jones Farm campus—where I benchmarked the company’s first Arc laptop GPU—made it clear the team doesn’t lack passion.

Where’s the hardware?

Intel’s Arc A370M can deliver performance competitive with AMD and Nvidia, but this isn’t worth much if the hardware isn’t available. This reality continues to loom over Intel, which just announced yet another delay of desktop availability.

I asked Chandler if 2022 is still the year Arc goes mainstream, or if that will be further delayed. “This is the year,” said Chandler boldly, before adding a catch. “This is the year our first generation of products hit the market.”

He stressed that Arc is taking a slow-and-steady approach where laptop, rather than desktop, takes the lead. (Nvidia and AMD usually launch desktop GPUs first, then their mobile variants months later.) The reason? Intel feels Arc is best positioned to deliver an immediate advantage in the laptop space.

“It really fits our strategy,” said Chandler. “We’re building on this basis of integrated graphics, which we’ve been steadily improving. That’s our foundation.” He also mentioned Intel’s long history of working with OEM laptop manufacturers.

Arc laptops at Intel's Jones Farm Campus

Arc reference laptops at Intel’s Jones Farm Campus.

Matt Smith/IDG

Yet even mobile Arc continues to struggle with delays. Samsung’s Galaxy Book2 has a configuration with Intel Arc A350M, but this configuration is not yet available in North America. Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1s with Intel Arc are announced but won’t hit stores until June.

“I think we’re all eager to get the rest of the designs from our customers into the market,” said Chandler. “When you’re working on partners with notebooks, you’re really working on their schedule, and their calendar.” Chandler said supply chain issues remain a persistent obstacle for laptops.

Intel also wants to get the user experience right, especially for enthusiasts—whether they’re on mobile or desktop. The team doesn’t want to ship an underbaked experience just to get it on shelves.

“Desktop systems are really important. Just to be honest, about 80 percent of the people in the overall graphics world are hardcore gamers,” said Chandler. “The gaming experience has to be rock solid. Those are the products most heavily reviewed, and scrutinized. By staging it, this gives us a chance to really deliver on our software work.”

Intel wants to get gaming right the first time

Of course, delivering on the user experience is easier said than done, and Intel has to make up for lost time. AMD and Nvidia have decades of experience working with game developers to optimize for their discrete graphics.

Intel arc desktop graphics card

Intel

Chandler said Arc’s software team is growing aggressively and that Intel has expanded its developer relation organization to include roughly twice the number of deep partnerships it had a few years ago.

“If I were to say this were to work flawlessly, and 100 percent of every game is going to be fantastic, that would be disingenuous,” said Chandler. “But I can say based on the testing we’re doing, it looks really good.”

A large portion of this workload falls on a team of roughly 50 led by Dave Astle, director of game enabling engineering. Astle, now going on seven years at Intel, has guided his team to a more consistent release schedule of game-specific driver optimizations – and Intel’s move into discrete graphics opens new possibilities.

Intel arc launch

Intel

“With integrated graphics, there’s always going to be super high-end games that are beyond what we can support,” said Astle. “With discrete graphics, that’s no longer the case. So we’re now engaging with pretty much every high-end game developer.” Astle highlighted Intel’s Xe Super Sampling (XESS), a feature similar to Nvidia DLSS that uses AI upscaling to render at a lower resolution and then upscale the result.

I pressed Astle on whether Intel would change its driver update cadence alongside Arc. He seemed confident the current cadence of releases for Intel integrated graphics can keep up with what gamers expect. He pointed out the current pace is about one driver optimization release per month and, given the work required for validation, increasing that wouldn’t necessarily improve game support or performance.

“The goal is to release at the cadence we need to to ensure a good experience,” said Astle.

Pitching Arc to modern creators

Delays aside, Intel Arc is likely to reach a wide swath of users, from content creators to hardcore gamers, through late 2022. Chandler spoke passionately about his belief these groups are not separate.

Intel arc launch

Intel

“We’re trying to build for this new generation of gamers and creators,” he said. “People are using games to connect with each other, and more people are building careers as streamers and creators.”

Chandler referenced Arc’s support for the AV1 video codec as a tangible benefit. Intel Arc provides both hardware decode and encode for AV1, a feature that could be useful for a variety of livestreamers and video creators.

Intel is also working with software vendors to make use of both integrated Iris Xe and Arc discrete graphics simultaneously for content creation tasks. This effectively turns a laptop into a dual-graphics platform, a series of features that Intel calls Deep Link.

“For the most part, in a laptop system, if you have a discrete graphics card the integrated graphics pretty much gets ignored,” said Chandler. “With our system engineering capabilities, we’ve discovered all these ways the discrete and integrated can work together.”

Intel arc launch

Intel

Gamers shouldn’t get too excited—this is not as simple as flipping a switch, and Intel does not expect games can use this feature. Still, it could let streamers use Arc discrete graphics to play a game while the Iris Xe graphics is used to accelerate streaming software.

Priya Pulluru, a software enabling and optimization engineer, is working with partners like Topaz and BlackMagic to enable simultaneous use of integrated and discrete graphics in their software. Topaz already offers an experimental feature that supports this. In one test, an Intel Arc A370M paired with Intel Iris Xe graphics delivered a roughly 40 percent improvement over a laptop with Nvidia’s RTX 3050.

A laptop with Arc A370M graphics may not work for all content creators, and especially for those doing extensive work in Topaz’s AI software or DaVinci Resolve. Still, Pulluru believes Arc can expand the definition of a laptop suited for content creation. This could help experienced creators work on the go – or make high-end content creation possible at a mid-range price point.

“Now, content creation is everywhere,” said Pulluru. “And any laptop, mid-range laptop, can now run Resolve. My daughter did it for a school project.”

Arc has sets its sights on the horizon Arc laptops at Intel's Jones Farm Campus

Even more Arc laptops at Intel’s Jones Farm Campus.

Matt Smith/IDG

That theme—“content creation is everywhere”—feels like a guiding light for the Arc team. It will, of course, compete for the attention of hardcore gamers, but it’s clearly positioned to do far more than accelerate 3D games. Instead, Arc seems uniquely positioned as the final step in a broad, system-level strategy.

I left Jones Farm feeling Intel is not interested in discrete GPUs to sell Arc graphics specifically, but rather in selling Intel hardware as a complete platform for modern PC users—many of which game, create content, and browse YouTube on the same machine. Intel might be new to mainstream discrete graphics, but Chandler seems to think this fresh-faced approach is exactly why Intel can get it right with Arc. “We can take a completely different approach,” he said. “The world is different than it was 20 years ago.”

Further Intel Arc reading:

Intel’s long-anticipated Arc GPUs arrive in laptops, loaded with enticing featuresMeet Xe HPG, the beating heart inside Intel’s first graphics cardsCan Intel Arc shake up the depressingly bleak state of graphics cards?Here’s your first look at Intel’s Arc Limited Edition graphics cardTested: Arc A370M, Intel’s first discrete GPU to seriously battle Nvidia and AMD Gaming, GPUs, Laptops
BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U review: A gaming monitor with a split personality
At a glanceExpert’s Rating ProsSturdy, attractive design Two HDMI 2.1 ports for 4K/120Hz console gameplay Strong built-in audio Excellent color gamutConsDisappointing contrast ratio Modest SDR brightness No USB-C, only one DisplayPort  Lackluster HDR  Our Verdict

BenQ’s Mobiuz EX3210U is a 32-inch, 4K monitor that’s aimed at two different users—the PC gamer and the content creator—but, unfortunately, doesn’t hit the mark with either.

Best Prices Today: BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U Retailer Price Delivery Amazon $1,099.99 Free View BenQ 1099.99 View Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide

BenQ’s Mobiuz EX3210U is another entry in the increasingly competitive arena of 32-inch, 4K, high-refresh monitors that target not just PC gaming but also current-gen consoles. The twist? It also packs features for content creators.  

BenQ EX3210U: The specs  

The BenQ EX3210U has a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports providing 4K/120Hz gameplay when connected to a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X game console. DisplayPort 1.4 is offered for PC gamers and ups the maximum refresh rate to 144Hz. 

Display size: 32-inch Native resolution: 3840×2160 Panel type: IPS Refresh rate: 144Hz Adaptive sync: AMD FreeSync Premium Pro Ports: 2x HDMI 2.1, 1x DisplayPort 1.4, 4x USB-A  Stand adjustment: Height, tilt, swivel,  VESA mount: Yes, 100x100mm Speakers: Yes, plus woofer Price: $1,099.99 MSRP 

In addition to high refresh rates, this monitor boasts an extremely wide color gamut and a 10-bit panel. This means it can display 1.07 billion colors without using dithering to simulate colors. That’s great news for color performance, though the EX3210U’s image quality is far from perfect. 

BenQ EX3210U: Design

BenQ’s Mobiuz gaming sub-brand is not the most attractive monitor line today, but it’s close. It has a clean, angular presentation common to the gaming space, but pairs this with a distinctive white-and-orange color palette.  

This helps the EX3210U stand out from the crowd, yet remains subtle enough to fit in with a professional home office. A custom RGB accent light is available to spice up your gaming space after dark but can only be controlled manually through the monitor’s menus. It’s off by default.  

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U monitorThe stand reveals the distinct gamer aesthetic of BenQ’s Mobiuz line.

Matt Smith / Foundry

The monitor is massive and sturdy, with a weighty stand that provides height, tilt, and swivel adjustment. Build quality is top-notch, nearly on par with Alienware’s best. However, like Alienware’s displays, the sheer size and heft of the BenQ EX3210U isn’t for everyone. This 32-inch monitor takes up a lot of space and does nothing to minimize its footprint on your desk. 

BenQ EX3210U: Features and menu

The BenQ EX3210U has two HDMI 2.1 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4, and four USB-A 3.0 ports. This is a solid arrangement for gamers. You can connect a PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and gaming PC at once and enjoy 4K/120Hz from the consoles, plus 4K/144Hz from a gaming PC.  

It’s good to see four USB-A 3.0 ports, but they’re all located on the rear I/O panel, which makes them hard to access. There’s no USB-C and no support for DisplayPort-out. The competition also lacks these features. Still, given the EX3210U’s price, it would be nice if BenQ served up some extras. 

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U backsideThe ports are located on the upper edge of a depressed compartment on the monitor’s lower backside.

Matt Smith / Foundry

On-screen menu controls are robust but confusing. The monitor includes multiple gamma and color-temperature settings plus custom color adjustments, though these have vague labels. The monitor also has a dedicated sRGB mode, which is useful if you need to restrain the monitor’s wide color gamut. However, these features are accessed as sub-menus for specific preset picture-quality modes, which adds an extra step to finding and using them. 

You might forgive this, however, because the BenQ EX3210U comes with a remote. The remote can be used to access all on-screen menu controls. It’s a handy addition that’s quicker and more comfortable than using buttons on the monitor. 

The EX3210U has a pair of 2-watt speakers, plus a 5-watt subwoofer in the rear. This setup provides good sound quality. It has limits—the lack of stereo separation is notable and treble falls apart at high volume—but it’s a fine replacement for budget PC speakers. Many competing gaming monitors don’t even include speakers.  

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U monitorBuilt-in speakers and a subwoofer provide a decent alternative to a set of PC speakers.

Matt Smith / Foundry

It also has a built-in microphone with noise cancellation. The microphone’s quality is about equal to a good laptop mic and the noise cancellation works well. I wouldn’t recommend it for recording a podcast, but it’s fine for video calls.  

BenQ EX3210U: SDR image quality

The BenQ EX3210U might be a gaming monitor, but it has nearly equal emphasis on superior image quality for content consumption and creation. This is generally good news, though the monitor does suffer several flaws. 

SDR brightness comes in at just 263 nits, which is significantly lower than many competitors. This is a bit puzzling because the monitor’s maximum HDR brightness is significantly higher. It suggests BenQ intentionally limits the brightness of the monitor.  

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U brightness comparison

Matt Smith / Foundry

There could be good reasons for this. In many cases, viewing SDR content at a brightness above 200 nits can make dark scenes look worse. It may even become uncomfortable over time when viewing in a dark room. Still, it’s better to let users ramp up brightness if they feel the need.  

Contrast is a serious problem for the EX3210U. I measured a contrast ratio of just 540:1. Gaming monitors with an IPS panel, such as the EX3210U, are notorious for disappointing contrast—but the EX3210U’s performance is even worse than usual. 

A lack of contrast is bad news for depth and dimensionality in both games and movies. Content often seems flat compared to displays with better contrast. Black level performance is bad, so dark scenes look hazy with noticeable bright spots along the edges of the screen. 

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U contrast ratio comparison

Matt Smith / Foundry

The EX3210U is not alone, however. Direct competitors like the Viewsonic XG320U and Asus ROG Strix PG329Q share this issue.  

While the EX3210U stumbles in contrast, it picks itself up with color performance. It delivers 100 percent of both the sRGB and AdobeRGB gamuts, plus 95 percent of DCI-P3. These are excellent figures that more than qualify the EX3210U as a wide-gamut display.  

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U color gamut comparison

Matt Smith / Foundry

Gamers will generally like the vivid, oversaturated color that results. It looks crisp, vibrant, and punchy, especially in games like Valorant or Overwatch. Content creators who want to work in a color space beyond sRGB will appreciate this, as well. 

Average color accuracy comes in at an error of 1.9, which is good, but not fantastic. Many competing monitors have similar performance out of the box. This level of accuracy is fine for gaming but won’t impress content creators who care about accurate color presentation.  

The BenQ EX3210U has excellent gamma curve performance with multiple settings. This is good news for both gaming and content creation, as it helps provide an accurate and well-balanced image in a variety of situations. 

BenQ Mobiuz EX3210U color accuracy comparison

Matt Smith / Foundry

On the other hand, color temperature was off at default settings. I measured a color temperature of 5400K. This is much warmer and more reddish than the typical target of 6500K. This can be fixed with the monitor’s color temperature settings, however. 

Don’t forget that the EX3210U is a 4K monitor. Text looks crisp, games pack wonderful detail, and high-res video looks razor sharp. 

Content creators should know this monitor has a true 10-bit panel, which increases the number of colors it can display without dithering and reduces color banding overall. The inclusion of a true 10-bit panel may contribute to its price. With that said, those who don’t already have strong beliefs about the importance of “true” 10-bit color are unlikely to appreciate this.  

In summary, the EX3210U’s image quality is mixed. The monitor’s excellent color and sharpness provides a great experience when watching or playing punchy, detailed content. If you fire up darker games like Diablo II: Resurrected, or a noir movie like The Batman, the monitor’s problem with contrast will be noticeable.  

BenQ EX3210U: HDR performance

Turning on HDR boosts the monitor’s maximum sustained brightness to 512 nits. This is higher than Viewsonic’s XG320U, which maxed out at 463 nits, but below the Asus ROG Strix PG329Q, which rose to 529 nits.  

HDR content doesn’t look great, however, and contrast is again the culprit. There’s not enough of a gap between the brightest and darkest contrast to highlight surprising detail in either very dark or very bright scenes. The monitor offers a dynamic backlight feature, but because this is an edge-lit monitor, it doesn’t work well.  

BenQ’s HDRi preset modes are not good. They drastically shift both the color and gamma towards a brighter but less accurate presentation. The result is a flatter, less colorful look that I don’t think anyone will prefer. The monitor’s DisplayHDR mode is the only HDR image-quality preset worth using.  

The BenQ EX3210U includes an adaptive image quality feature called HDRi. This sounds good but, in practice, it needs a lot of work. Any image quality improvement it provides is difficult to discern.  

BenQ EX3210U: Motion performance

The BenQ EX3210U supports refresh rates up to 144Hz over DisplayPort and up to 120Hz over HDMI 2.1, and it includes two HDMI ports. Motion clarity is strong at both 120Hz and 144Hz. Fast-moving objects show only minor blur and retain enough clarity to easily see the action. Great motion clarity also retains detail when you quickly flip the camera, such as turning in a first-person game.  

Games also feel smooth at high refresh rates, which is to be expected. A refresh rate of 144Hz might seem meager compared to smaller 240Hz or 360Hz displays, but remember: This is 4K. This is good as it gets for a 32-inch, 4K monitor.  

BenQ embraces AMD FreeSync Premium Pro for adaptive sync. This makes sense given the monitor’s focus on console gaming in addition to PC gaming, as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are powered by AMD graphics hardware. The monitor is not officially G-Sync certified, but G-Sync functioned when the monitor was connected to both an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti desktop graphics card and a laptop with Nvidia RTX 3060 mobile graphics.  

BenQ EX3210U: Final thoughts 

BenQ’s Mobiuz EX3210U is a monitor aimed at two different users but doesn’t hit the mark with either. 

The inclusion of two HDMI 2.1 ports and a 4K/144Hz panel suggests a focus on console and PC gaming, but the monitor’s disappointing contrast ratio limits its appeal. It’s only ideal for vivid, saturated games.  

Content creators will like its wide color gamut and true 10-bit panel, both of which contribute to outstanding color support. But the monitor lacks useful productivity features like USB-C, and its color accuracy is merely fine.  

The EX3210U could be a worthy pick for a couple hundred dollars at MSRP. Until then, I can only recommend it to content creators who want to play 4K/120Hz games on the same setup they use for work.  

Monitors
SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless review: A premium, function-packed gaming mouse
At a glanceExpert’s Rating Pros18 easily programmable buttonsWeighs only 89 gramsQuick and responsiveDual Bluetooth 5.0 and 2.4Ghz wirelessConsSome buttons on the side grid are hard to reachOur Verdict

The SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless is lightweight and quick, and includes plenty of customizable options for serious MMO/MOBA gamers. It’s one of the best mice we’ve tested.

Price When Reviewed

$149.99

Best Prices Today: SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless Retailer Price Delivery Amazon $112.49 Free View Dell Home $149.99 Free View Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide

The SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless is a rare find among gaming mice in that it has 18 programmable buttons but weighs just 89 grams. These two factors alone should delight gamers—especially MOBA and MMO players looking for more buttons to deploy commands and macros. Even better, the Aerox 9 Wireless backs this up with a quick 18,000 CPI sensor and dual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

The secret sauce to its lightweight design is a honeycomb-mesh covering that runs almost the entire length of the mouse. Apart from keeping its weight in check, this design also gives the Aerox 9 Wireless a futuristic look, and provides a brilliant birds-eye view of the flashy RGB lighting inside.

The Aerox 9 Wireless is also extremely comfortable—as long as you use a palm or fingertip grip. If you’re more of a claw-grip player, this mouse probably isn’t for you, since its punctuated top can be a little awkward against your fingertips.

SteelSeries Aerox 9 design and build

Opening the box, my first impression was that the mouse is fairly large, but has a minimalist profile. There are no fancy curves, flaps or flares like you might see in other gaming mice.

The 18 buttons seem very well placed for one’s fingers. Apart from the two main ones on the top, there’s a button that’s easily reachable by your middle finger at the top-center behind the mouse wheel. This button lets you cycle through five different CPI profiles that adjust the mouse’s sensitivity levels.

The mouse wheel itself has three buttons in one, including both left and right tilt buttons, but the main body of buttons is a grid of 12 located on the left-hand side. This grid is accessible via your thumb and is colored gray, which contrasts nicely with the mouse’s black matte aesthetic.  

The Aerox 9’s top mesh design will be familiar to gamers who’ve used the similarly designed SteelSeries Aerox 5. If you haven’t, you’d be forgiven for thinking it compromises functionality. This is simply not the case. Despite its plenitude of holes, the mouse is remarkably sturdy. The top mesh didn’t move an iota when I tested it, holding its form during intense gameplay.

SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless honeycomb top

The SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless boasts a honeycomb top that helps the mouse achieve its 89 gram lightweight design.

Dominic Bayley/IDG

The RBG lighting is also a winner. It’s internalized in the mouse body, but it’s no less impressive than in mice that have external RGB lighting. It’s split into three pyramidal zones, which produce some dazzling effects as the light ripples around the mouse’s inner circuitry.  

Being able to peer inside and see all that circuitry unnerved me a little at first, since I often keep a cup of coffee just inches away from my mouse pad and was a little concerned about spillage. But according to SteelSeries, the internals are protected by an IP54-rated Aquabarrier, which helped put my mind at ease.

One surprising benefit of the unique “open top” design was that my hand got less sweaty on hot days. Without a solid lump of plastic beneath it, the extra aeration proved very comfortable in extended gaming sessions.

SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless Performance

SteelSeries has armed the Aerox 9 Wireless with its highly capable proprietary 18,000 CPI TrueMove Air sensor, which includes 400 IPS tracking and 40G acceleration. Admittedly, it isn’t as quick as the Razer Naga Pro’s 20,000 DPI optical sensor. Still, it’s proven itself worthy in other competitive SteelSeries gaming mice and it performed well in my tests.

Trying out the Aerox 9 Wireless in Call of Duty: Black Ops, it felt light and easy to move. The sensor had no problems keeping up with my rapid hand movements, be they long or short. The mouse’s tracking also seemed highly accurate, and pinpointing targets was a breeze. Plus, the solid, high-shaped top provided plenty of stability in my palm grip when I needed to make repetitive movements.

Helping the Aerox 9 glide smoothly across my desk are PTFE glide skates on the underside. There’s one in the front and back, as well as one around the mouse’s sensor. These worked like a dream, even when I wasn’t using a mouse mat.

Aerox 9 Wireless in hand

The honeycomb design gives the Aerox 9 extra aeration, making it very comfortable in extended gaming sessions.

Dominic Bayley/IDG

The main buttons felt comfortable, too. They have a contoured center that cradled my fingers perfectly in a natural grip. However, they aren’t the widest of buttons, and gamers with large fingers may prefer a little more room here.

While most premium gaming mice feature comparably fast switches, there can be subtle variations in how they respond and in their durability. SteelSeries has given the Aerox 9’s Golden Micro IP54 mechanical switches an 80 million click durability rating, which is 10 million clicks more than the Razer Naga Pro. To me, they felt soft and clicky. They also had minimal travel, which was ideal for games in which I needed to click fast.  

To test the side grid of buttons (which are without mechanical switches), I mapped commands in an old favorite MMORPG, Gloria Victis. On the whole, the grid was a pleasure to use and greatly simplified my gameplay. The majority of buttons were easy to find and responsive. However, I did find myself having to stretch my thumb out to reach for buttons 3 and 6—this despite SteelSeries having neatly arranged the buttons in three clearly defined lines. Still, this was never a major problem that affected my gameplay.

On the upside, the grid buttons are quite firm, so you’re unlikely to trigger them by mistake when you don’t want to.

Aerox 9’s dual connectivity includes both Bluetooth 5.0 and 2.4Ghz wireless options. As a laptop reviewer, I found this functionality incredibly useful for jumping between laptops. I could keep the dongle inserted for gaming in one rig and use Bluetooth while writing a review on another. You will need to make sure your laptop has a USB-C port to plug in the Wi-Fi dongle, though.     

The SteelSeries Aerox 9 is rated for 150 hours of battery life, which is a decent amount of time that won’t see you rushing to plug it in every time you play. The caveat is that that battery life is the maximum when RGB lighting is switched off, so expect it to drain down a lot faster when lighting is activated.

SteelSeries GG Software

If you typically find yourself spending time customizing a gaming mouse, make it this one. With so many buttons to map, the Aerox 9 Wireless can be a game changer in MMO/MOBA games where you seldom have enough. Conveniently, the 18 buttons can be assigned commands or macros at the level of the SteelSeries GG app, rather than having to fiddle around within each game’s controls menu. This will save you a heap of time.

For Gloria Victis I mapped out commands for Interact, Kick, Display Map, Sheathe/Unsheathe Weapon and Bandage Ally, and I still had many more buttons left over that I could have programmed in. This took just two minutes but made a world of difference to my gameplay.

SteelSeries mouse software interface

Here we see all the programming options for mapping buttons to Gloria Victis.

Dominic Bayley/IDG

RGB lighting zones, mouse sensitivity and responsiveness can also be quickly changed in SteelSeries GG. For mouse responsiveness, you can fine tune and adjust the polling rate and the mouse’s acceleration or deceleration to find a desired setting.

Once you’ve set things exactly the way you want, you can then just simply save the profiles in the “configuration” column on the left-hand side of the app. Switching mouse profiles before games is as simple as clicking on the right profile—it really couldn’t be more straightforward.

SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless: Should you buy it?

The SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless is an ingeniously designed wireless gaming mouse that features 18 programmable buttons but weighs just 89g. The mouse’s extensive button options, quick sensor and dual connectivity should make it a highly attractive mouse for both competitive and casual gamers, especially MMO and MOBA gamers who can map commands and macros all day long. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

Mice
Add some pizzaz to your photos with 30% off Adobe Photoshop Elements

Today is a great day to bump up your photo editing game for a lot less. Right now, Amazon is selling Adobe Photoshop Elements 2022 for $70. That’s $30 off the usual price. It’s not clear how long this deal will last, but it likely won’t be for long. This isn’t the best price we’ve seen, but it’s still an excellent deal at $30 off.

We haven’t reviewed this version of Elements, but we’ve always liked the editing suite. If you’re not familiar with it, Elements is a stripped down, more user friendly version of Photoshop. It’s a popular suite because it’s designed to make personal photos look much better or add some novelties to them.

There are a few Elements 2022 features that are really fun to use. You can, for example, “warp” a photo to fit into any shape. Adobe uses an example fitting a reflected image into a pair of sunglasses. The suite has an extended background guided edit that lets you stretch out the background of a photo to make it a good size for your needs. There are also guided edits for improving pet photos and a moving overlays feature that puts animations on top of your images such as falling snow or leaves. A number of Elements’ features use Adobe’s Sense AI technology, which adds some smart automation to advanced editing tasks.

[Today’s deal: Adobe Photoshop Elements for $70 at Amazon.]

Gear, Photoshop

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Rainbow Six Extraction is best enjoyed with a few friends by your side. Here's how to invite players to your group and how to make use of your Buddy Passes.
- Tyler Lacoma
How to teleport in Minecraft
Want to save a lot of time traveling in Minecraft? There's a way to teleport to a spot or to a friend in your map: Here's how to enable teleport and what to do!
- Mike Colucci
How to heal in Dying Light 2
Knowing how to heal in Dying Light 2 will keep Aiden alive as he ventures around Villedor. Here are the best ways to heal and what players need for medicine.
- Guillermo Kurten
Underrated Batman villains that should be in Caped Crusader
Batman arguably has the richest rogues' gallery in superhero history, but HBO Max's Caped Crusader show should dig into more underrated villains.
MacBook Pro supplier to relocate factory to combat supply chain issues

COVID-19 lockdowns in and around Shanghai have severely impacted production for the MacBook Pro, to the point that 14-inch and 16-inch versions have been delayed to as far as August.

In response, Quanta Computer – the sole supplier of high-end MacBook Pro models – is looking into moving production to another location, according to DigiTimes, via MacRumors. One such location being investigated is the Chongqing factory, which is currently unaffected by the lockdown and would significantly decrease the lead times.

The decision to relocate production sites is an important one. During a recent earnings call, the tech giant stated that “supply constraints would disrupt its revenue for Q3 2022 by as much as $4 to $8 billion.” The Mac Observer notes that most of these logistic issues are because major manufacturers in Shanghai are only operating at 10 to 20% capacity thanks to labor shortages due to the strict lockdowns affecting the factories’ ability to operate.

Analysis: Will it be enough?

Though moving factories could help alleviate some of these production woes, it’s not a cure-all. Quanta can’t simply relocate all its Shanghai workers to Chongqing for instance. There’s also the issue of exposure risk, which could sideline even more workers.

Another significant issue is the ongoing global chip shortage, also caused mainly by the pandemic. Even if the labor shortages are remedied, the component supply issue means that the MacBook Pro supply most likely won’t be at normal levels.

It isn't clear how long this might take in terms of a transition, since the labor issue and component issue are two discrete things. Even if one clears up, the other might continue to delay shipments considerably, making this fall's release schedule even more up in the air than before.

Why I'm keeping my iPod Classic even though Apple's killed the iPod for good
YouTube Music apps finally lets you stream music on Wear OS -but limits iOS in one key way

 YouTube Music on Wear OS is finally able to stream music over LTE and Wi-Fi.

Previously, you had to download an entire playlist to your smartwatch in order to listen to music. In a recent community post, Google explained that you will now have access to over 80 million songs and thousands of playlists on the YouTube Music platform.

As part of the update, the app now comes with Smart Downloads, which refreshes downloaded songs every time your device connects to Wi-Fi. This way, your music isn’t interrupted as it switches connections.

A new YouTube Music tile will be added to Wear OS for quick access to recent playlists or the browsing page. On top of that, the revamped software will offer tailored-made playlists according to your history.

This all sounds like great news and are good additions to Wear OS, but there is a pretty big caveat attached. According to Google, you must be a YouTube Music Premium subscriber. Otherwise, you can’t use these features and are stuck with the old method of downloading playlists. 

Wear OS on iOS supports the Wi-Fi streaming capability but lacks LTE support. Google didn’t state if or when LTE connectivity will be making its way to iOS. The YouTube Music update is just starting to roll out to Wear OS. Instructions on how to stream music are available on Google’s community page.

Analysis: Is it too late?

Seen as neglected by Google, Wear OS is getting a ton of new features and some hardware in the near future. Recently, Google revealed the Pixel Watch during IO 2022. Not much is officially known about the Pixel Watch other than a vague launch window of fall 2022 and exclusivity to Android devices. 

The device was highly anticipated in the lead-up to its reveal with several leaks occurring in the weeks prior to the announcement.

Also, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 will be getting many of the new software updates seen at IO 2022. These changes include the revamped Google Wallet, which now has support for payment cards, and connectivity with the new Google Assistant. 

While it’s good to see Google take more interest in smartwatches and Wear OS, it begs the question if this wave of support is too late. 

None of the smartwatch brands like Fossil will be getting the new Google features, as far as we know. Meanwhile, Apple Watch users number over 100 million and growing. If Google wants a bigger stake in the smartwatch industry, it has its work cut out for it.

Elden Ring’s map has been secretly changing without anyone noticing

Elden Ring’s in-game map has been gradually evolving since the action RPG launched earlier this year, as Bandai Namco inconspicuously edited the game without players noticing.

The changes to Elden Ring’s map have been documented by YouTuber and FromSoftware aficionado Illusory Wall (thanks, VG247). In a recent video, they explain that the game’s post-release patches have made several secret cartographic changes, tweaking the game’s map to better represent its world.

Alterations have been made to each of Elden Ring’s regions, with the smallest of them removing roads, ruins, or other features from the map that don’t actually exist in the game. In other cases, small unidentifiable blocks, which might have represented rocks or ruins that never made it into the final game, have disappeared.

There are bigger changes, too. The game’s original map showed a couple of roads and bridges that would have better-connected areas of the early game, and other regions have been updated for accuracy. The area around Stormveil Castle, for example, didn’t originally show a moat or the damaged section of its entrance. 

Several visual details have also been added since the game’s release, better highlighting the walls of castles, as well as more clearly defining cliffs and roads. The icons of each area have also been radically changed. More color has been injected into the Limgrave and Caelid icons, for instance, which were previously bare beige. 

See all of the changes in Illusory Wall’s video below.

A well-kept secret

Publisher Bandai Namco has released a score of patches for Elden Ring since the game released back in February. The updates have rebalanced bosses, fixed stability bugs, and buffed spellcasters, but none of the official patch notes have ever outlined changes to the game’s map. Many players will have been oblivious to the changes taking place beneath their character’s feet.

Not all, however. Illusory Wall wasn’t the first to notice the edits, and Reddit threads from as far back as March noted the changes. However, their video does go a long way to properly document the tweaks, and show the original and new map side by side.

It’s unlikely the changes will have impacted your game much, even if you didn’t notice them. Most of the updates are relatively minor quality-of-life fixes that were likely introduced to make Elden Ring’s map that much more legible. But they offer an interesting glimpse into the minds of the FromSoftware team, and the game’s world might have looked like at one stage of development.

Tweak the Lands Between to your liking with the best Elden Ring mods
Scammers are using a whole load of tricks to launch cryptomining scams

Cybercriminals and fraudsters are tapping into the DeFi craze to scam people out of their hard-earned cryptocurrency tokens, experts have warned.

Cybersecurity researchers from Sophos have uncovered an ongoing campaign that preys on those with little knowledge of the nascent crypto space that is Decentralized Finance (DeFi), and slowly drains their funds until there’s nothing left.

Sophos calls the new campaigns “Liquidity Mining Scams”, and has urged anyone involved in crypto trading to beware offer that sound too good to be true.

Share your thoughts on Cybersecurity and get a free copy of the Hacker's Manual 2022. Help us find how businesses are preparing for the post-Covid world and the implications of these activities on their cybersecurity plans. Enter your email at the end of this survey to get the bookazine, worth $10.99/£10.99.

Earning millions, or losing thousands?

The rise of blockchain has given birth to something known as “smart contracts” - essentially pieces of code that act like the middleman and allow two parties to engage in a transaction of value, when certain conditions are met, without the need for an intermediary. 

With the help of smart contracts, rose Decentralized Finance - an umbrella term that covers a number of services usually offered by centralized entities (trading, lending, etc.). When it comes to trading cryptocurrencies in a decentralized environment, there needs to be a pool of liquidity for both currencies being exchanged. 

Users are being incentivized to provide this liquidity (lend out their coins, essentially) by receiving a percentage of the trading fee associated with a specific DeFi protocol, among other things. To do that, they often need to connect their crypto wallets (for example, MetaMask), with the DeFi protocol. 

And here’s where the scammers jump in. Sophos says they’ll create fake apps, fake protocols, or fake tokens, and reach out to potential targets via social media using fake identities. After a little bit of innocent chat, they’ll try and persuade the victim into providing liquidity for a certain pair of cryptocurrencies that seem to promise great returns.

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They’ll even generate fake reports to further convince the victim of great earnings, and in some cases, they’ll even allow for withdrawals early on. However, they’ll urge the victim to keep investing big, in order to earn even more. In reality, though, the target’s victims were being drained until there was nothing left.

Once the targets were taken for everything they had, the attackers would simply vanish into thin air. 

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The best Father's Day sales 2022: deals from Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy and more

Father's Day is nearly a month away (June 19, to be exact), and if you're looking to score a gift for dad and save money, then you've come to the right place. Our Father's Day sales guide is rounding up all the best early offers, plus today's standout deals from Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowe's, and Amazon. Luckily for you, Memorial Day sales are starting to launch, so you can take advantage of deals for dad from retailers like Lowe's and Home Depot with big savings on outdoor items like tools, grills, patio furniture, lawnmowers, and more. If you're looking for tech gifts for dad, you'll also find bargains right now on tech items like TVs, headphones, and smart home devices, as well as appliances including coffee makers, air fryers, pressure cookers, and more. We've listed today's best Father's Day sales below, followed by today's best deals. Make sure to bookmark this page, as we'll be continuously updating it with all the best Father's Day sales leading up to dad's big day.

The best Father's Day sales 2022: Amazon: up to 40% off appliances, AirPods, TVs, tools, and moreBest Buy - Father's Day gift ideas - deals on TVs, laptops, and appliancesCheap TVs - smart TVs starting at $99.99Home Depot - save up to $400 on lawnmowers, tools, grills, and moreLowe's - Gifts for dad - tools, lawnmowers, grills, appliances, and moreNordstrom - cologne, clothing, shoes, sunglasses, and moreOverstock - up to 70% off sitewide + free shippingTarget - gifts for dad on tech, grooming, fitness, and appliancesTools - 35% off tools and accessories at Lowe'sWalmart - gifts for dad starting at $10 Father's Day sales: today's best deals

Black+Decker 20V MAX Matrix Cordless Drill: $79.99 $49.99 at Amazon Save $30 - Amazon's Father's Day sale has this top-rated Black + Decker cordless drill on sale for $49.99 - the lowest price we've seen all year. The compact 20 voltage drill includes convenient attachments so you can cut, sand, and drill with ample power.View Deal

TCL 70-inch 4 Series LED 4K UHD Smart TV: $829.99 $549.99 at Best Buy Save $280 – If you're looking for a cheap TV deal for dad, you can get this massive 70-inch 4K TV from TCL on sale for just $549.99 at Best Buy. An incredible price for a big-screen 4K TV - you're getting 4K UHD resolution, the Google Assistant and Chromecast built-in for seamless streaming, and a handy voice remote.View Deal

Kizen Digital Meat Thermometer: $19.99 $14.44 at Amazon Save $5 - A great Father's Day gift for the dad who loves to grill, Amazon has the top-rated Kizen meat thermometer for just $14.44. The digital meat thermometer has over 56,000 positive reviews on Amazon and takes temperatures in as quick as three seconds.View Deal

Bella Pro Series 8-qt. Digital Air Fryer: $129.99 $84.99 at Best Buy Save $45 - If dad is looking for an air fryer this Father's Day, Best Buy has the top-rated Bella Pro digital air fryer on sale for $84.99. The powerful 8-quart air fryer lets you whip your favorite fried foods with less fat and oil and features nine convenient preset cooking options.View Deal

Google Nest Learning Thermostat: $249 $199 at Amazon Save $50 - Always a great gift idea, Amazon has the best-selling Google Nest thermostat on sale for $199 - the best deal we've seen this year. The learning thermostat can program itself and automatically modifies itself when you're away to avoid heating or cooling an empty home.View Deal

Apple AirPods Pro: $249 $197 at Amazon Save $52 - Amazon has the best-selling Apple AirPods Pro on sale for $197. The AirPods Pro feature noise cancellation technology and include a wireless charging case that provides more than 24 hours of battery life. While this is the best deal you can find right now, we've seen the earbuds drop to $174 earlier this month and we predict we'll see that price before Father's Day.View Deal

Nespresso Vertuo Plus Coffee and Espresso Maker: $189 $159 at Amazon Save $30 - A great Father's Day gift idea for the java lover, Amazon has the top-rated Nespresso Vertuo Plus coffee maker on sale for $159. The coffee maker can brew a creamy cup of espresso in minutes with a touch of a button and includes a complimentary starter set of Nespresso Vertuo capsules.View Deal

Apple Watch 7 (41mm, GPS): $399 $329 at Amazon Save $70 -  You can get the Apple Watch 7 on sale for $329 at Amazon - the lowest price we've ever seen. The Apple Watch 7 features a larger display, faster charging, and tracks heart rate, sleep, stress, and more. Want something cheaper? Check out the also-new Apple Watch SE for $229 at Amazon - also the lowest price ever. View Deal

Ninja NJ601AMZ Professional Blender: $99.99 $69.99 at Amazon Save $30 - One of our favorite Father's Day deals is the top-rated Ninja professional blender on sale for $69.99 - the lowest price we've ever seen. The 72-ounce blender features a powerful 1000-watt motor base so you can easily whip up smoothies, dips, frozen drinks and more.View Deal

See more bargains with our roundup of the best Memorial Day appliance sales and our Memorial Day TV sales guide. You can also look forward to upcoming deals at the Best Buy Memorial Day sales event.

AMD and Qualcomm are teaming up to make your laptop Wi-Fi faster

Laptops powered by AMD Ryzen chips could soon get a serious Wi-Fi speed boost thanks to a new partnership with Qualcomm.

The chip giant has announced it is bringing its Qualcomm FastConnect to PCs with AMD Ryzen processors, meaning Wi-Fi 6 and 6E connections will soon be available on more devices, offering download speeds of up to 3.6GBps.

A bunch of business-focused laptops will be the first to see the upgrade, with notebooks using the AMD Ryzen Pro 6000 series chips and Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 among the initial rollout.

Faster Wi-Fi on the way

“Out-of-band Wi-Fi remote management is an important tool for enterprise IT managers to diagnose and fix issues, even when the operating system is not running,” Jason Banta, CVP and GM of OEM Client Computing at AMD, said in a press release. 

“AMD Ryzen PRO 6000 Series processors with Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 enable next-generation business laptops to have the processing and connectivity tools needed to perform in modern environments, offering professional-strength remote manageability for users in the new, hybrid workplace."

The launch will also bring in Windows 11 devices for the first time, as the two companies look to work with Microsoft to make the most of some useful connectivity tools found in the software.

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This includes Windows 11 Wi-Fi Dual Station, which allows laptops to use multiple Wi-Fi bands simultaneously for reduced latency and stronger connections. AMD and Qualcomm say that this should provide a particular boost for enterprise users by allowing for better video conferencing performance.

AMD was also keen to push its Manageability Processor remote management tool for Ryzen Pro 6000 PCs, hopefully meaning such devices will become more appealing to businesses looking to upgrade their IT stack. 

Users of such devices, with the recently-announced Lenovo ThinkPad Z Series and HP EliteBook 805 Series named in the press materials, should also be able to see the benefits of using the 6GHz band for improved bandwidth and speed improvements without needing to battle with older, non-6E devices.

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Sony LinkBuds S earbuds are pricey - but might be worth it

Sony's latest earbuds are, thanks to numerous recent leaks, no secret, but at least now we can stop guessing about them.

Today, Sony officially revealed its noise-canceling LinkBuds S earbuds.

The buds sport Sony’s Integrated Processor V1 which enables that noise-canceling and reduces distortion while taking little energy from the battery. They have also DSEE Extreme to restore song quality that may get lost in compression.

Delivering this sound are two dynamic 5mm drivers with a water resistance rating of IPX4, allowing them to survive splashes of water.

Ton of features

Starting off the suite of features is Adaptive Sound Control. The earbuds will automatically adjust their sound to suit the surrounding environment, but the amount of adjustment is dependent on where you are located. Sony claims the AI behind Adaptive Sound Control will learn user behaviors and recognize locations you visit often.

The LinkBuds S also has Precise Voice Pickup Technology which functions similar to Adaptive Sound Control. This feature controls the microphones present on both buds to ensure clear phone conservations by automatically suppressing ambient noise.

Sony also included some interesting quality-of-life features. You can enable Speak-to-Chat which will pause the music playing whenever it detects you having a conversation with someone. Proximity sensors are present inside the buds which pause the music whenever you take them out.

If you want even more control, the LinkBuds S has sensors that let you adjust settings, control music apps, and activate Endel, an app that lets you create personalized sound portfolios.

The last set of notable features involves Sony’s recent partnerships. The LinkBuds S works with Google Assistant and Alexa, and has a unique functionality with the AR mobile game Ingress. The title will take advantage of the LinkBuds S’ sensors and features to deliver spatial sound.

And if you’re curious about the battery, the LinkBuds S has a max battery life of 16 hours with noise canceling turned off. The earbuds will launch at the end of May in the US for around $200 in either Black, White, or Cream color.

But if you live in the UK, you can purchase them right now for £179. Australians keen to get a set will need to wait till late June, though, with the LinkBuds S setting you back AU$349.95.

Recent hits

A lot of Sony’s recent headphones have been getting rave reviews. The WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds have been enjoyed by critics who love its rich sound and controls. Then there are the WH-1000XM5 headphones which also sport Speak-to-Chat and similar sound control.

If this keeps up, our best wireless earbuds list might need an update.

Best Buy Memorial Day sale 2022: today's best deals on TVs, appliances and more

The 2022 Best Buy Memorial Day sale is almost here, which means massive deals on TVs, appliances, laptops, and more. We've created this guide to bring you all the top offers from the Best Buy Memorial Day sales event, plus we've listed today's top offers. Memorial Day sales mean discounts on appliances, TVs, and laptops, and Best Buy is one of the leading retailers that offer impression bargains during the holiday deals event. You can find huge savings on major appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and laundry packages, as well as small devices like vacuums, air fryers, and coffee makers. You'll also find deals on TVs, laptops, headphones, and tablets from brands like Samsung, LG, Apple, Sony, and HP. Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 30 this year, and we expect Best Buy to kick things off on Friday, May 27. While we wait for the official Best Buy Memorial Day sale, we've gone through the site to list today's best deals on TVs, major appliances, laptops, vacuums, air fryers, and more.

Today's top Best Buy sales ahead of Memorial Day Appliances: save over $400 on major appliances Cheap TVs: smart TVs starting at $99.99Headphones: save up to $50 on Apple, Samsung, and SonyKitchen appliances: up to 60% off air fryers, coffee makers, and moreLaptops: cheap laptops starting from $119Smartwatches: $50 off Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and moreTablets: save on Samsung, Apple, and Lenovo tabletsVacuums: deals from Dyson, iRobot, Samsung, and more The top Best Buy deals ahead of Memorial Day

Best Buy: save up to $400 on major appliances from Maytag, Samsung, LG, and more Save up to $200 - Best Buy's Memorial Day sale is always a customer favorite, thanks to huge savings on major appliances and its complimentary home consulting service. Right now, the retailer is offering up to $400 refrigerators, washers and dryers, and dishwashers from Samsung, LG, Maytag, and more.View Deal

TCL 70-inch 4 Series LED 4K UHD Smart TV: $829.99 $499.99 at Best Buy Save $330 – One of the best cheap TV deals we've spotted ahead of Memorial Day is this massive 70-inch 4K TV from TCL on sale for just $499.99. An incredible price for a big-screen 4K TV - you're getting 4K UHD resolution, the Google Assistant and Chromecast built-in for seamless streaming, and a handy voice remote. 75-inch: $1,299.99 $698View Deal

Bella Pro Series Analog Air Fryer: $59.99 $34.99 at Best Buy Save $25 - If you're looking for a cheap air fryer deal in today's early Memorial Day sales, Best Buy has this Bella Pro Series air fryer on sale for just $34.99. The 4.2-quart air fryer allows you to whip up your favorite fried foods with little to no oil for healthier meals.View Deal

Asus 14-inch laptop: $229.99 $139.99 at Best Buy Save $90 – If you need a Windows machine on a budget, consider this Asus - one of the best value pre-Memorial Day laptops for under $200 this week. It features a large 14-inch screen, 4GB RAM, and an Intel Celeron processor, all ideal for a budget-friendly laptop for light work and browsing. Compared to the other cheap laptops in this price range it has double the storage too up to 64GB, which gives you more room for files and applications.View Deal

Bella 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker: $39.99 $29.99 at Best Buy Save $10 - Pick up this budget Bella coffee maker at Best Buy for just $29.99. The 12-cup coffee maker is programmable so you can wake up to fresh coffee, and you're getting a pause and serve feature so you can stop your coffee maker without making a mess.View Deal

Insignia 50-inch F30 Series 4K UHD Smart Fire TV: $399.99 $299.99 at Best Buy Save $100 -  A great cheap mid-size TV deal, Best Buy has this Insignia 50-inch 4K smart TV on sale for just $299.99. You're getting smart capabilities with the Fire TV experience, so you can stream from apps like Hulu and Netflix, plus control your TV with the sound of your voice with Amazon Alexa.View Deal

Shark Cordless Pet Plus Stick Vacuum: $349.99 $249.99 at Best Buy Save $100 - The Shark Pet Plus Stick is a great alternative to the pricey Dyson brand, and Best Buy has the vacuum on sale for a record-low price of $249.99. Designed for pet owners, the powerful stick vacuum features an anti-allergen complete seal and includes a handheld vac attachment for quick and convenient cleanups.View Deal

LG 50-inch UP7000 Series 4K UHD Smart TV: $459.99 $329.99 at Best Buy Save $130 -  If you're looking for a mid-size premium TV deal, this LG 50-inch 4K TV is on sale for $329.99 at Best Buy. The 50-inch set packs an excellent 4K processor for top-notch upscaling, LG’s fantastic WebOS smart platform, and a handy Game Optimizer mode to reduce input delays should you want to hook up your favorite console.View Deal

Asus 11.6-inch Chromebook: $219 $99 at Best Buy Save $120 – The Asus Chromebook is back again at Best Buy - and is the cheapest laptop deal this week once more. It's simply the best option out there if you want to spend the least amount possible on a new device. Of course, this Asus Chromebook is very basic, but it has an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB RAM, and 32GB of storage - all fine for light use and schoolwork.View Deal

Bella Pro Series 8-qt. Digital Air Fryer: $129.99 $84.99 at Best Buy Save $45 - Best Buy has the top-rated Bella Pro digital air fryer on sale for $84.99 ahead of the Memorial Day sales event. The powerful 8-quart air fryer lets you whip your favorite fried foods with less fat and oil and features nine convenient preset cooking options.View Deal

LG OLED G1 Series 55-inch OLED: $1,699.99 $1,399.99 at Best Buy Save $303 - Best Buy has the top-rated LG G1 55-inch OLED TV on sale for a record-low price of $1,399.99. The G1 Series from LG is an outstanding OLED TV that offers excellent contrast, better brightness than we've seen before, and an impressively thin design. It's no surprise that it's on TechRadar's list of best TVs of 2022.View Deal

iRobot Roomba i3+ EVO (3550) Robot Vacuum: $549.99 $499.99 at Best Buy Save $50 - Robot vacuums are always a popular sale category during Memorial Day and Best Buy has this iRobot Roomba i3+ on sale for $499.99. The robot vacuum features dirt detect sensors that alert Roomba to work harder on concentrated areas of dirt and automatically docks and recharges when the battery is low.View Deal

When is Memorial Day 2022?

Memorial Day falls on the last Monday in May to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military, and this year the holiday falls on Monday, May 30. We expect the Best Buy Memorial Day sale to kick off on Friday, May 27, and last through the holiday weekend.

Best Buy Memorial Day sale: what to expect

If you're wondering if Best Buy has any official sales on Memorial Day, the answer is yes. The retailer is always a customer favorite during the holiday weekend, thanks to the huge discounts offered throughout the site. The most popular deals at the Best Buy Memorial Day sale are on large appliances, with the retailer offering massive discounts on refrigerators, dishwashers, laundry packages, and more from brands like Whirlpool, GE, Samsung, and LG. Appliances are the most popular sale category during the Memorial Day sales event, and Best Buy offers competitive discounts as well as a complimentary home consulting service, so if you have any questions about a product, their experts are on hand to help.  If you aren't after appliance deals, Best Buy's Memorial Day sale also includes discounts on TVs, laptops, headphones, tablets, and more. You can find impressive offers from brands such as Samsung, Apple, and LG, so if you don't want to wait till Prime Day to snag a tech bargain, the Best Buy Memorial Day sale is the event for you.

Best Buy Memorial Day sale: last year's top deals

We've listed the top bargains from last year's Best Buy Memorial Day sale, which gives us a good idea of what deals we'll see come May. You'll find deals on large appliances, TVs, and laptops, as well as small appliances like vacuums, air fryers, coffee makers, and more.

Best Buy | Save up to $500 on top-brand appliances Best Buy's Memorial Day appliance sale includes big savings on top-brand appliances. You score deals on KitchenAid appliance packages, LG appliances, GE washer and dryer packages, plus Best Buy members can get up to $500 e-gift cards when you purchase four or more select Samsung major appliances.

Cheap TV deals: TVs starting at $69.99 at Best Buy If you're looking to score a cheap TV deal this Memorial Day, then head to Best Buy's latest sale. You can find record-low prices on a wide range of 4K TVs from brands like Samsung, LG, Sony, and more with prices starting at just $279.99.

HP 14 Touch-Screen Chromebook: $299 $219 at Best Buy Save $80 - Snag the HP Chromebook on sale for just $219 at Best Buy's Memorial Day sale event. The budget laptop features a 14-inch multitouch screen display, 4GB of RAM, 32GB SSD, a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, and a long-lasting battery life.

Keurig K-Select Single-Serve Coffee Maker: $129.99 $79.99 at Best Buy Save $50 - Brew a cup of coffee in minutes with Keurig K-Select that's on sale for $79.99 at Best Buy. The single-serve coffee maker can brew five cups at a time without refilling the 52-oz. reservoir and features three different sizes so you can make coffee that suits your tastes.

Hisense 65-inch H65 Series Smart HD TV: $599.99 $529.99 at Best Buy Save $70 - This Hisense might be on the cheaper end of things, but that doesn't mean it's not packed to the brim with great features, and with a $70 discount, you're also getting a fantastic price. With Google Assistant and a voice remote, you're off to a great start, and you're also getting Motion Rate 120 and DTS Sound Studio.

Sealy Hybrid mattress: Save up to $185 at Best Buy Best Buy is offering up to $185 in savings on the top-rated Sealy Hybrid mattress. That means that a Twin is now on sale for $384.99 (was $524.99) and a Queen size is marked down to $524.99 (was $699.99).

iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum: $274.99 $249.99 at Best Buy Save $25 - Clean your floors from anywhere with the iRobot Roomba 675 that's on sale at Best Buy for $249.99. The Roomba 675 features Dirt Detect Sensors that alert your vacuum to work harder on concentrated areas of dirt.

Samsung 70-inch 6 Series 4K UHD Smart TV: $749.99 $649.99 at Best Buy Save $100 - You can get this stunning Samsung 70-inch 4K TV on sale for $649.99. The 70-inch set delivers a premium picture experience with brilliant colors and sharp contrast thanks to the powerful 4K crystal processor.

Apple AirPods (2019) with wireless charging case: $199.99 $159.99 at Best Buy Save $40 - Get the best-selling Apple AirPods with wireless charging case on sale for $159.99 at the Best Buy Memorial Day sale. That's a $39 discount for the wireless earbuds, which can be charged using a Qi-compatible charging mat or using a Lightning connector.

Vizio 65-inch OLED TV: $1,899.99 $1,499.99 at Best Buy Save $400 - This OLED TV has a massive $400 discount for anyone visiting Best Buy. The premium 65-inch Vizio TV features 4K HDR, an OLED panel, Dolby Vision and HDR10+, HDMI 2.1, and a 120Hz panel.

LG NeoChef 2.0 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave: $239.99 $199.99 at Best Buy Save $40 - Upgrade your current microwave with this LG NeoChef that's on sale for $199.99 at Best Buy's Memorial Day appliance sales event. You'll get even heat distribution thanks to LG's smart inverter technology, and the antibacterial coating makes for easy cleanups.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7: $959 $699 at Best Buy Save $260 - Best Buy has the versatile Surface Pro 7 on sale for $699. The powerful tablet features a 12.3-inch touchscreen display, includes a full keyboard experience, and provides up to 10 hours of battery life.

Bella Pro Series Analog Air Fryer: $59.99 $34.99 at Best Buy Save $25 - You can pick up this cheap air fryer for just $34.99 at Best Buy's Memorial Day sale event. The 4.2-quart air fryer allows you to whip up your favorite fried foods with little to no oil for healthier meals. View Deal

You can also see more offers with our roundup of the best Memorial Day TV sales and the best Memorial Day laptop sales. We also have the best Memorial Day mattress sales from online brands like Nectar, Purple, and more.

This site claims to offer Pixelmon NFTs, but just gives you malware

Scammers are taking advantage of the hype surrounding Pixelmon to distribute password-stealing malware, researchers are saying.

Cybersecurity researchers from MalwareHunterTeam found a fake Pixelmon site that claims to offer a playable demo of the game, but instead just distributes the Vidar virus.

Pixelmon is a non-fungible token (NFT) project. A blockchain-based metaverse game, in which players can collect, and train, their pixelated pets, and then send them into combat against other players. 

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Targeting NFT enthusiasts

These types of projects are extremely popular these days, as the price of collectible items in the metaverse can rise into millions. Some are joining to try and earn a quick buck, others because they want to be a part of an emerging, and potentially hugely disruptive, technology.

Whatever the reason, all of them are potential targets. This particular project has some 200,000 Twitter followers, and more than 25,000 Discord members, making it among the most highly anticipated projects in the metaverse. 

The legitimate website is pixelmon.club, but MalwareHunterTeam found pixelmon[.]pw, a seemingly identical site. However, instead of offering the demo version of the game, the site is offering a file named Installer.zip, which carries an executable file.

Read more

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While examining the site, the researchers found the file was corrupt and wasn’t distributing any malware. Other files on the site, though, helped the researchers conclude that it was distributing Vidar.

Vidar is a password-stealing malware that fell into obscurity, as of lately, the publication claims. When executed, the malware will connect to a Telegram channel to retrieve the IP address of its C2 server. 

From the C2 server, it will retrieve a configuration command, and download further modules, used to steal sensitive data from the target endpoint. Given that it’s targeting NFT enthusiasts, Vidar mostly looks for data related to cryptocurrency wallets, backup codes, password files, and such.

The site is currently not distributing a working payload, but researchers suspect it is just temporary, and that it's only a matter of time before a new, working payload, is provided. NFT enthusiasts and investors are advised to be extra careful when visiting new pages and downloading content. 

Protect your NFT collection with the best firewalls around

Via: BleepingComputer

Hackers can steal your Tesla via Bluetooth

The lines between virtual and physical damage from cyberattacks are blurring even further after a new method of stealing a Tesla car using Bluetooth technology was uncovered.

A team of researchers from NCC Group built a tool that is capable of mounting a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) relay attack, successfully bypassing all existing protections and authenticating on target endpoints.

While this type of attack works pretty much the same on all kinds of devices, from smartphones to smart locks, researchers opted for a Tesla car. 

Successful experiment

In layman’s terms, the attack works by squeezing the attacker in between the legitimate Bluetooth sender and receiver devices. That way, the attacker gets to manipulate the data going into the receiving device (in this particular case, the Tesla car). 

The only challenge with this method is that the attacker needs to be in relative proximity to both the victim, and the target device.

As an experiment, the researchers used a 2020 Tesla Model 3, and an iPhone 13 mini, running version 4.6.1-891 of the Tesla app. They used two relay devices, one located seven meters away from the phone, and the other one located three meters from the car. The overall distance between the phone and the car was 25 meters. The experiment was a success.

Read more

> How Bluetooth can be an attack gateway > Billions of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices vulnerable to password and data theft attacks > Bluetooth security holes open door to device impersonation attacks

"NCC Group was able to use this newly developed relay attack tool to unlock and operate the vehicle while the iPhone was outside the BLE range of the vehicle," the researchers concluded.

Later, the team successfully conducted the same experiment on a 2021 Tesla Model Y.

After sharing the findings with Tesla, the company said relay attacks were “a known limitation of the passive entry system”. 

To defend from relay attacks, users can disable the passive entry system and switch to an alternative method of authenticating, preferably one that requires user interaction. They should also use the “PIN to Drive” feature, to make sure no one can drive away with the vehicle, even if they successfully manage to open it. 

Keep yourself safe online with the best endpoint protection software

Via: BleepingComputer

Arm is making headway in its quest to conquer the server market

Arm has announced a set of milestones that set the stage for a further push into the server CPU market.

The company this week revealed that Microsoft Azure servers and virtual machines powered by Arm-based Ampere processors now adhere to SystemReady standards.

Effectively, this means software also designed to the same specification is guaranteed to function as intended in Arm-based Azure cloud environments, an important consideration for development teams.

Arm takes on the server market

Traditionally, Arm-based processors have been found predominantly in smartphones and IoT endpoints, because of the strong power consumption to performance ratio they deliver. Meanwhile, the server and workstation market has been dominated by Intel’s x86 architecture.

However, Arm has recently begun to muscle its way into the datacenter with its Neoverse platform, which now underpins a host of performance-centric chips. 

Cloud vendors like AWS and Alibaba have also discovered the performance advantages of developing their own custom ARM-based silicon, instead of leaning solely on Intel Xeon and AMD EPYC CPUs, based on x86. There is evidence to suggest companies like Microsoft and Meta will soon follow suit.

The latest data from Omdia shows Arm-based CPUs are currently found in roughly 5% of servers, but the company expects to make significant headway in the coming years as heavy investment begins to bear fruit.

Read more

> Arm launches new cores to cement its IoT dominance > Here's how Nvidia might respond if its Arm acquisition falls through > A new Arm-based CPU with 128 cores will send shivers down spines at Intel

Speaking to TechRadar Pro at MWC 2022 earlier this year, the company’s SVP Infrastructure Chris Bergey explained why the company is so well-positioned to accelerate into the server space.

“With Arm, cloud providers are finding they can get more compute, because they can put more cores in a power envelope. And we’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” he told us.

“This is a ‘show me’ kind of market. If you’ve got the performance and value proposition, companies are highly incentivized to consider alternatives - and the market share will take care of itself.”

One of the few remaining stumbling blocks for Arm is software support, a problem that SystemReady standards are designed to resolve.

With Microsoft becoming the first major cloud vendor to embrace the new set of certifications, first introduced back in 2020, Arm will hope the rest will now fall in line.

Strip away the virtualization layer with the best bare-metal hosting around

Via The Register

Google Cloud is looking to make open source code safer than ever

Google Cloud has announced a new open source software security tool as it aims to improve safety among software supply chains.

The new Assured Open Source Software (OSS) looks to enable enterprise and public sector users of open source software to incorporate the same security packages that Google uses into its own developer workflows. 

Software supply chains, which often rely on open source code to stay flexible and customizable, have become popular targets for cyberattacks as hackers look to target industries of all kinds.

What’s behind the move?

The move comes after numerous high profile open source security incidents, including vulnerabilities related to Log4j and Spring4shell.

Google joined the OpenSSF and the Linux Foundation for a meeting to advance the open source software security initiatives discussed during the recent White House Summit on Open Source Security.

Google says that the packages curated by the Assured OSS service will be regularly scanned, analyzed, and fuzz-tested for vulnerabilities and will have corresponding enriched metadata that incorporates Google’s Container/Artifact Analysis data.

All packages included in the new tool will be built with Google’s Cloud Build and will include evidence of verifiable SLSA-compliance.

The packages will be distributed from an Artifact Registry secured and protected by Google, with Assured OSS is expected to enter preview in Q3 2022.

Google highlighted that it continuously scans 550 of the most commonly-used open source projects, and says that it has found more than 36,000 vulnerabilities as of January 2022.

In addition, Google also announced a partnership with Israeli developer security platform SNYK that means Assured OSS will be natively integrated into Snyk solutions for joint customers to use wherever they are developing code.

In addition, the partnership also means that Snyk vulnerabilities, triggering actions, and remediation recommendations will become available to joint customers within the Google Cloud security and software development life cycle.

Read More

> Google Cloud is launching a Web3 team > Vodafone and Google Cloud look to boost Europe's 5G > Google Cloud is making a major change to its VMs

Security issues haven’t stopped open source software attracting interest from developers everywhere.

A poll of application developers by Instacluster found that 45% of respondents acknowledge the potential of open source software in terms of cutting down costs, while 38% acknowledge its potential in terms of being able to port code more easily.

·        Check out our guide to the best endpoint protection for your business
The Last of Us PS5 remake could release ‘this holiday’, according to a recent report

The widely-rumored PS5 remake of The Last of Us could release as soon as “this holiday”, according to a recent report.

The report comes by way of GamesBeat’s Jeff Grubb as part of the the May 18 episode of the Kind of Funny Gamescast. “I keep hearing that’s coming out this year [...] The Last of Us remake this holiday, yes,” Grubb said during the episode. “I’m pretty confident about that too [...] I think it probably is one of their big holiday games this year.”

In response to the idea that this would be a speedy release for Naughty Dog, Grubb pointed out that “The Last of Us Part 2 came out a while ago” adding, “it’s a pretty efficient, well-oiled machine over at Naughty Dog and they wouldn’t have to do too much ‘cause that’s the whole point, is that this is a game that they could update really quickly.”

The Last of Us TV show: everything we know so far about the HBO seriesBest PS5 games: the PlayStation 5 games you need to playNew PS5 games: upcoming PlayStation 5 game release dates

This isn’t the first we’ve heard reports of a potential latter half of 2022 release date for a PS5 remake of The Last of Us. It was back in January of this year that writer and industry insider, Tom Henderson, reported he had heard from multiple sources that the remake is “nearly finished”; a claim that was backed up by VGC, which said it had heard similar information from its own sources.

Even before that, a 2021 report from Bloomberg claimed that a PS5 remake of The Last of Us was in the works. In that report, it was said that Sony's Visual Arts studio had initially been working on the remake before Naughty Dog took over the project. That was quite a while ago now, though no potential release date was mentioned at that time.

Analysis: Still waiting on something official

There have been plenty of credible reports around the idea of a PS5 remake of The Last of Us but we still haven't heard anything official from PlayStation or Naughty Dog. A remake does, however, make sense. 

Naughty Dog’s co-president Neil Druckmann said earlier this year that the studio has “multiple game projects” underway that he is “dying to share”, so it’s possible that a PS5 remake of The Last of Us is one of them. The game originally released on PS3 all the way back in 2013 before it was remastered for PS4 the following year. Would a jump onto PS5 be all that surprising? It’s an approach that seems to be working for Grand Theft Auto 5

Aside from this, there’s currently a Last of Us TV show in the pipeline for HBO, which is currently expected to release sometime next year. It’s possible that the game and the TV show could benefit one another, with Grubb addressing this later in the episode: 

"As long as that thing is relatively fresh and there on shelves,” he explains, “it should see a boost when it comes out. And then when the show comes out, another boost. That is their expectation."

As it is, the PS5 remake of The Last of Us is still just part of the rumor mill, with no official confirmations from Sony or Naughty Dog to speak of. That said, with Summer Game Fest approaching, we are expecting some exciting announcements from across the games industry over the next month. Could this be one of them?

Something we do, at least, know that Naughty Dog is working on, however, is a standalone multiplayer release for the series. Naughty Dog revealed it would sit separately to The Last of Us 2 back in 2019, explaining that “the vision of the team grew beyond an additional mode.” In September 2021, the studio provided an update, confirming that the project was still in development and that it was in “full swing of hiring for MP-related positions.” As yet, it doesn’t have a release date. 

Sorry, The Last of Us TV show won't be released for a long time
Stan Lee may appear in future Marvel movies, after all

Improbably, comic book legend Stan Lee is returning to Marvel.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the superhero studio has signed a 20-year deal with Stan Lee Universe, a company founded by Lee prior to his death in 2018, to license the name and likeness of the iconic writer-producer for use in future entertainment products.

The agreement could see Lee featuring in theme parks, merchandise, video games, virtual reality experiences, and, crucially, upcoming movies and TV shows in a manner reminiscent of his famous cameos in Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) flicks. 

Andy Heyward, CEO of Genius Brands (co-owner of Stan Lee Universe), said in a statement: “[This] really ensures that Stan, through digital technology and archival footage and other forms, will live [on] in the most important venue: the Marvel movies and Disney theme parks.”

However, other insiders have reportedly cautioned fans against expecting Lee to return to the big screen any time soon. The priority – at least initially, it seems – will be on applying his likeness to various “digital experiences”.

Should Marvel choose to include digital versions of Lee in future movies, though, it wouldn’t be the first time a Disney-owned studio has flirted with the concept of virtual resurrection – digital versions of Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing were featured in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, respectively.

Such a move could be viewed as controversial for some Marvel fans, but Genius Brands CEO Heyward has said that “if it’s done with taste and class, and respectful of who he was, it will be welcomed.” 

“He is a beloved personality and long after you and I are gone, he will remain the essence of Marvel,” he added.

I can see why a lot of people are thinking this is "a money grab" and "disrespectful", but people don't watch marvel movies to see stan lee, it was always just a nice little bonus. This is marvel trying to keep his legacy alive. They don't want people to forget him.May 18, 2022

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With the continued growth of virtual reality technology and the metaverse in 2022, the subject of digital immortality will likely persist for years to come. Some industry experts even believe this virtual afterlife is a natural next step for humanity. 

Nayeem Syed, Chief Vision Officer at Exponentials.tv, recently told TechRadar: "Vanity or not, we are wired to want to be remembered forever by leaving behind a legacy that can outlive us and be shared with future generations. We are trying to slow down aging and control our lifespan with biotechnology, gene therapy, and 3D organ printing, but all of this technology is simply far too costly. A better and cheaper route to immortality might then lie in the digital world.”

“In the future,” Syed continued, “most metaverses will be structured so that virtual personalities can only exist with direct control and input from a primary user. It is time to change our mindset about the merging of humans with technology and start thinking of it as a binomial collaboration.”

Perhaps, then, Marvel’s acquisition of Stan Lee’s likeness for use in the digital world represents the earliest days of a society-wide trend, one reserved, right now, for the richest and most influential among us and TV shows depicting the very same virtual afterlife. Now there's a thought.

How AI animates your old family photos – and where deepfakes are going next
Microsoft Teams update will add a whole new dimension to your presentations

Microsoft is readying a new feature for collaboration platform Teams that could introduce a greater level of interactivity to virtual presentations.

As explained in a new addition to the company’s product roadmap, Microsoft Teams users will soon benefit from a “collaborative annotation” feature that allows video meeting participants to make notations on shared content.

The roadmap entry reveals few specifics, but explains that presenters will be able to activate collaborative annotation mode for all participants, or just themselves.

Microsoft Teams presentations

Since the widespread transition to remote working, vendors in the collaboration software space have put a significant amount of energy and resources into enabling effective virtual meetings and presentations, with mixed results.

A common problem faced by companies is that a loud minority tends to dominate virtual meetings. Although this is also true of in-person meetings to an extent, the nature of video meetings means that less assertive team members often struggle to make themselves heard.

Over the last two years, Microsoft has rolled out a number of new Teams features designed to make meetings more interactive and reduce the likelihood that participants coast through meetings unnoticed.

Read more

> Why Slack isn't afraid of Microsoft Teams or any other competitor > Microsoft Teams update offers a glimpse at the future of collaboration > The unlikely CEO beating Teams and Zoom at their own game

For example, Microsoft upgraded its large gallery view, allowing for up to 49 participants to appear on-screen at any given time, and rolled out a new mode that places all attendees on a shared virtual background.

The company also introduced new-look breakout rooms, which split large meetings into smaller group sessions, incentivising contribution from a wider variety of attendees.

The new collaborative annotation feature is the latest example, giving presenters an easy way to involve the audience directly and collaborate on shared content in real-time.

The update is still currently under development, but should roll out to all Microsoft Teams users by the end of June.

Complete your video conferencing setup with the best business webcams around
Apple's data auction privacy ad is only scary because it's true

Ellie is like all of us; just a person perusing the latest offerings in a classic vinyl music store, who then discovers a door and a hidden auction where a multitude of what could best be described as dandies are anxiously bidding on her private data.

Yup, seems normal. Apple is using this slightly comic, but mostly disturbingly accurate, ad depiction of data brokers at an auction house called "DUBIOUS" to illustrate a point: this is what's happening to your data.

In the commercial, which is titled "Your Data is Being Sold!" and is released online and broadcast on Wednesday, Ellie is clearly shocked and appalled as everything from her late-night texts to her grandmother ("Sweet Nana,") is auctioned away to data brokers. Because this is an ad for Apple, though, Ellie launches a secret weapon.

She takes out her iPhone 13 and clicks "Ask not to track" for an app and the anthropomorphized data and data brokers start to disappear. Ellie also adjusts the Safari Privacy settings and soon the dubious auction house is empty.

It's an effective, if a little on-the-nose, ad. But it's not inaccurate. 

Any given website has dozens of trackers (usually hidden under transparent pixels) that allow data you dropped on one site to be carried over to another (it's why once you search for red shoes on one site, you see "red shoes" on every site).

Similarly, app developers have (and often still do) sell your tracking data to third-party data brokers. Apple's app privacy program now forces app developers to ask you for permission to track your data. So many people have opted out using these new settings, that it's often cited in less-than-stellar earnings reports for companies like Facebook.

Apple said that the goal of the hyperbolic ad is to highlight potential uses of data, ones you're probably not aware of.

The company's commitment to privacy is not only evident in this ad and Apple's various privacy-related and anti-tracking features, but in what its leadership says about the topic.

Speaking before the International Association of Privacy Professionals earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “A world without privacy is less imaginative, less empathetic, less innovative, less human” and noted that Apple has "a commitment to protecting people from a data-industrial complex built on a foundation of surveillance.”

In the case of this ad, though, that "data industrial complex" is a cliched auction house with real people bidding on physical objects that represent Ellie's data. Still, we get the point.

Apple, which has never made its revenues from ads or customer data, is in the enviable position of approaching the data privacy issue from higher ground. It can point out Google or Facebook's data practices (though rarely, if ever, by name) because it has no need for that data.

Even Apple's fast-growing services business relies on direct subscription payments, which means, it doesn't need your data for revenue or growth.

Anyway, enjoy this slightly comical ad.

Also, if you're interested in how to manage these settings, you can read our app transparency guide and iPhone location services control guide.

Second Overwatch 2 beta on the way with new content expected – is Junker Queen coming?

Overwatch 2's PvP beta has ended, pushing players back into the void of Overwatch 1 for a while. However, developer Blizzard has teased a new event for June, meaning we shouldn't be waiting too long before we can hop back into the sequel. 

Now that it's over, the Overwatch 2 beta appears to have been a fairly big success, with the game reaching 1.5 million concurrent viewers on Twitch as part of a beta key giveaway. While numbers dropped off as time went on, it's clear there's interest in what Overwatch 2 is bringing to the table. 

However, with the beta closed, players are now wondering, what's next? Thankfully, the devs have given a date for when we will know more. 

In a post on Blizzard's website, the development team said: "We’ve been both humbled and inspired by the amount of interest and enthusiasm everyone has shown for Overwatch 2, and we can’t wait to share more with you about what comes next. Save the date for an Overwatch 2 Event on June 16!"

In an official Overwatch Tweet, it was elaborated that we'll learn what's coming in the "months ahead" during the event, suggesting we may get a longer-term view of how the beta periods will work.

What could be coming in Overwatch 2's second beta?

The streets of the Rio De Janeiro map in Overwatch 2

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

With the event announced, questions now turn to what's likely coming in the next beta phase. While nothing's been confirmed, there are a few things that we know about which weren't included in the first Overwatch 2 beta. 

It seems likely we'll get at least another map or two, and it seems like Rio De Janeiro is a prime candidate. The map was shown off in a 2021 PvP Livestream but was conspicuously absent from the first beta. The Escourt map seems likely to be included, too, and it's totally possible we'll see another, yet-to-be-announced map. 

I also hope we get a new hero to play with. While it's not obvious who'll be revealed next, there is speculation around supposed leaks that the long-awaited Junker Queen is on the way. Overwatch content creator Master Ian Gamer recently put out a video about the leaks, explaining that mounting evidence suggests we'll see the character soon. Junker Queen, as her name might suggest, is the Queen of Junkertown, and fans have speculated about her joining the playable roster since August 2017 when the Junkertown map came out. 

However, there are other potential characters like Mauga, Baptiste's ex-partner in Talon, who the development team has suggested will one day be a playable hero.

However, the feature many will be wishing for most, myself included, is some kind of competitive mode. While Overwatch 2 is fun, it's hard to get invested in it long term without a dedicated ranked experience, as Quick Play offers no incentives outside of the current match you're playing. 

In a developer blog for the beta, Blizzard spoke about ranked, explaining: "we’re planning some significant overhauls of our core ranked and competitive mode systems and those are not yet ready to test publicly at scale."

Will it be ready for the second phase? We hope so. Competitive gives players a great incentive to grind the game, and go beyond just messing around in quick play. 

Here's hoping the second Overwatch 2 beta is released not long after the presentation on June 16.  Overwatch 2 is building up some momentum after years of being dead, so here's hoping Blizzard can capitalize on it promptly. 

Check out our take on the Overwatch 2 beta that has actually made the game fun again
Amazon’s new Fire 7 launched as a super-cheap alternative to an iPad mini

Amazon has finally upgraded its Fire 7 tablet, having just announced a new model for the first time in three years. The new slate – simply called the ‘all-new Fire 7 tablet’ – starts at just $59.99 / £59.99 (around AU$105).

That makes it one of the very cheapest tablets you can buy, and vastly more affordable than the similarly small iPad mini (2021). That said, it’s actually a $10 / £10 price rise on the previous model, but that’s not so bad given the three-year gap between them.

For your money you get a tablet with twice as much RAM as the Amazon Fire 7 (2019), at 2GB, plus the promise of 40% longer battery life, at up to 10 hours. Its 2GHz quad-core chipset is also supposedly 30% faster, so performance should be getting a serious upgrade.

The new Amazon Fire 7 also has a 7-inch screen, as the name suggests, with a 1024 x 600 resolution, and it has proven twice as durable as the iPad mini (2021) in tumble tests. Plus there’s 16GB or 32GB of storage, and a USB-C port (in place of micro USB on the previous model).

The cameras might not be up to much, clocking in at just 2MP on both the front and rear, but that’s understandable for the price, and the slate is available in black, denim, and rose colors.

Image 1 of 2

An Amazon Fire 7 2022 in a range of colors

(Image credit: Amazon)Image 2 of 2

An Amazon Fire 7 Kids 2022 from the front, in blue

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon has also unveiled a new Amazon Fire 7 Kids, which starts at $109.99 / £109.99 (roughly AU$195), so it’s rather more expensive. This has much the same specs as the standard Amazon Fire 7, but includes a kid-proof case in blue, red or purple shades, with an adjustable kickstand that can also be used as a handle.

It also includes a one-year Amazon Kids Plus subscription, providing access to child-friendly content.

Both tablets can be pre-ordered now in the US and the UK, and begin shipping on June 29, so there’s still a little while to wait before you can have one in your hands – or those of your child.

Analysis: two contenders for the 'best cheap tablet' crown

At the time of writing the Amazon Fire 7 (2019) is just clinging on to a spot in our best cheap tablets list, so if the new Amazon Fire 7 (2022) is as much of an upgrade as it sounds then it’s likely to take that slate’s place – and maybe even rank higher. Though we won’t know for sure until we’ve put it through a full review, and the price rise is a consideration.

The Amazon Fire 7 Kids (2022) is arguably a more niche proposition – and certainly a pricier one – making it a less likely fit for the list, but it’s still got a chance, packing a kid-friendly design and features at what’s still a very low price.

Neither slate is likely to trouble the top of our best cheap tablets list, which currently houses the iPad 10.2 (2021). That’s a significantly higher spec slate, but – while still cheap – it’s also significantly more expensive.

Read our full Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus (2021) review
Microsoft is rolling out its future of  Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is easily among the best email clients around, especially if your office already uses Office and the Microsoft 365 suite. 

But after its next-generation "One Outlook" client leaked recently, Microsoft has decided to take the wraps off the new email experience for anyone on the Office Insiders Beta Channel. 

The update Outlook for Windows client is aimed at business and education customers who subscribe to Microsoft 365 or Office 365 and this preview is available only to paying members so far. 

Outlook update

As ZDNet highlights, Microsoft has added a number of updates and changes, including a new look and feel, message reminders, a single view for calendar, email, and to-do items, and the ability to more easily attach cloud files. 

Of course, this isn't the final version – which is why it's only available on the Insiders Beta Channel – and a few features are therefore missing, such as multi-account and offline support. 

Based on what we've seen from the leak, the new Outlook has some really clean lines and a more minimal design language.

Here is how One Outlook settings, peoples, new mail and calendar page#WIndows11 #FluentDesign #OneOutlook pic.twitter.com/mCO9MModgJMay 6, 2022

See more One client to rule them all 

The basic idea behind One Outlook is to unify all of the disparate services into one place, with the web app serving as the foundation for everything. 

The client has been codenamed Monarch by Microsoft during its development and the ultimate goal is one client across all major platforms, from Windows to macOS to the web. 

But people don't seem totally sold yet. 

READ MORE

>Microsoft Outlook wants to make sure you never miss a notification again >Microsoft is still trying desperately to get you to use Bing >Microsoft 365 update delivers a feature we've all been waiting for

Change, of course, is always difficult, especially for something as crucial as an email client, but the reception to the leak was mixed, to say the least. 

Many on social media questioned whether a web app, which are likely to consume a lot of memory, was the best approach. As Microsoft rolls out the update more widely, we'll get hands on to see for certain. 

Take matters into your own hands with the best email hosting providers
Mobile Industry Extra: May 2022

Got some industry news, made a new appointment or signed a new partnership? Then we want to hear from you - get in touch!

Steve Pusey

(Image credit: BAI Communications)

Former Vodafone CTO joins BAI Communications

BAI Communications has appointed industry veteran Steve Pusey as chair of its board. Pusey served nine years as Vodafone CTO, having also had spells at Nortel and BT.

Qualcomm

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Long-serving Jim Cathey is Qualcomm’s new chief commercial officer. He has been with the company since 2006, holding a range of positions, including president of its global business, and will report directly to chief executive Cristiano Amon.

phone call

(Image credit: pxhere.com)

5G voice users to reach 2.5bn by 2026

A study by Juniper Research has found the number of Voice-over-5G users will increase from 290 million in 2022 to 2.5 billion by 2026. The technology will help mobile operators compete with OTT services by offering interactive calling directly within a native phone application.

London

(Image credit: Image Credit: Free-Photos / Pixabay)

Community Fibre passes 500,000 London homes

Full fibre provider Community Fibre’s network is now available to half a million homes and 116,000 businesses in the capital. It says the milestone is a key achievement as it seeks to achieve its goal of reaching 2.2 million properties by the end of 2024.

Mobile

(Image credit: Shutterstock.com)

Nearly 2,000 cities around the world now have 5G

5G is now available in 1,947 cities across the world, with 635 added in 2021 and two being connected every single day. Viavi’s ‘state of 5G report’ found that there were 72 countries with a next-generation network, with United States and China having the most 5G cities.

Vodafone

(Image credit: Vodafone)

Vodafone names former Arm and Orange execs to its board

Vodafone has appointed former ARM chief executive Simon Segars and the former Orange and France Televisions executive Delphine Ernotte Cunci as non-executive directors. The operator hipes the appointments will provide additional experience in the technology, media, and telecoms industries.

BT/EE

(Image credit: BT/EE)

BT connects 7.2m to full fibre

BT has now connected 7.2 million homes and businesses, with 25% of premises able to access the network taking out a subscription. Revenues were down 2%to £20.9 billion, while profitability increased by the same percentage. Meanwhile, the company’s cost savings target has been extended from £2 billion by the end of 2024 to £2.5 billion by 2025.

Stephen Carter

(Image credit: Vodafone)

Vodafone adds former Ofcom CEO to its board

Informa CEO Stephen Carter has been appointed non-executive director of Vodafone. Carter previously held senior executive positions at Alcatel Lucent, is a non-executive director of United Utilities, and was the first chief executive of regulator Ofcom.

5G

(Image credit: EE)

Omdia expects 1.3bn 5G connections in 2022

New research suggests 5G will account for 60% of global mobile service revenues in 40% of all connections globally by 2026. In the short term, more connections will be added this year than the past three years combined, reaching 1.3bn by 2022.

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- Arne Verheyde
BrainChip partners with Edge Impulse for a platform that mimics the brain
Artificial intelligence brain with circuitry and big data.BrainChip and Edge Impulse want to address developers' goals to create smart devices by implementing AI/ML capabilities into their products.Read More
- Arne Verheyde
How optimized object recognition is advancing tiny edge devices
Edge computing circuit circle on blue cube background 3D illustrationnd Alif Semiconductor have demonstrated an optimized face detection model running on Alif's Ensemble microcontroller based on Arm IP. The two found it is suitable for enhancing low-power artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge.Read More
- VB Staff
Report: 88% of business leaders would pay the ransom if hit by a cyberattack
Businessman hand holding banknote for paying the key from hacker for unlock laptop got ransomware malware virus computer. Vector illustrationExperts urge victims to not pay ransoms, since it encourages criminals to continue attacking. Businesses, however, have a different mindset.Read More
- Louis Columbus
How weaponized ransomware is quickly becoming more lethal
Cyber attack and virus detected concept. The laptop, smartphone and tablet under cyber attack, virus, malware. ImageIvanti’s Ransomware Index Report Q1 2022, released today, helps to explain why ransomware is becoming more lethal.Read More
- Yamini Sagar, Roxe
Blockchain and SWIFT’s dominance in global finance
Is there a better and faster way for cross-border payments than using SWIFT? Blockchain as the next-generation global finance solution.Read More
- Judson Althoff, Microsoft
The cloud continuum: Futureproofing your business for what’s next
Clouds in server roomOrganizations planning to modify their cloud environments must consider how decisions made now will prepare them for future opportunities.Read More
- Shubham Sharma
HowGood aims to boost enterprises’ sustainability intelligence
ESG visual screen on hand.ESG environmental social governance business strategy investing concept.New York-based HowGood, a company that offers a sustainability intelligence solution, today raised $12.5 million in a fresh round of funding.Read More
- George Anadiotis
Wayve and Microsoft partner to scale autonomous vehicles
Smart car evaluating the road with sensors and futuristic technology.Wayve announced a partnership with Microsoft to leverage the supercomputing infrastructure needed to support the development of AI-based models for autonomous vehicles on a global scale.Read More
- Dean Takahashi
N3twork Studios raises $46M to make web 3 games
N3twork Studios is making high-end blockchain games.million in funding to make high-quality blockchain games. Griffin Gaming Partners led the funding round for the company.Read More
- Paul Sawers
Stripe launches Data Pipeline to help users sync payments data with Redshift and Snowflake
Stripe logo on a phone screenStripe today announced Data Pipeline, a new way for customers to synchronize their financial data with Amazon Redshift and Snowflake.Read More