This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.
After testing ten portable vaporizers so far, we recommend the Crafty, a new portable model from Storz and Bickel. Out of all the models we tested, the Crafty was one of the few that could produce the kind of truly tasty, powerful vapor you get from a much bigger unit. At $400, it’s an investment, but will make up its cost over time because it vaporizes cannabis more efficiently than its peers. The Crafty heats the herb at the optimal pre-combustion level and keeps temperature constant for the duration of a session, while its cooling unit and swiveling straw keep potent draws comfortable and tasty. As a result, it delivers cleaner, purer, better-tasting vape, and higher highs than the competition.
Why you should trust us
I’m a columnist, frequent contributor, and video host/producer at VICE Media, and a ten-year veteran of High Times magazine, including as West Coast Editor for the world’s best-known marijuana brand. I’m the author of The Official High Times Pot Smoker’s Handbook and Legalized It!, and the director of the best-selling marijuana cultivation DVD of all time (Jorge Cervantes’ Ultimate Grow). I also produced the video A Gourmet Weed Dinner at Hunter S. Thompson’s House for VICE.
I also spoke with Andrew Tarantola, who frequently reviewed portable vaporizers for Gizmodo, and Bobby Black, who organizes High Times magazine’s annual “Vaporizer Buyer’s Guide.”
How we decided
Both hard science and anecdotal evidence indicate that vaporizing cannabis offers both the health benefits and euphoric properties of smoking a joint while eliminating potentially harmful chemicals produced by combustion, including naphthalene, benzene, and toluene. (To be clear, there’s no positive link between smoking marijuana and lung cancer, but that doesn’t make it harmless, either). Vaporizing also offers a “cleaner” taste and, for some, a clearer, longer-lasting cerebral effect than smoking. And it’s a far more efficient way to ingest cannabis than smoking, so you end up saving a lot of money on your herb budget while getting just as medicated/high.
Based on the expert input from Tarantola and Black, my own experiences, aggregated reviews from top vaporizer review websites (Vapor Blog, Vaporizer Review, and Vape Critic), and informal discussions with various friends and colleagues, I considered 23 top-rated vaporizers and pens before we narrowed our list down.
To test, I used all of the vaporizers with ground flowers, following manufacturer’s instructions. I tested each for clean taste, potency, temperature, portability, and battery life. I evaluated how intuitive each vaporizer was to use and how efficiently each vaped material. Ease of cleaning was an important factor, as the ones that reach combustion are much harder to clean and keep clean.
While we started this search hoping to find a good portable vaporizing pen, I can’t recommend any of them. They don’t offer good temperature control, and they’re not being manufactured to the same standards as larger vaporizers.
The Crafty performed extremely well in our tests: It vaporizes at optimal temperatures and keeps them steady. Compared to most other portable vaporizers, it’s not cheap, but it’s more efficient than the competition at making your weed vapor potent, and it vaporizes just as well as larger, bulkier vaporizers.
At about the size of a large bar of soap, the Crafty is not the most discreet package. But intuitive design touches (like a vibrating reminder before it powers down and staying on automatically when it senses a breath) are worth the bulk. You get about 45 minutes of active use per charge using a Micro-USB connection, which is a lot of getting high for two casual or one active person over the course of a day. Unlike many other vapes we tried, you can use the Crafty while it’s plugged in and being charged. And nearly every section can be taken apart for a thorough cleaning, which means better vapor over a longer lifespan.
Good temperature control is probably the most important element in a vaporizer, as it controls how much THC and cannabinoids you’re getting out of your raw materials as well as how safe that vapor will be. Vaporizers generally use conductive heat, in which something hot touches the herb directly, or convection heat, in which uniformly hot air passes through the herb. The Crafty uses a bit of both, keeping your herb dialed in to that good range for as long as you keep the vaporizer battery active, which is probably why they produced the best tasting, most effective vapor of all the models we tried.
If stealth is your main concern, the Crafty can be used discreetly in some instances, because it looks like a breathalyzer or a medical device, but it’s more obviously bulky and suspicious than a vape pen. Still, it will fit in your pocket along with a thin wallet and phone.
If you can’t get the Crafty, our runner-up is the Firefly ($270). It’s a bit thinner and longer than the Crafty, with a sleek magnetic face that you remove to fill a borosilicate glass chamber. Its performance and vapor output was just as great as the Crafty’s, but it’s not quite as intuitive to use and has shorter battery life. The biggest drawback is the learning curve for new users: pressing and holding the button longer heats the herb to higher temperatures with convection heat. The company markets this as a feature that allows you to adjust each draw on the fly. However, it can also mean inconsistency, press too long and you may reach combustion, which makes the vapor taste bad; not long enough and you’re inefficient with your weed, which is a waste of money. On the upside, you can buy a spare battery to swap in as needed.
If you have some extra money and don’t mind a bulkier unit, get the $470 Mighty. It has an even more intuitive design than the Crafty, with temperature controls that don’t require smartphone app access, and it has twice the battery power of the Crafty, so it’s a good pick for people who like to share with large groups. However, the Mighty is also more expensive and bulkier than our pick.
What about less expensive vaporizers?
At the Wirecutter, we don’t take price lightly. But most people are dropping around $50 for an 1/8 oz for plant material; even more with wax. You’re putting expensive material into your vape and then breathing fumes in from it. You want something built with quality materials that won’t break down.
More expensive vapes like our picks offer two major advantages: better temperature control, often through convection, and cooler vapor with extra distance between the mouthpiece and the heating element. These two things prevent overheating (combustion chemicals) and underheating (inefficient use of cannabis). You could pay $100 less for something, but start to factor in any small advantage in efficiently converting your cannabis into bioavailable vapor over the course of the life of the device and a $200+ vape is going to pay for itself many times over.
The Crafty packs the best in vaporizer technology into a discreet, durable package. With intuitive controls and excellent, constant heat control, it will give you the most high from your weed without the unwanted chemicals from combustion. To read more on our experience with the competition and other models, read our full guide.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to TheWirecutter.com.
Filed under: Household
“China is the number one market with connected products.”
That was how Intel’s Senior Vice President Kirk Skaugen kicked off his keynote at IDF in Shenzhen, citing China’s staggering 30 percent share of worldwide connected-device purchases in 2014. The country gobbled up 40 percent of the 46 million Intel-powered tablets shipped globally. Not bad, but 46 million is hardly anything compared to the 420.7 million smartphones shipped in China alone in the same year — only a tiny percentage of which packed an Intel chip. Most others relied on Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung. Intel’s smartphone market share is so small that it never dared to share the stats; it could be as low as 2.81 percent in the Android space, according to benchmark specialist AnTuTu.
This isn’t something that Intel can fix overnight, but with the launch of its Atom x3 “SoFIA” chips, it’s hoping to narrow the gap this year. Atom x3 is actually Intel’s first family of chips with an integrated modem, which offers the advantage of improved power efficiency as well as reduced space and costs. It’s still going to be a hard sell, though, especially given that the LTE flavor of Atom x3 won’t ship until the second half of this year. But at least Intel’s found a cunning strategy to stay relevant: partnering with Chinese chip designers Rockchip and Spreadtrum to leverage their connections with local device manufacturers. In other words, these two companies get to offer Intel-powered designs to their clients.
A selection of budget tablets in a Hong Kong mall, many of which are powered by Intel’s Bay Trail processor.
We won’t judge you if you’re not familiar with Rockchip and Spreadtrum. Both firms only dabble in the lowest-end smartphone, tablet and TV stick markets. The places that are packed with KIRFs and brands you’ve never heard of. On the Chinese retail site Taobao, we managed to find a Rockchip-powered 9.7-inch Android tablet that cost just 390 yuan, or about $63.
Now, this is obviously a case of “you get what you pay for.” Ugly or copycat designs, rough seams, scratched metal parts, laggy software, you name it. Not to mention the lack of Google services. Nicole Scott from Mobile Geeks said what many of us were thinking in her post-IDF piece: “I have never seen a Rockchip product that I thought was of good quality.” There’s plenty of reason to worry that these cheap devices will tarnish Intel’s brand.
An Intel Atom x3-powered Samsung Galaxy S5 clone.
Skaugen isn’t terribly concerned, however. “In the last year, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the overall quality in craftsmanship that’s come out of Shenzhen,” the exec defended. He also points out how the likes of General Motors and Volkswagen have prospered by engaging in China early with local partners.
“When you’re here early and you’re helping,” he said, “I think you would rather be in the position that those companies are in. And quality does get better over time, but you do have to transfer some of your knowledge on how to build even higher-quality products.”
In this case, “transfer” is just a pretty way of saying “selling reference designs.” Intel does so through its turnkey program, in which vendors can either buy some parts from a list of recommended suppliers, or simply slap their own brand onto Intel’s complete reference devices. Going the latter route can get them to market in just six to eight weeks. Such speed is critical in the super competitive entry-level market. According to Intel, last year 30 ODMs made 350 devices based on its reference designs, and those shipped to 50 countries.
BlueBank president Tao He shows off his $50 5-inch smartphone powered by Intel’s Atom x3.
Rockchip, Spreadtrum, MediaTek and Qualcomm also have their own turnkey solutions, with MediaTek pretty much pioneering this business model in its copycat feature phone days. Intel’s clear advantage over the competition lies within its x86-64 architecture (so both Android and full-on Windows are compatible), RealSense depth camera technology and wireless power know-how. The chip giant also claims to offer higher reliability, with customers seeing a 20 percent lower return rate with devices based on its reference designs. At IDF, Skaugen even got Tao He, the president of Chinese device maker BlueBank, to openly praise how much better Intel’s reference designs and tech support are.
“If I must complain, Intel’s turnkey solution has greatly lowered the entry barrier, making it very easy to design devices,” He joked in front of the already amused crowd.
BlueBank is just one of the many Chinese ODMs that are already offering Atom x3-powered devices to potential clients. On the stage, He showed off a 4.5-inch smartphone that will retail for less than $40 (He also mentioned a 4-inch version for about $30), a 5-inch phone with a metallic frame for around $50 and a 7-inch (8mm-thick) tablet with voice calling for just $55. The audience wowed at the tablet.
In addition to BlueBank and its four aforementioned devices, Intel has enlisted 13 other ODMs to commit to 44 more Atom x3 designs this year. And that’s on top of Rockchip’s 10 ODMs that will use the 3G-R variant (3G, quad-core) of the chip. While this doesn’t necessarily reflect the eventual number of consumer models (and some of those designs could have already been sold with other chipsets), it’s still a good start; though the 4G-enabled Atom x3 needs to arrive as soon as possible.
Atom x3-based tablets at an electronics expo in Hong Kong.
Both Intel and Rockchip desperately need more quality hero devices.
It’s all good and well that Intel sees great potential in the entry-level market, but for its new mobile chip to succeed, it must teach its partners — especially on Rockchip’s side — to respect intellectual property. Both Intel and Rockchip desperately need more quality “hero” devices to boost brand perception. But with Intel-powered knock-offs floating around, it’ll be hard to convince other big names to join the party. In the mainstream mobile market, Intel’s only got ASUS and occasionally Lenovo on its side.
Even with the potential for intellectual property scuffles, Intel has clearly made the right move by partnering with Rockchip. After all, we are talking about a Chinese company that’s working with Google on a system-on-chip module for Project Ara. The company obviously has growing global clout. Intel may be late to the integrated modem game, but with Rockchip’s connections plus growing street cred, it could be on track to catch up with the competition, especially in China where even Qualcomm stumbled recently.
“We want to build long-term partnerships with China,” Skaugen said. “This is our 30th anniversary in China. I think some of these partners are the people that will build Intel’s brand for the next 30 years. And if you look at companies like Apple or HP that started in the garage, let’s not forget what the first PCs looked like. And decades later, I’m glad I have those partnerships.”
I immediately fell in love with the original Pax vaporizer when it debuted back in 2012. Its compact and lightweight construction belied a powerful three-stage conduction oven, while the sleek, push-button design made it far more intuitive and user-friendly than other portable vaporizers available at the time. Granted, the OG Pax wasn’t perfect — what with its habit of clogging every few sessions or so. Now, more than two years after the release of the first Pax, Ploom is back with a new iteration that’s smaller, lighter and more powerful than its predecessor. Say hello to the Pax 2.
Before we get into why the Pax 2 is so great, it would help to discuss where the first Pax fell short. Despite being light-years ahead of other portable vaping systems of the day like, say, the Magic-Flight Launch Box, the first Pax was not perfect. For one thing, users had to toggle the unit’s power by clicking the extendable mouthpiece. Unfortunately, even sparing use of the device proved enough to clog the vapor pathway with sticky resin, thereby making it nearly impossible to operate. And since you couldn’t turn the unit on, there was no means of heating up the air pathway to loosen the resin and pull out the mouthpiece.
What’s more, the shape of the mouthpiece itself prevented you from prying it off manually. When I reviewed the original model, I actually clogged my test unit so badly (and so quickly) that Ploom had to send me a replacement unit just to finish the review. There were also a couple of smaller, niggling problems like the easily scuffed plastic casing and finicky temperature levels.
The Pax 2, however, suffers from none of these concerns. In fact, it looks like Ploom specifically focused on fixing these issues when designing the new unit. At less than four inches long, the Pax 2 is significantly shorter than the original. It also weighs a couple grams less than the first one. Overall, the Pax 2 is 25 percent smaller and 10 percent lighter than the first. That doesn’t, however, make the Pax 2, with its lack of moving external parts, feel any less sturdy and robust. In fact, the new unit’s brushed aluminum casing (available in four colors: charcoal, platinum, topaz, flare) is far less prone to scuffs and scratches.
The new mouthpiece is, quite simply, fantastic. Rather than a physical mechanism that can be gummed up with resin, the Pax 2 utilizes a small, rubberized pad that doubles as a touch-sensitive power and temperature-setting button. It may seem weird initially, especially if you’re accustomed to the original’s external mouthpiece, but this new form is far easier to use, seals better and won’t sear your lips. I, for one, really like the flush-mounted mouthpiece. It not only pops off the unit and gets lost in my bag/pockets far less often, but also helps stealthily conceal what the Pax 2 actually is. I mean, with the original Pax, it was pretty obvious what I was vaping every time I extended the mouthpiece. But this is much more subtle, maybe even more so than its rival — the Firefly.
I was very impressed by the vapor quality of the new Pax 2, which got downright milky at the two highest temperature settings.
The Pax 2’s heater is also vastly superior to the original’s. While you needed to remove the mouthpiece and press a tiny button on the interior of the unit on the first Pax, the Pax 2 simply requires you to long-press the power button to bring up the temperature-selection menu, and then tap it to cycle through the four heat settings. So. Much. Easier. Additionally, the first Pax’s oven design often caused the bottom plate to heat more than the sides or top, which resulted in scorching — precisely what you don’t want to have happen. But the Pax 2’s stainless steel oven, which is both deeper and wider, heats more evenly with minimal scorching. Overall, I was very impressed by the vapor quality of the new Pax 2, which got downright milky at the two highest temperature settings without tasting harsh or smoky. You will probably need to fiddle with your puffing technique a bit to get the most out of each hit; go for a gentle cigar-style puff, not a sharp inhale like you’re clearing a binger.
Far and away the biggest performance improvement involves the Pax’s battery life. The original Pax battery lasted for four, maybe five sessions before requiring a three-hour stint on its charging dock. The Pax 2 requires about the same amount of time to fully recharge (around two to three hours), but thanks to a vastly improved internal accelerometer, which turns off the heater the moment you set it down, the new unit lasts for nearly twice as many sessions between charges that its predecessor. I averaged seven to nine sessions per charge over the course of this test. This means I can now head out for the evening without worrying if my vaporizer will last, or if I should have brought a backup pipe.
Be warned, the pocket-sized Pax 2 carries a substantial $280 price tag. That’s 30 bucks more than the original Pax (although that model is currently being discounted down to $200) and is on par with the $270 Firefly and $260 Arizer Air. While the Pax 2 doesn’t heat instantly like the Firefly or offer an aromatherapy function like the Arizer, its combination of ease-of-use, portability, impressive battery life and vapor quality make it well worth checking out.
Filed under: Alt
Dead Trigger 2 has been around for a fair amount of time now, receiving new content such as the Valentine’s Day update to help keep it fresh. In case you were getting antsy for even more, Madfinger Games has teamed up with Plotagon and come up with a way for users to create new animated storylines using the existing characters.
To start off, Madfinger Games and Plotagon are holding a competition where users will be able to turn their stories into animated content, with every week having a different theme. This week’s theme is Zombie Date. You can use the scenes, sounds and characters to make your very own story come to life.
Needless to say, prizes are on offer, with the winner receiving a Golden AK47 as well as all Plotagon content which adds up to around $130. Second prize consists of 2,500 DT2 in-game currency plus all available Plotagon content while 3rd place gets 1,000 in-game currency as well as all available Plotagon content. All you have to do is download Plotagon, and create a video based on the week’s theme. Then, name your creation, publish it and get your friends to like and share it as well. The winner will be decided according to how many votes it receives at Plotagon’s website.
There is a small catch here, in that the Plotagon software is only available for iOS, PC, and Mac operating systems. Boo! But as an Android user you should not be deterred by this blatant discrimination, you should rather concentrate on the big picture of killing zombies, getting your creation published and laying your hands on a prize. You can download the relevant software by clicking the source link below. If you choose to participate in the competition, don’t forget to come back and let us know all about it and good luck!
Come comment on this article: Dead Trigger 2 players can win prizes by creating their own animated storylines
Review: Belkin’s Qode Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case Offers Versatility and a Full Set of Keys [iOS Blog]
In our ongoing iPad Air 2 keyboard review series, we’ve looked at the ClamCase Pro and the BrydgeAir. Today we’ve got a look at another popular iPad keyboard that MacRumors readers suggested we review, the Qode Ultimate Pro from Belkin.
The Qode Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case is one of the more versatile keyboard cases we’ve looked at, because it’s able to detach from the keyboard to serve as a standalone iPad case and it’s usable in both portrait and landscape modes. Other standout features include backlit keys, a full keyboard layout, and auto on/off functionality.
What’s in the Box and Setup
The box includes the two-piece keyboard, an accompanying micro-USB charger, and instructions on how to get it up and running. Setup is similar to any other Bluetooth device, with pairing done by pressing the Bluetooth button on the keyboard and selecting the keyboard in the Settings menu of the iPad.
We ran into some occasional difficulties with Bluetooth, where we had to remove the device completely from the list of known devices and re-pair, but for the most part, the Bluetooth connection was solid in our testing.
The Qode Ultimate Pro comes in two separate pieces: a detachable keyboard and a plastic case that snaps on to the back of the iPad Air 2. The two pieces connect to one another using several magnets. There’s a magnetic flap covered with a leather-like material on the keyboard that attaches to the back of the case to hold the pieces together, and then the case fits into one of two slots on the keyboard where it is held in place by additional magnets (these magnets also control the automatic connection between your iPad and the keyboard). The two different slots allow for slightly different viewing angles.
Using magnets to attach the two pieces of the case together allows the iPad to be used without the keyboard attached or with the keyboard folded back, providing several possible use cases not possible with other keyboard cases on the market.
YouTube today announced changes to its YouTube Data API, causing many older apps on various devices to stop functioning. On the second-generation Apple TV or older, the YouTube channel will no longer be accessible, and on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, iOS 7 or later is required for the YouTube app to function.
Second-generation Apple TV users will have no way to watch YouTube videos on their devices after today, but iOS device owners with versions of iOS older than iOS 7 can use mobile YouTube in Safari to watch videos. YouTube is sharing the news via a discontinuation video that’s being shared on all older devices.
If your device supports iOS 7 or above, you can download the YouTube app from the App Store. If not, visit m.youtube.com in your mobile browser to access YouTube.
If you’re using Apple TV 3rd generation, you can get the latest version of the YouTube app by updating your software:
Select Settings > General > Update Software
If there is an upgrade available, click Download and Install
If you’re using Apple TV 2nd generation or older, unfortunately there’s no current way to watch YouTube on these devices.
Attempting to use the YouTube app on an older iOS device or on an older Apple TV still lets users watch videos at the current time, but the discontinuation video above is always the first result, suggesting access will be shut down shortly after YouTube notifies everyone about the upcoming API change.
The YouTube channel on a second-generation Apple TV
Today’s API change affects several other older devices in addition to the Apple TV and iOS devices, including those running old versions of Google TV and many smart televisions and game consoles. The official YouTube app will only be available on most 2013 and newer Smart TVs, blu-ray players, game consoles, and other streaming devices.
A number of notable apps have been updated with Apple Watch support to start off the week, including Shazam, Microsoft OneDrive, Porsche Car Connect, FIFA 15 Ultimate Team by EA SPORTS, Epicurious, Nick Jr, ESPN, Avea, JetBlue and Letterpad. The updates should be rolling out on the App Store today prior to the Apple Watch launch on April 24.
Shazam for Apple Watch will enable you to discover which artist, song and lyrics you are listening to from your wrist in seconds. You will also be able to see your past Shazams at a Glance with a simple swipe up gesture, turn on Auto Shazam to continue discovering music automatically and use Handoff on Apple Watch and iPhone to buy songs on iTunes, watch videos and more. Shazam is free on the App Store.
Microsoft recently released an update for the OneDrive app to view your photos and albums stored on the cloud storage service on an Apple Watch. You can view your most recent photos, delete photos you don’t want to keep, find photos by tag and view your albums directly from your wrist using the latest version of the app. OneDrive is free on the App Store with tiered storage plans available.
Porsche Car Connect for Apple Watch (Image: WatchAware)
Porsche Car Connect has been updated to allow remote display and control of your Porsche from an Apple Watch. The app, compatible with select 2014 models and later, provides safety notifications, journey statistics, vehicle status and a vehicle locator directly on the Apple Watch. Porsche Car Connect is free on the App Store and available for the new Panamera, 918 Spyder, Macan and Cayenne.
EA Sports has introduced new Apple Watch features for FIFA 15 Ultimate Team that help you assemble and manage the ultimate soccer team from your wrist. FIFA 15 Ultimate Team for Apple Watch lets you manage your top five player transfers and get instant game-related notifications. FIFA 15 Ultimate Team by EA SPORTS is free on the App Store with in-app purchases available. Read more
Last week Chrome 42 arrived bringing support for push notifications. At the time, we didn’t get into too many details about this feature, but starting today, a number of websites are now turning on support.
So what exactly are Chrome push notifications? Basically, desktop and Android Chrome users can now opt-in to receive notifications from their favorite websites including Facebook, eBay, Pinterest, Vice News, and Product Hunt. For Android users, the feature sends notifications in the exact same way a native app would — placing them right in the notifications bar.
What if Chrome isn’t open, or even your primary browser? As long as the feature was turned on with Chrome, it’ll work anyway. Once turned on, you’ll be able to manage these notifications from a special setting within the Chrome browser.
Of course, not every site will support Chrome push notifications, and it will be up to web developers to implement the code needed for the feature. It’s also worth mentioning this isn’t just some ultra-easy plugin that anyone can put into place, it uses an HTML5 feature called a Service Worker that requires a fair level of knowledge to utilize. Bottom-line, websites will need to determine if it’s worth the effort to add the functionality.
Websites that do have notification support will automatically detect Chrome when you visit them and will ask you whether or not you wish to turn notifications on.
What do you think of the new push notifications feature for Chrome? Useful, or do you already get bombarded with more than enough notifications from your apps as it is?
As part of the Gold Box Deal of the Day, Amazon is offering a number of discounts on its Fire HD 7 Tablets for today only. For just $79, you can pick up the 8GB Fire HD 7 with “special offers”, or upgrade to the ad-free model for $94. If you choose to opt for more storage on your tablet, the 16GB model with ads will cost you $99, and the ad-free version costs $114. Most of the variants are available in all five colors – Black, Magenta, White, Citron and Cobalt.
Read more: Best Amazon Fire HD 7 cases
In addition to the tablet being on sale, you can also pick up a few official accessories for cheap. The Standing Leather Case is available for $30.99 (normally $44.99) and the Standing Protective Case is being offered for $27.99 (normally $34.99).
The Fire HD 7 isn’t the best tablet on the market when it comes to specifications or hardware, but it does offer a great way to consume media if you already use Amazon services. The tablet has a 7-inch display with 800 x 1280 resolution, a 1.5GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a front and rear-facing camera, Dolby Digital Plus sound enhancements and a battery that will last up to 8 hours on a single charge.
Remember, this deal is only available until midnight tonight, so check out the deal link below before it’s too late!
More than three years after Blizzard announced it would be making a competitor to League of Legends and Dota 2, that game finally has an official release date. Heroes of the Storm comes out June 2nd, brining with it seven maps for players to face off on using over 30 characters culled from the studio’s famous Diablo, StarCraft and Warcraft series. As with other multiplayer online battle arena games, or MOBAs as they’re commonly known, like the aforementioned League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm is free to download and start playing. Blizzard makes money on the game by charging for new characters as well as customization options.
The entire MOBA genre actually began with Defense of the Ancients, a fan-made mod for Blizzard‘s own Warcraft III, the popularity of which ultimately inspired competitor Valve to make Dota 2. While the DotA name was inspired by a Blizzard game, it had no claim to the brand and Valve took advantage of the opportunity to trademark the title. In 2012 when Blizzard first announced Blizzard DotA, the game that would eventually become Heroes of the Storm, it sparked a legal battle with Valve over the name. Ultimately Blizzard had to change the title to Blizzard All-Stars. In 2013 the game was finally renamed Heroes of the Storm before going into extensive alpha testing in 2014 and beta testing in 2015.
Blizzard announced it will host one final beta test for Heroes of the Storm starting on May 19th, shortly after the end of the Heroes of the Dormchampionship eSports tournament. The final match of that tournament will air on an ESPN network and WatchESPN on April 26th.