Why it matters to you
Rather than reduce licensing fees for device makers, Microsoft seems to be working on a thin and light version of Windows 10 to address the Chromebook market directly.
Recent weeks have brought two reports about plans for Windows 10 in 2017. Microsoft is reportedly moving to finalize its mission to provide one complete operating system that works on all device sizes and classes. Right now, all Windows 10 devices share the same “core” and universal app platform, but the outer “shell” is built for a specific class of device, such as smartphone or gaming console. However, the new shell will enable Windows 10 to adapt to any device without the need for specific customization.
This shell is expected to roll out in the full-blown version of Windows 10 this year along with Windows 10 Cloud, which was previously thought to be a cloud-based version of Windows 10 that could run on any device with any hardware configuration due to its streaming nature. While this option would work extremely well in the enterprise sector, mainstream customers would undoubtedly not find a streaming-only platform an attractive option.
More: Microsoft’s wish to provide one operating system for all devices may come true
But Windows 10 Cloud likely won’t be a streaming operating system. Instead, the platform will target Google’s Chrome OS installed on Chromebooks, which relies on web-based apps that can be used online and offline made available through the Chrome Web Store. Chrome OS is light and fast, and is highly popular in the educational and mainstream markets due to its performance and price level.
Thus, with Windows 10 Cloud, the operating system will only be compatible with Universal Windows Platform apps sold through the Windows Store. Microsoft may be using the “cloud” term because of this version’s vapor-like lightweight design and dependence on apps that only reside in the cloud. The name may also be used for OEMs to distinguish this license-free version from the full-blown Windows 10 release.
Listings for Windows 10 Cloud began showing up builds of Windows 10 starting with software development kit version 15003. There are actually two versions: Windows 10 Cloud with Media Player pre-installed, and Windows 10 CloudN without Media Player. The platforms are expected to go live later this year, and the company may even officially announce Windows 10 Cloud during its BUILD conference in May.
The news arrives after unnamed industry sources said that Microsoft would reduce its Windows 10 licensing fee for device makers in March to combat the growing Chromebook market. Despite Windows 10 Cloud, which will likely be offered for free to OEMs, Microsoft may still reduce Windows 10 licensing fees for specific laptop sizes and configurations for customers who want a little more than what’s offered on the Windows Store.
Unnamed sources claim that Microsoft wants to offer a version of Windows 10 that’s extremely safe and simple to use, but cheap enough in price to compete directly with Chrome OS devices. However, Microsoft has no plans to publicly market Windows 10 Cloud with that mindset, so it will be interesting to see how Windows 10 Cloudbooks will be sold alongside Chromebooks without a direct comparison being offered.
Why it matters to you
Wireless earbuds are getting better and better, but few of them have come with active noise cancellation — if you’re looking for that feature, Samsung may have the answer.
Samsung wants to take on Apple at every turn, and now that Apple has launched a great pair of portable headphones — the AirPods — it seems as though Samsung wants to compete. How? Well, with its own set of headphones, naturally.
We already knew that Samsung was preparing its own set of next-gen wireless earbuds to launch alongside the Galaxy S8, but now it seems like the company will offer a pair of wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation, too, according to Twitter leaker Roland Quandt.
More: Samsung Galaxy S8 rumors and news leaks
According to Quandt, the headphones will offer active noise cancellation, and will be available in a color choice of red, green, black, or silver. They’ll be priced at around 130 euros, which equates to around $140. At that price, the headphones will hopefully offer at least a decent audio quality, however we won’t know for sure until they’re launched for real.
Samsung first had a go at wireless earbuds with the Gear IconX earbuds, and while they were pretty nice, they weren’t perfect. According to SamMobile, Samsung is shooting for perfection with a new pair. Of course, the firm will probably settle for offering a better product that can compete with Apple.
It’s likely that the new earbuds will focus on a few key points — most likely including battery life. While the IconX headphones offered decent battery life, they generally didn’t last for more than a few hours at a time. On top of that, they suffered from connectivity problems, and provided only average audio quality.
Rumors originally hinted at a removal of the headphone jack on the Galaxy S8, which would make wireless earbuds even more important, however recent reports are now suggesting that instead, the headphone jack will remain on the device.
While it’s known a major revamp to Android Wear — version 2.0 — will debut in early 2017, it’s been unclear whether Google would release its own hardware alongside it like it did with the Google Pixel. The official answer is not cut and dry, but the search giant confirmed it will launch two new smartwatches.
Jeff Chang, product manager of Android Wear at Google, confirmed to The Verge that two new smartwatches will debut in the first quarter of 2017, and they will be the first to launch with Android Wear 2.0. And in the fall of 2016, noted leaker Evan Blass and Android Police revealed the devices’ product names: Watch Sport and Watch Style. Last but not least, in January we heard from an Android Police report that the LG Watch Sport would start at $249.
We have a few looks at what the watches may look like, but the latest comes from Twitter leaker Blass (@evleaks), who tweeted the most detailed look at the watches we’ve had yet. The new tweet shows the smaller LG Watch Style in a little more detail, and we can see both silver and rose gold options. The images themselves look like press shots — so we wouldn’t be surprised to see the same images used by LG and Google when the watches officially launch.
LG Watch Style, in silver (top) and rose gold (bottom) pic.twitter.com/JlHaq35bZ0
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) January 28, 2017
Before that, we got images from a TechnoBuffalo report, which included a somewhat blurry image of what it says are renders of the upcoming watches — renders that were “provided by a source.” The device at below left is the LG Watch Sport, which will include a rubber band and metallic body. On the right, we can see the Watch Style, which opts instead for a leather strap, while keeping the metallic body.
That image leak does somewhat fall in line with a previous render we got, which was an artist’s rendering of the watches based on source material — in other words, it’s not official, but it has some basis behind it.
Again, the image is an artist’s rendering based on the primary source material. There is always a strong chance the devices will look different when they are finally released. We cannot verify this information but with Chang’s confirmation, it seems more plausible. But take it with a grain of salt.
A launch in February
Blass wrote in January that the watches will be unveiled at an event on February 9. They will reportedly go on sale in the U.S. the next day on February 10 and roll out to other regions throughout the month and into March.
The watches are expected to receive prominent placement at LG’s booth at Mobile World Congress, which starts on February 27 in Barcelona, Spain.
More: Here’s a look at some of the first stand-alone apps on Android Wear 2.0
Angelfish resembles the Moto 360 and LG’s Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, and will be the larger of the two smartwatches. It contains a heart-rate monitor, GPS, and LTE radio — features that pair well with the upcoming Android Wear 2.0 update. It’s capable of placing and receiving phone calls with the same phone number as the user’s primary handset.
In terms of hardware, the Watch Sport is said to be the superior of the two. It features a 1.38-inch plastic OLED display that measures 480 x 480 pixels in resolution, 768MB of RAM, and a 430mAh battery. It also packs an NFC radio that will allow it to take advantage of Android Wear 2.0’s support for Android Pay contactless payments.
More: Google brings the Cronologics team onboard to give Android Wear 2.0 a boost
The Watch Sport features lugs with a “smooth housing shape that curves where the watch band meets the body,” which gives the device an appropriately sporty aesthetic. A touch-sensitive digital crown will serve as a navigation button and the watch’s capacitive display will boast handwriting recognition.
Angelfish is more than 14.2mm in cross-section, which Android Police guesses is due to a larger battery to accommodate LTE features. The diameter is 43.5mm, and it will come in titanium and dark blue.
Watch Style is smaller than the Watch Sport, won’t have the extra features of its big brother such as LTE or GPS, and likely doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor. Its design is reportedly more in tune with the Pebble Time Round, though without the large screen bezels — the part surrounding the watch face is still large but the shape is more “gentle and rounded” than the Pebble. The crown’s bezel is ridged, moreover, and the Watch Sport is noticeably thinner at 10.8mm. It will come in silver, titanium, and rose gold.
Generally speaking, the Watch Style is the less capable of the two watches. It sports a 1.2-inch screen lower in resolution (360 x 360 pixels), less RAM (512MB), and a smaller battery (240mAh) than the Watch Sport. Its exterior shielding is less effective at keeping out water and dust (IP67).
But the Watch Style shares the touch-sensitive dial and 4GB storage size common with the Watch Sport. One key point about both smartwatches is that they will tout Google Assistant integration with contextual alerts.
Google Assistant is the company’s artificially intelligent assistant, which is debuted first in Allo, a messaging app. It’s now available in the Pixel and in Google Home.
The Watch Sport will not support Google’s interchangeable Mode watch bands due to its design and lugs, but the Watch Style will be compatible. The Mountain View, California, company is also reportedly working on a “brand-new style of watch faces” for both of these smartwatches that will allow them to gain quicker access to notifications, media controls, and other functions for commonly used apps.
Android Wear 2.0
The major update is expected to roll out early in 2017 after the new smartwatches launch and will be available for the following Android Wear smartwatches: Asus ZenwWatch 2, Asus ZenWatch 3, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Moto 360 Gen. 2, Moto 360 Sport, Tag Heuer Connected, LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, LG Watch Urbane, LG G Watch R, Polar M600, Fossil Q Wander, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Founder, Michael Kors Access Bradshaw Smartwatch, Michael Kors Access Dylan Smartwatch, Nixon Mission, Huawei Watch, and Huawei Watch Ladies.
The highlights of the update, other than a redesign of the interface, include stand-alone apps that do not require a phone, the Google Assistant, and support for Android Pay. Some existing watches do not have NFC support, so Android Pay will not work on those devices. New devices in 2017 will likely feature NFC, but it’s still not a requirement for Android Wear partners.
Android Wear 2.0 is currently in beta and users can expect the fifth and final Developer Preview to drop in January — this final preview before the official release will include Android Pay and the Assistant. Interestingly, the update will also bring support for iOS devices, meaning Android Pay will work on both Android and iOS.
More watches will be announced at the Baselworld 2017 trade show in Swizerland in March.
Updated on 01-23-2017 by Christian de Looper: Added new image leak from @evleaks.
Why it matters to you
VR Score offers another way to test whether your PC is capable of running virtual reality games.
Basemark has announced its new VRScore PC benchmark, designed specifically to test whether your PC can run the smooth, high frame rates of commercial virtual reality. It’s even going so far as to call it the “world’s first comprehensive VR benchmark,” which is quite a high bar to set, though we’re sure others will look to meet it in the future.
3Dmark might have something to say about that as well, but until it does, Basemark appears to be leading the way. Its test supports both DirectX11 and 12, and features high-end visuals of an expansive world. Produced for Basemark by Crytek, the environment is designed to mimic a real game world and the explosive effects we can expect when playing high-end VR titles.
Much like a traditional 3D benchmark, Basemark’s VRScore spits out a score at the end to let you know how capable your PC is, but it goes beyond that with some specific VR metrics. It measures application to photon latency for the left and right eyes and gives you a custom report for particular headsets.
More: AMD just released an awesome new benchmark for DirectX 12 games – here’s how to use it
VRScore tracks what headset you have plugged in at the time and gives you a report based on that. However you don’t even need to have one to try the benchmark out. Indeed one of its best features is that it can give you an idea of how the demo would run on a range of different head-mounted displays. That way, if there any major differences, you can pick the headset that works best with your PC.
VRScore is currently available to select media in a limited guise, though there are corporate and “Corporate Premium,” versions available too. The professional version and free, consumer version will be released in the second quarter of this year. As with benchmarks from other developers, the free, consumer edition will have the least features of the lot.
Most versions will require an internet connection to run, meaning VRScore is an “always on,” piece of software. Interestingly enough, that’s a restriction that the Corporate Premium version does away with, including automated result submission.
Whether you like always-on or not, a new benchmark for virtual reality sounds useful. Do you think your PC is ready for it?
What are the best ways to repurpose an Android device?
There’s a great thread going on right now on Reddit asking people to sum up how they use their old Android phones and tablets.
From security cameras to timelapse builders to permanent media servers, there are a lot of ways you can repurpose old Android phones and tablets — especially now as they are not going obsolete nearly as quickly.
Some people choose to use old Android phones as personal media players for their kids, as Wi-Fi is pretty ubiquitous and microSD cards can stand in for low storage space. Others use their old phones as dashcams to record potential car accidents or incidents on the road.
The best microSD cards
So how do you use your old Android phones or tablets? Let us know in the comments below!
These are two great Chromebooks that are built for different types of users.
If you’re looking to buy a Chromebook, whether it’s your first or not, Acer has two great models that will fit most people’s needs. We’re talking about the Acer Chromebook R11 and the Acer Chromebook R13, and we’re going to compare the two head to head so you can see which one might be the right one for you.
In many ways, both of these great Chromebooks are very alike. That stands to reason, as they are both made by Acer as products that are a step up from entry level in the space. Right away you can see that they look a lot alike — there aren’t a lot of ways you can differentiate your look in the laptop market without going to extremes, but every product line has a signature design. The Acer R series of Chromebooks have all shared some great design features, but there are some readily apparent differences, starting with the materials used.
Design and construction
The R11 is plastic, while the R13 is aluminum. I can’t knock Acer for building the R11 out of plastic — it’s the best way to cut down on the weight and overall mass when you build something well-suited for using on-the-go. Being made of plastic doesn’t mean it’s not durable or well built. From our original review of the Chromebook R11:
The chassis doesn’t unnecessarily flex in your hands, the keyboard offers good travel without any bounce in the frame and the display hinge is tight.
On the other hand, there’s something to be said about how a well-built aluminum laptop feels while you’re using it. And the R13 is certainly well built. The full aluminum frame is solid and designed to take a bit of roughhousing, though we wouldn’t recommend treating your electronics poorly. The finish rivals products from Apple and Sony and has slightly textured brushed feel. Even the specially built solid hinge is aluminum and cast as part of the frame itself. You’ll be satisfied that you have a premium product that was worth the extra money if you go with the Chromebook R13.
Both models have a 180-degree hinge so that they can convert into what Acer calls Display Mode. While in display mode the keyboard is disabled and all navigation is done via touch or with an attached keyboard and mouse. While neither can provide the optimal tablet experience with the rest of the body still attached, the R11 is hands down the better experience in “tablet mode.”
The R11 is hands down the better experience in “tablet mode.”
It’s a matter of size. While there are instances where a 13-inch tablet would be great, they are few and far between. The R11 is easier to hold, lighter and just not as awkward as the bigger R13 when you’re trying to use either as a tablet replacement. One area where the R13 does have a Display Mode advantage is using it in the upright position that resembles a tent (see the image above). This is great for watching a movie or show, and the 13-inch display has an advantage here.
Both models work exactly as described when in Display Mode and we’ve seen no problems with the keyboard and trackpad properly switching on and off, even when repeatedly flipping things back and forth.
The Acer Chromebook R11 has an 11.6-inch 1366×768 IPS display, while the Acer Chromebook R13 sports a 13.3-inch 1920×1080 IPS display. Both are touch-enabled, and responsive while using the multi-touch digitizers. While you may be tempted to think the R13 has the better screen simply because of the resolution, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
Size isn’t everything and the Chromebook R11 makes up for its resolution with a better quality image.
The R13 has a very good display with excellent color reproduction and comfortable viewing angles. The lone drawback is the very high-gloss finish which can be distracting in certain lighting. There’s nothing to complain about and even the pickiest user (speaking from experience) will be satisfied. But the display on the R11 is simply better.
Resolution aside, anything you’re looking at will look better on the R11’s display. It’s more vibrant without being overly saturated and the contrast ratio almost mimics real life. There is little to no difference in the viewing angles, and the R11 holds that bright display even when not facing it directly.
Granted, we can’t dismiss the resolution. A 1080p screen will be the better measurement for most things we do on the web, for watching a video and looking through a photo album. But the quality of the R11’s panel surprised us. In a good way.
The trackpad and keyboard
There are two things you need to know about the trackpad and keyboards on the two. Neither is backlit, which disappoints us as much as it does you. The second is that the R13 is a good bit better at both.
The R11 has a nice keyboard, and no matter how hard you type the keys will still bounce back and not wiggle like we see some other chiclet-style keyboards do. But the keys are made from a hard plastic and the coating isn’t enough to completely overcome it. When you have a flat chiclet key with no contour, the material matters when you do a lot of typing. The R13 has about the same bounce and travel, but with a nice soft coating over each key. Yes, this is a bit of a nitpick, but if you do a lot of typing, it makes a clear difference. The R11 isn’t bad, not at all. It’s just that the R13 is a lot better.
One area easy to judge was the trackpad — the R13 is a lot better here.
The same can’t be said of the R11’s trackpad. It’s fully functional with full multi-finger gesture support, but the finish not as smooth as it needs to be. We noticed right away that there’s too much drag when gliding your finger across the trackpad and intricate or precise pointing can difficult. It works, and for the majority of pointing and clicking it’s OK. Just OK, not great. A solution could be a good wireless mouse when you need to do anything with a lot of detail.
The R13 trackpad doesn’t suffer from the same issue. It’s not at the level of a MacBook or the Chromebook Pixel was, but it’s smooth and you’ll not have any complaints.
The hardware and specifications
Both models have relatively inexpensive but completely adequate processors paired with fast memory. Chrome OS is designed to run very well on this type of setup, as processor demands are kept to a minimum while RAM is used to hold processes longer rather than clear itself. Chrome OS is very good at processing a thing once and keeping it alive for the fast access the next time. Here’s a look at the specifications of each.
|Display (Touchscreen)||11.6-inch 1366×768 IPS||13.3-inch 1920×1080 IPS|
|Processor||Intel Celeron N3150||MediaTek M8173C|
|Memory||2/4GB DDR3L||4GB LPDDR3|
|Storage||16/32GB SD card||16/32/64GB SD card|
|Connectivity||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0||Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Ports||USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI||USB-C 3.1, USB-A 3.0, HDMI|
|Est. Battery life||9.5 hours||12 hours|
|Charger||Proprietary 45W/19V||USB Power Delivery (USB-C)|
For the most part, they match up as you would expect a smaller, more portable laptop and larger and heavier laptop would. The R13 can be had with more storage, has a larger battery and better camera. The larger size of the R13 is what allows it to have a bigger battery, and the R11 comes in a budget-friendly 16GB / 2GB option while the R13 has a higher-priced option with more storage.
The R11 uses an Intel processor while the R13 uses a MediaTek ARM processor. If we were looking at these just a year ago, we would advise you to shy away from an ARM Chromebook in most instances. But a year is forever in the tech world, and today Chrome runs as well on an ARM CPU as it does the quad-core Celeron. We suspect this is because Chrome has been further optimized for the ARM instruction set and ARM chips have gotten a lot better. In any case, don’t let the ARM processor in the R13 scare you off.
ARM processors on Chromebooks are no longer a red flag, and both models perform well.
While neither are the powerhouses the expensive Core M Chromebooks are, both have enough of what it takes to power Chrome and the things you’ll be doing with no problems.
One other thing to note is that the R13 has a USB 3.1 Type-C port in addition to a USB Type-A port. It also supports the USB Power Delivery standards, so it acts as the charging input as well as a charging output for any other USB-PD device. That’s starting to matter more now, and chances are the next thing you buy will also use USB-C with Power Delivery for charging and data transfer.
Both Chromebooks give you access to the web and everything Chrome has to offer as well as access to Google Play. This gives you over one million apps that can help fill any gap in productivity or fun you’ll come across while using Chrome.
It’s tempting to say the Chromebook R13 is the better laptop. But that’s not taking into account the size and weight, and reasons why you might want something smaller or want something bigger.
If you’ll be using your Chromebook at home or in the office most of the time, and want something with a bigger display and a roomier keyboard, the R13 is definitely the one to buy. Conversely, if you spend most of your time with your Chromebook at Starbucks or on a plane, the R11 has a clear advantage when it comes to portability because of it’s smaller footprint and lighter weight.
And if you plan to use your Chromebook as a tablet very often, there is no question the R11 is the better option.
I’m not on the go without a full bag of gear very often. Being able to carry more stuff is one of the few perks of being in a wheelchair, as you can throw a bag across the handles and go. I would choose the Acer Chromebook R13 because of the bigger (if not better) display and superior trackpad. But if things were different and I spent more time commuting or liked to work in the park or coffee shop, I would pick up the Acer Chromebook R11. Nothing else makes enough difference to use the R13 while on the go or to use the R11 at your desk all day.
One thing we’re sure of is that it’s great to have such good choices in the mid-range when it comes to Chromebooks. Not too long ago you were stuck with only the low-end and high-end when it came to buying, and for many, the quality and performance from expensive models just didn’t justify the high price.
See Acer Chromebook R11 at Amazon
See Acer Chromebook R13 at Amazon
What are the best games to play on the NVIDIA Shield TV from the Google Play Store?
As NVIDIA proclaims in every ad, their new Shield Android TV box is “the streamer for gamers”. So which games are worth checking out?
Well, for starters we’re not going to dive into NVIDIA’s GeForce Now subscription service, or NVIDIA Gamestream. We’ll touch on those services later.
For now, we’re just going to highlight some of the best games available via the Google Play Store, specifically adapted to play on the NVIDIA Shield TV. So let’s dive right in!
If you consider yourself a hardcore puzzle gamer, you owe it to yourself to check out The Witness, one of the most beautifully crafted and challenging puzzle games ever conceived. At first glance, this appears to be a rather standard puzzle adventure game, where you wander around a mysterious island solving grid puzzles all the live long day, things become quite layered as you start to unravel the true nature of the island and just how deep the puzzle theme extends.
I’ll keep the description vague and cryptic, because it’s really one of those games you want to experience for yourself.
Download: The Witness ($19.99)
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
The Borderlands franchise is a gloriously unique first-person shooter, mixing genre elements from action, RPG, and FPS into an addictive experience, topped off with the beautiful cel-shaded graphics and a storyline featuring razor-sharp wit.
The Pre-Sequel was originally released in 2014 for the major consoles, and fits in story wise between the first and second Borderland games. As such, it largely uses the game mechanics from Borderlands 2, while adding in some new weapons and elements. The game also supports co-op play, though sadly no split-screen co-op is available at this time.
Still, Borderlands: TPS plays like a dream on the NVIDIA Shield and should provide hours of fun.
Download: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel ($14.99)
Ultimate Chicken Horse
Ultimate Chicken Horse is a rather unique party platformer that’ll have you and your friends gathering around the TV like it was 1998 again. The concept is that up to four friends collaborate to build out a challenging level — based on the different platforms and traps, made available to the group. Then, everyone simultaneously tries to complete the level.
Equal parts strategic and stupid, this game is great fun to get a few friends together and have at it (if you’ve got the right number of Shield controllers to accommodate the crew — third-party Bluetooth controller support is lacking). The goal is to set enough traps to sabotage your opponents while leaving a clean route for yourself to make it through the level and reach the goal. Everything is packaged in a fun, cartoony art style, with a host of farm animals as your disposal as playable characters.
Download: Ultimate Chicken Horse ($11.99)
GoNNER was my personal favorite game I played on the NVIDIA Shield TV in 2016, and it’s a real treat for folks looking for a challenging shooter-platformer. Levels are generated procedurally, meaning that you’ll never play the exact same level twice. The game seems to adapt the level difficulty to your skill and playing ability as you work your way through the multiple worlds.
But it’s worth noting that this game is tough. Like really tough. Before you head out to play, you choose your head and gun — you unlock more of both as you explore levels throughout the game — and then you’re tasked with dispatching the enemies as fast and efficiently as possible to continue to collect ammo for your weapons, and purple tiles which are used to heal up and upgrade weapons before boss battles, or save them to “delay” a game over screen.
I specifically chose the word delay because, again, this game is really hard. Are you up for the challenge?
Download: GoNNER ($9.99)
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Right off the hop, for those wondering this game is nothing like the stealth action found in Metal Gear Solid, the crown jewel of the Metal Gear franchise. Instead, this is a slick-looking hack-and-slash action spin-off title starring Raiden, whom fans will remember best from Metal Gear Solid 2.
In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, players assume control of Raiden, a katana-wielding cyborg. Set in the far-off year of… 2018… the story revolves around conflicts between rival Private Military Companies, with some corporations actively looking to court chaos to keep the war economy chugging along. We won’t dive too much into the plot specifics, but just want to reiterate that this is nothing like the gameplay found in Metal Gear Solid games. Another thing worth noting is the file size — a whopping 5.5GB! If you just have the 16GB console, you’ll definitely want to look into expandable storage options for your Shield TV, or start clearing out some room before installing.
Download: Metal Gear Rising Revengeance ($14.99)
When making a list of best games, and Portal is one of the options, you always got to plug arguably one of the most fun and inventive games of all time. If you’ve never played Portal before, I’m actually jealous because it means you get to experience this outstanding game fresh for the first time.
This game is celebrated justly for its brilliantly subtle storyline, mind bending puzzles, and one of the most celebrated video game villains of recent time. And it’s been ported beautifully over to the NVIDIA Shield TV via the Google Play Store.
Anyone who’s played this knows exactly why this game deserves every award it’s ever won. If you haven’t played it yet, spend the $10 and enjoy.
Download: Portal ($9.99)
Real Racing 3
So far every game on this list has been a paid title. Real Racing 3 bucks that trend. It’s already arguably the best looking racing game available for Android phones, and it looks just as pretty on the big screen playing through the NVIDIA Shield TV.
Jump behind the wheel of one of over 140 intensely detailed vehicles based on real cars, and hit the track in over 4,000 events including Cup races, Eliminations and Endurance challenges on 17 race tracks based off of iconic circuits from around the world, including Silverstone, Hockenheimring, Le Mans, Dubai Autodrome and many more.
If you’re a racing fan and looking for a good title for your Shield TV, give Real Racing 3 a try.
Real Racing 3 (Free)
What are your favorite titles for the NVIDIA Shield TV?
These are the games that piqued our interest, but what are your favorite games for the NVIDIA Shield TV? Got any opinions on the games that made our list? Let us know in the comments!
ZTE continues to trip over its own proverbial feet by assuming that a crowd knows what it wants.
The crowdsourced, crowdfunded ZTE Hawkeye, which in just under three weeks has raised only $35,000, has come under fire for ostensibly thinking that its potential audience would be willing to concede to a mid-range spec sheet after lobbying for the device to be a pie-in-the-sky project from the get-go.
Despite the fact that two features — eye-tracking and an adhesive back — won out over the rest of the votes, ZTE’s naivety in not anticipating the backlash exposes the company’s biggest flaw when it comes to attempting to expand further into the U.S. market: it just doesn’t compare to the rest of the world.
“We are already fourth in terms of market share [in North America],” said Jeff Yee, Vice President of Technology Partnerships and Planning for ZTE North America, in an interview with Android Central. “We sold 18 million devices, and many of those were by connecting directly with consumers.”
“We’ve heard lots of negative things from consumers after receiving direct feedback. We honestly didn’t foresee this happening.”
In 2017, the company aims to continue that momentum, according to Yee, by “moving upmarket with flagships” that people truly care about. Project CSX, or Crowd Source X, is ZTE’s first attempt to appeal democratically to an audience that, cumulatively, would have a final say in how a phone turns out.
But Project CSX, or Hawkeye in its finished form — another questionable crowdsourced decision — has been met with almost no response by a buying public that traditionally falls all over itself for such things. The Nextbit Robin, for instance, raised over $1.3 million back in late 2015 on the promise of a well-designed phone with a few gimmicks.
“The whole Hawkeye process was interactive — it was designed to be,” said Yee. “We were committed to not just source the idea, but also the branding, material choices and colors. This information has been invaluable.” ZTE subsequently issued an apology for minimizing the importance of what, in retrospect, was one of the device’s most important decisions, the choice of SoC, offering to change the Snapdragon 625 to a Snapdragon 835 at the risk of delaying the phone’s release date and significantly increasing its $199 price.
“We’ve heard lots of negative things from consumers after receiving direct feedback. We honestly didn’t foresee this happening.” The team behind CSX thought that it could create a single SKU (version of the phone) that would appeal to a worldwide audience. That’s how they settled on a device running a light version of Android with a spec sheet that wouldn’t have been out of place in the early months of 2016. But for a phone shipping in late 2017, even with a $199 price tag, those looking for a high-end device — one that had their actual input in the heart and soul of the finished product — were sure to be disappointed.
Yee says that ZTE is more than willing to change some of the fundamentals of the phone if it will lead to increased sales — the Kickstarter campaign of $500,000 has largely stalled at just under $40,000 — but he and his team are committed to bringing the phone to market in some form. “We would definitely make some changes in response to a majority vote. If everyone wanted a Snapdragon 835, we would definitely try to make that happen. If everyone wanted a removable battery, we’d try to make that happen.”
ZTE has acknowledged that the Hawkeye Kickstarter campaign isn’t working.
But Yee understands that there were mistakes made in the initial voting process that led to a diffusion in the actual decisions made. “The challenge with running some of these polls is that we get so much feedback, it doesn’t allow us to do line-item voting. If we could restructure some of the polls from the beginning, we would have broken it down to more specifics: Do you want a Snapdragon 625 or 835. Do you want a fingerprint sensor on the front or the back? We’d also have been able to tell people, when voting, your decision will have this impact on price.”
Yee also acknowledges that the Kickstarter campaign isn’t working. “We’re already rethinking our strategy around selling the device, and Kickstarter just wasn’t the right place to sell this phone. We’re reconsidering the platform on how it goes out.” There’s also the possibility that Hawkeye will be canceled entirely, and though Yee says ZTE is committed to bringing the two core tenets of the phone — eye-tracking and rear adhesion — to market, they may instead be integrated into a future Axon flagship.
“This whole process has been a learning experience for us and because it is an industry first, we’ve learned so much from the program. If we choose to do it again, we now know how to break it down and learn from our past — and learn from our mistakes.”
Yee also says that the next time around, he would try to find a way to give royalties to those who submitted ideas. He says that some people remarked on how they refused to disclose their Project CSX proposals because ZTE has no mechanism for compensating individuals.
Before any decisions are made about the future of Project CSX, the company’s current flagship, the Axon 7, is poised to get updated to Android 7.0 Nougat in early February. Yee says that Google has received the final Nougat build, which includes long-awaited Daydream support, and is going through the process of certifying the release for public use. That process should wrap up in the coming days, and users of the sold-unlocked device can look forward to an update in the next two weeks or so.
Good news for a company that hasn’t been in the news much over the past few months, overshadowed by the release of the Huawei Mate 9 in the U.S. and Xiaomi’s ultra-modern Mi Mix in China. But ZTE appears to have big plans for 2017, and even if Hawkeye never makes it to market in its currently-proposed form, there are plenty of good ideas left — both crowdsourced and otherwise.
You can now order your double upside down macchiato half decaf with room and a splash of cream with just your voice.
Starbucks has aggressively pushed its mobile ordering platform in the last year attempting to get fewer people standing in line and more ordering directly from their phones for a seamless pickup. The next level of that expansion is voice-only ordering, which Starbucks is now rolling out on iOS and will hit Android soon. At the same time, Starbucks is pushing into the oh-so-popular Amazon Echo with the ability to order drinks directly from the connected speaker.
The primary voice control interface is part of the new “My Starbucks barista” product, which breaks down the ordering process inside the Starbucks app into a messaging-like conversation with artificial intelligence. You tell it what you want, building your order piece by piece, and it’ll ask you to confirm before passing it along to your nearest store so you can walk in and pick it up. The new feature is arriving in a beta test for a thousand customers to start, but will expand through the summer as an Android version arrives as well.
You can just shout at your Echo as you walk out the door with your hands full.
The ability to walk through the ordering process with your voice may not seem that appealing when you can just order on the same phone (and probably quicker) by tapping a few buttons, but with the Amazon Echo that isn’t an option. With a new “Starbucks Reorder” skill on the Echo, you’ll be able to order your “usual” drink on the speaker by simply saying “[Alexa,] order my Starbucks” and have it dispatched to your store of choice right away. This could be useful to shout as you’re walking out the door with your hands full, so long as your local Starbucks is only a few minutes away — otherwise you’ll be coming up to a cold drink when you drive up 15 minutes later.
If you’re someone who’s extremely particular about your drink order, chances are you won’t be swayed by the voice interface that introduces more opportunity for mis-ordering. But for those who get the same basic drink over and over again, and are in such a hurry that they can’t (or just plain don’t want to) wait in line, these are some neat new ideas that could potentially smooth out the ordering process.
- Amazon Echo review
- Echo Dot review
- Top Echo Tips & Tricks
- Tap, Echo or Dot: The ultimate Alexa question
- Amazon Echo vs. Google Home
- Get the latest Alexa news
Taxes really aren’t great, so T-Mobile wants to give you a refund on them.
T-Mobile simplifies its monthly plan billing by including taxes in its base price to keep things clean and consistent, and now it’s doing the same with its smartphone pricing. Starting February 1, when you buy a new phone from T-Mobile, it will refund you 11.2% of the price to cover even the highest sales tax you could pay the in the U.S.
As is usually the case with this sort of thing, there are a few hoops to jump through. You’ll have to buy your new phone on an installment plan rather than outright, and then it could take up to 60 days to receive your money in the form of a prepaid MasterCard. It’s annoying that the rebate couldn’t be put back on your bill as a credit or something … but hey, we can’t be too upset about free money. Best of all, this deal applies to every phone from T-Mobile, not just specific models or brands.
On top of this deal, T-Mobile is also running a limited-time offer where you’ll receive $150 for each line you bring to T-Mobile (up to 12 lines). By stacking these two deals you could be in for a nice chunk of savings when you switch and buy a new phone.