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1
Mar

Golf Clash: Is it good enough to be the leader in the clubhouse? (Review)


It’s been a long time since I’ve played a golf game. Remember the glorious days of Super Stickman Golf? Those were the days. Sometimes I think that golf and mobile are meant for each other because of the relaxed nature of the game. This makes it easy to create an intuitive but fun golf-related games. A brilliant example of this is Golf Clash, by Playdemic, which combines very easy to learn controls with well-thought gameplay centered around online matches.

Developer: Playdemic
Price: Free

Setup and Tutorial

When you start the game, it will ask you to link it to your Google Play Games account. Immediately after this, the game will throw you into a very short tutorial that will explain the two main gameplay mechanics.

First, you will determine how far you want the ball to go. Obviously, in the first shot, you would want it to go as far as possible, but in subsequent shots, a compromise has to be reached in order to propel the ball as close to the hole as possible.

Then, you will be able to shoot the ball by pressing the Take Shot button. The shot itself can be done by pulling the ball to a blue target that will appear on the bottom. The game does a good job in indicating where is the sweet spot, so you don’t have to do any guessing. After this, a target with a moving needle will appear, and your goal is to release the ball when the needle is in the center of the target.

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This is easier said than done, as you might expect, so the game gives you different feedback based on your performance. If you land it perfectly, the ball will only be moved by the wind. If you do great, the ball will move slightly towards the direction your needle is pointing to. Do horribly wrong, though, and you’ll be stuck in the middle of the bushes or in a sand trap.

When you reach the final section and you have to putt the ball, the controls change slightly. You still need to pull the ball, but now you’ll have to align it to a cyan trail that appears on top of the grass. Then, you’ll need to align two arrows in order to get the perfect shot. You can see the Setup gallery to get what I’m saying.

After going through the tutorial, the game will throw you directly into a match. Do not be intimidated, though. Even though it looks like it searches for a player online, I’m pretty sure that the other player is a bot, since it does everything it can to avoid winning.

Overview

The main menu has a lot of stuff going on.

After getting through the tutorial, you’ll be greeted by a very crowded main screen. The most important element of this screen is the “Play Golf” button, which makes you choose between playing a match against an online player or against a friend. Since I don’t have friends, the online matches will have to do.

There are different tournaments you can choose from. All of them have an entry free that you have to pay in coins, which is one of the two in-game currencies (you already know the drill by know, so you can probably guess the other). In return, winning doubles the coins you disbursed for entry and will also increase your trophy count.

As with so many other games, trophy count is like your overall ranking, and winning matches will increase this rank and unlock new tournaments where stakes are higher. You can’t farm the beginner tournament forever since it can yield a maximum of 20 trophies.

Matches are straightforward: the one who gets the ball into the hole using the least amount of shots, wins. If both use the same number of shots, then you go to a tiebreaker, in which you have only one shot and whoever places the ball closest to the hole, wins.

After winning games, you will also receive chests that open after a certain time (such as the timed blocks in Pokémon Duel, for example). These will yield coins, gems, upgrade cards and other similar items.

Controls are very easy but there’s no training option to hone your skills.

Speaking of upgrade cards, if you know a bit about golf, you would know that they use different kinds of clubs based on the situation. This is also true for the game, and you can upgrade each kind of club by getting upgrade cards and paying some coins. This will improve the accuracy, power and in-game help that the club provides.

This will improve the accuracy, power and in-game help that the club provides. There are a lot of clubs that you unlock when unlocking the upper levels, adding a lot of replayability to the game.

Aside from clubs, you can also buy ball packs. These special balls (no double entendre, please) are much better than the regular ones you use since they have perks such as being less resistant to the wind, reaching farther distances, having more sidespin and such. These can be bought with gems only.

In case you haven’t guessed it until now, gems are the second in-game currency. You can use them to buy new clubs, balls, and chests. You can also use them to open chests received through online matches without waiting for the timer. In case you are low on coins, you can also exchange gems for coins and continue your ass-kicking in online matches. Prices for these gems range from $0.98 for 80 to a whopping $99.34 for 17000. Your choice.

General Impressions

golf_clash-5-169x300.pngObviously, 47-trophy Jack is going to win against a noob like me.

Until you get the hang of it, prepare to experience frustration in online matches. It is baffling to me that there’s no practice mode or something similar so that you’re not forced to make a fool out of yourself in online matches until you get decent at the game, but life is hard.

After some matches, though, you will be able to systematically do good shots and you’ll feel more in control of the game. Normal matches are tense because you know that if you make one mistake, you are probably out. The mechanic for deciding who wins in a draw is very interesting and matches can be decided by just portions of a yard.

Regarding online matches, I experienced very few issues with connection. Other games with a higher volume of players have constant connection issues that plague the online matches. However, everything ran smoothly here aside from a couple of seconds of reconnecting dialogs here and there.

However, the problem was with the matchmaking itself. While I was a proud holder of 18 trophies, I got mixed with a guy who had 47, all with fancy clubs and deluxe balls. All I could do was hope for a mistake, which he obviously didn’t make because he was more experienced.

Graphics

Menus are well laid-out, the problem is with graphics during matches.

As always, there are two sides for the graphical aspect. The first one is the user interface, which I like in this game. A lot of animations are present and buttons are very easy to press. Even though sometimes you can get the impression that it is too busy, it works fine most of the time. The in-game help for controls is very responsive and looks good.

Even though sometimes you can get the impression that it is too busy, it works fine most of the time. The in-game help for controls is very responsive and looks good.

However, the graphics in matches themselves leave a lot to be desired. Elements such as trees, grass, and bushes look sub-par, and when you compare them to other games, they look truly archaic and outdated.

This is very noticeable on the screen where you choose the direction of your shot before actually hitting the ball. Trees and other nature elements are very low-detailed and textures are either bad or nonexistent.

Sound

There are a few sounds effects to accompany your actions in the game, such as when you hit the ball, some claps when you do a good shot, and the characteristic sound the ball makes when being introduced into a hole. Also, there’s a voice who says “Perfect Shot” when… Wait for it… You do a perfect shot. However, that’s it.

Club upgrading adds replay value to the game.

I’m serious. Tapping elements on menus yield zero audible feedback. Actually, there’s no background music, neither in the menus nor in the matches. At first, I got a little afraid because I thought that my phone’s speaker was giving in. However, after realizing that it worked fine because the game itself made some sounds, I realized how flawed sound is in this game.

To add insult to injury, the sound effects come turned off by default! I seriously have no idea of what is going on here. A quick trip to the options will change that, though.

Conclusion

Through relatively simple controls and a great emphasis on online interaction, Golf Clash manages to provide entertainment. Also, thanks to the possibility of participating in several tournaments and upgrading clubs, the game has a replay value aspect adhered to it. Where it suffers is in the graphics and sound department, with very low-quality graphics and inexplicable omissions regarding sound. Also, a lack of offline gameplay is a bummer. However, give it a shot and see if you can overcome the bad aspects and enjoy the good ones.

Download and install Golf Clash from the Google Play Store.

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1
Mar

Multitalented Nintendo Switch Pro Controller can connect to your PC via Bluetooth


Why it matters to you

The Pro Controller for the Nintendo Switch isn’t restricted to being used with the console itself, making it a much more useful peripheral.

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The biggest selling point of the Nintendo Switch is its attempt to combine the strengths of a portable system and a home console, thanks to its unique Joy-Con controllers. However, owners will also be able to opt for a more traditional input device in the form of the Pro Controller, a gamepad that we now know is compatible with plenty of other hardware.

The Pro Controller can be synced with a PC using the Windows Bluetooth Settings menu, according to a report from IGN. This means that PC gamers can use the pad as an alternative to the mouse and keyboard for games that are tailored to a console control scheme.

However, there are some limitations to its connectivity. The Pro Controller can only connect to a PC via Bluetooth, rather than using its USB Type-C cable, and there’s no capacity to charge the device using said cable while a Bluetooth connection is active.

More: Nintendo Switch review

YouTube user DreWoof has also been testing the limits of the Pro Controller’s connectivity. Steam’s Big Picture mode is said to work with the controller, although certain games aren’t playable, depending on the controller input styles that they support on an individual basis. DreWoof also managed to pair the Pro Controller with an Android device, but in some cases input was too laggy for any practical usage.

Confirmation that the Pro Controller can connect to a range of devices via Bluetooth won’t have gamers rushing out to buy the pad, but it’s a nice bonus for Switch owners who were buying the peripheral anyway.

It’s relatively easy to connect a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controller to a PC, but doing the same with the Wii U Pro Controller required a bit of legwork. It’s good to see Nintendo achieving parity with its biggest competition, even if its with regards to a minor piece of functionality.

1
Mar

Sistine Solar’s custom panel skins give rise to stealthy photovoltaics


Why it matters to you

If you wouldn’t buy solar panels because you think they’re ugly, Sistine Solar might have the solution to saving you money and energy.

If you feel like solar panels break the lines of your home’s aesthetic, or think that covering your roof in solar cells is a waste of advertising space, Sistine Solar’s new solar skins could be what you’re looking for. They let you make your rooftop panels look like whatever you want, without much impact on efficiency.

Winner of the 2013 MIT Clean Energy Prize, Sistine Solar’s design is a relatively simple one: Placing a thin, printable layer within the panel itself. That lets owners match their panels to their roof, or go for a custom color scheme altogether. Some businesses are even considering using the technology for advertising space, helping to offset installation costs.

sistine solar skins solarskin

sistine solar skins solarskin

sistine solar skins solarskin

Sistine Solar is a startup in the earliest stages of development, but has already completed several test installs of the technology and has received a lot of interest in it since. To confirm its efficacy, it’s currently testing its SolarSkin technology at the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory under a Department of Energy grant. There it will confirm what effect the skin has on the efficiency and longevity of the panels.

More: Lightweight, flexible solar panels may be more efficient than competitors’

Currently there is around a 10 percent increase in installation costs with SolarSkins in place, but Sistine Solar claims that solar will still offer savings of many thousands of dollars over the life of the panels.

The technology behind it is all is all rather hush-hush right now, but Sistine Solar claims to have made innovations in the field of light filtration, to allow the majority of light to pass through the panel to the photovoltaic cells, whilst still projecting the image of whatever the customer desires, to the human eye (as per MIT).

Sistine Solar isn’t the only company looking to innovate the look and function of traditional solar panel designs. Tesla Motors recently unveiled a concept for a solar cell roof tile, replacing the need for separate panels and simply integrating the energy generating functionality into the roof tiles themselves.

Of course, there’s always the chance that windows of the future will do all the sun-catching we need instead.

1
Mar

The best family plan, individual plan, unlimited plan, and more


dt-best-of-150_carriersTo say that navigating U.S. carriers’ family plans is a trial is the understatement of the century. Although carriers’ websites have improved and plans have become more transparent, trying to figure out which network offers the best deal for your family is still a nightmare. Luckily, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide on how to choose the wireless plan that best suits your needs — and saves you the most cash.

Here are our picks for best family plan, best individual plan, best unlimited plan, and more. We’ve also added helpful explainer sections to help you choose your carrier.

Editor’s Note: Each plan we’ve chosen lists only the price of your service bill. You will also pay monthly installments on your new phones’ balances, if you choose to buy new phones from your carrier. This is explained further in the section below called, “How do phone payment plans work?”

Our pick

T-Mobile

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Why should you buy this: T-Mobile leads the industry with plans that charge no overages, cost less than the competition, and offer more perks.

The best

T-Mobile

T-Mobile offers the best plans, most perks, and fairest prices, by far.

$50.00 from T-Mobile

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants an unlimited plan, lives in an urban area, or travels internationally a lot

How much will it cost: $50 and up, depending on your data usage.

Why we picked T-Mobile:

T-Mobile is the industry leader in the U.S. with its bold “Un-carrier” moves. When T-Mobile busts out a brand new plan or feature, the rest of the carriers inevitably follow its example. T-Mobile started by ending overage charges, killing the two-year contract, and offering lower prices than its competitors.

Now, T-Mobile offers a wide range of perks, including free gifts on Tuesdays, unlimited data plans, unlimited music and video streaming, free international service, and more. As such, T-Mobile wins our awards for best unlimited plan, best international service, and best urban service.

Of course, you have to look beyond the gimmicks to see the core aspects of T-Mobile’s service. It offers two plans, one with variable data caps called T-Mobile One and one that’s unlimited called Simple Choice. The older Simple Choice plans are hidden under Other Plans when you click on Plans from the main page.

There’s no contract for either plan, and you have to pay the full, unsubsidized price for each smartphone you buy on the plan. You’ll pay for each device in installments (typically $20 to $30 a month per phone). You can also bring your own phone instead of buying a new one.

T-Mobile One Plus, a premium upgrade, starts at $5 a month and includes unlimited GoGo in-flight Wi-Fi, voicemail to text, and caller ID. An international option, the One Plus International plan, includes unlimited LTE hotspots, calls to landlines in 70 countries, and all of the One Plus plan’s benefits.

Data hogs are getting a very good deal with the new T-Mobile One Plan and its unlimited data. It’s cheaper than the previous unlimited data option in the existing Simple Choice Plan. However, if you are a customer who was using only the minimum amount of data each month, the new T-Mobile One plan represents a price increase for you of $20-$70. You do get unlimited data for that extra money, but if you don’t have cash to spare, you may want to stay on your old plan — especially if you never exceeded your data limit in the first place.

Bottom line: Those of you who don’t use too much data will want to choose one of the Simple Choice plans with the minimum amount of data. Large families who eat up data should grab an unlimited plan.

Disclaimer: If you live in a rural area, T-Mobile will not work for you. T-Mobile coverage is still spotty in rural America, though it excels in cities.

The perks that come with all T-Mobile plans:

  • Mobile without Borders: T-Mobile users get unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico, as well as the United States. Unlimited text and data at lower speeds is also available in almost 150 countries worldwide, though calls cost 20 cents per minute.
  • Jump on Demand: You can lease phones for less and upgrade to the latest and greatest phone whenever you want.
  • Music Freedom: Stream music on most of the popular streaming apps including Spotify without burning through your data allowance.
  • T-Mobile Tuesdays: Download this iOS and Android app to get free deals every Tuesday, like $15 in Lyft credit or a Frosty from Wendy’s.
  • No overages on data: Speeds are reduced to 2G on Simple Choice plans. The unlimited plan has no overages.

The downsides of all T-Mobile plans:

  • Spotty coverage in rural areas.
  • 10 GB of LTE mobile-hotspot data.
  • Once you surpass your data limit, speeds are cut back to 2G.

The downsides of the T-Mobile One Unlimited plan:

  • All tethering between your phone and other devices is limited to 3G speeds. You’ll have to pay $15 extra per month (per line) for 4G LTE tethering.
  • If you surpass 26GB of 4G LTE data, your speeds will be throttled down to 2G.
  • You must sign up for Auto Pay on your bills, or T-Mobile will charge $5 extra per line each month.

Read more here

1
Mar

Android devices overtake iPhones in terms of reliability, according to report


Why it matters to you

No smartphone is perfect, and the latest reliability and performance data may help customers choose their next device more carefully.

The findings of a recent quarterly report on mobile device performance and health by analysts at Blancco Technology Group suggest iPhones have been overtaken by Android smartphones in terms of reliability over the past year. According to the study, worldwide failure rates of iPhones have significantly increased from the fourth quarter of 2015, where the percentage stood at 15 percent, to a whopping 62 percent at the end of last year. Comparatively, Android products have been nearly halved in that same time period, from 85 percent to 47 percent.

Blancco defines “failure” in the context of this study as “devices that had excessive performance issues that could not be resolved.” When breaking out the data over individual iPhone models, the iPhone 6 is found to be the least dependable across every quarter.

More: How to factory reset an iPhone (every generation)

The survey speculates the iPhone 6’s issues may have been exacerbated by the iOS 9.3.1, 9.3.2, 10, and 10.2 updates released between April and December of last year, which reportedly caused issues such as general slow down, quicker battery drain, random crashes, spotty Wi-Fi connectivity, and poor Bluetooth call quality. At worst, some devices were bricked after being updated.

According to the data, newer iPhones aren’t entirely without their faults, either. During the most recent quarter, the iPhone 6 was followed immediately by the 6S claiming the second-highest failure rate, and the iPhone 7 took the sixth spot behind the 6 Plus and 6S Plus.


Blancco Technology Group

Conversely, Android devices appear to have come a long away, according to Blancco’s findings. Failure rate took a massive dive between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016, dropping from 85 percent to 35 percent, before climbing slightly and stabilizing at 47 percent.

Samsung devices top the Android failure charts every quarter, most likely due to the fact that Samsung far and away claims the most market share of any phone manufacturer running Google’s operating system. Based on Blancco’s data, the company’s products accounted for roughly 88 percent of all Android devices worldwide in the second quarter of 2016, and its brand failure rate swung from a high of 43 percent in the first quarter of last year to a low of 11 percent in the third quarter.

While the report notes Android smartphones “performed considerably better” in contrast to their counterparts running iOS, it does entertain the possibility that the discrepancy might be at least partially the result of a difference between the two communities of users. Blancco says Android owners “may be becoming more tech savvy and taking advantage of smartphone optimization tips provided in tech blogs [and] user forums.”

Finally, the study concludes with an analysis of the specific issues that plague most iPhones and Android devices. App crashing was listed as the No. 1 culprit for most Apple customers, with Instagram and Snapchat noted as the worst offenders. Android phones displayed more diverse problems, ranging from camera errors, to underperforming batteries and USB syncing glitches, depending on the model.

Although app crashing didn’t top Android users’ list of concerns, Google Play Services was found to be particularly troublesome. Not very surprising, considering Google Play Services provides essential support to a large number of apps and processes on all Android devices.

Blancco says its report is based on anonymous data collected from millions of mobile phones around the world brought to manufacturers and carriers for diagnostics testing.

1
Mar

Valve is working on adding eye-tracking support to OpenVR interface


Why it matters to you

Support for eye-tracking could make it easier for developers to deliver high quality virtual reality experiences without the need for prohibitively powerful hardware.

Valve is collaborating with German computer vision firm SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) to bring eye-tracking functionality to the company’s OpenVR API. HTC Vive units with eye-tracking capabilities are being shown by the two companies at the Game Developers Conference, which is being held this week in San Francisco.

It’s hoped that eye-tracking technology could help improve the graphic quality of games designed to be played using virtual reality headsets. By tracking where the user is looking, it’s possible to render areas that are outside the viewer’s line of sight with less detail, freeing up hardware resources.

As VR technology becomes more advanced, it’s going to become more and more difficult for PCs to keep up with increased display resolutions. Including eye-tracking capabilities in future VR headsets could help counteract the need for more potent hardware.

More: Nobody wants a VR platform war, but Oculus may start one anyway

SMI has already collaborated with some of the biggest names in tech on various VR concepts. In February, Google Research showed off a project that used headsets modified by the company to maintain visibility of the user’s face, even while they are embroiled in a VR experience.

SMI will also showcase the results of its collaboration with ARM at its own GDC booth, according to a report from Road to VR. The company has been working with the processor specialists to implement eye-tracking on mobile VR devices, which stand to benefit greatly from the technology, given that they are often far less potent than purpose-built gaming PCs.

Valve’s decision to introduce support for eye-tracking into the OpenVR API certainly suggests that the company is confident in the technology’s potential to improve VR experiences. However, even though Vive headsets with eye-tracking capabilities are being shown at GDC, there is no confirmation that the next iteration of the device will be outfitted with this functionality.

1
Mar

Best iPhone 7 battery cases to keep your phone above 20 percent


Depending on how much you use your iPhone 7, a full battery charge is either enough to get you through the day, or not nearly enough to keep up with you. Sometimes, you simply need some music, but when you’ve got Bluetooth, music streaming, GPS, and cellular data running, your battery isn’t likely to last too long. That’s where battery cases come in.

More: Check out 20 of the best iPhone 7 cases and covers for your shiny new phone

There’s a lack of battery cases out there for the iPhone 7 that will take advantage of its capabilities, and there are even fewer that won’t interfere with the lightning port, which is now the headphone port, but there are enough available to give you exactly what you need from a battery case.

Apple Smart Battery Case ($85+)

iphone-7-smart-battery-case

  • Capacity – 2,365mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – 5.45 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
  • Weight – N/A

Apple’s own Smart Battery Case is the go-to accessory if you want seamless integration with your iPhone 7. If you have any experience with the iPhone 6S’ Smart Battery Case, you’re in for much of the same with the one made for the iPhone 7, save for a different cutout around the camera and none for the headphone jack (because the iPhone 7 doesn’t have one). The case will increase your phone call, internet, and video time by 26, 22, and 24 hours, respectively, meaning even heavy smartphone users should be able to use their devices without worrying about a full recharge. You can use the case with Lightning supported accessories without removing the case, including the Lighting to USB cable and the charging dock. As far as protection goes, this case is pretty basic. The interior is lined with a microfiber material, while the outside is made using soft silicone.

Buy one now from:

Apple Amazon

Mophie Juice Pack Air ($100)

mophie juice pack air for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

  • Capacity – 2,525mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – 5.90 x 2.80 x 0.65 inches
  • Weight – 99.5g (3.51 oz)

Mophie’s Juice Pack Air battery case is very similar to the battery cases the company has made for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. The case will last for 500 recharges, and during use, can provide an estimated 27 hours of battery life to your iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Just press and hold the button on the back for two seconds to begin charging your phone.

The Juice Pack Air has LEDs on the back to show how much power is left, can be charged without removing the iPhone, and doesn’t block the speaker, microphone, camera, or any other important components of the phone. In fact, the case is designed to enhance the speaker’s audio quality, as it redirects sound from the bottom of the phone to the front. It’s also compatible with Mophie’s Charge Force wireless mount, so you easily charge it while driving.

Buy one now from:

Mophie

Foxin Battery Case ($20)

foxin-battery-case

  • Capacity – 6,800mAh
  • Output – 1.0A
  • Size – 7.2 x 4 x 1.1 inches
  • Weight – 181g (6.4 oz)

If you power through your iPhone 7’s battery multiple times a day, Foxin’s battery case will be able to support you, as it’s capable of fully charging your phone two times a day thanks to its own 6,800mAh battery. To complement that, you can charge your phone while it’s in the battery case, and once that battery is full, the charge will continue on to the battery case itself. There’s also a USB port on the side, allowing you to charge another device.

There is a flaw with this particular case, however, and it lies with the iPhone 7’s own Lightning port. Even though the port can be used to attach the phone to the case and to charge it, you’re unable to use the Apple earpods that come packed in with every iPhone. If that’s not a huge deal breaker, you can buy this case with confidence. Smartphone protection is standard with this case, so expect some defense against falls and shocks, but avoid bigger drops if you can.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Maxdara Charging Case ($22+)

maxdara-charging-case

  • Capacity: 5,200mAh
  • Output: 1.5A
  • Size – 5.6 x 2.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight – 82.2g (2.9 oz)

Maxdara’s battery case will keep your phone charged and ready for however long you intend to use your iPhone 7, and it’ll let you know just how much power your case has left, thanks to the battery indicator located on the back — White: 100 percent, Green: 75 percent, Blue: 50 percent, Red: 25 percent. When the time comes to charge your phone using the case, you use the On/Off switch (also located on the back) to start and stop the process. The case has the necessary (and precise) cutouts for the microphone, buttons, and camera. It’ll also protect your phone from scratches and shocks. It’s made with a dull polished material that results in a comfortable case you can hold for all the hours you’ll be using your phone.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Trianium Atomic Pro Battery Case ($40+)

trianium-atomic-pro-battery-case-thumb

  • Capacity – 3,200mAh
  • Output – N/A
  • Size – 5.9 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Weight – 158.7g (5.6 oz)

While Trianium’s battery case has one of the lower capacities on this list, it’ll still get the job done when it comes to keeping your phone alive. It’ll provide another full battery charge, or, as Trianium breaks it down: 14+ hours of talk time or 10 additional hours to browse the internet. The LED indicator on the back will keep you up to date on how much power remains. Unfortunately, like other battery cases for the iPhone 7 so far, it doesn’t support Apple’s lightning headphones, or other headphones that use the lightning port.

If you’re concerned about overall protection, the case ensures your phone’s safety by utilizing a hard back plate and a protective dual-layer bumper, resulting in protection against drops, shocks, and scratches. While it adds a bit of bulk, it does offer good protection.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Alpatronix BX170 Charging Case ($36+)

iPhone 7 battery case from Alphatronix

  • Capacity – 3,200mAh
  • Output – 1A
  • Size – 6.05 x 2.87 x 0.63 inches
  • Weight – 107.7g (3.8 oz)

Alphatronix’s case will get the job done when the time comes to recharge your phone, but like some other charging cases, it is not compatible with the packed in headphones Apple provides with every iPhone. Furthermore, the case isn’t charged using the Lightning connector, but instead requires an included Micro USB cable. You can still charge the case without removing the phone, but it means keeping another cable nearby.

Aside from those minor setbacks, the case is great as a battery case, and as a decent protective case. It’s dual layer design utilizes a hard outer shell and a shock absorbing bumper, resulting in scratch-resistance, and the raised bezel will keep the screen away from surfaces when face down. All ports are accessible, there are LED indicators on the back, and it’s covered by a 1-year warranty when bought directly from Alphatronix.

Buy one now one:

Amazon Alphatronix

1
Mar

Now $44, the Logitech G602 is an affordable, feature-rich wireless mouse


All serious PC gamers know the importance of a good mouse. Logitech, a well known and very popular maker of computer and gaming peripherals, has produced the affordable and feature-laden Logitech G602 mouse, which lives up to this pedigree. Although the wireless G602 boasts a number of gaming-focused enhancements, its understated design and long battery life would make it a great option as a general-use desktop mouse as well.

The Logitech G602 utilizes an accurate and efficient Delta Zero sensor for a DPI of up to 2,500, but you can switch through various settings on the fly for a DPI of as low as 250 when you need more sensitivity for certain tasks. The G602 runs on two standard AA batteries and lasts for up to 250 hours, while a convenient LED battery indicator lets you know when power is running low. Two different modes, Performance and Endurance, let you manage the mouse’s power consumption depending on what you are doing at the moment.

More: Asus 15.6-inch Full-HD Gaming Laptop is now $150 off retail price

Logitech G602The ergonomic design fills the palm without being too bulky and provides easy finger access to the 11 programmable buttons. The durable button switches are rated to last for 20 million clicks as well. The grey body has a sleek but understated design, ideal for those who want the features of a gaming mouse without the bright colors and LED lights that are found on many gamer-oriented peripherals. A USB nano receiver utilizes high-speed 2.4GHz wireless for a response time of 2ms for lag-free input. The low-profile receiver is also small enough to be stored inside the mouse when not in use.

The Logitech G602 wireless gaming mouse received an “excellent” rating from PCMag and currently has a solid 4.3-star rating from over 2,000 Amazon users. Normally priced around $70 to $80 at most retailers, the G602 is now 44 percent off, which brings it down to just $44 on Amazon.

Buy it on Amazon for $44

1
Mar

Will everyone please shut up about 5G?


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If we’ve learned anything from Mobile World Congress 2017, it’s that 5G is just around the corner and it’s going to revolutionize our smartphone experience. We’ll be able to download libraries of 4K High Dynamic Range movies in less than a second, upload our entire camera rolls to Facebook in the blink of an eye, stream incredible live VR events in real time, and, hell, maybe even download a car.

More: Inside Qualcomm’s efforts to bring 5G to the masses  

The hype machine was in full effect at MWC 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. The dawn of 5G, a standard that still has no agreed definition, and is almost certainly at least three years away, seems to be at the top of everyone’s agenda.

5G isn’t anywhere near ready

Samsung kicked off its press conference with a section on its new 5G technologies, and a spokesperson from Verizon took to the stage to talk about the 5G trials it has been running, ending with a suggestion that Samsung might release a 5G phone at MWC 2018. But what would be the point? There won’t be any networks for it to take advantage of.

The truth is that 5G, in and of itself, will not transform your life.

The 5G buzz didn’t end there. ZTE dived into a long technical presentation of 5G innovations at its press conference, Nokia talked about 5G-enabled technologies, and Intel had a 5G network set up on its stand. Almost every major company at the show was tripping over itself to explain how and why it would be in the vanguard of the revolution. Everywhere you looked on the show floor there was a 5G slogan of some kind.

To get a sense of how silly this all this, consider that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) only released a draft report on 5G specs a few days ago. It suggested that a single cell must have a minimum download capacity of 20GB per second, that the standard needs to support up to 1 million devices in a square kilometer, and that carriers must have at least 100MHz of free spectrum, but ideally 1GHz.

We are a long way away from that and to get there will be enormously expensive. Who is going to pay for it? The same carriers and operators that have taken so long to roll out 4G? In the U.S., 4G LTE average speeds vary from carrier to carrier, but no one is averaging as much as 17Mbps yet, according to Open Signal. Shouldn’t we shoot for the upper end of 4G before we start hyping what is next?

5G is about more than speed

Network upgrades have traditionally been focused on the amazing speed benefits we can enjoy but it seems that 5G is really about coping with exponential expansion of devices and data demands. It might be an umbrella term that actually encompasses a wide range of different technologies. For regular folks, it should provide seamless and fast connectivity for a growing variety of devices.

g is all hype mwc

g is all hype mwc

g is all hype mwc

g is all hype mwc announcementSimon Hill/Digital Trends

Instead of gaining the dubious capability to fill our phone storage in two seconds, it’s actually about ensuring the connectivity we currently enjoy doesn’t deteriorate or fall apart under the increased strain. The numbers don’t have any real meaning for regular people right now.

Trying to sell the upgrade to 5G as a wonderful benefit for the average smartphone buyer is disingenuous. As the spectrum grows increasingly crowded, we will certainly have to find ways to expand bandwidth but this a technical problem, not a selling point. Employing a term like 5G as another marketing buzz word is a mistake that we already lived through with 4G. Everyone pretended they had 4G when they didn’t, and it took several years before most carriers actually had LTE, which was the only true 4G technology all along.

Before we get anywhere near real 5G, we will have to endure all kinds of halfway measures trying to distinguish themselves from 4G. Huawei talked about 4.5G at its press conference, for example. There will be others. Everyone wants to use it as an empty gimmick to sell something.

ZTE generated some excitement about its Gigabit phone, but the device on display (under glass) at its stand is just a bulky prototype, not a real product. Sony says the forthcoming XZ Premium supports 1Gbps download speeds and at least it is real, but no network can deliver those speeds yet. When they do get there, that kind of speed will still be confined to central urban areas for several years, at least.

It’s also worth remembering that 1Gbps speeds are the upper end of 4G. We don’t need 5G to get there. Even if you want to seamlessly stream a 4K HDR movie to your phone, you don’t need anywhere near that speed. It’s hardly a pressing concern, is it?

5G is a loaded word

The truth is that 5G, in and of itself, will not transform your life. At some point in the future, it might be a prerequisite for great driverless cars, more home automation, and the much-promised Internet of Things revolution, but it’s not something you need to worry about for at least a few years yet.

Don’t get me wrong, the potential for 5G to enable some exciting developments and improve how the next wave of devices works is there, but the 5G that is being hyped right now is just marketing baloney.

The average person, myself included, would settle for decent, affordable and reliable 4G LTE speeds. Deliver that, carriers and phone makers, and then we can start talking about the next step.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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Mar

Text-based developer Inkle goes visual with sci-fi game ‘Heaven’s Vault’


Why it matters to you

Inkle has earned acclaim for revitalizing text-based adventure games, so the rich visuals of Heaven’s Vault mark an exciting and ambitious departure for the developer.

Inkle, the developer behind the fantastic mobile text adventure 80 Days and the Sorcery series announced its most ambitious project yet: Heaven’s Vault, a visual adventure coming to mobile, desktop, and consoles. Described as “a character-driven graphic novel crossed with an open-world adventure game,” Inkle has been developing this sci-fi saga since it completed 80 Days.

More: 80 Days review

“The Nebula. A network of rivers, flowing from one moon to the next, carrying air and water between scattered clusters of civilization. No one knows how the Nebula was formed. No one knows how it will end,” Inkle’s promotional text reads.

You play as archaeologist Aliya “El” Elasra and her reluctant robot assistant Six to explore this mysterious setting and “piece together a complex past — and discover a secret that will change the future.” Expect Inkle’s usual standard of fantastic writing and nuanced, conversation-driven gameplay. Other cited gameplay influences that seem to be expanding their repertoire include “the animation and real-time storytelling of The Last Express,” “the open worlds of Shadow of the Colossus, Firewatch and The Witcher 3,” “the puzzle-solving of The Witness,” and “the translation puzzle of Infocom’s classic game Infidel.”

Contrasting Inkle’s previous, predominantly text-based gameplay, Heaven’s Vault will be fully realized in a unique style that integrates hand-drawn, 2D characters into 3D environments. They mention the graphic novels of Möebius and Hergé as visual influences, as well as the character art of The Banner Saga. Miscellaneous inspiration also includes Indiana Jones, Stargate, the novels of Raymond Chandler and Gene Wolfe, Islamic art and architecture, and the work of Dr. Monica Hanna in protecting Egypt’s antiquities. All together it sounds like a compelling stew of gameplay, aesthetic, and world-building ideas, made all the more exciting because of its developer’s strong and interesting track record.

There is no release window yet for Heaven’s Vault, but you can follow the development updates on the game’s official site.

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