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3
Mar

Tiny Rails: Charming game with low commitment (Review)


Sometimes you just need an escape. A trip away to somewhere far from where you are, even if just for a few minutes. Tiny Rails offers just that, with quick bursts of gameplay in a relaxing and charming atmosphere. I was genuinely surprised at how much content was packed in this game, but just because there’s a lot of content doesn’t mean a game is going to be good. Is it worth your time to take a ride on Tiny Rails? Let’s take a look.

Developer: Tiny Titan Studios
Price: Free (In-App Purchases)
Download: Google Play/iOS

I call her “Blue Beauty”

Gameplay

You start the game off with an old train, and as you progress through you’ll discover new train cars and upgrades to improve your train and bring in income. At its core, this game is primarily about making deliveries or cargo and people. When you pull into a station, you will have the option to make purchases from the market if there’s anything available. As you browse the map you’ll see what items are needed at which stations, and making deliveries earns you some big bucks. Passengers are a little easier, as you drop people off and collect people at almost every station you come to. The downside to this is that putting in almost no effort means very low profits but for passive income, passengers can’t be beat.

There’s always this guy… He may have a different name in every game, but you know who he is.

The game also ties in a story about an evil corporation trying to take over the rails and your rag-tag band of train pioneers pulling together to create the best rail line ever. It does have a lot of cheezy dialogue and goofball characters, but each one helps you accomplish something, for example doubling profits or by keeping the tracks clear of debris. You have to use the premium currency of diamonds to activate these skills, but diamonds are surprising easy to come by through easy to reach achievements and watching videos. I’ve found myself with well over 400 diamonds, and with each skill only costing 5 diamonds for 24 hours of use, I’ll be set for a long time, not to mention I’m collecting more constantly.

Outside of setting up your train and planning your routes, there isn’t much else to do while your train is traveling. It can easily take 2-3 hours for your train to travel from station to station, but it will keep traveling while the app is closed, so you can take a few minutes to set things up, let it go, and come back later, so it’s a great game for playing on the go if you’ve only got a few minutes at a time to play.

Controls

Most of the game is navigating through menus to select what to buy, how to arrange your train, or selecting train helpers. Everything is responsive and works well. My only gripe, which has occurred many times for me, is that when you are placing new train cars you have to push a little “+” between the cars, and I usually end up hitting a car instead, selecting it and not placing the one I wanted. It’s a very minor complaint, but it comes up frequently.

Options for days

Graphics & Sound

The graphics are charmingly retro and pixelated but still high quality. Characters look highly detailed and the scenery is incredible, changing depending on what time of area you are in. I’ve seen forests, cities, country fields. There is a strong attention to detail. There is even a day and night cycle when your train will turn on lights and cabin cars will be lit up. All of this adds up to a beautiful game.

The music is peaceful and inviting, reminding me of Animal Crossing for those of you who are familiar with the Nintendo series. There train whistles and the sound of wheels racing down the tracks which continue to add to the charm of the game. The music tracks can get a little repetitive, but as a game that’s really only played for 5 minutes or so at a time, it’s nice, light, and relaxing for those short little breaks.

Longevity

There is a lot to do in this game. I’m only at the end of chapter 2, and there are at least 5 more chapters ahead of me. With each chapter consisting of multiple stops across an entire country, and unlocking of European countries after that, this game will take you a considerable amount of time to see and do everything. However, the pacing of the game is just right so that you do not feel that you will never complete an assignment or that it will take you far too long to do any one mission. Everything is paced out with short, destination based missions in between longer missions so that you are constantly working towards a goal, but you also have complete freedom to send your train anywhere you want anytime you want.

Your trains keep going even while you’re away

Conclusion

Tiny Rails is a lot of fun with a load of content. There are constant missions to accomplish and as much or as little commitment from the player as desired. There are only about 5-10 minutes of gameplay at any one time, but it’s great if you only have a few minutes between classes or checking in when on a break from work. Add some pixel graphics and relaxing music and all together it’s a great package. This is one to pick up if you love games but don’t have the time to commit to serious gaming.

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3
Mar

Microsoft rolls out Universal Update Platform for all Windows Insiders


Why it matters to you

As the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update draws near, Microsoft is testing out its new functionality to make sure it works as expected.

Microsoft has announced that its Universal Update Platform, announced in November 2016, is being rolled out to the PC side of the Insider program. Mobile users who are enrolled in the Insider program have been testing out this functionality since it was distributed to in Build 14959 of Windows 10.

From the user’s perspective, the biggest change being brought about by the Universal Update Platform is a reduction in download size for build updates. Microsoft has been able to considerably slim down the size of update installation packages by implementing a technique known as differential downloads.

Differential downloads allow the user to download only the changes that have been made since the last update, rather than the entire build. Files that are currently installed as part of the operating system are reused either as is, or with binary deltas or diffs applied to create newer versions.

More: Windows 10 Creators Update bringing real changes to updates and privacy

Users can apparently expect to see the download size of a major Windows 10 update being reduced by as much as 25 percent, according to Microsoft’s announcement post on the Windows blog. However, it’s noted that since Insider builds are much more frequent than standard builds, the difference might not be as noticeable as it will be for retail users.

Microsoft plans to roll out the Universal Update Platform to all Windows 10 users alongside the Creators Update. The company has been talking up the Creators Update since it was unveiled at a showy event in October 2016, and it’s finally set to be distributed to users sometime next month.

From the earliest days of Windows 10, Microsoft has made no secret of its ambition to use the new version of its flagship operating system to simplify the update process. The Unified Update Platform seems to be a step in the right direction, and hopefully its lengthy testing process will ensure that it’s capable of yielding positive results.

3
Mar

100 awesome Android apps that will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades


We’ve once again overhauled our picks for the best Android apps, whittling our robust selection down to a paltry 100. Some are new, and others have been standbys on this list for years running. Either way, we’re certain that any and all of these apps will make your life easier, and help you get the most out of your Android device. The apps are listed by categories like Music, Travel, and so on. Just try to keep in mind that, like the best venue in town, space is limited. After all, 32GB will only get you so far.

More: Prefer to game on the go? Here are our favorite Android games

Movies and videos

Netflix

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Netflix is one of the best video streaming services. There’s a huge selection of movies and TV shows for subscribers and the performance is silky smooth. This is as entertained as you can get for $8 a month.

Google Play Amazon Apps

Hulu

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Hulu offers thousands of Movies and TV shows — many which are updated with the latest episodes after they air. Hulu offers various subscription models, including one that opens up the entire streaming library for $8 a month, and another that removes mid-stream ads for $12 a month.

Google Play Amazon Apps

YouTube

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YouTube’s mobile app is sleek and intuitive, bringing the entirety of the Video sharing site to the palm of your hand. For those subscribed to YouTube Red, you’ll have access to all the premium content, as well as special features like audio playback while the screen if off.

Google Play

HBO Now/HBO GO

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Both HBO Now (HBO’s standalone service for $15/month) and HBO Go (a streaming app available to HBO cable subscribers) have apps that allow you to watch all of HBO’s streaming content directly on your phone.

HBO Now HBO GO Amazon Apps

Periscope

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Periscope allows users to share events happening right in front of them with anyone and everyone. Broadcast directly through your camera, and check out streams from others around the world, as well as videos of past broadcasts.

Google Play

Music and audio

Spotify

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Spotify is the best full-featured streaming service. With this app, you can stream any music from any type of device, make your own playlists, follow artists, and sync tracks for offline listening.

Google Play

Soundcloud

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If you’re looking for an all-you-can-eat buffet of sound with no ads and no subscription fees, you’ve found it. Discover new music and stream it from the cloud. But this is no Spotify replacement.

Google Play

PocketCasts ($4)

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This has everything one could want in a podcast player. It has a huge library and the clean interface makes it easy to manage your subscriptions. It also lets you sync between devices and works with iOS.

Google Play

Bandcamp

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Bandcamp’s mobile apps allows you to stream music from your collection, as well as the music offered by the thousands of artists who sell and stream their music on Bandcamp. It’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to buy music directly from the artists and labels you follow.

Google Play

Google Play Music

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Google’s official streaming service is a worthy competitor to Spotify. Not only does the app provide a vast library of content, but it also allows users to upload up to 50,000 songs for online storage. This means you can download and stream your music on any Android device, at any time.

Google Play

News

NYTimes

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One of America’s most hallowed publications also has one of the best news apps. The NYTimes app arranges the publication’s content in a clean format, and allows users to customize their newsfeed.

Google Play

VICE News

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If you prefer journalism that leans toward gonzo, VICE offers its robust library of written and video content in an app that is elegant and easy to navigate. The app includes estimated reading times, so users with a time-crunch can prioritize articles that suit their schedule.

Google Play Amazon Apps

NPR News

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The official app of National Public Radio provides a steady stream of straightforward reporting in both print and audio. Users can not only listen to news reports, but also various programs such as All Things Considered and Radiolab.

Google Play Amazon Apps

The Washington Post

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One of America’s most noteworthy papers has a beautiful mobile app, with vivid images and colorful menus. The content is also top-notch, particularly incisive political reporting, although it does require a subscription.

Google Play Amazon Apps

News360

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Here’s a smart news reader that learns about the kinds of stories you want to see, and grows more accurate as you use it, continually pulling in better news that matters to you more.

Google Play Amazon Apps

Sports

theScore

the score

Whatever gets you excited, from Nascar to the NFL, theScore will have you dancing in victory or crying in your beer. It brings you all the latest touchdowns, goals, and positions as they happen.

Google Play Amazon Apps

ESPN

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Having the official ESPN app installed is a no-brainer for any die-hard sports fan. You can quickly get the latest new on your favorite teams and leagues, including MLB, NFL, NCAA, MLS, NHL, and more.

Google Play Amazon Apps

CBS Sports

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Not only does the CBS Sports app have the latest news, standings, and scores for all major league sports, you can also watch live games and events like NCAA basketball and the PGA Tour, as well as CBS Sports original programming, like Fantasy Football Today.

CBS Sports

UFC Fan App

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For fans of MMA’s biggest promotion, this app has it all, including breaking news, up-to-date standings and stats, fantasy picks, press event live streams, and highlight videos from past events.

Google Play

Yahoo! Fantasy Sports

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Whether your league is football, baseball, hockey, or basketball, the Yahoo! Fantasy Sports app will give you everything you need to indulge in your fantasy play, including mock and league drafts, advice from experts, and easy management tools.

Google Play

Social media

Instagram

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Instagram is ubiquitous in photography now, so you might as well have it on your phone. Owned by Facebook, the social network centered on photos offers great filters and connectivity with others.

Google Play

Facebook

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The biggest social network on the planet right now has a decent official app. Keep up with your friends and family, jump into instant chats, and stay informed with push notifications.

Google Play

Twitter

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Twitter’s microblogging platform brought about the now-ubiquitous internet facet, hashtags. Connect with you friends, share your new favorite content, follow celebrities, and get breaking news as it happens.

Google Play

Pinterest

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Pinterest is the go-to social network for finding and sharing inspiration on creative projects, hobbies, fashion, and more. The app features the same functionality as the website, allowing you to “pin” and “repin” posts from other users to various boards, so you can share and save new ideas.

Google Play

Vine

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Vine is to video what Twitter is to blogging. The Vine app allows users to to film and edit quick, snappy videos that can be uploaded and shared directly. The social media network has spawned its own stars and personalities, and is a repository for some of the funniest videos on the internet.

Google Play

Messaging

Skype

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The original VOIP service is now owned by Microsoft and boasts more than 250 million users. Free international voice and video calls via your data or Wi-Fi connection is hard to pass up.

Google Play

Messenger

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Facebook’s best feature is arguably its built-in messaging. Facebook now offers its messenger service as a standalone app, enabling you to chat with your Facebook friends and anyone in your contacts with the app installed, without having to be signed into Facebook, or even have Facebook installed on your phone at all.

Google Play

WhatsApp

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This cross-platform app lets you send and receive messages, pictures, audio notes, and video messages. It starts out free for a year, and then costs $1. It’s well worth a look for texting addicts.

Google Play

Snapchat

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Snapchat is all about sharing photos, short videos, and conversations that expire automatically after they’ve been viewed. You can use filters, decals, and effects to enhance your photos and videos, and take your Snap game to a whole new level.

Google Play

Dubsmash

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Record and share videos of yourself dubbed over by famous lines from TV, film, reality stars, and more. You can even upload your own sounds and lines to create your own rendition of your favorite scenes or quotes.

Google Play

Dating

Tinder

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Tinder is the ultimate dating app for mobile users, thanks to its location-centric features, and regardless of what its reputation may be, it’s still a great way to meet people. Your next match could be a swipe right away.

Google Play

OKCupid

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OkCupid is one of the biggest dating apps around, so you’ll have plenty of chances to meet someone. Fill out your profile, answer questions about yourself, and connect with people nearby to see if you hit it off.

Google Play

Coffee Meets Bagel

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This app is geared towards those who are looking for a real relationship, rather than quick hookup or short fling. Every day at noon, you get sent a prospective match based on a specific set of criteria. You can Like them or Pass on. If you like them, you’ll be set up with icebreaker questions; if you pass, the app will learn your preferences and try again tomorrow.

Google Play

Happn

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Happn connects you with others you’ve passed in real life, making that shared glance at a coffee shop into a potential date. You can browse profiles of those you’ve crossed paths with, and if you both “like” one another, you’ll be able to begin a conversation.

Google Play

Bumble

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Bumble is similar to Tinder in terms of presentation, but with a notable twist. Designed to flip the usual gender dynamics of dating apps, the app only allows women to message first, taking the pressure off men and reducing the chances of awkward pick up lines. Well, at least we like to think so.

Google Play

Match Dating

best android apps

The Match Dating interface is also pretty sleek and minimalist, but it’s not as easy to use as, say, Tinder. The app utilizes a set of tabs that run along the top of the display — “matches,” “search,” “viewed me,” and “mixer” — which break up the service’s various functions. It’s not a complicated app, but it does take a few minutes to get used to.

Google Play

Blogging

Medium

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Medium is a high-profile yet minimalist blogging platform that anyone can use. Due it its popularity and presence, it draws numerous well-known journalists, authors, actors, and other personalities to the platform, meaning you’ll have a stream of high-quality articles and essays to read whenever you want.

Google Play

Tumblr

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The Tumblr app makes it easy for you to share anything from anywhere. You can post any kind of content to multiple blogs, save drafts for later, schedule posts, and then join in the discussion.

Google Play

WordPress

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This app mirrors the functionality on your WordPress blog and helps you create and edit posts. It’s a simplified version that’s easy to use, and it also displays reactions to your latest articles.

Google Play

Blogger

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This is the official app for one of the longest running and most popular blogging platforms on the internet. Through the app, you can compose, edit, and post directly to your blog, and swap easily between multiple blogs if you happen to have more than one.

Google Play

Writer

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While not directly tied to any particular blog, Writer is a great app for those who need to compose while away from their computer. It’s a simple, clutter-free writing experience, yet still offers all the features and functionality one requires from a full word processor.

Google Play

Reading

Kindle

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Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle — you can still read your ebook directly on your smartphone. From best sellers to the classics, it’s all here, with more than 900,000 titles in Amazon’s store.

Google Play

Comics

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Comixology’s free app is a window onto a staggering library of more than 40,000 titles, including all the big names from Marvel and DC. It’s the biggest comic book reader out there right now.

Google Play

Relay for Reddit

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Relay for Reddit is one of the best way to read and navigate Reddit — “the self-described home page of the internet.” Browse your favorite subreddits, checkout the latest posts, and interact with other users in the same way as you would on the website itself.

Google Play

Perfect Viewer

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While primarily a comic book reader/library management app, Perfect Viewer also functions as PDF viewer, ebook reader, and image viewer. It can be connected to Google Drive, DropBox, or OneDrive to access your library, and is one of the best options for side-loading your digital comics and books.

Google Play

Gaming

Steam

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Steam is the biggest and most prolific community and storefront for PC gaming. Through the Android app, users can access the Steam community, browse the store, and purchase news games.

Google Play

PlayStation App

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Playstation Network can be accessed on your Android via the official PlayStation app. You’ll be able to sign in to your PSN account, interact with friends, make purchases, and even schedule downloads for your PlayStation 4.

Google Play

Xbox One Smartglass

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Microsoft’s Smartglass app not only brings your Xbox Live account and console interface to your phone, it also opens up your gaming experience, with many games offering special, second-screen features, such as maps and bonus content, through Smart Glass.

Google Play

Twitch.tv

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Through Twitch’s Android app, you’ll be able to watch your favorite streamers, view past broadcasts, and browse through all available streams to catch the latest high-profile Dota 2 matches and tense speed-running marathons right on your phone.

Google Play

theScore eSports

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Like its major league sports counterpart, theScore eSports is the best app for die-hard fans of professional gaming. theScore eSports give breaking news coverage, live scoring, and live streams for all high-profile eSports titles like Dota 2, League of Legend, Hearthstone, Counter-Strike, and many more.

Google Play

Nutrition and cooking

Zomato

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You can set your location, the type of food you want, and your budget to find suitable local restaurants. There’s also a handy shake feature to get a random suggestion if you just can’t decide.

Google Play

MyFitnessPal Calorie Tracker

Calorie-counter

If you really want to lose weight and get in shape, then you need to start counting those calories, and this app, from MyFitnessPal, is an easy, accessible, and completely free way to do it.

Google Play

Yummly

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Browse over one million different recipes to find exactly the meal you’re craving. You can even set dietary preferences, so the recipes you see fit to your lifestyle or restrictions. Once you find a recipe, you can add all the ingredients to a shopping list.

Google Play

Food Network

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Find thousands of recipes from your favorite food network chefs and personalities, including recipes featured on their TV shows and specials. How-to videos and shopping list features will equip you with everything you need to make a great meal.

Google Play

Simple Macro

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Tracking your macros is an important aspect of fitness. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain mass, or maintain your body composition, eating the right balance of protein, fats, and carbs is key. Macro tracker lets you set your preferred macro ratio, and track the foods you’ve eaten.

Google Play

Fitness, athletics, workouts

Runtastic

best android apps

Runtastic is a smartphone staple, with a simple interface that doesn’t sacrifice advanced features. The no-frills app uses your smartphone’s sensors to track metrics, such as your distance and relative pace, as well as calories burned and your heart rate. A few extra features, such as 3D mapping and a workout diary, only complement the app’s wearable integration.

Amazon Google Play

Strava Running and Cycling GPS

best android apps

Strava is an excellent tracking app that monitors your runs or cycling routes via GPS. It gamifies your cardio workout and pairs with leaderboards, achievements, and challenges, bringing a competitive spirit to your routine. It also has Android Wear support.

Amazon Google Play

Daily Yoga

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Yoga is unbelievably powerful. It strengthens your core, increases flexibility and focus, and decreases stress. Plus, it can help you lose weight and stay healthy. This app will guide you through daily yoga routines of varying difficulty and length, and step-by-step, HD videos showing exactly how to do each pose.

Google Play

RunKeeper

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Turn your phone into a personal trainer and track your runs via GPS. You can get detailed stats on your workouts, listen to music, get audio cues to spur you on, and share your progress.

Google Play

Self improvement

Headspace

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Headspace is a meditation app created by ex-Buddhist monk and TED Talk alum Andy Puddicombe. Users can chose between lesson packs centered around various goals such as: focus, health, creativity, and advanced meditation techniques. The app requires a subscription, but offers a free 10-day guided lesson pack to get you started.

Google Play

Duolingo

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Anyone looking to learn a language should start here, because it’s fun and accessible for all ages. It has free courses for Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, English, and more.

Google Play

Fabulous – motivate me!

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With science-based coaching as its backbone, Fabulous – Motivate Me! Will help instill healthy, positive habits and routines into your life — everything from better sleep, sticking to a morning routine, finding time for creativity, daily meditation, losing weight, and more.

Google Play

Habitica

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Habitica is a hybrid between productivity app and role playing game. Users input their tasks, daily goals, or even new habits they want to accomplish, and the app awards you with new items like armor, weapons, abilities, and more. The app features RPG-like activities like quests and monster battles to gamify your to-do list.

Google Play

Finances and money

Mint

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Mint is our favorite money management website, but it also has a kickass app. Mint can keep track of multiple bank accounts or credit cards to help you stay on budget and out of the red.

Google Play

Groupon

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Shop for the best bargains online with up to 90-percent off all sorts of things. Groupon leverages the power of group buying to bring you voucher deals you simply can’t get elsewhere.

Google Play

Venmo

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Venmo allows users to send money for free. The transactions can be sent to any bank and occur overnight. This makes paying back your friends simple and quick.

Google Play

Square Cash

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Create your “Cashtag” and you can receive payments for just about anything. Square Cash lets you quickly transfer money between other users for free, using a passcode of your own choosing and 128-bit encryption as an added security measure.

Google Play

Shopping

Depop

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Depop’s ultra-minimal, online marketplace takes little more than a photo to get started. Once captured, share it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter before striking a secure deal with a host of potential buyers via the built-in chat function.

Google Play

eBay

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There’s very little that you can’t buy or sell on eBay. The app is full-featured and much easier to use than the website. Bid on items, track your orders, and sell all of your unwanted stuff right here.

Google Play

Geek

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This app allows users to purchase a bunch of cool and unique items — whether geeky or otherwise — directly from the manufacturers for far cheaper than they would be offered at retail.

Google Play

Amazon Shopping

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Amazon is the number one online retailer for a reason. Browse Amazon’s vast collection of products quickly and easily. Plus, you can enable notifications for daily Amazon Gold Box deals so you never miss out on a discount.

Google Play

PayPal

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The easiest online checkout method right on your smartphone. You’ll be able to manage your paypal account, send and receive payments, and more. The app can also notify you of transactions, offering handy reminders and alerts when you use PayPal as a payment method, or have an upcoming bill due.

Google Play

Travel and events

Maps

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You’re never lost with Google Maps. Get voice-guided navigation for trips, different instructions for driving, walking, cycling, or taking public transport, and search for anything you need.

Google Play

Uber

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If you need to get somewhere and don’t have wheels of your own, hop in someone else’s ride. Uber allows you to call upon a private driver in your city who will help you get to where you need to go.

Google Play

Lyft

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Lyft is another private cab service, helping find a, well, lift whenever you need one. You’ll be able to hail a cab and pay directly in the app, and can even split the tab with a friend easily.

Google Play

Airbnb

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Forego the headache of trying to find and book a hotel, and instead find an open room or home to stay at on your travels. Users can search for accommodations, communicate directly with hosts, and book all through the app.

Google Play

Google Translate

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Translate speech or text between more than 70 languages with this app. It can act as your interpreter, enabling you to decipher signs and menus, and enable two way conversations.

Google Play

Going out

Yelp

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Craving a decent microbrew, a breakfast burrito, or a good latte? Yelp will help you scratch that itch. It’s packed with user reviews, directions, and tips for almost every place around.

Google Play

StubHub

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Buy and sell tickets to virtually any event. Stubhub protects its users with it’s “FanProtect Guarantee,” meaning you can buy and sell tickets on their app without risk.

Google Play

Fandango

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A streamlined glance at your local theater listings with trailers and reviews of all the top releases, this app can also work as a mobile ticket at participating cinemas. You can buy tickets, too.

Google Play

Yellow Pages Local Search

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If the title of the app wasn’t clear enough, this is a robust tool to help you find local businesses, venues, and restaurants, browse menus, and even book tables or nab tickets so you can plan your next evening out with ease.

Google Play

Foursquare

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With over 60 million quick reviews of the best (and worst) places to eat, drink, and more in any city all over the world, you’ll know exactly where to go — and where to avoid — while you’re out and about.

Google Play

Device performance

Avast!

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This comprehensive package includes malware protection, privacy advice, anti-virus scanning, filtering to block nuisance calls, and anti-theft tools. There’s even a firewall for rooted devices.

Google Play

Clean Master

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Clean master provides several tools a features to keep your device optimized, including a battery saver, privacy locks, antivirus, file cleaning, and much, much more.

Google Play

Android Device Manager

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Google’s official phone tracking service helps you locate your phone, remotely erase its data, and reset the screen lock PIN, and it works with any device associated with your Google account.

Google Play

SwiftKey Keyboard

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You’ll never curse auto-correct again with the intelligent SwiftKey Keyboard. It’s packed with options, it learns your style, and it offers sensible suggestions and corrections that will speed your typing.

Google Play

Photo editing and management

Lightroom

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Lightroom, a program built upon Photoshop, is a powerful photo editing tool for photographers. The mobile app takes the features of the desktop application and puts them on your Android device.

Google Play

Adobe Photoshop Express

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While not as powerful or extensive as the desktop version, Adobe Photoshop Express still offers an impressively wide array of tools for editing and creating images directly on your Android device.

Google Play

VSCO Camera

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VSCO Camera has become one of the most popular photography apps, thanks in part to its powerful editing features that include impressive present lens settings, post-shot tweaks, and before-and-after comparison shots.

Google Play

imgur

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The official app for one of the most procrastination-friendly sites on the internet. Browse through near-endless GIFs and images from almost any topic you can imagine.

Google Play

Google Photos

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A centralized location for all your photos. Google Photos will automatically backup your photo libraries on your phone to your Google Drive, saving them in a special folder that only you can access.

Google Play

Documents, web, and email

Office Suite + PDF editor

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This app is the most downloaded app of the Google Play store, and for good reason. It’s the most robust and fully featured Office solution for Android. Create word documents, PDFs, power point presentations, spreadsheets, and more.

Google Play

Google Inbox

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If you’re a Gmail user and Google loyalist, Google’s Inbox app is a must download. It rethinks the inbox entirely, encouraging you to eliminate clutter, make it easier to stay organized, and get more done.

Google Play

Google Drive

google-drive-screen

The natural choice for anyone invested in Google’s apps and services, the streamlined Google Drive app lets you store up to 15GB of files and access them wherever and whenever you need to.

Google Play

Evernote

evernote-screen

Here’s an elegant solution for all your note-taking needs, from simple to-do lists, to voice reminders, to notes with supporting photos. Tag, sync, and organize for a real productivity boost.

Google Play

Google Docs

best android apps
Combined with Google Drive, this is an excellent choice for collaboration, especially given how feature-rich the mobile and web apps are. Once you create a document, you can add people to it, so that they can collaborate. Once they accept the invitation, you can create a multitude of documents — similar to what you can do with Microsoft Office — and have your team collaborate in real time.

Google Play

Productivity

aCalendar

acalendar

aCalendar gives you a great overview of your day, week, or month. It also supports reminders, repeat events, and has a fully customizable widget so you can view events from the home screen.

Google Play

Box

best android apps
Box recently launched revamped web and Windows apps to better tackle online collaboration. Box takes things a step further by offering an overhauled web app that you can access through any browser by logging into box.com.

Google Play

Any.Do

anydo-screen

This stylish productivity app allows you to create task lists and save notes. It deeply integrates into your phone, supports cloud syncing, and it’s easy to share lists across devices.

Google Play

CloudCal

CloudCal

CloudCal offers one of the most unique ways of showing you how busy you are on any given day. The Android exclusive uses a system it calls Magic Circles, which turns the days of the month into clock faces and shows different colored circles, or segments of a circle. We also like that you can attach photos, audio files, and Dropbox files to specific events.

Google Play

3
Mar

Not-so-hidden figures: Lego confirms development of ‘Women of NASA’ minifigures


“Women of NASA” looks to be the next big hit in the Lego minifigure world. Last year, science writer Maia Weinstock and her 10,000 supporters  first reached the critical 10,000-vote mark on the Lego Ideas website, which allows fans to post and vote on new project ideas. Projects that surpass the 10,000-vote mark are eligible for review by the Danish toy company to determine if they are suitable to become an official set. And now, Lego has announced that the set celebrating the contributions of women to the space agency will indeed be developed.

“A big congratulations to 20tauri on becoming the next official Lego Ideas fan designer!” the company announced, “As a science editor and writer, with a strong personal interest for space exploration as well as the history of women in science and engineering, Maia Weinstock’s Women of NASA project was a way for her to celebrate accomplished women in the STEM professions … We’re really excited to be able to introduce Maia’s Women of NASA set for its inspirational value as well as build and play experience.”

The fan-made set focuses on notable women who worked for the space agency and features computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, mathematician Katherine Johnson (portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures), astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, and astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison. All five woman played an integral role in NASA’s history by working on such important projects such as the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon and the Hubble Space Telescope. Beside the minifigs, the proposed set also includes several accessories such as a mini model of the Hubble telescope, a space shuttle, a computer with a desk and instruments from the Apollo era.

More: Box office hits and misses: ‘Get Out’ bumps ‘Lego Batman’ for huge debut

Weinstock created the minifig set to honor these women, most of whom “are unknown and under-appreciated.” She hopes this project will make the public aware of their contributions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Thus far, she is making waves with the proposed set, attracting the attention of NASA, the United Nations and singer Pharrell Williams, who shared the minifig project on Twitter. “Whether or not the project is ultimately produced, I’d love for it to help others become more aware of key scientific and engineering accomplishments made by women,” said Weinstock to Collectspace.

Lego evaluates all proposed projects at three different times each year. The next review period begins in September and takes several months to complete. And despite the approval of the “Women of NASA” set, Lego is still working on the final product design, pricing, and availability, so we’ll have to wait until later this year or even next year to get our hands on these Legos ourselves.

Article originally published in August 2016. Updated on 03-03-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added confirmation from Lego.

3
Mar

Your sleep tracker may actually disturb your sleep, study suggests


Why it matters to you

With quantified self devices increasing in popularity, it’s important to recognize their limitations when it comes to tracking your data.

Eight hours seems to be the ideal amount of sleep for most people, even though few of us are able to get that amount of rest. In a bid to improve sleep patterns, many people have turned turned such as sleep trackers, to better optimize their shut-eye. But a new case series suggests that these devices can actually have an opposite effect — prompting sleep problems.

“My students, colleagues, and I were noticing that, as the trend of monitoring sleep using wearable trackers was increasing among our patients, for some it seemed to be creating their sleep disorder,” Kelly Glazer Baron, clinical psychologist from Rush University Medical Center, told Digital Trends. “What we found was when people were fixated on getting a specific number [of hours] every day, they weren’t able to function optimally the next day if they didn’t get that number.”

By obsessing over the data, Baron said some of her patients began to develop unhealthy patterns and an unhealthy relationship with the device. She and her colleagues began a case series of three patients, which was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

In one case, a patient said her Fitbit determined she was not getting enough restful sleep and that she felt unrefreshed when she woke up in the morning. When this patient spent a night in the laboratory undergoing a sophisticated sleep test, the test determined that she’d had a very deep sleep. And yet, the patient was incredulous, believing  that the device was actually more accurate than the study.

More: You are what you tweet: Twitter reveals how America eats and exercises

Baron pointed out that in each case the patient was given their sleep tracker as a gift by a significant other. “We don’t know if [their sleep problem started] because the significant other thought about it, but the devices were gifts,” she said. “The patients weren’t going out to buy them.”

“I’m really encouraged that people are so enthusiastic about monitoring and improving their sleep,” Baron added. “But, in discussing it with my patients, improving those who are becoming preoccupied with their sleep or stressed about what the tracker says, I realize people need to understand that the validity of the data is not great. And so trackers frequently will record that someone is awake and restless when they’re actually sleeping or sleeping when they’re awake. [The devices are] not very reliable and so patients shouldn’t take the number too seriously.”

Nonetheless, Baron thinks these wearables can be useful tools for evaluating behavioral patterns and trends. She even wears one herself. And, in the case series, one of her patients who’d recently ended his medication said he had a positive experience with the sleep tracker when he first saw his sleep get worse and then improve over time. “I’m not anti-tracker,” she said. “I just think that if people are anxious about their sleep it can sometimes make them feel worse about it.”

Baron and her team intend to continue the study with more participants.

3
Mar

Lenovo makes it official: You can finally call Moto phones Motorola again


Why it matters to you

Lenovo’s simplified branding mentality and return to a legendary namesake will hopefully expand visibility and distribution of Motorola’s solid product range.

Motorola is back — sort of. Last year, Lenovo, the Chinese tech giant that purchased the mobile phone pioneer from Google in 2014, decided to phase out the Motorola name in lieu of “Moto by Lenovo.” Evidently, the company has since soured on the switch, Motorola chairman and president Aymar de Lencquesaing told CNET.

Lenovo now plans to return to the full, iconic name and “batwing” logo in territories where the brand still holds cachet. Elsewhere — in Russia, for example — the company will hang onto the Lenovo brand a bit longer.

More: Motorola’s crazy concept Moto Mods include a photo printer, and more

The redirection is somewhat surprising, given that Lenovo only started to reposition Moto as a sub-brand in early 2016. Moto was to be the higher-end of the company’s two smartphone marques, the other being Vibe. The thinking was, a new identity under the Lenovo umbrella should help unify the parent company’s products in the public eye, but de Lencquesaing says today, the company has greater insight.

“In 2016, we just finished transforming ourselves,” the Motorola boss said in an interview. “We have clarity on how we present ourselves.”

So what does this mean for future products? Motorola will eventually be the name going forward in all regions, but different territories will adjust at different speeds. The renewed faith in the legendary moniker has likely been spurred by the favorable reception HMD Global-owned Nokia has received after revealing a range of phones at Mobile World Congress this past week, including a successor to the landmark Nokia 3310.

However, the return to industry prominence cannot be achieved with a simple name change alone, and Motorola has a tough road ahead if it hopes to regain its place within the top tier of Android manufacturers. The company’s smart, cogent marketing in the early days of Google’s mobile platform made Droid synonymous with Android, and installed Motorola as Apple’s greatest threat in the smartphone space, albeit for a short time.

Now, thanks to confused branding, a series of management handoffs, and repeated shifts in corporate strategy, Motorola has taken a back seat to the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi, and, of course, Samsung — though it continues to produce mostly compelling devices. Thanks to a fresh vision, the once-industry leader is confident it can recover some ground.

3
Mar

Twitter thinks your Nintendo Switch is running Apple’s Safari web browser


Why it matters to you

Before rumors start to spread about the Nintendo Switch running Safari, here’s the reason behind those confusing emails from Twitter.

nintendo-switch-topic-banner-280x75.png

Friday marks the worldwide launch of the Nintendo Switch, and many early adopters are logging into Twitter on their brand-new hardware to show off their fancy new system. It seems, however, that the social media platform doesn’t know too much about Nintendo’s latest release.

When Twitter users log into the service on a new device, they’re sent an email to confirm that they really are who they say they are. This message contains information about how and where they logged in, so that anything suspicious can be reported.

More: Here’s every game we know you can play on the Nintendo Switch

However, when users log in via the Switch, it’s being reported as a device using Apple’s web browser Safari, according to a report from Nintendo Life. Of course, this is not the case — but there’s a reason that the console is causing some confusion for Twitter’s automated email system.

WebKit is one of several engines used to power modern web browsers. It was used to create Safari, and it seems that it’s used to help the Switch post content to Twitter. Whatever method Twitter’s login protection system uses to detect what device the user is working with, it seems that it’s not currently set up to acknowledge the Switch.

A fork of WebKit is also used to power Google Chrome and Opera, so it seems that Twitter should be able to discern between different browsers using the engine. The mostly likely explanation is that the service hasn’t got around to adding an identifier for the Switch just yet, which isn’t surprising, given that it’s only been on shelves for a matter of hours.

Whatever Twitter’s emails might claim, the Nintendo Switch isn’t running Safari, even if there are some similarities under the hood. Nintendo and Apple may have looked pretty friendly around the reveal of Super Mario Run for iOS, but the Switch isn’t being welcomed into the Apple ecosystem just yet.

3
Mar

Researchers retrieve short film and a full operating system from strands of DNA


Why it matters to you

DNA may make it possible to compactly store vast amounts of data.

As humanity continues to hoard more and more information, we need to invest in alternative storage systems or else begin constructing buildings with hard drives. DNA might be the answer. Not only is it easy to read and write vast amounts of data on DNA, it’s also exceptionally stable and can last for hundreds of thousands of years.

To put it in perspective, it takes about a thousand current hard drives to store a petabyte of information. If that data could be stored on DNA, it could fit into a grain of pollen.

More: Analog DNA computers can perform math inside a test tube

Over the past couple years, researchers have encoded data for books, images, and music using the nucleotides of DNA — a, t, c, and g. Now, a team of researchers from Colombia University have done the same with a computer operating system and short film, using an algorithm that streams videos on cellphones to compress the information even further. They’ve published their results in the journal Science.

“DNA is much more compact relative to magnetic hard drives, allowing far more miniaturization,” Yaniv Erlich, a Colombia computer science professor and co-author of the study, told Digital Trends. “The half-life of DNA is [also] much longer by orders of magnitudes over regular media, enabling longer archival times.”

Erlich noted that standard storage hardware also tends to become obsolete in a matter of decades as new technologies emerge. “DNA has been around the last three billion years,” he said. DNA writing and retrieval has also become much faster and less expensive.

In the recent study, Erlich and his team encoded a series of files that included a computer operating system, a computer virus, and a 19th-century French film, “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.” To compress the dat,a they deleted any excess letter combinations using an algorithm called fountain codes, which corrects streaming videos on cellphones. Twist Biosciences, a DNA-synthesis startup, then turned the digital information into biological DNA.

When the Colombia researchers received their DNA back, they used modern sequencing tools to unravel the data and were able to recover it without any errors and with more capacity than their predecessors, according to the study. The researchers suggest this is the highest-density data storage ever created.

You can watch the recovered short film below.

3
Mar

Researchers retrieve short film and a full operating system from strands of DNA


Why it matters to you

DNA may make it possible to compactly store vast amounts of data.

As humanity continues to hoard more and more information, we need to invest in alternative storage systems or else begin constructing buildings with hard drives. DNA might be the answer. Not only is it easy to read and write vast amounts of data on DNA, it’s also exceptionally stable and can last for hundreds of thousands of years.

To put it in perspective, it takes about a thousand current hard drives to store a petabyte of information. If that data could be stored on DNA, it could fit into a grain of pollen.

More: Analog DNA computers can perform math inside a test tube

Over the past couple years, researchers have encoded data for books, images, and music using the nucleotides of DNA — a, t, c, and g. Now, a team of researchers from Colombia University have done the same with a computer operating system and short film, using an algorithm that streams videos on cellphones to compress the information even further. They’ve published their results in the journal Science.

“DNA is much more compact relative to magnetic hard drives, allowing far more miniaturization,” Yaniv Erlich, a Colombia computer science professor and co-author of the study, told Digital Trends. “The half-life of DNA is [also] much longer by orders of magnitudes over regular media, enabling longer archival times.”

Erlich noted that standard storage hardware also tends to become obsolete in a matter of decades as new technologies emerge. “DNA has been around the last three billion years,” he said. DNA writing and retrieval has also become much faster and less expensive.

In the recent study, Erlich and his team encoded a series of files that included a computer operating system, a computer virus, and a 19th-century French film, “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.” To compress the dat,a they deleted any excess letter combinations using an algorithm called fountain codes, which corrects streaming videos on cellphones. Twist Biosciences, a DNA-synthesis startup, then turned the digital information into biological DNA.

When the Colombia researchers received their DNA back, they used modern sequencing tools to unravel the data and were able to recover it without any errors and with more capacity than their predecessors, according to the study. The researchers suggest this is the highest-density data storage ever created.

You can watch the recovered short film below.

3
Mar

AMD: Ryzen CPU gaming performance inhibited by lack of optimization


Why it matters to you

If the slightly weaker Ryzen gaming performance has put you off AMD’s new chips, it could just be a lack of optimization holding them back so far.

AMD has responded to the reviewers’ concerns that the new Ryzen CPUs, specifically the top-of-the-line Ryzen 7 1800X, underperform in gaming tests — especially at 1080p. It claims that the reason AMD’s new flagship hardware didn’t quite match up to Intel in gaming performance was due to a lack of optimization on the software end of things.

AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs are absolute powerhouses when it comes to multi-threaded support. In many scenarios where it can leverage its many cores and threads, the 1800X can keep pace with Intel CPUs which cost almost three times as much. The single-core performance wasn’t quite as impressive however and gaming specifically seemed to take a hit with the new architecture. AMD claims that is all going to change in the near future, though.

“CPU benchmarking deficits to the competition in certain games at 1080p resolution can be attributed to the development and optimization of the game uniquely to Intel platforms — until now,” AMD’s Corporate Vice President of Marketing John Taylor said in a statement to PC Perspective.

More: Upcoming AMD Ryzen 7 1800X CPU achieves new Cinebench world record

He added that AMD’s Ryzen CPUs were still excellent for gaming and that even without those optimizations in place, it offers “smooth frame rates and great experiences in GPU bound gaming.”

Moving forward, though, he said that AMD provided more than 300 developers with Ryzen devkit hardware and that by the end of 2017, more than 1,000 developers will have AMD hardware to optimize their games.

He also highlighted how developers like Oxide Games and Creative Assembly had individually released statements pointing out that optimizations to their engines have yielded “significant performance uplifts” when running on new Ryzen hardware.

Although it’s arguable that new hardware can be optimized for specific games — AMD and Nvidia routinely do this with new graphics driver releases — it’s harder to tell how accurate it is to suggest Intel has had more optimization focus from developers over the years. True, its processors have for the past decade been considered the best choice for gamers, but that is not to say there are no AMD CPU gamers out there.

On the other hand, Zen is a brand new architecture, AMD’s first for a long time. Games, too, are rarely optimized for a large number of cores and threads and we have seen results that suggest turning off AMD’s simultaneous multithreading (SMT) does have a noticeable effect on performance, according to Hexus.

With that in mind, Taylor’s argument is a plausible one, but not one that we can exactly prove either way. The proof will likely be in the CPU pudding. If we see significant improvements in Ryzen gaming performance in the months to come, we’ll know what was holding it back. As new games appear with more of a lead-in time with Ryzen hardware, we could see the chips perform far better than they do now.

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