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14
Aug

Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of iOS 11 to Developers


Apple today seeded the sixth beta of iOS 11 to developers for testing purposes, one week after releasing the fourth beta and more than two months after introducing the new update at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

Registered developers can download the sixth beta of iOS 11 from the Apple Developer Center or over-the-air once the proper configuration profile has been installed.

Today’s beta brings a fix for an issue that caused the DirecTV app to crash on launch, but introduces a new issue that could cause Audiobus 3 to crash. Launching the App Store no longer stops other audio that’s playing, several bugs with Family Sharing features have been fixed, and all phone numbers are now displayed during a multiparty conference call.

There are also fixes for Notes, addressing an issue that caused the app to malfunction when restoring from a backup where the Notes app was deleted and a problem that prevented the Apple Pencil from working when an iOS device was rotated. A new known issue prevents an AT&T data plan purchased on iPad from updating the cellular data number in Settings > General > About. As for outward-facing changes, there are new icons for the App Store and Maps and the Reminders icon is now fixed with bullet points back on the left instead of the right.

iOS 11 introduces several design changes, including a customizable Control Center and a new Lock screen that’s been merged with the Notification Center. Peer-to-peer Apple Pay payments are coming in the Messages app, which is also gaining a new App Drawer, and there’s a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature that’s meant to help drivers stay focused on the road. Siri, Photos, the Camera app, and more are also gaining new features and refinements.

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ARKit for developers will bring a range of new augmented reality apps and games to iOS devices, while a Core ML SDK has the potential to let developers build smarter apps. iOS 11 is also the biggest update ever for the iPad, with a new Dock that introduces much improved multitasking, a Files app for better managing files, improved Apple Pencil support, a revamped App Switcher, and a system-wide drag and drop feature.


iOS 11 is available for both registered developers and public beta testers and will see few weeks of testing ahead of a prospective September release date alongside new iPhones.

For complete details on all of the new features included in iOS 11, make sure to check out our extensive iOS 11 roundup.

Related Roundup: iOS 11
Discuss this article in our forums

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14
Aug

Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of Upcoming tvOS 11 Update to Developers


Apple today seeded the sixth beta of an upcoming tvOS 11 update designed for the fourth-generation TV, one week after seeding the fifth beta and more than two months after releasing the first beta during the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Registered developers can download tvOS 11 by connecting the Apple TV to a computer with a USB-C cable and installing the beta software using iTunes.

tvOS 11 didn’t receive much attention at the Worldwide Developers Conference because of time constraints, but according to Apple’s release notes, it introduces a few new features to the operating system.

tvOS 11 brings automatic switching between light/dark mode based on local time, Home screen syncing options that keep multiple Apple TVs in a household in sync, new background modes and notification support, Focus API improvements, custom sound support, network-based pairing and development support, improvements to Mobile Device Management, and more.

The sixth beta of tvOS 11 most likely focuses primarily on bug fixes and other small refinements, as the first five betas did. Apple’s new tvOS 11 update is available for both registered developers and public beta testers. It will see a public release later this year.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Don’t Buy)
Discuss this article in our forums

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14
Aug

Hands on with a potentially game-changing budget phone – Metro’s ZTE Blade Z Max


Going into my first hands-on with a major phone company, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Was it gonna be a room full of people in a formal setting? Was there going to be food? Was it a private hands on, or would there be other bloggers there? Fortunately, it turned out to be a very casual, private hands on with ZTE’s newest handset, the Metro-exclusive Blade Z Max.

Specs

  • Display: 6″ IPS LCD 1080p screen with Dragontrail* Glass
  • Processor: Snapdragon 435 (1.4GHz octa-core)
  • RAM/ROM: 2/32GB, expandable to 128GB.
  • Camera: 16/2MP dual rear-camera, 8MP selfie camera
  • Internal Features: 802.11n wifi, Bluetooth 4.2, Type C USB (2.0), Fingerprint Sensor
  • Battery: 4080MaH
  • Software: Android 7.1.1 Nougat

Looking at the specs, nothing really stands out too much, beyond that massive, massive 4080MaH battery. It’s got kind of a slow processor for a modern smartphone, the RAM is a touch low, the dual cameras and internal features are very nice, but nothing really world shattering, no?

That is, until you see the price tag.

I’ll let you steady yourself.

Ready?

$129.99.

Hold on, let me reiterate.

$129.99.

That’s the retail price. That’s not the down payment you throw down, with a monthly payment after that. That’s not paying for just the screen, or the MicroSD that goes in it. That’s the cost of the entire phone. Compare it with the Moto G5, spec-wise, and tell me where that phone outdoes the Blade Z Max. I’ll wait. I mean, at that price you don’t even need to buy a case for it.

Anyway – here’s my hands on impressions, with a full review coming at a later date!

What I Liked

Everything. No, seriously. When taking into consideration the price point, this is truly a phenomenal phone. When compared to other phones at the same price point, it blows them all out of the water – even at the $250 price point, it’s hard to find a phone that can hang with the Blade Z Max’s combination of size, modern features, and internal components.

The battery. At 4080MaH and running only a Snapdragon 435, this baby lasts forever, even with heavy usage.

The design. It’s pretty smooth, for a budget phone. A nice, textured back makes reaching the corners a breeze, without the risk of dropping the thing. Type C charging is a nice touch, as is the fingerprint sensor, which both behave as you’d expect from pricier phones.

Fingerprint sensor in easy reach.

The price.  Obviously, $129 is a phenomenal price for a phone that’s actually usable – and it very much is!  Asking my coworkers what kind of price point they’d expect from this phone, they all told me at least $500 – and I’m inclined to agree.

The OS. This phone runs the most recent version of Android, 7.1.1 Nougat. It’s not often you see a phone delivered with the most modern version stock, but here one is. Furthermore, with a couple exceptions, it runs a stock version of the OS, with only a couple modifications to AOSP apps.

The camera. While it’s not a world-shaking piece of hardware, the back shooter is very capable, being a dual-lens affair. Props to ZTE for spotting a hot trend and shoving it into a budget device.

What I Didn’t Like

The screen. This, to me is kind of an unknown. Instead of opting for the industry standard Corning Gorilla Glass, ZTE has gone with a different standard – something called DragonTrail glass, which I’d never heard of. According to ZTE:

 “Dragontrail glass is an alkali-aluminosilicate sheet glass engineered for a combination of thinness, lightness and damage-resistance, similar to Corning’s Gorilla Glass. The material’s primary properties are its strength, allowing thin glass without fragility,  high scratch resistance and hardness.”

It’s big, I won’t lie – but not prohibitively so.

It’s not the Gorilla Glass we’ve come to accept as the cream of the crop, but in practice has thus far been every bit as scratch resistant as the industry leader. So while I list it under things I didn’t like, take it more as a “Things I’m Unsure Of.”

No NFC. I’m not terribly torn up over this, but a lack of NFC means no Android Pay and no easy account migration. Not deal breaking, but worth noting.

Metro only. The Blade Z Max is a Metro-exclusive device, and that’s the bad news. The good news is that ZTE has assured me that it is hardly the only device it will be putting on the market with this kind of specs at this price point, so maybe we’ll see something like it on one of the major carriers.

 

This…might be a bit of a game changer. A highly affordable handset with usable specs and modern features? Sign me up.

14
Aug

ZTE Blade Z Max hands-on review


Research Center:
ZTE Blade Z Max

ZTE is rebranding its smartphones into two categories: The Blade budget series, and the flagship Axon series. It’s easier for regular people to understand, but what about the ZMax brand? Last year’s $100 ZMax Pro was our favorite budget phone. Jeff Yee, vice president of Technology Planning and Partnerships at ZTE, told Digital Trends that 3 million people bought it on MetroPCS and T-Mobile, and it’s why the company is hesitant to rid the ZMax brand. The result? The ZMax Pro’s successor is called the ZTE Blade Z Max.

The ZMax Pro was so popular, ZTE altered its design and put it on other wireless carriers under new names, such as the Max XL. This new Blade Z Max is successor to the original ZMax Pro and is available to T-Mobile/MetroPCS customers first.

Grippy design, big display

The Blade Z Max keeps the massive 6-inch screen size as its predecessor, but the design is quite different.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There’s now a grippy, rubber-like textured material covering the rear, as opposed to a soft-touch back. Like the 2016 phone, the ZTE logo sits in the center with a circular fingerprint sensor above, but the camera and flash are now on the top left side instead of in the center. There’s a dual-camera setup, which ZTE first introduced earlier this year on the Blade V8.

The SIM card slot still remains on the left side, and the volume rocker sits above the power button on the right. The front of the phone looks almost exactly the same, with the speaker grill now an oval cutout, rather than three separate holes.

This is a phone that requires two hands.

The headphone jack is now on the bottom, next to the same USB Type-C charging port. Also on the bottom front of the phone are three capacitive buttons for navigating the Android user interface.

The design change makes sense; a 6-inch smartphone is tough to handle, so a grippy back should help. It certainly is less slippery, but it still is difficult to reach the other edge of the phone with your thumb. Even for people with large hands like myself, this is a phone that requires two hands.

The 6-inch display itself offers a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. It is a sharp screen; its colors look fairly accurate; and it can get bright enough to see outdoors.

Decent performance and a standard interface

The Blade Z Max sadly doesn’t use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series processor, but instead opts for the Snapdragon 435 system-on-a-chip. While the Snapdragon 435 is newer and offers better connectivity, the Snapdragon 617 (which is on the ZMax Pro) offers slightly better performance. The Snapdragon 435 is paired with 2GB RAM, as well as 32GB of internal storage. There’s a MicroSD card slot, so you can expand your storage up to 128GB.

In our brief usage with the Blade Z Max, performance was reliable. Apps opened with ease, and moving through the recent apps menu and home screens was fast. Apps like Facebook and Twitter did stutter while scrolling quickly, even more so when multitasking with split-screen mode.

Pleasantly, the Android 7.1.1 interface is almost exactly like Google’s default version of Android, with Google Assistant on board. The software is easy to use, with only a few MetroPCS apps pre-installed, and it looks great. The August 2017 security patch was installed, and we hope ZTE will continue to keep up with Google’s monthly security updates.

ZTE has fitted a massive 4,080mAh battery in the Blade, which is a lot bigger than last year’s 3,400mAh in the ZMax Pro. We’ll have to do more testing, but we haven’t had to charge it for three days with light usage, which is amazing.

We haven’t had much of a chance to test the cameras yet, but the rear dual-camera setup has 16-megapixel and 2-megapixel cameras, which offer features such as monocolor and a portrait mode. The front camera features 8-megapixels, but no flash.

Availability and price

With ever-increasing competition in this price tier from the likes of Motorola’s Moto E4, we’ll have to do more testing to see how the Blade Z Max stacks up and if it’s worth the $130 price tag.

ZTE Blade Z Max Compared To

Moto Z2 Force

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom

Moto Z2 Play

LG G6

Motorola Moto E4

Huawei Nova 2 Plus

ZTE Max XL

Huawei Honor 8 Pro

Lenovo Moto G5 Plus

Meizu M3 Max

ZTE ZMax Pro

Blu Pure XL

Huawei Mate 8

ZTE Grand X Max+

LG G Flex

The ZTE Blade Z Max will be available only at MetroPCS on August 28 for $130. Expect different versions of this device to crop up over the course of the following year to other carriers such as T-Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Sprint. You can pre-order the Blade Z Max now.

14
Aug

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 and 64 review


Research Center:
AMD Radeon RX Vega 64

AMD has been busy working on new products that poke holes in the weak points in its competitor’s armor, and it’s starting to show. The Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs attacked Intel’s willingness to rest on its laurels, and has already caused the other side to drop prices in response. Now, as our AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 review demonstrates, the red team isn’t done making waves.

While CPUs have a standard set of benchmarks and metrics that are easily targeted, manufacturing a competitive GPU is a trickier prospect. Game demands vary wildly from system to system, and there’s a lot of enthusiasts buying at many price points.

AMD is already competitive in the $200 range, where its Radeon RX 570 and Radeon RX 580 have proven their worth as competent, affordable choices. However, it has no answer for Nvidia’s GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti, or even the GTX 1070. These top-tier cards play in their own realm of performance, far above what any single AMD card can handle. Radeon’s last counter-attack, the AMD Fury series, failed to blunt the appeal of Nvidia’s options.

The Radeon RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 are meant to provide relief. At $399 and $499, respectively, they’re going toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s best. Can AMD threaten the throne, or does the green team easily squash this new threat?

Not all-new, but close

Vega is not just the brand name of these cards. It’s also the name of the GPU architecture found inside. First teased in early 2016, Vega has reached incredible levels of hype, and for good reason. It’s the most significant re-design of the AMD’s GPU technology since Graphics Core Next (GCN), which replaced AMD’s previous TeraScale architecture in 2012. However, Vega is still based on GCN. It’s a significant revision, though not the start of a new family.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

And we do mean significant. Most essential components have been altered, starting with the compute units, which AMD is calling Next-Generation Compute Units (NCUs) in Vega. There, AMD has added support for a feature called Rapid Packed Math, which creates “super-charged pathways to provide double the processing throughput.” The company says game developers can use this to “accelerate a wide range of lighting, procedural, and post-processing effects without affecting image quality.”

The announcement of Vega’s NCUs is no surprise. Every video card is supposed to make games run better and look better – that’s the point. More surprising is AMD’s approach to memory. Vega rips up the rulebook and takes a fresh approach.

The Radeon RX Vega pulls a thirsty 295 watts.

Vega boasts a High-Bandwidth Cache Controller (HBCC), a revision of the memory system that “removes the capacity limitations of GPU memory.” According to AMD, the HBCC will allow games fine-grain access to larger amounts of data, drastically reducing the time it takes to load new data into memory. That could prevent scenarios where a game stutters because it must load in an asset – say, some trees on the horizon – that weren’t already in memory.

As part of this push, AMD has re-labeled Vega’s eight gigabytes of memory as High-Bandwidth Cache. This arguably is creative wording on the part of AMD, as in practical use, it doesn’t appear to operate any different from previous designs in gaming. Vega also has High Bandwidth Memory 2 instead of the more common GDDR5, used by Nvidia’s GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti.

While these enhancements don’t add up to an immediate advantage that we could identify, other than high framerates, it could become more interesting in the future. AMD says its High-Bandwidth Cache can scale up to access hundreds of terabytes of graphics memory. There’s even a workstation version of Vega, the Radeon Pro SSG, with two terabytes of on-board solid-state storage. The company thinks game developers want to see cards with more, faster memory, and Vega lays the groundwork for scaling up in the future.

The hard numbers

The numbers in the two versions of Vega, the RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64, derived from the number of compute units on-board. That translates to 4,096 Stream Processors on the RX Vega 64, and 3,584 on the RX Vega 56. The more expensive RX Vega 64 also has a slightly higher clock speed.

Here’s the full set of specifications from AMD.

Compute
Units

Stream
Processors

Base
Speed

Boost
Speed

Memory
Size

Price
Radeon RX
Vega 64

64
4,096
1,247MHz
1,546MHz
8GB
HBM2
$499
Radeon RX
Vega 56

56
3,584
1,156MHz
1,471MHz
8GB
HBM2
$399

Unlike most video cards, the boost clock speeds listed about are not the upper limit. Instead, AMD says it “represents the typical average clock speed on might see while gaming.” In some situations, the cards “may regularly run at frequencies in excess of their stated boost clocks.”

The most interesting numbers above are not the clock speeds, but instead the memory bandwidth. There we see the benefit of architecture tweaks like the High-Bandwidth Cache Controller. Memory bandwidth on the RX Vega 64 matches the GTX 1080 Ti, though it has three gigabytes less raw memory. The RX Vega 56, meanwhile, has 410GB/s of bandwidth, far exceeding the 320GB/s quoted by Nvidia’s GTX 1080, though the Vega card is less expensive. Clearly, AMD believes gobs of fast memory leads to good things.

In addition to the two cards we tested, AMD also offers a liquid-cooled version of the RX Vega 64. Only available as part of a bundle deal for $700, it increases the base GPU clock from 1,247MHz up to 1,406MHz, and the Boost clock from 1,546MHz up to 1,677MHz. Memory amount and bandwidth stays the same.

New cards, familiar designs

Anyone who picked up an AMD Radeon RX 480 or 580 reference edition will find the Radeon RX Vega’s design familiar, which is a bit disappointing. The black plastic casing is overlaid with an attractive grid of dots, which is at least more interesting than a blank reference design, but it doesn’t look as nice as Nvidia’s reference cards. It has a full backplate this time around, though, which is great to see.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Though we didn’t have a chance to check it out in person, there’s also a limited-edition version of the air-cooled Radeon RX Vega 64, with a silver brushed aluminum shroud. The updated look is sleeker, and more attractive, than the re-used black dimpled design on the base cards. It’s more expensive at $599, though, and we doubt it offers a functional benefit.

Both Vega reference cards we reviewed were the same size, measuring 10 and a half inches long, about four inches wide, and one and a half inches thick. These dimensions are not unusual for a high-end video card, and either should fit in a typical ATX mid-tower. Remember, though, that this is the reference design. Most buyers end up purchasing a card from a third-party partner, like Asus, MSI, or Zotac. Each adds its own flair, which can add to or reduce the bulk.

The Radeon RX Vega 64 falls right in between the green team’s high-end options.

Our review units required two eight-pin PCIe power plugs from the PSU, with a recommended minimum 750-watt power supply. That’s because the Radeon RX Vega pulls a thirsty 295 watts, more than even the GTX 1080 Ti’s 250-watt ask. We expect most OEM cards will require the same, but may pull even more, as the liquid cooled Radeon RX Vega 64 takes a full 345 watts. Power efficiency has never been AMD’s strongest point, and that remains true with Vega.

While video outputs will vary by OEM, our reference edition review unit came with a standard set of three DisplayPort and one HDMI port. That’s a very common configuration among mid-high end GPUs, and allows for daisy-chaining up to six displays at once.

And on to the benchmarks

We benchmarked each Radeon RX Vega in our standard video card test rig. It’s powered by an Intel Core i7-6950X with 16GB of RAM, which should be enough to ensure the CPU is never a bottleneck for any graphics card. We’ve used the rig for a year, and all cards discussed in this review were benchmarked with it.

Our testing began with 3DMark’s most recent test, Time Spy. It uses current techniques to push high-end graphics cards, and provides a good baseline for performance. So, here comes the moment of truth. How do the RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 handle?

This first test puts the RX Vega 64 just above the Nvidia GTX 1080, while the RX Vega 56 falls behind by a margin of about 10 percent.

These results are competitive. The RX Vega 64 is priced at $500, and so is the GTX 1080. A slight win suggests the AMD card is faster overall, but the win here is so minor that it’s a little deflating. The RX Vega 64 is new, while the GTX 1080 has been out for some time. AMD’s RX Vega 56, which is less expensive at $400, comes a fair bit behind the GTX 1080, as well.

Fans of the red team are no doubt searching for a serious victory, and 3DMark Time Spy doesn’t deliver it.

Worse, the Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP! runs away from the pack, scoring about 30 percent better than the RX Vega 64 in this test. While it’s much more expensive at $720, it does squash hope that AMD’s new flagship can compete with Nvidia’s best.

1080p gaming

Our real-world testing began at 1080p resolution. While most gamers would consider cards of this caliber overkill for a 1080p monitor, a high-end GPU is needed to get the most from a 1080p screen with a high refresh rate. As you’ll soon see, even these cards won’t let you see the most from a 144Hz panel like the BenQ EX3200R.

The first game in our test suite was Civilization VI, tested in DirectX 12 mode. The game leans more heavily on the CPU to achieve smooth frame rates than most, and that’s obvious in the results, which show small gaps between each tested card. There was a slight trend in favor of the RX Vega cards, however. The RX Vega 64 achieved the top score at both medium and ultra detail presets.

Our Battlefield 1 testing was a different story. It’s a graphically demanding game that doesn’t require nearly as much computational work, so the differences between each card are more obvious. The game, which we tested in DirectX 11 mode, showed strong results for Vega, particularly the RX Vega 56. Though priced at $400, the card tied or beat Nvidia’s GTX 1080, which has an MSRP of $500. The RX Vega 64 widened the gap between it and the GTX 1080, but it didn’t come close to beating the GTX 1080 Ti. Both RX Vega cards cranked out enough frames to make the most of a 120Hz monitor, even at Ultra detail.

AMD’s RX Vega cards generally match or exceed the performance of the GTX 1080.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the most demanding game in our test suite, helped the GTX 1080 Ti strengthened its lead over the other two cards. The game also teased out a surprisingly close match between the RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64, with the latter achieving just a small handful of additional frames. However, the RX Vega 56 tied the GTX 1080, and the RX Vega 64 beat it.

So far, the RX Vega cards have fared well next to the GTX 1080. Yet they fell firmly behind in Ubisoft’s For Honor. While few will see reason to complain about the performance of the RX Vega cards, which clear 100 frames per second on average, both fall behind the GTX 1080 by a noticeable margin.

1440p gaming

Now we move on to the resolution we believe most people who buy these cards will play at. 1440p is common, though not as popular as 1080p, and it offers excellent clarity without the extreme jump in horsepower required by a 4K screen. Let’s see how RX Vega handles it.

Our tale once again begins with Civilization VI, and once again we see a game that’s largely CPU bound. The variances are extremely small, so much that running the benchmark multiple times sees the cards shifting in position with each run. Call it a tie. All the cards exceed 90 frames per second even at the Ultra preset, so the game looks beautiful and plays like silk feels.

With Civilization VI still CPU-bound, sorting between the hardware once again falls to Battlefield 1. We once again see strong results from the RX Vega cards. Even the RX Vega 56 beats the GTX 1080 at Ultra detail, and the RX Vega 64 adds a few extra frames on top of that. Average framerates easily exceed 90 frames per second, so exceptionally smooth gameplay can be expected.

The story changes with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Its demanding Ultra detail preset dragged the RX Vega 56 down to 50 frames per second, a frame behind the GTX 1080. The RX Vega 64 did only a bit better, hitting 56 frames per second. Only the Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP! could clear the important 60 FPS hurdle, the gamers with a 1440p monitor may see moments of so-so performance with either RX Vega. Still, the RX Vega 64 does beat the GTX 1080, giving AMD another small win.

That brings us to For Honor. Again, this game hits RX Vega card, dragging both below the performance of the GTX 1080. That’s not a good look, as it means AMD’s brand-new card can’t beat an aging Nvidia stalwart in this title. However, all the cards maintain an average higher than 60 FPS, so gameplay should appear smooth on any of them.

Gaming conclusions: AMD wins, but not by much

Our benchmarks tell a consistent story. AMD’s RX Vega cards generally match or exceed the performance of the GTX 1080. Even the RX Vega 56 can beat Nvidia’s $500 card, yet it sells for only $400. That makes for good value. But it’s not the landslide victory that gamers were hoping for.

The software is a plus

AMD’s Radeon Software Crimson Edition has steadily improved over the last few years, and the Radeon suite is now a robust, easy to use set of useful tools. It has an excellent suite of overclocking options, lightweight recording and streaming software, overclocking and status tools, and it all stays out of the way if you don’t need it.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 Compared To

Asus Strix Radeon RX 570 OC 4G

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Armor 11G OC

Zotac GeForce GTX 1050 Mini

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1060 AMP! Edition

AMD Radeon RX 480

AMD Radeon R9 Nano

Nvidia GeForce GTX 960

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980

AMD Radeon R9 295X2

PowerColor Radeon HD 4670

NVIDIA DualTV MCE

MSI RX800 XT

ATI All-In-Wonder 9600XT

ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro

Matrox Parhelia 128mb

Nvidia offers a similar set of software tools. However, the look and feel of its software is starting to show its age. The green team also asks you to create an account to use its GeForce Experience software, a small but unnecessary barrier not found in AMD’s alternative.

RX Vega owners also benefit from FreeSync, the company’s adaptive refresh technology. A compatible monitor, when connected to an AMD card, will match its refresh rate to the output of the RX Vega card. That eliminates stutter, screen tearing, and other unpleasant artifacts that become visible when a video card’s output framerate doesn’t line up well with a monitor’s refresh rate.

Nvidia has its own version of this technology, known as G-Sync. FreeSync has an advantage, however, because AMD worked to make it part of the DisplayPort 1.2a specification. That means FreeSync compatible monitors are easier to find, and tend to be less expensive.

Our take

AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64, starting at $400, finally give Radeon fans a competitive choice for high-end gaming. While the cards still stand in the shadow of Nvidia’s more expensive GTX 1080 Ti, they do beat the GTX 1080 in most titles we tested.

Is there a better alternative?

Our Score

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64

$499.00 from AMD

AMD’s RX Vega 56 is priced between the Nvidia GTX 1070 and the GTX 1080. Since it beats the latter in our tests, it’s clearly the better value, and it’s an excellent choice for 1440p gaming.

The more expensive RX Vega 64 is priced right in line with the GTX 1080, and beats it by a more comfortable margin than the RX Vega 56. Nvidia’s champion, the GTX 1080 Ti, remains far ahead of the RX Vega 64 – yet at pricing just below $700 for the most affordable variants, it’s not in the same league.

How long will it last?

With solid 1080p and 1440p performance, the Radeon RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 should have no problem keeping up for several years. The openness of FreeSync also gives AMD an edge here, since it should be easier and more affordable to upgrade to a FreeSync monitor in the future, if you don’t have on already.

Should you buy it?

Our Score

AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

$399.00 from AMD

Yes, for both models – with the RX Vega 56 taking an edge in terms of value. At $400, it’s still expensive by the standards of most gamers (you could buy a PS4 Pro for as much), but it delivers top-tier performance at 1080p and 1440p resolution. It delivers GTX 1080-level performance for $100 less, and that’s awesome.

The RX Vega 64 is also recommended, but we’re surprised by the small improvement it offers over the RX Vega 56. That blunts its value. Will you notice that the RX Vega 64 is, on average, three frames per second quicker than the RX Vega 56 in Battlefield 1? We doubt it.

Yet the RX Vega 64 does generally beat the GTX 1080, and it’s priced the same. That makes it the card to buy if you have $500 to spend.

Vega is a not the landslide AMD needs, but it is a victory. Nvidia’s alternatives have been around for some time, and the green team could blunt much of AMD’s momentum by dropping prices. Still, a win is a win. RX Vega is the way to go if you have between $400 and $500 to spend on a video card right now.

14
Aug

Best iOS app deals of the day! 6 paid iPhone apps for free for a limited time


Everyone likes Apple apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers put paid apps on sale for free for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up while you have the chance. Here are the latest and greatest iOS app deals available from the iOS App Store.

These apps normally cost money and this sale lasts for a limited time only. If you go to the App Store and it says the app costs money, that means the deal has expired and you will be charged. 

Stock Target Calculator

Profit and loss calculations have never been easier. Simply enter entry and exit points to calculate profits or losses. With the Tax Calculator, tax expenses on profits can be calculated to find net profit.

Available on:

iOS

3D Earth

This unique application combines weather forecasts, clocks, widgets and a beautiful view from space to our Earth.

Available on:

iOS

PhotoTangler

PhotoTangler Collage Maker is a powerful image app that instantly turns your favorite photos into beautiful collages. It allows you to blend them together in unique and creative ways.

Available on:

iOS

Flow

Flow presents your mail as a continuous feed, allowing you to review and act on your mail without ever losing context, and marking each mail as read when it is scrolled above midscreen.

Available on:

iOS

Orderly

Orderly is based on how the human mind visualizes to-do lists. The app features seamless cloud sync and comes with Location Based Reminders so that you never miss a to-do task at a particular location.

Available on:

iOS

Easy Spending

Over a million users agree that Easy Spending is the best way to take control of where the money goes. Effectively build wealth using this simple and yet powerful money management app.

Available on:

iOS




14
Aug

GoPro’s cameras capture the stories, but the GoPro Quik app helps you tell them


App Attack is a weekly series where we search the App Store and Google Play Store for the best apps of the week. Check out App Attack every Sunday for the latest.

If you were to ask GoPro’s CEO and founder, Nicholas Woodman, what his company makes, cameras won’t be the first thing he mentions. Instead, what he might tell you is how GoPro makes tools that enable users to become storytellers. On paper, that may sound like the words of a great marketer, but in person he sounds genuinely sincere. And the latest update to the GoPro Quik app demonstrates that vision.

Available for iOS and Android, Quik is a video editor that lets you create a polished videos, with titles, transitions, music, and more, in a matter of minutes. Although GoPro acquired the app in 2016 (formerly called Replay), Quik works with any type of video, whether it was shot with a Hero camera or a smartphone. It remains one of our favorite video apps to this day, and it’s getting better.

What’s new is a tighter integration with GoPro’s Hero5-series cameras, which includes the Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session. A new feature, called QuikStories, automatically pulls new content from a Hero5 camera, which it then assembles into a short video that looks like you spent hours editing. Even though Quik has always been easy to use, prior to QuikStories, you needed to devote some time to editing content.

QuikStories is available now (just download Quik, or update an existing version), but we’ve had some time to beta test the feature prior to release. Here’s how it works: After you pair a Hero5 camera to a phone (hands down, it’s still one of the easiest implementations we’ve seen from a camera maker) with the GoPro app, you can activate QuikStories by pulling down the homepage — it begins transferring recently saved images and videos (unless you tell it not to). The content is deleted after a week, so it doesn’t hog up your phone’s storage.

When the GoPro detects new content, you can pull down the homepage to initiate QuikStories.

All new content is automatically transferred to your smartphone.

When content is transferred, a QuikStory is ready to view.

When a QuikStory is ready, you can view, edit, and upload it from the Quik app.

Afterward, the GoPro app will notify you when the content has transferred and your QuikStory is ready; the GoPro app kicks the project over to the Quik app for edit or upload. You can add it to an existing project, or start a new story. All the footage is automatically assembled into a video, using time and date info to create a linear sequence of events.

But it’s not simply joining things together: An algorithm looks for notable things to include, like moments the user has tagged (called HiLight Tags) or a change in action (for example, a crash during a bike ride), while shortening scenes that may not be as important. Quik also adds transitions, and sets the video to match the audio track. In the duration menu, you can even adjust the length of the video that’s perfect for Instagram, and Quik ensures that the music and video doesn’t end abruptly. Once it’s done, you can share it to social media.

Of course, the video isn’t perfect, but the beauty is that QuikStories has done about 60-percent of the editing work for you. You can then fine-tune the edits: Switch to a different soundtrack, add in a moment you want to show, reposition clips, add titles, speed up a video, and more. Since Quik isn’t restricted to video from a GoPro camera, you can add footage from you smartphone’s camera roll. You can spend a few minutes or an hour crafting your video, but we spent about 20 minutes editing a video that was compiled from an hour’s worth of clips we shot with a Hero5 Black, before uploading it to Instagram (see below) — something that would have taken much longer before.

Vail becomes a hot spot in the spring/summer during the #gopromtngames a celebration of the #outdoors #outdoorsports and athletes. Video of the village and some of the activities. Also, Vail is gorgeous. Shot with #GoPro #hero5 and edited with beta version of upcoming GoPro and Quik apps, featuring auto download and quick story creation. #travel #vail #colorado #alpine #lesshoots

A post shared by Shu (@bklyn_muckymuck) on Jun 10, 2017 at 12:09am PDT

There are a few downsides. Currently, QuikStories only works with GoPro Hero5 models (you will also need to update the firmware and unlock the GPS functions, which helps the algorithm better detect interesting moments). We also found that it works better with short clips — and we mean short, like five-to-ten seconds each. Longer clips can take seemingly forever to transfer (for very long clips, it’s best to do it overnight, and with the camera plugged in; QuikStories won’t activate unless there is sufficient charge), and the resulting video isn’t necessarily better than one made with shorter clips. Because QuikStories is pulling all content, it will eat into your phone’s storage.

Besides preset themes, you can go in and fine-tune the edits.

Add texts.

Trim a clip.

Some users might not like having to use two different apps (GoPro and Quik). While the GoPro app is designed specifically for GoPro cameras, the Quik app, as mentioned, can be used for video from other sources, so we understand the separation. Maybe in the future GoPro will merge features into a single app, but for now, it is what it is. Despite the complaints, the app is stable and easy to use (both iOS and Android versions are nearly identical in function). We didn’t encounter any major bugs during beta testing.

Change the music.

Adjust the format, duration, or music.

You can adjust the duration to the ideal length, or what’s best for Instagram.

But what we like most about QuikStories is that it addresses a common problem: Large-capacity memory cards make it easy to shoot a lot of content, but most of us leave them sitting on said cards — turning them into digital media moratoriums. It doesn’t matter how great the Hero5 Black is if you never offload and share the content. We admit, we are just as guilty: Unless we are shooting with purpose, most of our casual GoPro clips are often unused or shared. We would miss out on sharing fun moments to social media, like this one below.

My #quikstory of day at #GoProMtnGames. Made with beta @GoPro n Quik apps. Auto download, quick n easy storytelling. I fall into creek ???? pic.twitter.com/f70jYxOuoy

— Les Shu (@DT_Les) June 9, 2017

Another problem QuikStories deals with is the laborious effort required to edit content, especially on a mobile device. By doing most of the legwork, a user is more likely to share that content — the piece of the storytelling puzzle that GoPro wants to fill. We think QuikStories will become even more important when the Fusion 360-degree camera goes on sale, as 360-degree content is notorious for being difficult to edit and share. And because GoPro sees itself as a content creation company — not just hardware — we hope to see the automated QuikStories support non-Hero cameras, particular footage shot with smartphones.

In a Q&A session during the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, Woodman explained why QuikStories and the Quik app are important. In the past, video editing involved the camera and a desktop. Today, that has shifted from cameras to mobile devices, and Hero cameras are extensions to smartphones (in fact, Quik now comes preinstalled on the Huawei P10). With social networks like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, we now have more places to share content. GoPro cameras help you capture your stories, while the Quik app helps you tell them.




14
Aug

Chrome: Everything you need to know!


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Chromebooks, apps, browser extensions, you name it. If it’s about Chrome, here’s the place to start for anything and everything you need to know.

You know Google Chrome. It’s on your phone, on your computer and might even be powering your laptop. It’s one of Google’s most ambitious projects and it plays a big part of their strategy for the web and mobile. Chrome is everywhere.

In typical Google fashion, Chrome also encompasses a bunch of things that we normally don’t think of as being related. Google likes to unify stuff. Unifying things is good for development and is a great way to force innovation — making things do something new and work with other things is usually a good idea. But that can get confusing for people who just use products and services and don’t need to know — or care — how the sausage is made.

That’s where we come in. We love knowing how the sausage is made and we use Google’s products and services. We can help you know everything you ever need to know about Chrome.

Chrome is a web browser

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Google Chrome is the most popular web browsing software worldwide. Desktop and laptop computers use Chrome 55% of the time when they are on the internet. Mobile and tablet devices use it 60% of the time. Even folks using an iPhone love Chrome.

Chrome is the most popular web browser on the desktop and mobile.

Chrome is using a special version (known as a fork) of the WebKit engine developed by KDE in 1998 known as Blink. Apple Submitted major changes to the original in 2002 that were needed to allow the rendering engine to run on OS X and weren’t fully compliant with the software license KDE required and this forked the project. Google had been a major contributor to Apple’s version of the WebKit engine until they forked off Blink. With Chrome using the Blink engine, all Chrome-specific code — javascript hooks, platform code, build system tools and the like — has been removed from WebKit. Opera uses the same codebase as Chrome, and they too use the Blink engine. Amazon’s Silk browser and Android also use the Blink engine for HTML rendering. Blink is just a refinement of the WebCore component of WebKit, and few if any issues are likely to arise for developers. All versions of Chrome on all platforms use the Blink engine except for the iOS version which uses Apple’s Safari-exclusive version of WebKit.

Download Google Chrome for Android or iOS

Download Google Chrome for your computer

Chrome’s biggest draw is the way it syncs with your Google account. You can share bookmarks, open tabs, form data and more across every device that uses Chrome. This was a boon for mobile use and a big part of the adoption numbers.

Chrome is secure and Google sync works on every platform.

The Chrome browser also has support for sandboxed instances. Things you see or type in one tab are not normally visible to other tabs or other applications. Browser extensions work through the main Chrome instance and can affect every sandbox, but generally, things are kept separate. This can cause a high memory footprint as each tab occupies its own space in your RAM. It’s a security feature that we depend on even if we don’t realize it’s there. the internet is not a very safe place. Other security features include a blacklist of sites that are potentially harmful and warnings when visiting sites that use a non-secure connection method.

Chrome is standards compliant, has a familiar and user-customizable interface and offers support for browser apps and extensions. This, as well as synchronization and security features, help make it the most popular web browser available.

Chrome is an operating system

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Chrome is also a popular operating system for laptops, mini-PCs, and HDMI stick computers. Chrome OS includes the Chrome browser as a major component but it also has a long list of features of its own.

The Chrome browser runs better on a Chromebook that it does on more expensive computers. It was built from the ground up to be this way.

Chrome OS was designed from the ground up to be very lightweight. Like Android, it’s a Linux-based system that Google has adapted to perfectly fit their needs. Chrome OS is responsive and capable on computers with specs that will barely support other operating systems, yet is scalable to take advantage of the most powerful components available. Using specially tweaked versions of standard Linux memory and process management tools like zRAM and a task scheduler, Chrome OS can take advantage of everything inside the computer it’s running on for user tasks instead of operating system overhead. We still recommend you buy a machine with as much RAM and storage as you can, but it’s important that the requirements are low.

Besides running well on inexpensive hardware, Chrome can do everything most people want a computer to do.

Chrome is a complete operating system with platform support for third party applications. Multimedia features, GPU acceleration, human input device standards and more mean you can code applications specifically to run on Chrome and take advantage of the same hardware the system itself has access to. Security features and sandboxing also apply here, and applications are unable to directly interact with other applications or collect their data. The Chrome browser is a major component of Chrome and offers the same features available on Windows or Mac with a better performance to hardware ratio. This has to do with how the operating system handles the main Chrome process as well as child instances from tabs and other applications. In Chrome, things were designed with this in mind while the Chrome browser on other platforms has to work with the system calls and APIs exposed to it. The Chrome browser is a native application on Chrome OS, and it shows when you’re using it.

The best Chromebook apps

Android and Google Play was recently introduced to Chrome OS. Running in a standard Linux container, Android is in its own sandbox while an abstraction layer handles communication between Android apps and the operating system. In layman’s terms, you can think of Android as a separate section of Chrome with equal access to resources. There are very few Android apps that do not run on Chrome, and outside of things like launchers or icon packs most cases are because they aren’t enabled by the developer. No changes to existing code are needed to run an Android app on Chrome, though developers are encouraged to be sure they have a pleasant layout designed for a much bigger screen and that their apps work well with a mouse and keyboard.

These are the Chromebooks that can run Android apps

Google Play support is available on select Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, and there is a long list of other models that have support in the works. Future devices should run Android by default and include hardware (like sensors or a gyroscope) that make Android apps run even better.

Chrome OS has many great native applications, and the addition of Android will fill in the gaps for many of us. This, combined with the inexpensive prices, security, and ease of use are why we think Chromebooks are a great tool for almost everyone.

A Chromebook is now the best Android tablet

Chrome is built from open-source code

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Both the Chrome browser and Chrome OS are built from open-source code. The Chromium and Chromium OS projects are very much like the Android Open Source project.

Everything needed to build a complete and fully-functional browser or operating system is available for anyone to use as they wish. Commercial distributions need to adhere to software license requirements, but outside of that, the code is fully modifiable and very easy to build. Open source releases of the Chromium project happen monthly and the project fully supports Chrome applications and extensions. Many popular Linux distributions offer Chromium because it’s open and doesn’t depend on closed proprietary code or binary files.

Chrome and Chrome OS are not open source. Like Android, where Google uses the open-source version with additions to build the software for the Pixel, Google and hardware partners take Chromium and use it to create the Chrome browser and use Chromium OS to build Chrome OS. Unlike Android, where device manufacturers are able to alter the software in ways that harm the platform, Chrome OS is controlled by Google. Hardware partners for Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices help make sure things like the display and touchpad are compatible and extras like support for the ASUS cloud or HP device support can be added, but Chrome itself must ship as built by Google. This ensures a pleasant and familiar experience for everyone.

Chrome comes in a wide range of hardware

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You can have a complete Chrome experience on an $80 Chromebit. You can also spend $2,000 dollars on an HP Chromebook that has the latest hardware available. While one will handle more tasks at once than the other, the experience is exactly the same.

We’re big proponents of Chromebooks around here. Unless I’m rendering a video or playing a game, there’s a good chance I have my Chromebook in front of me when I’m on the computer. This includes my everyday work — I’m writing this post on my Chromebook sitting at a desk with a fully specced desktop that scores completely off the chart for Steam VR on it. Chromebooks are simple, intuitive and can do almost anything I need them to do. We think that for a good many people, the same will apply and a Chromebook is the best way to do computing safely and efficiently.

The best Chromebook

Chromeboxes are also pretty cool. Most are the same size as something like a Mac Mini and offer relatively high-end hardware at a very reasonable price. They make an excellent box in your entertainment stand that turns every TV into a smart TV, and when paired with a good monitor, mouse, and keyboard can offer a complete desktop experience for most everyone. They are also a great base for anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves and set up a media server or stand-alone firewall and router box.

The best Chromebox

A Chromebit is awesome for a traveler or anyone who is doing a business presentation. All you need it a TV with an open HDMI port and a small USB or Bluetooth input device and you have the entire web available with zero effort. They are a great way to have full access to your Google Play library, Amazon Prime library, Netflix and any other web-based service in your pocket, and Google Docs makes projecting spreadsheets or slideshows on a big screen simple. They are also great for the bedroom or anywhere space is at a premium. The fact that they are inexpensive is just a bonus!

Chromebox vs Chromebit — which should you buy?

Something for everyone

Chrome is Google’s way to get more people online and part of the internet age. Whether you use the Chrome browser on your phone or PC, or have a Chromebook as your primary computer, or even carry your Chromebit with you everywhere you go, Chrome is there to make things easy.

Chrome Buyer’s Guide

Chrome is powerful, secure and easy to use. While it isn’t the best solution for every task, we think you’ll find it’s very well rounded and suits most needs. The future for Chrome looks bright, and we’re all going to be part of it together!

Update August 2017: This page was updated to reflect the latest news and information about Chrome.

Chromebooks

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  • The best Chromebooks
  • Should you buy a Chromebook?
  • Google Play is coming to Chromebooks
  • Acer Chromebook 14 review
  • Join our Chromebook forums

14
Aug

Latest Google app update lets 1 billion people use voice dictation for the first time


Google’s speech recognition can now understand 30 more languages.

Google’s voice search is becoming more inclusive by picking up support for 30 new languages, including eight Indian languages. In all, over 1 billion people can now use voice dictation on Google’s services, including the Google app and Gboard. Notable additions include popular Indian dialects like Gujarati, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu, along with two of Africa’s most-spoken languages: Swahili and Amharic.

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Here’s a list of all the new additions:

  • Amharic (Ethiopia)
  • Armenian (Armenia)
  • Azerbaijani (Azerbaijani)
  • Bengali (Bangladesh, India)
  • English (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania)
  • Georgian (Georgia)
  • Gujarati (India)
  • Javanese (Indonesia)
  • Kannada (India)
  • Khmer (Cambodian)
  • Lao (Laos)
  • Latvian (Latvia)
  • Malayalam (India)
  • Marathi (India)
  • Nepali (Nepal)
  • Sinhala (Sri Lanka)
  • Sundanese (Indonesia)
  • Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya)
  • Tamil (India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia)
  • Telugu (India)
  • Urdu (Pakistan, India)

To enable for these languages, Google worked with native speakers, collecting speech samples and asking them to read common phrases so it can train its machine learning models to pick up on intonation.

The server-side update is now live, and you can set your language in the Google app or on Gboard to get started. I was able to ask Google a question in Telugu and it understood the query perfectly. The new additions are now available in the Cloud Speech API as well, and will be added to other Google services — including Translate — shortly.

Finally, if you’re using English U.S. as your language, you now have the option to search for emoji with your voice. For instance, you can just search for “rolling on the floor laughing emoji” on Gboard and it’ll surface 🤣. Technology is a wonderful thing.

14
Aug

Google Calendar is soon getting a Material Design overhaul on the desktop


Google will soon be rolling out Material Design to the Google Calendar website

The Google Calendar app for Android first received Material Design way back in 2014, but the same cannot be said of the website. It has been over three years since Google first introduced the Material Design language, but the company has yet to roll it out to its web properties such as Gmail and Calendar.

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That will soon change, at least for Calendar. Reddit user xDawnut has shared images over the new UI, released as part of the Trusted Tester program. The new layout looks very similar to the Google Calendar Android application, as one may expect. There are new designs for day, week, month and list view as well as the settings menu.

google-calendar-current-new%20event.png?google-calendar-material-new-event.png?i

The current (left) and Material (right) New Event pages

The differences between the old and new design (as seen above) are…drastic. I’m not sure why it took Google this long to get the Calendar web site updated, but it’s good that it’s almost complete. Most importantly, it seems Google hasn’t deprecated any functionality while rolling out this new design. Here is a gallery of the new design:

google-calendar-material-day-view.png?itgoogle-calendar-material-week-view.png?igoogle-calendar-material-settings.png?itgoogle-calendar-material-new-event-3.pnggoogle-calendar-material-new-event-2.pnggoogle-calendar-material-new-event.png?igoogle-calendar-material-month-view.png?google-calendar-material-list-view.png?i

Looking forward to the design improvements to Google Calendar? Let us know down below!

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