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6
Aug

MoviePass Reveals $9.95/Month Plan for 3 Films, Ditching Peak Pricing and No Longer Limiting Major Movies


MoviePass is restructuring its subscription model once again, today announcing that it will not be raising prices for its subscribers and instead return to its traditional $9.95/month price tag while limiting how often users can go to the movies every month. Effective August 15, subscribers will transition to the new model upon their renewal and from then on be able to see three movies every month at $9.95.

The move follows negative responses that the company received after it announced its intention to raise the base subscription price to $14.95/month just last week. These users will also gain access to up to a $5.00 discount on any additional movie tickets purchased after they see their three allotted movies in any given month.

“We are now creating a framework to provide the vast majority of subscribers with what they want most – low cost, value, variety, and broad availability – and to bring some moderation to the small number of subscribers who imposed undue cost on the system by viewing a disproportionately large number of movies,” said MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe. “We believe this new plan is a way for us to move forward with stability and continue to revitalize an entrenched industry and return moviegoing to everyone’s financial reach.”

MoviePass has had a turbulent summer, beginning with the introduction of Peak Pricing in July, rolling out Ticket Verification to all users, and restricting major film releases from its subscribers for the first two weeks of release. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal today, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe confirmed that all of these changes are now being abandoned.

After one week of analyzing customer responses and internal debate, Mr. Lowe said MoviePass is abandoning those changes. The price increase and restriction on new releases are being revoked, there will be no surcharges, and users will no longer have to upload photos of tickets they buy to prove they are not committing fraud.

“We’ve been whipsawing people back and forth,” said Mr. Lowe. “I think we’ve got it now.”

This means that the three films subscribers will be able to see each month will “include many major studio first-run films.” The company says that about 85 percent of its subscribers already only see three or fewer films per month, leading to the decision to install the new plan for its entire subscriber base.

Still, it’s a major change in comparison to what MoviePass announced one year ago this month, allowing users to see one movie per day every month at $9.95. The new model is akin to what MoviePass was before it surged in popularity last year, when it offered price tiers like $50/month for six movies.

Tag: MoviePass
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6
Aug

Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of New watchOS 5 Operating System to Developers


Apple today seeded the sixth beta of an upcoming watchOS 5 update to developers, one week after releasing the fifth beta and two months after introducing the software at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

To install the beta, you’ll need the proper configuration profile, which can be obtained through the Apple Developer Center. Once the profile is in place, the watchOS 5 beta can be downloaded using the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update.

To install the update, an Apple Watch needs to have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on an Apple Watch charger, and it has to be in range of the iPhone. It’s best to install the beta on a secondary device instead of a primary device as betas have bugs to be worked out.

watchOS 5 is a major update to the watchOS operating system, introducing Activity Competitions so you can compete on workouts with friends, Walkie-Talkie with push-to-talk functionality for quickly communicating with the people you talk to most, and auto workout detection to make it easier to start and stop workouts if you forget.

Other new features include an improved Siri watch face with support for third-party apps through Siri Shortcuts, a dedicated Apple Podcasts app, new Workout types that include Yoga and Hiking, new features for runners, WebKit support for viewing some web content on Apple Watch, and enhanced notifications, which will make notifications on the Apple Watch interactive.

watchOS 5 is only available to developers and will not be provided to public beta testers (because there’s no way to downgrade Apple Watch software), so non-developers will need to wait until the software is officially released in the fall to try it out.

The watchOS 5 update runs on all Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3 Apple Watch models, but it is not available for the first-generation “Series 0” Apple Watch models.

What’s new in watchOS 5 beta 6: Apple says that today’s beta makes the status of Walkie-Talkie invitations clearer. Once you’ve sent an invite, you’ll be notified if it’s accepted. As a result of this change, you may need to remove your Walkie-Talkie contacts and re-add them so they “reflect the correct invitation state.”

Apple also says that pairing with an iPhone can take up to five minutes, and Voice Shortcuts will not be immediately available. The Apple Watch Series 1 will also not show reminders to start a Walking Workout in this beta.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
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6
Aug

Sixth Beta of tvOS 12 Now Available for Registered Developers


Apple today seeded the sixth beta of a new tvOS 12 operating system to developers for testing purposes, one week after releasing the fifth beta and two months after introducing the new software at the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Designed for the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV, the tvOS 12 developer beta can be downloaded onto the Apple TV using a profile that’s installed through the Xcode software. Subsequent betas can be downloaded via the software update mechanism on the Apple TV.

tvOS 12 introduces support for Dolby Atmos sound, which was activated in the second beta. Apple says that when tvOS 12 launches this fall, iTunes will be home to the largest collection of Dolby Atmos-supported movies. Customers that have previously purchased movies that gain Dolby Atmos support will see free upgrades to their titles, much like the rollout of 4K support.

Building on single sign-on, a new zero sign-on feature will further simplify the cable authentication process. With zero sign-on, the Apple TV can detect a user’s broadband network and automatically sign them into supported apps they receive through their accompanying cable subscription.

Zero sign-on will be available for Charter Communications customers this fall and will expand to additional cable providers in the future.

Aerial screensavers now include location information and there are new screensavers captured in collaboration with the International Space Station.


Other improvements tvOS-related improvements include AutoFill passwords from iPhone, an Apple TV Remote automatically added to Control Center on the iPhone or iPad, and Apple TV support on Home control systems like Control4, Crestron, and Savant.

tvOS 12 is available for developers and public beta testers to work out bugs and other issues ahead of a fall public launch.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 12Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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6
Aug

Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of macOS Mojave to Developers


Apple today seeded the sixth beta of an upcoming macOS Mojave update to developers for testing purposes, one week after releasing the fifth beta and two months after introducing the software at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

macOS Mojave introduces a new method of installing software updates, so after you’ve installed the first beta using the appropriate profile from the Developer Center, additional betas can be downloaded through opening up System Preferences and choosing the “Software Update” icon.

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Apple’s macOS Mojave update introduces a systemwide Dark Mode, with Mojave users able to choose between a light theme or the new dark theme, which changes the color of the dock, menu bar, apps, and other elements. Dark Mode is accompanied by Dynamic Desktops, aka wallpapers that subtly change throughout the day. Additional wallpapers were introduced in the fourth and fifth betas.

Stacks, a new desktop organization system, keeps all of your desktop files neat and organized, while Finder has been enhanced with a Gallery View, a Sidebar, a revamped Quick Look option and Quick Actions, so you can do more in the Finder window than ever before.

Screenshots can now be edited using Markup tools and a new management options that also allow for easy screen recording, while Continuity camera, a new feature, allows you to import photos and document scans directly from an iPhone or iPad to the Mac.


The Apple News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos apps have been ported from iOS to macOS as part of a multiyear project Apple is working on to make it easier to bring iOS apps to Macs, and Apple has introduced several new privacy protections to keep your data safer than ever.

Apple is also making it harder for websites to track you with a range of new Safari tools, and it’s also easier to make and store secure, hard-to-guess passwords for each and every website.

Apple has added an entirely revamped Mac App Store to macOS Mojave that makes it easier to discover apps with a featured section and specific categories for games, creative apps, productivity apps, apps for developers, and more.


macOS Mojave is available to developers and public beta testers to work out bugs and other issues ahead of an upcoming fall public release.

Related Roundup: macOS Mojave
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6
Aug

Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of iOS 12 to Developers


Apple today seeded the sixth beta of an upcoming iOS 12 update to developers for testing purposes, one week after seeding the fifth beta and over two months after introducing the new software at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

Registered developers can download the new iOS 12 beta from Apple’s Developer Center or over-the-air after installing the proper certificate.

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iOS 12 introduces major updates to iOS, with Apple revamping the operating system from top to bottom to make iPhones and iPads, especially the older models, faster and more responsive.

On the iPhone X, there are new Animoji characters along with “Memoji,” which are customizable, personalized, humanoid Animoji that can be used both in Messages and in FaceTime. Messages and FaceTime have also gained fun new camera effects, and Group FaceTime support allows for video chats with up to 32 people.

Siri is smarter in iOS 12 with a new Shortcuts feature that lets you create multi-step customized automations using first and third-party apps that can be activated with Siri voice commands. Shortcuts can be created through the Shortcuts app, available as a beta from Apple’s Developer Center.

Apple built comprehensive time management and monitoring tools into iOS 12 with Screen Time, allowing you to keep track of how much time you’re spending in apps on your iPhone and iPad. App limits can help you cut back on iOS device usage, and robust parental controls are included for families.


Updated Do Not Disturb options make activating Do Not Disturb more intuitive and simple, and a new Do Not Disturb at Bedtime feature cuts down on nighttime distractions and sleep interruptions.


Group Notifications make incoming notifications easier to view and manage, while a new Instant Tuning feature lets you tweak your notification settings right on the Lock screen on a notification-by-notification basis.


Apple News has a new Browse feature, the Stocks app has been redesigned and brought to the iPad, iBooks has been overhauled with a new look and a new name — Apple Books — and Voice Memos has been revamped with iCloud support and an iPad app.

ARKit 2.0 introduces new capabilities like shared experiences that let two people see the same AR environment on separate devices, and persistence, which allows AR experiences to be saved across multiple sessions. There’s also a new Apple-built Measure app for measuring objects using AR capabilities.

iOS 12 includes a revamped and rebuilt Maps app that uses a new Apple-designed Maps engine that will display foliage, pools, buildings, pedestrian pathways, and other map elements more accurately. The new Maps also includes significant improvements to traffic, real-time road conditions, construction, and more, plus it will enable Apple to push out changes and fixes more quickly.


The updated Maps app is available in the Northern California area during beta testing. After iOS 12 launches, Apple will continue rolling out the new maps to additional U.S. locations across late 2018 and 2019.

Tons of other small tweaks and features have been added to iOS 12, so make sure to check out our dedicated roundup for additional detail on what’s new in iOS 12.

Early betas of new operating system updates always introduce tweaked features and new functionality, and we’ll be outlining what’s new in the fourth beta below. We also rounded up all of the changes that were introduced in the previous betas, beta 2 and beta 3, beta 4, and beta 5.

iOS 12 is available for developers and public beta testers, with a public launch planned for the fall alongside new iPhones.

Related Roundup: iOS 12
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6
Aug

Apple Partners With Akamai, Etsy, and Swiss Re for Renewable Energy Projects in Illinois and Virginia


Apple is partnering up with Akamai, Etsy, and Swiss Re to develop two new wind and solar energy farms in Illinois and Virginia, the companies announced today.

The new energy projects are set to generate 290 megawatts for the PJM electric grid in the Eastern United States, covering areas like Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.

A solar farm in China
As a collective, the companies plan to purchase 125 megawatts from a wind farm near Chicago and 165 megawatts from a solar PV project outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The wind and solar energy farms will support each of the companies’ operations in those states and will also offer up enough power for 74,000 homes.

According to the press release announcing the initiative, Akamai, Etsy, and Swiss Re previously had “limited opportunity” for energy projects in this market, but were able to obtain wind and solar power at competitive prices thanks to the collaboration with Apple.

Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson had this to say about the partnership:

“At Apple, we’re proud to power all of our operations around the world with 100 percent renewable energy. In the process, we’ve charted a course for other companies and organizations to purchase renewable energy and transition their own operations to greener power. The collaboration announced today shows how companies of all sizes can address climate change by coming together.”

The renewable energy projects are set to come online over the course of the next two years.

Apple earlier this year announced that all of its global facilities, including retail stores, offices, data centers, and more, are powered with 100 percent clean energy, a milestone Apple worked towards for years.

Apple has now turned its focus to encouraging its suppliers to focus on sustainability, and more than 20 have now committed to using renewable energy sources.

Tag: Apple environment
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6
Aug

Not for the faint-hearted — Seattle’s Space Needle gets a revolving glass floor



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Anyone with a fear of heights will do well to avoid Seattle’s Space Needle, especially considering what it’s just done with its observation deck.

Part of a $100 million refit, the city’s iconic tower recently opened what it says is the world’s only revolving glass floor.

Called The Loupe, the new feature allows visitors to stand 500 foot above the city and look directly down onto the streets below, as well as for miles in all directions.

For those in need of reassurance that the glass won’t instantly shatter when they step onto it and sending them screaming through the floor to the ground below, the Space Needle promises its new glass platform is “designed like reinforced concrete.”

In a page-long release offering lots of comforting words on the safety of the glass floor, it goes on: “Each section was custom-designed with multiple redundant layers of structural glass fused together with a high-strength interlayer giving the glass composite a strength capacity up to five times the design loads used for code requirements.”

And for good measure, it adds plenty of calming extras like “extensively tested,” “structural integrity,” and even this beauty: “You could invite the entire Seattle Seahawks’ defense — and all of the offensives they would face in the course of a season — to take a group photo on the glass floor without breaking a sweat.”

seattle space needle now has a revolving glass floor Space Needle

As for turning the 37-ton glass floor, 12 motors power 48 rollers located beneath the platform, allowing for a smooth glide that turns it once every 20 minutes at its fastest speed or once every 90 minutes at its slowest.

The glass floor on the lower observation deck and the 11-feet-high floor-to-ceiling windows on the upper deck use a total of 20,000 square feet of glass that help to open up more views of the Emerald City and beyond, while also offering visitors a unique view of the Space Needle’s stem down below.

If your stomach can handle the glass floor, you can also try other new features that have launched as part of the renovations. These include the glass Skyriser benches on the edge of the upper observation deck that lean outward and when you’re seated on them make it look as if you’re suspended in the air.

Built in 1962, the Space Needle rises 605 feet above the city and welcomes more than a million people from around the world every year.

The Space Needle is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and costs from $27.50 for adults and from $22.50 for children.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Follow along as Rolls-Royce puts the final touches on its stately Cullinan SUV
  • 12 cool houseboats that will set your imagination adrift
  • In Detroit, Motown gets its groove back
  • ‘Destiny 2: Warmind’ Worldline Zero Exotic sword guide



6
Aug

Fossil’s new smartwatches will make your heart beat faster – and show you, too


Fossil knows what it’s doing when it comes to smartwatches, a point proven with its newest Q Explorist HR and Q Venture HR models, which combine plenty of technology with strong designs that retain the iconic Fossil look. These new fourth-generation watches fix one of the issues we had with the older Q Explorist, and with other similar smartwatches — they didn’t quite have the tech ability to replace a good fitness tracker.

Before we get to the tech, let’s look at the differences between the Q Explorist HR and Q Venture HR. It’s all in the design and style. The Q Explorist is the larger of the two watches with a 45mm stainless steel case and a 22mm strap size, while the smaller Q Venture HR has a 40mm case and an 18mm strap. There are five different designs for the Q Venture HR, with stainless steel or gold bodies and leather or metal link straps, or four different Q Explorist HR designs to choose from.

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    Fossil Q Venture HR in black
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    Fossil Q Venture HR in brown
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    Fossil Q Venture HR in stainless steel
  • 4.
    Fossil Q Venture HR in tan

Take a look at the pictures to see the variations, and pay attention to the jewel-encrusted bezel and lugs on the all-metal Q Venture HR models, and the dimpled bezel on the Q Explorist HR. The crown and button designs appear very similar to the third-generation models. Each watch has an extensive collection of more than 36 different watch faces to customize the look. This may sound excessive; but swapping the watch face is not only fun, but helps the watch fit in with more outfits for everyday wear.

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    Fossil Q Venture in brown
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    Fossil Q Venture in gold
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    Fossil Q Venture in grey
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    Fossil Q Venture in pink
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    Fossil Q Venture in stainless steel

How about all this new technology? All the Q Explorist HR and Q Venture HR watches have a heart rate sensor on the back (hence the HR being added to the name), and a series of watch faces that show your heart rate, plus GPS inside for use without a smartphone, NFC for contactless Google Pay payments, and a high enough level of water resistance to make them suitable for swimming. All this, combined with Google Fit, makes the new Fossil watches considerably more comprehensive fitness trackers than ever before.

Unfortunately, Fossil is still forced to use the aging Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 processor, which means performance will likely be very similar to older models. Qualcomm has not announced a replacement wearable chipset yet, leaving Fossil with little choice on what chip to use now. Google’s Wear OS is also onboard, making the watches compatible with either Android or iOS devices. There’s also the usual array of sensors — ambient light, a gyroscope, an altimeter, and an accelerometer — plus a microphone to take hands-free calls or interact with Google Assistant.

While Fossil can’t do much about the processor, it has been able to work in some new battery technology. Don’t expect it to have increased beyond 24 hours of basic use; but do look for fast charging, as Fossil says the battery will be ready for a day’s worth of use after less than an hour on the charger. We don’t know the exact details on this yet, but it sounds like a decent development. We are also waiting for confirmation of the internal storage space and RAM for each watch.

Depending on the style you choose, expect to pay between $255 and $275 for the new Q Explorist HD and Q Venture HR watches, and all are listed on Fossil’s online store now.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • 2018 Toyota C-HR review
  • The best Amazon Prime Day smartwatch deals (updated)
  • The LG Q Stylus provides a cheaper way to be ultra-productive
  • 2018 Nissan Kicks first drive review
  • The best Wear OS watches



6
Aug

Windows 10 in S Mode rubs me the wrong way


When buying a new laptop, you may have noticed that’s labeled with “S Mode.”  It’s a version of Windows 10 that deliberately limits users to installing apps from the Windows Store and imposes certain other restrictions. That’s a weird thing to do when you think about it. Who wants their PC to be more limited, on purpose?

Well, Microsoft gives reasons for S Mode. However, after spending significant time with S Mode, we’re unconvinced they add up to a compelling reason to use it for the average person.

What’s the deal with S Mode?

So, what’s Windows 10 in S Mode? Essentially, it’s a locked-down version of Windows 10 that was originally released as Windows 10 S, a stand-alone variant that showed up first on Microsoft’s Surface Laptop. Windows 10 S was aimed at the education market as a response to the success of Chromebooks, and while Microsoft was offering free upgrades to Windows 10 Pro for a time, the intent was that users would stick with Windows 10 S for the duration.

S Mode’s primary limitation is still intact: You can only install apps from the Windows Store.

Given a rather lackluster response, though, Microsoft relented and turned Windows 10 S into Windows 10 in S Mode, making it easier to switch to the “real” version of Windows 10. And all of that happened within mere months, making Windows 10 S one of the shortest-lived operating system versions ever. Now, you’ll find S Mode on everything from the Surface Go to the Asus NovaGo.

S Mode’s primary limitation is still intact: You can only install apps from the Windows Store. That means you can only run Microsoft Edge as your default browser (although you can install any browser available in the Windows Store, which at this point is just Edge) and only Bing can act as your default search engine. Finally, the only antivirus app you can run is Windows Defender.

On the surface it feels like nothing more than a way to channel Windows users into using Microsoft applications and services. But it can’t all be bad, right? There must be some advantage?

So, what about those S Mode advantages?

Microsoft makes several claims to support its contention that people should use S Mode. To begin with, S Mode is meant to be more secure. Apps installed from the Windows Store are sandboxed, meaning they can’t affect other apps and they can only access the hardware and OS resources they’re explicitly allowed.

S Mode is meant to be more secure, to perform better, and to be more efficient.

And, Microsoft must approve apps before they’re available in the Windows Store. Apps are updated and uninstalled via the same Windows Store mechanisms. Everything is more uniform and predictable, and therefore easier to maintain. In schools, business, and public use areas that might prove useful. Fair enough.

Second, these limitations are supposed to improve performance and battery life, perhaps adding some value for the average person. But is this really true? It’s a difficult question to answer, because benchmarking performance and battery life between the two environments is complicated by the fact that most benchmark utilities won’t run in S Mode.

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Subjectively, we can say that in terms of performance, Windows 10 in S Mode seems faster because Windows 10 apps tend to be lighter and more casual than legacy Windows apps. That is, you’re doing less with them and so, sure, they perform better. But that’s a rather dubious advantage. If you install a legacy app from the Windows Store, which right now is mainly Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, then you’re not going to tell a difference in performance.

Unsurprisingly, using Windows 10 in S Mode feels a lot like using Chrome OS, especially when it comes to limitations.

When we compared battery life, frankly we didn’t see a huge difference. Yes, many Windows 10 apps are also more efficient than many full-featured desktop apps, again because they’re simply less intensive. And much of the alleged efficiency gains come from using Microsoft’s Edge browser versus alternatives like Chrome or Firefox. That’s great if you’re happy using Edge – again, a dubious advantage for most people.

In other words, S Mode might be a bit more efficient, but only because it forces you not to use intensive applications. There’s nothing inherent to S Mode that positively affects performance.

Do I like it? About as much as I like Chrome OS

Unsurprisingly, using Windows 10 in S Mode feels a lot like using Chrome OS, especially when it comes to limitations. As much as Chrome OS creates issues with my workflow, the situation here is even worse. The Windows Store app count is increasing very slowly, and it’s even a bit sketchy at times with app clones and other scams. What happened to Microsoft’s claims of enhanced security?

There are many apps, including a handful of important Windows utilities, that aren’t in the Windows Store, and therefore aren’t available for use in S Mode. The Microsoft Store is a ghost town, left without even common apps like YouTube or Kindle. The one silver lining is the inclusion of the full desktop version of Microsoft’s Office suite — once again, another first-party Microsoft product.

The limitations don’t stop with apps though. Even peripheral support in S Mode is hit and miss. Some devices will work and some won’t, depending on the manufacturer and whether or not drivers are available that can load automatically. If your device relies on extra software, however, then you’re likely out of luck.

As far as I can tell, my Epson multifunction device isn’t available in S Mode — or at least the advanced scanning functions aren’t. And, while I can plug in the Logitech dongle for my mice, I can’t install the software that allows me to configure their extra buttons and scroll wheels.

That stinks.

Windows with walls

Creating a closed-off system feels antithetical to what Windows has always stood for. One of the benefits of using Windows over other platforms has always been customization and choice, whether that was in hardware or in software. But with Windows 10 in S Mode, sometimes unknowing people are being forced into walled-off gardens where Microsoft Edge is the only browser in town.

Creating a closed-off system feels antithetical to what Windows has always stood for.

As much of a Windows 10 fan as I am, if I were forced to choose between Chrome OS and Windows 10 in S Mode, I’d choose the former. Google’s lightweight OS achieves what it’s aiming for — a secure, inexpensive, and easy to maintain environment — in a way that S Mode does not. Underneath Microsoft’s “lightweight” option lies the same basic complexity of Windows 10, only without the advantages.

If you have a single important application or software for a single hardware device that must be installed outside of the Windows Store, then you’re as unlikely to like S Mode as I am. In my limited use, I don’t see that there’s enough of a performance advantage to make those limitations worthwhile.

Of course, Microsoft doesn’t claim to have made S Mode for me. Instead, the company made it for schools and other organizations that want to lock down their PCs so that students and employees don’t install apps and hardware that an IT department can’t centrally manage or that reduces security. In those cases, then, I suppose S Mode is a necessary evil, but it’s one that I’d rather avoid.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • My Surface Book 2 is sleek, fast, innovative — and I hate it
  • How Pioneer’s Z-series system gave my aging SUV a 21st century makeover
  • Ugh. I’m done with fitness trackers, and so is the world
  • Chromebooks will start to feel more like Windows, but in a good way
  • Apple MacBook 12-inch review



6
Aug

What matters (and what doesn’t) when buying a gaming desktop


Buying a gaming desktop can be overwhelming with all the configuration options. Yhere’s more to the equation than raw horsepower. Upgradability, storage, and add-on cards also deserve thought.

This guide will help you cut through the confusion and buy an amazing gaming desktop computer that matches what you need.

One size doesn’t fit all

Tomas Patlan

Most gamers start with the hardware inside a computer. We’ll cover that soon enough, but, before we get there, let’s talk about the exterior.

Gaming computers now come in many shapes and sizes. There are small systems like the Falcon Northwest Tiki, mid-size towers like the Acer Predator G1, and monoliths like the Origin Millenium.

Small systems are, well, small. They are unobtrusive and fit where larger systems simply can’t. They’re ideal for gamers who lack a large desk or want to use the desktop in a home theater. Going small can limit future upgrade options, however, and some pint-sized PCs make a lot of noise.

Mid towers are a good compromise and are ideal for most people. They’re small enough to fit under, on, or in a typical desk, yet large enough to offer upgradability and acceptable cooling. Flair, or lack thereof, is the only flaw. Most mid towers look like any other ho-hum desktop.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Finally, we come to the monoliths known as full towers. These are often so large that they won’t fit on top of a desk without hanging off the front or rear, and a few full towers are so tall they won’t even fit under a desk. A full tower system may carry a slight price premium over a mid tower. However, full towers are easy to upgrade and can handle hardware that won’t fit in smaller PCs.

Some custom manufacturers, like Origin and CyberPower, offer a selection of cases during customization. We recommend the full tower if you can find room for it, but make sure you understand the size before buying. Otherwise, a mid tower is best. Smaller systems can be great, but are also a niche solution. You should only buy one if space is at a premium or you’re dead set on a small system for aesthetic reasons.

Start with the heart: The processor

When you buy a gaming desktop, be it a customized model from a boutique or a pre-made model from Dell or HP, the processor will be the first specification you see – and for good reason. The processor determines how a system will perform in most software.

Your first choice will be between two-, four-, or six-core processors. We recommend a six-core unless your budget is extremely low ($600 or less). A two-core processor is often fine, but some modern games make use of additional cores and can be crippled by a dual-core CPU.

Gamers with a lot of money may be lured in by Intel’s eight-core processors and higher. These Core X-Series chips are priced at a premium and not worthwhile for gaming. We only recommend them to buyers who have absolutely no concern about a rig’s final price. This series can run up to 18 cores, such as the Core i9-7980XE, costing up to a hefty not-so-wallet-friendly $1,975.

Overall, Intel is the way to go unless your budget is below $1,000 — and even then, Intel may still be the better choice. Though AMD is competitive at a few price points, all of the company’s processors fail to offer solid single-thread performance. They’re a great way to pick up an eight-core (or better) chip on a tight budget, but Intel’s four- and six-core chips are a better pick for games if you can afford them.

A great GPU makes a great gaming PC

As a gamer, you’ll want to stay away from low-end cards. In Nvidia’s stable, the lower the model number, the lower the performance. At the bottom of the company’s current portfolio is the GT 1030, a low-end budget entry-level graphics card. The series increases in performance as the model numbers grow higher, with the GTX 1060 serving as a great starting point for VR experiences.

On the AMD front, you should shy away from the Radeon RX 400 series, as they were replaced by the mainstream gamer-friendly RX 500 Series in 2017. With both families, AMD set out to provide high-performance graphics for every budget. And as with Nvidia’s batch, the lower the model number, the lower the performance. But if you’re after an AMD-based graphics powerhouse, look no further than its two Radeon RX Vega cards.

The price-performance sweet spot usually sits with mid-range cards like the Nvidia GTX 1060 and AMD Radeon RX 580. These cards can handle almost any game in 1080p with full detail. If you want to make sure that games run well, or you want to play at an even higher resolution, like 2,560 x 1,440 or 4K, you should move up to an even more powerful card like Nvidia’s GTX 1080 and AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 56.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

While shopping, you may sometimes find yourself with a choice between two cards that are similar but offer different memory. More memory does not have a significant impact on overall performance by itself, but more memory does allow a video card to handle more data before choking.

We recommend at least 1GB of memory if you have a display below 1080p resolution, and at least 2GB of memory if your display is 1080p. If your monitor’s resolution exceeds 1080p, you should buy a card with at least 3GB of memory, and 4GB is better still. Most cards include at least 4GB of on-board memory anyway so you should be golden in that aspect.

Nvidia and AMD remain in tight contention at most price points. The former has a slight advantage on the whole, but it’s close. If you don’t have a preference, the choice between the brands may come down to what’s on sale the day you choose to buy a new card.

We don’t recommend multiple video cards. Though potentially quick, multi-card configurations often run into driver or game support issues that prevent them from unlocking their full potential. Multiple cards are also louder and hotter than a single card.

Don’t waste money on unnecessary RAM

Our review unit of the Alienware Area-51 R5 came with 64GB of RAM, but most people won’t need half that much.

RAM is relatively inexpensive, so adding more makes a system seem powerful to uneducated consumers at minimal cost. Don’t fall for it. The majority of games sold today will run well on a computer with only 8GB of RAM. For a serious gaming rig, however, 16GB is our recommendation. Anything over that is is a little overkill.

Here’s the current memory requirement landscape for five popular games to give you an idea of what you really need in a desktop:

  • Prey – 8GB minimum / 16GB recommended
  • Far Cry 5 – 8GB minimum / 16GB recommended for 4K 60FPS
  • Destiny 2 – 6GB minimum / 8GB recommended
  • PUBG – 8GB minimum / 16GB recommended
  • Overwatch – 4GB minimum / 6GB recommended

That said, additional memory doesn’t make a game run more quickly; it merely sits unused. Any money that might be spent on RAM beyond 16GB should instead be put towards a component that has a bigger impact on performance.

Solid-state drives are fast and now more affordable

Most computers sold today come with at least a 500GB mechanical hard drive and, in most cases, a 750GB or 1TB model. More space is better, but unused space isn’t needed, so our recommendation is simple: buy as much space as you need.

Whether or not you should buy a computer with a solid-state drive is a more difficult question. SSDs are many times more expensive than mechanical drives when measured by gigabyte-per-dollar. They also have no impact on in-game performance. Still, we recommend that you buy an SSD if you can afford one that offers over 200GB of storage. Why? Load times.

A solid-state drive is many times quicker than a mechanical drive. For games, this means a level that could take 30 seconds to load on a normal drive instead loads in 5 to 10 seconds. Games with short load times may sometimes load almost instantly.

If you do choose a solid-state drive, try to select the stick-shaped models versus the hard drive-like versions. These smaller stick-shaped drives are faster than their cartridge-style counterparts due to how/where they connect to the parent computer. Still, the bulkier SSDs are loads faster than your standard hard drive of the same size.

Also make sure the SSD you choose as your primary storage device contains the operating system. You’ll gain the benefit of quick boot times and fast operation in day-to-day use. This is also why we don’t recommend an SSD with less than 200GB of space. With Windows installed, a small drive can only contain a handful of games.

Finally, if you need lots of space for your games, your best bet would be to install multiple drives if your wallet allows. For instance, you could choose a stick-shaped SSD to host your operating system and most-demanding games. A secondary SSD or hard drive could serve as your “data” storage for additional games and other files you want to keep on-hand.

Don’t lose money on the kitchen sink

After you’ve nailed down the processor, video card, RAM and hard drive you’ll start to browse through a wide selection of extras including sound cards, Ethernet adapters, additional USB ports, and more.

These extras aren’t required. Today’s motherboards ship with a built-in sound card, Ethernet adapter, and gobs of connectivity. Some even come with standard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These have made peripheral cards far less of a necessity.

That doesn’t mean they’re useless, but skip it if you don’t already know that you need a certain add-on card for a specific reason.

Conclusion

As you browse computers and choose custom hardware, you should always return to one question: Does this make games look and play better?

A gaming desktop is a balancing act. No one component should dominate without bringing the others up to par, and unnecessary hardware should be axed to keep the price down. For example, a system with 32GB of RAM and a dual-core processor doesn’t make sense. The money spent on memory could be far better spent on a fast quad-core.

Restraint is required to perfect the balance. When you buy a gaming desktop, you’ll be bombarded by ads, both on manufacturer websites and elsewhere, that insist what you really want is a fancy Ethernet card that allegedly improves multiplayer games, or a triple-GPU rig, or a computer the size of a cat.

As you browse computers and choose custom hardware, you should always return to one question: “Does this make games look and play better?” The information in this guide will help you answer that question, and if the answer is no, you don’t need it.

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