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Get yourself prepared to earn more as an IT professional for just $79
Sun, 23 Jan 2022 08:00:00 +0000
Practically anyone can embark on a career in IT. To remain on the cutting edge and earn top dollar, however, you need to keep your skills sharp. And for that, The Complete 2022 CompTIA Certification Course Super Bundle is a great option — especially this week since it’s on sale for $79. This beginner-friendly bundle introduces students to things like general computer science concepts, network fundamentals, Linux navigation, security basics, and more. It features 15 courses in all, and each one focuses on a different skill, so it’s great for people who want to train while keeping their options open. Then, after completing each course, you’ll find yourself prepared to pass a certification exam from CompTIA — the respected industry organization that sets the standard for IT professionals. That means, within a very short amount of time, you could walk away with some hefty credentials and be ready to compete for jobs that boast some of the highest salaries within the industry. Every course is delivered by iCollege, which has been in operation since 2003 and is considered one of the most trusted sources for e-learning on the web. Several of the courses, in fact, come highly rated by past students, and they’re all presented in a manner that maximizes comprehension. In our opinion, that makes The Complete 2022 CompTIA Certification Course Super Bundle a valuable resource. And even more so this week since it can be purchased for so little.  The Complete 2022 CompTIA Certification Course Super Bundle – $79 See Deal Prices subject to change.
This backup and security subscription bundle is just $90 right now
Sat, 22 Jan 2022 08:00:00 +0000
Once ransomware has gotten into your computer, there isn’t much you can do about it. Which is why experts recommend backing up your system on a regular basis. And, for that, The Lifetime Backup and Security Subscription Bundle is a great option, particularly at just $89.99. With lifetime subscriptions to both Degoo Premium’s 10TB Backup Plan and KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, this bundle provides a reasonable means of protecting yourself from cybercrime without incurring the expense. And that’s amplified since you’ll have both services for life, which means you’ll never have to renew or pay again later. You just keep your files on Degoo Premium’s protected cloud-based servers and then access them whenever you require. If your computer happens to get infected, then you just reset it back to factory specs and re-install your file system. It’ll be like the infection never happened. Then, with VPN Unlimited, you can forget your worries with hackers. That’s because it encrypts your transmitted data so that no one can access it, even if it’s intercepted. Which means they won’t find out who you are, where you live, or even be able to determine your ISP. Both services boast high ratings from users. Degoo Premium has scored 4.5 out of 5 stars through 6.5k reviews on the App Store as well as 4.4 out of 5 stars through over 595k reviews on Google Play. VPN Unlimited, meanwhile, has earned critical praise from all over the web, including and PC Mag, so this is a valuable package that’s worth having just for the peace of mind alone.  The Lifetime Backup & Security Subscription Bundle – $89.99 See Deal Prices subject to change.
Intel’s new megafab won’t alleviate chip shortages anytime soon
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 17:59:15 +0000
As the worldwide chip shortage persists, Intel said Friday that it’s trying to build its way out of it. The chip giant announced plans for a new fab complex in Licking County, Ohio, near Columbus. Intel committed $20 billion to the new facility, which Time had earlier reported would include a pair of fabs. Intel said Friday that there will be room for up to six separate chipmaking facilities, though they won’t all be built out immediately. In a statement, Dr. Randhir Thakur, senior vice president and president of Intel Foundry Services, said that the new fabs will support Intel’s angstrom-class fabs, including its new Intel 18A manufacturing process. Intel’s new Ohio fab will be operational by 2025, Intel said, when the 18A process is expected to come on line. Intel has fabs scattered all over the world—from Israel to Ireland—though the vast majority of the company’s manufacturing has been in the United States at sites like Hillsboro, Oregon; Chandler, Arizona; and Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The new Ohio fab will build out the “Silicon Heartland,” adding an estimated 3,000 jobs to the region. Intel chief executive Pat Gelsinger has referred to domestic chipmaking—as opposed to foundries in Taiwan and elsewhere—as both critical for the American economy and American security interests. Gelsinger has also criticized the U.S. government for not subsidizing American chipmaking, as other governments do. Though the United States Senate passed the CHIPS Act, authorizing up to $52 billion in federal funding for semiconductor production, it hasn’t yet passed the U.S. House. Intel’s announcement, therefore, could be seen as pressure to force that measure along. “Ohio is an ideal location for Intel’s U.S. expansion because of its access to top talent, robust existing infrastructure, and long history as a manufacturing powerhouse,” Gelsinger said in a statement. “The scope and pace of Intel’s expansion in Ohio, however, will depend heavily on funding from the CHIPS Act.” The new fab, however, is unlikely to directly alleviate the ongoing chip shortage, which has struck industries from the PC to cars, and is expected to last throughout much of 2022 according to fab giant TSMC. Intel’s production from the Ohio fab would come online several years after the shortages are expected to alleviate. Instead, Intel’s new fab will be used both for its own manufacturing as well as part of its foundry services supplied to third parties. Intel said in 2021 that it expects to ship chips to Qualcomm and Amazon, among others.
Best laptop deals: Top picks from budget to extreme
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 15:54:11 +0000
Whether you’re buying a new laptop for school or trying to find a high-end gaming laptop, it’s possible to find good laptop deals no matter the season. We’re scouring the web daily to find the laptop deals you don’t want to miss. Mind you, not all advertised laptop deals are actually deals, so we’ve only included the ones we consider actual bargains—and we’ve explained why. We’ll add new laptop deals as we see them daily and remove any expired sales. Right now, we’re seeing strong discounts on gaming laptops, Microsoft Surface devices, and more. If you’re looking for Chromebooks we’ve got those deals in here too! We’ve provided a handy list of laptop-specific shopping tips at the end of this post, and immediately below are the deals themselves. The best laptop deals in 2022 HP 15-ef2126wm HP From: Walmart Was: $549 Now: $399 ($150 off) This is an excellent price for a 15.6-inch Ryzen-based laptop. It features a Ryzen 5 5500U, which has six cores, twelve threads, and a maximum boost to 4GHz. It also has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of onboard storage. This laptop is already rocking Windows 11 Home, so you don’t have to update. Overall, it’s an excellent choice as a day-to-day laptop, especially at this price. See the HP-ef2126wm at Walmart Dell Inspiron 7000 Dell From: Best Buy Was: $799.99 Now: $699.99 ($100 off) The Dell Inspiron 7000 is a great laptop to travel with because of its convertible form factor. You can prop it up like a painter’s easel or flip the 14-inch 1080p touch display around and use it like a tablet. But let’s talk about the guts.This Dell features a Ryzen 5 5500U processor with six cores, twelve threads, and a maximum boost to 4.0GHz. It also has 8GB of RAM and a 256GB NVMe SSD. It’s already packing Windows 11 Home and you get Alexa onboard. See the Dell Inspiron 7000 at Best Buy Gigabyte Aorus 15P Gigabyte From: Newegg Was: $2,399 Now: $1,799 ($600 off after $200 MIR) Right now the best deals in gaming are usually found in laptops, especially where we’re still dealing with desktop graphics card madness. This model is rocking an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, an eight core, sixteen thread Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i7-11800H, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB NVMe SSD. It’s a solid set of specs and you get to view all of this on a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution and a maximum refresh rate of 300Hz. The rebate offer ends on January 31st, but it’s not clear how long the initial sale price of $1,999 will last. See the Gigabyte Aorus 15P at Newegg Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Dell From: Was: $534.98 Now: $339.99 ($194.99 off) This is a crazy deal that won’t last long, but if it’s still active by the time you’re seeing this, it’s well worth grabbing. This laptop features a 15.6-inch 1080p display, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard storage. The processor is a Core i3-1115G4, which has two cores, four threads, and a maximum boost to 4.1GHz. This is a solid set of specs and that 8GB of RAM should help keep things nice and zippy. So long as you can deal with limited storage, you can get a lot of good use out of this device. See the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 at Lenovo Yoga 7i 2-in-1 Lenovo From: Best Buy Was: $1,149.99 Now: $849.99 ($300 off) You can get a 15-inch laptop with similar specs for a lot less, but what sets this apart is the convertible design wrapped up in a thin and light package. The Yoga has a 15.6-inch 1080p touch display, 12GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The processor is an Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i7-1165G7, which is a four core, eight thread CPU with a boost to 4.7GHz. You can flip the display over to act as a tablet, prop it up like a tent for viewing videos, or just use it as a regular clamshell. Whatever your needs are, the Yoga is flexible enough to accommodate them. See the Lenovo Yoga 7i at Best Buy MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo MSI From: Newegg Was: $1,599 Now: $1,199 ($400 off after the $100 rebate) Looking for a portable 2-in-1 laptop for work? Well, you’re in luck. Newegg is offering a great deal on the MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo. This laptop comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor, Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and 512GB of NVMe SSD. In other words, you should expect fairly zippy performance. The port selection is pretty diverse, too. You’re getting one USB 3.2 Type-C, one USB 4.0 Type-C (DP/Thunderbolt 4), one USB 3.2 Type-A, a micro SD card reader, a webcam lock switch, and audio combo jack. The convertible aspect of this laptop is a major selling point, especially if you travel a lot. You can prop the laptop up like a tent or swing the 1080p touchscreen display around and use it like a tablet. This deal also includes a protective sleeve for the laptop and an MSI pen. The pen is a nice bonus, as this type of accessory is normally an additional cost. The minimalist aesthetic is perfect for a professional environment, too. The swanky bronze trim is the cherry on top, really. See the MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo at Newegg 17.3-inch Asus TUF Gaming laptop Asus From: Walmart Was: $1,099 Now: $899 ($200 off) This 1080p laptop has a nice set of specs. The 17.3-inch 1080p display has a 144Hz refresh rate. The fast refresh rate means smoother gameplay. The CPU is an Intel Core i5-11260H. That’s six cores, 12 threads, and a boost to 4.4GHz. The GPU is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, which is a solid choice for 1080p gaming. As for RAM and onboard storage, it has 8GB of memory and a 512GB NVMe SSD. See the 17.3-inch Asus TUF laptop at Walmart Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ Mark Hachman/IDG From: Walmart Was: $999.99 Now: $599 ($400.99 off) If you’re looking for a well designed Windows tablet, there’s no beating Microsoft’s Surface line and this Walmart’s sale offers an excellent bargain. This version of the Surface Pro 7+ comes with a Core i3 processor, 128GB of onboard storage, 8GB of RAM, and a black Type Cover. We reviewed the Surface Pro 7+ nearly a year ago, giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars and an Editors’ Choice Award. We called it “the most potent upgrade Microsoft’s Surface Pro line has offered in years.” See the Surface Pro 7+ at Walmart HP 17-by4061nr HP From: Walmart Was: $679 Now: $499.00 ($180 off) This HP laptop has a lot going for it. The CPU is an Intel “Tiger Lake” Core i5-1135G7 with four cores, eight threads and a boost to 4.2GHz. The processor is packing Iris Xe graphics, which will provide surprising performance for an integrated GPU. It also has 8GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD, and a 1080p display. If need a new laptop to kick off 2022, then this is a nice choice. See the HP 17-by4061nr at Walmart Asus L510 Asus From: Walmart Was: $279 Now: $249 ($30 off) This deal puts us in an odd position. We’re not huge fans of laptops with just 128GB of onboard storage (especially this one’s onboard eMMC storage) and generally don’t recommend Windows PCs running Celeron processors. For a price around $200, however, we’re willing to overlook these shortcomings but with some big caveats. First, you’ll get exactly what you pay for with this clamshell, but that just might be a good thing given the price. It’s running Windows 10 Home in S Mode and we would not recommend upgrading this laptop to regular Windows 10. Instead, use this laptop like a Chromebook, so focus on using it for web apps like Google Docs or Office Online. Then, if you absolutely need a desktop program download, run whatever you need from the selection in the Windows Store. We wouldn’t try editing a photo on this since it has just 4GB of RAM and deathly slow flash storage. Still, the Intel Celeron N4020 will get the job done for basic uses and a 15.6-inch 1080p display offers a bigger display than what you’d get from a Chromebook around the same price. See the Asus L510 at Walmart Asus VivoBook 15 F513 Asus From: Office Depot Was: $749.99 Now: $519.99 ($230 off) This VivoBook is rocking 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. That’s not a ton of storage, but if you have most of your files in the cloud it’s manageable. The display is 15.6 inches with 1080p resolution. For ports, it has three USB ports, one HDMI out, and Wi-Fi 6. Normally, we wouldn’t recommend this as an everyday laptop. However, as a travel laptop, it’s light and easy to carry while still offering good performance. See the Asus VivoBook 15 F514 at Office Depot HP Spectre x360 14 HP From: HP Was: $1,399.99 Now: $1,049.99 ($350 off) If you’re looking for the best thin and light laptop money can buy, you’ve come to the right place. This 14-inch HP Spectre convertible strikes a great balance between performance (from Intel’s Tiger Lake CPUs) and design, even if it’s a little on the heavy side at 3 pounds. Its 1920×1280 IPS display is another highlight, whether you’re making use of the 360-degree hinge and touchscreen or not. The deal highlighted here is on the model we reviewed, but all configurations are currently discounted. See the HP Spectre x360 14 at Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Lenovo From: Walmart Was: $699 New: $429 ($270 off) The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is a nice everyday use laptop. It has 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, which is more than enough for web browsing and whatnot. This laptop is running Windows 11 Home and the processor is a quad-core, eight thread Intel “Comet Lake” Core i5-10210U. That’s a generation behind, but it’s still a capable processor. The screen is also 14-inches with a 1080p resolution. See the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i at Walmart Acer Chromebook 315 Acer From: Walmart Was: $289 Now: $229.99 ($59.01 off) If you’d like something a little beefier than the Lenovo Chromebook at Best Buy, take a look at this deal at Walmart. The Acer 315 is a 15.6-inch laptop with a 1080p touch display. Again, this is not a convertible laptop so no bending back the keyboard for a tablet-like experience. The processor is the Intel Celeron N4020, which is pretty standard for Chromebooks. It has 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0. See the Acer Chromebook 315 at Walmart Gigabyte G5 MD Gigabyte From: Newegg Was: $1,199.00 Now: $849 ($350 off after $100 rebate) Gaming laptops are tough to find at a discount right now, and this one is a decidedly mixed bag of pros and cons. Inside is a Core i5-11400H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD behind a 144Hz 1080p screen. The RTX 3050 Ti is usually considered to be a bum deal compared to the RTX 3060…if you can find one? And, whoa—there’s a $100 rebate card you need to fill out? If you’re willing to jump through these hoops, though, the price and savings aren’t bad at all. This offer ends just before midnight Pacific time on Tuesday, November 30. See the Gigabyte G5 MD at Newegg Microsoft Surface Laptop Go (Platinum) Microsoft From: Microsoft Store Was: $699.99 Now: $549.99 ($150 off) We gave the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go, Microsoft’s 12.4-inch budget laptop, 3.5 stars out of 5 in our Surface Laptop Go review. We felt it was a little overpriced. Dropping the price by $150 on its midrange version (Core i5/8GB RAM/128GB SSD) certainly helps! Just be aware that the Laptop Go’s display is sub-1080p quality—but, in our experience, it didn’t really matter. See the Surface Laptop Go on Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Lenovo From: Was: $249.00 Now: $195.00 ($54 off) If you like the concept of a Chrome OS tablet but think that the Chromebook Plus V2 price is too high, consider the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet, which we looked at last year. This tablet ships with 4GB of memory and 64GB of integrated storage. Support runs through June 2029. Buy the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook at Walmart Laptop deal buying tips If you’ve shopped online before for laptop deals you’re probably aware that there’s a vast range of laptop configurations available. A good place to start is with the processor. Buy laptops with Intel 10-series Core chips or higher, such as the Core i5-10510U, or the Core i7-11800H (for even more details see our Intel 10th-gen mobile CPU buying guide); or go with an AMD Ryzen processor (but not an AMD Athlon or A-series chip). Avoid laptops with Pentium or Celeron processors unless it’s a Chromebook (running Chrome OS). You’re going to need to pay attention with gaming laptops, too, as some GPUs, like the RTX 3050 Ti, don’t offer much boost over their RTX 2xxx-series cousins, and Nvidia has dropped the Max-Q designation on certain low-power options. Our laptop CPU and GPU cheat sheet can help you shop smart. Display resolution is a gotcha. If you see a laptop labeled as “HD” resolution that means 1366-by-768 and often isn’t worth your time for a laptop under 13 inches unless the deal is absolutely standout. What you want is “Full HD” or “FHD,” which means 1080p. Don’t buy laptops with under 4GB of RAM or 128GB of SSD storage—though on a Chromebook, this configuration is acceptable. We have more explanation in our laptops versus Chromebooks buying guide, as well as in our primer on how to buy a budget laptop without getting screwed. Also watch out for eMMC storage, which is something we don’t recommend for a Windows laptop but works fine for a Chromebook. Reviews can be helpful. Even if you can’t find a review of a specific configuration, try related models. They’ll often give you a good idea of the build quality and performance. Also buy from brands you trust. Amazon’s daily laptop deals right now are full of brands we’ve never tested or talked to (Broage, Teclast, DaySky, Jumper) and it’s just a good idea to be wary. Most older laptops will run Windows 10, and that’s fine—there’s no rush to upgrade. Windows 10 in S Mode, though annoying, can be switched out of easily if you find it on a budget laptop. If you want to buy a Windows 10 PC with the intent of upgrading it to Windows 11, we recommend you start here with a list of older laptops that are Windows 11-eligible. Updated on January 21 with additional deals, and to remove expired deals.
4K Blu-ray support is dying on the PC. MakeMKV can help
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 15:30:00 +0000
Intel recently abandoned 4K Blu-ray playback for its newer CPUs, and the news sadly came as little surprise. Security issues have long plagued the company’s SGX technology, and relatively few people watch physical media on a computer. AMD’s Ryzen CPUs never even supported 4K discs. But people who regularly pop 4K Blu-ray discs into a 11th- or 12th-generation Intel PC don’t have to accept the downscale to 1080p. You can continuing getting that experience with the help of a free (for now) program called MakeMKV, which allows you to rip a copy of movies and TV show episodes as a single MKV file. For most people, this file format offers a similar experience as direct playback from a UHD disc, since it preserves chapters, subtitle tracks, and multiple audio tracks. And despite its reduced file size compared to the original disc, you’ll see far less sacrifice of picture and audio quality than with a 4K stream. Disclaimer: Copyright laws vary worldwide, and in some countries, circumventing DRM is illegal—even for the purpose of making a personal backup of a disc. Read up on the laws in your area about before firing up Blu-ray/DVD ripping software for personal use. And obviously, don’t use such software to share content or rip discs you don’t own. A Compatible 4K BLu-ray DrivE LG WH16NS60 Ultra HD Blu-ray Drive MSRP: $119.99 Best Prices Today: $109.99 at Amazon To get started, you’ll need a compatible Blu-ray drive and the MakeMKV software. Some existing 4K UHD drives can have its firmware flashed to allow ripping—otherwise, you’ll have to buy a standard Blu-ray drive to enable reading of 4K discs. The MakeMKV forum thread on UHD Drives gives more details on recommended Blu-Ray drives and instructions on how to flash their firmware. If you don’t see your drive listed, you’ll have to do some online searching to figure out its capabilities and compatibility with MakeMKV. Once your Blu-ray drive is set to go, download MakeMKV, install it on your PC, and then activate it using the most current license key. You may also want to go into the settings to change the output folder. After that, ripping is just a matter of popping in a disc, waiting for MakeMKV to read the files, and then choosing which segments to export to MKV. You can ditch elements like extra language tracks or the trailers for a smaller file size. MakeMKV has a simple, straightforward interface.PCWorld And you do want to pay attention to file size—even though MKV files shrink the disc files by about 40 percent, UHD discs can hold as much as 100GB of data. A modest 4K UHD Blu-ray collection can eat space on a storage drive very quickly; you may want to invest in high-capacity hard-disk drives (think 8TB or more) if you’re a big movie and TV buff. An alternative solution is to use a program like Handbrake to encode the files with higher compression, if you can tolerate the downgrade in visual quality. But outside of these concerns, there’s little more to the process. The main pain point is flashing the firmware on the Blu-ray drive. You will have to re-enter a current license key for MakeMKV, but if you use the program often, we highly recommend supporting the developer by purchasing the one-time $60 license. It’s a minor price to pay for an escape from the long-torturous history of DRM on the PC.
Light up you home with these Philips Hue smart bulbs for just $60
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 15:27:49 +0000
If you’re looking to light up your humble abode with smart bulbs, we’ve got the deal for you. Philips is selling its four-bulb E26 starter kit for just $60. That’s half off of the MSRP. The starter kit features four white ambiance bulbs (i.e. no color) and a Philips Hue bridge. The bulbs are the equivalent to 60 watt incandescent bulbs, but have a maximum operation power of 10 watts. The bulbs integrate with all the popular voice assistants including Amazon’s Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant. You can also control the lights from your smartphone using the Hue app. This kit allows you to set the smart lights to turn on or off at preset times. You can set scenes for fun occasions like movie night or turn your lights on or off remotely. Philips claims these bulbs have more than 50,000 different shades from warm to cool white light for whatever you need during the day. Smart lights are incredibly helpful and they really make things more convenient. This deal is one not to be missed. [Today’s deal: Philips Hue E26 Starter Kit for $60 at]
Get this Dell laptop with a 1080p display for a super low $310
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 14:31:17 +0000
Dell has a few killer deals on laptops today, but this one really stands out from the rest. For an extremely limited time, the retailer is selling a Dell Inspiron 15 3000 for just $310. Specs are limited at this price, but it should still be a solid on-the-go laptop. The trouble is there’s limited stock available, so you’ll need to act fast. At the time of writing this post, 57 percent of the deal stock was already gone. The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 features a 15.6-inch 1080p display, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard storage. The processor is a “Tiger Lake” Core i3-1115G4. The CPU features two cores, four threads with a maximum boost to 4.1GHz. As we said, the specs aren’t a standout, but you can often find laptops like these on sale for $100 more–sometimes without a 1080p display. As for ports, you’re getting one USB 2.0, two USB 3.2, and one HDMI 1.4 out. There’s also 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an SD card slot. While this laptop isn’t really suited to be a daily driver (unless you keep all your files in the cloud), it’s a handy laptop to take to the café or wherever else you need to go. [Today’s deal: Dell Inspiron 15 3000 for $310 at]
What the internet got wrong about AMD’s controversial Radeon RX 6500 XT
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 11:45:00 +0000
Skimming through the endless reviews slamming AMD’s new $199 Radeon RX 6500 XT this week, you might think the affordable graphics card is nothing short of an abomination. “Worst GPU!” Hardware Unboxed’s video title screamed. “Worse Than 2016’s GPUs,” Gamers Nexus declared. “A GPU you might be able to buy… But shouldn’t,” Linus Tech Tips proclaimed. The list goes on. Here’s the thing though: While those perspectives are all absolutely valid and true—AMD’s graphics card is a bizarre creature indeed, and one that doesn’t move the performance needle over prior GPU generations, as I explained in my own Radeon RX 6500 XT review—I feel they’re missing some crucial perspective. It ain’t 2016 anymore and the world needs affordable graphics cards right now. If it can stay in stock, the Radeon RX 6500 XT scratches that itch. [ Further reading: AMD’s $199 Radeon RX 6500 XT tested: 5 key things you need to know ] Yes, AMD cut features hard to make the Radeon RX 6500 XT a reality, and those choices make the new GPU less appealing than yesteryear’s $150 to $250 graphics cards. It has only four PCIe 4.0 lanes, which work just fine in a modern PC but can throttle performance in older PCIe 3.0-based systems. The paltry memory configuration—just 4GB, over a barely-there 64-bit bus, though augmented by 16MB of AMD’s radical on-GPU Infinity Cache tech—inhibits the card’s visual potential as well. AMD also eradicated encoding support for H.264 and H.265/HEVC, which streamers rely on, and outfit the Radeon RX 6500 XT with just one HDMI 2.1 connection and one DisplayPort. So yes, those disappointed reviewers have every reason to be disappointed. By many objective metrics, the Radeon RX 6500 XT is worse than prior budget graphics cards. But! The world is a different place as we enter year three of this damned pandemic. Graphics cards are all but impossible to find at sane prices right now, thanks to a mixture of ongoing component shortages, logistics woes, raised tariffs, booming GPU demand by cryptocurrency miners seeking profits, and more. Even used versions of those comparable older GPUs (like the Radeon RX 580 and 5500 XT, and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650 Super and GTX 1060) usually sell for $250 to $400 on Ebay, depending on the day and details. AMD also released a slower, lower-powered Radeon RX 6400 exclusive to prebuilt systems.AMD It’s bad, y’all. So bad that last year, we resorted to recommending AMD’s Ryzen 5000 CPUs with decent integrated graphics as the best budget option in our graphics card buying guide. Hell, we even went so far as to crown those integrated graphics as the best GPU of 2021. We’re discrete GPU elitists here at PCWorld, but I found myself telling gamers on a budget to pick up a console or try GeForce Now streaming instead these last several months. We haven’t seen a new budget GPU released since 2019! Radeon RX 6500 XT Read our review MSRP: $199 Best Prices Today: $200 at Newegg | Not Available at Amazon It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Stuck in their homes, a new generation was introduced to the glory of gaming in the midst of all this. My ex works at an elementary school, and the kids there know what I do for a living. I’ve fielded infinitely more “What’s a good way to get a cheap PC to play Fortnite with the homies?” queries since lockdown began than I had in the entirety of The Before Times. My sad answer: There isn’t one. Get an iPad. My high school daughter’s boyfriend works part-time washing dishes and dabbles in creating OG Doom mods on the side. His graphics card fried early in 2021 and he spent all summer saving pennies and looking for an affordable replacement. None existed. (Fortunately, when I heard about the dilemma I had an old GTX 900-series card I could give him.) Plenty of new adult gamers have been left empty handed, too. And that is why I can’t be anywhere near as negative about the Radeon RX 6500 XT as many of my reviewer colleagues have been. Sure, the card can start to choke if you push it beyond its limits, cranking up eye candy to the max or bumping your resolution past 1080p. But if you stick to 1080p gaming, you’ll be able to play competitive e-sports games at a blazing-fast pace or enjoy triple-A titles at Medium to High settings at a solid 60 frames-per-second-plus—even on a PCIe 3.0 system. Is the Radeon RX 6500 XT a compelling upgrade over prior budget cards? No. But it exists, and that hasn’t been true in the budget space for years now. Again: Used Radeon RX 580s from 2017 are going for $250 to $400 on the streets, and that’s after five years of being ridden hard. We talked about the Radeon RX 6500 XT’s performance and usefulness in depth on the latest episode of our Full Nerd podcast. Check it out above. Built for the masses On paper, AMD indeed seems to be trying to make these GPUs for the PC gaming masses. That 4GB of RAM over a 64-bit bus can cause lag spikes if you try to bump graphics settings up to Ultra or the resolution to 1440p, but it also makes the Radeon RX 6500 XT useless for Ethereum mining (one of the major reasons GPUs cost so much right now), a design choice AMD says it made intentionally. (Though the fact that the Radeon RX 6500 XT may have originally been intended for laptops no doubt also played into its configuration.) And while we didn’t get into the ultra-wonky specs here on PCWorld, the Radeon RX 6500 XT is the first GPU built using TSMC’s new 6nm process. Couple that with stripping out those encode blocks, memory bits, and display controllers from the chip, and AMD was able to shrink the die size down to really tiny levels, as Ryan Smith detailed at AnandTech. Rather than rehash, I’ll quote a small portion of his excellent analysis (go read it if you’re a nerd, it’s dope): All of which makes Navi 24 a very small chip, measuring in at 107mm2. That’s less than half the size of Navi 23 (237mm2) or even Navi 14 (158mm2). Which, not to get hung up on die sizes here, but it’s important to underscore just how small Navi 24 is at a time when high-end PC GPUs are in the 500-700mm2 range. AMD hasn’t made a GPU this small in almost half a decade, when they released the RX 550 and other parts based on Polaris 12 (101mm2). To put it bluntly, Navi 24 is meant to be AMD’s ultimate play in offering an entry-level, high-volume GPU for the PC market, and they haven’t been afraid to make some bigger feature sacrifices to get there. AMD The smaller a GPU is, the more of them you’re able to squeeze out of a silicon wafer. Between that and the Radeon RX 6500 XT’s ineffectiveness at mining, it’s the first modern GPU to have a real shot at maybe—maybe—actually being available at semi-sane pricing. The $250 GeForce RTX 3050 launching next week might be as well, but it’s built more traditionally, with 8GB of memory over a traditional 128-bit bus and the same 276 mm² GA106 die as the RTX 3060-series. It’ll probably be better at actual gaming, but will it actually be available? If the Radeon RX 6500 XT manages to stay in stock for anywhere near its $200 suggested price—wishful thinking, I know, but hell, if it manages to stay under $300—AMD could put new, relatively affordable hardware into the hands of people who need it, people who want to play on the PC but don’t have the deep pockets required to get in the game over the last two years. PC gaming is in a precarious place right now for newcomers. Every person that’s able to pick up a keyboard and mouse instead of having to resort to a PlayStation controller is good for the future of the entire ecosystem. So yes, from a technical and historical standpoint, the Radeon RX 6500 XT might be one of the more disappointing graphics card releases. But that’s just part of the disappointing world we live in these days, and here in the reality of 2022, having a new $200 graphics card available that can deliver a good enough gaming experience is very, very valuable and very, very welcome indeed—warts and all. Now hopefully AMD is able to keep it in stock at sane prices. We’ll see. It sold out relatively fast in its first day on shelves, and scalpers quickly started flipping it on Ebay, but that was always going to happen. The availability of this card in the weeks and months to come will be the true measure of its worth.
Best Lenovo laptops 2022: Best overall, best battery life, and more
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 11:30:00 +0000
Whether you’re looking for powerful internals or an awesome keyboard, Lenovo laptops are both reliable and highly rated. Here at PCWorld, we’ve personally used and tested a number of Lenovo laptops, from ThinkPads to Yogas and everything in between. While everything on the list below has its pros and cons, there’s one laptop that really stands out from the rest. The Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon Gen 9 nabbed our top spot because of its roomy display, stellar keyboard, and quiet operation. Read on to learn more, and be sure to visit our guide to the best laptops overall if you want to peruse the cream of the crop from every notebook maker. 1. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 – Best overall MSRP: $1,799.60 Best Prices Today: $1308 at Lenovo | $1,850.99 at Amazon ThinkPads are generally hailed as being awesome business laptops because of their comfortable keyboards and silent operation. With its quiet keyboard, security features, and booming audio, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 is one such laptop. It’s packing a quad-core Core i7-1185G7, 16GB of RAM, and integrated Iris Xe graphics. That means it’s well-equipped to handle “Office and other productivity apps” and “a variety of multitasking scenarios.” The real star of the show is the 16:10 display, though, as it gives you plenty of room to work with. If you consider yourself a business professional, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up. Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 review 2. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano 20UN000EUS Best Prices Today: $1,778.19 at Amazon | $1860 at Provantage | $1980 at CDW If you’re looking for all-day battery life, you’ve come to the right place. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano lasted about sixteen hours during our battery test, in which we looped 4K video. That’s pretty impressive for a 48-Watt-hour battery. And, weighing just shy of two pounds, the Nano is also shockingly lightweight. In our review, the tester “loved toting it around” from room to room. If you’re looking for a portable laptop with fantastic battery life, the Nano is a great option. Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano 20UN000EUS review 3. Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 14IIL05 82A4000MUS – Best budget MSRP: $879.99 Best Prices Today: $700 at Staples | $791.99 at Lenovo The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 has a lot to offer. Not only is it affordable (well under a grand), but it also features discrete graphics. That’s a pretty unique combination right there. Between the Core i5 processor and the discrete Nvidia GeForce MX350, you can expect a good amount of productivity power out of this machine. It can handle “Office and daily PC duties with ease.” And, as with most Lenovo laptops, the keyboard is an absolute dream to type on. According to our tester, “the keys themselves offer plenty of travel and keystrokes feel snappy and springy.” Battery life is mediocre, but aside from that, it’s a great laptop for all of the features you’re getting. Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 14IIL05 82A4000MUS review 4. Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 – Best Chromebook MSRP: $389 Best Prices Today: $389.00 at Best Buy If you prefer using Chrome OS over anything else, you’ll want to check out Lenovo’s Chromebook Flex 5. It has a 1080p IPS display, a responsive keyboard, and an Intel Core i3-1011U processor. Personally, I like Chromebooks because they’re largely virus free and they make great productivity machines. While the Flex 5 isn’t the most powerful laptop in the world, the “processor is a cut above the Pentium- and Celeron-powered machines that sell in the $200 to $300 range.” The 13-inch touchscreen display also produces sharp visuals and can swing around 360-degrees. The fact that this Chromebook is a convertible makes it much more versatile. Read our full Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 review 5. Lenovo Flex 5G – Best battery life Best Prices Today: $1399.99 at Verizon When it comes to the Lenovo Flex 5G laptop, there’s a lot to love. It has blazingly fast 5G data speeds, a bright FHD display, and super long battery life. What more can you ask for? When we put the Flex 5G through our battery test, which simulates real-world use, it lasted a whopping 27 hours. While that’s all well and good, the laptop weighs around three pounds, as it needs more space to house the massive 60 Watt-hour battery. That means it’s won’t weigh down your backpack, but it’s not the lightest ultraportable laptop around. The Arm-based Qualcomm Snapdragon processor also can run into some software compatibility problems with applications that don’t come from the Microsoft Store in Windows. That said, if you stick mostly to browser and Office-type work and prioritize all day battery life with on-the-go mobile connectivity, the Flex 5G is a great laptop. Read our full Lenovo Flex 5G review 6. Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 MSRP: $1048 Best Prices Today: $915 at Lenovo | $919.99 at Best Buy | $1048 at TigerDirect If you need a basic business laptop, the Lenovo ThinkPad E13 is a good option. It comes equipped with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The 14-inch 1080p IPS matte finish display is visible in direct sunlight, but the “300-nit brightness level is on the dim side for a higher-end laptop.” That said, the keyboard offers plenty of tactile feedback and the port selection is diverse. The ThinkPad E14 does surprisingly well under heavier loads, too. That said, the trackpad is a bit small and battery life is relatively unimpressive. These tradeoffs don’t come as a surprise, though, as the E14 is an entry-level model. Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 review 7. Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga Best Prices Today: $1129.99 at Best Buy If you’re working with a tight budget, the Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga is a more affordable option. It delivers solid mid-range performance like office productivity tasks, web browsing, video conferencing, and so on. Like most Lenovo laptops, the keyboard feels “snappy and quiet when pressed.” It’s a good keyboard for long typing sessions, that’s for sure. That said, there are some trade-offs to be aware of. According to our tester, the Yoga runs a bit warm and battery life is less-than-stellar. We managed to squeeze out about seven hours on a single charge, which is far from a fully work day. The 1080 IPS touchscreen display is pretty dim, too. Read our full Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga review What kind of laptop should you get? Ah, here we are at the billion dollar question. Do you spring for a basic Chromebook or go for a Windows laptop with more features? Well, it really depends on your personal lifestyle and what you plan on using your laptop for. For example, Chromebooks are a great low cost option for those who just want the basics. I use a Chromebook as my primary work laptop, as it has everything I need for both editing and writing. If you travel a bunch for work, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a laptop with solid battery life. If you’re still unsure, don’t sweat it. I’ve put together a list of quick tips below. Laptop type: The first question you should ask yourself is what kind of laptop you’re looking for. There’s traditional clamshells, 2-in-1’s, Chromebooks, and much more. The displays on convertible laptops (aka 2-in-1’s), for example, can swing around 360 degrees. This allows you to use the laptop like a tablet. They can also be propped up like a tent for viewing movies or participating in video calls. Chromebooks, on the other hand, exclusively run Google’s web-focused Chrome OS and are generally used for everyday tasks. All you need is a Gmail account and boom, you’re in. There are pros and cons to each of them. Chromebooks are affordable and generally have good battery life whereas convertibles are normally lightweight and portable.CPU: If it’s CPU power you’re looking for, the cream of the crop is the Intel Core i7-1185G7. It’s a quad-core, eight-thread CPU with “awesomely high clock speeds.” It can hit up to 4.8Hz on boost, too. However, a Core i7 is more suited to gaming and more intense work than everyday tasks. Intel processors are available in Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9. The higher the number, the more powerful the CPU. If you don’t need a ton of power, Intel Core i5 processors are your best bet, as they offer middling performance at a decent price. Basic office and web work gets along just fine on a Core i3, however.Graphics: You’ll want a discrete graphics card for hardcore gaming or editing videos. It’s separate from the processor, so you can expect higher performance out of it. Integrated graphics, on the other hand, are attached to the CPU and uses less power as a result. This is perfectly fine for everyday tasks, especially if you’re not doing anything that’s graphics-intensive.Display size: If you’re a video editor or someone who does a lot of multimedia work, you’ll want a display that’s anywhere from 15- to 17-inches. The sweet spot is really anywhere from 13- to 14-inches, though. The bigger the display, the heavier your laptop is going to be. A 13- or 14-inch display is the best in terms of portability and value.Battery life: If you plan on taking your laptop anywhere with you, aim for something that can last 10 to 12 hours on a single charge. That’s more than a full work day, so it should theoretically get you through long flights or a day of classes. Obviously, more is always better. Just know that the bigger the battery, the heavier the laptop.Price: The price really depends on your budget. If you’re strapped for cash (been there, trust me), go for a Chromebook or an entry-level business laptop. These laptops are good choices for students or young professionals. If you can afford to spend more, the versatility of a 2-in-1 laptop is really worth it. Ports: A wide array of ports is always a plus in my book, as it eliminates the need for an adapter. I’d recommend a laptop that has both USB-C and USB-A. An HDMI port is good, too. This is especially useful for when you want to hook up to an external monitor.[The best laptops for college students]
Learn beginner-friendly accounting skills from an actual CPA for just $35
Fri, 21 Jan 2022 08:00:00 +0000
Accountants record, track, and analyze financial data. And they’re pretty important, especially at tax time. Do you fully understand your cash flow? If not, get a handle on it with Ultimate Financial Accounting and CPA Certification Training Bundle, offered this week for just $34.99. This bundle features eight courses that present accounting fundamentals in a language that’s easy to understand. Students will learn about debits and credits, come to understand financial statements, how to run a payroll, about ledgers and special journals, and that’s just for starters. Each course is facilitated by Robert Steele, a CPA who comes highly rated. He’s taught over 247k to date and boasts more than 12k reviews. The courses in this bundle, in fact, are rated at no less than 4.1 out of 5 stars, so this is a good opportunity to learn a skill that could not only let you tame your own finances but perhaps even begin a new career. So, how much can a CPA earn? About $81k in the US, on average. If you are really good at it though, then who knows how much higher you could go. But you first have to start training and, for that, the Ultimate Financial Accounting and CPA Certification Training Bundle may be the best resource you’ll find.  The Ultimate Financial Accounting & CPA Certification Training Bundle – $34.99 See Deal Prices subject to change.
Google Play Games for Windows PCs kicks off in limited beta
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 16:14:22 +0000
Late last year, during the annual commercial-fest that is the Game Awards, we heard that Google was planning to bring its Play Games platform from Android to Windows PCs. It’s arrived, at least for a few lucky players: The limited beta is only available in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea as of today. And it’s a closed beta, so even if you’re in the rollout zone you’ll have to apply to get in. According to Google’s initial promotion, the system allows players to “seamlessly play some of the most popular Google Play Games… across mobile, tablet, Chromebook, and Windows PC devices.” (Remember that devices running Google’s Chrome OS have had access to Android apps on the Play Store for years.) Mouse and keyboard controls are supported on the select titles, which include Mobile Legends, Summoners War, State of Survival, and Three Kingdoms Tactics. Progress and achievements will sync across devices, at least if the game developers are fully taking advantage of the existing Google Play Games system. Google isn’t saying when it will expand the system to more territories, but it is encouraging mobile developers to investigate their options. Google Play Games is technically the second Google gaming platform to make it to Windows PCs, as the all-streaming, all-the-time Stadia system runs through Chrome or any other desktop browser. Its launch and continued expansion (or lack thereof) has been met with skepticism among the gaming and tech press. Microsoft is also running a preview test of Android apps for Windows 11 (and only Windows 11) PCs, though its endeavor expands beyond games and is powered by Amazon’s Android App Store, rather than the official Google Play repository. The battle for Android apps on PCs is heating up.
How to cheat at Wordle
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:30:00 +0000
The latest social-media craze is Wordle, the simple game where you have six guesses to match the game’s five-letter word. Five green squares means you’ve succeeded, and can rack up likes on Twitter and Facebook. But there are at least three simple ways to cheat at Wordle—including a way to discover Wordle’s word in advance for the next days or weeks. We have Wordle spoilers! We’re not trying to ruin Wordle, which has become a fun activity for millions. But we couldn’t really ignore a Wordle hack that is literally right under your nose. And if you want to one-up a friend who is constantly bragging about their Wordle prowess, well….It’s really no different than the Pokemon Go maps of a few years ago, is it? How to beat Wordle using WordHippo Let’s start with Wordle 213, whose solution stumped Twitter. Many people discovered that the first three letters were P-R-O…and then absolutely failed to guess the last two letters, X and Y. Naturally, Wordlers probably considered more common words like “proud” and “prowl” first. But what words would make sense? WordHippo and sites like it can offer invaluable assistance for Wordle games.Mark Hachman / IDG Enter WordHippo, a nifty little tool that allows you to select words with different characteristics. The link leads to “five-letter words beginning with PRO,” but the page includes an advanced word search of varying length, with a selection of letters that you decide, and in varying configurations. As you start ruling out letters, the site can give you a smaller and smaller pool of potential words to guess from. Using WordHippo isn’t necessarily a Wordle “cheat,” per se, but it’s close. How to fake a Wordle win You’ve had a bad day. You just want a quick Wordle win to make you feel good and to receive a few virtual pats on your back. When no one can see you play Wordle, it doesn’t matter how bad you are.Mark Hachman / IDG If you happen to win Wordle, great. But if you lose, Wordle will print the solution at the top of your screen. Simply open Wordle in Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode or the Microsoft Edge InPrivate mode, complete the puzzle (or not) and note the winning word. Then close the Incognito / InPrivate mode and play Wordle in your browser, with all of your cookies enabled. You’ll win Wordle, preserve your winning streak, and gain the approval of your friends. How to hack Wordle: Find out tomorrow’s Wordle word The final way of cheating at Wordle is much more insidious. Are you ready for the twist? All of the Wordle answers are already in Wordle. Josh Wardle, who designed Wordle, clearly didn’t want to spend every day re-uploading a new puzzle, so he simply placed all of the solutions within the puzzle’s code. Since the Wordle puzzles refresh once per day, that means there are potential answers for a long, long time. Specifically, the Wordle answers can be found within the Javascript that accompanies the Wordle site. (We didn’t discover this trick ourselves, but were tipped off to its existence by a source who wishes to remain anonymous.) Want to know the Wordle answers for tomorrow, the next week, or for the next few months or years? Here’s how to do it. Mark Hachman / IDG First, use Google Chrome to open the Wordle website. Using the Chrome “ellipsis menu” in the upper right, scroll down to More tools>Developer tools. The site contains a few Javascript files, though you can eliminate the Google tag manager and the index. Instead, open the file underneath the index, which on the page I loaded was main.c1506a22.js. Yes, you’ll see a ton of code, much of which isn’t worth poking through. The solutions, however, are hidden in an array file, in plaintext. You can use Chrome’s “pretty print” feature, which should appear in a button at the top of the page. Otherwise, you can simply copy the entire text block into a text editor, or just something like Word. There are a number of GitHub pages that have tried to calculate the methods of determining the next entry in the Wordle word list, like this one. But it seems that the Wordle site has already calculated the list of Wordle solutions for the next few months—because they’re right there in the source code. The easiest way to find that list is to simply look for the words that were the most recent solution. (We’ve tracked this for a day or two before publishing and it seems like the pattern has been consistent.) Simply do a Ctrl+F search for the most recent solution, then go to the next word in the list. That’s it! Wordle spoilers: The next Wordle words Spoilers ahead. If this pattern holds true, then here are the Wordle solutions for the next week (this article was filed on Monday, but ran Thursday). Remember, a new Wordle game goes live at midnight based on your time zone, so Wordle games may already be live in other regions of the world. Changing your PC’s clock to a day or two in advance doesn’t seem to make a difference—in other words, you can’t play a new round of Wordle early. Tuesday, Jan. 18: PROXY (Wordle #213) Wednesday, Jan. 19: POINT (Wordle #214) Thursday, Jan. 20: ROBOT (Wordle #215) Friday, Jan. 21: PRICK (Wordle #216) Saturday, Jan. 22: WINCE (Wordle #217) Sunday, Jan 23: CRIMP (Wordle #218) Monday, Jan. 24: KNOLL (Wordle #219) Is Wordle ruined? Of course not. There’s nothing preventing you from walking a golf course with a ball in your pocket, dropping it in the hole, and claiming a hole-in-one on every hole. If you want to play the game honestly, you can. If you don’t, you don’t. All this does is invalidate the online braggadocio about who’s better at Wordle. And let’s face it: All the developer would have to do is to randomize the solution every day to make this Wordle hack untenable. In other words, just like a friendly game of cards, you can still play Wordle with friends, or to challenge yourself. Just be suspicious of anyone who finds the solution a little too easily. And as David Letterman says: Remember, no wagering.
Get 10TB of massive WD external storage for just $170, today only
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 15:03:08 +0000
Today you can get a solid deal on a whole lot of expanded storage for your PC. Newegg is selling the WD Elements 10TB desktop hard drive for $170, which is down from $210. You’ll need to use the checkout code SSBN2Z24. The deal ends just before midnight Pacific time on Thursday evening. As this is a desktop external hard drive, it requires its own power source as opposed to the portable kind that can run off of a USB port. The box includes the hard drive, a USB cable for connecting to a PC, and an AC adapter. The drive is formatted for NTFS, which means a Windows machine can read and write to it out of the box. Macs can read from it as well. If you want them to write to to it, however, you’ll need to reformat the drive into something such as FAT32. Once you’re set-up, this 10TB drive has enough room for backups, shared storage, or as a media library. This is a great deal. It’s really a massive amount of storage that you can put to good use in any way you see fit. [Today’s deal: WD Elements 10TB desktop external hard drive for $170 at Newegg.]
Save big on Anker USB-C hubs and power strips in this today-only sale
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 14:58:19 +0000
It’s a good day to power up your mobile gear and maybe even your PC, too. Amazon has a one-day sale on Anker chargers and cables, which includes a three-port power strip. The deals end just before midnight on Thursday evening, PST. Here are some of our favorite picks from the sale: First up is the Anker USB-C power strip for $26, which is down from $40. It has three regular power outlets plus two standard USB ports and one USB-C port for charging mobile devices. This is a pure power strip, so it doesn’t come with any surge protection. Next up is the USB-C Anker Nano II charger for $25, which is down from $34. The 30 watt charger is powerful enough for some laptops as well as mobile devices. This is an extremely compact charger for 30W, as it takes up 59 percent less than many other comparable ones. Finally, there’s the Anker USB-C hub for $65, which is down from $100. This is an 11-in-1 hub with ports for everything you can think of including standard USB, HDMI, DIsplayPort, microSD and SD cards, Ethernet, and audio. If you have a laptop with limited port options, this hub will expand those options considerably. [Today’s deal: One-day Anker chargers and cables sale at Amazon.]
$400 mechanical keyboards are coming to the masses. Here’s why you’d want one
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 11:45:00 +0000
At the moment, mechanical keyboards available to the general public are expensive, but within reason. You don’t have to spend much to get one, either—a basic mechanical keyboard costs well under $100, or about the same as a souped-up membrane model, and provides a better typing experience for a longer period of time. But in early January, an offshoot of PC seller iBuyPower took the wraps off a new premium product: The Hyte keeb SR65, a 65-percent mechanical keyboard that will cost a whopping $400 for the fully loaded kit—that is, the version with all the pieces necessary for a complete keyboard. At double the MSRP of the most expensive keyboards from companies like Corsair and Razer, it’s sure to induce immediate sticker shock upon its arrival in May. It’s also sure to spark questions like “Why do you build it yourself?” and more certainly, “Why does it cost so much?!” In a word, customization. You get a level of personalization that can transform your everyday typing experience from something you just do into a genuine pleasure. Custom is as custom does Of course, custom mechanical keyboards don’t have to cost $400. Like with PC building, as you lay on extras, the price goes up. But custom boards do run more on average than their mass-produced equivalents. (Economy of scale is a factor.) In exchange, you get total control over each of these elements when building from scratch: Keycaps: What you physically touch when typing. These sit on top of the switches.Switches: This element communicates key presses to the PCB. When contact is made between a switch and the PCB, the latter transmits the input to the computer.Stabilizers: These help longer keys (like the spacebar) maintain an even feel when pressed. Also known as “stabs.”Plate: This piece keeps the switches in place. It’s not required but often recommended for better stability. The material used influences how rigid or flexible the keyboard feels.Printed circuit board (PCB): The circuitry needed to register inputs and send them to the computer lives on this board, as does any for features like RGB lighting.Case: The housing for the rest of the parts. You can chose different lengths, with shorter varieties repositioning some keys and leaving out others.Layout: You can choose between ANSI (US) or ISO (international) for the arrangement of the keys.You can see the different parts of a mechanical keyboard in this deconstructed view of the Hyte keeb SR65.Hyte Many choices exist for these parts, especially switches and keycaps. For example, going custom easily quadruples the switches available to you. And there’s no limit on how extravagant you can get with the details. The Hyte keeb SR65’s $400 price tag includes swanky aluminum housing, a megaton of RGB LEDs, and dual rotary wheels, but you could still easily spend that much when pouring attention on other keyboard parts. As a result, decision making can actually be daunting for the uninitiated. When the end goal is to satisfy your personal preferences, you have to do a lot more research to determine what you’ll like. Nailing the perfect keyboard has amazing benefits, though. Pull together the right mix of parts and you’ll understand why anyone would spend several hundred (or more) on a PC peripheral: Supercharged comfort. Honestly, this advantage is the most compelling argument for splurging on a custom mechanical keyboard. With mass-produced keyboards, you may have to adjust how hard you press on a key, tolerate a keyboard length poorly matched to your body size, or endure tactile feedback that feels terrible. Multilingual speakers also might struggle with keyboard layouts not suited for the languages they most often use. Not so with custom boards. You can swap anything that you don’t like—and you can even vary what type of switch and/or keycap you use for specific keys to get that just right feel. Even fans of split keyboards have options. Such freedom lets you fine-tune your choices so that typing feels natural, easy, and absolutely tailored to you. That perfect look. Want your keyboard to be ultra minimalist and understated? Bright and cheery? A testament to your love for Star Wars? All vibes are possible—including a mash-up of them. With custom keyboards, you can pick cases and keycaps that reflect your personality and your current aesthetic. The limiting factor is compatibility with your keyboard’s switches, size, and layout…as well as your budget. This licensed set of Star Wars keycaps is $250, for example. (Sometimes love hurts.) Just a handful of the keycap options available on A tidy desk. With custom mechanical keyboards, it’s a simple matter to choose a keyboard size that fits your available desk space. You can also go with a coiled cable for a less messy look. If you prefer to have different keyboards for standard use and gaming, an aviator connector (which allows quick disconnects) simplifies your cable setup and makes switching between the boards easy. Easy maintenance. Since you can deconstruct a custom keyboard, replacing failing elements is generally simple. (It’s just a bit more work if you chose soldered switches instead of the hot-swappable variety.) Unlike with a mass-produced mechanical keyboard, you don’t need to hunt for off-label compatible parts to save the investment.  You can also choose components that are more durable, like an aluminum case over a plastic one. Overall, the keyboard lasts longer, so despite the higher initial price, going custom can be more cost-effective—especially if you’re hard on your keyboards. Cheaper upgrades. Needs and preferences sometimes change over time, which render a mass-produced mechanical keyboard useless. With a custom board, changing out the switches and/or keycaps is more affordable. Buying enough switches for a 104-key keyboard often runs about $27 to $54 for well-known brands like Cherry, Kalih, and Gateron, while a full set of PBT keycaps (a sturdier type of plastic than ABS) can be as little as $20. Don’t like the switches you start with? It’s relatively inexpensive to swap them for a whole different set.PCWorld Pay to play Hyte’s keeb SR65 may not be the right fit for everyone—that’s the downside of having just one custom mechanical keyboard dangled in front of a broader PC gaming audience. But that doesn’t mean you’d never enjoy a decadent keyboard. Skim through enthusiast sites like NovelKeys, KBDFans, and, and you’ll likely find yourself tempted by at least a few of the gorgeous offerings. Some are more affordable than the SR65, while some end up more expensive after you personalize them. You don’t even have to build anything (even though that is much of the fun)—pre-assembled boards are an option, and as easy to find as kits, bare-bones boards, and individual components. If sliding down that rabbit hole is too much, you can also just hang tight. Recent conversations with PC hardware vendors indicate that we could see more keyboards like the Hyte keeb SR65—or at the very least, further bleed of custom elements into mass-produced boards. You should root for this outcome, because democratization of features like hot-swappable switches benefits everyone. Think of how much more mileage you could get out of a Corsair K95 Platinum if you could easily tinker with it.
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 review: The reasonable choice
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 11:30:00 +0000
At a glanceExpert’s Rating ProsAttractive designAffordablePunchy audioExcellent keyboardConsMediocre performanceSubpar battery lifeOur Verdict The Lenovo Flex 5 is a good mid-range Chromebook with a decent display, excellent speakers, a nice keyboard, and versatile connectivity. Price When Reviewed$389 Best Prices Today Retailer Price Delivery $389.00 Free View Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide Those looking for an inexpensive Chromebook are certainly spoiled for choice but, as mentioned in my guide to buying a laptop without getting screwed, buying the right Chromebook can be tricky. Many budget models have lackluster processors, minimal RAM, and sub-par displays.  Lenovo’s Chromebook Flex 5 is a 13-inch, 2-in-1 Chromebook that tries to outpace the most inexpensive systems without inflating the price. It’s mostly successful in its effort, but owners must tolerate occasional reminders of the system’s budget roots.  Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 specs and features I reviewed the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 13ITL5, a specific configuration only available at Best Buy. It’s similar to the most basic model available through Lenovo’s own web store but bumps up the processor to an Intel Pentium Gold dual-core with two cores, four threads, and a maximum clock speed of 3.5GHz. It has a listed MSRP of $419 but is currently on sale at $389. CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 7505 @ 2GHzMemory: 4GB DDR4Graphics/GPU: Intel UHDDisplay: 13.3-inch 1080p IPS touchscreenStorage: 32GB eMMC Webcam: 720pConnectivity:  2x USB-C with DisplayPort, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm audio jackNetworking: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5Biometrics: NoneBattery capacity: 51 watt-hourDimensions: 0.67 x 8.43 x 12.2 inchesWeight: 2.97 poundsBuyers should note that a similarly priced configuration is available through Amazon with an Intel Core i3-10110U processor and twice as much storage. I expect that model to perform better than my review unit, making it a better value overall.  Design and build quality The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is a surprisingly attractive and confident laptop. I particularly like the look of Best Buy’s exclusive configuration which is a deep navy blue. I’m always a sucker for alternative laptop colorways and I especially like how the Flex 5’s gray keycaps compliment the subdued blue chassis.  It feels substantial in-hand as well thanks to the metal display lid and the textured plastic of the laptop’s lower half. A bit of flex is noticeable when handling the laptop roughly, but it’s not obvious in normal day-to-day use. The display lid is especially rigid for a budget laptop, showing only the slightest hint of give. That’s a good thing because, as mentioned, the Chromebook Flex 5 is a 2-in-1. You can turn the display 360 degrees to convert the laptop into a tablet. This is no longer a novel concept and, unfortunately, the Flex 5 has all the usual problems of this design.  Tablet use is possible, yes, but the Flex 5 weighs nearly 3 pounds and is larger than even the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Flicking through web pages while propping the laptop up with a leg or arm is more awkward than it is enjoyable.  The so-called tent and presentation modes, which use the keyboard as a stand, are more practical. You can flip the hinge 270 degrees to prop the 2-in-1 on your lap or a table. This is perfect for viewing Netflix or YouTube.  Like many 2-in-1 Chromebooks, the Flex 5 places power and volume buttons on the right flank of the laptop instead of above the keyboard (or both). This location makes sense when using the 2-in-1 in tablet mode but is awkward otherwise. I’d occasionally put the laptop to sleep or changed the volume while fiddling with the right-side ports.  Matthew Smith / IDG Display, audio Every Chromebook Flex 5 configuration has a 1080p IPS touchscreen. This is among the laptop’s greatest perks. A 1080p screen is not guaranteed at the $350 price point, but it’s a big plus and it separates the machine from less appealing competitors like the HP Chromebook x360 14a and entry-level variants of the Asus Chromebook Flip line.  It’s a decent display as well. I measured a maximum brightness of 298 nits, which is more than the promised 250 nits and high enough to make the glossy screen enjoyable when used indoors (outdoors use, however, is a no-go).  1080p video looks sharp and bright. Colors are noticeably subdued to any premium laptop but, at this price point, it’s hard to complain. I did notice a few bright spots along the edges of the screen in dark scenes, which can be distracting when watching video in a dark room. If I was pleased by the screen, I was shocked by the speakers. The Flex 5 has a pair of upward-facing speakers along each side of the keyboard. That already puts it ahead of many most budget laptops, which often put speakers in a downward-facing position that can sound muffled on your laptop. Better still, the speakers are loud, clear, and have just the slightest hint of bass.  Matthew Smith / IDG Webcam, microphone Need a laptop that’s great for video conferencing? You’ll want to pass on the Flex 5. It has a simple 720p webcam that commits all the sins common to laptops. Video quality is soft, fuzzy, grainy, washed-out, and nearly unusable in low light. The microphone sounds thin and dull, though it rejects unwanted noise fairly well.  There is one bit of good news: the camera has a built-in physical privacy shutter.  Keyboard and trackpad The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 has an excellent keyboard. Key feel is crisp and taut with significant key travel and a bottom action that’s firm but not harsh. While the keyboard certainly does not use mechanical switches, it does have a confident, tactile feel that may appeal to fans of mechanical keyboards.  Even the layout is excellent. Most Chromebooks have a similar key layout, but some models can feel a bit cramped. The 13-inch Flex 5 largely avoids this problem and also offers a decent amount of space on the palm rest. Professional NBA players might feel cramped, but most owners will be comfortable.  The touchpad measures about four inches wide and three inches deep, which is average for a 13-inch laptop, and responds well to the touch. I’m not a fan of its simple plastic texture, though, as it creates just a bit too much friction when scrolling through documents of websites. It gets the job done, at least. And don’t forget the touchscreen. It provides a useful alternative for scrolling or zooming.  Lenovo’s USI Pen is compatible with the Chromebook Flex 5 and could be useful for those who want more precise touch input. It was not included with my review unit, however, so I was unable to test it.  Matthew Smith / IDG Connectivity The Chromebook Flex 5’s connectivity looks towards the future. It has two USB-C ports, both of which support DisplayPort 1.2 and Power Delivery 2.0. The included charger also connects over USB-C.  A single USB-A port provides legacy connectivity. It’s joined by a 3.5mm combo audio jack and a microSD card reader on the 2-in-1’s left flank.  Wireless connectivity includes Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 6. The Chromebook Flex 5’s Wi-Fi performance was excellent. It achieved download speeds of up to 568Mbps when five feet from a Wi-Fi 6 router and speeds of up to 87Mbps when placed 50 feet away in a detached office.  These are strong results for a laptop at any price point and well above the Internet speeds available in most homes.  Matthew Smith / IDG Performance The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 configuration I reviewed had an Intel Pentium Gold 7505 dual-core processor with four threads, a base clock speed of 2GHz, and a maximum Turbo Boost speed of 3.5GHz. Although branded as a Pentium processor, it’s based on the Tiger Lake architecture common to Intel Core 11th-gen chips. The processor is paired with 4GB of DDR4 memory and a meager 32GB of eMMC storage. CrXPRT 2 performance score: 124, 124Speedometer 2.0: 78.84, 78.32Basemark Web 3.0: 907.16, 947.66Kraken Javascript 1.1: 853.8ms, 849.5msJetstream: 126.190, 131.741The Chromebook Flex 5’s benchmark results are fine but not impressive. These scores certainly lag what you could expect from an Intel Core i3 processor. However, they easily defeat an entry-level Chromebook with a MediaTek chip or an Intel Pentium processor that’s several generations old. Real-world performance fell in line with the benchmark results. The Chromebook Flex 5 is fast enough for most web browsing, document editing, or marking up PDFs in a web app, but can feel taxed by demanding tasks. It balked and sputtered through a large Google Sheets project and began to pant when my tab count exceeded a dozen.  Gaming is a struggle. I tried several Android games including Genshin Impact, Alto’s Odyssey, and Fallout Shelter. Each stuttered incessantly, and Genshin’s Impact crashed at the login screen (which, to be fair, has occurred on every ChromeOS laptop I’ve tested this year). I managed to enjoy a few games running through WebGL, at least, and Stadia worked as well as on other laptops. The tiny 32GB eMMC could be a problem. My review unit had only a smidge more than 10GB of storage available when I first booted the machine. That’s passable for a Chromebook since you can lean heavily on Google Drive, but a few large Android apps or video files can eat up that space in a hurry.  This might all sound disappointing but, as always, price matters. The Flex 5’s performance is acceptable for a laptop in its price range and it will get most people through day-to-day use without issue. More powerful ChromeOS 2-in-1s like the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 come with a higher price tag.  Battery life Every Chromebook Flex 5 configuration has a 51 watt-hour battery. This led the 2-in-1 to a battery result of eight hours and 22 minutes in the CrXPRT 2 battery benchmark, an average result for a Chromebook.  Real-world battery life didn’t quite live up to the benchmark. The Flex 5 lasted six to seven hours in my typical use, which consists of browsing web pages, watching YouTube, and editing documents in Google Docs, Sheets, and Microsoft Office web apps.  Overall, the Flex 5’s battery performance is acceptable for the price. Most laptops under $400 have a smaller battery and some have a larger display, which leads to even less impressive endurance. Need true all-day portability? Spend more or buy an iPad.  Conclusion The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is a solid mid-range Chromebook with a good display, excellent speakers, a nice keyboard, and versatile connectivity. Its performance and battery life fail to stand, but that’s acceptable at the 2-in-1’s $389 price point. The Flex 5 didn’t blow away my expectations, but I did enjoy using it and that alone makes it easy to recommend for shoppers on a $400 budget. 
This $54 smartwatch can help you keep your resolution to get in better shape
Thu, 20 Jan 2022 08:00:00 +0000
Almost 90 percent of Americans resolved to get into better shape last year. While this year’s stats have yet to be determined, it’s a wise bet to think that the numbers will be similar. Are you one of the many who’s trying to lose a few extra pounds? Then you might consider getting a smartwatch — Such as this one, which is discounted to $53.95. The HD Touch Screen Smartwatch looks and operates similar to most popular brand name options out there, but it costs far less by comparison. It features a bright 1.75” touch screen display; it tracks your activity, heart rate, and sleep; and it features a number of sport modes so you can better analyze your physical fitness. You just connect it to your phone via Bluetooth, and you’re all set. You’ll get instant notifications when you receive an email or SMS, it offers details about the weather so you can prepare yourself for the day ahead, and it’s waterproof too so you can wear it in all kinds of weather. If you’re trying to get into shape and need something to give you a push, then this watch can do that — Without putting you in the poorhouse.  1.75” HD Touch Screen Smartwatch – $53.95 See Deal Prices subject to change.
Opera goes full crypto with the Crypto Browser Project
Wed, 19 Jan 2022 18:41:23 +0000
Opera Software has continued its trend of building specialized browsers with The Crypto Browser Project, a specialized Web3 browser optimized for the use of the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, together with its own dedicated wallet. It doesn’t appear that Opera plans to replace its desktop browser with its Crypto Browser, although the language Opera used was a bit vague. (Opera already offers a specialized gaming browser, Opera GX.) “Today, we are taking our Web3 effort a step further by allowing you to test experimental browsers on Android, Mac and Windows that will become our flagships for you to interact with Web3,” Opera said in a blog post. Though Opera’s browser is still built upon the same Chromium underpinnings as its current desktop browser, Opera also built in a number of Web3 features. (In some circles the term “Web3” has become synonymous with the blockchain, referring to a decentralized web that’s governed by tokens.) In Opera’s case, that includes designing in a more fully integrated non-custodial crypto wallet as well as quick links to crypto news, airdrops, and, yes, NFTs. The Crypto Browser Project also includes support for what Opera calls distributed apps, or dApps —a suite of decentralized apps that can provide more functionality than traditional plugins, according to Opera. Opera’s Crypto Browser, with its wallet.Opera Opera said that its native, non-custodial crypto wallet would still allow for users to select an alternative wallet, such as Metamask, through a new wallet selector. The wallet’s clipboard monitors itself to ensure that no other app alters the wallet data. Opera supports Ethereum, Bitcoin, Celo, and Nervos, and the company said it has announced partnerships with Handshake, NEAR, Polygon, and Solana. The Crypto Browser Project also includes a sidebar, called the Crypto Corner, in which you can access Opera’s crypto wallet. The Crypto Corner also includes “access to the latest blockchain news, upcoming airdrops, an industry events calendar, NFTs, crypto communities, educational content, podcasts, and videos as well as crypto prices, gas fees, and market sentiment—all in one spot,” Opera said. You can also access “Crypto Twitter,” Discord, Reddit, or DappRadar directly from the browser’s speed dial. The Opera Crypto Browser “Crypto Corner.”Opera Opera also said that it is preserving features like its anonymous, unlimited “VPN” proxy, which doesn’t log user data. Although Opera is touting its commitment to crypto, rival Brave staked out an earlier presence in the crypto community, with its own integrated crypto wallet and even its own cryptocurrency. Users can download the new Crypto Browser for Android, Windows, and Mac, Opera said. An iOS version is coming soon, Opera said. An official launch of the Crypto Project is coming soon in the next few months, the company said.
The newest Intel CPUs give 4K Blu-rays a 1080p downgrade
Wed, 19 Jan 2022 16:38:34 +0000
If you’re planning on using a newer Intel processor in your next media center PC build, a combination of security precautions and digital rights management might just have you singing the Blu-ray blues. Intel is dropping support for the software guard extension feature in 11th- and 12th-gen Core processors, which breaks DRM functionality for the latest 4K “Ultra HD” Blu-ray discs and player software. The end result: Those fancy movies will now play back in a rather pedestrian 1080p resolution. As reported in Bleeping Computer, there’s no intentional malice in this move. Intel is depreciating the SGX functionality that’s been present in Core processors since Skylake (2015) because of a series of attacks made by security researchers, who found it an easy vector for getting through CPU defenses. So doing without it will result in appreciably increased security (and perhaps less patching work on Intel’s part) for newer hardware. And weighed against the vast majority of users who no longer have or use an optical disc drive, it seems like a prudent move. Still, this is going to be a serious problem for home builders who enjoy the dwindling media center PC niche. (AMD’s Ryzen CPU architecture also does not support 4K Blu-ray playback.) CyberLink, maker of the most popular Blu-ray playback software, has noted the problem and doesn’t mention any work-around. At the moment there doesn’t appear to be any option for users who want 4K Blu-ray on newer PCs. Sticking to older Intel hardware or using a dedicated Blu-ray player are the only choices.
AMD’s $199 Radeon RX 6500 XT tested: 5 key things you need to know
Wed, 19 Jan 2022 14:54:20 +0000
AMD’s $199 Radeon RX 6500 XT is here, bringing both real-time ray tracing and affordable graphics cards back to the masses—if it can stay well-stocked enough to remain on store shelves for close to its suggested pricing, that is. This ain’t your average graphics card though. AMD needed to tweak and tune the Radeon RX 6500 XT to (hopefully) keep cryptocurrency miners at bay and hit the coveted, crucial sub-$200 price point. Putting this GPU through its paces took quite a bit more effort and explaining than usual. Head over to our comprehensive Radeon RX 6500 XT review for the complete rundown, but for folks who don’t feel like wading through thousands of words and dozens of charts worth of analysis, here are five key facts you need to know about the Radeon RX 6500 XT. 1. This is a great graphics card for beginning PC gamers… PC gaming picked up serious steam over the pandemic, but newcomers haven’t had a shot at investing in affordable new gear, with most graphics cards going for double MSRP or more thanks to a mixture of a chip crunch, logistics woes, booming demand from cryptocurrency miners seeking profits, and more. We’ve resorted to suggesting a CPU with good integrated graphics as the best budget “graphics card” for gaming. Ugh. Radeon RX 6500 XT Read our review MSRP: $199 Best Prices Today: $200 at Newegg | Not Available at Amazon That changes with the Radeon RX 6500 XT. Not only is this card affordable at $199, it will absolutely chew through competitive e-sports titles at high frame rates, and play modern triple-A games at a fast pace using Medium to High settings at 1080p resolution. It also supports modern features like ray tracing, AMD’s Smart Access Memory, FidelityFX Super Resolution, Radeon Anti-Lag, and Radeon Boost, and all but ray tracing can help make this graphics card run even faster. Groovy. If you already have a graphics card like the GeForce GTX 1650 Super or Radeon RX 580, though, the Radeon RX 6500 XT doesn’t provide enough of a performance uplift to be a compelling upgrade (unless you want access to those features). 2. …if you stick to what it’s good at Crafting a sub-$200 graphics card in these trying times required AMD to turn to some unorthodox design decisions. The Radeon RX 6500 XT packs a scant 4GB of GDDR6 memory over a minute 64-bit bus unheard-of in modern gaming GPUs, though those memory chips are clocked at a blazing-fast 18Gbps and come augmented by AMD’s radical Infinity Cache technology. It also, somewhat shockingly, only supports four PCIe lanes rather than the usual 16. Those decisions mean that while the Radeon RX 6500 XT excels at what it’s designed for—e-sports, and triple-A gaming at Mid to High settings at 1080p resolution—if you crank the eye candy to Ultra or jack up the resolution to 1440p, you could run into performance issues (like slow frame rates or lag spikes). Start at 1080p Medium graphics presets in your favorite games and nudge knobs up from there if you’re able. 3. It’s built to evade crypto miners AMD also announced a Radeon RX 6400 graphics card exclusive to prebuilt systems, with slower clock speeds and a much lower power draw.AMD While many of AMD’s design choices were no doubt made to hit the Radeon RX 6500 XT’s juicy $199 suggested pricing, it’s a bit more complicated than that when it comes to the memory system. If the GPU world wasn’t so crazy right now, releasing a 1080p graphics card with just 4GB of RAM and a 64-bit bus in 2022 would get AMD laughed out of town. But in today’s wild graphics card market, those limited specifications are almost genuine features, as the memory configuration will make the Radeon RX 6500 XT unappealing for mining Ethereum, the popular cryptocurrency fueling a lot of the sky-high graphics card demand. Ethereum thrives on memory bandwidth, and mining it requires your graphics card to have more than 4GB of memory. “There’s a lot of dynamics that are involved in the availability of the GPUs we have,” Radeon vice president Laura Smith said to PCWorld as part of a small roundtable with journalists during CES. “We have really optimized this one to be gaming first….You can see that with the way we’ve configured the part. Even with the four gigs of frame buffer, that’s a really nice frame buffer size for the majority of triple-A games, but it’s not particularly attractive if you’re doing blockchain-type or mining activities. We’ve tried to make some gamer-first transitions for the things we don’t control, but we have influence over, to optimize that card to be as accessible as possible to the use of gamers.” We’ll see if that translates into actual widespread availability at its $199 suggested price, but the Radeon RX 6500 XT has a better shot than most modern graphics cards at actually being obtainable—including Nvidia’s imminent $250 GeForce RTX 3050. Fingers crossed. For more info, check out our explainer on why less memory could mean more in AMD and Nvidia’s budget GPU battle. 4. Don’t worry about using the Radeon RX 6500 XT in an older PC After its reveal, gamers worried that the Radeon RX 6500 XT’s four limited PCIe lanes would translate to terrible performance on any gaming PC more than a few years old. That’s because those lanes work best on modern computers featuring the much-faster PCIe 4.0 interface. Older PCs have PCIe 3.0, and people feared that detail, mixed with the minimal number of available lanes, would choke off frame rates. Using the Radeon RX 6500 XT in PCIe 3.0 mode doesn’t devastate performance like some gamers feared, if you’re using reasonable graphics settings for this GPU.Brad Chacos/IDG Spoiler: It does, but not to a degree worth worrying about in most games, thanks to the helping hand provided by AMD’s fast GDDR6 chips and 16MB of on-chip Infinity Cache. Across our 11-game test suite, we saw two major outliers—Rainbow Six Siege performed identically on both PCIe 3 and 4, while Total War: Troy suffered a major 18.4 percent loss on PCIe 3.0—but otherwise, games were only an average of 6.4 percent slower in PCIe 3.0 mode. That’s noteworthy but doesn’t significantly alter the value proposition of the graphics card. It’s still usually in the same performance ballpark as GPUs like the Radeon RX 580 and 5500 XT, or Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and GTX 1650, regardless of which version of PCIe being used. That said, you need to keep the Radeon RX 6500 XT’s intended usage in mind. Stick to those Medium to High graphics settings at 1080p and only nudge things up as you can. If you try to play on Ultra settings in intense games, or at 1440p resolution, you’re likely to exceed the 4GB frame buffer on this card and if that happens over PCIe 3.0, lag spikes and performance slowdowns could get real nasty, real fast. 5. Other missing features AMD also stripped out some other features in its quest to hit the $199 price point, albeit ones the company claims that most people don’t use in this pricing bracket. The Radeon RX 6500 XT lacks AV1 decoding as well as H.264 and H.265/HEVC encoding capabilities. (There are H.264 and H.265 decode, though.) AMD also only slapped singular HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort connections on this GPU. The combination means that the Radeon RX 6500 XT won’t be a great choice for home theater PCs, and people looking to stream their gaming adventures will probably want to look elsewhere as well. That’s it for our roundup of must-know facts. For much, much more info, be sure to check out our full comprehensive Radeon RX 6500 XT review.
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