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Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review: Racing ahead of last year's model – CNET

The Surface Pro has proven to be a tough act to follow. Microsoft has been the two-in-one standard bearer for the past several years, as successive generations of Surface Pro became the default idea of what a Windows tablet/laptop hybrid should be. But it’s also been a hard idea to move away from, and the changes in the last few versions of the Surface Pro have been almost imperceptible, in both design and performance.

As if to remind us that this is indeed a new model, Microsoft has ditched the last couple of years of just calling this device Surface Pro and gone back to numbered versions, naming this the Surface Pro 6 (I had honestly lost count by this point). 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

That’s a good thing, because at least from the outside, it would appear that not much else at all has changed about the Surface Pro aside from its low-key new matte black color option. The Surface Pro 6 still has a screen bezel that’s on this thick side, unlike many modern laptops, tablets and hybrids that are shaving screen borders down. It still sits awkwardly on the knee (or lap), and it still includes only minimal ports, without even the increasingly popular USB-C.

Still the best little touches 

At the same time, it also still has the best-engineered kickstand I’ve found in a tablet, capable of nearly (but not quite) 180 degrees of stable articulation. It still has a 3:2 aspect ratio on its 12.3-inch high-res display, which is great for reading and working on documents, thanks to more vertical headroom than the average laptop. 

It also still supports the best clip-on keyboard in the (short) history of clip-on Windows tablet keyboards. But yes, before you ask, the keyboard still doesn’t come included in the box, and it’s still a major extra expense. The Pro covers are $159 for the blue, gray or burgundy versions, but fortunately only $129 (£124/AU$199) for the black version that matches the new black color option. 

The stylus, which Microsoft calls the Surface Pen, is unchanged, although also available in black, and it’s among the best drawing and sketching tools for PC users outside of a full pro-level Wacom setup (and maybe even better in some cases). That’s an extra $99/£99/AU$139, but it’ll work on any product in the Surface line. 

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Surface Pro 6 configurations run from $899 to $2,299, depending on RAM, storage and processor options. Starting prices are £879 in the UK and AU$1,349 in Australia. But even the most expensive one arrives with only a naked slate in the box, no keyboard or pen (despite the fact that almost all of the marketing around Surface Pro involves seeing it matched with the keyboard and often the $99 add-on stylus). Likewise, the new black color is only available on a step-up $1,199 configuration with 256GB of internal storage (£1,149 or AU$1,849). That’s an extra $300 for an additional 128GB of SSD space, which feels steep. 

Surface Pro 6

Price as reviewed $1,199.00
Display size/resolution 12.2-inch 2,736×1,824 touch display
CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz
Graphics 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Grphics 620
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
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Destiny 2: Forsaken Review

Editor’s note: This review was originally conducted in a podcast format, available as a video above or right here as an audio file. A summary of the review follows. Note that after this review was recorded, Bungie announced that it would begin including the previous DLC releases, Curse of Osiris and Warmind, in the Forsaken package on October 16.

It’s becoming a tradition for Bungie to release a Destiny game with some persistent issues, then hammer those issues out into a smoother, more pleasant shape with a major expansion a year later. Just like The Taken King made the original Destiny a more interesting, rewarding game, Destiny 2‘s big 40 dollar add-on Forsaken has done the same for the sequel with dramatic improvements to loot and character progression, a more intriguing story and set of new areas to explore, and a major new multiplayer mode. Most importantly, all these pieces fit together more seamlessly than they did in the release game. It’s easily the best Destiny 2 has been so far.

The Dreaming City is the most exotic, secret-laden zone in Destiny so far.The Dreaming City is the most exotic, secret-laden zone in Destiny so far.

Forsaken picks up the story of the Awoken, the wispy blue space people who live in the asteroid belt, after they were all but annihilated by Oryx‘s Taken fleet in the previous game. The Queen‘s whereabouts are still unknown, sniveling Prince Uldren is back and more deranged than usual, and he’s backed up by a distinctive rogues’ gallery of especially nasty monsters, drawn from a new enemy faction, who you’ll spend much of the campaign facing down in unique boss fights. The Forsaken campaign spans two new patrol zones: the ramshackle Tangled Shore, a thieves’ den made up of a bunch of lashed-together floating rocks, and the Dreaming City, the mystical ancestral home of the Awoken which has a distinctly fantasy-like bent and houses the most secrets and side activities of any Destiny zone in recent memory.

The flow and design of the campaign’s story missions take a lot of creative liberties with Destiny’s mechanics and structure, resulting in what’s probably the most consistently surprising and entertaining chunk of story content Bungie has created to date. Forsaken dispenses with wisecracking robotic series regular Cayde-6 early on in a dramatic fashion, but the game doesn’t get much lasting material out of his death. The more enduring storyline around the Awoken’s quest to retake their homeland works much better, and weaves through every bit of the content here, from the initial campaign through post-story world missions, the new (and very tough) raid, and even on into the weekly loot grind, which now revolves around a bizarre metanarrative in which the characters themselves are trying to understand why they’re repeating the same actions over and over again from week to week. There’s ethereal Awoken magic and strange goings-on at every step. The story content isn’t just wide-ranging and weird, there’s also just a huge amount of it, certainly the most Destiny has packed into an expansion to date.

Due to a number of design missteps, Destiny 2 came and went for a lot of people. Thankfully, the changes Forsaken makes under the hood are what really prop up all the new story stuff and give the game more staying power. Bungie has made loot meaningful again by… making it more like the loot in the first game, which is to say every weapon and piece of armor once again comes with a random set of perks. So if you get three of the same scout rifle, they’ll all have different firing characteristics that make it worth comparing them and picking your favorite, instead of just trashing all your duplicates. There are dramatically more “powerful gear” quests day to day and week to week that give you chances to get better items. The new collections interface lets you keep track of and reacquire all the old gear, cosmetic items, shaders and so forth you’ve found so far. There are even new ways to earn in-game currency for cosmetic items that you would have just paid real money for back at launch. It’s just a tighter, friendlier game in nearly every way.

If you ever wished they'd cram a little MOBA into Destiny, Gambit is for you.If you ever wished they’d cram a little MOBA into Destiny, Gambit is for you.

The new four-on-four Gambit multiplayer mode mostly does a great job of rounding out the usual assortment of strikes, Crucible, weekly challenges and so forth. Taking a few MOBA cues, it tasks your team with killing enemies faster than another team who’s playing on a separate map, with both teams racing to hit a quota that spawns a boss you have to kill first to win the round. Where Gambit gets interesting–and wildly exhilarating or infuriating, depending on which side you land on–is that your team has limited opportunities for one player to invade and kill the other team, which can massively hamper their progress toward spawning their boss (or will just heal the boss, if it’s already out). There’s the potential for massive swings in match momentum, depending on how you invade or get invaded, how you strategically use your super ability to clear enemies quickly or wipe the other team, and so forth. You can pretty much singlehandedly gain an insurmountable lead for your team or stage an improbable comeback with a crucial play. Gambit is full of extreme highs and lows, though due to the 20 to 30 minutes it takes to finish a match and its reliance on competent teamwork, it tends toward lows in the same way MOBAs do. Feeling like you just wasted half an hour due to a boneheaded team or one ruinous invasion from the other side is awfully demoralizing. Gambit is best played with a squad of friends who know what they’re doing.

At its heart, Destiny 2 is still of course a loot-based game, with all the inherent drawbacks of a genre that functions largely like a capsule machine. You might play it compulsively, or stay up late trying to grind out weekly activities before you lose them. You might spend an evening grinding out Crucible kills only to get three equivalent sets of the same boots. But at least the structure is now intelligently designed, and the content is creative and varied enough, that it’s actually worth coming back to the game even after you’ve finished the story. Bungie has clearly learned its lesson after Destiny 2’s missteps, and finally found a winning formula that sets up a brighter, more enduring future for the franchise. Hopefully this time that lesson will stick.

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Pixel Slate hands-on: The keyboard's my favorite part – CNET

Google makes lots of Chromebooks. The Pixel ($379 at Amazon) Slate is an attempt to make a tablet that’s also a Chromebook, something like Microsoft’s Surface. Google wants you to think about the Pixel Slate in terms of its beautiful display, its full Chrome browser, its more tablet-like Chrome OS.

I just think about its keyboard.

I got to spend some time with the 12-inch tablet at Google’s New York event, where new Pixel 3 phones and the Google Home Hub also debuted. The Slate is clearly designed to go up against the Microsoft Surface and its workplace-meets-tablet design, but the Slate also seems to come within striking distance of the iPad Pro, especially in terms of price.


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Last year’s Pixelbook was an excellent but seriously expensive Chromebook. The Pixel Slate follows that familiar pattern, aiming for premium in a tablet-meets-Chromebook design.

The Pixel Slate starts at $599, but that’s only for the tablet, no keyboard or pen stylus included. The keyboard’s an extra $199; the pen, an extra $99. And, the Slate starts with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage (non-upgradable). You can pay more for extra storage and faster processors, all the way up to a crazy $1,599 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB storage.

The browser is its best software feature

The Slate seems to shine most when Chrome is open. The Chrome browser, as with any Chromebook, is like a PC, and extremely versatile. New split-screen options open up multiple panes or apps at once, like the iPad ($345 at Amazon Marketplace) or Surface.

The Slate looks pretty, but it’s big for a tablet; with a 12.3-inch screen, this is more like a laptop. The display does look crisp, but the general UI, which aims for a Pixel Android feel, didn’t move all that smoothly at the event’s demo devices. The interface flow just wasn’t as fluid as I expected. Or, just, not iPad-level buttery-smooth. That’s a bit concerning, especially for this price. At a polished product demo event experience, I’d expect the Pixel Slate to be on its best footing. 

Yes, as mentioned above, the Chrome can now do split screen, showing two panes at once. Sometimes it seems helpful. The new Slate pen is pressure sensitive and feels like the Surface Pen, but it sometimes seemed to make digital ink spots on the display when the pen hadn’t even made contact yet.

031-google-pixel-slate031-google-pixel-slate

Sarah Tew/CNET

And the keyboard’s the best hardware feature

The keyboard — a separate $200 purchase — feels great, though. The snap-on accessory has solid circular backlit keys with generous spacing, a large clickable trackpad and a rear magnetic stand that can be angled to almost any necessary tilt. The case can fold up while staying attached and double as a folio case. This is pretty ingenious.

It’s basically the iPad keyboard I’ve wanted for years: one with a touchpad, one that feels like a laptop, and one that adds front and back protection to the tablet when traveling.

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The magnetic stand can angle back pretty far, but then there’s a pretty large table footprint.


Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s not a perfect solution compared to a laptop — the keyboard and its rear support add up to a wide table footprint, much like the Microsoft Surface Pro. It’s also not good for laps. But on a table, it felt great to type on.

The Pixel Slate needs it to complete the Chromebook equation, but its extra price means spending at least $800, or even more for the storage and processor you might want. The Slate seems like a luxury most won’t pay for, and not quite the perfect Chromebook, because it’s not as lap friendly. But that keyboard is a perfect model for where Apple should take its iPad next.

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There is a fingerprint reader, though (it’s the power button).


Sarah Tew/CNET

No headphone jack, though — or SD card slot

Just be prepared: the 3.5mm headphone jack isn’t here. Instead, the Pixel Slate has two USB-C ports. That might be where all devices are heading, but it’ll also mean a really annoying need for dongles.

There’s also no SD card slot, which means no easily expandable storage. This also means you’d better pick the storage tier carefully. Google leans on unlimited cloud storage, naturally, but there are some things that are helpful to store locally.

The Pixel Slate arrives later this year. We’ll have a full review when we get a model to use for longer than a quick demo session. But at this price, the Pixel Slate has a big question mark hanging over it: who would buy this over a Microsoft Surface or an iPad?

Specs:

  • Starts at $599
  • Intel Celeron, Core m3, Core i5 or Core i7 CPU
  • Up to 16GB of RAM
  • 12.3-inch Molecular display with 293 ppi
  • 8 megapixel rear- and front-facing cameras with Portrait mode
  • Two USB-C ports
  • Support for 4K external display
  • Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner
  • Stereo speakers
  • New version of Chrome OS 
  • Integrated Google Assistant
  • Titan M Security Chip, which encrypts data and passwords
  • Family Link controls 
  • Includes free 3-month trial of YouTube TV ($40 at Google Store)
  • 48Wh battery provides up to 10 hours of battery life
  • Measures 11.45×7.95×0.27 inches (LWH)
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Razer Phone 2: Wireless charging, 'waterproofing,' 120Hz screen for $800 – CNET

Razer Phone 2 wants to make gamers green with envy.


Josh Miller/CNET

Looking down at the glowing black box on the conference table in Razer’s San Francisco offices, and one thing is already clear: The Razer Phone 2 is a better device than the gaming phone the company debuted a year ago. Mostly, because the brick I’m looking at isn’t actually the phone itself, but a wireless charging brick outfitted with a bright ring of colorful LEDs.

It’s an answer to one of the original Razer Phone’s shortcomings, and that’s what the Razer Phone 2 seems to be all about — fixing the first model’s mistakes.

Yes, that means its an iterative evolution of an existing phone — but the Razer Phone 2 had a good starting point. The new model keeps the original’s boxy, black design, loud stereo speakers and astounding 120Hz screen (that’s twice as fast as the 60Hz refresh rate on most phones), but kicks things up a notch with improved camera sensors, support for portrait mode (albeit through software), wireless charging and IP67 water-resistance.

It also dives deeper into Razer’s DNA as a gaming lifestyle brand. The original phone’s matte backing has been shined to a bright, reflective, glossy glass — and the Razer LED now glows. By default, it’s green, but that color can be customized to specific alerts via Razer’s Chroma app. Those color settings will extend to the LED strip lining the bottom of that wireless charger I mentioned, too.

These additions mark a step in the right direction for Razer, a company that’s only released one previous phone.

That said, the idea of a “gaming phone” is still a little nebulous. Razer’s 120Hz screen does have the potential to give you an edge in terms of response time, at least in games that support it, and the phone’s speakers are gloriously loud. Even so, it’s still going to play the same games as any other Android phone — and apart from the Razer Phone smooth framerate offered by the aforementioned display, don’t expect better graphics than you would see on the Google Pixel 2 ($649 at Google Store) or the Galaxy S9.

As for the games playing better? Well, at least Razer has a solution to that: the company has announced a wireless controller designed specifically to go with the Razer Phone. The accessory could help the phone stand out to gamers. Don’t expect a Nintendo Switch ($275 at Amazon) like experience, though, this seems to be a retooled Razer Serval gamepad with a few extra buttons and a phone clip.

In a choked phone space dominated by Samsung and Apple, a Razer-branded gamer phone won’t make a pinprick of difference in gobbling up sales. But it does highlight gadget-makers’ continued interest in winning over ultraniche populations such as gamers. Booming video games sales are expected to reach a value of $138 billion dollars by the end of 2018. If Razer can attract hardcore gamers with its smooth graphics and heat management system, it has a chance to earn a customer for life.

The Razer Phone 2 will cost $799. Preorders begin Oct. 11 at 12:01 a.m. PT, and will go on general sale shortly after. Read on for more details and see the full specs chart at the end.


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Razer Phone 2 design

  • Same basic design as original Razer Phone, but now with a glass back and brighter logo.
  • 5.7-inch LCD screen with 16:9 screen ratio and 120Hz refresh rate (Razer says it’ll give you an unfair advantage in gameplay).
  • No screen notch.
  • Stereo front-firing speakers with 24-Bit DAC and Dolby Atmos are designed to update the first Razer Phone with better bass and richer sound.
  • Fingerprint reader on right spine.
  • Better HDR screen for games that pop during play.
razer-phone-2-8132razer-phone-2-8132

Pick a color, any color for the logo to glow when alerts arrive.


Josh Miller/CNET

Power, battery size and heat management

  • Snapdragon 845 processor.
  • Razer’s Vapor Chamber Cooling, carried over from Razer laptops, helps keep frame rates high and temperatures lower.
  • You’ll play at peak speed and resolution for a longer period of time before the phone gets overwhelmed.

Razer Phone 2 camera gets a boost

  • Dual-lens 12-megapixel camera with Sony IMX sensors, OIS on wide-angle lens.
  • Razer has added Beauty mode and a Portrait mode.
  • Front-facing 8-megapixel camera.
  • Native camera app has been reengineered with a sliding top menu, which looks like the Galaxy S9 ($620 at Amazon).


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Asus’ ROG Phone is a gaming phone with actual gaming…



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Other features

  • Razer says it’s the only phone that will play Netflix-certified HDR video with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The goal is to give you a cinematic feel through the stereo speakers.
  • 15-watt wireless charger lights up to alerts for Gmail, Facebook, and so on. The phone and wireless charger light up with the same color.
  • New themes coming to theme store inspired by games including Tekken, Vainglory and Arena of Valor

Razer Phone, Razer Phone 2, Asus ROG Phone

Razer Phone Razer Phone 2 Asus ROG Phone
Display size, resolution 5.72-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.7-inch LCD; 2,560×1,440 pixels; 120Hz screen refresh rate 6-inch AMOLED; 2,160×1,080 pixels; 90Hz screen refresh rate
Pixel density 514ppi 514ppi 402ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6.2×3.1×0.31 inches 6.2×3.1×0.33 inches 6.3x3x0.34 inches
Dimensions (millimeters) 158.5×77.7x8mm 158.5x79x8.5mm 158.8×76.2×8.7mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 6.95 oz.; 197g 7.8 oz.; 220g 7 oz.; 200g
Mobile software Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 8.1 Oreo (upgrade to Android Pie “soon”) Android 8.1 Oreo
Camera Dual 12-megapixel (wide-angle and zoom) Dual 12-megapixel (wide-angle and telephoto; wide-angle has IOS) Dual 12-megapixel and 8-megapixel, dual pixel PDAF
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 1,080p HD
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.8GHz) Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.96GHz)
Storage 64GB 32GB or 64GB 128GB or 512GB
RAM 8GB 8GB 8GB RAM
Expandable storage Up to 2TB Up to 2TB None
Battery 4,000-mAh 4,000-mAh 4,000-mAh
Fingerprint sensor Power button Right spine Back
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No Yes
Special features 120Hz screen, dual front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos 120GHz screen refresh rate, water resistant (IP68), wireless charging, gaming dock accessory (sold separately) Gaming accessories includes gamepad and dual-display dock (sold separately)
Price off-contract (USD) $699 $799 TBA
Price (GBP) £699 Converts to about £615 TBA
Price (AUD) Converts to about AU$915 Converts to about AU$1,105 TBA
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Razer shaves a bit off the price of a Razer Blade 15 – CNET

The Razer Blade 15 was one of our favorite midsize gaming laptops of 2018, thanks to a slim, sturdy design, multicolored backlit keyboard, slim bezel and powerful CPU/GPU combinations, topping out at an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070. It also cost a lot, starting at $1,899 and going up to $2,899, putting it out of the range of many.

A new version, keeping the name but making some hardware and design tweaks, is now available, and at a lower starting price of $1,599. One pleasant surprise is that the new Razer Blade 15 adds support for dual storage drives, both SSD and HDD versions, and it adds Gigabit Ethernet support. Most of the other changes, however, are cost-cutting moves.


Lori Grunin/CNET

The body, while similar, is a hair thicker, at 0.78-inch thick. The cooling system is a simple heat pipe instead of a liquid chamber. The keyboard has a single lighting zone for everything, so while you still get millions of color options, you can only view them one at a time. The biggest hardware cut may be the battery, which goes from an 80Wh capacity to 65Wh.


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And if you’re thinking of making this your main gaming rig, note that the graphics card — always the most important part — tops out at an Nvidia 1060 Max-Q, not the 1070 available in the more-expensive Razer Blade 15. The 1060 is actually fine for mainstream PC gaming at 1,920×1,080, but may not be as futureproof as you’d want in a long-term investment.

Similar parts, in a thick, clunky, plastic laptop can be found for $999 or less, so what you’re paying for here is the excellent build quality and design, the slim body, the great screen, the keyboard and lighting features, and the wide storage options. Plus a chance to show off a Razer-branded laptop for less than before.

But if you want to splurge on the “classic” model, which is thinner, has better GPU and screen options, per-key lighting and a better battery, there’s also a new version of that. The hardware is the same, but Razer is now offering the Blade 15 in a Mercury White color, which is a nice break from all that black and green. 

Fastest gaming laptops, ranked: All the most-powerful gaming laptops tested in the CNET Labs.  

Laptops with the best battery life: See the top 25 laptops and 2-in-1 PCs with the longest battery life. 

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HP Chromebook x360 14 – CNET


HP

HP has announced the third edition of its Chromebook x360. Like the previous iterations, the new x360 is a two-in-one hybrid — half laptop, half tablet, courtesy of a 360-degree foldable display — that runs Google’s streamlined Chrome operating system. But where the first two x360s were compact, rugged convertibles designed and priced for the classroom, the newest edition steps things up — with a larger display, more stylish design, superior specs and a significantly higher price.

Starting at $500, the new x360 enters a market chock full of competitors — including HP’s own Chromebook x2, announced back in April. (The company hasn’t announced pricing or availability for other regions, but that converts to roughly £380 and AU$700.) On paper, the HP x360 compares favorably, with a strong collection of components including Intel‘s eighth-gen processors. And with a 14-inch touchscreen display (with a 1,920×1,080 resolution), this year’s x360 could find a sweet spot between the legions of 13-inch and 15-inch machines.

Where the x2 features Intel’s 2017-vintage Core CPUs, optimized for performance, the new x360 comes equipped with Intel’s current eighth-gen M series, which is supposed to deliver a balance of speed and long battery life. And HP says the new x360 is rated for up to 13.5 hours — which would place it among the longest-lasting Chromebooks we’ve seen.

hp-chromebook-x360-14-combo-reversehp-chromebook-x360-14-combo-reverse

HP

HP also makes a line of higher-end convertible and touchscreen-enabled laptops under the Spectre x360 umbrella. Running higher-end components and Windows 10, they’re significantly more expensive; the most affordable model — the 13-inch Spectre x360 13 — starts at $1,150.

With the new Chromebook x360, HP appears to be further exploring the convertible Chromebook midrange landscape — potentially fertile territory. The x360 offers considerably more than other convertibles in the $200 to $400 range and it’s hundreds of dollars less expensive than Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 6 or either of Apple‘s iPad Pros. Stay tuned: We’ll make a more decisive assessment once we spend some time with a review unit.

hp-chromebook-x360-14-tenthp-chromebook-x360-14-tent

HP

Quick specs

  • Intel Core i3-813OU processor
  • 14-inch 1,920×1,080 touchscreen
  • Front-facing HD camera
  • 8GB of DDR4 memory
  • 64GB hard drive, microSD reader
  • Two USB-C connections, two USB connections
  • Up to 13.5 hours of battery life
  • Measures 12.8×8.9×0.6 inches (WDH)
  • 3.7 lbs
  • Available Oct. 21 starting at $500 (converts to £380 and AU$700)
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The self-cooling HP Mindframe gaming headset keeps your ears frosty under fire – CNET

Do you ever get a little overheated while PC gaming? I don’t mean getting angry at a close Fortnite loss and throwing a mouse across the room, or shouting obscenities at a spawn-camping teen via Discord. I mean, literally hot. Maybe even hot enough to trigger that terrible condition many are afraid to mention in polite company — sweaty ears. 


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I don’t suffer from that particular affliction myself, but I suppose it must happen, especially after long, intense gaming sessions. That’s the rationale behind the new Omen by HP Mindframe Headset (or, just the Mindframe). It’s a standard 7.1 virtual surround-sound USB gaming headset, for the most part. But it also adds one unique feature. HP calls it FrostCap technology, but it’s a type of thermoelectric cooling, and it starts dropping the temperature of the earcups of the headset as soon as you plug it in. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

This concept behind this isn’t new. The mechanism is sometimes called a Peltier cooler, and it uses an electric current to transfer heat from one side of a surface to another. You may have seen it in novelty USB-powered can coolers, which keep a round metal soda-can-size plate cold. There, it’s not very effective. In this case, it actually works. 

To test the Mindframe, I whipped out my trusty temperature gun. The starting temperature of the metal plate inside the earcups was around 77 degrees (all temperature readings in Fahrenheit). When I plugged the headset into a PC’s USB port, the plate started to get colder almost immediately. 

I put the headset on and cruised around a bit in a few games — Shadow of the Tomb Raider and a new crowd-funded sci-fi RPG I’m quite enjoying called Insomnia: The Ark. I didn’t feel like I was getting too cold, but when I pressed the earcups against my head, I could definitely feel how cold the inner plates were getting when my ears touched them. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

After about 15 minutes, I checked the internal temperature again. This time, it was around 66 degrees in most places, and even down to 63 in some spots — a major drop in a short time. Putting my fingers on the inner plate, I found it felt very cold. At the same time, the outside of the headset, directly on the flip side of the cooling plate, was getting hotter (hey, that heat has to go somewhere). I clocked the hottest part of the outer surface at 93 degrees. 

So yes, the Mindframe really does offer significant on-ear cooling. 

I’m cool, calm and collected enough to not feel like I need to keep my ears or head from perspiring while playing PC games, but I cast no judgement on those who do. If you need to cool off while gaming, your ears can be a frosty 10 or more degrees cooler for $199, starting today. 

Great games for your non-gaming laptop: No GPU? No problem. The best games to sneak onto your work laptop. 

Fastest gaming laptops, ranked: All the most powerful gaming laptops tested in the CNET Labs. 

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Assassin's Creed Odyssey Review

Homer's Odyssey is an epic Greek poem about Odysseus' 10-year journey home after the Trojan War. Assassin's Creed Odyssey is similar to Homer's Odyssey in that it is also a tale of a Greek hero whose journey takes roughly 10 years to complete.Homer’s Odyssey is an epic Greek poem about Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan War. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is similar to Homer’s Odyssey in that it is also a tale of a Greek hero whose journey takes roughly 10 years to complete.

Editor’s note: This review was originally conducted in a podcast format, available as a video above or right here as an audio file. A summary of the review follows.

Coming just a year after Origins‘ lengthy, but largely exhilarating campaign, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey takes that game’s open world RPG formula and stretches it to the point of nearly breaking. Its rendering of ancient Greece is enormous and overwhelming, a dauntingly spread-out landscape of cities, islands, and oceans densely packed with more objectives than anybody without a hundred hours of free time in front of them could ever hope to accomplish.

Look, having a lot of game is not a bad thing on its own. How many years have we futilely spent trying to break down some mythological equation that determines the exact right amount of content for a $60 game? If sheer volume of game is all you’re looking for, Odyssey is a terrific value. But what good is all that content if only maybe half of it is compelling? At its best moments, the scale of Odyssey helps feed into the feeling of grand adventure the developers are clearly striving for. But too many of those great moments are stuffed between a seemingly endless parade of samey open-world job lists and copy-pasted side quests that, while to a degree ignorable, still have to be engaged with often enough to make Odyssey’s pace feel bloated and awkward.

Set in ancient Greece a few hundred years before the events of Origins, you play as either Alexios or Kassandra, Spartan siblings whose fates are intertwined throughout the story. I can really only speak to Kassandra, as that’s who I spent 80 hours with, but she makes for a compelling protagonist, charismatically voiced by Melissanthi Mahut. While Origins’ Bayek was a mostly chaste and good-natured dad who just liked helping people along the way of his primary murder plot, Odyssey presents Kassandra as a kind of swashbuckling, bisexual mercenary–somewhere between Yara Greyjoy and Xena: Warrior Princess–and there’s room within that base portrayal to make her as bloodthirsty or charitable as you like.

Sokrates, if you think murder deserves consequence, this is not the game franchise for you.Sokrates, if you think murder deserves consequence, this is not the game franchise for you.

That layer of player choice in shaping Odyssey’s main character is just one of a host of things added to the Origins formula. In addition to all the fortresses, bandit camps, animal dens and story-focused side quests of Origins, dialogue choices add an extra layer of RPG-ness to a series that was already pretty far down that path. Additionally: the naval combat of Black Flag and Rogue is back in a big way, with a dusting of Metal Gear Solid V’s crew recruitment added to the mix. Additionally: there’s a Nemesis-lite system clearly inspired by Monolith’s Mordor games that replaces the Philakates of Origins with a tiered roster of mercenaries that will hunt you any time your wanted level gets too high. Additionally: there is a web of 30+ cultist targets–sort of a proto-Templar group–that are spread throughout the world, which must be uncovered by murdering your way through the ranks and uncovering clues to their identities. Additionally: you can engage in giant battles between the Athenian and Spartan armies in a big, bloody brawl that recalls Syndicate’s gang battles on a larger scale. ADDITIONALLY: there are mythical monsters to fight as part of a subplot involving more of the Layla/first civilization storyline that kicked back up in Origins, and continues here with some of the most patently absurd plot moments anywhere in this series. A D D I T I O N A L L Y: You can fuck a wide variety of the game’s NPCs.

If any aspect of Odyssey can be considered a triumph, it’s the fact that the devs manage to make all these disparate seeming systems more or less feel like they belong together. Yet, there’s still too much of all these things; too many cult targets to shank because you have to hunt through every corner of the world to find them, too many mercenaries that don’t have enough personality to care about beyond wanting to avoid them whenever possible, too many side quests that just feel like the same handful of rote tasks asked of you in slightly different ways. The improved enemy AI and streamlining of some of the game’s loot and progression systems make engaging with this stuff a little more fun than it generally was in Origins, but the feeling of repetitiveness still creeps in long before you get anywhere near an ending. Were it just that you could dabble in these things here and there whenever you felt like, the game would still feel long, but more manageable. But in order to level yourself high enough to take on the game’s toughest challenges, you pretty much have to partake of a large swath of this optional content–or you could buy an XP boost at the start with real money, but also maybe don’t ever do that.

The big battles between the Spartan and Athenian armies are probably the weakest part of the game. You can farm some decent loot out of them, but they aren't much fun.The big battles between the Spartan and Athenian armies are probably the weakest part of the game. You can farm some decent loot out of them, but they aren’t much fun.

Even in just the main story thread, that bloated, out-of-sorts feeling permeates a lot of what you’re doing. There were no less than four times I felt like the story was definitely winding down, only to have a new array of objectives thrown at me. And the most ludicrous thing is that, 80 damn hours later, I still think there’s another ending I haven’t seen yet. Despite working my way through Kassandra’s main family plot (which, oddly enough, feels like it rushes its conclusion despite taking ages to get there) and handling the full array of side missions pertaining to Layla and first civilization artifacts, I still have like a dozen cult targets to kill, and I just don’t want to do it. I know in my bones there’s yet another ending buried in there, and I just don’t care anymore.

The greatest shame of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is that there’s still a fair amount to like about it. It is an often beautiful looking game with some spectacular moments dotted throughout its longwinded story. Its failure to sustain and emphasize those moments feels like a failure of editing. Someone needed to take a hard look at this game and say “We don’t need all of this.” I know that’s not how game developers, especially open world game developers, are generally trained to think. We expect the size and scope of these games to forever expand in ways that ensure we’ll stay glued to our controllers for every available hour we can muster. Odyssey is an example of why that mentality needs to adjust as these games continue to engorge themselves with every popular design idea they can find a way to integrate. Origins wasn’t without its unnecessary pieces as well, but as a whole, it still felt fresh and unusual, at least for this franchise. If all you want is another huge, slightly lukewarm portion of a meal it feels like we just finished, then Odyssey certainly delivers that. Personally, I feel like I’m going to explode.

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Review: Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Homer's Odyssey is an epic Greek poem about Odysseus' 10-year journey home after the Trojan War. Assassin's Creed Odyssey is similar to Homer's Odyssey in that it is also a tale of a Greek hero whose journey takes roughly 10 years to complete.Homer’s Odyssey is an epic Greek poem about Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan War. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is similar to Homer’s Odyssey in that it is also a tale of a Greek hero whose journey takes roughly 10 years to complete.

Editor’s note: This review was originally conducted in a podcast format, available as a video above or right here as an audio file. A summary of the review follows.

Coming just a year after Origins‘ lengthy, but largely exhilarating campaign, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey takes that game’s open world RPG formula and stretches it nearly to the point of breaking. Its rendering of ancient Greece is enormous and overwhelming, a dauntingly spread-out landscape of cities, islands, and oceans densely packed with more objectives than anybody without a hundred hours of free time in front of them could ever hope to accomplish.

Look, having a lot of game is not a bad thing on its own. How many years have we futilely spent trying to break down some mythological equation that determines the exact right amount of content for a $60 game? If sheer volume of game is all you’re looking for, Odyssey is a terrific value. But what good is all that content girth if only maybe half of it is compelling? At its best moments, the scale of Odyssey helps feed into the feeling of grand adventure the developers are clearly striving for. But too many of those great moments are stuffed between a seemingly endless parade of samey open-world job lists and copy-pasted side-quests that, while to a degree ignorable, still have to be engaged with often enough to make Odyssey’s pace feel bloated and awkward.

Set in ancient Greece a few hundred years before the events of Origins, you play as either Alexios or Kassandra, Spartan siblings whose fates are intertwined throughout the story. I can really only speak to Kassandra, as that’s who I spent 80 hours with, but she makes for a compelling protagonist, charismatically voiced by Melissanthi Mahut. While Origins’ Bayek was a mostly chaste and good-natured dad who just liked helping people along the way of his primary murder plot, Odyssey presents Kassandra as a kind of swashbuckling, bisexual mercenary–somewhere between Yara Greyjoy and Xena: Warrior Princess–and there’s room within that base portrayal to make her as bloodthirsty or charitable as you like.

Sokrates, if you think murder deserves consequence, this is not the game franchise for you.Sokrates, if you think murder deserves consequence, this is not the game franchise for you.

That layer of player choice in shaping Odyssey’s main character is just one of a host of things added to the Origins formula. In addition to all the fortresses, bandit camps, animal dens and story-focused sidequests of Origins, dialogue choices add an extra layer of RPG-ness to a series that was already pretty far down that path. Additionally: the naval combat of Black Flag and Rogue is back in a big way, with a dusting of Metal Gear Solid V’s crew recruitment added to the mix. Additionally: there’s a Nemesis-lite system clearly inspired by Monolith’s Mordor games that replaces the Philakates of Origins with a tiered roster of mercenaries that will hunt you any time your wanted level gets too high. Additionally: there is a web of 30+ cultist targets–sort of a proto-Templar group–that are spread throughout the world, which must be uncovered by murdering your way through the ranks and uncovering clues to their identities. Additionally: you can engage in giant battles between the Athenian and Spartan armies in a big, bloody brawl that recalls Syndicate’s gang battles on a larger scale. ADDITIONALLY: there are mythical monsters to fight as part of a subplot involving more of the Layla/first civilization storyline that kicked back up in Origins, and continues here with some of the most patently absurd plot moments anywhere in this series. A D D I T I O N A L L Y: You can fuck a wide variety of the game’s NPCs.

If any aspect of Odyssey can be considered a triumph, it’s the fact that the devs manage to make all these disparate seeming systems more or less feel like they belong together. Yet, there’s still too much of all these things; too many cult targets to shank because you have to hunt through every corner of the world to find them, too many mercenaries that don’t have enough personality to care about beyond wanting to avoid them whenever possible, too many sidequests that just feel like the same handful of rote tasks asked of you in slightly different ways. The improved enemy AI and streamlining of some of the game’s loot and progression systems make engaging with this stuff a little more fun than it generally was in Origins, but the feeling of repetitiveness still creeps in long before you get anywhere near an ending. Were it just that you could dabble in these things here and there whenever you felt like, the game would still feel long, but more manageable. But in order to level yourself high enough to take on the game’s toughest challenges, you pretty much have to partake of a large swath of this optional content–or you could buy an XP boost at the start with real money, but also maybe don’t ever do that.

The big battles between the Spartan and Athenian armies are probably the weakest part of the game. You can farm some decent loot out of them, but they aren't much fun.

The big battles between the Spartan and Athenian armies are probably the weakest part of the game. You can farm some decent loot out of them, but they aren't much fun.

The big battles between the Spartan and Athenian armies are probably the weakest part of the game. You can farm some decent loot out of them, but they aren’t much fun.

Even in just the main story thread, that bloated, out-of-sorts feeling permeates a lot of what you’re doing. There were no less than four times I felt like the story was definitely winding down, only to have a new array of objectives thrown at me. And the most ludicrous thing is that, 80 damn hours later, I still think there’s another ending I haven’t seen yet. Despite working my way through Kassandra’s main family plot (which, oddly enough, feels like it rushes its conclusion despite taking ages to get there) and handling the full array of side missions pertaining to Layla and first civilization artifacts, I still have like a dozen cult targets to kill, and I just don’t want to do it. I know in my bones there’s yet another ending buried in there, and I just don’t care anymore.

The greatest shame of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is that there’s still a fair amount to like about it. It is an often beautiful looking game with some spectacular story moments dotted throughout its longwinded story. Its failure to sustain and emphasize those moments feels like a failure of editing. Someone needed to take a hard look at this game and say “We don’t need all of this.” I know that’s not how game developers, especially open world game developers, are generally trained to think. We expect the size and scope of these games to forever expand in ways that ensure we’ll stay glued to our controllers for every available hour we can muster. Odyssey is an example of why that mentality maybe needs to adjust as these games continue to engorge themselves with every popular design idea they can find a way to integrate. Origins wasn’t without its unnecessary pieces as well, but as a whole, it still felt fresh and unusual, at least for this franchise. If all you want is another huge, slightly lukewarm portion of a meal it feels like we just finished, then Odyssey certainly delivers that. Personally, I feel like I’m going to explode.

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2018 Land Rover Range Rover Td6 Diesel HSE SWB review: Better tech with a delicious diesel – Roadshow

At first glance, it’s difficult to believe that the Land Rover Range Rover was updated for 2018. Land Rover says its flagship SUV sports a restyled clamshell hood, grille, headlights, bumpers and wheels. To confirm, I had to pull up pictures of the 2016 Land Rover Range Rover HSE Td6 I drove a couple of years back and put them side-by-side with ones of the 2018 HSE Td6 that’s the subject of this review. There are slight differences, but they take quite a keen eye to pick out.

Big changes inside

As you slide into the cabin, new-for-2018 seats that are wider and more comfortable greet front passengers, while the power seat controls move  to the door panels from the sides of the lower cushions making for easier adjustment. There’s 0.2-inch-thicker glass, too, to better insulate the interior from road, wind and engine noise, which definitely works because the diesel clatter at low revs that I heard in the 2016 model isn’t as prominent here.

However, the most noteworthy update to the 2018 Range Rover takes place in the center stack, with a new Touch Pro Duo system quarterbacking infotainment features. Dual 10-inch touchscreens control a great-sounding Meridian audio system with 19 speakers, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 8 devices and Bluetooth. The new system will also be Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible with an upcoming software update that is coming any day now, according to a Land Rover spokesman.

Touch Pro Duo’s screen resolution and graphics look good and thankfully there’s still a physical volume button at the bottom of the stack, but some general operating issues remain. The system is occasionally slow to boot at vehicle startup, it responds sluggishly to commands and the navigation menu isn’t the most intuitive to use when you want to enter destinations.

To juice up devices, there are three USB ports and two 12-volt sockets up front, while an additional two USB ports, two 12-volt outlets and a three-prong plug are located on the rear of the center console for back-seat occupants.

Touch Pro Duo will finally bring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the Range Rover.


Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Safety technologies carry over from previous years, with blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, parking sensors, rear traffic alert and traffic sign recognition coming standard on the Range Rover’s HSE trim level. Options on my test car include an excellent adaptive cruise control system, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and a head-up display. A 360-degree camera is also installed to help make maneuvering the big Rover into parking spaces a cinch.  

Everything else in the cabin is also familiar with a high seating position, spacious second-row seats and an eye-pleasing mixture of stitched leather, wood and silver finishes. The 31.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row serves me well during numerous runs to Home Depot for supplies. One trip to move two toilets requires folding the rear seats down to open up 68.6 cubic feet of space, which easily accommodates the porcelain thrones.

Delectable diesel

Driving the diesel-powered Rover is still a treat with 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 churning out 254 horsepower and a muscular 443 pound-feet of torque. The slight lull in the powerband at throttle tip-in is a little annoying, but from 1,800 rpm on the oil-burner pulls hard and the ZF-built eight-speed automatic gearbox goes about its business in a seamless manner.

The diesel gives the Range Rover a driving range of up to 658 miles.


Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Together they get the 4,958-pound sled to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, which is far from slow all things considered. The diesel is a step behind the supercharged V6 model that hits 60 in 7.1 seconds. But it makes up for its acceleration deficit with estimated fuel economy of 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for a driving range of up to 658 miles per tank. Compared to the gas engine’s 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway ratings, that isn’t a bad consolation prize.

The Range Rover’s standard air suspension system still provides a supremely cushy ride around town, softening blows from small to medium bumps when you have the car in Comfort mode. Steering effort is light and response isn’t the snappiest here, but it’s all perfect to make slogs through rush hour as relaxing as possible.

Sharper reflexes are available in Dynamic mode to tighten suspension, steering and drivetrain response, but you’re not going to mistake the Range Rover for a sports car. There’s still noticeable lean at corner turn-in before it takes a set. There’s respectable grip and composure from the P255/55R20 Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season tires, and the brakes get things slow in rapid fashion.

The air suspension can provide both a comfy ride and respectable corning capabilities.


Nick Miotke/Roadshow

How I’d spec it

Since I’m a big fan of diesels for their torque and range, my Range Rover will have the diesel, which is a $2,000 premium over the supercharged gas V6. I will also spring for the HSE model because it comes standard with blind spot monitoring and traffic sign recognition, and I like always having a reminder of the speed limit. That begins at $97,045, including $995 destination.

From there I would add the $2,400 Vision Assist Package, mainly for the 360-degree camera and head-up display, and $135 for the three-prong power outlet because those come in handy to power bigger electronics like laptops. This brings the price tag of my ideal Range Rover to $99,880, undercutting my test car’s $108,040 as-tested price by a respectable amount.

Getting a diesel in your Range Rover is worth the $2,000 premium.


Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The only diesel

When it comes to large luxury SUVs, the Range Rover has a few competitors like the Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX 570 and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class that are all getting up there in age. Compared to those three, the Rover features a superior mix of ride comfort and handling, being nicely compliant when needed with things in the Comfort setting and composed enough in Dynamic. I also happen to think it looks the best out of the group.

But the biggest selling point for the Range Rover is the available diesel engine. It’s the only game in town now that Benz no longer offers it on the GLS. Thankfully, this diesel’s a good one.

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