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Razer Debuts Naga X Gaming Mouse for MMO Gamers

Razer is expanding its family of gaming mice with the launch of the new Razer Naga X, which is now the lightest mouse in the Naga lineup. The lightweight design and robust customizations on the Naga X make it ideally suited for MMO gamers, the company said, and if you’re already gaming on Razer’s ecosystem of laptops, the Chroma RGB lighting on the Naga X would be a nice addition to your existing setup.

The Naga X comes with 16 buttons in a lightweight 85-gram design. Like the original Naga, it looks like gamers won’t be able to adjust the weight on this model, but an array of programmable buttons on the side of the Naga X makes it easy to map to essential game keys. Razer’s HyperShift allows you to double the number of inputs with a secondary button profile when the HyperShift button is held down. Gamers can use Razer’s Synapse 3 to map the Naga X’s buttons. There’s also onboard memory, so you can save all your presets to the mouse.

In total, you’re getting nine action buttons, along with three different assignable buttons on the side.

“Each button can be assigned to basic functions like casting spells to advanced functions, such as macros combining multiple command keys all at once,” the company said, noting that the Naga X was “made to raid.”

Up top, you’re getting the traditional left and right mouse buttons, an autorun scroller, two zoom controllers to zoom in and out, and a button to increase the DPI to adjust the sensitivity of the Naga X. The buttons make use of Razer’s second-generation optical mouse switch design for better tactile feedback. The infrared light is rated with a fast 0.2ms response time. The Naga X also uses Razer’s 5G advanced optical sensor for 99.4% accurate tracking, the company said.

Other features of the Naga X include PTFE feet for the smoothest glide across any surface, along with a braided Speedflex cable that’s designed for minimal drag when you’re playing fast, action-packed titles.

The Naga X comes in an ergonomic design for gamers with medium to large hands, Razer claims, and the overall package is made for those who prefer palm or claw grip styles. If you’re unsure of your hand size, Razer has a convenient guide that shows you how to measure your hand to find the perfect mouse for your needs depending on the types of games you typically play.

Razer’s Naga X is shipping now, and right-handed MMO gamers can pick one up from the company’s online store for $79 — this mouse won’t be a good fit for left-handed users.

Editors’




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Google buys Neverware to turn old PCs into Chromebooks

Google has quietly acquired Neverware, a developer that can take an old Mac or PC and essentially retrofit it into a Chromebook via its CloudReady technology. The technology will be folded into the ChromeOS team, Neverware said.

Neverware quietly announced the acquisition in a blog post on Monday night and said that more details would be revealed over the coming months. A corresponding FAQ didn’t indicate any major changes would be coming to the CloudReady technology, though the two companies will begin to more closely sync their development cycle: “As CloudReady becomes an official Chrome OS offering, you can expect the release mechanics to fall in line with official Chrome OS releases,” the company said.

“Over the long term CloudReady will become an official Chrome OS offering, and existing customers will be upgraded seamlessly as that happens,” Neverware said. News of the Google acquisition of Neverware was previously published by 9to5Google

Adding Neverware is a powerful addition for Google’s ChromeOS team, which had previously invested in the technology. Neverware offers three editions of CloudReady, including a free Home edition that Neverware said won’t go away. (The Home edition doesn’t come with paid support, while the other editions do.)

Eventually, it appears that Google’s ChromeOS won’t just ship with certified Chromebooks, but could be made freely available for users to retrofit older PCs. Traditionally, that role has been played by one of the various flavors of Linux, whose relatively light hardware requirements can accommodate outdated hardware. Of course, installing and running Linux can be daunting with those who are unfamiliar to it. ChromeOS, via CloudReady, appears poised to step in and take over as the lightweight yet consumer-friendly OS for older PCs.

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Intel debuts ‘Clover Falls’ companion chip for improved laptop AI

On Thursday, Intel debuted “Clover Falls,” an AI companion chip that the company will ship as a platform-level enhancement for commercial PCs, and presumably later for consumer PCs as well.

Intel described Clover Falls, aka the Intel Visual Sensing Controller, as a “secure companion chip that helps make PCs more smart and secure through the power of Intel artificial intelligence.” It will be mounted on the laptop’s motherboard, “bringing new low-power capabilities to the PC and helping it sense and adapt to its surroundings,” according to a blog post published by the company. 

So what exactly will Clover Falls do? As with many things relating to AI, it’s not exactly clear. One example that Intel gave claimed that the Clover Falls module could help the system automatically adjust display brightness after detecting user presence. It’s likely that Clover Falls will be a sort of AI co-processor, tasked with the kind of low-power, semi-passive monitoring that normally the CPU wakes up to do periodically. By offloading some of these functions to a dedicated chip, the main PC processor can remain in a deep sleep, preserving battery life. 

In an email, an Intel spokeswoman described Clover Falls as “a companion chip that works with any camera sensor,” she wrote. “We’ll have more specifics on this around CES.”

Although Intel didn’t specify which PCs or customers the new Clover Falls chip will be aimed at, the company’s announcement included a quote from Meghana Patwardhan, vice president of Dell Latitude and Mobility Products, implying at least the possibility of a partnership. “Working with Intel is so much more than buying a processor that will work with our product,” Patwardhan said. “The co-engineering effort involves Intel’s dedication to tackling unique product challenges together and taking the entirety of the system into consideration—all so we can deliver amazing new platform features to business users.”

Improving Intel’s Evo platform

The subtext here should be familiar for long-time enthusiasts: When Intel has faced strong, direct competition in its processor business, it has leaned more heavily on its holistic, “platform” approach to PCs. Though Intel apparently feels strongly that its 11th-gen Core chip, Tiger Lake, is the fastest laptop processor on the planet right now—and, based on our reviews, it mostly is—rival AMD is expected to launch its next-gen Ryzen 5000 Mobile processor at the CES show in January.

In the real world, Intel’s “platform” has meant technology improvements like Thunderbolt 3, which has effectively remained an Intel-only technology. Beginning with its 10th-gen Ice Lake cores, Intel has also been highlighting its AI capabilities, which are embodied within what Intel calls the Gaussian Neural Accelerator. It’s not clear how Clover Falls will cooperate with the integrated GNA core, or how tasks might be divided.

All of these technological improvements are wrapped up inside what Intel previously called Project Athena, and now calls “Evo”: a brand that consolidates all the co-engineering work Intel and its partners have put into making a “better” laptop. Nearly 40 Evo laptops have launched worldwide, among them the Acer Swift 5, Asus ZenBook Flip S, Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre x360, Lenovo Yoga 9i, and Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 5G, Intel said.

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Laptop CPU battle: Apple M1 vs. Intel 11th-gen Core vs. AMD Ryzen 4000

Apple’s new M1 processor took the laptop world by storm, with many proclaiming it had ended the PC’s whole career.

Hyperbole and irrational fanboy flexing aside, Apple’s M1 is indeed a powerful chip. But to get a better feel against its contemporaries we sat down and retested a pile of current Windows 10 laptops to get an idea where the M1 MacBook Air 13 lands in the pecking order of laptops.

While we don’t have direct access to an MacBook Pro M1, our sister publication, Macworld does, so we cribbed from its glowing review of the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1. Macworld also graciously ran a couple of additional tests for our analysis. For two other results, we relied on published results from Puget Systems, a bespoke system builder that manufactures workstations and rolls its own productivity-focused benchmarks.

Our tests show the M1 MacBook Air 13 performing very well compared to equivalent PC laptops. You can jump straight to our conclusion for the final analysis, but if you want to dig deeper to see exactly where and how the M1 does well, read on… 

The laptops we tested

Apple’s MacBook Pro M1 features its spiffy new M1 Arm-based SoC/CPU, a 512GB custom SSD, 16GB of LPDDR4X/4267 memory, a 13.3-inch 2560×1600 screen, and lap weight of 3.1 lbs.

For our PC comparisons, we decided to pick from laptops that are similar in size and weight:

  • MSI’s Prestige 14 Evo is equipped with a four-core, 11th-gen Core i7-1185G7 with Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of LPDDR4X/4267 memory, a 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD, and a 14-inch FHD screen. It weighs 2.7 lbs.
  • MSI’s older Prestige 14 is equipped with a six-core, 10th-gen Core i7-10710U, GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics, 16GB of LPDDR3/2133 memory, a 1TB PCIe 3.0 SSD, and a 14-inch 4K screen. It weighs 2.8 lbs.
  • Lenovo’s Yoga Slim 7 has an eight-core Ryzen 4800U with Radeon graphics, 16GB of LPDDR4X/4267 memory, a 512GB PCIe 3.0 SSD, a 14-inch FHD, and lap weight of 3.1 lbs.
  • The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 includes an eight-core Ryzen 9 4800HS, GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics, 16GB of DDR4/3200 memory, a 1TB PCIe 3.0 SSD, a 14-inch FHD screen, and a weight of 3.6 lbs. 

Before you object to having the Zephyrus G14 laptop here, pay close attention to the weight and size of the laptop. At 3.6 lbs., it’s actually very close to the weight of the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 and the Apple MacBook Pro 13, which are each 3.1 lbs. We think there are indeed some people who might consider the Zephyrus G14 to get the extra power its GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q provides. Yes, the 180 watt power brick adds even more weight to the G14, but it may just be worth it to those folks.

We think discrete graphics are one of the overlooked features of the older MSI Prestige 14 too—a laptop that weighs less than the Lenovo Slim 7 and MacBook Pro M1, but features a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU inside. There are indeed several compromises in the older Prestige 14 to get that GPU, which we detailed in our original review, but weight is typically the great equalizer.

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Ryzen 5000 doubles AMD’s gaming laptop share, but Nvidia still rules

AMD has said it would make impressive inroads into gaming laptops this year, and so far it’s trending well, according to an ongoing list of gaming laptops available to order or pre-order.

Youtuber GizmoSlipTech created the list of gaming laptops with GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs that are available to buy or pre-order. Our sample set below dates from January 15, when, by GizmoSlipTech’s count, there were 28 different RTX 30-series laptops with Intel CPUs and 13 RTX 30-series laptops with AMD CPUs.

That data gave AMD a respectable 32-percent share vs. Intel’s 68 percent. The list included a few models announced but not yet available, such as Lenovo’s Legion and Alienware’s m15 and m17, as well as Asus’ ROG Zephyrus G14 and TUF 15 and TUF 17. Of those, the Lenovo and Asus models will use Ryzen, while the pair of Alienwares will use Core. If we counted those models, it would give AMD 36 percent vs. Intel’s 64 percent.

cpu share GizmoSlipTech

According to a compiled list of laptops you can order or pre-order, AMD’s Ryzen 5000 mobile CPUs have made greater inroads compared to previous generations.

Intel’s Core still dominates in models or “design wins,” but it’s slipping. A similar list GizmoSlipTech compiled in 2020 gave Intel about 85 percent of laptops with GeForce RTX 20-series or GeForce GTX 16-series gaming GPUs.

A note on margin of error: While we have faith in the RTX 30-series list above because we covered many of them, 2020’s list misses a few Intel models we knew of. We’d be surprised if AMD had been used in more than 10 percent of gaming laptops last year.

cpu share 2 GizmoSlipTech

A similar list of GeForce-based gaming laptops compiled last year by GizmoSlipTech had about 85 percent of wins going to Intel Core CPUs.

High-end GPUs with Ryzen—huzzah!

The most significant change of fortune for AMD is its pairing with high-end GPUs. By high-end, we mean laptops with GeForce RTX 2070 or RTX 2080 GPUs. When Ryzen 4000 debuted, the best you could ever get with this very decent CPU for all of 2020 was a GeForce RTX 2060 with an AMD CPU. It was often explained by AMD as well as laptop vendors that they were conservative with their bets initially, giving Intel a total lock on higher-end GPUs in gaming laptops.

gpu share 2 GizmoSlipTech

Laptops based on Intel CPUs basically had the lock on high-end GPUs last year.

This year, things are looking up. We filtered GizmoTechSlip’s list and saw nine laptops using Ryzen 5000 and a GeForce 3070 or GeForce 3080. But what of AMD’s claim that it will be the choice of high-end gaming laptops this year? So far that doesn’t seem to be true, but it’s only the middle of January—too early to tell.

Of course, announced design wins and pre-orders are one thing Actual production quantity is another. If AMD laptops go from pre-order to sold-out in a hot minute and stay that way for three months, then it’s all academic.

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MacBook Pro 2020: News, Rumors, Price, and Release Date

The MacBook Pro has gained a renewed lease of life since Apple outfitted it with the superb M1 chip in 2020. It seems to have an exciting future ahead of it, and with plenty of interesting rumors doing the rounds, there is a lot of debate as to what the next version of Apple’s Pro laptops might contain.

There has been a recent flurry of information, with respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and prominent reporter Mark Gurman both shedding light on an all-new 14-inch version, as well as updates to the current MacBook Pro 16. We have broken down their thoughts, as well as other rumors from the industry, to summarize what you can expect from the 2021 MacBook Pro models. Here is everything you need to know, from the price and design to battery life and more.

Price and release date

When Apple last redesigned its professional laptop range with the MacBook Pro 16 in 2019, it kept the price exactly the same as that of the previous MacBook Pro 15, despite introducing a raft of new features and an overhauled design. The company did the same thing when it outfitted the MacBook Pro 13 with the brand-new M1 chip, despite the massive uptick in performance this upgrade offered.

We expect the same will be true of the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models due out this year. Apple seems to be happy with its current MacBook Pro pricing structure, and we do not expect that to change any time soon. Ultimately, that could mean more bang for your buck.

So, when might you be able to get your hands on one of these new models? The likelihood is they will be out around the middle of 2021, with Kuo expecting them to be released in the third quarter of 2021 (July 1 to September 30). Gurman offers a similar timeline, saying they should make an appearance “around the middle of the year.”

A new, squared-off design

In recent years, Apple has started to revert many of its products back to the square-edge design last seen in the iPhone SE in 2016 — first the iPad Pro and then the iPhone 12 range. According to reports, the MacBook Pro will soon join them.

Kuo believes the MacBook Pro 2021’s design will feature squared-off sides on both the top and bottom sections, rather than the slightly curved back found on the current MacBook Pro models. This may only be a minor change, as the bottom half of the existing MacBook Pro could already be thought of as “squared-off.”

Aside from that, you may be wondering if the MacBook Pro 16’s thermal architecture will make the leap across to the MacBook Pro 14. Given the superb thermal efficiency of the M1 chip in the current MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Air, though, this may be entirely unnecessary — the new MacBook Air, after all, does not even need a fan, such is its chip’s ability to keep cool under pressure.

The Magic Keyboard is almost certain to remain in place — no return to the ill-fated butterfly keyboard — but there is one longtime MacBook stalwart that may finally be ditched: The Touch Bar. Ever since debuting in 2016, this touch-sensitive strip has been divisive, and it seems Apple may have finally lost patience with it rather than trying to fix it. Kuo claims the next MacBook Pro will definitely go without the Touch Bar, while Gurman says only that Apple has been testing Touch Bar-free models, but both lines of thought seem to indicate there is not much future for Apple’s OLED bar. Given how little it lived up to its potential, that may not be a bad thing.

Processor and battery life

Apple made a real splash when it released the first version of its own Apple Silicon processors, the M1, in the latest round of Macs. In our testing, they proved to be blazing fast, with the Mac Mini offering the best performance of the lot.

There is good news on that front, as the 2021 MacBook Pro models are expected to have the next generation of this chip (perhaps called the M2 or M1X). We already know from previous reporting that Apple is working on processors with upwards of 32 cores, although that chip in particular is almost certainly reserved for the Mac Pro. That said, expect the 2021 MacBook Pro models to come with more cores and more performance — the M1 was just the beginning.

A report from Bloomberg has claimed the next generation of Apple Silicon chips could feature 16 high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. They are supposedly due out this year, meaning they could debut in the next MacBook Pro. If those chips do not quite meet the deadline, Apple might launch chips with eight or 12 high-performance cores instead. Either outcome would be an increase over the M1 and its four high-performance and four high-efficiency cores.

The processor also means good things for battery life. When we reviewed the M1 MacBook Pro, we got 21 hours of battery life in our video playback test and 16 hours during light web browsing. That is around three times the battery life of the 2020 Intel MacBook Pro. You can expect similar feats from the 2021 MacBook Pro thanks to the incredibly efficient ARM-based chip it will be using.

A brighter, higher-contrast display

Among all the MacBook Pro rumors, those concerning its display have remained some of the most interesting. Kuo has maintained for some time that Apple is working on outfitting its pro laptop with a Mini-LED display. This tech crams thousands of small-scale LEDs into the screen, offering superb contrast and dynamic range without the burn-in issues that OLED displays can suffer from.

The latest reports on Apple’s MacBook Pro plans leave this Mini-LED possibility open, seemingly without confirming either way whether Apple will use it. Gurman, for example, says the 2021 MacBook Pro models will have “brighter, higher-contrast panels.” This fits with what we expect from Mini-LED displays without referring to them by name, so it remains to be seen what Apple will do.

What is more certain is that Apple will slim down the bezels on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, allowing for a larger 14-inch panel to fit in the same-sized chassis. This is the same approach the company took when it replaced the MacBook Pro 15 with a 16-inch model without increasing its footprint. This change will result in a more modern-looking laptop and more screen space for your work.

More port variety and the return of MagSafe

Ever since the 2016 redesign that ushered in the Touch Bar and butterfly keyboard, Apple has stuck resolutely to USB-C in its laptops — to the exclusion of all other port options. That, though, may soon change.

Multiple reports have suggested Apple is going to loosen the USB-C stranglehold a little and allow a smidge more port variety in the 2021 MacBook Pro. We do not know exactly which ports might come back (although USB-C will still be present), but anything that lessens our dependence on adapters and dongles is a good thing.

The increase in port variety means an apparent return for a much-loved MacBook feature that was first ditched with the 12-inch MacBook in 2015: MagSafe. This handy tech magnetically attaches the charging cable to your Mac, meaning it quickly snaps loose if the cable gets yanked, preventing your expensive laptop from falling to the ground and smashing. According to industry rumors, Apple is going to reintroduce MagSafe in the 2021 MacBook Pro and have it work using a pill-shaped port much like its old incarnation. Given how popular MagSafe was — and how much we have missed it since it was ditched — this is a welcome change of heart from Apple.

It does, however, mean a return to a proprietary charging tech, whereas from 2016 to the present the MacBook Pro has charged over the common USB-C port. Although you might be worrying about whether your old USB-C charger will work with the new MagSafe-equipped MacBooks, don’t – provided the new MacBook Pro comes with USB-C ports, you will be able to charge it up over that slot, even if it also has MagSafe.

MacBook Pro 2021: Our wish list

Despite the extensive rumors over what might be included in the 2021 MacBook Pro, there are still a few other features that we would love to see make an appearance. These are not guaranteed but would certainly have a hugely positive impact should Apple give them the green light.

Aside from more port variety, we would like to see more ports, period. It is still possible to buy a MacBook Pro with only two ports — in fact, the four-port MacBook Pro models are limited to Intel processors, and if you want the much better M1 chips, you must accept half the number of USB-C slots. When you are paying $1,299 or more for a laptop, that is not good enough.

The second feature we would love to see is Face ID. This secure tech already works wonders on the iPhone and iPad, and it would be a welcome addition to the Mac. Imagine sitting down in front of your laptop and it automatically unlocks without you having to do anything — that is what Face ID could offer, and we know Apple is at least considering it.

However, the industry has been noticeably quiet on this of late, and neither Kuo nor Gurman mention it in their latest reports, so we think it is sadly unlikely to be a feature in the 2021 MacBook Pro models. Whether that is due to delays caused by COVID-19 or Apple’s unwillingness to add it to the Mac, we cannot say.

Editors’




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The Best Web Browsers for 2021

Unlike choosing MacOS, Windows, or Chrome OS, where choices are mutually exclusive, switching between web browsers isn’t quite so jarring. You can download and install any browser you choose, but which is best? Which is the safest and most private?

To help you decide, we grabbed the latest browsers and boiled them down. Even if some of them could use a complete overhaul, these options are your best chance for a great online experience.

The best web browsers at a glance

The best web browser: Google Chrome

Chrome is ubiquitous — and for good reason. With a robust feature set, full Google Account integration, a thriving extension ecosystem, and a reliable suite of mobile apps, it’s easy to see why Chrome is the gold standard for web browsers.

Chrome boasts some of the best mobile integration available. Served up on every major platform, keeping data in sync is easy, making browsing between multiple devices a breeze. Sign in to your Google account on one device, and all Chrome bookmarks, saved data, and preferences come right along. Even active extensions stay in sync across devices.

To celebrate the browser’s 10th birthday, Google introduced a significant visual redesign and some nice new features with Chrome 69 in 2018. Google rounded and smoothed out the user interface, ditching all the previous sharper edges and harsh angles for a gentler and more attractive aesthetic. Tabs are easier to identify thanks to more visible favicons, making it perfect for anyone who typically keeps numerous tabs open.

In addition, Chrome’s password manager now automatically generates and recommends strong passwords when a user creates a new account on a webpage. The search bar, or Omnibox, provides “rich results” comprised of useful answers. Favorites are more accessible too, and they’re manageable on the New Tab page.

Other more recent updates include a Dark Mode for Windows and MacOS, better New Tab customization, tab hover cards, and an in-browser warning if your password was discovered in a data breach. There’s also the ability to quiet notifications so websites don’t bombard you with requests to enable in-browser notifications.

What’s the bottom line? Chrome is fast, free, light, and even better-looking than before. With a thriving extension ecosystem, it’s as fully featured or as pared down as you want it to be. Everything is right where it belongs, privacy and security controls are laid out in plain English, and the browser just gets out of your way.

If you’re not sure which browser to use, install Chrome now.

The best Chrome alternative: Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox comes in a close second — a very close second. Mozilla takes real strides to make its browser a truly modern way to surf from site to site, thanks to efforts like its upgrade to Firefox Quantum, its virtual reality-based alternative Firefox Reality, and password-free browsing.

It wasn’t too long ago that Mozilla rebuilt the browser’s interface, offering a cleaner, more modern take on what a web browser should be. The changes weren’t just skin deep, however: There’s some impressive engineering going on behind the scenes.

For instance, Firefox Quantum is designed to leverage multicore processors in ways that its competitors just aren’t doing. It’s not going to make a huge difference in your day-to-day browsing, but Mozilla hopes this design will give Firefox Quantum an edge moving forward. By engineering for the future now, Firefox Quantum is in a better position to take advantage of quicker and quicker processors as they emerge.

More recent updates include better privacy protections with anti-tracker support, improved password syncing across devices, improved readability, integrated breach alerts, and a Protections Dashboard that provides a summary of how Firefox protects your privacy behind the scenes. WebRender improves the graphics performance on Windows PCs with Intel and AMD CPUs.

Beneath those changes, Firefox remains the comfortable, familiar standby. It’s a capable browser with a deep catalog of extensions and user interface customization. While managing settings across platforms isn’t as seamless as Chrome, the mobile app lets you share bookmarks between devices when using a free Firefox account.

There’s a bit of a fringe benefit, too. Since it’s been around longer than Chrome, some older web apps — the likes of which you might encounter at your university or workplace — work better on Firefox than they do on Chrome. For that reason, it never hurts to keep it around.

Overall, Firefox is more privacy-centric than Chrome and is comparably fast, but its feature set isn’t quite as expansive elsewhere.

The most innovative web browser: Opera

Opera Browser

Also a venerable browser and popular alternative, Opera shares much of Chrome’s DNA. Both browsers are built on Google’s open-source Chromium engine, and, as a result, they have a very similar user experience. Both feature a hybrid URL/search bar, and both are relatively light and fast.

The differences appear when you look at Opera’s built-in features. Where Chrome relies on an extension ecosystem to provide functionality users might want, Opera has a few more features baked right into the browser itself. It also introduced a predictive website preload ability, and an Instant Search feature isolates search results in their separate window while the current page fades into the background — letting users more easily focus on the research task at hand.

You can install extensions from the Opera Add-ons store, just like Chrome. Similar to Google’s browser, you’ll find useful tools like Giphy, Amazon Assistant, Avast Online Security, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and more. If Chrome’s wide variety of extensions is important to you, then Opera becomes an intriguing alternative. It might just be one of the best browsers for quickly navigating web pages.

Opera also features a built-in “Stash” for saving pages to read later. There’s no need to sign up for a Pocket or Evernote account to save a page for later reading. Similarly, Opera features a speed dial menu that puts all your most frequently visited pages in one place. Chrome also does this but only on a blank new tab. Finally, Opera has a built-in unlimited VPN service, making it a more secure option.

The biggest changes came with Opera 60 and Reborn 3, a complete revamp of the browser’s design that brought a new borderless design, Web 3 support, and a Crypto Wallet allowing users to prepare for blockchain-based sites. With version 69, Opera became the first browser with a built-in Twitter tool. Just click the icon on the toolbar, log in to your account, and tweet away right from within the slide-out menu.

You can see that we’re well into hair-splitting territory, which is why it’s important to remember that your choice of browser is, more than any other service or app you use each day, entirely dependent on your personal preferences — what feels most right for you. Opera has a unique look and feel, and it combines some of the best features of Firefox and Chrome.

The web browser with the most potential: Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge Chromium

Microsoft developed an integrated browser for Windows 10, dubbed Edge, that used an in-house browsing engine and updated along with the operating system. This project was arguably a failure, as Edge remained unable to gain a substantial market share despite serving as the default browser.

In response, Microsoft rewrote Edge using the open-source Chromium web browser engine. The new version launched on February 5, 2020, as a separate, stand-alone browser that replaced the integrated version. It’s now part of Windows 10 as of the May 2020 Update, although you can still download it for Windows 10 builds prior to version 2004.

At first glance, Microsoft Edge looks and feels like Chrome. It prompts you to import Chrome’s bookmarks toolbar and other settings. This is great if you previously hated Edge and want to give Microsoft’s browser another shot. Even more, it supports Chrome extensions, though the browser leads you to the Microsoft Store for add-ons. You must manually load the Chrome Web Store to install anything not listed in Microsoft’s repository.

However, it’s not Chrome with a Windows 10 theme. Leaked slides from a now-suspended Twitter account revealed that Microsoft disabled many features, including Google’s Safe Browsing API, ad blocking, speech input, Google-centric services, and more. But the big news here is performance. Microsoft optimized the Chromium-based Edge for Windows 10, reducing the amount of RAM used, which should be good news for PCs with minimal installed memory.

Microsoft Edge provides simpler privacy settings, too. In Chrome, you merely have separate panels for safe browsing, “do not track” requests, and more. Microsoft Edge provides a more graphically friendly interface, displaying three security levels: Basic, Balanced, and Strict. With Balanced set as the default, many sites request you to disable your pop-up blocker even though one isn’t manually installed.

At this point, the new Microsoft Edge shows promise. Even still, it’s also available on MacOS and iOS, giving Mac owners another alternative to Safari. It’s available on Android, too.

Alternative browsers

While the preceding browsers will meet most users’ needs, other alternatives exist for anyone looking for something different.

Apple Safari

If you use Apple devices exclusively, Safari is already your default choice. It might not be the fastest browser available — Chrome is significantly quicker — but it’s fast enough that your browser won’t feel sluggish. It’s integrated into iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS, meaning you feel more at home, and you’ll likely get better battery life thanks to Apple’s in-house optimizations and the underlying hardware.

Safari also focuses a great deal on privacy and security. If you want to minimize how you’re tracked and whether Big Brother is looking over your shoulder, then Safari is a good choice. If you also use an iPhone and/or an iPad, then using Safari on your Mac will make for the most seamless transition between platforms. Open websites on an iPad or iPhone, and they are carried over to MacOS.

Safari is not offered outside the Apple ecosystem.

Vivaldi

Vivaldi is truly unique. No two Vivaldi users will have the same setup. When you run it for the first time, you’re guided through a setup process that lays out your browser in a way that makes sense for you. You choose where your tabs and address bar go and whether you want browser tabs displayed at the top of the page or in a separate side panel. This is a browser built from the ground up to deliver a unique user experience, and for the most part, it succeeds. Vivaldi 2.0 enhanced the customization features and made them easier to access.

This browser excels at customization, and you can choose from a variety of tasteful themes that don’t feel dated or out of place on a modern PC, in addition to the aforementioned UI choices. It also has some standout privacy-enhancing features, like its team-up with DuckDuckGo to make the non-tracking search tool the default option when in privacy mode.

Finally, recent updates added more powerful tab management, enhancements like Web Panels that make for smarter browsing, and (as mentioned) even more powerful customization options. Other new updates include a built-in ad blocker, a built-in tracker blocker, a clock in the Status Bar, a new Notes Manager, and a Break Mode for pausing the internet while keeping the browser open.

Brave

One of the most unusual browsers around is Brave — or, perhaps, its Brave’s business model that’s the strangest. Brave blocks all ads on all web pages by default, which makes it arguably the fastest browser around. Ads are a huge portion of how many websites make money — block these ads, and suddenly the most important web financial tool is eliminated.

That’s where the Brave Rewards program comes in. Users receive Basic Attention Tokens (BATs) when they view alternative ads that Brave places in the browsing stream. Users can pass along a portion of their tokens to publishers. As of January 2021, there were 69,797 websites that supported BAT-based transactions through the Brave browser, including Wikipedia, The Guardian, WikiHow, MacRumors, and more.

What’s in it for users? Simply put, if you’re not waiting for ads to download along with website content, then your web experience will feel much faster. Brave performs no user tracking, making it a private browser as well.

Tor

The Tor Browser is a version of Firefox that serves one very specific purpose: A simple entry point for The Onion Router, or TOR.

Tor is software combined with an open network aimed at making you invisible by routing your traffic through several anonymous servers. While it’s not foolproof, it’s very difficult for someone to identify you when you’re properly configured and using something like the Tor Browser to surf the web — especially if combined with a VPN.

There are many legitimate uses of the Tor Browser and the Tor network, such as people who live in countries with repressive governments, as well as journalists and activists. The dark web is also one of the destinations for people using Tor, which includes many nefarious and illegal sites.

In any event, if you want to remain completely anonymous while surfing the web, the Tor Browser and network are for you. If you want a more mainstream alternative, Opera includes a VPN component, but it’s far less private.

Benchmark tests

Notice we don’t include Internet Explorer and Safari in our main comparison.

Microsoft’s aging Internet Explorer browser received some improvements over the years, but it’s no longer the default browser on Windows 10. It doesn’t offer much beyond the bare minimum, either. It only exists today because some companies still need it for legacy applications.

Meanwhile, Apple’s Safari web browser is still used by Apple device owners. However, it’s not available on Windows, Android, or Chrome OS, so we removed it from our primary list.

Most browsers are compatible with web standards and handle performance with relative ease. A casual user probably won’t notice a difference in the rendering speed between today’s modern browsers, as all six are much faster and leaner than those of a few years ago.

We ran the following benchmarks on a desktop with an Intel Core i7-6820HK processor, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive, and Windows 10. All browsers were clean installs of the most current production versions as of September 2020, and all were run at their default settings.

First, JetStream is a JavaScript and WebAssembly benchmark. It tests how quickly a web browser can start, execute code, and how smoothly it runs.

Firefox 80 Edge 85 Opera 70 Chrome 85
Score: 75.311 87.487 90.689 95.585

Notice how all three Chromium-based browsers outperform Firefox. Mozilla’s browser had issues with this test, throwing up a pop-up stating that it was causing the page to run slowly. And while this version of Microsoft Edge isn’t exactly new, Microsoft may need more time to meet Chrome’s performance.

The next test we ran was Speedometer. It measures how responsive a browser is to web applications by repeatedly adding a large number of items to a to-do list.

Firefox 80 Opera 70 Edge 85 Chrome 85
Score: 65.05 77.7 86.6 87.8

Here, Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome went nearly neck to neck, while Firefox fell in last place. Overall, Chrome is the fastest browser of the four after averaging the two test scores together.

Finally, we tested how much RAM each browser uses, both with no tabs open and then with 10 tabs open accessing the same popular sites. We made sure that each browser had no extensions running, and we let each browser settle in before looking at its memory use. For the test with 10 tabs open, we averaged memory use when all of the tabs were first opened and then five minutes later to account for any variability.

It’s not a scientific test, but it should be sound enough to give you an idea of which browsers are the most and least efficient in terms of taking up your RAM. We found Opera to use the least amount of RAM when first opened, while Firefox used the least with all 10 tabs loaded. Chrome was much less efficient with multiple tabs opened, while Microsoft Edge was a solid performer in both instances.

Security and privacy

The most valuable tool for secure browsing is user discretion, especially when you consider that every web browser has encountered security breaches in the past. In particular, Internet Explorer and Chrome’s reputation for protecting users’ security and privacy credentials is spotty at best.

Chrome, Safari, Vivaldi, Opera, and Firefox all rely on Google’s Safe Browsing API to detect potentially dangerous sites. Thanks to constant updates, Mozilla, Chrome, and Opera all make constant security improvements. Microsoft disabled this API in Edge.

All browsers offer a private session option, too. Private sessions prevent the storage of history, temporary internet files, and cookies. Browser support for Do Not Track remains spotty.

Mozilla made some strides in differentiating itself from the others with a real focus on privacy in recent years. It even debuted a Facebook Container in 2018 to make it harder for the social network to harvest user information.

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Computing

The Best Microsoft Surface Pro Deals for January 2021

Microsoft built the most famous computer operating system in the world (that’d be Windows), but as a software company, it was slow to build physical PC hardware — its successful Xbox gaming consoles notwithstanding. When Microsoft finally launched its unique Surface line of tablet/laptop hybrids about a decade ago, however, it was a pleasant surprise, and these devices now rank highly among our own favorites.

In fact, the Surface Pro 7 paired with a Type Cover keyboard is perhaps the best 2-in-1 laptop money can buy, and if you’re looking for a Windows tablet (meaning these iPad deals probably don’t appeal to you), then the Surface Pro line is worth a long look. To help you find the right one at a discount, we’ve rounded up all the best Microsoft Surface Pro deals and bundles right here:

Today’s Best Microsoft Surface Deals

  • Surface Pro 7 (Core i3, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) + Type Cover Keyboard
    $599, was $959
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 12.4″ Touchscreen (Core i5 – 8GB RAM – 128GB SSD)
    $650, was $700
  • Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
    $700, was $899
  • Microsoft Surface Pro X (Microsoft SQ1 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB) Wi-Fi + 4G LTE
    $1,099, was $1,299
  • Surface Laptop 3 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB) + Microsoft 365/Creator Pack Platinum
    $1,299, was $1,599
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Touchscreen (Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD)
    $1,380, was $2,199
  • Microsoft Surface Book 2 15″ 2-in-1 (Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GTX 1060 GPU)
    $1,600, was $28,499

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

We chose the sixth-gen Microsoft Surface Pro as the best 2-in-1 that money can buy when it rolled out in 2019, and although the newer Pro 7 and Pro X are a bit more fresh, the Surface Pro 6 is still a fantastic device in 2020. In fact, in the wake of the Pro 7 and Pro X releases, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is an incredible value now and could be considered the best 2-in-1 if your main priority is price-versus-performance.

Given that it’s around two years old, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is hardly what anyone would call dated: It packs eighth-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, 8 or 16GB of RAM, and 128GB to 1TB of solid-state storage. The 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreens are absolutely superb, and for a tablet-like 2-in-1, the Surface Pro 6 boasts excellent build quality for everyday use without worry. And, like other Surface Pro devices, you can easily pair it with a Type Cover keyboard to transform your Surface into a super-slim featherweight laptop.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

This fall we saw the release of the updated seventh iteration of the Microsoft Surface Pro along with the innovative Surface Pro X. For this refresh, Microsoft continued its conservative approach and decided not to tinker too much with a winning formula. It was a good strategy: The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 has everything we love about the Pro 6 with some subtle improvements like a ninth-gen Ice Lake Intel Core CPU and the welcome addition of a high-speed USB-C port.

Along with those relatively minor (but very nice) upgrades, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 still boasts that beautiful 3:2 PixelSense touchscreen and great build quality, and it also works beautifully with a Type Cover keyboard for pulling double duty as a 2-in-1 ultrabook laptop. One of our few gripes is that it still doesn’t come bundled with that keyboard cover, but Surface Pro deals and ongoing sales should help to alleviate that.

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft revealed two new Surface devices last year, launching the all-new Surface Pro X alongside the Surface Pro 7 refresh in late October and early November. The Pro 7 was just a small update of the mainline Surface Pro series, but the Microsoft Surface Pro X delivered the long-needed facelift that we’ve been waiting for: Most notably, Microsoft finally cut down those chunky bezels surrounding the display, which was one of our few persistent complaints with the regular Surface Pro models (including the newest Pro 7).

It’s not quite as fast as the Surface Pro 7 in terms of specs, but the main trade-off here is that the Microsoft Surface Pro X is thinner and lighter. In fact, it’s the slimmest Surface yet at just 0.2 inches, and those leaner bezels allow for more screen real estate with a larger 13-inch 1920p PixelSense touchscreen (for an extra 0.7 inches). The Surface Pro X is the complete package, but it’s also the most expensive new member of the Surface family, so savvy shoppers would be wise to hunt around for the numerous deals during seasonal sale events.

Microsoft Surface Pro (5th Generation)

Microsoft Surface Pro 5 2017

This Surface Pro represents the fifth generation of Microsoft’s 2-in-1 and the oldest one that you can still easily find new, although it doesn’t officially bear a numbered “Surface Pro 5” moniker. Our review team stated that the fifth-gen Microsoft Surface Pro was the best 2-in-1 available at the time of its release in 2017 (it has since been succeeded by the newer models, naturally), but if you want what might be the cheapest Surface Pro you can buy new in 2020, it’s a great high-value pick.

Like the newer Pro devices, the 2017 Microsoft Surface Pro comes with a fantastic 12.3-inch touchscreen display, sturdy construction quality, and generous all-day battery life. It also syncs wonderfully with the Type Cover keyboard, although you’re still going to have to buy that add-on separately. The Surface Pro 6 may still be our top pick for someone looking for an older model, but deals on “new old stock” units make the fifth-generation Surface Pro worth it for shoppers on a tighter budget.

Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go Review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

If we’ve whetted your appetite for these 2-in-1s but, for various reasons, you don’t want to dump a huge wad of cash for one of the Surface Pro models, then the Microsoft Surface Go is definitely worth a look. The 10-inch Surface Go is a more budget-minded alternative to the high-end Surface Pro lineup, packing a smaller display, simpler hardware, and Windows 10S (a pared-down version of the Windows 10 OS). We’re not going to claim it’s the best Surface that money can buy — it’s not — but for around 400 bucks, it’s very, very hard to look this cheap gift horse in the mouth.

The Surface Go is a great option for anyone looking for something a bit smaller than a Surface Pro or for shoppers who want something affordable (be it as a secondary 2-in-1 for travel or a device for basic web browsing and streaming), and the above Microsoft Surface deals make it even sweeter. Microsoft recently released the second-gen Surface Go, and while our review team felt that it’s a bit too pricey at the moment, it’s another option to consider if you want some hardware upgrades and can find a good deal.

Looking for more great stuff? Find tech deals, fall sales, and much more on our curated deals page.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

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