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Sony’s new gaming brand merges the best of its PlayStation and consumer gear

I’ve always wondered why aside from a handful of peripherals like the Pulse 3D headset and that weird 3D display, Sony never really tried to expand the PlayStation brand outside of consoles. And while you won’t find any PS logos on its new line of headsets and monitors, with Inzone it really feels like Sony is finally bringing its wider tech expertise to gaming.

Now the reason we haven’t seen a ton of PlayStation-branded peripherals before is because the Sony most people think about is actually a conglomerate of several companies that make everything from medical diagnostic tools to camera sensors. And in the case of Inzone, its new gaming gear isn’t being made by the same Sony that produces its iconic consoles (Sony Interactive Entertainment) but instead by the Sony that makes everyday consumer gadgets (Sony Corp/Sony Electronics) like TVs and headphones including the excellent WH-1000XM5.

The first three new headsets part of Sony's Inzone gaming line are the $99 H3, $229 H7, and the $299 H9.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

That’s important because, while these devices have design cues borrowed from the PS5, including their black and white color scheme and sleek sci-fi lines, much of the tech inside has trickled down from a range of Sony Electronics’ devices. And after using a handful of Inzone’s new peripherals for about a week, it really feels like you’re getting a great mix of tech from two different branches of Sony.

Let’s start with Inzone’s headphones which consist of three different models: the entry-level $99 H3, the mid-range $229 H7 and the high-end $299 H9. As the cheapest of the three, the H3 are incredibly simple and straightforward. Unlike their more expensive siblings, they don’t support wireless audio and instead rely on either a 3.5mm cord or a USB cable for connecting to your console or PC. On the bright side, the thick padded headband and cloth earcups make the H3 a joy to wear, even during marathon gaming sessions.

The top-end Inzone H9 headset features dual wireless connection modes along with built-in digital noise cancellation, RGB lighting and up to 32 hours of battery life.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Another bonus is that due to cooperation between two arms of Sony, all Inzone headsets, including the H3, support the PS5’s Tempest 3D audio engine just like you get on the official Pulse 3D headphones. That means you get spatial audio and customizable sound profiles that make it easier to hear things like the footsteps of someone trying to sneak up behind you. That said, with the Pulse 3D also costing just $99 for wireless headphones that are just as comfortable as the H3, I think they’re probably the better buy for anyone on a budget.

Where things get really interesting though is when you move up to the H7 and H9, which feature dual-mode wireless connectivity (Bluetooth and a dedicated 2.4GHz wireless dongle), a slightly more streamlined design and strong battery life. On top of that, the H9 also feature digital noise canceling using the same tech as Sony’s 1000X line, and it shows.

Unlike the cloth earcups you get on the H3 and H7 headsets, the flagship H9 features soft fit leather earcups just like you get on Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones.
Unlike the cloth earcups you get on the H3 and H7 headsets, the flagship H9 features soft fit leather earcups just like you get on Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now I should mention Sony was only able to send out the H3 and H9 for testing, so I’ve been using those for my comparisons. But the H7 and H9 are fairly close in terms of specs, with the main difference being the H7’s lack of exterior RGB lighting, no support for digital noise canceling and the use of cloth earcups instead of the soft fit leather padding you get on the H9 (which is the same material Sony uses on the WH-100XM5). In return, because they don’t have built-in noise canceling, the H7 offer slightly longer battery life (around 40 hours) compared to the H9 (around 32 hours).

Regardless, my time with the H9 so far has been great, and in a lot of ways, they feel like a pair of WH-1000XM5 that have been tuned for gaming. The noise cancellation works wonders for drowning out background sounds, and the super supple leather makes wearing them feel like putting a cloud around your head.

Sony's first monitor under the Inzone brand will be the 27-inch M9 which features a 4K resolution, 144Hz refresh rate and full-array local dimming with 96 lighting zones.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

I also really appreciate some of the small details Sony added to the H9. On a lot of headphones that offer two modes of wireless connectivity, you can typically only use one type at a time. But with the H7 and H9s, you can connect to two different devices simultaneously. This means you can use the wireless dongle to connect to your PlayStation or PC, and then use Bluetooth to get audio from your phone. And because the PS5 doesn’t have native support for chat apps like Discord, this makes it much easier to talk to your friends regardless of what platform you’re on at the moment.

Additionally, the H7 and H9 are the only other headphones besides the Pulse 3Ds that can use the PS5’s on-screen status notifications, which means you can see stuff like volume levels, battery status, mic mute, and game/chat balance all at glance. So while they aren’t the PS5’s official headphones, they behave like they are, while also offering even more features and better audio quality. And just like the WH-1000XM5, you can even use your phone to take a picture of your ear, to tune their sound even further.

The back of the M9 has similar design elements to the PS5 along with customizable RGB lighting and a height and tilt-adjustable stand.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

As for Inzone’s new monitors, there’s the $529 M3 and the $899 M9. However, since the M3 won’t be available until sometime this winter, I’m going to focus on my time with the M9. Featuring a 27-inch 4K IPS panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, the M9 isn’t the biggest or fastest gaming monitor around. But for the money, it packs a ton of features compared to similarly-priced rivals. Not only does it support VRR and NVIDIA G-Sync, it also sports a strong one millisecond gray-to-gray time, DisplayHDR 600 certification and a gamut that covers more than 95 percent of the DCI-P3 spectrum. In short, colors are bright, rich and vivid while also being largely immune from the ghosting you often see on less sophisticated displays.

However, the M9’s biggest advantage is its full-array local dimming (FALD) which is made up of 96 different lighting zones compared to just eight or 16 on competitors like the LG 27GP950 or the Samsung S28AG700. And after seeing the results side-by-side, I was kind of shocked at how much of a difference the M9’s FALD makes. A lot of gamers can spot bloom in games when something bright moves quickly across a dark background, which often produces ring of light around the object. But not only does the M9 almost completely eliminate halos, the ability to adjust lighting zones with greater precision also gives the monitor improved dynamic range. So in games like Elden Ring, I saw backgrounds that were much darker and atmospheric compared to the washed-out gray tones I saw on other monitors. This allows you to get much better contrast and black levels without needing to upgrade to more expensive QD-OLED displays like Alienware’s $1,300 AW3423DW.

Sony says it intentionally designed the M9's stand to protrude towards the rear to give gamers more room to position their keyboard close to the monitor.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

And just like its headphones, Inzone’s first monitor has a lot of really thoughtful smaller features. It has a built-in KVM switch, which is extremely useful if you have multiple PCs connected to the same display. It also has a native FPS counter so you can easily keep tabs on performance, while the monitor’s Auto Genre Picture Mode can switch between settings like Cinema Mode and Gaming Mode depending on the content coming from your PS5. And in addition to being height and tilt adjustable, Sony even designed the M9’s stand so that its feet stick out towards the back, which means PC gamers who need to place their keyboard as close as possible to their monitor like Dafran totally can.

But perhaps my favorite little touch, is the software that allows you to navigate the monitor’s on-screen display with your mouse, instead of having to fumble around with the joystick on the back of the panel. The M9 even comes with built-in stereo speakers, so you can plug in your PS5 and get straight to gaming without worrying about audio. And thanks to two HDMI 2.1 ports, one DisplayPort 1.4 jack, support for video over USB-C (DP Alt mode) and a built-in USB Hub, there’s a wealth of connectivity.

All of Inzone's new headsets and monitors will be available this summer except the M3 display, which will go on sale sometime this winter.
All of Inzone’s new headsets and monitors will be available this summer except the M3 display, which will go on sale sometime this winter.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

So aside from the H3 which is somewhat basic, I’ve come away quite impressed with Inzone’s first batch of PC and console gaming peripherals. That said, looking at the pedigree of these two faces of Sony, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise. It might not say so on the box, but in a lot of ways, this feels like the marriage between PlayStation and the tech from some of Sony’s best gadgets. But what might be the most promising part is that while Inzone hasn’t shared any future plans just yet, after talking to some of its reps, it’s clear Sony has big plans for its new gaming brand going into 2023 and beyond.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Battlefield 2042 Specialist Guide: Gear, Traits, and Tips

Battlefield 2042 introduced Specialists for the first time in franchise history. No longer are you limited to four fragmented classes — now, you have access to several unique characters with dozens of unique abilities.

Understanding how these Specialists operate is fundamental to your success during each match. Not only do you need to utilize everything offered by your selected character, but you’ll also need to be aware of the skills available to your opponents.

Before diving into your next match, take a few minutes to catch up on every Specialist in Battlefield 2042 and how they can change the tide of battle.

Further reading

What are Specialists in Battlefield 2042?

Specialists are unique, playable characters in Battlefield 2042. Instead of the typical class format of previous entries, you now have access to 10 Specialists who bring various abilities to the warzone.

Each Specialist comes with a unique Trait and Specialty that cannot be swapped out or used by any other character. For example, one character might come equipped with a Wingsuit, while another might make use of deployable shields. These abilities are specific to each Specialist and cannot be changed.

However, all Specialists can be further customized by changing out their weapons or other gadgets. Unlike previous Battlefield games, weapons aren’t locked behind a specific class or character. It’s a flexible system and one that makes it easy to find a loadout for your playstyle.

Battlefield 2042 Specialist overview

The 10 available Specialists are currently grouped into one of four categories — Assault, Recon, Support, or Engineer — but keep in mind that these are largely suggestions. Nothing is stopping you from picking a Specialist in the Recon group and kitting them out to play as an Assault character, even if their Specialty and Trait are largely intended for a certain playstyle.

Here’s a closer look at all 10 Specialists in Battlefield 2042.

Assault Specialists

Sundance from Battlefield 2042 drinks wine at a bar.

Emma “Sundance” Rosier

  • Specialty: Smart Explosives
  • Trait: Wingsuit

Sundance is easy to spot in-game thanks to their Wingsuit — if you see a player soaring high in the sky, then you’re looking at Emma. This gives them incredible mobility and makes it easy to move across the entire map in seconds. Sundance also brings Smart Explosives to the fray, which includes deadly scatter grenades and microdrones to help disorientate the opposition.

Santiago “Dozer” Espinoza

  • Specialty: SOB-8 Ballistic Shield
  • Trait: Blast Resistant

The aptly named Dozer comes equipped with an SOB-8 Ballistic Shield that can “bulldoze” through enemy lines. Beyond its offensive capabilities, it can also deflect incoming gunfire — making it easy to close the gap between you and the opponent. Dozer’s Trait is Blast Resistant, which provides them with improved resistance to explosives. If you like getting up close and personal with your enemies, Dozer might be the perfect fit — just make sure to pair him up with a shotgun.

Webster Mackay

  • Specialty: Grappling Hook
  • Trait: Nimble

As one of the most agile Specialists in the game, Mackay excels at zipping across the map and securing optimal vantage points. His Grappling Hook allows him to quickly scale large structures, while the Nimble Trait lets him move faster when aiming down sights. If you’re looking for a fast-paced Specialist, look no further than Mackay.

Recon Specialists

Battlefield 2042 player hacking electronics.

Navin Rao

  • Specialty: Cyber Warfare Suite
  • Trait: Trojan Network

Disabling enemy vehicles and electronics is Rao’s specialty. His Cyber Warfare Suite can disable Rangers, trigger base defenses, and even scramble enemy vehicle systems, making it difficult to effectively move across the map with their team. Rao also uses the Trojan Network Trait to hack into enemy systems and gain important intel.

Ji-Soo Paik

  • Specialty: EMG-X Scanner
  • Trait: Threat Perception

Recon characters are all about spotting enemies and conveying useful info to your team — and no one does that better in the heat of battle than Ji-Soo Paik. Their EMG-X Scanner lets you see enemies through walls, and the Threat Perception Trait can help you locate enemies while taking fire. If you like playing Recon but love being in the middle of the action, Ji-Soo Paik might be a good compromise.

Wikus “Casper” Van Daele

  • Specialty: OV-P Recon Drone
  • Trait: Movement Sensor

Casper plays a bit like a lone wolf, as you’ll often find yourself perched on a hillside with no squadmates in sight. However, using their OV-P Recon Drone, Casper can spot moving targets and confuse enemies with EMP blasts. It can also mark targets for lock-on weapons, making them a strong addition to any squad. Combine that with their Movement Sensor Trait — which alerts you to nearby enemies — and you’re looking at a strong starting point for a deadly sniper build.

Support Specialists

Angel petting a Ranger in Battlefield 2042.

Constantin “Angel” Anghel

  • Specialty: Loadout Crate
  • Trait: Trauma Specialist

A squad is only as good as the supplies they have on hand, and it’s Angel’s job to make sure they’re always fully stocked. His Loadout Crate can supply armor, ammo, and even be used to call in a beacon for a quick loadout swap. Angel can also revive players with their bonus armor health filled. If you’re looking to play the ultimate support role in Battlefield 2042, Angel deserves a minute of your time.

Maria Falck

  • Specialty: S21 Syrette Pistol
  • Trait: Combat Surgeon

Not only does her S21 Syrette Pistol allow her to heal allies at a distance, but she can also revive downed allies with full health. No squad is complete without a good medic, and Falck is a strong choice for anyone looking to fill that role.

Engineer Specialists

Irish from Battlefield staring out a window.

Kimble “Irish” Graves”

  • Specialty: Fortification System
  • Trait: Veteran

Irish makes use of a deployable Fortification System that can protect your team from incoming projectiles. He also comes with the passive Veteran Trait, which provides armor and additional bonuses from downed teammates. Irish is an excellent choice for players looking to secure tight corridors or small rooms, as the Fortification System makes it difficult for attackers to advance.

Pyotr “Boris” Guskovsky

  • Specialty: SG-36 Sentry Gun
  • Trait: Sentry Operator

Boris is one of the best Specialists for racking up kills without doing much work. The SG-36 Sentry Gun can reliably take down nearby enemies — and when placed strategically, it can secure an entire room. Boris’ Sentry Operator Trait allows the sentry to spot targets after locking on to them, making it easy to alert your team to nearby threats.

Editors’ Choice




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Two iconic Metal Gear Solid games are disappearing

A pair of iconic Metal Gear Solid games are about to vanish from digital storefronts. Konami has announced that it will be delisting Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater from various digital stores beginning today, with several different versions disappearing. The good news is that these removals should only be temporary, as Konami plans to bring them back in the future.

Why Konami is delisting two Metal Gear games

As with many digital delistings, Konami’s reason for removing Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 from digital storefronts comes down to licensing. As Konami explains on the Metal Gear Portal Site, these games are being removed as it works on renewing licenses for historical archive footage used in both titles. We don’t know what footage, specifically, is setting off the licensing issue, as Konami didn’t get into specifics with its announcement.

The removal is a far-reaching one. Not only are there HD editions of both games being removed from multiple storefronts, but there are also some compilations that are going away too. Platforms losing these games include PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, GOG, PS Vita, PlayStation Now and even NVIDIA Sheild. Check out the full list of games being removed below:

• PlayStation 3: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Edition
• PlayStation 3: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition
• PlayStation 3: Metal Gear Solid HD Edition
• PS Vita: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty HD Edition
• PS Vita: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition
• PS Vita: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
• PlayStation Now: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
• Xbox 360: Metal Gear Solid HD Edition: 2 & 3
• Nintendo 3DS: Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D
• GOG: Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance
• NVIDIA Shield: Metal Gear Solid 2 HD for Shield TV
• NVIDIA Shield: Metal Gear Solid 3 HD for Shield TV

That’s the complete list, though Konami notes that some of those games aren’t available in all regions. The removal begins today worldwide, so we should start seeing these titles disappearing from storefronts shortly.

These games will (probably) return

In its post announcing these delistings, Konami says they should only be temporary removals. The plan seems to be to remove these games as Konami works on renewing the licenses associated with that historical archive footage, then relist them when new licenses have been hammered out.

Licensing is behind many of the delistings we see. A number of games have been removed from digital storefronts because of the expiration of music licensing agreements, though most of the time, it seems like publishers don’t bother renewing those licenses. Instead, the games are either delisted permanently or re-released with new music tracks in place of the old, licensed songs. In some cases, we’ve even seen developers update games to remove songs with expiring licenses without first delisting them.

It’s interesting that Konami is going to the effort of renewing the licenses for Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 when most of the titles that are affected are for old hardware that’s no longer in production. The fact that Konami is pursuing new licenses could mean that the company plans to include Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 in future compilations for modern hardware and considers the historical archive footage integral to the experience of both games.

In the end, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It is worth noting that talks to renew these licenses may ultimately fail, which would mean that Konami then would have to remove the footage in question before it can begin selling MGS 2 and 3 again. Whatever ends up happening, we’ll let you know when Konami announces more about these vanishing digital versions of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3.

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Konami pulls some Metal Gear Solid games from digital stores

Konami is removing a couple of titles from digital storefronts and platforms for the time being due to licensing issues. Unless you can find a physical copies of them, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater are no longer available to buy. The publisher said it’s “working on renewing the licenses for select historical archive footage used in-game.” Along with the individual games, Konami is pulling bundles that include either game.

The move affects titles on , PlayStation Now, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, and NVIDIA Shield (not exactly the most current of platforms in most cases). It’s not clear when MGS2 and MGS3 will return to stores, or whether Konami will keep the footage in question.

It’s hardly the first time licensing issues have affected games long after they were released. from storefronts after Remedy’s rights to certain songs on the soundtrack expired. Rockstar Games, meanwhile, has from various Grand Theft Auto titles over the years for the same reason.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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All the gear you need to game-stream like a pro

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Sure, it’s easier than ever to start your own video game streaming channel, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to be a streamer. There are dozens of factors to consider before pressing that big GO LIVE button on YouTube or Twitch, such as lighting, audio quality, video output and software organization — and that’s just to get on-air. If you want to succeed as a streamer, it also takes practice, charisma, luck and, of course, the proper equipment.

While we can’t help with the patience, natural talent or social factors that determine who becomes a streaming star, we can recommend the tools to make a channel look as professional as possible from day one. If anyone on your gift list is serious about diving into the business of video game streaming, these are the gadgets they’ll be ecstatic to unwrap (and show off on-camera).

Blue Yeti

Blue Yeti for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Blue Microphones

Classic. Iconic. Legendary. Whichever descriptor you pick, the Yeti by Blue remains one of the most reliable, ubiquitous pieces of technology in the live-streaming business. The Yeti is a USB microphone, meaning it’s plug-and-play with most rigs, and it has a specific setting (cardioid pattern) that’s great for live streaming. It’s also more affordable than comparable mics while offering high-quality sound and simple set-up.

Buy Blue Yeti at Amazon – $130

HyperX QuadCast S

HyperX Quadcast S for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Some mics are built to blend in with their surroundings, and others are designed to stand out — like the QuadCast S by HyperX. The QuadCast S has a light-up core with customizable RGB effects, adding a pop of color to the screen at all times (yep, even when your queue time hits 10 minutes). It also has an internal pop filter and four polar patterns, including cardioid.

Buy HyperX QuadCast S at Amazon – $160

EPOS Sennheiser Game One

EPOS Sennheiser Game One for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Uncomfortable headphones can destroy an otherwise enjoyable gaming session, and this is extra-true for streamers, who don’t have the time or brainpower to deal with squashed ears. Sennheiser’s Game One headset offers incredibly crisp audio in a cozy, breathable frame, complete with velour earpads that play well with glasses. An open-back design provides 3D sound and lets streamers hear their surroundings without sliding one ear to the side. The Game One is also in the same price range as mid-tier headsets from Razer, HyperX or SteelSeries, but its unique open-acoustic design provides high-quality, crystal clear — and comfy! — soundscapes.

Buy EPOS Game One at Amazon – $130

Razer BlackShark V2

Razer BlackShark V2 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Razer

If you’re looking for style and performance in a budget-friendly headset, Razer has you covered. The BlackShark V2 is a relatively affordable gaming headset with everything a streamer needs, from memory foam ear cushions to a detachable mic. This one is a sound-isolating headset, making it good for public streaming spaces with a lot of background noise. Razer knows what it’s doing when it comes to gaming accessories, and the Black Shark V2 is a tried-and-true device for any player, all in that classic black-and-green look.

Buy BlackShark V2 at Amazon – $100

Elgato Stream Deck MK.2

Elgato Stream Deck for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Elgato’s Stream Deck is the piece of equipment that most streamers don’t realize they need, at least until they get one. This little baby is a customizable desktop controller with 15 LCD keys that can be set to launch and manage apps like Twitch, YouTube, OBS, Spotify and XSplit. It’s especially handy for live situations, where streamers need to smoothly swap among programs and monitor multiple apps at the same time.

Buy Stream Deck MK.2 at Amazon – $150

Logitech C922 Pro Stream

Logitech C922 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

One thing every streamer needs is a quality camera. Logitech makes a range of reliable webcams, but for streamers today, a good starting place is the C922 Pro Stream. It hovers around $100, and it streams in 1080p at 30fps or 720p at 60fps, with built-in autofocus and lighting correction. The C922 is a workhorse that’ll get the job done with little fuss.

Buy Logitech C922 Pro Stream at Amazon – $100

Razer Kiyo Pro

Razer Kiyo Pro for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Razer

There’s only so much lighting you can squeeze into a single streaming space, and that’s where Razer’s Kiyo Pro comes in. It’s a USB camera with an adaptive light sensor that makes the most of dim, backlit and string-lighted environments, and it’s capable of capturing footage at 1080p and 60fps, or in HDR mode at 30fps. This is a high-quality streaming camera with a wide-angle lens and a sleek circular profile, and it comes with a privacy cover to ensure there are no on-air accidents.

Buy Kiyo Pro at Amazon – $199

Razer Ripsaw HD

Razer Ripsaw HD for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Razer

For truly professional-looking streams, a capture card is a must, and Razer’s Ripsaw HD is one of the best. The Ripsaw HD is a plug-and-play device that records and streams gameplay at 1080p and 60fps, while allowing the game itself to hit 4K and 60fps. This is how the experts do it.

Buy Ripsaw HD at Amazon – $160

Lightsmoon Line Lamp

Lightsmoon Line Lamp for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Lightsmoon

Once the basic bits of tech are out of the way, it’s time to add some style to your streamer’s scene. Lighting is an easy way to set the mood and draw the eye of new viewers, and the Line Lamp by Lightsmoon is a classy, unobtrusive option for customizable, multicolor ambiance. The Line Lamp is designed to fit in the corner of a room, reflecting off the walls and making the whole room glow with minimal hardware.

Buy Line Lamp at Lightsmoon – $280

Govee Glide Wall Light

Govee Glide Wall Light for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Govee

For a mounted lighting option, the Govee Glide Wall Light is the way to go. It consists of six bars that snap together in various configurations, with a range of lighting effects, plus Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice capabilities built-in. Govee’s Glide Wall Light is dimmable, customizable and it has six modes that automatically react to music.

Buy Glide wall light at Amazon – $100

REAWUL large RGB mouse pad

REAWUL RGB gaming mouse pad for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

REAWUL

Want a quick, easy and cheap way to make a streaming space pop? Get a big, light-up mouse pad. The large RGB mouse pad by REAWUL is an extended mat that measures 80cm by 30cm, easily covering the area of a full-size keyboard and mouse, with light-up edges. The pad has 14 RGB lighting modes with steady and animated options, and it’s powered via USB. At less than $20, this is a steal as well as a showstopper.

Buy RGB mouse pad at Amazon – $20



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Jabra’s owner buys SteelSeries to expand into gaming gear

Add SteelSeries to the ranks of gaming hardware brands selling themselves to larger tech firms. Jabra’s owner GN is acquiring SteelSeries in a deal worth about $1.24 billion. The move is meant to give GN an edge in the “upscale gaming gear” space while providing room to grow and achieve “revenue synergies.” The deal is expected to close in early 2022.

SteelSeries stressed that it would maintain the same leadership. The GN deal would help “accelerate” already healthy growth, according to company chief Ehtisham Rabbani. GN keenly pointed out that SteelSeries has been gaining market share in the past few years and has itself snapped up smaller companies like KontrolFreek.

The purchase could help GN make a concerted push into gaming, both in headsets and non-audio hardware like mice, keyboards and mousepads. Simply put, this might help GN become a general technology brand after years of focusing on personal audio. 

SteelSeries, meanwhile, might not have had as much choice as it would like. Brands like Astro, Elgato and Roccat have already sold themselves to larger companies to both ensure their survival and foster growth. While SteelSeries’ future was likely to be bright without GN, the team-up could help it thrive in a competitive landscape where rivals often have plenty of support.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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The Ascent: Beginner’s Guide to Characters, Combat, and Gear

Top-down, twin-stick shooters can often appear simple. All you do is move, point, and shoot, right? Well, The Ascent takes that simple premise but cranks the difficulty up quite a few notches. Nothing you attempt to do in this cyberpunk-inspired city will be easy. Enemies are smart, dangerous, and can wipe you out in seconds if you don’t know how to handle them. Between the gangs, mutant-like monsters, and even the environment itself, death can come from just about any direction.

Your goal of reaching the top of this megacorporation as the world seems to be collapsing all around you will test your skills and planning. You can only rely on your ability to aim and shoot for so long before realizing the RPG elements are the key to success in The Ascent. From how you should focus on building your character and how combat works, to advice on what gear to use and how to get loot, we’ve compiled all the best tips you need starting out in The Ascent.

Further reading

How to build your character

The Ascent is more of an RPG than you might think going in. Once you start getting introduced to the game’s systems, however, it will become clear that the way you build your character will be just as important as the weapons you choose, if not more so. There are no classes in The Ascent, so you’re free to invest your points however you want, which can be a blessing and a curse. It can be great for crafting a character that excels in specific areas but also lets you spread yourself too thin if you aren’t careful.

There are eight skills you can spend your points on, and they all fall into one of four attributes. These are Biometrics, Cybernetics, Frame, and Motorics. Each of these attributes determines the strength of your abilities, which just adds another layer of strategy to consider when distributing your points. Here are all of the skills, what attribute they fall under, and what they do:

Tactical Sense: This skill will raise the speed at which your tactical charge meter builds up as you deal damage to enemies. It is part of the Cybernetics attribute.

Critical Hit Rate: Fairly straightforward, this skill makes you more likely to get critical hits, and is also part of your Cybernetics attribute.

Weapon Handling: The higher this skill, the faster you can reload and change weapons. This falls under the Motorics attribute.

Aiming: Another one that does what you expect — this skill reduces your bullet spread and is the other Motorics attribute.

Balance: This skill does a lot. Leveling it up will make you more resistant to stun, knockback, and stagger and minimize movement speed penalties when wielding heavy weapons. This one is part of the Frame attribute.

Evasion: Rather than make your dodge better, this skill just lets you dodge more often by reducing the cooldown. It also is under Frame.

Vital Signs: A fancy name for simply a max HP upgrade. This is related to the Biometrics attribute.

Body Battery: Just like the previous skill, this is another basic max energy skill, also in Biometrics.

As far as which are worth investing in early, we liked weapon handling and aiming first. Weapon handling, specifically for the reload speed, helped out a ton since The Ascent isn’t afraid of swarming you with dozens of enemies early on. The faster you can dispatch them, the less likely you are to die. That leads right into aiming, since you’ll be doing your best to keep enemies at a distance. Even if you plan on using close-range weapons, like shotguns, keeping the spread tight will still make you more deadly.

These two skills also happen to fall in the Motorics attribute, which buffs the Hydraulic Slam ability you get early on. This ability is a close-range shockwave-type move, which is perfect for when things get out of hand — and they will — and you find yourself surrounded. With this skill buffed up by leveling weapon handling and aiming, you can get a nice leg up on the early game enemies. You do have an option to respec your skill points, but it is pretty costly, and the price even goes up once you hit level 10, so it’s best to invest smartly early.

Basics of combat

Your skills, guns, and abilities are all tools, but knowing how to use them is key to winning in basically any game. One thing The Ascent doesn’t make quite as clear as it should is, despite the camera perspective, combat actually has depth … literally. The first thing you need to learn with this game is that there are essentially two elevations you can shoot at. If you play shooters often, you’ll be tempted to hold the left trigger to aim almost all the time, but this button does more than just aim down sights. It actually raises your gun so that it hits taller enemies, whereas shooting from the hip, without holding the left trigger, will make your shots hit lower enemies.

That means smaller enemies won’t get hit if you try and aim down the sights while shooting at them, so pay attention to the size of your enemy. If you have a large boss that has a bunch of smaller enemies between you, you can still shoot over those smaller creeps and hit the boss to take him out first. Cover is another major component to The Ascent, and again functions more like a 3D shooter than a typical top-down shooter. While in cover, you will need to hold the left trigger to aim above whatever you’re hiding behind to hit enemies past it. And you absolutely should use cover whenever possible, since it will block any incoming shots — assuming they’re not coming from behind, of course.

Speaking of cover and the environment, use it to your advantage. Red barrels, a staple of games since … well, forever, are prime targets for an easy area of effect damage. Shoot at one to start a countdown, and reveal the range of the explosion, so you know if you’re in the clear or not. The more you shoot them, the faster they will explode. Broken-down vehicles function the same, so be wary about using them for cover since they will eventually blow up on you once they take enough damage.

That being said, all cover can and will eventually be destroyed, so don’t get too comfortable in any one place. In fact, try not to get too comfortable with any tactic. The enemies you fight in The Ascent have adaptive A.I. and will learn what you’re doing and try to circumvent your tactics. For example, relying too much on bunkering down in cover may result in the game spawning swarms of melee mobs to flush you out, or even spawn enemies behind you.

Finally, when the enemies are all dealt with and you have a moment to breathe, take a second to always loot the bodies on the ground. Many will have some cash you can collect, called uCreds, and even some loot on occasion as well.

What gear to pick

A character with a cyborg face in a menu.

The armor you find and purchase in The Ascent is more than a slight cosmetic change and damage resistance buff. They all have different types of stats that can reduce specific types of damage, as well as buff certain skills.

As you browse your inventory, or the shop, always look at the stats listed for the armor you’re thinking about. Some of the damage types they can protect you from are physical, fire, energy, and digital, and every armor will be better or worse for different damage types. Below the resistances, also look at what buffs the armor gives you. Attributes improve the corresponding attribute, which we covered above, and boosts are for individual skills. Pick armor that fits with the build you’re going for.

Like most games, you have three armor slots: Head, body, and legs. This means you can, and should, mix armor types to give yourself the maximum benefits. Rather than equipping decent all-around armor in each slot, put armor on that is great in one or two areas, but lagging in all the rest, and cover up those weaknesses with other slots that are great in those stats.

Upgrade your guns

Aside from cash and loot, you’ll be picking up a bunch of components as you mow down enemies on your way to the top of The Ascent. These components, of which there are three types, are used to upgrade your guns at the Gunsmith. As this is a loot-driven game, you might be tempted to hold these materials until later in the game when you find a really good weapon to dump them all into, but that will just make the early going way more difficult than necessary.

Upgrading guns essentially has two parts. First is upgrading your death dealer of choice to Mk.5, which can be done with just basic components, the most common components in the game. These drop from normal enemies and can be found in chests around the world, so are not at all in short supply. If you’ve got a gun you like the feel of, don’t hesitate to level it up to Mk.5 as soon as you can. An added bonus is that any gun you upgrade will affect all guns of that same type. For example, if you upgrade a shotgun, the next one you buy or find will still be at the same level as the one you upgraded previously.

Once you get to Mk.5, upgrading your gun again will start to require either Advanced or Superior components. These are harder to come by, either found in chests, hidden in the world, or dropped from bosses or other high-level enemies. These are the ones you want to be more careful with, but by the time you have a decent number of these you should have a good idea of which weapon you want to fully invest in.

Use your map to get loot

Speaking of gear, guns, credits, components, and loot in general, you’ll want as much of everything as you can get. The world, as beautiful as it is, can be a little visually cluttered with things that make it hard to identify an interactable object from set dressing. But by simply popping open your map, you can see all the loot in your location indicated by a handy orange treasure chest icon. Loot just lying on the ground has a white icon and generally has a distinct glow on your screen, making them easier to spot and pick up.

The map does take some getting used to, but figuring out how to use it to navigate will save you tons of time going forward as well, so this is a great way to get a handle on it.

Take on side quests

Mechs shooting a chaingun.

Another great way to learn your way around Cluster 13, and The Ascent in general, is by taking on side quests. Plus you’ll obviously get plenty of XP and rewards for your time, making your main missions a bit more manageable once you’re ready to continue your climb. After reaching Cluster 13 and speaking to Poone, you will have the chance to explore the area and start taking on side quests. By going to Serenity Plus, you can get the “Gear Up” mission, which is perfect for learning the area as it will task you with hitting up all the vendors around the map.

Don’t be discouraged when you aren’t able to finish most side missions as soon as you are able to get them. A lot will either pit you against enemies way beyond your level or simply block you off from accessing the areas you’re supposed to go to. The only one, aside from “Gear Up,” you can finish right away is “Balls Deep,” so start with those and grab the other ones for when you get stronger. You will know an NPC has a side quest for you by the yellow diamond placed above their heads.

You can try and mainline the game, but after a certain point you will almost be required to boost your level and gear through side quests, so picking them up early, and completing them as you go, will help give you the smoothest experience possible.

Learn to hack, and do it often

The Ascent is a cyberpunk game, and no cyberpunk game can come out without some form of hacking component. You will need a Cyberdeck to have the option to hack, but once you do you will start noticing yellow circles around objects like ATMs, chests, doors, and even turrets. While standing inside one of these circles, hold down to start hacking them. Once complete, you will get some easy loot, or friendly turret to fight for you, that would otherwise be lost.

Vending machines are another primary target for hacking. Rather than spend your hard-earned cash, just hack them to dispense some free health items!

You will eventually come across some chests or doors in particular that cannot be hacked, stating “Locked – ICE.” This means that you will need to increase your hacking skills by finding more Cyberdeck upgrades and then come back. Make a note of these, because the harder a chest is to open, the better the loot it has hidden within.

Unlock fast travel

Last but not least, get yourself set up with fast travel as soon as you possibly can. As eluded to earlier, the map in The Ascent isn’t the most comprehensible tool for navigation, so any way you can cut down on running around the complex map with only a vague objective icon to guide you will save you tons of time.

There are two forms of fast travel you can unlock in The Ascent, the first of which you get after the main mission called “Mutual Dependencies.” Once you beat this mission, Transit Stations will appear at specific locations on the map indicated by red M‘s. Reach one and unlock it for future fast travel use. You have to go to these locations to use them, and they will only bring you to other stations you’ve unlocked, but are far better than nothing.

The better form of fast travel is unlocked in the mission “Trading Places.” This is Taxi fast travel, and, you guessed it, lets you travel around the map via the use of taxis. This is basically an upgrade to the first fast travel option since you can call a taxi from anywhere on the map, but they will only drop you off at one of the Transit Stations, oh, and cost you 1,000 uCreds for the convenience. That’s a pretty hefty fare, so you may not want or be able to use it too often.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Galaxy Gear owners must upgrade to Tizen or lose Galaxy Store access

Samsung was one of the first major smartphone makers to jump on the smartwatch ship, and, unsurprisingly, its first smartwatch didn’t use Google’s nascent Android Wear back then. It struck off on its own with a customized version of Android running inside the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It has come full circle and has returned to Android again, this time with Wear OS running on the upcoming Galaxy Watch 4 series. Surprisingly, there might still be some owners of the Galaxy Gear around, and Samsung is now urging them to switch to its Tizen OS if they want access to some smartwatch apps.

The Galaxy Gear launched way back in 2013 and was the only one of its kind, so it’s rather surprising to hear that Samsung still has the smartwatch and its users in mind eight years after. Even more surprising is that Samsung was actually still running a version of its app store specifically for that Android-based OS after all this time. Samsung is shutting that down next month, however, but it hasn’t abandoned owners of the smartwatch just yet (another surprise).

Samsung actually gave Galaxy Gear owners a way forward back in 2014 when it was clear that it wasn’t going to stick to its own Android smartwatch OS. Back then, it offered an update to its new Tizen-based wearable platform, the very same OS that would take Samsung’s smartwatches to relative success for a couple of years. Apparently, not everyone took the opportunity back then, but Samsung is now pretty much forcing their hand.

An update to the Samsung Galaxy Store notifies owners of the smartwatch that it will be shutting down the Galaxy Store for Galaxy Gear devices on August 5, 2021. While the smartwatch will continue to function, users won’t be able to install or reinstall apps after that date. They can upgrade to Tizen moving forward if they want access to apps, but it’s a one-way street and there’s no turning back. Moreover, not all Galaxy Gear apps will be available on Tizen, but there might be similar ones by now.

It is rather impressive that Samsung has apparently managed to support a relatively obscure 2013 smartwatch for this long. Unfortunately, the same story can’t be said for more recent Tizen-based smartwatches that may be blocked from upgrading to the new Samsung-branded Wear OS. Whether that’s because of hardware requirements or some arbitrary policy from Google remains a mystery.

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Computing

Amazon’s one-day PC gear blowout offers deep discounts on gaming rigs, laptops, SSDs, and more

Memorial Day 2019 may be over, but Amazon still has a blowout sale hangover it’s sharing with everyone. On Tuesday, the retailer is running a massive PC products and accessories sale with some mouth-watering deals on SSDs, hard drives, desktops, laptops, SD cards, and more. Here are our top three picks from the sale.

There is an incredible deal today on a Dell Inspiron gaming desktop for $650, down from $870. That price gets you an eight-core, 3.2GHz Ryzen 7 2700 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB 7200rpm hard drive, and a 4GB Radeon RX 580 graphics card. That’s a great 1080p gaming machine at a fantastic price. The motherboard is a little ho-hum with only one HDMI port, four USB 3.0 ports, and four USB 2.0 ports, but for this price you can probably live with it. It also comes bundled with a mouse and keyboard.

If you want to add a high-performing hard drive as an extra storage space for your PC, check out the WD Black 2TB 7200rpm desktop hard drive for $90. This isn’t the all-time low for this drive, but it’s close, at only two dollars higher. Most recently this drive was $118. WD Black drives are the company’s top performers for home users, and while it isn’t an SSD it’ll still offer excellent performance–especially if you already have an SSD boot drive.

One of our favorite portable SSD drives is available today at a really nice price, too. You can pick-up the SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable plus a 256GB Ultra Fit USB drive for $169. This bundle is usually closer to $222, and the Extreme Portable alone is $180. We loved the SanDisk Extreme Portable and chose it as our runner-up for the best performance USB drive in our round-up of the best external drives of 2019.

These deals are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Head over to Amazon to see all 30-plus deals on offer, and don’t delay. This sale will disappear like Cinderella’s swag when midnight strikes.

[Today’s deal: Amazon one-day PC products and accessories sale.]

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn’t like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he’s not covering the news he’s working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.

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Computing

Amazon’s huge one-day PC gear blowout offers juicy deals on laptops, huge hard drives, and more

The back to school season is winding down, but Amazon still has some BTS deal moments to offer. Today only, the retailer is throwing a huge back-to-school sale on PC devices and accessories. In it, you’ll find deep discounts on microSD cards, external hard drives, laptops, monitors, and more.

We sifted through the entire sale to find the best offerings. Here are three of our favorite deals:

The SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD is one of our favorite external drives and is currently the runner-up for our top pick as the best high-performance USB drive. Amazon is selling the 500GB version of the Extreme Pro Portable for $110 today, instead of the more recent $140. This is a fantastic speedy external drive, with a nice rugged looking exterior, and today it’s going for a fantastic price.

Next up is the Acer Chromebook 315 for $175. This is an excellent price for a Chromebook and offers almost everything we like to see. It has a 15.6-inch display at 1366-by-768 resolution, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of onboard storage. Acer’s Chromebook packs an AMD APU and supports Android apps, as well as Linux desktop apps. This laptop would be perfect if it had 1080p resolution, but at this price we’ll take it as is.

Finally, the Acer Nitro VG271 1080p monitor is $210. That’s nearly $100 below the usual $300 price tag. This gaming-ready IPS panel supports FreeSync, it has a 144Hz refresh rate, and two built-in speakers. Based on AMD’s listings, this monitor supports FreeSync all the way up to 144Hz on both the DisplayPort and HDMI. You won’t find a monitor with specs like this selling this cheap very often. 

These highlights are just the tip of the iceberg though. Be sure to check out Amazon’s huge PC gear blowout to find even more deep discounts on laptops, monitors, storage, mice, and more.

[Today’s deal: Amazon back-to-school PC devices and accessories sale on Amazon.]

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn’t like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he’s not covering the news he’s working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.

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