Categories
Computing

Why now is actually a great time to build a new PC

Earlier this month, my colleague Jacob Roach wrote an article about how right now is one of the worst times to build a PC in quite a while, not because prices are terrible right now (they’re not), but because the next generation is just around the corner. New CPUs and GPUs will force retailers to sell older models for less, buying DDR4 for dead-end platforms is a bad idea, and DDR5 will continue to fall in price as we await the arrival of Ryzen 7000 and Intel Raptor Lake. If you can just wait a few months for the next generation, you’ll be much better off, or so the argument goes.

I disagree. I think right now is actually a great time to build a PC, because it’s hard to expect the next generation to be great. If you look at the past five years, it really seems like we’re entering an era where you can’t expect new CPUs and GPUs to provide better value than older models. And while it is tempting to immediately buy into new platforms with cutting-edge features like DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0, it’s unlikely you’ll really be able to get your money’s worth.

Stagnant prices for CPUs

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

For most of PC gaming history, newer hardware has almost always provided better value than older hardware, usually through a combination of performance increases and price reductions. However, we’re entering a new era where value improvements are steadily declining generation to generation, and it’s starting to look more like a trend than a simple speed bump.

I want to discuss CPUs first, and I want to set the stage with AMD’s Bulldozer-powered FX CPUs, which launched in 2011. The Bulldozer architecture was terrible at basically everything and crippled AMD CPUs for years. From 2011 to 2017, Intel effectively had a monopoly on the entire x86 CPU world, including the mainstream desktop. PC gamers had to be content with the same $330 Intel quad-core year after year, with modest generational improvements.

The launch of Ryzen 1000 in 2017 is often seen as the beginning of a renaissance for desktop CPUs, and it’s not hard to see why. AMD offered the eight-core Ryzen 7 1700 for $329, the same price as the then Intel flagship Core i7-7700K. Later that same year, Intel quickly launched 8th-gen CPUs that featured more cores. The back and forth between AMD and Intel has been going on ever since, albeit with a brief pause in 2020 and 2021 thanks to Intel failing to deliver 10nm CPUs in a timely manner.

As it turns out, we’re not exactly in the renaissance we thought we were. While AMD is certainly delivering significant increases in performance every generation, pricing is becoming a problem. The eight-core Ryzen 7 1700 launched for $329 in 2017 and that was a great deal back then, but five years later you’re paying just about the same amount for the Ryzen 7 5700X, which is also an eight-core CPU. Six-core CPUs still cost about $200 as they did in 2017, too.

Someone holding the Ryzen 7 5800X3D in a red light.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Ryzen 5000 in particular was bad for budget buyers. Budget options like the Ryzen 5 5500 and even the Ryzen 7 5700X didn’t arrive until a few months ago — nearly two years after the first processors came out. AMD has provided generational improvements, but value CPUs arrived too late to the party to matter.

Concerning Intel, we’re seeing increased MSRPs rather than stagnation. Up until 7th-gen, $329 was the limit, but starting with the 8th-gen Intel began increasing both core counts and prices. The Core i7-8700K was Intel’s first six-core CPU for the mainstream and was just 10% more expensive than the Core i7-7700K. But next generation, Intel increased raised prices by nearly 40% with the introduction of a new performance tier led by the Core i9-9900K. AMD followed suit, and now it’s not uncommon to see CPUs like the Core i9-12900K go on sale for well over $600.

It’s hard to argue that price stagnation or increases in MSRP for AMD and Intel CPUs is purely down to competition. AMD and Intel have been very competitive in the past five years when it comes to performance, yet AMD isn’t compelled to cut prices and Intel is continuing to raise the prices on its flagship parts, even when those flagships aren’t very competitive (see the Core i9-11900K). It seems like AMD and Intel are catering more and more to high spenders while neglecting cheaper segments of the market.

The death of budget GPUs

Two graphics cards sitting on top of each other.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

GPUs haven’t been doing well either in the past five years. Ever since Nvidia launched its phenomenal GTX 10-series, both Nvidia and AMD have launched several poor-value GPUs and all but killed the low-end and midrange segments. Despite a few promising launching, AMD and Nvidia have clearly shown that value isn’t a focus.

It all started with the RTX 20-series. Yes, it introduced ray tracing and AI upscaling to the mainstream, but with few games that supported these features, the price for the 20-series was simply unbearable. The RTX 2080 at $699 was straight up a worse deal than the GTX 1080 at $499, being only 11% faster for $200 more. I don’t think there has ever been a GPU series before this generation that actually provided worse value than the previous generation, and I see the RTX 20-series as the turning point in desktop GPUs.

As someone who bought an RX 480 in 2016, it’s depressing to see that there isn’t a GPU worth upgrading to at the same price.

RTX 20-series represented a shift in Nvidia’s behavior where increasing bang for buck was no longer a priority, and while that hasn’t impacted the high end very much, it has absolutely destroyed the midrange and low end. Budget GPUs used to start at $100 and you could get good value budget GPUs at around the $150 mark. But today, Nvidia’s cheapest 30-series GPU is the RTX 3050 at $249. You’re not even getting your money’s worth in the 3050; the GTX 1650 Super from 2019 was $159 and the 3050 is just 30% faster.

And we don’t even need to talk about the disastrous GTX 1630.

AMD seems to have followed in Nvidia’s footsteps and also deprioritized value. One very good example is the RX 6500 XT, which is supposed to replace the RX 5500 XT. The problem? The 5500 XT came with 8GB of VRAM whereas the 6500 XT only comes with 4GB. It’s also barely any faster than the five year old RX 580, which also came with 8GB of VRAM. All of these GPUs launched around the $200 price point, and they’re all about the same performance. As someone who bought an RX 480 in 2016, it’s a pretty depressing trend to see. The RX 480 is six years old and AMD still hasn’t come out with a GPU worth upgrading to at the same price point.

It’s possible that supply chain issues caused by the pandemic are responsible for AMD and Nvidia’s lack of budget options this generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean things will go back to normal once those problems go away, though. AMD and Nvidia might decide that things actually went really well without offering budget GPUs. After all, more expensive GPUs have bigger and fatter margins, which is good for business.

Don’t be an early adopter

Intel Core i9-12900K in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Intel’s LGA 1700 socket introduced DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, and AMD plans to follow suit with its upcoming AM5 socket. It’s certainly tempting to upgrade in order to take advantage of these features, but it’s usually not worth being an early adopter when it comes to technology.

DDR5 has been on the market for some time now and with Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake CPUs, you can choose between newer DDR5 and older DDR4. If you have an Alder Lake CPU, going for DDR5 doesn’t really net you much more performance, making DDR4 a much better value as most DDR4 kits are half the price of DDR5 kits of the same size. It is true that DDR5 will get cheaper and faster in the future, but DDR4 is cheap today and has good performance.

PCIe 5.0 is certainly an improvement over PCIe 4.0, providing twice the bandwidth, but more bandwidth only translates to more performance if devices are designed to take advantage of it. The extra bandwidth definitely makes sense for SSDs, and there’s no doubt that fast PCIe 5.0 SSDs will be available soon, but PCIe 5.0 for GPUs will likely not be necessary for some time. We saw the same thing happen with PCIe 4.0, the main selling point of which was really SSDs and not GPUs.

Finally, consider the teething issues platforms with new technology tend to have. New features can’t be tested perfectly before they’re released to the world, so it’s more than likely that users who build a PC on these new platforms will see at least a bug or two. I think given the price, the initial lack of use for these features, and the high likelihood of bugs make older platforms using DDR4 and PCIe 4.0 still very viable.

I hope I’m wrong

High performance and custom MSI computer building.
WildSnap/Shutterstock

I would really like for the next generation to get us back on track. I really want Ryzen 7000 and Raptor Lake to launch at good prices and to see new AMD and Intel CPUs cover the entire stack, from low end to high end. I really want AMD and Nvidia to bring back truly good budget and midrange GPUs with the upcoming RX 7000 and RTX 40 GPUs.

I just don’t see that happening given what I’ve seen in the past 5 years. The big three have certainly made great strides in technology, but you can no longer enjoy that progress unless you’re willing to shell out hundreds of dollars. So buy your CPUs and GPUs while they’re relatively cheap because it probably won’t be like this forever.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Computing

This Dell business laptop deal is a great bulk buy for your office

If you’re looking through the Dell laptop deals for a relatively cheap general-use laptop, the Latitude 3420 is on sale at Dell right now for just $699, down from the original $1,159 retail price, which is a nice little $460 discount. This makes it an excellent bulk purchase for a company that needs good productivity laptops.’

Why you should buy the Dell Latitude 3420 Laptop

Among the nicest things about the Latitude 3420 are the 14-inch FHD display and its weight of only 3.36 pounds, which makes it a smaller laptop and easier to put in a bag or carry around by hand. That’s handy for a work environment where a person may be taking the laptop home every night. The CPU is an 11th-generation i5-1135G7, a nice midtier CPU that can easily handle the majority of productivity tasks such as slideshows, tables, and word processor apps. It can also reasonable handle transcoding for streaming or playing video for meetings and presentations, which is a nice little plus. There’s also a 720p camera in the front for those who work remotely or often have online meetings, plus a workable microphone that should be enough for most calls and conversations.

RAM comes in at 8GB, which should be enough to have at least a few apps and browser tabs open at the same time — and assuming it isn’t being abused, it should be enough for most work needs. Storage is also good at 256GB, although you can always plug in an external hard drive through one of its three USB ports and still have space left over for a mouse or even a printer. Connectivity comes in the form of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, so it’s future-proofed and will allow for a great internet connection even at a distance. Finally, there’s Windows 10, although it also comes with a Windows 11 license if you want to go that route.

All in all, the Latitude 3420 is a great business laptop that’s small, lightweight, and has some great specs that make it versatile for the workplace at a good budget. And at just $699 from Dell, it’s a good bulk purchase for a small or medium-size company. If you want something a bit more powerful and lightweight, there are some great Dell XPS deals to look at, although they’re generally more expensive, or you can look at our general laptop deals for something from another brand.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Game

Halo Infinite multiplayer first impressions: Great gameplay but questionable monetization

Yesterday, Microsoft dropped quite the bombshell when it announced that it was sending Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer mode live early in celebration of the franchise’s 20th anniversary. While Halo Infinite‘s campaign won’t be here until December 8th, we’re getting the full multiplayer experience three weeks early. We’ll have a full review of Halo Infinite around the campaign’s launch, but for now, I thought I’d share some early impressions of Infinite‘s multiplayer mode.

Steaktacular

Even though Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is available in beta at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a whole that’s going to change once the full game goes live on December 8th. In a post to the Halo Waypoint blog, 343 Industries says this is pretty much what we can expect from Halo Infinite multiplayer in season 1.

“While you may experience some bumps and bugs during this beta period, it does mark the official start of Halo Infinite Season 1, with all day-one maps and modes enabled as well as the full Season 1 Battle Pass,” 343 writes. “This means all the Battle Pass and customization items you earn or purchase during the beta will stay with you after December 8th.”

What’s there right now is a pretty good amount of content, with separate playlists for Big Team Battle (12v12), Quick Play (4v4), Bot Bootcamp (4v4), and Ranked Arena (4v4). Queuing for one of these playlists will drop you into one of a variety of game modes. For Big Team Battle, those game modes are Capture the Flag, Slayer, Total Control, and Stockpile. Quick Play, Bot Bootcamp, and Ranked all have a similar spread, with all of them offering Capture the Flag, Oddball, Slayer, and Strongholds, while Quick Play also has a One-Flag CTF mode.

First and foremost: the gameplay in Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is fantastic so far. I love the way it feels on keyboard and mouse, and though it’s been a pretty long time since I last played Halo 3, in my mind, I’m drawing comparisons to that as I play Halo Infinite. I also love the look of Halo Infinite; it looks more like classic Halo games and less like Halo 4 and Halo 5, though I admit I’ve only had limited exposure to the latter game.

All of the guns that I’ve tried feel pretty good, too, though I need to spend some time in Halo Infinite‘s Academy mode to put the power weapons through their paces. I’ve been mainly using the assault rifle, battle rifle, and pistol in my multiplayer matches so far, and those all feel great to use, particularly the battle rifle and pistol. While the pistol isn’t quite as good as in Halo: Combat Evolved, it makes for a good precision weapon at mid-range, and I think players will be surprised by how deadly it can be against enemies that outrange the AR.

My main complaint with matchmaking is that I can’t queue only into Slayer if I want to. The other modes are fun, but most of the time, I just want to play Slayer. That might be boring, but I don’t think I’m alone in having this preference. I suspect that’s why 343 opted to bundle Slayer in with other modes like Oddball and Capture the Flag because if Slayer existed in a standalone playlist, it might be more difficult to fill other game modes consistently.

I’m also sad to see that Halo Infinite is missing some of my favorite game modes from past Halo games. Specifically, the absence of SWAT, Infection, and Griffball bums me out, and I can only hope that they get added sometime later on down the road.

Bots, bots, bots

For the first time in Halo history, Halo Infinite has bots. Players can opt to dive into Bot Bootcamp, where they’ll be placed on a team with four human players against a team of four bots. If you want to learn maps in a multiplayer game or try out weapons with opponents who will actually attempt to fight back, this is the mode for you. Bot Bootcamp is also a nice way to chill with a few casual matches at the end of the night, but beyond that, I have a hard time imagining most players spending any significant time here.

As you might imagine, the bots you’re up against in Bot Bootcamp are not a great replacement for human players. In every Bot Bootcamp game I played, the humans dominated the bots with vast score differentials, so don’t go into this mode looking for a challenge. Still, Bot Bootcamp has its uses, so I’m happy to have it along.

Questionable monetization and unexciting progression

And then we come to the elephant in the room: monetization. Unlike Halo multiplayer modes of the past, Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is free-to-play. That could be a good thing, as it could help Halo Infinite achieve enduring popularity, but Microsoft and 343 have taken the chance to stuff this game full of microtransactions for almost every type of cosmetic.

Halo Infinite feels a lot like Fortnite, with an in-game shop and a Premium battle pass that can be purchased for $10 and leveled up as you play. I don’t mind the battle pass so much, but some of the prices in the shop border on absurd. For example, when I checked it out yesterday, I saw that a skin was being offered for $20. Twenty United States dollars!

We’re talking gacha game levels of monetization here, and being free-to-play is no excuse for pricing a single skin so high. I will keep my wallet where it’s at, thank you, and I think everyone should do the same until 343 and Microsoft can come up with a pricing scheme that isn’t quite so insulting.

The battle pass is an entirely different beast, but still one that doesn’t sit very well with me. I haven’t taken a close look at the content it contains yet, but I’ve played enough to know that actually leveling it up is a big fat drag that is entirely unfun. For some reason, 343 decided to make it so the only way to earn battle pass XP is by completing challenges. There’s no XP gain simply for playing, which means that if you didn’t complete a challenge during that game you just played, you’re making no progress on your battle pass when you get to the score screen.

Put plainly: that’s no fun and it needs to be changed. In September’s edition of Inside Infinite, 343 suggested that it was listening to feedback and would consider changing battle pass progression, saying, “We have heard community feedback around wanting more progression options including things like ‘match XP’ to feed into the Battle Pass and an entirely separate, incremental system along the lines of earning SR152 in Halo 5: Guardians. Expanding Multiplayer progression offerings is something the team is actively exploring, and we look forward to continuing to evolve the experience in future seasons post-launch.”

That sounds an awful lot like PR speak for “we’re not going to talk about this more right now and hope people stop bringing it up,” but the battle pass progression has to change, and we shouldn’t have to wait until season 1 is over in six months for those changes to be implemented. There’s no better way to take the wind out of a player’s sails after a close match than by showing them that they earned no experience toward their battle pass – which they paid actual money for – despite pulling off a hard-fought win or otherwise giving it their all to the end.

Halo Infinite‘s gameplay is excellent, but outside of your matches, all you see are greedy cash-grabs and reminders of stingy progression. Even after just a day of playing, I can tell you that 343 and Microsoft need to reconsider some things about the battle pass and the cash shop or else they’ll risk losing players to other games. The fans were right to sound the alarm on battle pass progression when 343 originally announced these changes, and now I’m hoping the studio listens.

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Computing

Why Haptic Feedback Headphones Could Be Great If Done Right

I never thought vibrating headphones would be a good idea until I tried the recently-released Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense headset. It’s a jarring concept at first — why would I want my headset to vibrate? But after spending some time with Razer’s HyperSense technology, I’m a believer that haptic feedback will show up in the best gaming headsets in the future.

But, the concept requires belief. Although haptics have a chance to elevate gaming, watching movies, and listening to music, the options available today aren’t great — Kraken V3 HyperSense included. Here’s why haptics feedback headphones are a great idea and what companies need to do to make the tech better.

Why haptic feedback headphones make perfect sense

Vibrating headphones might seem like a gimmick, but they make perfect sense. Sound is vibration, physical vibration is just sound that you don’t hear, and all the places where you’d want haptic feedback are the same places you’d hear low frequencies — in particular low bass parts. If you’ve ever used a pair of headphones with a “bass boost” feature, you already know this. Boosting the bass also vibrates the headphones.

If our headphone reviews are a mainstay for you, you can skip past this first section. For everyone else, allow me to indulge myself. HyperSense operates within a range of frequencies — based on a Razer chart, somewhere around 20Hz to 180Hz. It’s no secret that humans hear sound in the range of 20Hz to 20kHz, with the high frequencies generally slipping from overexposure to loud noise or age.

High frequencies are clear; either you hear a high pitch or you don’t. Low frequencies are vague. As the frequency goes lower, the sound starts to morph from sound into feeling. Sound is just vibration, and after a certain point, you stop hearing, and you start feeling.

HyperSense makes the low-end sound bigger. You don’t add a subwoofer to an audio system to hear low frequencies — you add one to feel low frequencies. HyperSense does the same thing in headphones. The problem is that, unlike a subwoofer, HyperSense isn’t producing a range of frequencies. It’s reacting to them, which can ultimately lead to a disjointed experience. That’s exactly how haptic feedback headphones feel today.

Expectation versus reality

The Razer Kraken V3 HyperSense headset sells you on expectations. Immediately after hearing about haptic feedback headphones, I conjured up images of bombastic bass blasts in blockbuster trailers, sounds of scraping shrapnel in AAA war video games, and the thump of a thick bass guitar grooving heavy on a beat.

For brief moments while using the headset, I experienced all of those scenarios — just not consistently. There’s an inherent flaw with the design of HyperSense. It works based on a threshold. Think about haptic feedback in a controller; developers choose when to trigger the haptics, what sounds or images it’s reacting to and what vibration it’s trying to mimic.

Massive bass blasts send a ripple throughout the headset, but so does a deep voice.

That’s not what HyperSense does. It’s taking the audio that it’s fed and spitting out feedback based on, from my testing, a narrow range of low-end frequencies. Massive bass blasts send a ripple throughout the headset, but so does a deep voice. That leads to a strange disconnect where HyperSense draws you into an experience before pulling you immediately out of it.

After watching the Dune trailer and a compilation of the trailers from the latest PlayStation showcase, I was ready to shout from the rooftops that HyperSense is the way to experience media with headphones. After playing through some of Guardians of the Galaxy and hearing Star Lord’s voice reverberate through what sounded like broken bass port, though, I have a different impression.

There’s a strange balancing act with HyperSense between what is and what could be. Although it would take an army, individual game and movie support could elevate HyperSense from an amusing shoo-in to an essential feature on any pair of over-ear headphones.

Preparing for a headache

 A man's cheeks vibrating with a headset on.

One of the problems with HyperSense is the intensity. Razer thankfully included a button on the Kraken V3 HyperSense that allows you to adjust the intensity on the fly, but it has four settings: low, medium, high, or off. Even in the Synapse software, you can’t adjust the intensity manually.

The feedback would bob back and forth between being too much and not enough. At its best, the vibration was a nice reassurance that immersed me in a game or movie. At its worst, HyperSense would rock the headset halfway off my ears, produce no feedback at all, or give me a massive headache.

For haptic feedback headphones to work, you need to be able to adjust the vibration and the sound independently on the fly. It’s a balancing act, and even after dozens of hours of using the Kraken V3 HyperSense, I would reach for a feedback intensity dial that wasn’t there.

This technology needs a way to filter out the junk frequencies.

Independent, granular controls are essential because everything reacts a little differently to the haptic feedback. Most well-produced music with a consistent low-end worked well with the Kraken V3 HyperSense, but video games and movies were all over the place. HyperSense makes a bad audio mix apparent immediately.

Beyond fine control over the intensity of the vibration, this technology needs a way to filter out the junk. As mentioned, HyperSense operates within a range of frequencies, topping out somewhere around 200Hz.

There are a lot of junk frequencies between 100Hz and 200Hz, and I suspect the disjointed feeling of HyperSense is largely due to this range. Here, bass starts to sound like cardboard. It’s not low enough to feel like a sub frequency, but not high enough to venture into the midrange. Filtering would not only lead to more consistent haptics but also allow users to tune the headset for fewer headaches.

Not quite there yet

Razer Kraken V3 sitting on a desk.

HyperSense is just a concept. Although Razer now sells two headsets with the feature, it’s not ready for prime time yet. If anything, it’s a proof of concept. It still needs independent, granular controls, as well as dedicated integrations in games and movies.

Still, it’s more than a gimmick. Razer hasn’t been shy about gimmick-y concepts — just look at the ridiculous Zephyr face mask — but HyperSense is different. After using it, I’m convinced that haptic feedback headphones are a concept that not nearly enough companies are exploring. Corsair has the HS60S with haptic feedback, but that’s it.

Hopefully, more companies will recognize it as a legit feature and not just a gimmick. Maybe then the technology will get some of the improvements it desperately needs.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Computing

Walk the Great Wall of China in Google’s Latest Virtual Tour

If your pandemic-related precautions still prevent you from traveling but you’d like to take a trip somewhere far away, then how about diving into the latest virtual tour from Google Arts & Culture?

The Street View-style experience features a 360-degree virtual tour of one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall, which in its entirety stretches for more than 13,000 miles — about the round-trip distance between Los Angeles and New Zealand.

A section of China’s Great Wall. Google Arts & Culture

The new virtual tour includes 370 high-quality images of the Great Wall, together with 35 stories offering an array of architectural details about the world-famous structure.

“It’s a chance for people to experience parts of the Great Wall that might otherwise be hard to access, learn more about its rich history, and understand how it’s being preserved for future generations,” Google’s Pierre Caessa wrote in a blog post announcing the new content.

The wall was used to defend against various invaders through the ages and took more than 2,000 years to build. The structure is often described as “the largest man-made project in the world.”

But climate conditions and human activities have seen a third of the UNESCO World Heritage site gradually crumble away, though many sections of the wall are now being restored so that it can be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.

Google Arts & Culture has been steadily adding to its library of virtual tours, which can be enjoyed on mobile and desktop devices. The collection includes the The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks and an immersive exploration of some the world’s most remote and historically significant places.

If you’re looking for more content along the same lines, then check out these virtual-tour apps that transport you to special locations around the world, and even to outer space.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Game

Blood Money Is A Great First Step For Red Dead Online

Red Dead Online fills a very specific niche for me. I love cowboys, Westerns, revolvers, and lever-action repeaters. Everything about the Old West’s depiction in media is exciting, from its gritty daily life to its even grittier characters. For a while, Red Dead Online failed to reflect any of that latter part, giving players the opportunity to play through Red Dead Redemption 2‘s five states without any of its charms. You made money by being a good guy, and your biggest crimes were hardly offensive. I mean, what’s distilling and delivering moonshine compared to robbing a train? Not much, I’ll tell you.

This is, of course, antithetical to everything in Red Dead Redemption 2. Yes, the game is a story of the third word in its name, but for most of it, Arthur Morgan isn’t a man seeking to right his wrongs. Instead, he’s still in the midst of them, and while his thoughts on robbing a train may be mixed, players reveled in the action. How couldn’t we? The train robbery is a cliché Western scene, something you’d expect from any piece of media about cowboy desperados looking to make a living outside the standard means.

Instead of anything so action-packed though, Red Dead Online has given its players long delivery missions, good-guy bounty hunting, and, ugh … nature-watching. If these concepts make up anyone’s idea of the West, they’re either from a different world or a stick in the mud. That’s why Red Dead Online‘s latest update, Blood Money, is such a step in the right direction, or rather, the game’s first step in the right direction.

Online redemption

So far, it feels as though Rockstar has been treating Red Dead Online like GTA Online. The delivery missions from the latter made their way into the former, along with the wait times and a multitude of incessantly boring jobs. For what it’s worth, the developer tried to put an emphasis on races in RDO as it does in GTAO, but racing in souped-up hot rods is infinitely more interesting than horses trotting across a barren desert. Finally, Rockstar brought GTA Online‘s best feature to Red Dead Online: a life of crime.

Blood Money lets players live the outlaw life and make an (albeit modest) living doing so. Can criminal activity be as lucrative as being a trader or moonshiner? No way. Is it more interesting than any of the game’s high-paying roles? Absolutely. And that’s because Rockstar is finally appealing to those Old West clichés, all of which have stayed around for good reason.

Whether you’re sticking up a stagecoach, robbing homesteads, or hopping onto a train in Red Dead Online‘s first train robbery, Blood Money’s content lets players steep themselves in the mythology of Old West action. Butch Cassidy wasn’t taking pictures of deer he saw or collecting wildflowers. He was in shootouts, robbing banks, and sticking up trains. That’s the Old West of legend and the one that Red Dead Online should seek to let players relive.

To that end, Blood Money is a good start. Some may call its missions rehashes of other content present in the game, but I can’t ignore context. There’s a difference between riding back to an objective with a bounty and riding with stolen government property — that difference being that I feel like an outlaw. If Red Dead Online can continue to expand on the plethora of content that takes inspiration from Old West action, the game will move from being something I enjoy because it is set in the Old West to something I love to play because it actually embodies the feel of the Old West.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Game

Turtle Beach’s first gamepad pairs its audio expertise with great ergonomics

Each gaming accessory company has one thing they do well, like Corsair and its keyboards or Razer’s line of mice. Turtle Beach is known as a premium headset manufacturer, but that hasn’t stopped it from expanding its offerings, starting with its very first gamepad, the Recon Controller. And it happily still incorporates the company’s audio expertise.

It’s a wired controller compatible with Xbox Series X|S and One as well as Windows 10. As a couch gamer I’m never really thrilled by the need to be tethered, but it makes up for it with a great hand feel. The grips are covered in a tactile gray material, with a grid of triangles that help channel heat and sweat away from your palms. But what I really like are the textured buttons — the shoulder, trigger and back buttons are studded with bumps that do a good job of keeping your fingers from slipping. They also feel great, so much so that I often find myself playing with the Recon Controller even when I’m not gaming.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller in white with purple cord plugged in

Kris Naudus / Engadget

The marquee features of the Recon Controller are its audio controls, located in a small panel at the top of the gamepad. One of my editors said it looks like a modern interpretation of a Mad Catz unit and, well, he isn’t wrong. It’s not exactly attractive, with so many buttons it looks over-engineered.

What all those fiddly buttons offer is an array of options for the sound coming from the headset you’ve plugged into the controller. The bottom has the usual 3.5mm port, so it’ll work with pretty much any headset, provided you have the right cable for it. I tried it with the Recon Spark, a solid and inexpensive set of cans that’s served as my daily driver at the office for a few years now.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller in white

Kris Naudus / Engadget

At each end of the trapezoidal control panel are two toggles, the one on the left adjusts the volume and the right one handles the balance between game audio and chat. They’re far up enough on the controller such that you don’t accidentally hit the X and Y buttons. However, the buttons on the panel itself are packed in so tightly that if you overshoot you’re likely to hit one of the controls in the middle instead.

Which is less than ideal, given that the two big buttons are the mute function (not something you want to accidentally hit while communicating with your teammates) and the “superhuman hearing” button. The latter is a new feature, boosting smaller sounds like footsteps so you won’t miss a thing. The effect wasn’t as pronounced as it promises, as I didn’t notice huge changes while I played a few rounds of Among Us. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it, and the effect may vary depending on the game you’re playing and the headset you have connected.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller

Kris Naudus / Engadget

Between those two buttons is another toggle, one that serves a variety of functions. You can adjust your EQ presets between the default, bass, bass/treble and vocal settings. You can also adjust the power of the gamepad’s vibrations, as well as the sensitivity of the thumb sticks. It’s nice to be able to adjust these things on the fly, rather than having to fiddle around in a settings program. The big drawback is that it’s not immediately clear what the icons represent, and I had to consult the instructions and experiment with them before I really understood.

Overall I was happy with the controller’s performance, and I’m enamored of the ergonomics of it more than anything. I’m just not entirely sure they’re worth dealing with a wired controller and headset when you’re used to going wireless.

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.

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Game

WoW Burning Crusade Classic Review: Great Then, Ok Now

World of Warcraft Burning Crusade Classic review: Too true to its roots

“Aside from a serious lack of player flexibility, Burning Crusade Classic is a rewarding MMORPG that asks for a lot but remembers to tip generously.”

  • Great community
  • Robust leveling experience
  • Rewarding RPG elements
  • Lacking helpful mechanics
  • Some design decisions show their age

The opportunity to revisit an iconic MMO like World of Warcraft after experiencing the growth, decline, and reimagining of its whole genre isn’t one that comes around often. So what did I find when playing World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic, an update of a game that as a lost, lonely teenager once consumed my life? The same thing I grew to miss when I moved on: Community. And then I lost it. Again.

The 2004 pop culture success of World of Warcraft introduced players to hefty level grinds, sprawling PvP, and complicated, coordinated raids on boss lairs. It was a coming-of-age for the MMORPG genre, bringing it firmly into the mainstream. The Burning Crusade expansion years later asked players to do it all again in a sprawling new zone with more bosses, bigger backstories, and even bigger weapons. It sounds simple; almost unnecessary, in fact. But it was exactly what players wanted more of. And it worked.

A player avatar charging at the Fel Reaver from World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade

Burning Crusade‘s storytelling methods are basically nonexistent in the face of today’s modern MMOs, but the core experience is still a hoot. At least, it was in the first week or two.

A great start

Burning Crusade Classic begins the same way it did back then. As it should. Players sprint to the Blasted Lands south of the Eastern Kingdoms and charge ferociously through the Dark Portal. The iconic gateway was the starting point of the Warcraft story back in the 1990s, and trudging back through it with an army of friends and future allies will never get old. It’s just a shame that sticking with them after that beautiful moment is so damn hard.

With no server downtime leading up to the big transition from vanilla WoW to Burning Crusade Classic, Blizzard really nailed the execution necessary to have this gigantic MMO expand like the great adventure that it is. Blizzard has had its fair share of disastrous online releases over the decades, but this wasn’t one of them.

Without a hitch, we were able to again experience the iconic moment when waves of players charged forward together, their passion for continuing the quest they started years ago fueling their push into the unknown. Hundreds went in, and server sharding — a method of temporarily splitting players off into smaller servers — kept the first zone we were set to spend a dozen hours in from becoming overcrowded.

Blizzard has had its fair share of disastrous online releases over the decades, but this wasn’t one of them.

A tauren player character riding a mount against the Hellfire Penninsula backdrop in Burning Crusade Classic.

Same game, different experience

Although I didn’t originally start playing World of Warcraft until the Wrath of the Lich King expansion was right around the corner, some of my fondest memories come from the 60 to 70 experience presented here — the struggle of exploring Hellfire Peninsula a little too early at 58, a disdain for the Zangermarsh zone, and growing adoration for the sweeping green plains of Nagrand.

All those memories came flooding back in my two weeks rediscovering the place I called home as a teenager. The good, the bad, and the kind that hit differently after spending years with countless other supposed “WoW killers.”

As fantastical as the hype and build-up to run through the Dark Portal was, the fatal flaw has begun to show yet again. The enemy? Nostalgia.

After the initial rush of players powered their way through WoW Classic, the few who were late to the party struggled to reach the top. They were brought in by the hype but spat out by Blizzard’s hardcore group-based game design. And it’s happening again.

A druid fighting an elemental in Burning Crusade Classic.

As work and other commitments have me barely halfway through the leveling experience, it’s already become much harder to find people around my level to run the expansion’s 16 hyperspecific dungeons. Without them to pad out my experience points, I’m left fighting alone, running hundreds of repetitive quests in slightly different locations until I hit level 70.

If I get there, I’ll have no social connections to get me into the group content that players level for in the first place. It’s a curse. Those lagging behind will be forced to fall further. And who knows how many will be left to run level 70 content when casuals like me catch up.

Create the problem, forget the solution

It’s not that leveling without a few dungeon runs is impossible, but it does get old. And lonely. As time goes on and the player base thins out, we’re going to start thinking about what could have been done to address it.

What World of Warcraft has always done well is hook players with staple RPG mechanics. Leveling may take time, but that “ding” and every kill or quest toward it always feels rewarding. It can be laborious and needlessly time-consuming, but whether it’s a new skill here or a rare random item drop there, you’re constantly fed cake on the way to the frosting.

As much as the classic experience is why we’re here, the Dual-Spec feature from the subsequent Wrath of the Lich King is one quality of life feature that absolutely should have been brought forward. It could have made a massive difference to the experience without poisoning the well.

Most classes can fill two or all three of the common roles in a group, but the “talent” system locks them into only being viable in one and makes it increasingly more expensive to swap out. The Dual-Spec feature basically gave players a secondary loadout to change into when needed, offering the chance not only to fill another role when required by a group, but to change up their playstyle to avoid getting bored by pressing the same buttons day after day.

There were no downsides to the system. It was just respectful of a player’s time. And when you’re playing a class that’s designed to be four different ones at once, it’s infuriating to be unable to be whoever my next team needs me to be.

A Tauren Druid in Cat form battling a boar in Burning Crusade Classic.

[/pullquote]After going back to Burning Crusade Classic, I’m reminded again of the magic modern MMOs let slip away.[/pullquote]

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic may lack the hard-hitting story beats of most other games in its class, but the depth of its RPG elements represents old-fashioned values that are still sorely missed in other MMOs. It’s just a shame that some key tweaks weren’t brought forward to fix the issues the inevitably smaller player base is likely to run into far sooner than they did in the original release.

Our take

Whether you’re fighting, crafting, or gathering, your actions always serve a purpose in the Burning Crusade Classic campaign. Anyone can feel like they’re contributing either to their own guilds and groups or to the server as a whole. Leveling can feel sluggish at times, but talent points, meaningful gear upgrades, and a clear endgame goal create an RPG experience that still manages to make it a game worth experiencing if you have the time, even if it’s more demanding than we typically tolerate from games like this.

Retail players can still experience Burning Crusade’s Outland almost piece-for-piece without this release, but for veterans of the franchise, revisiting the title will feel like coming home after a decade away. As it should. It’s just a shame it won’t last nearly as long this time.

Is there a better alternative out there?

If you prefer more flexibility in how you spend your time, Final Fantasy XIV is still a better option. The community is lovely and creative, and you’re free to fill any role you want, leveling in a bunch of different ways to get there.

How long will it last?

It’s about 18 months until Wrath of the Lich King Classic inevitably comes to bring World of Warcraft Classic back to its high point. More raids, new equipment, and bigger stories will come out in the months ahead until that happens.

Should you buy it

Given it technically only costs the price of a World of Warcraft subscription, absolutely. It’s incredibly rare to have the opportunity to go back in time with an ever-changing MMORPG. Experience history. You probably won’t get a third chance.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Tech News

Why remote work is necessary no matter how great your office is

Being queer in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields can be exhausting. There’s a never-ending torrent of peer-reviewed research, exposure articles from journalists, and testimony from current and former employees that demonstrates a clear and consistent bias against the LGBTQ+ community in STEM.

And that’s just the private sector. Don’t even get me started on academia and the government sector.

It’s clear that workplace discrimination, confrontation, and isolation have a direct impact on how long a queer person remains in STEM, how far they advance in their careers, and, most importantly, their mental and physical health.

Tech is a dangerous, unwelcoming place for queer people.

Harassment, discrimination, and “othering” are all common issues queer people deal with. And it’s been proven that workplace toxicity, over time, can have serious health consequences including shortened lifespan and myriad stress-related mental and physical complications.

In other words: It’s demonstrably more physically and mentally dangerous to be queer in STEM.

Luckily there’s a solution. But it’s not perfect.

I’m talking about remote work. The reason why at least half of us (I suspect much, much higher) have witnessed workplace discrimination is because it’s rampant.

While many might view “discrimination” as a matter of saying or doing something intentionally offensive, it more often manifests in passed promotions, team avoidance, “jokes” and othering.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my personal experience is that some of the same people in the STEM community who were receptive to my ideas before I came out suddenly don’t have time for me since last year.

As a tech journalist, I’m lucky enough to work for a company that respects me and provides a safe and supportive work place. But I had no way of knowing that when I got hired.

Any company can give a giant spiel about its numerous diversity programs and how it supports the LGBTQ community, but there’s know way for a queer person to know what the experience of working in an office is going to be like until they do.

To put it bluntly: If your workplace doesn’t have queer, non-binary, trans, gay, lesbian, pansexual, or asexual people in it already, you can’t be sure how your employees will react to their presence.

We’d all like to think our team is full of compassionate, empathetic people who would never harass or discriminate.

But that’s not reality. At least half of us, as  mentioned above, have experienced discrimination – yet we only make up about four percent of the population.

Remote work solves a lot of the friction for queer people. It can be a lifesaver for people in the closet, especially when most aspects of office culture are incredibly heteronormative.

And, for those of us who are out, it can save us from chance encounters with bitter bigots and exposure to heteronormative pressure that results in othering.

But, as mentioned, it’s not a perfect solution.

Things can actually get worse for workers who transition to remote work when companies don’t have strong codes of conduct in place to prevent harassment.

Per a CNBC article by Jennifer Liu:

A survey of remote workers in tech from the research group Project Include found that online harassment and hostility went up for LGBTQ workers during the pandemic. Some said existing pressures on marginalized workers — including young, female, and nonbinary employees — got worse in the transition to working remotely.

Worse, it’s unclear what remote work will ultimately mean for the workplace.

On the one hand, it’s clear that STEM is dangerous for queer people. But, on the other, every space benefits from diversity and queer perspectives are as important in the office as they are outside of it.

At the end of the day, the solution isn’t to martyr queer people who’d be better off working remotely in order to push a “perfect office” agenda.

Even if your office is a bastion of support, like my employer’s is, it’s still exhausting and dangerous being queer in STEM. Remote work offers us the ability to face the fight on our own terms.

It allows us to choose employment based on position fit, not whether or not the city or country a position is in has a legal or cultural problem with our sexuality. It means we can have Silicon Valley, New York, or even Amsterdam tech careers without leaving the safety of our home communities.

Remote work gives queer STEM workers options they may not otherwise have.

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Computing

HP Envy x360 15 AMD Review: A Great 2-in-1 with Poor Colors

“The HP Envy x360 15 with its AMD Ryzen 7 5700U is a high-powered 2-in-1 held back by a disappointing display.”

  • Excellent productivity performance
  • Solid build quality
  • Conservative good looks
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Affordable
  • Poor performance in Adobe applications
  • Battery life hampered by small battery capacity
  • Display doesn’t offer wide enough colors

Fast performance for content creation can get very expensive. That’s especially true on laptops.

HP’s Envy x360 15, powered by AMD Ryzen, is an antidote to that problem. The overall design has been tweaked, and HP now positions the 15-inch 2-in-1 — like other Envy machines, including the Envy 14 and the Envy 15 — as a machine made especially for creators.

I reviewed a $1,000 configuration equipped with the AMD Ryzen 7 5700U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display in the increasingly obsolete 16:9 aspect ratio. That’s an attractive price for a powerful laptop — on paper. Does the Envy x360 15 actually live up to its promise of being a creator’s dream machine?

Design

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Like other recent Envy machines, the Envy x360 15 was designed with a minimalist aesthetic. Most likely, that’s to differentiate from HP’s Spectre line, which uses a gem-cut chassis and colored chrome edges to make a strong fashion statement. The Envy x360 15 is much simpler, with a uniform Nightfall Black color that, to my eyes, looks brown in certain lighting, rounded edges, and no other accents to any of the chamfered edges. The only splash of color is the gold HP logo on the lid. Like the Envy 14, Envy 15, and Lenovo’s Yoga line, it’s an attractive laptop that won’t announce itself in a crowd.

Also, like the rest of the Envy line, the Envy x360 15 is made of stamped aluminum, another distinguishing feature from the CNC machined aluminum used in the Spectres. Even so, the Envy x360 15 feels robust, with no bending in the lid and just a little keyboard flex. It’s not as solid as the Spectre x360 15 or, say, the Dell XPS 15, but it still feels like a premium laptop. The lid is rather stiff, requiring two hands to open, but it holds the display in place in clamshell, tent, media, and tablet modes.

In terms of its size, the Envy x360 15 benefits from an 88.7% screen-to-body ratio, meaning its bezels are reasonably small around all edges. The chin’s a little large, but that’s to be expected with a 360-degree convertible. It’s not quite as chiseled as the Spectre x360 15 with its 90% screen-to-body ratio, but it’s close enough.

It’s only slightly wider and taller than its more premium sibling, and it’s 0.72 inches thick and weighs 4.11 pounds — quite a bit thinner and lighter than the Spectre’s 0.76 inches and 4.81 pounds. Some of that weight difference is due to the battery capacity, where the Envy x360 15 has just 51 watt-hours compared to the Spectre’s 84 watt-hours. By comparison, the Dell XPS 15 is also 0.71 inches thick and weighs 4.5 pounds with its 97 watt-hour battery. The Envy x360 15 is a reasonably sized 15-inch 2-in-1, but it will still be cumbersome in tablet mode.

There’s plenty of connectivity, with a USB-A 3.1 port, full-size HDMI 2.0 port, USB-C 3.1 port, and audio jack along the left-hand side, and another USB-A 3.1 port and a full-size SD card reader along the right-hand side. Unfortunately, there’s no Thunderbolt 4 support given the AMD chipset, limiting flexibility and performance. Wireless connectivity is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 via an Intel AX 200 radio.

Performance

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

AMD’s latest Ryzen CPUs have been top performers in CPU-intensive tasks, and I was looking forward to putting the Ryzen 7 5700U through its paces. I expected solid CPU performance and GPU performance in line with Intel’s Iris Xe, and that’s pretty much what I got. Note that HP’s Command Center utility that offers different performance settings didn’t have much impact on the Envy x360 15 (as compared to the Spectre x360 14, which was much faster in “Performance” mode), and so I’m not mentioning those settings in this review.

Starting with Geekbench 5, the Envy x360 15 scored second-highest in the multi-core test among our comparison group in the table below. Only the MacBook Pro 13 with Apple’s M1 ARM CPU was faster, and none of the Intel-based laptops were even close. As usual, things were a bit different in the single-core test, where Intel’s chips performed better than all but the Ryzen 7 5800U and the Apple M1.

In the PCMark 10 Complete benchmark, the Envy x360 15 came in second again, this time behind the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED running a Ryzen 7 5800U. That’s thanks to a high score in the Content Creation portion of the test, where only Intel 45-watt H-series CPUs have scored better. The Ryzen 7 5700U beat out the entire field of U-series Tiger Lake laptops.

In our more real-world Handbrake test that converts a 420MB video to H.265, the Envy x360 15 was the fastest machine, even beating out the ZenBook 13 OLED with its faster Ryzen 7 chip. It was twice as fast as the HP Spectre x360 14 and almost 80 seconds faster than the Dell XPS 13. And in Cinebench 23, the Envy x360 15 was the fastest laptop we’ve tested, period — including H-series laptops. Simply put, if you’re running a content creation application that relies on the CPU, the Envy x360 15 is a great machine to have at your disposal.

The same can’t be said for the PugetBench benchmark that uses Premiere Pro to run through a series of demanding video editing tasks. Here, the Envy x360 15 managed a score of just 185. The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 with a Core i7-1165G7 and Intel Iris Xe graphics scored 241, while the HP Envy 14 with a Core i5-1135G7 and Nvidia GeForce 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU scored a much higher 432.

Clearly, Intel and Adobe have worked together to optimize Premiere Pro for Intel chips, and the test absolutely benefits from a faster GPU. The latter is likely true for any application that can use the GPU to accelerate processes.

Geekbench (single/multi) Handbrake (seconds) Cinbench R23 (single/multi) PCMark 10 3DMark Time Spy
HP Envy x360 15
(Ryzen 7 5700U)
1198/6790 116 1258/8131 5419 1471
Asus ZenBook 13 OLED
(Ryzen 7 5800U
1423/6758 124 1171 /7824 6034 1342
Lenovo Yoga 9i
(Core i7-10750H)
1285/5551 144 1141/6400 5173 3487
HP Spectre x360 14
(Core i7-1165G7)
1214/ 4117 236 1389 /3941 4728 1457
HP Envy 15 (Core i7-10750H) 1274/5542 139 N/A N/A 5123
MacBook Pro 13 (M1) 1707/7337 N/A 1487 /7547 N/A N/A
Dell XPS 13 (Core i7-1185G7) 1549/5431 204 1399/ 4585 N/A 1380

The Ryzen CPUs are also limited in gaming thanks to integrated Radeon Graphics that are about as quick in the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark as Intel Iris Xe. I also ran Fortnite, where the Envy x360 15 managed 25 frames per second (fps) at 1080p and high graphics, and 16 fps with epic graphics selected. That’s within a few fps of Tiger Lake laptops with Intel Iris Xe graphics, meaning the Envy x360 15 isn’t really meant for gaming.

Display

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Along with performance, an excellent display with wide and accurate colors would be on any content creator’s wish list. The Envy x360 15, therefore, should offer up just that if it wants to target creative types.

Unfortunately, the 2-in-1’s IPS Full HD display — which I think is too low a resolution for 15-inch displays — falls short. It was the same with the Envy 14 (although that machine benefitted from a 16:10 aspect ratio), which in many other ways was an excellent creator’s workstation. Like that laptop, the Envy x360 15’s display suffered from colors that are plenty wide for premium productivity laptops at 71% of AdobeRGB and 95% of sRGB, but too narrow for anyone doing serious photo or video editing.

The HP Envy 15 with its OLED display, another laptop that HP touts for creatives, hit 97% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, and Dell’s XPS 15 with its 4K display hits 100% of both gamuts. The Envy x360 did well in color accuracy at 1.06 (where 1.0 or less is considered excellent), compared to the Envy 15 at 0.73 and the XPS 15 at 0.65.

The Envy x360 15’s display also wasn’t very bright, hitting just 270 nits and well under our preferred threshold of 300 nits. The Envy 15 managed 404 nits and the XPS 15 came in at 442 nits. Contrast also wasn’t a strength for the Envy x360 15, which hit 900:1 (under our premium threshold of 1,000:1), where the Envy 15’s OLED panel was at a ridiculous 404,410:1 and the XPS 15 was at 1480:1 (excellent for an IPS display).

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The bottom line is that while the Envy x360 15’s display would be fine for productivity users, serious content creators will bemoan the lack of colors. I found the display to be fine for writing this review, albeit the brightness was still too low, but if I were doing any serious work in Photoshop or Premiere Pro, then I would have been disappointed.

The audio was plenty loud with no distortion, and mids and highs were pleasant. However, there was minimal bass, and although it looks like there are speakers on each side of the keyboard, there are just two downward-firing speakers. You’ll want headphones or Bluetooth speakers for music or long Netflix binge sessions.

Keyboard and touchpad

The Envy x360 15 inherited the excellent keyboard from its Spectre siblings, offering up great spacing, large and attractive keycaps, and plenty of travel. The switches offer a nice bounce and a comfortable bottoming action, affording plenty of precision for fast typists. It’s my favorite keyboard behind Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the latest MacBooks. Only Dell’s XPS line comes close. One downside to the laptop’s design as that the power button is on the keyboard, meaning you have to open the lid to power it on.

The touchpad is 19% larger than the last version, taking up just about all the space available on the keyboard deck. That’s a welcome upgrade, and the Microsoft Precision touchpad was responsive and reliable with the full gamut of Windows 10 multitouch gestures. The touch display also supports MPP 2.0 pen protocol with 4,096 pressure sensitivity and tilt levels. A pen didn’t come bundled with my review unit, and so I didn’t get a chance to test it.

Windows 10 Hello support is provided by a fingerprint reader that’s embedded in the keyboard where the right control button normally goes. That’s a problem for any application that hard codes the right control button, but I found the reader to be fast and accurate.

Finally, you’ll find buttons on the keyboard to mute the microphone and physically shutter the webcam. Those are welcome privacy additions, and it’s easy to see when the webcam is covered thanks to an obvious pattern that’s visible even in poor lighting.

Battery life

HP only packed 51 watt-hours of battery life, which isn’t enough for such a powerful CPU and a large display (even if it is running at just Full HD). As mentioned earlier, the Spectre x360 15 enjoys 83 watt-hours of battery life and even the Spectre x360 14 has 67 watt-hours. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of longevity.

As it turns out, battery life was a mixed bag. In our web browsing test, which runs through a series of popular websites, the Envy x360 15 lasted for 11.25 hours, a solid score that’s slightly better than average. The Envy 14 was stronger at 12.6 hours, while the XPS 15 4K only managed seven hours. The Envy 15 went for under seven hours, due mainly to its power-hungry OLED display. In our video test that loops a Full HD Avengers trailer, the Envy x360 15 made it to 13.5 hours, which around average and not as long as I would have expected — laptops typically do much better in the video test compared to the web browsing test. The Envy 15 lasted for just 7.9 hours, the XPS 15 for 7.4 hours, and the Envy 14 for 14.4 hours.

Switching to PCMark 10, I ran the Gaming test, and the Envy x360 15 died out after 1.5 hours, which is at the low end of the laptops we’ve tested. Push the Ryzen 7 hard and it sucks down battery life. The Envy 14 was also guilty in this test, lasting two minutes less. In the PCMark 10 Application test, the best indication of productivity battery life, the Envy x360 15 lasted for 12.5 hours, which is the third-longest result in our database. Only the LG Gram 16 (17.8 hours) and the Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 (14.8 hours) lasted longer. The Envy 14 would not complete this test.

All in all, the Envy x360 15 is a strong performer when it comes to productivity battery life. It will get you through a full day’s work and then some. It’s not as strong streaming media, and if you push the CPU and GPU, then you’ll want your power brick nearby. But overall, I was impressed that HP managed to squeeze decent battery life out of such a small battery — although one might add that if HP were to be a little less stingy, the Envy x360 15 could be a real world-beater in terms of longevity.

Our take

The Envy x360 15 is an attractive, well-built, and very powerful laptop for $1,000. With its 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, it’s a real value. But unfortunately, HP didn’t choose a display that lives up to the laptop’s alleged focus on creators. It was the same with the Envy 14 — a great laptop for creative types in all but that one very important aspect.

Choose the Envy x360 15 as a fast (if you’re not worried about the GPU) 2-in-1 with a great keyboard, touchpad, and pen support for all your productivity needs. Just don’t expect too much if excellent colors are on your wish list.

Are there any alternatives?

The Spectre x360 15 is a better alternative if you’re looking to run Adobe apps. Its 45-watt CPU and discrete GPU win the day in this scenario. And you’ll want to choose the OLED display with its excellent colors if you’re a creative type. But it’s also quite a bit more expensive.

The Dell XPS 15 is the best clamshell alternative, with even better build quality, a vastly superior display, and better performance in Adobe apps. As with the Spectre, expect to pay quite a bit more.

Finally, you could choose the Envy 15, which again is more expensive but will provide excellent performance and another awesome OLED display. It’s not as fast in CPU-intensive apps, but its fast GPU will help it burn through processes that can take advantage of it.

How long will it last?

The Envy x360 15 is solidly built and sports modern components (except for the lack of Thunderbolt 4 support). It will last you years of productive service. Too bad the warranty is only the industry-standard one year.

Should you buy it?

Yes. But as with the Envy 14, buy it for its productivity prowess, not if you need a lot of colors for your creative work.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link