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Computing

How much does the RTX 4090 cost? RTX 40-series buying guide

Nvidia has finally announced the RTX 40 series, and three new RTX 40 cards will be available later this year: the flagship RTX 4090, the high-end RTX 4080 16GB, and the RTX 4080 12GB. Along with apparently massive performance improvements over last-generation RTX 30 series cards, these new GPUs come with high price tags.

How much does the RTX 4090 cost?

Nvidia

The flagship RTX 4090 is launching with an MSRP of $1,599, which is $100 higher than the $1,499 MSRP of the RTX 3090 and $400 lower than the $1,999 MSRP of the RTX 3090 Ti. $100 extra for Nvidia’s new flagship isn’t that much when the RTX 3090 was already so expensive, so not much has changed here.

RTX 4090 RTX 3090
Process TSMC 5nm Samsung 8nm
Architecture Ada Lovelace Ampere
CUDA cores 16,384 10,496
Memory 24GB GDDR6X 24GB GDDR6X
Boost clock speed 2520MHz 1695MHz
Bus width 384-bit 384-bit
Power 450W 350W

It’s actually surprising that the RTX 4090 doesn’t cost more because it has way more CUDA cores than the RTX 3090 and the RTX 3090 Ti. It still has more or less the same memory size and bandwidth, but that shouldn’t really be a cause for concern; Nvidia should know how much VRAM its GPUs need.

How much does the RTX 4080 cost?

New Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 GPU over a black and green background.
Nvidia

Things are a bit more complicated with the RTX 4080, which has two different models: the 4080 16GB at $1,199 and the 4080 12GB at $899. That’s much more expensive than the RTX 3080 10GB, which launched at $699, but it’s cheaper than the RTX 3080 12GB, which launched at $1,249. That being said, the 3080 12GB has seldom been in good supply, and the price has been falling ever since the end of the GPU shortage. Compared to the standard RTX 3080 10GB, both RTX 4080 models are much more expensive.

RTX 4080 16GB RTX 4080 12GB RTX 3080
Process TSMC 5nm TSMC 5nm Samsung 8nm
Architecture Ada Lovelace Ada Lovelace Ampere
CUDA cores 9,728 7,680 8960 / 8704
Memory 16GB GDDR6X 12GB GDDR6X 12GB / 10GB GDDR6X
Boost clock speed 2505MHz 2610MHz 1710MHz
Bus width 256-bit 192-bit 384-bit / 320-bit
Power 320W 285W 350W / 320W

At first glance, this different amount of memory business might sound like the difference between the RTX 3080 10GB and the RTX 3080 12GB, which have very similar performance but a large difference in price. However, these two different 4080s differ greatly not just in memory size and price but also in other specifications.

The RTX 4080 16GB has 9,728 CUDA cores, while the RTX 4080 12GB has just 7,680. The memory bandwidth on the 12GB model is also much lower since it has a 192-bit bus compared to the 256-bit bus on the 16GB version. The 12GB card does have a slightly higher clock speed, but that’s more than offset by the lower amount of cores and memory bandwidth. The 16GB and 12GB are effectively very different GPUs and not just merely different versions of the same card, hence the $300 price difference.

Which RTX 40-series GPU should you buy?

The top of the Nvidia RTX 4080 cooler.

Until the reviews are in, it’s hard to recommend any of the RTX 40 series cards Nvidia has revealed so far. These are some of the most expensive GPUs ever released (which hasn’t been received well by most users), and even if RTX 40 is as fast as Nvidia says it is, these high price tags are definitely going to negatively impact the value proposition of these cards.

That being said, Nvidia’s new GPUs do seem priced sensibly relative to each other. The RTX 4080 16GB offers over 2,000 more CUDA cores, 4GB more VRAM, and more memory bandwidth than the RTX 4080 12GB for $300 more. For another $400, you could get the RTX 4090, which comes with 6,000 more CUDA cores, 8GB more VRAM, and even more memory bandwidth. The 4090 is actually in a class above the 4080 16GB, unlike how the RTX 3090 was just an RTX 3080 with a few more cores and higher TDP.

If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on a cutting-edge GPU, it might just be worth it to go all out and get the RTX 4090. At least then you won’t be wanting for more, even if it is one of the most expensive gaming GPUs ever made. On the other hand, you still get faster ray tracing performance and DLSS 3 with the much cheaper RTX 4080 16GB and 12GB.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Computing

Apple MacBook Air M2 buying guide: don’t buy the wrong one

The MacBook Air M2 is Apple’s latest swing at its fanless Air design. Like the M1 model, it’s among the best laptops you can buy right now because of its excellent portability, battery life, and, above all, performance. But buying the wrong MacBook Air M2 could result in a laptop that’s up to 50% slower. Seriously.

In this guide, we’re going to break down what the M2 MacBook Air is, the different configurations available, and answer if you should buy Apple’s latest laptop. Most importantly, we’ll guide you to the configuration you should buy to avoid a clear performance pitfall.

Here’s the M2 MacBook Air

The latest version of the MacBook Air comes with Apple’s M2 processor. It’s around 15%-20% faster than last-gen’s M1 depending on the application, and the 2022 MacBook Air is the only laptop with the M2 chip outside of the 13-inch 2022 MacBook Pro. Don’t by swayed by the Pro model, though. The M2 Air and Pro have largely similar performance.

Compared to the last-gen M1 MacBook Air, the M2 model has a few changes. Like all Air designs, this one is fanless with a focus on portability (it’s only 0.44 inch thick and 2.7 pounds). There are a few subtle design changes, though, including more rounding on the corners and a notch for the webcam that everyone loves to hate.

More importantly, the M2 model comes with a Liquid Retina display, which is sharper and provides a larger color range than the screen on the M1 MacBook Air. The notch even gives you an extra 0.3 inch of screen to look at. Apple also took the time to upgrade from two speakers on the M1 model to four on the M2, as well as improve the webcam to 1080p.

Apple also improved battery life with a slightly larger battery, which lasted over 21 hours in our video playback testing. That’s hours above Windows laptops, even those with the best battery life.

Avoid the base M2 MacBook Air at all costs

There are only two M2 MacBook Air models available that Apple has as a starting point:

256GB model 512GB model
CPU cores Eight cores Eight cores
GPU cores Eight cores 10 cores
Memory 8GB Unified Memory 8GB Unified Memory
Storage 256GB SSD 512GB SSD
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4, 3.5mm headphone 2x Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4, 3.5mm headphone
Screen 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display
Charger 30W USB-C adaptor 35W dual USB-C compact adaptor
Price $1,200 $1,500
Where to buy

It seems simple enough, but the choice between these two configurations is what will determine if you have a good M2 MacBook Air or a bad one.

Short answer: buy the 512GB model. Shortly after launching, reviewers found out that the base 256GB model uses a single NAND chip for storage, while the 512GB model and even the M1 MacBook Air use two chips. That results up to 50% slower SSD performance, making the 256GB model feel more sluggish as it struggles to read and write data to the hard drive.

The motherboard of the M2 MacBook Air is revealed in a YouTube teardown.

That’s why so many people are saying to avoid the $1,200 M2 MacBook Air. It’s slower than the 512GB model, sure, but the fact that it’s slower than last-gen’s M1 version is the kicker.

For $300 extra, you’re getting a much smoother laptop with the 512GB M2 MacBook Pro. It also comes with two extra GPU cores for around a 15% boost in graphics performance depending on the application (more on that below). The 512GB model also comes with a slightly larger 35W charger, which will speed up charging times by just a hair.

Configuring the M2 MacBook Air

The torn-down M2 MacBook Air rests on a wooden floor.
iFixit

The M2 MacBook Air is a bit different than the previous generation in that you can configure up to 24GB of Unified Memory. That doesn’t mean you should, though. Between storage, the SOC, and memory, here’s the configuration I’d recommend:

  • Apple M2 with eight-core GPU, eight-core CPU
  • 16GB of Unified Memory
  • 512GB SSD
  • 67W USB-C power adaptor

This configuration comes out to $1,600, or $100 more than the 512GB, 10-core GPU model that Apple has as a starting point. 16GB of Unified Memory is the big difference, as it can represent as much as a 25% improvement in apps like Adobe Premiere. It also provides a decent boost to coding environments like Xcode.

24GB doesn’t provide that same boost, and it costs an additional $200. Most people won’t even notice a performance increase with 24GB, even in apps like Premiere. The only argument for it is if you run a particularly RAM-intensive application, and even then, 16GB provides most of the benefit over 8GB.

The same goes for the 10-core GPU. It’s $100 more expensive and doesn’t provide much of a benefit in gaming or video editing apps. It is significantly faster than the eight-core model in 3D rendering apps like Blender, though, so consider spending the extra $100 if that’s your jam. If it’s not, save the money. You won’t see any difference.

Should you buy the M2 MacBook Air?

The MacBook Air on a table in front of a window.

If you’re sold on the M2 MacBook Air, buy the 512GB one. It’s the clear choice, and the extra $300 seems like chump change considering how much faster it is compared to the 256GB one. The M2 MacBook Air isn’t the best choice for everyone, though, shipping with a litany of issues that the older M1 MacBook Air didn’t have.

In particular, the M2 MacBook Air has issues with overheating. It doesn’t have a heat spreader or fans, and the M2 gets hot enough that it has to limit its performance to stay cool. Even the M2 MacBook Pro, which comes with a fan for cooling, reaches its thermal limit and starts reducing performance.

The M1 version, by contrast, has no issues with heat, which is why it received the rare Editors’ Choice award in our MacBook Air M1 review.

The M2 MacBook Air is more powerful, so more heat is expected. But it’s not a clear choice over the M1 model. Apple’s latest chip provides about an 18% boost based on our testing and a slightly larger battery. For anyone browsing the web and running basic applications, though, the extra boost won’t be super relevant.

This is even more important when you consider price. The M1 MacBook Air is $1,000, and as we covered above, you’re almost forced into picking up the $1,500 version of the M2 MacBook Air to get the same SSD performance. That’s why some people, like our resident mobile expert Andy Boxall, decided to get last-gen’s model when the M2 was announced.

Regardless of if you pick up the M1 or M2 model, you’re getting a fantastic laptop (short of the 256GB M2 version, that is). If you decide you don’t want to go with Apple for your next laptop, though, make sure to read our comparison between the M2 MacBook Air and the Dell XPS 13 Plus — they trade blows well for around the same price.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Computing

How to build a PC from scratch: A beginner’s guide

Learning how to build a PC from scratch is easier than you might think. The process mostly involves screwing in the right screws and connecting the right cables, so as long as you’re careful with your components and take the proper safety precautions, even beginners can make a PC that rivals the best desktop computers.

Although there are a lot of steps to in building your own computer, the process isn’t too difficult. We’ll walk you through the process step by step so you can learn to build computers in the future and finally put to rest the idea that it’s hard to build a PC.

We’re building a gaming desktop here, but the process is the same regardless of what type of PC you want to build. If you’re gunning to build a gaming desktop like us, make sure you have one of the best graphics cards to install in your system.

Getting started

This guide is all about piecing desktop PC parts together to create a functional machine. If you haven’t selected and purchased all the required hardware, make sure you do that first. Also make sure that it’s all compatible and that it will fit inside whatever case you want to build it in.

Here are the core components to build a PC:

  • Case
  • CPU
  • CPU cooler
  • RAM
  • Hard drive or solid-state drive (SSD)
  • Power supply
  • Graphics card

Multiple PC components need to be compatible with each other, which can create some headaches for newcomers. We recommend using a site like PCPartPicker to select your components, as it automatically checks for compatibility issues.

Before you dig in, ensure there’s a clean workspace with plenty of room to open boxes and put parts together, preferably a desk at a comfortable height for working on.

how to install ram pc buildout 2016 static leash 1500x1000 02

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Safety first

There’s an invisible risk when building a computer that you rarely have to worry about with an assembled PC: static electricity. The same force that lets you shock your friends when you wear wool socks can also fry components in a heartbeat. Fortunately, static is easy to all but eliminate with a few simple steps.

One simple solution is to purchase an antistatic wristband. One end wraps around your wrist, and the other clips somewhere on the computer case, keeping the wearer constantly grounded. Touching the case frequently with the PSU plugged in and powered off achieves the same effect.

Make sure you’re building your PC in a room with a bare floor if you can — carpets generate a lot of static — and wear rubber-soled shoes rather than socks. Many components ship in antistatic bags, so leave them bagged until just before installation.

Opening the case

Preparing the case is the easy part. Instructions for the specific case you purchased should introduce you to its basic layout, as well as list special instructions regarding component installation.

Lay down the case in your work area and remove the side panel. For most PC cases, this means the left-side panel when viewed from the front. This panel provides access to the case interior.

Also, remove anything that’s dangling inside the case. If it’s attached, push it aside. Many cases have permanent internal wiring that becomes problematic later on.

Before we start putting everything together, we’ll first install the power supply and then set the case aside for a few minutes.

How to install the power supply

The first component to make its way into the case should be the power supply (PSU). It is typically located at the rear of the case, usually in the bottom or top corner. Consult your case’s manual if you have trouble finding the proper location.

Step 1: Place your power supply in the mounting position. Most cases are designed for the PSU to be installed with the fan facing down, letting it pull cool air from outside the case, but check your manual if you’re unsure.

the decade of ignoring your gaming pcs power supply is over buildpcpsu02

Step 2: Attach it to your case using appropriate screws or thumb screws.

how to build a pc pcbuildpsu01

Step 3: If your power supply is a modular PSU, plug in the power cables that you need for your various components. If you’re not sure, though, don’t worry, you can plug them in later as and when needed. If your PSU is not modular, you’ll have all the cables already installed.

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How to install the processor

Although you don’t have to, it’s a good idea to install the processor before you put the motherboard in the case, as access is far easier.

Step 1: Carefully remove the motherboard from its antistatic bag and set it on a hard, flat, nonmetal surface such as a wooden desk or the top of the motherboard box itself. Also, make sure there are no sources of dust or liquid nearby. Even though installing a CPU is an easier task now than it was in previous years, it’s still precarious. There are numerous pins on the CPU and/or motherboard, and bending any one of them could render that component kaput.

The process isn’t designed to be difficult, and as long as you follow the instructions clearly and keep an eye out to ensure the chip is fully seated before you clamp it in place, you’ll be fine. However, there are some subtle differences in the process depending on who made your CPU.

how to build a pc pcbuildcpu01

Step 2: Although the design of Intel and AMD CPUs are a little different, the process for installing them is much the same, no matter which kind of processor and motherboard you have. Intel CPUs have flat metal contacts on the underside, and the pins reside inside the socket, whereas AMD CPUs have pins on the underside of the processor and contacts in the socket. In either case, do not bend or touch the pins.

The square metal bracket holding the CPU in place is the load plate, and it’s raised and lowered using the load lever. When clamped down, the end of the load lever tucks under a hook to keep everything in place. When you unbox your motherboard, the contact array will be covered with a piece of plastic. This plastic will pop out once you open the bracket, so wait to open it until you’re ready to install your processor.

First, open the load plate. Do this by gently pushing down on the load arm, moving it out sideways from under the hook, and then raising it up all the way. The hook’s lever action opens the plate, which you can easily flip up. At this point, the plastic piece will come loose. If it doesn’t pop out, gently remove it.

Step 3: To install the CPU, you need to line it up correctly. On most Intel CPUs, you’ll have notches on the side that allow you to only place the CPU in one orientation. On the latest 12th-generation Intel CPUs, you get a little golden triangle in one corner to help you align it properly. The same is true of all modern AMD processors.

Pick the processor up by its sides and align it correctly using whatever aids you’re given, and gently place it into the CPU socket. Double-check alignment, and give the processor a little nudge to make sure that it has slotted in correctly. If in doubt, remove it and try again just to be sure.

how to build a pc pcbuildcpu02

Step 4: Once you’re happy that the CPU is correctly installed, press the retaining arm down firmly but gently until the CPU is locked in place. This can take quite a bit of pressure, but it shouldn’t be hard. If in doubt, check again that the CPU was seated correctly before locking it down.

how to build a pc pcbuildcpu03

How to install RAM

System memory, or RAM, doesn’t require any careful goo placement or wires. There are just two important factors, assuming you’ve chosen compatible RAM: direction and slot choice.

The direction is easy enough. Each memory stick has a notch in the contacts lining the bottom edge that lines up with a block in the motherboard’s memory slots. If you hold it just above the slot and the two line up, it’s facing the right direction. If it doesn’t line up, spin it 180 degrees.

Slot choice depends on a few factors, one of which is how you purchased RAM. If you have just a single stick of RAM, you want to install it in the first slot, often called A1. If you have two sticks, you’ll often want to install them in the A2 and B2 slots, but check your motherboard’s manual for confirmation of where they should go.

Step 1: When you know which slot to install your RAM in, push the plastic wings at either end of the slot down and outward (some motherboards only have one), then place the stick in the slot sticking straight up. Push down firmly until the RAM clicks into the slot and the plastic wings click back in, and clamp the ends of the sticks.

Be sure that your motherboard is well supported across its entire surface, as it is possible to put too much pressure on the motherboard when installing RAM if you push too hard. This is unlikely, but as with any steps in this guide, take care, and if in doubt, double-check everything before proceeding.

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Step 2: Repeat the same process for each stick you have until all of your RAM is installed.

We put together a more detailed guide for how to install RAM if you need additional information.

how to build a pc pcbuildram01

How to install the motherboard

The motherboard is the most unwieldy component in your system, but since it acts as the foundation for everything else in your case, installing it correctly is of paramount importance.

Step 1: Take your motherboard’s rear I/O panel from the box — it looks like a small cutout of all the different motherboard ports — and install it in the back of your case by orientating it properly and pushing it in. Double-check that it aligns with your motherboard’s outputs before plugging it in if you’re not sure which way it goes.

Step 2: To install the motherboard, you have to screw it into the insulating standoffs that prevent your components from shorting. Some cases come with these pre-installed, while others need you to install them yourself. They’re easy to identify because they look unusual — they’re essentially screws that have another screw hole on top instead of the typical screwdriver notch. They’re usually gold or black.

If necessary, screw your motherboard’s standoffs into the correct holes depending on the size and layout of your motherboard. You can look at your motherboard to figure it out or install them where your manual suggests.

Step 3: Place your motherboard into your case, and push and wiggle it into place so that it slots into your I/O panel and has all of its screw holes lined up with the motherboard standoffs underneath.

To attach your motherboard to the case, screw it in. First, seat the screws and give them a couple of precursory turns. Then, proceed in a star pattern, tightening each screw a little at a time. Don’t go wild while tightening, as you might damage the board. You only need enough torque to hold the board in place without it wiggling.

Step 4: Once the motherboard is seated comfortably in the case, there are a few necessary connections.

The motherboard’s main power connection is a wide, two-row cable that fits snugly into a similar-looking spot on the board itself. This 20- to 28-pin connector powers both the motherboard and the CPU. However, some boards have a second four-pin or eight-pin connector for the processor, which resides near your CPU, typically in the top corner. If you have it, you’ll need to plug that in, too.

Connect the case plugs and buttons to the motherboard. A double-wide row of pins — the location of which will be noted in your manual — runs the USB ports, buttons for reset and power, and activity LEDs for power and storage.

These small cables run in a bundle from wherever the ports reside in the case. Proper installation can be difficult, however, due to their size. If you have a magnifying glass or a set of tweezers, now is a great time to use them. Some motherboards include an adapter that bridges these jumpers to the right connections on your motherboard. Otherwise, installing them is as simple as matching the labels on the pins with the labels on the connections.

The USB header connecting to your front-facing motherboard ports will be on its own. This connection is around eight by two pins, and they’re enclosed in a larger plastic housing. This header has a notch on one side that should clearly indicate which direction it plugs in.

how to build a pc pcbuildcpucooler01

How to install the CPU cooler

Installing a CPU cooler differs depending on the cooler you’re using, so for specific instructions, please refer to the manufacturer’s manual or support site. Here are some simple instructions that apply to almost every cooler.

Note: In the below images, we’re installing an all-in-one (AIO) watercooler, but the tips apply to most air coolers as well.

Step 1: Every cooler needs thermal paste. You don’t have to use the best thermal paste, but make sure you use some. It typically looks like a silver paste and comes either pre-applied to the cooler or in a short syringe tube.

If you’re reapplying heat paste, be sure to remove the original heat paste with a lint-free cloth and a little isopropyl alcohol.

When your CPU is ready, Apply a pea-sized amount to your CPU in the center.

how to build a pc pcbuildcpu04

Step 2: If your CPU cooler requires it, remove your case’s other side panel and attach the custom backplate design. You may need to remove the stock backplate from the motherboard first.

Step 3: Place the CPU cooler on top of the processor, and press down gently. Line up any retaining brackets or bolts with the CPU cooler mounting holes on the motherboard.

Install the retaining screws/brackets to secure the cooler in place. If you have to tighten several screws, be sure to do them a couple of turns at a time in a cross pattern so that you don’t put too much pressure on one portion of the CPU. Make sure that they are tight enough that the CPU cannot wiggle around, but don’t overtighten.

Step 4: If your cooler has a separate fan, attach it now, and plug its three-pin or four-pin connector into the CPU cooler port on the motherboard. It should be located near the CPU cooler.

If you’re installing an AIO watercooler, mount the radiator at an appropriate point in the case (at the front or rear air intakes/exhaust are common) and attach the fan’s header to the correct port.

how to build a pc pcbuildgpu01

How to install the graphics card

Not every system needs a dedicated graphics card (discrete GPU), but if you’re building a gaming PC, it’s a necessity.

Intel processors mostly come with integrated graphics, so if you’re not gaming, you don’t need a separate graphics card. Look out for processors with an “F” at the end, though — they don’t include integrated graphics.

Step 1: Modern graphics cards use a PCI-Express (PCIe) x16 slot. It’s a long, thin connector located on the rear of the motherboard, below the processor. For the vast majority of motherboards, you’ll want to use the top PCIe x16 slot.

To seat the card in that slot, you’ll need to remove one, two, or, in some cases, three rectangular backplates from your case. It’s one of many thin metal brackets lined down the back of the case to keep it sealed up. Do this by removing the screw(s) that secures the backplate(s) to the chassis. Once removed, the plate should slide (or fall) out freely.

Keep the screw, as you’ll need it in a moment.

Step 2: Grab your graphics card and, making sure the ports are aligned to the rear of the case and the PCIExpress connector is facing down, carefully slot it into the motherboard. You should hear a click when the motherboard locks it into place, but that’s not always the case on every motherboard.

You don’t need excessive force, so if you encounter a great deal of resistance, take another look at the backplate and PCIe slot to make sure both are clear and the motherboard is properly aligned. Also take note if there is a pushpin that locks the card in like your memory slots, as some motherboards use it as a safety measure.

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Step 3: Use the screws pulled from the metal brackets to fasten the back of the card into the same spot in the case. Again, they don’t need to be extremely tight — just enough to hold the card firmly in place.

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Step 4: Most graphics cards need more power than the PCIe slot provides. If your card needs extra juice, you’ll see one or two PCIe power connectors on the card’s side facing away from the motherboard or, in some cases, on the top of the card. This can be a traditional six- or eight-pin PCIe power connector or a new mini 12-pin.

Find the appropriate connector on your power supply, sometimes labeled VGA, and slot it in. The connector’s design prevents improper installation, so if the connection isn’t easy, double-check your alignment to make sure it’s correct.

If you need additional help, we have a detailed guide on how to install a graphics card that provides additional information.

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How to install expansion cards

Graphics cards aren’t the only components that use PCIe slots. Other add-in cards include wireless networking, sound, video capture, and even storage. Their installation is no different than adding a discrete GPU.

There are a few different types of PCIe slots. Many expansion cards use the “PCIe 4x” slot, which is much shorter than the full PCIe slot used by video cards. A quick check of your motherboard’s connectivity, and the size of the connector on your card, will make it obvious which slot is appropriate. If in doubt, refer to the expansion card’s manual.

Step 1: Remove the metal bracket at the back of the case that corresponds with the PCIe or other expansion slot playing host to your add-in card. Keep the bracket screw handy so you can use it to secure your new card.

Step 2: Line up the row of contacts on the card with the slot and firmly push down. If the card requires any additional power from SATA or four-pin Molex connectors, find the right cables and plug them into the card.

Step 3: Secure the card in place by screwing it into the back of the case.

How to install hard drives and SSDs

There are three different storage drive sizes you’re likely to encounter, and they all mount and connect differently. Generally, hard disk drives (HDD) are the larger 3.5-inch size, while newer solid-state drives (SSD) adopt the smaller 2.5-inch size. There’s also the even smaller M.2 format and PCI-Express drive format, which tend to be thin sticks with bare chips measuring around a few inches long.

Step 1: To install a hard drive, find the 3.5-inch drive mounting point(s) in your case. These can be full hard drive cages with multiple mounting points, or it might be just space for a single drive with screw holes right in the case. If in doubt, refer to your manual.

Slot your drive into the appropriate place and screw, or lock it into place using your case’s mounting system. When in place, attach the SATA data cable to the drive and the motherboard, and attach the SATA power connector to the drive.

Step 2: To install a SATA SSD, repeat the same steps as the larger hard drive, only changing the mounting point to an appropriate 2.5-inch cage or slot. Make sure that it is secured in place, and attach both the SATA power and data cable.

Step 3: To install an M.2 NVMe SSD, locate the appropriate slot on your motherboard. It will be labeled, but it is pretty small, so check your manual if you’re unsure.

Remove the retaining screw and slot the drive in at a 45-degree angle. Gently but firmly push down on the drive until it clicks into place, then replace the retaining screw.

Step 4: To install a PCIe SSD, choose an appropriate PCIe slot on your motherboard. The 16x slots will offer the most bandwidth, but that may not be necessary for your particular drive’s bandwidth. Consult the drive’s manual for confirmation on which is best for your particular motherboard.

Angle the drive with the gold contacts down, then gently push it into the PCIe slot. It should click into place when it is locked in. It shouldn’t take much force, so if it gets stuck, check the alignment.

Attach any necessary additional power cables.

Double-check everything

With everything installed, it’s worth checking everything once more before you hit that power button. It can prevent any heart-stopping moments where you get warning beeps because you forgot a power cable.

Step 1: The motherboard should be seated correctly and doesn’t move if you jostle it a little. It should also have the 20-plus-four-pin power connector plugged into the relevant slot and be firmly seated. There may be an additional four-pin or eight-pin connector at the top of the board that also needs to be plugged in.

Step 2: The CPU cooler needs to be fitted securely to the processor, and the fan needs power. Make sure the fan’s three-pin or four-pin connector is plugged into the appropriate slot on the motherboard.

Step 3: If you have a graphics card, make sure it’s plugged into the board correctly and has any appropriate power cables attached. Some cards, like the RTX 3080, even require two eight-pin connections or their own special mini 12-pin. These plugs are brightly colored, easy to spot, and only fit in the interior end of the card in one orientation. If they aren’t plugged in, the fans on the card won’t spin, and it won’t produce any video output.

Step 4: Make sure any expansion cards are also mounted into their PCIe slot comfortably and have any relevant power cables plugged in.

Step 5: Make sure each hard drive and SSD is installed correctly and won’t come loose when you pick the case up or move it. Ensure they each have the relevant power and data cables plugged in, too.

Turn the PC on

Step 1: Switch on the power supply and press the Power button on the front. If all is well, it should display the post screen or manufacturer logo on the monitor and then move on to Windows installation or the login screen. If it doesn’t, however, don’t fret. It’s not uncommon for PCs to need to reboot a couple of times on their first startup.

If you encounter any error messages or beeps, refer to your motherboard’s manual to decode the message and figure out what you need to fix.

If you don’t get any power at all, turn the power supply off and double-check all of your connections. Make sure the wall socket is turned on, too.

Step 2: Once the system does boot up, you’ll need to install Windows. If you’re not sure how, here’s a quick guide on how to download Windows 10 and install it.

Step 3: Once you reach Windows, you’ll need to install drivers. Windows 10 already supports modern chipsets and automatically downloads and installs the remaining drivers in most cases. Check the Update and security menu in the Settings pane for more information regarding this process.

If that doesn’t work, the chipset driver for your motherboard will handle most connectivity and onboard features, though this varies greatly based on motherboard and component manufacturers. You can download the latest version(s) from your motherboard manufacturer’s website.

If you have a discrete graphics card, you’ll periodically have to check for updates and install them when they come available. Check out the AMD page for Radeon drivers or the Nvidia page for GeForce drivers.

Logitech MX Mechanical keyboard on a gray background.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Don’t forget peripherals

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the thrill of building a gaming PC and forget that you need peripherals to make it function. If you still need a keyboard, monitor, and mouse to complete your setup, we can point you in the right direction:

With some luck and a lot of attention to detail, you should have a fully operational system. Keep an eye on your system temperatures for a few days to make sure all the coolers are working correctly, and if an error message pops up, take care of it accordingly. After a few weeks, you’ll get the hang of your machine and be more confident in what you can push it to do. If something breaks or needs an upgrade, you’re fully equipped to deal with it.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

How to use Google Sheets: A beginner’s guide

Google Sheets is a web-based spreadsheet application that’s equivalent to Microsoft Excel. If you’ve never used Sheets (or Excel, for that matter), you might need help getting started.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll show you to use Google Sheets. From adding sheets to entering data and formatting it, here are the basics you need to start using Google Sheets.

Getting started in Google Sheets

When you land on the Google Sheets main page, sign in with your Google account. You’ll then open a workbook that contains the sheets.

Step 1: You can pick a template from the top if you want a jumpstart on your project. You’ll see options like budget, schedule, and time sheet.

If you prefer to start with an empty workbook, choose Blank on the top left.

Step 2: The first thing to do when the workbook opens is to name it. By default, the name is “Untitled spreadsheet,” which you’ll see on the top left. Select that text, enter your own, and press Enter or Return to save it.

If you start with a template, you’ll see its name instead. You can keep this name or select it and enter your own text.

Name box for a Google Sheet.

Step 3: Everything you do in Google Sheets is saved automatically — you don’t have to worry about hitting a Save button.

With every change you make to your sheet, you’ll see the timing of the last edit and a brief message that your sheet is saved to Drive at the top.

Saved to Drive and last edited time in Google Sheets.

Step 4: To return to the main Google Sheets screen at any time, select the Google Sheets logo on the top-left corner, next to your workbook’s name. You’ll then see all workbooks you create in a list. Select one to open it.

Adding sheets to a workbook

At the bottom of your workbook, you’ll see the spreadsheet tabs. This allows you to create multiple sheets and keep them all in the same workbook. By default, the name for each is Sheet1, Sheet2, and so on, but you can rename any sheet you create with something more meaningful, as well as give it a color.

Step 1: To add a new sheet, select the Plus sign on the bottom left.

Plus sign to add a new Google Sheet.

Step 2: When the new sheet displays to the right, you can rename it. Either double-click the default sheet name or select the Arrow to the right of the name and pick Rename in the menu.

Rename in the sheet tab menu.

Step 3: Enter the new sheet name and press Enter or Return.

Step 4: You can also use the menu to apply a color to your sheet’s tab. This is handy for spotting certain sheets at a glance.

Select the Arrow next to the name, move your cursor to Change color, and pick the color you want to use.

Color options in the Change Color menu for a sheet tab.

Step 5: You can create up to 200 sheets in your workbook. To move to a different sheet, simply select its tab at the bottom.

When you have many sheets that fill the tabs across the bottom, you can use the Arrows that display on the bottom right to scroll through them.

Entering data in Google Sheets

Once you set up your workbook and sheets, you can start entering your data.

Step 1: Entering data into your spreadsheet is as simple as selecting a cell, typing in it, and pressing Enter or Return.

You’ll see the cell highlighted, making it the active cell. In addition to seeing the contents in the cell itself, you’ll see it in the Formula bar at the top.

Data entered into a cell in Google Sheets.

Step 2: Another way to enter data in your sheet is by pasting it from another location. You may have a note, report, or other item containing text or numbers you want to add.

Copy it from that location, select the cell in Google Sheets where you want the data, and do one of the following to paste it:

  • Select Edit > Paste from the menu.
  • Right-click and choose Paste.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V on Windows or Command + V on Mac.

You’ll also see a Paste special option in the Edit and Shortcut menus. This allows you to paste values, formatting, or formulas, along with a few more advanced options.

Paste in the Edit menu in Google Sheets.

Formatting your data

One action you’ll find yourself doing with your Google Sheets data is formatting it. This ranges from formatting a number as currency to applying bold to make text stand out.

Step 1: Select a cell or range of cells containing the data you want to format. To select a range, drag your cursor through the cells to highlight them.

Selected cells highlighted in a Google Sheet.

Step 2: Either open the Format menu or take advantage of the handy toolbar across the top of the sheet.

Format as Currency button in the toolbar.

Step 3: Choose the format you want to use, and you’ll see your data update immediately.

Cells formatted as currency in a sheet.

Step 4: You can choose from number, font, or cell formatting right from the toolbar. Hover your cursor over a toolbar button to see a screen tip of its description.

Doing basic calculations

A main feature of a spreadsheet application is the ability to do calculations. Google Sheets gives you a handful of common calculations right in the toolbar, like sum, average, and count.

Step 1: Select the cells you want to calculate. Note: For some functions and formulas, you’ll choose the cell where you want the result and create the formula there rather than selecting a group of cells first.

Step 2: Choose the Functions drop-down arrow in the toolbar and pick a calculation from the top. Here, we’ll add our values for a total using the Sum function.

Functions menu in the toolbar.

Step 3: When the formula appears on your sheet, confirm the cells for the calculation and press Enter or Return.

Formula in a Google Sheet for confirmation.

Step 4: The formula result displays below our selected cells. If you select that cell, you’ll see the formula in the formula bar.

Formula result in the cell with the formula at the top.

Step 5: You can review the other options in the Functions drop-down menu for additional calculations and actions for use with formulas.

Insert menu options in Google Sheets.

Exploring the menu options

As a new Google Sheets user, you may want to take a moment to review the tabs in the menu and what each has to offer. So far, we’ve mentioned the edit and format menus, but as you can see, there are more.

Here are the tabs in the menu, per the above screenshot, along with some of their most common actions.

File: email, share, import, settings, and print

Edit: copy, paste, paste special, delete, undo, and redo

View: Show gridlines or the formula bar, freeze columns or rows, and group columns or rows.

Insert: Insert cells, columns, rows, charts, images, links, and comments.

Format: Format numbers, text, alignment, and wrapping, and apply conditional formatting.

Data: Sort, filter, protect, and use data validation.

Tools: spelling, autocomplete, notification rules, and accessibility

Extensions: Get, manage, and access add-ons.

Help: Search the menus, get help, view a function list, and see keyboard shortcuts.

You’ll also see Comment and Share buttons on the top right of your Google Sheet that you can use if you plan to collaborate with others. You can also access your Google account with your Profile icon.

There’s a lot more to Google Sheets than what you see here. But this beginner’s guide should get you off to a good start with the basics of how to use Google Sheets.

If you’re also new to Docs, take a look at our guide for how to use Google Docs too.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

F1 2022 performance guide: Best settings for high frame rate

F1 2022 is here, and like every annual release from the popular racing series, it’s a huge benchmark for PC performance. It’s demanding but well optimized. I booted up the DT test bench to find the best settings for F1 2022 so you can have a high frame rate.

You don’t need to do a lot of work to get F1 2022 working, especially with its multiple upscaling options. Ray tracing is a performance killer, though, and it’s not worth the frame rate dip for the vast majority of players.

The best settings for F1 2022

F1 2022 has a ton of graphics options, and none of them destroy performance or image quality. Ray tracing, which I’ll dig into later, is the main culprit of performance issues. Otherwise, you can stick with one of the game’s five presets to get an image you like, as well as use the dynamic resolution option in the Display settings menu to improve your frame rate. If you want to go at it on your own, here are the best settings for F1 2022:

  • Lighting quality: Medium
  • Post process: High
  • Shadows: Medium
  • Particles: Low
  • Crowd: Medium
  • Mirrors: High
  • Car and helmet reflections: High
  • Weather effects: High
  • Ground cover: Medium
  • Skidmarks: High
  • Skidmarks blending: On
  • Ambient occlusion: HBAO+
  • Screen space reflections: Medium
  • Asynchronous compute: On
  • Texture streaming: High

I mainly optimized the settings with the best practices for PC game graphics. That means bumping down the shadows and lighting quality first, which both have the biggest impact on performance. I kept some of the smaller settings, like skidmarks and weather effects, turned up because of their limited performance hit. Feel free to bump down these settings if you’re running into issues, though.

Most people should stick around medium to high settings. I’ll go more in-depth in the benchmarks below, but F1 2022 shows diminishing returns beyond Medium for most settings. The Ultra Low preset isn’t too useful for the best graphics cards, offering only a slight bump over the Medium preset. With multiple upscaling options available, the only reason to go down to Ultra Low is if you’re running well below the recommended system requirements.

F1 2022 system requirements

System requirements for F1 2022.

F1 2022 doesn’t call for much, but the system requirements are a little misleading. At a minimum, an ancient Core i3-2130 or AMD FX 4300 is all you need, but I’d recommend sticking with the recommended specs when it comes to the CPU. F1 2022 is really CPU limited, so pairing a fast GPU with an older processor is sure to cause a PC bottleneck.

For graphics, even a GTX 1050 Ti should be enough at 1080p (though one of the best 1080p graphics cards is better). F1 2022 is really well optimized with ray tracing turned off, and you have a lot of bandwidth to improve your performance with dynamic resolution and the supersampling options in the game.

Ray tracing is the killer. You’ll need a GPU with DirectX 12 support to run the game, even if you want to turn ray tracing off. With ray tracing on, you’ll also need a much faster GPU. The system requirements only call for an RTX 2060 or RX 6700 XT, but I wouldn’t recommend ray tracing with anything less than an RTX 3070. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to settle for frame rates below 60 fps, especially if you want to run at a high resolution.

F1 2022 benchmarks (4K, 1440p, 1080p)

4K benchmarks for F1 2022.

There are five graphics presets in F1 2022, and I tested all of them across 4K, 1440p, and 1080p with a Ryzen 9 5950X, RTX 3070, and 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory. Across resolutions, one preset is vastly slower than the others: Ultra High. This is the only preset that turns on ray tracing as a default option, and it’s extremely demanding.

At 4K, for example, you can see that the RTX 3070 just barely manages 30 fps with the Ultra High preset. The next step down results in a massive 238% increase in performance mostly on the back of turning ray tracing off. Medium offers a solid 32% bump over that, as well.

As mentioned, F1 2022 is fairly CPU limited, so performance returns start to fall off beyond the Medium preset. 1440p and 1080p illustrate this point clearly. They’re much closer in performance at each preset, and in some cases, such as the Medium preset, 1440p and 1080p show nearly identical performance. Take advantage of the lower settings if you have an older processor, but don’t count on them to improve your graphics performance.

Ray tracing in F1 2022

It should be clear by now, but ray tracing is extremely demanding in F1 2022. The most demanding Ultra High ray tracing preset can cause as much as a 63% slowdown in your average frame rate, so keep ray tracing turned off unless you have a super power graphics card like the RTX 3090 Ti, or if you take advantage of upscaling options.

Before getting to ray tracing performance, we need to talk about how it works in F1 2022. The game supports ray-traced shadows, reflections, transparent reflections, and ambient occlusion. You have a toggle for each of these settings, as well as three overall quality presets for ray tracing: Medium, High, and Ultra High. You can’t set the quality for individual settings, but the quality doesn’t have a huge impact on performance regardless.

Ray tracing benchmarks for F1 2022.

You can see that in the graph above. The High and Ultra High ray tracing presets have almost identical performance (the game actually uses the High settings for the Ultra High graphics preset). The Medium setting offers a solid 75% increase over the High preset, but it’s still far below just turning ray tracing off.

I’m struggling to see a difference between the quality modes for ray tracing, so if you turn it on, I’d recommend sticking with Medium quality. Most people should just turn ray tracing off, though, as the screen space reflections offer plenty of visual glitter without the massive hit to your frame rate.

DLSS and FSR in F1 2022

Ray tracing is demanding, but F1 2022 gives you options to combat the performance deficit. The game supports Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). They both give you a way to improve performance by lowering the resolution the game renders at. F1 2022 includes its own dynamic resolution setting, too, though it doesn’t look nearly as nice as DLSS or FSR.

DLSS benchmarks for F1 2022.

DLSS doesn’t offer the highest performance, but it’s the best option to maintain image quality. At 4K with the Ultra High preset, it offered a 50% boost in performance with the Quality mode. That’s big, but I’d recommend most people stick with the Balanced mode when using DLSS. It more than doubled my average frame rate without sacrificing image quality too much.

FSR benchmarks for F1 2022.

Unfortunately, DLSS only works on Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards. For everyone else, there’s FSR. F1 2022 only supports FSR 1.0, not the much better FSR 2.0 we’ve seen in games like DeathloopI wouldn’t go beyond the Balanced preset for FSR 1.0 if you want decent image quality, though. FSR falls apart beyond that point.

An interesting trend with both DLSS and FSR is that they fall off past the Balanced mode. With F1 2022 being CPU limited the way it is, the more aggressive quality modes don’t offer as much of a bump in performance as they should.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl: Grand Underground Guide

We’re deep in the cycle of Pokémon games releasing both new titles as well as remakes of the originals. Newer games, like Pokémon Sword and Shield, have been more controversial among the die-hard Pokémon fans for one reason or another. However, even if the new games no longer satisfy the older fans, the remakes of the first several generations are there to bring the older titles onto your current hardware with plenty of graphical, technical, and mechanical improvements. The latest of which are the Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, remakes of Diamond and Pearl for your Nintendo Switch.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl make the Sinnoh region look and play better than ever. One of the most interesting features of these games that we never saw brought back was called the Underground, where you could do a few simple optional activities. In the remake, however, things have been overhauled with new content, turning it into the Grand Underground. Whether you played the originals back in the day or are a brand-new trainer in the Sinnoh region, here’s a full guide on everything you need to know about the Grand Underground in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

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How to get to the Grand Underground

The first thing you’ll obviously want to know is where the Grand Underground is and how to access it. Thankfully, you can’t miss the required item to reach this area in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Once you’ve beaten the first gym and thwarted some of Team Galactic’s plans in Floaroma Town, you will pass through Eterna Forest to reach Eterna City. You won’t be able to progress farther than this point until you go into the Underground Man’s House, which is conveniently located right next door to the Pokémon Center.

Once you go inside, just talk to the old man about caving and he’ll provide you with a new Explorer Kit. You’ll be prompted to use it immediately to enter the Grand Underground and find three gems for him. Complete this simple task, turn them in, and he’ll also give you a Digger Drill item, which you’ll need for later. Once you’re free again, you can simply use the Explorer Kit at any time to warp back to the Grand Underground whenever you wish.

What you can do in the Grand Underground

So now that you’ve made it to the Grand Underground, what can you actually do here? Well, there are quite a few reasons to dive deep into these caves, including new ones exclusive to Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. There are special rooms that you can find here that are the only places in the game you will find certain rare Pokémon, you can do different mini-games for special items, and you can build your own secret base.

How to set up your secret base

Standing in the secret base full of Pokémon statues.

Let’s start with your secret base. Remember that Digger Drill item the old man gave you? This is what you’ll use to carve out your hidden chamber in the Grand Underground. To set up your hideout, simply approach any way you like and use it to excavate a new room all for yourself. Just be aware that your Digger Drill is a one-time-use item, so if you want to move your secret base somewhere else you’ll need to buy another one from a vendor. In the original game, your base was just a place you could set up some basic decorations that had no real effect, but in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, they have introduced statues, which play a very important part in the Grand Underground ecosystem.

You will need to find these statues first, though. While exploring the Grand Underground, follow your map to the shining spots. Once you’re in the right area, hit R to activate your radar to identify exactly where a treasure is located. This will start a digging mini-game, which we will cover in depth below, where you have the chance at collecting gems, rocks, plates, fossils, evolution stones, and statues.

When you have statues, you can arrange them in your base using a grid. The reason you’ll want to use statues over other decorations, or specific statues over others, is because they will increase your odds of finding different Pokémon types in the different biomes you find in the Grand Underground. Whatever the type of Pokémon statue you place, the better odds you have of encountering more Pokémon of that same type.

Pokémon obviously come in a range of shapes and sizes, so it follows that their statues do as well. That means some will take up more squares in your grid than others, but the larger a statue is, the more it raises your chances of finding a Pokémon of that corresponding type. You’ll want to balance out and maximize your space by mixing in larger and smaller statues to get as much benefit as possible. Later on, you can expand your base to fit more statues too.

Where to find rare Pokémon

Garchomp facing off against Lucario.

The biggest draw for most trainers to start spelunking in the Grand Underground has to be all the rare Pokémon you can find only there. This is the only spot you can find a number of pocket monsters that weren’t in the original games, or only in the Platinum version. To find them, you will need to go to different areas, which are called Pokémon Hideaways, to track them down.

Pokémon Hideaways are all themed differently, with unique Pokémon spawning there related to what type of environment it is. Withing the Grand Underground, the map itself can be separated into six different zones, each one with a mystery room where the new Pokémon live. You can even arrive in zones of your choice based on where you use the Explorer Kit to travel to the Grand Underground since the two maps lay on top of each other. To get to each different zone, you can use your Explorer Kit in these areas:

  • Twinleaf Town
  • Eterna City
  • Celestic Town
  • Snowpoint City
  • Sunyshore City
  • Fight area

Aside from the statue method of boosting different Pokémon spawn rates, you will also encounter more Pokémon in Pokémon Hideaways by getting new HM and completing milestones. To specifically increase your odds of finding Pokémon that are only in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, and not the originals, you will need to complete the Sinnoh Pokédex and unlock the National Pokédex.

Master the dig and Diglett mini-games

Digging items out of the wall.

Finally, there are two mini-game-type activities you will want to master as part of the Grand Underground experience. These are the digging game, where you can get all those rewards we mentioned when talking about statues, and encountering Diglett and Dugtrios.

Let’s start with the digging mini-game since it’s much more complex and has a range of rewards to earn. While exploring, you will find the dig spots, just like in the tutorial mission where you first got the Explorer Kit, those telltale sparkles on your map. Approach them and interact to begin the digging game, opening up a new grid. Your goal is to recover all, or as many, of the hidden items as possible using either the hammer or pickaxe tools. Before you begin, the game will tell you how many items there are to find as well. However, you only have a certain number of total swings before the area you’re working in caves in and kicks you out as indicated by a growing crack along the top of the screen. Hammer swings will cause it to grow faster than the pickaxe, so be careful swinging that thing around too much.

The hammer tool is best used first, since it is more blunt and powerful, but once you locate a treasure you will want to switch over to using the pickaxe to avoid breaking the prize. Once the cave inevitably collapses, you will get a full recap of all the goodies you managed to uncover, and any treasure chests you found will pop open for you to reveal their loot. All of it will be placed in your inventory. Remember to take your gems to the different vendors for more Grand Underground items like podiums you can place your statues on.

Running through the Grand Underground.

Last up, keep your eyes peeled for Diglett and Dugtrios while exploring the caves. As soon as you enter the Grand Underground, you’re likely to notice a meter underneath your map with a counter starting at 0 that maxes out at 40. By finding either a Diglett or Dugtrio, which appear at intersections on the map, you will cause them to “run” away and leave behind a trail of pink sparkles. By collecting these sparkles, you will build up that meter below your map, with a Diglett raising it by 1 and Dugtrio by 3.

When you eventually reach a full bar with 40 points, a few awesome things happen. First is that your odds of finding a shiny Pokémon in any of the Pokémon Hideaways will go from 1 in 4,096 all the way down to 1 in 2,048. That won’t make it a guarantee you’ll get a shiny one, but those odds are still way better than normal. Second is that you will also have better chances of finding the special green sparkling statues in the digging mini-game.

Just know that these effects are not permanent. Once the bar is full, you only have four minutes to capitalize on these increased odds before you will need to build it back up again, so make it count.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

The Walmart Tech Gift Guide You Didn’t Know You Needed in Your Life

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If you’re looking to buy great tech this holiday season for your loved ones, Walmart has a bunch of fantastic offers right now. We’ve picked out some of the highlights including a fantastic coffee maker from Keurig, a robot vacuum that will save you plenty of time in your daily routine, as well as some of the best headphones out there, and much more. Whatever kind of tech your loved one is crazy about, Walmart has you covered. We’re here to tell you all about what’s available.

Keurig K-Duo Essentials Coffee Maker — $79, was $99

This Keurig K-Duo Essentials Coffee Maker is a great way of making every morning better. It offers the best of both worlds, making it possible to use either K-Cup pods or ground coffee to make a delicious cup of joe. Ideal for your loved one that is crazy about getting the perfect cup of coffee every time. That’s made easy here with plenty of choice for brew size, as well as other features like the ability to automatically pause mid-brew, as well as brew between an 8-, 10- or 12-ounce cup. It’s energy-efficient too with an auto-off feature that turns your brewer off one minute after the last single-cup brew and turns your heating plate off two hours after the last carafe brew too. Simple yet effective, it’s a dream come true for coffee fans.

Anker Eufy RoboVac G30 Verge — $149, was $350

Anker Eufy RoboVac G30 Verge on a white background.

One of the best robot vacuums out there, this Anker Eufy RoboVac G30 Verge is going to save you or your loved one so much time. It’s a smart robot vacuum with plenty of power thanks to a 2,000Pa suction engine which means it can cope with pretty much any spill that could occur at home. With Wi-Fi, you can use the Eufy app to keep it out of areas you don’t want it to go as well as check its cleaning history over time. Boundary strips further help here so you won’t have to worry about your kids’ toys being disrupted, for instance. Everything about it is super convenient.

Hewlett Packard Hp 27m 27-inch Monitor — $175, was $199

Hewlett Packard Hp 27m 27-inch Monitor on a white background.

If you want to treat a computer addict this Christmas, buy them this Hewlett Packard Hp 27m 27-inch Monitor. It offers a lot of what you would see from the best monitors and is sure to prove useful for way longer than just the holiday season. It’s a full HD monitor that combines some fantastic visuals with some other high-quality features. It offers virtually no bezel so it looks super smart on your desk while it delivers clear and vivid images every time. Whether you’re looking for a monitor for gaming or office work, it’s a great choice. A 5ms response time and Low Blue Light mode prove extra beneficial, with the latter protecting your eyes over extended periods of use.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II — $199, was $299

Bose QuietComfort 35 II on a white background.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II continue to be fantastic headphones for anyone that loves to hear their music crystal clear and at high quality. Thanks to superior noise cancellation features, they’re a fantastic choice if the person you’re buying for can’t bear noise while they try to work or simply relax. Long battery life of up to 20 hours means they won’t have to worry about recharging too often either. Other features include volume-optimized EQ for balanced audio performance plus Google Assistant support for hands-free use.

Hisense 58-inch Class 4K TV — $380, was $425

Hisense 58-inch 4K TV on a white background.

From one of the best TV brands, Hisense, you can buy a huge 58-inch 4K TV. It’s fantastic to use thanks to its 4K resolution but it offers so much more than that. There’s Dolby Vision support along with a smart game mode that means input lag is significantly improved while you play. Alongside that is Motion Rate image processing technology so it can keep up with fast-moving action. If the person you’re buying for loves action movies, sports, or gaming, this is a particularly great purchase to make.

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

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

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Game

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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Computing

Call of Duty Vanguard PC Performance Guide to Best Settings

Call of Duty Vanguard is here, but before you can dive into Zombies or get to the leveling grind, you’ll need to make sure your performance is in check. We took the game out for a spin with a few graphics cards to find the best settings available, and in this guide, we’re going to walk you through them.

We tested each setting, each upscaling mode, and a few different resolutions so you can maximize your PC performance. If you’re looking for console settings, make sure to check out our guide to the best controller settings for Call of Duty VanguardFor newer PC players, our list of the best settings won’t make you better in multiplayer, but our Call of Duty Vanguard multiplayer guide offers a few helpful pointers.

The best settings for Call of Duty Vanguard

Call of Duty Vanguard has a massive list of settings and based on our testing, there isn’t a single one that will tank your performance. After testing each setting independently, we found that the vast majority of our results were within the margin of error. It was only when we turned down multiple graphics options that we saw a major difference in frame rate.

Normally, we have a list of ‘optimized’ settings, which show you the key settings to turn down to increase your frame rate. That isn’t possible with Vanguard. Instead, we just have a list of recommended settings. Consider this a starting point, and tweak your settings from there. We found that different GPUs react differently to these options, so it’s best to manually adjust.

  • Texture resolution: Medium
  • Texture filtering: High
  • Particle quality: Medium
  • Particle resolution: Low
  • Bullet impacts and sprays: Off
  • Shader quality: High
  • Tessellation: Nearby only
  • Level of detail distance: Standard
  • Nearby level of detail: High
  • Distant level of detail: Low
  • Clutter draw distance: High
  • Volumetric quality level: Medium
  • Screen space shadows: Local shadows only
  • Shadow map resolution: High
  • Sun shadow cascades: High
  • Cache sun shadows: On
  • Cache spot shadows: On
  • Spot cache size: Low
  • Spot shadow quality: High
  • Particle lighting: Medium
  • Ambient occlusion: Static GTAO
  • GATO quality: Medium
  • Screen space reflections: Medium
  • Anti-aliasing Filmic SMAA T2X
  • Anti-aliasing quality: High
  • Depth of field: Off

The big killer will be video memory for most. For that, look toward texture resolution first, then the caching options for shadows. We set a cache size of Low for these shadows, but you can disable them entirely if you’re running into video memory problems. The game includes a video memory limiter, too, which can help older video cards along.

Out of all of the settings, the biggest improvement we found was, oddly, with bullet impacts and sprays. Turning this off, we improved our average frame rate by a stunning 13%. We reran these tests multiple times, and each run, this setting showed an improvement when turned off. That’s an easy win.

Otherwise, we had a margin of error of between two and three frames, and all of the other settings fell within that window. Going from the highest Ultra preset down to the Lowest preset, though, we improved our average frame rate by 110%. This underlines the most important thing to know about Call of Duty Vanguard‘s graphical settings — you need to tweak all of the settings to see an improvement.

Because of that, it might be easier to stick with the graphics presets in the game, and then you adjust some settings up based on our list above. There are a lot of settings here, and it can be maddening trying to tweak each of them.

Call of Duty Vanguard system requirements

Character with weapon in Call of Duty: Vanguard.

Keeping with recent releases like Back 4 Blood — read our Back 4 Blood performance guide for more on that game — Call of Duty Vanguard includes a few different recommended configurations. As our testing below shows, the Minimum list is a bit underpowered. You can run the game with the hardware listed, but you’ll need to turn the settings way down (and maybe even reduce the render resolution).

Minimum Recommended Competitive Ultra
CPU Intel Core i3-4340 or AMD FX-6300 Intel Core i5-2500K or AMD Ryzen 5 1600X Intel Core i7-8700K or AMD Ryzen 7 1800X Intel Core i9-9900K or AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 or AMD Radeon RX 470 Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 580 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070/RTX 3060 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 5700XT Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT
GPU memory 2GB 4GB 8GB 10GB
RAM 8GB 12GB 16GB 16GB
Storage 61GB 61GB 61GB 61GB

That doesn’t mean Call of Duty Vanguard will have problems with less powerful hardware, though. The game scales down well, with the Recommended requirements offering 60 frames per second (fps) at 1080p with a mix of Medium and High settings. Up the chain, Competitive is great for 1440p, while the Ultra requirements squarely target 4K.

The CPU, GPU, and RAM requirements are straightforward. The other two — storage and GPU memory — have some problems. You’ll struggle to run Call of Duty Vanguard with only 2GB of video memory. Even at their lowest, the textures can take up to 1GB or more, and that leaves little room for background applications. Thankfully, the game includes a video RAM usage limit (up to 90%) and provides a video RAM usage meter for each setting.

Like previous Call of Duty releases, Vanguard allows you to choose which modules you want to install. You could just install the campaign, for example, or you could install Warzone and Vanguard multiplayer. At launch, the game takes up 61GB of space for everything except Warzone. That said, the developers are clear that the game is 61GB at launch. It will grow, likely well over 100GB, as time goes on.

You can get by with only 36GB of space if you’re only interested in multiplayer and Zombies. On the other hand, Vanguard can take up to 125GB of space with all of the modules and the high-resolution asset cache installed. This will grow much larger over time. Last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, for example, is 225GB at the time of publication.

Call of Duty Vanguard performance, tested

Operator in Call of Duty: Vanguard.

As usual with our PC performance guides, we tested three graphics cards for the three common resolutions — the RTX 3070 for 4K, the RTX 2060 Super for 1440p, and the RX 580 for 1080p. We tested each card with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X to remove the CPU from the equation as much as possible, along with 32GB of RAM.

RTX 3070 RTX 2060 Super RX 580
1080p Ultra 115 fps 69 fps 44 fps
1080p Recommended 149 fps 91 fps 56 fps
1440p Ultra 85 fps 49 fps 31 fps
1440p Recommended 112 fps 66 fps 40 fps
4K Ultra 48 fps 27 fps 17 fps
4K Recommended 64 fps 37 fps 23 fps

With the Ultra preset, we couldn’t hit 60 fps with these cards at their respective resolutions. Our recommended settings aim to push each card above the 60 fps mark. The only one that couldn’t get there was the RX 580, which topped out at 56 fps at 1080p.

It seems the Recommended system requirements target 1080p with the Medium preset, while the Competitive requirements are focused on 1440p with Medium to High settings. We achieved an 85 fps average with the RX 580 at 1080p with the Lowest graphics preset, so there’s still plenty of room for less powerful cards to hit 60 fps at 1080p.

We normally wouldn’t recommend the RTX 3070 for 4K in a recent AAA shooter, but the card managed to keep up in our testing. 48 fps at native 4K isn’t bad, and with our recommended settings, we increased our frame rate by 33%. Call of Duty Vanguard includes three upscaling options, too, which can push the RTX 3070 above 100 fps. You don’t need an RTX 3080 as the system requirements call for (though, it would crack 60 fps at 4K Ultra).

The RTX 2060 Super almost mirrored the RTX 3070, just at 1440p. An AMD RX 5700 XT is a good replacement here, allowing you to climb above 60 fps with a few settings tweaks. Once again, though, the upscaling modes offer a more sizeable frame rate improvement.

AMD Super Resolution, Nvidia DLSS, and dynamic resolution

Call of Duty Vanguard includes three performance-enhancing options — AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution, Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), and a built-in dynamic resolution option. We’ll get the last one out of the way first. In our testing, the dynamic resolution option did nothing, even with a frame rate limiter enabled and V-sync turned on.

That leaves us with FSR and DLSS, which are both better options than dynamic resolution anyway. Before getting to performance, let’s talk about image quality. Neither of these upscaling features looks bad in Call of Duty Vanguard, but as you can see in our image quality comparison above, there’s one that looks better than the other.

We chose a cutscene from the opening moments of the game. It’s dark, but this mission has a lot of distant fine detail and a downpour of rain, so it’s a good test for DLSS and FSR. The bars on the cart in front of the camera fall apart with FSR, and the train car on the left washes out in a shimmer of pixels whenever light passes.

These objects are close to the camera, too. As you look at further objects, the differences between FSR and DLSS are even clearer (though, those distant objects have less of an impact when you’re actually playing the game). It’s never a good idea to pixel peep, but the cumulative effect of shimmering and fine details washing out in a smear of pixels adds up with FSR, and DLSS doesn’t have those problems.

RTX 3070 RTX 2060 Super RX 580
FSR Ultra Quality 65 fps (35%) 39 fps (44%) 26 fps (53%)
FSR Quality 78 fps (63%) 46 fps (70%) 29 fps (71%)
FSR Balanced 89 fps (85%) 53 fps (96%) 33 fps (94%)
FSR Performance 105 fps (119%) 64 fps (137%) 40 fps (135%)

Still, we’re always happy to see two upscaling modes, especially when they cover the vast majority of graphics cards available today. We achieved more than a 2x increase in performance with both upscaling features, though FSR was able to climb higher. It doesn’t look as nice, but it was able to get even the RX 580 to a playable frame rate at 4K.

We recommend paying more attention to the percentage increase in performance, not the actual frame rate. We tested FSR and DLSS at 4K with the Ultra preset turned on — it’s the aspirational graphics mode, and it pushes both upscaling tools to the limit.

FSR scales higher than DLSS, but that doesn’t mean DLSS is a bad option. It looks much better overall, and even at its least intense Quality mode, it offered a 50% increase in our average frame rates across the RTX 3070 and RTX 2060 Super. In fact, we’d recommend just skipping the settings above if you have a GPU that supports DLSS. The Quality mode provided a higher average frame rate at 4K, and it’s difficult to tell the difference between DLSS and native resolution.

RTX 3070 RTX 2060 Super
DLSS Quality 72 fps (50%) 42 fps (56%)
DLSS Balanced 82 fps (71%) 49 fps (81%)
DLSS Performance 87 fps (81%) 56 fps (107%)

Call of Duty Vanguard reveals the same story we’ve seen time and again with FSR and DLSS. FSR allows you to push your frame rate further, though at the cost of image quality, and DLSS offers a sizeable increase while keeping the quality as close as possible to native resolution.

The most important thing is that Vanguard includes both. We’d recommend using whatever upscaling mode you have access to before trying to squeeze extra performance out of the settings.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies Guide, Survive in Der Anfang

The zombie craze in gaming is one that just doesn’t seem to die. While some games are completely dedicated to fighting off the undead, Call of Duty: Vanguard keeps this more mystic mode separate from their traditionally grounded single-player and competitive multiplayer modes. Just because it’s a side mode, though, doesn’t mean it has any less depth or work put into it. Ever since the mode was first introduced, it has only grown in scope from game to game. Call of Duty: Vanguard‘s Der Anfang mode is the most unique yet.

Call of Duty zombies fans know to expect some changes between each release. Maps, guns, and some enemy types are obvious changes, but Vanguard takes things a step further. While the entire format of the mode isn’t upended, there are enough substantial changes that even those who have put dozens of hours into past iterations will need to learn and adapt To help you understand how this new mode works, plus some tips to make your first attempts at facing the undead mobs go a bit smoother, we put together this Call of Duty: Vanguard zombies guide.

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How Der Anfang works

So, how does this new zombies mode, again called Der Anfang in Call of Duty: Vanguard, actually work? In short, you take the role of a soldier stuck in the ruins of Stalingrad due to Kortifex the Deathless’ magic. You have your base in Fountain Square, plus different portals around the area. Zombies will start assailing you, as they do, and you have the option of playing like a traditional survival mode, or you can go for the objectives.

Going for the objectives is the only way to make it to the later rounds in zombies. These objectives, which we’ll detail later, reward you with multiple important perks. First, they bring you to a new location that can have important upgrades to collect and purchase, but they also have rewards you need to take back to grow stronger. Your base does come with a crafting table, the mystery box, ammo chest, the Altar of Covenants, and the all-important Pack-a-Punch, but most will be useless if you stay in this area the entire game.

  • The mystery box costs 950 points and will give you a random primary weapon, which has a chance of coming already upgraded.
  • The Pack-a-punch will upgrade your weapons.
  • Use the crafting table to make usable items like armor, self revives, and tactical items that all have different costs.
  • The Altar of Covenants gives you brand new buffs that we’ll cover in more depth below.

Pick your loadout and artifact

Selecting the Frost Blast artifact.

Before you even set foot on this demonic landscape, you want to make sure you’re bringing in the right tools for the job. Your loadout will evolve as you buy and upgrade weapons during the course of the game, but what you start with can make those early waves easy or downright deadly. There are no real tricks here. The best zombie-killing tools are probably what you imagine. A strong LMG can pop tons of heads with its high ammo capacity, and shotguns are the classic for turning a crowd into a cloud of mist. Needless to say, guns like snipers and pistols aren’t going to keep you alive very long.

Another change in Call of Duty: Vanguard is that you can no longer find gun outlines on the walls to purchase. Instead, the only way to get new guns is either through the mystery box, chests, or occasionally they will drop from powerful enemies in the later waves.

Artifacts are a new mechanic in Call of Duty: Vanguard but are very easy to grasp. There are only four, and each one gives you a different buff or power, as well as connects you to a different Dark Aether that communicates with you as you play. Here are the four you have to choose from and their official descriptions:

  • Energy Mine: The Dragon of Saraxis spawns an Aethereal explosive, dealing massive damage to enemies who set it off.
  • Aether Shroud: The Mask of Bellekar cloaks you in Dark Aether, masking your presence from enemies for five seconds.
  • Ring of Fire: The Sword of Inviktor sparks a ring of Aethereal flame to boost damage for anyone within its radius for 15 seconds.
  • Frost Blast: The Horn of Norticus summons a frigid vortex, damaging enemies with the initial blast and slowing those that enter.

Pick the one that best suits your playstyle and the role you will take with your team.

Do your objectives

Starting the blitz objective in zombies.

Call of Duty zombies modes have had objectives for a long time. In the past, they were mostly optional, or even hidden as massive elaborate Easter eggs, but in Call of Duty: Vanguard, they’re front and center. Again, you could technically ignore them, but the rewards you get are non-negotiable if you plan on going for a high score. There are three objectives that spawn when you start, and only by completing them can you expand your starting area. The different objectives are:

  • Blitz: This is the most simple of the objectives. Once you enter the portal, all you need to do is survive for the time limit as zombies rush you and your team. The mini-map is your friend here since it will point out where they’re coming from on the potentially claustrophobic maps. No need to go crazy killing as many as possible here. As long as you stay alive until the timer expires, you’re good.
  • Harvest: This mode is a little bit like a zombie version of the kill confirmed game mode. What you need to do is collect five runestones that drop from zombies after they’re killed and bring them to the Sin Eater obelisk. That’s not the end of it, though, because once you drop in that first set, the obelisk will appear at a different location on the map, which is thankfully marked, and needs to be filled again. After you fulfill its runestone requirement three times, you’ll be spat back out.
  • Transmit: The final objective mode is kind of an escort mission or payload-type mode. There will be a floating zombie head called an Aether Orb that moves around the map as long as you stay within range of it. If you do go outside of the range, you will start to take damage, so it’s not really optional to leave it and explore. As the head moves, a bar will fill up based on how much it traveled. When the bar fills up and it reaches the final destination, you’re done.

Aside from opening up the map, each objective you complete will also give you an item called a Sacrificial Heart. These are the currency you will spend at the …

Use the Altar of Covenants

Choosing which covenant to buy.

The Altar of Covenants is the big, scary skeleton thing with glowing eyes in the very center of Fountain Square. Here, you can trade in those Sacrificial Hearts for Covenants. You can hold up to three at once, and each one gives you a different buff. One thing to keep in mind regarding the Altar, though, is that only a few covenants will be purchasable in the early game. The longer you survive, and the more rounds of objectives you complete, the more Covenants become available. The later ones that come are some of the best, too, but don’t feel like you need to keep slots open for later. You’re completely free to swap out any Covenants with new ones, assuming you have the Sacrificial Heart to buy the new one, of course.

If you’re curious what all the Covenant options are and what they give you, here’s the full list:

  • Ammo Gremlin: Stowed weapons refill ammo from stock automatically.
  • Brain Rot: Chance to turn enemies to your side.
  • Cryofreeze: Chance to slow enemies.
  • Cull the Weak: Deal more damage to slowed or stunned enemies.
  • Dead Accurate: Consecutive hits on the same enemy do more damage.
  • Death Blow: Critical kills return bullets to the clip.
  • Mother Lode: Chance to keep Equipment after using it.
  • Resurrectionist: Revive allies faster.
  • Splatterfest: Enemies killed by explosions may explode.
  • Unholy Ground: Deal more damage while stationary.

Depending on what guns you’re using, what Covenants your team has, what other Covenants you have, and how you like to play, the best Covenants to pick will always be different. Some standouts are the ones that deal with ammo and damage, but pick what’s best for your squad.

Pack-a-Punch and perks

Upgrading a gun at the pack-a-punch.

The Pack-a-Punch is back and just as crucial as ever. We did an entire guide on how it works in Call of Duty: Vanguard you should just out, but in short, this is where you upgrade your weapons. Each weapon can get upgraded three times, and each upgrade massively improves how much damage it deals. Save up your Essence for these upgrades first and foremost.

Perks are also back, but perhaps they’re even more changed than any other mechanic in zombies. Now, you can get any perk you want without having to invest any points at all. Just unlock the area with the perk fountain, take a swig, and you’ve got the perk. Where things get more interesting is that each perk, just like guns, can be upgraded up to three times by using Essence. That’s right, the same currency needed to upgrade weapons at the Pack-a-Punch. Here’s a quick rundown of all the perks available in Der Anfang:

  • Fiendish Fortitude: Increases health.
  • Diabolical Damage: Increases critical damage.
  • Venomous Vigor: Boosts health regeneration speed.
  • Demonic Frenzy: Boosts reload speed.
  • Aethereal Haste: Boosts movement speed.

Because there’s no downside, you should pick up the first level of all these perks as soon as you can. But be warned that with these perks being upgradable, the way getting downed affects them has also changed. Now when you are downed, you won’t lose any perks, but instead, you’ll lose any upgrades to perks you’ve purchased. So, the longer you go and the more you invest in perks, the more you have to lose if you get unlucky and have to get revived.

Get out alive

Approaching the exfil rune in zombies.

Finally, while not new to this entry, zombies in Call of Duty: Vanguard isn’t necessarily a death sentence. Sure, you can play like the classic games and go until you eventually get overwhelmed and your team wipes, or you can cash out and escape with your lives and some bonus XP. You do need to make it to at least round five to get the option to Exfil, so you can’t just cheese a bunch of XP by starting a game and immediately escaping, and you will have to complete a small sequence to actually make it out.

When you’re ready to get out of Stalingrad with as much progress as you think you can make, find the Exfil tablet thing marked on your map in the middle of Fountain Square. Interact with it, and a new objective will appear to kill the designated number of zombies that will start assaulting you. You don’t have any time limit at this point, so play carefully and take out these last undead ghouls to create the exit portal.

After you’ve killed the required number of zombies and the portal has opened, you now do have a time limit to escape. Your team has just 40 seconds to make it through the portal. If you fail to reach it in time, which is possible since zombies will still be attacking you, then the game will end as a failure, and you won’t get any bonus XP.

Editors’ Choice




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