Google’s new Titan security key lineup won’t make you choose between USB-C and NFC

Google announced updates to its Titan security key lineup on Monday, simplifying it by removing a product and bringing NFC to all its keys. The company will now offer two options: one has a USB-A connector, one has USB-C, and both have NFC for connecting to “most mobile devices.” The USB-A key will cost $30, and the USB-C key will cost $35 when they go on sale on August 10th.

One of the biggest changes in Google’s new lineup is an updated USB-C key, which has added NFC support. Google’s previous USB-C option, made in collaboration with Yubico, didn’t support the wireless standard. Now, the choice between USB-C and A is easy, as there aren’t features that one has that the other doesn’t. It’s simply a matter of what ports your computer has. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Yubico was involved with the new key.

According to Google’s support document, its Titan security keys can be used to protect your Google account as well as with third-party apps and services that support FIDO standards, such as 1Password. They, and other security keys from companies like Yubico, can act as second factors to secure your account even if an attacker obtains your username and password. They also fight back against phishing since they won’t authenticate a login to a fake website that’s trying to steal your credentials. The Titan keys also work with Google’s Advanced Protection Program, which is designed to provide extra security to people whose accounts may be targeted.

Google’s current USB-A security key already includes NFC and sells for $25. The USB-A plus NFC key that Google lists in its blog post will sell for $30, but it comes with a USB-C adapter. The USB-A key currently listed on the store doesn’t include one, unless bought as part of a (sold-out) bundle, according to Google’s spec page.

Google’s NFC / Bluetooth / USB key, which was made available to the public in 2018, will no longer be sold as part of the updated lineup. It’s already listed as sold out on Google’s store page. Google’s blog post says that it’s discontinuing the Bluetooth model so it can focus on “easier and more widely available NFC capability.”

While the updated Titan Security Key lineup seems to lack a Bluetooth option, it’s nice to see that the USB-C key is getting NFC. If you’re living the MacBook / iPhone lifestyle, you’ll be able to use the updated USB-C plus NFC key without any dongles. Google says in its blog post that the Bluetooth / NFC / USB key will still work over Bluetooth and NFC “on most modern mobile devices.” Google’s Titan Security Key store page currently lists the old models, but Google’s post says the updated lineup will be available starting on August 10th.

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Battlefield V Joins Game Pass’ Cloud Gaming Lineup

The Xbox Game Pass library is growing once again, with a treasure trove of games being added to the service in just seven days. While 10 games altogether are coming next week, the clear heavy hitter is Microsoft Flight Simulator. Until it’s available, players can look forward to two new games being added to the service immediately: Battlefield V on cloud and Cris Tales on cloud, console, and PC.

A picture is worth a thousand words (and several upcoming games)

— Xbox Game Pass (@XboxGamePass) July 20, 2021

Other titles are being added to the subscription service’s library in the coming days. Atomicrops (cloud, console, PC), Raji: An Ancient Epic (cloud, console, PC), and Last Stop (cloud, console, PC) are all coming to Xbox Game Pass on July 22.

On July 26, players can jump into Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (cloud, console), and an original Xbox classic, Blinx: The Time Sweeper (cloud, console).

The real meat of this month’s Xbox Game Pass offerings comes later on in the month. On July 27, subscribers playing on their Xbox Series X or S can chart a flight across the world in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Just a few days later, on July 29, players get access to Omno (cloud, console, PC), Project Wingman (PC), The Ascent (PC), and the dodgeball fighting game Lethal League Blaze (cloud, console, PC).

Of course, with so many titles being added to the Xbox Game Pass library, some will have to go. Leaving the service on July 31 are It Lurks BelowThe Touryst, and UnderMine. If you’re not ready to lose any of these games just yet, they can be purchased for up to 20% off if you’re a Game Pass subscriber.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Lenovo 2021 tablet lineup and Smart Clock 2 put displays everywhere

After revealing a new notebooks and Chromebooks lineup last week, Lenovo followed up with another MWC 2021 announcement today. This one is mostly about tablets, with Lenovo announcing new Yoga tablets alongside new Lenovo Tabs. Between those tablets and the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 – also revealed today – the theme to this batch of MWC announcements seems to be “displays in unexpected places,” as the Smart Clock 2 is destined for nightstands, and the Yoga Tabs can even be hung on walls.

Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 and Yoga Tab 11

By far, the most interesting announcement Lenovo made today was that of the new Yoga Tab, which will be available in 13-inch and 11-inch models. While there are some clear similarities in design between the two tablets, the two have a lot of differences when it comes to hardware.

The Yoga Tab 13, for instance, comes equipped with a Snapdragon 870 SoC, 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM, either 128GB or 256GB of storage depending on your configuration, and a 13-inch 2,160 x 1,350 display that supports Dolby Vision and covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut. In terms of battery, Lenovo says that the Yoga Tab 13’s 10,000mAh battery can last up to 12 hours on a single charge, though as always, the battery life you get depends on how you use your tablet.

The Yoga Tab 11, on the other hand, comes in WiFi-only and LTE configurations, which is the first major departure from the WiFi-only Yoga Tab 13. The Yoga Tab 11 drops Qualcomm in favor of a MediaTek Helio G90T processor and comes in two RAM and storage configurations: 4GB and 128GB or 8GB and 256GB. The display on the Yoga Tab 11 unsurprisingly has a lower resolution than the one on the Yoga Tab 13, outputting at 2,000 x 1,200. Lenovo says that the 7,700mAh battery will last for up to 15 hours on a full charge.

Both tablets come with a kickstand that can position the tablet in a few different orientations. The most obvious is a stand mode, but both tablets can also be hung on the way using that kickstand or angled for typing and drawing (both tablets support Lenovo’s Precision Pen 2). The Yoga Tab 13 can even be used as a second display when connected to a computer using a micro HDMI to USB cable. There’s a fairly big price difference between the two tablets, as Lenovo says that the Yoga Tab 13 will start at $679.99 when it launches in July. The Yoga Tab 11, meanwhile, will start at $319.99 when it lands in August.

Lenovo Tab P11 Plus and Tab M7

If you’re looking for a more traditional (and less expensive tablet), then Lenovo also announced two tablets that possibly fit the bill today. First up is the Lenovo Tab P11 Plus. Like the Yoga Tab 11, the P11 Plus uses a Helio G90T processor from MediaTek. Here in the US, we’ll see the P11 Plus launch in several configurations – one with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the second with 4GB/128GB, and the third with 6GB/128GB. The tablet also has a microSD slot, so you can save some money with the 64GB model and expand storage later if you need to.

As the name suggests, the P11 Plus comes with an 11-inch IPS LCD boasting 2,000 x 1,200 resolution. The tablet will be available in WiFi and LTE models, so in many ways, the P11 Plus is essentially the Yoga Tab 11 in a more traditional form factor – even their batteries clock in at the same size with the same size general estimations regarding how long they’ll last.

Then we also have the third-gen Lenovo Tab M7, which seems to be targeted more at families with young children. The Tab M7 is a pretty basic tablet, especially compared to the other tablets Lenovo revealed today. Expect a 7-inch, 1,024 x 600 IPS display, 2GB of RAM with 32GB of storage (along with a microSD slot), either a MediaTek MT8166 (WiFi) or an MT8766 (LTE) CPU, and a 3,750mAh battery. Lenovo also plans to launch a larger 3rd-gen Tab M8, but that won’t be available here in the US.

The Lenovo Tab P11 Plus will be arriving sometime in August with a starting price of $259.99 – a fair bit less than the Yoga Tab 11 revealed today. The Tab M7, on the other hand, will be particularly inexpensive, with a starting price of $109.99 when it arrives in July.

Lenovo Smart Clock 2

Finally, we have the Lenovo Smart Clock 2, which was revealed alongside this collection of tablets today. The Smart Clock 2 is almost like a miniature Smart Display, but with one key difference: there’s no camera on this device because it’s meant to be placed on your nightstand and most people probably don’t want to put a camera there. The Smart Clock 2 comes with a 4-inch touchscreen and is mostly covered in fabric. With just 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a MediaTek MT8167S processor, this definitely isn’t the most powerful device around, but then again, it doesn’t really need to be.

One interesting thing about the Smart Clock 2 is that it comes with a wireless charging stand with a spot for a smartphone so that it can double as a charging station at the end of the day. When it’s docked, it can also act as a nightlight, which sounds like a nice touch for those of us who have a talent for running into things in the dark. Look for the Lenovo Smart Clock 2 to launch in Abyss Blue, Heather Gray, and Shadow Black in September with a starting price of $89.99.

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AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution Launch Lineup Leaks

AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) will launch next week on June 22. So far, AMD hasn’t announced which games will support the feature, but a new leak provides a glimpse at what the launch lineup could be. AMD plans to launch FSR with support for seven games, but most of them aren’t anything to get excited about.

The leak comes from @Broly_X1 on Twitter (via Videocardz), who has accurately leaked information about past AMD launches. In the now removed tweet, the leaker showed Godfall and The Riftbreaker topping the FSR launch lineup. In a follow-up tweet, they clarified that the list doesn’t include all of the games that will be available at launch, just the ones that will be supported. This is, presumably, because developers have free rein to implement FSR in their games, so it’s possible other titles will support the feature at launch.

Here’s the full list of titles coming on June 22:

  • Anno 1800
  • Evil Genius 2
  • Godfall
  • Kingshunt
  • Terminator Resistance
  • The Riftbreaker
  • 22 Racing Series

FSR is launching with more games than DLSS 1.0. At launch, Nvidia only supported three titles: Final Fantasy XV, Battlefield V, and Metro Exodus. That said, Nvidia’s DLSS launch lineup included some heavy hitters, while the FSR lineup is a little underwhelming. The highlights are Godfall, Anno 1800, and The Riftbreaker. The other games aren’t bad, but they may not be the best showcase of AMD’s new tech, especially compared to games like Metro Exodus and Battlefield V. 

The leak also included games that will add FSR support soon as well as all the studios AMD is currently partnering with. FSR will come to new releases like Baldur’s Gate 3, Far Cry 6, and Resident Evil Village in the near future, though the leak doesn’t specify any time frame.

For studio partnerships, the leak shows AMD working with Ubisoft, Obsidian Entertainment, EA, and Valve, to name a few. The list also shows Turtle Rock Studios, perhaps pointing to FSR support in the upcoming Back 4 Blood, as well as Unity, which could hint at FSR implementation in the Unity game engine.

FidelityFX Super Resolution is positioned to counter Nvidia’s DLSS. Both features upscale games in real time from a low-resolution internal render, offering higher performance with features like ray tracing without sacrificing visual quality. Although both tools accomplish the same goal, Nvidia uses dedicated hardware and machine learning to achieve its results, while AMD uses more traditional super sampling methods.

AMD’s feature doesn’t require any specific hardware, so it can run on GPUs from AMD and Nvidia across multiple generations. That said, AMD said it won’t optimize Nvidia cards for FSR.

Editors’ Choice

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Battlefield V Headlines May’s PS Plus Lineup

Sony announced the new PlayStation Plus lineup for the month of May, which includes Battlefield V, Stranded Deep, and Wreckfest. These games will go live for PS Plus members starting on May 4 and are all playable on PS5 thanks to backwards compatibility.

Battlefield V, Stranded Deep, and Wreckfest: Drive Hard, Die Last are your PlayStation Plus games for May:

— PlayStation (@PlayStation) April 28, 2021

The PS4 version of Battlefield V will be available on PS Plus throughout the month of May. This sends players back to World War II with epic, large-scale battles online and offline. It features a tight, condensed single-player campaign, along with a competitive multiplayer mode that pits squads against one another on massive maps during a historic time period.

Battlefield V’s inclusion lines up nicely with news of the next installment in the series, which will release in 2021. EA and Dice stated that the next Battlefield game would be officially unveiled “soon.”

Next up is Wreckfest, which will only be available for PS5 owners. This driving game emphasizes crashing (ala Burnout), car customization, and competitive battles online via the PSN. It offers different vehicle types such as crop harvesters and three-wheelers. Wreckfest comes to us from Bugbear Entertainment, the team behind FlatOut.

Finally, Stranded Deep is a PS4 open-world survival game that takes place on an island full of deadly creatures that are out to hunt players down. This game features a crafting system that encourages exploration in order to survive. After being in early access for several years, it finally launched in 2020, courtesy of Beam Team Games.

Players can add all three games to their library starting May 4 through May 31.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Motorola teams up with CAT phone maker Bullitt for a rugged lineup

At this point, Motorola’s strategy in the smartphone market seems to be best described as “throw everything at a wall and see which sticks.” Its phones are all over the place, from an expensive foldable to a handful of mid-range phones to budget-friendly entry-level handsets. As if that weren’t enough, Motorola has entered into a partnership that will create yet another line of Motorola phones that might not actually bear Motorola’s DNA inside.

You might not be familiar with the Bullitt Group but you might be familiar with at least one of the two smartphones the company sells. Licensing the names from their respective owners, CAT and Land Rover phones boast to be some of the most rugged phones in the mobile market and often look the part. Now Motorola and Bullitt are teaming up in what is described as a “global strategic brand partnership” for Motorola-branded rugged phones.

It’s not that Motorola doesn’t have its own rugged line of phones, or at least had one. Those took on different names, from Motorola DROID to the Moto Z Force, depending on the company’s marketing strategy at that time. This time, it might not be making these rugged phones itself.

Given the Bullitt Group’s actual business, this partnership means that the company will make the phones and then slap Motorola’s name everywhere. As far as the world is concerned, this might very well be a Motorola phone, adding to the dizzying number of models under its brand.

That said, CAT and Land Rover rugged phones haven’t exactly been notable for their features aside from their durability and a Motorola-branded Bullitt phone might not even make a dent in Motorola’s profits. This, however, might also hint at one other way Motorola could stay afloat, licensing its brand to other phone makers the way BlackBerry did and, soon, LG as well.

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IBM revamps its storage lineup to better enable hybrid cloud computing

As part of a larger effort to make it easier to manage data across a hybrid cloud computing environment, IBM unveiled a 1u all-flash storage system for on-premises IT environments that can scale to hold 1.7 petabytes (PB) of data.

The amount of storage capacity required by IT organizations that are training AI models using data that, for compliance and security reasons, can’t be shifted to a cloud computing environment, is steadily increasing, said Denis Kennelly, general manager for IBM Storage.

The FlashSystem 5200i, with data capacity starting at 38 TB, is now the entry-level member of the IBM all-flash family of storage system that IBM is now offering for 20% less than its predecessor. IBM is also adding additional 2u models to the FlashSystem series that are designed to deliver higher I/O performance.

The IBM storage systems are unique in that they are all compatible with the IBM Spectrum storage management software that IBM makes available on its cloud as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS), said Kennelly. IBM also committed to making IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud software available on the Microsoft Azure Cloud in the third quarter. That capability is critical because it enables IT teams to replicate and migrate data across hybrid cloud computing environments, added Kennelly.

Finally, IBM also announced today that next month it will add support for IBM Cloud Satellite to its FlashSystem systems as well as IBM SAN Volume Controller, IBM Elastic Storage System, and IBM Spectrum Scale software. IBM Cloud Satellite, currently in beta, is a management platform that IBM created to centralize the management of hybrid cloud computing environments. IBM Cloud Satellite is built on an instance of the Red Hat OpenShift platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which makes it possible to deploy the management platform anywhere.

In general, the ability to move data between multiple clouds and on-premises IT environments has become a critical requirement as the centers of data gravity in the enterprise continue to shift, said Kennelly. Organizations need to be able to flexibly move and replicate data that needs to be accessed by a growing number of applications running on different platforms. It’s not always feasible or practical to remotely access data when many of the applications running are increasingly latency-sensitive thanks in part to increased reliance on microservices.

At the same time, the amount of data that is being accessed is increasing as organizations look to infuse AI capabilities into their applications. The AI models being constructed require access to massive amounts of data.

Collectively, all those requirements create a need to be able to manage and govern data more efficiently than ever, said Kennelly.

“Data is the new oil for business,” said Kennelly. “But data, like kerosene, in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing.”

Ultimately, traditional IT operations will need to absorb what is today often separate DataOps and machine learning operations (MLOps) disciplines that have emerged around data science initiatives, said Kennelly. In the meantime, IBM is making a case for an approach to storage that will, longer term, make it easier to achieve that goal.

IBM, of course, is not the only provider of storage and data management platforms with similar ambitions. However, now that IBM has positioned IBM Cloud as one platform among many it supports, its entire approach to hybrid cloud computing continues to evolve. The challenge, of course, is that hybrid cloud computing requires a lot more to achieve than simply accessing compute resources on different platforms. The data those compute engines need to access needs to be just as readily accessible whenever and wherever required.


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Tech News

The midrange Pixel 5 makes Google’s smartphone lineup more confusing than ever

The Google Pixel 5, which was unveiled during the company’s Launch Night In event on Wednesday, was definitely a surprise—especially if you were paying any attention to the lofty rumors leading up to its debut. Rather than offering a giant screen, the latest Snapdragon processor, and state-of-the-art biometric security, Google’s new handset is surprisingly pedestrian.

While we don’t mind that the Pixel 5 comes in with a lower price, if you start to compare it to the Pixel 4a 5G, the Pixel 5’s position becomes confusing. Google delivered on its promise to bring 5G to its affordable 4a phone back when it launched this summer. While it’s not shipping for another month or so, it’s both $200 cheaper than the Pixel 5 and has a display two-tenths of an inch bigger, with the same processor:

Pixel 4a 5G

Dimensions: 153.9 x 74 x 8.6mm
Display: 6.2-inch Full HD OLED, 2340 X 1080
Professor: Snapdragon 765G
Storage: 128GB
Front camera: 8MP, f/2.0
Rear camera: 12.2MP, f/1.7 Wide + 16MP, F/2.2 Ultra-wide (107 deg)
Battery: 3,885mAh

Pixel 5

Dimensions: 144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0mm
Display: 6-inch Full HD OLED, 1080 x 2340, 90Hz
Professor: Snapdragon 765G
Storage: 128GB
Front camera: 8MP, f/2.0
Rear camera: 12.2MP, f/1.7 Wide + 16MP, F/2.2 Ultra-wide (107 deg)
Battery: 4,080 mAh

They also both have Android 11 onboard, the same very cool camera features, and of course 5G. They share the same rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and Titan M Security chip. And they both come in black.

pixel 5 water resistance Google

One of the Pixel 5’s upsell features is IP68 water resistance.

So what’s the point of the Pixel 5? Other than the headphone jack, which is present on the 4a but not on the 5, and wireless charging, which you get only on the 5, the only real material difference between the two is IP68 water resistance and the material: The Pixel 5 has an aluminum back, while the 4a’s is made of plastic. They even have identical cameras and both support sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G networks (though ultra-wideband is exclusive to the Verizon 4a 5G and costs 100 extra).

I can understand why Google lowered the Pixel’s entry price. Premium Android phones are struggling to sell this year, and Google had a hard time competing with the Pixel even when sales were stronger.

The chip makes sense too. Qualcomm’s licensing terms for the 865 are extremely pricey, and Google wisely concluded that no one’s going to pay $1,000-plus for a Pixel.

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Tech News

Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 lineup chooses refinement over reinvention

Last year’s Galaxy S20 lineup was such a massive change that Samsung introduced a new naming scheme to hammer home how consequential the upgrade was. This year, the Galaxy S21 series refines that vision at much lower prices.

Samsung has launched three Galaxy S21 models in very similar sizes. The S21 and S21+ have 6.2-inch and 6.7-inch screens like their S20 predecessors, while the S21 Ultra is slightly smaller, 6.8 inches versus the S20 Ultra’s 6.9-inch screen. The top and bottom bezels are a bit slimmer as well to create a near-all-screen look, but all three models are essentially the same size as last year’s:

Galaxy S21

S21: 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm

S21+: 161.5 x 75.6 x 7.8mm

S21 Ultra: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm

Galaxy S20

S20: 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9mm

S20+: 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8mm

S20 Ultra: 166.9 x 76.0 x 8.8mm

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