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Game

Switch Online Expansion Pack’s Pricing Ignores History

I don’t pay for online services anymore. Not frequently, anyways, since almost all of my online gaming is done on my PC. If I’m getting a new co-op game or multiplayer shooter, it’s exclusively going to end up in my Steam library, because I don’t have to shell out a single extra cent to properly play the game.

But I can still at least acknowledge that some online services are worth the $60 they charge each year. Xbox Gold gives players free games, and so does PlayStation+. Nintendo Switch Online, on the other hand, has never felt worth the $20, and now Nintendo’s asking players for $50 for the service’s upgraded version, Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. I’m not sure if the company has been listening to its users for the past three years.

When Nintendo Switch Online was initially announced, I remember being somewhat excited. The service hardly cost anything, and users would get access to online multiplayer and an ever-growing library of old NES games. Sure, those games aren’t anything new, but it would be fun to play them on a mobile console. The exclusion of multiplayer voice chat was strange, but I figured it wasn’t a surprise, since I wasn’t going to be playing any games that required it on the Switch.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was the first time I realized how underwhelming Nintendo Switch Online was. The game’s multiplayer was atrocious, and since it was the only game I was really using Nintendo’s online service for, I couldn’t help but Ask myself, “is this really worth $20?” Other Nintendo fans were getting tired of the retro game library’s slow (and often unexciting) growth. Players wondered why Nintendo wouldn’t add games from other systems to the service, like Game Boy Advance or GameCube titles.

Some of those features were finally announced for Switch’s online service with Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. The new service includes Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, along with Animal Crossing: New Horizon‘s latest DLC. Sure, that’s not exactly what fans were looking for, but it is enough to get people excited again.

The announcement that access to those games will cost players $50 for an individual plan or $80 for the family plan, though, comes from an ignorant standpoint. Simply put, a curated selection of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games isn’t worth an extra $30 a year. For years, subscribers have hoped that the company would add content, making the relatively inexpensive service one of the best around. Instead, Nintendo took some of the games fans were hoping for and locked them away behind a paywall. That now includes Super Mario 64, which the company was selling as part of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars bundle. That bundle is no longer available, as it was, for some reason, and is only available until March 31, 2021.

It makes sense from a business standpoint. But for a company that used to pride itself on consumer friendliness (a department it’s been lacking in for a while now), it’s sad that well of goodwill is quickly drying up.

The content coming with Switch Online’s more expensive version is still lacking, and I also just don’t have a reason to trust that Nintendo will expand on it in a meaningful way. The Expansion Pack’s library of Nintendo 64 and Genesis games will grow, just like the base version’s stale buffet of games has. If I’ve learned anything over the course of the past three years, it’s that players are going to ask for specific games and won’t get what they ask for. That’s the trend that Nintendo’s set up to this point, and there’s no reason to believe it’ll do anything different.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Pokemon TCG: Celebrations has a “Base Set” Charizard and 4-card packs

Throughout the course of the month of October, The Pokemon Company will release Pokemon Trading Card Game “Celebrations”. It’ll begin on October 8, hit on October 22nd, and will include a “Collector Chest” with a date that remains a mystery. Perhaps most important to collectors, this new set will include “a special subset of 25 cards that are close remakes of iconic cards from the history of the Pokemon TCG, including Base Set Charizard” and others.

This new set of sets will launch on October 8 with a Pokemon TCG: Celebrations Collection Dragapult Prime box and a Lance’s Charizard V and Dark Sylveon V box. There’ll also be a Deluxe Pin Collection, Elite Trainer Box, Mini Tins, and a Celebrations Special Collection – Pikachu V-UNION, all available on October 8, 2021.

Fast forward to October 22, 2021 and there’ll be a release of Pokemon TCG: Celebrations Premium Figure Collection – Pikachu VMAX figure release. There’ll also be a Pokemon TCG: Celebrations Ultra-Premium Collection release on October 22, 2021.

And if that all weren’t enough, there’ll be an October release (no specific date just yet) of the Pokemon TCG: Celebrations Collector Chest. This is going to be madness. We’re going to have to sell all the rest of the cards we own already just to afford the whole lot of Celebrations cards released in October of this year – bonkers!

The booster packs released in October for Celebrations will include “four uniquely designed cards” that have the 25th Anniversary logo for Pokemon as well as a full foil treatment. This is sort of like when Decipher released a Star Wars CCG set called “Reflections” that included foil versions of cards that’d been released without foil in earlier sets.

It’ll be interesting to see how these packs are distributed in stores – and if they’ll sell as well or better than the rest of the packs that continue to sell out in stores right this minute. It would APPEAR that individual “packs” won’t be sold on their own, only available inside tins and boxes with other bits and pieces. We’ve reached out to The Pokemon Company for clarification on this point – stay tuned!

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Tech News

ASUS Zenfone 8 packs Samsung OLED and Sony cameras into a smaller 5G flagship

ASUS has revealed its latest Android smartphone, with the Zenfone 8 promising 5G and a 120Hz display in a smaller package. The Snapdragon 888-powered handset comes in smaller than rivals, thanks to a 5.9-inch AMOLED screen supplied by Samsung.

It’s a QHD panel, with 120Hz refresh and 1ms response time. ASUS says it boasts 112-percent DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, and it’s HDR10+ certified too. On top is a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus.

Although not exactly small, it definitely leaves the Zenfone 8 smaller than many rivals. At 148 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm it’s shorter than a Galaxy S21, for example, which should make reaching the top of the display when using the phone one-handed a little easier. There’s also an in-display fingerprint sensor.

On the back there’s a 64-megapixel camera, using Sony’s IMX686 sensor with OIS and an f1/.8 lens. It has PDAF and a dual-LED flash, and supports up to 8K video recording with electronic stabilization. It’s alongside a 12-megapixel ultra-wide, using a Sony IMX363 sensor, with a 113-degree field of view and Dual PDAF autofocus. That can record up to 4K/60fps or 1080p/60fps video.

Finally, there’s a 12-megapixel front camera, using Sony’s IMX663 – a first, ASUS says. That has a 76.5-degree FOV and f/2.45 lens, with Dual PDAF and support for up to 4K/60fps or 1080p/60fps video. ASUS has fitted three microphones, with digital wind filter, mic focus, and acoustic focus settings for emphasizing the audio from different subjects.

Inside, along with the Snapdragon 888 there’s Dual SIM with dual-standby support, up to 8GB of LPDDR5 memory, and up to 256GB of storage. WiFI 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 are standard, too, and ASUS adds a 4,000 mAh battery which charges via USB-C.

As for the design, it’s a fairly sober handset with a frosted-finish antiglare glass rear. It’s IP68 water and dust resistant, but there’ll only be one color: Obsidian Black.

All in all, ASUS says, this is the most powerful Zenfone in the company’s series of Android handsets, and like predecessors it’ll run the ZenUI 8 UI interface along with some enhancements for single-hand operation. No word on pricing at this stage, beyond the expectation that it’ll be under $800 or thereabouts, but ASUS says we can expect the Zenfone 8 to go on sale from late Q2 in North America.

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Tech News

Sony Xperia 5 III packs impressive photography capabilities and audiophile sound

Sony unveiled a trio of new smartphones today, and one of the offerings is the Xperia 5 III. It’s almost identical in features to the Sony Xperia 1 III that we mentioned earlier this morning. One of the smartphone’s big highlight features is the variable telephoto lens paired with a dual PD sensor. The smartphone offers object tracking in photography mode.

The smartphone has multiple camera modes, including an easy-to-use Basic Mode. It has a 6.1-inch CinemaWide HDR OLED with a 120 Hz refresh rate display. Sony fits the smartphone with 360 Spatial Sound that converts stereo tracks in real-time. The Xperia 5 III also features Game Enhancer features with a new audio equalizer and an optimized PC microphone, and a high frame rate recording feature.

The smartphone uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G platform and a 4500 mAh internal battery that can charge to 50 percent capacity in 30 minutes with the included 30W charger. Photography is the main focus, with Alpha camera technology promising a level of performance comparable to professional sports cameras like the Alpha 9 series. The variable telephoto lens with a Dual PD sensor reaches up to a 105 mm focal length. Sony’s Xperia 5 III will be available in black, pink, green with Android 11 out-of-the-box early this summer at undisclosed pricing.

Another Sony smartphone unveiled today is the Xperia 10 III offering 5G connectivity. It focuses on entertainment features and an extended battery life in a stylish, water-resistant body. The Xperia 10 III is a mid-range smartphone using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 5G mobile platform. It has a 4500 mAh internal battery and is IP65/IP68 water and dust resistant. Its 21:9 wide six-inch notch-less FHD+ OLED display supports HDR and is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 6.

Xperia 10 III also has high-resolution audio quality with DSEE Ultimate technology inside but functions via an integrated 3.5 mm headphone jack or wireless audio. It has a triple-lens camera featuring an improved F1.8 lens with the enhanced image processing algorithm for improved photos in low light with less noise using both Night mode and Auto mode. The camera array can shoot bursts at 10fps and can record 4K video. Integrated SteadyShot keeps shake out of the video. The Xperia 10 III will be available in black, blue, and white with Android 11 starting early this summer at an undisclosed price.

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Tech News

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 packs two fans for peak gaming power

Lenovo has a new Android gaming phone, and the Legion Phone Duel 2 is aiming to not only deliver the power for full mobile gameplay, but the media credentials modern streamers demand. The unusually-shaped smartphone includes a twin-fan cooling system and a larger-than-average battery, to keep it running at maximum speed for longer.

On the front, there’s a 6.92-inch 20.5:9 aspect AMOLED display. It’s running at 2460 x 1080 resolution, with a 144 Hz refresh rate and 8-bit HDR support. Lenovo has used a 720Hz touch sampling rate, too, for faster response times.

Brightness is 800 nits standard, with 1,300 nits peak, and there’s 111.1-percent DCI-P3 color gamut coverage plus HDR10+ certification. It’s protected with a slab of Gorilla Glass 5, and the whole phone tips the scales at 259 grams.

Inside there’s Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, with either 12GB, 16GB, or a whopping 18GB of LPDDR5 memory. Storage is either 256GB or 512GB. For connectivity, there’s 5G, WiFi, and Bluetooth, and the Legion Phone Duel 2 runs Lenovo’s ZUI 12.5 based on Android 11.

You can have the fastest chipset in the world, of course, and still get mediocre performance if you don’t take care of heat. Lenovo is using both active and passive cooling, with a vapor chamber for liquid cooling, and then twin turbo-fans to really keep temperatures down. Both the intake fan and output fan have 29 blades apiece, the former running at 12,500 rpm and the latter at 15,000 rpm. They make around 27 dB at 30 cm distance, Lenovo says.

Since the Legion Phone Duel 2 is designed to be held horizontally, like a Nintendo Switch, Lenovo has put the processor in the center away from the gamer’s fingers. There are also eight virtual buttons, including four ultrasonic shoulder keys, two rear capacitance screen touchpoints, and two in-display force touchpoints. Lenovo is also using a new Dual HaptiX dual-X-axis haptic vibration motor system, for more accurate touch feedback.

A pop-out 44-megapixel selfie camera with an 84-degree lens pops out of the side of the phone – so that it’s positioned right for when you’re streaming yourself during gameplay – and there’s onboard background removal, real-time overlay and effects generation, and virtual avatars.

The rear cameras meanwhile, are a 64-megapixel f/1.9 wide angle, and a 16-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide. There’s HDR10+ video recording at 4k/30fps, or 8k video recording at 24fps.

On the audio side, there are dual front-facing speakers with 7-magnet drivers and dual smart amplifiers, plus Dolby Atmos support. Four microphones add features like background noise reduction, and there’s 48 kHz / 16-bit output support via USB-C.

For power, there are dual 2,750 mAh batteries for a total of 5,500 mAh. Dual 90W USB-C charging ports on the side mean that 17 minutes plugged in is good for 4,500 mAh of charge, Lenovo says.

In China, where it’ll be called the Lenovo Legion Phone 2 Pro, it’ll go on sale in April; availability in Asia Pacific and Europe will follow in May. It’ll be priced from 999 euro ($1,160) for the 16GB/512GB configuration and with a bundled charging dock, while the 12GB/256GB version without the dock will be 799 euro ($930).

As for North America, Lenovo says that it’s still deciding whether to bring the Legion Phone Duel 2 to market.

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Computing

Amazon’s 24-hour PC gaming blowout packs deep discounts on killer gear

August was a quiet month for deals on Amazon, but the company is bringing the heat in the closing week before life returns to the usual routine in September. Amazon’s 24-hour Intel Gamer Days sale is offering great prices on monitors, keyboards, laptops, gaming mice, and more.

We sifted through all the deals to identify our top three picks from the sale.

First up is an Acer 23.6-inch 1080p curved gaming display with FreeSync for $150. That’s well below its usual price range, which jumps between $175 and $200. This monitor is rocking a 144Hz refresh rate, but it only supports FreeSync up to 75Hz via DisplayPort or HDMI.

Next is an expensive but solid deal on an Acer Predator Helios 300 gaming PC for $1000, a drop of $200 from its usual price. This clamshell has all the guts you need for an excellent 1080p experience. It packs a six core, twelve thread, 2.6GHz Intel “Coffee Lake” Core i7-9750H, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB NVME SSD. For graphics it’s rocking the GTX 1660 Ti, our favorite pick for high refresh rate 1080p gaming. The screen is a 15.6-inch IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate and a 3 millisecond response time.

True, the SSD is piddly, but there’s an empty hard drive bay if you’d like to slot in a cheap SATA III SSD. Just please, do yourself a favor and don’t put an actual hard drive in there. It’s 2019 and 2.5-inch SSDs with good capacities are cheap.

Finally, improve your home’s access to wired internet with the TP-Link powerline adapter kit for $50, a steep discount from its usual $75 to $90. Powerline adapters use your home’s electrical wiring to deliver Internet access.

There are tons of other deals including a Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse for $35–about $5 cheaper than the special edition we saw yesterday.

[Today’s deal: Amazon’s 24-hour Intel Gamer Days sale.]

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

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Computing

HP’s Elite Dragonfly 2-in-1 packs enterprise-class features into a stylish, sliver-thin shell

HP’s Elite Dragonfly is a 360-degree convertible laptop that manages the neat trick of fitting the most important enterprise features into a sliver of a package. And it’s got a cool name to boot.

Slated to land on October 25 with a starting price of $1,549, the Elite Dragonfly sports a chassis that’s just 0.6 inches thin. As we go through the features, you’ll see a generous array of choices in some areas, and in others, some necessary compromises due to the slender chassis. And if you like the sound of its 2.2-pound base weight or 24-hour battery life, just remember that only certain configurations will achieve those specs—we’ll explain more below. 

Update: An earlier version of this story noted that memory for the Elite Dragonfly was restricted to 16GB. HP has since clarified that 8GB configurations will also be available.

HP Elite Dragonfly specs: Many, many choices

The Elite Dragonfly has a spec list as long and shiny as its namesake. Let’s summarize the primary items before delving deeper into certain features:

  • CPU: Core i3-8145U / Core i5-8265U or i5-8365U / Core i7-8565U or i7 8665U with vPro support
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Memory: Up to 16GB LPDDR3-2133
  • Storage: Up to 2TB NVMe M.2 TLC
  • Display: 13.3-inch 1W FHD (400 nits), UHD (550 nits), or FHD with HP Sure View Gen3 privacy toggle (1,000 nits)
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6, optional gigabit LTE with 4×4 antennas, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Connectivity: Two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, HDMI, combo 3.5mm audio jack
  • Dimensions: 11.98 x 7.78 x 0.63 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds (with lightweight battery) or 2.5 pounds (with “Performance” battery)

The SSD storage options are a mix of SATA and PCIe SSDs ranging from 128GB to 2TB, some with Intel Optane Memory, one with FIPS encryption. The interface and capacity variations are too much to detail here, but suffice it to say you have plenty of choices. 

For RAM, you can choose between 8GB or 16GB of dual-channel LPDDR3-2133 SDRAM. Granted, that is more than enough for most enterprise work, but note that it’s soldered to the motherboard, so no upgrading is possible. 

The 13.3-inch display’s three panel options each have their own temptation. The standard Full HD (1920×1080) touchscreen is a 1-watt panel that treads lightly on battery life. The Sure View FHD can be toggled from a normal view to a secure one that thwarts sideways peekers. It also has a stunning 1,000-nit maximum brightness, but if you crank it up your battery will scream. Finally there’s a 4K option, which sounds insanely crisp and lovely, but it’s also a lot of pixels for such a small panel. You’ll need to scale up your icons or they’ll be microscopic, and of course, 4K displays use more battery life. 

hp elite dragonfly tented Ben Patterson/IDG

The HP Elite Dragonfly offers three display options: a Full-HD 1-watt panel that’ll help extend your battery life, a 1,000-nit FHD display with HP’s Sure View privacy toggle, and a 550-nit 4K display. 

Speaking of the battery, the Elite Dragonfly offers two options. The standard 2-cell, 38Whr power pack offers a projected life of up to 16.5 hours, which is already great. There’s also a 4-cell, 56Whr Performance battery, and that’s the one projected to last up to a stunning 24 hours—provided your Elite Dragonfly has the standard FHD 1-watt panel. HP did not have estimated battery life stats for the other panel options, but it’s safe to assume they will not hit 24 hours. Note, too, that the Performance battery will increase the Elite Dragonfly’s total weight by about 0.3 pound.  

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Computing

This absurdly cheap Asus gaming laptop packs a GeForce RTX 2060 for $980, today only

They said it couldn’t be done. They said a laptop packing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics couldn’t be found for less than $1,000. Today, we prove those naysayers wrong. Amazon is selling the Asus TUF Gaming laptop for a cool $980 with the aforementioned RTX graphics card. This is the all-time low for this laptop, which has fluctuated in price between $1,100 and $1,400.

The laptop deal is part of Amazon’s larger one-day PC gaming sale that includes all kinds of serious gaming gear including monitors, desktops, RAM kits, and more. The deals expire just before midnight Thursday evening Pacific time.

The featured Asus TUF laptop features a quad-core 2.3GHz Ryzen 7 3750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe SSD, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. It’s loaded for the price, in other words. The display measures 15.6 inches with 1920-by-1080 resolution. It also has an RGB backlit keyboard.

The great thing about the RTX 2060 included in this laptop is that it supports advanced features such as deep learning super sampling and real-time ray tracing. Both features add up to better looking games from higher frame rates and improved lighting effects.

This is an excellent laptop for less than $1,000 and one heck of a deal. The only drawback for some may be that Ryzen 7 processor. While AMD’s chips are great on desktops, the Ryzen processors are a little less proven in laptops. If that gives you pause, we also found an Acer Predator Helios 300 for $1,300, rocking an Intel Core i7-9750H paired with a GeForce RTX 2060. That’s not as cheap, but the Intel-powered laptop also includes a faster 144Hz display. It’s usually $1,600, but $300 off for today only.

[Today’s deal: Asus TUF Gaming laptop with RTX 2060 graphics for $980 on Amazon.]

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

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

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Computing

This HP laptop packs a 10th-gen Core i5 for just $389 after a huge $210 discount

If you’ve been looking to pick up a speedy new laptop, you won’t want to miss this Walmart deal. The retailer’s website is selling a 14-inch HP laptop with a 10th generation Intel Core i5 CPU for $389, good for a whopping $210 off the sticker price.

The HP 14-dq1040wm is packed with hardware that should ensure speedy everyday performance. It’s built around a four core, eight thread Intel “Ice Lake” Core i5-1035G1 processor. The CPU has a base clock of 1Ghz with a boost to 3.6GHz. Intel’s chip comes paired with 8GB of RAM and a small, but fast 256GB NVMe SSD.

HP’s notebook marries that SSD with 16GB of ultra-fast Intel Optane memory that intelligently stores your most-used apps and data to speed up their launch times and responsiveness. Since this laptop already has an NVMe drive, that benefit may not be as noticeable compared to a system using Optane to assist with a spinning hard drive, but it’s a nice feature to have—especially on a system that’s this affordable.

The one downside of this laptop, if you can call it that, is that the 14-inch screen only features a 720p resolution, rather than the more pixel-packed 1080p. It shouldn’t be terrible with a display this small, however. For ports, HP’s laptop packs one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard USB ports, one HDMI, and the usual headphone/mic jack.

Overall, this should be a very nice, impressively responsive laptop for less than $400. You don’t see this sort of hardware going this cheap very often.

[Today’s deal: HP 14-dq1040wm for $389 at Walmart.]

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

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

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Tech News

Omate O6L Pro smartwatch for kids packs software SIM and 4G LTE

Omate is back with another Nanoblocks smartwatch for kids, this one featuring 4G LTE connectivity and a software SIM. The new O6L Pro model is visually similar to the 3G version of the Omate x Nanoblocks smartwatch the company introduced back in 2018, but with updated tech that powers a number of features, including video calls, messaging, and more.

The Omate O6L Pro smartwatch features a 1.3-inch capacitive touch display, as well as a speaker, physical SOS button for emergencies, a built-in noise cancellation microphone, and a 2-megapixel camera for capturing selfies and participating in video calls.

The key feature included with the O6L Pro is the software SIM, making it the first kids’ smartwatch to offer this feature. Buyers get free unlimited 4G LTE services with the watch during its first three years, as well as free unlimited location services that power the SOS and tracking features.

As you’d expect from a wearable made for kids, the device has an IP67 rating. The O6L Pro is available in purple and black colors, plus there’s a limited edition version that features a nanoblocks band. With that latter offering, kids can place tiny plastic bricks on the watch’s band for a fun look.

Multiple purchasing options are available; the O6L Pro Black and Purple are both priced at $239 USD. Alternatively, you can get a ‘twin’ pack with two watches for $429 USD. The nanoblocks version of the watches are $10 more expensive at $249 USD each.

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