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Xbox begins testing unlocked multiplayer in free-to-play games

If you’ve always thought it was strange that you still need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play multiplayer games on Xbox consoles, then we’ve got some good news for you: it looks like that requirement will soon be gone. As promised earlier in the year, Microsoft has started testing functionality that will allow Xbox users play multiplayer in free-to-play games without requiring an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

Unfortunately, this testing is limited to Xbox Insiders in the Alpha Skip Ahead and Alpha rings today, so it’s still in pretty early testing and might not be available on a wide scale for a hile yet. Still, it’s exciting to see this go into testing not only because it unlocks multiplayer in free-to-play games, but also because it unlocks Looking 4 Groups and Party Chat – features that were similarly put behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall.

Xbox’s Larry Hyrb and Brad Rossetti shared the news today on Twitter. Microsoft originally promised that it would unlock multiplayer gaming in free-to-play titles back in January, following a reversal of the decision to raise Xbox Live Gold prices.

The proposed price hike lasted less than a day, with Microsoft originally planning to increase the cost of monthly Xbox Live Gold subscriptions by $1 (thereby bringing the total monthly cost to $10.99) and 3-month Gold subscriptions $5 (to bring them up to $29.99 per three months). Microsoft was met with a lot of backlash over that announcement, and later that same day announced that it would keep pricing where it was while also unlocking free-to-play multiplayer in the future.

Now, it seems, the time for that is finally upon us. Since these are just hitting Alpha testers in the Xbox Insider program, it’s probably going to be a matter of weeks (if not longer) before it’s live for everyone. We’ll let you know when Microsoft starts rolling this feature out on a wider scale, so stay tuned.

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Tech News

RTX 3060 cryptocurrency mining capabilities unlocked with beta NVIDIA driver

Back in February, NVIDIA made a pair of reveals that went hand-in-hand. For starters, it announced that it would sell certain GPUs as “cryptocurrency mining processors,” or CMPs. At the same time it announced it was rolling out these CMPs, the company also announced that it would be limiting the RTX 3060’s usefulness when it came to cryptocurrency mining, the hope being that those limitations would make RTX 3060 cards less appealing to crypto miners.

PC gamers in search of an upgrade need every advantage they can get, too, because not only are they attempting to find a new GPU amid a silicon shortage, but they also have to contend with cryptocurrency miners who are snatching up cards left and right because we happen to find ourselves in a crypto boom at the moment. While NVIDIA did indeed reduce the hash rate of Ethereum mining in new RTX 3060 cards, it seems that NVIDIA also just removed that limitation in new beta drivers for the card.

German website ComputerBase confirmed that GeForce beta driver 470.05 removes the hash rate restriction, following a report from Japanese website PC Watch that confirms removing the hash rate restriction in RTX 3060 cards is indeed possible without needing to modify the BIOS or the driver first.

We’re not really sure why this beta driver removes the hash rate limitations, and it’s hard to know if this is intentional or if it was an accident. Of course, these are beta drivers and not live drivers, so only a limited number of RTX 3060 users are going to have these crypto mining limitations lifted, but still: inquiring minds would like to know what’s going on here.

After all, NVIDIA’s decision to put limitations on RTX 3060 cards and offer so-called CMPs separately has not been without controversy, so it’s always possible this was an intentional move on NVIDIA’s part after a healthy dose of PR pushback. We’ll have to wait and see what happens from here, but we’ll let you know if NVIDIA says anything about this in an official capacity.

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Tech News

Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S21 phones are up to $200 off right now

If you’ve had your eyes on the Galaxy S21, today’s the day to grab one. Amazon is selling an unlocked 128GB Samsung Galaxy S21 for $700, down from the usual $800, a savings of $100 and the best price we’ve seen without a trade-in. You can also get the S21+ and S21 Ultra for $200 off in any color.

We reviewed the Galaxy S21 in January giving it 4.5 stars out of 5 and calling it “one of the best premium smartphone bargains in years.” This phone offers a beautiful design, a fantastic 6.2-inch screen with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, insanely fast performance and excellent battery life, and Android 11 UI tweaks that improve the user experience. It’s also built for the latest networks so it’s rocking Wi-Fi 6 along with 5G cellular connectivity. 

It’s also got a great camera, with a triple-lens that brings wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto cameras. We found that the photos were very good, but the  S21 “tended to brighten photos excessively even when night mode wasn’t activated, which often led to blown-out details and washed-out colors.” But you’ll still take great pictures with it.

If you want a bigger phone, the S21+ has a 6.7-inch screen and the S21 Ultra has a 6.8-inch one. They all have the same Snapdragon 888 processor as the S21, with a few extra features. The S21+ and S21 Ultra have an ultrawideband chip for precise location tracking, and the Ultra brings a better camera and Wi-Fi 6E support.

But no matter which model you buy, you’re getting a fantastic phone at an even more fantastic price.

[Today’s deal: 128GB Samsung Galaxy S21 for $700 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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Tech News

Get ready for iOS 14 with $500 off this brand-new unlocked iPhone XS Max

iOS 14 is on the way and we’ve got the perfect way to get ready: A brand-new iPhone for $500 off. Amazon’s Woot is selling the 512GB iPhone XS Max for $850 today, cheaper than Apple’s refurb price.

The iPhone XS Max has the same design as the iPhone 11 Pro Max, with a 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED display, Face ID for hands-free unlocking, and wireless charging. The main differences between it and its successor, the iPhone 11 Pro Max are the processor (A13 vs A12) and the camera (Dual 12MP Wide and Telephoto vs Triple 12MP Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto), but otherwise they’re very similar. We loved it in our 4.5-star review and our opinion hasn’t changed a year later.

This phone is brand new with a 1-year Apple warranty. It is available in all three colors (silver, gold, and space gray) and is fully unlocked so it will work with every carrier. But as with all Woot sales, we don’t know how long it’s going to last, so if you want one, act fast.

[Today’s deal: 512GB iPhone XS Max for $850 at Woot]

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.

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