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Computing

Intel Raptor Lake finally makes DDR5 memory worth it

The upcoming Intel Raptor Lake processors will support both DDR4 and DDR5 memory, but it seems that the 13th generation of Intel CPUs might finally convince many users to switch to DDR5.

In a new benchmark, the Core i7-13700K was tested with DDR4 and DDR5 RAM. The latter truly made it shine, delivering a huge uplift in multicore performance.

Wccftech

The benchmarked processor is Intel’s next-gen Core i7-13700K, which comes with 16 cores (eight Raptor Cove performance cores and eight Gracemont efficient cores) as well as 30MB of L3 cache. The base clock is rumored to be 3.4GHz with an up to 5.3GHz boost. Although the chip was already spotted in previous benchmarks paired with DDR4 RAM, today’s leak, first found by Benchleaks,  shows that DDR5 unlocks its true potential.

In the tests, the Core i7-13700K was paired with an ASRock Z690 Steel Legend Wi-Fi 6E motherboard for the DDR4 option, while the DDR5 system had the D5 version of that same motherboard. The only difference between the two boards lies in their memory slots. The tester used DDR4-3200 memory for the DDR4 test and DDR5-5200 for the DDR5 benchmark, which is the native memory supported by Raptor Lake. Both systems were running a total of 32GB RAM, meaning two sticks of 16GB each. However, the benchmark doesn’t reveal the timings or the exact model of RAM that has been used.

Now, let’s take a look at the scores each system was able to achieve. The DDR4 platform managed to hit 2,090 points in single-core and 16,542 in the multicore test. The DDR5 system reveals a tiny decrease in the single-core result (down to 2,069), but that’s within the margin of error. In multicore, the DDR5 platform managed to hit a 20% performance increase with a 19,811 score. This benchmark was first reported by Tom’s Hardware.

A similar benchmark was recently unearthed by VideoCardz, this time featuring an engineering sample of the mid-range Core i5-13600K. This time, the system was still proven to be faster when paired with DDR5 RAM, but the performance boost was limited to just 11%. Even then, these improvements, as well as future-proofing your computer through the use of a DDR5 motherboard, might be enough to make many customers consider trying out DDR5.

Intel introduced support for DDR5 memory with its current-gen Alder Lake platform, but so far, the adoption has been slow. DDR5 RAM is still overpriced, although costs have been slowly improving. As the technology becomes more widespread, the prices should continue to normalize.

AMD’s next-gen Ryzen 7000 processors will not offer DDR4 support at all, which means that Team Red enthusiasts will need to splurge on some of the best DDR5 RAM instead of sticking to DDR4. Both Intel Alder Lake and Intel Raptor Lake let you choose between DDR4 and DDR5, but clearly, using DDR5 might be a good way to make the most of your new CPU.

Intel Raptor Lake is reported to launch soon, with a rumored October release date, alongside a slew of other next-gen releases from AMD and Nvidia.

Editors’ Choice






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Computing

Why the M2 MacBook Air is easily worth the $200 upgrade

The new M2 MacBook Air isn’t yet available to purchase, but you’ve probably already heard the chorus of opinions about why the older M1 MacBook Air is a better purchase.

“It’s fast enough for most people,” they will say. “Why would you need anything more?”

And as fair as those statements are, the reality of just how good this new M2 MacBook Air appears to be has been drowned out. There is certainly a demographic for the older model, but people are getting hung up on the branding more than the laptop itself.

The MacBook ‘Air’

Price is often quoted as the M2 MacBook Air’s biggest problem. At $1,199, it’s $200 more expensive than the M1 MacBook Air — and probably even more considering how often the M1 is on sale. That knee-jerk reaction is understandable, especially since we’re used to products in the same line replacing the previous models at no extra charge.

But the M2 MacBook Air is far from just a yearly upgrade over the previous model. It’s a complete reboot of the MacBook Air, especially in how it looks and feels. The chnages may not be as drastic as some of the leaks were saying before the announcement — but even as is, it shares very little in common with the M1 MacBook Air. You might even say that it doesn’t make much sense to even call it a “MacBook Air.”

I’m not about to say Apple hasn’t made a bit of a disaster of its MacBook line. Having three distinct products within $300 of each other is very strange, especially when all three seem to be targeting a similar demographic. It’s the main reason so many people are writing off the M2 MacBook Air.

But get beyond the name for a moment, and you’ll see there’s a lot more on offer here than just a standard update.

It’s beyond time for an upgrade

The gold MacBook Air M1's logo and keyboard.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As I said, the M1 MacBook Air is beloved for its value proposition. But when you consider the physical laptop itself, it’s not exactly looker. It comes from a different era of Mac design. The chassis itself hails from 2018, known then as the Retina MacBook Air. At the time, it was an enormous leap ahead from the iconic MacBook Airs that it succeeded. The thinness of the chassis was staggering, as were the shrunken bezels and move to USB-C.

In 2022, it’s quite the opposite. It looks downright old school compared to the new M2 MacBook Air. The new Air drops the thickness to just 0.44 inches thick, which is among the thinnest laptops you can buy. And though I haven’t handled the device myself just yet, I won’t be surprised to find that it has excellent build quality despite its size.

The MacBook Air also fixes the thick bezels, which gives you a sleeker look but also a slightly larger screen. It measures 13.6 inches diagonally, giving you more usable screen space for whatever you’re doing. That comes with a notch, yes, but it’s a fair trade-off in my book.

Of course, the M2 MacBook Air also ditches the wedge shape of the old Air. Given how many laptops have copied the wedge look over the years, it’s become a bit stale. The flat, ultrathin design of the M2 MacBook Air trades that for something simpler and more modern.

It’s more than just the industrial design though. The new model also upgrades the screen, the speakers, and the webcam — bringing them up to par with what we expect out of modern Apple products. Those things alone are worth the $200 in my view, especially if you spend a lot of time on video calls.

A new era for Mac design

The M2 MacBook Air sitting on a desk.

But most importantly, this design is actually built around the efficiency benefits of the M1 and M2 chips. In that sense, it really is the first MacBook Air to take advantage of the extreme efficiency of Apple Silicon. That’s what allows it to be this thin, remain fanless, and not give up any of the performance.

A similar thing happened with the 24-inch iMac when it was redesigned in 2021. By using a more efficient, mobile-style chip (and a far smaller logic board), Apple was able to completely reimagine the design and internal structure of that product. With the iMac, Apple went as far as nestling the entirety of the “computer” into the bottom chin of the display. Like the design or not, it’s the M1 that allowed Apple to try something new with the design and make the device considerably slimmer.

The M2 MacBook Air is no different, and it’ll likely become the basis for the MacBook Airs of the next few years. The M2 might not end up being that big of a performance upgrade over the M1, but it doesn’t really need to be. As many people have stated (including myself), the M1 was more than enough performance for the target audience of this laptop.

But having a design that actually makes use of that chip? That’s what the new MacBook Air is all about — and it’s what makes it an intriguing alternative to the M1 MacBook Air. I’ll know for sure once I review it myself, but for now, I know which of the MacBooks in this price range I’d pick.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

3 Touchscreen Laptop Black Friday Deals Worth It from $149

If you’ve been paying attention, there are a lot of items on sale right now, which means there’s almost too much to sift through, especially if you’re looking for touchscreen laptop Black Friday deals, specifically. Some of the best Black Friday deals and Black Friday laptop deals include workstations, gaming laptops, Chromebooks, and so much more, but we’ve noticed there are very few touchscreen laptops in there. To make things a little easier, and to help you find the best deals, we’ve compiled some excellent touchscreen Black Friday laptop deals below! Keep reading to check those out, and more!

Today’s best touchscreen laptop Black Friday deals

Acer Chromebook Spin 311 — $149, was $300

Why buy:

  • Use it as a traditional laptop or a tablet, you decide
  • Damage-resistant antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass touchscreen
  • Super lightweight at just 2.2-pounds
  • Offers up to 15 hours of battery life on a single charge

Also featured in the best Black Friday Chromebook deals, this hefty discount on the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is shockingly good! Chromebooks are excellent for students, creatives, and writers. They’re also fantastic for browsing the web, social media, doing light productivity tasks, and more. The Spin has a convertible-style hinge which means you can fold the keyboard back and use it as a tablet, or stand it up to watch videos. You can also use it as a regular laptop, of course. Boot times are super fast thanks to the Chrome OS, not to mention you don’t need much internal storage thanks to Google’s services like Drive. This laptop does have 32GB of eMMC storage!

Normally $300, Walmart is offering an awesome deal on the Acer Chromebook Spin 311, at $149 with free shipping! Act soon, this deal won’t be live for long.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4  — $700, was $900

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 on a white background.

Why buy:

  • Same Microsoft Surface, traditional laptop design
  • Powered by AMD Ryzen 5 and AMD Radeon graphics
  • Windows 10 Home with a free upgrade to Windows 11
  • 128GB solid-state drive offers plenty of local storage

We can’t mention touchscreen laptops without including the Surface Laptop 4 Black Friday offer! While it borrows the traditional laptop design — unlike its Surface tablet brethren — the Surface Laptop 4 includes similar aesthetics overall. It’s also super sleek and lightweight, perfect for portability, yet still packs a lot of power inside the chassis. This particular model is powered by the AMD Ryzen 5, AMD Radeon graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. The 13.5-inch touchscreen display supports a native resolution of 2256 x 1504. You’ll also get up to 19 hours of battery life on a single charge, depending on what you’re doing.

Best Buy has knocked $200 off the normal price of the Surface Laptop 4 — normally $900 — so it’s yours for $700 with free shipping. Don’t forget, you can also finance your purchase with payments as low as $39 per month. Either way, don’t sleep on this deal!

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Laptop — $1,000, was $1,520

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop demonstrating tablet functionality.

Why buy:

  • A 2-in-1 made of premium materials
  • Windows 11 Home already installed
  • 11th Gen Intel Core i5, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and 512GB solid-state drive
  • Beautiful FHD+ 13.4-inch touchscreen display

You can have the best of both worlds with this Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Black Friday deal. Thanks to convertible hinges, it swaps effortlessly between a traditional laptop, with a keyboard, and a tablet-style device. Employing the same gorgeous and premium design as Dell’s other XPS model laptops, this durable yet lightweight system can take almost anything you throw at it. Inside is an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor running at clock speeds up to 4.2GHz, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and Intel Iris Xe graphics. The 512GB solid-state drive offers double the storage of comparable models, so you won’t run out of space anytime soon. Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 and Bluetooth 5.1 are also onboard.

Dell has shed $520 off the normal price of the XPS 13 2-in-1, which would otherwise be $1,520. For Black Friday, it is marked down by over one-third to just $1,000 including free shipping, and that’s express delivery so it should get here within the next week or so —  until it’s all sold out, anyway!

Should you shop these touchscreen laptop Black Friday deals or wait until Cyber Monday?

Depending on which model you choose, and which retailer is offering the deal, you’re not going to have long before the deal is over, or the touchscreen laptop is out of stock! The microchip shortage, additional supply chain issues, and high demand are having quite an impact on the market this year. If you see a deal you’re interested in, or you’ve been waiting for great prices, now’s the time! Don’t wait, because these will be over before you know it.

Not to mention, if you’re worried about buying too early, and then coming across a cheaper deal later, don’t be! Retailers like Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, and more, have extended the holiday returns window so you have plenty of time to return your purchase. You can always return and re-buy, or get a refund for the price difference if these prices do go even lower later, but that’s not likely!

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.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Microsoft Sending Out Free Gift Cards Worth up to $100 Each

Microsoft is getting into the holiday mood by sending out tens of thousands of virtual gift cards worth up to $100 each.

Recipients of the free gift are being selected at random, so if you have a Microsoft account then be sure to check your inbox (and junk folder!) to find out if you’re one of the lucky ones.

The gift card can be redeemed in the online Microsoft Store through December 31, 2021 and must be spent within 90 days of redemption.

Confirming the giveaway, a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge: “To help spread holiday cheer, Microsoft Store has surprised a total of 50,000 U.S. customers with virtual gift cards via email. 25,000 customers will receive a $100 Microsoft Gift Card while 25,000 others will receive a $10 Microsoft Gift Card ahead of this holiday season.”

Reports of Microsoft sending out virtual gift cards started to land on social media earlier this week. Naturally, some recipients wondered if it might be a scammer posing as the tech giant, but the giveaway is real (having said that, be sure to proceed carefully with an email purporting to come from Microsoft or any company that’s claiming to offer a free gift).

The Microsoft Store offers a range of goodies, including deals on Xbox gear, Surface tablets, and PCs.

You can put your voucher toward a pricey item, but if you’ve received the $100 voucher then there’s plenty of tech accessories you can get for “free.” A cursory look through the store shows, for example, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ earbuds on sale for $100, down from $150.

If you’ve checked your email and haven’t received a gift card from Microsoft, guess that leaves you having to spend your own hard-earned cash this holiday season. In that case, check out Digital Trends’ handy guide on the best tech deals currently available.

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Game

Can this PlayStation 5 controller really be worth $200?

As it is, game controllers are expensive. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all charging a pretty penny for PS5, Xbox Series X, and Switch controllers to start, but beyond those base-level controllers, manufacturers are making even more expensive ones. We’ve seen Microsoft do that with its $180 Xbox Elite Controller, but now it looks like that expensive gamepad has an alternative on PlayStation 5 in the HexGaming Ultimate Controller – and it costs even more.

Customization for a staggering price

HexGaming today announced its new Ultimate Controller for PS5, which looks more or less like a regular PS5 DualSense with some important differences. For starters, HexGaming says that the Ultimate Controller comes with six interchangeable thumbsticks – two concave thumbsticks at standard height, two domed thumbsticks at medium height, and two long thumbsticks with one domed grip and one concave grip. The idea behind the taller thumbsticks, it seems, is to give players better accuracy with less thumbstick travel time.

Similar to the Xbox Elite Controller, the HexGaming Ultimate also features four back buttons, though here they seem to be placed on the body of the controller. Players can map many of the existing buttons (everything but thumbstick directions) to those back buttons, ultimately allowing them to keep their thumbs on the sticks as they activate specific actions with the rear buttons instead of those on the face.

The controller supports wired and wireless play, and though there’s a pre-built model available from Amazon for $199, PS5 users can also customize the controller further on HexGaming’s website. Customization primarily includes different color options for the faceplates, buttons, thumbsticks, and triggers, though buyers can also opt for rubberized grips on the back of the controller.

While the number of options is indeed impressive, each customization adds to the price a little bit. Adding customizations to every aspect of the controller I could, I managed to create a gamepad that cost a whopping $299.99 – as much as Nintendo Switch or Xbox Series S and only $100 less than a PS5 Digital Edition.

Is the HexGaming Ultimate worth the price?

Whether or not the HexGaming Ultimate is worth the price is up to each individual PS5 owner. As someone has undoubtedly said in the past: value is in the eye of the beholder. While a $200 controller certainly has the sticker shock aspect to it – and it is costly – HexGaming positions this as a controller for esports. If you’re a competitive gamer, it’s possible that things like the rubberized grips and taller thumbsticks could give you an advantage in play.

The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 is similarly priced, and I happen to think that’s one of the best controllers ever made (though you can often find the Elite Controller for less than $180). Still, the HexGaming Ultimate is even more expensive than the Elite Series 2, and if you’re customizing your controller, you can quickly get into the realm of console pricing.

For most people, this is probably too expensive to consider. However, it could be worth the purchase price for those who might only play competitive games and care about getting every edge they can. For the rest of us, we should probably just stick with our $70 controllers for now.

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Computing

A Truckload’s Worth of EVGA GPUs Stolen in GTA-Style Heist

EVGA has been hit by a heist that’s worthy of the silver screen. In a scene ripped straight from Heat or your favorite version of Grand Theft Auto, robbers intercepted a truck carrying a shipment of EVGA RTX 30-series graphics cards and made off with them. The company hasn’t said how many cards were stolen, though it says they range anywhere from $330 to $1,959 in value.

EVGA product manager Jacob Freeman shared the news on the EVGA forums. Although Freeman didn’t share the exact models that were stolen, the list prices show that some RTX 3060 and RTX 3090 models were among those stolen. There’s no telling how much value the total stolen shipment represents, but with some cards selling for nearly $2,000 a piece, it’s probably high.

The heist took place on October 29 while a shipment of EVGA graphics cards was being transported from San Francisco to EVGA’sSouthern California distribution center. It’s not clear now if a single person carried out the heist or if it was a group.

Freeman took time to remind the forum that it’s illegal to buy or receive stolen property under California law, and said that EVGA won’t honor any warranties or upgrade claims on the stolen cards. This is an important note to keep in mind if you’re shopping on the secondhand market. If you can’t register your graphics card with EVGA, there’s a chance it came from the stolen shipment.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about GPU heists. In June, a thief in China managed to walk out of an internet café with $8,000 worth of stolen graphics cards. And in April, Hong Kong authorities intercepted a boat smuggling somewhere in the range of 300 GPUs out of China.

It’s no secret that GPUs have been hard to find over the past year. The GPU shortage has made it difficult for retailers to keep cards in stock, and with promising prospects on the secondhand market, scalpers have continued to capitalize on demand. An EVGA RTX 3090 sells for around $3,000 on eBay, so it’s no surprise that GPUs have become a high-value target.

EVGA has set up the stopRTX30theft@evga.com email address for people to share any information related to the heist. If you happen upon a stolen card while shopping, we recommend notifying EVGA and the platform you bought the card on.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Is Call of Duty: Warzone Still Worth Playing in 2021?

Call of Duty: Warzone was destined for success. After all, Call of Duty is arguably the most popular first-person shooter series of all time, so a free-to-play battle royale mashup only made sense. It takes the familiar gameplay we all know and love and ups the ante in almost every way — sending players into a complex, yet satisfying battle of survival.

Since its launch in March 2020, Warzone has evolved and gone through a hefty number of changes — most of which are for the better. But over a year later, how does Warzone stack up? Is it worth playing in 2021? Here’s what it’s like to hop into the shooter today.

A major barrier to entry

On the surface, Warzone seems like a run-of-the-mill shooter. You run around, shoot some bad buys, and pick up loot along the way. Sounds simple, right?

Not quite. If you want to pull off a victory and be the last person (or squad) standing, you have to know the ins and outs of the game. And even still, the odds aren’t in your favor. As someone who has been playing Call of Duty for nearly 15 years, even I struggle competing against other players. So, it’s tough to imagine a new player jumping in for the first time. Sure, the skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) should work to pair newcomers against other players of a similar skill bracket, but that isn’t always the case.

In Warzone, players have to pay attention to several things. For instance, weapons are a major factor that determine performance throughout any given match. Currently, there are over 80 primary weapons with dozens of attachments for each — it’s overwhelming to know which to pick. To make matters more complicated, the weapons and attachments are updated frequently, adding another wrinkle into the mix.

Aside from that, players have to manage perks, equipment, and in-game settings — and these are all things that happen before jumping into a match. You can spend hours tinkering away in the menus to make sure everything is perfect, only to die a few minutes into a match. All of these nuances become second nature with time, but it’s easy to see why Warzone would feel daunting for newcomers to get into without someone showing them the ropes.

The complexities don’t let up once a match starts. You have to know the map layout (including the best routes to get in and out of buildings), how to manage money in-game, smart rotation tactics, and little strategies that veterans have picked up over time. For example, did you know you can plop a trophy system onto the hood of a vehicle to negate explosive damage?

But once it clicks …

Operator using the OTs SMG in Warzone.

Despite the complexity, it hasn’t stopped so many people from getting invested in Warzone — and there’s a good reason for that. Once everything clicks and you know how to play, Warzone becomes one of the most satisfying experiences out there. The rush of making an effective callout, outplaying another team, and escaping from the deadly gas is unrivaled, and it’s those little moments that make it worth playing.

Although Warzone only has two maps, it rarely ever gets old. Chasing the win, experimenting with new class setups, and striving to improve are all driving forces that keep players coming back. Since the weapons have so many nuances and feel different from one another, there’s a variety of ways to play a round. In one match, you could aim to be more aggressive with a more run and gun approach, while in the next game you could sit back and snipe enemies from afar. There’s so much versatility in the way you can play and approach situations. Even when things don’t work out the way you had hoped, the experience is often satisfying.

How's this for an entrance? #Warzone pic.twitter.com/0XddHeFcaU

— Joseph Yaden (@JosephYaden) May 3, 2021

The feeling of executing a well-planned strategy is enough to stomp out most of the game’s flaws — which is saying something, considering just how flawed Warzone is. The tight controls, fluid movement, and everything about the way it feels are unlike anything else. Even the weapons all have their own weights, sounds, and little quirks that make them feel distinct.

For instance, try using the Milano 821 SMG and you might notice its “open-bolt delay,” which basically means there’s around a 40ms delay from when you pull the trigger and when the bullet actually comes out. Or if you use the Royal & Kross 4x optic on the FARA 83, it greatly improves the weapon’s recoil. These quirks might not always be beneficial, but it helps distinguish the weapons from one another.

Above all else, Warzone is simply a blast to play — even when things aren’t going as planned.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the recent improvements to the game. Toward the beginning of 2021, Warzone was in rough shape. On top of a rampant cheating problem (I’ll get to that in a moment), the meta was awful. Only five or so weapons were even worth using and one in particular — the DMR 14 — plagued the entire game for months due to how overpowered it was.

Since March 2021, developer Raven and company have stepped up their game. The studios successfully rebalanced many of the weapons, including detailed patch notes alongside each update. The amount of progress the game has made in the last few months is promising, but there’s a lot more to do for Warzone to reach its full potential.

Cheaters everywhere

Operator holding handgun from Warzone season 2.

It’s hard to believe so many players are able to cheat one of the most successful battle royale games of all time. But it’s true — Warzone is notorious for its cheating problem. Players will use third-party software to see enemies through walls or “aimbots” to instantly lock onto their opponents’ heads. Oftentimes, it’s fairly obvious when this happens, as you can watch your untimely death back on the killcam. Other times, it’s not so apparent.

It’s not uncommon to run into several cheaters each game session, making it hard to justify playing Warzone again. The problem is so bad that players question every single death that happens — asking if the person who killed them is, in fact, using external software to gain an unfair advantage. It can take the fun out of the experience.

Twitter user Adis Bak shared a clip showing how egregious the problem can be. You can see Bak get shot from across the map through a building, resulting in one of the most extreme examples of cheating. Granted, it’s not always this obvious, but it’s a real example of what could happen.

GG´s @RavenSoftware yesterday 4 cheaters and today 8 ???? I stream Warzone for year and half and I never seen anything like this. Warzone is in bad state for now so do something because Czech community is losing patience ???? pic.twitter.com/mM721kQOpp

— Adis Bak (@adisbakofficial) July 8, 2021

And what has Raven Software done to mitigate this? Well, it has banned over half a million accounts to date.

Banned over 30,000 malicious accounts across Call of Duty yesterday… bringing us to over half a million accounts banned in #Warzone. ????

— Raven Software (@RavenSoftware) May 14, 2021

On the surface, that might seem like the best course of action, but it hasn’t made much of a dent in the overall problem. Since Warzone is a free-to-play game, players simply make new accounts. Cheaters have means of unlocking all the weapons and their attachments right away, so the cheating persists. That’s why the actual problem needs to be addressed; simply banning accounts does nothing long-term.

It has gotten to the point where some players cheat just to combat the other cheaters. Whether or not that is morally correct, the fact that players feel the need to cheat just to keep up shows how out of hand the overall situation is. Other battle royale games are much better about implementing strong anti-cheat software, so it’s confusing that Raven and Activision can’t do the same with Warzone. As of April 2021, the game reached over 100 million players. Surely the game has generated enough revenue to invest in keeping the game cheat-free, right?

After all that, you’d still recommend Warzone?

Well, sort of. The issues certainly need to be addressed, but it says a lot about the game that even with its cheaters, overall difficulty, and lack of accessibility to newcomers, it’s still hard to put down. Those little moments almost make up for all of the terrible things that come with the game — not to mention the toxic community members that’ll call you every name under the sun when you eliminate them from the match.

So, is Call of Duty: Warzone worth playing in 2021? If you’re a newcomer jumping into it for the first time, it’s tough to recommend unless you have a semi-experienced person to play with. Raven needs to implement a more beginner-friendly tutorial or rundown of all the intricacies to keep from scaring potential players away. Once you know how everything works, it’s easy to get sucked in, but I worry that it’s overcomplicated for new players.

If you want to give it a try, I highly recommend starting on Rebirth Island instead of Verdansk. Rebirth Resurgence has far fewer cheaters and lasts only 15 minutes compared to the nearly half-hour matches on Verdansk. Rebirth gets to the action quicker and still gives you those memorable, share-worthy moments. Until the cheating problem gets addressed, we can’t recommend playing on Verdansk.

Having to put so many caveats around the recommendation is rough, but if Warzone’s biggest problems are addressed, it could end up being one of the best first-person shooters of all time.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Do Red Dead Online’s Changes Make It Worth Playing In 2021?

Since launching in 2018 alongside Red Dead Redemption 2, Red Dead Online has felt like the outcast in Rockstar’s family. It doesn’t get nearly as much attention as GTA Online, nor does it receive the same type of content drops, and its player base certainly isn’t as large. But with a new update coming for the game that will add more content for every player, it’s worth wondering if now is a good time to finally get into Red Dead Online.

If you’re an old returning player (like I often am), Red Dead Online has pretty much never been better. The game has received updates that, although sparse, have added more content. Beyond simple story missions, you can pick up various roles that add more depth to Red Dead Online‘s five states. Three other Telegram Missions have also been added, with the promise that more are on the way. Red Dead Online has even gotten more matchmaking content, although it’s still nowhere near as thrilling as GTA Online‘s stunt races.

Roles and gold

For new players, the story’s a bit different. Red Dead Online‘s early game isn’t nearly as exciting as GTA Online‘s. In GTA Online, you can still steal a plane, drive a fast car, or participate in small-scale robberies. Red Dead Online‘s early game is tethered to its story missions, which are pretty lackluster and bare-bones. Worst of all, they don’t get you much money.

Making money in Red Dead Online‘s current state requires two things: Time and gold bars. The latter is the game’s premium currency, which players can slowly build up by completing challenges every day or finding treasure marked on treasure maps. You don’t earn full gold bars at a time, though, with gold nuggets, or 0.1 gold bars, being paid out. That makes the process of earning enough to buy your way into Red Dead Online‘s interesting and moneymaking content a bit of a slog.

Most of Red Dead Online‘s content is found in its roles, which have players take on various professions around the West. However, even these jobs are a mixed bag, with some receiving updates from Rockstar and others remaining unchanged from their release. The most interesting role by far is the bounty hunter, which lets players tackle some of the game’s more interesting PvE missions. The bounty hunter role is so popular that Rockstar added an extra 10 ranks to the role, along with some extra legendary bounties.

Outside of bounty hunting, players can be a trader, which revolves around hunting, a naturalist or nature watcher, a collector who scans the West with a metal detector, or a moonshiner, which is one of the slowest roles in the game to make money with. It may seem like I’m saying these roles are all pretty boring, but they’re not. They all have their upsides and their downsides, but each makes the game more interesting than it would be without them.

Blood Money update

Now, a ton of new content is heading to Red Dead Online with its upcoming Blood Money update. On July 13, players will be able to start working in organized crime, just with an Old West twist. It’s not clear what players can expect in terms of a payout from this role yet, but if Blood Money is full of free, PvE content, it’s sure to be a great addition to the game.

Red Dead Online hasn’t really gained any footing since its release, but with Blood Money arriving soon, it feels like 2021 might be the year that all changes. The game still needs a lot more content to be a competent live-service game, but at this point, things are looking up for Rockstar’s black sheep.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Sable Hands-On: A Vast, Striking Desert Worth Exploring

If I had to describe Sable with one phrase, I’d pick “golden hour.” The game feels like that time between evening and night where the world is on fire, lit by the setting sun. The colorful new perspectives that come from its day/night system and its incredibly unique visual style make the entire world feel new every time the sun rises.

Sable positively teems with its own personality, constantly beckoning you toward something fresh in a world you want to explore. Developed by Shedworks and published by Raw Fury, Sable is one of eight unique titles featured at the first-ever Tribeca Games event at the Tribeca Film Festival. In my hour-long hands-on demo with the game, I learned quite a bit about what makes this unique exploration game tick.

A classic tale

Sable is, first and foremost, a coming-of-age story. After a short loading sequence, I stepped into the shoes of titular character Sable and was tasked with guiding her back to the nearby camp of the Ibex clan. Soon after arriving, I learned that Sable is about to embark on her first Gliding, an event that involves traversing her home planet’s environment on a fast, smooth-riding hoverbike. The Gliding is considered a necessary adventure for people her age and many other clan members talked about their own experiences with it.

Throughout this process, which involved simple dialogue choices and a little bit of exploration throughout the Ibex camp, I witnessed the game’s striking visual style first-hand. The flat, low-poly shading style contrasts sharply with the thin black lines that define most people and structures; when the sun rises or sets on the game’s desert world, everything moves into shade and changes color dramatically. It’s quite beautiful, if a little busy sometimes.

As I began exploring around the camp in an attempt to receive a goddess-borne blessing and find parts to build my own Gliding bike, it struck me just how peaceful everything was. There are no enemies or battles, just quest objectives and conversations. It felt like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild without enemies or Minecraft on Peaceful mode. When the focus on combat is removed, the environment and exploration become characters just as much as Sable and her clanmates. While making my way through this environment was a bit of a chore, particularly before I had access to a bike — the Breath of the Wild-like stamina system depletes too quickly, and Sable’s running speed is extremely slow — the world’s mix of nomadic clan life and technology made me want to see more.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to run for long. Hoverbikes are Sable’s main mode of transportation, and I got to ride one about 10 minutes into my demo. Movement was sharp and responsive side to side, and the bike’s sidle ability makes it easy to steer around the canyons and tall rocks of the Ibex camp, but it lacked the sort of forward speed that I expected. (Maybe it’s because the bike I was given was a bit of an old clunker.) After receiving the bike, I completed a few quests with it, solving simple puzzles to find the pieces for my own new bike.

What’s old is new

One of Sable’s main themes seems to be finding new ways to use old things. In a similar way, I can see that pieces of influence from other mediums have been sewn together to make something entirely new. The quest and navigation systems very much reminded me of Breath of the Wild, while the dialogue choices and narrative tone are more reminiscent of mythology and old stories. Over the course of the demo, I found myself becoming very interested in Sable’s machines-and-gods ideology — the beginning of the game implies that there are plenty of mysteries and secrets for an enterprising player to uncover.

The game is also full of small touches that make a big difference. There’s no fall damage and no penalty for clipping a canyon wall with your bike (which I did more than once). The gentle soundtrack varies based on your location and activity. It all adds to the game’s serene, almost dreamy atmosphere.

Sable watches the sunset from a perch.

That being said, I did have a few issues during my time in the Ibexii camp. Mantling and climbing objects can be cumbersome, especially if they’re high off the ground. Poor Sable got stuck inside of rocks once or twice. While the demo’s activities were diverse — collecting hoverbike parts, capturing beetles for a fellow camp resident, and so on — I felt as though the game was deliberately stretching out the experience through unnecessary quests.

One of the first items I received in the game was a compass, which functions as your quest marker hub. The compass is later upgraded with a navigator feature, which allowed me to place my own waypoints in addition to those the game provided. While I liked the idea, placing your own waypoints is annoying, thanks to an unwieldy selection system. I’d rather just write down landmarks that I need to visit — or better yet, just have the game give me waypoints.

More to explore

My demo, which lasted a little over an hour, ended just as I constructed the bike that Sable will use for her Gliding. With the help of Sizo, a Machinist who specializes in working with the parts found all over the game’s world, Sable built her bike and listened for it to tell her its name, a sacred act that connects man and machine. (I won’t spoil the name here.) A dramatic zoom-out and more of the game’s beautiful music accompanied my journey back to the title screen.

Sable certainly looks and moves like nothing else out there. The game’s beautiful day/night system, intricate details, and hybrid natural-mechanical environment draw you in and make you want to see more, as does its unique narrative. If some of the smaller kinks can be ironed out, Sable will be an exploration that shouldn’t be missed.

Sable launches on September 23 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One/Series S/X. A demo is available now on Xbox and Steam.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

The Copernicus Mini Drone slices through the air — and you decide whether a camera is worth it

TLDR: The Copernicus Mini Drone doesn’t just come with a load of abilities. It even lets you choose the type of camera you’ll be rocking on board.

Have you seen the new video chronicling the final minutes of a drone before it’s swallowed by lava gushing out of a Icelandic volcano? Beyond watching the majestic power of lava gurgle and surge before snaring the poor drone in its deathgrip, it’s easy to forget that a shot like this wouldn’t even have been safely possible just a few years ago.

Drones and those powerful cameras they carry skyward are capable of capturing everything from truly awe-inspiring shoots all the way to the simple and mundane.

Of course, not everybody is a Terrence Malick in the making, so whether you’re interested in filming gorgeous panoramic vistas or you just want to shut up and fly, you can pick the variety of Copernicus Mini Drone that best suits your needs. As part of TNW Deals’ Father’s Day Sale, the Copernicus is available now, starting at just $29.56.

Before you even consider the camera possibilities, it’s good to know the Copernicus is fundamentally a rock-solid flying drone at heart.

With one-touch takeoff and landing capabilities, this craft is easy to get in the air. Measuring less than 5 inches across and light as a feather, the Copernicus folds up for easy storage. But as soon as its wings are opened, it’s ready to fly.

The craft can be controlled via a companion app, which connects to the included controller to offer easy flying almost immediately. The Copernicus has some cool features you won’t find in any more expensive drones, including an air pressure fixed altitude hover that accurately locks in the altitude and flight position to serve up the most stable video shot possible.  

There’s also a gravity sensor to help control the drone yourself without any shaking. 

As for the images…well, that’s where you make the decision. Each pilot can decide the camera equipment that works best for them, ranging from the baseline drone with no camera, to a cam with 480p resolution, a 1080p full HD quality version, or one rocking an ultra-sharp 4K camera that can spot the detail in almost anything, even from high in the sky.

But regardless of which model you want, all versions of the Copernicus Mini Drone are on sale now by using the code WELOVEDAD during checkout. That cuts the price of the drone with no camera to $29.56, the 480p Copernicus drone at $42.36, the 1080p for $47.96, or the brilliant 4K model for only $59.96.

Prices are subject to change.

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