Maximum PC - Reviews en Oculus VR Rumored to be Creating its Own VR Motion Controllers <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/oculus_rift_with_camera.jpg" alt="Oculus Rift" title="Oculus Rift" width="200" height="133" style="float: right;" />Competition for third-party developers?</h3> <p>Many third-party manufacturers are researching and developing motion control devices for the Oculus Rift such as the <a title="MPC treadmill slide" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Virtuix </span><span style="color: #ff0000;"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Omni</span> treadmill</span></a> and <a title="MPC PrioVR Suit Slide" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">PrioVR suit</span></a>. However, according to <a title="CNET" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">CNET</span></a>, <strong>Oculus VR is making its own VR motion controllers</strong>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The tech website claims that that Oculus VR has been developing its own motion controllers that will work in tandem with the Rift and allow users to manipulate objects in game with hand and body movements. In addition, the device will supposedly use the Rift’s camera to track the position of a player’s hands. It’s a concept that Sony’s own Project Morpheus will be doing through the utilization of the PlayStation Move controller and PlayStation Camera.</p> <p>However, there are no details about how much the unnamed motion controllers will cost, when it will be made available to consumers, or when Oculus VR will announce it. In the meantime, the developer has begun to ship out the final version of the development kit and even announced that it will be hosting its first development conference.</p> <p>Maximum PC editor Jimmy Thang, back in January at CES, bemoaned the fact that he couldn't see his hands while checking out the Crystal Cove prototype. When Jimmy pointed this out, at the 1:40 mark, the representative replied, "We'll get them there. Just give us time."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="600" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> Hardware Oculus motion controllers oculus rift oculus vr Oculus VR motion controllers News Thu, 17 Jul 2014 21:03:41 +0000 Sean D Knight 28189 at Nvidia Supposedly Working on New PC-Streaming Device <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/nvidia_geforce_logo.jpg" alt="Nvidia GeForce logo" title="Nvidia GeForce logo" width="200" height="193" style="float: right;" />Another contender for the living room</h3> <p>Looks like Nvidia isn’t done trying to get into the living room. According to the <a title="BBC News" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">BBC</span></a>, <strong>Nvidia is developing a new device that will play PC games</strong> on televisions, making use of the developer’s GeForce Experience software. It will also run Android software and, BBC reports, will have a “budget-priced separate controller.”</p> <p>Purported to be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra K1 chip, the unnamed device boasts a 192-core GPU and was shown last month running a demo of the Unreal Engine 4 on the Android L mobile operating system. While it will run Android games natively, it is also rumored to have the ability to stream PC games via Nvidia’s GeForce Experience. However, if the device makes use of the software, then it would be restricted to the company’s more recent cards.&nbsp;</p> <p>Aside from the additional cost of purchasing a new GPU to take full advantage of the device, it would also be in contention with Valve’s own in-home streaming service. Not to mention that it would go up against Valve's Steam Machine which has been pushed <a title="Steam Machine delay" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">back to 2015</span></a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>For now, Nvidia has declined to confirm the existence of the new device.&nbsp;</p> <p>Could this device be a sequel to the Nvidia Shield, which hasn’t been very successful, or will this be a brand new product?</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> geforce experience Hardware nvidia Nvidia gaming device shield Gaming News Tue, 15 Jul 2014 23:59:58 +0000 Sean D Knight 28172 at Origin PC Genesis Overview (Video) <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/origin_pc_genesis_2.png" alt="origin pc genesis" title="origin pc genesis" width="250" height="161" style="float: right;" />Check out video footage of this cool, revolutionary chassis</h3> <p>In this video, Gordon walks you through Origin PC’s Genesis. The Genesis features the company’s custom designed and modular chassis that lets the builder add a bottom slice with additional radiators or hard drives as well as the capability to mount the motherboard tray in four orientations including reversing the tray and window. It’s truly a unique and dare we say it—revolutionary approach to case design. And yes, just like custom systems from other vendors, you can get the case—you just have to buy entire system and gut the parts. The case isn’t quite perfect though so Gordon walks you through what works and what doesn't. And no, despite what Gordon seems to imply, you can’t actually change the orientation of the motherboard willy nilly. That’s done when you order the machine and when it’s being built.</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> chassis genesis gordon ung Hardware maximum pc millenium origin pc overview Review Specs video News Reviews Features Fri, 27 Jun 2014 17:50:04 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28079 at Tropico 5 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/tropico_5_header.jpg" alt="Tropico 5 Review Header" title="Tropico 5 Review Header" width="200" height="116" style="float: right;" />A familiar experience, but still fun</h3> <p>When it comes to creating the greatest island nation in the world, we will stop at nothing to achieve this. What we can’t understand is why our denizens never seem to appreciate the measures we take to achieve this goal. Sure, child labor doesn't sound like the greatest thing in the world, but when jobs need filling, what are you going to do? After all, it is for the betterment and advancement of Tropico!</p> <p>Despite our citizens’ ire, we still found it satisfying to step into the shoes of El Presidente once again and experience the game’s humorous approach to the simulation genre. Whether it was our advisors, well, advising us or foreign diplomats’ various demands, all of it is wrapped up in a very humorous package. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/tropico_5_001.jpg" alt="Tropico 5 001" title="Tropico 5 001" width="620" height="388" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Crown doesn't give us much to work with.</strong></p> <p>Aside from the humor, the game looks great. It still features the bright, vibrant colors of previous installments and the graphics are a step up. The water affects are good and you can zoom in and view little details on the buildings. However, character creation is lacking and is a step back from the previous game. There are nowhere near as many aesthetic choices for creating our avatar as we remembered from Tropico 4 (pre-DLC). And the music? It is just as lively and energetic as the other games, and makes us went to get up and dance.</p> <p>But while we are disappointed with character customization, the new Dynasty feature partially makes up for it. As we progressed, opportunities were provided to add new family members. However, because of the limited options, we were often dissatisfied with how our offspring looked (we blame it all on the other side of the family). Despite that, having family members means there are new quests to undertake. While the Quest system itself is unchanged, there are some new tasks that can be undertaken. For example, we had one family member successfully kidnap the Pope because he wasn’t talking to us. And if there is one thing we don’t like, it's being ignored.&nbsp;</p> <p>Those who are familiar with the franchise shouldn’t have too much trouble jumping right into the game. Construction is mostly the same as before, but thankfully it has been streamlined. We no longer found ourselves yelling at the construction workers to get back to work like we did in Tropico 4. For newcomers to the franchise, Tropico 5 is a simple game with a lot going in addition to construction, there is trading, politics both foreign and domestic, and the temptations of power you have as El Presidente.&nbsp;</p> <p>Don’t like someone’s opinion of you? For a price you can banish them, have them killed, discredit them, or have them jailed.&nbsp;</p> <p>Guess which option we kept using?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/tropico_5_002.jpg" alt="Tropico 5 002" title="Tropico 5 002" width="620" height="388" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Having gained our independence, Tropico is thriving!</strong></p> <p>A new feature of the game is the division of time into four different eras. Rather than start off during the Cold War era, we found ourselves in the colonial era as the governor of Tropico under the rule of the British crown. Unlike the following three eras, we were given a period of four years to gain our island’s independence by either fending off a British invasion or simply buying our independence once we got popular support above 50 percent. When we finally freed ourselves from the British crown, we were able to do whatever we wanted so long as we didn’t upset the superpowers throughout the rest of the eras. Suffice to say, we found ourselves doing a balancing act between the Axis and Allies during the World War II era, the United States and Russia during the Cold War era, and the Modern era saw us currying favors from the U.S., Russia, China, European Union, and the Middle East so that we could receive better financial aid, have access to more trading routes, and keep them happy enough so that we wouldn’t be invaded.</p> <p>As for the invasions themselves, while Tropico has combat, players are reduced to the role of an observer. Like previous installments, combat is directed by the AI. We faced attacks from pirates, foreign powers, and even rebels and all the time we wished we could control them and direct them towards the enemy. Still, it was fun to watch as our soldiers and tanks moved towards the threat as, simultaneously, our fighter jets bombarded the enemy. However, our jets bombardment did cause some minor collateral damage by destroying some buildings and killing off a few of our citizens.</p> <p>But that is ok, because it was for the overall betterment of Tropico!</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/tropico_5_003.jpg" alt="Tropico 5 003" title="Tropico 5 003" width="620" height="388" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Ouch! Our fighters' bombs took out a building and a few of our citizens and soldiers...</strong></p> <p>Aside from fighting our enemies, there was another use for our troops. For the price of $1,000 in-game currency, we could set a waypoint down almost anywhere on the map and the unit would march towards it and explore the island. Why do this? Because the game features a Fog of War system that forced us to use our troops to explore if we wanted to expand our city and have access to all of the island’s resources. However, at times, the fog became an annoyance for us because there would be a sliver of fog that would prevent us from building a road or structure until we paid our troops to go “explore” that little section. Given that we were sometimes strapped for cash, dropping $1,000 to get rid of the tiny bit of fog wasn’t worth it. But exploration became obsolete when we researched the compass ability which reveals the entire island.</p> <p>Speaking of research, the researching of new technologies and buildings is the latest feature to be included in Tropico 5. By building a library, and certain buildings such as an observatory, research points are generated that goes towards discovering new tech for each era. For example, researching the constitution tech would allow us to draft our own constitution once we had gained independence.&nbsp;</p> <p>Personally, we think that there is too much importance being applied to such things. Why write a constitution when the will of El Presidente should be good enough for everyone?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/tropico_5_004.jpg" alt="Tropico 5 004" title="Tropico 5 004" width="620" height="388" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Ah, the modern era! The city's architecture is a mixture of modern and colonial with a dash of World War II and a pinch of the Cold War.</strong></p> <p>Multiplayer is also a new feature to the franchise and one that we like. In Tropico 5 we found ourselves playing with our fellow despots to see who could create the better city. Sometimes we would cooperate with our fellow dictators but, at other times, find ourselves at each other’s throats for resources. However, on multiple occasions so far, the game inexplicably freezes and forces all the players to shut down the game. This results in having to start a new multiplayer game which is quite a hassle.</p> <p>One of the drawbacks of the Tropico franchise is that, with each installment, it tends to be a refinement and fine-tuning of each game and Tropico 5 is no exception. It is a lot of fun to play and there is plenty of humor. But while the inclusion of eras and the multiplayer campaign are welcome additions, the gameplay is familiar territory. Gameplay, we might add, that is simplistic despite having many things to juggle in the game.&nbsp;</p> <p>The game’s approach to resources, for example, is very simple. You build a structure like a farm, mine, or logging camp to collect resources and the excess is immediately sent off to the docks to be traded to other nations. However, we wish that there could be a stockpile option for some of these resources. So often we wished there was a warehouse that we could collect our excess resources.</p> <p>Even the process of turning our raw resources into manufactured goods is automated. There is no indication of how much of each resource is needed to keep our factories producing these goods. All we can do is make sure that our farms, mines, and logging camps have workers to keep farming or mining them.&nbsp;</p> <p>Tropico 5 is a game that newcomers should definitely pick up and play. For veterans, it is a familiar experience that is still enjoyable with just enough new things to make it interesting. However, the franchise needs its own revolution if it hopes to keep its citizens coming back for future installments rather than be a fine-tuning of the old regime.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now excuse us while we go back to our island and siphon off some more money into our Swiss bank account.&nbsp;</p> <p>What? A good dictator should always plan ahead!</p> <div><strong>$40</strong>,&nbsp;<a title="Kalypso Media" href="" target="_blank"></a>, <strong>ESRB: T</strong></div> Haemimont Games Kalypso Media maximum pc rts strategy game Tropico 5 Review Reviews Mon, 09 Jun 2014 21:07:51 +0000 Sean D Knight 27933 at Best AC Router <!--paging_filter--><h3>Best AC router: everything you need to know about the 802.11ac standard</h3> <p>Even though you might just now be getting around to upgrading your home network to take advantage of the 802.11n spec, there’s a new standard on the horizon that promises even faster speeds. How fast? Well, if 802.11n is a pitcher’s fastball, the draft 802.11ac spec is a bullet fired from a gun, at least in theoretical terms.</p> <p>Unless you live in an underground bunker completely isolated from interfering signals and find yourself favored by the gods of Wi-Fi, you’ll never come close to 802.11ac’s theoretical maximum of 1.3 gigabits per second (assuming a three-antenna design). Overhead, interference, and a number of other factors poop on the Wi-Fi party, but the same is true of earlier standards, so you’ll still see a net gain in performance. How much depends on your setup, but in general, real-world 802.11ac performance ends up being around twice as fast as 802.11n, which bodes well for streaming HD videos, gaming, and file transfers.</p> <p>One of the reasons why 802.11ac is so much faster is because it taps into wider channels. As part of the spec, 802.11ac must support 80MHz channel bonding (160MHz is optional), up from the maximum of 40MHz in 802.11n. It also boasts twice as many multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) streams at eight.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/routers_opener12942_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/routers_opener12942_small.jpg" width="620" height="519" /></a></p> <p>Before you rip out your router and replace it with an AC model, there are some things you should know. We’ll tell you what they are, and then dive into a roundup of seven 802.11ac routers available now in search of the <strong>best AC router</strong>.</p> <h3>AC Buyer’s Guide</h3> <p><strong>What to look for when upgrading your home network</strong></p> <h4>Don’t Forget the Adapter</h4> <p>The 802.11ac spec should be finalized in early 2014, perhaps even by the time you’re reading this. Until then, don’t expect to see a lot of systems natively support the new standard. So, you’ll need an 802.11ac adapter, of which there are a growing number to choose from.</p> <h4>Built-in USB Ports</h4> <p>A router with at least one USB port should allow you to plug in an external storage device and share files across your network. For this, a USB 3.0 port works best. You can also share a printer over your network through your router’s USB port, though only if the router supports this feature. Not all do, so you’ll want to verify that the model you’re considering does if this is a must-have feature.</p> <h4>Decoding AC1300, AC1750, and AC1900</h4> <p>Router makers use clever marketing tactics to help their products stand out from the crowd. One of the most common tricks is to add the 2.4GHz (up to 450Mb/s) and 5GHz (up to 1,300Mb/s) channels together to arrive at a higher, more attractive number. AC1750 looks and sounds faster than AC1300, so why not use the bigger number? It’s a bit deceptive because you can’t actually combine the two channels for a faster connection. Some, like Linksys and Netgear, advertise AC1900 for their highest-end routers, and that’s because the 2.4GHz channel supports a 600Mb/s data rate due to the use of 256-QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) instead of the more common 64-QAM. This provides a real-world benefit, but only if your Wi-Fi adapter also supports 256-QAM.</p> <h4>Beamforming</h4> <p>Instead of sending a signal out in all directions, routers that support beamforming are able to focus the signal toward a client for better performance, reliability, and range. A good analogy is to think of a how a light bulb (traditional router) casts its light in every direction, whereas a flashlight (router with beamforming) focuses its energy on a specific target. Even better, beamforming can focus on multiple targets, not just one.</p> <h3>How We Test</h3> <p><strong>Maximum PC Lab Midwest</strong></p> <p>For the past several years, we’ve been testing routers at Maximum PC Lab North, a 2,800-square-foot home located on 10 acres of what was once a dairy farm. The new location is Maximum PC Lab Midwest, a 1,400-square-foot home flanked by houses on either side, a yard extending into a wooded area out back, and a semi-busy road in front. The new location offers a harsher, more real-world testing environment.</p> <p>We measure the performance of each router in five separate locations starting with the Bedroom in a spot 10 feet away from the router with no obstructions. The next test takes place in the Dining Room 15 feet from the router and separated by two walls, followed by the Entryway with 20 feet and three walls of separation. The final two tests take place outside in the Driveway (35 feet) and Backyard (90 feet) toward the edge of a wooded area.</p> <p>When possible, each dual-band router is configured to run in 802.11n-only mode on the 2.4GHz channel and 802.11ac-only mode on the 5GHz channel, both with WPA2 encryption and channel bonding. We use the open-source Jperf utility, a GUI front end for Iperf, to measure throughput in each of the five locations. Our Jperf server is an HP Envy Ultrabook with a Core i5 processor wired directly to the router being tested, and the client PC is a Dell Inspiron laptop with a Core i3 processor. Since the client PC doesn’t support 802.11ac natively, we run the tests with a Linksys USB6300 dual-band USB adapter. We compare the 802.11n scores to our zero-point router, an Asus RT-N66U.</p> <p>Finally, we also test each router’s attached storage performance by plugging in a 32GB Lexar JumpDrive P10 USB 3.0 flash drive. We chose this drive because it’s one of the fastest on the market with up to 265MB/s read and 245MB/s write performance. Once configured, we use a stopwatch to time how long it takes to write a single 3GB file to the flash drive and then again with a 1GB folder containing several smaller files. We repeat both tests to read the large and small files to the hardwired server PC. All the benchmark results can be seen on page 43.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/jperf_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/jperf_small.jpg" alt="Jperf’s wealth of settings aren’t just good for benchmarking; you can use the open-source app to troubleshoot your network, too." title="Jperf" width="620" height="433" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Jperf’s wealth of settings aren’t just good for benchmarking; you can use the open-source app to troubleshoot your network, too.</strong></p> <h3>D-Link DIR-868</h3> <p><strong>Simple design with a confusing interface</strong></p> <p>Routers come in all shapes and sizes, and after spending time with an assortment of boxy models with antennas extending every which way, D-Link’s cylindrical DIR-868 is a welcome change. It’s not overly big and looks rather neatly groomed compared to the other routers in this roundup, but looks will only get you so far.</p> <p>With regard to brawn, the DIR-868 offers exceptional range on the 5GHz channel in 802.11ac mode, delivering 15.1Mb/s in the Backyard test at a distance of 90 feet. Technically, that makes the DIR-868 the second-fastest at that range, though it virtually tied Netgear’s model at 15.3Mb/s for pole position. Since this test is outside, a fly belch could explain the tiny difference.</p> <p>The DIR-868 didn’t fare as well on the 2.4GHz channel in 802.11n mode. Its performance wasn’t bad, just merely average, and it certainly never threatened our zero-point router. However, its file-transfer performance using the built-in USB 3.0 port was among the fastest.</p> <p>Initial setup of the DIR-868 was pretty painless, though the fugly web-based interface could use a major overhaul. It’s way too wordy and not very intuitive to navigate, especially for less savvy users and/or anyone who’s unfamiliar with networking nomenclature.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dlink12913_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dlink12913_small.jpg" alt="Nestled inside the cylindrical DIR-868L are half a dozen antennas with beamforming support." title="D-Link DIR-868" width="620" height="805" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Nestled inside the cylindrical DIR-868L are half a dozen antennas with beamforming support.</strong></p> <p><strong>D-Link DIR-868</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$155 (Street), <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <hr /> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Trendnet TEW-812DRU</h3> <p><strong>Plain looks meet plain performance</strong></p> <p>Despite this router’s high MSRP, we’ve seen this model retail for a Benjamin online, giving users a comparatively inexpensive upgrade path to 802.11ac territory. The old adage “You get what you pay for” applies here because even though the TEW-812DRU supports the AC spec, its performance on the 5GHz channel in 802.11ac mode consistently trailed the competition. In our two outside tests—Driveway and Backyard—the performance gap was especially noticeable. Throughput on the 2.4GHz in 802.11n mode fared better at close distances, but again became strained as we moved farther away from the router.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href=""><img src="" alt="Low street pricing is this router’s saving grace." title="Trendnet TEW-812DRU" width="620" height="802" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Low street pricing is this router’s saving grace.</strong></p> <p>Trendnet deserves major props for a well-designed web interface that’s straightforward and easy to navigate. The main screen provides you with an uncluttered glimpse of your network situation, and Trendnet even figured out a way to include a bit of fine-grain control in the Basic view. Naturally, there are a lot more levers to pull in the Advanced tab, but you’ll still never feel lost or overwhelmed.</p> <p>You can share files by connecting a drive to the router’s single USB 2.0 port, though transfer speeds are hindered by Trendnet’s decision to forego USB 3.0. And while it offers FTP and Samba support, no DLNA is a buzzkill.</p> <p><strong>Trendnet TEW-812DRU</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:6" title="score:6" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$140 (Street), <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3>Linksys EA6900</h3> <p><strong>Belkin’s first product under the Linksys name</strong></p> <p>The Linksys brand has managed to survive two acquisitions in the past 10 years, first by Cisco in 2003, and more recently by Belkin in 2013. Apparently, the Linksys name isn’t enough because Belkin also calls the EA6900 the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi AC1900. The “Smart” portion of that title denotes the availability of Smart apps you can install on the router, and the AC1900 is a sum of the 2.4GHz (up to 600Mb/s) and 5GHz (up to 1,300Mb/s) bands added together. Give the marketing team a cookie.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/linksys12906_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/linksys12906_small.jpg" alt="Belkin proves with the EA6900 that Linksys is in good hands going forward." title="Linksys EA6900" width="620" height="477" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Belkin proves with the EA6900 that Linksys is in good hands going forward.</strong></p> <p>Beyond the talk, the EA6900 walks the walk with acceptable 802.11ac performance on the 5GHz band and blazing-fast 802.11n throughput on the 2.4GHz band. It obliterated the zero-point router in the three indoor tests, and split the two outdoor tests, losing by less than 3Mb/s in the Backyard—impressive.</p> <p>There are two USB ports on the back, one Hi-Speed (2.0) and one SuperSpeed (3.0), though the latter acted like the former by registering a pokey 6:09 (min:sec) to write a 3GB file to the attached storage device. However, both ports support DLNA and allow you to share a printer across your network.</p> <p>Overall, a solid first effort by Belkin.</p> <p><strong>Linksys EA6900</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$195 (Street), <a href=""></a><a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3>Netgear R7000</h3> <p><strong>So fast it should be illegal</strong></p> <p>If you have the space to park Netgear’s mammoth R7000, otherwise known as the Nighthawk, the router will pay its rent by serving up blistering-fast throughput on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands in 802.11n and 802.11ac modes, respectively. It posted the fastest AC performance by far in the Entryway (336Mb/s), which is 20 feet away from the router and separated by three walls, and had the best range of the bunch. Overall, it was one of the more consistent-performing routers, and also demonstrated an intelligent ability to pick out less-crowded channels on its own—that’s a great commodity for novice users.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/netgear12904_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/netgear12904_small.jpg" alt="The aggressive design and “Nighthawk” name are both inspired by the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack aircraft." title="Netgear R7000" width="620" height="541" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The aggressive design and “Nighthawk” name are both inspired by the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth attack aircraft.</strong></p> <p>Netgear has put in a lot of work over the past few years making its web interface more user friendly, but that hasn’t come at the expense of advanced knobs and dials. If you like to tinker with your network settings, you’ll find a host of options to play with, including robust QoS controls, which look at both upstream and downstream traffic.</p> <p>There are two USB ports on the Nighthawk, including a USB 3.0 port conveniently located on the front. In our file-transfer tests, the Nighthawk ran the table, leaving the other routers in the dust.</p> <p><strong>Netgear R7000</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$200 (Street), <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>Asus RT-AC66U</h3> <p><strong>This router rises about its predecessor, the Dark Knight (RT-N66U)</strong></p> <p>Asus nicknamed its last-generation router—and our zero-point in this roundup—Dark Knight, and if it’s looking for another DC Comics hero to represent the RT-AC66U, we recommend going with The Flash. Point blank, this is the all-around fastest router we’ve ever tested. It came out on top in five of our 10 throughput tests and nipped at the heels of the leader in three others.</p> <p>A pair of slower USB 2.0 (compared to USB 3.0) ports on the back temper our enthusiasm over performance, though at least Asus offers a host of ways to share and stream files—DLNA, iTunes, FTP, and Samba server support all showed up to the party. You can also use Asus’s AiCloud app available on Android and iOS to tap into your files from a mobile device.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/asus12894_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/asus12894_small.jpg" alt="If speed kills, this router would be a serial killer. " title="Asus RT-AC66U" width="620" height="622" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If speed kills, this router would be a serial killer. </strong></p> <p>The user interface is brilliantly mapped out and chock-full of settings. All the main functions are categorized on the left-hand side, while tabs on the main window allow you to dig several layers deep. Power users and novices alike will feel right at home jumping around the menu. It’s also nice that Asus gives you the ability to tweak the signal strength and external antennas.</p> <p><strong>Asus RT-AC66U</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$180 (Street), <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3>Amped Wireless RTA15</h3> <p><strong>High maintenance, low reward</strong></p> <p>We’re not sure if the RTA15 is so potentially fast that it keeps tripping over its own two feet, or if this is a case of being seduced by promises of a wild ride by a hot number that has no intentions of following through. Either way, we were left frustrated and unsatisfied.</p> <p>Amped Wireless advertises the RTA15 as a “High Power 700mW” router, yielding expectations of both speed and distance. During our tests, we saw glimpses of the former—the RTA15 would spike on the 5GHz band before taking a dip in performance. Averaged out over time, the best we could muster was just shy of 300Mb/s, and even that took a lot of tinkering. We spent way more time experimenting with settings on the RTA15 than any other router. One thing we discovered is that dialing back the signal strength helps in close quarters, but we never did uncover the magic formula that would make this router scream.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/amped12896_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/amped12896_small.jpg" alt="Move along. This is not the AC router you’re looking for." title="Amped Wireless RTA15" width="620" height="600" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Move along. This is not the AC router you’re looking for.</strong></p> <p>File transfer speeds over the single USB 2.0 port failed to impress, as well. It was among the slowest of the bunch, taking a minute and a half longer than any other router to write a single 3GB file.</p> <p><strong>Amped Wireless RTA15</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:5" title="score:5" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$185 (Street), <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3>Buffalo WZR-1750DHP</h3> <p><strong>Don’t judge a router by its cover</strong></p> <p>Whereas high-performance routers are adopting sleek designs with aggressive angles and external antennas, Buffalo’s WZR-1750DHP stands up like a hardcover book with subdued LEDs and a rubberized coating. This isn’t a fashion contest, however, and Buffalo’s model quickly demonstrated why looks mean nothing. Throughput on the 5GHz band in 802.11ac mode consistently bumped elbows with Asus and Netgear, with Buffalo edging out both in the Entryway. 802.11n and file-transfer performance via USB 3.0 were both solid, too.</p> <p>A wealth of advanced features can be found in the back end, including some not-so-common tweaks like an eco mode and an optional time limit for guest access. Buffalo earns bonus points for a persistent Help button in the upper-right corner. Clicking it brings up an explanation of whichever settings are on the page—we wish more router makers would follow in Buffalo’s footsteps here.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/airstationbuff2887_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/airstationbuff2887_small.jpg" alt="Exceptional speed and features belie this router’s unassuming looks." title="Buffalo WZR-1750DHP" width="620" height="763" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Exceptional speed and features belie this router’s unassuming looks.</strong></p> <p>Zooming through the menu system is a little quirky. The main menu is the most touch-friendly of the bunch with four large, tiled menus, but the deeper you go, the more traditional (and a little confusing) the menus get. Given the focus on touch computing lately, we hope Buffalo eventually extends the main menu look throughout the UI.</p> <p><strong>Buffalo WZR-1750DHP</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$140 (Street), <a href=""></a></strong></p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">AC Routers Compared</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>D-Link<br /></strong></td> <td><strong>Trendnet<br /></strong></td> <td><strong>Linksys</strong></td> <td><strong>Netgear</strong></td> <td><strong>Asus</strong></td> <td><strong>Asus</strong></td> <td><strong>Buffalo</strong></td> <td><strong>Asus Zero-Point</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>5GHz 802.11ac</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Bedroom – 10ft (Mb/s)</td> <td class="item-dark">416</td> <td>324</td> <td>361</td> <td>400</td> <td><strong>419</strong></td> <td>298</td> <td>398</td> <td>N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Dining Room – 15ft, 2 walls (Mb/s)</td> <td>243</td> <td>221</td> <td>239</td> <td>291</td> <td><strong>335</strong></td> <td>138</td> <td>309</td> <td>N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Entryway – 20ft, 3 walls (Mb/s)</td> <td class="item-dark">257</td> <td>178</td> <td>241</td> <td><strong>336</strong></td> <td>284</td> <td>112</td> <td>268</td> <td>N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Driveway – 35ft (Mb/s)</td> <td>67.8</td> <td>20.2</td> <td>63.7</td> <td>136</td> <td>132</td> <td>42.4</td> <td><strong>138</strong></td> <td>N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Backyard – 90ft (Mb/s)</td> <td>15.1</td> <td>2.76 </td> <td>11.1</td> <td><strong>15.3</strong></td> <td>9.54</td> <td>2.81</td> <td>14.3</td> <td>N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>2.4GHz 802.11n</strong></td> <td></td> <td></td> <td></td> <td></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bedroom – 10ft (Mb/s)</td> <td>79.5</td> <td>97.1</td> <td>170</td> <td>96.4</td> <td><strong>180</strong></td> <td>159</td> <td><strong>180</strong></td> <td>111</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Dining Room – 15ft, 2 walls (Mb/s)</td> <td>65.6</td> <td>95.2</td> <td>140</td> <td>93.4</td> <td><strong>163</strong></td> <td>66</td> <td>141</td> <td>99.3</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Entryway – 20ft, 3 walls (Mb/s)</td> <td>62.3</td> <td>42.2</td> <td><strong>149</strong></td> <td>88.3</td> <td>145</td> <td>50.4</td> <td>91.7</td> <td>122</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Driveway – 35ft (Mb/s)</td> <td>42.8</td> <td>31.4</td> <td>80</td> <td>78.7</td> <td><strong>95.5</strong></td> <td>4.13</td> <td>64.4</td> <td>73.4</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Backyard – 90ft (Mb/s)</td> <td>4.31</td> <td>23.8</td> <td>56.4</td> <td>54.4</td> <td>58.4</td> <td>2.35</td> <td>51.4</td> <td><strong>59.1</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>File Transfers</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3GB Router to PC (min:sec)</td> <td>1:38</td> <td>2:16</td> <td>1:41</td> <td><strong>0:50</strong></td> <td>4:29</td> <td>6:20</td> <td>1:12</td> <td>4:28</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1GB Router to PC (min:sec)</td> <td>0:39</td> <td>2:16</td> <td>0:40</td> <td><strong>0:22</strong></td> <td>1:35</td> <td>2:14</td> <td>0:29</td> <td>1:52</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3GB PC to Router (min:sec)</td> <td>2:51</td> <td>4:33</td> <td>6:09</td> <td><strong>1:31</strong></td> <td>6:00</td> <td>7:45</td> <td>2:15</td> <td>6:15</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1GB PC to Router (min:sec)</td> <td>1:10</td> <td>2:58</td> <td>2:58</td> <td><strong>0:40</strong></td> <td>2:25</td> <td>2:35</td> <td>0:59</td> <td>2:34</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Best scores are bolded. <br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> best ac router D-Link DIR-868 fast wireless Internet feature Hardware Kaya February issues 2014 Linksys EA6900 modem routers Features Wed, 04 Jun 2014 23:12:17 +0000 Paul Lilly 27899 at Top 8 Apple Successes and Failures <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u154280/imac.png" alt="Apple" title="Apple" width="342" height="228" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>Sweet and sour apples</h3> <p>Following our <a title="microsoft success and failures" href="" target="_blank">Microsoft</a> and <a title="google success and failures" href="" target="_blank">Google successes and failures</a>&nbsp;stories, we’ve heard some of you clamoring for an Apple Successes and Failures list. Since it also happens to be Apple's big WWDC week, we decided now would be a good time to oblige and reflect on Apple's history. Yes, we’re the biggest PC fanboys around, but we can’t deny that Apple has had some financially successful computing devices. Plus, it's also fun to take a look back at some of the company's biggest blunders.</p> <p>Here's a list of eight successes and failures Apple’s had over the last few decades.</p> <p>Is there a company that you would like us to analyze next? Let us know in the comments below!</p> <p><em>Update: We've updated the list to include more successes and failures.</em></p> <p><span style="font-style: normal;">Follow Chris on&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: normal;" href="" target="_blank">Google</a><span style="font-style: normal;">+&nbsp;or&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: normal;" href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a></p> apple failure Hardware iMac ios iphone success wwdc Features Mon, 02 Jun 2014 22:45:45 +0000 Chris Zele 27189 at The Upgrade to Windows 8.1 Guide <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u152332/upgrade_small_1.jpg" width="280" height="227" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>To all the Windows 8 haters out there, we feel your pain! The update might be too little, too late for some, but if you're ready to accept a Win 8.1 fate, our guide will get you started</h3> <p>Sometimes we wonder if Microsoft didn’t actually build a new OS so much as a Frankenstein that its customers could direct years of pent up anger, frustration, and fear onto. For example, just hint that Windows 8.0 ain’t that bad on the Internet, and some Windows users will react as if you keyed their mint ’64 Chevelle Malibu and kicked their dog with your steel-toed boot. To say you’ll get a beat down of YouTube-able proportions is an understatement of people’s rage at Windows 8.0 today.</p> <p>It’s this gale-force headwind that Microsoft is flying into with its first major update to the much-maligned OS, which some blame for the record declines in PC sales. Dubbed Windows 8.1, this point release promises to address some of the major concerns people have with Windows 8.0 and even reintroduce the familiar Start button. But does it? Can this simple point release calm the seething masses?</p> <p>Maybe and maybe not. If anything, it might actually make some people even angrier. Windows 8.1 brings back the Start button, yes, but it turns out it wasn’t just the Start button we wanted, but the Start Menu that came with it. The process to even get the update and who exactly gets it and the work-arounds isn’t going to make too many friends, either. In the past, major updates could be downloaded and installed on all of your machines en masse with little effort. Not so this time. Just getting the update on Windows 8.0 requires following a flow chart and throwing chicken bones across the top of your chassis.</p> <p>Yes, we know you’re skeptical, distrustful, and even a little pissed off, but to find out the full skinny on what you need to do to get Windows 8.1 and whether it’s even worth the hassle, and how to make the most of it should you decide to take the plunge, you’ll need to read the whole story.</p> <h3>Installation Issues</h3> <p><strong>Updating to Win8.1: easy for some, a real PITA for others</strong></p> <p>Windows 8.1 is no mere Service Pack. No, it’s a whole tenth better than Windows 8.0, thus the point-release designation by Microsoft. Therein lies most of the problems with even getting Windows 8.1. People expect it to be as easy and painless as a Service Pack, but it ain’t. For the vast majority of folks, it just works, but that’s no consolation to those of us who hit snags. Here are the possible issues you could encounter. (Note: We highly recommended that you run a backup before you install the upgrade, as going back isn’t always easy).</p> <h4>Who Qualifies for the Upgrade?</h4> <p>Anyone who is currently running Windows 8.0 or the Windows 8.1 Preview is eligible for the upgrade. If you were waiting for the notification to pop up in Windows Update that Windows 8.1 is ready for download, stop. In its infinite wisdom, Microsoft has decided that despite intense hatred by many of the Modern interface, that’s the only place you can get the Windows 8.1 update, in the Windows Store. Even more confusing, this won’t work for everyone. Those running the Enterprise version of Windows 8 or Win8 Pro using a volume license, MSDN, MAK, or TechNet key will not be able to grab the update in this manner. Instead, Microsoft is recommending that those with VLK versions download the ISO from MSDN or TechNet and perform an in-place upgrade. Enterprise users are recommended to just talk to their sys admin about how to update. Not sure what you’re running? Just hit Windows R and type slmgr.vbs –dli and Windows will identify your version.</p> <h4>No 64-bit for You!</h4> <p>Microsoft has included the requirement that the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 support the CMPXCHG16b instruction. This won’t cause problems for anyone with a modern CPU, but if you’re using one of those earlier CPUs that had 64-bit support but not an explicit CMPXCHG16b instruction, you’re screwed. According to formerly in-print, the affected chips include Athlon 64 X2 parts, Opteron 185, and other “vintage” 64-bit processors. Sometimes, it’s not even just the CPU, as reports indicate that the Core 2 Quad, which apparently supports the instruction, is stopped by the error because the P35 chipset doesn’t support it. The “fix” is to run 32-bit, or not run the upgrade. There is also a reported work-around but it’s no fun to execute and would take a page just to describe. Poo.</p> <h4>I Don’t See No Stinkin’ Upgrade</h4> <p>Getting the upgrade should be simple, except it’s not. First, as we said, you can only get it through the Windows Store from within the Modern UI. Second, well, sometimes it still won’t show up. Why not? You need to have all of the previous updates installed first. You may also need to reset the Windows Store. You can do this by swiping in from the right, touching the magnifying glass icon, and… oh hell, forget that. Just start a command prompt by hitting Windows Key + R and typing wsreset.exe. Now reboot. Go back into the Store and the update should be displayed prominently. Still not getting it? It’s possible that your Windows 8 is a version that doesn’t qualify—meaning it’s an Enterprise or Professional version using a product key from MSDN, TechNet, or a volume license. Unfortunately, your only answer may be an in-place upgrade (if you’re lucky) or nuking from orbit.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/upgrade_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/upgrade_small.jpg" alt="The Windows 8.1 upgrade can only be found in the Windows Store, and only after all Win 8.0 updates are applied." width="620" height="502" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows 8.1 upgrade can only be found in the Windows Store, and only after all Win 8.0 updates are applied.</strong></p> <h4>Updating from the Preview Version</h4> <p>If you installed the preview version of Windows 8.1 and are still using it, your trial license is about to expire. After January 2014, you have to activate with a retail product key. You'll still need to download the final version of the OS, too. Thankfully, you can get that update from the Windows Store, just as if you were upgrading from a retail copy of Windows 8.0. The store is the green-and-white "shopping bag" icon on the Start screen, which you access by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard.</p> <p>If you made a "clean install" of the preview version from ISO media, where you use a DVD or USB key to completely replace the current operating system instead of upgrading from it (or you installed onto a blank hard drive), you too can use the Windows Store to upgrade to version 8.1.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Start Menus and Microsoft Accounts</h4> <p>Since Windows 8 no longer comes with a Start menu, a cottage industry has emerged to fill the gap. Windows 8.1 has a Start button, but no new functionality is present. Our third-party Start menu, Start Menu 8 (free, <a href=""></a>), had no issues with our updating to Windows 8.1. Microsoft's new Start button just never appeared.</p> <p>The trickier issue is Microsoft accounts. By default, Windows 8.1 does not invite you to create a standard local account during the installation phase, which stores your credentials on your computer like usual, rather than on Microsoft's server in the "cloud." Instead, the company wants you to sign into a pre-existing account for services like Hotmail or, or create a new one inside this networked ecosystem. To get around this installation step, click Create Account instead of entering your or Hotmail login. Then, at the bottom of the next page, click "Continue using my existing account." If you are installing 8.1 from scratch, you will have the option to create a new local account instead.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="/files/u152332/microsoft_account_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/microsoft_account.jpg" width="620" height="435" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<strong>Win 8.1 will prompt you to create a Microsoft account, but you can bypass that in favor of a local login.</strong></p> <p>An MS account isn't bad news or anything. It allows you to use SkyDrive to sync your apps and settings across different PCs. It will let you consolidate Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, and LinkedIn feeds into the People app. It makes Hotmail and integration smoother. And you need it to get and update apps from the App Store, anyway. (You don't have to worry about not being able to log in if you're offline, because Windows itself will "remember" the last correct password you entered.) You can also switch your PC from an MS account to a local account later on.</p> <h4>Updating Multiple PCs to 8.1</h4> <p>If you have a small business or a household with a bunch of Windows 8.0 machines, downloading the 8.1 update for each PC could take a lot of time and bandwidth, since each download is basically the entire OS. But we know a trick to convert this download into an ISO, which you can then put on a DVD or USB flash drive, so that you only need to download it once. Be advised, however, that this only apparently works if you are running a retail version of Windows 8.0—the downloader rejected the OEM keys we tried as well as the “generic keys” floating around the Internets.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/creatingiso_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/creatingiso_small.jpg" alt="You can download a full ISO of Windows 8.1 to perform an in-place upgrade or even clean installs, sorta." width="620" height="459" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can download a full ISO of Windows 8.1 to perform an in-place upgrade or even clean installs, sorta.</strong></p> <p>Pick any of your Windows 8.0 PCs and navigate to this Microsoft site: <a href=""></a>. Have your product key ready. Click the "Install Windows 8.1" button. Choose "Install by creating media," click Next, select ISO File, and click Next again. Choose the destination folder of the download, and click Next. The program will now download the Windows 8.1 update and create an ISO for it. Then it will ask if you want to burn the ISO to a DVD right now. You do have the option to create a bootable USB stick, but the general consensus is to just save the ISO instead, as you can always create a bootable USB stick version later on using the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool: <a href=""></a>. Using this disc, you’re still limited to an in-place upgrade only—not a service-pack-like upgrade.</p> <h4>Activating a Windows 8.1 ISO with an 8.0 Key</h4> <p>You may have been told that you can't install Windows 8.1 from scratch and use a Windows 8.0 key. However, you can use a "generic" key designed for testing. The “generic” keys we refer to are those floating around the Internets—if you Bing “generic Windows 8.1 key” it shouldn’t take too long to find. Using the generic key, you will be able to eval Windows 8.1 for 120 days. Once you’ve entered in the correct generic key for your version of Windows (either Core or Pro) you can now activate it with your original, licensed Windows 8.0 key.</p> <p>Once you've completed installation using one of these keys, open Windows Explorer (it's the folder icon in your taskbar), right-click This PC, select Properties, and click the link at the bottom-right that says Activate Windows. Then click the first Enter Key button and enter your Windows 8.0 retail key. Your copy of Windows 8.1 is now officially installed.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/changing_product_key_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/changing_product_key_small.jpg" alt="You can download a full ISO of Windows 8.1 to perform an in-place upgrade or even clean installs, sorta." width="620" height="388" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Windows 8.1 introduces a visual upgrade to the method for changing your product key.</strong></p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <hr /> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Customization</h3> <p><strong>The essential first steps to making Win 8.1 desktop-worthy</strong></p> <p>Like candy? Then you’ll love Windows 8.1, because the improvements Microsoft has made in its first major iterative update to the Windows 8 operating system include a ton of eye-candy tweaks that should make your experience within the operating system prettier, at least—and in some cases, a bit more user-friendly!</p> <p>No, you still don’t get a “real” Start button and, no, you can’t ditch the Modern UI for good without a third-party program. We’ll consider Microsoft’s tweaks to be but baby steps on the grand evolution of its Windows 8 ecosystem, one that hopefully comes with even more happy desktop/Modern UI integration for those still displeased by the touch-themed tidbits of Microsoft’s latest OS.</p> <h4>Boot to Desktop</h4> <p>One of the most frustrating elements of Windows 8 is its inability to boot directly to the classic Windows desktop, instead dumping users onto the Start screen with each and every flick of the power switch. Thankfully, Windows 8.1 gives you a bit more freedom in that regard.</p> <p>To boot to Desktop mode instead of the Start screen, hit up your desktop, right-click your taskbar, and select Properties. Click the Navigation tab and select the option: “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.” How’s that for a description?</p> <h4>Simplify Your Login</h4> <p>Good for you; you have a strong password for your Microsoft Live account and you aren’t afraid to use it. If you’re the only one who ever has access to your desktop or laptop, however, maybe the act of typing in that 30-character passphrase is more trouble than it’s worth. Let’s simplify.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_2_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_2_small.jpg" alt="While Microsoft’s picture passwords make more sense for tablet users, you can still have a bit of (secure) fun working your mouse-drawing skills." width="620" height="346" /></a></p> <p>Switch over to Windows 8.1’s Modern UI, hover your mouse in the lower-right corner to reveal the Charms Bar, and click the Settings button. Click Change PC Settings on the bottom-right corner, click Accounts, and then click Sign-in Options. Set up a PIN, and you’ll have a much easier time logging into your home system without compromising the integrity of your long Live password. Set up a picture password, and you’ll get to have a bit of fun using taps, circle-gestures, and lines to serve as your system’s new authentication method.</p> <h4>Set Your Defaults</h4> <p>One of the first places we like to stop within Windows 8.1—after we’ve installed some of our favorite third-party apps such as Media Player Classic (or VLC) for our videos and Chrome for our webpages—is the operating system’s list of default programs. That doesn’t sound very sexy, we realize, but it’s a key part of Windows 8.1 that allows you to exert an iron fist over how your operating system treats your files.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_3_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_3_small.jpg" alt="We often find ourselves checking the Default Programs window from time to time, just in case something else has taken over our favorite app’s file types." width="620" height="351" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We often find ourselves checking the Default Programs window from time to time, just in case something else has taken over our favorite app’s file types.</strong></p> <p>Fire up the Modern UI, type in default, and select the Default Programs option that appears within the sidebar search results. Click “Set your default programs,” and then find an app in the left-hand portion of the window that appears that you want to be, well, the default app for all file types that it can open. Highlight it, click the “Set this program as default” option, and you’ll never have to wonder why Windows Media Player is trying to load your jams instead of VLC.</p> <h4>Personalize Your Taskbar for Multiple Displays</h4> <p>Running two monitors at once is an awesome feeling. Such power. Getting your taskbar to play friendly with both monitors is the Mario Super Star of a dual-display setup in Windows 8.1, and here’s how you do it: Hit up Windows 8.1’s desktop mode and right-click the taskbar, then select Properties, which will bring up the new “Taskbar and Navigation properties” window. On the very first tab that appears (Taskbar), you’ll see a few options toward the very bottom.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_4_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_4_small.jpg" alt="We were just as confused as you when we couldn’t find our file libraries in Windows 8.1." width="620" height="405" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We were just as confused as you when we couldn’t find our file libraries in Windows 8.1.</strong></p> <p>Uncheck the “Show taskbar on all displays” to confine your taskbar to one display. If you’d rather be a bit more surgical about your taskbar, you can always select on which taskbar you’d prefer your running apps’ buttons be located, depending on what screen they’re active on. You can also globally set whether you want an app’s multiple windows to combine into a single button, or exist as independent objects on each taskbar. (The “Taskbar buttons” setting controls your primary monitor; the “Buttons on other taskbars” controls your other monitors.)</p> <h4>Unify Your Desktop and Start Screen Backgrounds</h4> <p>A new tweak in Windows 8.1 finally allows us to use a single desktop background for both the Modern UI and Windows 8.1’s desktop mode. To unify these two seemingly disparate environments, right-click your taskbar on the Windows 8.1 desktop and select Properties. From there, click the Navigation tab. Select the option to “Show my desktop background on Start,” and you’ll now be able to look at the same, pretty picture regardless of whether you’re clicking around the Modern UI or “classic” Windows desktop.</p> <h4>How to Disable Charms (sort of) and Recent-app Switching</h4> <p>Tired of all those funky bits of Windows 8.1’s Modern UI appearing unexpectedly, like when you accidentally mouse over one of the four corners of your display? We can fix that; we have the power. Fire up the Start screen, move your mouse over to the lower-right corner, click Settings, and then click Change PC Settings at the bottom. Select “PC and devices,” and then “Corners and edges.”</p> <p>While you can’t disable everything about the Modern UI, you can use the corresponding on/off switches to hide Windows 8.1’s upper-left Recent Apps pullout, in addition to the upper-right hotspot for the Charms Bar. You’ll still be able to (or have to) access the Charms Bar via Windows 8.1’s lower-right hotspot, but it’s a start, right?</p> <h4>Restore Your Libraries in File Explorer</h4> <p>Once you’ve made the jump to Windows 8.1, you might notice that a certain part of File Explorer no longer exists—namely, easy access to your good-ol’ Windows libraries, those helpful Documents, Music, Video, and Pictures links that gave you a quick and easy way to check out all of your writing and media.</p> <p>Well, the libraries may be gone, but they’re not gone for good. To bring them back into File Explorer, you just need to fire it up and click the View tab. From there, click the Navigation Pane button toward the upper-left of the window, and then select “Show libraries.” This little buried setting might be tricky to find on your own, but it’s worth the five-second trip.</p> <h4>Tile Management</h4> <p><strong>Making the most of Modern UI</strong></p> <p>We’re not 100 percent sold on the jarring changes that Microsoft has constructed between its tried-and-true Windows desktop and its newfangled touchscreen-themed experience. However, we have become a bit more accustomed to tiles since Windows 8’s launch last October, and Windows 8.1 does offer some important improvements to make the Modern UI a bit more palatable—for those not already using third-party programs to write it off for good.</p> <h4>A Brand-New Start Screen</h4> <p>One of the most headache-inducing elements of Windows 8’s Start screen was that Microsoft gave its users absolutely no way to contain the flood of shortcuts—now tiles—that would invariably litter the area after the installation of just a few applications.</p> <p>Windows 8.1 reverses this treatment. Now, your Start screen is as bare as bare can be; you have to manually select apps that you want to see when you jump into the Modern UI. Tiles won’t just appear by default on your Start screen whenever you install an application—yes, even a Windows Store app.</p> <p>So, how do you get your favorite apps onto your Start screen? Pull up the Start screen and jiggle your mouse until an arrow icon appears in the lower-left corner. Click that to access the All Apps screen, and then right-click any of your tiles and select Pin to Start from the bar of options that appears at the bottom of the screen.</p> <h4>Control Thy Tiles</h4> <p>It’s a lot easier to go about modifying your tiles than it ever was on plain-ol’ Windows 8. Here’s what we mean: Pull up the Start screen and right-click a tile. Heck, right-click a few tiles—multiple-tile attribute editing has been beefed up in this new iteration of Microsoft’s OS.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_8_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windows8_screen_8_small.jpg" alt="We were just as confused as you when we couldn’t find our file libraries in Windows 8.1." width="620" height="588" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Goodbye, single-app-at-a-time uninstallations. Why Microsoft didn’t slap this into Windows 8 by default, we’ll never know.</strong></p> <p>Once you’ve done so, you’ll see an option at the bottom of your screen for resizing tiles. Click that, and you’ll be given one of four sizes to choose from, ranging from Small (1/4 a standard tile size) to Large (four tiles’ worth of space). Selecting Medium gives you the default Windows 8.1 tile dimension, whereas Wide allows you take up two tiles’ worth of space by one tile’s height. While you’re there, you can also use the “Turn Live Tile Off” option to do just that—transforming your Windows 8.1 tiles into static representations of shortcuts rather than little boxes that are otherwise updated with news based on whatever the tile happens to be (assuming the tile supports the feature).</p> <p>You can also more easily remove apps (as in, Windows Apps, not applications) from your system—uninstalling multiple apps at once—by right-clicking each one you want gone on the Start screen and selecting the Uninstall option. Once you do so, you’ll be asked to pick whether you want to simply nuke them from the system you’re currently using, or whether you want to remove the apps from all the systems whose settings have been synchronized to your Microsoft Live account. To note: This only really works well with apps, as mentioned; trying to uninstall apps and applications simultaneously gives preference to the former over the latter.</p> <p>And, of course, moving and grouping tiles is easier in Windows 8.1, as well. Select your tiles and drag them to a new, empty column (you’ll know you’ve nailed it once Windows displays a giant, translucent gray bar), and then type in a name for your new chunk of shortcuts in the Name Group field. It’s as easy as that!</p> <h4>Master the New ‘View’</h4> <p>This might win over you Modern UI haters: Windows 8.1 brings some new improvements to its Snap treatment of Modern apps. Depending on the size and/or number of monitors you’re rocking, you can have up to eight different Windows apps running and visible at once.</p> <p>Ready? Fire up a Windows app within the Modern UI, move your mouse to the top of the screen until your cursor changes into a hand, and then click and drag the entire app toward the far left or far right of your monitor. You’ll now see some empty gray space on the other side. Left-click anywhere within that to launch a new app, side-by-side, in the empty space.</p> <p>Now that you have your screen split into two, if you want to go for the big three (and your screen allows it), launch an app from the Start screen on the monitor that your two split apps are running on. When you do, the app itself will appear to float in the center of your screen for a bit. Click it, hold down your mouse button, and keep it hovering over the center divider. <br />Voilà—your Modern UI will magically make room for more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>SkyDrive Mastery</h4> <p><strong>More robust options make Win8.1’s cloud storage a compelling option</strong></p> <p>Microsoft seems a little more ready to tackle the cloud storage world with its SkyDrive service, now that the 7GB of free cloud storage comes more baked into Windows 8.1 than it did with Windows 8.</p> <p>And this is more than Microsoft just dropping a shortcut to SkyDrive within File Explorer and calling it a day. A number of nifty features work behind the scenes to ensure you aren’t sucking down massive amounts of data that you might not necessarily need (or worse, filling up a limited hard drive with a ton of unnecessary SkyDrive content). Your SkyDrive folder will be accessible and searchable just like any other folder on your physical hard drive. However, only when you go to access a file will Microsoft pull it down from the cloud.</p> <p>And yes, you can still manually select to synchronize as many files and folders as you want if you’re more into the Dropbox “sync everything” method. That said, onto the tips!</p> <h4>View/Add SkyDrive Storage</h4> <p>If you’re concerned about how much space you might be eating up of your 7GB of free SkyDrive storage—or want to add more—Microsoft’s made it easy for you to check and/or buy. Fire up the Start screen, pull open the Charms Bar, and click Settings. Click Change PC Settings, and then select the SkyDrive option. The very first screen you then see will tell you how much storage you’re using, in total, and give you the option to purchase more if you’re so inclined.</p> <h4>Saving Your Stuff</h4> <p>A nifty new feature in Windows 8.1 is the ability to have supported apps prompt you with the option to save your files to the cloud instead of your local hard drive. The best and easiest example of this is Microsoft Word. Enable the option, and you’ll always first be given the chance to stick your files in your SkyDrive documents folder, a real time-saver if you’re a SkyDrive aficionado. To turn on this option, just flick the little switch below the SkyDrive storage information that we previously mentioned. You can’t miss it, as it’s labeled “Save documents to SkyDrive by default.”</p> <h4>Automatically Upload to SkyDrive</h4> <p>If you’re the kind of person who wants to make sure that everything you’re doing on your smartphone or camera, for example, is automatically saved to the cloud, Windows 8.1 makes it easy. Under the Camera Roll menu within the aforementioned SkyDrive settings screen, you’ll find options that allow to you manage the size at which your pictures are automatically stored in the cloud. Additionally, you’ll see the ever-important switch that will allow your system to automatically send videos up to SkyDrive as well.</p> <h4>Sync Your Settings</h4> <p>One of the fancier features of SkyDrive is its ability to synchronize a bevy of your personal settings for Windows 8.1; log into a fresh Windows 8.1 machine with your account, and it’ll look just like what you’re used to using.</p> <p>You can, of course, flip this option on and off within the Sync Settings menu on the SkyDrive settings screen. More importantly, you can choose what you want SkyDrive to sync: your tiles? Your desktop theme? Your app settings? Passwords? The choice is yours.</p> <h3>Make Search Work for You</h3> <p>Turn off Bing As you’ve no doubt noticed, Microsoft’s made a few changes to Windows 8.1’s search functionality. Start typing on the Start screen and you’ll find that your system automatically starts searching through, well, everything: Windows settings, your files, and—guess who?—Bing!</p> <p>If you’re not keen on marrying your offline searching with an ever-present web search, here’s how to ditch it. Fire up the Charms Bar, click Settings, click Change PC Settings, and select “Search and apps.” From there, ditching Bing is as easy as flicking off the switch for “Get search suggestions and web results from Bing.”</p> <p>Hide Your Files Perhaps there are some things you don’t want to automatically populate the default “Everything” search within Windows 8.1. We’re not going to venture to guess what those files actually are—we’re just going to tell you how to make them invisible to Windows 8.1’s watchful eye.</p> <p>If you have data on your hard drive that you don’t want Windows 8.1’s Modern UI-based search to find, simply go to the files or folders within File Explorer, right-click, select Properties, and tick the little checkbox for the Hidden property. If File Explorer isn’t set to view hidden files, your folder or file will vanish from view. To get it back, just check Hidden Items in the View pane of File Explorer. Since they won’t show up in search, you’ll need to remember just where you hid your precious collection of vintage Seka movies.</p> feature how to use January issues 2014 microsoft operating system OS tips Upgrade to Windows 8.1 Office Applications Software Features Thu, 29 May 2014 21:26:17 +0000 Maximum PC staff and David Murphy 27510 at Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Latest update polishes an already valuable tool</h3> <p>Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 is yet another evolution in the life of this impressive and increasingly capable raw photo processing and digital asset management (DAM) application. If you’re not familiar with Lightroom and you’re a photographer, you’ve either been living under a rock or you just got your very first camera kit. Regardless, here’s a quick refresher. Lightroom combines two major modules, along with five additional peripheral modules, all designed to simplify the process of managing and processing the large intake of photographs people take today.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/advanced_healing_brush_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/advanced_healing_brush_small_0.jpg" alt="Latest update polishes an already valuable tool" title="Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5" width="620" height="374" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Advanced Healing Brush in Lightroom 5 brings a far more useful and, well, advanced healing tool.</strong></p> <p>Lightroom is not a replacement for Photoshop, but rather a companion. In fact, Lightroom is so robust, we find that Photoshop is relegated to very specific tasks and 95 percent of our work can be done in Lightroom alone. Photoshop only becomes necessary for things like stitching panoramas, doing highly customized image sharpening, or very sophisticated image patching or object removal.</p> <p>Don’t confuse Lightroom with Adobe Bridge (the company’s media asset manager), either. Superficially, there is some overlap in their functionality, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Bridge is “good enough.” We’ve encountered photographers who initially believed that learning Lightroom would be a waste of time because “Bridge does everything Lightroom does.” In every case, these same photographers end up regretting that they didn’t transition to Lightroom sooner.</p> <p>So, what’s new over version 4? For us, the big changes are the Smart Preview system, the enhanced Spot Removal Tool, and the Radial Filter Tool. If you’re a landscape or travel photographer who embeds GPS data in your images, you’ll love the new Map module, which shows your images overlaid on a map. If you often find yourself tweaking perspective in the lens corrections module, you might love the new Upright feature, which automates major perspective corrections. If you do video side-by-side with your still photography, you can now mix video and stills into Lightroom-generated slideshows. All of these improvements plus much more mean there’s something for everyone.</p> <p>The Smart Preview system enables full raw edit-ability in a very lightweight package. We find ourselves wanting to take our work on the road, but taking the tens or even hundreds of gigabytes associated with a large shoot can be daunting. Now with Lightroom 5, we can go to our master collection that’s typically on our big desktop box, select the images we want to take on the road, then select File &gt; Export As Catalogue. In the next screen, uncheck “export negative files,” and check “build / include smart previews.” Under the hood what happens next is that Lightroom exports a new catalog with lightweight, down-sampled files based on Adobe’s Lossy DNG tech. These files are tiny compared to your master raw files, but still maintain full raw edit-ability. If you outsource your raw processing to someone else, now you can realistically deliver jobs via Dropbox rather than shipping a hard drive. When you’re finished working on the road, simply re-import the export catalog to your master catalog, and Lightroom seamlessly integrates all your changes into the master raw file.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/radial-gradient-1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/radial-gradient-1_small.jpg" alt="Fortunately, the new Radial Filter gives you the ability to quickly apply radial gradients as well as other adjustments." title="Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5" width="620" height="375" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Fortunately, the new Radial Filter gives you the ability to quickly apply radial gradients as well as other adjustments.</strong></p> <p>The enhanced Spot Removal Tool is improved in three ways. First, you have control over edge feathering. Second, you can control the opacity of the removed spot, meaning it’s now capable of doing more natural skin and blemish removal. Third (and this is the big one), you can now paint non-circular removal areas. In LR4, all you could do was click to create a circular spot removal. Now on LR5, if you click and drag you begin painting a mask of any size and shape you desire.</p> <p>The new Radial Filter Tool is marketed by Adobe as a vignette tool with more control, which is true, but we feel this under-sells how useful it is. All the controls you associate with the Graduated Filter tool can now be applied in a radial fashion, as well. This means new ways to quickly correct entire areas surrounding your subject.</p> <p>Unlike most of Adobe’s other apps, Lightroom 5 continues to offer a stand-alone license, which means you “own” it once you’ve bought it rather than paying every month in perpetuity for it. Adobe does offer a “cloud” version, which is bundled with Photoshop Creative Cloud for $40 a month. By itself, Lightroom 5 is $140 new or $80 as an upgrade.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/smart-previews_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/smart-previews_small.jpg" alt="The Smart Preview mode gives you an easy way to edit photos on the road with your laptop and then merge the files back with your powerful desktop once back home." title="Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5" width="620" height="376" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Smart Preview mode gives you an easy way to edit photos on the road with your laptop and then merge the files back with your powerful desktop once back home.</strong></p> <p>All of this doesn’t mean Lightroom is perfect. We’ve previously criticized the underlying code and task scheduling for being sluggish, not taking full advantage of the computing hardware, and not scaling well on faster hardware. Unfortunately, Lightroom 5 doesn’t offer any change here, but it should. Performance isn’t horrible but we’d love to see a lightning-fast preview mode that takes advantage of a raw file’s built-in preview data, à la Camera Bits’s PhotoMechanic, to make culling large volumes of images faster.</p> <p>Ultimately, though, just because a tool is the best choice doesn’t mean it’s flawless. If you’re a hobbyist or professional photographer, Lightroom deserves to be your tool of choice. In spite of its weaknesses, Lightroom 5 offers enough new utility to be a worthy upgrade or outright purchase for anyone who needs help dealing with large amounts of images.</p> <p><strong>$150 new ($80 upgrade)</strong>, <a href=""></a></p> adobe light room 5 Kaya February 2014 photo editing photoshop Review Software Office Applications Software Reviews Thu, 29 May 2014 18:38:23 +0000 Gavin Farrington 27880 at Zotac Unveils the ZBOX Sphere OI520 Mini PC <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/zbox_oi520_plus_2.jpg" alt="ZBOX OI520" title="ZBOX OI520" width="200" height="152" style="float: right;" />A mini-PC with an orb form factor</h3> <p>For those looking for a round PC experience, hardware manufacturer<strong> Zotac International has unveiled the new ZBOX Sphere OI520 Series</strong>. The form for this series of mini PCs is in the shape of a sphere and is powered by the Intel Core i5 4200U processor (1.6 GHZ base, 2.6GHz Turbo).&nbsp;</p> <p>The ZBOX O-series offers two types for consumers. The <a title="Base Sphere" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">OI520 base model</span></a> comes with Intel HD 4400 graphics but no RAM (there are two DDR3L slots to acommadate up to 16GB of RAM) or hard drive. But not to worry, the ZBOX is supposed to be easy to upgrade. Just twist off the top and insert the necessary components. However, if you don’t want to bother with the RAM or HDD the <a title="Plus Sphere" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">OI520-Plus model</span></a> will come with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB HDD.&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition, both models have four USB 3.0 ports (located on the back panel), 3 USB 2.0 ports (two on the back, one on the side), one HDMI output, and one DisplayPort. &nbsp;Both units also have GbE LAN port, Wireless 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.0 support.&nbsp;</p> <p>No price or release date was provided.&nbsp;</p> <p>What do you think of the ZBOX Sphere? Too circular for your tastes?</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> Hardware zbox ZBOX Sphere ZBOX Sphere OI520 zotac Zotac International News Fri, 23 May 2014 00:18:00 +0000 Sean D Knight 27863 at Microsoft Surface 2 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Though improved, Microsoft’s ARM tablet still falls flat</h3> <p>When you’re literally the laughing stock of the tablet world, it’s pretty hard to make a comeback. In fact, most critics didn’t believe we’d see what’s before your eyes now: Surface 2.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/surface2_13041_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/surface2_13041_small.jpg" alt="Surface 2 is faster and has a better kickstand than its predecessor, but it may be too late for Windows RT." title="Microsoft Surface 2" width="620" height="685" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Surface 2 is faster and has a better kickstand than its predecessor, but it may be too late for Windows RT.</strong></p> <p>There’s plenty of reason for people to be such haters, too. The original Surface RT that shipped in October 2012 was a financial bomb at its original price of $500. Microsoft eventually had to take a $900 million write-off on the Surface RT; irate shareholders even sued the company, calling SurfRT an “unmitigated disaster.”</p> <p>The reception to Windows RT has been so poor in general, that most of the original PC OEMs who jumped in have since jumped out in favor of full x86-Windows 8.1 tablets. That brings us to the curious life of Surface 2, a sequel to a tablet that most think didn’t deserve one.</p> <p>Externally, the Surf2 looks the same, but the internals are quite different. Surf2 sports a 1.7GHz Tegra 4, which is a good clip faster than the 1.3GHz Tegra 3 in its predecessor. The original wasn’t a horrible performer but it did get a bit laggy on occasion. Surface 2 is noticeably faster in feel and in the tests.</p> <p>To compare performance, we updated the Surface 2 and Surface RT to the latest OS versions and ran browser-based benchmarks within Internet Explorer 11. The Surface 2 was at a minimum twice as fast as the older tablet in the HTML5 tests we ran. There is a cost for this performance, though. Even though Surface 2 is rated to offer longer battery life, we found that Surface RT outlasted Surface 2 by a healthy margin. Our test, admittedly, puts more of a load on a tablet than typical usage. Rather than loop a movie, we looped Futuremark’s Peacekeeper HTML5 benchmark, which is a good processor load and keeps the Wi-Fi hot. Surface 2 ran nearly four hours while Surface RT hit an impressive six-plus hours. Surface 2 also got noticeably warm during the rundown.</p> <p>Other improvements to Surf2 include a 1920x1080-res screen, USB 3.0 support, and low-power capability on the Bluetooth 4.0 radio. The most noticeable physical change is a two-position kickstand, as the kickstand on Surface RT was apparently taken from the Gitmo enhanced-interrogation-techniques manual of PC use and was horribly uncomfortable to use at a desk or on a plane.</p> <p>The OS is, of course, Windows RT 8.1, and no discussion of the OS can go without talking about its app store. When Surface RT launched, people gave Microsoft the benefit of the doubt that the app market would pick up. It hasn’t. The app market still looks and feels like the store shelves following a zombie apocalypse, where you’d drop to your knees and thank the gods for a can of beans.</p> <p>Perhaps even worse for the app market is the lack of support from Google. We know each of the big companies are building their own self-contained biodomes but they’re also increasingly trying to cut each other out too, and the lack of a Modern app for Gmail, Google Maps, and all things Google really, really hurts the Surface 2. Yes, there’s a Netflix app, Amazon app, and Yahoo native app, but the inability to get Gmail or Google Maps or YouTube makes the Surface 2 an inferior experience to Android-based tablets. The fact that Google deigns to support iOS makes it doubly bad for those of us who want finger-friendly apps on our tablets.</p> <p>The only real plus on the software side is the free copy of Office 2013 that’s optimized for ARM on the Surface 2. With it, you get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Those apps give the Surface 2 its only real edge over other tablets. With the TypePad 2 keyboard attached (the original TypePad is actually better) and a Bluetooth mouse, you can get away with a decent amount of laptop-like Office productivity that you really can’t with other tablets. And no, we don’t care what you say—that copy of SquareOfficePro12 you downloaded from the app store for $4.99 will not do absolutely everything Microsoft Office will do. It just can’t and won’t. It may do what you need it for, but it won’t do the same things as a set of applications that Microsoft has thousands of people working on, so stop fooling yourself.</p> <p>So, where does this leave Surface 2? It’s clearly superior to the original Surface RT in performance, but it doesn’t really matter. Even the original Surface RT had issues with fratricide in our eyes and the situation is far worse for Surface 2. Who, after all, wants to pay for Surface RT or Surface 2 when you can get a full x86-based Windows 8.1 tablet for almost the same price that will at least run Windows desktop apps? Frankly, not many of us, as you can see from the sales figures.</p> <p><strong>$580 (32MB w/TypeCover 2 keyboard),</strong> <a href=""></a></p> Business Notebooks February issues 2014 Hardware Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Notebooks Wed, 21 May 2014 13:30:10 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27845 at