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Rokid Max AR glasses review: another passable pair of smart specs
6:06 pm | September 21, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality | Comments: Off

Rokid Max AR glasses: One minute review

The Rokid Max AR glasses are par for the course when it comes to AR glasses. They offer a lightweight wearable second screen for compatible devices, effectively providing you with a private, portable home theater. They’re not perfect, though.

I'm not a fan of the glasses' design overall, but one major negative aspect of the design isn’t just down to my personal tastes. The bridge of the glasses – the part pressed up against your face – gets hot. It never burns, but it is unpleasant, and the glasses heat up fairly quickly.

Picture-wise, the Rokid glasses are fine – roughly on par with a decent budget projector. This means you’ll get fairly vibrant colors when the brightness is turned up to max, but you’ll need to use the optional lens cover or use them in a dark environment for the best visuals. No matter your setup, contrast in dark scenes is weak, with onscreen details of scenes in shadow or set at night losing any intricacy. 

Similarly, audio is passable, but the Rokid Max’s inbuilt speakers lack any kind of force in the bass department, so expect your favorite film score to sound less impactful than you’re used to. There’s also a fair amount of audio leakage, so unless you want everyone around you to hear what you’re watching, we’d recommend using headphones – though headphones aren’t usable with the Rokid Station.

Speaking of the Rokid Station, this add-on may be officially optional, but I’d recommend picking it up if you can. It turns the glasses into a portable Android TV (with a roughly five-hour battery life), giving you access to a host of streaming services. You can also cast videos from your phone to it just like you would with a Chromecast.

Lastly, the Rokid Max AR glasses are slightly more pricey than some of their rivals – such as the Xreal Air glasses – and I don’t feel they offer a better experience for the money. During sales, you've previously been able to pick up a bundle of the glasses and Rokid Station at a reasonable price, so I’d recommend waiting for a deal before buying a pair.

Hamish hector Wearing the Rokid Max AR glasses

Look, I'm wearing the Rokid Max glasses (Image credit: Future / Hamish Hector)

Rokid Max AR glasses: Price and availability

The Rokid Max AR glasses usually cost $439 – they’re currently only available in the US unless you ship them internationally – though at the time of writing, they’re on sale for $399 at and the official Rokid store. Both prices are in the same ballpark as similar AR glasses, however, they’re at the higher end of the scale. The Rokid Max glasses cost more than rivals like the Xreal Air AR glasses (at $379) and don’t offer a compelling enough reason to consider them over the competition.

The Rokid Station is an optional add-on (which we’d recommend you pick up with the glasses as they turn it into a standalone Android TV) for $129. Though at the time of writing, the Max and Station can be bought in a bundle for $489, saving you $89. This deal won’t be around forever, but always look out for similar sales, as it’s hard for us to recommend these smart specs at full price. As a pair – at the discounted price – the Rokid Max and Station are a formidable duo compared to the competition, offering simplicity and good performance at a relatively decent price.

In general, we’ve found AR glasses feel a little too much like an early adopter’s gadget. By that, we mean that the price you pay is high for what you get. While they do serve slightly different purposes, it’s hard not to compare AR glasses to a VR headset like the Oculus Quest 2 – which costs as little as $299 and offers considerably more bang for your buck.

  • Value score: 3/5

Rokid Max AR glasses: Performance

  • Colors look vibrant with max brightness
  • Struggles with shadowy scenes
  • Sound lacks fullness and oomph

The image quality from the Rokid glasses is comparable to a decent budget projector – fine but not faultless.

With the Rokid Max AR, I could enjoy full-HD (1080p) video on a virtual 210-inch screen, which is pretty awesome when just lying back in my bed. In a dark environment, the picture looks solid with decently vivid colors – though I’d recommend setting the brightness to max for the best image. If you’re in a brighter environment, the black cover is a must, as you'll struggle to see what’s happening without it.

Unfortunately, as is the case with other AR glasses, these specs struggle to reproduce dark scenes with clarity. Watching the finale of a film like Spider-Man: Homecoming – where our protagonist faces off against a villain with a dark costume in a dingy warehouse at night – making out details is a challenge. Characters’ facial expressions were sometimes impossible to see when they were in shadow, and the villain’s costume and glider just looked like dark blobs rather than intricate designs.

A person watching a show with someone in a space suit exploring a red planet, the screen is floating virtually in front of the person thanks to the Rokid AR glasses

A mock up of what using the Rokid Max glasses is like (Image credit: Rokid)

A minor annoyance is that the screen can become somewhat blurry at the edges. Generally, this isn’t a problem as the action is in the middle of the screen, but details on the fringes won’t be in focus, which can be an immersion-breaking distraction when you’re trying to enjoy a show.

Audio-wise, the Rokid glasses are passable in terms of mid and higher-range tones, but the bass lacks any kind of oomph to it. That said, if you’re planning to use them for film and TV rather than music videos you should be fine, just expect your favorite scores to sound a little more flat and emotionless than you're used to.

Additionally, audio does leak a considerable amount at moderate to loud volumes, so if you're using the Rokid Max AR glasses in a public space (like on a train during your commute to work), then you need headphones – though headphones will only work if you connect the glasses to your phone, using the glasses and station means you’re forced to use the in-built speakers. 

  • Performance score: 3.5/5

Rokid Max AR glasses: Design

  • Fit really well
  • Not my favorite design aesthetically
  • Get uncomfortably hot

Design-wise, the Rokid Max AR is a mixed bag, with some factors I love and others that are disappointing.

On the positive end, I love the fit of the glasses. They’re comfy to wear at just 75g and come with two interchangeable nose clips. What’s more, they offer 0.00D to -6.00D myopia adjustment wheels for each eye, and you can buy an optional lens attachment at a fairly decent price (the site says they’re usually $30, though I’ve seen them on sale for $15) if you need a bigger adjustment. Ideally, this lens clip would be free, as you also need to provide your own prescription lenses, but at least it’s there if you need it. Not every pair of AR smart glasses is as accessible for prescription glasses wearers.

On the negative end, they suffer the same major design issue I found with the TCL Nxtwear S glasses; the bridge (which is pressed up against your face) gets hot when the device is in use, rather than an outer edge that's not against your skin as with the Xreal AIr glasses. The heat was never painful, but it did get uncomfortable, especially during the hot weather we were experiencing in the UK while I was testing these out. 

I also think the glasses are pretty ugly with their bug-eyed look and choice of blue plastic covering. This just gives me an excuse to never remove the optional cover, as it gives the glasses a nicer shape (at least to me).

The Rokid Max AR glasses with a cover and the Rokid Station sat on a polka dot covered table

The Rokid Max AR glasses, station and optional cover (Image credit: Future / Hamish Hector)

Lastly, while the case is annoyingly close to being perfect, it falls short and is still kind of a failure. Yes, it’s great storage for the glasses and its cables but, ideally, it would also store the  Rokid Station. There’s a perfect slot in the base of the case for the station – it fits so precisely that this must be intentional – but then there’s only space to fit the glasses too, and no room for the necessary connector cable that attaches the two pieces together. 

I tried shoving everything in to see if it could work but ended up breaking the zip – it’s fixed now, thankfully. No other AR case included with the glasses I’ve tested offers the ability to carry the glasses and adapter in a single pouch; I was hoping Rokid would be different, but I’ve been disappointed again. Maybe a future iteration will finally fix this frustrating problem.

  • Design score: 2/5

Rokid Max AR glasses: Compatibility

  • Compatible with devices that support Display Port over USB-C
  • Rokid Station is easy to use

The Rokid Max glasses are par for the course in terms of compatibility. If your gadget supports Display Port over USB-C, then you can plug these specs in and use them as a second screen. This includes many laptops, smartphones (such as the Samsung Galaxy S23), and even the Steam Deck. To be able to hook up other devices like a Nintendo Switch, PS5, iPhone 14, or PC with only HDMI-out you’ll need to buy additional adapters, which Rokid sells for around $40 each.

You could also pick up the Rokid Station to turn your smart glasses into a smart TV powered by the Android TV OS. This little AR smart glasses hub is really neat and one of the easiest to use that I’ve tested. Once you’ve logged in with your Google account, you can download a range of apps for the best streaming services – including Netflix and Disney Plus. Alternatively, using the in-built Chromecast, you can cast videos from your phone to the Station.

The advantage of this is that your glasses will use the Station’s five-hour battery rather than your smartphone’s. You can even charge the Station while using it, so you can endlessly enjoy your favorite streamed content.

The Rokid Max AR glasses arm seen from the side. You can see the speakers on top, the nose clips and inner screens

The Rokid Glasses from the side (Image credit: Future / Hamish Hector)

Should you buy the Rokid Max AR glasses?

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if...

Also Consider

How I Tested The Rokid Max AR glasses

  • Used for a couple of weeks
  • Tested with a range of devices 

To test out these AR smart glasses, I used them for a couple of weeks in my home – using them as a second screen for a laptop, smartphone, and the Rokid Station. This was to get a feel for how easy they are to use with a selection of compatible gadgets.

I also made sure to watch a range of content types through the glasses, including music videos, movies, and YouTube videos, to understand the audio and visual capabilities of the Rokid Max glasses. In particular, I made sure to listen to bass-heavy music and very visually dark content, as these can be challenging for AR glasses. During my tests, I also made sure to watch the same content multiple times to get a sense of the glasses' performance with and without the cover in rooms of varying brightness.

Read more about how we test

[First reviewed September 2023]  

Payday 3 review – a shiny shooter rehashing ideas from ten years ago
6:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on:
PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
Release date:
September 21, 2023

Forget about the tense stealth and bombastic firefights that punctuate first-person shooter Payday 3, the heist-shooter is actually a game about logistics. Each level has you casing up a building full of items that need to be put in bags and then moved to a waiting transport. Chuck enough of these bags - in an ideal world you’ll want all of them but that’s not required - to safety and you’ll escape too, getting a cut of the heist for your troubles. 

Really you’re just a house mover with military firepower. But it’s this constant need to keep an eye on things that sets Payday 3 apart from shooter contemporaries and marks it as an actual heist sim, delivering on the fantasy of being a bank robber and taking on bespoke, high-risk heists. 

Most of Payday 3’s best moments focus on your loot being moved too. Complete a stealth run of the game’s first level, the Secure Capital bank, and one or two of your four-man team will be walking bags calmly, as civilians, to the van idling in the parking lot, an entire vault’s load of cash being moved out under the watchful eye of the pathologically inattentive guard. In another context, chucking bags of cocaine and jewelry out of a penthouse window to the balcony below while gunfire explodes off of every surface is a different tension but creates the same feeling of elation as the daisy chain of loot slowly makes its way to a waiting helicopter. 

Every heist in Payday 3 has unique mechanics, and most of them are entirely drill-free, which is excellent for players who hated spending the entirety of their time with Payday 2 sick of listening to the wail of a drill that needs repairing. You’ll still drill the occasional lock, but now you’re most often using thermal lances, thermite, or the low-tech method of just straight up picking a lock or cracking a safe instead.  

Criminal empire 

another player coming up the stairs in Payday 3

(Image credit: Starbreeze Studios)

There are three different approaches to Payday 3, and if you’re rumbled or you have no patience you’ll likely fall back on the loud and proud approach, which has you strapping on your mask and cutting loose with the game’s arsenal. Payday 3’s weaponry feels somewhat truncated - there are only two shotguns, for example - but most of the guns are fairly satisfying and each has detailed customization options. You can equip attachments to make your gun handle differently, and also paint it a matching color to your mask, should you prefer. 

Shootouts are often close-range affairs and see you spraying weapons from the hip as you move from room to room. While there are marksman rifles and snipers, the opportunity to use them feels fairly limited due to the fact special enemies can disable solo players, meaning that if you’re hiding out on a sniper perch you’re opening yourself up to being tazed or bashed upside the head by the terrifying cloakers - invisible enemies that ambush you like something out of a horror game. So, you’ll be primarily pushing around enclosed urban spaces, and I found I quickly had an affinity for the shotgun and submachine guns, which both allowed me to make a small area very undesirable to opponents.

Not that they’d realize - the AI is of middling to low intelligence and will often charge you with the self-preservation instincts of a TikToker that has just heard of a hot new way to die and wants to try it out for themselves.

The other two approaches are variations on the same stealthy theme. There’s a social stealth that plays out a little like Hitman, as you have no mask, and you’re just skulking around in public areas and testing the boundaries of restricted zones while trying to avoid cameras and guards. Then there’s the mask-on, gun-out stealth. This’ll feel familiar to players of Payday 2 and mostly involves strolling around maps cuffing civilians and taking out guards to answer their radios. You also have unlimited cable ties in this game, because hostage management is a larger part of the process.  

Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll 

Payday 3 close up to a player

(Image credit: Starbreeze Studios)

Stealth feels much easier compared to Payday 2 which personally works for me. A perfect stealth heist in Payday 2 was nearly impossible unless you were super coordinated, but here it feels like you can easily lock down rooms by bursting into them with a gun. It’s fairly forgiving but that accessibility does make it feel less rewarding. 

However, you’ll want to follow the stealth path as much as possible because, well, it’s easier and can net you more money, but it’s also where you’ll get to see most of Payday 3’s improvements over its predecessor. Seven of the eight heists included in the base game can be stealthed from end to end, and while the Secure Capital bank of the first level is a fairly mundane heist compared to what comes later, each of these seven has a fascinating path you can carve through the level on your way to getting the loot. 

The shooting is, by comparison, fairly uninteresting and feels like a punishment for getting the stealth route wrong. The full-auto weapons are nearly constantly out of ammunition as the ammo pools are quite limited and it’s hard to get enough ammunition to keep them fed - so it feels like there’s a strong case to use the marksman rifles or shotguns. Except that there’s only one pump action shotgun and the double-barrelled shotgun seems like it doesn’t have the ability to put out as much damage as you need with the swarm of police. 

Best bit

In-game screenshot from Payday 3

(Image credit: Starbreeze)

The elation as you sling the last bag of loot into your waiting transport and extract after a mission gone wrong is always a relief, as you ignore your broken and bloody heister and instead focus on how much cash they've managed to pull out.

Unlike previous games in the series, Payday 3 can be played and enjoyed as a solo or duo player. The bots wisely stay outside hanging out during the stealth sections, but are competent partners during firefights and will chuck down bags of ammo, health, or armor when needed in addition to reviving you and doing what they can in firefights. It’s still a better game with a coordinated group of four players, but it isn’t a deal breaker in the way it is for many of these four-player co-op games.

I think Payday 3 is a solid foundation and given the decade the team worked on Payday 2 there’s no reason to believe that this game won’t also become stuffed with DLC, licensed content, and new heists until it’s a veritable paradise for would-be heisters. However, as it stands there’s just not enough game here and what there is feels a little less enjoyable than Payday 2, despite the extra polish. The game shipping with eight heists and being completable on the normal difficulty in just a few short hours left me feeling a bit cold.

But hey, at least they got rid of that stupid offshore account thing, so the cash you rake in from the heists is all yours to spend on silly masks.

Accessibility features  

Payday 3 accessibility settings

(Image credit: Starbreeze Studios)

There’s no dedicated accessibility menu, but there are toggle options for things like crouching or aiming down sights, while there’s also something to reduce weapon sway. 

There are colorblind options for those with protanomaly, deuteranomaly, and tritanomaly, with a slider to scale the assists up or down depending on sensitivity. This is accompanied by a series of different images so you can see what’s changing in real-time. 

 How we reviewed Payday 3

I played Payday 3 for 20 hours, tackling every heist in the game. I completed several heists in full stealth on normal difficulty but was unable to manage this in the harder difficulties. I also played with four or five of the different weapons in the game, and played solo, with another player, and in a four-man team.  

If you enjoy the Payday series, you might want to check out the best FPS games, or the best co-op games for an experience to share. 

JBL Quantum 360P review – a capable but not complete mid-ranger
10:06 pm | September 20, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming Gaming Accessories | Comments: Off

If you’re shopping around the mid-range level of the best PS5 headsets, you may well find the JBL Quantum 360P wireless model. Looking to offer a value-busting wireless option for PS5, PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch, the 360P is a capable though relatively unspectacular headset.

While it sports JBL’s reliable audio quality, making the sound of all media shine, the set is let down by tacky, cheap build quality, and sports a mic that is relatively unexceptional. It also has tough competition in the space in which it’s pitched and struggles to shine through - though there is no denying, particularly in isolation, the value it can offer if you’re after a solid and handy wireless PS5 headset that offers a pretty rich soundscape.

Price and availability

Coming in at $129.95 / £79.99 the JBL Quantum 360P sits squarely in the mid-range price bracket. Despite coming from a well-known and widely active brand, the JBL Quantum 360P isn’t currently available in Australia. The price is about right for its mid-range proposition, but would certainly be even more attractive should it receive price cuts price-cut treatment at retailers or during sales events. We often see headsets in this bracket try to push the value envelope - specifically with those offering wireless connectivity - so the Quantum 360P has to do exactly that right from the off.

As mentioned, the JBL Quantum 360P is stacking up against the likes of the official PS5 Pulse 3D wireless headset, the Logitech G535, and the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2 headset. This makes for tough company for the 360P with those competing headsets offering wonderful bang-for-buck value, top build quality, connectivity and flexibility, and excellent overall audio prowess. As a result, the Quantum 360P risks fading into the background of the conversation before it can even enter it. 

Design and features

Profile and detail shots of the JBL Quantum 360P wireless gaming headset

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

The 360P’s design is immediately clear as something that’s geared toward being in keeping with the PS5’s own design aesthetic. White, black, and blue abound across the headband and the cups, and it looks right at home next to Sony’s console.

The headband offers some padding at the center which is a bit lean for my liking, and a little scant considering the north-of-$100 price tag. The leatherette cushioning on said cups is relatively comfortable and soft, but not the plushest or nicest I’ve experienced such as the ultra-comfy SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless. Still, overall comfort is adequate and feels fine for sessions lasting a few hours - though I did notice the headband being slightly uncomfortable over longer periods.

The earcups house all of the headset’s onboard features, as well as some light JBL branding which is unintrusive. On the right cup, there’s the power switch and the power/connection LED. The left houses the mic port, USB-C charging and connection port, charging LED, mic mute button, volume wheel, and game/chat balance wheel.

Where the cups fall short is in the build quality. They feel loose in the build and readily freewheel from the hinges about all of their axes. At best, this never screams top-end build quality, and at worst, it’s frankly annoying and makes the headset unwieldy in the hands. What makes this latter point worse is the tacky-feeling plastic that the headset is finished in all over. It’ll do a job of protecting the set from most bumps and drops, but it is far more representative of something cheaper than its price tag would suggest.

Profile and detail shots of the JBL Quantum 360P wireless gaming headset

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

The headset offers a streamlined wireless focus, epitomized by the fact that there are no wired audio options on the 360P; no audio jack, and no audio through the USB-C port. What you get instead in this cord-free set is a 2.4GHz wireless connection via the dongle as well as a Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity option. Neat and focused, as I say, but it’s always a plus to have a physical, wired connection as a backup. Nonetheless, the 360P offers versatility by being compatible with PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, mobile, and Mac.

While primarily geared toward PS5 and PS4 use, you can deploy the 360P on PC too, which will allow you to make the most of JBL’s Quantum software, where you can tinker and customize your EQs, mic levels, and spatial sound settings. However, it’s worth noting that settings are not stored on board, so can’t then be ‘taken back’ to another platform.

Lastly, JBL claims the Quantum 360P has a battery life of 22 hours when using the 2.4GHz connection, and 26 hours when using Bluetooth. In my testing, I have found this to be around right - I recently only had to put the headset on charge after 20-something hours of use (both 2.4GHz and Bluetooth).


Profile and detail shots of the JBL Quantum 360P wireless gaming headset

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

No matter what you spend on a gaming headset, the proof is in the audio pudding. And in the Quantum 360P, the proof is very in keeping with JBL’s audio chops and known quality - no matter the media, the audio provided by the 360P is rich, rounded, and enjoyable.

To put the 360P through its paces, I tried several games and predominantly used it while getting the hours in for my Lies of P review, but also tested the set with Back 4 Blood with my friends, and when jumping back into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (in preparation for Assassin’s Creed Mirage). Across all those games, the audio delivered to me was rich and certainly channeled JBL’s pedigree. The bass was particularly fulsome and rounded, and no details or audio cues, no matter how subtle were ever missing. 

Guns were punchy in Back 4 Blood, and the awful noises all the Ridden make throughout levels were nice and clear; every mechanical clang of Lies of P’s puppet enemies was well-presented, and the cacophony of busy boss fights was well-balanced too; and the sounds of Valhalla’s world from trees rustling to the swish of arrows was lovely. JBL’s audio quality is certainly in the 360P’s DNA and experiencing this through the set’s 40mm drivers (about par for this range of headset) is one of the 360P’s best features.

In practice, the game/chat dial is nice to have but a little inconsistent and the differences were subtle at best, and the dual connectivity is certainly nice to have - though is rapidly becoming the standard in 2023.

JBL’s audio quality extended to other media in my testing too. All music, pretty much across the board, was rich and detailed - from background video game soundtracks to country and heavy metal, the 360P did a top job of acting as a daily driver set of headphones for music, work, and everything else away from gaming too.

Profile and detail shots of the JBL Quantum 360P wireless gaming headset

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

Audio downsides were not totally absent, however. I found the top end of the soundscape cut across other audio quite jarringly at times; even down to Slack notifications being a little tinny and echoey as they barged through music. It’s also worth noting that on consoles you won’t get any onboard or JBL-own surround sound features - you’ll get the PS5’s own benefits on that console, but anything else surround sound wise is reserved for PC only.

The microphone being detachable is a welcome move so as to offer a neat solution for when it’s not needed, however, it too is lacking in build quality and doesn’t scream of a more-than-$100-price standard. It wobbles a lot, doesn’t hold a strong bend, and is finished with a cheap-feeling rubber. Team this with a solid but unspecial quality of presenting and carrying my voice, and it’s another middling feature on the whole. It’s relentlessly fine and perfectly serviceable.

The JBL Quantum 360P really is the definition of an unspectacular, gets-the-job-done mid-range headset, but for something that’s on the expensive side of $100, folks should expect more - especially from the robustness, build quality, and design.

In the face of its peers, and while the audio quality and dual connectivity do save the 360P somewhat, on the whole, it doesn’t do an awful lot to stand out above the competition - which is fierce at this level. Personally, for something PS5-specific at this price point, I’d choose the Pulse 3D, and for something beefier and multi-platform, the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2. As a result, it’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend at its retail price - though it could be an attractive proposition during sales like the Black Friday gaming headset deals.

Should I buy the JBL Quantum 360P wireless headset?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we reviewed the JBL Quantum 360P headset

I used the JBL Quantum 360P headset as my daily audio-giver for PS5 and PC, for work and play, over the period of several weeks. As a result, I was able to test it with a variety of media, from different genres of games, meetings, and calls, to all kinds of music. I wore the headset for varying session lengths, from a couple of hours up to all day on my PC. The battery life I experienced was around that that JBL claim.

I was also able to directly compare the headset to my usual go-to PC set, the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023), and my regular PS5 set, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless to see how the 360P fares against premium gaming headsets in both single player gaming, audio quality, and microphone qualities.

If you’re looking for a headset compatible with the other consoles, check out our guides to the best Nintendo Switch headsets, and best Xbox Series X headsets.

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023) review: the laptop I wish I’d had as a student
7:13 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Chromebooks Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Tags: | Comments: Off

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): One-minute review

The single best thing about the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 is how easy it is to take around with you, no matter where you’re off to or what carrier bag you’ve got this laptop will become your most helpful travel companion. I was pleasantly surprised when I first received our review unit of the laptop and was able to slip it into my little tote bag, with room to spare for both the charger and my current paperback of choice. 

In terms of design, for what the Chromebook is offering in terms of simplicity and portability I think it looks like the perfect productive machine. No fancy aesthetics or unnecessary frilly, this is likely my favorite Chromebook design so far, and as a long-time Macbook girl that claim carries a lot of weight coming from me. The Acer Chromebook Spin 314 could be the best laptop for you if all you want is something to work on, maybe watch a few shows, and put away until the next day. 

I worked with this laptop for several days and honestly, it was the most stress-free testing I’ve done in a while. Because it’s so thin and light, I could slip it into my bag and carry on with my life without my shoulders screaming, and with a good 10 hours of battery life sometimes it wouldn’t leave my bag for a day or two purely because there was no rush to plug it in and charge it. As usual, the simple ChromeOS interface is free of any unnecessary apps or clutter and you can boot it up, sign in, and get to work in like 10 minutes right out of the box. 

If you’re looking for the best student Chromebook, you’ve come to the right review. The Acer Chromebook Spin 314 is everything you need and more to get you through the school year without splashing out a frightening amount of cash. The touch display makes reading digital textbooks or annotating notes a breeze, and the glass-like trackpad is a joy to use. 

The Intel Pentium processor inside means you can work and watch at the same time without any impact on performance, making multitasking easier - of course, part of the credit here goes to Google for making ChromeOS such a resource-light operating system. Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 and I’m actually quite sad I can’t hold onto it forever. 

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Price and availability

  • How much does it cost?  $380 / £329 / around AU$661 
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK, tricky to find in Australia 

Chromebooks are often heralded for their affordability compared to other laptops, and the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 lives up to that and more. This is probably one of the best cheap laptops you can buy right now in terms of pure value for money.

Keep in mind that the cheaper price tag often indicates somewhat limited capabilities, so if you want to play games beyond mobile app games (via the Google Play Store), you’ll have to look elsewhere. 

This sentiment extends to users looking for a device with some serious computing power, as once again, Chromebooks are for your everyday basic tasks - if you want to run resource-intensive software, you’ll need to find something else. For everything this device offers, the price is very reasonable.

  • Price: 5 / 5

Sid view of Acer Chromebook SPIN 314

(Image credit: Muskaan, Future)

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Specs

There are a few different models of the Acer Chromebook Spin 314, with our review unit effectively taking the entry-level position. There is actually a cheaper Spin 314 that uses a MediaTek Kompanio processor, but that model is older and uses a slightly different chassis.

As for other models, it's a bit confusing; the US Acer website list a far more expensive model ($679.99) but it's missing some specs, most notably any storage details - and I couldn't find it for sale anywhere, either. As such, I've included only the specs for our standard-model review unit below.

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Design

  • Solid, functional chassis
  • Sleek and Stylish
  • Comfortable typing experience 

I absolutely love the design of this laptop. This may be my youth showing, but I think it looks so retro and cute. The silver plastic chassis and overall rounded design remind me of the laptops my dad used to use - and sometimes let me play Minesweeper on - and I think the choice to go 'back to basics' was a smart move on Acer's part. 

Image 1 of 3

Acer Chromebook Spin 314

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 3

Acer Chromebook Spin 314

(Image credit: Future)
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Acer Chromebook Spin 314

(Image credit: Future)

Of course, it wouldn’t be called a Spin if it didn’t spin - well, at least offer some kind of mobility. The full HD touchscreen offers impressively sharp colors without feeling too harsh, and the ability to turn your thin laptop into a slightly chunky tablet thanks to the 360-degree hinge is perfect if you want to snuggle up in bed to binge your favorite shows.

In terms of connectivity, you get a good selection of ports that include two USB-C ports, standard USB-A, and HDMI, so you can hook up quite a few peripherals and also connect it to a monitor if you want a dual-display setup. 

Typing on this laptop is a dream once you get used to the Everything Button (ubiquitous on ChromeOS devices) replacing the caps lock, and as someone who notoriously hates most laptop touchpads, the Acer Chromebook Spin's is very tactile. Also, Acer uses ocean glass in the touchpad's construction, meaning the pad is made of recycled materials - a small but welcome addition that I appreciate.

Although its minimalist appearance might not be for everyone, I can’t really fault the design of the Acer Chromebook Spin 314; it’s probably my favorite Chromebook so far. That's saying a lot, because I’m not very sweet on Chromebooks myself as a committed Macbook girl.

  • Design: 5 / 5

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Performance

  • Good performance 
  • Great storage speed
Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Benchmarks

Here's how the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Mozilla Kraken (fewer is better): 608.1ms
Speedometer: 301
JetStream 2 (higher is better): 213.4 points
TechRadar battery life test: 10h 15m

Of course, the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 runs on Google’s ChromeOS, the easiest system to navigate and learn if you’re just starting out on your laptop journey. It’s suitable for most everyday tasks like browsing the web, collaborating on documents, streaming a favorite show, or just watching YouTube. The laptop is generally geared towards lightweight web-based activities, though that's not to say it isn't a strong contender for our list of best student laptops or even the best Chromebooks

The Acer Chromebook Spin 314 can pull a decent level of speed and computing prowess from its Intel Pentium Silver N6000 processor, and both within the benchmarks and general stress tests - plus frantic multitasking from me trying to do a million things at once - it breezed through everything I threw at it.

This laptop comes with 4 GB of DDR4 memory, which I'd say would be insufficient for a Windows laptop but is less of an issue here. There's also only 128GB of local eMMC storage, which again could be an issue were it not for ChromeOS's reliance on cloud storage via Google Drive. Naturally, these specs are modest overall, but that's not a huge problem for a Chromebook - especially one as competitively priced as this.

Acer Chromebook Spin 314

(Image credit: Future)

I worked on this laptop for a few days and while it was an adjustment to get used to the Everything Button, I’m genuinely sad I have to let go of this laptop. While I was using it I was thinking about my younger self, in school and university, and wondered at how much easier my life could have been if I had my hands on a laptop like this.

I wouldn’t have had to lug around a monstrously heavy machine, and it could've comfortably pulled double duty as an entertainment device in tablet mode. I can’t stress enough how much I recommend this laptop to students. 

If you’re going to be doing an essay-heavy degree, you should be looking at the Acer Chromebook Spin 314. Thanks to Google's cloud ecosystem, you can just pick up where you left off with your coursework on any device. 

Plus, it’s super refreshing to work on a device without all the clutter of regular desktops but still with basically everything you’d need to get through the day. 

  • Performance: 4 / 5

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Battery life

Acer Chromebook Spin 314

(Image credit: Future)
  • 10-hour battery life
  • All-day use out of a single full charge 

The battery life of the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 lives up to the 10-hour estimate provided by Acer, clocking in at 10 hours and 15 minutes during our battery life benchmark. 

In the time I spent reviewing it, I only had to charge it twice - which is pretty impressive, and my biggest pet peeve when reviewing laptops is needing to have them constantly plugged in. You can leave the house, work on it all day, then come home and get at least two hours of Netflix time before you have to plug it in again.  

  • Battery life: 4 / 5

Should you buy the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023)?

Buy it if...

You’re a student on a budget
Acer keeps it simple but sweet here: this is a plain laptop that is designed to get you through the day, and for the price you're getting a good, reliable product.

ChromeOS is your thing
ChromeOS has gained popularity and is genuinely a very good operating system, particularly if you work across multiple devices and want to take advantage of the Google ecosystem.  

You’re often on the move
There are lighter machines and smaller machines, but for a 14” laptop this is tough (and cheap) enough to happily withstand the hustle and bustle of commuting.

Don't buy it if...

You need more computing power 

Chromebooks are perfect for day-to-day or low-intensity work, but if you need a machine to run statistical programs or withstand some heavy-duty workloads, this isn't for you. 

You need to use specific programs
If you need to use rendering software, want to dive into animation, or play the latest games, you're not going to be doing that on this - or most other Chromebooks, for that matter. Perhaps a MacBook Air would be a better choice? 

Acer Chromebook Spin 314 (2023): Also consider

If our Acer Chromebook Spin 314 review has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...  

How I tested the Acer Chromebook Spin 314

  • Several hours a day over the course of a week
  • Office work, general web use, Android games and apps, media playback
  • Techradar benchmark suite, real-world tests, using the laptop for work

I used the Acer Chromebook Spin 314 as my main device for a few days for work and as a personal computer over the weekend, testing it over a week in total. I did all my usual work with it - which mostly comprises word processing, online research, and video calls - and then used it in tablet mode to watch YouTube at home.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed September 2023

Bambu Labs A1 Mini review
4:01 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Comments: Off

Something has fundamentally shifted in the 3D printing market, with manufacturers suddenly producing machines that have taken a huge leap forward in speed, quality, features and affordability. There's one company more than most that has driven the market forward at such speed, and that's Bambu Labs. 

Now, the company has released the innovative A1 Mini. While the printer's chassis design may not be groundbreaking, where it truly stands out is in its filament management. Courtesy of the AMS Lite system, this printer is capable of handling up to four different filaments, a feature typically reserved for high-end models. Yet, here it's in a relatively inexpensive, user-friendly entry-level model, at least in price and ease of use.

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

This puts the A1 Mini in a league of its own, especially when you consider its attractively low to mid-range price point. One of the best 3D printers to hit the market, it offers ultra-fast print speeds when using a single filament and maintains excellent print quality throughout. However, multi-filament printing does slow down considerably, but that print quality remains high. 

The printer's price point and ease of use make it well-suited for beginners, although no enthusiast would be disappointed with the outstanding quality and speed of the prints. The A1 Mini sets itself apart not just with its robust performance but also with its forward-thinking multi-filament capabilities. This print might be small, but it should be seen as a landmark in the 3D printer evolution.

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

BambuLabs A1 Mini: Design

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

While the Bambu Labs A1 Mini's design may echo the popular configuration seen in machines like the Official PRUSA Mini—with its base housing both the print platform and electronics, complemented by a vertical strut and a horizontal one holding the tool head—the similarities decidedly stop there. Bambu Labs has infused its model with distinct features that set it apart as an innovative piece of hardware.

The printer's tool head makes an immediate impression, punctuated by three dots that highlight the intelligent extruder within. A side shoot containing the filament-cutting blade is another innovative touch. And let's not forget the AMS Lite system, a filament delivery system that, while almost futuristic in its capabilities, still maintains a footprint similar to that of the printer. It's an engineering marvel, managing to hold up to four different filaments for your multi-colour or multi-material printing needs.

Complementing these features is a handy, albeit not smartphone-responsive, touchscreen that offers an easy-to-navigate user interface. More standard design features include the magnetic PEI build platform, which is heated and available in both smooth and textured surfaces, filament run-out sensor and all the usual must-haves for a 2023 printer. The Bambu Studio software adds an extra layer of customisation, allowing nozzle swapping and other configurations.

However, it's worth noting the absence of an enclosure, restricting this feature-packed printer to home and workshop use rather than educational settings. Design-wise, for most people looking for a 3D printer, the A1 Mini is a great fit, easily sitting on a worksurface of about 60cm x 60cm; this will comfortably accommodate both the A1 Mini and its AMS Lite system.

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

BambuLabs A1 Mini: Features

The Bambu Labs A1 Mini stands out not only for its compact size but also its simplicity and ease of use. Arriving almost completely assembled, bar the odd screw, and completely pre-tuned and pre-squared, you can essentially lift it from the box plug-in and get printing within around five to ten minutes. Once powered up, the automatic calibration covers everything from bed levelling to Z-offset and axis vibration. As the process starts, the tool head and heated bed whirr into action, letting off a high-pitched, almost sonic noise, highlighting the advanced calibration of the system is taking place. 

This out-of-the-box ease of setup and calibration makes it ideal for beginners, offering a complete plug-and-play 3D print solution. The touch screen reinforces this with its intuitive interface, and then there's the App and desktop software that all support the use and function of the printer. 

Perhaps one of the most standout features is the AMS Lite system, which handles up to four different filaments. The setup of this is straightforward as long as you follow the instructions; essentially, there are four filament tubes and two tube lengths that plug into the AMS Lite and then into the tool head. While it matters which tube goes into the AMS Lite, it doesn't matter which of the four holes in the tool head the other end of the tube goes. However, this isn't highlighted anywhere, so an initial leap of faith is needed at this part of the setup, and all was fine. 

Once the filaments are loaded, the selected material is fed through the system automatically once inserted. Then, each filament, when required, is automatically cut and withdrawn, then the new filament is pushed through the system and purged before printing. That process takes time but gains impressive results. Ensuring filaments are doing what they should be doing, the Bambu RFID reader automatic filament synchronisation keeps an eye on the material management. 

The A1 Mini innovates throughout, and the Active Motor Noise Cancellation technology is another feature that stands out and is used to minimise motor noise; the effect of this is like noise cancelling earphones and results in extremely quiet operation. 

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

The build is solid with all-metal rails and linear bearings, providing added rigidity and should reduce any need for frequent tuning. The A1 Mini also features an advanced filament monitoring system that goes beyond merely checking for filament presence—it measures speed, tension, and pressure, pausing the print if any issues arise. In practice, this system worked extremely well when tested with old and brittle filaments.

The A1 Mini is capable of reaching speeds up to 500mm/s with top accelerations at 10,000 mm/s²; each print begins with a vibration calibration for the X and Y axes. This ensures that every print is as accurate as possible, regardless of the printer's condition or ambient temperature, although that initial buzz does take some initial getting used to.

Another feature that I really like and one that I'm starting to see a little more frequently is the quick swap hotend that can be replaced in a few seconds. Another feature that I really like is the Bambu HMS code system, which is similar to the diagnostic OBD2 system that car manufacturers and garages use. However, in this instance, it's for 3D printers. On the maintenance front, Bambu Labs has ensured that all consumable parts are modular and easy to replace.

BambuLabs A1 Mini: Performance

Bambu Labs A1 Mini: Test results

Dimensional accuracy - score of 5 

Target 25 = X: 24.83mm / 0.17mm Error | Y: 24.84mm / 0.16mm Error
Target 20 = X: 19.87mm / 0.13mm Error | Y: 19.84mm / 0.16mm Error
Target 15 = X: 14.90mm / 0.10mm Error | Y: 14.97mm / 0.03mm Error
Target 10 = X: 9.86mm / 0.14mm Error | Y: 9.89mm / 0.11mm Error
Target 5 = X: 4.88mm / 0.12mm Error | Y: 4.89mm / 0.11mm Error 

X Error Average = 0.13
Y Error Average = 0.11
X&Y Error Average = 0.18

Fine Flow Control - score of 2.5
Fine Negative Features - score of 5
Overhangs - score of 5
Bridging - score of 5
XY resonance - score of 2.5

Z-axis alignment - score of 2.5

Adding up the totals gives a final score of 27.5 out of 30.

The A1 Mini distinguishes itself right from the box with an effortless setup process. This out-of-the-box functionality is welcome if you're an experienced 3D printer. It also makes it far more accessible to anyone new to 3D printing, as there's no manual calibration or assembly required.

As you move from setup to actual printing, the A1 Mini largely lives up to Bambu Labs' promises in terms of speed and quality. However, be prepared for the printers to spit out purged filament directly onto the workspace; it's a dirty habit but kind of fits the personality of this small printer.The performance of the Elegoo Neptune 4 Pro 3D printer is impressive, but it does have some areas that could benefit from improvement. 

Starting with the positives, the Neptune 4 Pro offers impressive print speeds of up to 500mm/s (recommended 250mm/s). This enables quick prints in roughly a quarter of the time of standard 3D printers, which at the time of writing is generally around the 100mm/s mark. 

The printer's Bambu Studio software provides a relatively intuitive user experience and, for the most part, is easy to use and find your way around. There are a few minor quirks, like finding out how to allocate filaments to model sections, but once you're familiar with these processes, it's all straightforward. 

While the A1 Mini's spec sheet might boast about its low noise levels thanks to 'Active Motor Noise Cancellation,' real-world experience suggests that it's not silent. However, it is quiet and has been happily spitting filament into piles for a few weeks while busying itself with printing models at speed. 

The A1 Mini offers an incredible amount considering its price, especially for those new to 3D printing. It's user-friendly and capable but comes with a few quirks that you can easily overlook, considering just how good this small printer is. 

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

Elegoo Neptune 4 Pro: Print quality

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

Bambu Labs A1 Mini: Verdict

The A1 Mini is a machine designed with user-friendliness in mind, making it an accessible entry point for those new to 3D printing. Its out-of-the-box functionality is both its strength and its selling point, eliminating the need for assembly or manual calibration. 

The machine mostly delivers on its speed and quality claims; its first-layer adhesion proved to be outstanding through the test, and the only failed prints were due to using old brittle filament to test the filament management system, which worked perfectly. The printer's noise level was low, although not quite 'whisper-quiet' as advertised. The only real things to really consider with this printer are to be prepared to deal with 'nests' of purged filament, relatively long multi-filament printing times and how quickly you can take delivery of one before they sell out.

The A1 Mini packs quite a punch in terms of performance and quality for its price point and will find wide appeal for both amateur and professional 3D printing enthusiasts.

Bambu Labs A1 Mini Review

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)
  • Best printers: Top choices for 2D printing at home, in the studio, and office
iOS 17 review
2:42 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones | Comments: Off

iOS 17 review: How to get it and which phones support it

Apple iPhone XS in hand

Every iPhone since the iPhone XS is eligible for iOS 17 (Image credit: Future)

Apple has announced that iOS 17 is out of its public beta phase and ready for download. If you have any iPhone that was released in the last five years, you can download iOS to your phone now – and you really should.

You can find the update in the Settings app by going to General Settings, then Software Update. If you've been using the iOS 17 public beta, your device may have already updated itself to the final launch version of the software.

Every iPhone from the iPhone Xr and iPhone Xs, through the iPhone 11 family and newer, is eligible for the update. If you have an iPhone SE (2020) or a newer iPhone SE, you can also get iOS 17. 

The iPhone X and earlier models are unfortunately left behind, but with five years of full OS updates Apple is still by far the best phone maker for long-term software support, which is a big reason why the best iPhones hold their value better than even the best Android phones

The iPadOS 17 update is also available now, for iPad models released within the last five years. 

iOS 17 is, of course, available on every new iPhone 15 out of the box – check out our in-depth iPhone 15 review, comprehensive iPhone 15 Pro Max review, hands-on iPhone 15 Plus review, and hands-on iPhone 15 Pro review to read about our experiences of using iOS 17 on those handsets.

iOS 17 review: One-minute review

Two iPhones coming together for NameDrop sharing

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

iOS 17 is everything I’d want in a smartphone update, and much more. It fixes issues that have been bugging iPhone owners for years, and answers longstanding user requests. It adds cool and important new features, and it improves other features so much, especially when it comes to sharing, that they feel brand-new again. Most of all, it will make iPhone owners pleased to own an iPhone, and get them interacting with other iPhone owners in new ways. 

Some of the best iOS 17 improvements are simple, yet so effective, like the StandBy screen that appears whenever I’m charging my phone and not using it. Some of the improvements are vital, like the safety Check In feature that tells my dad that my son and I got home safely after our four-hour drive back to New York. And some of them are subtle, but necessary improvements, like much better search options in Messages and improved Autocorrect. 

While geeks get excited about using a new OS update, the iOS 17 update will be fun for every iPhone user. Make a Contact Poster, then get out and find new iPhone friends. You’ll be able to share your style, your music, and even your gaming skills. Apple is making it easy and fun to share with the new NameDrop gesture, while adding more safety filters to block unwanted content from reaching your eyeballs.

iPhone 14 Pro with purple contact poster on screen for author

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

There's little disappointment to be found in this update. The Journal app sounds very promising, although it won’t be available until a later update. There are also some questionable new options if you want to leave someone a message: Apple has actually revived the answering machine with live voicemail screening. Otherwise, this update will be an overall positive for every iPhone user.

For Android owners, it’s going to hurt. Apple has added new sharing features that are going to make Android owners feel more left out than ever before. If you thought the green bubble was bad, wait until everyone in the car gets to add music to the playlist, as long as they have an iPhone, via SharePlay.

It’s funny, until it gets serious – Apple also excludes Android phones from receiving alerts via the new and valuable Check In safety feature.

Overall, this is one of the best iOS updates I’ve seen in years, and it gives iPhone owners more cool things to try than most updates provide. Whether you’re buying the new iPhone 15 Pro Max or updating your iPhone 11 Plus, you’re going to have fun with this one.

iOS 17 review: StandBy mode

iPhone in StandBy mode on side table

(Image credit: Apple)

Starting with the most elegant of the new iOS 17 features, StandBy gives my iPhone something to do when I’m not using it. It also gives you a great reason to get a charging stand, though your iPhone only needs to be propped up on its side for StandBy to work. I use it with a regular charging wire and a simple magnetic tripod from Moment, and it works great. 

StandBy is basically two Smart Stack widgets, side-by-side, on your lock screen. A Smart Stack is a pile of widgets that you can swipe through, and you can add widgets from Apple or any of the third-party apps you have that include a widget. You can pick the widgets manually, or let Apple make suggestions automatically. 

For a simple clock, calendar, and notification system, StandBy looks very clean and crisp. It’s easy to read across the room, and when you get a notification, you can see the app icon large, but it hides the actual message until you want to read it.

iOS 17 StandBy night clock press image

StandBy mode works very well as a bedside clock (Image credit: Apple)

You can also set StandBy to be a basic clock, without the widgets, or you can make it a digital photo album. I especially like that StandBy is well designed for bedside clock duties. It turns a deep red at night, and it won’t disturb your night vision. On the iPhone 14 Pro, it works with the always-on display, but for other iPhone models, it will look for motion, or wait until it feels a gentle nudge before it turns on the bedside clock at night.

I’m sure there are probably apps that can do the same job as StandBy, but having this feature automatically baked into the system makes it effortless. While it’s not the most exciting new feature, StandBy is the iOS 17 feature I use most often, pretty much every moment I’m not using my iPhone.

iOS 17 review: Sharing with AirDrop, NameDrop, CarPlay and more

Two iPhones using SharePlay to watch Ted Lasso together

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

It has long been possible to share information and content with other iPhone users, but Apple has made the experience so much more fun and easy with iOS 17 that I expect it will spark a new wave of sharing between friends and users of all stripes. Whether you want to just share your contact information, or if you want to share photos, music, documents and more, the new iOS 17 is a game changer. 

It starts with NameDrop, which is a gesture that you can use to share contact information between iPhone owners. You just bring your iPhone close to another iPhone (or even any of the best Apple Watches) and they find each other. Your new Contact Poster appears, so make sure you have a contact poster created and ready. Then you can start sharing.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro with contact poster creation screen

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Before I get to the fun stuff, let me address the elephant in the room here. Some nefarious people use AirDrop to spread unwanted imagery. iOS 17 has protection against sensitive content, and that starts with Contact Posters. If there’s nudity in a contact poster, you can choose to be notified first, and the image will remain blurry.

The new sensitive content protection also protects you when you're receiving photos via AirDrop sharing, over Messages, and even during the new FaceTime messages that callers can leave. If somebody gets naked on a FaceTime ‘voicemail,’ iOS 17 will warn you before your eyes are exposed.

Once you’ve started a NameDrop, you can choose which email or phone number to share, or you can just receive info and share nothing. Depending on what you’re doing when you start sharing, you can also share a lot more than just your contact info.

iOS 17 screen shots from Apple's public iOS 17 site

(Image credit: Apple)

If you have a photo on screen, or if you’re looking at a web page in Safari, starting a NameDrop session will let you immediately share whatever you’re seeing. You can send the same web page or share that photo with the other person. For other apps, you can go to the Share button menu and share quickly with your new iPhone buddy.

If you’re listening to music, things get even better. You can start sharing a song, and the other person will listen along at the same time. You don’t just share a link to Apple Music or Spotify; you actually listen together, bopping along to the same beat. Both of you get music controls, too, so you can pause or rewind if you need.

You can even add more people as you meet them, building a group-share of folks listening to the same tunes. Everybody gets playback controls. This synchronized sharing works with music, videos, and games, as long as the app supports the latest SharePlay features.

Two iPhones sharing music using SharePlay on iOS 17 song is

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

The coolest new implementation of this might be in the car, sharing with CarPlay, one of the new features coming to Apple Music with iOS 17. Say goodbye to the tyranny of the driver controlling the music. Now, everybody in the car with an iPhone running iOS 17 can add to the car’s playlist. You can let passengers connect with the same NameDrop gesture, or you can give them a QR code on screen that they can scan.

This music sharing works with Apple Music, even if not everybody is a paid subscriber. As long as the host subscribes, everybody can choose tunes from the Music library.

If you want to share more than just music and beats, AirDrop is improved for document and photo sharing as well. If you want to share a very large file, like a full 48MP image or a Pro Res video, for instance, you don’t have to sit around within Wi-Fi range to finish sharing. AirDrop is now smart enough to send the remainder of the file over the internet if you have to run.

iOS 17 review: Improvements we’ve been asking for

iPhone 14 Pro with improved iOS 17 keyboard autocorrect

Autocorrect has gotten better on iOS 17 (Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

We had been hearing, via leaks and hints from Apple, that iOS 17 would provide improvements and features that users had been hoping to see for years. We’re not sure which of the updates counts, but there are a bunch of great improvements that will make longtime iPhone users sigh with relief. 

The keyboard is updated, with a newly improved autocorrect engine. Apple says the iPhone will do a better job autocorrecting words in the context of the sentence. It’s also easier to edit and change autocorrections if they aren’t quite right. 

Messages now works natively with Android phones… just kidding, this whole update seems to be focused on dissing Android, hard. But Messages did get some great improvements that make searching easier. You can add multiple filters in search for people, keywords, or content types. If you’re looking for a photo from a birthday, you might search for 'cake' and photos together, for instance. 

Messages will also clean up one-time passcode messages for you, which is a very slick feature that will come in handy on a regular basis.

iPhone 14 Pro messages screen showing sharing options

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Unfortunately, Messages has become something of a hub for Apple and all of your connections. If you want to share a new Safety Check In, for instance, you do that using Messages. If you want to set up a recurring payment to someone using Apple Pay, Apple has added this feature, but it’s part of Messages. Most sharing between contacts is now handled through Messages as part of your conversations.

The problem is that there are a lot of new sharing features. That Check In feature is great, but it’s hidden deep beneath the ‘plus’ sign in Messages. You need to tap the plus sign, then tap 'More' just to find Check In, for example, which is an important and useful new feature (more on that below).

iPhone downloading maps offline in iOS 17

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Android fans love to point out when iOS finally catches up to longtime Android features, so it may be hard for iPhone users to brag about new live widgets, which can actually take actions like checking off a to-do list or playing a song in a streaming app. Likewise, Android has long enabled you to download maps offline for faster navigation, or navigating without cell service, and Apple Maps has finally caught up with this handy feature.

iOS 17 review: Important health and safety additions

iOS 17 features including Check in and Lockdown Mode

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Some of the best improvements made in iOS 17 will keep iPhone users happier and healthier, and perhaps save you from a dangerous situation. The new Check In feature is great for keeping your loved ones updated on how you’re doing and keep you safe, and improvements to Lockdown Mode can protect you from dangers as far reaching as state-sponsored hacking. 

If you’re starting a drive, or a run at night, or if you just want someone to keep tabs on you for a period of time, you can start a Check In through Messages. When you Check In, you choose a destination or a period of time. When you get to your destination, your recipient is notified. After the time has elapsed, you check in with your iPhone, and your recipient knows that everything is okay.

iOS 17 features including Check in and Lockdown Mode

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

What happens if things go wrong? If you get delayed on the way to your destination, your phone will ask you to check in. If you are more than 15 minutes off schedule, the phone will check in on you. If your time elapses and you don’t check in, your recipient will be notified.

What they get will depend on how you set up the Check In, but you can send information including your location, your phone’s battery level, and how many bars of cellular service your phone was showing. This can at least help them determine if there may be reason to worry, or if your phone may have run out of battery, and they should check in with you a different way.

You can also send a lot more info. You can send the complete route that your phone took from the time you started the Check In, and the last location where your phone screen was unlocked. If you have an Apple Watch, it will send the last location where the watch was removed.

iOS 17 features including Check in and Lockdown Mode

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Apple and Android both have a Lockdown Mode, but Apple’s Lockdown for iOS 17 is so much more advanced that it’s a whole different world. If you're worried about your phone being stolen or hacked, you can engage Lockdown Mode. On Android, that blocks your fingerprint from being used. On iOS 17, Lockdown Mode will even protect your iPhone against the Pegasys spyware sold by NSO Group to various state-sponsored spy agencies.

Like I said, it’s literally a world of difference, and I love the way Apple describes its efficacy: “... designed for the very few individuals who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats. Most people will never be targeted by attacks of this nature.” On iOS 17, this mode will also work with your Apple Watch and WatchOS 10.

iOS 17 review: A questionably retro direction for calls and messages

Did you ever have an answering machine in your home? I’m guessing that many younger iPhone users never listened to someone leave a message before deciding whether to actually pick up the phone and answer a call, but with iOS 17, you get that retro experience once again. You can send a call to voicemail, and listen while the person leaves a message, then interrupt the process and talk to them if you want to.

iOS 17 Live Voicemail options

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

I’m not sure if anybody was asking for this, but I expect people will use it. On a similar note, you can also now leave a voicemail in FaceTime. If you're on your iPhone, you can leave a short video message for someone to see later. If you start a FaceTime call using your Apple Watch (yes, that’s a thing you can do), you can just leave an audio message. 

Another change in iOS 17 affects Siri and how it responds. You no longer need to address Siri with a “Hey.” As my grammar school math teacher would say: “Hey is for horses.” In any case, Siri now answers to simply “Siri.” You can say “Siri, how much money is Mike Tyson worth?” and marvel at the results without saying "hey" first.

Apple iOS 17 new Siri results for Maps

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Siri is also listening in on phone calls, and if you want to ask Siri a question during a phone call, go right ahead. Your caller won’t hear Siri’s answer, but of course they will hear you calling out “Siri, what’s the weather in Ocean City, Maryland” when your friend suggests a beach weekend.

While that is useful, Siri can already be intrusive sometimes, and the idea of the assistant listening in on phone calls is a little unsettling. I have no doubt that my privacy is protected; this is Apple, after all. Still, I’d rather have to press a button than just feel like Siri is constantly monitoring my conversations.

iOS 17 review: What's to come – Journal app

iOS 17 Journal app

(Image credit: Apple)

One of the coolest features I’m excited to try in iOS 17 hasn’t arrived yet. That’s the new Journal app, which Apple says will be available as a download at some point in the future, and knowing Apple, there’s no way of knowing when that will be. It could be a matter of weeks, or it could be months. 

Journal is an exciting app for many reasons. First of all, I like the idea of journaling, but I have trouble getting started, and that’s what Journal is all about. It uses your iPhone, and whatever you’ve done with your iPhone, to suggest journal entries. It can even offer prompts for writing ideas. 

What’s cool is where it gets its information from: everywhere. There seems to be no limit to the ways in which Apple suggests Journal could gather information to create a story of your day. It could be based on obvious clues like photos you’ve taken, or places you’ve visited using Maps. Apple also says that Journal will know when you’ve done a workout, or when you’ve listened to a new album by one of your favorite artists for the first time. 

There are suggestions that Journal will know when you meet people, and when you are close to people you know. It will know music and activities, location, and your contacts. The Journal app has the potential to build quite a robust picture of your day, once Apple graces iOS 17 with its presence. 

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review: a fair price for a fine device
8:13 pm | September 19, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Two-minute review

Acer's Predator line of laptops is well-known at this point, offering everything from desktops like the Acer Orion 7000 to high-end laptops such as the Acer Helios 300. The latest gaming machine to grace my test bench is the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 - a more budget-conscious entry into the Predator line.

That's a welcome sight since many of the best gaming laptops are fearsomely expensive; sure, I love the new Razer Blade 14, but it starts above two thousand bucks, and the average person just can't afford to casually drop that amount of money on a gaming machine. 

In today's fraught economic landscape, good-value hardware is king - and I reckon the Predator Helios Neo 16 checks that box. With this redesign of Acer's existing Helios laptop line, we've still got a high-quality machine with the latest internal components, but now at a new (and more accessible) price point.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 photographed on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

Now, I'm not saying that the Helios Neo 16 is worthy of our best budget laptops list - it's still a gaming laptop and therefore not exactly cheap, as you'll see below. However, it offers plenty of bang for your buck thanks to 13th-gen Intel processors and RTX 4000 GPUs across a variety of different configurations.

It also doesn't feel cheap, thanks to its RGB keyboard, sturdy chassis, and large display. Although the more affordable versions pack an FHD display, my review unit is a slightly pricier model packing a QHD+ screen that looks fantastic. The hinge is also suitably durable, with minimal wobble if the laptop is moved or picked up.

Will this Helios spin-off earn a spot among the best laptops? How does it stack up against rival laptops in the same price range? Let's take a deeper look.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? Starting at $1,199.99 / £1,399 / AU$1,998 
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, the UK and Australia

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 starts at $1,199.99 / £1,399 / AU$1,998, although I noted while verifying prices for different models that the base US configuration (which features an RTX 4050 GPU) actually isn't available in the UK and Australia; those starting prices are for RTX 4060 models.

The highest-end model, which uses an RTX 4070 and i7-13700HX, will run you £1,799 / AU$3,999 (about $2,230), though I couldn't find that configuration anywhere in the States. The highest-spec model there appears to be my review unit, which features an RTX 4060 and costs $1,549.99 / £1,399 (around AU$2,400).

While these prices aren't exactly budget, the definition of an 'affordable gaming laptop' has shifted somewhat over the last few years. With this goalpost-moving in mind, I feel pretty comfortable saying that the Helios Neo 16 is actually a great-value product, despite costing more than a budget gaming laptop did five or ten years ago.

Interestingly, the aforementioned entry-level RTX 4050 model is already on sale at Best Buy at the time of writing, going for just $999.99 - a pretty stellar deal in today's gaming laptop market, so consider snapping that one up!

  • Price score: 4.5 / 5

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Specs

As I noted above, configurations of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 vary wildly between regions. I've done my best to include the base, review, and high-end configurations here, but bear in mind that the top-spec model listed below isn't actually available in the US (not yet, anyway).

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 photographed on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Design

  • Stylish design
  • Beautiful display
  • Plenty of physical ports

The first thing I noticed upon unboxing the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 was the printed design on the exterior of the lid. My understanding is that not every Neo model has this design, but it certainly adds to the aesthetic of the laptop and makes it a bit more eye-catching than the average gaming system.

Opening the Neo up, I'm immediately treated to an excellent display. I've long been a fan of the 16:10 aspect ratio now becoming more common in laptops since it gives you that extra little bit of vertical screen real estate that makes scrolling through web pages or documents a little easier. The 1600p resolution on my review unit is excellent, with strong color density and deep blacks.

Considering that this isn't an OLED screen, it's one of the best IPS displays I've seen on a laptop. The anti-glare coating works well in all but the most brightly lit environments, and the maximum brightness of 500 nits is excellent. The 165Hz refresh rate (also found in the cheaper 1200p version of this display) is a great inclusion for anyone who plays fast-paced competitive games.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 photographed on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

Moving down to the laptop's bottom half, we've got a relatively normal membrane keyboard that is mostly comfortable to use. The WASD, PredatorSense, and arrow keys are partially translucent to give them extra highlighting when the RGB lighting is turned on.

I have very little to say here; the keys don't feel overly squishy, but it's also not the best keyboard on a laptop I've ever used. Middle-of-the-road is perfectly fine at this sort of price point though, so I can't complain.

I will complain about the touchpad, however! While the pad itself felt suitably responsive and offered a decent amount of tactile feedback when clicked, the positioning seems a little... off. It's set to the left-hand side (already a risky move since the standard gamer hand position sees your fingers sitting atop the WASD keys), but it's also not properly aligned with the spacebar.

I actually struggled to put my finger on what exactly was putting me off, but it just feels slightly wrong. The palm rejection worked fine for the most part, although there were one or two occasions when my left thumb would catch the touchpad and register unwanted input while I was gaming. The large size of the touchpad - otherwise a good feature - made this an issue, though I imagine many users wouldn't have the same problem. I ended up disabling the pad since I was using a mouse anyway.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 photographed on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

The overall casing is plastic, not the machined aluminum you'll find on more expensive gaming laptops, but it doesn't feel flimsy. In fact, the Neo's chassis feels quite robust, and the 1080p webcam embedded in the slim display bezel is another bonus - a lesser manufacturer might've opted for a cheaper 720p camera here instead, considering the overall price.

Around the edges of the Helios Neo 16, we've got a veritable smorgasbord of physical ports - something I love to see in this era of MacBook-inspired port minimalism. We've got 3 USB-As, 2 USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, HDMI for video output, RJ-45 for wired internet, a headphone jack, and even a microSD port.

This level of port support should be considered aspirational among gaming laptop makers. Please don't starve me of my ports; I still use physical flash drives!

  • Design score: 4 / 5

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Performance

  • Decent gaming performance
  • 4060 can run anything at 1080p, most games at QHD+
  • Fans are loud but the system runs cool
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Benchmarks

Here's how the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Night Raid: 65,825; Fire Strike: 24,487; Time Spy: 11,146
GeekBench 6: 2,490 (single-core); 14,658 (multi-core)
Total War: Warhammer III: 1080p Ultra:
83.6 1080p Low: 223.8
Dirt 5: 1080p Ultra: 97.2 1080p Low: 164.6
Cyberpunk: 1080p Ultra RT: 61.1 1080p Low: 152.0
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 1hr 41m
TechRadar Movie Battery Life: 2hr 55m 

Considering the price tag, my RTX 4060-equipped review model of the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 performed admirably. I've seen slightly better figures from other 4060-wielding laptops, but the difference is pretty marginal.

If you drop the resolution to 1080p (the standard we use for benchmarking games), there's basically nothing you can't play with a clean framerate. Even Cyberpunk 2077's Ultra preset with ray-tracing turned on just about managed to clear the 60fps barrier, and performance in synthetic tests was also strong.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 photographed on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

Dial things up to native resolution, and you might find yourself having to drop your graphical settings a tad to maintain a high framerate, though this won't be the case for every game. I was able to play Dirt 5 at 1600p Ultra without my fps dropping below 60, and plenty of games can now take advantage of Nvidia's DLSS upscaling tech to boost framerates when you're playing above 1080p.

CPU performance was also pretty strong - again, not the very best I've seen, but great when factoring in the price point here. I didn't experience any slowdown while opening numerous Chrome tabs or running two games at once. While the Neo comes with a perfectly acceptable 16GB of RAM in most configurations, it can be upgraded to 32GB if you're planning to run any memory-intensive software.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 photographed on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

My only real gripe with the Helios Neo 16 during my testing process was the fan noise. Boy, those suckers are LOUD, even when using the balanced power preset. Knock things up to Turbo mode and it sounds like a jet engine firing in your living room.

That being said, the Neo did run pretty darn cool throughout my whole testing process, so those fans are clearly doing the job. The fans are custom-engineered all-metal 'AeroBlades' connected to five heat pipes and liquid metal thermal grease, which evidently works as advertised - props to Acer's laptop cooling team.

  • Performance score: 4 / 5

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Battery life

  • Unimpressive battery life
  • Large, heavy AC adapter

Sure, gaming laptops are hardly known for their all-day battery longevity, but it's always nice to find one that outlasts the competition.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is sadly not that laptop, clocking in at less than two hours in the PCMark 10 mixed-use battery life test and only faring a bit better in our looped video playback test. In practical gaming tests I got similar results, with just over 90 minutes of playing Deathloop using the balanced power preset before the laptop gave up the ghost.

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 photographed on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

The Neo does at least charge pretty quickly, but the included AC adapter is huge and heavy, which severely impacts the laptop's portability. Ultimately though, most buyers will (and should) primarily use this as a desktop-replacement system, so it's not a huge issue - or at least, it's an issue shared by 95% of gaming laptops, so I can't knock the Neo too much for it.

  • Battery score: 3 / 5

Should you buy the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16?

Buy it if...

You want good value for money
The Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 is competitively priced with a sensible starting price, meaning you get plenty of bang for your buck here - the higher-spec configurations aren't ridiculously expensive, either.

You want a multipurpose machine
The comfortable keyboard and 16:10 display make the Helios Neo 16 a perfectly good choice if you want a desktop-replacement laptop that will serve you for work just as well as play.

Don't buy it if...

You crave portability
The Neo isn't just a big laptop, it's also on the heavy side - and with its poor battery life, you'll also have to lug around the chunky AC adapter. This one's best left on your desk at home.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16: Also consider

If the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...

How I tested the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16

  • Replaced my everyday system for one week
  • Used for general gaming for around two weeks

I played a wide variety of games on the Acer Predator Helios Neo 16, not just our regular suite of test titles. I spent a decent amount of time in the evenings replaying Deathloop and also dipped my toe back into Apex Legends and Valorant (the latter of which I still suck at).

To test the brightness and glare resistance of the display, I used it during the daytime and at night, even sitting out in my backyard in the middle of the day. I used it in place of my desktop PC to write most of this review as well as some of my regular everyday work, including video calls to test the webcam.

I also took the Neo with me to my friend's house, playing the rather excellent Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun for a brief period on the train. Trust me, you don't want to try using a 16-inch gaming laptop on British public transport. Just don't do it.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed September 2023

Logitech Litra Beam LX review – dual functionality at a premium
6:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming PC Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off

The Logitech Litra Beam LX is the next iteration of the brand’s gaming light bar aimed at streamers. It builds on the foundations of the original model by adding ambient RGB lighting for a competitive price point. If you’re looking to step your streaming gear up, it’s a good choice to pair with some of the best webcams and one of the best green screens

It effectively doubles as both a ring light and RGB light strip in one, and the included stands mean you have a lot of different mounting options to suit your setup. However, if you’re solely interested in a light bar without this feature, then the original, far cheaper Litra Beam, may be a better choice. 

Price and availability

The Logitech Litra Beam LX launched on September 19 in countries such as the US and the UK and retails for $149 (approximately £120 / AU$230). For comparison, the original Litra Beam currently sells for $99 / £99 (around AU$150), so you’re paying about 50% for the added RGB ambient lighting.  

Design and features

Litra Beam LX Controls

(Image credit: Future)

As far as key lights go, the Logitech Litra Beam LX is among the best-designed models that I’ve used. Instead of the older Litra Glow, a small square-shaped light that attaches to the monitor, the Beam LX comes with its own stand and can be both horizontally and vertically mounted. 

Much like the original Litra Beam, the LX version is mains-powered and this has been done in order to make it considerably brighter than the previous USB-powered Glow model. The big difference here from the prior version is the RGB lighting as this is a dual-sided light. Essentially, it aims to be both mood-lighting and a ring light in one. You’re able to use it with Lightsync through Logitech’s G Hub, and there’s Bluetooth functionality to control the lighting wirelessly as well. 

The top of the Litra Beam LX houses all the controls if you just want to configure things without having to utilize a PC. You’ve got a power button, brightness control, and color temperature gauge, the latter of which doubles as an RGB color toggle when the switch is engaged. It’s all very intuitive and straightforward, meaning you can make quick adjustments if it's in reach, and then fine-tune in the software if needed. 

The stand that comes with the Litra Beam LX is excellent as you can either mount horizontally or vertically and adjust the height to several mounting points. This means you can have it under your monitor, above your displays, or stood up in between depending on how much space is available on your gaming setup. 


Logitech Litra Beam LX in a setup

(Image credit: Future)

The first thing that surprised me about the Logitech Litra Beam LX is just how bright it is when plugged in. As someone who has previously used the Litra Glow as a key light in the past, this one is a definitive upgrade in terms of its brightness. The company claims the 400-lumen LEDs are “TrueSoft for natural, radiant skin tones” and in my testing, I can confirm this. My setup is on the darker side of things usually due to an aging light bulb and lampshade, but this light bar made an immediate difference in illuminating my surroundings. 

The RGB lighting itself is vivid and the controls mean you can cycle through gradients, primary colors, and rainbow spectrums. It’s not quite as powerful as the front-facing beam in terms of raw brightness, with a softer ambiance, but it does a good job of reaching the wall behind my monitors. I found that the RGB was the most prominent with the room light turned off and relying on the light bar itself to keep me illuminated. For those darker times, a warmer color is a better option, though, as staring into harsh white light at all hours of the night wasn’t quite ideal. 

Fortunately, the temperature controls on the Litra Beam LX are easy to cycle through as swapping from a colder blue hue to a warmer orange tint only takes around a second or two. The overall temperature range of 2700-6500K is balanced, as even the most intense setting was easy on the eyes. If you’re someone who’s in need of a more powerful light than what USB ports on your PC can handle then you’re in good hands here. 

Ultimately, the Logitech Litra Beam LX is a great key light that features decent RGB lighting. However, you’re paying a premium on this added feature over the original, so if RGB is something you can live without then you’re better off going for the standard variant instead. 

Logitech Litra Beam LX vertical

(Image credit: Future)


Buy it if…  

You want a powerful desktop key light 

The Litra Beam LX is one of the brightest and most powerful key lights I have ever used. 

You want RGB lighting in your setup

The RGB on the reverse of the Litra Beam is bright and adds a soft ambiance to the setup without being overkill.

Don’t buy it if…  

You don't need or want RGB lighting

You’re better off buying the standard Litra Beam if you want to get the best value for money as it is considerably cheaper.

You want a USB-powered ring light 

The Litra Beam LX requires mains power to function, so if you just want something to plug into the USB port of your PC then the Litra Glow is the better choice here. 

Complete your setup with one of the best gaming monitors and pair it with one of the best PC controllers

Corsair Virtuoso Pro review: Open-back gaming headset? Don’t mind if I do
4:01 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computer Gaming Accessories Computers Computing Gadgets Gaming Computers | Comments: Off

Corsair Virtuoso Pro: Two-minute review

If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense to use a pair of open-back headphones when gaming as that tends to give the audio a bit more room to breathe, which should lend itself well to delivering that immersive soundstage and accurate sound imaging you want during gameplay. So, it’s kind of strange that not many gaming headset manufacturers are keen to jump on that bandwagon.

Luckily, Corsair is making up for lost time with its bold new Corsair Virtuoso Pro, an open-back addition (its very first) to its already excellent gaming headset line, many of which are among the best gaming headsets on the market.

Corsair isn’t, of course, a pioneer in the open-back gaming headsets scene – Epos, Audio-Technica, and even Philips all got there first. Still, this new arrival is a big deal, as none of the big gaming peripheral manufacturers have been intrepid enough to explore it. 

And what an impressive first entry it is, effortlessly rising to the ranks of the best wired gaming headsets out there and so much so it might convince Corsair’s rivals to make their own. It has me convinced.

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Coming in black and white colorways, the Corsair Virtuoso Pro doesn’t stray very far from Corsair’s signature look. It has all the telltale signs – the elegant curves, the brand logo on the ear cups and yokes, and the luxurious but solid finish. It’s just as beautiful, in fact, as all of Corsair’s recent gaming headset releases, especially in white.

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Understandably, as it is its very first attempt at an open-back gaming headset, there are design choices that could have been better. The headband foam is on the thinner side and not very plush, and the earpad fabric isn’t the softest. Plus, the headset itself, while fairly lightweight, isn’t the lightest out there at 338g, although that isn’t surprising as wired open-back gaming headsets do tend to be on the heavier side.

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

The one thing I don’t like about the design is the fact that the mic, which is detachable, is attached to the dual 3.5mm audio cable that also attaches to the right earcup for audio. It’s really not a lot different from a regular 3.5mm cable, but it just feels a lot more cumbersome in practice. Now that I think about it, it’s really the mic that’s the Virtuoso Pro’s weakest point, but more on that later.

Image 1 of 2

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 2

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Despite those minor shortcomings, there’s plenty to love about the gaming headset’s design. The earpads are plush, big, and made of breathable fabric, enveloping your ears while still keeping things airy – though that is also the nature of open-back headphones. The ear cup yokes offer a lot of swivel, allowing the ear cups to conform to just about any head shape. And, the overall build is as premium as Corsair’s other high-end offerings. So, expect a cool and comfortable gaming session when you’ve got these on.

Image 1 of 2

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)
Image 2 of 2

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

The Virtuoso Pro is also extremely customizable. The speaker tags on the ear cups are replaceable and interchangeable – I’m assuming here that Corsair will roll out a line of accessories at some point. As are the earpads and the headband cushion, though the headband cushion takes a little bit of finagling to pry off.

As you may have concluded already, this is a wired 3.5mm gaming headset, which means that you will be tethered to your laptop or PC. But, you do get a nice set of cables in the box, a 3.5mm to dual 3.5mm audio cable with the mic boom, a 3.5mm to dual 3.5mm audio cable, and one y-adapter cable, which is necessary if you're connecting to your gaming PC.

If you’re not familiar with open-back headphones and gaming headsets, there are a few things to keep in mind. Open backs are generally more spacious and wider in soundstage as the sound is going everywhere, instead of being stuck inside the ear cups. They also tend to have brighter highs that deliver lots of details and clarity. And, for better or worse, that sound tends to bleed out, which means your office neighbors might hear heavy gunfire or whatever beats you’re listening to if you don’t keep that volume down.

And, that’s basically what you’ll get with the Corsair Virtuoso Pro. This headset delivers a lot of space, its soundstage even wider than the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro. I AB’ed the two during testing, and my beloved Arctis Nova Pro now feels very confined next to it. And its sound imaging is just as impressive. When playing Hogwarts Legacy, it was apparent that all the sound elements had clarity to them, and I could hear precisely where they were in the soundstage, resulting in a very immersive experience.

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

It helps that it has 50mm graphene drivers – similar to those in the Logitech Pro X 2 Lightspeed – that also contributes to its very detailed audio quality. Speaking of detailed audio, the highs are incredible here, bright without being painful or fatiguing except in a handful of situations, and with lots of detail and clarity. The synths and highs in Taylor Swift’s Bejeweled were bright and sparkly, and the ukelele in Florence and the Machine’s Dog Days Are Over was bright and clear.

There’s plenty of bass as well. It’s not in your face like other gaming headsets, but it has good low-end response, especially considering that it’s an open-back headset. Both Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s All the Stars and Kavisky’s Nightcall had good bass and even decent rumble.

It’s not all perfect, performance-wise, however. The mids are a little pulled back, and since the high end is pushed forward, you’re getting harsher guitars, which means that the sound can be unpleasant with rock songs. Listening to The Strokes’ Reptilia hurt my ears and gave me a mild headache.

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Then there’s the mic. Your voice will come through loud, clear, and audible here, which means that your teammates (or coworkers, if you choose to use this as your work headset as well) won’t have trouble understanding you. However, your voice will come through a little compressed and harsh-sounding. There will be some sibilance as well. To its credit, it is a very directional mic so that folks you’re chatting with won’t be able to hear any background noise – yes, that includes you tapping or button-mashing away at your keyboard.

Those flaws are minor at best, however. Overall, you’ll find the Corsair Virtuoso Pro a pretty impressive gaming headset – perhaps one of the best in the market right now. Not too shabby at all for a first entry in the open-back gaming headset game.

Corsair Virtuoso Pro: Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? $199.99 / £169.99 / AU$239 
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

The Corsair Virtuoso Pro is not a cheap purchase. At $199.99 / £169.99 / AU$239, it sits in the premium market, especially considering that it’s wired. In fact, you’ll find that it’s a bit more expensive than offerings from Epos and Audio-Technica. However, I can guarantee that it’s worth the splurge over the competition - if you have the money to spend.

That’s especially because it is cheaper than both the wired SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro and the graphene-driver-fitted Logitech Pro X 2 Lightspeed, which sit at the top of the gaming headset pile in terms of performance and value.

If you are ready to explore the world of open-back gaming headsets, however, and you just don’t have that money to spare, I would look at some of Philips’ offerings. They are a lot cheaper, and they’re better-reviewed than what AT has on offer.

  • Value: 4 / 5

Corsair Virtuoso Pro: Specs

Should you buy the Corsair Virtuoso Pro?

Corsair Virtuoso Pro on a seat next to a pillow

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Rae Uy)

Buy it if...

You want an open-back gaming headset
This might not be the first open-back gaming headset or the most affordable, but if you want top-notch sound for gaming, this is the best.

You don't care for wireless
If you don't want the hassle of needing to charge every few days, this is one of the best wired gaming headsets out there.

You got a collection going
If you're a gaming headset collector like me, this is a fantastic addition to your collection. It's more expensive than other open-back gaming headsets, but it's worth it.

Don't buy it if...

You prefer closed-back headsets
If you're not ready to jump on the open-back gaming headset bandwagon, you should skip this one... for now.

You're on a tight budget
If you are ready to experience the joys of open-back but don't have the money, Philips has a few cheaper alternatives.

Corsair Virtuoso Pro: Also consider

How I tested the Corsair Virtuoso Pro

  • Spent a week testing it
  • Used it for gaming, streaming, and music listening
  • Tested it with a variety of games, songs, and movies

I tested the Corsair Virtuoso Pro for a week, using it as my main headset for gaming, media consumption, and work video calls. I made sure to test its open-back quirks, AB'ing it with my favorite closed-back gaming headset, and put its features through their paces, making note of its build quality and comfort in the process.

I’ve been testing, reviewing, and using gaming headsets for years as a freelance tech journalist and now as one of the Computing editors at TechRadar. My years of experience along with my discerning audio tastes make me more than qualified to test and vet these devices for you.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed September 2023

Thrustmaster TH8S shifter review – a fun addition to your racing wheel setup
4:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off

If you enjoy using manual transmission and the benefits it brings to your favorite racers, then the Thrustmaster TH8S is worth considering for your racing wheel setup. Its sturdy build quality and ease of setup are two notable highlights, and if you’re on a fairly strict budget, you’ll be glad to know that it won’t cost the earth, either.

The Thrustmaster TH8S’s seven forward gears - and one for reverse - make it a versatile shifter, and it’s also compatible with many of the best racing games out there. If you’re into PC sims like Assetto Corsa Competizione or iRacing, the tactility offered by the TH8S goes a long way to immerse you in the simulation aspect even more. Sim-lite titles like Gran Turismo 7 and Forza Horizon 5 are also supported on console, though you may find it isn’t best suited to F1 23, as the shifter is a gear short of the open-wheelers’ eight.

While overall a very fun add-on to use, we can’t quite recommend the shifter for beginners just starting out with the best racing wheels. Shifting can feel a little cumbersome as the stick is fairly weighty and without a dedicated stand to mount it on, it can cause your setup and monitors to shake if you’re on PC. Overall, though, racing wheel aficionados will get much out of the extra immersion it provides.

Price and availability

The Thrustmaster TH8S shifter add-on can be bought right now for $69.99 / £59.99. You can buy it from Thrustmaster’s official store page, or at notable big-box retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and Argos.

Comparatively, the TH8S is slightly pricier than the Logitech G Driving Force shifter ($59.99 / £49.99). However, the trade-off here is that the TH8S features seven forward gears as opposed to Logitech’s six, making Thrustmaster’s shifter a bit more versatile.

Design and features

Thrustmaster TH8S

(Image credit: Future)

The Thrustmaster TH8S’s chassis is largely built from sturdy plastic. And while it does lack a premium feel, it certainly isn’t poorly built. There’s a nice amount of weight that helps lock the shifter firmly in place when clamped to your desk or setup, too. The shifting stick itself features a metal shaft, which is ideal for resisting wear and tear that’ll come from shifting it between gears repeatedly. With high durability, then, the TH8S is perfect for long-term use.

The shifting stick defaults to neutral position, just to the left of center. It can then be moved upwards through seven forward gears (one through seven), and there’s a dedicated reverse gear, useful for games that require careful, calculated driving like Euro Truck Simulator 2 and MudRunner.

One of the best aspects of the Thrustmaster TH8S is its overall ease of setup and use. The clamp can reach as far as 1.6 inches (4cm) and is easily secured into place by rotating clockwise. No need for extra tools like a screwdriver to get the job done. For connectivity, the TH8S can be plugged into your PC or console of choice via USB-C or DIN, and cables are included for both options.


Thrustmaster TH8S

(Image credit: Future)

The Thrustmaster TH8S works perfectly as intended, with a high degree of responsiveness meaning in-game gear shifts are registered instantaneously. However, there are a few things to keep in mind here that may hinder the overall experience for you.

For one, the act of shifting with the TH8S takes a lot of getting used to. As you are physically shunting the stick between gear changes frequently, keeping a mental map of where each gear is located is vital. During testing, it was all too easy to shift into a suboptimal gear, especially when needing to slow down to take on particularly tight corners. There may be a learning curve involved for you, especially if you’re currently used to swapping gears via paddles on a racing wheel.

Another aspect that took some getting used to was just how weighty the shifter feels. And this is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, the fact that stick shifts require a bit of heft lends a very satisfying feeling to changing gears. On the other it often felt like a struggle to perform what is otherwise a fairly simple task on controllers and racing wheels. It certainly meant that I, personally, couldn’t use the shifter for more than a few races without feeling slightly worn out.

Additionally, the stick generates a fair degree of noise when shifting, which isn’t a deal breaker in and of itself. But it may be something you wish to take into consideration if you have roommates or particularly skittish pets.

The overall sim driving experience is enhanced with a TH8S added to your setup, though I found it to be most efficient with slower-paced titles like Euro Truck Simulator 2. That’s because the relatively lower top speeds made gear management much easier, and helped with the overall enjoyment factor, as well as being able to take corners more accurately. In comparison, I fared less well in titles like Dirt Rally 2.0; its constant changes to terrain, grip and speeds made managing gears a high-octane effort that quickly wore me down. Still extremely fun, mind, just a good deal more taxing. 

Should I buy the Thrustmaster TH8S shifter?

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How we reviewed the Thrustmaster TH8S

I tested the Thrustmaster TH8S on PC in a setup that also made use of the Thrustmaster T128 racing wheel and pedals. A wide range of games were tried out using manual transmission, including Dirt Rally 2.0, Euro Truck Simulator 2, MudRunner, and Assetto Corsa Competizione, to ensure the shifter was tested across titles of varying paces.

Prefer to race on console? Be sure to have a look at our guide to the best PS5 racing wheels for top setups tailor-made for Sony’s current-gen system. 

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