5 Best Motherboards For 2016

Choosing a correct featured motherboard is the first thing when you are thinking of upgrading or building your PC. Motherboard is the most important part of a PC, so you must know your needs and match such one for your computer. If you already know what you need but still confused about choosing the perfect one among so many options in the market then let us finish your confusion. Here we brought the top 5 motherboard suggestion in 2016. Let’s have a look.

  • Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming G1 Motherboard

 

gigabyte motherboard, gaming motherboard, gigabyte gaz170

Our first attention goes upon the Gigabyte Z170X- Gaming G1 Motherboard.  This one is supposed to be the top of the enthusiast LGA 1151 market. The Z170X- Gaming G1 has come in one package along with awesome features including Dual Networking, Wi-Fi, Four-way SLI. It’s declared to be the best Skylake Motherboard they have ever tested. This model is not just for gaming purpose, it gives you awesome graphical features. The only problem of this model is to be the cutting edge of Intel’s CPU technology since the latest CPU cores have been reserved for its mainstream counterparts. Buy this awesome motherboard at here.

Features of Gigabyte Z170X- Gaming G1 Motherboard:

  • Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 Certified Motherboard
  • Supports 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processor
  • Dual Channel DDR4, 4 DIMMs
  • 3 SATA Express Connectors for up to 16Gb/s Data Transfer
  • Integrated HDMI 2.0 support
  • Intel® USB 3.1 with USB Type-C™ – The World’s Next Universal Connector
  • LED Trace Path with Multi-Color Choice
  • Water Cooling Ready Heatsink Design with G1/4 Threaded Fittings
  • APP Center Including EasyTune™ and Cloud Station™ Utilities 4-Way Graphics Support with Exclusive Ultra Durable Metal Shielding over the PCIe Slots
  • Dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 Connectors with up to 32Gb/s Data Transfer (PCIe NVMe & SATA SSD support)
  • Creative certified Sound Blaster ZxRi 120+dB SNR
  • Killer DoubleShot-X3™ Pro for the best networking experience possible
  • GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS™ with Q-Flash Plus USB port
  • GA-Z170X-UD5 (gigabyte)

gigabyte ga-z170x ga-za70x ud5

Many users have complained about Intel Z170 motherboards being boring and there are no variations in the features and capabilities. But the realty says, even though most of the motherboards having the same features for connectivity, they are still very different from one another and manufacturers have assured it. The Intel Platform Controller Hub (PCH) used to be complemented by many third party controllers for providing extra connectivity. These days, you must not look over the connectivity and performance only, you should also look after the aesthetics, component quality and unique features. Thus, GIGABYTE has revamped their whole lineup and brought Ultra Durable series. The UN5 Series offers interesting ones and the GA-Z170X-UD5 is no exception. Buy this awesome motherboard at here.

Features of Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 Motherboard:

  • Supports 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processor
  • Dual Channel DDR4, 4 DIMMs
  • Intel® USB 3.1 with USB Type-C™ -The World’s Next Universal Connector
  • 3-Way Graphics Support with Exclusive Ultra Durable Metal Shielding over the PCIe Slots
  • Dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 Connectors with up to 32Gb/s Data Transfer (PCIe NVMe & SATA SSD support)
  • 3 SATA Express Connectors for up to 16Gb/s Data Transfer
  • 115dB SNR HD Audio with Built-in Rear Audio Amplifier
  • High Quality Audio Capacitors and Audio Noise Guard with LED Trace Path Lighting
  • Dual Intel® GbE LAN with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator Software
  • Gold Plating for CPU Socket, Memory DIMMs with 2X Copper PCB
  • APP Center Including EasyTune™ and Cloud Station™ Utilities
  • GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS™ Technology
  • Asus z170-Dilux Motherboard

asus z170 delux motherboard, asus motherboard, z170 delux

Now turning to the hot ‘n feisty Asus z170-Delux Motherboard aiming at the new Core i7- 6700K processor which is definitely bound to please you. The model comes in a nice black and white design along with the benefits in USB 3.1 and the fastest Wi-Fi solution ever tested. These motherboards are absolutely fine to be paired with new Slylake-S series processors. The new series of Slylake porcessors are energy efficient and quite powerful which needs to be paired with a new series of motherboards which is in between the models Z170 and H170 range. Buy this awesome motherboard at here

Features of Asus z170-Dilux Motherboard:

  • Unleash performance with one click
  • Exclusive OC design
  • Plus unparalleled connectivity with 3×3 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • 5-Way Optimization: One click optimizes your entire system with a dedicated water-pump header on board
  • ASUS Pro Clock Technology: Extends base clocks and improves stability for extreme overclocking
  • 6 USB 3.1 onboard: 5 Type-A ports and 1 reversible Type-C port
  • Dual 32Gbit/s ultra-fast M.2 x4: Onboard and PCIe add-in card
  • Hyper Kit: Bundled for instant U.2 support
  • MSI X99A SLI PLUS Motherboard

msi x99a sli plus motherboard, msi motherboard, x99a sli plus motherboard, gaming motherboard

Evaluation of motherboard becomes very difficult when it comes to the question of Intel’s X99 Platform. This model is specially designed for professionals and performance enthusiasts. Comparing to the highest end mainstream processors of Intel, Haswell-E offers more cores at a lower clock rate what sounds just like a recipe for reduced value in most of the applications but there is a catch. This model also has a 40-lane PCIe 3.0 controller. The -5820K’s frequency is slower up to 25% and  has 12 of its PCIe 3.0 lanes Disabled. Buy this awesome motherboard at here.

Features of MSI-X99A SLI plus Motherboard:

  • Supports Quad Channel DDR4-3333(OC) Memory
  • USB 3.1: Delivering speeds up to 10 Gb/s, USB 3.1 offers performance twice as fast as a regular USB 3.0 connection.
  • OC Engine: For More Flexible BCLK Adjustments
  • USB Steel Power: Super Stable 5V Power & Better Signal Transmission over USB
  • Turbo M.2: delivering next generation M.2 Gen3 x4 performance with transfer speeds up to 32 Gb/s
  • Military Class 4: Top Quality & Stability
  • OC Genie 4: Overclock in 1 Second
  • SATA Express + USB 3.1 + SATA 6Gb/s
  • Multi-GPU: NVIDIA Quad SLI & AMD Quad CrossFire Support
  • Intel® Gigabit LAN: Always connected with Intel® Gigabit LAN networking
  • Click BIOS 4: Easily Fine-tune Your System
  • ASRock Z170 Extreme 4 Motherboard

asrock motherboard, z170 motherboard, z170 extreme4 motherboard, gaming motherboard

ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard is a spin off from Asus over the last ten years for those new to the system building. The idea of creating a budget brat that supplements the flagship Asus brand seems to be quite straight forward. It did not worked out in this way, at least not in last couple of years.  But in the present age we got a feeling that there are not enough computer components manufacturers in the market and we mean the big stuffs such as graphics, memory storage and motherboards. So, no doubt, the ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard worth to be in the top 5 motherboards for 2016. Buy this extreme motherboard at here.

 

Feature of ASRock Z170 Extreme4 Motherboard

  • ASRock Super Alloy
  • Supports 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors (Socket 1151)
  • NVIDIA® Quad SLI™, AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™
  • Digi Power, 10 Power Phase design
  • 3 PCIe 3.0 x16, 3 PCIe 3.0 x1
  • Supports DDR4 3866+(OC) memory modules
  • 2 USB 3.1 (1 Type-C & 1 Type-A), 8 USB 3.0 (2 Front, 6 Rear)
  • Supports Full Spike Protection, ASRock Live Update & APP Shop
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec), Supports Purity Sound™ 3 & DTS Connect
  • 3 SATA Express, 6 SATA3, 1 Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
  • Graphics Output Options: DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2
  • Supports Triple Monitor

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Top 5 Smart Gadgets in 2015

This year some smart gadgets rocked all over the world by its modern and latest features. Here 5 top most smart gadgets have been shortlisted based on its popularity. Let’s check those out!!!

 

  • Samsung Gear Fit Smart Watch

 


samsung gear, smart gear, samsung watchThis year the Samsung Gear Fit Smart Watch has proven as a blast in top most gadgets. Literally Samsung is one of the leading brands in technology. They keep bringing innovation in new features and thus upgrading their latest technology. This time Samsung gifted such a smart watch which is quite able to complete most other Samsung smartphones, Tabs and Notes. The curved Super AMOLED display and dust and water resistant protection (IP67) makes this awesome smart watch prepare for any adventure and 24/7 wearable. It’s always on activity tracking mood throughout your day long activities. It’s Fitness Motivator has awesome feature of Heart Rate Sensor and It gives you real time coaching to actively support and motivate you to achieve your fitness goals. The 3
rd Party apps to keep you connected with your as in emails, SMS, incoming calls. Get yourself this amazing smart watch and amaze yourself.

Feature Highlights:

  • 24/7 wearable
  • Simple interaction
  • Personalized Fitness Motivator
  • Connected Notification through 3rd party apps
  • Compatible with most of the Samsung smartphones

Click here to buy now.

 

  • Lemfo Z50 Bluetooth Smart Watch

 

smart watch, smart gear

Another Smart watch comes in our second shortlisted Gadget in the top 5 of 2015 is Lemfo Z50 Smart Watch. It is not just a stylish wrist watch. It’s way smarter than that with its awesome featured technology. The watch has 1.54 inch IPS display with stunning color, color and steel net band. It’s easy fitted on your wrist and uneasy to scape on its sturdy structure. The unique feature which defers this one from other smart watches is its Dialer or Bluetooth phone. It’s able to receive phone call with its SIM card besides Bluetooth sync call. The Z50 smart watch has NFC paring feature which is so helpful for business card exchange, information exchange, message, Phonebook or call log, music sync etc. It also has 0.3MP built-in camera and also remote control phone camera that helps easy capturing any moment with any angle. The Sleep monitoring system monitors your sleep quality, Pedometer tracks your every step to achieve health goals and lastly it works good as your reminder to minimize your sedentary times. In a word this Lemfo Z50 smart watch is way smarter than just a smart watch. So, no wasting time, grab it before this Christmas!!!

Feature Highlights:

  • Stainless steel case
  • Bluetooth v3.0
  • NFC
  • SIM card
  • Built-in 0.3MP camera and Remote control phone camera
  • Sleep monitoring, Pedometer and Sedentary

Click here to buy now.

 

  • Kinesis Venture Smart Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

 

bluetooth speaker, smart gear, latest gadget

Our 3rd Item is gonna bring a big smile on the face of our music lover friends. Now, you see why. The Kinesis Venture is such a smart wireless sound speaker that you can use indoor or carry it for outdoor programs or hangouts as its weight is only 15.3 ounces. You can enjoy up to 12 hours playtime with this amazing speaker and its 2000 mAh Li-Ion chargeable battery. It is sealed to resist water and well rubberized for avoiding shock issues. It comes with a 3.5mm audio cable and a micro USB charging cable right there in the box. The buit-in microphone and Bluetooth feature allows you handfree speaker for any type of phone calls or video chats. This ultra-portable speaker goes with you to anywhere you need as in the shower, camping, biking, indoors or outdoors in any weather like shine or rain.

Feature Highlights:

  • Bluetooth v4.0
  • NFC
  • Water resistant (IPX4), Anti-scatch, dustproof, shockproof, high temperature resistant
  • Powerful Bass Sound
  • Hand-free speakerphone
  • Power output- 5W x 2
  • Metal hook loop for attachment to chain or clip or wire.
  • 2000 mAh Li-ion v3.7 battery with 12H playback
  • Supports multi pairing up to 8 devices

Click here to buy now.

 

  • Recon Instruments Jet Smart Eyewear for Sports and Fitness – Black

 

smart gear, smart gadget, smart eyewear, smart glass,

Now Sports lovers!!! Get ready to grab this one for Amazon. This one is supposed to be the world’s most powerful smart eyewear. You will know why it’s a must for your sport and fitness. This Recon Jet smart eyewear provides live metrics to your eyes directly with no breaking flows in your activities. Not only this. Here you get more than the integrated sensor suit or GPS. You can connect it via third-party sensors ANT+. By sharing your metrics to Recon Engage in real time you can also upload it to Strava, TrainingPeaks or MapMyFitness. You also can capture any moment of your sport or activities with the instant access point-of-view Camera. One last thing that amazes you is to see directly your smartphone notification through this awesome technology.

Feature Highlights:

  • Viewing live metrics
  • Integrated Sensor Suit, GPS and ANT+
  • Uploading your metrics to MapMyFitness, TrainingPeaks or Strava
  • Instant Access point-of-view Camera
  • See text and call notifications directly from your smartphone

Click here to buy now.

 

  • Smart Device Storage/Charging stand

 

bamboo charging station, smart charging

Now our last gadget is the simplest but most important gadget for anyone. At the modern age of technology nearly each member of a house has their individual smartphones, small laptops, Tables and other smart devices as in Chrome Books. This Smart device storage is the most helpful thing to keep your smart devices organized in one little so that your house doesn’t get too messy with devices and wires and etc. You can even use this smart bamboo stand as your devices’ charging station. Since it’s made of bamboo, it resists current and makes your daily life more secure. It has been built with premium bamboo which makes it strong enough to hold even laptops and other small smart gadgets. It’s a very simple thing to talk about but more useful for everyday-life use. It’s very reasonable and available in the Amazon Stock. So, get yourself this awesome featured Multi Device Organizer for your smart gadgets.

Feature Highlights:

  • Premium Bamboo Multi Device Storage and Charging Station
  • Great for Tablets, Smart Phones, Chrome Books and Small Laptops
  • Made Strong And Built to Last with Premium Bamboo
  • Room For Up To 4 Smart Phones In The Front; Rear Dividers Can Hold 2 Laptops or Tablets.
  • Made of 100% Eco-Friendly Bamboo.

Click here to buy now.

Wireless Headphones: The Best Type for You

The majority of devices today are designed to be mobile. You are constantly on the go, and your tech should be able to keep up with you. Smartphones and laptops are only getting smaller, lighter and more hands free. Headphones have also been following this trend in the past few years. You don’t see a cable connecting your laptop, smartphone and tablet together – your headphones should be no different.

There are many different wireless headphones options and many different applications for those headphones. This article takes into consideration when and where you’ll be using your headphones to help you make a decision on the best wireless headphones for your lifestyle.Wireless Headphones

Style

One of the first considerations in choosing wireless headphones is deciding which ones are most comfortable. There are a few different styles of Bluetooth headphones that rest differently on your head and ears. You want headphones that you can wear for long periods of time without your ears or head becoming fatigued.

Over The Ears
These headphones cover your entire ear. Generally larger than both on-ear and earbud-style headphones, these are some of the most comfortable headphones you will find. They are usually heavily cushioned around the ears and have cushioned headbands to keep your head and ears from hurting during prolonged use.

On Ear
This type of headphones rests over or against your ears and comes in a number of different styles and sizes. They are often convenient for travel, as many of them fold up into the headband, making them more portable than over-the-ear headphones. Since these headphones press against your ears, they can sometimes cause fatigue and become uncomfortable over long periods of use.

In Ear
Also known as wireless earbuds, these are much smaller than both on-ear and over-the-ear headphones. They fit right into your ear and generally don’t have a headband. This style is ultraportable but doesn’t have the speaker size to deliver the type of audio quality that over-the-ears and on-ear headphones provide.Wireless Headphones

Application

What you are doing and where you plan on using your headphones is an important factor in deciding on which pair is the best for you. In-ear, over-the-ear and on-ear headphones styles are all suited best in certain listening scenarios.

Best Wireless Headphones for Exercise
If you plan on using your wireless headphones mostly during exercise, then you want to go with a pair of wireless in-ear headphones. Using these headphones, you don’t have to worry about pulling out the cable while you run, nor do you have to deal with a sweaty headband or ear cushions as you workout. These wireless headphones stay comfortably placed in your ears, even during the most strenuous workouts.

Best for Travel
Over-the-ear headphones are the best Bluetooth headphones for travel. When you’re traveling, whether on a plane, bus, train or subway, there are many outside distractions. Over-the-ear headphones keep that noise from seeping into your ears by coving them and blocking external sounds. Many of these wireless headphones are also noise cancelling, meaning they produce a slight white noise the helps further block outside sounds.

Best for Office Settings
On-ear and over-the-ear headphones are both great choices for an office setting. Both have padded headbands and cushioned earphones to prevent fatigue from prolonged use. On-ear headphones aren’t as insulated or sound proof, so you remain aware of your surroundings, which can be helpful when coworkers are trying to get your attention. Over-the-ear headphones help to cancel out unwanted noise, so you can focus without distraction.

Critical Listening
Over-the-ear headphones are the top wireless headphones for critical listening. While on-ear headphones can also produce high-quality audio, the sound barrier that over-the-ear headphones create between you and the outside world is optimal for mixing music or watching movies. These headphones engulf your ears with quality audio and remove distractions.

Everybody’s ears are different and require different levels of comfort and care. Once you know which style is most comfortable for you and where you plan on using your headphones, you can make an educated decision on which wireless headphones are the right ones for you.

– See more at: http://www.toptenreviews.com/headphones/wireless-headphones-review/wireless-headphones-the-best-type-for-you.html#sthash.XZId0jhF.dpuf

Rear-View Cameras Review

HOW TO CHOOSE A REAR-VIEW CAMERA

The top performers in our review are the Rear View Safety 091406, the Gold Award winner; the TadiBrothers Wireless License Plate Camera, the Silver Award winner; and the Yada Digital Wireless Backup Camera, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.

Rear-view cameras are video cameras that mount on the rear of your vehicle and enable you to reverse more safely. They are built into many new vehicles, but older or less expensive cars might not have them. To learn more, check out ouradditional articles on rear-view cameras or keep reading.Cameras

Although you can buy cameras separately, all the ones we reviewed come with included monitors. The picture from the rear-view camera gets displayed on the monitor’s screen. In our review, we looked at systems with monitors 5 inches or smaller. The image is transmitted from the camera to the monitor in one of two ways: through a wireless transmitter and receiver, or through a cable that runs the length of the car, physically connecting the camera and the monitor.

Wired backup cameras require professional installation, which typically costs between $80 and $150, depending on your vehicle. This review focuses on wireless backup cameras, which you can install yourself with a drill, electrician’s tape, a screwdriver and a wire stripper.

Installing a Typical Wireless Rear-View Camera
Because the actual picture signal on a rear-view mirror camera is transmitted wirelessly, you won’t need to run a video cable under your car. However, you will need to provide a power source for the camera and transmitter at the rear of your car.

Below, we describe the installation process for a typical wireless rear-view camera. Before you follow any of these steps, you should consult the manual of the device you purchase. Also turn your vehicle off, disconnect the battery and consult the owner’s manual to make sure you won’t drill into any wires.

The camera mounts on the outside of your vehicle. It’s typically held in place by the screws at the top of your license plate. You’ll need to use a drill to bore a small hole behind your license plate into the trunk. You then run the included video cable from the camera to the transmitter, which stays in your trunk.

The transmitter needs power. To provide the power, you’ll need to tap into your car’s reverse light power cable by stripping that cable and attaching it to the power cable of the transmitter using electrician’s tape. This way, the monitor and camera will power on when you put your vehicle in reverse.

This installation process takes around an hour. It’s worth noting that a few rear-view cameras require even less installation. If you are unsure of the safety of your installation, consult with a professional mechanic.

REAR-VIEW CAMERAS: WHAT WE EVALUATED, WHAT WE FOUND

Field of View: Bigger is Better
When you’re reversing, you want the largest field of view possible. The units we reviewed varied in their horizontal field of view from 90 degrees to 180 degrees. To put that in perspective, your eyes have a field of view of about 130 degrees.

You should look for a camera with a field of view of about 100 degrees or more, to ensure you’re getting complete coverage of your back bumper. If you drive a large truck or SUV, you might want even more coverage. Several of the units we reviewed have 120-degree or wider fields of view, so you can find a camera that has enough coverage for your vehicle.

Night Vision: A Must-Have
You do much of your driving when it is dark outside. To combat this, the best backup cameras have infrared LEDs. Infrared LEDs glow red, and you’ll see a black-and-white picture on the monitor. Most of the cameras we reviewed have night vision, even some of the more affordable ones around $70.

Wireless Signal Strength and Quality
Interference can be an issue for some wireless backup cameras. They broadcast on the 2.4GHz frequency, which is also used by a variety of common electronics such as Bluetooth devices and Wi-Fi networks. When there is interference in your signal, it leads to degradation of the quality of your picture, even to the point where it can be unusable at times.

Some of the best rear-view cameras have a digital signal, which combats interference. This ensures that you have the best possible picture quality, but it is pricey: The cheapest unit we reviewed with a digital signal is around $120.

Of course, another way that camera manufacturers overcome interference issues is with brute strength. A powerful analog signal is more resistant to interference than a weak analog signal. So, look for a backup camera that has a bigger wireless range than you’ll need. The stronger the signal, the less interference will be an issue. Several of the backup cameras in our top 10 have signals rated for over 50 feet.

THE VERDICT: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

The Rear View Safety 091406, the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner, is the best rear-view camera on the market. It offers a wide, 130-degree field of view and a digital, interference-proof signal. Rear View Safety also has exceptional customer service, so you know you’ll get excellent support on the product.

The TadiBrothers Wireless License Plate Camera is our Silver Award winner and another excellent choice. At around $200, it’s about $50 cheaper than the Rear View Safety model. It has a 120-degree field of view and night vision. It lacks a digital wireless signal; however, its analog signal is rated for 65 feet, which means it has one of the strongest signals we’ve seen, so interference should not be a problem in a typical vehicle. Much like Rear View Safety, TadiBrothers has excellent customer service.

The Yada Digital Wireless Backup Camera is our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winner and the best value on the rear-view camera market. It’s about $110, and it has most of the features boasted by premium models, including night vision and a digital wireless signal. Its only real weakness is just-average customer support.

While it’s expensive at about $250, the QuickVu Backup Camera is the best option if you don’t feel comfortable installing a rear-view camera. The transmitter is built into the camera and runs on AA batteries, so all you have to do is mount the camera to the screws above your license plate and plug the monitor into your cigarette lighter. The QuickVu lacks night vision, but other than that, it’s one of the best cameras we reviewed.

The Best Antivirus for 2015

Even the most perfect antivirus utility can’t protect you against a real-world terror attack. Fortunately, you’re much more likely to encounter things your antivirus can defend your from, such as drive-by downloads, Trojanized apps, or malvertising attacks. Just be sure you keep your antivirus active and up to date: You wouldn’t want a zero-day attack to slip past your protection.

Notice I didn’t mention encountering an actualcomputer virus. That’s because these days other types of malware are more prevalent. Don’t worry: Despite the name, antivirus utilities handle Trojans, rootkits, adware, spyware, ransomware, and all kinds of malicious software. PCMag has reviewed over 30 different commercial antivirus utilities, and that’s not even counting the many free antivirus tools. Out of that extensive field, we’ve named four Editors’ Choice products. Eight more commercial antivirus utilities proved effective enough to earn an excellent four-star rating, and another eight earned 3.5 stars.

Almost all of these products are traditional, full-scale, antivirus tools, with the ability to scan files for malware on access, on demand, or on schedule. A couple are outliers, tools meant to enhance the protection of traditional antivirus. As for just relying on the antivirus built into Windows 8.x or Windows 10, that may not be the best idea. In the past, Windows Defender has performed poorly both in our tests and independent lab tests, though it did score a win in September andagain last month. Maybe Microsoft’s slump is ending?

Listen to the Labs
I take the results reported by independent antivirus testing labs very seriously. The simple fact that a particular vendor’s product shows up in the results is a vote of confidence, of sorts. It means the lab considered the product significant, and the vendor felt the cost of testing was worthwhile. Of course, getting good scores in the tests is also important.

I follow six labs that regularly release detailed reports: West Coast Labs, Virus Bulletin, ICSA Labs, Dennis Technology Labs, AV-Test Institute, and AV-Comparatives. Tests by the first three are based on simple threat-recognition, while the last three attempt to simulate real-world malware-attack scenarios. I’ve devised a system for aggregating results from the labs to yield a rating from 0 to 5.

Hands-On Antivirus Testing
I also subject every product to my own hands-on test of malware blocking, in part to get a feeling for how the product works. Depending on how thoroughly the product prevents malware installation, it can earn up to 10 points for malware blocking.

My malware-blocking test necessarily uses the same set of samples for months. To check a product’s handling of brand-new malware, I test each product using 100 extremely new malware-hosting URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas, noting what percentage of them it blocked. Products get equal credit for preventing all access to the malicious URL and for wiping out the malware during download.

Some products earn absolutely stellar ratings from the independent labs, yet don’t fare as well in my hands-on tests. In such cases, I defer to the labs, as they bring significantly greater resources to their testing.secureanywhere-antivirus-2015 secureanywhere-antivirus-2015 secureanywhere-antivirus-2015 secureanywhere-antivirus-2015 secureanywhere-antivirus-2015

Multi-Layered Antivirus Protection
Multi-Layered Antivirus Protection Antivirus products distinguish themselves by going beyond the basics of on-demand scanning and real-time protection. Some rate URLs that you visit or that show up in search results, using a red-yellow-green color coding system. Some actively block processes on your system from connecting with known malware-hosting URLs or with fraudulent (phishing) pages.

Software has flaws, and sometimes those flaws affect your security. Prudent users keep Windows and all programs patched, fixing those flaws as soon as possible. The vulnerability scan offered by some antivirus products can verify that all necessary patches are present, and even apply any that are missing. You expect an antivirus to identify and eliminate bad programs, and to leave good programs alone. What about unknowns, programs it can’t identify as good or bad? Behavior-based detection can, in theory, protect you against malware that’s so new researchers have never encountered it. However, this isn’t always an unmixed blessing. It’s not uncommon for behavioral detection systems to flag many innocuous behaviors performed by legitimate programs.

Whitelisting is another approach to the problem of unknown programs. A whitelist-based security system only allows known good programs to run. Unknowns are banned. This mode doesn’t suit all situations, but it can be useful. Sandboxing lets unknown programs run, but it isolates them from full access to your system, so they can’t do permanent harm. These various added layers serve to enhance your protection against malware.

Bonus Features
Firewall protection and spam filtering aren’t common antivirus features, but some of our top products include them as bonus features. In fact, some of these antivirus products are more feature-packed than certain products sold as security suites.

Among the other bonus features you’ll find are secure browsers for financial transactions, secure deletion of sensitive files, wiping traces of computer and browsing history, credit monitoring, virtual keyboard to foil keyloggers, cross-platform protection, and more. And of course I’ve already mentioned sandboxing, vulnerability scanning, and application whitelisting.

What’s Best?
Which antivirus should you choose? You have a wealth of options. Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016) and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016 invariably rate at the top in independent lab tests. A single subscription for McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016) lets you install protection on all of your Windows, Android, Mac OS, and iOS devices. And its unusual behavior-based detection technology means Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus (2015) is the tiniest antivirus around. We’ve named these four Editors’ Choice for commercial antivirus, but they’re not the only products worth consideration. Read the reviews of our top-rated products, and then make your own decision.

YU announces flagship Yutopia smartphone in India

YU has launched its newest smartphone and the company’s first premium flagship device – the Yutopia – in the Indian market.

The Yutopia has a unibody aluminum design with the antenna bands integrated around the edges and a PureBlack glass up front that gives it a seamless look.

The phone has a 5.2-inch QHD LCD manufactured by Sharp. The display has a color gamut covering 91% of the NTSC color spectrum and a contrast ratio of 1000:1, and uses OGS to laminate the display and the touchscreen layer to the Corning Gorilla Glass.

Inside, the Yutopia runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, with 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 32GB storage with microSD expansion. There’s also a 21 megapixel Sony IMX230 camera on the back with phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization. On the front is a 8 megapixel shooter.

Yutopia also includes a fingerprint sensor on the back that can also be used to take quick selfies. The phone has DTS audio support and comes with Little Birds earphones from the House of Marley in the bundle. Customers will also get a six-month subscription to the music streaming service Gaana.

In terms of software, the phone runs on the familiar Cyanogen OS 12.1, which is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop, with the Marshmallow update arriving later. The phone also includes a new service called ‘Around YU’, which integrates multiple services in collaboration with companies like Zomato for ordering food, Scandid for shopping, Ixigo for travel bookings, Ola, Taxi for Sure and Easy Cabs for booking cabs. The goal is to integrate the services from these companies into one app so you can find everything in one place without having to install their individual apps. You can order your dinner, book your flight tickets, or call for a cab from within the Around YU app.

The Yutopia is powered by a 3,000mAh non-removable battery. The phone supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 for fast charging.

The YU Yutopia is priced at INR 24,999 ($375) and will be available exclusively through Amazon India. Pre-bookings start today and the phone will go on sale December 26 onwards.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) and A5 (2016) up for sale in China

The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) and Galaxy A5 (2016) are now available for purchase in China, a couple of weeks ahead of what their name suggests. The two smartphones have popped up on Samsung’s local website with a “Buy now” button underneath, redirecting you to physical stores throughout the country.

The smartphones are priced at CNY 2,699 ($420) for the 5.5-inch A7 (2016) and CNY 2,398 ($370) for the A5 (2016). All four color options of the two models seem to be available, including the standard white and black, but also fancier gold and pink (or rose gold, if you prefer) variants. There’s still no word on the smallest sibling though, the Galaxy A3 (2016).

Meanwhile in Europe the Galaxy A5 (2016) and the A3 (2016) aren’t expected until January 8,at least in the Netherlands, and that would mean no holiday Galaxy A’s for you. The A5 (2016) is noticeably more expensive in Europe, listed at €429, and the A3 (2016) will go for a hundred less, though these may be preliminary prices.

Microsoft Lumia 550 review

It’s impossible to deny Microsoft’s influential position in the entry-level smartphone market over the last few years. The company has always managed to deliver compelling budget packages at hard-to-beat prices.

While success has never been a given for any low-end smartphone, Microsoft seems to have perfected the formula. A light and resource-efficient OS such as Windows Phone has certainly helped. Microsoft’s devices are typically capable of matching and beating the speed and performance of their Android peers with less processing power and RAM.

The Microsoft Lumia 550 however is the first budget smartphone to run Windows 10 – which marks a new stage in mobile software for the Redmond company and a step towards platform convergence. It’s too big a step though for the Microsoft Lumia 550 but even without the Continuum support, the phone isn’t without its merits.Lumia 550, Lumia 550 review

 

To begin with, the 4.7″ screen has 720p resolution, which is quite a confidence booster at this price point. There’s LTE support as well and a 5MP main camera – a feature Microsoft carries from the previous generation. The exterior hasn’t radically changed and the polycarbonate case is simple and practical. While it may not be the best choice for the flagship Lumia 950, the plastic finish is perfectly fitting the budget Lumia 550.

Key features

  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • 4.7″ 720p LCD display of 315ppi, Glance Screen
  • Snapdragon 210 chipset with quad-core 1.1GHz Cortex-A7 CPU and Adreno 304 GPU, 1GB of RAM
  • 5MP auto-focus camera with f/2.4 aperture, LED flash, 720p video recording @ 30fps
  • 2MP front-facing camera with 480p@30fps video recording
  • 8GB of built-in storage; expandable via a microSD slot
  • Cat. 4 LTE (150/50Mbps); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.1; GPS/GLONASS/Beidou; FM radio;
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • 2,100mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • Low performance chipset
  • No Windows Continuum support
  • The black polycarbonate is quite smudge-prone
  • The design might be growing old on some long-time Windows Phone users

On paper, Microsoft has done most of the things right. We’re not quite sure about the choice of the Snapdragon 210 chipset – perhaps the high-res screen ate into the budget available for the chipset. LTE support is there though and that must’ve been Microsoft’s main requirement. Let’s hope too that the chipset pays back in terms of better battery life too.

Additionally, we can’t help but notice the striking similarity between the Lumia 550 and last season’s Lumia 640. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. On the plus side, it’s nice that the Lumia 550 shares a lot with the flagship Lumia 950 pair in terms of looks, but the design is quite obviously getting long in the tooth.

Microsoft Lumia 550 review

There’s more to the Lumia 550 though than its looks. We’re excited to see what Windows 10 has in store for the entry-level smartphone space. Before that, let’s explore the hardware and what Microsoft changed about it. Or didn’t.

Samsung Gear VR

You can finally buy a virtual reality headset and use it in your home. Right now — today — that is possible. It doesn’t cost $10,000 and it doesn’t come with caveats like, “This is made for developers.” Samsung is officially the first to market with an accessible, impressive virtual reality headset, all powered by software from Facebook’s recently acquired Oculus VR team. That alone is very exciting: We are standing at the precipice of a new medium, finally technologically possible. Wireless, consumer-grade virtual reality! In your home! Today!

Samsung’s Gear VR is both an astounding feat and an illuminating vision into our near future; it’s the closest anyone’s come to making virtual reality into a palatable consumer experience, and a stark example of how far we still have to go before that dream is completely realized.

Samsung Gear VR “Innovator Edition”

PROS

  • Incredibly accessible
  • Light, comfortable, attractive
  • Extremely impressive visuals

CONS

  • Limited functionality
  • Extremely limited software library
  • Requires a Note 4, making it very expensive
SUMMARYOculus VR and Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset is an enticing first taste of the potential future of a new medium. It’s light, comfortable and — most importantly — accessible. Gear VR is the most usable virtual reality headset we’ve ever tried, and the first to market after several years of hype. At the same time, an extremely limited selection of software and functionality makes Gear VR live up to its “Innovator Edition” alias: It’s a device intended for early adopters and virtual reality enthusiasts, not the mainstream. At least for now.

If you’re looking for guidance on whether or not you should buy a $200 Gear VR headset to strap your $700 Galaxy Note 4 into, this isn’t the review for you. Frankly, it’s a lot to pay for the experience, and I don’t feel comfortable suggesting anyone shell out that kind of cash for Gear VR. And let’s be honest: The folks who would drop that kind of money for the promise of Gear VR are crazy people like me. They’ve already bought one.

Samsung intentionally dubbed Gear VR’s first iteration the “Innovator Edition.” There’s good reason for that: It’s more tech demo than consumer product right now. Save for a few games, the app store consists of just over a dozen “experiences”; every other “game” is a demo at this point. To be clear up front, Gear VR is not intended as a mainstream consumer device; it’s a test balloon from one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers. Here’s what Nick DiCarlo, VP/GM of immersive products and VR at Samsung, told me last week about his company’s goal with Gear VR:

“The gauge of success is about did people who bought it like it and did they not return 100 percent of them. It’s as simple as that. If someone bought it and liked it and told their friends about it and thought it was cool? Awesome! If we get it back and everyone’s like, ‘This doesn’t work well; I don’t like it; it’s horrible.’ Then we know we’ve got a lot more room to improve than we thought. We think that we’ve hit the formula, but the idea is that we’re able to move VR forward — ‘existence-proof,’ to steal a word from John Carmack. VR exists! Thank goodness it finally exists! We think people are gonna really, really like it, but we know that there’s a lot of room to continue to make it better and we will do that.”

It’s not being sold at your local Best Buy, and for good reason.

Samsung intentionally didn’t send out review units to press before Gear VR went on sale; the point wasn’t to bury reviews, but to discourage them altogether. The idea is that the people who buy this early will evangelize it to their friends, helping to build a virtual reality market that companies like Samsung can profit from. There are Gear VR setups in malls all over the world. It’s meant to be a demonstrative device. That it’s on sale is just the easiest way for Samsung to distribute it to evangelists. But it is on sale to the public.

Green-wood Cemetery entrance with Gear VR

With that in mind, I’m taking a dual approach to this review: one perspective for the VR enthusiast, and another for the average human being.

Getting acquainted with virtual reality through Gear VR

For the average human being

First, you must own a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. Second, you must make sure it’s up to date with the latest firmware from your carrier. Third, you must insert the 16GB microSD card that comes with Gear VR into your phone. The phone both powers VR experiences and acts as the Gear VR’s screen. There’s no real “setup” required; after you’ve removed the miles of plastic protection stuck to various regions of the headset, you simply attach your Note 4 to the front of the shell. After removing the slightly darkened front plastic casing, you’ll see a docking area for the phone. On the left side of the front is a micro-USB plug where you carefully dock your Note 4, screen facing inward; on the right side, there’s a latch on a flexible-yet-sturdy rocker for securing the phone to the headset. It’s not perfectly slick, but it works significantly better than any other VR setup I’ve been through.

Once docked, an audible jingle plays through the phone’s built-in speaker to let you know the headset is ready for use. After you’ve adjusted the headset to your liking, the first instructions are to remove the phone and go through the software install process. It’s thankfully quick: You’re downloading the basics, from the operating system (“Oculus Home”) to the video player (“Gear VR Video”). After that’s complete, you’re basically ready to go — slap the headset on your head with the phone attached and adjust the Velcro straps to your comfort. When you put it on your face, the sensor built into the headset’s interior detects that you’re close and starts loading into the main menu. That’s it! You’re in!

Attaching the Note 4 to the Gear VR headset

If you want to run through a quick tutorial of how to use the headset, Samsung has one ready for you. The long and short is this: Swiping on the touchpad (located on the right side of the headset, where your temple would be) advances forward to the next menu; tapping on the touchpad selects whatever you’re looking at (it’s used for pausing movies and in-game actions, among other things); a single “back” button (ridged for quick location) rests above the touchpad and can be pushed (to go back or to cancel) or held (to reach a sub-menu from within games/apps). There’s a volume rocker in front of that. Congratulations: You know the full scope of operating Gear VR. Seriously!

Should you choose to pair a Bluetooth controller to your Note 4 (either before connecting the headset or during use), the main Oculus Home area can be navigated using the controller’s left analog stick. That said, it’s a lot more fun pointing your head at stuff and tapping the touchpad, like some sort of wizard.

Does the setup process seem a bit convoluted as a result of having to attach and detach your phone to the headset a few times? Sure. Is it difficult or confusing? Nope! In fact, it’s far easier than setting up the Note 4 itself — far fewer menus to click through and less nonsense to deal with. Whether it was Oculus, Samsung or some mix of both that was responsible, Gear VR is thankfully streamlined from the start to get users acquainted with VR as soon as humanly possible. If it feels bare-bones, that’s assuredly intentional — the goal here is accessibility.

For the VR enthusiast

Samsung Gear VR without a Note 4 attached

There’s never been an easier setup in the (very short) recent history of virtual reality headsets. Provided that your Note 4 firmware is up to date, it’s a matter of slapping the headset into the holder on the front and following instructions (detailed above). Gear VR is not a dev kit and you don’t have to spend a bunch of time updating firmware, calibrating cameras and testing resolution settings. In my experience — which included updating the firmware on the Note 4 — setup took around 15 minutes, including time to download/install firmware (which required a hardware restart) and also the headset’s software suite.

Samsung Gear VR with headphones and Bluetooth gamepad connected

Maybe you want to use a Bluetooth gamepad, which some games require? Just pair it with your Note 4 and you’re good to go. Perhaps you want to wear headphones while using Gear VR, for the Maximum Immersion Experience™ (seen above)? Just plug in your cans to the exposed one-eighth-inch audio jack. And yes, you can leave the translucent plastic cover off the front of your Gear VR pretty much permanently — it’s solely an aesthetic choice and, if anything, kinda gets in the way. It does make the headset prettier while in use, but are you really that concerned about your looks while wearing a VR headset? No one is immune to (what I’m calling) Headset Hair.

Life in virtual reality

For the average human being

Like smartwatches, virtual reality headsets don’t have enough functionality to outright replace other electronics usage — especially your smartphone. You can’t answer a phone call, text message or email while wearing Gear VR, though you can see them pop up in your peripheral vision. It’s an incredible tease: A green phone icon appears, which expands with more information about the caller when you look at it. The only options as of now are to end the call with a tap on the touchpad or outright remove your phone from the headset to answer the call.

The Gear VR touchpad

I’d be incredibly impressed if you’re able to remove the phone in time to answer phone calls without accidentally hanging up on the caller in the process. It’s simply not a realistic option, and it’s the kind of rough edge that explains the “Innovator Edition” name. In this respect, Gear VR doesn’t necessarily slide right into your life. It’s still a device that requires dedicated use, like a game console or a camera; it’s not viable to use as a replacement device just yet.

The foundations of that functionality are in place; that you can see rich information about phone calls, text messages and emails (“notifications”) is a great start. It’s a taste of a future where you casually pause whatever you’re doing in VR — from walking around virtual Rome to watching House of Cards in a virtual 4K movie theater — to take a phone call or watch a silly YouTube link your friend sent you. Software like VR Gallery and Oculus Cinema lay the groundwork for a future where your vacation photos exist in an ornate virtual gallery space, and where family movies are viewed in a theater setting. It’s impossible to convey how much joy it brought me to watch a silly 10-second video I shot of my cat with the Note 4 — I went from shooting a video with my phone to watching it in a massive virtual theater (pictured below) in less than one minute. Little touches like that offer an amuse-bouche to the feast of virtual reality experiences to come.

The Oculus Cinema app

I cannot be clear enough here: VR will live and die by its ability to integrate into normal life. It will remain a novelty if it is solely focused on immersion — the ever-marketable “presence” — rather than enabling new ways to interact with the things we all already know and love. Things like home movies and photos are a huge part of the reason for the explosion of the smartphone. VR is more than capable of taking that stuff a step further, and Gear VR is indeed a big push forward, but it’s not all there yet.

In the short run, new experiences like Oculus 360 Photos and Oculus 360 Videos — especially the latter — are incredibly enticing. You might think that being able to look around a photo in every direction isn’t that exciting — I challenge you to try it and remain unimpressed. That impact is multiplied greatly when using the 360 video player: There’s a tour of Iceland from the foot of a helicopter that is both gorgeous and incredibly intense. Look in any direction, as if it was real life, and you’ve got an incredible view.

The promise of virtual tourism is tremendous; the feeling of awe you experience when looking down from a cliff face or squaring up to a massive waterfall is truly extraordinary. You can almost taste the moisture in the air, feel the cold breeze as you fly below the clouds attached to a heli. It’s an overwhelming sensory experience. Samsung offers a taste of that experience when you first put on Gear VR, as seen below in the intro video.

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For some people, that experience might outright cause motion sickness. I was fine, but some colleagues I put into the headset — specifically with 360 video viewing — felt nauseous. “Your mileage may vary” is the cliché nonsense to say here, and it’s sadly accurate: Different people respond differently to virtual reality, and some folks are far more sensitive to the motion sickness effect. If you’re feeling sick while using Gear VR (or any VR headset), the solution is thankfully simple: Remove the headset and chill out for a second.

For the VR enthusiast

Good news, VR enthusiast: Everything is free on the Gear VR app store and downloading/installing/maintaining software is as easy as it is on your smartphone. There’s a paid store coming in “early 2015,” but for now, there are just over a dozen things to download for use with Gear VR. A handful are “experiences,” both interactive and not: a snippet from Cirque du Soleil, a Pacific Rim jaeger pilot demo and anAvengers… thing are all highlights. The other content is mostly game demos, with a few full games to offer a taste of the upcoming storefront (head below for more detail on individual games).

Jumping in and out of software on Gear VR isn’t quite as easy as it is on your phone, or even your game console. If you start an app in Gear VR, you’re in it until you close it. There’s only a bare minimum of multitasking available, such as the aforementioned notification pop-ups. You’re not going to quickly jump from one app to another and then back again without starting each app from scratch each time. Thankfully, software opens quickly and I rarely found myself sitting around waiting for an app to load.

This will assuredly become a bigger problem as virtual reality headsets do a better job of integrating into normal life — it’s gonna be a big problem if, say, Netflix has to be fully restarted each time you want to quickly look at Twitter. That’s a scenario we’re likely to see sooner than later, as even the first iteration of the Oculus Cinema app makes it clear that consuming media is going to be a major use case for VR headsets.

Lying on my back, watching a movie in a virtual cinema is an incredible experience, and one that I’m confident other folks will also dig. It’s a dramatically better experience than watching video on your phone. Here’s famed movie director and Twin Peaks co-creator David Lynch reminding us how good that experience is:

And he’s right! I think Lynch would agree, though, that Oculus Cinema (to say nothing of 360 video viewing) is a dramatic improvement over watching video on a phone. Hell, it’s an improvement over watching video on your home TV — unless you’ve got a home cinema? Maybe you do, fancy pants! I don’t, and neither do most people. This functionality alone has me anxiously anticipating YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and other video apps.

UI, battery life and passthrough

Like most aspects of Gear VR, the operating system is relatively skeletal. There’s the “store,” which looks the same as the “library.” There’s the “home” screen, which is very similar looking to the other two. And that’s really it. Here’s a mockup of the Store screen from Oculus:

In actuality, the Store screen isn’t on a slant; none of the games above are available; and there’s a lot less unused space. There’s no way to take screengrabs within Gear VR, and Oculus/Samsung aren’t providing images, so, uh, the best we’ve got is words and the mockup seen above. It’s not an ideal situation. Regardless, the general layout isn’t far off, and the option to switch between Samsung-curated and Oculus-curated apps is the only filter within the Store page.

The Library is identical, except you can filter among installed apps, all available/purchased apps and an updates section. In both the Store and the Library, each app has its own page with options for more info, images of the app, potentially video of it in action and an updates section. It looks and acts a lot like any app page you’ve encountered on your phone or game console or wherever else, with one exception: There’s a “comfort” rating. It ranges from comfortable “for most” to comfortable “for few” — yet another nod to the early nature of Gear VR.

Like a game console, the Home screen has your most recently used apps: Six applications are arranged in the center area, with links to the store on the left and your library of software on the right. Selecting anything is as simple as looking at it and tapping the touchpad.

You can’t rearrange the locations of various apps, nor can you resize them or “pin” any to the home screen. There’s no way to change the background or really customize the UI in any way. I’m not citing this as a limitation, but to say that the UI is extremely lightweight and focused. Again, it’s clear that this is the base level for consumer-grade functionality.

But wait, there’s a second UI. Scandalous! Okay, not so scandalous — it’s a sub-UI that can be accessed from within running software. This is where that back button comes into play once again: Holding down the button brings up the sub-UI, which offers a handful of toggles on the fly.

Think of the sub-UI as a quick-access option for several important functions, so that you don’t have to dump all the way back to the Oculus Home OS every time you want to make minor tweaks to settings (or to access the passthrough camera, which is genuinely very useful).

Maybe you’d like a sip of water? The sub-UI has a passthrough camera switch, which turns on the Note 4’s rear camera and pumps the stream into the headset. You essentially see “through” the headset you’ve got on, albeit slightly delayed due to video latency. It’s kind of like being Robocop? I’m not sure how else to describe that, as I’ve never seen the world through the eyes of a camera before.

Or maybe the screen is too bright? This is where you can turn it down. There’s also an option to reorient the headset, and a “comfort mode” setting (which softens the screen colors).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Let’s talk about that passthrough camera for a second: There is no way any VR headset ships to consumers without this feature going forward. If they do, they’re flawed out of the box. The passthrough camera is Gear VR’s greatest contribution to modern virtual reality — beyond wireless VR, beyond accessibility.

Oculus VR CTO and Gear VR lead John Carmack called it his “Diet Pepsi button.” There’s good reason for that: The passthrough camera legitimately enables you to take a sip of a drink without having to remove your VR headset. It enables you to pet your dog, or answer your husband in the other room, or the myriad other actions you might want to do without having to take off your VR headset. It genuinely alters how you interact inactual reality while wearing a virtual reality headset. It’s hard to be hyperbolic here about the importance of the passthrough camera: It is precedent-setting.

Games

I’m not going to review every single game for Gear VR, mostly because the vast majority are demos. Moreover, literally everything is free on Gear VR’s “store” right now, so, ya know, why not just download everything? You certainly won’t run into file-size limitations. Seriously, you should do that. It’s less than 20 apps, and many are short experiences. Let’s start with the not-so-short:

  • Herobound: First Steps is the first game officially released by Oculus VR. It was developed in-house, and has players guiding a small hero character from room to room, taking on everything from skeletons to ghosts. It’s kind of like a prettied-up, dumbed-down, modern version of the original Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m being far too generous in that comparison, but I mean that to say it’s a “single screen” game; your view of the world is that of a giant, looking down into little rooms full of tiny characters. It’s a fine distraction, but does little to engage the VR headset you’re playing it on.
  • Ikarus is a much better example of what can be done, gaming-wise, in Gear VR. InIkarus (which is a demo), you’re once again viewing the world from the bird’s-eye view, and you’re using vision to guide a place marker where you’ll send your in-game avatar. The goal in Ikarus is to get from one side of a level to another without getting your defenseless character killed by robots. When you do complete an area, you’re rewarded with a first-person cutscene as your character is whisked from one area to the next. It’s beautiful and engaging and exactly the kind of unique experience I’m looking to have with mobile VR.
  • Dreadhalls is one of several demos that made its way from Oculus’ development kits (in the hands of indie devs) to Gear VR. It’s one of the few that requires a gamepad to play (I used a Moga Pro, which worked great), and it’s the only game available right now attempting to scare players. Even with muddy textures and rudimentary “monsters,” Dreadhalls is terrifying. As in “people rip the headset off while they’re playing it” kind of terrifying. When a floating orb with sharp teeth comes floating directly at your face, even though you know it’s not real, you react like it is. There are huge, glaring flaws with Dreadhalls: It makes people sick; it bucks the best practices of VR by assigning the headset’s view to a gamepad analog stick (read: You can “look” in game by turning your head and/or by pushing an analog stick); and it doesn’t work well, mechanically speaking. All of those flaws are dramatically superseded by Dreadhalls‘ ability to scare the crap out of you far more effectively than multimillion-dollar horror films.
  • Esper is my favorite game available for Gear VR. It’s a puzzle game that feels thematically similar to the humor in Portal, with unnamed scientists hilariously goading you through “tests” required of people with telekinesis. Apparently humans gained the ability recently and an agency was set up to familiarize people with their newfound powers. Sure, it’s a silly premise, but the humor is genuinely funny and the puzzles make great, unique use of the VR headset.
  • Proton Pulse is Breakout, but in 3D and your “paddle” is controlled by where you look. It’s not “like” Breakout — it’s the same game, updated for 3D and VR. That’s not to say it’s unoriginal and it’s certainly not to say that it’s not a fun game. On the contrary, Proton Pulse is excellent: a fun, fast-paced game that’s perfect for a few minutes of free time. It is unfortunately buggy at the moment (it’s the only game to hard crash my Note 4), but that’s easily fixed by updates.
  • Darknet is one of the few full games available, and it’s the evolution of the winning entry in Oculus’ VR Jam. It’s a hacking game that looks like the way hacking is depicted in film: hilariously visual and inaccurate, but a lot more fun to look at. It’s much easier to spend a lot of time in Darknet than many other games within Gear VR, mostly because it’s not a “world” as much as it is a UI as a game.

There are, of course, several other games on Gear VR, none of which are outright terrible. There are no games that you shouldn’t bother checking out right now, mostly because there are so few games period. Rest assured we’ll have a more critical guide when the actual Gear VR store launches with paid apps in the coming months.

Wrap-up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gear VR is a device full of potential. It works! The screen resolution is almost good enough that you don’t constantly think about the headset you’re wearing! It’s light and easy to keep on for long periods! It’s not $10,000! The battery life is pretty okay (seriously, if you’re burning out your Note 4 from Gear VR use, you need to take more frequent breaks)!

It’s also a device still full of limitations. When you’re in Gear VR, you’re in Gear VR — no answering phone calls or looking at the internet or anything else you do with your phone. The list of software — right now — is insanely short. It only works with a single phone, and that phone is incredibly expensive off-contract. And it’s not exactly tiny: Gear VR comes with its own carrying case that doesn’t fit into any normal-sized bags. The Back to the Future 2 glasses these are not.

But should you buy it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whether or not you should buy Gear VR is difficult to answer at the moment. For those of us already drinking the Kool-Aid of virtual reality as a medium, it’s by far the most impressive consumer experience and every bit worth owning. I’d even venture as far as to say it’s worth owning a Note 4 so that VR enthusiasts can own Gear VR, which is saying a lot considering how much I don’t like the Note 4.

But for the average consumer, Gear VR will feel half-done, or like a tech demo. It’s a great jumping-off point for VR nutcases like myself to easily evangelize and demonstrate the promise of virtual reality. But Gear VR is still several steps removed from the level of polish and functionality consumers expect.

So, should you buy it? Like so many things, it depends on you. What I can say definitively is that Gear VR offers a unique, amazingly demonstrative experience of what virtual reality headsets can be. Whether or not you buy one doesn’t really matter — you must try one.

[Image credits: Joseph Volpe (photos); Oculus VR/Samsung (screenshots/video)]

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How Sound Cards Work

Computer Hardware Image Gallery

Before the invention of the sound card, a PC could make one sound – a beep. Although the computer could change the beep’s frequency and duration, it couldn’t change the volume or create other sounds.

At first, the beep acted primarily as a signal or a warning. Later, developers created music for the earliest PC games using beeps of different pitches and lengths. This music was not particularly realistic — you can hear samples from some of these soundtracks atCrossfire Designs.

Fortunately, computers’ sound capabilities increased greatly in the 1980s, when several manufacturers introduced add-on cards dedicated to controllingsound. Now, a computer with a sound card can do far more than just beep. It can produce 3-D audio for games or surround sound playback for DVDs. It can also capture and record sound from external sources.

In this article, you’ll learn how a sound card allows a computer to create and record real, high-quality sound

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