TOP NEWS
You can now unlock your Chromebook with your phone
— 3:20 PM on January 30, 2015

Logging in to a Chromebook has just gotten that much easier—at least in theory. Google says Smart Lock for Chrome, which lets you unlock your Chromebook "just by having your Android phone nearby," is now available.

Enabling the feature takes a little work. For starters, you'll need an Android 5.0 phone (no, tablets aren't supported) as well as a Chromebook running Chrome OS 40 or newer. Next, look through Chrome's advanced settings for the Smart Lock section, then click "Set up" and follow the instructions. The phone and Chromebook must both have Bluetooth enabled, and they must be close enough to detect each other's Bluetooth signals.

As PC World reports, this isn't the first time we've heard about Smart Lock. The feature was unveiled at Google I/O last June, and it's been available in pre-release form since December. This week's announcement correlates with Smart Lock's arrival in the stable version of Chrome OS, so everyone should now be able to partake . . . so long as their phone runs Android 5.0, of course.

I kind of like the idea behind Smart Lock. Most Chromebook owners probably have smartphones, and smartphone users typically don't stray very far from their devices. Some sort of biometric authentication might be more seamless, but I doubt $200 laptops are fertile ground for fingerprint sensors and high-quality webcams.

5 comments — Last by tsk at 5:44 AM on 01/31/15

Deal of the week: A Radeon R9 290X for $233
— 10:59 AM on January 30, 2015

Big-screen TVs seem to be the deal du jour ahead of Superbowl Sunday, but there are some nice bargains on PC hardware, too. Here's what caught my eye this morning:

  • AMD's Radeon R9 290X graphics card is discounted all over the place. The best deal I've seen (thanks to Slickdeals) is at NCIX, which is selling a PowerColor variant for just $232.99 after a $30 mail-in rebate. On top of that, new customers are eligible for a $20 gift card with coupon code NEWCUST20GCJAN. Canadians can also get in on the action, but the price after rebate is $269.99, because the Loonie is now worth only slightly more than Monopoly money.
  • Craving a massive hard drive? Seagate's Desktop HDD 6TB is marked down to $199.99 at Newegg's Ebay outlet. Don't ask me why the same drive is $30 more at Newegg.com. And don't ask about the spindle speed, either, because it's not listed on Seagate's site. Odds are the platters spin at 5,900 RPM. (Thanks to the HardForum for this one.)
  • Today's SSD discounts include dueling contenders in the 240-256GB range. The cheaper of the two is the Crucial MX100 256GB, which is down to $89.99 at TigerDirect with coupon code HBB152131. Intel's 530 Series 240GB is a little pricier—$109.99 at Newegg with promo code EMCAKPA22—but it has a longer five-year warranty and better performance with demanding workloads. It's hard to go wrong either way, especially if you're upgrading from mechanical storage.
  • I gave Corsair's Obsidian Series 450D a TR Recommended award when the case cost $119.99, but it's a fair bit cheaper right now. Newegg has the mid-tower listed for just $89.99 after promo code EMCAKPA46 and a $10 mail-in rebate. That's a fantastic price given the 450D's solid performance, attractive exterior, and builder-friendly guts.

The list above is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add any good deals you spot to the comments below.

84 comments — Last by derFunkenstein at 5:51 AM on 01/31/15

AMD's new Fixer video is even crazier than the last
— 10:50 AM on January 30, 2015

The first installment of AMD's The Fixer video series was like a marketing executive's fever dream—and AMD didn't stop there. 18 months later, the company is now up to its third video, which is just as bewildering as the rest. Watch at your own risk:

What's happening? Who are these people? Does AMD have a mutated clone of David Lynch working in an underground lab?

The video is somehow tied to the recent GeForce GTX 970 memory controversy (which we learned more about this week). And AMD appears to be running some kind of contest for the occasion, at least judging by the latest tweet from its corporate Twitter account:

So, uh, yeah, good luck. And remember: never consume hallucinogenic drugs unsupervised.

73 comments — Last by bfar at 6:11 AM on 01/31/15

Friday Shortbread
— 10:04 AM on January 30, 2015

Eight is Enough

  1. The Consumerist: FCC votes to make 25 Mbps
    the new minimum definition of broadband
  2. WCCCFtech: AMD offering discounts for former
    GTX 970 owners following memory controversy
  3. Softpedia: D-Link routers vulnerable to unauthorized DNS changing
  4. PhoneArena: MediaTek introduces the MT6753, a 64-bit
    true octa-core chip with full network connectivity
  5. SamMobile: Is there a Samsung Galaxy Tab S Pro on the way?
  6. Neowin: A few more Office 2016 features leak, digging deep into the details
  7. WCCFtech: Microsoft likely developing 'magical,
    delightful' next-gen technology for Xbox One
  8. ITworld: 3D is dead. Will 4k and 8k TV make it?

Read more...

23 comments — Last by sweatshopking at 5:40 AM on 01/31/15

Leak pegs desktop Broadwell, Skylake for mid-year
— 9:12 AM on January 30, 2015

During our live podcast on Wednesday, a viewer asked about the launch schedule for unlocked Broadwell desktop processors. I guesstimated that the chips would arrive mid-year, around the Computex trade show, which is when motherboard makers traditionally roll out new products. The latest leaked roadmap suggests a slightly earlier release, and it maps out Intel's plans for the rest of the year and into 2016.

VR-Zone's Chinese alter-ego published the graphic, which schedules unlocked Broadwell chips for mid-Q2. The roadmap doesn't mention Broadwell-K specifically, but it does refer to unlocked chips with an LGA package and 65W thermal envelope.

If the leak is accurate, the next K-series parts will be based on Skylake-S silicon. They're slated for the end of Q2, shortly after Broadwell hits the desktop. These unlocked chips will have 95W thermal envelopes, according to the roadmap, and they'll be joined by non-K variants with 65W and 35W TDPs. Broadwell and Skylake should be able to coexist on the desktop, since the former will work in existing 9-series motherboards, while the latter will presumably require a new chipset.

The mobile variant of Skylake will reportedly debut just before the desktop chip. 15W and 28W flavors of Skylake-U are on tap, both with BGA packages. There's no mention of a lower-power replacement for the Core M, though. The lowest-wattage chip on the roadmap is the Braswell replacement for Bay Trail-D, which is supposed to arrive early in Q2. That SoC is listed with a 10W thermal envelope, and it seems to be targeted at low-power desktops. Intel is already shipping Cherry Trail, its Bay Trail successor for tablets.

The last item on the roadmap is Broadwell-E, which is scheduled for the first quarter of next year. That CPU should plug into existing X99 motherboards, and it's listed with the same 140W thermal envelope as Haswell-E.

48 comments — Last by Ninjitsu at 6:04 AM on 01/31/15

Battlefield Hardline open beta scheduled for February 3
— 6:00 AM on January 30, 2015

Clear your schedules, folks. According to EA, the Battlefield Hardline open multiplayer beta is set to kick off on February 3.

The beta will available worldwide on PCs and consoles, and it will run until February 8. EA says there's no need to register beforehand, and PC users will be able to pre-load on Origin starting on February 2 at 10 AM, Pacific Time. The beta will apparently weigh in at 10-11GB, so the early pre-load should leave plenty of time even for folks with slow connections.

The video above offers an action-packed preview of what's in store. The writeup below, taken from EA's announcement, adds a little more color:

The open beta will let you try out three different multiplayer maps and modes. First off, Hotwire mode brings high-speed chases to the Battlefield, as the criminals attempt to steal a list of marked cars while the cops try to repossess them. Available on two maps in the beta, Downtown and Dust Bowl, success in Hotwire will require excellent teamwork and precision driving.

The desert town of Dust Bowl known for its drug trafficking problems will also be playable on Conquest, the fan favorite Battlefield mode, which takes the battle up to 64 players. Finally, there's the Bank Job map where you'll get to try out Heist mode. The criminals are trying to break into a bank vault, but the cops are doing their best to stop them. Which side of the law will you ride with?

. . .

On top of all this, one player on each side can help out their team through Hacker mode. Similar to Commander in Battlefield 4, Hacker mode takes surveillance to the next level as the Hackers can take control over security cameras, spot enemies and specify areas on the Battlefield for their team to attack or defend. Hacker mode will be playable on all modes in the beta.

According to EA, the PC version of the game will allow 64 players to fight it out in the Conquest mode. The Hotwire and Heist modes will be capped to 32 players.

Oh, and folks who join the beta will apparently get a Hardline dog tag in Battlefield 4. Because why cross-promote games yourself when your customers can do it for you? (Thanks to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for the link.)

17 comments — Last by auxy at 5:38 PM on 01/30/15

WSJ: Microsoft to back Cyanogen with $70M investment
— 4:58 PM on January 29, 2015

Microsoft's work on Windows Phone hasn't exactly paid off. Recent comScore numbers peg the platform's U.S. usage share at just 3.5%. Microsoft will double down on smartphones with Windows 10, but it may also use other tactics to weaken the competition.

Quoting people "familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal's Digits blog reports that Microsoft is about to sink $70 million into Cyanogen, the company behind the Android-based (but not Google-controlled) Cyanogen OS. And Microsoft may not be only investor:

Microsoft would be a minority investor in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing that values Cyanogen in the high hundreds of millions, one of the people said. The person said the financing round could grow with other strategic investors that have expressed interest in Cyanogen because they're also eager to diminish Google's control over Android. The identity of the other potential investors couldn't be learned.

Diminishing Google's control seems to be what Cyanogen is all about. Kirt McMaster, the company's CEO, recently went on record to say, "We're going to take Android away from Google."

Some handsets already come pre-installed with Cyanogen OS. Among them: the OnePlus One, which Scott tested alongside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus recently. They're few and far between, though, so Microsoft seems to be facing an uphill battle either way.

53 comments — Last by VincentHanna at 4:44 PM on 01/30/15

You've goat to check out Silicon Power's new thumb drive
— 12:25 PM on January 29, 2015

Do boring-looking storage devices get your goat? Then it behooves you to check out Silicon Power's new Unique 550, which is themed after the Chinese New Year:

No, Silicon Power isn't kidding. Just read the company's pitch—it'll make you go doe-eyed:

Featuring an adorable goat figure with eye-catching curved horn, Unique 550 pours novelty and energy into daily routines. It magically sweeps away worries and stress at work and studies, and it stands out to be a mind-healing and sweet mood-booster. On top of that, the innovative packaging which imitates goats grazing in lush green pastures comes with an artificial turf and a fence to create a vivid and pleasant view for your office. This cute goat-shaped USB flash drive not only stores data but adds a lively twist to work and study environments.

The Unique 550 stuffs 8GB or 16GB of storage behind a USB 2.0 interface. Its rubber casing is "sturdy," waterproof, and vibration-proof, so you can ram the drive into USB ports without fear. While Silicon Power doesn't quote pricing, the specs tell me this thing won't cost big bucks. Looks like a perfect storage medium for your Goat Simulator saves.

54 comments — Last by Steele at 4:55 PM on 01/30/15

Thursday Shortbread
— 11:18 AM on January 29, 2015

Eight is Enough

  1. CBC News: CSE tracks millions of downloads daily: Snowden documents
  2. Reuters: Intel says corporations buying more high-end PCs
  3. WCCFtech: Godavari APU lineup leaked - A10-8850K
    to lead the pack, 12 APUs planned for summer 2015
  4. Intel announces Broadwell vPro processors:
    wireless docking and more - AnandTech
  5. VideoCardz: AMD teases FIXER 3, Radeon 300 series incoming?
  6. ZDNet: GHOST, a critical Linux security hole, is revealed
  7. Gamunation: Error fixes for Dying Light PC -
    stuttering, lag, DLL crash, crash on launch, FPS drops
  8. Windows 10: Tiles on the desktop foreshadowed by copy feature

Read more...

49 comments — Last by Klimax at 2:53 AM on 01/31/15

The TR Podcast 169 video: Win10, Elon's musk, and the gimpy GTX 970
— 11:00 AM on January 29, 2015

The video from last night's show is now available on YouTube. We talked about Microsoft's Windows 10 announcements, those holographic goggles, Jordan's man-crush on Elon Musk, and the issues with the GeForce GTX 970's memory config. Have a look:

As usual, we'll post a slick, nicely edited audio version of the podcast when it's ready. This more embarrassing video version is quicker to produce. Thanks to everybody who watched live. Your questions are always appreciated.

If you'd like to be notified when we're recording, follow us on Twitch or simply follow me on Twitter. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notices when we post videos there.

1 comment — First by Buzzard44 at 12:02 AM on 01/30/15

In the lab: Dell's Venue 8 7000 tablet
— 10:55 AM on January 29, 2015

Another piece of hardware has arrived in our labs for testing. Say hello to Dell's Venue 8 7000, which is billed as the thinnest tablet on the planet.

The chassis is just 6 mm thick, compared to 7.5 mm for the latest iPad Mini. Dell hasn't skimped on the hardware, either. The Venue has a quad-core Atom SoC based on Intel's Moorefield silicon. That chip is backed by 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a Micro SD slot that can take memory cards up to a whopping 512GB.

So far, the most impressive element for me is the 8.4" display, whose 2560x1600 OLED panel delivers incredibly sharp, vivid images. The tablet also has an intriguing camera augmented by Intel's RealSense tech.

Look for a full review of this slender Android slate soon.

40 comments — Last by swaaye at 1:32 AM on 01/31/15

Qualcomm posts record revenue, loses high-profile design
— 9:10 AM on January 29, 2015

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm reported its quarterly financial results yesterday. For the three months ended December 28, its first fiscal quarter of 2015, the firm posted record revenue of $7.1 billion. Qualcomm made $2 billion in profit, a 5% increase over the same period last year. Here's the full breakdown:

  Q1'15 Q1'14 Change
Revenue $7.1 billion $6.6 billion up 7%
Operating income $2.1 billion $1.5 billion up 38%
Net income $2.0 billion $1.9 billion up 5%

Despite the good news, Qualcomm cut its outlook for the current quarter based on "expectations that [its] Snapdragon 810 processor will not be in the upcoming design cycle of a large customer's flagship device." Although the customer isn't named, Samsung reportedly dropped the 64-bit chip from its upcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone due to overheating issues.

During the conference call following the earnings release, CEO Steven Mollenkopf said the Snapdragon 810 is "working the way we expected it to work." The chip is still coming to over 60 devices, he added, and there don't appear to be any other high-profile defectors.

As Re/code points out, the Snapdragon 810 uses off-the-shelf ARM hardware instead of Qualcomm's custom Krait design; it combines quad Cortex-A57 and -A53 cores in big.LITTLE arrangement. Mollenkopf said a chip with Qualcomm's own custom 64-bit CPU core will sample before the end of the year, but it's unclear when that SoC will be ready to ship in actual devices.

28 comments — Last by UnfriendlyFire at 6:02 PM on 01/30/15

Intel refreshes high-endurance server SSDs with 20-nm NAND
— 6:00 AM on January 29, 2015

Consumer SSDs aren't the only ones that get periodic NAND updates. Intel has also refreshed some of its server-grade drives. The new DC S3710 and S3610 Series both employ a high-endurance variant of Intel's own 20-nm MLC NAND.

As its name implies, the S3710 succeeds the S3700, which was introduced back in 2012 with 25-nm NAND. The older drive is based on a proprietary Intel controller with a 6Gbps host link, and the new model uses an updated version of that chip. The top capacity is up from 800GB to 1.2TB.

Intel rates the S3710 Series for up to 550MB/s sequential reads and 520MB/s sequential writes, plus up to 85k IOps with random reads and 45k with random writes—healthy boosts over the 500/460 MB/s and 75k/36k IOps specced for the S3700. The endurance rating is unchanged at 10 drive writes per day for the length of the five-year warranty. That works out to an astounding 24.3 petabytes for the 1.2TB flagship.

While the S3710 fills out the upper tier, the S3610 Series is billed as a "mid-level" datacenter drive. The five-year warranty is the same, and so is the 0.44% annualized failure rate. Endurance is only pegged at three drive writes per day, but that's still better than the entry-level S3500, which is good for less than one full write per day.

True to its mid-tier focus, the S3610 isn't quite as speedy as the S3710. Most of the peak rates are comparable, but random writes top out at 28k IOps. As for pricing, the S3610 ranges from $1.05-1.07 per gig, while the S3710 lists for $1.50-1.59.

15 comments — Last by Shinare at 10:50 AM on 01/29/15

The TR Podcast is live on Twitch right now
— 8:32 PM on January 28, 2015

Update: The stream has ended. Thanks for watching!

We're recording another edition of the TR Podcast and streaming it live on Twitch. You can tune in below and ask us questions via the embedded chat box:

1 comment — First by Sam125 at 10:37 PM on 01/28/15

We'll be streaming the TR Podcast LIVE in one hour
— 7:38 PM on January 28, 2015

Come back here for the embedded version or just go to our Twitch channel at 8:30PM Central/9:30 Eastern/6:30 Pacific for The TR Podcast live.

We'll take questions from the chat and probably mess something up live. Don't miss out.

1 comment — First by bodom81 at 7:47 PM on 01/28/15

Report: AMD plans Kaveri refresh for June-July time frame
— 2:49 PM on January 28, 2015

We already know that AMD's next-gen Carrizo APU isn't coming to the desktop. What we don't know is where that leaves AMD's APU lineup this year.

The guys at SweClockers think they know the answer. They say AMD is prepping a refresh of the Kaveri family for a release in June or July of this year. Code-named Godavari, this refresh will apparently mirror the Richland rollout we saw in 2013. Richland was based on the same silicon as the previous year's Trinity family, but it raised clock speeds—sometimes substantially so.

Sure enough, SweClockers has specs for a Godavari-based A10-8850K processor, which looks like a souped-up A10-7850K. The A10-8850K apparently pushes the peak Turbo speed from 4GHz to 4.1GHz and the base graphics speed from 720MHz to 856MHz, but it's otherwise identical to the A10-7850K, down to the 95W thermal envelope.

Word is that AMD has a dozen Godavari APUs in the pipeline, all of which should work in existing Socket FM2+ motherboards after a firmware update. If SweClockers' info is accurate, I'd expect AMD to play up the straightforward upgrade path and faster integrated graphics. The company may need more than higher clock speeds to compete with Intel's Broadwell CPUs, though.

50 comments — Last by NTMBK at 10:59 AM on 01/29/15

TR subscribers get early access to Homeworld Remastered beta
— 12:23 PM on January 28, 2015

You may have seen some cryptic posts around here in recent weeks urging TR subscribers to, you know, do that stuff about the thing. Confusing, I know, but now that it's public knowledge, I can tell you what we've been doing behind the scenes.

TR subscribers are getting early access to a limited, private beta for the Homeworld Remastered Collection's multiplayer component. Those who choose to participate will also get a nice incentive courtesy of the folks at Gearbox Software: a full copy of the entire Homeworld Remastered Collection once it's released.

Yep, I'm talking about this:

If you're currently a TR subscriber and would like to join the beta, it's not too late. We've extended the deadline to the end of the day tomorrow: Thursday, January 29. Just follow the instructions in this forum thread in the Smoky Back Room in order to sign up.

Those folks who are not yet TR subscribers, well, you've missed out on this opportunity. We can't accept applications for this beta from new subscribers. I'd still encourage you to go subscribe now so you don't miss out on any future perks of this sort. You'll also get a nice slate of perks on the site, like single-page view for long articles—and you can pay what you want to subscribe.

Thanks to Gearbox Software for making this amazing opportunity available to the TR community!

22 comments — Last by postpwnit at 10:45 PM on 01/29/15

Wednesday Shortbread
— 11:03 AM on January 28, 2015

Eight is Enough

  1. Testing USB 3.1 at AnandTech: Some preliminary
    results with the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK
  2. AnandTech: Dell updates ultrabook thin M3800 mobile workstation with 4K display
  3. Ars Technica: The dream of Windows phone on tablets is almost coming true
  4. WCCFtech: AMD Bristol Ridge APUs will
    succeed Kaveri refresh in 2016 on the 28nm node
  5. PCPer: Nvidia discloses full memory structure and limitations of GTX 970
  6. WCCFtech: Nvidia working on new driver for GeForce GTX 970
    to tune memory allocation problems and improve performance
  7. SweClockers: AMD Radeon Rx 400 series to be called Arctic Islands (in Swedish)
  8. VideoCardz: AMD Radeon R9 300 series rumors

Read more...

28 comments — Last by Pwnstar at 11:10 PM on 01/29/15

Watch 15 minutes of The Witcher 3 gameplay at 60 FPS
— 10:39 AM on January 28, 2015

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may be one of the best-looking games of the year. Its gorgeous environments and incredibly detailed characters are on display in a new trailer showcasing nearly 15 minutes of gameplay from the action RPG. But be warned: the footage plays back at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, which may be uncomfortably fluid for console users accustomed to lower more "cinematic" frame rates.

Despite its length, the trailer is relatively short on action. Developer CD Projekt RED seems more interested in showing close-ups of the various characters as they converse. The models look almost real, but their movements are a little too wooden to pull off the illusion completely. There's also way too much baby oil in the bath water.

Still, the graphics look superb throughout—and especially during the snippets showing the vast open world. This looks like the sort of game I could happily explore for hours without making any real progress in the campaign or side missions.

Wild Hunt has relatively steep system requirements, but the hardware is apparently being put to good use. You'll be able to judge for yourself on May 19, which is when the game is scheduled for release.

26 comments — Last by jessterman21 at 10:00 PM on 01/30/15

So long, Flash; YouTube now uses HTML5 by default
— 9:15 AM on January 28, 2015

Using a recent browser? Then chances are Adobe's Flash plug-in will remain dormant the next time you fire up a YouTube video. That's because, according to Google, YouTube now defaults to HTML5 video on Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Safari, and "beta versions of Firefox."

YouTube has had an experimental HTML5 player for many years, but several key features were needed for that player could take over as the default. Among those: adaptive bit-rate streaming, content encryption, full-screen support, and WebRTC for live feeds. Google's own VP9 video codec, which "gives you higher quality video resolution with an average bandwidth reduction of 35 percent," is also on the list.

Google says work on those features has benefited not just YouTube, but also rival services. Sure enough, Netflix already supports HTML5 playback on some browsers, as does Vimeo.

This switchover should also please the folks at Apple. Five years ago, Steve Jobs publicly bet on HTML5 video as an alternative to Flash. Jobs also made headlines with a long rant about the Adobe plug-in, outlining Flash's downsides and explaining why it would never be supported on the iPhone and iPad.

70 comments — Last by ColeLT1 at 9:53 AM on 01/29/15