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12 Jan 2022

Nvidia’s AI-powered DLDSR allows RTX GPUs to make your games look better

Nvidia has a new trick for its GeForce RTX graphics cards to help further improve the visual quality of games with only a (hopefully) minor performance hit.

We say new trick, but this is actually a refinement of an old feature, with Team Green now powering up its DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution) tech by adding AI into the mix, to make DLDSR (Deep Learning Dynamic Super Resolution, with Deep Learning meaning AI).

DLDSR (yes, it’s a clunky acronym) will arrive in Nvidia’s Game Ready Driver launching later this week (on January 14).

This is a downscaling tech (as opposed to DLSS which engages in upscaling), so that means DLDSR takes a game and renders it at a higher resolution, then intelligently shrinks it back down to the resolution your monitor is running at – preserving some of the extra detail in the process, and providing smoother edges (fewer jaggies) while reducing unpleasant artifacts like shimmering.

This is what DSR has always done – since it was introduced a good while back with GeForce 900 Series GPUs – but the difference now is adding AI fine-tuning to make the results better (with RTX cards that have the requisite Tensor cores).

Nvidia claims: “DLDSR improves upon DSR by adding an AI network that requires fewer input pixels, making the image quality of DLDSR 2.25X comparable to that of DSR 4X, but with higher performance. DLDSR works in most games on GeForce RTX GPUs, thanks to their Tensor Cores.”

Furthermore, Nvidia said it has also got together with ReShade author and modder Pascal Gilcher to release three advanced Freestyle filters in GeForce Experience, one of which will be SSRTGI (or the ‘Ray Tracing ReShade Filter’) that improves both lighting and shadow effects to make them more realistic. The broad contention is that using both DLDSR and SSRTGI, you can expect what’s effectively a ‘remastered’ version of a game (with Prey graphics shown as an example).

As well as delivering DLDSR, Team Green’s new driver will also provide optimization and DLSS support for God of War (as well as Nvidia Reflex support), the PC version of which launches on January 14, the same day as the driver. The same DLSS and Reflex support is being brought to Rainbow Six Extraction ahead of its January 20 release, too.


Analysis: This all sounds great, but performance levels will be key

DLDSR sounds like a big step forward for DSR, certainly if how well Nvidia has managed to implement and improve its AI-powered DLSS is anything to go by (although it took time and version 2.0 to really nail DLSS, of course).

The strength with this new feature is that unlike DLSS, games don’t need to be programmed to use it – as Nvidia puts it, ‘most games’ will just work with DLDSR to give them a nice visual boost.

That means PC gamers with a beefy graphics card playing games on a 1440p monitor, for example, will be able to turn on DLDSR, and it’ll render at 4K, then downscale back to native resolution, preserving some nice additional details on top of the default 1440p image. In short, this puts the extra power of their GPU (as it were) to good use to achieve higher image quality at that 1440p resolution, effectively taking a step up towards 4K with hopefully not much of a performance hit (that’s a key aspect, obviously).

Nvidia makes it clear that DLDSR will be much better than DSR in terms of performance, but we actually need to see this tech in action before we can judge it properly, naturally.

Read more...
12 Jan 2022

Wormable Windows 11 vulnerability could let malware spead like wildfire

Microsoft says it has found and patched, a critical wormable flaw, affecting Windows 11 and Windows Server 2022. 

The flaw was found in the HTTP Protocol Stack, which is used for processing HTTP requests by the Windows Internet Information Services web server.

So far, there were no discoveries of the flaw being abused in the wild through malware, nor have there been any proof of concepts. However, Microsoft still urges everyone not to postpone the security patches, as the flaw is still quite potent. It allows unauthenticated attackers to execute arbitrary code, remotely, without much user interaction.

Danger to home users

To exploit it, a malicious actor would need to craft, and send, a specifically designed packet to the Windows server that uses the vulnerable HTTP Protocol Stack. The lucky break is that Windows Server 2019 and Windows 10 v. 1809 don’t have the flawed HTTP Trailer Support feature turned on by default. 

Explaining the flaw and how it works, Microsoft says this registry key needs to be configured on vulnerable operating systems for the flaw to work:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\HTTP\Parameters\ 

"EnableTrailerSupport"=dword:00000001

To protect vulnerable devices, disabling the HTTP Trailer Support feature will suffice. 

Microsoft noted that most companies are probably secure, as they rarely rush to install the latest Windows versions on their endpoints

Home users, on the other hand, should be careful and make sure to apply the patch as soon as possible. Having a VPN, as well as an up-to-date antivirus solution, is advised.

The vulnerability is tracked as CVE-2022-21907. Microsoft patched it during this month’s Patch Tuesday, which altogethe raddressed s a total of six zero-days, and almost 100 different flaws. 

Of those, Microsoft fixed 41 vulnerabilities related to privilege escalation, nine security feature bypass vulnerabilities, 29 remote code execution vulnerabilities, six information disclosure vulnerabilities, and nine denial of service vulnerabilities. The company also fixed three flaws related to spoofing.

You might also want to check out our list of the best ransomware protection right now

Via BleepingComputer

Read more...
12 Jan 2022

Should Microsoft sell Windows and Office? This former exec believes so

A former Microsoft executive has offered up some advice for current CEO Satya Nadella: spin off Windows and Office and focus on Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing crown jewel. 

Ben Slivka, a 14-year veteran at Microsoft who left in 1999, gave the unsolicited advice to Nadella in an interview with CNBC, saying: "The right thing probably is to bet the future on the cloud." 

“People running the Windows business put the mobile OS people in a box and constrained what they could do,” Slivka said. “They had their little ‘Start’ button and all this other bullshit. Microsoft rebooted its mobile strategy three times. Finally cellphone manufacturers and developers just gave up.”

Microsoft's wild ride

Satya Nadella took over the reigns at Microsoft in 2014 at a perilous time and has done an exceptional job, equal to – and perhaps even surpassing – Tim Cook at Apple. 

Since then, Microsoft's stock has risen from around $36 to $315, where it sits today, having  gained 51% in 2021 alone, outpacing the S&P 500's 27% rise. 

To achieve this turnaround, Nadella refocused Microsoft on rethinking how Office and Windows fit into its overall services business; gone were the one-time payments, replaced with recurring monthly (or yearly) fees to access Windows and Office 365.

On top of this, Nadella invested heavily in building out Azure and other enterprise-focused offerings to compete with Amazon's AWS and Google Cloud. By some estimates, Azure hold 20% of the cloud market, below AWS' 32% and above Google's 9%. 

Would spinning off Windows and Office work? 

According to analysts that CNBC spoke to, spinning off Windows and Office would make very little sense. Nadella has built significant and much-needed synergies between Microsoft's various businesses, in such a way that the rise of one boosts the others. 

Removing two of Microsoft's most longstanding and important products from the mix would likely have a negative impact on Azure and other services, which can be bundled together and sold to companies. 

Read more...
12 Jan 2022

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 price leak shows Ultra could be pricier than the iPad Pro

Samsung's Galaxy Tab slates tend to be some of the best Android tablets on the market, but that quality doesn't come cheap, and a new price leak for the Galaxy Tab S8 family shows just how wallet-bustlingly expensive the new models could be.

This comes from a website called Appuals, which doesn't have much of a track record for tech leaks, so take it with a healthy dose of cynicism. It's also not clear where the website got this information.

According to the site, the base Galaxy Tab S8 will start between €680 and €700 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and Wi-Fi-only connectivity - that's a price that converts to about $780, £580 and AU$1,090, though Samsung's prices generally aren't exact conversions between regions. 

There are three other versions of the tablet listed - one is also Wi-Fi connected but with 256GB of storage, and there's also apparently a 5G version of each configuration. We'll put all of the prices of these below.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 leaked prices
Connectivity RAM / Storage Leaked Euro price USD conversion GBP conversion AUD conversion
Wi-Fi 8GB/128GB €680-€700 $780 £580 $1,090
Wi-Fi 8GB/256GB €730-€750 $840 £620 $1,170
5G 8GB/128GB €830-€850 $950 £700 $1,330
5G 8GB/256GB €880-€900 $1,010 £740 $1,400

So those prices go quite high if you're looking for the top-spec version - and this is just for the lowest-end member of the line. Next up is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus.

Just remember for now, that we don't know the full details of how the tablets are differentiated, though size is the main factor.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus leaked prices
Connectivity RAM / Storage Leaked Euro price USD conversion GBP conversion AUD conversion
Wi-Fi 8GB/128GB €880-€900 $1,010 £740 $1,400
Wi-Fi 8GB/256GB €930-€950 $1,070 £780 $1,480
5G 8GB/128GB €1,040-€1,060 $1,190 £880 $1,660
5G 8GB/256GB €1,090-€1,110 $1,250 £920 $1,740

For the real eye-watering prices, though, we have to move over to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra which, if rumors are correct, will have a giant 14-inch screen.

That'd make it bigger than the top-size iPad Pro, which has a screen 12.9 inches across, and these prices suggest it'll be pricier too in some regions - as you can see in our iPad Pro review, prices begin at $1,099 / £999 / $1,649, so in the US the Galaxy Tab is cheaper. We'll have to see exact conversions at launch to know for sure though.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra leaked prices
Connectivity RAM / Storage Leaked Euro price USD conversion GBP conversion AUD conversion
Wi-Fi 8GB/128GB €1,040-€1,060 $1,190 £880 $1,660
5G 12GB/512GB €1,200-€1,220 $1,380 £1,010 $1,910

There seem to be fewer versions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, with only the lower-spec Wi-Fi only version and the super high-spec 5G alternative, which is curious as the top-size iPad Pro has ten different configurations of storage space and connectivity.

This version is only for the super-professionals who need lots of power, a huge screen and plentiful space, though Samsung will need to convince people that a full-blooded 2-in-1 laptop isn't for them instead, as those can be cheaper.

We'll have to wait until the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 family launches to know the prices for sure though. We thought they'd come alongside the Galaxy S22 family in early February, but that's not a sure thing.

Read more...
12 Jan 2022

Incogni can help you fend off data brokers but it will cost you

Surfshark has announced the launch of Incogni which can help prevent users' personal information from being stored and sold by data brokers.

The VPN provider created its new privacy tool in order to help consumers regain control over who has access to their data. Upon a customer's request, Icogni can identify and communicate with dozens of data brokers so that their details can be deleted from these companies' databases.

However, Incogni users will also be able to follow the progress on how many companies were contacted, which ones have deleted their data and which are in the process of doing so.

Incogni is now available for $7.99 a month or for $47.88 for the year in both Europe and the US where GDPR and CCPA require companies to give or delete information they hold on a person if they receive a formal request to do so.

A difficult and time consuming process

Data brokerage firms currently own data on hundreds of millions of consumers with some of the top names in the industry boasting up to 1,500 data points per consumer. In addition to contact credentials such as a user's phone number and home address, the information they collect can also include details on a person's ethnicity, religion, marital status, hobbies, media usage, purchase and search history or even their political affiliation.

As part of their research into the data brokerage industry, Surfshark's team contacted 36 data brokers on their own to show just how difficult and time consuming this process can be.

Getting a final response took a little over six days from when the team sent its first email to each new data broker and more than 20 days with each established one. However, as the 36 data brokers contacted by Surfshark make up only one percent of the existing market of 4,000 companies, it would take 66 years to finalize one person's data inquiry requests manually. Additionally, 63 percent of the large data brokers the company contacted asked for additional personal data such as a bank statement or even an e-signature to complete the inquiry even though this wasn't necessary.

Surfshark CEO Vytautas Kaziukonis provided further insight on why the company decided to create Incogni in a press release, saying:

"Data privacy is becoming an increasingly alarming issue, yet many people are still unaware of the hidden market that data brokers operate in. As the sensitivity and scope of data they possess widens, so does the need to be able to opt-out of it. However, based on recent studies, the actual process of taking back data is an extremely tedious procedure, which requires legal knowledge and lots of persistence. Incogni aims to help users opt-out of these practices more efficiently and exercise their legal right to privacy easily.”

Handing over power of attorney

In order to have Incogni work its magic with data brokers, potential customers will first have to sign power of attorney documents.

Although doing so might raise some concerns, a company spokesperson explained in an email to TechRadar Pro that Surfshark has been very conscious of ensuring that power of attorney only gives it the right to reach out to data brokers, make data deletion requests and to withdraw consent to process a customer's data. 

However, if a company objects or ignores these requests without substantial grounds, Incogni can then submit a complaint to local data protection agencies to renew their data protection practices and processes.

Thankfully though, power of attorney automatically stops being valid once all of a customer's data removal requests have been processed and confirmed by the companies involved that a person's data has been removed.

The scope of Incogni's power of attorney is very narrow and has been specifically tailored to only be used for data removal from data brokers. As transparency is critical when it comes to sensitive topics like personal data, Surfhsark plans to edit Incogni's landing page copy to be absolutely clear about this before users sign up for the service.

We've also rounded up the best privacy tools and best VPN

Read more...
12 Jan 2022

The best laptops of 2022 in Singapore: our picks of the top laptops on sale now

Whether it's for work or for play, laptops have come a very long way in cementing themselves as a mainstay for getting by in our day-to-day. 

From ultrabooks to 2-in-1s, gaming laptops to business notebooks, there's so many different flavours of portable computer available on the market today that it can be a bit overwhelming, but never fear because we're here to help!

With our extensive array of deep reviews, benchmarking and testing, we've searched far and wide for the best laptops available in Singapore to suit all budgets – Apple MacBooks, Dell XPS, Microsoft Surface, and plenty more have all been compared and the winners are below.

Best laptops in Singapore 2022 at a glance

  1. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
  2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
  3. Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)
  4. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)
  5. Razer Blade 14
  6. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
  7. LG Gram 17 (2021)
  8. Asus ZenBook 13 (2021)
  9. Acer Swift 3
  10. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6
  11. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook
  12. Asus VivoBook S15

The best laptops of 2022:

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Apple MacBook Air

(Image credit: Apple)
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Apple MacBook Air

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The best laptop of 2021

CPU: Apple M1 | Graphics: Integrated 7-core /8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61cm; W x D x H)

Silent to use
Amazing battery life
No new design
Fanless design could impact performance

The new Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn't just the best laptop Apple has ever made, it's also the best value laptop money can buy right now. This is definitely the highest placement an Apple laptop has ever found itself in one of our lists, but the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is worthy of this spot. Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M1 chip that powers the new MacBook Air (Apple has ditched Intel for these new laptops), this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance, even with 4K video editing, while also offering incredible battery life. Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you at work or school, and its price is decently competitive compared to Windows 10 rivals (for once). Running both new and old Mac apps, the new MacBook Air can now also run iOS apps for iPhone and iPads, giving it access to hundreds of brilliant mobile applications and games as well.

Even if you've only ever used Windows laptops before, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is well worth getting and making the jump to macOS. Yes, it really is that good.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Best laptop 2021: Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Microsoft)

2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

The best Windows laptop

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 /AMD Ryzen 5 - 7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe / AMD Radeon | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) touch | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Comfortable keyboard
Beautiful screen
Not enough ports
Alcantara fabric might get gross over time

While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4, landing straight in at number 2 of our best laptops 2021 list. As with previous Surface devices, build quality and design is absolutely top-notch here, and its gorgeous PixelSense touchscreen really sets it apart from the competition (a touchscreen is something we've yet to see on an Apple laptop, as Microsoft likes to remind us).

It also comes with a brilliant keyboard that's a joy to type on, and some pretty great specs as well, which ensures that Windows 10, and all your favourite apps, run extremely well. Battery life is also very impressive – lasting over 13 hours in our tests – and the price is impressively competitive as well. If you're looking for the best laptop of 2021 that runs Windows 10, this is it.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

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MacBook Pro 14-inch

(Image credit: Apple)
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MacBook Pro 14

(Image credit: Apple)
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The MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) featuring a model wearing vivid, colorful clothing

(Image credit: Apple)

3. MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)

The best laptop in 2021 for productivity

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 8-core – M1 Max 10-core | Graphics: Integrated 14-core – 32-core GPU | RAM: Up to 64GB | Screen: 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display | Storage: Up to 8TB

 Brilliant performance
 Best screen on a laptop
14-inch screen may be a bit small

The brand-new MacBook Pro 14-inch is easily the best productivity laptop you can buy in 2021. For creative professionals such as photographers, video editors and music producers, the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is a dream to use, thanks to a choice between powerful new M1 Pro or M1 Max chips that can handle even the most intensive workloads with ease.

Not only that, but its Liquid Retina XDR display with mini-LED technology is absolutely stunning, and the best screen you can get on a laptop right now. Add in a 1080p webcam and boosted port selection, and you have a brilliant business and productivity laptop. It won't be for everyone – the price and power will be too much for most people's needs – but if you want a killer laptop to do creative work on, this is the laptop to get. For everyone else, check out the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) at the top of our list.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)

Dell XPS 13 9310

(Image credit: Dell)

4. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

Return of the king

CPU: 11th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 13.4-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – 4K (3840 x 2160) | Storage: 512GB – 1TB SSD

Gorgeous design
Big CPU and GPU boost
Excellent battery life
Expensive

We know this isn't the latest of Dell's popular XPS 13 range to be released, but in Singapore, it's the one that still offers the best value overall, especially considering the price it can be found at since more recent laptops have landed. It's the second XPS 13 that Dell released in 2020 (also known as the 9310, being more recent than the 9300 launched earlier in the year). It packs in the 11th-gen Intel Core processors as well as as the superbly impressive Iris Xe integrated GPU – an upgrade that almost doubles its graphical prowess. This means that, not only is the XPS 13 9310 a great option for business and everyday use with its gorgeous, sleek design and powerful innards, but it's now viable for casual gamers. It's also sporting the upgraded 'Infinity Edge' display which dramatically reduces bezels and the overall size of the unit. 

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) review

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Razer Blade 14 laptop open showing desktop wallpaper

(Image credit: Razer)
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Razer Blade 14 laptop partially opened and shot from behind

(Image credit: Razer)
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Razer Blade 14 laptop closed on white background

(Image credit: Razer)

5. Razer Blade 14

The top laptop for gaming in 2021

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 - RTX 3080 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 14-inch 144Hz Full HD – 14-inch 165Hz QHD | Storage: 1TB SSD

Beautiful chassis
Thin and light
Very expensive despite its performance
Not the most powerful gaming laptop

This luxurious thin and light gaming laptop from Razer just oozes class, and is an ideal laptop for people who want a gaming device they can take around with them. It's solidly built, so you won't worry about it getting damaged during your travels, and it's one of the nicest looking modern gaming laptops we've seen.

It's not all about looks, however, as the Razer Blade 14 comes with cutting edge components as well, including the awesome AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and up to an RTX 3080 graphics card. This means you'll be able to play any AAA game you want in all its glory. It's by far the best gaming laptop you can buy in in 2021, but it does cost a lot of money.

Read the full review: Razer Blade 14

Asus Zephyrus G14

The Asus Zephyrus G14 is an absolute beast of a laptop. (Image credit: Asus)

6. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

The ultimate blend of work and play

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS – 9 4900HS | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: Up to 32GB | Screen: 14-inch Non-glare Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS-level panel, 120Hz – 14-inch Non-glare WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS-level panel, 60Hz | Storage: 512GB / 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0

Best battery life in a gaming laptop
Excellent performance
Thin and light
No webcam
Fans can get loud

We know, this is technically a gaming laptop, but for those that want to balance work and play, there's little else out there that's better value than the Zephyrus G14 right now. It's worth noting that it's missing a webcam and a Thunderbolt 3 port, so if that's a concern this isn't for you, but its solid battery life, compact form, and powerful specs do a fine job at balancing everything that you'll need from a laptop. This is an absolute beast for performance, with its AMD Ryzen 4000 processors and Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card, best-in-class battery life that will last you all day long, a fast display with a 120Hz refresh rate and a lightweight, ultrathin design. The best part is that you’re getting all that without burning a hole in your pocket. Don’t get us wrong; it isn’t cheap. However, for a laptop this impressive, we’re surprised Asus isn’t asking for more.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 

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Image of the LG Gram 16 (2021) laptop from the front with Windows 10 desktop on the screen and the Start menu showing

(Image credit: LG)
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Angled image of the LG Gram 16 (2021) laptop with the Windows 10 desktop and Start menu on the screen

(Image credit: LG)
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Image of the LG Gram 16 (2021) from another angle with the Windows 10 desktop and Start menu on the screen

(Image credit: LG)
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Image of the LG Gram 16 (2021) laptop with lid partially closed

(Image credit: LG)

7. LG Gram 17 (2021)

A great new super-light laptop for 2021

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB LPDDR4X | Screen: 17-inch WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS LCD | Storage: up to 2TB NVMe SSD

Excellent battery life
Large, high-quality display
You're paying a premium for the design
Subject to screen glare

The new LG Gram 17 once again features an incredibly light design, and comes with some of the best mobile tech in the world.

That includes Intel's new 11th generation processors and Iris Xe graphics as well as two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, and coupled with up to 16GB of RAM and speedy SSDs, means this is a laptop that is brilliant for day-to-day tasks. Battery life is also phenomenal, easily lasting around 12 hours on a single charge.

It's a great choice for carrying around for school and work, then. However, it is expensive, and the design is a little plain.

The long battery life and stunner of a screen are back, though so too is its steep price tag. It’s worth it though if you want the power and portability of Ultrabooks yet also need a bigger screen.

Read the full review: LG Gram 17 (2021) 

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Asus ZenBook 13 (2021) laptop with screen open on white background

(Image credit: Asus)
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Asus ZenBook 13 (2021) laptop with screen open on white background

(Image credit: Asus)
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Back shot of Asus ZenBook 13 (2021) laptop with screen open on white background

(Image credit: Asus)

8. Asus ZenBook 13 (2021)

A stunning Ultrabook from Asus

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i3 – i7 / AMD Ryzen 5000 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics / AMD Radeon | RAM: 8GB - 32GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, OLED 1080p, 400 nits | Storage: 256GB - 1TB SSD

Gorgeous OLED display
Phenomenal battery life
No headphone jack
Radeon graphics underperform

The Asus ZenBook 13 is a brilliant laptop, and the 2021 model comes with some of the best mobile tech you'll find in a modern notebook. So, it packs a choice of an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, or Intel 11th gen CPU. It also has an absolutely stunning 13.3-inch OLED screen and one of the best battery lives around.

There's also up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage, which makes this a brilliant laptop for working on.

It's also supremely thin and light, as well as stylishly designed, which makes it a joy to carry around and use. It's also pretty respectably priced compared to competitors like the Dell XPS 13. The only downsides are that there's no headphone jack – which is a bit of a shame, but likely a result of its ultra-thin design, and during our time testing the Asus ZenBook 13, we found that the integrated AMD Ryzen graphics weren't quite as good as Intel's offering. Despite that, this is still a brilliant ultra-thin laptop that's well worth considering.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook 13 (2021)

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Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Acer)
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Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Acer)
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Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Acer)
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Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Acer)

9. Acer Swift 3

The best budget laptop in the world

CPU: up to Intel Core i7-8565U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150, Intel HD Graphics 620 or AMD Radeon Vega 8 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS – 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) | Storage: 128GB – 1 TB HDD, 16 GB Intel Optane Memory

Superb keyboard and trackpad
Excellent performance
Very reasonably priced
Looks a little plain

Beyond the Acer Swift 3's modest exterior, you'll find an excellent laptop that boasts plenty of power for work and study. The Swift 3 (not to be confused with the Switch 3 another laptop from Acer) is an inexpensive laptop; however, that plain chassis is all-aluminum and packed with beefy components. 

In terms of performance, it gets surprisingly close to the far more expensive Microsoft Surface Laptop. Its display is a little lower-res, but the two are otherwise strikingly similar - other than the price. 

This laptop is incredible to use as well, with its roomy trackpad as well as its backlit keyboard that offers a comfortable typing experience with decent travel. If you're going to be writing a lot – whether you’re traveling or at the office, this is one of the best budget laptops 2021 has on offer.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop with the screen open

(Image credit: Lenovo)
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop folded backwards in tent mode

(Image credit: Lenovo)
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop with keyboard folded backwards

(Image credit: Lenovo)
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop with the screen open

(Image credit: Lenovo)
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 laptop in tablet mode with a document showing on the screen

(Image credit: Lenovo)

10. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6

The best 2-in-1 laptop of 2021

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB - 32GB | Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1200p, IPS touchscreen | Storage: up to 2TB SSD

Outstanding performance
Excellent battery life
Expensive compared to other 2-in-1 laptops

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is the latest refresh for Lenovo's flagship 2-in-1 business laptop and the addition of Intel's 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors with Iris Xe graphics, along with Intel Evo certification, make it one of the best 2-in-1 laptops we've tested.

Add in the outstanding 16:10 touchscreen display, garaged stylus, and excellent battery life, and there's very little that we can find fault with here. It's got a great selection of ports that puts the MacBook Air to shame, but it does miss an SD card slot, which some creatives may be disappointed to learn.

But apart from that, and a bit of a straight-laced design (as a ThinkPad device, this is a laptop aimed primarily at business users), the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is easily one of the best laptops to come out in 2021, especially if you're looking for something that can be used as both a traditional laptop and as a tablet-like device as well.

Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

(Image credit: Lenovo)
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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

(Image credit: Lenovo)
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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

(Image credit: Lenovo)
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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

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Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

(Image credit: Lenovo)

11. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

The best affordable Chromebook

CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T Processor | Graphics: ARM G72 MP3 800GHz | RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4X | Screen: 10.1" FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS, glossy, touchscreen, 400 nits | Storage: 64 GB eMMC

Lightweight and portable
Long battery life
Very affordable
Tiny keyboard and finicky trackpad
Charger and headphones share a single port

Lenovo doesn't just make some of the best laptops in the world, it also makes some of the best Chromebooks as well, and the brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook proves how good these Chrome OS-powered laptops really are. It can be used as a laptop or a tablet, and it's backed up by some very impressive specs.

Is it a Chromebook or is it a tablet? Well, luckily, you won’t have to decide with the brilliant Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook. True to its name, this Chromebook delivers two form factors in one, while utilizing the versatility of the Chrome OS and setting you back much less than many of the top Windows tablets out there. 

Like all the best Chromebooks, its battery packs an incredibly long life of almost 22 hours – so you could pull an all-nighter, work through the day and mid-afternoon, and you’ll still pass out before it runs out of juice. 

For this price, sacrifices have to be made, naturally – the keyboard is tiny, the trackpad isn’t as reliable, and the charger and headphones share one port. However, if budget is your top priority, those are definitely not deal-breakers.

Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook 

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ASUS VivoBook S15

(Image credit: Asus)
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ASUS VivoBook S15

The Asus VivoBook S15 is the best affordable laptop (Image credit: Asus)

The Asus VivoBook S15 is the best mid-range laptop

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ASUS VivoBook S15

(Image credit: Asus)
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ASUS VivoBook S15

(Image credit: Asus)

12. Asus VivoBook S15

The best budget 15-inch laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) | Storage: 512GB SSD

Bright, colorful 15.6-inch screen
Weighs just 1.8kg
Average battery life
ScreenPad is a bit weird…

The new Asus VivoBook S15 hasn't been out for long, and it's made its way straight into our best laptops list. This is because it combines a thin and light design with great performance and an excellent price. 

If you're looking for a mid-range laptop that doesn't cost too much, but still performs brilliantly, then this is the best laptop for you. 

Thanks to its powerful Intel processor, 8GB of RAM and fast SSD storage, this is a laptop that can handle almost any task with ease – though gaming is out of the question. Its 15.6-inch screen is bright and vibrant, and it has loads of ports that makes it easy to hook up your favorite peripherals. 

However, it doesn't have the longest battery life for a laptop, and the ScreenPad, which replaces the traditional touchpad below the keyboard with a touchscreen, takes a bit of getting used to.

Read the full review: Asus VivoBook S15

Which type of laptop is best for you?

General laptops: This broader category is dedicated to devices that focus more on practicality than style, portability or power. That’s not to say they can’t be fast, but you’ll typically find a non-Ultrabook clamshell laptop with an HD screen and spinning drive-based storage for less than SG$1,000.

Ultrabooks: Where you’ll find thin-and-light notebooks sporting SSD storage and display resolutions that exceed 1080p. Paired with powerful, albeit mobile-centric components and especially long battery life, the best Ultrabooks will cost a pretty penny – closer to SG$1,000 to SG$3,000.

2-in-1 laptops: Where notebooks that double as tablets are located. Outfitted with both detachable and 360-degree rotating hinges, these hybrids are the most versatile way to experience Windows 10 (or Chrome OS) on a touchscreen.

Chromebooks: Where you’ll find the best Chromebooks running Chrome OS. These do much of what Windows and macOS can in the browser, focused on cloud storage over local, while recently getting Android app support for touchscreen models. They generally cost less than SG$500.

Gaming laptops: Need a laptop to play games (almost) just like a shiny desktop PC can? Then you’ll want one of the best gaming laptops. These machines generally cost more than $1,000 and can quickly get into the SG$4 – 5,000 range for the beastlier models.

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12 Jan 2022

Installing gaming drivers might leave your PC vulnerable to cyberattacks

If you're using cheat programs when playing games on PC, you could be putting your computer at risk as vulnerabilities in signed drivers are most commonly used by game cheat developers to circumvent anti-cheat mechanisms.

However, they have also been observed being used by several advanced persistent threat (APT) groups according to a new report from ESET. The internet security company recently took a deep dive into the types of vulnerabilities that commonly occur in kernel drivers and it even found several vulnerable drivers in popular gaming software at the same time.

Unsigned drivers or those with vulnerabilities can often become an unguarded gateway to Windows' core for malicious actors. While directly loading a malicious, unsigned driver is no longer possible in Windows 11 and Windows 10 and rootkits are considered to be a thing of the past, there are still ways to load malicious code into the Windows' kernel especially by abusing legitimate, signed drivers.

In fact, there are many drivers from hardware and software vendors that offer functionality to fully access the kernel with minimal effort. During its research, ESET found vulnerabilities in AMD's μProf profile software, the popular benchmarking tool Passmark and the system utility PC Analyser. Thankfully though, the developers of all of the affected programs have since released patches to fix these vulnerabilities after ESET contacted them.

Bring Your Own Vulnerable Driver

A common technique used by cybercriminals and threat actors use to run malicious code in the Windows Kernel is known as Bring Your Own Vulnerable Driver (BYOVD). Senior malware researcher at ESET, Peter Kálnai provided further details on this technique in a press release, saying:

“When malware actors need to run malicious code in the Windows kernel on x64 systems with driver signature enforcement in place, carrying a vulnerable signed kernel driver seems to be a viable option for doing so. This technique is known as Bring Your Own Vulnerable Driver, abbreviated as BYOVD, and has been observed being used in the wild by both high-profile APT actors and in commodity malware.”

Examples of malicious actors using BYOVD include the Slingshot APT group which implemented their main module Cahnadr as a kernel-mode driver that can be loaded by vulnerable signed kernel drivers as well as the InvisiMole APT group which ESET researchers discovered back in 2018. The RobinHood ransomware is yet another example that leverages a vulnerable GIGABYTE motherboard driver to disable driver signature enforcement and install its own malicious driver.

In a lengthy blog post accompanying its press release, ESET explained that virtualization-based security, certificate revocation and driver blocklisting are all useful mitigation techniques for those worried about the dangers posed by signed kernel drivers that have been hijacked by malicious actors.

We've also highlighted the best malware removal software, best endpoint protection software and best antivirus

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11 Jan 2022

DDoS attacks soared to new highs in 2021

The web infrastructure and CDN provider Cloudflare has released its DDoS Attack Trends for Q4 2021 report highlighting the steep increase in DDoS attacks last year.

The first half of 2021 saw massive ransomware and ransom DDoS attack campaigns that interrupted aspects of critical infrastructure worldwide and a vulnerability in Kaseya's IT management software that was exploited to target schools, the public sector, travel organizations and credit unions. Meanwhile, the second half of the year saw the rise of a new botnet called Meris, record-breaking HTTP DDoS attacks and network-layer attacks observed over the Cloudflare network.

When it came to ransom DDoS attacks, they increased by 29 percent year over year and by 175 percent quarter over quarter. In fact, in December alone, one out of every three respondents surveyed by Cloudflare reported being targeted by a ransom DDoS attack or threatened by an attacker.

At the same time, Q4 was the busiest quarter for attackers launching network-layer DDoS attacks with more attacks observed this quarter than in Q1 and Q2 of 2021 separately. While most of these attacks were small, Cloudflare was able to automatically mitigate dozens of attacks peaking at over 1 Tbps with the largest one peaking at just under 2 Tbps. There was also a persistent ransom DDoS campaign against VoIP providers around the world during Q4. 

Application-layer DDoS attacks

Application-layer DDoS attacks, specifically HTTP DDoS attacks, are attacks that usually aim to disrupt a web server by making it unable to process legitimate user requests.

During 2021, the manufacturing, business services and gaming/gambling industries were the most targeted by application-layer DDoS attacks with attacks on manufacturing companies increasing by 641 percent quarter on quarter during Q4.

When it came to where these attacks are originating from, for the fourth quarter in a row, China remains the country with the highest percentage of DDoS attacks coming from within its borders followed by the US, Brazil and India. The US was the most targeted country by application-layer DDoS attacks followed by Canada, Germany, France and Ukraine.

As cybercriminals and other threat actors increasingly use DDoS attacks to hold businesses for ransom and to target critical infrastructure, organizations should ensure they have adequate DDoS protection to fortify both their websites and online services. 

We've also featured the best antivirus, best malware removal software and best endpoint protection software

Read more...
11 Jan 2022

EVE Online developers are bullish on Mac gaming – and think you should be too

When it comes to PC gaming, not a lot of people are going to think about a Mac.

That wasn’t always the case. If you’re a gamer of a certain age, chances are good that your first experience with PC gaming was on an Apple II computer in your school’s computer lab. 

There was also a time when Apple was on the cutting edge of PC gaming when Myst debuted in 1993 on the Apple Macintosh computer and became the best-selling game ever until it was dethroned in 2002 by The Sims.

Despite this pedigree, there’s no doubt that something happened along the way and Apple lost its gaming moj, surrendering the PC gaming space almost entirely to Windows PCs and gaming consoles, while it directed its attention elsewhere.

It’s hard to argue with Apple’s decision. It recently became the first company to achieve $3 trillion in market capitalization, so it has clearly done something right. But for a company that almost became the exclusive platform for Bungie’s Halo in 1999, Mac gaming has remained something of a sparsely-inhabited desert in the new millennium.

That may be about to change, however, and the developers of the hugely-successful EVE Online hope that they will be in the vanguard of a new Mac gaming frontier.

“We have a long and interesting history with Apple,” Bergur Finnbogason, the creative director of EVE Online, told TechRadar recently. “We’ve supported Apple hardware, we’ve been on iOS for quite some time, and so we’ve had a dedicated [Apple] following for a very long time now.”

Recently, the company released its first native Mac client, specially optimized for the Apple M1 chip. In the process, it has become something of an evangelist for the Mac as a gaming platform, something that some PC gamers might consider heresy.

A mythical island under a blue sky with the word Myst written above it

(Image credit: Cyan Games)

 Gaming on a Mac, past and present 

Given the history of Mac gaming and the trajectory Apple has followed since the 1990s, one has to ask, “What the hell happened?”

“It was never a single moment, really, it was a combination of a lot of little things that created this drift,” Finnbogason said. “When people were playing Full Throttle, it was the coolest game ever. Nobody had ever seen anything as beautiful as Myst. It was spectacular.”

The change came, Finnbogason said, with the release of the Power Macintosh in 1994, just a year after the release of Myst.

“[An Apple computer] became office equipment, it became professional equipment. It felt in many ways that they were going the Silicon Graphics route. Windows felt way more open. Anyone could learn some BASIC, or QBASIC, or whatever and you could write yourself a game.”

Recently, though, Apple’s approach to gaming has changed.

“I think it’s changing because of iPhone games,” Hilmar V. Petursson, CEO of CCP Games, said. “Gaming has become such a huge part of what people use iPhones for, and it has probably really changed the way Apple sees gaming. 

“And now,” he added, “Macs have the hardware to back it up.”

 Rebuilding Mac gaming almost from scratch 

 

One of the biggest issues with Macs and gaming has been the hardware. While Macs have been powerful for the use cases they have been designed for, gaming wasn’t one of them. As a result, the hardware often fell short of what was needed.

With a Windows PC, you have a lot more capability to create a “Frankenstein machine” as Finnbogason calls them, with all kinds of different hardware configurations that make PC gaming on Windows much more powerful. 

And since the most powerful gaming hardware has been on a Windows PC, most PC gamers have flocked to Windows as a gaming platform. With most gamers on Windows (not counting console gamers, of course), most games are published on that platform, as well.

What’s more, producing a game as complex as EVE Online isn’t an easy task even for a Windows PC, much less building a wholly separate native Mac client. 

“For the past few years we’ve been running EVE through a live client,” Finnbogason said, “so not the most optimal way of operating. I don’t want to say it was a side project, but we weren’t really giving it the love it deserved. So when we decided to kind of double down and take the full step of going native on Mac, that really opened up a lot of new possibilities.

“Interestingly enough, halfway through that process, we got wind of a new development at Apple with the M1 processor. We actually managed to ship the game not only natively to Mac, but natively to the M1 processor.’

An exploration vessel doin' stuff in EVE Online

(Image credit: CCP Games)

It wasn’t without its challenges, though. Developing within the Metal framework, Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s DirectX multimedia programming API, required a lot of work for a game that’s accumulated nearly two decades of Windows development quirks and artifacts under the hood.

“It was a pretty magnificent feat for us,” Finnbogason said. “One of the first things we had to do was really look at our core architecture and how we developed the game. We had to take the game from 32-bit to 64-bit. There was a lot of just cleanup of old, fantastic ideas [in the code] that were probably the best ideas at the moment they were made, but the game is 18 years old, so there’s been 18 years of development, 18 years of progress in the world. It sometimes catches up to you.”

Still, CCP developers found that the process wasn’t as perilous as they expected.

“But this process was way smoother than I’d even dared to predict when we started this project,” Finnbogason said.

So why do it?

We’ve done this because we’ve had a Mac client for the longest time and there’s been a lot of love from Apple on EVE,” Petursson said. “There are a lot of people at Apple that are EVE players, and a lot of people at CCP that are Mac users. So that’s definitely been part of our motivation, and the user base that uses a Mac is a healthy number.”

Perhaps most important of all, though, is Apple’s move to its own silicon.

“The M1 really, really, really changes the situation. It is a really powerful piece of kit and there’s more to come, based on rumors and whatnot and reading the tea leaves. Other studios, absolutely, should update their worldview on the capabilities of the Mac.”

A mining frigate mining an asteroid in EVE Online

(Image credit: CCP Games)

 Can Apple’s new silicon change the game? 

The Apple M1 chip has been a huge win for the company, and the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips have only further cemented the capabilities of Apple’s new hardware. The M1 Max, in particular, is a beast of an SoC with up to a 32-core GPU, 64GB of unified memory, and 400GB/s of memory bandwidth that delivers about 10.4 TFLOPS of performance, according to Apple. The M1 chip, meanwhile, delivers about 2.6 TFLOPS out of its 8-core GPU. 

This is a far cry from the nearly 19 TFLOPS of the RTX 3080 mobile GPU running in your standard high-end gaming laptop. In our experience, the M1 Max 32-core chip manages to come in at roughly the same gaming performance as a discrete RTX 3060 GPU, which is pretty impressive given that we're essentially talking about integrated graphics here.

But at about $3,500 for a MacBook Pro with an M1 Max chip, one wonders if that kind of performance is enough to entice gamers away from a Razer or Alienware gaming laptop.

The hardcore gamer set will almost certainly stick with their dedicated gaming laptops, but there is definitely room for Apple to regain some of its long surrendered territory in the PC gaming space, particularly with an actual, you know, laptop. 

“The laptops in particular are a game changer,” Petursson said. “Like, you can play EVE Online on an M1 Mac for hours on end on battery, and nothing really compares on that front. You can’t really do that on any other laptop but an M1 laptop, and that is a fundamental game-changer to how you can play EVE Online. Playing on a battery was kind of science fiction before the M1.”

That isn’t chalked up to the hardware alone, obviously. EVE Online’s native Mac client was specifically optimized for the Apple M1 chip, so it runs especially well on this hardware compared to other games.

“It’s definitely a testament to the great work that the team did on the Metal rendering path [for the Mac client],” Petursson said.

A patrol vessel in EVE Online

(Image credit: CCP Games)

What will need to change for Mac gaming to see a real resurgence? 

If you talk to any PC gamer out there and ask what they’d need to see before they’d game on a Mac, you’re likely to hear two things: better hardware and a better catalog of games.

While the M1 chip and its beefier siblings, the M1 Pro and M1 Max, have definitely improved things on the hardware front, and later generations of chips should improve matters even further, the real issue is the catalog of available games. 

This really has been Apple's Achilles heel for a little over two decades and it remains so to a large extent, but an impressive number of the best Steam games out there have Mac versions now. 

And while something like Dying Light 2 might not release to macOS in the next year or two, it's a lot harder to dismiss the possibility of major AAA games releasing to macOS upon release in the years ahead given the substantial improvements in hardware.

This is something that Apple only has so much control over, and it will likely require a sea change in terms of developers’ perspective of a Mac’s gaming capabilities. CCP Games hopes it can help promote that shift in perspective.

“I think people have largely been in this camp of Macs and games not being a match made in heaven, but people should update their worldview,” Petursson said. “We’ve seen a great benefit from doing this, and I think we will continue to reap the benefits for a long time to come.”

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11 Jan 2022

The Surface Go 3 just got quietly refreshed with LTE connectivity

Microsoft has launched new versions of the Surface Go 3. The first is a new colorway, matte black, and the second is a Surface Go 3 with LTE connectivity – as Microsoft has previously done with the Surface Pro 8. This should make the Windows tablet more versatile.

Unfortunately, for those who are interested in LTE connectivity, you’ll have to purchase the Surface Go 3 with an Intel Core i3 processor as there isn’t a version listed with the Intel Pentium 6500Y model. That makes the price of entry a bit higher than it would otherwise be. 

A Surface Go 3 with an Intel Core i3 processor, LTE, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD is going for $730 / £642 / AU$1,012 on the Microsoft Store. Which can be a little steep, especially if you already have a Surface Go device. Luckily, that particular configuration is available in the new matte black colorway, so you can indulge in all the new offerings. 

If you’re only interested in the non-LTE Surface Go 3 but with the new matte black coloring, you can get that starting at $550 / AU$763 / £484 for the Intel Pentium 6500Y model.

Though the Surface Go 3 received a less than stellar review from TechRadar, it can make a killer Android tablet with the use of a new feature that allows for Android apps in Windows 11 to be downloaded from the Amazon app store.

Via Windows Central

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11 Jan 2022

A third of Americans fell victim to cyberattacks last year

Just as businesses faced a record number of cyberattacks last year, so too did consumers with a new study from NordVPN revealing that a third of Americans (33%) encountered at least one cybersecurity issue in 2021.

Of those affected, half of them (49%) experienced email scams (or phishing emails), while more than a third suffered social media hacks (35%), payment fraud (32%), bank account hacks (29%) and identity theft (28%). 

According to cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, Daniel Markuson there was a 27 percent increase in cybersecurity incidents in the US last year when compared to 2020. Even though more people are now being impacted by cybersecurity issues, 50 percent of those surveyed said they think they are well prepared.

When asked about which personal cybersecurity incidents they are most concerned about this year, 51 percent worry their financial accounts will be hacked, 47 percent fear their identity will be stolen, 40 percent worry their social media accounts will get hacked, 37 percent wonder if their smart home devices will get hacked and listened to and 21 percent think their medical or vaccine records will be hacked.

As for the kinds of business cybersecurity incidents that have Americans worried this year, over half (54%) fear that a business will get hacked that reveals their financial information, 45 percent worry hackers will sell their personal information on the dark web and almost a quarter (25%) worry their organization will fall victim to a ransomware attack leading them to lose money and possibly even their jobs.

Bad online habits

NordVPN's latest study also showed that more than a third of Americans don't update their passwords frequently which corresponds with recent research from NordPass which discovered that the most popular password in the US is still “123456”.

American respondents also confessed to visiting questionable websites (30%), using public Wi-Fi without a VPN (29%) and opening links in emails or text messages without validating them first (27%). Other bad habits included buying products or services from questionable websites (24%) and storing their passwords on unsecure devices (23%).

Markuson recommends that Americans adopt better online habits and use cybersecurity tools such as a VPN, antivirus and a password manager to further protect themselves from cyberattacks.

We've also featured the best VPN, best antivirus, best malware removal software and best endpoint protection software

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11 Jan 2022

Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker's endgame is the same as ever, and that's a good thing

The first Savage raiding tier of Final Fantasy XIV was released last month, during the chaos of CES 2022. And while that means I wasn't able to dive as deeply into it as I wanted (I was kind of busy), it's clear that everything I loved so much about the end-game model of the MMO is back -- exactly how I like it.

That might sound like a potential problem with the game, though. After all, a new expansion may cause you to expect all-new gameplay systems, especially if you're used to other MMOs like World of Warcraft or RIFT. But instead, it means I know exactly what I need to do, and I won't need to burn myself out grinding out a whole new system that I don't understand. 

And for the game itself, it means that a lot more effort can go into the raid fights themselves, and Pandaemonium - at least its first tier - is extremely cool so far. 

FFXIV endwalker login screen

(Image credit: Square Enix)

A classic system

In Final Fantasy XIV's raid loots, at least for the normal tier, each boss drops little tokens that can be traded for individual armor parts such as a helmet, a chest piece, shoes, etc. This is nice because unlike other MMOs, which may have the big raid bosses drop specific pieces of gear, it means that everyone that comes to the raid has an equal chance to get something, no matter which job they're currently playing. 

Even better, each boss drops 8 of these tokens, which means there's potentially one for every player in the raid. That means, especially at the beginning of a raid's life-span, everyone gets something for doing the content. 

That changes a bit in Savage, the hard-mode version of the raid. In there, specific pieces will drop off of each boss, along with a coffer, which can be used to create a piece of gear for its slot no matter which job. But only one of each drops when the boss is killed. Instead, every player will get a book, and you can turn in a number of these books for gear as you collect them. 

So, even if you have bad luck and don't win any rolls, you'll eventually get the exact piece of gear you've had your eyes on. 

This is such an elegant solution for divvying up raid loot that it's not really a surprise that it hasn't changed since Heavensward in 2015. And once you have the best gear you can get out of the Savage raids, you don't need to endlessly grind content you might not want to do in order to maximize the gear further - looking at you, World of Warcraft.

Final Fantasy XIV screenshot of a raid encounter, with a bunch of text and spell effects

While loot may not be chaotic, don't worry the fights still are.  (Image credit: Square Enix)

Thank you, FFXIV, for respecting my time

While I may have spent as much time as physically possible playing Final Fantasy XIV when Endwalker launched - I even live blogged that first hectic day - I'm already at the point where I can log in for like half an hour each day that I'm not raiding with my friends. And I can probably get away with not even doing that. 

It's the one thing that makes sure that I will probably never really burn out on Final Fantasy XIV. The game respects my time, and I don't feel like I'm being penalized for doing things that aren't playing Final Fantasy XIV. Game Director Naoki Yoshida famously said that he actually prefers it if you play the game at your own pace rather than forcing yourself to play everyday, as spotted in this Reddit thread. 

That means that for the first time, I've found an MMO where I can play the hardcore raiding content that I want to play, without feeling forced to play through a bunch of stuff that feels secondary to me. If I was still playing World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and it dropped right before Halo Infinite, for instance, there's no way I would have even started that game. But, I finished it this last weekend. 

It's not surprising that Final Fantasy XIV is as big as it is today. Because it's the first MMO I've played in years that makes me feel like I'm playing a game, and not paying for a tedious second job. And that's what's going to keep me coming back for every patch -- and buying every expansion for years to come. 

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11 Jan 2022

This Microsoft Edge update solves a major headache, but not for everyone

Suffering a juddering scrolling experience with Microsoft Edge could soon be over thanks to a new update for the software set to launch soon.

Microsoft's browser is examining a new option to improve scrolling that will see users get a much smoother experience - but not everyone will be able to enjoy it just yet.

Available in the Edge Canary channel now, the update sees Edge using variable "screen refresh rate" when scrolling. The feature "allows Windows to temporarily boost the refresh rate up when scrolling...this provides an overall smoother scrolling experience," the update notes.

Microsoft Edge VRR

However the change isn't set to be available to all users, as Microsoft notes that you'll need a VRR panel and a supporting driver to make sure it works as it should.

A VRR panel helps your device operate variable refresh rate (or VRR), giving you a smooth graphics experience. It's more common in gaming TVs and monitors, especially as next-gen consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X become more widespread.

The main job of VRR is to eliminate what's known as screen tearing, where the image on your TV shudders mid-frame before carrying on as before. 

Screen tearing happens when your display's refresh of its image is out-of-sync with the rate at which  your console or PC graphics card delivers frames. You end up with an on-screen image that sees, for example, the top half of the screen display one frame and the bottom the next. 

This happens because TVs don’t refresh their entire screen image instantly. The driver of a display rapidly scans down the screen, usually from top to bottom, updating the state of each pixel. It often happens too fast for our eyes and brains to notice, until something goes wrong and it looks odd. 

Tearing becomes noticeable when, for example, you use a 60Hz TV and the game’s framerate vacillates between 45fps and 60fps. It’s particularly obvious in fast-motion games like first-person shooters, where turning around quickly in-game leads to a huge difference in on-screen information from one frame to the next.

This may all seem a bit detached from using Microsoft Edge as a day-to-day browser, but with more users looking to view HD video and even virtual reality experiences through their browser, it's clear Microsoft feels it needs to keep up.

You can check your devices' Refresh rate panel on your Windows devices via the Start menu, then clicking on Settings > System > Display > Advanced display.

Via WinCentral

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11 Jan 2022

Apple's 2021 iPad is in stock and on sale for just $299 in epic deal at Amazon

If you're looking to score a cheap iPad deal, then you're in luck. We've just spotted Apple's 2021 10.2-inch iPad in stock and on sale for just $299 (was $329) at Amazon. That's the lowest price we've ever seen and a fantastic deal for the 64GB tablet.

This specific iPad model has been difficult to find in stock as of late, and if you were looking for a deal during Black Friday, there were none to be had. We don't know how long Amazon will have the iPad at this price, so you should grab this epic bargain now before it's too late.

Today's best Apple iPad deal

Apple 10.2-inch iPad (2021), 64GB: $329 $299 at Amazon
Save $30 -
Amazon has the 2021 iPad in stock and on sale for just $299. That's the lowest price we've seen and a fantastic deal for the 10.2-inch iPad that packs Apple's new A13 Bionic chip and a 12-megapixel front camera. Today's deal is for the 64GB model in Silver and the current ship date is between January 31 to February 3.

The 2021 iPad includes Apple's powerful A13 Bionic chip and starts off with 64GB of storage, which allows you to store plenty of movies and download apps and games. The 9th generation tablet also received an upgraded 12-megapixel front camera and includes Apple's Center Stage feature to help you stay in frame. You're also getting a 10.2-inch Retina display, support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, and an impressive all-day battery life.

More iPad deals

You can see more of the best cheap iPad deals and if you're interested in Amazon devices you can see the best cheap Amazon Fire tablet deals.

You can also look forward to upcoming bargains with our Super Bowl TV deals and our 2022 Presidents' Day sales guide.

Read more...
11 Jan 2022

Mozilla wants to show just how much Meta and Facebook tracks you

Firefox maker Mozilla has announced a wide-ranging new program aiming to discover the scope and depth of tracking services used by Facebook parent company Meta.

Led by Rally, Mozilla’s privacy-first data-sharing platform, The Facebook Pixel Hunt will be conducted together with The Markup Team, an American non-profit data-driven journalism organization, covering the ethics and impact of technology on society, as well as Mozilla volunteering users.

“According to its own privacy policy, Facebook may collect information about you across the web even if you don’t have a Facebook account,” the project’s website reads. “One way Facebook performs this tracking is through a network of “pixels” that may be installed on many of the sites you visit. By joining this study, you will help Rally and The Markup investigate and report on where Facebook is tracking you and what kind of information they are collecting.”

Raising awareness

To help the two organizations, users need to install Rally (which you can do on this link), and then sign up for the Facebook Pixel Hunt on this link. After that, it’s business as usual. They surf, the data gets generated, collected, and sent to the two companies for analysis.

Mozilla launched Rally in June 2021 as an extension for the popular browser that aims to raise awareness of the value of people’s data. 

The data that gets created through the use of the extension will be used to support various studies. Among the first ones was a study by Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy’s on news and misinformation about politics and Covid-19 on digital services, and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business study on how people consume news and the impact ads have on the consumers. 

The Markup, however, will be the first time Rally’s partnered up with an organization that doesn’t come from academia. 

According to AdWeek, Rally product lead at Mozilla, Ted Han, said in a statement that the world cannot wait on platforms to “do the right thing, especially when so much depends on it”.

“This partnership seeks to lead the way in providing new and critical ways of illuminating the reality of the internet, led by the people who make it. This partnership comes at a time when the consequences of fragmented awareness have never been more stark.”

At the time of increased risk of identity theft, protecting one's online data has never been more important. Internet users are often advised to be careful who they share their personal information with, to use strong authentication methods whenever possible, and to connect to the internet via VPN in order to encrypt the communication channel. 

Facebook has often been criticized for the way it handles user data, with one of the bigger incidents happening between 2013 and 2016. Back then, it was uncovered that the company provided British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica access to user data, without their consent, for the purpose of political advertising, ahead of the 2016 US presidential elections.

  • You might want to check out our list of the best proxies right now

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11 Jan 2022

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D CPU could be in short supply when it launches

AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D, the new 3D V-cache processor revealed at CES, may only be produced in small numbers when it lands in early 2022 – and the chip may remain thin on the ground until the second half of the year rolls around, going by the latest from the rumor mill.

This comes from DigiTimes (via PC Gamer), which reports that TSMC, which is making the 5800X3D, is only expected to kick off with ‘small-volume production’ of the processor, according to the usual industry sources in the know. However, the report also makes clear that production could ramp up considerably when TSMC’s new packaging plant in Chunan (Taiwan) goes live later in the year (supposedly in the second half of 2022).

So, while everyone is (rightly) cautious about the potential amount of stock when it comes to many new PC components at launch, it appears that the Ryzen 7 5800X3D could be particularly shaky to begin with – perhaps for the first few months of the CPU being on shelves (or not, as the case may be).

At least if this report is correct, anyway; and note we certainly must be cautious on that score, as DigiTimes isn’t always the most reliable media outlet.


Analysis: Could 3D V-cache turn out to be a rather ineffective stopgap?

We – and a good number of other folks, no doubt – were a little taken aback when AMD’s CES 2022 3D V-cache refresh turned out only to involve revamping the one model. However, if there are rumblings from the supply chain rumor peddlers that AMD could struggle getting enough of just the 5800X3D out there, then it’s no real surprise that Team Red didn’t also see fit to push out a 5900X3D or a 5950X3D (or any other variant, for that matter).

We know that component shortages are making life difficult for AMD (and everyone else) anyway, certainly for the first half of this year, and as PC Gamer points out, the company has to prioritize enterprise chips (Epyc) to a large extent at the high-end as these are big profit spinners.

We mustn’t read too much into this as we’ve already mentioned, but if this does pan out to be the truth – or something close to it – it’ll leave this 3D V-cache overhaul looking like a rather ineffective stopgap measure against Intel’s impressive new Alder Lake chips. AMD’s Zen 4 processors are still a good way off, and not due until later in 2022, after all (and Intel’s next-gen Raptor Lake will arrive around the same time as them, or thereabouts, too, so Team Blue won’t be standing still).

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11 Jan 2022

Microsoft PowerPoint update will help spice up your boring presentations

Microsoft is working on an update for PowerPoint that will give users ever greater creative freedom when it comes to presentation design.

According to new entries in the company’s product roadmap, PowerPoint will soon allow organizations to add their own custom fonts to presentations. The information is sparse, but presumably these custom fonts will be made available to all employees, once set.

The feature will first be made available via PowerPoint Online next month, and arrive for the Windows and Mac clients in March and June, respectively.

PowerPoint presentations

Although PowerPoint has long been the default presentation software for many businesses, the market has become much more competitive in recent years, and all the more so as a result of the rise of remote working.

In the face of increasingly stiff competition from the likes of Prezi and Google Slides, Microsoft has pushed out a range of improvements and integrations designed to cement its position.

For example, Microsoft 365 customers can now launch PowerPoint presentations from directly within Teams, the company’s popular collaboration platform. Known as PowerPoint Live, the feature eliminates the perilous practice of screen sharing, which has been responsible for various gaffes over the years.

Even more recently, Microsoft rolled out a recording studio for PowerPoint, which allows users to practice their presentations in advance. The idea is that reviewing the footage will help people hone their delivery and identify any areas in need of improvement.

The latest update, meanwhile, covers off the presentation design process, which is as equally important as rehearsal and execution. Although the introduction of custom fonts may appear comparatively insignificant, the update will allow businesses to establish consistency across their brand, which will be particularly useful when presenting to partners, investors and the like.

Alternatively, the facility could be used to add a bit of color and personality to otherwise bland presentations, which is always welcome.

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11 Jan 2022

Google exec missed the point of why Apple hasn't embraced RCS yet - here's why

Since iOS 5 back in 2011, Apple introduced a new message standard called iMessage. If you use an iOS or Mac device, you’ll most likely have used the feature through the Messages app.

These show as a blue bubble that allows you to send reactions, emojis, GIFs, and more.

However, a relatively new standard in messaging has started to appear in recent years called RCS (Rich Communication Services), which is trying to replace the SMS standard that iMessage uses.

RCS is designed to bring the same functionality that iMessage, WhatsApp and other messaging apps offer in a form that works across multiple types of device.

Google's Head of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer, has accused Apple of bullying by forcing users to use iMessage instead of RCS. But Lockheimer, and others, are forgetting those who don’t use smartphones, and that’s a problem.

The pros and cons of RCS

If you use an Android phone through the messages app, and you live in the United States, you will be able to reply with reactions, emojis through an encrypted connection. That's something that SMS doesn’t provide.

Since RCS made its introduction in 2008, the Open Mobile Alliance has been leading the way in trying to replace the SMS standard with this. It makes it easier for users to share content without being charged for it, such as how MMS, or picture messaging still does to this day.

However, the standard is limited. Many carriers in the United States haven’t agreed to implement RCS, leaving it spotty across cellular networks at best. While some other countries, such as the United Kingdom, currently have no carriers supporting RCS.

Combine this with the fact that Universal Profile, which is the latest attempt for carriers to implement the same RCS standard across the phones that each provides, has been delayed. It’s essentially pot luck in whether your phone and carrier will feature RCS.

But there’s yet another handicap to this. Google is decided to activate RCS within its own Messages app, which means that regardless of the carrier you’re on, you’ll be able to use the service. 

This applies to UK users, but others would rather send messages through WhatsApp and other apps.

Google’s Head of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer tried to rectify his comments over the weekend, alongside linking to a TikTok video of Maxwell Weinbach giving his reasons for why he thought it was bad that Apple hadn’t implemented RCS.

See more

But while they both provide compelling arguments on one side, there’s another aspect that Google and Weinbach have both left out. This could also be why Apple has yet to implement RCS.

Forgetting the casual user

The majority of us have family members who simply refuse to upgrade to a smartphone. Or at least, refuse to upgrade to a newer smartphone that was released after 2011.

It’s a comfort blanket to some where they’re familiar with the design and the features that the old phone brings. They’re comfortable in using SMS messaging, the camera app and Facebook, and nothing else.

RCS doesn’t factor into this. While Google’s Messages app requires Android 5.0 and above, it’s pot luck whether older phones will support RCS within the app. And that’s if your friend or family member is using Google’s Messages app on their phone.

While the feature is clearly beneficial to those who message frequently, influencers and heads of these departments seem to be missing the bigger picture on who RCS benefits and whether there should be more efforts to make RCS standardized, rather than from one app or waiting for some carriers to come on board.

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11 Jan 2022

What is RCS, and why is Google asking Apple to repeatedly embrace it?

Since iOS 5 back in 2011, Apple introduced a new message standard called iMessage. If you use an iOS or Mac device, you’ll most likely have used the feature through the Messages app.

These show as a blue bubble that allows you to send reactions, emojis, GIFs, and more.

However, a relatively new standard in messaging has started to appear in recent years called RCS (Rich Communication Services), which is trying to replace the SMS standard that iMessage uses.

RCS is designed to bring the same functionality that iMessage, WhatsApp and other messaging apps offer in a form that works across multiple types of device.

Google's Head of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer, has accused Apple of bullying by forcing users to use iMessage instead of RCS. But Lockheimer, and others, are forgetting those who don’t use smartphones, and that’s a problem.

The pros and cons of RCS

If you use an Android phone through the messages app, and you live in the United States, you will be able to reply with reactions, emojis through an encrypted connection. That's something that SMS doesn’t provide.

Since RCS made its introduction in 2008, the Open Mobile Alliance has been leading the way in trying to replace the SMS standard with this. It makes it easier for users to share content without being charged for it, such as how MMS, or picture messaging still does to this day.

However, the standard is limited. Many carriers in the United States haven’t agreed to implement RCS, leaving it spotty across cellular networks at best. While some other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have 3 of their carriers supporting RCS, but you would be hard-pressed to find confirmation unless you went to its terms and conditions, such as this from O2.

Combine this with the fact that Universal Profile, which is the latest attempt for carriers to implement the same RCS standard across the phones that each provides, has been delayed. It’s essentially pot luck in whether your phone and carrier will feature RCS.

But there’s yet another handicap to this. Google is decided to activate RCS within its own Messages app, which means that regardless of the carrier you’re on, you’ll be able to use the service. 

This applies to UK users, but others would rather send messages through WhatsApp and other apps.

Google’s Head of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer tried to rectify his comments over the weekend, alongside linking to a TikTok video of Maxwell Weinbach giving his reasons for why he thought it was bad that Apple hadn’t implemented RCS.

See more

But while they both provide compelling arguments on one side, there’s another aspect that Google and Weinbach have both left out. This could also be why Apple has yet to implement RCS.

Forgetting the casual user

The majority of us have family members who simply refuse to upgrade to a smartphone. Or at least, refuse to upgrade to a newer smartphone that was released after 2011.

It’s a comfort blanket to some where they’re familiar with the design and the features that the old phone brings. They’re comfortable in using SMS messaging, the camera app and Facebook, and nothing else.

RCS doesn’t factor into this. While Google’s Messages app requires Android 5.0 and above, it’s pot luck whether older phones will support RCS within the app. And that’s if your friend or family member is using Google’s Messages app on their phone.

While the feature is clearly beneficial to those who message frequently, influencers and heads of these departments seem to be missing the bigger picture on who RCS benefits and whether there should be more efforts to make RCS standardized, rather than from one app or waiting for some carriers to come on board.

Read more...
11 Jan 2022

UltraRAM could soon eliminate the need for separate RAM and storage

Researchers have published a paper describing advances that will pave the way for the mass production of UltraRAM, a promising new memory technology.

Authored by scientists for Lancaster University in the UK, the report refers to UltraRAM as “a nonvolatile memory with the potential to achieve fast, ultralow-energy electron storage”.

UltraRAM pairs the non-volatility of traditional data storage memory with the speed and endurance of RAM, which means it could feasibly be deployed as a universal memory in future.

UltraRAM breakthrough

As reported by our sister publication Tom’s Hardware, there have been a number of attempts over the years to develop a memory technology that eliminates the need for separate RAM and data storage.

Neither resistive RAM, magnetoresistive RAM nor phase-change memory have been able to live up to their promise. And Intel’s Optane memory, a loosely comparable solution, was also withdrawn from consumer PCs last year.

However, the early signs are promising for UltraRAM in terms of performance. The report claims the memory technology offers data storage times of at least 1,000 years and “switching energy that is orders of magnitude lower than DRAM and flash”.

“A memory that is fast and non-volatile, with high endurance and low-energy logic-state switching, i.e., a so-called universal memory, has long been dismissed as unachievable due to the apparently contradictory physical properties such a device would require,” the paper states.

“Significant progress has been made, with emerging memory products in small- or large-scale commercial production, but, as with conventional memories, the trade-off between logic state stability and switching energy remains. UltraRAM breaks this paradigm via the exploitation of InAs quantum wells (QWs) and AlSb barriers to create a triple-barrier resonant-tunneling (TBRT) structure.”

The technology is esoteric, but its significance is this: the ability to combine the attributes of RAM and storage memory could have performance benefits in a range of use cases, from servers and PCs to games consoles and more.

The authors of the paper say work is already underway to further refine the fabrication process and make various other improvements, which will hopefully increase the likelihood UltraRAM is able enter the market at a competitive price-point, incentivising swift and widespread adoption.

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