Epic Games Woos Devs At GDC 2017 With Unreal Engine Trailer

Epic Games published a trailer for Unreal Engine to win over developers at GDC 2017.

Unreal Engine should be a familiar name to many developers and consumers alike. Many blockbuster titles are made with the engine, from the mostly Epic-developed Gears of War franchise to the absurdist Rocket League sports game, and it supports everything from PC to the Nintendo Switch. But that doesn’t mean Epic is willing to rest on its laurels, which is why it decided to strut Unreal Engine’s stuff in front of countless game devs at GDC 2017.

2017 Features | Unreal Engine

Much of the trailer focused on Unreal Engine’s graphics capabilities. Realistic textures, bombastic lighting, and many other graphics-related flourishes were shown off alongside the engine’s multiplayer support, physics-based animations, and more. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the video is its focus on VR with commitment to “high-performance” VR at 90fps, support for the Vulkan API, and other features meant to help devs embrace VR.

Here’s what Epic touted in its press release about the trailer:

The new video highlights world-class tools including photoreal character rendering, professional grade cinematography, high-performance VR at 90 FPS, access to the full editor in VR, lighting and editing via the Sequencer cinematic tool, flexible post-processing, Blueprint visual scripting, the visual Material Editor, GPU-accelerated particle simulations, full C++ source code and much more that make Unreal the most powerful real-time technology available. 

Epic plans to hype Unreal Engine throughout GDC 2017. It will host a “State of Unreal” opening session on March 1 that will be streamed on Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube; showing off Unreal Engine 4 at its booth in Moscone South #1024; and discussing the engine’s future at numerous sessions, all of which can be found on the company’s website.

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Google Apps for Work (G Suite) 2016 review

[Editor’s Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest developments and features Google has added to Apps for Work (G Suite) since this review was first written.]

February 2017

  • Google clarified that Hangouts users won’t be able to make video/audio calls in Firefox 52 due to plugins being disabled for security reasons, but it’s actively working on a solution.
  • Google Drive users can now view password-protected Microsoft Office documents in Drive, in read-only form – and this works for Gmail attachments, too.
  • Sheets (and its mobile apps) now supports the ability to rotate text within a cell, plus Google introduced new border styles and improved accounting number formatting.
  • Google also changed Sheets on the web so users can link to specific cell ranges, so for example it’s now possible to create a linked table of contents for your spreadsheet.
  • Want to insert videos directly from Google Drive into Google Slides presentations? You can now do exactly that, with a number of options to pick from such as autoplay.
  • Google Cloud Search was brought to G Suite, offering bolstered search functionality across the productivity suite, and machine intelligence-powered recommendations.

January 2017

  • Google added enterprise-grade controls and visibility to G Suite, including improved data control with Data Loss Prevention measures, and more scope for analytics.
  • It became easier to create documents and the like from templates, as the latter can now be accessed directly from Google Drive (rather than having to go into the G suite apps).
  • The mobile apps for both Google Docs and Sheets got a number of new features, including the ability to insert headers/footers, plus improved manipulation of images.
  • On the security front, Google made the decision to block JavaScript (JS) file attachments in Gmail (alongside the already barred EXE, BAT and MSC attachments).
  • Google made it easier to create group chats for teams in Hangouts, allowing for the easy creation and naming of ‘placeholder’ group chats which can be swiftly shared.

 December 2016

  • Basic Mobile Management was introduced to G Suite, which lets admins implement basic security on iOS devices with no need for the user to install an MDM profile.
  • Google Sheets received some tuning, including a new setting to keep a limit on iterative calculations, and some interface improvements were made with the Android app.
  • Gmail has been improved to make ‘bounce’ messages – the notifications users receive when an email fails to be delivered – more easily understandable and informative.
  • Google bolstered the Explore feature (introduced in September) by making it dead easy to insert citations as footnotes in Docs, Sheets and Slides.
  • Finally, this past month, we discovered that G Suite is only half as popular as Microsoft’s Office 365, at least according to one survey of European enterprises.

November 2016

  • The mobile apps for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides had a ‘trash view’ introduced whereby you can now see and restore previously deleted files.
  • Google opened up applications for the Early Adopter Program for the Team Drives feature in Google Drive, a new and more robust way of sharing files between teams.
  • Slides was tweaked to enable users to be able to save in the OpenDocument Presentation (ODP) file format for compatibility with the likes of LibreOffice and OpenOffice.
  • G Suite has introduced custom templates for Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms, so you can set up your own specifically tailored templates for colleagues to use as needed.
  • The overhauled Google Sites has been rolled out to all G Suite users, boasting a refreshed design, six new themes, and the ability to track performance with Google Analytics.
  • Google pushed out a new Gmail app for iOS with major changes including an improved design, better search functionality, and an ‘undo send’ option to retract email mistakes.

October 2016

  • It was announced that the Google Drive desktop app won’t be supported by Google for Windows XP, Vista or Server 2003 as of the start of next year, January 1, 2017.
  • The voice features of Docs got a serious boost, with the introduction of new commands to format text, and do things such as inserting links and comments.
  • Google teamed up with Slack so users of the team-focused messaging solution can directly import files from Google Drive, or create new documents from within Slack.
  • Google also announced that those using aged versions of the Google Drive desktop app should note that support for versions 1.27 or older will be discontinued in February 2017.
  • Google Docs now lets you include page numbers in the table of contents you can create for a document.
  • Google introduced integrated search functionality for Gmail, Calendar, Groups, and Drive on the web, meaning that search results will be pulled from across all of these.

September 2016

  • Google has renamed Apps for Work as G Suite, which the company says better reflects the software’s mission in terms of putting the emphasis on real-time collaboration.
  • Docs, Sheets and Slides witnessed the introduction of a new Explore feature consisting of intelligent assistants that help you craft better documents.
  • A new Quick Access capability was brought to Google Drive. It uses machine learning to automatically surface files it thinks you’ll need next based on your usage patterns.
  • Google rolled out a new offer for users of its productivity suite, with a free 60-day trial of Chrome device management which is good for up to 10 devices.
  • Google Drive made searching easier with the introduction of natural language processing, meaning that you can phrase your search in everyday conversational terms.
  • Google announced a partnership with Box whereby the latter will be integrated with Google Docs, allowing users to edit documents directly from Box’s cloud storage.

August 2016

  • A new Google Hangouts Chrome extension was pushed out allowing for multiple chat windows to be incorporated into one, and making more chat content readily visible.
  • Google introduced a ‘Cast…’ function in the main menu of Chrome, and this can be used to share the contents of a browser tab – or the whole desktop – into a Hangout session.
  • Forms received a new feature which allows the insertion of images into surveys, so you can now do things like have a multiple choice question with pictures for answers.
  • The Android apps for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides were improved to make it easier to create tables and better looking charts.
  • A couple of security tweaks were applied to Gmail, the most important of which is that the webmail service will now issue a warning about a link if it leads to a known malware site.
  • Inbox got integration with Trello and GitHub, so Trello users will receive a summary of what’s new with projects, and GitHub denizens will get a summary of code changes.
  • Google Drive’s preview feature was improved to make viewing previews of stored files a slicker experience, with a cleaner UI and better zoom functionality.

July 2016

  • Google introduced a new scheme to help train employees on its productivity suite, with the system designed to act like a ‘virtual coach’ to help users learn when IT staff aren’t around.
  • Google tweaked the Admin app for Android to let delegated admins (and not just super admins) use the software to access functions while out and about.
  • Google gave the Admin console some attention in terms of two-step verification, allowing admins to view the real-time status of where each user is in the 2SV enrolment process.
  • Apps for Work is apparently being muscled out by Microsoft’s Office 365, at least if sentiment from Redmond’s Worldwide Partner Conference is on the money.
  • Google launched the new Quizzes feature in the Forms app, designed to allow teachers to easily create and mark assessments for students.

June 2016

  • Google Springboard was announced, a search tool (currently being tested) that can be used to quickly find things across Google Apps, plus it makes proactive recommendations.
  • Google Sites got revamped with a new preview version boasting a simple drag-and-drop design which is more intuitive, and support for real-time collaboration was introduced.
  • A ‘new and notable’ section was introduced to the Google Apps Marketplace, in order to highlight the best third-party apps available to businesses.
  • The Android and iOS apps for Google Docs and Sheets gained the ability to edit content in Print layout view, and to edit existing conditional formatting rules in Sheets.
  • Google tweaked Docs, Sheets and Slides so notifications of comments made not only arrive via email, but you can also get a notification on your Android device or web browser.

May 2016

  • Google announced its new Spaces messaging app designed for small groups – but there’s no news as yet on when (or indeed whether) it will come to Apps for Work.
  • At Google I/O new APIs were introduced for Sheets, giving developers a “new level of access” to some of the most popular features in the app.
  • New APIs were also brought to Slides allowing developers to easily push data from other third-party apps into Slides for maximum convenience.
  • Google revealed that Android apps will be available for Chromebooks, and this opens up more productivity possibilities including using the Android version of Microsoft Word.
  • Google integrated its BigQuery service with Google Drive, allowing users to query files directly from Drive, and save query results from the BigQuery UI directly to Google Sheets.
  • Google Slides benefited from a new Q&A feature that lets audience members submit questions to the speaker directly from their mobile devices during a presentation.
  • The Synergyse service was fully integrated with Google Apps, a virtual assistant that helps train users in the various apps and was previously a Chrome extension.
  • Google Drive and Evernote were integrated, allowing Evernote users to seamlessly access any file on Drive.

April 2016

  • Google Apps for Work received two new certifications: ISO 27017 for cloud security and ISO 27018 for privacy.
  • A new ‘Find a Time’ feature arrived in Google Calendar for Android, allowing mobile users to find convenient times for meetings when they’re on the go.
  • Google’s scheme of providing Apps for free to medium-sized firms who want to migrate over but are locked into an Enterprise Agreement was extended until the end of 2016.
  • Reminders pitched up in the web version of Google Calendar, and said reminders will sync across browsers and mobile devices.

March 2016

  • The Google Admin app received bolstered mobile device management capabilities, allowing for admins to handle security breaches even when they’re out and about.
  • Research into the most-used business apps on the web ranked Google Apps for Work in fourth place – behind Office 365, Salesforce.com and Box.
  • Google launched its #maketime website, which aims to help you prioritise how you spend time during work hours, and highlight how Google Apps for Work can save you time.
  • Google expanded support for its Identity Platform to cover logins for far more third-party apps in the Google Apps Marketplace, including Office 365 and Facebook at Work.
  • A whole bunch of new templates were added to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

February 2016

  • Gmail’s existing Data Loss Prevention features got a boost with the addition of OCR for scanning attachments and additional predefined content detectors.
  • Google also gave Gmail the ability to flag email accounts that it deems ‘insecure’.
  • Google Docs was enhanced with voice typing, allowing users to dictate to their word processor, and also access editing and formatting commands.
  • Google Forms gained support for add-ons and the ability to edit Apps Scripts, plus work and education-related templates were introduced to the home screen.
  • The Gmail for Android app received support for rich text formatting, and an option for one-tap instant RSVPs was introduced.

January 2016

  • Instant comments were introduced to Google Docs, allowing users to click a simple icon to add an immediate comment to a document.
  • The ability to add comments arrived in the Sheets and Slides apps for both Android and iOS.
  • Google further bolstered the Sheets Android app with the ability to open and edit CSV and TSV files, along with additional files supported for import and export.
  • Google Calendar for Android and iOS apps was graced with smart suggestions that pop up suggested event titles, places and people.
  • Search became more powerful across Google’s productivity suite, so when users search from Docs, Sheets, and Slides home screens, they get results from across all three apps.
  • Google rejigged device management in the Admin console, categorising the various settings to make everything easier to find.

Now move on to Page 2 for our full review and detailed look at what Google Apps for Work offers, including an evaluation of features, pricing, and ease-of-use.

Darren Allan contributed to this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor

Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. “My job is to cut through the crap,” he says. “And there’s a lot of crap.”

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Horizon Zero Dawn review

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most highly anticipated games of 2017, exclusive to the PS4 and PS4 Pro. But what makes the post-apocalyptic world of Horizon Zero Dawn so attractive? Apart from roaming mechanical dinosaurs and a fiery red-headed heroine, of course. We’ve spent some time exploring Horizon Zero Dawn’s vast open world, and here’s what we thought. Read next: Best upcoming games of 2017

Horizon Zero Dawn review: UK pricing, release date and platforms

Before we get into the review, let’s first discuss the UK price, release date and platforms. Horizon Zero Dawn is due to launch in the UK tomorrow, 1 March 2017, and is available to pre-order from the likes of Amazon (£44) and GAME (£45), as well as Sony’s PlayStation Store (£49).

Here comes the bad news for Xbox One and PC users: the game is a PlayStation 4 exclusive, and not a timed exclusive either. That’s right, if you’ve got a PC or Xbox One and were looking forward to playing Horizon Zero Dawn, you’re out of luck.

Don’t miss: Best PS4 deals

Horizon Zero Dawn review: Storyline

Set on Earth years after an unexplained apocalypse wiped out life as we know it, the story of Horizon Zero Dawn starts with our young protagonist Aloy learning about how to survive in a world filled with robot dinosaurs, known simply as Machines.

You see, everything we recognise – from roads, to buildings and factories – are unrecognisable to those that now inhabit the Earth, and look at us in a similar way that we look at the Ancient Egyptians; with mystery and wonder. Nobody is quite sure what happened to them, and all that is left now are ruins of what once was – before it was reclaimed by mother nature.

As a young Aloy, you learn about the nature of the vast open world around you, from taking down dinosaurs stealthily to learning about crafting potions and other vital items. It’s essentially a tutorial for the rest of the game, but it doesn’t feel as out of place as it does in games like Final Fantasy 15 – it feels like a natural part of the story, rather than something that must be done before the game can truly begin.

Once an adult and after years of training in the wilderness, Aloy becomes the skilled, powerful character that we’ve grown to know in Horizon Zero Dawn’s popular marketing campaign, ready to take on the open world and all the challenges within it. After proving herself worthy to those that labelled her an outcast as a child, it’s up to Aloy to unmask the secrets of her past and in doing so, shed some light on why the world it is as it is, and where the mysterious dinosaur-like Machines are coming from.

The game’s storyline is much like a Hollywood movie with an engaging and intriguing storyline along with phenomenal voice acting across the board. Combine that with extended cut scenes and a game where every frame could be a painting and you’ve got something that’s engaging, gorgeous and hands down one of the best games to grace the PS4 ever.

It’s not just the main storyline that’s compelling either, as the inhabitants that you meet along the way will provide you with side quests to complete while on your travels. While in some open world games side quests are seen as secondary and can quickly become repetitive, we’d put Horizon Zero Dawn in line with the likes of The Witcher 3, a game that provided meaningful side quests that keeps you hooked and willing to help.

The people that Aloy encounters on her travels are varied, and tasks can include anything from slaying a flock of Glinthawks terrorising a settlement to tracking down a missing person, and everything in between. It’s only through side quests that you gain access to cauldrons, the self-operating robot foundries that shed some light onto the origins of the Machines themselves. The way that it’s designed makes you want to seek out those with a side quest or errand, rather than being something that you must do to complete the game.

Read next: Best PS4 controllers and headsets

Horizon Zero Dawn review: Graphics and PS4 Pro performance

Visually, Horizon Zero Dawn is easily the most beautiful game ever crafted for the PS4, and we don’t think we’ll see something come close for some time. Yes, it even beats the likes of Tomb Raider and Uncharted, two game series that rely heavily on high-end visuals to compliment the Hollywood-esque storyline. It seems as if the developers themselves are confident of their achievement, offering a Photo mode within the game for users to get creative with their snaps.

It helps the game become more immersive and more alive. Wandering through fields of long grass is much more picturesque when you can see individual blades of grass swaying in the breeze, or seeing individual hairs on Aloy’s head swept up by howling winds in the midst of a storm on a mountain top. Even if it’s only a glimpse of an eerie blue light emitted from the eyes of Machines spotted while wandering alone at night, it helps the world come to life.

While the graphics are phenomenal, it’s only when coupled with the atmospheric sound and dynamic soundtrack that changes depending on what’s happening that the game really comes into its own. You can hear footsteps on stone as you walk along rocky paths, and hear the hums and whirs of the internals of Machines as you crouch nearby in waiting. It all adds up to provide an immersive, dynamic audio experience that matches the standards set by the visuals of the game.

Frankly, what’s most impressive about Horizon Zero Dawn is that it’s powered by a PS4, and not a high-end gaming PC. This is especially true when running Horizon Zero Dawn on a PS4 Pro, as we did, offering a 4K output at 30fps by rendering the game in 2160p checkerboard. Lines are clear and defined, textures are of an extremely high quality and the frame rate is stable while providing one of the greatest gaming experiences available on a console. We take our hats off to you, Guerrilla Games, we really do.

Read next: Best PS4 games

Horizon Zero Dawn review: Gameplay and mechanics

It’s not only a strong storyline and impressive visuals that make Horizon Zero Dawn the impressive game that it is, oh no. For a game to really be successful, it needs to offer polished core mechanics that make gameplay as smooth and enjoyable as possible. And yes, you’ve guessed it: Horizon Zero Dawn’s mechanics, especially battle mechanics, perfectly compliment the style of play presented by the developers.

Aloy’s weapon of choice, the bow and arrow, seems to be the go-to weapon for recent games including the likes of Tomb Raider, although we must admit that none offer a more satisfying bow and arrow experience than Horizon Zero Dawn.

What it boils down to is the freedom of movement available to Aloy: with no stamina system at play, gamers are free to dodge, roll and sprint and hide for as long as required to avoid the metallic jaws of the Machines that roam the open world. Combine this with a growing arsenal and a quick menu system that allows not only for the selection of weapons but also the crafting of ammo, and you’re left with a game where every battle is tactical.

Speaking of, tactics are key to Machine battles – and we love it. Rather than equipping Aloy with an overpowered melee weapon that can defeat anything with a single hit, there’s a range of Machines available all with varying strengths and weaknesses, and a range of approaches to take them down. It forces the player to observe and plan, rather than running in blind, and rewards them with spectacular battle scenes.

The idea is to chip away at the dinosaurs to reveal the weak components beneath, allowing you to deal huge damage to even the toughest Machine. The ability to pin down a Machine using a Tripcaster, destroy an armoured plate with an elemental bomb using the Slingshot and destroy the parts beneath using a Hunter’s arrow all without having to pause combat is a glorious and satisfying experience, leaving us wanting more time and time again. Sure, it can be a challenge at times, but it makes fighting Machines – especially the bigger and more powerful ones – an exhilarating experience where no two battles are the same.

There’s also a point-based upgrade system with three areas of focus – combat, stealth and foraging – with users able to access new and upgraded abilities depending on their play style. It allows for Aloy to adopt the style of play best suited to not only the game but the player too, offering a hardened combat experience for those that want it, or a more effective tactical approach for those that like to observe and plan.

Of course, it also adds a sense of progression to the game, watching Aloy go from a stumbling outcast child to a hardened warrior capable of taking down the biggest Machines with finesse.

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The 10nm Helio X30 May Be MediaTek’s First Truly Competitive High-End Chip

MediaTek announced its next-generation flagship chip, called the Helio X30. The chip is one of the first to use the newer and more efficient Cortex-A35 and Cortex-A73 cores in its design. It will also be built on a 10nm FinFET process, which should help it compete toe-to-toe against Qualcomm and Samsung’s own high-end chips.

MediaTek’s Rise To The Top (In Performance)

MediaTek designed chips only for low-end and mid-range devices for a long time, until it eventually started making chips for high-end devices as well. At first, it used higher-clocked Cortex-A53 chips for upper mid-range devices (Helio X10), and then it switched to using high-end cores such as Cortex-A72 (Helio X20).

However, even with the Helio X20, the company wasn’t quite competitive with Qualcomm’s or Samsung’s best, because it was still at least a generation behind in terms of process technology (20nm planar vs 14nm FinFET).

MediaTek’s chips may have had similar instructions per cycle (IPC) to Qualcomm and Samsung’s chips, but the more modern process technologies put Qualcomm and Samsung’s chips significantly ahead in terms of performance and power consumption.

The Helio X30 is about to change that, because for the first time, MediaTek will actually use the same process technology as Qualcomm and Samsung: the 10nm FinFET process node. This should put MediaTek’s chip within striking distance of the performance and energy efficiency of Qualcomm and Samsung’s chips, while the company presumably sells it for a lower price.

New Cortex-A35 Cores

Using the latest process node is not enough. You also have to use the latest technologies to be competitive with the best in the industry. MediaTek seems to have done that, too. The chip is composed of 10 cores: four 1.9Ghz Cortex-A35 cores, four 2.2Ghz Cortex-A53 cores, and two 2.5Ghz Cortex-A73 cores.

Cortex-A35 is ARM’s most efficient 64-bit core, using 32% less power than Cortex-A53 at the same clock speed, and being 16% faster in browser tasks than Cortex-A7, also at the same clock speed.

Even though the Cortex-A35 core was announced in the fall of 2015 and was supposed to chip by the end of 2016, we haven’t seen it yet in chips. Chip designers may have preferred to use Cortex-A53 a while longer, even at the low-end, because they have more experience with it.

The MediaTek Helio X30 seems to be the first high-end chip to incorporate Cortex-A35 for low-end tasks that require maximum energy efficiency.

New Cortex-A73 Cores

At the high-end, for high-performance tasks, MediaTek implemented two Cortex-A73 cores, making the Helio X30 one of the first chips to implement these cores, too. The Cortex-A73 core promises a performance increase of up to 30% over Cortex-A72 at the same clock speed, while also being more efficient and less prone to overheat due to its 2-wide decoder (down from a 3-wide decoder in the Cortex-A72 core).

Because it should overheat less, it should also be able to sustain the high-performance level for longer periods of time. This sounds like a better compromise than Cortex-A72, even if the Cortex-A73 couldn’t have as high of a peak performance as it may have had if ARM had stayed with a 3-wide decoder.

Same Old Cortex-A53 Cores

The stranger part in the Helio X30’s design is that MediaTek decided to stick to using a four-core Cortex-A53 as well. It may have stuck with Cortex-A53 because it could give it a slightly higher clock speed (2.2GHz vs 1.9GHz), but the difference seems so small, the added complexity seems unnecessary. It may have been better for Helio X30 to just use four Cortex-A35 cores and two or four Cortex-A73 cores.

Alternatively, if MediaTek wanted to stay with a “10-core” chip for marketing purposes, it could’ve chosen a six or eight-core Cortex-A35 part for all the tens of background processes on Android, and then use two or four Cortex-A73 cores for the high-end tasks.


Regardless of this design decision, the Helio X30 looks to be quite impressive. According to MediaTek the Helio X30 shows a 35% increase in performance and 50% less power consumption compared to the Helio X20. However, much of this difference is likely due to the move from a 20nm planar process to a 10nm FinFET process.

TSMC’s 10nm FinFET process promises a 22% increase in performance or a 40% reduction in power consumption compared to TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process. The difference should be even larger when comparing Helio X30’s 10nm FinFET process to Helio X20’s 20nm planar process.

PowerVR 7XT MT4 GPU

MediaTek seems to have moved back to using Imagination’s PowerVR GPUs. Imagination’s struggles may have something to do with this, if the GPU company offered better prices than ARM’s G71 that goes into the Exynos 9 Series 8895. As MediaTek is still trying to be a budget version of Qualcomm’s chips, this probably made sense for the company.

The PowerVR 7XT architecture supports a few interesting features that Mali doesn’t have such as security through virtualization. However, it’s not clear whether MediaTek will take advantage of this to protect sensitive information such as fingerprint data.

The GPU also supports 4K HDR10 video at 30fps. Samsung’s latest chip supports 4K video at up to 120fps.

Camera Support

The Helio X30 will bring MediaTek’s Imagiq 2.0 Imaging Signal Processor (ISP), which supports 2x optical zoom. This feature is enabled by a dual-camera setup and should be welcome in more and more smartphones, as it’s quite useful. The dual-camera setup will also make 10x digital zoom possible.

Vision Processing Unit (VPU)

Just as the Exynos 8895, the MediaTek Helio X30 will come with a VPU as well, which should enable highly efficient machine learning tasks on mobile devices. Developers will be able to use MediaTek’s SDK with support for the Caffe and TensorFlow deep learning frameworks.

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LG Watch Style review: LG's stripped back smartwatch

The LG Watch Style is one of the first watches to boast Google’s new Android Wear 2.0, which brings with it a new design, better navigation, and Google Assistant, along with a host of other tweaks. We’ve gone hands-on with the new watch at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress 2017, and you can find out what we thought in our LG Watch Style review.

Read next: Best smartwatch 2017

With Wear 2.0 set to arrive on most other Android smartwatches over the next few months, the Watch Style will have to do more than just show off the new software to justify a purchase. So is the Watch Style runway-ready, or is this just a case of style over substance?

LG Watch Style review: UK price and availability

So far LG hasn’t yet confirmed that the Watch Style or its sibling the Watch Sport are coming to the UK, but we are expecting them to announce a UK release eventually. You’d expect that they’d want to manage a release before too many other watches get Wear 2.0 though, so we don’t think there’ll be too long to wait, especially since the Style is already out in the US.

Also see: Best smartwatch deals

As for pricing, it costs $249 in the US right now, so we’d expect a UK price in the £220-250 range – we’ll update this review as soon as we know more. That would put the Watch Style up against the Moto 360 2 and Samsung Gear S2, at which point $249 feels like a steep asking price given the features on offer here.

LG Watch Style review: Design and build

In case the name didn’t give it away, the Watch Style has been designed with aesthetics firmly in mind. The body is slim and understated, with a matt finish on the front and a small crown on the right-hand side. The 1.2in P-OLED display is a comfortable size, though is surrounded by a frustratingly thick bezel, which feels especially ironic given that LG has made such a point of reducing the bezels on its new G6 phone. Meanwhile the back of the body is a simple plastic cover, which feels slightly cheap.

The watch is available in three colours: silver, titanium, and rose gold. You get even more options with the straps, which by default come in black, camel, or cream leather. There’s also a range of other straps available to buy separately, both in leather and rubber, and the good news is that swapping the straps out is really quick and easy using the built-in clasps.

LG Watch Style review: Hardware and specifications

The Watch Style is powered by the same Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor as the more expensive Watch Sport, and backs it up with 4GB storage and 512MB of DDR3 RAM. Paired with the new Android Wear 2.0 software, it’s more than enough horsepower to make sure the Style is snappy and responsive, and in our time with the device we never noticed any lag or irritating delays.

Read next: Best fitness tracker

Where the Style might come unstuck is its 240mAh battery. LG promises the device should last all day, but we’re a bit sceptical, and some US reviewers have already reported problems with keeping the Style charged up. The watch also features wireless charging, IP67 water and dust resistance, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Most damning are the features it doesn’t include: there’s no 4G, no GPS, no NFC, and no heart-rate monitor. Sure, many smartwatch users won’t need all of those, but it’s hard to imagine many people won’t want at least some of those features. It’s especially troublesome given the Style’s price – $249 is a lot to pay for a device missing many of the features people have come to expect from a smartwatch, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Style is very limited.

LG Watch Style review: Software

If the hardware is a bit of a mixed bag, at least the Watch Style gets to show off Android Wear 2.0. As mentioned above, the OS is quick and responsive, with none of the sluggishness found on some early Wear devices.

There’s been a redesign and simplification of the visuals and interface, and one of the biggest improvements is in navigation. Swiping is no longer the only way to navigate around the OS: you can now scroll using either the touchscreen or the rotating crown on the side of the face, which also doubles as a home button. This feels really smooth and intuitive, though we imagine it could be awkward at times if your other hand gets in the way of the crown.

You also get Google Assistant built in, which should mean more and better ways to control the Watch Style using your voice and better integration with other Google services. What you won’t get is Android Pay, because the Style doesn’t have NFC, so you won’t be using it to make any payments.

Read next: How to upgrade Android Wear

Wear 2.0 seems like a major update for the OS, and the Watch Style makes the most of it, but it’s worth remembering that plenty of current models will be getting updated to the new software over the coming months anyway. They may not have the crown scrolling functionality of the Style, but otherwise they should still offer the full Wear 2.0 experience.

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Exploring Robot-Plagued Bases In 'From Other Suns' For The Oculus Rift

The new VR title from Gunfire Games (the studio that developed Chronos), From Other Suns, was described to me as the 3D (and VR) version of Subet Games’ 2012 title FTL, which had you manage a spaceship as it endured events such as alien invasions and constant maintenance on its spacefaring trip. I didn’t get to see the many similarities (although I was told about them), but From Other Suns impressed me in another way–through its shooting experience.

Spacewalk

To begin the demo, I toured my ship. It featured different rooms that housed essential parts of the ship, including its defenses, the main engine, and the bridge. I had a small crew that could help repair these rooms if the ship was under attack, but that didn’t happen in the demo. After the short tour, I could freely move around.

The concept of locomotion is an important issue in VR. If done correctly, a studio can give the player a game free of motion sickness; do it wrong, and it could ruin an entire experience. With From Other Suns, you can actually choose from two different methods.

For those who are easily prone to motion sickness, you can push the left analog stick forward on the Oculus Touch. This will enable you to control a copy of your character in a third-person view while staying in a fixed position. With the stick, you can direct this copy to move to a specific point within your line of sight and then release the stick to transport yourself to its current position and to your default first-person view. You can also slightly push the left stick in any direction to move in slow increments. The right analog stick on the Touch will also allow you to turn in small angles, so as to further prevent motion sickness.

The second method is for those who have little to no issue with constantly moving in the first-person view while standing still in the real world. Most people find that experience nauseating, but at least the studio implemented it in the game for those few who can handle it.

I preferred the slow, incremental movements for most of the demo, and I used the third-person abilities when traveling long distances. This type of locomotion worked best because it allowed me to move fast across multiple long corridors. The small movements were helpful for letting me sneak behind a wall in order to scout for hostiles or other dangers, as you’ll find out soon.

Around The Corner

While on the bridge of the ship, I used the warp drive to travel to another solar system. I stumbled upon a seemingly-abandoned space station, but its sole survivor managed to contact me. He needed rescue from a small army of rogue robots that took over the base. I needed to get in the station and free him from his mechanical captors (we also learned that the game will feature alien foes). Along the way, I would need to take out any robots that posed a threat. As always, the task was easier said than done.

After arriving to the station via the ship’s transport beam (Energize!), I had to be cautious because of its many hallways and corners. The enemy could be behind the next corner, so I moved slowly through the station. Eventually, I encountered a robot and took it down with my weapons.

Initially, each crew member has access to a standard-issue laser pistol. However, I could grab other weapons, such as a gun that released multiple strands of electricity, while another item let me deploy a temporary shield. I could store more weapons in my inventory, which I accessed through the wrist-mounted device on my left hand.

It’s also worth mentioning that the robots I faced varied in different forms. One seemed to be the standard, rifle-wielding model. Another curled into a ball, which made its impregnable to gunfire. Perhaps the most difficult robot was the stealth version, which I could make out only by its blue silhouette. However, its cloaking ability made it difficult to track at times, which made for tense situations, and usually a quick death (for me).

During the short battle with the robot, I was able to utilize cover behind a corner wall. I would occasionally pop out and attempt to shoot the robot. We traded shots for almost thirty seconds, but it moved too close at one point, which forced me to fire my weapon in rapid succession until the machine fell to the ground. On my second encounter with a robot, I died, and found out the hard truth about the game. When a crew member dies on a mission, you will control another shipmate and try to finish the same task. If your second character dies, the game will let you control another crewmate, and so on. If they all die, the game is over.

Before the demo ended, my second shipmate died, which prompted me to use one more character to enter the space station. The combat itself isn’t difficult to begin with, as it’s more about wisely hiding behind corners and structures when moving in to attack the enemy. However, their shots are accurate, and the robots did attempt to flank me at times.

You Have My Attention

Eventually, I managed to find a keycard that would lead me further into the base, and hopefully find the trapped survivor. Unfortunately, I stumbled onto another group of robots and died. I was about to go for my fourth attempt, but my time with the game was over.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the short demo. The exploration, combined with cover-based shooting, was exciting. Whereas some VR games had me shoot at targets from a fixed, standing position, this game let me move about freely in order to gain any sort of tactical advantage on the enemy. I also found out that each base is procedurally generated, so every structure will be somewhat different in its layout, which only increases the tension with every new base.

My experience with the demo made me yearn for more gameplay, but I’m curious to see first-hand how the game works with its space battles and managing your teammates. I was also told that the game supports multiplayer, with your friends taking on the role of the shipmates. All in all, it has the potential to be an exciting time, regardless of whether or not you’re playing with your friends. However, I’ll need to see more of it in order to determine if it uses the Oculus Touch controls to its full potential.

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How to skip ads on YouTube

How to skip ads on YouTube

For those who like to watch a lot of YouTube videos the ads can become pretty annoying. If you want to dispense with seeing them then take a look at our helpful guide on how to keep your viewing ad-free. Here’s how to skip ads on YouTube.

Circumvent the video ads on YouTube with these helpful tips


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The amount of quality content you can enjoy on YouTube for free is pretty astounding. Of course nothing is ever truly without some cost, and usually this takes the form of adverts. Most of these can be skipped after five seconds, which is a small price to pay for the content you receive, but increasingly there are longer ads that you have to watch in full.

While we understand the economics involved, there really is no point in spending thirty seconds being shown a car you have no intention of buying, especially when all you want to see is a two minute lesson on making a Lancashire hot pot. So we explain how you can skip ads on YouTube.

See also: How to download YouTube videosHow to fix YouTube videos that stop, pause, or freeze after a few seconds

How to skip ads on YouTube: Is it legal?

There’s nothing illegal about blocking ads. In fact the popular app Adblock Plus went through a lengthy court case in 2015 where a group of German publishers claimed it was illegal for the app to block advertisements on sites that they owned. The judge in the case eventually sided with Adblock Plus, which seems to have set a precedent for these types of cases.

Of course there is a stronger argument on the morality of blocking ads. After all you are consuming a product or service for which the only cost to you is enduring watching ads to pay for the costs of production and distribution. This is a constant battle, as ads can prove intrusive when done badly, making visiting a site unpleasant. On the other hand someone has to pay the bills or the content won’t be created in the first place, and if you like the content, you should support the creator. Like all moral quandaries the final choice rest with your own value judgements.

How to skip ads on YouTube: Can you pay to have ads removed?

At the moment there is a subscription services called YouTube Red, but it’s not yet available in the UK. This premium version of YouTube features original content from some of the biggest stars on the platform and no ads at all. In the USA it costs $10, but Google has yet to make any firm statements about when we could see the service in Britain.

The search giant did announce recently that it would be getting rid of its unskippable 30 second ads by 2018, but will persist with 6 and 20 second varieties. So…swings and roundabouts.

How to skip ads on YouTube: Using an ad blocker in your web browser

The most obvious way to rid yourself of the unwanted ads is to use a dedicated ad blocker. Most browsers have a number of these available, often for free or at the very least a nominal amount.

Chrome

If you’re a Chrome user then the way to find and install your ad blocker is to open a new tab then click on the colourful square grid in the upper left corner of the screen. On the following page double click the Web Store option then search for ‘ad blocker’. You’ll see a number of options in the Extensions section. Click More Extension Results to open up the full breadth of the content on offer.

how to skip youtube ads

how to skip youtube ads

One that we know to be very effective is the aforementioned Adblock Plus. Click on the listing of the one you want to use, then click the Add to Chrome button.

how to skip YouTube ads

how to skip YouTube ads

Now you should see an icon appear to the right of your Chrome search bar. Clicking this will drop down the various settings you can use with the software. Just remember, if you use a site regularly then maybe add it to the app’s whitelist so that it will serve some ads and pay the creators of the content you enjoy.

Firefox

If Firefox is your browser of choice then it’s pretty much the same method. Open a new tab. Click on the three lines in the top right corner then select Add-ons from the dropdown menu. Type ‘ad blocker’ into the search box in the upper right corner, select the app you want to use from the list that appears, then click Install.

how to skip youtube ads

how to skip youtube ads

Microsoft Edge

In much the same was as on the above browsers ad blockers are available for Edge. To install them open a new tab then click on the three dots in the upper right corner. From the drop down menu select Extensions and then click on the Get extensions from the Store option.

how to skip youtube ads

how to skip youtube ads

Now search for ‘adblock’, click on the Adblock Plus icon and click Get. Adblock Plus will install and when it’s finished you should see it appear in the Extensions section in Edge. Click ‘Turn it on’ and you can start your uninterrupted YouTube viewing.

how to skip youtube ads

how to skip youtube ads

Internet Explorer

IE has adblockers too. To find them click on the gear symbol in the top right corner just below the X button. From the drop down menu select Manage add-ons then go down to the bottom of the box that appears and click Find more toolbars and extensions…

how to skip youtube ads

how to skip youtube ads

Search again for adblock, choose the one you want, click ‘Get the App’ and it should automatically install.

How to skip ads on YouTube: Using an ad blocker on iOS

The YouTube app is easily the best way to consume content on the video platform, but there’s no way to block the ads. This is hardly surprising as it would mean Google empowering you to take its revenue stream away. If you want to minimise the ads you see on your iPhone or iPad then you can download an app like Adblock Plus or Crystal from the App store, both of which can be used in the Safari browser.

Download the blocker you prefer then open the iOS Setting app and navigate to Safari>Content Blockers, and enable the app. Now when you use Safari you should see the ads have disappeared or are at least in reduced quantities.

How to skip ads on YouTube: Using an ad blocker on Android

While Android is a typically more open platform than iOS it seems that there has been something of a battle going on, with Google often finding ways to circumvent ad blockers. At the moment it’s unclear which is the best route to an ad-free YouTube, but one option worth exploring is installing a dedicated browser that has a blocker built-in. At the moment our favourite is Adblock Browser for Android, which is free and can be found on the Google Play Store. Install the app, navigate your way to YouTube, and keep your fingers crossed.

how to skip youtube ads

how to skip youtube ads

So there are a variety of ways to prevent ads from spoiling your YouTube viewing. Once again take a little time to consider the implication of using ad blockers, as they directly affect content creators. The very site on which you’re reading these words is heavily reliant on advertising to pay its writers and editors. So if you want quality content to remain, think of how you’re willing to financially support it.

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