Dallas-based HostGator is a well-known budget hosting company. It’s now part of Endurance International Group, along with, Bluehost, iPage, and more.

The company has been around since 2002, and its experience was obvious from the moment we visited the site. Product areas are clearly highlighted at the top of the page. Each section presents you with three plans, core features are shown upfront, and a ‘compare’ page tells you much more about what’s on offer.

HostGator’s prices aren’t quite as clear. The bottom-of-the-range Hatchling plan has a headline price of $4 (£3.20) a month, but what you won’t see on the front page is that’s for buying 36 months upfront. The price jumps to $6 (£4.80) a month if you pay for one year, $7 (£5.60) on renewal.

Fortunately, you do get a lot for your money. Even HostGator’s basic Hatchling plan has no limits on bandwidth, web space, subdomains, MySQL databases, FTP and email accounts. There’s also one-click WordPress installation, cPanel-based site management and a 99.9% uptime guarantee covering both server and network failures.

The Baby plan – $6 (£4.80) a month over 3 years, $9 (£7.20) a month over one, $10 (£8) on renewal – adds support for unlimited domains, and gives you the option of using a dedicated IP and a private SSL certificate. HostGator offers certificates for $150 (£120) a year, or you can install a certificate you already own for $10 (£8).

The Business plan – $6 (£4.80) a month over 3 years, $9 (£7.20) a month over one, $15 (£12) a month on renewal – makes this easier by including a dedicated IP and SSL certificate, and throws in support for anonymous FTP as well.

Overall, HostGator’s long-term prices are fractionally higher than average, but we like the simple product structure. Unlike some of the competition, the bottom-of-the-range plan doesn’t have any daft restrictions (such as only one FTP account, or only 10 emails) to force you to upgrade, and the full-strength Business plan doesn’t try to tempt you with oddball extras you don’t really need. If you’re creating a personal site, Hatchling is almost certainly fine; if you’re a business or selling online and need private SSL, use one of the others. It’s as simple as that.

Impressive hosting specs don’t always translate into a good service, of course, but HostGator’s 45-day money-back guarantee is on hand if you need it, outperforming the 30 days or less offered by most hosts (some have far less breathing space – Easyspace only gives you 7 days).

Account setup

HostGator is generally good at letting users compare products side-by-side, and you should quickly spot the best plan for you. There’s still scope for nasty surprises, though, as we discovered when we clicked ‘Sign up now!’ for the $4 (£3.20) a month Hatchling plan, and were presented with an invoice total of $182.13 (£146).

We’d been hit by a double whammy of pricing tricks. The first: HostGator’s low headline prices are often only available if you pay for three years’ hosting upfront. And the second: the company automatically added SiteLock malware detection and automated daily backups to our cart, bumping up the total by another $39.94 (£31.50).

Other hosts use similarly sneaky techniques, and it’s not difficult to cut the total figure here. Clear the checkboxes for the add-ons, choose one year instead of three and the bill drops to $71.40 (£57). Of course, this also means the starting monthly rate isn’t as appealing at around $6 (£4.80), and we’d generally prefer it if sites didn’t add products to our cart without asking.

Once you’ve chosen your preferred plan, everything else is very easy. HostGator drops the usual multi-page signup wizard in favour of placing everything on a single page: domain details, hosting plan, billing and payment information (credit card and PayPal supported), and more. This makes for more horizontal scrolling, but we prefer it – you can see exactly what the company is going to need, enter it in whatever order you like, and make changes without relying on the Back button correctly restoring page state.

Get past the site design and HostGator’s signup procedure works much like any other service, maybe a little better. Fill in your payment details, confirm them if you’re asked, then an email arrives with basic startup details like name servers and the account is ready to go almost immediately (there’s no ‘activation’ delay here).

Creating a website

Logging on to HostGator’s customer portal gave us access to many more functions than we were expecting. As well as the regular account data (packages, renewal dates, billing and security information), there are icons for high-level site tools covering email accounts, FTP, a file manager and more. Although this looks more intimidating, we see it as a plus, because it enables carrying out the basics (setting up a first personal email for your domain) without needing to get into anything more complicated.

Experienced users can jump straight into cPanel where they’ll find all the same high-level features, and have even more low-level adjustments to explore. If you’re used to cPanel you’ll be at home right away, but even if you’re not, it won’t take long to find your way around. The Popular section at the top of the page contains most of the key tools you need – File Manager, Email Accounts, FTP Accounts and so on – and because cPanel is an industry standard there’s a vast amount of help around.

Website creation features start with a basic Website Builder. This really is basic – 100 or so templates, a maximum of 6 pages, HostGator branding in the footer – but it’s an easy way to get a small personal site online, and many hosts don’t include any form of Site Builder unless you pay a premium.

QuickInstall-powered one-click setup is available for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other apps. Navigation seemed a little unreliable with the program leaving us at blank screens a few times, forcing us to go back and try again. We would have preferred something like Softaculous, but as you might only use the system once it’s really not a major issue. The core scripting of installations is solid, too, and we got a copy of WordPress up and running with no hassles at all.


Support is an important element of any web hosting package, and HostGator gets off to what looks like a great start with its many options: a web database, customer forums, live chat, a sort-of ticket system (live chat initially but then you get an email), US-based telephone support (including a toll-free number), there are even fax numbers and direct mailing addresses if you can think of a reason to use them.

This isn’t quite all it seems. We’re keen on web forums, but HostGator’s offering (check out the basic public view here) sees questions handled by other customers rather than official moderators. When we checked the Shared Hosting Support forum we found only eight questions had been posted in the last month. Four of those had no reply, three only had updates from the person who started the thread, and only one got an accurate answer from someone else (which was ‘no you can’t’, essentially).

HostGator’s support articles are much better. They’re available from a separate site (browse it here) or directly from cPanel. Entering a few keywords displays the best matches right away, or you can run a full search to find everything. Articles are sensibly named and there are enough to give you a good chance of finding what you need. Entering ‘import WordPress’, for example, gave us articles including ‘Transfer WordPress from to your self-hosted WordPress’, ‘How to Transfer your WordPress Blog from one host to another’, and ‘Changing the Domain of your WordPress site’.

We’re not so impressed with the video tutorials. Instead of implementing a proper video player or presentation component, HostGator just provides links to SWF files (Flash animations). If your device doesn’t support Flash then clicking these will do nothing at all, except maybe asking if you want to save them.

There are also some design glitches. Searching for PHP in the support site listed 25 hits, with articles on the old PHP 5.3 and PHP 5.4 listed first, with PHP 5.6 at the bottom. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when we ran the search from cPanel it only displayed the first 15 hits: PHP 5.6 wasn’t listed. Bizarrely, even running a specific cPanel search for PHP 5.6 didn’t display the v5.6 article, and clicking on PHP 5.4 or its parent Hardware & Software category still didn’t show that page. 

This isn’t just about PHP, of course. What it means is you could run very specific searches from cPanel and in some cases the system will never show you the document. You’ll never even know it exists. You could presumably get around this by always running searches at the support site rather than cPanel, but we’d rather see HostGator sort its search results more accurately and make sure articles are easier to find, wherever you look for them.

If you can’t solve problems online, escalating the issue to live chat and ultimately tickets is a possibility. We’ve found HostGator’s agents are responsive and generally do a good job of answering questions.

As a final HostGator check, we pointed our site at and a few other server speed tests. Our server seemed to be located on the western side of the US, so there may be a slight lag when you’re visiting the site from the UK, but otherwise there were no issues and the tests showed faster than average global access times.

Final verdict

This web host is more costly than some, but it’s still good value with loads of features and no annoying limits – even with the budget plans. A smart choice for the demanding user.

Full disclosure: the author has had a personal hosting account with HostGator for many years, but other than providing some background knowledge, that doesn’t affect this review. He has never had any affiliate or other relationship with the company beyond being a customer, and never will.

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Yamaha WXAD-10 (MusicCast Add)

Multi-room music streaming has been mainstream for a while now, thanks to the likes of Sonos, but music streaming that’s affordable and marries up to your existing setup is only a recent thing – mainly because of Google’s dinky Chromecast Audio dongle and to an extent the Amazon Echo Dot.

The success of these devices has spurred many a company into making their own streaming add-on. The latest is the Yamaha WXAD-10, nicknamed the MusicCast ADD.

This streaming adapter is Yamaha’s way to get its MusicCast streaming service into your home and turn any ‘dumb’ wired speaker into a fully fit smart system. 

It also has in its bag a fantastic, if quirky, USP: the MusicCast Add can turn Yamaha pianos into fully fledged streaming speakers. 

So, if you just so happen to have a Yamaha Clavinova lying around in your two-bed semi, then simply attach MusicCast to the thing and you have a piano with some fantastic audio smarts.

Design and features

The Yamaha WXAD-10 is, for Yamaha, a mainstream device. It’s the company’s way of spreading out its MusicCast service to more devices – something it’s been trying hard to do since MusicCast’s launch in 2015. 

The amount of Yamaha products that have MusicCast embedded in them now stretches to 50, so it’s serious about making a big dent in the music-streaming market. 

Given that it’s a streamer, the Yamaha WXAD-10 is small enough to meld with whatever audio setup you happen to have. It’s by means not as tiny as the Chromecast Audio puck – its footprint is around the size of a beer mat – but its dark gray color and brushed metal look is meant to be both seen and heard. 

Physical controls on the MusicCast add are few and they hidden on the bottom of the device. You have an on/off button, a ‘connect’ button to get it syncing with your home’s Wi-Fi and an option button. 

The option button is something you may have to use on occasion, depending on how you use the device, but for the most part you control things with the MusicCast app. 

To connect it to your speaker setup you have two options: aux out and line out -there’s no digital option available here. There are another three ports on the back, one for ethernet, a micro USB slot and a mini USB slot. 

The mini USB is to power the device and the micro one is hidden behind a rubber enclosure. This is because you shouldn’t really need to use it. It’s only there if the box needs completely rebooting, or some sort of firmware update. 

The design is minimal but sleek, though we do worry that the gray fascia will be prone to scratches.

Setting up the MusicCast ADD is simple. We were walked through a demo on the show floor of Frankfurt’s big music show Musikmesse and the box seamlessly slots into an existing MusicCast setup.

Load up the app and the box will be listed alongside the rest of your MusicCast devices. 

This doesn’t mean that you have to already have a MusicCast setup installed somewhere in your home. The MusicCast ADD is designed to be a stepping stone into streaming, as well as a way of adapting an existing setup to play nicely with the rest of your MusicCast-enabled systems. 

You don’t even need to use the app, as both Bluetooth streaming and AirPlay are also enabled but the app uses a great visual interface to group all MusicCast devices together. The app also supports Tidal, Spotify and Deezer so should stave off the issue that you can’t access these apps natively through MusicCast.


In the show demo I had, we first listened to a piece of music – Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times – streamed through a Yamaha MCR-043 system (in fetching Yamaha motorcycle colors). This system was then paired to another one. The whole thing felt cohesive, with no mucking around with grouping speakers like you have to do with Chromecast Audio. 

Given some will have an audio setup that runs into the thousands, switching to a smarter streaming system isn’t as easy as swapping out speakers. And that’s where the MusicCast Add comes in. It’s for those who don’t want to re-buy for a smart world, but are warming to the idea of listening to digital music – or spreading their vinyl listening to other rooms in the house without having to shift their record player.

Early verdict

The MusicCast Add also supports 24bit/192kHz high-res audio files – which means you may want to plumb the system in through the Ethernet port. It also shows where Yamaha’s thinking is with the ADD – it’s not just a means to make your system smart but it also cares about audio clarity, too, thanks to an inclusion of a Burr-Brown DAC.

And that’s where it might succeed in a streaming world currently dominated by Sonos at one end and cheap dongles at the other. Although Yamaha hasn’t set exact pricing, expect the device to be priced around £120 ($150, AU$200). 

For those with expensive setups, and embedded in MusicCast already, this is a great way to refresh older systems for a streaming world – and an update in August will see MusicCast play nicely with Amazon Alexa, which will open up the system to voice control.

Oh, and for those who have a Yamaha Clavinova piano lying around – it’s a must.

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Hackers Use IRS Data Retrieval Tool To Steal Millions

The IRS and the Department of Education announced that the IRS Data Retrieval Tool was taken offline in late March after a possible breach until extra security protections could be put in place. Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said that the information of as many as 100,000 taxpayers may have been compromised in a security breach of the IRS’ Data Retrieval Tool, which is used to automatically populate tax information when applying for federal student aid online.

Koskinen testified that identity thieves stole more than $30 million from the IRS by using the tool to file fraudulent tax returns. Once the IRS identified suspicious activity, the agency put a halt on over 52,000 refunds until it can verify that these are legitimate requests.

The IRS is aware of the fact that some of the FAFSA applications that were flagged for suspicious activity are legitimate, but the agency needs to complete its investigation before they can be reinstated. Koskinen went on to say that the IRS outright blocked an additional 14,000 other phony tax refunds.

The fallout from the breach is that the application process is much slower now because students must fill out the standard FAFSA form and manually submit a copy of their tax return until the IRS Data Retrieval Tool comes back online in the fall. The good news is that parents and students can still access FAFSA and Income-Driven Repayment plan applications online.  

Despite the fact that an ongoing criminal investigation into the breach is currently underway, the IRS said that it is still trying to determine the size and scope of the attack.

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Twitter forces US to drop demand for Trump critic's details

The US government has dropped its request for the identity of an anti-Trump Twitter account, just a day after Twitter went to court over the issue.

@ALT_USCIS anonymously criticised President Trump’s immigration policy, and claimed to be run by employees at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

US government officials issued a summons for identifying information.

But Twitter said that demand had been withdrawn after it filed a lawsuit.

The @ALT_USCIS account’s followers also ballooned from 38,000 to 158,000 during the lawsuit’s single-day lifespan.

The original summons from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency demanded “all records regarding the twitter account @ALT_USCIS to include, user names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and IP (computer) addresses”.

But the law cited by the agency – which is part of the Department of Homeland Security – is typically used to obtain records about imported goods.

The summons also demanded the information by 13 March 2017 – a day before the request was even sent to Twitter.

Twitter went to court in San Francisco to block the move, saying the CBP was “abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool” and stifling freedom of speech.

The micro-blogging service was backed by the American Civil Liberties union (ACLU), which said it would join the court battle.

But the request was withdrawn by the government a day later, after Twitter’s court filing became public.

A justice department official told AFP news agency that the investigation had ended – but no details were given.

“We want to thank @twitter and @aclu for standing up for the right of free anonymous speech,” the @ALT_USCIS account tweeted. “Thank you resistance for standing up for us.”

Alternative ‘resistance’

In January, when Donald Trump became President Trump, several so-called “alternative” accounts for US government services began appearing online.

Many claimed to be controlled by current of former staff members.

Twitter said this is “a new and innovative class of American speakers” who need anonymity because they could face retaliation or lose their jobs.

“Permitting the CBP to pierce the pseudonym of the @ALT _UCCIS account would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account in particular and on the many other ‘alternative agency’ accounts that have been created to voice dissent to government policies”, it said.

The “alternative” departments sprung up on Twitter following the gagging of the official National Parks Service Twitter account.

On Mr Trump’s inauguration day, it tweeted a photo of the crowd, comparing it with the 2009 inauguration of then President Barack Obama.

The account was briefly shut down in response – reportedly because President Trump complained directly to the head of the National Parks Service.

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Judge Invalidates FBI Mass Hacking Warrant Over Jurisdiction, Particularity Issues

A Minnesota judge invalidated a warrant that the FBI obtained in the Playpen child pornography case, pointing out that the warrant was invalid from the moment it was requested because of both jurisdictional and particularity issues.

FBI’s Malware-Based NIT

FBI’s Network Investigative Technique (NIT) is a more positive-sounding name for a type of malware the agency uses to infect multiple computers at once to identify their IP addresses. The malware is deployed, for instance, in cases where the FBI wants to deanonymize some Tor users.

The first large-scale attack of this type to become public did so when the FBI tried to shut down the Playpen child pornography website (after running it itself more efficiently for a couple of weeks in an effort to catch more people who visited the website).

The NIT malware targeted over 8,000 computers in 120 countries, which quickly prompted many defense lawyers to make the case that the FBI had no jurisdiction in the first place. Other judges in some of the Playpen cases agreed, but the whole warrant wasn’t put into question until it reached Minnesota judge Franklin Noel.

“[T]he Government claims legal authority from this single warrant, issued in the Eastern District of Virginia, to hack thousands of computers in 120 countries and to install malicious software for the purpose of investigating and searching the private property of uncounted individuals whose identities and crimes were unknown to the Government before launching this massive worldwide search,” said judge Franklin Noel.

Unknowing Violation?

Agent Macfarlane, who requested the warrant, feigned ignorance, implying that he wasn’t aware that the FBI’s NIT malware would go beyond its jurisdiction. Of course, that would mean he had no idea how Tor works in the first place.

However, the whole idea of the Tor network is that it routes people’s connections through multiple countries before reaching the final destination. This is what gives Tor users “anonymity.” It’s unlikely that a law enforcement agent who targets Tor users with techniques specifically designed to catch them wouldn’t know how the tool works.

The judge also didn’t buy Macfarlane’s argument that he unknowingly violated proper procedure, enforced by Rule 41 jurisdictional limits that still existed at the time the warrant was requested.

“It was not objectively reasonable for Agent Macfarlane, a ‘law enforcement . . . veteran’ employed by the FBI ‘for 19 years’ to believe that the NIT warrant, which he knew could reasonably reach any computer in the world, was properly issued given the specific territorial limits under Rule 41(b) and the language of the warrant itself,” said judge Noel.

“Put differently, it was not objectively reasonable for Agents to believe that a single warrant, which by its terms was explicitly limited to searches in the Eastern District of Virginia, could be used to electronically search Carlson’s computer in Minnesota,” added judge Noel.

Rule 41 was changed last year to allow the FBI to go way beyond its jurisdiction with its NIT malware infections, so it’s likely that any new such warrants would not be found invalid due to this reason alone. However, warrants requested before Rule 41 was modified should still be affected by the old Rule 41 limits.

NIT Malware Violates Particularity Requirement For Warrants

The judge made another interesting argument, which may also affect future cases in which the NIT was used, even without the previous Rule 41 limits in place. He said that valid warrants require particularity, which means the warrant must name the person under investigation.

The FBI (or any other US law enforcement agency) can’t simply do a dragnet for the information of thousands of people and then look for crimes within that data. Yet that’s exactly what the FBI did with its NIT malware, because it didn’t know who it was targeting. This argument could also be used against other mass surveillance techniques, as well by other defendants who learn that the government used NIT malware against them.

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Surface Pro 5 release date, news and rumors

Historically, Surface pricing has sparsely fluctuated year after year. For that reason, we expect to see the Surface Pro 5 start at $899 (£749, AU$1,349) and escalate from there depending on specially configured hardware and bundled accessories.

That said, while it wouldn’t be ideal for Microsoft’s loyal following if the company deviated too far from the norm, ambitious upgrades may necessitate that it does. For the price of the next Surface Pro to differ from its predecessors, it would have to offer some serious advantages over its last-gen sibling – not just a run-of-the-mill spec boost. 

Regardless, the ball is in Microsoft’s court here, and if pricier new additives are implemented into the baseline model, it’s not unprecedented for PC makers to issue a price hike (see: the latest MacBook Pro).

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The would-be fifth Surface Pro tablet
  • When is it out? Current rumors point to spring 2017
  • What will it cost? Likely as much as – if not more than – the current model

Surface Pro 5 specs

In terms of specs, what little we know is based on tweets from Microsoft informant Paul Thurrott whose sources have told him that the Surface Pro 5 will indeed use a 7th-generation Kaby Lake processor. This is unsurprising given the year of release, though he also made it a point to liken the upcoming convertible tablet to a “Surface Pro 4.5” of sorts. 

Another interesting tidbit from Thurrott suggests that the Surface Connect proprietary charger is here to stay, meaning the Surface Pro 5 may not use USB-C to restore the battery as most 2-in-1 devices tend to do now. As of this writing, it’s not clear whether Surface Pro 5 will add USB-C ports for data transfers and peripherals much less what type of Kaby Lake processor it uses. 

Surface Pro 5 release date

The Surface Pro 5 was originally speculated to launch alongside Microsoft’s “Redstone 2” update for Windows 10, which eventually turned out to be the Windows 10 Creators Update. For some, that Creators Update is already here, slated to roll out on April 11 officially

The hardware being tied into the Windows 10 Creators Update launch likely consists of the Surface Pro 5, Surface Book 2 and the long-rumored Surface Phone. It’s not clear yet when exactly the Surface Pro 5 in particular will land, but ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley’s sources claim the Surface Book 2 won’t be a part of Microsoft’s next hardware reveal. 

At the time, the Surface Pro 5 release window is up in the air, as Microsoft appears set on introducing an entirely new device category in the spring (Surface Phone mayhaps?). That being the case, we may not see the next round of Surface Pro tablets until Microsoft’s third major Windows 10 overhaul lands.

Surface Pro 5

We doubt the Surface Pro 5 will look terribly different from the previous

Surface Pro 5 price

Historically, Surface pricing has sparsely fluctuated year after year. For that reason, we expect to see the Surface Pro 5 start at $899 (£749, AU$1,349) and escalate from there depending on specially configured hardware and bundled accessories.

That said, while it wouldn’t be ideal for Microsoft’s loyal following if the company deviated too far from the norm, ambitious upgrades may necessitate that it does. For the price of the next Surface Pro to differ from its predecessors, it would have to offer some serious advantages over its last-gen sibling – not just a run-of-the-mill spec boost. 

Regardless, the ball is in Microsoft’s court here, and if pricier new additives are implemented into the baseline model, it’s not unprecedented for PC makers to issue a price hike (see: the latest MacBook Pro).

Surface Pro 5

Image Credit: Patently Mobile

Surface Pro 5 stylus and Dial

One piece of the puzzle regarding every new Surface is how Microsoft will upgrade its Surface Pen stylus accessory that comes bundled with each tablet. Back in January 2016, it was uncovered that Microsoft had filed for a rechargeable stylus.

Another interesting patent filed by Microsoft describes a renewed Surface Pen loop, designed to latch the Surface Pen onto your Surface devices via a USB connection. Not only would it hold the Surface Pen into position when needed, but it would simultaneously charge the accessory for prolonged continuous use. 

Of course, Microsoft also has the Surface Dial in its clasp. The designer-focused puck-like accessory was briefly mentioned in a slideshow presentation in December, with ZDNet having picked up the slides themselves for use in a news story. The company claims that peripherals such as the Dial, wearables, headsets and more are factors essential to what is perceived as the “modern PC.”

Also mentioned was the incorporation of “hero features” such as Cortana and Windows Hello, meaning a fingerprint scanner may not be too far off either. After all, the Dell XPS 13 did it with a $25 add-on configuration. Perhaps we could even see the day when a fingerprint reader is implemented in the Surface Pen itself. 

Surface Pro 5

Microsoft’s Panos Panay revealing the Surface Pro 3 in May 2014

What we want to see

Look, as much as we’ve been impressed by the Surface Pro 4 – firmware issues aside – there will always be room for improvement. (That would be the case even if it had earned our Editor’s Choice award.) From the screen size and resolution to the hardware found inside, we have a few ideas for how Microsoft could craft an even better Windows 10 tablet.

Longer battery life

This is a bit of low-hanging fruit, but countless customers have lamented the Surface Pro 4’s battery life, regardless of issues with its “Sleep” mode. We rated the device for 5 hours and 15 minutes of local video playback.

That’s well below Microsoft’s promise of 9 hours of video playback, but we all know that few, if any, laptops actually meet their promised battery life approximations. Our video playback figure is in line with the average laptop, though it’s a far cry from what its nemesis, the MacBook, can hold on for.

Ideally, and realistically, we’d like to see at least 7 hours of battery life reliably from the next Surface Pro tablet. That would put it closer in line with the MacBooks as well as competing tablets, like the iPad Pro. Plus, if the reports via Yahoo News are true, a battery boost would come in handy for the eSIM card said to be inside the Surface Pro 5.

That goes without mentioning the recent implementation of Windows 10 “Game Mode”, which introduces proper GPU allocation, i.e. prioritizing foreground activities, while playing games. Surely, if you plan on knocking out your Steam backlog on the Surface Pro 5, you’ll need as many milliampere hours in that lithium-ion battery as you can get. On the other hand, if that’s too much to ask, USB fast-charging would be a welcome alternative.

Surface Pro 5

Can the screen get much sharper? Why yes, it can

An even sharper (and/or bigger) screen

With the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft managed to outrank countless rivals in both the laptop and tablet spaces when it comes to screen resolution. With a razor-sharp 267 ppi (pixels per inch) already at 2,736 x 1,824 pixels within a 12.3-inch screen, it’s not as if the Surface Pro 5 needs to be much sharper.

However, if the next Surface Pro were equipped with, say, a 4K (3,840 pixels wide at the very least) screen, that would rip its productivity and entertainment capabilities wide open. Film and photo editors could work at the native resolution that’s increasingly becoming the norm, while average Joe’s (teehee) could finally watch Netflix in 4K on a tablet.

That said, the realm of super sharp resolutions might be reserved for the Surface Book range at this point. So, why not up its size a bit?

The Surface Pro 4 is big enough for almost all tasks, but it’s still not the established default size for most laptops: 13.3 inches. Then again, doing so may cannibalize Microsoft’s market by negating the need for its Surface Book.

On the other hand, maybe the iPad Pro is onto something with its 12.9-inch display. After all, we’re not asking for a gargantuan, monster-sized tablet – just a slight size boost. Assuming the resolution doesn’t bump up too much alongside a size increase, the extra space could allow for a battery life boost.

Surface Pro 5

Now, imagine if the next Surface rocked USB-C

It might finally be time for USB-C

With the latest MacBook Pro and HP Spectre among the most famous devices to adopt the latest in USB interfaces, USB Type-C (or simply USB-C) is an overdue feature for the Surface Pro. 

A reversible, versatile port (or two?) may be just what the Surface Pro 5 needs to mitigate the product line’s lacking input/output problem. A single USB 3.0 port and a proprietary charging port aren’t going to cut it for much longer, and with the help of a specialized set of adapters, USB-C is infinitely more utilitarian.

At the same time, Microsoft may want to include a standard USB 3.0 port, too, in order to natively meet the system requirements for its own Windows 10 VR headsets. If the company wants to lead the pack in the business of affordable virtual reality solutions, it’s a no-brainer to make the Surface Pro 5 compatible.

Word around the tech world says we’re only a few months out from a release – plenty of time for the rumor mill to fire up. Stay tuned to this space in the coming months for the latest on everything Surface Pro 5.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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Microsoft Intros Preview Build 16170, Windows 10 Insider Program For Business

Microsoft introduced the new Windows 10 Insider Program for Business to let you sign up for preview builds of Windows 10 with your corporate credentials instead of your personal Microsoft Account. That should help you get sneak peeks of upcoming changes to Windows 10 without having to connect your personal and professional lives. And you’ll know right where to start: with the new Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16170 for PC.

Well… maybe. Build 16170 doesn’t boast a bunch of new features. Microsoft said in a blog post that it’s focused on improving OneCore–the foundation upon which Windows 10, Windows 10 IoT, Windows Server, and the operating systems for the Xbox One and HoloLens are built–than adding new features or squashing bugs. Unless you’re a developer, you can probably sit out Build 16170, because it won’t change much for you.

Which isn’t to say it won’t change anything. Build 16170 includes a few bug fixes: updates failing to install on reboot should be a thing of the past, high-DPI scaling has been fixed in apps that use graphics accelerated contents, and the blue-light-reducing night light feature is now immediately disabled when you turn it off in Settings. Microsoft also solved a problem with Miracast connections disconnecting after the Connect UI was closed.

A few problems remain from previous builds, though. Those include a green light flashing in the Game Bar during a Beam live-stream on certain hardware configurations (though Microsoft now advises you to check your graphics card’s drivers if you encounter this problem) and software crashes resulting from a misconfigured advertising ID. Build 16170 also has a new problem–the Narrator accessibility feature simply doesn’t work in this build.

Build 16170’s lack of user-facing updates likely stems from the fact that it’s debuting right in the middle of the Windows 10 Creators Update’s rollout. That update includes new features like the performance-enhancing Game Mode, a new Paint 3D app, the night light utility mentioned above, and more. It’s technically supposed to be released on April 11, but you can download it now via the Windows 10 Update Assistant. Just know that doing so will slightly change the setup process by using Microsoft’s recommended privacy settings instead of using your current settings like the proper release.

You can sign up for the Windows 10 Insider Program for Business by visiting Microsoft’s website, clicking “For Business,” and using your corporate credentials stored in the Azure Active Directory. (If that means nothing to you, the credentials in AAD are the same as the ones used to sign in to Office 365 and other Microsoft services.) You can also learn more about the program and Build 16170 by checking out Microsoft’s blog post on them.

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