Universal USB-C charging: How the dream is coming true

USB-C ports were supposed to bring universal charging, but the last time PCWorld dove into it, the results were pretty dismal. Google’s second-generation Chromebook Pixel and Apple’s original 12-inch MacBook had no issues working with each others’ chargers, but HP, Dell, and Razer all gave us fits. We might as well have been back in the dark ages when cell phones used proprietary chargers, before someone decided to adopt mini-USB and we never looked back.

Just a little over a year later, we decided revisit our plug-fest with as many laptop brands as we could get. 

dsc03585 Gordon Mah Ung

The laptops we tested were manufactured by the same makers responsible for selling about 80 percent of the world’s notebook PCs.

The 80 percent

The models you see above are from Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, vendors that represent about 80 percent of the laptops sold every year. To this, I added the second-generation Google Chromebook Pixel laptop. Although its numbers sold are small, the Pixel has been the role model for how to do USB-C charging right. Finally, I added a Huawei Nexus 6P smartphone to see if the laptops’ chargers would work with a different species.

Unlike the Dell Skylake version of the XPS 13, which still ships with a proprietary barrel charger despite supporting USB-C charging, all of the laptops you see come from the factory with USB-C chargers. To the pile of bricks, I also added Innergie’s PowerGear 45 USB-C charger, which was used in the original 2015 plugfest. I unfortunately didn’t have the Razer and HP laptops from the original test, as they’d long ago been returned to the manufacturers.

dsc03588 Gordon Mah Ung

We tried this rat’s nest of USB Type C chargers on different brands of laptops to see how interoperable they were.

How we tested

For this test, the laptops were powered on with their screens set to 100-percent brightness. I didn’t put stress on the CPUs, which would increase the load on the charging circuits. 

To measure what the charge rate was on each laptop, I used a Satechi USB Type C Power Meter (available on Amazon.com) and recorded the voltage and amperage each laptop consumed while being charged. I also checked what the OS on each laptop was reporting.

On laptops that had issues, I removed the power meter from the loop and retested without it, to ensure the meter wasn’t introducing an issue in the charging circuit. For the record, this made no difference with any of the laptops.

dsc03586Gordon Mah Ung

We used a Satechi USB Type C Power Meter that shows how much voltage and amperage each laptop is drawing while charging. On problematic chargers and laptops, we removed the power meter to verify it wasn’t an issue.

The Results

I’ve long joked that standards are what the industry uses so manufacturers have a uniform way to do everything differently. In 2015, it certainly felt that way, as only the PC makers were the ones that couldn’t get USB-C right. Here’s the result from that test below. 

How to get Word for free: Use Microsoft Office free

How to get Word for free: Use Microsoft Office free

We show you how to get Word for free on Windows. You can get Microsoft Office, Word & Excel free on your PC, but there are also great free alternatives to Word and Office.

Office doesn’t come pre-installed but you can get it for nothing. Here’s how to get Word, Excel and more free on Windows


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It’s a common misconception that Windows comes complete with Microsoft Office for every user. However, there are ways of getting Office, including Word, on Windows 10 for free. See also: How to use Excel

So you’ve got a new PC, laptop or tablet and want Microsoft Office, there are ways of getting it for free (restrictions apply) and we’re going to show you how. Also, there are plenty of free alternative office suites which are compatible with Microsoft’s version.

See also: How to get Office 2016 for less than £10.

How to get Office for free on Windows 10

Microsoft’s current strategy for Office means that you can download its mobile apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for free on a wide range of devices including Android and iOS. You can download these apps for iOS, Android and Windows 10 using the links below.

Word for iOS
Excel for iOS
PowerPoint for iOS

Word for Android
Excel for Android
PowerPoint for Android

Word for Windows 10
Excel for Windows 10
PowerPoint for Windows 10

Office Mobile Windows store

Office Mobile Windows store

What you can and can’t do

While these are free for any Windows 10 device, they don’t simply allow you full access to all the functions. If you’re using a PC or laptop you’ll only be able to read documents and will need an Office 365 subscription to create and edit. However, those of you running Windows 10 on a device with a 10.1in screen or smaller (so, many tablets) can use the apps fully including creating and editing.

Being able to view documents isn’t much use so for anyone on a PC, laptop or tablet with a screen bigger than 10.1in then you’ll want to use an alternative to Microsoft Office if you don’t want to pay. An Office 365 Subscription will cost you from £5.99 per month.

Before we look at some alternatives, remember that you can use Office Online if you have a Microsoft account, and that isn’t limited to only PCs or laptops running Windows 10. This is essentially Office but you just use it entirely in your web browser. You can also try Office 2016 for free.

Best free Microsoft Office alternatives

There are various alternatives to Microsoft Office out there that are completely free. Our recommendation is LibreOffice which is a full suite that’s regularly updated and allows you to open and save documents in Microsoft formats. You can download LibreOffice here.

How to get Microsoft Office for free

How to get Microsoft Office for free

Should you happen to dislike Libre Office, you can also check out free alternatives such as WPS Office, Free Office and Google Docs which is now simple a part of Google Drive.

See also: Best free alternatives to Word

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Logitech Goes Tenkeyless With G Pro Mechanical Keyboard

Logitech first announced the “G Pro” lineup back in August 2016 when it unveiled the G Pro Gaming Mouse. Now, the company has released a keyboard to pair with it, the tenkeyless Logitech G Pro mechanical keyboard.

According to Logitech, everything from the ergonomic shape, to the actuation force needed for clicking, to the overall weight of the mouse was the result of months of collaboration between Logitech’s design team and eSports athletes (professional gamers). However, the pros felt the need for an accompanying keyboard to match their playstyles as well, with the primary request being a tenkeyless model.

The top of the G Pro keyboard has a matte black plastic finish, there’s a glossy finish on the sides, and the bottom has a diagonally-striped pattern. For stability, the bottom has five rubber feet and two kickstands—each with two height levels—to prop the G Pro higher. The keyboard’s Romer-G switches feature surface-mounted LEDs and a through-stem design so that lighting won’t leak from beneath the keys. Finally, the keycaps are shaped traditionally, unlike the G910, whose keycaps many users felt were awkwardly shaped. Also unlike the G910, the G Pro features a traditional keyboard design based on Logitech’s previously released G810 and G610. Fundamentally, the difference is that the G Pro is tenkeyless. 

Logitech found that pro players prefer tenkeyless keyboards because they’re portable and don’t take up too much room on their desks. This is more dramatic a need for some esports athletes than average users, because some pro gamers actually position their keyboards at odd angles; the numpad was simply always in the way.

The G Pro is compact, measuring 14.21 inches across by 6.02 inches, and it weighs 2.16lbs. This more compact form factor, along with the detachable cable, is designed to make the G Pro easy to pack for traveling. It’s ideal for LAN parties and for competing on stage; often these stages can be cramped, as they have to accommodate other players as well as their PCs. The less intrusive your keyboard is, the more room you have for your mouse.

Other than dropping the numpad, Logitech’s main focus with the G Pro keyboard is its Romer-G switches, which are optimized for fast keystroke signal processing (KPM). When you press a key, actuation can be slowed down by debounce–the switch’s metal contacts create a “bounce” before an electrical signal is sent. To circumvent this, the keyboard’s microcontroller (MCU) undergoes a process called “debouncing,” where it waits for a brief period of time to make sure that multiple inputs aren’t detected in a single key press.

Logitech attempted to cut this time frame down as much as possible with its Romer-G switches. According to the company, the reduced window allows more actuations to be performed without bounces.

Theoretically, gamers can benefit from this in competitive games that rely on “tick rates.” For example, according to Logitech, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s 128-tick servers measure inputs in 128-tick intervals, or roughly 7.8 milliseconds. Now imagine that you and an opponent are in a game of CS:GO, and your opponent has a keyboard with a shorter debouncing period; if you simultaneously tap the “A” key to move left, the server should register your opponent moving left at least 7.8ms sooner than you. Logitech claieds that its Romer-G switches and MCU can accomplish this, but other factors such as your internet connection and how fast you can react will determine whether the shorter debouncing period will benefit you.

Aside from that, the G Pro keyboard will also feature the Logitech Gaming Software for RGB backlight customization. LGS has a variety of functions such as native RGB lighting integration for specific games, macro customization for the function keys, per-game control profiles, and on-board memory to store macro and lighting profiles.

The Logitech G Pro Mechanical Keyboard will be available early this month for $129.99.

Logitech G Pro Mechanical Keyboard
Model Type Tenkeyless
Switch Type Romer-G Mechanical Switches
Actuation Force 45g
Actuation Time 5 milliseconds
Lighting 16.8 Million Color RGB Backlight
Additional Ports None
Cable Type Detachable 6ft USB
Key Caps Standard Smooth Black white laser-marked lettering
Software Logitech Gaming Software
Weight (without cable) 2.16lbs
Dimensions 6.02 x 14.21 x 1.34 inches (WxDxH)
Accessories None
Miscellaneous 12 Programmable F Keys
Price $139.99

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AMD Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 17.3.1 Ready For 'Ghost Recon Wildlands'

AMD released a new Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition update, with day-one compatibility for Ghost Recon Wildlands.

Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 17.3.1 promises up to a 6% performance improvement on an RX 480 8GB graphics card compared to the previous version (17.2.1). The new software also features a new multi-GPU profile for DirectX 11. However, if you thought you were going to fire up your 3- and 4-way AMD CrossFire setup (because lots of people have that) without any problems, think again. The driver’s patch notes list such a setup under the “Known Issues” section, specifically citing multi-GPU performance issues in Ghost Recon Wildlands that cause flickering or (worst case) cause the game to not launch properly.

AMD also fixed a plethora of issues with the latest Crimson ReLive update, including flickering textures in Battlefield 1, various instances of texture and character model flickering in For Honor, stuttering issues in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive when using Radeon Chill, and stuttering in DOTA 2 on some system configurations with Radeon ReLive enabled.

The new driver also alleviated some issues with Radeon WattMan, which previously sometimes lost custom fan curve settings after the system hibernated and had display flickering issues or application hangs on some Radeon R9 380 products when users adjusted the WattMan settings.

You can read about the full list of bug fixes, including the lingering bugs still on the to-do list, and download the newest version of Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition at AMD’s website.

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Facebook 'failed to remove sexualised images of children'

Facebook has been criticised for its handling of reports about sexualised images of children on its platform.

The chairman of the Commons media committee, Damian Collins, said he had “grave doubts” about the effectiveness of its content moderation systems.

Mr Collins’ comments come after the BBC reported dozens of photos to Facebook, but more than 80% were not removed.

They included images from groups where men were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material.

When provided with examples of the images, Facebook reported the BBC journalists involved to the police and cancelled plans for an interview.

It subsequently issued a statement: “It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.”

Mr Collins said it was extraordinary that the BBC had been reported to the authorities when it was trying to “help clean up the network”.

On its welcome page, Facebook says it does remove obscene material.

“Nudity or other sexually suggestive content” it states are not allowed on the platform.

It encourages users to report inappropriate content via its “report button”.

The US firm says it has improved this system since an investigation by the BBC last year.

That found “secret” groups were being used by paedophiles to meet and swap images.

Information the BBC provided to the police led to one man being sent to prison for four years.

To test Facebook’s claim, the BBC used the report button to alert the company to 100 images which appeared to break its guidelines. They included:

  • pages explicitly for men with a sexual interest in children
  • images of under-16s in highly sexualised poses, with obscene comments posted beside them
  • groups with names such as “hot xxxx schoolgirls” containing stolen images of real children
  • an image that appeared to be a still from a video of child abuse, with a request below it to share “child pornography”

Of the 100 images only 18 were removed.

According to Facebook’s automated replies, the other 82 did not breach “community standards”. They included the apparent freeze frame.

Facebook’s rules forbid convicted sex offenders from having accounts.

But the BBC found five convicted paedophiles with profiles, and reported them to Facebook via its own system. None of them were taken down.

“I find it very disturbing, I find that content unacceptable,” said Mr Collins in response.

“I think it raises the question of how can users make effective complaints to Facebook about content that is disturbing, shouldn’t be on the site, and have confidence that that will be acted upon.”

The BBC also showed what it had found to the Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.

“I have been very disturbed by what I have seen, very disappointed that one year on we are still seeing images that are very sexualised, totally in my view unacceptable,” she said.

“The moderation clearly isn’t being effective, I would question whether humans are moderating this, are looking at this, and also I think it is failing to take account of the context of these images.”

The BBC first asked Facebook for an interview about its moderation system in late-2015, and repeated the request following this follow-up investigation.

The social network’s director of policy Simon Milner agreed to be interviewed last week, on condition the BBC provided examples of the material that it had reported, but had not been removed by moderators.

The BBC did so, but was reported to the UK’s National Crime Agency as a consequence.

Mr Collins said this was “extraordinary – because you’re trying to help them clean up their network, from material that shouldn’t be there”.

Facebook later provided a statement.

“We have carefully reviewed the content referred to us and have now removed all items that were illegal or against our standards,” it said.

“This content is no longer on our platform. We take this matter extremely seriously and we continue to improve our reporting and take-down measures.

“It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.

“When the BBC sent us such images we followed our industry’s standard practice and reported them to Ceop [Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre].

“We also reported the child exploitation images that had been shared on our own platform. This matter is now in the hands of the authorities.”

But the BBC’s director of editorial policy, David Jordan, said the move was surprising.

“The fact that Facebook sent images that had been sent to them, that appear on their site, for their response about how Facebook deals with inappropriate images…the fact that they sent those on to the police seemed to me to be extraordinary,” he said.

“One can only assume that the Facebook executives were unwilling or certainly reluctant to engage in an interview or a debate about why these images are available on the Facebook site.”

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'Ark Park' Features Steep Minimum Hardware Requirements, Pushes Visual Fidelity In VR

Getting chased around by dinosaurs in VR can be an unnerving experience. We saw this with Ark: Survival Evolved and its subsequent expansions, which immersed users in a do-or-die, kill-or-be killed fight for your life on an island full of dinosaurs that can tear you to shreds. However, Ark: Survival was not designed explicitly as a VR experience, and the extremely high details of the environment and dinosaurs created performance issues for would-be survivors using HMDs (and sometimes, even standard 2D gamers).

Last November, Snail Games licensed the IP for Ark: Survival Evolved to a company called Wildcard, which took all of the highly-detailed dinos from the suspenseful game and put them into a less-threatening package designed from the ground up specifically for VR. Ark Park lets you see all of the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, without the fear of getting eaten. You can even feed them.

At GDC, we had the opportunity to take a stroll through Ark Park, and we were impressed by the sheer detail of the dinosaurs and environment in the game. The downside to these stunning visuals was that the GTX 1080 running the game had its needle in the red the entire time, and we definitely weren’t hitting the standard 90fps most VR games are designed to deliver. The frame rate was mostly landing between 45-60fps (as best as we can tell from our personal VR gaming experience); the performance was a major downside to the otherwise-enjoyable demo.

We were shocked to learn that the minimum hardware requirements for Ark Park is an Intel Core i7-4790K processor and a GTX 1080 GPU, which up until last week, was Nvidia’s top-tier flagship graphics card. Furthermore, the recommended CPU is the eight-core Core i7-5960X, so it’s no wonder we experienced performance issues with such a steep hardware requirement.

Clearly, Snail Games and Wildcard are banking on graphics technology improving sooner rather than later (and a GTX 1080 Ti would likely net better performance), with Ark Park slated for a 2017 release on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. However, we are somewhat skeptical of how well a game requiring so much CPU and GPU horsepower will perform on the PSVR, which will also receive Ark Park sometime this year.

Although we’re elated to see more graphically demanding VR experiences, we wonder if Ark Park is pushing too much too fast. However, with AMD Vega on the way, and the GTX 1080 Ti offering a considerable performance boost over its predecessor, perhaps Ark Park will find a home in the game libraries of top-tier hardware enthusiasts. However, PSVR compatibility is somewhat of a wildcard, and the representatives we spoke with didn’t volunteer specific console launch details.

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Cougar Releases 'Revenger' Optical Gaming Mouse

We first encountered the Revenger, at Computex 2016, and now it’s available (just months before Computex 2017). The Revenger features a 100-12,000DPI optical sensor and has two-zone RGB backlighting.

Revenger boasts a 1,000Hz polling rate and 1ms response time. It has six programmable buttons–the same as Cougar’s 500M and 550M, but two fewer than the 600M, 700M, and 700m eSports–that offer easy access to 21 different functions. Those buttons and their functions are managed by Cougar’s UIX System, and the Revenger’s 512KB of onboard storage will allow you to store up to three different configuration profiles right on the mouse itself.

COUGAR REVENGER – 12,000 DPI Ultimate Optical Gaming Mouse

The mouse also uses two-zone RGB backlighting that lets you know what configuration profile you’re using. Revenger’s two zones are located near the Cougar logo and the three-Stage DPI LED display.

Revenger uses Omron gaming switches, a “gaming-grade scroll wheel,” and a “premium pro-gaming surface.” It’s available from sellers like Amazon and Newegg for roughly $60. That’s the same as the 550M that the Revenger is supposed to succeed in Cougar’s gaming mouse lineup. You can learn more about the 550M from the hands (palm?) on we did with the product when it was introduced at Computex 2015.

Product Cougar Revenger
Sensor PMW 3360 optical sensor
Resolution 100-12,000DPI
Game Type FPS / MMORPG / MOBA / RTS
Polling Rate 1,000Hz / 1ms
On-board Memory 512KB
Software Cougar UIX System
Programmable Buttons 6
Switching Omron gaming switches
Profile LED Backlight Two-zone, 16.8 million colors
Maximum Tracking Speed 250IPS
Maximum Acceleration 50G
Interface Golden-plated USB plug
Cable Length 1.8m
Dimensions (L x W x H) 135 x 70 x 45 mm
Weight 115g

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