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INSIDE: THE BEST FREE BACKUP SOLUTIONS

MARCH 2018

RYZEN APU
D’s
AM

COULD SAVE BUDGET GAMING


AMERICA,
LET’S DO LUNCH TM

Lola Silvestri, SINCE 1921. Conversation and good company are her domain.
Now, she and 1 in 6 seniors face the threat of hunger and millions more
live in isolation. So pop by, drop off a hot meal and say a warm hello.
Volunteer for Meals on Wheels at AmericaLetsDoLunch.org
CONTENTS

MARCH 2018

» DEPARTMENTS » FEATURES

7 News

39 Reviews & Ratings 81 Android Wear vs. Samsung Gear

95 Here’s How

116 Tech Spotlight 88 5 awesome Android features

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 3


MASTHEAD

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Matt Egan


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EXECUTIVE EDITORS Melissa Riofrio, Gordon Mah Ung
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4 PCWorld MARCH 2018


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MARCH 2018 PCWorld 5


AMERICA,
LET’S DO LUNCH TM

Asha Ida Bell, SINCE 1937. Her life’s work is about helping the hopeless find
hope. Now, she and 1 in 6 seniors face the threat of hunger and millions
more live in isolation. So pop by, drop off a hot meal and say a warm hello.
Volunteer for Meals on Wheels at AmericaLetsDoLunch.org
News TECH NEWS AND TRENDS THAT WILL
AFFECT YOU TODAY AND BEYOND.

Don’t build a gaming PC right


now. Buying one premade can
save you hundreds of dollars.
That’s how bad DIY component prices have become. BY BRAD CHACOS

I
t crushes my soul to say this, but if you That’s not permanent advice. I’m a die-
need a new gaming PC, don’t build hard DIYer. Few things in life are more
your own. Buy a prebuilt computer satisfying than seeing your handmade rig
instead. POST the first time you boot it up. The deck is

IMAGE: HP MARCH 2018 PCWorld 7


NEWS DON’T BUILD A GAMING PC

stacked against home-brew PC builders in industry can’t make enough to keep up with
today’s market, though, as hardware demand, so prices for DIY RAM kits have
shortages and the cryptocurrency boom have almost doubled over the past year. Just check
sent the cost of crucial components sky-high. out the price history of this 16GB Corsair
Current graphics card prices are ludicrous Vengeance 3000MHz kit (go.pcworld.com/
(go.pcworld.com/ludi) unless you’re ve16), courtesy of CamelCamelCamel (go.
targeting entry-level GPUs, with most models pcworld.com/caml). It’s a nightmare—and
selling for at least twice their suggested price. one that isn’t expected to end any time soon.
The Radeon RX 570 (go.pcworld.com/rd57)
is supposed to start at $170, for example, but PREBUILT VS. DIY
the cheapest I can find on Newegg right now GAMING PC PRICES
costs $509 (go.pcworld.com/rx57), and the Things aren’t as bleak in the world of prebuilt
vast majority go for closer to $600. It’s no gaming PCs, where vendors like HP, Dell,
better at other retailers, or even with used Lenovo, Falcon Northwest, Origin, et cetera,
graphics cards. We’ve even taken the drastic buy components in bulk directly from hardware
step of suggesting that gamers in a bind snag suppliers. That helps keep costs down.
an Xbox One S with Forza Horizon 3 for Consider the Dell Inspiron 5675 series
$240 (go.pcworld.com/xb1s) or an Xbox (go.pcworld.com/dl56) of gaming PCs,
One X for $500 (go.pcworld.com/xbo1) until which come with AMD Ryzen processors and
the GPU pricing pain stops. Ugh. Radeon graphics cards. There’s a $649 model
Memory prices hurt just as much. The (go.pcworld.com/ingd) that includes a Ryzen
5 1400 processor, 8GB of
RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and
the Radeon RX 570 graphics
card—a solid 1080p gaming
rig, in other words. On
January 25, a banner on Dell’s
site offers 10 percent off all
PCs site-wide with the
TENOFF coupon code,
bringing the total down to
$765. (Dell also offers a
similarly priced Inspiron 5680
Screenshot from CamelCamelCamel. lineup [go.pcworld.com/

8 PCWorld MARCH 2018


fans. Radeon RX 580
graphics cards (go.
pcworld.com/rd58)
currently start at $500
stand-alone on Newegg
(go.pcworld.com/degc),
with some going for over
$700. In other words, you
can snag CyberPower’s
entire system for the cost
of what you’d pay for the
graphics card, RAM, and
Windows license alone in a
The Dell Inspiron 5675. DIY machine. You’d save at least $300 opting
for this over building your own PC.
dl80] with Intel and Nvidia GeForce hardware The massive savings don’t only apply to
inside.) midrange PCs either. CyberPowerPC’s Gamer
Remember that the cheapest Radeon RX Xtreme VR GXiVR8080A2 costs a healthy
570 available costs $470, with most selling $1,900 on Amazon (go.pcworld.com/cypc),
for closer to $600. You’ll find 8GB of but for that price you get a beastly GeForce
2400MHz DDR4 memory for around $100 GTX 1080 Ti (go.pcworld.com/nv80), a
(go.pcworld.com/cmk8). Add in the Ryzen 5 liquid-cooled Core i7-8700K (go.pcworld.
1400’s $150 cost, and DIY builders already com/870k), 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a
find themselves near the price of the Dell 240GB SSD augmented by a 1TB hard
Inspiron, before you even factor in a case, drive—plus the same snazzy RGB LED fans
motherboard, storage, power supply, or a mentioned in the last CyberPower rig. That’s
$100 Windows license. Dell throws in a serious firepower.
wireless keyboard, too. But the cheapest GTX 1080 Ti on Newegg
CyberPowerPC’s offerings are just as right now is $1,200 (go.pcworld.com/z0tc),
enticing. The Gamer Xtreme GXIVR8020A4 with the vast majority selling for over $1,300.
costs $720 on Amazon (go.pcworld.com/gxiv) These cards are supposed to cost $700,
and comes with a 4GB Radeon RX 580, 8GB of remember. Once you add in the DIY costs of
RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and a last-gen Core a 16GB DDR4 kit (about $200 [go.pcworld.
i5-7400, as well as a bunch of snazzy RGB LED com/c14m], depending on the brand) and

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 9


NEWS DON’T BUILD A GAMING PC

those come ready to go out of the box,


factory tested and backed by warranties
with support staff available in case
anything goes wrong.
I know, I know: When you buy
prebuilt, you lose the freedom and fun of
selecting your own hardware, let alone
the pure cathartic bliss of building a
machine with your own two hands. But
hey, you’ll be hundreds of dollars richer.
Did I mention that yet?
Not all prebuilt PCs will be cheaper
than comparable DIY rigs though, so be
sure to do your research before you
The CyberPower Gamer Xtreme GXIVR8020A4 empty out your wallet. Also watch out for
prebuilt gaming PC costs $720. prebuilt PCs offering a GeForce GTX 1060
(go.pcworld.com/3gb6). Many of the ones
the Core i7-8700K processor ($380 on I’ve seen online carry a 3GB GTX 1060. This
Amazon [go.pcworld.com/bx80]) alone stripped-down version isn’t as fast as the
you’re already spending as much as you superb 6GB GTX 1060 (go.pcworld.
would for CyberPower’s full system. com/6gb6), and its limited memory capacity
could already force you to turn down
BUY, DON’T BUILD graphics settings in modern triple-A games.
The pricing gap closes as you move toward Or, if you want portability, gaming laptops are
entry-level gaming PCs, as graphics options more enticing (go.pcworld.com/gmen)
like the GeForce GTX 1050 (go.pcworld.com/ when you consider the astronomical
gtx5) and 4GB memory kits aren’t as pricey as desktop prices.
more potent gear. But even that hardware is Fingers crossed these dark days will pass
still selling for higher than it should. soon… but that seems unlikely unless the
Once you move beyond budget builds, bottom falls out of Bitcoin prices. Bummer. If
prebuilt PCs hold a clear pricing advantage— you’re determined to buy a graphics card
and it isn’t even close. You can save literally without buying a full PC, check out PCWorld’s
hundreds of dollars by picking up boxed guide on how to keep gaming in the coin
computers like the ones I detailed here, and mining era (go.pcworld.com/mner).

10 PCWorld MARCH 2018


VLC 3.0 adds Chromecast, HDR,
and 360-degree video support
The always popular VLC media player is getting even better with support for Chromecast,
360-degree video, 3D Audio, and a tweaked UI. BY IAN PAUL

T
he best free media player is great additions, as well as a tweaked UI.
getting even better. After three Chromecast discovery tops the list. It’s only
years of development, VLC 3.0 available on Windows desktop and Android
“Ventari” is rolling out to all right now, but Videolan says the feature’s
platforms, and it’s packed full of goodies such coming to VLC’s iOS and the Windows Store
as Chromecast support. The new version is apps in the future.
available from Videolan.org’s dedicated page VideoLAN designed VLC’s Chromecast
for VLC 3.0 (go.pcworld.com/vlc3) and is support as a workaround for any media
rolling out to your device’s respective app formats Chromecast can’t natively support.
store. VLC can re-encode video on the fly to make it
The latest version of VLC contains a lot of work with Chromecast, including casting

IMAGE: IDG MARCH 2018 PCWorld 11


NEWS VLC 3.0

DVDs from your Windows machine (go. noticeably different. The icons at the bottom
pcworld.com/cast). of the window are cleaner, and the small icons
VLC on Windows handles Chromecast a used within menu items are also new.
little differently than most other apps. Instead Version 3.0 also adds support for
of a Chromecast icon that you tap or click, 360-degree video and 3D audio, readying
you navigate to Playback > Renderer > [name features for a VR version of VLC slated to roll
of Chromecast device] within VLC’s menus to out in mid-April.
stream your video file. In my tests on an older The new VLC also adds hardware
PC, I couldn’t get video casting to work, decoding across all platforms for better
however. I was able to send videos saved to performance and less CPU consumption,
my PC to Chromecast, and the device would especially when dealing with more resource-
show a loading screen, but they never actually intense video. You can check out a Videolan
played back on the TV. This turned out to be a clip on Vimeo showing VLC playing back an
problem with MKV videos. MP4 videos 8K, 60fps, 360-degree video using a
Windows machine with a Kaby Lake Core i7
processor (go.pcworld.com/vdln).
The new VLC also adds Other features in this release include
hardware decoding across all direct HDR support on Windows 10 Fall
platforms for better performance Creators Update (go.pcworld.com/10fl) and
and less CPU consumption, up, passthrough for HD audio codecs, and
especially when dealing with local network drive browsing.
more resource-intense video. True to its heritage, VLC 3.0 supports a
massive range of platforms including
played back easily on a Kaby Lake PC and the Windows XP and up, macOS 10.7 and up,
aforementioned older one; however, Android 2.3 and up, Chromebooks with the
playback quality was not smooth. I also tried Play Store, Apple TV, and Linux. All good
casting a DVD from the Kaby Lake PC, which things must come to an end, however, and
displayed without video stutter but there was this will be the last version of VLC for some
no audio. platforms. With VLC 4.0, the media player will
Music playback on VLC 3.0 worked drop Windows XP and Vista, macOS 10.7 and
reliably with all Chromecast-compatible 10.8, and Android 2.x and 3.x.
devices, including Google Home. For a full list of all the changes to VLC with
VLC 3.0’s refreshed UI isn’t a fresh, new version 3.0, check out the changelog (go.
look from previous versions, but it is pcworld.com/chlg).

12 PCWorld MARCH 2018


6 features to expect in the
next Windows 10 update from
Insider Build 17083
Windows 10’s Insider Build 17083 offers big hints of what’s to come, from fonts
to Timeline tweaks and more. BY MARK HACHMAN

M
icrosoft appears to be history is treated within the Timeline feature.
gearing up for the next big Conspicuously absent is the Sets feature (go.
Windows 10 update, after pcworld.com/sets), an intriguing tabbed UI
releasing Windows 10 Insider that essentially replaces separate windows
Build 17083. Codenamed “Redstone 4,” the with a browser-like interface. Microsoft had
next release is expected in the spring. warned previously that Sets would take
Microsoft has made several tweaks to the months to deploy—a final release is expected
operating system with this build, including a at the end of 2018, or even later—so the
revamp of font management and how a user’s removal of Sets was planned.

IMAGE: MICROSOFT MARCH 2018 PCWorld 13


NEWS INSIDER BUILD 17083

“If you have been testing Sets, you will no


longer see it—however, Sets will return soon Some speculation suggested
in a post-RS4 [Redstone 4] flight!” Dona that Microsoft might push
Sarkar, the software engineer who oversees the release out to early April.
the Windows Insider program, wrote in a A March window allows the
blog post (go.pcworld.com/dona). company a month or two for
What’s most interesting is that Microsoft fixing bugs, which sounds
is signaling that it’s preparing to finalize about right.
Redstone 4. The company has said
previously that it planned major updates to 1. FONTS, FONTS, FONTS
Windows 10 and Office in both March and If you’re a graphic designer, fonts may be your
September (go.pcworld.com/10of). Some stock in trade. For others, you may not have
speculation suggested that Microsoft might thought about what font to use in literally
push the release out to early April. A March years. Microsoft has now added a specific
window allows the company a month or two Settings menu for controlling fonts, with a
for fixing bugs, which sounds about right. preview of each font family and how each
one will look. If a font has any additional
What this means for you: Redstone 4 could controls attached to it, such as the ability
be a mellow release, if its lack of flashy rollouts to adjust the width of a variable font like
or multiple developer sessions is any Bahnscrift, those controls will appear
indication. This may
mean that useful but
somewhat understated
features like Timeline
may be the showcase
additions, along with
general polishing and
under-the-hood
improvements. Here
are the six key changes
to expect based on
what we see in
Windows 10 Insider
build 17083: The new Fonts settings page within Windows 10.

14 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Timeline will go it
alone as one of the
core features of
Redstone 4. Now,
Microsoft is
apparently
concerned that
there will be too
much information
in Timeline, as it is
allowing users to
delete information
on a day-by-day or
You’ll be able to download new fonts within the Store app, too.
hour-by-hour basis.
there, too. A new setting
Perhaps more importantly, you will be allows you to sync your activities to the cloud
able to find fonts in the Store, similar to the for what Microsoft promises will be a
way you can find and download new Themes seamless cross-device experience.
for personalizing your Windows desktop.
Microsoft says there are currently just a few 3. QUIET HOURS IS NOW
curated fonts available, but more will be CALLED FOCUS ASSIST
arriving soon. Microsoft has taken an excellent name—Quiet
Hours—and replaced it with a bland attempt at
2. TIMELINE TWEAKS bringing what it does in line with the workplace.
Microsoft’s new Timeline feature was often Focus Assist basically turns off notifications and
thought of as going hand-in-hand with Sets, but alerts when you need to remain undisturbed,

Timeline makes it easier to delete data.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 15


NEWS INSIDER BUILD 17083

such as during a
presentation.
Now, there are
three tiers to
Focus Assist:
where only
priority
notifications will
get through,
where only
alarms will
interrupt you, as
well as a simple
Off switch. You’ll
be able to turn The new Windows 10 build 17083 features improved privacy controls,
them on and off such as tweaks to your dashboard.
by right-clicking
the Action Center notification panel. you can toggle the scrollbars on and off, so
they always remain visible.
4. WINDOWS HELLO IS
NOW EASIER TO ENABLE 6. NEW PRIVACY TWEAKS
Microsoft correctly points out that setting up Microsoft revealed separately that it plans to
Windows Hello, even on a PC that supports it, adjust privacy settings (go.pcworld.com/
required diving down deep into the settings, prvs) within Windows 10, giving you the
adding a PIN, then configuring Hello. Now, ability to delete individual search results, as
you can begin Hello setup right from the well as adjust the Privacy Dashboard that
sign-in screen. shows how much data Microsoft stores.
Separately, Microsoft also said that it will
5. SCROLLBARS CAN BE restrict a UWP app’s access to Documents,
TOGGLED TO ‘ALWAYS Videos, or Pictures folders without your
ON’ IN UWP APPS consent. If an app wants to look through your
Frustrated by the fact that UWP apps hide photos, it will have to ask. You can also go to
scrollbars for a fresh, clean, look? No longer. the Settings > Privacy page and manage
Within Settings > Ease Of Access > Display, folder access yourself.

16 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Intel’s plan to fix Meltdown in
silicon raises more questions
than answers
But what silicon?!! Be sure and read the questions Wall Street should have asked.
BY MARK HACHMAN

I
ntel chief executive Brian Krzanich told revenue grew 4 percent year-over-year to
investors recently that the firm plans to $17.1 billion. But Intel has also been the face
release silicon with built-in mitigations of Spectre and Meltdown (go.pcworld.com/
to the Spectre and Meltdown spme), two critical vulnerabilities built into
vulnerabilities later this year, a statement that basically every processor it ships into the
raises more questions than it answers. PC and server markets.
For Intel, it really has been a Tale of Two
Cities scenario: Intel reported the best Why this matters: Intel has been busy
quarter in its history, as fourth-quarter 2017 working with PC makers and OS vendors like

IMAGE: PROJECT ZERO MARCH 2018 PCWorld 17


NEWS INTEL’S MELTDOWN PL AN

Microsoft to
release
microcode that
includes
so-called
mitigations,
microcode
updates that
patch the
vulnerabilities.
But even that
hasn’t gone so
well: Intel advised Intel’s Client Computing Group did fairly well in a tough PC market.
end users to stop
applying patches (go.pcworld.com/apat) Intel’s Client Computing Group reported
after systems unexpectedly rebooted. Now, a sales decline of 2 percent to $9 billion.
Intel has revealed it’s working on a more Notebook revenue was flat, while sales into
permanent fix, but the impact on users desktop PCs declined by 8 percent.
remains unknown. Krzanich reiterated that the vulnerabilities
won’t have an effect on future sales. “I can tell
‘SECURITY IS A TOP you, at the highest level, that we’re not seeing
PRIORITY’ much of a change in those forecasts as a result
“Security is a top priority for Intel, of this,” he said of the discovery of the
foundational to our products, and it’s critical vulnerabilities and their mitigations.
to the expanse of our data-centric strategy,” “I’ve assigned some of the very best
Krzanich told investors in a conference call. minds at Intel to work through this,” Krzanich
“Our near-term focus is on delivering high- added.
quality mitigations to protect our customers’
infrastructure from these exploits. We’re 6 QUESTIONS INTEL NEEDS
working to create silicon-based changes to TO ANSWER
future products, that will directly address The Wall Street analyst community had several
the Spectre and Meltdown threats in chances to pin down Krzanich on Intel’s
hardware. And those products will begin silicon security strategy. Instead, they
appearing later this year.” peppered Krzanich with questions about the

18 PCWorld MARCH 2018


company’s proposed capital expenditures at Moor Insights, disagrees. “I believe these
and memory plans. mitigations are already built in or we would
Important questions about the silicon fix see a year delay in new chips,” he said in
remain hanging for end users and corporate a message. So it’s possible that chips
customers. Here’s what we wished the releasing sooner, such as Coffee Lake-S,
analysts had asked, and our best guesses might include these fixes.
as to the answers.
2. WILL THESE FIXES
1. WHEN EXACTLY WILL THE SOLVE BOTH SPECTRE
SILICON FIXES TAKE PLACE? AND MELTDOWN
Our guess: the end of 2018. Based upon VULNERABILITIES?
leaked product roadmaps, that would Our guess: Just Meltdown. As our Spectre
probably mean the reported Cascade and Meltdown FAQ explains (go.pcworld.
Lake-X 14-nm parts, as well as possibly com/spme), Meltdown most strongly affects
the 10-nm Cannon Lake parts due Intel processors because of the aggressive
sometime thereafter. way those chips handle speculative
Note that Pat Moorhead, a corporate execution. Spectre appears to require a more
fellow at AMD and now the principal analyst fundamental redesign.

Even new Intel chips like the Core i7-8700K are affected by Meltdown and Spectre.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 19


NEWS INTEL’S MELTDOWN PL AN

3. WILL THE MITIGATIONS


APPLY ONLY TO NEW
PRODUCTS, OR OLDER
CHIPS, TOO?
Our guess: only new PC microprocessors,
though potentially Intel could re-spin existing
processors, especially for cloud servers.
Doing so, however, would open up the
possibility of an actual recall, something
that Intel doesn’t seem to be indicating as
part of its “everything-is-fine” guidance.
To reassure customers, some chips might
carry a suffix to assure buyers that the CDM 5.5.0 results on the Microsoft Surface
Book once its been updated for the Spectre
mitigations are built in.
and Meltdown exploits.

4. WHAT EFFECT WILL 6. WILL SILICON WITH


THOSE MITIGATIONS HAVE BUILT‑IN MITIGATIONS
ON THE CHIP ITSELF? BOOST PC SALES?
Our guess: Any time you add logic to a CPU, Our guess: In consumer PCs, probably not. In
and physically increase its size, the cost is enterprises, it’s more likely to be seen as a
affected as well. But whether Intel would have selling point. Businesses won’t want to risk
to add dedicated logic blocks, or simply exposing themselves to lawsuits, and any
restructure the chip, isn’t known. If there smart PC salesperson will remind them of this.
were additional costs that raised prices, Consumers will just grit their teeth and bear
Intel would eat it. the slowdown and the lack of available
GPUs (go.pcworld.com/mner).
5. HOW WILL “I think we could see some increased
PERFORMANCE BE demand for servers, but not for PCs, as I do
AFFECTED? not think many will notice the performance
Our guess: The only guidance we have is degradation,” Moorhead said.
what our tests have shown (go.pcworld.com/ Again, our guesses are just that. Let’s
te5t): little effect in CPU-dependent hope that Intel starts laying out plans for
benchmarks, but more significant slowdowns solving Spectre and Meltdown in silicon,
in broader tests of system performance. and does it soon.

20 PCWorld MARCH 2018


AMD will Spectre-proof the
Zen 2 architecture, and 4 other
nuggets from its earnings call
One piece of good news is obvious: AMD’s making money again, contributing to the
long-term health of Intel’s chief rival. BY MARK HACHMAN

A
fter years of reporting loss after Zen 2 architecture, and warned of
loss, AMD marked a second memory shortages.
straight profitable quarter, The Wall Street analysts on the call were
standing upon the shoulders focused on what impact this would all have
of its successful Ryzen CPUs and Vega on AMD’s future earnings, and by extension,
chips. Company executives also said they its stock price. But as always, it was possible
plan to implement mitigations for the to distill a few drops of information that
Spectre vulnerabilities in the upcoming could affect users directly. Here they are.

IMAGE: GORDON MAH UNG MARCH 2018 PCWorld 21


NEWS AMD TO SPECTRE-PROOF ZEN 2 ARCHITECTURE

1. SPECTRE MITIGATIONS design, to further address potential Spectre-


WILL BE BUILT INTO ZEN 2 like exploits,” Su added. “We continue to
If you’ve been following the ongoing Spectre collaborate closely with the industry on these
and Meltdown saga (go.pcworld.com/ vulnerabilities, and are committed to
spme), you know that Intel has been the protecting AMD users on these and other
vendor most affected by the two chip security threats, as they arise.”
vulnerabilities. Lisa Su, AMD’s chief executive, Put another way, it won’t be until 2019
reiterated AMD’s prior position that the that AMD solves its Spectre problem. Based
company’s chips aren’t vulnerable to on AMD’s extensive road map (go.pcworld.
Meltdown, nor to some of the iterations com/exrm) that the company recently
of potential Spectre exploits. revealed, the next-gen Zen 2 architecture
Here’s how Su explained it: won’t be released until next year.
“For Spectre variant 1, we continue
actively working with our ecosystem partners 2. CRYPTO IS PARTIALLY
on mitigations, including operating system RESPONSIBLE FOR AMD’S
packages that have begun to roll out,” Su SUCCESS
said. “We continue to believe that variant 2 One point that Wall Street analysts hammered
of Spectre is difficult to exploit on AMD AMD executives on: What was the impact of
processors. However, we are deploying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin mining, and
CPU microcode
packages that in
combination
with operating
system patches,
provide
additional
mitigation steps.
“Longer
term, we have
included
changes in our
future processsor
cores, starting
with our Zen 2

22 PCWorld MARCH 2018


what will they be in the future? Su played coy, Epyc server chips into Microsoft’s Azure
claiming that cryptocurrencies had about a cloud and at companies like Baidu. That’s
single-digit impact to the company’s annual not going to affect the PC market, but
revenue, though it could be a little higher. enterprise revenue is the fuel that can
Crypto, she allowed, was a great way to “get power a company’s long-term success.
Radeon in as many applications as possible.”
But is cryptocurrencies a long-term play, 5. AMD IS PROFITABLE
something that will keep GPU prices in the AGAIN
stratosphere (go.pcworld.com/ludi)? Su And while things can change, it appears
wouldn’t say. She also pooh-poohed the that AMD’s train is under full steam.
notion that AMD couldn’t get enough Though exactly how much money AMD
foundry space or silicon to manufacture the made won’t directly impact your ability to buy
company’s GPUs. a graphics card, AMD’s financial viability
means that Intel will continue to have
3. BUT THERE ARE competition, forcing PC prices lower. In this,
SHORTAGES IN MEMORY AMD shone: The company reported net
Su did admit, though, that there are shortages income of $61 million on revenue of $1.48
in the graphics memory that AMD’s GPUs billion, as revenue climbed 34 percent over
connect to, specifically GDDR5 and HBM the same quarter last year, when AMD
memory. (She didn’t say whether HBM2 reported a loss. AMD’s Computing and
memory was affected, or whether she was Graphics business—which includes Ryzen
using “HBM” as a generic term.) and Radeon sales—climbed a whopping
“We’re working through that with our 60 percent year-over-year.
memory partners,” Su said, identifying it One of the biggest indicators of AMD’s
as a problem in 2017. confidence, however, was its earlier, massive
road map disclosure. You don’t show your
4. DESKTOP AND SERVER cards unless you feel you can run the table.
IS BACK And that’s good news for the PC market.
Desktop CPUs—especially the lowest-cost
Ryzen 3—appear to have helped drive sales
during the quarter, Su said, as the Ryzen You don’t show your cards
Mobile chips started to ramp up during the unless you feel you can run the
end of the quarter. What’s especially table. And that’s good news for
impressive is that AMD has started selling its the PC market.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 23


NEWS

Why parents should worry


about Office 365’s Immersive
Reader dictation feature
At some point, dictation moves from a shortcut to a productivity aid. But when? Microsoft
appears to be making that choice for you. BY MARK HACHMAN

B
eginning in February, Microsoft which brings smartphone-style voice dictation
started offering a new feature for to traditional desktop apps—will be an
young students called Immersive unwelcome crutch.
Reader dictation within Office It’s not just on Windows, either. Microsoft
365 apps for Windows and the Mac. As a is pushing dictation onto Word for Mac,
parent of two elementary school students, iPhone, Outlook Desktop, OneNote iPad,
though, I’m concerned that this feature— and OneNote Mac.

24 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: ISTOCK


Even though I write about
technology for a living, I’m sort
of feeling my way through
applying it toward parenting.
Is a smart speaker an
annoyance or a learning aid?
Do I need to place hardwired
parental controls on my kids’
screen time, or can I just check
up on them? And when do I
need to have “the talk” about
using the computer to solve
Pearson, the large education company, will begin rolling out in
problems that my kids are March curriculum that will work on both HoloLens and Windows
struggling with? Mixed Reality immersive VR headsets, Microsoft said.
For example, my oldest is
currently writing three collaborative stories, including it within Office 365—and pushing it
for fun, using Google Apps’ similar dictation within Microsoft Education—Microsoft has
feature (go.pcworld.com/dcgd). (Immersive released a calculator app for young writers.
Reader is probably Microsoft’s attempt to
catch up.) My son doesn’t see dictation as a DICTATION: GREAT
crutch, but as a convenience. FOR ADULTS, A CRUTCH
In some sense, he’s right. I’ve written FOR KIDS
about how Windows inexplicably lacks Writing requires at least two basic skills: the
dictation (go.pcworld.com/spre), and how ability to write coherently, with proper
Cortana’s speech-recognition features could grammar and spelling; and the basic
be tapped to facilitate content creation. There capability to enter those words on the page.
aren’t any broad statements being made here My high-school writing skills involved mainly
about whether dictation should replace the smeared ink on lined paper and a mishmash
traditional keyboard. Microsoft already of older typewriters and early computer
considers dictation to be an assistive screens. My typing skills were spotty at best
technology, but including it within Office 365 by the time I began writing papers on the
demonstrates how easily it could be applied early Macintosh.
toward productivity. I think that it’s fair to worry that pushing
That’s where the problem lies: By dictation on a new generation of young

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 25


NEWS OFFICE 365’S IMMERSIVE READER DICTATION FEATURE

students will have the same effect. My oldest OneNote Class Notebooks, and for
son writes with a grasp of language and idiom PowerPoint users to record their lessons with
that’s way beyond his years, both writing and ink and video, both of which Microsoft also
editing. The other night he proudly showed announced today.
me his latest work of Star Wars fan fiction, and But chances are your teacher grew up
it was easy to differentiate between the with chalkboards, film strips, and overhead
sections where he had dictated text into projectors. Dictation may not be a feature
Google Docs, and where he and a friend had they’re familiar with, or are aware is even
gone back and proofread it. One of the present. (Or whether they can turn it off via a
reasons he dictated it, he told me, was that global policy change, something worth
his typing skills weren’t able to keep up with asking a school IT administrator.) Should we
his train of thought. worry about spell-checking and grammar
My mother, now a retired elementary correction, too? Probably not.
school teacher, generally frowned upon Like any new technology, though,
technology in the classroom, viewing it as a dictation comes with its own consequences.
distraction. We embrace technology more At some point, once students have
warmly today, acknowledging that there will demonstrated a grasp of how to construct a
be a time when products like self-driving cars sentence, dictation may become a tool to
eventually take over from humans, just as assist students to focus on critical thinking, or
automatic transmissions have largely replaced a logical argument. When that point actually
the stick shift. I could be raising the arrives, though, is one you, your child, and
generation that makes the computer your child’s teacher will have to agree upon.
keyboard obsolete. The lesson remains the same: As a parent,
If you’re reading this, though, and do keeping tabs on your kids’ digital activities is
have young children, it’s worth taking a always a smart practice.
moment to consider the ramifications of this What I’d like Microsoft and Google to do,
new technology. I’m not specifically calling however, is to allow parents and educators to
out Microsoft, though it may look like I’m have input into that decision, by leaving
doing so. Chromebooks dominate the dictation off by default. Immersive Reader
classroom, and Google Apps are far more dictation for the Microsoft Education sounds
prevalent in elementary schools than like a marvelous tool for adults to whip out a
Windows or Office 365. That’s motivated short memo or even a longer document. But
Microsoft to push hard on delivering features for young kids, it’s a powerful temptation to
teachers want, such as the ability to lock take a shortcut that they don’t really need.

26 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Microsoft’s Surface Pro turns
5 amid rising competition
and faltering sales
Microsoft’s tablets once led the way, but innovation has slowed in recent versions.
BY MARK HACHMAN

M
icrosoft’s iconic Surface Pro On Twitter, the Microsoft Surface team
tablet turned five in February. celebrated its “revolution,” which began
The original product led the when it discarded the limited Windows RT
way for other productivity and brought full Windows 8 to the tablet
Windows tablets and detachable computers, market. “Five years ago today, a revolution
but on its fifth anniversary, Microsoft may be was born when Surface turned Pro,” the
losing momentum. Surface account tweeted (go.pcworld.com/

IMAGE: MICROSOFT MARCH 2018 PCWorld 27


NEWS MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO TURNS 5

supr). “And it was just the start.” com/lm52), for example, is likely one reason
for the drop in Surface sales, though we’ll go
SURFACE SALES FALTER into other possibilities later. But we as
That strong start has slowed, though. consumers should still be rooting for
According to research firm IDC, unit sales of Microsoft to succeed. The company is one of
detachable Surface devices are down nearly the few willing to risk launching new products
19 percent from a year ago. (Full disclosure: into new categories.
PCWorld and IDC are owned by the same
parent company, China Oceanwide.) IDC’s MICROSOFT SURFACE,
report (go.pcworld.com/dtab), which CAUGHT UP IN TABLET
analyzes the state of the convertible and slate TROUBLES
market, shows an industry dominated by the Microsoft sold 748,000 Surface devices
high volumes of Android and iOS tablets sold during the fourth quarter, a drop of 18.8
by Apple, Samsung, and other vendors. percent compared to the fourth quarter of
Thanks in part to the popularity of its 2017, according to Lauren Guenveur, a senior
Surface products, Microsoft typically appears research analyst for IDC’s device group. For
on the list, though usually at or near the all of 2017, Microsoft sold 3 million Surface
bottom. This year, Microsoft’s name didn’t devices, down 16.8 percent from 2016, she
appear at all. A follow-up inquiry by PCWorld said via email.
revealed why: Surface sales
fell significantly during the
fourth quarter, and during
all of 2017 as well, IDC said.

Why this matters: The


Surface Pro was important
for Microsoft, because it
led the way for other PC
vendors to make slim, light
Windows tablets that could
be powerful business
machines. A rise of viable
competitors like Lenovo’s Stunning products like the Microsoft Surface Book 2 don’t come cheap,
Miix 520 (go.pcworld. which might have impacted sales.

28 PCWorld MARCH 2018


IDC’s tablet numbers are dominated by Android vendors.

Those devices included all of the Surface Fire tablets, respectively. But Apple’s iPad
devices that IDC considers detachables: the sales were essentially flat, and Amazon’s
Surface Pro 3, 4, and Pro (2017); as well as the nearly-doubled Fire tablet sales were fueled
Surface Book and Surface Book 2. (IDC by dirt-cheap prices. Samsung, which has
excludes the Surface Studio and Surface Hub, done well in the tablet market, saw unit
two niche Surface products, as well as the sales fall by 13 percent.
Surface Laptop, which isn’t a detachable.) Microsoft still ranks second in the true
It’s worth noting that overall tablet sales convertible market as defined by IDC, while
are down, too, though not by as much: In all, the leader is Apple’s iPad Pro. Detachables
the market dropped 7.9 percent in 2017, make up just 14 percent of the total tablet
IDC said. market currently, according to IDC, and
A closer look at the numbers reveals that are expected to grow over time.
Microsoft isn’t struggling alone, and even has As to why Microsoft’s Surface has
reason to be optimistic. According to IDC, struggled, Guenveur gave several reasons.
Microsoft is still the sixth-largest tablet vendor, For one, she said, no one expected that tablet
trailing companies like Apple and Amazon, owners would treat them like laptops: Buy
which sold 13.2 million iPads and 7.7 million one, and then hold onto it for close to 4 to 5

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 29


NEWS MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO TURNS 5

years, rather than exchange them every decreased, but that revenue had increased by
couple of years as smartphone owners do. 1 percent. “Surface revenue should grow
But Guenveur also zeroed in on the lack of year-over-year from continued launch
significant change within Microsoft’s momentum from the latest Surface Pro, Book
individual Surface lines—one reason why and Laptop, but decline sequentially,
PCWorld knocked down the Surface Pro consistent with holiday seasonality,” Microsoft
(2017) refresh (go.pcworld.com/su17), versus executives said (go.pcworld.com/yony).
its competition. “I think Microsoft’s struggle
mostly comes down to their product refresh ALWAYS-CONNECTED PCS
cycle, which has been uneven, and the fact ARE A WILD CARD
that the new generation of products don’t Competition for Microsoft’s Surface products
appear very different to the previous is arguably good for consumers and for
generation,” she said. innovation. What we don’t know, Guenveur
Microsoft representatives declined to said, is how the push for the upcoming
comment. During a recent conference call, Windows 10 on ARM products will change
company executives largely glossed over the that dynamic.
performance of the Surface lineup (go. So far, Acer, HP, and Lenovo have
pcworld.com/sulu), noting that unit sales had announced Always Connected PCs that are
powered by Qualcomm
Snapdragon chips (go.
pcworld.com/qusd), which
emphasize long battery life
over traditional performance
metrics. Microsoft was an
enthusiastic participant at
Qualcomm’s launch, but it has
yet to announce a product of
its own for the new category.
Depending on how well
these competing tablets are
received, Microsoft may
find itself moving from a
Solid competition from competing tablets, like this Lenovo Miix 520, leader in the tablet space
has probably affected Surface sales to some extent. to a follower.

30 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Microsoft buying Valve would
be a disaster for PC gaming
Right now, it’s just a rumor. Hopefully it stays that way. BY HAYDEN DINGMAN

T
here’s been a rumor recently, thin there’s been “a whisper about Valve,” as
even so far as these rumors Polygon puts it.
usually go, but so enormous in It seems ludicrous to me—after all,
potential impact it seems to have we’re talking about Valve, the company that
captured people’s attention anyway: hated Windows 8 so much it tried to convert
According to Polygon (go.pcworld.com/ developers (and players) to a custom Steam‑
poly), Microsoft has reportedly talked about centric Linux build.
acquiring Valve, the independent company But let’s assume this hypothetical scenario
behind the Steam gaming platform. Or is more serious than it seems. Anything’s

IMAGE: GORDON MAH UNG/ROB SCHULZ MARCH 2018 PCWorld 31


NEWS MICROSOFT BUYING VALVE A DISASTER

possible, I guess. And then,


once we’ve considered the
possibility, let’s talk about
why it would be disastrous
for PC gaming.

CERTIFICATION?
WHAT’S THAT?
Actually, in the name of
fairness, let’s start with some
positives. First off, there’s A low-cost subscription program like Xbox Game Pass on PC would be
Xbox Game Pass, pretty enticing.
Microsoft’s console-only
service that gives subscribers access to about when Valve still curated its collection. In this
100 games, new and old, for $10 per month one particular fashion, at least.
(go.pcworld.com/10pm). That includes new
first-party Microsoft games the same day they BETTER THE DEVIL YOU
hit retail. This could conceivably come to the DON’T KNOW
PC anyway, but the chances get a lot better Then again, we know what a Microsoft
when Microsoft actually has more than a storefront looks like. Two of them actually, and
handful of PC games to entice people. they’re both pretty bad. On the Xbox, sales
There’s also the persistent issue of Valve’s are rare, the interface is awful and cluttered
hands-off approach to Steam. I feel the lack of with non-gaming ads, and oh yeah, people
curation is a detriment to the platform. Lost in still need to pay out the nose every month for
the shuffle, or perhaps unwilling to even set Xbox Live Gold if they want multiplayer.
foot in the shuffle, more and more indie Microsoft also hasn’t completely overcome
developers are seemingly headed to the the wave of negative sentiment that
Nintendo Switch—a place where tighter culminated in the “Microsoft hates indies”
standards and a smaller library ensures catchphrase a few years back. It’s getting
someone might actually see your game better, but the Xbox still isn’t a prime
before it’s swept into the void. destination for indie developers the way it
Microsoft runs the Xbox in a similar fashion was from 2008 to 2012 or so.
to Nintendo, and thus an acquired Steam may The Microsoft Store in Windows 10 is even
look a bit more like…well, 2010-era Steam, worse. Microsoft has failed to convince pretty

32 PCWorld MARCH 2018


much anyone to care about the built-in Store, multiplayer scene in the Windows 10 Store.
which has been part of the operating system Microsoft seemingly has no idea how to
since Windows 8 launched in 2012. It’s hard entice the average PC gamer, as evidenced
to say it’s “better curated” than Steam when by the Microsoft Store’s forced (and subpar)
this is what the best-selling chart looks like: integration with Xbox Live, the fact the store
It’s as bad as any mobile store, and “organizes” all your games into one
somehow even more upsetting to me than looooong and entirely unsorted list (with
the flood of generic asset flips on Steam’s your DLC purchases listed separately and
“New” charts on any given day. Outside of individually in the “Apps” section for some
Microsoft’s own first-party titles, only a handful reason), the awkward controller-friendly
of developers have made the effort to come interface, and so on.
over to Windows 10’s Microsoft Store. You Not to mention the nightmare that is UWP,
get the feeling those experiments were more the Universal Windows Platform format
beneficial for Microsoft than the publisher— Microsoft touts as a successor to traditional
and a failure. See: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Win32 desktop software. UWP games have
(go.pcworld.com/cdiw) and its D.O.A. had a laundry list of problems though—no

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was the first major UWP game on PC, and it was a disaster. The situation’s
improved since, but nearly two years later the UWP version of a game (like 2017’s Cuphead) is still the
inferior choice for most users.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 33


NEWS MICROSOFT BUYING VALVE A DISASTER

support for common streaming utilities, no Microsoft. Even Remedy, when given the
support for frame rate counter overlays like option, ported Quantum Break (go.pcworld.
FRAPS, no support for multiple video cards, no com/qubr) away from UWP so it could land
modding or backup abilities, and more. Some on Steam.
of these problems have been somewhat Again, these issues don’t inspire
worked around at this point, but the troubled confidence in Microsoft, and the problems
run-up certainly hasn’t instilled confidence only seem more glaring the further we get
Microsoft understands the PC market. into the Windows 10 lifespan.
Hell, just last week my colleague Brad Which brings me to my next point, and
Chacos and I were playing the Sea of Thieves possibly the most important: Microsoft hasn’t
beta (go.pcworld.com/sotb) and no matter earned the goodwill of PC gamers yet, and
how many times I invited him to my party he trying to buy respectability would be disastrous.
never saw an invite. He eventually had to pop I actually think Microsoft’s been
open the Windows 10 Xbox app and join me surprisingly good at following through on its
that way. These are fundamental problems. promises to PC gamers these last two years.
Microsoft continues to push the issue, Phil Spencer’s been a breath of fresh air as far
though. This week Microsoft even threw as Microsoft’s PC presence, and the Xbox Play
shade at Valve, saying that of course Age of Anywhere program (go.pcworld.com/xbpa)
Empires: Definitive Edition (go.pcworld.com/ is an excellent gesture despite UWP’s
aede) could come to Steam, as long as Valve lingering issues. Forza Horizon 3 (go.pcworld.
supported UWP. While I theoretically support com/frz3), Gears of War 4 (go.pcworld.com/
every game coming
to every platform, I
can hardly fault Valve
for not supporting a
format that’s a)
half-broken on its
own, b) breaks much
of the functionality
Valve’s built into
Steam, and c) is
pretty much only
used by a single
company— Sea of Thieves.

34 PCWorld MARCH 2018


preceding dark
age—and thus
doubtful that,
without Steam,
Microsoft
would’ve ever
looked back to the
PC to begin with.
Swooping in
at the eleventh
hour and trying to
cash in on that
Portal 2. goodwill would
just prove
gow4), Sea of Thieves—these games look Microsoft’s exactly the type of company most
great on PC, and considering there are PC gamers already believe Microsoft to be:
undoubtedly people (like me) who now never Walled-off and disinterested in the long-term
touch their Xbox One? A weirdly self- health of the ecosystem. And as misguided as
sacrificing business move by Microsoft. the “Good Guy Valve” image might be,
But there were 15-odd years of neglect there’s no disputing that trust between Valve
preceding, years where the PC gaming and player led to Steam’s success. It’s the
market was very much not Microsoft’s focus— reason people are willing to spend thousands
and years where, on the rare occasions of dollars on games that don’t actually exist,
Microsoft did glance at desktops, the results that are served digitally—there’s a confidence
were disastrous. Looking at you, Games for Steam will exist for the long haul.
Windows Live (go.pcworld.com/gawl). A Microsoft acquisition undermines all
Valve was there, and that means a lot. It that trust, and might lead to the death of PC
doesn’t earn Valve a free pass. It doesn’t mean gaming as we know it.
we overlook all of Steam’s myriad missteps
(and there have been and will continue to be HALF-LIFE 3 IS A LIE
many). Gabe Newell, Mike Harrington, and There’s a third consideration here—one I think
Co. deserve credit though. It’s doubtful PC is less important than the overall health of the
gaming would be going through its current PC gaming market, but which others might
renaissance if Steam hadn’t lifted us out of the consider most important.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 35


NEWS MICROSOFT BUYING VALVE A DISASTER

Games. Half-Life 3 something to be dreaded, not


Valve’s first-party catalog isn’t huge, but welcomed.
it’s beloved: Portal, Half-Life, Dota 2, Counter-
Strike, Left 4 Dead. A Microsoft acquisition BOTTOM LINE
presumably turns these into Microsoft titles, This is not to say Microsoft shouldn’t acquire
ripe for cashing in. And oh, I’m tempted. I’d someone. It absolutely should, if it wants to
love to see a Portal 3 or, dare I say it, the make the Xbox a force again. My list of
proverbial Half-Life 3. PlayStation 4 exclusives is long and packed
But the reason that prospect’s at all full of great games. My Xbox list is…well,
tempting is because the games that came Forza Horizon mainly. Quantum Break. Uh,
before were so amazing—even revolutionary. Recore I guess?
One of the oft-rumored reasons we’ve never It’s not great. Microsoft needs stellar,
seen a Half-Life 3 is because Valve hasn’t exclusive games, and clearly recognizes
found a way to capture that lightning-in-a- that fact in the wake of the Xbox One X’s
bottle feeling again. (go.pcworld.com/xbx1) launch. Other
Microsoft would make it regardless. Hell, names in this week’s rumor mill seem even
you want Half-Life 3? Microsoft will give you more far-fetched—EA is mentioned by
Half-Life 3 through 6, probably within the next name, which is another moonshot to say
decade. And they’d all be perfectly pleasant, the least. But at least Microsoft acquiring
visually stunning, competent, polished. EA wouldn’t destabilize an entire platform,
Also—I bet—not at all what people nor would many casual observers object to
wanted. a change of management after the last (go.
There’s an abundance of evidence: Halo pcworld.com/swb2) few years (go.
4 and 5, and Gears of War 4. Microsoft took pcworld.com/n4sp) of EA’s output (go.
over beloved franchises from the original pcworld.com/msef).
developers, turned out perfectly competent Valve, though? A disaster—for Microsoft,
sequels, and yet all three games lack the for Steam, and for PC gaming in general.
spark that made the early entries special—
that made people want sequels in the first
place. Whether that spark is actually missing, It’s not great. Microsoft needs
or just a result of us looking behind stellar, exclusive games, and
Microsoft’s curtain and seeing another wizard clearly recognizes that fact in
at the controls? Hard to say. In any case, it the wake of the Xbox One X’s
makes the prospect of a Microsoft- helmed launch.

36 PCWorld MARCH 2018


IWitnessBullying.org
DISASTERS DON’ T
PL AN AHEAD

YO U C AN
DON’T WAIT. COMMUNICATE.
Talk to your loved ones about how you are
going to be ready in an emergency.

VISIT READY.GOV/PLAN.
Reviews & Ratings
TESTED IN PCWORLD LABS
WE PUT HARDWARE & SOFTWARE
THROUGH RIGOROUS TESTING

Ryzen APU: Ryzen plus Vega


saves budget gamers during
a GPU drought
Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G just stepped in to give budget gamers a
worthy alternative. BY GORDON MAH UNG

L
et’s just lay our cards down at In years past, such a statement would be
once. AMD’s Ryzen 3 2200G and met by skepticism and dismissive “whatever”
Ryzen 5 2400G APUs are animated GIFs. But AMD actually over-
everything budget gamers have delivered on its Ryzen CPUs last year, so talks
been praying for: surprisingly decent gaming of combining those same Zen cores with the
performance at a shockingly low price. latest and greatest Radeon Vega graphics

IMAGE: GORDON MAH UNG MARCH 2018 PCWorld 39


REVIEWS RYZEN APU

cores has cash-strapped gamers in a tizzy of (go.pcworld.com/ludi), these new


excitement. And it turns out the excitement is AMD APUs provide some intriguing options—
warranted. Compared to a similarly equipped at least on the budget end.
Intel-based system running a Core i3, the Now we’ll dig into the Ryzen APU specs
lower-end Ryzen 3 2200G is 142 percent and architecture before we return to our
faster in 3DMark Fire Strike, 154 percent faster performance results.
in 3DMark Time Spy, and 203 percent faster
in Rainbow Six Siege. Those are just a few of RYZEN 3 2200G AND
the highlights from our game performance RYZEN 5 2400G SPECS
testing, which you can see if you jump to our There are two Ryzen APU parts AMD is
gaming tests on page 45. releasing. The Ryzen 3 2200G ($99 on
In practical terms, AMD’s new budget Amazon [go.pcworld.com/220g]) features
wonder chips should be able to produce a four Zen cores without symmetrical multi-
reasonable 60 fps at 720p in many games, threading (SMT), which is AMD’s version of
and some will be playable at 1080p, too. So Intel’s Hyper-Threading. The cores have a
if you’ve been avoiding building a base clock of 3.5GHz with a boost clock of
gaming PC because of sky-high GPU prices 3.7GHz.

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

CPU Cores 4 Cores, 8 Threads (1 CCX) 4 Cores, 4 Threads (1 CCX)

CPU Base Clock 3.6GHz 3.5GHz

CPU Max Boost Clock Up to 3.9GHz Up to 3.7GHz

GPU Cores 11 Radeon Vega CUs 8 Radeon Vega CUs

GPU Clock Up to 1250MHz Up to 1100MHz

L1$ 64K i$, 32K D$ per core 64K i$, 32K D$ per core

L2$ 512K per core 512K per core

L3$ 4MB Shared 4MB Shared

TDP 65W 65W

DRAM Supported Up to DDR4-2933 (Dual Channel) Up to DDR4-2933 (Dual Channel)

Transistors and Die Size 209.78mm2/˜4.94 billion 209.78mm2/˜4.94 billion

40 PCWorld MARCH 2018


For graphics, it features eight Vega
compute units (CUs) inside. Yup, the same
Vega cores used in the company’s impossible-
to-obtain Radeon Vega cards (reviewed at
go.pcworld.com/rdvg).
One step up is the Ryzen 5 2400G
($169 on Amazon [go.pcworld.com/24oo]).
It still nets you a quad-core chip, but with
VIDEO: AMD RYZEN APU
SMT switched on for a total of eight threads
BENCHMARKS AND REVIEW
of computing power. AMD also increases WATCH NOW AT GO.PCWORLD.COM/RAPU

the base clock to 3.6GHz and the boost


clock to 3.9GHz. For graphics, you get lanes, and the use of a single, unified CCX in
about a third more CUs, with 11 Vega the APU, rather than the dual-CCX design in
units inside. the current CPU.
All Ryzens are modular and built around
the basic four-core CCX unit. An eight-core
Both are AM4-based and should Ryzen 7, for example, features two CCX units.
work in most AM4 socket On the six-core Ryzen 5 CPU, AMD disables a
motherboards that have display core on each CCX and links them together.
outputs and the latest BIOS On the four-core Ryzen 5 CPU, two cores are
available. disabled on each CCX.
This CCX link has a real cost in latency
Both are AM4-based and should work in (which tech website PCper.com thoroughly
most AM4 socket motherboards that have explores at go.pcworld.com/pcpr.) With its
display outputs and the latest BIOS available. new APU, AMD said it needed to save space
Unlike Intel, which locks its lower-end chips, and make thermal room for the overhead of
AMD has left them unlocked for those who the Vega cores, so it went with a single
want to explore overclocking. four-core CCX. This eliminates the latency
issue, but also lowers total cache, as each of
RYZEN APU VS. RYZEN CPU those CCX units has a dedicated cache.
Although the actual Zen cores are the same, AMD said the practical impact in its own
the Ryzen APUs differ from Ryzen CPUs in a testing was minimal: Some games pick up a
couple of key ways. In the chart, three things little gain from lowering the latency, while
should jump out: less cache, half the GPU PCI others benefit slightly from the increased

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 41


REVIEWS RYZEN APU

cache size. To help make up


for the cache decrease,
AMD said, it buffs the clock
speeds a bit.
AMD didn’t get into why
it cut the PCIe lanes, but
we’d guess it’s due to the
mobile roots of the APU.
These APUs were designed
to scale up from laptops to
desktops and you just don’t
need all of those lanes in
laptops. Many tests over the
years have shown PCIe lanes typically don’t apoplectic at the thought of lowly paste in a
impact GPU performance. performance CPU. With the Ryzen APUs, I
anticipate less rage. Even though the move
AMD PENNY-PINCHES ON to paste will lower the APU’s overclocking
THE PASTE potential, these are budget parts, not
One last divergence between the CPUs and $2,000 CPUs.
the APUs is a shift from a metallic solder
thermal interface material (TIM) used in Ryzen HOW WE TESTED
CPUs to a paste-type material in the Ryzen For our performance test, we built on an
APUs. AMD admits it did it to save bucks. AMD-supplied MSI B350 Pro AC
When the internet learned Intel used a motherboard and 16GB of G.Skill Flare
paste TIM in its Skylake-X chips, nerds went DDR4/3200 RAM, approved and supplied
by AMD. For storage we opted to use a
240GB Kingston HyperX Savage SATA SSD
If you’re thinking we rather than an M.2 NVMe device, which
intentionally tried to make would add to the cost and likely isn’t the first
Intel look bad by not using the choice of someone buying a $99 APU. All
similarly priced 8th-gen Core testing used the bundled AMD cooler.
i3-8100, we can explain our For performance context, we decided to
real reason in two words: use an Intel Core i3-7100 chip. It’s a dual-core
motherboard costs. 7th-generation Kaby Lake CPU with

42 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Hyper-Threading, and costs $115 on Amazon whether it was fair to test the AMD using
(go.pcworld.com/i371). It doesn’t have higher-clocked RAM than the Intel board.
TurboBoost, but its base clock is a hefty and Ultimately we did test the AMD APUs at
constant 3.9GHz. For graphics, it features the higher speed as well as DDR/2400, but
Intel HD 630, which is used on everything for our CPU section, we decided to present
from Core i7 to Core i3. We sourced this CPU results at DDR4/2400 clock speeds. In our
from Amazon and used the stock cooler for gaming section, because memory clock
our tests, along with a Gigabyte GA-H270M- speeds are critical, we show multiple speeds.
DS3H MicroATX board. Because Ryzen does benefit from higher
If you’re thinking we intentionally tried to clock speeds, you can basically add about 5
make Intel look bad by not using the similarly to 6 percent to the performance of both APUs
priced 8th-gen Core i3-8100, we can explain at higher clock speeds.
our real reason in two words: motherboard Lastly, while we had no issues running the
costs. With Kaby Lake, you can get an Ryzen 3 2200G at DDR4/3200, the Ryzen 5
LGA1151 board for as cheap as $50 using 2400G was finicky with reboots occurring
H-series chipsets. So far, Intel has not released when using the preset XMP 3200 profiles. We
a budget chipset for its 8th-gen CPUs, which suspect this is mostly a tuning issue that will
means the cheapest Z370-board we could eventually be worked out.
find was $120.
The graphics comparison should mostly be MELTDOWN AND SPECTRE
the same, as Intel’s UHD 630 is essentially the PERFORMANCE
same as its HD 630. While the Core i3-8100 is All our tests were completed with fresh
a quad-core, its lack of Hyper-Threading and
overall lower clock speed (there’s no Turbo
Boost) would probably put the two a lot closer
in performance than you’d expect.

WHY WE TESTED AT
DDR/2400
One last thing we want to note: We used
16GB of DDR4 on both platforms, both rated
for DDR4/3200. However, the Core i3 would
not run higher than DDR/2400 on our We tested both Intel and AMD with all of the
H-series board. That led us to ponder available Spectre and Meltdown patches in place.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 43


REVIEWS RYZEN APU

installs of Windows 10 Fall


Creators Update with the latest Cinebench R15.038 nT
patches installed. That means Multi-core
we ran our tests with patches for
Ryzen 5 2400G
793
the Meltdown and Spectre DDR4/2400

exploits in place. On the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G


DDR4/2400
587
platform, that means just Core i3-7100
DDR4/2400
412
operating system updates. On
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E
the Intel platform, that meant a
microcode update as well.
Although some vendors have
yanked their Spectre microcode
Cinebench R15.038 1T
Single-core
fixes, Gigabyte still offered it for
Ryzen 5 2400G
147
the motherboard we used, so DDR4/2400

we installed it and verified it with Ryzen 3 2200G


DDR4/2400
144
GRC’s InSpectre (go.pcworld. Core i3-7100
DDR4/2400
166
com/mesp).
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

3D RENDERING
PERFORMANCE HandBrake 0.9.9
Our first test is the venerable Encode 1080p (seconds)
Cinebench R15.038 test. Based
Ryzen 5 2400G
2,667
on Maxon’s professional DDR4/2400

rendering engine, it’s pretty Ryzen 3 2200G


DDR4/2400
3,529
much a pure CPU test and scales Core i3-7100
DDR4/2400
4,740
well with thread and core count.
S H O R T E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E
The result is no surprise: The
quad-core $99 Ryzen 3 2200G
easily outstrips the $116 Core i3 by 42 compute thread. Here’s one test where the
percent. Going from the Ryzen 3 2200G to Core i3 ekes out a win.
the Ryzen 5 2400G, we see about a Should you be surprised? Not really.
35-percent bump by adding SMT support. Intel’s advantage in IPC (instructions per
Not everything is multi-threaded, though, clock) efficiency is real. When combined
so we also run Cinebench R15 using a single with its full-time 3.9GHz clock speed, it’s a

44 PCWorld MARCH 2018


COMPRESSION
7-Zip 9.20 Performance PERFORMANCE
Our next test uses the free 7-Zip
Ryzen 5 2400G
19,652
DDR4/2400 utility and its built-in
Ryzen 3 2200G
DDR4/2400
15,392 performance benchmark. The
Core i3-7100 test is a CPU test and doesn’t
DDR4/2400
12,002
look at the disk I/O as a factor.
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E
AMD again leads the way, with
the dual-core Core i3 landing
where we expect.
3DMark Sky Diver 1.0
Graphics Performance
Ryzen 5 2400G
RYZEN APU
DDR4/2400
11,550
GAMING
Ryzen 3 2200G
DDR4/2400
9,681 PERFORMANCE
Core i3-7100 Now we know AMD gives you
DDR4/2400
4,143
more cores or more threads than
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E
Intel for the money, but Intel’s
cores are also generally better.
fantastic chip for single-threaded tasks. Let’s see how that plays out in games.
In fact, for uses outside of gaming, it’s a 3DMark Sky Diver is fairly lightweight—
fine CPU. basically like playing a typical eSports game—
and therefore a useful tool for measuring, say,
ENCODING PERFORMANCE integrated graphics. Rather than use the overall
Our next test uses the free and popular score, which factors in CPU performance, we’re
HandBrake encoder to convert a 1080p drilling down into the graphics subscore. The
high-bit-rate file using the Android Tablet score you see for the HD 630 should be familiar,
preset. HandBrake, like most video editing
and encoding applications, loves CPU
threads, and the Ryzen APUs walk away from 3DMark Sky Diver is fairly
the dual-core Core i3. We suspect the Core lightweight—basically like
i3-8100 would be very competitive here with playing a typical eSports
the Ryzen 3 2200G, but again—it’s another game—and therefore a useful
$70 out of your pocket to run that Coffee tool for measuring, say,
Lake CPU. integrated graphics.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 45


REVIEWS RYZEN APU

as it’s what most IGP-based


Intel laptops have coughed 3DMark Fire Strike 1.1
up for the last year or two. Graphics performance
With the Ryzen 3 2200G
Radeon RX 550 2GB +
and its Vega 8, you’re Ryzen 5 1600
4,400
looking at more than a 133 Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11
DDR4/2933
3,555
percent increase in
Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
performance compared to DDR4/3200
3,050

Intel’s Core i3. The Ryzen 5 Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11


DDR4/2400
3,230
2400G takes that to 178 Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
DDR4/2400
2,785
percent. Let’s say that again,
Core i3-7100 HD630
but slowly: 133 and 178 DDR4/2400
1,147

percent. LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

The thing is, on


desktop chips, it really
doesn’t get any better for Intel. Its Iris Plus a reminder, I used DDR4/2933 scores for our
lineup of graphics with EDRAM isn’t available Ryzen 5 2400G, because it wasn’t quite
in a socket. And mind you, this isn’t even stable at DDR4/3200 with the G.Skill
accounting for the speed advantage of using modules AMD provided.
higher-clocked RAM in Ryzen. The results speak for themselves. The
Radeon RX 550 clearly has a lead, but those
RYZEN APU PERFORMANCE APUs come close. It’s really hard to justify a
IN 3DMARK FIRE STRIKE $110 to $150 premium for that difference.
Let’s step up to something a little harder: Putting that money into a larger SSD or
3DMark Fire Strike. It’s obvious Intel’s HD 630 more RAM—or socking it away until you
isn’t up to the task, so we pulled numbers have enough for an RX 570—makes a lot
from a Ryzen 5 1600 system with a Radeon RX more sense.
550 2GB card in it. This Polaris-based GPU
can be found everywhere from $110 to $150. RYZEN APU PERFORMANCE
The tests we selected are mostly GPU bound, IN 3DMARK TIME SPY
so the obvious increase in core count on the Our last 3DMark test for now is Time Spy. It’s a test
Ryzen 5 1600 should have minimal impact. built completely to test DirectX 12 gaming
I’m also going to rope in performance performance. Interestingly, the lead the Radeon
results for the Ryzen APUs with faster RAM. As RX 550 had in the DX11 Fire Strike test evaporates,

46 PCWorld MARCH 2018


RYZEN APU
3DMark Time Spy 1.0 PERFORMANCE
Graphics IN RAINBOW SIX
SIEGE
Radeon RX 550 2GB +
Ryzen 5 1600
1,100 Now let’s see how the
Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11 Ryzen APU handles real
DDR4/2933
1,101
games. Our first test is the
Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
DDR4/3200
908 circa-2015 Tom Clancy
Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11
DDR4/2400
1,013 Rainbow Six Siege. We
Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8 tested it at multiple
DDR4/2400
841
resolutions and game
Core i3-7100 HD630
DDR4/2400
357 quality settings, but they’re
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E pretty much all impressive.
We see the Ryzen APUs
actually pulling dead even
with Radeon RX 550—and
Tom Clancy’s Rainbox Six Siege then surpass it when paired
1280x720 Ultra (fps)
with higher-clocked RAM.
Radeon RX 550 2GB + The Ryzen APUs almost
Ryzen 5 1600
59.2
have enough grit to handle
Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11
DDR4/2933
68.7 Rainbow Six Siege at
Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
64.2 1920x1080. The Ryzen 5
DDR4/3200

Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11


2400G pushes 51fps, and
58.9
DDR4/2400
the Ryzen 3 2200G, 40fps.
Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
DDR4/2400
57.9 The Intel HD630
Core i3-7100 HD630
19.1
graphics? Let’s just stop
DDR4/2400
talking about it, okay? At a
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E
certain point, it just becomes
cruel and inhumane.
and surprise, the Ryzen 5 2400G is equal to it
when running higher-clocked memory. The RYZEN APU PERFORMANCE
Ryzen 3 2200G also represents well and for the IN RISE OF THE TOMB
money, it’s cooking along nicely—especially RAIDER
when compared to Intel HD 630 graphics. Even though it was also released in 2015, Rise

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 47


REVIEWS RYZEN APU

of the Tomb Raider is a far


harsher graphics load. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rainbow Six Siege is Medium quality 0 AA 12x7 DX11 (fps)
playable at 1920x1080.
Radeon RX 550 2GB +
RoTR isn’t. Ryzen 5 1600
56.7
Overall, we saw decent Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11
DDR4/2933
51
performance from the
Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
APUs, especially when DDR4/3200
45.3

paired with faster system Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11


DDR4/2400
42.4
RAM, but they’re still really Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
DDR4/2400
40.3
“only” 720p-medium-
Core i3-7100 HD630
capable. At the same time, DDR4/2400
14.5

even the Radeon RX 550 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

was only 5 fps faster than


the Ryzen 5 2400G.
The takeaway here is
that if you’re expecting to Crysis
Very high 16x10 (fps)
get away with 1920x1080
gaming all the time, you’re GeForce 8800 GTX +
Core 2 Duo E6600
28.9
going to be disappointed
Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11
in some heavier titles. DDR4/2933
29.6
Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8
DDR4/3200
28.6
CAN THE RYZEN Ryzen 5 2400G Vega 11
26.3
APU RUN DDR4/2400

CRYSIS? Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8


DDR4/2400
24.6
By now, you probably want Core i3-7100 HD630
12.5
DDR4/2400
to make a wisecrack: “Can
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E
it run Crysis?”
This statement refers to
how the 2007-vintage game brought even everyone learns to whine that whatever game
the most powerful and expensive gaming rigs they didn’t like was “poorly optimized.”)
to their knees, begging for mercy. More than Well, guess what? The new Ryzen APUs can
a decade later it still represents the most run Crysis. Using the ancient single-player demo,
ultimate bad-ass game ever (at least until we ran the island GPU demo file and recorded

48 PCWorld MARCH 2018


the average fps of each completion (it doesn’t
seem to want to cough up a final score anymore). To see how much of an impact
To give you a feel for how far we’ve come, various clock speeds of RAM
we also dug up a performance report that matter with the Ryzen APU, we
Ryan Shrout at PCper.com (go.pcworld.com/ recorded performance gains
rysh) recorded in 2007 running the Crysis from 2,133MHz to 3,200MHz
demo on a GeForce GTX 8800 GTX. Shrout’s RAM on the Ryzen 3 2200G.
score was generated at a slightly higher
resolution of 1650x1200, but it’s clear the graphics results, you’ve noticed that faster
Ryzen APU is faster in Crysis. RAM helps. A lot. Unlike a GPU that has its
Granted, there is a world of difference in own pool of very fast RAM nearby, the IGP
operating system, drivers, and hardware, but uses the RAM in the PC itself. To see how
the top-of-the-line $650 GPU was simply much of an impact various clock speeds of
hobbled by Crysis. Even worse? That Intel HD RAM matter with the Ryzen APU, we
630 really isn’t that far behind the GeForce recorded performance gains from 2,133MHz
8800 GTX. IGPs have come a long way. to 3,200MHz RAM on the Ryzen 3 2200G.
We also recorded how much of a hit you
HOW MUCH DOES MEMORY take by running single-channel mode vs.
MATTER TO A RYZEN APU? dual-channel.
If you’ve been paying close attention to our We used 3DMark’s Fire Strike Graphics
test, which is isolated to
graphics performance.
Impact of RAM bandwidth on The results show how
Ryzen 3 2200G in 3DMark Fire Strike 1.1 Graphics
every notch up in memory
DDR4/3200 speed takes you up in
Dual Channel
3,050
performance. Going from
DDR4/2933
Dual Channel
2,949 DDR4/2400 to
DDR4/2667
2,841 DDR4/3200 nets you
Dual Channel

DDR4/2400
about 9.5 percent more
2,785
Dual Channel performance. Is it worth it?
DDR4/2133
Dual Channel
2,643 That very much depends on
DDR4/2400
1,807
how much you’re paying for
Single Channel
the higher-speed RAM.
LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E
On the day we wrote

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 49


REVIEWS RYZEN APU

this, we could find 8GB of Corsair Vengeance graphics, but with all of them, we’ve had to
DDR4/2133 for $102. The cost for 8GB of issue more disclaimers than a pharmaceutical
Corsair Vengeance DDR4/3200 ran $115. ad. AMD’s new Ryzen APUs are simply the
That means you’d be paying about 13 percent first processors with graphics to get
more for RAM for about a 9.5-percent everything right.
increase in performance. We’d probably say With the new Ryzen APUs and their
it’s worth it, especially if you can get the price Vega cores you’re finally getting decent
a little closer. The same day, we also found the graphics performance with top-shelf x86
same DDR4/3200 modules on sale for $109, cores at a price that isn’t a punch line.
which meant paying about 6 percent more for Frankly, it’s amazing timing for AMD to
about 9.5 percent more performance. come out with a chip that can help quench
One thing we can certainly say is, don’t budget gamers’ thirst when there’s a
cheap out and buy a single module. As you drought of GPUs.
can see from our results, doing so would We’ve read comments that people think
kneecap your graphics performance. the Ryzen APUs will “save PC gaming.” While
we think that’s going too far, we have to
CONCLUSION admit, at least there’s finally a decent option
We’ve tested plenty of CPUs with integrated for budget gamers.

50 PCWorld MARCH 2018


The best free backup software
and services: Reviews and
buying advice
Most free backup products are competent, if in some way limited. BY JON L. JACOBI

F
inding a good free backup surprisingly, nearly all of them are quite
solution is easier than you’d think. competent.
A host of companies would love Of course these companies aren’t really in
to give you free online backup or it for the satisfaction of knowing your data is
free backup software—and perhaps safe. Their free versions usually only provide

IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES MARCH 2018 PCWorld 51


REVIEWS BEST FREE BACKUP SOFT WARE

enough storage for essential data, or are two: an approximately 115GB system image
lacking some advance features that pros (two partitions) and a roughly 50GB image
would employ. They hope you’ll love the created from a set of smaller files and folders.
program or service so much, or find it so We then mount the images and test their
useful that you’ll eventually fork over some integrity via the program’s restore functions.
cash for additional storage or those We also test the USB boot drives created
advance features. by the programs.
But wait, you say: I have free online
storage through Apple’s iCloud or Google Online services: As noted earlier, the
Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. Then there are performance of online backup services will
services like Dropbox, with 5GB for free. vary according to their location and the
The issue with all those services is that network equipment between you and the data
they’re not necessarily true backup, but depository. We installed the software and
syncing. That is, when you delete a file from backed up the same 2GB data set to check for
any device or online, it’s deleted from every any major issues or glitches in the client
device. Lord help you if you make a mistake software. These are noted in the reviews.
and don’t realize it in time. True backup
means retaining data indefinitely no matter WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN
what’s happening with the data elsewhere. FREE BACKUP PRODUCTS
Read on for our top picks in free online Online storage and backup services
backup and free backup software, and of Capacity: Obviously, you’ll need as much
course the reasons why we picked them. storage as you have data, plus a little or
You can get the skinny on paid backup possibly a lot more if you want to track
software (go.pcworld.com/wnbk) and changes and save previous versions of
online backup services (go.pcworld.com/ files. Some services keep multiple versions
onbk) by clicking those links. of files, some don’t. In many cases there’s
a time limit.
HOW WE TEST FREE
BACKUP SOFTWARE AND Cost: Nearly all online services charge for a
SERVICES maximum allowable amount of data, and
Backup software: We run each program generally uploads are free. Aside from the
through the various types of backups it’s free tiers available from a service like
capable of. This is largely to test reliability Dropbox, pricing is fairly consistent across
and hardware compatibility, but we time test services, though you definitely get more

52 PCWorld MARCH 2018


capacity for your money from some vendors, OS and device support: Most services
notably Backblaze. provide client backup software for the major
However, there may be additional operating systems (Linux, OS X, and
charges or limitations on downloads. For Windows) and both Android and iOS. Make
instance, Amazon’s Glacier is intended solely sure the service you sign up for supports all of
for backup and archiving. It’s very cheap per your platforms. Note: iDrive even supports
gigabyte and uploads are free, but you’re Windows Phone.
charged for downloading—a service you
hopefully will never need. Privacy: If you’re concerned about the
privacy of your data, make sure you use a
Features: In addition to backup, you may service that allows the use of a personal
want to share your files with others, work encryption key that you define. Do not lose it,
with them from mobile devices, or even edit as it is absolutely required to restore your
them with office applications such as those data. Sadly, using your own key often limits
available with Dropbox, Google, and the types of services (e.g., no mobile
OneDrive. If you do intend to work online, backup) available. If private encryption keys
we recommend that you maintain a local aren’t available, read the privacy policy,
copy as a backup, and a hedge against especially with the free services—there are
internet downtime. significant differences.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 53


REVIEWS BEST FREE BACKUP SOFT WARE

out the software that ships with it. Seagate,


Generally speaking, data WD, and others provide backup utilities that
centers are backed up to the hilt. are adequate for the average user. And of
Some of the larger ones even course, while we describe the features to look
back up to different for, you’re going to find fewer of them in free
geographical locations. software. That’s life in the cheap lane.

Reliability: Generally speaking, data File backup: If you want to back up only your
centers are backed up to the hilt. Some of data (operating systems and programs can be
the larger ones even back up to different reinstalled, though it’s mildly time- and
geographical locations. Availability effort-consuming), a program that backs up
(hopefully 24/7) can also be important. just the files you select is a major time-saver.
Check for news of outages and the vendor’s Some programs automatically select the
own service blogs. If there are too many appropriate files if you use the Windows
outages in service, buy accordingly. In truth, library folders (Documents, Photos, Videos,
all the services we’re aware of are near–100 etc.).
percent reliable.
Image backup/Imaging: Images are
Speed: Speed, in many cases, is far more byte-for-byte snapshots of your entire hard
dependent upon your broadband connection drive (normally without the empty sectors) or
than that of the online service, though the partition, and can be used to restore both the
geographical location of the storage and the operating system and data. Imaging is the
equipment in between can make a significant most convenient to restore in case of a system
difference. Check the location of the data crash, and also ensures you don’t miss
servers if speed is important to you. Or, just anything important.
give the trial a whirl and see if you can live
with it. Boot media: Should your system crash
completely, you need an alternate way to
Backup software boot and run the recovery software. Any
As with most things, don’t over-buy backup backup program should be able to create a
software. Features you don’t need add bootable optical disc or USB thumbdrive.
complexity and may slow down your system. Some will also create a restore partition on
Additionally, if you intend to back up to a your hard drive, which can be used instead if
newly purchased external hard drive, check the hard drive is still operational.

54 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Scheduling: If you’re going to back up thousand years, backed up by Department of
effectively, you need to do it on a regular Defense testing.
basis. Any backup program worth its salt
allows you to schedule backups. Online support: An offsite copy of your data
is a hedge against physical disasters such as
Versioning: Overwriting previous files is not flood, fire, and power surges. Online storage
backing up, it’s one-way syncing or mirroring. services are a great way to maintain an offsite
Any backup program you use should allow copy of your data. Backup to Dropbox and
you to retain several previous backups, or the like is a nice feature to have.
with file backup, previous versions of the file.
The better software will retain and cull older FTP and SMB/AFP: Backing up to other
backups according to criteria you establish. computers or NAS boxes on your network or
in remote locations (say, your parent’s house)
Optical support: Every backup program is another way of physically safeguarding your
supports hard drives, but as obsolescent as data with an offsite, or at least physically
they may seem, DVDs and Blu-ray discs are discrete, copy. FTP can be used for offsite,
great archive media. If you’re worried about while SMB (Windows and most OS’s) and AFP
optical media’s reliability, M-Disc (go.pcworld (Apple) are good for other PCs or NAS on
.com/mdsc) claims its discs are reliable for a your local network.

The difference between dye-based and inorganic recordable optical discs.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 55


REVIEWS BEST FREE BACKUP SOFT WARE

Real time: Real-time backup means that files quicker to restore. And this goes beyond PCs:
are backed up whenever they change, usually We get a lot of emails asking how to get data
upon creation or save. It’s also called back from a stolen phone—the users generally
mirroring and is handy for keeping an don’t like the answer.
immediately available copy of rapidly
changing data sets. For less volatile data sets, BEST FREE ONLINE
the payoff doesn’t compensate for the drain BACKUP: iDRIVE
on system resources. Instead, scheduling There’s no more complete online backup
should be used. storage service than iDrive. And though it’s
not the cheapest, it’s still affordable and
Continuous backup: In this case, comes with backup clients for nearly every
continuous simply means backing up on a PC and device, including Windows
tight schedule, generally every 5 to 15 Phone—a rarity these days. The company
minutes, instead of every day or weekly. Use also provides additional storage for syncing
continuous backup for rapidly changing data all your devices and PCs, allows sharing of
sets where transfer rates are too slow, or files with anyone, and has the ability to
computing power is too precious for back up to a local drive.
real-time backup.
Plans and pricing
Performance: Most backups proceed in the iDrive has two personal plans that cover one
background or during dead time, so user with unlimited computers and devices:
performance isn’t a huge issue in the $69.50 a year for 2TB, and $99.50 a year for
consumer space. However, if you’re backing 5TB. If you enable the separate sync service,
up multiple machines or to multiple you get an equal amount of storage just for
destinations, or dealing with very large data that task, at no extra charge.
sets, speed is a consideration. Business plans allow unlimited users and
computers, but significantly less storage per
ANY BACKUP IS BETTER dollar, starting at $99.50 for 250GB. Don’t
THAN NO BACKUP get completely caught up in the price-per-
Free or paid, we highly recommend that you gigabyte game: The size of your essential data
back up at least your essential data against is probably a lot smaller than what’s being
theft, malware or ransomware, and natural offered as a minimum these days, unless
disasters, not to mention user error. Even if you’re into HDR and 4K.
you work online, a local backup is a lot iDrive also has a very nice ship-it-to-you

56 PCWorld MARCH 2018


restore policy. You
can get up to 3TB
of data delivered
to you on a hard
drive for free—
the first time.
Business users
get three times.
Subsequently,
there’s a $60
charge. You can
also send your data
to the company for
safekeeping in the
same manner. If iDrive’s client will back up files as the change.

your bandwidth is
challenged, or you simply prefer keeping it off using either. iDrive will also handily create a
the grid, this Iron Mountain–like feature is just local backup using the same data set that’s
what the doctor ordered. being backed up online. That allows you to
painlessly maintain the Rule of Three: your
Features original data, a copy, and a copy of the copy.
One of our favorite iDrive features is the Also, it’s much faster to restore from a hard
continuous data protection (CDP). If you have drive than from any online service.
a rapidly changing data set, it’s nice to have
files backed up when they are changed, not Bottom line
just on a schedule. iDrive also supports nearly If you don’t require online document editing,
every type of PC and device: Windows, OS X, iDrive truly has the most comprehensive set of
Android, iOS, various NAS boxes, and as we backup and backup-related features of any
said, even Windows Phone. Also nice are the online service we’ve tested. And, they’re all
snapshots, which make it easy to restore your available at the basic service level, making
PC to a particular point in time. iDrive less expensive than it seems. Good
The iDrive local client is nearly identical to stuff. Mozy (go.pcworld.com/m0zy) is the
iDrive’s online dashboard, so you can change only close competitor we’ve reviewed so far,
settings, including turning on and off CDP and worth a mention.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 57


REVIEWS BEST FREE BACKUP SOFT WARE

BEST FREE BACKUP file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing.
SOFTWARE: AOMEI There are a plethora of scheduling options as
BACKUPPER STANDARD 4 well as syncing, including the aforementioned
Would you rather pay $50 for your backup real-time synchronization. Syncing isn’t true
software, or get it for free? All things being back up—it’s keeping a mirror of your data in
equal, and with the free Aomei Backupper another location—a great hedge against losing
Standard (go.pcworld.com/bst4) they pretty recent work.
much are, we’re generally going to opt for the Backupper will image entire drives or
latter. Backupper even sports real-time sync, partitions, verify them, and mount them so
mirroring files to an external folder whenever you can grab a few files from one. The pay
changes occur. version adds imaging of dynamic volumes,
and merging images—tasks few end users will
Design and features ever need to perform. The system cloning
Backupper Standard’s bitmapped interface offered in the $40 paid version ($50 if you opt
may be retro, but the layout and workflow are for lifetime free upgrades) could be very
so intuitive, even beginners should have few useful, as could the network boot function.
problems figuring out what to do. At least you But that’s speaking from an IT perspective.
have some idea of backup concepts involved. Aomei provides both Linux and Windows
We spotted a couple of mild interface PE boot images, which can be burned to CD
glitches in Aomei Backupper. When you or installed on USB drives.
increase the size of Windows
objects in the Display Preferences
(to 125% in this case), Backupper’s
window actually shrinks. There are
other tiny scaling glitches, such as
the bottom of a dialog cut off, but
nothing that renders the program
unusable. Hopefully this will be
addressed soon with a new look
and a rendered (drawn in real time),
not static bitmapped GUI.
Despite being free, there’s little
missing from Backupper Standard’s Imaging of your entire system, whole disks, single partitions,
feature set, which includes: imaging, or sets of files is available with Backuppper.

58 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Performance
Backupper Standard’s performance
was the yin and yang in our roundup.
It was the fastest backing up disks and
partitions, but easily the slowest
backing up sets of files. On the other
hand, CPU usage was light, and
speed isn’t of much consequence for
a task running in the background.
Aomei Backupper Standard has a
heavy footprint, spawning three
background processes: the core,
shadow copy, and a scheduler. We Backupper help is only available online and there are no
tool tips. On the other hand, if you know backup, you
often wonder why companies ignore probably won’t need them.
a perfectly good scheduling app
(Windows’ own) that’s already running in the flawlessly. And here’s a link to the PDF
background. To be fair, Acronis True Image help that you can keep for offline use (go.
spawns six background processes. pcworld.com/usmn).

Help wanted Bottom line


Don’t get us wrong: It’s great that companies It’s a heck of a thing when a program vies
keep their help files online so they can be both for best value, and best overall. But that’s
constantly updated, but there should be local Backupper Standard for you. Give it a whirl
help as well, just in case. Like just in case you before you plop down your hard-earned cash
can’t get on the internet and need to back up on something else. It’s likely all you’ll need.
your PC right now! Even tool tips would be Now about the name….
useful, but as with EaseUS ToDo Backup, There are plenty of honorable mentions,
there are none. This is an exceedingly minor one of which may fit your needs or style
complaint and probably out of line better: Todo Backup Home (go.pcworld.
considering the program’s price. com/tdbh), Macrium Reflect Free (go.
Also, after making a comment like that, we pcworld.com/mcrf), MiniTool
should point out that we’ve never had the Shadowmaker (go.pcworld.com/mtsh),
slightest operational difficulty with Backupper. and Paragon Backup & Recovery Free (go.
All backups and restores have gone off pcworld.com/pbrf).

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 59


REVIEWS

Samsung 860 EVO:


Further proof that TLC-NAND
SSD can be fast and affordable
The 860 EVO performs as well, or better than, most MLC-NAND SSDs
we’ve tested. BY JON L. JACOBI

T
he Samsung 860 EVO has identical-except-for-the-label WD Blue 3D
convinced us: It is now safe to (go.pcworld.com/wd3d) and Sandisk Ultra
equate TLC (Triple-Level-Cell) 3D (go.pcworld.com/su3d).)
SSDs with top-notch SATA We even quadrupled our normal 20GB
performance. TLC-NAND SSDs used to be copies, and the 860 EVO easily maintained
more about affordability, but the 860 EVO is the pace. In fact, despite being quite a bit
the third TLC-NAND drive we’ve tested that cheaper, the 860 EVO’s performance
doesn’t bog down on long sustained compares more than favorably with that of its
transfers. (The other drives are the 860 Pro cousin (go.pcworld.com/86pr).

60 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: SAMSUNG


The 860 EVO is Samsung’s answer to the
TLC sustained-write lag. And the answer
is there isn’t any, any longer.

DESIGN AND FEATURES Whether this translates into increased


Though the 860 EVO is available in the latency (the time between the data’s being
2.5-inch form factor, we tested the M.2 captured to the drive and permanently
2280 (22mm across, 80mm long) version in written) hasn’t been discussed.
the 1TB capacity. Both are SATA 6Gbps and Initial pricing for the 860 EVO is $95 for
available with up to 4TB of capacity. Fitting 250GB, $170 for the 500GB version; $330
that much storage into something little for the 1TB flavor we tested, $650 for the 2TB
bigger than a stick of gum is quite the version; and the 4TB version is $1400. On a
achievement. The controller is Samsung’s per-gigabyte basis, that’s around 31-35 cents,
own MJX, and the NAND it’s feeding and while the 860 Pro varies between 47 and 51
reading from is Samsung’s own stacked/ cents per gigabyte. Note that the 860 Pro
layered/3D 3-bit TLC. offers slightly more storage per capacity in the
As to the controller, I didn’t speak to smaller sizes, at 256GB and 512GB.
Samsung about it, but the scuttlebutt I’ve
heard around the industry is that while TLC
(when written to its full 3-bit capacity) is Initial pricing for the 860 EVO is
indeed slower than 2-bit MLC or 1-bit SLC, $95 for 250GB, $170 for the
it’s been primarily the controllers that have 500GB version; $330 for the 1TB
held back performance. The latest flavor we tested, $650 for the
generation of controllers apparently knows 2TB version; and the 4TB
how to cope with the slower write times. version is $1400.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 61


REVIEWS SAMSUNG 860 EVO

The 860 EVOs are rated for


600TBW (TeraBytes Written) for 20GB copies
every 1TB of capacity over their (seconds)
lifespan. This is about half what the 81
860 Pros are rated for, but typical 131
20GB folder write
70
for the low end of the market, and
71
far more than the average user will
ever write. 90
91
20GB folder read
94
PERFORMANCE 96
By just about every metric, the 860
41
EVO is the fastest TLC SATA SSD 64
20GB write
we’ve tested, if only by a slim 43
44
margin. But it’s a clear
improvement over the previous 44
48
750 (go.pcworld.com/75ev) and 20GB read
43
850 (go.pcworld.com/85ev) 42
EVOs, and faster than many MLC
S A M S U N G 8 6 0 E VO S A M S U N G 8 5 0 E VO
SSDs. In the performance charts
SAMSUNG 860 PRO W D B LU E 3 D
below, the 860 EVO is the
turquoise-colored bar.
As you can see above, there’s
AS SSD Sequential throughput
not a lot to choose from between 10GB (MBps)
the 860 EVO and the WD Blue 3D
(green bars), but the older 850 492
319
EVO (red bars) is clearly a step Write
489
behind with sustained transfers. 453

AS SSD, shown above, reveals 519


the same story. CrystalDiskMark 508
Read
(shown below) calls out the one 516
516
area, small queued writes, where
the 860 EVO clearly outperforms S A M S U N G 8 6 0 E VO S A M S U N G 8 5 0 E VO

the WD Blue 3D. SAMSUNG 860 PRO W D B LU E 3 D

Same-model SSDs can vary

62 PCWorld MARCH 2018


convinced they’ll deliver more.
CrystalDiskMark 5 That’s not a promise, just
Sequential performance (MBps) reassurance for the faint of heart.
492
Sequential Write 489 BOTTOM LINE
494
The 860 EVO is the fastest TLC SSD
517 we’ve tested, albeit by a gnat’s
Sequential Read 514 eyebrow. But a win is a win, and
525
given the same price, we
352 recommend it over the WD Blue
Random
350
Write 4KB Q32 3D and Sandisk Ultra 3D. That
260
said, you’ll be more than happy
399 with any of the three, so if you find
Random
397
Write 4KB Q32
392
the latter two significantly cheaper,
go for it. Subjectively, you’ll never
S A M S U N G 8 6 0 E VO SAMSUNG 860 PRO
be able to tell the difference.
W D B LU E 3 D
Caveat emptor: There are still
lots of older TLC SSDs out there
drastically in performance according to their with slow to pitifully slow sustained writes.
capacities, because the less capacious Shop carefully, and of course, read our other
models have fewer chips and pipelines for SSD reviews (go.pcworld.com/18sd).
shotgunning data. Samsung rates all its
capacities the same for the same Samsung 860 EVO
performance. We didn’t have other capacities
to test, but based on previous testing and PROS
• Excellent performance on a par with MLC drives
experience, we find this claim likely to be just.
• Very affordable
As sustained write speed is no longer a • Very fast with small queued writes
concern with the latest TLC SSDs, the only CONS
• Less long-lived than the MLC (2-bit) SSDs
reason to go with an pricier MLC drive such as
BOTTOM LINE
the 860 Pro is if you’re concerned about The Samsung 860 EVO delivers performance every
longevity or write far more data daily than the bit as good as its MLC rivals. It’s a worthy competitor
for the WD Blue 3D and Sandisk 3D, two other TLC
average user. Note that the average SSD is drives that are undoing TLC’s weak reputation.

rated for at least 10 years averaging 10GB of $299

writes a day. And privately, vendors are

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 63


REVIEWS

8bitdo SN30 Pro: A Super


Nintendo-inspired controller
for the PC
The classic Super Nintendo controller grows up. BY ADAM PATRICK MURRAY

8
bitdo’s SN30 Pro is the last of a consoles of all time. After only months of use
long line of gaming peripherals it has already become a staple in my gaming
released by this busy company in arsenal, but it falls just short of being the
2017. Like the N30 Pro (go. perfect controller.
pcworld.com/3pro) before it, it’s a controller
designed for die-hard retro fans like myself WHO SHOULD BUY THE
who emulate on the PC. SN30 PRO
This time 8bitdo is taking its design cues The SN30 Pro is a Bluetooth-based wireless
from the Super Nintendo Entertainment controller that connects to your PC, Mac,
System, or SNES for short, one of my favorite Android phone, Nintendo Switch and more,

64 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: ADAM PATRICK MURRAY


and works with everything from classic Instead of telling the controller which layout
games to current ones. The controller has a (platform) to boot up with every single time,
build in rechargeable battery that has lasted it’s only required the first time you pair. So
me for a few weeks on a single charge, and it when I sit down to play on my PC I hold down
connects via USB-C for charging or data the start button + X, which boots it into the
transfer. The SN30 Pro also has all the X-input layout, common for PC games. Next
buttons, sticks, and bumpers that you’d need time I come back to play, all I have to do is
to play current games, but I’ll get to how well hold down the start button, and the SN30 Pro
they work a bit later. remembers the last layout. Moving to another
On the design side, 8bitdo has done a platform, such as my Switch, requires the
great job of using classic Nintendo design same sequence, again, only once.
elements to charm retro game fans. The N30 While setup was easy, holding the SN30
Pro hearkened back to the Nintendo Pro in my hand took some getting used to.
Entertainment System (NES) quite successfully I’m so fond of the classic SNES controller
from a design perspective but had to alter the that slight deviation from muscle memory was
hardware in order to add functionality. With an actual hurdle for me to get over. On the
the SN30 Pro, 8bitdo didn’t change as much face of the controller is the usual d-pad, start,
of the design. If you love the look and feel of select, and face buttons, but they’ve shifted
the SNES controller, it’s all here in the SN30 up to allow room for analog sticks and two
Pro, and does it better than the N30 Pro. extra buttons. Along the top edge sits four
shoulder buttons instead of the classic’s two,
USING THE SN30 PRO mimicking current-day layouts of L1, R1, L2,
At first blush you might think the
SN30 Pro is supposed to be used
only with retro emulators, but it’s
actually a great controller to take with
you on the go and use across
different scenarios. It uses controller
layout standards like X-input to map
out the buttons properly, depending
on the platform.
Setup has been streamlined a
bit compared to 8bitdo’s Four LEDs on the front of the SN30 Pro indicate power,
controllers from earlier this year. connection, and player number.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 65


REVIEWS 8BITDO SN30 PRO

and R2. The L2 and R2 buttons are


even concave, allowing for more
trigger-like pulls.
Using the SN30 Pro for classic
games via an emulator is one of its
primary purposes, and while it’s not
perfect, it comes pretty close. When
working against years of muscle
memory slight deviations can really
mess up a flow.
First off, moving all the face The stacked bumpers on the SN30 Pro are a huge
improvement over the N30 Pro’s side by side version.
buttons higher isn’t a huge deal-
breaker, and even in some games felt better in might have me reaching for the regular SN30
my larger hands. The bigger problem is the (go.pcworld.com/sn30) if it’s a SNES game I
thumbsticks, which got it in the way too often. really need to be on top of.
Every time I went to hit the Y button, my Using the SN30 Pro for current games is a
thumb rubbed against the side of the right completely different matter. Here I didn’t
thumbstick. Same goes for right on the d-pad compare it to the N30 Pro that came before
and the left thumbstick. When hitting Start or it, but Microsoft’s Xbox One controller, which
Select I had to reach my thumbs up and over is my de-facto controller for current games on
the thumbsticks—not great if you need to the PC. We’ll get this out of the way now: No,
quickly pass the action. Like I said, these it can’t compete with the full-sized, fully
aren’t deal-breakers but annoyances that functional Xbox One controller. But it comes
pretty close, and is more portable! Using it in
a game like Destiny 2 worked as intended and
felt solid. So if you want a controller on your
PC that aligns the thumbsticks side by side
and have trouble using Sony’s PS4 controller,
this is a solid option.

IMPROVEMENTS OVER
VIDEO: 8BITDO SN30 PRO THE N30 PRO
REVIEW We’ll finish it off by comparing the SN30 Pro
WATCH NOW AT GO.PCWORLD.COM/8BIT
to the N30 Pro. A more streamlined pairing

66 PCWorld MARCH 2018


system is just one of many improvements, so
I’ll hit the highlights here. 8bitdo SN30 Pro
First off, 8bitdo included rumble in the
SN30 Pro. The results are passable: If you hit PROS
• Classic Nintendo design
the right frequency it can be quite loud, and • All the functionality for current games
the output isn’t very strong, but it’s better • Highly portable

than not having it. CONS


• Weak rumble implementation
Next up is the inclusion of USB-C. You can • Thumbstick placement obstructs emulated games
still pass power and data like the N30 Pro, but BOTTOM LINE
A controller for gamers with portable needs and
as more and more devices switch to this new retro nostalgia.
format it means I’m getting closer to $49
discarding my old micro-USB cables!
The most important improvements are in
the overall size and layout of the buttons. One
of the reasons to spring for a controller like this BOTTOM LINE
is its portability, but as I noted in my N30 Pro Like the N30 Pro, the SN30 Pro is for
review 8bitdo went too small and sacrificed gamers who appreciate retro nostalgia,
playability. The SN30 Pro is double the size, want contemporary functionality for current
and its battery is larger, but the package is still games, or are looking for a great portable
small enough to put in a pocket or throw into a option. Whether pairing it with your
backpack. The face buttons are larger and home PC, a gaming laptop at a friend’s
spaced farther apart, and the improvements to house, or even your Nintendo Switch,
the thumbsticks and the shoulder buttons the SN30 Pro can tackle all of that in a
make the SN30 Pro much better all around. stylish package.

8bitdo has capitalized on the size and style of the classic Super Nintendo controller (right) with the SN30
Pro and SN30.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 67


REVIEWS

Kingdom Come: Deliverance:


This realistic Skyrim rival is
a true role-playing game
“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of
government.” BY HAYDEN DINGMAN

I
t was a triumphant moment when I you, but something called a “hunting
finally bought a sword in Kingdom sword.” Still, I strapped it to my side with all
Come: Deliverance. Here I was, Henry the pride befitting a peasant who ever-so-
the blacksmith’s son, one of the few slightly increased his social status in class-
survivors of the attack that burned my home centric Medieval Europe.
village of Skalitz to the ground, a man with I bring it up because it’s indicative how
little money and even fewer prospects, different Kingdom Come: Deliverance ($60 on
assistant to a C-tier lord in the Holy Roman Steam (go.pcworld.com/king)) feels from
Empire—and I could finally afford my first other RPGs. There, you’re usually the chosen
sword. Not even a proper longsword, mind one, destined to save the world. Here, I’m

68 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: WARHORSE STUDIOS


over 20 hours in and I’m basically a glorified and maybe not Henry’s exact story. Kingdom
intern-in-armor. I spent a whole day carrying Come is drawing on real history though. The
some spoiled noble’s equipment out to the Hussite Wars, the Protestant preaching of Jan
woods so we could hunt rabbits. Since then, Hus, the Papal Schism of 1378—all these events
my biggest responsibility is solving the are common topics of discussion in Henry’s
murder of some no-name peasants and their Bohemia, because he’s living through them.
horses in a backwater village with only four For the rest of us there’s a codex included,
or five homes. giving further background info on topics
I also drank myself senseless with a priest, characters raise in conversation—the Papal
then delivered a sermon barefoot the next Schism, important characters and battles, and
morning. You could say that was a low point even more general info like the role of
for Henry. Probably. bathhouses in the 1400s, or why tanners lived
on the outskirts of town. (Spoiler: Turning skins
THY WILL BE DONE into leather involved copious amounts of urine.)
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is essentially an If I’m remembering correctly, Kingdom
Elder Scrolls-style RPG made “realistic.” Come’s towns are even located where they
Abandoning the fantasy lands of most sword- would’ve been located in real life, and with
and-board stories, the game instead builds a layouts that match what few maps survived to
tale around Bohemia, the region of modern- the modern day.
day Czech Republic and, as of the 1400s, the For history enthusiasts, Kingdom Come:
Kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire. Deliverance is a dream.
There’s a succession crisis. After the And that’s why it’s such a big deal to just
glorious reign of Charles IV, his son purchase a sword. You’re the son of a
Wenceslaus IV inherited the crown of blacksmith—not quite a peasant, but barely
Bohemia. Being rather more interested in one step above. Your early quests aren’t
drinking and gambling than ruling, he was
considered a poor king, which prompted his
brother Sigismund to invade to “restore If I’m remembering correctly,
order.” Sigismund’s motives weren’t quite so Kingdom Come’s towns are
pure of course, and his troops cut a swathe even located where they
through Bohemia, including through the would’ve been located in real
town of Skalitz, a silver mining town and life, and with layouts that match
home to our poor protagonist Henry. what few maps survived to the
This all happened. Well, maybe not Skalitz modern day.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 69


REVIEWS KINGDOM COME: DELIVER ANCE

daring tales of adventure, but rather Stealth is also affected by your clothing.
“Finding enough money to afford charcoal” Heavier clothing makes you clumsier, but it’s
and “Bringing my dad some beer back from more complex than that. The materials
the tavern.” matter too, with metal clanking on every
Later, luck has you promoted to step—unless, of course, you repair
essentially the local militia, but even that’s a your armor yourself in which case you can
long way from the top. Your reward is a pad the metal to make it more stealthy.
rusty helmet, a torn shirt, and a stick. A stick! Colors also contribute, with black blending
They call it a bludgeon, but I spent hours in at night but making you more conspicuous
basically defending myself with a rough- during the day.
hewn piece of firewood while nobles spat at And then there’s combat. It’s not
me and chastised me for trying to enforce amazing. Actually, it feels downright bad at
the laws on them. first. Slow, clunky, and awkward, alternating
It’s a fascinating game in that regard, a with moments where it falls into the “Two
true “role-playing game” in the literal sense, people swinging pool noodles” airiness of
not what the term’s colloquially come to most first-person swordfighting. Chaotic
represent. Hell, it almost feels like a largescale battles are a nightmare, with the
simulator at times, especially given the lock-on trying to attach to a dozen different
number of systems layered on top. There people at once.
are skills for basically every action in the You sort of learn to live with it though, and
game. Swords and speech and defense, I did feel like Henry improved noticeably over
sure, but also skills like “Drinking” and time—which probably makes sense for a
“Horsemanship.” There’s
even a “Reading” skill,
and until Henry’s learned
to read properly every
book he finds is written
in anagrams.
You’ll have to eat on a
schedule, sleep on a
schedule. If you don’t
bathe, your charisma goes
down, and you’re worse at
stealth too. A codex provides information on topics characters raise in conversation.

70 PCWorld MARCH 2018


blacksmith’s kid
with zero combat
experience at the
start. There’s also a
surprising amount
of depth, with
Kingdom Come
folding in six
different stances,
plus combos,
feints, parrying,
and more. Best of
all: Helmets The maps are gorgeous, too.
properly occlude
your vision. You’re welcome to wear full plate time to time, usually after major quest
armor (if you can afford it), but when you do updates. The only way to save outside those
your vision is limited to a thin band of light in moments is to carry an alcoholic drink called
the middle of the screen. “Saviour Schnapps,” represented as a floppy
It’s cool. It’s complicated. In many ways, disk inside a flask.
Kingdom Come feels like the principles It’s cute, and prevents you from abusing
behind Deus Ex or Thief or System Shock, the the save system at every turn like you might
so-called “immersive sims,” but writ large on in an Elder Scrolls game. The problem:
an Elder Scrolls-style game. Autosaves are few and far between, and
Saviour Schnapps prohibitively expensive
GET THEE BEHIND ME, in the early game. We’re talking 100 gold in
SATAN a game where the average quest reward is
It’s ambitious to be sure, and sometimes too 5 to 25 gold, and where it took me 10 hours
much so. I’m excited by Kingdom Come but to even afford repairs on my equipment.
it’s also, as with so many genre-breaking After 20 hours, I’ve just barely earned 1,500
games, an incredibly flawed experience at gold total.
times. I’m often annoyed, or simply I understand wanting to make the item
bewildered. Sometimes both. precious instead of me hitting F5 to quicksave
The save system is chief among my every two minutes, but I think the pendulum’s
complaints. Kingdom Come autosaves from swung too far the other direction. More

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 71


REVIEWS KINGDOM COME: DELIVER ANCE

annoying is the game


doesn’t actually let you
save even if you want to
exit the game. If you
don’t have Saviour
Schnapps? Too bad.
You either find an
autosave before leaving
or you lose all progress
since the last one. That’s
some straight-
out-of-2003 design, and Basically the horse from Oblivion.
I’ve had nights where it
took me upwards of half an hour before I with Bethesda’s “Radiant AI” circa Elder
could safely exit. Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Characters and
(The game’s awkward save system has background villagers are just uncanny at
already been fixed by modders (go.pcworld. times, entering rooms and then leaving for
com/svsy).) no reason or lining up to wait for you to
Kingdom Come is also riddled with bugs, trigger the next quest step. We also haven’t
which is to be expected in an Elder Scrolls- solved the problem of “Two people trying to
style game I guess, but it’s nevertheless pass each other in a narrow space,” with
annoying, especially when quicksave can’t Kingdom Come making you batter into
help me. I’ve gotten stuck in the geometry, people until they move out of the way.
had quest scripting go haywire, tried to jump But it’s the load times that are most
over a bush and found myself thrown 30 feet egregious. Start-up time is a bit slow, clocking
through the air, watched my horse get stuck in at around a minute before you get into the
in a cliff, had conversations with the side of game, but that one’s not too surprising at
someone’s face, and so on. least. Worse is the fact that every conversation
None of this dampened my spirits much, is preceded by a load screen. Sometimes it’s
and luckily the more egregious problems a quick two-second black screen. Other
have surfaced for me soon after an autosave, times, especially with cutscenes, the action is
but the game’s definitely janky. The AI also interrupted for upwards of 15-20 seconds.
fluctuates between “Solid” and “Stupid,” The worst instances are when Kingdom Come
with the oddly-stilted schedules I associate transitions from dialogue to pre-rendered

72 PCWorld MARCH 2018


cutscene and back to dialogue—that can BOTTOM LINE
mean three separate load screens for a short Jank aside, I think it’s a pretty incredible
conversation. undertaking though. Kingdom Come’s flaws
Again, this isn’t an insurmountable arise from its depth, from ambition, from its
issue. I’ve learned to live with it, so to unique aesthetic and ideas, and I’d rather
speak. But it can be disorienting to start a deal with its problems than play an ultra-
conversation with some unimportant polished experience that simply retreads old
villager and be kicked to black for a few ground. It’s reminiscent of The Witcher in
seconds before the generic “Blessings be that respect—the early games, before The
upon you” greeting or whatever. It’s made Witcher 3 became accessible enough to go
me less interested in talking to anyone mainstream. Maybe the next Kingdom Come
who’s not of immediate interest. will be more approachable. For now,
Kingdom Come looks and runs better than Kingdom Come: Deliverance is decidedly
it has any right to, given the size of the world niche, and all the better for it.
and the relatively small size of the team that I’m not sure how long it will take me to get
worked on it. CryEngine is great for creating through the rest, nor how high Henry can rise
realistic outdoors environments, and it’s through the ranks. Knight? Lord? Only time
stunning what developer Warhorse has done will tell I guess. I’m looking forward to finding
with it here. Whenever I hit one of those long out, in any case.
load times though, or the frame rate starts And looking forward to learning to read
stuttering when lots of people show up, I’m left one of these days too.
thinking “CryEngine
was not built for
enormous RPGs like
this” and wondering if
that’s the heart of the
issue. I hope I’m wrong
and that some of the
rough edges can be
sanded down post-
launch, but it’s safe to
say the rough edges
desperately need
sanding.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 73


REVIEWS

Microsoft Surface Precision


Mouse: A flagship mouse
worthy of the Surface name
It combines comfort, excellent resolution, and a nearly unique feature that
leaps between PCs. BY MARK HACHMAN

M
icrosoft’s Surface Precision includes a cool but gimmicky ability to
Mouse is a practical PC straddle multiple PCs.
accessory for Surface Priced at $100 (sometimes discounted on
owners, especially right- Amazon [go.pcworld.com/mspm]), the
handed ones. Over a week of use, I found the Surface Precision Mouse is Microsoft’s
cordless, six-button mouse comfortable and flagship PC peripheral. As such, it’s the
precise. I wasn’t truly happy with it, however, direct competitor to the Logitech MX Master
until I downloaded Microsoft’s hard-to-find 2S mouse ($100 or discounted on Amazon
Mouse and Keyboard Center app, which [go.pcworld.com/lmxm]), which offers

74 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: MARK HACHMAN


similar features, including
its own ability to leap from
PC to PC.

A LARGE,
COMFORTABLE
MOUSE
Measuring a rather large
4.8 x 3.1 x 1.7 inches, the
Surface Precision Mouse is
best used by those who
prefer to rest their palm
across the entire surface of Microsoft’s Surface Precision Mouse is sized appropriately for average
the mouse, as opposed to male hands.
those who prefer to perch
their fingers upon smaller mice. With a capabilities aren’t supported by Windows 7,
dots-per-inch (DPI) rating of up to 3,200 DPI, so it will only work as a “corded” mouse.)
this mouse is suitable for precision PC work, In addition to the left and right buttons,
though on the low end of the resolution you’d the scroll wheel doubles as a middle button.
want for gaming. It weighs 0.3 pounds A small button behind the scroll wheel allows
(measured) or 4.76 ounces, light enough to you to toggle between “smooth” scrolling,
glide smoothly over my beaten-up home where you can zoom down webpages with a
mousepad as well as slicker pads used by flick of the wheel, and “detent” or incremental
more hardcore gamers. scrolling, where the wheel feels like it’s
On the, er, surface, the Surface Precision bumping over a series of small ridges. The
Mouse features the same minimalist design latter is better for navigating menus. Three
principles as Surface PCs, with a silver-and- configurable thumb buttons hide on the
gray aesthetic. The Surface Precision Mouse mouse’s left-hand side.
connects with either Bluetooth Low Energy Microsoft claims that the mouse allows for
4.0-4.2 or with a USB 2.0 corded interface both vertical and horizontal scrolling. That’s a
that doubles as a charging cord for its non- bit of a misnomer. You must click the scroll
removable internal battery, which is rated at a wheel and then physically move the mouse to
three-month lifespan. (Though it works with either side to enable horizontal scrolling—you
Windows 7, 8, and 10, the wireless can’t nudge the scroll wheel left or right, nor

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 75


REVIEWS MICROSOFT SURFACE PRECISION MOUSE

spin the wheel to navigate horizontally. side of the mouse, encouraging righties to
Some gaming mice include toggles to rest their hand’s weight on the mouse itself.
adjust DPI on the fly for certain games. This can make mice uncomfortable for
Microsoft’s Surface Precision Mouse offers lefties, but the Surface Precision Mouse
adjustable DPI, but via software. It’s splits the difference. (Even “right-handed”
adjustable from 400 to 3,200 DPI, in Microsoft mice like the Sculpt Bluetooth
200-DPI increments. Mouse (go.pcworld.com/mscb) tend to
accommodate lefties.)
LEFTY-APPROVED, THOUGH By my estimates, the Surface Precision
IT’S DESIGNED FOR Mouse bends to the right by just a few
RIGHTIES degrees, with the top of the mouse’s rounded
The 10 percent or so of humans worldwide “hump” offset to the left by about a half-inch.
who favor their left hand share common This has the effect of tilting the plane at which
challenges: smearing ink as they write, your hand rests to about 80 degrees.
struggling with golf clubs and manual In practice, this makes using the Surface
transmissions, and fumbling with computer Precision Mouse slightly more awkward than
mice. In the name of ergonomics, right- a true ambidextrous mouse would be, but not
handed mice typically hump toward the left uncomfortably so. Righties will still benefit
from increased comfort, for the
thumb rest that juts out from the left of
the mouse. It ‘doesn’t support a
left-hander’s pinky as well as a right-
hander’s thumb—though, let’s face it,
that’s par for the course with most
ambidextrous mice, too.
Where lefties will truly struggle,
however, is with the three thumb
buttons nestled on the left-hand side
of the mouse. For a righty, they’re
comfortably accessible, allowing
users to quickly thumb a key to move
The Microsoft Surface Precision Mouse, from the rear. forward or back within a Web
Though the mousing surface may appear tilted, it’s not.
We’ve used a piece of white computer paper as a guide to browser, for example. Lefties need to
bisect the mouse and show that it leans to the left. blindly nudge them with a ring finger

76 PCWorld MARCH 2018


with near-zero precision. Essentially, lefties are
buying a moderately comfortable, though Microsoft Surface
Precision Mouse
pricey two-button mouse, while righties are
buying a more full-featured peripheral. PROS
• Comfortable for both left- and right-handers

MICROSOFT’S MOUSE • Nearly unique “smart switch” capability to


transition between PCs
AND KEYBOARD CENTER CONS

IS ESSENTIAL • No specific left-handed version available


• Difficult to locate Mouse and Keyboard Center
Because the Surface Precision Mouse is setup software
plug-and-play, you can use Microsoft’s BOTTOM LINE
Microsoft’s Surface Precision Mouse is comfortable
Settings > Devices > Mouse to configure for both right-and left-handers, with an ability to
automatically jump from PC to PC that most other
the mouse with basic settings: selecting the mice lack.
primary button, adjusting the number of $80
lines to scroll down using the thumbwheel,
and so on. Additional options in the Control
Panel (click Additional mouse options Logitech, which presents its control center
within Settings) yield choices like adjusting software as soon as you connect your mouse,
pointer shadows. you’ll somehow need to figure out that you’ll
Maybe it’s some misplaced sense of need Microsoft’s Mouse and Keyboard
corporate humility, or simple reluctance to Center app to access any advanced options.
clutter the user experience. But unlike And how do you do that? Well, you could
find a footnote on the back of
the box, or refer back to
another footnote on the last
page of the instruction booklet.
Both footnotes refer you to
microsoft.com/accessories/
downloads—a website that
does not exist on the Microsoft
site. (Download it from
go.pcworld.com/mmkc,
instead, and launch it from your
Downloads folder as an
The settings page provides a wealth of options. administrator.) You’ll have a

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 77


REVIEWS MICROSOFT SURFACE PRECISION MOUSE

choice of downloading either the 32-bit or sabotages the Surface Precision Mouse. As
64-bit version (most likely, you own a 64-bit part of the DPI Settings menu, Microsoft
version of Windows). correctly advises users to set the DPI high,
To its credit, though, the app leads off by and the pointer speed low, for a mix of
showcasing the best features of the Surface precision and performance. But to adjust the
Precision Mouse, then jumps into the pointer speed, not only do you have to open
comprehensive “basic” settings menu, where the Settings > Devices menu, but then drill
individual buttons can be configured and the down to Additional mouse options (the
behavior of the wheel can be adjusted. A Control Panel, in other words) to adjust the
small battery percentage meter at the pointer speed. Rival Logitech puts pointer
bottom reports the charge remaining, speed controls within its Options app. Put
though not the estimated time left. App- another way, I have to open an app,
specific options also allow you to change Settings, and the Control Panel to optimize
the behavior in different apps. the mouse. This is ridiculous.
It’s here, though, that Windows actively Basically, Microsoft needs to hustle a
streamlined Mouse and Keyboard Center
app into the basic Settings menu, or else
automatically launch it when the Surface
Precision Mouse is detected. Microsoft
already has a problem scattering functionality
around Windows, and Mouse and Keyboard
Center merely adds to the clutter.

SMART SWITCH:
SMART, BUT NOT A
REASON TO SWITCH
One of the most interesting features of the
Surface Precision Mouse is something called
“Smart Switch,” a sort of mouse-specific
version of a KVM (keyboard/video/mouse)
switch. It’s a funky hybrid of two familiar
Windows scenarios: the way a mouse pointer
Like other mice, you can manually switch the
Surface Precision Mouse’s Bluetooth connection to moves between two connected displays, and
one of three different PCs. the ability of most mice to connect to multiple

78 PCWorld MARCH 2018


PCs. The Surface Precision Mouse includes a device. (Smart Switch could arrive on
Bluetooth toggle on its underside, which you Microsoft keyboards in the future, but
can tap to pair to three PCs, one at a time. for now, the Surface Precision Mouse
Smart Switch merges the two is the only peripheral that includes it, a
experiences. If you have the Mouse and Microsoft representative said.)
Keyboard Center app enabled on multiple All in all, Smart Switch is a useful
PCs, you can move the mouse to the edge of gimmick, but it probably won’t prove too
one display, and, after a pause, it will “leap” popular except for a few devoted fans.
to the other PC—almost exactly as if the two
displays were connected. It’s an idea that BOTTOM LINE
anticipates a future where you’ll have two I can’t say for certain whether Microsoft’s
PCs on your desk: perhaps one for work, Surface Precision Mouse improves over
and another for play. anything that Logitech or another mouse
The Mouse and Keyboard Center app is manufacturer offers. With any mouse, I
used to set the “layout” of the two PCs, recommend figuring out what setup you
aligning them horizontally or vertically next to prefer (a handed mouse, for example,
one another in the same way you can tell versus an ambidextrous one) and whether
Windows how your connected display is the size is appropriate.
aligned. In practice, switching from one PC to Personally, I prefer a mouse that’s a bit
the other requires you to “lean” on the mouse, smaller, less expensive, and accommodates
forcing it off the side of one screen in the my left-hand preferences a bit better.
direction of the other PC for a few seconds. Microsoft also needs to solve its setup
While I’d prefer the switching process to occur experience, which fortunately should be just a
more quickly, the delay is acceptable. one-time chore. But Microsoft’s Surface
I’m torn regarding the appeal of Smart Precision mouse should serve you well, and
Switch. Swapping back and forth between you may very well fall in love with its Smart
a powerful desktop and a more mobile Switch feature.
tablet is a nifty trick, especially if one device
is being used for a CPU-intensive purpose
like video editing. I can’t say for certain whether
But any device being used with Smart Microsoft’s Surface Precision
Switch must also be set up with the Mouse Mouse improves over anything
and Keyboard Center app, and you’ll still that Logitech or another mouse
need to attach the keyboard to the other manufacturer offers.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 79


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FEATURE

ANDROID
WEAR vs.
SAMSUNG
GEARWhich smartwatch should
you buy? BY RYAN WHITWAM

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 81


FEATURE ANDROID WEAR VS. SAMSUNG GEAR

I
f your phone runs Android, and you’re Android Wear’s interface is based almost
interested in buying a smartwatch, entirely on notifications. You swipe up and
your journey begins with answering a down to page through them, and you get
single fundamental question: Samsung everything, including emails, image
Gear or Android Wear? Sure, there are other messages, and media playback notifications.
smartwatch platforms that work with Android Android Wear, however, also unbundles all
phones, but Gear (perhaps best represented the bundled notifications from your phone.
by the Gear S3 [go.pcworld.com/gs3c]) and The upshot is each email notification you get
Android Wear (represented by watches too on the Wear watch has its own separate page,
numerous to mention) have the most mature and that can be tedious to navigate if you get
ecosystems and refined hardware. a lot of email.
Google’s Android Wear platform has It’s also worth noting that the rotating
strong third-party app support, and if you crown for scrolling through notification lists
opt for a Wear watch, you can choose from a is only available on a few Wear watches—
wide variety of models in all shapes, sizes notably the LG Watch Sport (go.pcworld.
and styles. Samsung, meanwhile, has gone com/lgsp). This means you better get used
its own way with its Gear smartwatch lineup. to swiping.
These watches run Samsung software and Samsung Gear keeps notifications
adhere strictly to the Samsung ecosystem, bundled and places them to the left of the
but they also offer some benefits that Wear watch face. On most Samsung watches, you
watches do not. can flip through them with a swipe or with
Smartwatches can be almost as complex
and varied as smartphones, so you’ll want to
consider the following criteria before you
decide which platform is the right one for you.

NOTIFICATIONS
A quick glance at a regular watch tells you
the time, but a smartwatch can tell you
everything that’s going on in your digital
world with notification sync. Both Samsung
Gear and Android Wear can show
notifications from your phone, but the way Samsung’s Gear software keeps notifications in
they do it is very different. bundles for easier management.

82 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Samsung’s rotating bezel.
Each notification stack can be expanded,
and the rotating bezel quickly scrolls through
them. Media notifications aren’t shown
natively on Gear watches, but you do have a
playback widget that can be placed off to the
right of the watch face (widget location for all
apps is customizable). This approach is more
convenient than, say, searching through a
stack of Android Wear email notifications to
find a play button.
Both platforms support two-way sync. This
allows you to deal with notifications on your
watch, and not see them again the next time Samsung Gear has extremely reliable automatic
you pick up the phone. Neither notification workout tracking.

engine is inherently better, but Samsung’s


approach makes dealing with large volumes sensors at all.
of email easier. Fitness tracking is one of the Gear
watches’ killer features. They track steps and
FITNESS FEATURES sample your heart rate, and Samsung’s
As you might expect, Samsung’s watches run exercise tracking is borderline magical. Within
Samsung Health while Android Wear is tied a few seconds of starting an exercise, watches
into Google Fit. However, Android Wear like the Gear S3 and Gear Sport (go.pcworld.
device makers can also include their own com/sgss) can figure out what you’re doing—
extra fitness apps. So, for example, if you’re whether that be running, walking, elliptical,
already using a Huawei fitness app on your cycling, or more—and begin logging the
Huawei phone, a Huawei smartwatch might activity. No additional setup is needed, and all
make sense. your data is saved to Samsung Health. The
Google Fit is good for step counting and Gear Sport can also do more advanced things
heart rate tracking, but its exercise features are like swim tracking.
rudimentary, and Google has yet to crack the This one is a blowout. Samsung Gear
code on automatic tracking for workouts. devices are worlds better than Android Wear
Also, some Android Wear devices—even very at fitness tracking. None of the third-party
expensive ones—don’t have heart rate fitness apps on Android Wear can match the

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 83


FEATURE ANDROID WEAR VS. SAMSUNG GEAR

power of Samsung’s built-in features. developed in partnership with Samsung, like


Flipboard and Spotify.
APP ECOSYSTEM All that said, navigating your app list on
Google wisely tied Android Wear apps into Samsung Gear is really cool: You can use the
the Play Store ecosystem by encouraging rotating bezel to highlight apps, and then
developers to add Android Wear support to tap in the middle to launch. This is much
existing apps. In Wear 2.0 and later, you can easier than tapping the tiny icons on Android
even browse the Play Store on your watch. Wear.
The app ecosystem isn’t as deep as it is for But this doesn’t save Samsung in this
phones, but many of the top developers category. App support is a clear win for
have added support. There are apps from Android Wear.
Nest, IFTTT, Play Music , Facebook
Messenger, and more. VOICE AND DIGITAL
Over in Samsung land, poor app selection ASSISTANTS
is one of the biggest drawbacks for Gear Phones have generally become easier to use
watches. The preinstalled apps are the best as their screens have gotten bigger, but
ones on the platform because developers watches can’t play that game—they need to
haven’t gotten serious about supporting fit on our wrists, after all. Luckily, voice
Samsung’s Tizen software on any device, interaction gives us an alternative to touch
neither phones nor watches. The only apps control for replying to messages and getting
worth downloading are the handful that were things done, and it’s a cornerstone of the

Android Wear has many thousands of apps via the Google Assistant blows S Voice out of the water.
Play store, but Gear only has a handful.

84 PCWorld MARCH 2018


Android Wear experience
thanks to fantastic
integration with Google
Assistant.
Android Wear’s voice
input is often surprisingly
accurate, and a long-press
of the crown button
launches Google Assistant
from any screen. Assistant
on a Wear watch offers
most of the same
capabilities as Assistant When it comes to watch faces, Android Wear has much more variety
on your phone or a and customization.
Google Home smart
speaker—you can perform searches, set WATCH FACES
reminders, and control smart home The story here is very similar to the one for
devices, among other tricks. apps. Android Wear has many more options
Samsung is in a transitional period with thanks to higher developer adoption. Wear
voice control on its phones. It now has its own watch faces are distributed through the Play
Bixby digital assistant, but Bixby doesn’t offer Store, sometimes along with apps. These
very strong support for apps and services. watch faces can also display data pulled from
What’s more, there’s no Bixby on Gear other apps, giving you “complications” like
watches yet, so the voice control platform you’d find on a fancy analog watch.
remains S Voice, and it’s definitely showing its On Samsung Gear, watch face selection is
age. It’s serviceable for inputting text or much weaker. It’s better than the app situation,
creating a reminder, but Google Assistant on but few of the Gear faces are as customizable
Android Wear is more accurate. What’s more, or powerful as on Wear. The one bright spot:
S Voice is terrible when it comes to search Custom watch face design apps like Facer and
queries, and there’s no smart home Watchmaker work on both platforms.
integration.
Google Assistant is a much better VOICE CALLS
experience, so that’s a big win for Android Using your watch as a phone for voice calls
Wear. is handled in a similar fashion on both

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 85


FEATURE ANDROID WEAR VS. SAMSUNG GEAR

connected phone or
Bluetooth headset in
order to actually hear
anything.
Also, there’s only
one LTE watch on the
Gear side right now, the
Gear S3 Frontier (go.
pcworld.com/gs3f).
Samsung’s watches do
have a more robust
dialer, though. The
Android Wear dial pad
is cramped, making it
Both watch platforms support phone calls well enough, but the Gear annoying to place calls
watches have an easier-to-use dialer. to numbers you don’t
have saved.
platforms, but the capabilities vary based on
the specific watch you have. Calls that come MODEL VARIETY
in to your connected phone show up as There are currently several dozen
notifications on both Android Wear and smartwatches running Android Wear, giving
Samsung Gear. Most Android Wear devices the platform healthy variety in terms of sizes
have speakers and microphones so you can and styles. There are cheaper options that
actually take the call without touching your cost around $150 (like the TicWatch 2) and
phone. Some Wear watches even have LTE obnoxiously expensive watches, like the
connections so you can take calls without $1,500 Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
your phone present. And, of course, you can (go.pcworld.com/th45). You also have
dismiss a phone call entirely from your smaller, simple watches like the LG Watch
watch. That’s table stakes. Style (go.pcworld.com/lgws) and more
Gear devices can also answer calls from robust watches like the Asus ZenWatch 3 (go.
your phone, but support varies across the pcworld.com/azw3).
model range. The newer Gear Sport, for one, Samsung’s Gear line only comes in a handful
lacks a speaker, so you can answer and place of flavors, all of which are on the expensive side.
calls from that watch, but you need a There’s the Gear S3, the slightly smaller Gear

86 PCWorld MARCH 2018


useful if you get the Gear S3. That
watch has the full Samsung Pay
experience, meaning it can do
both NFC (like Android pay) and
Magnetic Secure Transmission
(MST). With MST, you can make
payments at almost any store that
has a credit card reader. However,
MST hardware isn’t available in
the Gear Sport, and the Gear Fit2
Pro doesn’t have NFC or MST.
So, mobile payments are
The TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 is not only the pinnacle of much better on Samsung,
smartwatch design. It also comes in a wide variety of styles. as long as you get the Gear S3.
Otherwise, it’s a draw.
Sport, and the fitness tracker–influenced Gear
Fit2/Fit2 Pro. There are also some older Gear WHICH PLATFORM IS
S2 devices still floating around. They all have RIGHT FOR YOU?
similar styles and feature sets. If you’re torn on which way to go, start by
Bottom line: If you want variety, Android checking out the style of Samsung’s Gear
Wear has it. devices. There are only a few, so if they don’t
appeal to you, Android Wear’s larger watch
MOBILE PAYMENTS ecosystem will probably be more to your
Some Android Wear devices support liking. Android Wear is also strong when it
Google’s mobile payment platform, Android comes to apps and watch faces, and the
Pay. But support is still far from a sure thing, as Google Assistant integration is excellent.
many watches still ship without the required Samsung Gear excels in fitness tracking—
NFC hardware. it’s uncanny how quickly and accurately it can
Watches like the Huawei Watch 2 do have detect workouts. Samsung’s Gear software is
NFC, allowing you to make payments from also better for managing large numbers of
the watch at stores that accept Android Pay. notifications, and the interface is easy to
But, unfortunately, that’s still far from all stores. navigate with the rotating bezel. Android
On the Samsung Gear devices, you have Wear’s rotating crown is nice, but is only
Samsung Pay, and that can be much more available on a few devices.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 87


FEATURE
5
IT’S EASY TO
FORGET HOW
MUCH ANDROID
HAS EVOLVED OVER
THE YEARS. SO
HERE ARE SOME
VIVID REMINDERS
OF HOW THINGS
USED TO BE—AND
HOW GOOD WE
CURRENTLY HAVE IT.
BY RYAN WHITWAM

AWESOME
ANDROID
FEATURES
YOU
PROBABLY
TAKE
FOR
GRANTED
ILLUSTRATION BY DANIEL DOWNEY

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 89


FEATURE 5 AWESOME ANDROID FEATURES

I
t’s easy to become obsessed with the your Android smartphone before going to
next big update to Android and what bed. Even when sitting idle, apps would
we want Google to add, but what continue waking up your phone whenever
about all the great things Android has they wanted, draining your battery in the
gained since it debuted nearly a decade ago process. And you were really in trouble if an
on the venerable T-Mobile G1 (go.pcworld. app encountered an error and caused a
com/tmg1)? wakelock—your phone could be nearly dead
You might be surprised by what we (and warm to the touch) in the morning.
used to go without. So it’s time to step That all changed when Google
back and appreciate what we have. Here introduced Doze Mode in Android 6.0
are five amazing Android features we take Marshmallow. After remaining stationary for
for granted. several minutes, Doze Mode kicks in to keep
apps from waking your phone except when
1. DOZE MODE very specific conditions have been met. The
Just a few years ago, you were bound to wake phone does still wake up periodically for short
up to a nasty surprise if you forgot to plug in maintenance windows so apps can “catch

90 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: RYAN WHITWAM


up” with the cloud. In
Android 7.0 Nougat,
Google further improved
Doze Mode to work
even when your phone is
in your pocket.
Standby battery life is
on a different level now
than it was prior to Doze keeps apps from running wild all night.
Android 6.0. Those were
dark times. changed all that. Multitasking now includes a
preview screen of the app’s last state before
2. SCREEN PREVIEWS IN you left it.
MULTITASKING Actually seeing screens of the app helps
Android has supported multitasking since the you find what you’re searching for faster, and
beginning, which was one of the main it just looks nicer.
differentiators from iOS
at the time. However,
switching between
apps in Android was
very much a clunky
experience. In fact, the
app switching UI didn’t
even have preview
screens early on.
Prior to Android
3.0 Honeycomb,
Android’s multitasking
UI just had a bank of
eight icons to represent
your recent apps.
Honeycomb on tablets
and 4.0 Ice Cream
Sandwich on phones Wow, Android used to be ugly until multitasking previews came along.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 91


FEATURE 5 AWESOME ANDROID FEATURES

3. CHROME CUSTOM TABS bookmarking, and so on. And if you need the
There are numerous reasons why an app full browser experience, it’s easy to move the
might want to display web content, but active Custom Tab over to Chrome without
booting you over to your browser app is a reloading the content. Chrome Custom Tabs
poor experience. Google’s first attempt to are also much faster than the old WebView
solve this problem was called WebView, but option, and they’re updated frequently as
the addition of Chrome Custom Tabs to part of the Chrome app itself.
Android in 2015 made viewing web content
vastly better. 4. TAKING SCREENSHOTS
Chrome Custom Tabs allow developers to In the early days of Android, you couldn’t take
render a webpage inside their app using the a screenshot (go.pcworld.com/tkss) on most
Chrome engine. You have access to all devices without root access or a PC. The only
Chrome’s basic features like saved passwords, “official” way to capture a device’s screen was
to connect to the Android
developer tools on a PC and pull
screens over ADB—it was a real
nightmare. It’s hard to believe
something as simple as taking a
screenshot took so long, but
Google finally added this feature
in Android 4.0 Ice Cream
Sandwich.
Starting in Ice Cream
Sandwich, all devices supported
a long-press on power and
volume-down to capture the
screen (home and volume-down
for Samsung until recently). It was
a big deal at the time.
Some OEMs have added
their own twist to the screenshot
support like instant cropping,
Chrome Custom Tabs are faster and more feature-rich than scrolling screenshots, and
WebView. gesture support. Google hasn’t

92 PCWorld MARCH 2018


That button still
exists today, but
Android 4.0 Ice
Cream Sandwich
enabled a much
more granular way
of managing
notifications. If
you don’t want a
particular
notification in the
shade, you just
swipe it away. In
the Jelly Bean
release of Android,
This used to require root.
Google added the
added anything notable to the screenshot option to swipe down on a notification.
feature in stock Android, but that’s fine. At Rather than clear the item, this expands it to
least we’re not still stuck using ADB. display more information. These gestures
served to make the notification shade a
5. SWIPEABLE cleaner, more dynamic place to manage
NOTIFICATIONS your world.
Android’s notification shade
was one of its early advantages
over iOS—so much so that
Apple eventually copied
Android. However, there was a
time when Android’s
notifications were an all-or-
nothing affair. You could see
your notifications stacked up in
the shade, but you couldn’t
dismiss them individually. There
was only the Clear All button. Swipe that one notification away instead of clearing everything.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 93


YOUR BODY
YOUR HOPE
Your immune system may be the key to beating cancer.
lmmunotherapy, a new approach to cancer treatment, is bringing hope
to cancer survivors everywhere. lmmunotherapy works by empowering
your body’s own immune system to correctly identify and eradicate
cancer cells. This approach has been used to effectively fight many
types of cancer, with new research leading to greater hope each day.
Speak with your doctor and visit standuptocancer.org/immunotherapy
to learn if immunotherapy may be right for you.
Jimmy Smits, SU2C Ambassador
Photo By: Timothy White

Stand Up To Cancer is a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
This Public Service Announcement was made possible by a charitable contribution from
Here’s How HOW TO BUILD, MAINTAIN,
AND FIX YOUR TECH GEAR

How to build a powerful,


portable mini-ITX Ryzen
gaming PC
Stay safe(r) with this guide. BY BRAD CHACOS

C
omputers don’t have to be big shrunk even potent PC hardware into pint-
to be powerful. While opting for sized packages. Case in point: The 6-core,
a small form-factor PC once 12-thread mini-ITX gaming PC we’re building
required sacrificing system in the wake of AMD’s recent Ryzen CPU price
speed, recent technological advances have reductions (go.pcworld.com/prdp). This

IMAGE: BRAD CHACOS MARCH 2018 PCWorld 95


HERE’S HOW BUILD A MINI-IT X RYZEN GAMING PC

football-sized rig is tiny enough to tuck


underneath your arm and ferocious
enough to spit out fast frame
rates during an all-night LAN
party session.
Graphics card and memory
shortages mean it’s a horrible
time to build a gaming PC (see
page 7), but a specialized rig like
this simply can’t be found at most
big box retailers. Portable yet
powerful PCs yearn for a personal
touch. The hardware needs to do The SilverStone
everything you need with limited Sugo SG13.
expansion and connection slots, but more
crucially, it all needs to fit. There’s not much to, we dialed back the scope to craft a more
wiggle room inside a mini-ITX case. affordable, still portable 1080p gaming rig
Components can easily wind up bumping with CPU threads a-plenty.
into each other if you’re not careful, and you All hardware was provided by its
need to consider the order of installation to respective vendors.
avoid blocking access to crucial ports while
you’re trying to plug everything in. They’re a Case: Usually we start these system guides by
challenge, in other words. listing the core system components, but for our
Well, challenge accepted. Let’s dig in! mini-ITX gaming PC, let’s start with the genesis
of the build. After reading PCWorld’s guide on
MINI-ITX RYZEN GAMING how to buy the perfect PC case (go.pcworld.
PC: WHAT’S INSIDE com/ppcc), SilverStone reached out and
Today’s market influenced this tiny Ryzen offered to send me its well-regarded Sugo SG13
gaming build. We’d originally planned to for testing. It’s been a while since I’ve built a
make this a blazing-fast, no-holds barred mini-ITX machine, so I leaped at the chance.
system capable of chewing through gaming The adorable Sugo SG13 (go.pcworld.
and productivity tasks alike without breaking com/su13) measures a mere 8.74 x 7.13 x
a sweat. But in an era where graphics cards 11.22 inches but can nevertheless cram in a
and RAM are selling for twice what they used full-length, 10.5-inch graphics card. That

96 PCWorld MARCH 2018


means even a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders for the hardware on the cramped insides.
Edition could fit, though custom cards with The Sugo SG13WB can currently be found
beefy cooling solutions may not. for $50 on Amazon (go.pcworld.com/sg13),
SilverStone’s case doesn’t ship with any or $40 (its official MSRP) at FrozenCPU.com
fans. It has room up front for a single (go.pcworld.com/fzcp), a specialist PC
120mm or 140mm fan or closed-loop CPU hardware vendor.
cooler radiator. Opting for the larger fan
size would squeeze out a full 10.5-inch Motherboard: If you’ve got a mini-ITX case,
graphics card, though. Choose your path! you need a mini-ITX motherboard. Full-sized
You can find 120mm (go.pcworld. mobos just won’t fit. Diminutive Ryzen
com/120m) and 140mm (go.pcworld. motherboards are still somewhat rare. We
com/140m) case fans for under $10 each decided to roll with the first AM4 motherboard
on Amazon; I slapped in a 140mm fan left ever released, the affordable Biostar Racing
over from a retired Corsair case. X370GTN (go.pcworld.com/bdwf; $110 on
This mini-ITX Ryzen gaming build uses the Newegg, go.pcworld.com/xgt4).
Sugo SG13WB specifically, a white-clad The board uses AMD’s enthusiast-class
version of the case with black accents and a X370 chipset (go.pcworld.com/x370), as the
black mesh front. Ventilation holes galore name indicates, but its small size restricts you
adorn every panel, providing crucial airflow to using a single graphics card—not that you
could fit any more in a
mini-ITX case. Biostar uses
X370’s capabilities to offer a
full four SATA slots, though,
as well as an M.2 SSD slot on
the bottom. The Racing
X370GTN also lets you
overclock your processor.
(We won’t for this build.)
Memory is limited to two
slots but again, that’s all you
need in a build like this.
Port-wise, the board
offers DVI, ethernet, PS/2,
The Biostar Racing X370GTN. five analog audio

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 97


HERE’S HOW BUILD A MINI-IT X RYZEN GAMING PC

connections, and an S/PDIF optical out. The Because the scope shifted to a 1080p gaming
USB selection includes four USB 3.1 Gen 1 PC, I opted for the Ryzen 5 1600, which
(5Gbps) Type-A ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 recently received a permanent price slashing
(10Gbps) Type-A port, and one USB 3.1 Gen to $199.99 on Amazon (go.pcworld.com/
2 (10Gbps) Type-C port. Interestingly, r516). Six cores, 12 threads, and the Wraith
Biostar’s motherboard also includes HDMI, Spire CPU cooler (go.pcworld.com/wscp)
which means you can use it to output video if included for under $200?! Yes, please.
you pair it with one of the Ryzen-based APUs
coming out in February (go.pcworld.com/ Graphics card: I’d originally hoped to stuff a
amrv). Many motherboards lack the feature. GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition into this
Basically, Biostar’s Racing X370GTN packs itty-bitty SilverStone Sugo SG13, but well, they’re
everything you need for a solid mini-ITX selling for $1,300 these days (go.pcworld.com/
gaming rig, except for native Wi-Fi, and at a ludi). Hard pass. So now we’re using a GeForce
fine price. GTX 1050 Ti (go.pcworld.com/gtxt). This card
delivers console-beating 1080p performance
Processor: You know what’s even more without breaking the bank—even though it is
satisfying than a tiny gaming PC? A tiny selling for higher than its $140 MSRP right now.
gaming PC with all the cores! We’re going The EVGA GTX 1050 Ti cost $180 on
with AMD’s disruptive Ryzen multi-core Newegg (go.pcworld.com/04gp) when we
processors. While Intel’s
rival 8th-gen “Coffee Lake”
CPUs launched late last
year, only high-end Z370
motherboards have been
made available, and they’re
pricey.
I’d originally planned to
build this with the flagship
Ryzen 7 1800X processor
($350 on Amazon [go.
pcworld.com/r718]) because
the idea of a shoebox-sized
PC with 8 cores and 16
threads makes me drool. The EVGA GTX 1050 Ti.

98 PCWorld MARCH 2018


spec’d out this rig, but it’s
since leaped to over $330.
Volatile graphics card prices
sure do ruin a good build.
Just grab the cheapest GTX
1050 Ti you can find on
Newegg (go.pcworld.com/
dpgc), but you probably
don’t want to spend more
than around $200.
Most of these energy-
efficient cards have a single
fan and don’t need 8GB kit of Corsair Vengeance 3,000MHz RAM.
supplementary power cables,
making them perfect for a space-constrained com/lpx8). That hurts—and every memory kit
mini-ITX build. Ideally, you’d use a reference has been similarly affected. You just have to grit
card with a blower-style fan in a small form- your teeth and pay the price if you’re building a
factor case in order to expel the hot air out of PC these days. The Ryzen platform requires
the rear of your system, but Nvidia never DDR4 RAM, so you can’t just swap in DDR3
created a Founders Edition version of this card. sticks left over from a previous computer.
It doesn’t get overly hot anyway. Shop around if you want to look for a
The 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 or Radeon better price, but take note of two things. First,
RX 570 would be the best 1080p gaming you want 8GB of RAM for a gaming PC—
option in a vacuum, but here in reality, they’re some modern games list that as the minimum
selling for more than twice their MSRPs. requirement these days. Second, Ryzen’s
Again: Hard pass. The GTX 1050 Ti gets the performance increases with faster RAM,
job done, as you’ll see later! which is why we’re using a 3,000MHz kit.
Dropping down to the 2,400MHz version of
Memory: RAM prices suck, too. Our 8GB kit this Corsair Vengeance kit cuts $15 off the
of Corsair Vengeance 3,000MHz RAM costs a price (go.pcworld.com/cvlp) if you’re really
staggering $120 on Amazon (go.pcworld. pinching pennies, though.
com/2x4g) these days, a twofold price
increase compared to what it cost in January Storage: I used an older Intel 730 series SSD
2017, per CamelCamelCamel (go.pcworld. I had lying around for this build, because I’m a

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 99


HERE’S HOW BUILD A MINI-IT X RYZEN GAMING PC

sucker for aggressive silver skulls. They’re 450W, 80 Plus Bronze-rated power supply is
discontinued now, though. If you’re following tailor-made for small form factor PCs and
along, consider picking up the Samsung 850 comes with an adapter bracket to fit into
EVO (go.pcworld.com/85ev; $150 on standard PSU slots. It’s cute!
Amazon for 500GB, go.pcworld.com/8500)
instead. Samsung’s drive is the best SSD for Grand total: $854. Even with a modest
most people thanks to its superb mix of graphics card and just 8GB of RAM, today’s
performance, capacity, and affordability (go. sky-high hardware prices nudged the total
pcworld.com/18sd). higher than expected. If you buy a basic
monitor like this $90 HP Pavilion model (go.
Power supply: The Sugo SG13 accepts pcworld.com/90hp), an affordable keyboard
standard ATX power supplies, but the power and mouse combo like the Logitech MK120
supply sits above the motherboard in the ($15.90 on Amazon [go.pcworld.com/
case. Going with a full-sized PSU wouldn’t mk12]), and a $30 Windows 10 license on
give much clearance for the CPU cooler; Kinguin (go.pcworld.com/kngn) to complete
you’d basically need to use a closed-loop the PC package, the final price winds up
liquid cooler or low-profile air cooler. Instead, around $1,000.
we opted for SilverStone’s ST45SF ($60 on
Amazon [go.pcworld.com/st45]) so that we BUILDING THE MINI-ITX
could use the Wraith Spire CPU cooler RYZEN GAMING PC
included with the Ryzen 5 1600. This tiny PCWorld’s guide on how to build a PC
provides a step-by-step overview of hardware
installation (go.pcworld.com/
h2pc)—but working in such
a diminutive case requires
much more forethought than
full-sized builds do. We’ll talk
about those unique quirks
here.
As ever, I started by
building out the motherboard.
The Ryzen 5 1600 slipped right
Awwww, it’s a tiny
into the CPU socket after aligning the
power supply! triangles found on a corner of each. The

100 PCWorld MARCH 2018


the tie from around those cords and you
can pop the front panel off, too. Finally,
there’s a storage bracket screwed toward
the front of the top panel’s frame. Take
that off as well to strip the case to its bare
bones. You’ll want the wiggle room.
SilverStone’s manual says to install
the motherboard first, but I respectfully
disagree. That clutters up the cramped
interior of the case. Install your storage
and (optional, but you should really
Building out the Biostar Racing X370GTN motherboard. include it) case fan beforehand. Start
with the SSD, installing it in the single
bundled Wraith Spire cooler simply screws into drive location on the bottom panel of the
the stock Ryzen support bracket. Easy! (Plug case. The case fan screws easily into the front
the cooler into the motherboard’s CPU fan panel; we’d suggest making it an intake fan to
header now, before installing the motherboard blow cool air over the components inside.
in the case. Your fingers will appreciate it.) If you want to install a hard drive or up to
Because the Biostar Racing X370GTN packs two more SSDs, use the storage bracket you
only a pair of memory channels, I didn’t even removed earlier. Be warned: An SSD mounted
need to check slot compatibility for
the two sticks of Corsair Vengeance
RAM. Just drop them in.
With that done, it’s time to dig
into the case. After removing some
screws on the rear of the SilverStone
Sugo SG13 you can slide the top
and side panels off in one fell
swoop—they’re all made from a
single piece of metal. Inside, you’ll
find a bag of screws and other
hardware tied to the frame, as well as
a collection of cords snaking in from
the front panel connections. Remove Install your storage and optional case fan first.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 101


HERE’S HOW BUILD A MINI-IT X RYZEN GAMING PC

if you do, as it sits right underneath


the PSU. Slip that connector in
first, then screw the power supply
(via adapter) into the case, with the
PSU exhaust fan pointing out of the
case. There’s only a sliver of open
air between the Wraith Spire cooler
and the bottom of the SilverStone
ST45SF, but it works just fine.
Fortunately the Sugo SG13 lacks
clear panels, because cable
management in mini-ITX cases gets
Then install the built-out motherboard after. ugly. After you’ve connected the
power cables for your SSD and
to the bracket makes for a very tight fit if you motherboard, just tuck the rest of the ST45SF’s
use a larger 140mm case fan. Don’t reinstall cables wherever you find some room. Be sure
the storage bracket yet. not to catch them in the system’s fans! I snaked
Now it’s time to install the motherboard. mine into the space between the power supply
Well, after inserting the motherboard I/O and the case fan, and worked some others
shield into the rear of the case. You don’t want over to the left side of the case, between the
to commit that common PC building
mistake (go.pcworld.com/pcms).
Securing the motherboard is easy with
the storage bracket still removed. Plug
in your cables now, including the front
panel connections, as the case is about
to get real full, real fast.
Add the power supply before the
graphics card, as there isn’t much space
between the two. Screw the SilverStone
ST45SF into its adapter bracket first,
then STOP! Don’t install the power
supply yet. You won’t be able to plug in There’s seriously little room between the Wraith Spire CPU
the motherboard’s 4-pin power header cooler and SilverStone’s tiny power supply.

102 PCWorld MARCH 2018


note: If you opt for a larger,
more powerful graphics
card, you may need to install
it by sliding it through the
front of the case. The tiny
GTX 1050 Ti has no problem
dropping in the top
opening though.
Tidy up any remaining
cables, replace the GPU
plate and storage brackets,
then slide the exterior
panels back on. You’ve got
yourself a portable, hexa-
Cleaning up the cables inside a mini-ITX computer can be tricky—or core gaming rig! Install your
futile, depending on how you look at it. operating system of choice
and connect the mini-ITX
panel and where the graphics card will sit. If Ryzen gaming PC to your peripherals and
you have some extra budget, SilverStone also monitor.
offers a version of this power supply with an 80
Plus Gold rating and modular cables—which MINI-ITX RYZEN GAMING
means you only install the ones you need—for PC PERFORMANCE
$90 on Amazon (go.pcworld.com/80pg). Portability is only part of this tiny PC’s appeal.
The graphics card is the final hardware It’s got game, too.
you need to install. You’ll need to remove a To test the mini-ITX Ryzen gaming PC’s
bracket on the rear panel of the case that chops, we loaded it up with a variety of
secures the blank plates (and eventually your games from PCWorld’s various testing suites,
graphics card’s video outputs) first. After that, testing each in DirectX 11 mode with V-Sync
you simply slide the graphics card into the and GPU-specific features (like Nvidia
motherboard’s sole PCI-E x16 slot. Most Gameworks effects and AMD’s TressFX)
GeForce GTX 1050 Ti variants (including the disabled. We tested at 1920x1080 resolution.
EVGA GTX 1050 Ti we used here) don’t The GTX 1050 Ti inside proved more
require any supplementary power capable than today’s gaming consoles, easily
connections from the power supply. Side clearing the 30 frames-per-second barrier

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 103


HERE’S HOW BUILD A MINI-IT X RYZEN GAMING PC

with all the visual bells and whistles


cranked to High. 1080p gaming performance
Heck, with the exception of
42.8
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided—an Deus Ex:
Mankind Divided
36.4
especially demanding game
included to see how this rig 82.53
Shadow of Mordor
performs when you make it 65.69

sweat—all of the games surpass 45


49.8
fps with High graphics settings. Ghost Recon
Wildlands 45.38
You could push most of the games
closer to the hallowed 60-fps mark Rise of the 62.45
Tomb Raider
by dropping some visual options 55.63

down to Medium. This rig could


60.6
put in a strong showing at a LAN The Division
47
party. Because the build uses a
HIGH RED
solid-state drive, load times proved
nice and speedy as well.
Overheating can be a concern with such stock performance, too. If you tried some of
small builds, and I was worried the abundant these seven tricks to maximize your Ryzen
cabling and restricted airflow inside would PC’s performance (go.pcworld.com/7trk),
cause temperatures to spike. Nope. your frame rate could soar even higher.
SilverStone gave the Sugo SG13 abundant In the end, I’m very happy with this build.
ventilation on all sides. This system runs a little It’s one-sixth the size of most of the PCs lying
hotter than a similarly configured full-size around my office, it games with far more
build would, but after gaming for over an ferocity than consoles, and its 6-core,
hour straight, the CPU temperature maxed 12-thread Ryzen CPU makes the tiny rig a
out at 72 degrees, and 57 degrees for the productivity beast. Sure, it’d be nice if
graphics card. That’s nothing to worry about memory and graphics prices weren’t
whatsoever. (Think twice about overclocking outrageously inflated right now, but you
a rig like this unless you spring for fancier won’t find a potent system this tiny at any
liquid cooling, though.) You can definitely big-box retailer. Building something you can’t
hear the fans spinning but they’re not find anywhere else with your own two hands
excessively loud. feels incredibly cathartic—especially when a
These gaming benchmarks represent system this satisfying is the result.

104 PCWorld MARCH 2018


How to check your PC’s
CPU temperature
Here’s how to monitor your computer’s CPU temperature, and lower
it if needed. BY BRAD CHACOS

I
s your computer’s CPU too hot? If your temperatures is crucial when you’re
PC starts spontaneously shutting overclocking your PC’s processor (go.
down, locking up, or acting sluggish pcworld.com/ovcp), too—you don’t want
during intense tasks, overheating to accidentally push the performance
could be the issue. Keeping tabs on your CPU pedal too far to the metal.

IMAGE: THOMAS RYAN MARCH 2018 PCWorld 105


HERE’S HOW CHECK YOUR PC’S CPU TEMPER ATURE

Bizarrely, Windows
doesn’t offer any way to
check your computer’s CPU
temperature. You could dive
into your system’s BIOS to
find the information, but that’s
a lot of hassle to find a simple
sensor reading. Fortunately,
several free programs exist
that make it easy to see your
processor’s temperature.

HOW TO CHECK
YOUR CPU Per-core CPU temperature readings provided by the Core Temp app.
TEMPERATURE
The fastest, easiest way to check your CPU system tray, and how you’ll see it, but the
temperature is with the aptly named Core default configuration makes it dead-simple
Temp (go.pcworld.com/cotm). Be mindful to see if your CPU is overheating or
during installation though! Like many free performing as expected.
programs, it tries to install bloatware (go. Core Temp isn’t the only option though.
pcworld.com/inbl) unless you uncheck HWInfo (go.pcworld.com/hwin) is an
some boxes during setup. in-depth system monitoring tool that provides
Once you’ve installed Core Temp, deep details about every piece of your PC’s
opening it shows a no-frills look at the hardware. If you choose to run it in sensors-
current state of your processor, including an only mode, scrolling down to the CPU
average temperature reading at the bottom section—the dedicated section, not the CPU
of the window. If you want even more temperature portion of the motherboard
detail, click the Show Hidden Icons button listing—reveals current temps and other
in the system tray located at the right edge nitty-gritty details.
of your Windows taskbar. You’ll see a NZXT’s Cam software (go.pcworld.com/
temperature listing for every individual CPU nzca) is another popular option with a diverse
core in your computer. skillset. Its slick interface is easier to read at a
Core Temp’s Settings menu allows you glance than those on most other monitoring
to tweak exactly what you’ll see in the tools, and the program shows all sorts of

106 PCWorld MARCH 2018


may see two different CPU
temperature readings. You
want the Tdie reading,
depending on how the
program you’re using
displays the info. It’s a
measurement of the actual
heat on the die. The
alternative Tctl reading is the
control temperature
reported to your cooling
system and sometimes
includes a temperature
offset to ensure universal fan
speed behavior between
the various Ryzen chips. Any
NZXT’s Cam monitoring software. of the programs mentioned
that list a single temperature
useful info about your CPU, graphics card, account for the offset already.
memory, and storage. Cam also includes an
in-game FPS overlay and overclocking tools, IS MY CPU TOO HOT?
among other features. You can use NZXT’s The maximum supported temperature varies
Cam mobile apps to keep tabs on your from processor to processor. Most of the
software when you’re away from your PC, too. free monitoring software mentioned lists the
Open Hardware Monitor (go.pcworld. information as “Tj. Max.” That stands for the
com/ophm) and SpeedFan (go.pcworld. temperature junction (go.pcworld.com/
com/spfn) are other well-regarded tjmx), or the highest operating temperature
monitoring tools that can track system of the hardware. If you don’t see the
information. You’ve got options! But for information for some reason, search the CPU
simply checking your computer’s CPU World website (go.pcworld.com/cpww) for
temperatures, Core Temp’s straightforward your CPU’s model number to find the
focus can’t be beat. information. Every program listed here
Finally, note that if you’re running an AMD displays your processor’s model number, so
Ryzen system (go.pcworld.com/rysy), you it’s easy to find.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 107


HERE’S HOW CHECK YOUR PC’S CPU TEMPER ATURE

But that’s the maximum temperature—the temperatures cross 85° C, be concerned.


point at which your processor freaks out and Over 90° C: Danger, Will Robinson!
shuts down to avoid damage. Running
anywhere near that hot regularly is bad for the HOW TO LOWER YOUR CPU
long-term life of your hardware. Instead, TEMPERATURES
follow this general rule of thumb regarding If you’re regularly encountering high CPU
CPU temperatures under load. temperatures, there are some steps you can
take to try and fix the issue.
Under 60° C: You’re running great! First, clean out your PC. High CPU
60° C to 70° C: Still running fine, but getting temperatures are often caused by years of
a bit warmer. Consider cleaning the dust out dust and grime built up inside a PC, clogging
of your PC if CPU temperatures continue to fans and crucial air pathways. Local hardware
creep up over time. stores usually charge outrageous prices for
70° C to 80° C: This is hotter than you want canned air, but you can pick up a bottle for
to run unless you’re pushing an overclock. If about $7 on Amazon (go.pcworld.com/
you’re not, definitely check to make sure your dp10), or four for $18 (go.pcworld.
fans are working and there aren’t dust bunnies com/4c10). PCWorld’s guide on how to clean
clogging up your system’s airflow. your PC can walk you through the process
80° C to 90° C: Now we’re getting too hot (go.pcworld.com/clpc). While you’re at it,
for long-term comfort. Check your hardware check to make sure that all your fans are
for broken fans or dust
build-up, and if you’re
overclocking, dial back
your settings—especially
the voltage if you’ve
tweaked it. One notable
exception: We sometimes
see more powerful laptop
processors hit the low 80s
during gaming sessions
when plugged in, at which
point they start throttling
back performance. This is
expected, but if Roll up your sleeves.

108 PCWorld MARCH 2018


working correctly, and that
none of the vents in your PC
are blocked.
Hopefully that fixes the
issue. If not, more intensive
steps are in order. The
thermal paste that transfers
heat from your CPU to its
cooler might have dried out
if you’ve had your PC for a
few years. That can cause
temperature spikes.
Removing the old thermal
paste with rubbing alcohol
and a applying a fresh layer can potentially and fan, it’s a solid step up over stock AMD
help lower temperatures by a large amount. and Intel CPU coolers. Moving up in size and
TechAdvisor (go.pcworld.com/h2tp) has a price, the Noctua NH-D14 ($75 on Amazon
helpful, illustrated article on how to remove [go.pcworld.com/d146]) is one of the most
and apply thermal paste, and you can find effective air coolers ever to hit the streets, but
small syringes of thermal paste by respected its large size might block memory access or
brands like Arctic (go.pcworld.com/actc) and not even fit in smaller cases.
Noctua (go.pcworld.com/nctu) for under $7 Closed-loop liquid cooling solutions
on Amazon. (I’ve been a happy Arctic Silver 5 (CLCs) provide far cooler temperatures than
user for years now [go.pcworld.com/acs5].) air coolers with minimal hassle. The 120mm
If all that doesn’t help, your cooling Corsair H80i v2 ($95 on Amazon [go.
solution simply might not be capable of pcworld.com/9624]) is a great entry-level
keeping up with your CPU’s heat output, CLC, but if you plan on overclocking,
especially if you’re pairing a stock cooler or a consider moving up to the Corsair H100i v2
modest third-party cooler with higher-end ($109 on Amazon [go.pcworld.com/9625])
chips—and doubly so if you’re overclocking. and its larger 240mm radiator, which can
Buying a new CPU cooler may be in order. accommodate even fierce overclocks. We’ve
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 ($30 on been using one inside PCWorld’s dedicated
Amazon [go.pcworld.com/c212]) is a solid, graphics card benchmarking system for years
affordable air cooler. With its larger heatsink now (go.pcworld.com/gcpc).

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 109


HERE’S HOW

How to set up two monitors for


double the screen real estate
A must for multitaskers. BY KATHERINE STEVENSON

E
ven a generous 24-inch monitor such as HP’s 21.5-inch, 1920x1080 Pavilion IPS
can feel cramped when you’ve monitor for $99 on Amazon (go.pcworld.
got multiple windows open on com/hppn) or Acer’s 21.5-inch, 1920x1080
your desktop (and who G226HQL for $90 on Amazon (go.pcworld.
doesn’t?). It’s much worse if you’re confined com/g226). Both feature fairly thin bezels, an
to a laptop screen. Fortunately, it’s simple important feature if you want to minimize the
enough to add a second monitor to your PC interruption between your two screens.
setup and spread out. Today’s monitors typically come with some
Any modern desktop or laptop PC has the combination of VGA, DVI, HDMI, and
graphics capability to run dual displays. All DisplayPort ports. In other words, you’ll have a
that’s required is a second monitor. You can couple options for how to connect the monitor to
get a very nice second screen for around $100, your PC. While its common for VGA and DVI

110 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: ISTOCK


cables to come
included with the
display, you may
have to purchase
your HDMI or
DisplayPort cable
separately if you go
that route. Those
can be easily
purchased on
Amazon (go.
pcworld.com/
hdcb).

STEP 1
The first part is easy.
Simply connect The display settings in Windows 10: Click the Identify tab under the graphic to
your second establish your monitors’ arrangement.

monitor to a power
outlet and an available port on your PC. Windows to treat your displays as one
contiguous screen.
STEP 2 Once you’ve selected that setting, you
Next you have to tell Windows how to can tell Windows which monitor is on the left
manage the two monitors. or right by dragging the graphics at the top of
If Windows only appears on one monitor, the dialog box. Get this wrong, and scrolling
or if the two of them aren’t working the way the mouse will be very confusing.
they should, right-click the desktop and select The Make This My Main Display option
either Screen Resolution (Windows 7 and controls which monitor gets the taskbar
Windows 8) or Display Settings (Windows 10). and Start button. If you don’t see that
In the resulting dialog box you can specify option, the currently selected monitor is
the displays’ arrangement. The Multiple already the main one. You can also
Displays pull-down menu allows you to control many of these settings by right-
control how the two screens work together. clicking the desktop and selecting your
Choosing Extend These Displays will prompt graphics control panel.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 111


HERE’S HOW

Five Chromebook hacks that


give your laptop surprising
new talents
A few tweaks and additions can turn these laptops into indispensable tools. BY IAN PAUL

C
hromebooks may be Chromebook’s powers. Some of these
impressively versatile (go. features require you to install Linux—a really
pcworld.com/impv), but a easy task if you follow our Crouton tutorial—
good Chromebook hack helps but many do not. Here are five Chromebook
it break out of its browser-based confines and hacks that will improve your user experience
try new talents on for size. Top of the list, of and make these laptops even more powerful.
course, is the ability to install a full Linux
desktop operating system (go.pcworld.com/ 1. STEAM STREAMING
lxos) via the Crouton project. But there’s a lot Just as everyone knows you can put Linux on a
you can tweak or add to multiply a Chromebook, it’s probably common

112 PCWorld MARCH 2018 IMAGE: GOOGLE


knowledge that you can install Valve’s Steam (go.pcworld.com/brsm).
to play games. The problem is only a few The goal is to create a Bash alias with all
Chromebooks come with a GPU that can run the instructions. Then all you have to do is
big-time PC games. Enter Steam’s local type in a simple word or phrase, and the ports
network streaming (go.pcworld.com/stpc). you need will open with a few taps.
Using this feature, your full-time gaming PC To do that, jump into your Linux chroot on
runs the game you want to play, but you your Chromebook, open a terminal and type
interact with it on your Chromebook. in the following:
Valve gets around device limitations by
recording a game’s video stream and sending echo “alias steamStream=’ sudo
it to your lower-powered device. Then your iptables -A INPUT -p udp —dport
gameplay inputs (controller or mouse and 27036 -j ACCEPT; sudo iptables -A
keyboard) are returned to the gaming PC over INPUT -p udp —dport 37804 -j
your home network. It sounds a little janky, ACCEPT; sudo iptables -A INPUT -p
but it’s amazing how well this works. Don’t be tcp —dport 37804 -j ACCEPT; sudo
afraid to try your most resource-intensive iptables -A INPUT -p tcp —dport
games, either. 27036 -j ACCEPT; sudo iptables -I
If you’re new to it, check out our earlier INPUT -p udp —dport 27031 -j
tutorial on the finer points of Steam in-home ACCEPT; sudo iptables -I INPUT -p
streaming (go.pcworld.com/sihs). This udp —dport 27036 -j ACCEPT; sudo
feature works almost the same on a iptables -I INPUT -p tcp —dport
Chromebook as it does on a standard 27036 -j ACCEPT; sudo iptables -I
Linux box. INPUT -p tcp —dport 27037 -j
The one wrinkle is that Steam’s fantastic ACCEPT;’” >> ~/.bash_aliases
feature needs a few tweaks to work correctly.
That’s because Chromebooks close certain Now every time you want to open your
ports by default that Steam needs for ports, fire up the terminal in Linux, type
streaming. Those ports remain closed even steamStream into the command prompt,
when you’ve got Linux running on your box hit Enter, then start Steam, and you should
via Crouton. see a Stream option next to any games
Many sites around the web that can show installed on your Windows gaming rig. If you
you how to open these ports via command- forget to run your alias before opening
line magic, but these particular instructions Steam, you’ll have to relaunch the program
are based on a post by developer Brian Smith to see the streaming option.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 113


HERE’S HOW FIVE CHROMEBOOK HACKS

2. CHROME REMOTE your Chromebook, click Get Started under


DESKTOP My Computers, select the name of the
We’ve covered this before, but it’s hard to Windows computer you just set up, enter the
beat Google’s Chrome Remote Desktop (go. PIN, and you’re in.
pcworld.com/gcrd) for getting free access to
your primary PC when you’re on a 3. VOICE DICTATION
Chromebook. You can use this feature if For those suffering from repetitive strain
you’re on the other side of the house or the injuries or who would rather not type all the
other side of the country. The only thing to time, using a voice dictation app for
keep in mind is that you’ll need to make sure document creation can help. There are
your Windows PC isn’t set to go idle. several options for using voice dictation with
Otherwise, you won’t be able to access your Chromebooks, but two that I tried and liked
machine using this method. were Google’s built-in dictation for Google
Once you’ve installed the Chrome Docs and the free Chromebook app
Remote Desktop Chrome app on both PCs, VoiceNote II (go.pcworld.com/vnII).
it’s just a matter of opening Remote Desktop To use the feature on Google Docs, open
on your Windows machine. Then press Get a word processing document, and go to
Started under My Computers, and follow the Tools > Voice Typing in the menu. A small
instructions. window with a microphone will open to the
As part of the initial setup process you’ll left of the document area. Click that and start
need to install Chrome’s Remote Desktop dictating your document. The only problem
Host controller and set a PIN. Once that’s with Google’s solution is that it was a little on
done, open Chrome Remote Desktop on the slow side in my tests.
When you need to dictate offline,
VoiceNote II is a good choice. This
Chrome app takes dictation very well.
It’s not the best at doing edits such as
properly interpreting what you mean by
saying “delete” or “backspace,” but for
the most part it works.

4. NIGHT LIGHT
Like Apple and Microsoft have done,
Google added a night light feature to

114 PCWorld MARCH 2018


restart your machine. Tap the control panel
area in the lower right corner of your shelf.
You should now see a new Night Light icon
between the help and lock symbols.
Whenever you want to go into night mode—
it’s best to do this at or a few hours after
sundown—just tap that icon. To turn off the
feature tap it again.
If you want to schedule Night Light’s
active hours or adjust the color mix for the
feature, go to Settings > Device > Displays >
Night Light. By default, Night Light doesn’t
have any scheduling, but you can tell your PC
to turn on Night Light from sunset to sunrise
or set a custom time.

5. SHARE FILES BETWEEN


Chrome OS. This feature allows you to tone CHROME OS AND LINUX
down the screen temperature at night by We’ve already covered how to use Crouton to
reducing the amount of blue light coming off install Linux on your Chromebook. It’s an easy
the screen. Blue light is associated with way to get a second operating system on your
daylight, and toning it down is supposed to laptop for those times you really need a full
help your body release melatonin to aid in desktop—like when you want to play
falling asleep after a late-night YouTube Civilization VI (go.pcworld.com/cvvl) on the
session. couch using Steam in-home streaming.
Google has yet to make this an official One of the handy features that Crouton
feature, but enabling it on a Chromebook is has is that by default you can share files
easy enough. All you have to do is drop into between your Linux install and Chrome OS via
the flags section, where you can find many the Downloads folder. This folder has the
interesting and experimental features for same contents regardless of which operating
Chrome and Chrome OS. system you’re in. If you have a file or folder in
Open Chrome and in the address bar type Linux that you need to drop to Chrome OS or
chrome://flags/#ash-enable-night- vice versa, just put it in the Downloads folder
light and hit Enter. Next click Enable, and on either side and you’re all set.

MARCH 2018 PCWorld 115


Tech Spotlight A video showcase
of the latest trends

Watch the
video at
go.pcworld.
com/iq

Nest Cam
IQ Outdoor
≥ The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor’s
highlights include 4K internal

review video resolution, as well as person


recognition and sturdier construc-
tion. It’s also $200 more expensive than its sibling, the
Nest Cam Outdoor. But if you already own Nest Cam IQs,
the IQ Outdoor is the way to go.

116 PCWorld MARCH


MONTH2018
2017

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