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This is the most recent feed available as of 09/19/2021 at 07:39 AM

Best power banks: The top portable chargers for your phone

Anyone who uses a smartphone knows the importance of carrying a backup battery pack. But try searching for one on Amazon, say, and you’re likely to feel overwhelmed by the vast number of options. Besides the various charging specs, ports, and even cables you have to consider, there are a ton of competing brands. How are you supposed to know which ones actually live up to their promise?  

We’ve done the legwork for you, evaluating a wide range of power banks from different manufacturers, costing different prices, and some offering unique features. Our testing is extensive, too, subjecting the packs to real-world usage (read about our testing process in detail below). Our picks below reflect a range of needs. (You might also be interested in our our roundup of USB car chargers if you spend a lot of time in transit.)

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RAVPower Portable Power Station 252.7Wh Power House review: Perfect for a weekend camping trip

I’ve been quiet for the last few months, but I can explain. I was tasked with testing several power stations, ranging from affordable to almost too expensive. The goal? Find a range of portable power stations for all budgets and use cases.

Admittedly, testing took far longer than I expected. But, alas, here I am, ready with the first review born out of months of testing, frustration, and more testing.

First up is the RAVPower Portable Power Station 252.7Wh Power House, a $179 powerhouse that looks more like a portable speaker than something you’d plug a 110v gadget into, or that could power a lamp for 37:26 minutes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Ultrawide vs. dual monitors: Which should you choose?

Want to maximize your desktop’s real estate? You have two options: an ultrawide monitor, or a dual-monitor setup. Either choice will massively expand the screen space at your command. But ultrawide and dual-monitor setups are not the same. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  

Here’s how to decide whether an ultrawide monitor or dual monitors is right for you.

How wide is it?

Everyone looking to buy an ultrawide monitor or dual monitors wants more usable display space. But how much do you gain with each scenario?

A 34-inch ultrawide monitor, the most common size, is not as large you might think. This size of ultrawide is nearly identical to a 27-inch widescreen monitor in height and about 8 inches wider.  

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Adata XPG Gammix S70 Blade SSD review: A worthy Samsung 980 Pro rival

Adata’s XPG Gammix S70 Blade is the second fastest NVMe SSD we’ve tested, bettering Samsung’s excellent 980 Pro by a smidge—the drive it replaces in the number two spot. It’s also PlayStation 5 compatible and offers a large improvement in real world performance over its predecessor, the previously reviewed and fast-in-its-own-right XPG Gammix S70.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best SSDs. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

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Brace yourselves: Windows 11 may have more popups

Popups within Windows are one of the operating system’s more polarizing features. If you’re not a fan, you may want to brace yourself, because Microsoft is testing whether or not to add even more to Windows 11. It might not be bad news, though.

As part of the review notes for the Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22458, Microsoft says that it’s including an enhanced Tips app for Windows 11, with more hints about how to use the new upcoming operating system. But Microsoft also says that it’s going to be scattering more of these hints around the operating system itself.

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Office 2021 will ship alongside Windows 11 on October 5

Microsoft said Thursday that it plans to launch Office 2021, a standalone version of Office 365, on Oct. 5—the same day as Windows 11 releases. It will include some, but not all of the features of Microsoft’s perpetually-updating cloud productivity service

Microsoft will release Office 2021 for personal and small business users “later this year,” Microsoft said in a blog post in February. On Thursday, Microsoft added the ship date of October 5. Microsoft also did not offer any other pricing guidance beyond what it had said in February, which was that it did not plan to change the prices for this new release. If true, that would price the cheapest version of Office 2021 at $150, the price Microsoft charges for Microsoft Office Home and Student 2019. (That version doesn’t include Microsoft Outlook, just Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.) There will be Office 2021 versions for both the Mac and Windows, Microsoft said.

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Why use virtual desktops? 5 practical reasons from real-world users

When Microsoft finally added virtual desktop support to Windows 10, my productivity instantly skyrocketed. Virtual desktops create secondary (and tertiary, and..) home screens for your PC, each running instances of its own software, that you can quickly hop between. They’re one of the best Windows 10 tools you may not even know about. But every time I profess my love for virtual desktops I inevitably get asked, “What do you use them for?”

I can only speak to my own experiences, of course. I like segregating my work software from my play software, to resist the allure of Discord and GeForce Now when I’m on the clock. Virtual desktops also come in handy if I’m working on several complicated projects at once—each one gets its own desktop. But don’t just take my word for it! Buried deep in a LifeProTips Reddit thread revolving around using Win + Shift + <arrow keys> to shift windows between your monitors (keyboard shortcuts rock, y’all), I found an interesting chain of comments where real people were sharing how they use virtual desktops.

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The chip shortage might ruin Christmas if you don't shop soon

For PC enthusiasts, the global chip shortages aren’t fresh news. Trying to get components for DIY builds or a even good pre-built PC at a decent price has been a wild ride since spring 2020, and laptops fly off store shelves as quickly as they arrive. But continuing to wait out all electronics purchases won’t pay off this holiday season—not with recent reports that even toys will be affected by the shortages when shoppers go on the hunt for gifts. 

Yes, children’s toys with electronic chips will be in short supply, according to In its interview with the head of Sky Castle Toys, the crowdsourced-deals site explains the steeper difficulty faced by the toy industry in obtaining processors. Competition from other major industries like PC, automobile, smartphone, and home appliance makers means fewer available chips for toys that incorporate motion, light, or sound, or connect to a companion app.

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The best Windows backup software

We need backup software for our PCs because our storage drives won’t last forever. Backup software ensures we’re covered when the day comes that our primary drive up and dies.

It would be nice if Microsoft itself provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the user’s part. 

Instead, Microsoft delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware. Online backup services are another option, but desktop clients tend to offer far more flexibility. 

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Are all USB-C to USB-A cables the same? We compare two $12 Amazon Basics cables

If you’re asking yourself if all USB-A to USB-C cables work the same, well, the short answer is no. Not at all.

To illustrate our point, we reviewed two six-foot, gray-braided Amazon Basics USB-A to USB-C cables that look virtually identical and, surprisingly, cost virtually identical amounts. A USB 3.1 model cost $12.40 while a USB 2.0 model cost $11.90.

Our prior evaluation of pure USB-C cables revolved around three features: Charging performance, data transfer performance, and monitor cable performance. But our testing of the USB-A to USB-C cables we’re comparing today showed they really only differentiate in one key area: data transfer speed.

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Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 vs. AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT: Which GPU should you buy?

Let’s get ready to rumble! Today we’re pitting the first two “sweet spot” 1080p graphics cards from this generation in an epic head-to-head showdown: Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 versus the AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT.

Mainstream options like these have historically been priced competitively to garner the attention of as many gamers as possible. With recent MSRP and street pricing raging out of control, are they still attractive choices? Which is the best graphics card for you: The RTX 3060 or the Radeon RX 6600 XT? Let’s look at their pricing, performance, and more to answer those questions.

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen's CPU dominance

Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors aren’t upon us yet, but another price leak indicates they might indeed compete with AMD’s best CPUs, unlike current top-end Core offerings.

The latest oopsie comes from retail IT vendor Provantage, which puts the top-end Core i9-12900K at $605. The IT vendor also lists the Core i7-12700K at $420, as well as a Core i5-12600K for $283.

After news reports of the part numbers and prices surfaced, Provantage removed the listings. The latest leak follows reports two weeks ago—supposedly from European retailers—that placed the Core i9-12900K at $705, the Core i7-12700K at $495, and the Core i5-12600 at $343.

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

How to install (or replace) a case fan

Many of the chips inside a typical PC generate a lot of heat and require some form of active cooling to remain stable. Powerful recent hardware like Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3000-series graphics cards and AMD's Ryzen 5000 processors demand even more heat dissipation. 

System builders usually rely on heatsinks and fans to manage the heat within a PC. If you’re upgrading or building a new PC—or your PC is overheating—you may need to install new or additional fans. 

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Microsoft adds a passwordless option for Microsoft accounts

Microsoft is now offering you the choice to get rid of passwords entirely from your Microsoft account, moving to a passwordless future where your phone and face will log you in instead. 

The shift begins today and will roll out through the coming weeks. Your Microsoft account, together with apps that require you to sign in (such as Outlook, OneDrive, and others), won’t require you to verify yourself using a password.

So how will your account be secured? In place of a password, Microsoft will use its Microsoft Authenticator app for your phone, Windows Hello, and codes sent to your email or phone in place of a traditional password. We’ve seen Microsoft offer to sign into your account without a password since 2017, but today is the first day that Microsoft is also inviting you to ditch passwords entirely.

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TP-Link’s Archer GX90 AX6600 Wi-Fi 6 gaming router is available now

TP-Link’s newest gaming router, the Wi-Fi 6 Archer GX90 (which we first wrote about as part of our CES coverage in January, 2020), has finally gone on sale at Amazon and other retailers for MSRP $249, undercutting a lot of its competition in the tri-band Wi-Fi 6 gaming router space by a fair amount—assuming it holds up well.

You could think of the Archer GX90 as part of a second wave of Wi-Fi 6 routers, after several major manufacturers, including TP-Link, released their early-adopter units starting in late 2019. As such, it’s unsurprising that its specs look better than the similarly priced and very solid ASUS RT-AX86U, for instance.

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The best router settings for gaming

Online gaming is awesome. Teaming up with friends who may be physically located all over the world is great. Engaging with hundreds of other people in a virtual world is fantastic. Having that fun disrupted by network lag, connection latency, and random disconnects is very uncool.

While an internet connection is often subject to the whims of your internet provider, there are still many things you can do with your local router and network setup to optimize your gaming experience. Let's dig in, starting from the top.

Use a capable router

Many home internet providers provide a combined modem and router device that you might be using for your home network and Wi-Fi. Some of these ISP-supplied routers do offer the type of control and software adjustments that are outlined below, but many do not. With that mind, if you’re not already using your own router to manage your home network, you may want to.

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8 ways to make Microsoft's Surface laptops better than ever

Surface devices usually remain relatively unchanged from generation to generation, a remarkable consistency that can nevertheless leave the impression that Microsoft doesn’t keep up with the times. After reviewing almost all of the Surface devices ever released, we can’t help but keep a running tally of the features we’d like to see in the next generation of Microsoft's Surface laptops and tablets.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, Microsoft plans to host a virtual event where the company is expected to provide updates for its Surface devices, since the invitation (pictured above) literally shows a Surface tablet in profile. Microsoft will likely offer updates to its Surface Pro tablet lineup as well as the Surface Laptop. We may also see new versions of the Surface Pro X, Surface Book, and more.

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PCWorld's September Digital Magazine: This DIY laptop begs to be taken apart

Stay on top of the latest tech with PCWorld’s Digital Magazine. Available as single copies or as a monthly subscription, it highlights the best content from—the most important news, the key product reviews, and the most useful features and how-to stories—in a curated Digital Magazine for Android and iOS, as well for the desktop and other tablet readers.

In the September issue

This month, meet the laptop that wants you to take it apart. We showcase the best prebuilt PCs with AMD’s Ryzen APUs. See our picks for the best online marketplaces for selling used devices. Learn how to check your laptop’s battery health.

Other highlights include:

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7 new Windows 11 features we didn't expect

Windows 11 is almost here, complete with a new look, a new location for your taskbar icons, and a new (and stringent) list of hardware requirements. But a fresh coat of paint is essentially mandatory with a new version of Windows. What we didn’t anticipate was the laundry list of features coming with the new operating system, many of which caught us by surprise.

From Android apps to automatic HDR in games to the glorious return of widgets, here are 7 new Windows 11 features we didn’t expect. You’ll be able to try them out for yourself when the operating system launches on October 5.

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Xbox cloud gaming finally arrives in Windows

Windows 10 users can now stream games directly to their PC’s Xbox app. Today marks the culmination of Microsoft’s cloud-gaming efforts, as games can now be streamed from the cloud to phones, tablets, Chromebooks, browsers, and (finally) to a PC app. And as a bonus, the Xbox app will let you stream games from your Xbox Series X or Series S as well. 

Xbox cloud gaming will begin moving from the Xbox Cloud gaming (beta) app directly to the Xbox app. That app should allow you to two ways to stream games. The first, “true” cloud gaming, will stream games from the Microsoft cloud to your PC, much like Chromebooks or browser-based cloud gaming already does. Cloud gaming essentially taps an Xbox Series S console in Microsoft’s cloud, streaming the game down over tens or hundreds of miles of Internet infrastructure to your PC. That lets you play games your PC hardware might not be able to handle on its own, but it also introduces some latency, or lag, to your inputs.

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Windows 11 won't support Apple's M1 Macs, but you might be able to run it

Windows 11 won’t be officially supported on Apple M1 Macs, dashing the hopes of those who hoped to pair Apple’s new M1 Arm hardware with the new operating system.

Microsoft called running Windows 11 on an Apple Mac powered by an M1 chip “not a supported scenario” late last week in a statement to The Register. Microsoft issued that report after the publication found hardware compatibility errors while running the latest build of Windows 11 on Parallels, an app that lets you run third-party operating systems on Macs.

As anyone who has followed the Windows 11 upgrade path understands, “supported” and “unsupported” are subtly complicated terms that refer to whether or not the Windows 11 operating system will run as expected. “Support” depends on whether the PC platform meets Microsoft’s Windows 11 hardware specifications, which the company has aggressively set in an effort to assure the PC is secure. Microsoft’s Windows on Arm program has ensured that Windows 11 will run on Arm PCs like the Surface Pro X, just not on Apple’s Arm-based M1 Macs.

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Acer Nitro 5 hands-on: This RTX 3080 laptop might be a screaming value

Can you get an 8-core gaming laptop with a GeForce RTX 3080 inside without completely breaking the bank? Yes.

That's the pitch for Acer's latest Nitro 5 iteration, at least, which packs an 8-core Ryzen 7 5800H processor, a GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop 8GB GPU, and an ultra-fast 17.3-inch 360Hz panel for $2,099.99 on Amazon. Sure, there's no optical mechanical keyboard, per key RGB lighting, or fancy magnesium or carbon here (it's mostly plastic) but for gamers, having a fast CPU and a fast GPU might be all that matters, especially paired with such a speedy screen. Most RTX 3080 laptops cost hundreds more.

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4 killer tab search tricks for Chrome and Microsoft Edge

We’ve all, at some point in our computing lives, dealt with browser tab overload.

But instead of giving into that helpless feeling—and loading yet another version of a tab you’ve probably got open already—consider the alternatives. These days, there are lots of ways to quickly sift through your open or recently-closed browser tabs, sparing you the agony of having to click through each one to find what you’re looking for.

Here are four tricks you can use in Chrome, Edge, and other Chromium-based browsers to instantly get back to what you’re looking for:

Use Chrome’s built-in tab search

Over the summer, Google added a nifty tab search tool to its browser, one that you can operate exclusively with keyboard shortcuts. Just press Ctrl+Shift-A, and you’ll see a list of open tabs in the browser’s top-right corner, along with a search box and any tabs you’ve closed recently. (You’ll also see some recently-closed tabs, provided you don’t have too many open ones.) Type in the title of the page you’re looking for, then hit Enter, and you’ll immediately jump over to the appropriate tab.

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One cable or two for powering a graphics card? Here’s the answer

Common wisdom on the internet proclaims you must use two separate power cables when attaching two 6- or 8-pin power connectors to a graphics card. According to some, using just one cable is a danger. Others say at the very least, you could be leaving performance on the table—a sad prospect, as typically only high-end graphics cards need that much power, and so you won't get your money's worth.

But like with most advice on forums and social media, what started as a reasonable guideline has been boiled down to an oversimplified rule lacking nuance. You can use a single cable’s multiple power connectors without fear of harm to your graphics card or tanking its performance. It’s usually fine.

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Best VPN services: Reviews and buying advice

Choosing the right virtual private network (VPN) service is no simple task. A VPN should keep your internet usage private and secure, but not every service handles your data in the same way. 

Rest assured, we’ve done the legwork to determine if a VPN service has a history of good or bad behavior. A service has to protect online privacy; allow you to keep anonymity; offer a good variety of locations from which to direct your traffic; offer fast, reliable performance; and provide an easy-to-use interface.

Scroll to the bottom of this article to learn more about VPNs and what to look for when choosing one. (Or check out Macworld’d roundup of the best VPN for Macs.)

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Forget video, Zoom wants to fuse Slack and Teams

Remember when Zoom was just our pandemic video-chat app? Now the service is adding collaboration features of all stripes, including translation, whiteboarding, and even voice mail, while challenging established players like Microsoft Teams and Slack.

Zoom kicked off its Zoomtopia user conference by announcing a ton of new features, par for the course during the whirlwind days of the pandemic when Google, Microsoft, Zoom, and others competed for users. Now, as the world moves into a hybrid work environment, Zoom is trying to capture a greater percentage of both in-person and remote workers. (Zoom hedged its bets by saying that these are “future potential projects.”)

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AMD Radeon Software can overclock your Ryzen CPU now, too

The latest version of Radeon Software adds an unusual (and welcome) new twist: The ability to automatically overclock your Ryzen processor if you’re rocking an all-AMD gaming desktop. Yes, your GPU software can speed up your CPU now, too—and it can do it all with a single click.

The addition might not come as a surprise if you’ve been paying close attention to AMD’s behavior over the past year. Now that Ryzen bests Intel processors and Radeon graphics cards go blow-for-blow with Nvidia’s top GPUs, gamers can get no-compromises performance from an all-AMD rig for the first time in many years—and AMD has been working hard to strengthen the ties between the two product lineups. Smart Access Memory grants your Ryzen CPU full access to your Radeon GPU’s memory, while Smart Shift technology lets laptops with a Ryzen/Radeon combo intelligently shift more power to either component when it’s needed for faster performance. And earlier this year, AMD worked Ryzen performance monitoring into Radeon Software.

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How to tell what kind of RAM you have

For a very long time, the most common path to improving your PC’s performance has been through upgrading the RAM. RAM stands for “random access memory” and it’s effectively the component of your PC that is keeping track of what your computer is currently working on. When RAM is limited, your PC has to keep that current information stored somewhere else, which can dramatically slow down your workflow and load times. This is particularly notable in computationally heavy projects, such as video encoding and high-quality art creation.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade or you’re looking to harvest the RAM from one PC to use in another, it helps to know what kind of RAM your system is using. There are a handful of ways to figure that out!

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The best PCIe 4.0 SSD: If you have this cutting-edge interface, this drive is ready for it

Most computers and storage drives still use the common SATA or PCIe 3.0 interfaces to sling your bits of data around, but if you’re lucky enough to own a relatively modern PC, you might be able to upgrade to a solid-state drive (SSD) built on the insanely fast PCIe 4.0 protocol. We’ve tested several PCIe 4.0 SSDs, and the best one to cross our labs thus far is the Samsung 980 Pro in a field of tough contenders.

“The Samsung 980 Pro is a great NVMe SSD—the fastest we’ve ever tested using the PCIe 4.0 bus,” we said in our review (though it has since been unseated by the far pricier Seagate FireCuda 530). “If you’re lucky or smart enough to own a late-gen Ryzen system, it’s the one you want.”

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