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Author: Andrew Castillo

Acer equips its 2018 PC gaming lineup with AMD hardware

Acer equips its 2018 PC gaming lineup with AMD hardware

Ahead of the Computex 2018 tech show in Taipei, Taiwan next week, Acer has announced AMD processor and graphics options for its entire, freshly-revealed PC gaming hardware lineup.Starting with its new flagship gaming laptop, the Acer Predator Helios 500, Acer will release this 17.3-inch monster with AMD 2nd generation Ryzen processors up to the Ryzen 7 2700, an octa-core chip. Of course, that processor can be paired with AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics touting 8GB of high bandwidth (HBM2) memory.With all other options being equal as noted here, these versions of the Helios 500 will go for $2,199 (about £1,659, AU$2,909) to start this August.

Acer’s desktops join the Red Team, too
Along with Acer’s new desktop replacement laptop, the company’s straight-up towers are getting kitted out with AMD silicon, too. The latest, highest-end AMD hardware is now available in the freshest Acer gaming PCs.The leader of the pack, Predator Orion 5000, will be available this September with AMD options for a processor as far as the 2nd-gen, octa-core Ryzen 7 2700X paired with graphics cards up to dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 for high-resolution, feature-rich gameplay as well as smooth VR. That version of the leading gaming PC will cost interested buyers $1,499 (about £1,129, AU$1,989) to start.As for Acer’s more mainstream gaming PCs, the Nitro line, they too are receiving AMD upgrades, with the same aforementioned processor topping out the processor options for the Acer Nitro 50, paired with AMD graphics up to Radeon RX 580 or Nvidia GTX 1060 cards. The AMD flavor of the Nitro 50 will arrive in September as well for $899 (about £679, AU$1,189) to start.If you’ve been holding out for AMD PC gaming hardware in easy-to-install packages at decent prices, then Acer has just answered your plea in a move that makes it one of the most dedicated mainstream supporters of AMD currently.
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Blockchain could revolutionise retail: Deloitte

Blockchain could revolutionise retail: Deloitte

Blockchain technology is set to revolutionise the retail industry, according to a new report from Deloitte.The auditing giant has released research predicting that suppliers and vendors alike could all benefit from embracing blockchain at a higher level.The report looks at 50 use cases for blockchain across both the retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) sectors, ranging from supply chain, payments and more, and found that the technology could potentially help ameliorate issues in every one.This includes four so-called major “pain points” of the industry, namely traceability, compliance, stakeholder management, and flexibility.
Transform
In the report, Deloitte stated that blockchain is set to become “a standard operational technology across the financial, manufacturing and consumer industries,” and that the next five years will see a “tipping point” as more and more businesses see the potential value of the technology.The company highlighted recent figures from Gartner that estimate the business value-add of blockchain is set to grow to $176bn by 2025, and exceed $3.1tn by 2030.”As with any new technology, there are a number of potential pitfalls associated with the deployment of blockchain,” said Steve Larke, partner, technology consulting at Deloitte. “It the therefore important for businesses to have a carefully planned strategy in place before pursuing opportunities at scale.””While we fully expect blockchain technology to achieve widespread, mainstream adoption in the retail and consumer packaged good industries, we firmly believe that long-term, sustainable success is only possible through careful planning.”
Want to know more? Check out our What is Blockchain? guide here!

Delayed MacBook delivery dates could point to a WWDC 2018 refresh

Delayed MacBook delivery dates could point to a WWDC 2018 refresh

Apple holds its Worldwide Developers Conference every year, and with WWDC 2018 kicking off on June 4, there’s plenty of speculation about what Apple might have in store for iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS. It turns out we might just get some new hardware too.As Apple-centric sites including AppleInsider and The Mac Observer have noted, some MacBook and MacBook Pro models are now displaying delivery dates after WWDC 2018 starts – suggesting Apple is about to refresh at least some of the models, and doesn’t want to deliver hardware that’ll soon be out of date.While WWDC is traditional focused on software and intended for app makers, Apple has been known to unveil new devices in the past. In 2017 the HomePod was revealed to the world during the main keynote, so this year it could be the turn of the MacBook.
The time is right
It’s not clear exactly which models might get an upgrade or what that upgrade might be, though a refresh involving Intel’s new Coffee Lake CPUs is one possibility. We’ve also heard rumors that Apple is planning to power its laptops with its own custom-made processors in the next few years.It’s almost exactly 12 months since the MacBook got its last refresh, while we haven’t seen updates to the MacBook Pro for even longer. The timing is certainly right for some new models even if a major revamp of the hardware range appears pretty unlikely.Something Apple might want to do with the new laptops it brings out is fix the keyboards: failure rates are reportedly higher than normal for models with the new ‘butterfly’ switch design, with the ultra-compact mechanisms apparently prone to getting stuck. In a couple of weeks’ time we’ll see what Apple has in store, but maybe hold off on that MacBook or MacBook Pro purchase for now.
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Apple reportedly lining up a new “Star” family of devices

Apple reportedly lining up a new “Star” family of devices

Apple is preparing to launch a new family of devices under the “Star” codename, according to a report from 9to5Mac. The secret project apparently involves a line of lightweight Macs running ARM processors, which might combine the best bits of Apple’s laptops and mobile devices in one piece of hardware.Treat this as speculative for now, even though rumors stretching back to last year have claimed Apple wants to get macOS and iOS merged together in some way. That’s an idea that Apple boss Tim Cook shot down in an interview last month.Apparently Star prototypes have already been made and feature a touchscreen, a SIM card slot, GPS and a compass. They run the same basic firmware as current Mac devices, according to 9to5Mac’s sources, and that points to them being some kind of ultra-portable MacBook line of devices.
Reach for the Stars
At the same time, the new pieces of kit are also said to run a derivative of iOS, and are labelled as a different family to the iOS devices Apple currently makes – in the same way that the iPhone and the iPad are labelled as different families of devices.That’s just about all the information we have, and even if this prototypes are real, there is of course no guarantee Apple is going to bring them to the masses. The company is no doubt experimenting with a variety of different ideas for upcoming hardware launches, with plenty of refreshes expected later this year.What we do know is Apple has been pushing the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement for a while now, and seems to want to redefine what a computer is as we head towards the third decade of the 21st century. If the Star line-up does make it to market, expect to see launches by 2020.
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How to watch esports on the BBC this weekend: live stream Dota 2 online

How to watch esports on the BBC this weekend: live stream Dota 2 online

The Dota 2 battle arena is coming to the UK this weekend – to the real-world arena of ESL Birmingham, to be exact. And the whole event will be aired on BBC Three.For the uninitiated, Dota 2 is a multiplayer online game from Valve which is played by teams of between two and five members each defending their own base camps. And the stakes are high.The prize money for this Dota 2 event is a whopping $1,000,000 in the money pool and this event is all part of getting Pro Dota Circuit Points to get at that cash.
Check out our list of the best gaming monitors 2018Live stream the Dota 2 semifinals and final
If you can’t make it along to Birmingham then fret not, you can still catch all the button bashing brilliance as BBC Three is covering the Dota 2 action this year.  You can tune in to the semifinals at 2pm BST on Saturday 26 May and the final from 3pm BST on Sunday May 27.The coverage will be presented by BBC Radio 1 presenter Julia Hardy with Dota 2 pros joining in to guide even newbs through the action. Gareth Bateson and Shane Clarke will be there to explain everything and commentate on the fun.Alternatively, you can check out the Twitter and Facebook accounts to see the live stream. And if you’re watching from outside the UK then you can still enjoy the action by using a VPN to tune setting your IP address to the UK. 

The best laptop for writers: the 10 best laptops for authors and journalists

The best laptop for writers: the 10 best laptops for authors and journalists

If you’re a writer, or you’re in a job where writing is a big part of your day-to-day life, and are looking for the best laptop to suit your needs, then you’ve come to the right place.With this list, we’ve collected all the best laptops for writers, taking into consideration the specific needs that writers and journalists need when looking for a laptop. This of course includes the best keyboards – you need one that can be used for hours on end. You’ll also need a clear and easy to read display, long battery life and a slim and compact design that’ll allow you to travel easily.And, because you’re going to be doing a lot of word processing and research, you don’t need the most cutting-edge components. This can help keep prices down. Also, even if you aren’t a full-time writer, author or journalist, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing a lot of writing for your job. Emails, reports and presentations can all benefit from one of the best laptops for writers.What’s more, our funky price comparison tools will show you where you can buy each one for the absolute cheapest price, so you won’t have to trawl through the web comparing prices. If you want to see a more comprehensive list of prices and retailers, simply click the ‘view all prices’ link on each widget!
The best laptops for writers:

Lenovo took an existing form factor and refined it to deliver the new 2016-2017 ThinkPad E470. Powered by the 7th generation Intel Core processors, this particular SKU has a 14-inch FHD anti-glare display, powered by a discrete Nvidia Geforce 940MX 2GB GPU. While a discrete graphics card may be a bit overkill for writers, it means you’ve got a fast performing machine that can also handle the odd game when you need a break.Equipped with a spill resistant keyboard, a TrackPoint and a 3+2 buttons click pad, the E470 has more than enough ports and expansion capabilities to keep the average user happy. Shame that it doesn’t do DisplayPort, so no 4K output.

If you’re looking for a sleek machine that’s powerful and easy to carry around, then you’ll love the Asus Zenbook UX310UA. As an ‘ultrabook’, this is a device that combines style with top-of-the-range components. For writers looking for a laptop, this means you get a brilliantly-performing machine that you won’t need to upgrade for years, and thanks to its slim design it’s easy to take with you if you do a lot of writing while travelling. The keyboard is a decent size which makes writing on it a pleasure.  Like most laptops of this kind, it comes in various specifications so the cheaper versions have Intel Core i3 CPUs and full HD screens while the most expensive options come with a super high res display and Intel Core i5. Whichever one you go for, though, you’re getting a fantastic laptop. Read the full review: Asus Zenbook UX310UA

A Chromebook doesn’t run Windows, Android or Apple’s Mac OS. Instead it’s powered by Google’s Chrome OS – a super lightweight operating system based on the Chrome web browser. It’s a great way to save money on a laptop, and if you’re buying a laptop to use primarily for writing, it’s a great choice, as Google Docs can be used as a word processor, and you of course also have the Chrome browser for research. The Chromebook Flip is the best Chromebook out there at the moment, offering truly premium build quality, a fabulous touchscreen and keyboard and excellent performance. All while offering great value for money too. Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip C302See more like this: The best Chromebooks 2017

If you’re after a cheap laptop for writing that offers something a bit special, look no further than the Lenovo Yoga Book 2017. As with all Yoga devices, the screen folds flat so you can use it either as a tablet or a laptop. To add more versatility, Lenovo has now added the option to buy it with either Windows 10 or Android 6.0 onboard – which one you choose will depend how you’re more likely to use the device. The screen on this thing defies the cheap asking price and the keyboard and capacitive touch-keyboard are both fantastic too. The built-in Wacom digitizer stylus allows you to hand-write notes on the touchscreen, and then save them to the web – or convert it into text – which makes it the perfect device for quickly writing down notes when inspiration strikes.Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga Book
See more like this: The best 2-in-1 laptops 2017

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is 2017’s best laptop for you if you’re looking for the perfect cross between a nimble Windows tablet and a fully functional laptop. The base version of the Surface Pro 4 is just a tablet – you get the main unit itself with kickstand but if you want the Surface Pen or the fantastic Type Cover keyboard you’ll need to pay extra for a bundle or buy it separately. Again, this is a great laptop for writers who can use a stylus to jot down their notes to later turn into editable text. If you are buying the Surface Pro 4 as a device to use as a writer, then we strongly recommend buying the Type Cover keyboard, which adds a comfortable to use keyboard that also doubles as a protective cover for the screen.Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4See more like this: The best 2-in-1 laptops 2017 

The 255 G5 is HP’s entry-level business laptop and is a solid candidate should you be looking for a straightforward, reliable, workhorse at a bargain price. It’s a great laptop for writers, as it has solid (if unspectacular) specifications, while keeping the price at a reasonable level. If you want a similar laptop with an Intel processor, rather than AMD, then the HP 250 G5 is worth looking into. There are various configurations of both the HP 255 G5 and the HP 250 G5, so it’s worth shopping around and finding one with the right components for your needs.

If you’re after the latest and greatest laptop from Apple, welcome to the 13-inch Macbook Pro with touchbar. It’s the best laptop Apple has ever made, and builds new features into the classic design. Of course the headline feature is the touchbar – it’s a thin OLED display at the top of the keyboard which can be used for any number of things, whether that be auto-suggesting words as you type or offering Touch ID so you can log in with just your fingerprint. This makes it an excellent laptop for writers, and if you love Apple’s way of doing things, then you’ll love the Macbook Pro with touchbar. The reason why it isn’t higher in our list of best laptops for writers is the price: this is an incredibly expensive laptop, and if you’re just using it for writing, then there are plenty of much cheaper alternatives. However, if you’re an Apple fan that wants a machine for performing more complex tasks, as well as writing, then there really is no other choice.Read the full review: Apple Macbook with touchbar (2017)See more like this: The best Macs and Macbooks 2017

If you want the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 but you want to spend a lot less, the Acer Switch 3 2017 is definitely the your best option. It’s designed around essentially the same concept as the Surface Pro and it’s a less capable thanks to slightly lower power innards, but for most tasks, especially writing, it’s a brilliant little machine. What’s more, to add further value this 2-in-1 laptop/tablet comes with the keyboard upgrade which means no little extras to pay for. As usual it comes in several different versions, with USB Type-C, 8GB RAM, an IPS display and Intel Core i3 7100U CPU coming with the more expensive option.Read the full review: Acer Switch 3See more like this: The best 2-in-1 laptops 2017 

The Acer Chromebook R11 is probably the best cheap laptop around at the moment, and it’s a great laptop for wirters. Like the Acer Chromebook Flip higher up this page, this laptop runs Chrome OS so does away with all the overheads that Windows brings. Consequently it’s able to run nice and fast on less powerful components, which means a very cheap price! Its touchscreen is decent, though it’s only HD, and it will flip to become a tablet too. What’s more, it’ll run practically all day thanks to its excellent battery life. So if you’re looking for a capable but very cheap laptop that you can whip out and begin writing on, then this one is your best bet.Read the full review: Acer Chromebook R11See more like this: The best Chromebooks 2017 

If you’re looking for a laptop that you can fold up and play with when you’re done writing for the day, look no further than the HP Spectre X360. Not only is this one of the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy today, but thanks to the keyboard’s stiff force curve, you’ll find typing is a breeze for any touch-typist. And, thanks to its long battery life, you’ll be able to write all day on this comfortable keyboard without having to worry about scrambling for your charger.Read the full review: HP Spectre X360 
Want more choices? Check out our list of the best laptop 2017

American Express: Why blockchain could save help save you from fraud

American Express: Why blockchain could save help save you from fraud

American Express could be set to push even further into blockchain research that could revolutionise the way its users stay secure from fraud.The card provider is investigating ways in which blockchain can be used for safeguarding user identities, as well as helping merchants securely process transactions, a senior company executive revealed.Speaking at the Oktane18 conference in Las Vegas, Tereasa Kastel, American Express VP technology, said that the company was examining several avenues for blockchain.”American Express is a very innovative company,” Kastel said, highlighting what she saw during a recent visit to one of the company’s R&D facilities.”They were working on blockchain specifically for financial transactions, but we were starting to explore what would an identity wallet look like, and could blockchain be used to help serve as, both internal, but also external card members and merchants.”
All about identity
Kastel’s speech came on the same day as American Express announced it would be using Hyperledger blockchain technology to create tailored to let merchants create custom Membership Rewards programs for cardholdersBut she added that blockchain would play a significant role in certain upcoming American Express services.”Being in the financial industry, we have to be somewhat conservative on what legal and regulatory requirements there are,” she said. “Out on the other hand, what I would say is that what it empowers an individual user to do in terms of controlling their identity, and have that identity be immutable, is something you can’t pass by – despite what might be the regulatory controls might be at this time.”Blockchain can play a crucial role for merchants and customers alike, Kastel noted, possibly helping provide a reliable and secure chain of transaction that keeps users safe from fraud at all times.”It resonates…when identity is done well, with the latest technologies, it removes the impediments for transacting.””If you’re in this industry, you have to have a voracious appetite for all things identity…to be able to work in a world where there is constant change you…have to always ensure you can stay ahead of the curve.”
What is blockchain? Everything you need to know

Google and Microsoft find new strain of Spectre and Meltdown

Google and Microsoft find new strain of Spectre and Meltdown

Security researchers at Google and Microsoft have found a new variant of the Spectre security flaw that was first reported back in January this year.Rumors of the latest CPU bug were disclosed by a German computer science publication earlier this month, but the details of the vulnerability were only officially revealed on Monday, May 21.Called Speculative Store Bypass (or Variant 4), the new strain exploits similar vulnerabilities as the older Spectre and Meltdown bugs but, according to Intel, uses a different method to access sensitive information.
Partly patched
The new variant can be exploited by running script files (or text files which contain a sequence of commands) on programs like web browsers. If hackers manage to successfully exploit this vulnerability, they’ll be able to get sensitive information off other parts of the program, like another tab in the case of browsers.Intel, however, has classified the new bug as medium risk, explaining in a blog post that most of the exploits it uses were fixed in the original wave of patches that were rolled out.“We’ve already delivered the microcode update for Variant 4 in beta form to OEM system manufacturers and system software vendors, and we expect it will be released into production BIOS and software updates over the coming weeks,” said Intel’s vice president of Product Assurance and Security.
Slowing it down
As we saw with previous Spectre and Meltdown patches, these new processor firmware updates could potentially reduce system performance too. Intel says the mitigations will “be set to off-by-default”, meaning users who don’t enable the new protections should not experience the negative impacts of the patch, but obviously won’t be protected either.“If enabled, we’ve observed a performance impact of approximately 2-8 percent based on overall scores for benchmarks like SYSmark 2014 SE and SPEC integer rate on client 1 and server 2 test systems,” Culbertson said.This puts the proverbial ball into the end user’s court, leaving them to choose between security and speed.
Meanwhile, Intel is redesigning its processors to make them Meltdown and Spectre-proof.

How Microsoft is modernizing the classroom with technology

How Microsoft is modernizing the classroom with technology

Microsoft is a strong believer in empowering students to be independent through technology. Earlier this week, the Redmond-based company held a special education event at its flagship retail store to show what it and its partners are working on to help empower the children of tomorrow through their studies.From accessibility programs, Minecraft virtual classrooms and HoloTours in Windows Mixed Reality, Microsoft enriching learning with the latest technology.
Everything you need to know about the next version of Windows 10Some school laptops, like the Dell Chromebook 11, come with lights to help students too shy or unable to raise their hands, but what about after the teacher calls on them? Snap + Core First is a symbol-based communication application designed to help those with speech and language disabilities express themselves in the classroom.
Part of Microsoft’s free Learning Tools, Immersive Reader can improve reading and writing for people regardless of their age or ability. The program can read text out loud, break it into syllables, and increase spacing between lines and letters for easier reading.
Microsoft Teams might seem simply like a Slack competitor for businesses at first blush, but it has also become an important tool for classrooms. The application can help drive collaborative classrooms, making team work on shared projects simpler, while giving students a space where they can all be heard no matter their ability to communicate.
OneNote is a powerful catch all tool for written notes, drawn diagrams and marking up papers. However, it’s made even better with all the collaborative features built into it, plus the ability to plug it directly into Microsoft Teams makes sharing the virtual classroom easy.
Like Audacity on steroids meets Office 365 or Google Drive, Sound Trap is a collaborative music making and sound mixing application made for everyone. Better yet, the software is all available on the web, so its platform agnostic; users on PCs, Macs or even Chromebooks can easily join add their own tracks, play with the synthesizer and add their touch to the music.
For everyone who went to school and remembers how terrible those algebra questions that asked you about ‘two trains leaving the station at different times,’ be jealous that there’s a better way now. Fluid Math adds a visual cue to equations, so you can really see which train arrive first and see the real impact numbers can have on life.
STEM is all the rage in schools and Microsoft is putting the curriculum to practical experiments. The Education Workshop is a collection of fun and practical experiments that has kids creating a controllable robotic hand, testing water quality and launching HotWheels cars through a loopy de loop. All the experiments are available for free online and are designed to be easy to construct from household items.
Programming can be tough to get into, but Microsoft MakeCode turns the process into a simple and visual plug and play interface. Once kids get the hang of programming robots or Arduino-controlled lights, they can switch the interface to JavaScript and really start learning how coding languages work.
Minecraft has proven to be a great educational tool already in its base form, but the Education Edition turns the experience into virtual classrooms. We got a short demo in which we created compounds from basic elements. Then we constructed a balloon by combining helium, latex and some twine to help some pigs fly.
Plugging directly into Minecraft: Education Edition, Code Connection lets you code scripts to automatically build structures in the game. Alternatively, students could give Agent Trials a try and program a robot to navigate through maze in Minecraft.
Go around the world and take a step back in time with HoloTour in Windows Mixed Reality. It’s one thing to read about the Roman Circus Maximus, but HoloTour lets you experience the scale of locations as if you’re right there. On top of that, the experiences blend together real-life 360 video with computer generated graphics for interactive experiences.

The first 4K G-Sync HDR gaming monitor hits pre-order at a budget-busting price

The first 4K G-Sync HDR gaming monitor hits pre-order at a budget-busting price

If you were hyped up about the very first 4K, Nvidia G-Sync HDR gaming display from Acer, the Predator X27, then try not to get too deflated by this: the thing costs $1,999 (about £1,490, AU$2,660). The news comes via a pre-order listing on Newegg, promising that the monitors will be ready to ship on June 1.That price is more than most high-end gaming PCs – full stop. However, the price is less than expected, given earlier leaks from European retailers of prices converted from Euros reaching nearly $3,000.Unfortunately, Newegg has yet to list the monitor in the UK or Australia. Either way, expect equally eye-watering prices in those regions.Now, at least there’s a relatively good reason why this monitor is so damn expensive. Simply put, on paper, this screen is better than literally any other gaming monitor.This monitor has a faster refresh rate than most 4K displays at 144Hz, and the 384 backlight zones behind the HDR technology work well in tandem with G-Sync frame smoothing. Then, there’s the DCI-P3 color gamut standard met by the monitor with a brightness of 1,000 nits required by HDR10 certification.As PCWorld points out, that’s far brighter than the 600 nits found in AMD’s FreeSync 2 displays.All told, you’re going to have to wait for Nvidia’s next generation of graphics cards to even play games at the maximum resolution that this display allows. The GTX 1080 Ti can’t even handle 4K at 144Hz in today’s top games. So, beware, early adopters.
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