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Android leads the way in business but security concerns remain

New research from Panasonic Business has shed light on the fact that the use of Android tablets and handhelds are on the rise in business but security still remains a big concern for many organizations.

On average, 72 percent of tablets and handhelds used in business run Google's Android operating system and the number of devices is expected to rise with 60 percent of device buyers saying Android is still being integrated into their organizations.

Businesses choose Android over other operating systems for flexibility (59%), security (58%) and affordability (52%).

However, businesses believe they should be updating their devices with security patches more often with those surveyed saying they think these updates should occur four times a year more than they currently do.

Security and updates

The methods used to deploy security patches vary from organization to organization with 66 percent relying on the IT department, 38 percent using a mobile device management (MDM) solution, 30 percent updating via firmware over the air, 23 percent relying on the user, 22 percent using an IT support company and 16 percent using a reseller.

Businesses currently update the Android operating system on each device they use five times per year and expect device manufacturers to provide OS updates for up to three years after the device's end of life.

Panasonic Computer Product Solutions' General Manager for marketing, Jan Kaempfer explained that while Android devices are on the rise in business, securing them still remains a challenge, saying:

“The march of Android mobile devices into the business world continues apace but how IT departments effectively manage and secure these devices remains a challenge. It is important that buyers recognise that not all Android mobile devices are equal. They should look closely at the management and security functionality being offered by their vendor and their Android engineering experience. With the use of the latest over air updates and management consoles, IT departments can save considerable time and money automating their updates by choosing the right device with the right management and security functionality.”

Best Anthem Javelin: which is the class best suited to you

BioWare’s latest games-as-a-service model, Anthem, has now launched across all major platforms. In Anthem, you play as a Freelancer - a mercenary tasked with protecting the haven known as Fort Tarsis. This requires you going on missions called expeditions, for which you’ll wear a suit known as a Javelin, which affords you the ability to fly, as well as a plethora of unique combat capabilities. 

At the moment, there are four Javelins in Anthem: Ranger, Colossus, Storm, and Interceptor. The thing is, it’s difficult to say which of these is the best, because all four suits are the best at what they’re designed to do. So, instead of telling you which Javelin is the most powerful, it’s perhaps more useful to say which Javelin will suit your playstyle best. 

In order to do that, we have to take a look at all four suits individually and come to a conclusion about what each Javelin is best at, as well as how each Javelin synergizes with the rest.

Ranger


Being the first Javelin you unlock in Anthem, it’s easy to dismiss the Ranger as a throwaway suit. Although this is the tutorial Javelin, it actually outperforms the others in certain situations, despite the fact that’s emphatically what it’s not supposed to do. It may be documented as the most balanced class, not specializing in any given combat style, but it’s actually one of the better suits in terms of providing support. 

In Anthem, everything is based on combos, especially at higher difficulties. To trigger a combo, you need two things: a primer and a detonator. The Ranger suit is brilliantly equipped to execute primers, which other classes can then capitalize on with devastating detonators. Also, the Ranger can use its Bulwark Point ability to put a shield up around its squad, allowing for some interesting strategies involving revivals and area control. 

While the Ranger isn’t the flashiest suit - unless you get really creative with customization - it’s a really powerful Javelin if your team composition is right. It’s well worth having a Ranger on every squad, and if you usually prefer all-rounder classes in shooters, this could be the Javelin for you.

Colossus

The Colossus suit resembles what most other online games would label as a tank - and that’s kind of what it does in Anthem too. The biggest of the suits, your job as a Colossus is to control mobs. You’ve got a far bigger health pool than all the other Javelins, although this can be deceptive given the fact that you’re way less mobile too. You can charge in and take lots of hits, sure, but you need to remember that you’re not particularly well-equipped to make an exit once you get low. That’s why the Colossus suit is probably the most difficult one to master. 

Using your Taunt ability will cause all nearby enemies to focus on you, and that can be great if you’re playing with a cooperative team. However, remember that this class is almost entirely founded upon teamwork and communication. It’s like Overwatch - Winston is a staple to lots of compositions at professional level, but in lower ranks he can be easily countered if his team don’t synergize with him. A Colossus pairs incredibly well with a Storm, as they can help each other trigger some of the most gargantuan detonations in the game. 

Just keep in mind that if you get burned or frozen while you’re in the thick of it, you’re as good as dead. Pick your fights, engage the mob at the right time, and take the heat away from the rest of your team so that you can annihilate entire mobs in one fell swoop. 

Storm

At the moment, if there were to be a best Javelin, it would probably be Storm. It’s a little frail, having the second-shallowest health pool, but it has enough mobility to dodge incoming attacks once you get used to the movement. 

As mentioned earlier, most of Anthem’s combat is founded upon combos. The Ranger is a great primer Javelin, whereas the Colossus can unleash some massive detonations. Storm can do both, and can do so from a distance thanks to its ability to hover almost indefinitely - if you’re crafty. 

Because you’re going to be at range most of the time, you likely won’t take too many hits, especially if you’ve got a Colossus that’s good at aggroing enemies towards them. So you can devote your entire attention to setting up combos and capitalizing on primers your teammates line up for you. Storm is way more ability-focused than the other classes, but these abilities can be devastating once you master them. At higher difficulties, it will be mandatory to have at least one, if not two, Storm players on your team.

Interceptor

Ah, the Interceptor. Our favorite class, but alas, probably the weakest one. As a melee-based Javelin, the Interceptor’s playstyle involves getting up close and personal with enemies. It’s a shame, then, that the Ranger is actually better suited for this due to the fact that it has more sustainability. In fact, at higher difficulties, the output value of enemy damage is so high that engaging them in close combat with anything other than a Colossus is ill-advised. 

If you’ve got to play ranged to stay alive with a melee-based class, you’re wasting a Javelin slot. The Interceptor isn’t unviable, and if you’re good with it, you can likely play at any difficulty. Also, if you’re not interested in Grandmaster, then you can really clean up enemies with ease at lower difficulties. Again, this is the Javelin we like best, as we love the style of combat. It’s just not in a good place right now relative to the other suits, which all add far more to a team. It’s not meta, per se, as all of the other Javelins add more in terms of combo potential.

Choices


So, while there isn’t a best Javelin, there is probably one that’s best for you. If you’re a tank kind of player, you should be on the frontlines wearing a Colossus suit. 

If you’re a tactician, the Storm suit will afford you the ability to both set up and execute the kind of plays that will see you and your team back to Fort Tarsis safely. 

All-rounders will dig the Ranger Javelin, as it allows you to do a bit of everything, and having a jack-of-all-trades around allows you extra versatility for when a fight looks as if it’s about to go south. 

The poor Interceptor is in need of some buffs at the moment, but it’s probably the most fun Javelin of the lot, and if you learn it inside out, you should be able to use it at any level of play-given that your team is cooperating, that is. 

After all, that’s the most important thing in Anthem. To borrow from the title of the prequel book launched by Bioware in support of Anthem, “strong alone, stronger together.” 

(Image credits: BioWare/EA)

These are the top 3 deals to go for if you're pre-ordering a Samsung S10 this weekend

Trust us when we say we've seen a lot of phone launches. Everything from Apple to Huawei and back around to the more nostalgia inducing HTCs and Motorolas. With all of this experience comes an eye for some great deals straight out the gate. So just a few days on, these are the best Samsung Galaxy S10 deals to pre-order.

Below you will find our picks for the top three deals currently available on the S10. Whether you're looking for a cheap contract, big data without the gut-wrenching price or just our overall pick of the best possible deal, you will find it all in this list. 

And if you find yourself uninterested in any of the deals down below, try our mobile phone deals page to compare deals across all of the top phones available right now. 

1. The best S10 deal we've seen so far - Mobiles.co.uk 2. Big data without the big price - Fonehouse 3. Save money with this affordable contract - iD
  • Want something more affordable from Samsung? Try our best Samsung phone deals page for the best deals on everything the company has

Google to launch .dev domains

With more websites being created everyday it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the perfect domain for your business or project which is why Google has launched a new top-level domain (TLD) specifically for software developers.

The company first announced the new .dev TLD last year and now registration has been open to select partners since January 16th but anyone can purchase a .dev domain for $11,000.

Developers and companies that think their domain name will be one of the first ones taken can buy a .dev domain now for a quite high additional fee. However, if you can wait until February 28th, Google will be removing the fee.

At this time though, it is still unclear as to what the final price for .dev domains will be and each domain name registrar will likely charge a different price for registering a site with one.

Secure by default

As with Google's recent launches of .app and .page, the search giant's new domain will be secure by default due to the fact that it requires HTTPS to connect to all .dev websites.

The company's new TLD is part of its ongoing project to make the internet a safer place as the web moves towards an HTTPS-everywhere future.

On its site, Google lists all of the domain name registrars that are currently offering .dev domains including GoDaddy, 1&1 Ionos and of course Google Domains itself.

Using a unique TLD helps visitors to your site know what they're getting into from the minute they type your site's address into their address bar and it could help differentiate your product from the competition.

Via Android Police

Game Boy Advance: why it's the best way to play classic Nintendo titles

When it comes to retro consoles, the ferocious success of the Game Boy is a legacy to behold. Its long lineage of hardware spanning over 21 years has made the classic handheld a pop culture icon. Gamers of all ages and backgrounds will have some sort of memory of the Game Boy, from struggling to see the screen in the darkness of bedtime curfew to fitting in a few rounds of Tetris in between the tribulations of parenting. It’s easy to remember the fuzzy nostalgic memories that we hold for the Game Boy, but we might not always consider what solidified its claim to the handheld throne.

Sure, certain Italian plumbers and collectable monsters may take some of the credit, however we must also consider how perfectly versatile this joyful piece of pocket technology actually was. The Game Boy Advance was the pinnacle of Nintendo’s handheld offerings, supporting 32-bit graphics and an extensive library that caters to almost every genre. 

This surprisingly capable device became a home for beloved titles old and new, accommodating the classics from across multiple console libraries. Not to mention that the Game Boy Advance was backwards compatible with the legendary library of titles that belonged to its predecessors. Considering that the GBA boasts such versatile prowess, is it possible that it could be the key to the ultimate retro gaming experience?

Heavy on wholesomeness, light on your pocket

 Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. (Image credit: Nintendo)

Finding that perfect balance of variety and cost when tailoring your vintage gaming solutions can often prove tiresome. Gaining access to childhood consoles and their games can be a bit rich for the average gamers blood, with many options having a collector's value attached. Of course, emulation could be an all-encompassing answer, but achieving both accuracy and legality is a difficult feat. Luckily, the mighty Game Boy Advance was actually the home to countless classics that appeared on a multitude of systems, with the added bonus of being drastically cheaper. 

A great example of the cost efficiency of the GBA is the range of Nintendo Entertainment System titles that found their way onto the system. Known as the Classic NES Series, titles such as Metroid, Legend of Zelda and Castlevania all received reliable ports, with their packaging resembling that of an original NES game. This might sound like nothing special, but when you compare the price of these releases to their original counterparts, it becomes clear why this is a brilliant and authentic option. 

Take Metroid for example, original copies of the game can cost up to $60, while its GBA counterpart is usually available for around just over $10. The fact these editions can be collected and displayed in a similar fashion to any other console means that this could be a real alternative to collecting for a system that will more than likely break the bank.

Metroid Fusion. (Image credit: Nintendo)

Just like its predecessor, the Super Nintendo also received an invitation to Nintendo’s portable party, with various new editions of classics being released. This is most notable with the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, in which its port expanded on the title with its new multiplayer feature, ‘four swords’. Not only is this version cheaper than an original $50 copy, priced roughly at $15, but it also includes a whole new co-op element that can only be experienced on the GBA. 

Our beloved moustached labourer also received the revamp treatment, with Super Mario World also making a comeback. With this edition of the classic platformer, features such as being able to save at any point on the map and Luigi being a playable character were added, all without compromising its authentic gameplay. At under $10, this definitely a worthy alternative to picking up the original, which tends to go for around $40.

The cost saving benefits of the GBA don’t end at Nintendo originals, with many other expensive titles also appearing on the platform. One of the best examples of this is the Phantasy Star series, an RPG from the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis that retains a high value on the second-hand market. With each title costing a minimum of $60, you can understand why going for the drastically cheaper Phantasy Star collection at $30 on the GBA is a more feasible option. 

These examples demonstrate the Gameboy Advance’s potential to provide access to various classics, despite being kind to your bank account. You'll also find the console itself is much cheaper than most Nintendo hardware, with the NES and SNES often costing $50, in contrast to roughly $20 for a standard GBA. While this in itself is enough reason to invest in the system, you can also enjoy the exclusive experience of the Game Boy linage.

The extended legacy of classic gaming

Game Boy Advance. (Image credit: Nintendo)

There’s definitely a trend when it comes to the capability of handhelds, in which the technology is usually a generation behind the current home console of the time. The Sega Game Gear, for example, was comparable to a Master System, rather than its dark and brooding Sega Genesis/MegaDrive counterpart. This is also technically true for Game Boy titles, yet Nintendo seemed to use this caveat to its advantage, creating unique experiences that draw from games we already know and love.

Nintendo’s talent for making the most of hardware limitations stems from its work on the original grey brick, with likes of The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening proving to be classics in their own right. This formula of new experiences within familiar settings was carried on throughout both the Game Boy Color and Advance consoles, with beloved franchises such as Castlevania, Metroid and Final Fantasy all having exclusives on the system. Not only did these spinoff’s and sequels provide brilliant fan-service, but they also introduced those who were still a bit wet behind the ears to some of history’s best adventures.

It was this sheer devotion to making the most of its 32-bit capabilities that has solidified the GBA as a nostalgic monolith. Delivering on mechanics and gameplay from one of the most loved eras of gaming, Nintendo provided gamers with a refreshing break from the somewhat infantile 3D graphics of generations past. That’s not to say, however that the Advance hardware was incapable of being technically impressive, with many titles making remarkably good use of what could be considered a low spec’d piece of kit. A surprising number of PC titles managed to squeeze themselves into tiny cartridges, such as Doom and Duke Nukem, which despite being scaled down from their original versions, are brilliant ports in their own right. 

There’s no disputing the sheer brilliance of the Game Boy Advance library, with countless genres to choose from and stories old and new being delivered in a familiar way. In spite of this, you might find yourself either put off by the fact it’s a handheld console, or overwhelmed by the hardware choices available. This however is where Nintendo’s hardware gets its chance to really shine, as there are a vast range of ways to play the GBA library, which isn’t too dissimilar to the versatility of modern gaming.

Play it your way 

Game Boy Player. (Image credit: Phil Hayton)

If you managed to have a look at our Game Boy modification guide, you might already be aware of the vast amount of options available for playing your favorite Nintendo classics on the go. If you have a passion for portability, your priorities may lie with getting the best experience from your aging piece of pocket tech. From customized exteriors to fancy new screens, the ability to construct the ultimate GBA is easier than you might think. Yet, some will love the sound of the platforms library while yearning for a way to access them using them like a conventional console. This is where the alternative hardware options could be the final checkbox on achieving the perfect portal to nostalgia.

The official way to play your GBA games on the big screen is in the guise of The Game Boy Player, which is an add on for the Nintendo GameCube. This nifty device allows you to play any Game Boy cartridge using the controller and video output of your existing console, without having to use the GBA console. Unfortunately, this can prove to be pricey trying to acquire the Player and the included software it requires, not to mention another $20 on top if you don't already own a GameCube. 

Alternatively, the market does have a variety of options that can help fulfil your needs, such as emulation-based systems like the Retr0n 5 and even some third-party options that support some sort of AV out capability. Having the versatility to play both on the go and in your living room is something many people associate with the Nintendo Switch, but considering that the Game Boy Advance managed to deliver this feature as early 2003, shows that this mighty handheld was a lot more than something to keep your thumbs busy.

More than just a handheld

Pac-Man Collection. (Image credit: Namco)

The Game Boy Advance has more than proven itself worthy of being an iconic piece of gaming history. Not only did it accommodate many gamers with a diverse library of high-quality titles, but it also kept the art of 32-bit gaming alive past the retirement of its generation. 

Where some vintage consoles and games may have fallen into the trap of collector's value and rarity, the GBA stands as a pillar of hope for those who want a reliable way to revisit a golden age of gaming. The GBA definitely delivers a strong case for being the ultimate retro experience, although it’s important to keep in mind that each individual's preference is unique to them, usually based on life's experiences and memories. The fact that this handheld console manages to be more accommodating that many other systems throughout history however, definitely earns it the right to try and convince you to adopt it as your main source of reminiscence.

Facebook shutters Onavo VPN app

Facebook is removing its Onavo VPN app from the Google Play Store and ending its unpaid market research programs following backlash over how the social network paid teens to spy on them.

The company's Onavo Protect app will stop collecting user data through its virtual private network (VPN) and will eventually shut down after giving users time to find an alternative app to replace it.

Facebook will also stop recruiting new users for its Facebook Research App that is no longer available on iOS but is still operating on Android.

When Apple discovered that the company was misusing its Enterprise Certificate program, which is meant for  internal company apps only, it revoked all of the social network's certificates and broke Facebook's own apps in the process.

Onavo VPN

Facebook first acquired Onavo back in 2013 for around $200m with the aim of using its VPN app to secretly gather data about how consumers use their smartphones. 

Even before its Research App existed, this data revealed that consumers were sending twice as many WhatsApp messages than those sent from its own Messenger app which led it to purchase the company for $19bn.

Facebook then tried to convince users that Onavo was a great way to reduce data usage, block dangerous websites and protect their internet traffic from snooping while it secretly analyzed their web usage itself.

The company has now decided to remove Onavo from the Play Store before Google decides to block it while ending recruitment of new Facebook Research testers. 

Facebook has certainly made the right move in this scenario but lawmakers and regulators could still seek legal action against the company for the way in which it mishandled user data so greatly.

Via TechCrunch

The best cheap US TV deals and sale prices - 4K TVs for less for February 2019

We've gone through the top retailers such as Amazon and Walmart to find the best cheap 4K TV deals that are available online. So if you're ready to upgrade to a 4K or smart TV or if you're just looking for bigger screen size with Ultra HD features, take a look at the highlights of the best TV sale prices below. Whether you're looking for an XL 4K TV to serve as the focal point of your home theater system, a modestly sized set for the bedroom or kitchen, or an entry level TV for the kids, you're sure to find something that meets your specifications and budget.

You will find all of our carefully curated deals below. We've divided them into three different size categories immediately after our pick for the best cheap TV deal of the week. These days you really don't have to pay much more to get a Ultra HD 4K set instead of an older-style HD one. If you're after the hottest tech in TV though, you may want to take a look at the cheapest OLED TV prices.

Whether you want a small TV with a price tag to match or something to show all the colors of the rainbow (and a few million more) with HDR, we've found plenty of options. Read on to find the TV you want at a great price!

TechRadar's cheap TV deal of the week Cheap TV deals (40-49 inch) Cheap TV deals (50-59 inch): Cheap TV deals (60-85 inch): More cheap TV sales:

Not found the right cheap TV for you today? Or maybe you'd prefer to directly browse the TVs at your favourite retailers instead of our highlights of the best cheap TV deals? We're updating this page on a regular basis, so you may have better look another day. If you want to take a look for yourself now though, here are the direct links to a the full collection of TV deals at multiple stores. 

Best free and public DNS servers of 2019

DNS (Domain Name System) is a system which translates the domain names you enter in a browser to the IP addresses required to access those sites.

Your ISP will assign you DNS servers whenever you connect to the internet, but these may not always be the best choice. Slow DNS servers can cause a lag before websites start to load, and if your server sometimes goes down, you may not be able to access any sites at all.

Switching to a free public DNS server can make a real difference, with more responsive browsing and lengthy 100% uptime records meaning there's much less chance of technical problems.

Some services can also block access to phishing or infected sites, and a few offer content filtering to keep your kids away from the worst of the web.

You need to choose your service with care - not all providers will necessarily be better than your ISP - but to help point you in the right direction, this article will highlight six of the best free DNS servers around.

OpenDNS

Founded in 2005 and now owned by Cisco, OpenDNS is one of the biggest names in public DNS.

The free service offers plenty of benefits: high speeds, 100% uptime, phishing sites blocked by default, optional parental controls-type web filtering to block websites by content type, along with free email support if anything goes wrong.

Commercial plans enable viewing a history of your internet activity for up to the last year, and can optionally lock down your system by allowing access to specific websites only. These aren't going to be must-have features for the average user, but if you're interested, they can be yours for around $20 (£14.30) a year.

If you're an old hand at swapping DNS, you can get started immediately by reconfiguring your device to use the OpenDNS nameservers.

If you're a newbie, that's okay too, as OpenDNS has setup instructions for PCs, Macs, mobile devices, routers and much, much more.

Cloudflare

Best known for its top-rated content delivery network, Cloudflare has extended its range to include a new public DNS service, the catchily-named 1.1.1.1.

The product doesn't have any of the extras you'll often see elsewhere. There's no anti-phishing, no ad-blocking, no content filtering or other attempts to monitor or control what you can access, and what you can't.

Instead, Cloudflare has focused much more on the fundamentals. These start with performance, and independent testing from sites like DNSPerf shows Cloudflare is the fastest public DNS service around.

Privacy is another major highlight. Cloudflare doesn't just promise that it won't use your browsing data to serve ads; it commits that it will never write the querying IP address (yours) to disk. Any logs that do exist will be deleted within 24 hours. And these claims aren't just reassuring words on a website. Cloudflare has retained KPMG to audit its practices annually and produce a public report to confirm the company is delivering on its promises.

The 1.1.1.1 website has some setup guidance, with simple tutorials covering Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and routers. These are very generic - you get one set of instructions for all versions of Windows, for instance - but there are some pluses (IPv6 as well as IPv4 details) and you should be able to figure it out.

If you have any problems, Cloudflare offers a community forum where you can ask questions or see what others are doing, a nice extra touch which we'd like to see followed by other providers.

Google Public DNS

Google has its fingers in most web-related pies, and DNS is no exception: it's free Public DNS is a simple and effective replacement for your own ISP's nameservers.

Privacy can't quite match the 'we don't keep anything' promises of Cloudflare, but it's not bad. The service logs the full IP address information of the querying device for around 24 to 48 hours for troubleshooting and diagnostic purposes. 'Permanent' logs drop any personally identifiable information and reduce location details to the city level, and all but a small random sample of these are deleted after two weeks.

There's a further benefit for experienced users in Google's detailed description of the service. If you'd like to be able to assess the significance of Google's privacy policy, for instance, you can read up on absolutely everything the service logs contain to find out for yourself.

Google's support site offers only very basic guidance targeted at experienced users, warning that "only users who are proficient with configuring operating system settings [should] make these changes." If you're unsure what you're doing, check the tutorials from a provider such as OpenDNS, remembering to replace its nameservers with Google's: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4.

Norton ConnectSafe

UPDATE: Norton ConnectSafe retired and the service isn't available anymore.

Norton ConnectSafe is a free DNS service which can automatically block access to fraudulent, phishing and malware-infested websites, as well as optionally filtering sites by content.

This is a familiar idea - OpenDNS and Comodo, amongst others, do much the same thing - but ConnectSafe has one important advantage. It takes its data from Norton Safe Web, a comprehensive database on more than 50 million websites in 23 languages. The service delivers probably the best web filtering performance around, and the ability to get it for free, without having to install any software, is a major safety plus.

Setting up the service requires choosing from three levels of protection.

The Security policy blocks malicious and fraudulent websites only, and uses the nameservers 199.85.126.10 and 199.85.127.10.

The Security and Pornography policy adds support for filtering sexually explicit material, and uses the nameservers 199.85.126.20 and 199.85.127.20.

The very strict Security and Pornography and Other scheme extends the filtering to block 'sites that feature mature content, abortion, alcohol, crime, cults, drugs, gambling, hate, sexual orientation, suicide, tobacco or violence' by using the nameservers 199.85.126.30 and 199.85.127.30.

That's likely to lock you out of a lot of content, but it might appeal as a way to protect young children, and you don't have to use this policy everywhere. You could lock down your kids' tablet with this policy, for instance, but stick with the plain Security policy for your own laptop.

There are only very basic setup instructions on the ConnectSafe site, but if you run into trouble, the tutorials on competitors such as OpenDNS may point you in the right direction. Just be sure to use Norton's nameserver IP addresses when you change your device settings.

Comodo Secure DNS

Comodo Group is the power behind a host of excellent security products, so it's no surprise that the company also offers its own public DNS service.

Just as you'd expect, Comodo Secure DNS has a strong focus on safety. It doesn't just block phishing sites, but also warns if you try to visit sites with malware, spyware, even parked domains which might overload you with advertising (pop-ups, pop-unders and more). Furthermore, you can try out the Comodo Dome Shield service, which adds additional features to Comodo Secure DNS.

Comodo claims its service is smarter than average, too, detecting attempts to visit parked or 'not in use' domains and automatically forwarding you to where you really want to go.

Performance is key, of course, and the company suggests its worldwide network of servers and smart routing technology give it an advantage. DNSPerf's Comodo stats are less impressive, unfortunately. As we write, DNSPerf reports its average query time as around 68ms, ranking it ninth out of the ten services tested.

That said, Comodo may still be interesting if you're looking for an extra layer of web filtering, and the support website has some short but useful instructions on setting the service up on Windows PCs, Macs, routers and Chromebooks.

Quad9

Quad9 is a young DNS outfit which has been providing a fast and free DNS service since August 2016.

The company sells itself on its ability to block malicious domains by collecting intelligence from 'a variety of public and private sources.' It's not clear what these sources are, but the website says Quad9 used 18+ 'threat intelligence providers' as of May 2018.

That's a little too vague for us, and we're not convinced that using a large number of threat intelligence providers will necessarily help – the quality of the intelligence is generally more important than the quantity.

There's no arguing about Quad9's performance, though. DNSPerf currently rates it seven out of ten for average worldwide query times, lagging behind Cloudflare and OpenDNS, but effortlessly outpacing contenders like Comodo.

Drilling down into the detail reveals some variations in speed - Quad9 is on the fifth place for North American queries - but overall the service still delivers better performance than most.

Setup guidance is a little limited, with tutorials for the latest versions of Windows and macOS only. They're well presented, though, and it's not difficult to figure out what you need to do.

Got further questions about DNS? Here are some common queries along with our answers.

What is DNS?

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a phonebook for the internet, a framework which translates domain names, like facebook.com or twitter.com, into the IP addresses necessary for devices to load those internet resources.

The mechanics of DNS can be quite complicated, as information isn't held in a single database, but rather distributed in a worldwide directory including a vast number of DNS servers.

Fortunately, the average internet user doesn't normally have to get involved in any of the low-level technical details. Your ISP automatically provides you with access to a DNS server whenever you go online, and whenever you enter a URL into your browser, this will find the relevant IP address for you. 

Your ISP DNS isn't performing? Verisign is one of many big-name companies offering a free alternative

Why might DNS matter to me?

DNS servers can vary hugely in speed, particularly in areas which don't always have the best internet coverage (Africa, South America, Oceania.) To take an example of a single day when we tested, DNSPerf.com reported Cloudflare achieved an average 4.43ms query time for Oceania, while Yandex was left trailing at 350.24ms. That's potentially more than a third of a second in extra waiting time before your browser is able to access any new website.

This is an extreme example, to be fair. European or US lookups may see less than 30ms variation between most DNS services, and as your device or router will probably cache the address for reuse later, even this delay will only occur very occasionally. Still, a sluggish DNS server can noticeably slow down your browsing in some situations, and trying an alternative – especially as the best options are all free – is generally a good idea.

There's a second possible benefit in terms of uptime. If your ISP DNS server fails, you might not be able to access some or all of your favorite sites. Big-name providers such as OpenDNS claim they've had 100% uptime going back years.

How can I find the fastest DNS service?

DNS speed depends on many factors, including your location, the distance to your nearest server, and that server having enough power and bandwidth to handle all the queries it receives.

DNS Jumper is a portable freeware tool which tests multiple public DNS services to find out which delivers the best performance for you.

The program has a lot of options, but isn't difficult to use. Launch it, click Fastest DNS > Start DNS Test, and within a few seconds you'll be looking at a list of DNS services sorted by speed.

DNS Jumper can be useful, in particular because it's checking how servers perform from your location, but it doesn't run enough tests over a long enough period to give you a definitive answer.

DNSPerf tests multiple DNS services every minute from 200+ locations around the world and makes the results freely available on its own website. This gives a very good general idea of performance, and also enables seeing how services compare on different continents, as well as assessing their uptime.

How can I switch DNS servers?

The steps involved in changing your DNS service vary according to your hardware and possibly your operating system version.

Generally, you must start by finding the primary and secondary nameservers for the DNS service you'd like to use. These IP addresses are normally displayed very clearly on the service website, so, for example, Cloudflare DNS uses 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1.

The simplest approach for home users is to update their router to use the new addresses. Most other devices will then pick up the new DNS settings automatically, with no further work required.

To make this happen you must log in to your router (the default password may be printed on its base) and look for the current DNS primary and secondary nameservers. Make a note of the current values in case of problems, then replace them with the nameservers you'd like to use.

If you run into problems, check out your DNS service website for any setup guidance. Keep in mind that you can also use the tutorials of other DNS providers, as long as you remember to replace their nameserver IPs with your preferred options. OpenDNS, for instance, has specific guidance for many different router types on its support site.

If router tweaks aren't right for your situation, you may have to change the DNS configuration of each individual device. Cloudflare has short and simple guidance here, while the OpenDNS website goes into more depth.

How can I find my current DNS servers?

If you're troubleshooting your internet connection, or maybe thinking of switching DNS servers, it might be useful to check which DNS servers you're using at the moment.

The simplest way to do this is to visit DNSLeakTest.com and tap the Standard Test button. Within a few seconds the website will usually display your DNS server IP addresses, host names, and sometimes (if appropriate) the name of your ISP.

After that, life gets more complicated as there are several potential options. Your device could be set up to use specific DNS servers; it might ask your router to give it the best DNS servers every time it boots; or it might not know anything about DNS servers, and leave your router to handle everything.

On Windows, you could get started by entering IPCONFIG /ALL in a command line window. Look for your network adapter and you should see its DNS servers specified in the list.

If there's a single DNS IP address which points at your router – 192.168.x.x – that suggests the router is handling all DNS queries. Enter that IP address into your browser, log in to the router if necessary and your DNS servers should be listed amongst the settings.

How can I test a DNS service?

If your browser is telling you a website's 'server IP address could not be found', even though you're sure it's up and available, then this could be due to a problem with your DNS. But you might not want to go to the trouble of changing your DNS service to find out.

Windows users can use the command line tool nslookup.exe to look at the results of any DNS server without touching their system settings.

Run cmd.exe to open a command line window, then type:

nslookup website.com

Then press Enter (replace website.com with the address of whatever website you're trying to reach).

Nslookup uses your default DNS server to look for the IP address of website.com. If it tells you it 'can't find website.com', this means your DNS server doesn't have a record for that domain.

Next, tell the tool to use another DNS service by entering a command like:

nslookup website.com 8.8.8.8

The 8.8.8.8 address uses Google DNS – replace that with any DNS service you like, such as 1.1.1.1 for Cloudflare.

If nslookup returns errors using multiple servers, this doesn't look like a DNS issue. If one server returns an IP address and another doesn't, you might want to try setting up your system to use the working DNS and see if it makes any difference.

You might also want to look over our many web hosting guides:

Next Xbox alleged specs point to 2020 release date and disc-less console

Microsoft has been pretty quiet about the next generation of Xbox consoles but, thanks to a report by a French gaming site, we may finally know the specs of the allusively codenamed Lockhart and Anaconda consoles. 

According to a report by JeuxVideo, two next-generation Xbox consoles will be revealed at E3 2019 - you may know them by their codenames Lockhart and Anaconda.

In addition, the site claims the next Xbox specs which were leaked last year weren't far off what we can actually expect Microsoft to announcement later this year.

Image credit: TechRadar

What do we know?

According to the report, the Lockhart console will be the entry-level machine, with lower performance and therefore a lower price. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the alleged Lockhart specs is that it won't have a disc-tray – essentially functioning as a cloud streaming box for digital games, apps and other media. 

However, the Anaconda is rumored to be much more high-end system, with very high performance and a higher price point to match – allegedly similar to the Xbox One X's on release.

Both consoles will allegedly have SSDs, which should improve overall performance and loading times.

According to the report, both consoles are due for release in 2020 alongside Halo: Infinite (which will be one of the generation's launch titles). Microsoft has not confirmed this leaked information or specs but, if true, these new consoles are sure to put a spanner in Sony's plans for the PS5.

 Via VG247

A Japanese startup is set to go hunting for ice… on the Moon

Last night, Israel's first mission to the moon launched successfully on a SpaceX rocket. Israel now looks set to become the fourth nation to briefly put a lander on the moon, but a private company in Japan has much more ambitious plans.

Called HAKUTO-R, a two-pronged mission from Tokyo-based ispace intends to conduct tech tests on the lunar surface and eventually locate, extract and deliver lunar ice to space agencies and private space companies.

Can Japan become another ‘lunar nation’ by its target of mid-2020? Japan Airlines (JAL) thinks so. A major backer of the project, it's one of three companies that today released details of how they're going to help ispace get to the Moon – and what they're going to do when they get there.

ispace was one of the five finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Image credit: HAKUTO/ispace

What is ispace?

ispace describes itself as a private lunar exploration company. With an HQ in Tokyo and offices in Luxembourg and the US, it has 85 staff. Headed up by entrepreneur Takeshi Hakamada, it's got a similar pedigree to the SpaceIL team that just launched its Beresheet spacecraft to the Moon.

Like SpaceIL, ispace was also one of the five finalists in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to encourage the building, launch and landing of an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon by a private company before March 31, 2018. The XPRIZE – reward $20,000 (abour £15,000, AU$28,000) – proved just a little too ambitious, but some of the companies it helped create are now on the cusp of going to the Moon.

ispace was so successful is raising funds from investors during that process, including from JAL, that is going ahead despite the lack of a financial prize. It’s using a chunk of its US$95 million fund to purchase two SpaceX flights. Since Israel just sent Beresheet to the Moon for US$90 million, ispace should be taken seriously.

Founder and SCEO of ispace, Takeshi Hakamada. Image credit: ispace

What's the plan?

When it comes to space exploration, you need a vision. This one is about the new lunar frontier and the expansion of human activity in space. "We're trying to establish a structure for a transportation system," says Aaron Sorensen, global communications specialist at ispace's HQ in Tokyo, talking to TechRadar at January's CES in Las Vegas. "So our lander will provide transportation for space agencies or companies or individuals that want to send things to the moon, such as research equipment, supplies, and tools."

However, another critical part of the mission is surface exploration. "We want to identify where water ice exists and map that out so that we can eventually learn how to use it as a resource," said Sorensen. Technically speaking this is about developing a way of separating the Moon's water ice into hydrogen and oxygen to create basic rocket fuel for spacecraft orbiting the Moon. That could enable a self-sufficient moonbase, or lunar operations, but could also make the Moon a useful staging post for missions to Mars.

"To get out of Earth's atmosphere the gravitational pull is very heavy, so if you could just use enough hydrogen fuel to get to the moon you could then use it as a refueling station to go to Mars and into deeper space," said Sorensen.

However, ispace’s vision goes deeper even than that. "We want to be able to provide a vehicle for private companies so that they can see the moon as an extension of their business, and basically incorporate the moon into the Earth's economic system," said Sorensen.

The first missions will land somewhere on the near-side of the Moon.

CAPTION: HAKUTO-R is the world’s first private lunar exploration program. Image credit: HAKUTO/ispace

What is HAKUTO-R?

HAKUTO-R is the world’s first private lunar exploration program consisting of multiple missions. So far, it's two missions: a Moon orbit in mid-2020 followed by a Moon landing in mid-2021 involving a lunar rover. Both will be launched as secondary payloads on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, just as SpaceIL's Beresheet was yesterday. They are tech demonstrations, for sure, but they could pave the way for a regular 'Moon shuttle' system that would give private companies predictable and affordable access to the lunar surface. That's the big idea.

Once the tech is proven by the first two missions, ispace is planning to send seven more missions to kick off an Earth-Moon transport system, and will also include a lander to look for water at the Moon's poles.

A prototype for HAKUTO lander was part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Image credit: HAKUTO

What companies are supporting it?

This morning JAL announced that it's become a full corporate partner. Already one of ispace's major financial backers, JAL will provide a facility near Narita International Airport in Tokyo for the assembly, integration and testing of HAKUTO-R’s lunar landers, as well as technical support. It will also fly the spacecraft to the US launch site. “Japan Airlines has been one of our most dedicated supporters over the years,” said Hakamada. “We are grateful they continue to push us toward our dream.”

Another Japanese company has already set its sights on live technology tests on the lunar surface. Nagoya-based NGK Spark Plug announced today that it will test its solid-state battery technology on the Moon on the 2021 mission. Since its way too cold on the Moon to use lithium-ion batteries, which use liquid electrolytes, stable energy storage will be a key technology if any moon-base is ever built. Or if mining operations commence.

Arguably just as critical in actually encouraging private moon missions is Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance's announcement of a lunar insurance service. “The availability of lunar exploration insurance will encourage new players to participate in the lunar industry by reducing the risk of entry,” said Hakamada.

Another investor in ispace is KDDI, a Japanese telecommunications operator interested in providing communications between the Earth and the Moon.

HAKUTO-R will launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Image credit: SpaceX

Why do we need new private companies in space?

Once dominated by national, government-funded space agencies, the private space industry is mushrooming. The US has plenty of private space companies, among them SpaceX and Orbital ATK, which take supplies to the International Space Station. SpaceX and Boeing could soon take astronauts there. Other notables include Astrobotic and the very ispace-like Moon Express.

Not surprisingly, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) want to examine the Moon in more detail to see if it can be used as a staging post to Mars. Cue a race to provide those space agencies with a lunar landing system. Nine US companies are currently are developing landers to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon’s surface, while SpaceIL's cut-price Beresheet is an effort to impress ESA. ispace's HAKUTO-R could be JAXA's way of getting to the Moon.

However, there's something a little more ambitious about HAKUTO-R in that it's not just trying to get government contracts, but wants to kick-start a new commercial space industry.

With SpaceX already launching private satellites, last night launching a private mission to the Moon, and now also lined-up to launch HAKUTO-R, the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place for a self-sustaining private space industry.

Best Apple Watch screen protectors: our top picks and what to look out for

Let’s start with a question. Does your Apple Watch really need a screen protector? If yours is stainless steel, the answer is probably no: its sapphire crystal glass is incredibly tough and very scratch-resistant.

For aluminum Apple Watch models, things aren’t so clear-cut: the Ion-X glass is pretty tough, but we found our watch soon accumulated a lot of little scratches. They weren’t enough to annoy us in everyday usage, but they did affect the resale value.

Scratches aren’t covered by your warranty, because they’re everyday wear and tear. Smashes are, though. If you really damage your screen and you’ve got AppleCare, Apple will replace the screen two times for a fee of $69/£49/AU$99 each time.

The out-of-warranty fees are much higher, starting at just under $200/£200/AU$300 and reaching the heady heights of $800/£749/$1,199 if you have the ceramic Apple Watch 3.

Even if you do have AppleCare, it’s better not to have to pay the fee: protecting your watch from damage is cheaper than fixing it after damage has occurred. Even the most expensive option here is a fraction of the price of an Apple Watch screen repair.

Repairing an Apple Watch is expensive, so it's best to protect it. Image Credit: TechRadar

If you want to keep your watch pristine and protected, there are three main options. There are plastic screen protectors, very similar to smartphone ones, where you peel off the backing, stick them to the screen and push out the bubbles.

These are by far the cheapest screen protectors you can buy, and while they can be a little bit fiddly to fit – getting them onto your watch without leaving any bubbles requires patience and a bit of skill – they do a decent job of standing up to everyday scrapes and bumps.

If you’d rather add something a bit tougher, a tempered glass protector may be a better option. These are much harder to fit – as they’re glass, they’re not as flexible or as forgiving as plastic.

Finally, there are cases that surround the whole watch. Inevitably, they add bulk - and some models are hideous. But if you’re likely to be in an environment where your watch faces various hazards, a case may be a worthwhile investment unless that environment is hot and humid, or wet.

Most protective cases aren’t waterproof or airtight, so they’ll often get steamy in the gym or will let in water when you swim. That doesn’t affect your watch but does make it hard to see.

These are products that we haven't had in our test labs, but based on our experts' opinion and knowledge of the most reputable brands around, we think these are worth looking at.

Our selections, ranked from cheapest to most expensive, take into account online reviews, brand reputation, product capability or unique features to help you pick through the maze of choices available to you.

Image Credit: IQ Shield

Most screen protectors just cover the screen. Not this one: it’s a full body protector with sections to cover the entire Apple Watch body, although we’re not entirely sure why you might want to do that. At the time of writing the full coverage model is available for the Apple Watch 3 but not the Apple Watch 4.

It’s a 'liquid skin' film that you apply while wet, although some reviewers have found that the little sections for the sides of the Apple Watch are very, very fiddly to apply. The main screen bit is a doddle, though.

Image Credit: RinoGear

Here’s a great deal for US Apple Watch owners: the same liquid skin film you get in other firms' protectors at a rock-bottom price. RinoGear’s top-rated screen protectors are available for just $7.85 for a pack of six at the time of writing, which is a dollar thirty per protector.

There’s a lifetime guarantee, but who cares when these are so cheap? If one gets damaged, just throw it out and stick another one on. As with other liquid skin protectors the RinoSkin protectors are applied when wet, can self-heal from minor scratches and are pretty easy to put in place.

Image Credit: Misxi

If you want to protect your Apple Watch with a case, this is one of the thinnest, least obtrusive ones around. It’s made of the same TPU as rugged watch cases, so it’s tough and scratch-resistant, and it’s easy to fit.

The main downside to this kind of case is that it can trap moisture between the case and the screen, so for example it’s not one to wear to the gym or when you go for a swim. Make sure you get what you order, though: some customers say they paid for a two-pack but only got one.

Image Credit: Spigen

Spigen makes a whole bunch of Apple Watch cases with differing levels of protection: this, the Rugged Armor version, is one of the cheaper options. It’s a solid TPU case that protects your watch from impacts, though it’s bulky in a Casio G-Shock kind of way.

This case doesn’t include any direct screen protection – the raised lip around the screen should be enough – and that means it won’t suffer from the misting or water ingress that can affect some full-coverage cases.

Image Credit: LK

This is Amazon’s choice for the Apple Watch 4, and it’s also available for all generations of the Apple Watch.

The protectors are made of laser-cut liquid skin film that can be washed and reapplied; unlike some film protectors the LK ones are designed to be applied while wet, which makes it easier to get rid of the dreaded bubbles.

There’s also a lifetime warranty, although we’re not sure why you’d bother invoking it when a six-pack of these protectors is so cheap: it’s much quicker to just chuck on another protector than to write an angry email to the manufacturer.

Image Credit: Dalinch

There are lots of brands offering very similar tempered glass screen protectors with very similar photography, which makes us think they’re coming from the same factories.

That means the buying decision here is largely down to price and reviews: look for ones featuring customer images rather than just endless “Best protector EVER!” hyperbole.

Tempered glass is tougher than film and less prone to air bubbles but there are three minor downsides: it’s slightly fiddlier to apply, it costs more, and film doesn’t smash if something hard hits it. That means even fairly minor knocks can mean it’s new-protector time.

The high costs of storing data locally in a cloud native era

The rise of cloud computing has led some businesses to forego local storage entirely and run their entire operations online. However, many organizations still depend on their own data centres and storage but in the era of GDPR, this could end up leading to compliance issues. Storing outdated IT hardware is also quite costly for businesses with two in five organisations spending over $100,000 a year to do so.

To better understand why some businesses are still storing large amounts of data locally despite the financial and compliance risks, TechRadar Pro spoke with Blancco’s Vice President of Enterprise and Cloud Erasure Solutions Fredrik Forslund.

Image Credit: Pexels

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Pixabay

Will Samsung enjoy first mover advantage with 5G?

The news of a 5G edition of the Samsung Galaxy S10 might not have been the most exciting development from Samsung Unpacked, but it is a significant move in the firm’s battle against market saturation.

Over the past decade, the success of the Galaxy S range and a wide portfolio of handsets at different price tiers has catapulted Samsung into its positions as the world’s largest phone manufacturer, the Android flagship carrier, and main competitor to Apple.

But for the past few years, the Korean electronics giant has been wary of market saturation, looking towards the business and infrastructure markets as sources of new revenue. This need has become even more apparent in the past year as shipment volumes contracted.

Market saturation

Sliding smartphone sales weren’t too much of a concern while the average selling price (ASP) of its devices increased. But relatively poor sales of the Samsung Galaxy S9 were attributed to a lack of innovation and a high price tag at a time when other Android manufacturers were launching more affordable, feature-packed handsets.

As a result, Huawei is threatening Samsung’s leadership of the market and there are concerns about growth going forward. The challenges facing Samsung aren’t unique and are applicable across the industry, but the company has the most to lose.

The announcements made at Samsung Unpacked will go some way to satisfying some of these concerns. The flexible Samsung Galaxy Fold shows the company can still innovate, but the device’s big price tag means it sales of the Samsung Galaxy S10 that will be more important.

New features and different versions of the S10 at different price points will hopefully drive uptake and help solve the issue of affordability.

First mover advantage

The 5G version of the S10 is important for a different reason in that it gives Samsung first mover advantage.

Analysts believe that flexible displays and 5G compatibility will be two of the biggest catalysts for smartphone sales in 2019, so it is a shrewd move to steal the march on other manufacturers expected to launch 5G handsets at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next month.

The manufacturer has also beaten great rival Apple to the punch. Although 5G connectivity might not be enough to steal customers from Apple, which enjoys significant user loyalty, it does at least ask the question of consumers. The first 5G-compatible iPhone is not expected until 2020.

There’s no escaping the fact that the 5G-enabled is a first-generation handset that lacks many of the features expected of future 5G smartphones, but the device has immediately become the flagship in the market segment.

It will find favour among early adopters of 5G, encouraged by the fact they will be able to use a market-leading smartphone on next generation networks. In the UK, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be available on EE later this year.

No silver bullet

That’s not to say 5G is a silver bullet for Samsung, however.

GSMA research has found that there is a lack of 5G awareness. Only half of people understand 5G means faster speeds and only a quarter expect 5G networks to deliver new types of services. Just a fifth acknowledge 5G will enable new types of devices.

And it’s worth remembering Apple was just fine when it was behind the curve in 3G and 4G adoption.

But for now, this is a major development. 5G compatibility might not generate as many headlines as Samsung’s other announcements, but it does show the faith the company is placing in next generation networks to deliver growth.

Best managed WordPress hosting 2019

As a content management system, WordPress offers one of the easiest and quickest ways to set up your own blog or website. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can select from one of hundreds of templates, as well as create interactive content such as contact forms.

The usefulness of WordPress has not been lost on website hosting providers. In this guide, you’ll discover some of the very best vendors on the market today who offer managed WordPress hosting. 

This is a great way to avoid the time and trouble of hosting your content from scratch as managed Wordpress hosting providers take the trouble of creating and maintaining your website away from you.

The best Managed WordPress hosting provider of 2019

WP Engine might be a slightly more onerous proposition for the casual user, but a more demanding audience will love WP Engine's speed, power and high-end premium features as well as the profusion of high quality WordPress themes it can provide through StudioPress

WP Engine

WP Engine is the leading WordPress digital platform. It hosts excellent uptime, WordPress specific security and unlimited monthly transfers.

WP Engine includes many great tools needed for web hosting. These range from automated backups to 24/7 support (phone support on Growth and Scale packages). 

You can use WP Engine’s ‘actionable intelligence’ to gain insight into the performance of your pages, content and applications.

WP Engine has four different price plans. All include free migration and free page performance. If you pay for a year’s subscription upfront, you get four months free.

Prices start off at $35 per month which include a 60-day risk free guarantee. WP Engine also have a ‘Custom’ tier for larger businesses who want a plan more tailored for their individual needs.

Some users have asked for a mid-range pricing option between the $35 and $115 tiers with the most expensive tier, Scale, costing $290 per month and offering support for up to 15 sites. At the moment, there is a 20% discount on all plans for your first payment.

GoDaddy Pro

GoDaddy Pro is part of GoDaddy Inc, founded in 1997. It offers users a more robust, wider range of tools for developers and businesses. While it doesn't mention WordPress in the opening few introductory phrases, GDP is actually wholly focused on WordPress installs.

GoDaddy Pro offers client management tools and advanced support. This solution allows developers to add multiple clients and manages their accounts from one single dashboard. 

GoDaddy gives users access to a management dashboard. From here all products and clients can be viewed. The dashboard can alert the user via SMS and email to any issues the client may have.

As GoDaddy Pro has been designed to make developer’s lives easier, the platform is user-friendly and everything is at your fingertips via the dashboard.

Access to the dashboard is free and includes reporting and basic maintenance for as many WordPress sites as needed. Paid services include cloud backups, migration, uptime monitoring and automated security checks. These can be purchased as add-ons to your free plan.

Users have noted that bandwidth monitoring is not included.

Bluehost

Bluehost is a web hosting company owned by Endurance International Group. It was founded in 2003. It’s part of a web hosting family that includes HostMonster, FastDomain and iPage.

Bluehost tries to make the daunting task of starting a new web site easy. It offers plenty of options to those new to web hosting while still offering tools for the more experienced user.

All new subscribers can set up a WordPress site with a single click of their mouse. Also, newbies can rely on Blue Spark, a specialized service that helps new users with everything WordPress related. 

Bluehost are currently offering all their WordPress plans at a reduced rate. Prices start at $3.95 (£3.09) a month for a single WordPress site complete with 50GB of website space. The ‘Plus’ and ‘Premium’ packages are on offer for $5.95 (£4.64) per month. These both include unlimited WordPress sites and unlimited website space. The ‘Premium’ package includes domain privacy and SiteBackup Pro.

More inexperienced users have reported that the dashboard can be difficult to navigate if you do not know all the terminology.

WordPress VIP

WordPress VIP is a fully managed cloud platform. Users of VIP have access to expert guidance, code review and around the clock support.

Users get their own Git repository and ZenDesk account. Once your code is ready, you send it to the VIP team. Experts at VIP go through each line of code in your repository. This can take 4-6 weeks. If any issues are found, they’re raised on GitHub. Once these have been removed the code is transferred to your project and you are online. VIP adhere to strict coding standards.

One of the main attractions of VIP, is their ‘always on’ support. VIP engineers watch for any issues that may arise and fix them proactively on behalf of the client. Once rectified, a report will be sent to you explaining what occurred.

Users will need to contact VIP directly in order to get a quote.

Some users have reported delays with setting up and building sites.

SiteGround

SiteGround was founded in 2004. It provides shared hosting, cloud hosting and dedicated servers.

SiteGround lets you choose from one of their five data centres on which to host your website. These are based in the US, Amsterdam, Singapore and the UK.

SiteGround offers users CloudFlare CDN, free SSL certificates and daily backups of their website’s data. All of their shared hosting plans include managed WordPress.

The platform’s customer support includes live chat as well as a phone in option. All support services are available 24/7.

The ‘StartUp’ plan begins at $11.95 (£9.28) per month ($3.95 for initial payment) which includes one website, 10GB web space and is suitable for 10,000 visits monthly. The ‘GrowBig’ plan for $19.95 (£15.47) monthly ($5.95 for initial payment) allows for multiple websites, 20GB of web space and is suitable for 25,000 visits. SiteGround’s ‘GoGeek’ plan starts at $34.95 (£27.08) per month ($11.95 for initial payment) which includes 30GB of web space and is suitable for 100,000 visits monthly. SiteGround do not offer a free trial but do have a 30-day money back guarantee.

Some users reported issues with being automatically logged out when signing in on multiple devices.

DreamHost

DreamHost is owned by New Dream Network, LLC which was founded in 1996. It’s both a web hosting provider and a domain name registrar.

DreamHost’s ‘Shared Starter’ plan starts at $4.95 (£3.87) per month. This includes a shared hosting server, 1 WordPress website, unlimited traffic, 1-click SSL certificate, fast SSD storage, 24/7 support and an upgrade to add email.

The ‘DreamPress’ package starts at $19.95 (£15.47). This includes all of what the ‘Shared Starter’ plan has to offer along with 30GB SSD storage and JetPack free preinstalled.

All of DreamHost’s hosting solutions are a fully managed service.

Inexperienced users have reported issues with getting started. 

InMotion

InMotion Hosting is an employee-owned and -operated domain name and web hosting company founded in 2001.

InMotion offers dedicated, shared, virtual private server and WordPress hosting along with several Ecommerce tools. 

Their WordPress hosting plans start off at $4.99 (£3.8) per month (for initial payment) and include one website, 40GB SSD storage and is suitable for 20,000 visitors a month. InMotion have six price plans available and all of them offer unlimited data transfers.

Besides having numerous price plans for each of their hosting options, InMotion have numerous free add-ons, free ecommerce tools and unlimited emails. While they do not have a free trial, they do include a 90-day money back guarantee.

Some users have complained that InMotion is not as competitively priced as other hosting providers.

HostGator

HostGator was founded in 2002. It provides shared, reseller, VPS and dedicated web hosting.

HostGator’s Website Builder comes with a handy drag and drop feature. The builder includes a wide range of themes. Some of the features are pre-built to help make the process easier and faster.

HostGator claim that load times for WordPress sites are up to 2.5 times faster than other providers due to their superior server architecture.

The utility offers a WordPress Cloud Interface where you can manage backups, access all your email accounts and other hosting options. You can also allocate server bandwidth from here.

HostGator offer three WordPress cloud hosting plans. The ‘Starter’ plan is currently $5.95 (£4.64) per month for 1 site, 100,000 visits per month, 1GB free backups and a free SSL certificate. The ‘Standard’ plan is on offer at $7.95 (£6.19) per month for 2 sites, 200,000 visits per month, 2GB backups and a free SSL certificate. 

HostGator’s ‘Business’ plan is also on offer at $9.95 (£7.73) per month. This includes 3 sites, 500,000 visits, 3GB backups and a free SSL certificate.

According to online commentators, the purchase price for additional domains can be quite steep.

1&1 IONOS

1&1 (called 1&1 IONOS since October 2018) is owned by German company, United Internet. It was founded in 1988. It offers domain registration, cloud servers, virtual private servers and dedicated servers.

1&1 boasts excellent customer support and easy to use web creation tools. More inexperienced users might find this provider more suitable to their needs.

1&1’s ‘Basic’ packages starts at $1 (£1 for UK) per month for the first 6-months and then $9 (£6 for UK) per month thereafter. This includes 1 WordPress project, 25GB SSD storage, unlimited visitors and managed WordPress. Upon registration you are offered a domain name free for 12 months. This is only valid upon purchase of any of their plans.

Users that sign up for the ‘Business’ plan receive 2 WordPress projects, 100GB SSD storage and unlimited visitors. This plan starts at $1 (£1 for UK) per month for the first 12 months and then $11 (£8 for UK) per month thereafter. 

The ‘Pro’ plan starts at $1 (£1 for UK) for the first 6 months and then $15 (£1 for UK). It includes 5 WordPress projects and 200GB SSD storage, as well as SiteLock malware protection and RailGun CDN.

Online commentators have complained about long periods of downtime. 

You might also want to check out our other website hosting buying guides:

Asus announces four GeForce GTX 1660 Ti variants

The rumors were true and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti does exist, and Asus has now officially announced that it's releasing four different variants of the affordable graphics card.

Each of Asus' GTX 1660 Ti cards slots into the company's product lines: ROG Strix, ASUS Dual, TUF Gaming, and Phoenix, with the cards tweaked to appeal to different markets, while providing the same underlying Turing architecture of the GTX 1660 Ti.

According to Asus, each of these cards is "ideal for gamers seeking an uptick in performance on a budget," and are aimed at people gaming on 1080p and 1440p gaming monitors.

Asus ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

The ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is Asus' top-of-the-range 1660 Ti, and is aimed at enthusiasts who want the very best performance. 

As with other GPUs in the Strix line, it has a specialised cooling setup to keep the GPU cool when under load or when overclocked.

It will cost £339.99 (around $440, AU$620) and is available worldwide right now.

Asus TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

As with other products in Asus' TUF product line, the Asus TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti has been designed to be as tough and durable as possible, passing a "144-hour validation program involving both synthetic and live in-game benchmarking" that makes sure it is built to last.

It's also reinforced with backplates to make the graphics card itself stronger, and its fans use dual-ball bearings that should last a long time.

We're chasing up prices for the Asus TUF Gaming GeForce GTX 1660 Ti,  which will go on sale worldwide slightly later in March 2019.


Asus Dual GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

The Asus Dual GeForce GTX 1660 Ti comes with (as the name suggests) two large fans for keeping the GPU cool, and they have IP5X dust resistance which means the performance of the fans shouldn't drop over time.

It goes on sale today, February 22, for £308.99 (around $390, AU$550).

Asus Phoenix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti

Finally, the Asus Phoenix GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is a compact variant that is designed for small form-factor builds. It comes with one fan, which uses a patented Wing-blade design that keeps the card cool despite its small size.

This GPU is also available right now for £259.99 (around $340, AU$475).

We'll be testing out Nvidia's stock GTX 1660 Ti, so we should see just how much power this affordable graphics card can provide, and it's good to see manufacturers like Asus get behind the product by releasing a number of versions for different budgets.

Image credits: Asus

Best AV receivers 2019: which home cinema AV receiver should you buy?

If you love the cinematic experience when you go to the movies but not the huge ticket prices and other people chattering away, then turn your living room into a home cinema instead. You'll just need to make sure you have the right kit, including an AV receiver.

That's because buying yourself the best TV on the market may bring that huge cinema screen feel to your home, but it rarely brings the audio to match. That means if you want high-end sound to make the most of your 4K TV you'll need to buy an AV receiver as well.

If you're not as clued in about the latest receiver tech as you are about the latest TV tech, don't worry. AVRs essentially act as the brains behind your AV setup. 

AV receivers will take the audio track from whatever TV show, movie, CD or video game you're playing or watching, process the audio and send it through to any connected speakers you have. 

AVRs are the only way to power 5.1 and 7.1 speaker setups outside of a soundbar, and they also host a bevy of ports that allow you to keep all your devices connected all the time.

This is important because the best AV receivers are essentially the central base that all of your entertainment equipment will need to connect to and communicate with.

Even if you have lots of other devices, this means that the transition between them will be seamless, regardless of what you’re trying to play, watch or listen to, you’ll always get an amazing entertainment experience to rival your nearest cinema screen.

If you have a 4K set-up at home, then you need to be on the lookout for a receiver that has a wealth of HDCP 2.2 compatible HDMI ports. If you want to get really high-tech with your set-up, and invest in multi-room streaming, you need to think about which wireless speaker system is best for you – Chromecast, Heos, or even Yamaha MusicCast. Even if that's not something you're interested in right now, it makes sense to future-proof your set-up.

For many people, Dolby Atmos will be the killer app. This 3D audio system is now the gold standard in immersive audio. It may be available on soundbars, but only an AV receiver offers true overhead Dolby Atmos audio. 

All you'll need to do is decide if you want a seven or a nine-channel system. (However, that said, you may not need Dolby Atmos at all, in which case a standard 5.1 sound system will fill your surround sound needs nicely.) 

Have we convinced you that you need an AC receiver yet? The next step is figuring out which is the right one for you and luckily we've got a big list of all the best AC receivers you can get your hands on today. 

Best AV receivers under $699

Gone are the days when buying a surround-sound-supporting receiver with multiple HDMI ports meant spending an arm and a leg. These days, you can get a great receiver with support for a surround sound setup at well under $500/£600. Like, for example, the Onkyo TX-NR676.

It's not the only receiver in its price range with a great set of features features or a plethora of inputs, but there are few comprehensive packages that are as easy to assemble, set up and use as Onkyo's. 

In terms of expected sound performance, Onkyo has long offered a great sound-quality, and this receiver is no different. The receiver supports DTS:X and Dolby Atmos, which helps give sound a much more immersive feel to it. 

We found that the receiver was generally great-sounding at all volumes. At low volumes, there was still plenty of clarity and detail, while higher volumes produced little distortion, which was nice to hear. Extremely tuned ears might miss a little detail in the high end at louder volumes, though the receiver still shoots well above its price range when it comes to sound quality. 

If you’re looking for a great A/V receiver and have a maximum budget of $400/£600, the Onkyo TX-NR676 is the way to go.

Read the full review: Onkyo TX-NR676

It might be late to the party, but Sony’s debut Dolby Atmos AV receiver entertains with some cool functionality. While it’s ostensibly a seven channel design (which means it can run in a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos configuration) there are also two phantom rears which create a pseudo seven channel surround soundstage. The receiver can even virtually relocate the physical position of your speakers, to create a better sonic balance.   

Build quality is commensurate with its price tag. This is no heavyweight, and the fascia looks overly fussy, but the hairline finish is a premium touch. Connectivity is good. We get six HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 enabled. There are also two HDMI outputs, for combi TV and projector use. There are also two analogue AV inputs, plus a pair of stereo phonos and two digital audio inputs.  

The AVR connects via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth with NFC for quick pairing, plus Airplay.  The AVR also boasts Chromecast Built-in. That’s all the main wireless boxes ticked.

Setup is helped along by the latest iteration of Sony’s Auto Calibration software, which now features a 31-band graphic EQ and a stereo calibration microphone that adjusts phase, distance and level.

Usability is average. The receiver relies heavily on its UI, which is pretty but sometimes a little frustrating.  

Performance is excellent for the price. Tonally the STR-DN1080 may not be particularly warm, but it is exciting. Movies benefit from seamless panning and pronounced dynamics. Power output is quoted at  7 x 165W into 6 ohms. The biggest surprise is the effectiveness of the phantom rears, which really do help fill out the rear surround stage. This sonic trickery positions the STR-DN1080 somewhere above a standard 5.1.2 design, but below a true nine channel amp.

Overall, this is an innovative, exciting AV Dolby Atmos receiver. Consider it a brilliant value home cinema offering.  

The latest update to the popular slimline NR line, Marantz’s Dolby Atmos enabled NR1607 packs a load of features into a low profile frame. 

Choose from either a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration, or 7.1 flatbed surround. Wireless connectivity comes via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or AirPlay.  

All seven rear-side HDMI inputs support 4K with HDCP 2.2. There’s only one HDMI output though. This is joined by two digital audio inputs (one coaxial, one digital), plus three AV analogue inputs. On the front panel, there’s another HDMI input and USB with iOS Digital Direct.  

Auto room correction is provided by Audyssey, viaa supplied microphone. It does a reasonable job EQing the receiver to the listening room.   

The 50W p/c power rating may be modest, but this little box can slam loud and hard when it needs too. The subtle, immersive 3D audio of Atmos is also well handled here; audio panning around and overhead is thoroughly engaging. 

The receiver is more than confident with two channel sources, although it lacks the sparkle of some of more expensive rivals.  While the power output is plenty good enough for smaller rooms, larger theater spaces could be a challenge. Edge past 80 on the volume gauge and the mid-range dries out. 

Overall, the NR1607 can be considered a potent slimline Dolby Atmos receiver. HDMI connectivity is class leading, and our only grumble is the solitary output, which could limit options if you want to run both a screen and a projector. 

Best AV receivers under $1,000

The Yamaha RX-A880 is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a powerful, affordable receiver. Not only does it sound great, but it boasts a ton of ports, support for a range of wireless standards, and works with MusicCast, too. 

If you’re looking for a receiver that boasts Dolby Atmos support and can be calibrated to your room, and have the money to spend, then the Yamaha RX-A880 is the way to go. If, however, you’d prefer to save some cash but still want support for 7.1 channels, then we recommend the Onkyo TX-NR676

New and improved for 2018, the RX-A880 boasts a whopping seven input HDMI ports - all of which support HDCP 2.2 as well - which solves one of the biggest issues with the receiver’s predecessor, the Yamaha RX-A860, and there are also a few other analog input ports, so even older sources should work.  

The receiver is capable of outputting audio at 110W per channel at 8Ω which is plenty of volume for those that want a powerful and loud overall sound. Even in larger rooms, this receiver should have no trouble filling the room with powerful audio, as long as you have a decent set of speakers too.

Plus, don't forget the RX-A880 supports Dolby Atmos. If you have enough speakers to set up the full system, you’ll find that you’re intensely immersed in whatever you’re watching thanks to the Dolby features. But, even when we had just a 5.1-channel setup, we felt like we never needed to go to a cinema again.

It’s not often we see something radically different in the world of AV receivers, but this HEOS model definitely qualifies. For starters, it looks fundamentally different to the herd. There’s no front panel display. Rear connectivity has also been stripped back. Standing just 90mm tall, it’s refreshing compact.  

Build quality is superb. Only a volume knob on the extruded aluminium fascia gives the AVR game away. 

There are four HDMI inputs, and a single output, all with HDCP 2.2 support. There's just two digital audio inputs (coaxial and optical), plus analogue stereo, 3.5mm minijack, lone USB and Ethernet LAN. Wireless connectivity covers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is a 5.1 channel design and doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. Key to the receiver’s appeal is HEOS wireless speaker integration. While there is provision for wired rear speakers, the system is designed to work with wireless HEOS rears. In most systems, only the front L/C/R will be tethered. It can also partner with a dedicated wireless HEOS subwoofer. 

While a remote is supplied, it’s a basic zapper. There’s no onscreen display either. Setup and control is done through a HEOS app. 

For our audition, we partnered the AVR with a pair of HEOS 1s at the rear, and the wireless HEOS subwoofer. With speakers grouped, the package becomes a working 5.1 system. There’s no further calibration required.

The HEOS AVR may not be a powerhouse, but it’s a bright, lively listen. The receiver delivers multichannel movie soundtracks with gusto. It’s crisp and exciting, particularly when there’s plenty going on around the soundstage (try it with Edge of Tomorrow Blu-ray, then duck as the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack unloads chaos in every corner).   

This isn’t a particularly musical AVR though. Pop and rock are entertaining enough, but throw a throw it something classical or jazzy and its spatial delineation turns a bit mushy. 

Using wireless rears can invite some problems. While latency isn’t an issue, we were aware of occasional low-level pops and fizzes.

As an ambitious reworking of the classic home theater receiver, we rate this first HEOS AVR as an qualified success. The cosmetics are admirable, and for dedicated HEOS multiroom users the wireless interactivity is a boon. Employing an app for control seems to make perfect sense, the only snag comes if your streaming audio sources are also app controlled and need to be juggled outside of the HEOS app. This may not be the future of AV receivers, but it’s a refreshing rethink nonetheless. 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Marantz NR1607 
  • Looking for a great movie to put your sound system to the test? Check out our list of the best sci-fi movies.
Best AV recivers over $1,000

If you want a no-compromise Atmos experience, then stepping up to a nine channel AV receiver is well worth the premium. With this big Denon, you can opt for 5.1.4, or 7.1.2 - and that makes a big difference to the overall performance. There’s actually processing for eleven channels if you want to add additional amplification. 

But there’s more than just wraparound audio to this beast. The H suffix denotes that it’s also HEOS multiroom compatible. It can play, or route, content to and from other HEOS connected components. Spin a CD on your Blu-ray deck, and you can Party Zone the music through both your cinema system and any connected HEOS speakers.

Build quality is stellar. The receiver has a copper plated chassis with monoblock construction. There are seven rear HDMI inputs, plus one on the front fascia. All support 4K HDCP 2.2 sources. There are also three HDMI outputs. 

There’s also a forest of other inputs, including four digital audio inputs (split between digital optical and coaxial), six analogue stereo pairs and phono (MM) turntable support. You can also stream over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Power output is prodigious, at 9 x 200w into 6 Ohms. This doesn’t mean you should go super-loud, more that it can effortlessly bludgeon without strain or distortion.  

The user interface is slick, with high-res graphics guiding you through the setup routine. Auto calibration is via Audyssey.  

The Denon’s performance is outstanding in every regard. It does a fabulous job with multichannel Dolby Atmos soundtracks, both explosive and atmospheric, and is no slouch when it comes to music either.  Beneath the hood are fourth-gen SHARC DSP processors. Spatial imaging and transient attack is excellent. 

Overall, we rate this class-leading Denon as a home cinema superstar. It’s feature heavy, and massively powerful. But there’s agility behind the brawn. In short, it’s a fabulous home theater performer.

  •  This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Denon HEOS AVR 

While the Arcam AVR850 is unlikely to win any Best Value accolades – it’s unashamedly expensive for a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos design – its overarching musicality is hard to beat. This is arguably the UK audio specialist’s best sounding AV receiver to date.   

The AVR850 uses Class G power amps, conservatively rated at 100W-per-channel.

The design is understated, with a nice matte cabinet finish and big central volume knob. It tips the scales at a reassuringly heavy 16kg.  

Connectivity is good. There are seven HDMI inputs, all with HDCP 2.2 support, plus three HDMI outputs. Audio options include six analogue inputs, and six digital audio inputs.  

The really significant difference here, compared to previous Arcam home theater boxes, is the provision of Dirac Live room calibration.

Arguably the most sophisticated auto calibration technology available, it does a extraordinary job fine tuning the receiver to the listening room. Dirac tuning is not carried out by the receiver with a microphone, but via a laptop. Sounds complicated? Don’t fret. Buyers will have room calibration done by the dealer that supplies the receiver.

While Dirac is the height of sophistication, the user interface is pretty basic, just a plain text box. Arcam isn’t even trying to impress here.

Still, the receiver sounds sensational, with precise imaging that really makes the most of Dolby Atmos encoding. It’s tight and forceful with action sequences, and delicious melodious with two channel music. That feature count may look frugal for the price, but when it comes to performance, your investment will be repaid in spades.    

The Arcam AV850 may be ruinously expensive for a seven channel amplifier, but tuned with Dirac, it’s clearly a premium performer. We’re prepared to forgive it any foibles.

Image Credits: TechRadar

Toyota showrooms use augmented reality to let customers 'see' inside cars

When you're buying a new car, you'll take a peek under the hood, but Toyota showrooms are now going a step further, using augmented reality to let you 'see' right through the bodywork.

Toyota and marketing agency Brandwidth are using the technology to let customers peer inside the C-HR and see what makes the hybrid tick.

The app overlays images of the C-HR's drivetrain onto vehicles on the showroom floor, demonstrating how its various elements interact.

The graphics also feature hotspots that can be tapped to reveal information on key systems including the fuel tank, motor and battery.

Under the skin

The C-HR falls into the 'small SUV' category – compact enough for city driving, but able to seat five adults comfortably. When we put the car through its paces, we found it ideal for just that, with smooth acceleration and a sporty design that sets it apart from the conservative looks often associated with hybrids.

It might not be as exciting as Audi's Holoride in-car VR platform, but Toyota hopes that the new AR app will help you better understand what goes on beneath that slick chassis.

This exclusive Samsung Note 8 deal is the perfect alternative to a pricey new S10

Unless you've been cut off from the internet for the past couple of days, you've probably heard that Samsung has released a few new devices in, what is currently, the biggest phone launch of 2019 so far. 

You may have also heard that these phones aren't exactly cheap, which is why we think this new TechRadar exclusive Note 8 deal is the best choice when it comes to a new Samsung phone deal.

For just £28 a month you can get this 9GB data Note 8 from Fonehouse, no upfront costs, no catches, just a great tariff. It blows the rest of the market's best Galaxy Note 8 deals to kingdom come.

You can see all the details of this deal down below or, if you're feeling like splashing out on Samsung's new releases after all, check out our Galaxy S10 deals or Galaxy S10e deals pages.

This cheap Note 8 deal in full

HTC has a new standalone VR headset that's still not for you

HTC has been a busy bee today, announcing not only new touch controllers for the upcoming HTC Vive Cosmos, but also a new standalone headset.

Meet HTC’s newly announced headset is the Focus Plus and its main focus *rimshot* is it now comes with dual six-degrees of freedom (6DoF) controllers for a much more immersive, completely untethered VR experience. 

The original HTC Vive Focus only came with a single three-degrees of freedom (3DoF) controller that only offered rotational tracking (i.e. up, down, left and right). This new headset’s controllers will allow for a full transitional movement, which includes tracking whether the user has stepped forward, backward, side-to-side or shifted vertically.

Other than those new ultrasonically tracked controllers, not much has changed on the virtual reality headset itself. The Vive Focus Plus still features a 2,880 × 1,600 (1,660 × 1,600 per lens) resolution AMOLED display. You'll also find the same underlying Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor power this headset to deliver completely self-driven VR experiences.

Engadget reports the Vive Focus Plus will feature "next-gen" lens for “no more god rays." However, we’ve also seen a conflicting article from Road to VR that speculates HTC will stick to the same Fresnel lenses as found on the original Vive Focus. 

We’ve reached out to HTC for more clarity on the lenses and will update this article as soon as we hear back.

The HTC Vive Focus Plus is slated to launch in Q2 of 2019, but has yet to announce pricing. We'll also have to see and wait about whether this headset will come to mass market as it's currently only marketed to the enterprise sector.

Why the Nintendo Switch VR support rumor is a genius idea

The Nintendo Switch is the most versatile home console ever created. To call it a home console even is to do it an injustice, as its battery-powered handheld mode allows it to act as a supercharged portable games machine too.

But its detachable controllers and central tablet-like core processing-and-display unit might make it even more versatile still – the Nintendo Switch could be getting VR support.

It’s a rumor that’s been doing the rounds for few years now. Back in 2016, a patent was uncovered suggesting that the Nintendo Switch could be getting an accessory that would turn it into a mobile VR viewer, in much the same way that the Google Daydream View works. Data miners also discovered a screen splitting mode, ideal for VR, hidden within the Switch’s firmware.

Image Credit: TechRadar

While we’ve been yet to corroborate the report ourselves, Nintendo World Report cites “multiple sources” who claim to have knowledge of soon-to-be-revealed Nintendo Switch VR details – including talk of first party franchises getting a VR mode. Its rumor lands close to news of the formation of a VRM Consortium, which sees 13 Japanese companies teaming up to develop VR business opportunities – and Nintendo acting as an observer.

Pair this with comments from Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO of Nintendo of America, confirming that Nintendo is tinkering with VR projects, and the stars seems to be aligning for a Nintendo Switch VR mode and accessory.

The perfect VR fit

There’s lots to love about this idea. The Nintendo Switch’s unique form factor, with its detachable central unit, makes it easy to house within a portable, wire-free headset for VR, with the aforementioned VR screen-splitting mode ensuring that you’d get a 3D ‘screen-per-eye’ view of the action.

But what sort of headset would this be? How about a DIY one? Google Cardboard proved years back that a few bits of cardboard and some goggle optics, paired with a mobile screen, was all you needed for convincing VR on the go.

And Nintendo has been planting the seeds for build-your-own toys for close to a year now with its Nintendo Labo sets – pop-out cardboard build kits that have turned the Switch into everything from a fishing game (complete with rod) to a cardboard costume that turns you into a stomping robot – complete with pulleys that help the Switch track your movements.

It’s something that third party manufacturers have already seen the potential for – just take a look at the NS Glasses for instance (pictured up top, and below) – with only middling success, primarily because the software support just isn’t there yet.

Image Credit: Exklim NS Glasses

Mario World VR

But, though few have tried it outside of Japanese arcades, it wouldn’t even be the first time Nintendo has toyed with VR software. Mario Kart VR has been in arcades for over a year now, co-developed by Namco. And while the experience is limited to a single track, it’s exhilarating to sit right inside the Mario universe, lobbing shells and banana skins at your racing rivals.

The colorful nature of many first party Nintendo titles are perfectly suited to VR too. Just as Switch classics Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild lean on a lavish cartoony art style rather than aiming for photo-realism, so too could Switch VR titles, taking the strain off the underpowered hardware. There’s no need for 4K ray-tracing in the Mushroom Kingdom.

And oh boy: can you imagine the Mushroom Kingdom in VR? If any readers have had the joy of trying the superbly inventive Astro Bot: Rescue Mission on the PlayStation 4, you’ll know that VR can be transformative for platformers.

Image Credit: Sony

In the PlayStation VR title, the space-bound hero runs all around levels that render all around you, with the game hiding secrets around corners, and room-filling bad guys looking to make mincemeat out of your avatar. Nintendo has a knack for re-inventing the wheel when it tries its hand at a new format or genre, and the mind boggles at what would happen if a mini Mario was running around at my feet, or I was given the opportunity to don Samus Aran’s visor for a Metroid VR title.

That’s not to say Nintendo hasn’t made missteps in a similar arena before – the Virtual Boy is a cautionary tale for anyone considering strapping a gaming device to their faces. But this time around, it feels like all the pieces are in place, as if Nintendo has had a genius plan for unleashing Nintendo Switch VR all along. If that’s the case, I can’t wait to strap myself in.

  • Best VR games: the top virtual reality titles, whatever platform you choose

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