Gigabyte Aorus X9 review: An amazingly fast gaming laptop

The Aorus X9 is outrageous. It’s the first laptop we’ve seen with two GTX 1070 GPUs overclocked from 1,442MHz to 1,492MHz, and Gigabyte claims it’s the slimmest notebook to ever include these GPUs. It’s made from aluminium, inspired by supercars and it has two subwoofers, four fans and loads of RGB LEDs.
The keyboard and power button have LEDs, and a bar of lights above the power button indicate temperatures, battery level, speaker volume and more, plus you can program them with your own colours. There are RGB LED bars in the front, two more in the rear vents, and a final light in the lid’s Aorus logo. The lighting is paired with striking matte aluminium used throughout, and even the speaker grilles on the base panel are designed in the shape of Gigabyte’s Aorus logo.

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The X9 has strength and versatility, too. None of the panels move, no matter how much pressure you apply, and the sides contain Thunderbolt, USB 3.1 Type-C, mini-DisplayPort and HDMI connections. The base panel is tricky to remove thanks to tiny Torx screws, but the interior serves up two spare memory slots and a single 2.5in bay. Gigabyte claims the Aorus is the slimmest machine with this much hardware, but it’s still a 3.6kg lump. Its 30mm body is pretty slim for a high-end, 17.3in laptop, but you’ll need a sturdy bag to lug it around. 
It also has a mechanical keyboard. It’s a hybrid device, with switches that mimic Cherry Brown hardware beneath keys, with a small bump in their quiet typing action. 

Typing on the Scrabble-tile keys with mechanical hardware is initially a strange feeling, but you quickly get up to speed once you get used to using more pressure. It’s far more satisfying to type and play games on these keys than on the flimsy, low-travel buttons on most gaming laptops. 
The satisfying action is paired with a relative lack of noise from the keys, and the Aorus Fusion app can record macros and control the lighting. The touchpad is good, too: the buttons are fast and light, and almost as clicky as those on a proper gaming mouse. 
Meanwhile, the Core i7-7820HK CPU is a rare Intel mobile part that’s multiplier-unlocked. It has four Hyper-Threaded cores, and Gigabyte has raised its 2.9GHz stock speed to 4.3GHz by default. It’s not Coffee Lake, but it hardly matters. Elsewhere, there’s 16GB of memory and a 512GB Samsung SM961 SSD. That’s a fast drive, but that’s it for capacity – there’s no hard disk for extra data storage.

The rig is governed by Gigabyte’s Aorus software. The Command & Control tool has overclocking options, fan controls, monitor settings and more, and the overclocking section enables you to set the CPU and GPU clock speeds to five different levels. 
Gigabyte Aorus X9 review: Performance
At default settings, the GTX 1070s played Deus Ex: Mankind Divided at a minimum of 51fps, and the minimums blazed beyond 80fps in other games. This laptop will run any game at its 2,560 x 1,440 native resolution, although its overclocking features didn’t have much impact on games – you may as well leave it at its default settings for gaming. 
The processor is no slouch either, returning an overall score of 126,702 in our RealBench suite – a cracking result for a laptop. The SSD is solid too, with read and write speeds of 3,318MB/sec and 1,107MB/sec. It’s also possible to downclock the CPU, ostensibly to cut down on heat and noise. With no overclock, the X9’s overall score dropped by 11,000 points, which is still plenty quick enough for most people’s needs. 
Sadly, though, however much you tweak the clock speeds and fan control settings, the X9 will never be cool or quiet when gaming. Without any overclocking, the CPU hit a Delta T of 62°C in a gaming test, and the four fans churned out noticeable noise. During a system-wide stress test, the CPU was 10°C hotter, and the system was louder than most gaming laptops. The keyboard was a little warm, but the base panel was too hot to touch. The situation was similar with factory and maximum overclocks: the CPU was 1°C, the base panel remained too toasty to touch and noise levels remained high. 

There was some CPU throttling evident, too. No matter which overclock we chose, the processor ran around 200MHz slower during our gaming and system-wide stress tests. To be fair, most people are never likely to push the machine to these levels, but it’s worth remembering if you’re ever likely to run intensive tasks. On the plus side, the X9 was near silent when idle, and it handled less intensive games without making much noise. The GPUs never rose beyond a Delta T of 52°C. 
Meanwhile, the 17.3in matte screen is a WVA panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. It doesn’t support G-Sync, but it’s calibrated to Pantone standards before it leaves the factory. 
However, the screen only returned middling benchmarks. The 0.53cd/m2 black point is high, which means the contrast ratio of 669:1 is low – colours aren’t distinct, and dark areas aren’t deep enough. The colour temperature of 8,383K is also cool, even though the Delta E of 1.07 is excellent. Those colours may be technically accurate, but the former figure means they look a little washed-out. Uniformity and viewing angles are fine, and the middling benchmark results aren’t enough to disrupt gaming, but we expect better at this price.
The speakers are great, though. They have ample volume, booming bass and the rest of the tonal range is distinct – they’re easily good enough for gaming or movies. Finally, there are no surprises with battery life – the X9 lasted for less than 90 minutes in an application test, and half that when playing games. It’s portable, but it’s not really built for gaming away from the mains.
Gigabyte Aorus X9 review: Verdict
The GTX 1070 graphics cards and unlocked processor offer enough speed to handle any gaming or work task, but those same components make the X9 noisy and hot. The mechanical keyboard is good and the build quality is superb, but this machine is also heavy, noisy and hot-running. Also, while the screen is okay, it could be better, especially at the £3,099 inc VAT asking price. For £1,000 less money, you could build a mini-ITX rig to take to LAN events, or you could buy a lower-specced gaming laptop that’s cooler, quieter and still capable. 
Few laptops offer this much speed, but few people really need it. If it’s what you want, it’s worth accepting the downsides to get this amount of portable power – it’s an amazingly fast gaming laptop. The X9 is basically an experiment in excess, and while it nails some areas, it isn’t entirely successful in others. 

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Bracketology 2018: Oklahoma fades toward the bubble as Kansas returns to top line

This is a fitting turn of events because “defeat” is the major theme of today’s post.
It’s another bracket with another new No. 1 seed. In the span of one week, we’ve gone from the Purdue Boilermakers holding down the fourth and final spot on the top line, to the Auburn Tigers replacing them on Friday, thanks to three straight Boiler losses, to the Kansas Jayhawks’ ascension today. Back on Saturday, Auburn suffered a double loss, as not only did the Tigers fall to the South Carolina Gamecocks, they also lost talented forward Anfernee McLemore for the remainder of the season to a severe leg injury.
Meanwhile, Kansas took down the West Virginia Mountaineers and fading Oklahoma Sooners to put itself into the thick of both the Big 12 title and the NCAA No. 1 seed chases. Saturday’s trip to Lubbock to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders, now a two seed (despite a Saturday loss at Baylor Bears), will be crucial in both.
A similar matchup in the Big East on Saturday — the Villanova Wildcats’ impressive 95-79 victory on the Xavier Musketeers’ home floor — led to a switch in the order of the top line. While the Virginia Cavaliers still remain No. 1 overall, Nova jumped Xavier for the second spot, thanks to the Wildcats’ season sweep of the Musketeers.
On seed line two, Tigers and Red Raiders are joined by the Duke Blue Devils and the Michigan State Spartans, who maintain a Big Ten presence in the top eight. Even though Purdue ended its three-game skid by surviving the Penn State Nittany Lions‘ visit on Sunday night, the Boilermakers now occupy the lead spot on seed line No. 3, ahead of the North Carolina Tar Heels, a Cincinnati Bearcats squad that lost twice last week and the Pac-12-leading Arizona Wildcats.
The Clemson Tigers slid down to line four following Sunday’s home loss to Duke, joining a pair of holdovers, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers, and newcomer, a Wichita State Shockers squad that followed up a Thursday home win over the Temple Owls by snapping Cincinnati’s 39-game home winning streak.
Looking back at the top line, sure, Kansas is a major outlier, as its six losses is three fewer than the nine total defeats Virginia, Villanova and Xavier have racked up this season. However, North Carolina picked up the fourth No. 1 seed last year with seven losses and three top seeds had six or more in 2016. So, the Jayhawks’ presence is not unprecedented, not recently at least. After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll return to the theme of losses, specifically the number of teams likely to earn at-larges despite losing 10 or more contests.

Also considered (in order): Georgia, Western Kentucky, Penn State, Boise State, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, UCF, Colorado, Oregon, Boston College, Maryland, SMU
While the Kansas State Wildcats and N.C. State Wolfpack both found themselves on the right side of the cut line in Friday’s bubble post, they return to the official bracket today. Meanwhile, the Syracuse Orange, absent Friday, is back, thanks to a crucial road victory at Miami. As for today’s final at-large newcomer, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, they only ended the Rhode Island Rams‘ perfect Atlantic 10 record and then-nation’s longest win streak of 16 games.
On the flip side, the Louisville Cardinals depart following a home loss to North Carolina, while the Washington Huskies slide out after splitting a weekend set in Seattle against Utah (loss) and Colorado (win). Temple, which disappeared on Friday after losing at Wichita State, now finds itself in the “Next Four Out” group thanks to an embarrassing home performance against the increasingly safe Houston Cougars on Sunday.

From the “college basketball comes at you fast” department, Oklahoma, a No. 1 seed in the first bracket of January, and Florida, a four seed back on January 23rd, now find themselves on the No. 8 line. While the Gators have dropped two in a row and fallen to 8-6 in the SEC — after a 4-0 start to league play, at least they’ve managed to win in February. The Sooners haven’t, as their Monday night loss in Lawrence was their sixth straight. And that total a sweep at the hands of the Texas Longhorns. Oklahoma’s struggles led Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg to bring up an interesting point on Twitter last night.

Oklahoma will have to find a way to beat Iowa State and either K-State at home or Baylor on the road. I don’t see how 17-13, 7-11 gets the Sooners into the field.
— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg)

Using RPIForecast.com’s RPI Wizard, the Sooners would finish with an RPI of 49 if they only managed to defeat Iowa State. However, winning both home games would get them to 32nd, which should be enough with an 18-12 record and 8-10 Big 12 mark, especially with good non-conference wins over Wichita State and USC and conference victories over Kansas and Texas Tech. However, dropping all three games would put the Sooners at 16-14 overall and 6-12 in the league. And at that point, they would have to win the auto bid in Kansas City. Even though the Vanderbilt Commodores were selected last season with 15 losses, that was the first time a team with 14 or more defeats had been selected since 2008.
However, the 11-loss Sooners are just an example of a bigger issue. Back when I reviewing profiles for Friday’s post, I was struck by the sheer number of teams I encountered with eight, nine, 10 and more losses with three weeks to go before Selection Sunday. And that got me wondering (never a good thing) — what’s the highest number of double-digit-loss at-large teams selected in a single NCAA Tournament? And what’s the total number of teams, both auto bid and at-large, to find themselves in the field?
Thanks to Sports Reference’s College Basketball page, I did the research and I didn’t have to go that far back to find the answer to both questions. Fully half of the 2016 NCAA Tournament field, 34 teams, entered the event with 10 or more losses, and nearly two-thirds of the at-large pool, 22 of 36 teams, found themselves invited despite posting double digits in the loss column.
Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 10 tournaments have featured 24 or more double-digit loss teams. But six of those occurrences have come after the expansion to 68 in 2011. You’d expect this, since you had to get those extra teams from somewhere. The lone outlier in the 68-team era was the 2012 NCAA Tournament. It featured just 22 double-digit-loss teams, and only 15 such at-large entrants.
And that brings me to this season. This field already features eight teams with 10 or more losses and another 14 entrants have either eight or nine losses. Plus, all of the teams in the “first eight out” group have at least nine defeats on their records. Since elimination play dictates that nearly all of these teams will lose in their respective conference tournaments, 2018 could at least tie 2016’s mark of 22 at-large teams with double-digit losses.
However, it’s going to take many conference tournament upsets to equal 2016’s total of 34 double-digit-loss entrants. Just two conferences, the MEAC and SWAC, are guaranteed to be represented by a double-digit loss team, while the ASUN, Big South and Patriot League each feature a single nine-loss team. Every other conference leader currently has seven or fewer total losses. Therefore, if those teams win their respective championships, they won’t be added to the total, barring some late regular-season struggles. Naturally, I’ll be keeping an eye on this bit of trivia the rest of the way.
One thing that is assured though, this season’s field will not feature a team that completed a perfect conference season. With Rhode Island losing at St. Bonaventure Friday night, the America East’s Vermont Catamounts entered the weekend as the final team chasing league perfection. But on Sunday, the Hartford Hawks stunned the Catamounts on their home floor.

BIG WIN for !
— #AEHoops (@AEHoopsNews)

That snapped Vermont’s 15-game win streak, the nation’s longest for not even 48 hours, and the Catamounts’ 33-game regular-season conference win streak. Curiously, the Grambling State Tigers now own the nation’s longest winning run — of 11 games (as informed me in a radio interview yesterday). Sadly, the SWAC leaders are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to APR penalties.
On Friday, I’ll be back with another look at the bubble picture. Maybe there will be some more locks named with a mere two weeks and two days left before Selection Sunday.

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Norse code: what’s the secret of the Norwegians’ Winter Olympics success? | Sport

Eleven days into the competition, Norway sit top of the medal table, out-performing much larger nations such as Canada, Germany and the US. How have they pulled it off? Here are some of the elements that have gone into their successful performance.
Long, long winters and lots of snow
From the middle of November until the end of January, the northernmost parts of Norway don’t see any sun. Much of the winter also brings sub-zero temperatures and snowfall – but that’s not enough to explain winter sport prowess on its own.
A nation born with skis on
“In Norway we are born with skis on our feet” is a folk saying with a ring of truth to it. Away from urban centres, even a trip down the road to the shops might involve a bit of cross-country skiing.
High GDP
There are only 5.2 million Norwegians, but what Norway lacks in population it makes up for in per capita GDP. Consistently listed as one of the wealthiest nations on the planet – alongside tiny nations such as Qatar, Brunei and Singapore – Norway has invested in the infrastructure and the training facilities to back up its Olympic ambition.
Brooding Nordic introspection
Norway endured a terrible 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, securing only two golds. Worse than that, they fell behind Sweden in the medal table, a moment of national shame. This led to an intense period of contemplation, with some of the Norwegian press reduced to claiming “partly Norwegian” medals for foreign competitors with Norwegian ancestry. As a nation, Norway vowed: never again.
A beautiful team experience
“We believe there is no good explanation or justification for why you have to be a jerk to be a good athlete,” Norwegian silver-medal-winner Kjetil Jansrud said this week. The Norwegian skiing team spends about 250 days of the year together, enjoys taco night together every Friday, and has been sweeping all before them at the Games. The emphasis on teamwork and a star-free team culture has paid dividends.

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Nikola Jokic’s free agency presents a unique conundrum for the Nuggets

He’s gonna get paid, and the only question is when. But that decision will have ripple effects for Denver’s cap sheet.
The Denver Nuggets should have no question that Nikola Jokic is worth a maximum contract coming off his rookie deal. The only issue is when that contract should come.
Jokic was a second-round pick in 2014, and he joined the Nuggets a year later on a contract fairly typically for a second-round pick. The first three years of Jokic’s contract (totaling $4 million) were guaranteed, and Denver also had a club option on the fourth season at $1.6 million.
Within a season and a half, Denver realized it had a star on its hands.

So there is no question that when that contract comes up, Denver will gleefully pay whatever it takes to keep their best player and continue to build a good, young team around Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris.
The question is whether that will happen in 2018 with no risk of losing Jokic, or if it will happen in 2019 with some risk.
If the Nuggets pick up Jokic’s cheap option for the 2018-19 season, due to league rules Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent in July 2019. That would mean that he could sign with any club in the NBA and Denver would not have the right to match.
This is a key difference between first- and second-round picks. Those drafted in the first round can typically only become restricted free agents after four years in the league and unrestricted free agents after five seasons. (The exception comes when teams decline club options at some point in a first-round pick’s rookie deal.) Those drafted in the second round can become restricted free agents after one, two, or three years in the league (depending on the contract) and unrestricted free agents the year after.
Because Jokic is a second-round pick, the Nuggets can reject the club option for 2018-19 this summer. Jokic would then become a restricted free agent on July 1. The Nuggets would then maintain the right to match any offer sheet he signs, if he doesn’t first sign a max contract with the Nuggets.
Doing this would ensure the Nuggets do not lose Jokic.

So what’s the downside?
Declining the club option to pay him sooner would be a huge strain on Denver’s 2018-19 salary cap sheet. That could force GM Tim Connelly to cut elsewhere, hurting the team’s trajectory at a critical point.
If he becomes a restricted free agent this summer, Jokic would be eligible for a contract with a starting salary around $25 million. The Nuggets already have $105 million worth of salaries committed for 2018-19 before accounting for Jokic. The cap is currently projected to be $101 million, with a luxury tax threshold of $121 million.
As you can see, signing Jokic to a max deal this summer would put the Nuggets over the tax threshold! Denver is not typically a team willing to pay the tax, and this would limit the Nuggets’ ability to add other free agents.
There are a couple of player options that, if declined, could open up some breathing room for Denver. Wilson Chandler, a full-time starter, has a $12.8 million option. Darrell Arthur, who seldom plays, can opt in for $7.4 million. Given how tight the market is expected to be, both should probably opt in (though Chandler could be looking to lock in a multi-year deal at a slightly smaller annual number).
If Chandler opts out and the Nuggets give Jokic the max this summer, they would come in just under the tax for next season, depending on what they do with their first-round draft pick.
Being above the tax in the summer is not the end of the world. Denver could wait until the trade deadline get back under, much as the Blazers did this season by unloading Noah Vonleh at the last minute. But for a team in a cluttered middle tier of the Western Conference, being tapped out financially with this roster isn’t ideal — and that’s before the big-money extension Murray will earn down the line.

That makes the option of waiting until 2019 to pay Jokic a little more appealing. If the Nuggets were to pick Jokic’s option this summer, they would have some room to add to the roster to make a real push in the West in 2018-19. Because they’d know Jokic’s payday is just around the corner, they’d need to remain sober in adding salary. But it provides some flexibility at a critical moment.
Still, the downside risk of losing Jokic in unrestricted free agency in 2019 — or angering his camp by delaying his payday — isn’t worth the benefit here. The Nuggets should decline Jokic’s option this summer and give him the max. You don’t tinker when you have a star: you keep them secure.
But it’s not without some pain in the short-term to do so, and you wonder if the timing here won’t prevent the Nuggets from reaching the heights they seek.

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JBL Link Speakers: The Perfect Google Home Alternative?

Richard Goodwin

20/02/2018 – 9:30am

JBL’s Link series of smart speakers are definitely worth a look if Google Home doesn’t do it for you

If you’re in the market for a set of new wireless speakers, and Sonos and HomePod are a bit too pricey, you definitely want to be looking at JBL’s Link series.
Why? Well, there’s plenty of choice, for one. Second, they’re great performers with great connectivity. The design of them is solid and they will look great in and around you home. They also WILL NOT mark wooden surfaces like Apple’s HomePod as well, which is always a good thing.
Why Not Google Home?
Pretty simple, really: for overall sound quality Google Home is not great; it’s not even good actually. Not compared to these JBL Link speakers or Sonos. If you want a decent Google Home audio experience you’re going to have to pony up for the Google Home Max – and that one’s pricey.
JBL’s Link speakers offer very good value for money, however, and they deliver where it counts: portability, sound quality, and connectivity. And if that wasn’t enough, they ALL feature Google Assistant, so they have Google Home matched in that regard as well.
But having an assistant like Google’s Assistant is not the be all and end all of a smart speaker. Case in point: I have three smart speakers in my home – Google Home, Google Home Mini, and an Amazon Echo – and I use exactly ZERO of them for listening to music on.
No, for music I rely on my SONOS system which is infinitely superior (and doesn’t have ANY sort of assistant ert_main_wide_image/public/2018/02/screen_shot_2018-02-20_at_09.24.12.png?itok=4DarRFEp” alt=”” />

If you’re after something small, say for your kitchen or study, the JBL Link 10 or JBL Link 20 will suffice. They’re not much bigger than Amazon’s Echo device, but they pack a punch when it comes to audio and will easily fill a small room with detailed, precise sound.
They’re also portable, and truly wireless, meaning you can move them easily and even take them out of the house if you wish – something you cannot do with Google Home or Echo, as they require a wired connection.

The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 are also ideal candidates for your living room, if you watch a lot of movies and/or play video games, as they bring quite a bit more sound performance in this context. And because they’re smart speakers, you can use them to control your TV with your voice.
The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 are more expensive than the smaller units, but they’re still A LOT cheaper than Apple’s HomePod and the Google Home Max. And, I’d argue, they kick our vastly superior sound quality too – though this is my own personal opinion.
You Can Pick Up The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 speakers via JBL For $199 and $399, Respectively.

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Sony Xperia XA2 review: Sony is now serious about mid-range

The Sony Xperia XA2 is the latest in a long line of Sony phones I’ve reviewed since joining Alphr and, in looking it up for this article, that includes a couple I don’t even remember holding. The weird string of numbers and letters, the familiar angular shape, the reliable (but often overpriced) devices and the inevitable conclusion that “it’s alright, but you’re probably better off buying the cheaper/better X, Y or Z” mean that few have stood out.
Th XA2, however, is the first Sony device since the charming Xperia Z5 Compact that I’ve actually kept using for a while after the review has been filed and published. It’s a nippy, smart-looking phone and, unusually for a mid-range Sony device, entirely reasonably priced.
This feels like Sony taking the midrange market seriously and, given how competitive things are at the top end right now, where the company ert_main_wide_image/public/2018/02/chart2.png?itok=6vi9_3sv” alt=””/>

That puts Sony in uncharted waters: being the value option in a smartphone league table, seemingly striking the right balance between price and performance.
Still, this isn’t the phone for you if you want to play the latest intensive mobile games. While the likes of Words with Friends and Candy Crush Saga will perform without any hiccups, you’ll find it struggles with Asphalt or Modern Combat 5. Likewise, performance is fine with normal use, but try and multitask too much and things will take a hit. But again: what do you expect for a £300 smartphone?

There is, however, one small blot on the Xperia XA2’s copybook: it has an awful lot of nonsense installed by default. To be clear, none of this is compulsory and it can all be uninstalled but the company must know that bundling both Kobo and Amazon Kindle on the phone by default is overkill and that a few notifications of offers from Xperia Lounge is all anybody can really take before killing it with fire.
Sony Xperia XA2 review: Camera
Cameras are often the weak spot in mid range cameras, with manufacturers choosing to bamboozle with big megapixel numbers, rather than providing good performance. And an f/2.0 23-megapixel rear snapper might make you think Sony has done the same. Fortunately, this isn’t the case.
The main camera features a 1/2.3in sensor, phase-detect autofocus and a single-colour LED flash and the results are very nice indeed – at least in well-lit, outdoor conditions. As you can see from the picture below, both the wispy cloud and brickwork are picked up with excellent fidelity.
In low light it’s another story, with compression artefacts and chroma noise emerging but, given many phone cameras struggle with these problems to some degree, it’s hardly surprising the Sony Xperia XA2 isn’t flawless here.
As for video, the XA2 is able to record 4K video at up to 30fps but that’s not immediately obvious. Bizarrely, the 4K mode is hived off in the creative modes part of the camera app. That’s the first issue. The next is that you can’t shoot 1080p at 60fps with Sony’s superb SteadyCam image stabilisation enabled. That drops the frame rate to 30fps and the same holds true for HDR recording. Again, fine for most people – especially at this price – but slightly disappointing.
Sony Xperia XA2 review: Verdict
From reviewing many a Xperia phone over the years, I was expecting my conclusion here to be more of the same.
That isn’t the case with the Xperia XA2. For £300, you have a very reasonably-priced handset that barely puts a foot wrong. It looks the part, has a very nice screen and a camera that performs admirably in well-lit conditions.
There’s just a single fly in the ointment: the marginally weaker Honor 7X retails for £30 cheaper and has recently been seen for as little as £240. It also has one of those new-fangled 18:9 screens if that’s important to you.
Still, for me personally, the Xperia XA2 is an excellent smartphone and it’s seriously made me consider Sony when my contract expires in four months’ time. Well done, Sony.

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GammaNow Lets Your PC Mine Overwatch Loot Boxes

Cryptocurrencies are one of the hottest trends in technology right now and there have been countless headlines recently about how lucrative they can be. There are puzzle games that offer a Bitcoin as a reward and even cryptocurrencies based on memes; there seems to be no stopping the cryptocurrency train.

For those who have yet to jump aboard that train, a company called Aura is helping gamers get in on it with its GammaNow service. GammaNow is an app that uses the idle processing power of a PC in order to power the Gamma blockchain network, which pitches itself as an alternative to the Ethereum network (which itself is a rival to Bitcoin). After a computer sits idle for around 20 seconds, GammaNow will kick in and begin to use the processing power to process tasks on the network and in doing so, users will earn Gamma Points.
These points, in turn, can be traded in for Overwatch loot boxes, Hearthstone card packs, and Riot Points (for use in League of Legends) with support for other PC games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2 to come. 30,000 Gamma Points is equivalent to 24 Overwatch loot boxes, 3500 Riot Points, and 15 Hearthstone card packs (60,000 Gamma Points is worth 51 loot boxes and 40 card packs), though the exact mining time required to earn that much is unclear.

GammaNow is currently in beta but Aura confirms plans to add support for a second GPU (to allow users to continue using their primary GPU for gaming). The company also vows to make tweaks and changes based on the feedback from GammaNow beta users, including feedback on which new rewards users would like to see offered in the GammaNow marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, GammaNow is already proving to be incredibly popular. As of the time of writing, the app’s website states that it has paused sign-ups due to a “sudden influx of users” and encourages potential users to sign up to its waitlist instead.
While the world of cryptocurrency can seem incredibly complicated, many gamers are probably enjoying the simplicity of the app and the fact that it is free to get involved. The notice from Aura confirming that GammaNow will always be free and that the company hates microtransactions may have also increased the appeal to jaded gamers.

GammaNow is not the only app banking on gamers’ interest in cryptocurrencies, with other examples including the game Reality Clash which pitches itself as Pokemon GO with guns. These are unlikely to be the last crypto/gaming initiatives either so those with a huge interest in the scene have a lot of opportunities to get involved.

Source: Forbes, GammaNow

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Tamron Tease New Lens for CP+ 2018

Mac users, Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar 2018 is out now and available for just $69£64 for new users, with big discounts for upgrading users. We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended“. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10£9 on Luminar.

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Ahead of next month’s CP+ photo show, Tamron Japan have released a teaser for a new lens on their Instagram channel. There aren’t any further details yet about the new optic, so stay tuned…

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Samsung Galaxy S8: how to stop bootloops after the Oreo update

Following a beta testing period of a few weeks, Samsung started rolling out Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung Experience 9.0 for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ earlier this month. The update was stopped just a few days later. We now know Samsung put the brakes on the update due to a number of users reporting bootloop issues. An update to fix the problem is in development, but if you’ve already installed the faulty Oreo update and you’re experiencing bootloops, here are a few tips and tricks to solve the problem.

What’s happening to your phone? Bootloops are when your phone gets stuck restarting over and over again. You’ll know it’s happening when you see your phone manufacturer’s logo on the screen and then the Android system starts to load, and then all of a sudden if fails to start up properly and the boot process begins again and again until the phone’s battery dies.
So, you’re trapped in a bootloop. What now?
Normally, one might call up customer support and describe the problem. Then they might tell you to send them your smartphone or bring it to the nearest service center. That’s a pain, and it might be unnecessary if you use the following tips. Android has its own built-in way of solving these issues called Recovery Mode, and we’ll show you step-by-step how to take advantage of it here.
Note: Sometimes bootloops can prevent you from entering Recovery Mode. Don’t worry, there’s a way around this. If you’re unable to turn your device off, which is the first step of both of the processes we detail below, just let it bootloop until the battery dies. Leave the phone powered off, and then plug it in. Once it has some juice, you’ll be able to get it to enter Recovery Mode by following the steps below.
Clear the cache with Android’s Recovery Mode
Android smartphones have their own Recovery Mode, which allows you to perform a select few basic functions like clearing the cache partition. To enter recovery mode, follow these steps:

Turn off the phone
First press the Bixby button then the Volume Up button simultaneously and hold both down
Then also press the Power button and hold it
Hold down all three buttons together until “Samsung Galaxy S8” or “Samsung Galaxy S8+” appears on the screen
Then let go of all the buttons
The screen will say “Installing system update” for a few seconds
After that, it will say “No command” for a few more seconds before it enters Android Recovery Mode
Once that happens, use the Volume Up and Down keys to navigate to “Wipe cache partition”
Select and confirm this option with the Power button, then your smartphone will reboot

If this doesn’t work, then you can move on to the next option below, which can also be found in the Recovery Mode.

When your Galaxy S8 or S8+ is stuck in a bootloop after updating to Oreo, Recovery Mode can help. / © AndroidPIT

Wipe data and restore factory settings with Recovery Mode
Before recommending this step, we would usually recommend backing up your data. But, if your phone is trapped in a bootloop, then you’re unfortunately too late to do that. Doing this will remove all your data from your phone’s internal storage.

Turn off the phone
First press the Bixby button then the Volume Up button simultaneously and hold both down
Then also press the Power button and hold it
Hold down all three buttons together until “Samsung Galaxy S8” or “Samsung Galaxy S8+” appears on the screen
Then let go of all the buttons
The screen will say “Installing system update” for a few seconds
After that, it will say “No command” for a few more seconds before it enters Android Recovery Mode
Once that happens, use the Volume Up and Down keys to navigate to “Wipe Data / factory reset”
Select this option with the Power button
After it warns you that it will wipe the phone, select “Yes” with the Volume buttons and press the Power button to confirm
The phone will then restart

You should be out of the bootloop after following the above process. Although you’ll have to set everything up again from scratch, at least you’ll still have a usable Galaxy S8 or S8+. If the bootloop problem persists nevertheless, you should contact Samsung.
Did these tips work for you? If you’re having other issues with your Galaxy, leave a comment below so the AndroidPIT community can help.

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The content sourced from: https://www.androidpit.com/samsung-galaxy-s8-bootloop-oreo-update-tips-tricks

Wikipedia’s free-to-access program for developing countries is being sunset

A half-dozen years after launching Wikipedia Zero, The Wikimedia Foundation is sunsetting the program. Announced in 2012, it was the result of partnerships with mobile carriers, designed to waive the cost of accessing the free encyclopedia in developing countries, where data fees presented a barrier to accessing the site’s seemingly bottomless well of information.
The Foundation says it provided free access to more than 800 million people, through 97 carrier partnerships in 72 countries over the course of the program’s life. Still, it cites “low awareness of Wikipedia outside of North America and Europe” as a key factor in its decision to discontinue the program. Changes in mobile data costs are also a factor here — Wikimedia says interest in and adoption of the Zero program have both dropped sharply since 2016.
As such, no additional partnerships will be formed this year, and those still in existence will be allowed to expire. Meantime, the organization says it’s exploring more ways to service the developing world, including campaigns designed to raise awareness of Wikipedia’s missions in various countries. In a blog post, the Foundation mentions on-going partnerships in Iraq and Nigeria.
“These successes have given us several ideas for where we may take our partnership work next,” it writes, “and over the coming year, we will explore other ways we can leverage the findings from our research and the Wikipedia Zero program to direct future work with partners.”

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The content sourced from: https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/19/wikipedias-free-to-access-program-for-developing-countries-is-being-sunset/?ncid=rss